GINGER MEGGS by James Kemsley

Updated on Aug 01, 2002 07:58 PM IST

James Kemsley's professional cartooning career began with The Traralgon Journal in 1967, as the paper's editorial cartoonist.

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Born in Sydney on November 15, 1948, James Kemsley's professional cartooning career began with the Victorian regional twice-weekly The Traralgon Journal in 1967, as that paper's editorial cartoonist. The job, trying to clone the inspired works of Victorian cartooning icons Jeff Hook and WEG, lasted for two years until Kemsley moved back to the big smoke of Paddington, New South Wales.

During the 1970s, Kemsley worked as a children's TV presenter for the Nine Network, eventually seeking refuge and solace in the UK, studying drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and working as art director and cartoonist on the Punch Publications' travel monthly "In Focus." During the 1980s, he freelanced in London as both a journalist and cartoonist while at the same time seeing the world as a tour guide with the legendary Top Deck Travel. It was while gainfully employed with Top Deck that Kemsley created his first comic strip "Frogin'," this time cloning Johnny Hart. The strip was initially monthly for the company's passenger magazine "The Decker," and then weekly for the "Australasian Express."

In 1983, following the sudden death of comic artist Lloyd Piper, Kemsley was asked to submit for the "Ginger Meggs" gig. Third choice for the job, circumstances prevailed, eliminating front-runners Ken Emerson and Jim Russell and giving Kemsley the challenge of becoming the fourth artist to breathe life into the legendary Australian strip and the opportunity to clone the strip's creator, Jimmy Bancks.

In 1993, while contemplating his bank balance, the tenuous employment thread and the lack of long-term job security in producing a weekly comic strip for only two papers, Sydney's The Sun-Herald and Adelaide's Sunday Mail, Kemsley developed "Ginger Meggs" as a daily comic. With the support of a number of regional editors, the strip was soon paying its way. Within a year, the comic was running throughout the country and soon became the widest syndicated strip in Australia, a position it has held for the last four years, with a client base of 100 plus, including 41 of Australia's major daily newspapers. With the security that number of papers brings he finally began cloning himself.

In 1997, Kemsley's "Ginger Meggs" became the first Australian comic strip to be published daily in a major London newspaper when the UK Daily Express picked it up. Later that year, the Washington DC based "Strips" magazine also began publishing "Meggs."

In 1999, Kemsley was approached by and signed with the Florida-based syndicate, Editors' Press Service, now Atlantic Syndication. The partnership has resulted in the Aussie icon's finding a new life in papers outside his birthplace and becoming one of the most successfully syndicated strips in
Australian comic history. Currently "Ginger Meggs" is translated and published in over 20 countries from Saudi Arabia and South Africa to Mexico and Bolivia, Thailand and Hong Kong to India and Barbados, the USA and Guatemala to Venezuela and The Dominican Republic.

In July 2000, the giant U.S. software developers Adobe headlined Kemsley and "Meggs" as a cutting edge in comic strip on their 28 web sites worldwide e-magazines, in 16 languages.

Earlier this year, Kemsley's two 1990s comic publications for Scholastic Publishing, "The Cartoon Book" and "The Cartoon Book 2," both of which feature "Ginger Meggs," topped 400,000 in the USA and a total of 600,000 sales worldwide. Combined with sales of previous publications, including his first novel, the best selling "Ginger Meggs at Large," Kemsley has now sold in excess of 850,000 books. To date he has written and-or illustrated, or contributed to approximately 40 books and has participated in 36 cartoon/comic exhibitions in Australia and overseas.

Kemsley is a past president of the Australian Cartoonists' Association and winner of the Stanley for Best Comic Strip, the Silver Stanley for his contribution to Australian comic art and the Gold Stanley for Cartoonist of the Year. James is the only recipient of all three categories of the Stan Cross Awards. He is dual silver medal winner at the Rotary Club of Coffs Harbour's annual national and international cartoon awards.


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