Small (press) oaks – John Freeman

John Freeman has an incredible history within the UK’s comic industry and continues to be a great custodian and supporter of its past, present and future. You only need to look at the end of this interview where he tells us a bit about himself to get an understanding of his involvement. I highly recommend Down The Tubes and it’s articles and reviewers, particularly if you love UK comics history or UK small press titles.

My own experiences with John have always been positive and friendly. He was very supportive when I launched a small Kickstarter for my comics anthology ‘The Seas’ and has always been very approachable any time I’ve contacted him. He is in all ways a professional and a gentleman. 

You can find John here: twitter downthetubes newsletter

Over to you John.

Can you tell us a bit about the first creator whose work you recognised?

The first comic creators I probably recognised were those in the weekly 1960s comic TV Century 21, although few of them had a credit on the page. The main ones would be Frank Bellamy and Ron Embleton.

The Perishers
Jeff Hawke

However, I did know who drew my favourite newspaper strips such as The Perishers and Jeff Hawke. British comic creators rarely got credits in comics in the 1960s, although they had them in titles such as Eagle in the 1950s; rivals IPC and DC Thomson didn’t want them pinched. In the early 1970s, Countdown included credits and for me, Don Harley, Gerry Haylock, Harry Lindfield and Brian Lewis stood out alongside reprints from TV21.

Which creators do you remember first copying?

Bear in mind I’m perhaps better known as an editor and writer here rather than artist, but I drew very much with a nod toward Leo Baxendale and DC Thomson artists on Sparky when I did draw… badly, by the way!

Who was the creator that you first thought ‘I’m going to be as good as you!’?

I’ve never thought like that, a bit of imposter syndrome perhaps, although there have been times when I’ve despaired of a story or second guessed its plot and thought, “well I could definitely write that better!” I’ve gotten more intolerant of bad writing as I’ve gotten older. 

I find writing hard; as it should be, if it’s going to be good. At the same time, I’m constantly aware that you can spend too much time on a script, if you want to make a living you also need to know when to send it off and face the judgement of your editor!

Which creator or creators do you currently find most inspiring?

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the writers on comics such as TV21 and Sparky inspired me to write and draw my own comics from an early age. The editorial team at TV21 created a unified universe from the very different Gerry Anderson shows.

Writing advice from disparate creators such as Tom de Falco, Alan Grant, Paul Gravett, David Lloyd, Alan Moore, Richard Starkings and John Tomlinson guided my early writing, rather than influencing my actual writing; although I’m a believer in keeping panel descriptions succinct and trusting the artist rather than the old IPC format of “stage directing” every character in a panel. I’m happy if artists honour the invisible Z of comic storytelling, action running left to right through panels, first person speaking is drawn on the left and for goodness sake remember there will be word balloons and consider the top third of panels potential balloon space, and corners or dead space too, otherwise it’s your own fault if that beautiful background you decided to include gets covered up!

Which creators do you most often think about?

The ones working in a project I’m working on and making sure they’re happy with how things are going and also that they’re delivering on time.

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your recent work and yourself?

I’m the founder of the comic news site downthetubes.net promoting British comics and the creation of comics, contributions welcome and donations via the site for the work welcomed.

I have worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years as , what I like to describe as a “freelance comics operative”, working as an editor, Creative Consultant and as a comics promoter. 

Initially working at Marvel UK, my editorial credits include titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, Star Trek Magazine, and comics such as Overkill, Death’s Head II, Simpsons Comics UK and STRIP Magazine. I also edited several digital and audio comics for ROK Comics, including “Team M.O.B.I.L.E.” (recently re-published in print by Antarctic Press) and “The Beatles Story”, and several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”. 

Most recently, I edited “Lost Fleet” and two Doctor Who mini-series for Titan Comics, both receiving critical acclaim.

My recent writing credits include re-introducing some classic humour characters to a modern audience in the “Cor and Buster Humour Special”, working with artist Lew Stringer;  and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable. 

Buster Cor 2019 Humour Special

I have also been writing a teaser strip tie-in for a new TV series, and working with Brazilian artists Wamberto Nicomedes and Rodval Matias on a creator-owned SF adventure, “Return to Planet Earth”.

I’m writing a mini series under Non Disclosure for B7 Media, who I worked with on the “The Dan Dare Audio Adventures”, to tie in with a new project. We also just launched an open call for art samples – here.

I’m still trying to continue Crucible with Smuzz – there’s an episode sitting there that needs lettering and it’s my bad that it hasn’t been done; and I’m having a great time working with Dan Dare and Thunderbirds artist Keith Page in bringing his marvellous “Charlotte Corday” stories to his fans, through Tapas, the most recent that’s complete being “Wonderbirds”. We’ve got some other stuff on the boil, too.

Crucible

I also help promote the Lakes International Comic Art Festival which is virtual this year over 9th – 11th October 2020, and I’m working on a new gaming platform, a project that has been in the works for ages that I can’t say more about either!

In terms of myself? I enjoy reading, more walking since the Pandemic hit, our cats, time with my wife, decent telly, though I don’t watch much of it, and reading comics… when I’m not writing about them and their creators, which takes up more time!

Thank you very much for taking the time to fill this out and let us into your mind.

all art copyright and trademark its respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2020

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