My Early Cartooning Career
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|After several years working as a freelance
commercial and layout artist, drawing a few cartoons on the side
for alternative papers like Around Kitsilano and the Berkeley
Barb and for the student paper (The Link) at BC
Institute of Technology – where I had run the newspaper and print
shop since 1976 – I got a break in the spring of 1979 when I was
asked to do illustrations for feature articles in the Vancouver Sun.
What I would really have liked to do was draw editorial cartoons
but had no chance at all, as the Sun had two of the top
cartoonists in North America, Len Norris and Roy Peterson,
alternating on the editorial page. Oh, to dream! I would have sold
my soul to the devil to join that elite duo...
|One of many I drew, an illustration for "Pushbutton holiday is
almost here," August 11, 1979, by Robert Turnbull, which
accurately predicted the Internet, interestingly enough. The Sun
commissioned illustrations for many of its feature stories, and a
plum spot was the cover of its Leisure TV and entertainment
section included with the Friday paper.
|The highlight of my brief career drawing for the Sun was
the opportunity to fill the front page of the "End of the
Seventies" section on December 29, 1979. The managing editor
bought the original (I wonder if it still exists?) which was a
large, about 20 x 30 inch, pen and ink drawing on illustration
board. So many faces and events: (from the top including)
Vietnamese boat people, Jane Fonda, Kent State, starving Indians,
Bill Vanderzalm, Pat McGeer, Dave Barrett, Bill Bennett, the Bee
Gees, John Travolta, Rod Stewart, Henry Kissinger, Nixon and
Watergate, Gerald Ford, Tom Campbell, Rene Levesque, Pierre
Trudeau, the FLQ, Peter Lougheed on the big car ("Let the Bastards
Freeze in the Dark"), the oil crisis, Joe Clark, Jimmy Carter, the
Jonestown mass suicide, Edward Kennedy, Jerry Brown, Jackie
Onassis, Ayatollah Khomeini, Margaret Trudeau (& Mick Jagger –
should've drawn Ronny Wood), John Diefenbaker as Brutus, Robert
Stanfield, David Lewis, Jean Drapeau and Robert Bourassa and the
Montreal Olympics, Jean Chrétien, Ian Smith of Rhodesia, Willy
Brandt and Brezhnev the Russian premier .... and "Jaws." The Air
Otto reference was for Liberal cabinet minister Otto Lang, one of
the pigs at the trough of that era. The only glitch was the blank
banner at the bottom, which was supposed to read "How Soon Could
We Forget?" in red ink, but it got stripped out of the black plate
and not put into the red one by the Sun production crew.
Then, Barbara McLintock at the Victoria Times (a separate paper from the Colonist in that period) took a liking to my drawings, so I drew some editorial cartoons for it in the spring and into the fall of 1980, a few of which were ....
|July 15, 1980, when Alberta premier Peter Lougheed suggested
that BC and Alberta should jointly approach Ottawa to get a better
resource-revenue deal (around the time the federal Liberals
brought in the National Energy Program and created Petro Canada).
Bill Vanderzalm has the fly swatter; he had sued Victoria Colonist
cartoonist Bob Bierman over a cartoon that showed him picking the
wings off flies, implying he was cruel and heartless – a
reasonable inference after he suggested he would personally hand
welfare recipients a shovel if they wouldn't go to work. The guy
on the left with the broken glasses was, I think, the hot-tempered
Rafe Mair, always getting into scraps as a cabinet minister as he
later did as a hot-liner.
Somewhere in there the Times and the Colonist amalgamated so I was shown the door, but the Province was looking for a new cartoonist and I had a final fling with it....
|Dave Barrett, then the leader of the Opposition in BC, savouring
the infighting in the Bill Bennett government, sometime around
|A highlight (as I increasingly didn't get along with the the
paper's editor) was drawing the cartoon for the morning after the
1980 US presidential election. There appeared to be no chance that
Ronald Reagan would lose, but nevertheless I did a second cartoon
of him riding into the sunset with "The End" written
above, in classic western-movie style. What an era-defining moment
that day was ...
The upshot of 1980-1 was the Province hiring Bob Krieger, whose style, so like that of the venerable Terry Mosher aka Aislin in the Montreal Gazette, won the day. The news of his buyout/retirement 32 years later in 2013, at the point when daily newspapers appear to be about to collapse, caught my eye. He'd had my dream job, whereas I wrote and illustrated 15 books, lived on a farm and in Australia and travelled extensively and lengthily – all impossibilities for a job-holder.
So, although I was crushed at the time, non, je ne regrette rien. And, to be honest, I really never would have become an A-list cartoonist. The only cartoonist from my generation who was really good, really funny, was Adrian Raeside, who drew for the Times-Colonist after Bob Bierman left.
In 1982, I began trying to illustrate a book I wanted to do on the history of Vancouver but couldn't shake my cartoon/line drawing style. We went to Australia at the end of that year, with me drawing lines, and came to Vancouver six weeks later with me painting patches of colour.
Artwork and text ©Michael Kluckner 2000-2012
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