I can’t remember when I started getting into Comics, I think it was when I was ill off school and my mum brought a Judge Dredd comic. A Best of 2000ad collection that included ‘The Graveyard Shift’ by John Wagner and Ron Smith. It was brutal. My lingering memory was of ‘bite fighting’ and the back end strip, ‘Shanty town’ where a ‘stub gun’ cut through anything, including the arm of a Judge Ocks who shirked it off saying something like ‘I needed to loose some weight’ while bandaging his own stump.
I read the Marvel UK reprints of Transformers, and years younger always waited to read my brothers Beano after him. I know I got into comics ‘properly’ later at college, and had an extensive collection of 2000ad’s but as a kid I’d sit up all hours of the night on school days making up comic strips on pieces of A5 paper, an obsessive judge dredd/beano hybrid thing, about a guy on a hoverboard who worked for privatized police as a ‘criminal pursuit agent’, tiny massive adventures made up on the fly with only a pen and paper and my imagination.
For a birthday present I wanted a book, ‘How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way’. Before amazon and the internet, it was really hard to get hold of and I took my mum to Grainger Street market in Newcastle to order it from Timeslip, a grungy comic book shed shop. Timeslip eventually relocated to become the toy friendly branch of Forbidden Planet, but back then it was weird and wonderful and felt strangely forbidden. In time I’d get my comic on the self of Forbidden Planet. Only the Newcastle Branch but it was a start.
Epic adventures played out on A5 sheets of paper.
Tony Blair becomes John Steed with overtones of The Prisoner. Three, twenty two pages issues.
Magic Lamp Boy, One shot and news strip.
Produced while at Sunderland University. Dismissed by every lecturer I had until they saw the finished thing. I printed copies for review and they all bloody kept them, then praised it later. Cost me loads to reprint. I also did a news strip for the student times newspaper.
Buying the Farm.
For the Student Times Newspaper. Everyone was banging on about some bloke called Royston, and Viz was cool. I’d just got into the work of Robert Crumb and watched trainspotting. So I did a few strips about what happens to funny animal cartoon characters when they are old. I still had lecturers for whom the words cartoon and comics were interchangeable. The illustration lecturers did my head in the most, old fashioned and utterly dismissive of that advances in technology even then. Rewards were there for students who could illustrate something that looked real and photographic. An utter waste of creativity.
Final year at University, I did a feeder course for my Degree, (feeding of other courses, bums on seats, etc) so got to formulate my own brief for the final year. The previous year one shot comic went down well, so I got to dig my own grave by proposing another more elaborate ‘graphic novel’ which tied into my essay on the histoy of comics and speculated on the potential future of comics. It included ‘digital colouring’ and I’d never even used a computer. I learned how to use photoshop .
A 1960’s Psychologist in his own clinic doing wacky experiments. I pored over my old A level psychology notes and all the wonderfully messed experiments that were done in the name of science, plenty of mileage for stories I thought. Great character, but by my own admission a dull comic. I forked out my heard earned cash to get this printed at a proper printers, and then delivered to my house. I felt big.
Magic Lamp Boy series.
A5, Nine issues, 15(ish) pages per issue. If I could have done Magic Lamp Boy forever I would have*, and my world would be a different place. I got reviewed. People were looking, and reading. I photocopied issues in a hardware shop in Chester le Street where everyone stared and no one understood. I was forcing glossy paper into the photocopier’s bypass tray to make the covers look cool and the paper melted and the man in the shop got cross, then posted them out across the small press network. I bought a scanner and fiddled with images. Then internet came along and decided to eat everything and share it around for free. I honestly believed it was the end of the comics industry. It was 1997.