Did you ever have a piece of art published on a comic’s Letters Page? Did it inspire you to choose a career in comics?
British comics have regularly featured the work of readers for decades, largely on their letters pages, or by encouraging them to write in with questions for characters. (One of my earliest memories of this was for “Spoofer McGraw” in Sparky, although not every strip drawn by the late, great Gordon Bell used such questions).
Then there were the competitions that asked readers to design a hero, heroine or monster. Who remembers the Ugrakks, created by Ian Fairnington, for a TV Action competition to design an original comic strip foe for the comic’s Doctor Who strip, published in 1972?
But did publication through “reader interaction” inspire a later career in comics?
I occasionally wondered what happened to some of the readers whose names, photographs or art featured in their favourite comic. We know some Eagle readers, artist David Hockney and cartoonist Gerald Scarfe among them for example, had their first work published in the adventure comic in the 1950s.
How many other comic creators, having had their work published, went on to have a glittering career in comics?
I’ll freely admit here that the publication of “Cat and Mouse” in the final issue of Marvel UK’s 1980’s iteration of Mighty World of Marvel helped further my desire to work in comics. First published in my own fanzine, cheekily called SCAN, the same name as Lancaster University’s student newspaper which I’d edited some years previously, it was drawn by future FHM designer Matt Bingham, and won us the princely sum of £25 for its publication.
(Publication of work in fanzines was, and still is, I think, also a hugely important step up towards the world of comics publishing, although these days of course there are plenty of other ways to hopefully gain the attention of comics editors, including web comics and a successful crowdfunding campaign).
Perhaps the most fondly remembered example by downthetubes readers of a great Letters Page is the original 2000AD incarnation, its spirit living today on within the 2000AD online forum.
Back in the day, Tharg would invite young Earthlets to send in drawings, publication earning them £5.
Of those youngsters who stuck at it and made a career in comics, one of them is DC Comics and Marvel artist John McCrea, his reader’s art recently highlighted on Twitter by Paul Tonner, who wanted to know what he bought with his fiver.
His drawing of “Judge Toyah” appears in 2000AD Prog 310, cover dated 2nd April 1983, which was followed up with publication of a “Rogue Sucker” in Prog 319, unearthed by Matt Sharp.
But 2000AD wasn’t the only comic John sent drawings to. Lee Grice has unearthed an even earlier entry into the annals of comics history – “The Incredible Sulk“, featured in Jackpot, cover dated 24th November 1979!
• Did you have art published in a British comic? What did you do with your prize money? Did its publication inspire you to a career in comics? Why not let us know, below?
• Or, did reading a comic story inspire you to a career in another field? For example, did reading “Dan Dare” lead to a job in the engineering or technology industry? Was there a girls comic’s character that similarly enthused you to follow her path? Do tell!
• There is a solo exhibition of art by John McCrea currently running at the Havill & Travis Gallery @ Primitivo Bar & Eatery, 10 Barwick Street Birmingham B3 2NT | The exhibition is open Monday – Friday 11.00am – 5.00pm and admission is free. Original artwork and prints are available to buy with prices ranging from £90 to £4,000