By Ken Reid (Rebellion)
ISBN: 978-1-78108-692-6 (HB)
Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Hopelessly Hilarious Horrendousness… 10/10
If you know British Comics, you’ll know Ken Reid.
He was one of a select and singular pantheon of rebellious, youthful artistic prodigies who – largely unsung – went about transforming British Comics, entertaining millions and inspiring hundreds of those readers to become cartoonists too.
Reid was born in Manchester in 1919 and apparently drew from the moment he could hold an implement. Aged nine, he was confined to bed for six months with a tubercular hip, and occupied himself by constantly scribbling and sketching. He left school before his fourteenth birthday and won a scholarship to Salford Art School, but never graduated.
He was, by all accounts, expelled for cutting classes and hanging about in cafes. Undaunted, he set up as a commercial artist, but floundered until his dad began acting as his agent.
Ken’s big break was a blagger’s triumph. Accompanied by his unbelievably supportive and astute father, Ken talked his way into an interview with the Art Editor of the Manchester Evening News and came away with a commission for a strip for its new Children’s Section.
The Adventures of Fudge the Elf debuted in 1938 and ran until 1963, with only a single, albeit lengthy, hiatus from 1941 to 1946 when Reid served in the armed forces.
From the late 1940s onwards, Reid dallied with comics periodicals: with work (Super Sam, Billy Boffin, Foxy) published in Comic Cuts and submissions to The Eagle, before a fortuitous family connection – Dandy illustrator Bill Holroyd was Reid’s brother-in-law – brought DC Thomson managing editor R.D. Low to his door with a cast-iron offer of work.
On April 18th 1953 Roger the Dodger debuted in The Beano. Reid drew the feature until 1959 and created numerous others, including the fabulously mordant doomed mariner Jonah, Ali Ha-Ha and the 40 Thieves, Grandpa and Jinxamongst many more.
In 1964, Reid and fellow under-appreciated superstar Leo Baxendale jumped ship to work for DCT’s arch rival Odhams Press. This gave Ken greater license to explore his ghoulish side: concentrating on comic horror yarns and grotesque situations in strips like Frankie Stein, and The Nervs in Wham! and Smash! as well as more visually wholesome but still strikingly surreal fare as Queen of the Seas and Dare-a-Day Davy.
In 1971 Reid devised Faceache – arguably his career masterpiece – for new title Jet. The hilariously horrific strip was popular enough to survive the comic’s demise – after a paltry 22 weeks – and was carried over in a merger with stalwart periodical Buster where it thrived until 1987. Ken Reid died that year from the complications of a stroke he’d suffered on February 2nd at his drawing board, putting the finishing touches to a Faceache strip. On his passing, the strip was taken over by Frank Diarmid who it until cancelation in October 1988.
All his working life, Reid innovated; devising a horde of new strips such as Harry Hammertoe the Soccer Spook, Wanted Posters, Martha’s Monster Makeup, Tom’s Horror World, Creepy Creations and a dozen others. One of those – and the worthy subject of this splendid luxury hardback (and eBook) – is World-Wide Weirdies.
A full colour back page every week found Ken crafting a batty and bizarre image – usually suggested by a lucky reader – depicting a pun-ishingly strained groaner gag elevated to a manic masterpiece. Most were locations but just plain crazy stuff like ‘the Aussie Doomerang’, ‘The Gruesome Gondola’ and the staggering visual ‘Jumbo Jet’ also got in. Where was first in Whooppee! and then Shiver and Shake with this first titanic hardback tome – also available digitalis-ly (see what I did there?) – covering 12th October 1974 to 6th November 1976, but you don’t care about that, what you want is ‘orrible, pictures right?
Preceding 108 of them is text feature ‘The Weirdies Years of Ken Reid – 1974-1978’ by his son Antony J. Reid which precedes a unique map indicating where in the weird wide world the 108 ghastly holiday destinations from hell are located…
The atlas of the unknowable then commences with ‘The Petrifying Pyramid’ with subsequent shocking submissions such as the ‘Trifle Tower’, ‘Vampire State Building’, ‘Bone Henge’, ‘Mucky-Hand Palace’ and the still horrifically relevant ‘Houses of Horrorment’…
We aren’t just restricted to UK unpleasantries such as ‘The Fright Cliffs of Dover’ or ‘The Cheddar Gorger’ but also an assemblage of international oddities such as ‘The Sahara Dessert’, ‘Shock Rock of Gibraltar’, ‘Gruesome Grand Canyon’, ‘The Not So N-Iceberg’, ‘The Coloscream’ and – so pertinent today, apparently – ‘The Statue of Stupidity’…
This astoundingly absorbing comedy classic is another perfect example of resolutely British humorous sensibilities – absurdist, anarchic and gleefully grotesque – and these cartoon capers are amongst the most memorable and re-readable exploits in all of British comics history: painfully funny, beautifully rendered and ridiculously unforgettable. This a treasure-trove of laughs to span generations which demands to be in every family bookcase. Part of Rebellion’s ever-expanding Treasury of British Comics, this is a superb tribute to the man and a brilliant reminder of what it means to be brutish…
© 1974, 1975, 1976, & 2019 Rebellion Publishing Ltd. All Rights Reserved.