FRANK McDIARMID was a British, originally from Glasgow, comics artist best known for his work on Roger the Dodger in the Beano and on IPC humour titles such as Whizzer and Chips, Cheeky Weekly, Krazy Comic, Whoopee!, Wow! and Monster Fun. Strips he drew include Cheeky (for which he created an extensive supporting cast including Lily Pop, Yikky Boo!, Baker’s Boy and Constable Chuckle), Kid Kong, Boy Boss, Frankie Stein and Willie Bunk. He has since moved into the field of fine art.
I worked first of Dc Thomsons, who were responsible for the Beano and Dandy, they were masive. They had some great talent working there. I spent my time from 1955-1966 working for them. The first strip of any consequence I worked on was following on from Ken Reid at the Dandy, it was a story called ‘Big Head and Thick Head’, from 1962-1966. I followed in the footsteps of many well known artists Douglas Phillips, who drew ‘I flew with Braddock’ and Fred Sturrock who was well known for his Illustrations.
At the same time as working on Comic Characters back then, I also managed to get into the straight art market, in titles such as Rover, Hotspur, Wizard and Adventure, spy stories for Thomsons then… in those days there was a block illustration followed by two or three pages of prose. I did quite a few covers in those Boys papers.
Working at Thomsons the mentality was that it a job for life, and if you stayed with them you’d never need to work for anyone else. But I had to spread my wings, I knew there was so much more I could do…
So after eleven years I got a bit restless, and asked if I could work at home, which quite a few artists did. They gave me that short shrift, and said they prefer the idea to come from them.
I decided to go to London with some samples in my Spring holiday, just to see what the response was. In those days, Fleetway were just taking off with a whole stable of comics, and they loved what they saw. They gave me every encouragement and they had a lots of work for me.
The fleetway comics covered all sorts of titles … Lion, Tiger, Valiant, and the funnies such as Wham, Pow, Buster and eventually Whoopee and Whizzer and Chips…
I became a freelance artist, and in 1973 did Roger the Dodger. I worked on a lot of Characters through the years. I did four years of Texas Kid in TV Comic and a year and a half on Eagle in the early 1970’s. I worked on Boy Boss, Mustapha Million, Chruncher, The Gasworks Gang, Frankie Stein, and war comics such as Battle and many others.
But I am best remembered for Cheeky. I came on the scene when Cheeky was singled out for stardom. Bob Paynter, fleetway’s Group Editor asked me to do it. Bob’s idea when Cheeky emerged was that they’d use as much as my stuff as they could, seven pages a week.
Bob said I should drop Roger and concentrate on working for them. I said no. I had worked hard and I didn’t have to put all my eggs in one basket. This overlapped the Cheeky period, and occasionally artists would stand in for me. At least two thirds of Cheeky was drawn by me.
It was hard to have a favourite character. There was Posh Claude, Lilly Pop. They were all dear to me. My favourite strip was Cheeky by a mile, we were encouraged to be anarchic and mild. I still can draw most of the characters from memory … and there was a lot of them!
There also was the Snail. That was my idea. I was given a free hand – in fact was encouraged to come up with this stuff. Those characters Bubble Gum Boy, Libby, Disco Kid, Auntie Daisy and Walter Wurx. They were all good fun!
Who came up with the Jokes? In the strips he was referred to as Willie Cook, but in fact he was a character from Thomsons – full name of Gordon Cook – he came up with all the bad bones. I was in charge of coming up with all the scenes and things that were going on, the rubbish written in between-anything that would make it look different.
The pages were one and half sizes bigger than the comic, and was mechanically reduced down in London. The strips were drawn in pencil and then inked – but given the pressure of the work I was given a free hand and to go straight ahead, there was no requirement to show them. The Captions and Speech Bubbles was done down there by whoever. I never really did find out who did them. it was weird drawing a strip without seeing the text Bubbles! But what is weirder: I only met Bob Paynter about three times in my life. And yet he was the fountain head for all this nonsense that I was producing and having a great time!
I felt gloriously happy at the time seeing my work on display in newsagents up and down the country!
Ha Ha! Cheeky was my favourite to work on – a particular pleasure to draw because of the freedom I was given, I still have a slim volume of fan mail from back then.
I had my own art gallery in Arbroath when I started to work from home until 2000.