The Treasury of British Comics first collection of Gums, featuring the inept, toothless shark who debuted in Monster Fun, will be published in November, pushed back from its originally announced June release. The collection includes the complete run of strips published in the weekly comic through 1976.
Credited to Frank Roy Davis, Robert Nixon and Alf Saporito, “Gums” stars a hapless, loveable shark with false teeth was a highlight of the short-lived Monster Fun comic (the title now revived by Rebellion) and proved to be so popular with the fans that he appeared as the front cover strip for most of the run.
The Great White (toothless) shark stalks a territory around the Australian coast, where he constantly butts heads with local surfer, Bluey. While Gums is out to snack on the youngster, Bluey is determined to take the shark’s false teeth as a memento!
Cartoonist and writer Frank Roy Davis was born in Fulham, London on 9th October 1921. He studied at West Kensington Central School, originally intending to enter a clerical career. His talent for art led him a different direction and his first job was as a studio artist for the wallpaper designers Arthur Sanderson & Sons. After serving with the RAF between 1940-1946, he went on to join the Gaumont British Animation studio.
After its closure in 1950, Davis began a career as a freelance cartoonist. His work was published in Tatler, the Daily Mirror and Punch, amongst others. In 1964 he joined the staff at IPC, writing scripts for several of their comic titles, including Lion (“The Backwoods Boys”), Whizzer and Chips (“Sid’s Snake”, “Odd Ball”), Jet (“Faceache”) and Monster Fun (“Gums”).
Although he left IPC in 1974, he continued to work as a freelancer for them until 1992 when he retired. As well as being a member of the British Cartoonists’ Association, he also was a founder of the Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain. He passed away on 11th November 2004.
Robert Thomas Nixon (Bob Nixon) was born in South Bank, Middlesbrough, in North Yorkshire on 7th July 1939, the fifth of six children born to Arthur Nixon and Phylis Thompson. Robert’s mother Phylis worked as a housewife while his father worked locally as a steelworker.
As a child, Robert spent much of his time drawing and sketching, and his artistic skills were recognised when he was seven years old by teachers at Cromwell Road School which he attended in South Bank. During his early years as an artist, and supported by teachers at the Central Secondary Modern School (Victoria Street, Southbank), Robert won several art competitions and a scholarship to Middlesbrough Art College in 1955, when he was sixteen.
Although his time at art college was cut short by the death of his father, Bob gained employment locally as a lithographic artist and left in 1965 to pursue his career as a full-time cartoonist, initially for DC Thomson. During this transition, Robert met and married Rita Kelly and, after living in Middlesbrough for several years, they moved to Guisborough in Cleveland where they raised their four children – Paul, Tony, Wendy and Catherine.
He took over “Little Plum” in The Beano after Leo Baxendale left the publisher in the early 60s. He would also take over the art chores on “Roger the Dodger” from Ken Reid and “Lord Snooty” from Dudley D. Watkins.
Bob left DC Thomson in 1972, selling his work to Fleetway publishers – the comic division of IPC – for the next 13 years, illustrating the stand out strips, “Gums” and “Kid Kong” in Monster Fun. He also took over from Ken Reid once again, on “Frankie Stein”.
Robert returned to DC Thomson in the mid 1980s, where he took up drawing “Roger the Dodger” again amongst other strips, including “Beryl the Peril” in The Topper.
Whilst self-employed, Bob also worked for several publishers designing greetings cards, joke book covers and illustrations, and company logos etc.
In addition to his skills as a cartoonist, Bob also enjoyed drawing and painting for his own pleasure. Using pastels, oils, watercolours, inks, pencils, and scraper-boards, Bob developed unique styles in surreal and fantasy art, art for children, landscapes and other scenes of nature. He passed away on 22nd October 2002.
Alf Saporito worked for Fleetway/IPC from 1967 until the early 80s. His big break came when illustrating “Gus Gorilla” – the strip which appeared on the cover of Cor!! Other strips included one featuring the comedian Charlie Williams in Shiver & Shake and “Master Spy”, in Valiant.
Alf is probably best known for his work on “Gums”, taking over the strip when it moved into Buster.
Saporito also drew stories featuring the Hanna-Barbera characters Wally Gator and Magilla Gorilla for Fun Time and Yogi And His Toy in 1972.
Mike Gent takes a trip back to the 1970s and remembers just one of many IPC humour titles…
• The Robert T. Nixon web site, now defunct, snapshot on Wayback
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.