Have you heard about Ponzo Illusion, introduced by an Italian psychologist who lent his name to theory? Well, it says that “a human mind, judges an object based on its background”.
I hope to weave the same magic, to hide my on and off presence off late, by bringing back a post series started way back at Comicology, in fact at the start of 2009. Yes, I am indeed talking about the longest running Children’s weekly in Tamil magazines, Siruvar Malar, and the longest ever comic series published during its golden run (more about it in the later part of the post).
We had seen the legacy Siruvar Malar enjoyed during its golden run, in our Intro post, and also had noted about some of the changes it went through during that famed period, notably a successful conversion to a 32 page supplement, from a 16 page one, which was then considered a luxury for a free issue, like Siruvar Malar.
Siruvar Malar’s sudden change from a 16 page supplement to a 32 page supplement, meant that they needed much more material to fill up their pages. Their deal with Rang Rekha Features comics syndicate, which owned the stories copyrighted by ACK & Tinkle, was getting redundant and too stereotypical, and they were never the one to trust the local artists to create their own stories, especially considering that theirs was a free supplemental issue.
So they naturally turned onto their existing tie-up’s with the British genre, which had much to offer from their olden goldies, quite notably from their famous humour series, which made the kids and the young ones from the Queen’s country in that era, to laugh their heart’s content.
To mark the April Fools Day, let’s look into one of the mischievous characters from that famed stable, who decorated the Siruvar Malar’s editions week after week.
Faceache: One of the first humour strips they managed to feature in Siruvar Malar, was Faceache, which has its origins dating as back to 1971. Faceache followed the funny episodes of a boy named Ricky Rubberneck, who was a student at Belmonte School.
Rubberneck had a weird gift, using which he could shape his face to any form, aided by the stretchable skin, which works as if its is made out of Rubber, and bendable face bones.
Most of the original strips of the series, were shown as him using his weird gift, to escape the punishments from his headmaster, Mr.Snipe, and to get to safety from the angered ones, most likely by his antiques.
Faceache was created by one of the talented British Comics writer and artist, Ken Reid, for the erstwhile Jet magazine, published by Fleetway, decorating its first issue, released on May 1, 1971.
Creator’s Corner: Ken Reid (1919-1987), was a born artist. He had a natural flare towards drawing right from his toddler age. Hailing from Manchester, one of UK’s biggest city, he lived a typical British kid’s childhood, drooling over the Comics which were available freely in the market, such as Funny Wonder and Illustrated Chips.
Right near to his completion of studies in the Art school, the artist in him refused to wait any longer, as he left his institute, and started a freelance studio, at a age of 17. By his own admittance, he never saw his dream of the publishers running to him into fruition, and he was forced to go to the streets and meet the publishers instead. After numerous unsuccessful attempts trying to penetrate the huge walls of publishing offices, he eventually met his erstwhile employers at Manchester Evening News (MEN).
It was a pure lucky, as right at the same time MEN was planning on launching a children section in their newspaper, and Reid was also asked to submit his own idea. After numerous attempts, Reid created his first comic series, and arguably his most famous one, in The Adventures of Fudge the Elf.
Reid never failed to acknowledge that his creation Fudge was inspired by Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse (you can see the similarity in the face). Fudge made its appearance in Evening News on April 7, 1938, and Reid was a proud owner of a comic strip series even before his 20s.
Fudge was an instant success, spawning 6 annuals, and numerous branded representations from Dolls, to kids wear. It continued to appear uninterrupted until Reid was drafted into the World War in 1941, like many other artists of his time, in the process suspending the series until 1946, when Reid eventually returned.
Post World War, Reid went to discover newer horizons, from illustrated work to full fledged comics, through Amalgamated Press (more famously known to us as Fleetway), the legendary comic book publisher of his era. Before he could establish himself in their comic magazine Comic Cuts, AP folded their business, and Reid found himself in the rival company, DC Thomson, by the fag end of 1953.
DC Thomson, that time had just started to fill in the vacant spot left by AP, and Reid was placed along with a host of newly acquired artists talent pool, shaping their comic magazine, The Beano. It turned out to be a master stroke, as The Beano turned DC Thomson’s fortune, becoming their most selling magazine ever.
At DC Thomson, Reid created his first prankster based comic character Roger the Dodger. The popularity of the series prompted, his bosses to give him the chance of creating more comics series, and filling in for other long running series too. In this process, Reid found himself drawing for DC Thomson’s another comic magazine, The Dandy. During this phase, he created a number of comic series for DC Thomson, namely Little Angel Face, Grandpa, Bing-Bang Benny, Ali Ha-Ha, Big Head & Thick Head, and Jinx.
This was also the same time, when Reid created his personal favourite, and considered by many of his fans as his biggest achievement - a story about a goofy looking mariner named Jonah, who had the hardest lady luck of sinking any ship he sets his foot-in. Jonah made its debut in The Beano, on 15 March 1958, and was a trendsetter of sorts.
Reid not only used a different humorous art style for the series, he also introduced some of the firsts in the field of humour comics in UK. He enhanced the scripts (which were written by Fearne) and made more elaborate artwork; decided to carry over story of the strips continued from one week to another; added real life caricatures of Beano’s and DC Thomson’s editors as part of its characters. He had the full support of his Editors, as they believed that it’s a direction which would take them to newer horizons.
Reid’s work on Jonah turned out to be his trendsetter for all of his upcoming series, both in terms of art style, and also in terms of humour based storytelling. No wonder Jonah even toppled Dennis the Menace, for the top spot in UK’s popularity chart, during its famed run.
All the while during these creations, Reid only worked for DC Thomson on per page contract of freelancing, which gave him a chance to move to another company named Odhams in 1964, and later to, what is considered as a comics heaven for all British Comics fans, the IPC Magazines in 1969.
Creation of Faceache: IPC was the place where Reid created the comic character, known to all of us, as Faceache. Reid used his famous art style pioneered through Jonah series, to telling effect in Faceache.
Initially Faceache, used to carry his Rubberneck name, but eventually known only as Faceache, to suit the series title. As the series progressed, Faceache’s ability was given a form of shape shifting feature, from a mere a kid who can make funny faces with his bone muscles.
Whatever, the plot it was made out to be, Faceache, enjoyed a successful run, which started from 1971, in the first issue of Jet magazine, and then later on in the merged entity as Buster.
The popularity of Faceache was such that Reid didn’t allow other comics magazines to mimic its success. He instead another comic character in the same lines of Faceache, this time with a female character in the lead, Martha’s Monster Make-up.
But Faceache remained the original and dear to the fans, and it continued its famed run continuously until 1987, when Reid passed away due to a fatal heart attack. It should be noted that during his heart attack, Reid was actually working on another episode of Faceache, says more about this acclaimed artists dedication to his work.
|"I admit that sometimes simply got carried away things. I’ve always had trouble just drawing a script as it is written. This usually means lots more work on my part, and that’s why I’m not rich. |
I simply like to take what has been sent to me and do the best possible job I can do with it, even if it is a lot more work."
Ken Reid on why he took more time for his works
After his demise, the series was illustrated by Frank McDiarmid (who has now given away his hopes of illustrating comics anymore), and was scripted by writers Roy Davies and Derek Skinn.
But the series without Reid was never going to be successful, and it was folded with a last episode appearing on October 1, 1988 in Buster.
Ken Reid was honoured as the Best Writer and Best Artist by the British Society of Strip Illustrators in 1978. More than the awards he will always live in the hearts of all British comic lovers, for his dedicated work and the weird world fantasies he introduced to them.
For a detailed read on Ken Reid’s work, refer to these wonderfully written articles:
- An in-depth look into the life & works of Reid on Comics UK website
- A dedicated website on Reid’s earliest work - Fudge The Elf
- Fellow blogger and comics artist Peter Gray’s archives of Ken Reid's World-Wide Wierdies
(says a lot about Reid’s different take on the monuments of the world)
- Ken Reid’s Obituary on Manchester Evening News, the magazine which introduced this great artist to the world.
Thanks to them for helping me on this write-up on the greatest humour comic creator from UK, and also for the original images sourced from there.
UPDATE (June ‘10): Some more of Faceache’s wonderful adventures from its Buster run, including a rare appearance on the cover of Buster (which incidentally talks about Faceache’s love life), and another 2 page adventure (which breaks away from the traditional 1 page format), are here for your reading pleasure. Courtesy: Scanarama
Now that, we have looked into the legacy of the Faceache, let’s look at its Indian avatar, which was introduced by Siruvar Malar.
Siruvar Malar renamed Faceache, as Palamuga Mannan Joe (பலமுக மன்னன் ஜோ), which literally means ’The Multi-faced Joe’, closely rhyming with ‘The Boy with a Thousand Faces’ subtitle from the original series.
It started with Reid’s run on the series, ably translated into Tamil, by those who were behind the weekly, and then started featuring Frank’s run on the series.
Quite frankly, the charisma you could witness in Reid’s work was not to be seen in Frank’s adventures. No wonder the series moved onto its sunset.
But there can be no doubt, in another episode, when Joe eventually takes part in one of our own South Indian festivals, which is clearly a work of our artists. Can anyone name the artist, of this particular episode, based on the style?
Eventually, the stock run out of Joe’s adventures, also pulled the curtains of his Tamil run on Siruvar Malar.
But, there is no doubt, the moment someone makes a fun-face, those who had read the series can easily relate it to the childhood they spent, reading Faceache’s adventures, as Palamuga Manna Joe, aka A Boy with a Thousand Faces.
I am one, and I am not alone. Here is a blog post, by fellow comics enthusiast Limat, on his (and ours) childhood Siruvar Malar superstars.
UPDATE (June ‘10): When writing the post above, I ran out of time, and couldn’t possibly add an archive of Pala Muga Manna Joe, aka., Faceache’s appearance through the years on Sirvuar Malar. So, here is a archive across years when Faceache was reigning supreme in Siruvar Malar, often in full color episodes.
As you could see the first 4 episodes listed below, are a trademark Ken Reid’s style, while the next 2 episodes slightly mimic Reid’s style of work (you could see a slight variation in Faceache’s avatar, as he now as smaller tummy, and looks even small than his original self). While the last 2 episodes, as discussed earlier, are a clear out and out work of some other artist (arguably the worst work in the series).
Hope you enjoyed these loveable characters appearance in our favourite language.
And just in case, if you were wondering who is the artist of Faceache Mug Shot, at the start of the section, then it’s none other than yours truly. Hold those brickbats! it was an art of the kid who grew up in late 80’s, so the amateurism is visible enough. :)
So, it’s time to look back and continue our review, of the longest and most memorable comic series ever featured in Siruvar Malar: Survival, aka Uyirai Thedi (உயிரை தேடி) in Tamil.
In our last blog, we went over the origins of the Survival Comic series, and also looked at the first 11 episodes of the comic series, which ended with Pinkie nose-diving his car into a River, with an unwelcomed passenger on board.
Survival 2nd Part: Episodes 12 – 22 (in Tamil as Uyirai Thedi):
Episode 12 opens up with Pinkies car drowning in the river, as he manages to swim out of it for the surface, closely followed by the mutated adult who took the backseat of his car. Just when he thought that it was gaining over him, two Crocodiles join the party, and the mutated one becomes their target, relieving Pinkie of the danger. Pinkie slowly moves away from the location, as the day gives away to the dark night.
On his path, he finds a house with light emitting from it. As he gets closer, he finds to his astonishment that the light was from a running TV. He is shocked to see a TV with electricity, as the power supply had long been seized since the plague.
He later finds that power was a result of generator nearby, and finally meets an another living kid, by the name of Johnny, who had found his home at this desolate house. Both of them are happy to have met a living being finally, and they start exchanging their horrific incidents with the mutated adults. Their reciting was cut short by an attacking mutant, who instead gets shot by Pinkie.
Pinkie repents over his changed life, where from a kid who doesn’t even kill mere insects, has been changed to one, who kills some of his own, at least in their earlier forms. Johnny consoles him saying that desperate situations calls for desperate measures.
The next morning, the duo travel to a nearby city, to collect their groceries and some gun power to defend them against the muties. But, as they were about to leave, a crowd of blood-thirsty birds start attacking them. The duo find their asylum back inside the closed shops, as they watch over the birds hovering outside, and decide to spend the night inside.
They find a Table Tennis board inside, and to relieve themselves of the pressure they start playing a game, only to be confronted by a blood thirsty eagle, which finds its way inside the store, followed by the hoards of birds running after them for a share of their own. Pinkie & Johny decide to use their guns to find their way back to their Truck, eventually reaching their hideout safely. Shocked by the incidents they decide to leave their setup, and move down south to France, hoping that the mainland Europe might have some survivors like them.
They decide to travel through the villages, to avoid trouble, but their curiosity pushes them to visit a city on their way, for one last time. As in the case of their struggle life, a mutie attacks them, whom they evade and reach a Supermarket on the way, to stock some more food on their en-route. Unknowing to them, the Supermarket security who caught the deadly plague, had installed an automatic gun, to save the property, at his absence.
Johny’s swiftness saves both of them from the danger, and they decide to pursue a different store, fearing that there may be more problems laced inside the store by the erstwhile security man. While at the other store, Johnny decides to chance his shooting skills, by freely shooting at the antiques of the store. Unknown to them, that store had some muties too, who were awakened by the sound and start advancing at the friends.
But, Johny’s wayward shooting had pierced one of the gas pipe, which explodes at the same time, and kills the muties, with the kids barely managing to get away from the blast. Further through, they encounter a pack of Rhinos, which looks unharmed by the virus, just like other animals. But, a frightened Rhino, attacks the Duo’s vehicle, toppling it, and landing them inside a Snake Farm. The friends have a hard time getting out of the area surrounded by deadly snakes, one of which also bites Johny during their escapade.
Pinkie saves Johnny by sucking the venom laced blood from his hand, but Johnny loses his conscience, which prompts Pinkie to drag him to a safe house nearby, for the much needed rest. Pinkie leaves Johnny at the desolate house for rest, and goes in search of some food for him, to feed him when his conscious returns.
But a returning Pinkie, finds to his astonishment, the weakened Johnny is missing from his bed, where he left him. On a quick search, he finds that he is being piggybacked by a mutie in a distance, and in desperate attempt to save Johnny, he shoots the mutie. Later he comes to know through Johnny, that they mutie indeed saved him by offering food and shelter.
Pinkie understands that not all muties, or the disfigured ones, are their enemies, and repents for his mistake.
Friends console each other, and they set about their mission of finding more survivors, and reach a desolate army camp in their en-route.
In their curiosity to try out a Battle tank, they find themselves engulfed by wildfire, which surrounds them to burn them alive.
Did they escape out of the fire? What more dangers await this unlikely duo, who go for search of life?
Would they ever find another living human in their misadventures, or would they lose their only companion in each other?
Answers to these will be continued in the next blog post, where we will explore further episodes of Survival aka Uyirai Thedi, along with some other gold comic series which found their place in the golden years of Siruvar Malar.
So, Stay Tuned Comikers.
And just in case, if you thought, I broke my earlier promise to provide the digital scans of the Survival Episodes, here are the second batch, as reviewed in this post. Happy Reading, Comikers. Adios Amigos !!
Note: This post was originally made on March 2010, which was further updated on June 2010, with some vintage archives of Faceache’s adventure. The new updates can be tracked with contents over here and here.