Sunday, 26 July 2009

Off the plank: John Ryan

John Ryan died last week. Ryan was the creator of ‘Captain Pugwash,’ which started out as a strip for ‘The Eagle’ comic in 1950 and ended up as an ‘animated’ children’s series of five minute episodes for the BBC, which lasted into the ‘80s. The ‘animation’ was done in real-time, by Ryan himself and helpers, by manipulating cut-out drawings to a tape of the script. The early episodes were performed live.
Captain Pugwash was a pirate who was apparently brave, handsome and clever, but was in fact greedy, cowardly and inept. His ability to come through all his escapades, with his useless crew and ship, the Black Pig, relatively unscathed was always down to Tom, the quick-witted cabin boy, who never got any of the credit. The series was undoubtedly the best thing on TV when I was growing up.
This is a scan from a 1988 Puffin reprint of the first book, ‘Captain Pugwash – a Pirate Story,’ originally published in 1957. The drawings are simpler than in later books, but the stories are full of wit and often very funny.
There’s a bit about Pugwash on Toonhound and there are several clips from episodes on YouTube, but you’ll have to visit here to hear the sublime theme tune.

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