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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gordon Hutchings

Gordon Hutchings is another of my favourite artists from the nursery comics. Like Bert Felstead, I only learned about him less than a year ago and now rank him as one of the best discoveries I've made in the pages of Jack and Jill, Playhour and Harold Hare's Own. It's astonishing to think that he was drawing comics for at least a quarter of a century and almost nothing is known about him or his work.

Hutchings' father was, apparently, a very talented painter who instilled his love of painting in his three sons, Gordon, Anthony and Roger. Their mother was also well versed in the arts and crafts.

Gordon is said to have begun his comics career contributing to Mickey Mouse Weekly in the early 1950s. He also drew 'Nick the TV Star' (1953) and 'Pancho and Pepe' (1954) in TV Comic. The earliest contribution to the A.P. nursery comics was 'The Little Mermaid' in Playhour Annual 1957 (1956) and a filler episode of 'Peter Puppet in Puzzle Land' (1956). He then produced the strips 'The Merry Adventures of Pixie Pip' (1958-61) and 'Tiny Tales of Gregory Grasshopper' (1958-60) for Jack and Jill.

Hutchings was also the regular artist on 'Dagwood Duck' in Harold Hare's Own Paper (1959-?) before taking over the cover spot in Playhour drawing 'Sooty' which, with occasional fill-ins by others, he stayed on for a full year (January 1960 to January 1961). During this period he also did a few fill-ins elsewhere, drawing 'The Funny Tales of Freddie Frog' and colouring Hugh McNeill's 'The Fun and Frolics of Harold Hare', both for Jack and Jill (1960).

He then moved on to one of my favourite strips, 'Gulliver Guinea-Pig', taking over from Philip Mendoza and producing some superbly detailed, humorous stories featuring the world-wandering guinea-pig for nearly five years. Gulliver's adventures increasingly took him into fantasy lands where he met the Rainbow Folk, the Forest Folk and Blue Magicians, as well as saving summer, rescuing King Neptune's golden horn and travelling to Nursery Rhyme Land.

Hutchings' next strip was an ensemble cast featuring 'Num Num and his Funny Family' for TV Toyland (later for Playhour), most fondly remembered because of a character named Drag-a-Chair Cat who... well, he dragged a chair around to stand on, being curious and not the tallest cat in the world.

Hutchings' returned to the cover of Playhour with 'The Magic Roundabout' in 1967 but the nursery comics were slowly losing sales and, by the early 1970s, many of the strips began to be recycled. Hutchings drew 'Pinkie Puff', about a little elephant with an enormously long trunk, for Bobo Bunny (1969) and, later, 'Jenny the Gingerbread Boy' for Bonnie (1974). However, he disappears from view in the mid-1970s, perhaps escaping north to D. C. Thomson.

The younger Hutchings brothers were equally talented: Tony Hutchings was probably still only a (late) teenager when he began drawing 'Buster the Little Cowboy' and 'Dicky and Hoppy' for Harold Hare's Own Paper (1959-61). He subsequently took over drawing 'Sooty', 'Num Num' and 'Pinkie Puff' for Playhour. Meanwhile, Roger Hutchings was colouring Bert Felstead's 'Leo the Friendly Lion' before moving to his own strip, 'Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, the Fairy Godmothers' in Harold Hare's Own (1961-62). Around 1963, the Hutchings brothers set up a studio in Soho where they worked on design, animation and book illustrations as well as continuing their comics work.

Roger later worked as an Art Director for a company in Yorkshire before relocating to Bath where, as 'Hutch', he painted some very distinctive works (such as that below), some of which are still available as prints. As for the other Hutchings brothers... at the moment they seem lost from sight.

(Incidentally, Tony Hutchings is not to be confused with the other Anthony Hutchings who worked for School Fun, Whizzer & Chips and Buster who occasionally signed his work 'Anthony')

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd. except the print 'Rabble Rouser' by Roger Hutchings which I presume is © Roger Hutchings or his estate.)

11 comments:

John said...

Steve, thanks for this series on nursery comics. Most of them are new to me and have introduced me to a world of fascinating and talented cartoonists.
John

Dave said...

Very interesting reading your pages Steve. I have a memory of a character from a comic I used to enjoy when I was young, which I had vague recollection of being called drag a chair bear. I think maybe your drag a chair cat is who I was trying to recall. Thank you.
Dave

Anonymous said...

Dave,

I also remember 'Drag-a-chair-bear' and that is what I googled to end up on this page.

Maybe one was based on the other? I do know 1967 is maybe a year or two late for me to have been loving animal characters in comics as I would have been five then.

Nobody else can ever remember the bear family though so maybe we are sharing a delusion ;0)

Deb

Steve said...

Dave and Deb,

I don't recall a 'drag-a-chair bear' -- I'm fairly sure there was only drag-a-chair cat.

But there was a very similar family of bears in the pages of Teddy Bear which ran from 1963-73.

If you follow this link...

http://tinyurl.com/2clc4m

... it will take you to the Look and Learn website where you'll find an episode of the Teddy Bear story. As you'll see, it has a whole family of bears, including Teddy, Mummy, Daddy, Grandma, Honey, Grizzly, Uncle Fred, Hill Billy, Ivan, Bare and Bookworm... there's also a Snowy Bear who is a cousin who lives at the North Pole.

Anonymous said...

dear dave deb or steve. i have thought i was crazy for years having remembering drag a chair cat......and going onto your sites have brought back nurse nancy and doctor david!!!! does anyone remember untidy idy......Please tell me more about drag a chair....pictures would be great....how sad my life has become? XXXX

maxy1 said...

dear dave there was definately a drag a chair bear you are right i remember it late 60s early 70s byeee sharon

DCT chair said...

My recollection is the character was just called Chair Bear, but he was so named because he was always pulling a chair behind him. Sadly he doesn't feature in the three issues of Teddy Bear I have.

Steve said...

The character was Drag-a-Chair Puss-Cat and featured in the strip Num-Num and his Funny Family, an example of which can be found here. He appeared in Playhour rather than Teddy Bear.

Anonymous said...

I also remember drag a chair bear. I think he was a character in a book of short stories I had as a child. Something along the lines of tall tales, the book had a circus scene on the front cover (I think) and had a ringmaster on stilts on there. This was in the late 70's.

Kate said...

I too remember drag-a-chair bear from the early 1960's. I can't remember which book or comic he was in but there was a whole family of bears with similar descriptive names.

Steve said...

Kate, if you look at this post you'll find a couple of episodes... hopefully they'll bring back some happy memories.