When David Collier met an 11-year-old Hamilton girl wearing a bowler hat at this year's Doug Wright Awards, he got a good feeling.
The annual literary awards are presented to Canadian cartoonists each year for their published works. Collier had been nominated three times previously, but hadn't won. This year, he was the winner of the Pigskin Peters Award for his cartoon book Hamilton Illustrated. The award comes complete with a bowler hat and a hat rack-shaped trophy.
"I'm a punk cartoonist so I don't really care about awards, but this one felt like it was bringing it home to Hamilton," Collier said.
The Pigskin Peters award is named in honour of a character from Jimmy Frise's Birdseye Center comic strip, which was also the inspiration for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' bowler-clad mascot of the same name. The serendipity of winning that particular award for this particular piece of work made the honour exceptional, Collier said.
Born in Windsor, Collier said that as a boy he always liked the look and feel of Detroit and he feels that Hamilton has a similar aesthetic.
"It's got everything: nature and industry," he said. "Nature on its own is boring to draw and industry on its own is really kind of dull to draw, too. But when nature meets the man-made, it's kind of beautiful."
He expresses this diverse landscape in Hamilton Illustrated through a series of comic essays about living in working in the city. Within the pages, Collier captures the landmarks as well as the lesser-known local haunts and curiousities that make Hamilton unique.
One illustration that landed in the pages is of a stranger he saw walking down the middle of Cannon Street in a trenchcoat. Collier said because of the drawing, friends encouraged him to get to know this stranger, a story he included in the book.
"That single drawing got more feedback than any I've ever done," he said. "I got to meet him and I found out he's actually a funny guy."
Though he's mostly gotten good feedback, he said some people don't always like seeing their interactions with Collier recreated in comic form.
"People automatically think I'm making fun of them because it's a comic," he said.
"But when I'm drawing people, it's out of love."