Friday, 16 September 2011


Images copyright D.C. THOMSON & Co., Ltd

Once, in a world far away and now forgotten, there was an objective standard by which things were measured.  Alas, however, that was long ago.  Today we live in an age of dumbing down.  Exams made easier so that more students pass;  participants in a primary school race all being awarded prizes so that no-one is disappointed or feels humiliated; people being given jobs on the basis of so-called positive discrimination rather than ability or merit.

There are no longer winners or losers; there is no longer good or bad, right or wrong, black or white - or at least that's the way it often seems in this bright new world of the 21st century.  Excellence may still be rewarded, but so also, all too often, is mediocrity.

In the world of political correctness we live in today, everything is valued as being of equal worth.  That’s why a pile of bricks or half a sheep in a glass case are now accorded the same artistic legitimacy as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or Rembrandt and Constable paintings.  What utter tosh.  To claim that the measure of a thing’s worth is defined by whether people like it is ridiculous.  Appreciation is no indication of quality or craftsmanship.  Other criteria must also be brought to bear.

I can quite understand the natural reservations of those in any working 'community’ to make critical comment (at least publicly) on the merits of one another’s work; there is a professional courtesy at play which prevents them from doing so.  In some ways that’s a good thing, but let’s be honest – it also allows those of lesser or no ability to infiltrate the ranks, simply because it’s not regarded as ‘good form’ to point out the failings or inadequacies of others, or to unmask the impostors.

One of the reasons why the standard of children's literacy, as an example, is so appalling today is that everything created for them is aimed at their level.  That’s why many of them never progress to a higher one – they aren’t enticed or encouraged or motivated to.  If you give them nothing but inferior quality, that’s what they learn to appreciate.  But what if children like it?  Children have the capacity to like whatever is put in front of them, but that's no excuse for giving them substandard fare.

Without wishing to offend anyone, there are certain strips in the current incarnation of The Dandy which simply don’t measure up to an objective standard.  And don't be misled by those who claim there isn't one.  It's that kind of wooly thinking that has resulted in unmade beds on display in art galleries.  Also, there are some art styles which do not readily lend themselves to the medium of sequential storytelling in general, or children’s comics in particular.

Contrariwise, Ken H. Harrison, for example, has a fantastically fluid art style and brilliantly clear sense of storytelling that fulfills the highest standard expected of a comic strip.  He is the only artist to draw The Broons and Oor Wullie who has even come near - or is on - the same level as Dudley D. Watkins, talent-wise. There are some who don’t even come close, judging by the standard of the work they submit.  Could they do better?  Perhaps, but what they are doing just doesn’t cut it.

And before I'm subjected to the same old tired, predictable and erroneous accusations of envy, bitterness, etc., etc., I’m merely speaking as a comics consumer, not a former professional comics contributor.  I am not comparing those whose work I dislike against any level of artistic ability I perceive, pretend, imagine, wish, or delude myself I may have, but rather the recognized 'greats' of yesteryear and today. Artists of the calibre of Bave, BaxendaleBrown, Griggs, Harrison, Law, Main, MartinMevin, MillingtonNadal, Nixon, Parkinson, Parlett, PatersonPetrie, Reid, Ritchie, Sutherland, Titcombe, Watkins, and a whole host of others far too numerous to mention.
Today we live in an age where the utmost quality is no longer the main consideration - or even a  requirement.  In short, anything goes.  Unfortunately, one of the first things to go was a regard for standards.  We can only hope that it's due to make its return sometime soon. 


Mr Straightman said...

We're dealing with the 'Spoilt Bastard' generation. "No! You go down the ladders AND down the snakes!"

Anonymous said...

I agree Ken Harrison is a brilliant artist loved the Riot Squad especially (It was the Hoot Squad but i only ever read the renamed beano reprints). He hasn't really been doing stuff for a while though apart from Minnie the Minx for the Beano why don't they get him to do Desperate Dan again i must say i prefer his version to Jamie Smarts. but Jamie Smarts is quite well written (i think its written by Jamie himself but im not sure) maybe they should get Jamie to write it and Ken to draw to please the traditionalists.

Kid said...

That's always a possibility. Personally, I wish he was back on The Broons and Oor Wullie.

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