Monday, 16 May 2016

Panel 32: Wonder Woman in London

Daily Constitutional editor Adam continues his Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London



If you are on older reader returning to comic books after a period away – which is my own back story, having rediscovered drawing through my daughter a couple of years ago – then you're in for a wild ride… unless you keep the following three words in mind at all times:


Rebirth, reboot, relaunch.


In the world of 21st century comic books it's back-to-the-drawing-board time-and-again with new artist/writer teams reimagining the famous names in superheroes on a regular basis. Back-stories are plundered and retooled; new-look costumes are drawn; fresh slants – social, political and personal – are found on the pantheon of characters.

Wonder Woman is no exception.

Which is why she turns up here on this blog.

These days Wonder Woman is a Londoner.

Keep an eye out for her on the Jubilee, Bakerloo or Northern lines out of Waterloo Station, she has a pad near Big Ben



It would seem that her 70 year career as a superhero has served her rather well, what with the cost of renting properties in central London ranging from £350 - £3,230 per week

Suffice to say that your average comic book creator is more likely to live in humble (and wonderful) Brockley than in a riverside penthouse.

But then, in a fictional world where the protagonists sit and have a chat atop The Gherkin


… even the price of London property seems reasonably realistic.


The first frame above is taken from Wonder Woman The New 52 by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang & Tony Akins dating from 2011 in which the character's origins in Greek mythology are brought to the fore. It's a field of research that I've always been very fond of, and one that comes up as a theme when I lead my Sherlock Holmes tour for London Walks (more from Holmes on another day, in the meantime catch up with Daffy Duck's take ofthe great consulting 'tec HERE).

Before it all gets a bit high falutin', there's also a really splendid battle with Poseidon in the form of a sea monster in the Thames by Tower Bridge…




That's London Bridge in the background of the first frame and some nice detailing of the Tower itself as well as Tower Bridge in the third. And the "Bong"? Well that's the chimes o' Big Ben carried on what must have been a particularly forceful west-to-southwesterly wind to ring out over the London traffic nearly three miles away.

(Here we go again! Tower Bridge and Big Ben will soon have to pay rent on this blog, appearing as often as they have done. See also posts on Scooby Doo & Disney & Marvel & The Fantastic Four & Über & Danger Mouse.)


The author of this blog, nonplussed at all the kissing in his comic book


The image featuring The Gherkin (above) is from Superman/Wonderwoman by Charles Soule and Tony S. Daniel (2013) – in which WW and the Man of Steel get all kissy-kissy, have tiffs and do all soppy stuff. Yuk.

By which I mean their characters and relationships are explored in a depth never before seen in mainstream superhero comics.

Nah, I was righty first time: they get all kissy-kissy. Yuk.


Despite the kissing (yuk), it is a fascinating take on the most traditionally squeaky-clean of superheroes. And the most All-American - they are both practically dressed in The Flag, they even assimilate like only superimmigrants from Krypton & Paradise Island could.






Long before she acquired her flat in Zone 1 (does she have to pay congestion charge on her invisible plane?) Wonder Woman visited London on a number of occasions. You should also check out the great fun Sensation Comics No.9 (you can buy a digital version HERE) in which Wonder Woman takes on Catwoman at the British Museum, where the latter is planning to steal the Golden Fleece…



(I visited The BM earlier in this series, in Panel No.15 on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.)


Going back further yet, Wonder Woman swung by the capital about 2000 years ago when she joined Queen Boudicca, the Iceni Queen, in fighting the Roman army. 



WW's intervention sent the guys with the funny brush helmets home to Rome about 400 years ahead of their time.





Of the locations above, I'll chose the Gherkin to add to my Cartoon and Comic Book Tour of London…




Thursday, 3 March 2016

Panel 31: This Is London by M. Sasek

Many of you will have packed the kids off to school this morning dressed at their favourite character from a book for World Book Day 2016

It set me to thinking of the books I loved when I was a child. And I didn't have to look too far to find the best of them. Every time I climb the stairs to go to my desk, I pass this bookshelf…


The colourful spines are reprint copies of the great M. Sasek's This Is… series of travel books for kids. We have collected eight of them – San Francisco, Paris, Australia, New York, Venice, Edinburgh, Rome and, of course…




Panel 31. This is London (1959)
By Miroslav Sasek Universe Publishing Inc

Until few years ago, if one had been looking for the work of the great Miroslav Sasek, then several long days trekking round London’s fine old secondhand bookshops would have been the order of the day.

No bad thing, of course. The forgotten art of browsing, particularly in secondhand bookshops, is one of London’s great pleasures.

This is London, however, is such a special book that it deserves to be widely available.

Thankfully, some bright spark came up with idea of re-releasing (and updating) these children’s classics – and now you can pick them up everywhere from independent book retailers (support your local bookshop!) to the gift shops at the big galleries.

Sasek was born in Prague in 1916, which is where he trained as an architect. But it is as the illustrator and writer of the wonderful This is… series of children’s books that he will be remembered by generations of young readers. How many children caught the travel bug from Sasek’s masterpieces?

The first – This is Paris – was published in 1958. My own induction into the world of Sasek came via This Is Edinburgh (first published 1961) which I borrowed from the library on a regular basis when I was a boy. The thrill of seeing the familiar buildings of my native city rendered in those long, tall, Cinemascope lines of Sasek's has never left me. So much so that, long before she could read or even hold a book, I bought This is Edinburgh and This Is London for my daughter.

Here we are six years ago, when Isobella was 3, using This Is Edinburgh as a guide book at the floral clock in Princes Street Gardens…


        


(I love that the gardener's ladder is in both the drawing in the book AND the photograph.)



This is London was first published in 1959. This is how the Times Literary Supplement of the day reviewed it:

“The colour is magnificent and uninhibited, the draughtsmanship brilliant but unobtrusive (one gradually realizes that these bold, stylized drawings are minutely accurate as well as true in general impression). The humour is characteristic and pervasive but always subordinate. The jokes are all pointed. Miroslav Sasek has drawn the visitor's London from foggy arrival to rainy departure. His book is a series of impressions, unrelated, one would think, but they add up to a remarkably complete picture of the modern city. The words and pictures are closely integrated; each has it terse style and humour.”


The affection in which Sasek holds his star – London herself – creates an effect akin to a great director eliciting a once-in-a-lifetime performance from a famous actress of whom her public thought they had seen everything: only to be delighted all over again with a fresh and new take.

Visit the Miroslav Sasek website at www.miroslavsasek.com.


The picture – and location – that I am choosing for this "stop" on the Cartoon & Comic Book tour is St Paul's Cathedral…






For World Book Day my daughter Isobella (now aged eight-and-three-quarters) is dressed-up as a spy. The inspiration came from her fondness for a book called Spyology: the Complete Book of Spycraft by Duggald Steer and also from a book that I enjoyed when I was eight-and-three-quarters (and still do now that I am forty-seven-and-one-sixth) that I recently shared with Isobella, The Big Book of Secrets (1977)…


Giles Brandreth is the author and I recently Tweeted him some belated and quite OTT fan mail for his book which contains excellent tips on disguises, secret codes and suchlike…





In typically jolly fashion, Mr Brandreth replied…





In the context at hand – cartoons and illustration – I'd also like to pay tribute to the illustrator of The Big Book of Secrets Louis Hellman.

Mr Hellman, alas, is not on Twitter, so his fan mail has proven to be less instant (my Tweet was instant, even if it did take 38 years to compose) but it is no less heartfelt.

As you can see from the cover above, the pointy spy cartoons immediately bring to mind the famous (and ongoing) Mad magazine strip Spy vs Spy, created by Antonio Prohias in Cold War 1961…



… and I've often wondered if that was Hellman's leaping-off point.


Google Hellman and you will find him described as an architectural cartoonist – like Sasek, Hellman also trained as an architect. Sasek's knowledge of, and passion for architecture can be seen clearly in the pages of his books and in his take on St Paul's above.


Hellman's passion and talent are no less impressive and, like the great Sasek, Hellman too has a playfulness, a wit, a joie de vivre that leaps off the page. It's a beguiling combo.

Being both a walking tour guide in an urban environment and a cartoon fan, I am particularly fond of Sasek and Hellman – meeting, as they do, at the junction between my work life and my hobby.

My favourite example of Mr Hellman's architectural cartooning is from his famous Archi-Tetes series – in which he captures portraits of the great designers in the style of their buildings. Here's Hellman's take on Wren and the building at the hub of this Cartoon & Comic Book Tour post, St Paul's Cathedral


You can buy prints of Hellman's work direct from his website at www.louishellman.co.uk/architetes



Happy World Book Day 2016!

Here's how to find St Paul's…




Thursday, 25 February 2016

Panel 30: Rock & Pop by Tim Bird @T_J_Bird

In my more naive moments, I like to think I'm in charge of this blog.

Fact is, this blog is the boss o' me.

Just yesterday I blogged about Mr Punch at the National Gallery and I was going to sit back for a week or two to let that one percolate. After that I was finally going to get around to a post on Wonder Woman in London. And then there are two totally fantastic new shows at The Cartoon Museum & The House of Illustration to review. On top of that I've got a thing-or-two to blog about Gillray AND The Simpsons.

Big plans.

And then I went to Orbital Comics on Wednesday and was blown completely off course when I bought this…



… my New Favourite Comic.


Rock and Pop by Tim Bird is about the how the commonplace is rendered elegiac by the presence of music.

It has my very favourite things in it: cartoons, music, London and, best of all, daughters.


For anyone who has ever loved a song, this lovely musical autobiography will strike a chord. I read it on the Northern Line yesterday and when I got off the train at Moorgate I immediately sat down on the platform and read it all over again.


It also features my local record shop Alan's Records in East Finchley!




And that's the location I've added to this Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London



   


You can buy Rock & Pop and all of Tim Bird's other comic creations at his website www.timothybird.co.uk/shop/





COMING SOON ON THE CARTOON & COMIC BOOK TOUR OF LONDON… Wonder Woman moves to The Big Smoke and TWO excellent shows at The Cartoon Museum & The House of Illustration.


The original Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London posts first appeared on The Daily Constitutional




What's your fave cartoon? Drop me a line or Tweet @AdamScottG



Panel 29: Mr Punch at The @NationalGallery

Daily Constitutional editor Adam continues his Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London



Panel 29: Mr. Punch At The National Gallery

I'm almost 30 panels in to my Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London, and so far I've only glanced in the direction of Punch magazine.

Punch – Or The London Charivari was the leading satirical magazine in Britain from 1841 right up to the 1960s when the spikier Private Eye challenged its supremacy. Punch continued publication right up to 1992. A revamp lasted only from 1996 to 2002.

Punch has made cameo appearances in this blog – in my post on the great George Du Maurier HERE and later in the Christmas Special on Henry Cole HERE.

I will return to Punch – both in a dedicated post and as a reference point in future panels – later in the series.

But in the meantime it's a handsome portrait of Mr Punch himself at no less august an institution as The National Gallery.

Despite its prominence in the country's most prominent gallery – it is one of the first pieces on display upon entering the National – you may not have noticed it before. But it's almost certain that you have stomped all over it.

On the landings in the staircase from the main entrance - up the steps from Trafalgar Square and through the portico – there are some fabulous mosaics, the work of Boris Anrep laid in 1933 and 1952. Russian-born (1883 - 1969) his work can also be seen at The Bank of England and at Westminster Cathedral.


On the landing at the National Gallery we have four of his works –  The Labours of Life (1928), The Pleasures of Life (1929), Awakening of the Muses (1933) and Modern Virtues (1952).

These eccentric pieces feature Londoners famous and not-so famous in the roles of the allegorical figures – a Covent Garden porter, for example, represents Commerce, while Greta Garbo stars as Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy.

In Modern Virtues the cultural,  artistic and intellectual life of Britain is celebrated. Churchill is seen fighting off a swastika-shaped demon. And it is nearby that we find Mr. Punch.

Mr. Punch is there to represent humour…



… with Britannia represented by Lady Diana Cooper (1892 - 1996) - writer, actress, society beauty. Britannia is clutching a copy of Who's Who - a joke that keeps on giving, this: Britons then were as obsessed with toffs as they are enamoured with celebs today.

In the mosaic Britannia is seen placing a crown upon Mr. Punch's topper. The lovely suggestion here is that humour is king among the modern British virtues

Oh, I do hope so.



The National Gallery can be found in Trafalgar Square. It seems almost insulting to post a map, but here we go…




… and remember to look DOWN!



COMING SOON ON THE CARTOON & COMIC BOOK TOUR OF LONDON… Wonder Woman moves to The Big Smoke and TWO excellent shows at The Cartoon Museum & The House of Illustration.

This post first appeared on The Daily Constitutional

What's your fave cartoon? Drop me a line or Tweet @AdamScottG





Monday, 1 February 2016

Panel No.28: Cry Havoc

SNEAK PREVIEW EXCLUSIVE! The Cartoon & Comic Book Tour Of London blog usually appears as a series on The Daily Constitutional(the London Walks blog) and is then collated here on this standalone blog. But for Panel 28 I'm breaking with tradition for an outstanding new London-set comic book Cry Havoc.

For a post on how the Cartoon & Comic Book London blog first came about, click HERE.

Thanks for reading!

ASG London, 1st Feb 2016

***

Daily Constitutional editor Adam continues his Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London



Panel 28: Cry Havoc


This Cartoon & Comic Book London blog sometimes takes on a life of its own. Time after time I sit down to blog about one subject only for another to elbow its way in and take over.

"Events, dear boy, events," to borrow from the quote often attributed to former Prime Minister Harold MacMillan.

(MacMillan was on my mind as I've been making notes for a post on political cartoons in readiness for the mayoral election later this year. The idea of Prime Minister as failed superhero starts in the UK with MacMillan in 1958, from the pen of London Evening Standard cartoonist Vicky



I'll be back to both Mac and Vicky at a later date.)

The post originally intended for this slot featured what is rapidly becoming a running theme in this series – Big Ben.

The world's most famous clock has chimed in on no less than EIGHT different cartoons/comic books so far – Deadpool & SpidermanThe Fantastic FourScooby Doo, three different Disney films and Kieron Gillen's Über.

The clock was due to strike nine in my assessment of the view from Diana Prince's new flat – she seems to have moved into County Hall, SE1…



… in DC's Wonder Woman The New 52 (visit the DC website HERE or pick up a copy at Orbital Comics on Great Newport Street WC2).

Yup, Wonder Woman's a Londoner now. I wonder if she pays the Congestion Charge in her invisible plane or if she just tosses the fines in the bin like the American ambassador?

Anyhoo… I'm holding the Wonder Woman post over until a later date but although the post has changed, the clock remains the same.

Bong…

There it is again, ol' Big Ben



… on the cover of the outstanding new book Cry Havoc written by Simon Spurrier and drawn by Ryan Kelly. (Variant cover shown is by Cameron Stewart).


It's unfair to pass judgement after just one issue, but on the evidence here we're in for a white-knuckle ride with Cry Havoc.

This first episode is a fireworks display of great storytellingliterary and mythology references and exceptionally strong artwork. A particular nod goes to the colourists - Nick FilardiLee Loughridge and Matt Wilson. With the tale unfolding along three separate strands, each colourist creates a unique feel in their particular storyline.

The title refs Shakespeare; it is part set in London. It's got music in it (and a serious contender for the best comic book band name of all time – The Squids of Forbearance!). The narrative features supernatural creatures and the fantastic line, "I think I got mugged by a werewolf". AND there's a black ops mercenary mission behind the lines in Afghanistan.

Seriously. What's not to like?

Cry Havoc has particular resonance for this blogger as it features a location from one of my London Walks walking tours – Ghosts of the Old City. More, it features a direct reference to one of the London legends explored on the tour, that of the Black Dog of Newgate Prison.

I've visited the Old Bailey, on the site of Newgate prison, before in this series (in Panel No.14V For Vendetta) and that location features prominently in issue one of Cry Havoc. Artist Ryan Kelly has made some excellent choices in terms of angles on this famous London landmark. Big Ben doesn't make it into the narrative this time, but is deployed as an excellent setting device on the variant cover and London Zoo features, too.

But the London location I've chosen from issue one is Dalston.



Our contemporary comic book writers and artists are really putting our less glamourous neighbourhoods on the map (see earlier post, Panel No.10 on Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's The Wicked + The Divine set in Brockley).

Here's Dalston's debut in Cry Havoc, I'm loving the hipster gag…




… and Spurrier also adds some pithy comments about gentrification in his annotations.

Issue One is hanseled by a quote from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. And just like Conrad's tale, Cry Havoc opens in a seemingly familiar, almost reassuring London, only to quickly unfold into an unsettling, and thoroughly engrossing world of imagination.

We Londoners are spoiled at the moment for great London-set comics – the aforementioned WikDiv, the adaptation of Rivers of London and Metroland to name but three. 

Taxi to Metropolis? Gotham City? At this time o' night, guv'nor? You're 'avin a laugh, intcha? Cry Havoc is yet another reason to never leave London. Can't wait for issue 2.


Issue 2 of Cry Havoc is out in February, published by Image Comics.


*This post will go out on the Daily Constitutional on the 2nd February 2016



Coming soon on The Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London… Vicky, Wonder Woman, Gillray and Comix Creatrix at the House of Illustration. 

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Panel No.27: The House of Illustration

Panel 27: The House of Illustration

During the school Christmas holidays I finally managed to get along to The House of Illustration.

There! I just blurted it out! There was no easy way of breaking the news to the Cartoon Museum that I've been seeing other exhibitions behind its back.

(It's not you, Cartoon Museum. It's me. I'm a shameless gadabout for illustrated matter.)

The House of Illustration opened in July 2014 in the regenerated canal-side area behind King's Cross Station. It was founded by Sir Quentin Blake and 2016 will see a permanent Blake gallery added to the collection, opening in April. The theme of the first show will be Quentin Blake's approach to magic and surrealism.

Sir Quentin was born in Kent in 1932 and his first published work appeared in Punch when he was just 16. He studied art in London at both Chelsea and Camberwell and has illustrated more than 300 books.

He is internationally famed as the illustrator of Roald Dahl's books for children.

Such is the connection between Dahl and the illustrator who brought his characters so vividly to pictorial life that the mere mention of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory floods my mind's eye with Blake's work: those deliciously anarchic, scratchy lines, like a murder of crows splatting into a bucket of broken umbrellas. I cannot remember a time when I was not familiar with his work and I'm delighted to say that he's a big part of my eight-year-old daughter's reading experience too. 

At the opening of The House of Illustration, Blake told The Independent, "Illustration is all around us everywhere, but what I hope is that here you will stop and think about it."

The current exhibition certainly makes us do that – E.H Shepard: An Illustrator's War.

You are already familiar with the work of EH Shepard: he illustrated Winnie The Pooh and (my favourite) The Wind In the Willows



Toad screams for attention, of course, but just look at Ratty! One of the most stylish Englishmen of them all, worthy of a GQ cover all his own.


The long summer days of simply messing about in boats are in high contrast to Shepard's first-hand experience of World War One.





Over 100 drawings are on display depicting scenes on the Western Front, cartoons and, most touchingly, letters home to his wife featuring tender illustrations.

Here's illustrator & cartoonist Chris Riddell (the current Children's Laureate, a post once held by Sir Quentin Blake) with a few words on the exhibition…




(If the widget is unresponsive click HERE: www.youtube.com)

Running in tandem with the Shephard exhibition is Lauren Child's Dolls' House in the South Gallery.



Child is the creator of Charlie and Lola, the tales of young Charlie, the coolest most fantastic-est big brother in the world ever ever ever and his little sister Lola who, by Charlie's reckoning, is "Small and VERY funny." It's no lie.

In an earlier post in this series I stated that you DON'T need to use a child as a beard to love cartoons and the work of Lauren Child is a great case in point, vivid and life-affirming stuff for all ages.


Child's dolls' house is a 30-year work-in-progress and, as pointed out on The House of Illustration website, the miniature construction techniques she learned as a child continue to inform her illustration practice today.

Here she is introducing her dolls' house on the BBC Radio4 programme Today… www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p036m97h)


Given that my context in this series is cartoons in London, I completely must point you in the direction of Lauren Child's Charlie and Lola: We Must Completely Go To London.



You only really need two guide books to London. This is one of them, the other is M Sasek's This Is London (click here for an earlier post on that great book).


Buy Charlie and Lola: We Must Completely Go To London here:  www.amazon.co.uk


There are only got a few weeks left to check out these two exhibitions, E.H Shephard: An Illustrator's War closes on the 24th January while Lauren Child's Dolls' House runs to the 6th February.


From the 5th February, the main gallery will host Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics. here's the blurb…


Explore the world of comics through original artwork by 100 women comic creators working across genres and generations - from the 1800s to the present day; from observational comedy to surreal fantasy, challenging biography to subversive dissent.

Featuring artists from Marie Duval and Tove Jansson to Posy Simmonds, Audrey Niffenegger and Nina Bunjevac, Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics is the UK's largest ever exhibition of leading female comic artists.


You can book at the House of Illustration website here: www.houseofillustration.org.uk



The House of Illustration…

2 Granary Square,

Kings Cross, 

London N1C 4BH







I've collected the entire series of A Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London so far together on its own dedicated blog at cartoonandcomicbooklondon.blogspot.co.uk



Today, the 7th January 2016, I've re-posted a piece on the timing and the process of the series on the first anniversary of Charlie Hebdo. You can catch up with it at cartoonandcomicbooklondon.blogspot.co.uk

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London: One Year On

It's January 2016 and one year on from the commencement of my blog A Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London – a series of posts building into a "virtual tour" of London in cartoons and illustrations. The series first appeared on The Daily Constitutional, the blog I write & edit for the award-winning walking tour company London Walks

The timing of the series haunts me yet as, on the day I sat down to blog about a particularly violent comic book set in London, the news of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity came through.

In March 2015, as I neared the end of the initial 20-post run of the series, I blogged the post below explaining a bit about why I had started the series, about how its direction was changed by Charlie Hebdo, about why cartoons are so important to me and about why I decided to carry on blogging about them on that awful January day on which Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, so memorably said, "Very little seems funny today."

Thanks for reading my blog. Perhaps one of these days I'll get around to donning my London Walks guide hat and turn the thing into a proper walking tour. In the meantime, I've got posts lined up – the series has expanded WAY beyond its initial 20-post lifespan – for 2016 on Wonder Woman, Cruikshank, The House of Illustration, political cartoons, The Simpsons, Punch, Gillray and more. 

A.S-G, East Finchley, London. January 2015


The following post first appeared on the Daily Constitutional in March 2015…


The idea behind my Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London, which I began on this blog back in January this year, was really very simple: to marry my jobs as a London Walks tour guide and editor of The Daily Constitutional with my love of cartoons. It was timed as an enjoyable way for me to start the year.


Ah, timing.


As I typed part three back on the 7th January 2015 – a blog post looking at Über, the gory, ongoing alternate WWII history comic by Kieron Gillen & Canaan White – the news of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity came crashing in from Paris.

It suddenly seemed an inappropriate moment to be blogging about cartoons

In light of events, and the particularly bloody subject I had chosen to blog about that day, I decided to spike the story. Or whatever the blogging equivalent of that bygone verb may be – I suppose we would click "save as draft", rather than spike the story, which doesn't have nearly the same drama.

As I watched the story unfold online I found myself becoming more and more upset. More so than I had been on the day of the 7th July attacks right here in my own city ten years ago. More even than the day that the nail bomber struck in the heart of Soho. This seemingly distant attack, some 200-and-more miles from my home city, in another country, felt inexplicably close to home. Was it because I am a journalist by trade that the story was hitting so deeply?

As I watched on my computer screen, the desk at which I sat was littered with the pencils, inking-in pens and drawing pads that I had been using with my 7-year-old daughter just the night before. 

The 7th January is a date I will never forget.

***

The date I can't remember, however, is when I stopped drawing my own cartoons.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that the flag above the Tate Modern should be flown at half-mast, or anything. It's just that somewhere down the line, sometime in my 20s, I stopped drawing. I stopped and didn't touch a pencil for the best part of two decades.

Then my daughter came along.

Like most kids, she loves to draw. It's what she loves to do almost to the exclusion of everything else. To the extent that she even views it as an acceptable alternative to playing on a screen.

And so I drew with her. And it felt like waking up refreshed from a heavy sleep.

All children love cartoons – and a fairly large percentage of their parents use their children as an excuse to love cartoons, too.

I will never have to do this. I learned long ago, at my father's knee that one needn't employ a child as a beard to enjoy cartoons.

My father would roar his head off laughing at cartoons. Wild laughter. Unseemly. Infectious. Ludicrous behaviour for a grown-man. 

He often went on record to say how suspicious he was of people who didn't find cartoons funny. He's been dead the best part of ten years now, but I'm still pretty happy to use his cartoon test as a moral compass for life. It has seldom let me down.



A popular family legend tells of him as a young man – young, but, crucially, full-grown – being forcibly ejected from the local cinema in our hometown. He always insisted that the reason for his being thrown-out was for "Laughing too loud at the Looney Tunes." That was his story and he stuck to it all his born days. I suspect there was more to it than that, and that alcohol was involved somewhere down the line. But those who ever endured the cartoons with him in a cinema have often corroborated at least part of his alibi. "He was," one old friend of his said, still cringing at the memory, "an embarrassment."

Having been ejected into the cold night and bent on revenge, my dad and his pals lifted the cinema manager's car – a tiny 1950s bubble car – into the foyer of the picture house and left it there. A Looney Tunes-inspired act of vengeance that could only have been bettered if they'd placed a rake flat on the floor for the cinema manager to stand on, with an anvil hanging by a thread above it.

(I can empathise. If you'd like your life to become a raging sea, just try interrupting me when I'm watching Daffy Duck or Road Runner.)

When my grandfather died we found among his personal effects a cartoon pressed between the pages of a book. 

It was on a piece of notepaper and my father said he remembered the day it was drawn. It depicted a leering Hitler holding an olive branch out to Stalin… only the olive branch was wrapped around a barbarous-looking dagger.

It refers either to the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, bringing a brittle peace between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, or to the breaking of that pact with the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941. There is no date on the drawing, but my father said he remembered his father sitting down to draw it. And remembered it vividly.

Whether it is a copy from a newspaper of the day or an invention of my grandfather's I have been unable to ascertain, but what strikes me today is that my father would have been somewhere between six- and eight-years-old when it was drawn. Roughly the same age as my daughter is now. And all those years later, the memory of his father drawing remained.

If, when I am long-gone, someone should ever ask my daughter to describe her daft old dad, I would be a happy man if she said: "When he wasn't being a grumpy old so-and-so, he liked drawing and he liked laughing."

It seemed that the events of the 7th January 2015 were not so distant after all – they resonated through cartoons down four generations from my grandfather (who, in a nice cartoony footnote, was built like Desperate Dan) to my daughter.




I turned to the cartoonists of 2015. We are blessed in this country that the world of the political cartoon is completely Old Fart Proof – no one can gripe that cartoons were better in the olden days with the wealth of talent on display here every day. Steve Bell, Martin Rowson, Chris Riddell and Peter Brookes put the boot in from all sides of the political spectrum. All our cartoonists, from The Daily Telegraph to The Guardian acquitted themselves powerfully and responsibly that day, but Mr Bell's response in The Guardian was a stand-out, full of clear-headed rage, eloquence and bleak humour – you can view it HERE

Martin Rowson chimed in with an inspirational piece on how despots despise mockery and how those "who would place themselves above us" are challenged and undermined by our laughter. I've read it over-and-over again this year and it is rapidly becoming one of my all-time favourite pieces of journalism. (I blogged about it HERE.)

One aspect of his piece, however, only served to deepen the despair. I was shocked to learn that Mr Rowson has long been the recipient of death threats from those who find his cartoons objectionable. Perhaps that was naive of me. This new despair was in some measure lifted by Rowson's own courage in remaining defiant…


"After the murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists Cabu, Wolinski, Tignous and the paper’s editor-in-chief, Stéphane Charbonnier – who signed himself “Charb” – there’s a terrible temptation to stop laughing. Although that, I believe, would be a fundamental error.

Laughter, it needs to be shouted, is one of the things humans do best, mostly because it makes us feel better. I’ve been convinced for years that laughter is a hardwired evolutionary survival mechanism that helps humans navigate our way through life without going mad with existentialist terror. That’s why we laugh at all those terrifying things like death, sex, other people and the disgusting stuff that pours out of our bodies on a daily basis.



Back when I was six, my dad asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told him I wanted to be a cartoonist. I wonder what he would have advised if he'd known that I'd grow into a world where it's a good day for a cartoonist if he manages to get back home from his desk alive with only the threat of murder hanging over him.

He simply said what he always did. "Well to be a cartoonist you have to stick in at the school." He was a motor mechanic and "sticking in at the school" (i.e. applying oneself to lessons and study) was big with him.

It was also the big advice given to me by the first proper cartoonist I ever met – the late, truly great John Grant. John Grant was the writer and illustrator of the Littlenose stories which were so popular on TV's Jackanory programme. 




Littlenose was a Neanderthal boy who was always getting into scrapes (that's him above, with the little nose, of course). Grant visited our school and when I asked him how I could do his job, he replied, in that wonderful musical voice that he had, "Stick in at your lessons and then go to art school."

Art school? This was new information: a school dedicated entirely to art? Where you didn't have to do sums? Could such places be? The notion was so glorious to me that I half-suspected that he was pulling my leg.

Perhaps my dubiety was the reason that it took me so long to follow his advice – the best part of 40 years, in fact.

Last year I joined the Crash Course in Cartooning course at the Cartoon Museum, taught by the peerless Steve Marchant



Steve is not only an expert cartoonist, he's also an inspirational teacher. With his fantastic and outrageous mohawk haircut he even looks like a cartoon. The great glory of his course was being able to watch someone do exactly what they were put on this earth to do – his work is effortless. Yet he does it in such a way that makes you want to have a go, too. Although it was billed as being the very basics of cartooning, he switched the lights on for me in areas of the cartoonist's art that would have been as inaccessible to me without his guidance as the remains of Glenn Miller's plane. Moreover, he taught us with a natural cartoonist's sense of economy and a great sense of fun.


Perhaps this VERY long blog post could take a leaf out of his book?


On the 7th January 2015 I had to decide whether to continue with a blog series about cartoons and cartooning – not really the world's biggest decision, on the face of it, on that or any other day.

I thought of my dad who loved cartoons and also spat hilarious, free-spoken political opinions even on his deathbed (opinions so scabrous that even cyberspace would blush).

I thought of my grandfather as a 27-year-old coal miner and father-of-three, under skies soon-to-be darkened with bombers, who made sense of it all by picking up a pen and drawing.

I thought of my daughter who is still very much in the "But why?" stage of life, who loves to draw and hold forth.

With my grandfather, Martin Rowson, Hitler, Daffy Duck, my dad, Scooby Doo, Steves Marchant and Bell, David Low, Kieron Gillen, John Grant, Charb and my seven-year-old daughter all whirling around me like the famous scene out of Fantasia (the scene that makes you disappointed that the whole movie isn't in cartoon form)… I blogged about Private Eye and the series moved on.

Me, my daughter, my dad as a boy, Hitler, my granddad drawing, Martin Rowson, Daffy Duck, Steve Bell, Steve Marchant, Charb, Kieron Gillen and Scooby Doo




In the end, I've had a lot of fun blogging about cartoons and cartoonists in London – even if the backdrop of the times has been a disturbing one. There was yet another twist in the tale as, with the series drawing to a close, Steve Bell stirred up a hornets' nest of anger north of the border with his If… cartoon strip. As a Scot I was asked if I found Bell's portrayal of Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in any way racist. Last year I would have mumbled and mangled the quote misattributed to Voltaire about defending Steve Bell's right to draw whatever the bugger he likes. Given the times, I had only one answer: Je Suis Steve Bell.

Anita at the Cartoon Museum has been more than helpful with this series, as has Camila and the friendly staff at Orbital Comics, so big thanks are due there. It was also lovely to be reTweeted by the creators of the comic book Metroland (see Panel 18 of the tour). Best of all was the moment when I hit a professional high spot of my journalistic career: my work was reTweeted by The Beano.

I hope you've enjoyed following my Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London – the series ends tomorrow with Panel 20 dedicated to a pair of very fine Willies indeed: William Hogarth and Willie Rushton


Adam Scott-Goulding
London


March 2015