- UR-SF 88
David Fickling Comics Ltd
Dr Nicola Streeten
Part of The Dundee Oral History Project
Born 1950, his father was a policeman, at that time policeman were moved around every few years. Has an older brother who stayed in their hometown. Has no art ability. but enjoyed various comics when he was younger. Was encouraged by his parents to read. Enjoyed the classics. Lived in a village called Thronhill from about 3 to 12 years old. This was between Stirling and Aberfoyle. Believed this helped him to get his job at DC Thomson's as he and his brother could live carefree. Helped with his high school newspaper, wanted to be a journalist. Left school and got a job at DC Thomson's
His head teacher encouraged writing, realised that he could make money from it one day. Started working in Thomson's 1969. Took about a year before he was given actual work to do, they were strict on punctuation and spelling. Discusses the training methods used at Thomson's. There was a lot of competition from American comics. His first editor was Bill Cunningham, says he was good to learn from, however was an old army man.
Worked on the ''Rover'' and ''Wizarding'' for six months before he moved onto the ''Beano''. He enjoyed that as the artist was collaborative, so he was working with the people who were illustrating his stories. When working on the ''Rover'' he had to cut lines and insert advertisements into it, which was difficult depending on the size of the ad and the story. He would sometimes write stories that did not always follow the 'guideline' for a ''Beano'' comic. Discusses the process of writing a story to then discussing with the artist what the comic would look like. Also talk about how important details were, depending on what he was writing it had to be as accurate as it could be.
When writing he had to think of what it would look like in the artists drawings. Says those were different times, children reading the comics had different experiences to those today. spent some time away from DC Thomson's when he worked as a lumberjack, the company went bust, but was lucky that he still had friends, and ended up back at Thomson's. Worked with David Donaldson and Steve Brait. The only time people really got together was when they were launching a new story. Worked with Barry Appleby, who created interesting images, most likely aimed at older boys. He began to change thing in 1986, received okay form some, but he thinks that he did too much too fast.
there was a shift in culture and so the comic changed along with, now a focus of popular culture, violence and music. Most complaints came form the women who read it. Wants to keep the quality of the work the same. Left the business to work in animation.
Talks about Britain after the war comics helped to bring a feel good factor. He doesn't think that the comics hold any specific humour, it's necessarily a Dundee kind or humour, as the writers were from many different places.
Says there's a difference between American and British comics, this can be seen specifically through the American version of Dennis the Menace. America was more focused on the parents/adults than it was of the children. He says you have to senor yourself as there are many things that cannot be printed. Worked on the ''Broons'', wanted to bring the characters back to life.
Say comics are on a decline, but so are other paper products, like newspapers and magazines. Some comics are online but its not that same as having a physical comic. He is proud to have tried to keep it alive, he was the editor in the 80s.
Part of The Dundee Oral History Project
00:00 - 06:45
David Sutherland was born in Invergordon on 26/10/33. His mother died when he was two and he has a brother and a sister. He went to school in Lenzie. He never realised at first that he had any particular talent for art. His brother was a good artist, he had an influential teacher at school, Mr Allison. David's father was carpenter and would do little carvings and little paintings. He took a keen interest in art at school. His teacher would help him with portraits. He left school at age fifteen. His father did not think an artist was a proper job. He went for an appointment with an art agency in Glasgow, Rex Publicity Service, in 1948 and got a job.
06:45 - 09:28
There were six apprentices and everyone was given an artist. You became the artist's 'boy'. He got the foreman artist. He mixed the paint, swept, cleared the artist's desk and lit the fires. He went to Glasgow School of Art in the evenings. He was there for five years, his time at the studio was his first time meeting professional artists. He would go home and try and copy their work. He enjoyed working in the studio.
09:28 - 11:20
During World War II his father was called up in 1941. David went to go live with two aunts. When his father came back from war he got a house and wanted David to live with him but David wanted to stay with his aunt.
11:20 - 22:42
Whilst in the studio, he would copy covers of magazines which would be displayed on Buchanan Street. He would also do cinema advertising. He would fill in letters for cinema adverts. He would also paint boards for cinema adverts but these were later destroyed. He later moved to the illustration department. The government later introduced a tax on cinema advertising. He also did posters for travel agents. He also did work on chocolate boxes, whiskey labels and fruit labels where he would use techniques such as airbrushing. He also did some work for a thread company. There were also some trademarks which he had to design. He was once asked to go to a hospital to draw pictures of surgeries but he refused.
22:42 - 22:58
He did his National Service 1952-1954 in Egypt. He and his friend, Ronnie, started a little company, Scope Studios. He then worked for Phoenix Art where he did his labelling. His mother-in-law printed out a competition in the Sunday Post for young artists. He submitted some work and got a prize. He was then contacted and got a job doing comics.
22:58 - 39:25
He really enjoyed doing comics, he enjoyed the freedom. He started doing freelance work for DC Thomson but was also a commercial artist in Glasgow. While in Glasgow he would do jobs such as painting in a restaurant. After about a year of doing both jobs he moved through to Dundee in 1959. "Danny and a Dolphin" was his first picture story. "Great Flood of London" was another one of his works. Harry Crammond was the script writer for his comic, he was a friend as well as his boss. He had to do lots of research for "Great Flood of London". It is a story about the North Pole melting and London being flooded under fifty feet of water. He needed to know what things would be seen if London was submerged under fifty feet of water, a lot of research goes into drawing. "Great Flood of London" appeared in the Beano. He had done a job before where he worked with Harry Crammond. Polls at the time showed that picture stories were down but cartoons remained high.
39:25 - 48:50
He used to copy Walt Disney cartoons. While at DC Thomson the artist who was drawing Dennis the Menace, David Law, was not well. He was asked to take over some of the drawing to help him out. David Law died and he continued to draw Dennis the Menace for twenty-eight years, he also took on the Backstreet Kids. He has drawn 2111 editions of the Backstreet Kids. He is given scripts but also has some freedom. The early scripts he was given were very detailed but later on he was given much more freedom to draw. He says that a good working relationship with the script writer is very important. There were about eight different script writers. He enjoys drawing animals, and feels that a sense of humour is a pre-requisite for being an illustrator. He has been with the Beano for fifty years.
48:50 - 50:09
When he started at the Beano they sold two million copies a week and it only cost 2p. He used to read the Beano himself when he was young, however, he was not allowed to read it until his dad came home.
50:09 - 51:16
He says that Dudley Watkins is among the greats. Watkins created many characters such as "Oor Wullie" and "The Broons". David also says that Paddy Brennan is a great illustrator and Leo Baxendale is a great cartoonist.
51:16 - 52:36
David continues to draw on a board and would never draw on a computer. He recalls a time when he once mentioned that he did not enjoy drawing bicycles and the script writer put many in the comic.
52:36 - 59:23
Dudley Watkins, who David regards as among the greats, died on the job. David had to carry on the drawing he had started. He also took over the Biffo from him. David mentions how having to work to deadlines was a crucial part of the job. He also mentions that it can be difficult to swap styles between the different cartoons.
59:24 - 1:06:34
He enjoyed the Great Flood of London immensely. He says that many things have come out well and has never had moments when his mind goes blank. He says that some artists reach a stage where they struggle to come up with ideas. He has been doing the Backstreet Kids for fifty years and says that his style has developed and improved over time and that things have a better flow.
Part of The Dundee Oral History Project
D.O.B. 02/06/1932. He was born and raised in Kirriemuir, Angus. He attended Websters Seminary Primary and Secondary school. They then discuss where his artistic talents come from and he tells of how his granny encouraged him to draw his uncle, who was a paratrooper. His mother was a weaver in Kirriemuir. They also discuss his enrolment to the teachers training college, Park Place. He went there from 1955-1956.
He describes how he was "ganged" into art college and teaching. He tried other jobs such as printmaking at D & Browns before leaving to do Junior Secondary and Primary in Lanarkshire, where he was for two years 1956-1958. When he came back to Dundee he worked in Kirkton Highschool for 10 years. He discusses notable pupils, he names Ricky O'Neil, a renowned Dundee photographer.
Mr Petrie discusses his transition from teacher to freelance artist. He started work while teaching in 1961. He would prepare work during the summer when the school was off and, eventually, he got in touch with Ian Chisholm, at DC Thompson. There he began working on the Beano, shadowing Leo Blaxandale. Until 1968 he was still teaching, he transitioned to fulltime artist in 1969.
The interview moves into what it was like to work in the comic industry at the time, specifically at DC Thompson. They discuss the process of drawing and pencilling, as well as the relationship between editor, script writers and artists, such as himself. His most notable character was Minnie the Minx. He worked for Cracker, Tophat, the Beezer as well as other assorted scripts.
They reflect on the comic industry, what's changed and what was successful then. He notes a particular comic that he would no longer feel is deemed 'pc' by todays standards, Minnie dressed as a "Red Indian". Mr Petrie nominates Davie Sutherland as a hero of his, because of his transition from black and white straight before moving into comics and caricature.
Mr Petrie is asked about life now he is retired. When asked about what he thought of someone else drawing Minnie the MInx, he doesn't feel like they got the faces right. He has done one page for the Beano since retiring, Fatty Fudge in the 2011 Christmas Beano.
Now that he is retired, he is a partner with the Dundee art society and involved with the Perth society. He sells his paintings at their exhibitions. He uses a lot of acrylic and has been painting some self-portraits for fun. When asked about enjoying his time as a freelance artist he replies, very much so.
Professor Chris Murray
Dr Hailey Austin
Part of The Dundee Oral History Project
He was born in 1935 as an only child in Lochee, in a nursing home. When he was 6 he moved to 35 Boldoven Terrace which he recalls liking, especially the neighbours and the dog. His father worked in the Jute industry until he went to fight in the War and James went to live with his grandparents and aunts.
He began school at the age of 6, initially attending Cleblands and then attending The Morgan in 1947. While Teachers were sparse he believes the War had no impact on the quality of his education.
His loyal cinema was The Royalty, only a few minutes walk from where he lived. Mr Butcher was a projectionist there and used to give James small clippings of film. When he couldn't afford to watch a film, Mr Butcher would open a window to let him listen. The cinema was very popular with the kids and James recalls the worst punishment being not being allowed to go and watch the films. It used to cost 6 pence to sit downstairs and 9 pence to sit upstairs.
He felt special when he attended Clebland, as he was top 3 in his class and was very creative. However when he moved to The Morgans he became a "sheep" and was known by Smith, which made him feel like he was loosing his identity. He started writing and selling comics when he was young which he believed catapulted him into his love for printing. He left in year 7 and attended Art College for 4 years and then taught for 10. He didn't enjoy teaching much but it aided his lifestyle financially
He worked in the Dundee Rep Theatre with some friends from school. James notes his preference for the entertainment industry and specifically the level of presentation involved in this. He recalls the late nights and fish suppers he would get after the shows and how he felt almost in a daze
After teacher training he was given a trial run, doing 2 and a half days at 'Grove' and two and a half days at 'Logie'. He was employed at Broughty Eater Primary School, he didn't enjoy working here and he felt unwanted. He then worked in the 'Rainbow' Primary School.
26.40 - 31.10
To escape national service he moved to secondary teaching in St Michaels where he taught geography for two years before moving to art. Recalls Mr Moore, the head of his, department being a very kind man and the moment he knew teaching wasn't for him. He also reflects on corporal punishment and that many problems arose once this had been stopped.
He believes children today are being let down by todays education system. When he left teaching, he continued printing by renting two rooms on Form Street for 3 years. He printed for businesses and his church and became one of the biggest suppliers for youth and community services which later moved onto the council. He recalls his aunts experience with war work and her musical talent.
Aged 10 he took piano lessons and found playing to be very thereputic. However, when he moved to highschool he focused more on writing. He had played the organ at church after the organist suffered an injury but never stuck with it as he found it to be too intricate.
In college he started a film circle. While living in south Tay Street he made one of his rooms into a small cinema room. He set up a cinema at the foot of Roseangle and called it 'The New Electric Junction Picture Palace' before he was forced to move out. He found himself in partnership with someone "less than honest" years later he had to leave again. He described this as "jumping out the frying pan into the fire". He opened another on West Bell street and called it 'The Britannia'
In 1977 he married a "country lass", and moved from Eden street to live in Whitefield. Around 2008 he heard that Whitfield was getting a new building and wanted to turn one of the rooms into a cinema come lecture room with tiered seating. At first they didn't have a license and showed only public domain short films. When they got their license the first picture they showed was 'The Artist' (2011). People were not charged to see the film as company 'Link Up' funded it, however people were asked to make a small donation and food and drink was sold.
1.01.03 - 1.07.30
They had a children's club and James disliked it because the children wouldn't settle. He doesn't believe that big chain cinemas should be called cinemas because they lack the behind the scenes talent because everything its done digitally and no projectionists are needed now. He also recalls a film called 'The Smallest Show on Earth' about lower budget cinemas.
1.07.03 - 1.16.01
When asked about his favourite films he recalls 'Laxdale Hall' and talks about how its was the people's favourite, recalling how his friend would rent it over and over until the store sold him it. He was in a Dundee cinema society and loosely considered filming his own movie. He is a member of the Scottish Association of Movie Makers, an umbrella group of all camcorder groups in Scotland. He enjoys editing and appreciates modern editing and the fact that nothing is ever lost, unlike with old fashioned editing. His only ambition is death and credits cinema to one of the few reasons he's alive after his wife's death.
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