The new towns that were built after the end of World War II are not exactly considered bastions of great art or even great architecture. But in at least one instance, Glenrothes, Fife is inextricably linked to the great British comic tradition.
Some readers of this blog might snigger and say what could Glenrothes have offered to British comics. Well, if you hear me out, you’ll find that for the last 50 plus years, it has been helping to influenced the art that has shaped a generation or two.
I am going to work back in time as the first artist I discovered with a link to Glenrothes is the most modern one. He is a rather self-effacing gentleman called Janek Matysiak. Born and bred in Glenrothes, educated at Auchmuchty High and working for Fife Libraries, Janek hides an amazing eye for detail with creating freelance work for D C Thomson’s and commissions for over 20 years.
I must admit that I find Janek’s digital work visually stunning and well worth looking out for.
Part of the reason that Janek is so closely associated with Glenrothes is that his father, David Matysiak, chose to live there during Janek’s formative years.
Let me make one thing clear, Janek and David are well established artists in their own right and this is not a case of one can be compared to the other. Both have distinctive styles and to compare them to each other would be like comparing Reg Parlett with Ted Kearon. You can state that both worked in comics but that is where the resemblance ends.
David’s style is one that I became aware of in the 1970s as I would anything and everything. When visiting a cousin, I would think nothing of sitting there and reading a Bunty, Mandy or Judy annual. And when I recognised one of the artists, I would stop and pore over the story to learn the tells of that artist over and over again.
For David’s work, the ‘tell’ was always the hair and faces. There was always an angular dimension to them that no artist copied. This then allowed me to ‘get’ the rest of his style.
The last artist moved to Glenrothes in the mid 1960s but his work was still influencing artist during this period. It certainly influenced David Harding, the town artist.
This artist’s talent was so rare his work encapsulated the city of his birth with a brevity and deftness they become part of the social fabric of that city.
I got to know about this artist due to listening to fellow comic fans talking about newspaper comic strips and they mentioned Lobey Dosser. At this phrase my ears perked up.
For those that don’t know, Lobey Dosser is a nickname for a tramp. Living in the city, many would have no place to spend the night, so they would sleep or doss down in the halls, or if you prefer, the lobbies of one of the many tenements that made up the city’s housing estates. A lobbie dosser literally meant someone who slept in the lobbies of the tenements.
I could not understand why my fellow comic enthusiasts were using this term so I had to ask. With that one question, I was introduced to the works of Bud Neill.
Bud Neill came to regional fame as he began to submit single frame jokes to the local Glasgow papers in the 1940s. However, Bud’s talent was soon to find national recognition as he created the Keelie cowboy, Lobey Dosser.
Desperate Dan came to fame for his strength and his cowpies. Lobey Dosser came to fame as the bringer of law to Calton Creek and the owner of the most faithful two legged horse. Bud’s most famous creation was a broth of Cowboy and Indian movie imagery mixed with Scots patter and the occasional nod to the geography of Glasgow. Running from 1949 to 1959, Lobey Dosser became a national institution. But for Bud, enough was enough and he moved to the Black Hills o’ Fife with a move to Dunfermline before settling in Glenrothes.
Bud spent his last years in relative obscurity. After all, the new towns are the last place you would look for a comics legend, aren’t they? Bud passed away on the 28th August 1970 in Glenrothes. He may have passed away, but Bud is still as fondly remembered today as he ever was at the height of his fame.
This year will mark the 50th anniversary of his passing. It might be nice if we can mark the passing of one of Scotland’s greatest illustrators with a bunch of flowers or even to raising a glass to one so fine that we still remember how amazing he was 50 years on.