Bluey and Curley

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Bluey and Curley
First appearance1939
Created byAlex Gurney

Bluey and Curley is an Australian newspaper comic strip written by the Australian artist, caricaturist, and cartoonist Alex Gurney.[1]

Few original Bluey and Curley strips are held in public collections, because, throughout his lifetime, Alex Gurney was renowned for his generous habit of giving the original art work of his caricatures, cartoons, and comic strips to anyone who asked.[2] Following Gurney's death in 1955 the strip was taken over by Norm Rice in early 1956 but he died in a vehicle accident that year. Bluey and Curley was then taken over by cartoonist Les Dixon who drew these characters for 18 years until he retired in 1975.


The first Bluey and Curley strip appeared soon after the start of World War II. It featured two Australian soldiers, Bluey (who had served in the First AIF), and Curley, a new recruit.

By the end of the war, they had served in every Australian campaign — in North Africa, in the Middle East, in New Guinea, in Northern Australia, and in the Pacific Islands — and, once the war was over, they even went to London and took part in the 1946 Victory Parade.

   Bluey and Curley epitomised what was seen as the typical Australian soldier. They liked a drink, a gamble and a chat (in colourful Aussie slang of course), and they always had some scheme afoot. They had a healthy disregard for officers and regulations and were quick to bring down any mates who were getting too big for their boots. Despite their larrikin streak, they were fearless, resilient and skilled in battle.
   Alex Gurney, the creator of Bluey & Curley, produced the strip from 1940 until his death in 1955. It was syndicated across Australia and appeared in New Zealand, New Guinea, and Canada (but was considered too Australian for American newspapers).[3]


By 1939 Alex Gurney was already well established as a caricaturist, cartoonist, and comic strip artist.

In late 1939, following the outbreak of World War II, he created his most famous characters, Bluey and Curley,[4] which first appeared in the Picture-News magazine.

He applied for the copyright registration of Bluey and Curley on 16 October 1939; and his application was granted on 9 November 1939 (Australian Copyright No.6921).[5]


It was transferred to The Sun News-Pictorial in 1940, from whence it was syndicated throughout Australia,[6] New Zealand and Canada.[7]

Cultural impact[edit]

The strip featured a pair of soldiers, "Bluey" (named for his red hair),[8] the Great War veteran who had re-enlisted in the second A.I.F., and Curley (named for his extremely curly hair), the new recruit to the A.I.F.[9]

The strip was widely appreciated for the good-humoured way it depicted the Australian "diggers" and their "mateship", as well as for its realistic use of Australian idiom of the day.[10]

Service life[edit]

Gurney visited army camps throughout Australia and New Guinea to ensure authenticity.[11] While in New Guinea he contracted malaria and was incapacitated for some time.[12]

Alex Gurney (second from left) presenting the original art work of a Bluey and Curley comic strip to soldiers of the 2/12th Battalion in New Guinea, 5 March 1944.[13]

Post-war life[edit]

Gurney was in England in June 1946, as part of an Australian Press Syndicate sent specifically to view the Victory Parade. As well as sending caricatures of various eminent people involved in that parade back to Australia for distribution through the press, he also used the opportunity to have Bluey and Curley attend the parade, and a number of his Bluey and Curley comic strips reflected that event.[14]

Gurney's visit to London, and his version of events, as seen through his Bluey and Curley comic strip, was also historically significant for another reason: it was the first time that a newspaper comic strip had ever been transmitted from England to Australia by radio.[15]

Although Bluey and Curley were popular with Australians because they related to the slang, attitude, and the lack of respect towards authority exhibited by the main characters,[16] the strip lost some of its appeal and readership when the pair returned to "civvy street".[17]

Gurney's death[edit]

Gurney died suddenly, of heart disease, on 4 December 1955. He had collapsed in his car parked outside his home.[18] He was cremated with Anglican rites.


The strip was later drawn by Norman Howard Rice (1911–1956). Rice died as the result of a car accident on 31 December 1956 (New Year's Eve).[19] The strip was then drawn by Les Dixon from 1957 until 1975.


The comic was adapted into a TV film Mud, Bloody Mud in 1985.

The Original[edit]


  1. ^ Compare the simpler graphic style of the earliest, war-time strips ([1]), with the much later far more developed style of the 1955 version ([2] plus [3]).
  2. ^ For example, The Talk of the Town:The Tax Paradox, The (Adelaide Mail, ((Saturday, 7 October 1933), p.7; [4].
  3. ^ Australian War Memorial Resource Book: Memorial Box No.6, pp.26-27.
  4. ^ Memento for Cartoonist, The Mercury, (Tuesday, 20 November 1945), p.11.
  5. ^ Australian National Archives (Item Number A1861).
  6. ^ [5]; [6]; [7]; [8]; [9].
  7. ^ It was syndicated throughout Canada as "Bluey and Curley of the Anzacs: [10]; [11].
  8. ^ As was the case, in real life, with the champion Essendon centre half-back Ian "Bluey" Shelton.
  9. ^ Even though it was sometimes used to refer to those with an abundant crop of very curly/wavey hair, in the strongly ironic Australian idiom of the day (where, for example, someone as diminutive as Elton John would be referred to as "Lofty"), the nick-name "Curly" (or "Curley") was almost exclusively given to those with little or no hair. From the late 1930s the somewhat balding, enthusiastic amateur fisherman Alex Gurney, was universally known at the Elwood Angling Club by his nick-name "Curley", and his red-headed mate, Len Anderson was universally known as "Bluey". The nick-names given to each became so much a part of their life that the boat that they fished in was named "Bluey and Curley" (Eidelson, 2006).
  10. ^ Panozzo, S., "Gurney, Alexander George (Alex) (1902 - 1955)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, (1996).
  11. ^ [12]; [13]; [14]; [15]; [16]; [17].
  12. ^ We're Also Rationed, The Courier-Mail, (Wednesday 6 September 1944), p.3.
  13. ^ This photograph, held by the Australian War Museum, was obviously taken at the same time, with the same subjects, and in the same location as [18], and [19].
  14. ^ Bluey and Curley,The (Perth) Sunday Times, (Sunday, 16 June 1946), p.6.; Bluey and Curley Go to the Victory March, The Sunday Times Comics, The (Perth) Sunday Times, (Sunday, 16 June 1946), p.8.
  15. ^ Bluey and Curley by Radio from London, The (Perth) Sunday Times, Sunday 9 June 1946), p.2.
  16. ^ Pilcher, Tim and Brad Brooks. (Foreword: Dave Gibbons). The Essential Guide to World Comics. Collins and Brown. 2005. 260.
  17. ^ Ryan, John Panel By Panel Cassell Australia 1979
  18. ^ Famous Strip Creator Dead, The Age, (Monday, 5 December 1955), p.3.
  19. ^ 4 More Deaths on Roads, The Sydney Morning Herald, (Monday, 1 January 1957), p.4; 3 Killed in Crash, The Argus, (Tuesday, 2 January 1957), p.10; Artist Killed in Crash, The Argus, (Wednesday, 2 January 1957), p.9; Death Notice: Rice, Norman Howard, The Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday, 2 January 1957), p.18.