21.Dec.2012 Friday Flashback: Doug Wright Holiday Grab Bag
by BK Munn
Doug Wright’s cartooning career had basically four streams.
In the first place, and most famously, there was his weekly pantomime comic strip Nipper, later rechristened Doug Wright’s Family. Secondly, there was Wright’s work on Juniper Junction, the weekly strip he inherited from Jimmy Frise. Originally a single panel that ran in The Family Herald magazine and a few other rural papers, Wright turned the feature into a real strip and used it as a place to prove himself and later stretch his wings and play with dialogue and verbal humour. Set in a rural community, its larger cast of characters made possible an exploration of a wider variety of experiences than his nuclear-family strip. This “side” strip was also the precursor for later syndication efforts like “The Wheels”, “Cynthia”, and “Ticky Tacky Township”.
Wright’s other two career streams were illustration and editorial cartoons, examples of which are included below. His editorial cartooning career gained momentum in the mid-60s and mirrors the peak period of his strip work. At the height of his cartooning powers, the cartoons done for The Hamilton Spectator are full of bravura draftsmanship and wry humour. In the tradition of other gentle Canadian satirists like Len Norris and Sid Barron, Wright’s cartoons focused on socio-economic and cultural situations rather than the front page news. In the introduction to the Spec’s 1973 collection of Wright’s cartoons from which these samples are taken, publisher John D. Muir had this to say about the work:
“You wont find many politicians or public figures in Doug Wright’s cartoons, either in the family strip with the two bald-headed little boys in The Canadian Magazine every week, or in those he does for The Spectator. Doug thinks such people receive far too much free advertising already, and prefers to draw the average man. From the reaction we get to his frequent appearances on our pages, we at The Spectator infer that there are a lot of other people who enjoy Doug’s average man, beset as he is by pot-holes and pussycats, taxes and trailer trucks.”
Wright’s 70s editorial cartoons were often more adult-oriented than his strip work. Mini-skirts were shorter, cocktail parties more frequent, and opinions more caustic.