WGO # 17 – December 1996
During the 1970’s, Paul “Moose” MacKinnon decided to start up a comic book. He had been living in PEI and when he came home decided that he could blend the natural resource of the local satire of Cape Breton Island in the non-traditional form of a comic book. His DoItYourself ethic clearly shows how much more effective it is to tackle the world through your own positive actions rather than the counter-productive criticism of others. And in looking for an alternative medium to let your opinions be heard, you’re not wasting your time trying to shout louder than those around you.
Old Trout Funnies was Cape Breton in Black & White. It was Cape Breton from cover to cover and it was Cape Breton through the eyes of a Cape Bretoner. The story behind the Cape Breton Liberation Army begins with a political cartoon in the Halifax Herald and former CJCB disc jockey Dave Harley’s running joke. Paul thought it would be great to “…put this in print…and take it to another level”. He and his buddies used to call themselves Generals, and he thought he could use this idea to make a fresh new story.
Paul did three issues of this satirical adventure. He had planned to do five but it turned out to be too time-consuming and expensive to produce. About 100 copies of issue one and 500 of issues two and three were printed. Comics are a great medium, but to keep going back to the stores turned out to be a major headache. His persistence quickly turned to procrastination and the last issue was printed in late ‘77.
In 1978, Paul knew there would not be another issue of Old Trout Funnies and was desperately looking for something else to keep him drawing. Enter the Cape Breton Liberation Army Calendar. The first installment was a one page, hand-drawn cal-endar depicting the typical CBLA Soldier and the Heavy Water Plant converted into “Barbarian Breweries”. It was also the introduction of Sgt. Stomper’s beer-belt. “Within a month, Stomper had a real beer-belt made.” And then people began to expect to see the calendar each year.
Five hundred copies were made of the first calendar and dispersed to friends. This collector’s item, marketed through the unstoppable power of word of mouth, sold for less than five dollars. Some of the old ones may be available, but none have been reprinted.
One of the neat things about Paul’s early publications was that he would do parody ads (similar to “Culture Jamming” used by the Media Foundation’s ADBUSTERS) and would promote such groups as HOME BREW (aka Buddy and the Boys) and Matt Minglewood. Now that is community economic development. You can really open up some interesting doors and convey some very personal messages with this type of art. It’s a combination of personal expression and cultural interpretation.
MacKinnon does the art for himself, in a world of black and white limited only by his imagination. “The artwork usually starts out with one basic idea…one basic theme of the past and present. You begin to think in black and white…and this makes it easier to get the message across. And besides, it costs so much more for colour!”
“The people, both fans and buyers, are always looking for the little things…the toaster on the causeway. It shows that the big picture is what is important. The more complicated the better it will go over. After all, it is something you can stare
at over the entire year. I guess that this is why the weirder the better!”
Paul has done several posters for bands as well as the artwork on the first Load of Wood Cassette, but has a lot of work that has yet to been seen. Though his work is rather political, he “…tries to steer away from really topical things or ‘what’s hot’. I would very much like to do a monthly flip page calendar… perhaps my ‘greatest hits’…it is just that the costs are so high. I sell them myself, and now with the financial support of Stomper MacDonald, it should make distribution easier. Without a good business plan, though, I could end up with a helluva lot of wallpaper.” Now that’d be pretty cool wallpaper!
artwork courtesy of Paul MacKinnon