Literary festival: Beano writer Zoom Rockman draws Haringey into his comic book world
Read any issue of Zoom Rockman’s comic series and you’ll soon forget this prodigious talent has only just turned 14.
In fact, even after meeting the teenager at his family home in Hornsey, it is only at the end of our interview, when he says he’ll probably spend the rest of the day working and playing Grand Theft Auto, that he reveals any signs of adolescence.
His PlayStation apparently has developed a fault so that every game plays in black and white; until now, his comics have followed the same pattern. Zoom No.10, as its cover proclaims, is the first issue in full colour, so recurring characters like Crasher – an opportunistic teen layabout – and The Nutters – a gang of havoc-wreaking schoolchildren – are brought to life like never before.
Such detail comes at a price. The latest issue took eight months to prepare – a stark contrast compared to the first edition Rockman created as an eight-year-old.
“It was very scratchy and non-detailed when I first started, so I could actually do two or three pages in one day,” he explains. “Now it takes two or three weeks to do one page because it’s more detailed. I put colour in and I actually write it now – before I just made it up as I went along.”
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Featuring shots of the 41 bus to Archway and hand-drawn adverts for Tottenham Lane establishments such as George’s Fish and Chips and Rajco newsagents, The Zoom offers a cartoon microcosm of Haringey life.
The occasional button noses however take inspiration from that national treasure, The Beano. Rockman, who attends the Jewish Community School in Barnet, is open in his admiration for the comic and last year, this led to him being asked to write a monthly strip for them.
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“My comic is inspired by The Beano so in all the interviews I’ve done, ever, I’ve mentioned it. Eventually they got in touch and I ended up doing my ministrip for them, which is Skanky Pigeon.
“It’s two or three frames long but, in a way, it’s kind of harder because you have to really think about what the pictures look like to make the joke work. And it has to be really simple for kids to understand.”
His own comic series is anything but childish, taking inspiration from everything from the horsemeat scandal to TV shows like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead (a recurring strip mischievously sees ‘Dreggs bakery’ products bring about a doughy apocalypse).
It’s mostly children who read The Zoom, Rockman protests, but his mother, Kate Lennard, disagrees: “You’d be surprised, Zoom, at how many adults read it. I think the readership’s getting older now.”
This audience is sure to grow alongside Rockman himself. He’s currently reading Hubert Selby, Jr’s Requiem For A Dream and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, while he speaks to me wearing a Public Enemy T-shirt. Such influences seem to seep directly into his work – one of his most recent strips is called Annoying Clockwork Orange.
While lucky that his school is so supportive of his work, the next year will be a busy time for Rockman. Not only will he have to choose his GCSEs – “English I’m OK with, art I’m terrible at because it’s nothing to do with comics” – but he’ll have to balance them with increased ambitions for the comic, which eventually will encompass online editions, games and videos.
In the meantime, he will also continue to lead workshops like his upcoming one at the literary festival, which sees him help children to create their own comic strips.
It’s a lot of work to balance on 14-year-old shoulders – let’s just hope he still has time to unwind with the occasional video game.
Zoom’s Cartoon Creations takes place on Sunday, September 14 from 12.30pm to 1.30pm. Tickets are £3.