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Friday, August 17, 2018

Comic Cuts - 17 August 2018

On Monday, I'd planned doing a quick conversion of my "Iron Mask" book so I could put it out on Kindle, but what I thought would be a couple of day's work at most sprawled over into the rest of the week and is still ongoing if you're reading this on Friday.

For newcomers, this isn't the historical character made famous by Dumas, but a later adventurer who planned to walk around the world while hiding his identity behind an old knight's helmet. I first stumbled across the story at a local historical exhibition, the man behind the Mask having once lived in Wivenhoe in the 1930s.

I wrote up the story a couple of years ago and put together a 42-page A4 booklet. Since then I've had some correspondence with various people who have been able to offer a few clues. A few more resources have also appeared online since the book was written in 2015, so I thought it a good opportunity to dig around and see what else I could find.

I'm the first to admit that the original is densely written. There's a lot of family information regarding births, marriages and deaths, where people lived, and how they interconnected or were involved with the "Iron Mask" saga; there's a confusion of names because families often name children after parents or grandparents; and there is also some speculation over people's identities which required a lot of explanation. It's a book that not only throws in the kitchen sink but also a full-length instruction manual of how the sink fits together, how you can attach it to the wall, what plumbing requirements you need and how to keep it working in all circumstances so you get the best results from it.

Because I knew it was confusing in places, I created a couple of family trees and a map to help people find their way around. These needed to be resized, but rather than just shrink them down I thought I'd redraw them. Big mistake. Switching from landscape to portrait – a wide image to a tall image – meant breaking the trees in two. I also needed to expand them to fill the extra space at the top and bottom of the new pages.

After a couple of failed attempts on Tuesday, I finally managed a quite simple tree on Wednesday that I was happy with. Now all I have to do is draw another three and I'll be finished. I still haven't figured out what to do with the map... it might turn into a list, which will be a hell of a lot easier to cope with!

There are positives from all this: I've ironed out a couple of problems with the original, correcting a couple of minor errors that had crept into the earlier draft, and added a riot and another court case to the text that I was previously unaware of.

I'll hopefully have it all wrapped up by next week.

I've been following the various reviews that people have written for The Vigilant, Rebellion's re-launch of a whole bunch of characters from their newly acquired British comics' archive.. When I wrote my review (scroll down if you haven't read it) I was wondering if I was being too harsh, but it seems that other reviewers agree with me. John Freeman sums it up best when he says, "having been handed a massive toy chest of characters, strips and concepts, the creative team involved on The Vigilant were a bit overwhelmed by the choice offered to play with, and, at times, used too many of them within this opening story."

What is also clear is that even those of us who have reservations over this particular story want The Vigilant to continue and for more stories to be told about these characters. I'm very happy to see Rebellion putting so much effort into not only bringing some of the old characters back, but reprinting the original strips. The choice has been eclectic – everything from Marney the Fox to Von Hoffman's Invasion – and the line is probably the better for it.

The latest announcement is the revival of Roy of the Rovers... or, rather, the ongoing revival of the character as he began a 12-week run in the pages of Match of the Day magazine back in early June. The redesigned (by Ben Willsher) Roy, drawn in MotD by Lisa Henke, is now set to star in a couple of books due out in October/November. One (Scouted) is a children's novel, written by Tom Palmer and written by Henke, the second a graphic novel (Kick-Off) written by Rob Williams with art by Willsher.

Rebellion have yet to announce them officially, but there are collections from the comics Wildcat and Jinty in the works for early next year, as well as a second collection for M.A.C.H.1 and a debut collection for Billy's Boots, Fred Baker's masterpiece of schoolboy soccer. For more details, scroll down, as I'm updated my Treasury of British Comics listing of upcoming titles.

The one thing I've not covered – because it's not a book – is the Scream! and Misty Special. To be published on 31 October, the second annual Hallowe'en special will again feature more adventures of "The Thirteenth Floor" by Guy Adams, John Stokes & Frazer Irving and "Black Max" by Kek-W and Simon Coleby. "Black Beth" by Alec Worley and DaNi reunites the team who brought you "Fate of the Fairy Hunter" in the last special, and two complete stories, “Best Friends Forever” by Lizzie Boyle and Yishan Li, and “Decomposition Jones“, by Richard McAuliffe and Steve Mannion, complete the issue.

The cover (left) is by Ohio-based American artist Kyle Hotz, formerly the artist of Nightman (Malibu), Ghost Rider 2099, The Hood, The Agency, and others for Marvel. There is also an alternate cover (right) by Lenka Šimečková, best known for the Czech comic "The Sorrowful Putto of Prague". The latter cover will be an exclusive available through the 2000AD web shop.

No book scans this week as I spent too long compiling the listing immediately below. So much to do, so little time... So instead, here's the cover of the upcoming special limited edition of Stephen James Walker's expanded The Art of Reginald Heade. Pricey, but I'm sure it will be worth it. Due out 31 August.

Treasury of British Comics upcoming releases

Updating the 2018 releases for the Treasury of British Comics and other British comics tie-ins from Rebellion.

Von Hoffman's Invasion Book One by Tom Tully & Eric Bradbury
Rebellion ISBN 9781781086261, 23 August 2018, 128pp, £12.99. Available via Amazon.
Created by Tom Tully and Eric Bradbury, and appearing in Jet in 1971, after spending 25 years in prison following World War II the evil Nazi genius Dr Von Hoffman has sworn revenge against Britain. Having perfected a gas that allows him to enlarge and control all manner of creatures, Von Hoffman has embarked on his one-man invasion. Now every church fete, army camp and national monument is in dire threat! The only thing that stands in his way are the plucky young brothers Barry and Joey Drake…

Misty Vol. 3: Wolf Girl & Other Stories by Eduardo Feito, Jordi Badia Romero et al
Rebellion ISBN 9781781086513, 20 September 2018, £13.99. Available via Amazon.
FULL MOON FEVER! As sunlight slips away, making room for the night, the children of the mists venture forth from the shadows and seek out new stories to weave into the tapestry of the dream world. In this shiver-inducing anthology, Misty presents a series of tales that are bestial nature, such as.... WOLF GIRL
    After her parents die in a car crash, a baby girl is rescued by a wolf who had recently lost a cub of her own. Two years later, soldiers on a military exercise find the child and bring her back to civilisation. Now in her early teens, the girl (called Lona) discovers all about her wild origin from her adopted parents. As Lona’s bestial nature starts to resurface, she finds herself increasingly alone and at odds with the world around her…

Black Max Volume One Ken Mennell, Frank Pepper, Eric Bradbury & Alfonso Font
Rebellion ISBN 9781781086551, 4 October 2018, £10.99. Available via Amazon.
Ace fighter pilot Baron Maximilien Von Klorr is the scourge of the skies, menacing the Allied forces during the bloodiest battles in WWI. Skilled, ruthless and in possession of two giant, mutated kingbats who fight by his side, Von Klorr AKA Black Max is almost unstoppable. Only the brave pilots of the Royal Flying Corps, including Lieutenant Tom Wilson, oppose the Black Max’s complete dominance of the air…
     Thrilling supernatural war comics from the pages of classic British comics Lion and Thunder!

The Thirteenth Floor Vol.01 by John Wagner, Alan Grant & Jose Ortiz
Rebellion ISBN 9781781086537, 18 October 2018, £14.99. Available via Amazon.
Maxwell Tower is a state-of-the art tower block – a bold, experimental council tenement, run by an A.I. called Max. As building superintendent, Max’s primary function is the welfare of his tenants, which he takes very seriously. And if anyone threatens either the residents or the building itself, they can expect a visit to the thirteenth floor – a place where nightmare and reality become one!
    This beautifully illustrated, darkly comical first volume includes the complete run of the strip from the legendary boy’s comic, Scream!

El Mestizo by Alan Hebden & Carlos Ezquerra
Rebellion ISBN 9781781086575, 15 November 2018, £14.99 (hardcover). Available via Amazon.
1862 – a time of great turmoil. As the American Civil War tears a nation in two, dangerous men prosper through bloodshed. El Mestizo was once a slave who managed to escape to Mexico. Now he’s come back over the border - a mercenary for hire. But is he really allied to neither side?
     High-octane revenge Western from the co-creator of Judge Dredd.

Ken Reid's Creepy Creations
Rebellion ISBN 9781781086605, 29 November 2018, £16.99 (hardcover). Available via Amazon.
The creatures contained within, are some of the most bizarre, hilarious and hideous ever to haunt the pages of a comic!
For the first time ever, marvel at The Many-Headed Monster from Monmouth! Tremble at the sight of Terry the Tellible! Recoil in horror from The Fork-Eating Spaghetti Spook! And much more besides!
     A testament to Ken Reid’s artistic genius and his hugely creative imagination, these illustrations have been collected and lovingly restored in all their (creepy)
    Spine-tingling humour horror comics from Ken Reid, the British comics master behind Faceache!

Turbo Jones by Barrie Tomlinson, Ian Kennedy, John Sanders & Vanyo
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781086650, 10 January 2019, 144pp, £14.99. Available via Amazon.
In 2488 Earth history professor, Turbo Jones predicted that the planet would be destroyed in 2500 by a vast meteoroid storm. Ridiculed by the world’s leaders, Turbo spent the next twelve years constructing a huge spaceship and employing a group of volunteers to help him leave the Earth and find a new home in the stars…
    After months in space, Turbo and his senior staff including former mercenary Loner, the mysterious  Kitten Magee and the last survivor of Xgangbe-4, Joe Alien, have found a potential new home.  Now they need to get down onto the planet.
    Post-Earth pulp space opera of discovery and adventure!

Billy's Boots Book One by Fred Baker & John Gillatt
Rebellion ISBN 9781781086711, 7 February 2019, £14.99 (hardcover). Available via Amazon.
Fantasy meets football in the magical story of a boy and his enchanted boots! William’s Wish Wellingtons meets Roy of the Rovers
Young Billy Dane was one of the most passionate football fans at Bingley Road Junior school…unfortunately he was also one of the worst players! Then, one afternoon, Billy’s grandmother got him to clean out her attic and Billy finds a pair of old fashioned football boots that belonged to ‘Dead-Shot’ Keen – a famous centre forward who once played for England.

Fran of the Floods by Alan Davidson & Phil Gascoine
Rebellion ISBN  9781781086728, 21 March 2019, £12.99. Available via Amazon.
Due to increased climate change, the sun starts to melt the ice caps and evaporates the world’s oceans, causing an onslaught of never ending rain. At first young Hazelford resident, Fran Scott, finds the whole thing amusing, but as the town begins to disappear underwater, the desperation of her predicament becomes all too clear.
     After losing her parents in the chaos, Fran decides to seek out her sister June, who recently moved to Scotland. But as the situation gets worse and society begins to crumble around her, Fran must overcome a vast array of dangers, including disease, wild animals, marauding gangs of vicious thugs and most bizarre of all, the self-proclaimed king of Glasgow!
     Science fiction comics of ecological disaster and survival from the pages of legendary comic Jinty.

M.A.C.H.1 Book 2: Close Encounters by Pat Mills, Scott Goodall, Alan Hebden, Steve McManus, Nick Landay, John Cooper, Ramon Sola, Trevor Goring, Jesus Redondo & Kevin O'Neill
Rebellion ISBN 9781781086742, 18 April 2019, £16.99 (hardcover). Available via Amazon.
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!
     Super-spy action thrills in 2000 AD’s answer to James Bond and The 6 Million Dollar Man!


Rico Dredd: The Titan Years by Michael Carroll
Abaddon ISBN 9781781086483, 4 April 2019, 480pp, £8.99. Available via Amazon.
The story of Judge Dredd’s evil twin Rico’s years on Titan, finally revealed.
    You know about me. I’m Rico Dredd, Joe Dredd's big brother.
    I'm the clone that went bad, that brought shame on Judge Fargo's legacy.
    I was a Judge, the best the Academy of Law ever turned out. The very best. But after less than a year on the streets of Mega-City One, I was brought down, taken in. It was Little Joe who caught me; second-best Judge there’s been.
    Broken, sentenced, stripped of office, I was shipped out to the brutal moon Titan, to do my twenty years' hard labour. Yeah, you know about Rico Dredd.
    But do you know what really happened? Why I did it? What it was like, out there on the edge of space, doing time in the Bronze?
    Truth is, mister, you know stomm about me.


Scouted by Tom Palmer, illustrated by Lisa Henke
Rebellion ISBN 9781781086988, 4 October 2018, 160pp, £6.99. Available via Amazon.
Roy Race is totally normal 16 year old – he just happens to be the best footballer his age in Melchester, too.
    Trouble is, he’s so good that he’s not playing against kids his age any more. He’s playing in the Under 18s, and that means rough tackles, tough games, and not as many goals as he’s used to scoring.
But the scouts from Roy’s beloved Melchester Rovers are on the lookout for new talent, and now’s the time to show what he’s made of.
    But is he big enough? Fit enough? Talented enough? Somewhere in between looking after his poorly dad and keeping an eye on his wild little sister, he’s going to find out. It’s not going to be easy, but if he’s going to become Roy of the Rovers, young Racey better get his boots on and show what he can do…
    Illustrated middle grade fiction title starring Roy of the Rovers, the classic British children’s football hero rebooted for the 21st century!

Kick-Off by Rob Williams & Ben Willsher
Rebellion ISBN 9781781086520, 1 November 2018, 56pp, £9.99. Available via Amazon.
Roy Race is sixteen, obsessed with football, and in possession of the best left foot in Melchester. All he has to do now is convince the scout from his beloved Melchester Rovers he was what it takes…
    But the legendary Rovers aren’t what they once were. No money, few fans, and barely any hope, the team is languishing in the lower leagues. Melchester Rovers is a club in need of a saviour, a goal-scorer… a legend.
    Can Roy overcome intense rivalries, tough training, and the pitfalls of a club on the verge of collapse to become the next football sensation?
     The landmark and highly anticipated Roy of the Rovers 21st century rebooted in this thrilling original graphic novel series!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 15 August 2018.

Judge Dredd Megazine 399
Cover: Adam Brown
JUDGE DREDD: BRAIN DRAIN by Rory McConville (w) Staz Johnson (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE RETURNERS: IRMAZHINA by Si Spencer  (w) Nicolo Assirelli (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
DEVLIN WAUGH: KISS OF DEATH by Rory McConville (w) Mike Dowling (a) Simon Bowland (l)
CHOPPER: WANDERING SOUL by David Baillie (w) Brendan McCarthy (a) Len O'Grady, Brendan McCarthy (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
STRANGE BRIGADE by Gordon Rennie (w) Tiernen Trevallion (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Features: How To Write A Future Shock, Strontium Dog miniatures game
Bagged reprint: JUDGE DREDD: THE LOST CASES by Alan Grant (w) PJ Holden, Anthony Williams, David Roach, Paul Marshall, Nick Dyer, Karl Richardson (a) Ellie De Ville, Simon Bowland (l)

2000AD Prog 2094
Cover: Kei Zama / Kelly Fitzpatricck
JUDGE DREDD: A BETTER CLASS OF CRIMINAL by Rory McConville (w) Leonardo Manco (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE ORDER: THE NEW WORLD by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THARG'S 3RILLERS: APPETITE by James Peaty (w) Andrea Mutti (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
MECHASTOPHELES // TRUE FAITH by Gordon Rennie, Lawrence Rennie (w) Karl Richardson (a) Simon Bowland (l)
GREY AREA: THE LAUNDRY ROOM by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

The Vigilant
Cover: Simon Coleby
Lost in the mists of time, home-grown British superheroes once entertained and enthralled millions of kids...
    Now, the likes of Adam Eterno, Blake Edmonds, Thunderbolt the Avenger, and The Leopard from Lime Street are coming back to make summer 2018 blazing hot!
    The Vigilant will be a special one-shot title this August which resurrects classic heroes from the Fleetway/IPC comics of the 1970s – reborn and updated for a new generation to enjoy!
    Written by Simon Furman (Transformers) with art by Simon Coleby (Jaegir, Judge Dredd) and other guest creators, when the evil forces of Von Hoffman and Dr Mesmer team up and pluck the immortal Adam Eterno from the winds of time, all of reality is under threat!
    Only The Vigilant – a mighty team composed of super-beings, warlocks, warriors and monsters – stand between civilisation and total chaos! Join The Leopard from Lime Street, Steel Commando, Dr. Sin, Pete’s Pocket Army, Blake Edmonds, Yāo and Thunderbolt the Avenger on their premiere adventure! The ‘Rebellion-verse’ begins here!

THE VIGILANT: MAELSTROM by Simon Furman (w) Simon Coleby (a) Simon Bowland (l)
YAO: THE DEMON TOUCHED "HOME"? by Bruce Leslie (w) DaNi (a) John Charles (c) Sam G (l)
DEATH WISH: KIDS RULE! by Karl Stock (w) Henrik Sahlstrom (a) Simon Bowland (l)
STEEL COMMANDO: IN BETWEEN WARS by Aaron Stack (w) Warwick Fraser-Coombes, Staz Johnson (a) John Charles (c) Simon Bowland (l)

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Vigilant #1 (August 2018)

When Rebellion purchased the old Fleetway Publications archive of characters, they promised to make the most of the material they had purchased and they've lived up to that promise. We've had collections of strips from Scream!, Misty, Jinty, Tammy, Thunder and Buster in book form and a Tornado strip turned up bagged with the Judge Dredd Megazine not so long ago.

Then, last year, the Scream! and Misty Special reintroduced a bunch of characters, many of whom had not been seen for over forty years. In "Death-Man: The Gathering", an oversized group of heroes were brought together by the not-so old Death-Man (2016) and Doctor Sin (2015), who were presumably required by HR to add a bit of diversity to the group. Oh, and Thunderbolt the Avenger is now a girl.

This story introduced The Vigilant, who (with the addition of another new female character) are the stars of their own title. I was not a fan of the earlier story – nor am I a fan in general of shoehorning disparate characters into the same comic universe. Inevitably the results are not the sum of their parts; rather, everything muddles along as characters you don't know and don't care about do things you don't understand because you don't know their character quirks.

But with a script by Simon Furman and art by Simon Coleby I feel we're in safe hands here, so let's give it a chance...

And, you know what? It's not so bad. The story motors along at a terrific pace and the central McGuffin – the entrapment of Adam Eterno – is intriguing, albeit a little throwaway. Where there is interplay between the characters it is fun and the tone is definitely more MCU Avengers than DCEU Justice League.

However, the main strip still suffers from the same problem that the last British comics' universe team-up, Albion, also failed to solve. There are nine main protagonists here, not counting Pete's alien army or the bad guys (Von Hoffman, Iron Major, The Dwarf, Dr. Mesmer) in a 24-page story. With other elements or characters added along the way (the first, the Prisoner of Zenga on page 2), by the time Death Man calls in ultra-obscure reinforcements The Esper Commandos (Pow Annual) and Crabbe's Crusaders (Buster), readers, especially newcomers, are going to be feeling overwhelmed.

But my main complaint is actually a story point. Despite having all these heroes in play, they do not resolve the plot. Instead, two alchemists are introduced at the last minute (one of whom has never been previously mentioned). They wave their hands around for a couple of panels and solve everything.

The strip does end on an intriguing note, with the introduction of Beth Rogan, who, with her brother, was a ghost-hunter from the pages of Scream! ("The Nightcomers"). And why stop with her... I can't wait to meet up again with the Carrie-like Moonchild, now a mother of two and using her telekinetic powers to make sure she gets a parking spot on the school run, and Bella, former gymnast, now a masked vigilante.

Of the other strips, two occur when characters disappear from the main storyline into other realms. "Yao" serves as a proper introduction to the character (she turned up in a couple of panels of the "Death-Man" story) and Blake Edmonds, the danger-obsessed burns victim with a "Death Wish",  is sent to the world of Action's "Kids Rule UK", a desolate alternate dimension where Blake has to save... well, that would be telling.

The last strip explains how the Steel Commando ended up on the team in what is my favourite of the three stories as it is genuinely quite moving. It only goes to emphasize that The Vigilant should have been created in reverse, with the various characters (the new versions of those old Fleetway stars) introduced in stand-alone stories/serials and then brought together once readers had got to know them and their related characters (both friends and enemies). I mentioned the Marvel Cinematic Universe a minute ago, and that's the way you introduce a team: a few standalone stories before you slam everyone together. I fear that without the backstories and a period of getting to know the characters so that readers give a shit about them, The Vigilant might follow Albion into obscurity.

The Vigilant. Rebellion, August 2018, 52pp, £3.99. Cover by Simon Coleby.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

W H Overend

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

W.H. Overend was one of the foremost maritime artists of his era, producing paintings and illustrations for periodicals and books, including many children’s books, although his career only lasted for 26 years, being cut short by his premature death at the age of 46.

He was born on 5 October 1851 in Coatham, near Middlesbrough, and baptized, as William Heysham Overend, on 16 November 1851 at St. Cuthbert’s Church, Darlington. His father, James Overend (born in 1821 in Bentham, Yorkshire) was a flax spinner; his mother, Martha née Hodgson (born in Hawkshead, Lancashire in 1824) was the daughter of Braithwaite Hodgson, a wealthy landowner. Prior to having William, James and Marthas had had twin sons, James and John, in 1849.

After living in Priestgate, Darlington, throughout the 1850s, the family moved to 3 Buccleuch Terrace, Hackney, London, with James becoming a railway contractor. In 1863, William spent a year as a day boy at Charterhouse, then in Smithfield, and he then became a pupil at Bruce Castle, a progressive school in Tottenham. He went on to study art under the painter Alexander Davis Cooper, developing a particular interest in maritime subjects.

In the 1871 census, he was living in a small lodging house at 14 Clapton Terrace, Hackney, described as an artist, along with ha relative, Edward Overend, a former flax spinner and now an unemployed naval engineer. He exhibited his first painting at the Royal Academy in 1872 (giving his address as 3 Buccleuch Terrace), going on to exhibit there again in 1880, 1885, 1893 and 1898.

His career, as both an artist and illustrator, developed slowly throughout the second half of the 1870s. He exhibited with the Society of British Artists in 1875 and 1876, and at London’s Dudley Gallery in the same years, and in Liverpool in 1877. In 1875 he began working for The Illustrated London News, a relationship which lasted until his death 23 years later. He also worked with The Penny Illustrated Paper and The Sunday Magazine. His earliest book illustrations appeared in Thomas Frost’s The North Pole, and How Charlie Wilson Discovered It, in 1876.

In the 1881 census, Overend was recorded as a lodger at 64 Guilford Street, Bloomsbury, along with his wife Sophia (recorded as having been born in London in 1851). However, there is no record of a marriage, and there is no trace of Sophia Overend after this. Overend also had a nearby studio at 39A Queen Square.

His career really took off in 1880, when he contributed illustrations to Frederick Whymper’s 4 volume book The Sea: Its Stirring Story of Adventures, Peril and Heroism, published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin. He also began contributing to The Boy’s Own Paper in 1880, continuing to do so until 1894; he also contributed to London Society and St. Nicholas. In 1882 he travelled to New York, having been commissioned to produce a painting celebrating Admiral David Porter’s naval conquest of New Orleans during the American Civil War in 1862. While there, Overend also painted An August Morning with Farragut: The Battle of Mobile Bay, commemorating another Civil War engagement from 1864.

On his return to England he moved into Wychcombe Studios, Belsize Park. He began contributing to a wide range of other periodicals, including The Illustrated Naval and Military Magazine, The Graphic, The Magazine of Art, and The Leisure Hour. In 1884 he began illustrating books for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), mainly children’s books, many of which had a maritime theme. In 1889 he illustrated G.A. Henty’s One of the 28th: A Tale of Waterloo for Blackie & Son – he went on to illustrate three more of Henty’s historical and war novels. He also illustrated a number of boys’ adventure stories by Harry Collingwood, Gordon Stables, John C. Hutcheson and George Manville Fenn. He also illustrated nine of the early seafaring novels of the Irish author Frank Frankfort Moore.

In January 1886 Overend was elected a Member of the Institute of Painters in Oil Colours, and later that year he exhibited at the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts. He also regularly painted in watercolours, and was a member of the Arts Club. In 1887, he painted one of his most famous pictures, “A Football Match: England v Scotland”, portraying a scene from the international played in March the previous year. Two years later, he painted a picture of the 1890 FA Cup Final between Sheffield Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers, simply called “The Football Match.” Both pictures were subsequently engraved by Lionel Smythe, and prints, in both black and white and colour, were widely sold.

At the time of the 1891 census he was living, as a boarder and with no wife, at 37 Fitzroy Square, St. Pancras, described as an engraver and sculptor, although in truth he was working full-time as an artist and illustrator. He continued contributing to periodicals, now including The English Illustrated Magazine, Chums, The Sunday at Home, The British Workman, Good Words, McClure’s Magazine, The Pall Mall Magazine, Cassell’s Family Magazine, Lika Joko, Young England, The Navy and Army Illustrated, The Rambler and The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.

In 1892 he illustrated re-issues of three of Herman Melville’s novels (including Moby Dick), and he continued illustrating children’s books, although not all had a naval or historical theme. In 1893 he moved to 17 Southampton Street, Fitzroy Square, and in the same year he produced two sets of cigarette cards, Cinema Stars and Radio Celebrities, for Wills’s Cigarettes. Three years later, he began illustrating 22 re-issues of Frederick Marryat’s novels for George Routledge & Sons, a feat for which he appears to have received no recognition.

He was, however, recognized by the Navy Records Society, who elected him to their Council in 1897.

After completing the illustrations for an edition of Robert Southey’s The Life of Nelson, for Routledge, he died at his home in Southampton Street, on 18 March 1898. The death certificate gave the cause of death as “Locomotor Ataxy” (i.e. a nervous disorder caused by syphilis, which leads to a loss of control of bodily movements – he had apparently suffered from this for 10 years, although it did not seem to affect his ability to work); “Catarrh of the bowels”; and “Albuminuria” (a kidney disease). He was buried in Tottenham Cemetery along with his father and mother (who had died in 1875 and 1886 respectively) and his brother John (who had died in 1861). He left an estate valued at £3,105 (around £330,000 in today’s terms), with probate granted to his other brother James, a civil engineer (who himself died four years later). 

Just over a week after his death, The Army and Navy Gazette (26 March 1898) published a glowing tribute:
By no-one more than by his many friends and admirers in the Navy will the sudden and untimely death of Mr W.H. Overend be deplored. By them he was recognized as the foremost exponent of naval art, the only man who could at once satisfy his brother artists, the student of naval history, and the professional seaman. A Londoner and a Carthusian, his enthusiasm for the sea and sailors was unbounded, and although the pages of the Illustrated London News and numerous books prove his capacity in many other branches of his art, it was in all that concerned shipping and seamen that he was at his best. Working chiefly in black and white his paintings are not many in number, but what he might have accomplished in this direction had he been able to devote more time to it is demonstrated by his spirited pictures, “Farragut at Mobile Bay,” “Boarding a Prize” and “Nelson on the Quarterdeck of the Victory.” His knowledge of the detail of the old ships was unequalled, and his accuracy in matters naval, both archaeological and of the present day, was proverbial. Modest, unassuming, and amiable, no man was more cordially liked by his professional brethren, while the high appreciation in which he was held by those who cherish naval art and literature was shown by his election to the council of the Navy Records Society.


Books illustrated by W.H. Overend
The North Pole, and How Charlie Wilson Discovered It by Thomas Frost, Griffith & Farran, 1876
Gipsy Life by George Smith, Haughton & Co., 1880 (with Herbert Johnson)
The Sea: Its Stitrring Story of Adventure, Peril & Heroism by Frederick Whymper, Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1880 (4 vols) (with other artists)
Canal Adventures by Moonlight by George Smith, Hodder & Stoughton, 1881
British Ballads, Old and New, Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1881 (part-work) (with other artists)
The Good Ship Barbara: A Story of Two Brothers by Samuel Whitchurch Sadler, S.P.C.K., 1882
The Forging of the Anchor: A Poem by Sir Samuel Ferguson, Casell & Co., 1883 (with other artists)
The Mutiny of the “Albatross” by Frank Frankfort Moore, S.P.C.K., 1884
On Board the “Esmerelda”, or Martin Leigh’s Log: A Sea Story by John C, Hutcheson, Cassell & Co., 1885
The Fate of the “Black Swan”: A Tale of New Guinea by Frank Frankfort Moore, S.P.C.K., 1885
A Woman of Business by M. Bramston, S.P.C.K., 1885
Cairnforth and Sons: A Tale by Helen Shipton, S.P.C.K., 1885
The Children’s Sunday Hour (Sermons) by Benjamin Waugh, William Isbister, 1885 (with other artists)
Will’s Voyages by Frank Frankfort Moore, S.P.C.K., 1886
Dr. Maynard’s Daughter by Laura M. Lane, S.P.C.K., 1886
The Master of the Mine by Robert Buchanan, Chatto & Windus, 1886
Geoffrey Bennett by Sydney Mary Sitwell, S.P.C.K., 1886
Queer Chums: Being a Narrative of a Midshipman’s Adventures and Escapes by Charles H. Eden, S.P.C.K., 1887
Tre, Pol and Pen: A Tale by Frank Frankfort Moore, S.P.C.K., 1887
The Missing Merchantman by Harry Collingwood, Blackie & Son, 1888
Tom’s Adventures in Search of Shadowland by Herbert S. Sweetland, T. Fisher Unwin, 1888
Harry Wilde: A Tale of the Brine and the Breeze by Gordon Stables, S.P.C.K., 1889
Jungle Jack, or To the East after Elephants by Charles H. Eden, S.P.C.K., 1889
A Modern Don Quixote by E.M. Alford, S.P.C.K., 1889
St. Anne’s Court by C.E.M., S.P.C.K., 1889
One of the 28th: A Tale of Waterloo by G.A. Henty, Blackie & Son, 1889
Afloat at Last: A Sailor Boy’s Log of His Life at Sea by John C. Hutcheson, Blackie & Son, 1890
A Chapter of Adventures, or Through the Bombardment of Alexandria by G.A. Henty, Blackie & Son, 1890
Coral and Cocoa-nut: The Cruise of the Yacht “Fire-Fly” to Samoa by Frank Frankfort Moore, S.P.C.K., 1890
Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep: A Tale of the “Salt, Salt Sea” by Gordon Stables, S.P.C.K., 1890
A Message from the Sea by A. Eubule Evans, S.P.C.K., 1890
A History of Modern Europe by C.A. Fyffe, Cassell & Co., 1890 (part-work) (with other artists)
In a Conning Tower, or How I Took H.M.S. “Majestic” Unto Action: A Story of Modern Ironclad Warfare by H.O. Arnold Forster, Cassell & Co., 1891
The Sea Service by Charles N. Robinson, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1891
My Danish Sweetheart by William Clark Russell, George Robertson & Co., 1891
The Ice Prison by Frank Frankfort Moore, S.P.C.K., 1891
Travels Amongst the Great Andes of the Equator, by Edward Whymper, John Murray, 1891 (with other artists)
Gil the Gunner, or The Youngest Officer in the East by George Manville Fenn, S.P.C.K., 1892
From Greenland’s Icy Mountains: A Tale of the Polar Seas by Gordon Stables, S.P.C.K., 1892
Born to Command: A Tale of the Sea and of Sailors by Gordon Stables, S.P.C.K., 1892
Ulf, the Norseman: A Tale of the Fiords by Mary Onley, George Cauldwell, 1892
Sailing and Sealing: A Tale of the North Pacific by Frank Frankfort Moore, S.P.C.K., 1892
Captain Japp, or The Strange Adventures of Willie Gordon by Gordon Stables, S.P.C.K., 1892
A Strange Elopement by William Clark Russell, Macmillan & Co., 1892
Moby Dick, or The Whale by Herman Melville, Dana Estes & Co. (USA), 1892 (re-issue) (with other artists)
White-Jacket: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas by Herman Melville, Dana Estes & Co. (USA) 1892 (re-issue) (with other artists)
Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas by Herman Melville, Dana Estes & Co. (USA) 1892 (re-issue) (with other artists)
From the Bush to the Breakers by Frank Frankfort Moore, S.P.C.K., 1893
Sail-ho! or A Boy at Sea by George Manville Fenn, S.P.C.K., 1893
A Lady Born by Ella Edersheim Overton, S.P.C.K., 1893
The Pirate by Walter Scott, A. & C. Black, 1893 (re-issue)
The Vast Abyss: Being the Story of Tom Blount, His Uncles, and His Cousin Sam by George Manville Fenn, S.P.C.K., 1894
The Cruise of the “Esmerelda” by Harry Collingwood, S.P.C.K., 1894
The Two Clippers by Frank Frankfort Moore, S.P.C.K., 1894
Afterthought House by Evelyn Everett Green, S.P.C.K., 1894
Rick Ralton’s Reconciliation by Edward N. Hoare, S.P.C.K., 1894
Indian Pickles by F.C. Beames, S.P.C.K., 1894
Ralph Clifford: A Tale of Country Life in Virginia After the Civil War by G. Robert Wynne, S.P.C.K., 1894
The Story of the Sea, Cassell & Co., 1894-1895 (part-work) (with other artists)
Two Gallant Rebels: A Story of the Great Struggle in La Vendée by Edgar T. Pickering, Blackie & Son, 1895
The Pirate Slayer: A Story of the West African Coast by Harry Collingwood, S.P.C.K., 1895
Oakshott Castle and the Grange Garden by Henry Kingsley, Ward, Lock & Bowden, 1895
Master Val: A Tale by Nellie Hellis, S.P.C.K., 1895
Roscoria Farm by Mrs Henry Clarke, S.P.C.K., 1895
Jerry and His Dog by Beech Wood, S.P.C.K., 1895
Anchor and Cross by Marion Clifford Butler, S.P.C.K., 1895
Ten Talents by Helen Shipton, S.P.C.K., 1895
Battles of the Nineteenth Century, Cassell & Co., 1895-96 (part-work) (with other artists)
Cassell’s Illustrated History of England, Cassell & Co., 1896-7 (re-issue – 8 vols.) (with other artists)
On the Irrawaddy: A Story of the First Burmese War by G.A. Henty, Blackie & Son, 1896
Through Russian Snows: A Story of Napoleon’s Retreat from Moscow by G.A. Henty, Blackie & Son, 1896
Jack at Sea, or All Work and No Play Made Him a Dull Boy by George Manville Fenn, S.P.C.K., 1896
A Harbour Light by Catherine E. Smith, S.P.C.K., 1896
Devil’s Ford etc. by Bret Harte, Chatto & Windus, 1896
Beside the Guns by Mary Shipley, S.P.C.K., 1897
The Homeward Voyage; A Book of Adventure for Boys by Harry Collingwood, S.P.C.K., 1897
A Seaside Story by Catherine Mary Macsorley, S.P.C.K., 1897
Benin, The City of Blood by Sir Reginald Bacon, E. Arnold, 1897
The Life of Nelson by Robert Southey, George Routledge & Sons, 1898 (re-issue)
How Soldiers Fight by F. Norreys Connell, James Bowden, 1899 (with other artists)
Chimney Corner Stories, McLoughlin Bros. (USA) 1899 (with other artists)

Re-issues of Frederick Marryat’s novels (published by George Routledge & Sons, 1896 onwards)
Masterman Ready, or The Wreck of the Pacific
The King’s Own
Mr Midshipman Easy
Frank Mildmay, or The Naval Officer
Newton Forster, or The Merchant Service
The Little Savage
Jacob Faithful
The Children of the New Forest
Percival Keene
The Pirate and the Three Cutters
Japhet in Search of a Father
Rattlin, the Reefer
Poor Jack
Olla Podrida
Valerie: An Autobiography
The Privateersman: Adventures by Sea and Land, in Civil and Savage Life, One
Hundred Years Ago
The Travels and Adventures of Monsieur Violet in California, Sonora and Western Texas
The Mission, or Scenes in Africa
The Dog Friend or Snarleyyow
The Pacha of Many Tales
The Settlers in Canada
The Phantom Ship

Friday, August 10, 2018

Comic Cuts - 10 August 2018

After managing to resolve a couple of little mysteries last week, I thought I'd go back to an old one... who was Lee Stanton, the author of the very first issue of Authentic Science Fiction? There is no indication in that first issue that Authentic was to last 85 issues – in fact, there was no number or date or anything else that you would normally associate with a magazine (an editorial, departments and features) and editor Gordon Landsborough only put "Authentic Science Fiction Series" on these full-length novels in the hope that it would engender a little loyalty in readers, who would come back next month for more.

This lasted only for those first two novels. Issue 3 was the first to be numbered, dated (Feb 1951) and contain a list of editorial staff (L. G. Holmes, editor, was the name adopted by Gordon Landsborough; and there was a technical editor, H. J. Campbell and associate editor, James McCormick). It also changed title, to "Science Fiction Fortnightly", with new issues published on the 1st and 15th of the month.

The title "Mushroom Men From Mars" will give you a rough idea of the quality of the novel, although I must say that it is better than the bulk of the science fiction being published in paperback by some of its rivals. There is not much contemporary criticism of the series, although Ken Slater, writing in 1952, noted that the first four or five issues were "not too good, but an honest endeavor has been made by the publishers and editors to improve the standard, with the result that many of the tales subsequently used, have been of a much higher standard."

It seems very likely that the earliest efforts were the work of Hamilton regulars tasked with switching from gangster thrillers or westerns to science fiction. The first three issues introduced regular writers Lee Stanton, Jon J. Deegan and Roy Sheldon, who would be responsible for 13 of the first 25 issues, with H. J. Campbell (who became full-time editor in 1952) responsible for another 6. As Campbell was also the author behind the Roy Sheldon pen-name, his output was doubled to 12 – almost half the novels published by Authentic in January 1951 to September 1952.

Lee Stanton was responsible for three novels: "Mushroom Men of Mars" (#1), "Seven to the Moon" (#5) and "Report from Mandzo" (#15).

They show the same lack of scientific knowledge that Campbell was there to weed out (but probably too busy to do so): one of the first letters published in Authentic pointed out that the Martian in Stanton's first novel had "flown millions of miles through inter-stellar space to reach the earth" when, of course, Mars and Earth were both planets in the same system, so interplanetary rather than interstellar. In "Report From Mandazo" (RFM), another alien comes through "millions upon millions of miles of inter-stellar space from a remote galaxy to visit your Earth" – so not interstellar, but intergalactic. (Both Deegan and Sheldon used the word correctly.) Later in "Mushroom Men" (MM) it is noted that Ra had flown across interstellar space "in an aircraft more scientifically advanced than anything Earth could boast."

The same two books use "helio motors" as a form of motive power, a "telemitter" as a form of communication and "telarscreen" as a viewing screen; in both books, one or other race is at risk from machine "radiations"; in MM, Zaro has a "theta-ray crystallograph", while Mandozans use a "theta-ray sounder" to test Earth's atmosphere. Both books have a "radio-microscope". Korve (RFM) "homed on to the landing beam" while the Great Leader (MM) "homed down on the arrestor beam"

Faces show "puzzlement" and people start to "gabble"; . The Great Leader stops "fiddling" with his seal ring (not a euphemism) in MM while the chief announcer was "fiddling" with his wristwatch in RFM. A "mumurous babbling" in the former becomes a "confused babble" in the latter. And there are alien life forms out there that are "fungoid" in both.

The repetition of odd words makes me certain that these two books—"Mushroom Men From Mars" and "Report From Mandazo"—are definitely by the same author. But the above terms do not appear in "Seven to the Moon". Both MM and RFM share a common kind of theme of aliens coming to Earth and trying to interact and understand humanity. "Seven to the Moon" (STTM), on the other hand, is set in the near future (1958) and doesn't involve alien technology, which may explain the change in language.

There are, however, a number of other odd turns of phrase that link the two books. Describing people as "ginks" for instance appears in both STTM and RFM and is an Americanism I've not found in any other issue of Authentic and there are some similarities in tech, e.g. STTM has a recordaphone while MM has a cordo-phone. In both novels someone's speech is described as "he boomed," "he croaked," "he snapped," (also used by F.G.. Rayer and Roy Sheldon, although Shelden preferred "he snapped out") and "he grunted."

I think I'm on reasonably safe ground to say that all three Lee Stanton novels are written by the same person and also that the author behind that name was not the author of any of the other full-length novels that I've been able to check. So, not Clem Macartney, for instance, nor Rick Conroy. There are a few crossovers with other authors. For instance, there's a mention of molybdenum in STTM, which was a favourite metal of the early Jon J. Deegan novels, but there are few other similarities that connect these authors, and it could be that having a strong editorial hand (Landsborough and Campbell) might have had more to do with it than coincidence.

Now I have to keep an eye out for similar quirks in other contemporary novels and maybe one day we will be able to put a real name to the author behind Lee Stanton.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Commando issues 5147-5150

Brand new Commando issues are out now! Find the mole in the French Resistance, fight alongside the ghost of your Lieutenant, escape from an American POW camp, and aim your sights with sure-shot Sam!

5147: Walking the Line
Bailing out of his Stirling Mk. III bomber over Nazi-occupied France, Flight Lieutenant Alan Freeman knew his wits would only get him so far.
But, lucky for him, the French Resistance were ready to lend
a hand and get him back to Blighty. However, not everything was rosy in the Resistance, and there was talk of a traitor in their midst.
    Would Alan make the journey to Spain in one piece?
Or would those helping him turn him over to the Gestapo?
    First taking us over the trenches in World War I, then across the Spanish border in the Napoleonic Wars, Andrew Knighton’s third issue for Commando is every bit as exhilarating, this time tackling a French Resistance escape line! Matching this with bold interiors from Morhain and Rezzonico, and a marvellously tense cover from Neil Roberts, this issue will keep you guessing until the final pages!

Story: Andrew Knighton
Art: Morhain & Rezzonico
Cover: Neil Roberts

5148: The Fighting Phantom
Bert Graham is 50. Serving as a major in the army, he’s nearly as fit and tough as he was way back in the war when he was a sergeant.
    He has some really great stories, but none match the one when he and his mates were stranded behind enemy lines – and Bert took his orders from a ghost!
    It’s always a pleasure to find an other-worldly issue of Commando, and ‘The Fighting Phantom’ is no exception. With a cracking story from Allan, dynamic art from CT Rigby and a truly spectral cover from Penalva, when we talk about the best supernatural issues of Commando, this one ranks high every time!

Story: Allan
Art: CT Rigby
Cover: Penalva
Originally Commando No. 552 (May 1971).

5149: Course for Freedom
When Jurgen Schwer joined the Luftwaffe in the Second World War, he had no idea that he would become a prisoner of war in the barren Nevada Desert, or even still — a fugitive on the run in Mexico and Colombia!
    It seemed that the only way Jurgen could get back to Europe and his family was to help pilot a rogue mission to destroy the Panama Canal. Only then could he begin to plot his course for freedom!
    With a quintessential combination of a classic George Low story, with an Axis hero whose conscience takes his arc beyond borders, expressive illustrations from Jaume Forns, and an instantly identifiable Ian Kennedy aircraft cover, this is one heck of a Commando for any collection!

Story: George Low
Art: Jaume Forns
Cover: Ian Kennedy

5150: Sure-Shot Sam
Private Sam Smith was a bit of a misfit. Nobody in his infantry company pushing up through Italy in 1944 knew quite what to make of him — but nobody could say that he wasn’t a crack shot with his beloved Lee Enfield rifle!
    And when some petty crooks tried to frame him, they soon discovered — like the Germans — that it wasn’t safe to fool with sure-shot Sam!
    The titular Sam Smith is one of Burden’s greatest creations: a seemingly cold-blooded killer, whose only pleasure is from his rifle — but just what is his game? Find out in this silver era reprint with art from Vila and a cracking cover from the great Ian Kennedy!

Story: Burden
Art: Vila
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 2834 (February 1995).

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 8-9 August 2018.

2000AD Prog 2093
Cover: Karl Richardson
JUDGE DREDD: A BETTER CLASS OF CRIMINAL by Rory McConville (w) Leonardo Manco (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THE ORDER: THE NEW WORLD by Kek-W (w) John Burns (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
THARG'S 3RILLERS: APPETITE by James Peaty (w) Andrea Mutti (a)
MECHASTOPHELES: TRUE FAITH by Gordon Rennie, Lawrence Rennie (w) Karl Richardson (a) Simon Bowland (l) Eva De La Cruz (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
GREY AREA: 86 by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Judge Dredd: Mandroid by John Wagner, Kev Walker, Simon Coleby and Carl Critchlow
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08630-8, 9 August 2018, 162pp, £6.99 / $9.99. Available via Amazon.
Veteran space commando Nate Slaughterhouse is mortally wounded on an alien battlefield and the only way to save his life is to reconstruct his body, turning him into more machine than man – a ‘mandroid’. Struggling to deal with his new existence, Nate is sent back to Mega-City One where
his family are subject to a vicious attack. He decides to take the law into his own cybernetic hands, but there’s only room for one law in the Big Meg… and Judge Dredd’s on the case!
     A brilliant slice of classic Judge Dredd in the popular digest format from the master writer John Wagner and no-holds-barred action from Kev Walker (Mandroid) and Simon Coleby, and Carl Critchlow (Instrument of War).

Slaine: The Brutania Chronicles Book Four: Archon by Pat Mills & Simon Davies
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08632-2, 8 August 2018, 104pp, £15.99 / $23.99. Available via Amazon.
Albion. Celtic warrior SLÁINE united the tribes of the Earth Goddess and became the first High King of Ireland, but is now a wanderer. Having journeyed to Monadh to rescue Sinead from the Drune Lords, he’s discovered that they have been experimenting on their own creations, much to the displeasure of the Cyths’ jailer, the Archon Yaldabaoth. Now, the Archon has awoken and destruction will surely follow…

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Ken Reid!

After what feels like a lifetime, but was actually only a handful of months, I'm now in possession of the two volumes that make up The Power Pack of Ken Reid, or, as the covers of each book prefer, KEN REID! with a spiky word balloon to emphasise that this is being SHOUTED!

And the two volumes really are something to shout about. Across 414 pages, these sturdy hardbacks reprint every Ken Reid strip from Odhams' Power Comics, from the first page of 'Frankie Stein' in the debut issue of Wham! in 1964 to the last episode of 'The Nervs' in Smash!, just ahead of its IPC revamp in 1969.

Volume 1 contains the complete 'Frankie Stein' and 'Jasper the Grasper' from Wham!, the latter comparatively brief as it lasted only six episodes. Frankie, of course, went on to become a star in various papers, and even his own summer specials and annuals, although Reid had moved on long before. The monster created by Professor Cube as a companion to his son is a lumbering dolt, totally unaware that he is terrifying to most people... and therein lies the humour. His attempts to aid and give comfort to the shrieking, screaming people he finds himself surrounded by are mistaken for aggression and poor Frankie is left pondering why he seems to be the only one who can't see the repulsive monster that is clearly stalking the streets nearby.

Frankie, of course, is never swayed from his desire to help and the delusion that his help is desired and that makes him the sympathetic heart of the strip. Misplaced self-confidence is also the cause of so much anguish in 'Queen of the Seas', the strip that leads off volume 2, as it is the confidence of dimwitted Enoch Drip, captain of the Buoyant Queen, a rust-bucket vessel held together by barnacles, and his sole crewman, the blundering Bert Bloop. Together they operate a ship-of-all-trades business while clueless about how to safely sail the oceans or tackle any task, and the only confidence there can be is that each voyage will end in disaster.

This was Reid at the height of his Goons-ish lunacy – forty episodes of inventive idiocy that has never been bettered in a kid's comic and rarely equaled in almost any medium. The combination of a clever script and Reid's intricate artwork make this a classic. As with his work on 'Frankie Stein', Reid knew that anticipation was a vital element to humour and would introduce elements sometimes weeks in advance of the punchline they would be needed to deliver.

'Dare-a-Day Davy' is often thought of as Reid at his unfettered finest. Davy cannot resist a dare, and fights a losing battle each week with his inner monologues – his stupidity the Hyde to his right-thinking protector, his willpower (brought to life in the strip as Willie Power). With only one page to play with, Reid crammed in up to 20 frames a week, responding to a challenge set by one of Pow!'s readers each week to put porridge in a policeman's boot, or a hedgehog in his father's bed, or to rob the Bank of England. The strips included a number of hugely self-referential episodes – replacing the cream in the editor's Easter egg with liquid soap, or giving a haircut to a particularly hairy artist – which may have been his revenge for rejected ideas. A rejected episode (reproduced in the book) involved Davy bringing Frankenstein's monster back to life with a kiss, which even the editors, who had earlier allowed Captain Drip to be kippered to death, thought a gruesome step too far.

Reid's days on the Odhams' comics ended with a six-month run of strips featuring 'The Nervs', the tiny creatures operating the body of a guzzling goof named Fatty, forever at war in his insides with hilarious consequences to his outsides, from swollen knees leaking water like sprinklers to random nervous utterances, including asking a pretty girl out with the phrase "Hello, putrid date!"

At no point did Reid ever look like he was coasting. The background material compiled by editor/publisher Irmantas Povilaika reveals some of Reid's often uneasy home life during this period, but it only ever showed in a missed week or two, never in the strips themselves. Antony Reid provides a couple of more personal introductions about his father's work and character and there are introductions by myself and Nigel Parkinson leading off each volume. As a bonus, there are some Reid sketches and scripts from his 'Frankie Stein' days that round out volume one, which also includes his Annual appearances in colour.

In a year that has seen more strips reprinted than in any other, these two Ken Reid reprints are outstanding. I hope that Povilaika will now be able to get down to work on his Ken Reid biography, as the more we learn about the man through these two reprints, the more intriguing his story becomes.

You can order the books individually or as a pair via eBay or the Kazoop online shop. The IndieGoGo page is the only way the buy the boxed set with free prints or individual books with free prints, but I'm not sure how much longer that option will be available for.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Leonard Skeats

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Leonard Skeats had hardly any profile as an illustrator, even though his illustrations appeared in at least 23 books (mainly children’s books) – he was, rather, a prolific and very talented painter, in oil and watercolour, and particularly well-known between 1900 and 1930 in Hampshire and the West Country.

He was born on 9 June 1874 in Southampton, and baptized, as Leonard Frank Skeats, at St. Luke’s Church, Southampton, on 26 July 1876. His father was Frank George Skeats (born in Southanpton in 1846), a clerk and draughtsman who later became an artist. His mother was Alice Emma, née Martin, born in Blandford, Dorset, in 1851. Having married in 1873, they had two sons, Leonard and Ernest Willington (born in 1875 – he later became a geologist and spent most of his life in Australia).

At the time of the 1871 census, Frank Skeats was still living with his widowed mother and three siblings at 8 Evan’s Terrace, Southampton, working as a clerk and draughtsman at the Ordnance Survey Office. Ten years later, the Skeats family was living at 3 Ludwell Cottages, Middle Street, Southanmpton, with Frank working as a bank clerk.

Leonard Skeats received his early education at Handel College, Southampton, although he was not initially destined for a career as an artist – in the 1891 census he was recorded living with his parents and brother at “Erene”, The Polygon, Southampton, working as a clerk for the Southampton Gas Company. In the mid-1890s, however, he began studying art at Hartley College (now Southampton University), where he was award an Art Master’s Certificate in September 1897, and from there he went on to the Royal College of Art School in South Kensington. He then went on to study under Jean Paul Laurens (President of the Paris Salon) and Benjamin Constant in Paris. Some local newspaper reports claim that he was awarded the Premier Prix at the Paris Salon in 1899, although his name does not appear in the list of exhibitors at that year’s Paris exhibition.

Prior to this, Skeats had already exhibited with the Southampton Art Society in 1897. The Hampshire Advertiser (25 September 1897) commented:
“On entering the gallery the visitor is immediately faced by a strikingly life-like portrait of Mr R.C. Hankinson, J.P., by Mr Leonard Skeats, and if one may be allowed to offer a suggestion it would be that this promising artist should devote the greater part of his undoubted talent to portrait painting, though his versatility is shown in a marked degree by the effective work introduced into the oil paintings, “The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds” and “the Ferry”.
In 1900/01 he spent some time in Clifton, Bristol, painting portraits and exhibiting with the Bristol Fine Arts Academy and the Cheltenham and County Fine Arts Society. He subsequently moved around the country, being recorded as a visitor at an address in Fulham, London, in the 1901 census, and between 1902 and 1910 exhibiting at the Queen’s Park Museum and Art Gallery in Manchester, Bath’s Victoria Gallery, the Sheffield Society of Artists, the Bath Society of Artists, the Southampton Art Society, the Walker Gallery in London, the Surrey Art Circle (he was elected a member in 1905), the Stanley Art Club in Croydon, the Cheltenham Municipal Art Gallery, and the Derby Corporation Art Gallery. He also exhibited at the Royal Academy of Art in 1901, 1903, 1904, 1906, 1908 and 1909.

In particular, he was accepting portrait commissions from all over the country, although he also painted landscapes and genre pictures. (He now has at least 11 paintings, mainly portraits, held in the UK’s public collections).

On 23 September 1903, at St. Mark’s Church, South Stoneham, Hampshire, he married Caroline Emilie Rummens, born in France on 7 January 1870 (although she was baptized in Clapham, London, on 19 October 1870), the daughter of a wealthy cloth merchant (who, when he died in 1914, left an estate valued at almost £3 million in today’s terms). They remained in Southampton for a while, both acting with the Southampton Amateur Dramatic Society, before moving to 3 Camden Road, Croydon, Surrey, in 1904.

Skeats’s career, or perhaps a better word would be sideline, as an illustrator appears to have begun in 1900, when he illustrated a re-issue of a novel by Anne E. Keeling published by Robert Culley. He went on to provide illustrations for several more books published by Culley, and a handful for the Religious Tract Society. Most of his work, for both publishers, was for new editions of children’s books, where the original black and white illustrations were replaced by colour plates. (Note that most of these re-issues were undated, and establishing their year of publication is difficult). Despite his being a fairly well-known painter, his work for publishers was very poorly advertised, with hardly any advertisements carrying his name, and there appear to be no reviews of or comments about his work in the books he illustrated.

It is also a little surprising that, given his obvious talent, he did not provide illustrations for more books. He may have been too busy, with commissions and producing paintings for sale, to undertake much other work, or he was reluctant to accept the fees offered by publishers. He may also have benefited from his father-in-law’s wealth, and was rich enough not to have to rely on illustrative work.

Unlike most of his contemporary illustrators, his work hardly ever appeared in periodicals – his only known contributions were to The Sphere in 1906 and Cassell’s Magazine in 1907.

Having moved to Croydon, he joined the Croydon Swimming Club and he also became a member of the Addiscombe Lodge of the Freemasons (having previously been a member of the Southampton Lodge). By 1910 he had moved again, this time to 86 Adelaide Road, Hampstead. A few years later, he moved to The Studio, Church Street, Mere, Wiltshire, and in 1917 he briefly served as a Private in the Army Service Corps with the Royal Garrison Artillery. In the early 1920s he moved to Bath, living at 10 Portland Place, where he became an active member of the Bath Society of Artists, and, in the late 1920s, a member of the Rotary Club of Bath.

He appears to have retired from painting in the 1920s – in the 1939 Register, living at 6 Brock Street, Bath, he gave his occupation as “English SUFI Movement Representative (unpaid)”.  He died in Bath four years later, at a nursing home in Church Street, on 13 September 1943, leaving an estate valued at £6,675 (just under £300,000 in today’s terms). His wife died in Bath on 28 March 1956, leaving £17,292.

While his contributions to children’s literature as an illustrator can be regarded as minor, it is a pity that he wasn’t called upon, or felt unable, to do more. His work was generally of a very high quality, and carried an artistic dimension that was lacking in many of his contemporaries.


Books illustrated by Leonard Skeats
Andrew Golding: A Tale of the Great Plague by Anne E. Keeling, Robert Culley, 1900 (re-issue)
Nine Famous Crusades of the Middle Ages by Anne E. Keeling, Robert Culley, 1900 (re-issue)
Five Brave Hearts by Edith E. Rhodes, Robert Culley, 1900(?) (re-issue)
Algonquin Indian Tales by Egerton Ryerson Young, Robert Culley, 1903
The Diary of Evelyn John with an introduction by Austin Dobson, Macmillan & Co., 1906
Life and Adventures Beyond Jordan by G. Robinson Lees, C.H. Kelly, 1907
Tessie’s Trust by Amy Whipple, Religious Tract Society, 1908
Mr Marmalade’s Secret by Alice M. Page, J. Williams Butcher, 1908
Charlie Lucken: At School and College by H.C. Adams, Hodder & Stoughton, 1909 (re-issue)
The Sister Crusoes by Ernest Protheroe, Robert Culley, 1909
From the Memoirs of a Minister from France by Stanley Weyman, Cassell & Co., 1909 (re-issue)
Chords That Were Broken by William Henry Harding, Religious Tract Society, 1910
Sprattie and the Dwarf, or The Shining Stairway by Nellie Cornwall, Robert Culley, 1910(?) (re-issue)
Boys Will Be Boys by George Sargent, Religious Tract Society, 1910(?) (re-issue)
Grand Gilmore by Reese Rockwell, Robert Culley, 1910(?) (re-issue)
Lady Ju by Charles Aver, Epworth Press, 1911
Castle Dangerous of Canada by E.M. Field, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1913
That Scholarship Boy by Emma Leslie, Religious Tract Society, 1913(?) (re-issue)
Raymond Theed: A Story of Five Years by Elsie Kendall, Robert Culley, 1913(?) (re-issue)
The Boys of Highfield, or The Hero of Chancery House by H. Frederick Charles, Religious Tract Society, 1914(?)
The Orphans of Merton Hall by Emily Brodie, Religious Tract Society, 1914 (re-issue)
Winter Adventures of Three Boys in the Great Lone Land by Egerton Ryerson Young, Robert Culley, 1915(?) (re-issue)
More Than Conqueror, or A Boy’s Temptation by Harriette E. Burch, Religious Tract Society, 1915(?) (re-issue)