For our second ‘Inspired by’ blog we meet a young man with a passion for cartoons from an early age.
Zoom Rockman is a British political cartoonist and animator. Self-publishing his own comics when he was 9 years old saw the start of a career that has gone from strength to strength.
Rockman shares the pivotal role of The Cartoon Museum in starting his career, and a touching tribute to our Front of House Manager Alison Brown who sadly passed away in January.
You can see Rockman’s current live animation puppet work here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3I-giqZwKi4
Claire Madge – Blogger in Residence
Q1 – When did you discover cartoons and comics?
I was at a car boot fair age 8 and I found a box full of old issues of The Beano. I’d never seen a comic before. I was completely hooked straight away.
I liked making up funny stories in my head and I liked drawing funny pictures but up until this point I didn’t know you could put the two together so after I’d read everything in the box I started putting my ideas down on paper and I didn’t stop.
I did pages and pages and eventually I realised I had enough to print my own comics and sell them at school.
Q2 – Who were your favourite artists, characters or strips? What was it you liked about them?
I loved all the characters in The Beano but my favourite was ‘Roger The Dodger’. Going into shops and asking them to sell my comic felt like a very Roger the Dodger type thing to do – I guess I saw him as a bit of a role model!
Q3 – What do cartoons and comics mean to you?
Comics made a massive difference to me especially to my education. I’d been doing really badly in school, but once I realised I could work in cartoon form everything changed.
I was lucky because my head teacher took what I was doing seriously, he let me drop subjects I didn’t like to free up more of my time for comic making and I had my own workspace where I could get on with it.
I live in Haringey which has the worst boys literacy levels in the country. David Lammy [MP for Tottenham] gave me an award for being a ‘Positive Youth’ and I started getting invited in to other schools to run comic making workshops and show other kids who were like me how to get their ideas on to paper.
Q4 – How have you managed to take your love of cartoons and comics and turn that into a career? Was there a point when you suddenly realised this was what you wanted to do as a career?
I think my professional career probably started the moment I walked in to the old Cartoon Museum on Little Russell Street. It was this incredible place where cartoons from ancient times were on display and taken seriously. Upstairs there were tables where you could sit and draw and I felt very at home taking a seat.
Alison Brown (Front of House Manager) in the shop said she’d sell my comics for me and Steve Marchant (Learning Officer) taught me everything I needed to know. Everything with my career sort of unfolded from then on.
I met people like Paul Gravett – they call him the ‘Man at the Crossroads’ because he knows everybody in the industry. He put my name forward for a cartoon festival in South Korea and before I knew it I was on the red carpet at their opening event shaking hands with dignitaries – it was all very surreal.
My comic won an award and I was invited to Downing Street. I was on the cover of the Independent on Sunday Magazine! When I was 12 I got a job working for The Beano and when I was 16 I got my first cartoon in Private Eye. I’m 20 now. In my second year at Central Saint Martins studying Graphics.
Over lockdown I started making puppets and using them for live action animation and I think this is the direction that my work is now heading.
Q5 – What cartoons and comics are you currently reading? Who are your favourite artists that the reader should check out? What are you working on at the moment?
I read every issue of Private Eye – It’s great to all see the cartoons that made it in. I know most of the other cartoonists now and it’s fun to see who made the best joke on the latest things that are in the news. I look forward to seeing what people like Banx, Royston, Lamb, Grizelda, Jonesy, Goddard, Robert Thomson, Wilbur, Newman, etc have come up with…they’re all great!
As well as political cartoons, I’m currently working on an advert for a new biscuit, called Eton Mess – featuring one of my puppets of Boris Johnson, a Hogarth parody for a client in Canada, a logo for a company called ‘Troll Patrol’, a campaign for ‘10 years to save the world’ climate change project for The Lakes Comic Art Festival, my editorial cartoon for next week’s Jewish Chronicle, 45 President portraits for Iain Dale’s next book and getting ready for a new term starting at uni tomorrow!