Every year at this busy time I dig into the archives of The Daily Constitutional and repost a few favourites - it allows me to enjoy the school holidays with my daughter and still lead my London Walks tours.
This year I'm reposting my Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London - a series of posts tracing the inky footsteps left behind in our capital by everyone from William Hogarth to Scooby Doo. It's been one of the most popular series of all on The Daily Constitutional and I'm looking forward to updating it after the holidays with posts on Captain America, the X-Men, George Cruikshank and Mary Darly. In the meantime, here's the story so far…
Panel 11. London Explorer & The Charing Cross Road
All the comic books featured so far in this series can be acquired fairly easily – we always recommend Orbital Comics in Great Newport Street, and Gosh! in Berwick Street is another fave (more of them later). The Cartoon Museum also has an excellent bookshop.
(Support your local bookshop!)
Today, however, I'm introducing an element of sport into my Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London. The thrill of the chase, if you will.
You're going to have to browse for this one.
The forgotten art of browsing, particularly in secondhand bookshops, is one of London’s great pleasures. The coffee emporia may have moved in on the Charing Cross Road, but there are still more good secondhand bookshops than you can shake a stick at here in London. And should a shop assistant approach and ask “May I help you?” (very unlikely in London’s secondhand bookshops!) we can provide you with two answers with which to reply. You can either say:
“I’m looking for what I didn’t know I wanted” (The Daily Constitutional definition of browsing).
Or you can say, “Do you have a copy of…”
Peter Jackson’s London Explorer
The book is long out-of-print but remains an essential part of any London library. This paperback volume is a collection of cartoons by Peter Jackson. Jackson worked on the old London Evening News (defunct since 1980 when it was incorporated into the Evening Standard) and for that paper he crafted a lovingly illustrated series on the history of London in cartoon form. (The graphic novel is nothing new.)
The volume I came across (at Black Gull Books in East Finchley) has no date in the flyleaf, but the accompanying London Underground map in the back has no Victoria Line so I estimate it to be some several years before 1967.
Jackson’s illustrations (“with supporting text by W. Crawford Snowden”) covered a different area of London each instalment. Succinct and revelatory, his drawings bring London’s history to life with a mixture fact, fable and cartoon fun touches (such as King Charles II snuggling up to Nell Gwynn and her orange on the Fleet Street section, illustrated here).
Jackson’s encyclopaedic knowledge of London grew from his love of the metropolis and he was a renowned collector of historic prints, maps and London ephemera. He drew for the Evening News from 1940 to 1980 and his other series include London is Stranger Than Fiction and Somewhere to Go. He passed away in 2003.
Good luck hunting for his book! Make your first stop Charing Cross Road…
… with Any Amount of Books and Henry Pordes always worth a visit. (Worth noting that the Wetherspoons pub at No.105, now the Montagu Pyke, was once the Cambridge Circus Cinematograph Theatre – in the 60s this was a "cartoon cinema" presenting animated films amid a programme of news and shorts.)
The legendary Foyles bookshop, now at home in its swanky new premises at 107 Charing Cross Road also has a very healthy graphic novel section. Last year they commissioned a number of cartoon artists to depict the history of that great bookshop…
The panel above is the work of Warren Pleece. Warren started drawing comics with his writer brother, Gary in the late 80s and 90s and then went on to working as an artist on numerous titles for the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics. His latest books include The Great Unwashed and Montague Terrace, published by Jonathan Cape.
Tomorrow… Marvel & Tower Bridge
There are eight more stops to go on our Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London! Panel 13 will be posted later this week!
A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.