Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bill Ritchie 1931 - 2010


Sad news today. I've just heard that humour comics artist Bill Ritchie passed away a few days ago, on Monday January 25th.

Born in 1931 Bill's style will be familiar to everyone who grew up with DC Thomson humour comics, specifically The Beezer and Sparky. His most popular character has to be Baby Crockett, which he illustrated for The Beezer and also drew a separate strip featuring the character for younger readers in the pages of Bimbo. (See example above, from 14th August 1965.)

Bill had a clear and charming penline that was easy on the eye and always a pleasure to view. His distinct style was perfect for Sparky when it launched 45 years ago and his strip The Moonsters soon found itself promoted from the back cover to the front. This example from issue 51, January 8th 1966:


Later, when Sparky was revamped, Thomsons retained Bill's services for the cover slot, and for several years he illustrated Barney Bulldog for the comic. This sample is from No.398, September 2nd 1972:


These are just three examples of his long career and the impressive number of pages he produced over that time. He was even still working at the age of 78, drawing cartoons for Thomson's newspaper The Weekly News and, as Willie Ritchie, illustrating children's books for GWPublishing.

Reporting the sad news on the Comics UK forum, Beano sub-editor Iain McLaughlin wrote: "Bill's enormous catalogue of work will be well known to every British comics fan. For those of us who worked with Bill, he was one of the folk you always looked forward to seeing. You knew you'd have a good laugh and an interesting chat with Bill. His knowledge of comics and artists was extraordinary. And he was just a really nice guy, always gracious and helpful. A genuinely nice man who will be missed greatly by all of us who worked with him."

Bill Ritchie's work was always gently amusing and very individualistic. The simplicity of the line disguised the absolute craftsmanship and skilled composition of his pages. There's no mistaking his style and it was always of the highest professional standard. Over the decades his work must have entertained millions of children, and that's a proud achievement that I hope will bring some comfort for his family in this time of loss.

4 comments:

Kid said...

Sad news indeed about Bill Ritchie, Lew. I remember walking back from school one day in 1965 and finding a copy of HOTSPUR or HORNET (can't quite remember after all this time) blown against a hedge. The comic was folded open at a strip called SMIFFY, and the style in which it was drawn made such an indelible impression on me that I never forgot it. I knew right away when I saw BIMBO that it was the same artist, and I always liked Bill's seemingly simple, tell-at-a-glance style of storytelling. Gone but not forgotten - his work and his name shall be remembered.

Peter Gray said...

What a great comic legacy he has left.it is breath taking..how did he draw so much every week at such a high standard..for many many years..
Baby Crockett in Bimbo and Beezer...Smiffy..Toots from Bunty for 30 years..Sweet Sue..Hungry Hoss..The Moonsters..Barney..Pam..Thw Twits at the Ritz..2 Gun Tony..The Cat Street kids in Hotspur..cartoons for the Weekly News..Pip the Penguin..Billy Big Ears..Wooly West..Sporty Sue in Tracy comic..Dicky Bird..etc..

He must of drawn a lot in one week

just amazing..

Thank you Bill for so much pleasure and enjoyment in your work..love to have met you..

John Freeman said...

Sad news. DC Thomson editor Morris Heggie has very kindly sent me a lovely photograph of Bill at work on Billy Crocket, which I've included in our downthetubs tribute.

tartanbaffies said...

Just been along to see Willie Ritchie: Comic Artist Exhibition (details below)- my childhood came flooding back. Excellent work on show, not enough tho'. Well worth a look!

Date: 27 June - 21 August
Location: Tower Foyer Gallery, Tower Building:
Mon-Fri 9.30am - 8.30pm, Sat 9.30am - 4.30pm
Cost: Free

Details:

An exhibition in tribute to the much-loved DC Thomson comics artist, who died earlier this year.

Featuring original art and published material from classic titles such as the Beezer, Sparky, Bunty and many more.

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