Jim Simpkins – Canadian Cartoonist and Creator of “Jasper the Bear”

Jim Simpkins the cartoonist and creator of Canada’s beloved “Japser the Bear” was also my great uncle.

Jim studied art at the Winnipeg School of fine art in the late 1920’s under Lemoine Fiztgerald who later joined the group of seven.

Although I don’t remember ever meeting my great uncle Jim, I do remember s a kid receiving all kinds of fun goodies, and cartoon books in the mail from him and always enjoyed a good laugh over reading his cartoons.

Remember the photo of the original Simpkins who emigrated from England, with the pet black bear named “Eva”? Well Jim ran with it and turned a Simpkins family pet into a famous Canadian cartoon character. The loveable bear traveled all around the world as cartoons were reprinted in Belgium, England, France, Germany, Italy and Mexico. Irwin Toys at one point had bought the rights and were producing toys.

If you visit Jasper National Park in Alberta you’ll see a 9 foot tall replica statue of Jasper the Bear, a famous Canadian cartoon series published for 27 yrs straight in Maclean’s Magazaine.They even put Jasper on the Canadian coin!

Jasper was launched in 1948 and was one of Canada’s first environmentalists always warning folks not to litter…we still think the Americans copied him with Smokey the Bear…just for the records Jasper came first!

After being drafter for the second world war, where Jim also worked as an artist, he became one of the original artists at the National Film board in Ottawa where he worked for 16 years.

Jim lived mostly in Toronto and was a founding member of the Canadian Cartoonists Club.

Aside from Jasper the Bear Jim also created the first hockey stamp in Canada and a letter of thanks from the Queen of England herself for Jim’s contribution to Canadian Inuit Art.

You can find Jim’s work in the national gallery and national archives of Canada.

For all newspaper clippings, articles and all press related info about Jim and Jasper click HERE

Official Documents (links to PDF’s)

Letter from Buckingham Palace

War Certificate

National Archives of Canada

Brant Memorial Museum

National Health Department

National Transport Department

Rinehart American Publishers Offer

 

More on Jim here.