Re­view by James Bax­ter

Terry Mosher Trudeau to Trudeau: Ais­lin 50 Years of Car­toon­ing. Mon­treal, Ais­lin, 2017.

Policy - - In This Issue - Re­view by James Bax­ter James Bax­ter is Ed­i­tor and Pub­lisher of iPol­i­tics. james­bax­ter@ipol­i­tics.ca

Trudeau to Trudeau: Ais­lin 50 Years of Car­toon­ing By Terry Mosher

It’s hard to imag­ine one’s life summed up in a com­pen­dium of car­toons, but for many of us, that is ex­actly what Terry Mosher does with his new ret­ro­spec­tive, Trudeau to Trudeau: Ais­lin 50 Years of Car­toon­ing. The book, and the cor­re­spond­ing ex­hibit at Mon­treal’s McCord Mu­seum, of­fers Cana­di­ans a chance to see the past half-cen­tury through the eyes and pen of one of the most gifted, whim­si­cal and of­ten cut­ting con­tem­po­rary artists. From the FLQ cri­sis, Trudeau-Lévesque, the Mon­treal Olympics and the glory days of the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens to now (not the glory days), this lat­est col­lec­tion of Ais­lin car­toons serves as a di­ary of all that is and has been right and wrong with Mon­treal, our coun­try and our world over the past half-cen­tury. This book is de­signed to prompt “I-re­mem­ber-this” mo­ments, told through the art­work and Mosher’s wry sto­ry­telling. That alone is rea­son enough to have the book on your bed­side ta­ble, but it is the lit­tle sur­prise sketches and the per­sonal sto­ries be­hind the car­toons that make this book spe­cial. In­deed, one should read it at least twice, once for the hi­lar­i­ous car­toons and again for the bril­liant sto­ries that make up the life of one of Canada’s best-known artists.

From a high school dropout who forged his own diploma in the 1960s, to the 1970s mak­ing mis­chief with the ir­re­press­ible Nick Auf der Maur, to his qui­eter life these days, Mosher— as seen through his Ais­lin works—has more than just seen Cana­dian life, he has lived it and loved it. He took the fight over Bill 101 and two ref­er­enda to the Parti Québé­cois, cham­pi­oning the plight of the lin­guis­tic mi­nori­ties through mock­ery and satire.

When Brian Mul­roney got a lit­tle too cozy with Ron­ald Rea­gan and opened Canada to free trade, Mosher’s car­toons gave voice to the na­tion’s angst. And he saved some of his most dev­as­tat­ing work for Stephen Harper, who was about as pop­u­lar in Mon­treal as a canker sore. The book has some old stan­dards. One of the most fa­mous Ais­lin car­toons ever re­mains the Mul­roney piglet atop the mor­tally wounded and bloated Lib­eral hog de­mand­ing to know “Where’s the trough?” That 1984 car­toon re­mains poignant and out­ra­geously funny to this day. It also in­cludes one of the favourites of re­cent years: Justin Trudeau tak­ing a selfie with Queen El­iz­a­beth.

It is ev­i­dent in me­an­der­ing through the 50 years of Ais­lin that it’s his so­cial con­science that el­e­vates Mosher above the sim­ple ti­tle of news­pa­per car­toon­ist. He is atop that heap for sure, but also a bril­liant co­me­dian with a scorch­ing wit.

As his­to­rian Des­mond Mor­ton said: “Mosher has been tweak­ing noses for un­der­dogs across Canada … since 1967.”

In his fore­word, Bob Rae, him­self the “vic­tim” of an oc­ca­sional Ais­lin burn, said “(Mosher’s) work is an in­vi­ta­tion to laugh­ter and, to be se­ri­ous for a mo­ment, speaks to a deeper hu­man­ity in his ap­proach to draw­ing and to life.” Rae adds of Mosher’s tar­gets: “He mocks them, but for the most part doesn’t de­spise them and some he ac­tu­ally ad­mires.”

It is per­haps for this rea­son, cou­pled with his Mau­rice Richard-like con­sis­tency for hit­ting the tar­get, that Mosher’s Ais­lin car­toons are as much a part of the Cana­dian fab­ric as pou­tine, beer and maple-flavoured any­thing.

On the road again. A shirt­less Justin Trudeau in his fa­ther’s Mercedes con­vert­ible.

The morn­ing af­ter the 1976 elec­tion of the PQ. Per­haps the most fa­mous Cana­dian po­lit­i­cal car­toon of the last 50 years.

1984—an en­dur­ing im­age of the Tory piglet slay­ing the Lib­eral hog.

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