Nigel Parkinson, Cartoonist

Nigel Parkinson, Cartoonist
This is him, at a recent Comic Con

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Before the Flintstones

Ever wonder what the pilot reel for the Flintstones was like? It's only 1minute 35, give it a look.

Monday, 27 September 2010

An Old Friend

Fairly soon there's going to be a very pleasant surprise for anyone who fears for the future of one of our most cherished institutions.

You know how sometimes an old friend goes off the rails a bit. Maybe wears clothes that don't suit them or a funky haircut that just isn't right? Or starts using language that offends you a bit? Maybe you turn your back on them for a while, See them at a distance maybe and don't like what they've turned into?

And then, one glorious day, you see them again and they've changed again- this time for the better. Sure, they're not exactly the same as they were before, but they look great and they're friendly and funny again, and one or two features are familiar but this time the brand new things about them are just great and you really like them and you just feel so, so glad you're friends again.

Ever had that sort of experience?


Leo Baxendale Again

Leo Baxendale is best known for his work on DC Thomson's Beano and Beezer,  Odhams' Wham! and Smash!, and IPC's Monster Fun, but he worked on many other comics. Like this one, Lion, which generally didn't run 'funny' strips. But in 1965 these full page 'sporty' pieces graced its pages yet remain pretty much unknown outside of Bax Fans.

Heroes and Villains

These two CD karaoke covers I did for Carlton in 1996 were a nice opportunity to practice  likenesses. Heroes like The Beatles and Elvis and villains like... well, you can see him, there he is.... probably explains why they never used these covers! (I know there could be other reasons!) And of course 'Heroes and Villains' The Beach Boys! Get it?Anyway, can you spot who all the others are? By name, I mean! Top marks if you get all of Abba and all three of The Supremes correct! Sorry that these are only crummy images, they're blown up from 40% copies! Thrifty!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

"It's a Rush Job!"

Everyone in publishing has a 'Rush Job' every now and then. Someone else falls ill, or takes on too much, or the editor isn't happy with what he's been sent, or he forgets to send a script out on time, or the publisher changes the printing schedule or decides everyone is too blase, or someone else somewhere else doesn't do what they're supposed to do. Then someone like me gets a "Rush Job". Usually this means drawing a page and getting it to the editorial office within a week. I do quite a lot of them. Because I'm "known for it", editors will turn to me if the deadline is even tighter than that.
The occasion I am going to tell you about was some years ago - and I'm not going to name the comic, the editor or the company- but it's all true.

One morning, about 10.30, I got a phone call from The Editor; "Nigel! Can you do us a big favour?!"
"I'll try!" "We need a two page story and a cover, all in colour, by this time TOMORROW morning- we're going to press at 11am!"
"Phew!" Well, I never say no, I always accept the job and figure out how to do it later. Except that morning there WAS no later- it had to be done NOW. Today, 2010, a 24 hour turnaround is a bit uncomfortable, but not impossible. Scan it in, email it at 10.30 the next morning; do-able. But this story takes place in the dim and distant days of Some Time Ago. Before emails!!
There were three options:
1. Royal Mail. To post it would mean getting it to a Post Office by 4.30 pm that day and paying £3.20 to have it delivered by 10 am. Impossible.
2. Red Star. This excellent service was run in conjunction with British Rail. You took the item along by 7pm, they put it on a train and then couriered it to it's destination by 9 am. It cost £50.
3. British Rail. This meant getting the last train at around 11pm, and waiting outside the editorial office until they opened up at 8.30. Tickets then were about £40. So which would I choose? That's right- Red Star (You didn't think I'd do the overnight heroics did you?!)

So once I'd decided on Delivery Method, I then had to do the work. I had less than 8 hours to do three pages. At the time we're talking about, I drew at 140% (that is, twice the size of the printed page.) and I hand-coloured everything myself. No assistants, no computers.  I didn't think it would be possible to draw and colour three pages that size, so I took the drastic step of drawing SAME SIZE as the printed comic. Normally, this is frowned upon because it's very small, it hurts the eyes and any imperfections show up big time! But I had no choice, so same size it was. As the clock inexorably ticked around to 6.30 I raced through the job. It turned out OK, and, as I hurtled through the streets in a cab, rubbing my blurry eyes, I congratulated myself on having earned my sleep.

The following morning, I waited to hear from the Editor that it had arrived safely. At 10 am, I thought about phoning but thought that they'd be very busy rushing this issue to the printer. At 11am I was on tenterhooks. Had it arrived? Was everything OK? By 12 I could contain myself no longer. Phoning, I found the office empty- lunchtime! Of course! At 2, I called again! He's at a meeting!! Now I was sweating! Did it arrive and is all OK, or has it not turned up and the meeting is about how fast they can get me duffed up and sacked? 3pm, I call again- "did it turn up OK?" "Did what turn up?" "The rush job" "Oh, that. yes, it's here. " "Well, was it OK? Did you make the deadline?" "Yes. Don't draw it that small again. The processing department said it's not going to print as well as normal".

And that was that. No "thanks for saving our necks!" No "You must have worked hard to do all that in the time it took". Just "Not as good as usual". Well it wasn't the usual circumstances, was it?!

Four weeks later, the comic was out. Looking at it, the cover was fine, No different than any other. On the inside pages, there was a little thinness to some of the black areas, but that could happen any week. But the odd thing is, the cover, which was rushed, and apparently 'not up to scratch' was later selected by the same editor as a good example of how covers should be, It was printed up in a catalogue, a programme of events, and as a T Shirt.

Not bad seeing as I 'drew it wrong'.

And if you're wondering, they never did reimburse me the £50.

Friday, 24 September 2010

...and SMASH! again

While I've got SMASH! number 3 from 1966 out, here's another Baxendale page, this time the back cover, featuring the famous Big Creep Grimly Feendish. Look at the picture of the Black Maria hurtling in, stuffed full of policemen, squishing Grimly's foot. Know what? To me, this is another of the Great Pages- and twenty one frames!! I have a large copy of it framed on my wall to remind me how it's done!


2007 and the Kaiser Chiefs decided they wanted to be Beano stars for a single sleeve. Not a problem. These one-off jobs come along every so often and are always enjoyable.  I drew this really big and the finished colour version was auctioned by the bands' management for a charity soon after. I coloured it mainly by myself but one of my assistants (Ruth) helped out. The band arranged for me to take some friends and family to see their gig locally, sent me a big autographed colour print of the cover and even paid on time. A satisfactory outcome for us all! True gentlemen!

Any ideas

Here's a glass from Japan. Apart from the spelling mistake- what on earth is this all about??! Any idea what they're getting at? Anything at all?


Every time I draw a cover, the image in the back of my mind is this cool cover from 1966 by the legendary Leo Baxendale. It made a very substantial impression on me back on that snowy Thursday morning and still to this day for me it's the epitome of a funny, busy, friendly cover. In 2001 I told Leo it was my favourite cover, and asked if he recalled it. He said "I remember drawing the cover with Bad Penny in her fort - I was very pleased with it". Me too. I still am. It's great, isn't it?!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Back to The Shed part 2

22 years ago Fleetway started publishing Scouse Mouse Monthly. Our small team led by George Nicholas (in his 'shed') worked in a more or less random way- one day one of us would have an idea for a strip, another would pencil it, another would ink it, another would colour it- another day, half of a story would be done by George, the rest by me- and any possible configuration thereafter. Except George would never do the lettering, that was the only rule! His spelling was never 100% reliable, and his search for an appropriate sound-effect had been known to lead him into onomatopoeic obscentity, quite unintentionally.

This 'Stunt Man' story is drawn by George but unusually it was written by me after the phrase "The Emperor's New Clothes" suggested something a little more dramatic.

The first two issues of Scouse Mouse were printed together at the same time. Our Shed was up North but I happened to be in London when they were printed and I took the first printed proofs back up on the last train, reading and re-reading them with my friend Trish, hoping there were no glaring errors or screw-ups. She turned to me after an hour or two and said "yeah, they're OK". Phew!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

That was Then...

As I mentioned in my previous post, in the old days, a merger between two comic titles (actually usually a take-over by the better-selling or longer established one) was always heralded by the euphemism "Great News, Chums" or suchlike on the cover.

But that was then.

Nowadays, "Great News Chums" means exactly what it says - Great News.

Back in November last year, the editor of a certain comic emailled me a suggestion. A left field idea. A daydream, really. It would never work. I was sceptical. But I had a go. Happily, bizarrely, it seemed to work out- and in snowy February, we got the first tentative go-ahead. Since then, the snowball has continued rolling... and growing... and growing... and that's all I can say today.

But maybe tomorrow...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

"Great News Chums"

Colours (Wow!) by Nika

That line, "Great News Chums" appeared on the front page of many a comic in the Twentieth Century, and always the 'great news' was that from the next week the reader would be obliged to transfer their affection to a different title, as publication of their present favourite was being cancelled.

For the last 10 months I've had to avoid reading all the threads on Comics websites prophesying the imminent demise of a particular comic. Only last week I was asked "how long before it merges with Another Comic?" Over the last year or so I've been told, yes TOLD, by various people that it will soon be a monthly; that it will soon be Reprints Only; that it will soon be gone forever; that it stopped being published years ago.
Anyhow, keep watching this blog (of course! Why wouldn't you?!) and you may see there could soon be "Great News Chums".

Sunday, 19 September 2010

If you haven't seen it, see it.

I don't get to go to many movies, but one I had to see was Sylvain Chomet's (Oscar nominated and critically acclaimed creator of "Belleville Rendezvous") marvellous adaptation of "The Illusionist", based on a script that had lain unfilmed for 50 years, written (and rewritten) by Jacques Tati, the French film-maker who gave us "M. Hulot's Holiday" and "Playtime" to name but two. Edinburgh and London in the early 60's come alive (I'm sure I even spotted Rory storm and the Hurricanes too!) with superb animation, and the story, while a touch too sentimental for me, and quite unlike Tati's other movies in that respect, is a neat one. But it's the luscious images that make this the must-see movie of 2010, and to see Tati one last time would bring a smile to anyone's face!

You Can't Say You Weren't Warned

Everyone's always blowing their own trumpet. So what do you do to stand out above the crowd? This shop down the road has had this sign up for a long time. But you know, I've never had the nerve to go in and see if the promise is true. I wonder if the soup really IS hot?

The Reject Pile

We all have to start somewhere... and we all have a stack of rejection letters... me more than most, as I kept on writing until someone, somewhere gave me a job. Here are some of my earliest...
First, left, 1973, and a letter from IPC (then publishers of Whizzer and Chips, Cor!!, Buster, etc) seemingly offering work in a few years time! exciting letter to get! Of course, it was not as easy as that!

Hedging my bets, I replied to an ad in the papers asking for comic artists at DC Thomson a couple of years later. Maybe I should have told them I was 14 because this is a simple standard reject letter.

Another reject, this time from Polystyle's Dennis Hooper, responsible for TV Comic. Anyway, this time I was at least offered some constructive advice, though Dennis does remind me of the mantra I was used to hearing "...strip cartoon is still regarded as something less than nice". Still, I wasn't about to give up now!

Finally, below- a 'yes'!
Note how "colour doesn't really interest us". This was in the letterpress days of spot colour for the Beano. Only 'Plug' and 'TV Tops' of this era had four-colour printing. Anyway, the letter continued "I must say your colour pages are very good" which is nice to hear, even if they weren't interested!
Anyway, the letter ends with "if you are prepared to work hard" which is the truest thing to pass onto anyone seeking to break into comics.
Anyway, although I got work from D C Thomson the following week (!) it was a far from easy ride, and there would be many rejections in the next decade and more.

Friday, 17 September 2010

My Favourite Editors Part 1- Alan Fennell

I've always had the good fortune to have a dream job- I mean, drawing comics all day- come on, what could be better?! But a real high spot came in 1991 when I read that Fleetway were starting a new Thunderbirds comic and that none other than Alan Fennell was to be editor! I knew he'd not only been editor and writer at TV Comic and then TV21, but had written a large percentage of the Stingray, Thunderbirds and Fireball XL5 TV shows too, and had gone on to start Look-In! Wasting no time I bluffed my way into Fleetway's then-HQ at Mornington Crescent and asked to speak to him. Alan was a great character (sadly he died early, and on his birthday in 2001) and knew what he wanted. After all, he'd discovered Mike Noble! Luckily, I did a few things for him over the next couple of years and we met up quite often. Two phone calls from him are preserved on my old cassette answerphone- the first: "Nigel- just opened your first page- what the hell are you playing at? This is like ...Popeye. I mean, I love you like a brother, but this is very poor" and the second: "Nigel- just opened your two cover images- the artwork is.......[long pause]......outstanding. Very good. Nice work". Anyone who knew Alan will hear his cheerful London manner in those words! I trawled the internet but couldn't find a photo of him- so I've posted these two, one from 1970, the other from the time I knew him, 1992.

You can Count on Arthur

Count Arthur Strong's small but growing band of followers may like to see this, as it's nearly Christmas according to the supermarkets. (Written by Steve Delaney)

Don't Call Us

Sometimes things don't quite work out. That's life.
Languishing in my vault of abundant rejects, "not-quites" and "didn't make its" is this page from a project I somehow became part of around 1996 but I have no recollection at all how and why I got involved; Hadrian's Heroes had already been originated but I commissioned Nick Pemberton to write this new story (it was re-coloured by "H.H." recently, as I'd lost my original hand-coloured version). It was for a new comic put together by the late Derek Lord, one of the original Eagle team from 1950, which he intended to call 'Eureka'. He called it "an Eagle for the 90s". Despite a fair amount of interest, and a long period of preparation, it was not to be.
Looking at it now, it reminds me of Asterix the Gaul (not surprising, as it's a similar premise- Hadrian was the first Roman Emperor to take an interest in England after Julius Caeser, and instigated the construction of his famous wall to keep out the Caledonians) but the real progenitor was Wham!s General Nitt and his Barmy Army by Leo Baxendale, whose crowded mad style I was trying to emulate (ie steal).

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Colourists part 1

Eagle-eyed readers of Beano or Dandy who see pages I've drawn may spot a little "H.H." in the corner of a frame quite often. Well, that is actually "N.N." in Russian- and they are the initials of one of the people who assists me, Nika. She does some great colouring for me over in the Balkan bit of Greece, no doubt sipping a lovely cooling drink as she does so.
Comics fans going to the Birmingham Comics Convention in October this year will be able to meet her, shake her hand and say "nice work, miss".
Or "Got any Halva?", which is what I will be saying.

The Nerv of it! Or "Hello, Putrid Date!"

Ken Reid reached a wonderful zenith with his crazy near year-long stint on The Nervs in Smash! in 1968-9, crafting what is for many the ultimate Bad Taste kids comic strip. Words are a bit redundant here so I invite you to take a look at a page of it and see how it's done!

Tales from The Shed part 1

In response to a record number of requests (two, as it happens!), I'm going to tell you a little about this barely-known title, Scouse Mouse Monthly.

In 1988, George Nicholas Creations was commissioned by Fleetway's Bob Paynter to produce a monthly comic featuring their famous character SCOUSE MOUSE who had just enjoyed a year's run with a London publisher called Modelbrisk.

I was one of the 'team' who put it together, in an extension to George's garage in the remote outermost outskirts of the edge of the outermost part of Melling. (Which is at the very furthest point of Merseyside, going outwards as far from Liverpool as is possible. And then a bit further.) We laughingly called 'The Shed' because it was basically a shed. George had come up with the concepts and characters some years before and had been trying new avenues for pushing them. This comic was a real labour of love (we got paid a weekly wage, and it JUST managed three figures!) and we took advantage of the trend Oink had started for slightly edgier and looser material to have a ball writing, drawing, colouring and lettering six days a week. Apart from Scouse Mouse and the Scallywags we had 'Stunt Man', (based on George's brother's career in the movies and TV!), 'Auntie Septic and Major Trauma', 'Fido Fax' 'The Swiney' ( a cop strip with literal pigs- ah, the 80s!) and 'Budgie Malone and Owl Capone, those Feathered felons!'
As the comic was never very well-known, I'm going to occasionally put a page or two up and tell you one of the many stories behind their creation. This front cover is from the 5th (of only six!) issue, pencilled by me and then inked and coloured by George. He used gouache, magic markers and Pantone pens by Letraset. I'd never seen Pantone pens before. They were filled with a petrolium base solution which played havoc with our lungs and livers and minds, sitting in a non-ventilated shed all winter. Nowadays they fill them with an innocuous fluid. Health and safety I expect.

'Mum Fans' Special

Readers of The Dandy and it's 2007-10 incarnation Dandy Xtreme will have seen Cuddles and Dimples, a strip about two dangerously unpleasant children which was inherited by me in 2004 from it's original cartoonist Barry Appleby. During my tenure it's been written by, amongst others, Craig Ferguson and Ally Bernard.

The page (left, coloured, untypically, by Spectra) features the terrible toddlers' mum, who, inexplicably, has always attracted her own small, mainly over-30 coterie of followers.
This charming little story hasn't yet been published and isn't likely to be. But as a parting gift, enjoy the maxing and relaxing chores of this particular Yummy Mummy one last time!

Brothers and sisters

My sister (left pic) has asked me to tell you that, from 1967 to 1969, she collected a comic (Pow!) every Saturday morning from the Newsagents for me when she went to get her Jackie or Petticoat. Well, it was across a dual carriageway and she was 6 years older than me. And sending her out was cheaper than getting it delivered.
Having Spiderman AND the Cloak in one comic was very inspiring. I was already producing my own comics as far back as 1964 but I started to want to draw like Steve Ditko or Mike Higgs. Maybe one day.

My brother (right pic) never did buy me a comic. But then I only met him for the first time in 2009. Long story. Maybe a blog post.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Man they're all talking about (behind his back)

Yes, it's Arthur again! He kindly asked me to design this CD cover last year, with a glare, a snarl, and a prod of his arthur-itic finger, so how could I refuse? If you've never heard him, then maybe you should have a go! But you may never be the same again!!
Watch Arthur on the YouBend
Buy Arthur on CD

The Telegoons

Telegoons website
Back in 1963-5 saturday afternoons began at tea-time with some 'fab' TV shows: alongside the almost-groovy Juke Box Jury and the no-hope newcomer Dr. Who, the top show for kids was The Telegoons. The programmes were puppet shows, 15 minutes long, produced by Maurice Wiltshire for Grosvenor films. After some difficulties they finally got Peter Sellers along with Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe from the BBC radio series The Goon Show to provide the voices. The scripts (all by Spike with Larry Stephens or Eric Sykes) were adapted from the 1950's audio originals, and re-recorded, with all-new visual gags too. Eccles, Bluebottle, Bloodnok and Grytpype-Thynne all came to life with a loopy gait and a manic twinkle in the eye. And there are some near-the-knuckle moments too that would have passed many people by at the time.
As with other top TV series, TV Comic ran a strip cartoon version (1963-66). It was drawn with zip and vigour by the wonderful Mr Bill Titcombe, and some were written by Alan Fennell, a marvellously enthusiastic writer and editor.

It's about time these shows were put out on DVD. "In my opinion."

I know the Goons are often impenetrable to newcomers- despite the Telegoons I didn't really 'get' The Goon show itself until I was about 37! They just 'clicked' one day! give them a go.
Goon Shows streamed for free

What I do these days...

Dennis and Gnasher back when they were known as Dennis the Menace and Gnasher. This was one of a series of drawings done for D C Thomson merchandising, coloured here by H.H. I've seen it on T shirts and mugs and postcards and posters. I think I saw it on some pyjamas.
I once read in an American Cartoonists magazine waxing lyrical about the American Dennis The Menace that "apparently England had it's own Dennis The Menace briefly in 1951". Nice to know they even noticed I suppose.

Daring to Draw

I draw comics. I've been drawing quite a while now- let's see- I started before I was 2 - have improved slightly- here's a page I did in about 1967, deep in my Marvel Comics phase! What really stands out for me is my signature- almost exactly the same as I do it today! So was I a grown-up 8 year old or do I have an 8 year old's mind today?
Let's leave that one hanging there...