First Dog on the Moon: celebrating the joy in the world and sooking about its destruction

Andrew Marlton, AKA First Dog on the Moon, has been called a national treasure.
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He's a cartoonist who has a dog alias, and he's been called a national treasure. First Dog on the Moon cartoonist Andrew Marlton explains to Jasper Caverly

Your career has really forged a multidisciplinary CV. Did this begin anywhere specific? 

It’s mostly improvised. I always wanted to be a cartoonist, or an actor, or some sort of show-off and I was at the point where I was gonna give up because being in your 40s and an aspiring cartoonist – you’ve either made it or you haven’t.

What did you set out to achieve with First Dog on the Moon?

The purpose of First Dog was always to do cartoons about how we need to save the world and what is beautiful and fabulous. There’s so much joy in the world and the purpose of First Dog has always been to celebrate that but also to lament and have a bit of a sook about how it’s being destroyed.

Is the strip an extension of yourself or just a radical alias for topical interrogation? 

These are my politics, but people will do with a cartoon what they want to. They like to take perfectly sensible information and twist it and turn it to their own agendas for various reasons – which is unfortunately what the world is like.

While First Dog is certainly journalistic, a political cartoonist might not conjure the same image as a television-news anchor anchor or crime reporter. Do you consider yourself a journalist?

There’s a journalistic component to the way I work – any cartoonist needs to know what’s happening in the news. I’m probably more of an annoying commentator, more of the opinion pages than straight news.

There’s a factual component too that I have to pay attention to, which sort of underlies the, you know, pictures of furry animals I draw.

What implications has the shift into digital media had on First Dog on the Moon? 

I was always digital, when I use paper now I look for the little erase button and I’m annoyed when it’s not there.

When I first started at Crikey! [in 2007] I realised the internet is really flexible, so the cartoons could be quite long. That’s certainly changed with digital media. In fact, if anything that’s a problem because my cartoons can be too long. I’m always saying to the editors, “Why did you let me write all these words?”

Why First Dog on the Moon? Why tirelessly redraw that enigmatic, puzzled pup? 

I don’t know what it is but anthropomorphism is a really useful tool and it tends to slip under the radar. So I like drawing dogs, I like drawing animals and I don’t particularly like drawing people. Now that I’m able to make a living out of it, why not? It’s gone pretty well so far anyway …