The life story of Tony Hancock, one of the UK’s most celebrated comedians, has been reimagined as a graphic novel – and a Kickstarter has just launched for a limited first edition.
The fully completed 290-page graphic novel, Hancock: The Lad Himself, created by writer Stephen Walsh and drawn by Keith Page, introduced by author and journalist Louis Barfe, will be published in April 2023. It covers the story of the comedian’s rise to stardom, and subsequent decline, retold from a completely unique perspective.
The anecdotal, slightly stream-of-consciousness narrative allows the graphic novel to hop around the timeline of Hancock’s life. “The Lad Himself” even encounters his own “character” at different times, and uses the opportunity pass comment and interrupt the narrative.
The Hancock in this book has already demanded a look at the script and caught a glimpse of his fate, proving a little infuriated at how his story is told – as those who know and love his work would fully expect. And he’s not having it, he’s not having it at all.
In the opening section, the novel establishes the gap between Hancock the comedy persona and Hancock the very fallible human being. There is an exploration of the origins of his comedy and the novel follows him through World War Two and back to London afterwards where, along with just about every other British comedian of the period, he almost starved to death chasing a big break that defiantly refused to arrive.
The novel sees Tony in the company of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and others, following him through his lean years to his success as a radio comedian, surrounded by a team of co-stars that included Sid James, Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques. The reader then observes the transfer of his radio character to television, with Hancock ultimately becoming the nation’s favourite.
For more than a decade nothing seemed to go wrong for him. From 1951 to 1961 he stood at the top of the British comedy profession. Streets and pubs would empty when his programme was on the telly. Everybody loved him.
He was a bright-eyed lover of life and enormous fun to be around. An enthusiast, always pushing forward and exploring ideas, though rarely pursuing them to their end, Hancock’s Half Hour writers, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, picked up on this tendency – which they shared to a degree – and made it part of Hancock’s comic character.
This was before the darkness set in, when Galton and Simpson had been dispensed with and Hancock had alienated many others. Wives, friends and acquaintances suffered, and sometimes broke, under the strain of Hancock’s self-destructive nature.
Hancock died from a fatal overdose of barbiturates washed down with vodka on 25th June 1968 in Sydney, Australia, where he was attempting to resurrect the glory days of his television career. He was only 44, but his body was ravaged by alcohol. He left a series of increasingly incoherent suicide notes. The last legible note said: “Things seemed to go wrong too many times”.
Despite this, Hancock’s legacy and talent has lived on and, since his early death, there have been numerous works about the man and his life. There have been dramas, re-tellings, performances, re-makes, but there has never been a biographical work presented as a comic book – though his character did feature in his own comics in Film Fun in the 1950s.
The Lad Himself is Tony Hancock’s colourful life and career told truthfully but with great originality. The Hancock in this novel is presented warts and all, while still capturing and maintaining the qualities for which he was so loved.
“After reading all the books about Tony again and watching all the DVDs, scribbling tons of notes and walking up and down a lot, I was surprised one day at the laptop to hear a voice mocking me for even attempting to capture Hancock in something as piffling as whatever it was I was trying and failing to do,” says writer Stephen Walsh of the project, who has dedicated the book to writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson.
“I looked around and, no, the ghost of Hancock wasn’t there. But he’d somehow come to life as a ‘character’ in my head. And he wouldn’t shut up.
“So, I wrote down everything he said. The ‘voice’ of Hancock became central to the story that started to emerge. I sent off the first bunch of pages to Keith and he seemed to agree that we were onto something. He quickly ‘staged’ the scenes I’d written and gave me a look at the pages. What astonished and pleased me the most was the ‘performance’ he was managing to get from ‘our’ Hancock.”
B7 Comics (an imprint of B7 Media) is the publisher of the graphic novel due out in April 2023.
Associate Publisher, B7 Comics, Helen Quigley, says: “Tony Hancock’s legacy as a comic performer is still filtering down the generations, refreshing his fan base year on year as he continues to inspire writers and comedians. There are just as many 20 and 30-somethings today who appreciate his work as there were when he was still with us. To be able to tell his story in this new way is both hugely exciting and a great honour.”
• Tony Hancock: The Lad Himself is illustrated by Keith Page and written by Stephen Walsh, published by B7 Comics, edited by John Freeman. The Lad Himself graphic novel is also available to pre-order from GetMyComics/B7 and direct from from B7Media.com
Hancock – The Lad Himself: The Creative Team
Stephen Walsh grew up in Dublin, watching grainy broadcasts of comedy and drama from the BBC that somehow wafted across the Irish Sea but would vanish as soon as the weather changed.
Determined to put this extraordinary skill to some use, he has written for film, television and, perhaps most rewardingly, comics (especially the Charlotte Corday series, working with Keith Page).
Londoner Keith Page first became a fan of Tony Hancock whist watching the original Hancock Half Hour broadcasts as a child. His first published work was in 1976 and he was represented by the Temple Art Agency for many years, working in a wide variety of genres for major comic and book publishers.
He has undertaken long runs of work on Thunderbirds and, latterly, Commando comics and has working on the ongoing Charlotte Corday fantasy/humour series.
Letterer Rob Jones is UK based award-nominated writer and award-winning letterer of comic books. His lettering work can be found in the pages of various books from Image, Humanoids, Heavy Metal, Scout, Behemoth, A Wave Blue World, BHP Comics, DC Thomson, Comichaus, Comicscene, Shift and many many other titles.
Doctor Who Magazine award-winning freelance artist and graphic designer and Robert Hammond designed Hancock: The Lad Himself. He has worked on BBC DVD / Blu-Ray releases and was designer on the ComicScene award-winning, now sold out collection of the Look-In strip, “Robin of Sherwood”, published by Chinbeard Books last year.
Editor John Freeman is the founder of the award-winning web site downthetubes. Working in British comics and magazine publishing for over 30 years, he’s currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, his third tour of duty in the captain’s chair on the Titan Magazines title, he works as a comics editor, game designer, writer, and was Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media. He’s also part of the team behind the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.
B7 Comics is a new, exciting publishing division from indie film and audio drama producer B7 Media, offering new comics spanning SF, mystery and adventure in the coming months, kicking off with our all-new graphic novel based on the sci-fi noir story Pilgrim, written by John Freeman with art by Neil Edwards. Blending classic comic storytelling with a modern style, and also looking to spotlight comic gems from around the globe both past and present, B7 Comics will offer a range of series spanning science fiction, action-adventure, spy-fi, steampunk, fantasy and gothic horror.
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.