INTERVIEW: editing the Funny Pages!
Editor Keith Richardson talks about bringing together classic British humour comics for Free Comic Book Day!
4 months ago
Every year, the first Saturday in May sees comic stores over the world take part in Free Comic Book Day, a wonderful celebration of all things comics!
And for this year’s FCBD, the best of British funny comic makers will be gathered together in the Treasury of British Comics Funny Pages, featuring the incredible artwork of the likes of Leo Baxendale, Ken Reid, Robert Nixon, and more luminaries of laughter.
Inside the Treasury Of British Comics' Funny Pages, you're going to delight to discover, or maybe re-discover, some of the absolute classics of Brit Comics Funny Pages, all part of the incredible Rebellion archive. Featuring the likes of Sweeney Toddler, Grimley Feendish, Faceache, Gums, and many more, it’s going to be the funniest free comic book day of all this May 5th!
Richard Bruton took time to chat comedy and comics with the man behind the funny pages, the Treasury Of British Comics’ Keith Richardson.
This year, Rebellion's FCBD Comic is slightly different, coming not from 2000 AD but from the Treasury Of British Comics. What was the idea behind putting out Funny Pages?
Keith Richardson: Funny Pages is just a way of highlighting some of the range of incredible work that we have available through The Treasury of British Comics. The largest chunk of what Rebellion purchased to become the Treasury are titles that are humour titles. So, it just seemed like the obvious choice, saying here are some humour titles of yesteryear, but you're going to love them because they still hold up today.
There are lots of UK collectors, of a certain age who are very excited that we do have the Treasury. But, then again, there's a hell of a lot of people that don't know anything about it. We've got a lot of characters who are still really cool, really cool, or the concept is absolutely brilliant.
When it came to deciding just which artists, which strips would be represented in Funny Pages, how on earth was it done? There’s just so much material available to you in the Rebellion archive!
KR: First and foremost, I was a child of the 70s, so I grew up devouring this material, mainly the IPC stuff. I wasn't really a Beano reader. Nutty though, that was a great title. But I'd pick up Monster Fun, Shiver and Shake, Buster, Cor!, I used to have a little box in WHSmiths, full of these.
I had a feel of the strips that were popular back then, such as Frankie Stein, Faceache, always massive draws, Gums was really popular when he was in Buster. So a lot of it is down to things I knew were popular, back in the day. But, also a lot of going online and seeing what sort of things people were talking about. And then, stepping back and asking what would be popular today, what would work today, what would still be seen as funny today? A lot is just a gut instinct, what would work for contemporary audiences.
Looking at the selection of material in Funny Pages, there’s a lot of colour material in there, despite so much of the old material being black and white.
KR: Absolutely, we've delved deep in the archives, but a lot of the strips have come from the annuals, simply because I wanted to put as much colour as possible into Funny Pages. It's just that audiences, especially American audiences, gravitate towards colour and don't like black and white. Not every strip is from annuals, but a large chunk are. There's some black and white strips in there as well, but I wanted to populate it, mainly, with colour work. And although some people say that some of the annual strips aren’t quite as good, I made sure I got some really great strips for The Funny Pages.
What are you hoping for with The Funny Pages as this year’s Rebellion Free Comic Book Day comic?
KR: I hope a lot of older readers will pick it up as well, not just for themselves but for their children as well. It’s all about exposure, especially in the States. We just want to let people out there, especially knowing that a lot of FCBD comics are going to the States, that there’s a lot more to Rebellion than 2000 AD. We've put 2000 AD out there before for FCBD and people are, hopefully, more aware of it. But, having The Funny Pages out for this year’s FCBD allows us to say, you've seen what 2000 AD is like, now check out this other brilliant British material.
We want readers to know that we already have some extremely gorgeous collections of strips which you'll see showcased in Funny Pages or the Cor!! Buster Special, such as the Faceache collection, Ken Reid's Creepy Creations, we've got a collection of Leo Baxendale's Sweeney Toddler coming out in July.
How exciting is it for you to be in charge of bringing back so many old favourites with The Treasury of British Comics in general, and the best of the humour comics through Funny Pages and the Treasury?
KR: It's exciting times. It's been a lot of fun, an exciting couple of years, and it's only getting better. Funny Pages and the Treasury is about showcasing British talent that a lot of people haven't heard of. Because British comics didn't begin and end with Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Brian Bolland, and Dave Gibbons. We know how brilliant those guys are, and my God, they were brilliant but we've got a much richer history than that. We have artists from the past, like your Ken Reids, your Leo Baxendales, your Tom Patersons, who are just, in their own way, just as great as the guys that the Americans already know.
Ken Reid, for example, his stuff is so beautifully grotesque, but also so contemporary. It feels absolutely timeless. And who inspired Alan Moore? It was Ken Reid. Alan Moore is a massive Ken Reid fan, but you'd be hard pressed to find a lot of Americans who even know who Ken Reid is. Hopefully, we’re able to change that with The Funny Pages and The Treasury.
How about the future, what plans do you have for Free Comic Book Day 2020?
KR: If it goes down really well, next FCBD, we'll possibly apply for two titles again, and next time round it might be an Action collection from the Treasury, where you might see the likes of The Spider in there, or Robot Archie, or Mytek The Mighty. Maybe the year after that we might try a girls collection for FCBD. The sky’s the limit!