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!

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