Gary Clark, creator of well-known Australian cartoon Swamp, and illustrator of our souvenir Origin III poster.
Gary Clark, creator of well-known Australian cartoon Swamp, and illustrator of our souvenir Origin III poster. Contributed

Cartoonist Swamped by State of Origin

CREATING a special collectable State of Origin poster has kept one of Australia's best-known cartoonists on his toes.

Gary Clark, who draws the much-loved Swamp cartoon, has collaborated with Australian Regional Media - publisher of this newspaper - to illustrate the one-off poster, which will appear in Tuesday's paper, the day before the big 2015 decider.

Mr Clark has jammed it with memorable Origin moments that involve some of rugby league's favourite players and characters, from well-known coach Wayne Bennett and renowned tough man Trevor Gillmeister to former Australian second rower Gorden Tallis and former NSW captain Steve Mortimer.

There's even a challenge to readers - to see how many faces and moments they can pick out of the busy, humorous illustration.

"I can't give too much away," said Mr Clark, who added his family were huge football fans and he liked to catch a Broncos game.

"There are about 150 characters on the field."

For the Everton Park man, life has been about cartooning for more than three decades.

Inspiration for his now famous Swamp cartoon strip came from a childhood spent living in a Brisbane suburb that was close to many parks, bushland areas, creeks, dumps, a tannery and a sludge pond.

"For me these places offered endless possibilities for adventure and fun," he said.

They were also the place where his characters, such as Ding Duck, Wart and Mort Frog, Old Man Croc, Bob the Crayfish, The Dung Beetles, Air Traffic Controller, The Ants and The Bludgerigar sprang from.

Today Wart and Mort Frog are popular with organisations and websites that promote water quality and sustainability and a clean, green environment. Swamp characters also appear, under licence, on upscale casual and sportswear, especially golf sportswear, in Japan and South Korea.

Mr Clark described the Swamp cartoon strip as a "down-to-earth look at a bewildered society thriving in an ever-increasing complex world".

Somewhere the things that inspired him in childhood still show through in his Swamp cartoons - now numbering close to 12,500.

"For instance, every fly head-first in a cowpat, every time Ding nose-dives into a crumpled wreck, every time a dump rat discovers new treasure and every offbeat character," he said. It was his wife, Yvonne, who sold his first cartoon, in 1981, to the Sunshine Coast Daily. Today his son Scott, a photographer, often helps him colour them in.

Pick up your souvenir State of Origin poster

Cartoonist Gary Clark (inset) has created a State of Origin poster, which will appear in Tuesday’s paper.
Cartoonist Gary Clark (inset) has created a State of Origin poster, which will appear in Tuesday’s paper. Contributed

All his cartoons have been drawn by hand until now, but he will soon be moving to drawing them on digital tablet.

He'll also renew his pilot's licence - he has previously flown gliders and Cessnas and done aerobatics - although he says Ding Duck will never take to the air.

A Sunday School volunteer teacher, Mr Clark shares his cartooning with kids as well as at conferences, most recently for Queensland Fire and Rescue Services.

He also has no intention of retiring the Swamp characters any time soon.

During the course of his career, Mr Clark has won 10 Stanley Awards for Best Comic Strip Artist of the Year, including the inaugural award presented by Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

He also holds 11 Rotary National Cartoon Awards and, early in his cartooning, created the popular Diesel Dog Cartoon featured in Truckin' Life Magazine in Australia.



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