Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year to you all.

For some reason, most of the Santas I've drawn this year have been grumpy or slightly dodgy. Next year, if you need a moody Father Christmas, I'm your man.


Cartoon legend Joseph Barbera dies at 95

Here's the story at the BBC

"Cartoon legend" is no overstatement. Hanna-Barbera cartoons were loved by kids of many generations. I will give my "Hanna-Barbera: Tunes From The Tunes" CD a spin in tribute! (They're all on there ... Top Cat, Yogi Bear, Flintsones, Wacky Races, Hair Bear Bunch, Hong Kong Phooey, Scooby Doo, Banana Splits ...)

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera are so linked with these Saturday morning cartoons from the 1950s onwards that the fact that they created Tom and Jerry back in the 1940s is sometimes overlooked. That's quite a body of work!

Here's a very old cartoon of mine, by way of a "tribute". This appeared in the now-defunct Saturday "Metro" section of The Times back in about 1998.


Can't go wrong with a penguin cartoon

Here's a Christmas cartoon for you. Except, well, it wasn't really intended as a Christmas cartoon at all. It was sold to Reader's Digest back in June and they held on to it for the current issue because, I suppose, snow=Christmas. I remember colouring this at the height of the summer heatwave and I swear it made me feel cooler in my stuffy attic room.

Last week I attended a Christmas bash held by Reader's Digest in London. I was a bit under the weather and tragically I had to forego the free booze and canapes in favour of mineral water! But it was great to catch up with some cartooning pals, and chat to a few I hadn't met before. It is written that when two or three are gathered in the name of cartooning, they shall moan and complain about the business. So there was a fair bit of that, but in a good natured way. Probably because of the free booze.


Christmas cartoons: It gets earlier every year

Christmas starts early for cartoonists. I have been doing festive cartoons and company Christmas cards (excerpts below) for some time now. Not complaining, keeps me busy. But I reckon I can now draw Father Christmas, Rudolph and the elves in my sleep.

Art vs Blogs

I'm a fan of Eddie Campbell, the comic-book artist best known for illustrating the graphic novel From Hell. His autobiographical comics are great, particularly How to Be An Artist (which features the priceless opening line "How to sucessfully be an artist - not to be confused with becoming a successful artist ...)

Anyway, he has now joined the "blogosphere", as people insist on calling it, with The Fate of the Artist. A blog in which the author appears as himself. His only concern is that he will now put into his blog what he once put into one-page diary strips. Let's hope that doesn't happen. Thanks to Linkmachinego, as ever.

Newspaper cartoon: Smashing fun

This week's local paper story was about a school holding a competition to build robots out of Lego. An innocuous enough story, but one that allowed me to have some fun. There's more than a little Simpsons and Futurama influence at work here!


Film cartoon: Dum-diddy-dum-dum ...

James Bond fever/hype seems to be everywhere you look right now, so I may as well keep up. The local paper story I was asked to illustrate this week was about the South East charity premiere of Casino Royale, which took place just down the road in Canterbury. Naturally, many of those attending went dressed as 007 ...


Moore please

Here's one to look forward to: British comic book legend Alan Moore is to appear in The Simpsons, according to his local paper. The plot involves the great Comic Book Guy character, of course. Thanks to Linkmachinego.


Cartoon world

Has anyone else noticed that many major world leaders and events seem to be getting the comic book/cartoon treatment these days?

Nelson Mandela
The 9/11 Report
The Pope
And now, er, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy

Coming soon: Andy Capp runs for leader of the Labour party.

Cartoon in Oldie book

An old cartoon of mine from The Oldie has been republished in the magazine's Christmas stocking filler book Bling, Blogs and Bluetooth, which was released recently.

It's one that I dashed out in a bit of a hurry to make up a batch. So it sold, of course. I was a bit embarrassed by its slapdash look when I first saw it in print. But it's an OK gag, so I suppose I just about got away with it.

Get one for the Oldie in your life ...


Mystery cartoon

I recently found this cartoon illustration in an old newspaper from 1996. I have no recollection of drawing it. I worked as a journalist for ten years, as a reporter and later a sub-editor, and when I was working for my then local paper, in Walthamstow, East London, they would sometimes ask me to draw cartoons to go with articles ... for nothing of course, but I was happy then just to see my stuff in print, so I can't complain.

This one was for the music column, which was always a bit anarchic so there is nothing to indicate why the cartoon is there! It's not even Valentine's Day. Anyway, I include it here because unlike most cartoons from this period (I was 27 when I drew this and had not yet started submitting gags to magazines regularly) it doesn't make me cringe too much. It took me ages to figure out what's written on that guitar ("* Play at eleven", obligatory Spinal Tap quote).


Magritte cartoon: But is it art?

I had to explore a few new Photoshop techniques to colour this cartoon, which is in the new issue of Prospect magazine, in an attempt to make it look something like the Rene Magritte original.

For any international readers who don't get the joke, five portions of fresh fruit and veg daily is the official recommendation from the UK government's health experts. I believe it varies in other countries. I heard it was 15 in Japan. I can't even name that many ;- )

This cartoon is in the same issue.


Art exhibition shows bare gallery

This is definitely one of those "it's not April the 1st is it?" moments.

Spot the Difference

Oh, OK, there isn't one, they're all the same. And the kids are noticing. When my four-year-old saw a poster for Open Season the other day, he said, "Daddy that looks a bit like Over The Hedge". But he still wants to see it. And I just read that there's a new film out this week called Barnyard, which features ... a bunch of wacky CGI animals. Joy.


Cartoons drawn on-Spec

I've got two cartoons in the current issue of The Spectator.

I was very pleased as it's the first time I've appeared in this magazine. I've tried many times, as you can see here ...


Cartoon book: International lampooning

Three of my cartoons feature in the new book Favorite Cartoons of the 21st Century, published by National Lampoon in the US. Here's one of them ...

Most of the cartoons in the book are of the "sick humour" school of cartooning. I had quite a few on file to choose from.

An ideal stocking filler! Amazon.co.uk has it


Down to Margate

In the corner of Kent in which I live there is not an overabundance of arts and culture. Galleries are thin on the ground, most of the cinemas show rubbish films and decent bands seldom play here. So it was refreshing when one of the UK's foremost artists, the sculptor Antony Gormley, creator of the Angel of the North, came to the area and built a colossal effigy of a man out of old junk ...

then set fire to it ...

It was quite a spectacle. The Waste Man, as it was called, was part of a film being made with local people called The Margate Exodus. More here.


The Big Draw

I attended the launch of The Big Draw, the annual campaign to get the nation, young and old, drawing. Myself and fellow Cartoonists' Club members spent part of Sunday in a marquee, encouraging kids to draw funny faces and offering tips and advice ... though to be honest, few of them seemed to need any, as they were very keen.

Here is some of their handiwork:

The Battle of the Cartoonists was fun too. Teams representing Private Eye, The Guardian, The Independent and that laugh-a-minute publication the Financial Times, each produced a banner on the day's theme of "Amazing Space", as the event was held in the marvellous Somerset House. These were then put to the public vote, with The Guardian emerging victorious.

It was a very well-attended, well-organised day, with beautiful sunny weather (the kids were playing in the fountains!) There are Big Draw events throughout the UK in October. See their website for details.


Hey Joe

Underground comics artist Joe Matt has gone and got himself a Myspace page, which is pretty surprising if you've read his work as he portrays himself as something of a technophobe. The profile in itself is very entertaining, a cut above the usual Myspace stuff. Matt draws the aptly named Peepshow autobiographical comic, which is so revealing in terms of detailing his personal obsessions that he makes Robert Crumb look like he's withholding. And the good news is that the ludicrously over-due issue 14 is out soon. The last one was 2002!


Rejected cartoon: Not this time, thanks.

Here's a rejected gag for you ...

Surely you jest?

Purely for fun, I’ve had a section on my cartoon website for some years now called Other Roystons, with links to other people with my less-than-common firstname and to websites for towns and villages called Royston – of which there are many, mainly in the UK and North America.

As a result I get occasional emails from Roystons from all over the world, and from people who live in Roystons! One said, tongue firmly in cheek (I hope) “I wept with joy to find others with this fine name ... you have given my life new meaning.” Another person sent me a photo of a puppy called Royston, and then another one when it grew up.

But this month I got the best one yet: a gentleman from Lynchburg, Virginia, called Royston Jester. What a great name that would be for a cartoonist. And it's Royston Jester IV, in fact. It's also ironic because I am editor of the monthly newsletter of the Cartoonists' Club which is called ... The Jester.

Don't know anything about this Royston, but I want that record ...


Cartoon markets: Writing the right gag

Like any job, you have to wear different "hats" as a cartoonist. Ordinarily, if asked to to a cartoon about Damien Hirst I would probably come up with something a bit sarcastic (as many cartoonists have done!). But when it's for a profile of said artist on the Artyfacts section of the Children's BBC website, something just plain silly is the order of the day.


Old cartoon revisited

I was chuffed to get a gag in the "Best Cartoons Ever" selection in the latest issue of Reader's Digest. Unlike some magazines, they pay a generous reprint fee. Which is nice.


The cartoonist's dilemma

One of the key dilemmas that faces the cartoonist is this: Do I get out of bed to jot down that idea that I have just had ... or do I leave it and hope that I will remember it in the morning?

The case for staying in bed: It's warm. And comfy. I'd have to find my glasses in the dark. It probably won't seem that funny in the cold light of day anyway.

The case against: You will never remember the idea. It never works.

Curiously I didn't write down last night's idea and yet I did remember it (didn't seem that funny in the cold light of day). Could this be because I also thought, "I could do a blog entry on this cartoonist's dilemma" ? Hmmm.


Where there's smoke

The furore over editing out scenes of Tom and Jerry smoking reminded me that my four-year-old son never sees these cartoons, as we tend to only let him watch CBeebies, the BBC's station for pre-school kids (no pester-power adverts, you see!) which, sadly, is all Bob the Builder, Tweenies, and the like. So I sat him down and we trawled the net for some of the Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes cartoons cartoons that I remember from my youth (thank you You Tube)

The biggest hits by far were the Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons. It's staggering to think that these 50-year-old cartoons can still make a four-year-old and a 38-year-old cry with laughter. Get them watched know folks, before the Powers That Be decide to edit out all irresponsible scenes of anvils being dropped on to heads from a great height.

Religion cartoon: I confess

Got one in the September issue of Prospect.


Rubbish cartoon

I draw a weekly cartoon to accompany a story in a local Kent newspaper. This week's was very much of the "you couldn't make it up" variety. Apparently the council are now so keen to enforce the use of wheely bins (wheely bins are always big news in local papers!) and to reduce the number of black rubbish sacks left out for collection, that they employ people to rifle though them in order to ascertain the identity of those who dump them – so they can be prosecuted! Nice job.

Such a story easily lends itself to a cartoon ...

Techno fear

There have been no posts for a little while as I've been doing a bit more raging against machines. I found myself unable to pick up my emails for a couple of days – the problem being a power “outage” at my internet service provider. When did the Great British Powercut become lumbered with the US term outage, by the way? It looks too much like outrage to me – though that would have been quite applicable in this case as I found myself banging my head on the wall in frustration as I realised just how much I now rely on this technology.

Out-of-the-blue emails can be a good source of commissions for me. Did I have any waiting for me that I didn’t know about, I wondered. Also, many of my regular clients communicate by email. Did they have any cartoon jobs for me? I could hardly phone all of them on the off-chance.

Things then went from bad to worse. I started having internet connection problems, so not only could I not get emails, I could not even connect to the web. At one point, even the telephone helpline was “temporarily out of order”. They were, of course, sorry for the inconvenience. That’s OK then. Back online now though and the few days of missing emails have been sent on. And although I should be thankful it happened at a quiet time of the year, there were a couple of jobs waiting to justify my frustration!


Smashing time

My computer printer finally went kaput after years of threatening to do so. I refused to mourn because its passing gave me the chance to carry out a long-cherished fantasy ...

I didn't quite go so far as to take a baseball bat to it (as in the film Office Space) but it was still very cathartic.


Insight into the strange world of cartooning ...

Rejection is such a part of the cartoonist's life that the other day I was actually pleased because I got the more encouraging rejection slip on the left, rather than the slightly abrupt one on the right. Sad but true, folks!


Office cartoon: Going large

This cartoon is in the August issue of Prospect. I was pleased to sell this gag as it's one that I came up with while I was at the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival (see May 3 entry) and therefore not at my desk trying to earn money! The general theme of the festival was "Size".


Holy copyright violation!

I have some cartoons for sale on the Cartoonstock website. They recently removed a handful because of a new policy of not featuring trademarked characters from films etc. Now, it's not necessarily copyright violation to feature such characters in cartoons, but the problem Cartoonstock run into is that they sell their cartoons to be used on mugs, mousemats etc. So then you could be seen to be exploiting the character. I think, actually, it's more of a problem overseas than in the UK, but I suppose it's all part of being a global business. Anyway, to be honest I wasn't that bothered as it was just a few gags and most of them were from very early on in my cartooning career.

There is one I'm fond of though. It was one of the first gags I had published. It was in The Times's Saturday supplement Metro (now defunct) circa 1998. Of course I'd draw it completely differently now (hopefully a lot better!) but it's still an OK gag I think. Note to DC Comics: please don't sue. I'm not planning on putting it on a T-shirt.


Two links

This recently launched blog is definitely one to bookmark: A Gag a Day by my cartooning pal and fellow Cartoonists' Club member Tim Harries. It does exactly what it says on the tin, as they say. Or, indeed, as Tim says on the blog. "One gag published every day, unless I'm on my hols or get a bit bored," he adds.

And here's some practical cartoon advice from the Andertoons blog.


19-year-old rejection slip found!

While having a bit of a sort-out, I found a rejection slip from Oink comic from 1987 (it was kind of a Viz for kids).

It was probably the first rejection slip I ever got. I was 19 years old and, being a teenager, was depressed by it and never sent them anything else! But what's interesting to me now about it, after years of bog-standard "sorry, no thanks" rejection slips, is the fact that it's a proper letter and is incredibly positive. If I got a rejection letter like this now I think I'd be pretty happy about it!

Crazy name, crazy guy

Many thanks to cartoon blogger Clangnuts for linking to my blog with a rather nice review. Clangnuts says: "I've been a printer, postman, weekend hippy, driver and support worker, but underneath all of that I've always been a cartoonist." I know that feeling.


How to traumatise young children

Toy manufacturers, why not package Postman Pat in such a way that it looks like he's about to be dumped in the river by the Mob? My son was unperturbed, but you must admit it is a bit sinister.

There's real fear in those eyes.


Who you gonna call?

I recently set up a Myspace page, mainly to increase my web profile and provide a link to my main cartoon website. The "social networking" side of it is quite fun, up to a point (it's slighty bizarre when you get a link request from someone who seems to be online purely to show their bum to the world). I have discovered some good cartoonists that I wasn't aware of though, which is good.

Here's me at Myspace

Now, not being as great a reader of Terms & Conditions as I should be, I didn't know that putting your work up on Myspace effectively granted them a licence to exploit it, potentially for profit. But as soon as I became aware of this appalling situation I found out that it had been changed, and all rights now remain with the artist. So who managed to get Myspace to make this amazing U-turn? Who d'ya think?

Billy Bragg

Whatta guy.


Oldie cartoon: For art's sake

This one is in the July edition of The Oldie. I enjoyed doing the "Mock Tudor" paintings!


History cartoon: Law unto itself

This gag appears in the new edition of Reader's Digest in the UK. It was in one of my sketchbooks for a long time before I got around to drawing it up, possibly more than a year. I simply didn't think it was that strong an idea, but that may have been because it was just sketched vaguely, with the characters in indistinct "olde worlde" garb. It was only when I started to develop it visually, using pics of the Magna Carta signing as reference (thank you Google Image Search), that I could see it was beginning to work. It's always bizarre how cartoons come together. Sometimes the complete opposite happens, the cartoon forms visually in your head at the same time as the gag.

I only drew it up to make up the numbers in a batch of cartoons, but of course it was the only one that the Digest bought. This happens a lot, as any cartoonist will tell you.


A glimpse into the cartoonist's inbox

Cartoonists often get asked to do bizarre things for no money. Thanks to the marvel that is the internet, these requests now come thick and fast by email. Here's one I got the other day: "Hi there, any chance you could do me a picture of Plug from The Beano? Can't find one on the net ..." I politely replied that the sender had perhaps not looked hard enough. I found that a Google image search turns up several pics of Plug:

Another common type of email is the type that potentially offers work to the cartoonist while giving away as little information as possible about the potential project. These are genuine and unedited, only the names have been cut:

"am looking for a catoonist for my book. think we can find out if you fit? Regards …"

"Hello, Could you please contact me regarding our need for an illustration/cartoon characters. Thank you …"

"i found your name looking for an illustrator for a childrens book I have written can you tell me what sort of costings it would be for around 10 picturesor how you work out you costings. thanks looking forward to hearing from you"

I'll cover the people that demand all the secrets to becoming a top cartoonist (like I'd know!), usually in an email dashed off in 30 seconds, some other time ...


I am the Law (Society cartoonist)

I regularly draw humorous illustrations for the Law Society Gazette, to illustrate features. Often they're about legal matters that mean little to the man in the street. But this week's is quite topical ...

Blast from the past

While sorting through a box of old cassette tapes I came across the song Cheesecake Truck by the American band King Missile, which I've not heard for years. It's from the early 1990s and is a spoken-word track, over a quirky musical backing. And it occured to me: this is a comic strip on record! Maybe I'll draw it up some day. The song always appealed to me because, well, I love cheesecake. Here are the lyrics (which I've just cut and paste from another website, but they seem accurate!):

So then I got this idea about driving a cheesecake truck,
cuz I figured at the end of the day,
I could take some of the leftover cheesecakes home.
And I love cheesecake.

So I went to the cheesecake company
and they asked me if I could drive a truck and I said yes,
and they said 'You're hired!'

So the next day I got in the truck with all the cheesecakes
and I drove about a block and I just had to have a cheesecake
so I pulled over and opened the truck
and I got a cheesecake, and I also took one for later,
and I took one for my friend Farmboy,
and I took one to bring home,
and by that time I had eaten one of the cheesecakes
so I took another one.

Then I figured I might as well stop at my house
to drop off all the cheesecakes,
so I take five cakes to eat on the way,
and I drive another block and a half to my house.

Now it's lunch time so I eat ten cheesecakes,
and a cheesecake for dessert.
I should point out, by the way,
that all of these cheesecakes were very delicious.

Anyway, I decided that the only thing to do
would be to eat all the rest of the cheesecakes
and hide the truck somewhere
and leave town.

And I miss everybody a lot
but I'm not really sorry
because they were very delicious cheesecakes.


Ancient arguments settled

I thought I might try to settle some of those niggling, on-going arguments, so we call all move on. First up: which are best, cats or dogs? Answer: cats. This picture, which has gone all over the world in recent days, is the proof. That's a bear in the tree by the way. Next week: baths vs. showers. I thank you.


My official England World Cup Cartoon

I do a regular cartoon for a local paper here in Kent. Inevitably they wanted a football one this week ...

This is funny: Mark Anderson on Hollywood's version of the typical cartoonist's day.