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Meet team's new cricket superhero! CARTOON CREATION TO HELP PROMOTE TWENTY20 SEASON.

Byline: BY BEN GOLDBY

HE is the banana-chomping schoolboy superhero with the strength of 20 men.

Now Warwickshire Cricket Club are hoping the creator of Bananaman can help out their Twenty20 men.

The County has hired the scribbler who came up with the 80s spoof cartoon character to promote the new cricket season.

And, with April showers sweeping the Midlands, the Bears believe that the man behind the fruit-munching hero can help protect them from his archnemesis, The Weatherman.

Cartoon king Steve Bright, 49, from Oswestry, Shropshire, told the Sunday Mercury that even though he knows very little about the sport, he found it easy to come up with a cricket character.

"Warwickshire got in touch and told me they were looking for a cartoon to front their Twenty20 season," he said.

"They wanted something to represent the old school of cricket, basically a crusty old person.

"Being a crusty old person myself, I think it came very naturally to me."

Just like his legendary character, Steve was "ever alert for the call to action" and quickly came up with an old fuddy-duddy to promote the limited-overs competition, which gets underway next month.

"The image of a buttoned-up old chap with a handlebar moustache came to mind immediately, so that's what we went with," he said.

"I'm not a cricket fan myself, but I do love to do sports stuff. I've done caricatures of everyone from Peter Crouch to Boris Becker, and they provide plenty of comedy." But the world of cartoons is not all fun and laughter.

In true comic-book tradition Steve has a dark secret - he hates the animated series that made Bananaman a global success.

"I was just a young sub-editor working on the Beano in Dundee when Bananaman came about," he recalled.

"I was put in an office with the chief sub-editor and we were told to come up with a new comic character.

"We were inspired by Batman and Superman. We parodied those classic characters and that's how Bananaman was born. It was always very tongue-in-cheek, so we came up with Eric as a boy who grew in stature but not in mind."

The comic strip was launched in 1980 and became an instant hit.

The BBC turned it into an animated show in 1983, which propelled Bananaman into superstardom, but failed to find favour with his inventor.

"I never liked the TV show," Steve explained. "I think it could have been done a lot better. Quite a lot of changes were made to the original. It was never really the same after that.

"The 'tale' wagged the dog really, and the comic had to change its look to chime in with the TV show."

Steve stopped working on Bananaman 18 months ago and is now plying his trade as a free-lance artist. He dreams of becoming a political cartoonist, but still believes there is plenty of mileage in his most famous creation.

As a big fan of recent Hollywood blockbusters based on classic comic strips, Steve thinks his fruit-munching superhero would make a great movie star.

"I would love to see Bananaman up on the big screen," he told the Sunday Mercury. "Financially, it probably wouldn't gain me anything, but it would be great anyway.

"I still get a huge kick whenever I see anything I draw on screen or in print. You never lose that feeling."

Steve says he is just as proud of his new cricket cartoon as he is of Bananaman. And after a poor start to the season Warwickshire could certainly use a superhuman effort from their players before the Twenty20 competition gets going.

bengoldby@mrn.co.uk

Who's YOUR favourite superhero. Write to Calling All The Heroes, Sunday Mercury, Weaman Street, Birmingham B4 6AY or e-mail SundayMercury@mrn.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

OLD SCHOOL: The 'fuddy-duddy' created by Steve Bright to front Warwickshire's cricket campaign. Inset, below, Bananaman.; CARTOON KING: Steve Bright.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 27, 2008
Words:653
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