A blog about British comics from KRSinc


ALL POINTS BULLETIN: The ZINE cartoonists missing in action… Can you help find them? #4: Andrew Gawne

A recap: on the former Charlotte’s Mag/The ZINE cartoonist front, we’ve established that Jamie Smart went onto become a hugely successful artist on The Dandy, and that Joseph Champniss pursued comedy. We have not heard anything about Matt Saw or Alex Mason – if you know anything, please do get in touch!

Next up: Andrew Gawne. Now, I only recall him doing one strip – ‘Shit Happens’ – which unfolded across issues 9 and 10 of The ZINE. I did rather like his style, and his mix of media. I knew nothing of him then and I know nothing of him now.

My research throws up five Andrew Gawnes across the UK who might possibly be him: in Derbyshire, West London, the Isle of Man and Birmingham, plus an Andrew G Gawne, location unknown.

But enough of the stalky talky, and onto the piccy-wiccies…

As per normal, CLICKEN to EMBIGGEN.


SCANTASTIC! Colin MacNeil’s brazen attempt to rig 1990 Eagle Awards

Okay, so it was nothing of the sort…

I was always more of a mainstream comic reader than a fanboy, but in 1989 and 1990 I did make the trek up to That There Lunnon for the 2000AD/Judge Dredd Annual signing thingummy organised by Forbidden Planet. It was the first time I’d ever met comic creators! I think it would have been in July, or maybe August. School holidays, definitely. The first time I went up with a couple of school friends, with my dad in tow, but by the next year I was trekking into Town fairly frequently on my own anyway, so I suspect that year’s trip was parent-free.

Anyway, my memories of exactly who was at what signing are somewhat hazy, not helped by the fact that I don’t have all the annuals I got signed (as I sold off some of my collection at the beginning of the recession due to pennilessness, d’oh). I do remember that the 1989 signing (of the annuals cover dated 1990) – at Cafe Mango I think? – was late to start because Simon Bisley was late… But when he did turn up, wow! He was like a rock god! Not that I had any interest in rock gods, but boy was he charismatic. Strange to think that a speccy dude in a mullet entranced me so much, but he did. Suddenly all the heavy metal muscled men and pneumatic warrior women in Sláine: The Horned God (the first volume of which was out as a 2000AD Books full colour TPB at the time) made a lot more sense… Bisley was great – rather tipsy, but good fun. He rattled off a great sketch of Joe Pineapples from the ‘ABC Warriors’ for me, unprompted. After the signing I rushed back to Forbidden Planet on New Oxford Street to get myself a JP badge, which I wore on my school blazer for ages!

Besides The Biz, there was Kev Hopgood, who seemed like a really nice chap, though I just wasn’t a fan of his work (Night/Beyond/Below Zero). Even at the time I felt guilty about not enjoying his stuff. Finally, there was Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell – this was the time of ‘Zenith’ – and the then deputy-Tharg Alan MacKenzie, who I knew as the author of How To Draw And Sell Comic Strips (illustrated by Steve Parkhouse), a book I had on perpetual loan from my local library.

The next year the signers included MacKenzie (again), writers John Smith and Pete Milligan, plus artist Paul Marshall (whose work I really wasn’t very familiar with). The big hitter, though – in the Bisley seat, so to speak – was Colin MacNeil. This was after Chopper: Song Of The Surfer had come out, but possibly before Judge Dredd: America. MacNeil was the antithesis of Bisley – shy, very quiet – but as generous to a humble fan. I think he sketched me a quick Marlon Shakespeare, but I can’t remember where I’ve stashed it. I then seized my moment, whipped out a blank Eagle Awards nomination form, and asked him to put his name in the ‘Favourite Artist’ section, and to sign it. He visibly cringed, but he did it anyway, sport that he was.

And, uh, that’s the story of how COLIN MACNEIL TRIED TO RIG THE 1990 EAGLE AWARDS!

Edited 5 October to correct foolish error

ALL POINTS BULLETIN: The ZINE cartoonists missing in action… Can you help find them? #3: Joseph Champniss

Talk about synchronicity. Since first posting about The ZINE – which provided an early outlet for many talented cartoonists, including The Dandy‘s Jamie Smart, Matt Saw and Alex Mason – the artist I was planning on next mentioning has been (tangentially) mentioned in relation to the big British news story of the moment. So to Joseph Champniss.

In Charlotte’s Mag and The ZINE, Champniss specialised in these beautiful, almost puppet-headed caricatures of musicians, which he used to great effect in slightly unhinged biopic strips that were four-fifths feverish imagination, 15% teen bile and the rest back-of-a-fag-packet facts – in contrast to the hideously anodyne examples of the form that had previously filled the pages of Look-In, TV Tops and the like. It wasn’t just the likes of Zappa, The Smiths or Pink Floyd that were rendered in the Champniss way.

He also illustrated articles by others, including a delicious one on the nexus of tabloid papers and the royal family (which resonates rather well in the wake of the recent Prince Harry/Duchess of Cambridge furores); and his own strip ‘Verity’s Point’ demonstrated that he could easily handle the long form as well – and in painted colour as well as black line (with a lovely ‘3D’ sequence thrown in for good measure).

I never met Champniss, but The ZINE‘s editor Bo spoke glowingly of him and his talent. It wasn’t until the early 00s that I came across him again. This time it was via the Some Of The Corpses Are Amusing website he was involved in. Devoted to television comedy, SOTCAA – along with Glebe’s Thrift FunnelCook’d And Bomb’d and Off The Telly – was a fine way to while away the hours whilst the boss was out of the office. It was particularly good on why channel controllers were often the very worst people to have in positions of authority when it came to deciding what was funny enough to end up on television. I would imagine that this line of thinking made the young Champniss a philosophical confederate of Lee & Herring, whose own TV careers came to an abrupt halt when (despite decent ratings and a firm following) they came up against the likes of Jane Root. However the hook-up came to be, Champniss notched up his one and currently only IMDb credit through his L&H connection, with art department work on This Morning With Richard Not Judy.

Since then, though, I had heard not a jot. I know that there is a SOTCAA Twitter account, but whether that is Champniss or his oppo Mike Scott, I knew not. Then, whilst I was in the process of putting together this serious of blog posts on former ZINE artists, the Jimmy Savile child abuse thing blows up (overseas readers: find out more here). A somewhat plausible (yet also clearly faked) transcript of outtakes from an episode of topical comedy show Have I Got News For You supposedly recorded back in the 1990s, featuring an angry Paul Merton berating guest panelist Jimmy Savile in relation to underage sex, resurfaced, after years of floating around the interwebs. It had of course been cooked up on SOTCAA. However, only today did I discover the full story behind it, thanks to an excellent blog post about it by John Fleming, which features Champniss’ own account.

(On a related note, Pat Mills was only today talking about who inspired his hyper-sadistic character Torquemada.)

Anyway, so at least we have established that Champniss is still around! Let’s see some pics…

You know the score: CLICKEN to EMBIGGEN. For more Champniss delights, check the archive at SOTCAA.

ALL POINTS BULLETIN: The ZINE cartoonists missing in action… Can you help find them? #2: Alex Mason

Following on from the last post, about former The ZINE art monkey Matt Saw, this time it’s the turn of prolific cartoonist Alex Mason.

As Dandy artist Jamie Smart noted on Twitter, he was “heavily featured” in The ZINE, and “AMAZING” (yes, I know I am milking a very brief twexchange – but dagnammit, these are talented people we’re trying to trace, and every little helps!) – yet I’ve neither seen nor heard of his work since 1994, when the mag closed.

So if you know Alex Mason, know about Alex Mason, or indeed are Alex Mason, please do get in touch – either through the comments section or by emailing your estimable blog editor, Cap’n KRS.



ALL POINTS BULLETIN: The ZINE cartoonists missing in action… Can you help find them? #1: Matt Saw

Right, so we’ve got the introductory post about The ZINE out of the way, you’ve been hooked by the early Jamie Smart art work – now onto part two: locating all those very talented ZINE artists who just seemed to disappear…

First up: Matt Saw.

His cheeky little scrawl was all over The ZINE – big eyed wee characters, often facing some kind of trouble. Great fun!

But where are you, Matt? Did you keep the creative juices flowing? Let us know!

IF you know anything about Mr Saw’s subsequent trajectory – or indeed if you are Matt himself – please do get in touch, either through the comments below or by dropping an email to Cap’n KRS.

For the meantime, here’s some top Matt Saw artwork for y’all to enjoy (clicken to embiggen)…

SCANTASTIC! The ZINE and the earliest known published work of latterday Dandy artist Jamie Smart

Many moons ago, as a teenager, I (briefly) worked at a magazine called The ZINE.

The ZINE was a glossy affair, with plenty of colour, record reviews, band interviews and all the other ephemera of an indie-leaning youth publication of the 1990s, but what made it stick out from other titles on the racks at WHSmith was that it was a magazine completely filled with reader contributions. Angsty poetry, angry letters, sad tales of abuse, enthusiastic opinion pieces – it was all in there.

Initially a self-published fanzine called Charlotte’s Mag which was launched in 1991, it was rebranded The ZINE in 1993 – the new name and the skimmed-over computer game section part of the conditions laid down by the money people who got on board promising nationwide distribution. It was to last ten issues in this form, with circulation (if I recall correctly) into six figures. Tell me that’s not impressive!

I think it is safe to say that it had a loyal readership, who in turn were also very often passionate contributors – writers, reviewers, photographers, even sub-editors and office dogsbodies. Yes, as well as reading this magazine, and then sending in our own stuff to it, many of us also descended on The ZINE‘s office, in a farmhouse in the Surrey countryside, eager to ensure each issue went out, keen to learn the ropes. For some it was to set them on the path of journalism and publishing, for others it was simply a case of stepping up to repay the mag for both listening to and speaking for us. I guess I fell between the two stools somewhere.

Anyway, perhaps best of all was the artwork. From full-on paintings down to biroed doodles on the backs of envelopes, The ZINE offered anyone who was prepared to have a crack the opportunity to be seen by others. Some of the cartoonists were phenomenal – like Joseph Champniss, with his Look-In-style indie band biopic strips, or Dr Adolf Steg, with his feverishly bizarre renderings of monster-like creatures; or the increasingly ubiquitous Alex Mason and Matt Saw, each with their own instantly recognisable style.

‘Where are they now?’, you may ask. Well, Champniss worked with Lee and Herring, and co-created the Some Of The Corpses Are Amusing comedy website. Dr Steg has a website. Mason and Saw? I don’t have a scooby – and damn them for their google-proof names!

One former ZINE artist in particular though is still around, still cartooning, and doing so rather successfully: the wonderfully talented Jamie Smart.

Yes, Jamie Smart – whose memo helped revitalise The Dandy, whose own rendition of Desperate Dan divides audiences (personally I love it), whose own creations like ‘Bear‘ bubble with imagination and creativity – had his first work published at the age of fourteen in The ZINE!

So sit back, relax and enjoy some very early work by Jamie Smart – taken from The ZINE issue 5, originally published with a cover date of December 1993/January 1994 (clicken to embiggen)…

NB: I did contact Jamie to check with him that these were indeed his cartoons, and also to ask if he minded if I blogged about them. Many thanks Mr Smart for giving me the green light!

SCANTASTIC! ‘Zap! Pow! The astonishing growth of Graphic Novels’ – yet another “comics aren’t just for kids” article from ‘BOOKS’ magazine (June 1990)

In the mid 1980s, right through to the early 1990s, thanks to the whole speculation shitstorm which gave the illusion of healthy financial investment in comics, you could barely open a newspaper or magazine without some barely-evidenced article announcing that ‘comics aren’t just for kids!’

There were a few culprits: Art Spiegelman’s Maus – a holocaust survivor’s tale told in anthropomorphic pictures – was one of the prime suspects, with its classy perfect-bound gatefold paperback edition published by Penguin to great fanfare. Then there was Frank Miller’s canon-stretching Batman series The Dark Knight Returns, collected by Titan into a nice trade paperback. Grant Morrison and Dave McKean gave us the provocative Arkham Asylum.

These books and others seemed to take the form – as understood in the Anglo world – further away from the juvenile roots of comics, expounding upon existential themes, adult ideas, often with meticulously painted instead of the industrial assembly line plot-pencil-ink-colour-letter process of the American business.

But whilst some of these books clearly were conceived for a contained long-form, the big comic publishers sensed an opportunity, and before long every two-bit superhero, every slightly angsty übergoth outsider character, was in on the act, with Marvel and DC leading the effort to wage war on guiltless trees the world over. Otherwise pedestrian arcs of regular joe comics were packaged together, given a shiny new cover, and marketed as ‘graphic novels’. Comics for grown ups. Because comics have grown up. Groan…

And obviously having gone down the path of parcelling up product for second sale, the publishers also put in a lot of resources to market these naked-emperor books; and the mainstream book publishing companies, smelling the sweet scent of easy money, were wholly complicit. Hey, everybody wanted their own Maus.

So that’s why you would see all these crappy articles.

This one is from bookshop trade mag ‘BOOKS’, which was a freebie distributed through the Booksellers Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ‘Charter’ network. To be honest, it’s not the worst of its kind.

» BOOKS magazine article (June 1990) (PDF)