Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spotlight on Cartoonist Peter Maddocks

Some people say that cartooning is a calling. The people who do it just do it because they want to -- more than anything else.

The cover to SO YOU WANT TO BE A CARTOONIST by Peter Maddocks, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

British cartoonist Peter Maddocks is of the most prolific cartoonists of the 20th century. He was a very busy man, whose cartoons graced all of the major publications.

By his own admission, he took cartoons seriously. Yes, one can take those funny little pictures very seriously. Maybe too seriously!

"I took my life as a cartoonist very seriously – to me it was everything, holidays were a bore, my poor wife would watch me mooch about walking up and down anywhere but the beach, passing away time until I could return to my drawing board in Fleet Street." - Peter Maddocks, from his interview in Crikey! magazine #12 Nov/Dec 2009

There is a special place in heaven for those patient souls who choose to love and live with cartoonists!

Here is a small collection of some of Mr. Maddocks' incredible output, with emphasis on his gag cartooning.

The thing about Peter Maddocks is that he makes it look easy. Above are 2 bums, in an alley. There's a night sky, so we know when it is. Peter has drawn an alley, so we know where it is. But that's not all. Look at the little touches: the clutter that he lovingly draws, the choice of having the second hobo cross his legs as he is settling down to the paper, the last remaining bottle of cheap hooch by his elbow. This all looks effortless - but those little touches are by choice and add to the value and character of the drawing. They are extra work. Those little touches take thought and consideration and that's what places Peter above the run-of-the-mill cartoonist.

If you are of a certain age, you grew up with Peter Maddocks' cartoons in the Daily Sketch or the Daily Express.

Peter obviously loves to draw, which is one of the reasons I wanted to highlight him. Here, in the classroom scene, where he could have gotten away with drawing just a few students, he's committed a good half dozen to the picture, plus their desks.

A former Merchant Navy man, the list of Maddocks cartoons and publications is large. Here are but a few:

FOUR D JONES newspaper comic strip (10 years)
NO. 10 newspaper comic strip (21 years)
Features Editor, King Magazine
Creator: Family Ness, Jimbo and the Jet Set, and Penny Crayon
Peter ran the London School of Cartooning Correspondence School (1977-90)
Animated films for the BBC since 1984
Co-founder and current Joint President of the British Cartoonists’ Association

And I am leaving out a lot of other good things (like that fact he started up his own successful agency at the age of 21 fresh out of the Merchant Navy, his long association with Mayfair Magazine, his taking over Useless Eustace from Jack Greenall, and more).

Above: one of my personal favorites. I remember laughing out loud (I really mean it -- not just "LOL," but really laughing out loud at this one). I love new takes on classic gag cartoon situations and Peter delivers here.

Maddocks is a cartoonist with a pen line that is fun to look at.

The Crikey! Magazine interview covers Peter's career, including a fascinating look at a what-might-have-been collaboration:

"I was a huge fan of the Goons on the radio and I suggested it would make a great cartoon for the [Daily] Sketch–Julian Phipps became very interested and contacted Spike Milligan about giving permission and writing a script. I went to The Goon Show rehearsals and met Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers. Sellers was very enthusiastic and we sat together drawing some of the characters, like Bludnock and Morriarty. I drew up some strips to show the famous three, all was going well until the Daily Star and Spike couldn’t agree on a contract, I never did find out what happened but the idea fell through."

So far as I can tell, this interview is not online.

Another good Native American gag, and an example of bringing in an incongruous modern take on an old tradition.

Mr. Maddocks has retired to Spain, where he now paints in acrylics.

My thanks to Leif Peng and Bryn Havord for their invaluable assistance.

Lots more at the Peter Maddocks Web site

Images © 2010 by Peter Maddocks. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

ah yes good old maddocks -- that 'so you want to be a cartoonist' book (different cover, but same title) got me started...

TimHarries said...

Yes, I've got that book too... Was probably the first one I bought on the subject.

Great post Mike - thanks for that.