Possibly the saddest ever opening to a Beano story was the one
that awaited readers on the back cover of the first issue. Beneath
a scene of a crying woman and a thoughtful professor, ran the
following rhyme - 'Professor Lee is deep in gloom, While sounds of
sobbing fill the room, For it had been a bitter blow, When his son
had died a year ago.'
This hardly seems like a cue for laughs, but by the second
frame, the professor is looking a lot more excited. "We're sad
because we've lost our son," he tells his wife. "But I'll try to
make another one." And that's exactly what he does, constructing a
clockwork boy out of cogs and springs in his work-room. 'Now see
the Professor show his wife, Their clockwork son chock-full of
life. And Mr Lee jumps as he thinks of the fun, He'll have with
Tommy, his tin-can son.'
And there was plenty of fun with 'The Clockwork Boy' between
1938 and 1947. Over the years, he gained a robot pal, Babe, and
even a mechanical horse called Ironsides.
Artwork on the early Tin-Can Tommy stories - originally titled
'The Adventures of Robert the Robot' - was produced in Milan by the
Torelli Brothers, but hostilities between Britain and Italy during
the Second World War meant that artwork had to be sought closer to
home, with staff artists Sam Fair, George Drysdale and Chic Gordon
ensuring the adventures of our clockwork chum proceeded like a