Friday, 29 February 2008

Playing in the traffic

I've been wasting too much time arguing about politics on the Comics Journal message board, when I'd rather have been posting about comics here. More Bruin tomorrow, I promise.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The Soldiers of the Moon-Dark

The soldiers of the Moon-Dark are round and small.
Each clanks like a tank, blue armour covering all.
He wears asbestos overalls under his clatter.
So if he's thrown to the volcanoes it does not matter.
His weapon is a sackful of bloodsucking vampires
(Wars on the moon are without rules or umpires)
He flings these bats one at a time into the enemy host.
When it returns full he sends it to the first aid post
Where it gives up the blood for transfusions later in the battle.
Then it flies back to its owner with renewed mettle.

From The Armies of the Moon by Ted Hughes, one of the poems in The Earth-Owl and Other Moon-People.

The drawing is one of a pair illustrating poems from this book done when I was about eleven years old, some time ago now. Unpublished of course! The other was of the Earth-Owl himself, but I can't find it now. Instead I offer another picture from the same time below, drawn soon after I saw Star Wars for the first time. Years later I had another go at painting Star Wars pictures, some of which you can see on my site.

The Armies of the Moon copyright © 1963 by Ted Hughes.

War propaganda for children

There's a war on. What do you tell your children? Here's one example from 1942, My Book to Help America by Munro Leaf, author of the classic picture book The Story of Ferdinand

The message is: you're too young to fight, so eat well, play and exercise, get plenty of sleep, and put your savings in war bonds to help the grownups who do the fighting.

In contrast here's a more recent piece of war propaganda aimed at children. The message: the best thing you can do is get yourself killed murdering Danish cartoonists.

Scans by Iowahawk found via Journalista. My Book to Help America copyright © the estate of Munro Leaf.

Sunday, 24 February 2008


Above: an old drawing. Below: a new wrinkle, from yesterday's International Herald Tribune.

A National Intelligence Estimate published in early December concluded, to the surprise of many in the White House, that Iran had suspended its work on weapons design in late 2003, apparently in response to growing international pressure. That report immediately undercut President George W. Bush's effort, in his last year in office, to rally other nations to impose harsh financial sanctions on Iran for continuing to produce uranium fuel. Russia and China, both of which have deep commercial relationships with Iran, have made clear they would not go along with severe sanctions, and a watered-down set of new sanctions is now headed back to the Security Council.

U.S. allies in Europe have expressed puzzlement about the intelligence estimate, and some have suggested its timing was intended to reduce the chances that Bush could take military action against Iran's nuclear sites in coming months, a notion intelligence officials deny. In recent weeks, the director of U.S. national intelligence, Mike McConnell, told Congress he now has regrets about how the intelligence estimate was presented, saying it had failed to emphasize that Iran is moving ahead with the hardest part of any bomb project: producing the fuel. Designing a crude weapon is considered a far easier task.

More on Mike McConnell's second thoughts from Francis Sedgemore.

A short account of what he said from US News & World Report.

A New Yorker profile of Mike McConnell.

A follow up post from me here.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

I'm standing on my head, eating a piece of cake, oh yeah

Peggy is FOUR tomorrow, hurray! And her friend Verity who is visiting has her birthday a few days later, so we need TWO very pink cakes.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Remembering the Evening Times Bruin Club

Other entertainment included the magic lantern show in the wee wooden church hall opposite the library, the Evening Times Bruin club at the Burgh Hall. This was a spin off from the Bruin the Bear cartoon strip in the paper. Back then I believed Bruin when he cut down a tree to use as a keel, broke up some barrels and built a boat from them to sail on his adventures. Nowadays kids would get legal aid, hire a lawyer and sue the Times because they misled them!
Alex Saville remembering his Glasgow childhood.

In a previous post I wrote a little about Bruin, the Evening Times version of the Danish children's strip Rasmus Klump. That post included the cover and first page of a scrapbook of Bruin strips from the early 1950s. Here are a few more pages continuing the story.

I'd like to contrast those last strips with the same scene in a later translation, Barnaby Bear builds a boat, published by Random House New York in 1979. The Random House version, apparently translated not from the Danish original, but from a German edition, loses much of the humour.

Rasmus Klump/Bruin/Barnaby Bear copyright © Egmont Serieforlaget

Monday, 18 February 2008

Rasmus Klump in Scotland

Following my previous posts on Rasmus Klump, I was lucky enough to find a book for sale online of the Glasgow Evening Times version of the strip. I think this was published about 1950.

(Edit: The strip made its Danish newspaper debut in November 1951, so the Evening Times version is obviously later than that.)

I'd expected this to be a book reprinting strips that had previously appeared in the paper, but no, it's a scrapbook that readers could receive along with their membership of The Bruin Club, so that they could collect the strips and paste them in.

The copy I have has four blank pages towards the end, so despite the diligence of its original owner in collecting the strips, there may be a few missing. I believe there is at least one gag from the story that I've seen in the French edition which is missing here. On the other hand I don't recall seeing the two gags below in any other editions of this first Klump story.

All book editions of Klump seem to be missing some strips from the original Danish newspaper run. The first book edition, in landscape format and now available in a facsimile edition, includes strips left out of later portrait format editions. The French series breaks the first Klump story into two volumes, and so includes even more than the Danish landscape edition. I don't have a copy of the French edition to compare this with at the moment, though.

The unfinished story in the first strip below became a running joke throughout the strip's run - it's nice to at last see the first example of it.

I'm happy to say that this Scottish translation seems much superior to the American one from the '70s.

Rasmus Klump/Bruin copyright © Egmont Serieforlaget

Friday, 15 February 2008


The art above was created for the Raymond Scott CD Kodachrome, on the Basta label.
For the front of the CD box I did an acrylic painting, the back you can see below, but the taxi above was on the CD itself. I rendered the final version with a coarse dot screen, and what appears white above was left unprinted so that the silver of the CD showed through.

The taxi theme came of course from 'Confusion Among A Fleet of Taxicabs Upon Meeting With a Fare', the last track on the album.  Other taxi tunes I like are Tokyo Taxi Robot by Arling and Cameron, and Jeg Skulle Have Været Taxachauffør by Dan Turèll - lyrics below.

While I'm at it, can I name some favourite taxi films? Yes, I know the Scorsese/Schrader/DeNiro one is good, but for real taxi excitement see Satyajit Ray's Abhijan! But before the main feature, a cartoon.: Mickey Mouse in Traffic Troubles. Now, back to Dan Turell:

I should have been a taxi driver
by Dan Turèll
my translation from Danish - kellie)

I should have been a taxi driver
- Ahh I should have been a taxi driver
suddenly I can see it -
that's what I should have been!

I would have been a great taxi driver
the taxi drivers' greatest hit
the cabdriver to end all cabdrivers -

I would have sat there at the steering wheel
been at home and at work at the same time
like a snail in its shell
or like the perfect publican -
I would sit beside the customer
divided by ashtray and creaking gearstick
and I would sit erect and calm like a well-practiced rat -

and I'd make the customers comfortable -
I would cheer them up with the latest from the weather forecast
(I'd have the radio going the whole day
and maybe even a thermos flask) -
I would give them advice and tips
about where they should go for what
and where they could find the same thing cheaper
and where they could find the same thing with music -
I would recommend a good restaurant a good dentist a good accountant a good cabaret
I would offer suggestions for their pools coupons
and reminisce about the runners up from 1948 or the Fiffer-Revues with the older customers
and the ones from the provinces I would indicate suitable hotels
I would help them all with their problems
I would have tried the same thing
from alcohol to divorce,
from stress to schizophrenia
and I would be sympathetic
and I would try not to know better -

buuut at the same time I would be a pure devil in the inner city traffic!
I would know exactly where and when
I could take the corner on two wheels
and where a more dignified facade was required
(because common sense changes the law from street corner to street corner) -
I would calculate the traffic underway
like in a game of chess
I would have my tactics in place
like a six day racer in the field
before every set of traffic lights
I would know all the short cuts and escape routes
I would treat the wheel like my own hand
I would mercilessly see through the other motorists bewildered manoeuvres
and at every moment know their position in the lane
and I wouldn't hesitate to criticise their driving
I would give it a loud and entertaining running commentary
while I myself chattily drove with nonchalant perfection
with one finger on the wheel
all through the city
in all kinds of weather
at all hours of the day and night
with all kinds of people of every age sex and type
rich people
poor people
happy people
crazy people
drunken people
drowning people
dying people
birthing people -

and I would smile to them all
and admit that it was too bad
that these were hard times
but that it would probably all work out
as long as we didn't lose our sense of humour -

And once in a while
maybe once a month
I would be gloomy and downcast
and black and forbidding and misanthropic and moonsick and suspicious
and look as though I expected everyone to want to mug me from behind
or at least do a runner from the fare -
that day I would shout and scream obscenities and swear at all the city's other cars
and that day I'd only laugh on the inside -

but the day after I'd once again
and for at least a month on
be the same good old ordinary popular driver
as they would call me -

I can hardly wait
when I'm big I want to be a taxi driver!
in my next life maybe I'll be a taxi driver - FINALLY!

'I should have been a taxi driver' copyright © estate of Dan Turèll

Thursday, 14 February 2008


From that same painting in progress, nearly done now.

But what are they singing? The Golden Vanity? No, too sad. Haul Away Joe? That's more like it. Or Away You Rio? Could be. Maybe Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her? Yes, that's the one!

These songs and over sixty more are to be found in Burl Ives' Sea Songs of Sailing, Whaling, and Fishing.

Burl Ives book © Burl Ives 1956

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Journey to Saturn

When the Danish Cartoons business was at its height a couple of years ago, there was naturally a thread about it on the Comics Journal Message Board. I was surprised by one commenter who asserted that there was something hypocritical about the Danish state not using existing blasphemy laws to prosecute the newspaper that published the cartoons. This from a fellow who's a nice liberal living in San Francisco, not at all the kind of person you'd expect to be advocating censorship. As I remember it, I pointed out at the time that the Danes weren't in the habit of prosecuting cartoonists who caricatured Jesus, so there was no double standard in not prosecuting in the Mohammed case.  One example I had in mind was the brilliant comic album by Claus Deleuran, Rejsen til Saturn (Journey to Saturn) from 1977. 

It's a highly satirical tale of a Danish space mission, with lots of beer, aliens, politics, religion, and space toilet jokes. Along the way the spaceship runs out of fuel and have to get out and walk. They stumble across the entrance to Heaven where they meet not just St Peter and God the Father, but also Reservejesus (little brother to Jesus), Satan, and then Jesus himself.

In the excerpt below, Jesus has just returned to Heaven from his latest incarnation. He explains that this time he tried "a different path, drove the whole thing super-professional, completely cool you know! 1.5 million annual turnover man! Two villas and four cars! Then suddenly an idiot comes out from a side road - SMASH! man!"  

Happily, though God hasn't any petrol to give the space explorers, he does lend them the Holy Ghost, which obligingly flies into their jerry-can.

Just in case you think I'm pulling out some obscure example of Danish cartooning to make a point, Journey to Saturn is now being made as a feature film by A-film animation.

UPDATE: trailers here.

Rejsen til Saturn © 1977 Claus Deleuran, © 2001 Lone Deleuran

A little map of Denmark

I love this little map of Denmark used by the BBC News site to illustrate the story of the death threats against cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. It was the third and last image on the page. Yes, after the important photo of Danish flags being burned, and the appropriate photo of Mr Westergaard, the map was obviously the most relevant and informative image to use. As for these other images, nobody would learn anything from looking at them, would they?

Map © BBC

What colour were the dinosaurs?

I've previously mentioned Aidan Potts' brilliant children's science book Uneversaurus - it takes the question of dinosaur colour and uses it to explore the role of colour in animal evolution. This week's episode of The Material World on BBC Radio 4 was on the same topic. Happily for Aidan's book, scientists are no nearer to definitive answers on the colour of dinosaurs, though they may be able to detect patterning on dinosaur skin, and also deduce colour on some animals with exoskeletons - that means shells, sonny. You can read details of the programme here.

Uneversaurus © Aidan Potts

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


In the spring of 2007 there was an exhibition of my work in Copenhagen, at the Paludan Bookshop & Café. When the time came to take down the show, one picture was missing. So if you see the painting above on someone's wall, could you ask them to give it back please? Thank you very much.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Noisy nights in Dublin

A series of posters from between 1991 and 1993 for Dublin bands The Mexican Pets, Pet Lamb and Jam Jar Jail.

There's a follow up post here.

Treasure map

This map is one of many from the last couple of years, quickly sketched in the street so that Bo could play treasure hunting on the walk home. Bo is seven on saturday!

Saturday, 9 February 2008


Above: A doodle from last year.

Below: More antlerism from Rasmus Klump møder Ursula, by Carla and Vilhelm Hansen.

Two Rasmus Klump books were published in the US by Random House in 1979, Barnaby Bear builds a boat, and Barnaby Bear visits the farm, but these translations don't really do justice to the Danish originals. Reading the copyright declaration, I suspect they may have actually been translated from the German editions, so translations of translations.

I have yet to make a trip to Colindale to track down Klump's Scottish incarnation, as Bruin in the Evening Times. There seem to have been a few British books that derived from this newspaper run: The Bruin Story and Bruin's Adventures at Sea, both published by the Evening Times in 1950, and later from Brockhampton Press came Bruin Sets Sail, Bruin is Shipwrecked (1958), Bruin the Deep Sea Diver (1959).

Rasmus Klump © Egmont Serieforlaget

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Disestablish the Church of England

Now I don't want all you cats and studs to think I'm down on The Nazz, but Common Sense says that all you hear of him is hearsay, and we don't need no state-sanctioned rumour-mongering around here.

Rectification is loooong overdue.


Back in 1994, the first three Airforce Amazons stories appeared in Inkling No.12. Here's a beautiful cover of an earlier issue of Inkling by Aidan Potts. In comics, Aidan is best known for co-creating the wonderful Randy the Skeleton comics with writer Ian Carney, and for his current strips in Private Eye, but if you haven't seen his recent children's book Uneversaurus, then you still haven't seen him at his best.

Above, front cover of Inkling No.3 from 1989, below, the back cover. Copyright © Aidan Potts.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

The card players

Above: detail from a painting in progress. The scenario will be familiar to readers of the Danish children's strip Rasmus Klump, aka Petzi in French and German.

Rasmus Klump art copyright © Egmont Serieforlaget

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Champion Jack

A quick small acrylic sketch of Champion Jack Dupree, from 1990. This was based on the cover of the Sonet album, The Legacy of the Blues vol. 3, from 1971.

Jack Dupree only improved with age, I feel. Another record of his I listened to a lot was I Had That Dream, with guitarist Kenn Lending, from 1982.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Return of the Airforce Amazons

This is the first new Airforce Amazons image I've rendered in a very long time. Acrylic on paper, it was painted at the end of last year, based on a sketch from a year earlier. Click to enlarge.

The original sketch below was a doodle done in the aftermath of this strip.

About the artist

Me, and Now, and Me and Now.

All unbridled vanity and the tyranny of the eternal present.

Better to read the comics at