Cartoon depicting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Western Star, 14 January 2019.

Michael De Adder is a Canadian political cartoonist. He works in a highly realistic style, only exaggerating the size of people's heads. Throughout his career De Adder has occasionally caused controversy. A 2019 cartoon criticizing president Trump and the refugee crisis near the U.S.-Mexican border got worldwide attention when De Adder's contract with the syndication was terminated within the same week. Assumptions that he was fired over this specific cartoon have expanded his fame far outside the Canadian borders. Nevertheless De Adder's work has often been awarded too. De Adder also made more light-hearted best-seller cartoon books, poking fun at Canada's public image, in the 'You Might Be From ...' series.

Early life
Michael De Adder was born in 1967 in Moncton, New Brunswick. Originally he wanted to become a painter. Between 1985 and 1991 he therefore studied painting at Mount Allison University. His interest in cartooning was sparked when he was asked to draw cartoons for the campus magazine Argosy. Realizing he liked this artistic expression much better he decided to become a newspaper cartoonist. Among his main graphic influences are Roy Peterson, Aislin (Terry Mosher) and Duncan MacPherson.

After graduation in 1991, he started his career at The Coast, an alternative weekly magazine circulating in Halifax, where he drew a comic strip titled 'Walterworld' (1995). The comic targeted Walter Fitzgerald, mayor of Halifax. Soon De Adder became a freelance cartoonist, appearing in the Chronicle-Herald, the Hill Times, the Halifax Daily News, the National Post, Maclean's, the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, the Telegraph-Journal, Journal Saint-John and the Moncton Times, Counterpoint, the Toronto Star and Transcript. On 26 March 2021 it was announced that De Adder joined The Washington Post too. 

Cartoon depicting hockey player Sidney Crosby. Cape Breton Post, 8 January 2019.

De Adder stands out among many of his colleagues by drawing his caricatures in a style where people's physical features aren't really exaggerated, except for enlarging their heads. The portraits themselves look almost photo-realistically. In itself, De Adder's style isn't new, only somewhat retro. In the 19th century most cartoonists blew up the heads of celebrities to gigantic size, while positioning them on tiny bodies. The drawings were typically very detailed, elaborate and had a sense of anatomy. During the 1920s this particularly style went of fashion in favour of more simple, cartoony caricatures. Another modern-day cartoonist apart from De Adder who also practices this photorealistic caricature technique is Drew Friedman.

Like most political cartoonists, De Adder also endured his fair share of controversy. In 19 April 2005 cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope under the name Benedict XVI. Known for his conservative viewpoints his election marked a continuation of the Vatican's familiar stances on key issues. De Adder drew a cartoon with the following sentence: "Cardinals send a message to moderate Catholics", depicting the white smoke from the Sistine chapel chimney taking the shape of a raised middle finger. The Halifax Daily News refused to print it, since their Catholic chief editor felt it was too controversial. Yet later De Adder could point a metaphorical middle finger back when the cartoon won the Golden Spike Award for "Best Cartoon Killed by an Editor". Two years later De Adder provoked religious fundamentalists again, when he made a drawing about the death of controversial televangelist Jerry Falwell, showing him arriving in Hell where Satan shouts "Surprise!". Quite a number of readers felt this joke was offensive and/or in bad taste since Falwell had only just passed away.

In July 2012 a gang-related shooting took place in Scarborough, leaving two people dead and over 20 injured, including a toddler girl (who later was reported to be slightly older). De Adder commented on the event by making a cartoon for the Toronto Sun showing a picture of a little black girl, accompanied by the sentence: "Injuries to expect before they are two", naming bruises from falling from a high chair, a tricycle and "head laceration from a medium-caliber bullet." The cartoon sparked outrage over the use of the term "they" and the fact that it seemed to ridicule the tragic death of the infant. De Adder explained that he wanted to make a comment about racial violence. He furthermore stated that he originally used the term "children" instead of "they", but changed it to "they" because it looked better visually and fit the flavour of the parenting books "What To Expect".

On 17 February 2019 De Adder caused uproar with a cartoon depicting the SNC-Lavalin Affair. The government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was accused of pressuring Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould to politically intervene during a criminal investigation of bribery and corruption within the company SNC-Lavalin. Yet when the accusations broke loose she resigned from her position, while Trudeau remained in power. De Adder drew Trudeau and Wilson-Raybould as boxers in the ring. Only in Wilson-Raybould's case she is bound and gagged to a chair, while Trudeau is adviced to "keep beating her up, solicitor-client privilege has tied her hands." Many readers looked past the metaphor and objected to the image of a defenseless woman being tied and gagged. Since the politician was of Indigenous roots, it made the cartoon even more vicious to some. De Adder apologized for this cartoon, realizing his message hadn't come across in the way he wanted: "Life is learning from your mistakes and I made a mistake. When I make a mistake everybody knows about it. I can't take it back, but I can do better going forward." He added he wouldn't stop drawing cartoons about the SNC-Lavalin scandal, but didn't intend to "offend women, make light of domestic violence or trivialize indigenous issues." Around the same time a near-similar cartoon by Graeme MacKay about the same scandal, caused the same amount of outrage.

Later that year De Adder caused an even larger media storm, ironically enough over a cartoon he only posted on his Twitter account, not in the paper. During his administration, President Donald Trump tightened border patrol near the Mexican border to avoid more immigrants trying to enter the country illegally. His drastic measures were criticized by many as inhuman, particularly since many people were locked up in camps - including children. On 25 June a shocking photograph of the drowned bodies of a Mexican father, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, and his daughter Valeria near the Rio Grande became public. They had desperately tried and failed to enter the U.S. On 26 June 2019 De Adder created a cartoon depicting Trump on a golf court, while asking the drowned bodies of Ramírez and his toddler: "Do you mind if I play through?" Famous actors like George Takei (Sulu on 'Star Trek') and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker in 'Star Wars') praised the cartoon, with Takei calling it "heartbreakingly accurate" and Hamill stating "it is Pulitzer Prize-worthy."

There was no significant outrage over the cartoon at first, but on 30 June 2019, Brunswick News Inc. suddenly terminated their contract with De Adder. This meant that his work would no longer appear in any papers associated with their syndicate, namely the Moncton Times Transcript, Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Telegraph-Journal and Journal Saint John. Many people, including the cartoonist himself, assumed that the Trump golf drawing was the direct reason. Only a few weeks earlier the New York Times had announced that it would no longer publish daily political cartoons, as a direct result over two controversial cartoons ridiculing Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, drawn respectively by António Moreira Antunes and Roar Hagen. Ironically enough De Adder had made an eerily prophetic drawing a week earlier, depicting a newspaper editorial throwing a cartoonist for lions in the arena, because of "complaints". De Adder felt it was particularly strange since his Trump golf cartoon hadn't even appeared in print. He only shared it on his personal Twitter account.

In an official statement, Brunswick denied that this specific Trump cartoon had influenced their decision and claimed that they had been negotiating replacing De Adder by "reader's favorite Greg Perry" for weeks. Perry confirmed that the syndicate had approached him a few weeks beforehand, but on 4 July 2019 he declined the offer of replacing De Adder. He said he felt particularly uncomfortable being labelled a "reader favourite", which fueled a social media backlash against him and "shook me up, because at one point it felt like me versus the entire planet. (...) I don't use social media, but persons who do have used it to essentially destroy my character and my cartoon work. All this over a job that pays the same per month as a job at a grocery chain. I wouldn't wish this on anyone." However, all this brouhaha still didn't provide a clear reason why De Adder was fired. News leaked out that oil billionnaire family Irving had noticed the Trump golf cartoon online. Since they have a monopoly on Brunswick's papers a connection was quickly made. De Adder received support from cartoonist Wes Tyrell who stated: "An oil company has no business owning newspapers." One of De Adder's heroes, Aislin, also drew a cartoon in his support.

'You Might Be From Canada' sequence. The first image depicts the children’s TV show 'The Friendly Giant'. To the upper right we see hockey player Paul Henderson winning a game in 1972. The third image below is athlete Terry Fox running his Marathon of Hope, while the fourth and final image depicts Gord Downie, lead singer of The Tragically Hip in his trademark 'Jaws' T-shirt.

You Might Be From ... If
Outside of his political cartoons De Adder is also known for his popular 'You Might Be From...' cartoon books: 'You Might Be From Nova Scotia If...' (2013), 'You Might Be From New Brunswick If...' (2013) and 'You Might Be From Canada If...' (2017). All poke fun at regional and national stereotypes, history, culture and identity. Especially 'You Might Be From Canada If...' is a tremendous best-seller. Another Canadian cartoonist who published a book in this series, namely for the city Hamilton, is Graeme MacKay.

Michael De Adder won the Atlantic Journalism Award for Gold Innovation (2008) and their Editorial Cartooning five times, in 2001, 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2011. In 2006 his cartoon of Pope Benedict XVI won the Golden Spike Award for "Best Cartoon Killed by an Editor". De Adder furthermore received a Citation of Merit during the 2002 National Newspaper Awards.

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