Today on the site, we have another anniversary-year piece, R.C. Harvey's column on the 60th anniversary of the hard-to-believe hit import from the UK, Andy Capp.
ON THE FACE OF IT, the Andy Capp comic strip ought to have failed the moment it arrived on these shores in 1963, continuing its six-year run in England. The strip’s eponymous protagonist is a good-for-nothing lout, a layabout with a passion for a pint, and for the attractive unescorted woman at the end of the bar. He’s a working-class man with no work and no desire to work. His entire unemployed life transpires between the neighborhood pub and the couch in the living room at home where he sleeps off his indulgence. He would be unfaithful to his long-suffering wife Florrie (Flo) if he weren’t so lazy. In his occasional active moments, he sometimes beats his wife, whose strength of character makes her the real star of the strip. In short, there is nothing likable about Andy Capp—and certainly nothing admirable.
Andy Capp is the creation of Reginald Smyth, who added a final -e to his last name by way of adopting a pen name. Smythe drew Andy Capp from his first published appearance in 1957, until he, Smythe, died in 1998, leaving a year’s worth of unpublished strips for his successor; he was that far ahead of his publication schedule. After the stockpile was exhausted, Andy Capp was continued by writer Roger Kettle and cartoonist Roger Mahoney. In about 2011, Kettle quit and was replaced by Lawrence Goldsmith and Sean Garnett, while Mahoney continues to draw the strip.
Smythe grew up in Northern England under conditions that made Andy Capp seem like a kindred soul if not an alter ego. “He was my best friend yet,” Smythe once said. Growing into manhood, Smythe was often jobless for long stretches, making him sympathetic to Andy’s situation (which, in Andy’s case, is self-inflicted by preference).
Born July 10, 1917, Smythe grew up in Hartlepool, County Durham. Although in a coal mining district, the town was a port, and Smythe’s father was a shipyard worker, who was often unemployed because demand for ships slacked off after the Great War, 1914-18. In consequence, the family was very poor. Smythe described himself as “a canvas shoes kid”: the only poorer class of youngster was barefoot. Richer kids had leather shoes or boots.
—Reviews & Commentary. Jonathan Lethem picked How to Read Nancy as his book of the year for BOMB:
[It] is a sublime object, a book that’s simultaneously a sensual pleasure to handle; a genius compilation of technical interventions for would-be cartoonists, practical jokers, and literary critics; a bundle of belly-laughs as delightful as a new puppy; and a kind of ontological “mise en abyme” which threatens to topple your sense of reality if you gaze into it too sustainedly.
—Interviews & Profiles. Sarah Rose Sharp profiles Laura Park at an exhibition of her work.
When I met cartoonist Laura Park for a walk through her exhibition connected to her three-week residency at the Columbus Museum of Art, she had recently emigrated to France, together with her native French boyfriend.
“I did that both because I love him, but also I have some worries about what is happening here — like, healthcare, Korean War? Don’t know what’s happening,” said Park, whose comic narratives fluidly incorporate autobiographical daily chronicles, magical realism, memory, and exhaustively researched hidden histories. “It’s interesting, because my parents are immigrants, and when I told them I’m going to do this — I never thought of them as very optimistic, but they are,” said Park. “They’re like, ‘You’ll be fine.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t speak French,’ they’re like, ‘Eh, you’ll figure it out.’ And realizing that was their attitude when they came here — we’ll figure it out. Because in that stereotypical way, they’re kind of dark people, but I’m like, you’re optimistic!”
Tom Heintjes talks to Reed Tucker, author of the new DC vs Marvel book, Slugfest.
Heintjes: When you approached creators and company executives to talk about the rivalry, what kinds of reactions did you receive?
Tucker: It was mixed, honestly, as you might expect. When I started the project, I compiled a huge list of people I might want to talk to. It skewed more towards editors, company executives and writers, because I thought those people probably had a better grasp of what was going on inside the companies than, say, a freelance artist might. So I just started reaching out, emailing them or writing them actual paper letters. I also went to a couple comic cons and tried to meet some creators in person. Generally, people were pretty receptive. A couple people declined nicely. One or two were kind of nasty. More than a few just ignored me. Fair enough. I can understand that the topic might be somewhat touchy, but I thought and still think that you have to have your head buried in the sand to dismiss the rivalry or its effect on superheroes and contemporary pop culture. I think it’s a worthy topic for discussion, not something that’s simply petty or gossipy.
AJ Frost talks to Ed Piskor about his new Marvel project, X-Men: Grand Design.
And as much as I’ve read all the [X-Men] comics, I do not consider them to be infallible. I always had some idea about making them all work together as a unit. I can sell water to a whale, so I make it sound it so cool. A lot of people who know me know that I like X-Men and, very often, a girlfriend will try to relate in some way. When people ask me “What should I read? What comics should I read?”… I frankly can’t point them to any X-Men comics because no matter which one you give somebody, there’s so much baggage that comes along with it that can leave a casual reader in the dust. It occurred to me that there should be an X-Men comic that one can point to highlight all the cool stuff that the series has to offer.
The latest guest on the RiYL podcast is Janelle Hessig.
—Misc. Tom Spurgeon is asking people who are able to consider giving to Cartoon Crossroads Columbus.