It may seem like magic when Comical Animal drops heavily into your mailbox, full of cartoony goodness, but it’s worth noting that all these pretty, pretty pictures and all these wonderful stories, jokes and characters don’t just magically appear. There is not a Create Comical Animal App. Comical Animal is created by real life human beings with emotions and feelings and pet dogs.
Fred Blunt or, to give the full, unabbreviated Victorian Gentleman, version of his name Frederick Albert Blunt, is a children’s book illustrator who has been lured into creating beautifully-crafted short comic strips for Comical Animal because, as he says, “doing them is fun”. They don’t pay, but they are fun. Taking The Day Job into account first, Fred told me that he “really enjoyed illustrating “Stop That Cow”, which had a lot of slapstick humour in it”. Also, a version of Old Mother Hubbard for an early reading series was “nice because old ladies and dogs are always fun to draw”. I can’t speak for the old ladies, but Fred has already given us some memorable strips featuring our four-legged friends.
Topically enough, when asked, Fred tells us that the animal he most resembles is, “Maybe one of those shaggy coated lurcher dogs, a bit greying”. Pressed on the pressing question that we press on all our talented crew, Dogs or Cats? He answers immediately, “Dogs 100%”. He looks a bit guilty then carries on, “Don’t get me wrong, I like cats… to look at, but I can’t be doing with all that claws in the legs malarkey when you’re trying to watch TV!”
I decide to steer the conversation away from dogs and ask him what his favourite comic was when he was a kid. It turns out to be Groo The Wanderer, Sergio Aragones hilarious tale of a mendicant barbarian and his … dog! … Rufferto. Have you ever hidden secret messages in your strips or illustrations like Sergio Aragones used to do in Groo?
“Not as such… although I’ve added family members and my old dog, Rusty (RIP old chum) in several of my books.”
Back to the art questions. Do you prefer a pen or a brush?
“Pen every time. I’m not skilled enough for brush. I also use a Wacom tablet ( a pretty old one now) which I tend to use for the colouring in really… I can’t quite get the line I like right, so I still scan the line”.
What’s the one thing you find the most difficult to draw?
“Perspective. I just don’t even bother trying now!”
What do your family think about you being a cartoonist?
“Largely approving I think? Mum’s ultra proud!”
The wallet-busting wages and public adoration aside, what’s the best thing about being a cartoonist?
“Not having to grow up”.
Which comic strip character would you most like to be?
“Snoopy… that cool!”
That’s not entirely unexpected. Okay, let’s pretend I’m Stan Lee. hat is your secret super power?
“The ability to make the perfect cup of tea. Based on 30 or so yrs of experience… secret tip is never put the milk in first, always last so you can see if it needs more. You can always add, but you can’t take it out. My wife would totally disagree with me here, but I believe this is the Queen’s preferred method!”
Which comics publisher do you buy the most stuff from?
“None in particular, although I’ve been most impressed with the Blank Slate stuff recently”.
Do you hoard or do you collect comics?
“Not really, I do hoard children’s books though”.
Can you recommend any lost classics or hidden gems?
“Too many to mention! Russell Hoban and Quentin Blake’s Ace Dragon Limited is a favourite, and probably my fave book of all time is Marcelin Caillou by the genius French cartoonist Sempé. There’s a really great new English translation called Martin Pebble. It’s a graphic story of two boys friendship which manages to be both touching and funny. It’s also beautifully drawn in a deceptively simple way.”
Thanks, Fred! Time to walk the dog, I think.
-And thanks to Anonymouse for conducting the interview.