The ghostly, anxiety-ridden world of cartoonist Dakota McFadzean

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Ex-Regina cartoonist releases Other Stories and the Horse You Rode In On

If you are familiar with Saskatchewan’s alternative newspapers – Planet S Magazine and Prairie Dog Magazine specifically – or maybe the 2012 edition of Best American Comics, then you’re familiar with the work of Dakota McFadzean.

Quite simply, McFadzean is something of a genius, albeit one who sees the world as a ghostly, anxiety-ridden place – confusing, maybe, but trust us, this could not be more apropos.

Born and raised in Regina, McFadzean has lived in Montreal, Vermont and currently resides in Toronto with his wife. His work manages to balance the nostalgia of simplistic-yet-familiar cartoons along with a hefty dose of surrealism, hazy goonery and weirdness. Many of his strips perfectly capture the excessive awkwardness and anxiety of being a preadolescent. Apparently childhood wasn’t always fun and games – who knew?

In addition to supplying mind-bending artwork to both Planet S and Prairie Dog, McFadzean recently released his book Other Stories and the Horse You Rode In On, on Conundrum Press.

And on Wednesday, December 4, McFadzean will be sharing his secrets at a discussion at Saskatoon’s McNally Robinson. According to the press release, “he will try to understand why he inadvertently set all his stories in a dreamworld version of Saskatchewan without realizing it.”

You should probably come.

UPDATE – Dakota will also be conducting a chat and a workshop in Regina on Sunday, December 8 at the Dunlop Art Gallery.

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Ominocity recently caught up with McFadzean for a chat on dissecting Bugs Bunny and little kid magic.

Ominocity: Tell us about Other Stories and the Horse You Rode In On.

Dakota McFadzean: The book is a collection of short stories that I worked on between 2011 and a few months ago. It’s an example of my short story-telling ability. Some of them are funny. Some are dark and strange. As I moved away from strips I wanted to take on doing short stories. It’s a lot easier to take on a graphic novel, which it seems like a lot of cartoonists tend to do before they develop those abilities.

A portion of what is in the book is stuff that I did during my masters at The Center for Cartoon Study, so it’s a reaction to that as well.

OM: There are some really strange things going on in your work. Where does all the surrealism come from?

DM: I think it comes from watching a lot of cartoons. I grew up with Salvador Dalí books in the house and was definitely into surrealism. But when you are a kid what’s appealing about cartoons is how they can bend reality and do anything you can think of. And that has translated into my work in the present. Usually when I am sketching in my book my first impulse is to draw a face and stretch it or pull it apart in some way. I think that probably comes from Bugs Bunny cartoons.

As for dreamlike imagery, it’s appealing to me because I’m working in comics and I’m not bound by the laws of reality. It’s always fun to be able to bend those rules.

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OM: In terms of your daily strip, was it meant to be something of a diary in the same sense as James Kochalka’s American Elf or Ben Snakepit’s strip?

DM: I’ve tried to do a daily strip a few times in my life. Once when I first moved to Montreal and I was frustrated creatively. I read some Kochalka and gave it a try and I think I lasted a couple of months and then shelved it. So there were a few false starts with that. Then at the beginning of 2010, I was working a day job trying to save up money so I could go back to school. And I was once again getting frustrated because it was really difficult working full-time and coming home at night to try and cartoon. I thought about doing the daily strip again because it a way for me to at least get one piece of work done each day. It started as a diary strip for the most part. There were some deviations, such as surrealist nonsense, but for the most part it was something I did that day or something funny my wife said.

I think it’s an important rite of passage for a lot of cartoons. But now that I sit at home all day and draw cartoons for the most part nothing really interesting happened to me. Which is why I drifted into doing the more strange bullshit.

OM: Care to share any of your future projects?

DM: I co-edit a comics anthology called Irene along with Andy Warner and d w. We are working on the fourth issue now. We basically ask cartoonists that we like, whether they are established or unknown, to contribute a few pages to the book. And we let them do whatever they want.

I’ll also have a short mini-comic out early next year. It’s still untitled but it will be a lot of kids and magic and strangeness.

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Follow Dakota on Twitter and check out his website for more weirdness.

Huge thank you to Dakota for supplying us with images of his work.