Andy Capp broke all the rules—he was ‘politically incorrect’ before his time and gloried in a robust and unsentimental view of the working class male and the cunning resignation of his female counterpart. For many decades such individuals had been found patronisingly comic and rather harmless. Reg Smythe, the creator of Andy Capp, crossed the class divide and whilst placing him and his circle firmly in their social context imbued them with universal human traits, irrespective of background. Frailty, absurdity and cruelty are sharply depicted but not without compassion and understanding, instantly and universally recognised nationally and internationally.
What was the secret of this strip? Who was the man behind this amazingly successful, lovable and immensely popular feature? Hélène de Klerk, his niece and a former journalist, has written the life of her uncle, his early years and the development of Andy Capp who is now immortalised as part of the British social scene. This unforgettable character is as historically interesting and as faithful a pictorial expression of the last half of the 20th Century as were Hogarth, Rowlandson and Cruikshank in their time.
The untimely death of Reg Smythe demands a record both of the strip and the creator whose originality as a person and an artist fills a unique slot in the panorama of British humour. The book is amply illustrated with examples of Reg Smythe’s cartoons covering the whole period of his long ‘reign’ at The Daily Mirror, as well as previously unpublished early examples of his work.
by Hélène de Klerk
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