ROBERT NIXON: Long associated with the Beano, the British children’s comics illustrator and cartoonist Robert Nixon has died, aged 63. During his lengthy career, he drew Roger the Dodger and many more of D.C . Thomson’s famous characters, as well as contributing for 12 years to the weekly comics of rival publishers IPC. His editor at the Beano said that Nixon would have been able to illustrate a note to the milkman and “make it look appealing”.
Nixon was born in Southbank, near Middlesbrough, where his father worked in the steel industry. One of six children, he was educated at the Central secondary modern school in Southbank, where his artistic talents were recognised early. He won several art competitions and a scholarship to Middlesbrough Art College, but he was forced to leave because of his father’s death.
In 1955 he got a job in the art department at a printing factory, where he served an apprenticeship as a lithographic artist. He started submitting work to the Beano in 1964 and had his first set of pictures published in April that year in an episode of Little Plum, Your Redskin Chum, first drawn by Leo Baxendale.
Later that year, following the departure of the original artist, Ken Reid, Nixon took over Roger the Dodger. By 1965 he had enough assignments to go freelance full time. Nixon proved especially skilled at “ghosting” various styles, while adding his own distinctive cuteness. He inherited Lord Snooty and His Pals in 1968 from Dudley Watkins and revived Grandpa in 1971, as well as drawing Esky Mo and Captain Cutler for Sparky.
In late 1972, he left Thomson’s to join IPC. Nixon proved invaluable, taking over successful series and originating bizarre characters of his own. He enjoyed drawing mildly macabre horror humour, an IPC speciality inspired by the Addams Family and the Munsters television shows, in new titles like Monster Fun and Shiver and Shake. Nixon continued such regulars as Hire A Horror, about a mad monster agency, and the bolt-necked buffoon Frankie Stein.
Other fondly remembered series include his lavish medieval romp King Arthur and His Frights of the Round Table, which helped launch the comic Whoopee in 1974, and the surreal eco-comedy Family Trees, about a gang of trees always on the run from humans.
Shortly after Euan Kerr became editor of the Beano in November 1984, he persuaded Nixon to return to the comic – and to Roger the Dodger – in January 1985. On May 4th, 1985, Nixon created the look of the “enfant terrible” Ivy the Terrible, his favourite character. In the 1990s, he also drew Korky the Cat in the Dandy and illustrated merchandise from jigsaw puzzles to Easter egg boxes.
Nixon also drew the newspaper strips, The Gems, about a gang of children (from 1977) and Parkie the park keeper (from 1982) in the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette.
For his own pleasure, he painted in oils, watercolours and pastels. He is survived by his wife Rita, and children Paul, Tony, Wendy and Catherine.
Robert Nixon:born July 7th 1939; died October 22nd 2002