2011 Canadian Comics Wrap Survey: Willow Dawson

Tell us about yourself – a brief bio/intro.
Hey there! I’m a cartoonist working out of the RAID Comics Studio in Toronto. I wrote and drew the graphic novels Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffragette Nellie McClung (Penguin Canada), and Lila and Ecco’s Do-It-Yourself Comics Club (Kids Can Press), and illustrated No Girls Allowed (with Susan Hughes, Kids Can Press). Some of my illustration clients include Owl Kids, Kids Can Press, Top Shelf Comics 2.0, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd., LGBTQ Parenting Network, Filmblanc, Kiss Machine, Metaviews, Jesse Hirsh, and YWCA Canada. I also teach Creating Comics and Graphic Novels at U of T and do lots of artist talks, panel discussions and workshops. My favourite topic to speak on is writing and drawing biography, autobiography and memoir.

What was your involvement in comics in 2011?
My book Hyena in Petticoats was launched in November alongside John Lang’s graphic novel Lone Hawk about Billy Bishop. Both books were published by Penguin Canada.What was the highlight of the year for you re:
(a) comics publishing in general?
Well, not so much comics publishing as comics retail. I’m pretty thrilled to see the rise of Little Island Comics, the Beguiling’s sister comic book store for the younger crowd. How incredible to have a store filled with graphic novels dedicated solely to kids! I think it’s the very first in North America. That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment.

(b) comics by Canadian creators?
I have to say Koyama Press, hands down. Annie is putting out some gorgeous books by Canadian creators who I think are really pushing the boundaries of sequential narrative. My all time fav is Michael DeForge’s Spotting Deer, absolutely stunning!

Was 2011 a good year for you?
Yes and no. Spring 2010 to Summer/Fall 2011 was a year-and-a-half of heartbreak and sky-high achievements. I think it was the hardest year-ish long stretch of time I have ever lived through, at least as long as I can remember. But I am really thrilled with the results of my labours both on Hyena and a yet-to-be-released science book I illustrated called The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea (with Helaine Becker, Kids Can Press). It was so much fun to draw all the people in all the different time periods and then to switch over to such lovely, ugly things like ice breakers and jellyfish!Was 2011 a good year for comics?
I really hate to say this, but my head was pretty much completely in the sand the entire time. I think it was a big year for Canadian Comics, we seem to be making leaps and bounds in terms of quality and sheer volume of content in North America. Toronto, specifically, is home to a huge and fairly tight-knit comics community, individually and collectively doing some pretty awesome stuff.

RAID studio (left to right): Ian Herring, Kalman Andrasofszky, Willow Dawson, Marcus To, Scott Hepburn. Front row: Ramon Perez, Francis Manapul and Andy Belanger.

Part of being on the scene is exhibiting at public events. Which Canadian ones (if any) did you support in 2011 and how do you feel they went for you? Did you exhibit at any American events?
I scaled down my convention and festival appearances this year in order to complete my projects. But I did do TCAF (always incredible), and signed for an hour at Penguin’s booth at FanEXPO. I was really sad I couldn’t stay for the whole weekend but I was on deadline and cramming to get my work handed in. I also did the MoCCA Comic Arts Festival in New York and gave a lecture in Montreal at CANSCAIP’s Yes/Oui Conference for up-and-coming illustrators and authors.What do you have coming up in 2012?
The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea is due out in April. It’s not a graphic novel but is a very pretty science book about the ocean! And Hyena in Petticoats and I will be touring in May for TD’s Canadian Children’s Book Week in P.E.I., which I’m super dooper excited about. I’m currently working on two book proposals for secret, upcoming projects with an estimated time of delivery set for “the future.”
I will announce all the deets for upcoming things as soon as I can on my website: willowdawson.com and blog, willowdawson.blogspot.comAny final comments on 2011?
Truthfully, I am pretty happy it’s nearly over and I can finally begin to get excited about all the awesome things that are brewing for next year. I think 2012 is going to be really great!

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