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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ian Kennedy: Commando Cover 4

This issue is currently in the shops, so if you want to grab a copy it should still be available.

(* Commando © D. C. Thomson.)

The Argonauts part 10

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Eric Roberts

Peter Gray has published a letter from the daughter of Eric Roberts over at his Cartoons and Comics blog. Roberts was a long time contributor to both Amalgamated Press and D. C . Thomson, his style instantly recognisable. One minor error... where Erica mentions Sinbad the Sailor, I believe she must mean "Sinbad Simms", which Roberts drew for Knockout in 1957-58; above you'll see the opening episode and just what a terrific artist Roberts was. Sinbad looks just like Roberts' later creation Winker Watson, who debuted in the Dandy in 1961.

Ian Kennedy: Commando Cover 2

(* Commando © D. C. Thomson.)

The Argonauts part 8

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ian Kennedy: Commando Cover 1

I mentioned yesterday that four of Ian Kennedy's Commando comics had recently been reprinted and, over the next four days, I'll be posting scans of the covers. I've done my best with the wraparound format, but the glued covers and slim spine don't make things easy, so I'll hope you forgive the quality.

(* Commando © D. C. Thomson.)

The Argonauts part 7

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

William Bender, Jr.

Tokyo Intrigue by William Bender Jr. (Digit Books D144, Apr 1958)
Women were their bait!

Major Mark Talbot, USAF, arrived in Tokyo prepared to put up a one-man fight against a vicious and deadly enemy...
__On the surface the job wasn't much; just a little public relations task and the smoothing of some ruffled feathers...
__But underneath the red-tape lay coiled the deadly snake that was shooting its poison into the heart of the Far East!
I've only found a little about Bender, mostly from an article he wrote. Major William Bender Jr., AFRes, born in 1916, was a Staff Information Officer for the Aeronautical Systems Division (Part 1, Reserve) of the AFSC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. In civilian life he was a Public Information Officer for the University of Michigan's health science schools and hospital and was a President of the International Academy of Hospital Public Relations.

During World War II he served as celestial navigation instructor and in the Public Relations Office for Operation Crossroads. Recalled to active duty in 1950, he became OIC, Radio Section, Hq FEAT-PIO, and in July 1951 was amongst the first AF information officers assigned to the Munsan Press Camp covering the start of negotiations with the CCF and NKPA at Kaesong.

Major Bender also wrote numerous articles, short stories and a single novel. Tonkyo Intrigue was originally published in the USA by Ace Books in 1956. In the novel, Bender noted that...
As a captain in the U.S. Air Force public-information office in Tokyo, I was assigned to cover the cease-fire negotiations with the Chinese Communist Forces and the North Korean People's Army at the initial meetings at Kaesong. There I had a chance for conversation with Communist propagandists. Slowly I begame aware that the Reds had all the necessary foibles to become the world's prize suckers for a propagandistic campaign. but, as it happens, our Air Force does not work that way. We are officially dedicated to truth and accuracy.
__But I began wondering, what if there was a guy bold enough to sidestep the official channels? He would have to be gutsy, and an outstanding egoist, probably; an operator. Amid these reflections, Major Talbot began to take shape... Needless to add, the novel that developed is strictly a product of my imagination.
Although I've not found a way to confirm it beyond doubt, I believe Bender was born 25 December 1916 and died 15 October 2004. He was last known to be living in Monroe, Michigan.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ian Kennedy in Commando

Commando editor Calum Laird has been giving Ian Kennedy fans a treat over the past few months. In January, Commando reprinted no less than three titles featuring Kennedy's internal artwork and, on 22 April, a fourth title appeared (it's in the shops now if you want to grab a copy).

Kennedy drew five full stories for Commando and the fifth—"The Sand-Devils"—is currently being serialised on the Commando website, with part 1 posted on Wednesday. The second part will be posted on 29 April.

(* Commando © D. C. Thomson.)

Warren Ellis

Coming to a DVD player near you in 2011, Captured Ghosts, a feature-length documentary about Warren Ellis directed by Kevin Thurman and produced by Sequart/Respect Films, who are currently completing work on Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods, which is due for release mid-2010. Ellis comments: "This is horrifying and I don't want to look."

The Argonauts part 6

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

David Lewis

Mantissa of Death (Digit Books R853, 1964) Cover by Michel
Richard Carlton has been given the most thrilling and dangerous assignment he is ever likely to have to tackle. A Soviet agent by the name of Drimmler, bound for the Caribbean, has been captured, and Carlton is ordered to impersonate him.
__Join Richard Carlton on the mysterious island of Cardino—meet the ruthless Andre Golizar, the sinister Doctor Li, and the beautiful but treacherous Violeta, the Communist spy, whose life's ambition is the kill the real Anton Drimmler.
David Lewis is a bit of a mystery... he quite possibly doesn't exist. Mantissa of Death may well have been written by a Digit Books' regular to cash in on the success of the James Bond movies. The book owes a debt to Doctor No, with it's sinister supervillain Doctor Li who is working in his Caribbean hideaway on a device that will control the human brain.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Comic Cuts - 23 April

Time to celebrate: I've finished the H. Rider Haggard book!!! Or I'll have it finished before the day's out. Completed the artwork yesterday, although there's a tweak or two that might be required which shouldn't take me long to do. I've also got to take a look at the introduction but hopefully that will only need some minor tweaks, too.

Some folks have been wondering what I mean when I talk about cleaning-up artwork. It's basically bringing the quality of the artwork up to scratch. Some of the books I've worked on for Book Palace Books were reprinted from printed comics, some from original artwork. Every strip offers its own problems mostly associated with age; comics suffer from yellowing and rusting around the staples, ink showing through from the reverse of the page and poor printing on old recycled newsprint. Even original artwork is never clean, especially if it's thirty or forty years old.

The Haggard strips required an awful lot of work: two of the strips had no lettering at all and the third, Montezuma's Daughter, had an awful lot of damage caused by the cow gum used to attach the balloons to the board. In the lettering, you can also see the pencil guidelines drawn in by the letterer, so I usually have to paint out this kind of damage on every single balloon. Then there's damaged lettering as in the example below, all of which needs to be replaced.

The artwork itself can show a lot of damage and, on a strip like Montezuma's, the big problem is to try and repair the page without losing or causing more damage to the delicate ink wash

I'm not claiming that every square inch of every page has been completely restored. My rule of thumb is to repair where the damage is distracting, which can take anything between an hour and two hours per page. Is it worth it? Absolutely! I think the quality of the reproduction on the books we've done at Book Palace is some of the best around. We've had some very nice compliments about the artwork—I was especially pleased with the comments I've had about the Frank Bellamy's The Story of World War 1 because it took forever (well, that's what it seemed like) to bring up to standard. Hopefully you'll forgive this bit of self-aggrandising. I'm still high on having almost finished the book after so many weeks work.

Hopefully I'll have the artwork in the post to the designer on Saturday, leaving me free next week to write an article for Dodgem Logic and after that possibly Commander Grek, which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. Beyond that I've no idea.

Below you'll find a late contribution to the 60th birthday celebrations of The Eagle from Steve Winders, who is a regular contributor to Eagle Times and has written reviews for Bear Alley in the past. My thanks to Steve for letting me publish the verse here and you'll find a link below which will also let you see Steve in action.

Talking of Eagle... the Eagle Awards are back, with nominations closing on 9 May, so it's time to get voting. The awards website has been redesigned and updated and you can post your nominations online via the nominations form. I'm a bit disappointed that Bear Alley doesn't make it into the little drop-down suggestions box for Favourite Comics Related Website. Mind you, they are only suggestions... Don't let me influence you when you're casting your vote but with election fever gripping the whole country it's difficult not to get caught up in the excitement. I shall have to see if I can come up with a manifesto over the weekend.

The Lion and The Eagle


The Lion and The Eagle
by Steve Winders

I performed this monologue after the Eagle Society’s Dinner on April 14th. It is inspired by Marriott Edgar’s poem ‘The Lion and Albert’ and should be read in a Lancashire accent! The ‘h’s at the beginning of words have been included for ease of reading but should be omitted when reading aloud!

There’s a genteel seaside town called Southport,
That’s noted for Eagle and Girl,
Two comics from the 1950s,
That were started by a vicar in Birkdale.
His name were Marcus Morris,
And he’d found he were losing his way,
He’d signed famous writers for his parish magazine,
Forgetting that he’d have to pay!

He’d seen lots of comics from America,
That came over after the War.
They were hardly suitable for children,
All full of horror and gore.
So he teamed up with artist Frank Hampson
Who drew with meticulous care.
They created a comic called Eagle
With a spaceman called Chaplain Dan Dare.

He took it round publishers in London,
And all of them showed him the door.
While they liked the idea of a spaceman,
A space vicar were a bit of a bore.
But one publisher name of Hulton,
Could see the potential in’t thing,
So he sent Marcus a telegram,
Saying “Interested. Give us a ring.”

Well they ditched the idea of the Chaplain,
And Dan Dare was Chief Pilot instead.
Frank rented a studio in Churchtown,
Which were really no more than a shed.
He recruited a team of young artists,
To help him to realise the dream,
They drew Dan Dare, the Life of St. Paul,
And a strip about Walls’ Ice Cream.

Eagle launched in April 1950,
Anniversary of day Titanic sank.
Nevertheless it were a roaring success,
And they laughed all the way to the bank.
But success it were mingled with terror,
Which shocked and left them open mouthed,
For they had to up sticks and leave Churchtown,
And go and live in Epsom down south!

With a wide range of stories and features,
Eagle were an excellent read.
They’d PC 49 and Rob Conway,
Chicko, Tommy Walls and Harris Tweed.
They’d a cowboy strip called Seth and Shorty,
Where the dialogue were particularly strange,
So Marcus signed writer Charles Chilton,
And replaced it with Riders o’t Range.

Dan Dare became a sensation,
His adventures were a real delight,
But Frank were such a perfectionist,
That his artists had to stay up all night.
After Eagle came Girl, Swift and Robin,
So they catered for every age,
But their publishing rivals got jealous
And some even started to rage.

Then came the Fleet Street takeovers,
And Odhams bought out Hulton Press.
Marcus began to get worried,
He thought it might end in a mess.
So Marcus decided to jump ship,
He could see the writing on’t wall,
Like at Belshazzar’s feast in’t Bible.
Well he were a vicar after all!

The Odhams takeover weren’t too bad,
And Eagle continued to grow,
But then Mirror Group bought out Odhams,
And this were a really big blow.
The Mirror Group thought they knew comics,
In fact they owned quite a few,
For they’d Lion and Tiger and Comet,
And Knockout and Playhour too.

They were led by Leonard Matthews,
Who based his management style,
On Napoleon, Stalin and t’Mekon,
So you can see he were particularly vile.
He said he’d produce Eagle much cheaper,
And to be truthful that’s just what he did,
But he lost 150,000 readers,
And that must have cost a few quid!

Frank didn’t take kindly to Leonard,
So he left without starting a fight.
While Eagle continued without him,
Its future didn’t look very bright.
The sixties brought Heros the Spartan,
Sergeant Bruce and the Iron Man.
Eagle took over Boys’ World and Swift,
Which brought in Blackbow the Cheyenne.

But despite all the free gifts and mergers,
Sales continued to decline,
And finally Eagle ended,
On May Day 1969.
‘Great news pals!’ stated the advert,
Which heralded Eagle’s demise.
‘Next week we’re joining with Lion.’
A shock, but not a surprise.

Frank thought that Dan Dare were forgotten,
But his fans could never forget.
He were invited to a convention in Italy,
And awarded with a special statuette.
The award were made by his peers,
Frank wondered what it were for,
They called him Prestigioso Maestro,
Best comic artist since War.

Back home fans clamoured for new work.
They were thrilled with his fresh found fame,
And they said that they hoped that Frank Hampson,
Would have further comics to his name.
At this Frank got proper angry,
And “Thank you all kindly,” said he.
“What spend all my life drawing comics,
To join up with Lion! Not me!”

POSTSCRIPT

So here we are sixty years later,
And Southport has changed quite a bit.
Not quite as genteel as it once was,
The pavements are covered in... rubbish.
But the worst thing about modern Southport,
Which sends some of us round the bend,
Is that folk now support Liverpool or Everton,
Instead of Southport and Preston North End!

(* My thanks to Steve for letting me post his fine tribute to the Eagle of old. If you want to see Steve reciting the poem, it is avialable on YouTube thanks to Chris (aka 'philcovers') who has posted a 4-part video of the 60th anniversary celebration held in Southport on 14 April by Eagle enthusiasts. Steve's poem leads off part 1 of the video. The other parts can be watched via the following links: part 2, part 3, part 4.)

The Argonauts part 5

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Franco Caprioli: Introducing The Argonauts

(* The following piece was originally written as an introduction to an Italian reprint of "The Legend of Beowulf" in October 2007 and was translated into Italian as "Caprioli in Inghilterra".)

I am sure that, for many of you, this will be the first time you have had a chance to see 'The Legend of Beowulf' as adapted by Franco Caprioli in the pages of the British educational magazine Look and Learn. Whilst Caprioli has inspired many articles in the Italian comics' press and a full-length book by Fulvia Caprioli and Gianni Brunoro, there are still many areas of his work that have yet to be explored. His work for the British publisher Fleetway Publications has only been examined in any depth recently, notably by Fulvia Caprioli, the artists' daughter, in Fumetto no.62 (March 2007).

In introducing this strip, it is not my intention simply to heap praise upon the artists' work since the quality of Caprioli's drawing is instantly obvious. Instead, I will try to briefly discuss the magazines which Caprioli contributed to in the United Kingdom and try to explain how an Italian artist would come to draw Greek legends for a British magazine.

In Britain, Caprioli's finest work appeared in the magazines Ranger and Look and Learn. Both magazines were the creation of Leonard Matthews, although the inspiration for Look and Learn came from Italy where Matthews had discovered the popular educational magazines Conoscere and La Vita Meravigliosa. Matthews believed that a similar magazine would do well in the UK but his ideas were turned down by the directors of Fleetway Publications.

Two years later, Purnell launched Knowledge, a British edition of Conoscere published by Fratelli Fabbri Editori in Milan, and Matthews rethought his approach and brought the idea for Look and Learn to Fleetway's directors. This time it was accepted and the new paper, full of educational articles and some of the finest artwork to be found in a British magazine, was launched in January 1962.

That Matthews had good tastes in artwork is beyond any doubt. He had grown up reading the adventurous tales of Dick Turpin and Robin Hood and tales of exploration and pirates in the pages of Chums. In Chums, one of the most popular of British boys' magazines, he was exposed to some very fine artists, chief amongst them Paul Hardy, Thomas Somerfield, T. H. Robinson and Savile Lumley whose illustrations often graced the serial stories. Other artists—amongst them H. M. Brock, Eric R. Parker, D. C. Eyles and Roland Davies—would become regulars in the pages of Knockout, which Matthews went on to edit in the 1940s.

Matthews rose from the ranks of the editorial staff to become managing editor over all the Fleetway Publications juvenile titles in 1957 and Director of juvenile publications in 1961. Matthews was a very active manager, planning and launching dozens of new titles, including Top Spot, Harold Hare's Own Paper, Princess, Buster, and the educational magazine Look and Learn between 1958 and 1962 as well as a slew of picture libraries (War Picture Library, Air Ace Picture Library, Battle Picture Library) and taking on board already established titles like The Eagle, Girl, Swift and Robin.

To satisfy this expansion, many new artists had to be found and, since the mid-1950s, many of them had come to work for Fleetway through agencies in Spain and Italy. For many years, the main supplier of artwork had been Creazioni D'Ami, run by Rinaldo and Piero D'Ami, whose artists were responsible for hundreds of pages of British comics each month, introducing British readers—although they did not know it because signing artwork was not encouraged—to such superb Italian artists as Gino D'Antonio, Ferdinando Tacconi, Sergio Tarquinio, Renzo Calegari, Nevio Zeccara and many, many others. Piero D'Ami was supplying artwork to most of the pocket library titles, romances as well as the weekly comics. In the early 1960s, with more titles appearing, Leonard Matthews needed more artists and he and other representatives from Fleetway Publications would make trips to visit agencies in Spain and Italy to find new artists for new titles. The agencies would also send representatives to London to show samples of their latest artists' work.

By one means or another, Leonard Matthews discovered the work of Franco Caprioli. In 1964 he was preparing two new launches, a weekly comic to be called Hurricane and the larger, magazine-style comic, Ranger. These new titles would need new artists and Matthews found many of them through the Rome-based agency of Alberto Giolitti. Set up in 1960, Giolitti introduced a number of new artists to the British comics market, amongst them Annibale Casabianca, Antonio Sciotti and Salvatore Stizza. When Fleetway launched a new weekly title, Hurricane, in 1964, Giolitti himself was present, alongside Giovanni Ticci, drawing 'Sword For Hire'.

Caprioli's work had not been widely seen in the UK before Ranger arrived on the market. His story 'I Fanti di Picche' had appeared in Topolino in 1947 with two further stories ('Nel mar cinese del Sud' and 'La tigre di Sumatra') appearing in 1948. This last story, under the title 'The Tiger of Talu' was reprinted in Tit-Bits, a popular weekly miscellany of news stories, features, stories, pin-ups, cartoons and sports, in 1956. It is unlikely that Caprioli was even aware that the story had been reprinted.

Caprioli, a busy artist for Il Vittorioso in the early 1960s, did not need to take advantage of the expanding British market and, prior to his work in Ranger, only one original story had appeared, an 8-page complete tale featuring Olac the Gladiator in Tiger Annual 1962 (published in 1961).

In 1964, Caprioli began producing illustrations and covers for Il Giornalino, but the twin spectres of family responsibility and economic necessity led him to taking on work through Studio Giolitti where he was discovered by Leonard Matthews.

Caprioli's work for Ranger—which was launched in September 1965—began with a series of stylistically executed illustrations for a series of articles written by Captain W. E. Johns, the creator of Biggles. His series on treasure seekers reprinted chapters from The Biggles Book of Treasure Hunting, published by Max Parrish in 1962. Caprioli's new illustrations fitted perfectly these tales of lost wealth and gave him a surprising wide range of historical settings to illustrate, from 17th century Haiti and the wild west of Colorado to stories of the Spanish Main and ancient El Dorado.

For most readers this was the first time they had seen Caprioli's work, in which he built up shadows and details using pointillism, a style most famously used by Frank Bellamy but which was rarely seen in children's magazines because they were often poorly printed on newsprint which meant that dots and fine lines often blurred. Ranger was printed by the photogravure presses of Eric Bemrose, Liverpool, which meant that the illustrations reproduced far better (Bemrose also printed Eagle where Frank Bellamy's most famous strip work appeared).

In the issue for 27 November 1965, a new series by Captain W. E. Johns was launched, 'Champion of the Spanish Main', a story of buccaneers on the 17th century Caribbean high seas in which a young sailor named Mark Lawson tracks down Rochelle the Butcher, a pirate who, in league with the villainous Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica, murdered Mark's father and mother.

At the same time, Caprioli drew his first strip for Ranger, The 'Globe' Mutiny, based on the true story of Samuel Comstock, who murdered the captain and officers of the whaling ship and commandeered the ship, only to have some surviving captives retake the ship and strand the mutineers on a tropical island.

Although the strip only ran for 6 weeks, Caprioli had proven himself a fine illustrator of sea-faring sagas and was immediately offered another, adapting 'Moby Dick' from the novel by Herman Melville. This, too, ran for 6 episodes but it showed Caprioli at his best, especially in the final scenes where Captain Ahab finally confronts the whale that has haunted him.

Caprioli was next to be found in Lion, the popular weekly comic that had been running since 1952, where he produced 21 episodes of the series 'Bravest of the Brave'. He also drew a story for girls, 'Dawn of the Islands' in Tina (soon to change its name to Princess Tina) and a number of one-off strips for annuals.

Caprioli then appeared in Look and Learn where, over a period of nine months, he drew 'The Argonauts' and 'The Legend of Beowulf'. One aspect of education that Look and Learn was keen to explore was the classics—even in 1970, many grammar and private schools still taught Latin as part of the curriculum and Look and Learn reflected this with features on ancient Rome and Greece. Legends and myths were a useful way to bring visually exciting comic strips whilst, at the same time, sticking to its educational remit.

As a young boy in England—and I am sure this is true of Italian children—I found reading classic literature as a comic strip far easier than trying to read the original books; the poetry of the language which I can appreciate now was, to me at the time, dense and difficult to understand. The comic strips—where "a picture paints a thousand words"—introduced many youngsters to classic tales, none more classical than Homer's The Odyssey, which recounted the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts, and the epic Anglo-Saxon poem which tells the story of Beowulf and the Grendel.

These were brought gloriously to life by Franco Caprioli and it is regretful that they were to be his last comic strips drawn for British magazines; by 1970, the pound (sterling) had been devalued and exchange rates were less favourable for European artists working for the British market. Caprioli's workload for Il Giornalino increased and, sadly, he was lost to Look and Learn.

It is only in the past few years that British fans have begun to truly appreciate the talents of the Italian and other European artists who entertained them as they were growing up. Because of the anonymity of British comics, very few names have been known: Hugo Pratt, Gino D'Antonio, Ferdinando Tacconi all had a following in the UK… but the list is not long. I'm very pleased to say that Caprioli's name has been added to the list in recent years. Fans here in the UK now know the name of the man behind all those little dots. And for fans in Italy, I'm pleased you will now have a chance to see one of the strips that we enjoyed all those years ago.

The Argonauts part 1

"The Argonauts" is based on the Greek myth related in Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes, better known to the wider world as "Jason and the Argonauts" as it was under that title that Ray Harryhausen filmed the legend in 1963. Inspired by Jeremy's article on Clash of the Titans, which appeared here yesterday, I dug out the strip adaptation which originally appeared in Look and Learn in issues 416-425 (3 January to 7 March 1970), and present here the first episode. The artwork was by Italian artist Franco Caprioli, introduced above.

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Clash of the Titans

With the 3D remake in cinemas it is an appropriate time to take a look back at the British comic strips associated with the original Clash Of The Titans film.

Clash of the Titans
by Jeremy Briggs

Released in 1981, Clash Of The Titans was stop motion animator Ray Harryhausen’s last and most expensive movie which told the tale of the Greek myth of Perseus slaying the Gorgon and saving the princess Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus. As with many of the Harryhausen films, other mythologies are mixed in and in Clash’s case Cetus was replaced with the better known Kraken from Norse mythology.

Harryhausen movies have been well served by comics over the years mainly in the USA where Dell, Gold Key and Marvel have all released comic versions of his films. In Britain the first comic strip based on a Harryhausen film was Robert MacGillivray’s adaptation of Mighty Joe Young in Sun comic beginning in 1949, but it was during the 1970s that his films were best served with Kevin O’Neill drawing the Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad in Legend Horror Classics, John Bolton drawing One Million Years B.C. in House of Hammer and Ian Gibson drawing Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger in the movie special magazine edited by Dez Skinn. However the British comic strips of Clash Of The Titans have a rather more intriguing story.

The best known British Clash comic is the unusual Look-In Film Special which, if the number of second hand copies still around almost 30 years later is anything to go by, must have been pretty popular at the time. Unlike anything else released under the Look-In title, this is actually a British publication of the American Golden Press adaptation written by Mary Carey with art by Dan Spiegel. While Spiegel does a reasonable job of catching the likenesses of the characters and monsters, with the notable exception of the Kraken, the British edition doesn’t serve the film that well with its poor cover and garish colours. One can only imagine what it might have been like if a regular Look-In artist such as Mike Noble had been commissioned to illustrate it.

However there was a original British comic strip of Clash Of The Titans with black and white art by Modesty Blaise artist Patrick Wright. It appeared in 2000AD and ran for six weeks, yet you will find it in no 2000AD reference book or online database. Why? Because it also appeared in Warlord and other comics of the time. The British Clash Of The Titans was a comic strip advert for the film which also promoted Smith’s Snacks.

Smith’s Snacks, or Smith’s Crisps as they are better remembered, were running a £10,000 holiday competition along as a tie-in with Clash Of The Titans on their packets. Smiths were the manufacturers of Monster Munch so perhaps an advertising tie-in with a movie full of monsters isn’t quite such a stretch of the imagination as it first appears.

The half page adverts told the story of the film in abbreviated form over six weeks. In IPC’s 2000AD it ran from Prog 214 dated 30 May 1981 to Prog 219 dated 4 July 1981 while it also appeared in DC Thomson titles. The issues of Warlord that it was in were 349 to 354, which have the same cover dates as 2000AD, although Warlord managed to reprint the first advert instead of the second advert in issue 350 and then got back on track with the third one in issue 351. Since Clash was one of the big family movies of that summer it can be seen from the issue dates that the adverts were being used as a prolonged trailer for the child readers of the comics as they end as the school summer holidays would have been starting. While it does seem like an odd idea now, the deservedly forgotten Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith wild animal movie Roar also received the same treatment around the same time.

With no speech balloons, the story is told through text boxes with the film split down into six story segments. These cover the Perseus receiving his gifts from the god Zeus that will help him in his quest, his capture of the winged horse Pegasus, his battle with the three-headed dog Dioskilos, his battle with Medusa, his battle with the giant scorpions, and finally his battle with the deformed Calibos. The strip left the story at this point before the climactic battle with the Kraken encouraging the readers to “Now see the action-packed full colour film Clash Of The Titans.”

Patrick Wright’s artwork is clean, clear and accurate as befits the advertiser’s need to represent the characters and monsters as they would be seen in the film. By that time, with a mixture of comics work behind him that included strips in 2000AD and Battle, Pat Wright had illustrated Modesty Blaise in the London Evening Standard from 25 November 1979 through to 14 October 1980, taking over the "Eve and Adam" story from the departing John M Burns and then illustrating the full length of the ten month long "Brethren Of Blaise". Since the Clash strip had a similar action/adventure theme to Modesty and needed the same conciseness of art that a daily adventure strip demanded, perhaps it was his Modesty Blaise work that helped Wright get the commission. After his work on the adverts he would go one to illustrate various strips in IPC’s new Eagle and DC Thomson’s The Crunch.

But that wasn’t the end of the story for the Clash advertising strip. In the early 1980s the main monthly magazine that would feature fantasy films was Marvel UK’s Starburst and issue 34 had a two page advert of the Clash of The Titans comic strip also advertising the Smith’s Snacks tie-in. Yet while it was published at the same time to advertise the same film with a comic strip by the same artist, this was no reprint or reformatting of the six half page weekly strips. Instead Pat Wright redrew the entire story to fit the full page portrait format of Starburst. It is to his credit that while it would have been easy to copy his own panels from the weekly version on the whole he does not, with only the two climactic panels of Perseus holding the Gorgon’s head and later killing Calibos with his sword appearing to be similar.

They may not be the full length comic strip that the fans would have liked to appear but the two advertising strips for Clash Of The Titans remain unusual additions to the Harryhausen comics collection.

This article includes all six weekly versions of the Clash Of The Titans advertising strip. The two page version of the strip appears below to allow readers to compare the two versions.

(* Clash Of The Titans © MGM.)

Clashs of the Titans supplemental

(* Clash of the Titans © MGM.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

R. Wills Thomas

I think I made an error with Ronald Wills Thomas many years ago which has been picked up by others, so I'm trying to check and correct this error. I had fixed on the record of a Ronald W. Thomas who died in February 1955; re-checking the information I had to write up this column I found that this person died aged 46, implying a birth in 1908/09 and was almost certainly Ronald William Thomas, whose birth was registered in Islington in 1908.

The author Ronald Wills Thomas was, on the other hand, born around May 1910 in Aberdare, Glamorgan. He was the son of Ambrose Thomas, a grocer of 36 Herbert Street, Aberdare, and his wife Bessie Florence (nee Morgan) who were married in Lewisham in 1909.

A back-cover blurb to one of his novels notes that he spent his early boyhood in Cornwall, near St Michael's Mount. He began writing when he was 18, installing himself in a fifth floor room in Montmartre. Lack of success and money compelled him to find other work and he drifted southward to Lyons, where he took a position as a clerk in a wine business.

Subsequently he worked as a journalist, translator and teacher of English, living in the Belgian Congo, Pimlico, the shores of the Red Sea and Brighton.

I haven't tracked down dates for these events but I can say with reasonable certainty that Thomas was married to Dorothy A. Parsons in Westminster in 1935 and, around 1937-39, was living at 22 Redcliff Street, S.W.10 and, by 1939, at Colgate, Horsham, Sussex. Thomas was a prolific translator of novels from German and French during this period.

He joined the army early in the war and was invalided out after an accident. This did not prevent him from seeing a good deal of the Middle East as a civilian and he joined Intelligence in Germany at the close of the war.

After the war, Thomas began writing crime novels and thrillers. As far as I can tell, he first appeared under the house name Jeff Bogar in 1950—a name also used by other writers—although he also quickly established himself writing hardcover novels as Ronald Wills and James Cadell. Hamilton & Co. canceled their line of gangster novels in 1951 but began publishing thrillers in 1953 under their Panther Books imprint. Thomas wrote all the novels that appeared under the Jeff Bogar byline between 1954-55, these being the last of his known novels. A non-fiction book on the subject of the young Lawrence of Arabia appeared in 1960 as did a number of further translations under the pen-name James Cadell.

I now believe that Thomas died in 1969, aged 58, his death registered in Chichester, Sussex, although I'm trying to find a way of confirming this.

Novels as Jeff Bogar (possibly wrote others under this name)
Lady - Pass My Gat!. London, Hamilton, 1950?
Payoff For Paula. London, Hamilton, 1950?; as The Tigress, New York, Lion 72, 1952.
Undercurrent. London, Panther 102, Jan 1954.
Fire Zone. London, Panther 113, Feb 1954.
Pink Film. London, Panther 165, Dec 1954.
The Concrete Curtain. London, Panther 166, Dec 1954.
The Land Pirate. London, Panther 180, Mar 1955.
The Speed Queens. London, Panther 120, Jul 1955.
Painted on a Donkey Cart. London, Panther, Nov 1955.

Novels as James Cadell
Roast Pigeon. London, MacGibbon & Kee, Sep 1951.
Black Niklas. London, Victor Gollancz, Aug 1954.

Novels as Ronald Wills
Live Bait. London, Wingate, Oct 1950.
Big Fish. London, Wingate, Apr 1951; New York, Roy, 1954.
The Black Weever. London, Wingate, Sep 1952; New York, Roy, 1955.
Food For Fishes. London, Andrew Dakers, Feb 1954.

Non-fiction as James Cadell
The Young Lawrence of Arabia, illus. William Randell. London, Max Parrish, 1960; New York, Roy Publishers, 1961.

Others
Leather-Nose by Jean La Varende, translated by R. Wills Thomas. London, Methuen & Co., 1938.
A Child of Our Time. Being Youth Without God and A Child of Our Time [Jugend Ohne Gott and Ein Kind unserer Zeit] by Odon von Horvath, translated by R. Wills Thomas. London, Methuen & Co., 1939.
Days of Delight [Les Plaisirs et les jeux] by Georges Duhamel, translated by R. Wills Thomas. London, Andrew Dakers, Oct 1939.
The Age of Fish [Zeitalter der Fishe] by Odon von Horvath, translated by R. Wills Thomas. New York, Dial Press, 1939.
Centaur of God by Jean La Varende, translated by D. A. & R. Wills Thomas. London, Methuen & Co., 1939.
A Villa in Sicily [Villa Aurea] by Georg Kaiser, translated by R. Wills Thomas. London, Andrew Dakers, 1939.
Vera by Georg Kaiser, translated by R. Wills Thomas. New York, Alliance Book Corporation/Longmans, Green & Co., 1939.
The Great North [Grande nord] by Felice Bellotti, translated by James Cadell. London, Andre Deutsch, 1957.
Parachutes and Petticoats [Les fleurs du ciel] by Brigitte Friang, translated by James Cadell. London, Jarrolds, 1958.
Red Cloth and Green Forest [Samatari] by Alfonso Vinci, translated by James Cadell. London, Hutchinson, 1959.
The Lapps [I Lapponi] by Roberto Bosi, translated by James Cadell. London, Thames & Hudson, 1960.
Krakoram. The Ascent of Gasherbrum IV by Fosco Maraini, translated by James Cadell. London, Hutchinson, 1961.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Comic Cuts - 16 April 2010

I'm chipping away at the Haggard book still. The introduction is written and I've only 31 pages out of 112 still left to clean up... so I'm confident that I can finish the book next week. I've been asked to write an article on old sleazy paperbacks, and I've some proofing that needs to be done which will probably keep me busy until the end of the month. After that... well, I'm not sure. I've a couple of projects that I could start. We'll see how I feel.

Something else I've been marginally involved in is a new book about Denis McLoughlin that is being put together by my sometimes indexing partner David Ashford. There's always an undercurrent of interest in Denis who, sadly, died 8 years ago by his own hand. I had the pleasure of knowing Denis from meeting him at various paperback get-togethers and occasional chats on the phone. It's hoped that the book will be out this year and I'll try to keep everyone up-to-date with any news.

Talking of biographies, the much-anticipated biography Frank Hampson by Alistair Crompton announced in February (and which Alistair discussed here), is running a little late. I hear on the grapevine that the book is now at the printers and should be out in May rather than April. Tomorrow Revisited can be pre-ordered from the PS Publishing website.

Talking of Eagle... um... I was going to post something in time for the 60th anniversary on Wednesday the 14th but I completely failed to get anything together as I was too busy celebrating my own birthday over the weekend. Maybe next year for the 61st...

Hound of the Baskervilles comes to an end today. New strip next week if I can get pages together on Sunday. A mystery author tomorrow and a couple of contributions coming up from other folk so I can maybe take a day off, tho' I'll only end up frittering it away in front of the TV. I've 6 or 7 episodes of 24 on the recorder that are crying out to be watched, I still don't know how A Touch of Frost ends and the pile of unwatched DVDs and unread books is growing. I guess the fact that I really believe there are less hours in the day, less days in the week and less days in the month (how else can you explain why it's mid-April already?) just proves I'm growing longer in the tooth. But not so old I can't operate the DVD, I guess. There's still hope for me yet.

Hound of the Baskervilles part 12

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

John Schoenherr (1935-2010)

John Schoenherr, one of the finest SF magazine cover artists of the 1960s and a writer and illustrator of children's books for many decades, died in New Jersey on 8 April, aged 74. Below is what I wrote about Schoenherr for Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic History with a couple of minor additions:

The artist who dominated Analog (as Astounding SF became in 1960) was John Schoenherr, of whom Vincent Di Fate has said, "Once in a while an artist comes along with so much innate ability that he instantly gains the respect of his peers and becomes known as an 'artist's artist' ... Schoenherr possesses just such a talent and, to put a finer point on the matter, he is one of the best compositionalists who ever worked in the field of commercial art."

John Carl Schoenherr was born in New York on 5 July 1935 and studied under Will Barnett and Frank Reilly at the Arts Students League, and under Richard Bove and Stanley Meltzoff at the Pratt Institute, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1956. His first SF illustration appeared in Amazing in 1957 and he was a regular cover artist for Pyramid and Ace Books in the early 1960s. But it was his work for Analog that really brought him to the attention of fans.

Schoenherr's first Analog cover was for the June 1960 issue and he was to produce 50 more covers over the next nine years. Although capable of providing realistic space scenes and planetscapes—which featured in a number of early paintings—Schoenherr showed far more imagination withthe creation of alien creatures, These were not the bug-eyed monsters of yesteryear but often beasts of burden and intelligent alien races. That he could create credible aliens is perhaps no surprise; Schoenherr was known to the wider world as the illustrator of dozens of children's books, often featuring animals, and a popular wildlife artist, exhibiting at the New York Zoological Society in 1968 and publishing The Art of Painting Wild Animals (1974).

The mixture of alien creatures and planetscapes were brought together in Schoenherr's illustrations for Frank Herbert's Dune, serialized in Analog in 1963 and 1965 as Dune World and The Prophet of Dune. Schoenherr won the Hugo Award in 1965. He would later return to Dune when he produced a series of new illustrations for The Illustrated Dune (1978), which showed how Schoenherr's style had changed: his early drawings were often produced very precisely in scratchboard; the later dry brush illustrations are looser and more diffuse but have lost none of their command of composition.

After a brief departure, Schoenherr returned to Analog in the 1970s for a further two-dozen covers, after which he left illustration behind to concentrate on painting wildlife.

He won the 1988 Caldecott Medal for his illustrations for Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.

A comprehensive biography of Schoenherr's career can be found here.

Hound of the Baskervilles part 10

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)