In Memoriam: “Andy Capp” and “The Gambols” cartoonist Roger Mahoney

We’re sorry to report the passing of cartoonist Roger Mahoney, who died on 5th November, aged 89.

Cartoonist Roger Mahoney
Cartoonist Roger Mahoney

He’s perhaps best known for his work on “The Gambols”, a strip he continued after the death of Barry Appleby, and “Andy Capp”, which he drew for many years.

Born in Portsmouth in 1933, Mahoney studied art at the Southern College of Art, Portsmouth from 1947 to 1951, selling his first cartoons to the Daily Sketch and Daily Mirror, while also working as a professional musician – a drummer.

“The Music Makers” taken at The Heroes, Waterlooville about 1954. Left to right, Ted Grainger on trumpet, Bill Stilwell promoter, an unidentified saxophonist, Roger Mahoney on drums, Laurie Bycroft, alto, George Dawes, alto/tenor, and Stan Bennett, piano. Photo via Portsmouth Music Scene
Promotional art for the band Capricorn by Roger Mahoney, a band the Portsmouth Music Scene site notes was hardly ever out of work in the 1970s, Mahoney again on drums

Mahoney sent some of his drawings to Barry Appleby, creator of the “The Gambols” strip, along with his wife Dobs, in the Daily Express, in 1954. Barry encouraged him to continue, and they would go on to became lifelong friends.

A biography on the British Cartoon Archive notes Mahoney created his first strip, “Mopsy”, for the weekly girls comic, Princess, and afterwards contributed strips and jokes to a number of publications including the Scottish Daily Record (“Agony Is” and “Sammy the Caterpillar”), Woman’s Realm (“Mum”), the Daily Mirror (“Millie”, “The Greens”, and “Mandy Capp”), Sunday Express (“L”) and Daily Star (“What’s in a Name?” and “Last of the Summer Wine”, the latter published between 26th January 1987 to 24th March 1990, created by Iain Reid).

An episode of “The Greens” an episode by Roger Mahoney, published 4th May 1989 in the Daily Mirror. Via the Illustration Art Gallery
An episode of “The Greens” an episode by Roger Mahoney, published 4th May 1989 in the Daily Mirror. Via the Illustration Art Gallery
An original “The Gambols” board, as realised by Roger Mahoney. The strip was created by Barrie Appleby
An original “The Gambols” board, as realised by Roger Mahoney. The strip was created by Barry Appleby and his wife, Dobs
An original ink drawing of Richard, a companion of Roger Mahoney’s cartoon character Millie, extending a Merry Christmas Original Art signed: “Mahoney ’95”. Via HistoryforSale
Last of the Summer Wine Collection (1983)
The cover of The Last of the Summer Wine collection

His Lambiek profile notes Mahoney also cooperated on the relaunch of Norman Pett’s “Jane” strip in the Daily Mirror, and worked with Jim Henson on a cartoons version of The Muppets.

When Barry Appleby died in 1996, Mahoney took over the writing and drawing of “The Gambols” for Express Newspapers, and continued to work on the strip, in flawless imitation of Appleby’s style, when it transferred to the Mail on Sunday, after the Express dropped the strip in 1999.

Mahoney recalled later that “if I could get through the first six months I knew it would be all right, but living up to the Applebys remained the challenge.”

He also continued “Andy Capp” in the Mirror, after the death of the character’s creator, Reg Smythe, in 1998, working with writer Roger Kettle.

“Ken Layson approached Roger Kettle, who was already writing ‘A Man Called Horace’ for the Mirror’s strips page and asked him if he’d be interested in taking over the writing on Andy’s strip too,” notes Paul Slade, describing how Roger came to draw Andy Capp after Smythe’s death.

“Layson’s next stop was Roger Mahoney, the artist he’d commissioned to draw ‘Mandy Capp’, with writer Carla Ostrer… [his] chameleon skills Layson needed in anyone drawing Andy, so he must have been relieved when Mahoney said ‘yes’, too. He set his new team to work, and began slowly feathering their contribitions in with the pile of Smythe strips he was still using.” (At first, the new strips were uncredited, Kettle and Mahoney finally getting a byline in 2004).

Andy Capp drawn by Roger Mahoney, for the Daily Mirror, published in January 2003. Via eBay
Andy Capp, 7th May 2008 – Mahoney emulates a style of storytelling often used in another Mirror strip, “The Perishers”, in this episode

Mahoney himself was very aware of the weight of Andy’s history as he studied Smythe’s style and taught himself to copy its smallest quirks. “It’s a tremendous responsibility taking over a world-class cartoon strip like Andy Capp,” he told fellow cartoonist Lawrence Goldsmith, who took over writing the strip when Roger Kettle resigned in 2010. “You need to remember that, with all one’s experience in this field of work, and all the strips of your own that you’re created and sold, you have never achieved the success that Reg Smythe did.”

Mahoney retired from working on “Andy Capp” in 2020, aged 87, his last credited daily strip published in the UK in the Mirror on 14th November 2020, and final Sunday strip on Sunday 13th December.

Roger Mahoney’s final credited daily “Andy Capp” strip, published 14th November 2020

Paying tribute to the cartoonist on Sunday, Mail on Sunday Editor David Dillon said “Roger’s work brought joy – and a chuckle – to millions of our readers.”

“He was an extraordinary man,” noted Roger’s daughter Sandra Mahoney, speaking on behalf of the family. “He was still drawing right up to ten days before he died.”

Roger is survived by his wife, daughter, three sons. We wish them all the best at this time.

Roger Mahoney Biography at the British Cartoon Archive

Roger Mahoney art at the Illustration Art Gallery

Paul Slade’s in-depth look at Reg Smythe and Andy Capp

Andy Capp on Go Comics

Andy Capp at 50: Celebrating Half a Century of Laughspublished in 2006

Andy Capp: The 60 Years of Thinking About the Big Issues – published in 2017

This article has been updated to correctly identify Barry Appleby, not Dandy artist Barrie Appleby

Categories: British Comics - Newspaper Strips, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, Obituaries

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