Comics

As you may have noticed, the songs written by David Gedge have occasionally referenced super-heroes and other denizens of the comic book genre. David is a long-time fan of comics so it is not a surprise that they should have cropped up so often. Here are some of the more obvious:

Titles:
Dan Dare – sci-fi hero (first appearance Eagle #1 1950)
Flame On –catchphrase for Marvel’s The Human Torch (first appearance Fantastic Four #1, 1961)

Catwoman – DC super villain (first appearance Batman #1, 1940)
Superman – DC super hero (first appearance Action Comics #1, 1938)
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Spider-man on Hollywood – Marvel super-hero (first appearance Amazing Fantasy #15, 1962)
Hulk Loves Betty – Marvel super hero and his girlfriend (first appearance The Incredible Hulk #1, 1962)
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Metal Men – DC super heroes (first appearance Showcase #37, 1962)
Bizarro – DC super-villain/nemesis of Superman (first appearance Superboy #68, 1658)
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Lyrics:

Santa Ana Winds: “face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot”, famous dialogue (from the first full appearance of Mary Jane Watson in Amazing Spider-Man #42)

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Covers:

Silver Shorts from 1992 featured a cover based on my favourite super-hero, The Thing.

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Publications:

In 2011 a book called Snapshots was released which featured short stories all using song titles by David Gedge as inspiration. Notably the book featured illustrations by artist Lee Thacker who had worked on the fanzine Invasion of the Wedding Present. The latter was self-published by the band and released in the late 80s/early 90’s and featured articles, news, cartoons and short comic strips. For more info on Invasion, see this link from the fan site that I used to help with: Something and Nothing

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Meanwhile, former Wedding Present bass player Terry de Castro was attempting to write a biography of Gedge and the stories involved in over 20 years of being in an indie band. At some point it was decided to instead put the tales into comic book form and as of Autumn 2015 there have been 9 issues of Tales from the Wedding Present including #0 which features tales of the very earliest days of the band. Usually the comics flit about the timeline from the days of The Lost Pandas right through to the present day. It is hoped that at some point, the tales will be combined into chronological collections.

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The covers usually feature homages or references to either comics or other pop culture. Here’s a guide:

Tales #1 – Indiana Jones from Raiders of the Lost Arc (film, 1981) with the template taken from the classic EC horror comic Tales from the Crypt #36 (1953), art by Jack Davis.
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Tales #2 – Captain America‘s post-war re-appearance in Captain America #100 (comic, 1968) PS. the font used for the title is the same as The Fantastic Four’s traditional one.

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Tales #3 – Western theme, specifically Clint Eastwood from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (film, 1968)

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Tales #4 – Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (film, 1958)

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Tales #5 – Romance theme based on a Gene Colan splash page from Marvel’s Love Romances #101 (comic, 1953)

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Tales #6 – Superman from the cover of Action Comics #1 (comic, 1938)

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Tales #7 – James Bond theme based on suggestions from David and Terry, plus photos of Ursula Andress from Dr No (film, 1962)

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Tales #8 – I Dream of Jeannie starring Barbara Eden (tv series, 1965-1970)

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Tales #0 – The Fantastic Four being attacked by Galactus as drawn by Jack Kirby in FF #49 (comic, 1966)

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Tales #9 features Godzilla attacking Japan as is his wont (from the film poster, 1956)

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Interview:

Recently, I spoke to artist Lee Thacker to ask him about his work with the comics.

How did you first become involved with David Gedge and the book Snapshots which came out in 2011?

LT: Ah, Snapshots. Was it really 2011? It seems like only yesterday…

The idea for this book came about after one of David’s now annual ‘At The Edge Of The Sea’ festivals (the one in 2010). David knew Louise, who helped to run a writing group called ‘Short Fuse’ (who later changed their name to ‘Story Studio’) and he asked her if the writers would be interested in reading out some stories as part of the festival weekend. David asked me if I’d be interested in illustrating a series of stories based around Wedding Present and Cinerama song titles written by a variety of authors and I said ‘yes’.

For each story, I adopted a different drawing style and it was great fun to do, although a LOT of work. We self published it through Lulu to begin with, then UK Comics Creative took over the printing chores for the second edition. I’m really proud of this book, it really challenged me creatively and I think the biggest selling point is that David Gedge himself wrote a ‘James Bond’ style short story for it.

Going back a couple of decades, I used to contribute (very badly drawn) cartoon strips for the short lived Wedding Present fanzine ‘Invasion Of The Wedding Present’, although I’ve had a few fans talk to me about their fond memories of the ‘Scooby Ferret’ character I created. This was when my long time correspondence/friendship with David Gedge began.

How did things develop into the idea of doing a regular comic i.e.. Tales From The Wedding Present?

LT: Shortly before ‘Snapshots’ was published, ‘Story Studio’ put on one of their live events in Brighton and David and I were invited along.

There were a variety of writers on stage reading or performing their stories, and the evening ended with a slide show of some of my drawings as the authors read out their ‘Snapshots’ tales.

It was the first time David and I had met, even though we’d corresponded via letters and email over the years. I’d been going to see his band playing live for over twenty years, but I’d never spoken to him, mainly due to a disappointing encounter with a singer from another band back in 1986 when I first moved to Birmingham who completely rebuffed me when I tried to chat to him about his old band. I vowed then and there to never try to meet my ‘heroes’ again. Stupid but true. Stupid, because David Gedge is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

I had dinner with David on the evening of the ‘Story Studio’ gig and he mentioned that his ex-bass player, the lovely Terry de Castro, had started writing his biography but it didn’t seem to be working out. He wondered if it would work better as a comic book and asked if I’d like to illustrate some short biographical stories. Once again, I said ‘yes’. A few days later he sent me some story outlines via email and I got to work.

The other two main contributors to the ‘Invasion Of The Wedding Present’ fanzine (who were WAY better cartoonists than I was at the time) were also approached about illustrating some stories with the idea being that the comic would be illustrated by a range of different artists. I think only one of them managed to turn in a story in the time it took me to illustrate three or four so it became clear pretty quickly that I was going to be the sole illustrator of the comic. I thought we’d just publish one issue and that would be it, but I’m currently working on the tenth issue!!

You’ve been writing and drawing comics for many years now including the Illustrated Peel Festive Fifty, what is your other work like in comparison?

LT: My other work is very different. The Festive Fifty Illustrated can’t really be classed as a ‘comic’ as it’s really my autobiographical memories based around John Peel’s Festive Fifty over the years with full page photo-realistic drawings on each facing page. David and Skreen (from the Cuban Boys) were both kind enough to write introductions for the book but it still didn’t sell very well – story of my self-publishing life! I’d basically given up on drawing comics at that point but still needed an outlet for my urge to draw.

‘One For Sorrow’ (my 800 page magnum opus) was something I worked on in complete obscurity/isolation for four years. It’s illustrated in a completely different style and is complete fiction. I was in my early thirties and somehow managed to produce 200 pages of comics, record two albums’ worth of my own musical compositions, hold down a full time job, party every weekend and stay in a serious relationship (22 years and counting with my beloved Kirstie Wilson) every year for those four years! Now I’m in my late forties and it’s as much as I can do to complete 60 pages of comics a year, although ‘Tales From The Wedding Present’ has a lot more panels per page and is more challenging in terms of drawing ‘real’ people and locations…

‘Tales From The Wedding Present’ is a refreshingly ‘tame’ rock ’n’ roll comic book and I love the stories that Terry, David and Jessica come up with. If I was doing a biographical comic about, for example, Oasis or The Happy Mondays, I’d probably be bored of illustrating yet another tale of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Instead, I’m illustrating stories about the band dining out in a variety of locations and the minutiae of touring in a band for the best part of thirty years. Maybe the ‘sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ tales are yet to come, but I somehow doubt it!

Are you a fan of The Wedding Present? Any other favourite bands?

LT: I’ve been a fan of The Wedding Present ever since I heard their version of ‘Felicity’ (a song by Orange Juice which I already loved) on a Peel session back in 1986! I saw them live for the first time later that year and have been going to see them nearly every year since then.

Favourite bands? Mostly punk, ‘post-punk’ and indie, but as with comic book artists, I could go on forever…

Again, in no particular order: The Nightingales (I’m currently working on the final volume of The Lyrics Of Robert Lloyd), Joy Division, The Birthday Party, Killing Joke, bIG fLAME, Crass, Half Man Half Biscuit, The Clash, Mekons, Cocteau Twins, Specials, The Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Belle & Sebastian, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Magazine, The Smiths, The Fall, Jazz Butcher, Poisongirls, Melt Banana, Captain Beefheart, Hefner, Johnny Cash, Glasvegas, Three Johns, The Slits, The Pop Group, Echo & The Bunnymen, Big Black, Shellac, PiL (’78-’81), Chumbawamba, Pixies, The Cravats, Membranes…

How does each segment of the comic work? Do you work with full-scripts or just a vague plot? 

LT: We do everything through email. David emails me a full script for each story. I then print out the script, work out how many pages it needs to be and do rough breakdowns for each page next to the script.

I then rule up the panel borders on A3 Bristol board (sticking to the four tiers which have become a trademark of the comic) and pencil in the lettering and very rough sketches of the figures. I then scan the page into the computer and digitally letter it, add the caption boxes, speech balloons and tails.

Next, I pencil the page and send a copy of each pencilled and lettered page to David and Terry for approval/editing. Once I’ve heard back from them I ink each page using black India ink and a brush and send the finished pages off to David and Terry again for final editing. It usually takes between 10 and 12 hours to complete each page.

For the first four issues I added grey shading and black panel borders as I was insecure about my sparse drawing style after having done no comic work for a couple of years and thought I had to ‘beef it up’ a bit. I’m a lot more confident now!

Your likenesses are excellent. Do you get supplied with photos?

LT: Well, thank you for the compliment regarding likenesses.

It’s what I worry about the most whenever David sends me a new story. I don’t want to insult anyone by drawing them badly. I’m certainly not a caricaturist and I’m used to just making up pictures/characters from my own imagination, so to have to draw ‘real’ people can be quite intimidating, no more so than when I agreed to do ‘live’ drawings of Wedding Present fans at the ‘At The Edge Of The Sea’ festival in 2012!!

David usually supplies me with photos of band members and ‘guests’ along with the scripts. The running joke we have is that whenever I draw ladies he usually requests that I draw them slimmer. Being raised on a diet of ‘Kirby women’ I tend to draw ladies in a rather ‘chunky’ style.

The comic covers are all homages. Are they your idea or David’s? 

LT: For the first issue, Terry wanted a homage to the first Indiana Jones movie, the iconic opening sequence where he’s running away from the huge boulder. I drew it and added a ‘Raiders Of The Lost Ark’ font for the title (the title of the comic was ‘Tales OF The Wedding Present’ at the time). For some reason Terry and David didn’t like the font so I came up with the idea of changing the title of the comic to ‘Tales FROM The Wedding Present’ and relating that to EC comics’ ‘Tales From The Crypt’. After that, we decided to do a homage for each issue, mostly comic book related images, usually based on an idea suggested by Terry. I always draw the cover first before starting a new issue – they’re great fun to do.

The scripts are very deadpan and in places almost existential – do you change the dialogue to fit the drawings or is it all as specified to the letter?

LT: I draw them based on the scripts I receive.

They’re written in a movie/play script style with stage directions and suggestions for facial expressions/feelings. They’re not broken down like a conventional comic book script (page one, panel one etc) so I have to work out what’s going to go into each panel/page. This is a good thing as it gives me more freedom to pace the story and decide what’s happening in each panel. David, Terry and Jessica look over the finished pages and usually change parts of the dialogue and punctuation in each page before I convert them to a pdf ready for printing. I’ll occasionally suggest changes in dialogue so it’s really a group effort all round. I really like the ‘Harvey Pekar/American Splendor’ style of some of the stories. I think the collected edition should be subtitled ‘UK Splendour’!!

Who are your influences in the comics world, any favourite writers/artists? 

I used to collect most of the British weekly Marvel comics from when I was about ten years old and was a huge Marvel fan up until my early twenties, but even when I was a child I was more interested in the soap opera side of the stories. I was never interested in the old question ‘Who’s stronger, The Thing or The Hulk?’ For me it was ‘Who will Peter Parker choose, Gwen Stacey or Mary Jane Watson?’ For the record, my money was always on MJ!

I also remember being completely blown away by Steve Gerber’s writing in ‘The Defenders’ which led me to his ‘Man-Thing’ and ‘Howard The Duck’ comics. He was the first comics creator I discovered whose writing outshone the artwork and he certainly paved the way for the likes of Frank Miller, Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, whose writing I also enjoy and admire.

As for artwork, Jack Kirby (especially when inked by Joe Sinnottt), Neil Adams, Jim Steranko, John Byrne and Bill Sienkiewicz all excited me as a youngster and I still find their work incredible – real trailblazers and masters of comics storytelling. I discovered the EC line of comics quite late in life, but Wally Wood’s work for EC remains a high watermark in comic book art. Alex Ross’ work is worth a mention too – I especially enjoyed ‘Marvels’, the last superhero title I ever bought.

In my early twenties I discovered ‘alternative’ comics (quite late in life really considering I’d been into ‘alternative’ music since my early teens!) starting with Dave Sim’s ‘Cerebus’ and quickly graduating to a number of extraordinary comic books including works by, in no particular order: Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’ ‘Watchmen’, Chester Brown’s ‘Yummy Fur’, Joe Matt’s ‘Peep Show’, Seth’s ‘Palookaville’, Los Bros Hernandez’s ‘Love & Rockets’, Terry Moore’s ‘Strangers In Paradise’, Jeff Smith’s ‘Bone’, and work by Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, art spiegelman, Howard Chaykin, Jim Starlin, P Craig Russell, the list goes on…

These days there are only a handful of creators whose work I continue to buy (including many of the above) and anything by Chris Ware who, as far as I’m concerned, is the best comics creator of the twenty first century.

I see you have a fan in fellow self-publisher, Dave Sim. I guess you are a fan of Cerebus? Any other names you can drop? 🙂

The other ‘David’ in my life for whom I have the utmost respect for. ‘Cerebus’ is the best comic book of all time as far as I’m concerned. I’m amongst the few hundred who kept buying and excitedly reading it up until the 300th issue.

He set a goal for himself of writing and drawing (with the help of the unbelievably talented background artist Gerhard) a creator owned, self-published MONTHLY comic book that made sense as a complete story for 26 years. He never ‘sold out’, always promoted fellow self-publishers and unknown cartoonists in the back of his comic, replied personally to all of his fan mail, but because he ‘got religion’ and spoke out against the negative effects of feminism on society (in a hard to refute, emotion-free diatribe) was the subject of a media backlash that still causes him to ironically refer himself as ‘the evil misogynist’.

He’s currently trying to raise funds to digitally restore all 16 volumes of the ‘Cerebus’ story via a Kickstarter campaign.

I think it’s awful that Dave Sim has been ostracised by the majority of the independent/self publishing comic book community which he almost single-handedly helped to establish.

Thank you Lee for your very thorough answers!

A brief review of the first nine issues by none other than Dave Sim himself is at:

Dave Sim talks about TftWP