Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Pathetic Sharks Bumper Special

Back in 1991 John Brown Publishing (who were then co-publishers of Viz) and the Viz team decided to venture into the children's market with a one-off publication for kids. The result was Viz Presents The Pathetic Sharks Bumper Special, a 48 page softback book packed with all new material.

It was edited from John Brown's London office by Dave Elliott (who has since done loads of comics over the years and is now editor of A1 for Titan Comics). Chris Donald of Viz had input and final approval. I was originally commissioned to write/draw an 8 pager, then it built from there and I ended up doing most of the book. Cartoonist Bambos Georgiou also had considerable input, drawing two Felix and his Amazing Underpants stories, and we both collaborated on a five page Sharks story. (I think Bambos inked my pencils, or I inked his. More likely the former.) There was also a Captain Morgan and his Hammond Organ story by Casper Williams, and also two Albert O'Balsam strips which I drew based on a version by Roger Langridge. 

I drew the cover for the book, the pull out poster, a couple of feature pages, two eight page Pathetic Sharks stories, the contents page, and a few other bits and bobs. It was a pleasure to work on the book and having the chance to do longer stories which provided an opportunity to do them as kind of situation comedies really. 

The two long stories were Aquashow Antics, which co-starred Felix and his Amazing Underpants meeting the Sharks, and Winter Warmer, which saw the Sharks indulge in chaos on a fishing vessel. The strips were all black and white but had spot colour added in the office.

I don't know how well the book fared but I think its format may have been a disadvantage. It was launched in June 1991 to compete with traditional Summer Specials, but its high price (£2.99) and book format (instead of glossy full colour like The Beano Summer Special) may have gone against it. That said, it's still a book I'm proud to have been involved with and I think it still stands up well 22 years later.

If you're interested in buying the original artwork, I have the pages for the Winter Warmer story on eBay at present. Yes, it's quite a high starting price but that's for all 8 pages as I don't want to separate them. You'll find them listed here. Good luck! 


Stu Munro said...

I remember buying this in my local newsagent because my sister wouldn't let me read her Viz comics! I was only 12, but I was the king of the playground for having it!

Luckily I inherited her Viz comics when she moved out 2 years later!

Lew Stringer said...

That's a great anecdote Stu. It's exactly why we did the book, because we knew kids would read Viz if they could so doing a comic without the sweary bits would give them a chance to follow that humour without doing it covertly. Unfortunately the Viz name on the cover may have sold it to newsagents but some of them still assumed it was adults only and put it on the top shelf.

TwoHeadedBoy said...

Got this book, and it's an enjoyable one, certainly...

An auntie of ours used to read Viz to us when we were younger, but would change the odd word or two... consequently, until I started buying Viz myself, I was under the assumption my favourite character was called "Spoilt Brat"!

Lew Stringer said...

Ha! That's brilliant. :)