We're sorry to report the passing of the popular comics artist William Ritchie, who died suddenly at his home in Friockheim, Scotland, on Monday evening.
Born in 1931, he was best known for his work for DC Thomson for over 40 years. He had a long and industrious career, working on titles such as The Beezer, penning such favourites "Baby Crockett", for which he is best known, and "Smiffy" but drew many others strips such as "Barney" for Sparky.
Also a keen photographer and sculptor, he continued to work for DC Thomson even after retirement.
"Bill's enormous catalogue of work will be well known to every British comics fan," noted Beano sub-editor Iain McLaughlin earlier this week, reporting the sad news on the Comics UK forum. "For those of us who worked with Bill, he was one of the folk you always looked forward to seeing. You knew you'd have a good laugh and an interesting chat with Bill.
"His knowledge of comics and artists was extraordinary. And he was just a really nice guy, always gracious and helpful. A genuinely nice man who will be missed greatly by all of us who worked with him."
Scottish newspaper The Courier notes that Glasgow-born “Bill” or “Willie,” also illustrated for various international magazines and exhibited in several European comic book exhibitions and collaborated with Alison Mary Fitt, producing illustrations for the Clan McWee series of books in 2008.
He wasn't always known as a cartoonist: he was one of the country’s top cycle speedway riders as a teenager and competed in the first ever “international” match against England in 1949, and spent his National Service as a corporal in the Military Police, serving in the Korean War.
William is survived by his wife, Anne, and three children, Pete, Ian and Jacqueline. He had four granddaughters and a great-grandson, "all of whom brought him much joy", the Courier notes.
"Bill Ritchie's work was always gently amusing and very individualistic," says fellow comics creator Lew Stringer in his tribute to the artist. "The simplicity of the line disguised the absolute craftsmanship and skilled composition of his pages.
"There's no mistaking his style and it was always of the highest professional standard. Over the decades his work must have entertained millions of children, and that's a proud achievement that I hope will bring some comfort for his family in this time of loss."
• William Ritchie, born 1st August 1931, died 25th January 2010.
Pictures include (click for a larger version) "Baby Crocket" from The Beezer annual 1962, and a superb "Baby Crocket" strip reflecting Bill's superb colouring talents, also from a Beezer Annual; and "The Cat Street Kids" from a 1960 edition of New Hotspur. All images © DC Thomson
• Lew Stringer Tribute
• Peter Gray's Bill Ritchie Gallery
• The Courier news report on Bill's passing