BEAR ALLEY BOOKS

BEAR ALLEY BOOKS
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Friday, December 13, 2013

Comic Cuts - 13 December 2013

Work on the next couple of Bear Alley books is progressing slowly. Some days I seem to be working in slow motion—on Wednesday, for instance, I was so wrapped up trying to track down information on a particular artist that I managed a grand total of 280 words of writing. This followed on from Tuesday when my Mum came round for lunch, which—in a nice way—threw the days into chaos, and Monday where I needed to finish off an obituary of Charles Grigg for a newspaper.

In between all the slacking, I did manage to complete a first pass clean-up on most of the artwork for The Man Who Searched For Fear, which is a Bill Lacey collection I'm working on. It's likely to have a couple more strips added to the mix, including "Agent of the Queen", which I loved when it first appeared back in the 1970s. I should have this out next month, bringing the total number of books from Bear Alley Books up to twenty in under three years.

I've just finished reading Illustrators issue five and it is bang up to the standard of the previous four issues. Gorgeously illustrated and with articles on four—or, rather, five, as 'one' is the team of Janet & Anne Grahame-Johnstone—radically different artists, there's a welcome diversity to the features.

Leading off is an extensive interview with Mick Brownfield, whose work you will know if you've ever picked up a Christmas edition of the Radio Times, with their jolly snowman or Santa illustrations. Brownfield is a master of an amazing range of styles, which led to him becoming one of the go-to guys in advertising and magazine illustration, his covers appearing on Time Out, Sunday Times Magazine and The Guardian. He's brutally honest about the way illustrators have been struggling during the recession, noting that pay rates are the same as thirty years ago and have never kept pace with inflation. This—and I speak from bitter personal experience—is the same boat that freelance writers have found themselves in for as many years.

Bryn Havord provides my favourite piece this issue with a look at the work of Brian Sanders, whose streaky-textured paintings appeared in all the leading magazines in the Sixties. He produced book covers in the seventies, notably a series of 26 covers for Pan's John Steinbeck novels, and illustrations for stamps in the 1980s. In 2012, he was asked to recreate his old style of illustration and produced a promo poster for the US TV drama Mad Men. It's always the measure of a good article when you learn a new word, in this case "scumbled".

The issue is filled out with an article on the lives of the Johnstone sisters, twins born in 1928 to Scottish portrait painter and costume designer Doris Zinkeisen, who had married Edward Grahame Johnstone in 1927. The Johnstones produced wonderful book illustrations and comic strips for younger readers over a period of decades, the two sisters complimenting each other's talents. Janet died in tragic circumstances in 1979 following a fire at their Suffolk home, leaving Anne to continue drawing and painting for another twenty years.

Finally, David Ashford provides a romp through the career of D. C. Eyles, a master illustrator from the days of Chums and an array of annuals. There are plenty of Eyles' trademark cowboy illustrations and examples of his comic strip "Dick Turpin's Ride to York". All delightful and evocative of an era now gone unless, like me, you have teetering piles of annuals sitting around your house.

You can preview the current issue here or order your copy, and any back issues you're missing, directly from the Book Palace website.

Next issue should be as good as it contains articles on Walter Wyles, Graham Coton, Dave Gaskill and Laurence Fish.

I mentioned above that Charles Grigg has died. He was 97 years old and had been suffering from dementia for some years. Grigg was, for twenty years, the cover artist of The Dandy, having taken over Korky the Cat from James Crichton in 1962, which he drew regularly until 1982 and irregularly thereafter.

Dandy editor Albert Barnes was so impressed with his work that he assigned Grigg to replace Dudley D. Watkins on Desperate Dan. Although the weekly only contained a handful of Grigg's strips, he was, after 1969, the main artist working on Dan's adventures in annuals and summer specials. His other major strip was Foxy for Topper, the wily fox appearing over 1,200 times in the weekly between 1953 and 1976.

Grigg had a parallel career as 'Chas', artist of over 200 saucy postcards for Bamforth. A fuller appreciation should be appearing in the Daily Telegraph shortly.

A couple of very random scans: every now and then I simply post scans of books I've picked up recently and this is just one such occasion. The first is a thriller by an American screenwriter, Norman Stahl, whose books are unknown to me. However, the blurb made The Assault on Mavis A sound interesting and I gather from further digging around that it's a particularly good thriller. The cover is an early one by Fred Gambino, who is better known (to me, anyway) for his SF covers.

Next up is Judith Flanders' The Invention of Murder, which I've heard good things of. The BBC did a series on very similar lines this year. Perhaps a little too similar, hinted Private Eye a little while back.

Finally, a novelisation of The Killing II. I may have to wait until I've found a copy of the first one before giving this a try, which I'm willing to do because (a) David Hewson is a decent author and (b) there are going to be subtleties in the TV series that were lost on me as a viewer but which may be interesting. Mind you, I have so many books lined up to read at the moment, it might be some while before I get around to this.

We have more of John Higgins' Battlestar Galactica over the weekend and a little treat next week: Ian Gibson's Bionic Woman . . . if I can get the scans together. Keep your fingers crossed, because both the strips and the story illustrations are well worth seeing.

3 comments:

Reuben said...

Very pleased to hear that The Man Who Searched For Fear is going to be reprinted by you next year. One of the many things you've introduced to me and I've thought wouldn't it be nice to have a (printed) collection of that.

Steve said...

It's a collection I've wanted to do for a while but haven't had time to work on until now. I've literally just finished scanning the second story, Agent of the Queen, and should start cleaning up the pages at the weekend or next week once I've finished working on scans of The Bionic Woman for next week's blog posts. No rest for the wicked!

B Smith said...

Scumbling - Roger Dean went on about it quite a bit in his Views book some thirty odd years ago.

Love your site - Paul Temple is always welcome!