Part 2 of 6 | Paul Gravett talks to Paul B Rainey about how life led him to create There’s No Time Like The Present, a graphic-novel project that has taken him seven years to complete, and how he got to Now. .
Pop Culture Crazy
Paul Gravett: What were the other pop culture crazes that hooked you – in TV, music, films, etc and what did you get out of them?
Paul B Rainey: I loved TV when I was growing up and still do. Often, when somebody wanted to know what was on that night, instead of looking in the paper, they would ask me. This was great because it meant that I had a subtle influence over what we would watch. I liked anything that I thought was funny, American adventure shows, cartoons, day-time TV and British soap operas.
I’ve been into music since I was around twelve. I’ve always had a soft spot for a good new indy band and a remix. I spent my teenage years listening to night-time Radio 1 as I drew comics, making a note of the tracks I liked to seek out in the Woolworth’s bargain bin later. I still listen to my favourite radio shows doing exactly the same thing except, these days, finding the tracks I like is much more easy.
Paul Gravett: How did you get round that parental ban on reading superhero comics? Were you allowed to read British titles like 2000 AD
Paul B Rainey: I should have mentioned, I was allowed to still read comics, just not American comics. This ban was a year or two before 2000 AD started. I remember giving The Beano a go and not being that impressed by it. I quite liked Look-In but one week, David Soul was on the cover and all the copies in Hatfield (where I lived before moving to Milton Keynes) sold out. I decided that its availability wasn’t reliable enough and so stopped buying it. I remember buying the first issues of Action and really enjoying that. The free gift in issue one was an iron-on transfer of their Jaws-a-like character, Hookjaw. My mum ironed it onto a T-shirt which, I remember making last for years. Another comic I really liked was Tarzan Weekly. I later learned that I had accidentally broken my parents’ ban as it apparently reprinted material from American comics. Anyway, two months into the ban, I had a massive temper tantrum and to my utter surprise (they never usually worked to my advantage) my parents gave in.
“I spent my teenage years listening to night-time Radio 1 as I drew comics, making a note of the tracks I liked to seek out in the Woolworth’s bargain bin later.”
Paul Gravett: Did you show or share your own self-created comics with friends or classmates and did you keep them secret? What feedback did you get?
Paul B Rainey: I don’t recall hiding my comics or sharing them either. I think everyone knew I drew them, but I always assumed that they weren’t interested.
Paul Gravett: Dave Gibbons watched his comic books go up in flames when they were confiscated at his school. Years later, he went back as the co-creator of Watchmen and addressed the students about comics. I wonder what you’d think at some stage of giving a talk by you at your old school to pupils about comics.
Paul B Rainey: Unlike my secondary schools, the junior school that had the sadistic teacher working is still open. Even if I were to reach the level of success that Dave Gibbons has achieved, I find it hard to believe that they would remember me.
Paul Gravett: Tell me about how Fly Guy.
Paul B Rainey: During my teens I drew a strip called Fly Guy for The Milton Keynes Mirror which was a free newspaper we had delivered every Sunday. They started running a bland, syndicated strip in it about a bird or something but readers took this as an invitation to send their own comic strips into the paper. For a time, an entire tabloid page was filled with strips sent in by Milton Keynes residents. In the end only Fly Guy and Tin Tac by John Welding were left standing. After a year or so, I learned that the Mirror was paying John for his cartoons, but they weren’t paying me. After they ignored my polite request for them to cover my expenses (know what I mean?) I decided to end the strip by dropping a nuclear bomb on the characters.
Paul Gravett: Can you tell me a bit about what you did after you left school? What were career ambitions?
Paul B Rainey: I always wanted to be a comic creator so my work life has always been disappointing to me. I left school aged seventeen and did a series of temp jobs for a few years. When I was nineteen, I worked in the Abbey National’s Computer Operations department for a year. After that, I managed a comic shop in Central Milton Keynes for four years. Then, after that, I was re-employed by the Abbey National despite the dubious circumstances under which my previous employment with them had ended. The Computer Operations department had grown and the Abbey had opened a new building dedicated to it. I ended up working there for another sixteen years.
“After a year or so, I learned that the Mirror was paying John for his cartoons but they weren’t paying me.”
Paul Gravett: If Planet of the Apes was your first wake-up call, what inspired you to self-publish your own comics? How did you first discover the small press scene? Who were some of your contemporaries and peers who you met and felt affinities with?
Paul B Rainey: My friend Andrew Mannion and me used an exercise book stolen from school to create a comic when we were twelve years old. The idea was that I would write and draw the lead strip then hand the book over to him to draw the second, after which he would hand it back and I would draw the third. Although Andy was in a higher group for English than me, people were always telling me how good at art I was supposed to be, so I was very confident that when our mutual friends saw the finished product, that they would all agree that my strips were the best. Anyway, when Andy handed the book back for me to draw the third strip I could see that he was a better artist as well as a better writer and I lost my motivation.
When I first moved to Milton Keynes, Robert Patrick and I made a comic called Clone. Robert knew the man in charge of the school photocopier personally and persuaded him to run off ten copies each for us. I remember seeing my artwork being pumped out of one end of the machine and finding that very exciting. Soon after leaving school, I made friends with some guys who were putting together a magazine about the local music scene called The Spot. I was asked to draw some strips for it so I drew some sub-Viz stuff like ‘Greg Heath The Compulsive Thief’. I was their ‘cartoon editor’ which meant that I drew the comics strips, basically. I also sat behind a table at gigs trying to sell them while the editor went inside to watch the bands. Although I read comic fanzines like Fantasy Advertiser and subscribed to Escape Magzine, I didn’t involve myself in the scene. I think I always felt intimidated by it.