Start spreading the news: U of R alumnus featured in The New Yorker

By Jon Tewksbury Posted: December 17, 2018 9:35 a.m.

Panel from “The Revolution Will Also Be Vegan”
Panel from “The Revolution Will Also Be Vegan” Art by Dakota McFadzean

They say if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere, and for University of Regina grad Dakota McFadzean BFA’05 (Hons) that aphorism certainly rings true. 

Last week, The New Yorker magazine published McFadzean’s comic “The Revolution Will Also Be Vegan” in the Daily Shouts section of their website. The comic features two characters (drawn in true McFadzean style) as they literally eat the rich after some sort of proletarian revolution. Typical of 21st century uprisings, one of the characters in the cartoon is vegan and unable to truly enjoy cannibalizing his aristocratic elite dinner. Lucky for him, a vegan-friendly substitute is provided, compliments of his friend. 

“The comic is really funny and very sardonic,” says Sean Whalley, associate dean, (undergraduate), Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance. “I’m not surprised by Dakota’s success at all. He is dedicated, really dedicated.” 

Self-portrait by Dakota

Whalley teaches sculpture at the U of R, and says that even though McFadzean wasn’t a sculptor per se, he was one of his better students. 

“The reason he was so good at modelling was because he was excellent at drawing and rendering things in two dimensions. His skills in drawing carried over very well to sculpture.” 

Graduating with Honours from the Faculty of Media, Art, and Performance in 2005, McFadzean was always a talented student who took his marks very seriously. 

“At one point, halfway through the semester, Dakota approached me because he was unhappy with his grade,” recalls Whalley. “He said that he was receiving the lowest grade in my class than in any other class, which caused me concern because he was an excellent student. So, we had a discussion about working on something that would really flex his creative mind and he ended up making this massive installation piece using 30 feet of ductwork. He joined it all together, snaked it down a stairwell, and then created these handmade balls of text that would roll through the ductwork. It was a really inventive piece that forced him to step outside of his comfort zone and resulted in him doing better in class.” Whalley added with a laugh, “When Dakota told me he had the lowest grade in my class, it was still a decent grade, it just wasn’t as high a grade as he was used to getting!” 

The artistic skills that McFadzean honed at the University of Regina sculpted a work ethic that would lead to his comics being printed in various publications and formats, including MAD Magazine and The New Yorker

“It’s an odd mixture of excitement and self-consciousness being featured in The New Yorker,” says McFadzean from his Toronto home. “Obviously I'm ecstatic to be published by a magazine that has featured so many cartoonists whom I admire, but it's also strange when something has reach outside of one's usual audience and circles.” 

David Garneau is a professor in the visual arts department who also taught McFadzean during his time as an undergrad at the U of R.  He saw the potential in the young cartoonist early in his career. 

“Dakota was one of my most serious students: seriously funny and serious about turning his warped imagination, keen intelligence, searching empathy, and sharp drawing skills into a career,” says Garneau. “Until I worked with Dakota, I would discourage my students from pursuing comics as studio art. Our department was not equipped to teach it. I would suggest other programs that would offer them the challenges and skills they needed. Dakota persisted. He found a path between comics and art drawing. Now up to a third of my senior drawing students make comic-related art.” 

McFadzean also recalls the days when the comic art form was not as readily accepted as it is today. 

“Funnily, I remember a few instructors actively trying to dissuade me from doing comics at all,” says McFadzean. “Granted, this was in the early 2000s, and the merits of comics as a medium were not as widely appreciated outside of cartooning circles as they are today. That said, Sean Whalley and David Garneau were incredibly supportive of my interest in comics. David was always pointing me towards excellent books about comics history and theory. I also remember him deciding to listen to the pantheon of gangsta rap just to discover what it was all about. That willingness to engage with work outside of the academic canon left a lasting impression on me.” 

After graduating from the University of Regina, the artist continued to focus on the comics craft, leading to his work being featured in several local, national, and international publications. That work ethic and dedication culminated earlier this year when Emma Allen, The New Yorker's cartoon editor (and also the youngest cartoon editor the magazine has ever had), contacted McFadzean in June to encourage him to submit comics and gag cartoons to the publication. 

“I believe it was Emma Allen’s idea to create the Daily Shouts section on The New Yorker website as a means to publish more cartoonists outside of the physical constraints of the printed magazine,” recalls McFadzean. “However, I'm not sure exactly how she came to know my work. I'm guessing it was from my appearances in MAD Magazine, but I've also had a few comic strips blow up on social media, so that's a possibility, too. The cartooning world has grown a lot since I started making comics, but it's still pretty small. Small enough to know everyone, or at least to know someone who knows someone else, so I guess word gets around.” 

McFadzean’s latest comic “The Latest in Virtual-Assistant Technology” was published on Friday in the Daily Shouts section of The New Yorker website. The cartoonist feels that his newer piece is stronger than “The Revolution Will Also Be Vegan” and looks forward to more of his comics appearing in the magazine in the future. 

“I'm planning to pitch more comics to The New Yorker in the new year, as well as some single panel gag cartoons. If I could get a single panel gag cartoon in The New Yorker before I die, I'd die about as happy as a cartoonist can (which is about 60% happy). Maybe 70% if you get in some sardonic, biting last words.”