Angus Allan Interview   Look-In
 
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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
Redgauntlet. 1971. Art: Gerry Haylock

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 Beatles".

Famous Five
The Famous Five. 1978. Art: Mike Noble

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 happened.

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.


 
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