Ginger Meggs has joined an elite club – one that only a handful of comic strips have attained* – Ginger Meggs has regularly run new material for 100 years.
When introduced Ginge’s Us Fellers comic strip wasn’t anticipated as the main attraction.
Ginger Meggs first showed up in the premiere issue of Us Fellers by Jimmy Bancks as it appeared in the November 13, 1921 edition of The Sydney Sunday Sun in their new color supplement Sunbeams.
Ginger quickly became the favorite of the readers and creator Bancks, and he replaced Gladsome Gladys as the headliner. The other comic features in Sunbeams also soon took a backseat to Ginger.
Ginger Meggs was created in 1921 by James Charles “Jimmy” Bancks.
In November 1921 Bancks began drawing “Us Fellers” for the Sunday issue of the Sydney Sun. One of the minor characters in the first issue was Ginger Smith, a small red-headed boy in a black waistcoat. By the time he became Ginger Meggs in April 1922 he had a muff-wearing girl-friend, Minnie Peters, a rival for her affections in Eddie Coogan, and had gathered about him a gang of mates, including Benny and “Ocker“(Oscar Stevens). For the next 30 years, weekly in the Sunday Sun and also from 1924 in the Sunbeams Book, Adventures of Ginger Meggs, he experienced under Bancks the joys and tribulations of urban life.
In the late 1920s Bancks penetrated the overseas syndication market; by the time “Us Fellers” changed its Sunday Sun title to “Ginger Meggs” in November 1939, the strip had reached audiences in England and the United States as well as throughout Australia, and had been translated into French and Spanish for readers of La Presse in Montreal and El Muno in Buenos Aires.
By 1923 Ginger Meggs was found beyond his Sunbeams home.
By the end of his first decade Ginger Meggs was seen worldwide, including the USA.
The U.S. version ran from 1930 to 1931, then again from 1939 to 1948 per Allan Holtz.
Meggs evolved into a complete character with his own unique personality and began the undisputed star of the strip. The early days of Ginger Meggs offers us an opportunity to see into the life of a child in the depression era, from the fascination with sports – in particular cricket, a sport that Bancks personally relished – through to skipping school and getting caught, befuddled parents, a loving mother, childhood loves, good mates, faithful pets and bullies. It was all there, and still is, a time capsule into a life that people of today often find alien and totally foreign. Throughout all of Meggsy’s trials and tribulations, he managed to remain upbeat and was supremely confident, often tricking the local bully, Tiger Smith, sometimes getting a beating but sometimes getting away with it. He was quick on his feet and had an almost rat like cunning both for getting into and out of trouble, and possessed a wit that often saw him in conflict with authoritarian figures, all of which he would combat with varying degrees of success.
Jimmy Bancks continued the comic until his death leaving a Sunday page on his drawing board.
As current Ginger cartoonist Jason Chatfield has shown this week the strip was continued by others.
After 72 years Ginger cartoonist James Kemsley added a daily strip in 1993.
From The Hindustan Times:
In 1993, while contemplating his bank balance, the tenuous employment thread and the lack of long-term job security in producing a weekly comic strip for only two papers, Sydney’s The Sun-Herald and Adelaide’s Sunday Mail, Kemsley developed “Ginger Meggs” as a daily comic. With the support of a number of regional editors, the strip was soon paying its way. Within a year, the comic was running throughout the country and soon became the widest syndicated strip in Australia, a position it has held for the last four years, with a client base of 100 plus, including 41 of Australia’s major daily newspapers. With the security that number of papers brings he finally began cloning himself.
In 1997, Kemsley’s “Ginger Meggs” became the first Australian comic strip to be published daily in a major London newspaper when the UK Daily Express picked it up. Later that year, the Washington DC based “Strips” magazine also began publishing “Meggs.”
The Hornsby Library has a delightful selection of Ginger Meggs ephemera.
* The centenary company Ginger Meggs has joined are:
The Katzenjammer Kids 1897 – 2006
Gasoline Alley 1918 – present
Ripley’s Believe It or Not 1918 – present
Barney Google and Snuffy Smith 1919 – present
Thimble Theatre/Popeye 1919 – present
[next up is Fritzi Ritz/Nancy 1922 – present]
below: Ginger Meggs original art circa 1935