Thursday, 28 August 2014

Jim Petrie: An Appreciation

I have just learned of the passing of Jim Petrie, another of the British comics greats. He drew Minnie the Minx for FORTY DROKKIN' YEARS.
Petrie took over from creator Leo Baxendale in 1961 and retired in 2001, making him second only to David Sutherland (who is still drawing The Bash Street Kids after 52 years) in terms of time spent at DC Thomson.
 I've written elsewhere about Min's feminist agenda and she truly was a significant character for challenging gender roles who was rightly pushed by the Beano staff as their second biggest star. The above image was a mini poster (Minnie poster?) sent to readers in the mid 80s.
Petrie also drew the biggest crossover fight between the two biggest stars for the 1996 Beano Annual.
There were plenty of other strips he drew over the years but a personal favourite of mine is The Sparky People.
Sparky was a DC Thomson also-ran which was published between 1965 and 1977 and in 1971 a strip titled "We Are the Sparky People!" showed us the comic strip adventures of the comic strip creators in the Sparky office. Bossed about by an unseen editor - the mighty "Sir" - we were treated to an odd bunch of folks who may or may not have been based on actual personnel at DC Thomson HQ. The legacy of this idea of cartoon staff bled through to many other comics, see also Uncle Pigg and Tharg the Mighty.
A fun feature of this was sometimes rivalry with other comics, which was entirely appropriate as Sparky was clearly the in-house underdog. In one strip Team Sparky are challenged to a darts match by The Beano. In another there is a cross-title office beauty contest where all the female staff were forced to wear bikinis...
It was the 70s. Things were different.
A strip I grew up reading, however, was a spin-off for Minnie's most common antagonist, Fatty Fudge.
In this one-page strip, Fatty would be the star of a new movie parody every week. Here he is as a caveman in "1,000,000 Years BC (Before Cakes)":
And here he is as an astronaut in "2001 A Space Obesity" (Not joking):
Odd that I happen to have pulled out the only two Fatty Fudge strips set in specific years...

And being a huge comics fan (and that includes those of our American cousins) I always love finding superhero parodies. So we'll end this tribute (well, almost) with...
Fatty plays "Ordinary schoolboy Herman Kent" who is waiting for his dinner which leads to this delightful exchange:

Not lying, I love that. Anyway, we discover that when Eric eats a banana when Herman eats soup...
As always with British superhero parodies we get a Captain Marvel/Superman mash up.

So, farewell then, Jim Petrie. Thanks for all the good times.
I'll leave you with this. When Petrie retired he drew his final (and his 2000th) Minnie the Minx strip and drew himself a cameo as the one person in complete control of things.
P.S. Petrie was persuaded to come out of retirement once in 2011 to do a final Fatty Fudge parody. Read it and some other nice stuff from The Beano here.

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