Friday, April 25, 2008
Dudley Watkins and the Bimbo
With a title guaranteed to raise a smile for the wrong reasons today, D.C. Thomson's Bimbo was a "nursery comic" (for very young children) published from 1961 to 1972. However, unlike the comparatively insubstantial pre-school magazines of today, Bimbo featured a good number of comic strips, making up just over 50% of its content. (Judging by the issue shown here from 1965.)
Amongst the strips (all of which met Thomson's usual high standards) was Tom Thumb by Dudley Watkins, taking up the front cover. Watkins was of course Thomson's prize artist, and at the same time he was illustrating Bimbo covers he was also doing the same for The Beano (Biffo the Bear), The Topper (Mickey the Monkey), and The Beezer (Ginger), plus interior strips Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty. A remarkable output and always of substantial quality.
Interestingly, Bimbo featured a regular Baby Crockett strip, - a character that also appeared in The Beezer. Both versions were drawn by Bill Ritchie, although the Bimbo strip was naturally tailored for the younger reader.
With 11 out of its 20 glossy pages devoted to comic strips, Bimbo was an ideal publication to encourage children to read. It also stimulated their minds with the sequential art form as they learned to imagine movement and passage of time between panels. With standards of literacy dropping today, perhaps modern "activity magazines" should take note and shift their emphasis towards featuring more comic strips rather than mostly "make and do" pages.