When I first started drawing comix, I made them up as I went along. I would spend the first half hour drawing the title of the strip while I thought about what to draw next. As I didn't know what the strip was about at that point, I couldn't give it a title, so I invented the silliest generic title I could, so as to have something to draw for that first half hour. Large Cow Comix. Since then the title has attached to other projects of mine, and is now the name of my website. That's why.
OK, SO WHO AM I?
I was born in Newcastle on Tyne in 1952, and was a child in a village called Walbottle, and a teenager in Blaydon. I've drawn cartoons all my life, although I didn't at first think about doing it seriously. I came to Birmingham as a Fine Art student in 1971, but I quit college after a year, realising that, whatever else I was, I wasn't an Artist. Around that time I met people in Birmingham who were involved with the Underground Press, and I first started seeing magazines like Oz, Frendz, Muther Grumble and IT, and comic books by Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Jay Lynch, Rick Griffin, and so on. As if a light had come on I realised what I wanted to do with my life, and I set about learning how to do comics.
I worked at various jobs in order to allow me to draw at night. I was a postman, a library assistant, I worked in the local prison (doing office work), and eventually found a job at the Polytechnic running a small printing machine. In printing I saw a way that I could link earning a living with doing what I wanted to do; draw comix. My first comics were printed on that machine, in editions of 20 or 30, and deposited in a few head shops and record shops. I spent six years working at the Birmingham Arts Lab, with the printing press there, doing design, layout, darkroom, and machine operating, all on shoestring finances in hair-raising circumstances. It taught me a lot about production deadlines and the need to make quick design decisions. At the Arts Lab I was part of the group known as Ar-zak publishing British underground comics in the mid 70s. I was also drawing more and more comic strips, which were being published - mostly unpaid - in independent comic books all over the place: in Britain, America, and some in Europe. And I was picking up freelance illustration work, to the extent that in 1979 I was able to become a fulltime freelance cartoonist.
I did some, but not many, advertising commissions, and contributed spot illustrations to a host of magazines including Melody Maker, Radio Times, Which Bike?, Time Out, Pink, Razzle... for a while my cartoons were like a rash on the publishing world. In 1980 or '81 I was offered a "regular gig" by Galaxy Publications drawing FIRKIN THE CAT, a two-page comic that is still running in Fiesta magazine. It's written by Tym Manley, and is a bawdy, chaotic, hilarious comic about sex. I also began my association with Fortean Times around then. FT is the leading monthly journal of unexplained phenomena, and I first drew illustrations for issue number 8 (I think). Since around 1995 or 96 I've drawn and written a monthly comic page called PHENOMENOMIX (you have to take a run at it) about Weird Stuff. FIRKIN and FT, and, since 2002, The Beano, are now my main clients, and extra work tends to be of a specialist nature - for example, the comic books published by the Ruskin Foundation dealing with the ideas of 19th century artist, writer, critic and political theorist John Ruskin. The three comics, written by Kevin Jackson, have now been published as a collected book, called BLOKE’S PROGRESS (Knockabout 2018).
Knockabout Comics was formed in 1979 by Tony and Carol Bennett to publish and distribute underground, minority interest comics and books. They asked me to be involved from the start, and most of my comic books have been published with them. Together we put into print CALCULUS CAT, MAX ZILLION & ALTO EGO, PILGRIM, PUSSPUSS, THUNDERDOGS, LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER, and DANTE'S INFERNO among other titles.
Knockabout were famous for their book launch parties. Two that come to mind are the party for my ANCIENT MARINER on a Thames-side floating bar, complete with blow-up albatrosses on string, to be hung around necks, and that for CASANOVA'S LAST STAND, in the mansion built by Bertie, Prince of Wales for his mistress Lily Langtree, when I had to wear impossibly hot and heavy 18th century coat and breeches, wig and tricorn hat. I also have scary memories of crazy jaunts in France, Finland and Soviet Russia...but alas, those tales must await another telling.
Another of Knockabout’s notorious launch parties was that for INFERNO, at the Italian Cultural Institute in London. I dressed as Dante, and my collaborator Kevin Jackson was Virgil. Several of our guests came in full demon outfits, and even the lady who was the rather snooty Italian Cultural Ambassador ended the evening wearing horns.
I have been honoured to receive several comics industry awards over the years. My version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover was given a “LEMPI” award by the Kemi Comics Festival in Finland. In 2000 I was included as one of 75 European Masters of Comic Books by the French Centre Nationale de la Bande Dessinée. In 2004 the Cartoon Arts Trust of Great Britain made me Humorous Strip Cartoonist of the Year, and in 2018 I received a “Sergio” – the Sergio Aragones International Award for Excellence in Comic Art – from the American National Cartoonists Society.
Today I'm still living in Birmingham, within a quarter of a mile of where I landed in 1971. I share a rambling old house with my dear partner Jane and a healthy flock of sparrows (they have the garden). I’m a T'ai Chi instructor, and I play guitar a little. I like pottering in the garden, reading about ancient history, seeing friends, and living as quiet a life as possible thankyou very much. Like most cartoonists, I work crazy hours.
WHAT MAKES ME DO COMICS?
Comics make me laugh, even the ones that are supposed to be dark, grim and gritty. To have been able to work in this fun-palace medium for so long is an incredible privilege, and to have met and worked with so many inventive, talented creators involved with comics is beyond comment. I hope my comics make you laugh, at least sometimes - that is the greatest honour a cartoonist can achieve.
A LIST OF MY PUBLISHED WORK
Publishing dates are as accurate as I can make them, but I can't guarantee them all.
LARGE COW COMIX 1974 Written by Brian Hills
OUTER SPACE COMIX 1974 Written by Brian Hills
THE ADVENTURES OF MR. SPOONBISCUIT 1974
PHOLK COMIX 1974
ZOMIX COMIX 1975
DOGMAN 1975 Written by Paul Fisher.
THESE COMICS WERE PUBLISHED WHILE I WAS WORKING AT BIRMINGHAM ARTS LAB. THE FIRST FOUR WERE A5 FORMAT, THE OTHERS A4.
PHOLK COMIX HAS THE WORDS TO SEVERAL ENGLISH TRADITIONAL SONGS DONE AS COMICS.
DOGMAN WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AND PERFORMED AS STAGE MONOLOGUES. WHEN THE BOOK WAS PUBLISHED, A THEATRICAL SHOW OF THE MAIN STORY WAS PERFORMED AT SEVERAL VENUES AROUND THE MIDLANDS.
MY COMIC BOOKS
THUNDERDOGS 1981 RIP OFF PRESS, SAN FRANCISCO. 1993 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
THE BIG BOOK OF EVERYTHING 1983 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
FIRKIN 1985 VIRGIN BOOKS. Written by Tym Manley
JAZZ FUNNIES 1986 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER! 1986 (Two Editions), 1998 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
YOU ARE MAGGIE THATCHER 1987 TITAN BOOKS. Written by Pat Mills
CALCULUS CAT - DEATH TO TELEVISION 1987 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
HARD TO SWALLOW 1988 KNOCKABOUT COMICS. Written by John Dowie
FIRKIN Guide To Human Sexual Behaviour 1 - 7 1989 - 1993 KNOCKABOUT COMICS. Written by Tym Manley
STARTLING PLANET (with Graham Higgins) 1989 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER 1989, 1998, 2007 KNOCKABOUT COMICS. Written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
RAPID REFLEXES 1990 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
CASANOVA'S LAST STAND 1993 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
PUSSPUSS 1994 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
JAZZ FUNNIES - TWO NEW STORIES 1996 FORBIDDEN PLANET
ALIENS ATE MY TROUSERS 1998 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
CITYMOUTH 2000 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
FIRKIN 2002 KNOCKABOUT COMICS Written by Tym Manley
PILGRIM AND SON in THE FESTIVAL RITUAL 2005 KNOCKABOUT COMICS
RUSKIN COMICS 1 - HOW TO BE RICH 2005 THE RUSKIN FOUNDATION. Written by Kevin Jackson
RUSKIN COMICS 2 - HOW TO SEE 2008 THE RUSKIN FOUNDATION. Written by Kevin Jackson
DANTE'S INFERNO - 2012 KNOCKABOUT. With Kevin Jackson.
FIGHT THE POWER - 2013 NEW INTERNATIONALIST PRESS. With Sean Michael Wilson and others.
GOODBYE GOD? - 2014 NEW INTERNATIONALIST PRESS. Written by Sean Michael Wilson.
CALCULUS CAT - 2014 KNOCKABOUT. Collected edition.
HOT JAZZ - 2015 KNOCKABOUT. Collected edition.
BLOKE’S PROGRESS – 2018 KNOCKABOUT & THE RUSKIN FOUNDATION. Comprising How To Be Rich and How To See, plus How To Work and a Coda.
U-COMIX SONDERBAND 1981 VOLKSVERLAG (GERMANY) (Contained Thunderdogs plus Big Book of Everything
HISTOIRES DE LA GRANDE VACHE 1981 ARTEFACT (FRANCE)
THUNDERDOGS 1981 ARTEFACT (FRANCE)
EL AMANTE DE LADY CHATTERLEY! 1987 TOUTAIN (SPAIN)
LADY CHATTERLEY'S ALSKARE! 1988 POX SPECIAL (SWEDEN)
O AMANTE DE LADY CHATTERLEY! 1988 L&PM EDITORES (BRAZIL)
LADY CHATTERLEYN RAKASTAJA! 1989 TAMMI (FINLAND)
VANHAN MERIMIEHEN TARINA (RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER) 1990 TAMMI (FINLAND)
L'AMANT DE LADY CHATTERLEY! 1992 ALBIN MICHEL (FRANCE)
CHOLERIC CAT (CALCULUS CAT) 1992 CARLSEN (GERMANY)
FIRKIN 1992 KANGURU (SWEDEN)
CASANOVAN VIIMEINEN KUKOISTUS 1994 TAMMI (FINLAND)
CASANOVAS ABGANG 1994 CARLSEN (GERMANY)
CASANOVA 1995 CASANOVA COMICS (BRAZIL)
CASANOVAS SIDSTE REJSNING 1995 BOGFABRIKKEN (NORWAY)
FIRKIN 1995 SEMIC (FINLAND)
ORIGINAL HOT JAZZ 1995 STAKHANO (FRANCE)
FIRKIN - SI LES TROUS DU CUL VOLAIENT...1999 EDITIONS DU ZEBU (FRANCE)
FIRKIN 2000 MYRKKY (FINLAND)
DANTE'S INFERNO 2013 ARKTINEN BANAANI (FINLAND)
IN ADDITION, MY COMICS HAVE APPEARED IN COMIC BOOKS AND MAGAZINES TOO NUMEROUS TO COUNT, BUT INCLUDING:
FORTEAN TIMES - THE MAGAZINE OF UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA. DENNIS PUBLISHING. I've been associated with FT since 1974, when I first met the magazine's founder Bob Rickard. He was publishing the magazine from his bedroom with a photocopier. My then-girlfriend Hermione and I subsequently took that flat, with it's wood-paneled attic room, where we had many interesting psychedelic evenings. My PHENOMENOMIX strip has appeared regularly in FT since 1979. Perhaps. I'm not very good with dates...
FIESTA - GALAXY PUBLICATIONS. FIRKIN THE CAT, written by Tym Manley, has appeared in every issue since 1980.
PSIKOPAT - EDITIONS DU ZEBU (PARIS), published FIRKIN and other strips of mine through the 1990s.
MYRKKY - EGMONT OY (FINLAND), published FIRKIN regularly, along with many other strips of mine.
GRAPHIC CLASSICS. A series of comic books published by Tom Pomplun at Eureka Productions which I would recommend to anyone. Each 144 page volume deals with a specific writer of fantasy, horror, mystery, adventure, etc. and presents their stories as comics by the most interesting of contemporary cartoonists. Well worth investigating! I have illustrated stories by the following writers in several volumes: Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, Jack London, Robert W. Service, Rafael Sabatini.
THE BIG BOOK OF... A great series of comic books published by Paradox Press, (DC Comics) New York. Each 192+ page volume dealt with a different aspect of modern culture, in comics drawn and written by the most interesting contemporary creators. I have stories in the following volumes:
The Big Book Of... WEIRDOS; DEATH; SCANDAL; LITTLE CRIMINALS; WEIRD WILD WEST; THE UNEXPLAINED; FREAKS; BAD; WEIRD LOSERS; URBAN LEGENDS.
I illustrated the following children's novels for this publisher between 1994 and 2000.
FLASH EDDIE AND THE BIG BAD WOLF by Sam McBratney.
CREEPE HALL, RETURN TO CREEPE HALL, CREEPE HALL FOREVER by Alan Durant.
JEREMY BROWN OF THE SECRET SERVICE, JEREMY BROWN AND THE MUMMY'S CURSE, JEREMY BROWN ON MARS, ME AND MY BIG MOUSE, DIRTY ROTTEN TRICKS, TOTALLY UNSUITABLE FOR CHILDREN, THEY MELTED HIS BRAIN by Simon Cheshire.
THE NAKED ARTIST.
I illustrated Bryan Talbot's scurrilous and hilarious collection of Comics World anecdotes in 2007, for MOONSTONE PRESS.
RUNNING OUT OF ROAD and RUNNING OUT OF ROAD TOO - 1982, WHICH BIKE? Publications. Collecting the wild motorcycling adventures of Which Bike? journalist Mark Williams, heavily illustrated by me. I did a lot of motorbike work around that time, even had a Honda 90 for a while until my biker friends stopped me riding it before I killed myself.