ROBERT T NIXON [1939-2002] is revered mainly for his highly-accomplished comics works for D.C. Thomson and IPC, in which he established his highly appealling, cheery style that was intensely commercial and attractive . His work appears to have been inspired greatly by the style of the great Roy Wilson, whose work had so graced the comics of Amalgamated Press as the young Bob was growing up.
'Bob' was a native of Middlesborough, and after attending Art College [sadly cut short due to the death of his father] he entered the Lithography business, however, the lure of the nib proved powerful enough for him to prepare art samples to mail into D.C. Thomson in 1965, who were suitably impressed enough with his considerable potential to try him out 'ghosting' established one-off pages [the normal route for a beginner within this field] which included Little Plum. This led to Bob being given the regular Roger the Dodger spot after Ken Reid had vacated this position after defecting to Odhams. Bob's early strips featuring this character were accomplished but somewhat ill-at-ease in some respects, as if he was not fully comfortable in trying to emulate Reid's unmistakable style [no mean feat!]: however, come late 1968, and his own natural style shone through brightly, and the look of the strip benefitted greatly after the shackles of slavishly trying to embue Ken's trademarks were cast aside.
By 1969, his work was immensely polished, and he began alternating with Dudley D Watkins' Lord Snooty, eventually taking the strip over completely on a weekly basis. Even in comparison to the master Watkins, Bob's version of the Bunkerton Earl and his merry associates was exquisitely-rendered, which gives some indication of how far his ability had developed by this period: one further BEANO character sprang from his pen in this early-era D.C. Thomson period; Grandpa, another Ken Reid creatio that was ressurected from the Fifties. His other work for D.C. Thomson generated from SPARKY , : Esky Mo, [set in the Frozen North], and also Captain Cutler and his Butler, a two-page 'expedition' satire, which remains Bob's only full-colour work for the company in this first period.
Bob left D.C. Thomson's pastures around early 1973; or at any rate, his characters were still running in their comics very early in this year. Why he relocated to IPC is unclear: certainly, his skills must have been in demand at BEANO especially [his successors never came anywhere near to emulating the exuberant skill of his work on these characters]: perhaps the offer of more freedom of creativity with IPC was a factor, or whether or not it was a financial decision is lost in the mists of time. Nixon also collaborated on a newspaper strip with longtime associate Trevor Metcalfe in this year: The Gems in The Sun newspaper. Based on the same lines as Schulz' PEANUTS strip with philisophical, cherubic imps, this venture was short-lived.
Arriving at IPC offered up very different assignments for BOB: the direct antithesis of the 'wholesome-and-steeped-in-tradition' D.C. Thomson, his new empoyers were in 1973 in the midst of putting together highly novel [if 'gimmick-laden'] 'Horror Funnies', the first of which, Shiver and Shake was launched early this year. Aside more traditional 'ghosting' assignments, Bob adapted to the concept of 'full-blooded' cartoon horror so beloved of IPC in this period, with highlights of his output including Frankie Stein for Whoopee! and Gums and Kid Kong [see illustration above] for Monster Fun in 1974 and 1975 respectively. It is a mark of Nixon's work that his adaptations of well-known horror icons in this rich period yielded his customary highly appealing factor: lesser artists would have gone down the more obviously 'horror' route. It has to be said, however, that his first-ever depiction of Frankie Stein [lying awaiting to be activated on an operating table-like platform] was uncharacteristically chilling! But, in comparison to the 'frankly' macabre original REID version, Nixon's Frankie was appealling, 'cuddly' and cartoon-like.