Piers Baker, Creator of "Ollie and Quentin"

August 30, 2010

Who would have guessed that a lugworm and a sea gull could be friends? And who would have guessed that a comic about such a peculiar duo placed in everyday events would be strikingly funny? Piers Baker, that's who. His comic strip creation, Ollie and Quentin, achieved syndication under King Features in 2008. Be prepared to chuckle.

Ollie and Quentin appears deceivingly simple on the page and screen. The lines made by Baker's pencil are smooth, the backgrounds spare and uncluttered. The strips are inviting and easy on the eyes. He keeps only the essential things required to set the scene. One of his many strengths is his ability to show a lot of action by the characters with very few lines. Baker is adept at humour writing, too, building up to great laughs and fascinating twists.

Personality oozes from his characters - not an easy feat when one of the stars is a worm, a round light-bulb shape with only eyes for expression, and the other is a proud sea gull. Though Ollie hasn't much facial expression, he exudes charm, inquisitiveness and sincerity. Oh, and the worm is a romantic, always on the lookout for a girlfriend, particularly another worm named Rosie, without much success.

Piers Baker's Ollie and Quentin

Using a mechanical pencil, Baker draws his strip on Bristol Board. "I write and sketch my strip in coffee shops" Baker told David Paccia in a questionnaire on David-Wasting-Paper (a marvelous site for cartoonist information, by the way). Baker continued, "so I couldn't use a pencil and scalpel for fear of being arrested for carrying an offensive weapon. The scalpel, that is." Using a Mac computer and Photoshop, Baker adds colour and fine-tunes his artwork.

Living in Britain, Piers Baker was already an illustrating professional when he leapt into the comic strip field. On high school graduation, the young man spent time in Egypt as a volunteer, then attended Epsom School of Art. He accepted a post as graphic designer with an advertising agency where he created colourful, enticing labels for popsicles and ice cream bars.

In 2000, Baker stepped away from advertising and into illustration of children's books and cartooning. The Ollie and Quentin comic strip was born in 2002, and refined for years in newspapers in England, Scotland and Ireland. When he felt his work was strong enough, Baker submitted his strip to King Features Syndicate in the summer of 2006.

Baker was right. No rejections arrived. Instead, King Features editors signed him to a development contract only a few months later, in October of that year. It must have been like winning the lottery for the cartoonist, since KIng Features receives over 6,000 submissions a year, choosing less than five for publication.

Cartoonist Piers Baker

Ollie and Quentin debuted in international syndication on January 7, 2008. The background of the comic strip is the lives of the lugworm and the seagull, each moving to the small town to change their lives. Ollie moved into the house of Nobby, an artist and sculptor who tends to be the voice of reason in the strip. Coming across the lonely lugworm, he invites Quentin to live with him in Nobby's house, too. They get into trouble, risk danger and injury, and generally are the source of a lot of hilarity. They are always reading - newspapers, especially. The ability of the two quirky animals to read is a stroke of genius by Baker, as it lends the strip a certain irresistible charm.

Several other amusing characters round out the cast. Two unhatched eggs on legs are Ollie's nephews/nieces. There is a fish, logically called Fishy, attic pigeons named Barbara and Nigel, and an unseen neighbour dubbed the evil Mrs. Cadaver. (Her real name is Mrs. Caduggan.) For obvious reasons, Quentin has a body guard, but for less obvious reasons, the body guard named Rex is a Venus Fly Trap. The cartoonist finds inspiration everywhere.

Ollie and Quentin Sunday Comics Sample

In his mid-40s, Piers Baker lives in London, England with his wife and two teenage children. When not creating the endearing Ollie and Quentin comic strip, he is working hard as an illustrator. View a wide range of Baker's art and samples at Piers Baker Cartoons. A versatile and prolific artist, he has created fascinating "Alien Autopsy" panels, and a large body of other work.

Follow the daily Ollie and Quentin instalment, and watch for "Supergull and Wonderworm" storylines. They are a big giggle.

The sea gull and lugworm have captured my attention, and it didn't take long to make me a fan!

Art and photo copyright Piers Baker and/or King Features Syndicate.

Piers Baker's Alien Autopsy

© Susanna McLeod 2010