Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books

Monday, July 16, 2018

Illustrators #22 (Spring 2018)

Running a little late, but well worth the wait, is issue 22 of Illustrators, a Bardon Art special written for the most part by Diego Cordoba, but with an introduction from Dave Gibbons.

For those of you who don't know Bardon, it has been one of the busiest agencies of the past sixty years, funneling fantastic Spanish and British artwork to and from the UK and Spain to Europe, Africa and the Americas. Set up in 1957, it was a joint venture from former Amalgamated Press editor Barry Coker and Spanish artist Jordi Macabich. By the 1970s they represented over 70 artists and maintained a healthy relationship with Fleetway and DC Thomson into the 1980s and 1990s, despite the contracting market. It eventually closed when Barry retired in 2010.

From Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland in the UK, to key 2000AD artists like Carlos Ezquerra, Bardon has represented a broad range of artists. At one time they had seven strips running in national newspapers, including 'Friday Foster' drawn by Jordi Longaron, one of the subjects of this issue.

Barry Coker himself takes readers through the history of the company and some of its successes before we meet some of the key artists who have worked for the company. It's one of those books that could have been ten times as big because even some of the minor names associated with the company produced plenty of stunning artwork. Given the limits of a 96-page magazine, we get to look at five. But what a five!

Jordi Penalva is best-known for his covers for Cowboy Comics and, from 1963, the Fleetway war libraries – producing over 200 covers; two years later he also began painting covers for Commando, making Penalva one of the faces of British war comics during the 1960s.

Three artists can be grouped together because Matias Alonso, Luis Bermejo and Jose Ortiz were all part of the Valencian group of artists who found work in the UK in the 1960s, producing pages for Eagle (filling-in for Bermejo on 'Heros the Spartan') amongst others. Alonso lived in the UK for thirty-five years, drawing chiefly for Commando and DC Thomson's girls' comics.

Bermejo could have an issue devoted to him... he's one of my favourite artists. From his work on Thriller Picture Library, through Boys' World and Eagle to Fantastic, he showed an astonishing range of styles and talent with both pen and brush. Later he showed an equal talent for strips and illustrations aimed at the very young in the pages of Once Upon a Time and Treasure.

Jose Ortiz also had an amazing career in British comics, drawing the newspaper strip 'Caroline Baker', working for the original Eagle and the revived Eagle, Top Spot to 2000AD, War Picture Library to Wildcat.

That leaves Jordi Longaron, whose early strip work gave way to painted covers for the British and Spanish markets before he launched into a four-year run on the 'Friday Foster' newspaper strip.

For more information on Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. Issue 23 will feature the work of illustrating legends N C Wyeth and Virgil Finlay, alongside features on Bobby Chiu and Anne & Janet Grahame Johnstone.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Eagle Times v.31 no.2 (Summer 2018)

The summer issue of Eagle Times leads with an essay by David Britton, the first in a series exploring the historical accuracy of Charles Chilton's Riders of the Range, the radio series that became a key part of the Eagle's pages for a dozen years. He begins with the 1957-58 series 'War with the Sioux' and discusses the events that led up to the signing of the Sioux Treaty, although it was not to last because gold was soon to be discovered in the Black Hills.

Britton is also responsible for another part 1 on the inner workings of Eagle, discussing the discovery of memoranda sent out by editor Marcus Morris to all his artists about what colours artists were allowed to use for the Infra Red process used to reproduce pages of artwork.

A large part of this issue is given over to Eagle Society events, the recent get-together in Leicester in April, the text of Steve Winders' talk at that gathering, and a look forward to the Dundee meeting in 2019.

Part two of a P.C.49 story, a look at Connaught Racing Cars, part 6 of a series of SF movies, looking at films from 1963-65, and a couple of fillers wrap up another neatly put-together 48 pages.

Anyone who has fond memories of the Eagle might want to give the magazine a try. The quarterly magazine is the journal of the Eagle Society, with membership costing £29 in the UK, £40 (in sterling) overseas. You can send subscriptions to Bob Corn, Wellcroft Cottage, Wellcroft, Ivinghoe, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 9EF; subs can also be submitted via PayPal to

I should also mention that back issues are available for newcomers to the magazine and they have even issued binders to keep those issues nice and neat.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Comic Cuts - 13 July 2018

Neither Mel nor I are particularly into football, but even we felt a bit of excitement when England scored that early goal. Shame it ended the way it did, but there's no point in recriminations... seriously, there's no point. The team did better than expected, got further into the competition than anyone expected and lost despite being (I thought) the better team on the night. That's just the way it goes, sometimes.

It Happened in Soho
I've spent the week doing more rewrites and juggling the contents of the fourth volume of Forgotten Authors. I started this project with the over-arching title of Fifty Forgotten Authors and, as the first three volumes contained 35 authors, I'm looking at including 15 writers this time around to bring the total to 50. I think I'm almost there, having tidied up three essays this week, one of them heavily expanded, and bumping two longer pieces, which can appear in a future volume. I should be able to reveal the contents next week.

The football and tennis has meant very little on the television. We usually have thirty or forty unwatched programmes sitting on the recorder, but with the completion of The Bridge and catching up on a couple of others we actually managed to get that number down to zero. We're still recording shows and trying to keep pace with things like Agents of SHIELD and watching returning shows like Who Do You Think You Are? (the Olivia Coleman episode was utterly delightful, thanks to her enthusiasm!) and The Last Leg (one of the best comedy shows on TV now that Taskmaster has finished).

The last show to be watched was It Happened In Soho, an old black & white movie from 1948 that I've had sitting there for a while. It was cheaply produced and not as good as I'd hoped, with a pretty lousy performance by Richard "Stinker" Murdoch as a newspaper journalist on the trail of a strangler in London's Soho district (I mentioned recently my fascination for films about newspapers and journalism). The brightest spot, oddly enough, was an appearance by Eunice Gayson, who died recently. She really lights up the screen in her brief appearances.

I've also finally reached the end of From the Earth to the Moon, a twenty-year-old HBO series by Tom Hanks that was made after the success of Apollo 13.  It hasn't taken the full twenty years to watch, but I've had the set on DVD for a few years now and only just gotten to it. Each of the twelve episodes covers an aspect of the Apollo mission, roughly one for each of the flights – from the tragedy of Apollo 1 to the flight of Apollo 7, the development of the LEM, the landing of Apollo 11, the near tragedy of Apollo 13 and the last few missions flown to almost zero public interest.

If you can get hold of a copy (mine was a gift from a friend) it's well worth it. Each episode tries to approach its subject from an interesting angle, so you learn about the extreme attention given to safety matters after a fire causes the deaths of the first Apollo astronauts, about the battle John Houbott had to convince NASA to land men on the Moon in a separate landing vehicle, and the stories of the wives of the "new nine" astronauts.

I grew up with the space programme at its height, from age seven to ten. It gave me an interest in space, astonomy and other sciences. When the space programme was scaled back, I had to turn to fiction and swapped my weekly Valiant for fortnightly Speed & Power at the age of eleven and, by twelve, was reading nothing but science fiction – thankfully at a time when there was plenty being published in the UK and I had access to the big library in Chelmsford and a great second-hand stall in the market where I started building my collection of paperbacks.

Happy days.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Commando 5139-5142

Brand new Commando issues are out today! Bear your Brown Bess musket and Baker rifle with the Sherwood Foresters, ditch the camera for courage with film star Rex Barton, outwit wily POWs in the Scottish Highlands, and fire on U-boats from the deck of a Coastal Motor Boat!

5139: The Forlorn Hope
The Forlorn Hope was the name given to those who were placed on the front line in battle. The 45th Sherwood Foresters Regiment of Foot were among those who would advance on the sieged City of Badajoz. It would be one of the bloodiest battles in the Napoleonic Wars, but on they fought against French cannons and muskets, ready to take out the best of Napoleon’s men.
    Manuel Benet’s stellar interior and cover art looks straight out of a scene from Sharpe, the dedication to regimental uniform astounding!

Story: Andrew Knighton
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet

5140: Shooting Star
Rex Barton was used to action — both on and off the camera. A film star used for propaganda pictures, Rex had had enough and took to the skies in his own kite, desperate to take down any Jerries in his path — and he was dang good at it. But when the Nazis got their hands on Rex they decided to make their own propaganda piece. The only problem was that Rex wasn’t game to play ball…
    Instantly recognisable, Gordon C Livingstone’s cover shines just as bright as Newark’s film star come RAF pilot hero.

Story: Newark
Art: Gordon C Livingstone
Cover: Gordon C Livingstone
Originally Commando No. 483 (June 1970). Reprinted No. 1404 (April 1980).

5141: Outfoxed!
In the last bitter days of the Second World War, many soldiers were happy to wait out the end in a sleepy prisoner of war camp in the Scottish Highlands — but not Gefreiter Fritz Schmitt. He wore the uniform and had the identity papers, but he did not act like a corporal, and he did not speak to any of the other Germans. No, his only ally was Military Police Sergeant Fred Foxley… but even he would balk when he found out what Schmitt had done in the Ardennes and why he must escape… 
    Inspired by Cultybraggan in Scotland, Ian Kennedy brings the POW camp to life, the perfect backdrop for Watson’s adversaries, Police Sergeant McKay and MP Sergeant Foxley, to play out their battle of wits.

Story: Colin Watson
Art: Morhain
Cover: Ian Kennedy

5142: High Risk Rescue
First World War Coastal Motor Boat skipper Lieutenant Frank Judge was no stranger to danger; CMBs had a top speed of forty knots and launched eighteen-inch torpedoes at enemy U-boats. But when Frank is assigned a mission to sneak ashore behind enemy lines and rescue missing naval Commander Richard Berry, he wishes he had just stayed at sea!
    Ian Kennedy’s moody cover perfectly suits the vintage tone of Clark’s unique World War I naval issue.

Story: Ian Clark
Art: Olivera
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 2824 (January 1995).

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 11-12 July 2018.

2000AD Prog 2089
Cover: Chris Weston
JUDGE DREDD: ELEVETATOR PITCH by Rob Williams (w) Chris Weston (a) Annie Parkhouse (l) Chris Blythe (c)
SKIP TRACER: HEAVY IS THE HEAD by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
THE ORDER: THE NEW WORLD by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
DURHAM RED: BORN BAD by Alec Worley (w) Lee Carter (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

The Ballad of Halo Jones Volume 2 by Alan Moore & Ian Gibson
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08636-0, 12 July 2018, 68pp, £9.99 / $9.99. Available via Amazon.
Comic legend Alan Moore's highly-influential classic of British comics, presented to a new generation colored and remastered for the very first time! "Where did she go? Out. What did she do? Everything..." Bored and frustrated with her life in 50th-century leisure-ghetto housing estate "The Hoop," 18-year-old everywoman Halo Jones yearns for the infinite sights and sounds of the universe. Pledging to escape on a fantastic voyage, she sets in motion events unimaginable; a spell on a luxury space-liner, a brush with an interstellar war - Halo Jones faces hardship and adventure in the name of freedom in the limitless cosmos.

Bella at the Bar by Jenny McDade & John Armstrong
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08625-4, 12 July 2018, 114pp, £10.99. Available via Amazon.
Bella’s gymtastic adventure begins here! Bella Barlow is a young orphan with ambitions to be a world class gymnastic. She has the talent, but is hampered by her cruel Uncle Jed and Aunt Gert who constantly exploit her for their own selfish gains. While out cleaning windows for her uncle’s business, Bella comes across an exclusive school with a great gymnastics programme. A kind teacher named Miss Mortimer would happily accept her, but the young athlete faces great opposition from her guardians and the horrible snobbery of the school’s headmistress.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Bella at the Bar

"Bella at the Bar" was one of the longest-running tales in the pages of Tammy. The strip began in June 1974 and Bella's adventures continued appearing at the rate of about one serial a year for a decade.

Jenni McDade – who scripted Bella Barlow's early stories – made her heroine a smart, cheerful, helpful, ambitious girl who was not about to let her circumstances get her down. Living in a seedy terraced house with her over-demanding uncle Jed and aunt Gertrude, who treated her like a skivvy, Bella's natural flair for athletics finds an outlet in gymnastics.

After rescuing a schoolgirl at the gym, she is offered a place by coach Miss Mortimer; however, both her uncle (who doesn't see any profit in it) and the headmistress of the school (who doesn't want her teachers training outsiders) are potential pitfalls to her plan. Convinced of Bella's potential, Miss Mortimer agrees to train her in secret and even the ghastly Jed and Gert are persuaded to let her practice, believing it could be a money-earner in the future.

Loose lips, unfortunately, mean that Miss Crosbie, the headmistress, gets to hear about Miss Mortimer's extra-curricular training of a "guttersnipe" and Bella is sent packing. She again proves her talents – and her utter lack of knowledge about gymnastics competitions – at a local event, where she is spotted by Bob Benson, head of a local sports centre. Paying for classes with Benson with a babysitting job, Bella almost loses her belief that she has the talent to make a good gymnast... but her confidence is restored when she is chosen to appear at a large charity event.

Of course, uncle Jed and aunt Gert see only potential profit and sign Bella up to Morton Stone's theatre variety show where Bella's acrobatic talent earns her plenty of applause and an enemy in the daughter of the show's owner, Amelia. Eventually she pushes herself too far and, scared of permanent injury, runs away.

And so the adventures continue, including run-ins with the police and the welfare department, being kicked out of a Russian gymnastics school, enduring a reputation as low as a snake's, winning and then being disqualified from a competition, running away to work as a care assistant under an assumed name while continuing her gymnastics with the assistance of a mystery supporter, being kidnapped by Jed and Gert...

Bella finally makes it to the British team as a reserve, only to find her reputation precedes her.

"Bella at the Bar" is a classic Cinderella story of a young girl held back by people who for their own benefit would rather she failed and are willing to use violence and cruelty to do so. The strength of the story is that it never stretches credulity as so many comic strips do – the heroine is attacked from all sides but never in a way that is unbelievable; and although there are a few Fairy Godmother characters along the way to offer her training (Miss Mortimer, and Bob Benson, for example), Bella always survives the situations she finds herself in through her own efforts. Her talent, generosity, selflessness and hard work wins the day.

The artwork for Bella is as memorable as the storylines. John Armstrong (whose "Moonchild" was reprinted in the first Misty volume), was able to capture the energy of every leap and spin. Perhaps unsurprising, as his first ever strip twenty years earlier had featured ballet dancing. Bella's emotional journey makes the book a page-turner, and the combination great story and great art makes this a must have.

Bella at the Bar by Jenny McDade & John Armstrong. Rebellion ISBN 978-178625-4, 12 July 2018, 114pp, £10.99. Available via Amazon.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Peter Firmin (1928-2018)

Peter Firmin, co-creator of many magical and enduring children's TV favourites and an illustrator of dozens of books and annuals based around his creations and those of others, died at his home in Kent after a short illness on 1 July, aged 89.

Firmin is best known for his collaborations with Oliver Postgate, with whom he set up Smallfilms in 1959. "He did the writing and I did the making," he later said of their partnership. "I could draw the things that he imagined. It was the perfect partnership, really." Their shows were notably relaxing, thanks to Postgate's gentle stories and calm narration. Firmin explained his relationship with his partner in 2016: "We sometimes disagreed, but generally we agreed in the end as we had the same sort of taste and, also, we both rather liked the idea of gentle stories where there was no aggression really and everyone was rather happy, gentle and content."

The two had met in 1957 when Postgate, a stage manager on children's programmes at Associated-Rediffusion, was looking for an artist to draw the characters and backgrounds of his newly created Alexander the Mouse (1958).

Postgate recalled in his autobiography how he hoped to find "an artist to do over twenty different backgrounds, as well as several cut-out figures for a fee of £30 an episode." He asked a friend, Maurice Kestelman, head of Fine Art at the Central School of Art and Design if he had any suggestions. He did: Peter Firmin had just had another child – his third daughter – and would probably welcome the extra money.

The two met at Firmin's Battersea flat, and Firmin was uncertain as "television was pretty ropey in those days. I wanted to be an illustrator of serious books. Anyhow, he said 'It's £30 a week'." Firmin was then earning £12 a week at an art studio and thought the pay was pretty good... and it was only for six weeks.

Firmin delivered, the animation being done live using a system of magnets, which sometimes caused the characters to fall over. Still, Firmin's talents were soon spotted by others and he was invited to produce work for Musical Box, his animations  using levers and moving panels to tell the stories of nursery rhymes sung by Rolf Harris and Wally Whyton which he did for eight years.

Postgate, meanwhile, had made his first foray into filming his work with The Journey of Master Ho (1958) and a friend from drama school, who had worked as an engine-fireman, helped inspire his next creation, set in the top left-hand corner of Wales and featuring a locomotive working for the Merioneth and Llantisilly Rail Traction Company Ltd. Postgate approached Firmin with an opening scene scripted and a rough storyboard; two days later, Firmin had fleshed out the characters and countryside that was to feature in Ivor the Engine . The original series ran to 6 ten-minute episodes (1959-60) telling the story of how Ivor wanted to sing in a choir, which he achieved by the series' end.

On a trip to the British Museum, Firmin saw a set of 12th century Norse chess figures discovered on the island of Lewis in 1831. These sowed the seed for The Saga of Noggin the Nog (1959-65), the initial story telling of how Noggin had to find a bride in order to stop his uncle (Nogbad the Bad) becoming the new King of the Nogs.

When TV Publications began planning the children's comic TV Land for launch in October 1960, Postgate was asked to create a weekly series of 8-panel stories featuring Ivor the Engine, which Firmin drew. While TV Land lasted only 68 weeks, it provided the inspiration for a second and third series of animated Ivor adventures when Postgate was asked to bring the character back by Associated-Rediffusion.

Over the next few years, Smallfilms was responsible for The Seal of Neptune (1960-63), Pingwings (1961-65) and Pogle's Wood (1965-68). At the same time, Postgate and Firmin were responsible for writing a great many spin-off books based on the Smallfilms' characters, beginning with Ivor the Engine (1962) and including a yearly Pogle's Wood Annual which ran for seven volumes (1968-74) as well as a regular weekly strip in Pippin, although this was drawn by Bill Mevin. The new comic, also from TV Publications, was named after one of the Postgate & Firmin's characters, the son of the King of the Fairies who was put in the charge of Mr. and Mrs. Pogle.

Other Firmin creations outside of Smallfilms included Basil Brush, who made his debut in the ITV series The Three Scampis in 1962 alongside Spike McPike, a Scottish hedgehog also made by Firmin, and Howard Williams. Basil was voiced by Ivan Owen, modelled on the caddish tones of Terry-Thomas, and went on to star as a side-kick to magician David Nixon in the late 1960s and then to his own show (1968-80). Firmin also created Fred Barker (also voiced by Ivan Owen) and Ollie Beak for The Five O'Clock Club (ATV, 1963-66).

One of the most memorable of Smallfilms' creations were The Clangers (BBC, 1969, 1972). A precursor to these alien creatures had appeared in one of the Noggin books (Noggin and the Moonmouse, 1967), while the show itself was suggested by the planned landing on the Moon. The Clangers were a family of tiny, tailless mouse-like creatures who lived underground on a planet that resembled a Swiss cheese, with metal lids over the holes leading to the Clangers' home. They live on soup and blue string pudding and spend their days collecting space debris from which Major Clanger makes useful things. Other inhabitants include the Soup Dragon and Iron Chicken.

Bagpuss (BBC, 1974) ran for only one 13-episode season, but was voted the UK's favourite children's TV programme in 1999. The stuffed, saggy pink cat lived in a shop where a young girl, Emily (Firmin's daughter), displayed lost or broken toys in the window. Bagpuss and the other toys would all come to life when nobody was watching and discuss the newcomer, which often required mending by a workforce of mice. (Bagpuss was intended to be a marmalade-coloured cat, but a mistake at the fur-dying company meant he became pink.)

After a revival of Ivor the Engine for the BBC (1976-77), Smallfilms later produced a series of 5-minute shows based on Frank Muir's What-a-Mess books about a scruffy Afghan puppy (1979), two series of Tottie: The Story of a Dolls' House (BBC, 1984, 1986), based on the novel The Dolls' House (1947) by Rumer Godden, and Pinny's House (BBC, 1986), a series of 13 episodes written and animated by Firmin alone, which also featured dolls.

Peter Arthur Firmin was born on 11 December 1928, the son of Lewis Charles Firmin (1901-1985), a railway telegrapher, and his wife Lila (Eliza Isabella, nee Burnett, 1903-1995), who Charles met on a blind date thanks to his brother, who was a policeman in Harwich. The two were married in 1926 and moved to Wood Green, although Charles was posted to Parkeston Quay and Peter, their second son, was born in Dovercourt.

From an early age, he enjoyed drawing on surplus teleprinter rolls brought home from work by his father. At the age of 10 won a scholarship to the High School in Harwich; however, the Second World War broke out and Peter and his elder brother (Lewis) were evacuated to Gloucestershire, living at a thatched cottage belonging to a elderly widow on whom the witch from Pogle's Wood was based – although she was nice, Firmin's first impression was of her, stooped, wrapped in a shawl and followed by a cat.

Returning to Essex after a year or two, Firmin attended the grammar school in Colchester and then high school in Clacton before earning a place at Colchester Art School at the age of 15. His National Service was spent in the Royal Navy and a grant of £260 a year meant he could resume his education and attend the Central School of Arts. There, in 1952, he met Joan, who was studying bookbinding. Discovering they shared many common interests, they married after only a few months.

Living in a room in Shepherd's Bush, Firmin tried to find work as a freelance illustrator while Joan completed her studies. He found work as a general artist at a stained glass studio in Surrey, which paid £6 a week. For two years he helped replace glass in churches damaged by bombing during the War. After that, he spent a couple of years working for a studio in Bond Street producing publicity material and then turned freelance. Work came in for a while, but dried up during the winter of 1957/58. Oliver Postgate's arrival was quite timely.

In 1959, thanks to the £100 per episode Smallfilms were offered per episode for Ivor the Engine, Firmin moved his family to a farmhouse in Blean, Kent, which had a range of outbuildings, including a cow shed, pigsties and a large, leaky barn. Postgate moved to nearby Whistable and the two worked together in the cow shed, Firmin's artistic studio at one end and Postgate's animation equipment at the other.

Making the films was a family concern. Firmin's sister, Gloria, knitted the Pingwings penguins and wife Joan knitted the pink skins of Clangers that were fitted over a skeleton of Meccano and wire, and made Bagpuss's paws. Emily, Firmin's daughter, starred in Bagpuss, as did one of the family's toys, a rag doll named Madeleine. Thanks to the shoestring budgets, most of the characters and sets were made from whatever Firmin and his family had laying around in the house and farm buildings. However, it was the simplicity of the creations that helped give the shows their enduring appeal.

Like Ivor and Pogle’s Wood, other Smallfilms shows inspired comic strip adventures, with Postgate and Firmin often producing them, notably for Playland and Pippin in Playland, which included strips based on Noggin the Nog (1967), The Clangers (1971) and Bagpuss (1974)—the Smallfilms website estimating that “Over the years, Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin wrote and illustrated something like four hundred weekly strip stories for weekly children's papers called TV Land and TV Playland (sic). They also produced longer stories to go in the Annuals and Summer specials of those papers.” The Noggin pages from Playland were later collected in Nogmania (1977).

When the shows came to an end in the 1980s, Firmin returned to illustration and worked on many books. He was commissioned to produce engravings on vinyl, which renewed his interest in printmaking, which resulted in exhibitions in Whitstable, Canterbury, Saffron-Walden and Aldeburgh.

In 1987, Postgate and Firmin were awarded honorary degrees by the University of Kent and, in 2007, they received the Action for Children's Arts JM Barrie Award for a lifetime's achievement in delighting children. He received the BAFTA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. A retrospective exhibition of his work was put on at the V&A's Museum of Childhood in 2016.

He worked as a design consultant and co-executive producer on the revival of The Clangers narrated by Michael Palin in 2015 – William Shatner voiced the series in the US – and "continued to work with great enthusiasm on creative projects right up until the beginning of 2018," according the Coolabi, the production company behind the revived series.

He is survived by his wife, six daughters, eleven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Five of his daughters – Hannah, Charlotte, Josie, Emily and Lucy – went to art school, while Kate works in accounts.


Books illustrated by Peter Firmin

Ivor the Engine (all by Oliver Postgate):
  Ivor the Engine. London, Abelard Schuman, 1962.
  Ivor’s Outing. London, Abelard Schuman, 1967.
  Ivor the Engine: The First Story. London, Fontana, 1977.
  Ivor the Engine: Snowdrifts. London, Fontana, 1977.
  Ivor the Engine: The Dragon. London, Collins, 1979.
  Ivor the Engine: The Elephant. London, Collins, 1979.
  Ivor the Engine: The Foxes. London, Collins, 1982.
  Ivor’s Birthday. London, Collins, 1984.
  Ivor the Engine Annual. Stafford Pemberton, 1977.
  Ivor the Engine Red Story Book (omnibus; contains Ivor’s Birthday, Ivor the Engine: The Foxes). Glasgow, Richard Drew, 1986.

Noggin the Nog (all by Oliver Postgate):
  King of the Nogs. London, Kaye & Ward, 1968
  The Ice Dragon. London, Kaye & Ward, 1968.
  The Flying Machine. London, Kaye & Ward, 1968.
  The Omruds. London, Kaye & Ward, 1968.
  The Island. London, Kaye & Ward, 1969; as Noggin and the Island, London, Fontana, 1990.
  The Firecake. London, Kaye & Ward, 1969.
  The Flowers. London, Kaye & Ward, 1969; as Noggin and the Flowers, London, Fontana, 1990.
  The Pie. London, Kaye & Ward, 1971.
  The Game. London, Kaye & Ward, 1972.
  The Monster. London, Kaye & Ward, 1972.
  The Blackwash. London, Kaye & Ward, 1975.
  The Icebergs. London, Kaye & Ward, 1975.
  Early reader series:
    Noggin the King. London, Edmund Ward, 1965.
    Noggin and the Whale. London, Edmund Ward, 1965.
    Noggin and the Dragon. London, Edmund Ward, 1966.
    Nogbad Comes Back!. London, Edmund Ward, 1966.
    Noggin and the Moon Mouse. London, Kaye & Ward, 1967.
    Nogbad and the Elephants. London, Kaye & Ward, 1967.
    Noggin and the Money. London, Kaye & Ward, 1973.
    Noggin and the Storks. London, Kaye & Ward, 1973.
  Three Tales of Noggin Vol.1 (omnibus; contains Noggin the King, Noggin and the Whale, Noggin and the Moon Mouse). London, Kaye & Ward, 1981.
  Three Tales of Noggin Vol. 2 (omnibus; contains Noggin and the Dragon, Noggin and the Elephants, Noggin and the Storks). London, Kaye & Ward, 1981.
  The Saga of Noggin the Nog (omnibus; contains Noggin the King, The Ice Dragon, The Flying Machine, The Omruds). London, HarperCollins, 1992.
  Nogmania. London, Kaye & Ward, 1977; revised, The Dragons Friendly Society, 2007.
  The Sagas of Noggin the Nog. Four Tales of the Northlands. The Dragons Friendly Society, 2007.

Pogles' Wood (all by Oliver Postgate):
  Tog Sees the World. Feltham, Paul Hamlyn, 1967.
  Pippin Fishing. Feltham, Paul Hamlyn, 1967.
  The Pogles Annual [with contributions from Stephen Sylvester, Hilda Offen and Sylvia Kenyon]. London, Polystyle Publications, 7 vols., 1968-74.
  The Magic Milk Cart. Feltham, Paul Hamlyn, 1968.
  Pogles’ Wood Story Book. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1969.
  A Bag of Magic. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1969.
  Tog’s Train Trip. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1970.
  Pippin’s Castle. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1970.

The Clangers (all by Oliver Postgate):
Major Clanger’s Rocket. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1970.
A Thing for Flying. Feltham, Hamlyn, 1970.
Clangers Annual. London, Polystyle Publications, 2 vols., 1971-72.
  1 The Iron Chicken. London, Little, Brown & Co., 1992.
  2 The Music Trees. London, Little, Brown & Co., 1992.
  3 The Hoopicopter. London, Little, Brown & Co., 1992.
  4 The Sky-Moos. London, Little, Brown & Co., 1993.
  5 The Top Hat. London, Little, Brown & Co., 1993.
  6 The Tablecloth. London, Little, Brown & Co., 1993.

Bagpuss (all by Oliver Postgate):
  Bagpuss Beginners series:
    1 Mr. Rumbletum’s Gumboot. London, Pelham, 1975.
    2 The Song of the Pongo. London, Pelham, 1975.
    3 Silly old Uncle Feedle. London, Pelham, 1975.
  Bagpuss in the Sun. Glasgow, Collins, 1975.
  Bagpuss on a Rainy Day. London, Collins, 1975.
  The Bagpuss Annual. London, BBC, 1974.
  The Second Bagpuss Annual. London, BBC, 1975.
  The New Bagpuss Annual 2001. London, Egmont World, 2000.
  The Little Book of Bagpuss. London, Walker, 2005.
  The Big Book of Bagpuss. London, HarperCollins Children’s, 2007.

Basil Brush:
  Basil Brush at the Seaside. London, Kaye & Ward, 1970.
  Basil Brush Annual. Manchester, World Distributors, ?11 vols., 1970-80.
  Basil Brush in the Jungle. London, Kaye & Ward, 1970.
  Basil Brush Finds Treasure. London, Kaye & Ward, 1971.
  Basil Brush and the Dragon. London, Kaye & Ward, 1971.
  Basil Brush Goes Flying. London, Kaye & Ward, 1972.
  Basil Brush Goes Boating. London, Kaye & Ward, 1972.
  Basil Brush Gets a Medal. London, Kaye & Ward, 1973.
  Basil Brush Builds a House. London, Kaye & Ward, 1973.
  Basil Brush on the Trail. London, Kaye & Ward, 1979.
  Basil Brush and the Windmills. London, Kaye & Ward, 1979.
  Three Tales of Basil Brush [Book 1] (omnibus; contains Basil Brush Goes Boating, Basil Brush Goes Flying, Basil Brush in the Jungle). London, Kaye & Ward, 1979.
  Three Tales of Basil Brush [Book 2] (omnibus; contains Basil Brush and the Dragon, Basil Brush Builds a House, Basil Brush Gets a Medal). London, Kaye & Ward, 1979.
  Two Tales of Basil Brush (omnibus; contains Basil Brush Goes Flying, Basil Brush Goes Boating). London, Fontana, 1982.
  Basil Brush Takes Off (omnibus; contains Basil Brush in the Jungle, Basil Brush at the Seaside). London, Fontana, 1983.

Other Illustrated Books by Peter Firmin
The Winter Diary of a Country Rat. Tadworth, Kaye & Ward, 1981.
Chicken Stew. London, Pelham Books, 1982.
Tricks & Tales. Tadworth, Kaye & Ward, 1982.
The Midsummer Notebook of a Country Rat. Tadworth, Kaye & Ward, 1983.
Pinny in the Snow. London, A. Deutsch, 1985.
Pinny Finds a House. London, A. Deutsch, 1985.
Pinny and the Bird. London, A. Deutsch, 1985.
Pinny and the Floppy Frog. London, A. Deutsch, 1987.
Pinny’s Party. London, A. Deutsch, 1987.
Nina’s Machines. London, A & C. Black, 1988.
My Dog Sandy. London, A. Deutsch, 1988.
Making Faces. London, Picture Lions, 1988.
Hungry Mr Fox. London, Belitha, 1989.
Boastful Mr Bear. London, Belitha, 1989.
Foolish Miss Crow. London, Belitha, 1989.
Happy Miss Rat. London, Belitha, 1989.
Magic Mash. London, A. & C. Black, 1989.
Press-and-Build Theatre of Varieties, with stories by Charlotte Firmin. London, Walker, 1991.
Paper Tricks and Moving Pictures. London, Picture Lions, 1991.
Story Castle, with stories by Charlotte Firmin. London, Walker, 1991.
Ships and Cranes. London, A. & C. Black, 1994.
Mills and Big Wheels. London, A. & C. Black, 1994.
Racing Cars and Cycles. London, A. & C. Black, 1994.
Flying Machines. London, A. & C. Black, 1994.

Books by others illustrated by Firmin
Town Life Through the Ages by R. W. Morris. London, George Allen & Unwin, 1952.
The ‘Blue Peter’ Book of Limericks, ed. by Biddy Baxter & Rosemary Gill, illus. with Edward Lear. London, Pan Books, 1972.
The ‘Blue Peter’ Book of Odd Odes, ed. by Biddy Baxter &  Rosemary Gill. London, BBC, 1975.
Stanley: The Tale of the Lizard by Peter Meteyard. London, Deutsch, 1979.
The Last of the Dragons by E. Nesbit. London, Macdonald and Jane’s, 1980.
Melisande by E. Nesbit. London, Macdonald & Co., 1982.
What’s the Difference? by Heather Amery. London, Usborne, 1985.
Then and Now by Heather Amery. London, Usborne, 1985.
Summer and Winter, Spring and Autumn by Heather Amery. London, Usborne, 1985.
The Jenius by Dick King-Smith. London, Gollancz, 1988.
Ziggy and the Ice Ogre by Chris Powling. London, Heinemann, 1988.
The Land and The Garden by V. Sackville-West. Exeter, Webb & Bower, 1989.
The Monster from Underground by Gillian Cross. London, Heinemann, 1990.
Swanbrooke Down: A Century of Change in an English Village by Rosamond Richardson. London, Scribners, 1990.
Best Pest by Pat Thomson. London, Gollancz Children’s Paperbacks, 1991.
Messages Through the Letterbox by John Simmons. [N.p.], Royal Mail, 1994.
Billy the Squid by Colin Dowland. Edinburgh, Barrington Stoke, 1998.
Seeing Things by Oliver Postgate. London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 2000; with a foreword by Stephen Fry and an afterword by Daniel Postgate, Edinburgh, Canongate, 2009.
Weevil K. Neevil: Stuntbug by Colin Dowland. Edinburgh, Barrington Stoke, 2001.
Billy the Squid Rides Again by Colin Dowland. Edinburgh, Barrington Stoke, 2003.
Folk Tales of Britain: Legends Volume 3, collected & edited by Katherine M. Briggs. London, Folio Society, 2011.
Clangers: Make the Clangers and their planet with 15 easy step-by-step projects. London, Collins & Brown, 2012.

The Art of Smallfilms: The Work of Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, ed. Jonny Trunk & Richard Embray. London, Four Corners Books, 2014.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Leo Bates

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Leo Bates has been recognized as a skilled illustrator in several fields, despite having a fairly small output, yet very little has been written about him.

He was born on 11 May 1890 in Liverpool, and named Leonard Fison Bates, the seventh and last child of William Taylor Bates (the manager of a flour mill, born in Essex in 1846) and his wife Charlotte Mary, née Johnson (born in Germany in 1848). The family had lived in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex, for many years, before moving to South London in the mid-1870s. At the time of the 1881 census, they were living in Lower Deptford Road, Rotherhithe (with William working as a foreman in a flour mill). Two sons and a daughter were born there in 1877, 1881 and 1883, with two more sons, including Leonard, born in Liverpool in 1885 and 1890.

By 1891, the family had moved to Chilton Coton, a village near Nuneaton, Warwickshire, where they remained for at least the next 20 years.

Leonard Bates first came to public attention in July 1900, when The Coventry Evening Telegraph (11 July) reported on an inquest held in Nuneaton into the death of 11 year-old Charles Hibberd, who had died after falling into the road and being run over by a horse-drawn cart. He and Leonard, who were both on their way to school, had been playing, and there had been a suggestion that Leonard had pushed Charles. However, the Coroner instructed the jury to reject this, as there was no evidence, and they returned a verdict of accidental death.

It is not known what, if any, artistic training Leonard Bates had, but by the time of the 1911 census, he was describing himself as a black and white artist, working at the family home in Chilton Coton, although nothing attributed to him has been traced prior to 1919.

On 31 August 1915, at Chelsea Register Office, he married Maysie Torr. Born on 5 May 1890 in Paddington, she was the daughter of Edward Eli Torr, a watchmaker, and his wife Ruth Ashford, née Webling. They went on to have two children: Anthony John (born on 11 March 1920 – he went on to become an artist and writer) and Michael William (born on 2 March 1922). At the time of the marriage, Leonard was living at 65 Stadium Street, Chelsea, and Maysie at 30B Percival Street, Clerkenwell. They both subsequently moved to 19 Taylor Avenue, Kew Gardens, Surrey.

Prior to the births of his two sons, Leonard had served in the army during the First World War, signing up in Grantham on 28 December 1916 and enlisting in the Machine Gun Corps in January 1917, when his wife’s address was given as 25 Devonport Street, Shepherds Bush, London. When he was demobilised in February 1919 he gave his address as 29 St. Stephens Avenue, Shepherds Bush.

His first known illustrations, under what became his professional name of Leo Bates, appeared later that year, in a book of adventure stories written by Charles Gilson and published by Cassell & Co. He also painted the dustwrapper for a novel by “Sapper” (i.e. H.C. McNeile) published by Hodder & Stoughton. He went on to produce more dustwrappers for Hodder & Stoughton – how many is not known, but the accompanying checklist includes four. (His name also occasionally appeared on dustwrappers from other publishers). In 1920 he illustrated his first book for Blackie & Son, and he went on to illustrate at least another 25 books for the company, mainly boys’ adventure stories by authors such as Arthur O. Cooke, J.T. Gorman and Percy F. Westerman, and girls’ stories by authors such as Bessie Marchant, Joanna Lloyd and Nancy Breary. All told, he is credited with illustrating around 50 books, although his career spanned around 35 years, so he could not be described as prolific. It is, however, quite likely that many more of his illustrations were published anonymously.

His work also appeared in a number of periodicals in the 1920s and 1930s, including The Bookman, The Passing Show, The Captain, The Illustrated London News, The Wide World Magazine, The Detective Magazine (for which he produced several covers between 1923 and 1925), The Royal Magazine, The Bystander, The Tatler and The Strand Magazine.

In 1931, working out of 5 Brook Green Studios, Hammersmith, he exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts for the one and only time.

During the 1920s, Bates and his family moved home two or three times, being recorded at 31 St. Stephens Avenue, Shepherds Bush in 1921, and 96 Hanover Road, Brondesbury Park, Willesden, in 1925. However, the marriage between Leonard and Maysie was not to last, and in October 1932 Leonard moved to Whitstable where he began cohabiting with Mary Webber. In December 1932 he and Mary moved to Telford House, 7 Sternhold Avenue, Streatham, and in October 1933 Maysie petitioned for a divorce, which was finalized a year later, with Leonard being ordered to pay maintenance to both Maysie and his two sons.

Leonard and Mary (who had been born on 22 May 1912 in Swansea) immediately married in Kensington. They went on to have a son, Richard John Fison Bates, born on 12 July 1935. (Mary also had a son from a previous relationship, Richard John Webber, born on 21 April 1925). At some point, they moved to Hillybroom, West Mersea, Colchester, where they were living in 1937.

A year after this, at the beginning of the Autumn Term 1938, Bates took a post as Art Master at Sedbergh School, Cumbria (although at the time it was in the West Riding of Yorkshire). He remained there until the end of the Summer Term 1941, living at 81 The Terrace, Sedbergh.

Mary appears to have died in 1941, and on 23 June 1945, in Paddington, Leonard married Winifred Marjorie Hale, born in British Guyana on 2 September 1907. She was a graduate of Girton College, Cambridge, and a former teacher and civil servant.

Bates continued his career as an illustrator after leaving Sedbergh, illustrating books mainly for Blackie & Son but also receiving commissions from the Oxford University Press, George Newnes, J.M. Dent & Sons, John Murray, the Brockhampton Press and Hodder & Stoughton. He also provided illustrations for the periodicals Britannia and Eve and The Sketch.

As an illustrator, his work was well-regarded. In 1924 The Bookman described Where the Rainbow Ends (a novelization of a children’s Christmas play first performed in 1911, written by Clifford Mills, and published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1921) as “one of the finest art books offered to children”). Brigid Pippin and Lucy Micklethwait, in The Dictionary of Book Illustrators: The Twentieth Century, commented that Bates was “A dexterous, fluent, even slick draughtsman who turned his hand mainly to boys’ adventure stories and girls’ school stories. He worked mainly in pencil, occasionally adding white chalk highlights or grey washes for half-tone reproduction.”

His last known work appeared in 1954, and he died in Falmouth in November 1957. His first wife died in 1964, and his third wife died in a nursing home in Bedfordshire on 27 August 1988. She left an estate valued at £82,613.


Books illustrated by Leo Bates
The Captives of the Caves and Other Stories of Adventure by Charles Gilson, Cassell & Co., 1919
Mufti by “Sapper”, Hodder & Stoughton, 1919 (dustwrapper)
Sally Makes Good: A Story of Tasmania by Bessie Marchant, Blackie & Son, 1920
The Vanity Girl by Compton Mackenzie, Cassell & Co., 1920 (dustwrapper)
Ambrose Lavendale, Diplomat by E. Phillips Oppenheim, Hodder & Stoughton, 1920 (dustwrapper)
The Honourable Algernon Knox, Detective by E. Phillips Oppenheim, Hodder & Stoughton, 1920 (dustwrapper)
The First Sir Percy: An Adventure of the Laughing Cavalier by Baroness Orczy, Hodder & Stoughton, 1920 (dustwrapper)
Where the Rainbow Ends by Clifford Mills, Hodder & Stoughton, 1921
Island Born: A Tale of Hawaii by Bessie Marchant, Blackie & Son, 1921
A Girl of the Pampas by Bessie Marchant, Blackie & Son, 1921
Stephen Goes to Sea by Arthur O. Cooke, Blackie & Son, 1922
Harriet Goes A-Roaming by Bessie Marchant, Blackie & Son, 1922
Songs for Youth (from Rudyard Kipling’s Collected Verse) by Rudyard Kipling, Hodder & Stoughton, 1924
Ben’s Adventure” Being the Tale of What Befell Ben Medlicott in the Years 1823 and 1824 by Arthur O. Cooke, Blackie & Son, 1925
Elephant Swamp by Ralph Durand, Blackie & Son, 1926
The Fulfilment of Daphne Bruno by Ernest Raymond, Cassell & Co., 1926 (dustwrapper)
A Shanghai Adventure by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1928
Burmese Wonder Tales by Donald A. Mackenzie, Blackie & Son, 1928
The Road to Mandalay by J.T. Gorman, Blackie & Son, 1929
Through the Air and the Jungle by J.T. Gorman, Blackie & Son, 1931
Planter Dick: A Story of Malaya by Arthur O. Cooke, Blackie & Son, 1932
The Lost Crown of Ghorpora by J.T. Gorman, Blackie & Son, 1935
The Big Book of Great Short Stories, Odhams Press, 1935 (with other artists)
Highly Inflammable by Max Saltmarsh, Michael Joseph, 1936 (dustwrapper)
The Secret Land by Caleb Hawer, Blackie & Son, 1938
At Grips with the Swastika by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1940
The Mystery of Station XR by Michael Poole, Blackie & Son, 1944
Brassbounders of the “Rosemount” by Shalimar, Oxford University Press, 1944
The Exploding Ray by C. Bernard Rutley, Blackie & Son, 1945
Catherine Goes to School by Joanna Lloyd, Blackie & Son, 1945
The Mystery of Gaily More by Jane Paterson Milne, Blackie & Son, 1946
Jane Runs Away from School by Joanna Lloyd, Blackie & Son, 1946
Monkey Ahoy! By West Lathrop, George Newnes Ltd., 1946
Newnes Engineer’s Reference Book ed. by F.J. Camm, George Newnes Ltd., 1946
The Impossible Prefect by Nancy Breary, Blackie & Son, 1947
Catherine, Head of the House by Joanna Lloyd, Blackie & Son, 1947
Audrey, A New Girl by Joanna Lloyd, Blackie & Son, 1948
The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1948 (re-issue)
Three New Girls by Joanna Lloyd, Blackie & Son, 1949
Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter, John Murray, 1949 (dustwrapper)
“Nonsense!” Said the Tortoise by Margaret Joyce Baker, Brockhampton Press, 1949 (published in America as Homer the Tortoise)
I Will Repay by Baroness Orczy, Brockhampton Press, 1950 (re-issue)
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, Brockhampton Press, 1951
Where the White Sambhur Roams by Richard Lionel Spittel, Hodder & Stoughton, 1951
Peril on the Amazon by Douglas V. Duff, Blackie & Son, 1953
Prince of Sherwood by John Kennett, Blackie & Son, 1954

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Comic Cuts - 6 July 2018

I've spent most of the week on rewrites and slowly melting in the heat despite having every door and window in the house open. We haven't hit 30° but have been in the twenties for all but four days. Normally, average high temperatures for June in Colchester are 18° and 9 days with rainfall. This year the top temperature was 28°, an average temperature of 22° and not one drop of rain.

I don't see any rain in the forecast for the next two weeks. Well, a couple of days with between 6 and 9% chance of rain. If that was a horse with 9% chance of winning, you wouldn't bet on it. I'll go out on a limb here and say I don't think we'll see any rain.

This means using washing-up water to water the tomato and cucumber plants. Apparently that's OK as long as you're not transferring bits of food (it rots). Mind you, that would be fine for the colony of woodlice I managed to transfer to our tomatoes. The soil around the roots had been washed away, so I built it up using some soil from last year's tomato pots, which we'd dumped at the far end of the garden. It was still in a clump, so I simply dropped half into each of the pots before breaking it up and watering it ...  and it was at this point that I spotted a zillion (maybe even a gazillion) woodlice crawling out of the old dirt.

It's not the end of the world... well, the rising temperature might be, but I'm talking about woodlice. They like old rotting vegetation and for it to be dark and damp. Fresh fruit isn't their favourite snack, so the tomatoes should survive, but every time I've watered the plants since has driven them to the surface – a boiling sea of woodlice.

Enough of that.

The rewrites are going fine. I haven't found any major problems although I'm wary that the piece of William Willis is going to test the patience of many readers as it involves so many complex court cases. I did cut out a 500-or-so word section that even I thought was an overindulgence, but this is probably going to be the one and only time I write about Willis, so I may as well throw in the kitchen sink. I'm thinking of making this the biggest of the four books, so there will be ample opportunity to take a break and read something shorter and snappier!

As usual, I've binge-watched the latest Netflix Marvel Universe superhero show. I don't know how others rank it, but I think this second season ranks even higher than the first. We're starting to get to know Luke Cage and discovering that being a bulletproof superhero doesn't make you invincible to the day-to-day problems and criticisms you have to face as a human being. Cage is losing his home, his girlfriend and his privacy at the same time as he's battling a foe who has the strength to deliver a knockout blow to the Hero for Hire.

The dynamics between certain characters make the show all the more watchable: Mike Colter (Cage) and his father (played by the late Reg E. Cathey); Alfre Woodard (Mariah) and Theo Rossi (Shades) – a relationship of shimmering tensions; and Simone Missick (Misty) and everyone in the police station.

I can't wait for season 3.  If the second season of Iron Fist improves at the same rate even that might be worth watching when it turns up later this year. The one I'm really waiting on is Daredevil season 3, which is also due this year after a two-year-and-a-bit gap. Then there should be a second Punisher season in 2019.

Together, Mel and I have been watching The Bridge season 4 and we're hooked on the mystery of who is behind the murders – I'm writing this shortly before we watch the final episode and the events at the end of the episode we watched last night seems to have revealed the murderer and a second plotline has been wrapped up... but I reckon there's still at least one major twist to come.

Random scans this week... for some reason these seemed apt.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Rebellion Releases - 4 July 2018

Rebellion releases for 4 July 2018.

2000AD Prog 2088
Cover: Neil Roberts
JUDGE DREDD: ELEVATOR PITCH by Rob Williams (w) Chris Weston (a) Annie Parkhouse (l) Chris Blythe (c)
SKIP TRACER: HEAVY IS THE HEAD by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
THE ORDER: THE NEW WORLD by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE FALL OF DEADWORLD by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
DURHAM RED: BORN BAD by Alec Worley (w) Lee Carter (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Harlan Ellison (1932-2018)

(* This is a longer version of the obituary written for The Guardian which can be found on their website.)

To some, Harlan Ellison was the finest short story writer to have emerged from America’s science fiction ghetto in generations. The Los Angeles Times called him "the 20th century Lewis Carroll”. To others he was a self-aggrandising monster. Short (he stood 5’ 5”), abrasive and strongly opinionated, Ellison was intolerant of everyone and everything he saw as stupid and obstinate, often to the point of fanaticism.
    Letting go was not in his nature. Psycho author Robert Bloch called him “the only living organism I know whose natural habitat is hot water”; to J G Ballard he was “an aggressive and restless extrovert who conducts life at a shout and his fiction at a scream.”
    Somehow, in between provoking people in their thousands and being pissed off by thousands of others, he managed to author 70 books and some 400 short stories, pen dozens of TV screenplays, edit books and write over 1,000 pieces on movies, television, books and jazz records. In 1967 he wrote “I am desperately afraid I will die before I’ve written all the stories I have in me.”
    His stories could be whimsical or cruel, playful or painful, sentimental or shocking. He loathed being branded as a “science fiction” author, although a tally of 45 genre awards prove that SF fans held him in high regard. It was a tough love and Ellison refused to have the term anywhere near his books. At a push he called himself a fantasist, working in the field of speculative fiction. In a 1996 interview he said, “I reject all genre labels because if you try to identify things, you begin to exclude a lot … what I write is Hyperactive Magic Realism. I take the received world and I reflect it back through the lens of fantasy, turned slightly so you get a different portrait.”
    Many stories about his dealings with fans, publishers and fellow writers swirled around Ellison, including but far from limited to: he was supposed to have tossed a fan down a lift shaft at a convention (no); he asked a statuesque blonde “What would you say to a little fuck?”, to which she replied, “Hello, little fuck” (again no, it’s an old joke); that he lasted four hours working for Walt Disney (that one’s true, says Ellison); that, following a telephone argument, he flew from his home in California to the East Coast, went to his tormentors office and punched him (no); or that he mailed, fourth class to make sure it was exceptionally foetid by the time it arrived, a dead gopher to a publisher for refusing his request to revert the rights to one of his books (true, again, says Ellison).
    Stories about Ellison are countless and fall, roughly equally, into the simplistic categories “What Ellison did for me” or “What Ellison did to me”. In 1993, a long-running dispute between former friends Ellison and Charles Platt allied with animosity between Ellison and publisher Gary Groth resulted in the formation of Enemies of Ellison (later Victims of Ellison), an anonymous group who issued their own newsletter. The Friends of Ellison group was founded soon after.
    Ellison did not limit his battles to personal feuds. In 1965, he marched in Alabama, to protest Arizona’s failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, an episode written up as ‘March to Montgomery’; he was vocally anti-Vietnam and dedicated his collection Alone Against Tomorrow to the four students shot dead at Kent State University. He was an advocate of gun control and a supporter of human rights organisations.
    This concern with the social problems and the depth of injustice in the world around him, was reflected in his stories and his short fiction reached a new maturity. “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ said the Ticktockman”, about civil disobedience in a world of rigid conformity, won the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1965, followed by Hugos in 1967 for “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream” and 1968 for “The Beast That Shouted Love At The Heart Of The World”; further Nebulas were awarded for “The Deathbird” (which also won the Jupiter Award) in 1973 and “Adrift, Just Off The Islets Of Langerhans” in 1974.
    In 1977, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction published a special Harlan Ellison issue featuring three new stories and essays by and on Ellison; the lead story, “Jefty Is Five”, won both Hugo and Nebula awards plus the Locus Award (one of 18 Locus wins for Ellison), the British Fantasy Award and his second Jupiter Award. “Paladin Of The Lost Hour” won a Hugo in 1986 and “How Interesting: A Tiny Man” a Nebula in 2011.
    The Mystery Writers of America have rewarded him twice (“The Whimper of Whipped Dogs”, 1974; “Soft Monkey”, 1988), the Horror Writers of America four times (The Essential Ellison, 1988; Harlan Ellison’s Watching, 1990; “Mefisto in Onyx”, 1994; “Chatting with Anubis”, 1996), and the World Fantasy Award twice, for Angry Candy (1989) and with a lifetime achievement award (1993). Ellison has also received the lifetime achievement award from Horror Writers Association (1996), the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the SFWA (2006) and the J. Lloyd Eaton Award (2011). He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011.
    He received the Silver Pen Award for Journalism from PEN International in 1988 for his column “An Edge In My Voice”, and was honoured by PEN for his continuing commitment to artistic freedom and the battle against censorship in 1990.
    Ellison’s maturing as a writer coincided with the growth of SF’s ‘New Wave’, championed by Michael Moorcock, J G Ballard and Brian W Aldiss in the British magazine New Worlds. Ellison invited dozens of authors to contribute to an anthology of stories on the cutting edge of  the New Wave, resulting in Dangerous Visions (1968), which won a Special Hugo Award, as did the follow-up Again, Dangerous Vision (1972). A third volume, to be called The Last Dangerous Visions, was announced in the introduction of the latter, but never appeared. As late as 2007, Ellison, still sitting on over 80 unpublished contributions, described it as “this giant Sisyphean rock that I have to keep rolling up a hill.”
    Ellison received the Writers Guild of America Award a record-breaking four times (in 1965, 1967, 1973 and 1987). His awards in other media include awards from the Writers Guild of Canada, the Bradbury Award, the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films and the Audio Publishers Association.
    Ellison’s screenwriting credits included an episode of Star Trek, ‘The City On The Edge Of Forever’, for which he received the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Writers Guild’s Best Original Teleplay award. The episode is generally considered the high water mark of the original Trek series and a memorable landmark of TV in general.
    The episode has been a cause of contention on numerous occasions—from spats between Ellison and the show’s creator Gene Roddenberry to a 2009 lawsuit, Ellison suing Paramount for unpaid royalties from spin-offs of the episode.
    Ellison had, in 1980, sued ABC, claiming their TV series Future Cop was based on a 1970 story he had written in collaboration with Ben Bova. ABC settled.
    In 1984, Ellison threatened to sue Hemdale, the producers of The Terminator, and distributors Orion saying that director James Cameron had taken ideas from two 1964 episodes of Outer Limits written by Ellison, chiefly ‘Soldier’, an anti-war story about a soldier from the future who knows nothing but war and who is accidentally sent back in time; expanding on his original short story, Ellison added a second enemy soldier who also arrives back in the present. The terms of the settlement meant all future prints included an “acknowledgment to the works of Harlan Ellison” as the film fades into the end credits.
    Although for many years Ellison was dismissive of computers and the internet, he was not a Luddite. He simply remained faithful to the level of technology that worked for him and continued to use a manual Olympia typewriter, tapping away at 120 words a minute with two fingers. His very first typewriter, a Remington Rand, was sold in 2010 to author Jamie Ford.
    The website Ellison Webderland was set up in 1995 by Rick Wyatt with Ellison’s blessing, but a lawsuit filed against AOL in April 2000 was widely condemned online. The cause was Ellison discovering that some of his stories were available on Usenet. A 2002 decision in AOL’s favour was partly overturned on appeal in 2004 and AOL subsequently settled.
    Ellison later embraced the power of the internet, publishing books and e-books through his own and, in August 2013, starting his own YouTube channel.
    Never shy of publicity, Ellison performed a number of writing stunts over the years, including writing a story a day whilst sitting in the window of bookstores in Los Angeles, Boston and London’s Charing Cross Road (Words and Music, July 1976) or a hotel lobby during a convention or live on radio.
    The outspoken writer was the subject of a 2008 documentary, Dreams With Sharp Teeth and played himself in episodes of Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated in 2010 and The Simpsons in 2013.
    Harlan Jay Ellison was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on 27 May 1934, the son of Louis Laverne Ellison and his wife Serita (née Rosenthal). Louis, a former singer (My Yiddishe Momma was written for him but made famous by Al Jolson), worked as a dentist, then at his brother-in-law’s jewellery store in Painesville, where his son attended Lathrop Grade School and East High School.
    Ellison later said that his only achievement at school was a National Scholastic Writing Award for a story he “shamelessly pilfered” from Karel Capek’s “R.U.R.” Being a short, arrogant Jewish kid meant regular beatings – bullying and anti-Semitism being a feature in a number of his autobiographical tales. Ellison was well-read, claiming Joseph Conrad and Immanuel Kant were amongst his boyhood favourites. James Otis Kaler’s 19th Century Tom Tyler; or, Ten Weeks With A Circus inspired him to run away, aged thirteen, to join a carnival. After three months the entire operation was closed down by the police and Ellison spent three days in a cell in Kansas City refusing to give his name. Radio adventurer Captain Midnight, comic books and pulp magazines were the more discernible influence on his early stories, written and illustrated by Ellison aged 15 and published in the children’s column of the Cleveland News in 1949.
    In May 1949, Ellison’s father died and he moved with his mother to a residential hotel in Cleveland.
    Ellison’s interest in science fiction pulps led to his co-founding the Cleveland Science Fiction Society; he was the editor and principal writer for the Bulletin of the Cleveland Science Fiction Society which later morphed into Ellison’s own fanzine, Science Fantasy Bulletins (later Dimensions). In 1953 he attended the World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia where he became infamous for describing Isaac Asimov as “a nothing” – an accusation repeated by Asimov but denied by Ellison, who insisted that his expectations of Asimov based on his work led him to blurt out “You aren’t so much.”
    In September 1953 Ellison entered Ohio State University but was thrown out following an incident with a professor of creative writing who reacted to Ellison’s science fiction stories by angrily dismissing his talents. Ellison’s “Why don’t you go fuck yourself!” response was the final straw in a troubled sixteen months.
    Ellison had sold a script to EC Comics’ Weird Science and was now determined to write full time. Travelling to New York, he lived at the homes of Lester del Rey and Algis Budrys, writers he had met through his fan activities, before arriving at West 114 Street, an apartment building where Robert Silverberg also lived. Here he collected rejection slips and earned a living working in the Broadway Book Shop in Time Square selling dirty books to tourists.
     Hal Ellson’s novels of gang life were popular sellers and Ellison decided to go undercover as Phil ‘Cheech’ Beldone and ran with the Barons, a Red Hook district gang, in Brooklyn for ten weeks. The resulting article was sold to Lowdown magazine but while Ellison’s photograph appeared by the article (with the addition of a drawn-in scar on his left cheek), “not one word of what I had written was in the piece.”
    His first published story, ‘Glowworm’, appeared in Infinity and over the next few months Ellison began selling with increasing regularity. Crestwood were one of his main outlets, Ellison contributing to their crime magazines (Guilty, Trapped), science fiction (Super-Science Fiction) and men’s magazines (Mr., Dude, Gent). This surge in sales coincided with Ellison’s first marriage, to Charlotte Stein, in early 1956, although Ellison described their relationship as “four years of hell as sustained as the whine of a generator” before they divorced.
    Ellison wrote a novel, Web of the City, which he sold to Lion Books and completed shortly after being drafted into the Army in March 1957. After training at Fort Benning, Georgia, he was posted to the Public Information Office at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where, as Troop Information NCO, he filled the pages of the weekly post newspaper with articles and reviews.
    Meanwhile, Web of the City had appeared – as Rumble – from Pyramid (Lion having collapsed) and Ellison sold a collection of short stories, The Deadly Streets, to Ace Books. Ellison’s huge output of up to ten published stories a month shrank dramatically. Ellison would later admit: “[U]p till 1957, I was strictly a money writer who had not yet reached the pinnacle of egomania your humble author now dwells upon . . . But I was drafted into the Army in 1957, and time for writing was at a premium. So I wrote only stories that I wanted to write, not ones I had to write to support myself or a wife or a home.”
    Released from the Army in April 1959,  Ellison took up the invitation of publisher William Hamling to become editor of Rogue. Moving to Evanston, Illinois, Ellison entered a new phase of writing, many of his best stories from this period (“Final Shtick”, “No Game for Children”, “Lady Bug, Lady Bug”) appearing in Rogue. Ellison hired Lenny Bruce and Alfred Bester to write regular columns and give the paper an identity that could have rivaled Playboy.
    Following his divorce, Ellison entered a self-destructive cycle of partying and short-term relationships while working for a publisher he grew to despise. When one of his parties resulted in Ellison hurling abuse at a stranger who had just smashed a $500 sculpture, Frank M. Robinson, who also worked on Rogue, took him aside and persuaded him to take up writing full time again. Ellison threw everyone out and, taking an idea from an earlier story (“Rock and Roll – and Murder”) began writing Spider Kiss that night. The story of a monstrous rock ‘n’ roll singer, it is often thought to be based on Elvis; rather, Ellison said, it was based on Jerry Lee Lewis. It immediately sold to Knox Burger of Fawcett Gold Medal, the movie rights were picked up by Col. Tom Parker (whether to make or suppress a possible movie is unclear) and Ellison moved back to New York.
    There he met and married Billie Joyce Sanders, who had a child from a previous marriage. Ellison accepted an editorial job from his former employee and returned to Evanston to edit the Nightstand range of “stiffeners” on the agreement that Hamling also publish a line of mainstream books chosen by Ellison. The latter, Regency Books, published Ellison’s Gentleman Junkie and Memos From Purgatory. The latter told of Ellison’s days as ‘Cheech’ Beldone and, in its second half, how he was falsely denounced as possessing drugs and illegal weapons, arrested and spent a night in New York’s infamous jail, The Tombs.
    Regency Books also published Robert Bloch, B. Traven, Clarence L. Cooper, Thomas N. Scortia, Algis Budrys, Hal Ellson and Lester del Rey before Ellison decided he had made a terrible mistake returning to work for Hamling. Ellison’s soon-to-be-second-ex-wife wanted to move to the West Coast, The Ellisons returned to New York, where Harlan was able to sell another short story collection, Ellison Wonderland, financed the journey west.
    Whilst in New York, Dorothy Parker published a review of Gentleman Junkie in Esquire which turned Ellison’s career around, describing Ellison as “a good, clean, honest writer, putting down what he has seen and known, and no sensationalism about it” and his story “Daniel White For The Greater Good” as “without exception the best presentation I have ever seen of present racial conditions in the South and of those who try to alleviate them. I cannot recommend it too vehemently.” TV director James Goldstone took out an option on the story, which helped establish Ellison in Hollywood.
    Arriving in Los Angeles in January 1962, Ellison found work as a scriptwriter on Ripcord, Burke’s Law, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea, Outer Limits and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, adapting his own Memos From Purgatory for the latter. His 1964 Outer Limits script “Demon With  A Glass Hand” won him his first Writers Guild Award.
    Although Ellison described himself as “a common day labourer” in Hollywood, he was a man about town, written about by Gay Talese in Esquire and named one of the “most eligible swinging bachelors in Hollywood” by Cosmopolitan Magazine.
    His movie career, on the other hand, was less successful. The co-written The Oscar (1966) was mauled by critics and whilst some later scripts (Harlan Ellison’s Movie, I, Robot) have seen book publication, none of Ellison’s screenplays – which include adaptations of Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron, and many of his own stories, including "Rumble" and "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" -- have made it into production. A Boy And His Dog, based on Ellison’s 1969 Nebula Award-winning novella, has become something of a cult hit. Filmed by L.Q. Jones in 1974, it starred Don Johnson  in a post-apocalyptic world where Vic seeks out food and sex with the aid of his telepathic dog, Blood. The film was not welcomed by everyone: Joanna Russ, in Frontier: A Journal of Women’s Studies, said, bluntly, “sending a woman to see A Boy And His Dog is like sending a Jew to a movie that glorifies Dachau”. Ellison subsequently distanced himself from the film’s misogyny and its famous last line – a blackly comical reference to the woman’s poor taste – claiming he had fought to have it removed.
    Ellison incorporated two additional published stories into a 1989 graphic novel version drawn by Richard Corben: a prequel, ‘Eggsucker’, and sequel ‘Run, Spot, Run’; all three tales are part of a lengthy, unpublished novel. The stories and the unfilmed movie sequel scripted by Ellison were published in 2018 as Blood’s A Rover.
    Ellison’s fiction output fell in the 1960s but its quality soared. He made no effort at further novels following an attempt to co-write (with Avram Davidson) a mystery novel, Don’t Speak of Rope, which was sold to Gold Medal but abandoned.
    Ellison’s scriptwriting for television—which included episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Star Trek, Cimarron Strip, The Flying Nun and The Young Lawyers—tailed off in the late 1960s as his fiction gained more widespread approval. Ellison worked as a script editor on a series about an occult investigator, The Sixth Sense, and was the creator of The Starlost, a science fiction series produced in Canada. Ellison’s original pilot script, “Phoenix Without Ashes”, won him his third Most Outstanding Teleplay award from the Writers Guild of America; the version filmed, revised by other hands, was a travesty which Ellison had his name removed from and, not for the first time, insisted that ‘Cordwainer Bird’ be substituted. The story was lampooned in The Starcrossed by Ben Bova, a roman á clef wherein Ellison becomes Ron Gabriel and Bill Oxnard is Bova, who was the science advisor on the show.
    Ellison maintained his contact with film and television through criticism, collected in the books Harlan Ellison’s Watching, The Glass Teat and The Other Glass Teat. He also became a regular columnist for the Los Angeles Free Press (1972-73), Saint Louis Literary Supplement (1976), Future Life (1980-81) and LA Weekly (1982-83), his columns collected in The Harlan Ellison Hornbook and An Edge In My Voice.
    Ellison also became involved in the revival of The Twilight Zone, receiving his fourth Writers Guild Award for “Paladin Of The Lost Hour” but quitting when CBS censored his adaptation of Donald Westlake’s “Nackles”, a dark Christmas Special about a malevolent Santa that Ellison himself was to direct. Ellison walked.
    Ellison was also involved in Roger Corman’s unproduced Cutter’s World TV series and was, far more successfully, creative consultant for J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5, as well as co-writing two episodes and appearing as a Psi Cop.
    Ellison continued to publish collections of stories but his output over the years has been littered with projects that have fallen by the wayside. Dial 9 to Get Out (a contemporary, partly autobiographical novel first mentioned in 1967), Demon with a Glass Hand (expanding his 1964 Outer Limits story), The Prince of Sleep (a novel expanding his 1970 novella ‘The Region Between’, announced as forthcoming in 1972), The Dark Forces #1: The Salamander Enchantment (due 1975), Rif (due 1976), Shrikes (first announced in 1980) and Nights in the Garden of Trepidation are just a few of the numerous ghost titles announced but never published. An ambitious 20-volume library of Ellison’s work was begun by White Wolf in 1996 but collapsed after only four volumes a year later.
    Ellison created The Kilimanjaro Corporation in March 1979 to handle all his works and copyrights and he became Harlan Ellison® when Kilimanjaro trademarked his name in 2002.
    Since 2011, he has self-published a number of titles via (Harlan Ellison’s Brain Movies, Harlan 101, Rough Beasts, Honorable Whoredom at a Penny a Word, 8 in 80, Again Honorable Whoredom at a Penny a Word and The Last Person to Marry a Duck Lived 300 Years Ago).
    His work continues to see publication in a wide number of media. Ellison has produced audio recordings of many of his favourite stories and six volumes of On The Road With Ellison series gathers together some of Ellison’s convention speeches, talks and lectures. Comic strip adaptations of his works include Demon with a Glass Hand by Marshall Rogers (1986), Night and the Enemy by Ken Steacy (1987), Vic and Blood by Richard Corben (1989), Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor (1995, 2007) and 7 Against Chaos, a graphic novel based on a 20-year-old film script with art by Paul Chadwick and Ken Steacy, made the New York Times bestseller list (for hardcover graphic novel) in 2013.
    In 2000, he began producing a weekly series of commentaries for Galaxy Online under the title "Working Without A Net," also the title for his proposed memoirs, which were sold to a “major publisher” in 2008 and which he described as “three-quarters finished” in 2013.
    Of all his books, he claimed that he was most proud of Mind Fields, a collection of 33 stories each based on a painting by Polish surrealist Jacek Yerka.
    He lectured widely at over 300 colleges and universities and was the guest of honour of dozens of conventions. His appearances were, as one would expect, occasionally controversial. In 1969 at the Texas A&M University he referred to the university’s Corps of Cadets as “America’s next generation of Nazis.” In 2006, at the 64th World SF Convention at Anaheim, during the Hugo Awards ceremony, Ellison groped Connie Willis’s breast, an act he described as “unconscionable.”
    In 1985, Ellison revealed to People Weekly’s Kristin McMurran that during the period 1978-82 he had suffered from dysphoria, a mood disorder that causes anxiety and depression. In 2011 he was diagnosed with clinical depression and put on a spectrum of medicines.
    In 2010, Ellison, believing he was suffering from failing health, announced that his Guest of Honor stint at MadCon in Madison, Wisconsin, would be his final convention appearance. Interviewed by Josh Wimmer at that time, he claimed “An old dog senses when it’s his time … I’m not afraid of death … All I want to make sure is that when the paper comes out, it says, ‘Harlan Ellison died in his sleep’…
    “I have led exactly the life I would wish to lead. I have led the life I guess that everybody in their heart of hearts wants to lead.”
    For five years, beginning in 2011, Ellison began conducting a series of exhaustive interviews with documentarian Nat Segaloff which formed the basis for A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison.
    Ellison died on Thursday, 28 June 2018, aged 84. His death was announced by family friend Christine Valada (widow of Len Wein) who said that he died in his sleep.
    Following his second divorce, Ellison was married to Lory Patrick in 1966 (divorced within a few months), to Lori Horwitz in 1976 (divorced 1977) and finally to Susan Toth in 1986, who survives him. He is survived by his niece, Lisa Rubin (daughter of his estranged sister, Beverly, whom he saw only once after 1962) and nephew Loren Rabnick.
    Ellison has said that “immediately on the striking of my passing—or as soon thereafter as conveniently possible—[Susan] is to destroy all of my unfinished stories, burn and stir the ashes of any manuscripts in progress, do the same to any novels-in-progress, flense all notes and snippets, tear out all the pages of my working notebooks and in-progress files and, in short, make it impossible for anyone to ghost-write, collaborate-to-completion, or ‘finish’ anything incomplete at the moment of my death.”