"I'm afraid its not good new mate, Piers has just called me in and, well, it's not good news"
You ever had that cold pit in the base of your stomach, the one that flips somersaults and leaves you weak? That's how I felt on that awful day when the cartoon editor rang me with the bad news that Girl Chat was going to be dropped. But the thing is, I'd only just gotten back into the Mirror and not long signed another six month contract.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back a few months.
I had happily settled into writing my gags, having the editor loving them then re writing them---see Girl Chat I here to find out what I'm talking about---when the phone rang. I jauntily hopped downstairs, picked up the receiver---yes our phones were attached to the walls of our houses in those days---only to find the cartoon editor on the end of the line.
Hows it going? I began. There was silence. The kind of silence that leads you to believe the person on the other end doesn't quite know how to begin.
It turns out that someone had been calling the Mirror repeatedly and saying I had been stealing jokes---something, I hasten to add, I have never done---I had no idea why I was being singled out or even where he or she had seen the material I had apparently purloined.
Trouble with this kind of accusation is it is nearly impossible to disprove. All humour follows five or six basic concepts, and with thousands of creative people writing humour at any one time, the chances of a similar type of joke being created by two or three people at the same time is very high.
Not that this kind of fact based logic works on the kind of person who wakes up one day and sets their mind on bringing another person down, just for the sheer hell of it. The Mirror, caught between a rock and a hard place, did what any other large conglomerate would do. Panicked and then fired me from my contract.
'Forget the fact the popularity of Girl Chat was so high it was ranked only below Andy Capp and Garth in the readers' polls.'
Three months I sat in the wilderness wondering how it had all gone wrong until I decided to take a proactive approach to the issue. I contacted the editor in chief, explained the situation and asked if I could come along to discuss it. He, luckily for me, agreed. We had our meeting and thankfully he decided the situation was unfair, and with no real foundation to back the little Troll's accusations, he reinstated me.
Once again it was brought very clearly home to me about the fragility of success. You can be riding the crest of an international wave, but all it takes is one wrong word in the wrong kind of ear and you fall like Icarus to earth where you are once again, nought but dirt and dust.
It’s true. Look at what happened to John Lennon.
But back to the beginning. I had been back behind the helm of the strip writing, when I had another call. This time it was about the then new editor, Piers Morgan. It transpires that the cartoon editor had been summoned by Morgan to his office where he had been told to drop two strips. The last two in were the first two out; sadly I fitted into that very narrow remit.
And so that was the end of that. After all the rocky starts, the writes and re-writes, the awful middle bits, and finally the Troll attack, I was now to be hit with the final blow. Game over, no more lives left; just like a very unfair game of snakes and ladders.
On Piers Morgan I have only this to offer on his unsuitability to be put in charge of selecting who stays and who goes. Apparently, when the cartoon editor came in, Morgan was actually thinking of dropping the Andy Capp strip. It was only when it was pointed out to him, presumably by an adult, that the Andy Capp strip was syndicated in over a thousand newspapers worldwide and with all the merchandising that went with it, the comic strip probably paid everyone's wages at Mirror Group newspapers, and this master of self promotion was about to throw it out.
Forget the fact the popularity of Girl Chat was so high it was ranked only just below Andy Capp and Garth in the readers' polls. But hey, what would Morgan know, he just saw an expense that could be cut. Presumably to pay his vastly inflated wages.
Bitter, Moi? Too bloody right I am.
On the plus side, the Mirror had just renewed my contract by six months and honoured it. So at least I got paid five months for doing nothing. Every cloud, as the say.
Anyway, here’s a few more strips for your delectation. Come back for the fourth and final post where I will place a few of my original strip ideas from the ones that actually won Girl Chat its beginning.
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