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Friday, March 23, 2012

Ken Reid's Scorcher strips

Most readers of this blog will be aware of the work of the late genius humour artist Ken Reid, specifically the Jonah strip he did for The Beano in the late 1950s and early 1960s, co-creating Roger the Dodger in the 1950s, and his hilariously manic work for Odhams in the 1960s (Frankie Stein, Queen of the Seas, Jasper the Grasper, Dave-A-Day-Davy and the later episodes of The Nervs).

When IPC took over the reigns of the Odhams and Fleetway comics in 1969, Ken's work became a little bit more restrained. His work was still brilliant, still funny, and still some of the best illustrated pages in UK comics, but it was evident he wasn't being allowed to go full throttle as he had on The Nervs for example. (Apparently IPC management told editors that The Nervs should never be reprinted because its humour was so grotesque.)

Nevertheless, even though Ken's IPC strips were a little more formal than his Odhams material they were still amongst the finest pages the company ever published. In the 1970s Ken's most famous character was Faceache, first seen in the short-lived Jet and then in Buster for many years. However he also illustrated several strips for the football comic Scorcher, which I'm showing here today.

Ken's first series for Scorcher was Sub, aka Duggie Dribble, the hopelessly overweight substitute who never had a hope of getting a game. (And if he did, events would backfire on him.) This example is from the issue dated 11th April 1970...

By the issue dated 28th November 1970, Sub had been replaced by Football Forum, a reader participation strip where the characters responded to questions by fans.

Like Sub, Football Forum proved to be another short-run strip as by early 1971, Manager Matt had replaced it. This page is from the 20th March 1971 issue. Some dialogue appears to have been censored or altered in the final panel for some reason...

By the 25th December 1971 issue, Hugh Fowler had become Ken's regular strip...

...but by the following summer, The Soccernauts had replaced it. (This example from Scorcher and Score dated 17th June 1972)...

Here's a curious one. Scorcher and Score dated 4th November 1972, and Ken's page is now Harry Hammertoe, The Soccer Spook. However, that's clearly a Reg Parlett title box illustration. Presumably Reg was the original artist before Ken took over the strip? Can anyone confirm this? (I only have a few issues.)

Finally, by 15th September 1973, Ken was drawing Jimmy Jinks. I get the impression that Ken enjoyed this character more than some of the previous ones. Jimmy himself is bursting with energy and the page is top quality Reid standard.

There was another strip by Ken in Scorcher before it merged with Tiger in 1974, called The Triptoe Tryers. Unfortunately I don't have any reference for that one.

All of the above strips are good. Sub and Jimmy Jinks being my particular favourites I think. Most of these characters have often been overlooked when talking about Ken Reid's work, probably because they had such brief runs. I'm not sure why Scorcher's editor had such a quick turnover of Ken's strips (8 in 5 years). Perhaps the premise for some was too restrictive, or perhaps Ken himself requested something fresh?

It's been said that today's humour artists are not in the same league as Ken Reid. Fact is, most of yesterday's artists weren't in the same league either. Ken Reid was always uniquely brilliant.

Here are more examples of each series in more depth:

SUB (1970:



HUGH FOWLER (1971/72):



JIMMY JINX (1973/74):



Anonymous said...

Wonderful stuff Lew thank you for this article its really informative - I just love ken Reids work and despite having a ton of Scorchers I only have one of the strips you have put on here (Soccernauts) so thanks again - I can't recal Harry Hammertoe at all first time around (only was aware of this strip via the pages of Comics UK) so I must have stopped buying Scorcher around this time as Jimmy Jinx is a faded memory also (but this strip and the few I have are excellent) Sub was just brilliant though I loved that strip - McScotty

anonybobs said...

I remember buying the Scorcher annual 1977 at a Cub Scout jumble sale in 1984/85 (I was one of the Scouts in question and ended up buying, or hiding, a lot of the items that had been handed in, in advance. Unfortunately I ignored the couple of dozen 60S Fantastic Four comics that had been handed in and ended up selling for 10p each or 6 for 50p!!) and being taken by the Manager Matt strips in the annual, especially one where he ended up getting stranded for months after trying to cut the overlong grass. This despite the fact I only bought it as a Tiger fan as it has Billys Boot and Hot Shot Hamish. Great, and very naive financially, days

Anonymous said...

Used to love Scorcher as a kid in the 70's and thought Hugh Fowler was the greatest!

Tony Howson said...

Ah, these are great. I was never a fan of sports comics but I remember all these from Sub up to the Soccernauts. Maybe from friends at school or copies read in the barber or dentists ?

Anyway, always good to see Ken's post-Power Comics work. I suspect I know what the answer will be, but are there any definitive collections of Reid's work or biographies in print ?

Lew Stringer said...

If only! It's a crying shame that whilst there are currently tons of books coming out reprinting classic American comics there's nothing similar regarding British comics. Decades of British comics - fading into history.

The closest thing to an available biography is a chapter in the Twomorrows book TRUE BRIT. It's now out of print but is available as a digital download:

Tony Howson said...

thanks for the link, Lew. I'm quite fond of digital so I might toddle over there and get a copy.

John Pitt said...

....which has led me to THIS post I somehkw missed first time around, so thanks for the link.

Lew Stringer said...

You're welcome John. If there are any strips or comics you're interested in it's always worth having a search of this blog by using the search windows. Of course that's not much use to strips you've never heard of but having a search for an artist's name might turn up some surprises.

John Pitt said...

And I bet you guessed I'd end up back here again! ( ha ha!)

Lew Stringer said...

Ken Reid's work is always worth revisiting, John.

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