Cartoonists' Club members discuss their influences
MATT BUCK (HACK)
Er...Mel Calman. Ralph Steadman memorably described him as being able to draw the human condition in a space the size of a nutshell. I always thought that was pretty high praise.
He also made me laugh.
As barely a teenager in the early sixties, I was mad keen on cars and bought The Motor magazine every week. Towards the back of this was always a splendidly drawn and funny cartoon by Russell Brockbank.
For motoring gags he was in a league of his own. The accuracy and quality of the cars he featured and his characterisation of the drivers was always perfect. Nobody drew a 1930's Le Mans Bentley hurtling along an English country lane with a moustached gung-ho type at the wheel better than him. A very visual cartoonist and definitely my first cartoon hero.
At the same time I was a Goon Show fanatic. Milligan's daft illustrations for his books A Dustbin of Milligan and Silly Verse for Kids were a big influence.
Well my first introduction into the wacky world of cartoons came from my Mums' Titbits magazine. It was very different back then to what it is now - less Tits, more bits! It was always peppered with dozens of Roland Fiddy cartoons plus many other artists whos names escape me I'm afraid. I also was very fond of 'Do not adjust your set' then later 'The Goodies'. I used to draw lovely little adventures for Bill, Graham and talented Timbo. Unfortunately they always seemed to end with the Earth being invaded by Aliens. Lots of gore! Lovely.
I have never had, nor expect to have, any cartoonist heroes! All I can remember is that I was incredibly jealous of EVERYONE who was getting cartoons published in Weekend, Reveille, TitBits, The Daily Mirror, etc.! I have a memory of drawing cartoons on the pavement, in chalk, as a child, so goodness knows where the earliest influences came from.
I started drawing cartoons as a kid, because that is what you do when you are the class clown and you aren't into slapstick or getting hauled before the head every five minutes. I did an on going cartoon strip called "Changeman" about a dubious and often violent superhero. This was passed around amongst my classmates to massive acclaim ( which was pretty good for class 4B). Decades later I took up the pen of humour once again in earnest when I got fed up of the council work I was doing at the time and decided that I wanted to do something more worthwhile and rewarding. I never got that but I stuck with the cartooning :of)
Influences: Gibert Shelton - "Fabulous Furry Freak Bros.", "Fat Freddy's Cat" "Wonder Warthog" and many more.
This guy made me want to do my own cartoons as a teenager.
Phil Foglio - "Buck Godot zap gun for hire", "Mythadventures (the early comics)" brilliant expressions, story telling and above all humour.
Bill Watterson - "Calvin and Hobbes" what can you say.
Dave Sim - "Cerebus the Aardvark" currently the longest standing independent comic book. I was drawn in by the humour of the early stuff but the styling and artwork of his later stuff has no equal
Brian Talbot - "Luther Arkwright" plus loads of stuff for 2000AD another brilliant artist
The funny thing is I never set out to be a cartoonist. I went through my art education of 'O' and 'A' Level art, art foundation and degree in Graphics with the intention of becoming an illustrator (a serious one, that is). Cartooning must have been fairly dormant in me, though, and I have always thought that my drawings have a 'cartoony' feel about them. I suppose I must have been in denial for a long time and had not wanted to be involved in anything as frivolous as cartoon art!
With that in mind, I don't think I have been too greatly influenced by other cartoonists. The usual suspects are there of course, childhood memories of Giles, Peanuts, 'Rhubarb and Custard', 'Tom and Jerry', Warner Bros cartoons not to mention Disney. I particularly remember as a child having a Russell Brockbank book on motor racing illustrated with his wonderful cartoons. However, I probably had that because I was more interested in cars than cartoons at the time.
Later I became aware of cartoonists by the occasional purchases of Private Eye and Punch. I distinctly remember copying stuff by a Punch cartoonist called Dickinson when I was in high school. It was from a Silver Jubilee issue that had a Trog caricature of the Queen and Prince Philip dressed as Pearly Kings on the cover! Ah, it's all coming back to me now! I admire quality drawings greatly so I have always been impressed by the work of Bill Tidy, Martin Honeysett, and Ed McClachlan. My favourite artist, however, must be Raymond Briggs and I can sometimes see his influence come through in my style of drawing. Now, if I could only achieve his level of success!
I think it might have been Wham! and the Beano originally. Then The Lone
Groover in the NME, Robert Crumb, Larry and finally Steve Bell. You can also
throw Gerald Scarfe into the mix somehwere. But the
overriding attractions were a) not wearing a tie and b) not having to get up
early. I suppose I should have been a night porter really.
I was born in the borders and brought up there although my mother was very Scottish. My early influences were the Sunday Post and the Eagle comic. My mother said that I reminded her of 'Oor Wullie' (from the SP, to those that didn't know) and she refereed to my by that name. Many years ago, the southern pronunciation of my 'Wullie' abbreviation (for the name 'William' ) got bastardised to 'Wally', which I've lived with ever since.
The Eagle comic was a major influence on my life. I think I passed my science exams thanks to their centrepage spreads. So a combination of Oor Wullie (and The Broons) strip cartoons and the stunning Eagle artwork were the factors that started me doodling.
Here?s my story of my early cartoon hero. When I was young I used to pour over the Perishers strips in the Mirror drawn my Dennis Collins and written by Maurice Dodd. I loved Dennis Collins detailed and wonderfully rendered junk yards, seascapes etc. I carefully collected the yearly books. I sent him a letter with one of my schoolboy drawings of Boot the dog and received an encouraging reply.
Many years later I found myself working on the Mirror graphics desk (where I still toil). Six years ago when the Mirror moved from Holborn to Canary Wharf the large strips and cartoon department was closed down. There was a mass clear-out of old stuff and anybody could help themselves to anything they wanted. Outside the cartoon offices there were these huge bins filled with old cartoon collections and original strips and gags. Sort of a cartoon utopia. I got original strips such as Garth, The Fosdyke Sage, The Flutters, The Larks, A Man Called Horace, Andy Capp, Useless Eustace etc. plus armfuls of gag cartoons and some political drawings by Keith Waite, Franklin and Griffin. The prize of all of these was a wonderful original Perishers drawing for one of the collections by Dennis Collins.
Always been drawing as long as I can remember (so at least a fortnight then!) As a kid read the Eagle comic in the late '50's/early '60's and was in awe of Frank Bellamy's incredible artwork. Not really "cartoon" but this gave me the interest in the technique of drawing action and movement. First stumbled across cartoons in Punch around the same time (not at the dentists but at the barber shop!) Remember being fascinated with the "sparrow" drawings of Harry Hargreaves and the classic Mr.Punch covers of that time. Also remember Clayton's "Calamity Gulch" cartoons and "Useless Eustace" from the Daily Mirror. Became a regular Punch and Private Eye reader in later schooldays and through art college admiring the work of Hector Breeze, Honeysett, Mike Williams, Bill Tidy, Albert, Starke and Larry. Soon discovered that the discipline required to become a graphic designer wasn't for me and my ambition to get into Punch was achieved sooner than I could have hoped for in 1976 and a year later in Private Eye. Extremely fortunate to have had Bill Hewison and Geoffrey Dickinson at the Punch Art Department at the time whose help and encouragement was incalculable in nurturing my cartoon career"
When I was very young I remember my grandfather showing me a cartoon which was his favourite. I vaguely remember the idea of it, but not the caption. I also remember he was a big fan of "Pop" (I think it was). I think he was a cartoon soldier. I can't be sure.
Then I remember my father collecting the daily strips featuring Colonel Pewter from the News Chronicle which Mum pasted into a scrapbook. He used to ride a bicycle up into the sky. (Colonel Pewter, not my Dad!)
My favourite cartoonist was always Larry, and the early cartoons I drew were without captions, but would have words actually in the drawing - much like his - but without the effortless, free but controlled style.
I studied Graphic Design at college, and I remember that I would often use cartoons as the solution for various projects. In fact I remember a tutor commenting on it and suggesting I had a future in it. I remember shaking my head at the idea!
My early jobs - making up simple ads in a free newspaper, and then starting work in the now defunct West Midlands County Council graphics department, gave me plenty of opportunities to incorporate cartoons into ads or Newsletters, guides etc.
One day I discovered that my 'hero', Larry, actually worked from a studio also in Birmingham, and that his real name was Terence Parkes. I wrote to him, and was thrilled to get a hand-written reply, (which I still have), and an invitation to "swap a pint". We eventually did at a pub in Corporation Street. I next saw him at the CCGB 40th Anniversary bash last year. I introduced myself and reminded him of that day in the mid 1970s, but I don't think it can have been the landmark in his life, as it was in mine, because he didn't appear to remember!
It was at about the time that I met Larry, that I started submitting cartoons to publications. The first to be published nationally were in a publication called Revue, which was similar to The Weekly News. The first gags to be published anywhere, were in the Wolverhampton Wanderers football programme. I'd sent some off and I vividly remember standing with my then girlfriend on the North Bank terrace at a night match, and catching sight of one over another guy's shoulder, in the programme he was reading. (I couldn't afford to go to a match AND buy a programme!) I remember the thrill of that moment - Wolves were a top division club then. (It WAS a long time ago!) Today, of course, the cartoonist synonymous with Wolves is our very own Tony Eagle, who prolifically illustrates the Fanzine, as well as various Wolves articles in the evening paper. I always thought he had the ultimate cartoonist signature "Eagle". What a great name, and a very funny gagsmith to boot; (or to football boot).
Warner Bros animated cartoons did it for me! When I were an early teenage lad, there were News and Cartoon theatres in London - an hour long show for one shilling and sixpence (seven and a half pence). I know it was a while ago now but they were magical
places to see the likes of Sylvester and Tweetie, Woody Woodpecker, Bugs and the rest of them. Not really into Mickey and Donald - superbly animated but just not funny! But the Warner characters were so expressive and so humorously animated (going back to the 40's can you believe) that when I started my first job as a 'gofa' in Pearl & Dean's animation studio, even the hardened established animators looked up to them for inspiration. We used to belt along to Leicester Square to see a programme in the lunch hour, well hour and a half actually - daring! The same affection for these gems has passed on to my offsprings - the 'now' generations love 'em just the same with a stack of VHS's to prove it!
I have always been drawn (gedit?) to the cartoon from the earliest years. My dad would bring back a new copy of Punch from the library each week and I would pounce on it to see the gags and especially the double pagers. My influences here would have to be Larry, Tidy, Thellwell and Hargeaves sparrows, which I was a BIG fan of.
I have told before the story of me drooling over a feature on 'How animation is made' in my pictorial encyclopedia as a very young lad. I used to pray at night that someday, when I was big and strong, I would be able to go to Hollywood and draw Bugs Bunny just like the man in the picture, and so I did! Dreams really can come true!
It all began when ration books were still the vogue and NHS powdered milk formulae was the alternative to breast fed nourishment. As I finished the last slug of NHS concoction from my bottle, I snuggled down for a snooze, comfy and secure in my pram. The Rolls Royce of prams then was the Pedigree model, incorporating a luxury sprung body with black painted coachwork ornately lined with gold paint. THe swan -neck shaped metal supports attaching the handle to the body were adorned with gleaming chrome. Matching multispoked 20" rear and 16" front wheels shod with white rubber tyres cultivated snobbishness in any child transported in the velvet-lined interior. Incidentally, when these prams reached the end of their working life, (and sometimes before) the wheels and axles were utilised by schoolboys to build go-carts or 'bogies' as they were called in Scotland. However, I came from a poor family and we couldn't afford a 'Pedigree' pram. I had to be content with one of the mongrel makes, aah ÷ bless! .
Blissfully unaware of either the make or condition of my pram, I slumbered. It was a hot summer day, so with an ulterior motive in mind, my dad offered to take me for a walk. The route taken eventually led to a pub 'The Shunter's Arms' and here we stopped to allow father to indulge in a frothing pint of refreshing beer. My pram was parked on the pavement at the entrance to the jug bar and easily watched from inside. As the name suggested the main line and railway sidings were close to the vicinity of the hostelry.
Express trains passed regularly, hauled by large, gleaming steam engines. "Aye, that'll be the one o'clock 'Grampian Flyer' headin' for Aberdeen. She's dead on time" exclaimed a punter. no wrong types of leaves, snow, track, signals, engines, carriages, drivers, guards, platforms, sleepers or subcontracted maintenance staff used as excuses in those days!
A small engine pottered about in the sidings opposite the pub, busily shunting wagons. The driver opened the regulator (throttle) too much and the engine's wheels spun furiously. Steam, smoke and sparks belched from the engine's chimney and a stray cinder drifted towards my pram assisted by a gentle wind. It landed on the shawl I was wrapped in and wafted by the breeze, the material smouldered then started to burn.
Father's attention to me had somewhat waned by this time, as it had gradually transferred to the buxom, blonde barmaid on duty. Luckily, someone at the bar had noticed the kerfuffle outside and shouted, "There's a wee bairn in that pram ootside and it's on fire!" Everybody rushed out only to find a passer-by was already there trying to beat out the flames with a rolled up paper. the regulars, along with my dad and the barmaid, made the ultimate sacrifice and emptied the contents of their pint jugs onto the flames. The crisis ow over, the passer-by was thanked profusely for his efforts at trying to put out the flames with his paper, which was now a blackened, charred lump. He replied "Ach, ah didnae mind tryin' tae beat the flames oot but ma wee laddie will be disappointed that ah used his 'Beano' comic!"
I am positive that this incident influenced my lifelong love of steam engines, beer barmaids and cartoons.
I eventually became a steam engine fireman with British Railways on both the Scottish region and the Southern region at Nine Elms in London and Eastleigh near Southampton. The exchange of banter in the engine men's rest room, working with all the various characters and the railway environment in general, helped me to develop a broader sense of humour. Today's railways are one big joke!
Working on steam engines was a thirsty job but even though we indulged in the occasional shandy, the trains still ran on time. Perhaps that's why so many modern trains run late, the wrong type of shandy ÷ which leads me on to barmaids.
Yes, I have chatted up a few old boilers in my time. through glazed eyes and the feeling of euphoria induced by drinking copious amounts of alcohol, Nora Batty look-alike barmaids gradually transformed into the film, television or pop music celebrities (female) that were currently lusted after. On reflection, now I know why barmaids featured in so many cartoons!
A friend and myself arranged a date with two off duty barmaids we met at a local 'Palais de Dance'. The cafť opposite the local bus station was the prearranged meeting place and we stood outside feeling a wee bit apprehensive waiting for 'Marilyn' and 'Brigitte' to arrive. Arrive they certainly did but not in the manner we expected. The bus our dates were travelling on approached and they were already standing on the rear platform waiting to disembark. They did this just as the bus turned into the station and landed beside us on the pavement like a couple of crack commandos. Their white, 4" heeled stilettos remained intact and not one false eyelash nor a single hair of the heavily lacquered, dusty Springfield, beehive hairstyles had dislodged.
They were both chewing gum and making bubble-popping noises. It was evident that rather than a single, dainty chiclet being masticated, a whole packet had been stuffed in each of their gobs. We then made our way to the 'Regal Cinema' in the high street, which was the posh cinema in our town. On the way, my date 'Marilyn' informed me that she was a karate expert. I wasn't sure if she was bragging or giving me a subtle warning not to make any suprise moves in the 'chummy' seats.
Arriving at the Regal we discovered a queue of people stretching two hundred yards waiting to see Cliff Richard in 'Summer Holiday'. Just as the doors opened, 'Marilyn' and 'Brigitte' decided to join the front of the queue. Angry words and gesticulations were ignored, fended off with language more suited to a paratrooper. At this stage, I was ready to bail out!
Needless to say, when we eventually became seated, a rather large lady was ensconced in front of 'Marilyn' in the next row. Sarcastic remarks aimed at 'lardarse' were muttered loud enough to cause embarrassment and an argument ensued. I stuck it out until the end of 'Summer Holiday' and the intervening 'Tom and Jerry' cartoon. At the interval, a brief discussion in the gents with my friend resulted in me doing an ungentlemanly disappearing act. I left him to face the music and steered clear of barmaids for a while. Many months later, during the course of a pub quiz night, a Walt Disney Cartoon question cropped up. This prompted the barmaid to tell me of her romantic liaison with a cartoonist when working in London. I wasn't familiar with the names of the high-fliers involved in the cartooning profession at that time, so I can't remember his name. Shame eh? With tales of his flamboyant lifestyle, including sports car, (ring a bell with anyone?) .
If a flash-harry from the smoke could do it, why couldn't I? Drawing relentlessly, I sent cartoons to all the publications that featured gag material. Unfortunately, fame, fortune, leggy blondes and all the trappings of being a successful cartoonist eluded me.
Truthfully, they still do. As I sit here filling in my lottery numbers, I wonder if I should have spent more time practicing and developing one of my other mediocre skills. Snooker, darts, football, tennis and skiffle groups had the potential of higher earnings. Well maybe not skiffle eh? Journalism, television, films, fashion, sport and the music industry provide opportunities for monetary and adulation seeking individuals. The army, railways, lorry driving and steam boilers aren't exactly the glamorous professions, but they have been marvellous experiences as a rich source of humour to garner gags from. I can still raid the depths of my subconscious for ideas tucked away and adapt them to any cartooning situation. although this generates only a modest income, the process of cartooning, fortunately for me, is still enjoyable and fun. This is probably the real reason why I took up cartooning in the first place. Aaaah ÷ bless!