Classic Cartoons

Martin Plimmer on Glen Baxter
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GLEN BAXTER, the man who revived the snood and gave us Thrumm, Ridley, Mr Thunegrench, Ngoto and Bly, is an English hero. As a Leeds art student he rejected prevalent American cultural influences and sought out an English voice in children's story illustrations of the Forties and Fifties, a bountiful yet neglected genre of constipated figures straining to represent captions plucked arbitrarily from the text and, so far as anyone can tell, all drawn by the same person. "It's the army of wrists that fascinates me," said Baxter, "that archetypal quality." Surreal to begin with, the form needed only Baxter's subversive skills to become hilarious snapshots of stories that don't exist: the twins burying the rector's Neil Sedaka records; the Belgian tampering with the pilchards...

Nobody got the joke at first, then Salman Rushdie bought a drawing and a Dutch herring merchant published a book of them: Atlas. Soon Baxter was selling them by the boatload to The New Yorker. Rule Britannia!