HE describes himself on social networking site Twitter as “probably Hartlepool’s second most popular
But despite maybe not being quite as globally-known as the town’s Andy Capp creator, Reg Smythe, Richard Short is still enjoying the cult following he has with his satirical Klaus Comics creations.
The 31-year-old started etching the four-panel cartoon strips four years ago, with Klaus the cat being the central character, surrounded by “rats” with human features.
Richard, who started drawing his creations while working as a lawyer in Newcastle in 2009 and has spent the past three years working in London, says Hartlepool was still a running theme in his drawings, with familiar locations in the background, and “you can tell they are talking in a Hartlepool accent”.
Richard, who is staying in Clavering, Hartlepool, with his parents Thomas and Denise while looking for teaching work in South Korea – where he knows his surreal cartoons will be greatly received – says his inspirations include Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and he grew up loving Japanese Manga cartoons.
Richard himself can see why his material – based on things he has read and watched, and even from overhearing conversations on the bus or train – might go over some people’s heads.
He describes Klaus as “the philosophical centre at calm and peace with the world”while the other characters tell him to make some money and be more ambitious, which “is ridiculous as he’s a cat”.
Richard, who has 25,000 followers on his tumblr website, said he chose animals, pretty much as Schulz drew children, because they “don’t have to have the adult human baggage of jobs and difficult relationships”.
“My dad read one of my books and said there are at least three funny ones,” said the former Clavering Primary and Hartlepool Sixth Form student, who went on to study law at Durham and Northumbria universities.
“When he heard about my interview with the local paper, he said maybe the Hartlepool Mail would run it every day, pretty much like Andy Capp.”
He has had two Klaus books published by Nobrow Press and has had rave reviews, including from The New Statesman, with the It’s Nice That publication describing his work as “a sort of Peanuts meets The Moomins”.
He has had a six-page strip in a Latvian magazine and his work will be published in a German magazine in March.
Richard has also had drawings translated into French and Finnish and has featured in various comic festivals in London, France and Hamburg.
The Mail saw Richard’s early beginnings as an artist – he featured in the newspaper as a 14-year-old Henry Smith School pupil who won a competition to design a logo for the now defunct North Hartlepool Partnership.
“They said they were only going to use it for four or five years, I got £50 and they used it longer, so maybe I should write to them for more money,” he joked.
See his work at http://klaus-comics.tumblr.com/