2006 in Review
by Bryan Munn
Let’s see what I forget…
2006 was quite an impressive year for comics actually published in Canada. Besides the predictable demise of Toronto’s ill-fated Speakeasy, the year was generally positive for publishers and, by extension, the cartoonists they publish. While I’m sure most of these outfits are struggling and very few cartoonists (can you name more than twenty?) actually make a decent living from comics and must make ends meet with illustration gigs, teaching, etc, the ability of a large group of small presses to relatively thrive is news in itself. 2006 saw the surprising continued survival of Mr. Comics, one of the few publishers to try appealing to the traditional superhero/adventure comics monthly pamphlet market. In 2006, Hope Larson became a publisher and several more established presses produced a huge amount of books. L’ Oie de Cravan, Mecanique Generale, Conundrum Press, Les 400 Coups, and Drawn and Quarterly all had banner years in terms of quality and quantity of published comics. Toronto’s Kiss Machine and a variety of self-publishers, mini-comics engines, webcomics sites and tiny boutique presses also published some interesting work. So much is going on it is sometimes hard to keep track: were there more than 100 comics published in Canada in 2006? 200? 300? I have no idea.
While the major story continues to be the seemingly ever-increasing respect that comics and cartoonists in general are getting from readers and the media, 2006 was a pretty good year for a select group of cartoonists. Off the top of my head, creators like Michel Rabagliati, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Mark Bell, and Seth all achieved high profile publishing deals, coverage and recognition that would have seemed like pipe- dreams a few years ago. As well, many of the cartoonists and writers who toil away in the traditional world of U.S. genre comics continue to carve out (some quite successfully!) viable careers for themselves –see the massive list put out by the Shusters people last week to understand the amount of work being done for that market. Maybe J. Torres and Darwyn Cooke exemplify the heights that have been scaled there.
Sequential did its best to link to coverage of the major comics-related awards in Canada in 2006:
Doug Wright Awards
2006 saw several cartoonists pass away, including editorial cartoonists Ed Franklin and Sid Barron. 1940s Canadian Whites cartoonist Michael “Bud” Riley and pioneering graphic novelist Bus Griffiths also passed away.
2006 also saw the deaths of Winnipeg-born Playboy magazine cartoon editor Michelle Urry and comics scholar Lillian Robinson.
5. Censorship and cartoon criminality
Unfortunately 2006 did not see the end of comics censorship in Canada. Canada Customs continued its practice of blocking the import of comics on obscenity grounds using an arbitrary and ignorant system and hassling many legit retailers and average consumers. Lost Girls was the most high-profile case but there are many more examples. One case we didn’t link to was Elizabeth McClung’s ordeal trying to bring some manga into Canada, as she documents on her blog Screw Bronze!.
The government did have some luck in finding some seemingly real comics contraband in a few cases.
Censorship wasn’t limited to government agencies in 2006. Bookseller Chapters/Indigo was lambasted over its refusal to carry an issue of US magazine Harper’s because of controversial content related to the Danish Cartoon Controversy. General fallout over the Danish controversy (the biggest comics story worldwide for the last few years) continued well into July and still hasn’t abated in some quarters.
On a related note, Sequential covered several other international stories with a Canadian connection, including the trials of Iranian exile Nik Kowsar and of Mana Neyestani. Sequential also interviewed Marc Pageu, the only Canadian cartoonist who wanted to have anything to do with Iran’s ridiculous and generally hateful Holocaust cartoon contest.
That’s about it. Sequential tried to be a daily (well, at least every weekday) guide to all that was newsworthy or at least interesting in the world of Canadian comics and cartooning in 2006. We didn’t always catch everything and sometimes our linkblogging was a little late or amateurish but we hope that some of the things that turned up here were of use (or maybe just entertaining) to some part of our tiny readership. Here’s to a better and more professional 2007 for Sequential and team Canada comics!
2006 in Review