Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TV Comic - Six Of The Best: Christmas Cartoons.

The British Droopy comic strips will appear shortly in the New Year, but in the meantime, here's six festive comic strips featuring Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny, and Barney Bear. Happy holidays, everybody!

Tom & Jerry #1098 30th December 1972. Artist: Bill Titcombe

Barney Bear #1254 29th December 1978. Artist: Bill Mevin

Bugs Bunny #1254 25th December 1981. Artist: Bill Titcombe

Tom & Jerry #1669 16th December 1983. Artist: Bill Titcombe

Barney Bear #1254 27th December 1975. Artist: Bill Titcombe

Bugs Bunny #1254 27th December 1975. Artist: Bill Mevin

Friday, September 10, 2010

TV Comic's Six Of The Best - Barney Bear

MGM's Barney Bear was popular enough to have his own comic-strip adventures in the US, and via their licensing deal with Western Publishing Company, TV Comic created their own Barney stories in 1973, starting with issue #1101 on 20th January, and would grace the comic for a total of seven years (followed by reprints which lasted until the comic's demise in 84). Although only limited to one page a week, Barney would appear in colour during the first three years. His printed cartoons were first drawn by Tom & Jerry artist Bill Titcombe, and shortly after the strips switched to B&W in 1976, Bill Mevin took over cartooning duties (who surprisingly proved adept at maintaining Titcombe's design of the lumbering bruin). Most (if not all) of the stories were written by fellow cartoonist and TV Comic editor Dick Millington.

TV Comic maintained the Walter Beery-type personality of Barney, as favoured by MGM director Dick Lundy. However, they decided not to include his comic-strip nephews Wuzzy and Fuzzy. Instead, another character was introduced to the UK readers as a comic foil, a moose by the name of...erm...Moose! This character would have a more downbeat personality to counteract Barney's "know-it-all" demeanour, but would more often than not get the last laugh.

Presenting six of his best cartoons, published between 1973-9. Enjoy!

#1101 20th January 1973 (first appearance!). Artist: Bill Titcombe.

#1112 7th April 1973. Artist: Bill Titcombe.

#1179 20th July 1974. Artist: Bill Titcombe.

#1196 16th November 1974. Artist: Bill Titcombe.

#1126 1st November 1975. Artist: Bill Titcombe.

#1432 25th May 1979. Artist: Bill Mevin.

Coming up next: Droopy.

Monday, July 05, 2010

TV Comic - Six Of The Best: The Bugs Bunny Show

Bugs Bunny was the first classic cartoon star to have his own one-page comic strip in the UK's TV Comic, appearing in issue #896 on 15th February 1969 (and here's the front cover announcing the news):

The strip was published every week until mid-76, but reprints were published a couple of years later. A new set of comic strips were commissioned in early 1980, and would last until the comic's demise in mid-84. Throughout both runs, Bugs would share the limelight with a limited cast of Looney Tunes characters: Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety, Granny, and Yosemite Sam (the TV Comic staff must have preferred the Friz Freleng cartoons). Sadly, other characters such as Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig never appeared in the British strips, but Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner would have their own adventures in the comic (they will appear on this blog shortly). Differences between the American strip, apart from the one-page format, was that Yosemite Sam was a lot more trigger-happy in the British version, and Tweety (more often than not) was referred to as a SHE!
This post will feature six cartoon strips from the first run (69-76). As you will see, the strips were drawn by five different artists within the six years, all with varying degrees of cartooning styles. This, unfortunately, made the cartoons suffer from not having a consistent look, as while some did have the capability of maintaining the classic look of the characters, others obviously struggled (especially when it comes to drawing Daffy Duck). Also, all of the strips were published only in black & white.
Below is the very first strip to be published. Unfortunately I'm not able to identify the artist, but most often would leave his initials on the strip as RM (could it be Robert McKimson? Well, it was a long shot, anyway). Nevertheless, judging by the artwork below, he certainly hit the ground running. Not only are the character designs more-or-less spot-on, but the layout and backgrounds were top-notch. Sadly, his tenure only lasted just over a year and a half, and would make way for another artist in November 1970:

Fortunately, Tom & Jerry artist Bill Titcombe would be the one to take over. Although his artistic style was more loose than the previous cartoonist, nevertheless he didn't do a bad job, being able to maintain the classic character designs whilst still retaining his individual style. His advantage is that he was able to add a bit more weight to the visual gags than his predecessor, and his backgrounds were a little-less cluttered. His tenure would only until January 1972, but he did return to spearhead the strip's 80's revival for a further two years. Below is from issue #1003 (6th March 1971):

The next artist to try his luck with this strip was Barry Glennard, who, apart from a couple short gaps in 1973, would have the longest tenure lasting until mid-75. As evident on the next strip (from issue #1073, 8th July 1972), his character designs are a little off, but would constantly refine the look of his strips during those few years (he would come up with three different Bugs designs):

During those short breaks in 1973, Pink Panther artist John McNulty would fill in for Glennard. Although his style suited the groovy cat, sadly it never suited the look of the LT characters. Bugs and Sylvester would both look a little "lanky" for my liking, and the less said about his Daffy Duck the better. However, he did come up with some great poses as shown below, from issue #1119 (26th May 1973). Also notice the title panel, which features Glennard's Bugs Mark 2:

Another Glennard cartoon, featuring his Bugs Mark 3. Notice the more loose artwork, which may indicate that tighter deadlines had to be met. Scanned from issue #1225 (7th June 1975), and was one of his last few strips:

TV Comic stalwart Bill Mevin took over drawing duties during the strip's last year. His previous work include comic strip versions of Doctor Who and Fireball XL5 (the latter of which he was recently interviewed on the latest R2 DVD set from Network), and throughout the 70's did the Popeye strips for TV Comic. Although he was more suited at adaptations of live-action shows, his drawing style made his Bugs strips appear to have the most freakiest artwork of them all! Having said that, with the addition of his love for exaggeration (especially the characters' poses), it actually gave the cartoons some zest! Below was published in issue #1250 on 29th November 1975:

Coming up next: Barney Bear.

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.

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!