Cartoonist traces lifeline

Adrian Raeside by Otago Harbour. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Adrian Raeside by Otago Harbour. Photo by Linda Robertson.
He left Dunedin as a boy to become one of North America's most popular cartoonists. Now he's off to the Antarctic to retrace the footsteps of an ancestor. Nigel Benson meets Adrian Raeside.

Adrian Raeside is nervous about returning to Dunedin. He left in 1970 as a 13-year-old after attending Maori Hill School.

"It's been a long, long time; nearly 40 years now. I've come back almost as a tourist. I feel like a passenger pressing my nose against the window," he says.

"I have been a bit nervous about it, but it's all been very positive. I have a lot of memories here, although everything looks smaller than I remember.

"I remember standing at the Dunedin Railway Station when I was a boy and the big steam trains and the smell of smoke and steam. It was tremendous," he says.

"It's nice coming back and remembering things like that. I guess, at heart, I'm still a Dunedin boy."

Raeside left Dunedin when his late father, DSIR scientist James Raeside, was transferred to Christchurch and then Wellington, before the family emigrated to Canada via England.

"We lived for a time in a house on Royal Terrace. I've been visiting the houses we lived in. But, I don't really know anyone in the city anymore, except an old schoolteacher, Beth Larkin, who lives on City Rd.

"We used to have a small cottage near Otakou which, at that time, could only be reached at low tide by driving over the sand. Needless to say, the family car eventually disintegrated in a pile of rust. I'm sure there is a decent road through there by now."

He now lives in Whistler, British Columbia, about two hours north of Vancouver.

Raeside (51) is a Dunedin boy made good. Although, he's taken a roller-coaster ride to get there.

He's worked at various jobs over the years, from loading grain ships in Thunder Bay to surveying on Canada's West Coast.

"I just did odds and sods to keep myself going. But, all the time I was sending out cartoon samples to newspapers and getting rejection slips back.

Every day, there would be a rejection slip in the letterbox. I finally sold my first cartoon for $2 in 1978 and I built from that."

He has now been the editorial cartoonist for the Victoria Times Colonist for 30 years and his cartoons appear in more than 200 newspapers and magazines worldwide, from the Los Angeles Times to Newsweek in Japan.

"I do about four or five editorial cartoons a week, on things like politics and social satire."

His comic strip, The Other Coast, appears in more than 350 newspapers worldwide.

"The comic strip is about environmentalists. It sends up environmentalists who live on the west coast of North America and shows what hypocrites they are.

"There's been so much destruction in BC because of clear-cut logging," he says.

"It's a parody of life, sort of. It's a place where dogs get hooked on nicotine gum, oilmen drill for coffee and environmentalists do their bit to save the depleted oceans by sharing the shark fin soup."