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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Harry Winslade

Harry Winslade, sometimes known as Redvers Blake, was born Harry Redvers A. Winslade in Farnham, Surrey, on 1 December 1901, the son of Albert Arthur Winslade and his wife, Isabella (nee Williams), who had married in Farnham in 1898. The Winslade family had roots in Farnham dating back at least a couple of generations, Albert's father, Taplin Winslade, working there as an engine driver. The odd Christian name (Taplin) would appear to derive from the marriage of Stephen Winslade and Harriet Taplin in nearby Crondall, Hampshire, in 1840.

Harry second name, Redvers, is rather less exotic than I realised (and shared with another artist, Raymond Redvers Briggs). I imagine the third initial probably stands for Albert or Arthur, after his father.

It would appear that young Harry was raised in Aston, Warwickshire, where his parents were living at the time of the 1911 census. The family may also have spent some time in the Rochford area of Essex, where Harry's father died in 1919.

That same year, Harry and his mother, Isabella, visited Niagara Falls, where Harry's sister, Mrs. E. Hagen, was living. At that time, Harry's occupation was already described as artist. Harry returned from Canada in August 1920, although his mother returned to Canada soon after. In 1925, another trip by Isabella to Canada reveals that her nearest relative in England is her son, whose address is given as c/o J. Haddon & Co., Salisbury Square, Fleet Street. John Haddon & Co. was a printers and booksellers who later became an advertising agency and it seems likely that Harry was on the staff as an artist. (Haddon & Co. were still active until at least the 1970s)

By 1939 he was living at 44 Amberley Gardens, Stoneleigh, Surrey, where he was to live for the remainder of his life. His death was registered at Surrey Mid E. in 1980.

Joining these dots together to make some sort of coherent life story is almost impossible. However, I was fortunate enough to correspond recently with Pauline Fynn, who remembered Harry Winslade from her days working as an office junior at the Temple Art Agency in Chancery Lane in the early 1960s.

At the time Temple Art was run by Dan and Pat Kelleher and consisted of two old fashioned, small office rooms with a connecting door between them. The office was on the second floor of the building, opposite Northams, a tailors business.

"As office junior my duties were to open and also to send off the post, act as receptionist, make the tea and collect and deliver parcels, sometimes to or from railway stations such as Kings Cross or Charing Cross," recalls Pauline. "On occasion, I also delivered to the artists homes. I remember delivering some artwork to Peter Jackson in South Kensington and Gerry Embleton, who was in Ilford. I used to know a lot of the artists' addresses by heart because I did the post every day, but I've forgotten most of them now. I remember Stephen Chapman's address in Westcliff on Sea, mainly because I have a book he gave me on 'Horse Anatomy' and his name and address is written inside.

"I didn't have a lot to do in the office. There were only me and my two bosses. I was really there to mind the shop and answer the phone when the Mr. Kellehers were out on their business meetings. I was told I could draw or read while they were out or when I had nothing to do. A cushy job, really! I used to sit and draw a lot. I loved art.

"Harry Winslade used to call in fairly regularly. He would have been about sixty at that time and seemed very old to me. He also taught art at one time and was very good to me, advising me on my drawing. He showed me how to use pen and ink to draw.

"Dan Kelleher treated me very well. I was only fifteen when I went to work there and, after viewing my artwork, he gave me a reference to St. Martin's School of Art. He offered to take me on his books if I completed Art School studies to become an illustrator and advised me to attend evening General Drawing classes, which I did for a year. I didn't carry on with it, though. I left Temple Art in 1963 for another office job with higher pay."

In 1961, Pauline would spend much of her time drawing. "I used to produce these little poses out of my head and attempt to emulate the comic strip style of pen and ink," she says. When visiting, Harry Winslade would assess her work. "You will see pencil drawings by Harry on the two boards [see above], next to my pen and ink ones, and some blue biro sketches at the sides also by Mr. Winslade [see below]. He encouraged me to try pen and ink and even told me what to buy and where to buy it (Mappin & Webb). The illustration boards were off cuts sent in by the artists as packing for their pictures."

Harry Winslade's career in comics would seem to begin in 1950 when he began producing illustrations for Eagle. His first illustration appeared in the third issue (in production before the first was even out) and he would supply a number of illustrations between 1950-52, including the illustration that accompanied the Arthur C. Clarke story, "The Fires Within", published under Clarke's pen-name Charles Willis, in August 1950.

Winslade drew "Judy and Pat" for Girl in 1951-52. Over the next few years he drew various features for Eagle, "Don Conquest" for Mickey Mouse Weekly and illustrations for Rocket. In early 1958, he began drawing two strips, "The Brainy B's" for Zip and the "Battle Brothers" for Express Weekly, although it was for the former that he was to draw his longest-running strip. This featured the adventures of explorer Sir Nigel Tawny which began in Zip in 1958, switched to Swift the following year and continued until 1962.

Winslade was not considered amongst the top flight of artists but found steady work on a number of different papers. In the early 1960s he illustrated the "Danger Man" text stories in Express Weekly, various features in Boys' World and "The Big Shot" in Valiant, before finding a far steadier home in the pages of Hornet, contributing to that paper's very first issue with a feature on "The Youngest V.C.". Winslade drew dozens of strips and covers for Hornet over the next few years. Winslade also contributed to Diana and Wizard in the 1960s and 1970s.

By then he, too, was in his seventies and well past retirement age. Harry Winslade died at the age of 79.

(* Nigel Tawny / Eagle illustration © IPC Media; "The Diggers Were There" © D. C. Thomson. My thanks to Pauline Fynn for sending copies of her sketches and prompting this bit of digging.)

Modesty Blaise: The Lady Killers

Modesty Blaise: The Lady Killers, the fifteenth collection of Modesty Blaise stories from Titan, is as fresh as the first, proving once again the incredible talent author Peter O'Donnell had for creating storylines that could keep you on the edge of your seat for five months. Once you step beyond the very basics of good guys vs. bad guys—the conflict at the heart of most stories, not just Modesty Blaise—O'Donnell kept readers hooked through meticulously worked-out plots and ever-interesting characters and situations. Central to most of the stories is to have the odds stacked against Modesty or Willie to the point where escape seems impossible and death inevitable. How they turn these situations around is always exciting and incredibly satisfying.

In "Dossier on Pluto", Modesty's working holiday in Mexico helping researcher Steve Taylor (a semi-regular in the strip) study dolphins is interrupted by intruders in the pay of the K.G.B. out to steal Taylor's scientific data; in "The Lady Killers", Modesty does a favour for a former Network colleague and accidentally intercepts the ransom being paid for a young girl who has been kidnapped; and in "Garvin's Travels", Willie and his girlfriend, Maude Tiller, are kidnapped and brainwashed as part of a scientific experiment.

All three stories are drawn by Neville Colvin, whose style is a call-back to the original Jim Holdaway art. He's not as stylish as John Burns, nor as slick as Romero, but his artwork is excellent throughout and his six years on the strip are all worth seeking out.

The Titan run of Modesty has now reached the halfway mark and still manages to pull a few surprises: Laurence Blackmore's introduction reproduces a number of strips that appeared in the Glasgow Evening Citizen on bank holidays when the Evening Standard was not published. 15 scarce Jim Holdaway strips are reproduced nationally for the first time, including the last Modesty strip he ever drew (redrawn by Romero for its appearance in the Standard); meaningless to readers in terms of plot and story but gold dust to fans of Jim Holdaway.

Modesty Blaise: The Lady Killers. Titan Books ISBN 978-1848561069, 24 April 2009.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Commando: Battle of Britain

The next volume of Carlton's Commando series, Commando: Battle of Britain Scramble!, has been announced for October. Here's the blurb...

For everyone in Britain, these were the darkest days of the Second World War. Our army, or what was left of it, had been withdrawn from France via the beaches of Dunkirk, disabling and abandoning arms and equipment during the desperate evacuation. While they reorganized and re-equipped there was no effective fighting force to stand against Hitler's Wehrmacht should they choose to invade. Crossing the channel with an invasion fleet was, however, not an operation to be contemplated without complete control of the sky, otherwise the transports and landing craft would be blown out of the water by the RAF. The Nazis' answer? Neutralise the RAF. Destroy its runways, destroy its aircraft on the ground, destroy its support networks and, most of all, kill its pilots. The RAF, of course, had other ideas and during the summer of 1940 the Battle of Britain was fought in the skies over southern England. The courage and skill of the RAF pilots and ground crews during those few hectic weeks has formed the backdrop to some of the most outstanding Commando tales ever published. Stories like "Ace Without Honour", "Island of Heroes" and "Brigand Squadron" as well as "Blind Courage", "Fly Fast-Shoot Fast" or "Spitfire Spirit" bring the atmosphere of the battle spinning into the 21st century. Presented 25 per cent larger than when originally published, this special edition drops you out of the sun into the midst of the dog fights, the howl of the Merlin engine on full boost almost drowning out the roar of the Brownings thundering away in the wings either side of your cockpit. Whether you are a novice 'sprog' comic book pilot or a seasoned veteran, the fantastic aero art created by the Commando artists and the compelling stories will leave you gasping for the next 'Scramble'!

Comic Cuts

Unbelievable to think a week has already passed since my last Comic Cuts column. I spent the bank holiday working on the Bear Alley book in the hope that I'd get the whole thing wrapped up and ready for a printed proof by Monday. I missed that deadline by 24 hours and sent it off on Tuesday. Then spent Wednesday and Thursday doing some last minute work on the Frank Bellamy's World War 1 book and today I'm working on Bear Alley project three (the numbering come basically from the order in which I start them). More artwork to clean up. Oh, boy.

I'm shortly going to be upgrading Bear Alley. A couple of week's ago I mentioned that I was running short of space on Blogger and, thanks to a couple of generous donations (and another this very morning), I can now buy myself some more storage space rather than edit out images from old pieces to make room for new pictures. When I get a chance I'll try to give BA a bit of a tidy up, too, and update a few more of the illustrated bibliographical listings over there on the right (under the heading Comics Bibliography).

Early next week I'll repost the latest, updated listings of recent releases and upcoming titles. There's some great stuff coming up soon, including Aces High: Air Ace Picture Library Vol. 1, out in about a fortnight. Also some great titles from Rebellion. I tend not to note them as they don't seem to send out review copies and digging around in the attic looking for my old copies of 2000AD isn't something I want to do—it's not so much getting them down as getting them back up afterwards. It never happens and before you know it they're scattered all around the house. But they deserve a mention, especially in a month when you have John Wagner & Arthur Ranson's Button Man: Harry's Game and the latest volume of Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files coming out. You'll find plenty of ways to spend your money.

I'm not sure what strip I'll be running next week. I'll see what I can dig out for scanning over the weekend. The next "Eagles Over the Western Front" is a 4-parter so I'll try to make sure I've got something interesting written to fill any gap that leaves. I've got the urge to actually write something as I've written a grand total of one obituary, a few e-mails and the above this week.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Giorgio Bellavitis (1926-2009)

Giorgio Bellavitis, a prolific artist for the British market in the 1950s, died on Thursday, 21 May 2009, of undisclosed causes.

Bellavitis, born in Venice in 1926, began drawing at an early age and illustrated some books for the publisher Montuoro and drew vignettes for the humorous weekly Sior Tonin Bonagrazia whilst still at school. He was educated at grammar school and entered the Institute Cavanis, only to have his further education interrupted by war after only a few months. Like all Italian teenagers he was forced into uniform each weekend ("Il sabato fascist" – "fascist Saturday"), something he quickly rejected. With the surrender of Italy to the allies in 1943, Bellavitis travelled to Pordenone with his mother and brother (Michele) to join the partisans, using the nom de guerre 'Walt Disney' (Topolino having been his first great interest in comics) as well as drawing for Vento di montagna [Mountain Wind], a weekly for Venetian partisans.

As the war came to an end, Bellavitis was able to return to his education and his plans for a career in architecture. However, he did not abandon his interest in comics and, after the conflict ended, he resumed his relationship with Mario Faustinelli, who was already established in the world of comics and cartoons. The two had previously thought of working together to put out a comic book and, to that end, brought together a group of Venetian artists and writers to create Uragano Comics Inc. [Hurricane Comics Inc.], best known for the publication of Albo Uragano, later changed to Asso di Picche, something of a legend in Italian comics as it brought together the talents of Hugo Pratt, Dino Battaglia, Alberto Ongaro and others.

Bellavitis produced his first comic strip for Albo Uragano, 'Robin Hood e gli Allegri Compagni della Foresta', based on the legendary British character. At the time, Bellavitis was signing his work with the pseudonym George Summer.

The venture did not last long and, in 1948, the Venetian Group (as they had become known) split: the majority left to take up an invitation from Argentinian publisher Cesar Civita; only Bellavitis and Dino Battaglia remained in Venice.

Battaglia made contact with the publisher Ave, based in Rome, for whom he went on to draw a number of stories in 1949-50. He subsequently contributed many stories to the newspaper Il Vittorioso, beginning with "Il piccolo domatore" (no.35/1950). These stories stand out particularly because of Bellavitis's passion for architectural design which was visible in much of his work. In 1953, before departing Il Vittorioso, Bellavitis also produced the first 8 pages of the story "La Strada senza Fine" [The Road Without End] for Il Corriere dello Scolaro, completed by Leone Frollo.

Bellavitis then became art director of Cosmopolitan Artists, an agency headed by Enzo Plazzotta who had moved to London and made contacts with various publishers. Bellavitis himself was one of the first exports, drawing "Paul English" for Swift (1954-55), "Mark the Youngest Disciple" for Eagle (1954-55) and illustrations for Junior Express Weekly. When Cosmopolitan collapsed amidst accusations of financial irregularities in 1955, Bellavitis travelled to the UK and helped set up another agency. In 1955, he had taken the artwork of "Storm Nelson" in Eagle and, in 1956, worked on "Rodney Flood" (Junior Express Weekly) and filled-in briefly on Eagle's "Riders of the Range". A strip planned for Rocket came to nothing when that title was incorporated into Express Weekly after only 32 issues. After this briefly prolific output, and apart from some contributions to Pearsons pocket libraries and to Fleetway's nursery titles, Bellavitis subsequently departed from the British market.

During this time, Bellavitis had retained his fan base in Italy through the reprinting of Storm Nelson in Il Giorno dei Ragazzi where his artwork for "La regina d'oro" (originally "The Quest of the Golden Queen") storyline began appearaing from 4 June 1958. The first storyline was set in Venice and Bellavitis was able to give the strip an added authenticity.

In 1962, he translated the 1906 book Garden Cities of Tomorrow by Ebenezer Howard as L'idea della citta giardino for Bologna-based publisher, Calderini. This marked the end of Bellavitis's career as a comic strip artist. Instead, he concentrated on a career as an architect and designer after gaining a scholarship to IBM, only occasionally producing illustrations for scholastic books and encyclopedias. He travelled to Aspen, Colorado, and travelled out to Chicago to visit the Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright which had a profound affect on the work that he has dedicated himself to for the last forty years.

In 1968 he was involved with a Unesco project to survey and structurally analyse the palaces of Venice. The restoration and restructuring of the Grand Canal had begun in 1966, and the work has continued ever since with the recent (2005) restoration of Giustinian Palace. Bellavitis has also been involved in the restoration of the Church of S. Nicolò dei Mendicoli, of the Loggetta in Piazza San Marco designed by Jacopo Sansovino and the garden at the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. He was Thomas Jefferson Foundation Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia School of Architecture in 1979 (where he had taught art history in 1973) and has given many talks in his native country.

PUBLICATIONS

Non-fiction
Difesa di Venezia. Contributi per una azione di conoscenza e di difesa di Venezia e della sua Laguna, ed. Giorio Bellavitis. Milano, Centro Culturale Pirelli / Venezia, Alfieri, 1970.
Palazzo Giustinian Pesaro. Vicenza, Neri Pozza, 1975.
Megalopoli mediterranea, with others. Milano, Franco Angeli, 1978.
Venezia (Itinerari per Venezia). Roma, Editoriale L'espresso, 1980.
Il Palazzo Leoni Montanari di Vincenza della Banca cattolica del Veneto, with Loredano Olivato. Vicenza, Neri Pozza, 1982.
L'arsenale di Venezia. Storia di una grande struttura urbana, photographs by Antonio Martinelli. Venezia, Marsilio, 1983.
Venezia, with Giandomenico Romanelli. Roma, Laterza, 1985.
Palazzo Montereale-Mantica. Pordenone, Camera di commercio industra artigianato e agricoltura, 1987.
Venice. The islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello and the villas of the Riviera del Brenta by Bellavitis and others; translated and adapted by Anthony Shugaar. Basingstoke, AA Publishing, 1999.

(* artwork from Eagle © IPC Media; artwork from Swift © Look and Learn Ltd.; photo from Il Gazzettino (21 May))

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Stingray Inflatable

A somewhat random addition to the post below. Norman Boyd recently sent me over the above scan of a Stingray advert drawn by Ron Embleton from July 1965. For you youngsters, 15/6 was fifteen shillings and sixpence, or 77 1/2 pence in "new money". That's pretty cheap as the retail price index is probably only 14 times greater today in comparison to 1965, making the cost of the inflatable around £10.75 today if we were only to consider average price increases.

You can see what the inflatable looks like here.

ITV Annual for Boys and Girls 1964

I borrowed a copy of this from a mate as it had a Mike Western comic strip. And, as I always do with annuals, I jotted down the contents, which I'll list below. As annuals go I actually found it rather uninspiring although there are some items of interest once you wade through the sports and various photo features. Two short stories based on American TV shows (77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye, neither of which I remember), one comic strip (based on No Hiding Place) and a feature on Fireball XL5. I don't know if this is widely known amongst Gerry Anderson fans so I've posted scans of the article below. It was a poor follow-up to an earlier annual, TV Crimebusters, from the same publisher a year earlier, which also featured some of the same elements (stories based on 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye [also written by Alan Fennell], but also including Danger Man, Dixon of Dock Green and The Avengers, all of which I watched when I was growing up. I guess you have to be in your fifties to appreciate the ITV Annual and stars like natural history filmmaker Aubrey Buxton, roving reporter Bute Hewes and guitarist Bert Weedon. As someone desperately clinging onto his forties my first guitar hero was Hank Marvin (especially after The Shadows appeared in Thunderbirds Are Go).

Incidentally, I notice that Network are releasing a special edition Fireball XL5 DVD this June. The previous (2003) release had no extras to speak of: this one has a 60-page book, a brand new documentary and various other features including a home movie by artist Bill Mevin, who drew the contemporary "Supercar" comic strip for TV Comic.

ITV Annual for Boys and Girls 1964, ed. Huw Thomas (TV Publications, 1963, 102pp, 8/6, cover by ?)
* [Misc. Material] * (front endpapers; television studio) * ms; illus. photo
4 * Thomas, Huw * (Introduction) * ed
5 * [Misc. Material] * Survival (elephant) * il; illus. photo
6 * Buxton, Aubrey * The New Ark * ar; illus. photos
14 * Anon. * Here and Now * ar; illus. photos
23 * Anon. * The Cabah Caper * ss [77 Sunset Strip]; illus. photos
31 * Hewes, Bute * News Behind the News * ar; illus. photos
36 * [Comic Strip] * No Hiding Place * cs; illus. Mike Western
44 * Williams, Gerwyn * Rugby * ar; illus. photos
48 * Weedon, Bert * My Guitar and Me * ar; illus. photos
52 * Anon. * The Lilliput World of Fireball XL5 * ar; illus. photos
56 * Anon. * Police 5 * ar; illus. photos
60 * Fennell, Alan * Hawaiian Eye: Danger in the Deep * ss [Hawaiian Eye]; illus. photos
68 * Mills, John * Painting Club * ar; illus. photos
73 * Burrell, Roger * Man Overboard * ar; illus. photos
77 * Matthew, Brian * Thank Your Lucky Stars * ar; illus. photos
83 * Anon. * Telstar * ar; illus. photos
88 * [Misc. Material] * TV Picture Quiz * qz; illus. photos
90 * [Misc. Material] * Spot the Stars * qz; illus. photos
91 * [Misc. Material] * TV Crossword * pz
91 * [Misc. Material] * Seeing Sport * qz; illus. photos
92 * Gover, Alf * Cricket * ar; illus. photos
96 * Anon. * I’m Going to be a… Television Technician * ar; illus. photos
* [Misc. Material] * (rear endpapers; mobile camera) * ms; illus. photo

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grant Morrison: The Documentary

On 16 May, a trailer appeared over on YouTube for a documentary on the life and work of Grant Morrison. Sequart, publisher of the book Grant Morrison: The Early Years, and Respect! Films are the companies behind it.



Heidi MacDonald at Publishers Weekly's The Beat, quotes a notice that appeared on YouTube:
Sequart and Respect! Films are producing a documentary about legendary comic book writer Grant Morrison. Morrison has written virtually every major comic book franchise, from Batman to Superman to X-Men, and created many new properties, including the seminal comic book series THE INVISIBLES. This documentary is the first in depth look at his life and work in film, and features unresricted access to the man himself.
___A significant amount of material has already been shot, with more shoot dates to come. Look for the film to be released sometime in 2010. It is directed by Patrick Meaney, shot by Jordan Rennert and produced by Amber Yoder.
___If you would like to become a producer on this project, send an inquiry to sequart@gmail.com
A further note signed SequartTV says: "We're super excited about it. We still have to film him in San Diego at the con. Plus we're hoping to visit Scotland and shoot some more there. It's gonna be great!" The Sequart website is currently down due to "catastrophic server failure".

Comic Cuts

I've had one of those weeks where I've been working on half a dozen things and nothing actually gets finished. At least we're not talking two steps forward and one step back—everything's going in the right direction but it would be nice to be able to draw a line under something and say "That's done!"

Last week I mentioned the upcoming Frank Bellamy's The Story of World War 1. Well, I've now got artwork scans destined for The Art of Ron Embleton to hand, so I'm hoping to get back to work on that soon, and I'm two-thirds of the way through the clean-up on 'Wells Fargo'. Of my own little publishing projects I've now got four lined up and should start announcing things soon. The first is well underway; I've a complete set of scans for another; a third is partly scanned; and I've located copies of the fourth, which will be going onto the scanner at the first opportunity. I've cover artists lined up for three of the four. So, again, everything moving in the right direction.

What I've decided is that I'll make announcements of titles once I've got the first set of proofs in hand, which should be six weeks or so ahead of publication... that way I avoid disappointing people if plans change. However, I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll be announcing something within the next few weeks. Start saving your pennies now.

I blew all my other news yesterday with the announcement that Titan are doing Johnny Red (scroll down the page if you missed it), so I'll just say that Harry Hawkes and those "Eagles of the Western Front" will be back next week in what's possibly the best story so far.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

News from the Battle front

Titan Books have added a new title to their autumn schedule that should have fans of Battle Picture Weekly drooling. In September they'll be publishing Johnny Red: Falcon's First Flight reprinting the early episodes of Tom Tully & Joe Colquhoun's epic story from 1977.

Johnny Red was introduced to the paper on 29 January 1977 in Battle's 100th issue. When we first meet 19-year-old Johnny 'Red' Redburn it is September 1941 and Johnny, dishonourably discharged from the R.A.F., is serving in the Merchant Navy in the deadly convoys on course for the Russian port of Murmansk. Before long, Johnny finds himself helping a Russian fighter-bomber squadron, the Falcons.

One of the most popular strips to appear in Battle, the strip ran for 10 years, drawn initially by Colquhoun until 1979 when the artwork was taken over by John Cooper and, in 1984, by Carlos Pino.

Before that, in July—the book is currently being finished off—Titan publish The Best of Battle, a smorgasbord of some of the best strips the weekly paper had to offer, including Rat Pack, D-Day Dawson, The Sarge, Darkie's Mob, Hellman, Bootneck Boy and the aforementioned Johnny Red.

Checking in with Titan earlier today, David Leach told me that, as well as The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1970s, due out next month, there will another Bumper Book of Roy of the Rovers later in the year, following up the successful first book published last October. The Best of... will be in more of a Bumper Book... style, with period adverts and features as well as a lengthy run of stories from the earlier issues of Roy of the Rovers weekly.

That's not the only Battle news. Egmont have their second Souvenir Special lined up for publication on 24 June and I'm pleased to be able to offer a sneak peak at the covers.

(* Johnny Red / Roy of the Rovers © Egmont UK Ltd.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dan Dare: The Phantom Fleet

The latest Dan Dare volume from Titan Books continues a run of stories that are amongst my favourites from the series. When The Phantom Fleet was appearing (April to December 1958), Frank Hampson was working at the top of his game. His main assistant on the finished artwork was Don Harley, who had joined Hampson's studio in 1951 and had, in the years since, become the main artist of finished boards, based on Hampson's visuals.

It's great to see Harley recognised on the recent run of Titan's Dare reprints. His name appears on the front cover just below that of Hampson, a recognition of his contribution to the Dare saga that is long overdue. Harley would be the first to admit that Frank worked harder than anyone on the strip—a recent reminiscence in Spaceship Away saw Harley recall that he never saw Frank producing his visuals for the strip from which he concluded that Frank could only have drawn them after all the other artists had left for the evening. But Harley, too, was working six days a week with only the occasional holiday.

The story begins with Dan aboard the lunabus, a passenger vessel launched from the Moon. Shortly after launch, all communications are cut off, forcing the ship to turn back. Dan and Digby return to Earth aboard the Anastasia, only to discover that Sir Hubert and the crew testing a new deep space liner, the Gargantua, are also incommunicado. Digby's sighting of a strange, alien craft holds the clue to the mystery.

Sent to search for the missing ship, Dan, Digby and crew are captured by a fleet of alien ships and learn from Sir Hubert, also a prisoner, that the fleet belong to the Cosmobes, a race of aquatic creatures escaping their doomed planet and searching for new planets to colonise. The Cosmobes are, in fact, a friendly race looking to share their knowledge in exchange for establishing a colony in Earth's oceans. A peaceful resolution is being negotiated... but the problems for Dan and co. are far from over. A second race are heading Earthward from the doomed planet I-Cos, the Pescods—and they're far from friendly!

The book delivers everything that's good about the old Dan Dare strip: an intriguing story and great art. Hampson's Dare has yet to be equalled by any modern incarnation or reimagining and Titan's collections have given a new audience the opportunity to enjoy these old strips in all their colourful glory.

Dan Dare: The Phantom Fleet. Titan Books ISBN 978-1848561274, 27 March 2009.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Peter Fraser

Peter Fraser
by Gordon Howsden

Book illustrator and cartoonist Peter Fraser was born in the Shetland Islands on 6 November 1888. At some stage he moved to the south east of England and his entry in Who’s Who in Art records him as working in the City (1907-10) and studying art at the Central School of Arts & Crafts. He also took a correspondence course in art through a Percy Bradshaw correspondence course.

At what stage his art training began is not known but it is possible that both courses were undertaken in his spare time whilst otherwise employed. His first cartoon was published by Punch in 1912 and he went on to become a regular contributor until 1941. Other magazines that accepted his work were Tatler, Sketch, Happy Days, Time & Tide, Humorist and Passing Show.
During the Great War Fraser served in France for three years as a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery and Royal Garrison Artillery. His career in art started to blossom in the early years after the war and his first book, Funny Animals, was published by Nelson in 1921. During the next decade he contributed illustrations to many of the Children’s Annuals that proliferated in the 1920s from publishers such as Blackie, Thomas Nelson, Hulton Press and Frederick Warne.

In 1924 he was commissioned by Mardon, Son & Hall to prepare a series of 50 cigarette cards for the tobacco firm Stephen Mitchell. The series was titled “Humorous Drawings” and Peter Fraser was credited as the artist on the reverse of the cards, which does indicate that his name was likely to be known to smokers of the time. Although Mitchell was based in Scotland and that they patriotically used a Scottish born artist, only one of the fifty cartoons in the set has a Scottish angle to it. A confectionery company, H J Packer of Bristol, also issued this series using the identical artwork in 1936.

Mardon’s must have been impressed with Fraser as in 1926 they called on him to prepare the artwork for another humorous series, this time for Ogden’s of Liverpool. The series was one of 25 cards titled “ABC of Sport”. The reverse consisted of a humorous rhyme that related to the scene illustrated but the artist’s name was not mentioned.

Although no other cigarette card series are credited to him Fraser did prepare a number of rough sketches for a potential card issue in the late 1940s. These were titled “Seascapes & Ships” but as cigarettes were in short supply after the war the Imperial Group did not have the need to advertise them and this, and other proposed card series, were abandoned

During the 1930s Fraser began to develop one of his signature characters, a small terrier type dog, and this friendly creature took a starring role in Tufty Tales which was published in 1932 by Frederick Warne. This had the accolade of stating on the front cover “A Peter Fraser Book”. This publication probably led to him being asked to design a series of six postcards for M&L in their National Series, where the dog is pictured in a number of humorous scenes.

Another prominent part of Fraser’s output revolved round street urchins and some of these had already been seen in his Punch cartoons and in his first series of cigarette cards. It is recorded that Fraser worked with deprived children in the East End of London and the likelihood is that this is where he picked up inspiration for many of his sketches. Certainly, an excellent book, Humour in the East End by Wilfred Harrison (Epworth Press, 1933), is full of superb jokes most of which hold up well even today. Although not listed by the British Library a follow-up called More Humour in the East End was published three years later.

With the outbreak of World War II Fraser was commissioned by the Ministry of Information to design a poster as part of a series created to encourage food production at home. His design of a gardener striding along with a basketful of produce and a fork casually held over his shoulder became one of the iconic images of the war. The slogan used, “Dig on for Victory” suggests that the poster was a follow up to earlier designs in the “Dig for Victory” campaign.

During the 1940s Fraser’s book illustrations entered its most prolific phase. In particular, he collaborated extensively with Edith Fraser but so far I have not been able to trace whether she was his wife, a sister or just someone with the same surname. The entry for Peter Fraser in Who’s Who in Art does state that he was married with two sons and gives an address of Grunnavoe, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent. Chuffy, Floppity-Hop and Helping Mrs Wigglenose were among the titles that emerged from the fruitful Fraser partnership. Also probably dating from the 1940s or perhaps earlier is a series of children’s china wear from James Kent titled “Animal Frolics”. Peter Fraser’s name is quoted on the underside of the items with the registration number 846382.

Two titles in the listing below are attributed to 1949 and these must have been among the last books to carry Peter Fraser’s work as he died on 5th March 1950. Many of the juvenile books were undated and so in the list I have quoted the dates given by the British Library. A search of the British Library catalogue accounts for most of the ‘books illustrated’ section, although others have come from Abebooks and my own collection.

Books (all illustrated by the author)
Funny Animals. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1921.
Animals at Play. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1922.
Tufty Tales. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1932.
Higgledy Piggledy Tales. London, Frederick Warne, 1935.
Moving Day. London, Pocket Editions, 1945.

Illustrated Books
Humour in the East End by Wilfred H Harrison. London, Epworth Press, 1933.
The King’s Pipe by J E Gurdon. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1934.
More Humour in the East End by Wilfred H Harrison. London, Epworth Press, 1936.
Rough Island Story by William Moffatt. London, Heath Cranton, 1936.
Dog Nelson A.B. by Vice Admiral Gordon Campbell. London, Frederick Warne & Co., 1938.
Twilight Over Shetland by William Moffatt. London, Heath Cranton, 1939.
The Voyage to There and Back by Edith Fraser. London, Hutchinson, 1939.
Chuffy by Edith Fraser. Leicester, Franklyn Ward & Wheeler, 1942.
Buster Bunny’s Birthday by Edith Fraser. London, E J Burrow & Co., 1944.
Duckling the Dunce by Edith Fraser. London, E J Burrow & Co., 1944.
Floppity-Hop by Edith Fraser. Leicester, Franklyn Ward & Wheeler, 1944.
Helping Mrs Wigglenose by Edith Fraser. London, E J Burrow & Co., 1944.
Jack & Jock’s Great Discovery by Edith Fraser. London, Partridge Publications, 1944.
Sandy’s Silver Sixpence by Edith Fraser. London, E J Burrow, 1944.
Billy Bobtail Goes to School and Small Town Sports by Edith Fraser. Glasgow, Art & Educational Publishers, 1945.
Bunky the Bear Cub, and, Peter the Penguin by Edith Fraser. Glasgow, Art & Educational Publishers, 1945.
Camping Out by Edith Fraser. London, Pocket Editions, 1945.
The New Recruit by Edith Fraser. London, E J Burrow & Co., 1945.
The Blackberry Picnic by Susan Rye. London, Pictorial Art, 1946.
Close Quarters by Dorothy Hellings. London, Robert Ross & Co., 1947.
Grumble-Grumble by George F Evans. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1947.
Bevis and the Giant by Susan Rye. London, Partridge Publications, 1948.
John and Ann by Edith Fraser. London & Glasgow, Children's Press, 1949.
The Little Good People. Folk tales of Ireland by Kathleen Foyle. London & New York, Frederick Warne & Co., 1949.
Tales from Scotland by Beryl Jones. Evans Bros, 1949.
Little Jack Sprat and Betty Blue by Dorothy A. King. Lodnon, Blackie & Sons, 1953. [cover only]

Contributions to Annuals, etc
Animal Frolics (Thomas Nelson)
Fun For Me (Blackie & Sons)
Happy Animals (Blackie & Sons)
Just What I Like (Blackie & Sons)
Once Upon a Time (Hulton)
School Yarns for Boys (Thomas Nelson)
Stories for Tiny Tots (Thomas Nelson)
Storytime (Blackie & Sons)
That’s Mine (Blackie & Sons)
The Chummy Book – various editions (Thomas Nelson)
The Jolly Book – various editions (Thomas Nelson)
The Joy Book – various editions (Hulton/Allied Newspapers)
Warne’s Happy Book for Toddlers (Warne)
Warne’s Top All Book for Toddlers (Warne)
Wee Folks Stories (Thomas Nelson)

(* Note: There was a playwright also named Peter Fraser active in the 1940s and a children's author of the same name active in the 1950s, this latter being the pen-name of Phoebe Catherine Coles.)

UKCAC '86

Con held 20-21 Sep 1986 at University of London Union, Malet Street

Cover by Alan Davis & Dave Gibbons, A5 booklet, 80 pages

ARTIST (Character(s))
Bryan Talbot (Luther Arkwright)
Jack Kirby and Greg Theakston
Alan Davis and Paul Neary
Ron Smith
Angus McKie
Ian Gibson (Judge Dredd, Sam Slade, Hoagy, Tharg and self-portrait)
Phil Elliott
Kevin O’Neill (Nemesis and Torquemada)
Leigh Baulch (Doc Stern)
Phil Elliott (character from Second City)
Lew Stringer (Tom Thug)
Mike Collins and Mark Farmer
Dicky Howett
John Bolton (Wolverine)
Barry Windsor-Smith (Miracleman)
Kev Hopgood (Unknown)
John Higgins (Self portrait with Judge Dredd)
Brian Bolland
Brendan McCarthy (Paradax and Mirkin the mystic)
John Ridgway
Hunt Emerson (Max Zillion)
Graham Higgins (Jack Alarum)
Cam Kennedy
Eddie Campbell
David Pugh (Slaine)
Mike Matthews

Saturday, May 16, 2009

UKCAC '85

Bear Alley contributor Richard Sheaf dropped me a line mentioning an idea relating to old comic book convention souvenir books. "I've collected all the UKCAC brochures but couldn't (and still can't) find a list of who did what in them. So I thought I'd do it myself! There's some interesting stuff in them that might otherwise escape attention." I'm pleased to present the results here as an occasional series.

Con held 21-22 Sep 1985 at University of London Union, Malet Street

Cover by Alan Davis & Paul Neary, A5 booklet, 60 pages

ARTIST (Character(s))
Bryan Talbot (Nemesis the Warlock & Purity Brown)
Ian Gibson (Judge Dredd, Sam Slade, Hoagy, Tharg)
John Ridgway
Dave Gibbons (Rogue Trooper)
Kevin O’Neill (Batman, Nemesis the Warlock)
Hunt Emerson (Max Zillion)
Eddie Campbell
Gary Leach
Alan Davis and Paul Neary (Captain America & Captain Britain)
John Wagner, Alan Grant, Robin Smith and Tom Frame (Judge Dredd)
John Bolton
Dicky Howett (Doctor Whos)
Bob Wakelin
John Higgins
Leigh Baulch (Tatter Shadow)
Brian Bolland (Batman)
Phil Elliott
Glenn Fabry (Nest & Ukko [from Slaine the Barbarian])

H J S Anderton

H. J. S. Anderton was briefly a writer of crime stories in the 1930s, writing for the cheap paperback market. The bibliography below disguises the fact that most of the stories were short (64 or 80 pages), not more than novelette or novella length. Anderton barely makes a blip on any radar bar the comprehensive listings of Crime Fiction Bibliography, which, of course, means that he has to be investigated by the CFB Brains Trust.

Henry James Sebastian Anderton was born Birkenhead, 1871, the son of Henry Anderton, a theological student at St. Aidan’s College, Birkenhead, and his wife Ellen Cuerden Anderton (née Naylor) (c.1845-1922). Henry Anderton went on to become Curate of St. Lawrence in Haughton, Lancashire, then Vicar of Hopton Cangeford (1881), Garway (1883-84) and Ratlinghope (1886-91). He resigned in 1891 and went to live in Chester.

His son, Henry J. S. Anderton, attended a boarding school in Tattenhale, Cheshire, run by James Stephens and, in the 1891 census, had the profession of organist, at the time boarding with his father at a temperance hotel in Church Stretton, Shropshire. By 1901 he was “living on own means” in Formby, Lancashire, with his mother and younger brother, Augustus (1877- ). In 1911 the family was living together in West Derby, Lancashire. His death was registered in W. Cheshire in 2Q 1946, aged 75.

He was probably related to Henry Anderton (1809-1855), who wrote poems and became a leading advocate of temperance.

This is hardly the most comprehensive biography. I do get the feeling that his writing was probably low grade and typical of the kind of hackwork that appeared from Mellifont, although that doesn't automatically mean it won't be entertaining. They did come up with some glorious titles. I believe his first novel was a "yellow peril" crime yarn and some of the others sound as if they may be in the same style.

Novels
The League of the Yellow Skull. Dublin, Mellifont Press 211, 1932.
The Quest of the Crimson Idle. Dublin, Mellifont Press 217, 1932.
The Panther. Dublin, Mellifont Press 236, 1933.
Yellow Claws. Dublin, Mellifont Press 262, 1934.
The League of Death. Dublin, Mellifont Press 2103, 1934.
The Golden Idol. Dublin, Mellifont Press 2148, 1936.
The Dope King. Dublin, Mellifont Press 2179, 1937.
A King of Crime. London, Archer Croft, c.1939.
Shadow of Chu Kong. London, Popular Fiction [Everyday Novels 37], c.1940.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Comic Cuts

I've just about shaken off the cold I picked up a couple of weeks ago. Mind you I still feel completely wiped out so don't expect much sense out of me.

Above is the cover to the upcoming Frank Bellamy's The Story of World War 1 and I'm pleased to say that we're almost heading to the printers with this one. It's still a couple of months away from publication but it should look incredible. Proofs have been proofed but we still have to see printed proofs before the 'go' button gets pressed.

Yesterday I hit the halfway mark on the clean-up for "Wells Fargo", one of the Don Lawrence strips Book Palace is planning to publish in the not-too-distant future. It's a superbly drawn strip, as you'd expect from Lawrence, and almost unseen by even his biggest fans. The strip started in Zip back in 1958 and ran for 85 episodes before Zip merged with Swift, where the strip continued for another 65 weeks. Whilst most fans of British comics are aware of Swift, even if they don't own copies, Zip is almost unknown. I know one person who has a complete set, which I was fortunate enough to borrow for scanning. There were a couple of other excellent strips in Zip that deserve to be revived. One day...

Talking of which, my little publishing venture is coming closer to seeing the light of day. I appreciate it's a little frustrating for you all not to know what I'm talking about but I've already had to rethink this whole thing two or three times over the last few months and I'd rather keep disappointment down to a minimum. Best way to do that is say nothing. But I can't help saying something... so I'll say this: I've now seen a rough cover sketch for the first book, which looks great, and the book will be bigger than I originally planned. I've already started work on books two and three and I'm mulling over what to do for book four. Beyond that, my lips are sealed.

I've been doing my usual mid-month check on upcoming titles so here's a round-up of the latest news. I repost the recent releases and upcoming comics listings around the 1st of the month, but I try to keep them updated as best I can, so it's worth revisiting them during the month.

Carlton's new collection, Commando: D-Day Fight or Die, is out and copies have been shipping from Amazon. The cover by Ian Kennedy is, in my opinion, the best they've had on any of the Commando collections. We're still four weeks away from the release of Aces High: Air Ace Picture Library Vol. 1. Go out and buy it so I can do volume two, please!

Titan have managed to get a few of their titles out on time recently, namely Dan Dare: The Phantom Fleet and Modesty Blaise: The Lady Killers, which are both now on sale, but there's a chance that The Best of Battle: Volume 1 book has been delayed again, as has James Bond: The Girl Machine. If I can get confirmation of the latest release dates, I'll update this note later today. The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1970s is on schedule.

Waverley's The Broons' Day Oot and Classical Comics' The Tempest have also been pushed back to next month.

Above are covers for a couple of titles that aren't due out until September: Eagle Annual: The Best of the 1960s and Football's Comic Book Heroes: Celebrating the Greatest British Football Comics of the Twentieth Century.

If you fancy something completely different, I suggest you try the Manhwa exhibition at the Korean Cultural Centre. Full details can be found here and its worth noting that our very own Paul Gravett will be on hand to discuss Asian comics at the live drawing performance of Manhwa artist Chul-Ho Park on 21 May. The exhibition and events celebrate 100 years of Korean comics and cartoons.

Talking of events, the ICA has a talk on 2 June starring Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, who will be exploring the vast referential cosmos of their League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century trilogy with Christopher Frayling, rector of the RCA and popular culture guru.

And talking of popular culture (see how this all hangs together?) I went to see the new Star Trek movie last night. Best described as a roller-coaster ride that works just fine as long as you don't start thinking about gravity works while you're upside down doing a flip. Physics doesn't work in the Trek universe the same way it does in this universe, so just let yourself be carried around the loop and out the other end and you'll be OK. As a reboot of a tired franchise, it's a great start. I hope the film does well enough for there to be more of the same.

And that, I think, is all the news that's fit to print.

Anne Scott-James (1913-2009)

Anne Scott-James, who died on Wednesday, 13 May 2009, aged 96, was a writer and editor of remarkable talent, although I mention her here for her connections with two comic and cartoon creators.

In 1941 she left Vogue magazine to became the women's editor of Picture Post where she met the paper's chief war correspondent Macdonald Hastings, later to become the Eagle's Special Investigator between 1950 and 1957. Although temperamentally and politically unsuited, the marriage (Scott-James' second) lasted 18 years.

She became a novelist, and Fleet Street writer and columnist, writing for the Sunday Express and Daily Mail, later turning freelance as a writer and broadcaster following her marriage to cartoonist Osbert Lancaster in 1967. She subsequently became best known for her gardening articles in Queen magazine and a series of best-selling books on gardening, some illustrated by her husband, who died in 1986.

Obituaries: The Times (15 May), Daily Telegraph (15 May), The Guardian (15 May), The Independent (18 May).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

John Donegan (1926-2009)

"It's The Wild again"

Cartoonist and designer John Donegan died on 27 April 2009, aged 82. Born in Lewisham on 23 August 1926, John Peter Michael Donegan was the eldest son of Thomas Kieran Donegan and his wife Anne (nee Carley).

After working as a junior draughtsman at United Dairy Engineering Company (1942-45), he found employment in a number of technical drawing and advertising jobs before being appointed art director of David Williams & Ketchum advertising agency in 1958. He left in the early 1960s to join the Sunday Times and designed the Sunday Times Magazine when it launched in 1962. In 1968 he came Creative Director of Sharps Advertising, drawing cartoons in his spare time. In 1975 he became a full-time cartoonist.

His work appeared in Punch and the Sunday Express, where he drew the weekly "Waldo" strip (1981-84). He also worked widely in advertising and was the director of Clixby, three short animated stories for deaf and speech-impaired children, for Pacesetter Enterprises (1983). He often drew dogs in his cartoons, some of which were collected in book form, although he never owned a dog himself. He retired in 1991 to live in France.

Examples of his Punch cartoons can be found here.

Obituaries: The Independent (14 May).

Books
Dog Almighty! London, Souvenir Press, 1986.
Dog Help Us! London, Souvenir Press, 1987.
For Dog's Sake! London, Souvenir Press, 1990.
For the Love of Dog! (omnibus: collection of above three titles). London, Chancellor, 1994.

Books Illustrated
Dogs' Tales by June Whitfield. London, Robson, 1987.

(* artwork © Punch Ltd.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bryan Talbot's Grandville

Bryan Talbot has just posted a trailer for his latest graphic novel on YouTube. Grandville is an anthropomorphic steampunk detective thriller.

Bryan has been working on the series, to be published by Jonathan Cape and Dark Horse in October, since completing work on Alice in Sunderland. "I was looking through a book I have on the work of 19th century French illustrator Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard, who worked under the nom-de-plume Grandville. He was a big influence on the original Alice in Wonderland illustrator John Tenniel. he frequently drew anthropomorphic animal characters dressed in contemporary French fashions and his pictures were often politically satirical. It suddenly occurred to me that it could be the basis of a graphic novel -- Grandville could be the name of Paris in the centre of a French Empire in a steampunk setting. The 19th century proto-SF French illustrator Albert Robida is another influence."

Of his hero, Detective-Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard, Bryan says: "LeBrock's a large working class badger. He has the deductive abilities of Sherlock Holmes but, being a badger, he's also a bruiser and is quite happy to beat the crap out of a suspect to get information. His adjunct and close confidant is the diminutive and elegant Roderick Ratzi, who talks like Bertie Wooster and Lord Peter Wimsey. I wanted to do one of those sorts of adventure stories that starts very small and parochial but gets bigger and more exciting as it goes along until it finishes in an epic climax. The story begins with LeBrock investigating a murder in a small English village (in actuality Ruper Bear's Nutwood). The trail leads him to Grandville, where he discovers a shocking and far-reaching conspiracy. It's basically fin-de-siecle Paris, populated by animals and furnished with speaking tubes, automatons and steam-driven hansom cabs."



Bryan was recently in touch on a different but related subject: Racey Helps. Helps was a hugely popular anthropomorphic animal artist and Bryan sent over a photo of some Woodland Snap cards he had. I'm sure he won't mind me sharing it with you.

(* Quotes from an interview with Bryan by John Reppion originally published online in SteamPunk Magazine (30 November 2008); Grandville artwork © Bryan Talbot. You can find more images from Grandville at the Official Bryan Talbot Fanpage website. Racey Helps cards probably © Estate of Racey Helps.)