Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Q&A Part Eight

Steve asks: how would you define the national identity of Canada when it comes to comics? how are they set apart from American comics, and who has been most influential in shaping Canadian comics?

Canada and national identity . . . not a tricky area at all. One of the biggest questions in Canada is often what does it mean to be Canadian? And damned if I know, honestly. Because of our history, we don't have a strong national identity, more numerous regional identities that are all trying to fit in with the others while maintaining their uniqueness (well, the fitting in part is up for debate most of the time). As such, this problem has often spilled over into the arts, asking what makes Canadian literature Canadian or, in this case, Canadian comics Canadian?

Now, I've always been partial to the "it was made by a Canadian, so it's Canadian" argument, but that doesn't actually explain much beyond the person's place of birth or country they've chosen to live in. In a way, I like the fact that there isn't anything explicit about being Canadian, nothing you can point to and say "That's Canadian!" because that just seems like an artificial limit. If you look at countries with stronger identities in comics, you can see those limits. The Brits are known for that detached, literary take on superheroes, which comes from the culture, but it also creates an idea of what a British comic is supposed to be--and any Brit that doesn't write that way may not get much exposure because they don't fit into the idea of what it means to be a British comic writer.

That said, I don't really pay attention to Canadian comics as a rule. I also don't pay attention to American or British or German or French or Japanese comics as a rule either. I tend to just go for what seems good, no matter where it's from. I think the only place where I distinguish Canadian from everything else is in my music collection, which is about one-third Canadian. So, I can't say who's influenced Canadian comics the most, really. I mean, I know who a lot of the popular Canadian creators are and all, but most of them are popular for their work in the US market like Todd McFarlane, Darwyn Cooke, Stuart Immonen, and Bryan Lee O'Malley to name only four (because I am lazy).

If you look at those four creators, does anything stand out as a common creative trait? If anything, looking at Canadian creators, the common trait I see is a unique vision each has. Because Canada is meant to be such a plurality, it makes sense that there is no unifying trait of a Canadian creator, rather each just does his or her own thing without thinking (consciously or subconsciously) about how it fits into a national framework.

Or maybe I'm talking out of my ass.

Now, Steve: What is the one comic you've wanted to teach, but couldn't because it's difficult to find/out of print?