J Edward Oliver has been tooning for more than
thirty years. He rose to cartoon
prominence in the 1970's, drawing 'E C Ryder'
(Easy Rider, geddit?) for music
mags 'DISC' and 'Record Mirror' and went on to dizzy
heights of cartoon fame
JEO as he's most commonly known was tooning for 'Whoopee!',
'Jackpot' and the rest at the turn of the eighties
up until the protracted and painful
demise of the fun comic weeklies. He brought
us the indomitable 'Cliff Hanger',
'Robin Good', 'Master Mind', 'The Loon Ranger'
and a new-look 'Champ'.
A JEO strip is instantly recognisable. He leans
towards 'chunky' panels, with
thick black ink lines and shadings. But there's a
simple explanation behind
that, as he now reveals:
'Unusual among cartoonists,
I draw almost all my work actual size!
Saves on paper, ink and postage, and makes
it easier to reach the top
of the page....'
Crikey, now that's a revelation, because there's
a second distinctive aspect
to a JEO strip. He's a sucker for little details.
His strips are usually littered with
witty asides, signs, symbols and branding that
may or may not have some greater
significance, like his bizarre crank handle
boxes. Most significantly of all, he urged
and indeed, still urges one and all to 'Abolish
Tuesdays'. Mind you, if you ask JEO
quite why he wants this feat undertaken he'll
slip you as much twine as you care
to tangle yourself in. He does likes to crank
But Fresco's no wind up. He's a real toon dinosaur,
reincarnated by JEO after
a twenty-five year absence. He's a little brontosaurus,
but he's all cute. And he's
on the cusp of comic stardom, as the strips presented
here will attest...
Preeee-senting Fresco, in all his prehistoric
Fresco's a rather likeable saurus, dipped in innocence and
coated with a
not-too sugary coating of sweetness. Looking
at the strips presented here,
you'd be forgiven for thinking that this
jolly bronto was already appearing in
one of our daily papers, but that's not
so.... At least, not yet.
Fresco strips are currently only viewable
online. They're emailed once a week
(or there about) to people opting in to
an exclusive JEO mailing list and you can
subscribe to that list on Peter
Sanders' excellent JEO fan-site. Just look for
the 'Subscribe Me Now' link. It's free
and painless, and you needn't be fearful;
neither the artist or fan will bombard
you with junk emails, nor will you
be added to any of those horrendous third-party
Fresco's actually a lot older than he looks. And
no, we're not talking dino-years
here. He was in fact 'born' in the pages of 'DISC'
more than thirty years ago,
as JEO reveals in the biography and scans he shared
exclusively with The Hound:
'In the 29th May, 1971 episode of 'E.C.Ryder',
my cartoon strip in the popular
music paper 'DISC', the titular hero and his sidekick,
Elf Garnett, had been
transported back into the Stone Age. A distant silhouette
of a raging prehistoric
monster could be seen thundering towards them. In the following issue
(5th June), the monster was revealed (Fig.1)
conclusion of the next chapter, our heroes were frozen
in ice, thus enabling
them to return to the present (well, 1971), leaving
the nameless brontosaurus
never to be seen again.
Or so I thought.
A couple of months later, Gavin Petrie, the reclusive
'DISC' Editor, said that
he thought that the dinosaur had been an interesting
character and suggested
that I might bring him back. And so, in the issue
dated 26th February, 1972,
guess who is discovered in a remote cave? (Fig.
Strangely, the dinosaur has now shrunk (previously
he had been big enough
to ride on) and has lost the ability to talk!
As the years wore on, the character grew in popularity,
despite his catch-phrase
of 'Nobody loves a two-million-year-old dinosaur'.
He acquired the name Fresco-Le-Raye thanks to a reader's
entry in a
'Name The Dinosaur' competition and had his own fan
club of almost over
two thousand members (Where are they now?). When
DISC was taken over
by Record Mirror, Fresco-Le-Raye featured largely
in the publicity and even
appeared on their logo, letterheads and T-shirts.
Finally, in 1977, the strip
(latterly titled 'J.Edward Oliver') was suddenly
dropped. They told me that, in
the era of punk, my style was no longer appropriate!
For the next twenty years or so, I wrote and drew
strips for Fleetway. When
it became apparent that their last surviving title,
'Buster', couldn't last much
longer, I decided that the time had come for me to
return to my original ambition
of producing a daily newspaper strip. In the days
of 'DISC' and 'Record Mirror',
I had resisted making Fresco the lead character,
thinking that this might lead
to a lack of variety. However, I now thought that
it was worth a try, given Fresco's
proven past popularity.
Sadly, no newspaper showed any interest, so I worked
on various other pilots
(with the same result). I thought no more about Fresco
until a former reader,
Pete Sanders, tracked me down and revealed that he
had set up a web site in
Then, in March '03, Pete sent me an e-mail that said
'Don't forget Fresco's
two-million-and-thirty-first birthday on March 10th'.
This inspired me to draw a
brand new Fresco strip, which I e-mailed to everyone
in my address book.
While working on this cartoon, an idea for the next
one came me, then the next
and so on. The bad news is that I don't get paid
for this. The good news is that
I now email a weekly Fresco cartoon to anyone who
wants it. Free!
I'd like to be able to tell a national newspaper
that the strip is currently being
read by 2,000 people. Only 1,959 to go! If anyone
would like to subscribe (free!),
just visit Pete's excellent web site http://www.jeoliver.co.uk/
and click on
'Subscribe for free'.
The next chapter in the Fresco saga is up to you!'
Meanwhile his star creator has been busy earning
a living for himself drawing Col.
Hector. He's also faithfully promising to open up his magical box of
miscellany, and reveal one-or-two secrets about his
crank handle boxes
and the campaign to 'Abolish Tuesdays'. But
you can safely bet there'll be
a couple more cranks of the handle before he
truly reveals all...