By Graham (Mirror Books)
Cartoons and gag-panels are a universal medium but we purveyors of sequential narrative have an unhappy tendency to become protective and parochial about our own particular specialism within the medium. How many times have I heard an artist or writer working on a hot new comic-book property, revelling in sales of sixty-to-seventy thousand monthly copies, disparage a strip such as Hagar the Horrible or Garfield whose daily readership can be numbered in millions, if not billions? Let’s all just try to remember that tastes differ, and that we all make lines on a surface here, and most especially that TV and Computer Games are the real enemy of our industry, shall we?
Mainstream cartooning is a huge joy to a vast readership whose needs are quite different from those of hard-core, dedicated comic fans, or even that growing base of intrigued browsers dipping their toes in the sequential narrative pool. Even those stuck-up stickybeaks who have pointedly “never read a comic” have seen and enjoyed cartoon strips or panels, and in this arena Britain has produced more than its share of classics.
Alex Graham, best known for the charming and reassuringly middle-class Fred Bassett strip, was a jobbing cartoonist for nearly fifty years and in that time produced a vast range of work that delighted readers on a wide range of subjects. He died in 1991, and Bassett was continued by his daughter Arran and artist Michael Martin. I’ll save the details for upcoming Fred Bassett reviews.
Augustus and his Faithful Hound is a less well-known strip that appeared in the late 1970’s in The Woman’s Journal, a home-maker’s magazine with a highly specialised demographic. The strip is a perfect fit: the gently amusing and reassuring exploits of a timid young lad and his equally timid, if boisterous, dog. The drawing is highly polished, captivating and charming; the gags undemanding and very reassuring – and that’s just what they’re supposed to be. This was not a venue for sarcasm, slapstick, surrealism or brisk, salacious vulgarity. These were cartoons to make your mum laugh, and as such they are perfect.
I’m sure there’s not much chance of this collection ever being reprinted, but if you chance across a copy, try it before dismissing it. The craft and skill is just as hard-learned as any superhero, fantasy or horror artist’s, the results fitted the brief perfectly and the audience was so very happy with the result. Other than a bigger cheque and global celebrity, what more could a creator possibly want from his labours?
© 1978 Woman’s Journal. All Rights Reserved.