BY SOUTHGREY.CA STAFF –
In a recent media release, Jeff Wilson describes himself as a lifelong student of the mechanics of humour who has clearly earned his chops as the creator of no less than two new books about farm life. Always conscious that urban critics might be tempted to ridicule the rural theme, Wilson sought to keep the humour fresh, sharp and intelligent. “Overall, I’ve tried to chronicle the common human experience,” said Wilson, the self-admittedly quiet, affable boy, always seen sitting in a corner, writing, or sketching, and dreaming of becoming a comic strip artist like Milton Caniff, or Charles Schulz.
Growing up on the family farm, Wilson stapled together blank comic books and then drew his own funnies in them. His drawing style got better with practice. “The biggest improvement came when I worked as an animator on Adventures Of Teddy Ruxpin in 1986-87," said Wilson. "I also worked hard to develop my gag writing.”
Jeff Wilson's The Avridge Farm comic feature ran from 1989 to 1995 in the Barrie Banner Advance, Dundalk Herald, Flesherton Advance, Durham Citizen, Haldimand Press, Wainwright Star Chronicle (Aberta), Owen Sound Sun Times, Farm & Country, Voice Of The Farmer and Gay Lea News. It still appears in the Middlesex Banner and Creemore Echo.
In the popular strip, Wilson has created an entertaining family of characters who put their unique comments on rural life. Irv Avridge returns to his childhood home to help his widowed mother run the family farm, leaving the city life with wife and young family in tow. The new Avridges are immersed into the seen and unseen delights and trials of farm living.
Irv Avridge is a loveable, but ineffectual farmer while his cityborn wife juggles parenting, adjusting to farm life and a career. Their son Jimmy has all the vibrance of youth and is like a keg of dynamite in search of a fuse. Mary (Mom) Avridge is a kind and rustic woman, quick with advice or a home-cooked meal. Amy, the Avridge’s quiet orphaned foster child, contrasts her loud, brash sock puppet, Hoseanna. Herm Osgoode is the terminally laid-back neighbour with a prodigious gift of gab. The farm animals are long-suffering dependents of their all-too-human stewards, of whom they have much to say…that is if we’re willing to listen. The cast is completed by an unnamed farm store clerk, who really seems to have Irv’s number…credit card et al.
Jeff Wilson's Flatt's Farm comic feature ran in the Durham Chronicle, Markdale Standard, Grey-Bruce TV Facts, Barrie Banner-Advance and MacMaster Silhouette between 1989 and 1995. With a nod to Russell Myers’ Broom Hilda, the strip is set in a mystical, idyllic farm setting, where the absurd, inane and hilarious occur daily.
Fred Flatt, a curmudgeonly single farmer working his land, is oblivious to the varying degrees of dysfunction exhibited by his livestock. Horace, the farm’s wisecracking, ne’er-do-well workhorse rarely leaves a reclining position beneath his tree. Pighetti, the idealistic, dim-witted pig’s sense of occasion is the only thing worse than his body odour. Brewster, the anxiety-addled Rooster, is tortured daily by his one task: crowing at dawn. And a nameless bovine party girl is always in pursuit of the unwitting and self-absorbed Horace.
The Apple Corps strip-within-a-strip is a TV show that draws in some of the Flatt’s Farm cast; it features them preparing for an unnamed military exercise. But the series ends abruptly end when Brewster turns off his television set. Wilson considered selling The Apple Corps on its own, until newspapers began running Flatt’s Farm.
These strips have been collected into two books: The Complete Flatt’s Farm & The Avridge Farm Companion. The two book collections are available for purchase on Amazon.ca.
They may also be ordered via email at $10 per copy.
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