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Monday, December 01, 2014

Ken Reid's SUB

When the Odhams 'Power Comics' closed at the end of the 1960s one would have thought the natural place for new work by Ken Reid would have been IPC's new Whizzer and Chips and Cor!! humour comics. However, for some reason they didn't use him, despite him being one of the best humorists in British comics! My guess is that Ken's style might have been considered too aggressive and manic for IPC's humour comics at that time. After all, this is the company that considered his Nervs strips too vulgar to ever reprint!

Fortunately, Ken did find work on IPC's adventure comics! Again I'm only speculating here, but perhaps IPC felt his style was more suited to those comics as they were aimed at a slightly older reader than their humour line. Whatever the reason, we're lucky that they did. Ken Reid's distinctive brand of humour was essential for comics! 
Ken Reid's first strip for IPC was Sub, which ran as a full pager in the first 31 issues of Scorcher, their new all-football weekly launched in January 1970. It concerned the plight of obese Duggie Dribble, forever doomed to sit on the substitute's bench. Every week, Dougie would hatch a new devious and outrageous idea to try and get a game, by nobbling a player or other means, but it would always backfire. 
I don't know who was the writer of Sub. Some strips are stronger (ie: funnier) than others, but as the weeks go on there seem to be more of Ken's unique comedy elements in the plot and dialogue. I suspect Ken had a lot of input, even if he wasn't the scriptwriter. The artwork is easily on a par with any of his Frankie Stein or Dare-A-Day-Davy strips for Wham! and Pow! 
I've chosen a selection of some of the best ones to show here. As you can see, the early ones were embellished with a grey wash. Perhaps Scorcher was originally going to be printed on better paper, or perhaps the printers promised better reproduction than they could deliver. In any case, it later switched to line work, with some having spot colour added. (Which came out as neon green some weeks!) All of these strips are from Scorcher between January and August 1970. As always, click on the pages to see them much larger.

Here's a cross-reference of all the other series that Ken Reid did for Scorcher. Have fun!

SUB (1970:



HUGH FOWLER (1971/72):



JIMMY JINX (1973/74):



Irmantas said...

IPC only provided Ken with scripts of the first two SUB episodes (Sub Goalpost and Ball Bombardment). All the subsequent ones were written by Ken. SUB was the only soccer strip tha Ken wrote sripts for.

Unknown said...

What a fantastic blog Lew, thanks for showing these amazing strips hard to think that some folk will never have seen Kens work (or other UK comic greats) if not for blogs like yours and some others- I vividly recall picking up the first few issues of Scorcher after seeing the advert on TV ( although no doubt reading about it in an IPC/Fleetway comic before that). Scorcher (for me at least) was a great comic and all the better for the master stroke of including Ken Reids work. I ve been lucky enough to track down a fair amount of these football inspired strips by Ken Reid and art wise at least they are almost all fantastic . Im off to look out my old copies of Scorcher

Anonymous said...

Ken Reid is what kept me reading some comics, his "disgusting" drawing fascinated me and repulsed me at the same time. He was a genius. IMHO.


Lew Stringer said...

Thanks for that info, Irmantas. That explains a lot about the shift to more manic comedy in the strip, and how Ken seemed to be enjoying himself more from issue 3 onwards.

Paul, I had about a dozen issues of Scorcher but I recently bought the whole series in two job lots. I'm currently working my way through them and really enjoying the comic. And I don't even like football.

Alistair, I agree. Ken was a master of dark humour. Absolutely brilliant creator.

Raven said...

I'm inclined to suspect that Ken may not have been used for Whizzer and Chips and Cor!! because his studied style may have been considered a little too old-fashioned looking; after all, much of it had that ye olde 'Dickensian' feel, whereas the new Bob Paynter line seemed to be aiming for a very modern, fresh, looser look and style for the new decade.

They had their 'horror' comedy strips, but Reg Parlett's fluid, kinetic style seemed to fit the modern style of these papers very well (note that Ken Reid continued to have full page strips in Buster and Valiant, both of which retained a more "old fashioned" look and feel).

They may also have felt they had a more suitable 'darker' macabre artist for the times in Brian Walker, who, again, had that looser, more kinetic feel.

But Ken did get full page poster work in Shiver and Shake and Whoopee, and a full page strip in Monster Fun.

John Pitt said...

Another strip I never knew of before! ( like the Nits of the Round Table ). I am always learning something new on Bliley!

Raven said...

The interplanetary Soccernauts seems potentially the most interesting of Ken's Scorcher football comedy strips.

Lew Stringer said...

That's a good point, Raven. If memory serves me right though Ken didn't get work in the IPC humour comics until after his strips for the adventure comics had finished. (Buster was still part of the adventure dept at the start of the 1970s.)

I see your point about the comics having a looser, fresher look, but that became very dull, page after page. Ken Reid would have given Whizzer and Chips bit more variety, but that wasn't what they were really looking for I guess. Mike Higgs for example had a distinct style, but was asked to "draw more like Reg Parlett". He chose to leave rather than conform to a house style.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks John. Yes, Ken Reid's Scorcher strips slip under the radar sometimes because it's not a comic you'd naturally expect to find him. He was in for the duration of its run though, in most issues anyway.

Raven said...

IPC's humour artists had such radically different styles, though, Lew, providing, in my opinion, such great visual variety from page to page, that I think the only "house style" you could really pin down for these titles was that they were broadly very upbeat, uplifting and cheery throughout - so, while horror strips were big, they tended to feature ghoulish protagonists that were both macabre *and* likeable - quite chummy grotesques; creepy, but with a friendly wink!

For this approach, artists like Reg Parlett, Robert Nixon, Tom Williams and Brian Walker (who it's been reported was given free reign, like Leo Baxendale, to pretty much design and do things exactly as he liked - their styles just really suited this new line of comics)were ideal for creating freaky -but still very likeable "matey" characters.

I don't think Ken's style would have fit in quite as well with this particular approach - though he may just have been busy enough with the adventure line.

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, Ken seemed to manage about two pages a week, so he'd be busy on Scorcher and Valiant at the time. We're basically in agreement as to how IPC may not have thought Ken to be suited to the cheerier style of their early humour comics. Personally I think they were mistaken. Ken's style suited Wham! so I'm sure it could also have worked in Whizzer and Chips and Cor!! Unfortunately W&C's editor Bob Paynter wasn't a fan of those Odhams comics so I suppose he wanted his comics to be different to those titles.

Don't get me wrong. I followed every IPC humour comic from 1969 to 1975. Every week. There was a lot I enjoyed about them but at the same time I felt they played too safe and needed the sort of wildness that Ken Reid could have brought to them. It's a shame that by the time they did let him in, via a merger with adventure weekly Jet, they then had him work from scripts that perhaps toned down his best qualities. You can see his work stiffen up as the years go on and it's very sad. Obviously age was part of that change, but it really looks like he wasn't having as much fun with the scripts he was given. On the other hand, the back page pin-ups on Whoopee etc look like he was enjoying himself more because he'd have more of a free reign and it was something different every week.

Raven said...

Whizzer and Chips did it have its elements of unhinged weirdness, though - strips like Brian's Walker's surreal and wordy Three-Storey Stan the Triplicate Man, and the wild and sometimes unfriendly places that Frank McDiarmid's era took Slowcoach to!

It's interesting to ponder how Ken's work may have fitted in - possibly better in Cor!! which tended to be a bit "rougher" with more downtrodden, antagonistic characters - but his work did especially suit Buster, which had a bit of a Dickensian feel, with strips like Charlie Peace and Solano Lopez's Gothic stylings.

Irmantas said...

Lew, when Ken started drawing Faceache in Jet and later Buster, he always wrote his own scripts. In 1978 the Society of Strip Illustration even awarded him a prize for being the Best Writer of a Humour Strip published in Comics.

Lew Stringer said...

Thanks Irmantas. You're right, he did write his own Faceache strips until later. I'd forgotten that.

I didn't know he'd won an award for his writing. Even more staggering then that IPC took him off writing his own material a few years later.

Raven, I think Ken's work would have suited Cor!! just fine. After all, it suited The Beano and The Dandy.

True, there were some weird strips in the IPC funnies but I suspect it was the comic violence and edge to Ken's work that worried over-sensitive editors in the early seventies. Anyway, we're lucky that at least the adventure comics gave him work on Scorcher, Valiant, and Jet.

Anonymous said...

IPC were clueless regarding Ken Reid. They revived Frankie Stein and Jasper the Grasper but went and had them drawn by other artists!

Unknown said...

I think Kens work would have been good in Cor as well, and perhaps they thought so as well but were a bit apprehensive to use him as I'm sure (not 100% though) that they reprinted Ken Reids "Jasper the Grasper" strips in an early Cor annual prior to the strip appearing under a new artist (Trevor Metcalfe?) in the weekly comic? Maybe on seeing Kens amazing art in the annual they felt his style wasn't for Cor (but what a missed opportunity though)

Lew Stringer said...

There could be other reasons I suppose. Perhaps the rates on the adventure comics were better, or perhaps Ken was just too busy by the time Cor!! was in production. However I always had the impression from IPC humour editors that they had to keep an eye on Ken in case he went over the top. (There are stories of art bodgers whiting out dog turds that Ken had sneaked into his drawings, for example.) He was ahead of his time. These days he'd be working for Toxic!

Raven said...

Lew, you say "Raven, I think Ken's work would have suited Cor!! just fine. After all, it suited The Beano and The Dandy", but that's kind of the point we were agreeing on. The Beano and The Dandy were very old fashioned looking comics by then, especially The Dandy, which was happy to feature what looked like - or were - '40s and '50s reprints (Black Bob?).

At the time, the new Bob Paynter line came across like the absolute antithesis of these. The kid characters didn't look like undernourished urchins in shorts from 1940s council estates any more, but dressed like the contemporary readers, etc.

However, relating to Paul's comment, I've just received the Cor!! Annual 1972 and am enjoying poring over 12 pages of Ken's Jasper the Grasper. Yes, they had to find old strips to fill nearly a third of those very chunky annuals, but they chose Ken above the vast quantity available. So maybe Paynter wasn't too down on the Odhams comics, after all, as reprints from them even started to appear in Whizzer and Chips after a few years (I could tell Footsie the Clown was an oldie at the time, but don't think I was so sure about Glugg).

I suspect that the ornate Reid style of dialogue ("'Ere! Ark at wot 'e's thunderin' done! Me perishin' son's scarpered wiv all me luv'ly lolly!" sort of thing!)- which I always enjoyed, was fast seeming like something from a long gone era, too, but Buster did also let him keep that up all through the Seventies, too (by the end of which, Faceache was at a positively Dickensian boarding school!).

Personally, I thought Robert Nixon's Frankie, at its peak, was brilliant and that Trevor Metcalfe was a first class artist whose '70s work would still look fresh and modern today, and I can see why they were chosen for Shiver and Shake and Cor!!

But, anyway, there's Ken, all over that Cor!! annual!

Lew Stringer said...

Fair point, Raven. I never considered Ken's work to be old fashioned personally. It's true that The Dandy did seem archaic in the sixties/seventies but that was its appeal to me. The environment of my town was still very post-war at that time, so to me The Dandy reflected the world I lived in. Whizzer and Chips seemed a bit posher and... well, more Southern I suppose.

Irmantas said...

Lew, I have just posted a blogpost about Ken Reid as scriptwriter for IPC, you can read it here:

Lew Stringer said...

Fantastic stuff, Irmantas. I've never been sure if Ken wrote his own material or not. Some IPC staff said he did, some said he didn't. I guess the ones who said he didn't must only have known him from the later strips that he didn't write. Thanks for the clarification.

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