Ten Things You Never Knew About Steve McGarry
Adapted from THE VERY FIRST BADLANDS ANNUAL published by PEDIGREE BOOKS (1994)
1. STEVE McGARRY was born in the North of England, on Manchester’s sprawling Wythenshawe estate, on January 24, 1953. The eldest of three brothers, STEVE’s first school was Saints John Fisher and Thomas Moore in Benchill. He later attended St. Bede’s R.C. College, in the same year as fellow MANCHESTER CITY fanatic and future JOY DIVISION/NEW ORDER manager and FACTORY RECORDS founder, the late ROB GRETTON.
2. At 14, STEVE lied about his age to land a weekend job selling raffle tickets at MANCHESTER CITY’s home soccer games. Not only did he get paid, he got to sit on a touchline bench for all the games and could regularly be seen posing for the TV cameras whenever the action strayed towards his position. (Years later he had his own cartoon series in the MANCHESTER CITY match-day magazine – mainly so he could blag free tickets!)
3. In 1977, a rush of blood to the head saw STEVE quit his job in the catalogue production department of a mail order company to try his luck as a full-time freelancer. His first published works were illustrations for love stories in the now-defunct girl’s comic ROMEO, published by D.C.Thomson of Dundee.
4. In the late ’70s, STEVE designed record sleeves for a host of Mancunian punk-rock luminaries, including JOY DIVISION, JILTED JOHN, SLAUGHTER & THE DOGS, JOHN COOPER CLARKE and ED BANGER AND THE NOSEBLEEDS. He was also the in-house poster/flyer designer for legendary Manchester rock venue RAFTERS. Promoted by the great Northern Cabaret Superstar DOUGIE JAMES, the venue played host to fledglings such as ELVIS COSTELLO, DIRE STRAITS, THE POLICE, WHITESNAKE and XTC. (ROB GRETTON was the house deejay and it was at RAFTERS that he struck up a rapport with WARSAW and offered to manage them. Soon after, the group changed their name to JOY DIVISION.)
5. STEVE was once a partner in a commercial production company and sang on TV and radio ads for for the likes of TIMPSON’S SHOES. His finest hour was undoubtedly a POPNUT CRUNCH POPCORN animated tv commercial, for which he multi-tracked the voices of a boy, a bear, a rabbit and a python singing: “If you’re crazy over popcorn here’s a nuttier way to munch, It’s peanut-coated popcorn and they call it Popnut Crunch!”
6. Childhood piano lessons were followed, in his teens, by the acquisition of his first guitar. STEVE’s pop career spluttered to a grinding halt on the Northern England cabaret circuit … but among the members of STEVE McGARRY’S FIRST OFFENCE who progressed a little further were DONALD JOHNSON of A CERTAIN RATIO and TOBY TOMAN, who later enjoyed international chart success with PRIMAL SCREAM.
The various incarnations of STEVE’s groups were democratic affairs and friends and family were invited into the fold at the drop of a hat. For instance, the back-up singers shown in the main picture (above) include STEVE’s brother ADRIAN and sister-in-law KATRINA. The woman in the silver lamé dress – also pictured draped around STEVE’s neck (left) – is DEBS, the reigning MRS. McGARRY since 1984.
7. STEVE’s cartooning career really began to take off in the early ’80s. His work began to to appear in U.K. comics and magazines such as “LOOK IN” and “TIGER” and he made his national newspaper debut in THE DAILY STAR in 1981.
8. STEVE’s first daily strip was commissioned by U.K. national THE DAILY STAR in late 1981. The paper sent him to Essex to work with world champion STEVE DAVIS on a series celebrating the outstanding moments in the snooker star’s career (left). He followed up with a regular Saturday series illustrating each weekend’s TV sport highlight. STEVE continued to work for THE DAILY STAR throughout that decade and his daily strip, the year-long DIARY OF ROCK & POP was launched in February, 1987. The series was sold to a couple of U.S. markets, including San Diego and Philadelphia, and was later syndicated worldwide by UNITED MEDIA in the early 1990s.
9. In 1989, STEVE was contacted by New York features syndicate UNITED MEDIA and invited to take over the reins as artist and writer on the newspaper feature BIOGRAPHY. Steve’s first strip appeared on Sunday, May 14, 1989. Later that summer, the McGarrys moved to the U.S., relocating from Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire to Huntington Beach, California.
10. The pivotal year of 1989 not only saw the debut of BIOGRAPHY and the relocation of the McGarry family to California, but also the start, with the launch of the weekly strip RAY OF THE RANGERS, of STEVE’s decade-long association with the U.K.’s top soccer magazine SHOOT! In addition, STEVE’s daily western spoof BADLANDS, which had debuted the previous year in a short-lived national newspaper called THE POST, was snapped up by THE SUN, the start of a 13-year run in the world’s biggest-selling English language newspaper.
STEVE McGARRY was elected to the board of directors of the NATIONAL CARTOONISTS SOCIETY, the world’s premier organization for cartooning professionals, in 1999. Two years later, he was elected NCS President, and re-elected in 2001 – becoming only the third President in NCS history to serve consecutive terms.
The NATIONAL CARTOONISTS SOCIETY was formed in 1946 and numbers some 600 of the world’s top cartoonists in its ranks. Each year, the Society honors the profession’s outstanding artists at the annual Reuben Awards Weekend, the Oscars of the cartooning world. For futher information about the NCS visit www.reuben.org.
STEVE and DEBS met in 1977 and married in 1984. Twin sons JOE and LUKE were born in Manchester in 1987. DEBS is editor and researcher on KID CITY, and colorist on not just a number of Steve’s features, but also the syndicated cartoon strip BABY BLUES.
Following in the family tradition, JOE and LUKE are both accomplished artists and musicians. Having attended the prestigious Orange County High School of the Arts in Santa Ana, California, they now have their own illustration and design business, Fantastic Heat Brothers. You can hear their indie rock band, POP NOIR, at www.facebook.com/popnoirofficial.