While hardly a fan of awards (personally afflicted with "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" syndrome), I love nothing more than to use my unqualified opinion to judge others. Who is qualified, anyway? Reviews and art criticism are the pinnacle of narcissism, which is why I generally keep to myself on such matters.
So, when asked to be on the 2013 jury for the Doug Wright Awards (the Canadian prize for cartooning excellence), I looked at myself in the mirror, gave myself two thumbs-up and agreed. Having read several of the nominated works, their freedom of expression dulls my bitterness, awakening a long-dead joy that comes from the consumption of art.
Not since my teenaged years have I read so many comics. Back then I toyed with the notion of becoming an illustrator myself, but made the fated choice to move to Montreal and study creative writing instead. Then I joined a rock band and was overtaken by touring and helping manage The Dears. The wisened me can now appreciate the craft of artists so much more. These nominees are not just illustrators but writers, too -- conjuring a narrative through words and images, a careful balancing act of both showing AND telling.
The award's namesake, Doug Wright is the author of Doug Wright's Family (aka Nipper), one of the most critically acclaimed Canadian comic strips of the mid-20th century. The awards are now in their 7th year, with winners to be announced on May 11th as part of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Admission to the ceremony is free.
The nominees for the 2013 Doug Wright Award for Best Book are:
- Lose #4by Michael DeForge (Koyama Press)
- By This Shall You Know Him by Jesse Jacobs (Koyama Press)
- The Song of Roland by Michel Rabagliati (Conundrum Press)
- Pope Hats #3 by Ethan Rilly (AdHouse Books)
- Wax Cross by Tin Can Forest (Koyama Press)
The nominees for the 2013 Doug Wright Spotlight Award (a.k.a. "The Nipper") which recognizes Canadian cartooning talents worthy of wider recognition are:
- Nina Bunjevac for Heartless (Conundrum Press)
- Brandon Graham for King City (Image Comics)
- Patrick Kyle for Black Mass, Distance Mover, Wowee Zonk #4
- George Walker for The Mysterious Death of Tom Thomson (The Porcupine's Quill)
- Eric Kostiuk Williams for Hungry Bottom Comics
And the nominees forthe 2013 Pigskin Peters Award,which recognizes the best in experimental or avant-garde comics are:
- Hamilton Illustrated by David Collier (Wolsak & Wynn)
- Hellberta #2and “Sir Softly” fromš! #12, by Michael Comeau
- Michael DeForge, Larry Eisenstein, Jesse Jacobs, Mark Laliberte (editor), Marc Ngui, Ethan Rilly, Tin Can Forest and Magda Trzaski for 4PANEL, a special comics features in Carousel Magazine #28 and #29
- Ginette Lapalme for “So, what should we do with ourselves?…” from Wowee Zonk #4 and “Little Stump” in š! #12
I recommend picking up some of these titles, especially if reading "comics" is not something you usually do. Forget the stereotypes: superheroes, Betty and Veronica, kidstuff this is not. Oftentimes gritty, dark, personal, uplifting and fantastic, these are inspired visions.
There is no empirical data to determine what is "the best art," yet as humans we have a deep desire to have someone provide us with this information. As such, the honours of being peer-reviewed and chosen as the best-thing-we've-heard-about-for-the-time-being, is still pretty great. So Canadian illustrators of comics and graphic novels must now be subject to my two cents, and for this I apologise. Good luck to all.