Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Reprint This! Grimly Feendish

Reprint This! is a periodic feature where I talk about some out-of-print comic book gems that are not available in collected form for readers to enjoy. This is hoping to let rights owners know that, yes, readers are out here, and we'd like to buy the things we can't get at this time!

Despite such an enormous variety of books available these days, and genuine efforts to present the material in reasonably-priced, archival volumes, there are still countless fabulous series from the US, Britain and Japan which are overdue for new editions. I've selected several titles which should be on bookshelves, but at this time are not.

One missing gem is GRIMLY FEENDISH by Leo Baxendale. This 1960s strip had a huge impact on kids who saw it at the time. Feendish was a super-crook, a master criminal who was usually accompanied by bats and spiders and other creepy-crawlies, and when he wasn't confounding the forces of law and order represented by Eagle-Eye, Junior Spy, he was usually being thwarted by Britain's shopkeepers, who had installed special devices and traps to defend themselves against the ghoulish villain always breaking into their stores...

There's very little that I can add to the imagery which I've found to illustrate this article. One part James Bond villain, one part Dick Dastardly and two parts Uncle Fester, Grimly absolutely delighted kids in the 1960s, because kids know there's a great deal more fun to be had being downright rotten than nice.

Baxendale seemed to really understand the gleeful, subversive side to giving children comics which flat-out contradicted every social lesson they'd been told. You'd expect no less from the creator of The Bash Street Kids, and while I'm no expert on any of this material, I know a classic gag strip when I see it.

The rotten Mr. Feendish first appeared in the kids' anthology Wham! in 1964 and spent the better part of four years confounding Eagle-Eye before that strip ended. He also got his own headlining strip which ran for a good while in the similar Smash!, apparently concluding around 1969. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a proper stripography for Feendish's days in Smash!, or any other appearances in the Odhams / IPC annuals of the day, but it looks like he was around quite regularly for a time. (Wham! itself looks to have been a terrific comic, which also featured Ken Reid's Frankie Stein, a strip that folk-in-the-know speak of with gleeful reverence.)

At any rate, there's clearly a lot of material out there, and I think both today's kids and comic fans would love to see it again. I think some enterprising publisher could certainly compile a 160-page collection of this stuff for the children's market, and if they take the extra step of including the material in its original publication order, noting its original appearance and giving proper credit to Baxendale, then they'll satisfy the archivist geeks among us as well. Kids still like reading about rotten crooks - the millions who were into those Unfortunate Events books were all secretly cheering on Count Olaf, you know - and so I hope some enterprising publisher like Titan looks into bringing back Feendish for a new generation, and soon!


  1. I remember him, from the 70's. Whoopee or Monster fun, but my memory fails me

  2. Yes, bring back Grimly Feendish!

    I think I spotted him recently. In the film, "Despicable Me" (or his long lost twin). Gru? No, that's Feendish!.

  3. I love Grimly, first seen him in Shiver N Shake.... best annuals for xmas...