When I was a kid I loved to draw—still do—and by the age of seven this had transformed into a love of drawing cartoons. I’ll never forget the first Peanuts book that Mum and Dad bought me at the airport shop before my first-ever international flight... I seem to remember reading it all the way to Fiji, marvelling at the exotic scenes of Charlie Brown shovelling snow.
Not long after, I became expert at drawing Snoopy in a variety of familiar guises (along with Triceratopses and Tyrannosaurus Rexes—I was living out Calvin and Hobbes twenty years before its creation). My Dad, who is an artist himself, pointed out (entirely reasonably) that it would be a good thing if I made up some characters of my own.
Fast-forward a few years to 1978, and the Australian release of Star Wars. Like half the Western world, I was obsessed with the movie, which fed into my burgeoning cartooning efforts. I started drawing my own parodies of it, usually called “Star Bores” and featuring such hilarious characters as Luke Warmwater and Oldie-Man Mouldy (I was 10, remember). I drew three or four versions, each getting more and more polished and detailed.
By the next summer holidays I had started drawing my piéce de résistance. I carefully made up a blank book out of paper and cardboard scraps from Dad’s studio, and began drawing. Version 4 (or 5?), titled simply “Star Wars” (trademarks? what trademarks?), was the best I could make it, with a full-colour cover and colour throughout, all lovingly hand-drawn in biro and hand-coloured in texta.
When it was finally finished, it distilled the best gags from all the previous versions in a breathtaking act of homage. George Lucas would have been proud. I showed it to a friend, who bestowed his own personal “Award of Excellence” upon it. It was the single best thing I produced in my childhood years.
I’m not sure when it was—I think I was eleven or twelve—but somehow, at some point, I dragged back to the surface my memories of Dad’s suggestion that I should make up characters of my own, and twisted this in my 11-year-old head to infer that drawing other people’s characters—even in private, personal, hand-drawn comic-books—was wrong. On that basis, I somehow concluded that my lovingly-drawn homage to the Empire and the Rebellion was also wrong—parody or no parody. (God knows how I rationalised the existence of Mad magazine.) Not only was it wrong to have drawn it; it was wrong to keep it.
Thus began the Purge.
We lived in the countryside, and that meant that we had an incinerator—a modified 44-gallon drum that was our family’s contribution to global warming. I enjoyed taking the scrap papers down to it now and then, setting them alight, putting on the lid, and watching the flames through the gaps.
I can remember pulling out the staples from Version 4—the ones I’d put in with Dad’s staple-gun, putting the pages face down on my bedroom’s carpeted floor, stapling along the spine, then turning it over and folding the staples closed by hand to give it that proper stapled-comic look.
I can remember tearing up the cardboard cover. I can remember scrunching the pages into highly flammable balls. I can’t remember setting them on fire, but I know I did.
I’ve drawn a lot more cartoons since then; maybe not as many as I’d have liked, but life has a way of getting in the way. I make money from them. And I’ve even drawn cartoons with Luke and Darth in them.
But every now and then, I feel the urge to look at “Star Wars” Version 4, to have a look at what I was capable of at age 10 or 11, and to see how far I’ve come... and I can’t.
It was the stupidest thing I ever did as a kid.