Cartoon man Steve helps Stalham church outreach
Professional cartoonist Steve English, whose cartoons and illustrations have appeared in both The Beano and The Dandy comics, has now settled in Stalham and is using his talents to help with the outreach at his local Baptist church. Tony Rothe reports.
Steve was born on the Isle of Man and was brought up there and in Northern Ireland during the 1970s and 80s.
“I have always drawn since I was small, trying my best to copy the cartoons of Walt Disney,” said Steve. “Life took me in various directions after school, but I always took the little skill I had at drawing cartoons with me wherever I ended up, including university. Some years later a friend remembered my drawing from that time when he had a book idea. That kick-started the idea in me of drawing cartoons full-time.”
Steve has been drawing cartoons professionally for almost 20 years, and has illustrated the Horrible Histories and Horrible Science magazines, Scooby-Doo World of Mystery and The Dandy. In 2011 he won the Tartan Bucket prize organised by Dundee University and part of the prize was to have his cartoon featured in The Beano. “So, I do make a point of boasting that I have featured in both The Beano and The Dandy“ he said.
He has also illustrated Bible stories and puzzles for Scripture Union, Kevin Mayhew Publishing as well as the Salvation Army, for whom he still does some work.
“I enjoy writing gags as much as drawing them, and have produced a number of Bible cartoon strips,” he explains. “Two of these, Peter’s Cat (cat to the apostle Peter) and Two by Two (life on Noah’s Ark) were published as books. That was over 20 years ago now, but Peter’s Cat still kicks around in a Christian magazine in Singapore!” Steve has since created a follow up to Peter’s Cat called “The Cats of the Apostles”!
Steve has also been drawing and writing a weekly football cartoon called Football Earth for over 10 years. It depicts how animals might play football and it features in a couple of national magazines, a soccer paper in New York and is translated into Italian for a publication in Rome. A collection of those cartoons were published as a book called The Wild Side in early 2017.
Steve explains that his commitment to Jesus came about at university. He decided to join the Christian Union, and they presented him with a membership card that said something like, “I believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour”. “When I read it for the first time, I realised that this was something God had been waiting for,” he said.
After university, Steve went to Poland to teach English as a foreign language with a Christian student organisation. This is where he met his future wife Susie when she joined the team a couple of years later. After leaving Poland, Steve and Susie looked for similar work in Britain and, after several interviews around the country, ended up in Cromer working with young people in youth groups, beach missions and church.
They have now been married for 21 years and have two children, Amy (18) and Joe (11), and they have been at Stalham Baptist Church for almost five years.
Steve volunteered to help with the children’s craft at church events, and “Peters Cat” has found its way into the weekly church bulletin. “Our pastor Ron discovered Peters Cat on a bookstall at Greenbelt 20 years ago, but only recently connected that with me!” said Steve, “I feel that laughter is an important part of our outreach – Ron certainly has a very keen sense of humour.”
Steve points out that his work is nothing new – over 100 years ago, WH Cooke produced a publication in Stalham called The Scorcher but was reputedly horse-whipped because he took the mickey out of the locals!
The modern equivalent of The Scorcher is Stalham’s Community Scene magazine, published by Stalham Baptist Church, illustrated by Steve and containing at least one of his cartoons. “I hope to escape the fate of Mr Cooke, however, as I do try not to be too controversial or cause any offence! But I do enjoy finding humour in Scripture,” he explains.
Steve and the team at Stalham Baptist Church are always looking for ways to form links with the local community. He recently painted a board, pictured right, which was set up outside the local Tesco, where people were invited to take photos of their friends and family with their heads poking through the holes. They were then encouraged to post the pictures on Stalham Baptists’ Facebook page with prizes, contributed by local retailers, for the most “likes”.
For more about Steve’s work, or to purchase any of his cartoons or books, visit his website at http://www.deadseacomics.co.uk
To read more about the Community Scene magazine, click here.
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