Thursday, July 30, 2009
In a Preface to the 22nd Annual Collection of Norris cartoons, in 1972, Jack Webster described celebrated Canadian cartoonist Len Norris as “a prissy little man, 145 lbs. soaking wet, claims to be 5 foot 10 1/2 ins. (in his lifts of course), balding, round-shouldered, obsequious, and obsessed with his daily routine.” That first annual collection of Norris cartoons, from the Vancouver Sun, had been published way back in 1950. With the cold war heating up, and the populace squirming under the thumbs of pettifogging bureaucrats, Len Norris editorial cartoons reflected the anxiety felt by the middle class residents of Vancouver and Victoria Island.
Norris cartoons, in facile pen, brush, and zip-a-tone, only occasionally took note of world-events, more often they were editorial jokes based on local and national newspaper headlines. The targets of Len Norris caricatures were taxpayers, post-office workers, policemen, beatniks (then hippies). The cartoons, emanating from Norris middle-class conservative viewpoint, were based on headlines about the topics of the day, like baby bonuses, raises in minimum wage, pollution, automobile safety, Canada Council Grants, and sex/violence in the popular culture. He would show the genesis of his idea by featuring a newspaper with a headline somewhere in his cartoon, perhaps draped over the stomach of a sleeping middle-class couch potato, or lying crumpled on a crowded hospital floor.
Norris annual cartoon collections vividly capture decades of mundane history, what people wore, what they were concerned about, and what made them angry.