Creator of islanders cartoon retires strip

After two decades of illustrations, Berry Wijdeven says it's time for a change

  • Sep. 23, 2015 11:00 a.m.

After 20 years and more than 1,000 editorial cartoons reflecting the ironies, tragedies and achievements of Haida Gwaii, Observer illustrator Berry Wijdeven is retiring his comic series, islanders.This week’s cartoon will be the last scheduled submission, however it may not be the last readers will see of long-running strip. “It has been an honour to appear weekly onto the island scene but it is time for a change,” Mr. Wijdeven says. “I’m not sure what that will look like, but I very much doubt that the islanders are retiring for good. There will always be issues….”Observer publisher Quinn Bender said he’s sad to see the end of the series, but welcomes any future submissions on a casual basis.”It’s incredibly rare for a newspaper this size to feature an editorial cartoon created by one of its own readers. It will be impossible to replace Berry. I think I speak for all the current and past staff here when I say his voice will be greatly missed in the editorial pages.”One of Mr. Wijdeven’s first jobs upon arriving on-islands was creating ads and layout at the Observer. Reading the weekly issues, it didn’t take him long to discover that islanders were quite passionate about local issues, and, more often than not, used the Observer’s Letters to the Editor section to make their point. “I wanted to participate in those discussions,” he says, “but I didn’t necessarily want to add inflammatory material to the raging debates. Having done a bit of dabbling before, I decided providing cartoons would allow me to have a say, while also poking some gentle fun. A spoonful of sugar and all that. And so islanders was born.”Mr. Wijdeven took over the editorial space from illustrator Manzanita Snow. Then owner and publisher of the Observer, Jeff King, says at that time he didn’t hesitate to bring Mr. Wijdeven on board when he espressed interest in the vacancy.”We picked him up right away. His cartoons were always so on-the-mark, so incisive, so easy to understand instantaneously, which is so important in a cartoon. He was always just so in touch with islanders and what they were thinking. It was uncanny.”There’s only one Berry-of course there are eaqually great cartoonists in the world, but they don’t live here.”Over the two decades since his first cartoon, Mr. Wijdeven says simply, “It was quite a ride.”Haida Gwaii has gone through many, many changes ranging from name changes and title cases to land-use plans and a new generation of ceremonial poles. And islanders had the privilege to have a comic say on them all.” Meanwhile, the success of islanders spawned what he charitably be described as a career with the publication of two books and cartoons which have appeared in Maclean’s, the Vancouver Sun, rabble.ca, Wavelength Paddling and a variety of papers and magazines all over British Columbia. “I even got to go the Canadian Association of Editorial Cartoonists conference in Montreal, where I met my hero Terry Mosher who has been publishing his Aislin cartoon in the Montreal Gazette for over 40 years. And all of this on the back from what really are some rather silly stick people with raindrop heads.”In the past two issues of the Observer, islanders has featured two of those raindrop-headed characters witnessing the collapse of their trademark fence, on which they’ve debated islands issues over the years.Faced with the splintered planks they ruminated first on how to resurrect it (“maybe we can apply to Gwaii Trust”), and now this week on whether they should simply let it lie (“a change might do us good”) before saying farewell.Goodbye to you, Berry. Thanks for the insights and the laughs.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

Kyrell Sopotyk was drafted by the Kamloops Blazers in 2016 and played two seasons with the Western Hockey League club. (Photograph By ALLEN DOUGLAS/KTW)
Kamloops Blazer paralyzed in snowboarding accident sparks fundraiser for family

As of Jan. 24, more than $68,000 had been raised to help Kamloops Blazers’ forward Kyrell Sopotyk

(Pixhere photo)
B.C. dentists argue for COVID-19 vaccine priority after ‘disappointing’ exclusion from plan

Vaccines are essential for dentists as patients cannot wear masks during treatment, argues BCDA

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Most Read