Comic by Doug Wright. Courtesy of the Doug Wright Awards.
The finalists for the Doug Wright Awards, recognizing the best Canadian English-language comic books, were announced Wednesday. Winners will receive their accolades at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival on May 7.
Also at the awards gala, Vancouver artist David Boswell will be inducted into The Giants of the North, the Canadian cartoonists hall of fame, for his strip Reid Fleming: The World’s Toughest Milkman.
Prizes are given for best book, best emerging talent, and, for best non-traditional and avant-garde book, the Pigskin Peters award is handed out. The awards were founded in 2004 by the freelance journalist Brad Mackay and Canadian cartoonist Seth and are named after the late Doug Wright, a notable Canadian cartoonist.
The judging panel is comprised of past winners, critics, and, somewhat surprisingly, Sara Quin of Canadian music group Tegan and Sara. Mark Medley is the National Post books editor and one of this year’s judges. He calls Canada a “hot bed” for cartooning. “I’m continually surprised by the quantity and quality of comic art in this country.”
For the first time, the committee chose the finalists from a list of works that included web comics. Alex Fellows’ web comic Spain and Morocco earned him a nomination for best emerging talent.
Toronto resident Michael DeForge’s Lose #2 is nominated for best book and his Spotting Deer is up for the Pigskin Peters. Last year his Lose #1 won him the Doug Wright for emerging talent. Could the twenty-five year old become the Sidney Crosby of the Canadian comic world and sweep this year’s awards?
He certainly faces some tough competition for best book. DeForge is up against some of Canada’s most established cartoonists, including Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, who have worked on well-known series such as Spiderman, Superman, and X-Men.
However, this is not a competition for superhero comics. In fact, none of the works nominated for best book look at the lives of people with spidey-senses or the ability to fly. In a speech at the awards’ inaugural ceremony, co-founder Seth explained that their purpose was to bring attention to Canadian cartoonists working outside the traditional areas of cartoon publishing: newspaper-style or superhero strips. Instead, the competition pays homage to Canadian cartoonists creating mini-comics, underground publications, and graphic novels.
Of this year’s nominations for best book, Nick Maandag’s Streakers is the closest thing to a traditional superhero comic—if you consider streaking a super power. It tells the story of a group of average Joes who shed both the dullness of their lives and their clothes. DeForge’s Lose #2 is a horror comic filled with rotten animals, adorable children, contagious diseases, and cave monsters. Pascal Girard’s Bigfoot, set in rural Quebec, is a story about teenage angst and YouTube videos, while David Collier’s Chimo is an autobiographical story about re-enlisting in the Canadian army and attending basic training at the age of forty. Finally, Kathryn and Stuart Immonen’s Moving Pictures is a historical fiction about a Canadian living in Nazi-occupied Paris.
The realist style that persists through much of the nominees’ work reflects Doug Wright’s own style. His strip, Doug Wright’s Family, was a warm but frank portrait of family life in Canada during the second half of the twentieth century.
Go here for more information on the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.