London is Stranger than Fiction
February 16, 2022 2:35 AM   Subscribe

London is Stranger than Fiction
… was a 1950s newspaper cartoon strip by the artist and historian Peter Jackson (not that one). Appearing weekly in London’s Evening News and modelled closely on Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Jackson’s strips recounted the true stories and fascinating trivia of London’s bizarre past. They’re as eye-opening today as ever, and still an excellent guide for anyone with a sense of curiosity about the city. In one 1950 strip alone, Jackson covers London’s earthquake panic of 1750, the reinforced hats worn by Billingsgate fish porters, a remarkable tomb in Bunhill Fields and where to find the West End’s clock in a barrel. Elsewhere in his career, he succeeded the great Frank Bellamy on Eagle’s Marco Polo strip and painted dozens of historic scenes for the British educational comic Look and Learn. You can see a handful of my own favourite LISTF strips in this Twitter thread and read my full PlanetSlade essay about the series and Jackson’s other work here.

“I first came across Jackson’s work in December 2021, when I spotted a vintage LISTF collection on a stall selling used books in Islington. I handed over my cash, brought the book home, and devoured it that afternoon. Every strip brought more of Jackson’s characteristically quirky revelations: the Smithfield statue with a real wedding ring welded to its hand; the one-legged man hired to demonstrate the Tube’s first escalator; the eminent London doctor who tried to shoot out one of his own teeth. I learned for the first time of Jenny Diver, the queen of Covent Garden’s pickpockets, discovered why Charles I’s Whitehall statue had to be buried in a Holborn garden and chuckled at Jackson’s depiction of a thieves’ college that once thrived near London Bridge.” [Extracted from my essay.]
Role: Researcher, writer & publisher.
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