Ivan Kocmarek


I grew up in the North End of Hamilton where Eastwood Park was the hub of our young lives and where the houses were generously populated by immigrant labourers. The rest of the city looked askance at us. All my schools have been razed, save for the University. There I translated a 10th-century Sanskrit philosophical work into English and subsequently taught for 8 years before realizing it wasn't the place I should be. Even my place of employment for nearly a quarter of a century, Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School, is now derelict and in limbo. There I had the privilege of teaching English to immigrant children and young adults who had fled from increasing pockets of trauma around the globe. There I also experienced the genuine reward of having those newcomer kids teach me more than I could ever teach them.

I retired a decade ago and needed to secure a passion to carry and impel me through a this new time when everyday had suddenly become a Saturday. What I latched onto was my life-long love of comic books and graphic narrative and chose to focus it on a unwarrantedly neglected are of study—the Canadian comic books of World War II. This led me to producing an online column that has now run on for a decade, to presenting dozens of talks at comic book conventions, museums, libraries, and art galleries, to co-curating three shows at galleries in the area, and to publishing two books and one comic book on the subject. In 2023 I presented the inaugural Cartoon Forge at the Central Branch of the Hamilton Public Library as a Signature event of Hamilton Arts. This free one-day event comprising an Artists Alley of 20 local cartoonists and three panel presentations by leading local area cartoonists  drew over 250 attendees.

In essence, what I do is a kind of journalism and community involvement that attempts to reclaim Canada's unwarrantedly neglected cartooning tradition (especially that of Canada's WWII comic books), recognizes and promotes Hamilton's current cartooning talent ranging from the aspiring to the world class, and explores what direction this legacy might take in the future.

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