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This is Serious -- get yourself to Hamilton, folks!

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Joe Ollmann and Alana Traficante, the co-curators of This is Serious

Last year, Joe Ollmann (The Abominable Mr Seabrook) emailed us about a show he was curating for the Art Gallery of Hamilton. This would be the first major museum retrospective of Canadian cartooning, showcasing Canada's incredible comics talent. In typical Joe fashion, he hoped maybe it would turn out to be halfway decent because he and adjunct curator Alana Traficante had a lot of ideas about what they did and didn't want this exhibit to be. 

Fast forward to Thursday June 20th and that exhibit, THIS IS SERIOUS: Canadian Indie Comics, opened to the public featuring work by an astounding FORTY-SEVEN cartoonists. And I have to say, Joe and Alana outdid themselves. 

There's a Southern Ontario / Hamilton section spotlighting local creators like Sylvia Nickerson and local-ish ones like Doug Wright and Marc Bell, and then an expansive room dedicated to Julie Doucet, Chester Brown, Seth, and Fiona Smyth. After that, you can dive into the hilarious post-apocalyptic stories of Aminder Dhaliwal (Woman World), Kate Beaton's parodies of literature and pop culture (Hark! A Vagrant), and Diane Obomsawin's poignant On Loving Women, displayed alongside her animation work. Another giant room spotlights Jillian Tamaki, Michael DeForge, Julie Delporte, Pascal Girard, and a special listening corner for Genevieve Castree. A reading room is presided over by giant reproductions of SuperMutant Magic Academy strips. Walter Scott's Wendy welcomes Hamiltonians to the gallery.

Marc Bell

One thing that I think will really stand out for anyone who visits this exhibit is just how wildly different original art can look in comics and how much work goes into each page. Even though these originals are destined to be printed in books that will all be approximately the same size, pieces run the gamut in shape and size and style. One cartoonist may pencil on intricately layered vellum (Chester Brown) while another does so on post-its (Aminder Dhaliwal). Paper cutouts and delicately inked watercolours rest comfortably side by side in the art form of comics. Some folks put their process on display while others opted to simply share the most finished form of the work.

Throughout the opening, I kept sneaking away from conversations to goggle at art. I've got lots of photos below but this show is up through the winter holidays (and all the way to January 5, 2020) and it has to be SEEN with your own eyes. So start planning your visits to Hamilton, people! 

And thank you again to Alana and Joe, who hooked me up with more photos from the opening.

Chester Brown, Seth, Doug Wright Awards executive director Conan Tobias, and the Quill & Quire's Sue Carter.

Jillian "wow her originals are so beautiful" Tamaki with work from This One Summer and from Print magazine.

A collection of Julie Doucet diaries, zines, sketchbooks, and ephemera.

The covers of the Dirty Plotte box set!

It seems like this is how Aminder Dhaliwal does her pencils? Loved this reminder of her animation background.

A detail from Julie Delporte's This Woman's Work.  It's fascinating to see how the different layers of paper build the page.

A diptych of Pascal Girard comics and sketchbooks. Above are pages from a graphic novel-in-progress, where a TV cook is giving instructions on making tourtiere. And below that, pages from Petty Theft.

I think Pascal is one of the sketchbookiest cartoonists I know - he's never without one.

Michael DeForge spiders welcome you. Because Michael does so much of his work digitally, there were a few pictures on display in the cases and a monitor rotating between various digital comics pieces.

Cartoonist Sylvia Nickerson is our Hamiltonian. Here she is next to her gorgeous Hamilton skyline installation. On display to the left are pages from her September graphic novel Creation, which explores the responsibility of artists in a gentrifying city, the collapse of the rust belt cities, and post-partum depression and motherhood.

Chester! In front of originals from Paying for It and Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus. I am always stunned by how impeccably clean the individual panels are...

...And how huge they are.

Seth's section included originals from It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken (that honestly I couldn't stop looking at), pages from George Sprott, ceramic characters from his comics, animations from Seth's Dominion, and...

One of Seth's Dominion City models, this one of the Clyde Fans head office.

It was so wonderful that so many cartoonists were able to attend the opening. The keen-eyed will spot Marc Bell, Joe Ollmann, Jillian Tamaki, Seth, Chester Brown, and many more familiar faces.

 Preceding two images, as well as the solo photos of Chester Brown and Seth are courtesy of the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Installation views: THIS IS SERIOUS: Canadian Indie Comics, 2019. Photos: Mike Lalich.