Visions of an Icon: Wolverine by Colin Upton

Photo by Ivana FilipovichCOLIN UPTON – in his own words:

I was born in Winnipeg in 1960 and moved out to the West Coast at age four to West Vancouver. My father was a professor of Canadian history, our home was full of books up on art and history. However, learning disability and serious behavioural problems that persisted into early adulthood disturbed my childhood. I began drawing as a treatment for dyslexia. At an early age I discovered both Asterix the Gaul and the work of Herge, creator of the classic comic Tintin, whose work has heavily influenced my own. Later I discovered Monty Python, underground comics, punk rock and the autobiographical comics of Harvey Pekar. Entering the Emily Carr school of Art in 1979 I took design and life drawing but my heart was really in cartooning. I dropped out in my 3rd year after a nervous collapse caused by the early death of my father.


After five lost years and 8 months of treatment I felt better but after a fruitless search for a job I found myself broke and bored on welfare. In 1985 I printed my first mini-comics, Socialist Turtle and The Granville
Street Gallery, in a basement on a borrowed gestnar. Switching to offset printing I eventually self-published over 60 mini-comics and digests of my own material. I co-founded the Vancouver small press digest series New Reality, I somehow amassed a large collection of alternative comics and became vice-president of the Vancouver Cartoonist Society – just before it collapsed. Otherwise, I kept busy as a co-host of the noise program Newsounds Gallery on Co-op Radio, sitting as a volunteer at the Pitt Gallery, performing with the audio art band The Haters and drumming for the rock band Puke Theatre.


In 1990 the first Big Thing comic was released, bankrolled by a local patron of the arts, Ed Varney, consisting of mostly autobiographical material. Big Thing was then picked up by Fantagraphics Books who published four issues, containing a greater variety of stories, fiction, fantasy, humour and autobio, to thundering indifference from readers and critics. In 1992 I traveled with a group of North American cartoonists to the largest comicon in France at Angouleme and the next year I was a guest at a convention in Porto, Portugal, travelling with Naughty Bits artist Roberta Gregory.


After Fantagraphics cancelled Big Thing I fell into a long dry period, despairing of my future in comics. I was smarting from the indifference or outright hostility of the critics, I have always been too thin-skinned and easily hurt. And it does hurt, believe me it hurts. During this period I created a few stories for anthologies, including several illustration jobs for comics writer Dennis Eichhorn, and returned to mini-comics publishing. I also put out two issues of my cash-cow comic, the erotic comic Incubus, who’s first issue sold more than all my previous comics combined. However, the publisher left comics to create pornographic card games. I have the third issue of Incubus pencilled, sitting in a drawer.


In 1994 Aeon released a one-shot Big Thing that earned some small favourable critical and readership response, particularly a story (Chris) about the damage done to a young couple’s relationship by the demands of political correctness. Also that year Starhead released the Big Black Thing, reprinting selected mini-comics material, mostly as a comics industry in-joke which I will not explain here as it would take too long. For years I was a regular visitor to the San Diego Comicon. but relative poverty has limited my appearances in the last several years to the A.P.E. conventions in San Jose until 1998.


In 1995 I began my most ambitious project, Buddha on the Road, an anti-religious adventure epic that last six issues until the publisher folded. In 1997 I went on a five city signing tour of the East Coast with Roberta Gregory and Donna Barr that ended at SPX in Silver Hills, Maryland.


Over the years my comic strips have appeared in Vancouver freepapers, zines, anthologies and comicbooks. I have created award winning illustration work, mostly historical work for Flagship games of California. I have also done performance art, paintings and just recently completed my first equestrain portrait!


You can find me hanging out in art galleries, visiting galleries and liberaries, drinking tea with friends and urban hiking around Vancouver’s tree-lined streets. l am living comfortably, independently impoverished in Vancouvers hip and trendy nieghbourhood of Mount Pleasant. Currently I am co-hosting a weekly UBC radio show about comics. I am living with my cat, Lomu the Wicked, who hates you.


I am a pale penis person of the hetero persuasion, anglo- swedish- american, blue-eyed, brown haired. 6ft. 300pds. Ugly with sensitive skin that has a tendency to break out into rashes. I vote N.D.P. (socialist). I am an atheist, pro-choice, anti-gun and pro-frees peech. I wear black. Oilskin, denim or leather jackets, plaid shirts, doc martens, and I collect hats (7 ¾ ) when I can buy I buy books, mostly English and Russian novels, some Indian, American and Canadian novelists but I mostly read non-fiction. I study history; military, political, art, religious, comedy, and I take an interest in current events. I wish I understood more about media studies and economics – I think we’re being had. I listen to punk alternative, any sort of slightly weird pop music and Gilbert and Sullivan. I like comedies, spaghetti westerns, samurai epics and Chinese martial arts fantasies. I don’t know how to drive, I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs. I do tea, I’m trying to lose weight. Sometimes I feel like a patriotic Canadian. Sometimes I’m not sure. I have never been arrested.


The piece shown above is one of over 40 pieces of original artwork featuring Wolverine donated to the Joe Shuster Awards for the Visions of an Icon Art Show and Sale by Canadian artists. The pieces were exhibited twice in 2009 – at the Joe Shuster Awards Ceremony in September and at the Speakeasy Comic Art Show in November. The original art pieces will be auctioned off on eBay in March 2010. Watch for announcements on this site!

Every day we will try to post an original piece and some information on the artist(s) that donated the work.