Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Daily Mirror strips of the 1960s

We had the Daily Mirror every day when I was growing up in the 1960s. My family must have been reading it since the 1930s as my mum told me that when she was a child she enjoyed the Pip, Squeak and Wilfrid comic strip. The Mirror was the paper of the working class, and it had a direct and intelligent writing style that cut to the chase for the man in the street. 

It also had some great comic strips. I showed a page from a wartime edition here the other day, but today I'm focusing on the strips I enjoyed as a child in the sixties. There was Andy Capp by Reg Smythe, and The Perishers by Maurice Dodd and Dennis Collins of course, and I'm showing a couple of those here, but the strips I enjoyed most were the three tiers that always appeared around page 20: Garth, The Larks, and The Flutters
18th September 1962

Perishers: 18th September 1962.

Frank Bellamy's dynamic take on Garth in the 1970s receives a lot of praise, and justifiably so, but it was the earlier strips by John Allard and Steve Dowling which captured my imagination as a kid. Their stories often had a creepy atmospheric quality about them, even tense and claustrophobic at times due to the hatching and cross-hatching of the inks, but that added to the likable strangeness of the strip. Garth was aimed at adults of course, and women our time-travelling hero encountered would sometimes be topless, so that, plus the dark mood of the strip made it seem very mature to my young eyes. 
28th June 1963.

The Larks by Jack Dunkley was a standard family sit-com, and it felt a bit too middle-class for the Mirror to me, perhaps better suited to the Daily Mail. Nevertheless, I often enjoyed the gags and I liked the artwork. The interesting thing about The Larks is that the characters aged with the strip, so as the years progressed the kids grew into teenagers, Sam (the father) gained a bit of grey in his hair, etc.

14th February 1964.

14th February 1964.

The Flutters was a strip I really liked. I'm sure that some of Ian Gammidge's scripts with all their sporting/gambling references went right over my head as a child, but I think it was the fact that it was a continuing humour strip that grabbed me. The artwork by the appropriately named Len Gamblin was the clincher though; busy but clear, and just right for the strip. I was disappointed when The Flutters was eventually replaced by Bill Tidy's Fosdyke Saga which I never really took to.
22nd April 1964.

Anyway, here are several examples of those strips, mostly from the mid-1960s. I hope you enjoy looking at them! All are scanned from old copies of the Daily Mirror I bought at a Memorabilia Show a few years ago. I've cleaned a couple up in Photoshop as necessary but I've left that authentic newspaper look to most of the scans. 

30th January 1965.

Perishers: 30th January 1965.

13th May 1965.

16th July 1965.

Andy Capp: 16th July 1965.

20th September 1966.

14th November 1966.

10th June 1968.

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Phil Rushton said...

During the early 1960s I used to spend Saturday afternoons with my Gran who always had loads of old copies of Reveille and the Daily Mirror. As a reeult I spent hours poring over those strips - especially Garth. While Frank Bellamy was unquestionably a much better artist I never felt that he was entirely at home with all those unfeasibly large chests. By contrast the Dowling/Allard version seemed more believable and mysterious.

On the other hand I never knew quite what to make of Andy Capp. In some ways he made Alf Garnett seem like Albert Schweitzer. There's a panel on display in the current British Library exhibition where the 'joke' is that he shuts up his nagging wife by knocking her unconscious: amazing that in those days people chuckled at things like that over their breakfast cereal and thought no more of it!

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, Frank Bellamy was a fantastic artist but I felt that the newspaper strip format restricted him too much. He excelled at designing a page, but the constraints of the rectangular single tier strip hemmed him in too much. That's how it felt to me anyway. Perhaps he didn't mind. At least he still managed to use his impressive design skills when doing title panels for the start of each new serial.

As for Andy Capp, I loved the strip but the aspects of him being a wife-beater were uncomfortable. Even the first gag in the very first Andy Capp book was about him hitting his wife. :

He's been toned down a lot since those days. I don't miss the scenes with Flo having a black eye but it's a shame that Andy's trademark broken cigarette hanging from his lip has also been consigned to history.

Steve Marchant said...

I never really ‘got’ Andy Capp but recently I bought a couple of the way-old books full of single-panel gags (I actually got them for their design – one of them is die-cut into the shape of a whiskey bottle, and the neck of the bottle is a little Andy flip-book). I too was appalled and surprised at the wife-beating ‘jokes’ but found myself laughing at them in a ‘how could they possibly have thought this was funny’ way.
The Perishers I loved, though. As the strip matured, it moved far away from its ‘British Peanuts’ origins, and Dennis Collins’ incredibly detailed backgrounds perfectly set the strip in a semi-derelict environment of northern industrial decline. He’s one of the genuine greats of unsung British cartoonists. There were moments of brilliance in that strip, such as when Marlon was counting up how many years they’d been away camping on their summer holidays (it’s something like 12), and then asked how come they don’t get any older. Wellington replied “I don’t know. Something’s going on”. It’s a shame it declined so badly after Collins left, and if I meet anyone that remembers The Perishers these days, it’s usually through the awful animated cartoon.

Lew Stringer said...

Perhaps I was odd because although The Perishers featured kids it didn't appeal to me too much as a child. I can recognize its brilliance now of course so perhaps its sophistication went over my head when I was younger.

I related more to Andy Capp because everyone knew an 'Andy Capp type' when I was a kid. Not that my dad was ever like that I hasten to add! But that environment of beer, fags, flat caps and darts was the norm for his generation.

I have those Andy Capp books you mention. Click on the link I provided in the previous comment and you'll see an old blog post about Andy and his darker days.

Tony O'Donnell said...

It was the Daily Record for me, which was the Scottish version of the Mirror, I remember enjoying Garth, The Perishers and Angus Og.I liked Steve Dowling's Garth but was bowled over when Bellamy took over! My favourite Perisher's sequence were the 'eyes in the sky' when the dog looked into the rock pool every summer and the Crabs treated it like a visit from a God. Angus Og was very Scottish and very funny, I think the creator was Ewan Bain. I have a vague memory of the debut of a sexy sci-fi heroine strip in the early seventies but perhaps it did not last long. In the late 70's we had Lance Maclaine by Sydney Jordan.

Lew Stringer said...

Didn't the Record feature a regular Dennis the Menace strip for a while too, 10 or 20 years ago? Or am I thinking of a different paper?

Steve said...

I loved Garth in all it's incarnations, and it's a shame there hasn't been a concerted attempt to reprint the strip in it's entirety. Even the fabled Bellamy run has only had a selected few stories collected to my knowledge.
The Perishers was another favourite of mine and one that seems to have been forgotten by many. A couple of decent reprint books wouldn't go amiss in this household.
Andy Capp never did much for me, although I did enjoy the Larks, especially the fact that the characters aged in real time.
I don't remember the Flutters, but I seem to recall enjoying the Fosdyke Saga.

Colin Jones said...

Of course The Mirror was a great campaigning paper too - the ghastly right-wing Sun has been a blight on this country, should've been strangled at birth . Amazingly, Murdoch started off as a socialist and then went to the right - like New Labour did later.

Lew Stringer said...

Unfortunately it feels like the whole country is lurching to to the right these days Colin.

Steve, you're right that the earlier Garth strips are virtually ignored. I'm hoping the Mirror reprint the Dowling ones when they run out of Martin Asbury strips but I doubt they will. (Besides, the poor paper and printing in today's Mirror wouldn't be favourable to Dowling's fine shading technique.)

Reprints of The Perishers appear in the Mirror every day so hopefully the strip will gain a new following. However, again, the printing quality isn't as good as it was the first time around.

rnigma said...

Here in the US, Andy Capp has been licensed by a maker of snacks, though I haven't seen the comic in any paper in this area for years. Every store I visit has Andy Capp's Hot Fries and Cheddar Fries, basically corn crisps shaped like fries (chips to you).

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