by BK Munn
Item! Last week we reported on the backlash against the right-wing Toronto Sun and their cartoonist Andy Donato over their Oliva Chow cartoon. Since then, federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair tore up a copy of the cartoon in front of reporters, calling it a “racist caricature of a Chinese person,” and saying “It’s sort of like an amalgam of everything offensive that you could possibly think of. That’s still the reality of the prejudices and the hatred against women, like Olivia.” As well, more media outlets have picked up on the story, including The Globe and Mail, who printed a Canadian Press story on the Sun’s statement/non-apology and Mulcair’s response. The chair of the board of directors of the Toronto Star also responded, asking “Where’s the outrage?” Even Graeme Mackay, editorial cartoonist for the Hamilton Spectator, chimed in to defend his fellow policart from “over-the-top … reaction” from “the pitchfork brandishing public,” claiming that, “When the racism and sexism cards are thrown about as the have been in this case it diminishes the moments when there is truly identifiable racism and sexism.” Meanwhile, the petition to the Sun’s Editor-in-Chief has only garnered 83 signatures.
Item! The Beguiling’s Peter Birkemoe gets a quote in this National Post article about the happy discovery of a rare issue of Jewish War Heroes, a comic published in 1944 by The Canadian Jewish Congress. “Sylvia Lovegren knew she’d found something unusual while going through a box of used books, but she had no idea how rare it would turn out to be. A volunteer with the Friends of the Kelly Library at St. Michael’s College, Ms. Lovegren helps sort the 70,000 to 100,000 books donated to its fundraising sale every year. She made the discovery while examining a collection of books relating to the Second World War in case some should be priced above the normal top price of $5. ‘I opened one up and I thought ‘what is this little piece of paper thing in here? It was just tucked inside the pages, and it looked like a comic book, and it had a very graphic design on it.'” According to the Post, “The first issue of Canadian War Heroes documents the career of Hamilton native Bert “Yank” Levy, who wrote a well-known book on guerilla warfare techniques, and even made the cover of Life magazine in 1942, as well as two recipients of the Distinguished Flying Cross (Brigadier Frederick Hermann Kisch and Alfred Brenner); General Morrice Abraham Cohen, an aide-de-camp to Sun Yat-sen, and Soviet submarine captain Israel Fisanovitch.” Ironically, for comics designed to bolster the status of a maligned group, like much of their wartime cartooning peers (and like Andy Donato in our first item above), the creators of Canadian Jewish Heroes often stoop to racist caricature in the depiction of Japanese soldiers.
Item! Speaking of World War II comics, collector/historian Ivan Kocmarek has shared another wonderful tidbit in his regular column on the “Canadian Whites,” or as he prefers to call them, WECA period comics. According to Kocmarek’s research, it seems like the first Canadian woman to drawn comic book stories may very well be a cartoonist named Doris Slater. “Her first work was most probably on “Pat the Air Cadet” in Grand Slam Comics No. 1 from Sept.-Oct. 1941. Now the only by-line that appears on “Pat the Air Cadet” stories is “MacDuff,” but the artwork is inescapably that of Doris Slater. “Pat the Air Cadet” also appeared in the first few issues of Three Aces Comics, called at the time, Aces Three Comics, along with Doris Slater’s own signed strip called “Martin Blake – Animal King” which was Doris’ first officially acknowledged credit in comics. Her best known work was probably her “Penny’s Diary” strip that appeared in later issues of Active Comics and, in fact she was the only woman artist to do a cover for Cy Bell on Active Comics No. 21.” Kocmarek goes on to note that Doris Slater was also the sister-in-law of comics writer Ted McCall (Robin Hood, Men of the Mounted). A very interesting article. There are quite a few gaps in our history of women cartoonists in this country. The earliest English-language comics I know of by a Canadian woman is the work of photographer Violet Keene, who started out in comic strips in the 1920s.
Item! The Toronto Star profiles the new vogue for Canadian superheroes, starting with recent efforts from Marvel and DC, and progressing to things like Jason Loo’s crowd funded Pitiful Human Lizard. Comics Syrup Press publisher (and sometimes Sequential contributor) Rachel Richey is also interviewed, adding “Canadians are starting to have platforms and ways to develop content specifically for them … It’s just kind of snowballing.”
Item! We noted the relaunch of Benjamin Rivers’ Snow graphic novel last week but didn’t really talk about how the book is now a movie. As the film’s director, Ryan Couldrey, reminded me in a recent email, “At its core, Snow is a love story between the protagonist, Dana, and her neighbourhood, Toronto’s Queen Street West. The film is in black and white, contains no romantic sub plots and no male lead. [W]e think we’ve done a pretty killer job with the 77 minute film, shot in early 2014 with a 5K budget. We skipped the festival circuit in lieu of being able to release the film ASAP, and we’re offering it for free as well so that the only barrier to enjoying Snow is a capable internet connection.” The film can be watched for free online or purchased as a Video-on-Demand package including the graphic novel, soundtrack, Snow The Video Game, scripts, bonus videos and more. 2014 proceeds from VOD sales will benefit the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation in Toronto.