Saturday, November 05, 2011

Firework fun in the Fifties


It's Bonfire Night and the stars are bright. Well, it's forecast clouds and rain actually but you can still enjoy the fireworks in this trip back in time to look at the pages of a couple of 1950s comics.

First up, here's the 1954 firework edition of TV Fun No.60. The cover strip featuring diminutive funnyman Arthur Askey was drawn by Arthur Martin, who would in 1971 be the original artist of Chalky for Cor!! comic.


The firework theme didn't dominate this issue of TV Fun. Including the cover strip only three of the comic's 16 pages featured bonfire night strips. Inside, Professor Jimmy Edwards is on the receiving end of more explosive fun, illustrated by Reg Parlett...


The prolific Reg Parlett was also the artist of the back cover strip, Sally Barnes. Reg of course illustrated thousands of pages spanning over a career of more than 60 years. The body language of the characters in this strip is superb, proving Reg to be a true master of comic art. Like his brother George, Reg was particularly good at drawing the curves of the female figure, something that Amalgamated Press played up in the 1950s but which Fleetway toned down in the 1960s.


A few years earlier Radio Fun had featured a couple of firework-themed strips in its 1950 issue. The AP comics were going through a bad patch at the time. Due to what the editor termed "production difficulties" (industrial action by the printers) some comics skipped several weeks. When Radio Fun did reappear its cover showed a combined numbering (No.627/8/9/30) and combined dates on the page headers (Oct. 14/21/28/Nov. 4, 1950) even though it only had the usual 16 pages.

Obviously this meant that scheduling a theme issue was difficult in case the comic didn't appear that week (subsequently there was only one Christmas themed strip in the late December issue of that year). Therefore only two firework themed strips were in the Radio Fun of 1950. Here's cockney spiv Arthur English "The Prince of Wide Boys". (Artwork was, I think, by Alex Akerbladh.)

From the same 1950 issue here's Douglas Cardew Robinson (drawn by Reg Parlett) indulging in more firework tomfoolery. You'll notice that all of these strips involve characters coming into direct contact with exploding fireworks. Something that UK comics eventually stamped out in later years for fear of presenting dangerous explosives as toys.

However, this week the firework fun is back in the pages of The Dandy and The Beano (and a half page strip in Toxic)! Here's Postman Prat living up to his name in the current Dandy, drawn by me from a script by David Mason...


Wherever you are, have a happy and safe November 5th!

6 comments:

Niblet said...

Thanks for posting this, Lew. I recently mentioned Arthur English and his spiv character in a post on the Cheeky Weekly blog, but until I read your post I wasn't aware he also had his own comic strip. I've just updated my post to include a link here. http://cheekyweekly.blogspot.com/2011/09/profile-spiv.html

Lew Stringer said...

From looking at the comics I have it seems that just about every radio/tv celebrity of those days had his/her own strip. Thing is the stories rarely had anything to do with the personalities of the celebs. They were pretty interchangeable (and Film Fun actually reprinted old strips with newer celebs' heads pasted on). I suppose Arthur English's spiv character was one of the exceptions.

Simon said...

It's fantastic to see the Beano and Dandy doing fireworks issues again this year - but is this the first time that there have been fireworks strips since the sixties? Was there any discussion among the editors that led to this year's fireworks fest?

Peter Gray said...

Brilliant seeing Reg Parlett's comic work in particular..

Maybe fireworks were less deadly in those day and more like a indoor firwork...its interesting to see kids playing so freely with them..

Lew Stringer said...

@Simon, There were strips with firework themes in the 1970s as well.

Even in the 1990s Buster would have a bonfire strip or two and cut-out Guy Fawkes masks, but fireworks were just shown in the distance. I think this is the first year they've been an active part of the strips for a long time.

I'm not aware of any editorial meetings about it but as Beano and Dandy featured firework strips there may have been some discussion.

Lew Stringer said...

@Peter, Fireworks were no less deadly back then. Lots of kids got hurt every year unfortunately. The misuse of fireworks in comic strips was just part of the comedy violence of the times. Editors assumed readers were intelligent enough not to imitate what they saw in a comic. The over-cautious attitude came later.

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