Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Best of Punch Cartoons

Punch is synonymous with British cartooning. The magazine closed in 2002 but as it had started in 1841 the name still carries a lot of recognition. I played only a very small role in the story of Punch: a handful of gags published in its final years. It was barely a walk-on part in the 160 years of the magazine, but I'm always proud to say that I made it in there.

Above: My first Punch cartoon, published in 1997, the year I began gag cartooning

Sadly, I did not make it into The Best of Punch Cartoons*, a new book which is out this week, so I was not invited to the launch party at Harrods yesterday ... but that wasn't going to stop me!

My cartoonist pal Clive Goddard passed on his invite to me, as he couldn't make it, so I phoned up Harrods (the Punch brand is still owned by Mohamed Al Fayed) and begged in a frankly unseemly fashion to be allowed to attend.

It was a great night. Lots of champagne and canapes, as you would expect, and the chance to catch up with fellow cartoonists and meet a few for the first time. The long-established guys reminisced about the Punch do's of old and lamented the fact that a magazine once seen as Britain's equivalent of The New Yorker is no longer with us.

Speeches were made by the publisher and the book's editor, and they pointed out many times that they were selling it at the launch at 20 per cent off. Although as someone pointed out (probably a money-savvy cartoonist) it's already cheaper than that on Amazon.

Those attending who did buy books were keen to get the cartoonists to sign them. I thought it only fair to point out every time that I'm not actually in the Best Of, but they didn't care. I think they were just fascinated and amused at seeing genuine, live cartoonists dragged out of their gloomy studios and into the glare of publicity.

Above: A Punch cartoon from 1998. Of my early efforts, I think this one got the most positive reaction from people

A fun night then, but every silver lining has a cloud: I was informed by those who are in the book that they have not received any payment. Sadly, this is not an unusual situation in British cartooning, but you do have to ask, how can it be right that cartoonists make no money from a book comprised solely of cartoons?

It's an excellent book, though, and a no-brainer as a Christmas pressie for the cartoon lover in your family (it's not exactly a stocking filler though, it's huge). So if you enjoy it, why not send a Christmas bonus to one of the non-remunerated cartoonists in the book?

Not me, you understand. Did I mention that I'm not in it?

*UPDATE 27/10/08: I have since found out that the book ignores the relaunched Punch of 1996-2002. It's a real shame that they didn't include any of the cartoons from that period, but it means I don't feel too bad about not being included!

Some Royston cartoons from existing magazines


  1. stumbled across your blog, which is uncanny as my father who has been a follower of punch since i can remember was only just recounting a story about the local library having never heard of the magazine called punch. strage but true. x rosey from deep down under

  2. Now you know what to get your father for Christmas, Rosey!

    Punch has come back from the dead before and for the past few years I've been hoping it will do so again. But it's looking doubtful now, and the longer it is away the more we will find that there are people who are not familiar with it. One cartoonist, mentioning the mag to a young person, was asked, "Punch? I've heard of that. Was it a bit like the Beano?"

  3. i guess i'm not in it either, not having been invited....bah! would be nice to have something in one of those big anthologies one day...

    i think it's possibly best that punch is consigned to the history books really. when they did relaunch it it wasn't really the same, was it?

    much closer to the old punch, i always think, (than the new punch was), is the oldie -- it's the new (old) punch!

  4. i was just wondering if they ignored the new punch era? is there any pak in it for example? he was all over new punch.

    oh and that's outrageous that they didn't pay anyone!

  5. Yes, that point about The Oldie was made by a couple of cartoonists on Wednesday night. The Oldie is like the old Punch in that it's very readable with lots of general interest, funny content. And it is not swayed by the vagaries of fashion.

    I'm not sure they did themselves any favours with that name, though! It must exclude a large chunk of potential readership because these days it seems no one wants to admit to being "old".

  6. Just seen your second comment, Wilbur ... I don't know because like most of the other cartoonists I just looked in the index to see if I was in it (I wasn't the only one who wasn't!) then got on with the serious business of drinking and chatting ...

    I'd be surprised if they ignored the relaunched Punch, as the book was done in conjunction with the current owners who ran that version and now run the archive. Their website makes it clear that Punch finished in 2002.

  7. yes i didn't mean denied its existence altogether, just possibly ignored it as far as the book was concerned...dunno -- but the list of cartoonists i saw in attendance seemed like mainly the old guard...?

  8. Old, maybe, but not too guarded after a few drinks ;-)



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