Ginger Meggs cartoonist Jason Chatfield shares details about a one-of-a-kind exhibition!
Today marks the opening of the biggest comic strip exhibition in Australian history. “Ginger Meggs: Australia’s Favourite Boy” is a 94-year retrospective, curated by Anna Cossu and the team at the Museum of Sydney to celebrate Australia’s longest-running and beloved comic strip.
Since his first appearance in the Us Fellers comic strip in Sydney’s Sunday Sun newspaper in 1921, Ginger Meggs and his loyal gang, girlfriend Minnie Peters and enemy Tiger Kelly have kept us company for more than 90 years.
A new exhibition at Museum of Sydney, “Ginger Meggs: Australia’s Favourite Boy,” explores the story of this much-loved comic character, from his creation in 1921 by Sydney artist James “Jimmy” Bancks to his latest incarnation by current artist Jason Chatfield, and along the way, how the lovable larrikin became an Australian icon.
In 1935, Eric Baume, then editor of the Sunday Sun, claimed Ginger Meggs was "the most human character created by any cartoonist in the second and third decades of the century. Not because Ginger is loved by the 280,000 readers of the Sunday Sun is this assertion made, but because the sheer Australian characteristics of the lad have endeared him to readers of newspapers in every part of this country and of New Zealand."
The then Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin, understood what was happening and said, "Ginger Meggs is Australia's Peter Pan. Most of us can recognize in him our own youth, but unlike him, we had to grow up."
The exhibition features original strips by Ginger’s fathers, Bancks, and his successors Ron Vivian, Lloyd Piper, James Kemsley and Jason Chatfield, along with a wonderful collection of Ginger Meggs memorabilia.
“Born in Sydney to local artist Jimmy Bancks, Ginger Meggs has been enormously popular with generations of Australians and is still published in over 120 newspapers across Australia and around the world,” said Sydney Living Museums curator Anna Cossu.
“With his vivid red hair, larrikin boy charms and never-ending ability to get himself into and out of trouble, Ginger Meggs is a mischievous character whose everyday escapades echo the experiences of millions of Australian children.”
While “Ginge,” as he is affectionately known, and his loyal gang never grow a day older, the world around them has changed dramatically, and the exhibition explores how the comic strip has adapted to new eras under the pen of each artist.
Throughout his lifetime, readers have seen Ginger Meggs evolve from the 1930s world of billycarts, wireless radios and cricket games played in the street to the computer-drawn strips of today, in which Ginger laments the loss of Internet connection. During World War II, Ginger was drawn on sides of Australian airplanes and appeared in Army News; he was used in road safety campaigns in the 1950s and, controversially, entered the Space Age in the 1960s.
The world of Ginger Meggs continued off the page, too, with an array of commercial products and merchandise, from his own spinoff Little Golden Book stories to dolls and clothing, songs and tableware. In the 1970s, Ginger emerged in the works of celebrated Australian pop artist Martin Sharp, and a feature film released in 1982, along with a change in fathers, from Piper to Kemsley, saw a resurgence in the resilient character’s popularity.
Ginger has crossed over into the online space now with his own iMeggsie.com, designed specifically for mobile devices, along with an active community on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, and of course, every day on GoComics.
The exhibition will take visitors behind the scenes, exploring how Bancks and his successors created their comic strips, and also enable visitors to try their hand at drawing Ginger Meggs. Plus, a display of original and reproduction Ginger Meggs comic strips by all of the artists will appeal to visitors of all ages. The Exhibition runs from July 25 to Nov. 8.
Learn more about the exhibition here. Or, read Ginger Meggs here.
– Jason Chatfield, Ginger Meggs cartoonist