Good evening. The 2019 Doug Wright Awards are taking place tonight and we’ll update our coverage once the winners are revealed. In the meantime, here are some details on what you can expect tonight. One is that I’m taking over the coverage from Heidi, which means you’ll read lots of terrible dad jokes scattered throughout the news. That’s “Wright”!  The Doug Wright Awards will be presented at TCAF in Toronto on Saturday May 11. The show presents three awards and two cartoonist are inducted in the Giant of the North Hall of Fame. It’s always a very fun event. Consider attending if you’re at the Festival this year.

This year’s Giant of the North Hall of Fame inductees are Fiona Smyth and Alootook Ipellie. They are two fascinating and well-deserving cartoonists and it’s wonderful to know that Alootook Ipellie’s large body of work is honoured posthumously. Here’s an excerpt from their biographies found on the Doug Wright Awards website:

Fiona Smyth, an artist and teacher known for her groundbreaking comics tackling female sexuality, and Alootook Ipellie (1951–2007), a multi-faceted artist, writer, activist, and cartoonist recognized for his satirical comics about Inuit life in Canada, will be inducted next month into the Giants of the North Hall of Fame for Canadian cartoonists.

For more than three decades, Fiona Smyth’s work has straddled art, comics, and murals. Since her days as a student at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University) in the mid-1980s, her comics have been marked by a bold and overt sexuality—rare for a female cartoonist at the time—that often, erroneously, saw her labeled an anti-feminist. Alongside her countless self-published zines, Smyth’s comics have appeared in Vice, Exclaim!, and her pioneering 1990s Vortex series, Nocturnal Emissions. 

Smyth’s work has been exhibited in countries around the world, including the United States, Mexico, Berlin, France, Venice, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, and Torontonians are familiar with her eye-catching mural gracing the exterior of iconic local club Sneaky Dee’s, located at the intersection of College and Bathurst streets.

Smyth’s publications include The Never Weres, a science fiction graphic novel for teens, and a series of progressive “sex talk” books for children, created with the writer Cory Silverberg. In 2018, Koyama Press released Somnambulance, a career retrospective of Smyth’s work to date. Presently, Smyth teaches illustration and cartooning at OCADU.

Alootook Ipellie was born in 1951 in Nuvuqquq, a small hunting camp located near what was then Frobisher Bay, Northwest Territories—now known as Iqaluit, Nunavut—and later settled in Ottawa. He developed an early and abiding interest in comics and eventually became a graphic artist in his own right, creating work that often satirically examined the modern world’s impact on traditional Inuit life. 

Ipellie was the editor of Inuit Today magazine and contributed comics to many publications, including Inuit Monthly and Nunatsiaq News, some of which featured his characters Nuna and Vut. Ipellie was also an accomplished writer, designer, photographer, and Inuktitut translator. His books include Arctic Dreams and Nightmares, a collection of stories and striking pen-and-ink drawings.

Ipellie’s work has been displayed in countries including Germany, Australia, and Switzerland. An internationally touring retrospective, Alootook Ipellie: Walking Both Sides of an Invisible Border, launched in Ottawa in 2018, with stops scheduled this fall at the Art Gallery of Hamilton and spring 2020 at Gallery 1C03 at the University of Winnipeg. Ipellie died in Ottawa in 2007. 

The Doug Wright Awards began in a front of a very crowded room this year. With a wonderful energy around the room. Our host Steve Manale has a change of costume and “draws” comparison between basketball and comics. There are jokes about the first time he held a pamphlet in which he was absolutely transported into it. It was a Toronto Raptors pamphlet.
We’re starting with the Pigskin Peters Award, honouring the most experiment, unconventional, or avant-garde comic. The nominees are:

  • Eggshell 2 (ddogg)
    William Dereume
  • Winter’s Cosmos (Koyama Press)
    Michael Comeau
  • Promising Jupiter
    Ron Hotz
  • 310, 310 (Peow Studio)
  • Retomber
    Xiaoxiao Li

AND THE WINNER OF THE 2019 Pigskin Peters IS: Retomber by Xiaoxiao Li

We’re moving on to the The Nipper award. The nominees for the 2019 Doug Wright Spotlight Award (a.k.a. The Nipper), presented to a Canadian cartoonist or team deserving of wider recognition, are:

  • Ariane Dénommé
    100 Days in Uranium City (Conundrum Press)
  • Aminder Dhaliwal
    Woman World (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Al Gofa
    Dark Angels of Darkness (Peow Studio)
  • Victor Martins
    Stay and You Don’t Have To be Afraid of Me
  • Sylvia Nickerson
    All We Have Left Is This
  • Eric Kostiuk Williams
    Our Wretched Town Hall (Retrofit Comics)

AND THE WINNER IF THE 2019 DOUG WRIGHT SPOTLIGHT AWARD IS: Ariane Dénommé for 100 Days in Uranium City (Conundrum Press)

The Awards took some time to provide a touching tribute to Teva Harrison. Teva passed away in late April 2019. Her graphic novel In Between Days focused on her life as she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 37. In her beautifully moving graphic memoir, she documented through comic illustration and short personal essays what it meant to live with the disease. In Between Days was nominated for a Governor General’s awards in 2017.
Alootook Ipellie and Fiona Smyth were inducted in the Giants of the North Hall of Fame. Two of Alootook’s friends came to accept the award in his name and had wonderfully heartfelt words about him. They followed with a traditional Inuk song in his honour and finished by reading a difficult and honest letter from his daughter. It was then Fiona Smyth’s turn and her friend gave a quirky and comical speech about the otherworldly quality of Fiona’s persona and work.

And finally, the finalists for the 2019 Doug Wright Best Book Award, presented for the best English-language book published in Canada, are:

  • A Western World (Koyama Press)
    Michael DeForge
  • Young Frances (Adhouse Books)
    Hartley Lin
  • Evie and the Truth About Witches (Koyama Press)
    John Martz
  • Somnambulance (Koyama Press)
    Fiona Smyth

AND THE WINNER IF THE 2019 Doug Wright Best Book Award IS: Young Frances (Adhouse Books) by Hartley Lin
Young Frances has been one of the highlights of last years graphic novel publications and it’s fantastic to see such a book be celebrated.

And that’s a wrap for this year’s Doug Wright Awards. Please do check out the comics of each nominees, they are all unique, challenging, and frankly incredible.