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Monday, March 18, 2019

Fran of the Floods

The 1960s and 1970s were the great age of disaster strips in comics. The term "cozy catastrophe" was coined by Brian Aldiss to describe a couple of novels by John Wyndham, but has broadened over the years to encompass any post-apocalypse novel where the protagonist survives relatively unscathed in a world that has been emptied through disaster or invasion; you might also add that rebuilding the world seems to fall to a group of middle class folk, who immediately hole up in a deserted mansion and start growing vegetables and raising free range chickens.

No such luck for Fran, where freak weather has turned even the Sahara desert into a tropical rain forest and in suburban Hazelford the rivers are on the rise. Frances "Fran" Scott and her best friend Jill take advantage of the weather to get away from her fractious family and have some fun sailing a raft. Fran's scientifically-minded headmistress asserts that the ice caps are melting and this is the end of the world as we know it. She has been trying to keep the children's minds off the problem by organising a concert, while Fran's parents have been stockpiling food.

Towns around the Fens have disappeared underwater... and then the Thames bursts its banks. Meanwhile, tensions spill over in the Scott household and Fran's sister, June, leaves her job and escapes to Scotland. The relentless rain causes a rush on food and when the supermarket runs out, neighbours break into Fran's house after hearing about their stockpile. The Scott's are saved by Rod Pearson and a gang of his friends.

June is safe in Scotland, according to a letter, bit Hazelford is about to be destroyed as the reservoir cracks under the weight of water and sends a flood tumbling down onto the town and to the school just as Fran takes her turn on the stage at the school concert.

Alan Davidson's apocalyptic tale originally appeared in the pages of Jinty in 1976 and is being touted as an early example of cli-fi, although it is not man-made climate change that causes this disaster but the sun burning a little hotter. The intense heat and tropical jungles growing in England are more reminiscent of The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard (1962) than, say, Forty Days of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson (2004).

It is not a tale that shies away from some of the grimmer aspects of disaster: people's fear, frustration, anger and resentment all spill out on the pages of the story. The grief in Fran's face as Rosie is swept away by the waters, her fear that she is the only survivor, and the knowledge that – having discovered a young girl and her pet – that the pet might be the only source of food they have... all are chillingly depicted by Phil Gascoine, a veteran of girls' comics who knew not to hold back with emotions.

Which was fortunate, because there is an emotional roller-coaster to get through before this tale is told. Fran and Jill (who has also survived) are captured by the Black Circle, who are using captives as slave labour to survive; then there's the eerie, guarded village that Fran breaks into only to find herself in a quarantine zone for an unrecognised plague and the community living in the limestone caves beneath the Pennines; finally – and it might indeed be the last thing they do – they meet the extraordinary David, King of Glasgow.

While disaster stories were popular in boys' comics (Buster was home to many, including one entitled 'The Drowned World' in 1964), few had anything like the same kind of emotional resonance as 'Fran of the Floods'. Fran also played a significant role in the history of Jinty, which had launched in the spring of 1974 with the usual mix of girls' adventure strips. Fran's adventures proved so popular, the strip ran for seven months and started a trend in Jinty for the kind of science fiction stories it was to become most remembered for, including other early environmental yarns and cosy catastrophies.

This is another superb choice of stories from Rebellion's Treasure of British Comics range of titles. Let's hope there are many more of the same to come.

Fran of the Floods. Rebellion ISBN  9781781086728, 21 March 2019, 112pp, £12.99. Available via Amazon.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

P. Walford

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

P. Walford was known to collectors of children’s as the illustrator of a handful of school and adventure stories, although this work appears to have been an occasional sideline from his main job as an art teacher. Unfortunately, his life is something of a mystery.

He was born on 31 January 1893 in Buckingham, and christened Percival John Walford, the last of five children born to William Henry Walford (born in Brackley, Northamptonshire, in 1854) a postmaster, and his wife Alice Keene, née Simmons (a farmer’s daughter born in Buckingham in 1856), who had married in 1878. The family moved from Buckingham at some point after Percival’s birth, initially to 69 High Streety, Walton le Soken Essex (1901 census), and then to Englefield Green, Surrey (1911 census). At that time, Percival was recorded as an art student, although it is not known where he was studying.

At the outbreak of the First World War he enlisted in the 5th London Regiment as a Rifleman, reaching the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, although further details of his war service are not known. On his discharge, he moved to 26 Ellerslie Road, Hammersmith.

In 1922 he married Ida Katherine Burgess, born on 24 September 1901 and the daughter of Alfred Burgess, a Quantity Surveyor, and Florimel Grace, née Hutchinson. They moved to 2 St. Johns Park Mansions, Pemberton Gardens, Islington, and went on to have four children, beginning with Robert in 1923.

Walford’s brief career as an illustrator appears to have begun in 1924, when he contributed to The Detective Magazine, and illustrated two books for the Sheldon Press, The Secret of Marsh Haven by Alfred Judd and The Lone Shanty on the Hill by Nancy M. Hayes, and another Alfred Judd story, The Mystery of Meldon School, for Jarrold & Sons. He went on to illustrate at least four more books for the Sheldon Press, including two more boys’ school stories, and one book for S.W. Partridge & Co., between 1925 and 1927, and he also contributed to Modern Weekly in 1928.

Not all of the books Walford illustrated credited him as illustrator on the title page, and as his signature was very small, and often written on a dark background, it is likely that he illustrated many more books than the ten that have been identified.

By 1933 Walford was working as an Art Teacher (as evidenced by his mother’s will, which named him as an executor (along with his brother Ernest, working as an ironmonger). However, where he was working is not known. In the 1939 Register he was recorded as an “Art Master and Artist” at 83 Summerland Avenue, Minehead, Somerset, whilst his wife and children were living at Morecroft, Manor Road, Twickenham, to where they had moved in or prior to 1934. They remained there until at least 1957.

Walford is known to have illustrated two more children’s books in 1945 and 1948, but nothing after this has been identified. Walford died, at “Shappon,” Kings Somborne, Stockbridge,  Hampshire, on 22 March 1978, of chronic myocarditis and ischaemic heart disease. He did not leave a will. His wife died at Morecroft, Muss Lane, Kings Somborne, Hampshire, on 31 March 1984, leaving an estate valued at £79, 708.


Books illustrated by P. Walford
The Mystery of Meldon School by Alfred Judd, Jarrolds, 1924
The Secret of Marsh Haven: A Story of School Adventure by Alfred Judd, Sheldon Press, 1924
The Lone Shanty on the Hill by Nancy M. Hayes, Sheldon Press, 1924
The School Over the Way by Wallace Grey, Sheldon Press, 1925
Fellow Fags by Ethel Talbot, Sheldon Press, 1926
My Lady Venturesome: A Story of 1865 by Dorothea Moore, Sheldon Press, 1926
The Family Next Door by Ethel Talbot, Sheldon Press, 1927
Adventurers All by Dorothea Moore, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1927
Wings Over the Atlantic: A Tale of Coastal Command by Rowland Walker, A. & C. Black, 1945
Animal Tales from History by Kate Floyd Morton, Evans Brothers, 1948

Friday, March 15, 2019

Comic Cuts - 15 March 2019

The problem with having a full-time job – which is what I have at the moment, even if it's only temporary – is that I keep looking enviously at other projects and wishing I could work on them. There's the Valiant index, for instance, or the fifth volume of Forgotten Authors, or a return to the Caught in the Act project, a top-to-toe revision of The Mushroom Jungle, or the book on pirate comics publishers.

I dip my toe into these occasionally as new information presents itself, but I've not had a chance to knuckle down and do any substantial work on anything outside of my current employment since November. The only break I've had (ignoring Christmas and New Year as that was family time, not extracurricular work time) was three days off to prep, film and recover from the Iron Mask segment that will appear on The One Show. The production company asked for an additional image on Wednesday, and say its currently being edited.

Thanks to the arrival of a book I've been looking out for on Saturday, I've finally picked a project that I'll see through to publication. It won't be of the greatest interest to most of you, but it will hopefully please a few.

I'm planning to reprint some of Gwyn Evans' novels. Back in 2004, I wrote an essay about Evans and his writing career. He was primarily a writer of crime fiction, especially Sexton Blake thrillers. But his life outside his writing, as a Bohemian alcoholic, I found just as fascinating.

I expanded the essay into a book called Gwyn Evans: The Lunatic, The Lover and The Poet in 2012, which I didn't expect to sell more than a few dozen copies... and it didn't upset those expectations. Part of the reason Evans is now forgotten is that none of his work is in print. His delightful Christmas adventures of Sexton Blake were reprinted by Howard Baker in 1974, and still turns up second hand online, but you have to know about it and look for it. After forty-five years you're unlikely to just stumble upon it.

So when I was writing the book I thought it would be an idea to get a couple of novels back into print. After all, they're out of copyright so I could do it relatively cheaply. I put together the texts of a couple of books, but then allowed myself to be distracted by a couple of other projects, negotiating the rights to reprint the four Sexton Blake Annuals (all of which included Evans' stories) and writing the Lion King of  Picture Story Papers book.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I'm working on the text for the second novel and, at some point, I'll reprint the first two Bill Kellaway novels, Hercules, Esq. and The Homicide Club, two classics written in Evans' boozy days in the late 1920s, but inventive, funny, and filled with likable, eccentric characters. If I can keep up the momentum, I'll also be reprinting Satan, Ltd. and The Return of "Hercules, Esq." as it would be nice to have all four books available. And maybe more, should there be a demand.

Because Mel was at a convention over the weekend, I spent a big chunk of Saturday trying to restore the cover of Satan, Ltd.. Some of you may remember from last week's column the rather battered and scarred cover... well, you can now compare it to the restored cover at the top of this week's column. I think it looks pretty good.

I watched the first season of the science fiction thriller Counterpart last November and thought it superb. The premise of the show is that in 1987, a group of scientists discover that a parallel Earth exists and there is a corridor that connects the two realities. There is an episode in season 2 that shows this event, so I won't go too deeply into it; what I can say is that two counterparts begin experimenting to create small differences between the two worlds.

A flu epidemic in the early 1990s wipes out half a billion in the Prime reality and some in the Prime Office of Interchange (OI) set up an programme called Indigo, taking children and training them to take over the lives of their counterparts in the Alpha reality, with a plan to have these sleeper agents avenge what Indigo believe was a deliberate attack.

The second season opened at a point where the crossing point has been closed following an attack on Alpha OI where infiltrators gun down nearly a dozen staff. As the season unfolds, Howard Silk (Prime, who has swapped places with his Alpha counterpart), his (Alpha) wife, and members of the Alpha OI try to track down the Prime terrorists and a Prime agent known as Shadow – actually the wife of Alpha OI's Director of Strategy, Peter Quayle.

Meanwhile, Howard Silk Alpha is arrested while helping his (Prime) wife, and sent to a facility known as Echo where he meets a scientist named Yanek, a prisoner but actively interrogating those around him, including Prime's Peter Quayle.

Last time I praised the incredible central performance of J. K. Simmons as Howard Silk; he's still brilliant, but over season two the two very different characters from season one seem to be merging and growing more alike. Instead, the character of contrast who joined Howard  front and centre for this second season, is Olivia Williams as his wife / ex-wife, who was in a coma (Alpha) for season one but turns out to have a key role in the hunt for Indigo. Also, Harry Lloyd deserves a mention for his range as Peter Quayle, from slick, smug Peter, confused and scared Peter, angry Peter, vulnerable Peter – and all this before we get to the twitchy madness of his counterpart.

All this talk of Alpha and Prime may make it sound confusing to watch, but it really isn't. I never felt lost in the plot despite its complexity nor confused between realities. Although it has a science fiction premise, it's shot like a spy drama and has the pace and depth of a Cold War thriller, teasing and building and revealing and building again towards the climax of the show.

The Starz channel where Counterpart originally aired ordered two seasons and have decided not to renew the show. Thankfully it ends very satisfactorily (you know how I hate a cliffhanger season  ending!) but adds a little coda that could be a devastating opening position for a third season, although that seems an unlikely proposition. I'm just glad the producers were given the right amount of space to tell the story they planned.

Our random scans this week are a few of the books that have been added to the teetering piles dotted around the house over the past few weeks.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Today's releases from Rebellion – 13 March 2019.

2000AD Prog 2122
Cover: Alex Ronald

JUDGE DREDD: MACHINE LAW by John Wagner (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SKIP TRACER: LOUDER THAN BOMBS by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Quinton Winter (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
THARG'S 3RILLERS: TOOTH AND NAIL by Andi Ewington (w) Staz Johnson (a) Abigail Bulmer (c) Simon Bowland (l)
GREY AREA: SHOOT TO KILL by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
JAEGIR: BONEGRINDER by Gordon Rennie (w) Simon Coleby (a) Len O'Grady (c) Annie Parkhouse

Judge Anderson: Devourer by  Laurel Sills (ebook / paperback)

Rebellion 978-1781-08648-3, 14 March 2019. Available via Amazon. (ebook)
Abaddon Books 978-1781-08745-9, 14 March 2019, 135pp, £7.99. Cover by Christian Ward. (paperback)

The latest fiction novella from 2000 AD – it’s Psi-Judge Cassandra Anderson’s second year on the streets as a full-Eagle Judge, and something’s taking down Psi-Judges. More and more are turning up in the infirmary with only one phrase in their minds: I am not worthy.
    Pulled off a hunt for a missing child, Anderson finds herself partnered with seasoned Judge Mei Yin on the trail of the cult behind the madness.
    But Mei Yin doesn’t do partners.  And she’s more closely connected with the case than she’s willing to admit to…
   Available as an ebook and as a limited edition paperback.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

R H Brock

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

R.H. Brock is the “forgotten” Brock brother. Two of his siblings, C.E. Brock and H.M. Brock, were amongst the best-known and most talented illustrators of their era, both with a similar but instantly recognisable style. R.H. Brock was generally regarded as the least talented of the three, and he was certainly nowhere near as prolific. Yet he was a competent and versatile artist, equally at home painting in oils and watercolours as he was illustrating in black and white and colour. Unfortunately, he has been very much ignored by all the major commentators – he merits just a few lines in Simon Houfe’s The Dictionary of British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists 1800-1914, and he hardly features at all in C.M. Skelly’s biography of the Brock family, The Brocks: A Family of Cambridge Artists and Illustrators.

The brothers’ father was Edmund Brock, born in Shepreth, Cambridgeshire, in 1840. His father, Jeremiah, a painter, took the family to Islington, London, where, in his late teens, Edmund became a bookmaker. However, by the mid-1860s he was a member of the Early English Text Society, and he was publishing his own texts – for example translations from the medieval English of some of Chaucer’s works, and a translation of Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. He subsequently spent 40 years working for the Cambridge University Press as a reader specializing in medieval and oriental languages. He married Mary Ann Louise Pegram (born in London in 1836) at Regent’s Park Chapel, Marylebone, on 23 February 1867, moving to Leighton Road, Kentish Town, where their first child, Alice Emma, was born in 1868. They then moved to Hampden Road, Holloway, where C.E. Brock, christened Charles Edmund Brock, was born on 5 February 1870. They then moved to Cornwall Terrace, Friern Barnet, where R.H. (Richard Henry) was born on 21 July 1871, before moving to Cambridge, firstly to Coronation Street, where a third son was born, and then to 4 Perowne Street, where a further three children, including H.M. (Henry Matthew), were born.

Richard, along with his brothers, was educated at St. Barnabas Church of England School and then at the Higher Grade School for Boys in Paradise Street, Cambridge. At the time of the 1891 census he was living with his parents and siblings at 3 Barrie Villas, Abbey Road, and described as a “Pupil Teacher in Art School.” This was the Cambridge School of Art, where he had been studying since 1888. He remained there until at least 1895 – he was a regular prize-winner, and for some years was studying alongside his two brothers.

His career as an illustrator seems to have begun in 1897, when he contributed to The Infants’ Magazine and The Family Friend, both published by S.W. Partridge & Co. However, this appears to have been a false start, as he spent the following 20 years or so concentrating on painting. He specialised in rural scenes, in particular farming, horses, hunting and other country pursuits. He exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1901, 1903, 1906, 1911, 1912 and 1913, and also occasionally elsewhere, such as Derby in 1905 and Bradford in 1907. He was also a keen musician, playing the violin and cello with the Cambridge Orchestral Society.

In 1916 he began contributing to The Tatler and Punch (he had four drawings published in Punch  in 1916 and 1917), and he later contributed to Chums, Printer’s Pie, Outward Bound, The Boy’s Own Paper, The Boys Magazine, Chatterbox, The Wide World Magazine, The Happy Mag, The Detective Magazine, The Red Magazine, The Scout and The Golden Mag. However, he was not a regular contributor to any of these periodicals, although he did contribute sporadically to The Boy’s Own Paper between 1921 and 1932. Between 1918 and 1920 he also illustrated stories published in The Sheffield Weekly Telegraph.

From the mid-1890s onwards he lived with his parents at Arundine House, where he shared a studio with his brothers. In the 1901 census, he was described simply as a painter, whereas his brothers were both recorded as “Artist Painter & Book Illustrator.”

On 25 August 1917, at the Independent Chapel, Hanworth Road, Hounslow, he married Mary Cooke, a schoolmistress, born on 27 November 1882, the daughter of Charles Henry Cooke, a jeweller. Richard continued living in the family home in Madingley Road until late 1938.

While his brothers Charles and Henry had begun illustrating books in the 1890s, Richard appears to have only begun to do this in 1920, when he illustrated Three Girls on a Ranch, written by Bessie Marchant and published by Blackie & Sons. He went on to illustrate a further 25 or so books for Blackie, and he also worked occasionally for other publishers such as Thomas Nelson & Sons, the Oxford University Press, the Sheldon Press, the Religious Tract Society (his books appeared under the imprint of The “Boy’s Own Paper” Office) and Eyre & Spottiswoode. Like his brothers, he was commissioned to illustrate new editions of “classic” novels, such as The Three Musketeers, Lorna Doone, The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Cloister and the Hearth, and Mrs Henry Wood’s The Channings.

Many of the books he illustrated were girls’ stories, by authors such as Margaret Batchelor, Ethel Talbot, E.E. Cowper, Alice Massie, Dorita Fairlie Bruce, Katherine Oldmeadow, Nancy M. Hayes, Brenda Girvin, Violet Methley and Jessie Leckie Herbertson. Amongst the boys’ writers whose books he illustrated were Alfred Judd, Herbert Strang, R.A.H. Goodyear, Stanton Hope and George Manville Fenn.

In total, more than 80 books containing his illustrations have been recorded, although there are almost certainly several more. This does not include the numerous children’s annuals and similar large-format books to which he contributed  – these included The Big Book of School Stories for Boys , The Boys’ Book of School Stories, Blackie’s Boys’ Annual, Blackie’s Children’s Annual, Schoolboy Stories Splendid Stories for Girls, The Girls’ Budget, The Boys’ Budget, The Big Budget for Boys, The Grand Adventure Book for Boys, The Golden Budget for Girls, The Golden Budget for Boys, The Blue Line School Stories for Girls, Delightful Stories for Girls, The Jolly Book, Nelson’s Jolly Book for Boys, Nelson’s Budget for Girls, Storyland for Girls, The Empire Annual for Girls, Hulton’s Girls’ Stories, Jolly Days for Girls, The Schoolgirls’ Bumper Book and A Story Book for Me.

He was also responsible for the covers for many of George Newnes’s Black Bess Library and Dick Turpin Library between 1921 and 1930, along with C.P. Shilton.

R.H. Brock’s periodical work appears to have come to an end in 1932, although he continued illustrating books until around 1940. However, he appears to have more or less abandoned his career as an artist prior to this – by 1939 he and his wife were running a boarding house at 14 Priory Avenue, Hastings. They appear to have stopped advertising the boarding house after June 1940, and they subsequently moved to 32 Bulstrode Road, Hounslow.

Richard Henry Brock died, of heart disease, at Bulstrode Road on 11 June 1943, apparently without leaving a will.  It is not known when his wife died.


Books illustrated by R.H. Brock:
Three Girls on a Ranch by Bessie Marchant, Blackie & Son, 1920
Uncle Tom’s Scrape by Theodora Wilson Wilson, Blackie & Son, 1922
A Little Rhodesian by Margaret Batchelor, Oxford University Press, 1922
Camp-fire Stories by Herbert Strang, Oxford University Press, 1922 (with C.E. Brock)
Neighbours at School by Ethel Talbot, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1923
The Mystery Term by E.E. Cowper, Blackie & Son, 1923
The Secret of Canute’s Island by G. Godfray Sellick, “Boy’s Own Paper” Office, 1923
The Bringing Up of Mary Ann by Alice Massie, Oxford University Press, 1923
A Cherry Tree by Amy Le Feuvre, Oxford University Press, 1923 (re-issue)
The Scouring of the White Horse by Thomas Hughes, Blackie & Son, 1925 (re-issue)
The Holiday Story Book, Blackie & Son, 1923 (with other artists)
One Summer Holiday by Natalie Joan, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1924
Sally at School by Ethel Talbot, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1924
Gwenda’s Friend from Home by Margaret Batchelor, Oxford University Press, 1924
Don’s Treasure Trove by Alice Massie, Oxford University Press, 1924
The Children of Sunshine Mine: A Story of Rhodesia by Margaret Batchelor, Oxford University Press, 1924 (with C.E. Brock)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, abridged by C.H. Irwin, ”Boy’s Own Paper” Office, 1924
The Boarding School Girl by Dorita Fairlie Bruce, Oxford University Press, 1925
By Honour Bound: A School Story for Girls by Bessie Marchant, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1925
The Stranger in the Train and other stories by Ethel Talbot, Sheldon Press, 1925
The Secret Brotherhood by Marjorie C. Bernard, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1925
Castle Dune by Katherine L. Oldmeadow, Blackie & Son, 1925
Tracked on the Trail by Nancy M. Hayes, Sheldon Press, 1925
Red Roof Farm by Joan Leslie, Oxford University Press, 1925
Witch of the Wilds by E.E. Cowper, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1925
The Young Folk’s Treasure Chest, “Daily Express” Publications, 1925 (with other artists)
Gytha’s Message: A Tale of Saxon England by Emma Leslie, Blackie & Son, 1925 (re-issue)
The Rood and the Raven by Gertrude Hollis, “Boy’s Own Paper” Office, 1926
June the Girl Guide by Brenda Girvin, Oxford University Press, 1926
Bringing Back the Frasers and other stories by Ethel Talbot, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1926 (with other artists)
Out and About by various authors, Blackie & Son, 1926 (with other artists)
The Riddle of Randley School by Alfred Judd, Blackie & Son, 1927
Bab’s Two Cousins, or The Organist’s Baby by Kathleen Knox, Blackie & Son, 1927
An Island for Two: A School Story by L.F. Ramsay, Sheldon Press, 1927
Kitty’s Kitten by Herbert Strang, Oxford University Press, 1927
Tom Leaves School by Herbert Strang, Oxford University Press, 1927
Cap’n Benny by Henry Lawrence Phillips, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1927
The Camp Across the Road by H.B. Davidson, Sheldon Press, 1927
The White Standard by Eliza F. Pollard, Blackie & Son, 1927 (re-issue)
Peterina on the Rescue Trail by E.E. Cowper, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1928
The Guide Adventurers by Margaret Middleton, Blackie & Son, 1929
The New Centre Forward by Ethel Talbot, Collins, 1929
Another Pair of Shoes by Jessie Leckie Herbertson, Sheldon Press, 1929
The Channings by Mrs Henry Wood, Oxford University Press, 1929 (re-issue)
The Battlefield Treasure by F. Bayford Harrison, Blackie & Son, 1929 (re-issue)
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Blackie & Son, 1930 (re-issue)
Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas, Blackie & Son, 1930 (re-issue)
Tales of Beasts and Birds by various authors, Gresham Publishing Co., 1930 (with other artists)
Playing the Game! A Public School Story by Kent Carr, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1931 (re-issue)
The Windmill Guides by Violet Mary Methley, Blackie & Son, 1931
The Makeeshift Patrol: A Story of Girl Guides by H.B. Davidson, S.P.C.K., 1932
The Oakhill Guide Company by Felicity Keith, Blackie & Son, 1933
The Girls of Mystery Gorge by E.E. Cowper, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1933
The Holiday Story Book, Blackie & Son, 1933 (with C.E. & H.M. Brock)
Warne’s Book of Nursery Tales, Frederick Warne & Co., 1933 (with other artists)
Good Yarns for Boys by various authors, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1933 (with other artists)
Mystery Camp by Violet Methley, Blackie & Son, 1934
The City of Death: A Story of Mexico by Oliver Barton, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1934
The Canadian Family Robinson: A Modern Tale of the Shipwreck and the Subsequent Adventures of a Family by Grace E.P. Leonard, “Boy’s Own Paper” Office, 1935
Our Kiddies’ Tales by various authors, William Walker & Sons, 1935 (with other artists)
Pulling Templestone Together by R.A.H. Goodyear, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1936
The Mystery of Mingo by Ethel Talbot, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1936
Two Boys in Australia by Roger Burns, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1936
How Judy Passed Her Tests by H.B. Davidson, Sheldon Press, 1936
The Marigolds Make Good by Catherine Christian, Blackie & Son, 1937
Robber Castle by Dinah Pares, George G. Harrap & Co., 1937
Orinoco Trail by Stanton Hope, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1937
Dog-Face by John Easton, Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1937
Malachi’s Cove by Anthony Trollope, re-told by Margaret E. Johnson, Oliver & Boyd, 1937
More Stories of Robin Hood by Albert Sydney Hornby, George G. Harrap & Co., 1938
Dick o’ the Fens by George Manville Fenn, Blackie & Son, 1940 (re-issue)
For the Little Ones by various authors, Blackie & Son, 1941 (with other artists)

Dates not known:
Everyday Stories by various authors, Gresham Publishing Co., (with H.M. Brock & H.R. Miller)   
Loran Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by R.D. Blackmore, Blackie & Son,
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Thomas Nelson & Sons,
The Children of the New Forest
The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade, Blackie & Son,
Two’s Company by Anne Gannell, Blackie & Son, (with other artists)
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, Blackie & Son, (re-issue)
Put to the Proof by Mrs Henry Clarke, Blackie & Son, (re-issue) (with W. Dodds)

Friday, March 08, 2019

Juan Arancio (1931-2019)

Argentinean comic artist and painter, Juan Arancio, died of respiratory failure at a hospital in his home town of Santa Fe on March 1, 2019, aged 87. In the UK he is best known for his work on 'Shako', the early 2000AD strip which pitted a CIA hunter, Jake Falmuth, against a polar bear with a taste for human flesh that has swallowed a deadly germ-filled capsule. Arancio's opening episode to the strip set the tone, as Shako sinks his teeth into the pilot of a downed US military plane and bites his head off. 

In the tradition of Action's 'Hook Jaw', 'Shako' was created by Pat Mills and John Wagner as an idea potentially for the debut issue of 2000AD, but shelved it until issue 20, with Arancio producing the art for the first four issues.

Juan Arancio was born in Santa Fe, Argentina, on August 24, 1931, and remained a resident of that city his whole life. Self-taught, he won a competition organised by a local daily newspaper with one of his childhood creations, 'El Gaucho Saverio'.

Debuting in 1950, Arancio became famous as an illustrator and artist working from his own scripts for comics such as Privateering Pete, Trinchera, Puño de Hierro, Poncho Negro and Vida Escolar; he also produced westerns for Interval, El Tony and Anteojito y Clarin. At the same time, he adapted classic novels by Héctor Pedro Blomberg, Lucio V. Mansilla, Alberto Vaccarezza, Emilio Salgari, Julio Verne, H. Rider Haggard, Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexandre Defoe, Jorge Luis Borges; amongst the novels he adapted were Cadazdores de Ballenas, Misterios de la Jungla Negra, El Quijote, La Conquista del Desierto, Una Excursión a los Indios Ranqueles, Dick Turpin and, on numerous occasions, Martin Fierro, the famous Argentinian gaucho. One of his adaptations originally published by Editorial Colmegna in Santa Fe won an award in Philadelphia.

Arancio worked with Hector Oesterheld on ‘Patria Vieja’ for Hora Cero in 1960, following the departure of Carlos Roume, and on ‘Santos Bravo for Hora Cero Extro (1961).

Outside of his native country, as well as ‘Shako’ (1977), Arancio drew the western ‘Timber Lee’ (1978-80) for Scorpio Editorial (Milan, Italy) and for Walt Disney Studios (USA). His illustrations appeared in Europe, Asia, South Africa, Australia, Rhodesia, Canada, the Dominican Republic and New Zealand. He also illustrated a version of Don Segundo Sombra for Japan.

He has won numerous awards and prizes, dating back to 1954 when a painting won a prize from the Museo Municipal de Artes Visuales. He was awarded the Distinción Bienal at Lucca in 1976 and was appointed a Ciudadano Ilustre de la Ciudad de Santa Fe [Illustrious citizen of the city of Santa Fe] in 1991.

Since the early 1980s, Arancio had concentrated on painting  and exhibitions of his work have been produced in Spain, Germany, Sicily, Canada and the USA. His oil paintings hang in the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes, the Museo Provincial de Artes Visuales and elsewhere.

Comic Cuts 8 March 2019

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel on these company profiles that I have been writing since December. I'm working on sixty-something of eighty, so another few weeks and I'll be on the job market again.

I should be hauling stuff out of boxes and putting it on Ebay, because I've always put it off "until I get some spare time". Well, my time might be going spare for some while, judging by the job market around here, so maybe I should be looking on this as an opportunity, not unemployment.

A couple of fun things from this week. We had pancake day on Wednesday rather than Tuesday, Mel cooking up some batter that tasted superb with lemon and sugar – some people go all-out these days with honey, syrup or red pepper & cheese filling, spicy beans, lettuce & avocado (I kid you not). Did you toss your batter, I hear you ask, and I say Ooooh, no, missus. Actually, yes, and despite the pancakes being thin and floppy, we both managed a couple of successful tosses. At least nothing ended up on the floor.

I'm also very pleased to say that I've managed to pick up a couple of books I've been looking out for and relatively cheaply. One is Satan Ltd. by Gwyn Evans, the third and final Bill Kelloway novel in a series that started with Hercules, Esq. I wrote a book about Evans – The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet – but I was always short of a few of his books in my collection. This fills one of the gaps and I have a second book on the way to fill another. I'm seriously thinking of reprinting some of his work for Kindle and in print form... something else to fill my ample spare time with!

Incidentally, the cover to my book on Evans used a colour rough of the Satan Ltd. cover. It was painted by Hynd G. Wolfe, an artist living in Hornsey in the 1930s with his mother and sister. Mother Alice V. Wolfe died in 1944, aged 78, and I can find her daughter, Alice V. E. Wolfe, at addresses in Hornsey in 1947-52, but can find no further trace of artist Hynd, nor his sister.I'll have to do a bit more digging when I get a chance.

With Mel away for the weekend, I was left to my own devices and took the opportunity to watch The Punisher. I loved the first season and the new season, out on Netflix a couple of months ago, didn't disappoint. Too often in comics, and in their TV and movie adaptations, the hero differentiates himself from the villain by not taking the villain's life at the end of the story.

This is fine in a kid's comic – who wants to waste a good villain? But not when the the majority of the audience are adults and your protagonists continue to make the decisions they made in the 1930s. You can't place your heroes in the real world and tell the audience "comics aren't just for kids anymore," and then ignore the real-world consequences of letting villains go, or jailing them only to have them escape time and time again.

(Don't forget, I'm a tree-hugging, Guardian-reading lefty and comments here apply only to comic books and their adaptations.)

I say, kill 'em all.

If Batman had snapped the neck of the Joker after their first meeting, think of the lives he would have saved. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of bank tellers, police officers, innocent bystanders and even fellow criminals who would be alive today if only Batman had had the courage and foresight to just snap the neck of this monster with no empathy, no morals, and no regrets. No amount of therapy is going to make him safe to walk the streets... and, frankly, I'm surprised he doesn't face the death penalty every time he's captured. An insanity plea might work at first, but eventually a jury would have seen him for the cold, calculating monster he actually is.

How many times does he have to escape from Arkham Asylum to murder again before Batman decides that, in order to protect Gotham, it's better that the Joker doesn't survive their next encounter?

Which brings me to The Punisher. He has the attitude that the bad guys need to be killed before they kill you or others. He has a code that stops him from killing randomly. That's a code I can get behind.

(Again, I remind you that we're talking about comic book characters, not real life.)

The TV series has an advantage over, say, Gotham, or even some of its rapidly diminishing Netflix family of Marvel titles, in that the Punisher isn't fighting recognisable, iconic villains of the stature of The Joker, Penguin or The Riddler. His ongoing battle across seasons one and two is with Billy Russo, whose actions inadvertently led to Frank Castle's family being killed. Castle subsequently throws Russo through a glass window, giving him the jigsaw of deep facial scars that earn him his nickname in the comics (Jigsaw), although it isn't used on the TV series.

For the most part he's faced with (often literally) dozens of goons who are the red shirts of all action thrillers. The sidekicks and minions that can be slaughtered without anyone feeling anything for them. It can be done with style or with brute force, but rarely is it done with both quite as well as it is here. It lacks the balletic qualities of a John Woo or even a John Wick, but every brutal pummeling in the show is choreographed to maximize moments of bone-crunching horror.

The Punisher may overcome his enemies but he never escapes unhurt, and here is the difference between this show and other thudding heroes... Frank Castle is troubled by what he is, thinking himself a necessary evil in a violent world. He is aware that he is damaged. Compared to the old Stallone and Schwarzenegger movies, Jon Bernthal gives a nuanced performance worthy of an Oscar. I've enjoyed every one of his appearances, which started with Daredevil season 2 and grew from there.

There's only one season of Jessica Jones to go before the Netflix / Marvel collaboration ends. What a shame. I really wish that wasn't the case.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Commando 5207-5210

Spiders, jets, avengers, and rebels! All this in brand new Commando issues 5207 – 5210 out today! Plus, the debut of a new Commando cover artist and the second part of the WAR ACROSS EUROPE trilogy!

5207: WAR ACROSS EUROPE: Resist!

The second instalment of Commando’s one-off, three-part series WAR ACROSS EUROPE! After fleeing their homeland after its invasion, Stefan and Grigor join the French Resistance to take the fight back to the Nazis! With strong iconography of the Free French Forces symbol superimposed over the French flag, Neil Roberts really captures the spirit of the French rebels fighting to reclaim their homeland!

Story: Iain McLaughlin
Art: Morhain & Defeo
Cover: Neil Roberts

5208: Jet Blitz

An exciting aviation adventure brought to life by the incomparable Gordon C Livingstone! A tale of cowardice and blackmail from McOwan, which is so exciting it keeps the audience —and the Hawker Tempest pilot protagonists — collectively on the edge of their seats!

Story: McOwan
Art: Gordon C Livingstone
Cover: James
Originally Commando No. 243 (1967). Reprinted No. 907 (1975).

5209: American Avenger

Commando is very, very, VERY happy to introduce the newest artist to join the squadron, Keith Burns! And what a way to start – with the cover for ‘American Avenger’! There’s so much energy and atmosphere packed into the cover of Ferg Handley’s Pacific war story, we could stare at it for hours! Burns is well know for his wealth of experience and prowess painting aviation covers, so when the Commando Team met him at Military Odyssey in 2018, they couldn't wait to have Burns join to Commando ranks!

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Paolo Ongaro
Cover: Keith Burns

5210: Shadow of the Spider

Along came a spider in this Commando issue! We hope you aren’t afraid of creepy crawlies as there’s a big hairy boy on Alan Burrows eye-bulging cover! What’s more, CG Walker’s plot catches you in its web, and weaves a mystery which traps the reader like a fly! But we’ll keep the story secret for now – we wouldn’t want to string anyone along!

Story: CG Walker
Art: CT Rigby
Cover: Alan Burrows
Originally Commando No. 2952 (1996).

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Releases from Rebellion for 6-7 March 2019.

2000AD Prog 2121

Cover: Simon Fraser

JUDGE DREDD: MACHINE LAW by John Wagner (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SKIP TRACER: LOUDER THAN BOMBS by James Peaty (w) Paul Marshall (a) Quinto Winter (c) (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
THARG'S 3RILLERS: TOOTH AND NAIL by Andi Ewington (w) Staz Johnson (a) Abigail Bulmer (c) Simon Bowland (l)
GREY AREA: THE GREY & THE BLACK by Dan Abnett (w) Mark Harrison (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
JAEGIR: BONEGRINDER by Gordon Rennie (w) Simon Coleby (a) Len O'Grady (c) Annie Parkhouse

Judge Dredd: Cold Wars by Rob Williams, John Wagner, Michael Carroll (w) Trevor Hairsine, Barry Kitson, Dylan Teague, Dan Cornwell, Pj Holden, Colin MacNeil, Paul Davidson (a).
Rebellion 978-1781-08695-7, 7 March 2019, 145pp, £14.99 / $19.99. Available via Amazon.

The timely and critically acclaimed brand-new collection featuring Judge Dredd’s latest thrilling adventures! After returning from a mission into Sov territory, Judge Dredd finds himself at odds with fellow veterans of another past conflict – The Apocalypse War. Under orders from the Justice Department, Dredd returns to the depths of Siberia where things start to go wrong… even his training and iron will might not be enough against the bitter cold, angry mutants and the echoes of past conflicts! Re-awakening the Cold War, this prescient satire on current events viewed through the lense of Dredd’s world is written by legendary 2000 AD creators Michael Carroll (Every Empire Falls, Judges), Rob Williams (Trifecta, Doctor Who) and Dredd co-creator John Wagner, and features breath-taking art by 2000 AD icons Trevor Hairsine (Cla$$War), Dan Cornwell (Rok of the Reds), Paul Davidson (Moon Knight), and Colin MacNeil (Wolverine)

Sunday, March 03, 2019

New Ebay listings

A few items that I'm listing on EBay. Click on the link to see the listing.

Vargo Statten Magazine, v1no1, 1954, Ron Turner cover, stories by Fearn, Tubb SOLD

Vargo Statten Magazine v1no.2, 1954, John Richards cover, stories by Fearn, Tubb

Vargo Statten Magazine v1no.3, 1954, John Richards cover, stories by Fearn, Glasby

Vargo Statten Magazine v1no.4, 1954, Ron Turner cover, stories by Fearn, Tubb, Bayley SOLD

British SF Magazine, ed. Vargo Statten no6, 1954, John Richards cover, stories by Fearn, Tubb

British SF Magazine, ed. Vargo Statten no8, 1954, John Richards cover, stories by Fearn, Burke

British Space Fiction v2no1, 1955, cover by Ron Turner, stories by Fearn, Bulmer

British Space Fiction v2no2, 1955, cover by Ron Turner, stories by Fearn

British Space Fiction v2no3, 1955, cover by Ron Turner, stories by Fearn

British Space Fiction v2no4, 1955, cover by Ron Turner, stories by Fearn, Bayley

British Space Fiction v2no5, 1955, cover by Ron Turner, stories by Fearn, Bayley, Coverless

No Man's Land by George Pratt

Wired, May 1996, James Cameron interview, Greenpeace, etc.

Wired, June 1996, Iain M. Banks interview/story SOLD

Wired, February 1997, George Lucas interview, pirate software, etc.

Wired, May 1999, George Lucas int., Universal theme park, etc.

Giles 24th series, cartoons from 1969-70

Giles 25th series, cartoons from 1970-71, intro by The Two Ronnies 

Giles Annual 28th Series, cartoons from 1973-74, intro. by Mike Yarwood  SOLD

Giles Annual 29th series, cartoons from 1974-75, intro by Tommy Cooper

Giles Annual, 49th Series, cartoons from 1965-84, intro by Lesley Joseph 

Giles - A Life In Cartoons by Peter Tory, Pedigree, 1992, hardcover