Metcalfe has been cartooning on a full-time basis for nigh-on 30 years.
In the 70's and 80's he was a member of that
select group of artists who toiled
away, week in week out, producing strips for a bunch
of classsic comic
weeklies. In those days the two main publishers,
Fleetway and DC Thomson,
were printing a dozen titles or more fun comic titles
every seven days. Trevor
worked on strips for Shiver & Shake, Whoopee!,
Whizzer & Chips, Cor!!,
Krazy Comic, Monster Fun and more. He also drew strips
Mickey Weekly. Nowadays, of course there's just The
Beano and The Dandy
and Trevor still draws for the latter, but the comics
void is now filled with
licensed 'tie-in' publications, and 'lifestyle' magazines
for the young adult -
it's just not the same.
Cartoonists have had to adapt to a new world without
those traditional comics,
a world where pen and ink too is almost redundant.
Trevor says that he has
taken to a tablet and monitor like a duck to water.
He now produces images
and gifs for a variety of web-based clients. He also
works on a bi-monthly
Ronald McDonald comic strip for McDonald's,
and right now he's in talks to
develop a terrific new strip of his called Clown
Town as an online publication -
you can see plenty of examples of his current toon
work on his Trevortoons
I'm not sure if Trevor realises quite how important
his contribution to comics
history has been. At the time, those fun weeklies
seem to have been regarded
as throwaway concoctions by their publishers.
Artists were given a pretty raw
deal, with all copyright assigned to their employers,
strips being interchanged,
dropped and swopped at will, and reprint fees merely
a magic lamp perched on
the top of an unassailable pinnacle. But these comics
have proven to be
much more precious than that, and Trevor and his
colleagues' cartoon art
inhabited our young lives for far longer than the
current tv or pop fads that fill
the media for kids today. Those fun comics were posted
through our mailboxes
for 52 weeks a year, they filled the lower shelves
in your newsagent and popped
up in annual form, regular as clockwork in your Xmas
pressie pile. They were
part of the background noise of being a kid in the
60's, 70's and 80's. Trevor
Metcalfe drew Sweet Tooth and Greedy Greg. He drew
Jasper The Grasper,
Birdman & Chicken, Ghoul Getters, Town Tarzan
and Junior Rotter - strips that
a generation of twenty and thirty-somethings still
fondly recall and, indeed,
continue to collect such was and is their hold. They've
touched an awful lot
of people through the years!...
Funnily enough, Trevor actually talked to me
before I talked to him. He made
contact via Fleetway St. to confirm the artist's
credit on Damsel In Distress
(a Shiver & Shake strip). I'd suspected he was
behind this fun toon, but didn't
want to put a credit online without confirmation.
After an email exchange he
kindly agreed to this Q&A and furnished me with
a bunch of great images,
which I've posted as part of these special Fleetway
Interview pages. Anyway,
we began on familiar Toonhound turf, with the Fleetway
Your web site says you started working for Fleetway in
How did that first break come about?
Actually it was 1965 in Buster comic. I had a half page
strip called Our Great
Grandpa , which was my own creation, but scripts were
by Roy Davies. These things were almost impossible to turn
finished artwork, but WOW! - What a training! I remember
vividly one awful script.
Grandpa, dressed in a Victorian-style striped swimming
costume, had to trip
over at the edge of the road, fall across it, then two
women, each with a pram
had to trundle over him, mistaking him for a new pedestrian
crossing! All the
scripts were like that and I had very mixed feelings about
the whole set-up.
I was thrilled to have my work printed, yet I hated what
I was producing!
However, I was only cartooning part-time in '65, I had
a full-time job in the
printing trade as a Litho artist. It wasn't until 1972
that I went full-time as
a freelance cartoonist.
And what was the first strip you worked on as a full-timer?
Jasper The Grasper, the original creation of Ken Reid and
a hard act to follow.
Within a matter of weeks I was offered another page. A
list of potential comic
strip characters names were read out to me over the phone
and I picked
Sweet Tooth as the one I'd enjoy to develop from scratch.
The Greedy Greg
character was my own idea to give the story lines a bit
of a 'kick-start'.
In fact, early on, I wrote many of the scripts myself,
worried that Roy Davies
might start doing 'em! - Thankfully this never happened,
and several writers
worked on Sweet Tooth over the years. At least 90% of the
strips were drawn by me.
So how did things work - were ideas for new strips
from Fleetway House to you, or indeed, was it a mixture
All the strip ideas and most of the scripts came from the
Editor's office to me.
Other artists may have had other arrangements, I don't
know. The only
exception in my case was The Amazing Three (Jackpot) which
own total concept, and I think I wrote about 98% of the
The Fleetway artists were often took over strips from each
as you did with Jasper The Grasper. How come? Was
resentment from the strip's former artist?
Yes, I took over Jasper from Ken Reid. I was told
want to do it anymore. I have no idea if he resented
me or not.
Can you tell us about the production process. How far
in advance were strips greenlighted?
It was usual to be four weeks ahead of publication date.
And how many weekly strips were you producing, at your
Do you have a particular favourite strip from the Fleetway
And, similarly, was there one strip which caused you more
than the rest, amd why?
I drew Mickey's Magic for the Fleetway published Mickey
but the comic was short lived, unfortunately. I think I
did eighteen two page
sets.The last few Mickey's Magic sets before the comic's
not mine. Someone else took over as I was in hospital and,
couldn't work. See my rather lengthy description earlier
about Our Great
Grandpa, if you want to re-cap my 'grief!'
I loved Jasper The Grasper. There seemed to be a conscious
effort to develop his character - You didn't see that,
as a rule, in
the Fleetway strips - We had references to his extended
family and had him dating people and such. The look
Cortown was superb, you really peopled the locale with
shops and places and mocked the period beautifully - Again,
that common in the funnies...
I always did my best with the artwork side of things,
but the way the
character developed in other respects was to the
credit of the various
In my Fleetway St. pages I like to pick up on sneaky
details like Robert Nixon's Cor!! van, hidden in
Lolly Pop. Have
you any panel secrets you want to confess to me?
On many occasions when a shop or two had to feature
as a backdrop,
I used to name one shop 'Mandy's', after my elder
Ghoul Getters sometimes ran in two weekly parts,
cliffhanger between them. Likewise Birdman &
Town Tarzan, yet I donšt recall many other Fleetway
being given the leeway to do this. Was this your
It was the Editor's idea. It was used with
The Amazing Three too.
And speaking of reprints, it's well known that
the copyright on
strips was assigned to Fleetway upon a strip's
first printing. Did
the artists receive reprint fees for all those re-appearances
thos Funny Fortnightly's , Big Comic, etc? - it's
incredible to see
how many times strips were brought back over that
Reprint fees!!! -only in my wildest dreams!
On your web site you talk about how you began selling
cartoons back in 1964. What kind of work were you
My first published work was two or three Smasher
strips for The Dandy
comic, trying to 'ghost' the style of the regular
artist. I then got my own
strip called The Babes'n'The Bullies, also for The
The Gems proved to be very popular in The Sun. You
the strip with Robert Nixon, whom you've been close
since your college days, I believe. The two of you
share a very
similar sense of character design and panel style.
Does your work
ever get confused?
There are many similarities in our styles, but when
you consider both our
early influences, it's hardly surprising. One of
Robert's early experiences
was to 'ghost' the work of Ken Reid when he took
over Rodger The Dodger
in The Beano. Later on, he took over Ken's other
creation, Frankie Stein for
Fleetway. I started early on to 'ghost' Ken's work
too, when I drew Jasper
The Grasper. I'm sure our work has never been
confused, but more than
one editor over the years has asked me to 'stand-in'
for Robert from time to
time, and I've tried to make my stuff look like his
as much as possible.
You refer to your first influences from the
Archie Comics, and
your admiration for colleagues like Leo Baxendale
Parlett. Are there any newcomers whose work particularly
I don't buy comics myself, but I love the look and
the humour of
The Simpsons on TV.
Nowadays there are fewer and fewer outlets for strip
now that we no longer have weekly comics. It must
frustrating for professionals like yourself....
One can't vegetate or rest on one's laurels! You
have to move on,
learn new things and beaver on. Anyway, I don't consider
only as a strip cartoonist.
Have you ever tried to get your own comic off the
maybe in collaboration with your fellow cartoonists?
I would never even consider such a risky venture!
Having said that, at Trevortoons you talk about how
into computer-based work, can you tell me more about
Yes, since I taught myself how to use the leading
graphics programmes on
my Macintosh computer, ALL my work is produced digitally.
My trusty inkpens
etc. are tucked away in a drawer, out of sight and
( mostly ) out of mind!
I still do a strip in The Dandy comic, that's in
most weeks. It's called
Growing Paynes. The strip is drawn on-screen, using
a WACOM tablet and
Adobe Photoshop. I like to use Adobe Illustrator
for Ronald McDonald And
Friends. This is a twelve page free comic, produced
about six times a year.
The colour is done in Photoshop, and the finished
pages are e-mailed in to
the client. I think this is the way all comics will
be done eventually.
And now there's Clown Town. Can you tell us more?
To date it has never been published, but one company
has expressed an
interest in buying it for part of an 'entertainment'
website. I have several ready,
both in CMYK format and as web-safe gifs. I'll let
you know when it takes off.
Finally, have you a particular favourite cartoon
lurking in your portfolio, which for some reason
has just never
made it into print?
As a footnote to the above Q&A, Trevor added
this summary of his future
plans and artistic ambitions:
'I intend to continue cartooning, mixing it
a bit with the more
'serious' illustration work that I've been
doing of late. These are
education 'aids' in the comic strip format,
a little simple 2D cell
animation and corporate greetings cards. I'm
glad I went digital
when I did, just as a lot of comics ceased
publication. The name
of the game is diversification these days.
Also, there's a lot of
competition out there, so I keep a few cards
close to my chest!
Regards to all comic enthusiasts who've managed
to read this far.
Also, thanks to Toonhound. Keep smiling, Trevor.'
So there you have it, some most welcome information
from the great Mr Metcalfe.
This was my first Fleetway St. inteview and at the time
I had no idea how
things would snowball. Don't forget that there
gallery of Trevor's Toons, eh?
You'll also find plenty more info on Trevor and his
cartooning career at his
And of course, there's that ever-expanding index of
Fleetway comics and strips
here at Toonhound. Fleetway
St continues to prosper and now details more
than 100 fun strips...
- Getting there!