In the midst of lockdown panic-buying Rob Martin’s 90-year-old father had his shopping trolley ripped from his grasp by a woman in her 50s.
Toilet rolls and loaves of bread were stripped from supermarket shelves as the Covid-19 pandemic sent shoppers into a frenzy.
Huddersfield-born Rob is an internationally-renowned comic artist, animator, cartoonist and writer. At the start of the pandemic in March 2020 he was recovering from serious injuries sustained in a motorway crash.
He was still processing the trauma of that experience when the pandemic struck and the world turned weird.
What happened to his father Donald inspired a series of witty, wacky and sharply-observed cartoons which charted the human condition through the pandemonium of the pandemic.
Rob, 51, was prolific in his drawing and the result is a new book ‘Corona Virus Street’ which tells a unique story of our times.
“A cartoon can be a very powerful satire and a good way of venting is to draw your feelings,” said Rob.
“At the time my dad was 90 years old and he had his shopping trolley pulled off him by a woman in her 50s and was sworn at.
“My father is from the World War Two generation. He has seen panic-buying in the war. He was quite taken aback that someone of my age had done that to him.
“I listened to my father and reflected on this abhorrent behaviour. I experienced this myself. I had someone laugh in my face when they grabbed the last loaf of bread off the shelf. I also shielded a pregnant woman in the frenzy in Marsh and got her a loaf of bread.”
Rob was back home in Outlane supporting his parents and his shopping trips saw the pandemic bring out the worst in people.
“I saw the shops changing, the tape on the floor,” he said. “Every time I went out someone behaved irrationally. The way I dealt with it was to send it up.”
Rob’s book is out now and the foreword is written by Sue Bielenberg, an animation artist who worked on The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Rugrats and more.
She praises the book for its “wit and sensitivity” and urges: “Treat yourself and a friend to his tart humour and find yourself chuckling through the day as you see icons in Martin’s book playing out in the humans around you.”
Rob, who went to Outlane school and Salendine Nook High School, grew up in a farming family in Outlane. He is related to Huddersfield equestrian John Whitaker.
As a TV animator he’s worked on the likes of Danger Mouse and Bob the Builder and has connections in Hollywood.
In Huddersfield, Rob famously painted Felix, the Huddersfield Railway Station cat. In the first painting Felix was dressed in Bronte sisters style. In the follow-up artwork Felix was wearing a Huddersfield Town shirt to celebrate promotion to the Premier League.
Rob has also painted former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s cat El Gato and Mango, a supermarket cat at a Tesco store in Devon.
His latest cat commission is a tribute to Gerald, the York Minster cat who died in September. The painting will take pride of place in a newly-refurbished first class lounge at York Station.
He’s more, so much more than a cat artist. “It’s just that one cat led to another,” said Rob.
Rob is back living in Huddersfield and is immensely proud of his hometown which, in his own words, he “promotes around the planet.”
He was amused when he popped into Waterstones book shop in the Kingsgate Centre and asked if they would stock his book in the “local author” section.
They declined apologetically as the internationally-renowned Huddersfield born and bred author was too high profile to be classed as “local.”
Rob currently has another couple of Huddersfield projects underway. He’s working on an animation called ‘Cabbage’, a six-minute short film.
Real-life background scenes have been filmed around Huddersfield and at the Rex Cinema in Elland and it’s a weird tale about an hallucinating gran and a frog. The frog is French. Someone has offered to take the film to the Cannes Film Festival.
The other project Rob is involved with is an “official” film about Huddersfield eccentric Jake Mangle-Wurzel, who died in August aged 83.
A local businessman recorded a series of interviews with Jake and this unseen footage could be turned into a film.
Rob, a friend of Jake, wants the film to be a fitting tribute to the character of the man. It could even have the subversive style of a Monty Python film. “I even had ideas of bringing him back from the dead,” said Rob.
‘Corona Virus Street’ costs £10 and is available from Amazon. Click HERE. It is also available at W H Smith.