Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I went to a small-press comics exhibition today.

It was a small two-room affair, full of black-and-white photocopied material by people who, in every single case, I’d never heard of.

As is the case with small-press publications, there was a real spread of material that I both did and didn’t connect with. The one that really got my attention was an autobiographical comic that depicted the author clearing out a lot of his papers from childhood, and showing us all the early material that he used come out with at school. I guess anyone who drew comics at school can identify with that.


As a pre-teen, amongst all the issues of Pippin in Playland, Whizzer And Chips and good old Plug comic that I used to read, I began putting together my very own semi-photocopied mag called The Emu Comic.

I was seven (or maybe even younger) when I first circulated it around infants school, and I was still publishing it a couple of years later at junior school.

This was for members of The Emu Club (which I also ran), and the comic chronicled the adventures of my mum's puppet emu. Each issue was 8 A4 sides, four of which were photocopied – an expensive luxury in those days. Pages 2, 4, 6 and 8 therefore just had to be copied-out again onto the back of the photocopies. There were only ever two copies of each issue, one of which was the master. The back page featured a list of my friends' names, (some of whom had also submitted some of the material) so that they could read it, tick themselves off and then pass the issue onto the next person. The last name on the list was mine. The environmentally-friendly Emu Comic ran for five issues.


Then, between the ages of about eleven and thirteen, I made 14 Doctor Who-ish issues of To Alex from Gob, purely for my best friend Alex to read. He was also simultaneously producing a similar title for me! As I recall, in a move that was later copied by every single kids’ title available today, every issue had a free gift. But I think that for me it was all about the ongoing comic strip inside - The Keys Of Marinus 2.

This was all about Alex, me and my budgie Ford travelling time and space in a TARDIS with a faulty chameleon circuit, to collect a series of Yale keys needed to save an alien planet.

Whilst writing and drawing these strips, I got into collecting BBC sound effects records too, so it wasn’t long before Alex, Ford and myself were recording the strips onto audio tape.

Very soon I found that I was writing the comics specifically with the audio version in mind, and long-winded dualogues quickly became the order of the day.

Alas, a happily barmy era such as that could never last in a world like this one…

My best friend's mum had a clear-out, and my hard-toiled comics were among the casualties exiled to the local rubbish dump. Alex and I went to different secondary schools, and lost touch. One of the cassettes we’d recorded got seriously eaten in the machine, so I had to splice-out the chewed section and copy it onto another tape, improvising a scene on my own to cover the material that had been lost.

In fact, there was only one paper issue that was junked without having been audio-taped – the last one. I still have the final final issue though, because I simply never finished it.


Then in my teenage years I got into collecting Marvel Comics for a while. I never collected DC Comics, except for Star Trek.

I was fascinated by Spider-Man’s cool new black costume, which, it transpired, was also an alien symbiote. Despairing of Marvel UK’s inept reprints, I managed to collect nearly all of the 12-part US mini-series in which it had been introduced - Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars. This was a great introduction to the shared Marvel universe, and there were several titles that I started collecting each month, plus others when storylines crossed-over. Yes, I had walked straight into Marvel’s cunning marketing trap.

About a year later, Marvel had another cunning plan, ingeniously entitled Secret Wars II. This would be only nine issues long, but the narrative continued through, I think, every single Marvel universe title. This required me to buy a significantly higher number of extra issues, many of which weren’t even generally available in the UK. As I began to invest my finely budgeted pocket-money in train tickets to specialist comic shops in London, (specifically Forbidden Planet 1) someone at Marvel must have been rubbing their hands in glee again.

Until it all backfired on them.

I decided that I wanted to read their massive 9-month crossover story arc in the correct order. So I would buy the issues, but then put them to one side, intending to read them later, after I had procured the chronologically earlier issues. One day, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to buy any comics for, ooh, about a year. I was on the wagon again, and apparently had been for some time. In your face, Marvel!

Oddly, I’d drawn very few comic strips of my own during those comic-reading years.

Come age 17 (in 1988) one of my college buddies - Rik - was editing Defective Comics, and he got me writing comic strips again for about the next 8 years, most of which he painstakingly drew. To read some of them now, you might think that I was still writing for audio…


Predominantly these 60-odd strips were superhero / film / TV parodies, but the shocking thing was that people actually paid good money to read them by mail order. Both the issue number, and the readership, had exceeded 100, and spawned an independent discussion magazine, by the time Def finally folded.


Finally, although I took some photos for Dave Pitman's Tales From The Flat last year, the last comic-strip I actually wrote was in 2004.

Rik and I co-wrote an officially-licensed six-part series based on the TV sf show PATCHwork. By “co-wrote” I mean we plotted the whole thing together, but I only scripted episodes two, three and six. This is a bit of a shame, as only episode one ever got drawn before the project was nixed. I think the mag was supposed to be aimed at quite high-brow scientific types, while PATCHwork of course was far too omnicerebral for that.

Anyway, since they wouldn’t publish it, here, then, for the first time in history, now, live, on-stage, as it happens, now, here, on this very blog, is the world-premiere of that very strip…

PATCHwork!


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