26 November 2010

James at 100 (Jasper at 62)

As a kid, Jasper was everywhere – the daily newspaper, Maclean's, postcards, T-shirts, buttons and ball caps – but now he's seen nowhere outside the national park that gave him his name. Out of sight, out of mind, I hadn't thought of the bear in years until stumbling over the fact that today marks the centenary of Jasper creator James Simpkins' birth.

A commercial artist, Winnipeg born and bred, Simpkins' talent extended much farther than Jasper. Here's one example, a 1956 postage stamp:

And then there were other cartoons, like Simpkins' Montreal:

The Gazette, 29 August 1962

But the bear was pervasive; a friend's parents had Jasper salt and pepper shakers, he had a copy of McClelland and Stewart's 1972 Jasper. Was it the same as Ryerson's similarly titled 1954 collection or the one published by Rinehart six years later? I have no idea. Jasper books are so very hard to come by these days, all the more reason why a revival – very much overdue – would be welcome. Drawn and Quarterly? Seth?


  1. How right you are. Now that you mention it I remember seeing Jasper the bear quite often when I was growing up. Somewhere along the way he has disappeared. A revival is most assuredly due.

  2. Second that. Jasper is a good memory for me. Didn't know about the artist's stamp work or the books.

  3. Now that I think about it - and I have been thinking - I'm pretty certain that I went to school with a girl who owned a Jasper necklace (or was it a charm?). A lot of memories... all of them good. Odd that it's been nearly four decades since the last Jasper title.