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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The long tale of the Adventures of Super Scoop the Penguin

Long before Pingu (1986), there was Super Scoop. At the outset, he didn’t have a name. He was just a drawing of a penguin, along with a sketch of sheep (!) that Jen put on her letters while we were courting. After a while, I started drawing the penguin in different situations, slipping on ice, swimming, birthday cards etc. Slowly, it dawned on us that this character had the potential for a children’s story, so Jen began writing the adventures. In the second episode, the penguin gets his name, and thus Super Scoop was born. Six adventures were written, and I illustrated in colour a few scenes from each episode. We tried getting children’s publishers interested, but the response was less than enthusiastic, one actually citing Watership Down, stating that anthropomorphic animals don’t sell! I approached Penguin Biscuits and the makers of a super scoop ice cream, and sent off the drawings – fortunately, I’d made black and white photocopies because the drawings mysteriously got ‘lost’…

B&W copy of one of several lost illos

Then we were married and shortly afterwards I was drafted to Malta, taking Jen with me for a two-year tour.  I worked in the cash office of RN Hospital Mtarfa, just across the valley from Rabat. (The island inspired me to write a vampire novel set there, though its gestation took several years thereafter!)

Super Scoop’s first adventures were read over the BFBS Malta radio by Jen in 1975.

 

On our return to UK, we intermittently attempted to evoke interest in the character, but had no success. I wanted to establish some kind of publishing history for Super Scoop, as I thought he was quite a unique creation. I was serving in Faslane, Scotland, and edited the establishment magazine, so I wrote and drew the Super Scoop adventures as a black and white comic. It seemed well received by the families stationed there…

Faslane comic...

Leapfrog forward to 2003 and Super Scoop appeared this time in a full colour comic strip in the monthly magazine, the Portsmouth Post.
Beginning again - in colour...
 
He featured every month thereafter until that magazine’s demise in 2007. His adventures involved dinosaurs emerging from icebergs, an attack of leopard seals, encountering humans (scientists), shipwrecked polar bears, a friendly arctic tern, a long-lost relative, a journey to the centre of the earth, and fun with pals and even snowflakes. The strip is laced with humour, too.


Since then I’ve approached some children’s publishers and their interest is astoundingly non-existent. I say ‘astoundingly’ because I’ve shown and read the Portsmouth Post comics to our five-year-old grandson and he not only remembers the stories in great detail, but asks for them again and again – despite being strongly attracted to Angry Birds and Batman online games (under supervision!) His response is everything we hoped it would be – but clearly Jen and I are in a minority and publishers know best!

So I’m now thinking that rather than let these adventures gather dust in a drawer or sit unloved on a computer disc, I’ll self-publish, even if it means the illustrations won’t be in colour.

Watch this space.

4 comments:

Richard Sutton said...

The illustrations actually work best in black and white -- aren't penguins black and white? Besides you could do a coloring book, or...

Pat Dilloway said...

My niece would probably like that. She loves those Pingu shows on Netflix.

Kathleen Janz-Anderson said...

I'll bet my granddaughters will love it. Go for it.

Nik said...

Thanks for the encouraging comments, Richard, Pat and Kathleen. Colouring book - maybe once SS has attracted a bigger audience... but it's a good idea!