Saturday 27 April 2013

Meanwhile, three decades ago...

It's been 30 years ago this month since I sold my first professional cartoon. (The one shown above, which saw print in Marvel UK's The Daredevils No.7, dated July 1983.) With Iron Man 3 in cinemas this week I thought it might be appropriate to show this cartoon again.

Looking at it now, the style is crude and the gag very lame, but seeing it in print back in 1983 gave me a huge boost to my self esteem. At the time I was on the dole, having quit a dead-end office job, and had been trying to break into comics for a couple of years with no luck. (In retrospect it's understandable I made no initial headway because my work simply wasn't professional standard then.)

I'd been producing several fanzines and small press comics in order to gain experience and feedback, and Alan Moore (whom I knew from the Westminster Comic Marts and inevitable pub-meets) suggested I try Marvel UK with some ideas. He introduced me to Marvel editor Bernie Jaye in February 1983 and she asked me to submit some work. I soon came up with a variation on Marvel's "What If...?" series, sent in a bunch of cartoons, and at the April Westminster Comic Mart Bernie told me she'd be running them in
The Daredevils from issue 7. I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day.

The rate was very low, - £5 a cartoon. Not enough to enable me to get off the dole at that point (and yes, I did declare it) but what it gave me was far more important, - the encouragement to carry on. Prior to that, I'd been on the verge of giving up my ambitions to be a cartoonist, but the euphoria of seeing my work in print gave me the confidence and incentive I needed. After that, more work followed and I went full-time self employed early in 1984. It's true what they say; once you've been published it gives other editors the assurance that you can do the job. All thanks to Alan Moore and Bernie Jaye. 

I'd also like to thank all of you who have followed my strips over the years. Hopefully they provided some amusement, even if it was only to groan at the puns. Working in comics is more unstable now than it was 30 years ago, but I hope there'll be a few more years of work ahead yet. 

(Part of this post was originally published five years ago on my previous blog, Blimey!

Thursday 25 April 2013

Roy Lichtenstein's Schooldays

Here's a reveal of my new strip that I mentioned a few weeks ago. It's a one-off called Roy Lichtenstein's Schooldays and it appears in Viz No.225, out today! (And rather than gain full credit for the strip, Lichtenstein-like, I'd better point out that although the concept and basics of the strip were mine, Viz editors Graham Dury and Simon Thorp rewrote the script somewhat, improving on my original version.)

The cover, by Simon Thorp, also has a Lichtenstein theme, showing the pop artist the same amount of respect that he showed all those uncredited comic creators whose work he based his paintings on. 

You'll find Viz on the top shelves of newsagents across the land. 52 pages of adult humour for £3.20. See the website for more details and a free preview of Simon Thorp's Johnny Fartpants page, set at Maggie Thatcher's funeral.

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Pranks a lot!

British comics have often featured activity pages amongst the strips, from the humble reader's jokes page ("submit a joke and win a 10 shilling postal order"), 'How to' features on magic tricks, and puzzle pages such as Teaser Time. The latest thing appears to be the 'pranks' page, with readers actively encouraged to play harmless pranks on their parents and pals, with step-by-step instructions on each mischievous moment. 

Today's issues of The Beano and BeanoMax are no exception. In The Beano I've illustrated Pop Goes the Weasel, - and no, weasels are not involved. It's a prank involving keys and balloons.

Over in BeanoMax, my cartoons run across five pages for the It's Prank O'Clock feature, telling kids how they can get up to 15 pranks during the course of a day. 

This week's Beano is rather special because not only does it feature the return of the cover strip (as opposed to one big picture) it also contains the debut of four new strips. (My regular Rasher mini-strip is still in there too.) Out now for a mere £2.00.

BeanoMax comes bagged with a pile of goodies, the best of which in my opinion is a plastic fake fried egg. (A nice oldschool joke prop which I'm sure thousands of today's readers will enjoy playing with.) That's issue No.77, on sale now for £3.99. 

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Outside of comics

Over the last 30 years about 99% of my work has been exclusively for comics. Maybe even 99.9%. I haven't kept count. However, sometimes I'll be contacted by companies outside of comics to do commercial illustrations for them. Often, it makes a refreshing change, especially when it's for a good client. (And every artist has horror stories about the bad clients, but I don't use my blog for muckraking.) It can be a rewarding experience and it's an area I'd like to venture into more often really. (As long as I can keep doing comics as well of course.)

One pleasurable job recently was doing a few illustrations for Meello, the crowdsourcing company for the built environment. There's the builder 'John' on this blog, and you can see him in context at the Meello website:

Perhaps I'll show some of my other non-comics work here sometime if enough people are interested?

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Aces! It's a Busy Beano week ahead

Like waiting for a bus and three turning up at once I have a load of work to do over the next week or so, all with deadlines close together. Not that I'm complaining! So expect this blog to be a bit quiet until I've cleared the workload a little. For The Beano I have five separate feature pages to illustrate and three Rashers to draw, and for Aces Weekly a new three page Combat Colin to do. 

In the meantime, here's a preview of this week's Rasher strip from The Beano No.3681, in the shops now!

Also, if, like me, you're old enough to remember 50 years ago - or you're curious what what happening in pop culture and the news back then, - check out Nigel Parkinson's brilliant new blog 1963 and all that. It's a blast!

Monday 15 April 2013

New character

Last week I drew a half page strip for the next issue of Viz. It stars a new character, or rather a spoof of a public figure. I won't say who it is yet or it'll probably raise your expectations and you'll be thinking of him in funnier scenarios than the one I've written. Then you'll only be disappointed and claim Viz Isn't As Funny As It Used To Be. 

It's only intended as a one-off strip. Here's a sneak preview. You can read the full strip in Viz No.225, on sale April 24th.  

Saturday 13 April 2013

Oink! and Buster pages for sale

I'm selling off some more of my old pages on eBay this weekend. This time there are a selection of original pages from Oink! and Buster, including Pete and his Pimple, The Vampire Brats, and Tom Thug. 

One of the Tom Thug strips in the auction is the one I did for the first combined issue of Buster with Oink! It's the very first Tom Thug's Skooldayz page, rebooting the series for Buster readers. 

The auction ends late tomorrow afternoon (Sunday 14th April). All bids welcome! Click here to see the listing. 

Thursday 11 April 2013

More Beano fun

One of the things I enjoy about writing and drawing the Rasher strip for The Beano is that it gives me the opportunity to draw other Beano characters from time to time. This week's mini-strip has cameos from several classic Beano stars, with at least one in each of the four panels. The Beano No.3680, - out now!

I've also been drawing a few pages for The Beano's companion comic, BeanoMax, recently. I've provided several illustrations for a feature in issue 77 (on sale 24th April) and I think I have three pages in issue 78 (out at the end of May). I can't really show the images here until they're published but here's a Max-imum screen-grab close up of one that'll be in No.78. 

Sunday 7 April 2013

Never Be Without A Beano!

Just a quick reminder that the latest Beano is in the shops now. Here's a preview of my Rasher strip from the current issue. If you haven't bought The Beano for a while, it'd be worth your time to pick up a copy. It's had a gradual revamp over the past six months or so and it's in great shape these days. Just as it should be of course, with its upcoming 75th anniversary in July!

Thursday 4 April 2013

Four forgotten strips

Click to see larger size.

I can usually remember most of the work I've done over the past 30 years but sometimes I'll stumble across pages that I've completely forgotten about. Case in point this page of four strips from Little Nipper comic. They're undated, but I think I drew them in the late 1980s or early 1990s. 

Little Nipper was a four page glossy A4 comic that was produced as a giveaway for kids riding on the 'Nipper' mini-buses for South Yorkshire Transport. I don't know who drew the cover strip.

Only pages one and two feature strips. Pages three and four being taken up by a competition. I know I definitely created the four strips shown above, wrote the scripts and drew the artwork, and Little Nipper was a one-off so they never appeared again. 

Anyway, I thought I'd share these obscure strips here. Unless you rode on South Yorkshire mini-buses one summer many years ago you've probably never seen them before! 

Artist unknown.