Sunday, July 26, 2015

Oz Comic Strips and Cartoons, Pt 2

Part 1 of this series looked at some past Australian comic strips and cartoons, cartoonists and comic strip artists – Chesty Bond, Boofhead, Paul Rigby, Eric Joliffe, Ken Maynard and Bluey & Curley.

It inspired Byter Kerrie to write:

My uncle, John Ryan, wrote a book on the history of Australian comics (Panel by Panel). Sadly he died of heart disease shortly after the book was published in 1979. He was only 48. He knew a lot of the artists and they often gave him their original artworks. His collection is now in the National Library under the John Ryan collection.

Part 2 of this series was going to be a brief look at a number of others but my comments about the first - Ginger Meggs - just kept growing.  Part 2 is therefore solely about Ginge.

Funnily enough, in looking up information about the strip I also became aware of a current Sydney exhibition about him.  More of that later.

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Ginger Meggs, Australia's most popular and longest-running comic strip, was created in the early 1920s by Jimmy Bancks and follows the adventures of a red haired mischievous young lad who lives in an inner suburban working-class household. He is the head of a loyal gang, has a girlfriend Minnie Peters and an enemy Tiger Kelly.

Minnie Peters
Tiger Kelly

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Meggsy today appears in over 120 newspapers in 34 countries. 

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In July 2011 the Perth Mint released a commemorative 1oz Silver Australian $1 coin to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Ginger Meggs. The coin features an homage to James C. Bancks' 1945 Sunbeams Annual (Series 22) cover, which featured Ginger Meggs on the back of a kangaroo with his dog, Mike and his pet monkey, Tony. 

The coin was designed by current Ginger Meggs cartoonist, Jason Chatfield with the assistance of fellow Australian artists Peter Broelman and Rolf Harris.

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There have been a number of artists over the years who have drawn Ginger:
1921-1952: Jimmy Bancks (Banks died from a heart attack)
1953-1973: Ron Vivian
1973-1982: Lloyd Piper
1983-2007: James Kemsley
2007-       : Jason Chatfield

Jimmy Bancks and Ginger

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“[Ginger Meggs is] the most human character created by any cartoonist in the second and third decades of the century. Not because Ginger is loved by the 280,000 readers of the Sunday Sun is this assertion made, but because the sheer Australian characteristics of the lad have endeared him to readers of newspapers in every part of this country and of New Zealand.”

- Eric Baume, 1935, editor of the Sydney Sun

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1985 Australia Post stamp showing Ginger Meggs as drawn by Bancks

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Meggsy’s metamorphosis over the years:

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Current artist of the Ginger Meggs’ strip, Jason Chatfield, with Ginger

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Ginger Meggs as I recall him from my younger days.  The following strip was drawn by Jimmy Bancks.  Upon his death, between 1953 and 1973 his successor, Ron Vivian, continued drawing Ginger in the same style as Bancks. Btw, note the name of Ginger's new mate . . .

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An exhibition titled "Ginger Meggs - Australia's Favourite Boy", began at the Museum of Sydney on 25 July 2015 and will continue to 8 November 2015. 

From the Museum’s website at:
Since his first appearance in the Us Fellers comic strip in Sydney’s Sunday Sun newspaper in 1921, Ginger Meggs and his loyal gang, girlfriend Minnie Peters and enemy Tiger Kelly have kept us company for over 90 years. 
A new exhibition at Museum of Sydney, Ginger Meggs: Australia’s Favourite Boy, explores the story of this much-loved comic character, from his creation in 1921 by Sydney artist James ‘Jimmy’ Bancks to his latest incarnation by current artist Jason Chatfield and along the way, how the loveable larrikin became an Australian icon. 
The exhibition features original strips by Ginger’s ‘fathers’, Bancks and his successors Ron Vivian, Lloyd Piper, James Kemsley and Jason Chatfield, along with a wonderful collection of Ginger Meggs memorabilia.  
“Born in Sydney to local artist Jimmy Bancks, Ginger Meggs has been enormously popular with generations of Australians and is still published in over 120 newspapers across Australia and around the world,” said Sydney Living Museums curator Anna Cossu. 
“With his vivid red hair, larrikin boy charms and never-ending ability to get himself into and out of trouble, Ginger Meggs is a mischievous character whose everyday escapades echo the experiences of millions of Australian children.” 
While ‘Ginge,’ as he is affectionately known and his loyal gang never grow a day older, the world around them has changed dramatically, and the exhibition explores how the comic strip has adapted to new eras under the pen of each artist. 
“Ginger Meggs and his gang and their everyday trials and tribulations reflect the events and spirit of each of the decades in which he lived, brought to life by the artists of the time,” said Anna Cossu. 
Throughout his lifetime, readers have seen Ginger Meggs evolve from the 1930s world of billycarts, wireless radios and cricket games played in the street to the computer-drawn strips of today in which Ginger laments the loss of internet connection.  
Occasionally Ginger Meggs steps into the real world; he crossed the Harbour Bridge on its opening in 1932, the same year he met cricket hero Don Bradman. During World War II Ginger was drawn on sides of Australian airplanes and appeared in Army News, he was used in road safety campaigns in the 1950s and, controversially, entered the space age in the 1960s. 
The world of Ginger Meggs continued off the page too with an array of commercial products and merchandise, from his own spin off Little Golden Book stories to dolls and clothing, songs and tableware. In the 1970s Ginger emerged in the works of celebrated Australian pop artist Martin Sharp, and a feature film released in 1982, along with a change in fathers from Piper to Kemsley, saw a resurgence in the resilient character’s popularity.  
The exhibition will take visitors behind the scenes, exploring how Bancks and his successors created their comic strips, and also enable visitors to try their hand at drawing Ginger Meggs. Plus a display of original and reproduction Ginger Meggs comic strips by all of the artists will appeal to visitors of all ages. 
“Ginger Meggs: Australia’s Favourite Boy will be a nostalgic look back at one of our most popular and much-loved comic characters, a lovable larrikin who continues to endear red-heads to our hearts,” said Anna Cossu. 
EXHIBITION Ginger Meggs: Australia’s favourite boy
WHERE Museum of Sydney Cnr Bridge and Phillip Streets, Sydney
WHEN 25 July to 8 November 2015
COST Free with general museum admission Adult $10, Concession/child (under 15) $5, Family $20, Members free
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One final item:

James Kemsley, who drew the Ginger Meggs comic strip from 1983 to 2007, died that year from Motor Neurone Disease. He was aged 59. Despite his battle with MND, he continued to draw the cartoon strip virtually to his death, letting his drawing speak for him when he could no longer articulate words. Under his guidance from 1984, Ginger Meggs became the single most successful comic strip in Australian history.

James Kemsley with his son, who looks surprisingly like Ginger Meggs.

Kemsley himself chose Jason Chatfield to be his successor as the Ginger Meggs artist. Chatfield’s first strip, published after Kemsley’s death, paid homage to his predecessor:

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