Nearly All Canadian Today

Today, Paul Tumey is here with another dip into forgotten comics history. This time, he takes a look at the screwball comics of Gus Mager.

Charles Augustus “Gus” Mager (1878-1956)  is known primarily for his Sunday newspaper comic Sherlock Holmes spoof, Hawkshaw the Detective, which ran off and on from 1913 through 1947. But there's more to Mager -- lots more.

Mager was a gifted humor cartoonist who held his own with with the likes of George Herriman and Jimmy Swinnerton, creating over 30 strips that are genuinely charming, beautifully cartooned, and totally forgotten by today's audiences. Mager's delightful drawings and goofy comedy remain fresh and interesting. Mager's comics contain the same sort of greatness we find in the more famous newspaper humor comics, such as Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes -- an intelligent mind having a great deal of fun with cartooning. However, his career is not well understood, and perhaps this is partly the reason his work has not received much attention. The comics of Gus Mager are ripe for rediscovery and appreciation.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Commentary. The Doug Wright Awards site has posted the text from Seth's "Giants of the North" speech honoring Canadian cartoonist James Simpkins.

I think it is safe to say that Jasper the bear was Canada’s most recognizable cartoon character of the 20th century. Just how well-known he is today is debatable. Certainly if you are over 50 years old or live near Jasper Park then you will instantly know his face. However I suspect he is fading away from younger generations. That’s a shame really. He was a character with a lot of quiet charm about him much like his creator, James Simpkins.

Simpkins was a part of a small group of cartoonists, mostly starting out in the 1950’s, who helped define the young pop-culture of Canada. Peter Whalley, Doug Wright, Len Norris, Walter Ball, Jimmy Frise—these names are fading away as their work grows dusty on the shelves of neglected second-hand bookstore humour sections.

—Interviews & Profiles. Julia Wright at Vice checks in with Kate Beaton.

Instead of doing the big city thing—say, paying $5,000 a month for a windowless basement apartment and an hour-long commute—last December she moved to Mabou, Nova Scotia, on Cape Breton Island. Claims to fame: low-lying mountains and ocean vistas, great getaway for Americans looking to flee Donald Trump, home of the Rankin Family. But while the former coal-mining community, population 1,200, is definitely picturesque, Beaton remains iffy on the glossy, official tourism depictions of her hometown.

"The tourism industry tends to manufacture a nostalgia for this untouched experience," Beaton says. "The TV ads, they use all this beautiful music, these colourful scenes, all that 'wouldn't you love to get away here?' stuff. But for the people who live in those houses and do those things, life is hard. Services keep getting cut. They're places the government just crushes."

Quill & Quire talks to Michel Rabigliati, who apparently plans to stop making Paul books.

After 17 years, he says his latest book, Paul Up North, a story of first teenage love and heartbreak, will be the last to feature his alter ego, at least for now. “My wife and I have been divorced for three years. My dog is dead, my mother’s dead, my father’s ill – my life is really changing and I’m not in the mood to tell that kind of story anymore. I have to do something else.”

The Guardian profiles novelist Philip Pullman, focusing specifically on his graphic novel work.

Why are the British are so queasy about comics? “I think it comes from Pope Gregory the Great in 580 something,” says Pullman unexpectedly. “He said, what words are for the reader, pictures are for those who cannot read. But what that pronouncement did was to set up a hierarchy of esteem, so to speak: if you were clever you had words; if you’re not very clever you have pictures. That has remained almost unchanged for over 1,500 years.”

That can’t be the whole story. After all, in the US, Japan and France graphic novels are popular, and even respectable. What’s our problem? Maybe the puritans had something to do with it,” Pullman suggests. “The iconoclasm and the destroying of the statues and stained glass. The sense that these are vain fripperies and we should go back to the purity of language without pictures. I’m just guessing.”

CBC's Q show interviews Lisa Hanawalt.