Coypu is a comic strip character who holds a unique place in the story of the Waveney Clarion. Created by Mick Sparksman for a one-liner strip in the first ever issue of the Clarion (reproduced below), the character, his extended family and adventures on the bleak, windswept marshes continued in every issue of the paper. Mick also assumed the mantle of 'Design Editor' which meant that he did illustrations, adverts, lettering and the artwork paste-up of the Clarions until the September/October 1976 issue*, considering it to be his "community service". Smoke-filled rooms, late nights, impossible print deadlines, Cow Gum fumes, bits of paper and text like confetti. Very much the picture of so many community and radical papers of the day.
[*see our Summary of contents page for the detail of each issue.]
Here is the first ever Coypu Comix strip by Mick Sparksman. We are happy to include on this page a selection of strips, many scanned from the original, ageing artwork (hence the blotches) – to see some originals click here. Click for larger versions: Strips 1-3, Strips 4-6 , Strip 7, Strip 8 (each PDF file will open in a new window).
Mick quickly established a look for Coypu and the cast of supporting species and the character of a "rural guerilla" indulging in a hedonistic lifestyle in its burrow and simultaneously outwitting the officers of Coypu Control. See our page on Coypu: the animal for more information about this renegade of the marshes. Along with the knockabout humour and sugar beet wine, Mick injected all sorts of cultural references and obscurity into the ever-evolving saga of Coypu. Eventually, a group of Clarion enthusiasts got it into their heads to write and perform a musical show, Coypu capers, based on the protagonist, much to its creator's bemusement. One abiding memory is of Mick, crouched in "Can-you-tell-what-it-is-yet?" pose: paint-pot and brush in hand, completing the back-drop of the staging right up until the coypu-costumed performers danced on for the first number.