Newshound Wyatt Tremblay has been commenting on the lunacy of the Yukon legislature in the form of editorial cartoons for three decades.
His first cartoon hit the press in November 1992. That piece for the News, motivated by then-editor Peter Lesniak and inspired by Monty Python, won a British Columbia and Yukon community news award.
In a Dec. 29, 2022 interview, the now-62-year-old cartoonist said he was “dragged kicking and screaming” to the Yukon in 1972, when his father became chief warden at Kluane National Park.
Tremblay grew up in Haines Junction. He eventually moved to Whitehorse where he graduated from F.H. Collins Secondary School and started working in the newspaper industry at the Whitehorse Star and then the News.
“This sort of gave me an avenue to express my art, and introduced me to the world of politics,” Tremblay said.
In the foreword for Tremblay’s collection of his work from 1992 to 2003, titled Take No Prisoners, Doug Bell, former publisher of the News, wrote about how writers get “skewered” by Tremblay’s work.
“Writers look enviously on a cartoonist’s work knowing thousands of their words may not equal the twists and turns of that pen,” Bell said.
Tremblay’s drawings often encapsulate recent breaking news. He said the governing party’s opposition often helps him keep up with the territory from his home in Airdrie, Alberta. The more than 40 years he spent living in the Yukon and his ongoing connectedness to the territory also contribute to his wealth of cartoon ideas.
The election of the Yukon Party — featuring characters like Willard Phelps, Bill Brewster and Dennis Fentie — was a peak period for his work.
“It was the best time to be drawing because everything was outrageous,” Tremblay said.
“Now, everything is under a microscope all the time, so you can’t be outrageous, except in the [legislature] where you can get away with it.”
Tremblay said he has drawn six Whitehorse mayors, four Dawson City mayors and a slew of politicians.
“There’s been a lot of change politically and in the public discourse, and sort of in the public square of how people talk about each other and about politics,” he said.
“We’re a lot more cynical now.”
The reaction to one of his cartoons about a group home prompted him to apologize and changed his perspective.
“It was the first time I realized that what I do is more than just a comment,” he said.
“It actually touches and affects people’s lives.”
Lately, Tremblay has observed a “deep aggressiveness” towards the media.
“I try to weigh all of that in when I’m drawing, which I think has made me softer than I used to be,” he said.
The News’ editor Gabrielle Plonka said his voice builds community.
“Wyatt’s work really brings everything a great editorial cartoon should bring. There’s a sharp perspective, there’s humour, there’s also empathy,” she said.
“His cartoons on the substance use crisis, in particular, are quite emotional.”
Tremblay said his work matters because people enjoy laughing — but it goes beyond simply cracking jokes.
“Editorial cartoons have a voice that should make you go, ‘Hmm,’ and think about something and then make you want to open the newspaper or the magazine and read the longer article about it. I don’t see them as always just standing alone, but it should be part of the larger narrative of a story,” he said.
“We remember them, because that tiny little thing made us laugh.”
Tremblay has seven banker’s boxes of cartoons condensed onto a single DVD. His new book, showcasing his work from 2003 and on, will hit the stands in spring 2023.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org