Last week, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival announced the terrific news that top British cartoonists Steve McGarry and his son, Luke, would be at their October weekend-long event, taking in part in a host of fun events for children of all ages – as well as being an integral part of its Opening Night.
Steve and Luke will conduct a joint presentation during the great weekend (which also includes appearances by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Joe Kelly and Mike McMahon) – an event that will cover the span of their careers and talk about everything from Joy Division to Jack Black, and how they set about breaking into the worlds of illustration, syndication and animation and more.
Steve will also present a children’s programme on “How to Draw Minions and More” in the Family Zone and Saturday night will see a live show at Ruskins featuring a special appearance from Luke’s band, Pop Noir.
Steve’s an incredible talent whose work I’ve enjoyed down the years – his “Biographic” strips profiling the celebrities often go viral, and there must be few Star Wars fans worldwide unfamiliar with his son Luke’s “Sad Chewie” cartoons by now. But I wasn’t aware of quite how much Steve had drawn down the years – and I think football comics fans will be keen to meet him in October given his work on Shoot!, Tiger and more.
His four-decade career has taken him from the pages of Romeo, a weekly girls’ comic published by Dundee-based DC Thomson, to worldwide newspaper syndication and working in Hollywood with the Minions.
Along the way, he has designed record sleeves for Joy Division and Jilted John, established himself as, perhaps, the most widely-published cartoonist Britain has ever produced, become the first-ever artist to win Illustrator of the Year awards from both the National Cartoonists Society in the United States and the Australian Cartoonists Association, spent 27 years on the rosters of major US syndicates, served two terms as NCS President and been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In 1976, Steve was at the centre of the punk explosion that revolutionized the Manchester music scene. He designed record sleeves for the likes of Joy Division, Slaughter & The Dogs, John Cooper Clarke, and Jilted John and more. He was the in-house designer for both The Oaks and Rafters, two seminal venues that gave Manchester debuts to Siouxsie & The Banshees, Elvis Costello, XTC and many more.
He even fronted his own band, and among those who went on from to greater things from the ranks of Steve McGarry’s First Offence were Toby Toman of Primal Scream and Donald Johnson of A Certain Ratio.
For two years, Steve was also a partner in a commercial production company creating AV productions and TV and radio commercials.
He made his national newspaper debut in 1981, with a centre-spread illustration for the Daily Star of the two FA Cup Final teams, going on to contribute hundreds of illustrations to the paper over the next few years. including a weekly sports series, courtroom sketches, three front covers and a Steve Davis snooker series. He was also a regular on the pages of the Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the Daily Express.
During this time, Steve was also a frequent contributor to such comics as Tiger and Look-In, for whom he created “The Story So Far: Duran Duran”, “Paul Young” and others. He also illustrated a number of licensed books, including the Doctor Who, K9, Fame and Minder annuals.
In 1986, the Daily Star launched Steve’s first daily cartoon strip, a year-long feature called “The Diary of Rock & Pop”, which was later syndicated worldwide by United Media.
In 1988, Steve launched his daily comic strip “Badlands” in the short-lived national newspaper The Post. When that paper closed, “Badlands” was snapped up by The Sun, the world’s biggest English-language national newspaper, running in The Sun for 12 years and spawned two book collections from Pedigree Books.
From 1993 to 1996, Steve’s daily trivia feature “Pop Culture” ran in the Today newspaper. During that time, he also launched a daily soccer series in The Sun and his short-run, 12-part biography series, featuring the likes of Oasis, George Michael, Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Hulk Hogan appeared in The Sun, Today and the News of the World. When The Sunday People launched his “20th Century Heroes” comic in the late 1990s, they billed Steve as “the world’s top cartoonist.”
Steve’s long association with British soccer magazines started in 1982 when Match Weekly launched his full-page “Goal of My Life” series. He went on to create the story feature “Cannon” for the magazine and was a regular contributor for four years. In 1989, he joined the pages of Shoot! when he and Tony Husband created “Ray of The Rangers.”
It was the start of a seven-year run on the pages of Shoot!, during which time Steve launched his “Divvington Donkeys” comic strip and also contributed to sister magazine Soccer Stars. In 2007, Steve returned to Shoot! when he created the weekly comic “Premier League High” and he went on to become a regular weekly contributor to both Match and MOTD magazine.
Since 1982, Steve has created wallcharts and features for every World Cup and European Championship that have appeared in hundreds of magazines and newspapers worldwide. In 1998, for instance, The Sun, in conjunction with Budweiser, distributed four million giant double-sided World Cup wallcharts entirely designed and illustrated by Steve, throughout the UK.
His clients for his soccer features range from the Sydney Herald to the South African Times, from the South China Morning Post to the Trinidad Express. He has also created similar syndicated features for the Olympics, the Asian Cup and the cricket and rugby world cups. British clients for these sports features have included The Sun, the Daily Star and The Mirror.
Steve has been based in the US since 1989, after landing his first syndication contract when he was headhunted by United Media, the New York-based syndicate that was home to “Peanuts”, “Garfield”, “Dilbert” and more, to take over the reins on the weekly comic strip “Biography.” Since that time, he has been represented by most of the major US syndicates and is currently syndicated to over 200 newspapers of newspapers, including the New York Daily News and the Boston Herald, on two features – “Biographic” and “Kid Town” – by Universal UClick.
Steve lives in California, with his wife Deborah. Their twin sons, Joe and Luke, have found success through music and art. Their band, Pop Noir, has played with The Wombats, Doves, Robyn, Sebastian Tellier and more. On the art side, operating as the Fantastic Heat Brothers, they work with Jack Black, Tenacious D and clients such as Visa, Vans and the California State Lottery. They have also created a number of animated music videos and Luke’s distinctive cartoon style has made him one of the fastest-rising stars in the world of humorous illustration.
In 2012, Steve’s career took another turn when he was invited by Illumination Entertainment to create soccer gags to be used as part of the marketing campaign for the movie Despicable Me 2. It was the start of a relationship that has seen Steve go on to work as a story artist on Minions and The Secret Life of Pets, and the video game Minions Paradise, a joint production by Illumination Entertainment and EA Games.
In late 2014, his sleeve design for Joy Division’s 1978 12” EP “An Ideal For Living,” went on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
A former two-term President of the National Cartoonists Society, Steve McGarry is currently the President of the NCS Foundation, the society’s charitable arm. He is a recipient of the prestigious Silver T-Square Award, given for “outstanding service to the profession of cartooning.”