A decade on from Modern Toss‘s first cartoon, creators Jon Link and Mick Bunnage have an exhibition of work in London and a new hardback book out as well. “Turned out alright then yeah?” as their Drive-by Abuser character might say. Well, it has – the book’s massive, very funny, and finally gives them a chance to tell their story…
Link and Bunnage first collaborated while at Loaded magazine in the mid-90s. In 1997, they came up with Office Pest, a strip “dedicated to experimental violence in the workplace”. Office-life, particularly meetings and interviews, would continue to provide fodder for their scrappy exploits for years.
In May 2004, the first issue of Modern Toss was published (shown above), featuring one of their most popular creations, the unhinged signwriter Mr Tourette, on the cover.
Some of their work had already appeared online, but the printed version was able to establish some early favourites: the aforementioned sweary creative; Prince Edward – Royal Entrepreneur; and the Weekend and Customers Services cartoons, which captured the minutiae of early 21st-century life, from watching TV to going to Ikea.
Another favourite character to emerge was the scribbled sociopath, Alan (detail from one his strips shown, above). “People seem to see themselves and their friends in him,” write Link and Bunnage in the book. “That’s when you know you’ve got a classic character. He represents the natural urge everyone gets at a dinner party to punch the host in the face while he’s talking.”
The Modern Toss take on life got noticed by beer brand Becks who commissioned the pair to reinterpret a famous album cover (they chose U2, above) and before long the MT experience was gearing up for a Channel 4 television series, the first series of which was directed by Ben Wheatley and mixed live action with drawn animations.
A second TV series fared even better – and more recent forays into animation have seen the debut of the fantastic Business Mouse, the best Alan Sugar-inspired cartoon you are ever likely to see.
There have also been TV idents, commissions for Blueprint magazine, Private Eye, the Guardian Guide and The Sunday Times Style magazine, greeting cards and prints – and The Periodic Table of Swearing, which was even turned into a jacket in a collaboration with tailor, Gresham Blake. At last year’s Pick Me Up festival the Toss unveiled an artwork that required audience participation – the collaborative F***yeux Tapestry.
But going back to the work that kicked things off for them a decade ago – how do they still go about drafting those finely-honed snapshots of modern life?
On one page in the new book, there’s an analysis of the things that make those cartoons work. So here’s the Modern Toss approach, explained in their own Work drawing:
Modern Toss: A Decade in the Shithouse is published by Modern Toss Ltd., £25. See moderntoss.com. The accompanying exhibition is at Forge & Co, 154-158 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6HU until October 19.