David Hine – comic creator
I first met Phil Elliott in the late 70s. I was aware of him through the fanzine culture and we were both contributing artwork to The Panelologist fanzine, which also featured some art by David Lloyd among others. I contributed to the fanzine Elipse, co-edited by Phil and soon after that we met for the first time at the UK Comic Art Convention, probably in 1979. I had a fanzine of my own, Joe Public Comics, and was bloody hopeless at selling it. We didn’t have tables, so it was a case of approaching people and persuading them to buy a copy. Phil grabbed a bundle of my ‘zines, went off and sold a couple for me. I was impressed.
This weekend I dug out some of my old fanzines and came across Elipse #3 – the very issue that I had contributed to. I had forgotten that this was the first time anyone published one of my full comic-strips, a lightweight horror story called “A Video-phone brings you so much closer to the one you love.”
In the editorial section, Phil had written up my bio where it states that “His major complaint with comics is the way commercialism perverts artistic talent, and says he won’t be satisfied until we get rid of deadlines and money.”
That seems a bit presumptuous for someone who had never worked to deadline or been paid for anything. Clearly I had set my sights on a high standard of aritistic integrity. Had I made it in indie comics back then I might have been able to pursue my goal of creating personal comics while starving in a garret. Instead I was cursed to spend a lifetime working to deadlines and getting paid for it.
I had also completely forgotten that when Phil gave me my copy of Elipse at that Comic Con he apologised for “erasing the penis.” I have made it my lifelong quest to get as many penises into comics as humanly possible, with a fair amount of success, but this was the first one to get censored – and in my first non-self-published work too! In retrospect it’s quite interesting because the knobless bloke looks like some kind of gender-neutral character – very advanced for 1978. (Editor’s note – an incident that Phil clearly remembers – check out this interview!)
We subsequently met up at various comics gatherings, mostly at the Westminster Comics Mart where I also met Paul Gravett who, with Phil and others like Glenn Dakin and Eddie Campbell, had set up the Fast Fiction collective of small press publishers. Phil went on to work on Paul’s Escape magazine and became something of a superstar of the small press world. I never really fitted in, failed to make it into Escape and ended up on that path to mainstream comics instead.
The years went by and I pursued an up-and-down career in comics while Phil seemed to disappear from the scene. In the comics world if you don’t turn up at conventions, or at least have an active social media presence, you don’t exist. It’s the rule. When we finally met up again at the Malta Comics Convention in 2017, I apparently greeted Phil with “I thought you were dead!” We had a very pleasant time over the weekend, reminiscing about the old days, as we middle-aged grey-hairs are wont to do. On the way home Phil gave me a copy of In His Cups – The Collected Tales from Gimbley. I had seen a lot of these in various publications but it was only when I read them as a collected body of work that I realised just how good they were – surreal, oneiric, often disturbing and always hilarious.
Phil’s work with Fast Fiction and Escape has cemented his place in the history of British comics. He went on to work for Marvel UK, Rebellion, Dark Horse, DC, Fantagraphics, a whole string of publishers, collaborating with all kinds of writers, but for me those Gimbley tales stand out as the purest expression of his art. The conceit of a middle-aged man recounting tales from his youth is remarkably effective. I really should have asked Phil how it feels to look back on those stories from the perspective of the middle-aged creator. And also how much of it was autobiographical.
Maybe it’s better not to know.
See Phil’s work here
all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.
content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020