Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ken Hunter (1917-2008)

Peter Gray reports that Ken Hunter, prolific contributor to D. C. Thomson's humour comics from the early 1950s until the late 1980s, died on Monday, 20 October, at the age of 91.

Hunter was one of the many anonymous talents who provided strips for Thomsons' papers, his style distinctive and popular in the pages of The Beano and Topper for many years. Hunter is best known for light-hearted adventure strips, especially those featuring odd and quirky aliens.

I know nothing of his background. He began contributing to The Beano in 1952 with the first series of stories featuring 'Wee Davie', a diminutive lad who is tasked by the King Willie of Pomegrania to protect the land from a giant called Hunk the Terrible. Wee Davie's fantasy adventures, which included dragons, spells and a great big baby, ran for seven series until 1957.

Hunter found himself fantasist-in-chief, also drawing Wildfire The Magic Horse, Ali Ha Ha, Johnny the Half-Pint Wizard and 'The Horse That Jack Built'. For the opening issue of Topper he drew the first tale of 'The Terrible Tasks of Big Fat Boko', Boko being a very hungry wizard who journeyed the land of Bolonia with his companion, a crafty crow named Koko. 'Sir Laughalot', another Topper favourite, featured a medieval knight and his donkey, Dandelion. 'My Pal, Baggy Pants' featured a boy who could summon a genie.

'Mick on the Moon' (Beezer, 1956-57) was the first in a long line of science fiction adventures which also included the adventures of Jeff and Bill Star in the kingdom of Zero (Topper, 1957-61), 'The Survivors' (Beezer, 1959) and Professor 'Potassium' Roberts and youngster Nobby Clark (Beezer, 1960-65) as they battled Dr. Q and the Jellymen.

Other long-running strips included 'Big Chief Running Chump' (Topper, 1957-69), 'Billy Benn's Den' (Topper, 1964-66), 'Mr. Flippy' (Beezer, 1967-69), 'Barney's Barmy Army' (Beezer, 1971-74), based on Dad's Army, 'Danny's Tranny' (Topper, 1972-86), 'Mr. Licko and His Lollipops' (Beezer, 1978-81) and 'Stan and Oily, the Runaway Robots' (Topper, 1986-88).

Ray Moore adds: "As well as his work for the comics he did do the odd strip for the girls papers and even the Hotspur picture paper early on, usually with Nature or animal themes. I've always thought, when in more serious mode, his style and that of Charlie Grigg were rather similar and open to similar uses."

To my knowledge, his last strip appeared in Topper Book 1990 after which he retired, already in his seventies.

(* Art © D. C. Thomson, borrowed from the blog of Peter Gray, towards which I suggest you cast your gaze for more images. Then visit Lew Stringer for a few more.)

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