The Cartoonists by Susanna McLeod                        [email protected]

 

Susan Dewar, Editorial Cartoonist and Co-Creator of "Us & Them"

June 30, 2012

 

One of my favourite women editorial cartoonists, Susan Dewar's political jabs strike hard and fast, her panels instigating thought, smiles, and perhaps nods of new understanding. The ironies of the world are put in sharp relief through the cartoonist's experienced pen. Her co-created comic strip "Us & Them" put daily life into hilarious perspective, through the eyes of the female half of the population.

 

It's not easy to get a full-time post as a newspaper cartoonist. Sadly, so many of the artistic jobs were deemed redundant and cut long ago, most likely never to be filled again. And it is even harder for a woman to take control of the pen. Such situation makes Susan Dewar a rare and unique breed. She is the Editorial Cartoonist for the Ottawa Sun, the one and only full-time female newspaper editorial cartoonist in Canada.

Susan Dewar was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1949. Growing up, her focus, it seems, was not initially in the arts. Moving to Ontario, Dewar attended high school in Toronto. Continuing to post-secondary education, the young woman enrolled at the University of Western Ontario in London, west of Toronto. She then completed a degree in teaching at Toronto Teachers' College.

"After working in commercial art in Toronto, she freelanced for Canadian Forum, Teen Generation, Current and TheToronto Sun," said the Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists in the brief biography, "Sue Dewar." With solid experience behind her, the artist soon found her niche in cartooning.

Editorial Newspaper Panel by Susan Dewar
© Susan Dewar
Canadian Editorial Cartoonist Susan Dewar

The job of editorial cartoonist did not drop into Dewar's lap. Speaking with Sheila Gibbons of The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, Dewar said "'I went to the Globe, and I heard them talking bout me behind the partition, saying they didn't want any women... I went to the Star, where they told me I was too left-wing for them, although the paper itself is to the left.'" The cartoonist went home empty-handed but not finished. She later met Canadian editorial cartoonist Andy Donato at an event, a chance meeting that changed the playing field.

Putting her to a challenge, Donato asked her to draw three cartoons before he emptied his wine glass. Of course, Dewar surpassed the impromptu test. "I went home and inked up one of them and it went into the slot in the paper on the one day the staff cartoonist didn't work," Dewar told Gibbons. In 1984, Dewar was hired by the Calgary Sun newspaper in Alberta.

Editorial Cartoonist Susan Dewar, Image from CTVNews.ca

"Us & Them" by Susan Dewar and Milt Priggee

Three years later, Susan Dewar was honoured with the top prize in the Political Cartooning Division of the National Business Writing Awards.

In 1988, Dewar moved back to Ontario to a post as Editorial Cartoonist with the Ottawa Sun. Through the Sun's syndication, her inspiring, delightful and thought-provoking commentary in the form of cartoons appears in daily and community newspapers across Canada.

But the talented artist and social commentator had more to discover and much more to say.

"Us & Them" Comic Strip Created by Susan Dewar and Milt Priggee

Teaming with prestigious cartoonist Wiley Miller of "Non Sequitur" fame, Dewar began a daily strip called "Us & Them" through Universal Press Syndicate. It was a true collaboration in which the cartoonists alternated days, each pushing forward the storylines of middle-aged characters Joe and Janet. It was a success with fans, finding humour in the male-female dynamic and idiosyncracies of life. Miller left the strip after four years and Milt Prigee added his views to the gentlemen's side. The comic strip ended its run a few years ago.

Now a household name, Dewar and her striking work is eagerly devoured by fans. Her strength lies in her ability to boil down complicated Canadian and world issues into eye-opening and yet funny panels. Her art is direct, smooth, and easy on the eyes, a great fit with her editorial statements. Dewar is the parent of one son.

Much good luck to you, Susan Dewar. We like your style!

 

© Susanna McLeod 2012
TheCartoonists.ca