GRIFFITHS Gilbert Joseph (Bus)
Gilbert Joseph (Bus) Griffiths was born in 1913 in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan but was raised in Penticton and from 1922 Burnaby B.C. His two interests art and logging that would come to define his life started early. His interest in art came through his father who drew for him pictures mostly of his favorite topic horses. When he was 12 years old, his father hired a faller to cut down a Douglas Fir on their property and the young Bus declared “I want to do that.” His dad gave him an axe and told him to cut wood for the kitchen stove. “I really liked falling those trees but I wasn’t too handy at getting the wood up to the house.”
As a youngster, he submitted his early comic-strip efforts to the Sun and Province. He said later, “When I think about it now, I must have had a lot of crust. I’d go right in and see the managing editors. Finally the editor of the Sun told me I’d better get some drawing lessons. That sort of took the wind out of my sails for a while.” Interestingly, he never did take lessons.
He quit school at age 14 and took a business course at Sprott-Shaw Business School. He got a job in the Vancouver office of Massey-Harris Farm Equipment Company but in 1929 the Depression hit and he lost his job. He picked up work chopping second growth fir into cordwood. From this experience he entered the logger’s life moving into regular logging camps going to the smaller camps because they gave him a greater variety of jobs and skills to learn. His specialty became felling which involves cutting the top off the tree and bucking. He still occasionally worked at these in his midsixties.
In 1941, Griffiths read in the paper that Maple Leaf Comics was about to be launched. Encouraged by his wife Margaret whom he had married in 1940, he took some western strips he had done earlier into Vern Miller the editor who was also a cartoonist. He asked Griffiths if he had any other ideas and Griffith told him he had thought of a cartoon story on logging. Miller liked the idea. Thus the original “Now Your Loggin” began in Rocket Comics. Although the original drawing was crude this series proved so popular that Maple Leaf asked Griffiths to revive his first proposal which became a second series “Son of the Range” – a western. At the same time he produced an educational eight page comic book about logging for the B.C. government. This project points at a future direction.
While the stories remained poplar Griffiths didn’t have the time to do both them and his logging job and so in 1943 he dropped the two series.
By 1961 he retired from logging and went into commercial fishing. Encouraged by his wife and using her dressed in logging clothes as a model he taught himself to paint and began a series of oil paintings illustrating the logging world he had known. But he was a reluctant painter. “I’d paint a little, leave it and go back. I’m an outdoor man when the weather’s good I couldn’t sit inside and paint. I had to wait for a foul day.” These paintings were distinguished by his commitment to accurate detail. The Provincial Museum of British Columbia mounted an exhibit of them in the spring and summer of 1971. The entire series was purchased by the Courtney Museum.
An article about the paintings stimulated an enquiry from the logging magazine BC Lumberman in 1973 which inspired Bus to revive the “Now Your Loggin” series from Rocket Comics but this time emphasizing the lifestyle of the loggers rather than the adventure aspect. After publishing a couple of episodes the BC Lumberman was forced to discontinue it for financial reasons. However, Griffiths continued to work on the project more or less continuously for the next five years. The result was Now Your Logging one of the earliest graphic novels produced in Canada. The novel appeared in excerpt form in three issues of the journal Raincoast Chronicles. It won the Eaton’s B.C. Book Award and sold out it two years. It was reprinted in 1992.The originals are now housed in the B.C. Provincial Museum.
During his final years Griffiths was writing a series of short prose stories about his logging career. He experienced a stroke in 2003 and lived under extended care until he died of prostate cancer in Comox B.C. September 25, 2006 at the age of 93 years.
Griffiths’ work is notable not so much for its story telling capacity as for its accuracy in portraying a way of life now gone. For that reason, Griffiths seems to fit best in that group of Canadian illustrators/cartoonists also represented by the likes of C.W. Jefferies and Gordon Johnston (“It Happened In Canada”) who focused on describing Canada’s history and heritage through cartooning and painting.
Now Your Logging. Harbour Publishing, 1978.
PERIODICAL GRAPHIC ANTHOLOGY:
“Now Your Loggin’.” Rocket Comics June-May 1942: 3-9.
“Now Your Loggin’.” Rocket Comics July – Aug.1942: 31-37.
“Now Your Loggin’.” Rocket Comics Jan.-Feb.1942: 36-42.
PERIODICAL TEXT & GRAPHIC ANTHOLOGY:
“The Old Chinese Shingle Bolt Camp.” Raincoast Chronicles, no number, no date. Raincoast Historical Society: 24-29.
“Now Your Logging.” Raincoast Chronicles, 6, no date. Raincoast Historical Society: 35-45.
“Now Your Logging.” Raincoast Chronicles, 7. no date. Raincoast Historical Society: 25-32.
Front: Bush Poems. Harbour Publishing, 1978.
Bush Poems. Writ., Peter Trower. Harbour Publishing, 1978.
Inside front &, inside back; Raincoast Chronicles, no number, no date. Raincoast Historical Society.
“Beyond the Grid up in the Woods…” Writ., Shawn Conner. The Comics Journal May 1996:111-112. (includes an interview with Griffiths and samples of his work.
“Interview Bus Griffiths: Beyond The Grid Of The Woods.” Comics Journal, 187, May 1996: 113+.
“Now Your Logging.” (Review). Writ., Tony Robertson. Raincoast Chronicles. No date. Raincoast Historical Society: 23.
“With Axe and Saw.” Writ., PaulaWild. The Beaver June/July 2005: 29-33.
“Bus Griffiths Logger and Artist 1913-2006.” (Obituary). Writ., Grant Shilling. Globe and Mail, Dec. 2006: 8.
.“Now You’re Logging: Bus Griffiths: Logger & Comic Strip Artist.” Writ., Peter Trower. Vancouver Magazine (?) :32.
“The Westcoast’s Most Unique Artist Pt. 1.” Writ., Peter Trower. West Coast News, 10, July 1979: 4+.
“The Westcoast’s Most Unique Artist Pt. 2.” Writ., Peter Trower. West Coast News 17 July 1979: 4+.
“The Westcoast’s Most Unique Artist Pt. 3.” Writ., Peter Trower. West Coast News, 24 July 1979: 4+.
“The Westcoast’s Most Unique Artist Pt. 4.” Writ., Peter Trower. West Coast News 31 July 1979: 4+.
(With some additions this series is a reprint of “Now You’re Logging: Buss Griffiths: Logger & Comic Strip Artist”.)
Rocket Comics, 1-4, May-June 1942: 3.
The Beaver, 85-3, June/July, 2005: 28.