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.)