Mike Allen, a long-time music teacher at the Long & McQuade location in Burlington, ON, has found an interesting way to combine his passions of art and politics with a new gig as the political cartoonist for local online newspaper, BurlingtonGazette.ca.
“I taught at the Guitar Man Lesson Centre in Burlington until 1987 when it was sold to Lakeshore Music. It in turn was sold to Long & McQuade and I've been there ever since. I combined my music and art when I released a CD, Big Money Meltdown, on iTunes and all major streaming services and I drew a cartoon for the cover,” Allen tells Canadian Music Trade. “My first cartooning experience came from the first thing I saw on the first TV set my family bought, a Popeye cartoon. I thought it was the coolest thing imaginable. He was sailing a ship down the main street of a town. Next came Woody Woodpecker and all those Warner Brother cartoons...Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc. Next came Peanuts. I just loved Snoopy and Charlie Brown and Lucy. I started trying to draw all those characters and found I could get pretty good likenesses, and also monsters, like Frankenstein's monster, and King Kong. I would show off my talent at school and one day the teachers came running out because they thought there was some kind of riot going on, but it was just people crowding around watching me draw.”
Allen says it was the classic counter culture comic Mad Magazine that gave him his love of using cartoons to make fun “of all forms of pretension.” And like many musicians, it was the classic artists of the 1960s – The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell, etc. – who gave him his love of music and inspired him to pick up a guitar.
“When it came time to go to college, it was a tough choice,” Allen recalls. “I didn't know whether I liked music or art more. I went to the Art Institute of Boston, studied drawing, painting and design, but the music kept going strong. I started hanging out at the many, many coffee houses Boston offered and got some gigs. I played solo acoustic sets mainly, doing blues, folk, rock and roll.”
When he returned to Canada, Allen says he taught music and did art in various forms, including shapes and forms, ads, caricatures, illustrations, business cards, and newspaper cartoons.
“My cartooning career got revived in May 2018. In the early days of the NAFTA talks, Trump was complaining that Canada was being ‘difficult.’ I drew a picture of him getting bitten on the ass by a beaver. It went viral on Facebook and I started posting regularly on Facebook and opened a Twitter account just for cartoons,” says Allen. “Back in September, I started drawing for a local online newspaper, BurlingtonGazette.ca. I've done four now and I'll have to see how it works out.”
The cartoons are a fun but pointed take on currents events, from the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings in the U.S. to pot legalization in Canada. You can check them out o Twitter HERE.