Excerpt from Shiner & Moondogg


Shiner & Moondogg is not only a children’s book; it is much more than that as you will soon see.
I first penned and illustrated the full-color mock-up (if you will) almost straight out of college: I finished Graphic Design/Commercial Art (Dawson College) in May of 1977, and then that summer I almost immediately created the first version of it. To be honest, my inspiration was the animated cartoon-series “The Jetsons” because I liked the look and feel of it, plus musician Cat Stevens’ animated film “Teaser and the Firecat”. In fact, I loved the full-color, almost psychedelic journey Teaser goes on in the film to retrieve his cat. I even named my main protagonist “Shiner”, because both “Teaser” and “Shiner” have an “er” at the end of their names, and because I felt Shiner should be like a shining star! Believe it or not, the green dog’s name came about because I had the television on, and at the time, a “Gidget” movie was playing; someone in the film called out a character’s name, “Moondoggy”, and thus was born my out-of-this-world, green (for “green-cheese”) dog, “Moondogg”! Just to be different, I spelled his name with an extra “g”…I wonder how many kids thought the word “dog” was really spelt that way!
I borrowed a concept from the Jetsons of having continuity in the form of a little antenna on top of Shiner’s cap, as well as on Moondogg’s cap, even on top of the original red spaceship that they flew! When I re-designed their ship, (a sleeker, red batmobile-like affair) I dropped the antenna from the ship.
In the ‘70’s, I succeeded in selling the characters to a Parisian publisher, located in my native Montreal; they promised to use the characters globally to teach kids in schools their a,b,c’s, in addition to providing global distribution of the book; I guess I did a good job of that first version/mock-up.
A year went by, and no contract was offered; everything just fizzeled out. I was back to square one, and by then I was a full-time freelance Commercial Artist, also co-drawing a nationally-syndicated Canadian full-color comic strip, plus my own political cartoons in several Montreal weeklies. I would go on to draw political/Editorial cartoons for papers in Toronto and Winnipeg as well, while continuing with my freelance commercial artwork in those cities. I had added caricaturing at Ontario Place (also in Toronto) to my resume as well.
I never forgot about Shiner and Moondogg, and in fact, I succeeded in selling it as a comic-strip in a few French and English papers in Montreal. Moondogg always appeared very subtly in a corner of every political cartoon I ever drew as well! Sort of my trademark, I got the idea from cartoonist Yardley Jones, who drew a little black cat in corners of his political cartoons!
A few years went by, and in Winnipeg, besides cartooning and Graphic Design, I was now a full-fledged local celebrity! (I was “Magic Mike”  the magician on my long-running TV-show!) Releasing my first album on cassette (did I mention I was also a musician?) I included a black-and-white booklet with a Robin Hood/medieval look, with my Shiner and Moondogg characters! What a blast it was to draw them wearing hoods and big belt-buckles! I hand-lettered every page, which I formatted, photocopied, and assembled into the booklets. The package was then shrink-wrapped at an instant printer. They actually sold out locally!
After relocating to Vancouver, several years later I re-illustrated yet another version of the story, this time in full-color again; I did it only for the sheer pleasure of doing it. The artwork was way more evolved than the simple, flat-colored ones of my originals. I decided to release a cassette/story-telling of the book; I used the newer, full-color illustrations this time, and wrote a few new songs to go with the project. I sold them at my kiosk at Westminster Quay Public Market in New Westminster, B.C., Canada.
Several years later, I again released a newly-recorded version of the songs and story narration, this time on CD, and again with the same artwork as on the cassette. By then, I had re-illustrated the entire book, this time incorporating realistic/full-color photographic backgrounds contrasted by the flat characters in the foreground! I also altered the story-line somewhat; we’ll get to that in awhile.
With the digital age, you can now find my re-telling of the story, complete with original music, on Bandcamp: https://magicmikescastle.bandcamp.com/album/shiner-moondogg.

The Stories

Originally, the story as well as the illustrations were simple: a boy and his moondogg fly off in his spaceship in search of adventure; they come across a planet with a ring (literally, a diamond-ring!) around it, and parachute down to explore it. Suffice it to say they meet with misadventure after misadventure, and in the end, Moondogg saves them both using his ears as helicopter propellers!
The updated versions have a sort of “cross-over” story, where my television character, Magic Mike, (again, the illustrations went through various costumed versions) meet Shiner and Moondogg on the planet with the ring around it. I even included the TV-show’s two mascots (puppets in real life) “Desmond the Dragon” and “Forgetful Lion”; the story-line of the original one remains intact, but I added a sub-plot (and motivation for Shiner taking off in the first place) of his mum passing away; the idea being that kids might learn to deal with a fact of life. My books always reflected happenings in my own life. I had hoped as well to eventually give Magic Mike, Desmond and Forgetful their own series of books; instead, I created a sort of one-off full-color comic-book available on Amazon, but with the twist that I’m a kid, not an adult! There’s four stories inspired by the silliness of the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons of the ‘60’s; I also created four animated vignettes as well! If you’re interested, you can find the Young Magic Mike video or DVD here: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Young-Magic-Mike/dp/B01BXCR3SK/ref=sr_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1501009861&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Adventures+of+Young+Magic+Mike%27s+Castle and the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Young-Magic-Mike/dp/1511741821/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501009931&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Adventures+of+Young+Magic+Mike%27s+Castle I also created a CD of original songs available here: https://www.amazon.com/Ballad-Young-Magic-Mike/dp/B00WAKMI7G/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1501009985&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Ballad+of+Young+Magic+Mike%27s+Castle

That’s the general history of the book, Shiner & Moondogg.
It’s time, now, to read the book with the most current illustrations. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it reading it yourself, but please remember to share it with young people! Perhaps you’ll wish to follow along with my narration on Bandcamp for full effect! Regardless, buckle yourself up, and hang on for the journey of your life! Oh, yes…you’ll also find that you’ll have turn the book around, in order to look at the illustrations, holding the book either right-side-up, or revolving it 90-degrees on occasion! Now…enjoy!

Dr. Michael Likey,
July 2017