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Old Daily Express strip 
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Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:50 pm
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Good afternoon, everybody.

I wonder if anyone can assist me with information about a relatively short-lived Daily Express strip cartoon in the mid/late Seventies. I used to know the essential details about this but unfortunately I've suffered from some unfortunate ageing and my memory ain't what it used to be.

The strip used to run on the Expess cartoon page. It featured four (initially two) young secretaries working in a London office and was drawn by Frank Dickens (of 'Bristow' fame) but drawn by a different artist. The two junior members of the cast were named Maisie and Kelly - who was black - and whilst I can't remember what the two main characters were called, they had the same kind of two-syllable, ends in 'y' names.

The strip ran for a little less than a year before being replaced by Dickens' 'tEMPS', which he drew as well as wrote, and which was on a similar theme but horribly more primitive and ugly - the artist on the earlier strip had a very appealling line and his drawings enabled space for more words.

Sadly, the mystery strip never was never collected. I used to have the final week's continuity but where that is I have no idea and I've turned nothing up by googling Dickens, the only solid information about the strip that I can remember. Can anyone prompt any better recollections, please?


Wed Oct 08, 2014 5:34 pm
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Fascinating! I can't shed any light I'm afraid, I'm just wondering where this all fits in with Bristow, which was running in the Standard in the 70s, I think (that is, around the same time) The scenario sounds very similar, after all.

I have to say Dickens' drawing style, which you find 'horribly ugly', I really like. Yes it is primitive, but it has a lovely looseness and charm about it, for me.


Mon Oct 13, 2014 1:26 pm
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Hi Ginger, thanks for responding.

Since my original post, a memory door has opened and clued me back in on the strip being entitled 'Spare Ribs', though no other details have floated back.

As for Dickens' artwork, it's something on whch I think we'll have to politely differ. Living in Manchester, I was never exposed to the Evening Standard and/or 'Bristow', so 'Spare Ribs' was my first exposure to any of Dickens' work. The elegance and stylised charm of the art was matched by Dickens' wordy but lucid dialogue. 'tEMPS', with Dickens' primitive style, came as a horrible shock that has coloured my opinion ever since, especially as each 'tEMPS' strip had about as much dialogue as one panel of 'Spare Ribs'.

One strip that has stuck on my memory since the Seventies owes everything to its language: the first two panels featured the younger of the leads coming across the 'older' lead and Kelly flapping hankies at, and making tea for Maisie, collapsed into a secretaries chair after a horrible experience, The lead guesses and both art and words, in the pay-off panel, was that Maisie's ordeal was having to share a lift with "Groper Roper, Fletcher the Letcher, 'Weirdo' Watkins and 'Eyeballs' Smith", a gifted litany of names that made the strip so funny.

It just seemed so strange that if Dickens could write something as consistently clever as that, he should turn to something clunkingly blatant as its replacement.

I'm willing to listen to responsible opposing viewpoints, of course (!)


Mon Oct 13, 2014 3:58 pm
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As a PS: a Google search identifies the late Don Roberts as the artist on 'Spare Ribs', which of course he was, and wonderful in the process.

Armed with these two additional pieces on information, can anyone shed additionsl light on the strip? Might there be some form of even partial collection of cut-out strips, yellowing in a drawer somewhere?


Mon Oct 13, 2014 4:05 pm
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Hi mbc, always nice to chat about comic strips with a fellow fan, even one of slightly differing opinions (and let's face it, everyone has differing opinions!)
mbc1955 wrote:
each 'tEMPS' strip had about as much dialogue as one panel of 'Spare Ribs'.

Many might argue that as a plus for tEMPS! Brevity and concision is often seen as a virtue in the comic strip format.
mbc1955 wrote:
It just seemed so strange that if Dickens could write something as consistently clever as that, he should turn to something clunkingly blatant as its replacement.
I suspect editorial intervention. If Bristow is anything to go by Dickens does indeed have a naturally rather wordy persuasion. You'd probably like it if you could get past your dislike of his drawing style. There are a good few examples online if you're interested...


Mon Oct 13, 2014 4:40 pm
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Entirely possible. No, Dickens used his space wisely in 'Spare Ribs', taking advantage of Roberts' ability to design a stylish panel without using up all the room. And he was more than capable of brevity to make his point: one strip had just two panels, with the set-up being the leading pair leaving work arguing whether the elder's three years or so seniority made her any different from her young friend, a question Dickens deftly answered at the newsstand in the pair's very age-oriented difference in magazines!

'tEMPS' was just so shockingly skimpy in comparison. And, of course, I am dealing with memories that are at least thirty-five years old, and thus constitutes an unreliable narrator!

I've always wondered what caused the end of 'Spare Ribs'. Editorial mandate is always a good explanation for stupid ideas, but for all I know either one or both of Dickens and Roberts might simply have lost interest in the characters, or have had a falling out that make collaboration impossible. I'd just like to know.

And I definitely want to remember the names of the leading pair!


Mon Oct 13, 2014 4:57 pm
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Anyone remember Dickens' Albert Herbert Hawkins---the naughtiest boy in the World than ran in the early 80s?


That strip was pretty funny [if a one-note joke] in my view---I don't mind his style, his more recent stuff looks looser than his 70s stuff [to me, anyway].

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Mon Oct 13, 2014 9:40 pm
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Was that a newspaper strip or a kids' comic strip, ISPY?


Tue Oct 14, 2014 11:44 am
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Lazy question!
Reader, I Googled.

I see that not only was it a newspaper strip, it was the one that made him the most money, through US syndication.

The Wiki entry also states that, at 41 years, Bristow was the longest running strip by a single author. Now, I know that to be be incorrect, as Peanuts surpassed that. But that's still a long run.

It's not the most detailed Wiki page, though, and no mention of Spare Ribs (or tEMPS) -- but then I'm sure you've already looked, mbc.


Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:10 pm
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Hi Ginger

Yes, I did Google Dickens,and tEMPS, and Spare Ribs, but the information is scanty. I also raised a question on Dickens' web-site, but I was the first person to do so in abut five months so I'm not sure when or even if I'll get anything back.

I suspect that I'm going to have to set myself to spending some hours in microfilm Daily Expresses, which I'm really not looking forward to when the comic strips are the only things I can stand about that paper (at least they put the Gambols seperately so I'm spared that. And the Lawrence/Horak Bond was still running, which is a bonus).

At least I should be able to get something for my blog out of it.


Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:16 pm
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Albert Herbert Hawkins ran in the Daily Express but not for many years - I used to read it every day.


Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:16 pm
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I think Albert was a big hit in the US.


Tue Oct 14, 2014 8:33 pm
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Found a Herbert strip last night:

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Tue Feb 03, 2015 5:17 pm
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