Giles: the Collection 2014

By Giles (Hamlyn)
ISBN: 978-0-600-62456-1

Your Last-Minute Christmas Dilemmas Solved!

For the latter part of the 20th century, cartoonist Carl Giles owned Christmas. His annual end of year collections of wry social commentary through engaging graphic brilliance epitomised everything English for us and a truly global population of fans and admirers.

Ronald Giles – AKA Karloff/Karlo AKA “Carl” (aren’t school friends simply the best?) – was born in Islington in 1916 and left school at 14 to work as an office-boy for Superads: a company which supplied cartoonists for companies needing animation commercials.

The work appealed to the boy Giles and he eventually graduated to cartoonist and animator himself, working with film mogul Alexander Korda and latterly newspaper star Roland Davies, who was then adapting his own beloved strip Come On, Steve into a string of animation short features.

In 1937 Giles joined socialist Sunday periodical Reynolds News; producing topical cartoons and the strip Young Ernie and, exempted from military service because he was deaf in one ear and blind in one eye, mastered his craft there through the darkest days of WWII.

In 1943 his work caught the eye of the editor of the Sunday Express, who invited Giles to work on the Evening Standard before changing his mind and offering him a more prestigious and lucrative position with the Daily Express as well as the Sunday edition.

Reluctantly quitting Reynolds News (he was never at ease with his new employers’ Right Wing political stance), “Karlo” began his meteoric rise to wealth and household namehood with his first panel cartoon appearing on Sunday, October 3rd 1943.

Although unable to serve as a soldier, Giles contributed to the War Effort through animated films for the Ministry of Information and cartoons for the Railway Executive Committee and in 1945 became the Daily Express’ “War Correspondent Cartoonist”, embedded with the 2nd Army and Coldstream Guards – a job which took him to the concentration camps Bergen/Belsen when they were liberated by the Allies…

Throughout that traumatic time his drawings kept the Allies amused and, once hostilities ceased, Giles began carving out a comfortable, unassailable position in the consciousness of the nation, with his gently scathing, joyously seditious, outrageously busy and brilliantly rendered panels poking fun at the reader and the changing world through the collective lens of a hilarious hoi-polloi family dominated by a terrifying matriarch known as “Grandma”…

Although he also worked on commercial ads (Fisons, Guinness and others), freelanced for magazines such as Men Only and produced Christmas cards and other material for charitable institutions such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (of which he was made Life President), the Royal National Institute for the Deaf and the Game Conservancy Research Fund, the Daily and Sunday Express became his home for the next half century and he produced rare gems and marvels there.

From August 5th 1945 to his retirement in 1991 the “Giles Family” reigned supreme in the nation’s comedy consciousness, with the artist practically dictating how a vast swathe of the population reacted to the news, and from 1946 the best of each year’s output was collected into an annual, with all material selected – and sometimes remastered – by the artist himself.

The series was phenomenally popular and every year celebrity fans (Politicians, Heads of State, the Royal Family and the Great and Good of Sport and Entertainment) would vie for the honour of writing a Foreword, before another tumultuous rib-tickling year was reprised and recapped with genuine warmth, sly sarcasm and biting wit…

When the artist retired in 1991, later editions – no longer released by Express Newspapers – began to include some of his other works and, following Giles’ death in 1995, the volumes switched to thematic compilations rather than strictly chronological reportage.

This year’s model was compiled by John Field – who also contributed the Introduction: Giles and Society – whilst political commentator John Sergeant follows in the footsteps of such notables as Frank Sinatra, Margot Fonteyn, Spike Milligan, Sean Connery and Sir Malcolm Sargeant (no relation) in supplying a pithy appreciative Foreword before the latest selection of best bits begins with a selection of cartoons starring ‘Police’

Reprinting selected gags from Christmas Eve 1945 to March 28th 1989, Giles reveals how much and how little the common man’s relationship to the “Boys in Blue” has changed, after which ‘Sport’ features in a string of palpable hits – and no misses – spanning August 1950 to July 1988.

The cartoonist frequently turned his eagle eye upon his own profession and ‘Journalism’ offers some of the most trenchantly effective jabs and barbs from November 15th 1945 through to February 23rd 1989, after which a special section entitled ‘Giles and Journalism’ features cartoons from the war years and some later events when the artist was the news and not merely its interpreter…

‘The Economy’ always provided great material for classic cartoons and the panels culled from June 2nd 1946 to March 29th 1987 recall some of the grimmest and most hilarious moments in modern memory, whilst the related topic of ‘Shopping’ (December 13th 1951 – December 9th 1990) offers full reign to the lovable anarchists of the Giles Family to be on their best and worst behaviour to end this latest outing on a raucous, riotous high…

With a biographical essay on the author’s ‘Cartoons at the British Cartoon Archive’ this book is another superb example of genius at work and proves once more why Giles was voted “Britain’s Favourite Cartoonist of the 20th Century”. If you’ve never been exposed to the artistic brilliance of the man and our collective history, this tome might well be your year…
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