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Monday, February 03, 2014

Jim Kenner

There was a little surprise amongst the latest batch of Commando pocket books that arrived this week. One of the reprints was a story from the pen of Jim Kenner, who was the subject of much research when I was writing Boys' World: Ticket To Adventure — the history of one of the finest and most collectable of British comics. Intended as an Eagle for the Sixties, the paper almost didn't make it to the shelves. According to Bob Bartholomew, who sadly died in October last year, he was ordered to take over the title ahead of publication because it was already considerably off schedule. The reason, said Bob, was that its editor, although he had some superb ideas for the comic, was inexperienced in British publishing.

There was also a certain amount of resistance from the in-house staff to help out on a paper that they believed the management intended to rival the paper they had, in some cases, worked on for years.

The editor tasked with putting the new comic together was Jim Kenner, an American or a Canadian, depending on who was telling the story. When I was researching the history of Boys' World I tried every trick in the book to contact Kenner's family, who lived in Denmark, including trudging around town trying to buy Euros as the Royal Mail, as of 31 December 2011, no longer sells international reply coupons.

As I was only sending a letter and hoping for a letter in return, I only needed a Euro or two . . . but the minimum I could buy was 5. So that's what I bought. I was using the Danish telephone directory for addresses, sent off my letters and . . . well, presumably the people they were intended for had moved and the new owners maybe thought Santa had picked up a summer job sending out fivers.

Anyway, I tried attacking the problem from another direction and managed to track down some background. Kenner was indeed American, but with Canadian roots, and he had a brother. So I set out to track down the brother, who was still living in America . . . or had been, until his death six weeks earlier.

Another route blocked. Still, for those of you who have the book you'll know that I did at least manage to track down a little information and figured out that one of the reasons why it was so difficult tracking down information was that Jim Kenner wasn't actually born Jim Kenner. He's a good example of how utterly frustrating this kind of research can be sometimes.

Death Dive was Kenner's third Commando story but probably the first he sold after his days on Boys' World. He went on to write six more stories published between 1964-66.

( *artwork by Gordon Livingstone © D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd.)

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