People & Culture

Salmon Run: humour, happiness and hope on the highways and great rivers of Eastern Canada

Jeff McIntyre's new graphic novel illustrates how nature and the road can nurture beleaguered souls

  • Apr 04, 2024
  • 790 words
  • 4 minutes

Montreal-born artist and graphic novelist Jeff McIntyre is one of the rare people can now call their childhood hero a present-day mentor and friend.

Having grown up copying the political caricatures of legendary Montreal Gazette cartoonist Terry Mosher, McIntyre — who now lives in his lakeside cabin in Val-des-Monts, Q.C. — spent much of his adult life as an oil painter and muralist. About seven years ago, inspired by his children, he put his paint brushes down and gave graphic novels a try. Five years later, he had his first completed work — Finding Manon in Montreal, a 250-page graphic novel detailing a love story that runs across three generations of a family (releasing later this year). On a whim, he sent Mosher a copy in the mail and — much to McIntyre’s disbelief — Mosher fell in love with it. A friendship was born, and Mosher’s valuable guidance has played a role in the creation of McIntyre’s debut graphic novel release: Salmon Run: Book 1.

Here, McIntyre discusses Salmon Run and shares an extract from the first book — plus a bonus wildlife scene.

Salmon Run: Book 1 is available for purchase here and will be displayed at the Salon International du Livre de Québec from April 10 to 14, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival on May 11 and 12, and the Montreal Comic Arts Festival from May 24 to 26. 

On drawing the outdoors

Since I was a kid, I spend most of my year in the outdoors. I have a studio by Blueberry Lake, up in the Gatineaus, and I try to do as much of my work up there as possible. So you’ll always notice all of the wildlife that is in my working environment, and all of the places features in Salmon Run are very dear to me, like the Margaree River in Nova Scotia or the motels in Quebec overlooking the St. Lawrence River. When I’m drawing, I can close my ayes and take myself to any of these places.

I’m so excited about the wildlife, it’s my favourite thing to draw. In Salmon Run there’s birds of prey, salmon, deer. And I’m so looking forward to this underwater scene in Book 2 where the character encounters a whale. There’s going to be a lot of dreamy scenes in that book. 

On being out on the road

As well as working in my Blueberry Lake studio, I try to get out on location. It gives my work more reality and makes it more immersive. So I really jump into them and meet people in the community. And then I get to draw them and send them my art when I’m done. 

I have an old 1985 Buick Le Sabre that my buddy and I got up and running. It had been sitting on blocks up in Georgian Bay, and now I’m driving it across Canada to research my stories. I jump in the LeSabre and open up my iPad Pro and write a file name — usually it’s a scene, maybe a hotdog scene or a poutine scene. Then I get in my car and go and actually experience these things for myself.

When I’m out on the road, I’m able to breathe, I’m able to feel comfortable in my own skin. There is no anxiety, you’re focussed on getting A to B and getting a roof over your head. There’s something I love about the schedule, because, in a way, there is no schedule. There’s something new each day and there’s always plenty of hope out on the road. 

On his personal approach

I also always write about places and people I love. If I’m going to spend all my time drawing figures and people, I get joy out of drawing people I cary very much about from my life. They’re not necessarily that character, but it’s fun to place them in there visually. 

Salmon Run is also a mental health advocacy book. I hope to promote understanding, compassion and inclusivity while challenging stereotypes and misconceptions about mental health. Salmon Run is an invitation to appreciate and recognize the humanity within every individual, regardless of their mental health journey.

I try to write about big, meaningful subjects and themes — and this book is in fact a personal story. I’m very grateful and fortunate to have the opportunity to share it. I’ve been through a lot, and most folks like me don’t get to have a happy family, wonderful neighbours and a community. So I feel almost driven to share a story that other folks don’t get to share. 

— as told to Thomas Lundy


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As well as telling the story of journeying through Eastern Canada, McIntyre's work has a strong element of wildlife illustration. Here, he illustrates the final parts of a salmon's life cycle.
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