Archive for the ‘punch’ Category

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Newspaper Comics: Trog’s Rufus and Flook

Trog's Rufus and Flook

Trog's Rufus and FlookTrog's Rufus and FlookToday, I’m posting a complete story by a comic strip artist whose name won’t be familiar to you unless you grew up in England in the 50s and 60s… he went by the name of "Trog". The nickname, short for "Troglodyte", came from his days hunkered down in air raid shelters during WW2. His real name is Wally Fawkes, and he’s one of those artists who has had two equally noteworthy careers- one as a cartoonist and the other as a Jazz musician.

Trog's Rufus and FlookTrog's Rufus and FlookFawkes played clarinet in Humphrey Lyttleton’s jazz band in the 40s and 50s, and was one of the finest Jazz musicians in Britain. But in 1956, he launched a simultaneous career as a cartoonist, which brought him even more fame. “To cartoonists, I was always the one who played jazz. To musicians, I was always the one who drew cartoons.” he once said. But his talent for capturing personality through caricature was his strongest suit. Fellow artist, Nicholas Garland wrote of his political cartoons, "Very few artists can see a likeness the way he can, and catch it so completely. He doesn’t develop a hieroglyph for each politician and then simply reach for it each time it is needed. Every Trog caricature is carefully recrafted." You can see this in the story that follows in this post. Trog doesn’t simply copy the caricatured heads from panel to panel. He’s able to convey the essence of the caricature from a different angle in almost every frame.

Trog's Rufus and Flook

At age 21, Fawkes entered an art contest that was being judged by the Daily Mail cartoonist, Leslie Illingworth. Illingworth was impressed with Fawkes’ work and got the young artist a job at the Daily Mail. Using his nickname, Trog, Fawkes created a comic strip about an imaginary furry creature named "Flook". It became an instant hit and Trog became the toast of the town. At a reception soon after its launch the Daily Mail’s owner, Lady Rothermere asked him, "How is your lovely little furry thing?" Trog replied, "Fine thank you. How is yours?" The cartoonist had to beat a quick retreat after that quip, but admitted that he couldn’t help himself when presented with such a perfect setup.

Trog's Rufus and Flook

Trog worked with several writers on the strip over the years- Compton Mackenzie, George Melly and Humphrey Lyttleton among others- and the direction of the strip evolved from a light hearted fantasy for children to pointed political humor similar to Walt Kelly’s Pogo. But the stories aren’t the reason that Rufus and Flook are so interesting today- it’s the unique drawings.

Trog's Rufus and Flook

When I first ran across this strip, I admit that I really didn’t know what to think about it. The drawings of the main character Flook were dumbfoundingly ignorant. But the incidental characters were wonderfully observed, sharp caricatures of British society at the time. And the backgrounds often included perfectly thought out compositions with impeccable architectural perspective and beautiful stylization of folliage. At first, this sharp contrast between ignorance and genius can be jarring. But after reading a while, the direct, simplistic looseness of the main characters and the planned and observed structure of the rest of the drawings don’t clash because Trog’s stylish sense of fun makes it all work.

Trog's Rufus and FlookTrog's Rufus and FlookRufus and Flook continued in the Daily Mail for 40 years, until Trog’s jabs at Margaret Thatcher earned him the scorn of the paper’s conservative editorial staff. He never took censorship personally though. In 1977, when one of Trog’s political cartoons of Cyril Smith was rejected, and he simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s their paper." After leaving the Daily Mail,Trog moved on to the Mirror and the Sunday Telegraph until his failing eyesight forced him to retire from his art career in 2005 and pick up the clarinet again.

Personally, I think it’s a shame Fawkes isn’t better known in the US. Perhaps the softspoken, rambling British tone of the stories and the topical nature of the satire doesn’t come across at all any more, but those drawings- wow!

Trog's Rufus and Flook

This story from early in the strip’s run comes from an extremely rare paperback compilation, titled simply Flook…

RUFUS & FLOOK in
ROMAN’ IN THE GLOAMIN’

Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
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Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
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Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
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Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook
Trog's Rufus and Flook

Richard Warren has written an interesting article on Flook on his blog. Check it out. Let me know if you would like to see more by Trog in the comments.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Newspaper ComicsNewspaper Comics
This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Newspaper Comics.

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Comics: Rowland Emett- Cartoonist & Tinkerer

Rowland Emett

I’m discovering that during the late 1940s and through the 50s and 60s, there was a group of British cartoonists who paralleled the style of Ronald Searle. I’ve already profiled Trog and the Canadian cartoonist Len Norris. Today, I’m going to introduce you to another interesting artist… one who had the mechanical skills to build his own cartoon world.

Rowland EmettRowland Emett was born in London in 1906. His father was an amateur inventor and his grandfather was a prominent engraver. He showed aptitude in both engineering and art at a young age. He studied at the Birmingham School of Arts and Crafts, and was drafted into the military during World War II. Beginning in 1939, he joined the staff of Punch magazine, where he was free to create cartoons on whatever subject he wanted… Usually, that subject was trains.

The cartoons at the bottom of this post come from Punch in 1947. At this time, Punch was at the peak of its circulation- 175,000 copies a week. After the war, there was a determined effort to brush away the cobwebs from the preceding century and update the graphic look of the magazine. More modern cartoonists began to replace the old guard, and subject matter became more centered around the everyday life of the average Brit, rather than the political struggles of the upper classes. Rowland Emett’s mechanical whimsey fit perfectly within this new framework.

Rowland Emett

But Emett wasn’t content to limit himself to pen and ink. His urge to tinker took over in 1951 when he created the Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway at Battersea Park for the Festival of Britain. Intended to lift the spirits of the British public, the Festival of Britain received mixed reviews. Sir Thomas Beecham described it as “a monumental piece of imbecility”. But at least it was entertaining imbecility thanks to Rowland Emett.

Rowland Emett

Built of mahogany and copper over the top of a 15 inch gauge diesel electric engine that Emett obtained from a war surplus supplier, the cartoony railway was a huge hit with the public and repaid the cost of designing and building it in just three weeks.

Rowland Emett

The main locomotive was named “Nellie” after the engine in his Punch cartoons. In the five months the festival operated, around 8 1/2 million people visited the park. A lot of the design ideas for kinetic sculptures at the Festival of Britain influenced Disneyland’s “imagineers”, in particular, with the design of the “Small World” attraction and the Casey Jones ride in Fantasyland.

Thanks to our reader, Matt Jones here are a few links to videos of newsreels about Emett and his creations… These videos are mind-blowing!

Rowland Emett

Emett went on to design “The Featherstone-Kite Openwork Basketweave Mark Two Gentleman’s Flying Machine”, two copies of which still exist. He designed a “Forget-Me-Not Computer” for Honeywell and acted as a production designer for the 1968 film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. His last great kinetic work was the “Aqua Horological Tintinnabulator”, a water powered musical clock which still operates at the Victoria Center in Nottingham. Rowland Emett was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1978 and passed away in 1990 at the age of 84.

During December of 2012, the Ontario Science Centre hosted an exhibit of Emett’s machines. Here is an amazing video of them in action by David Sweeney.

Enjoy these fantastic cartoons by one of Britain’s most interesting creators…

Rowland Emett
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Rowland Emett

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Magazine CartoonsMagazine Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Magazine Cartoons.