Wednesday, 5 September 2012
In the 1960s he'd been the mainstay of The Beano as a scriptwriter, and by the early 1980s he had come up with the idea of the Pocket Library- his intention was to fill them with reprints but he was surprised to be given the go-ahead to comission all-new material, and that was significant for me because all the regular cartoonists were busy and he needed to find some new young aspiring guys pronto. As luck would have it, I'd just been told by Bob Paynter at IPC that D C Thomson were always on the look out for good 'ghost artists' so I had sent a package of samples to The Beano which Harold Crammond told me he was passing on to Ian. So began a very happy eight years of being one of Ian's protegees! We had some hilarious boozy lunches and I was treated to hair-raising tales of Thomsons' Past, one of which revolved around the exploits 'on and off the field' of a very famous cartoonist who he told me "is a brilliant man but I wouldnae give him houseroom!" He was very helpful in steering me in the right direction, noting my strengths and weaknesses. He was transferred to The Dandy in 1989 and took me with him, but of course they had a lot of established talent there. I struggled to fit in and I felt Ian was a bit exasperated that I had the ball at my feet but "wouldnae kick it in the net!". By the time I finally cracked the weeklies after a spell away from Thomsons, in 1997, Ian had retired so sadly I never worked with him again.
The phrase 'larger than life' is often overused but it's the only way to describe Ian Gray, he was a real character, and spent his spare time with his many animals and performing bawdy comedy songs around Scotland.
Ian died five years ago this week and sadly I'd never got to thank him for all the encouragement he gave me 30 years ago. A while before he died I spoke to another D C T editor and said that I must tell Ian how grateful I was for his help, and he said "Oh, Ian knows you're grateful, it shows in how you draw- like a maniac!"
Posted by NP at 21:45