That man Stan

The STAN cartoon is drawn by Whyalla cartoonist STEPHEN STANLEY.

Stephen was born in Liverpool UK many years ago, and was the sort of child who spent all his time drawing. He started to send cartoons off to newspapers when he was ten years old. When he was sixteen the family emigrated to Australia, finally settling in Whyalla after a brief stint in Adelaide. Stephen began a signwriting apprenticeship, but continued drawing in his spare time.

The STAN cartoon was his first regular cartoon job and began in the WHYALLA NEWS in July 1971 as part of a paid advertisement for a local service station. Initially it ran for about a year, stopping for a while when Stephen was conscripted into the army. Eventually, and after much anguish, someone discovered that he was short-sighted and hardly military material, something which coincided with the election of the Whitlam Labor government in late 1972 which abolished conscription. Stephen married Ingrid shortly after and the STAN cartoon began again early in 1973 with a cartoon about the opening of Stuart High School which was flooded on its first day.

About this time Stephen drew the illustrations for a publication of the Whyalla Youth Council called YOUTHLY. This was supposed to be simply a listing of all the activities for young people in Whyalla, but somehow turned into a comic book. YOUTHLY launched Stephen’s cartoon career and he began to receive commissions to illustrate various journals and magazines.

He was also having gag cartoons published in the now defunct AUSTRALASIAN POST magazine (At $10. each.) and from seeing this work was approached by Sol Shifrin who was then starting up an Australian syndication business based in Melbourne called impressively, INTERCONTINENTAL FEATURES.

Invited to submit comic strips, Stephen quickly developed LAFFERTY, a comic based in the colonial days of early Australia. At the time, the editors of many leading newspapers seemed happy to consider local comics, and the period was a boom time for many cartoonists with many of the strips familiar today starting out in the mid 1970s.

LAFFERTY was soon being seen in newspapers in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. A Sunday version also ran in Sydney for some years. Unfortunately, relations with Sol Shifrin soured, but LAFFERTY continued for over twenty years and 6000 odd daily strips.

Meanwhile Stephen had plucked up the courage to ask the WHYALLA NEWS to pay for the STAN cartoon after it had appeared for free since its beginning. At that time the WHYALLA NEWS was being published three times each week, so about 150 STAN CARTOONS were published each year in the 1980s.

Stephen had something of a setback in 1987 when he had a fall and broke his drawing arm (Ouch.) There was enough of a backlog of comic strips for the likes of LAFFERTY to keep running as usual during the three months it took for him to get back into his stride, with his daughter, Robyn re-lettering some old STAN cartoons and utilizing some previously unpublished drawings to keep the feature going for the duration.

Stephen was drawing a lot of gag cartoons for magazines such as READERS DIGEST, PLAYBOY, PENTHOUSE and the AUSTRALASIAN POST during this time, but was also illustrating many books. Among them were:

  • PICTORIAL WHYALLA. A sketchbook history of Whyalla (1978)
  • 2085 AUSTRALIA 100 YEARS IN THE FUTURE. Selected comics from his GEORGE THE ROBOT strip (1984)
  • LOOKING BACK. A sketchbook history of Iron Knob. (1984)
  • GEOLOGY IS FUN (1989) and A GEOLOGIST STRIKES OUT (1994) Two volumes of the autobiography of Reg Sprigg.
  • ADVENTURES WITH CLIO. Written by Peter Donovan (1994)

Around 1990, Stephen decided to move to writing and illustrating books for kids and his first book PUZZLE PLANETS was published by SCHOLASTIC in 1993. He followed this with a whole series of books such as:

  • PUZZLE BODY (1994)
  • PUZZLE WORLDS (1995)
  • PUZZLE HEROES (1999)

In order to find the time to draw these and other books, Stephen had to finish both LAFFERTY and the STAN cartoon. Two other local cartoonists drew a cartoon for the WHYALLA NEWS during the mid 1990s, but eventually Stephen was asked to take up the reins again and he was soon back to drawing the comment cartoon.

More recently Stephen has self-published a range of HOW TO DRAW books such as:

He continues to illustrate books, such as LEAVING HOME, a guide for young people setting up in a flat for themselves (Written by Cherie Foulder and Carol Graham, 2008.)