1 December 2004
Disabled cartoonist Dave Lupton has a unique cutting edge 'disability vision', and uses this best as his alter ego Crippen!
Hi, my name’s Dave Lupton, but for the past 18 years I’ve been better known by my alter ego Crippen - Disabled cartoonist. You’ll have noticed that I used a capital ‘D’ for disabled. This is deliberate. It’s a political statement. So you could say I’m a political cartoonist. So what has politics got to do with disability? Well to answer that I’d have to take you back to the time when I first became a Disabled person; when I first realised that I’d joined the ranks of an oppressed minority and that we were seen by the rest of society as ‘the problem’.
I’ve always drawn cartoons. Even as a child, I used to produce comic books for my family and friends to read. As I got older I produced cartoons for different magazines and newsletters that I encountered, some to do with the community in which I lived and others to do with my work. I soon had a portfolio which included cartoons for London Zoo, Greenpeace, Victim Support, Help the Aged, and many other organisations. I also managed to sell cartoons to various magazines and local newspapers. I suppose that things would have continued in this vein until fate decided to take a hand and following a serious car crash I ended up as a wheelchair user. And this was where Crippen made his first appearance.
Most of you will recognise the feelings associated with becoming disabled. Suddenly you’re depended upon other people and you realise that you can no longer take for granted access to all of the things that, well, you used to take for granted. Having to use a power chair restricted me in ways that I hadn’t considered before. How did I get into town; how did I get myself about town, how did I get into the bank, the pub, etc. And it’s not just the way in which being disabled affects you as an individual. You suddenly start to see how Disabled people are portrayed in the press and on the television and radio. We’re either tragic, pitiable figures, unable to care for ourselves or make decisions, or we’re work-shy scroungers, a burden upon society.
I remember getting back home after another unsuccessful attempt at accessing something that I’d always been able to access before becoming a wheelchair user, and thinking, “I’ve got to do something about this”. And this is when I started to create cartoons about the different situations that I found myself in like being confronted by a flight of steps and not being able to get into a bank that I’d been using for the past 10 years.
Discovering the Social Model
One of these cartoons was seen by Kit Wells who was Editor of Disability Arts in London magazine (DAIL) and he wrote an article about me as a Disabled cartoonist. I’d come up with the pen name of Crippen which was obviously intended as a pun – a crip with a pen – but the name seemed to grab people’s attention, and so my work as Crippen – Disabled cartoonist began. DAIL magazine was widely read at the time by lots of people within the Disabled People’s Movement and I was soon communicating with other Disabled people from all around the UK.
I attended my first Disability Equality training session and discovered the Social Model understanding of disability. This was to be my epiphany and my political awakening as I learned that it wasn’t me that was the problem; it was the way in which society had been constructed, putting up barriers that stopped me from interacting with it in the way that I used to before my accident. Society had effectively ‘disabled’ me, making me a Disabled person.
Kit moved on from DAIL magazine and Colin Hambrook took over as Editor, encouraging me even more to use my cartooning skills to highlight the double standards and hypocrisy that existed with politicians, charities and society generally when dealing with disability. From this came other work and I was soon producing cartoons to accompany television documentaries, providing cartoons for Disability Now and for the many newsletters that were being created by groups of Disabled people.
Because I’d had to compromise my style when producing cartoons for Disability Now for example, when the Internet came into its own and the creation of dedicated websites and blogs began to emerge I gravitated towards this medium as a way of producing the sort of cartoons that pulled no punches. I was also able to indulge in full colour for the first time and discovered that this added accessibility to my work. A step forward from the greyscale tones I’d been using before.
Colin then successfully applied for funding from the Arts Council to start Disability Arts On-line (DAO). He asked me to produce a monthly cartoon blog for DAO which has since grown into a weekly feature attracting hundreds of hits and getting me in touch with Disabled people all around the world. Along with my own web site, the DAO Blog has become my main platform.
Through the Internet I’m able to keep up with current events that impact upon Disabled people and often set the pace for other disability related web sites and blogs. Although I’m now in my 60’s, and feeling the effects of the arthritis I have in most of my joints, I feel that Crippen still has a lot to give and will be sticking the proverbial two fingers up at the disability status quo for many more years to come.
You can contact Crippen by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or visit the new Crippen web site by clicking on this link