Creator of shirking-class icon Andy Capp dies, aged 81

REG SMYTHE, creator of the ultimate working-class comic-strip hero Andy Capp, has died from cancer aged 81.

Though the artist kept a low profile and worked from his home in Hartlepool until his death, Andy Capp found fame all over the world with his hallmark cloth cap, braces and chauvinism.

The cartoonist once said he believed that the character's popularity lay in the eternal power struggle between man and woman.

He modelled some of Capp's character on his father, and drew on his mother Florence for Flo, Andy's wife.

Though Andy Capp was an instant success, he started life as a violent character who beat up his wife. Smythe regretted this and turned their relationship into one more like that between mother and child, making Capp shorter and Flo more buxom. The famous fag end which was a permanent fixture on Andy's lip disappeared at about the same time that Smythe gave up smoking.

Transcending its working-class theme, the cartoon has been sold to 1,700 newspapers worldwide since it was first printed in the Daily Mirror's northern edition in 1957.

The popularity of a character who lived to drink beer and avoid work at all costs seemed to know no bounds.

In Sweden they call him Tuffa Viktor, in France he's Andre Chapeau, in Italy Angelo Capello and in Germany Willi Wakker.

In Britain, Andy Capp became the subject of a stage musical and a television series and in the United States he even had his own fan club.

Smythe once said of Andy Capp: "He was just there waiting: the next-door neighbour, the bloke in the local ... Andy Capps are all over the place."

After the artist's death on Saturday, Ken Layson, the Mirror's cartoon editor, said: "He was a one-off. Reg was so prolific, there is at least a year's supply of cartoons left ...

"He will be sadly missed all over the world, but especially in the North- east where he was a major celebrity."

Mr Layson said that the money he made from syndication made him a "rich man".

Smythe leaves a wife, Jean. It was his second marriage. His first wife, Vera, died last year.

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