It’s the greatest night of the year! The Doug Wright Awards presented at TCAF in Toronto. Only three awards and a Hall of Fame are given out, but it’s still a place that people want to be! It’s a good crowd for the Wrights. I’m told this year’s awards are unusual but I don’t know what that’s about.
I do know that this year, new awards have been unveiled!! And here they are:
The gala evening opens with awards admin Brad MacKay addressing the assemblage with many thanks and an address from one of the living descendants of Wright.
This year’s MC is once again honorary Canadian Dustin Harbin. “I’ve gotten very bitchy online about comics awards,” Harbin says recalling that the Beat once told him that was becuase he had never been nominated. BUt he was once nominated for teh Harvey Award for Best LEtterer, an honor akin to “being nominated for a porn award as best fluffier,” says Dustin.
More. Seriously, the Doug Wright awards are founded to honor comics that are challenging. “They recognize work by women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community and comics about biblical sex workers by white men.
“There is no more noble function for a comic than to challenge.”
And here are all the nominees who are present called to the stage for their turn in the spotlight.
First up: The Pigskin Peters Award presented to an experimental comic. And the winner is to the shock of all The Palace of CHampions by Henriette Valium!
Valium a legend in his native Montreal for his frantically dense and psychedelic comics, gives a short gracious speech. John Tessier is up to give an appreciation of Valium, who is called the godfather of the Montreal comics scene. He makes sculptures, painting and comics. “Henriette pushes comics to their furthest extremes,” he says, “A kind of degenerate poetry.”
Tommy Wiseau lookalike is up to laud Annie Koyama, which is really a roast and you had to be there but the room is rolling.
Next up the Nipper, recognizing Canadian cartoonists deserving of wider recognition. And the stunning winner is Steve Wolfhard for Cat Rackham! What a top notch tome this was. Ed Kanerva comes up with a thank you from Steve. “Oh man thank you for the honour!!”
Dakota McFadzeen is up to present an appreciation of Wolfhard – this being a Doug Wright Awards tradition to spotlight the winners. “The clean cartooning belies the themes of depression and anxiety.”
And now the editor of Taddle Creek is up to induct Katherine Collins in the Giants of the North hall of fame. He recalls that Collins’ mother Alice was also an artist who introduced the young cartoonist to the work of Carl Barks.
Collins’ career ( as Arn Saba) is recalled including how early Neil the Horse strips were more adventurous and it gradually became more surreal.She was even asked to write an actual musical comedy about Neil the Horse. The comic included songs that Saba wrote as a soundtrack to the comic. NEil wasn’t meant to be gay or straight or male or female, but after she transitioned she realized how much the main characters were aspects of her personality. Neil was her childlike joy, and Poupeé was her feminine side and always looking for love. She’s had a very interesting life since Neil and an amazing person.
Collins is also a member of the Joe Shuster Award Hall of Fame and wasn’t able to accept that so she’s happy to be here. The new Neil collection from Conundrum is a phone book. When she first got it she just stepped back and looked back at it.
Collins thinks of this awards as one for “What might have been” as after she transitioned she faced a great deal of rejection from animation, musicals and even comics. “I can’t say that’s why, but it might have been. Perhaps my work was too far out of the mainstream, but I prefer to think it was boycotted.
“I may be the first transsexual cartoonist to win an award.” (Not sure if that’s correct but DEFINITELY the first trans cartoonist to be voted in a comics hall of fame.)
Collins is going to try to do more comics! Wonderful news. Despite some illnesses she’s going to try her best to make up for lost time. Collins recalls that she wasn’t able to talk about comics as a serious art form back in the day. “IT was very difficult in the 70s and 80s to be someone who was trying to proselytize for the art form.”
“I never thought we’d see what we now see, in the last 10 years there’s been an enormous change. Today we see exactly what I wanted comcis being published all over the place and reviewed all over the place in expensive editions and phone books. I’m very very pleased I lived to see the day when people weren’t rude and dismissive of comics. I got my revenge.”
Collins talks about her life as a social worker, a jobs he just retired from because of health issues. In 2013 she got some emails about comics even though she hadn’t drawn a line since 1993. IT tuned out she was getting the Hall of Fame award, which led her to get bac in touch with various comics people – who remembered her. “I had thougth I was completely forgotten I had no idea of anything otherwise. When it all went down I was flabbergasted.”
Collins has a niece who’se a cartoonist, following in a family tradition that goes back to Collins’ grand mother who worked on comics back in the late 1800s. She’s very grateful to be honored and more comics to come.
Julia Pohl MIranda is up to ay tribute to the late Genevieve Castree.
“SHe shared she cared, she made thins for you for me for everyone.” NTo too much I can say about this, a tearful heartfelt remembrance of someone who left us way too young.
And the final award, the Doug Wright Award for Best Book the winner, totally unforeseen, is Bird in a Cage by Rebecca Roher.
Roher is a CCA grad, like so many emerging young cartoonists, and the book, published by Conundrum, has to deal with a family dealing with an aging relative.
Brad MacKay si back to present PHyllis Wright with some flowers and with that we’re done! A moving evening and four deserving winners.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.