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The Scrivener: Hippos And Little Green Men

…I enjoyed the Dandy, Beano and Film Fun comics which I borrowed from friends. Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty were part of our weekly diet…

Our illustrious columnist Brian Barratt tells of comics and cartoons which have become part of his personal folklore.

There are some things which, at the time, we don't realise could become pretty valuable in future years. From 1950 to 1953, I saved every edition of the new weekly comic, Eagle, which featured Dan Dare. If I had kept them, the collection might now be worth about $1,000.

The Treens, an alien race of green humanoid creatures, with large heads and huge eyes, were a feature of the sci-fi adventures. Nowadays, looking at pictures of aliens which deluded people report they have seen or been abducted by in flying saucers, I know exactly where their features are copied from — a comic book published in the 1950s.

At the same time, I enjoyed the Dandy, Beano and Film Fun comics which I borrowed from friends. Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty were part of our weekly diet. The British version of Dennis the Menace was another favourite character. It seems that the USA version, featuring an entirely different boy, was launched in the same month of 1951 as the UK version. A strange coincidence.

However, there was another comic strip character who seems to be been lost in the passage of time: Flook. He was a small cuddly teddy-bear sort of animal with black fur, soulful friendly eyes, and a small trunk. He came to Earth via a dream which a small boy, Rufus, had. Having just written that he seems to have been lost, I have to confess that I have discovered that the memory of him is alive and well on the websites of fans, and there is a very good write-up in Wikipedia.

The Flook comic strip appeared at the bottom of the back page of the newspaper The Daily Mail. I cut out every one for several years after they started in 1949, and stored them carefully in a box. When I left England in 1953, I threw them all out. I sometimes wonder what a collector would give for them today, if I still had them.

In a more adult frame of mind, during my teenage years, I relished the political cartoons of Leslie Illingworth in the Daily Mail and also the much-loved invented family of Carl Giles, the cartoonist in the Daily Express. In my 'Humour' bookcase, I have many Giles Annuals, given by a friend several years ago, and still browse through them, enjoying them every time. In the famous family, Grandma was and is a character never to be forgotten. You can see her in all her grim glory here:


When I grew too old for Eagle, I switched my allegiance to Punch magazine, always a goldmine for the lover of clever cartoons. The subject, the curate's egg, and the caption of one of its masterpieces became part of our language: 'Parts of it are excellent'. You can see it here:

And a drawing of two hippos in a pool, with an obscure but brilliant caption, has gone into British folklore:

Sorry, I exaggerated. Those hippos have at least gone into my personal folklore, alongside Flook, Dan Dare, and the original little green men from outer space, the Treens.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2011


For more of Brian’s columns please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_scrivener/

And do visit his engaging Web site www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/


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