Reviews: 'Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Newspaper Comic Strips Collection. Volume 1, 2010-2011', by various
Aardman Animations’ Wallace & Gromit stop-motion clay (or plasticine) films should need no introduction to Flayrah’s readers. The first, A Grand Day Out, released in Great Britain for Christmas 1989, almost immediately became a sensation in both Britain and America. New short films, the Curse of the Were-Rabbit feature, the Shaun the Sheep TV series, and a steady stream of merchandising have kept the pair (for Flayrah, especially Gromit) alive for almost twenty-five years.
It seems bizarre that there was no Wallace & Gromit newspaper comic strip until May 17, 2010. As an American, I had assumed that there was a comic strip in Britain long ago, but apparently not. Here is its announcement:
Titan Comics and Aardman Animations have teamed up with The Sun newspaper to produce a daily Wallace & Gromit comic strip!
From May 17th, the inventive duo will feature in their very own daily comic strip in the newspaper, with each adventure running for 6 days, from Monday – Saturday. The comic strip comes after the success of Titan and Aardman’s Wallace & Gromit iphone comic, which was brought out to celebrate 20 years of the famous pair.
Don't miss the start of the first adventure, out on May 17th and let us know what you think!
Unlike the traditional British comic-strip Annuals, which were a mixture of cartoon-strip stories, children’s games such as puzzle mazes and connect-the-dots, and short text features (I had Annuals going back to Rupert Bear and Pip, Squeak & Wilfred in the early 1930s), Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Newspaper Comic Strips Collection is an American-style strip collection that reprints the newspaper strips and nothing else.
The strips, in full colour, are both standalone gag strips and 52 mini-stories of one week (six daily strips) each. The book has no page numbers, but each strip is numbered. The book is laid out so each mini-story is presented in a double-page spread of three strips per page, the first three on the left-hand page and the concluding three on the facing page. The pages are unnumbered, but the 312 strips are numbered sequentially, from 1 to 311. (What? Why are there a 191 and a 191a?)
I said that the book contains only the newspaper strip reprints, but that is not quite true. There are a one-page foreword by Nick Park, the creator of Wallace & Gromit; several double-page stills every half-dozen pages or so, showing Wallace & Gromit in all their plasticene glory; and an end-of-book roster telling how the newspaper strip is created by The Sun’s staff with Aardman Animations’ approval:
Edited: Rona Simpson
Colours: John Burns
Artists: Jimmy Hansen & Mychailo Kazybird
Writers: Richy Chandler, Robert Etherington, Ned Hartley, Rik Hoskin, David Leach, J.P. Rutter, Rona Simpson
About the strips … I confess that, while the mini-stories work, the collection may be too much concentrated British working-class humour at once, with an emphasis on really lame groaner-type puns. Some of the story titles are "Hear Muffs", "Jurassic Lark", and "Raiders of the Lost Bark". It definitely helps to know contemporary British slang.
“Right lad, let’s hoof this tooth.”
“Wallace: you’re on a very STICKY WICKET!”
“It must have been FEATHERS [the evil penguin] who half-inched the Major’s moolah!”
“Er… or… a clapped-out car!”
Fortunately, the visual cartoon panel makes each bit of slang dialogue clear.
This book is more for the Wallace & Gromit fans, and for students of modern British humour, than for the average American comic-strip fan. If the animations have made you curious for more details of Wallace & Gromit's home life at 62 West Wallaby Street, here they are. Still, it’s more international in spirit than the older British cartoon-humour Annuals – Nick Park, in his Foreword, says, “… in fact, I’ve just bought an old Beezer annual from 1966 on Ebay, with ‘Colonel Blink, the Short-Sighted Gink’ on the cover – I don’t think you could get away with that today!” Take these 52 mini-stories/312 strips in small doses, and you’ll be right, lad!