Andy Capp has been with us since 1957
and in that time he's become an
outspoken icon for the british working
class. Put simply, he's a flat-cap wearing
layabout, chauvinistic, unemployable pub-dweller
from Hartlepool who spends
most of his days perched precariously on
or between the local watering hole
and his living room sofa as Number 37 Durham
Street. Andy has a point of view
on everyone and everything, it seems.
And his wife Flo has had to put up with his
philosophizing for nigh-on 50 years.
Mind you, she's just as likely to give as good
as she gets, because Flo is no pushover...
Amongst others on the receiving end
of Andy's eulogozing and general tattle are
Chalkie and Ruby White, Percy Ritson the
rent Man, the local Vicar, Flo's Mum,
barman Jackie, Andy's nephew Jason, and his
niece, and Andy's own Mother.
Andy was created by the legendary cartoonist
Reg Smythe, and he proved to
be an instant hit with readers of "The
Daily Mirror", in which the strip first appeared.
Incidentally, Hartlepool just so happened to
be Reg Smythe's home town too,
which suggests something of Reg came
through in the character.
In 1960, Smythe became a founding member
of the Cartoonists Club of Great
Britain, and flat-capped Andy helped him
to win the club's annual prize for five
consecutive years - an extraordinary feat.
The character proved an inspiration to comic
artists everywhere, and in 1961,
Andy gave his flat capped persona to
the title star of Fleetway's "Buster" comic.
Buster was originally billed as being
the son of Andy Capp. Of course he didn't
frequent pubs, or smoke, or womanise, but
he was an honest working clas lad
living with his Mum - who was presumably
a rendition of Flo' from the Smythe
originals. Buster dropped his 'son of'
billing quite soon after the launch of the
comic, but he held on to that faithful
flat cap right the way through to the
comic's demise in January 2000.
Andy's ongoing success reached far beyond
British shores to America,
where he's been in syndication since 1963.
Up until 1983, Andy was rarely
seen without a cigarette protruding
from under his cap. But the anti-smoking
lobby had by then persuaded Reg
Smythe to drop the habit. Mr Smythe
himself died from cancer in 1998, aged
81, but his ever-popular creation
still lives on in "The Mirror"
to this day.
In 1988 ITV produced a live-action sitcom
series based on the character. Former
"Likely Lad" James Bolam took
on the title role, with Paula Tilbrook playing Flo.
The producer-director was John Howard
Davies. It wasn't a hit, though, and
only six episodes were ever produced.
The Mirror Group have published enough
Andy Capp books to fill a skip.
Amongst them have been annual numbered
anthologies, and a series of
"World of Andy Capp" anthology
specials. In and around these have been
umpteen one-offs and additions, including
"Andy Capp's Spring Tonic", which
was shaped like a spirit bottle!...
Capp at amazon.co.uk