Malcolm Douglas: A Truly Rude Briton.
We have recently listed the remarkable graphic art archive, consisting of some 200 sheets of artwork, of Malcolm Douglas, including his work for Oink! on Maggs website.
Malcolm Douglas was primarily a comic artist, illustrator and inker who lived a double life as a scholar of English folksongs. He was an adoptive Northerner who started drawing comics under the nom-de-plume ‘J.T. Dogg’ when he attended Sheffield University in the ‘70s for the ‘National Student’ magazine and the University’s own rag.
In a radio interview with his good friend Ron Day, he mentioned that his father was a commercial draughtsman, but still insisted that illustration came to him completely by chance when he filled in for someone as a student. There only seem to be two fragments of his published work from the student days, in the form of 20 or so strips for the story ‘Norman Density’ and the original drawing/print ready copy for ‘The Neurosis Game’, a satire on the student life. The board moves include typical
student scenarios of the late twentieth century such as “Pick up girl at Intro Disco but find she is a 3rd year women’s libber. Do not score (next two throws)” and “House burgled. Miss one throw while hiding dope before police arrive!”.
Douglas had serendipitously found his vocation in life and for the next few decades or so he worked as a freelance illustrator, penciller, inker and colourist for a range of comics, fan magazines, porno maggs, football and underground comix such as ‘Brain Damage’ and ‘Zit’ and most importantly as contributor to ‘Oink!’. This artful, tasteless and anarchic children’s comic, in the mold of ‘Viz!’, ran for only 68 issues from May 1986 to October 1988.
Douglas was a meticulous, neat and masterful comix draughtsman whose work at times matches the proto-grunge realism of Robert Crumb pen stroke for pen stroke. The American pioneers of underground comix such as Crumb, Gilbert Shelton and S. Clay Wilson embraced obscenity, toilet humour and bad taste and he followed suit. Like Robert Crumb also, he had a great passion for the collecting, researching and performance of traditional and folk music. Similarly, Crumb collected and illustrated the impoverished black master musicians of Blues and Jazz. Likewise, Douglas collected, discussed and published the English folk song and went on to revise the seminal ‘’Penguin Book of English Folk Songs’ that Vaughan Willliams and A.L. Lloyd had originally edited in the fifties (Guardian Obituary). He also contributed thousands of messages to the Mudcat Café’s online folkie disccussion lists. If he had been born in America and lived in the Chelsea Hotel he might have been lauded and celebrated like the great poylymath-artist and folklorist Harry Smith. ‘Oink!’ was a rough and tumble publication in the style of ‘Viz’, it depicted a porcine world that satirized and parodied politics, other comics, children’s illustrators, the entertainment and Pop worlds and televisual reality.The Orwellian conceit in ‘Animal Farm’ an alternate world of pigs walking on their hind legs was taken to to absurd lengths in Oink!. As J.T.
Dogg’, he developed ‘Streethogs’, ‘Ham Dare, Pig of the Future’, with dialogue by Mark Rodgers and Lew Stringer respectively. He also explored the comic legacy of Dan Dare in other comix, parodying Frank Hampson’s masterly creation for ‘Eagle’ with ‘Dan Dross: Pillock of The Future’ published in ‘Gas’ (many boards for this are included herein).
A series of very intense and formative experiences with Oink! are described on his personal website. He noted its roughness and “unpredictability” but loved the “..free rein to experiment..”, even working “50 hours straight” on the last episode of the first ‘Street Hogs’, and was “..more or less hallucinating by the time it was finished”.The archive has a substantial portion of Douglas’s work for ‘Oink!’, arguably his meisterwerke. These include boards with overlays and holograph annotations, for six of the ‘Oink! Superstar Poster Series’ namely ‘Hambo’, ‘Bacon Stevens’, ‘FrankenSwine’, ‘Sty Wars’, ‘Peter Swillton’ and ‘The P-Team’. Thinly piggish satires on Rambo, ‘80s retro rock and roller Shakin’ Stevens, Frankenstein, Star Wars, footballer Peter Shilton and the A-Team respectively but all with stunning artwork by Douglas. There were others that went missing or, as with the ‘Draculard’ poster artwork were kept by Fleetway, a very few variants of ‘Hambo’ were also given away by Douglas to friends.There are also a number of minor stories from the series of Oink! Books such as a ‘Bad Santa’ style satire on Raymond Briggs’ ‘Father Christmas, entitled ‘Farver Chrissmuss’ by ‘Raymond Piggs’.
Douglas also did a great deal of cartoon work for British ‘adult’ magazine that, putting aside their plebeian nature and crappy plots, he applied his same masterly line and dedication to. There are a considerable quantity of these line drawings of great elegance. Douglas seemed to excel when given the task of illustrating the coarse and profane. He was a truly Rude Briton in the tradition of Gillray, Steadman and Scarfe.
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