Duncan Foulkes meets celebrated acrtoonist Paul Sample who is putting his huge collection of artwork up for sale
Fans of famous cartoon biker Ogri will have a chance to get their hands on some original artwork when the creator puts his huge collection up for auction this month.
Illustrator and cartoonist Paul Sample, who invented Ogri while at London’s Central School of Art in the late 1960s, has decided to clear the decks in preparation for a house move, and that means selling his extensive collection of original artwork.
Auction house Halls of Shrewsbury is dedicating a whole sale on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 to Sample’s collection, which spans around 40 years and is expected to run to about 500 lots.
Also included in the collection is original artwork for the covers of books written by authors including Tom Sharpe, cartoon strips, including The Zodiac Files, posters for BBC Radio Two and advertisements for many leading brand names.
“All this work has been in folders tucked away in cupboards for years,” says the 62-year-old, who has lived near Whitchurch for 30 years. “I don’t look at the work, so I have decided to give someone else the pleasure.”
The amiable Yorkshireman, who headed to London to seek fame and fortune as a wide-eyed 18-year-old, could have had no idea what impact his character Ogri would have when he first rolled out of his pen onto a sketchbook back in 1967.
Inspired by Marvel comics, which Paul read at the time, Ogri originally began life with the name of Rorgan and his sidekick was George.
The superhero biker, with a Desperate-Dan-style stubbled face and winged helmet, soon went through a name change to Ogri and George, who had visions of being a hero himself, became dim-witted Malcolm. They were soon joined by big-busted blonde bombshell Mitzi and car-hating dog Kickstart as the main characters in the popular cartoon strip.
“The first strip cartoon was based on my own experience of driving up the M1 at 90mph on a Rocket Goldstar and wondering what the rattle was,” recalls Paul. “Most people think Ogri is about biking but it’s not, it’s about life in general.
“The inspiration for most of the stories comes from riding my bike, talking to people in the pub or seeing things on the news. I am constantly writing down ideas in a book.
“A friend of mine recently sent me a newspaper cutting about traffic police recording a vehicle going at more than 300mph. It was only later that they discovered that the speedgun had locked onto a low-flying jet. That’s going to appear in the strip in future!
“I’m proud of the characters, some of which were ahead of their time. Take Rodney Reason, for example.
“He was created in around 1975 as the original road-rage motorist before the term was invented. He’s totally angry and inconsiderate and pops up quite often.
“Kickstart was based on my dog who was a mongrel but looked a bit like a Tibetan Terrier. He used to ride on the tank of my Sunbeam S7 and also used to race me back from the pub when I was on the bike.
“Mitzi is another character who just evolved. One fan once asked me if it was right that she should be wearing stockings and suspenders on the back of a bike. My reply: ‘It’s just a cartoon’. Women always love to wear good underwear because it makes them feel good.”
Paul is accustomed to meeting weird and wonderful Ogri fans but one incident sticks in his memory: “This chap phoned up to say he was taking the family on holiday and could he call and see me on the way,” he recalls.
“He pulled up outside my house with a car full of luggage and his wife and kids packed into the back seat. Strapped in the front passenger seat was this life-size papier-mâché model of Ogri. When I suggested that it might be more comfortable for his wife to sit in the front, he replied: ‘I couldn’t do that, it’s Ogri’s seat’.”
Paul Sample has fans of all ages across the world, and there’s even an Ogri Motorcycle Club, of which he has been made an honorary member. When recently selling his first leather jacket on eBay – it was complete with speedway badges and two shillings and elevenpence in a pocket – he discovered that his legions of fans also include actor and biker Ewan McGregor.
“The reason the man bought it was that he had given his own jacket to a friend of his, Ewan McGregor, who he said was an Ogri fan.”
The Ogri cartoon strip featured in Bike magazine for 35 years until January this year, when it was dropped and quickly taken up by Back Street Heroes, the custom motorcycle magazine.
One of the big attractions of the cartoons is that there is always a subplot going on in the background, something that Paul says comes naturally as he is drawing and developing a theme.
To date, he has never suffered from the artistic form of writer’s block; the storylines keep flowing. Don’t be surprised if his new granddaughter Posy makes an appearance sometime soon!
Paul now describes himself as semi-retired, but has yet to realise one main ambition – to sell the film rights to Ogri and get an animated cartoon series on television. That was in the offing several years ago but a sudden change of commissioning editor at Channel 4 put paid to his hopes.
An Ogri animated film project was also discussed with Nick Park of Aardman Animation, creator of the popular Wallace and Gromit films.
“He knew about Ogri but said it would be quite difficult to animate because there is so much going on in the background in my cartoons,” says Paul. “He thought it would probably work better with computer animation rather than plastic. I would love to see Ogri on TV to get it to wider audience.”
Never shy to promote his portfolio of work as a student, he went around most of the national newspapers in Fleet Street and landed commissions from several of them, including The Times and The Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph and Today, for which he designed and drew ‘The Zodiac Files’ for a strip cartoon.
His first commission was three illustrations for Management Today in 1968, for which he was paid £45. He went on to do freelance work for a number of magazines and newspapers, including Melody Maker, Rockstar magazine, Men Only and Skateboard magazine.
As his reputation grew, he was also commissioned to illustrate advertisements and campaigns for many leading brand names, including Ford, Dunlop, the Post Office and British Airways, and illustrated many book covers for leading authors.
“Most of my work was advertising and cartoons were a secondary thing, an escape with no art director breathing down my neck,” Paul says. “Now I just want to continue doing strip cartoons because I enjoy telling stories, especially true ones that have happened to people on their bike.”
• Halls’ senior auctioneer and valuer Andrew Beeston, is busy compiling the catalogue of the Paul Sample collection. Contact Halls for further details on 01743 284777 or visit www.hallsgb.com