Pastey's got a story to tell – and some exciting news.
A Toast to Spimcoot
Most of what I write for the Post seems to be retrospective. I usually seem to be looking back at how far we've come, how things have changed, and what we've got to look forward to. This piece is very similar, but it's not just the Guide I'm being retrospective about.
Over eleven years ago, those running the Post at the time managed to persuade a researcher by the name of Spimcoot to send in one or two of his cartoons so that we could publish them and give people a bit of a laugh. We were warned that they had a dark humour to them, but what we had no idea about was exactly how good an illustrator Spimcoot was.
The first cartoon came in marked as a series called Paper Cuts, and the cartoon itself was Hamster Flambé. We weren't expecting anything like this:
The quality of the artwork, the dark humour provided such a huge amount of amusement and enjoyment in such a simple cartoon. It was obvious from this that Spimcoot was the real deal, both an illustrator and artist as well as having a cutting wit. However, that was all we did know about him.
The next week we were waiting with baited breath to see what twisted humour would grace the inboxes of the Post, and once more we got something we weren't expecting:
Hot Jazz showed off the illustrators talent with the plain black and white colouring, and the fashions shifted from indeterminate to 1920s and the humour from dark to surreal.
The first two cartoons were so different, yet so similar. And each week from September 2001 until October 2003 we'd eagerly wait, watching the email for the next installment of Paper Cuts.
For the first year as these cartoons came in, no-one still knew anything about Spimcoot and the rumour mill stepping up a notch in January 2002 when the Paper Cut was entitled "Know your Spimcoot: recognition chart" and the following cartoon was attached:
At last we were given a clue, and teased to know that Spimcoot himself was coming to the winter meet. The problem was, he looked nothing like his caricature. Spimcoot wasn't a bald aged gent, but a very dapper young man. He did have the immaculate turn ups and the pipe, though.
Over the start of the following year there was a slight change in Paper Cuts, we were introduced to the recurring characters of Blinky and Dogger, two gentlemen of money and style, but little care.
And when they weren't entertaining us with their antics, the cartoons were often accompanied with long pieces of text expanding upon the topic.
Paper Cuts took a break from the Post at the beginning of 2003, and we were introduced to Eustace. Nobody knew anything about Eustace, there was no dust jacket introducing the character of the story that we were going to be reading. But the introductory sentences reminded us that this was Spimcoot we were dealing with, and as such it was going to be full of dark, surreal humour.
I was well enough to go outside and play with my imaginary friends. They like to play football. I hate football. My usual position is goalpost, with my clothes as the other goalpost.
With a lead character with imaginary friends like that, we couldn't go far wrong. Over the next six months we followed the life of Eustace, with his young naivety describing insights into the world around him. Dark, and often sinister, almost always warped.
We followed Eustace and his ever more bizarre life eagerly for these months until we were cut off from our weekly fix. Ever an artist, Spimcoot decided that he wasn't doing justice to the story that Eustace could be, and switched back to Paper Cuts, sending in cartoons of elegant simplicity. Black lines on white where the wit of the characters and the surrealness of the situation carried the humour far more instantly than the deep colouring or prosed text.
They say that all good things must come to an end, and in October 2003 Spimcoot sent in his last Paper Cuts cartoon. And that was that.
Until eight years later, at the first meet up after Not Panicking Limited rescued the Guide, Spimcoot was there again in person. And not only in person, but with book proofs and a promise. There were three more Paper Cuts cartoons that he'd doodled on, and he had a publisher.
Eustace was back!
In the years of Spimcoot's absence he'd turned Eustace from the weekly illustrated articles for the Post into a full scale graphic novel, and if that wasn't enough, he'd also found a publisher for it. At the meet he talked about everything from getting the right cartoons per page, to choosing the type of paper that it would eventually be printed on. And now, just over a year later, ten years since we first were introduced to the young boy whose imaginary friends stole his clothes, and whose uncle introduced him to the delights of Martinis, Eustace is to star in his very own novel.
So grab a Martini, and join me in toasting the success of Spimcoot, aka Steven Harris, and wish him well in his career as a published graphic artist, and let's hope he remembers his root back here at h2g2 and does the occasional Paper Cut for us!