Friday, July 31, 2015

Graham Allen's 'The Nervs' (SMASH!, 1966)

Most fans of British comics rate Ken Reid's stint on The Nervs in Smash! as some of his best work, and deservedly so. However, Ken didn't take over the strip until late 1968, towards the end of its run. The majority of Nervs strips were drawn by Graham Allen, whose style may not have had the detail and surges of manic hilarity that Ken's had, but was still brilliant and funny in its own right.

A lot of people confuse Graham Allen's style with that of Leo Baxendale, and I must confess I used to be guilty of that too. Allen was no doubt encouraged to imitate Baxendale's style, as were several other cartoonists, due to Odhams' attempt to give some of their humour strips a kind of house style. However there are distinct differences, and as soon as one picks up on Allen's distinct inking style and, for example, his tendency to give a lot of his characters tiny feet, it becomes more obvious. (Plus the fact that Leo Baxendale was allowed to sign the pages he drew for Odhams, so a lack of his signature is also a good indication he didn't draw it.)

Here are a few examples of Graham Allen's excellent run on The Nervs from selected issues of Smash! from 1966, starting with the story from issue 1, when 'Fatty' was depicted as an adult...


From Smash! No.3 onwards, it seems there had been an editorial decision to make Fatty a schoolboy without any explanation, which he remained for the rest of the series...





There's a few occasions where Fatty is seen to take tablets. There's no way a children's comic would depict that today. Smash! and its companion comics Wham! and Pow! could often be a bit reckless, but they treated their readers with having enough intelligence not to imitate what they saw in comics.




I've always enjoyed the work of Graham Allen, and he was one of my favourite cartoonists in those Odhams comics. I hope this short tribute to his often overlooked work on The Nervs helps others appreciate what a great cartoonist he was, and indeed still is. I understand he still contributes to the Daily Express and has illustrated children's books. You can find out more about him here:

5 comments:

Tony Howson said...

Ha! A very timely post indeed. Over lunch my wife was talking about the new Pixar movie and the obvious Numbskulls influence. As usual I started boring her with tales about what she'd missed by not reading the Odhams titles (she's a couple years older than me) and specifically the Nervs - a more visceral blue collar Numbskulls.

I promised to dig out a couple issues of Smash! for her, so this article has saved me a trip to the attic.

Lew Stringer said...

Glad to be of help, Tony. :) There are examples of Ken Reid's version elsewhere on my blog too.

As regards 'Inside Out', it seems it may have been inspired by a 1942 Disney short called 'Reason and Emotion', long before The Numskulls used the set up.

CiH said...

The Viz Comic version, 'Driving Mr David' is overdue a revival.

Hibernia Comics said...

A great selection of strips Lew, I am not familiar with any of them. Very similar to 'The Germs' from the eighties Beano.

Lew Stringer said...

The Germs is also extremely similar to 'Georgie's Germs' which ran in WHAM! There are one or two examples on my blog if you type Germs into the search window.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...