Nigel Parkinson, Cartoonist

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

Monday, 2 July 2012

I'll Tell You The Answer

Last week (see below) I asked for questions- and I got some! Thanks to everyone who took the time to ask, and I hope you're happy with the answers! I'll take a few supplementary questions if necessary, but then it's back to work.




Have you ever played around with them thar modern Cintiq drawing screens? Not the Wacom tablets (which I find really hard to use) but the shiny screens that rotate. Would the lure of being able to enlarge, flip, squash, stretch and fiddle with your drawings on a computery thing ever tempt you to have a dabble?  Of course you can't hang Cintiq's on a wall - I'm sure some have tried though. 


No,  I don't hang anything I've drawn on the wall, and I don't spend enough time worrying over what I'm drawing to want to flip, squash,stretch and fiddle with it. So shiny screens don't interest me.


Ben Morton

Would you ever consider drawing a new front cover for The Dandy again, and also could you say hello to Harry Hill for me? 

I’ll draw anything for anyone who commissions me. The Dandy have been having runs of covers – at the moment it’s Wayne Thompson’s Bananaman. I don’t know what I would draw anyway, the Banana Bunch don’t lend themselves to a front cover. Most of the Harry Hill images weren’t intended to be on the title page, they were taken from a sort of cache of poses I drew for small spots.  I only did about five actual covers of Harry-  ‘Easter island’ was one, as was ‘Singing in the Rain’
Next time I see Harry I will convey your greetings, he’s a lovely fellow. 

Chris B

If there was one thing you could do to change the British comic industry for the better, what would it be? 

That I could personally do? That’s asking a lot of me! I tried my best with Harry Hill, which would have worked well if it hadn’t been for one aspect we were all let down on. I’m not going to go into it but Harry, The Dandy team, DCT, the various writers and colourists and I all did our best. All I can really do is draw the best I can. I should point out that we should all be grateful to DC Thomson, they remain very committed to comics and may surprise everyone yet.


What was your first published comic strip?

Oh, no! Not this question! My first published strip was most likely one for the DC Thomson comic Tracy in 1981 (I drew it in 1980 but they held it back for about a year!) It was called ‘The Odd Couple’ (nothing to do with Neil Simon’s play or movie or TV series) . But it may have been a terrible strip I did for IPC’s Cor!! Annual. Anyway both were drawn in November/December 1980, but neither were in the style you’d associate with me today being sort of ‘semi-straight’ (and semi-terrible).

What comic-related projects do you have in the pipeline?

I have a few projects that may see fruition: there’s a rather interesting possibility of something with a major character I’m hoping will work out; there’s a revival of something I thought was over and done with which may take a striking new direction; I have a very long term idea in conjunction with someone else that is hopeful; and if you think all that is very vague, yes, that’s all I can tell you at the moment! But I have a nice run of Banana Bunch coming up over the summer which I predict at least I will like!

Also, historically, comics publishers have, in a way, always followed trends set by rival publishers (moving into all-strips, launching similar themed comics, Dandy Xtreme following the 'feature and gift-led' model etc). Do you think that any publisher will be bold enough to launch a weekly strip-based comic to rival DCT's Beano and Dandy? 

That’s three questions! I would really like someone to take up the challenge of The Dandy’s all-strip approach, and with printing being much cheaper than ever, I don’t see why a publisher shouldn’t.  Egmont aren’t interested in doing so (shame, because they have a wonderful cast of characters in limbo) but there’s always the possibility of outsiders taking the risk, as long as distribution, either physically or digitally, is given prime importance. I’ve made no secret I have been very disappointed in the Phoenix’s elusiveness. I admire the creators and the publishers but the comic itself it simply not available to buy, which seems a major flaw to me.
I’m not tempted myself to publish- I took a risk in 1989/90 with a very well-known international toy manufacturer and all I can say is that they made a lot of money.

John Smith

What comics did you read growing up and what comics (if any) do you read now? 

No, I don’t read comics now, I occasionally look at one but I don’t go out of my way to do so. I had two comics ‘on order’ at two different shops; TV21 every Wednesday and Wham!, until Smash! came out (later on, Pow!) every Saturday. Luckily I cancelled one in 1969 or following all the cancellations and mergers I would eventually have had two copies every week of Valiant! But I would read absolutely anything in those days, you name it and I read it. I liked Buster, Fantastic and Terrific (and any Marvel comics that found their way into the corner shop) Beano, Dandy, Topper, Beezer (and then Sparky when that started) but I didn't see any of those every week, just every so often. And then I would read Which? Magazine, and Woman’s Own and the Daily Sketch and National Geographic and anything and everything. I think it's very important, if you're going to be a comics artist, that you take an interest in the world around you- you never know what you're going to be asked to draw next, and if you only read comics, you only regurgitate what someone else has done and not a true representation of your own view.



One question from me. Who is your favourite artist? 

Comics artist? The ones I first saw as a child still amaze me with their originality and style. Leo Baxendale, Frank Bellamy, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby. Their techniques were unfathomable and brilliant- true originals. Then, I grew to admire many others- Ken Reid, Davy Law, Mike Noble, Bill Titcombe, Ron Turner, Ron Embleton, Gene Colan, John Romita... but they were master craftsman, I could figure out how they did it, though they were extraordinarily good. If I have to pick just one, it’s Leo Baxendale, he always makes me laugh, every time. 
Other type of artist? I was completely taken aback by the sheer size of George Seurat’s ‘Bathers at Asnières’ in the National when I first saw it. That impressed me- I like value! One question, but you managed to get two answers! Well done.


A and E comics

I have a couple of questions for you: 1. What do you use to draw your comic strips? 

The answer is here

2. What is your favourite comic strip that you have drawn or currently drawing? 

I always try to enjoy everything I do-  at the moment, I’m doing Banana Bunch which I also write so I can make anything happen, that’s always enjoyable! And Fred’s Bed, again, he could end up anywhere and it’s nice to get to draw something different every time. I liked doing Thunderbirds and Stingray back in 1992, that was a dream come true!

Peter Gray

Who did you learn from...inspired by ...did you draw comics as a kid with a friend...your Dad.. etc.. 

I didn’t learn from anyone, I just always drew. I was inspired by life, by television, by radio, by magazines, by anything and everything, no-one and nothing in particular until I started to realize I liked other people’s drawings, and began to follow particular comics. Wham! was the first one. But my Grand-dad had been a stonemason and designer and I do remember him showing me how to hold a pencil and looking impressed at my drawing, but he died when I was just 3 so I was drawing well before that. My Dad wasn’t artistic but he had tremendous enthusiasm for the periodical- newspapers, magazines, everything. He would point out things like “see the date on this comic, 1962? Well, next week that will say 1963!” Mind bending! I did try to get everybody at school drawing too, somehow I thought everyone could draw, until one day it dawned on me not everyone did!


I have a few questions about the 2013 Dandy annual. Are all the characters on the cover in the annual? When will you reveal the back cover? Are you drawing something else besides Desperate Dan, Cudddles and Dimples and Owen Goal? Thanks! 

I don’t know who’s in the annual aside from the strips I’ve done which includes The Banana Bunch, as I revealed back here. The editor gave me a list of names and I drew them. I may not reveal the back cover, but then again I may reveal the back cover. We’ll have to wait and see.


Who is your favourite classic Beano/Dandy character? 

Probably Minnie the Minx when drawn by Leo Baxendale. His run during 1958-61 is peerless. Otherwise, I always enjoyed Corporal Clott and Bash Street Kids.


If you were allowed free reign to choose any classic character from the Dandy to revive, which would it be and why? And would you try to ghost the previous artist or give it your own style?

I have pitched a few suggestions and others have been suggested to me, but none have been taken up. To be honest there aren’t that many old strips that would work today, but one that I feel has never been allowed to reach its potential is Brassneck. But if I did do an old character, it’s always preferable to see what you can do in a new version rather than trying to ghost someone else.Usually you only ghost a job if the artist will be coming back to do the strip after your stint or if it's already running. I didn't ghost Owen Goal, I reinvented it. Same with the Banana Bunch. But Bash Street Kids, I did try to mimic the Baxendale/David Sutherland look, and later the Mike Pearse look, at least to begin with
When I first did Dennis in 1999, I thought I’d done a pretty fair ghosting job of David Parkins’ style, as he would be back the next week, and I didn’t want too jarring a difference. Looking back now, it sticks out like a sore thumb! Who has drawn this and where is David Parkins?! 



If DCT were ever to publish your unused images in one of their Beano/Dandy books as 'preliminary cover designs' and didn't pay you for the privilege, would you be a little irked, or consider it to be within their rights? 

The reason I didn’t answer this earlier is because it was intended to be a rhetorical question for a specific reader and I would hope it would never happen.

Why don't you do a 'How to Draw Cartoons' book? It would be sure to have an audience, given your connection to The Beano and The Dandy.

I don’t really know how to draw, I just do it. It’s not something I ever studied or took lessons in or have any clue as to how it works. It’s a bit like breathing – it’s just something I do. You only become aware of breathing when or if it’s problematic- and THAT’S not something nice to consider! I have been asked to do such a book but aside from figuring out how I would pretend to show how I draw- it's very haphazard!- I haven't had the time.
(Now I come to think of it, I did once do one for Dennis and Minnie, a Waverley book, but I had to invent the 'how to', and I obviously couldn't have been very busy at the time !)


Andy Boal

If I can get away with two: 1. Why aren't you on twitter?

The world doesn’t need more tweets or twitterers. And what would I tweet about? Just attending to emails takes up far too much valuable drawing time. 
** UPDATE** One of my delightful assistants has informed me that I AM on twitter, I've just never tweeted! Well that's fine. I believe it's #NPBeanoArtist, but if it's not then I'm wrong.

2. Of all your published comics work to date, what is your favourite? 

I’ve drawn about 20,000 pages since 1980 and probably 19,500 were drawn up against a deadline (for interest, I did one page this week with a deadline of 3pm the same day- and I only found they wanted it at 11.20am), so there are a lot to consider. I can tell you the pages I absolutely didn’t enjoy drawing at all were Grange Hill in BBC Magazines’ Fast Forward between 1988 and 1994. But it was work, and nobody expects to love every minute of their work. Trying to answer the question at last, I always liked doing Owen Goal in The Dandy but I try to get something out of everything I do. I feel that if I get amused, enthralled or delighted by something I’ve drawn, chances are the readers will, too. I did enjoy creating the Harry Hill strip because it was a sort of distillation of a lot of different comic and humour styles from a lot of different eras and it seemed to work ok.


Peter Gray said...

thanks for answering...nice you drew with kids at school..

i'm also a big Harry Hill fan..say Hi from me also:)
I've recorded lots of Tv Burp and is my favourite comedian at the moment..also seen the recording a few times..He does 1hr and half which gets reduced to half n great to see the recording..

NP said...

Harry's taking a bit of a break from appearing on TV at the moment, but he does produce TV and always has some writing on the go. I'd like to see him back on tour but don't tell him I said that.

Ben Morton said...

You, sir, are officially a legend- thanks for answering my questions! :D

Harry Rickard said...

A fascinating read!
I wish I'd asked a question now but I had no idea what to ask you!

George said...

You didn't really answer any of my questions, but I won't have to wait long. The Beano and Dandy annuals come out tommorow, don't they?

James Spiring said...

Friday 6 July, George. So yeah, it's tomorrow.

NP said...

George, I answered every one of your questions individually and carefully to the best of my ability.

YOUR QUESTION:1. Are all the characters on the cover in the annual?
MY ANSWER:1. I don’t know who’s in the annual... The editor gave me a list of names and I drew them.

YOUR QUESTION: 2. When will you reveal the back cover?
MY ANSWER: 2. I may not reveal the back cover, but then again I may reveal the back cover. We’ll have to wait and see

YOUR QUESTION: 3. Are you drawing something else besides Desperate Dan, Cudddles and Dimples and Owen Goal?
MY ANSWER: 3...includes The Banana Bunch, as I revealed back here...

Each question answered, so I don't understand why you think they weren't. I hope you think you get your answers when you see the annual, but I couldn't be any clearer.

George said...

Point taken, Nigel. I can't wait until the annual arrives.

James Spiring said...

The bad news is, only one page of Banana Bunch this week. The good news is that Owen Goal is back. Reprints from 2004, of course, so no money for you. But if it's popular, who knows?