Layabout Andy Capp was the target of controversy - and awards

James Bolam as Andy Capp in the TV series.
James Bolam as Andy Capp in the TV series.

The first Andy Capp cartoon was printed in The Mirror on August 5, 1957. It was an immediate success.

Within months, the strips were being sold worldwide – despite initially featuring controversial wife-beating scenes.

Reg Smythe pictured with drawing pen in hand.

Reg Smythe pictured with drawing pen in hand.

Indeed, one drawing showed Flo with a bruised face and the caption: “I’m a man of few pleasures, and one of them ’appens to be knocking you down.”

“Reg later stated this cartoon was dreadful. Although they were to be taken with a pinch of salt, he toned the cartoons down,” said cousin Ian.

“From then on, he made Andy the butt of his wife’s aggression, a layabout who had to step in line when Flo clicked her fingers.”

By the late 1960s, awards had started pouring in for Reg, including the American equivalent of a cartoon Oscar in 1974.

Andy was also immortalised in statue form, as a musical, in several TV shows – including the Simpsons – and with his own TV series, starring James Bolam.

But by this time, Reg had had enough of the London rat-race and returned to his native Hartlepool, buying a five-bedroom house.

“It was here that he continued to pen Andy’s cartoon capers almost every day for the next 20 years, until just before his death,” said Ian.

Reg was in his late 60s when his beloved mother, Florrie, died in 1982. He took comfort in the thought that she would live on through his Andy Capp drawings.

His wife of 46 years, Vera, then died in 1997 and, only a few weeks later, Reg was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Despite his illness, Reg continued to draw and, in 1998, he married Jean Glynn at his home. He died there just weeks later.

“Reg drew several Andy Capp strips days before his death. He knew they would be his last,” said Ian.