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 The Fleetway interviews #6

 'Hey Fresco!'
    In July 2003 The Hound said 'hi' to Fresco and his Tuesday-bashing
    creator and former Fleetway artist J Edward Oliver...
    Fresco by JEO
  Hello, it's JEO    Hey Fresco!     1971 BC
  Fresco's creator...    3 Fresco strips...    A Fresco biography...


    Hello, it's JEO

    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
    at Fleetway. 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'.

      Master MindRobin Good

    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 you up..

      Abolish Tuesdays now!

    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...
    Hey Fresco!
     Preeee-senting Fresco, in all his prehistoric glory:

      Fresco by JEO...     Fresco by JEO...
         Strip - 1                                                            Strip - 2

  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 by JEO...
         Strip - 3

     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 listings...


   1971 BC

    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) At the
    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. 2)

    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!

      Figure-1     Figure-2

         Fig.1                                      Fig.2

    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
    my honour!

    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!'


    ...And so says The Hound, too. Fresco deserves to be a star doesn't he?
    Do yourself and JEO a favour and visit Peter Sanders' site. Sign up for Fresco
    today. You might also like to drop by Peter Gray's expanding fan-site as well.

    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...

     - Till next time!

Pooch again!     thehound@toonhound.com    

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© J Edward Olive r/ F2000-2004