'Crazy Kink'

Bert Hill was one of the main artists for the British story papers published by the Bath-based Provincial Comics and its follow-up Target Publications during the 1930s. He was responsible for many of both company's front-page and back-page comic strips, carrying revealing titles such as 'Breezy Moments on Wurzel Farm' (1931-1932), 'Crazy Kink the Goofy Gangster' (1933-1936), 'Charlie Chuckle' (1933-1939) and 'Barnacle Ben, the Breezy Buccaneer' (1933-1936). During the 1950s his art appeared in color in several comic books published by Gerald Swan.

Early life and career
Albert Hill was born in 1901 on Guernsey in the Channel Islands. His father was a gardener while his mother owned a shop. At the age of 13 Hill left school to become a projectionist in a local film theater. He later took a job in a printing firm, where his ability to draw was noticed by his boss. He encouraged the young man to contact the Amalgamated Press in London. Soon his cartoons appeared in several penny comics. In 1920 his first cartoon saw print in the magazine Merry and Bright. Bert Hill created his first comic in 1929 for Larks magazine. He became one of the more prominent artists during the so-called "Golden Age" of British comics papers, although his main output of the 1930s was for two smaller publishing companies, both from Bath.

Breezy Moments on Wurzel Farm by Bert Hill

Provincial Comics
Hill became the front page artist of the new Midget Comic weekly by Jack Long's Provincial Comics in June 1931, drawing the character 'Sammy Spry'. When the comic changed its format to tabloid and its name to Merry Midget later that year, Hill took on the strip 'Frolics in the Far West' (1931). Hill drew the comic strip 'Breezy Moments on Wurzel Farm' (1931-1932) for another magazine edited by Long, Sparkler (not to be confused with the Amalgamated Press title of the same name which was launched in 1934). When Provincial Comics folded in the early 1930s, Hill initially took on a job as a typesetter. He returned to comics however in 1933, when former Provincial Comics artist Louis Diamond hired him for his new company Target Publications.

Rattler and Dazzler
Hill became a freelancer, and first worked for two of the new Target magazines, Rattler and Dazzler. To the first, he most notably contributed the front-page feature 'Crazy Kink the Goofy Gangster' (1933-1936), a burlesque gangster parody starring a wise-cracking, cigar-chomping Yankee. His main source for inspiration were the gangster movies of the time, especially the ones starring James Cagney. Another comic Hill made for Rattler was 'Willie Wart & Wally Warble' (1936-1939). Hill's 'Charlie Chuckle' (1933-1939) appeared on the front page of Dazzler from its first issue. His other comics for this magazine include 'Barnacle Ben, the Breezy Buccaneer' (1933-1936), 'Charlie Chalky' (1934), 'Gregory Gump' (1938) and 'Squirt & Squib'. Soon, Hill worked for the other Target magazines too, and became part of the company's core artist team, along with S.K. Perkins, G. Larkman, Harry Banger and Diamond himself.


'Freddie Freewheel'

Other work for Target Publications
'Freddie Freewheel the Tramp Cyclist' (1935-1938) appeared in Rocket, while and 'Mortimer the Monk' (1936) livened up Chuckler. In this paper, Hill also succeeded editor Louis Diamond as the artist of 'Sammy Smile' (1936), a character also known as "The World's Champion Chuckle Maker". 'Tom Tip and Tim Top, the Tricky Toddlers' (1935-1938) and 'Shorty Sam and Dusky Dan' entertained young readers in Target, while 'P.C. Copperclock the Desert Cop' (1938-1939) hunted villains like the Sly Sheik of Slipshod and Mustapha Jujube in Sunshine, from its first issue on 16 July 1938. Other Hill creations were 'Harry Coe', 'Tommy Trot the Tudor Tramp' and 'Western Willie the Cowboy'.

Harry Coe, by Bert Hill 1939
Harry Coe

Beween 1936 and 1938 Hill did graphic contributions to Target's giveaway comics magazine Ovaltiney's Own Comic, which was based on the popular radio show 'Ovaltiney's Concert Party' (1936-1939) on Radio Luxembourg. The show featured comedian Harry Hemsley who played a family and their four children, while he imitated all their voices. The magazine featured a comic strip based on the radio child characters named 'The Adventures of Elsie, Winnie and Johnny' (1936). Bert Hill's final new creation for Target Publications was 'Willie Scribble the Pavement Artist', which ran in The Bouncer.

Return to the Amalgamated Press
When Amalgamated Press bought out the Target magazines in April 1939, Hill's comics were cancelled. He returned to the AP, where he created new features, such as 'Puckville Pranks' (which appeared in Puck) and 'Lil and Lena' (which appeared in Butterfly). Hill was known for being able to skilfully copy other artists' styles, so he was also assigned to take over 'The Chimps' from Ray Bailey in Sparkler and 'Will Hay' from Bertie Brown in The Jolly Comic.

World War II
In 1939 the United Kingdom got involved in World War II. Nazi Germany occupied the Channel Islands and Hill could therefore not continue his work for his London-based client. Instead he worked for the children's features of the local newspaper, The Guernsey Star. He got his revenge after the war when he made various postcards celebrating the Liberation. One of these has become iconic and pictures Guernsey's local symbol, a donkey, kicking a German soldier away from the island. The original cartoon is still on display today in Guernsey's local museum.


From: 'Coloured Slick Fun' #72

Swan publications
After the war Hill returned to his comics activities, this time for Gerald G. Swan's comic book publications. Among Hill's new creations were such slapstick series as 'Chubby and Chirpy' (1949) and 'Curly Coughdrop' (1950) in Coloured Slick Fun, 'Betty and Brian' (1950) in Kiddyfun, 'Mike the Mule' (1950) for Cute Fun, 'Inspector Slop the Plain Clothes Cop' (1950) for The Funnies Album, 'Willie Write' (1952) in Slick Fun Album and finally 'Target Ship' (1953) and 'Desert Island Fun' (1956) for Comicolour Album. Unlike his pre-war comics, most of his work appeared in color this time.

Later life
Around 1960, Bert Hill retired to Chichester, West Sussex, where he spent his days lettering showcards for local shops. In the late 1970s, Hill did regular contributions to the Comic Cuts newsletter of The Association of Enthusiasts, edited by Denis Gifford, in which he reflected on his career. Hill died on 22 October 1986, aged 84. Albert Hill should not be confused with the artist Bert Hill, who worked on several British girls comics from the 1970s through the 1990s.


'Inspector Slop, the Plain Clothes Cop' (The Funnies Album 1950).

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