We’re sorry to learn via Hibernia Comics David McDonald and former Fleetway comics editor Gil Page of the passing of British comics writer Scott Goodall, who died on 7th March 2016, aged 80.
Born in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1935, Scott, who grew up reading DC Thomson adventure titles such as Wizard and Hotspur, was a prolific comics writer.
“I was always a dreamer, always useless scholastically, always imaginative and a manic fan of ‘The Goon Show’, he recalled of his early life in an interview for Comics UK. “During my schooldays at Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen I sold a handwritten selection of stories titled ‘Six-Gun Brandon Rides Again’.
Starting his publishing career after National Service at DC Thomson, he moved to London in the early 1960s, unable to survive on a salary of £7 a week in Dundee.
In London he began work as a sub-editor on the teenage romantic magazine Mirabelle, which in its heyday sold more than 500,000 copies a week, but soon went freelance. His credits include strips for TV Century 21 — writing, among other things, “Thunderbirds” and “Zero X”; Valiant – including the title’s lead strip, “Captain Hurricane” for many years – and Battle – continuing, for example, Pat Mills “Charley’s War” into World War Two, working with that prestigious series original artist, Joe Colquhoun.
(While those later “Charley’ War” stories are unlikely to be rerpinted, they are remembered with fondness by some fans of the strip).
Scott also worked on the New Eagle – creating the strips “Invisible Boy” and “Walk Or Die”, and working on other strips including “Manix” and on humour comics such as Cor!! – writing one of his favourite strips, “Rat-Trap” – and Buster. His credits on the latter title include two more personal favourites – “Galaxus The Thing From Outer Space”, and he was the creator of “Fishboy” drawn by artists that included John Stokes; and other strips such as “Zarga” and “Marney the Fox”.
“I suggested the [Fishboy] idea to [editor] Sidney Bicknell,” Goodall, who also created “Splash Gorton”, a hippy swimmer drawn by Joe Colquhon for Tiger. “[I said], ‘How about a kid who can swim like a fish and can breathe underwater?’
“He looked at me and said…’Great, but what if one of our readers tries to emulate your Fishboy, sticks his head under the bathwater and drowns? IPC is in the s***, right?’
“I sighed and said ‘Sid, if one of our readers is stupid enough to stick his head in the bath and tries to breathe underwater, he deserves to effing well drown!’
“‘You’re right,” said Sid…’Do a number one.’ The script, drawn by the ever-faithful and talented John Stokes (whom unfortunately I have never met), ran for seven years.”
Another great favourite of Scott’s was “Zarga, Man of Mystery“, from an original idea by Sid Bicknell. “Zarga, a failed stage performer (hypnotist), mocked by his audience one night but who could hypnotise himself into any type of character he needed to be… like a pole-vaulter, champion swimmer, Formula One driver, bank thief, you name it, Zarga could do it…by merely looking at his reflection in the blade of a knife or a silver spoon or even a shop window! ZAP…he’d be just what he wanted to be!
“Drawn by the wonderful Joe Colquhoun, I loved the finished result!” Scott enthused. “Joe had a knack of knowing just how a writer’s mind was working. For instance, I had a policeman chasing the wicked Zarga, whose name, I think, was Inspector Claudius Gumble. Now all Gumble wanted to do was retire and grow green beans in perfect rows, but no – Scotland Yard said that Gumble had to catch Zarga… so Joe portrayed this poor Gumble as the most superbly frustrated gardener you’d ever see in a BBC gardening programme. The artwork and characterisation were sublime – and this was long before Joe achieved immortality with Pat Mills and “Charley’s War”.
He also alternated with Angus Allen writing new adventures for the French editions of escapologist hero Janus Stark.
Scott once said he wrote adventure stories “mainly because I was no good at the comedy stuff!
“It took a special kind of up-market brain cell to make people laugh out loud at something on a written page,” he told the fan-run Buster comic web site in a short interview some time back, which also features a PDF or his last ever “Fisboy” script (PDF link). “Writers like Colin Edmonds and Roger(?) Cook were brilliant at what used to be called “one-liners”. Editor Bob Paynter too, had a wicked sense of humour masked by a totally laid-back disposition.
“Adventure stuff was far easier for me because I’d been brought up on “Biggles”, “The Saint”, “Wilson the Wonder Athlete” and “Red Circle School” to name but a few.”
“I was very fond of “Captain Hurricane”, “Galaxus” and “Fishboy” mainly because they ran for so long and they became part of my life!” he recalled of his huge body of work, written at a time when, he felt, “the work involved was based on simple and harmless entertainment for boys and girls alike of all ages and all types. Make them laugh, sometimes make them sad, make them dream of one day being a Roy of the Rovers or a Princess magazine ballet star, but above all keep it as fun.”
“My personal favourite was “Rat-Trap” in Cor!!, developed over lunch with Bob Paynter one day in the early 1970s,” he recalled. “Doctor Ratty Rat lived in the sewers and surfaced regularly up into the streets to rob and rave. As an organisation called B.I.F.F.F. (British Institute For Foiling Felonies) was unable to catch Doctor Rat, they appealed evey week to the readers of Cor!! to send in a suitable trap to catch him.
“Letters flooded in. I was receiving 1500 a week at my Devon home, while even more would arrive at Bob’s office. A weekly prize was offered for each reader’s trap which was used. Naturally, Ratty Rat escaped every week and blew a foul rodent raspberry…”RAASSSSP” at the useless, moronic minion of a reader who thought he’d been clever enough to catch him!”
After the demise of most of the weekly adventure titles in the UK in the late 1980s, he started work for the Swedish comic Fantomen writing the Phantom, and some strips for girls comics published in Holland.
“The pay I never thought was too bad,” Scott recalled of his work down the years. “Freddie Baker, another magic script-writer always complained and demanded a rise. Maybe he was right! What we got in the 60s was eight guineas a script… £8-8shillings (£8.40) a script. This rose to £10 for a two-page script. In 1972 I had my best year ever, making £8000. What’s that now? Very little!
“But… my one big bitter rant is what Leo Baxendale called once…’The Great Reprint Rip Off!’ In other words the recycling of writers’ and artists’ materials by all the major publishers. Everything we did was sold ‘all rights’ to Fleetway, IPC and others and they did innumerable specials, annuals and reprints of our work without a single penny coming our way.
“It wasn’t until the arrival of the very talented and militant Pat Mills, that things began to change… Too late for me…but am I bitter?”
Scott had lived in France since 1981, and received an MBE for his services to the history of World War Two in 2005. The Freedom Trail, Scott’s book about former wartime escape routes across the Pyrenees was published in 2005 and a website about this is at www.escapelines.com.
“I’m truly amazed that anyone out there in this modern age would even want to know or hear about all those years of effort that went into the making of these comics,” Scott told Al Notton back in 2005. “Difficult years indeed. The writing of the pages did not come easily!”
Our condolences to all his family and friends.
• Marcus Scott Goodall, born 1937, died 7th March 2016 at Lesure, France; survived by his wife Judith Goodall, son Mark Goodall, his son and his wife Julie and their children, Dylan, Harry and Samantha; Fiona Lewis, born Goodall and her husband Rupert, their son, Joshua and Max; Alastair Goodall and his wife Clare, children, Perry, Louis and Finn
• Read the Buster Comic fan site interview with Scott Goodall here
• Read the Comics UK interview with Scott here
• The Freedom Trail by Scott Goodall, MBE was published by Inchmere Design, UK and is listed on Amazon UK, etc but as of April 2016, as “currently unavailable”. You can order copies direct from the publisher at Inchmere Design via email to Marie Feltham at: firstname.lastname@example.org | Telephone: 01295 661000 Web: www.inchmere.co.uk
• The Freedom Trail Museum (Chemin de la liberte) (site in French) may have copies
• Read “The Last Passeur“, an article by Scott Goodall about Paul Barrau, whose demise in 2005 marked the end of a remarkable chapter in the history of the local mountain guides, or “passeurs”, who operated in the Ariège region of South-West France during the Second World War