Friday, March 23, 2012
Ken Reid's Scorcher strips
Most readers of this blog will be aware of the work of the late genius humour artist Ken Reid, specifically the Jonah strip he did for The Beano in the late 1950s and early 1960s, co-creating Roger the Dodger in the 1950s, and his hilariously manic work for Odhams in the 1960s (Frankie Stein, Queen of the Seas, Jasper the Grasper, Dave-A-Day-Davy and the later episodes of The Nervs).
When IPC took over the reigns of the Odhams and Fleetway comics in 1969, Ken's work became a little bit more restrained. His work was still brilliant, still funny, and still some of the best illustrated pages in UK comics, but it was evident he wasn't being allowed to go full throttle as he had on The Nervs for example. (Apparently IPC management told editors that The Nervs should never be reprinted because its humour was so grotesque.)
Nevertheless, even though Ken's IPC strips were a little more formal than his Odhams material they were still amongst the finest pages the company ever published. In the 1970s Ken's most famous character was Faceache, first seen in the short-lived Jet and then in Buster for many years. However he also illustrated several strips for the football comic Scorcher, which I'm showing here today.
Ken's first series for Scorcher was Sub, aka Duggie Dribble, the hopelessly overweight substitute who never had a hope of getting a game. (And if he did, events would backfire on him.) This example is from the issue dated 11th April 1970...
By the issue dated 28th November 1970, Sub had been replaced by Football Forum, a reader participation strip where the characters responded to questions by fans.
Like Sub, Football Forum proved to be another short-run strip as by early 1971, Manager Matt had replaced it. This page is from the 20th March 1971 issue. Some dialogue appears to have been censored or altered in the final panel for some reason...
By the 25th December 1971 issue, Hugh Fowler had become Ken's regular strip...
...but by the following summer, The Soccernauts had replaced it. (This example from Scorcher and Score dated 17th June 1972)...
Here's a curious one. Scorcher and Score dated 4th November 1972, and Ken's page is now Harry Hammertoe, The Soccer Spook. However, that's clearly a Reg Parlett title box illustration. Presumably Reg was the original artist before Ken took over the strip? Can anyone confirm this? (I only have a few issues.)
Finally, by 15th September 1973, Ken was drawing Jimmy Jinks. I get the impression that Ken enjoyed this character more than some of the previous ones. Jimmy himself is bursting with energy and the page is top quality Reid standard.
There was another strip by Ken in Scorcher before it merged with Tiger in 1974, called The Triptoe Tryers. Unfortunately I don't have any reference for that one.
All of the above strips are good. Sub and Jimmy Jinks being my particular favourites I think. Most of these characters have often been overlooked when talking about Ken Reid's work, probably because they had such brief runs. I'm not sure why Scorcher's editor had such a quick turnover of Ken's strips (8 in 5 years). Perhaps the premise for some was too restrictive, or perhaps Ken himself requested something fresh?
It's been said that today's humour artists are not in the same league as Ken Reid. Fact is, most of yesterday's artists weren't in the same league either. Ken Reid was always uniquely brilliant.