Terry Mosher, Political Cartoonist "Aislin"

8 March 2002

   Aislin is one of Canada's finest political cartoonists. He does much more than draw simple cartoons and caricatures, though. His work is detailed and fine, capturing the spirit of the person in the face he is drawing. Then, he pokes them in the eye.

    A political cartoonist must be artist, humourist, satirist and political commentator, all rolled into one person. He can point out the obviously ridiculous, say what others are thinking but unable to put into words themselves. Aislin, the pen name of Terry Mosher, has the reputation of being the "nastiest cartoonist" in Canada for his talent in satire. *(1) His cartoons are a direct and often painful skewering of governments, politicians, big business, celebrities and almost anyone else in the news.

    Terry Mosher was born in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1942. He attended Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in Quebec, graduating in 1967. His pen name is the name of his older daughter, Aislin. The cheeky Mosher has been called an aging hippie, with his leather jacket, running shoes and bearded face. *(1)

    The Montreal Star was the first workplace of the young editorial cartoonist, and The Montreal Gazette has been Mosher's home base since 1972. His work with The Montreal Gazette has taken around the world, both writing and sketching. His blunt but funny cartoons are syndicated and enjoyed across Canada and internationally. Mosher is a prolific cartoonist; his freelance work has been published in Punch, Time Magazine, The New York Times and more.

    "To Aislin, we are all Achilles' Heel. No one punctures pomposity better," said Joe Clark, Leader of the Conservative Party in Canada, and one of Mosher's popular victims. And being punctured by Aislin has a certain cache for prominent people. They don't want to be left out, even at the risk of humiliation. "I've received letters from executive assistants asking when their boss is going to appear in a cartoon... We're dealing with huge egos here," said Mosher*(2)

   Trouble can easily strike back at a political cartoonist who is used to making strong points about the world as he sees it. In November of 1997, Mosher was disturbed, perhaps even horrified, by the actions of a particular group in the Middle East who were beheading girls. He felt it required a strong statement. He drew a vicious dog wearing the traditional Arab headscarf. He labelled it "In the Name of Islamic Extremism, with our apologies to dogs everywhere."

    The commotion began immediately.
Thousands of responses poured in from around the world in defense of the Islamic religion and people. The Council on American-Islamic Relations demanded apologies from Mosher and the Montreal Gazette. Mosher has not apologized for his views.

    On a lighter tone, Terry Mosher has published more than thirty books, including collections of cartoons and caricatures since 1971. He wrote a book on the history of Canadian political cartooning, entitled "The Hecklers" and has illustrated books for many authors. Mosher has used his skill in caricature and knowledge of society to create two history books with author Gordon Snell. "Oh No! Canadians," and "Oh No! More Canadians," make use of poems and cartoons to create a captivating romp through Canadian history.

    Perhaps teachers could use these books in their classrooms. The subject of history would grab the interest kids if it were presented in such an enticing manner. For example, railway mogul Van Horne, who was known as a gambler, is portrayed saying, "If Las Vegas had existed, I would have built the railroad going south." Who said history is dull?

Mosher 7


    Through his cartooning work as Aislin, Mosher has received numerous awards. On five separate occasions, he received awards from the International Salon of Caricature. He has twice received the National Newspaper Award. In 1985, he was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame. (He was the youngest person to receive such honour.) His cartoons were exhibited with much acclaim in the McCord Museum in Montreal, along with the work of fellow cartoonist, Serge Chapleau of La Presse.

    Mosher's website, www.aislin.com, includes a page of comments from his readers. One an from the Montreal Gazette made a sincere statement about Aislin: "You do wonderful cartoons. Your drawings are superb, and your sense of humour is good too. It's just your mind that worries me."

*(1) http://www.aislin.com

*(2) magazines.humber college  (no longer functioning)

© Susanna McLeod 2002
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)