Cartoon, published on 20 May 2017.

Graeme MacKay is a Canadian political cartoonist, whose work has often been awarded. As a college student he drew the comic strip 'Alas & Alack' (1989-1991) for The Fulcrum, while his gag-a-day comic 'Gridlock' (1999-2003) ran in the Hamilton Spectactor. He still publishes in the latter newspaper to this day (2019).

Early life
Graeme MacKay was born in Dundas, Ontario, in 1968. He had an early interest in drawing, already reading the cartoons in the Hamilton Spectator and other Toronto-based newspapers. As a teenager he developed an interest in politics. Among his graphic influences are William Hogarth, James Gillray, Blaine, Duncan Macpherson, Ed Franklin, Mad Magazine (Don Martin, Al Jaffee, Sergio Aragonés) and especially Roy Peterson. At age 17 he followed in his older brother's footsteps and worked part-time in the meat department at Miracle Food Mart. He used the money to finance his studies of history and political science at the University of Ottawa, while creating cartoons for the weekly university magazine The Fulcrum, of which he became the graphics editor.


1990 Alas & Alack episode, depicting Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney as a king. 

Alas & Alack
Together with writer Paul Nichols he created the comic strip 'Alas & Alack' (September 1989- April 1991). Set in an anachronistic version of the Middle Ages, the comic depicted late 1980s politicians as kings, knights and squires. Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was "king of Canadaland", for instance. Foreign heads of state, such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher and Saddam Hussein were also recurring characters. While starting off as a medieval parody the cartoon eventually became more rooted in the present day, except for the politicians still wearing medieval royal robes. Looking back on his early work, MacKay felt that it was unavoidably amateuristic, but that could be forgiven seeing that he and his college buddy were still quite young. Most of the comedy relied heavily on words and jokes that sometimes were quite offensive, such as naming Minister of the Status of Women Barbara McDougall "Lady Barb, Ye Minister of Shrews and Wenches". On his personal website MacKay said that these kind of jokes were "(...) an indication of how permissive the readers were in the pre-PC period of the student press. Even worse, it serves as an indication of how perhaps nobody bothered to read my cartoon. I don't remember any complaints, after all."


Cartoon of 12 April 2001 in comic strip format, parodying the TV series 'Fantasy Island'. 

Cartooning career
After graduation MacKay went on a two year working tour through Europe and North Africa. In 1994 he had a job as a counter clerk in the food halls of Harrods in Knightsbridge for 18 months. He returned to Canada in 1994. His cartoons circulated in many small press magazines until on 7 July 1997 he was hired as a full-time political cartoonist by The Hamilton Spectator, syndicating his work further throughout Canada and in some parts of the United States by the Arizans Entertainment Syndicate in Edmonton.

Gridlock
While publishing in the Hamilton Spectator, MacKay and columnist Wade Hemsworth created the comic strip 'Gridlock' (3 July 1999-2003). The series featured five people who worked at a taxi company: Hammercab. Three of them were an Indian (Sammy Singh), a woman wearing sunglasses (Bev) and an Asian man (Edward, aka Edgar). Most episodes featured them chauffeuring passengers around, while having funny discussions. Originally the gag-a-day comic was published in black-and-white, appearing three times a week. It eventually moved to the front page and became a colour comic. After the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, 'Gridlock' was removed from the front page, because the turban-wearing character Sammy Singh might give readers the wrong impression that the comic poked fun at Muslims. By 2003 MacKay himself grew tired of the comic, because he wasn't fond of drawing cars and continuously rehashed old compositions through Photoshop to avoid redrawing vehicles from the same perspectives over and over again.


Cartoon of 22 March 2018, addressing the new gender-neutral policy of Service Canada.

Controversy
Throughout his career MacKay has frequently caused controversy. When the Progressive Conservative government repealed the 2015 Ontario sex education curriculum in favor of the pre-existing one MacKay drew Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario, talking in front of an overhead slide projection of an anatomical drawing of a male pelvis, while the caption reads: "A sex-ed snitch line has been set up to report any funny business." The cartoon caused controversy for depicting genitals. On 22 August 2017 he published a cartoon depicting a Nazi with a tiki torch being beaten up by four hippies with peace signs. The cartoon was criticized for supposedly sympathizing with neo-Nazis. It caused so much unintentional uproar that MacKay removed it from his Facebook page. On 22 March 2018 MacKay addressed Service Canada's new policy of using gender-neutral language to address clients by making a cartoon where a woman instructs a clerk that she wants to be addressed in a whole string of pompous descriptions, only to reveal that "in Ms. Chatsworth's Gifted Class I went by 'Phil'." Quite a number of readers felt the cartoon ridiculed transgender people.


Cartoon depicting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould. 15 February 2019.

In 2019 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. On 15 February 2019 MacKay drew a cartoon of Trudeau as a boxer in the ring, triumphing over Wilson-Raybould who lies down on the floor, bound, gagged and with a ball and chain reading "solicitor-client privilege" written on it. The cartoon drew objection because it parallelled violence against (indigenous) women, especially since Wilson-Raybould's caricature was shown in a defenseless position. A similar cartoon by Michael De Adder about the same topic drew criticism for the same reason.

You Might Be From Hamilton If...
McKay joined the work of other cartoonists like Michael De Adder (who tackled Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada itself), creating books poking fun at stereotypes about Canadian regions, provinces and cities, with 'You Might Be From Hamilton If...' (2017).

Recognition
In 1996 MacKay won the Duncan MacPherson Award. He received the United Nations/Ranan Lurie Political Cartoon Award twice, in 2006 and 2013, and the George Townsend Award in 2014 and 2018.

Other activities
Since October 2008 he has his own Twitter account. In August 2015 MacKay traced a Twitter account called @HarpersGotaGo, who took many editorial cartoons, removed the artist signatures and original dialogue and replaced it by their own comments often changing the original cartoon's meaning. He complained about their plagiarism and made it an issue in various newspapers.


Cartoon with self-portrait, 14 December 2012.

mackaycartoons.net

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