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Monday, July 24, 2017

Eve Ellin

The Virgin's Progress was described by T. Werner Laurie as "A sprightly first novel". It's author, Eve Ellin was unknown and, to my knowledge, remains unknown. She wrote only two novels and then disappeared.

For such a best-seller—Virgin's Progress went through four editions by the time Ellin's second novel appeared—there were surprisingly few reviews; I've yet to find one in the UK (although the number of historical newspapers I have access to is, of course, limited) and only one, brief, review of the American edition, which was published in 1933 by Macaulay under the title Synthetic Virgin.
A   serio-comic satire upon the ways and wiles that are Hollywood, with   stop-over blasts at the nobility, the world of means, the medical profession, the great god publicity and a dozen or more second-string gods, this brash, headlong impudence gets a lot of needed panning accomplished in a reasonably short evening. Maybe you'll see it as something quite different. If you do, shame on you.— W. R. W.
Ellin's second novel, Good-bye Hell!, was "Written with all the impudent wit and vivacity of her first novel." In this instance I've found a couple of reviews which will give you a flavour of what they're about, plus some hints about her previous title.
The cover of this book ("published at the author's request at 3s 6d instead of the usual 7s 6d") affirms that it is "an absorbing tale which cannot fail to entrance Miss Ellin's numerous reader," whose first novel, "Virgin's Progress," has been a big seller, we are told. Well, this production concerns no virgin, but an illegitimate half French-half English girl who, at fifteen, became an artist's mistress, and who, a year later, was accepted as a "star" girl in the Maison Blanche of Paris. Having said good-bye to those two hells, she entered a third posing as a widow among the Best People (save the mark) on the Riviera. Thereafter, a man who learns her sad, sordid story prevents her return to the notorious Maison Blanche by taking her to be—his wedded wife! The story does not inform us whether this arrangement made for her final good-bye to hell. But what there is of the story is enough of its kind. (Aberdeen Press & Courier, 5 February 1934)

"Virgin's Progress," a first novel, has been a continuous and big seller from the day of its publication and shows no sign of waning popularity. Here is a second novel from the same pen written with all the impudent wit and vivacity of her first book. It concerns Annie Marie, who had lived in poverty with her pretty young French mother; and after her death became a little milliner's girl, and to escape that hell offered herself to the Maison Blanche when she was sixteen. The story has wonderful colour pictures of the Riviera and Marie's rise to fame and fortune make a most absorbing tale which cannot fail to entrance Miss Ellin's numerous admirers. (Sevenoaks Chronicle, 9 February 1934)
Eve Ellin then disappeared from sight. Perhaps her two novels proved too controversial for her publisher. The National Revenue Review, published by the Minister of National Revenue of Canada, noted in its January 1932 and March 1934 issues that, under the provisions of Section 13 and Item 1201, Schedule " C " of The Customs Tariff, both The Virgin's Progress and Good-bye Hell were prohibited from importation into Canada.

Who Eve Ellin was I have no idea. Unfortunately, none of her books were registered in the U.S. for copyright, which is often a useful source for books dating back to the 1930s.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

J. H. Hartley

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

J. H. Hartley was a familiar artist to many readers of boys’ school stories in the 1920s, providing dustjackets to re-issues of novels by P.G. Wodehouse and R.S.Warren Bell, and he was also a noted illustrator of bible stories. Yet his life has always been something of a mystery – he was even overlooked in Brian Doyle’s groundbreaking Who’s Who of Boys’ Writers and Illustrators, published in 1964.

He was born in Leeds on 25 May 1876 and christened James Henry Hartley. His parents were both involved in the cloth/textile trades – in the 1881 census, the family was living at 6 Kennedy Street, Leeds, with James’s father, William Bennett Hartley (born in Leeds in 1845) working as a cloth dresser, and his mother Jessie (born in Edinburgh in 1848) working as a braider. Indeed, James’s working life began in the same trade – in 1888 he was awarded a Day Scholarship by Yorkshire College, Leeds, as a clothworker’s scholar (as reported in the Leeds Times, 6 October 1888), and in the 1891 census he was recorded as a clothier’s office boy, living with his parents at 4 New Lloyd Street, Leeds.

At some point in the 1890s, his career path changed and in the 1901 census, still living with his parents, at 23 Haddon Avenue, Headingley cum Burley, Leeds, he was recorded as a (freelance) lithographic artist. (his father had also changed career, being recorded as a confectioner’s warehouseman).

It is not known if Hartley received any artistic training or was self-taught. It is also not known what sort of work he was doing in his early career – his first-known published work is from around 1912, with the bulk of his work appearing in the 1920s and early 1930s.

In September 1904, in Leeds, he married Mary Elizabeth Wainwright (born in Leeds in 1881). Their first child, Albert Wainwright Hartley, was born in Glasgow in 1905, suggesting they were visiting Scotland at that time, and he was baptized in Leeds on 13 August 1905. They went on to have two other children: James Stanley in 1907 (possibly at 40 Chestnut Avenue, Headingley, Leeds, where Hartley was recorded as an artist in the 1908 Kelly’s Directory), and Dorothy Mary in 1910, also born in Leeds.

Shortly after the birth of their daughter, the family moved south, to 5 Woodhouse Terrace, Grove Road, North Finchley, with Hartley recorded in the 1911 census as an “Artist to Printers and Publishers”, working on his own account. He then set up in business with a partner, as The Hartley Cooke Studio, at his home address, although the First World War intervened, and in June 1916 he applied for exemption from military service, having been called-up under the provisions of the newly-introduced Military Service Act. (See National Archives, Ref. MH 47/55/32).

In his application he stated that his partner and two employees were already serving in the army, and that he was trying to keep his business going, as this was the sole means of support for his wife, three children and widowed mother. He was given a temporary exemption for three months. However, the army appealed, claiming that there was “no serious business hardship in this case as he will be able to carry on his business when he comes back.” Fortunately for Hartley, the appeal tribunal confirmed his 3 months exemption but varied the terms so that he was obliged to join the Volunteer Training Corps and carry out at least 12 drills per month. He subsequently applied for a renewal of his exemption, and was awarded another temporary exemption for three months at the beginning of November 1916.
On 12 March 1917 he was offered a position in the Drawing Office of the Aircraft Manufacturing Company, Edgware Road, Hendon, on a salary of £2 a week plus overtime, provided he was still exempt from military service. Unfortunately, the company seemed to have had little faith in Hartley’s artistic abilities, as the letter offering him the post explained that his duties “would be connected with the photo-copying of drawings.”

Hartley’s partner in the Hartley Cooke Studio was probably a descendant of Alf Cooke (1842-1902), who had founded what became a flourishing colour printing business in Leeds in 1866, and which had been taken over by his sons Harry and Alf after his death. Hartley’s first-known work was a series of colour plates and black and white illustrations for The Three Bears & The Babes in the Wood, written by W. Mord and printed and published by Alf Cooke Ltd. (of Leeds and London) in around 1912. (It also contained illustrations by E. North). Another illustration appeared in 1912 Brown Eyes and Blue, a collection of stories and rhymes for young children published by Henry Frowde and Hodder & Stoughton.  Another early book illustrated by Hartley was Ethel Turner’s Flower of the Pine, published by Ward, Lock & Co. in 1914.

There is no trace of the Hartley Cooke Studio after 1917 (Hartley’s partner may well have been a casualty of the war), and by 1922 Hartley appears to have become either an employee of the publishers A. & C. Black, or contracted to them, as most of his published work appears to have been for them.

In particular, he was tasked with providing the dustjackets (with the illustration being repeated as a colour frontispiece) to many of the titles in Black’s “Boys’ and Girls’ Library.” Most notably, these included re-issues of the school stories by P.G. Wodehouse and R.S. Warren Bell, which had previously been published by Black in the two decades before the war. (Some of Bell’s stories had been published by George Newnes). Other boys’ school stories in the series with Hartley dustjackets were by R.A.H. Goodyear, L.H. Bradshaw and N. Hewitt. Only a few of the dustjackets carried Hartley’s signature, but his style is fairly distinctive.  One exception to this general rule was a 1924 edition of P.G. Wodehouse’s Mike, which had originally been published in 1909 with black and white illustrations by T.M.R. Whitwell – the 1924 reprint, retaining the original pictorial binding, had four colour plates by Hartley.

He also provided illustrations for several girls’ stories, although identifying some of these is difficult in the absence of his signature.

His other main area of work was as an illustrator of bible stories, beginning in 1923 with no fewer than 50 colour illustrations for A. & C. Black’s The Bible Story: A Connected Narrative Retold from Holy Scripture, written by Rev. James Baikie. Similar titles illustrated by Hartley included The Beautiful Book of Bible Stories by June Morton (Partridge, 1931) and Bible Picture Stories (Partridge, 1931). Also worth mentioning are his two covers for stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs and published by John Lane the Bodley Head: A Fighting Man of Mars (1932) and Tarzan and the City of Gold (1936).

What Hartley did after the mid-1930s is not known, as no books carrying his illustrations after this date are known. When his wife died in the Prince of Wales Hospital, Tottenham, on 6 August 1935 he was living at 111 Lichfield Grove, Finchley, the probate record recording that he was a commercial artist. Lichfield Grove was also his address when his son James married in 1937. He died on 27 December 1961 at Walnut Tree Cottage, Carding Mill Valley, Church Stretton, Shropshire, leaving an estate valued at £2,950. Probate was granted to his sons – Albert Wainwright was recorded as being a technical author, and James Stanley as a chartered architect. James died in Crawley, West Sussex, in 1987, and Albert died in Bournemouth in 1995.


Boys’ stories (all published by A. & C. Black, London)
Dormitory Eight by R.S. Warren Bell, 1922 (re-issue)
The Head of Kay's by P.G. Wodehouse, 1922 (re-issue)
The White Feather by P.G. Wodehouse, 1922 (re-issue)
Smith's Week by R.S. Warren Bell, 1923 (re-issue)   
Greyhouse Days by R.S. Warren Bell, 1923 (re-issue)    
The Three Prefects by R.S. Warren Bell, 1923 (re-issue)    
Tales of St. Austin's by P.G. Wodehouse, 1923 (re-issue)    
The Gold Bat by P. G. Wodehouse, 1923 (re-issue)    
Green at Greyhouse by R.S. Warren Bell, 1924 (re-issue)   
The Secret Seven by R.S. Warren Bell, 1924 (re-issue)    
The Fifth Form at Beck House by R.A.H. Goodyear, 1924   
Mike by P.G. Wodehouse, 1924 (re-issue)       
The Pothunters by P.G. Wodehouse, 1924 (re-issue)    
A Prefect's Uncle by P.G. Wodehouse, 1924 (re-issue)    
Tales of Greyhouse by R.S. Warren Bell, 1925 (re-issue)   
The Mystery of Markham by R.S. Warren Bell, 1925 (re-issue)  
Three Joskins at St. Jude's by R.A.H. Goodyear, 1925
The Smiths of Scarlett's House by N. Hewitt, 1925   
The Right Sort by L.H. Bradshaw, 1926 (re-issue)    
The New Boy at Baxtergate by R.A.H. Goodyear, 1926   
Between the Wickets by Jack Hobbs, 1926   
Exiled from School by Andrew Home, 1926 (re-issue)   
J.O. Jones by R.S. Warren Bell, 1927 (re-issue)    
Up Against the School by R.A.H. Goodyear, 1927       
An Exciting Term at Monks Eaton by N. Hewitt, 1927   
By A Schoolboy's Hand by Andrew Home, 1927 (re-issue)  
With Wat at Wintergleam  by R.A.H. Goodyear, 1928       

Girls’ stories
Flower of the Pine by Ethel Turner, Ward, Lock & Co., 1914
Her Mighty Youth by Anemone J. Napier, A. & C. Black, 1924
Bringing Up Dinah by Jocelyn C. Lea, A. C. Black, 1927
A Girl’s Adventures in Korea by Agnes Herbert, A. & C. Black, 1927
The House of Doug by Bertha Leonard, Sampson Low, Marston & Co. 1927
Philippa at School by S.K. Ensdaile, A. & C. Black, 1928
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin, A. & C. Black, 1930   
More About Revbecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin, A. & C. Black  1930
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, A. & C. Black, 1933

Bible stories
The Bible Story by Rev. J. Baikie, A. & C. Black, 1923
The Beautiful Book of Bible Stories, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1931
Bible Picture Stories by June Morton, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1931

Other children’s books
The Three Bears and Babes in the Wood by W. Mord, Alf Cooke Ltd., 1912
Brown Eyes and Blue, Henry Frowde and Hodder & Stoughton, 1912
The Book of London for Young People by G.E. Mitton, A. & C. Black, 1922
A Naval Alphabet by M. Berkeley, A. & C. Black, 1922
Baby’s Pretty Stories by Florence Hardy, Humphrey Milford, 1923
Mother Gooses’s Nursery Tales by l. Edna Walter, A. & C. Black, 1923

Other books
Christmas Carols, A & C Black, 1922
Peeps at English Folk Dances by Violet Alford, A. & C. Black, 1923
The Story of the Highland Regiments by Frederick Watson, A. & C. Black, 1925
Face to Face with Napoleon by O.V. Caine, A. & C. Black, 1930
Tales of English Castles and Manors by Elizabeth W. Grierson, A. & C. Black, 1931
A Fighting Man of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Lane the Bodley Head, 1932
Dover-Ostend by Taffrail, Hodder & Stoughton, 1933
London Watercolours, A. & C. Black, 1935
Tarzan and the City of Gold by Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Lane the Bodley Head, 1936

Friday, July 21, 2017

Comic Cuts - 21 July 2017

I'm going to classify this week as "surprisingly productive" after I slacked off last week. We have finally had the roof of the utility room replaced after only seven years of complaining about leaks. Still no news on some of the other repairs that need doing to the house and its environs, but the main ones have now been done in the past year. What's the betting our rent will be going up shortly?

I've been working on a revision to an old Bear Alley series that I'll put out as an e-book via Kindle. I have a few of these available but rarely bother to promote them. However, they generate a couple of quid every month and help towards some of the costs I incur through Bear Alley. The largest costs are subscriptions to family research websites; those alone cost me over £250 a year, but I use them constantly to ferret out information on authors and artists, so much so that I can't really afford to drop them.

If you want to help, you can do something as simple as using the Amazon search box over on the left when you buy anything from Amazon. It won't cost you a penny, but I'll get a penny or two from anything you purchase as it will spot that you've gone to Amazon via Bear Alley.

But back to the roof...

Part of the problem with the original roof was that it didn't reach all the way back to the brickwork of the house. Rather, it rested on a wooden framework attached to the house and the join was then covered over. Because it wasn't flush, rain could get in, which was not so bad when the seals were new and worked; however, over time the seals perished and water managed to seep in. Problem two was caused by sagging. Although there was a camber to the roof, it wasn't great, and if the gutters filled up, water would pool on the roof and not run away. Again, it eventually found its way into the house. Third problem was the gutters themselves, which were covered by the wooden frame that held the roof slats in place. Being covered meant that they couldn't be cleaned out, hence the accumulation of dirt, leaves, bird droppings and everything else that ends up being washed down the roof to create a slurry in the gutter. The gutter itself was straight so the slurry just sat there.

Hopefully the new roof solves these problems. I guess the new seals alone will mean we're free from rain getting into the house. But hopefully it will last more than a few years and will still be water-tight even after everything's had a few soakings from wet and snowy winters and being baked during the summer. The pic above was taken Thursday morning... there's still some work to be finished (gutters, for instance) but I'll be posting this before the work is complete. So more pictures next week.

Following on from our brief round-up of soon-to-be-published British comics'-related titles, Rebellion have announced that they will be publishing a Scream! and Misty special for the newsstands in time for Halloween. Previews carries the following information:

Two of Britain's best-loved supernatural comics have been resurrected this Halloween and merged into one terrifying tome featuring all-new stories! Max the crazy computer makes a welcome return in The Thirteenth Floor by Guy Adams, John Stokes and Frazer Irving; the fangs are out in The Dracula File by Grainne McEntee and Tristan Jones; weirdos, warriors and weasels plucked from the pages of various 70s and 80s British comics congregate in Death-Man: The Gathering by Henry Flint; Kek-W and Simon Coleby collaborate on Black Max, the German World War One fighter pilot that's descended from a race of bat-people; the high-rise horrors of Birdwood are back in Return of the Sentinels by Hannah Berry and Ben Willsher; and fairies can be frightening in Fate of the Fairy Hunter by Alec Worley and DaNi.

That's a pretty darned good line-up of talent. It should be well worth the £3.99 price tag. It will be going on sale on 18 October.

Also out shortly is a collection of Shaky Kane strips from Deadline. Here's the press release:
"Read any GOOD BOOKS lately, punk?"
For the first time ever, Good News Bible: The Complete Deadline Strips of Shaky Kane collects Shaky Kane's complete comic strips and illustrations from the ground-breaking British counter-culture magazine, Deadline, which between 1988 and 1995 spawned Jamie Hewlett's Tank Girl and launched dozens of cartoonists' careers.
    Drenched in wry wit, Kane's politically charged, hallucinatory, Jack Kirby-infused punk cartoons crackle with intensity and bombast, remaining as relevant now as when they were first published 30 years ago.
    Zone in, tune out and get ready to meet God's own cops: The A-Men, The Sadistic Prowler, Pinhead Aliens invading Russia, trans-dimensional subhuman entities The Shadowmen, Pagan P.I.: Wiccaman, Dannii Minouge, and the man of destiny himself: The Space Boss SHAKY KANE.
    With an introduction from writer David Quantick, foreword from cartoonist and writer Nick Abadzis, afterword from cartoonist and comics academic Frank Santoro, and annotations from Shaky himself, this is the ultimate tome for baptising oneself in the perverse and psychedelic world of Britain's cosmic comics shaman... There is only one Shaky Kane.
You can order the book direct from Breakdown Press, with copies available from 15 August, price £24.99.

Given the view I had on Wednesday, here are this week's random scans:


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 17–19 July 2017

Judge Dredd Megazine 386
Cover: Nick Percival
Judge Dredd: Ape Escape by Arthur Wyatt (w) Jake Lynch (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Anderson PSI Division by Alan Grant (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Havn by Si Spencer (w) Henry Flint (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Dredd: Furies by Arthur Watt, Alex Di Campi (w) Paul Davidson (a) Len O'Grady (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
The Dark Judges: Dominion by John Wagner (w) Nick Percival (a) Len O'Grady (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)

New Books: The Leopard From Lime Street
Interview: Black Hammer's Dean Ormston
Bagged reprint: London Falling by Simon Spurrier (w) Lee Carter (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

2000AD Prog 2040
Cover: Neil Roberts
Judge Dredd: The Wrap-Up by Arthur Wyatt (w) Tom Foster (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Greysuit: Foul Play by Pat Mills (w) John Higgins (a) Sally Hurst (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
Grey Area: Border Ops by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hunted: Furies by Gordon Rennie (w) PJ Holden (a) Len O'Grady (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Spaceship Away #42 (Summer 2017)

It's always a pleasure to have Spaceship Away drop through the letterbox. Des Shaw has maintained the high standards set by original editor Rod Barzilay and has kept the title rolling along with a decent momentum since 2003.

The strip content is split three ways this issue. The main event, as always, is the latest Dan Dare yarn, written and drawn by Tim Booth, who does a bang-up job of recreating the characters and look of the old Frank Hampson era Dan Dare. A new story was launched with four 2-page episodes last issue (which I'm sure is still available if you're coming late to Spaceship Away). This issue sees a further four episodes... and I hope this is a sign of things to come, as eight pages per issue means enough plot for the reader to get their teeth into—vital when you have to wait four months between issues.

The latest tale, 'Shakedown Cruise', is shaping up into a fun storyline. Four students have been chosen to accompany Dan and Digby on a mission aboard the Discovery, an old crate upgraded to serve as a training ship. Over the course of these episodes we get to see Far Side City and meet Professor Peabody's sister, Snooks. The storyline is slowly building... and that's why running more than a couple of episodes at a time makes for a far better reading experience.

The rest of the strip contents consists of a Fifties reprint by Gordon Coombs and Harry Winslade (from an Express Weekly Annual probably) and a Ron Turner reprint from 1990, newly coloured by Martin Baines. This features John Russell Fearn's 'Golden Amazon' and was originally published in its own one-off comic based on the novel Conquest of the Amazon. A 1948 introduction by Fearn himself sets the scene as the present story builds on events of the previous novel. The sun is growing unstable and Earth could be frozen within two years. Only the Golden Amazon can save the day... or maybe not... we'll just have to wait for the next episode.

There are some interesting articles for fans of old science fiction comics as Andrew Darlington takes a very thorough look at the history of Jet-Ace Logan, as does Philip Harbottle with the Tit-Bits Science Fiction Comics series. Jeremy Briggs reveals a forgotten bit of Dan Dare history in his article about a 1972 Dan Dare play that was staged at the Half Moon Theatre.

Add a nice cut-out drawing by Graham Bleathman, an episode of Davy Rocket, artwork by Don Harley and a brief history of rocketry, and you have another excellent issue.

You can find out more about the magazine, buy back issues and subscribe to the latest issues at the Spaceship Away website.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Upcoming releases

Rebellion are releasing two 2000AD strips in early 2018 that hark back to the comics' earliest days. In February they are releasing Ant Wars, which originally appeared in progs 71-85 in 1978, but was conceived as a Them!-style, giant-animals-attack yarn during 2000AD's creation. Written by Gerry Finley-Day and drawn for the most part by Jose Luis Ferrer and Alfonso Azpiri, the strip was subsequently reprinted in Eagle (1986).

The book will also include 'Zancudo' from Judge Dredd Megazine (2005) by Si Spurrier and Cam Kennedy, and has a cover by Kevin O'Neill.

A month later, Rebellion are reprinting M.A.C.H.1 (ISBN 978-1781-08613-1) which debuted in the first Prog. John Probe was 2000AD's answer to the hugely popular Six Million Dollar Man, Probe's adventures were written and drawn by two dozen different artists and writers.

Titan Comics have released some further information about their upcoming Dan Dare comic book. It is to be written by Peter Milligan (recently to be found writing The Mummy for Titan) and drawn by Alberto Foche, well-known in Spain but a newcomer to British comics. Covers have been painted by Chrisian Ward, Alberto Foche and a retro cover by Chris Weston.

Down the Tubes sums up the plot thus: "In Titan Comics’ new tale, Earth and the solar system is at peace for the first time in human history – and Dan Dare doesn’t know what to do with himself. Then, a huge unknown alien vessel arrives in the solar system and obliterates a moon of Saturn in a show of strength, Dare finds himself thrust back into a new adventure that threatens not just Earth – but all life in the entire universe!"

The 4-issue mini-series begins in October.

Pat Mills is doing a paperback version of his autobiography, Be Pure! Be Vigilant! Behave!. Already available on Kindle, Mills has said that the print version should be available within the next week or two. A new cover by Alex Ronald has been produced for the book which has now replaced the previous cover on the Kindle edition.

Pat has also been working on an audio version of the book which will be made available through Spokenword Audio. Spokenword's press-release notes that the book will be released on the Spokenword website for download in August, with other platforms (Audible, iTunes, etc.) following in September.

An interview conducted by Afshin Rattansi with Pat will be appearing on Russia Today's Going Underground programme on July 22nd. We're also waiting for Accident Man starring Scott Adkins, which has been filmed but has yet to be given a release date.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Comic Cuts - 14 July 2017

After a fortnight of steady work on the Valiant index, I've spent this week doing almost nothing. There are a couple of piles of books sat on the scanner next to me and a larger stack that I've had to move out of the office to make room; all have been somehow involved in filling four of the seven days since the last column. But the end results are frustratingly small.

Long-time readers may recall that we've had a problem with leaks in what our landlady calls "the conservatory" but which is, in fact a utility room tacked onto the back of the converted garage that is my office. We've had repairmen come in the past to fix the roof, but each time they find a hole and fill it, the water finds a new way to get inside. The seals around the doors, the windows and the roofing panels has perished; if you stand in the doorway to the kitchen, you can look through a hole under one of the panels and see the outside world.

The roof was to be repaired this week, but, after a long period of dry weather which has had everyone talking about a possible hosepipe ban, the heavens decided to open up. Not so much on Monday but definitely on Tuesday night. I usually use old coffee tins and old plastic milk bottles in a Heath Robinson-esque way, to stop the water pouring down the back of our fridge. Depending on how bad the weather is, the coffee tin usually has the capacity to cope; a plastic bottle with the end cut off guides the water and stops the rain making a constant plink, plink, plink noise as it lands.

The towel comes into effect during heavier rain. You see, if the rain pours through it splashes against the window surround and misses the tin, which is why we lay towels down to soak up any water the tin doesn't catch. But, to reduce this problem, we have the tea-towel drainage system: the rains lands on the towel at the top of the window surround and soaks down its length before dripping into one of our tins. The tins' capacity is just under four pints of water, and we have up to four of them in operation because there's more than one hole the water seeps through.

On Tuesday night we put a busket where those tins are and I emptied it just before going to bed at midnight. I awoke at 5:30 the following morning and came down to make sure everything was OK and the bucket was almost full. That's 16 pints of rainwater in 5 1/2 hours. Add the half a pint collected by one of the other tins and it's simple math to work out that the rain was pouring into the "conservatory" at a rate of three pints an hour.

That's not the worst of the problems. The worst would be the slugs. They just love to crawl in. On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning I caught three, so it's not a small problem. Apart from leaving disgusting silvery trails for you to wake up to, they cause a bigger problem. In October 2014, we had to replace our washing machine because the electronics were fried. Then, in June 2016 we had the same problem with the new machine. Thankfully this time it was cheaper to fix the motherboard than replace the whole machine. But let me take you back to that post briefly:
Oh, and the washing machine stopped working on Sunday and the very heavy downpours we've been having have added another leak into the utility room. The two events are not connected as far as I know. The latter I was able to fix with a Heath Robinsonesque device consisting of a plastic carton with a hole in the bottom which caught the drips and guided them into a tin which rested on the window sill. Into the tin was drilled a hole out of which the collected water dripped. Unfortunately, plastic trays and old tins are no substitute for a blown motherboard, so I couldn't jerry rig the washing machine.
As you can see, the leaky roof was already a problem back then. But my point is my prediction that "The two events are not connected as far as I know." Well, actually they were connected. Slugs like to hide out in warm, wet places and will slither inside your washing machine. And it's the slugs who short out the motherboards. The replacement board was sealed tight to make sure this didn't happen again, but a more ideal solution would be for there to be no slugs indoors in the first place... and that means getting the roof fixed... which isn't going to happen this week now.

I was prepared for disruption on Monday, but it didn't happen; nor on Tuesday and now we're delayed until the middle of next week because the guy doing the job has family commitments in Germany.

To distract myself from the work happening three yards away, I'd planned a fun task for myself which involved looking through some old issues of Authentic Science Fiction, the 1950s British SF magazine. There has been a question mark hanging over the authorship of a few stories and I thought this would be a good time to resolve it. (I've had a couple of research breakthroughs recently that involve authors for the magazine, hence my sudden desire to dig out my copies.)

I'm sorry to say the results have been inconclusive. I need to read more of the books in full before I can say anything with any certainty. For anyone who knows the magazine, I'm leaning towards the idea that Bert Campbell wrote all of the Roy Sheldon yarns, but this is something I'll have to come back to.

But while I was doing this kind of research, I thought I'd tackle another set of books. Again, the results were inconclusive as I don't have a large enough collection of the books. By now it was half-past Tuesday and I spent the rest of the day and most of Wednesday doodling around trying to solve a couple of other mysteries associated with those old 1950s paperbacks that I love to write about. I didn't have much luck—and in one instance, rather than solve the mystery I've managed to muddy the water further!

Not that the week has been a total loss. Trying to dig out my Authentics from the shelves at the back of the office meant dealing with the spiders who lived there. My office has now been fully dusted for the first time in a while and is looking spick and possibly even span.

So for our random scans I've spent some time cleaning up my rather tatty early issues of Authentic, which are by the mysterious D.L.W. He only signed two of the books, but the first nine covers are clearly the same artist. Only six here because it's late and I want to go to bed. The cover above is by Ratcliff.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Commando issues 5035-5038

Brand new Commando issues 5035-5038 are flying high and on sale soon! Fighting through the streets of Saigon, Middle Eastern deserts, the mountains of Northern Italy, and secret underground bunkers and quarries, anywhere can be a battlefield for our Commandoes!

5035: Escape Saigon!
Richard Davis’s story is one of friendship in the face of adversity. Two men: one American, the other Vietnamese, are best friends, meeting in the hellish setting of the Vietnam war. But neither are soldiers. Van Thieu runs an American style restaurant in the suburbs and Bill Evans is an office worker at the U.S. embassy. But in the final bloody hours of the war, with choppers ferrying the last of the American employees out of Saigon, Bill won’t leave his friend behind…
    With interior and cover art by prolific Commando artist Manuel Benet, you know you’re in for a treat. The cover is expressionistic, with thick brush strokes and bold colours, as the two friends take centre stage amidst the carnage around them. The interiors, are similarly stylised, though in a different way to the cover. With little shading and thin line strokes, the images are crisp, with more detail given to facial expressions, adding to the tone of the issue.

Story | Richard Davis
Art | Manuel Benet
Cover | Manuel Benet

5036: Hunt the Killer
This 1960s reprint is all about the villain. Attentively brought to life in Gordon C. Livingstone’s artwork, Brigadefuhrer Helmut Groot oozes evil in the best way. Eyepatch: check. Scar and stitches across left cheek: check. Receding hairline: check. A perfectly despicable design for such a dastardly brute. But Groot is a treat saved for the interior pages, as the cover focuses on our own Tommie heroes, working together and dodging Nazi lookouts.
    But, in E. Hebden’s tantalising story Groot doesn’t just look bad, no, the feared and hated Nazi commander is cunning and cruel in equal measure, never blinking as he orders entire squadrons of men lined up and shot before him. Determined to catch the scoundrel, every man in Captain Steve Simpson’s crew kept a picture of Groot, and that was as good as a bullseye on his head. And soon enough, with Hurribombers unable to eliminate the blackguard, it was time for Steve and his men to… Hunt the Killer!

Story | E. Hebden
Art | Gordon C. Livingstone
Cover | Gordon C. Livingstone
Originally Commando No 356 (September 1968)

5037: Danger in the Desert
A Commando adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously, Stephen Walsh’s ‘Danger in the Desert’ is a tale of espionage, with plenty of action and humour thrown in for good measure. Meet Ulysses ‘Danger’ Doyle, petroleum scientist, poet, cross-country runner and a darn good banjo player. He’s on a mission in the Middle Eastern Kingdom of Majaffa to find out why the Nazis are installing pipelines in the desert when there’s no oil… Did we mention he’s also an amateur detective?
    Perfectly suited to this Tintin-esque adventure, Keith Page provides the interior artwork and the cover, keeping the whole package uniformly appealing. And, what’s more, when Walsh specified in his script that he wanted secret agent Ned Finch drawn more akin to Roy Kinnear than James Bond, that’s exactly what we got, as Page deftly obliged, poking more fun at the spy genre this issue so lovingly pays homage to.

Story | Stephen Walsh
Art | Keith Page
Cover | Keith Page

5038: Guessing Game
One look at the cover of ‘Guessing Game’ and Ian Kennedy’s artwork is instantly recognisable. The pastel greens of the tank would make it seem almost innocuous if it were not for the machine gun turret firing just off the cover, British troops falling in the haze behind them. The interior art, however, is relatively unusual for Commando, as Vila uses sounds effects in the panels. Though sparing in use, these onomatopoeias are an interactive and exciting addition as the ‘RATATATAT!!’ of a machine gun is sprawled over and under characters depending on where they stand.
    Heptonstall’s story is up to the challenge of excitement, as there are suspicious happenings afoot in the mountains of Northern Italy, with Nazis encroaching the Allied camps around Monte Cassino. Commando driver Corporal Bill Smith’s car is ambushed, his C.O. killed. He only survives by playing dead, the information he overhears vital. From what he learned, Bill thinks he knows exactly how the Axis will strike…but to find out he’ll have to risk everything and everyone. Could his guess be right?

Story | Heptonstall
Art | Vila
Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No 2634 (January 1993)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rebellion Releases

Rebellion releases for 12–13 July 1027

2000AD Prog 2039
Cover: INJ Culbard
Judge Dredd: Box Office Bomb by Rory McConville (w) Ben Wilsher (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Grey Area: Life On Earth by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Hunted: Furies by Gordon Rennie (w) PJ Holden (a) Len O'Grady (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

Absalom: Under a False Flag by Gordon Rennie and Tiernen Trevallion
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08545-5, 13 July 2017, 98pp, £13.99 / $18.99. Available from Amazon.
OLD, IRREVERENT AND DOOMED BY SUPERNATURAL FORCES, hard-nosed copper Detective Inspector Harry Absalom is tasked with upholding the Accord – the treaty between the British Royalty and the forces of Hell. A religious fanatic is killing illegal demonic hosts, upsetting both sides of the Accord. To prevent all-out war, Absalom and his psychotic ex-boss the Guv’nor need to catch the perpetrator before it’s too late! With his grandchildren held hostage to keep him in line, Harry will need all the help he can get his hands on! Especially when he discovers the sort of place they’re being kept. This is the second collection in Gordon Rennie and Tiernen Trevallion’s fan favourite Absalom series.

Dredd/Anderson: The Deep End by Arthur Wyatt, Alec Worley, Ben Willsher, Paul Davidson, Chris Blythe and Len O'Grady
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08553-0, 13 July 2017, 98pp, £12.99 / $17.99. Available from Amazon.
When the dust settles... the bodycount rises! Continuing the story of the cult 2012 movie DREDD. After the brutal day in which Ma Ma and her gang were brought down telepath-Judge Anderson is trying to adjust to the brutal life of a Street Judge. After investigating a claim of demonic possession, she finds herself at odds with a merciless drug cartel. Soon after, when lethal radioactive storms from the post-apocalyptic wasteland known as the Cursed Earth hit the city, they bring more than just dust into Mega-City One. When unexplained killings coincide with the storms, Judge Dredd is forced to hunt a mysterious mutant and take his ruthless brand of justice into the Cursed Earth.

The Leopard from Lime St. by Tom Tully, Mike Western and Eric Bradbury.
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08597-4, 13 July 2017, 162pp, £14.99. Available from Amazon.
After being scratched by a radioactive leopard, young Billy Farmer soon discovered that he had acquired the strength, agility and senses of the mighty jungle cat. Creating a costume to disguise his identity, Billy became the masked vigilante known as the ‘Leopard-Man’ – Selbridge’s premier crime fighter. Living with his aunt and mean uncle in a small house on Lime Street, Billy juggles his time between schoolwork and saving lives, earning some money on the side as a freelance photographer for the Selbridge Sun. Created by Tom Tully, Mike Western and Eric Bradbury, The Leopard from Lime Street, is the crown jewel of British superhero comic strips. This is the second collection from Rebellion's dedicated Treasury of British Comics line, collecting lost comics from the golden age of British comics.

Monday, July 10, 2017

E F Hiscocks

This post was inspired by an enquiry by Fiona Gray asking whether I knew anything about the artist/cartoonist E. F. Hiscocks. The answer was no, although I recognised the name, as Hiscocks had illustrated a couple of stories in the Union Jack, home of Sexton Blake.

His story begins in Australia to where his Bristol-born father, Frederick Elijah Hiscocks had emigrated. F. E. Hiscocks was a map publisher who, in the 1870s, developed an interest in theatre management and managing touring variety acts with his American partner, Alf Hayman. After losing most of their capital through the collapse of Melbourne's Provincial and Suburban Bank (the two were prominent witnesses in the prosecution of the bank's directors), the partnership split and Hiscocks began managing and promoting the Federal Minstrels in 1883.

Hiscocks married Fannie Marshall in 1875 and their daugher, Fannie Evaline Hiscocks, and son, Eceldoune Frederick Hiscocks – although that first name is also variously recorded as Eceldowne, Eceldonne and Eoddonne – were born in Sydney, New South Wales, in 1877 and 1879 respectively. A third child, Dorothy, was mentioned in the death notice for Fannie in 1922. [For reasons I'll come to, I believe Dorothy is in error and the third child was named Blanche.]

It is worth noting here that a Ebay seller listed an illustration by E. F. Hiscocks giving the dates 1889-1959. I have been unable to track down the source of these dates, but I can be certain that Hiscocks was born in 1879 – indeed, on 19 May of that year at 231 William Street, Sydney – because it was announced in local papers.

The family fortunes were tied in to their father's business, which was buoyant in the 1880s but declined in the 1890s. In 1901 Frederick was laid up after an accident; theatre friends raised money to help him through what was expected to be a long convalescence, but Fred Hiscocks died suddenly in July, aged 59.

E. F. Hiscocks  was employed on the New Zealand Times – the first New Zealand paper to employ a cartoonist on staff. He worked for the Auckland Weekly News until around 1902 and for Weekly Press (Christchurch) between 1902 and 1914. Hicocks ('His' as he signed at least some of his work) was a popular cartoonist who tackled politics and local issues. Some of his work was published in pamphlet form, the best known of which was King Dick Abroad. In 1902, Richard Seddon, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, was well-known for his Falstaffian rotundity and his verbosity, both of which Hiscocks incorporated into his work as he chronicled King Dick's trip to attend the Coronation of King Edward VII.

Saints and Sinners? was a collection of anti-prohibition essays with cartoons by Hiscocks published by the drinks trade.

Hiscocks married Eva Isable Palmer in New Zealand in 1905. Eva was the daughter of Charles Edward Palmer and Mary Ann (nee Sullivan) of Napier, New Zealand, where she was born in 1880.

The two were living at 22 Aurora Terrace, Wellington, in 1911. However, E. F. Hiscocks' address was given in electoral rolls in 1914 and 1919 as Marine Parade, Seatoun, Wellington, his occupation given as journalist. Eva was not listed at the same address and during the war his next of kin was given as his mother in Guildford, Sydney, which makes me suspect that the two had split up, although remained married.

During the war, he served as a driver with the Field Artillery and was part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, drawing cartoons for The Gunner: The Official Journal of H.M.N.Z.T. no 7 aboard the Limerick as it took artillery and troops to the front in 1914. It was recorded that Gunner Hiscocks had disembarked in Malta on 10 September 1915 from the New Zealand Hospital Ship Neveralia "slightly sick".

After the war, E. F. Hiscocks was one of the illustrators who contributed to New Zealand at the Front (Cassell & Co., 1917), which featured contributions from "Men of the New Zealand Division". Shortly after, it was appear that he moved to the UK... although it was not the first time he had been to England, as he had travelled with his family to London and was living at 33 Harrington Square, St. Pancras, at the time the 1881 census was taken. While in London, Blanche Ethel Hiscocks was born. She subsequently married James Henry Thompson on 15 July 1899.

Quite when he moved to the UK is unknown, but he was contributing to The Bystander as early as 1920 and in 1925 he joined the staff of the Daily Mail, although this may have only lasted until 1928. He seems to have remained in the UK for at least a decade, supplying cartoons and illustrations for various papers, including the Blue Magazine (1921), Cassell's Magazine (1927-30), Windsor Magazine (1927), Gaiety (1927) and the Union Jack (1930-31), where he had earlier written a series of articles entitled "The Story of the Australian Gangsters" (1926) about early larrikin types from the 1860-80 era.

What happened to Hiscocks after this, I cannot say. His wife died in Whanganui, Wellington, New Zealand in 1946, aged 65. He may have returned to New Zealand in the 1930s as Britain struggled during the economic downturn, which may have meant that work had become more scarce in the late 1920s. I have found no sign of him in marriage or death records for the UK.

His odd name should make him easy to trace, but if, as it appears, he used only initials and was known to others by his middle name – Fred – it might be the case that his death was recorded as Fred or Frederick; equally, it could simply be the case that not all records are currently available online.

Eceldoune is a unique name which might have come from Thomas the Rhymer, also known as Thomas of Erceldoune, son of a 13th-century Scottish laird who was said to be a great prophet; this subsequently became folk lore and the subject of ballads and was popularised by Sir Walter Scott in his book Minstrelsey (1803).


The “Douk’s” Visit to the Land of the Mao, the Maori, and “the Minor”. A skit, with W. Reuben Watts. Wellington, Tate & Co., 1901.
King Dick Abroad: drawings. Wellington, McKee & Co., 1902.
Saints and Sinners? Concerning Somewhat the 1905 Elections. Wellington, 1905.
Joe Ward Abroad. Wellington, 1911.

Further information:
cartoons at the National Library of New Zealand.