Congratulations, Will Pinfold! By sending over a second batch of drawings from your 1980s Fife childhood, you’ve instantly become Felt Trips’ most prolific contributor. The adventures of Will’s mid-1980s feline archaeologist Pussyana Jones were charming and wholesome, but by the late 1980s his soul had clearly been corrupted… by Dungeons and Dragons, (very) graphic novels and Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. At the age of 13, he might have been slightly too young for the dubious delights of Merrydown Cider, but otherwise his lifestyle was a perfect mirror of my own sophisticated late 1980s social soirées.
From this giddy combination of influences came Will’s comic book “zombie detective” Steve Spector…
… and it’s over to Will for the full story:
“The story of a zombie detective tracking down those responsible for his murder may sound like a timeless one, but Steve Spector was a very 1980s concoction. He brought together various elements that, in 1988-89, my 13-14 year old self held dear: his occupation (‘occult detective’) was straight out of the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu, which I borrowed from the library aged 12 but unfortunately never actually managed to play with anyone. His appearance owed much to the fact that, like many kids of my generation, I whiled away unfeasibly long and boring periods of maths or geography by trying to draw Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie on my school jotters. And the whole strip wouldn’t have existed at all without the late 1980s marketing drive that persuaded adults – as well as kids – to actually buy comics. The graphic novel/mature readers comics boom had its roots in the underground comix of the 1960s and 70s, but Steve Spector borrowed its would-be melancholy and noir-ish tone directly from Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s iconic The Killing Joke, while its penchant for gore and violence came from the horror fiction I was then devouring, specifically Shaun Hutson’s pulpy, gore-filled novels, and especially his 1989 zombie gangster opus Assassin.
A promising cross-pollination of zeitgeisty ideas then; the only fly in the ointment being that, alas, I was 13, and didn’t have the patience or skill to plan and write a sophisticated comic strip. And I couldn’t really draw very well either.
As with so many creative childhood projects, the real fun was in the planning and ideas stage, and it’s typical that – although a only couple of abortive Steve Spector strips were started – several (what seemed to me) highly finished covers were drawn. All of which, although I’m sure I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, mirrored in a childish way the less salubrious end of the ‘graphic novel’ market, where scrappy, unremarkable strips were collected and put into books with beautifully painted covers by artists like John Bolton and Dave McKean. I make no great claims for the covers of Steve Spector, but I took conspicuously more care over them than the actual strip itself.
Reading it now, it would appear that I had no real idea why our hero didn’t stay dead, or why he was buried with his hat and gun. These are the facts: the 23-year-old ‘occult detective’ is killed in a drive-by shooting in New York in 1947 and rises from the grave ten years later. This rotting zombie in a mouldering trench coat then looks up the details of his death in the ‘New York Public Library’, revisits his old office to look for clues, and drops in on his old secretary Kate who reminds him – at gunpoint – of the case he was investigating at the time of his death. Spector had been gunned down while examining a house where a client’s wife had ‘died of fright’ while the client was out of town on business. To cut a short story shorter, Spector tracks down this client who was, it turns out, working for a gang boss who was running a lucrative line in fake séances to con old ladies out of their money. Spector kills the client, sparking a war between himself and the gang. He then buys a car that looks suspiciously like Stephen King’s Christine (I have the feeling this is why it was set in the 1950s) and after a few gory killings, lines like ‘Steve! You’re alive…ish!’, and ever more bare-looking panels, I ran out of steam.
A second, much more carefully drawn origin story was started a year or so later, which seems to be set in the then-present (there are ‘punks’ and so forth, though Spector still wears his trench coat, scarf and fedora), but ‘better-drawn’ isn’t everything; the excitement of creation had gone and for all the apparent care taken over it, Steve Spector Mark II feels – appropriately perhaps – far more lifeless than his original 80s incarnation.”
Thanks, Will. And his blog is here…
Felt Trips is a collaborative effort. If anyone wants to contribute their own childhood drawings from the era, I would be utterly delighted – please drop me a line using the “Contact” link at the top of the page. A good quality scan would be perfect, but – if not – then a clear photo of your artwork, lying flat, is fine. And maybe a few words of explanation, too: when the drawings were done, how old you were, what inspired you to tackle those particular subjects? Thanks so much.