Thursday, January 29, 2015

An early BEEZER (1956)

Most of us will have grown up with The Beezer comic of the 1960s to 1980s but in its early days it was quite different to the later issues. Here are a few pages from the year of its launch, 1956. Issue No.37, dated September 29th.

Although Ginger was the cover star for the first 33 issues (and would be again later), Pop, Dick and Harry had proven popular enough to be given the treasured cover position every week until 1962. The strip above is by Tom Bannister displaying his excellent skills in depicting physical comedy.

In its early days The Beezer had a good proportion of adventure strips. One of them being The Voyage of The Bushwhacker on page 2. According to Ray Moore's indispensable Beezer index (The Book of The Beezer) the artist was Bill Holroyd. This surprised me as there's barely any similarity to Holroyd's later work for The Dandy on Brassneck, Jack Silver, and Spunky and his Spider etc, but closer inspection does reveal that style emerging.

Fans of Leo Baxendale will know that his style kept developing throughout his career. In this 1956 Banana Bunch page there is very little resemblance to his Badtime Bedtime material of 18 years later but his style evolved gradually.

Westerns were big in the 1950s and The Beezer got in on the act with Lone Wolfe with artwork by Ron Smith. This is the second episode of the series. It's interesting to see a few silent action scenes. Very unusual for a British comic.

Although he was off the cover for a while, Ginger still had a full page inside. Drawn by the late Dudley Watkins with very contemporary images for the fifties, with its wind-up record player, door-to-door brush salesman, and old-style telephone, kettle and lawn mower. For a youngster Ginger was being a bit conservative in his music tastes for 1956 though, preferring Hillbilly music to rock 'n' roll!

The back cover went for an educational theme back then, with a wildlife feature and a cutaway. Presumably this was Thomson's attempt to rival similar features in Hulton's Eagle

The early Beezer only had 12 pages but its huge A3 size and bright colour on every page (8 full colour, 4 in red spot colour) still made it look good value for money. It's no wonder it endured a long run of many years!

11 comments:

James Spiring said...

For comparison, Dandy and Beano in the same era were also 12 pages, of which only two were full colour (front and back - if I'm not mistaken, the centre spread only became colour in 1960, when Beano launched The Great Flood of London and Dandy launched Corporal Clott as part of a pagination increase).

Peter Gray said...

Brilliant...
Has you say love the slapstick action in Pop, Dick and Harry...

Lew Stringer said...

Yes Peter. The comedy timing of some 1950s strips was excellent.

That's right, James, although comics in general didn't have a lot of pages or colour in the fifties so The Beezer (and The Topper) must have really stood out. The paper stock of Beezer and Topper also seems slightly thicker than that of Beano and Dandy at the time.

Gareth said...

Good to see a Ron Smith one from way back. His Dredd was my favourite.

John Pitt said...

Thanks for this, Lew. This is even earlier than my Beezer's, as I had it every week in the late 50's. By then it was still Pop ( who one week had a blond brother, TOM!), Dick & Harry on the front with Baby Crockett on the back.

Paul McScotty -Muir said...

The Beezer was may favourite comic in the mid 60s and from these 50s examples it looks like it was an amazing comic from the very start - like yourself I can't see the resemblance to Bill Holroyds art in this strip at all (but its still very good) Tom Bannisters cover strip is excellent I really liked it when the cover was a full strip - As the Beezer and Topper were much larger they used to be presented folded in half in newsagents (well where i lived they did) so the full effect of the cover was hidden a bit and you only saw the striking logo and fists few panels - great blog again

Lew Stringer said...

If you look closely you can tell it's Holroyd's work, Paul. The face in panel one, and the solidity of the figures for example.

Yes, I think most newsagents stocked them folded. Some even folded them again so only the masthead was showing, and pegged them up with the newspapers. I'm sure publishers would love to do a big comic like that again and dominate the competition but I doubt retailers would like it because it wouldn't fit into their shelves.

Colin Brown said...

Great Ginger strip. I haven't seen much of these early ones. Looks like Oor Wullie with red hair at this time. Be great to see a joint collection of Ginger and Mickey from The Topper sometime. Are you listening DC Thomson?

Lew Stringer said...

I don't think there'd be a large enough audience for that unfortunately Colin. If it happened it'd be more likely an outside project with Thomdon's permission, like the Dandy/Beano Christmas covers book from 2013.

Colin Brown said...

Yes that was a lovely book. I saw Phil has been selling Christmas Beezers and Toppers on ebay recently and was hoping he's planning a companion book.

Lew Stringer said...

Let's hope so. It'd be nice if someone produced a book on Christmas strips including some interior pages too.

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