September 23rd 1968  (Age 53)

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Random Thots is brought to you by Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist at the Hamilton Spectator, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Website:

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007
The Cold War Then and Now

Last week I did a cartoon showing Vladimir Putin atop Lenin's tomb reminiscent of photos we'd see of Soviet leaders during the cold war years. I was inspired to draw it following renewed interest by the Russians in the Arctic from the North Pole to the Mediterranean via the Caucasus. It made me think back, before Boris Yeltsin, to the last time I drew Lenin's tomb back when Mikhail Gorbachev was in power, as he warming up to the west with Glasnost, and implementing political and economic reforms otherwise known as Perestroika. The year was 1989, democracy was spreading throughout Eastern Europe, the Berlin Wall had just come down, and I was a student at the University of Ottawa. I was just starting out getting my worked published in the student press, through the campus newspaper called The Fulcrum. I had a cartoon strip called:

It was modern day (mostly Canadian) political news placed in a medieval setting. Brian Mulroney was the King of Canadaland, Gorbachev was the Russian Tsar, they rode around in horses, they spoke in Monty Pythonesque olde englishe. For most of the time it existed between September 1989, and April 1991, I collaborated with my friend, Paul Nichols, who was a fellow history student. He helped write it, and I drew it. It was published for each weekly edition of the Fulcrum.

Click here to see a larger version.

In retrospect, they were a bit wordy. The jokes were corny. The drawings were a bit crude, but keep in mind that we were twenty year olds. At the time home computers were still very basic word processors, there was no Internet, and early versions of Photoshop were still half a decade away. The inking of Alas & Alack had to be configured with exacto knives and glue stick. Tones were done using Chartpak shading film, and some special text was incorporated using Letraset transferrable lettering. It was all very time consuming work to put together a single Alas & Alack cartoon. A perfect excuse to keep me from reading textbooks, writing essays and studying for exams.

Click here to see a larger version.

Throughout the series I portrayed former Canadian Prime Ministers Clark and Turner, who were still active in politics at the time, as "erstwhile kings" who would show up every now and then carrying the crowns they once wore when they were in charge. Pierre Trudeau would show up portrayed as some sort of God-like character who lived in an acropolis type of temple on Mount Royal.

More Alas & Alack in the days to come....

Posted at 12:58 pm by Graeme_MacKay

Marc LeBlanc
August 16, 2007   05:08 PM PDT
I remember Alas and Alack quite well, Mr. Mackay. I started studying at U of O in 1990 and I remember seeing it and a whole bunch of other cartoons of yours in the newspaper. Looks like you've done pretty well in cartooning eversince. Not surprising! Glad I can keep enjoying your work.

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