With the Toronto Comic Arts Festival now in digital full swing, the virtual Doug Wright Awards announced the winners for 2021 over the weekend. The full list of winners and nominees can be found towards the bottom of this post, but here were some of the highlights of the ceremony.

The hour-long virtual ceremony (broadcast on Facebook and YouTube on Saturday) was presented by Don McKellar from his garage, Seth in front of a gold curtain, with periodic “live” cartooning by Rob Sikoryak. Brad Mackay, chair of the Doug Wright Awards Foundation, introduced the show as “our second annual online pandemic-era extravaganza”.

Awkwardly, none of the nominees knew if they had won so all had to provide short videos of acceptance speeches in advance.

Egghead was presented by Emily Pohl-Weary; Pigskin Peters by David Collier (with footage of him getting vaccinated); Sylvia Nickerson for The Nipper; and Margaret Atwood presented the Doug Wright Award for Best Book.

Winner for Best Book was Sophie Bédard‘s English language edition of Lonely Boys. Bédard said about their win,

“Thank you so much for this award. A special thanks to Helge Dascher and Robin Lang who did a terrific job translating my book into English. It was a real pleasure to work with them. Of course thanks to my publisher Luc Bossé from Pow Pow Press. Congratulations to all the nominees and thank you.”

Doug Wright Awards 2021

The Noiseless Din, by Scott Carruthers (Popnoir Editions), won the Pigskin Peters for Best Small- or Micro-Press Book. A three-year project, Carruthers said,

“The Noiseless Din is my first book. For years before that my work was gallery-based, making large-scale drawing installations with hundreds or even thousands of small images. When I began the book project I was quickly pulled out of my comfort zone. This was an entirely new medium with its own limitations and possibilities and the challenge was very refreshing. I really hope the book retains some of the feel of my earlier work.”

Carruthers thanked his publisher Popnoir Editions Mark Laliberte, “for taking a chance on such an odd and niche title.” Continuing, “Mark to some extent was also my editor – making invaluable suggestions and design decisions that have helped me finish the book in a way that I don’t think I could have otherwise.”

In the emerging talent category, The Nipper, was Veronica Post for her graphic novel, Langosh & Peppi: Fugitive Days (Conundrum Press). Post said,

“I need to say a big thank you to Andy Brown and Sarah Sawler at Conundrum Press for everything – for the opportunity to make this book and for all your help and support and friendship over the years.

….It’s a huge amount of work to make a graphic novel so I am just thrilled for this nomination, for this award, and for the fact that people appreciated all the work I put into it. Thank you so much.”

The Egghead award for best book in the under-12 bracket went to A Slug Story, by Mandi Kujawa, Hana Kujawa, Claude St. Aubin, and Lovern Kindzierski (Renegade Arts Entertainment).

Doug Wright Awards 2021

The “last season” for Koyama Press was noted by Don McKellar, with non-Canadian cartoonist and multiple-time host of the Doug Wright Awards Dustin Harbin speaking at length about Koyama Press and his relationship with Annie Koyama herself,

“I don’t know that Annie is as good a publisher from a business perspective as she is a human. She is probably more famous as a patron of artists and in a larger sense a facilitator of arts, insofar as both the Koyama Press and now through [the] Koyama Provides grants that she has been making available.

Doing that thing that comics has been really bad at, which is to say, a) here’s some space to do your art and b) here is some space to play around and to experiment and figure out what it is you want to say and how you want to say it…Annie has always made herself really available as a resource and as a person that builds that underpinning that an artist doesn’t often have in comics.

Annie continues to be an incredibly special, irreplaceable part of our community and I’m really happy to see that she is still an active force. Not only as a facilitator and patron of arts but also as a person with her own highly honed sense of taste.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Annie as a publisher and a patron, and also the people that were integral parts of Koyama Press…a really special group of people who Annie got together.”

Bill Wright, eldest son of cartoonist Doug Wright and believed to be the inspiration for The Nipper character, passed away in December 2020 and was remembered by his nephew Corey Wright.

Mr Monster creator Fred Kelly was formally inducted into the Giants of the North: Canadian Cartoonist Hall of Fame. Comics historian Robert Pincombe gave a succinct biography for the Bell Features cartoonist who passed away in 2005. Kelly’s widow Rita accepted the induction on Fred’s behalf, saying,

“I know he would be delighted. He would probably shake his head and say ‘thank you’.”

Seth added,

“It is my honor to induct into the ‘North hall of fame Mr Fred Kelly. As each year goes by I feel that those old Canadian Whites from the 1940s take on more and more importance. They really feel like the foundation of the kind of cartooning world that exists today in Canada. I would like to say a personal thanks to all of them and I wish I had know Mr Kelly and I wish I could have placed this award personally but my thoughts and all of our thoughts go with him.”

Check out the full list of winners and nominees below. Congratulations to all of the cartoonists and books recognized.

The Doug Wright Award for Best Book

WINNER: Lonely Boys, by S. Bédard (Pow Pow Press)
Familiar Face, by Michael DeForge (Drawn & Quarterly)
Constantly, by GG (Koyama Press)
Paul at Home, by Michel Rabagliati (Drawn & Quarterly)
Wendy, Master of Art, by Walter Scott (Drawn & Quarterly)

The Nipper: The Doug Wright Award for Emerging Talent

Adam de Souza, A Gleaming No. 2 (Self-published)
Kimberly Edgar, The Space In Between (Self-published)
Courtney Loberg, We Don’t Go Through the Angelgrass I (Self-published)
WINNER: Veronica Post, Langosh & Peppi: Fugitive Days (Conundrum Press)
Shannon M. Reeves, Restless Bones (Gytha Press)

The Pigskin Peters: The Doug Wright Award for Best Small- or Micro-Press Book

WINNER: The Noiseless Din, by Scott Carruthers (Popnoir Editions)
The Desecration, by Scott Carruthers and Sally McKay (Self-published)
A Gleaming No. 2, by Adam de Souza (Self-published)
The Space In Between, by Kimberly Edgar (Self-published)
Awkward Pause, by Ryan Harby (Renegade Arts Entertainment)

The Egghead: The Doug Wright Award for Best Kids’ Book

WINNER: A Slug Story, by Mandi Kujawa, Hana Kujawa, Claude St. Aubin, and Lovern Kindzierski (Renegade Arts Entertainment)
The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt, by Riel Nason and Byron Eggenschwiler (Tundra Books)
Okay, Universe: Chronicles of a Woman in Politics, by Valérie Plante and Delphie Côté-Lacroix (Drawn & Quarterly)
Grandmother School, by Rina Singh and Ellen Rooney (Orca Book Publishers)
Swift Fox All Along, by Rebecca Thomas and Maya McKibbin (Annick Press)