It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, etc etc, etc. Time to open another virtual window on the Comicon Advent Calendar. And this time it’s a very personal one for me, a dive back into my memories, to family Christmas time gone by… the cartoons of Carl Giles.
Giles was a legendary British cartooning genius. Never an overtly political cartoonist as we might know them now, but his beautifully detailed single-page cartoons, with their meticulous and skilled draughtsmanship, nonetheless gloriously captured the events of the day.
My introduction to Giles’ cartoons came through my father’s Christmas Day tradition of settling down with the Giles annual whilst mother cooked dinner. Post turkey, it was my turn, and whilst I didn’t always understand the news references, I loved the comedy and the staggeringly good cartooning. Not just that, but I discovered, as with any great political cartoonist, Giles’ work served as a more vital and educational history lesson than any I received at school.
Born in 1916, Giles’ cartooning career began in 1937 at the left-wing Reynolds News, but he would spend the majority of his career at the very right-leaning Express Newspaper Group. Lord Beaverbrook, owner of The Daily Express, recognised Giles’ remarkable skills and incredible draughtsmanship, and the first Giles cartoon appeared in the 3rd October 1943 edition of The Sunday Express.
And if you’re talking influence and appreciation, Giles certainly had it – his cartoons were incredibly popular and The Daily Express rewarded him very well – reputedly, by 1955, he earned over £8,000 for three cartoons a week (roughly £120,000+ today). And Lord Beaverbrook certainly knew of Giles’ importance for his newspapers, lavishing his favourite cartoonist with both praise and presents, including one famous gift of a Bentley Continental.
Giles’ just had that innate ability to see life through the eyes of the common man, not to mention his knack of ridiculing authority struck exactly the right chord with the readership.
Every character is a snapshot of a time gone-by, a different world, a caricature that captures history so well. And does it all with a beautiful sense of comic timing, you only have to look at a few of those annual covers to see that… front the setup, back the punchline. How very good…. oh, very good indeed.
Carl Giles 1916-1995, much missed. For my dad, for me, and for countless fans around the world.
A great resource of Giles cartoons is the excellent Giles Cartoons – A Celebration from which these all came from…
So, here’s a selection of some of Giles’ best Christmas-themed brilliance…
First of all, let’s go with some of the best winter-themed covers, where the front and the back covers would work as one complete image to give you the pay-off for the gag.
Eleventh Series – 1957
Sixteenth Series – 1962
Eighteenth Series – 1963/64
Forty-Fourth Series –
And now, some of the very best Christmas cartoons…
And a few odds and ends…
And just some of the many RNLI Christmas Cards Giles did over the years…
And some undateds…