Friday, 13 March 2015

My first IPC strip (Jackpot Annual 1986)

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.


Peter Gray said...

Love the background detail to to meet Bob one day and shake his hand ...thank him..and buy him a drink and of course you also...:)

Manic Man said...

okay.. you have just annoyed me.. I got that annual.. it's next to me right now.. and I DIDN'T notice that strip for some reason.. Like all my annuals, I've read them cover to cover a number of times but for some reason, just didn't pick up on it.. why? no clue..

Good strip though.

Lew Stringer said...

I'm sure we'll meet one day Peter. Bob has retired now but I understand there's an interview with him in a forthcoming book.

Lew Stringer said...

Perhaps I should have made my signature more prominent. (I'm joking. It's already too prominent in panel one.)

Manic Man said...

^_^ yeah, for the time that is pretty nice and prominent.. just no clue why I missed it.. Jackpot wasn't too bad but I found too many of the characters were a lot more 'oh, this is popular, take the basic idea and do a lot of it'.. while this has sometimes lead to a number of good strips for comics, it also leads to a lot which don't have the 'something different' factor.

Lew Stringer said...

I used to thumb through Jackpot sometimes but I wasn't buying humour comics at the time. Plus the typeset lettering they used on the strips in that comic put me off. I don't know why they didn't use hand lettering like the other humour comics did at the time. Cost cutting I guess. Not a Jackpot for letterers then.