Today marks 90 years to the day that Australia caught its first glimpse of the red-headed larrikin that would go on to become an Australian icon, and Australia’s longest-running comic strip.
Ginger Meggs first appeared in Sydney in 1921. It was published in the Sunday Sun after the editor, Monty Grover asked a number of artists to draw submissions for a comic called “Us Fellers” about a small girl and a group of boys which he wrote the scripts for. The basic formula was the boys were to get into trouble, and the girl, Gladsome Gladys, was to get them out of it. Grover selected the submission offered by James C Bancks, who was at the time working for The Bulletin.
Ginger had been one of the boys in the first episode of Us Fellers. By the end of the year, Bancks had taken over the script writing from Grover and manoeuvred Ginger to be the centre of attention; it was not long before Gladys disappeared, and Ginger Smith (Later renamed “Ginger Meggs”) was the main character.
Ginger Meggs became universally loved for his independent, cheeky, personality. A twelve year-old boy with a healthy disrespect for authority – qualities of the quintessential Aussie larrikin.
After a dispute with the Sunday Sun, Ginger Meggs moved to the Sunday Telegraph on June 3, 1951 taking 80,000 readers with him.
Ginger Meggs now runs in over 120 newspapers in 34 countries around the world, and is translated into several languages.
Since the death of Jimmy Bancks in 1953, Ginger has been drawn by four cartoonists, including Ron Vivian (1953) Lloyd Piper (1973) James Kemsley (1984) and Jason Chatfield (2007).
Kemsley asked Chatfield to take over the strip a few days before his death in 2007 from motor neurone disease.
“I’ve been a Ginger Meggs fan my whole life. It’s an enormous honour for a boy from Perth who loved drawing cartoons to be put in charge of such an important legacy. I’m very grateful to James Kemsley for giving me the opportunity.”
Chatfield has taken Ginger into the digital age, with an iPhone app, an eBook for the iPad, a following on Facebook and Twitter, and a new website with a raft of features for new and old readers alike.
Chatfield says “Ginger has captured the Aussie spirit over 9 decades, and has indadvertedly become a bit of a time capsule of the zeitgeist of those years. I aim to keep Ginger true to Jimmy Bancks’ character’s original charm, whilst still keeping him as relevant to contemporary audiences as possible.”
To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the much loved cartoon, Redheads matches have released a series of Ginger Meggs themed boxes, available in stores from today.
The Perth Mint has released a stunning 1oz pure silver coin which features a coloured representation of Ginger Meggs riding a kangaroo, with his dog, Mike, and his pet monkey, Tony. The coin was designed by current Ginger Meggs cartoonist Jason Chatfield with the assistance of fellow Australian artists Peter Broelman and Rolf Harris.