The Manchester Children’s Book Festival welcomes patron Curtis Jobling to Generation #MCRTakeover to introduce his latest Wereworld and Max Helsing series.
By Jack Holmes
Curtis Jobling is a man of many talents, with a decorated history of successes ranging from animation, to children’s fiction and all manner of hybrid.
He’s best known as the designer of the multi award winning, and worldwide, sensation Bob the Builder. However his career path has now led him to his true passion, “I’ve been able to wear a lot of hats in my career, but at the moment I’m a full time novelist”. But before we hear what Jobling’s up to now, he gives his audience a quick run through his career so far.
Opening his event as part of the Manchester Children’s Book Festival Generation #MCRTakeover, Jobling begins by running through a wide variety of his early influences. From running games of Dungeons and Dragons with his school friends, watching Christopher Lee fronted Hammer Horror films, seeing Nosferatu on the big screen to reading children’s books including Where the Wild Things Are and The Hobbit, Jobling’s influences all come from the world of the fantastical.
It was these influences that inspired Jobling’s entire career, starting with his early work on Mars Attacks! and Wallace and Gromit.
These titles led him to the creation of the BAFTA winning Bob, as well as Frankenstein’s Cat and Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, among others which took the BBC by storm.
Jobling gives us a quick run through the creation of Bob, explaining the number of changes that went into the character before he became the icon we all know today. “All the characters [on animated children’s TV at the time] tended to be simple shapes and you just changed the clothes for each of them,” he explains, drawing a rough sketch of his 1997 world famous builder on a sketch board. “The best characters are the ones distinguishable by their silhouette”.
Bob is even to this day one of the most easily recognizable claymation characters ever created. “He originally had a moustache so I didn’t have to keep changing the mouth for what they call lip-synchronization,” Jobling laughs.
He eventually made the jump from TV to the paperback, and his first series of fantasy novels, the ‘Wereworld’ series, were published by Penguin in 2011. The six book fantasy horror series follows Drew the Werewolf and was a great success for Jobling, with The Times describing it as “better than ‘Eragon’” and “pure fun”. You can check out the trailer for the first book below.
Jobling followed up the series with ‘Haunt: Dead Scared’ and ‘Haunt: Dead Wrong’. “Haunt was semi-autobiographical in a strange way,” Jobling explains. “The characters, although the names are changed, are linked to a lot of my friends from school”. The tone of Haunt moved towards a more supernatural element, as the title hints, “They’re dark but they’re tempted by a lightness”.
Which brings us up to Jobling’s most recent project, the Max Helsing series. The first in the series ‘Max Helsing & the Thirteenth Curse’, was released in 2015, with its sequel ‘Max Helsing & The Beast of Bone Creek’ due for release on November 8th this year.
The series follows the modern descendant of the monster-hunting Helsing bloodline, who finds himself marked for death by every fantasy creature on Earth on his thirteenth birthday. Not the easiest scenario to deal with when entering your teenage years. “He’s always got a smart answer for the monsters and his weapons are the objects around him. No sabers or anything like that,” Curtis explains. “And the vampires definitely don’t sparkle either.”
The series has also given Jobling a chance to get back into the world of design with the books broken up by illustrations from the Helsing families very own monster-hunting manual. “It’s no Bob the Builder, is it?” he laughs, showing off some sketches of the foes Max Helsing faces throughout the novels.
You can follow Cutis Jobling on his Twitter page and official website, as well as clicking on any of the titles above for more information. The Manchester Children’s Book Festival runs from 24th June – 3rd July. Download the 2016 brochure for information on upcoming events.