For anyone who has yet to encounter David Collier, the Canadian comics artist, Collier’s Popular Press: 30 Years on the Newsstand (Conundrum Press) is a great place to start. For anyone who is already a Collier fan, it’s a bonanza.
The retrospective opens with comics from The Nerve, a monthly tabloid published in the 1980s, then ranges through the rest of Collier’s wonderfully miscellaneous oeuvre, from the major dailies to the obscure weeklies to the literary quarterlies. Here is a Canada we recognize but seldom see elsewhere in the “popular press”: Collier’s long, narrow landscape graphics from the Globe & Mail depicting (for example) the government workers’ strike in Moose Jaw in 1993 and a steam-thresher graveyard at Piapot, SK; excerpts from the Saskatoon Sketches series offering such local phenomena as the bylaw restricting pruning for Dutch elm disease and “the mysterious steaming water-hole of 8th Avenue North”; and selected 24 Simcoe Street comics (his address in Hamilton) documenting his young son’s “serious Lift the Flap Book phase,” his neighbours’ attempts to help him and his wife Jen find work (both are artists) and much, much more.
In his eight other published books (most recently Chimo, about his quest to become a Canadian war artist) and throughout this new trove of “comics-as-reportage,” Collier’s writing and drawing are direct, candid, even ingenuous, but also complicated and grown up.
As a writer/artist who sees unnoticeable things—obscure legislation, forgotten people, off-kilter monuments, odd bits of infrastructure—and who is still asking questions, he is truly a national treasure.