Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Comics Britannia

A couple of years ago I mentioned to someone working in BBC television that it would be a great idea to do a series on the history of British comics. Now I'm not suggesting that some bugger nicked my idea, but what do I now find on BBC4 (the channel everyone thinks should be shut down, although it accounts for at least half the TV I bother to watch these days) but Comics Britannia, a 3-part documentary series at the centre of a season of comics-related programming.

It's quite a decent show, although I'd rather read Little Plum myself than watch Steve Bell reading it, to be honest. Comics is such a personal medium (as the great Leo Baxendale pointed out) and it seems intrusive to watch other people reading them out, as well as inadequate - it's a medium you really have to engage with yourself.

It's an exaggeration to say that Baxendale, Dudley D. Watkins and Ken Reid were single-handedly responsible for all British comics from the 30s to the 80s - but not that much. it was great to see their work discussed like this, and BBC 4 have assembled a wonderful array of talking heads. Good to see such issues as the incredibly racist (to our 21st century eyes) characters that have been quietly forgotten, as well as the wartime propaganda strips.

It tends towards a bit of a nostalgia-fest for my liking, but maybe the impression that comics are something that happened in the past will dissipate as the series goes on, and I suppose given the parlous state of the industry in this country, it's inevitable that it's going to be rather backward-looking. I'd have liked to see some mention or discussion of, say, the recent relaunch of the Dandy, but maybe that would have been too depressing a note to end on.

Anyway, it's worth watching, it seems to be repeated about 20 times over the week, and there's two more programmes to follow, as well as a welter of associated documentaries and reruns of Batman, so give it a look. Or better still, go out and buy some comics and stop them going down the pan.

1 comment:

Cheerful One said...

Steve Bell laughing at Little Plum was a highlight for me, funnily enough...especially as (or perhaps because) I never much liked Little Plum. Or Minnie the Minx. (I preferred the Bash Street Kids).