Veteran strip writer Roger Kettle has announced the sad news that the Daily Star has made dropped its longest-running comic strip, Beau Peep, which had been running in the newspaper since the first issue in 1978.
Beau Peep will end sometime in early December and is yet another asinine cost saving measure at the Star unlikely to please readers. The paper is published by Express Newspapers, which also publishes the Daily and Sunday Express, a group is owned by Richard Desmond’s Northern and Shell company.
The creation of writer Roger Kettle and artist Andrew Christine, Beau Peep (real name Bert) is a hapless character who joined the Foreign Legion to escape his brutish wife, Doris. He proved to be an incompetent soldier and a liability to his colleagues.
A huge hit with readers, Beau Peep has been syndicated worldwide and many of the early strips featured in numerous collections.
“About three weeks ago, Andrew and I were informed that Beau Peep would be cut from The Star,” Roger announced on the forum The Beau Peep Notice Board on 26th November.
“The news arrived just over a year after The Mirror dropped our Horace strip and the reasons given are exactly the same. The newspaper industry is in deep financial trouble and anything that isn’t considered ‘essential’ is being sacrificed.”
(Originated comic strips are among the first targets to face the ace as a newspaper retrenches as sales decline; US newspapers have been cutting back on comic strips for years and in the UK, papers like The Mirror are, largely, reprinting old material rather than commissioning new work).
“Rather than the editorial staff, the money men are behind all these decisions and, to be honest, I wasn’t surprised when the letter arrived,” says Roger.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad – the strip has been the dominant factor in my life. I was 24 years old when I came up with the idea and 27 years old when it was first published. If you’d told me then that it would remain in print until I was a 65 year old pensioner, I’d never have believed you.
“I am hugely fortunate and hugely grateful for the career I’ve had. In total, my Horace and Beau Peep strips have lasted for 64 years and, when you throw in my 11 years of writing Andy Capp, I simply have no grounds for even the mildest of complaints.
“I must admit that I find my current situation extremely weird,” Roger notes. “For a long, long time, my life has been consumed with thinking up daft ideas for daft, little cartoon characters. Overnight, this has come to an end and it’s been more than a little difficult to adjust.
“As I think I’ve mentioned, I’ve been writing a book for some time so this will allow me to get my head down and finish the damn thing. I’d also like to write some stuff for football magazines. On top of that, me and Tarks will, hopefully, continue to produce material for an American website.
“I’m not sure of the exact date but I’m led to believe that Beau Peep will end at the beginning of December. Of course, something might happen and those daft, little cartoon characters may reappear somewhere else – but I doubt it.
“Thank you a million times for your support. I will miss that silly bugger.”
This is a sad day for fans of newspaper strips but to be honest, given cutbacks at Express Newspapers in recent years, it’s testament to the popularity of Beau Peep that it has survived the bean counters attentions this long. Huge respect to Roger and Andrew for such a long-running and inventive creation.
“The loss of Beau Peep is yet another blow for comic strips in this country,” notes cartoonist Lew Stringer on his blog of the strip’s unwelcome closure.
“We all know that comics are struggling, but so are newspaper strips. It does seem that the golden age of newspaper strips is over, with only a few hanging on now.”
• Visit the Beau Peep website: www.beaupeep.com
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.