Cartoonist Terry Bave.
WIGHT LIVING IT IS fair to say cartoonist Terry Bave is not a household name but the former Islander is a national treasure, having drawn some of the most beloved comic strip characters ever created and contributing to titles such as The Beano and The Dandy.
One of the country’s finest cartoonists, Terry has just released his autobiography at the age of 81 — examining an an industry very few of us know much about.
Terry’s fascinating tale focuses, as you would expect, on the dizzy heights he reached in the comic industry when he was enlisted onto the highly popular Whizzer and Chips in 1967 up to drawing some of the most iconic characters ever seen in British comics.
Formerly of Walls Road, Bembridge, where he lived for 40 years, Terry now lives in Braunton, North Devon, to be closer to his family, enjoying his retirement with his wife, Sheila.
Bizarrely, five years ago, Crikey! fanzine mistakenly reported his death and the error was discovered by another magazine when they phoned his home, in the expectation of writing an obituary, and spoke to Terry in person.
"I did see the funny side of that. I certainly got some nice tributes out of that," joked Terry.
Terry still keeps his artistic hand in — and he fondly remembers the time he fell in love with cartoons and animation and, particularly, when his work was enjoyed by so many children (and dads who couldn’t resist a sneaky read).
"Drawing is something you never really tire of. I do it for my own pleasure," he said.
"From the first moment I set eyes on my comic book, The Dandy, at the age of four, I knew that was the only thing I wanted to do," he said.
"I loved doing funny drawings and soon realised I was quite good at cartoon drawing after I’d watched Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the cinema.
"I was fascinated by the characters and ran home to draw them. I loved it."
At the height of the popularity of comics in the Sixties and Seventies, Terry was at the heart of the business.
"The ongoing speed of it all gave me a buzz. It was so lively. Characters were being killed off too quickly and we were under pressure to come up with new ones to replace them, but my wife, Sheila, and I were prolific," he said.
"One character, Trevor and His Treasure Tracker, in Whoopee!, came about while walking along Foreland beach and spotting a boy using a metal detector. We were always coming up with them."
During the Seventies, life as a cartoonist couldn’t get any better.
Terry’s trademark character at that time, from Whizzer and Chips, was Odd-Ball, a silly, spherical character from outer-space who could transform into any object.
It was one of his all-time favourites of the hundreds of characters he came up with.
In the early Nineties, Terry went on to draw for The Beano and The Dandy — a highlight in his career.
"The Dandy offered me some work for its 1992 annual and I was given ten pages for Desperate Dan. I used to read it all the time, so imagine how that made me feel," said Terry.
"I also got offered work with The Beano to produce annuals and between them drew long-running characters Corky the Cat, Winker Watson, Number 13 and, famously, The Bash Street Kids… I loved it.
"People say I am gifted but I had to work hard at it. You have to with anything in life," he added.
"Quite frankly, drawing was the only thing I could do. It was always a closed industry — very difficult to get into.
"Over the years, I got better and better at it. I always tell children not to give up."
Bristol-born Terry sold his first cartoon while he was a Civil Service map maker and went on to have work printed in various media magazines.
His break into the comics industry did not come his way until he was aged 36, when he submitted his first work to Pow! and Wham!
But perhaps the most important career move was meeting his wife, Sheila, who he would eventually wed in 1952 and, last year, celebrate a diamond wedding anniversary with.
Sheila is an major talent in her own right — penning scripts for many of his comic strips for most of the 40 years they spent in the industry together.
"Drawing is something that has always given me pleasure. I still get a kick out of doing it. I am lucky to have a career in which I have worked from home alongside a partner I could always bounce ideas off," said Terry.
Terry and Sheila have, over the years, shared a passion for an art that is in sharp decline. One only has to look at the demise of The Dandy, which came off the press for the last time in December, after it ran for 75 years.
It is a decline in popularity that saddens Terry, yet he is hopeful of a retro-resurgence in the phenomenon known as the comic (which sounds tragic in itself), in the not-too-distant future.
A stalwart member of the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain (CCGB), Terry has remained friends with County Press cartoonist, Rupert Besley, a fellow member.
• Cartoons and Comic Strips can be purchased for £12.74 from Lulu publications from http://www.lulu.com/shop/terry-bave/cartoons-and-comic-strips/paperback/product-20625272.html