Atomic Rooster (303 Bank Street, Ottawa) is celebrating an aspect of local art and culture with a retrospective show of Greg Kerr’s Cur Comix. Cur Comix originally appeared in the alternative print weekly Ottawa X-Press from 1998-2004. The show, running from May 8 until June 5, 2017, features 43 originals of the four panel comic strips. In total about 160 were created, and along the way Kerr won the Association of Alternative Newspapers Award for Best Comic Strip.
The subject matter is partly low-life characters in skanky punk bands hanging out in smoky bars and taverns doing things like…stealing a Ronald McDonald statue; and partly downtown Ottawa.
The show itself isn’t just of interest for those who may have hung around such characters and places all those years ago, or read about them in the pages of X-Press. It’s also of interest to a wider audience as well, since Kerr was part of that 90s wave of artists to get a mention (along with the likes of Dave Cooper) in John Bell’s history of Canadian comics Invaders from the North (Dundrum Press, 2007). Kerr also received mention in the New Directions section of the 2002 Library and Archives Canada web exhibition, Beyond the Funnies.
I sat with Kerr at the wood of the bar at Atomic Rooster on a recent Sunday afternoon, talking about the show. His influences? “Robert Crumb, who basically invented the style of underground, semi-autobiographical comics, as well as Pete Bagge.” He told me how the history of Cur Comix crossed over the digital revolution, and he’d, “Basically from 98-2000 I’d do each strip on paper, then I started on paper and would scan it to finish digitally.”
The works on display are from that earlier period, with each piece being the black and white, ink and paper original. “It’s basically a slice of life of 90s Centretown,” he tells me, “with other pieces being childhood memories from the 70s.”
In Kerr’s hand, memories of childhood take the sort of turn like this (now digitally colourized) “memory” of the CBC television show The Beachcombers.
Future plans may involve putting a book out, but for now you can head down to Atomic Rooster and catch a slice of Ottawa history on the walls.
by Greg Kerr
A retrospective of comic strips published in the Ottawa X-Press from 1998-2002
Atomic Rooster (303 Bank Street)
May 8-June 5 2017
Tuesday May 16, 7-10 pm
(with DJ Andrew)
Brendan McNally is a regular contributor to OttawaTonite.com