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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Neville Main

A little aside from the regular series of Swift Annual artists.

Neville Main I know almost nothing about despite the fact that his career lasted at least 35 years. He began illustrating children's books for Brockhampton Press as early as 1944, creating the character Jimmy in 1948 for the first of a series of oblong -- approx 3 x 6 inches (6 1/2 x 15 cm) in size -- 62-pages comic strip booklets which told Jimmy's tales with two pictures per page.

While Main was to return to Jimmy a number of times over the years, he quickly became associated with a number of other characters, Matilda Mouse, based on the radio series narrated by Wilfred Pickles, and Muffin the Mule, based on the BBC children's star created by pupeteers Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth in 1934, although the puppet was only named Muffin when he appeared in an edition of For The Children in 1946. Muffin, who has just celebrated his 60th birthday, trotted onto the screen to star alongside Annette Mills and was hugely popular in those pre-Watch With Mother days and was the first children's TV character to generate huge amounts of merchandise.

Muffin was the cover star of TV Comic when it was launched on 9 November 1951, drawn by Neville Main, and was to remain on the cover for 192 issues before being replaced by Sooty. Muffin, however, continued inside until issue 482 (11 March 1961). Main also illustrated a strip book (similar to the Muffin books) based on another Hogarth Puppets series, The Bookworms, in 1952.

In 1953, 'Jimmy and His Engines' began appearing in the rival children's paper Mickey Mouse Weekly but switched, in 1955, to join Muffin in TV Comic. A year later, Main was drawing 'Snoozy the Sea-Lion', based on another children's show produced by Associated-Rediffusion and broadcast on ITV in the mid-1950s as part of the 15-minute 'Small Time' slot (nowadays probably best known for early Gerry Anderson shows The Adventures of Twizzle and Torchy the Battery Boy).

In 1960, Main came to the fore in TV Comic once again as the artist on 'Four Feather Falls' (1960-62) and 'Fireball XL5' (1962-64), based on two early Gerry Anderson shows, and as the first artist on 'Dr Who' (1964-66). He was replaced on the latter strip by Bill Mevin but continued working for TV Comic draw 'Tivvy' and 'Basil Brush' in the latter half of the 1960s.

Apart from illustrating 'Larry the Lamb' for the spin-off weekly TV Land and TV Playland Annual, Main had been a stalwart of TV Comic for about two decades. In 1966, he began drawing his long-running 'Jimmy' strip for another spin-off paper, Pippin, also published by TV Publications.

Main's last known work was for Pippin in Playland (as the paper was renamed) in the late 1970s where he drew the 'Rubovia' series based on the BBC puppet series created by Gordon Murray. The strip, set in a mythical eastern European state, ran from 1976 t0 1979 (plus appearances in the Pippin Holiday Special).

What happened to Neville Main after that I have no idea. I believe he lived at 25 Prince of Wales Mansions, S.W.11 around 1956/59, and later at 11 Sion Road, Twickenham around 1966/80. Could he be the Neville Hubert J. Main, born 1913, who died in 1994, aged 80? Perhaps. A lot more work still needs to be done.

Books
Ali, the Runaway Donkey. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, Jun 1948.
Jimmy and the Little Old Engine. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1948.
Jimmy at the Seaside. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, Sep 1949.
Jimmy Goes to a Party. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, Jul 1950.
Jimmy Goes Sailing. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1950.
Jimmy at the Fair. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, Oct 1951.
Muffin and His Friends. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, Jun 1952.
The Bookworms. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, Nov 1952.
Jimmy at the Zoo. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, Oct 1953.
Muffin on Holiday. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, Oct 1953.
Jimmy and the Redskins. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, Oct 1954.
Muffin Makes Magic. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, Jul 1955.
Jimmy and the Spaceship. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, Oct 1956.
Jimmy and the Pirates. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1958.

Illustrations
The Moon and the China Cat, and other stories by Elizabeth Keane. Leicester, Brockhampton Book Co., 1944.
The Tale of the Lonesome Lamb, and other stories by Elizabeth Keane. Leicester, Brockhampton Book Co., 1944.
"Much and More," and four other stories by Elizabeth Keane. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1946.
Matilda Mouse by Dora Broome. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1949.
They're Open by Ronald Wilkinson & Roger Frisby. London, Harvill Press, 1950.
The Wonderful Sea-Horse, and other Persian tales by Mashhadi Galin Khanum; translated by L. P. Elwell-Sutton. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1950.
Matilda the Radio Mouse by Dora Broome. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1951.
Your Vegetable Garden by Violet Stevenson. London, Harvill Press, 1951.
The Blue Muffin Book by Ann Hogarth; illus. with Molly Blake. London, Hodder & Stoughton/University of London Press, 1951.
Meet Muffin the Mule by Ann Hogarth. London, University of London Press, 1954.
Merry Muffin Books (series) by Annette Mills & Ann Hogarth:
__Muffin's Birthday. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1954.
__Muffin and Louise. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1954.
__Muffin and Peregrine. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1954.
__Muffin Sings a Song. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1955.
__Muffin Climbs High. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1955?.
__Muffin's Thinking Cap. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1955?.
Once the Mullah by Alice Geer Kelsey. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1957.
Look at Puppets by Ann Hogarth. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1960.

(* I've grabbed pictures from a couple of useful sites -- this one has some background on TV Comic and this one has lots of information on Gordon Murray's 'Rubovia' series. The two scans from TV Comic are from issues 483 and 567 (18 March 1961 and 27 October 1962 respectively). The Jimmy scan came from a recent eBay sale.)

1 comment:

Nat Bocking said...

I knew Neville Main as a child in the 1970's. I don't remember much about his life apart from he liked to drive his E-Type Jag very fast and had kids of his own (who were grown by then) and he was a brilliant artist and encouraged me to draw.