The excellent Jim Medway has been seriously impressing us, especially with his ability to craft comics works that kids adore but which make us big kids laugh too, and we’ve also been delighted at his push to create even more accessible comics works for younger readers, along with his friends posting up Comical Animal to enjoy regularly. And as one of our favourite bookmarked cartoonists we were very happy when Blank Slate announced they were going to publish Jim’s Playing Out this autumn.
(the finished cover for Jim’s Playing Out, due from Blank Slate in time for their Thought Bubble trip, (c) Jim Medway, click for the larger version)
Since he’s been such a dab hand at crafting comics that treat child readers intelligently (something all the best writers and arists for children do – that’s one reason why kids love them) we asked Jim if he’d pick out five of his best comics reads for children and, leaving aside stapes of generations of younger readers such as Tintin and Peanuts, here’s his selection:
1) Willy the Kid annuals 1 to 3, 1976-78, Leo Baxendale
As far as elusive and reclusive creators are concerned, you can keep your Alan Moore – Baxendale is consistently, stunningly brilliant, and these books represent his peak. Willy the Kid was his own project, one where he seems to really be doing exactly what he wants to. The result is generous, sumptuous, hilarious and pretty much perfect. I’d be fascinated to see what kids make of them now, though I’m pretty confident that they’d be blown away, and left very disappointed with the contemporary stuff on offer.
2) Dennis the Menace annual 1955, by David Law
How come the Americans get gorgeous hardback collections of their best 20th Century stuff, when we have to poke around on eBay to get hold of Davy Law? I’m only chosing this annual as it’s one I enjoyed as a kid, having found it for 20p at a jumble sale (remember them?) – All of his Dennis stuff, Beryl the Peril, and even Corporal Clott is inventive and enjoyable. I wish I could pin down what it is about his art that I love – it’s warmth? Clumsiness? Accessiblity? All children need Dennis and Beryl in their lives, full stop.
3) Beezer annuals of the 1960′s
In fact most British annuals of this time capture an exciting period when you are still getting traditional adventure stories like Shipwrecked Circus, but on the next page is Baby Crockett, Banana Bunch and Colonel Blink, with all their refreshing, stylishly modern art and colour. On top of this, publishers still felt that educative elements were essential, so you’ve got spreads on flags of the Commonwealth, breeds of dogs and military uniforms. I’ve always enjoyed pouring over these beat-up old books, for both the great art and stories, as well as the insight into what kids 40 or 50 years ago might’ve been like. Beautiful, fascinating, and plenty of ‘reading copies’ still out there cheap.
4) Breaking Free, by Attack International, 1988
(sorry, sadly we have been asked to remove the images from this part by Moulinsart who have the international copyright on Tintin)
Published by the anarchist Freedom Press, Breaking Free follows Tintin and Haddock from building site strike to general strike to all-out class war. Stumbling on this as a 10 year old (already fully Herge’d) blew my mind for two reasons. Firstly, although I was already pretty lefty, as a member of the Woodcraft Folk (look it up) and with a few CND marches under my belt, I’d never seen or read anything depicting politics, capitalism or class struggle in such an accessible way. Secondly, it opened up my realisation of what a spoof or pastiche can be, and suddenly there was no reason you couldn’t draw anyone doing anything. Yes, it was pure propaganda, yes it was badly drawn, but for me this book works, and beats Club Penguin hands down.
5) Fungus the Bogeyman, by Raymond Briggs
As a very young child, we’d had a copy of his Mother Goose treasury, and I can still see his flabby fingered hands and red-faced giants vividly. His artwork is so often right on the edge of plain ugliness but powerfully so, and maybe that’s why for me, Fungus remains his classic work. While it’s clearly a comic, I don’t think I’d ever tackled anything so textually dense, visually dark and shockingly vulgar. I still don’t know if the blacked-out umbilical shape on the anatomical diagram of Fungus was really censored, or just Brigg’s own teasing inventiveness.