The Legacy of Michael Dougan: A Prolific Cartoonist and Illustrator

Brain disease took the life of Michael Dougan, a Seattle-based cartoonist and artist who was 64 years old when he passed away on January 13, 2023. Dougan was well-known for his witty and insightful pieces that appeared in several Seattle magazines during his career, including The Seattle Times and The Seattle Sun. His career lasted several decades, and it was during this time that he gained widespread recognition. In addition, he was the creator of two graphic books called. 

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“East Texas: Tales from Behind the Pine Curtain” and “I Can’t Tell You Anything: And Other Stories” all received high praise from the review community.

Career Highlights

Dougan’s works were most frequently published in The Rocket, a music magazine, where he contributed illustrations, comic strips, and articles. His self-portrait graced the cover of the August 1987 issue, showcasing his ever-smiling demeanour as he lit bottle rockets and smoked a cigar. Throughout his career, he garnered a growing reputation, and his writing was featured in many high-calibre magazines, such as The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and The Village Voice, amongst others. Later in his career, he also worked for CBS and MTV as a television developer.

Influence on Seattle’s Art Scene

Dougan was raised in East Texas but moved to Seattle when he was a teenager, where he immediately became a significant player in the local art scene. In the early 1980s, he was known for his harsh chuckle and droll, sideways humour and rented a studio on First Avenue for only $100 a month. In the 1980s, Seattle was at the epicentre of the “underground” in music and comics, and Dougan was a significant player in this movement. Dougan attributed the development of his aesthetic to the Seattle music and the comic scene in an episode of the “Subterranean Dispatch” podcast released in January 2019.

Later Years and Move to Japan

After a fire destroyed most of his archived works, Dougan’s interest shifted to food. He and his second wife, Chizuko Nitta, moved to Japan in the 2000s, where they opened Michael’s Café American in Tono, a place rich in folklore. Tono’s tales of myth and magic resonated with Dougan, and he felt a sense of familiarity with the business, much like he had felt growing up in East Texas. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic and Dougan’s cancer diagnosis forced the closure of the successful café.


Michael Dougan was a talented artist who made a lasting impact on Seattle’s art scene. His works were often hilarious, loving, and accurate, reflecting his upbeat and friendly personality. He was a master of insight and humour. His legacy will inspire and excite future generations of artists and fans. Dougan’s creative views were always spot-on, from Tono’s wild stories to Seattle’s grunge bands, and he will be missed by everyone who knew and loved him.

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