Ken Reid (b. Manchester, 18 December 1919; d. Pendlebury, Greater Manchester, 2 February 1987) suffered from a tubercular hip at the age of nine. He left school at fourteen and won a scholarship to Salford Art School, but was expelled before graduation after being caught in a local café when he should have been in class. He then set himself up as a commercial artist, to little success.
Eventually his father offered to act as his agent and bluffed his way into an appointment with the art editor of the Manchester Evening News, who was considering starting a children's section and invited Reid to submit material. The result was "The Adventures of Fudge the Elf", which debuted in the Evening News on 7 April 1938. The strip was so popular that a Fudge the Elf doll was produced that Christmas, and seven hardback annuals were published. Reid was called up in 1941, and Fudge the Elf was suspended until he was demobbed in 1946, after which it ran until 1963.
In 1948 he produced a one-off comic pamphlet featuring Dilly Duckling, a popular toy at the time. In 1952 he started working for Amalgamated Press' Comic Cuts, drawing "Super Sam", "Billy Boffin", and his own creation "Roxy", but the title folded soon afterwards.
After his father died in 1953, his brother-in-law, the artist Ken Holroyd, gave him an introduction to Scottish publishers DC Thomson, who invited him to draw a new strip, "Roger the Dodger", for The Beano. Thomson's managing editor R. D. Low travelled to Manchester to discuss the matter with him personally, and Reid took him upon the offer, joining The Beano as a freelancer. "Roger the Dodger" debuted on 18 April 1953, originally as a half-page strip, but was soon promoted to a full page, and is still a feature in The Beano, drawn by other artists.
The following year he was asked to draw "Little Angel Face" for The Dandy, but he was not happy drawing female characters, and in 1955 he was reassigned to "Grandpa", about an old man who behaved like a schoolboy. His next strip for The Dandy was "Bing-Bang Benny" , a wild west-set strip about a young man with an obsession with explosives, starting in 1956.
In 1958 he co-created one of his most enduring characters, "Jonah", a jinxed sailor who brought bad luck to every ship he sailed on, for The Beano, written by Walter Fearne. On "Jonah" Reid became more daring as a cartoonist, sometimes cramming as many as thirty panels into a single page. Unusually for a humour strip, the story would sometimes carry over from one week to another.
"Ali Ha-Ha and the 40 Thieves" was his next contribution to The Dandy from 1960 to 1963. The son of an Arab policeman, Ali helped his father in his (usually foiled) attempts to catch the 40 Thieves. When it ended he drew "Big Head and Thick Head", a strip about two schoolboys, one brainy, the other stupid, in its place. Also in 1963, he created "Jinx", a little girl with similar bad luck problems as Jonah, for The Beano.
In 1964 Reid and Leo Baxendale left Thomson to work for Odhams Press's new comic Wham!. Given a free hand to write as well as draw his strips, Reid created the comedy horror strip "Frankie Stein" and the Victorian miser "Jasper the Grasper". For its sister title Smash! he created "Queen of the Seas", about a steamship crewed by a pair of idiots who sailed from one disaster to another. Shortly afterwards he took over "The Nervs", a strip about the tiny people that live inside a fat glutton, from Baxendale, and went to town on gruesome details. In 1967 Odhams launched Pow!, which combined reprinted American superhero comics with original strips. One of these was Reid's "Dare-a-Day Davy", about a character who couldn't resist a dare - the ideas for which were supplied by readers. One episode, in which Davy was dared to resurrect Frankenstein's monster, was considered too risqué to publish and was pulled, but eventually saw print in the underground comic Weird Fantasy in 1969.
In 1971 Reid created another of his best-loved characters, "Faceache", a boy who could "scrunge" his face into any shape, for Jet (it would later appear in Buster). He contributed "Creepy Creations" to Shiver and Shake (1973), and "Wanted Posters" (1974) and "World Wide Weirdies" (1976) to Whoopee!. In the late 1970s he created "Martha's Monster Makeup" for Monster Fun and "Tom Horror's World" for Wow. He was named best writer and best artist by the Society of Strip Illustrators in 1978.
On 2 February 1987, while drawing a page of "Faceache" at his home in Pendlebury, Greater Manchester, Reid suffered a stroke and died in hospital.
Manchester Evening News
- The Adventures of Fudge the Elf (1938-1941, 1946-1963)
- "Super Sam"
- "Billy Boffin"
- The Dandy
- "Queen of the Seas", 1966-
- "The Nervs", 1968-
- "Dare-a-Day Davy", 1967-
- "The Robot Maker"
- "Faceache", later Buster, 1971-1987
- Monster Fun
- "Martha's Monster Makeup", 1975-
- "Wanted Posters", 1974
- "Tom Horror's World", 1981-1983
- Peter Hansen, Ken Reid, the Comic Genius (1919-1987), 2004
- "Father of Fudge Dies", Manchester Evening News, 7 February 1987
- Ken Reid interviewed by David Britton, Savoy Books, 1979
- Lew Stringer, Ken Reid and the Nervs, 3 April 2007