Category Archives: Comedy

Comedy shows, gigs, writing and performing.

Book illustration for Arthur Bostrom

Actor Arthur Bostrom ask if I’d like to be the book illustrator of his new  French phrasebook ‘Good Moaning France’. He’s written the book in character as Officer Crabtree, the role he made famous in sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo!  Of course I said yes.


Arthur has a list of acting credits a mile long, but is probably best remembered as Crabtree from ‘Allo ‘Allo.  The character’s poor grasp of the French language was the source of many gags, as well as his introductory catchphrase ‘Good Moaning’ which also the title of the book, recapturing the style and humour of Crabtree’s verbal mangling.

Officer Crabtree by book illustrator John Cooper
Arthur Bostrom’s Officer Crabtree in illustrated form.

There was a long lead time on this project, permissions for usage and suchlike, which was an advantage for me as book illustrator, as it meant I had a bit time to think about the style and sketch ideas. Looking back at the early concept illustration now, my style, technique and tools have changed a lot. Even in a short space of time.

Arthur knew I could work in a few styles and wanted something a little more animated than the original concept sketches.  I cast my ideas net wide, looking at the European ligne claire style popularised in the 50’s and 60’s by book illustrators like Herge, Bob de Moor and Joost Swarte.  I’m a big fan of that illustration style and in context of the character  and French origins of ‘Allo ‘Allo! it looked right. Also I was probably overthinking it.

The character of Crabtree really lends itself to this clean dynamic style, and in illustrated form I could easily see him rubbing shoulders with the Thompson and Thomson, or Agaton Sax.

Creating the cover was a good touchstone character reference for the other ten black and white illustrations which appear in the book. Details were referenced from photo stills, making sure the lapel buttons, badges and cloak all matched Crabtree’s Gendarme costume as worn on screen.

The finished cover was realised first as a series of separate images. Handdrawn, scanned,  then moved around on layers in clip studio to find the right composition, then digitally inked and coloured using a wacom intuos  tablet. This technique is less time consuming that it looks, as it allows for experimentation in the composition. If the text title graphics overlap any elements, they can be shuffled around for clarity. Here’s the cover composition:

You can order Arthur’s book at the Waterside Press website, here.

VWORP! – Hosting a Doctor Who Convention

I recently hosted VWORP! a Doctor Who convention in Manchester. Over one thousand fans descended on the city centre’s Printworks for a whole day packed full of events, and while behind the scenes it was a bit hectic it was an amazing day. I also got to speak to the shows branding managers.

Big shout out to Mark Cookson and Gareth Kavanagh, the event organisers. In the pre-event briefing I said ‘just put me in the room on the day and I’ll do the job’, and blimey, though it got a bit stressful on the technical front, it was incredibly rewarding. Doctor Who fans are the best. With loads of guests, interviews and panels crammed in to one day I didn’t get a chance to see everything, but I did get the opportunity to meet ‘my Doctor’ Peter Davison which was a special moment.

Vworp! Doctor Who brand managers
Christal, Edward and me.

I  met Christel Dee, the current online brand manager and host of the Doctor Who fan show on Youtube,  and interviewed Edward Russell who was brand manager during Russell T Davies tenure on the show. When it re-launched in 2005 it was a big gamble by the BBC,  quickly becoming  a big  flagship show, and fascinating to hear how the ‘brand manger’ role evolved eclectically along side that success, and how licenses were toys, books and merch were granted. Chatting to Edward, and Jamie Hill (monster actor and formerly of the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff) we discussed the challenges faced by such a passionate fanbase, custodians of the show during it’s time off-air and when fan created content strays into copyright infringement.

Vworp! Doctor Who convention
Vworp! Doctor Who convention

One thing I wanted to pick up on was Doctor Who branding, as it does a particularly unusual thing. It re-brands every few years, often with the arrival of a new actor as the Doctor, nothing wrong there. However it has two logos (one for the classic show and one for the current show) and the most current ‘new’ logo is always in use. Meaning that what the ‘new’ logo is, its used products with older Doctors which looks a bit odd, but is actually ‘on brand’.

Doctor Who has a fanbase that crosses age and gender and the convention was a great way to celebrate the show’s past and serve as a ‘warm up’for the new series with Jodie Whittaker – the excitable topic of discussion on everyone’s lips that day. This new convention will hopefully be the first of many. It’s not the first time I’ve hosted a Who con – to meet people in front of and behind the camera – and hopefully it won’t the the last.