I was born more than 21 years ago in Wolverhampton, England. When it became apparent I was left-handed, my mother wisely let nature take its course—she also was born a lefty, but her mother trained her to be a righty (apparently, there used to be a stigma about lefties). Whether or not this is connected with creativity is still debated; it seems I liked to doodle from the instant I could hold a pencil. My language skills were also above-average even as a small child (however, I was quite poor at maths). That’s my grandmother on the photo (more on her below), holding me as a baby.
For some reason I became enamoured of monsters and horror movies at quite a young age. Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr thrilled me in the Universal and AIP epics, but it was the original King Kong (1933) that stole my heart. I’d have killed for a DVD of this movie that I could play endlessly when I was six years old—but the technology was some years away. So, I was very much what is known as a Monster Kid. I still am.
I also became interested in comic books. My late grandmother is to blame. My mother would buy me fairly ‘obvious’ and worthy stuff like Look and Learn, but nan would grab whatever was at hand. When she bought me an issue of a Marvel UK weekly featuring the Incredible Hulk, I got hooked. Maybe it was the ‘gentle, misunderstood monster’ angle—somewhat like King Kong. I realised the Marvel stuff was, if nothing else, notably edgier than the pretty and sanitised joys of Disney Comics. And, already a Monster Kid, it clicked for me.
From there, as my tastes developed, I realised Jack Kirby was the greatest comic book artist of all. I loved his designs, his crazy machinery and, most of all, his monsters. I started seeking out the American (‘real’) versions of the comics containing his work (such as The Eternals, pictured right). Around this time I discovered he had retired from comics and felt sad for a while. My nan said to me, ‘I’m sure he’ll do something else.’ Several weeks later, I found out he had. Captain Victory was already on its third issue. It may not be considered his best work, but for a kid who had just found a new hero, the thrill of seeing new work was boundless.
I wrote him an infantile fan letter late in 1982 and was grief-stricken when I didn’t get a reply. My mother, an inveterate autograph hunter, took the initiative and wrote to him without telling me in the spring of 1983. The first I knew was when I received a two-page letter from him, complimenting me on my work (mom also sent him a few of my throwaway drawings), plus a signed copy of Captain Victory #10. It was one of my biggest thrills.
My grandmother—my gateway to the world of comics—passed away in 1989. She was born the same year as Kirby; it was the first hard reminder my youth received of mortality.
I did my first professional journalism in 1997 for, of all things, a fitness magazine. It wasn’t much fun, but it was a break. Later, Dez Skinn started giving me work for Quality—ranging from Web design to print design, journalism and cartooning—which has been a positive and educational experience.
In 2007, I worked as researcher/consultant on the BBC4 documentary In Search of Steve Ditko (dedicated to another fave artist, the co-creator of Spider-Man!). Somehow, this didn’t lead to a prolific career in television (to date, at least), but it was a fun and valuable experience regardless.
Cinematically, aside from my horror films obsession, I love film noir and a wide range of world cinema. I think Orson Welles is the greatest film director who ever lived. And Citizen Kane isn’t his best movie. I even watch the odd new film.
Musically, my soundtrack is dominated by David Bowie, Siouxsie Sioux and Tori Amos. I got to meet Tori in September 2009. As a youth I had a struggle in allegiance between Bowie and Queen, but DB finally won. People like Siouxsie have always been role models—I’m a punk at heart, with a touch of the gothic. Otherwise, my musical tastes are quite diverse.
My father died in 2002 and my mother followed in 2006; the family otherwise has historically been rather fragmented and distant, so as an only child—my mother miscarried my prospects of a sibling in the late ’70s—I have no family ties of note. My best friend is a West Highland White Terrier named Fred. He was born in 2004.
I’ve been playing around with Web stuff since 1995. This site has been online in various incarnations since around August 2000 (the blog debuted in Dec ’00). Which is kinda scary and quite sobering.
Page modified on October 22, 2012