By Ken Reid (some pages by Barrie Appleby, uncredited)
Introduced by Alan Moore and Antony J. Reid
Publisher: Rebellion (Treasury of British Comics)
The Book: Hilarious face-changing adventures by one of the greats of British comics! Ken Reid is consistently name-checked by the greats of comics – from Alan Moore to Kevin O’Neill, John Wagner to Pat Mills – for his unique art that is matched only by his enduring sense of humour. In a hardcover edition befitting his status as one of the all-too-forgotten greats of British comics, we present his timeless Faceache – the humorous adventures of Ricky Rubberneck, the boy with a “bendable bonce” whose skin stretches like rubber. At will, he could scrunge his face into anything, whether it’s mimicking others or turning into grotesque creatures, but always coming a cropper!
This is the first collection of this long lost classic from the hugely popular and long-running Buster comic.
The Review: Over the last one hundred years of comics in Britain there has been a pantheon of humour comic artists toiling away in innumerable comics for their slave master publishers in stark anonymity. Some as employees chained to the desk with head down and bum up for eight to nine hours a day. Others as freelance artists striving to ply their skills to any publisher they could find to put bread on the table.
Some freelance artists did this directly but most used an agency to champion their cause, a cause which was firmly in the agencies hands, if truth be told. So the life of a humorous comic artist has never been easy, as since ever there was comic’s there has been a profusion of comic artists. Some were awful but usually very cheap and managed to scrape by.
Then there were those journeyman artists who were the backbone of the daily drudge producing average or a bit above average work for a less than average wage. Then, there were the stars, names back then that nobody knew, and characters that they drew which made you smile when you immediately open that page of your favourite comic where your favourite character resided.
After a while you got to know that fantastic something they did that lit up the page and even noticed their work in other comics spending more of your pocket money to buy them as well, or begging your mum for more pocket money, or making unattainable promises to be good, do more chores, take the dog out for a walk or whatever it took to get that extra sixpence.
Today, of course, we actually know who the few really bright stars were, stars like Tom Brown, Dudley Watkins, Leo Baxendale, Roy Wilson, Davey Law, and right there with them eclipsing them all in my personal opinion is Ken Reid.
Bed bound for long durations in his youth, Ken passed the time drawing. At 14, he went to a local art college, but was expelled for truancy. He then had to learn his trade through the school of hard knocks and because of his own whacky personality and eccentricities he could be as creative, funny, outlandish, surreal and absurd as he wanted to be. And he was!
However, out of all of his fantastic characters, Faceache allowed him to express himself more probably more than any other. As writer as well as an artist, Ken poured his creative juices into every page, with active backgrounds, terrific action, and as many as eighteen panels on a page (unheard of!!) to tell the reader the story in the way he wanted to tell it.
The character Faceache was genius, allowing Ken to stretch (no pun intended) his inventive imagination to new levels. You can only imagine him sitting front of a mirror in his home studio distorting and his already unusual features and frantically sketching away and writing the dialogue at the same time. The true fruit of his labour was of course what he put on the drawing board. Bonkers, week after week after week! What more could a kid ask for?
There were very few awards in the British comic industry back in the 1970s as publishers tried to keep their stars anonymous in case the competition nicked them. However in 1978 at an inaugural comic gathering called “Strips 78“, organised by the recently formed Society of Strip Illustrators, was held in London to bestow awards on creators in two categories, newspaper strips and comic strips. In each category there were four awards, best writer and artist in adventure strips in newspapers and comics, and best writer and artist in a humour strip in newspapers and comics.
In 1978, in its inaugural year his peers gave awards to Ken for Best Humorous Writer and Best Humorous Strip of 1977 for his work on Faceache. So the book out now is full of strips that his own peers rightly celebrated him for – so what more could you ask for?
Just buy it, enjoy and wonder, read and re-read and look at the art in wonder because it is a little bit of comic heaven. Oh and recommend it to your friends as I have.
December 2017 © Peter Hansen
His most unique creation, the serialised strip adventures of Fudge the Elf was begun, “with artistic promise”, in 1937, in the Manchester Evening News, but did not reach maturity until Ken Reid’s return from the Army in 1945
Faceache and Buster © Rebellion Publishing