Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

New Culture Forum Urges Its Viewers to Abandon Tories over Wokeness

January 26, 2023

I’m sorry I haven’t posted much today, but hopefully normal service will resume tomorrow. As the Beeb always used to say whenever they suffered a technical fault right in the middle of something you really, really wanted to watch. Things may be looking very bleak for the Tories as some of their traditional supporters may start abandoning them for the rival parties. Or simply abandon them, full stop. The New Culture Forum posted a very short video today in which their main man, Peter Whittle, reported that the Tory party was offering its membership lessons in racial awareness, microaggressions and ‘White resentment’. This was Critical Race Theory wokeness, and showed that the party has been captured. Whittle therefore urged his organisation’s viewers and supporters not to vote Tory, even if that meant not voting at all.

Last night GB News, Reform, or both were celebrating three Tory councillors switching to Tice’s band of crazed rightists. The Lotus Eaters also have not been impressed by the Tories. They’ve hosted an American comedian on their channel, and have just posted a video about how he finds the British Tories ‘cringe’. Meanwhile, Labour enjoys a 29 point lead ahead of the Tories.

I don’t know how big the numbers of people leaving the Tories for Reform will be. Probably smaller than expected, considering the way UKIP fizzled out despite all the hoo-ha about it breaking the mould of British politics, becoming the fourth biggest party and so on. I’ve no problem with them taking votes away from the Tories if that weakens them still further and allows Labour to get in.

But I definitely don’t want them to become a major political force pulling the country further to the right.

Watchmojo on the Most Evil British Tabloids

January 25, 2023

WatchMojo is a YouTube channel that specialises in lists of the most (insert adjective) of whatever subject they’re covering. This is usually popular culture, like films, TV programmes and comics. But in this video from their British offshoot they delve into the very murky world of British tabloid and red top newspapers to discuss the six worst of them. And so, imagine if you will, this run down of the very worst of British journalism accompanied by the old style Top of the Pops theme as that sadly missed programme went down the music charts.

Coming last at No. 6 is the Daily Star for its coverage of weird paranormal stories like black-eyed ghost children, their libelling of the Liverpool fans at the Hillsborough disaster and getting sued by the McCanns for its malign take on the disappearance of their daughter. They also blamed video games for Raoul Moat’s shooting spree, despite the entire lack of evidence showing that video games are responsible for real world violence, and for making up an interview with Duane ‘the Rock’ Johnson.

Coming in at no. 5, pop-pickers, is the Mirror, showing that it’s also left-wing papers that can have appalling low journalistic standards. This is there because of its owner, Robert Maxwell, raiding his employees’ pension funds, and Piers Morgan publishing fake photographs of alleged atrocities by British troops in Iraq. This part of the video shows some of the other headlines from the paper, such as its ‘Achtung! Surrender’ to the Germans at the 1996 World Cup as other illustrations of its lack of taste and anything resembling decent attitudes.

At No. 4 in this chart of journalistic infamy is the Daily Mail, as illustrated by its article ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ praising Mosley’s BUF and its owner, Lord Rothermere’s trip to Germany and praise of the Nazi regime. The video also states that it’s been suggested that the paper’s pro-appeasement stance convinced Hitler that Britain would not retaliate if he invaded Poland, thus causing World War II. More recently the paper has also been sued for libel or inaccurate reporting by celebs such as Melania Trump, Alan Sugar and Elton John. The video also shows some of its racist headlines opposing the decolonisation of mathematics and opposition to non-White immigration.

The Daily Express is at No. 3, again because of such low points as being sued by the McCanns, scaremongering stories about the world being wiped out by aliens or killer asteroids, and its weird fixation on conspiracy theories about Princess Diana and her death, often at the expense of more current and important stories. In 2010 its editor said that he was appalled by some of the stories it ran, and was going to reign in its islamophobia.

No. 2, the late, unlamented News of the Screws. This was always controversial, but lasted 150 years, even claiming at one time to be the world’s best newspaper. That was until it was brought down by the phone-tapping scandal, whose victims not only included celebrities, royalty like Princes William and Harry, but also murder victims and dead soldiers. It was forced to fold after all its advertisers deserted it.

But the top slot in this catalogue of filth and sleaze merchants is the Scum. This rag’s viciously low reporting has made it notorious around the world, but what foreign viewers may not know is that it’s particularly hated in Britain for its smearing of the Liverpool fans at Hillsborough, like its fellow tabloid the Depress. Instead of the Liverpool fans being responsible for the carnage, it was found that the police were responsible for the 96 deaths. This anti-Liverpool venom is the reason it’s still banned in the city, despite the paper having made some half-hearted apologies afterwards. It also claimed the Birmingham 6, a group of Irish men wrongly imprisoned for an IRA terrorist atrocity, were guilty. On top of this it was also sued for libel by Wayne Rooney. But what makes it especially hated is its staunch support of Margaret Thatcher, the infamous ‘Gotcha!’ headline for the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War, and its claim that it was responsible for Thatcher’s electoral victories with its headline ‘It was the Scum Wot won it’.

Of course this list leaves out some other instances of tabloid wrongdoing. The Scum has had any number of complaints for racism upheld by the former Press Complaints Commission, including one in which it compared Arabs to pigs. Piers Morgan has also been involved in the phone hacking scandal, though it’s possible the video mentions this and I’ve just forgotten it did. And I’d say the worst British tabloid was the Sport in its various editions for its mixture of sleaze, stories about freaks and daft stories following the Weekly World News style of journalism, like its claim that there was a B52 bomber on the Moon. The Sport was set up by David ‘the Slug’ Sullivan, according to Private Eye, a pornographer with convictions for running girls. But the paper has a low circulation compared to the others here, and so is far less influential.

As for the Scum coming first as Britain’s worst tabloid, I agree entirely, although I doubt this is an accolade the Scum would want to boast about on its front page. But when it comes to malign, biased reporting and racism, it is indeed the Scum wot wins it.

Morecambe and Wise as Tweety and Sylvester

January 14, 2023

Sufferin’ succotash! Here’s something that I hope will cheer you up this gloomy, Tory-ridden January. One of the funniest sketches I remember Morecambe and Wise doing was from their 1979 ITV Christmas show, in which they performed ‘Real Life Cartoons’, taking the parts of the Warner Brothers cartoon characters. It was so funny I fell out of my chair laughing. In this clip, from Garypleace’s channel on YouTube, the two comic giants take the parts of Tweety and Sylvester. Ernie is Tweety-Pie while Eric is Sylvester being blown up, shot and otherwise struck by the canary. All while singing, ‘I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat a-Cweeping up on Me’. Enjoy!

Heartfield’s Cover Art for Michael Gold’s ‘Jews Without Money’

January 10, 2023

I put up a piece a few days ago about the great German radical artist John Heartfield, who used photographs to create stunning pictures. Heartfield’s best known for his political works celebrating Communism and savagely denouncing war and the Prussian aristocracy that promoted it, and especially Hitler and the Nazis. But he also worked for publishers producing book covers. This is his cover for Michael Gold’s Jews Without Money, about poor Jews living on the Lower East Side of New York. The decades from the late 19th century saw mass Jewish migration from eastern Europe to the west and America. Many of them were dirt poor, and poorly educated, living in low-quality, massively overcrowded tenements. It’s from this milieu that many of the great founders of the American comics industry, like the mighty Jack Kirby. Kirby came from the kind of neighbourhood where men wanted to be mechanics rather than artists, and ran with the street gangs before breaking with them to enter comics. This is the background to Will Eisner’s acclaimed graphic novel, A Contract with God and Other Tenement Tales. I’m putting this up here also to make the point that Jewishness isn’t synonymous with wealth and power, whatever the Blairites in the Labour party may think. You may remember that a few years ago one right-wing female Labour MP claimed that socialism was anti-Semitic because it attacked capitalism. Hitler wouldn’t have agreed that ‘Marxist’ socialism was anti-Semitic, because he believed it was created and dominated by Jews. But he would certainly have wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment that capitalism is Jewish. Other people realised the anti-Semitic nature of what she’d said, even though she obviously didn’t mean it as such, and called her out for it. In the meantime this is a striking piece of art illustrating a piece of American social history.

Did SF Writer Poul Anderson Invent the Gaia Concept Before James Lovelock?

December 26, 2022

Here’s another instance where you wonder if an SF writer got there first in creating a scientific or philosophical concept before the people who are usually associated or credited with it. One of the stories collected in the SF anthology Born of the Sun is ‘Garden in the Asteroids’, published by Poul Anderson in 1952. In this story, a team of husband and wife prospectors land on an asteroid that, amazingly, has plant life growing on its surface, exposed to space. Landing on the tiny worldlet, they examine the plants and meet their gardener, another prospector, who has been marooned there for 20 years. Although they’re of different individual types and varieties, the plants have established a symbiotic relationship with each other and so act as a single organism. Gronauer, the castaway, has himself become part of this ecology through caring for the plants. In exchange for his help, they supply him with food and oxygen. Vines not only trail up and across his spacesuit, but they also wrap themselves around his body, feeding on his blood and providing him with vitamins in return.

This sounds more than a little similar to the Gaia hypothesis proposed by James Lovelock. This holds that the Earth as a planet is alive as it and the creatures that inhabit it are a huge, self-regulating system and so form a kind of superorganism. It has been particularly influential in the New Age milieu in the 1980s and ’90s, quite apart from being discussed in the science literature. It did contribute to the wave of interest in earth mother, ecofeminist spirituality. I also remember that it also inspired one of the earliest New X-Men stories, in which the mutant superheroes had to fight against an island that achieved such group consciousness due to the radiation from a nuclear blast.

Obviously there are differences between Anderson’s story and Lovelock’s theory. In Anderson’s story, the asteroid is exceptional and its plants may even have come from outside the solar system. It is definitely not Earth. I don’t know when Lovelock proposed the Gaia hypothesis, but I think it might have been later than Anderson’s story by a few decades. And so this might be another instance where an SF author through up an idea independently of later writers, or it could be that Lovelock took an idea that was already around and simply applied it to Earth.

Happy Yule! Horrific Christmas Art from 2000 AD’s Kevin O’Neill

December 26, 2022

Happy Boxing Day everyone! I hope you all had a great Christmas Day yesterday, and are enjoying the seasonal holidays. Or at least, as close as anyone comes to enjoying anything in this Tory-inflicted Winter of Discontent. I’m a big fan of the comics artist Kevin O’Neill, who sadly passed away earlier this year. O’Neill drew a number of favourite strips, including ‘Robusters’ and ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ for 2000 AD, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for DC. His speciality was robots and aliens, and he was able to draw the most amazing, grotesque and horrific creatures. This was particularly shown in his art for Nemesis the Warlock, which was set in a far-future dark age where Earth was ruled by the Terminators, a religious order which regarded aliens as demons and was intent on their extermination. But it was also shown in many of his other strips, such as the edition of DC’s Green Lantern Corps which the Comics Code refused to pass. The Comics Code were the industry’s censors, set up in the 1950s to reassure American parents that the comics they approved were good, wholesome fare for American youth. The Code refused to pass that issue of the Corps not for any particular reason of the script, but because O’Neill’s artwork was ‘completely unsuitable for children.’ O’Neill had been cheerily turning out such art for British kids in 2000 AD for years by then with no apparent complaint. Well, there was the lad who supposedly told Dave Gibbons, another giant of British comics, that O’Neill’s art gave him nightmares which he could only dispel by looking at his. I think O’Neill consider his rejection by the censors something of an accolade. It’s certainly presented as such in his conversation with Tharg in a celebratory strip 2000 AD ran for Prog 500.

O’Neill also drew the front and back covers for one of 2000 AD’s Christmas issues. This portrayed Santa Claus and the other Christmas features as horrific, including the Christmas turkey and fireplace hung with stockings as rampaging grotesque monsters. It sort of followed in a long tradition of such comic art. One of the children’s humour comics did a feature on the seven ghostly wonders of Britain, in which famous British landmarks became spooky monsters. One of these was ‘Cheddar George’, in which the Somerset cave system became a twisted face with open, ravenous maw.

So, here for your enjoyment, this festive season are the covers drawn by O’Neill. RIP, big man – may your art continue to fascinate, amuse and inspire kids for generations to come. And to everyone else, please – don’t have nightmares.

And here’s the piece from Prog 500 in which Tharg and O’Neill discuss O’Neill’s moment of glory from the Comics Code.

Sketch of June Whitfield

November 29, 2022

No list or depiction of the great female comic actors of the late 20th and early 21st century would be complete without June Whitfield. She had a long, brilliant career starring in many of the favourite comedy series on British radio and television. She was Eth, the girlfriend of the utterly gormless Ron Glum in both the radio and TV versions of The Glums. And for a long time in the 1970s she played one half of the titular couple in the Beeb sitcom Terry and June, with Terry Scott playing her husband. This was a rather safe, conventional sitcom that went on just a little too long and was eventually overtaken by the new, fresher ideas and comics of the 1980s. 2000 AD had a dig at it in a ‘Future Shock’, which seemed to owe something also to the SF movie Harrison Bergeron. This was set in a dystopia in which everyone had to be exactly the same, so that all the married couples were called Terry and June. After it finished, I think its name was deliberately spoofed by the gay sitcom starring Julian Clary on Channel 4, Terry and Julian. Then in the ’90s she returned to the small screen as the confused grandmother in Absolutely Fabulous, with Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley as the endlessly partying fashionistas Edina and Patsy and Julie Sawalha as Saunders’ screen daughter. She also continued to appear on the radio in series such as Radio 2’s satirical The News Huddlines with Roy Hudd. Even before Ab Fab Whitfield had appeared in some slightly risque material. In 1971 or so she and Frankie Howerd released a spoof of Serge Gainsbourg’s Je T’aime. This had Whitfield panting and whispering enticements while Howerd tried to put her off with cries of ‘Oh, give over! I’m trying to get some sleep. Oh, no, now you’ve taken over all the bedclothes’ and so on. It’s tame stuff and is available on YouTube if you want to hear it. But it was too much for the Beeb at the time, who banned it along with the original. Ah, how times have changed!

More Sketches of Geniuses of British Comedy: Bob Monkhouse, Rod Hull, Emu, and their Victim Michael Parkinson

November 25, 2022

Bob Monkhouse is, in my opinion, one of the very great figures of late 20th century and early 21st century British comedy. He was not just a comedian, but also game show compering some of the nation’s favourite shows. I can remember him from the early or mid ’70s compering The Golden Shot, for those that can remember that far back. The contestants had to give instructions to blindfolded marksman, Bernie the Bolt to get him to aim a crossbow at a target. If he got it, they won the prize money. I can still hear the words, ‘Up a bit, left a bit…’ and so on. I don’t know if Monkhouse took over from someone else, but there are clips of it on YouTube with a Black presenter with a broad Yorkshire accent. Later on, in the 1980s he presented Family Fortunes. He was asked in one interview what the worse moment from the show was. He replied that it was when one contestant kept replying to each question, ‘Christmas turkey?’ This led to exchanges like ‘What item would you take to the beach on holiday?’ ‘A Christmas turkey’. ‘Interesting answer. We’ll see. Our survey said. -‘ and then the buzzer to indicate that the people surveyed definitely had not replied that they would take a Christmas turkey to the beach’. Monkhouse asked the poor fellow afterwards what happened. He said that he didn’t know, his mind just went blank. In the ’90s or early years of this century he started to come back after a period when he was off camera. I think this followed an appearance on Have I Got News For You, where he displayed his wit. Actually, I think he had scriptwriters with him handing him gags, or perhaps I’m confusing him with another comedian and entertainer whose career was revived by the show.

Monkhouse began his career away from the camera, writing jokes for other comedians and children’s comics. In an interview with the popular science magazine, Focus, he recalled how he nearly created Star Trek. He had been a science fiction fan, and so had an idea about a spaceship, called ‘Enterprise’, whose captain was a Scotsman called Kirk. Ah, that would have been interesting. He also gave praise to the other comedians he believed deserved it for their skill. One on series about various TV comedians, he described Jimmy Carr as ‘the comedians’ comedian’. But that phrase could also easily describe him. He was acutely interested in other comedians and the craft of comedy itself. In the 1980s he had his own show at about 7.30 in the evening, in which he interviewed comedians he admired from Britain and America. One of them, if I recall rightly, was our own Les Dawson. His house was also full of old film and clips of past comedians. He died of prostate cancer a few years. After his death one of the TV channels broadcast his farewell show, with commenters from other comedians. They said they didn’t realise how terribly ill Monkhouse was at the time, and that he was saying ‘goodbye’ to them. Another great comedian lost to us.

Rod Hull and Emu – another brilliant comedy act taken from us by the Grim Reaper. Hull said he was inspired to create Emu while watching a nature programme in New Zealand. This may have shown the country’s national bird, the Kiwi, another flightless bird rooting around on the forest floor. Or it may have shown Australia’s great flightless bird, the emu. Either way, the bird inspired Hull to create this avian monster of children’s television. It was the most terrifying puppet not to come out of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, though some cruel individuals may detect a certain resemblance to the villainous Skeksis in the film The Dark Crystal. Whatever its inspiration, Emus temperament was more like the 12-foot carnivorous Terror Birds that lived after the demise of the dinosaurs. Hull and Emu had a variety of children’s programmes. I remember him from E.B.C. 1 – ‘Emu’s Broadcasting Company’ with Billy Dainty on BBC 1, and then he moved over to ITV and Emu’s World. On E.B.C., Hull and Emu attempt to perform pieces from the Bard, complete with Emu wearing an Elizabeth cap. I also remember a recurring segment where Dainty, another great performer in his own right, dressed in Edward strongman long johns, tried to give advice on getting fit. This was introduced by the 20th Jazz song, ‘Keep fit, take exercise, get fit, and you’ll be wise, whatever you do, keep fit’. The music that introduced the Shakespeare segment, I later found out, was the 16th century German Mohrentanz, played on shawms and crumhorns. Emus also did weather forecasts, which were introduced by the jingle, ‘Weather, weather, all together, what’s it going to do? We don’t know, and so let’s ask, weatherman Emu.’ In addition to his own programmes, he also appeared as a guest on others, most notorious on Parkinson.

Emu’s style of comedy was pure, anarchic slapstick, whether he was on his own programmes or a guest on a chat show. These performances usually started off calmly, with Hull talking quietly and the puppet behaving itself on his arm. If they were being interviewed, Emu would act docile, snuggling up to the interviewer to be stroked. ‘There, he likes that’, Hull would say approvingly. Then it would start to go wrong, the beak would curl up in a snarl and before long Hull, his guest star or the interviewer would be savagely attacked by the thing’s beak, all with Hull screaming, ‘No, Emu! No!’ This would often end up with the three struggling on the floor while the set collapsed around them in a heap of overturned furniture. Emu was a force of pure chaos, bringing down televisual order. And hilariously funny. But it wasn’t all laughs. I can remember my grandmother telling me I was not to get like him with the sock puppets I made, as Hull had admitted he couldn’t control it. I don’t know if that was true, or another reworking of the old fear about ventriloquists and their dummies. I think Emu was also like Sherlock Holmes as the artist’s creation its creator would like to kill off and move away from but couldn’t because of the characters’ immense popularity. Hull himself was sadly taken from us in a domestic accident. He fell off his roof trying to fix his TV aerial.

I couldn’t sketch Rod Hull and the monstrous bird without also including his most famous victim, the chat show host Michael Parkinson. Parkinson’s show, simply called Parkinson, was one of the mainstays of British television. Parkinson interviewed a number of great and famous stars, like Oliver Reed and Mohammed Ali. And then he had the misfortune to interview, and get assaulted, by Emu. This incident has gone down as a piece of broadcasting history. It became so notorious that it was included in a skit in Private Eye commemorating Parkinson being given an honorary degree or doctorate from one of the universities. Whenever a celebrity, actor, sportsman or whoever, is awarded one of these honorary qualifications, the Eye prints a piece celebrating it in Latin, with the title ‘The …. Laudation In Full’. The Latin is easily understood, recognisable from the Latin vocabular in English. The Parkinson laudatio mentioned his interview with pugilist Mohammed Ali, before adding ‘assaultam cum Emu, avis horribilis. Ave, Emu, salutamus Emu, laudamus Emu’. Or words to that effect. Parkinson had his revenge a few years later when he appeared on Room 101. Parkinson naturally wanted Emu to be consigned to the room containing everything rubbish and terrible in the world. He was obliged when Emu was brought on in a miniature guillotine. Parkinson naturally threw the switch or pulled out the block, and one of children’s television’s most comically terrifying puppets was beheaded, with Parkinson shaking his head as if he couldn’t quite work out whether this was appropriate or not.

Sketch of Comics Creators Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill

November 23, 2022

This is for all the comics fans out there. It’s a sketch of the comics writer, Alan Moore, with the artist Kevin O’Neill. It’s based on a photo of the two that was published last week on one of the comics sites that reported the sad death of O’Neill. Moore began his career in comics with the strip ‘The Stars My Degradation’ in Sounds, which he wrote and drew under the pseudonym Kurt Vile. This was a satire of the American superhero comics of the time. He also created ‘Laser Eraser and Pressbutton’, about a future female assassin and her companion, the psychotic cyborg Axel Pressbutton, which was revived in the 1980s as one of the strips in the adult comic Warrior. From there he progressed to writing Captain Britain in Marvel UK, as well as the eccentric genius, ‘Abelard Snazz – the Man with the High-Rise Head’ and a number of stories for ‘Tharg’s Future Shocks’ and ‘Time Twisters’ in 2000 AD. He was then poached by DC Comics over in the states, writing Swamp Thing and later The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. This last strip was illustrated by O’Neill, and was about a Victorian superhero group made up of Alan Quartermain, Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde, the Invisible Man, Dorian Grey and Captain Nemo and the Nautilus. This was later filmed with Sean Connery playing Quatermain. Moore and O’Neill were also responsible for the edition of the Green Lantern Corps that the American Comics Code refused to pass as suitable for children. When Moore asked what was wrong with it, and if he could change anything to get it passed, they told him, ‘No.’ It was O’Neill’s artwork. That was totally unsuitable for wholesome American youth. By this time, O’Neill and his art had already appeared for years in British comics like 2000 AD. Moore also wrote ‘V for Vendetta’, which originally appeared in Warrior. This was about a masked vigilante, whose real identity is never revealed, and his female companion Evie, attempting to bring down the corrupt, brutal government in a future Fascist Britain. It was later filmed with Hugo Weaving as ‘V’ and Natalie Portman as Evie, with the dictator played by John Hurt. It was this film that launched the Guy Fawkes mask as the symbol of the hackers’ group Anonymous and universal protest across the world.

O’Neill launched a number of favourite strips in 2000 AD, where his particular strengths were drawing robots and aliens. He co-created with writer Pat Mills, ‘Robusters’, about a robot disaster squad, ‘ABC Warriors’, about a group of war robots fighting tyranny, injustice and the Volgans, and ‘Nemesis the Warlock’, about an alien sorcerer fighting the evil Terminators, a xenophobic human military order determined to exterminate all intelligent aliens. He and Mills also created a short-lived strip for DC, Metalzoic, about a group of robot apemen on a far-future Earth, where robots had evolved to become the dominant creatures and formed an entire ecology of robot animals – mammoths, sharks, lions, giraffes and so on. He and Mills also created the violent and nihilistic anti-superhero strip, Marshal Law, set in a devastated future San Francisco. This was about a superpowered policeman who was employed to fight violent and criminal superhero gangs, formed by former soldiers left traumatised by a war in Central America. Alan Moore has also praised O’Neill’s depiction of humans. O’Neill is also very good at depicting grotesques, and Moore believed he was the greatest artist of that kind of human life since Hogarth. High praise indeed! O’Neill also illustrated strips for other comics, as well writing a number of SF fanzines. As an artist, I think his work transcends the medium and is itself great art, like the other comics artist Jack Kirby, comparable to H.R. Giger, the man who created the Alien and the Russian artists of the austere style. O’Neill was a real character at conventions, with many funny anecdotes and his death is a real loss to British and American comics.

Sketches of Another Three Great British Comic Talents – Spike Milligan, Dick Emery and Terry Thomas

November 21, 2022

Spike Milligan is, in my opinion, a genuine comic genius. He wrote the Goons, one of the great classics of British comedy. I have wondered if the pressures of writing it contributed to his nervous breakdown. The contracts at the time were for 25 episode series, and I got the impression that he was one of the writers, whose mind was blank right at the start of the week and only got their inspiration almost at the very last minute, when the show was due to go on air. As well as the Goons, he wrote his war memoirs, which are really funny despite the horrific nature of the subject. Milligan was left shell-shocked from the war after his gun emplacement was hit by an Italian shell. The Goons were a radio show and according to the cast, bitterly hated by the Beeb management. They believed it was due to the fact that they had served in the War, and they hadn’t. They also had their suspicions about some of the servicemen’s slang Milligan put into the show. Hence, when it first aired the Corporation insisted on calling it The Junior Crazy Gang. The Goons also briefly appeared on the box as The Telegoons. And after that there were the Q series. John Cleese has said that he admired Milligan and his silliness, and he influenced Monty Python, which amazed me when I first heard it, as the Pythons seemed to be aimed at the university level or come from that academic level with some of its material. Milligan also wrote children’s poetry, was an accomplished musician and he was also an environmental campaigner in the 1950s. For the sketch I selected a picture that showed him as I remember him – in middle age, but still bright, energetic and radiating his comic craziness. So, you got this picture of him in a vest wearing a very ragged hat.

I think Dick Emery is probably mostly forgotten today, but for a long time he was one of the country’s foremost comic actors. In the 1970s he had his own Saturday night comedy show, in which he played a range of bizarre characters. This included a Anglican vicar, a moronic young lad, with the late Roy Kinnear playing his father, a middle-aged woman desperate for younger men, a flamboyant gay man, and another young woman, whose conversations with men ended with her saying, ‘Oh, you are awful, but I do like you!’, followed by a shove with the hand which sent the unfortunate male flying. The comedy’s obviously very dated now, especially the gay character, who is stereotypically camp and dressed in colourful, effeminate clothes. While it grates on contemporary sensibilities, I really don’t think it was meant spitefully. It was just part of the general stereotype and attitude towards gays in the 1970s following the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1968. He also appeared in a number of British comedy films, some undoubtedly best forgotten. He also appeared in a number of other British comedies, including Michael Bentine’s Square World. Bentine described one incident in the show’s career in his one-man show, From the Ridiculous to the Paranormal in the 1990s, in the show reported that China had declared war on the UK. The show’s cast sailed up and down the Thames in a junk, with Emery dressed ‘as Fu Manchu’, firing rubber rocks at parliament. This was before the Troubles and real terrorism. Eventually a police launch sailed towards them to investigate. One of the cops on board hailed them, and asked ‘Do any of you gentlemen speak English?’ Outside his screen appearances, he was also patron of the Airfix Club, run in one of the war comics in the 1970s, for all the boys and no doubt some girls who like sticking plastic models of WW II airplanes and tanks together. I’ve tried to show as the toothy vicar.

And Terry Thomas is British comedy’s greatest and most notorious cad, appearing in films from The School for Scoundrels with Ian Carmichael to Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, with Tony Hancock and Eric Sykes playing his put-upon servant. I heard a while ago that the characters Dick Dastardly, the villainous air ace, and his dog, Muttley, in the Hanna Barbara cartoon were based on Terry Thomas and Sykes in the above flick. He’s still remembered by today by the younger generation. I’m sure I’ve seen his fizzog gracing the sign for a nightclub in Bristol.