The James Bond Omnibus volume 005


By Jim Lawrence & Yaroslav Horak (Titan Books)
ISBN: 987-0-85768-590-2

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: A Traditional Licence To Thrill… 8/10

There are sadly very few British newspaper strips to challenge the influence and impact of classic daily and Sunday “funnies” from America, especially in the field of adventure fiction. The 1930’s and 1940’s were particularly rich in popular, not to say iconic, creations. You would be hard-pressed to come up with home-grown household names to rival Popeye, Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Flash Gordon or Steve Canyon, let alone Terry and the Pirates or the likes of Little Lulu, Blondie, Li’l Abner, Little Orphan Annie or Popeye and yes, I know I said him twice, but Elzie Segars’s Thimble Theatre was funny as well as thrilling, constantly innovative, and really, really good.

What can you recall for simple popularity let alone longevity or quality in Britain? Rupert Bear? Absolutely. Giles? Technically, yes. Nipper? Jane? The Perishers? Garth?

I hope so, but I doubt it.

The Empire didn’t quite get it until it wasn’t an empire any more. There were certainly very many wonderful strips being produced: well-written and beautifully drawn, but that stubborn British reserve just didn’t seem to be in the business of creating household names… until the 1950’s.

Something happened in ‘fifties Britain – but I’m not going to waste any space here discussing it. It just did.

In a new spirit that seemed to crave excitement and accept the previously disregarded, comics (as well as all entertainment media from radio to novels) got carried along on the wave. Eagle, the regenerated Dandy and Beano, girls’ comics in general: all shifted into creative high gear, and so did newspapers. And that means that I can go on about a graphic collection with proven crossover appeal for a change.

The first 007 novel Casino Royale was published in 1953 and subsequently serialised in the Daily Express from 1958, beginning a run of paperback book adaptations scripted by Anthony Hern, Henry Gammidge, Peter O’Donnell and Kingsley Amis before Jim Lawrence, a jobbing writer for American features (who had previously scripted the aforementioned Buck Rogers) came aboard with The Man With The Golden Gun to complete the transfer of the Fleming canon to strip format, thereafter being invited to create new adventures, which he did until the strip’s ultimate demise in 1983.

The art on the feature was always of the highest standard. Initially John McLusky provided the illustration until 1966’s conclusion of You Only Live Twice and, although perhaps lacking in verve, the workmanlike clarity of his drawing easily coped with the astonishing variety of locales, technical set-ups and sheer immensity of cast members, whilst accomplishing the then-novel conceit of advancing a plot and ending each episode on a cliff-hanging “hook” every day.

He was succeeded by Yaroslav Horak, who also debuted on Golden Gun with a looser, edgier style, at once more cinematic and with a closer attention to camera angle and frenzied action that seemed to typify the high-octane 1960’s.

Titan books have re-assembled the heady brew of adventure, sex, intrigue and death into a series of addictively accessible monochrome Omnibus editions and this fifth compilation finds the creators on top form as they reveal how the world’s greatest agent never rests in his mission to keep us all free, safe and highly entertained…

The frantic derring-do and dark, deadly diplomacy commences with ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ which first ran in the Daily Express from July 7th to October 14th 1975. Solidly traditional 007 fodder, it found Bond assigned to kidnap/rescue Arda Petrich, the comely daughter of a foreign asset, and keep vital intelligence out of the hands of the KGB.

This pacy thriller is most notable more for the inevitable introduction of the eccentric gadgets which had become an increasingly crucial component of the filmic iteration than for the actual adventure, but there are still thrills and flesh aplenty on view.

Hard on the heels of that yarn is brief but enthralling encounter ‘The Torch-Time Affair’ (October 15th 1975 – January 15th 1976), wherein the hunt for a record of all Soviet subversion in Latin America leads to bodies on the beach, a mountain of lies and deceit, breathtaking chases on roads and through jungles, and an astonishingly intriguing detective mystery as Bond and female “Double-O” operative Susie Kew must save the girl, get the goods and end the villain.

But which one…?

‘Hot-Shot’ (January 16th – June 1st) finds the unflappable agent assisting Palestinian freedom fighter Fatima Khalid as she tries to clear the name of her people of airline atrocities committed by enigmatic Eblis terrorists. Their cooperative efforts uncover a sinister Indian billionaire behind the attacks before Bond recognises an old enemy at the heart of it all… Dr. No!

In ‘Nightbird’ (2nd June – 4th November) sporadic attacks by what appear to be alien invaders draw 007 into a diabolical scheme by a cinematic genius and criminal master of disguise apparently in search of military and political secrets and weapons of mass destruction. However a far more venal motive is the root cause of the sinister schemes and reign of terror…

Despite surreal trappings, ‘Ape of Diamonds’ (November 5th 1976 – January 22nd 1977) is another lethally cunning spy exploit as a deadly maniac uses a colossal and murderous gorilla to terrorise London and kidnap an Arab banker, leading Bond to a financial wild man determined to simultaneously destroy Britain’s economic prosperity and steal the Crown Jewels. Happily for the kingdom, Machiavellian Rameses had completely underestimated the ruthless determination of James Bond…

‘When the Wizard Awakes’ finds bad guys employing supernatural chicanery, when the body of a Hungarian spy – dead for two decades – walks out of his tomb to instigate a reign of terror that eventually involves S.P.E.C.T.R.E., the Mafia and the KGB until the British Agent unravels the underlying plot…

In 1977 the Daily Express ceased publication of the Bond feature and the tale was published only in the Sunday Express (from January 30th -May 22nd 1977). Later adventures had no UK distribution at all, only appearing in overseas editions. This state of affairs continued until 1981 when another British newspaper – the Daily Star – revived his career. Presumably, we’ll deal with those cases in another volume.

The first of those “lost” stories are included here, however, beginning with ‘Sea Dragon’, produced for European syndication: a maritime adventure with geo-political overtones wherein crazed billionairess and scurrilous proponent of “women’s liberation” Big Mama Magda Mather tried to corner the World Oil market using sex, murder and a deadly artificial sea serpent.

In ‘Death Wing’ Bond is needed to solve the mystery of a new and deadly super-weapon employed by the Mafia for both smuggling contraband and assassination. Despite a somewhat laborious story set-up, once the tale hits its stride, the explosive end sequence is superb as the undercover agent finds himself used as a flying human bomb aimed at the heart of New York City. His escape and subsequent retaliation against eccentric hit-man Mr. Wing is an indisputable series highpoint.

This astounding dossier of espionage exploits ends in ‘The Xanadu Connection’ (1978) as the daring high-tech rescue of undercover agent Heidi Franz from East Germany inexorably leads the super spy down a perilous path of danger and double-cross.

When Bond is tasked with safeguarding the wife of a British asset leading resistance forces in Russian Turkestan, the mission inevitably leads 007 to the Sino-Soviet hotspot where he is embroiled in a three-sided war between KGB occupation forces, indigenous Tartar rebels and their ancestral enemies of the Mongol militias led by insidious, ambitious spymaster Kubla Khan.

Deep in enemy territory with adversaries all around him, Bond is hardly surprised to discover that the real threat might be from his friends and not his foes…

Fast, furious action, masses of moody menace, sharply clever dialogue and a wealth of exotic locales and ladies make this an unmissable adjunct to the Bond mythos and a collection no fan can do without. After all, nobody does it better…
© 1975, 1977, 1977, 1978, 2013 Ian Fleming Publications Ltd/ Express Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.

What’s He Like in Bed? – A Rough Guide to the Bedside Manners of the Human Male


By Marcel Feigel & Brian Heaton (Arrow Books)
ISBN: 978-0-09-944660-X

Warning: this book is rude and a bit nude, so if you’re of a sensitive nature and don’t think sex is funny it could all be a bit of a shock and potentially lead to the sundering of your dreams and life-long disillusionment.

As Winter Part III (This Time it’s Personal!!!) settles in around my oversized, sun-deprived ears, I again turn to an old cartoon book to inculcate a little warmth and cheer to my gloomy days. Here’s another little known collection of cartoons about British bedtime habits to tide us all over: at least if we have to submerge ourselves in duvets and cocoa we might as well have a giggle at the same time…

Of course it’s all really just one more excuse to bemoan the loss of those once-ubiquitous cheap ‘n’ cheerful cartoon-packed paperbacks which are now all-but-forgotten fossils of a once mighty industry; fast fading as the more palatable sounding Graphic Novels and Trade Collections carve a niche in our psyches and on our bookshelves.

What’s He Like in Bed? is a solid example of a lost art form: saucily-themed gag-books which were the last commercial gasp in a tradition of pictorial entertainments that began with Punch and evolved into a racy standby of British life for nearly a century before fading away to loiter around bargain bins, Jumble sales and junk shops…

This particular raucous, ribald and hilariously risqué treatise catalogues the ploys and peregrinations of that forgotten popular hero “The Guy Who Gets All the Girls” and thus contains lots of wickedly naked people making a mess, scandalising the neighbours, and generally letting the side down more than just a bit…

Masquerading as invaluable tips and hints, the assorted chapters fully expose the tactics and foibles of ‘The Truck Driver’, ‘The Customs Man’ and even ‘Country and Western’ fans before breaking for the first of a recurring exploration of inflatable friend aficionados, after which ‘The Translator’ and the ‘Stone Mason’ both fail to live up to the modern girl’s exorbitant and exaggerated expectations.

‘The Estate Agent’ soon gives way to ‘Inflatable Doll #1’ and ‘The Librarian’ to ‘Inflatable Doll #2’ before the urbane legends of ‘The Milkman’ and ‘The Footballer’ are finally tackled…

‘Inflatable Doll #3’ leads to a fully extended chapter on ‘The Macho Man’ (including especially some handy hints on ‘The Condom Moment’, ‘The Importance of Momentum’ and those all-important ‘Orgasm Restrain-Postponement Techniques’), before a brief interlude with ‘Inflatable Doll #4’ gives us all a moment to catch our breaths (big ones too)…

There’s an educational advantage to be had in dealing with ‘The Don’ (Oxbridge not Corleone) and the full SP on ‘The Jockey’, whilst ‘The Detective’ and ‘The Barrister’ reveal facets of human nature best left vague, whilst both ‘The Dentist’ and ‘The Airline Pilot’ act just as you’d suspect – even if ‘The Bishop’ doesn’t.

Also on show are the habits of ‘The Farmer’, ‘Inflatable Doll #5’, stage magician ‘The Great Popoff’, the secrets of ‘Corporate Life’ in the Post Room, for Middle Management and even under the Chairman but as always ‘The Actor’, ‘The Policeman’ and the truly disturbing sight of glamour icon Margaret Thatcher as ‘Inflatable Doll #6’ act as sure signs that those so-different times are gone forever.

Still with secrets to conceal are ‘The Taxi Driver’, ‘The Accountant’, ‘The Athlete’, ‘The Computer Man’, ‘Frenchmen’ in general, ‘The Vicar’, ‘The Disc Jockey’ and ‘The Photographer’, but eventually even modern men need a bit of a rest and the lecture concludes with ‘The Revenge of the Inflatable Doll’

Dedicated to the certain premise that (other) people’s sexual exploits are simultaneously better than yours and still truly hilarious, this snappy little monochrome tome is a cut above much of the era’s rather tawdry treatment of the subject, superbly rendered and still marvellously entertaining even in these liberally licentious times – and for a change, this one is still readily available from a range of internet retailers…

British cartooning has been magnificently served over the centuries by masters of form, line, wash and most importantly smart ideas, repeatedly poking our funny bones, pricking our pomposities, stroking our happy places and feeding our fascinations, and this sort of thing used to be bread ‘n’ butter in our game. We’re all going to really miss them if they do disappear forever, so why not find a shy, alluring little bookshelf and start filling it with mucky material like this…
Heaton is a competent artist in the modern style and the gags range from contrived to fiendishly clever, all delivered with easy charm and utterly without text – never an easy job in cartooning. If you find this book or anything similar give it a try, as you really will miss them once they disappear forever.
© 1992 Brian Howard Heaton. All Rights Reserved.

The Perils of Pushing 40


By Colin Whittock (Century Hutchinson)
ISBN: 0-7126-1290-4

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a fond look at a resolutely British cartoon compendium and indulged in a few sound and certain smirks and chuckles. This time it’s a little known collection of cartoons about the inexorable passage of time from one of our best yet criminally under-celebrated gagsters.

Of course it’s really just another excuse to bemoan the loss of those once-ubiquitous cheap ‘n’ cheerful gag-filled paperbacks which are now all-but-forgotten fossils of a once mighty industry; fast fading as the much more important-sounding Graphic Novels and Trade Collections carve a niche in our psyches and on our bookshelves.

Me, I’m still convinced that there’s a place on those shelves for some new collections of our magnificent history of graphic giggles and cartoon chortles…

…And, having again glanced at the wasteland that is daytime TV, I’m firmly of the opinion that Parliament should mandate that all new homes have at least one bookshelf built in…

None of which matters a jot or tittle as I call to your attention to a particularly fine example of a lost Artform: themed gag-books which sadly were the last commercial gasp in a tradition of pictorial entertainments that began with Punch and evolved into a saucy standby of British life for nearly a century before fading away, to only haunt bargain bins, Jumble Sales and junk shops…

Colin Whittock was born in Birmingham in 1940 and, after the traditional period of vocational wandering in the wilderness in which he worked as a shopfitter, eventually took up his brushes, pens and pencils to work as a freelance cartoonist.

In 1969 he became Editorial Cartoonist on the Birmingham Evening Mail – a position I suspect he still holds – and also worked as Sports cartoonist for the Sunday Mercury. In his spare time he produced the full-colour feature strip Kev, freelanced for Punch and Private Eye, as well as The Daily Mirror, The Sun, Daily Sketch, Tit-Bits, Weekend, Reveille and The Oldie whilst pursuing a healthy and respectable sideline in advertising, with commissions from greetings card companies, TNT, British Telecom, Jaguar and Powergen amongst others.

British readers of a certain vintage would recognises the art if not the name, as Whittock also worked for years on Buster, Whizzer & Chips, The Beano and other humour weeklies.

He succeeded Leo Baxendale on Champ, and also drew Catnap, Lazy Bones, Clever Dick & Mizz Marble amongst others. The comics work dried up in 1989 as our industry contracted to near death and he again concentrated on gag panels, although he soon began producing scripts for BBC Radio’s venerable News Huddlines and continued his series of Perils of… books such as this one.

Way back when in 1986, he was at his wry, dry best when sharply observing the pitfalls and pratfalls of the big Four Oh!, remarking with assured style on the absurdity of waning life and drained vitality…

The linked cartoons are clustered into successively trenchant chapters beginning with ‘Fit at 40’, rancorously discussing medical screening, doctors in general and particular, exercise and dieting before moving on to the reason for all that torment in ‘Sex’

Bitter comparisons abound in ‘The Younger Generation’ and ‘Pet Pals’ describes our often double-sided relationship with things hairy, tooth-filled, unpredictable and expensive before men and women of that uncertain age are shown bearing up under the pressure of ‘The Social Whirl’ and making the unwelcome effort to ‘Dress for Success’

There’s always the imminent threat of more leisure time, successfully countered by ‘The Sporting Hero’ and the glaring giveaway of outdated taste is tackled in ‘The Music of Time’. At least holidays are a safe subject, as (not) seen in ‘Away From it All’, but never forget that such jaunts can have unexpected repercussions such as ‘Late Arrivals’

Even if an “Autumn” baby does occur though at least that’s a reason to keep ‘On the Job’ but those work woes won’t assuage the concerns of the world-weary middle-aged in ‘The Future’

British cartooning has been magnificently served over the centuries by masters of form, line, wash and most importantly smart ideas, repeatedly poking our funny bones, pricking our pomposities, stroking our happy places and feeding our fascinations, and this sort of thing used to be bread ‘n’ butter in our game. We’re all going to really miss them if they disappear forever, so why not get a bookshelf if you don’t have one yet and start filling it with magical material like this…
© 1986 Colin Whittock. All Rights Reserved.

The Joy of Headaches – How to Survive the Sexual Revolution


By Martin Honeysett (Century Publishing)
ISBN 10: 0-7126-0491-X,      ISBN 13: 978-0712604918

I’ve got a dose of the post-Christmas glums today so it’s probably time to roll out another cartoon compendium and indulge in a bit of safe smirks. This time it’s a little known collection of cartoons about British bedtime habits from one of our best modern gagsters.

Of course it’s really just another excuse to bemoan the loss of those once-ubiquitous cheap ‘n’ cheerful gag-filled paperbacks which are now all-but-forgotten fossils of a once mighty industry; fast fading as the much more important sounding Graphic Novels and Trade Collections carve a niche in our psyches and on our bookshelves.

…And, having glanced at daytime TV over the break, I’ve since firmly fixated on another frightening thought – how many modern homes even have bookshelves any more?

None of which matters a jot or tittle as I call to your attention to a particularly fine example of a lost Artform: themed gag-books which sadly became the last commercial gasp in a tradition of pictorial entertainments that began with Punch and evolved into a saucy standby of British life for nearly a century before fading away, to only haunt bargain bins, Jumble sales and junk shops…

Martin Honeysett was born in Hereford in 1943 and, after the traditional wandering about not knowing what to do with himself, at the end of the 1960s became an animator, illustrator, award-winning cartoonist, painter and educator whose prolific works regularly appeared in the aforementioned Punch, as well as Daily Mirror, Private Eye, Radio Times, The Oldie, The Spectator, Evening Standard, Sunday Telegraph and Observer amongst others. He was a visiting professor at theKyotoSeikaUniversity, Faculty of Art,Japan, from 2005 to 2007.

These days he’s probably best known for magnificently illustrating books for children and adults, such as Bert Feggs Nasty Book, scripted by Terry Jones & Michael Palin, The Queen and I by Sue Townsend, Dick King-Smith’s H. Prince and Ivor Cutler’s mesmeric poetry books Gruts, Fremsley and  Life in a Scotch Sitting Room.

Way back when in 1984, he was an edgy, wryly sharp observer and commentator upon the absurdity of contemporary life, and this collection is a grippingly intriguing discourse on our nasty monkey mating habits and social gaffe-ability, stitched together with a running theme of how the more things change the more they stay the tedious same…

Warning: this hilarious treatise contains lots of wickedly naked people making a mess, frightening the horses, scandalising the neighbours, boring the kids and generally being rudely funny…

Beginning with a trenchant examination of with-it parents in a “permissive society”, what kids already know, lots of spoofs on the peccadilloes of the aristocracy, love amongst the Poor, a history of sex – especially the Swinging Sixties -, social nudity, commercial innovations and the latest technical improvements, before the emphasis easily shifts to niche areas of the intercoursing game.

There are examinations into School Sex Education, fidelity, promiscuity, international mores and incongruities, the mania for manuals and furtive practising leading to a thorough exploration of personal relationships, exploding long-held myths and getting to grips with that contentious size issue…

Much mention is made of medical matters, physical functions, foreign imports and tactics, the nature of consent and the roles of School, Church and State concerning private Citizens’ and citizen’s Privates…

With telling observations on birth control, marital norms, porn, assorted forms of human neutering, infections and disease control, the nuanced differences between “kinky” and “perverted” – as well as taboo, illegal and just plain wrong – addressed, readers will soon be assured that they too can do it right, do it often and do it well into old age.

…Even if the range and choice of partner(s) might cause a few sharp intakes of breath.

Rest assured, however, that there’s still room for old-fashioned Romance.

Sort of.

Dedicated to the certain premise that (other) people having sex is simultaneously better than yours but still truly hilarious, this snappy little monochrome tome is a cut above much of the era’s rather tawdry treatment of the subject, superbly rendered and still marvellously entertaining even in these liberally licentious times – and for a change, this one is still readily available from a range of internet retailers…

British cartooning has been magnificently served over the centuries by masters of form, line, wash and most importantly smart ideas, repeatedly poking our funny bones, pricking our pomposities, stroking our happy places and feeding our fascinations, and this sort of thing used to be bread ‘n’ butter in our game. We’re all going to really miss them if they disappear forever, so why not get a bookshelf if you don’t have one yet and start filling it with magical material like this…
© 1984 Martin Honeysett. All Rights Reserved.

The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm


By Norman Hunter, illustrated by W. Heath Robinson (Puffin/Red Fox and others)
ISBNs: PSS33 (1969 Puffin edition)             978-1-86230-736-0 (Red Fox 2008)

Although I’m pushing a number of comic-based kids books this week I’d be utterly remiss if I didn’t also include at least one example of the venerably traditional illustrated novel which used to be the happily inescapable staple of bedtime for generations. This particular example is particularly memorable, not simply because it’s a timeless masterpiece of purely English wit and surreal invention, but also because most editions are blessed with a wealth of stunning pictures by an absolute master of absurdist cartooning and wry, dry wit.

Norman George Lorimer Hunter was born on November 23rd, 1899in Sydenham; a decade after that part of Kentbecame part of the ever-expanding Countyof London. He started work as an advertising copywriter and moved into book writing soon after with Simplified Conjuring for All: a collection of new tricks needing no special skill or apparatus for their performance with suitable patter, Advertising Through the Press: a guide to press publicity and New and Easy Magic: a further series of novel magical experiments needing no special skill or apparatus for their performance with suitable patter published between 1923 and 1925.

He was working as a stage magician in Bournemouthduring the early 1930s when he first began concocting the genially explosive exploits of the absolute archetypical absent-minded boffin for radio broadcasts. The tales were read by the inimitable Ajax – to whom the first volume is dedicated – as part of the BBC Home Service’s Children’s Hour.

In 1933 The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm was published in hardback with 76 enthrallingly intricate illustrations by W. Heath Robinson to great success, prompting the sequel Professor Branestawm’s Treasure Hunt (illustrated by James Arnold & George Worsley Adamson) four years later.

During WWII Hunter moved back to Londonand in 1949 emigrated to South Africawhere he worked outside the fiction biz until his retirement. He returned to Britainin 1970, following the release of Thames Television’s Professor Branestawm TV series which adapted many of the short stories from the original books in the summer of 1969.

Following the show Hunter resumed writing: another 11 Branestawn tomes between 1970-1983, plus a selection of supplemental books including Professor Branestawm’s Dictionary (1973), …Compendium of Conundrums, Riddles, Puzzles, Brain Twiddlers and Dotty Descriptions (1975), …Do-it-yourself Handbook (1976) and many magic-related volumes.

Norman Hunter died in 1995.

William Heath Robinson was born on May 31st 1872 into something of an artistic dynasty. His father Thomas was chief staff artist for Penny Illustrated Paper. His older brothers Thomas and Charles were also illustrators of note.

After schooling William tried unsuccessfully to become a watercolour landscape-artist before returning to the family trade and in 1902 produced the fairy story ‘Uncle Lubin’ before contributing regularly to The Tatler, Bystander, Sketch, Strand and London Opinion. During this period he developed the humorous whimsy and penchant for eccentric, archaic-looking mechanical devices that made him a household name.

During the Great War he uniquely avoided the Jingoistic stance and fervour of his fellow artists, preferring instead to satirise the absurdity of conflict itself with volumes of cartoons such as The Saintly Hun. Then, after a 20-year career of phenomenal success and creativity in cartooning, illustration and particularly advertising, he found himself forced to do it again in World War Two.

He died on13th September 1944.

Perhaps inspired by the Branestawm commission, Heath Robinson’s 1934 collection Absurdities hilariously describes the frail resilience of the human condition in the Machine Age and particularly how the English deal with it all. They are also some of his funniest strips and panels. Much too little of his charming and detailed illustrative wit is in print today, a situation that cries out for Arts Council Funding or Lottery money, perhaps more than any other injustice in the sadly neglected field of cartooning and Popular Arts.

The first inspirational Professor Branestawm storybook introduces the dotty, big-domed, scatterbrained savant as a ramshackle cove with five pairs of spectacles – which he generally wears all at once – and his clothes held together with safety pins …probably because the many explosions he creates always blow his buttons off.

The wise buffoon spends most of his days thinking high thoughts and devising odd devices in his “Inventory” whilst his mundane requirements are taken care of by dotty, devoted, frequently frightened or flustered housekeeper Mrs. Flittersnoop. Branestawm’s best chum is the gruff Colonel Dedshott of the Catapult Cavaliers, although said old soldier seldom knows what the scientist is talking about…

The over-educated inspirationalist and his motley crew first appeared in ‘The Professor Invents a Machine’ which saw the debut of an arcane device that moved so quickly that Branestawm and Dedshott were carried a week into the past and accidentally undid a revolution in Squiglatania – and ended up upsetting everybody on both sides of the argument.

In ‘The Wild Waste-Paper’ Mrs. Flittersnoop’s incessant tidying up caused a spill of the Professor’s new Elixir of Vitality and the consequent enlargement and animation of a basket full of furiously angry bills, clingy postcards and discarded envelopes, whilst in

‘The Professor Borrows a Book’ the absent-minded mentor mislaid a reference tome and had to borrow another from the local library.

A house full of books is the worst place to lose one, and when the second one went walkies Branestawm had to borrow a third or pay the fine on the second. By the time he’d finished the Professor had checked out fourteen copies and was killing himself covertly transporting it from library to library…

When his stuff-stuffed house was raided by ‘Burglars!’ the shocked and horrified thinker was driven to concoct the ultimate security system. It was the perfect device to defend an Englishman’s Castle – unless he was the type who regularly forgot his keys and that he had installed an anti-burglar machine…

When he lost a day because he hadn’t noticed his chronometer had stopped, the Professor invented a new sort of timepiece that never needed winding. Even the local horologist wanted one.

Sadly the meandering mentalist had forgotten to add a what-not to stop them striking more than twelve and as the beastly things inexorably added one peal every hour soon there were more dings than could fit in any fifty-nine minutes. ‘The Screaming Clocks’ quickly became most unwelcome and eventually an actually menace to life and limb…

The Professor often thought so hard that he ceased all motion. Whilst visiting ‘The Fair at Pagwell Green’ Mrs. Flittersnoop and Colonel Dedshott mistook a waxwork of the famously brilliant bumbler for the real thing and brought “him” home to finish his pondering in private. Sadly the carnival waxworks owner alternatively believed he had a wax statue that had learned to talk…

‘The Professor Sends an Invitation’ saw the savant ask Dedshott to tea but forget to include the laboriously scripted card. By means most arcane and convoluted, the doughty old warrior received an ink-smudged blotter in an addressed envelope and mobilised to solve a baffling cipher. Of course his first port-of-call had to be his clever scientific friend – who had subsequently forgotten all about upcoming culinary events…

‘The Professor Studies Spring Cleaning’ found Branestawm applying his prodigious intellect and inventive acumen to the seasonal tradition that so vexed Mrs. Flittersnoop before inevitably finding a way to make things worse. He thus constructed a house-engine that emptied and cleaned itself. Of course it couldn’t really tell the difference between sofa, couch cupboard or housekeeper…

‘The Too-Many Professors’ appeared when the affable artificer invented a solution which brought pictures to life. Flittersnoop was guardedly impressed when illustrations of apples and chocolates became edibly real but utterly aghast when a 3-dimensional cat and elephant began crashing about in the parlour.

So it was pretty inevitable that the foul-smelling concoction would be spilled all over the photograph albums…

In a case of creativity feeding on itself, ‘The Professor Does a Broadcast’ relates how the brilliant old duffer was asked to give a lecture on the Wireless (no, not about radio, but for it…). Unaccustomed as he was to public speaking, the tongue-tied boffin had Dedshott rehearse and drill him until he could recite the whole speech in eleven minutes. Of course the scheduled programme was supposed to last half an hour…

A grand Fancy Dress Ball resulted in two eccentric pillars of Pagwell Society wittily masquerading as each other. Naturally ‘Colonel Branestawm and Professor Dedshott’ were a great success but when the Countess of Pagwell’s pearls were purloined whilst the old duffers changed back to their regular attire nobody noticed the difference or believed them…

‘The Professor Moves House’ found the inventor forced to rent larger premises because he had filled up the old one with his contraptions. However Branestawm’s attempts to rationalise the Moving Men’s work patterns proved that even he didn’t know everything. At least the disastrous ‘Pancake Day at Great Pagwell’ rescued his reputation when his magnificent automatic Pancake-Making Machine furiously fed a multitude of friends and civic dignitaries. The Mayor liked it so much he purchased it to lay all the municipality’s pavements…

This gloriously enchanting initial outing ends with ‘Professor Branestawm’s Holiday’ as the old brain-bonce finally acquiesced to his housekeeper’s urgent urgings and went for a vacation to the seaside. Keen on swotting up on all things jellyfish the savant set off but forgot to check in at his boarding house, prompting a desperate search by Dedshott, Flittersnoop and the authorities.

Things were further complicated by a Pierrot Show which boasted the best Professor Branestawn impersonator inBritain: so good in fact that even the delinquent dodderer’s best friends could not tell the difference.

With the performer locked up in a sanatorium claiming he wasn’t a Professor, it was a lucky thing the one-and-only scatty scholar was unable to discern the difference between a lecture hall and a seaside show-tent…

As I’ve already mentioned, these astonishingly accessible yarns were originally written for radio and thus abound with rhythmic cadences and onomatopoeic sound effects that just scream to be enjoyed out loud. This eternally fresh children’s classic, augmented by 76 of Heath-Robinson’s most memorable character caricatures and insane implements, offer some of the earliest and most enduring example of spiffing techno-babble and fabulous faux-physics – not to mention impressive iterations of the divine Pathetic Fallacy in all its outrageous glory – and no child should have to grow up without visiting and revisiting the immortal, improbable Pagwell Pioneer.

In 2008 a 75th Anniversary edition of The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm was released by Red Fox but you’re just a likely to find this uproarious ubiquitous marvel in libraries, second-hand shops or even jumble sales – so by all means do…
© 1933 Norman Hunter. All rights reserved.

The Crazy World of Golf


By Mike Scott (Exley)
ISBN: 978-1-85015-356-6

With so much time on my hands these days I’m considering taking up a hobby to while away the tedious hours. So, rather than using the internet or asking a friend, I’ve started consulting old cartoon compilations in search of sage advice and scintillating suggestions and here’s what’s turned up on the top of the pile…

One of a delightful range of themed collections issued by transatlantic publishing outfit Exley in both English and American editions (including The Crazy World of Cats, the Greens, the Handyman, Hospitals, Gardening, Marriage, Sex and many others as well as real, proper sports such as Rugby, Cricket and Sailing) this winning monochrome landscape tome is the work of Mike Scott, who I’m appalled and ashamed to say I can find no biographical information on.

Even my trusty Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturists omits him and in this instance the internet has not been my friend. I’m not certain that he’s British-based or even a bloke at all, despite a delightfully authentic line in UK fashions, trivia and frustration-fuelled attitude – but his keen observation, surreal invention and loosely manic drawing style lend themselves perfectly to synthesising and encapsulating the passion and insanity of this all-weather subject which fascinates and absorbs so many normally rational folk…

Cartooning has been magnificently served over the centuries by masters of form, line, wash and most importantly sharp ideas, repeatedly poking our funny bones whilst pricking our pomposities and fascinations, and nothing says more about us than the sinister lure and apparently obsessive grip of hitting balls with sticks – especially if you have to dress up funny, learn bewildering rules and terms and buy lots and lots of over-priced drinks for strangers to properly enjoy it…

Within the pages of the Crazy World of Golf the confirmed couch-potato reader will learn the horrors and joys of fashionably appropriate attire, the “Japanese Way”, how to handle the always-bracing weather, the problem with those unfortunates who don’t play and how extraterrestrials view our bizarre practices…

There are plenty of gags considering and exploring the effects upon local flora and fauna, clubhouse politics, the misunderstanding spouse, women drivers (that’s a pun, but not a good one), golf throughout history, some useful free tips, terminology explained and many moments of sheer mind-warping whimsy. There’s even a plethora of pages proving that God loves the game, if not the players…

These kinds of cartoon collections are perennial charity shop or jumble-sale fare and if you ever chance upon an item of potential artistic amusement in such a place, do yourself a favour, help out a good cause and have a cheap laugh. It might be the start of a fresh phase in your life, courtesy of another unsung master of mirth.

As for me and my hobbies… no, probably not golf…

© 1985 Mike Scott. All rights reserved.

‘There’s a Lot of it About’


By Geoffrey Dickinson (Columbus Books)
ISBN: 978-0-86287-253-3

Since we’re well into the snot and sniffles season I thought I’d cheer myself up with this handy handbook of ailments and medical mis-practice from one of Britain’s best and most influential cartoonists Geoffrey Dickinson, a veteran mainstay of Punch, Time, The Financial Times and many others. This is probably his best collection of gags but his second opinion on medical matters ‘Probably Just a Virus’ is almost as good but a lot harder to find these days…

British cartooning has been magnificently served over the centuries by masters of form, line, wash and most importantly clever ideas, repeatedly poking our funny bones, pricking our pomposities and feeding our fascinations, and nothing says more about us than our rocky relationship with the beloved yet dreaded agents of the National Health Service.

Award-winning cartoonist Geoffrey Samuel Dickinson was born on May 5th 1933 inLiverpool and studied at Southport School Art (1950-1953) before graduating to the Royal Academy Schools. Set on a career as a landscape painter he taught art in Croyden, atTavistockBoysSchool and theSelhurstGrammar School until 1967.

To supplement his income he freelanced as a graphic designer and animator for the BBC and began selling gags to Punch as early as 1963.

In 1966 his famous cover for the April 15th issue of Time Magazine was deemed to have officially launched “the Swinging Sixties” and London as the capital city of cool, and a year later he took a staff position with Punch as Deputy Art Editor under the legendary Bill Hewison, but still found time to freelance, working for Reader’s Digest, Which?, Esquire, Highlife, Hallmark Cards and many more.

In 1984 Dickinsonleft the humour standard to take up a position at the Financial Times, drawing cartoons for the daily and producing illustration material for the weekend supplement. He died far too young in 1988.

Within the pages of ‘There’s a Lot of it About’ – and following a pithy introduction from much-missed master of acerbic wit Alan Coren – the fit, the fat, the festering and the foolish will all learn the truth about the health of the nation in such chapters of chilling encounters and dodgy diagnoses as ‘The Waiting-Room’, ‘In the Surgery’ and ‘Sharp Practice’, before meeting stroppy secretaries, seen-it-all sawbones and formidably starched matrons as well as the puling punks, cadaverous clerks and clerics, cocky kids, goofy old gaffers, loony little old ladies, brusque businessmen and other tedious time-wasters all abusing valuable visiting hours ‘On the Touchline’, ‘At the Barbers’ and ‘At the Dentist’

Moreover, as well as warning of ‘Student Doctors’, ‘Showbiz Doctors’ and the ‘Bogus Doctor’, we follow fully-rounded physicians into their private lives ‘On Holiday’, ‘At the Wheel’, in the garden with ‘Doctor Greenfinger’, at the ‘Doctor’s Wedding’, over ‘The Festive Season’ and on ‘The Morning After’, before examining doctors in love undergoing ‘Affairs of the Heart’

These kinds of cartoon collections were once ubiquitous best-sellers available everywhere, but these days are perennial library and jumble sale fare – in fact I actually found this brilliant cure-all for the blues at a Hospital charity shop – but if you ever see a Dickinson (or indeed, any cartoon collection) in such a place, do yourself a favour, help out a good cause and have a healthy horse-laugh with these all-but-forgotten masters of illustrative mirth.

They’re really good for what ails you…
© 1985 Geoffrey Dickinson. 1933-1988

Both


By Tom Gauld & Simone Lia (Bloomsbury)
ISBN: 978-1-77046-065-2

Tom Gauld is a Scottish cartoonist whose works have appeared in Time Out and the Guardian. He has illustrated such children’s classics as Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man and his own books include Guardians of the Kingdom, 3 Very Small Comics, Robots, Monsters etc., Hunter and Painter and The Gigantic Robot.

At the prestigious RCA he met fellow genetically-predisposed scribbler Simone Lia – author of Please God, Find me a Husband! and Fluffy (a Bunny in Denial), kids books Billy Bean’s Dream, Follow the Line, Red’s Great Chase and Little Giant and she produced the strips ‘Sausage and Carrots for The DFC and ‘Lucie’ for Phoenix Comic as well as the Guardian and Independent.

Clearly comics kindred spirits, Gauld and Lia formed Cabanon Press in 2001and began self-publishing quirky, artily surreal strips and features. Their first two publications enigmatically entitled First and Second were collected in 2002 as Both and serve as a shining example of the kind of uniquely authorial/literary cartoon creativity and wonderment British pen-jockeys excel at.

Likened to the works of Edward Gorey, their studied, intense tirades, animorphic escapades and meanderingly perambulatory excursions are more Stream of subtly steered Consciousness than plotted stories: eerily mundane progressions mesmerisingly manufactured and  rendered in a number of styles to evoke response if not elicit understanding.

Which is a long-winded and poncey way of saying: “This stuff is great! You’ve got to see this…”

Within these digest sized, hard-backed monochrome pages you will encounter a talking table lamp, sensitive sentient food, quarrelsome knights, and socially inept and incompatible astronauts, and discover the human tragedy of contracting ‘Road Leg’.

There are of course bunnies, big bugs, sheep, steamrollers, the frustrations of ‘Outside’, love poems, comedy feet and a belligerent, outraged sweetcorn kernel, plus vignettes like ‘I’m in Love’ before the low-key domestic serial ‘End of Season Finale’ introduces off-duty Mexican Wrestlers, as well as political insight from the ‘Bread and Bhagi Show’ and psychological thrills courtesy of ‘Monkey Nut and Harrowed Marrow’. There are, however, no ducks…

Some comics pretty much defy description and codification – and a good thing too.

The purest form of graphic narrative creates connections with the reader that occur on a visceral, pre-literate level, visually meshing together on a page to produce something which makes feelings – if not necessarily sense.

When creators can access that pictorially responsive area of our brains as well as these two by ricocheting around the peripheries of the art form with such hilariously enticing and bizarrely bemusing concoctions, all serious fans and readers should sit up and take notice.

No more hints: go find this fabulously funny book now.

© 2003 Tom Gauld and Simone Lia. All rights reserved.
You can see more of their work at www.tomgauld.com and simonelia.com

More Brilliant Advice


By Annie Lawson (Deirdre McDonald/Bellew Publishing)
ISBN: 978-0-94779-224-4

British cartooning has been magnificently serviced over the centuries by masters of form, line, wash and most importantly clever ideas repeatedly tickling our funny bones whilst poking our pomposities and fascinations. However one glaring imbalance in that dishonourable tradition has only been comparatively recently addressed – the relative paucity of women gagsters…

Annie Lawson is a jobbing illustrator, animator and textiles designer/facilitator (specialising in rug-making): a sublimely inspired and dedicated creator who happily inhabits the fine-arty, wryly clever, socially aware end of the makes-you-laugh market. Since 1981 she has worked as a freelance cartoonist for Honey, The Guardian, The Observer, City Limits and others. As well as being the uniquely stylish in-house cartoonist for the ethical beauty products chain Lush and featuring heavily in their free newspaper Lush Times, she has also been the star of many gallery exhibitions and has multiple book compilations to her name.

Here her startlingly economical, pared-down and deceptively simplified strips explored what it meant to be a young intellectual feminist looking for love – or often merely a straight answer – in the eternal questing dance between men and women, mothers and daughters, BFFs, food, booze and fashions, as well as the more baffling, frustrating and intolerable aspects of less crucial aspects of modern living.

More Brilliant Advice was released in 1989, the sequel to an earlier incisive and uncompromising collection and, as well as exploring man-hunting, party etiquette, gender cues, partnership insecurities, clubbing, middle-class cash-poverty, shameful guilty pleasures, masculine weaknesses and squeamishness, also continually self-dissects and reappraises the role of the nominal self-loathing singleton dubbed ‘the Wet Lettuce’.

With frenetic energy and a scathing eye – jaundiced far too young – topics such as ‘I’ve Got to Find a way to Make a Living’, ‘Clubbing It’, ‘If You Find to your Horror that your Children are either Selfish or Raving Mad…’, ‘Drunkenness… a Bane?’, ‘Perfect Logic’, ‘My Overdraft’, ‘Irritating Foibles’ ‘Assertiveness Training’ and other perennial pithy imponderables are tackled in both abrasive, energised stick figure strips and a multitude of gloriously lavish colour pastel and paint full-pages.

Since the glass studio-door was finally shattered, many women have reenergised the field and this selection comprises a nice slice of a lesser known but still-pithily opinionated pen-smith and brush-monger whose contributions have been forgotten for far too long.

Happily still available from numerous online sources, More Bad Advice is certainly something you should take heed of…
© 1989 Annie Lawson. All rights reserved.

The World’s Greatest Middle Age Cartoons


By various, edited by Mark Bryant (Exley)
ISBN: 978-1-85015-508-9

Here’s another little dip into the vast library of cartoon comedy generated by Britain’s greatest natural resource (and still un-privatised so it belongs to us all for the moment): folks what make us laugh…

This selection comprises a nice slice of lesser known but still-pithily opinionated pen-smiths and brush-mongers, all turning a jaded and indeed long-suffering, probably myopic and squinty eye on the inescapable fate that awaits most of us. I’m assuming of course, that nobody here today has yet reached those lofty depths of “Middle Age”…

The cartoons re-presented here have been harvested from the pages of such literary colossi as Punch, The Spectator and Private Eye amongst many national and international sources and deftly display the wry, smug, elegant, frantic, resigned and obnoxious attractions of and reactions to the slow bit between adolescence and senescence which seems to revolve around cake, comfy chairs and utter bewilderment at how bad things have gotten…

In these pages you’ll first discover the heartbreak of exhausted skin, creaking bones and meandering waistlines, the joy of taking up hobbies and pastimes, the faithfulness of pets, gardening, vanity, self-delusion, impatience, futility, embarrassingly roving eyes and wandering hands, the brutal cruelty of fashion, an increasing familiarity with Doctors’ waiting rooms, unsuspected ailments, crisis after crisis, hair where it shouldn’t be and not where you’d like it, that first whiff of approaching death, grandchildren, personal “use-by dates”, how love never dies but increasingly needs a little help and especially how one can go off sarcasm…

As usual this particular book isn’t as much what I’m recommending (although if you can find a copy you won’t regret it) as the type of publication that I’m commemorating. Such life-affirming cartoons by Norman Thelwell, Gerard Hoffnung, Bill Stott, Sally Artz, Les Barton, Helen Cusack, Stidley Easel, Charles Rodriguez, Hector Breeze, Tony Husband, Clive Collins, Michael ffolkes, Donegan, David Haldane, Fleo, Grizelda Grizlingham, Bud Handelsman, Holte, Henry Martin, David Austin, Edward McLachlan, Cluff, David Myers, Ken Pyne, Viv Quillin, Bryan Reading, Heath and Roland Fiddy are sitting idly out of touch when they could be filling your bookshelves and giving your somnolent hearts a damned good, potentially invigorating laugh time and time again…
Selection © 1994 Exley Publications, Ltd. The copyright of each cartoon remains with each cartoonist or copyright holder.