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The Staff Entrance



In the beginning there was a car. And young Mr. Dickens, moved to write a cartoon strip about it, hit on the idea of giving it a driver. An inexpert, clumsy driver with no time to look after it properly. Thus was born a strip about car maintenance.

Except, of course, that the driver was much more interesting than the car. Here is strip no 1, published in the Evening Standard on 6 March 1962. Already the car is in the background. We meet Bristow and Fudge and their entire relationship is encapsulated in a single frame.

I had always thought that this was the birth of Bristow. Thanks to Treve Brown of Brown's Booksearch, I learned in October 2009 that the first Bristow strip was published in the Aberdeen Press and Journal. Soon after, on a visit to the British Newspaper Library, I verified for myself that Bristow made his debut in that paper on on 18 September 1961. That strip was the same as strip 1 in the Standard and it was accompanied by the following blurb

A strip cartoon for tired business men - and without a pretty girl in it?
Someone's sure to say "Impossible!"
Something to make tycoons titter, chairmen chuckle and clerks chortle - and just about men in an office.
Someone's sure to to say "Oh really!"
But just watch BRISTOW the sophisticated strip man for everybody who works or ever worked in an office.

and the next day they published the one shown below (I thank for making it available)

This one was published in the Evening Standard on 12 March 1962, numbered 6. More research is needed to establish how many strips appeared in the Press and Journal and what happened once the Standard began publishing, and in particular how many strips made it from one to the other and how many did not. Of the strips published in the Press and Journal up to June 1962, about 80 were never published in the Standard and the rest appeared in a different order. In those days each strip was self-contained, rather than forming part of a story told over the week, so the publication order did not really matter.

In The Big Big Big Bristow Book, published in 2001 by Little, Brown, Dickens tells the story of how he began to write about Bristow. He has also redrawn strip 1 but I prefer the original. After all, the theme of so many strips is Bristow glorying in being late, in being a regular signer of the late book in reception, of travelling into town with the insouciant idlers known as the late-late crowd. He has learned much in his eight and two thirds years with Chester-Perry.

As to why a buying clerk, Dickens drew on his rather limited experience of office life. To him, only a post-boy was lower. Even in late 1950s London there were brutally large, dominating office blocks where faceless men and women toiled in the mysterious depths. The Chester-Perry company, drunken salesmen, gabby tea-ladies, ranting managers, oppressed clerks, dreaming typists and plotting post-boys emerged smoothly, fully-formed, the perfect receptacle in which to dump the laziest office worker ever depicted.