Above: Narroways Hill in St.Werburghs c. early 1960s?
If you've read one of the interviews with me, I try not to read them myself, then you will know that my formative art and comic book years were centred around Sevier Street and Mina Road, St. Werburgh's with the odd trip away from Jarman's the Tobacconist-newsagent, to a newsagent near Cheltenham Road.
My gran, "Ma", supplied me with blank receipt books that I drew in and my grand dad, Bill, supplied me with comics and, occasionally, the odd over-used draftsman's pencil from BAC-Rolls Royce. An old junk shop in Mina Road got me Fantastic Four 1-5, X-Men 1-4 and others for a few pence. No. I do not have those (or else I'd be selling them!). But shortly after the Apollo Moon-landings (I don't think there was any connection) my looking forward to going to Baptist Mills Secondary School were dashed and I had to go to live with my parents in Southmead.
There I attended, and got involved in some early mysteries (you've read my books, right?), Greenways Boys Secondary Modern Grammar School at the bottom of Greystoke Avenue. The school was so good that a couple of years after I left it became a social centre -I think it still is. All attempts to gather "old Boys" for reunions have failed. We feckin' 'loved' Greenway!
But it was while there that several things happened. The first was my long detentions for attempting to sell a certain magazine titled Oz -still can't remember how I got copies but you can find out why "The Man" (in this case our religious nut Head Master) was so offended here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oz_%28magazine%29
Later, I was offered the chance to publish a school mag that would be in competition with my brother (Peter) and his school mag, Barmy. Mr Wright, the Deputy Head, an ex-RAF man, helped support our effort and came up with a title (remember this was 1974) -Starkers: The Magazine That Tells The Naked Truth. Someone told me a proper publication with that name later existed but I've never seen it and, despite a couple of claims by people, it had nothing to do with me.
You can guess that my brother's mag was for the more "classy" whereas the one I was to edit was more down-to-earth, as imagined by the title. There were lots of funny situations based around the class we had as Editorial office -it was actually an auxilliary large, windowed cupboard -I also (at 14) had to teach Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi kids a bit younger than me English because I was good at that "and you get on well with the Asian children" -and the local authority and school was not paying for a part time or full time teacher. Anyway, eventually I drew the illoes and typed stuff up and then it went to the school secretaries to be typed-up using the old "cutting" setting on the type-writer to cut through the special sheets to be used on the hand cranked gestetner copier.
People keep asking about Gestetners so here:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestetner
This is the type of Gestetner we used -for Science and Biology classes I has one of the boys assigned using this to produce class note sheets.
Anyway, one day we were called up to the Deputy Head's office and he told us that the Head Master had bannedStarkers!! Now, the Head was a big supporter of my brother's magazine and it was made clear that this was the reason we had suddenly been banned (let's not get into the dirty behind-the-scenes goings on). So what was the official reason the mag that had taken three months to put together was banned? "The title"....that...the Deputy Head himself had put forward. Now I was the only one really committed to the mag in a hardcore way so I said without thinking -"We'll call it 'Crikey' -it won't take a few minutes to change that cover header!" The nod said it all. The Head Master had decided and that was it.
On that day I raised my fist to the sky and....well, a fly went in my mouth but let's imagine I yelled: "As God is my witness - I shall have revenge!!" Yeah, well, I didn't believe in God even back then but it makes a dramatic scene for when Tom Hiddleston plays me in the movie.
In Art I was a bit rebellious. Also, during "Free Art" periods -note the FREE bit- I was told off for teaching class mates how to draw super heroes, monsters and other comic stuff. I argued that a "Free Art" period was just that and that pupils WERE learning to draw and techniques. The boy who supported me had to go to the Head Master with me. The Head was, it seems, my first major nemesis in art and publishing. Fed up with my attitude he gave my friend the cane once across the palm of the hand -and all that entails physically. Poor kid had to rush out to be sick. Smug head then did the same to me but did not get the same reaction so used the cane again and he was purple with anger. I said: "That's twice. Next time it'll be my turn" He raised the cane but stopped and told me to get out. Two months of detentions which I used to read through the school library!
Did all this put me off? No. At least three pupils used to come to my home where I'd talk comics but teach them how to draw -and before anyone asks "Why didn't you become an art teacher?" -the Head blocked my exams. But it's a pity that just as I was getting some other lads up to a good standard of comic work they were told by their parents they'd need to get better jobs and to give up the "silly drawing".
Bloody hell, it was like a prediction of my whole future life in a few short years. A warning ignored!!
So when, about 4 years ago I was asked if I'd set up a table about comics at a St Werburgh's event -they had billed me as a "local boy who has become a well known name in comics"- how could I refuse? But despite trying to sort things out, year after year new people took over and, this year, I gave up. I would like to do some type of comic event in St. Werburgh's and bring things full circle. But fate...and lack of opportunity.
The way things go these days I doubt the opportunity will arise -it's far more likely I'll teach comic art to kids in Dalborn, Germany than Bristol.
Just a musing.