¦ Features ¦ Arthur
Interview Part 1
Interview by James
Ranson has been a professional artist since the late 1960’s, with a career
drawing such varying subjects as The Beatles, Sapphire & Steel and Dangermouse.
After a long association with TV magazine Look-in, he moved to 2000AD in the early
1990’s. Since then, he has become famed for his highly detailed artwork
on some of the comic’s most distinctive and interesting series, including
Button Man and Mazeworld, on both of which he is credited as co-creator. Most
famously, he has drawn some of the most beautiful and moving stories seen in the
comic in the shape of Judge Anderson’s long-running adventures. Arthur agreed
to be interviewed for 2000AD Review…
you first tell us about your background, what training you’ve had, and how
you first became a professional artist?
AR: How did I become
a professional artist? Hard work, my boy, hard work!
Essex boy. Apprentice
Stamp and Banknote Designer, Art School, Painting and Printmaking. Teacher. Lettering
artist for cardboard box manufacturer. Ran away to London. Labourer in tea factory.
Colour-mixer in instant lettering factory. General patcher-up and filler-in at
commercial art studio. Impressed visiting commercial artist who said if I went
freelance with him he could give me lots of work. I did, he didn’t. Then
I really became freelance.
biographies I’ve been able to uncover invariably mention your drawing the
Beatles in the 1960’s. Could you tell us how that came about, and what it
As early as that?
As far as I know,
selection of strips always came from the editor. The first auto-biographical strip
I did was ABBA. Then, when Colin [Shelbourne - Look-In editor] wanted to do The
Elvis Story I wasn’t keen because it felt too restricting (cocky sod) and
would only agree if Angus and I retained the copyright. Nevertheless, we got the
same deal on The Beatles. When he realised, I believe the marketing director was
not happy about that and scrapped the plans to bring it out complete. Publishers
Ehapa of Stuttgart did in 1995, and Like of Helsinki in 1996.
Colin was an adventurous
editor, and I suppose Look-In made good profits, as they paid the expenses of
Angus and I to go to Liverpool for research. I took photographs and we had a few
drinks. Then I found the usual, and in some cases, unusual picture reference I
came across. Alan did his usual thorough job, and I still like some of the drawing,
the line-work. Some was shown in the Walker Gallery for their Beatles artwork
exhibition. We met Cynthia Lennon there.
must have been a fantastic environment to work in, with fellow Brit comics artist
like John Burns and Jim Baikie (both of whom went on to draw for 2000AD). How
did you start there and are you still in touch with any of the Look-In crowd?
At that time I
would deliver my artwork personally each week and bump into people. With that
and Look-In’s hospitality, anniversary and Christmas do’s, the artists
and writer, (there was only Angus) did frequently meet up for drinks and meals,
and yes it was fun. John Burns, Martin Asbury, Harry North, Colin Wyatt, John
Bolton briefly, Jim Baikie, Phil Gascoine, Barry Mitchel, Bill Titcombe and the
lovely editorial boys and girls whose names, forgive me, I cannot now recall.
Although I for
one felt in part competitive, John Burns being as good then as he is now, Colin’s
treatment of us made me feel valued and part of at team. They also, I think, paid
all the artists all the same page rate and it was a good one, much better relatively
than at present, so it was a job one was keen to do well at. Look-In was for a
while at least the country’s biggest seller and I was pleased to be part
After Angus' and
my trip to Liverpool, we became drinking buddies as we lived quite close and it
was only his moving to France that saved my liver (will he read this?). If I was
less misanthropic I could go visit him and Gillian but I do still exchange Christmas
cards with him, and about half the others and even talk to Bill occasionally.
He and I have a shared interest in trying to get Look-In artwork back. We came
close but they keep changing owners, offices or staff in order to avoid us.
the comic strip of Sapphire & Steel, and drew all their adventures for Look-In.
Did that give you any more insight than the rest of us into what the heck it was
about? (Did you get to meet Joanna Lumley?)
I was the first
and only one to draw Sapphire & Steel but I do not feel like its creator.
I just drew Angus’s scripts. TV writer P.J. Hammond was the originator.
I do not have much
recollection of Sapphire & Steel. I do not remember the drawings or stories
but think I never knew or troubled over what it was about. Was it time travellers
who went about preventing events turning the world into something even worse than
it is? Where they came from and what was their authority was never explained.
Two things I do
a) It was in a
Sapphire & Steel script that for the first time I drew a frame that spread
right across the page. I had never seen it done before and there were doubts expressed
about it by Colin. Now it is common enough but I have wondered if I was the first
to use it. Does anyone out there know when and by whom the first right-across-the-page
panel was used?
b) When Joanna
Lumley visited Look-In I was not there. She was kind enough to offer to meet me
and pose for more photo-reference. Someone told her that no, that would not be
necessary. Stupid sods.
awarded the “Good Grief Oh Crikey” award by Cosgrove Hall for your
work on the Dangermouse strip. Would you want to draw everyone’s favourite
British superhero again, or any other cartoony strips for that matter? (And do
you still have the award?)
favourite superhero? Really?
If I was paid loads
I might do it again; I did enjoy it at the time. The award is a painted model
of Dangermouse in heroic pose with a nervous Penfold peering from behind him.
It is in my trophy cabinet. Along with the other one which was from the Society
of Strip Illustration and also for Dangermouse. The reflected glory from the highly
popular TV show made me a big hit with my daughter’s primary school friends
I would consider
doing a "cartoon" strip again but only if I were to write it
from the Look-In work, what else were you doing prior to joining 2000AD?
sweat shop stuff for dodgy businessmen. Illustration for mucky men’s magazines.
Advertising work through an agent, some All-Bran adverts I can remember. Illustration
for IPC magazines. I was too sensitive a plant to get on in advertising despite
the high fees so was glad to move into comics, which I found more challenging.
It engaged more parts of my brain.