TREASURY OF BRITISH COMICS WEEK! Just a few short years ago the work of Ken Reid – one of the most popular and important cartoonists in the history of British weekly comics – was conspicuous by its total absence in collected book form. Over the last few years this has thankfully been slowly rectified with Reid’s uniquely animated and detailed work coming back into print via Irmantas Povilaika’s The Power Pack of Ken Reid hardcovers and the Treasury of British Comics’ reprints of World-Wide Weirdies, Creepy Creations and, of course, arguably his most famous character Faceache.
Indeed so popular was the first Treasury hardcover Faceache collection that it was reprinted at the end of 2020 in a paperback format. The titular star is schoolboy “Ricky Rubberneck” (though that given name is quickly forgotten in favour of his more obvious nickname which even his father addresses him by) who was born with “a bendable bonce” and “skin like stretch rubber.” Faceache uses this remarkable ability to mischievous advantage and, with the strip’s trademark “Scrunge!” sound effect, transformed his features (or “fissog”) into a variety of hideous countenances on a weekly basis. These metamorphoses were employed in the usual schoolboy comics character pursuits of the time – get-rich schemes, challenges to authority (teachers, parents, and crusty old military types), playground scheming, and so on. And while Faceache did triumph on occasion, many of the strips end with him being angrily pursued by his objects of torment, or getting his just comeuppance…
Reid’s inventively grotesque artwork was the perfect fit for the premise. Faceache: The Ken Reid Years collects “The First 100 Scrunges” from the pages of Jet and Buster from between 1971 and 1973. Read in one sitting there’s a rapid development in the feature with Faceache’s ability to change his appearance rapidly evolving from rubber-faced naughtiness in the early months to the power to transfigure his entire anatomy into the most terrifying eldritch creatures of near Lovecraftian horror by the finish of this first volume. Reid’s meticulous inked approach gives birth to week after week of Faceache-style, elastic-featured, gurning monstrosities; theatrically misproportioned visages that threaten to leap off the very page with a maniacal and twisted glee.
Not all the strips herein are attributed to Reid, and those thinking of picking it up for younger readers should be forewarned that there is the odd example of corporal punishment (a staple of many kids comics of the time). But Faceache: The First 100 Scrunges remains the work of a genius of British cartooning, clearly relishing the opportunity to unleash his formidable imagination with fearless abandon. Those wanting to get the most out of each strip are advised to read it out loud, doing all the different voices and the sound effects. Trust me… you’ll appreciate it like you never have before if you do!
Ken Reid (W/A) • Rebellion/Treasury of British Comics, £10.99
Review by Andy Oliver