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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wright rediscovered

It's Christmas in April! That big shiny red hardcover that just arrived in many book and comic stores in recent days is a massive 240 page monograph on one of the best mid-20th century cartoonists. For most readers, this book will likely be the first time they've ever laid eyes on any of Doug Wright's comics and that's because Wright's strip ran only in Canada decades ago and has never really been properly collected since. So think of it this way - it would be like discovering the work of other noted mid-century cartoonists like Kurtzman or Crumb for the very first time - Wright really was that good.

The book is as much a tribute to the man's life as much as it an overview of his masterful work. Wright's strip can be read as a narrative of family life at the dawn of suburbia (with Lachine filling in for Levittown) and he used everything around his newly-built surroundings - from kids and their toys to the archetypal '50s bungalows - for reference and inspiration. Look at this photo above, taken in front of Wright's house, and compare to this strip:

Then there's this photo of Wright and his oldest son, Bill (evidently the first generation of suburban homes came with unfinished lawns and the new owners had to do all of the work)...

...and here's a similar looking scene from below:

I'm not exactly sure if the above strip would be interpreted in the same way today, but this was the 1950s, so let's keep it at that!

And then there's this set of father and son photos - I almost want to cry just looking at it, there's something so sweet about this scene. Here, Wright is reading to his son, Bill, and the interesting detail is that he's reading from his own strips that he carefully clipped and pasted each week into a scrapbook.

Now here's that same scrapbook pictured in the D+Q office about a mile away and over half a century later. Wright's family (who consulted with us on the book) were kind enough to lend this to us and it proved to be an invaluable source for piecing together each weekly strip.

And if a comprehensive overview of one of the century's greatest comic strips isn't enough, there's a lot more in here. Wright was also one of the best newspaper and magazine illustrators of his time and this book features generous reproductions of some of his finest material, like these covers above and below:


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