Who Do I Think I Am?


Back in February this year I received a very tantalising email from the TV programme, Who Do You Think You Are?. Now, of course, I may have written and drawn the odd book, even worked for The Beano for a few years, but that doesn’t exactly make me a celebrity, least of all one that gets to have the skeletons of his ancestral cupboard dusted down and put on show for the world to see.

So, why have they got in touch with stupid, old me?

A few years before I became a cartoonist, back around 1998/1999 to be exact, I was pretty obsessed with tracing my family tree. Extremely obsessed, in fact. I worked in an artshop and a furniture factory back in those days and whilst I toiled away at my day jobs, I would meticulously plan my trips to research libraries and archives around London. This was before the internet became the vast genealogical resource that it is today, so sitting in dusty reading rooms, wrestling with microfilm spools, or gingerly turning the crumbling pages of 200 year old books was a necessary chore (although, to be fair, I loved every second of it!).

Woohoo! Fun times!

Yippee! Fun times!

My great obsession was with a French chap called Joseph Delaplaigne and his family. Joseph was my great (x 7) grandfather, a protestant refugee who’d escaped from France and settled in London in 1702. He was a Huguenot.

Back when I started researching, I had no idea we had Huguenot ancestors, I’m not even sure I even knew what a Huguenot was! What had set me on my trail was a newspaper clipping from the Hackney Gazette from 1914 that had been circulating round my family for a few years.

Hackney gazette clipping

A Descendent Of French Royalty!

In the clipping is described the flamboyant funeral of 93 year old Alice Wakefield, the great grandchild of Louis XIV of France, her father being Baron Duplain. In attendance at this funeral were various members of Alice’s family, including a certain Silas Bailey. Silas it turns out, was my great great grandfather.

I’d always been told that we’re connected to the French royal family (I even remember telling my primary school teacher and him laughing in my face) and for a long time I had been determined to get to the bottom of the real story of our ancestors. So one evening I sat down with my (now dearly departed) grandmother, Elsie Ware, grand-daughter of Silas Bailey, to ask her about this amazing newspaper clipping and our French Royal heritage. Elsie told me that Silas Bailey was the nephew of Alice Wakefield and that the tomb of Alice’s father, Baron Duplain, the supposed grandson of Louis XIV, was to be found at St Barnabas churchyard in Hackney.

Can you spot the resemblance? We have similar taste in fine clothing, I guess.

Can you spot the resemblance? Nah, me neither. We do have similar tastes in fine clothing, I guess.                      Photo of me © Craig Naples

Aided by one of my art shop colleagues, Brigit, a retired BBC TV producer, who had lots of experience researching her own family tree, we visited St Barnabas in Homerton and almost immediately found the family tomb at the front of the churchyard. The lettering was very worn with age, but here was clearly Alice Wakefield, along with her two husbands and … Mary Laplain. Not Baron Duplain, as we’d been led to believe, but an odd, similarly sounding French surname, nonetheless.


Oi, Duplain, where are you?

Armed with this information, Brigit took me to the Family History centre where, with names and dates from the tomb we were able to order the death certificates of Alice Wakefield, her husband John and the mysterious Mary Laplain. From these certificates could be gained addresses, and then these checked against census recordings (cue spools of microfilm!), where you find lists of all the occupiers of that household. It was from these census records that we discovered that Alice Wakefield was the daughter of Mary Laplain who was the widow of a Joseph Laplain, a retired policeman. Pieces of a jigsaw puzzle were beginning to fall into place.

Woohoo! Dusty old records. NOW you're talking!

Woohoo! Dusty old records. NOW you’re talking!

We were a step closer to finding our connection to Louis XIV, but more digging was needed. We turned to the IGI, the International Genealogical Index, a database of transcribed Birth, Marriage and Death church records that preceded the introduction of the familiar Birth, Marriage and Death certificates, which were introduced in 1837. This is where we found the mother lode of the Laplain family!

We uncovered dozens of Laplains going back four generations, all leading to a Reverend William Laplain, who had died in Shropshire in 1764. Unfortunately, there was no ‘Baron Duplain’ in sight here either. It was quite frustrating, as all searches for ‘Laplain’ ended with William, with no sign of his father or mother in the church records. We decided to look a bit closer at William, if he was a Reverend, a vicar, then perhaps there ought to be other records for him. Brigit found a small mention of him in the Victorian County History of Shropshire (his parish was the small village of Wrockwardine), it gave a few dates, but not much else.

St Peter’s church, Wrockwardine. Saxon, apparently. ©www.shropshirestar.com

I decided to visit Kew National Archives and have a nose around. Kew is a huge resource, quite forbidding in fact. I poked around in a few card indexes, skimmed through their intranet, scooping up bits of Laplain info here and there, but nothing to drive the story forward. Then I noticed they had a huge library of history books divided by county, so I began skimming through likely looking volumes and their indexes concerning Shropshire. And it was here that I found an astonishing article that turned our research on it’s head.

Inside a small book concerning The History of Wrockwardine, was reference to a letter handed to the researcher by the then vicar…

wrockwardine excerpt

Finally, William’s father was found and his name was Joseph Delaplaigne! He was from Bordeaux and was King’s counsel to Henry VI of France (although, date-wise, this didn’t make much sense). He was also best chums with the Duke of Devonshire, who later turned up in the London Huguenot records as Godfather to William, or ‘Guillaume’, as he was originally called. William had Anglicised his Christian name and surname to a more palatable version for his confused parishioners. This is why the name ‘Laplain’ had stopped with him.


No doubt, Joseph Delaplaigne was also the so-called Baron Duplain of family legend, a man, it seemed, who moved in high society, but, unfortunately, not actually related to French royalty. More digging revealed him to be a Greffier, a court clerk in Bordeaux. All said and done, I was convinced it was just as exciting a story!

I don’t think my nan ever forgave me for unravelling our family connection to the French Royal family. It was a story she had grown up with and which she was fiercely proud of. She kept telling me I’d looked up the wrong records and didn’t want to know about this Huguenot chap. To be honest, I don’t think many in my family believed me either. So, I’m hoping Who Do You Think You Are? will change their minds, or even prove me wrong!

So, I never did answer the question, why did the programme get in touch?

For a year or two after the Shropshire discovery, I did lots more digging, trying to find out as much about Joseph Delaplaigne as I could, trying to put a bit more flesh on the bones of his story. If I ever visited an archive I would scour old book indexes looking for the slightest hint of a thread to his story. One day, while I was checking records at Guildhall Library, I came across court case indexes for the relevant period of Joseph’s short time in London. One entry piqued my interest: Delaplayn Vs Debeynac 1703. It was a year after Joseph arrived in London and perhaps Delaplayn could be an Englishman’s attempt at writing ‘Delaplaigne’ as he heard it. It was a long shot and it involved another trip to Kew to see the record.

It turned out to be an astonishing find. Two HUGE parchments densely covered head to toe in scribbly 18th century text.


Excuse my dodgy early photoshop skills putting this together. It was about a meter wide! ©PRO

Not only was it our Joseph, but here within the 18th Century scrawl was the story of his actual escape from France to England, as told by the man himself! The case itself was being brought against Joseph by another French protestant, Jayne De Beynac, who claimed to have lent Joseph large sums of money in return for assisting her escape to England and for his hand in marriage (she wasn’t keen; she was in her 20s, he was in his 70s).

I wanted to find out more about Jane Debeynac (as an aspiring cartoonist, I thought there might be a good story in all of this!) and I put out requests for information on genealogy messageboards. I didn’t find out any more about Jane, but in 2002, Muriel Gibbs from the East London Family History Society got in touch. She and her husband had been tracing the Laplain family for a little while and was EXTREMELY excited about the court case I’d found (She also passed on to me some great Laplain/Delaplaigne information, lots of which I hadn’t seen before, which was fantastic).

Muriel and her husband Roy did an amazing job of transcribing the two parchments and set off to find out more if she could. Unfortunately, I moved house and lost touch with Muriel, and had given up pursuing the Delaplaigne family altogether, as it would have involved me learning French and visiting French archives (still unlikely to ever happen). Also, I’d just got my first proper illustration job on Horrible Histories Magazine, so my mind was in a different place altogether.


My love of history finding a new home!

So, here we are, 13 years later and Who Do You Think You Are? get in in touch and it turns out they’re actually working on Joseph Delaplaigne’s tree! Very exciting!

They’d got in touch specifically to ask me about Jane DeBeynac, after finding my old messageboard requests. Obviously I was excited to think that Joseph’s story was going to be on TV, but also, finally out there someone was tracing the Debeynac family. Unfortunately, it transpired they’d come across the same two page court case via Muriel Gibbs, who was helping them, and hadn’t traced anything more. Slightly deflated, I gave them a few links to some French genealogists I’d uncovered who looked to have some info on the DeBeynac family and some links I’d found about Joseph and his brother’s supposed property in Ireland.

“SHUT UP ABOUT ALL THAT!!! WHO’S THE FAMOUS CELEB!!!??” I hear you all cry.

Why it’s only the amazing DEREK JACOBI!


Turns out his Great grandmother was Salome Laplain, niece of Alice Wakefield and cousin to my great great grandfather Silas.

Of course, the family are all looking forward to the big Christmas party round his house, which I’m sure we’re all invited to!

Derek’s (and Joseph’s) story is on tonight at 9pm BBC1.

Posted in Family History | 5 Comments

Gary’s Garden Book 1 is HERE!

In exciting news, I have A BRAND NEW BOOK OUT!!! Yes, the Phoenix Comic and David Fickling Books, in their infinite wisdom, have started producing book collections of their marvellous strips from the weekly comic and that includes…




It’s a collection of the first 26 or so strips from The Phoenix, all about the mad weirdos that live in my back garden. All true stories, of course.

Little birdies taking the mickey out of me. True story.

It actually came out last week, but I was neck deep in deadlines (mainly writing THIS book), but thankfully, my ever excitable and lovely studiomate, Sarah McIntyre, wrote a brillskillz blogpost about it all, saving me the blushes of no one ever knowing about my book. Sarah also has the brilliant Jampires book coming out next month, co-authored with children’s book supremo, David O’Connell. So keep an eye out for that little beauty! (The book, not David).


We’ve had some cracking reviews for Gary’s Garden coming in already:

…a riotously funny comic that delivers page after page after page of inspired silliness…Forbidden Planet International

Gary’s Garden is without a doubt one of the best comic books I’ve ever read.” 10/10 Wondrous Reads (It was even given a place on Jenny’s ‘Keep forever’ shelf! Cor!)

Gary’s Garden is a truly laugh-out-loud comic treat: madcap, endearing and absurdly hilarious.Comicsreview.co.uk

I’ll be selling copies at this weekend’s Comica Comiket at the British Library, as part of their Comics Unmasked Event, so pop along and say hi and get a jolly sketch in your book.

I got loads! Don't make me carry them all home again :(

I got loads! Don’t make me carry them all home again :(

I’ll be having a launch party next month on the 4th of September at The Bookseller Crow On The Hill, (I’ve even promised to create a Gary’s Garden window!), so come along if you’re in the Crystal Palace area.


And lest I forget, Gary’s Garden was published on the same day as TWO other EXTREMELY BRILLIANT Phoenix Presents books:

Neill Cameron’s How Make Awesome Comics



The Ethrington Brothers’ Long Gone Don


ALL Phoenix Presents books are available to buy from The Phoenix Comic Shop.

Or if you live in Nottingham, the fantastic comic shop, Page 45 stock them and Londonites can buy them from the equally magnificent Gosh! Comics!

Happy reading!




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Phoenix 100!

Cor blimey! Children’s weekly comic, The Phoenix, has reached the mind-blowing milestone of publishing 100 issues; the first independent comic to do so for 40 years!


Writing and drawing Gary’s Garden for the Phoenix has been an absolute blast. It’s probably my most favouritest thing I’ve ever done, spawning Chompy the Caterpillar, Larry Ladybird Lord of the Jungle, Boris and Monroe the nocturnal ninjas, Rock Club and billions more characters.

GG montage

They even let me stick my face on the front cover the other week, which I thought was hilarious (beats being Time’s Man Of The Year. Probably).


Anyway, it’s been a real privilege to contribute my nonsense alongside such luminaries as Jamie Smart, Neill Cameron, Adam Murphy, Laura Anderson, Jamie Littler, The Ethrington Bros, Alex Matthews, Wilbur Dawbarn, John Aggs, Patrice Aggs, James Turner, Robert Deas, Matt Baxter, Kate Brown, Paul Duffield, Dave Shelton, Nick Abadzis, Karen Rubins, Garen Ewing and many, many more! Even my estimable studio-mate, Sarah McIntyre managed to squeeze out a very popular one-off strip with her writing partner, Philip Reeve, so I’ve been keeping only the bestest company.


The fact that there’s a comic featuring creator-owned, home-grown talent out on the shelves EVERY WEEK is quite the mind blower. And it keeps inspiring kids all over the country to create their own comics and discover the all too hidden world of kids graphic novels and comics. The enthusiasm for the comic we all find when we embark on cartoon workshops throughout the land is palpable, so long may the Phoenix machine plough this important furrow. KIDS LOVE COMICS! (Fact!)


Hats off to all the creators and to the very small, but intensely hard-working team (Will, Tom, Liz, Caro, David, Paul, Charlie and not forgetting first editor Ben!) who make sure that a tip top children’s comic is available every week for you to feast your eyes on. And a thank you to all our readers for buying and reading the flipping thing. We bow to you all!


Image © The Phoenix


Congratulations, Phoenix and here’s to the next 100 issues!

Gift subscriptions here!

Posted in The Phoenix | 1 Comment

Tiny Pencil AND Hic and Hoc Journal!

As well as dashing around the country the last few months for comic events for The Phoenix and Teenytinysaurs, I’ve also miraculously found time to contribute to a couple of anthologies!

First up – TINY PENCIL

Earlier this year, marvellous illustrators, Katriona Chapman and Amber Hsu put together the first edition of Tiny Pencil, an anthology dedicated to the wondrous art of the pencil. I think it’s fair to say that it blew everyone away with it’s beautiful design and incredible collection of illustrations and stories from artists worldwide. So I was honoured to be asked to contribute to the second issue, named TP 2.0: Mammals, Monsters, & Mars!


Again, it is a masterclass in design; a fantastic oversized matchbox (with awesome cover artwork from Kristyna Baczynski), with three perfectly formed magazines utilizing a different spot colour of green, red or yellow for each magazine. The emphasis this time is on interactivity and it comes with stickers and pencils and plenty of puzzles and games throughout to keep you happy.


I did a little tour of mudlarking on the Thames, with my mud monster, Flotsam and his trusty seagull pal, Squawk. Flotsam tells you everything you need to know if you get a chance to wander on the low-tide river banks! Here’s a little interview I did for Tiny Pencil.

Amongst the many illustrious contributors, the book also stars Fleecestation chums, David O’Connell, Viv Schwarz and my fellow Fleece Officer, Sarah McIntyre herself! Check out the website for special deals with limited edition prints.

Secondly – The Hic & Hoc Journal of Illustrated Humo(u)r, vol II


From their website: “Edited by the always jocular Joe List (The Annotated Weekender, Freak Leap) and Lizz Lunney (Depressed Cat and many other titles forthcoming from Top Shelf Digital), the second volume of an anticipated 196 volume series of the best of funny comics throughout the world…”

Captain Zzap

I have a jolly two page strip, called Captain Zzap!, a character I’ve been wanting to get down onto paper for quite a while now. He’s a hokey, loser space dude who fights evil with the Galactic Princess, Lula. (Expect more Captain Zzap! in the future in some form or another.)

The anthology focuses on funny UK cartoonists, showcasing the immeasurable talents of Lizz Lunney and Joe List, who co-edited the journal, alongside Stephen Collins, Philippa Rice, Joe Decie, Luke Pearson, Becky Barnicoat, Fred Blunt, Gareth Brookes, Liz Greenfield Jonathan Edwards and plenty more.

It’s available from the Hic and Hoc website, but if you wait till the 25th of October, there’s a big book launch at Gosh! comics in London.


Soon, when I’ve finally recovered, I’ll tell you all about my MAD MONTH!!!! But first, sleeeep … zzzzzzzzzzz …

Posted in Hic & Hoc, Interviews, Me elsewhere, Small Press, tiny pencil | 1 Comment

Teenytinysaurs in the Phoenix!


Yes! You read it right, for one week only, there’s a BRAND NEW TEENYTINYSAURS story in THE PHOENIX!!!


Disgustingness guaranteed!

“What’s a flippin’ Teenytinysaur?!” I hear you Phoenix readers ask. Well, my dears, it’s a lovely book I wroted about LITTLE DINOSAURS!!!!! I KNOW!!!!!

teenytinysaurs (2)

Wot a cover!

In the book they go on mad adventures, get pooed on, get lost in big dinosaur stomach, swim amongst deep sea monsters, TRY TO FLY TO THE MOON!!! IN SNOT!!! (And if you look carefully, my Phoenix story has plenty to do with the front cover of the book. Don’t let no one tell you that I don’t know what I’m doing!)

Here’s some beautiful scenes from the book…

BB 9 10 laid out

Eurgh! Dino guts!


Have some of THAT!

N 7 8 laid out

Ooh, so beautiful, I could cry. Sniff.

If you haven’t bought a copy yet, then your life is bereft. Truly.

“But”, says the battle-hardened, well-read Teenytinysaurs reader, “what is this ‘PHOENIX’ you keep babbling on about?”. The Phoenix, you ask? Why, it’s only the country’s GREATEST CHILDREN’S WEEKLY COMIC to grace our planet for many decades.



It has HUMOUR, ADVENTURE, DERRINGDO, SPACE, JUNGLES, PUZZLES, BUNNIES, MONKEYS, DINOSAURS, PIRATES and BILLIONS of other wonderful comic strips. Ask anyone who has a subscription, minds are guaranteed to be blown. Fact.


What a handsome devil! Good job he’s hiding behind that comic.

Normally, of course, I have a jolly little strip in there called (modestly), Gary’s Garden. It’s a right old laugh with all sorts of loonies lolloping around in my garden each week. I had a tiny break from it all, due to mental exhaustion, but soon my friends GARY’S GARDEN will RETURN!!

Here’s a sneaky peek:


A frog song! Paul McCartney not included.

And if you want to come see me chat and draw about both TEENYTINYSAURS and GARY’S GARDEN, then get yourself down to the Cartoon Museum tomorrow, July 27th from 1 – 2pm! It’s free with admission, but booking is recommended here.

See you soon!

Posted in dinosaurs, Teenytinysaurs, The Phoenix | Leave a comment

Teenytinysaurs Book 2 … and introducing, Julius Zebra!

Apologies for keeping you in suspenders, I know I said, “tomorrow”, two days ago for my big announcement, but deadlines got in the way a bit!

ANYWAY! As my title suggests, I have some very exciting new projects to keep me busy for the next 12 to 18 months.

First up: TEENYTINYSAURS Book 2!!! Woohoo!

I must confess, that after the billion of hours of blood, sweat and tears that went into the first Teenytinysaurs, I promised myself that I would never create another 80 page graphic novel-thingy ever again. But, when my publisher asked, “How do you fancy making another Teenytinysaurs?”, I said “YES!” as if my life depended on it. Who knows how my stupid brain works. Maybe it’s because all that hard work seems like a distant dream now and the prospect of writing and drawing more jolly dino nonsense seems like a brilliant laugh! Hooray!

I certainly have plenty of mad stories to squeeze into a new book, including stories I didn’t have room to fit in the first book:

Expect to see more of THIS lot…


More about THIS little conversation…


And find out whether this weird, white dinosaur is real or legend…


Also, expect new characters, including this mad old dude…


AND, most of all, a fab new regular addition to the gang, bringing her own brand of weirdness to the mix. Keep your eyes peeled on this blog for more updates!

So, yeah. You may have spotted another name in that title. Ladies and gentleworms, I present to you… (drumroll please…)


70 Julius FC A4

Here’s a snippet of blurb to whet your appetite:

Welcome to the Colosseum, Rome’s Crowning Glory! The home of Champions and the brutal graveyard to thousands. Where boys become men, reputations are built and lost and only the meanest and toughest survive.

Definitely no place for a zebra…

Thrust into a fearful arena he never knew existed, Julius Zebra doesn’t like what he sees and decides to fight back. Nearly killed as soon as he picks up a sword, the baying crowd take pity on the brave zebra and demand that he is allowed to live to fight another day.

Thousands of miles from home, with no chance of escape, Julius realises that there is only one way out of his predicament: to win his freedom as a champion gladiator!


Enlisting the help of his fellow motley menagerie, including; Milus the nomadic lion,

lions 2

Lucia the crocodile


and Rufus the giraffe.


Walker have been kind enough to let me loose on TWO volumes of Julius Zebra and they’ll be chapter books, much like Captain Underpants and Horrible Histories. My first non-comics project!

I think that’s probably enough to keep you going for now. I have a billion drawings already of Julius and his pals and will tease you with plenty more of them as the months progress. So keep an eye on my sketch tumblr for mini-updates.

So, there you have it! What with all that, Gary’s Garden and National Geographic Kids, it’s unlikely I’ll see the outside world for a very long time!

See you in the funny papers!

Posted in JUlius Zeebra, Teenytinysaurs | 1 Comment

Teenytinysaurs and beyond…

64 teenytinysaurs (2)

It must be said, that the last two or three months have been pretty hectic, what with the launch of my jolly new book Terrible Tales Of The Teenytinysaurs, and all the events that I’ve been organising, or invited to, around it.


I was greedy enough to have TWO book launches for Teenytinysaurs, the first on the day of the launch, 2nd May at the brilliant Bookseller Crow in Crystal Palace (complete with Teenytinysaurs cardboard cutouts!).


AAIIEE! Big dinosaurs roaming Crystal Palace! (Nothing new there, then…)


Alex Milway and his daughter Cecily tuck into their homemade dino biscuits!


Some loverly flowers from my editor Lizzie Spratt at Walker.


Fleecestation in the house. And what a beautiful Stegosaurus hat! (Photo © Sarah McIntyre)

Then I had ANOTHER one nice ‘n’ central on the 31st May at Gosh Comics, the most awesomest comic shop in London! (FACT!)


Getting stuck in to some obviously hilarious drawings at my Gosh launch! (Photo © Nicky Evans)


Scrummy Teenytinysaurs cakes made by my very own sister! (Photo © Lauren O’Farrell)

Both Bookseller Crow and Gosh have been fantastic support for me over the years, with Derek The Sheep and The Phoenix, so I was really chuffed to have launches at two of my favourite shops. The two events were brilliant and we sold plenty of copies at both, so thank you to everyone who came along and to John, Justine and Karen at Bookseller Crow; Tom, Julia, Hayley, Josh, Andrew, Steve and Mike at Gosh and to Hannah and Paul at Walker for making it all possible.

(John at Bookseller Crow even told me that if it wasn’t for the fact that someone’s proud dad had bought 40 copies of their son’s book, Teenytinysaurs would be their no.1 bestselling book for the last two months! Woohoo! Get in!).

book pile

A small selection of the (probable) billion copies sold so far.

If you missed my brillskillz book launches, then keep an eye on my events page for exciting appearances at Festivals and Comic Cons around the country! Bring Tangfastics!

And if you’re STILL not convinced that you need a copy of Teenytinysaurs in your life (how very dare you), then check out these cracking reviews from Philip Reeve, Forbidden Planet, Page 45 and Playing By The Book (including mindblowing home-made video!).  I also did a little interview about the book with fellow Fleece Station studio mate, Sarah McIntyre!

So, I hear you all asking, “You’ve done THAT flippin’ book: WHAT’S NEXT???”.

Well, my friends, 1) no need to shout and 2) I DO have some exciting news for you…

I’ve just signed a book deal for, not one … not two … BUT THREE BOOKS with the brilliant people at Walker. WOOHOO!!! Crazy times!!!

… And I’ll tell you all about them tomorrow!


Posted in Teenytinysaurs | 6 Comments