50 years of Aislin: A funny coincidence on the most unfunny of days

50 years of Aislin: A funny coincidence on the most unfunny of days
50 years of Aislin: A funny coincidence on the most unfunny of days

Aislin cartoon that appeared in The Gazette on Sept. 12, 2001. Terry Mosher / Montreal Gazette

Much of the world knows little (nor cares) about Canada except in the most superficial and often sentimental ways: snow, Mounties, hockey, Céline Dion, shirtless, niceness — and whatever happened to that business of Quebec separating? There is currently a small uptick of interest because of President ’s trade trash-talk, but that will inevitably die down. Conversely, we seem to know a great deal about everybody else, particularly our gargantuan neighbour to the south.

In my business, Canada being out of the limelight means that very few cartoonists from other nations draw cartoons on Canadian politics or personalities, leaving the field wide open for our own excellent political caricaturists. However, Canadian cartoonists frequently focus on international events, particularly in the United States.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I reached my studio at The Gazette just in time to switch on CNN and witness the second tower falling as a result of the terrorist attack on New York City’s World Trade Center. Like most of the rest of the world I sat stunned, transfixed by the horror and the sheer scope of the disaster.

I had to find a way to represent in cartoon form what we had all just experienced. But how do you draw a cartoon about one of the most singularly unfunny events in living memory? In the end, it seemed right to portray the Statue of Liberty in a cloud of ash, a silent witness to the catastrophe of the tumbling towers.

When cartoonists unknowingly draw more or less the same cartoon on the same day, we call it “Yahtzee” after the score in the eponymous game of chance where all the dice display the same number.

The next morning, my good friend Serge Chapleau, who works at the French-language newspaper La Presse, called. “So, Terry,” he asked, “what are we drawing for tomorrow?”

Unknowingly, we had each virtually drawn the same cartoon.

Chapleau cartoon that appeared in La Presse on Sept. 12, 2001. Courtesy of Serge Chapleau. / -

 

Terry Mosher’s new book is now in bookstores. Titled “From Trudeau to Trudeau: Fifty Years of Aislin Cartoons,” it has an introduction by Bob Rae. Also, Montreal’s McCord Museum is hosting an Aislin 50-year retrospective through to Aug. 13.

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