Well, it had to happen one day, and today is unfortunately that sad day.
This month sees Derek’s final appearance in a Beano mag for the foreseeable future.
After 7 long, mad, crazy years, 70-odd stories, including 5 Beano annual appearances, his own book published by Bloomsbury, a Booked Up Booktrust selection shifting 24000 copies of said Bloomsbury book, a French edition under the moniker Norbert Le Mouton, and everso nearly his own cartoon series; Derek The Sheep has chomped his last blade of grass for the BeanoMax (or The Beano for that matter).
A new editor = a new direction = a kick up the bum for Derek the Sheep out the back door.
It’s been a brilliant, fairly surreal experience writing and drawing for such an esteemed comic as The Beano the last few years. Hats off to my original editor Euan Kerr for taking the chance on me and Derek and for his childlike glee and enthusiasm for the stories I produced. Thanks also to Alan Digby for keeping me in sheep stories (he also asked me to draw some Bash Street Kids Singled Out strips a couple of years ago, but my marriage blew up that very same week and I never found time (or perhaps inclination) to draw it. Life, eh?). And to John Anderson on the BeanoMax for asking me to be a regular contributor 18 months ago cos he was such a fan. Sir, you have been a great support and editor.
Derek wasn’t exactly like anything else in the Beano (still isn’t), so it was quite a risk for Euan to stick Derek in back in the day. But the risk paid off thanks to overwhelming support from young fans and parents alike. Well I say overwhelming, for all the fans giving Derek 10/10 in the polls, there were just as many giving my stories 1/10 with very little in between; but the sheer fanaticism of those who loved him helped keep Derek a regular fixture in the Beano.
And that, for me, has been the best part about working on the Beano – the fans.
Whenever I was feeling down, or lacking in confidence over my work, I’d get an email in my inbox from a fan telling me how much Derek and his crazy antics would mean to them. One dad told me how he and his son would recite Derek’s adventures in the car on the way to school; another lad would carry Derek’s book around school all day, every day and all his mates would take the mickey, but he didn’t care. I’d even get emails from teachers telling me how a whole classroom would regularly fight over who gets to read Derek’s book at reading time.
Emails like these would instantly blow the cobwebs from my brain and I would triumphantly knock out another crazy adventure.
Fans, I salute you!
So what’s next for Derek?
Well, there’s a theatrical version of his nonsense from Legend Theatre, coming to a school or children’s theatre near you for one thing. And there was talk of maybe another French edition of Norbert Le Mouton. I’ve even been tinkering with the idea of bringing out a Quarterly Derek magazine to sell with the play…
Whatever happens, I’m sure Derek will be back in some form or another before you know it. Watch this space 😉