The Beautiful Game Has Never Been Funnier: Previewing ‘Ken Reid’s Football Funnies’

by Richard Bruton

One of Brit Comics’ genius artists, Ken Reid, gets more of his incredible work collected from the Treasury of British Comics with this collection of four of his fabulous his Football Funnies from the pages of Scorcher!

In the early ’70s, football comics were never better than with Scorcher, home to the likes of Billy’s Boots and Nipper, but also home to some of Ken Reid’s fabulously funny football strips – Sub, Football Forum, Manager Matt, and Hugh Fowler; four fabulously funny strips from a genuine master of the artform.

As his son Anthony explains in his foreword, Reid had no interest in football, which might be one of the reasons he manages to approach it from four very different perspectives, none of them anywhere near what others (who probably loved and respected the game) were coming from.

There’s none of the swears or smut, but there’s a sense of the sorts of sports strips, or more taking the mickey out of sports strips that we saw in the football fanzine explosion of the ’80s – just another example of Reid’s genius being decades ahead of his time.

Ken Reid – Sub

The invention on display here, with Reid continually managing to come up with funny funny funny ways to make his characters fill their allotted pages, it’s nothing short of amazing.

And then there’s his artwork, always so good, with Faceache perhaps the epitome of perfection of his line and style, putting in so much incredible expression and wonderful little touches all the ay through. And it’s all here throughout the four strips from Scorcher, all that amazing detail, the perfect exaggerations, the incredible artwork of a genius cartoonist. It’s all too easy to overlook the incredible work involved in here, as has often happened with Reid and other greats of British humour comics. But there are moment after moment, panel after panel, and page after page here that show you just how skilful and talented Reid was. He’s up there with the greatest comic artists of all time.

I mean, just look at this, from Hugh Fowler, the man who hates football. There’s so much work going into the panels, a spectacular sense of comedy and of caricaturing, the exaggeration, the level of perfection – it’s sublime…

But of course, there’s also the comedic timing of a true comics and comedic master here as well. Again and again, Reid builds a gag up through the grinding discipline of getting many single pages of hilarity out every week for Scorcher and others… and yet he never falters. The big gag of the page is full of lesser moments, full of giggles, guffaws, and outright belly laughs.

Again, just take a look at another of the Hugh Fowler strips, this time right at the beginning of the page… the sense of timing, the wonderful expressions, the over the top action…

And then there’s that magnificent payoff of the sight of Hugh flying through the air in comedic pose, still delivering his message – and all that before the real gags of the strip have even had chance to get up to speed.

And of course, when you see this collection of Reid’s strips, you get the benefit of seeing his art given the respect it deserves, and in the digital version, you also get the ability to blow up the panels to really see the work and the talent of Reid… you know, just like this rain-soaked bit of brilliance from Reid’s Sub

I could go on and on and on and on, talking about the genius of Ken Reid, up there with Leo Baxendale, Raymond Briggs, Posey Simmonds, and Ronald Searle for me as the absolute heights of what British comics can be.

But instead, I’ll just keep throwing little bits of the delights to be found inside Football Funnies… that should convince you way easier than a few thousand words! Let’s go with this from Football Forum

Or this perfect bit of one-two comedy from Manager Matt, panel one setting it all up, panel two delivering the joke, and the ball to the face of the world’s most incompetent and arrogant manager…

Or this, again with Hugh Fowler,  so full of all that exaggeration of Reid’s faces and physical movement, but showing another wonderful little touch that you find raising a smile in here again and again, the expressive descriptive moments… the ‘SHAKE’, or the ‘SNARL! GNASH!’ are pretty standard sure, but Reid, as with everything he did, took it to the next level (well, usually at least to the next three or four levels) – which is why you then get the ridiculous, the hilarious, the only Ken Reid could do it this well, of ‘EMOTIONAL RAGE!’…

Yep, inside Football Funnies, you’ll find so much to raise a smile, something much needed right now, but it’s also another chance to celebrate an absolute genius of Brit comics – Ken Reid.

Inside this new collection, covering Scorcher material from 1970-1972, as well as Scorcher Annual 1970, 1971, and 1973, you’re going to get to experience four wonderful strips, four examples of what made Reid so great…

SUB – Meet Dougie Dribble, he’s enthusiastic, he’s determined… he’s awful at the glorious game. Which is why you’ll find him sat on the bench of Biggleswick Wanderers every single match. It’s the glorious scheming of Dougie that makes this one shine, coming up with more and more ridiculous bits of invention and skullduggery to get that so close yet so far away place on the pitch.

FOOTBALL FORUM – Join footie experts centre-forward Charlie Cannon and referee Percival Pheeps every week for their views on the game, complete with a guest speaker and a question of the week from the readers of Scorcher – all designed to give the panel something to spin off into ridiculousness week after week.

MANAGER MATT – Underachievers Mudchester FC are after a new manager (and the board are after a scapegoat) – which is why Matt is just perfect, a complete incompetent who’s so full of self-belief in the daft ideas he keeps coming up with.

HUGH FOWLER – No man hates the game more than Hugh, and he’s going to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure no-one gets to play. Again, another example of the Reid method of setting up a simple concept and making it fly with comedy, style, and skills.

Now, a quick look at the brilliance of a master… Ken Reid‘s Football Funnies


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