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posted October 21, 2010
Drawn and Quarterly, paperback, 112 pages, October 2010, $16.95
There are a ton of things to recommend Drawn and Quarterly's tiny gem of a reprint volume, Nipper: 1963-1964
. The primary reason you'll want to read it is for Doug Wright's magnificently versatile thin-line art work, capable of filling space with copious detail or animating Nipper
's suburban family in occasional close-up. Wright has relaxed so far into his cartooning career a decade and a half in that there's no easy match of technique and utilization: Wright basically draws whatever he feels is necessary, and if that means multiple, minutiae-filled panels simply to pad out a joke so the timing is better, so be it. I can't remember the last time I read a comic strip with which I'm largely unfamiliar and not wish for the cartoonist to take his work one way or the other, hoping that they'd emphasize a certain kind of effect over other. This is one confident strip.
I think the other major strength of this run of comics is that the relationship depicted between the two little boys feels
right: at once competitive and worshipful and protective. I did not, as introduction-writer Brad Mackay seems to have done, recognize a continuity in the actions of either parent (he focused on the father as a Wright stand-in) that would provide psychological insight, although I'm admittedly slow to pick up on that kind of thing. What I liked is the logic of "keeping the peace" that settles in with both parents, assigning blame in whatever way best restores order -- or allows them to settle into a desired space -- as opposed to securing justice. If there's anything I took from these prime 1960s examples of Wright's work beyond the skill and craft involved in their making is how rich a life the boys seem to lead focused almost solely on play, and the genial and matter-of-fact way the parents treat the kids. If there's anything more I could have wanted from this work it would have been a bit more clarity in the supporting material as to the strip's provenance. I had to look it up to refresh my memory that Nipper
changed it's name to Doug Wright's Family
within a few years of these comics' publication (the subtitle confused me), and I'm still curious as to how this work is being re-presented in relation to how it was run in the newspaper (were there spot reds? were they run in empty space as they are here?). Despite these additional wishes on my part, I'd recommend Nipper: 1963-1964
to anyone with an interest in comics art, mid-20th Century strips, gag-cartoon style art, Canadian comics and/or domestic strips. I like seeing the world through Wright's eyes.