Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Introduction To TV Comic's Classic Cartoon Strips

I always loved reading UK classic cartoon annuals (full of reprinted American cartoon strips), but during the last few years I have developed a special fondness for the UK comic strips versions of our fave cartoons, which were a feature of a long-defunct weekly publication:

TV Comic first started publishng in November 9th 1951 until June 22nd 1984, resulting in a total of 1696 issues. It focused mainly on comic strips adapted from television shows broadcast at the time of publication (including Doctor Who, The Avengers, and Basil Brush), alongside original creations (such as TV Terrors, Mighty Moth, and Texas Ted - big hat, big head!). Cartoon adaptations were also included, but the first comic strips based on the Golden Age Cartoons were not published until issue #896 on 15th February 1969, when Bugs Bunny made his debut, followed by Tom & Jerry some 14 editions later. Its publisher, Polystyle Publications, gained licenses to use the classic cartoon characters from Warner Brothers and MGM via the Western Publishing Company. But rather than reprint the Western-drawn comic strips (like the UK annuals did at the time), TV Comic opted to draw their own using their own talented team, who adapted the format and humour of the strips to more British tastes.

One reason was the amount of pages allowed for each cartoon strip. While the American comic strips ran generally between 4-8 pages (even longer), British comics would only allow one page per show/character (only a few were given the luxury of having two pages!) and the content would be very much situation-based rather than in story.  The extra pages afforded for the American strips did allow for an actual story to develop, but the humour and slapstick were somewhat more restrained when compared to the British adaptations, where our fondness for (violent) slapstick is more apparent.

The artwork is also different:: the American comic strips were down by artists (and even animators) and certainly has more beautiful (and on-model) art, while the British versions were done by cartoonists, and while the artwork is more "loose" (which did not necessarily suit the look of the character), it is that cartoonist's approach that makes the visuals gags more funny.

This series will feature "six of the best" comic strips from each classic cartoon characters featured below (not necessarily in the following order), including (where possible) the first-ever strips and the cartoonists who drew them (which includes Bill Titcombe, Barry Glennard, and Bill Mevin):


To kick-start this new series, we will take a look at the Tom & Jerry comic strips, featuring Tom's attempts to be a glam-rock superstar, Jerry being an unwilling participant in polo, and the tatty cat being blown-up by torpedoes!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Change Of Plan...

It's been a very busy few months, especially in getting a new job and relocating to a different town, that I haven't been posting here during that time. Also, due to relocating, my classic cartoon annuals are now in storage and are currently unaccessible, so my UK annuals series will now be delayed (hopefully it will return in the near future). I really do apologise for these setbacks.

However, I still have access to my TV Comics, which features UK comic strip adaptations of classic American cartoon characters, and very shortly I will be presenting a new series dedicated to these overlooked gems.

Stay tooned!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Retro UK Annuals: Bugs Bunny 1983

Along with the Tom & Jerry version, this was my very first annual I received on Xmas Day 1982. What I didn't know is that this would be the last Bugs Bunny annual to be published by World Distributors, who would finally give up producing classic cartoon annuals a year later, ending a golden era.

World published its first Bugs Bunny annual in the early 50's, but it was from its 1964 annual that it would publish a new book every year. Every book included reprints of American comic strip (licensed from Western Publishing), and most (including this one) also had short stories, jokes and even puzzles.

I'm proud to present the best bits of this fine annual. Unfortunately, my copy is long lost, and the one I later obtained has some bizarre tick marks (why?), which I'm only able to conceal on a few scans. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy reading them.

Front cover:

Back cover:

In this annual, there were three illustrated short stories, and the following is the first one, which I present in full:

This annual has plenty of puzzles, activities, and jokes. The former two were completed or had a few scribbles on, so I decided not to upload these. And most of the jokes are very painful (I like to know who wrote these), so here are the more bearable ones:

And, of course, I shouldn't forget to include examples of the American comic reprints included in this book. Here are the first pages of the first few:

And here's my favourite comic strip (in full), Power of Pizazz. I don't mind admitting that when I first read this, I had enormous sympathy for the alien "Bugs" when he exclaimed "This is food?" - I thought he was eating cauliflower!

More Bugs Bunny annuals will appear soon. Coming up next - Pink Panther!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Retro UK Annuals: Tom & Jerry 1967

The year was 1966: America was gripped by Beatlemania, the England football team won the World Cup, and the first Tom & Jerry annual was launched a few months before Xmas. Ah, it was a good year to be English (or so I imagine, being born 11 years too late!).
This was published by World Distributors, who were already publishing annuals based on classic American cartoons years before, with Bugs Bunny in the 50's and the Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, and Top Cat annuals during the early 60's. Before then, publishers Dean launched the first Mickey Mouse annual in 1930, and Felix annuals popped up a decade before. It's a wonder why Tom & Jerry annuals arrived much later than their fellow animated stars.
World would only publish one T&J annual in the 60's, before embarking on a regular yearly run during 1970-83. Throughout the series (and indeed like the vast majority of these annuals), these books consisted mostly of reprints of American comic strips (published by Western Publishing), with some original illustrated stories and jokes/puzzles/activity pages.
To kick-start this new series, let's take a peek at some of the select pages from this annual, starting with the front cover:

Back cover:

Title page:

Four T&J comic strips appeared in this annual, the following are the first pages from each strip:

To complement the T&J strips, Barney Bears appears (with his nephews Fuzzy & Wuzzy) in a couple of his own:

Not to be outdone, T&J stalwarts Spike & Tyke get their own couple of adventures:

Another twin set of strips feature a character who is relatively unknown in Blighty: Wuff the Prairie Dog, specially created for the T&J comics in the US:

But there is more T&J stuff to come: Four illustrated stories are featured, and here are the openings from three of them:

However, here is a complete story, in which even Tom & Jerry themselves were influenced by the British music invasion (check out their moptops!):

There will be more selected Tom & Jerry annuals appearing in the future, alongside others (watch out for Looney Tunes, Pink Panther, Top Cat, and more). Unfortunately, due to a HUGE collection, I'm unable to show them all, but I do hope you enjoy viewing my selections and inspire you to collect these gems, whether they are British annuals or classic American comics.
And if you can identify the artists and/or original publishing dates, feel free to post a comment. Share it to the world!