Another in a series of mini-interviews with the guest artists who are featured in Dump #2. Next up is Neil Paterson...
DR: Have you always been interested in comics?
NP: I didn't know that you could be interested in comics until I came to work at this verdamnt library! Before then I simply read the darn things.
Reading comics begins with the Beano and the Beezer which were delivered on a weekly basis to the house. These would have been sent for my elder brothers so I guess they were there from my very early infancy. On a similar basis, Tintin books - and a little later, Asterix.
My favourites were Dennis the Menace (before he replaced Biffo the Bear on the front page and thus lost his anarchic status) Minnie the Minx, Colonel Blink (I could never figure out whether his career as a gink had been enhanced or destroyed by his myopia) , the Numbskulls and the Bash Street Kids. Certain illustrators turned me right off. I never liked 'Tom Dick and Sally' for instance for that reason.
Favourite Tintin books would be The Castafiore Emerald - hilarious! - and The Calculus Affair. I model myself on Captain Haddock who puts his hand to his heart and gasps 'that's better' whenever he imbibes alcohol. I've gone right off Asterix.
Mum continued to get the Beano delivered and post it on to me (as the baby of the family) well into my first marriage. Thus I was able to watch the slow and sad deterioration of both the art and the storylines of the Beano as the number of frames diminished and the writers of the scripts appeared to lose interest in their characters. I have always believed that the Viz is the true inheritor of the quality of storywriting and illustration, albeit puerile.
I was aware of Superhero comics but have never paid much attention to them.
Gran Paterson would bring the comic pages from the Sunday Post when she visited from Bellshill. Not just Oor Wullie and The Broons, but Merry Mac's fun Parade with King Gussie and Keyhole Kate. The puzzles featured people whose faces were composed of numbers and you had to thus figure out how old they were. A favourite memory is sitting on my gran's lap while we read 'Oor Wullie' together. She would read so far and stop and I would read out the dialogue from where she left off in delight.
Our uncle who worked for IBM in America used to cut out and send comic strips from the States. Uhhhh... Sad Sack and Archie come dimly to mind. More than anything else about these I remember me and my brother used to cut the characters out of the comic and swap about their heads and bodies. We kept the bits in an old tobacco tin.
I was at primary school when I started making my own comic - 'Scotbloc' - which was named after the (in retrospect) vile cooking chocolate that we would pester our mum for squares of.
The characters in the comic included 'The Potty Blacks' who were a snooker obsessed family with very long noses which they used as snooker cues. I think this was the sole gag in the whole strip. 'Jamie the Schoolboy Detective' was on the front cover. He wore a duffle coat and had a tammie hat and walked with a crutch which seemed like a very cool and sophisticated appendage. I cannot remember anything much about him except that - Tintin like - he succumbed to chloroform in the last panel of the strip. And he had a pet cat. I cannot imagine that it ran to any more than two editions, shared with some friends.
In secondary school myself and two others in my art class created two editions of 'Gloverhouse' whose name derived from 'Penthouse' (a popular pornographic magazine at the time) and Colin Glover, a stocky redhaired classmate who played rugby. Immensely popular, it featured various adventures of Colin Glover including fronting his own versions of Motorhead (Gloverhead) and the Plasmatics (the Glovermatics) with Colin dressed as Wendy O. Williams including breasts with black tape over the nipples. The rest was insulting cartoons of art and PE teachers, classmates who provoked our ire and lots of cocks as I recall. Including the unimaginative adventures of The Cock Family. One edition was confiscated by a PE teacher, the other disappeared when left in the glove compartment of a friend's car which got scrapped along with a copious back catalogue of paper based jazz mags.
Asides from Gloverhouse, secondary school was an inspirational time for offensive cartoons decorating jotters, textbooks, posters, desks and walls etc.
I had to sandpaper all the desks in my German class for drawing a cartoon about a product called '28 days Pure Menstrual Juice' on one of the desks. My good friend Digby Sym was asked in front of the whole English class by his teacher why he thought the size of her breasts was a reflection of her teaching abilities. Poor Digby was unaware that his homework had been illustrated with a figure at the bottom of the page sporting a massive erection saying 'Just because you've got big tits Miss Hill doesn't mean you can mess with me.'
I have been delighted that Viz Comic runs a defacement competition which recalls those happy days where marks are awarded for speech bubbles too small to contain all the text (generally saying things like 'yum - I love spunk'), huge cocks, V shaped tits with stick nipples and steaming piles of shite. I am also proud to observe that my 15 year old son and his friends enjoy the same innocent pleasures on their jotters although his draughtsmanship is not as good as mine.
But I digress. Next question?
DR: What has been your experience in making comics between 28 days Pure Menstrual Juice and your contribution to Dump?
NP: I drew cartoons for some student magazines when studying Art History at St Andrews University and was always astonished at how little attention and praise they drew. The notion that JBS Haldane had a younger brother – ‘Chippy’ - who was a Flyweight Boxer and won the Driesh Boxing Championships was apparently not very funny.
From that negative experience on, I drew few cartoons, never mind making comics. This was until my wife and I began making designing, dyeing and printing T-Shirts in the middle of nowhere and I drew a promotional flyer featuring an artist cat who wore a beret and sunglasses and the title of the ‘business’: ‘The T-Shirt Shack’. For unknown reasons the cat became a dog named Artie and with his companion Troon the cat began to make pronouncements about art and philosophy in 12 – 16 frame cartoon strips.
An unfortunate and heavy drinking acquaintanceship with the editor of Green Scotland Magazine led to the ‘T-Shirt Shack’ appearing in their august pages along with my designs for the front covers and a Nature Diary. The ‘T-Shirt Shack’ also appeared in the pages of the late and much lamented Neil Mathers’ ‘Epoch’ magazine. ‘Green Scotland’ had a modest distribution, whilst Epoch was generally handed out freely by Neil Mathers to whoever wanted to read articles about Proudhon and the like photocopied out of library books. He was always upset when even his free copies were left lying unread in the pub. Oh well.
The Green Scotland editor persuaded me to write more TSS adventures and they were printed up in their own magazine ‘The Revolutionary Almanach’ which generated as much interest and financial reward as ‘Epoch’. I trailed several hundred copies of that bloody comic from house to house following various flits and evictions until they were humanely destroyed in a conflagration of furniture and oversized oil paintings outside Forfar producing a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of flame by night by which I led my family to Kirriemuir and a smaller house. A few copies must surely exist, although the only two I am aware of are mine and one kept to this day – for reasons which are difficult to understand – by my ex-wife.
From then on cartoons and certainly comic books did not feature in my oeuvre, although my ‘style’ is broadly ‘cartooney’ until last year when a review of my creative output led me to the conclusion that indeed, cartoons and cartoon strips were the direction I should be going in.
Unfortunately a re-awakening of interest in drawing cartoons coincided with beginning working at Arbroath Library where there is an enviable collection of ‘graphic novels’ covering a range of themes, styles and genres I had never conceived of. It’s given me a lot to think about. Too much. Now, if I were to pick up an 0.8 drawing pen it would make the front page of the Courier. Contributing to ‘Dump’ briefly interrupted this blissful nadir.
DR: Glad to hear it. What else have you been up to, artistically speaking?
NP: Artistically the concentration has been on amateur dramatics and Burns Night recitations of late. The local Panto is an enormous favourite and last year I was lucky enough to finally fill the shoes of the Dame in Kirriemuir! (The director gave me his sage advice: ‘Dinna dae it too poofy’ which alerted me to the deep aesthetic consideration the previous incumbent had given to the role.)
However, my companion in performance crime, Mark Thomson – to whom I affectionately refer as Sweary Poet (SP for short) – has often stressed to me how much time and energy I give to these pursuits and how little in consequence I give to my own writing and performance. This is very true, especially considering that I am obliged to work a minimum of three nights a week and cannot help but view writing or drawing in my spare time as ‘more work’.
So this year is the ‘Big Push’ with ‘The Hardest Chip Shop in Scotland’. Following my acclaimed appearance as Holy Wullie at this year’s Aberlemno Hall Burns’ Night I have notified amateur directors and producers that I will NOT be available for shows as I shall be concentrating on developing and producing the HCSIS performance. To this end I have written a LIST of things I need to do to achieve this outcome.
Let me tell you in some detail about this show.
I first met SP when I was doing my Community Education college placement in Whitfield and the Hilltoon – he was a poet who had got involved as a participant in a project based at the now disappeared Highwayman Pub turned Community Centre. I had not long got the band the ‘Duke of Portland’ going and invited him and two other poets in a similar vein – Gary Robertson and Kevin McCabe (collectively Tribal Tongues) – to be our support. The mix worked wonderfully well.
Following the demise of DOP, it took an invitation from SP to continue to work together to rekindle my will to perform my songs. Quite simply he would do one of his poems then I would do one of my songs, then mebbe a couple of poems then me – de dah de dah de dah… Well received if a little unimaginative in presentation. It was during a gig in New Deer (of all places) that we walked into one of the hardest chip shops in Scotland, and some new songs and poems were born.
The Hardest Chip Shop in Scotland as a title is, I feel, an excellent brand for the performances – but suffers from not living up to the expectations that the title (and poster) build in the imaginations of the audience. Asides from wearing chip shop style white coats and writing MOCK CHOP on our knuckles there has been little to bind the poems and songs as a ‘show’. What I (am trying to) work on now is a collapsible set that I can fold up and transport to gigs in the back of my car; characters (with costumes and monologues) that can enter the chip shop as customers and then sing my songs; a dedicated Facebook page with short sample videos and a storyline that will give everything coherence. I want it to roll out like a sketch/song/poetry show, seamless and without blemish.
However, saying stupid things that make people laugh in company is easy. Sitting on your own at a desk trying to wrestle funny things out of the unprovoked imagination is shit.
DR: How did you find the process of drawing “Cycling Through Freedom”?
NP: Piece of piss.
Interpreting and developing somebody else's ideas is no bother. Trying to crack ideas out of the pumice stone of my own mind is the problem.
DR: Can we expect to see more comics from you in the future?
NP: As I go through a period of rampant ideas (sadly not matched by any tangible signs of creativity) I have realised that a good bit of merchandising to accompany The Hardest Chip Shop in Scotland’ would be ‘the Chip’ – the official organ (comic) of THCSIS, featuring the adventures of the various characters and for sale at gigs. Done naff all about it as you can imagine. If anybody wants to write the scripts I’ll happily draw the damn thing.
Neil is available for commissions for illustrations and songwriting. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org