I sold my first professional cartoons in 1983 to Marvel UK's The Daredevils comic, (see here) and found more work from Marvel and other publishers shortly afterwards (as well as working as art assistant to Mike Higgs). However, D.C. Thomson and IPC proved to be tougher nuts to crack.
I'd been submitting several samples to Bob Paynter, who was the head of IPC's humour comics, but initially it was just rejection after rejection. Then in 1984 Bob gave me the chance to create something new for Oink! comic which was being planned out at that time. I created Tom Thug, (story here) but of course as Oink! took two years to develop it wouldn't see print until 1986!
Bob called me up one day in late 1984. He said that while they were waiting for Oink! to be finalised, would I like to draw four pages for the Jackpot Annual 1986? (Annuals are always prepared months ahead of their cover date.)
Naturally I jumped at the chance. What may surprise you to know is that IPC's annuals paid a lower page rate than the weeklies, so sometimes they needed artists to fill in on strips if the usual artist wasn't available or wouldn't work for the lower rate. This was a great opportunity for Bob Paynter to try out aspiring artists. He could get them comparatively cheap and if the results were good then regular drawing commissions on the weeklies would eventually follow. Bob was very good at giving new people a chance this way if he knew they were serious about wanting to draw for comics. There was no room for time wasters of course as IPC were the biggest comics publisher in the UK at the time, but Bob knew I was eager to draw strips for his comics.
Bob sent me a script for a four page Scooper story. I wasn't very familiar with the character (never having read Jackpot) but he supplied me with photostats of old episodes. Scooper was a Tom Paterson character, and the brief was to 'ghost' Tom's style on the main characters for consistency but I was still free to use my own (evolving) style too. I was also allowed to sign it, which I appreciated.
Anyway, here's the four pager I drew. Bob liked the results and I did a six page Bookworm story for the Whoopee! Annual the following year, and then of course it was on to Oink! comic as a regular, then Buster until its last days. And I've been freelancing for IPC/Fleetway/Egmont pretty much ever since.
The strip isn't perfect by any means and some parts of my artwork make me cringe today. (The letterer made a mistake on page three panel six, by first moving a speech balloon without whiting out its border, then having it point to the wrong character.) It wasn't an easy strip to draw, having never drawn boats or the ocean before, but every commission teaches us something new and I was very proud to finally have something published by IPC.
Below: The cover for the annual, drawn by Mike Lacey.