Archive for the ‘cartoons’ Category

Bairnsfather’s ‘dirty dog’

August 28, 2015
Captain Bruce Bairnsfather’s dirty dog ending from Fragments from France (volume 4)

Captain Bruce Bairnsfather’s dirty dog ending from Fragments from France (volume 4)

Bruce Bairnsfather was a British soldier who made his name as the most popular cartoonist of the First World War with his Old Bill character in the Bystander magazine. Old Bill was a curmudgeonly veteran coping with life in the mud of the Western Front alongside his pals, Bert and Alf. Bairnsfather sent the first sketch in, the magazine printed it, and, Hey Presto!, they had a massive hit on their hands.

The cartoons were collated and republished as a series of Fragments from France books. There were eight volumes, which sold millions of copies across the world and sparked a merchandise frenzy, as well as plays and films. Bairnfather also worked in the US and Old Bill, and his son, were revived in the Second World War as a mascot for the US troops.

I liked this ‘dirty dog’ ending from Fragments from France, volume 4 in August 1917. The bulldog was regularly used to represent Britain and the dachshund Germany (Kaiser Wilhelm had one as a pet). The dachshund was bred to hunt in burrows – the word means ‘badger hound’ – but this one has clearly seen better days.

Last year, military historians Tonie and Valmai Holt published The Biography of Captain Bruce Bairnsfather: In Search of the Better ‘Ole, and began a campaign to seek official recognition for Bairnsfather‘s morale-boosting contribution to the war effort. October 2015 marks the centenary of the first published Old Bill cartoon.

‘The Super Moshis need YOU’ – the powerful language of propaganda

August 25, 2015

The advertising watchdog has criticised Mind Candy for tempting children

Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority berated Mind Candy on Tuesday. The offence committed by the online company was using adverts inside Moshi Monsters to encourage the game’s young players to pester their parents for paid add-ons and subscriptions.

The problem has come up before with adverts even in games back in the 1980s, but it wasn’t this that grabbed my attention: it was the wording in the adverts.

Alfred Leete's 'Your Country Needs You' London Opinion cover inspired a Great War advertising campaign

Alfred Leete’s ‘Your Country Needs You’ London Opinion cover

Among the copy used were the phrases ‘The Super Moshis need YOU! Rise to the challenge and join the Super Moshis in their crusade’ alongside prominent calls to action such as ‘JOIN NOW’. This is the language of advertising from the Edwardian era and the propaganda posters of the First World War. The Moshi pages make frequent use of the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ to attract children’s attention and make them feel they are being spoken to directly. A classic market technique in 1914 and still effective now.

Black-and-white artist Alfred Leete used exactly that construction when he did his 1914 London Opinion magazine cover of Lord Kitchener that was taken up so powerfully as a government recruiting poster.

Millions of men volunteered to fight and die in the mud of France, enticed to join up by the ‘Your Country Needs You’ magazine covers and posters. In today’s consumer world, it’s children’s pocket money that the likes of Mind Candy are after with ‘Super Moshis need YOU!’.

Harry Linfield – a down-to-earth side of the Star Trek and Doctor Who artist

June 19, 2015
Harry Lindfield drawing for Annabel magazine in 1966

Harry Lindfield drawing for Annabel magazine in 1966

Type the name Harry Lindfield into a search engine and up will come a gang of results pointing to illustrations for Gerry Anderson-based comics such as Joe 90, TV21 and Lady Penelope from City Magazines and Polystyle’s Countdown. For Lindfield drew Star Trek, Doctor Who and others strips from about 1968 in the great heyday of TV-based comics – when some issues were selling in excess of half-a-million copies a week. The illustration above predates that – it’s from a September 1966 issue of DC Thomson’s monthly Annabel. Lindfield had already drawn strips for the Eagle‘s sister paper Swift at Hulton Press.

A colour centre spread of Star Trek by Harry Lindfield from Joe 90 . Click on the image to find a larger version on Beano cartoonist Nigel Parkinson's website

A colour centre spread of Star Trek by Harry Lindfield from Joe 90. Click on the image to see a larger version on Beano artist Nigel Parkinson’s website

The Gerry Anderson website quotes Look-In writer and TV21 script editor Angus Allan on Lindfield:

[Lady Penelope] went into colour, with an artist – a genius – called Harry Lindfield. If ever I had to choose something that I’d done, and was proud of, those strips would be the ones. Harry was brilliant, and it was a pleasure to write for him. And up went the sales. Not to a million, though. Not ever. But 750,000? That was money to Century 21 and City Magazines.

Annabel saw itself as a ‘New young and lively monthly for women’ and was just in its seventh issue. The large page format – almost A3 – could show off the photography and illustration.

Harry Lindfield's Dr Who cover for Countdown comic

A Harry Lindfield Dr Who cover for Countdown comic. Click on the image to see a larger version on comic artist Lew Stringer’s website

Where was Black Bag when I needed saving from a Tesco bag?

April 14, 2015
The best of Viz - Black Bag

The best of Viz – Black Bag (from

I was attacked by a Tesco bag last week. It was a blustery day and the wind picked up the plastic shopping bag, spun it round like a plate on a stick in a Greek restaurant and it shot towards me. I had to duck or, I tell you, it would have taken the top of my head off!

It must have beeen the evil cousin of Black Bag – the Faithful Border Bin Liner that was a staple of Viz and took its inspiration from the Dandy‘s Black Bob. Viz has produced many great strips –  Fat Slags, Sid the Sexist, Roger Mellie the foul-mouthed Man on the Telly – but Black Bag trumps Billy the Fish as the best character. It’s the sheer surreal nature of the idea that does it for me. No wonder James Brown credits it as an inspiration for Loaded – and he later bought it.

I can even forgive Black Bag for not trying to save me – no Faithful Border Bin Liner can be everywhere.

Life at Punch in 1962

March 25, 2015
Punch magazine cover from 1879 (November 22). This cover shows the Dickie Bird cover that was used into the 1950s

Punch magazine cover from 1879 (November 22). This shows the Dickie Bird cover that was used into the 1950s

The weekly humour magazine Punch is long dead – despite an attempt to revive it in the 1990s – and only a cartoon archive selling reproductions exists today. Yet, in its day, Punch one of the world’s most influential magazines, not only in encouraging the development of other magazines (Judy, Owl and Lika Joka among them) but also bringing new word usages into the English language – ‘cartoon’, the ‘curate’s egg’ – developing the cartoon itself, and politically – angering Churchill, for example, in the way it portrayed him as an old man in the 1950s (probably losing editor Malcom Muggeridge his job in the process).

By this time, Punch was in decline in the face of competition from television for readers and advertising, and about to face Private Eye at the harder end of topical satire in print. Private Eye even ran a special issue having a go at what it saw as a Punch that had lost its edge (though criticising Punch had been a topic since at least 1916).

But it’s rare to be able to put a face to a famous name in the magazine world, so this British Pathe film from 1962 was a bit of a find.

Punch table in 1962 from British Pathe film

Punch table in 1962 from British Pathe film

It starts with Bernard Hollowood, the editor, and cartoonists in debate around the Punch table and art editor Bill Hewison carves his initials on the table. His letters are shown as well as others by contributors James Thurber, William Makepeace Thackeray and John Leach and a rare guest, Prince Philip. There is a description of the table on the Punch website.

Two Victorian illustrations are shown, ’19th century forecast of television’ and ‘air-to-air refuelling, before the film moves on to summarise the editorial, production and publishing processes at Punch, with Russell Brockbank, contemporary illustrations, subscription orders and magazine binding.

Around the Punch table are: Peter Agnew, Kenneth Bird, J. B. Boothroyd, H. F. Ellis, W. Hewison, C. Hollis, B. Hollowood, D. Langdon, R. Mallett, Norman Mansbridge (who did Her, a brilliant spoof of 1950s women’s magazines), F. L. Marsh, R. G. G. Price, B. A. Young and P. Dickinson.

Leete, Kitchener and the pointing man

February 6, 2015

Alfred Leete’s Kitchener poster was the subject of great debate last year with James Taylor’s book suggesting it might never have existed, but The Amazing Story of the Kitchener Poster proved that thesis wrong by uncovering pictures of the poster on display during the Great War (a book I wrote with Martyn Thatcher).

We also discovered an image that Leete might have seen of a pointing man used in advertising. Now, I’ve unearthed two more pointing figures, one that Leete very possibly saw, and one that he undoubtedly did see.

The first is this one, a pointing man in an advert for The Power Within from Pearson’s magazine (June 1907). I don’t know if Leete was a contributor to Pearson’s at this time, but it was a big illustrated monthly and he would probably have had an eye on it – he certainly did covers for Herbert Jenkins’ Mrs Bindle series in the magazine in 1921. So this advert has to be considered a possible inspiration for Alfred Leete’s Kitchener image. Note the way the word ‘you’ is picked out just below the man’s hand.

A pointing man in an advert from Pearson's magazine (June 1907)

A pointing man in an advert from Pearson’s magazine (June 1907)

The second image that he probably did see is this one:

The pointing man from an advert in London Opinion magazine, 17 September  1910

The pointing man – from an advert in London Opinion magazine, 17 September 1910

Why am I so sure Leete will have seen these? Because Leete was an established illustrator on magazines by 1910, regularly doing covers as well as drawings inside for London Opinion. The latter advert is from London Opinion, of a veterinarian from Kalamazoo in the US, Derk P. Yonkerman, who sold a supposed cure for consumption. Also, there is the illustration below in that very same issue of London Opinion as Yonkerman’s advert – note Leete’s signature to the bottom right. When the war came along, he was in the right place to dash off the ‘Your Country Needs You’ image for the magazine cover.

Drawing by Alfred Leete in the same issue of London Opinion

Drawing by Alfred Leete in the same issue of London Opinion

Charlie Hebdo: will you buy it?

January 13, 2015
Defiant pencil from the Charlie Hebdo homepage

Defiant pencil from the Charlie Hebdo homepage

Charlie Hebdo has raised its print run tomorrow to a massive 3 million copies – probably 60 times its normal run – with copies being distributed far beyond their normal scope. And it has a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover.

Will you buy a copy?

I will, because the past week has been a historic one in the history of journalism and magazines. However, without such a professional impetus, the answer is not straightforward. While I have bought copies of Charlie Hebdo in the past, it has always seemed to me that it is an extreme magazine with editorial values that I could not share. It has been censored by the likes of Apple iTunes. And last week it came up against an even more extreme entity, in the form of extremist Islamists.

Do you agree with the statement today from the cartoonist who drew tomorrow’s cover: ‘There is no “but” when it comes to freedom of speech’? Even though another staff member has pointed out that: ‘We are not obsessed by Mohammed more than the Pope or [former French president] Nicolas Sarkozy.’

Charlie Hebdo exists to bait its targets by word and image, and to push the boundaries of what is allowed in print. But most newspapers and magazines would not go there. This can become an unequal battle being waged by highly literate – and after the revenue comes in tomorrow, well-resourced – journalists. What form of response is there for many of their targets? Muslim groups have tried to stop the magazine’s attacks by using the law, but from what I have read, have failed. However, the magazine was banned when it attacked Charles de Gaulle after his death. This does raise the issue of whether all people are equal before the law.

If you hold up a sign saying ‘Je Suis Charlie’, what are you supporting? Free speech? The right of Charlie Hebdo to carry on baiting Muslimists and its other targets? The 17 victims of the gunmen last week? If you buy a copy tomorrow, what will you be supporting then?

Charlie Hebdo highlights US ‘moral fundamentalism’

January 12, 2015
the flag flown on US warships for the duration of the US 'war on terror'

This is no cartoon – it’s the flag flown on US warships for the duration of the US ‘war on terror’. Shame about the missing apostrophe

This image may look like a cartoon, but it is in fact the flag currently being flown on US warships. As Graham Bertram at explains:

This historical naval jack has been re-introduced for the duration of the war against terrorism. It replaces the traditional US naval jack which is dark blue with 50 white stars, arranged as in the national flag.

The flag was adopted in 2002 on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York. The secretary of the US navy ordered all warships to raise the Revolutionary War jack with its rattlesnake – a symbol of resistance to the British dating back to the late 1700s – and the motto ‘Don’t tread on me’ to mark the ‘war on terror’. September 2014 marked the 12th year the historic jack has been flown.

I was reminded of the image with all the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, many showing illustrations of ‘weaponised’ pens and pencils. And much of the commentary has been about war – or avoiding one – as so many people take sides after last week’s brutal killings. In all, 17 people lost their lives. Today, France has put 10,000 troops on to the streets to guard potential targets as well as an extra 5,000 police. Yesterday, 3.7m people across France took to the streets to show solidarity with the victims.

This week’s print run of Charlie Hebdo has been raised from its usual 50,000 or less by a factor of 20 – to a million. Truly an example of war-like mobilisation. French newspapers have chipped in with office space and computers and the cash comes from a €60m fund for digital publishing innovation set up by Google at the behest of the French government after demands from publishers that the US search engine company pay for displaying their news in its results.

There’s a certain irony here in a US company being dragged in to fund a French satirical graphic magazine because one of the biggest US companies has spent years censoring such titles to such an extent that the director of the Comics Art Museum in Brussels dubbed Apple ‘fundamentalists of globalised morality’. A blog at the gallery explains:

In the summer of 2013, Apple, one of the most modern companies in the western world, imposed a ban on the online sale of some 1,500 Franco-Belgian comic strip albums for reasons of ‘pornography’. Needless to say, the pornographic nature of these albums is entirely questionable and exists mainly in the eyes of the fundamentalists of globalised morality.

Roman graphic novel Murena by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby

Roman graphic novel Murena by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby

The publisher, Dargaud, was forced to censor its own artwork and produce an edition of Les épines by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby for sale on Apple’s iTunes, alongside the usual edition for sale in Franco-Belgian bookshops.

J.C. de la Royère, the museum’s curator, said that as ‘a great defender of freedom of expression’, he was ‘more than happy to join the fray by exhibiting the complete version of Les épines by Jean Dufaux and Philippe Delaby’.

Such ‘bandes dessinées’ (drawn strips) have been popular since the 1960s in France and Belgium. I first came across them when I dodged into a bookshop on the Left Bank in Paris to avoid a riot in the street! My eyes were popping as I rifled through titles such as Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal, editions of which have been published in English in the US for many years now). The strips portrayed sex and violence – beyond anything in underground magazines in Britain that I had seen – and it was in one of these that I first saw the work of Swiss illustrator HR Giger, who a few years later would burst on to the world stage with his designs for the creatures and spaceships in Ridley Scott’s Alien.

The irony has also not been lost on the web newspaper  The Daily Dot, which has commented on ‘The hypocrisy of Facebook and Apple supporting Charlie Hebdo.‘It points out:

Apple — the king of US technology giants — has a #JeSuisCharlie banner on its iTunes store. Not only does Apple regularly engage in censorship on its various platforms and stores — it used to be against the rules to even ridicule public figures on the iTunes store — it has actually specifically censored Charlie Hebdo in the past.

It seems that, although the US tech giants are flying the flag for Charlie Hebdo, in reality their attitude to censorship means: ‘Je ne suis pas Charlie’.

Back to the drawing board at Charlie Hebdo

January 8, 2015

If the gunmen thought they would shut Charlie Hebdo up, here is the response from the French satirical magazine’s lawyer:

The next edition of Charlie Hebdo will come out next week and a million copies will be printed.

Charlie Hebdo’s typical sale for an issue is about 45,000 copies. The Guardian assesses the magazine’s likely reaction under the headline ‘Fight intimidation with controversy‘.

The Telegraph has updated its slideshow of cartoonists’ reactions, led by this one from pocket cartoonist Matt:

Telegraph cartoonist Matt's reaction to the 12 murders at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo

Telegraph cartoonist Matt’s reaction to the 12 murders at Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo

The Financial Times also put up a page of cartoons this morning. Magazine reactions have continued at their websites. At the New Yorker:

The attack on Charlie Hebdo is only the latest blow delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decade

The Spectator magazine ran a photograph of the vigil at Trafalgar Square with a comment article sparked by the Financial Times that – like many of the paper’s own readers, and commentators around the world – took aim at an opinion piece by one of the paper’s writers:

I am just back from a ‘Je suis Charlie’ vigil in Trafalgar Square, and the solidarity was good to see. I fear it won’t last. I may be wrong. Perhaps tomorrow’s papers and news programmes will prove their commitment to freedom by republishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

But I doubt they will even have the courage to admit that they are too scared to show them. Instead we will have insidious articles, which condemn freedom of speech as a provocation and make weasel excuses for murder without having the guts to admit it.

Tony Barber, Europe editor of the Financial Times was first out of the blocks:

‘Charlie Hebdo is a bastion of the French tradition of hard-hitting satire. It has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling Muslims.’

The writer forgot to add that Charlie Hebdo has a long record of mocking, baiting and needling everyone. It is a satirical magazine in a free country: that is what it does.

The websites were still quiet at Private Eye and Le Canard Enchainé, but perhaps taking time to think is a good thing.

Charlie Hebdo: cartoonists react

January 7, 2015
Je Suis Charlie - Charlie Hebdo's website after the murderous attack on its Paris office

Je Suis Charlie – Charlie Hebdo’s website after the murderous attack on its Paris office

After putting up a post on the murders at Charlie Hebdo this morning, I passed a Standard news-seller holding up copies of the London paper shouting ‘Paris killings. Read about it. In your Standard.’ It was like stepping back 30 years. This was real news, not the puffed-up, pre-prepared variety that is now the daily fare of most newspapers, from the Standard to the Guardian.

But it was dreadful news and I watched through the day as details of the killings emerged. Cartoonists reacted quickly to the murders of two policemen and 10 staff on the magazine. While there is little doubt that Charlie Hebdo set out to irritate and wind people up, it did this to all its targets – which led to it being banned for comments about de Gaulle for example – but that is no reason to pull a gun.

Three masked gunmen killed 12 people in the attack, including the editor, Stéphane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier, and three cartoonists, Jean Cabu, Bernard ‘Tignous’ Verlhac and Georges Wolinski, who was 80 years old. The attack took place during a morning editorial meeting and Bernard Maris, a contributor and economost was another victim. As well as drawing for Charlie, the victims contributed to Paris Match, Le Nouvel Observateur, Marianne, Fluide Glacial and Paris-Presse, amongst others. Wolinski had also been the editor-in-chief of the monthly Charlie Mensuel.

People gathered in both Place de la Republique in Paris and Trafalgar Square – London has been described as France’s second city – but, surprisingly, some satirical magazines have been slow to comment. 

The Telegraph ran a slideshow of cartoonists’ reactions, and at the paper’s website, Adams came up with this brilliant riposte to those who would silence the cartoonists:

Brilliant reaction to Charlie Hebdo killings by Adams at the Telegraph

Brilliant reaction to Charlie Hebdo killings by Adams at the Telegraph

 Dutch illustrator Ruben Oppenheimer also made his mark: 

Ruben Oppenheimer reminded us where the 'war on terror' began

Ruben Oppenheimer reminded us where the ‘war on terror’ began

 Yet, in France, Le Canard Enchainé, a rival satirical weekly founded in 1915, had made no comment by 8pm, just publishing its usual edition in the morning.

Le Canard Enchainé, a rival satirical weekly, had made no comment by 8pm, just publishing its usual edition in the morning

Le Canard Enchainé, a rival satirical weekly, had made no comment by 8pm, just publishing its usual edition in the morning

It was also quiet at Private Eye:

Private Eye ran no comment on the Charlie shootings

Private Eye ran no comment on the Charlie shootings

Private Eye‘s editor Ian Hislop did turn up on the Daily Mail website saying the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting had ‘paid a very high price for exercising their comic liberty’.

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop quoted in the Daily Mail

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop quoted in the Daily Mail

However, The Spectator ran two big stories during the day on its website.

The Spectator ran comment pieces of the Paris killings

The Spectator ran comment pieces of the Paris killings

There was a similar reaction at the US literary magazine, the New Yorker:

The New Yorker's reaction to the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices

The New Yorker’s reaction to the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices

The Daily Mash website put up a cover of ‘le journal irresponsable’: 

The Daily Mash marks the Paris attack

The Daily Mash marks the Paris attack

 Magculture hinted at the range of victims of Charlie Hedbo’s vicious pens:

Magculture home page on Charlie Hebdo murders

Magculture home page on Charlie Hebdo murders

Charlie Hebdo itself ran a powerful, simple image on its website – ‘Je Suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) that reminded me of the Time Out cover after the 7/7 London bombings. The page linked to a PDF of the words translated into other languages, including Arabic. People held up printouts of the home page image at protests around the world this afternoon.


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