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by Royston

Cartooning in the media: It's not all bad news

July 25, 2008 in General

PCOer Royston Robertson says we cartoonists need to lighten up about media coverage of our profession

There’s no doubt that cartoons are enjoying an unusually high profile in the British media at the moment.

We’ve seen acres of coverage for the launch of new kids’ comic The DFC (left), the 70th anniversary of The Beano and Phill Jupitus’s comic strip programme on Radio Four. There has even been a graphic novel serialised in The Times.

So, are cartoonists happy about this? Not a bit of it.

I agree with Neil Dishington, who wrote on this blog yesterday that the Phill Jupitus thing was nothing special, but is that because we’re cartoonists and therefore he’s preaching to the converted? I think it’s likely that many listeners would have found Jupitus’s sincere enthusiasm about comic strips quite infectious.

Isn’t it a good thing that shows like these exist? Is it not the case that the only thing worse than the media talking about cartoons is the media not talking about cartoons?

But they misrepresent cartooning, some cartoonists cry, it’s obvious they don’t know what they’re talking about. Well, maybe. I’m sure I heard James Naughtie talking about “animators” at The Beano on the Today show on Monday, but is there a single profession that doesn’t think it is often misrepresented by the media? I know journalists who think the media misrepresents them.

Another common complaint is that any media obsession with cartoons is just a passing fad. Again, that may be true, perhaps they’re using cartoons to cheer us up amid all the credit crunch stuff, but then that is the role of most cartoons. And let’s not forget that the media treats many subjects in a faddish way before moving on to the next thing.

And as for the grumbling over celebs such as Jupitus drawing cartoons, cartooning has always been something where everyone wants to have a go. That’s because it’s fun. We often encourage that attitude, at events such as The Big Draw and the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival.

All you can do is keep on doing good cartoon work and hope that those who commission cartoons for publication will realise that it is best to go to a professional.

The PCO: Professional cartoon talent

Cartoon review: Phill Jupitus on Radio 4

July 24, 2008 in General

Strip by comedian and wannabe cartoonist Phill Jupitus

PCOer Neil Dishington reviews Comic Love, Phill Jupitus’s BBC Radio Four show in praise of newspaper comic strips

Apparently Phill Jupitus is a thwarted cartoonist.

Aren’t we all?

I should admit that he is not my favourite comedian, and I am not a particular fan of comic strips, as opposed to stand-alone cartoon jokes.

Much of what Jupitus had to say in his Radio 4 show seemed like a repeat of what most cartoonists talk about when they get together: lack of markets and indifferent editors.

The interviewees in the show were able to speak from strength – Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), Steve Bell (If), Peattie and Taylor (Alex). But I always think that artists like this have become part of the establishment they lampoon. Is it just as easy to get stuck into royalty, celebs and the City of London when you are selling strips in umpteen countries around the world and your stuff is syndicated all over the place?

I do think Steve Bell has kept his integrity, but I wonder how much attention people pay to “cartoonists with attitude”? We, as a nation, do seem happy to accept bland publishable stuff as the norm.

I did like some of the comments by the cartoonists interviewed by Jupitus, such as Steve Bell’s call for a “missionary zeal” in making cartoons which have something to say. In contrast, I was not so keen to hear that the future of cartoons will be online.

Overall, I found the programme bland, smug and much of it decidedly familiar. A real time-filler. It was lazy broadcasting and lazy journalism.

And lo and behold, in the Guardian newspaper of July 22, an article by Jupitus retelling the same stuff as the programme, accompanied by a cartoon strip drawn by … celebrity cartoonist Phill Jupitus.

Thanks for the review Neil. Bloghorn says click D for Dishington.

The BBCs Listen again facility is here – and the program will be online until Saturday 26th July.

Full-time British cartoon talent

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by Royston

Celebrity cartoonists

July 17, 2008 in General

As cartoonist-turned-comedian Phill Jupitus prepares to talk of his love of cartoons on the radio, PCOer Royston Robertson looks at some other celebrities who once wielded drawing pens

MEL CALMAN called his autobiography What Else Do You Do?, after the question that is so often put to cartoonists. In fact, there appear to be many cartoonists who not only did something else, but found that that occupation eventually made their name, to the point where the career in cartooning became a largely forgotten footnote.

It was only after the death of the comedian Bob Monkhouse that I heard that he had once been a cartoonist. And quite an accomplished one. He had worked for Beano publisher DC Thomson.


A cartoon by Bob Monkhouse of PCOer Noel Ford, along with a photo of Bob working on that very drawing. Noel, who once worked with Bob at the BBC, assures us that he really did look like that weird in the 1970s

At about the same time, I read an article about the novelist John Updike and how he had been obsessed with cartoons as a child. Updike also tried his hand at being a cartoonist before coming to his senses and deciding that writing was the better path to take. It was certainly the more lucrative.

Another writer who has dabbled with cartooning is Will Self. Some of his work can be seen in a compilation of his newspaper and magazine articles called Junk Mail. The drawing is crude but some of the gags are pretty good.

BBC 6Music presenter Marc Riley, formerly “Lard” of Mark and Lard fame on Radio One, and an ex-bass player with The Fall, is another ex-cartoonist whose drawing was somewhat on the crude side. You may remember his Harry the Head from Oink! Comic. He also appeared in photo strips in Oink! He was the guy with the big nose.

Another former cartoonist is broadcaster Andrew Collins, also an ex-New Musical Express journalist, EastEnders scriptwriter, Radio Times film writer and general overachiever. He chronicled his love of cartoons and half-hearted attempts to make a living drawing owls and wizards for puzzle magazines in Where Did it All Go Right and Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, his bestselling memoirs of growing up in the 1970s and 1980s.

Talking of the NME, anyone who used to read the music paper in the early 1990s may remember a cartoon drawn in the style of Gillray called Dr Crawshaft’s World of Pop. But did you know that it was drawn by Arthur Mathews who went on to co-script the sitcom Father Ted?

So I suppose there’s hope for us all if we get disillusioned with the world of cartooning. Right, it’s time to get back to the drawing board/typewriter/record decks …

Comic Love is on BBC Radio Four at 10.30am on Saturday 19 July.

The PCO British cartoon talent

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by Royston

Cartoons on the radio

July 16, 2008 in General

Excerpt from a comic strip by comedian Phill Jupitus

Comedian Phill Jupitus hosts a programme called Comic Love on BBC Radio Four this week, in which he talks about his love of comics and newspaper strips.

An occasional cartoonist himself, he has produced a strip to go with an article promoting the radio show in the BBC’s online Magazine. You can see it here: Seeing the world in four panels. A different strip and article can also be seen in the July 19 edition of Radio Times.

Comic Love is on BBC Radio Four at 10.30am on Saturday 19 July.

The PCO: British cartoon talent