Sunday, 14 June 2009

A Brief History of DC Thomson Artists

Comics, as we know them now, first emerged in 1937 with, The Dandy. For more information on the various comics, and their history, see my Brief History of British Comics 1937-2009. But things started much earlier than that. It was 1933 when DC Thomson realised that their illustrator, Dudley D. Watkins, could probably be put to better use as a cartoonist. Around this same time, David Law moved to DC Thomson.

The time is now 1937, The Dandy has launched and Watkins is now hard at work on Desperate Dan (left), amongst other things.

1949 brought Paddy Brennan to Thomson. His was a more 'realistic', illustration, style (right) and he was put to work on stories such as; 'Rusty' (The Dandy), 'Whizzers from Oz' (The Topper) and 'The Shipwrecked Circus' (The Beano).

17th March 1951 is a day that will live on forever in infamy. David Law unleashed Dennis The Menace (left) to an unsuspecting comic world in The Beano #452. Even now, in 2009, Dennis is still the star of The Beano and regularly used as a mascot. Also in this year, Brennan revived many of Watkins' old adventure stories.

Not content with unleashing one menace, Law created another. In 1953 he created Beryl The Peril for The Topper, another of Thomsons comics. 1953 also saw Ken Reid begin work with Thomson. He created Roger the Dodger (below right), Grandpa, and Jonah (Jinx). It was at this time Leo Baxendale began work on Little Plum, Minnie the Minx and (later published 1954) The Bash Street Kids (all for The Beano). Although The Bash Street Kids strip was originally called When The Bell Rings. Baxendale then went on to create The Three Bears in 1959.

Law then, in 1960, brough Corporal Clot, the accident prone soldier to The Dandy. From the 60's onwards, Gordon Bell worked exclusively for Thomsons and created Pup Parade (right, 1967, The Beano), First Ada (The Dandy), Jimmy Jinx (Topper) and Doodlebug (Nutty).

Jim Petrie took over the drawing of Minnie the Minx in 1961. Also, in this year, Malcolm Judge released Colonel Crackpot's Circus for The Beano. The previous year, he created The Badd Ladds for The Beezer. He would later go on to create more strips such as Ball Boy, Billy Whizz (below) and The Numskulls (The Beezer).

In the mid-1960's Peter Davidson left DC Thomsons to work for IPC, later returning to Scotland as a freelance artist. In the late-1970's he began his first stint as illustrator of The Broons but quit in 1984.

At The Beano, some time in the 1960's, Robert Nixon took over Roger the Dodger (right) from Ken Reid and Lord Snooty from Dudley D. Watkins, and revived Grandpa, another Ken Reid creation.

1962 saw the departure of Baxendale from Thomsons, this is regarded by many as a grave error on the part of DC Thomsons. Someone had to take over Baxendale's popular strips and it was now down to David Sutherland to take over The Bash Street Kids (left) which he still draws today (2009). Previously he had worked on Billy The Cat (The Beano).

It was during 1969 that Ken Reid left Thomsons for rival publisher IPC/Fleetway. During his time at IPC, Reid created Frankie Stein (Wham!), Dare-a-Day Davy (Pow!), The Robot Maker (Cor!!) and Faceache (right, Jet/Buster). And as if things weren't bad enough for Thomsons, at losing Davidson, Baxendale and Reid, they also lost Dudley D. Watkins who died, in his home, at his drawing board on 20th August 1969. The following year David Law took ill, and his strips were taken over by David Sutherland on Dennis the Menace and John Dallas on Beryl the Peril (left, The Topper), who also drew Tricky Dicky and Souper Boy.

Law returned briefly to The Beano in 1971, but died in April that year, aged 63.

In the early 1970s. Robert Nixon also left DC Thomson, and started to work at IPC (/Fleetway), drawing such characters as Kid Kong, Frankie Stein and Gums.

It was in the 1980's that Baxendale fought a seven-year legal battle with DC Thomson for the rights to his Beano creations. The case was eventually settled out of court.

1982 brough Nigel Parkinson to first work for The Dandy.

Robert Nixon returned to DC Thomson in 1984 after being asked to by new Beano editor Euan Kerr, and began drawing Roger the Dodger again, as well as creating Ivy the Terrible in 1985.

In 1986 Tom Paterson (right) joined Thomsons. Previously he had worked at IPC/Fleetway (1973-90 drawing Buster, Full 'O' Beans (Jackpot!), Jake's Seven (Jackpot!) and Guy Gorilla (Whizzer & Chips)) at Thomsons he took over; Minnie Minx, Dennis the Menace, Roger the Dodger, Billy Whizz, Numskulls (The Beezer) and for The Dandy; Beryl the Peril and Bananaman (previously Nutty).

02nd February 1987 was a black day. Ken Reid dies. Although several of his strips had been taken over by others, he continued to draw Faceache up until his death.

Malcolm Judge continued working at DC Thomson until his death at the age of 70 in early 1989. John Dallas took over Ball Boy and The Numskulls (until his retirement in 2003), and John Geering replaced Judge on The Badd Ladds. Billy Whizz continued as re-prints for most of 1989, the odd new strip, by Barrie Appleby, sometimes appeared until the appointment of long-term successor David Parkins a year after Judge's death.

Robert Nixon went on to draw Beryl the Peril in The Topper and Korky the Cat in The Dandy later in the 80s, and continued drawing them throughout the 1990's.

Since Bill Ritchie retired in the 1990's his comics (Baby Crockett (right), Hungry Hoss - Beezer, Sweet Sue - Beano) have been "ghosted" by other artists.

Nick Brennan started drawing for DC Thomson in 1994. His first character, Blinky for The Dandy, was in 1994, it was a revamp of the nephew of Colonel Blink from The Beezer who first appeared in the merged The Beezer and Topper in 1990.

In 1997, Peter Davidson began his second stint as artist for The Broons and his first Oor Wullie.

Nigel Parkinson's first work for The Beano was in 1997, although he had previously worked on The Dandy, Parkinson started drawing Bea (Dennis' baby sister) in October 1998. He also started work on The Dandy's football-mad character Owen Goal. Parkinson also occasionally draws The Bash Street Kids.

To celebrate 60 years of The Beano, Parkinson commenced work on Dennis the Menace (right), and has since alternated his interpretation of the character with other artists Jimmy Hansen and Tom Paterson.

John Geering died on 13th August 1999, he was responsible for Smudge (Beano) and Bananaman (left, Dandy), a bungling superhero whose alter-ego is a stubble-headed schoolboy. Geering's last new strip was Dean's Dino, which he drew for The Beano shortly before his death.

Robert Nixon died on the 22nd October 2002.

Since 2004, The Bash Street Kids were written and drawn by Kevin F. Sutherland.

The Dandy commissioned Parkinson to freshen up the look of the 'terrible toddlers' Cuddles and Dimples. In October 2004 he took over from the original artist, Barrie Appleby, making the characters look even more demonic.

Mike Pearse draws Bash Street Kids - Singled Out it first appeared in The Beano issue #3226 (2004) and focuses on one character each week, and builds a one page story around them. The first strip was about Fatty.

Since 2005 Nigel Parkinson has illustrated most of the Dennis the Menace merchandise.

In early 2006, with a BBC documentary marking 70 years of Oor Wullie, it was revealed that, for his mockery of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in the comic strip 'Addie and Hermy' and a general anti-Nazi sentiment in Oor Wullie and The Broons during the 1940s, Dudley D. Watkins was placed on a hit list.

Most recently, Nick Brennan has occasionally ghosted Nicky Nutjob, and contributes to the Fun Size Dandy/Fun Size Beano comics.

Peter Davidson is still the current illustrator for The Broons and Oor Wullie.

Bananaman continues today in The Dandy (now Dandy Xtreme), drawn by Steve Bright.

Ken H. Harrison currently draws Minnie the Minx for The Beano.

In The Bash Street Kids Annual, for 2009, Mike Pearse drew all the strips.


  1. read Beano & Dandy aged seven, thanks for all the information, brilliant blog!

  2. Get your facts right, David Law created Dennis the Menace, not Ken Reid.

  3. @ James -
    Good spotting, now fixed.