Fleetway fans will be familiar with Colin
Whittock's work for Whizzer And Chips
Buster and other weeklies. Between 1970 and
1986 Colin brought us the best
days of Lazy
Bones, Catnap, and Mizz Marble, took over strip duties on Champ,
Clever Dick and many more besides. But he's
more widely known as an editorial
and commercial cartoonist, admired for his
work on The Birmingham Evening Mail,
Punch and Private Eye - work that's lead on to
employment as a writer for that
hugely-successful radio series The News Huddlines.
In addition, he's illustrated a
popular series of books - 'The Perils Of...'
- familiar to anyone who browses
the Humour section of their local bookstore.
Oh, and then there's those strips
starring Kev the surly teenager, and
those greetings cards, and - well - plenty
more besides. Suffice it to say our Colin's a rather
Colin's strip work is most distinctive, a loose
pen and very fine line. Panels
and characters feel scribbled, almost, and are imbued
with great energy.
That is, apart from that lazy lumpkin Benny Bones. All
the energy in a Lazy
Bones strip is being generated around his
There's plenty more detail and info on Colin's
official site, but don't go there
yet or you'll miss out on our rather splendid Q&A
here at Toonhound...
Talking to Colin has been a real pleasure.
He took much time and effort to
answer my questions and furnish me with many
of the images you see
on this page. Now call me bone idle (or indeed,
Benny Bones-idle) but I've
found a comfortable formula for these Q&As,
so as usual my questions
are in bold and we start from where
we always seem to start - right back
at the beginning...
Where do you hale from. Did anyone in your family
I'm a Brummie, born and bred, and the only
artistic background I know of
is that my maternal grandfather, who I never met,
was a compositor in the
trade and did beautiful copperplate penwork.
Who were your childhood influences?
Leo Baxendale, Davy Law and other Beano artists.
Later Larry, Bill Tidy,
Giles and the countless other cartoonists, most
of who's work I thoroughly
Did you come through art school?
No, I failed 'O-Level' art at Grammar School, which
impossible to do.
Your first break, was it the Birmingham Evening
that come about?
I suppose the Mail was my first big break, but
I'd been selling single gags
around the considerably much larger market that
was around in those days.
I'd even sold my first cartoons to Punch, which
was our biggest target.
But then one of those things happened that you
cannot anticipate. My
predecessor on the paper suddenly decided to sell-up,
draw out his pension
pot, buy a Land Rover and caravan and drive to
Australia to seek his fortune
in opals. This was 1969 and he'd been on the paper
since 1948. He left on
the Friday and on the following Monday, I left
three finished topical cartoons
with the commissionaire at the front desk together
with a spiky letter to the
editor saying, 'I am going to send you cartoons
every day, use them if you
like them or spike them if you don't.' I look
back and wonder where on earth
the idea for that aggressive attack came from,
because honestly, at that time
I was a fairly mild character, but something or
somebody drove me into doing
it and it worked. Cartoons were published that
day and thereafter and so I had
started my first regular job. I still work for
So how did your Fleetway work come around?
My career with Fleetway was only ever a part-time
career. I was enjoying
drawing gag cartoons with steady success, but had
always been, like most
of my generation a terrific fan of comics. Particularly
Davy Law and Baxendale's
breakthrough in the Beano during the mid-fifties.
I really wanted to see if I could
draw for the comics. During the Cartoonist Club
convention at Pwhelli in
May 1970, I chatted to Roy Davis about it. Roy
worked for Fleetway and was
also a successful gag cartoonist for Punch with
a very distinctive style. He said
the best approach was to choose a current character
whose style I thought I
could match, draw up an episode and send it in.
I chose a character called
'Spoilsport', worked up a story and sent it to
Roy in June 1970. I later rang
him and he said the comments he'd heard were favourable.
I heard nothing
till mid-July when Bob Paynter, the Whizzer and
Chips editor (amongst many
others) rang me and offered me a 'Champ' script
to try out. This I drew and he
immediately said he would use it and started sending
me scripts weekly. I was
up and running.
Like many things in life, I'd picked a lucky moment.
I applied just at a time
when Mr Baxendale was under so much pressure, that
they were looking for
artists to pick-up some of his work. This was emphasized
when I received a
call from another editor, Len Wenn, who asked me
if I could draw an episode
of another Baxendale cracker, 'The Swots and the
Blots'. Again, I drew this
double-pager and received a telegram asking if
I could take over the feature.
At the time I was determined to continue with my
other regular and gag cartoon
work, so I turned it down. It would have been a
lot of work drawing a two-page
spread with all the characters.
And from there came Champ and Lazy Bones and
I drew 'Champ' from episode 50 in 1970 through
to episode 341 in April 1976,
over 300 sets including Annuals and Summer Specials.
I also did odd Summer
Specials, Annuals and the occasional comic page
for 'Clever Dick' of Buster
fame. I then was moved on to 'Lazy Bones', my favourite.
I drew Benny Bones
from March 1978 through to July 1986. From there
sprang 'Catnaps' in August
1979. I also drew cover sets during holidays etc.
for 'Mustapha Million' (Cheeky),
'Speed Squad' , 'Snooper' (Jackpot), 'Full O' Beans'
(Jackpot) and 'Sweeny
Toddler' (Whoopee), 'Nellyphant' (Buster) and 'The
In 1982, I was given 'Rolf's Magic Brushes ' and
'Jake the Peg' for WOW!. This
was based on Rolf Harris and was sponsored
by the toy company who sold
Magic Brushes. Then while still drawing Lazy
Bones in summer 1983, Bob
Paynter rang and asked me to create a new
double-page set, 'Coronation
Street School'. This was obviously based on
child versions of all the popular
'Street' characters at that time. This started
in Whizzer And Chips in
September 1983 and ran until August 1984,
not as popular as the real thing.
I drew Lazy and Catnaps through until July
1986, like I say. Then Bob rang
and asked me to create another new double
page set, 'Mizz Marbles'. This
started in Whizzer And Chips issue 2nd August
1986 and at that point,
I believe Len Hill took over Lazy Bones. I
drew 'Mizz Marble' through to
March 1988, some 80 sets. At this time, comics
were on the blink. Closing
down or merging titles, and mine and many
other artist's work fizzled out.
Many tried to switch to D.C.Thomson. I tried
and drew numerous pages for
their small comic books, which was their sort
of training ground. But the
money was much lower than Fleetway artists
were used to. My peak with
Thomson's was to finally be trusted with a
set of 'Ivy the Terrible' which
actually appeared in the Beano in November
1989, so I made it! - But that
was it. The end of a most enjoyable era. I
loved drawing comics and I thank
Bob Paynter for giving me those years of enjoyment.
The other truth was,
my other cartoon work meant that I couldn't
justify the work and reward that
came from the comic work that was then available.
You're a comedy writer too, were you allowed
to write your own
I didn't write many, the odd 'Champ' and 'Lazy
Bones'. The only one I wrote
was the 'Catnaps' strips, that was mine.
Your 'Perils of…' books have proven remarkably
did they come about?
Again luck took a hand. Before those books
were published I was introduced
to a very successful book packager. He commissioned
top names to write
books of anecdotes and then commissioned cartoonists
to illustrate same. I'd
been in hospital recovering from eye-surgery (Both
my retinas were coming off)
when this gentleman called and asked if I'd like
to illustrate 'More Bedside Golf'
by Peter Alliss. Would I? I now know it was a great
friend Bill Tidy, who knowing
my low predicament had recommended me to the agent
as someone needing
a pick-me-up. So I said 'Yes, please' which
was very risky because at that
time I couldn't see! - I then illustrated that
book through a very squinty right
eye, but it still looks ok. This preamble is to
say that from there I did several
books with this guy and one day I was delivering
a set of finished cartoons
when he said that Sphere paperbacks had a gap in
their schedules because
Stan McMurtry (cartoonist Mac) was ill and couldn't
complete a book they'd
commissioned, did I have anything? I said I had
the outline of a book about
being 40 and the mid-life crisis, but I couldn't
sort out a format. The next
morning in the post he sent me a series of
headings and that was just what
I needed. So simple but I hadn't spotted it
myself. Anyway I quickly prepared
the roughs sent them in, Sphere changed their
minds but Century picked
them up and the rest as they say, is history. I
did five in the series and they
all reprinted , the '40' one eleven times
Have you plans for any more cartoon book series?
Apparently my contract says that if I have
any more plans I have to give
Century first refusal. But I've been too busy/lazy
to come up with any new
ideas and themes, but maybe one day…..
When did you start Chipper?
I took over when Jack Bell - the previous artist
- retired about eleven years
ago, on a temporary basis until they could find
another artist. And now some
4000 +plus strips further on I wouldn't be without
him. The strip is nearly fifty
years old, started in the North East by Doug Smith
(Who I met at the Cartoonist
Club) then taken up by Len Pardoe followed by Jack
Bell then myself.
And there's Kev too. How did that one come to you?
This is a coloured weekly for our local Sunday
Mercury and came about
when the editor asked me if I knew anyone who could
create a strip about
a teenage layabout. At the time my son Andy was
at Uni about to leave, and
he was a more than handy cartoonist. I said here's
a golden opportunity to
land your first regular spot. So I started him
off drawing in his style and signing
it Andy. He didn't take it up and here we are again
some 400 plus strips further
on and I'm still Andy. Mind you, he justified his
other interests as he's now
working as a technical director with Pixar in San
Looking at your
web site, I'm intrigued by those Armitage Pet
Products caricatures- what were they for exactly?
They were dog and cat toys. They had previously
had a set of Maggie
and Kinnock designed by Fluck and Law the Spitting
Image genii. I had to
design Hague, Blair and Gordon Brown. Great fun.
I was half way through
drawing Portillo but he never made it, so that
Do you operate out of a studio, from home
Yes! - That is I have three boards set up. One
at the Evening Mail, one in
my studio in Birmingham city centre and one at
home. I waltz between the
three. Early morning deadlines at the Mail. Some
time at the studio and then
odd times at home when I'm dog-sitting.
Do you have a particular work routine. Are you
artist or do you burn the midnight oil?
I rise at 5.30am and immediately scan the news
having done the same the
night before. I then go into Brum at 7am to my
studio and finish my rough
ideas. I then present the roughs to my editor and
draw the chosen cartoon
for my deadline of 8.30am. So it's an early start.
I then work at the Mail on
Chippers or other work and go over to my Studio
again. I work on other items
and go home during the afternoon. I then finish
other work and send any items
as my computer is at home and I send 99% of my
work attached to e-mails.
I also finish work on the computer as necessary.
Yes I still do burn the midnight,
but not as much as I used to.
Your radio writing seems to be a natural extension
of your topical
and editorial cartoon work for Punch and Private
Eye etc.- did that
work come from those connections?
Not really. Obviously the topical work helps because
you're thinking along
the same thought lines but again it was a desire
to have a go at something
I adored. Radio comedy. The beauty of the News
Huddlines was that anyone
could send stuff in and it was a show based on
the old traditions of comedy
but with an up-to-date sting. I had bad luck there
really because I was told by
the producer that I was to be a commissioned writer
for the next series and
Roy went into Coronation Street, so there wasn't
a next series!
You have your own developing website, have
you moved on to
graphics tablets, Flash and suchlike or are you
I have a Wacom tablet which I use regularly. I
mix a bit of everything really.
I still use ink and a dip-in Gillott 303 nib for
my cartoons but I also use all
the modern felt-tips etc. and other wonderful products
that are available.
I colour a lot of my work on the computer and it's
always a bit embarrassing
when someone wants an original and I have to say
it only exists in black
Have you ever worked in animation circles at all.
area interest you, particularly?
No, I haven't, but I'm interested in every aspect
of our work and my son
has obviously kept me up to date with many of the
latest developments in
the animation world. Your readers maybe interested
to see some of his
creations on his site www.toonnation.co.uk...
What are your current projects, and what's next.
more new strips?
To be honest, my regular work takes up most of
my time and I have little
time to spend on new projects. I'm illustrating
a book of limericks for a
friend (Fifth book in a series) I've lost my writing
target (The Huddlines)
for the moment. So I need new inspiration for a
writing project. I wish I had
more time to do singles for Private Eye etc. I'll
be perfectly happy continuing
with my work and looking at any new projects that
I'm able to help with.
From The Archive
As I mentioned at the top of the page, and
as referred to in the Q&A,
Colin is probably better known for editorial
and commercial work.
These four scans were included in the selection
of material Colin sent
to accompany our chat and rather than reducing
them down to
squint-or-you'll-miss-'em jpegs, it made sense
to present them in
their full-size glory via these thumbnails...
First up are two splendidly effective views
of the world in the wake of
September 11th and all that dreadful day entailed.
Then there's some
topical humour, poking fun at the good old
NHS. And lastly, to lighten
things up we have a typical greetings card
There are plenty more examples of this kind of work
web site, including scans of those Armitage Pet
Products I mention
in the Q&A, more book info, and more besides.
Here's the URL:
there you have it, folks, The Hound's Colin Whittock page. An
accomodating fellow and a pleasure to 'talk' to
- or at least, exchange
- Till next time!