Cartoonist Kate Beaton, known for her smart, witty comics that shine an irreverent, contemporary light on historical and literary figures, has won a Doug Wright Award for Canadian cartooning.

Beaton won the best book honour in Toronto Saturday night for her book Hark! A Vagrant, based on her highly popular web comic filled with lively caricatures poking fun at everything from Canadian stereotypes to history's hipsters to Jane Austen mash-ups.

"The world of comics can be a sequestered and dusty place," award juror and visual artist Shary Boyle said in statement.

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Kate Beaton has won a large cult following for her witty historical and literary influenced comics, featured both online and in book form in Hark! A Vagrant. (Jessica Wong/CBC)

"Beaton rises up and throws open the doors to a whole new audience — welcoming one and all with her generous vision and sense of sophisticated, inclusive playfulness."

Born in Nova Scotia and now based in New York, Beaton's work has also appeared in Harpers Magazine, the National Post and The New Yorker. She was previously recognized at the 2009 Wright Awards with its emerging artist honour.

Up-and-comer Ethan Rilly accepted the 2012 Spotlight Award for Pope Hats #2, a continuation of the Toronto cartoonist's sensitive tale of a bright young woman navigating a career in a busy corporate legal firm while tending to her capricious actress roommate.

Rilly "is a cartoonist who takes his time to get it right," jurist John Martz said. "It can be no easy task to write a story about an introspective Toronto law clerk, and have it be so compelling, so rewarding to study, and be filled with such warmth."

Boyle and Martz were joined on the Wright Awards jury by artist and professor George Walker.

Organizers presented the Pigskin Peters Award, the category honouring avant-garde or experimental work, to Toronto's Michael Comeau for his comic Hellberta, which the nominating committee described as "a pastiche of superhero comic, a political satire, a post-apocalyptic fable — all melded together to form a single nightmarish vision."

Taking place during the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, the Wright Awards ceremony also included the induction of Montreal-based veteran political cartoonist Terry Mosher, widely known by the pen name Aislin, to the Giants of the North - Canadian Cartoonists Hall of Fame.

Mosher, on hand for the ceremony, looked back at his more than 40-year career as an editorial cartoonist — the majority spent at the Montreal Gazette — in a colourful, and at times bawdy, on-stage conversation with newspaper columnist Rick Salutin.

Held annually and named after the cartoonist behind the internationally syndicated comic strip Nipper (later renamed Doug Wright's Family), the awards celebrate excellence in the Canadian art and alternative comic scene. Past winners include Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, Pascal Girard, Bryan Lee O'Malley and Jeff Lemire.