Tuesday, March 23, 2010

TV Comic - Six Of The Best: Tom & Jerry

Tom & Jerry first made their debut in the weekly TV Comic on 17th May 1969, issue 909. However, they were not the first classic cartoon characters who appeared in the comic, that honour belonged to Bugs Bunny (with Sylvester) 14 editions earlier. Unfortunately, I don't have that very first strip (it will be posted here as soon as I obtain that elusive edition), but here's the advert that announced their forthcoming arrival in the preceding issue: 

The feuding cat-&-mouse duo not only replaced Ken Dodd's Diddymen on the front cover, but also occupied the second page too (oddly, only in B&W, while the first page was in full colour). A rare luxury for a comic strip to occupy two pages, but considering they were the best-loved classic cartoon characters in Britain (they just missed out of the #1 spot on Channel 4's recent 100 top cartoons list, beaten only by The Simpsons), this was not surprising. They would occupy both pages until mid-1975, when they were given both front and back pages, both in colour. When TV Comic made their ill-fated move to a larger tabloid format in September 1976, they would mostly occupy one very large colour page (but the number of panels did not increase, only blown-up a bit bigger), with the occasional additional grace of the front cover. This arrangement continued when the comic reverted to its original size shortly afterwards, but was now printed on cheaper paper and a limited colour palette (sometimes the strip was even devoid of the latter). The strip also became a victim of the publication's new policy of reprinting old material towards the end of the decade, so hardly any fresh adventures were published. New two-page colour stories were commissioned around 1982, but the damage was already done. It was already losing readers, and the comic eventually ceased to be in mid-1984. Despite the turmoil, Tom & Jerry still remained one of TV Comic's most popular strips, alongside Doctor Who and The Avengers.

Differences between the American comic strips, apart from the limited 2-page format, was that Tom was much more of a bully, dishing out physical violence towards Jerry to the point where it even becomes Deitch-esque, but Jerry still gave as good as he got. Also, after the first few years, the strip would also be littered with puns, but thankfully not as painful as you would expect. The Maid makes regular appearances throughout this run, but became more of a white English suburban housewife. Spike also gained regular exposure, but not only without his son Tyke, but he is also referred to by his original name Butch (presumably because it sounded more appealing to British readers). Tuffy would only make a handful of appearances.

Throughout the 15-year run, the T&J comic strip was drawn by virtually the same artist: Bill Titcombe. A prolific and talented cartoonist, Titcombe drew countless number of comic strip between the 60's and 90's not only for TV Comic, but also for sister publication Pipkin and its closest rival Look-In. His work includes such cartoon adaptations as Bugs Bunny, Barney Bear, The Inspector, and Scooby-Doo. He also drew strips based on live-action shows, such as Dad's Army, Benny Hill, Man About The House, and Charlie's Angels. Out of all his work, he always regards Tom & Jerry as his all-time favourite strip. A further mini-bio and examples of his work can be found here and here.

Below are six of Titcombe's T&J comic strips, drawn during its golden period (1969-76). It is somewhat difficult to pick out of hundreds of strips not only to present some of the funniest, but also to show how Titcombe's drawing style would evolve during that time. But I hope you enjoy reading these nonetheless:

#930, 11th October 1969

#999, 6th February 1971

#1032, 25th September 1971

#1126, 14th July 1973

#1210, 22nd February 1975.

#1239, 13th September 1975

Coming-up next: TV Comic's The Bugs Bunny Show.


amba said...

I didn't know that Tom&Jerry have comics! I only know them on tv

Chris Sobieniak said...

Something most people half my age won't ever see I guess, T&J in print!