August kicks off with a great mix of releases from Rebellion, not least of them the latest issue of 2000AD, with a smashing cover from Luke Preece – but the long-awaited print edition of Football Funnies, packed with wicked strips at the expensed the Beautiful Game, credited to Ken Reid, is this week’s must have for me.
Between 1970 and 1974, Ken Reid drew numerous weekly humour strips for Scorcher and Score, and this overdue collection collects the first two years of those, featuring “Sub”, “Manager Matt”, “Hugh Fowler” and “Football Forum”.
The strips come crammed with the kind of ultra violence Reid managed to get away with – and let’s face it, for those of us who grew up watching Tom and Jerry or Looney Tunes in the 1970s, we probably never really noticed how violent! They’re great fun, and for those of us who were utterly rubbish at football, relegated to the least useful position possible if you even made it to a team, these strips were the only reason you’d read weekly comics like Scorcher.
This collection is introduced by Ken’s son, Antony, who notes the hugely inventive cartoonist had no interest in football, didn’t follow a team and further revealing “I had never seen a football match apart from the World Cup on TV in 1966. So you can imagine his doubts when he was asked to contribute to Scorcher! Was he the right choice? I dare say this comes as a big surprise to the reader as looking at these pages you would think he was a football fanatic, but there is a reason behind it.”
That reason was absolute necessity. Earlier this week, cartoonist Lew Stringer noted that when the Odhams comics ended, IPC editors wouldn’t give Ken any work for a while, axing his regular two page “The Nervs” strip in 1969 (which IPC found distasteful) and not giving him anything to replace it.
“Their Humour Group wouldn’t employ him for years,” Lew noted, “but fortunately he found work on the adventure comics Scorcher (1970) and Jet (1971), and then in 1973 on Shiver and Shake, and 1974 on Whoopee and Buster. A genius like Ken Reid should have been the first artist they contacted for their new humour comics Whizzer and Chips, Cor!!, and Knockout, but he’s notable by his absence there.”
Irmantas Povilaika, who has long documented the life and work of Ken Reid and published the wonderful two-book collection The Power Pack of Ken Reid (still available here, and well worth buying!), notes he therefore only agreed to draw the strips because he was desperate for work. But while they are strips not born of choice, readers had no idea what had happened to one of their favourite artists behind the scenes, and while the subject matter wasn’t his, Reid delivered some hilarious strips in great style.
Of the strips featured in this marvellous collection, he wrote scripts for all but the first two of the 31 episodes “Sub”, the other strips the work of unknown Fleetway script writers, who ably found the funny side of the game.
“Sub”, aka Duggie Dribble, is the eternal team substitute, a useless player with an opinion of himself very definitely at odds with his abilities, who’s always on the sidelines – but every week, he devises a fiendish plan to get back in the game. Oh, and what plans they are, getting madder in the telling and regularly putting Duggie on the wrong side of the law, never mind angry team mates who fall victim to his schemes. Of the four strips featured in this collection, “Sub” is surely the craziest, with Ken at his best throughout, art and story wise.
That said, who else but Ken could make a script concept as interminably dull as “Football Forum” actually in any way interesting? Lampooning the kind of TV football pundits whose after match commentary these days seems almost as long as the games we’ve just seen, Ken’s “experts” clearly don’t know what they’re talking about… and their answers to readers’ questions get ever more insane.
Then, Ken himself surely draws on his own view of the beautiful game to breathe life into “Hugh Fowler – The Man who HATES Football”, although, as noted he wasn’t writing this strip, but surely identified with its grumpy protagonist.
As his attempts to stop kids enjoying the beautiful game blow up in his face, Reid clearly relishes the opportunity to bring this wicked spoilsport harm, although as with “Manager Matt”, the final strip in this collection, it should be noted that Ken didn’t draw every episode, and it’s a shame there’s no indication of this in the collection credits, although identifying them, without a “pay copy” to cross reference, is probably near impossible.
The series wraps with a perhaps bizarre change of heart about football given all that has gone before, but it at least gives us a humour strip with a resolution to its usual concept, a rarity in many formulaic classic British humour strips.
The collection wraps with “Manager Matt”, a clowning satire on mean and incompetent managers that any football fan should recognise. Once again not all the strips are by Ken, and this strip is drawn throughout in a more cartoony style than “Sub”, for example, perhaps reflecting Ken’s increasing workload by the time he was working in this. His creativity still shines through, but again, sadly, it’s harder to distinguish his work from various, er… subs!
This Treasury of British Comics collection is black and white throughout, eschewing the original presentation of the strips which were often published with an additional and somewhat bizarre spot colour – green, for example. I think they’re all the better for that, and the editorial team have done a good job in terms of cleaning up strips from file copies in lieu, mostly I assume, of the original art, long consigned to a furnace by order of management.
Let’s hope that now schedules aren’t being hammered by Pandemic penalties, the “Second Half” – a collection of the other football-focused strips Ken drew, “The Soccernauts”, “Harry Hammertoe – The Soccer Spook”, “Jimmy Jinks” and “Triptoe Triers” will follow faster than the Sub gets a place on the team!
• Ken Reid’s Football Funnies
with art by Ken Reid, Various Writers ISBN: 9781781088838 Out: 5th August 2021
On Sale This Week from Rebellion
2000AD Prog 2243
Cover: Luke Preece
Judge Dredd: Now That’s What I Call Justice! by John Wagner (Writer) John Higgins (Artist) Sally Hurst (Colourist) Annie Parkhouse (Letterer)
Aquila: The Rivers of Hades, Book One by Gordon Rennie (Writer) Patrick Goddard (Artist) Dylan Teague (Colourist) Annie Parkhouse (Letterer)
Department K: Cosmic Chaos by Rory McConville (Writer) Dan Cornwell (Artist) Len O’Grady (Colourist) Simon Bowland (Letterer)
Skip Tracer: Eden by James Peaty (Writer) Paul Marshall (Artist) Dylan Teague (Colourist) Jim Campbell (Letterer)
Dexter: Somewhere, Beyond The Sea by Dan Abnett (Writer) Tazio Bettin (Artist) John Charles (Colourist) Simon Bowland (Letterer)
• Available in print from: 2000AD webshop, book stores, Amazon, and comic book stores via Diamond
Bad City Blue (Digital Only)
By Alan Grant and Robin Smith
Release Date: 4th August 2021
Bader City is a crumbling ghetto built into an asteroid in the depths of space. Crawling with armed gangs, chaos is kept at bay by brutal hit men like Blue, who work for the city’s elite. This gritty science fiction classic from 2000 AD legends Alan Grant and Robin Smith is collected in digital graphic novel format for the first time.
Ken Reid’s Football Funnies
Ken Reid, Various Writers
Out: 5th August 2021
Colonial Marshal Metta Lawson was appointed to the frontier township of Badrock on the planet 43 Rega, intent on stamping her authority on the colony. But in doing so, Lawson made many enemies, including Munce, Inc., the mega-corporation that funds Badrock. Now, Munce is planning to dispose of Badrock once and for all…
Black Beth and the Devils of Al-Kadesh
Publication date: 23rd June 2021
After her appearance in Rebellion’s previous Scream! & Misty Specials, the sword-swinging Black Beth is back, a character that whose first appearances was in a 1988 Scream! special, a strip drawn by Blas Gallego whose author remains unidentified – but was probably intended for a more adult title that never got off the ground.
Written by Alec Worley (Durham Red) and drawn by DaNi (Coffin Bound), Beth is a warrior-woman born in anger and forged in rage. She and her blind aide Quido have travelled to the wicked city of Shadrivar, in search of the evil witch Anis-Amuun.
Many think that she is long dead, but a mage called Estevan believes otherwise. He charges Beth with a quest to destroy the witch, initiating a sea-spanning quest which pits Beth’s curved blade against all manner of mystical creatures…and possibly Anis-Amuun herself!
The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire Volume Three
Creators: Mike Butterworth, Don Lawrence
Out: 20th July 2021
Format: Paperback and webshop exclusive hardcover with cover by Chris Weston
Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Volume 37
Release Date: 22nd July 2021
Dimensions: 259 × 187 mm