Monthly Archives: October 2013

Puzzle Page Of Horrors.

Last Halloween I pitched a mini-strip called ‘Horrornation Street’, not an original idea – I think a similar strip was in Shiver & Shake – but I thought it was a funny idea nonetheless.  The Beano asked me to turn it into a puzzle instead, which I did.

It was never printed, and since it contains Ken Barlow I doubt it ever will be – so here it is in it’s entirety for the first time!

HorrornationSt

Unfortunately I was going to miss the deadline for completion. A communications cock-up meant finished it anyway, the day after it went to print. My own fault, but that’s a lesson I won’t need to learn twice!

Anyway, the page was handed over to the legendary Lew Stringer (of Combat Colin, Brickman, Pathetic Sharks and Robocapers fame). He mentions it on his blog here.

It was amazing to see my (sort of) idea drawn by another artist, especially Lew Stringer, who I had been a fan of since first reading Combat Colin in Action Force comic back in the late 80s then moving on to Viz‘s  Felix And His Amazing Underpants and the aforementioned Pathetic Sharks in the early 90s.

I finally wrote a bit of a fan letter to Lew recently.  He told me he was working on a new Pathetic Sharks for Viz and that even though he’d been in the business for over 30 years, he still considers himself a newbie compared to the ‘proper’ artists he grew up with.

Something tells me I’ll be feeling the same way if I’m still drawing in 30 years.

 

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Filed under Halloween, Lew Stringer, Puzzle Pages, The Beano

They All Know Him.

If you know me or follow me on Twitter (@TeenWolfToo) you’ll already be well aware of my obsession with Citizen Khan, the BBC sitcom set in Sparkhill, Birmingham – described by its lead character Mr Khan (Adil Ray) as “the capital of British Pakistan.” Citizen Khan follows the trials and tribulations of Mr Khan, a loud-mouthed, patriarchal, self-appointed community leader – “They all know me!” – and his long suffering family.

When series 1 started last year Mr Khan made a cameo appearance in The Dangerous Life Of A Paperboy in The Dandy.

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Unfortunately, The Dandy wasn’t happy with the portrayal of a Pakistani newsagent, so I edited the strip making him look a little Jewish!

ImageThe strip is also notable for a bargain bin full of copies of Freak Out, the first horror/comedy by funnyman Dan Palmer (my cousin, see here for details) and images of Chesney Hawkes and Baninja from Andy Fanton‘s The Carrotty Kid both appearing in the newsagent.

I tweeted Citizen Khan star Adil Ray (@adilray) the cartoon of Mr Khan suggesting that he branched out into “Khan-toons” and pitch Desi The Menace to The Beano. I was really pleased that the cartoon proved very popular with the shows fans when Adil and Mr Khan himself (@therealmrkhan) retweeted it.

Yesterday I was doodling Spider-Man while working on some scripts and I hit upon a very silly idea which refused to go away until I drew it.

Citizen Khan

“Spider-Khan, Spider-Khan, community leader from Pakistan!” 

Citizen Khan series 2 is on BBC One at 9.30 every Friday night, the DVD of series 1 is available now.

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Filed under Citizen Khan, Comic Strips, Parodies, The Dandy

Return Of The Living Justin Beaver.

I love old horror movies, so Halloween is a great time for me – the TV schedules are full of shoddy 80s slasher movies, classic Hammer Horror and 90s sequels featuring the cast of Dawson’s Creek. The green flavour Jaffa Cakes return to Asda (I don’t know what flavour they are, but the box is green and I love them more than I love Macaroni Cheese, which is a lot). Plus, Ghoulies Go To College and Ernest Scared Stupid drop to under a fiver on Amazon.  It’s also a great springboard for inspiring comics.

This is the best one I’ve seen this year, The Devil’s Steps by Dan Berry

Halloween also inspires some really fun puzzle pages and madverts for me, as my last few blogs have mentioned. But last Halloween I finally got to sneakily bring Justin Beaver out of retirement for a puzzle in The Dandy!

Justin Beaver

Justin Beaver was my very first published strip. It had ended on it’s 10th week. I thought there were 12 strips due, The Dandy had only actually commissioned 8, but I managed to push it up to 10.

The 12th and final strip would have seen how Justin turned out years after his fame had faded, essentially becoming a cross between an angry has-been  and the desperate ‘I’ll do anything’  Kerry Catona/Peter Andre type. As the script concluded it is strongly hinted that Justin goes ‘off the rails’. The last panel was set in the future and would have seen is Manager Tiny (from The Beezer) find him dead-eyed, washed-up and tragically slumped… over a cash register working in McDonalds.

There were three versions of the Halloween Fansylvania puzzle drawn. One with Justin Bieber (which is what the editorial team had asked for), one with Justin Beaver and one where there was no solution to the maze and either version of Justin ended up perishing at the hands – or fangs – of the vampire who – for no reason at all other than it amused me – bares a striking resemblance to a 1980s Real Ghostbusters toy I used to have…

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The Dandy, always willing to go with the funniest option, went with the latter. Letting me kill off my first creation in a very satisfying conclusion.

Death is, ater all, the ultimate punchline.

That was deep. That would make a good Fred Basset cartoon. One were the humourless hound finds Mr Brown’s bland lifeless body slumped in his chair, finally out of his boring unfunny misery.

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God I hate that dog.

To end with then, here for the first time is the unused Justin Bieber version of Fansylvania!

Justin Bieber

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Filed under Comic Strips, Ghostbusters, Justin Beaver, Parodies, Puzzle Pages, The Dandy

I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghost: Part 2

It’s no secret that Nuke Noodle, Alex Matthews‘ time travelling wrestler, was and is my favourite Dandy character.

For me Nuke was the funniest and most consistently inventive strip in The Dandy and clothes-lined his way into my top ten favourite cartoon characters over the course of his brief year in print. Nuke traveled through time, space, literature and even The Beezer, smashing and bashing through every strip with a bizarrely hilarious lack of interest in following the rules of narrative and any making any semblance of sense at all – I could easily fill the entire internet with nothing but love for this crazy strip, (and when I run out of stuff to write about in about a month or so, I probably will).

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Nuked: The Twitter icon I used for my short-lived Nuke Noodle Twitter account, which was just quotes from the comic. It ran for 4 months. I closed it on New Years Day 2013.

I had managed to crowbar Nuke in to the final strip of Barbarian Librarian in which the titular librarian had been fired for using excessive violence to administer library fines, I really drew it just so I could say I’d drawn him in The Dandy and to hopefully springboard a conversation with Alex about the character. I’m still just a fanboy at heart.

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Final & Dandy: The final Librarian Babarian strip, which features Nuke Noodle as his replacement.

I was pleased to be able to legitimately sneak him in to Auntie Clockwise in the last Dandy alongside Bill & Ted, The Beano’s Tim Traveller, Doctor Who and Doc & Marty from the film Back To The Future!

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Auntie Social Behavior: Auntie Clockwise gets lost in the circuits of time in the last ever print copy of The Dandy.

I’m not sure how another artist feels when he sees his characters drawn by someone else, having never experienced it myself, but Alex seemed to like it. When I asked Phil Corbett what he thought of my inclusion of his Korky in a Beano puzzle he told me he loved me. So I guess he was pleased/sick of me pestering him.

I drew Nuke because, like Korky, I liked the character and I enjoy drawing in the artist’s style. Sometimes working for The Beano just feels like getting paid to produce fan art, but when you’re ‘borrowing’ other peoples characters it often feels like sneaking into their house while they’re sleeping and using all their stuff.

Which I also do regularly.

Jamie Smart has a very nice dog. Andrew Fanton needs to run a hoover round once in a while. Nigel Parkinson is out of milk.

Anyhoo, a few weeks ago I was working on a daft Halloween puzzle called ‘Wrestlers Vs Zombies’ and I just couldn’t make it work. The wrestlers all looked like superheros and it just wasn’t very funny. I keep the Nuke Noodle anthology from Dennis The Menace Megazine by my desk, so I started to thumb trough it for wrestler-based inspiration. I ended up reading it cover to cover!

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Slamthology: The cover of Alex Mathews’ Nuke Noodle anthology from Dennis The Menace Megazine.

Then it hit me, just because he’s a Dandy character, doesn’t mean he can’t appear in The Beano! After all, Bananaman started life in Nutty, moved to The Dandy and now he’s in The Beano! So I got to bring back Nuke, alongside a couple of other brain-bashing Beano characters, for one last round in the ring…

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That, I thought, was definitely the last time I’d get a chance to draw a Dandy character, aside from occasionally sneaking a very lost Korky The Cat in to the odd puzzle page…

So I was surprised to learn that I’d be using my ghosting skills to bring 7 more of the most popular Dandy characters “back from the dead” in a one off appearance rather fittingly in the Halloween issue of The Beano

Always keep a Dandy handy!

Always keep a Dandy handy!

The Halloween issue of The Beano is on sale today, Wednesday 23rd October, in WH Smiths, Sainsbury’s, Asda and all good newsagents, priced £2. The Wrestlers Vs Zombies puzzle will be in a future issue.

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Filed under Alexander Matthews, Comic Strips, Ghosting, Halloween, Nuke Noodle, Puzzle Pages, The Beano, The BeanoMax, The Dandy

I Ain’t Afraid Of No Ghost: Part 1

As It’s Halloween it seems like the perfect time to talk about ‘ghosting’. Though it sounds like some sordid thing involving ghoulies, in the comics world it usually refers to drawing in the style of someone else. Something that can be very hard to get right now that so many artists have their own style.

Aside from a few character cameos in Justin Beaver, my first proper ghosting work was It’s A Blunderful Life in The Dandy, which featured the World’s unluckiest boy, The Beano‘s Calamity James. James is one of the hardest characters to draw as Tom Paterson‘s intricate style is, like Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid‘s before him, extremely hard to recreate naturally. I gave it a good go, but Paterson’s manic lucidity still somewhat eluded me. It’s very much a character in his style sitting in a puzzle in my style.

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It’s A Blunderful Life: Calamity James & Alexander Lemming braving a festive failure.

A month or so ago I had another attempt at drawing a Paterson style James puzzle, and got much closer this time by spending a very long time image sourcing and pouring over his work. I found a whole strip set in space, as was the puzzle, and copied and adapted images from it to suit the puzzle. I’m very proud of the final piece, but I wouldn’t do it again. In fact I ditched another Calamity James puzzle, ‘Wheel Of Misfortune’, shortly after because I couldn’t face it!

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Intergalactic Idiot: Calamity James gets lost in space.

Ghosting is extremely hard to get right, there are some fantastic artists out there who can ghost with such accuracy that you can hardly tell it’s their work, but sometimes (as in Jamie Smart’s Roger The Dodger) it is best to ignore the original art style and draw your own. Drawing in another artists style can inhibit what you can do with a character, unless you are willing to take liberties (I always draw The Bash Street Kids in Baseball boots, as I simply can’t draw shoes like Dave Sutherland). The problem with Calamity James is that the art is so recognisable and weird that if you were to draw the character in any other way it just wouldn’t be Calamity James.

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Bash Street Kid: Danny wearing baseball boots in Canteen of Carnage from The BeanoMAX.

I’ve been lucky enough to get to drawn most of The Beano‘s familiar characters in puzzles over the past year, everyone from from Dennis The Menace to Little Plum. I can’t tell you what a thrill it has been getting to draw all my favourite childhood characters and having to ghost so many of my favourite artists. Some I found easier than others though, Dave Sutherland’s Bash Street Kids are fairly easy because you have 50 years of reference material to look at. Barrie Appleby’s Roger The Dodger was the hardest for me, due to his complicated shirt and hair.

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Beano Brawl: The Bash Street Kids, Calamity James, Billy Whizz, Minnie The Minx & Roger The Dodger take part in The Great Beano Pancake Bake Off from The BeanoMAX.

Ghosting is very much a skill, something I picked up from learning to draw by copying Jim Davis’ Garfield and later less successfully Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes. That’s essentially all it is. Copying. You can see clearly see both artist’s influences in this strip, A Bear Behind, from The Dandy.

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A Bear Behind: Background by Watterson, foreground by Davis.

Sadly I didn’t get to draw any of the big characters for The Dandy, aside from a few cameo appearances and repeated sightings of Phil Corbett’s Korky The Cat, which I’ll blog about another day. So when The Dandy ended and they asked me to do two strips for the final issue: Auntie Clockwise (originally by Wayne Thompson, who draws Bananaman for The Beano) and Hamish the Haggis Basher (originally a one-off strip by Tom Paterson) I thought was the last time I’d ever have the chance to draw Dandy characters.

Little did I know I’d be bringing back Desperate Dan just 10 months later…

Always keep a Dandy handy!

Always keep a Dandy handy!

The Halloween issue of The Beano is on sale from Wednesday 23rd October in WH Smiths, Sainsbury’s, Asda and all good newsagents, priced £2.

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Filed under A Bear Behind, Billy Whizz, Calamity James, Calvin & Hobbes, Comic Strips, Dave Sutherland, Dennis the Menace, Garfield, Ghosting, Halloween, Jamie Smart, Ken Reid, Leo Baxendale, Minnie the Minx, Puzzle Pages, Roger the Dodger, The Bash Street Kids, The Beano, The BeanoMax, The Dandy, Tom Paterson

Night Of The Living Ted: Part 2

Previously on Neighbours: Two pre-teen film nerds (Dan Palmer and myself) ripped off a comic strip and made a movie about zombie teddy bears. 23 years later, one of the nerds is drawing comics for a living and brings the film to life once again in one of his comic strips: Tiny’s Temper

A few months after Tiny’s Temper ended, The Dandy were looking for Halloween ‘madverts’, I pitched a few (including a Transylvanian Families toy ad like the previous year’s My Little Zombie) and I included a Zombears film ad as filler in with the pitches, doubting they’d let me recycle the idea (more on my approach to pitching another time).

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Dawn Of the Ted: The Zombears return in a full page ad.

To my surprise The Dandy ordered a full page Zombear ad, and the art even ended up on the cover! This is my absolute favourite issue of The Dandy, as it features the ad and the debut of my Astronut strip (you can see him in the top right of the cover too).

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The 2012 Halloween Dandy, featuring Desperate Dan, Nuke Noodle, My Dad’s A Doofus, Astronut and a Zombear invasion!

Astronut was partially inspired by a series of puppet films fellow Dandy artist Andy Fanton and I made when we were both 16 and at school together. Fanton & I made 5 Space Man Jim films, part 3 of which (Space Man Jim 3: The Time Toilet) was bizarrely also mentioned in the same Tiny’s Temper strip as the Zombears!

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Tiny stomps off in a strop, past the poster for Space Man Jim 3, Pastamouse (a spoof of Ratatouille) and Paul McCartney riding a dinosaur.

So the cover of the Halloween Dandy featured two drawings inspired by my childhood and my closest friends, as well as a little zombie by the aforementioned Mr Fanton, some awesome cover art by Jamie Smart, (whose Bear comics inspired me to put ink to paper and fill it with swear-laden speech bubbles for the first time) and my favourite Dandy character, Nuke Noodle – who himself returns this very Halloween, drawn by myself….

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Andy Fanton & I remained friends and worked on loads more projects, most recently The Punslinger – a strip written and drawn together for The Dandy.

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Dan Palmer remains my cousin, and still makes horror comedies on the cheap. His latest, the blood-splattered Stalled, (Warning: not for kids!) is in US cinemas now and is still touring the international film festival circuit where it has won several awards. Fanton & I both provided artwork for it.

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Stalled: He’s in the perfect place to have the crap scared out of him!

So kids, there you have it, all you really need to succeed in your career aspirations, as Fanton, Dan & I proved, is a really dumb idea you sort of stole, a bunch of slacker friends and nothing better to do for 20 years. Oh, and don’t ever throw away an idea – you never know when you’ll be using it again.

The Zombears will return…

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Filed under Comic Strips, Halloween, Madverts, Parodies, The Beano, The Dandy

Night Of The Living Ted: Part 1

In the late 1989 my pervy Uncle John (we’ve all got one) borrowed a VHS video camera off a friend. Since this blog may be read by children I won’t even begin to wonder what he wanted to borrow it for, but lets say it was to film kittens.

Uncle John had the camera for a couple of weeks, in which my infamously movie-mad cousin Dan made more short films than there are Police Academy sequels. One of these was a very low budget remake of 1987s The Monster Squad. Though I think the only monster on show was portrayed by my Uncle John with ketchup on his face. In one memorable scene he leapt off the roof of the extension onto the concrete below. He was killed on impact.

Only joking! But that would have been an easy £250 from Beadle and his wonky house on You’ve Been Framed.

One November weekend Dan, who would have been 13, brought the camera over to my house and reluctantly agreed to film my very first (though sadly not my last) foray into film making. I was 10. I based (i.e stole) the ‘story’ from a recent strip from Marvel’s Real Ghostbusters spin-off comic, ‘It’s Wicked’.

 It’s Wicked was a very short-lived vehicle for the English Slimer comics (he was the cover star for all 11 issues) and it featured lots of silly spooky strips, including a Ghostbusters spoof called Ghost Hunters, centering around two nerdy kids repeatedly failing to ‘bust’ ghosts.

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In one story (issue 3, I believe) the kids’ Grandpa told them a story about disused toys coming to life and seeking revenge (which obviously struck a chord with Pixar, who went on to make the popular film series ‘Storys About Disused Toys Coming To Life’). The Ghost Hunters story was called Night Of The Living Ted and featured zombie bears, or “Zombears”.

Our film re-imagining revolved around a yellow knitted bear coming to life when it fell in ‘toxic waste’ (a rotting Halloween pumpkin, which had been left to mulch in the garden) and ‘killing’ various people who looked remarkably like Dan in a series of different hats. The zombear was seen off by my Uncle Ian, who told him very sternly to “Be’ave!”. It was a masterpiece, sadly lost when Mum taped over it with some late night muck off Channel 4.

Dan & I made a few more films on video cameras throughout our teens and he eventually went to film school where he made Attack Of The Killer Toon From Hell, The Donkey Avenger, Timepants and had a tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in Edgar Wright’s first film A Fistful Of Fingers.

Anyway, to cut a long story even longer and pepper it with even more unnecessary punctuation and sentence breaks – like, for instance, this one – over 20 years later I’m working for The Dandy and drawing Tiny’s Temper. Since you’re reading my blog you may be familiar with Tiny’s Temper, but for the uninitiated it was about a little kid whose unpredictable fiery temper manifested itself as a giant red and blue monster, who would cause chaos by acting the berk. Think Calvin & Hobbes, but replace Hobbes with one of the maize-snack-mad Monster Munch monsters and extract all the humour/skilful storytelling. And draw it a bit shoddy.

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Temper is all dressed up and ready to party in the second Tiny’s Temper strip.

In one strip, based on my own childhood, Tiny wants to go to the cinema to watch a horror film, his Mum won’t let him as it’s scary, but Temper dares him to go and see it. They argue for so long that the film sells out and so he ends up watching a kids film about a talking mouse – which Temper is terrified of… as they say on terrible movie posters: “with hilarious results!”

In real life the film I had wanted to see was a Nightmare On Elm Street sequel (which I DEFINITELY didn’t just sneak in to instead, Mum). In the strip I obviously had to make up a film, so thought I’d bring back Zombears: Night Of The Living Ted to make my friends and family laugh.

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Tiny tries to convince his Mum to let him see a movie, while eating a traditional slap up feed of bangers and mash in the 11th Tiny’s Temper strip.

I even included a cartoon of the original little yellow Zombear in the title bar…

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Zombear: He’s dead now.

But this wasn’t the end of the Zombears… tune in tomorrow for the Return Of The Living Ted!

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Filed under Comic Strips, Parodies, The Dandy