18 May 2011


I came to a realisation today. I am heading into my 25th year as a published cartoonist. That freaks me out. (In a good way.)

 If you read the 'About Me' section of this site, you'll get a bit more of the background of how I got the opportunity to do a weekly cartoon strip called The Twangups for a dinky little weekly country newspaper in the Riverina region of Australia at the ripe old age of 12 years old, so I don't need to repeat that here.

What I will do here, for the first time - and quite probably the last time - is publish some of those strips online. (i'm sure my 12 year old self would freak out in his own way at the very concept of the Internet.)

It's been interesting (and a little cringe-inducing) to look back through those first 100 or so strips, which I haven't done in almost a decade. It's a slightly unnerving peer into the primodial soup of my pre-pubescent brain.

For the uninitiated, The Twangups were a struggling punk rock band doing their best to survive as musicians, with an incompetent manager, frequent personality clashes and a tendency to freak out in frustration when things got the better of them. Not a bad premise. There are worse sitcoms out there. 

By all accounts though the cartoons are awfully drawn. It was an exercise of trial and error, with about 90% error, and I know I should consider myself lucky that the paper actually agreed to keep publishing the thing for two and a half years. The writing is almost illegible and the plots of the strips are frequently confusing, and the humour often lame.

I can also see now how heavily influenced they were by the Charles M Schulz's Peanuts strips which I read all the time, with the 'wide-shot' layout and the body movements of the characters.

What does appear to me - like shiny buttons in a mud puddle - are signs that this 12 year old did understand some of the basic fundamentals of cartooning, such as how to set-up for a punchline, and even include the occasional humorous twist. Over time I got to know and like certain characters and enjoyed the banter they would have between them.

However, what shines out most brightly for me is the memory of how much fun I had drawing them, and how I looked forward to every Wednesday morning when I would see them in print - and watch the faces of school mates on the bus who read them and laughed. 

I learned a lot from the process and discipline of having to produce something to a deadline, and how to communicate humour to a reader by putting myself in their shoes and asking what they would see as funny, not just what I would see. It's something I still try and work to today.

I'm too ashamed to put up too many of them here, so I've picked out three of my favourites, which just barely survive the test of time. I do still like the "Free measure and quote" gag, and the action sequence of the skateboard episode shows a pretty good grasp of cartoon character movement. I also like looking at the one of the punk rock band who have just been lined up for a gig at the Sydney Opera House -  a classic Spinal Tap style moment ... written before I'd even seen Spinal Tap!

What I like most about it however, is just the fact that it was the first cartoon I ever had published. I'm really happy to still be drawing cartoons and having them published a quarter of a century later, and hope I'll be doing it in another quarter century.

Thanks for the memories Twangups, and for everything I learned from you. Until we meet again in 2037, keep freaking out!