Yes, humour comic hero “Buster” was “Buster Capp”, Andy Capp’s son

Buster was one of Britain’s longest running weekly comics, but when it launched back in May 1960, then owners the Mirror Group took advantage of the popularity of newspaper strip character “Andy Capp“, published in the Daily Mirror. They gave the comic a perhaps unusual PR boost – by making flagship character Buster the son of the popular layabout.

Buster- Issue One - Cover dates 28th May 1960
The first issue of Buster, featuring the eponymous character on the cover, drawn by Bill Titcombe

“The secret is out!”, an item in the Mirror declared on 21st May 1960, showing Buster as a scruffy young tyke of about ten years old, with a checked cap just like Andy’s pulled down over his eyes. “It can’t be kept from Mirror readers any longer. Andy Capp has a son – Buster. He is a real chip off the old block. The apple of Florrie’s eye.

“The most mischievous, cocky young devil to be found anywhere. But lovable, laughable, irresistible.” 

The tie-in wasn’t popular with “Andy Capp” creator Reg Smythe, and was the connection was gradually lost over time, but, initially, the “Buster” strip, initially drawn by Bill Titcombe, was sub-titled “Son of Andy Capp”.

The cover of Buster No. 3, cover dated 11th June 1960. Buster art by Bill Titcombe
The cover of Buster No. 3, cover dated 11th June 1960. Buster art by Bill Titcombe
Early Buster Advertisement. With thanks to Gary Whitlock
Early Buster Advertisement. With thanks to Gary Whitlock

Early tie-in advertising for Buster comic made the most of the connection, but Andy Capp himself only made rare appearances in the comic, first seen in the issue 18th June 1960, trying to fix a gas leak.

Other early references to the character include the name of Buster’s house – “Capp Cottage”, and, of course, while Andy’s appearances were dropped, along with the “Son of” title by 1965, his wife, Flo, appeared regularly from the start, and continued to do so, although her look was changed over the years from how she is in the long-running, still-published newspaper strip.

Andy Capp cameos in the Buster strip in the issue of Buster cover dated 16th July 1960 (With thanks to Adam Pubert Addams)
Andy Capp cameos in the Buster strip in the issue of Buster cover dated 16th July 1960 (With thanks to Adam Pubert Addams)

Andy Capp’s creator, Reg Smythe, was unimpressed, and refused to even mention Buster in Andy’s own strip, and “Buster Capp” himself appeared in the newspaper strip just once – to celebrate 35 years of Buster comic in May 1995 – and even then, it looks like the image has been added by another hand.

Buster features in this Andy Capp strip, published on 27th May 1995 - although only as a photograph
Buster features in this Andy Capp strip, published on 27th May 1995 – although only as a photograph

Given the behaviour of the newspaper strip character, who in early one spot cartoons and strips was on occasion singularly unpleasant toward Flo (to put it mildly), it’s not surprising his creator was uneasy about him having a son. Smythe was similarly unimpressed when the Mirror introduced “Mandy Capp” in 1997, Andy’s daughter – another offspring whose family connection was quickly dropped.

The connection has been so diminished down the years, you’ll still come across discussions about it online.

A Look Back at Andy Capp

Andy Capp Statue, Hartlepool
Andy Capp Statue, Hartlepool. Photo: Jeremy Briggs

Reg Smythe, who lived in Hartlepool invented “Andy Capp” for the Daily Mirror in 1957, personally writing, drawing, inking and lettering every line of the 15,000 Andy cartoons he produced over the following 40 years.

Andy Capp's first appearance. Copyright Daily Mirror
Andy Capp’s first appearance © Daily Mirror

In a brilliant feature about the character and its creator Paul Slade notes that when he died in 1998, the strip was syndicated to 1,700 newspapers – 1,000 in America alone – translated into 14 languages and read by a combined audience of 250 million people in 52 countries round the world.

Despite his sometimes rather unsavoury roots, long put behind him, Andy’s adventures have inspired a West End musical still revived today, a UK television series starring James Bolam in the title role, and a 1973 book using Andy’s antics to interpret the Gospels.

“His face has been used to sell not only the crisps, canned beer and homebrew kits you’d expect,” notes Paul, “but also cookbooks, boxer shorts, Royal Doulton figurines, phonecards, disposable cameras and babies’ bibs. 

“He’s known as Tuffa Viktor in Sweden, Charlie Kappl in Austria and and Willi Wacker in Germany, where FC Nuremberg fans have made him their mascot. In every nation, readers greet him as one of their own.”

“Boozing and gambling are still part of many people’s lives and a lot of humour comes out of pubs and bookies,” says “Andy Capp” writer Sean Garnett says of the current strip in a wide-ranging interview. “We’re not trying deliberately to buck the PC trend, but readers do tell us one of the things they love about Andy is the way he goes about his daily business caring little for authority and rules etc.”

Andy Capp © Daily Mirror
Andy Capp © Daily Mirror

• “Andy Capp” continues to appear in the Daily Mirror, and around the globe via GoComics

Follow the “World of Andy Capp” on Twitter

Cigarettes and Alcohol: Andy Capp, by Paul Slade, a fantastic history of the character

This interview with Reg Smythe first featured on BBC Nationwide in 1977

The Andy Capp statue is located beside the Pot House pub in Croft Terrace on the Hartlepool Headland. On-street parking in the area is free and drivers should be aware that the part of the road the statue is located on is a one way system

Andy Capps Crisps

Sunderland Echo: The Andy Capp creator Reg Smythe whose character was formed in Sunderland

Andy Capps crisps are, it seems, sadly currently unavailable in the UK

An interview with “Andy Capp” writer Sean Garnett

Andy Capp © Mirror Newspapers | Buster © Rebellion Publishing Ltd

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. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek 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.

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