The Comics that Influenced me.

Comics, like paintings, movies and music move us. Think about it there is probably a movie you love, a song that makes you cry and a story that reminds you of a fond time you had. I’m sure musicians listened to their favourite bands and composers before thinking of picking up their instrument for the first time. It’s no different for artists, and like layers each experience leaves an indelible mark on you. So what are the comics, cartoons that have shaped my own art style?

Asterix The Gaul

Libraries are a truly wonderful thing, they offer you access to books you could never buy, and worlds you would never know about if you didn’t have access to those precious books. As a kid growing up I was always at the library in our village, and it was there that I stumbled on the hard back Asterix Comics by Goscinny and Uderzo. Other than the Beano, they’re probably the first Comics I read. I vividly remember dragging the small step stool so I could reach them as they were on the highest shelf, and each week I would take three at a time. I loved the story of the plucky underdog, the twist on historical events, the puns. The illustrations were and are excellent, exuding character and personality. I would make my own stories, faithfully drawing out the characters and my grandparents knowing how much I loved them treated me to pick out an omnibus of the comics for my birthday. It is this link with them that has kept them as one of my fondest memories growing up.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I remember the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (yes for children of the 80s living in the UK ‘Ninja’ was far too dangerous a word, and so was replaced by ‘Hero’!) and it was massive and so was the merchandise that accompanied it. Going into school the following week a friend brought in a ‘Turtles comic’ and everyone was laughing, ironically as they thought it wasn’t the ‘real’ turtles, but as he showed it me I loved it! It was the original comic reprinted as an anthology. The turtles all had red banners, and it was was far far grittier, and the fantastic art style was something I desperately wanted to emulate. I drew toy designs, alternate stories, even a set of ‘Fearsome Frogs’ all in that original style, and so I pleaded with my parents to buy me a copy and I was lucky enough to get one, reading it until it literally broke apart. As an adult I bought it again and it is one of my most precious things I own.

Fighting Fantasy Novels

Turtles and Asterix definitely shaped my comic book style, but it was the Fighting Fantasy novels that when I looked at the drawings I was in awe and in no way at the time of looking at them could emulate – I just didn’t have the skills, the materials or the know how. This started my love affair with pen and ink drawing! Creature of Havoc was the first book I was given as a gift, and the art by Alan Langford on every page is brilliant – the cross hatching, the shade and contrast creates this ominous feel and the overall level of detail and intricacy is excellent. There is a huge series of Fighting Fantasy novels and although the illustrators vary the quality does not – it is incredibly high throughout.

There’s also something to love in the ‘choose your own adventure’ mechanic, it’s just a cool idea that you start a novel, not necessarily knowing where the story will take you and yet you are at the helm deciding what part to play in the adventure. It’s not surprising that the creators Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson went onto video games, but I’m amazed that when we cry out for youngsters to read that this style of book is not used more… Hmmm… An idea for the future!

X – Men

Loads of people will say they loved the comics, but for me it wasn’t until the mid 90s cartoon, based largely on the art of Jim Lee, hit UK TV that the stories grabbed me and led me to read the comics. I loved that super powers were in some way a genetic mutation in humans rather than being hit by radiation etc. It seemed more plausible and it also allowed for more variety in the character design. Iceman, Beast, Wolverine, Colossus and Magneto – each character was so unique and different, which was something that really appealed to me (and is the reason Chicken Grit’s Mutant Furies are so varied too!)

As I grew up with the show I liked how it didn’t shy away from themes of racism and prejudice, the show and the comic’s tone was spot on for a teenager growing up. The Age of Apocalypse is my absolute favourite series within X Men as it throws everything on its head, but read the original stories first so you can truly appreciate it.

And finally…

I think the central premise of all these cartoons, graphic novels, narratives is that even though they are aimed at a younger audience, not once do they patronise or talk down to them (which is probably why they continue to be popular with children and the adults that have grown up with them). That tone or ethos, when we are saturated with new forms of media, texts, and entertainment is perhaps the most important and certainly one I try to have at the very core of my projects.



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