Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mini-Review: The Collected Doug Wright: Canada's Master Cartoonist

This handsome book, lovingly edited and designed by the cartoonist Seth and Brad Mackay, collects the first years of Canadian cartoonist Doug Wright's wordless strip Nipper(also sometimes known as "Doug Wright's Family"), as well as magazine covers and illustrations and other work from the cartoonist. There is also a long, introductory essay by Mackay detailing Wright's life and career. The first of two volumes, the editors are very obviously making the case for Wright as one of the most important and under appreciated Canadian cartoonists. Does the work itself hold up to the lavish presentation? In a word: Yes.

While the Nipper strip does not contain the depth or complexity of the all time great comic strips like Charles Schulz's Peanuts or George Herriman's Krazy Kat, it is nevertheless a gorgeously drawn (sometimes jaw-droppingly so) and oftentimes very funny and sharply observed series of cartoons. The closest comparison to an American cartoonist I can come up with is Hank Ketcham and his work on Dennis the Menace, a strip wherein the elegant line work is valued over the relatively thin and unremarkable gag work and characterization. But Wright is actually funnier than Ketcham, I think, and as the strip progresses over the course of this first volume, Wright brings the world of Nipper and his family to vivid and evocative life, creating a real and tangible sense of a specific time and place through his mastery of line and remarkable drawing ability. I really liked reading these cartoons, and look forward to the second volume as the completion of this worthy and important archival project.


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