Any strips you really loved
doing and any that were a total chore? I'm sure you
would have enjoyed writing your own Famous Fives for
example but I gather the Enid Blyton Foundation nixed
that and made you adapt the Blyton books?
Yes, the Enid Blyton strips were murder. As with the
Just William series, I had to use original stories
because of copyright ownership pressure, and as you
know, the stories were never originally envisaged
as being picture strips. They were most difficult
to put into pictures because they had convoluted plots.
One can dredge up something from a text story from
twenty pages back, without a problem, but you can't
do the same thing with a strip. Not unless it is published
in a sixty-four page book. I would say that these
two particular strips were my least favourite. They
were chores. I had to use someone else's stories,
and I didn't like that. It's not a prima-donna thing.
I never cared, for example, for Blyton's stuff when
I was a kid. Therefore it was a drag for me to script.
Richmal Crompton was different. I loved the Just William
stories. However, they were also difficult to adapt.
So much relied on words rather than on pictures in the
original. Redgauntlet was a pain too (a serialisation
of a Scottish Television serialisation of a Sir Walter
Scott novel, first shown in 1970 - Alistair). Putting
complex plots like those of Walter Scott into a running
picture serial was like being in hell.
|Redgauntlet. 1971. Art: Gerry
Now - if only someone had asked me to scriptwrite the
Hornblower stories of Cecil Scott Forester. For me,
he was the perfect writer. His stories flowed, as every
good story should. A to B, and no farting about with
digressions to G and H and M.
My most favourite scripts were - for TV 21, The Monkees,
as drawn by Harry Lindfield. And Dangermouse, as drawn
by the incomparable Arthur Ranson, a bar-bellying buddy
of mine whom I miss greatly. Do you know, Arthur is
the most self-effacing artist I have ever known. I always
thought he was brilliant, yet he had scant confidence
in himself. He would slave for hours at a Grant Projector
to get his pictures (a device that allows artists to
trace photographs - Alistair), rather than draw them
freehand. Arthur is someone I respect and admire greatly.
He and I, I reckon, did a great deal for Look-In over
the years. We discussed our plans and worked out our
ploys in a nice, old fashioned Victorian pub near to
where Arthur lived, in Wandsworth, The County Arms.
It should have a plaque. Going back to the Monkees,
I saw the pilot episode with Alan Fennell and his minions
at some preview theatre in Soho. It was brilliant. I
remember saying: "These characters will flatten The
|The Famous Five. 1978. Art:
Typically, the pilot was never shown,
and the actual series was a load of crap. The stuff
I wrote for TV21, initally drawn by Tom Kerr, and
later by Harry, was, I think, infinitely better than
anything on screen. It possibly went over the readers'
heads, but I enjoyed writing it more than anything
I have ever done.
Did any strips fall through
due to rights (i.e. money!) issues or second thoughts
on the editorial staff's part that you can remember
thinking might have been fun to do? Ace of Wands,
Thames TV's fantasy adventure series of the early
70s is said to have almost been turned into strip
form. And I'd love to have seen a New Avengers strip
- was that considered at any time? Star Maidens, Return
of the Saint, The Muppets are other series that spring
to mind. Any really wacky pop groups ideas that fell
through? The Wild Adventures of Kim Wilde???
Well, I can't actually admit to having been bothered
about 'might have beens'. Such is the (possibly sneerworthy)
attitude of the money-grubbing professional. I did
manage The Avengers, but only on the basis of some
annuals for Seymour Press when Linda Thorson was the
female lead. We did have a chance to do the Muppets
for Look-In - I went with Alan Fennell to a preview,
and actually turned in a sample script. But for some
reason or other, it all fell through. I imagine that
the Muppets production company was asking too much
from Alan for the rights. As I said, he was an astute
man, and only nodded his head for the very best deals
for his company.
During the tenure of Colin Shelbourn as editor (Alan
Fennell left for World Distributors during 1975 after
they made him an offer he couldn't refuse - Alistair),
we did toy with one or two jobs that never came about.
There was a family group of singers from Birmingham
- I forget the group's name. 'Pass The Duchy On The
Left Hand Side' was their initial hit (it is of course
Musical Youth! - Alistair). We were going to sign 'em
up for Look-In, and I wrote a script. They liked it,
but they decided they would rather start a comic themselves,
with - naturally - themselves as the front page stars.
You remember the launch? No, neither do I. It never
The mind boggles!
There was also Metal Mickey. A laudable programme
concerning a robot within a middle class family (which
actually included Irene Handl). We had terrible trouble
with it. My first scripts were turned down, then I
re-wrote, but the Metal Mickey entrepreneur didn't
like Bill Titcombe's drawings, so we ditched the whole
idea. Great pity … though in truth, the TV series
didn't exactly do wonders.
Your DC Thomson rival of the
time, (TV) TOPS eventually carried a Mickey strip
so it would seem a deal was struck somewhere. Maybe
they offered a few more cups of oil than your lot.