Category Archives: Halloween

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!

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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

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