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John Edward Barker, who signed his cartoons "Edward", was born in Birmingham on 31 May 1950. studied at Moseley School of Art before joining an avant-garde project, the Birmingham Arts Lab. In 1969, he was recruited by Graham Keen to join the staff of underground newspaper International Times (IT). There, he introduced a regular cartoon, "The Largactilites" - "a collection of cone-shaped creatures who did very little and said less".[1] In 1970, he was offered the opportunity to draw the series for The Observer, but faced immediate criticism over its title - Largactil (also known as chlorpromazine or Thorazine) being a drug used clinically to treat mental illness. The strip's name was changed to "The Galactilites". However, after a few weeks Barker was released from his contract after submitting a four-frame strip which consisted solely of four horizon-lines, becoming the first cartoon to appear in Private Eye's "Pseuds Corner".[1]

He continued to work for various underground and music journals, including IT and New Musical Express, also designing album covers and publishing comics. These included Edward's Heave Comics, published during the government of Edward Heath; and Nasty Tales, co-published with Mick Farren in 1971, which was prosecuted but cleared of obscenity charges in 1973 in the first such trial of a comic book in British history.[2] Barker and Farren also organised the 1970 Phun City free festival and co-published Watch Out Kids (1972), "a handbook of youth rebellion tracing the rise of youth culture from Elvis and James Dean through to the MC5, the White Panthers and the Angry Brigade".[3]

Barker later lived in Cornwall and Kent, before his death on 18 April 1997 from heart failure at the age of 46.[1] Farren wrote: "Edward may have drunk himself to death in 1997, but he was also one of the gentlest and most innocent beings who ever walked this Earth, which is possibly why the same Earth proved too much for him."[4] He was described as "the wittiest and most idiosyncratic cartoonist to emerge from the British underground press".[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Roger Hutchinson, Obituary: Edward Barker, The Guardian, 19 April 1997
  2. The Nasty Tales Trial. Accessed 30 November 2009
  3. Mick Farren profile. Accessed 30 November 2009
  4. Tribute by Mick Farren. Accessed 30 November 2009
  5. Nigel Cross, "Cries from the Midnight Circus - Ladbroke Grove 1967-1978". Accessed 30 November 2009

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