While numerous “Garth” strips from the Daily Mirror have been collected in the past, in the UK and elsewhere, the hugely-popular long-running newspaper strip generated little spin-off merchandise during its run, unlike similar characters such as “Dan Dare” or “Roy of the Rovers”.
In fact, a jigsaw, titled “Garth versus the Bridge Breakers”, produced in the 1950s by Bell Toys & Games, seems to be one of very few known items to spin off from the strip, drawn by Garth co-creator Steve Dowling himself, around 1947-9.
Featuring Garth in derring-do action, a copy is currently being offered on eBay, where the seller, Facet Books, notes the item is listed as the first in a series, although currently, we’re unaware of any further Garth jigsaws being produced.
Measuring 36cm wide and 24cm tall, the copy offered, in its original box, a little distressed, is complete, but one piece has some damage. In the bottom strip, third square along, you can see half of a piece making up Garth’s torso is missing its top paper layer. The seller suggests this could be repaired with some tender loving care.
The jigsaw also has a sheet of paper giving the full picture in black and white as a guide to help to do the jigsaw, some panels coloured in by a previous owner, but thanks to Garth expert Philip Harbottle, who owns a copy of the jigsaw, we can present it here, unmolested!
Phil tells us that not only is this a rare example of “Garth” merchandise – it may be unique.
“I do have an ephemeral but vivid childhood memory of seeing a toy comic-strip film projector after one Christmas,” he tells us. “The projector had been a gift to my father, not myself. In my mind’s eye it featured Garth in his Jasonian space-time kit, visiting ancient Cathay.
“But I now suspect that the film projector was of another Daily Mirror strip character altogether – possibly Jane or Buck Ryan. My father was a great fan of Jane, and used to go to see her in her stage shows. So my mother might have bought him the film projector for Christmas. My childhood memory would therefore have been simply a wish-fulfillment that it had featured Garth instead!”
Confirming Phil’s memory isn’t cheating him, the Daily Mirror did indeed license a Buck Ryan Peep-Scope, based on its crime-fighting character, produced by Kay, which occasionally turns up on auction sites, a copy held by The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum at the University of Exeter.
Was a similar “Garth” projector produced? If you have one, let us know.
In addition to his informative 1950s British Science Fiction videocasts, and other projects, Phil has recently been writing numerous synopses of early “Garth” strips for downthetubes, part of our coverage of the character sadly no longer published in the newspaper, the result of editorial decision last year deeming the strip as “not appropriate” for today’s newspaper market.
While we’ve yet to unearth any of the further “Garth” jigsaws promised on the box Bell Toys & Games did produce at least one companion “Jane” jigsaw, featuring the young adventuress character created by Norman Pett for the Daily Mirror.
downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf spotted a copy offered on eBay back in 2019, and highlighted it along with other tie-in “Jane” merchandise on his own Boys Adventure Comics blog.
The jigsaw, attributed to Norman Pett, finds Jane and her boyfriend, Georgie, going to a Fancy Dress Ball and was also promoted as being the first in a series. Were more produced?
Bournemouth-based Facet Books are also offering other rare jigsaws on their eBay shop, along with many other items, including a Dan Dare release, and a Doctor Who-inspired “K9” jigsaw, and early “Giles” collections.
Do you know of any further “Garth” jigsaws or other official merchandise? Do let us know, below!
With thanks to Philip Harbottle, Gerald Edwards for “Buck Ryan” information, and Richard Sheaf
Garth © 2020 REACH/ MGN Limited