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The book's front cover. Photo provided.

Write On Ottawa: The Lighter Side of the Pandemic by Karen Munro Caple

By Joyce MacPhee on January 11, 2022


Pandemic-themed cartoons hit a funny bone

In early 2020, when COVID-19 imposed major restrictions upon Karen Munro Caple’s registered massage therapy (RMT) practice, she responded with characteristic humour. She has been drawing since she was a child and had enjoyed a 20-year career in animation in Ottawa before launching a second career here as an RMT. Munro Caple began drawing cartoons about her COVID-19 experience that eventually culminated in her collection: The Lighter Side of the Pandemic or What day is it, again? She describes her cartoons as silly observations of our crazy ways of dealing with pandemic stress.

Author Karen Munro Caple. Photo provided.

Since 2005, Munro Caple had been creating a massage therapy comic strip for the magazine Massage Therapy Today. Due to the shutdown of her RMT practice during the pandemic, her “Adventures from Karen’s Clinic” comic strip morphed into “Adventures from Karen’s Home.”

“I’ve always been inspired by funny events that happened during a massage session or when other RMTs shared their experiences,” says Munro Caple. However, other cartoons that didn’t fit into the format of her comic strip kept coming to her. “I wanted to record amusing pandemic scenarios and the goofy ways we sometimes deal with stress,” she recalls. “The value of humour during the pandemic is to keep us all sane in the midst of chaos!”

Patio Barber by Karen Munro Caple.

Cheered on via Facebook and email by friends who let her know she was on the right laugh track, Munro Caple created more cartoons and the collection was published in late 2021. “This souvenir cartoon book chronicles the beginning of the pandemic through to the introduction of the vaccines. The pandemic isn’t over yet, but hopefully we’ll all be back to some kind of ‘better’ normal sooner than later,” Munro Caple says.

The Lighter Side of the Pandemic contains more than 90 black-and-white cartoons, featuring well-drawn visuals with always good-natured but sometimes pointed messages. Each cartoon includes a date to add perspective to Munro Caple’s pandemic journey. She deliberately put them in chronological order, so readers could see the progression of the times and different issues—such as toilet paper hoarding. That topic is cheekily addressed on the front cover.

Cone Head by Karen Munro Caple.

Although the cartoons were created from the perspective of a massage therapist, the messages are universal. I particularly related to her sequence of “Busy Life of a Self-Isolator” cartoons depicting the pandemic situation on the home front. Coincidentally, Munro Caple enjoyed creating those cartoons the most. Other fun themes include the benefits of masks, masks and men, Zoom revelations, and before and after the pandemic.

How we look on Zoom by Karen Munro Caple.

Munro Caple says that so far the reaction to The Lighter Side of the Pandemic has been very positive. The pandemic has inspired a flood of humorous literary efforts, and this collection of cartoons is one of the best I have come across. However, when the book first came out, Munro Caple said she had looked at the cartoons so often she couldn’t tell if they were funny anymore. She was relieved when an acquaintance she gave the book to laughed out loud repeatedly when reading it.

This book reminds us of where we were during the pandemic and where we are going, seen through a humorous lens. Munro Caple hopes that readers will enjoy it as a chronicle of these unusual times. “This pandemic will end, as all pandemics have done, and the cartoons in my book are a record of how we managed to survive through a challenging time in history,” she says. “It’s a way to see the humorous side of a very stressful era.”

The Lighter Side of the Pandemic or What day is it again? is available in softcover from Amazon Canada or as an ebook from Chapters/Indigo. You can also pick up the book up at local bookstores including Singing Pebble, Octopus Books, Perfect Books, Books on Beechwood, and the Comic Book Shop. See more of Munro Caple’s cartoons here.