He’s a buck-toothed, long-eared intergalactic trouble-shooter on course to save the world. Virginia Mason meets a new super hero - who just happens to come from Halifax
We took Sonic the Hedgehog to our hearts and we can’t get enough of Super Mario but both had better watch out because there’s a new super hero on the block.
He has long ears, big feet, buck teeth and has been known to enjoy the odd cuppa.
His battles to save the universe might be fought in outer space, but his “home” is firmly rooted in Calderdale, where he was created.
Captain Zack Carrots, space hero extraordinaire, is the intergalactic brain child of animator and designer Matt Howarth and illustrator and author Chris Mould, both of whom have studios at Dean Clough, Halifax.
The former textiles mill is where the artistic pair’s paths crossed and began collaborating on Captain Zack Carrots who is now the star of a newly-launched game - Red Planet Rescue - which can be downloaded as an app on the Apple iPhone.
“I had looked at Chris’s brilliant drawings and thought it would be great to bring one of his characters to life,” explains Matt, who runs his own business, Puppetman Productions.
Matt has been working in the TV industry for the last 20 years, supplying high end animations, graphics and special effects to broadcasters and production companies worldwide.
After several years as a highly respected freelancer, he joined Granada TV to set up their 3D and digital special effects department, staying with them for almost 10 years during which time he also set up a sister 3D department at Thames TV in London and as a result working on many flagship programmes including Stars In Their Eyes, You’ve Been Framed and University Challenge.
Matt has also been involved with drama working on programmes such as Prime Suspect, Cracker and Cold Feet - for which he received a BAFTA nomination for his special effects work.
He has also been carving out a name for himself and a niche in the scientific community, making videos for high level science working with names such as Lord Professor Robert Winston and Sir Patrick Stewart.
He is currently driving Puppetman into the interactive domain, having already produced games for CBBC and Cbeebies.
Chris meanwhile is artist in residence at Dean Clough and it is here his captivating illustrations are created.
He began as a freelance illustrator, mainly illustrating other people’s work - he has provided drawings for the Measles series of books created by Ian Ogilvy as well as for books written by Diana Wynne Jones and actor Tim Pigott-Smith’s Sherlock Holmes tales.
But he then began to write his own stories and has enjoyed huge success and received great critical acclaim for his Something Wickedly Weird stories and more recently his Spindlewood Tales series which introduced his hero Eddie Pipkin or Pip. And now he is turning his talents to a series of illustrated pirates’ tales.
It was a quirky sketch of a rabbit pinned on Chris’s wall that caught Matt’s eye and the two soon agreed he would make a good super hero; Captain Zack Carrots was born. “I had always wanted to see my drawings moving but no idea how to go about it. I’d drawn the rabbit but not used him in any of the stories,” says Chris.
“I was thrilled to see him come to life and he seemed the perfect choice for our super hero,” he adds.
So the pair set about bringing Captain Zack to life - and giving him a character all of his own.
They reveal that he comes from “very humble beginnings on the doorstep of the St Melangell orphanage” and has experienced turbulent school days and troubled times at the Hebden Bridge Space Academy but has now risen to his current position of intergalactic trouble shooter at Space Command (Yorkshire Division).
“He’s a reluctant hero but he never ceases until the fight is won, whether it’s protecting the earth from the Purple Pod People of Pluto or the bizarre and terrifying Fish-Monkeys of Neptune,” says Matt.
Apparently though, he does pause for a cup of tea.
Captain Zack’s first adventure is doing battle on the red planet but as Matt and Chris reveal, there are plenty more adventures in store.
“There will also be plenty more enemies for him to fight too. We’re coming up with characters all the time,” says Chris.
They are both understandably thrilled that the interactive game is available as a downloadable app for the Apple iPhone and hope this is just the start of things - both for them and Captain Zack.
“Ideally we’d like it to become a game that can be adapted for other genres, that’s the plan,” says Matt.
“There are varying levels so hopefully it will appeal to all ages and abilities. We’ll be adding other levels as we go along.”
Chris adds that working on the game has not been too dissimilar from working on one of his books.
“It’s very character led and you’re still putting a narrative together. Plus you want the characters to come to life of course as well.”
Red Planet Rescue is very much a “home-grown” affair with friends and colleagues at Dean Clough being involved and providing voices.
“We managed to get actor Oscar Allen involved and we recorded it all at Phoenix Radio’s studio,” says Matt.
They are both aware how a game can take off and become global - such as the Angry Birds puzzle video game created by Finnish computer game developer Rovio Mobile.
“That’s the dream,” laughs Matt.
To play the game (it costs 69p to download) go to the iPhone app store and the link http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/red-planet-rescue-1/id465058617?mt=8