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24 September 2014

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Chris Donald at work
Chris draws his next masterpiece

Chris Donald Q & A

Sue Wilkinson quizzes founder of Viz Comics, Chris Donald, on his favourite creations and how he sees Tyneside today.

Q. Which of the comic characters that you created is your favourite and why?

Biffa Bacon - Viz Character
Biffa Bacon - Viz Character

My favourite was a one-off, Scooter Dolphin Boy. I think I was at my creative peak when I did that. Issue 23, about 1987 or so. It was rubbish, but that's what Viz was all about.

Q. Which of the original Viz characters could you still find on Tyneside today?

There's still Sid the Sexists and Biffa Bacons, but not as many as there used to be. Fat Slags are also an endangered species. The girls aren't quite as plump nowadays. They all look like footballers' wives. I think they aspire to being like Victoria Beckham, and they know that eating chips is not the way to achieve their goal.

Q. Is Sid the Sexist still alive and kicking?

Not as much. The CIU clubs are dying out, that whole working class environment is disappearing. On the surface you'll still see blokes out drinking, being vulgar and chasing girls. But I think it's for show nowadays. I think the underlying trend is towards better behaved men, although there are obviously exceptions.

Q. What do you think of the idea of Newcastle-Gateshead as a joined-up place?  

I think they should stop messing about and fully amalgamate the two, the way that comics and newspapers and businesses merge.

Basically Newcastle should swallow Gateshead up. For a while they could call it Newcastle upon Tyne incorporating Gateshead. And the Gateshead would gradually get smaller, until they drop the name altogether, and it's just Newcastle. They could still write 'Incorporating Gateshead' in small print on the bottom of council stationery if they wanted to.
Q. Which do you prefer and why?

* Baltic or Biscuit Factory?
Biscuit Factory. It cost less to convert, used private money, and the contents are more accessible.

* Newcastle or Gateshead?
Newcastle. I feel sorry for poor old Gateshead, which has acted as a doormat for Newcastle over the years. It seems that every time a new bridge was built across the river, Gateshead town centre was reshuffled or partly demolished to accommodate it. There's hardly anything left of it now. It seems to have no heart.

* Stereo (bar) or The Sage?
Never been to this Stereo bar, but I'd imagine the music is far too loud. I've only visited The Sage at daytime, not to go clubbing or listen to music. But I'd imagine the Stereo bar might be less intimidating a building than The Sage. And the drinks are probably cheaper.

* '55 Degrees North' (TV) or 'Get Carter' (film)
'Get Carter', without a doubt. They used my next door neighbour's Jaguar in the filming. Why they renamed the Swan House roundabout 55 Degrees North baffles me. Why they then made a TV series about it is totally unfathomable. Strictly speaking the TV series should have been called Swan House.

Cream tea
Afternoon cream tea - yum!

Q. Are you going to publish a new book of cartoons soon?  Will Art Carbuncle be featured?

I'd like to do a Tintin-style book one day, but I don't have the talent or the patience to pull it off. I've got no plans to publish any cartoons right now. I see myself more as a writer. Not that I've written much at all. But I might offer Art Carbuncle to Viz. If they want it.

Q. What do you think of the architecture of The Sage?  Shiny monstrosity or cool and unique?

I think it's ridiculous. From a practical, window cleaning point of view at least. Aesthetically it's a lily livered cop out. All glass and mirror walled buildings are. From a functional point of view it seems to do a job, or at least the venues and spaces within it do, but I don't like the overall structure. Why does it need to be so grand? And slimy looking.

Q. What do you make of Newcastle's cappuccino culture?

It's not just a Newcastle thing. Everywhere in Britain is the same. And the Anglo/American cafe society is completely the opposite of the continental cafe culture. In France people relax and sip coffee, reading Le Monde and chilling out. Here those aluminium tables and chairs on the pavement are just for quick pit stops where we guzzle down buckets of coffee to keep us going. It's all nonsense. I'm an old fashioned tearoom man myself. I prefer to sit down and relax, have a waitress take your order, and possibly have a nice piece of tiffin with my tea. Or a scone.

Q.  What makes you laugh?

My kids have just alerted me to a spoof puppet TV series based on 'Thunderbirds' called 'Team America'. It's very funny. 'Spongebob Squarepants' is funny too. 'South Park'. 'The League of Gentlemen' (although not the movie, which was dire). 'Laurel & Hardy'. Alan Partridge. 'Fawlty Towers' if I'm in the mood. Not 'Little Britain' though. I've not taken to that at all. I like the Geordie spacemen on 'Monkey Trousers'.

Q.  What drives you crazy about the new Tyneside?

The traffic systems in Newcastle city centre, which keep changing. The amount of money that has been spent on the Baltic, and continues to be spent on it. All these new blocks of flats with wavy rooflines. I hate wavy rooflines. I hate all the high rise developments in and around the river gorge, east of the city centre. They're appalling.

last updated: 28/06/05
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