Thursday, 30 June 2011

My Life as a Comic Character

Back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, when I was working in Comic Showcase, I got to meet a lot of established and rising stars of comics. One of the loveliest people I met was the artist Paul Johnson. I remember going round to Paul’s flat in Borehamwood in 1990 to interview him for a magazine when he asked if I would pose for him, as he worked from photographs. Flattered, I obliged and the results appeared in the Hellraiser/Nightbreed: Jihad two-parter written by Dan Chichester (above and below). That was the start of a long “working” relationship and close friendship with Paul, posing for a whole range of comics, which spanned seven years. Those sessions were always lots of fun and often involved copious beers and holding brooms or toy guns, as if being attacked by some monster, or dangling off stepladders in awkward and uncomfortable positions, while Paul got the right shot. But he was always an excellent director, explaining the story and getting the best emotive reactions.
I wasn’t the only one who modelled for Paul, and if fact nearly everyone I knew back then posed at some point including Woodrow Phoenix, Ilya, my old boss Art Young, Dick Hansom, my other old boss Paul Hudson, my ex-girlfriend Yasmin. You name it, we’re all in there!
We were generously “paid” with free beer all evening, a meal out after the session and a page of artwork. More than fair compensation!
Below: Books of Magic #4 (1991)
Written by Neil Gaiman, this introduced the young spectacled apprentice wizard, and his owl, to the world. No, not Harry Potter, but Tim Hunter. This came out a whole six years before Mr Potter appeared on the scene, yet no court case has arisen. Warner Bros. own DC Comics, as well as the HP movie and merchandising franchise, so it would be a bit like suing themselves, so that’s probably why it’s all played down! Anyway, I played the older, evil Tim Hunter killing all the DC magical heroes in the future. Mwhahaha! Ahem. Paul very kindly gave me the page below as payment for posing (I suspect I got the better part of that deal).
Below: The Invisibles #16 (January 1996)
In this story I played Dane McGowan (aka Jack Frost), the angry and confused Invisibles neophyte who finds his way and becomes a potent force in the team. This issue was a turning point for the character as he cuts his hair and returns home after a year's adventuring.

It’s well documented that Grant Morrison adopted the persona of The Invisibles' leader King Mob (or vice versa?) and that bizarre things began to befall him. In an equally strangely prescient moment I ended up suffering from alopecia areata and cut my hair short and dyed it blonde in an effort to hide the damage, three years after posing for this. Just like Dane. This was something I would never even considered previously. Life imitating art, or art dictating my destiny? If the latter, a quick appeal to Grant: Can you write a story where I become a multimillionaire global adventurer? Ta!
I also appeared as Dane in the “sequel” to this issue, Liverpool, in Invisibles #21 (June 1996) below:
OK, OK! I'll stop going on about my hair!
Below: Tharg's Terror Tales: The Devil You Know (1995)
This strip appeared in 200AD Prog 936 and was written by another friend, the wonderful Nick Abadzis. Here I play a cross between two of Harry Enfield's characters: Tim Nice But Dim and Tory Boy. Basically, I'm a Conservative twat you gets his comeuppance underneath a tube train. If only real world politics was so simple.
Below: Janus, PSI 2000 AD Progs 1024-1031 (1997)
I played 17-year-old Judge Mookie in this short story written by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar. Interestingly, Helen Craven, who plays the bald Judge Janus here, took over my roll as assistant editor at Vertigo UK (but that's a long story for another time).
This is me playing Fulcanelli in Dick Foreman and Paul's unpublished Vertigo miniseries. I seem to recall having to hang upside down, half off a bed, for this shot. Not only was I posing for one of the main characters, but I was also the assistant editor on the book, plus Paul's then-partner, Ellie was the letterer. How's that nepotism for you? More on this series in a future blog.
Paul eventually gave up on comics and became a well-respected acupuncturist. Our loss was medicine's gain!

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