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2010 Joe Shuster Awards or An American In Toronto.

Monday - June 21, 2010

Over the weekend of June 5-6th Ronda and I traveled to Toronto for the 6th Annual Joe Shuster Awards. The Shuster's are Canada's main comic book awards and since our lovely Miss Pattison was nominated for best colorist, sorry colourist, we figured it was only right that we should attend the ceremony and such.

Joe Shuster was one half of the team that created Superman. Dig that concept again. These two guys, kids really, created Superman, the single most recognizable comic book character of all time (screw you Mickey Mouse) as well as one of the most profitable. After decades of legal battles to be recognized as the creators of Superman as well as to receive fair compensation Shuster had quit comics, rapidly lost his vision, and was making a living as a delivery man. Siegel, the other kid, and Shuster might have been forgotten forever as Superman's creators if Siegel had not launched another legal campaign in the 1970s that finally garnered them some recognition and a yearly stipend for bloody creating Superman! Sorry. That concept still blows my mind.

So the Shusters were created not only to honor Canadian comic creators but also to remember Toronto-born Joe Shuster.

The evening started with the induction of Serge Gaboury into The Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame. Gaboury is a cartoonist who has been a strong part of the Quebec comics scene since the 1970s. Gaboury himself is a classy older man with the smooth assuredness that young men never have and some old men have in spades. After a brief remembrance of his career Gaboury was asked to speak a bit about his work. Besides seeming somewhat shocked that he was being honored and mentioning that he was not as well respected in Quebec, Gaboury told a brief story about buying his first comic as a child. This comic was coincidentally Superman. Gaboury took the comic home and painstakingly translated the comic into French so that he could understand the book more thoroughly. He learned to read and eventually speak English from a comic book co-created by Joe Shuster. This might come across as so what? or saccharine but hearing Serge thank Mr Shuster for giving him a start with understanding English was an emotionally solid and resonant moment. I felt myself choke up a bit and looking at Ronda saw that she was affected as well. It was a touching moment that reminded me of the power of comics, communication, and crossing barriers created by place and language. It made me happy to be in Toronto at The Shuster Awards surrounded by some of the best comics creators that Canada had to offer.

And then the evening went downhill from there.

Many of the people being inducted into the The Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame had not been notified and only found out about it when someone contacted them to congratulate them. It seemed that fewer than half of the awards recipients were actually there to receive their plaques. And the introductions ran from humorous and concise to foolish and insulting. Gushing about one of the winners while insulting the other nominees will win you no friends no matter how cute you think you are. Thanks to Ty Templeton for keeping things moving when it seemed to be bottoming out.

Simply put I expected something a bit more like the Oscars and got something more like P. S. #99's Science Fair Awards.

There was a lot of heart put into these awards by the people who actually got them going, found a venue, set them up and ran them. Although some of the fault lies with the Shuster committee as far as not contacting people more effectively much of the responsibility is with the creators themselves as well as the Canadian comic reading public. There is a blatant apathy that many comic loving Canadians seem to have about anything actually produced in Canada.

So here's my angle on this whole mess. I'm an American. And as an American I am more sensitive to things that Canadians might not pick up on when Canadians are talking about The United States. I'm sure this of course goes both ways but this is my soapbox. Several times while visiting Canada I have run into a sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant negative view of my country. Rarely from any actual person. My Canadian friends are all truly kind and friendly people. But it seems that whenever someone needs to define Canada to a group of people they start by pointing out how not-American they are.

I understand the monolithic influence that The U.S. seems to have on Canada and I actually do appreciate any attempt to create media that is truly Canadian. But part of that must come from a true love of Canada and what it has to offer and not just as a polar reaction against The United States. The history of Canada is as deep and as important to our world as her southern neighbor's and should be explored as a source of ideas. Canada has birthed and raised women and men of great intellect and influence and these people should be used as the basis for truly Canadian characters. No matter how much Canadian creators try to distance themselves from The U.S. they are still using us as a baseline starting point. You're country is a vast, varied, and truly interesting place. Embrace it.

Embrace your bloody Shuster Awards Canadian comics fans and creators. Quit whining about how the Eisners are the only important comics awards. The Eisner's are rigged anyway. If you have a chance to go to The Shusters be gracious and go. Make them need a bigger venue and have to get more programs printed up. Dig where you are and who you are and don't let Canadian comics become distant memories like Joe Shuster himself almost became.

And if you get a chance to work with one of us damned Yankees give it a go. Remember it took a Canadian/American team to create Superman.


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