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Geoff Hook may be a name not so recognisable to those of us not of the newspaper-reading generation, but in terms of Australian political commentary and critique, Hook is a bonafide legend. His political cartoons graced the pages of the Herald Sun for decades, and are an incredible documentation of the nation’s political history, and furthermore, how history repeats itself. Recently retired, Hook has taken some time to collaborate on a t-shirt with Melbourne bike and streetwear store Saint Side. The result is a rich mix of Melbourne icons old and new and how a love for bikes transcends it all.

How did you get started in cartooning?

While working as a cadet press-artist at the Hobart ‘Mercury’ Newspaper I was given the opportunity to fill in for the incumbent cartoonist. the exemplary Norman Southey, while he was on holidays. This gave me the taste for doing an editorial cartoon and gave me direction in this field.

How did you strike up your relationship with the Herald Sun initially?

At The Hobart Mercury I was limited to two cartoons a week and a Saturday Night Weekly Cartoon Review (Usually 4 or 5 topics were covered). This gave me the status of a Creative Artist and the salary to match, [but] my ambition was to be a daily editorial cartoonist.

I visited The Sun News Pictorial with a portfolio of my work and a few months later was taken on as a Creative Artist with some possibilities to cartoon. Syndicated work by Paul Rigby was used editorially at the time. Eventually I won my spot and became Editorial Cartoonist.

What are your thoughts on the publication as it stands now?

One has to realise that The Herald Sun is part of the popular News Network Tabloids which are published in every state in Australia. The influence of internet communication has changed the way the paper is put together… Also the way readers absorb the content. The daily editorial conference is gone. Reporters email their stories straight to publication. Cartoonists generally use the tablet and electronic drawing. The cartoon still has impact as proved by reaction both in the paper and online. There are still journalists who can follow their passion to pursue important issues. For example Allan Howe. People follow their blogs as well as read the papers. Of course there are a lot of celebrity stories and ‘journalism as entertainment’ now but anyone who is interested can still find the core stories.

How do you feel about the current state of Australian politics compared to when you were full-time at the Herald Sun?

As always the more issues are discussed, argued and reacted to the better the cartoonist is able to do his job. How wonderful to have our first woman Prime Minister. Cartoonists are probably the only people who rejoiced in the Hung Parliament and all the negotiations that had to be carried out as a result.

My personal stance has been to think as a member of the Opposition no matter which party is in power

– you must remember that I go back to the late 1950’s in that regard. I’m a news-aholic and still follow world, national and local stories throughout my day. 

If you had to draw a cartoon this very day for the paper, what would it be?

On my website www.geoffhook.com we put up two cartoons a week from my archives that reflect present day politics. The problem of the 600 jobs at Alcoa in Victoria is the issue that has been chosen. The Premier of Victoria Lindsay Thompson and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser were wrestling with similar circumstances in 1981. 4th December, 1981 was when I did the cartoon on this topic. …and there we are, history is repeating itself.

What do you think is the role of political cartoons in the media landscape?

To use humour, and in my case my drawing skills in caricature and realist art, to lighten the burden and to reflect to the audience how a situation or an issue is and maybe throw some light on the human condition of it.

To hopefully provoke thought that will lead to understanding. It’s up to people then to take or leave the ideas. Imagine how I felt one day when I was going through the gate of the MCG and there was my cartoon face up in a puddle with people walking all over it!

How did your collaboration with Saint Side come about?

Mark from Saint Side originally contacted me about his work in making Retro Bikes. His enthusiasm for riding and for doing this impressed me. I have ridden many miles myself… in the American Bike Centennial across the Rocky Mountains in 1976; numerous Great victoria bike rides as well as riding for recreation.

What was the idea behind the design?

The joy and exhilaration of riding came through Mark’s emails to me.

As a rider myself it sparked the image and I have hopefully managed to embody this in the t-shirt design.

See more of Geoff’s work at geoffhook.com.