Les Barton, cartoonist and comic strip artist, died on 20 October 2008 at Hayes Cottage Nursing Home, not far from his home town of Uxbridge, Middlesex, after a long illness.
Born in Wareham, Dorset, on 8 December 1923, Leslie Alfred Barton was a self-taught artist. Leaving school at the age of 14 he found work as a telegraph clerk before serving as a dispatch rider in the Royal Signals during World War II; a motorcycle accident led him to retrain as a draughtsman with the War Office Signals. He published his first cartoon in the Militant Miner in 1944 and regularly appeared in WAM (West African Magazine) when he was stationed in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1946.
After the war he found work as a photographic retouching artist for Associated-Iliffe Press and worked also in advertising. He spent his evenings producing up to 20 cartoons a week. His break came in 1949 when he sold a cartoon to Reveille (earning him a princely £7) and, from 1954, he was a regular contributor to Punch. His work appeared in Blighty, Everybody's, The Autocar, Weekly Mail, Tit Bits, Sporting Record, Nursing Mirror, Men Only, Daily Mirror, Daily Sketch, Evening Standard, The Times, Money, Observer, The Oldie, The Spectator and Private Eye.
He was the political cartoons and caricatures for The Statist (1963-64) and, during the Falklands War in 1982, was staff war artist for The Sun due to the dearth of photographs in the early stages of the conflict. He also designed humorous greetings cards for Camden Graphics, Rainbow Cards and Cardtoons. He was a founder-member of the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain in 1960 and became treasurer for 20 years.
His first comic strips appeared in The Evil Eye Thriller shortly after the war, Barton drawing two issues of the 8-page comic for Bernard Kaye in 1947; he also drew occasional filler strips for 'Billy Bunter' in Knockout when Frank Minnitt was indisposed. Barton returned to comics in the late 1960s with 'I Spy' in Sparky and maintained a steady output of strip throughout the 1970s, including 'Harriet and Her Horse' (Cor!!), 'Ma Kelly's Telly' (Sparky), 'Knight School' (Whizzer & Chips), 'Phone the Crows' and 'Autotech' (both Topper). As 'Lezz' (with which name he had often signed his early cartoons) he also drew a strip about the punk band 'The Slugs' for Oink.
Barton was survived by his wife, Dorothy, and three children, Bob, Lisa, Peter and Samantha.
Obituaries: Blimey! (21 October); Down the Tubes (22 October); The Independent (22 November); The Guardian (15 January 2009).
The Best of Barton... Cartoons. Padiham, Jasmit Publications, 1960.
The World's Best Monster Joke Book by Joel Rothman. London, Magnet, 1983.
The Most Awful Monster Joke Book Ever by Joel Rothman. London, Magnet, 1985.
(I Spy © D. C. Thomson; illustration © Les Barton Estate.)