Australia’s longest running comic strip was created by Jimmy Bancks and named for its main character, Ginger Meggs. An independent and mischievous lad with a healthy disrespect for authority, he embodies the qualities of the quintessential Aussie larrikin.
Ginger was introduced in the Sydney Sunday Sun newspaper comic strip called Us Fellers on the 13 November 1921. The name Ginger was selected because of the limitations in the three-colour printing process – blue, red or yellow – red being the only choice of hair colour.
One of many characters in the first episode, Ginger soon emerged as the star character under Bancks’ scriptwriting. He acquired a dog, Mike, and a younger brother, called Dudley. Bancks developed a best mate, Benny, a girlfriend, Minnie Peters, and a rival for her affections in Eddie Coogan. The cast also included Ginger’s fighting foe, Tiger Kelly.
The first Sunbeams Annual, which appeared in 1924, featured ‘More Adventures of Ginger Meggs’. The annuals were on every Australian child’s wish-list and would continue to be massively popular for 35 years.
When Bancks died in July 1952, cartoonist Ron Vivian took up the Meggs’ mantle, drawing the strip until his death in 1973. Lloyd Piper followed, creating further adventures until his passing in 1984. Many noted artists submitted work for the vacant post as a Meggs’ cartoonist. James Kemsley inherited the role and continued the legacy until his death in 2007.
Just before he died, Kemsley wrote to the Bancks family to secure approval for Jason Chatfield to succeed him. Born in Perth, Chatfield was the youngest cartoonist and writer to take on the iconic Ginger Meggs strip, which today appears in over 120 papers in 34 countries worldwide.