For those of you who think CLiNT was the first British comic to think of employing comedians to write comic strips, think again. Quite apart from the numerous works of famous British raconteurs such as Bob Monkhouse to various comics down the years, even Marvel UK once took the celebrity route…
The Comic Strip Presents Marvel UK… a near-forgotten project of Marvel UK that resulted in one just Special based on their creation for the BBC, Glam Metal Detectives, which I initiated as an editor, although the original plan was for a regular comic and it was David Leach who commissioned most of the work on the project after I left the company.
Back in my teens I had written scripts for a variety of popular comedians of the day. Sitting in my office at Marvel one day I thought it might be an interesting idea to get some professional comedians to write for us. Viz was big and still funny at that point.
I made contact with Peter Richardson, the guy behind Channel 4’s Comic Strip Presents series. It turned out my timing was bang on as he was putting the finishing touches to a brand new comedy series titled The Glam Metal Detectives. We met at his office, a stone’s throw from Marvel UK’s then headquarters, Arundel House, in London.
He loved the idea of Marvel doing the official comic based on the series. He gave me videos of the yet unseen series to watch. It was like nothing he had done before. Indeed, it was very suited to adapting into comic form … A variety of oddball characters, each having their own slot in the half hour show, written by its stars: Peter, Phil Cornwell, Doon Mackichan, Gary Beadle and Vivienne Westwood’s top model, Sara Stockbridge.
It was arranged that they would write the comic strip tales too. I sat in on a few of the first writing meetings. They started very well, with strong ideas and became hysterically funny towards the end of each night as peculiar brands of roll-ups filled the room with types of smoke banned in many states of the US. Strangely, the scripts never looked quite as funny the following morning.
Peter Richardson was very keen to use the Marvel connection to push the BBC into promoting the series. They had lured him from Channel 4 but he was finding them to be lacking in putting any money behind promoting the series. He took me with him to a meeting with BBC execs at TV Centre. Driving to White City, he fumed as he saw huge billboards advertising a new series starring Robbie Coltrane. “Why aren’t the f****** doing that for me?” he griped.
The BBC execs had laid on tea and cakes on their best bone china. After civil introductions, the meeting went downhill fast. “Nobody knows the series is starting next week,” cried Peter. ‘You f****** are doing nothing for me!’ With this he slammed his fist down on the table and all the china, cakes and tea leapt in the air to come down in a soggy, shattering mess. He ranted for a full five minutes as the BBC just stared in horror, cake crumbs and scalding tea.
I don’t think I’ve heard the word “f***’, ‘f*****’ or ‘f******’ used to such good effect before or since. It was truly a highlight of my whole career.
Not waiting for a reply, Peter turned on his heel and stormed out, leaving me behind. Everybody was either white or red in the face. Nobody dared talk because I was still there. Making my excuses, I thanked the BBC for the tea and cakes and left to find poor Peter out in the car.
Anyhow, Peter’s explosion had no effect and the show came and went and nobody has ever heard about it the world over.
It was round this time that I imploded myself and left Marvel, but not before getting some fab artwork together for the mag, including the pencil rough above, of Sara and Doon. David Leach took over the magazine, which became a one-shot, published to coincide with the launch of the show. It mirrored the channel hopping style of the show by featuring various magazine formats and comic book styles.
I remember Peter put on a good launch party for the series at London’s Soho-based Groucho Club with guests Kate Bush, Alan Rickman and Stephen Fry, but the show itself sank without trace with just seven episodes made. Although the first three episodes were released on VHS, it’s never been released on DVD and has never been repeated by the BBC.
“I was left to take over once Tim had gone,” David recalls of the project. “The magazine was my baby and I was very proud of it, seeing it as a chance to craft a comic the way I wanted to. I worked with the cast, Richardson and Robert Popper on the comic and even ended up colouring it to save money and illustrating it too.
“It was supposed to be a series but the TV show just didn’t fly, beaten as it was in the same week by a new show called The Fast Show which changed everything!”
• Comic Connections: Model Sara Stockbridge featured on the cover of i-D magazine and Blitz magazine, among others, and modelled as Tank Girl for a series of promotional photos to help her gain the part of Tank Girl in the movie of the same name.
Although she was unsuccessful, the photos themselves became well known and for a time they were seen on the covers of magazines such as Elle, Vogue and The Face. She’s still active in the modelling and acting world.
Her first novel, Hammer, was published in 2009, and her second, Cross My Palm, in 2011 by Chatto & Windus.
• Doon Mackichan is more famous for her roles in The Day Today, Brass Eye and the various Alan Partridge shows.
• Glam Metal Detectives – Wikipedia Entry
• The Glam Metal Detectives band were Gary Beadle, Phil Cornwell, Mark Caven, Doon Mackichan, Sara Stockbridge and George Yiasoumi. Phil Cornwell would later work with Richardson on the successful BBC Stella Street fake-docusoap-sitcom,