Welcome to Giants of the North, a virtual exhibit that celebrates singular, life-long contributions to the art of cartooning in Canada!
John Wilson Bengough was one of Canada’s first cartoonists and rose to prominence in the late 1800s through the publication of Grip, a humourous weekly magazine he published in Toronto. In the style of the British Punch or US Judge, Grip lampooned the political and social culture of Canada in the years following Confederation. Bengough’s fluid, devastating cartoons dealt with the shenanigans of Prime Minister John A. MacDonald and the rebellion of Louis Riel, as well as issues like women’s rights, prohibition, and poverty.
Considered by many to be the father of English-language caricature in Canada, Bengough and Grip were hugely influential and deserve a special place in the history of Canadian cartooning –a true Giant of the North.
Albéric Bourgeois is credited with creating the first continuing comic strip to use word balloons in Canada (and arguably the first in the francophone world). Born in Montreal, Bourgeois went to work for the daily newspaper, Le Patrie. There he created editorial cartoons, illustrations, and comic strips. “Les Adventures de Timothée” debuted in January, 1904.
Timothée was a huge-nosed little man, well-intentioned but brutally misunderstood. In daily and colour weekend strips, Bourgeois chronicled Timothée’s series of misadventures, stumbling through a world that seemed to have it in for him –a quintessentially modern perspective! Albéric Bourgeois is a Giant of the North for creating Canada’s first comic strip star!
The cosmopolitan genius of Canadian magazine cartooning, George Feyer was born in Hungary but carved out a brilliant artistic career in Canada and the U.S. Known to many for his televison appearances, Feyer was the master of the slapstick gag panel that mixed pantomime action, irreverence, and surrealism.
His quickly-rendered philosophical doodles showed up everywhere: in advertising, magazines, newspapers, books, on tv –and even on people!
Born in Truro, Nova Scotia in 1942, Rand Holmes is best known for his seminal underground comic strip Harold Hedd which ran in the Vancouver’s alt-weekly The Georgia Straight in the 1970s.
An avid admirer of U.S. cartoonists Will Eisner and Wally Wood as he was growing up in Edmonton, Holmes first comics were published in his 20s in Harvey Kurtzman’s Help!.
After struggling to make a living as a cartoonist and sign painter in Alberta, in the late 1960s Holmes moved to B.C. to seek out work as an illustrator. In short order, he landed freelance work drawing covers for the left-leaning Straight, and not long after debuted his most popular creation. A bespectacled hippie who spent his time dealing dope and plaguing Vancouver’s tourists, Harold Hedd quickly became a counter-culture icon.
Over the last three decades, Lynn Johnston has earned a place among the world’s most successful and best-loved cartoonists thanks to her work on the internationally syndicated For Better or For Worse. The comic strip, which follows the trials and triumphs of the fictional Patterson family, appears in more than 2,000 newspapers and boasts millions of readers.
Martin Vaughn James
Martin Howard Vaughn-James was born “during an air-raid” in Bristol, England on December 5, 1943 according to a tongue-in-cheek biography in Night Train, his first novel. Whether or not this detail is 100% true, the intent is clear. Vaughn-James’ spent his childhood growing up in postwar British towns such as Birmingham, which exposed him to the kind of bombed-up landscapes that would later inform so much of his imagery.
Peter Whalley is one of the most iconoclastic and inventive cartoonists Canada has ever produced. Born in Brockville, Ontario, Whalley began contributing illustrations, gag & political cartoons to national publications beginning in the 1940s. His work appeared in Maclean’s, The Standard (Weekend) Magazine, and others all through the 1950s and 60s. He produced several books with the writer Eric Nicol, including An Uninhibited History of Canada & 100 Years of What?
In addition, Whalley produced several solo collections of cartoons, several as an early “self-publisher,” including Hyperbole, Northern Blights, Phap (the Pornographics of Politics), & The Man on the High Wire. Using a broad, “cartoony” style, this Giant of the North lambasted such Canadian sacred cows as the Group of Seven, the Welfare State, and every conceivable aspect of politics. Whalley’s savage and cynical cartoons timelessly capture the hypocrisy, mediocrity, and just plain silliness that characterizes so much of life in Canada.
Doug Wright created the long-running comic strip Doug Wright’s Family. Born in England, Wright came to Canada in 1938. His cartooning career really began when he landed a job as editorial cartoonist for the Montreal Standard. In 1948 he took over the reins of Jimmy Frise’s “Juniper Junction” strip. Wright created “Nipper”, a mostly silent comic strip, for the Standard (later Weekend Magazine) in 1949. Wright excelled at the depiction of childhood and the daily charms and frustrations of late-20th Century domestic life.