Bearing Witness to War

Winnipeg artist reimagines iconic Second World War images.

Written by Kaitlin Vitt

Posted July 15, 2019

What would happen if nature started to defend itself against human exploitation? What if the tables were turned and humans had to find a way to survive against an ever-growing and increasingly aggressive force of nature?

These are all questions that have inspired Winnipeg illustrator Nyco Rudolph and his Bears Invade poster series, which sees the artist swap out people for bears in iconic Second World War photographs and propaganda posters.

“There is so much fascinating, little-known Canadian history, and I’m just doing what I can to draw attention to our nation’s past through my art,” Rudolph said.

While he was working on designs for a bear-themed band, Second World War propaganda posters — featuring bears — came to Rudolph’s mind. From there, the idea evolved.

Rudolph began to create a series of posters while at the same time writing and illustrating a graphic novel based on the same idea. He plans to launch the book in the spring of 2020. Rudolph also illustrated Alexander Finbow’s book When Bears Invade, in which Godzilla-sized bears run amok in Toronto and other Canadian cities.

Stories about humans living in the bears’ world aren’t new — just look to classics like Winnie-the-Pooh and modern graphic novels like Bearmageddon. But Rudolph wanted to put his own twist on the idea, setting the story in Canada and focusing on themes of social and environmental issues in addition to military history.

He also recognizes the significance of bears in Indigenous culture. “They are known not only for their strength and courage but as protectors of the animal kingdom,” he said. “What better animal to lead a revolution?”

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This article originally appeared in the August-September 2019 issue of Canada’s History.

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