onsdag 15 juni 2011

Doug Wright: Nipper 1963-1964

If you want wholesome, family-oriented fun, then Nipper 1963-1964 is certainly for you. Created by Canadian comics artist Doug Wright, it ran from 1949 to 1980. Reading it, I am reminded of Bil Keane's The Family Circus, which featured the same sort of easily recognizable family situations for readers to chuckle at – even though Keane's artistic skill was more of the "clear depiction" variety and Wright's was of the "beautiful, exact rendering" type, and there is a bit less sentimentality in Wright's strip (as rightly pointed out by Seth in the link at bottom). However, just like Keane's creation, Nipper is also a window into our recent past, into the roles and looks of yesteryear – something I rather enjoy, especially as it is minus the ideological trappings and/or nostalgia that often accompany such looks back when they're written today.

The 100+ pages of Nipper in this collection, two full years of the weekly strip, detail the life of a middle-class family in a Canadian suburb, featuring a harried husband and a housewife, and their two rambunctious boys. The strips are mainly about the antics of the boys and the futile attempts of their parents to control them, with the power struggle between the two lads as another common theme.

I feel somewhat the same about this strip as I do about The Family Circus; it is very well crafted entertainment, but in the long run, it can't quite keep my interest up. The gags in it are actually just a little bit too recognizable after having seen them in so many comic strips and TV shows. However, it's still worth reading the whole book to savor Wright's art; his ink line isn't all that elegant in itself, but the overall design and draftsmanship is so good that the completed panel still looks rather elegant and snappy. There is good drawing skill on display on every page (and Wright needed it, too, as his was a silent strip, making his drawings all he had to tell his stories with).

Even though this book isn't really for me – I doubt that I'll be paying seventeen dollars for another of these collections – if these samples tickle your fancy, by all means, drop by Drawn and Quarterly and order the book. Any effort to preserve the work of the great cartoonists of yesteryear for prosperity is worth encouraging.

So, I can't really recommend it, unless your taste in comics runs a little differently than mine, but kudos D&Q for doing their bit for comics history anyway.

Here is cartoonist Seth's appreciation of Wright.

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