Thursday, May 27, 2004


I recently checked outThe Best of British Comic Art, by Alan Clark, from the library. Of the six artists profiled, five are uninteresting, judging by the strips reprinted (and the "humor" is for the most part dire), though the book does reveal the interesting fact that an imitation, in both subject matter and style, of "Hogan's Alley" (aka "The Yellow Kid"), entitled "Casey Court" ran in one of the weekly British comic magazines until 1953. But the sixth artist, Ken Reid, was some sort of deranged genius. Artistically, the closest analogy I can think of is Basil Wolverton, though one strip has a Dick Briefer-like "Frankie Stein"; but Reid is, if anything, wilder. Of the samples of Reid's work included in the book, the most bizarre is "The Nervs." The "nervs" are grotesque creatures living inside the body of a fat, ugly schoolboy, who operate his nervous system and control his actions. Though Reid apparently didn't originate this idea, he certainly ran with it. In the complete "Nervs" strip included here, the stomach nervs decide they want to see some fireworks, and command Fatty (as the schoolboy is called) to drink eighteen "sherbert fizzes," the carbonation of which they use, along with undigested macaroni, to make their own fireworks. When the fireworks display in his stomach gives Fatty indigestion, his mother doses him with castor oil, and the stomach nervs are drenched in it. One of them decides to avenge himself by taking a club to the inside of Fatty's skull, but on his way there he inadvertently hits the "hefty punch" button on the "hand control," which leads Fatty to involuntarily slug his mother (knocking her wig off), and Fatty ends up sitting in a jail cell. Reid's most famous work was apparently a children's fantasy strip called "The Adventures of Fudge the Elf." From the brief samples shown in the book it's not clear what the appeal was, though it's nicely drawn.

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