Giles - Making the annuals
How Giles compiled the million-selling annuals.
The idea of reprinting Giles’ cartoons in book form began when he was at Reynolds News. In November 1940 a reader wrote to the editor to say “I know all about the paper shortage but what about a ‘Giles Annual? God knows we need some sort of a Xmas-box of this kind in these grim days, to send to people.” However, it was not until 1946, when Giles was at the Daily Express, that the first collection of Giles cartoons appeared, in a similar format to the prewar albums of cartoons by Daily Express cartoonist Sidney Strube.
Giles continued to produce an annual volume until his death in 1995, but the selection of cartoons was never easy. His daily cartoons were designed to be funny the morning after he drew them, and Giles confessed that with the annuals “one of my most difficult tasks is...finding enough self-explanatory cartoons to fill it”: “Working on the same day as the paper is produced, to keep as near to the topical news as I can, the idea gets over on the day. But a year later most of the public have forgotten the scene.” One solution was to add explanatory notes, but that was never satisfactory, and many topical cartoons were simply dropped.
Giles also excluded some cartoons about which he had second thoughts. In 1964, for example, the pirate station Radio Caroline began broadcasting from a ship moored off the Suffolk coast, and Giles drew a cartoon of Father talking to his radio and calling the DJ a “banal, treacly-mouthed patronising creep.” This was certainly Giles’ opinion of DJs, but he dropped the cartoon from that year’s annual as he “felt it would have appeared to many people as being perhaps a little unkind.”
Giles also took the opportunity to revise some of the cartoons reprinted in the annuals. This was either because he felt unhappy with them, or because mistakes had been pointed out to him. Giles confessed that mistakes were easily made “in the usual rugby scrum to make deadline”, and republication gave him an opportunity to rework the original drawing. One example was published in the Sunday Express in July 1987, when Giles mistakenly drew the stationary car facing in the wrong direction on the motorway. The paste-up for the annual was marked “Alter original - add traffic on left”, and Giles duly reversed the direction arrow, and added extra lanes of traffic, in an attempt to hide the mistake.
For Giles one of the great delights of making the annual was creating the cover. These coloured covers were a labour of love which took Giles months to complete, and often involved revisions and additions. When he finally submitted the cover for the 1986 annual, showing a stately home with famous statues carefully copied from photographs, Giles warned the production staff that it “represents six months of trial and error and has so many patches stuck on for alterations that it will break if you drop it.”