Frank Huline Dickens (1932-2016)
Frank Dickens was the creator of several different much loved strips, most famously, Bristow, which records the ridiculous day-to-day life of a rebellious office clerk, eighteenth in line for the post of Chief Buyer of the Chester Perry Company. In 2010, it won him the Guinness World Record for the longest running daily strip by a single author, having begun in 1961.
‘Young Frank Dickens The Child Star’ – as he was affectionately called by his friends – was born in Hornsey, North London, on 2 February 1931. Son of a painter and decorator, he left school at sixteen and worked as a buying clerk before becoming a racing cyclist (1946-70). After spending time in the National Service with Air-Sea Rescue, Dickens went to Paris; there, as a self-taught artist, he made a living selling cycling cartoons to the French publications Paris-Match and L’Equipe (1959).
On his return from France in 1960, Dickens began to contribute the cartoon strip ‘Oddbod’ to The Sunday Times and followed it up immediately with ‘Bristow’, his best-known strip, which ran in the Evening Standard for over forty years. ‘Bristow’ records the ridiculous day–to–day life of a rebellious office clerk, eighteenth in line for the post of Chief Buyer of the Chester Perry Company. A household name, ‘Bristow’ not only appeared on the web but was syndicated worldwide.
Dickens has also written twelve episodes of ‘Bristow’ for radio, six of which have been aired on BBC Radio Four (from 2001), starring actor Michael Williams as the voice of the man himself. He has even teamed up with composer Clement Ishmael (author and director of The Lion King) to turn ‘Bristow’ into a West End musical.
Another strip, ‘Albert Herbert Hawkins, The Naughtiest Boy In The World’, has been running for twenty years in the Daily Express and internationally (since 1967) and has been collected in five books. Dickens’s ‘Patto’ which chronicles the absurd capers of a hapless cat, has also proved successful on its appearances in the Evening Standard.
Over the years, Dickens has published forty-two books including two thrillers, A Curl Up and Die Day (Peter Owen) and Three Cheers for the Good Guys (Macmillan).
One of his later offerings comes in the form of A Calmer Sutra, a comic variation on the sex manual ‘for those in the afternoon of their lives’. The reader is presented on the left–hand side with matter-of-fact statements referring to the sexual act (or ‘Act of Congress’), juxtaposed on the right by coloured – and colourful – cartoons featuring Dickens’ endearing rubicund characters – a trademark of his art – embroiled in all manner of hilarious dilemmas.
His work is represented in the collections of the University of Kent Cartoon Centre.