Wednesday, 5 August 2009

around 1989 my thoughts turned to an old pal of mine named Mike Docherty, whom I hadn't seen since I sat next to him in school in Glasgow 1969/71, when together we ruled the art class. I've been thinking about him again over the last week. Maybe it's a twenty year thing.
In 1969 we both intended to spend our lives drawing comic books. American ones. On the other side of the world. Later I presumed that neither of us would. Notwithstanding, we drew some stuff together, as little comicky dudes do. Here's a detail from a Batman on which he inked and coloured over my pencil, when we were fifteen.


A year later he was doing very competent little ink drawings, among which this one is excellent. He was obsessed with Conan the Barbarian by this time:


My folks moved us down to the London area and I lost track of him. I surely would have done anyway as we were quite different sorts of people altogether. He wore leather jackets, after those school years I mean, and saved up to buy a Harley Davidson. And me, well you've read my blather here already I'm sure. Once in London I stood watching a long rally of bikers protesting against the new helmet law, hoping my old pal might turn up among the revving, thundering procession. Over the years apparently he had been keeping an eye open for me too. He was living in Santa Monica, California when he found one of my Alec books, the second Escape volume of '85 if memory serves, in his local comic shop in 1988. I was in North Queensland, Australia. I always figured as time moved on and we moved further adrift that catching up again would become more and more hopeless, where in fact the opposite is true. It is now easier to find people than it was twenty years ago. Anyway, we did hook up in California in 1989 and caught up and kept in touch. He came off the bike once too often and was now walking with a permanent limp. But it turned out he had achieved his goal and was drawing Conan for a living. Using the Grand Comic Book Database, an indispensible tool for this sort of thing, I see him first popping up in Conan The King #31 of Nov.'85. And the number of stories under his credit show that he was working hard after that. Regular readers will note the irony when I recall that he mentioned loathing it when the inking was sometimes assigned to Vinnie Colletta. Here's one of Mike's covers from a couple of years in, #43 November '87:


I had stopped following the American comic books a long time before, except for keeping a weather eye on them as a working illustrator might be expected to do. So I really didn't know what was happening there (apart from the obvious, like Watchmen), and it was a surprise to me to find that Conan didn't appear to be the big fan favourite it was when it started. After artist Barry Smith's tenure I always found it unreadable, like the original Robert E Howard books, from which I razored and kept the Frazetta covers. The character must have had its biggest popularity between the time Schwarzennegger played it in the first movie 1982, and the disappearance of the third one into development hell circa '86. Nevertheless there were three or four different regular Conan comic book titles all running at the same time in 1988. As far as I can figure out, Conan the King came to a conclusion that year and Mike found himself in the more prestigious Savage Sword of Conan from '89 and later in the flagship Conan the Barbarian, before the whole lot of them ground to a halt in 1995 and he found work outside of the comic book business, in animation mostly I believe. Mike has never bothered to put out much information on himself, so Lambiek has a rudimentary entry on him which doesn't include a year of birth (put 1955, Scotland, if you're reading). Here's one of his covers from Aug.1992.


And here's the only photo I can dig up:


It's from Glasgow paper the Evening Times, Sept 9 1992, one of those 'local boy makes good stories' that i always hate: "And while his former schoolmates shiver in a typical wet and windy Scottish autumn, Mike is enjoying the more temperate climes of Santa Monica..."
The story comes full circle as I see he is back in the funny book pages as an artist on a new work titled Jungle Reign, of which there is an online preview.


It's funny how things turn out.


(panel from my own The Dance of Lifey Death, drawn 1991.)

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6 Comments:

Blogger Jackie E said...

Mike and his wife always brightened my day whenever I ran into them at Comic-Con.

5 August 2009 11:55:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Parker said...

I last saw Docherty back in 99 when we were both storyboarding for animation at Sony. Always a pleasure.

5 August 2009 10:21:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

can you tell us what you were working on?

5 August 2009 10:26:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Parker said...

I was working on the Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot cartoon, and I can't remember if Docherty was on that, Men in Black or possibly the Starship Troopers thingy. I'll try asking a friend who worked there if he can remember.

7 August 2009 1:56:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Eddie Campbell said...

That's great. I can ask him myself of course. I just thought it would be interesting to get another angle. he never tells me about any of that stuff when he emails. usually wants to talk about old times. In fact i emailed to tell him i blogged about him and he still hasn't said anything and two days have passed.

we'll see how long it takes.....

7 August 2009 2:05:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Ish300 said...

I'd like to get in touch with Mike. I'm scanning a number of Savage Sword pages I inked of his. I never met him in person. His drawings were quite naturalistic and suited my drawing style to ink. I often wish I could revisit those days and ink those stories again as I like to think I've improved since then!

Geof Isherwood

21 August 2011 7:52:00 am GMT-5  

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