The Guardian reports British cartoonist Joseph Wright died on October 6, aged 70. He illustrated the children’s book series What-a-Mess and Little Dracula, both of which were adapted into animated TV shows.
Wright was born on July 17, 1947 in Ulverston, Cumbria, North West England, to Doris and Ernest Wright. Ernest was a coal miner who served in Burma during the Second World War. He died on Christmas Day in 1958, when Joe was 11, which he said forever left him disdainful towards the holiday.
He attended Lancaster College of Art and then the Royal College of Art in London, where he studied under Quentin Blake, and graduated with distinction. His cartoons started appearing in the ’70s in Punch magazine, as well as Radio Times, Time Out, the New Statesman and The Sunday Times. He also illustrated children’s textbooks for Oxford University Press.
In 1977, Blake got Wright in touch with writer Frank Muir to illustrate a book he was writing about a scruffy and accident-prone Afghan hound named Prince Amir of Kinjan. What-a-Mess was a success, leading to 22 more books, and three animated series, respectively produced for the BBC, ITV and PBS in 1979, 1990 and 1995. A 2012 retrospective on the out-of-print series praised Wright’s “delicately coloured, minutely detailed and distinctly hallucinogenic drawings,” lamenting how “this generation won’t get the chance to enjoy Muir and Wright’s horrendous hound.”
In 1986, Wright illustrated Martin Waddell’s vampire series Little Dracula. The Guardian noted “Joe’s detailed and humorous illustrations [which] show the wildly gory details of the day-to-day family life of an apprentice vampire. We see Little Dracula drinking a glass of blood at bedtime and sleeping in a miniature coffin, and his mother emptying the brain from a severed head into a frying pan for breakfast.” Fox Kids adapted the books into a 13-episode series in 1991.
Wright moved from London to Somerset in 1995, moving away from cartooning to vegetable farming, though he still contributed to The Guardian and The Times. He was married twice: he particularly enjoyed inserting images of his two sons from his first marriage, Sam and Peter, into the What-a-Mess books. He is survived by his sons, his second wife Joan, and his grandchildren.