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Tony Flynn
FROM THE VIDEO ARCHIVES: SALFORD TOONS & TALENT - KEN REID
How many of you have ever heard of the following cartoon characters? 

 

Fudge and Speck, Roger the Dodger Jonah, Big Head and Thick Head, Grandpa, The Nervs, Faceache, Frankie Stein, Bing Bang Benny? If so did you know that they were all the creation of a Salford man, the late great Ken Reid? 

Ken Reid was born in Manchester in December 1919 but moved to Salford aged two, and lived at Irlams o'th Height where his parents had a shop. 

He soon showed a natural ability for drawing and at the age of 14 won a scholarship to Salford Art School on the Crescent. 

After leaving art school Ken rented a small studio off Water Street, Manchester in 1936 and waited for the work to roll in, sadly he was in for a long wait. 

Fortune smiled on him in 1939 when Ken's father took him to the Manchester Evening News offices with samples of his artwork and told the Commissionaire that they had an appointment with the Art Editor, Mr Barton. 

When they were introduced they admitted that they didn't have an appointment but the editor thought that Ken's work deserved to be seen. Impressed with his work, Mr Barton told him to create a children's comic strip for the paper, and so Fudge the Elf was born. 

Fudge made his first appearance in the paper in April 1938 and told of the elf's fantastic adventures with his friend Speck, they would get involved in incredible scrapes, falling down wells, taking magic potions, fighting an amazing collection of enemies, meeting wizards, witches etc and looking back at these stories it is incredible to see not only the detail in the drawings but they verge on the science fiction, fantasy style world, really amazing for the time. 

The Fudge series was that popular that a Fudge the Elf doll was specially made for the readers, also a hard back annual was brought out each year, a total of six in all, all very collectable now, so popular that Savoy Publishing reproduced several of the annuals in the 1970's. 

In 1953 his career took another turn when his brother in law Bill Holroyd also a cartoonist for DC publishing introduced him to the owners, who invited him to create a cartoon character for their comic The Beano, and he produced Roger the Dodger, the cheeky schoolboy who used to get into pranks at school. 

Other characters followed including Grandpa, Bing Bang Benny and my personal favourite, Jonah the goofy toothed, jinxed mariner who was dogged with bad luck and usually managed to sink the ship. 

Odhams publishers saw Ken's talent and poached him away from DC Thompson in 1964 with that simple ploy of more money. Again new characters were created including Frankie Stein, Jasper the Grasper, The Nervs, and Faceache a boy who could contort his face into grotesque features by the "scrunge" method. 

Ken was named the Best Writer and Best Artist by the British Society of Strip Illustrators in 1978 and was given the award by Bob Monkhouse, himself a good cartoonist. 

Sadly Ken suffered a fatal stroke in February 1987 at his home at Hospital Road, Pendlebury, ironically he was doing an ilustration for the cartoon character Faceache at the time. 

He is buried at Agecroft cemetery and his grave is well worth a visit for a certain reason, his son Tony has had a small plaque of Fudge the Elf set into the gravestone with a list of the cartoon characters that he created around the plaque. 

Ken Reid is in my opinion one of the greatest cartoonists that has ever lived and deserves much more appreciation than he has received. 

I would urge anybody with an interest in cartoon art to have a look around for his stuff, it is truly amazing stuff especially the Fudge and Speck drawings. 

On a final note, why not a blue plaque on his house on Hospital Road, Pendlebury where he lived for so many years? Ken Reid I salute you.

This article first appeared on SalfordOnline on the 11th of July 2011, it is republished here with the blessings of Tony 'The Terror' Flynn.



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