Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Cartoon Heroes: Origins

Stuck at home recovering from the flu it crossed my mind to trace the family tree of my interest in cartoons and comic strips. It was always my dream as a child to have a career as a syndicated cartoonist. The minor obstacle to the fulfilment of that dream was that I'm not very good at drawing. Not that this is a definitive obstacle. The main reason has more to do with not putting in the time and effort, i.e., I created a character but did not develop his world.

The very first cartoons that I remember were Peanuts. Old paperback collections with crumbling yellow pages on my father's desk, and once a week in colour on the inside back page of the Observer Sunday magazine.

First Peanuts comic October 1950

Charlie Brown was hapless but loveable, Lucy was a smart and grumpy girl just like the women in my family, and Snoopy was so cool. Curse you Red Baron! I drew Snoopies and Charlie Browns all over my rough books at school. They've been with me all my life. My character - Pomme de Terre - is clearly related to that round-headed kid. When Charles M Schulz died in 2000, many cartoonists dedicated a strip to him. This one made me cry:

Those Sunday newspaper glossy magazines were the source of the other cartoons that got my attention as a pre-teen. Jules Feiffer was also published in the Observer magazine, although nearer the contents page at the front. I loved his spiky drawings. I was probably a bit full of myself for having such grown-up tastes.

Feiffer started out in the mid-1940's as an assistant to the Parent of graphic novels Mr Will Eisner, and got his first strip in the Village Voice in 1956.

Feiffer's coverage of US politics, and focus on President Richard M Nixon, coincided with my political awakening thanks to Bonnie & Henry teaching me about Watergate.

It also helped that Feiffer illustrated one of the greatest books of all time, i.e., The Phantom Tollbooth.

These were the cartoons with which I began. Otherwise, I was a Marvel comics fan, saving my pennies for the monthly import of The Fantastic Four, and regularly reading Spiderman, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and the Silver Surfer.

To this day Peanuts rules, even in reruns. The Observer stopped publishing Feiffer in 1978, but I got his book Tantrum (1979). It's considered by many to be one of the first graphic novels. And Neil Gaiman loved it also :-)

Cheerio Dave

Minor good news on a day when a terrible story of evil people dominates the headlines - Dave Whelan is stepping down from his position as Chairman of Wigan FC. He will still own the club, but let us hope that his chosen successor - apparently 23 years old - will have a slightly more enlightened view than his grandfather.

BBC report
The Guardian report
The Daily Mail recounts the whole story, and presents a perspective that suggests Mr Whelan still does not accept or understand how he caused any offence and continues to show no remorse that people have been offended by his language and views.