Friday, 28 June 2013

TV Comic Annual 1955

A few scans from the 1955 TV Comic Annual. At this point the comic was aimed at preschool readers (it would later target slightly older kids, with strips based on series such as The Avengers) and was dominated by stories and comic strips starring puppet characters from television programmes for small children.

I'll be the first to admit that these string and glove puppets are not, strictly speaking, animated characters - but I'd say they're close enough cousins to be covered here.

Muffin the Mule appears to have been the comic's main draw at this point, starring in both an illustrated prose story and a comic strip. Neville Main provides art for both, while the prose story is credited to Annette Mills, the presenter who appeared alongside Muffin on television.

Muffin's co-stars Prudence Kitten and Peregrine Penguin get their own strips as well. Annette Mills is again credited with writing for Prudence, but no artist is identified. The Peregrine strip has no credits at all.

More strips credited to Annette Mills, although I'm unsure as to where the characters originated. At first I assumed that Puffer Dog and Charlie Parkin appeared on television alongside Muffin, Peregrine and the rest, but I can find no confirmation online of them ever appearing in anything outside of various tie-in books. Puffer certainly looks like he was modelled around a puppet, so perhaps he was a character who never caught on.

Next up we have Hank, a character created by ventriloquist Francis Coudrill for the children's series Whirligig. Coudrill was also an illustrator, and his distinctive minimalist style can be seen in these illustrations.

Here we have the perennial Sooty. His original performer Harry Corbett is credited and was presumably the writer; more surprising is the name of Tony Hart, familiar from numerous children's arts programmes (some of which saw him appearing alongside Aardman's first star, Morph).

Mr. Turnip is another puppet character from Whirligig. His creator Joy Laurey is credited on this strip.

When this annual was published,  S. G. Hulme Beaman's Toytown stories or radio, which starred Larry the Lamb and others, had not yet been animated. However, this Toytown story has an animated connection as its illustrations are credited to George Moreno, the American animator who moved to the UK and set up British Animated Productions, the studio behind the Bubble and Squeek cartoons of the fifties. Bear Alley has a post about him; one of the replies is from an animator who worked for Moreno in the sixties and speculates that some of the artwork credited to him in fifties comics was actually ghosted by members of his studio

The Bear Alley post mentioned above identifies this series, starring a character named Polly-Copter, as being illustrated by Moreno; however, in this annual the only credit is for Dorothy Dee, presumably the writer. As far as I can tell Polly-Copter was created specifically for TV Comic.

And just to round things off... clowns. Because clowns are always favourites!


  1. Polly-Copter is in fact Polly AND Copter - two characters: a parrot and a helicopter as best friends. (Whether Copter was a toy or the disparity of scale was never considered, I don't know - probably the former.)

    I suspect that Polly & Copter may have been another of Moreno's attempts at a cartoon series that never took off, But it does give your post a spurious "animation" link after all - in that Polly & Copter turn up among the slide shows marketed in the late 40s/early 50s as "MiniCine" by Martin Lucas Ltd of Hollinwood, Lancashire.

    MiniCine, it appears, consisted of a transparent sheet on which several strips of slides were printed - the projector being able to project each slide in sequence. While many slides just told comic-strip style stories, others actually had sequential action so that the slide seemed to animate as it changed from one to the next.
    (The Polly and Copter stories, though, were just pictures with text - no animation!)

    Many of these strips were adapted from Disney stories. The slides were not taken from the original films, however, but from redrawn artwork, so always retained a comic-strip look.

    See this website for more info:

  2. Thanks for the information.

    I'll admit, I was a bit confused by Polly and Copter - this annual gives the title as "Polly-Copter" while the story itself refers to the helicopter character as "Copty". The fact that Polly is identified as male just adds to the bewilderment - I suppose it's not surprising that the characters didn't catch on...

    By the way, the annual also has a story called "Smokey and the twins Puff-Puff & Choo-Choo" about train characters; it's also written by Dorothy Dee, and might be the same artist. Any idea if that's based on another Moreno idea?

    1. If I remember correctly, the Bear Alley article had an illustration from a "Smokey" story which was indeed credited to George Moreno.

      Writing and illustrating for TV Comic was obviously a source of income in its own right - but I do believe George was always looking for an idea that could be turned into a series.

      The real question is whether these were rejected series ideas that were being recycled as stories, or story ideas being generated in the hope they might become popular enough to be sold as a cartoon series.

  3. I forgot to thank you for posting this wonderful piece of nostalgia - all my childhood favourites in one book!

    I never saw it, as far as I can recall, but Prudence Kitten was Annette Mills' second TV series (I don't think Prudence was ever on with Muffin, as all his friends were string puppets, created by Ann Hogarth). Prudence and her friends were glove puppets, and I think Puffer Dog was one of them. Of course, when it came to comics and books all the Annette Mills characters got grouped together.

    While Annette Mills wrote and performed the Muffin scripts and the books, Ann Hogarth apparently wrote the comics strip stories.

    Muffin pre-dates BBC TV's 'Children's Hour', first appearing in 1946 in the 'For the Children' slot. A later entry in this slot was Colonel Crock, stories about a village inhabited by sentient cars, written by Annette Mills but read by Edward Andrewes, who also provided the illustrations.

    Hank was my absolute favourite - a cowboy ventriloquist dummy who then proceeded to narrate a story from his past exploits, which would be shown as an animated cartoon. Not single frame animation, but filmed in real time; the artwork was prepared as caption cards (in early TV titles and credits were lettered on stiff cards that sat in a fixed stand, a bit like a music stand but more solid, with its own camera trained on it) with sliding and moving parts that were operated by hand. (Captain Pugwash was shot in the same fashion.)

    Coudrille's artwork was very simple and clean, the moving parts were cleverly devised and this sequence was the highlight of the spot, the ventriloquial portions - Hank chatting to Francis Coudrille, an over-the-fence soliloquy from Hank's horse Silver King, and Hank's final chorus of "I-yi-yippee-yippee-yi" were just entertaining wrappers as far as I was concerned.