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Friday, August 17, 2007

Phil Gascoine (1934-2007)

Phil Gascoine, who had a 45 year career in comics drawing for Britain, America and Europe, has died after a short illness.

Born on 8 June 1934, Phil left school at 15 and turned his interest illustration and artwork into a career by calling in at art studios along Fleet Street where he was able to obtain work as an office boy. His contacts with the various studios earned him his first freelance work. After doing his two years national service, he returned to work in a studio but found he was spending much of his time doing nothing. Finding an agent, he began freelancing artwork to Pearsons, drawing episodes of their Emergency Ward 10 pocket library, based on the TV series.

He sent samples of his work to D. C. Thomson, wrapping them in a piece of card on which he had drawn a young girl at an ice skating rink. Thomsons had just launched Bunty and were looking for artists for this new line in girls' comics. Phil spent most of the next fifteen years drawing for Bunty, School Friend, June and Jinty.

In the mid-1970s, he came to wider attention in Battle Picture Weekly, which began running credits for artists and writers in the wake of a similar move by 2000AD. Adopting a far grittier style than he had used in girls' stories, he drew various features ('Battle Badge of Bravery', Battle Honours', 'Unsung Heroes of War', etc.) and strips ('The Sarge', 'The Wilde Bunch', 'Sailor Small'). Around the same time he also drew football and boxing strips for Victor.

With the attention of the wider market, Gascoine began drawing strips for Marvel UK, including 'Blake's 7', 'Thundercats', 'Action Force', 'Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers' and 'The Real Ghostbusters', for five years, although retained his connection with Fleetway, for whom he drew 'News Team' (in Eagle) and various strips for Tammy. In 1985-86, Gascoine was also working for Look-In, drawing episodes of 'Robin of Sherwood' and 'Knight Rider'.

Gascoine was one of many artists tempted to work for DC Comics, producing The Unknown Soldier in 1988-89. He found regular work with Marvel UK during their American boom period (1992-94) when he was pencilling Knights of Pendragon, Motormouth and Genetix. During this period he also drew 'Darkhawk' for Marvel, the 4-issue Dreadlands for Epic, pencilled The Punisher: Die Hard in the Big Easy for DC and inked Tank Girl: Apocalypse, Egypt and Shade: The Changing Man for Vertigo.

In later years, with the market contracted, Gascoine still found work, drawing strips for lad's mag Loaded and the girls' comic Wendy, produced by D. C. Thomson for distribution abroad.

An interview with Gascoine, originally published in Eagle Flies Again in 2006, can be found at John Freeman's Down the Tubes site.

(* The illustration above was produced by Phil for the SSI and is © The Estate of Phil Gascoine.)

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