Reg Smythe; Drew Andy Capp Comic Strip
Reg Smythe, who created the world’s most politically incorrect comic strip character, Andy Capp, and drew him for more than 40 years, died Saturday at age 81.
Smythe died of cancer at his home in northeastern England, according to Mirror Group Newspapers in London, which began publishing the Andy Capp strip in 1957.
The exploits of Andy and his long-suffering wife, Flo, were syndicated in 1,700 newspapers in 48 countries and even turned into a musical and a TV series.
In French newspapers he became Andre Chapeau, in Germany Willi Wakker, in Italy Angelo Capello and so on around the world. He was particularly popular in the United States, the country whose cartoonists Smythe admired the most.
“Reg was so prolific, there is at least a year’s supply of cartoons left. Last year we celebrated 40 years of Andy, and Reg thoroughly enjoyed himself,” said Mirror cartoon editor Ken Layson.
Smythe lived in the town of Hartlepool and faxed his work to the Mirror, where it appeared seven days a week.
Idle, wasteful, sexist and often drunk, Andy Capp lived in a world that rarely went beyond the narrow horizon between the local pub where he drank and the sofa in his front room where he slept off the after-effects.
British men identified strongly with a layabout who preferred football, snooker, racing and chatting up the barmaid to doing an honest day’s work.
Women liked him because they knew he would always come off second-best to Flo, a no-nonsense character who specialized in spousal abuse with a rolling pin.
Smythe, a desperately shy man, shunned personal publicity and preferred the company of his wife, Vera, to that of celebrities.
The Mirror quoted friends as saying he was devastated when she died last year.
Born in 1917, Smythe served in the British army and later worked as a clerk when he began sketching cartoons part time. “I was never a very good artist,” he admitted, saying he preferred sketching people from the rear.
Andy and Flo changed little in 40 years, though when Smythe gave up smoking in 1983 he removed the cigarette that dangled precariously from Andy’s lower lip.
“I couldn’t carry on when Andy had stopped,” he said.
Otherwise, the couple lived on in an unchanged working-class world where men wore cloth caps and mufflers, and women kept their hair in curlers under a knotted head scarf.
“He’s a horrible little devil but I’m grateful to him,” Smythe once said. “I was very lucky to have thought of him.”