Sunday, 30 August 2009

Bugsy Malone

This comic version of Alan Parker's frankly bizarre gangster parody ( starring only kids ) came out in the UK in 1976, and doesn't seem to be a reprint from America, but something produced just for the British market.
It's a strange bird, seemingly put together for very little ankle biters, as seen in this dedication here.

And here.

The writing style is wildly variable ( and, if I'm honest, not particularly well done ) but the artwork, by Graham Thompson, more than makes up for it. Like here, in this stunning street scene.

I know absolutely nothing about Thompson, but judging by his drawing style, he clearly belonged to the venerable old school of british book illustrators prevalent in The Bronze Age. ie. He could really really draw.
Unfortunately, like I say, the writing kind of let's the art down, often belonging to The Dept. of Redundancy Dept. as in a few panels here, but it is a kid's book, I guess.

We've all seen the movie a million times, so I don't need to walk you through the plot. Just enjoy the art, which I honestly think is so good, it approaches Mort Drucker in places.

I assume Thompson had the same problem Marvel used to have to suffer with their movie adaptations ie. trying not to make the characters look like the original actors. But he does still get close with a few of the child stars in the occasional panel.

Like here with a spot-on Jodie Foster, in scenes that in the movie seem, well, a bit creepy these days. Leaving aside the fact that these are kids, it's Jodie Foster for flips sake.

Nice translation of one of the best gags in the movie here though.

And, of course, the whole thing finishes off with another great double-page spread from Thompson, that makes you dizzy thinking about the logistics involved in drawing the damn thing.

Great stuff absolutely from a bygone age. What a shame this kind of thing isn't available for kids now, eh?


  1. This is a rare item indeed.I never thought there'd be a comic book version of 'Bugsy Malone'and here it is in full color.nice.I wonder if you have the comic book version of another cult classic/movie bomb;1941,it was just as crazy as the Speilberg film,if not even more crazier.I believe that a couple of guys from my home state of Vermont were responsible for the illustrations;Rick Veitch and Steve Bissette.

  2. Very cool! The film itself was a bit of a flop here in the US but had some good music as I recall.

  3. This is a great comic and I'm lucky enough to have a signed copy of it. Graham Thompson is related to a friend of mine and was kind enough to inscribe a copy. He's an old school illustrator who's done a ton of advertising work and children's books in the UK. He's still working and does illustrations for jigsaw puzzles now. As you might imagine, it's the perfect thing for someone who packs such a lot of colorful detail into his work. He works on thin detail paper which he mounts onto board and then colors with inks. A phenomenal, yet largely unknown, talent who I'm thrilled to see get a mention online!

  4. Hey Pete, Dave Gibbons reads your blog!

  5. Blimey Oh Riley! Hey Dave, any more info on Graham Thompson? What other comics did he do? Bronze Age Blogdom needs to know!

  6. Ohhh, Bugsy Malone comic? Thanks for these scans! A lot of thanks!


  8. Hi there,

    I just noticed your comments about the Bugsy book. Graham Thompson is my dad, and as Dave Gibbons rightly points out - is still working, although now in his late 60's is still going strong. He also illustrated The Muppet movie book and Eric the Viking amongst others.

  9. Hi Nick, just going through the blog and saw your comment. Sorry not to have noticed it before. Tell your dad he's great from me!

  10. I just came across this now -a couple of years after you posted it.
    This book was one of my prized possessions when I was a 10 year old girl. I wasn't allowed to have MAD magazines so when I friend gave me the Bugsy Malone book as a gift and I was aloud to keep it, that book became the be all and end all of cartooning!
    I practiced my own comic book skills using that book as a guide.
    I would love to find that book today!
    Thanks for posting.

  11. Wow - what an amazing comments thread. I still have the comic book - I pored over it endlessly when I was a kid. I know it better than the film. And here's Mr Thompson's son! Very cool. The pages are all falling out of my copy. I just showed my kids the film for the first time and then gave them the comic book - it may never recover! Would love to find another copy. Very big for me that book.

  12. same here - really pleased to find this thread. The book was a real"thing" for me as a kid & I absolutely loved it, especially the artwork. Have just found it in an old box (hence the search) and given to my daughter to, did anyone say it was worth anything?!!

  13. I loved this book when I was a kid. I'm sure it has had some primal influence on my life in some way. Nice to know that Mr Thompson is still working. More power to him , a truly great comics artist.

  14. Graham has another cult following as a creator of jigsaws and other graphic puzzles. It was my great pleasure as to have commissioned a lot of this stuff from him in the 1990s. We never met face to face but he was lovely guy to work with — taking a vague brief of a scenario I thought might be amusing, he'd bring it beautifully to life in the first rough every time. And, as he never wanted any of them back, I still cherish some of his original artworks. I recently heard that he finally retired about a year ago, citing waning eyesight. Thanks for flagging him up here; I now need to find a copy of his Bugsy Malone!

  15. I read this Bugsy Malone comic when I was about 8 or 9...far too young to understand anything. I had no idea what a speakeasy was, or what a splurge gun was (I think I thought it was a particularly horrendous form of death). I must have reread the comic about 30 times, loving the action and the drawings, but completely missing the historical basis or any sexual or racial subtext. Didn't even find out it was a musical or movie until about ten years later. Weird!