Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My Top 10 Bananaman stories of 2014

In 2014 I had more stuff published in The Beano than for the last five years, and loved it. As well as my Pansy Potter strips, which I wrote and drew, and my occasional scripts for Dennis The Menace, Little Plum and Biffo The Bear, my favourite work has been my Bananaman stories, all drawn by the brilliant Wayne Thompson (who I finally got to meet in September). With each published story comes a small tale, usually of the material that hit the cutting room floor or some hidden detail you might not at first spot, so here are my ten favourites. (Click on the images to take you to the page with more details on that strip).

10 - Teddy Bear.

I wrote a record number of bear puns for this strip. Even I'm proud of them. Issi Noho hit the cutting room floor. I bet I'm the only one who'd have got it if it hadn't.

9 - Orson Welles War Of The Worlds. 

Featuring Spa-Foon of the Squa-Trontians (see below), my War Or The Worlds script was edited down so that Orson Welles and his radio theatre characters hit the cutting room floor. That the end result was still excellent without them is a testament to Wayne.

8 - Wedding Dress.

I like this one, if only because I make a cameo in person, Wayne depicting me as a wedding caricaturist (a job which I genuinely do, available for parties, very competitive rates, do please get in touch).

7 - Dr Octopus and Dr Strange.

No point pretending that's not who they are, cos it very clearly is. It changed a lot in the dialogue editing (pretty well every bubble is different from the words I wrote, including the names) but it's fun, if only to see my name hanging off Doctor Strange's pants. I used to work on Doctor Strange for Marvel in the late 90s, so that's why I had to get him in there.

6 - The Armed Robber.

Or, as any comics historian will recognise, Plastic Man. That likeness was Wayne's doing, I have to say, this being one of the rare instances of me delivering a typed script rather than a biro layout version. Contains my favourite line of the year - "Unexpected Item In Your Face!"

5 - The Bell Of Doom.

Featuring a cameo by Ken Reid's Jonah, and in-joke references to EC Comics horror stories, The Bell Of Doom was the first of my scripts to be drawn "old style", when Wayne was made to drop his own unique animation style of cartoon action figures and, instead, to "ghost" the style of the 1980s Bananaman strip, as drawn by John Geering. I felt the stories lost a lot of visual appeal once this happened, but I have found that schoolkids prefer this old-school look, so what do I know? I think this story has the most satisfying plot of this year's batch.

4 - Vom Monster. 

My first, my biggest, and one of my best, Vom Monster is a four pager running in the 2015 annual. And sadly, given that it's the one that readers will have in their collections for years to come, it doesn't have my name on it. (I also wrote the Smoothie and Dilemma Bananaman strips in the annual, fact fans)

3 - Robot Archie.

Obviously he's not supposed to be Robot Archie, he's supposed to be Apple Man in a robot body, but I know it's Robot Archie, you know it's Robot Archie, and it was at the heart of the 6 page romance story I wrote, spread across three issues, featuring the bizarre love triangle of a Kiwi Fruit, a Banana, and an Apple-based trio of superheroes, so it's way up there in my favourites of the year.

2 - Spa-Foon of the Squa-Trontians. 

Starring in a number of my Bananaman stories is an alien leader and his crew who, unfortunately, look a bit like the aliens in the Simpsons, which was down to my laziness as much as anything. I was so busy giving them personalities, I forgot to design them. For their last couple of appearances Wayne was made to redesign them, for that very Simpson-like reason. They were the stars of a couple of episodes in which Eric didn't change into Bananaman at any point in the strip, which I find very satisfying when I manage to pull it off. Creepy Pasta and Annihilation (originally Genocide) are my two favourites.

1 - Miracle Banana.

A satire on Miracle Man and Captain Marvel, it features Captain Banana from the 1940s, and his team of Super Lawyers, and ends with a spoof of Todd McFarlane. I'm not expecting any child who read it to get any of those references, but I'm chuffed that they made it in there. Miracle Banana returned in my Cole Porter filled superhero pub story, of which I am also inordinately proud, revealing his alter ego of Billy Batson, for good satirical measure.

So those are my favourites from this year's Bananaman scripts that saw publication, though a special mention should go to BM vs Thor and BM meets Stephen Hawking, which never saw print. And there a couple more sitting gathering dust here which you might get to see in the new year, if you're very lucky. Do stay tuned.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing Bananaman in The Beano, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He's been writing and drawing comics for 25 years, he must know something.

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