Saturday, 19 November 2011

Johnny Hawke!

Beano Annual 1973, Johnny Hawke goes fishing down the docks, with his pet osprey and kestrel
While America gave us heroes who could do such magnificent feats as flying, running at the speed of light and bending things, the comics of 1970s' Britain gave us their own brand of heroes. I've already looked at Billy the Cat and Katie. And who can forget the adventures of Bella Barlow belle of the bar, who, if memory serves me right, managed to win a gymnastics bronze medal at every Olympics for about forty years?

I do like to feel there was an endearing Britishness in her tendency to win bronze medals instead of the gold ones her American comic book equivalent would no doubt have won while simultaneously dealing a death-blow to communism.

Then again, in fairness to the girl, she did usually have to compete with both legs in plaster after having them smashed by her evil coach just days before competition.

Another such low-key hero was Johnny Hawke. I must admit I have no memory of him from the weekly Beano comics, so I assume he was created specially for the 1973 Beano Annual in which he appears.

Which of us wasn't thrilled to hear that next year's London Olympics (at which Bella, in traction, will no doubt win a bronze medal) will have surface-to-air missiles on stand-by just in case they're needed? What a fun event it threatens to be. But one person who won't be thrilled by news of surface-to-air missiles is Johnny Hawke, because all his friends are airborne.

That's right. Johnny Hawke isn't like other boys. Other boys can't talk to birds.

In this story, an anaconda escapes when a crane drops the crate it's being transported in. Luckily Johhny's on hand to save the day by summoning his avian allies to pick it up - before it can eat any children at the local school - and drop it off at the nearest zoo.

I don't have a clue who drew the thing but has there ever been a more stirring comic panel than the double-page spread below?

Despite it all, there are certain worries. Such as why isn't Johnny Hawke in school at the tale's outset? Instead he's down the local docks, fishing.

I'm also worried about Mr Hicks the cop with the gun. Since when does what appears to be barely more than a local village bobby happen to carry a rifle around with him? Since when does British law permit him to just start shooting it at will? And just why is he so keen to use it? My God, I hope they don't stick him in charge of those surface-to-air missiles, or I suspect we'll all be in trouble.
Johnny Hawke, a school full of children and an armed policeman watch as birds of prey lift a giant anaconda into the air, Beano Annual 1973

2 comments:

southfolkman said...

I can't remember Johnny Hawke, although I'm certain I had the '73 Beano annual. It does remind you of how the British annuals would throw in a new character, never to be seen again (presumably to make up the bumper page count). My memory is not to be trusted however - I swore for years that Bleep and Booster only ever appeared in the Blue Peter annuals, only to discover there were apparently hundreds of appearances throughout my childhood whilst I was a regular viewer. In some ways it good to know my short term memory loss is not only the product of middle age.

Steve W. said...

Not half. Bleep and Booster were always turning up in Blue Peter. I still have happy memories of Valerie Singleton narrating their adventures.

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