Radical Rick by Damian Fulton

Cycling Illustrated

It is with great honour that we present you with the genius behind 80's cartoon BMX legend Radical Rick. For those of you that remember fondly the adventures of Radical Rick, his assorted friends and enemies then this will bring a smile to your face. If you don't know Radical Rick then prepare to get rad.

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Radical Rick is the brainchild of multi-disciplinary artist Damian Fulton. Damian’s Radical Rick adventures appeared for decades in the iconic BMX magazine, BMX Plus and there is many an old dude out there who will fondly remember these cartoons at the back, often skipping straight to the Radical Rick cartoon because it was the best bit. What started off as a mention to a friend, who runs the awesome website Club of the Waves, that Damian does incredible surf art… As it turned out they had already interviewed him about his surf art, this was a lucky stroke for us. We ended up with a chance to ask Damian some question about himself and Radical Rick. For a certain old dude at Headset Press this was a true honour.

Tell us a little about yourself in three sentences.
  • I still paint and draw every chance I get.
  • Today all my bikes have motors.
  • I have a bowl of cereal every night before bed.
Where did you grow up and where are you located today?

I grew up in Southern California mostly south of LA. A lot of bike riding in the open fields before all the track homes moved in. Now I make my home in a Los Angeles county seaside community called El Segundo.

Why did you pursue a career in art, what influenced you?

I was always the kid in class that drew all over his books and homework. Kids paid me to draw pictures, doodle on T-shirts, and enter coloring contests on their behalf. I simply never stopped.

What and where did you study and which university/college?

While I was still attending California State University at Fullerton, I drew the first Radical Rick. I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone, draw up this wild character to get a job at a cool magazine and turn it in to my professor to fulfil an illustration class assignment.

Did you pass your assignment? Did Radical Rick pass the grade?

The art professors didn’t exactly understand comic art, BMX, or humor for that matter. But they appreciated me going beyond the class room and making a go of it. Rick may not have been a very attentive student because of his hyper awareness to extreme opportunities, but I certainly learned how to pass the class, in flying colors.

What and how do you feel connected to cycling?

I started riding and racing before it was called BMX. Today I’m so proud to see 20 inchers in the X-games and Olympics, it feels like vindication. My wife and I have a standing date to ride the entire length of LA’s boardwalk when I turn 80.

What do you ride today? Bikes or not?

Way more mileage on Motorcycles these days.

How did you come up with the idea for Radical Rick and his overactive rad gland?

I came into the offices of BMX PLUS thinking they’d hire me as a fine artist illustrator. I thought I was pretty high and mighty after college and trying to distance myself from the kiddy cartoon world.

Ironically they asked me to come up with a cartoon character!!! And the rest is history.

Was there any BMX riders that inspired you to invent Rick?

Actually it was Darth Vader that inspired the look of the mysterious helmeted Radical Rick. I hoped people would wonder what was behind the mask.

In my mind, as someone who grew up with BMX Plus, I imagined you knew or BMX-ed yourself very well (I was a useless grom!). The way I see it, you can’t know how to draw the characters, the look etc… How did you study the BMX form? Was it through riding or observation?

Both. I knew the feeling of riding, jumping, racing with buddies. I always kept up with technology and technique through the magazine…it was changing all the time back in the early days.

How long did Radical Rick run for and what was the pressure like to come up with new cartoons every month?

It ran for 13 years. First issue came out at the end of 1979 and it ran until 1993. Then it ran again in reruns, if you can believe it, in the early 2000s. So technically you could say it ran in 4 different decades.

Staring at a blank page each month was pretty intimidating. Eventually I figured out if I had a longer storyline, I could extend it over multiple episodes and it could save me the fear of facing down a blank page every 30 days. I pretty much knew where Rick and his Rad Squad were going to be up to through the story arc and that dictated what I needed to write.

What happened in the end at BMX Plus, why did it come to an end?

In ’93 I was interested in other things, directing TV commercials and putting food on the table for my growing family. It took a lot of time to complete an episode. Plus the BMX industry at that time was in a real slump. The mountain bike craze had completely overshadowed our world so both parties decided to call it quits.

Is there any chance of more Radical Rick adventures?

Ha! I’m asked that all the time. Right now I’m so crazy busy with my painting career, don’t see it happening in the near further.

Would you consider doing a new bicycle related cartoon, if Radical Rick is retired?

Never say never.

Cycling art is a fascinating area and one that is growing right now, there are new artists and designers coming out all the time. For someone old school how do you see this and what would you say to someone wanting to produce cycling art?

I tell artists to learn to draw by drawing, studying, and drawing. I tell artists who want to cartoon to write interesting stories that you’re passionate about, and you’d want to read yourself. That way you’ll never waste your time or your potential audiences’ time.

In the past you worked on a lot of different sports and magazines especially surfing but, I know the whole beach culture interests you, is there a connection for you with bike riding and the beach?

No matter what I do there’s something about comradery among friends, daring to push beyond your comfort zone, staying fit and competing. I hope to have this philosophy when I crawl across the finish line of life.

What work do you do now?

I guess you’d have to say I’m a multidiscipline artist. Fine artist-advertising creative director- filmmaker.

Whats in the future for you?

I have a gallery show in Milan this November… whoa – I better get painting!

Who is the greatest BMX’er in your opinion?

Oh wow, what would Greg Hill, Stompin’ Stu, or Matt Hoffman say if I didn’t pick them. Keeping the theme of this piece I’ll do the politically correct thing and say, the greatest BMXer of all time is a certain iconic cartoon character with an over productive rad gland.

Radical Rick by Damian Fulton

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