welcome and enjoy!

Hi and welcome to my blog about comics from other people’s childhood! It is dedicated primarily to British humour comics of the 60s and 70s. The reason they are not from my childhood is simply because I didn’t live in the UK back then (nor do I live there now). I knew next to nothing about them until fairly recently but since then I’ve developed a strong liking for the medium and amassed a large collection, including a number of complete or near complete sets. My intention is to use this blog as a channel for sharing my humble knowledge about different titles, favourite characters and creators as I slowly research my collection.

QUICK TIP: this blog is a sequence of posts covering one particular comic at a time. The sequence follows a certain logic, so for maximum results it is recommended that the blog is read from the oldest post up.

Copyright of all images and quotations used here is with their respective owners. Any such copyrighted material is used exclusively for educational purposes and will be removed at first notice. All other text copyright Irmantas P.



Showing posts with label Gulliver Guinea-Pig. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gulliver Guinea-Pig. Show all posts

Thursday, February 15, 2018

THE ORIGINS OF GULLIVER GUINEA-PIG – PART TWO




Here is part two of the article by John Wigmans covering the genesis of Gulliver Guinea Pig. Check out the previous post if you missed the first part.

The First Steps of an Unlikely but Very Likeable Hero: Gulliver Guinea-Pig (Part 2)
by John Wigmans

As it turns out, Gulliver didn’t start his travels in Playhour dated 24 May 1958 (No. 189). As far as I now know, his real debut was in Tiny Tots dated 17 May 1958 (No. 1298), as part of The New Nursery Rhymes. The tiny traveller also featured in an illustrated but uncredited three-page story included in the Tiny Tots Annual for 1959. Annuals were prepared many months before publication, and I am quite sure the text and the drawings were completed in the spring of 1958. This annual went on sale in September/October 1958, but it was presented as the annual for 1959.

Furthermore, I think that these three earliest adventures of the little explorer were written and illustrated almost simultaneously, within a couple of weeks, days even, most likely in March or April 1958. Which story really was the first to be produced – the true genesis of Gulliver Guinea-Pig, is of little importance. Unless other information surfaces, Gulliver made his first steps in the following publications (in chronological order):

- Tiny Tots dated 17 May 1958, No. 1298;
- Playhour dated 24 May 1958, No. 189;
- Tiny Tots Annual for 1959, on sale in September/October 1958.






All of these stories were written by David Roberts and beautifully illustrated by Philip Mendoza. It is easy to see why Steve Holland wrote the following words about the artist and his contributions in Playhour on his BearAlley-blogspot: “Mendoza quickly found his forte, drawing a number of cover illustrations of anthropomorphic animals, a hugely popular sub-genre of nursery comics which often took the everyday and turned it into something magical. Animals with human characteristics had been a staple of British comics since the 1920s and the huge success of ‘Tiger Tim’. However, Mendoza’s were not the rounded, cartoony animals of Herbert Foxwell, nor the delicate water-coloured bunnies of Beatrix Potter, they were the more robust creatures of Ernest Aris. They had the spikes and ruffled fur of creatures that looked as if they could have actually just come from a hedgerow or corn field.


Steve continued: “In 1958, David Roberts, the assistant editor of Playhour, created a new character for the weekly paper’s back page, ‘Gulliver Guinea-Pig’, a roving world-traveller whose adventures on and off the map would run in the comic for over seven years. Roberts’ vivid imagination took Gulliver to countries around the globe, visiting friends and relatives and seeking adventure or warmth from a harsh winter. Once he had visited everywhere from Japan to darkest Africa, Roberts sent Gulliver to meet the inhabitants of Long-Ago Land, Rainbow Land and Nursery Rhyme Land. Over the years, Gulliver would climb Everest, fly to the Moon, fall through the screen of his TV and visit the land of fairy tales... all beautifully depicted by Phillip Mendoza in full colour until the strip was taken over by Gordon Hutchings in 1961.” (BA-blogspot, March 6, 2007: Philip Mendoza [Montague Phillip Mendoza])

Steve was equally clear about the skills of David Roberts: “The author of Gulliver was David Roberts, one of the unsung writers of British comics who was responsible for many of the best strips in Playhour, including a lot of centre-spread series and a number of other favourites like ‘Leo the Friendly Lion’ and ‘Princess Marigold’. Roberts had a marvellous flair for writing verses with just the right lightness of touch that worked so well with strips like Gulliver. The later strips had descriptive captions typical of the other strips in Playhour, one of the reasons why the early years of Gulliver are such a favourite. Coupled with the artwork by Philip Mendoza, the strip has an effervescence and charm that hasn’t been seen in comics for too long.” (BA-blogspot, December 23, 2006: Gulliver Guinea-Pig’s Happy Christmas)

And from Steve’s latest book, Forgotten Authors Volume 2, I took the following blurb: “David Roberts: Writer behind the weekly adventures of world travelling Gulliver Guinea-Pig and fairy tale heroine Princess Marigold, Roberts helped entertain and shape the minds of millions of youngsters as both a scriptwriter and creator of children’s magazines.” (BearAlleyBooks-blogspot, February 2, 2018).

Well, now we know that originally Gulliver was not created for Playhour. It is unclear (to me at least) why the strip was transferred so quickly from Tiny Tots to its companion paper. Six instalments of The Travels of Gulliver Guinea-Pig by the Roberts/Mendoza-team on the centre pages of Playhour (Nos. 189-194), in beautiful colours and with rhyming captions, were only the beginning of a long run in this nursery comic.

For over seven years the exciting adventures of our ‘roving world-traveller’ appeared on the back cover and the centre pages of Playhour. Those stories, however, are outside the scope of this article. I can only hope that Irmantas lives up to the promise he made here, on his own blogspot (January 5, 2018): “The quality of the artwork and the stories makes me want to do a detailed account of all Gulliver’s travels during the seven years of the strip’s existence (1958 – 1965)…” Then please do not forget to include the ‘prequels’ in Tiny Tots No. 1298 and the Tiny Tots Annual for 1959.

By the way, in spite of the revamp in October, 1957, Tiny Tots didn’t survive for long. Early 1959 the comic was incorporated with its companion paper Playhour. Apparently much to his regret, Bill Lofts wrote the following words about the demise of the weekly in The Collectors’ Digest of February 1959, No. 146:


As a special treat, here is a scan of another strip from the pages of Tiny Tots, again beautifully illustrated by Mendoza. He really was at the top of his game at the time. On the back page of No. 1327 (6 December 1958) young readers would find an episode of ‘The Town Mouse in the Country’. These lovely tales began in No. 1308 (26 July 1958), in full colour up to No. 1327 at least. Towards the end of Tiny Tots this strip was moved to an interior page and probably appeared in black-and-white and grey-wash. The last issue (No. 1334) had the adventures of Katie and her cousin Matilda on page 6.


Additional information and corrections are appreciated. A photograph of Philip Mendoza, taken in or around 1958, would be most welcome.

Friday, February 9, 2018

THE ORIGINS OF GULLIVER GUINEA-PIG – PART ONE



For the first time on Kazoop!!, I have an article by a guest writer! The remarkably researched piece by John Wigmans, a fellow enthusiast of Gulliver Guinea-Pig, covers the origins of the bold little traveler. Many thanks to John for choosing my blog to publish his article. Here is part one:


The First Steps of an Unlikely but Very Likeable Hero: Gulliver Guinea-Pig

by John Wigmans




The Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London: HQ of The Amalgamated Press, publisher of numerous magazines and comics. In the spring or early summer of 1957 it became clear to the residing management that the sales of Tiny Tots nursery comic were declining. This long-running weekly (first issue 22 October 1927) had survived the Second World War and paper rationing. But in the mid-fifties the comic had lost most of its appeal to young readers and parents who bought it for their children. Admittedly, Tiny Tots looked very old-fashioned compared with the new line of nursery comics that had been launched by the AP in 1954: Jack and Jill (in February) and Playhour (in October).


The people in charge (could this have been Leonard Matthews, by then Managing Editor of all of the Amalgamated Press’ comics?) decided to take action. There were three options: axe the title; incorporate the comic with another more successful one; or revamp the ailing weekly to make it look more modern in an effort to boost circulation.

Killing off Tiny Tots completely seemed a bad choice: in 1957 it was the only remaining real pre-school comic of the four ‘ancient’ juvenile AP-weeklies that had survived the War. By the spring of 1957 the other equally old-fashioned nursery titles Playbox, Rainbow and Chicks’ Own had already dropped out of the picture. This must have been the result of declining sales. Playbox (first issue 14 February 1925) ran until 11 June 1955, after which it was merged into the highly-successful Jack and Jill. Even the older Rainbow (first issue 14 February 1914) was incorporated with Tiny Tots on 5 May 1956; the latter obviously still enjoyed a higher circulation than the former. And finally Chicks’ Own (first issue 25 September 1920) was absorbed by Playhour on 16 March 1957.

Bill Lofts, a historian of old boys’ books and story papers, wrote this about the demise of Chicks’ Own in The Collectors’ Digest of May 1957 (No. 125):


Perhaps his last remark hit home with The Fleetway House. Fortunately, Tiny Tots was not merged with either Jack and Jill or Playhour – not yet anyway. But something needed to be done before it was too late. Perhaps a revamp, in an effort to boost circulation? Essential ingredients: a new formula; a lot of new, modern strips and features to replace the old-fashioned ones; a new editor; etc.

The last old-fashioned issue of Tiny Tots

In order to make it look like the successful Jack and Jill and Playhour comics, yellow borders were introduced on the cover; a group of three companion papers was born. The issue for 12 October 1957 (No. 1267) was the first improved Tiny Tots. The adventures of the popular Tiger Tim and Mrs Bruin’s Schoolboys were transferred from the back page to the front. According to the artist Colin Wyatt who had joined the art department at The Amalgamated Press in August 1957 (and who was effectively an eye-witness), this particular installment was drawn by Peter Woolcock, one of the regular artists of Playhour and Jack and Jill.




Besides Woolcock, a host of Jack and Jill and Playhour contributors also got involved with the new Tiny Tots. Artists like Ron Embleton, Basil Reynolds, Ron Nielsen, Nadir Quinto, Philip Mendoza and Hugh McNeill contributed one or more strips between No. 1267 and the final issue No. 1334. 

Not surprisingly, two key men from Playhour became very important. One was Basil Reynolds, art editor of Jack and Jill, Playhour and Tiny Tots since February 1956, who was appointed editor of the latter in August 1957. Obviously, he was there to oversee all the changes necessary to revamp the comic. The other one was David Roberts, Playhour’s assistant editor, who continued to do what he did best – writing stories. One of the new features was The New Nursery Rhymes that appeared on the centre pages, with drawings in black, grey-wash and red-wash. Roberts penned the first instalment with obvious ease and delight (illustrated by Ron Embleton).


Unfortunately, I do not own a complete run of Tiny Tots’ final years but I do know that The New Nursery Rhymes continued right up to the very last issue of the comic. I presume that Roberts wrote most of the scripts and the rhyming captions. For instance: Tiny Tots No. 1327 (6 December 1958) has The New Nursery Rhymes ‘by David Roberts’ on the centre pages. The artwork looks much older (taken from the AP’s archives?), so it is possible Roberts wrote new rhyming couplets to go with these antiquated drawings. The final issue of Tiny Tots - Companion paper to Playhour and Jack and Jill, dated 24 January 1959 (No. 1334) still had The New Nursery Rhymes on the centre pages. 

The series was really a hotchpotch of stories. Most were written by Roberts, some by Basil Reynolds (at least one with drawings by Ron Nielsen), others were not credited at all. Some installments were reprints of much older artwork with new rhyming captions. But at one point the man with the ‘plump figure and a somewhat seeded look’ (as Steve Holland described Roberts on his BearAlley-blogspot), created a character that would go down in comics history as a true masterpiece.

Photograph of David Roberts interviewing movie star Diana Dors; published in Top Spot for 25 October 1958, No. 1. The photo was taken in May or June, 1958. (courtesy of Colin Wyatt)

Enter Gulliver Guinea-Pig, one of the most endearing heroes ever to travel the World. Created by David Roberts, this brave and enterprising guinea-pig experienced the most exciting adventures between May 1958 and September 1965 in Playhour weeklies, Playhour Annuals and a couple of books.

Come back soon for Part two!

Friday, January 5, 2018

GULLIVER GUINEA-PIG ORIGINAL ARTWORK BY GORDON HUTCHINGS



Here are some nice examples of Gulliver Guinea-Pig original artwork by Gordon Hutchings that I recently came across on eBay. I didn’t buy them, so the images are “borrowed” from the auction site.


They were first printed in PLAYHOUR in 1961. According to the auction description, the story was re-used in TEDDY BEAR’S PLAYTIME in the 1980s. It looks like the full page shown above was “constructed” from two episodes of the original tale. Here is how they appeared in PLAYHOUR:





Gulliver Guinea-Pig Saves Summer started in PLAYHOUR cover-dated 25 February, 1961 and ran for 6 weeks until Easter issue of 1 April, 1961. It was the second Gulliver story illustrated by Hutchings who took over from the original artist Philip Mendoza. Both did an excellent job on the strip. The quality of the artwork and the stories makes me want to do a detailed account of all Gulliver’s travels during the seven years of the strip’s existence (1958 – 1965)…