View My Stats

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Bill Ritchie 1st August 1931 - 25th January 2010

Bill Ritchie, prominent cartoonist with the Beezer, passed away on Monday.

He was born in Glasgow and studied at the Glasow School of Art. He was the comic's longest running cartoonist working with the publication from 1956 - 1990.

While serving in the army in Korea, he submitted his first cartoons to the publisher, which were printed in The Weekly News.

He started working with 'The Beezer' at the young age of twenty four and drew Baby Crockett, Dicky Burd, Smiffy and Hungry Hoss for the comic. He also drew for other D.C Thomson publications, namely: Sparky, Bimbo, Bunty, The Beano and The Weekly News.

He had a wonderful, fluid and totally unique style, drawing with thick jagged lines that showed exuberant confidence. His work was just genuinely sweet.

Reporting the sad news on the Comics UK forum, Beano sub-editor Iain McLaughlin wrote:
"It's with great sadness that I have to pass on the news that Bill Ritchie passed away on Monday of this week. Bill's enormous catalogue of work will be well known to every British comics fan. For those of us who worked with Bill, he was one of the folk you always looked forward to seeing. You knew you'd have a good laugh and an interesting chat with Bill. His knowledge of comics and artists was extraordinary. And he was just a really nice guy, always gracious and helpful. A genuinely nice man who will be missed greatly by all of us who worked with him."

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Social History through 'The Beezer' No 1 : The Recording Booth

1) Ginger and the 'Voice Recording Booth'
Here's a lovely Ginger strip a from a very early Beezer (1956 - its first year) drawn by Dudley Watkins. In this story Ginger has been persistently kicking his football over his neighbour's fence. Aflter one too many scoldings he loses his nerve and has to resort to recording his voice in order to ask for his ball back. We see Ginger going to a recording booth in order to record his message
In the 1950s the only way many people could record their own voice was to use a voice recording machine which actually transferred your voice onto a record.

In those days your recording couldn't last any longer than two minutes and voices were laid down on a six-inch cardboard record that could then be played at home. Alot of real-life recording artists started out this way including a certain young singer called Elvis Presley.
The Voice-O-Graph was the most widley used record recording booth. It was similar to a photo booth and let the patron make an actual 6" record which could be played on any record player.

The International Mutoscope Company manufactured the last recording booth coin-ops in 1968. When portable cassette recorders caught on in the 70’s, the booths started to lose their novelty value. Besides, it was embarrassing when the whole arcade overheard your so-very-unlike-the-King Elvis impression.
Remembering Recording Booths

1957 Multoscope Voice-O-Graph

Production of gramaphone records

Beezer Free Gifts

Most years 'The Beezer' gave out a couple of free gifts a year. This would usually to be to either soften the blow of a penny cover price increase, to herald the change of a couple of characters or to change the new front page title logo. In spite of price change the Beezer actually upped its page count a couple of times. From the late 50's to early 60's it increased from 12 pages to 14 and finally in 1964 it went up to 20 pages.

The Super Tootle Flute 1970
Now, here's a free gift I remember very well. In March 1970 (issue) 738 the Beezer Tootle Flute marked a change from a blue background title logo to a white one. New characters 'Tommys Tick Tock Twin' and 'Mighty Mik' replaced 'General Jim' and 'Hocus Pocus'

I am sure that there was a short television commercial advertising this free gift with an an animation of Ginger playing the tootle flute. Anyone else out there remember?

Balloon with stick-on funny faces 1970

A hugely disappointing free gift came one week later with these uncharming images that you were meant to stick onto a balloon. Funny faces? Not really. I remember feeling very cheated by this.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Pick A Prize

The Pick A Prize Section ran for many years throughout the sixties and seventies. It consisted of readers' Christmas cracker style jokes or amusing anecdotes. Parents were always referred to as Mummy and Daddy when written about which suggests that letters were usually submitted by well brought up, middle class children

If your letter was published in the Beezer you could win one of the following; a pens and pencil set, a remote control aeroplane, roller skates, record token, teenage doll, motor car set, rotadraw (what's that?) or a magic drawing set. Two special prizes plus 10/- (50p) were awarded the to the best letters. The prizes never seemed to change: they remained the same for years.

I'll never forgive the author of the letter below and I remember it so well. He actually suggested that, to relieve boredom, readers should cut out the heads of Beezer characters from the comic and stick them onto the bodies of other characters. I did this, ruined dozens of my old Beezers and have regretted it ever since. Malcom King, wherever you are, I hate you!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Beezer Artists and their Creations

Tom Bannister : Pop, Dick and Harry
Leo Baxendale : The Banana Bunch
Gordon Bell
Paddy Brennan
Bill Hill : The Banana Bunch, Roly Poly,
Ken Hunter: Mick on the Moon, The Jellymen, General Jim,
Bill Holroyd : The Voyage of the Bushwacker
David Law : Cap'n Hand
Joe McCaffrey
Tom Paterson
Bill Ritchie : Baby Crockett, Smiffy, Dicky Burd
Dudley D. Watkins : Ginger
Malcolm Judge : The Numskulls, The Badd Lads
Bob McGrath : Ginger
Hugh Morkey : Calamity Jane
George Martin : The Hillys and the Billys, Young Sid,
Bob McGrath: Ginger
James Walker: Kings of Castaway Island

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Main Players

Drawn by Dudley Watkins from 1956 until 1969. Ginger starred on the front cover for eight months in 1956 and returned to the cover in 1964. He was very similar to 'Oor Wullie' only taller and without the Scottish accent. Ginger had no special powers and he wasn't particularly badly behaved but at least he wasn't an anthropomorphic character like those that graced the covers of 'The Beano', 'The Dandy' and 'The Topper'.

Each of Watkins' Ginger strips started with Ginger getting out of bed, and ended with him getting back in it at the end of the day. This detail was dropped when McGrath took over, and while Jimmy Glen occasionally made use of this device, it tended to be more in relation to the storyline rather than a visual device.

Ginger actually grew older as the strip went on, though only until he became a teenager, which he remained as for the rest of the strip's life. In 1970 illustration of the strip was taken over Bob McGrath
The Badd Lads

Fingers, Knuck and Boss were inept crooks. Always getting caught, escaping jail and then finding themselves incarcerated again. Fingers was your quintessentual spiv with the pencil thin mousthache, Knuck was the thick set, soft goon and Boss was the short but smart brains of the outfit. 'The Badd Ladds' was illustrated by the superb Mal Judge from January 19671 through to 1987. Later artists who worked on the strip were John Dallas, Mervyn Johnston and John Geering.

The Jellymen

The Jellymen were grey, five-legged humanoids who had suckers instead of hands. These suckers produced giant bubbles that could solidify and imprison humans. Science teacher “Potassium” Roberts knew of a chemical that would dissolve the incredibly strong “prisons” and with six of his students he set about releasing entrapped people and foiling the Jellymens' plans for world domination. The story was illustrated by Ken Hunter and it was reprinted in 1970.
Scruffy urchin; the product of his own upbringing. His parents were every bit as scruffy as he was and did nothing to smarten him up or keep him away from junkyards and backstreets. Although he was always getting into scraps and scrapes he was well meaning and resourceful, always finding a way to make an extra bob or two.

The strip was illustrated by Bill Ritchie and ran from 1968-1988.

Pop, Dick and Harry
Dick and Harry were always unkind to their fat but otherwise harmless oaf of a Dad. Twins, Dick and Harry, sported the most ridiculous hairstyles ever seen in a comic strip (not dissimilar to Mike Scores' of A Flock of Seagulls). They always made the most unreasonable demands on their poor father. Of course in every case he could never deliver and so the twins would always go ahead and do their own thing. For example, in one episode when they asked for a swimming pool and poor Pop explained that he couldn't afford one, they simply dug a crater in the garden and syphoned off the water supplies from all other houses in the neighbourhood. Invariably they would triumph though never deservedly so. The strip was drawn by Tom Bannister until 1981.
The Numskulls

Forget what you were taught in biology; according to the Beezer the human body is controlled by small people who live inside every one of us. The strip concentrated on beings who lived inside a man's head called the Numskulls. The man was never named, but the Numskulls referred to him as "our Man". There were six Numskulls, Brainy, who controlled the brain, Blinky guided the man with a steering wheel while looking through his huge eyes, luggy controlled the hearing and Alf and Fred worked in the mouth where they shovelled food down a hatch. Mal Judge drew the strip from March 1962 until September 1990.
Colonel Blink

Colonel Blink first appeared in November 1958. The strip was drawn by Tom Bannister for the majority of its run, with a few later strips being drawn by Bill Ritchie in the same style as Bannister.
He was disastrously short-sighted and yet incredibly stubborn, utterly convinced at all times that he was heading in the right direction. With the usual comic disregard for foolish internal consistencies, every other story involved his driving down the road in an old, clapped out banger. He lived with an ever-patient "Auntie," who acted as housekeeper, and who, despite her name looked considerably younger than the Colonel. He had a dog called "Rover" who needed to be even more patient as he's often mistaken for lions, bears, rugs or insurance salesmen. His next door neighbour was called Cartright who was often the innocent victim of some misunderstanding or other.

The Banana Bunch

Brainy, Dopey, Lanky, Thatch, Titch and Fatty, collectively known as the 'Banana Bunch', lived out every kid's dream. Although they wore their school uniforms, we never saw them go to school. Instead they ate, slept and hung out in their wooden hideout in the woods. They were constantly at war with Milligan's gang who lived in another hideout in the same woods but who were altogether a scruffier lot. Every meal the Banana Bunch ate was like a banquet and where they got their copious amounts of food from was never explained. Leo Baxendale drew the strip from 1956-1964 and from 1964-1987 it was drawn by Bill Hill.

Baby Crockett

One of the longest running comic strips that ran from the Beezer 34 (September 1956) t0 Beezer 1809 (September 1990). Baby Crockett also appeared in young children's comic 'Bimbo' from 1961-1972 and its successor Little Star 1972-1976. In both cases the strip was drawn by Bill Ritchie. Baby Crockett himself being a character derived from the earlier 'Wee Fella'; a strip drawn by Davy Law for Thomson's magazine/newspaper, 'The Peoples Journal' from 20.04.1946 to 6.02.1954

The History of 'The Beezer'

From 1956-1981 the Beezer was a large format (tabloid newspaper/A3 sized) weekly British comic published by D.C Thomson in Dundee. Along with its sister comic the Topper it dominated the comic stands from the late 50's to early 80's until it was cut down to A4 size. For many years the comic retained a charming consistency. Fantastic artists like Dudley.D.Watkins, Bill Ritchie,Leo Baxendale and Mal Judge contributed to the comic. The characters rarely changed and when you opened up the comic every week you knew exactly on what page they were going to be. Sadly, when it was shrunk in size, alot of the original artists left and the characters and formats changed. The Beezer continued until 1990 when, after merging with the Topper, it eventually was incorporated into the Beano. This blog is solely devoted to the glory years of the Beezer when quality, style, consistency and above all size mattered.