(exclusive for Jedi's Paradise!)
After asking everyone - 'what happened to John Richardson' (the man that wrote/penned Lunar Jetman), I was emailed by Magic_Lava, who told me that he'd tracked him down! (thanks mate - I owe you!).
After alot of whooping and cheering, I plucked up the courage to email him and I asked him for an interview for this site. He was quite surprised that anyone out there in the big wide world was interested in his 'Lunar Jetman', let alone a web site packed with scans of them.
So here's what he had to say for himself after all this time:
Jedi : Did you do
any other comic strips after Jetman/Umquat the Alien/Super CC/Tina Tailpipe?
John : Yes, Iíve done quite a few strips since Jetmen, Umquat, Tina T & Super CC, the next one in line was called ĎTwongí (Not Phiwong or whatever it was called in the previous interview) . Twong being the sound made by a GB ariel when plucked. Our hero in this case being the god of CD dumped in our world because he was deaf to all other sound but Citizens Band radio (it was all the go then, honest!) and as such he pissed off his fellow gods exceedingly. Strangely enough it was published in a magazine called ĎCitizens Band or GBí for short, and knowing less than nothing about the subject I introduced a female side-kick for entertainment value. GB Magazine went down shortly after GB went down, and had absolutely nothing to do with my strip!!
Did you ever get to play the Lunar Jetman game. You
previously had said you tried to play it on your Sirius computer (seemed at the
time you didn't know alot about computers!)
John : No, I never got to see or play the Jetman Game as my old Sirius computer wasnít up to it. All I had to go on was a verbal description from Tim Stamper of what he wanted Jetman to be and do. Maybe I got it right.. .maybe I got it wrong but as far as I was concerned the strip was a stand-alone thing, quite apart from the game.
Were you suprised how popular Jetman was? It seems readers were up in arms
if it missed an issue (oh and what was the reason they were missing in the first
John : I was very suprised at the popularity of the Jetman strip today. I knew some of the readers went for it from the occasional letters that I was shown from time to time, but it came as a shock to find that your website existed and even more of a shock to find that it carried the whole series and more. Itís very gratifying and Ďumbling after all this time (bwah!) I was told later that there was a disgruntled postbag if the strip didnít make the deadline, which wasnít all that often, but I figured this was an editorial ruse to keep me on my toes. Wrong again! When you figure that these strips were drawn on a piece of stiff artboard about 20 x 25 inches, packed up in same size hardboard, wrapped in brown paper and string and sent parcel post to the other end of the country, thereís no wonder it sometimes got there late. Things got better when I bought a Repromaster graphics camera and made rollable half-size copies to send in cardboard tubes. Todayís wonderful technology allows me to scan in the black & white stuff, colour and letter in Photoshop, and send it via ISDN direct to the client. The bad news is that the client now has time to bung it all back via the same route for alterations and typo mistakes.
Jedi : What have you been doing between Jetman and today, it seemed you vanished from sight!?
John : Doing the strips was okay when I worked from a back room at home, it paid the bills and left enough to get blatted on at weekends, but I got at least half my income from the comic industry which was badly hit when kids stopped buying in favour of the computer game. As my work from them dried up I gradually began to rely on strips for the monthly mags. My subject knowledge in most of my strips was deplorable so knowing next to nothing about cars, bikes, computers, or GB Radio I happily relied on tits & bums humour to carry me through. Thank god for smut! Nowadays Iím heavily into illustration for advertising and the media and being a bit (hah!) older I have a more mature overdraft to think about and a lovely wife, Pearl, (who will be reading this later) to consider as well as the ancient dog and the mortgage and the bloody car and... thatís what I do now instead of drawing strips.
Jedi : After all of the funny comic strips you drew, how did you get involved in drawing Enid Blyton's Famous Five?
John : As for Enid Blytonís ĎFamous Fiveí comics... I used to be a member of the Society of Strip Illustration (SSI) and a Danish, or was it Swedish, company selected a few of us to do a series based on the Famous 5 because we were British and thatís what they said they needed to give it class... I ask you, the guy who drew Jetman has class!!?!! It didnít last.
How many name changes has your company gone through, last time we knew it as
John : How many name changes have I gone through? Well I started out under my own name as a freelance strip illustrator which was fine for doing comics and stuff as most of my work came through an agency, but when I decided to take the plunge and go into advertising and media work I needed a bigger workplace than a back-room at home. So I took out a 12 year lease (donít do it!) on a first-floor office in downtown Middlesbrough where I set up as Richardson Freelance and relied on a single advertisement in Creative Review Magazine to bring in the work. There followed all kinds of mailshots, stands at exhibitions, etc., before I began to show a profit. Then the rest of the inhabitants of the building gradually left (nothing to do with me!) leaving Pearl and I as the only occupants of an office block, the front door of which had become a major toilet for Middlesbroughís night-life whoís sole aim in life seemed to be being able to score direct hits on our letterbox. Soaking wet cheques donít seem to bring as much hapiness as the dry ones used to so we quit the office/studio, sold the house and moved to Darlington where the letterboxes are higher. Here we bought a bigger house and changed the name to Richardson Studio which is where we are still.
It seems that you've had a rather eventful life, being a farmhand and a
professional wrestler. Could you tell us a bit more about these and did
you do any other strange things?
John : Being a farm-hand was a natural progression to being a farmers son, and wrestling was an affair of just a few weeks in a dim and now distant past. Most of my working life apart from being a cartoonist was spent as a process worker on the acids plant at Wilton IGI, whilst working part-time and for no money as a coalmanís donkey for my first wifeís father. Heís now in the big coal depo in the sky (nothing to do with me!) and she humps her own coal! I also used to drive a fish-delivery wagon which put me apart from others (literaly!) unless you got down-wind. I also started hang-gliding but got hysterical so I quit.
In your last interview in Crash, you talked about many British comic artists
moving to the US where salaries can be astronomic. Why didn't you go?
John : A lot of my contemparies in the comic industry left to work in the USA for what they called megabucks and if Iíd been as serious about comics as them I might well have followed the beaten path, but I was less concerned with the length of Judge Dreddís blaster than I was about making folks laugh, and for all its money and expertise the American comic industry is extremely PC and too prudish to appreciate or understand the kind of British humour that I was all about at the time.
Jedi : How did you come up with all of those funny/strange characters, and did Tim Stamper (of 'Ultimate') appreciate that type of humour?
John : I never quite met Tim Stamper who commissioned Jetman, and so I didnít get his take on the strip, but as it went on and on... and on I figure he didnít object too much to the humour of the strip.
Have you ever had a time when the publishers/client have read your work and said
- 'there's no way we're printing that!'?
John : Most of the editors who were responsible for publishing my stuff were of the same generation and therefore shared the humour of the day so I didnít have too much trouble with censorship, although if there was something that was a little too smutty or that might have been libelous in some way they would probably slap my wrist in return for a promise to Ďwatch ití in future.
Jedi : Were you suprised when Jetman finished, was there any warning, and why did they?
John : Itís always a suprise when a strip is given notice to quit, or when your told that the strip youíve just done was the last one, and in all honesty I canít remember exactly how or why Jetman hit the fan. I do know that I would have remembered if there had been any bad feeling about it so I assume the reason would be an editorial decision based upon finances or change of format, or perhaps the feeling that the concept was going stale. I know that when it went to colour it became a lot rougher as it took twice as much to do in the same amount of time. Maybe that was a factor in its demise.
Jedi : Most readers seemed to think that the story ended quite abruptly, is there another episode in existance which didnt get published (did you have any plans to bring the story to an end)?
John : Iím asked why it came to a sudden stop and again I have to say I canít remember exactly what circumstances prevailed at the time. Whether or not the magazine had an episode in hand when they cut it off is something I canít confirm. I do know that there were no plans for a plotted end to the storyline as I tended to make it all up frame by frame as I went along, then I didnít do it anymore.
Jedi : Did you base Jetman on anyone (poor them!)?
John : If thereís any real person behind the persona of Jetman or Super CC or any of the other daft characters in my old strips it would have to be a little bit of me and a lot of the guy inside me who wants to get out. The strips were an outlet for my humour and that of the friends around me at the time who gave me the inspiration.
Jedi : Are you suprised about the amount of interest that your comic strips still generates today?
John : As I said previously. Iím not only suprised that there is still an interest in Jetman, Iím also very humbled, and grateful to the creators of the website and the people who log on to it. Had I known at the time that he would live on Iíd have put more effort into it. Thanks.
Jedi : Have you every though of getting back into drawing comic strips for a magazine, and do you miss that?
John : If there was a perfect world Iíd love to get back into comic strips for magazines, but what with the need to pay the bills and the mortgage and keep ahead of the technology that forms the backbone of the graphics industry I simply canít afford to draw strips unless they are contracted for a long period at a good price. Most magazines canít or wonít make such a commitment over something that they donít deem important to the future of the magazine.
Jedi : Did you get to meet all the guys at Crash, or did you just work from your Middlesbrough studio?
John : I believe I once met Tim Stamperís dad when he came to pick up some artwork but I never did meet the guys from ĎCrashí in the flesh. And they never got to see the glory that was downtown Middlesbrough.
Jedi : Do you have
any interesting/funny stories to tell us?
John : No, Iím saving them in case an editor is reading this and needs a really cool cartoonist with an attitude and an overdraft.
John : Fank you!
(and that was the interview with John 'Jetman' Richardson)