Ken Reid (1919–1987)
Ken Reid enjoyed a career as a children's illustrator for more than forty years.
The variety of comic book characters he created for FLEETWAY, IPC and DC THOMSON have had as much effect on successive generations as the Goons in the '50s, and Monty Python in the '60s.
His most unique creation, the serialised strip adventures of Fudge the Elf was begun, "with artistic promise", in 1937, in the Manchester Evening News, but did not reach maturity until Ken Reid's return from the Army in 1945.
Unfortunately, the strip was not syndicated and its readership remained largely in the North West of England.
In Fudge, Ken Reid created that unique kind of fantasy dream world that appeals both to adults and children, common to classics like Carroll's Alice, Barrie's Peter Pan or Tolkien's Rings. In the comic strip format it is only matched in its consistent excellence and strangeness by Winsor McCay's Little Nemo.
(extract from an Interview by David Britton. summer of 1979)
Ken Reid's Son, Antony Jacques Reid
I have been thinking about a web site for Fudge for years but never got round to it. I am glad Yourselves and Peter Hansen -who I met today- have created such excellent web sites about my Dad.I spent hours reading the 'Strips' in bed as a child and feel somewhat proud to know that his work is still apreciated. Thanks,
A.J. Reid (Tony)
KEN REID - THE COMIC GENIUS
(1919 - 1987)
KEN REID - BRITAIN'S COMIC GENIUS Peter Hansen 2004
Born on the 19th of December 1919 in Manchester (same town and a few months before Lee Elias) Reid was a born artist. His mother was quick to tell friends and family that he was drawing recogniseable things at the age of two. Like all kids of his day grew up on a diet of British comics such as Funny Wonder, Film Fun and Chips. At the age of nine Reid was diagnosed with a Tubercular hip and as a result was confined to bed for six months with the possibility that he would spend the rest of his life in a spinal carriage. Fortune smiled on him however and not only did he recover but throughout his illness he drew continuously. On leaving school at fourteen years of age Reid was granted a full scholarship to Salford Art School in Manchester. After four years and just before graduation Reid was expelled for refusing to sign a letter of apology when he was caught by the Principal during class time at a local caf near to the school (boy have times changed!).
Having made the decision not to return to art school Reid set up his own studio in a room behind a store in Water Street Manchester in 1936. He made himself a large sign: KEN REID COMMERCIAL ARTIST and sat back waiting for the work to roll in. As he would comment many years later Absolutely nothing happened! Without a small amount of work from a Commercial Photographer in the same building, Reid would have quickly joined that well known fraternity of starving artists. Either way the amount of work was not enough to live on, and so he hit the streets visiting every Commercial Art studio in the telephone directory asking if they had any freelance work. In this way he managed to get a couple of minor jobs but still not enough to keep him going.
Eventually Reids father intervened and offered to come around with him and act as his agent. Although Reids father was not shy about going where angels fear to tread a whole day of slogging around the streets of Manchester produced nothing. At the point of going home Reid and his father found themselves outside of the Manchester Evening News offices (still in business!). A veritable impenetrable fortress, at least as far as young freelance artists were concerned. But not to Reids father! With Reid in tow, he strode into the large imposing foyer and marched up to the peak capped, sergeant-major type Commissionaire and told him he had an appointment with the Art Editor. He delivered this line in such an authoritative fashion that the man immediately got a boy to take them up to the Art Editors office. Barton, the Editor looked blankly at them for a moment before saying that he didnt remember making an appointment with a Mr. Reid. At this point Reids father confessed that he had lied in order to in to see him and show him his sons artwork.
Whether he admired his cheek or what we will never know but he invited them in and carefully went through Kens portfolio. He then told them that the Evening News was thinking of starting a childrens feature and various artists had already been asked to come up with ideas, adding that perhaps Ken would like to submit something Reid immediately set to work and his first idea was to take advantage of the current craze for keeping budgerigars as pets. Why not turn one into a strip and call it The Adventures of Budge. However Reid quickly discovered that he wasnt very good at drawing budgies and so he invented a companion he could feature on occasion so that he wouldnt have to draw a budgie all the time. He decided that the companion would be a likeable little elf that he found he could draw and so he went through the alphabet to come up with a name for the elf that rhymed with Budge until he came up with Fudge. There he had it The Adventures of Budge and Fudge. The only problem was that after numerous tries he just couldnt get into the budgie character and draw him well in a consistent fashion. So Budge was dropped and the strip became The Adventures of Fudge the Elf, which was duly submitted to Mr. Barton. Reid freely admitted that the look of Fudge was influenced by Walt Disneys Mickey Mouse to a great extent. Particularly the face which looked like Mickey Mouse with a cap on! Six weeks later Reid was hired and Fudge made his first strip appearance in the Evening News on April 7th 1938.
Fudge the Elf 1939
So popular did the strip become that a Fudge doll was in the stores for Xmas 1938, along with a hard bound annual of completely new stories called The Adventures of Fudge the Elf published by Hodder and Stoughton. A total of six other annuals based on reprinting the adventures of Fudge the Elf from the newspaper were published between 1941 and 1951, with Fudge Turns Detective the last. All of these annuals are extremely rare and very hard to come by. Even more difficult to find is Reids small page pamphlet of a character called Dilly Duckling produced by Brockhampton Press in 1948. This small one shilling pamphlet has an advertisement on the back for a Dilly Duckling squeaky rubber duck available from Hygienic Toys which as the add suggested Brings Ken Reids character to life, more loveable than ever. Clearly Reid was on the merchandising trail from the very beginning. Later however in 1956 this character would turn up in a story book called The Adventures of Dilly Duckling (same title as the pamphlet) but published by a childrens book publisher called George Newnes Limited, written by long time comic writer Arthur Groom with illustrations by another great British cartoonist called Harry Banger. No reference to Ken Reid at all, so one can only assume that Reid must have sold the rights, since by 1956 he would have been far to busy to develop his character.
Fudge the Elf was suspended during the war from 1941 until Reid was de-mobbed in 1946. Over the years that he wrote and drew Fudge Reids style matured and the detail he put into the panels, coupled with his imagination and development of new characters in the Fudge world turned the strip into a very accomplished piece of comic art.
(Thanks go to Alan Clarke and Ray Moore for their assistance with this article)
This is an extract from an article written by about Ken Reid by Peter Hansen for book called "True Brit" published by TwoMorrows Publishing. It is exclusively about British comic artists.
To download a copy of the complete article:
KEN REID � THE COMIC GENIUS: kenreid.doc
KEN REID � THE COMIC GENIUS: kenreid.pdf
KEN REID � THE COMIC GENIUS: kenreid.txt