After a fortnight of absolute non-stop craziness here in the downthetubes bunker, including my trip to London Film and Comic Con, I can’t tell you what a pleasure it was to receive a copy of Paul Hudson‘s brilliant new reference work, The A to Z of British Newspaper Strips, in the post yesterday.
It has been a real treat to sit down and have a trawl through this massive, 320-page tome, which sparked so many memories of newspaper strips of yesteryear, almost all, sadly, gone forever, victim to publisher budget cuts and, I’d argue, a complete failure by current newspaper editors to recognise just how important such strips once were, and still could be , to their Unique Selling Point.
But let’s not dwell too much on the dreary shadows of today’s press, not when there’s such a great book to savour about British newspapers comic history, a subject rarely tackled in print, although, online, downthetubes and blogs such as John Adcock’s Yesterday’s Papers, Steve Holland’s Bear Alley, and Richard’s Sheaf’s Boys Adventure Comics Blog, have strived to explore this aspect of the medium.
Even at 320 pages, The A to Z of British Newspaper Strips, referencing both national and regional newspaper strips from the turn of the last century onwards, barely scrapes the surface when it comes to documenting so many incredible, and, admittedly, some mediocre comic creations. But the A-Z format works very well, mention of a familiar artist sending you to the back page index of creators to find out what else they drew or wrote, some creators, such as 2000AD‘s John M. Burns, Arthur Ferrier and Robert Mahoney so incredibly prolific during their newspaper strip careers.
Copiously illustrated, every major newspaper strip gets an entry, and the more obscure too, and Paul Hudson also, usefully, points readers to what collections there are of some great strips, such as, for example, Titan’s James Bond and Modesty Blaise collections.
All past favourites – “Flook“, “Garth“, “Jane“, “Jeff Hawke“, “The Perishers” among them, get deserved mention and coverage, each entry including publication dates and creator credits where known (no easy task for the latter, I’m sure, in some cases).
The A to Z of British Newspaper Strips will, for me, prove an indispensable reference work, and, I’m sure, it’s welcome publication will prove a starting point for further research and expansion of some entries should sales permit a second edition.
I have some very minor niggles. The entry for The Sun‘s long-running creator-owned “Striker” is far too short, considering its length of run, in my opinion. Unsurprisingly, too, despite a massive amount of research and assistance from a wide range of comic archivists, a few newspaper strips escaped Paul’s clutches, such as “Titus the Newt“, created by the late Andrew (“Beau Peep”) Christine for the News of the World in the 1980s. But now aware of the latter, hopefully strips like that will feature in any new edition and that it is missing is absolutely not intended as being dismissive of the huge amount of work that has gone into this project.
Indeed, I’ve no doubt that the very existence of such an invaluable tome as this will prompt new information about the creators of some strips, perhaps stirring the families of lesser-known strips to contact Book Palace with additional information for future reference. I see this book as a very useful starting point for those of us who are fans of newspaper strips to use it as a starting point for further articles, spurred in part by Paul’s hard work.
While it has to be said that it’s very disheartening that the A to Z of British Newspaper Strips is, to all intents an purposes, bar a few exceptions such as the ongoing “Andy Capp“, a celebration of a lost and once integral part of local and national newspapers, it is a celebration. For that, I am very thankful and have really enjoyed my initail foray through the book.
While by no means cheap, this is a book that offers so much, prompts so many happy memories, that I think many downthetubes will want to get a copy. Thoroughly recommended.
• The A to Z of British Newspaper Strips by Paul Hudson is available from Book Palace Books now, price £55 | ISBN: 978-1913548247 | Artists and Writers: Numerous | 320 Pages
• Paul Hudson will be signing copies of The A to Z of British Newspaper Strips, 1.00 – 2.00pm Saturday 30th July 2022, Gosh! Comics, 1 Berwick Street, London W1F 0DR
• Head to the Illustration Art Gallery web site to check out their catalogue of newspaper strip art, which currently includes examples of Andy Capp, Bristow, The Flutters, George & Lynne, The Greens, Jane, Jeff Hawke, Modesty Blaise, Mr Midge’s Bodyguard, The Perishers, Pop, Terry and Son, and many more