Although the emphasis of Lord Snooty changed somewhat over the years, the original idea behind the strip was very clearly thought-out - if very much of its time. Snooty - real name Marmaduke - is an ordinary boy who just happens to be the Earl of Bunkerton. Living in Bunkerton castle with his Aunt Matilda and a vast array of footmen and servants, Snooty likes nothing better than to slip out of his Eton suit and into his "disguise", and hop over the wall to meet his real friends, the 'beezer' kids of Ash-Can Alley.
As with Watkins' other high-concept strip Desperate Dan, though, the setting quickly became unimportant. Snooty's aristocratic background was just the launching point for ever more outlandish adventures. This was never more true than during the war, when Snooty and his pals made regular forays to Germany to teach the Nazis a lesson. Eccentric inventor Professor Screwtop was often on hand to propel the plot off into fantasy through his latest wacky invention.
Snooty's original line-up of pals comprised Rosie, Hairpin Huggins, Skinny Lizzie, Scrapper Smith, "Happy" Hutton and Gertie the Goat (above). At some point in the next ten years, infant tearaways Snitch and Snatch joined the entourage.
These new adventures of Snooty ran until 1958, although for some of the time Leo Baxendale deputised for Watkins (issues 691 to 718, if you want to check), and the last couple of years contained only reprints of old strips. Immediately following this was a six-week coda - "A Funny Thing Happened the Other Day", drawn by Albert Holroyd.
Snooty returned for his third and longest run in 1959. At first these were again merely reprints, but in 1964 Watkins himself returned to draw new adventures. In April 1968 (the year before Watkins' untimely death) the strip was handed over to Robert Nixon. Nixon produced quite a good imitation of Watkins's style, adding his own trademark cuteness and clarity.
In 1973, when Nixon left Thomsons', Lord Snooty was adopted by Jimmy Glen, who drew it in a passable but uninteresting pastiche of Nixon's style. He drew the strip until the 1988, when its lack of popularity with the readers became too strong to ignore. A new style was tried, by giving the strip to Watkins imitator Ken H Harrison (who also drew Desperate Dan). Unfortunately he could capture little of the strip's original charm. He wasn't helped by stories which undermined the basis of the strip: Snooty now actually was snooty, and a character who had always been difficult to empathise with was now impossible to sympathise with.
When this approach was abandoned, reruns of classic Snooty strips were attempted. Sadly, this also failed to engage the readership, and eventually the character was dropped entirely. This led to a small outcry in the press, primarily from The Sunday Times and its editor Andrew Neil. With hindsight it may be that he was more interested in publicity for his newspaper's comic section, The Funday Times, which soon afterwards started running reprints of old Snooty strips - this move being heralded far and wide as "The Sunday Times saves Lord Snooty"...
It was a bit of a shame that Lord Snooty didn't appear in the Beano's 60th anniversary issue in 1998, or the 3000th issue three years later. However, Marmaduke did belatedly make a reappearance in issue 3093 (October 27th 2001) in a strip entitled "Lord Snooty's Day Out", drawn once again by Ken H Harrison. Snooty is revealed to have spent the last eleven years in the Beano Retirement Home, where he has apparently been hobnobbing with Jonah, Big Eggo and Jack Flash. He spends the afternoon wandering around Beanotown demonstrating his bemusement at current fashions. The whole thing is an advert for the newly updated "History" section of the Beanotown website, and although Snooty is still in his latterday upper-class-twit mode, it's rather nicely done. Three cheers for Mssrs Kerr and Harrison! Pip pip!