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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Random Notes on Look & Learn Artists

For the past eighteen months or so I've been jotting down notes on the many, many artists who helped make Look and Learn one of the finest looking magazines ever produced in the UK. But some artists remain stubbornly elusive so I thought I might throw a few names out into the ether and see if anything comes back.

Actually, the first name on the list is someone I have just managed to dig up a little information on.

Alexander (George) Oliphant. Scottish artist, born on 2 May 1911, who was exhibiting paintings in the 1930s at which time he was living in Grangemouth. He contributed to Eagle Annual, Daily Mirror Book for Boys, and was the artist who illustrated 'Sea Change' in Ranger in 1965-66. Oliphant was living in London at least as early as 1948 and moved to South Kensington in around 1951 where he was to live until his death in late 1971, aged 60.

A. John Nunney. Nunney produced posters used to promote the war effort during the Second World War and, around 1947, a number of posters describing various aspects of education around the British Colonial Empire. He was represented by both W. Partridge and Rogers & Co. Contributed to Swift Annual and Bible Story.

Nunney seems to have been around for many years: he was already a commercial artist as early as 1923 around which time he was living at Lincoln's Inn, Holborn. In the mid-1930s he was living in New Maldon. Unfortunately, that's where I start to lose track of him. He might have been the A. J. Nunney living in Ewell in the 1970s. He might be Albert John Nunney (1898-1990) who died in Cheltenham, Glos., aged 91. But that's just a stab in the dark so don't quote me.

David Nockels. Contributed wildlife illustrations to Look and Learn in around 1967. Also illustrated many books on animals and nature for Young World, Muller, Hamlyn, Heinemann, Bodley Head, Salamandar and Ward Lock between 1967-79. In 1980 he began working for Methuen Children's Books, writing and illustrating a series of pop-up books entitled 'Animals in Action' (1981) as well as two children's story books (1982). He also wrote and illustrated the 'Naughty Pets Board Book' series for Deans International (1985).

I believe he was living in Lee Green, S.E.3 in the early 1960s but other than that I haven't been able to find anything.

This is just a random selection and any information on these artists -- and any other artists or writers who contributed to Look and Learn -- would be welcome.


(* The Look and Learn publicity machine continues to rumble on: the feature below appeared in the Yorkshire Post (26 September 2006), quoting from both Stephen Pickles (editor) and myself. Incidentally, our Art Competition for kids is now up and running, so if you have children, why not encourage them to enter. We'd love to see as many entries as possible... and you could win a prize!)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Alan Fletcher (1931-2006)

Obituaries have appeared in The Times, The Independent and The Guardian for Alan Fletcher, a pioneering graphic designer, whose career included producing covers for Penguin Books.

Update: Another obituary appears in the Daily Telegraph.


(* Also in the news in the past couple of days, the death of Sir Malcolm Arnold. Lots of praise for his wonderful musical scores on films like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Whistle Down the Wind and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. He also wrote a ballet version of Sweeney Todd... but to me he'll always be the composer of the St. Trinians' School Song.)

(Obituaries for Sir Malcolm Arnold in The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Guardian.)




Sunday, September 24, 2006

Henry Fox

Back in the 1960s, Henry Fox became associated with Badger Books to such an extent that his cover artwork has become almost as well known as the novels they were attached to. Any fan of the work of the Rev. Lionel Fanthorpe will know and revere work of Fox H. (as the artwork was often neatly signed). Fox's covers are part of the charm of the books not because they are works of genius but because, like the books, they are pulpy, rushed and formulaic yet hint at wanting to be so much more.

Fox began his association with Badger Books (John Spencer & Co.) in early 1957 when he produced a handful of covers for the company's War and Supernatural titles; the work dried up after a year and it wasn't until mid-1960 that he became their main artist, producing over 200 covers for Badger before the company ceased publishing novels in mid-1967.

As far as I can tell, Fox began producing covers as early as 1952 when he worked for Arrow Books. By 1956 he was also being employed by Ward Lock and Pan, although throughout this period had also produced covers for the cheaper end of the market: Modern Fiction, Comyns and Alexander Moring. He also produced romance covers for Mills & Boon.

During the early 1960s, Fox also worked for the Amalgamated Press, producing covers for the Sexton Blake Library, 1961-62, and various war libraries, 1960-63 (and irregularly thereafter). In the late 1960s, post-Badger, he changed tack completely and began illustrating magazine stories, notably the 'Brer Rabbit' stories in Once Upon a Time and illustration for Treasure and Look and Learn.

Apart from his book covers and illustrations, very little is known about Fox. In the Artwork from the Pan Archive auction catalogue (Bonhams, 1991), the writer claimed that Fox was the pseudonym of one Henry Hall. Not true... and the only explanation I can think of is that at some point Fox worked for agent Maurice Hall and Hall's name appeared on the back of some artwork handled by Bonhams.

After a lot of digging I have discovered that Fox was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art who lived in North London for most (if not all) of his working life, at 158 Alexandra Road, N.W.8 [fl.1948-59] and 27 Springfield Gardens, Barnet, N.W.9 [fl.1962-75].

I've not been able to trace him beyond 1975 and would love to know what happened to him. Henry Fox was a capable artist when working for the better paid markets although, for better or worse, he'll probably be remembered longest for his trashier work for Badger Books. At least that connection means his work has spread to the internet and any web site dedicated to Badger -- see the Pel Torro web site, for instance -- is almost a shrine to Henry Fox. The Look and Learn web site has a number of images of Fox's later illustrations from Treasure taken from original artwork.


UPDATE (12 November 2006)

Thanks to Claire Batley of the RSA, we have a little more info. on Fox. Fox was elected a fellow of the RSA on Friday 1 November 1940. The RSA Journal carried addresses for members from vol. 94 (1945-46) at which time Fox was already living at 158 Alexandra Road. His move to 27 Springfield Gardens was noted in vol. 111 (1962-63). In the list of fellows in vol. 119 (1970-71), Fox has become a life member of the RSA. And, finally, in vol. 125 (1978-79) it is noted that he has moved to 26 St Peter's Crescent, Bexhill-on-Sea, E. Sussex.

The next available members list is from 1981 and Fox's name has disappeared. So it would appear that Fox died some time between 1979-81.

Having narrowed down the field of search, I was able to check the death registers for that period and there are two Fox suspects who died in that period whose deaths are registered at Hastings & Rother (which seems to be the place where all deaths in East Sussex are registered): Henry Stanley Fox (b. 26 December 1899, d. 1979) and, to me the more likely candidate, Henry Fox (b. 2 June 1911, d. 1980). I say the latter is more likely simply because the phone records don't record a middle initial.

My thanks to Claire, who diligently dug through over 50 years worth of journals to bring you this breaking news. The fact that he's still maybe 1911-1980 is down to me to resolve.

Illustrated Books
Doctor Who and the Crusades. London, Frederick Muller, 1965.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Peter Ling (1926-2006)

Peter Ling, who died on 14 September aged 80, is best known to comic fans as the author of 'The Three J's' stories in Eagle which ran for 32 series between January 1953 and April 1959.

Ling was a prolific screenwriter, co-creator (with Hazel Adair) of Compact (1962-65) and Crossroads which ran for 24 years (1964-88). The latter, famous for its wobbly sets and overwrought acting, was originally broadcast on Central and Southern TV before going national in 1972.

Born on 27 May 1926 in Thornton Heath, near Croydon, Surrey, Ling was the son of Fred Hugh Ling, a magician, and his wife Theodora, a schoolteacher. He was educated at Winterbourne Elemntary School and Whitgift Grammar School, he began his writing career early, selling his first article to Good Housekeeping, entiteld 'What I Shall Tell My Children--by a boy of 14'. He was also a young performer in the Ovaltinies children's radio show.

Called up for war service at 18 he initially served as a Bevan Boy in the coal mines but he collapsed after three months and was declared unfit to continue work underground and later served with the Pay Corps. Soon after being demobbed, it was discovered that he was suffering from tuberculosis in both lungs and he was hospitalised at the British Legion Sanitorium, Maidstone, for the next two and a half years where he penned his first book (Voices Offstage, London, Longman, Green & Co., 1947) and began writing jokes for radio shows. Jon Pertwee was the first radio star to spot his talent and encouraged Ling to write gags for his variety show, Waterlogged Spa. In 1950, Ling made the leap to TV, writing for the children's magazine programme Whirligig and a pantomime for the BBC, Aladdin, broadcast on Boxing Day 1951.

Ling was introduced to Ellen Vincent, the assistant editor of Eagle, who was looking for a series of school stories. Ling set his stories at Northbrook, a day school modelled on Whitgift which was attended by both fee-paying and scholarship boys. The story fetured three heroes, John Allen, Jimmy Davis and Jacko Eccles. It is interesting to note that Ling had been introduced to Ellen Vincent by Jimmy Grafton, pub-owner and sometimes BBC Radio script writer, who had been influencial in helping Spike Milligan develop as a script writer. Ling had attended the first recording sessions of Goons predecessor, Crazy People, which was soon to change its name to The Goons, featuring another character named Eccles.

In 1954, Ling married Sheilagh Potts (professionally known as actress Sheilah Ward, who worked on Whirligig), with whom he was to collaborate on a number of serials for Eagle's companion paper, Girl (' Two Pairs of Skates', 1956-57, and 'Penny Starr', 1957).

Ling continued to write for television, and even recreated his Northbrook stories on television in 1958. Ling, as a script editor for Rediffusion, wrote episodes of various series, including Dead Giveaway, Crime Sheet, Counter-Attack, The Roving Reasons and The Avengers. Compact, set in the world of magazine publishing, began broadcasting in January 1962, appearing twice-weekly. Such was its success that Ling and his co-writer Hazel Adair were asked to lunch by Lew Grade who wanted them to baby sit a new soap to be set in a boarding house which he was planning. The two writers decided this did not appeal to them but they would be interested if they could devise something themselves. Grade gave them a weekend to come up with a new premise. Ling recalled seeing a notice for a motel on one of his car journeys; he knew what a motel was from American movies but this was the first time he had come across one in England. Adair warmed to the idea and Crossroads was born. Ling would be associated with the show for twenty-three of its twenty-four year run.

Ling's other writing credits included Dixon of Dock Green, Sexton Blake, Champion House and the Dr Who episode, 'The Mind Robbers' which he later novelised (1986). Ling had earlier written two novels for Hulton Press, The Three J's and the Pride of Northbrook (1957) and Angela Has Wings (with Sheilah Ward, 1960), the latter based on the character 'Angela Air Hostess' created by Betty Roland. In the late 1970s, Ling wrote three bodice-rippers under the pen-name Petra Leigh (Garnet, 1978; Coral, 1979; and Rosewood, 1979); he began writing novels under his own name in the late 1980s, including two trilogies: the Crown House trilogy (Crown House, 1988; Crown Papers, 1989; and Crown Wars, 1996) and the Watermen trilogy (High Water, 1991; Flood Water, 1992; and Storm Water, 1993). He also wrote two non-series novels (Halfway to Heaven, 1994, and Happy Tomorrow, 1995).

He continued to write for radio, adapting Sherlock Holmes, Arnold Bennett's 'Imperial Palace' and John Dickson Carr's 'Gideon Fell' in the 1990s.

Peter Ling lived for many years in Hastings with his wife and three cats. Sheilagh Ling died in 1997, and he is survived by their four children.

Notes
I've derived some of the above information (and the photo) from an inteview with Peter Ling by David Gould published in Eagle Times in 1999. Obituaries have appeared in The Times (21 September) and Wolverhampton Express & Star (22 September).

Peter Ling has entries in the IMDB, BBC Guide to Comedy and Wikipedia.

An interview can be found at the Crossroads Appreciation Society web site.

Update
Further obituaries for Ling have appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Comic Clippings - 20 September 2006

Look and Learn got a good boost today when Stephen Pickles, who is editing the upcoming Best of Look and Learn series, appeared on Working Lunch on BBC2. Stephen was on Radio Scotland yesterday... but don't think I've given up my radio carer. If all goes to plan, I'm doing three shows on Monday, 2 October (Newcastle, Manchester and Shropshire).

We're also mentioned in The Belfast Telegraph. Ignore the first headline which says "We must put dampener on these fanatics" -- that's not us, honest. We're four headlines down.
  • My good friend John Adcock, aka Oliver Oyl, has posted a few pages of the Sexton Blake comic strip from Knockout, 1952 vintage, drawn by Graham Coton. I was fortunate enough to correspond with Graham for a while many years ago and wrote him up in The Illustrated Comics Journal (that's the British comic fanzine, not the Gary Groth-edited American mag.). A couple of stories I've heard since shed interesting light on Graham who was something of a lecherous old sod and was eventually banned from going to Fleetway House to deliver his artwork for acting inappropriately towards a female art editor. He's also the only artist I've heard of who, when asked to make some corrections to one of his pages, tore the board to pieces. But hopefully he'll be remembered for the artwork that did see print. He produced dozens of fantastic covers for the war libraries and illustrations for Look and Learn, so I'm kind of knee deep in his work at the moment. He had very few good words to say for his time as a comic strip artist but he was happier as an illustrator and, in later life, he was able to make a living as a painter with aircraft his speciality.

  • Mike Carey is interviewed at The Pulse (19 September 2006). The headline is: "Mike Carey's Ultimate Fantastic Four Experience".
  • Down the Tubes has news of the next League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel, coming this October.

Joseph Hayes (1918-2006)

The New York Times has an obituary for crime novelist, playwright and screenwriter Joseph Hayes, author of The Desperate Hours, about a family whose home is invaded by three desperate criminals. In the UK, Pan produced a tie-in edition (Pan 372, 1956) with the movie which shows Fredric March, Martha Scott, Mary Murphy and Richard Eyer as the Hilliard family... Humphrey Bogart played the lead criminal, Glenn.

Cover art was by Derek A. Stowe whose work appeared regularly on various Pan Books and Panther Books covers in 1956-61. Other than that he was very good, I know nothing about Stowe and any information would be welcome.

Matt Marriott

Details of the Matt Marriott strip are sparse and a complete listing of stories in their original appearance (in the London Evening News) has never been produced. A certain amount of information about early strips can be derived from ADCCC reprints. Titles weren't printed in the paper but Tony Weare wrote story titles onto the scrapbooks he kept of the strips.

Thanks to Domingos Isabelinho I also have a list of the later 'Matt Marriott' stories that appeared in Portugal. Domingos has very kindly translated the titles into English but I've bracketed them in the list below.

MATT MARRIOTT
1 Vengeance Trail (19 Sep–5 Dec 1955)
     * reprinted (abridged) as 'Vengeance Trail' in Knockout, 24 Sep–24 Dec 1960.
2 Buffalo Hunters (6 Dec 1955–4 Apr 1956)

     * reprinted (abridged) as 'The Trouble-Shooters' in Knockout, 12 Dec 1960–10 Jun 1961.
3 Belle Benson's Daughter (5 Apr–1 Aug 1956)
4 Showdown in Dodge City (2 Aug–5 Dec 1956)
5 Wesley Greer Church (6 Dec 1956–27 Apr 1957)
6 Kansas Railroad part 1 (29 Apr–31 Aug 1957)
7 Kansas Railroad part 2 (2 Sep–14 Dec 1957)
8 The Sunbaugh Gang (16 Dec 1957–23 Jul 1958)
9 Springs of Death (24 Jul–22 Nov 1958)
10 Ghost Town (24 Nov 1958–20 Apr 1959)

?? Farmer Cobb
12 Marshall of Fireweed
?? Marshall of Ochre Flat
?? Overland 
?? Last Days of Augue Spencer
?? Sheriff Hayden
18 Powder's Nephew
?? Zincville Colorado
(The Great Iron Horse)
(A Man Called Jesse James)
(A Cheater’s Story)
(The Terrible Scotsman)
(A Fistful of Lies)
(The Madness)
(The King of Cheaters)
(Hard Confession)
(Cat Bayou)
(The Outlaw Sergeant)
(A Matter of Honour)
(The Strange Priest)
(The Great Herd)
(The Strange Nimbus McBride)
(Drama at Ochre Flat)
(Deathful Hate)
(The Third One Was Saved)
(The Deker Devils)
(The Accused Innocents)
(Zinc Bill’s Story)
(An Adventure in Mexico)
(Two Old Enemies)
(Ruthless Adventure)
(Calamity Jane)
(Runner Bear’s Vengeance)
(A Ten Dollar Bill)
(Wild Country)
(Roses to Sister Eulalia)
(Big Cotton)
(Old Hate Doesn’t Fade)
(A Quiet Man)
(Giants’ Duel)
(The Last Hunt)
(Gil Gatlin’s Gang)
(The Last of the Giants)

(Deathful Fight)
(The Kansas Renegades)
(Mortal Duel)
(Deathly Competition)
(Death’s Jump)
(The Last Resource)
(Mary The Preacher)
(The Witch's Recipe)
(The Power and The Glory)

Incidentally, since mentioning Jim Edgar in a previous post, I've found a note that John M. Burns drew the last episodes of 'Matt Marriott' for the Evening News in 1977 before reviving 'Danielle' for the same paper, briefly, in 1978.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Frederick Foden

I picked up quite a few books at the ABC show on Sunday and one of them prompts the following few notes.

Diamond Cut Diamond isn't much to look at, rather small (4 3/4" by 6 1/4") and rather slim (48 pages) and a bit beaten up which isn't surprising for a little booklet that's almost sixty years old. The cover proclaims it to be part of the 'Popular Detective Stories' series which was published by Popular Fiction (London) Ltd. in the late 1940s. This one carries the address 47 Deacon Street, S.E.17, which means it must date from around 1946/47 as I'm pretty sure the company moved at some point in 1947.

The byline is Jack Kelso but the author, I'm pretty sure, is Frederick Foden, one of the more prolific toilers in the mushroom jungle in the early 1950s. I have a soft spot for Fred Foden as he contributed a story in one of the worst Science Fiction magazines ever produced, Futuristic Science Stories, in 1950. And it's a truly lousy story. Just to give you a taste...
Beatrice Harvey walked into the observatory with an exasperated smile on her pretty face. Her golden hair hung freely round her shoulders. Her slim young figure was dressed in blue slacks, and a blue, tweed jacket covered a white jumper. The style of her grandmother's days.
For once, Ted Stanhope did not laugh at her costume. His face was glued to the lens of the radar eye.
"There's ten million stars," Beatrice said, "and most of them have planets buzzing round. You aren't going to find anything by playing round with that. Are you taking me out, or do I find Earl Jackson?"
"Just take a look at this," Ted said.
"Beatrice humoured him. She could see nothing bu an occasional flickering spot against jet black.
"Is it a star?" she asked, while she studied his clothes and wondered if he would want to change before he took her out. She could get more important men that (sic) the relatively unimportant research physicist, but there was something about his unruly ginger hair, and eager desire to please her, something that drew her to him despite the way he forgot her when he found an interesting scientific problem.
"It isn't a star," he said. "It's something that's moving round the Earth like the moon does. I've been watching it for an hour."
In spite of herself, Beatrice was interested. But she had been kept hanging about before.
"It will be there to-morrow," she said. "I'll be with Earl if you aren't coming."
Ted grinned, and glanced at the calibration.
"I'll just report it," he said.
... which he does and then takes Beatrice off to a dance. 'Stanhope's Moon' (as the story is called) turns out to be a spaceship full of heaving blobs of jelly that have their sights set on conquest. And worse, that darn Earl Jackson is making moves on Beatrice. Thankfully, science has the answer -- a catalyst that turns the jelly to ooze. The Earth is saved, Earl is sent packing and Ted and Beatrice are off on another date as the story comes to a close.

Not that that's the worst story in the magazine but it definitely registers on the crapometer.

A few years ago I had the good fortune to contact a relative of Fred's and, although she knew little of his literary career, she did fill a few gaps in our knowledge of this minor star of the mushroom jungle.

Born in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Stockport, in January 1907, Frederick Tom Foden worked for a brake lining company and as a porter on the railways. He began producing books around 1946 under the name Jack Kelso for the cheap-and-cheerful paperback market, his early titles including The Great Tyneside Mystery, The Gang Smashers and Smashing the Drug Ring. These were all produced in his spare time, although he did spend a period of his life working full-time as a freelance writer.

After these early yarns, Foden really hit his stride in January 1950 with the publcation of his first gangster novel. Over the next four years he wrote at least 70 novels -- 35,000 words every ten days or so -- although the best that can be said of them is that they delivered what the publishers thought were the goods.

The books were 'British gangster' at their toughest, the stories as interchangeable as their covers and titles and heroes (Dirk Roberts, Hank Jordan, Gene Davis, etc.). His characters were private eyes, journalists or low-level mobsters; the former two were expected to be the good guys and with the latter Foden usually established some saving grace (they won't shoot people or they won't kidnap people) which makes them morally better than the gang boss they work for and who they will eventually turn against. Foden's only regular character was Mark Ross, a low-rent Private Invetigator of Moper's Alley, New York. Ross keeps a small business, run by a secretary named Jean and, with the exception that he is the spitting image of Ronald Colman on the covers (painted by H. W. Perl), there is little to distinguish him from any of a dozen other characters cut from the same cloth.

All of Foden's heroes were sex-crazy and all the girls, from the cigarette girl in the local bar to the DA's daughter, were stunningly attractive... but not always easy. While his characters usually spoke of extreme violence -- "Knock the guts out of a dame. Make her the tough way ... Bash 'em and they'll love you," is the opening dialogue from Nobody's Girl (by Paul Bruce) -- Foden often held back from the goriest descriptions. Most of the fights take place with fists or a gun.

Fred Foden followed the Lemmy Caution tradition of first-person, present-tense narration. Paragraphs were rarely longer than two or three short sentences. John W. Jennison clearly followed Foden's lead when he came to write gangster novels for Curtis Warren, sharing the same names and Foden's 'house style'. Between them, they wrote most of the novels that appeared under the Curtis Warren house names Nick Baroni and Brett Vane.

Foden's talent for banging out novels made other publishers sit up and take notice. When Curtis slowed down their gangster output, he wrote for ex-Curtis editor Edwin Self and for rival publishers Scion, Barrington Gray, Milestone and Gannet Press.

Unfortunately, Fred Foden's style of writing was fairly undestinguished and he found it difficult to continue when the gangster boom died in 1954. It seems likely that he kept writing but to date I've only been able to trace three westerns published in the late 1950s/early 1960s. His last known novels were published by Brown Watson who disguised many an author behind house names, so Foden may have been one of their regulars under yet to be discovered pen-names. He certainly carried on writing as I've found a story by Foden in The Evening Standard as late as 1973.

Foden was unmarried and lived most of his life with his mother at their home in Chapel-en-le-Frith, where he died on 17 May 1982.


(* I should add that the Jack Kelso pen-name is still unconfirmed. I need to read a few more novels by 'Kelso' to get a better handle on the style but my gut feeling is that Kelso is Fred.)


Comic Clippings -18 September 2006

The ABC show yesterday was the usual day of happy chat and book-buying. Bumped into Paul Gravett who tells me his book will be launched at the end of October; and Phil Clarke and Mike Higgs are getting back into publishing as Ugly Duckling Press (web site coming soon) and reissuing the old Wolf Publishing Phantom comics and are planning other volumes.

Both David Roach and I are happy with the sample pages we've seen for the upcoming indexes. More good news: it's looking likely that some of the cover repros will be taken from the original artwork so we'll have something unique in the illustration department on top of all the new information we've been able to compile about artists and scriptwriters.

More random notes:
  • Saturday's Daily Mail carried a big feature on Look and Learn which compared a quiz from an old issue with one from a recent issue of Top of the Pops. Quite an eye-opener!

  • Rich Johnson's Lying in the Gutters has an interesting note about a book being compiled by Bryan Talbot called Comic Book Legends, "recounting tales of comic pros, mad fans and weird con and signings experiences." Hopefully Bryan has forgotten my attempt to interview him whilst "tired and emotional" and unable to string two coherant thoughts together at Angouleme fifteen years ago. Not my finest moment. Paul Birch rescued my bacon on that occasion and interviewed Bryon a couple of weeks later. Thankfully, the evidence was erased when I reused the tapes to interview Arthur Ranson the next day (it appeared in Comic Collector 3) and Bryan, being a gentleman, produced a fantastic cover for us a couple of months later.

(* The last story was prompted by seeing copies of the old Comic Collector/Comic World magazine on sale at the ABC show on Sunday. I can't believe it's over a decade since it folded. Happy days!)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Comic Clippings - 16 September

I've been working with David Roach on a new index for... well, for years but only seriously putting it together for publication since January or February. Neither of us have had much time to concentrate on it -- David is a busy artist and works for various publishers both here and in the USA and I've got a fulltime job with Look and Learn and a weekends and evenings job with DLC. However, with the Pandarve book and the latest Worlds of Don Lawrence newsletter heading off to the printers I've got the weekend off. Tomorrow is the comic/book fair at the Royal National so I've spent today pottering around the house, shopping, catching up on e-mail (still quite a bit to go) and typing up lists of cover artists.

The plan is to revamp a series of indexes I produced (usually co-produced) for Bryon Whitworth back in the 1990s covering a lot of different Fleetway Publications titles ranging from Thriller Picture Library to Buster. Thriller was the first title we produced, back in 1992, and a lot of new information has come to light in the intervening 14 years.

Some of them still turn up on eBay and seem to fetch pretty good money, although they've always been a bit of an embarrassment. Bryon used to produce them to order and some were pretty hefty volumes (one of them ran to 385 pages!); photocopying them one at a time meant they were also highly priced -- and having people pay upwards of £20 for a photocopied book always made me cringe. Mind you, I never saw a penny from any of these books -- and we did eleven of them over a five year period -- so I never thought of them as a rip-off.

Anyway, I was talking about these indexes with Geoff West of The Book Palace last year and mentioned how out of date these volumes were and, to cut a long story short, we're going to update them and reissue them, properly printed this time, over the next few years. We've received the go-ahead from IPC Media and DC Comics. Now all we've got to do is the work.

The schedule is pretty loose but we're hoping to have the first volume out next Spring. That volume will be The War Libraries, covering all the major Fleetway war libraries, namely Air Ace, Battle, Giant War, War at Sea and War plus a bunch of related summer/holiday specials. With the exception of a couple of specials and back-up strips, we have complete title lists for all the main titles: 545 issues of Air Ace, 1,706 issues of Battle, 76 issues of Giant War, 36 issues of War at Sea and 2103 issues of War. There's a vast amount of reprint information (I'd have to say we've identified about 95% of the reprints) but we're most proud of the creators info. as we must have about 90+% of the artists identified and, for the first time, we've a lot of information on who wrote what during the early years of the libraries based on recently discovered payment records.

The book will be heavily illustrated with plenty of examples of the best illustrators (both covers and internal art) and the whole thing will be wrapped up with a lengthy introduction about the history of the libraries.

I'm hoping the Geoff will have some sample pages to look at tomorrow so that we'll have some idea what we're aiming at.

David and I are already working on a follow up which will feature all the other Fleetway library titles from Action to Wild West and list obscure titles like the schoolgirl and romance libraries as well as better known titles like the Fleetway Super Library series and the Lion and Valiant spin-offs. And David Ashford and I are looking at the older library titles, Thriller, Super Detective and Cowboy to make up another volume. And then we get into Lion, Valiant and the rest... but that's looking too far ahead!

Time to get the coffee on... looks like I won't be sleeping until after the Olympics.

A mini news round up:
  • Comic Book Resources has an interview with Top Shelf's Chris Staros about the success of Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls. Which we've still to see over here in the UK. All is explained...

As I understand it, "Lost Girls" isn't being distributed in the United Kingdon yet due to concerns about the Peter Pan trademark, is that right?

Yes, we have received some official correspondence from the Great Ormonds Street hospital, which is the copyright holder of Peter Pan in the United Kingdom. We've had some dialogue with them and it's been very cordial and we're glad to have this discussion with them. It's not an adversarial thing at all. And since we're still having discussions with them, we've postponed the release of the book in England and Europe for the time being. Even though we don't feel that this book is a trademark or copyright infringement - it's more a literary allusion to a story - we have an enormous amount of respect for the Children's Hospital and the Peter Pan trademark, and we really don't want to get in a battle over that. We'd rather a Children's Hospital spend its money on kidney dialysis and other things for children, and we don't want them to spend their money fighting us and we don't want to spend our money fighting them. It looks like we're coming very close to a peaceful agreement here and we'll go from there. Unfortunately it's not quite finalized yet so I can't make an official announcement, but I think it's going well and we should have a resolution soon.

[Editor's Note: We contacted Top Shelf prior to the publication of this article to see if there was any additional news regarding European distribution. Discussions are ongoing and as soon as the matter is resolved the publisher will make a formal announcement, but it may result in the book being delayed until January 1st, 2008 for European and UK distribution. Top Shelf said if that ended up being the case, the publisher would likely release a special UK edition (1st printing) at that time.]

Jim Edgar

I received an enquiry from a fan of the old 'Matt Marriott' newspaper strip asking for information on the author Jim Edgar. After a lot of digging around I had to give up and admit defeat: I know almost nothing about Jim Edgar.

He seems to have started out as a short story writer and author of radio plays before turning to writing newspaper strips on the advice of Peter O'Donnell. I've only managed to trace the titles of two radio plays: Murder Case (1953) and The Fielding Case (1956), both broadcast on the BBC Home Service's Saturday Night Theatre.

Jim Edgar spent 22 years as the author of 'Matt Marriott' for the London Evening News (1955-77), drawn by the incomparable Tony Weare. He also wrote other Westerns including 'Wes Slade' for the Sunday Express drawn by George Stokes. Apparently Stokes wrote the early episodes of 'Wes Slade' himself before handing over to Edgar - who was credited from 1979 - and the strip was taken over by Harry Bishop in 1980-81. Harry Bishop was also the writer and artist of 'Gun Law' which ran in the Daily Express from 1960. Presumably Jim Edgar took over the writing at some point... but I've no idea when.

Gun Law (c) Express Newspapers.

We're on firmer ground with Garth from the Daily Mirror as this has been well covered. Jim Edgar took over writing the strip from Peter O'Donnell in April 1966 and was the regular writer until September 1985, then wrote irregularly between 1985 and 1992.

Somewhere along the line I've picked up the information that Edgar also wrote 'Buck Ryan' for Jack Monk and the Daily Mirror and 'Carol Day' for David Wright and the Daily Mail. No idea where this came from.

Edgar had a serial in Tiger, 'Rusty Flynn -- Rodeo Roughrider', which ran between December 1956 and April 1957. He was a fairly prolific scriptwriter for the war libraries between 1962 and 1965, and seems to have stopped writing them around the time he took over writing Garth.

And that's the sum total of all I know. No biographical details and a pretty sketchy bibliography. Can anyone help with some details... for instance, when did 'Wes Slade' start? Has anyone got a list of stories for Wes... or Matt Marriott... or Gun Law... or Carol Day... or Buck Ryan... and when they appeared?

Any help at all would be welcome.


Update

It seems likely that Jim Edgar died in 2001, aged 82. See the comments below for further details.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Comic Clippings - 14 September 2006

More Look and Learn in the News

I received a scan of the Daily Mirror article that was published on Wednesday. Today we had a write up in the Daily Mail, under the headline "Sixties favourite 'Look and Learn' to relaunch" and today's radio appearance was on 'Good Evening Wales' with hosts Phil Parry and Felicity Evans for Radio Wales.

This one actually involved me going down to the Colchester studio of Essex Radio for the first time in some years; the last time I was there was for some disasterous discussion about science fiction -- disasterous for me, anyway, because they couldn't get the line to work properly. To hear the discussion and any questions that were being aimed my way I had to listen to what was being broadcast and, because they put in a few seconds delay so they can bleep out any swearing on live broadcasts, there were three or four seconds of dead air between the question being asked and me hearing it. And three or four seconds after I started speaking, this echo of what I'd just said came winging its way back to me through the headphones. It's guaranteed to destroy your train of thought and you keep having to remind yourself not to talk louder and louder or pause between sentences to let the echo catch up with you!

Thankfully, today's experience was nothing like that and the whole thing went nice and smoothly. I'm actually back on Essex Radio tomorrow morning on their breakfast show, so this is going to be short and sweet so I can get some sleep!

Again, not much time for digging around on the internet but a couple of things I spied...
  • The Times ran an obituary for poet and hill climber Syd Scroggie, who died on 9 September 2006, in which it was mentioned that Syd -- born William Sydney Scroggie in 1919 -- once worked as a sub-editor on the boy's story paper The Hotspur before the Second World War. Presumably around 1938-39. I had a poke around the web to see if there was any mention of him actually writing any stories but I couldn't find anything apart from this graduation speech given by Professor Chris Whatley when Scroggie was given an honourary degree by University of Dundee, which might be the source of the information in The Times.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Comic Clippings - 13 September 2006


Look and Learn in the News

We've had some excellent feedback from people to the launch of the Look and Learn web site with dozens of messages arriving daily: Metro ran a very nice piece about the site on Monday (above) and we got a brief mention on the Steve Wright in the Afternoon show (Radio 2); yesterday I was invited to talk about the magazine on Radio Suffolk's Luke Deal show; and in today's Daily Mirror we're sharing a page with Liz Hurley -- not visible on the online version of the piece. However, despite this burgeoning career as a media whore, I'd like to dispel the rumour that I'll be attending the comic fair this Sunday in anything resembling "that dress".

A very brief round up of news from the web and elsewhere:
  • "UK manga gives Shakespeare brand new costume" is the headline in a Mainichi Daily News article (13 September 2006) about a manga-style reinvention of Shakespeare to be published by Self Made Hero (a division of Metro Media Ltd.).
  • Pandarve: The Worlds of Don Lawrence has been sent off to the printers and will make its debut at Stripdagen 2006 which is being held at the Euretco Expo Center, Houten, in Holland on 30 September to 1 October. The artists who are currently working on the next Storm book (#23) -- Romano Molenaar and Jorg de Vos -- will also be at the Don Lawrence Collection booth and Storm creator and long-time author Martin Lodewijk (who selected and introduced the Pandarve book) will also be attending. The cover to the book is stunning... see below if you don't believe me. The book, published in hardcover, features some of Lawrence's best artwork from the 'Chronicles of Pandarve' series of Storm albums, all new digital scans from original artwork, and will be available for a mere 19.95 Euros between October and December. Check out the DLC web site for more details.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

John McLusky, R.I.P.

Graham McLusky has announced that his father, John McLusky, the original artist of the James Bond newspaper strip which ran in the Daily Express for many years, died on 5 September, aged 83.

Born in 1923, McLusky served as an artist with Bomber Command during the war and worked as a freelance illustrator after returning to civilian life. In 1957, the Daily Express approached Fleming with the idea of adapting the Bond novels into a daily comic strip. Fleming was unsure but agreed on the condition that Anthony Hern, the literary editor of the Express adapted the story (Hern had previously been responsible for condensing the novels for newspaper serialisation).

Fleming -- who had often said that he'd based his description of Bond on Hoagy Carmichael -- submitted a portrait of how he saw Bond. This was adapted by McLusky who retained the curl of hair that fell across Bond's forehead but toughened up his looks. Anthony Hern had a slightly different recollection in 1990 when he said:
We had lunch at Wheeler's to overcome Fleming's last scruple. Over the lobster he told me that in describing James Bond he had consciously had in his mind's eye on e of his own sporting heroes, the master golfer Henry Cotton. For the artist, John McLusky, this was welcome news. At least we now had picture reference, for Cotton had been widely photographed in his prime.
The comic strip was launched on 7 July 1958 with an adaptation of Casino Royale and McLusky went on to draw (with Henry Gammidge scripting) the first 13 Bond novels, with a break in 1962-64 when the Express dropped the strip when Fleming allowed the Sunday Times to publish 'The Living Daylights', much to Lord Beaverbrook's anger. The current strip, 'Thunderball', came to a sudden end on 10 February 1962, mid-story. At the same time, Kevin McClory and Jack Whittingham, who had been involved in the writing of the film scenario for Thunderball, filed suit against Fleming when he novelised the scenario without giving them any credit. The case was settled in 1963 and Bond returned to the Daily Express on 29 June 1964. McLusky departed at the end of 'You Only Live Twice' on 8 January 1966.

During the break, McLusky drew 'The Beast of Loch Craggan' for Eagle (9 Mar-8 Jun 1963) and, post-Bond, drew for June ('The Voice of Glyndarron') and TV Comic ('Orlando', 'Laurel and Hardy', 'Bugs Bunny' and 'Pink Panther'). He also worked on the Thames TV series 'Hattytown'.

McLusky returned to Bond in 1981, drawing the strip for syndication until 1984 (some of his work was seen in the UK in the Daily Star).

Titan Books have reprinted the whole of McLusky's run on the novel adaptations in four volumes: Casino Royale, Dr No, Goldfinger and On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Details here.

Further Reading

Pictures
The James Bond newspaper strip is (c) Express Newspapers and Glidrose Productions Ltd.

Comic Clipping - 11 September 2006

It's rather sad to see how far the sales of Beano and Dandy have declined over the past few years. I've been thinking about the recent history of British comics because I put together a set of links a few days ago for current kids' magazines and comics (which you can find over on Bear Alley Links -- something I will try to keep updated whenever I get a chance) and I was amazed to see how many titles there were. Over 90 papers still being published.

Being curious, I checked the latest available circulation figures. Now, not all comic titles are listed by ABC (the Audit Bureau of Circulations) but the majority of titles published by BBC, Egmont, Redan, Panini and one or two others are and the top three titles (according to the latest audited circulation figures for Jan-Jun 2006) turn out to be:

The Simpson's Comic (Titan).................. 128,691
Toybox (BBC Worldwide)......................... 119,071
Viz Comic (Dennis Publishing)................. 112,288

One company not covered by ABC is D. C. Thomson, publishers of Beano and Dandy who have earned themselves a reputation for not revealing circulation figures. I'm not sure why as they've been releasing figures for some years, although usually in the form of a combined circulation for Beano-Dandy. However, it's relatively easy to break these down into numbers for each title. Unfortunately, they make rather depressing reading.

Please remember: these are estimated circulations based on the combined figure.

Historically, the Beano has been the better seller and, back in the mid-1970s, was still selling half a million copies a week, with Dandy not far behind on 400,000. By around 1992, Beano was selling 250,000 and Dandy was down to 100,000; total sales dipped slightly throughout the 1990s but not dramatically. In 1998 sales were around 230,000 for the Beano) and still 100,000 for the Dandy.

Five years on, which is when I started collecting data, sales had halved and the combined circulation was down to 167,153. This has slipped every year except for the second half of 2004 when Dandy was relaunched.

The Beano

Jul-Dec 2003......... 114,082
Jan-Jun 2004........ 105,208 (- 7.8%)
Jul-Dec 2004......... 108,251 (+ 2.9%)
Jan-Jun 2005.......... 89,342 (- 17.5%)
Jul-Dec 2005........... 84,597 (- 5.3%)
Jan-Jun 2006.......... 76,663 (- 9.4%)

The Dandy

Jul-Dec 2003........... 53,071
Jan-Jun 2004.......... 51,515 (- 2.9%)
Jul-Dec 2004........... 52,896 (+ 2.7%)
Jan-Jun 2005.......... 49,452 (- 6.5%)
Jul-Dec 2005........... 43,599 (-11.8%)
Jan-Jun 2006.......... 39,511 (-10.3%)

Despite these declining figures, the Beano and Dandy are still profitable titles for D. C. Thomson. The Beano Annual is still the best-selling hardback children's book every year, selling over a quarter of a million copies annually and The Dandy Annual sells around half that number. Spin-off books featuring various comic characters, the collections of old strips that pop up every year, the Fun-Sized titles and sales of related merchandise, all add to the bottom line of Thomson's Youth Publications group.

In December 2007, Dandy will celebrate its 70th birthday and Beano turns 70 the following July. Will these soon-to-be-septuagenarians last much longer? Both papers have recently been handed over to new editors -- Alan Digby on Beano and Craig Graham on Dandy -- and Dandy has begun using European strip reprints ('Tootuff' ['Titeuf'] and 'Tony and Alberto') so it would seem that Thomsons are at least trying to do something to keep the papers alive. Fresh hands at the tiller might just guide these famous papers through the next few years safely. I hope so. I'd hate to see them go.


A very quick note of a couple of interviews I've spotted this evening (first chance I've had to look around since last week!):
  • A 2-part interview with Charlie Adlard can be found at a German site called Comicgate.

(* Last thought. While I've enjoyed some of the archival collections Thomson have put out -- Focus on the Fifties, A Spin Round the Sixties, etc. -- what I'd really like to see is a hardback collection of Ken Reid's 'Jonah' strip which ran in Beano in 1958-63. One of the funniest strips ever! I read them in Buddy when they reprinted the strip in the early 1980s but only 130 episodes appeared, less than half the total number. "Aaagh! It's 'im!": The Complete Jonah. That's what I want for Christmas.)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Comic Clippings - 8 September 2006

Still not a news column...

BBC Bristol is putting together a history of British comics and one of their researchers posted a message about it to Warren Ellis's website The Engine:
In a nutshell we have been commissioned to make three one hour programmes on the subject of British comics history. It's roughly divided into three 'eras', each focusing on seminal, iconic comic lines starting in the war years with the emergence of the Dandy and DC Thomson. Each programme aims to put the comics into artistic, social and cultural (and appreciative!) context, attempting to bring in the people that were witness to the actual processes of writing/editing/artistry. The first programme will cover the war years, with some overlap into programme two which will cover the 'morality panic' and emergence of the Eagle in the 50s, and via the underground in the 70s into such things 2000AD...(ring any bells?...I'm kidding). We're going to look at how they reflected the society of the times, and were in turn shaped by society; also to explore things like the genesis of a character, the 'business' side- the ups and downs, attempts to stay current etc etc.
Sounds interesting if they can bring it off. Has there actually been a full-length programme about British comics before? There have certainly been segments of programmes -- most recently an interview with Alan Moore on The Culture Show (BBC2, 9 March 2006); BBC4 have done some shows about individual cartoonists in the past year (Donald McGill, Ronald Searle, Steve Bell) but I can't think of anything covering British comics per se.

Some other bits and bobs:

  • Geeks Assemble. The London ABC Show is on Sunday week -- that's Sunday 17 September 2006 between noon and 5pm at the Royal National Hotel, Bedford Way, Russell Square, London WC1H. ABC stands for Art, Books and Comics and that's pretty much what you'll find. It's tied in with the National Collectors Marketplace which has a wider brief of American comics, trading cards, TV tie ins, Manga, DVD, etc. The two shows coincided last February and a lot of surprised new faces appeared around the usually quiet tables of dealers in British comics. It's worth attending even if you only look at some of the artwork and comics available.
  • Dandy Monster Price. COMPAL's latest (Autumn 2006) auction has finished and the results are due to be posted shortly. But the Glasgow Daily Record (8 September 2006) has already revealed that the copy of Beano Comic #1 on offer sold for £8,252, lower than the estimate (£8,500-9,500) and a fair bit lower than the last time the Daily Record mentioned it when it was "expected to fetch up to £10,000." (Yes, I know... "up to"... technically correct but still an overestimate). The first Dandy Annual -- then called the Dandy Monster Comic -- went for £6230 (est. £3,800-4,200), which is a new record.
  • Recommended Reading. Kickback by David Lloyd (Dark Horse). I've been looking forward to this for quite a while. The book was first published in France by Editions Carabas in 2005 but has only recently (23 August) been published in an English language edition. Kickback is a hardboiled crime thriller set in Franklin City where cop-on-the-take Joe Canelli is struggling with gangs and guilt in equal measure. If you've read James Ellroy you won't find the story especially original but it holds together well and the dialogue is sharp. But it is Lloyd's artwork that gives it the edge. As in his best-known series V For Vendetta, he doesn't use thought balloons or sound effects, so the whole story relies on captions and dialogue. The artwork hits just the right note, shadowy and evocative, and is coloured to match. Far from being gloomy, Kickback is a moody tour de force, told in the artistic equivalent of the tight, staccato sentences of the best crime noir. To find out a little more behind the story, interviews where David Lloyd talks about Kickback can be found at Down the Tubes, Comic Book Resources, Newsarama, The Comic Fanatic and Superhero Hype.

(* Thinking of David Lloyd, I immediately dragged out a copy of The Face That Must Die by Ramsey Campbell to re-read. I've always thought David was Campbell's best illustrator way, way back when he was producing thumb nails and illustrations for the British Fantasy Society. The Face That Must Die is a harrowing trip through the mind of a man descending into madness. The mood of the story always makes me think of David's art -- dark, shadowy, bleak, fractured... I can't think of anyone else who could turn the story into a comic. Whether it needs to be turned into a comic is another matter entirely, but if it ever is... )

Betty Roland

Yes, another bit of research into comic strip writers. Betty Roland was another name I was reminded of by the Best of Girl book as it reprints two of her comic strips. Betty was credited with only a handful of strips in Girl, namely:

Pat of Paradise Isle (28 Oct 1953-7 Apr 1954, art by Dudley Pout)
Laura and the Legend of Hadley House (14 Apr 1954-27 Oct 1954, art by Dudley Pout)
Vicky [various stories] (3 Nov 1954-16 Aug 1958, art by Dudley Pout)
Angela Air Hostess (23 Aug 1958-14 Nov 1961, art by Dudley Pout)

Not much of a CV, although both 'Vicky' and 'Angela Air Hostess' were popular strips in their day. Both Vicky and Angela Wells were globe-trotting adventuresses, the former through the work of her father, Professor Curtis, the latter through her job.

According to birth records, Betty Roland was born Mary Isabel MacLean in Kaniva, Victoria, Australia, on 22 July 1903, the daughter of Roland (a physician) and Matilda MacLean.

She grew up in the Mallee district of the Australian bush and began writing while she was at school at the Church of England girls' grammar school in Melbourne. She married Ellis H. Davies at the age of 19 and had a son, Peter Ellis Davies. She became a journalist for Table Talk and the Sun News-Pictorial before writing her first and most popular play, 'The Touch of Silk', in 1928 which was a favourite of amateur theatre and radio broadcasts but did not have its first professional production until 1976. As Betty M. Davies, she scripted Spur of the Moment (1931), the first 'talkie' made in Australia.

In the late 1920s she met a wealthy Marxist intellectual, Guido Baracchi, and seperated from her husband in 1932 (they divorced in 1934). With Baracchi, she went to London in 1933 and then travelled to Leningrad and Moscow, originally for 21 days but the pair stayed for over a year, Betty working on the Moscow Daily News, sharing a room with Katherine Susannah Pritchard, and smuggling literature into Nazi Germany; her diaries from this period became the basis for her first volume of autobiography, Caviar For Breakfast (1979).

She returned to Australia in 1935 and immersed herself in left-wing politics, writing numerous agit-prop plays depicting the workers' struggle for Communist Review. She lived in Melbourne for two years before moving to Sydney, buying land and building a house in Castlecrag in living with Baracchi until their relationship broke down in 1942.

She established the New Theatre League and began writing regularly for Australian radio, her plays including The First Gentleman, Daddy Was Asleep, The White Cockade, A Woman Scorned, The Drums of Manalao and In His Steps, broadcast in 1942-49.

In 1951, she legally changed her name to Betty Roland and, in 1952, moved to London with her daughter (by Baracchi), Gilda. She wrote for various magazines including Harper's Bazaar, Girl, Swift, Woman's Own and Women's Weekly as well as writing the screenplay for Heights of Danger (1953) and the TV play 'Granite Peak' (1957).

Roland journeyed to the Greek island of Lesbos before returning to Australia in 1961, where she up an artists' community at Montsalvat, outside Melbourne. She continued to write for Australian radio and a number of well-received children's novels. She was a founder member of the Australian Society of Authors and was a member of the ASA management committee and treasurer. In 1993 she was made an honorary life member.

Betty Roland wrote a number of novels in the early 1970s and the first volume of her autobiography at the end of the decade; this was followed by The Eye of the Beholder (1984), An Improbable Life (1989) and The Devious Being (1990). She died in Sydney, Australia, on 12 February 1996.

A 1992 photograph of Roland can be found at the National Library of Australia web site.

I was particularly interested to learn (from her entry in Contemporary Authors) that Betty Roland wrote for Swift. I have found nothing credited to her (the whole paper was strictly anonymous, unlike its elder siblings Eagle and Girl). Betty is, however, an almost dead cert to be the writer of 'Sue Carter', another global traveller whose adventures ran between 1954 and 1957. Apparently, there is some discussion of her life in London in one of her autobiographical books which I'm trying to track down. Hopefully some of her comic work is discussed.

Notes
Biographical information derived from Contemporary Authors, Working Lives, AusLit. With thanks to John Herrington and Rowan Gibbs.

Pictures
'Angela Air Hostess' and 'Vicky and the Vengeance of the Incas' (c) IPC Media Ltd.
'Sue Carter in Candle Dance' (c) Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.


(* By coincidence, Betty Roland was also the name of one of the Silent Three, the infamous masked schoolgirls from St. Kit's boarding school. Now there's a subject for an article if anyone wants to tackle it.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Comic Clippings - 6 September 2006

The "coming soon" banners are off the Look and Learn website. We're live and in your living room as of now, so if you haven't found the time to visit, now's your chance. Cruise around the history pages, download the book, and take a peak at some of the 11,300 images we have in our picture gallery. Get yourself a cup of tea, settle down and go take a look.

Some random links to stuff I've spotted in the last few days:
  • Alan Moore Speaks. A video of Alan Moore talking about the Northamptonshire Defend Council Housing Campaign has appeared on YouTube and on the blog of Leah Moore and John Reppion (authors of Albion). A limited edition 'Maxwell the Fat Cat' poster and t-shirt designed by Moore will be available from Phoenix Comix (scroll down the page, there's a note about Moore's signing at Phoenix on 28 July followed by information about the Maxwell material and the campaign).
  • Alan Moore Speaks Again. Another video, this time an interview with Stewart Lee, has just appeared on YouTube and also at Heidi MacDonald's The Beat. The interview concerns Moore's worship of the puppet snake Glycon.
  • Dan Dare. The statue of comics icon Dan Dare that has stood in the Town Centre Gardens in Southport is likely to be moved due to constant vandalism. Dan has been covered in graffiti and attacked with an iron bar and is currently being repaired at Preston's Museum of Lancashire, although the original stand is beyond repair. A full report appeared in the Southport Visitor (1 September 2006).
  • The invasion's called off. According to John Freeman's Down the Tubes, Rebellion have had to recall the recently released collection Slaine: Books of Invasions 2 because of a printing error. The book will be going back to press as soon as possible.
  • Comics Interruptus. Rich Johnson's Lying in the Gutters carries news of why the latest issue (#199) of Comics International is running a month late. Computers. 'Nuff said. Also comments from Mark Millar about a forthcoming comics explosion and Terry Gilliam's involvement with Virgin Comics.
  • True Scot. The next collection of Commando stories will be called True Brit and is due out 2 October, same day as the previously mentioned Best of Girl. You can pre-order True Brit (ISBN 1-84442-121-X) via amazon. The Best of Jackie Annual (ISBN 1-85375-608-3) is now available (and ranked by amazon.co.uk at #7,078) and Jackie: Dear Cathy & Claire (ISBN 1-85375-603-2), which gathers some of the best items from Jackie's popular problem's page, is another 2 October release.
  • Third World War. The third volume of Charley's War: 17 October, 1916-21 February, 1917 is due from Titan Books (ISBN 1-84576-270-3) on 20 October according to amazon.co.uk. If you've not seen it, there's a superb Charley's War web site run by Neil Emery.
  • Wither Albion?. Now that the Albion series has come to an end, we can expect a collected edition to appear in December 2006 from Wildstorm. Titan will be doing the British edition in late 2006 or early 2007. Will Leah Moore's book ever reach the dizzy collectable heights of some of her dad's work? I've just spotted the cheapest price for Miracleman Book Three: Olympus on amazon.com is $1,585 for a second hand copy. Makes the £125 being asked for on amazon.co.uk look positively cheap in comparison.

(* I'm incredibly pleased to see that there's a growing interest in reprinting material from old British comics and magazines. There are a lot of things worth saving. I'd love to have the complete run of 'The Steel Claw' on my shelves in a nice set of albums similar to those you can get for strips across Europe! Maybe... one day... )

Friday, September 01, 2006

Comic Clippings - 1 September 2006

The Look and Learn web site officially launches in a matter of days so if my postings get a bit patchy you'll know why. I'm anticipating a lot of work-related mail and a lot of the kind of message where I answer, "Well, if you read the history of the magazine that's posted here..." and I'll probably be posting a FAQ with one single entry: "No, I don't know how much issue X of XXXXX is worth." There have been a lot of price enquiries recently. I know I used to do the Price Guide many years ago but the prices were the least important bit to me and, having spent years collecting on a strict budget, I always begrudge prices going up -- especially if it's something I want to buy!

The site now has over 11,000 images in the Picture Gallery, so please do take a look. I've been working on another area of the site that we're hoping to launch soon which will include a regular (daily?) comic strip reprint from the archives. They won't be to everybody's tastes as a lot of material is being drawn from nursery comics aimed at young children but, having said that, I hope we can include artwork from people like Ron Embleton, Jesus Blasco and others who will be familiar to anyone with an inkling of British comics' history.

Anyway, a quick round up of odds and ends I've come across these past few days:

  • Frank Wynne, formerly of Atomeka UK and Deadline but who dropped out of sight in 1995 when the 'comics as fashion accessories' boom died, has been working as a translator and was interviewed in the Sunday Times (20 August 2006). Us older folk will recall that Frank used to translate comics like Liberatore's Women and The Rank of the Black Order (Bilal & Christin) for Kitchen Sink and Catalan back in the late 1980s.
  • You can now download The Adventures of Luther Arkwright as a web comic at a very reasonable £5 (or $9.49 US) at The Official Bryan Talbot Fanpage. Bryan has also recently announced that his next book, Alice in Sunderland, will be published by Jonathan Cape (UK) and Dark Horse Comics (US) in around February 2007.
  • Down the Tubes has a little note about Jon Haward's contribution to the Goodwood Revival meeting programme: a series of seven illustrations produced with a nod to Frank Hampson. Two of the images can be found on Howard's web site.
  • An interview with Brendan McCarthy can be found here. McCarthy hasn't drawn a mainstream comic for years, but he's just produced Solo #12 for DC Comics. The interview also discusses what McCarthy has been up to in the fifteen years between dropping comics to design ReBoot and his return last year with the autobiographical Swimini Purpose.
  • You can listen to Mark Buckingham discussing his work with Chris Bachalo on Shade the Changing Man, with Neil Gaiman on 'Feeders' and with Bill Willingham on Fables at the DC Comics downloads site (this link will take you straight to the download). 22 minutes recorded at San Diego Comic Con. Mark recently married fiance Irma -- congratulations! Some pics from the wedding can be found at Neil Gaiman's Journal.


In the Post

Two books I've been involved in arrived in today's post. First through the door was The Best of Girl which is just what it says on the tin: Girl was the companion paper to Eagle founded by Marcus Morris at Hulton Press in 1951 which ran until 1964 before merging with Princess. The book is edited and compiled by Lorna Russell who put together last year's The Best of Jackie. It's the same kind of book, an eclectic mix of adverts, columns, editorials and features but with the added bonus of some very good comic strips, including episodes of 'Angela Air Hostess', 'Wendy and Jinx', 'Vicky and the Vengeance of the Incas', 'Belle of the Ballet', 'Kay of the Courier', 'Claudia of the Circus' and 'Persia's Lady Mary', the true story of missionary Mary Bird.

The publisher is already getting some very good feedback on their reprints and is already planning a number of other titles. Due out soon are The Best of Jackie Annual and a second volume of Commando Library reprints which more titles in the works.

The Best of Girl is published in October (ISBN 1-85375-611-3) and priced £16.99, introduction by yours truly.

And this afternoon, another van brought The Trigan Empire: The Rallu Invasion published by Don Lawrence Collection (DLC), the sixth volume we've produced in a 12-volume set which reprints all of Mike Butterworth & Don Lawrence's 'Trigan Empire' stories. The books are deluxe hardcovers and published with a free print. You can order the books via The Book Palace or direct from DLC via the Worlds of Don Lawrence web site or the Trigan Empire web site.

The four stories in this volume have never been reprinted in the UK since their appearance in Look and Learn back in 1971 so I'm very happy to see them back in print. This is the sixth volume to see print but is actually book seven in the run of the series; the rather bizarre seeming release schedule is due to the availability of original artwork. Rob van Bavel, who runs DLC, has access to something like 800 pages out of the 920 that Don painted; most of the missing artwork was from the early volumes so they were shuffled to the back of the schedule in the hope that more artwork would turn up before the books were produced. And more artwork has turned up, so the early volumes will now be all the better for waiting.

If you're new to the series you can still subscribe to the full set of 12 volumes at the DLC websites linked above. Titles in bold are already available. Approximate release dates are given for the remaining volumes.

1 The Invaders from Gallas. (Oct 2007)
2 Revolution in Zabriz. (Feb 2007)
3 The Reign of Thara. (Nov 2006)
4 The Three Princes.
5 The Red Death. (Jul 2007)
6 The Five Labours of Trigo. (Apr 2007)
7 The Rallu Invasion.
8 The Prisoner of Zerss.
9 The Curse of King Yutta.
10 The House of the Five Moons.
11 The Sun-Worshippers.
12 The Green Smog. (Feb 2008)

The text for the next volume, The Reign of Thara (one of my favourite stories), is already completed and we're just waiting on proofs before it heads off for the printers.

Next up from DLC is Pandarve: The Worlds of Don Lawrence, a 52-page collection of Don Lawrence's artwork from the 'Chronicles of Pandarve' period of the Storm series. Each page is published balloon free so you can see the original artwork in all its glory -- and it is glorious! Pandarve's creator, Martin Lodewijk, is writing an introduction and the book will be available in an English language edition. The book is to be premiered at the Dutch comic festival Stripdagen ('strip days') at the end of this month.

Martin Lodewijk appeared on a long-running Dutch TV show Klockhuis back in January 2006 and the show is still available at the show's website. It's a 15-or-so-minute clip in Dutch which you can find here (the link is in the second column, six items down) and can be played in both Real Player and Windows Player (and, fingers crossed, those links will take you straight to the clip).

The image to the right is a little preview of Pandarve: The Worlds of Don Lawrence, taken from the Storm book The Living Planet.