Bob Batholomew, circa 1949, in his red Singer Le Mans sports car.
Bob Bartholomew, best know to the comics' world as the editor of Eagle and Boys' World in the 1960s, died on Wednesday, 9 October, at the age of 90. Bob had been kind enough to share his memories of his days working at The Amalgamated Press, Odhams and IPC over the years. I first spoke to him when I was putting together a history of the old Fleetway educational magazines (Look and Learn and the like) and he was very generous with his time, offering a unique insight into the latter days of The Children's Newspaper, which he helped to re-shape for a new generation. As a sub-editor to Sydney Warner, he introduced a sports page as Warner attempted to make the paper more attractive to children with pop features and fiction.
Bob took over The Eagle during a dark and troublesome time as far as fans of the paper are concerned. Following the Mirror Group's purchase of Odhams, which put Leonard Matthews in control of the Odhams' comics department, it is generally agreed that changes made to update the papers (in Eagle's case the introduction of reprints and the removal of Dan Dare from the front cover) failed miserably. With sales falling, Bartholomew was brought in and tried to regain some of the old style of the Eagle in its heyday. The first strip he helped introduce was 'Heros the Spartan', considered one of the finest strips ever to appear in British comics.
Born in Eltham, South London, on 25 August 1923 and educated locally at Gordon School, Eltham, Leslie Robert Thomas Bartholomew was a keen reader from an early age, sometimes 4 or 5 books a week, with an aptitude for English. He joined the Amalgamated Press as a junior at the age of 14, working on The Children's Newspaper where he mostly running messages, but was able to write the odd paragraph of news, for which he received an additional half a crown. He continued his education with a three year Associated Insitute of Mechanical Engineering Course at the South-East London Technical School, and later studied Maths and French in order to join the Air Force as a pilot. He scored 100% in maths at his entrance exam, and was offered a navigator's training, but insisted that it should be pilot training, although he subsequently served in Liberators as a navigator circling the Atlantic looking for U-Boats.
On his return to Amalgamated Press after five years, Bartholomew worked on The Children's Encyclopedia, scanning the thousands of pages for entries that needed updating and writing for The Children's Newspaper, eventually writing the weekly leader, front pages, sports pages, interviews and whatever else was required.
In 1962, Bartholomew took over The Eagle as editor, and tried to recapture some of the elements of the original paper's prestige, but found his efforts thwarted as decisions were made to bring the paper in line with other Fleetway comics. Bartholomew was also editor of Boys' World (1963-64), worked on various other Odhams and Fleetway papers – including World of Wonder and World of Knowledge – until 1981. He left IPC in August 1981 to concentrate on freelance work, mostly Disney characters for Gutenberghus, the Danish publishers of Disney Magazine. He retired in 1992.
Bartholomew only wrote a few scripts during his editorial days, including the Dan Dare story ‘Underwater Attack’ (1967-68) and the last few scripts for ‘The Guinea Pig’ (1968-69). He was, however, a regular compiler of crosswords for The Times; it was a Bartholomew-compiled set of cryptic clues that appeared alongside the wrong grid one Easter morning around 1991.
Bob was married to Joyce Theresa Wates in 1950; she died in 2002 but he is survived by their three children: Andrew, Paul and Joanna.