Monday, 26 January 2009

Manchester and Comics

This is what I do when I've got too much work on - start something else as well. And while this has no deadline (and certainly no financial reward), it already has me hooked like an excited detective.
It seems unbeknown to me at least, Manchester was a significant 'player' in British comics of the 20th Century, in terms of artists and publishers. Having spotted a couple of passing mentions in a number of books (Alan Clark's The Children's Annual and Wright and Ashford's Masters of Fun and Thrills being the key initial references), I was keen to learn more.

The artists I've got on my list so far, very briefly and carelessly summed up-
Hugh McNeill (1910-1979) - drew funnies and adventure strips for many titles incuding Beano and Knockout (Dick Turpin being one of the best known serials), and spent years on nursery strips for Playhour and other tots comics. Born in Moss Side.
Harry Hargreaves (1922-2004) - Assisted McNeill on Pansy Potter for a while. Key member of Gaumont Animation, and best known for Harold the Hare.
Ken Reid (1919-1987) - of Pendlebury. Started young with Fudge the Elf (exclusive to Manchester Evening News), before working for DC Thomson on Jonah, Roger the Dodger and Grandpa, then Frankie Stein and Faceache for Odhams.
Denis McLoughlin -(1918-2002) - I'm stretching my Manchester border as far as Bolton so as to include this amazing hardboiled pulp thriller cover artist (over 700 covers, mainly for Boardman Books), which looked more American than the original American artwork. Well known for his Buffalo Bill Annuals, as well as his Flash Gordon 'tribute' Swift Morgan.

As for publishers-
JB Allen of Sale (Fitness and Sun, Sun and Comet)
Hotspur Press / Percy Brothers, still a printers - various one-off flimsy titles in the 40's and 50's
Cardal, who put out a comic called Streamline 1947 to 53 - not much known about them it seems.
Pembertons (pictured above) - realised that it was easier to import US comic printing plates than pallets full of titles. Put out loads of reprints. Not found out if they originated anything.
World International, London Editions and a couple of others who put out TV annuals, Disney and suchlike up until relatively recent.

A lot of these seem to overlap in various ways, for example many artists worked for a Kayebon Studios art agency in Manchester. I've not even touched on Savoy, who as well as running a small chain of shops also put out the banned Lord Horror and reprinted Reid's Fudge the Elf collections. And of course DC Thomson have been printing here since the 30's (not that we have any creative claim over that).

Anyway, at the moment I'm not sure where this research is going, as I don't really know what I want to actually find out about all this activity - maybe an exhibition, an article or a small local history-type publication. I'm really enjoying the research, but anything presentable is a long way off.


Lester Sands said...

There must have been something in the Bolton air that encouraged cover illustrators. You might want to take a look at the work of Walter Howarth:

More recently in (Greater) Manchester there has been Steve 'Zenith' Yeowell, John Royle (who worked on Marvel UK's short-lived range of US-sized titles a few years back) and Peter Nicholls (who illustrated a number of childrens' titles in the 80s and 90s). I'm sure Lew Stringer will have a comprehensive list.

Cadwell said...

Fascinating. I wonder what was so horrid about Lord Horror that it was banned. And Fudge the Elf... well.

You've started to build a picture in my mind of a northern, humbler version of Kavalier and Clay's New York, young men in flat caps, meeting over an ale and chatting excitedly about panel widths.

Jim Medway said...

Thanks a bunch Lester - as if I haven't enough to do!

Lester Sands said...

So I shouldn't be reminding you of Oink comic?

Jim Medway said...

Oink wasn't from Manchester was it? I expect I've got the wrong end of the stick.

Lester Sands said...

Would I lie to you, baby?

Jim Medway said...

That's amazing! I'm never going to get through all this now.
Walter Howarth sounds interesting - do you have any of his stuff?

Lester Sands said...

Some odds and ends - mainly three of his Avengers jigsaws. I've got an interview he did with Doctor Who Magazine a few years back which I'll try to dig out for you. Maybe we should put our heads together on this off blog

Jim Medway said...

sounds good.
Over a beer perhaps.