You’ll Hurt Your Eyes!

Media, Reading & Writing, The Arts

The photo is from the lovely ‘London Street Photography’ at the Museum of London. Mothers always said you’d hurt your eyes reading comics. Now I’m starting to think they were right – the captions seem so small to ageing eyes.

As a kid I took all the British comics because everyone else did. Beano, Dandy, Buster, Topper, Lion, Beezer and the rest were delivered every Wednesday, along with Kath and Bill’s broadsheet Daily Mail. My favourite humorous artist was the demented Ken Reid, whose major character Jonah sank a battleship every single week. The intensity of his drawing drove him to a nervous breakdown. It’s heartbreaking that there’s no collection of his best work in print.

The British comics were never about square-jawed superheroes – they were about destruction and anarchy. What the ‘Thunderbirds’ and ‘Commando’ artist Keith Page and I are planning to do with the Bryant & May comic (shall we call it comic or graphic novel? I rather like the former) is set it in the London that might and perhaps should have been. The style will be busy and packed with fun stuff to discover. You can see more about Keith’s work here at this excellent British comics blog.

And to give you an idea of what Ken Reid’s bonkers art was typically like each week, here’s a page (you’ll need to click and expand).

4 comments on “You’ll Hurt Your Eyes!”

  1. Robert Nedelkoff says:

    I wanted to let you know that I recently came across one of your Independent columns about forgotten writers – which I first learned about from’s Literary Saloon a couple of weeks ago – and wrote my friend Brad Bigelow about it. He not only read all the articles in the series, but has put up links to all of them at his site

  2. Andy says:

    I remember Jonah, magnificently grotesque stuff. Ideal reading material for impressionable growing lads like my brother and I. A treat every time we went on holidays was getting the Dandy, Beano or Whizzer and Chips Summer Specials to keep us quiet in the car on the drive there.

  3. Alan Morgan says:

    Born ’68, so 70s child and thus Warlord, Battle, Action – thence Starlord and 2000AD. Earlier copies and Commando comics I used to be able to get for pence at the regular local jumble sales (remember them?).

    And it’s comic, not graphic novel. A very good friend of mine would say that the phrase graphic novel is for people too embarrassed to read comics – and so they probably should not be allowed to. Nothing wrong with a comic. Keith is a comic artist, and that is a fine and proud thing to be.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    The term graphic novel is useful in school libraries because it puts comics into the non-fiction (!) section (fine art, doncha know) and gives ten year olds something to look at before school besides famous planes and how movie monsters are made. My first placement there was Guards! Guards! and I am proud to have had Terry Prachett in my library.

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