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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jan Shepheard (1935-2014)

Jan Shepheard, one of the innovators of layout and logo design at Fleetway Publications, died  on 27 June. She was in her late seventies and had been retired for 21 years.

Shepheard was born Janet E. Evenden in Edmonton, Herts., in 1935, the daughter of Len and Kate Evenden. Jan grew up in nearby Southgate in the north London borough of Enfield and attended the Hornsey College of Arts and Crafts. After graduating, Jan joined the firm of L. Miller & Son where she was employed resizing artwork from American comics.

She worked there for several years in the late 1950s before joining Fleetway Publications, where she first worked on Buster before moving over to Valiant. Both titles were edited by Sid Bicknell, with whom Shepheard had a close relationship, working with him for over a dozen years. As art editor on Valiant, she was employed producing cover and layouts, designing logos and 'bodging' artwork. Speaking recently to David McDonald, Kevin O'Neill revealed: "Jan was an absolute master of matching anyone's style, patching in areas of artwork and actually doing running repairs. They used so many foreign artists ... and they often didn't understand the scripts. I think the translations of scripts were rather poor. So we ended up often with stuff drawn on the wrong side of the road, stuff that just looked wrong in a British story environment. Jan was forever fixing stuff like that. I did learn an awful lot just watching her."

Extending artwork was another task she became a master of. One of her most impressive achievements was to rework the "Men of the Jolly Roger" (1965) feature strip by Ron Embleton from the pages of Look and Learn to create the heavily illustrated Valiant Book of Pirates (1967).

Jan Shepheard was one of a handful of designers responsible for updating the look of Fleetway's comic output, which had changed little during the 1950s. Title panels with distinctive lettering and logos were introduced and Shepheard was—says O'Neill—"the go-to person to fix a lot of stuff and give it that very distinctive look – all that material from the early '60s Valiant was very new when it came out, very different to other Amalgamated Press titles."

She continued to work on Valiant until 1976 when she joined 2000AD where she designed the iconic "Judge Dredd" logo, which incorporated the Judge's badge and Dredd's face. "M.A.C.H.1" and many other early strips were enhanced by Shepheard's talent for logo design. In 1977, she helped create the look of Starlord, with its innovative layouts and logo designs that fitted perfectly with the artwork, ranging from the star-strewn "Stontium Dog" to the heavy duty "Ro-Busters".

After Starlord proved short-lived, Shepheard worked on Tornado, producing further distinctive logos for "The Mind of Wolfie Smith", "The Angry Planet", "Wagner's Walk" and "Blackhawk". She subsequently worked on Eagle, Scream! and specials. After Fleetway was taken over by Robert Maxwell in 1987, Shepheard took voluntary redundancy and continued to work freelance, latterly on Roy of the Rovers under the editorship of Dave Hunt. After three years of freelancing, she retired.

Her husband, John A. Shepheard, whom she married in 1959, died in 2013.

Further information: Down the Tubes (15 July 2014).

(* photo via David McDonald.)

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