Review: Punch Cartoons in Colour

October 18, 2012 in Comment, Events, General

Cartoonist and Procartoonists member Noel Ford takes a look back at The Best of Punch Cartooons in Colour. The collection is edited by Helen Walasek.

Well, as far as a review is concerned, I could leave it at that. The title says it all.

Oh, all right then … it has long been a bone of contention amongst cartoonists with respect to how important the actual drawing of a cartoon is. Many will argue that a good gag will carry a poor drawing but a poor gag is still a poor gag no matter how brilliant the draughtsmanship. Others will claim that a cartoon’s artwork is paramount, being the vehicle by which the idea is transported (and why would anyone trust the delivery of their finest ideas to the unreliability of drawing’s equivalent to a clapped-out K-Reg Ford Transit?) As to whether a cartoon needs colour, that is a further development of this debate.

Review: The Best of Punch Cartoons in Colour @

Review: The Best of Punch Cartoons in Colour @

Whichever side of the argument you stand, I am pretty confident that the contents of this volume will delight you, comprising, as it does, an abundance of  the whimsical humour that Punch was (is!) famous for and some really wonderful, full colour artwork, ranging from  a classic 1924 Bateman full page colour cartoon through to the poignant cover of the final issue of the “real” Punch magazine, by Holte (Trevor Holder).

The cartoons themselves include some you may have known and loved for many years, but the real treasure of this book is the abundance of Punch colour cartoons that have never been published since their original appearance in the magazine. When Alan Coren, as Editor, introduced the full front-cover gag cartoon, in the late seventies, many of us younger (then!) contributors thought large format colour gag cartoons were something entirely new to the magazine. This book shows how wrong we were.

To the seasoned Punch cartoon enthusiast, the book holds a few other surprises, too. By the nature of the collection, some of Punch’s most notable contributors are nowhere to be found. Bill Tidy, Larry (Terry Parkes), Chic Jacob, masters of the black and white cartoon with only a relatively few outings into the broader spectrum of colour are, for once, absent from a Punch cartoon collection. I remember a conversation with Larry, many years ago, when he told me he didn’t really see the point of colour in a cartoon, though he did, I recall, relent sufficiently to produce one Punch cover. I think the point of colour in a cartoon is probably that same pleasure derived from any icing on the cake. Whilst it may not be absolutely necessary, it can, nevertheless, delight.

Finally, as with its sister volume, The Best of Punch Cartoons, this is a substantial volume (not really one for your Kindle!) and the contents often chronicle the historical and social events of the times. So if you need an excuse, other than pure and joyful entertainment, to be observed reading this tome, you can always fall back on that one.

Oh, and one more thing …

Anyone who believes cartooning is not real art should absolutely not open this book unless they want their illusions shattered irreparably!

Editor adds: Thanks to Noel for the review and you might care to visit the Punch Magazine Archive.

If any other reader is thinking about contributing to this blog please contact us here.

18 responses to Review: Punch Cartoons in Colour

  1. Are many of the cartoons duplicated from the sister, monochrome collection?

  2. Any prizes for identifying the cover artists? Apart from Mike Williams (top r) I’m struggling. Possibly Emmett (top middle) and Sprod (bottom l).

  3. Replying to Huw Aaron – there was only one version of Punch! There was no sister edition and the works in the books are not duplicates that have been coloured.. All the cartoons, illustrations and covers were originally printed in full colour in Punch along with the black and white cartoons everyone is familiar with. They were published as colour inserts in Punch’s special Summber Numbers and Almanacks from 1920 onwards. They also had special colour covers. The magazine began to publish Spring and Autumn Numbers from 1939, but WW2 put an end to that. However, the two original special numbers were published throughout the war with their full colour inserts. Essential for morale! Changing weekly colour covers were introduced in the 1950s and, of course, in the 1980s full colour printing became widely used without the need for special inserts.

  4. Another for Huw – re the orginal collection from 2008, The Best of PUNCH Cartoons I think you are referring to. No, except for about 4 cartoons we thought were such classics that we printed them in black and white, none of the works in The Best of PUNCH Cartoons in Colour are duplicated from the earlier volume. The remaining 396 or so are all freshly reprinted – many not since first publication. One we reprinted in black & white in the first volume was Mike Williams ‘Last of the Mohicans’ that Pete Dredge has spotted on the cover above – one of my favourite cartoons of all time.

  5. Thanks for clarifying this Helen. It’s great to share informed feedback in comment threads.

    Matt – Ed.
  6. Thanks for the extra info Helen (and for the review, Noel) I’ll definitely be asking Father Christmas for this book!

  7. Some clues for Pete on the cover artists. You got Mike Williams and Rowland Emett absolutely right. But for the man with the gun bottom left, it’s not Sprod. Think plump ponies…and their small owners. Any suggestions for artists for the others?

  8. Thanks Helen. It’s not the answer that Father Christmas (my wife) was hoping for! Can’t wait to see it.

  9. Tough clue, Helen.Thelwell was my second guess. The pooches (bottom r) look like Brockbank, possibly?

  10. Thanks for that, Helen. Ashamed to admit that I had not come across Mervyn Wilson before. No better reason, if reason needed, to buy the book now.

  11. Happiness is advance notice of a sale 🙂

  12. Happiness indeed! He’ll never regret it….Here’s a nice article about Mervyn Wilson online by P V Bradshaw from the London Opinion 1946

  13. I know Pete is still trying to guess the other two cover artists… Top left is David Ghilchik. He could paint as well… I love his series of paintings commissioned by the Staveley Coal & Iron Works in Chesterfield in the late 1940s. The paintings survive, the Staveley Works has long since disappeared. Here’s one of my favourites

  14. Thanks for putting me out of my misery, Helen. Frank Reynolds! I should have known that one. 

  15. Yesterday I had the chance to flip through this book, and I’m sorry to say, my impressions weren’t good at all. All the subtlety from the pre-seventies colour cover artwork is gone. The editors idea of colour management was to push the saturation in all the channels to the maximum, so that the book can compete with anything sold at Walmart. They also forgot to check the print proofs, apparently, because the hues are light years away from the original ones. Striking unprofessionalism for a book that claims to focus on the colour aspect. (And I haven’t even mentioned the slapdash croppings.) Content-wise, the material seems to be exactly the same that is available online at (where anybody can see the above-mentioned color mismanagement issue for oneself), so I definitely don’t feel like buying this book.          

  16. Publishers can do this. Christmas is coming – lets do a big heavy, best of book, sod the quality but feel the weight sort of thing.

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