Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Rarities: My very early work


I thought I'd share a few scans of my very early comic art with you today. Well, I say "art". Some of these are embarrassingly bad, but here goes, starting with the image above of the sort of comics I used to draw when I was a young lad. 

I used to put together numerous comic strips like this about my family and my pets in the 1960s, fairly hastily scribbled out in biro. The only people I ever showed them to were my immediate family and my best pal (all of whom are sadly no longer with us). This particular one above was about how my Grandad used to take me a walk on Sunday mornings with the dogs. Happy days. I'd have drawn this in 1967/68 when I was eight years old. Influenced my Marvel Comics it was a tad more melodramatic than it needed to be.

I drew over 100 comics when I was growing up, usually 8 page efforts ranging from any size, depending what paper I could lay my hands on. This one, Captain Thunder, is from 1973 when I was 14. Terrible work, showing no idea of anatomy whatsoever. (The figure was a bad crib of a Gil Kane Warlock cover.) At this stage drawing was purely a hobby and I had no ambition to work in the industry professionally at the time, so basically I wasn't trying as hard as I should have been. 



I'd actually given up drawing by the time I'd left school. (I'd dropped art as a subject before then too.) Living in a small Midlands town seemed too remote for any hopes of drawing for comics. (I naively thought all artists were on staff, working in London or New York.) Besides, our comprehensive school's career teachers had encouraged us to either join the army or consider factory/shop work, so I went to work in an office at a local mining tools company. 

I never enjoyed the office work or the daily routine, and was looking for a way out after a few years. In 1976 I discovered comic fanzines, which gave me the inspiration to draw again. I started contributing to various 'zines, and creating my own. Here's the very first Brickman strip (when he was called Brick-Person) from my fanzine After Image No.3, published November 1979. An early attempt as inking with Rotring pens...



I quit my job in 1980 and decided to focus on finding a career in comics. At this stage I didn't know what kind of comics I'd like to do. I tried my hand at superhero stuff, but as this 1980 cover to Alec Chalmer's fanzine Mirage proves, I hadn't advanced a great deal since the days of Captain Thunder...



I preferred creating humour strips so I started developing a humour style that might be appropriate for UK comics. I still wasn't anywhere near ready, as this Dawg strip from Paul Duncan's 1982 stripzine Short Fuse demonstrates...




At this stage I was inking with a dip-pen and not mastering it at all. Here's another 1982 drawing; the cover to Dick Domar's fanzine The Owl's Effort Summer Special...



I think I was starting to find a style in 1982 that I could develop. Here's a Fandumb mini-strip I did for the fanzine Chain Reaction...



That same year I switched to using Rotring pens again and the change in style was immediate. I found them far easier to control than dip-pens (although over the years I've switched back and forth). Here's one of several Fandumb At Large pages I did for The Owl's Effort. Still not pro standard, but an improvement on what I'd done before. (I'm embarrassed at how cynical the humour is here, although I did include myself in a later edition.)



I sold my first professional cartoons in 1983, and later worked as an assistant to Mike Higgs which helped me develop my style considerably. Here's a 1984 stripzine I published, - Brickman on Toast. By this time I was inking with Tombow fibre-tip pens which were very similar to the UniPin pens I use today.



Finally, here's a drawing I did in 1988 that some of you may not have seen before, featuring Tom Thug and Pete and his Pimple. It was done for the Birmingham Comic Art Show booklet for that year. Inked with Rotring pens.



I hope you've enjoyed this trip through my archives. If my crude, clueless early drawings could eventually lead to paid work then anyone can do it. All you need is practise and imagination, so for anyone out there with hopes to become a professional artist: keep drawing, keep learning, and never give up!

10 comments:

Digi Marabese said...

Nice to see the development Lew. I too tried some comic strip drawing as a child, heavily influenced by IPC mine were called 'Snapper & Speedy' + 'Comic Fun'. Interesting to see your Brick-Person develop over the years.

Ben Baker said...

This was a joy to read. Thank you for posting it and for making me realise that it wasn't just me who created lots of front covers as a kid in the U.S comic book style with fictional publisher box up top left simply because I assumed thats just what you do. I'd usually got bored by page 3 though (and page 2 would just be a page from the 'editor'!)

John Pitt said...

I'd really like to see all the pages from Captain Thunder and Mirage! They remind me of the comics I used to attempt when I was at school ( only much better! ) I wish I had kept mine, even though they were dreadful. Glad you kept yours!

Lew Stringer said...

I used to work out the whole thing based on comics at the time. So if my 8 page comic had spot colour (in my case red biro colouring) on page 3, it'd also have it on page 6. I used to write editorials too, including one that blamed rising print costs for the comic going up in price, - even though my master copy was the only one in existence and I never charged anyone to read it. :) I guess I was playing at being an editor.

Lew Stringer said...

The interior pages of Captain Thunder were even worse than the cover. I'd made some attempt to copy a proper illustration for that cover but the interiors were just knocked out as I thought of them, and straight to ink without pencils.

As for Mirage, that was just a fanzine about comics so I only drew the cover.

Colin Jones said...

I loved drawing as a kid too. I was a big fan of Planet Of The Apes and was drawing apes all the time as well as Marvel super heroes. I also created a 'comic' for my sister but after all my effort she wasn't much interested ! I suppose I was creating it for my own amusement really.

George Shiers said...

Good to see. There's no doubt that you've improved A LOT - even over the more recent(ish) years!

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks George. I've always found that improvements come in bursts. (Perhaps other cartoonists find this too.) You'll coast along at a certain level for a while and then suddenly you'll find little improvements happening, even if it's just a slight tweak in linework, or an increased range of expressions, etc. It's all because the more you draw, the more you learn I guess.

Lew Stringer said...

My immediate family used to read my efforts, although it was mostly my mum. She read everything I did, and after I turned pro I'd still take any comics I was published in to her house every week for her to read. (Except for the adult stuff like Viz.) Apart from myself, my mum must have read more of my stuff than anyone else in the world.

DoctorDeath said...

I'm a fan of technical pens for inking (my efforts with dip pens have not gone well) and have recently been using Rotring Tikky pens. Going to give those Uni Pins a spin, they seem good value! I've not been drawing for a while, am now kind of happily doodling my way back into things!