THE COMICS #1

animated paddy kool gif 20 perIf you’ve come this far and have had even a cursory glance at my artwork in the Gallery Files,you’ll no doubt, have some idea that I have more than a passing interest in the comics medium. What can anyone say about comics that hasn’t already been written in a plethora of learned books both intellectual and throwaway? My contribution is a personal reflection, based on a lifetime’s association with the medium, from both fan’s viewpoint and also the creative side.They are essentially a curious storytelling medium, born into the early twentieth century as the bastard offspring of the American newspaper industry.If as a child you caught the inventive ,colourful magic of those transcendant pages and gradually abandoned them as more adult pursuits encroached on your time,you might be surprised to find that in some quarters the comics outstripped other popular artforms in their intellectual and artistic invention and pursued and responded to more adult themes than most popular culture stalwarts such as film and newsprint did, or avoided completely.I only have to mention the names of Will Eisner , Art Speigelman or Robert Crumb to force the point for those with eyes to see. Crumb’s recent take on the observations of Kafka are a perfect example.My own passion for them still burns , although not with the same fanatic’s zeal of my youth.I still occasionally collect favourite artists’ work but collecting comics can be a very expensive pastime these days.Somewhere along the way the actual books became collectable icons in their own right and can command extraordinary prices as investments. For example, a comic I bought some thirty six years ago for ten old pence{ or twelve cents }, is currently valued in the Comic Book Price Guide at over a thousand dollars. That’s just an example.This piece will be from an expressly personal point of view because like any other artform such as painting or film there are so many corners to explore that it would take a lifetime to do.I’ll simply say that comics are an a unique combination of artwork and writing which like any other form,can produce a fair amount of rubbish but can also produce surprising results.Every creative process is as individual as the artists producing it , but comics have uniquely been denigraded in some parts of the world as being simply for children, as if children were little fools to be patronised .That says more about society’s attitude to their offspring than it does about the actual medium.It instantly dismisses the visual educational tool that the comics can so easily be.The form has been influenced by both literature, and legend and has spawned imitation in the world of Fine Art and in film . Many of the storyboarding techniques have been used to place illusory filmic ideas before the craftsmen and actors who prepare the films. For all of that the comics stand alone , uniquely crafted, usually as a personal expression or sometimes as a collaboration between a writer and an artist or artists.As in all interests such as music, art or literature, it’s only a matter of time, talent or application that enables a creative person to find the tools required, such as a guitar, pen or paintbrush, and get down to the task of emulating his or her heroes. That’s basically what being an artist or musician comes down to , and of course, it happened to me.Whether the process is taken any furher than that is down to timing, talent and an extraordinary amount of luck and sheer bloody mindedness. bush as alfred e newman, what me worry?
You may think things are bad enough…….mad 1960's….but things are actually on the upturn….
the kid pricks a few hot air balloons
….at least these days we know what we’re up ….
mad in the fifties
against…or do we ???????????
The following article is basically a personal history of my involvement with the comics throughout the years.As a springboard to memory, I’ve partially used a piece first written nearly forty  years ago for inclusion in Alan Austin’s Comics Unlimited magazine, which I’ve subsequently had to elaborate on. I even drew a little pen and ink self-portrait at the same time.As you can see , it was a time of shoulder-length hair!!. ………………………………..

{comics unlimited article#1 comics unlimited #2

My earliest memories of comics go back to the 1950’s. I was born in 1952, so in Britain and Ireland the war years were not too far away ,and the effect of them was still being felt . It wasn’t just that food had been rationed up until recently,everything felt very lacking in colour and any new crazes or novelties were seized upon with relish . Most homes did not have televisions ,and any which had, found a collection of friends and neighbours huddled around a tiny black and white screen watching an intermittant lone broadcast.It came on around tea -time {6 o’ clock pm} and ended well before midnight.There was everpresent radio, but it was a very conservative affair, mostly broadcasting gelded versions of popular American tunes of the time.Then there were the comics. As a child they were taken for granted of course .They, like everything else, had n’t yet stretched to full colour. The American comics didn’t start trickling in until the late 1950’s, so in the meantime we had to make do with two -tone {two colours}versions cobbled together by artists in England, and sold with a full colour cover .topper annual 1959 Mostly the market here was dominated by the Scottish D.C. Thompson group who were responsible for turning out the anarchic adventures featured in the Dandy, Beano , Topper and Beezer.my 1950's topper and beezer comics These were small newsprint magazines printed on the cheapest paper available, with no glossy cover. My uncle Paddy would buy these for me every week like a well worn ritual ,and something clicked.It was easy to see the freedom that these artists enjoyed and employed.They tapped into a strange world of surrealism . In the Beano, Dudley Watkins {the only Thompson artist I can ever remember being allowed to sign his work} would pit talking bears against Glasweigan bullies, Biffo would always win the battle of wits with sheer cunning . Desperate Dan lived in a strange composite world where the old wild west sat side by side with {the then } modern Scotland. As a child it was all accepted without as much as a question, but it was my first brush with surrealism.It should be said that Watkins draughtsmanship was extraordinarily inventive .He stood alone.In fact his style was so all pervasive that even fifty years later ,he is still copied annually in the Broons collections which appear regularly every Christmas.my 1950's beanosThen there was his strip Lord Snooty.This was pure working class wishful thinking, featuring an upper class lord doing the unthinkable in those class ridden times and actually fraternising with the lower classes. Not just fraternising either, these were best of friends. A lot of the strips centred around the aquisition of huge hampers of food or “tuck”.This was hardly surprising as in those post war days everyone was obsessed with food.Panels were drawn overflowing with every kind of comestible imaginable. I remember looking at those drawings and practically drooling over the contents.Lord Snooty lived in a castle, but it was in the shadow of …….a gasworks! ….that dates it in some weirdly surreal way.There was even a loutish Gasworks Gang .These were a rough bunch of Lee Marvin lookalikes, and the main protaganists in the strip.Later a young upstart artist called Baxendale, came up with a strip called “When the Bell Rings”which evolved into the Bash Street Kids, and this set the anti -autoritarian tone which the 1960’s rode in on.These “kids” took no prisoners.Teacher was a mere patsy in their eyes, just a butt for their jokes.Some might say that the joke has now gone too far, but in the stodgy 1950’s they were like a breath of fresh air, riding in on the slipstream of rock and roll.
beano 1955 may issue...D.C. Thompson were the main producers of home-grown products, but there were others filling an insatiable need.Amalgamated Press was one of these. They produced a range of comics such as” Buster”. Besides these ,attempts were made to substitute for the colourful American comics which were totally missing from the news stands . In the war years, the paper drives to recycle waste paper put-paid to any papers leaving the country, so for most of the 1950’s comic readers in Britain and Ireland had to make do with black and white reprints of the originals, usually imported from Australia or Canada…….as they would say in those old serials…..to be continued……

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s