Scottish cartoonist David Sutherland is set to receive an OBE for “services to Illustration” in Britain’s New Year Honours list. Sutherland, 90, has been an artist for Britain’s Beano anthology comic where he has worked as regular artist for the title for over sixty years.
While OBE Honours Lists, which are ostensibly civic awards bestowed by the British monarch, are regular occurrences it is still rare-to-infrequent for comics creators and cartoonists to be given recognition for their services to culture and illustration. Seemingly the last recipient of an honour in the cartooning space prior to Sutherland would be political cartoonist Peter Brookes in 2017. Grant Morrison and Mark Millar have received an honour (both MBEs) in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
An OBE, which stands for ‘Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire’, is – according to the Gazette – “awarded to individuals who have made major contributions at a local level, or whose work has gained a national profile.” It tends to be awarded to contributions to the arts and sciences.
The Beano is a weekly that debuted in 1938, and is considered the world’s longest running comic (currently well past four thousand issues – and not including annuals and specials). Published by Scotland’s DC Thomson, it is home to a number of classic characters including (Britain’s) Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, Roger the Dodger, and the Bash Street Kids. The latter of which is what Sutherland is most closely associated, having been drawing the anarchic characters of the Bash Street Kids gang of class 2B after Leo Baxendale, the strip’s original artist since 1954, left in 1962. He has been faithfully drawing the strip – which is a regular feature in the Beano – for over 60 years in a near unbroken run. He also worked on Dennis the Menace between 1970 and 1988.
David Sutherland said:
“When I entered the DC Thomson art competition more than 60 years ago, I couldn’t have guessed where it might lead. I’ve been so lucky to be able to do something I love for a living, and work with so many talented writers whose words have helped bring these characters to life. Working on The Bash Street Kids for so long, these mischievous kids have become a second family to me, and I continue to love spending time in their company. To them – Danny, Toots and the rest – I’d like to extend my thanks, and of course to the readers, who I hope continue to enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoy drawing them.”
Born 1933 and hailing from the Invergordon, in the Scottish Highlands, David Sutherland’s family moved to Stirling following the death of his mother and to be closer to his father’s family, to help with his and his sibling’s care. He served a commercial illustration apprenticeship in Glasgow with Rex Studios where he would draw product advertisements and at the same time took night classes at the Glasgow School of Art. After entering a drawing competition organised by DC Thomson in 1959, he was offered a job despite not landing the top prize.
As he said in a 2022 Sunday Post interview,
“I didn’t win the competition but I did win a prize. I was delighted because there was a fantastic number of artists who had competed. The editor of the Beano, Harold Cramond, then took me under his wing and helped me mould my career in comics, and for that I am truly grateful.”
With his ability to mimic the styles of DC Thomson’s top cartoonists of the era – Leo Baxendale, David Law and Dudley Watkins – Sutherland settled well at the publisher. It was his taking on the pranks, shenanigans and escapades of the Bash Street Kids in 1962 that truly cemented both him and the characters at the heart of the Beano for over sixty years.
According to the Sunday Post:
“It was Sutherland’s success here that saw the [Bash Street Kids] double from a single page to two and move to the Beano’s coveted centre spread. He has drawn well over 3,000 individual instalments in the comic, and when you include all of the specials and annuals one would imagine it’s now well over 4,000 episodes.”
He resides in Broughty Ferry, a suburb of the city of Dundee, Scotland.