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Friday, January 27, 2023

Music and Comics: John Lennon's favourite comic - Earwig-Man v Superdinosaur

J. Edward Oliver (JEO) may not be that recognisable a name to many of today's comic book fans but in the 1970’s he was one of the UKs most popular cartoonist who produced an immensely successful weekly cartoon strip that appeared in the UK music paper “Disc” (later the “Record Mirror”). His weekly strip featured many zany characters, but by far the most popular of these was the dinosaur called Fresco Le Raye who JEO put into many satirical and fun situations including the parody strip (below) of the Marvel/DC cross company “Superman v Spider-Man” team up comic book.
So popular was “Fresco” that the character gained a fan club which attracted over 4,000 members each of whom received a sticker, a newsletter, a certificate, and a badge. Members were also allowed to enter regular competitions where they could win prizes, the most famous prize being a plastic warthog.
JEO started his cartooning career in the late 1960’s when he created the “Instant Garbage” comic book which led in 1970, to the music paper “Disc” hiring him as their pop cartoonist. Here he created the strip that would eventually become known simply as “J. Edward Oliver” (originally it was called “E C Ryder” after one of his characters). The strip featured weekly parodies of TV shows, comic characters and film and pop stars of the day. However, of all the people that JEO regularly featured in his weekly strip he was best known for his "obsession" with the actress/model Madeline Smith who he would feature in most of his weekly strips. Following the publication of the "Life and times of the Madeline Smith" page (above) which was wholly devoted to Madeline, she called him to complain about his constant depiction of her in his work. JEO and Madeline Smith eventually came to an agreement that JEO would no longer use her in his weekly strip providing that he could use her phone conversation as part of a final cartoon featuring Ms Smith. She ageed and JEO never again used her in any of his cartoon strips.
Above a copy of the "Disc" pop paper which featured the "J. Edward Oliver" cartoon page which was printed as either a full or half broadsheet sized page.
Above two strips featuring Fresco Le Raye as "Superdinosaur" and JEO's parody of Swamp/Man-Thing. Below a picture of JEO's "muse" Madeline Smith.
Despite the strips many fans (it was John Lennon's favourite strip), it was eventually axed at the end of November 1977 due to an editorial decison which many attributed to the arrival of Punk rock which allegedly made the strip looked "dated". After the J.Edward Oliver strip ended he moved into working in UK humour comics (Buster, Whizzer & Chips etc) where he created many popular children’s characters like “Master Mind,” and “Cliff Hanger”. When the long running “Buster” comic ceased publication at the beginning of 2000, JEO was the last artist left drawing original material. His last work for the comic was the now famous "How It All Ends" page (see below) where many of the comics characters stories are wound up in a single panel joke. Most famously the strip revealed that the real reason Buster never took off his flat cap was because his hair style was the same as the (UK) character “Dennis the Menace”.
Sadly, Jack (as he was known) passed away in 2007 at the age of 64.


  1. It's not often I read about some comic or cartoonist which I had no previous knowledge of, even if it was merely seeing the name. But that's the case here. Thanks for a fascinating overview. I am reminded somewhat of the later Cerebus and how he's used today by Dave Sim.

  2. Glad it was of interest. JEO was a big name in the early 1970s with fans of music and alternative zany type comics . There were probably few "pure" superhero fans that picked Disc/Record Mirror up if they weren't music fans so they probably missed this

    Good point re Dave Sims later work I never thought of that .

  3. I must confess that Disc and Record Mirror totally passed me by, so your blog entry was a great introduction to the work of JEO. Presumably you kept your original copies? I'm sure the Madeleine Smith issue didn't hurt the sales figures ; many a teenage lad had a crush on her on those days.

  4. I kept the JEO pages above with the exception of the 'Secret origin of Superdinosaur" (3rd strip) which my mate scanned from his collection for me from his music paper collection). I used to clip out all the JEO pages most weeks but sadly I lost or misplaced them throughout the years

    I admit it, did indeed have a wee crush on Maddie as a teenager.

  5. I meant to add I don't have that Bowie issue of "Disc" ( I would love to get that one again) I took that image from the web to show where the strip appeared -I will need to note that later . I think that's all the strips/info I have on music press comic strips 😞

  6. Back in December there was a documentary on Radio 4 about the music in Hammer films and Madeline Smith was one of the people interviewed during the documentary.

  7. She was of course in a few Hammer films so I can see why she was interviewed Colin.


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