Comic Cuts: Brit Creators Reminisce! - Part 1

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Comic Cuts was the name of the long-running British comic that debuted way back around 1890 and, as such, seemed a fitting banner title for Broken Frontier’s celebratory series of articles during our Brits On Top! event. Join us each day this week as noted British creators share some nostalgic comics-related snippets of their childhood; providing anecdotes that are sometimes funny, sometimes poignant and sometimes wonderfully bizarre…

Mike Carey: Wham! and Eagle Eye, Junior Spy

On Tuesday the 20th of June, 1964, a few months after my fifth birthday, a new comic hit the UK stands. It was called Wham!, and although I didn't know it until later it was the serendipitous fruit of a row between British comics genius Leo Baxendale and DC Thomson, the publishers of The Beano and The Dandy. Sick of his working conditions at Thomson, Baxendale had jumped ship to the rival Odhams Press stable, enticed by the promise that he could produce a comic to his own specifications and write and draw most of the regular strips.

Wham! consisted of six four-page signatures, and it wasn't even centre-stapled (the pages were just folded together and left loose). But it was printed on glossy paper, and the front and back covers had more vivid colours than anything else that was around. The interior art was mostly black and white, but who cared? The front cover had already blinded you anyway.

Inside you'd find cave-boy Glugg (the original inventor of everything you've ever heard of), Footsie the Clown, Biff (a young lad whose only trademark was that he was a bit handy with his fists), The Tiddlers (Bash Street Kids clones, and therefore Baxendale imitating Baxendale), Georgie's Germs, General Nitt and His Barmy Army, and Kelpie, a bizarre fantasy adventure story about a young wizard learning the trade (nothing ever changes, does it?). And in the centre pages, the only exception to the black and white norm, was the strip that changed my life - Eagle Eye, Junior Spy.


Eagle Eye was a kid of about seven or eight who wore a white trenchcoat and a black bowler. He was a genuine spy, and spent most of his time foiling the plots of the evil Grimly Feendish, who went on to have a career in several other comics and a Damned track. The stories were almost too exciting to bear. I can still remember reading the third instalment, at the end of which Eagle Eye, pursued by a classic Baxendale monster ("the mouff") which is ninety per cent teeth, runs into a cul de sac and turns at bay with the thing almost upon him. Forget about The Ring and The Shining: to an impressionable five-year-old, this was brain-fusing horror. And as with the Batman TV series, it took me several years to twig that it was all being played for laughs.

Every episode ended with a cliffhanger of this nature, which got more and more ridiculous as the series went on. Anyway, Eagle Eye was the first serial story to get me so caught up, so hooked on the action, that I felt like I couldn't make it through the seven days that separated one episode from the next. My love affair with comics began there, and I still think it was a great place to start.

Mike Carey's current projects include the critically-acclaimed The Unwritten from DC/Vertigo and X-Men: Legacy from Marvel Comics.

Shaky Kane: TV Tornado

During my childhood I'd always have a weekly comic on order from the local newsagents Conibeer's News Cabin.It would arrive rolled up in the newspaper, The Daily Express, which was a fairly serious looking broadsheet in those days. I never had much loyalty to particular titles, I'd change them frequently. In those days the weeks dragged their heels so I never felt I was being unreasonable in chopping and changing.

Fondest memory is of TV Tornado. I was bewitched by American TV shows. The character The Phantom fired my imagination, although I don't remember actually seeing him on TV. He was masked, he had a big dog, a shiny black revolver and best of all when he socked a bad guy he left the impression of his SKULL RING on the crook's jaw. I remember thinking, "Boy! That's the life!". He wore a hooded purple body stocking, jack boots and stripey pants. Misreading the name, for years I thought he was called PANTO THE GHOST WHO WALKS. Somehow hasn't quite got the same ring to it.

Shaky Kane's recent collaboration with David Hine, the unmissable The Bulletproof Coffin, is available as a trade paperback from Image Comics now.

Gary Northfield: Nutty

From at least the age of 4 I have always been a vociferous reader of comics, and, allowed to have just one title delivered to my house each week, my range of titles frequently changed. From Disney Weeklies such as Mickey Mouse and Goofy; to Marvel UK weeklies, including Captain Britain, the bizarre sideways Super-Spider-Man and Planet of The Apes, with their inexplicable tribe of trouble-makers called “Humans” (In my unenlightened 5 year old head they were the strange “Huh-mans”) and to DC Thomson humour weeklies, such as The Beano, Plug and memorably, Nutty.

Nutty was fresh and genuinely funny. John Geering’s Bananaman was the killer strip, mixing my love of slapstick humour with crazy superheroes (my spare pocket-money was spent on eye-popping 4-colour US Marvel imports). I was creating my own cartoony superheroes at that time, heavily influenced by Saturday morning favourite, Hong Kong Phooey. Bananaman with his particularly stupid adventures took my imagination off into new exciting tangents. I moved onto other titles after Nutty (Captain America Weekly, Spider-Man Weekly,… you get the picture), but none made such an impact on my life, and most probably my career, than Nutty.

Gary Northfield's wonderful Derek the Sheep was a highlight of The Beano and BeanoMAX for many years. For more on Gary's work check out his website here and his blog here. You can also follow Gary on Twitter.

Tony Lee: 2000AD

As the third of three brothers, both of them over a decade older than me, I spent the first few years of my life reading hand-me-down black and white copies of sixties Marvel comics, of Thor, Spider-Man, Iron Man and early X-Men, but they always seemed dated, my brothers' era, a good ten years earlier than me. Then in 1977, when I was six years old a new comic came out, called 2000AD. Set in the future, with characters like M.A.C.H. 1 and Judge Dredd, this was a world that I could call my own, that wasn't handed down, that was found by me for me. The fact that it was British didn't even register as I grew up, in those days comics were comics, and even though Spider-Man fought in New York, I never felt that I was a different world to the one in my weekly comic fix of future cities and anarchic anti-heroes. That I was six when I first started reading is interesting - these days the six year olds in the UK read Spongebob, The Beano and The Dandy.

The comic I bought as a kid over thirty years ago has grown with its audience, getting older in topic and tone in the process. My last series for it even had a character who spent most of her time topless. Not by choice, I add, the original design was more Mad Men than BDSM and it simply evolved in the art, but I actually wonder what I'd say to my six, seven year old self if I met him - that one day I'd write for the comic that he loved so much - but he'd have to wait a while before he was allowed to read the stories. 2000AD is still going strong and still has a loyal fan base. But when I think of 2000AD, I remember the weekly comic that I would anxiously wait all week to buy before being allowed to use up a chunk of my minuscule, 70s allowance to buy. I read the first issue again recently, and it still stands up against the best of today. But it was better when I was a kid. Aren't most things?

Tony Lee's many current projects include Doctor Who for IDW, the Big Finish Doctor Who audio play Rat Trap and the upcoming MacGyver series for Image. You can find out much more about Tony's work on his website here and follow him on Twitter.

Join us tomorrow for another selection of British comics memories...

If you're a British creator and you'd like to share a similar anecdote with us then e-mail andyoliver@brokenfrontier.com and we'll publish it on the site by the end of the week.

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  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Aug 20, 2011 at 7:50pm

    Re-reading this I so regret that the massive pile of WHAM!s I acquired as a 6-7-year-old from jumble sales in the mid-70s didn't survive the usual childhood purges (along with the main part of the TV21 run!).

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