Felt Trips: “Steve Spector” by Will Pinfold

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…

http://williampinfold.com/

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.

Felt Trips: “Pussyana Jones” by Will Pinfold

Last week, Felt Trips was proud to showcase “Horror Swamp” and the other fledgling Fighting Fantasy gamebooks produced in mid-1980s Fife by the 11–year-old Paul Gorman, with help from his primary school friend Will Pinfold. What Paul inexplicably failed to mention was that Will was already a veteran illustrator of his own solo publishing venture. A comic strip version of Indiana Jones as a cat. Called Pussyana Jones.

With the benefit of hindsight this feels like a glaring omission, so I’m relieved to report that Will himself, after reading said feature, elected to contact the Haunted Generation website directly with the full, unexpurgated story of this extraordinary creation. It is a story of unfettered childhood ambition, curiosity about the culture of ancient civilisations, David Yip in The Chinese Detective, and watching films backwards by rewinding rented VHS tapes.

Over to you, Will…

“Pussyana Jones, disappointingly, wasn’t some sexy James Bond, or a Blaxploitation-inspired femme fatale. He was just Indiana Jones as a cat, with buck teeth, drawn by two children from rural Scotland. There is not much depth to his story, but – unlike the strips themselves – there’s quite a bit of background.

With the passing of time, every detail of this story now sounds either quaintly surreal or just plain peculiar. Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first film I ever watched on video, after my parents rented a colour TV (a first for us, embarrassingly; I was an adult before I discovered that Bagpuss was pink and not ginger as I’d assumed) and a VCR from wherever it was you rented TVs and VCRs from in the early 1980s. I must have been eight or nine and strangely, I don’t remember having heard of Raiders of the Lost Ark or Indiana Jones before; I just remember the excitement of being in a video shop for the first time and seeing Harrison Ford’s face and ‘Executive Producer George Lucas’ on the case. I had very much heard of Star Wars. My younger brother and I campaigned successfully to rent it, and I think my sister chose The Watcher In The Woods, which gave me the creeps. I’m wary of seeing again in case it doesn’t – as it can’t – live up to the eerie atmosphere that it had in my memory.

I already had an interest in South America that was sparked – I think – by the Tintin books, The Seven Crystal Balls and The Prisoners of the Sun, but the opening section of Raiders… fuelled it further, and I remember getting excited about doing a school project about Aztecs and Incas but shamefully changing to planes instead (I liked them too) after classmates teased me about ‘Spaztecs and Stincas’. That’s kids for you. That first viewing of Raiders of the Lost Ark stayed vividly in my memory though, not just because of the film, but also because of the novelty of the situation. This seems unimaginably tedious now, but immediately after watching it my brother and I then watched the whole film in reverse, mesmerised by the melted Nazis reforming and the explosions putting everything back together. Odd kids, you’d think – but reversed footage was still a novelty and routinely used for comedy effects at that time. Which show was it that had a sketch where they demolished the wrong factory chimney then pulled up the plunger on the detonator to put it back up again?

Shortly after that experience, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was announced and excitement was running high. Spoilers were not an issue for 1980s kids, and part of that pre-release excitement was fuelled by reading ‘the book of the film’: a large format, simplified-for-kids re-telling of the movie, illustrated with stills. Do these still exist? The first of these that I remember reading was the Return of the Jedi Storybook, but most major U or PG-rated blockbusters had one. Even – somewhat optimistically – David Lynch’s Dune. I remember buying the Temple of Doom book from the Scholastic Chip Book Club – which my primary school participated in – and reading it from cover to cover, poring over the photographs and trying to copy pictures from it. My dad was an artist and there were always plenty of pens, pencils and paper around the house, so me and my brother were always trying to draw comics. We both loved superheroes, but also Tintin and Asterix, and I think at this point in 1984 I had a subscription to Marvel UK’s monthly (not great) Indiana Jones comic, whole my brother bought their similarly patchy Star Wars Weekly.

I don’t remember the genesis of Pussyana Jones himself. I think we just found the idea funny and – crucially – it was far easier to draw a cat than Harrison Ford. Pussyana mainly existed as set-piece pictures – like the Temple of Doom movie ‘poster’ – rather than in comic strips, but a couple of never-finished stories still exist. Interestingly, neither is a straight adaptation, although I think we started a Temple of Doom strip. One is the cover and first page of a dubiously-titled adventure called Deadly Rubber, wherein Pussyana travels to South America (no specific country given) to look for a gold relic called ‘The Skull of Torrepani’, placed in a temple by the long-extinct ‘Honcho Poncho’ tribe. It’s hard to say where the adventure was going. On the first page (a tough-to-read combination of felt tip and pencil), ‘Pussy’ – as he is known – decides to stay overnight in an old deserted rubber plantation, only to be ambushed by his dastardly enemy, a dog called Geloq… ‘inspired by’ Raiders of the Lost Ark’s Nazi-assisting French archaeologist René Belloq. But the chances are the artist had not thought any further ahead than that. I’m not sure why I kept it.

The same is true for the five-and-a-half pages of Summer Holiday?, a light-hearted romp in which Pussyana and his friend Meow Can have their holiday in Spain interrupted by – him again – Geloq. Meow Can was ‘based on’ the Temple of Doom character Wu Han. One consequence of reading about the film before seeing it was that (as with Star Wars and its toys) kids knew the names of characters who might barely register onscreen, and their importance was duly inflated. Wu Han (like Wedge in Star Wars) was a cut above most of these ciphers, because he was played by an actor I recognised; David Yip, then best known then for the 1981-2 TV show The Chinese Detective. Which I remember thinking was a cool show, although that’s all I can remember about it at this point. I guess my parents must have watched it.

In Summer Holiday? (seemingly just a prosaic title, but perhaps also pertinent is Cliff Richard’s then-20 year old film musical Summer Holiday, which I think every British schoolkid in the 1980s was familiar with), the action begins on the first night when Pussy and Meow (you have to bear with me here) decide to sleep in baskets on the floor and not in their beds – an unusual reference to their cat-hood. A wise move, since Geloq, posing as a waiter, somehow sets fire to their beds and locks the room. The two cats escape with their luggage and, after similar misadventures the following day, the scene abruptly changes (‘next day at New York’) and a new adventure begins, wherein Pussyana seeks a gold Buddha ‘somewhere in the Himalayas’.

What is, to the best of my knowledge,  Pussyana Jones’s last adventure ends almost poignantly, when Pussyana, contemplating (I think , it’s hard to say from the scrawl) a meal, says, ‘oh boy, this is going to be good’ and then the story comes to a halt mid-page with ‘Soon’… and an empty panel. Presumably I got bored and forgot about it. Marvel’s Indiana Jones comic lasted only eleven issues, the last being in August 1985, and by the time of 1989’s (to me vastly inferior) film Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade I was in my teens and immersed in horror fiction, heavy metal and comics like The Killing Joke, Watchmen and Sandman. Pussyana’s day had long since passed and he became – as you can imagine – an embarrassing memory; but I kept his adventures anyway.”

Thanks, Will. And his blog is here…

http://williampinfold.com/

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.

Felt Trips: “Doctor Who Top Trumps” by Christopher Naylor

Unsettling. Impassive. Slightly… well, haunted. The face of Tom Baker in that iconic 1970s Doctor Who opening title sequence left an indelible impression on so many of our childhoods. The more sensitive of TV viewers even found it scary, but Tom’s penetrating stare nevertheless provided the gateway to a giddy cavalcade of teatime thrills: the Doctor’s daring battles with Daleks, Zygons and Cybermen proving the perfect Saturday accompaniment to fishfingers, marrowfat peas and Mr Kipling’s Cherry Bakewells. Preferably not all on the same plate.

Watching from the safety of his Chelmsford home was four-year-old Christopher Naylor, whose love of the show inspired him to create a beautiful piece of DIY artwork – his own Doctor Who Top Trumps! And incredibly, 45 years later, Chris has actually become part of Tom Baker’s TARDIS team. In March 2021, prolific audiobook producers Big Finish will release Return of the Cybermen, an audio adaptation of the original Gerry Davis script that was extensively rewritten to become the 1975 TV story Revenge of the Cybermen. It stars Tom Baker as the Doctor, Sadie Miller as Sarah Jane Smith… and Christopher Naylor, recreating the late Ian Marter’s role as bold and burly companion Harry Sullivan.

Over to you, Christopher…

“It’s hard to put my finger on my first memory of Doctor Who, although I have a vague image of staring out at the street light through the rippled glass of our front door one night, and imagining myself being taken into Sutekh’s sarcophagus time-tunnel from The Pyramids of Mars.

But I do know that every Saturday, from Grandstand all the way through to Parkinson and beyond, the television was on all day – and always on BBC1, so my awareness of Doctor Who must have faded in gradually. By 1976 – the year from which these frantic scribbles date – I was four, and the show had seized my imagination completely, terrifying and thrilling me in equal measure. I really did hide behind the sofa every Saturday night as the opening titles burst onto the screen. Tom Baker’s Doctor was a hugely important part of my childhood – I adored him, and the show soon took a central place in my life. I had a long (albeit brown) scarf, and a wardrobe to stand in for the TARDIS; during lunch breaks at school I would play at being the Doctor or Harry Sullivan with my best friend Steven Packer, and the following year I failed to win the Silver Jubilee Fancy Dress competition in my home-made Dalek costume.

Even at that age I was always drawing – I still am – so it was inevitable that I’d turn my pencil to the Doctor. I can’t remember the origins of this particular masterwork, but I seem to have been attempting to create some sort of Doctor Who Top Trumps. Tom is the most easily recognisable, and clearly the one I have spent the most time on – his hat and scarf are definitely in evidence. There’s a suggestion of a frilly shirt on the top left, so that must be Jon Pertwee; the dark bob haircut at top right indicates Patrick Troughton, which leaves William Hartnell at bottom right. Well, at least he gets a TARDIS. The whole thing seems to have been scrawled on the back of a Cornflakes packet and hacked into pieces with a pair of safety scissors.

Back then, I longed for the Doctor to land his TARDIS in my back garden and take me with him on his adventures. But somewhere along the way, I worked out that the Doctor and his friends were actually actors, and an idea slowly grew that maybe I could join in by becoming an actor too…

Cut to forty-something years later – and two decades into my own acting career – and I found myself working for Big Finish, the wonderful company who make Doctor Who audio dramas with many of the original actors from the television series. Including the legendary Tom Baker himself. Just to be in the same room as my childhood hero was more than I could ever have expected, so I could hardly believe it when their producer, David Richardson, asked me if I would play Tom’s classic companion, Harry Sullivan.

Working with Tom has been a delight – he’s really everything I had hoped and expected him to be. I was very nervous before I first met him, but he was funny and generous, and of course, wildly eccentric. I remember him making everyone laugh by remarking, ‘Isn’t it terrible about Brangelina?’, as they’d just broken up!

I had to contain myself when I first heard his voice through the headphones – suddenly it was 1976 again. It’s been a real joy to work with him, and to hear him say ‘Hello Chris!’ when I arrive at the studio is still hard to comprehend. It’s almost as good to hear him call me Harry over the headphones…

I can’t believe my luck, really. I still have to pinch myself. But I think if you told the four-year old Christopher back in 1976 that one day he would be the Doctor’s companion and travel through space and time in the TARDIS, I have a feeling he would say, ‘Yes, quite right,’ and then turn back to his cornflakes packet and carry on scribbling.”

Thanks, Christopher!

Return Of The Cybermen, starring Tom Baker, Sadie Miller and Christopher Naylor (above), is released in March 2021, and available to pre-order now from the Big Finish website:

https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/doctor-who-return-of-the-cybermen-2216

 Felt Trips is a collaborative effort. If anyone would like 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.

Felt Trips: “In The Holidays I Went Out Bush But When I Toasted my Braead It Caught On Fier” by Adam Spellacy

I’ve sometimes wondered how the experience of the “haunted” childhood differs from country to country. For a long time I was convinced the phenomenon was exclusively British, the inevitable result of our damp 1970s childhoods with their dreary procession of rainy Tuesday afternoons; of Crown Court and building sites and Vimto and Doctor Who.

Could it even be possible, I wondered, to understand the concept of dark, nebulous childhood unsettlement if you were raised in a sunny country? Surrounded by wide open wilderness and azure blue ocean, and mesmerised by the wonders of multi-channel TV?

The answer, according to Australian-born Adam Spellacy, is a resounding yes. Not least because the wide open wilderness regularly caught fire, the azure blue oceans were filled with sharks, and the multi-channel TV still had Doctor bloody Who on it. Adam grew up in the already disturbingly-named city of Broken Hill, New South Wales, and all of these fears made it into the wonderful childhood drawings and paintings that comprise our latest Felt Trips contribution…

Over to you, Adam!

“These childhood drawings were recently sent to me by my mother, who discovered them while sorting through some old document boxes. They date from the early-to-mid-1970s, when I would have been between five and seven years old.

This portrait of the artist as a young man appeared on the front page of Broken Hill’s local newspaper The Barrier Daily Truth in 1973. I’m five years old, at kindergarten, painting a picture of a cowboy while wearing one of my father’s old shirts backwards as a smock. It must have been a very slow news day.

Scuba divers, sharks and other aquatic beasties feature prominently in my drawings from this time. I remember being so obsessed with sharks that I insisted my mother take me to Broken Hill’s Silver City Cinema to see Jaws when I was seven. These were the days of double bills, and Spielberg’s film was paired with Earthquake, one of the many Irwin Allen disaster films that dominated US cinema at this time – along with miserable, dystopian sci-fi films. Earthquake screened first, and I remember being so scared that I asked my mother during the intermission if we could go home. Now to give you some idea of how ‘scary’ Earthquake is, there’s a scene in it where a bridge collapses and a livestock transport truck topples over and disgorges its contents: the truck is clearly a model and the cows are clearly plastic farm animals. My mother replied: “You want to see Jaws, I want to see Jaws. We’re staying.” Suffice to say that I, like many other impressionable people who saw this film on its initial release, I have never been out of my depth in sea water since. Which is no mean feat if you’re Australian.

The submarine, island and sea monster that feature prominently in this drawing suggest that it was inspired by the Amicus film The Land That Time Forgot, which I saw at the Broken Hill drive-in in 1975. Jurassic Park it ain’t, but in the right light those dinosaur puppets looked the business. I loved it – even though I remember being completely freaked out by the protagonists being left stranded at the end. Thank God for sequels, eh? This drawing was a gift to my favourite teacher at the time, Miss Powell, who evidently had to correct my spelling of her name. She also gave it a kangaroo stamp, the Antipodean equivalent of the elephant stamp denoting “good work”.

I love the colour scheme of this drawing of Batman and Robin. I’m assuming it was inspired in equal parts by my collection of DC comics and repeats of the 1960s ABC television series. I would imagine, at the time, that the campness of the show went straight over my young head, but Robin’s bulging underpants, as seen here, suggest otherwise.

In addition to having a title like a David Lynch painting, ‘In the holidays I went out bush but when I toasted my braead (sic) it caught on fier (sic)’ is notable for documenting a real-life experience of which I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever. My father would often take me on trips into the desolate rural areas surrounding Broken Hill, the northern New South Wales mining town where Wake In Fright (1971) was filmed. It was every bit as frightening as its filmic alter-ego, ‘Bundanyabba’. My abiding emotional memories of these journeys are comprised of overriding anxiety and fear, a dreadful sense of being stranded in a vast and isolating landscape, and of being incompetent at even the simplest of father-son bonding exercises. Feelings all distilled in this rendering of a disastrous encounter with a towering elemental force beyond my control.

I’m unsure as to what media, if any, inspired this drawing of (rather generic) spacemen battling some reptilian creature, but it reveals an early love of sci-fi. It wouldn’t have been long after this drawing was made that I discovered Doctor Who, which became my absolute obsession (and I cannot stress this enough) from the age of five onwards. To the degree that my earliest memory as a child is sitting on the sofa in front of the television as the show’s opening vortex and howling music came on, leaning sideways to peer down the hallway through the back door, where I could see my mother hanging washing on the line and yelling out to her in a tremulous voice: “Mum! Doctor Who’s on!” as if it were an emergency.

She hurried back inside and sat down with me for the duration, which was apparently the only way I could tolerate it. I can even recall the story – ‘Terror Of The Autons’ – because that fucking murderous plastic doll haunted my dreams forever…

I was surprised and not a little crestfallen that the trove of childhood drawings my mother unearthed didn’t include any of my attempts to depict the Doctor or his monstrous adversaries, because I can definitely remember doing so. As I said, I embraced Doctor Who with the fervour of a zealot: it was my weekly escape from the depredation of living in a harsh mining town. As soon as I started to receive pocket money I’d buy a new Target novelisation every week, and read them over and over again (graduating directly from Doctor Seuss to Doctor Who). And when my father brought home our first shoebox-style Panasonic tape recorder, I immediately pressed it into service making audio cassette recordings of the show, placing the recorder on a foot stool near the television speaker. I always assumed that I was alone in this practice, until I encountered other members of the narrow-bandwidth tribe which Bob Fischer helpfully categorised as the ‘Haunted Generation’.”

Shucks, thanks Adam. Felt Trips is a collaborative effort. If anyone would like 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.

Felt Trips: “Nature Project” by Blue-John Benjamin

The artwork of the school project is perhaps the most neglected and forsaken of all our childhood treasures. With our felt-tip depictions of Armstrong’s giant leap, with our wax crayon Pharoahs and the pastel-shaded pencil lines of our wonky Roman invasions, we toiled in pursuit of appreciative red ticks or stick-on golden stars. And then? The fruits of our labours lay neglected in plastic trays or staff room cupboards; often even thrown away at the end of term, forgotten completely in the giddy rush of summer holiday excitement. This was artwork never afforded the same doe-eyed romance as the pictures we drew for our own entertainment: the skew-whiff Daleks and lopsided Darth Vaders that we treasured into adulthood, preserving them through the decades in lofts and spare room cupboards.

Except in the case of Whitby-based singer-songwriter Blue-John Benjamin, who – in characteristically contrary fashion – owns none of his “off duty” childhood artwork, but instead stands guard over an evocative treasure trove of his 1980s school projects. It’s a body of work that forms a beautiful, and genuinely touching, time capsule. The perfect evocation of childhood spent in rural Lincolnshire; and a period where his obsession with the minutiae (and, indeed, the macabre side) of the natural world was occasionally overshadowed by the darker concerns of the decade.

Over to you, Blue-John…

“I no longer have any childhood artwork created purely for pleasure. ‘Trailing palm leaves behind me’ (as Vashti Bunyan sings), I removed all traces. What remains are school projects foxed with age, kept by my parents. I did very little work on them in the classroom: they were completed in a secretive way at home.

As part of the police project of the mid-80s, I remember officers visiting us at the village junior school. One had a briefcase – a salmagundi of narcotics. I also remember looking at a truncheon, dented and pockmarked. Out on the playing field, a display was abandoned: writhing on its leash, the Alsatian concerned went, for whatever reason, berserk. A poem in my project begins with ‘A is for the Anti-Bomb-Squad that acts on demand’, which is perhaps redolent of the times. At that age, ‘Police and Pickets’ was a game that I enjoyed. Being a picket was best: you got to hurl abuse, lob muck, and frenetically resist arrest.

I was already living with what is now termed OCD, and wondering how to tell Mum that I was mad. I spent the Easter holiday of 1986 on my nature project; there was going to be a prize for the best one. ‘Pellets coughed up by a kestrel’ (still at the back, perfectly preserved by Dad) swung the decision in my favour. I knew it was illegal to take a young kestrel from the nest, but, I regret to report, had a magpie named Fagin. He was what we called a ‘wreckling’ – the weakest of the brood.

Radio Lincolnshire gave me a prize for my picture of Prince Andrew and Fergie (imagined at the altar, prior to their wedding), which was essentially a selection of unwanted vinyl, and included The Pretty Things. Quite what a boy of eleven is supposed to do with lyrics such as ‘blind sparrows carry me’, I don’t know, but my brother Rich rediscovered that disc beneath the bunk beds years later, and we would play it on Sunday mornings.

When I arrived at big school – where the older girls looked like Rita and Sue and, if you were lucky, would mother you, and give you a snog at Christmas – I met up with Miss Frost, who lived up to her name and had survived the Brighton hotel bombing, although she was alright when she got to know you. I did a falconry project for her in those pre-Ofsted days, when, in one history lesson, we ended up sitting in the library and watching an episode of Miss Marple, with Joan Hickson. In the Easter holiday of 1987, my parents found me literally working on that project in my sleep. Even at a young age, I was aching for a time that I had never lived through.

The last piece of artwork from my childhood is a poster that I designed for the Horncastle Town & Country Fayre in 1988 – an annual event that is now a thing of the past.”

Thanks so much to Blue-John Benjamin… please investigate his rather wonderful music here:

http://bluejohnbenjamin.com/

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.

Felt Trips: “The Silver Flame” by Ben Graham

For several decades of the 20th century, the lowest shelf of every pokey, street-corner newsagent would groan wearily beneath the weight of a lurid assembly of gloriously overripe comics. From The Beano and Whizzer and Chips to June, Bunty and Misty; from the old-school derring-do of The Eagle and Commando to the bone-crunching futurism of 2000AD, these crinkled, 5p delights were precious school night treats, spread out on living room floors and candlewick bedspreads alike.

No surprise, then, that many of us attempted to create our own versions. We drew brilliantly inventive spoofs or imitations of our favourite titles: thick wodges of DIY felt-tip strips awkwardly stapled together and passed around obliging family members and friends, eagerly awaiting tacit approval. Among this teeny legion of aspiring comic book moguls was writer Ben Graham, now a writer and music journalist for the likes of The Quietus, but – during his childhood – the genius behind titles like this:

Over to you, Ben…

“I grew up in Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire in the 1970s and ‘80s. I was writing and drawing my own comics constantly from the age of about five to around 14, when I moved seamlessly into RPGs and then alternative music fanzines. My main influences were the UK reprints of Marvel comics, but I was also into books like The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Dark Is Rising and The Wizard of Earthsea; Ray Harryhausen films like Jason And The Argonauts and Clash Of The Titans; and anything about King Arthur and his knights, which led to a love of what I generally referred to as “mythology”.

My dad was going through a phase of rediscovering his Scottish roots, and we always had summer holidays in Galloway in Scotland, near where much of The Wicker Man was filmed. He encouraged my interest in Celtic, Scottish and Irish myth cycles, as well as the Viking stuff that I knew from the Puffin edition of Roger Lancelyn Green’s Myths of the Norsemen ,and from Marvel’s The Mighty Thor and Tales of Asgard features.  

The Silver Flame starring The Man Called Mystic dates from 1979 or 1980, when I was eight or nine years old. “The Mystic” was obviously a Dr Strange rip-off, though the actual story was based more upon the original Captain Britain, with stone circles, Merlin, and references to “Otherworld”.

The free gift was probably a home-made badge – cardboard with a safety pin sellotaped to the back – though I can’t be certain if I ever actually got that far!

The Saga of Lugh I’d say came from around the same time but – despite my regressing from felt tips to crayons for the colouring-in – it looks a little better drawn. It was virtually a graphic novel, filling the whole of a 20-page A4 sketch pad, probably drawn over one long summer holiday. 1980? I’d decided that the Irish sun god Lugh was the likeliest candidate for a Celtic superhero in the vein of Marvel’s Thor, and went ahead and did my version of his battle with the Fomorian giant Balor, who I made into a kind of Irish cyclops with one deadly eye.

The Viking warrior on the cover of Cult Comic #2 and the Gamma 6 comic came a couple of years later: it’s 1982 and I’m 11. The science fiction imagery and cynical humour of the Gamma 6 cover suggests the influence of 2000 AD, but the material inside was still a mix of swords & sorcery and superheroes.

I’ve included pages from ‘Knights of Silver Tower’ and ‘The Mysterious Isle’ to give some of the flavour:

I’m not sure that I ever grew out of this stuff, as I now earn a precarious living as a writer, including as a music journalist for The Quietus and Shindig. A couple of years ago I self-published a science fiction novel called Amorphous Albion and I’m still into “mythology.” Under the influence of Alan Moore, I declared myself a magician on the top of Glastonbury Tor on my 40th birthday, and I’ve had the most enjoyable and rewarding decade of my life since then as a result. I’d recommend it to anyone.”

Thanks, Ben! 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.

Felt Trips: “C-3PO’s Exercise Book” by Richard Littler

When I was five years old, I had three homes. The first was my actual home, in the small North-Eastern town of Yarm, where I lived and went to school. The second was my grandmother’s bungalow in the Middlesbrough suburb of Acklam, which provided a cosy weekend haven. The third was the desert planet Tatooine, on the outer rim of the galaxy, whose rolling landscape of sand dunes, moisture farms and seedy spaceports I knew just as intimately as any of its real-life counterparts. In my head, I was Luke Skywalker: and a journey to the Stockton Autoparts shop in my dad’s battered Triumph Toledo was, essentially, a ride in a runaway landspeeder, bullseyeing Womp Rats on the dusty track to Beggar’s Canyon. 1970s motorcyclists were blank-faced Imperial Stormtroopers, and the family dogs on the back seat were Wookies manning the laser cannons.

Such was the seismic impact of Star Wars on the psyche of 1970s children. It was an impact also clearly felt by artist and writer Richard Littler, the twisted genius in charge of communications from the dystopian realm of Scarfolk, and I’m very grateful to Richard for contributing our latest Felt Trips feature: the contents of this carefully-preserved childhood journal…

Over to you, Richard…

“I wrote my first book when I was six years old. Kind of. I’d seen Star Wars for the first time in early 1978 and like many children at the time I was soon an avid disciple. In the days before home video we had to sate our hunger for everything Star Wars by amassing toy figures, comics, bed linen, wallpaper, abridged ‘Story Of’ records, party accessories, and school stationery.

I had a school satchel full of the latter, including C-3PO’s Exercise Book, which I completely filled with Star Wars related drawings and texts. It started out as a catalogue of the Topps Star Wars bubble gum cards I had collected, but I didn’t actually own that many. I completed that task by the end of the first page and was left wondering what to do with the rest of the book.

So the remainder of this slender volume contains my versions of excerpts from The Star Wars Storybook, published by Collins/Armada – and newly acquired by me – in the April of that year. Additionally, there are mini-stories and character biographies that I had written myself, based on my sometimes erroneous memories of having seen the film only once. For example, I recalled incorrectly that Princess Leia had inserted the Death Star plans into R2D2 on the Millennium Falcon…

The difference between the writing styles is glaringly obvious. Suffice it to say that sentences such as ‘Stormtrooper a kind of robot what can fight in war’ and ‘Chewbacca […] was brawt into war if a stormtrooper tryed to kill him he cuold bash them very hard’ do not feature in the Collins/Armada publication.

When I rediscovered and opened my Star Wars exercise book decades later, I found tiny white and coloured fragments of the rubber I had used, caught in the book’s central gutter. I’m almost sure it was a Luke Skywalker eraser, and I know I will have been conflicted over whether to use it or not: every Star Wars item to a six-year-old fan was a treasure – a holy relic – and to deface it would have been an act of heresy.”

Thanks Richard. The force will be with you… always.

Except on Tuesdays, when it only works a half day.

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.

Felt Trips: “Daleks Are Great” by Nick Setchfield

“Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man.” So states the famous Jesuit proverb, commonly attributed to Saint Ignatius of Loyola. And this sentiment has never been more appropriate than in the case of Nick Setchfield, who – at the age of seven, in 1975 – was drawing self-aggrandising Daleks in his Cardiff home, and – in his adulthood – is now a prolific entertainment journalist, editor-at-large of SFX magazine, and the author of two acclaimed novels, The War in the Dark and The Spider Dance, both of which combine Cold War-era espionage with folkloric and magical elements.

Anyway…

As Nick himself says:

“This is either a Dalek propaganda poster found in the ruins of Britain circa space year 2150 AD – or it’s me expressing my deep obsession with all things Skaro at the age of seven. I think the covers of the 1960s Dalek annuals must have been an inspiration, given the way I’ve drawn the midriff. I found The Dalek World at a local jumble sale for 2p and devoured every page, memorising all the survival tips in case of an imminent invasion of suburban Cardiff.

I was certainly building Daleks out of upturned Ski yogurt pots and cocktail sticks around this time. The red polka dot starfield possibly represents an unspoken fear of measles – and are those twin Saturns in the sky?

I still stand by the sentiment.”

Yes, Nick. Daleks are great. And thanks for sharing.

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.

Felt Trips: “The Glade of the Willowmen” by Bob Fischer

In dusty cardboard boxes, shoved to the back of cobweb-strewn attics; so many of us seem to have held on proudly to the artwork of our childhoods. Completely unfettered by either ambition or inhibition, drawn or painted purely for pleasure, these crumpled sheets and exercise books almost comprise a record of the national childhood psyche of the era. Favourite books, comics, films and TV shows were enthusiastically aped, and brand new creations were pulled straight from our teeming imaginations.

I’ve decided to expand the blog a little with a collaborative gallery of childhood artwork from the era, and would love to receive submissions. But I’ll start off with one of my own:

Drawn towards the end of 1984, this was my attempt to create the cover of a Fighting Fantasy role-playing book, and one that I full intended to write. Except, of course, I never any got further than the illustration that you see above. I was approaching my twelfth birthday, and the influence of Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson’s best-selling books had seeped into my creative pores. In addition, there was the seismic impact that The Weirdstone Of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, Alan Garner’s barnstorming brace of folklore-influenced childrens’ books, had made on me: I’d read both books earlier in the year, following a priceless, life-changing school library tip-off from the softly-spoken and impressively moustachioed Mr Millward.

So I’d become entranced by the imagery and the atmosphere of British folklore; of wraith-like spirits darting between trees, and horned (pronounced, obviously, as two syllables) Old Gods rising from the mists. The illustration above clearly owes a lot to the depiction of Herne the Hunter in HTV’s Robin of Sherwood, also broadcast earlier in 1984:

But, oddly enough, I’d also been captivated by this TV advertisement for “Shell Grip” road surfacing, with a silent role for North-Eastern legend Tim Healy, and a typically chilling voiceover from John Hurt:

So the idea of terrifying folkloric figures teeming from the woodland glades of 1984, on a wet country lane potentially somewhere near my house, was too much to resist. I distinctly remember sitting in my bedroom one autumnal evening, filled with a sensation that there was “magic in the air” (I actually had this phrase in my head) and fired with a burning determination that the book simply had to be written.

Which, obviously, it never was. Not a word of it. But drawing the cover with felt-tip pens is further progress than I’ve made on virtually any other book since.

I would love Felt Trips to become 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.