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Friday, February 09, 2007

Derek the Troll

For those who asked to see more of my early work, here's a brief look back at one of my first regular professional strips from the days before "troll" was the name coined for social inadequates who post abuse on newsgrops. Derek the Troll started life as a submission for a cartoon competition run by Games Workshop. If I recall correctly although I didn't win the competition, the editors were interested in running the strip in their gaming magazine Warlock and paying me a contributor's fee for it. (The particular strip is the one shown here, titled It's Tough to be a Troll which appeared in Warlock No.7, dated Dec /Jan 1985/86.)

I should say here that I've never had any interest in role playing games so it felt a bit odd when the editor of the magazine asked me to contribute a full page Derek the Troll strip on a regular basis. Not that I was complaining, as it meant I was reaching a different audience than the children's comics I contributed to plus I retained the copyright on the character.

Derek the Troll had a relatively short run. I was asked to draw vignettes of the character to accompany their book review page in issue 8 (with Derek reacting with emotions ranging from joy to disgust, depending on the reviewer's opinion of the books) and the regular strip began in issue 9 (shown here) and ran until issue 13 (the final issue). Luckily by then the popularity of Derek meant the strip was shifted over to the company's leading magazine White Dwarf where it appeared every other issue for some reason (Nos. 87, 89, 91).

I can't remember why the strip ceased after that. There were a minority of readers who considered it "childish" and "immature" (probably teens who'd just grown out of Whizzer and Chips and didn't want to be reminded of that style) but it was popular with the majority of readers and the editors. In a letter to me in 1987 editor Mike Brunton said "Do you know that all work stops in the editorial and design offices when a package arrives from you? You really outdid yourself this time. That is the single best Derek I can remember seeing."

It's most likely that I stopped producing Derek because I was too busy on other comics. In 1987 Oink! was in full swing and I was contributing numerous pages per issue,(often writing scripts for others to draw in addition to my own strips) plus working on regular material for Marvel UK.

Whatever the reason was, I stopped drawing Derek the Troll 20 years ago. I intend to revive the character one day, when I find the time and suitable outlet. Curiously, after I dropped the troll strip a similar-looking character began appearing in Swedish comics under the name Herman Hedning (or to give him his English name, Marwin Meathead). Now I should point out that any similarity is pure coincidence. I've met Herman's creator, Jonas Darnell, and he was completely unaware of my character when he created his strip.

Here's another coincidence: Herman Hedning is the Swedish / Norwegian comic I contribute to with my strip Suburban Satanists! Funny old world innit? (And a good job too, or us funnybook creators would be out of business.) More on the Satanists, and the Norwegian comics scene in general, in another blog.


Nick Finch said...

Hi Lew,
I remember Derek fondly, believe it or not, and would love to see him make a welcome return!

Just nice to get the chance to say "nice one!" and thanks for Derek. He's much missed in some places (I use the Derek "emotions" on my desk at work as a mood indicator!)

So thanks again!!
Nick (UK)

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Nick. Derek will DEFINITELY return one day!

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