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Top Ten Sheep Comics:

Wild, woolly & wonderful!

As a bit of fun to celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Sheep - and the release of the Aardman Animation movie version of Shaun the Sheep - here are my Top Ten Sheep Comics. Among these that didn’t make it to the top are Marvel’s Sheep-Boy (above), the Spider-Man of Earth-9792 whose Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive sheep in What If? #100, appearing only in a mock-up cover created by Andrew Pepoy, or Marvel’s funny animal version of super-spy organisation S.H.I.E.L.D., known as S.H.E.E.P. on Earth-8311.

I also omitted the 2007 Jack Chick tract entitled Poor Little Lamb (above), as the titular baby sheep in this religious mini-comic plays only a brief sacrificial role. So without further ado, here’s my Top Ten counting down in reverse, and let me know what are your favourite sheep in comics!

10. Lost Sheep by Dan Thompson

This rather charming and amusing comic strip runs daily in newspapers and is posted online at Go Comics website. Thompson invites us to follow the exploits of one plucky sheep who leaves the flock behind to experience a bigger world.

9. Johnny Mutton by James Proimos

Proimos put out three of these younger readers’ books starting in 2001 through Harcourt. All of them have been compiled with a new story and other extras last year into this compendium from HMH Books for Young Readers. Found on the doorstep as a lamb, Johnny is named and raised by Momma Mutton, who never notices that he is in fact a sheep, not a human. This series was also translated by Gallimard into French as Johnny Mouton.

8. Buffer the Angry Ram in Black Bob by Jack Prout

The great British picture strip serial about the border colly sheep dog BlackBob was deftly illustrated for years by Jack Prout in the late lamented British weekly The Dandy. Not surprisingly, sheep figured quite prominently and in this episode, a particularly aggressive ram named Buffer joins our canine hero on the run from a pair of shifty sheep-stealers. With thanks to Peter Gray, who offers his commentary here.

7. Shari Lewis’s Lamb Chop Weekly

Fondly remembered from her TV appearances, Lamb Chop was a knitted-sock celebrity and co-star with ventriloquist Shari Lewis. In the early Seventies, she headlined in her own British weekly nursery comic, sorry no idea of credits for this one.

6. Cecil the Ram in Footrot Flats by Murray Ball

New Zealand-born Ball serialised this newspaper strip from 1975 to 1994, continuing in books until 2000. As with Black Bob above, Footrot Flats also focussed on the life of farmer Wal Footrot and his sheepdog, called “Dog”, but among the supporting cast were several sheep, including Cecil the Ram, an ageing stud ram, past his prime.

5. Shaun the Sheep by Aardman Animation

Debuting in 1995 in the Wallace & Gromit animated cartoon A Close Shave from Aardman Animation, Shaun the Sheep went on to star on the children’s channel CBBC in 130 seven-minute episodes starting in March 2007. That was the month he got his own comic from Titan Magazines. Here are some examples of the strips inside, illustrated by Pickled Jo.

4. The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz

“When you are afraid to fall asleep, when all your dreams are nightmares, write us a letter, put it under your pillow, we will rescue you…” That’s the wonderful premises of Viviane Schwarz‘s graphic novel from Walker Books in 2013. For years, these three magical sheep have been coming to the rescue of children having nightmares, but now they are getting old and it’s time to train their replacements.

3. Vern & Lettuce by Sarah McIntyre

Sarah McIntyre’s comics every week in The DFC about best friends Vern the sheep and Lettuce the rabbit in Pickle Rye never fail to raise a warm smile. Their weekly escapades about their quest for stardom were compiled into hardcover and paperback volumes in the DFC Library, huge fun for all ages. Sarah’s posted some ‘choice cuts’ on her blog here…

2. The Genius of the Pastures by F’Murr

Known as La Genie des Alpages in the original French, the cartoonist F’Murr, pen-name of Richard Peyzaret, has penned no less than fourteen albums since 1973 of one of the most deliriously surreal and witty comics in the world, none of them ever translated into English. This one panel above gives some flavour of the absurdities of this tour de farce! Over on French Wikipedia there is even an A to Z of all the sheep in the series, from Abousimbelle to Zobéide, more than 200 of them!

1. Derek the Sheep by Gary Northfield

No sheep comic can tickle your spare ribs like Derek the Sheep, a work of comedy genius and the first and only creator-owned strip in The Beano, running from 2004 to 2011 in the weekly and later in the monthly Beano Max. Bloomsbury no less published a book of the first lucky 13 episodes, but there’s more than enough for another collection, please, please! Gary’s posted some samples like this one:

Did you know that Derek the Sheep was first compiled into a book by Editions de l’An 2 in France, where he is known as Norbert le Mouton? And did you know that Gary Northfield, Sarah McIntyre and Viviane Schwarz once shared a studio together in a former police station - and as they were all working on comics featuring sheep, they called it The Fleece Station!  So big congratulations to Derek for topping the first ever Sheep Comics hit parade! I hope celebrity won’t go to his head:

Happy Chinese New Year of the Sheep to you all!

Posted: February 21, 2015

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