Living In An Imaginary World
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his latest in his series of features on comic stories or series that never happened. This week it’s the turn of John Ridgway’s Melvin …
John Ridgway’s Melvin
Having worked as an illustrator for the “Distinguished Competition,” the “House of Ideas,” and beyond, artist-extraordinaire John Ridgway took the reins and became a writer/artist with his incredible “Lost Tale,” Melvin.
“I have drawn my own stuff for as long as I can remember,” Ridgway explained, “but I always thought that writing was a skill that was best left to those who write for a living. I answered an ad for a guy who wanted someone to help drawing cartoons. He saw my stuff and decided I should be an illustrator and got me work. Unfortunately, he seemed to be passing my stuff of as his own work so I went solo. The artwork side was only part-time. My full-time job was as an engineer – designing ventilation and air-conditioning schemes. Later, I designed incinerators. The contacts I made and the experience I had led to working on Doctor Who Magazine. I gave up my engineering job and went full-time as an artist.”
Melvin begun as an innocent sketch. What led you to pursue it as a full-blown story?
“I had several projects I wanted to work on,” Ridgway said, “but I never had the opportunity to get on with them because of pressure of work. I’m more-or-less become semi-retired now, and have the opportunity to think about working on them. All of them were quite long stories and serious, and, just for a change, I thought of something that I believed could be fun. I came up with the character of Melvin, a young lad without a bad bone in his body. Melvin can talk to animals and they talk to him. He doesn’t regard this as unusual and hasn’t realised that other people cannot communicate in the same way. This gives me the opportunity to develop the animals as characters with their own views on life. Also the captions are in the form of a narrative in which the narrator is often interrupted by a second person and an argument can develop in the caption boxes. At one point Melvin talks to the caption. At another point, the caption box plays an active role.”
“Melvin’s world is imaginary,” Ridgway added. “It’s not fantastical, but it is a strange combination of medieval with today and a touch of magic thrown in. He lives in the woods with his aunt who is a witch. She is a good witch and very homely. He meets Sir Percy Vere and Olaf the Grim and, bitten by the adventure bug, he follows them to a nearby tourney – eventually going adventuring with them, riding his BMX bike (provided for him by his Aunt after one of her ‘shopping trips’).
“Along the way he will meet a scientist with a robot. Also, a magician who has a tower on top of a crag by the sea – but lives in a cave down near the bottom of the crag because he can’t stand heights. He wears a flat cap because the cave roof isn’t high enough for him to wear the wizard’s tall conical hat.”
Ridgway paused, then said: “There is Denzel the dismal dragon, terror of a kingdom Melvin visits, where beautiful maidens are sacrificed to the dragon.”
With the series being so fully developed, why didn’t ever see print?
“The story was not completed because I decided to colour Age of Heroes written by Jim Hudnall,” remembered Ridgway. “This had been published in black and white in the 1990s but only the first five of the six parts had ever been drawn. Strip magazine had published the first two parts in colour, and the third part had been coloured but not published as the magazine folded. Jim had just started to write the sixth part and had sent five pages for me to start work on when, tragically, he died earlier this year.”
Although his “Lost Tale,” Melvin, is on the back-burner, Ridgway is still ever-present in the four-color medium: “At present, I’m colouring work for a friend who is publishing the work of his friend, Ron Turner. The publications are for fans of Ron’s work. I am also continuing to work on Darrak. But there are also my other projects – which are rather in limbo at the moment. Melvin runs to 20 pages at the moment and I see it as a graphic novel – possibly two graphic novels. It’s quite idiosyncratic and seems to write itself, wandering off in its own direction if I let it.”
Lost Tales©2019 Scott Braden. All Rights Reserved