Canadian – where to draw the line?


I ask in response to a conversation I’m engaged in with Sequential Spiltink’s (and the Doug Wright Awards’) Bryan Munn over the Canadian-ness of books created by Canadians living in the USA – specifically Hal Foster – but also Cecil Castellucci, Bryan Lee O’Malley and musician Neil Young (re: the graphic novel Neil Young’s Greendale).

What defines a creator as being Canadian?

The easiest way to draw that line in the sand is citizenship and residency status.

Generally, this organization considers to be Canadian anyone that is a Canadian citizen – whether they live in Canada or abroad.

The great thing about Canada is that we don’t ask our citizens to surrender their citizenship if they relocate elsewhere for work purposes. They can be dual citizens and still be Canadian. Chris Bachalo, Travis Charest, Cecil Castellucci, Bernard Chang, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Todd McFarlane, Hal Foster, Joe Shuster, Palmer Cox and others are examples of Canadians currently living (or who lived) and worked abroad and are still considered to be Canadian by this organization.

It is of particular note that comic creators up until the 1970’s generally had to relocate to where the work was. In order to work for American syndicates and/or publishers many of our talented creators moved to the United States in order to work in their chosen field.


Now if a citizen of another country relocates to Canada, generally we observe our own internal guidelines and clarify intent and duration. If a person relocates here for a short period of time and then moves away then we don’t classify that person as Canadian. While the colourist and artist Richard Isanove did live in Toronto for two years, he was not intending to live here indefinitely and we instituted a rule about duration of residency being a minimum of three years. You can’t just move to Canada and automatically be considered a Canadian creator. Hope Larson is an American cartoonist who is married to Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley – Hope did qualify as a permanent resident, as she lived in Ontario and Nova Scotia for years, but she has subsequently moved back to the USA so we no longer consider her new work as Canadian, even though we do still consider O’Malley’s as Canadian.

John Byrne lived and worked in Canada for many years, but in the early 1980’s he moved to the US and officially became an American citizen, he now considers himself an American. The flipside of this is that Steve McNiven, an American living as a permanent resident in Canada does not consider himself to be Canadian – he is an American living abroad. While technically both are considered eligible for consideration, we have to also respect their position. Byrne is in the Hall of Fame for what he did when he was a Canadian. Another example is Joe Matt – an American cartoonist that lived illegally in Canada for 14 years (1988-2002). He’s an American cartoonist by definition.

What defines a works as being by a Canadian?

The person doing it defines it, and the role that they performed on the work. It doesn’t matter who the publisher is – Canadian, American, European, Asian… if the work is done by a Canadian it qualifies as being Canadian in the category the creator did the work – writer, artist, colourist, cover art. Publisher matters only for the publishing and self-publishing awards.

In the case of the graphic novel Neil Young’s Greendale, published by DC/Vertigo is not eligible as a Canadian work for the 7th Annual Joe Shuster Awards in that none of the creators involved are Canadian: the writer (Joshua Dysart), the artist (Cliff Chiang), and the colourist (Dave Stewart) – are all Americans. While Neil Young is a Canadian (one who has lived in California for 30+ years) and was involved in the collaboration as an advisor, it does not meet the guidelines for any of our categories as a Canadian work. Maybe if we had an advisor category, which is unlikely.




3 thoughts on “Canadian – where to draw the line?

  1. Yeah, I generally use the same criteria when compiling the Canadian Comics Bestseller List for Sequential. The hardest part of making the list is recognizing Canuck creators when they are not tagged by Bookmanager. For instance, I have no idea who Steve McNiven is, let alone where he lives and how he identifies himself along nationality lines, so I would probably skip over any book he authors. Luckily, through blogging at Sequential and reading the pile of comics submitted for the Wright Awards, I’ve developed a pretty good working knowledge of Canadian working in comics, regardless of residency. Some things I let in on the vaguest of excuses, others not. I can’t be bothered to check if the latest Spawn book is actually written by Todd McFarlane or if his name i sjust on the cover al la the Young book. It could sell more copies than the Plain Janes, but won’t get listed because I’m lazy and fear for my soul and sanity if I know too much about Spawn.

  2. I hear ya. Thankfully Jason Truong is an amazing fact checker and there are a lot of people out there who can help with research or to consult with a creator and/or their family (say, for Hall of Fame). We try to maintain resources on this site to help with identifying Canadians, and keep that information as up to date as we can and my other jobs help me out with identifying where people reside and how they consider themselves. My working knowledge isn’t too bad after doing this for six years, but Jason is a hawk.

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