Originally titled A Man Called Horace, the Wild West’s most gormless cowboy has delighted Mirror readers for over 20 years. debuting on 29th May 1989, the strip, written by Roger Kettle (once decribed by fellow comics cretor Rod McKie as a “national treasure”) and drawn by Andrew Christine, experienced a hiatus in 1996 under Piers Morgan’s feckless editorship (Morgan had no love of the strips, it’s said), before being revived with title shortened to Horace in 1997.
Writing on the official Horace Facebook page, Roger Kettle, who also writes Andy Capp for the Mirror and Beau Beep cartoon (the latter also drawn by Christine), described the cancellation of the strip as the “End of an Era” yesterday – and the paper’s decision, made in July, has prompted anger from the strip’s fans on Twitter, (there’s even a growing #bringbackhorace campaign Facebook and the official Horace forum.
— Ian D Johnstone (@IDJmedia) August 4, 2015
— Rob Baker (@colescargot) August 3, 2015
— Horace (@mancalledhorace) August 3, 2015
“Those of you who read the Daily Mirror or Daily Record may have noticed a Horace-sized gap in your paper today. Sadly, after 26 years, the strip has made its final appearance. Due to the financial situation at most newspapers today, severe cuts are being made and Horace is a victim of these circumstances.
“Andrew and I would like to thank all those readers who have followed our daft little characters over the past quarter of a century… The financial situation at today’s newspapers has been given as the reason but it’s still a wee bit sad,” Roger told dismayed fans via the strip’s official forum.
“It would have been nice to bow out on our own terms. “To have written a strip that ran for more than a quarter of a century is an achievement I’m proud of and I’m grateful to all of you who followed it over the years. Thank you!”
“We were asked if we’d like to produce a closing week’s series,” Roger, reveals feeling any return is unlikely, “but, as we’d already completed more than enough work to cover the remaining period, we declined. Basically, it would have meant doing a week’s work for free (the Mirror would not have paid us for it) so we decided just to leave things as they were.
“I dare say I would have written something horribly corny that allowed Horace and Kitty to end up together. We made the right choice!”
Roger and Andrew cut their cartooning teeth at DC Thomson in the 1970s. Andrew drew for Topper (then selling some 300,000 copies a week), while Roger intended to be a journalist but was instead asked to script some of the company’s comics, including “Beryl the Peril”. They went freelance in 1975 and concluded that the best way to generate some regular income was to get into the comic strip market.
A 1990 feature in the Scottish Herald notes there then followed almost two years of rejection, hard times, hard work, perseverance, and much discussion, over games of pool, as to whether they would ever make the breakthrough. Then came Beau Peep, which quickly established an audience in the Daily Star where it first appeared, followed by A Man Called Horace.
The Mirror has a fine tradition of publishing comic strip, as you can see from this excellent list on the Yesterday’s Papers site, dating back to it early days, and as Lew Stringer notes in his comments on the strip’s cancellation, when paper rationing reduced the Mirror to just eight pages a day during World War Two, it still devoted over one page to all new comic strips. “How times have changed,” he remarks.
Buck Ryan, originally written by the Mirror‘s children’s pages editor Don Freeman (and later by James Edgar, who also write newspaper strips such as Matt Marriott and Garth) is a private eye adventure strip drawn by Jack Monk that debuted on 22nd March 1937 and ran until 31st July 1962.
The strip has been reprinted in Italy, Australia and many other countries down the years. After the strip was cancelled, artist Jack Monk went on to draw strips for Lion (including “Commander Cockle”), Hornet, Sparky and Debbie.
• The Official Beau Peep and Horace Noticeboard • Horace on Facebook | Horace on Twitter @mancalledhorace (note that Roger Kettle has indicated both these social media avenues may have a short life span, despite only being set up recently)