Weird things that happened when I got the fucking cancer!

Words and concept by Marcus Harben; pictures and design by Dave Turbitt.

Weird things that happened when I got the fucking cancer! Words and concept by Marcus Harben; pictures and design by Dave Turbitt. This comic should not be given to young children, unless the only other book is... [insert gag]. Also pictured: a steaming turd and a crudely drawn cock 'n' balls. [19 May, Facebook] Lots of people already know this but for work reasons I couldn't use it to gain sympathy and social media validation. Now I can. I've got the cancer. The unpleasant kind. I'm staying positive, focusing on my kids and wherever possible making and writing stuff. [Marcus and Dave then converse over the course of 3-4 weeks.] Dearest Dave, Sorry this has taken so long. Work and general weakness was slowing me down. I have submitted these observations for you to interpret how you wish. An invitation to play. Pick and choose and please be merciless in your feedback. We could do something entirely different. Please just let me know. Last but not least: When you suggested a collaboration I was incredibly moved. I think you are such a talented fucker and I was blown away. Again I must say if this list isn't tapping into your creative fury then be honest. Sometimes the drugs effect my quality control. Love to you and your amazing family. When this Lockdown thing is done let's meet. Fuck The Tories, Marcus] I got really into the Rob Liefeld podcast. He draws tiny feet and stupid guns and ruined comics in the 90s. [A version of Marcus featuring exaggerated representations of the described attributes launches himself with a sword and a scream at a giant tumour with 'Hello my name is Cancer' written on its nametag.] But I have learned to forgive. [A peaceful-looking Marcus is pictured sitting in an armchair, slippers on and phone in hand, receiving chemotherapy treatment in the form of a medical drip.] I did a poo that was a big grey ball, a poo that a statue might have done. I had to learn how to describe my poo to various experts: '...really painful, like if Donnie Yen did a punch but the punch was a shit.' I got a bit obsessed with the various hairstyles of The Who lead singer turned Brexiteer Roger Daltrey. [Marcus is pictured choosing the 'High Number' style in a wig shop.] I had a Zoom meeting with Cathy Tyson from 'Mona Lisa'. My cat, Beany, became 'sentinel' when she started guarding me at night. My hair fell out in a pattern that made me look like Max Wall. I had a big cry when I realised I may never see series 2 of 'The Mandalorian'. My mate Ewan made me a film. [Pictured is a still from it: a close-up of a lemon with a smiling face.] My mates Kristian and Keza gave me an actual PlayStation 4. I played Resident Evil 4 on it because modern games are too difficult. I indirectly gave my daughter a hospital phobia. She's so brave; I know she will get over it. When I got the REALLY bad news, my dad was with me. I had never seen him cry before. He stopped himself, probably by thinking of how great the failed apocalyptic doomsday cult of Brexit is going to be. At one point, I was throwing up every 10 minutes. I threw up on a nurse's shoulder, in an arc over my son's back and left a bright orange wotsit puddle in Newington Green. (Wotsits are an orange-coloured, cheese-flavoured corn puff snack, popular in the UK.) I'm having to learn how to visualise a peaceful death. At the moment, it's a bit like the film Avatar. I resolved to collaborate with all the folk I wanted to collaborate with, but never quite made it happen, like Dave Turbitt. [Dave is pictured asking if he can draw Marcus with a huge chin and cheeks for no reason, to which Marcus readily agrees.] An explanation, by Dave Turbitt, October 2020. The nine pages of comics you have just read were written by Marcus around May 2020. I had only found out about his cancer a week or so before, and to try to make amends for not being in touch for a while, I sent him a message via Facebook Messenger. That was back in the days when Facebook was jsut an evil social media website, before they bought the solar system and made water illegal. Marcus and I chatted on Messenger a littl, and then we decided to have a go at making a comic together. His concept was that we would 'discuss cancer in a funny way'. In June, he sent me a page of typed one-line observations, drawn from what I later found out were MONTHS of having and existing with his cancer. It was a tough read, I found it upsetting and I started to wonder how I should start drawing a comc based on his words. Luckily for me, the first line was about a comic artist, Rob Liefeld. And I had been trying to draw Marcus as 'real' but that felt like it would be too 'heavy' as the strip went on, plus his words were written as JOKES. So, early on 11 June I sent Marcus some very loose roughs of the first 5 pages. These had been one line of his script, which I wrote in as the captions. He had fiven me totally free reign to make up the pictures. I broke the next lines into a couple of panels each, to give the jokes space to breathe. A few hours later, Marcus sent back a very enthusiastic response, ending it with 'No notes!' - an artist's dream. And so we went on. [1 September, Marcus] Hey Dave, sorry I haven't sent any ideas over on how to end our epic but tbh I'm having a bad time with my health. But I'll get some ideas over ASAP and open to all suggestions x [Reply from Dave] Don't worry Marcus, focus on yourself and family. I'm here whenever you feel ready. Still have work to do on the panels we have right now anyway. [13 October, Dave] Hi Marcus, Just checking did you get the emails I sent on Sunday [Reply from Marcus] Hi Dave, I did! Sorry I haven't been in touch but I've mostly been in hospital! It's been a tough few weeks, nearly died and there was no tunnel towards the light or anything!! Btw thank you for my book (Mister Invincible, by Pascal Jousselin) which I was looking at with my son and there were lols. I will be looking at the pages later today. I am very excited. [Marcus again] It's been a really rough 6 weeks and nearly dieing twice in one year is a massive downer but this comic is life-affirming. Thank you so much. We have ourselves a comic book? [Marcus receives a new purchase from his mum] It's a personalised box of hypo-allergenic breakfast cereal with a picture of me as a Rob Leifeld superhero on the front... um... I can't eat these.

Marcus Harben’s first feature film ‘Followers’ will be released in 2021. He might not be around to see it come out, but he did get to see series two of ‘The Mandalorian’. He is married with two excellent children.


Dave Turbitt draws comics whenever he can. Currently he is working on a series of his own, called “The Squires Dog”. His work includes “Dougie’s War” with Rodge Glass, and “Conspiracy!” as part of the comics collective The Six Fingers Of Fate. He and Marcus met in Glasgow long ago when Dave was trying to make puppet films and Marcus worked for BBC Scotland. He lives in London with his family and on Instagram as @creativebydave.