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Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Art of Ian Kennedy

The work of one of the UK’s most famous comic artists, Ian Kennedy, has been celebrated in a beautiful art book, The Art of Ian Kennedy.

Ian is the longest serving DC Thomson Media illustrator, having worked for the publisher for 70 years, beginning his career in the company’s Art Department back in 1949. Since then, he has contributed to many of DC Thomson Media’s comics, such as Commando, Britain’s longest-running war comic, Starblazer, Hotspur and many more. Incredibly, Ian has created over 1,250 Commando covers, which continue to be very popular amongst readers.

The art book showcases Ian’s fantastic array of work for not only DC Thomson Media but also his own personal collection. The high spec 160-page art book includes both never before seen and classic covers, as well as illustrations from the DC Thomson archives, featuring titles as diverse as Lucky Charm and Buddy. Set out chronologically, the book showcases Ian’s career at the famous Scottish publishing house, from his early days working on ‘Red-Skull Branson’ and ‘Commando Jim’ to his most recent covers and commissions for Commando.

Gordon Tait, Heritage Comics and Licensing Editor, said, “The opportunity to work closely with Ian on this project has been an incredible and most rewarding experience. Many visits to the DC Thomson archives and Ian’s studio have provided a unique insight into the world of this most talented and inspiring comic creator.

“The Heritage Comics team are proud to present the first-ever ‘Art Of’ book dedicated to the artist and his career at DC Thomson. Fans of Ian’s work and of comic art, in general, are in for a real treat with this book. I hope, like me, you’ll discover something new every time you come to it”.

There is an official launch for the book to be held today (Thursday) at DC Thomson's HQ which they plan to live stream on Facebook from around 6.00 pm. Check with the Commando Facebook page.

The Art of Ian Kennedy is available to buy from the DC Thomson Shop for £40. Also available via Amazon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 24 April 2019.

2000AD Prog 2128
Cover: Staz Johnson & Jim Boswell (colours).
JUDGE DREDD: THE LONG GAME by Michael Carroll (w) M ark Sexton (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SCARLET TRACES: HOME FRONT by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
MAX NORMAL: HOW THE MAX GOT HIS STRIPES by Guy Adams (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
FUTURE SHOCKS: JUNCTURE by Andi Ewington (w) Anna Morozova (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
KINGMAKER: OUROBOROS by Ian Edginton (w) Leigh Gallagher (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

S Van Abbe

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

S. Van Abbe was the elder brother of the illustrator Joseph Abbey – he was also more talented, more prolific, and far better-known during his lifetime.

He was born in Amsterdam, as Salomon Van Abbe, on 31 July 1883, the second son of Maurice Van Abbe (1859-1919), a diamond cutter, and his French-born wife Rachel, née Rose (1859-1952). They had married in Amsterdam on 23 June 1881, and went on to have four children: Isaac (born on 11 August 1882), Salomon, Marianne (born on 27 August 1887), and Joseph (born on 8 December 1888).  Salomon moved with his family to England in 1890, where they initially settled at 51 St. Peter Street, Mile End Old Town. In October 1890 he enrolled at St. Peter’s School (after a brief period at a Dame School), and in November 1892 he entered Parmiter’s School, Bethnal Green. According to an article in The Artist (July 1949) he then received his artistic training at the People’s Palace, Bow; Toynbee Hall; the Central School of Arts and Crafts; Kennington School of Art; and, from around 1905, the School of Photo-Engraving and Lithography at Bolt Court, Fleet Street (where he met the artist and etcher Edmund Blampied, who later married Van Abbe’s sister Marianne). At that time he was apparently living in Herne Hill.

There is no trace of the family in the 1901 census, but in 1903 it is likely that Salomon was doing some professional work, as on 12 August that year he joined the Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Engravers and Process-Workers, although he resigned six years later. At the time of the 1911 census he was living with his family at 18 Marjorie Grove, Clapham, working as an artist alongside his brother Joseph.

On 3 August 1914, at Mile End Old Town Register Office, he married Hannah Wolff. Born in Bromley-by-Bow on 4 January 1891, she was one of eight children of Jonas Wolff, a frame-maker, born in Holland in 1863, and His wife Helen, née Levy, born in London in 1867. Salomon and Helen went on to have two children: Derek Maurice, born in Wandsworth on 28 December 1916, and Norman Jonas, born in Wandsworth on 26 April 1921.

In the article in The Artist it was said that his initial interest was portrait painting, “but the necessity of earning a living made him seek a more immediately lucrative occupation, so he devoted most of his time to illustrating books and magazines and designing dustjackets.” In an article in The Print Collector’s Quarterly (October 1939), J.H. Pender wrote that Van Abbe’s first job was on a newspaper, but it is not known what this was. Pender recorded that one of his jobs was to “prepare three drawings showing San Francisco in the throes of an earthquake….. He had never seen San Francisco or the results of an earthquake for that matter, but small details such as these were brushed aside and the drawings were prepared.” (This would have been in 1906).

His earliest-recorded work appeared on the cover of the Amalgamated Press’s The Club Room Magazine in November 1913. In 1914, he contributed to The Strand Magazine and Pearson’s Magazine, and he went on to contribute to many more periodicals until shortly before his death – these included The Christian Science Monitor, Hutchinson’s Magazine, The New Magazine, Woman, Cassell’s Magazine of Fiction, The Londoner, The Studio, Cassell’s Magazine, Colour, Outdoor Stories, The Storyteller, The Graphic, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, The Sphere, The Illustrated London News, The Queen, The Novel Magazine, The Tatler, The Argosy, Britannia and Eve, The Windsor Magazine and The Artist.

Nevertheless, he went on to become an active artist and etcher, specialising in dry-point etchings, especially of the legal profession and political figures. In 1920, when he was living at 27 Moyser Road, Streatham, he exhibited two works at the Royal Academy. He also exhibited there in 1932. In 1923 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, and in 1933 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), going on to exhibit with the Society almost every year until 1955. He also exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1930 (where he earned an honourable mention) and 1939 (where he was awarded a bronze medal); The Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, the Royal Hibernian Academy (Dublin), the Royal West of England Academy, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, and the Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham. He was also an active member of the Streatham Art Society in the 1930s, and he also became a member of the St. Ives Society of Artists in 1936. He was also a member of the London Sketch Club, serving as its President in 1940-41, and a member of the Art Workers’ Guild, becoming President in 1941. In addition, he was a member of the Savage Club.

Some of his best-known dry-points were his series of 12 “London Types”, produced in the 1920s, and his later portrayals of the legal profession – judges, barristers, clerks etc., which were inspired by his time serving on a jury in around 1927.

As a book illustrator, his earliest-known work appeared in Hodder & Stoughton’s The Queen’s Gift Book in 1915. His main body of illustrative work appeared between 1943 and 1955, when he worked with a number of publishers including Blackie & Son (illustrating two books by Percy F. Westerman), Hollis & Carter, the Odhams Press, J.M. Dent & Sons, and William Collins. He was particularly well-known for his illustrations for re-issues of classic children’s novels such as Treasure Island, Little Women and Tom Brown’s Schooldays, published by J.M. Dent & Sons. In 1950 he produced the dustjacket and a coloured frontispiece for Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings Goes to School, and he went on to do the same for a further four of the next five “Jennings” books, ending with According to Jennings in 1954.

However, it was as a designer of dustjackets that he became particularly well-known.  Unfortunately, there is some confusion between his work and that of his brother Joseph. In his history of the London Sketch Club (The London Sketch Club, Alan Sutton Publishing, 1994) David Cuppleditch referred to Joseph Abbey as “Joe,” and wrote that “Solomon [note the mis-spelling] was the better-known of the two – his nickname was “Jack” in the London Sketch Club but when it came to designing book covers he would often use the nom de plume J. Abbey.” However, it would appear that all the surviving dustjackets that are signed “J. Abbey” are the work of Joseph, as the signature is identical to that on all other Joseph Abbey illustrations.

While Salomon signed some of his dustjackets (and most, if not all, of his illustrations in periodicals and books) as “S. Van Abbe,” and likewise Joseph signed his work “J. Abbey.” there are countless dustjackets carrying the signature “Abbey.” Some sources have tried to distinguish these as being by either Salomon or Joseph by reference to stylistic quirks in different signatures – for example there are at least three variations in the way the letter “y” is produced – but the one constant in all of the “Abbey” signatures is the initial letter “A,” which is always rounded, as it is in all of the “S. Van Abbe” signatures. Joseph always signed his name with an angular “A.”

In the two articles in The Artist, Salomon was said to have designed the dustjackets for novels by Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy, Dennis Wheatley, Dornford Yates, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace, Baroness Orczy, Alexandre Dumas, H.G. Wells, William Harrison Ainsworth, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Other authors whose novels had dustjackets signed “Abbey” included H.C. Bailey, John Bude, John Dickson Carr, Leslie Charteris, William Le Queux, John Rhode, Sax Rohmer, Dorothy L. Sayers, Hugh Walpole, J.S. Fletcher, Joseph Hocking and E. Phillips Oppenheim. Amongst the publishers of these were Ward, Lock & Co., Hodder & Stoughton, John Murray, Hurst & Blackett, Methuen & Co., Hamish Hamilton, J.M. Dent & Sons, Skeffington & Son, T. Fisher Unwin, Collins, Constable & Co., Rupert Hale and Herbert Jenkins.  (In particular, for Herbert Jenkins he did dustjackets for several of P.G. Wodehouse’s books, including Hot Water (1932), Mulliner Nights (1933), Thank You, Jeeves (1934), Right Ho Jeeves (1934), The Luck of the Bodkins (1935), Laughing Gas (1936), and Lord Emsworth and Others (1937)). All of these dustjackets carry the “Abbey” signature, albeit with stylistic differences.

The name of “Abbey” also appeared on the cover of the Christmas edition of the Radio Times in 1924 and 1925. It also appeared on the dustwrapper of the second “Tom Merry” annual in 1950, although the internal illustrations were all signed “J. Abbey.”

Salomon also used the name of “C. Morse” on a number of dustjackets (and in at least two books). David Cuppleditch suggested that this was at the behest of Edmund Blampied, who was acting as his agent, and worried that Salomon was getting too much work. Other sources suggest that the use of “Morse” was to avoid problems between different publishers. (This point was also made by J.H. Pender in The Print Collector’s Quarterly in 1939). This seems a little odd, as most of the surviving “Morse” dustjackets date from the 1920s, at the outset of Salomon’s career. These were books published by, amongst others, Collins, T. Fisher Unwin, Gerald Duckworth, E. Nash & Grayson, Herbert Jenkins, Cassell & Co., William Heinemann, Stanley Paul and Hutchinson & Co. Authors included Anthony Berkeley, Agatha Christie, William Le Queux, Archibald Marshall, Herbert Jenkins (in particular the portrayal of his cockney character “Bindle”), Freeman Wills Croft, Eden Phillpotts, Raphael Sabatini and Dorothy L. Sayers. (The name of “C. Morse” came from a distant cousin who was living in America).

As an illustrator, Salomon was helped by a large collection of reference books, on every conceivable subject. In a later article in The Artist (January 1950) he explained his particular fondness for historical fiction: “In costume novels there is a chance for more colourful characters than those of the more prosaic modern day...”

One his last commissions was from Associated British Pathe in 1953, which asked for a watercolour painting of the Coronation.

Throughout his career Salomon lived at a variety of addresses. In the late 1920s and early 1930s he lived at 19 Thornton Avenue, Streatham Hill; at the time of the 1939 Register he was living at “Fair Oaks,” Town Hill, Godstone, Surrey; in 1945 he was living at 15 Beechwood Hall, Regent’s Park Road, Finchley; and by 1948 he had moved back to 19 Thornton Avenue, Streatham Hill. After spending a year or so in South Africa and New Zealand (1951-52) he returned to Streatham Hill, but shortly afterwards loved to 42 Colebrook Close, West Hill, Putney.

David Cuppleditch wrote that Salomon Van Abbe was “grossly overweight and suffered from angina.” He died at 42 Colebrook Close on 28 February 1955, leaving an estate valued at £4,066 (around £100,000 in today’s terms), with probate granted to his widow Hannah and his son Norman. Hannah died, at 67A Manor Road, North Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey, on 12 November 1973.


Books Illustrated by Salomon Van Abbe
The Queen’s Gift Book, Hodder & Stoughton, 1915 (with other artists)
The Piper of Pax by E.K.Wade, 1924
Pam and the Fearless Fourth by Betty Laws, Cassell & Co. 1927 (as C. Morse)
Betty of the Rectory by L.T. Meade, Cassell & Co., 1928 (re-issue) (as C. Morse)
Loyalties: A Drama in Three Acts by John Galsworthy, Duckworth, 1930
The Golden Three by William Le Queux, Ward, Lock & Co., 1930 (as C. Morse)
The Great and the Goods by Ivor Brown, Hamish Hamilton, 1937
At the Circus: A Picture Book, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1937
With the Commandos by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1943
Combined Operations by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1944
The Secret of Storm Abbey by Ann Castleton, Hollis & Carter, 1946
The Forsyths of Ferncroft by Winifred Norling, Hollis & Carter, 1946
The Secret Fortress by J. Reason, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1946
My Lord Mayor and the City of London by William Kent, Herbert Jenkins, 1947
The Two Giants by Brian Battershaw, Hollis & Carter, 1947
The Children’s Own Wonder Book, Odhams Press, 1947 (with other artists)
The Wonder Gift Book for Children, Odhams Press, 1947 (with other artists)
Sergeant the Dog by Joan Begbie, Hollis & Carter, 1948
Smugglers on the Saltings by Douglas V. Duff, Hollis & Carter, 1948
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1948 (re-issue)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1948 (re-issue)
That Holiday at School by Ann Castleton, Hollis & Carter, 1949
Robin Hood, The Prince of Outlaws by Carola Oman, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1949
Adventure Abroad by Mary Kennedy, George Newnes Ltd., 1949
Tom Brown’ Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1949 (re-issue)
A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1949 (re-issue)
Jennings Goes to School by Anthony Buckeridge, Collins, 1950
The Bowmen of Rye by Lesley Morley, Macdonald, 1950
Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthrone, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1950 (re-issue)
Jennings Follows a Clue by Anthony Buckeridge, Collins, 1951
At the Villa Rose by A.E.W. Mason, University of London Press, 1951
Jennings and Darbishire by Anthony Buckeridge, Collins, 1952
Jennings’ Diary by Anthony Buckeridge, Collins, 1953
God Save the Queen, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1953
Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1953 (re-issue)
According to Jennings by Anthony Buckeridge, Collins, 1954
The Mad Miller of Wareham by Joyce Reason, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1954
The Pilgrim’s Progress, Specially Rewritten for Children by Laurence S.G. Morris, Ward, Lock & Co., 1954 (re-issue)
Lazy Jack, and Other Stories by D.B. Charlton, Blackie & Son, 1955
The Story of Man, Part I: The World of Long Ago by J.B. Neilson, Longmans, Green & Co., 1955
The Heroes by Charles Kingsley, Blackie & Son, 1955 (re-issue)
Robin Hood and His Merry Men by Margaret Wall, Raphael Tuck & Sons, (?)

Books Illustrated as C. Morse
A Yorkshire Suburb by William Riley, Herbert Jenkins, 1920
Pam and the Fearles Fourth by Betty Laws, Cassell & Co., 1927
Betty of the Rectory by L.T. Meade, Cassell 7 Co., 1928 (re-issue)
The Golden Three by William Le Queux, Ward, Lock & Co., 1930

Friday, April 19, 2019

Comic Cuts - 19 April 2019

Before we get into the news, a quick note about the Bear Alley blog. I've had to set comments to moderated because I've been receiving a lot of spam comments and when I say a lot, I mean 23 comments in 7 minutes on Wednesday night spread across many recent posts. Whether it's some sort of robot doing it or whether it's being done by hand by someone in the Middle East (the messages are in Arabic) I don't know, but hopefully it will stop once the messages no longer automatically show up.

All I'm saying is that, if you have a genuine comment, it may take a while for it to show up as I check my e-mail every few hours when I take a break rather than let it interrupt me while I'm in the middle of something.

Thank you for your patience.

The profile work is almost finished and I'll be unemployed after Easter. I'm planning to spend a few days wrapping up the Gwyn Evans project, after which I'm going to be seriously looking for work. All other projects will have to go on hold until such times as I'm more financially stable.

The Evans books are coming along nicely. I've now finished the first run over the text for the third book and have the book roughly laid out; I've also started on the text for book four. I also have one rough cover, which is generic enough to use on three of the books (!). I'll see if I can replicate the style before I reveal all... things have a way of changing as I develop an idea, although that's mostly down to my lack of talent as an artist/designer.

Spring has arrived in full force and we've been forced into the wilderness outdoors to do some gardening. As you can see from the photo above, the garden fought back and after only an hour or so I'd been scratched and stabbed twenty or thirty times and had a splinter in the muscle where my thumb met the rest of my hand that took 24 hours to work loose enough for me to pluck out with tweezers.

More gardening news below, but first... this:

Umbrella Academy is reviewed below... there will be spoilers, so be warned.

I wasn't reading too many comics when The Umbrella Academy originally appeared from Dark Horse back in 2007 and was unaware of its quirky delights until the TV series came along. Since then I've managed to dip into the early issues of the first series, collected as The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite in 2008, and discovered that it's even more fun than the Netflix show.

It follows the same basic premise: on 1 October 1989, 43 women give birth despite showing no earlier signs of pregnancy. Of these, seven babies are adopted by a eccentric, monocled inventor and billionaire entrepreneur, Sir Reginald Hargreeves, who secretly trains the seven children until, ten years later, they are revealed to the world – in the comic saving Paris from the Eiffel Tower, which I would have loved to see in the television series but, sadly, it was not to be. Rather, the TV show jumps to twenty years later and the news that Sir Reginald has died, bringing the surviving, now adult, members of the Umbrella Academy together again for the funeral.

They are only known by their numbers:
  • One (Luther, aka Spaceboy) who only survived a mission when his adoptive father injected him with a serum that turned his body into that of an ape; he has super strength and has remained mission ready, even when sent to live alone on the Moon for four years;
  • Two (Diego), a knife-throwing brawler, equally adept at throwing a tantrum;
  • Three (Allison), now an actress but still able to command people's actions by telling them "I heard a rumour...";
  • Four (Klaus), a twitchy, flambouyant drug-addict who is able to communicate with the dead; his constant companion is his dead brother...
  • ... Six (Ben), whose body contained monsters from other dimensions;
  • Five (The Boy), who can jump through time but became trapped in a post-apocalyptic future for decades before being recruited by a time-fixing agency known as The Commission, for whom he has been working;
  • Seven (Vanya), who has been told that she has no powers; instead, she practices playing the violin to reasonable standards and jealously watches her brothers and sisters as they save the world. At the funeral, the missing Five reappears, the same ten-year-old who disappeared two decades earlier. He reveals that the end of the world is coming... in fact, it's only eight days away and the only clue he has is a prosthetic eye.
The Umbrella Academy is attacked by two goons (the bickering Hazel and Cha Cha), yet the siblings are too caught up with their own problems to worry about saving the world. Two's ex-girlfriend, a police detective, is killed; Three shares her suspicions with One that their father was murdered by their mother; Klaus is kidnapped and nobody notices; and Vanya has a chance to become first chair violin at an orchestral concert thanks to the support and aid of her new boyfriend.

If this sounds to you less like a superhero serial and more like a family drama where the kids have drifted apart and are now thrown back together again by circumstances, you'd be right. They area all carrying so much baggage that they can barely see past it to answer the bigger questions: Was their father murdered? Who is trying to kill them? How will the world end and can it be stopped?

The Umbrella Academy takes its time about answering some of these questions, and introduces a bunch of others.... can Klaus physically interact with the dead, is Vanya as powerless as she seems, is her boyfriend all he seems, will Hazel find a way to run off with Agnes from the donut shop that doesn't involve killing his partner, and how could Sir Reginald have known about the coming apocalypse?

All this and a monkey butler!

After the somewhat disappointing Titans, it's good to find a superhero adaptation that revels in its weirdness and has characters that, by the end, you genuinely care about. The sets are stylish, the plot convoluted enough to keep viewers on their toes, and the whole thing I found thoroughly entertaining. There will be a second season, so maybe we'll yet get to see the Eiffel Tower go berserk in a flashback.

We've had some reasonable success these past few years growing tomatoes and cucumbers. This year we thought we'd try cats and, as you can see, the first is growing quite nicely.

This week's not-so-random book cover scans... they're all by someone named Butler.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Commando 5219-5222

Brand new issues are out today!

5219: To Wear the Uniform

Jakob Rosenbaum had fought all his life. Like many Jewish people, Jakob fought persecution following the rise of Hitler and his Nazi thugs. Jakob thought things would be better for him in Britain. However, he found that because he sounded like the enemy he was treated like one. Jakob would have to fight yet again to prove he was worthy enough to wear the uniform of his new home!

Story: Iain McLaughlin
Art: Andrés Klacik
Cover: Ian Kennedy

5220: Sands of Doom

There’s a murderer in the desert, picking off Sergeant Jim Templeton’s squad one by one. All because of one padlocked box. But what was in the box and who was willing to kill to find out?!

Story: RA Montague
Art: L Rosell
Cover: Penalva
Originally Commando No. 644 (1972).

5221: Hellfire Pass

To celebrate ANZAC Day, ‘Hellfire Pass’ follows the story of Australian prisoners of war, Pete Mellion and Reg Willian, who were forced to build the Thai-Burma Railway by the Japanese. Slaving in the hellish heat of the Burmese jungle, the POWs were subjected to harsh conditions to cut through the mountain rock. But the brave cobbers would soon show the Japanese the true heroism of the Aussies!

Story: Brent Towns
Art: Morhain and Defeo
Cover: Neil Roberts

5222: The Last Nazis

Germany may have been defeated in 1945, but some fanatic diehards would not give up that easily! A group of zealous Nazis decided to commandeer two U-boats belonging to Kapitans Schmitt and Kesser and set sail with the seeds to create a new Nazi future. But would the Nazis succeed or would Schmitt and Keller stop them before it was too late?

Story: Anthony Knowles
Art: Gordon C Livingstone
Cover: Gordon C Livingstone
Originally Commando No. 2729 (1994).

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 17-18 April 2019.

The Cor!! Buster Humour Special 
Cover: Neil Googe

Buster and Cor!! were two of the biggest humour comics in Britain – and now they’re back and they’ve brought their friends! The 48-page Cor!! & Buster Special will hit newsstands in on 17th April, retailing at £4.99. From the world’s naughtiest baby, Sweeny Toddler, to Gums, the most incompetent shark in the seven seas, this one-shot special will feature top comics talent including a cover by Neil Googe (The Flash), and strips by Ned Hartley (Star Wars), Cavan Scott (Doctor Who), Abigail Bulmer (2000 AD) and Tanya Roberts (TMNT)!

Judge Dredd Megazine 407
Cover: Clint Langley

JUDGE DREDD: THE CRAZY by Kenneth Niemand (w) Nick Dyer (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
LAWLESS: ASHES TO ASHES by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
STORM WARNING: GREEN & PLEASANT LAND by John Reppion, Leah Moore (w) Tom Foster (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Simon Bowland  (l)
BLUNT II by TC Eglington (w) Boo Cook (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE DARK JUDGES: THE TORTURE GARDEN by John Wagner (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Features: New Comics: All-ages titles; New Comics: 2000 AD Villains Takeover Special; New Books: Rico Dredd: The Titan Years
Bagged reprint: Operation: Overlord Vol.4

2000AD Prog 2127
Cover: Cliff Robinson & Jim Boswell (col)

JUDGE DREDD: THE LONG GAME by Michael Carroll (w) M ark Sexton (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SURVIVAL GEEKS: DUNGEONS & DATING (BASIC) by Emma Beeby, Gordon Rennie (w) Neil Googe (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SCARLET TRACES: HOME FRONT by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
MAX NORMAL: HOW THE MAX GOT HIS STRIPES by Guy Adams (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
KINGMAKER: OUROBOROS by Ian Edginton (w) Leigh Gallagher (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

M.A.C.H.1 Volume 2 by Scott Goodall, Alan Hebden, Steve MacManus, Roy Preston, Nick Landau, Pat Mills, Geoffrey Miller, Mike Lake, Gary Rice, John Cooper, Leopoldo Sanchez, Marzal Canos, Ramon Sola, Montero, Mike Dorey, Kevin O’Neill, Trevor Goring, Garry Leach,
Rebellion ISBN  978-1781-08674-2, 18 April 2019, 260pp, £16.99. Available via Amazon.

Super-spy action thrills in 2000 AD’s answer to James Bond and The 6 Million Dollar Man!
    When terrorists, super-weapons and other-worldly forces plot destruction, the British Secret Service need John Probe – their number one super-agent. But when Probe begins to question the motives of his superiors and the ruthless logic of his cybernetic brain, he finds the service has dark secrets up its sleeve… including failed prototype, M.A.C.H. Zero! The agency will find out what happens when they try to control Men Activated by Compu-Puncture Hyperpower!
    This volume collects the explosive finale of 2000 AD’s super-spy thriller and the M.A.C.H. Zero spin-off story!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Joseph Abbey

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Joseph Abbey, the younger brother of the illustrator Salomon Van Abbe (perhaps best-known today for his dustjackets and frontispieces for several of Anthony Buckeridge’s “Jennings” books in the early 1950s), was a minor illustrator of children’s books, perhaps best-known for his dustwrappers and illustrations for six of Enid Blyton’s stories in the 1940s. He was also, for a while, in demand as a dustwrapper artist for adult fiction.

He was born on 8 December 1888 in Amsterdam, the third son of Maurice [also known as Morris, but born Mozes] Van Abbe (1859-1919), a diamond cutter, and his French-born wife Rachel, née Rose (1859-1952). They had married in Amsterdam on 23 June 1881, and went on to have four children: Isaac (born on 11 August 1882), Salomon (born on 31 July 1883), Marianne (born on 27 August 1887), and Joseph.  The family came to England in early 1890, and settled at 51 St. Peter Street, Mile End Old Town, east London, with Maurice having changed profession and now working as a cigar maker. (Isaac was not recorded, suggesting that he had died.)

On 23 June 1896 Joseph and his sister Marianne were enrolled in Senrab Street School, Stepney, Tower Hamlets, with his address given as 147 Stepney Green Buildings. A year later, on 21 May 1897, his mother was admitted to the Mile End Workhouse in Tower Hamlets, and, having been declared insane, was transferred to the lunatic asylum at Colney Hatch, Friern Barnet three days later. She appears to have remained there until her death in 1952.

Joseph was subsequently transferred to the District Jews Hospital and Orphan Asylum in Norwood, Lambeth, where he was recorded in the 1901 census. (There appears to be no trace of his family elsewhere in that year’s census.) In November 1902 he was recorded as having won a gramophone in a drawing competition in Pearson’s Weekly, for completing a picture of a clown.

It is not known when he left the school, or where he received his artistic training (if, indeed, he received any – he may have received some tuition from his brother). However, by the time of the 1911 census he was, alongside his brother, working as an artist, and living with his father, brother and sister at 18 Marjorie Grove, Clapham Common. Marianne was recorded as an artist’s agent.  The family name was recorded as “Abbey” – whether or not this was a mistake by the census enumerator, or a conscious decision by the family, is not known, although Joseph used the name “Abbey” thereafter.

On 14 June 1911 he joined the Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Engravers and Process-Workers, although he was excluded, for a reason not recorded, in 1915. (His brother had been a member of the same trade union between 1903 and 1909.)

His earliest-known work as an illustrator appeared in 1915, when he contributed to the magazine Yes or No, published by Harry Shurey. In 1921, he produced a cover for Charles Shurey’s boys’ pocket library series The Cogwheel Library, and over the following few years he contributed to the Amalgamated Press’s Detective Magazine, Yellow Magazine and Red Magazine, and George Newnes’s Crusoe Mag. In 1927 he began a long association with the boys’ story paper Chums, and served as its Art Editor during the 1930s.

At the same time, he had begun a career as an illustrator of children’s books, beginning with Archibald Hurd’s Ordeal by Sea, published by Jarrold & Sons in 1918. He went on to illustrate several more adventures stories, including Biggles In Spain (1939) alongside Howard Leigh, and two of J.W. Kenyon’s “Peter Trant” stories. However, he was best-known as the illustrator of the first six of Enid Blyton’s stories about the “The Five Find-Outers” – about five children, aged between 9 and 14 (and a dog) who stumble across mysteries and beat the village policeman to the solution.

In 1949 he provided the dustwrapper and internal black and white illustrations for the first “Tom Merry” annual, published by Mandeville Publications. He also provided the internal illustrations for the second annual, while it appears the dustwrapper was designed by his brother. He had previously contributed to a handful of children’s other annuals and story collections. He was also credited with writing and illustrating Birds and Their Eggs, published by Ward, Lock & Co. in 1949, and which contained 25 colour plates.

His work, in particular the dustwrappers he designed, seem to be occasionally confused with those produced by his brother Salomon. There are numerous dustwrappers from between the 1920s to the 1940s that are signed “Abbey,” with a range of stylistic flourishes. While it has been suggested that some of these were the work of Joseph, it appears more likely that they were done by Salomon – they all have a rounded capital “A,” which Salomon used when he signed his work “S Van Abbe,” whereas when Joseph signed his work “J. Abbey” he used an angular “A.”

One of the dustwrappers that carries the name “J. Abbey” was that for the first edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, published by John Murray in 1927 (with his brother having apparently designed the dustwrapper for the earlier His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes, published in 1917). 

He occasionally did other commercial work, such as the cover of a recording of "The Gondoliers” for H.M.V. Records in 1919.

It must be said that the quality of Joseph Abbey’s work varied enormously. His portraits of Sherlock Holmes, for example, are exemplary, and many of his other adult characters were skillfully done. But he was not always very good at drawing young children. Some of his Enid Blyton illustrations had children who were nothing like their written characters, and were often ugly or with mis-shapen heads, and others were simply slapdash. His colour frontispiece for Harold Avery’s A Close Finish must be one of the worst illustrations ever to appear in a boys’ school story.

In the late 1920s he moved to Streatham, in South London, where he became a member of the Streatham Art Society. In 1933, he was recorded as living at 19 Thornton Avenue, Streatham, and in the 1939 Register he was recorded, under the name Joseph Van Abbé, at 33 Leigham Court Road, Wandsworth.

He died on 11 August 1954 (after choking on a fishbone) at 28 Congress Road, Streatham, leaving a small estate of just £305 (around £7,600 in today’s terms), with probate granted to his brother Salomon.


Books written and illustrated by J. Abbey
Birds and Their Eggs, Ward, Lock & Co., 1949

Books illustrated by J. Abbey
Ordeal by Sea by Archibald Hurd, Jarrold & Sons, 1918
Brother and Sister: A Story of Japanese Life by M.J. Oxlad, S.P.C.K., 1923 (re-issue)
The Wife’s Trials and Triumphs by Emma Jane Worboise, Hutchinson & Co., 1924 (re-issue)
The Hunter: A Story of Bushman Life by Ernest Glanville, Jonathan Cape, 1926
Birds of the Seashore by H.J. Massingham, T. Werner Laurie, 1931 (with E.E. Clarke & Eric Daglish)
Out and About by G. Gibbard Jackson, Dean & Son, 1932
A Close Finish and Other School Stories by Harold Avery, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1934
Bred in the “Blue”, or Ways of the African Wildfolk by W.S. Chadwick, Andrew Melrose, 1936 (with Dorothy Kay)
Major Exploits: Further Adventures of The Major by Louis Patrick Greene, John Hamilton, 1936 (re-issue)
Biggles in Spain by W.E. Johns, Oxford University Press, 1939 (with Howard Leigh)
The Great Tabu: Adventures of Tabu Dick by Louis Patrick Greene, George G. Harrap & Co., 1940
Treasure Valley: A Tale for Boys by Louis Patrick Greene, George G. Harrap & Co., 1940
Flak: The Story of a Canine Hero of the War by Shirley Goulden, W.H. Allen & Co., 1943
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1943
Peter Trant: Cricketer-Detective by James William Kenyon, Methuen & Co., 1944
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1944
The Mystery of the Secret Room by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1945
Alan of the Athletic by James W. Kenyon, Methuen & Co., 1945
Peter Trant: Heavyweight Champion by James William Kenyon, Methuen & Co., 1946
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1946
The Mystery of the Missing Necklace by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1947
Young Mohamed: A Tale by E. Gordon Savage, Noel Carrington, 1947
The Mystery of the Hidden House by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1948
Dark Champion by Arthur Waterhouse, Brockhampton Press, 1948
The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1949
Kestrels Over the Beacon by Stanley Weston Mason, Brockhampton Press, 1949
Tom Merry’s Annual, Mandeville Publications, 1949
Rallying Round Gussy by Martin Clifford, Mandeville Publications, 1950
Tom Merry’s Own, Mandeville Publications, 1950
Adventures Among Books by J.J. Sullivan, University of London Press, 1950
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, abridged by J.B. Marshall, E.J. Arnold, (?)

Friday, April 12, 2019

Comic Cuts - 12 April 2019

Work on the Gwyn Evans quartet of books continues. I now have book four scanned, although I haven't started on cleaning up the text yet. I'm still part-way through book three on that front. I'm still tinkering with cross-promotional adverts to put into the books and I still haven't gotten around to the covers. But as this is all being done in spare moments, I've surprised myself at how far I've managed to get!

I've produced a little chart so you can follow the progress of the books over the next couple of weeks.

As for paying work, I've almost run out and will be unemployed within the next couple of weeks. Being an eternal optimist – although that's against all the evidence of late – I'm sure something will come along.

I'm taking a look at Hanna below the picture... warning, there are spoilers galore here!

At only eight episodes, I managed to watch Hanna over only a couple of evenings while Mel was helping a friend at a convention. I was looking forward to this as I am a big fan of the original movie that the TV show is based on.

Hanna (Esme Creed-Miles) has been raised in isolation by her father, Erik Heller (Joel Kinnaman), who trains her in hunting, fighting, while trying to educate her about the world she has never seen beyond the confines of the Polish forest. Hanna begins to venture further into the forest and stumbles upon Arvo, a teenage logger who introduces her to chocolate. She spends time with Arvo, watching the stars atop a satellite dish. Unfortunately, climbing onto the dish triggers an appearance by the police, who arrest Arvo as Hanna runs.

Word of this encounter reaches Marissa Wiegler (Mireille Enos), a CIA agent who was involved in the death of Hanna's mother fifteen years earlier. Knowing that they have little time, Erik Heller leaves for Berlin and Hanna allows herself to be captured.

At a mysterious facility, Hanna asks to speak to Wiegler. The CIA instead introduce her to a lookalike. Hanna kills her and breaks out into the facility, grabbing some papers on the way before emerging in the desert. With an army of vehicles chasing her, she fortunately runs into a young teenage girl, Sophie (Rhianne Barreto), on holiday with her family and they drive to a Moroccan market town.

Beyond a little expansion, the TV show has followed the movie faithfully. However, as we hit episode three, things begin to diverge. Heller and Hanna meet in Berlin, and Heller recruits a team to help him observe and then kill Wiegler at her hotel. Wiegler, meanwhile, has located and threatened one of Heller's team and is expecting the attack.

Hanna (who ignores every effort to keep her out of danger) discovers that Heller is not her biological father, refuses to escape with him and instead we next find her in London. She is hiding in the camper van garaged around the corner from where Sophie and her family live. Her relationship with Sophie fractures when Hanna sleeps with a boy Sophie fancies. At that same moment, Marissa Wiegler arrives, having discovered a photo of Hanna' in Sophie's social media feed.

Hanna allows Marissa to take her away. She tells Hanna that Erik Heller is dead... but he is not. Instead, he is being tortured by the CIA operatives who have taken over the case from Marissa, who is now considered a rogue operative.

Comparing the new Hanna to the 2011 movie proves just how spare you can make a script without damaging the plot. You did not know Hanna's origins when she was played by Saoirse Ronan. There were hints at some bigger project – the movie's Marissa (Cate Blanchett) burning documents – and Erik (Eric Bana) revealing at the end that Hanna was part of an experiment to create super soldiers. But this was just the McGuffin that caused the movie – now, in the TV series, we get to meet those super soldiers.

I wonder whether this was writer David Farr's original intention. He was, after all, a regular writer on Spooks and may have pitched Hanna as a TV show first before stripping it back to become a movie.

For the TV show the action scenes are heightened, the storyline expanded and, as mentioned, we get to see the super soldier facility at the end. My initial thought that this would be an issue fizzled out as I was caught up in the continuing story. This is a tricky one to grade as I think I'd give the TV series higher marks and a rave review if I hadn't already seen the movie and rated that so highly. If you've not seen the movie, watch the TV series; if you have seen the movie, I think you'll find the expansion of the storyline satisfying. I certainly did.

Today's random scans... some novels by people also known for their comic strips...

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Rebellion releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 10 April 2019.

2000AD Prog 2126

Cover: D'Israeli

JUDGE DREDD: THE LONG GAME by Michael Carroll (w) M ark Sexton (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SURVIVAL GEEKS: DUNGEONS & DATING (BASIC) by Emma Beeby, Gordon Rennie (w) Neil Googe (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
KINGMAKER: OUROBOROS by Ian Edginton (w) Leigh Gallagher (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
MAX NORMAL: HOW THE MAX GOT HIS STRIPES by Guy Adams (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
SCARLET TRACES: HOME FRONT by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Monday, April 08, 2019

Eagle Times v32 no1 (Spring 2019)

The new volume of Eagle Times begins with a strong issue that feels like it concentrates on comics rather more than other subjects, which has not been the case for some while.

The issue begins with the story of an unlikely meeting with Nikita Kruschev at a filling station in Sussex might have led to Dan Dare inspiring the Russian space programme, and a piece about T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), who was to have been the subject of a back-page biography.

The meat of the issue begins with Jim Duckett's article about Look-In, the colourful television tie-in comic that ran for 23 years in 1971-94, which had many connections to the Eagle group of comics through its artists.

Next, Steve Winders offers a first look (of two) at the travels of Marco Polo, hero of the 1959 back-cover saga drawn by Frank Bellamy and Peter Jackson (Bellamy, of course, was sidelined to draw Dan Dare, so was only able to contribute the first eight issues).

Jeremy Briggs' article on the centrespreads of the later 'New' Eagle introduces Peter Sarson, the regular artist, who produced almost 50 cut-away drawings between 1990 and 1991, almost half of which were subsequently reprinted in the Eagle monthly in 1991-93. Sarson is also interviewed in this issue with plenty of his cut-aways used as illustrations.

After a brief look back at some of the actors suggested to play Dan Dare in the proposed 1991 TV series, we're back to the printed page with part 4 of David Britton's history of Charles Chilton's Jeff Arnold and his activities during the Indian Wars, this episode offering a look at the historical reality vs. the comic strip version of the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Finally, even Steve Winders' PC49 short story turns into a meta-fiction as Archie meets Frank Hampson.

As ever, there's always something new that can be written about Eagle and, having opened the magazine up to other comics and other subjects, the Eagle Times always manages to remain fresh and interesting.

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 Back issues are available for newcomers to the magazine and they have even issued binders to keep those issues nice and neat.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Sydney Prior Hall

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

For collectors of children’s books, Sydney Prior Hall is best-known for his illustrations, alongside those of Arthur Hughes, in the first illustrated edition of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, published in 1869. But in his time he was best-known as an illustrator for the weekly paper The Graphic between 1870 and 1910. He was also a noted painter and portrait artist.

He was born in Newmarket, Suffolk, on 18 October 1842, the first of eight children of Henry Hall (1815-1882), a noted painter of horses and sporting subjects, and his wife Ellen Anne, née Payne (1823-1905). (Note that his name is often incorrectly spelt as “Sidney” – he is also often referred to as “Sydney (or Sidney) P. Hall”, which is how he usually signed his work. However, he occasionally used “S.P. Hall” or “S.P.H.”).

He was educated at Newmarket Grammar School and then, from Easter 1855, at Merchant Taylor’s School, London – at the time of the 1861 census he was living as a boarder (and described as a scholar) at 18 Guilford Street, St. Pancras. He was then awarded a scholarship to Pembroke College, Oxford, where he obtained second classes in classical and modern moderations in 1863 and a first in literae humaniores in 1865. He was later awarded an MA in 1871.

Whilst at Oxford he produced a series of 100 “Oxford Sketches”, caricatures of local people and events, which were privately circulated before Hall had them published by James Ryman, an Oxford printseller and photographer, in 1870. From Oxford, having ignored his father’s desire for him to establish a career in the church, he entered the Royal Academy Schools, and he subsequently exhibited at the Royal Academy 15 times between 1875 and 1910.

In 1870 he joined the staff of the newly-launched The Graphic, established as a rival to The Illustrated London News, after sending in a couple of sketches of Oxford sports and a large drawing of the University Boat Race. His first major commission was to cover the Franco-Prussia War (1870-1871) – famously, his drawings of the siege of Paris were sent to London by balloon. He also wrote about his experiences in a series of articles. A selection of his work from France was later published in Sketches from an Artist’s Portfolio in 1875. (An earlier selection of his Graphic drawings had appeared in 1873.) He subsequently undertook several foreign tours as a Graphic artist, for example accompanying the Prince of Wales on a trip to India in 1875; the Duke of Argyll (better-known as the Marquess of Lorne) on his trips to Canada in 1879 and 1881; and the Duke and Duchess of York when they sailed on the Royal Yacht H.M.S. Ophir to Australia in 1901-1902. Immediately prior to this last trip, he was appointed a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MOV) in March 1901.

Throughout much of the first half of the 1870s Hall lived, at 39 Birkbeck Road, Islington, with Emma Dinah Holland, born in 1845 in St. Pancras and the daughter of John Holland, a cellarman. They had a son, Henry Reginald Holland Hall, born on 30 September 1873 (although he was not baptized, at St. Mary’s Church, Harrow, Middlesex, until 19 January 1884). Sydney and Emma subsequently married on 14 January 1877 at Islington Register Office, when they were living at 3 Pyrland Villas, Calverley Grove, Archway. (Henry Reginald, usually referred to as Harry Reginald Hall, went to become Keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquaries at the British Museum, and undertook several archeological excavations in the Far East. He received the MBE, and died in 1930.)

Sydney and Emma moved to 10 Lilyville Road, Fulham, and in the mid-1880s moved again to 20 Manor Mansions, Belsize Park Gardens, Hampstead. Between around 1876 and 1885 Sydney had a studio at 7 The Avenue, 76 Fulham Road, having earlier had a studio at 39A Queen’s Square, Bloomsbury. In 1889, the couple moved to 13 Chalcot Gardens, Belsize Park, and Sydney also moved to another studio at 5 Wychcombe Studios, Belsize Park.

As well as being on the staff of The Graphic, where he continued to focus on Royal, political and other major events, Sydney Prior Hall also occasionally worked for other periodicals, such as The Quiver, Dark Blue, London Society, Cassell’s Family Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, Belgravia, The Girl’s Own Paper, The Million, The Golden Penny, The Art Journal and The Sketch. As a book illustrator, he was mainly associated with travel books, several of which contained his illustrations from The Graphic. He also illustrated a handful of children’s books, beginning with the first illustrated edition of Tom Brown’s Schooldays (dated 1869 but actually published in December 1868) in partnership with the illustrator Arthur Hughes. (Hughes was best-known as a Pre-Raphaelite painter and illustrator – he received his art training at the School of Design at Somerset House and then, from 1847, at the Royal Academy Schools.) Hall’s contributions to Tom Brown were a mixture of small sketches of Rugby School and scenes from the novel, 14 drawings in total (whereas Hughes supplied 43).  He went to illustrate the sequel, Tom Brown at Oxford, in 1870. He also illustrated Recollections of Eton (published anonymously in 1870 but written by Charles Frederick Johnstone), a handful of boy’s adventure stories, and a couple of books for younger children.

Emma Hall died at 13 Chalcot Gardens on 6 April 1894. Eight years later, on 4 August 1906 at All Saints Church, Finchley Road, St. John’s Wood, Hall married Mary Lightbody Gow. Born in Islington on 25 December 1851, she was herself an artist and the daughter of James Gow, another artist. (In addition her brother Andrew Garrick Gow was also an artist, who became a member of the Royal Academy in 1891 and later Keeper of the Royal Academy.) Having been trained at Heatherley’s School of Art, Mary Gow had exhibited widely since 1869, with the Royal Society of British Artists and at the Royal Academy. She had also been a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour between 1875 and 1903.

In the 1911 census she and Sydney were recorded at 36 Grove End Road, St. John’s Wood, living with Charles Gow, Mary’s brother who was a widowed bank manager. Between 1910 and 1916 they were also recorded as having a home at 7B Elm Tree Road, St. John’s Wood (the address he gave when he exhibited at the Royal Academy in those years – he went on to exhibit there in 1918, 1919 and 1920).

Sydney Prior Hall died at 36 Grove End Road on 15 December 1922, leaving an estate valued at £1,700 (around £85,000 in today’s terms).  His wife died on 27 May 1929, leaving £28,529.

As an illustrator, Sydney Prior Hall was always referred to in very positive terms. The Graphic commissioned numerous pencil portraits from him, most notably during the hearings of the Parnell Commission (a judicial inquiry into allegations of criminality by the Irish parliamentarian Charles Stewart Parnell in 1888-1889). Hall was present every day, producing over 200 drawings, with The Art Journal later observing (in 1905) that “The fighting figure of Parnell fascinated him, and he brought out the Irish leader’s personality very remarkably. This rendering of character in action necessitates a sense of humour, and in Mr Hall’s sketches appear frequent gleams of that faculty.” The journalist and author George Augustus Sala (in his 1896 autobiography) called him “that prince of rapid sketchers, and master of impressionist effects.”

He was also a prolific painter, in both oils and watercolours, and was a member of the Society of Portrait Painters and The Pastel Society, As well as exhibiting at the Royal Academy, he also exhibited widely elsewhere, including with the Dudley Art Society, the Grosvenor Gallery, and at the Paris Salon in 1904. Many of his portraits are held by the National Portrait Gallery. He was a founder member of the Arts and Literature Dilettetante Society in 1880, and in the mid-1890s he became a member of the International Society of Wood Engravers. He was also a member of the Savage Club.


Books written and illustrated by Sydney Prior Hall
Oxford Sketches, James Ryman, 1870
The Travellers’ Sketch Book: Pictures of People and Places in Europe, “The Graphic”, 1873
Sketches from an Artist’s Portfolio, Sampson Low, Marston, Low & Searle, 1875
Key Book to “Oxford Sketches”, Oxford Union, 1909

Books illustrated by Sydney Prior Hall
The Comic Aldrich: An Attempt to Induce Oxford Men to Chop Logic Instead of Cutting It by H.D. Traill, T. & G. Shrompton, 1866
Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, Macmillan & Co., 1868 (with Arthur Hughes) (re-issue)
From London Bridge to Lombardy by a Macadamised Route by W.R. Richardson, Sampson Low, Son & Marston, 1869
Recollections of Eton by Charles Frederick Johnstone, Chapman & Hall, 1870
Lost, or What Became of a Slip from “Honour Bright” by John Christopher Atkinson, Sampson Low, Son & Marston, 1870
Tom Brown at Oxford by Thomas Hughes, Macmillan & Co., 1870 (re-issue)
Old Town Folk by anon. (Harriet Beecher Stowe), Sampson Low, Son & Marston, 1870 (re-issue)
All Round the World: Adventures in Europe, Asia, Africa and America by Parker Gillmore, Chapman & Hall, 1871
Ben Burton, or Born and Bred at Sea by W.H.G. Kingston, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1872
Clara Vaughan by R.D. Blackmore, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1872
The Parisians with a prefatory note by Edward Bulwer Lytton, W. Blackwood & Sons, 1873
The Law and the Lady by Wilkie Collins, Chatto & Windus, 1867 (with other artists)
The Princes of Wales’ Tour: A Diary in India etc. etc. by Sir Howard Russell, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1877
Adventures in Many Lands by Parker Gillmore, Marcus Ward & Co., 1879
Canadian Pictures, Drawn with Pen and Pencil by John Douglas Cambell, Religious Tract Society, 1884 (with other artists)
Old England’s Story in Little Words for Little Children by “Brenda”, Hatchards, 1884 (with other artists)
Round the Ring: Stories, Pictures and Poems for All the Year, Worthington & Co., 1887
Our Little Dots’ Picture Scrap Book, Religious Tract Society, 1890 (with other artists)
Charles Stewart Parnell: An Illustrated Biography, “The Daily Graphic”, 1891(?) (with other artists)
Artistic Travel in Normandy, Brittany, the Pyranees, Spain and Algeria by Henry Blackburn, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1892 (with other artists)
Parliamentary Pictures and Personalities, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1893 (with other artists)
Czar and Sultan: The Adventures of a British Lad in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 by Archibald Forbes, J.W. Arrowsmith, 1894
The King’s Reeve and How He Supped with His Master by Edward Gilliat, Seeley & Co., 1898
The Web of Empire: A Diary of the Imperial Tour of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York in 1901 by Donald Mackenzie Wallace, Macmillan & Co., 1902 (with Eduardo de Martino)
Cassell’s History of England, Cassell & Co., 1902 (part-work) (with other artists) (re-issue)
Western Odyssey 1881 by John Douglas Campbell, Public Archives of Canada, 1975

Friday, April 05, 2019

Comic Cuts - 5 April 2019

The week began with the frustrating non-appearance of my piece on Harry Bensley, perpetrator of the Iron Mask 'Walking Round the World' hoax, which was due to be broadcast on The One Show on Monday but which was then dropped. I must confess that having the arch hoaxer celebrated on April Fool's Day was more than I could have hoped for... but it was not to be. I have no idea why it was dropped, but it was almost certainly something as simple as another spot overrunning – not too difficult when your guests for the evening include Paddy McGuinness and Gyles Brandreth.

McGuinness was on to promote a new BBC quiz show called Catchpoint, which involves coloured balls being dumped onto contestants from above. They have to catch the right coloured ball. Is it any wonder that McGuinness was able to squeeze out any number of innuendos. At one point he stopped to tell the studio audience "Stop sniggering. You're not at school!" Meanwhile, some of Gyles Brandreth's jumpers are being exhibited at the V&A.

And for this Harry Bensley was bumped. I'll let you all know when he's due again. Hopefully soon, as I wasn't paid to do any of the filming or for supplying the images and clippings. I thought I'd make a bit of money back from a bump in sales of the book, which is languishing at number 1,683,890 in Amazon's bestsellers ranking. That's way below the first volume of Forgotten Authors, which is at 737,638 and sold just two copies last month. The fourth volume is two million places below that!

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for the work I've been doing writing company profiles. I have a couple of week's worth of work left, after which I have some work to do on a book, but that should take only a few days. By the end of the month I'm going to be unemployed again.

The devil finds work for idle hands and, oddly enough, I've been working on Satan Ltd., the third of a quartet of reissues of old Gwyn Evans novels that I'm planning to publish under the Bear Alley imprint. This, I suspect, will not be a money-spinner, but it's a project close to my heart and while I can do it in my spare time while I'm earning money... well, that's the time to do it.

So I now have the text of the first two books done, the first book laid out and the second waiting in the wings while I work on the text for the third book. I've scanned the whole book and converted the scans into a text file using OCR and I'm now going through it, weeding out the inevitable errors that sneak into an OCR text.

Although doing it this way is a far quicker than retyping the whole book, it still takes time: 300 scans at high resolution, converting those into a format so that the images can be "read" and turned into text... I was working solidly all Saturday and something as simple as holding a book flat on a scanner 300 times can lead to a repetitive strain injury – in this case a nasty crick in the neck – that lasts for a couple of days.

And I've had an hour's less sleep, although, bizarrely, the clocks going forward has done me a favour. I had been waking up ridiculously early, any time between four and five. Well, now that's between five and six and I get up at six anyway. Thanks BST! Now, if only we could stick with it. A permanent move to British Summer Time would save a lot of hassle every year and everyone feeling jet-lagged for a couple of days.

Nightflyers began as a 23,000-word novella by George R. R. Martin (1980), was expanded by 7,000 words by Martin for a 1981 anthology collection, and subsequently filmed as the 1987 movie starring Catherine Mary Stewart and Michael Praed. Martin was co-credited with the screenplay for the latter but it was actually written by the film's producer Robert Jaffe who used the original version, inventing his own names for secondary characters who had been named by Martin in the 1981 expansion.

Now we have the 2018 SyFy TV serial version. For anyone who hasn't seen it but is planning to, look away now.

I'm not the biggest fan of the crossover sci-fi/horror genre that is essentially a haunted house yarn. Ridley Scott's Alien nailed it and everything after that has paled in comparison. There was a spate of films in the late 1990s that relied on cross-dimensional horrors on a spaceship: Event Horizon (1997) and Supernova (2000) were glossier versions of the Nightflyers movie, and films like Alien Cargo (1999) had equally familiar plots about bringing something on board that begins killing everybody that has been used most recently in Life (2017).

I didn't think much of Event Horizon when I saw it at the cinema, but at least it was over and done with after 90 minutes. The new Nightflyers TV series stretches out its movie-length premise to ten episodes. The show leaves no cliche unturned. The spaceship Nightflyer is sent off to contact an alien space craft, a mission headed by Karl D'Branin, who has brought a telepath (Thale) on board along with his doctor, Agatha Matheson, who happens to be Karl's ex.

And so the cliches begin: Karl has abandoned his wife following the death of his daughter, who he keeps seeing wandering the corridors of the Nightflyer; the glowering Thale has, of course, caused the death of people with friends on board, who fear and despise him; the Captain refuses to interact physically with the crew, instead only appearing as a hologram; the woman who plugs into the ship in order to pilot it is taken over by the ship; a HAL-like glowing eye signals bad activity within the shipboard computer; a probe brings back some biological substance which begins to grow; a pregnant woman gives birth to something not human; and there's even a scientist driven mad who turns into an axe-wielding maniac. Oh, and space cannibals.

Its all the scripts for the above mentioned films cut into strips and glued back together again in random order, like a William Burroughs cut-up experiment. Some of the individual elements were quite effective – the death of Tessia the bee lady's baby and her subsequent death – and some of it was just plain daft – she and her baby have to die to give motivation to the her boyfriend's descent into madness, which involves eating honey in a creepy way and doing a bad Jack Nicholson/Jack Torrance impersonation.

Too many times the crew suffer some trauma, only to forget/ignore it in the next scene where they're required for something else. Even the axe-man is invited back to work.

The show was cancelled at the end of the first season and I can't say that I'm surprised. Jump scares are part of the language of horror on the screen, but viewers need to give a damn about the characters if you want to bring some genuine horror to your haunted spaceship. There's nothing new here.

To end, we'll have a few more covers on the theme of time...