SYDNEY — He suffered through the Great Depression, witnessed the technological revolution, survived two world wars and a pandemic, and lived under 24 prime ministers.
But now Australia’s oldest 12-year-old, Ginger Meggs, has taken the next step. It’s his 100th birthday.
Once dubbed Down Under’s Peter Pan by former Prime Minister John Curtin, Australia’s favorite boy made his debut as part of the Us Fellers comic strip in Sydney’s Sunday Sun newspaper in 1921.
Ginger Meggs outlived its creator Jimmy Bancks and its three successors, but is still published daily in 34 countries, including Australia, making it the country’s longest-running comic.
To celebrate, the original artist’s great-great-great-nephew Tristan Bancks has teamed up with current comic book steward Jason Chatfield to create a book introducing the larrikin to a new generation. .
Although his appearance and the challenges he faces have changed in 100 years, Bancks says the character is timeless.
“He has enthusiasm, energy and resilience. He pursues these great goals,” he said.
“They often end in disaster, but he always dusts himself off and tries again.
“In general, we like to think that we are like that, or at least we would like to be like that.”
Ginger kept the kids company through huge story events and helped them process and understand the world around them.
He crossed the Harbor Bridge when it opened in 1932, met cricketing legend Don Bradman and more recently felt the effects of the Black Summer bushfires and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I think at some point, and Ginger also shot down an enemy warplane in World War II!” Banks said.
However, comics are at their best when they offer children an escape from the world.
“For example, during the Great Depression, ginger was a way for people to laugh and not think about their problems.”
“After the year we’ve all had, reading stories about this resilient, energetic and positive character is just what kids need – maybe parents and grandparents too.”
Ginger and the gang – including girlfriend Minnie Peters and nemesis Tiger Kelly – are still living up to their old antics in the new book, which is made up of four stories.
In the one inspired by Bancks’ son, Ginger dreams of building a billion-dollar empire selling lamingtons. In another, the pre-teen plans his journey to becoming Australian Prime Minister.
“The story is based on this line from an old Ginger comic, the main one of which was, ‘Either you’ll end up Prime Minister someday Ginger Meggs, or you’ll end up in jail. Maybe both’.
Bancks has written children’s books before, but he didn’t lose the privilege of writing this one.
“It means a lot to me.”
“I feel so honored to be able to play in the sandbox of this world that was created 100 years ago and to be able to use these characters in stories.”
Bancks is excited but nervous.
“My challenge was to try to make it relevant for kids who are going to read the book, but also hopefully for people who have been reading Ginger Meggs for 70 or 80 years.”
“I would love to think that (my great-great-uncle) would read this book and feel like I captured the essence of Ginger.
“I hope he would be proud.”
Ginger Meggs the book will launch at the Sydney Writers Festival on May 2 and will be available in stores from May 4.
(Editing by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Ojaswin Kathuria)