Thursday 13 March 2014

Skin Up, or something

Yes, yes, it's been a short while - explanations to follow and all that. For now let's get on with this trilogy thing here. This one!

It's 1999, and David Alexander (creator of Electric Soup mainstays the MacBams) came up with the idea for a dope-themed humour comic (initially titled Skunk) - Jim Stewart, Jamie Grant and Paddy "Pudsy" Morris (RIP) agreed, and so Northern Lightz came into being. What followed was eleven issues of mostly pun-based laughs, all in a "being-in-the-right-frame-of-mind" sort of vein. Let's "toke" a "ganja" shall we? As in, "take a gander". Do puns still work if you explain them afterwards? Pfft.

Before starting, maybe the more innocent folk out there should know that "dope-humour" largely relies on short-term memory loss. You'll be seeing the same jokes over and over again here. Think of a T-shirt shop in Blackpool or Scarborough or Amsterdam, only better drawn, and you're on the right track. It's nowhere near as rubbish as something like this:

...but if that tickled you, you're going to have a great time.

Okay, here we bloody well go then. We'll begin with the very first page of the very first issue - always important if you want a "feel" of what a comic will be all about, usually. It's Spliffy the Bush Kangaroo:

Don't worry, things get better immediately. Look, it's Frank Quitely and Alan Grant doing a Buck Rogers spoof!

And here we have the resident superhero of Northern Lightz, Jim Stewart's Astounding Ganjaman:

The high-as-a-kite superhero there had several of his own comics too, and even hosted his own anthology title - Ganjaman Presents. More on that another day.

Of course, Northern Lightz isn't ALL about puns. There's also out-and-out weirdness:

Or there's bits about folk enjoying the lifestyle, as it were, such as this pair here, by Jamie Grant:

Okay, that one ended on a pun again. Alright, how about this one instead, by Mark Stafford:

Well, that's a bit depressing really. Sorry. Let's see... Ah! Here we go. A morality fable by the dearly departed Pudsy (1949-2010):

Pudsy's one of many highly skilled cartoonists who contributed to Northern Lightz - his stuff's been collected into a book, if you didn't know, available from Lulu. Here's his take on a certain Beano character (guess which one):

The already-mentioned founder, David Alexander, is out in full force too - here's crusty-type Bud Roach:

And Jon Haward's "toke" on the Robin Hood legends - Sherweed Forest, naturally, here under the name of Johnny Horney:

Along with Electric Soup favourite, Shug McKenna:

And the absolutely insane Captain Zappa, by John Miller:

I've lost count of the amount of places I've seen Miller's stuff (or more likely forgotten which publications they appeared in), but they really are like nothing else - if you want to make your eyes bleed through comic-reading, Miller's your man! It loses a bit of the effect when colour is added, unfortunately:

...but if you like what you see, there's three whole books of his thirty-year career available on Lulu. If this is beginning to sound like a paid-for feature, it really isn't!

Let's have a few more pun-based things before something really special. Here's the mandatory Rainbow parody, this time it's called Insaneblow, by Jim Stewart:

And from the same pen, The Spliffsons, who I can guarantee you'll see on at least six different T-shirt stands if you go for a walk along Blackpool's Golden Mile:

Also appearing on several dozen T-shirts are the Jelejunkies and Tokemon, from Jamie Grant:

Now for that "something special" - it's David Alexander's MacBam Brothers in a big old Alan Grant-scripted adventure - The MacTadger Connection. A story so popular it was translated into Dutch and Spanish, and reprinted in Soft Secrets magazine. It got its own Hergé-esque front cover and everything! Enjoy:

Good, eh? Now, onwards. Like many other publications, Northern Lightz went through a bit of a transformation about halfway through its run. Issue 7 is full-colour glossy pages all the way through, and up until the end there's at least a dozen colour pages in each issue. This is what Shug McKenna's stuff looks like in colour - featuring the return of the Wildebeests!

Jim Stewart's puntastic strips also got the colour treatment:

And of course, with each revamp comes new artists - including Robert Thomson:


And Doctor Simpo, one of my favourite current cartoonists, so it was a nice surprise to find this within the pages of Northern Lightz, to say the least:

New "regular characters" abound too, in the shape of the Bush Doctor - "He treats all known ailments with a spliff!" is about all you need to know:

Jon Haward's Tales of the Buddha is another one:

Jim Devlin's The Dopranos:

And Gibson Quarter's War On Drug$ starring Johnny Kunt - Agent of R.E.T.R.I.B.U.T.I.O.N.

Here's John Miller's take on Johnny Kunt:

And it'd be Johnny Kunt's hard-hitting ask-no-questions stance on drugs that eventually put an end to Northern Lightz, like so:

There's a BIG clue to the next part of the story there...

So, let's summarise? Northern Lightz definitely has an intended audience, and makes it obvious. I'm definitely not a member of that audience, but it's still an enjoyable comic, if only for the artwork alone. Just don't read too many issues in one sitting and you'll be fine. The covers are always good too - like this one featuring Alan Burrows' Fun Guys:

A massive, massive, MASSIVE thanks to Adam Smith, who sent me nearly the whole run of Northern Lightz completely free. Go and find his stuff and buy some of it!


  1. I just don't 'get' drug humour. It's all a bit stating the bleedin' obvious, isn't it... weed makes you tired, ha ha... *snore*
    Still, I suppose there are enough people out there who enjoy hearing the same joke a million times... that'll be the loss of short term memory again...

    1. It's the only possible explanation for how the same joke can be repeated so many times in one comic.

  2. The symbol with the eye in the triangle, appears on the front cover of northern lightz and at the top of the Brighton bears in electric soup.

    I believe one of Syd the sexist's friends was wearing a hoodie featuring just that very symbol recently. Couldn't tell you which story, the world cup one perhaps.

    Coincidence or homage?

    1. It's the Eye of Providence, representing the eye of God watching over humanity. Also appears on American money and conspiratorial folk like to associate it with Freemasonry as well.

  3. TwoHeadedBoy I'm looking for the eleven issues of Northern Lightz but I don't know where to find them, can you help me? Thank you,


    1. Three of them are on eBay right now:

      It was only a couple of weeks ago someone was selling the full set for £11, bad timing!

    2. I'm not lucky I guess, three issues for about 40 dollars is a bit much, but i really can't find them anywhere else so i think I'll buy them. Thank you for the link!

    3. There's the first issue here for £3.40 as well:

      Keep an eye on sites like that one, they have them every so often...

  4. yeah I've already visited that site but I think they have some problem with the online shop because every time I try to add to cart the product it comes out a page called "Taxamo error" that doesn't let me go on...I'll keep looking through the ebay, maybe the issues will come out again. Anyhow thank you for your attention and advices!

    1. No worries, good luck! I'll keep an eye out, got them as a saved search on eBay already.

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  6. Been looking for issue No. 11 of Northern Lightz since forever. If anyone can point me in the way of it, that would be great 😎