The ping of the microwave rang out across the 7-Eleven. It was quiet, perhaps too quiet, but that was unlikely to distract Derek Danger from his pasty.
Idly scratching his pot belly with one hand, he reached into the kitchen appliance with the other to retrieve his piping hot convenience store cuisine.
But little did Derek know, at that precise moment, masked ninjas had decided to launch a deadly attack.
“Cor blimey“, Derek thought, scouting about his surroundings for a weapon. “What should I use in my defence, the pasty or the ice scraper?“ Either way, Derek knew, he was in danger...’ When people think about comic book heroes, the most common names that tend to spring to mind are Batman, Superman and Spiderman.
These figures, alter-egos of some of life’s most humdrum, overlooked characters – the bored billionaire, the ignored news reporter, the geeky, but brilliant high school student – all have a number of things in common. From their costume-clad rippling physiques, to their nifty gadgets, to their superpowers, to their hyper-cool modes of transport, to their slightly odd relationships with extra-terrestrials/animals/insects – undoubtedly, superheroes tend to fit a mould.
He’s dashing, he’s dutiful and holy sardine! He’ll always get you out of a jam.
So where does Derek Danger, star of new comic Dangeritis: The Misadventures of Derek Danger and brainchild of illustrators Robert Ball and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell fit into this picture?
“When we started off, Derek was kind of like a ‘60s detective. Cruising along the Riviera in his sports car, with lots of chicks hanging off his every word,” says Robert, from Walthamstow. “But then we kind of realised that sort of thing has already been done a million times before. So he kind of became a sort of pound shop version of James Bond, an anti-hero you could say.
“He hangs around 24 hour garages, eats Ginsters pasties, he’s got a bit of a pot belly, drives a Datsun Cherry and listens to Elkie Brooks cassettes.
“Don’t get me wrong, his adventures are still ridiculously glamorous, it’s just that he’s got middle-aged spread, he tints his hair and his kecks are too tight. Oh, and there are shades of Alan Partridge about his character.“ Aside from all of these technological and physical obstacles to contend with, Derek has a major nemesis to overcome – what appears to be a dying interest in the comic book industry.
Slumps in sales of the printed version of The Dandy, which resulted in it closing on its 75th birthday, would certainly corroborate this idea. But its re-launch online may suggest there is still hope for comic books, something Robert agrees with.
“I think the comic scene is undergoing one of its many renaissances at the moment. The independent comic scene in the UK is very vibrant, but I think the big national titles are the ones that tend to struggle,“ he says.
“It’s very hard to find a very large audience, what with the distractions of the modern world, so the scale of the audience they need must be great to keep the issues coming off the presses.
“But saying that, there is now a kid’s comic called The Phoenix, which is doing very well and that’s in digital and print form. There’s also a whole generation of my age and the decade above and below that grew up with comics, so I believe there is life in them yet.“ An unashamedly die-hard comic book fan, Robert bought his first comic, The Beano, aged seven. Now aged 39, he’s a member of the growing online comic illustration community, which is how he met Warwick.
And it’s not Robert’s first foray into creating his very own comic, last year he made graphic novel Winter’s Night.
“It ended up being fairly bleak,“ he chuckles. “I wanted to do something that was unashamedly silly, a bit more of a laugh.
“Our idea was to create a comic where you had a character and you put him in danger at the end of every page.
“Then you pass it onto someone else, they rescue him and put him in danger again. I do a page, which I publish on website Tumblr on Monday, and Warwick does a page on Friday.
“We’re trying to appeal to all age groups, so there’s no swearing in it, instead more choice phrases such as ‘ruddy hell’ or ‘bum’ or ‘flippin’ Nora’. It’s full of euphemisms. And the violence is also silly and cartoon-like.
“I’m not a fan of gore in comics, so we’re keeping it as broad as possible.“ The creative couple take about eight hours to create their strips, using a mixture of hand-drawing and computer software. They are set to continue posting their entries online, until it’s published by Great Beast in the summer.
So what then lies ahead, a legion of adoring fans? World domination?
“It’s early days yet,“ he says, “but when it’s published, we’re hoping to get it into comic shops and on Amazon.
“If people read things online, they’ll often buy it when it’s printed as well; it’s a completely different experience reading it.
“Other than that, we’ll continue living vicariously through the adventures of a guy that’s a bit over the hill.
“It’s basically a diary.“ Dangeritis: The Misadventures of Derek Danger is at www. dangeritis.tumblr.com