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Dudley D. Watkins (1907-1969)

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DudleyWatkinsSelfportrait

Watkins draws himself in a "Lord Snooty" strip

Dudley Dexter Watkins (b. Manchester, 27 February 1907, d. Broughty Ferry, 20 August 1969), cartoonist and illustrator for DC Thomson, was brought up in Nottingham and educated at Nottingham School of Art. His first published illustrations were for The Beacon, an in-house magazine for staff of Boots the Chemist in 1923. In 1925, after a year at Glasgow School of Art, he moved to Dundee to take up a staff artist position with publishers DC Thomson, initially providing illustrations to prose stories for their boys' story papers Adventure, The Rover, The Wizard, The Skipper and The Hotspur, and the adult paper Topical Times.

In 1933 he turned his hand to comic strips, drawing strips for The Rover Midget Comic, a free comic supplement given away with The Rover, followed by The Skipper Midget Comic the following year. His first regular comic strip, "Percy Vere and his Trying Tricks", a six-panel strip about an inept magician, appeared in Adventure in 1935 and ran for nearly two years, after which he created "Wandering Willy the Wily Explorer". In 1936 Thomson launched a comic supplement to the Sunday Post, for which Watkins and writer/editor R. D. Low created two regular strips with dialogue in Scots vernacular, The Broons, about a working-class Scottish family, and Oor Wullie, about a mischievous nine-year-old boy, both of which are still running, albeit drawn by other artists.

The following year Thomson launched two comic weeklies, The Dandy, for which Watkins created "Our Gang" and "Desperate Dan", and The Beano, for which he created "Lord Snooty" and "Biffo the Bear". He also drew adventure strips for both papers, including "The Shipwrecked Circus" and "Jimmy and his Magic Patch" for The Beano, and "Danny Longlegs" and "Our Teacher's a Walrus" for The Dandy. Watkins did not write his own scripts, but did take part in story conferences with the strips' writers, including Albert Barnes and Harold Cramond.

During the second world war, DC Thomsons convinced the authorities Watkins was such an important asset that he was excused any national service that would take him away from Dundee, so from 1939 to 1945 he was a War Reserve Constable in the Kincardine-on-Forth area of Fife, allowing him to continue drawing comics. From 1946 on Watkins had the unusual privilege at Thomson of being allowed to sign his work.

In the late 1940s he drew serial comic adaptations of classic novels, including Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Oliver Twist, for Thomson's magazine the People's Journal, which were later reprinted in book form. In the 1950s Thomson launched a new comic, The Topper. Watkins drew "Mickey the Monkey" on the front cover, and his People's Journal serials were reprinted in colour on the back. The Beezer was launched in 1956, and Watkins again created the cover feature, "Ginger", a slightly older version of Oor Wullie.

Watkins was religious, attending the Church of Christ of Dundee, and drew, free of charge, the comic strips "William the Warrior" and "Tony and Tina" for the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade's children's paper The Young Warrior. He lived at Broughty Ferry, near Dundee, and continued working for DC Thomson until his death of a heart attack on 20 August 1969. After his death, Ken H. Harrison took over The Broons, Oor Wullie and "Desperate Dan".

StripographyEdit

  • People's Journal (late 1940s, reprinted in The Topper, early 1950s)
    • "Kidnapped"
    • "Treasure Island"
    • "Robinson Crusoe"
    • "Oliver Twist"
    • "King Solomon's Mines"
    • "Allan Quatermain"
    • "The Three Musketeers"

ReferencesEdit

Online referenceEdit

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