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Monday, November 26, 2018

Ken Reid's Creepy Creations

The latest reprint from the Treasury of British Comics line is another from Ken Reid, who is having something of a revival, thanks to the appearance of Faceache last year and the two volumes of Odhams Comics' reprints earlier this year. All for the good, because Reid's work deserves to be saved from obscurity.

The latest volume gathers up 91 'Creepy Creations' from the pages of Shiver & Shake. Introductions by Antony Reid, Ken's son, and Ken's biographer Irmantas Povilaika put the strip into context: Ken's increasing boredom with drawing the same characters week after week led him to suggest a series featuring fantastic imagery of barmy animals to Power Comics editor Bob Bartholomew. Rejected, the idea went into the drawer, revived when his income plunged in 1969 and offered to MAD Magazine and Topps. A stumbling start on a series of 55 cards ground to a halt after a year in development.

The idea was revived in 1972 as a back cover feature for IPC's upcoming new comic, Shiver and Shake. Readers would contribute ideas and sketches for Ken to draw, winning themselves a £1 prize. Ken went on to draw 73 of the 79 episodes for the weekly (two were by Reg Parlett and four by Robert Nixon), plus a handful of others for annuals and specials.

All showed Ken's delight in combining horror and humour. Alien monsters oozed out of Ken's pens and terrifying vegetables and ghastly insects threatened to chomp down on any reader who came within reach. Creatures that were mostly teeth and claws were named with artful alliteration: the gruesome green-fingered gardener from Greenwich, the fanged fiend from Finland, the fearsome food-muncher of Snortlewick, the prune-eating plonk from Perivale, and so on... Goonish names given to hairy, horned, horrors with warts, spines and twisted limbs.

Pre-dating the likes of Flanimals by years, the book will appeal to that same age group of 8-12-year-olds – the age of the children who wrote in with their suggestions and sketches that Ken turned into his creature feature each week. And, of course, the nostalgic fifty-somethings who remember Ken's creepy creations first time around. I always had a soft spot for 'The Chelmsford Chaser' as that's where I grew up!

The good news is that Ken's World-Wide Weirdies is also to be reprinted in 2019.

Ken Reid's Creepy Creations. Rebellion ISBN  978-1781-08660-5, 29 November 2018, 112pp, £16.99 (hardcover). Available via Amazon.

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