Every event has it`s occasional road bumps or slip-ups, and the DWAs are no exception. On Saturday night Jeet Heer — a fine writer and organizer with the awards — missed his cue to take the stage where he was supposed to deliver his appreciation of the winning book of the Pigskin Peters Award, Michael DeForge`s wonderful and strange Spotting Deer. (He was supposed to get up there right after DeForge`s name was announced, but we`ll cut him some slack: I think his mind drifted to his wife and wee daughter back in Regina.)
Jeet feels horrible about this, and suggested we try and make it up to Michael by posting the text of his address here on the blog. So, here it is.
Thanks Jeet! (And congrats again to Michael and Anne Koyama! )
By Jeet Heer
Michael DeForge is the triple threat of the Doug Wright Awards: the only cartoonist to be nominated in all three award categories. Last year he won the Best Emerging Talent award for his work on Lose #1 and Cold Heat Special #7. This year, he’s won the Pigskin Peters Award for best non-traditional, non-narrative or avant garde work for Spotted Deer; and has also been nominated in the Best Book category. If the Doug Wright Awards were the Oscars, DeForge is fast emerging as our equivalent of Jack Nicholson or Meryl Streep: an artist whose work has to be constantly up for consideration.
How does DeForge manage to rack up the nominations? Well, he’s very prolific and he’s very good.
Spotting Deer is a marvellous work. It’s a sort of mock-field guide to a fictional species the “spotting deer” which we’re told is “physically similar to a common white-tailed dear” but is in fact “actually a kind of terrestrial slug.” Spotting Deer belongs to the tradition of the humourist Robert Benchley who parodied scientific jargon so memorably in the early 20th century and is also very similar to some of the effects Kevin Huizenga achieved in is book The Wild Kingdom. Giving an edge to the parody is a veiled political critique of the way in which zoological and anthropological language has the effect of simplifying the world around us.
Visually, Spotting Deer is a delight, a virtuoso display of stylistic variety. The colours are startlingly unnatural as are the appropriations of different art styles, ranging from newspaper comics to video games to record cover art. It belongs to the line of artists like Richard McGuire and Gary Panter, who possess the ability to seep into your eyeballs and rearrange the wiring in your brain. You see the world differently, with sharper eyes, after reading DeForge’s comics. Like some of the best cartoonists of his generation, he’s bringing to comics some of the visual intensity of painting and forcing us to realize that the visual range of comics is much larger than we thought possible.