Thursday, July 17, 2008

Celebrity cartoonists: What a bunch of quitters!



The comedian Phill Jupitus has produced a couple of comic strips to promote the radio programme Comic Love, in which he talks about his love of comics and newspaper strips. One can be seen in the July 19 edition of Radio Times and the other (excerpt above) here: Seeing the world in four panels.

Jupitus is one of many celebrities who, in their younger days, dabbled with careers in cartooning before going on to make their name in a different way. Usually a more profitable one.

Three years ago I wrote an article for The Jester, newsletter of the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain, which was a round-up of these erstwhile cartoonists. It is reprinted here.


MEL CALMAN called his autobiography What Else Do You Do?, after the question that is so often put to cartoonists. In fact, there appear to be many cartoonists who not only did something else, but found that that occupation eventually made their name, to the point where the career in cartooning became a largely forgotten footnote.

I started thinking about this when I heard after the death of the comedian Bob Monkhouse that he had once been a cartoonist. A little light research on the internet turned up the fact that he worked for D.C. Thomson, but other than this I know very little and I’d be grateful if anyone could shed any light on the matter.**

At about the same time, I read an article about the novelist John Updike and how he had been obsessed with cartoons as a child. He regularly badgered his cartoonist heroes for original artwork for free (how we know that feeling). Updike also tried his hand at being a cartoonist before coming to his senses and deciding that writing was the better path to take. It was certainly the more lucrative.

Another writer who has dabbled with cartooning is Will Self. Some of his work can be seen in a compilation of his newspaper and magazine articles called Junk Mail. The drawing is crude but some of the gags are pretty good. A friend of mine used to work as a sub-editor at an architecture magazine called Building Design where Self once wrote a column and regularly submitted a cartoon along with it. My pal took a rather dim view of Will Self the artist because he never rubbed out his pencil lines and the lowly, overworked subs had to do it.



BBC 6Music presenter Marc Riley, formerly “Lard” of Mark and Lard fame on Radio One, and an ex-bass player with The Fall, is an ex-cartoonist whose drawing was somewhat on the crude side. Readers may remember his Harry the Head from Oink! Comic. He also appeared in photo strips in Oink! He was the guy with the big nose.

Former 6Music breakfast show presenter Phill Jupitus, the comedian and Never Mind the Buzzcocks team captain, also dabbled as a cartoonist apparently, though again I was unable to unearth any details about his early work (seems you can’t find everything on the internet) so it would be great if anyone could fill in the, er, sketchy details.

Another former cartoonist is broadcaster Andrew Collins, also an ex-New Musical Express journalist, EastEnders scriptwriter, Radio Times film writer and general overachiever. He chronicled his love of cartoons and half-hearted attempts to make a living drawing owls and wizards for puzzle magazines in Where Did it All Go Right and Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, his bestselling memoirs of growing up in the 1970s and 1980s.

Talking of the NME, anyone who used to read the music paper in the early 1990s may remember a cartoon drawn in the style of Gillray called Dr Crawshaft’s World of Pop. But did you know that it was drawn by Arthur Mathews who went on to co-script the sitcom Father Ted? Of course comedy writing and cartooning often go hand in hand. I know that some Cartoonists’ Club members have scripted stuff for radio and TV.

So I suppose there’s hope for us all if we get disillusioned with the world of cartooning. If you know any other examples of famous former cartoonists, let me know.

Right, time to get back to the drawing board/typewriter/record decks …

Comic Love is on BBC Radio Four at 10.30am on Saturday 19 July.



**UPDATE**
Here is a cartoon by Bob Monkhouse of cartoonist Noel Ford, along with a photo of Bob working on that very drawing. Noel, who once worked with Bob at the BBC, says he really did look that weird in the 1970s! Thanks for sharing, Noel.

Royston: Non-celebrity cartoonist!

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