Sunday, December 31, 2006

Len Fullerton

Len Fullerton is primarily known as a nature and wildlife artist but had an interesting career before that. The earliest trace of Fullerton I have found is in the late 1930s when, using the pen-name Nat Brand, he drew adventure and science fiction comic strips for various publishers, including 'Derickson Dene' (Triumph, 1939-40), 'Dandy McQueen of the Royal Mounted' (All Star, Comic Adventures, Red Star Comic, 1941-48), 'Crash Carew, Daredevil of the Stratosphere' (Comic Capers, Comic Adventures, 1941-49), 'Halcon, Lord of the Craters' (All Fun, Comic Capers, 1942-49) and various other strips for Soloway, a small war-time publisher who produced a number of comic titles irregularly until 1949. Fullerton was a member of Bill McCail's Mallard Studios in Dundee where he worked alongside many other comic artists including Sam Fair, George Blow, Alf Farningham and Sydney Jordan.

Fullerton continued to draw comic strips in the 1950s, including 'Steve Sampson' for Sports Cartoons and various strips for Lone Star Magazine, annuals and other minor publications until around 1955. Fullerton also contributed to some of the classier comic annuals, including The Children's Own Wonder Book (London, Odhams Press, 1947), Eagle Annual, Swift Annual, Girl Annual and The Scout Story Omnibus (1955).

Fullerton was described as dark, stocky and cheerful with a charming smile by Colin Gibson. "As an artist Len is just about the most modest man I ever met. Yet he has, when one thinks of it, very little to be modest about. He is known to thousands by his magazine covers and drawings, and his newspaper sketches and notes... A lecturer who sketches as he describes, he has given delight to audiences over a wide area." He was elected and re-elected president of Dundee Naturalists' Society.

Len Fullerton was born in Aberdeen in 21 April 1909. He was not from an artistic family, there was a liking and enthusiasm for drawing; his brother and sisters could all draw well and young Len was envious of their ability to draw characters from Dickens in the manner of "Phiz". Fullerton was also a reader of Chums and Boy's Own Paper where he discovered the work of Stanley L. Wood; he would seek out examples of Wood's work, tracing his career back as early as a cowboy illustration in Young England.

Aside from drawing round the kitchen table, Len's great pleasure was to be outside in the woods and fields on Donside, rambling around the countryside on foot or by bike; as his artistic skills grew, he would always take his sketchbook and draw animals, birds, plants and insects.

Fullerton had no formal art training but continued to sketch whilst working in a variety of jobs. In his early teens, Fullerton was advised by an art dealer to send one of his drawings of a tree to the Royal Scottish Academy. It was accepted and a number of other pictures appeared at the R.S.A. before he became too busy with illustration work.

His first paid work was a picture for the closing sale of a local jewellery firm of a herald mounted on a horse with the caption "The House of Quality is passing!" He subsequently moved to Dundee where he found work as an illustrator in the city's Courier offices. He was also working in a music shop where he met his future wife. They were married in the mid-1930s, moving to Newport-on-Tay where they had three daughters.

During the war he worked in an aircraft factory in Dunbarton building Sunderland Flying Boats. His letters home were decorated with little drawings of insect-like men nicknamed "creechers" involved in all sorts of strange activities, frequently playing ancient instruments or wielding antique weapons and firearms; usually they were linked with birds, beasts or flowers. Mrs. Fullerton kept all these envelopes and some were exhibited at the Dundee Art Society.

After the war he was able to make his living as a freelance illustrator. In his early days he drew illustrations for boys' papers and comics, often writing the strips himself. One particularly satisfying piece was a full-page feature on cowboys, a cover feature for Boy's Own Paper with the cover being a stirring illustration by Stanley L. Wood. Fullerton also drew illustrations for romantic fiction and newspaper strips, including the cowboy serial 'Starlight' and the adventures of a wild fox, 'Red Tod'.

Gradually, he came to the realisation that he should be drawing the things he loved. He had been taking night classes in figure drawing and was also drawing from life whenever possible, using any obliging friend as a model. But his real interest still lay in drawing from nature and he spent every spare moment studying books on the techniques of painting and reproduction and on human and animal anatomy. "I studied animal anatomy because I realised that drawing from memory is all important for the nature artist," he later said. "I began to school myself in a method which I believe was used by Whistler and Legros for different ends. Now, besides drawing direct from nature whenever possible, I build up my subjects from observation in the field, intensively memorised.

"I try to achieve the feeling that if you stretch out a hand the bird will immediately spring into the air and away. In all my bird and animal pictures I attempt to get this feeling of aliveness and this, I think, can only be achieved by observation in the field and seizing the living lines."

Apart from illustrations in magazines, annuals and books, Fullerton also produced nature studies for postcards and greetings cards for Valentine; for many years he also drew an annual nature calendar for Valentines and, later, for Jarrolds. He also produced a regular nature strips for the Glasgow paper the Bulletin entitled 'Seen Out of Doors'; when that paper was discontinued, he began a new strip for the Daily Mail entitled 'In the Wild'. He did these pictures on scraperboard so that he could get very clear definition and detail.

Fullerton's favourite haunts were the shores of the local Tay and particularly Tentsmuir, near St. Andrews, which was designated a National Nature Reserve in 1952. The area was originally moorland but planting and drainage, started by the Forrestry Commission in the 1920s, meant that over the years the area became of great botanical interest. Land was gained from the sea and new conifers, planted a short distance above the high water mark, were, by the 1960s, half a mile away from the ocean. Fullerton recorded the changing face of Tentsmuir over the years in his illustrations and paintings and his thorough knowledge of the wildlife and conservation eaerned him the position of Honourary Warden of Tentsmuir Point and Morton Lochs National Nature Reserves.

Fullerton's daughter, Clare, recalls: "He was particularly fond of Tentsmuir and Morton Lochs. Over all thet years I can remember, he cycled down to Tayport every Sunday where he was joined by his friend, Mr. Ellis Crapper. Together they would cycle on to the moors. Mr. Crapper was a keen and knowledgable naturalist. They had a strong bond because of their shared interest.

"As young children, we would be in bed when we heard the latch on the garden gate open, and Dad would come into the garden pushing his bicycle across the gravel path to the shed. When he came into the house we would call, 'What did you see today?' and he would tell us about a squirrel he had watched or a trapped roe deer he had helped rescue or seals on the foreshore or young terns hatching out. There was always a story to tell. he must often have been tired after the long cycle run, but he would take time to tell us something of his day."

Fullerton died on 16 August 1968.


Wild Flowers. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1966.
My First Nature Book. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1967.
Trees. London, Collins & Glasgow, 1967.

Illustrated Books
Diddle the Gosling by Phyllis Kelway. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1947.
House by the Running Water by Phyllis Kelway. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1947.
Twinkle and Winkle, Two Dormice by Phyllis Kelway. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1947.
Bruno the Brown Owl by Phyllis Kelway. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1948.
Caw-Taw. The story of a rook by Katharine Margaret Wilson. London, Hutchinson's Books for Young People, 1948.
The Otter Who Came Back by Phyllis Kelway. London & Glasgow, 1948.
Tales of Wild Bird Life by Harry Mortimer Batten. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1948.
A Breath of Fresh Air by Warham Kay Robinson. London, Lutterworth Press, 1950.
Flip Squirrel by Kenneth Richmond. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1950.
Getting to Know Wild Animals by David Stephen. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1952.
The Story of Rakny by Annie Gladys Taylor. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1952.
The Adventures of Gerard, from The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade, retold by L. M. Paulin. London & Edinburgh, W. & R. Chambers, 1956.
Jackaroos by E. M. Kitching. London & Edinburgh, W. & R. Chambers, 1956.
Birds and Their Eggs by David Stephen. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1958.
Zoo-Man Talks by T. H. Gillespie. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1959.
Zoo-Man Stories by T. H. Gillespie. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1960.
Zoo-Man Tales by T. H. Gillespie. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1960; New York, Taplinger Publishing Co., 1960.
Wonders of Life by L. G. Humphrys. London, Blackie & Son, 4 vols., 1960-61.
More Birds and Their Eggs by David Stephen. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1961.
Zoo-Man Again by T. H. Gillespie. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd, 1961.
Do You Know About Reptiles and Amphibians? by David Stephen. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1963.
A Look at Living Things by B. R. Cox & O. C. Jenks. London, Blackie, 1969.

An Exhibition of Drawings, Paintings and Published Illustrations of the artist-naturalist Len Fullerton compiled by Adam Ritchie. Dundee, Dundee City Museum and Art Gallery, 1973.

(* The pictures are from Swift Annual 2 (1955) and Swift Annual 4 (1957) [the latter erroneously credited to 'Nan Fullerton'] and are © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd. I would like to thank Len Fullerton's daughter, Clare, and Tom Cunningham of Scottish Natural Heritage for their great help in compiling the above information.)

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Terry Freeman

Terence Reginald Freeman contributed to Swift Annual 3 to 7 (1956-60). Born in 1909 and raised in London, he studied at Clapham School of Art and the Royal College of Art where he studied Florentine Renaissance draghtsmanship with a view to painting murals. He taught in various preparatory and public schools and Art schools and worked briefly in an advertising agency and for films. According to Dictionary of British Book Illustrators, "He was a prolific illustrator of children's books, producing unpretentious, reliable pen and ink drawings with a firm line and varied shading and texture."

His illustrations include a number of long-running series, including the Brydons series by Kathleen Fidler, the Penny books by A. Stephen Tring, the Joey series by Robert Martin and the Warren series by Marjorie Sindall. He also illustrated the Carnegie Medal winner The Lark on the Wing by Elfrida Vipont (1950).

Freeman later lived in Tunbridge Wells.

Illustrated Books
The Lark in the Morn by Elfrida Vipont. London, Oxford University Press, 1948.
Stepmother by Gwendoline Courtney. London, Oxford University Press, 1948.
The Buccaneers by William Glynne-Jones. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1949.
Penny Dreadful by A. Stephen Tring. London, Oxford University Press, 1949.
The Brydons in a Pickle by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1950.
The Brydons Look for Trouble by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1950.
The Cave by the Sea by A. Stephen Tring. London, Oxford University Press, 1950.
The Lark on the Wing by Elfrida Vipont. London, Geoffrey Cumberledge/Oxford Unviersity Press, 1950.
Surprises for the Brydons by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1950.
The Brydons Hunt for Treasure by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1951.
The Gauntlet by Ronald Welch. London, Oxford University Press, 1951.
High Trail by Vivian Breck. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1951.
St. Jonathan's in the Country by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1951.
The Brydons at Smugglers' Creek by Kathleen Fidler, London, Lutterworth Press, 1952.
The Brydons Catch Queer Fish by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1952.
The Brydons Stick at Nothing by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1952.
More Adventures of the Brydons (contains The Brydons' Half-Term Holiday and The Brydons Decide to Spring-Clean) by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1952.
Pirouette by Marguerite Dickson. London & New York, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1952.
Treasure Trove by Margaret J. Baker. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1952.
An Actor's Life for Me by Roland Pertwee. London, Oxford University Press, 1953.
The Brydons Abroad by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1953.
The Children of the Warren by Marjorie Sindall. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1953.
Penny Penitent by A. Stephen Tring. London, Oxford University Press, 1953.
Penny Triumphant by A. Stephen Tring. London, Oxford University Press, 1953.
Joey and the River Pirates by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1954.
Joey of Jasmine Street by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1954.
Princess Susan by Ivy Russell. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1954.
Strangers in the Warren by Marjorie Sindall. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1954.
The Young Magicians by Margaret J. Baker. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1954.
The Brydons on the Broads by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1955.
The Family of Dowbiggins by Elfrida Vipont. London, Lutterworth Press, 1955.
Holidays at the Warren by Marjorie Sindall. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1955.
Joey and the Mail Robbers by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1955.
The Moorings Mystery by Alice Sterry. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1955.
Pantomime Christmas by Hilda Hewett. London, J. M. Dent & Sons, 1955.
Penny Puzzled by A. Stephen Tring. London, Oxford University Press, 1955.
Challenge to the Brydons by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1956.
Homer Sees the Queen by Margaret J. Baker. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1956.
Joey and the Blackbird Gang by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1956.
Joey and the Helicopter by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1956.
Joey and the Magic Eye by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1956.
Penny Dramatic by A. Stephen Tring. London, Oxford University Press, 1956.
The Vine Clad Hill by Mabel Esther Allan. London, Bodley Head, 1956.
The Bright High Flyer by Margaret J. Baker. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1957.
The Camerons Lead the Way by Kathleen O'Farrell. London, Heinemann, 1957.
Caravan at the Warren by Marjorie Sindall. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Joey and the City Ghosts by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Joey and the Royalist Treasure by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Joey and the Square of Gold by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Joey and the Squib by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Mon Premier Livre. A preparatory course for young beginners by Albert Lucien Carre. London, University of London Press, 1957.
Penny in Italy by A. Stephen Tring. London, Oxford University Press, 1957.
The Rosary by FLorence Barkclay (abridged & simplified). London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1957.
The Spring of the Year by Elfrida Vipont. London, Oxford University Press, 1957.
The Conch Shell by Mabel Esther Allan. London & Glasgow, Blackie, 1958.
The Cream of Alpines by Frank Barker. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1958.
Dolphin Listens to the Band by Constance Gore. London, University of London Press, 1958.
Hobby Horse Cottage by Miss Read. London, Michael Joseph, 1958.
Homer Goes to Stratford by Margaret J. Baker. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1958.
Joey and the Smugglers' Legend by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1958.
Joey: Soap Box Driver by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1958.
London by Margaret Curry. London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1958.
Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, abridged & simplified by Michael West. London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1958.
More About Dowbiggins by Elfrida Vipont. London, Lutterworth Press, 1958.
The Rival Clubs by Ivy Russell. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1958.
Tip & Run by Margaret J. Baker. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1958.
Joey and the Magic Pony by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1959.
Minty by Barbara Goolden. London, Heinemann, 1959.
The Brydons at Blackpool by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1960.
Changes at Dowbiggins by Elfrida Vipont. London, Lutterworth Press, 1960; as Boggarts and Dreams, London, Hamilton, 1969.
The Concert By the Lake by Rebe Pretwich Taylor. London, George G. Harrap & Co., 1960.
Joey and the Secret Engine by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1960.
The Larchwood Mystery by Pamela Mansbridge. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1960.
Susan, Bill and the Bright Star Circus by Malcolm Saville. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1960.
Five Pairs of Hands by Barbara Goolden. London, Heinemann, 1961.
Homer in Orbit by Margaret J. Baker. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1961.
Joey and the Master Plan by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1961.
Pendrom Under the Water by Mabel Esther Allan. London, George G. Harrap & Co., 1961.
Susan, Bill and the Pirates Bold by Malcolm Saville. London, Thoams Nelson & Sons, 1961.
Watching the Weather by J. M. Branson; illus. with Leslie Haywood. Edinburgh, W. & R. Chambers, 1961.
Into the Castle by Margaret J. Baker. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1962.
Mandy, Dandy & Co. by Mary Gervaise. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1962.
The Brydons Go Canoeing by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1963.
Discovering the Atom by Donald William Hutchings; illus. with Malcolm Carder. London, University of London Press, 1963.
Fire and Warmth by J. M. Branson; illus. with Leslie Haywood. Edinburgh, W. & R. Chambers, 1963.
Help from the Warren by Marjorie Sindall. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1963.
Joey and the Detectives by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1963.
Joey and the Magician by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1963.
Minty and the Missing Picture by Barbara Goolden. London, Heinemann, 1963.
Rabbit and Fox. A story from Canada retold by Mollie Clarke. London, Hart-Davis, 1963.
The Royal Caravan by Constance Savery. London, Lutterworth Press, 1963.
Joey and the Pickpocket by Robert Martin. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1964.
Minty and the Secret Room by Barbara Goolden. London, Heinemann, 1964.
Treasure at Amorys by Malcolm Saville. London, Newnes, 1964.
Homer Goes West by Margaret J. Baker. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1965.
Martin Musters the Sheep by Wilfred George Moore. London, Hulton Educational Publications, 1965.
The Bells of England by Geoffrey Barnard. London, Macmillan, 1966.
Trouble for the Tabors by Barbara Goolden. London, Heinemann, 1966.
Studying Nature. Book 1 by J. C. Gagg. 1967; revised in 4 vols., London, Evans Bros., 1978.
Tales of Swimmers by Edward G. Jerrome. London, Blackie, 1969.
Now: Look-Talk-Write by J. W. Casciani. London, Harrap, 1970.

(* Our illustrations are from Swift Annual 3 (1956) and are © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Donald Bisset (a.k.a. Donald Bissett)

Donald Bissett was the author of hundreds of short tales for Robin in the 1960s. Many featured the character 'Tubby the Odd-Job Engine' based on the characters created by Eileen Gibb. The Tubby stories began appearing from the very first issue of Robin on 28 March 1953 at which time they were probably written by Eileen Gibb, who was credited with the collection Tubby the Odd-Job Engine (London, Hulton Press, 1956), illustrated by Jill Franksen. From April 1954, the Tubby yarns began alternating with other one-off stories, 'Tracey the Tug Boat', 'Basil Bus Stop', etc. Bissett was definitely writing these by 1964, the stories illustrated by Arthur W. Baldwin, and was still writing them in 1966 when the title of the series became 'Honeytown Tales'.

(Eileen Gibb was credited in Robin Annual until no.8 (1960) but receives no credit in the 1962 annual.)

Bisset (note the spelling) also contributed a weekly 'Story for Bedtime' to Treasure in 1968-69.

Donald Harold G. Bisset was born in London on 30 August 1910, the son of a dress designer, and was educated at the Warehousemen, Clerks and Drapers School in Addington, Surrey. He servied as a lieutenant with the British Royal Artillery during the Second World War. He was married to Nancy in 1946 (later divorced), with whom he had one son.

Bisset -- usually as Donald Bissett -- was an actor for radio, television and on stage, appearing with the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Theatre companies. He was a character actor (and an accomplished horseman) whose movie credits included Movie-Go-Round (1949), Murder in the Cathedral (1952), The Brain Machine (1955), Little Red Monkey (1955), Up the Creek (1958), A Touch of Larceny (1958), The Headless Ghost (1959), Battle of the Sexes (1960), Hide and Seek (1963), Eye of the Devil (1966), Two a Penny (1968), Laughter in the Dark (1969), Blind Terror (1971), Escape from the Dark (1976), Warlords of Atlantis (1977), The Thirty-Nine Steps (1978).

His TV credits included Doctor Who, The Professionals, Edward the King (1975), Dixon of Dock Green, The Year of the French (1982), Poirot, etc.

Alongside his acting career, Bisset was a prolific author, often illustrating his own novels and short story collections. Stephanie Nettell, writing in Twentieth-Century Children's Writers, commented, "Innocence is the essential quality of Donald Bisset's work -- a pure, shining, quite unselfconscious innocence that finds a delighted response in a small child's mind and has an extraordinary cleansing effect in an adult's. Of all the writers who protest that they write for only themselves, or the child within them, Bisset is one of the few I would believe. There is genuine simplicity, a total lack of contrivance or artifice or sophisticated humorous hindsight, in his style, plots (if plots there be -- perhaps "sequence of events" is more accurate), characters, and dialogue."

Bisset himself commented: "All my books are modern fairy stories -- animistic in concept -- and, on the surface, nonsensical, but nevertheless they have meanings (varied)."

As an artist, Bisset designed children's posters and produced what Nettell described as "spiky little childlike drawings" which are attractive to the four, five or six-year-old "who has learnt enough of the rules of language, logic, real life, to appreciate seeing them bent ... who is still immersed in the world of fairy stories and nursery rhymes to enjoy the comfortable recognition of their patterns."

Bisset's books were translated into 16 languages. His best-known series featured Yak, a creature from the Himalayas, which was adapted as an animated television series (which Bisset scripted and narrated) in 1975.

Bisset died in London on 10 August 1995.

Books for Children
Anytime Stories, illus. by the author. London, Faber & Faber, 1954.
Some Time Stories, illus. by the author. London, Methuen & Co., 1957.
Next Time Stories, illus. by the author. London, Methuen & Co., 1959.
This Time Stories, illus. by the author. London, Methuen, 1961.
Another Time Stories, illus. by the author. London, Methuen, 1963.
Little Bear's Pony, illus. Shirley Hughes. London, Benn, 1966.
Hullo Lucy, illus. Gillian Kenny. London, Benn, 1967; as Hello Lucy!, Ernest Benn, 1969.
Talks With a Tiger, illus. by the author. London, Methuen, 1967.
Kangaroo Tennis, illus. B. S. Biro. London, Benn, 1968.
Benjie the Circus Dog, illus. Val Biro. London, Benn, 1969.
Nothing, illus. by the author. London, Benn, 1969.
Upside Down Land. Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1969.
Time and Again Stories (selection of stories from Some Time Stories and This Time Stories), illus. by the author. London, London, Methuen, 1970.
Barcha the Tiger, illus. Derek Collard. London, Benn, 1971.
Tiger Wants More, illus. by the author. London, Methuen, 1971; as Ogg, illus. Amelia Rosato. Oxford University Press, 1987.
Yak and the Painted Cave, illus. Lorraine Calaora. London, Methuen, 1971.
Yak and the Sea Shell, illus. Lorraine Calaora. London, Methuen, 1971.
Yak and the Buried Treasure (from an idea by Susan Rutherford), illus. Lorraine Calaora. London, Methuen, 1972.
Yak and the Ice Cream, illus. Lorraine Calaora. London, Methuen, 1972.
Father Tingtang's Journey, illus. by the author. London, Methuen, 1973.
Jenny Hopalong, illus. Derek Collard. Tonbridge & London, Benn, 1973.
Yak Goes Home, illus. Lorraine Calaora. London, Methuen, 1973.
The Adventures of Mandy Duck, illus. by the author. London, Methuen, 1974.
The Happy Horse, illus. David Sharpe. London, Benn, 1974.
Hazy Mountain, illus. Shirley Hughes. Harmondsworth, Kestrel Boooks, 1975.
'Oh Dear', said Tiger, illus. by the author. London, Methuen, 1975.
Paws with Numbers, with Michael Morris, illus. Tony Hutchings. Maidenhead, Berks., Intercontinental Books, 1976.
Paws with Shapes, illus. Tony Hutchings. Maidenhead, Berks., Intercontinental Books, 1976.
The Lost Birthday, illus. by the author. Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1976.
Journey to the Jungle, illus. by the author. London, Beaver Books, 1977.
The Story of Smokey Horse, illus. by the author. London, Methuen, 1977.
This is Ridiculous, illus. by the author. London, Beaver Books, 1977.
The Adventures of Yak, illus. by the author. London, Methuen, 1978.
What Time Is It, When it Isn't?, illus. by the author. London, Methuen, 1980.
Johnny Here and There, illus. by the author. London, Methuen Children's Books, 1981.
The Hedgehog Who Rolled Uphill, illus. by the author. London, Methuen Children's Books, 1982.
The Joyous Adventures of Snakey Boo, illus. by the author. London, Methuen Children's Books, 1982.
Sleep Tight, Snakey Boo, illus. by the author. London, Methuen Children's Books, 1985.
Upside Down Stories, with Alison Claire Darke. London, Puffin, 1987.
Just a Moment!, illus. by the author. London, Methuen Children's Books, 1988.
Please Yourself. London, Methuen Children's Books, 1991.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gino D'Antonio (1927-2006)

Gino D'Antonio, one of the finest artists of comics and much beloved in his native Italy, died on 24 December at the age of 79. Born Luigi D'Antonio in Milan on 16 March 1927, D'Antonio began drawing professionally at the age of 20 and quickly established himself in Italian comics Il Vittorioso and Mondadori. He was one of the first Italian artists to work for the thriving British market in the mid-1950s, drawing for Junior Mirror, Junior Express, Eagle and Boys' World via Cosmopolitan Artists and Creazioni D'Ami. He was one of the best artists used on the Fleetway war libraries, establishing the look for them followed by many of his D'Ami colleagues.

D'Antonio continued to draw for British comics throughout the 1960s, producing strips for Look and Learn and Tell Me Why. In 1967, he launched his most famous series, 'Storia del West', which ran for many years in Europe.

I had the pleasure of briefly corresponding with D'Antonio in the early 1990s (his English was pretty good) and compiling information about his work in the UK for the Italian magazine Fumetto a couple of years ago. D'Antonio's work was amazing and I was looking through copies of Tell Me Why only the other day when I came across the above breathtaking illustration (from an adaptation of Quo Vadis?). His work appeared in the UK for over 15 years and he deserves to be better known.

Pat Lamburn (1925-2006)

Pat Lamburn was one of the innovators of British girls' romance comics in the 1950s, a point that rather slips by the obituary that has appeared in today's The Times (27 December). She was the editor of Mirabelle when it was launched by Pearson in 1956 and could rightly be called the mother of British romance comics (with Bob Lewis, who had launched Marilyn in 1955, the father and, coincidentally, the uncle of Pat Lamburn's assistant editor, Dick Lewis).

Lamburn, born 31 December 1925, was the daughter of Francis John Lamburn, the editor of Pearson's Weekly, and his wife Nell who, under her maiden name Kennedy, was famous in her day as the editor of women's mill girl romance titles like Peg's Paper. Nell Kennedy had launched the romance magazine Glamour in 1939 and her daughter relaunched the paper as a romance comic entitled The New Glamour in October 1956, a few weeks after the launch of Mirabelle.

She continued to be involved editorially in Mirabelle, Glamour and photo-romance comic Marty (launched in 1960) until she was appointed to the board of George Newnes in July 1966. She became a director of IPC Magazines in 1968 and was appointed Director of the Young Magazines Group until 1971 when she was appointed Publishing Director of the Women's Magazine Group.

Comic Clippings - 27 December

Annuals continue to dominate news reports about comics with plenty of headlines about the Doctor Who Annual "exterminating" the Beano Annual. That doesn't actually seem to be the case as the Beano Annual appears to be selling as well as ever, with recorded sales of 187,000. A long way behind Doctor Who, whose sales have now topped 271,500, but on track as far as I can tell -- although there's very little historical data available for comparison. About the same time in 2003, the 2004 Annual had sold 175,000 and in 2001, the 2002 Annual had sold around 195,000. So sales seem to be steady.

A full Top 15 chart was published in The Guardian ('Dennis the Menace meets his match at last as Doctor Who annual tops the publishing charts', 23 December) which estimates that the sales of Doctor Who are valued at £1.2 million. "This is the first time the Beano Annual has been beaten since accurate electronic sales figures began to be collected in 1998, and indeed, the book trade believes, the first time since soon after it was initially published in the 1940s," says Guardian writer John Ezard, although any fule (who wants to nitpick) kno that the first Beano Book appeared in 1939. I'm not sure that you can lay sales of 271,500 at the feet of "The boost from Doctor Who's two prime time Christmas Day specials in a row" as these sales figures all pre-date the Doctor Who Christmas special (as did the article). The fact that it's the BBC's most successful relaunch since Strictly Come Dancing may be fuelling the sales; the Chrismas special also reflects the show's successful run earlier in the year but didn't seem to benefit the annual last year when, according to a Waterstones spokesman, it sold only 80,000 copies ('Dr Who beats Dennis to book crown', BBC online, 23 December).

Anyway, the Waterstones Top 15:

1 Doctor Who Annual 271,551
2 Beano Annual 187,172
3 Bratz Annual 112,044
4 Match Annual 110,076
5 Disney/Pixar Annual 80,703
6 Thomas and Friends Annual 80,557
7 Disney Princess Annual 78,627
8 Dandy Annual 76,886
9 Oor Wullie Annual 70,141
10 WWE Annual 70,141
11 Shoot Annual 68,078
12 Star Wars Annual 63,053
13 The Broons and Oor Wullie 56,902
14 Rupert Annual 52,215
15 Manchester United Annual 50,851

This year's total sales are expected to be over 2.5 million copies (which, I believe, includes compilations like the Best of Smash Hits and the like). Various reprints -- including the new True Brit Commando reprints -- are reviewed alongside newcomers like Heat: The Annual in 'Hic' (The Guardian, 23 December).
  • The Tintin exhibition in Paris is reviewed by John Lichfield in The Guardian ('Tintin's big art adventure', 27 December). The review also mentions a Tintin play which will open in London in 2007 as part of the celebrations of the centenary of HergĂ©'s birth. There was a play, HergĂ©'s Adventures of Tintin, at the Barbican in December 2005/January 2006 (reviewed by Paul Gravett here) and this is being revived next Autumn for a tour culminating in a West End theatre over the Christmas period. (A very good itinerary of events around the world relating to Titin and the centenary celebrations can be found here.)
  • David Lloyd (artist extraordinaire of V For Vendetta and Kickback) has a website.
(* Hope you all had a merry Christmas!)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Gulliver Guinea-Pig's Happy Christmas

As this is probably the last post I'll do until some time next week, I thought I'd post something Christmassy and comicy. And nowhere celebrated Christmas like the nursery comics which were aimed at young children who were going to be more excited about Chrismas than anyone. So here's a short complete yarn featuring my favourite of all nursery comic characters, Gulliver Guinea-Pig. I have (and will continue to) bang on about how good these stories were until cows arrive chez moo.

The prequel (above) is a little bit of unique advertising -- Playhour occasionally slipped in a bit of product placement into their comic strips. Not often, maybe half a dozen times, Ovaltine had a large part to play in some of the back cover colour strips.

The author of Gulliver was David Roberts, one of the unsung writers of British comics who was responsible for many of the best strops in Playhour, including a lot of centre-spread series and a number of other favourites like 'Leo the Friendly Lion' and 'Princess Marigold'. Roberts had a marvellous flair for writing verses with just the right lightness of touch that worked so well with strips like Gulliver. The later strips had descriptive captions typical of the other strips in Playhour, one of the reasons why the early years of Gulliver are such a favourite. Coupled with the artwork by Philip Mendoza, the strip has an effervescence and charm that hasn't been seen in comics for too long. You can forget the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future... in my Christmas dream I get to invite Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman and a handful of other select writers who have a proven track record at writing verse to pen new adventures of Gulliver. And as it's my dream, I get to chose artists... so Brian Bolland, Glenn Fabry, Dave McKean, Dave Gibbons and a few others paint these marvellous little strips.

(* Gulliver Guinea-Pig © Bill Melendez Productions. Merry Christmas, everybody.)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Comic Clippings - 22 December

Guess the big news in British comics is the sale of Comics International, published for an astonishing 200 issues by Dez Skinn. A press release went out yesterday from Dez's Quality Communications which states that, after 16 years in the editorial chair, Dez is stepping down becuase of the "increased workload of exciting new challenges" that he has in development. The sale of Comics International was made after "weeks of aggressive bidding between a number of entertainment and media companies" (it says here) before being handed over to new editor Mike Conroy. Actually, the press release makes no mention of who actually bought the paper. The new owners are a three-way partnership between a chap who works in TV/advertising, who owns 60%, Conroy, who owns 25%, and a comic shop retailer who has a 15% share.

I know many people have had their run-ins with Dez over the years but you can't write off his contribution to British comics over the years, from fanzines like Fantasy Advertiser to his years at Marvel, Top Sellers and his own Quality Communications. Dez was behind Hulk Comic, House of Hammer/Halls of Horror and Warrior amongst others. I don't think it's time to start yelling "The king is dead, long live the king" quite yet... I imagine Dez will be back with something new in the future.
  • The new graphic novel adaptation by Alan Grant and Cam Kennedy of Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped is central to the Edinburgh reading campaign. Details and some nice pages of Cam's artwork can be found in this article, 'Edinburgh's going to get Kidnapped', from The Scotsman (21 December).

Frank Haseler

Apart from his contributions to Swift Annual 1 (1954) and 3 (1956), Frank Haseler also illustrated stories for women's magazines Woman and Woman and Home in the 1960s and 1970s.

Illustrated Books
The Rival Fourths by Nancy Breary. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son, 1955.
The Exciting Summer by Freda Hurt. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1956.
The Larks of Jubilee Flats by Marjorie A. Sindall. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1956 [1957].
Arlott on Wine ed. David Rayvern Allen. London, Willow Books, 1986.

Joyce Horn

Joyce Horn. Er... don't know anything at all apart from an anonymous contribution to Swift Annual 2 (1955).

Illustrated Books
The Magic Market by Jean Morton. London & New York, Frederick Warne & Co., 1928 [later edition?].
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, edited & abridged. London, University of London Press, 1950.
Kangaroo Coolaroo by Lydia S. Eliott. London & New York, Frederick Warne & Co., 1950.
Debbie by Ivy Russell. London & New York, Frederick Warne & Co., 1958.
Little Boy Bill Books (series) by Joan Goldman. London & New York, Frederick Warne & Co., 4 books, 1958.
Stories of Jenny Jackanapes (series) by Joan Goldman. London & New York, Frederick Warne & Co., 4 books, 1958.

Racey Helps

Despite the fact that a Google search for 'Racey Helps' turns up about 24,400 hits there doesn't seem to be one word of biographical information available on the web.

His illustrations were used widely on postcards and card games and Helps was involved with the Medici Society for many years, producing postcards and a series of story-cards (8 page booklets) published by the Medici Society in c.1970. Titles include To Greet You: The Story of the Tea-Kettle House and Christmas Greetings and The Story of the Snow Prince.

Helps was married to Renee (nee Orr) and had at least one son (Julian Racey Helps, b. 1950). I believe he lived in Bristol.

Posters and cards by Racey Helps are still widely available (a quick search will turn up quite a few sites dealing with them).

Update: 6 October 2008
Thanks to a comment left by Gabi I've finally been able to discover something concrete: Racey Helps was born Angus Clifford R. Helps in Bristol on 2 February 1913 and died in early 1971 in Barnstable. He was the son of Clifford R. Helps, who married Dorothy L. Davis in Cardiff in 1911.

OK, it's not much... but it's a start!

Books (written & illus.)
Footprints in the Snow. London, Collins, 1946.
The Upside-Down Medicine. London, Collins, 1946.
Barnaby Camps Out. London, Collins, 1947.
My Friend Wilberforce. London, Collins, 1948.
Barnaby in Search of a House. London, Collins, 1948.
Littlemouse Crusoe. London, Collins, 1948.
Tippetty's Treasure. London, Collins, 1949.
Nobody Loves Me. The story of a Dutch doll. London, Collins, 1950.
Many Happy Returns. London, Collins, 1951.
Barnaby and the Scare-Crow. London, Collins, 1953.
Little Tommy Purr. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1954.
Two from a Tea-Pot. London, Collins, 1954.
Two's Company. London, Collins, 1955.
Barnaby's Spring Clean. London, Collins, 1956.
Prickly Pie. London, Collins, 1957.
The Tail of Hunky Dory. London, Collins, 1958.
Kingcup Cottage. London, Medici Society, 1962.
Diggy Takes His Pick. London, Medici Society, 1964.
The Blow-Away Balloon. Manchester, World Distributors, 1967.
The Clean Sweep. Manchester, World Distributors, 1967.
Pinny Takes a Bath. Manchester, World Distributors, 1967.
Selina the Circus Seal. Philadelphia, Chilton Book, 1967.
Just Wilberforce. London, Medici Society, 1970.
Pinny's Holiday. London, Medici Society, 1970.
Guinea-pig Podge. London, Medici Society, 1971.
Racey Helps' Picture Book, verses by Celia Barrow. London, Medici Society, 1984.

Illustrated Books
My Book of Kittens and Puppies, stories by Ivy Lilian Wallace. London & Glasgow, Collins, 1954.
Animal Alphabet by Helen Wing.
The Marigold Line by Charles Griffiths. London, Collins, 1970.

(* The illustration at the top comes from Swift Annual 4 (1957) and is © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd. A robin... Christmas... I thought it was apt. The second illustration is from a postcard, probably from the Medici Society.)

K. A. Evans

I haven't been able to find out anything about Evans beyond the three contributions (s)he made to Swift Annual, all featuring the character 'Dopey Dannie' which are illustrated here. The three strips appeared in numbers 4 to 6 (1957-59). K. Evans is also listed amongst the authors for the last appearance but clearly signs the page as well, despite not being listed as an artist.

(* Illustrations from Swift Annuals 4 and 5, © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bernard Greenbaum

Updated 27 December 2006

Thanks to Rufus Greenbaum, I have been able to fill in a lot of gaps where Bernard Greenbaum is concerned. Beforehand, the little I knew could be pretty much summed up in one sentence: that he contributed to Swift Annual 1 (1954) and was also a contributor to Girl Annual and drew the strip 'Sweet Sue' in Radio Fun (1959).

Bernard David Greenbaum was born in Brighton on 10 February 1917, the son of Solomon Greenbaum and his wife Edith (nee Etherington), the third of four children, all of whom went on to have creative careers (Hyam as the founding conductor of the BBC Television Orchestra, Alec as a tailor and Kyla as a concert pianist and professor of music at the Royal Academy of Music). Bernard studied the violin but was persuaded by his older brother that he "would never progress beyond the front row of the violins," and should instead concentrate on his talents as an artist.

Bernard studied in Paris under Bernard Meninsky and worked for New Musical Express in the 1930s, doing line drawings of famous musicians of the day as part of a weekly interview feature. Called up in 1940, he served with the 8th Army in North Africa and was with the forces that invaded Sicily. Returning from service, he began studying design and working again in Fleet Street, commuting from his home in Brighton each day.

He married Beatrice Harris in October 1940 and had a son (born 1941) and daughter (born 1946), and moved his young family to Hendon in 1949 where he lived at 14 Chatsworth Avenue, N.W.4 until the late 1960s before moving to a flat in Southampton Row. Working from home, he produced a mixture of advertising artwork, general commercial work and comic strips.

One of his earliest strips was the feature 'Girls Round the World' for Girl, a half-page strip about girls from different countries which he researched and drew. The bulk of his comic work, however, was for D. C. Thomson, for whom he produced 4 pages a week. According to Rufus, "My sister and I were often asked to pose for him so that he could draw the lines of our arms or folds of our sleeves more accurately."

Bernard Greenbaum and his wife emigrated to Safed, Israel, in December 1973 where he took up watercolour painting. Known in Israel as Baruch Greenbaum, he produced around 10 paintings a month which he sold through his own gallery, although in later years they were sold through three or four of the better known art galleries in Israel. He exhibited in Italy, America and Israel and prints of his work -- particularly those featuring landscapes of the Judean HIlls and street life in Jerusalem -- are still available (e.g. here).

Baruch Greenbaum died on 16 November 1993, having produced some 2,000 original paintings which, says Rufus, "have scattered to the far corners of the globe and seem to give much pleasure every day to their owners."

Illustrated Books
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss, retold. London, Collins Clear-Type Press, 1962.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Harold Connolly

Harold Connolly was born in 1893, his full name probably Harold Louis Connolly. According to a review I've seen, "Connolly was a self taught artist who concentrated on cars and motor-cycles becasue, as he put it, 'I could draw wheels.' But his art was much more than that. His illustrations usually had people in them who really looked alive, like true enthusiasts."

A collection of his work for catalogues produced by MG Motors was edited by Louis Connolly (1934- ), his son.

He contributed to a number of annuals, including Lion Annual 1955-57 and two Swift annuals amongst others.

Illustrated Books
Motor Cycle Story, 1875-1905 [text by C. E. Allen]. Peterborough, E. M. Art & Publishing, 1962; as Pioneer Motorcycles, Leatherhead, Surrey, Bruce Main-Smith & Co., 1974.
The Motoring Art of Harold Connolly, ed. Louis Connolly. Southsea, Icon, Nov 2003.

(* Illustrations are from Swift Annual 6 (1959) and 1963 (1962) resoectively and are © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Comic Clippings - 17 December

This week's annuals best-sellers: Doctor Who Annual (29,838), Beano Annual (22,359), Bratz Annual (15,405), Match Annual (14,982). That puts Doctor Who at #8 (same as last week) in the top-sellers of the week, Beano at #14 (up from 18), Bratz at 19 (up from 47) and Match at 23 (up from 31).
  • Alan Moore has an essay on pornography in the latest issue of Arthur (#25, Winter 2006) which can be downloaded as a pdf. The essay is spread over parts 1 and 2, starting on the last page of the former. The new Albion trade paperback from WildStorm -- for which I got roped into writing a little introduction (oddly not mentioned whereas Neil Gaiman's intro. gets a mention on the cover) -- is out now. It arrived the same day as Model & Collectors Mart which has an interview with Leah Moore.
  • Peter Woolcock has a new collection of editorial cartoons out, originally published in The Royal Gazette (Bermuda) where he moved many years ago. Peter was one of the best of the nursery comics artists for thirty years. I had a letter from him only recently about his career which I'll cobble together with some images at some point. In the meantime, below is an example of his adaptation of Wind in the Willows.

(* It has been a hectic week, hence the lack of blogging; I've been dipping in and out of a little essay on Hugh McNeill which will appear when I have a chance to finish it.

(Also went to see Marcus Brigstocke at the Colchester Arts Centre -- if you've ever heard his weekly rants on The Now Show or The Late Edition you'll have a good idea of the kind of material he does live: he's angry, cynical and very, very funny. I thought the audience was a bit hesitant for once -- the Colchester Arts Centre crowd is usually right behind this kind of thing although I noticed the same thing happening when Jeremy Hardy performed here a year or so ago. Maybe we're a little too middle-class liberal here: you could see people starting to laugh and then thinking 'Hang on a sec., that's me he's talking about!' (the classic example being when Marcus began attacking 4x4 owners who don't need to drive 4x4s which has to be half the population of Colchester). Caroline Quinlan, the support act, was a nice surprise, too, although when she walked on, the lack of corduroy obviously had a few people confused.

(The rest of the weekend was taken up in part with typing up the text for the next (eighth) Trigan Empire volume from DLC which is due next February; the seventh volume is just out and can be picked up (along with the Worlds of Don Lawrence: Pandarve collection and The Legacy: Vol.2) via the Worlds of Don Lawrence website.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hugh McNeill

All but forgotten nowadays, Hugh McNeill was one of the major contributors to British comics who helped change the face of British comics in the 1940s. In the pages of The Knock-Out Comic (the hyphen was dropped after six years), editors Edward Holmes and Percy Clarke, along with the paper's newly-arrived sub-editor Leonard Matthews, created what was essentially A.P.'s first modern comic from which sprang Fleetway's much-loved titles of the 1950s and 1960s, Lion, Tiger, Valiant and many others.

Of course, we must not forget the influence of D. C. Thomson's Dandy Comic and Beano Comic
which had arrived in 1937-38, ahead of Knockout's 1939 debut. These three titles effectively started the 'silver age' of British comics, although wartime shortages put the industry into a holding pattern until the end of paper rationing in 1950. The launch of Eagle is therefore usually seen as the starting point of a new comics era as it helped define the revolution that was happening. But the war itself had swept away most of the pre-war penny blacks and tuppenny coloureds and Knockout, along with Radio Fun and Film Fun, was one of the few titles that survived.

Knockout reflected the pre-war format, which mixed humour strips and adventure strips alongside text stories and serials, but introduced an astonishing roster of new artists. During Ted Holmes' enforced vacation from the editorial chair (he served with the R.A.F.), wartime editor Percy Clarke and Leonard Matthews introduced a series of tales based on classic novels -- everything from Gulliver's Travels to Stories from the Arabian Nights -- mostly drawn by Eric Parker but, over the years, introducing newcomers to the comic strip like Michael Hubbard. When Holmes returned he continued to do the same, his tenure marking the arrival of D. C. Eyles; and when Leonard Matthews took over as full editor, he completed the revolution with illustrators Sep E. Scott, T. Heath-Robinson, W. Bryce-Hamilton, Lunt Roberts and H. M. Brock.

But these artists were illustrators rather than comic strip artists and some (like Brock) adapted better than others to the need for the pictures to tell the story. What it took, to really lift the adventure strip, was an artist who was experienced at drawing comics.

Hugh McNeill had, until 1947, been seen as a 'funnies' artist. He had learned his trade via Kayebon Studios where he was apprenticed at the age of 16, and evening classes at the Manchester School of Art. McNeill had already shown a talent for drawing at school, producing pictures of teachers, pupils and animals to entertain his classmates; before long he spread his wings to local church magazines and became the official cartoonist for the Manchester City Boxing Club, producing a booklet of cartoons for sale at boxing matches.

McNeill was present in the first issue of The Beano (30 July 1938) with 'Ping the Elastic Man' and for the first Christmas number created 'Pansy Potter, the Strong Man's Daughter'. Samples of strips submitted to the A.P.'s The Jolly Comic were spotted by Ted Holmes who was looking for contributors for his new paper, The Knock-Out Comic, and McNeill began producing 'Simon the Simple Sleuth' and 'Deed-a-Day Danny'. A few issues later, McNeill took over the strip 'Our Ernie', the young northern lad whose imaginary adventures always ended just before tea-time.

It was only after the war that McNeill began drawing adventure strips, beginning with 'Tough Tod and Happy Annie, the Runaway Orphans' in 1947 and then 'Thunderbolt Jaxon' for Ted Holmes' new series of Australian comics. His skill as an adventure artist developed quickly and strips like 'Deadshot Sue' and 'The Fighting O'Flynn' (the latter based on the movie), published in Sun in 1949-50, show him to be comfortable in almost every genre. David Ashford often singles out 'Dick Turpin' (also in Sun) as his best work, first in a single-page adventure under the title 'Highway Days' (1951) and then in various serials which began in Sun in May 1952. The stories were more gothic in tone and were minor classics of a genre that had its roots in the penny bloods of a century earlier.

McNeill's influence as an adventure artist is little known outside his most ardent admirers. Geoff Campion, a newcomer to the pages of Knockout in the late 1940s, admitted that he learned much from taking over strips from McNeill. McNeill's was the house style that artists were expected to adopt before developing styles of their own.

In 1953, Percy Clarke was responsible for updating another area of the A.P.'s output. Nursery comics were nothing new -- the A.P. had published comics aimed at very young children for almost fifty years in titles like Puck, although The Rainbow, which debuted in 1914, was the premier title of A.P.'s nursery range for many years. By the end of the war, only Rainbow, The Playbox and Tiny Tots survived and by the early fifties all three were looking very old-fashioned and rather tired. The arrival of Robin from Hulton Press in early 1953 prompted the A.P. to put together a new title for youngsters -- to be called Jack and Jill after the famous nursery rhyme. And Hugh McNeill's work was central to this new title.

McNeill was artistically responsible for three strips in the early issues of Jack and Jill, including the cover strip, and his was the style that was stamped on the paper. Jack and Jill themselves, children of around 7 or 8 years of age, were rather banal characters whose adventures were told in four colour frames with a two lines of verse. Jack was dressed in shorts, a shirt, tie and sleeveless jumper in the first episode but switched to a yellow t-shirt in episode two; Jill swapped from a green dress to a red dress and was invariably dressed in red: in summer a red bathing costume and in winter a red coat. This meant the children matched the brightly coloured livery of the paper, with its red masthead and yellow borders and the magazine stood out like a beacon on the newsstands.

Buttercup Farm, where Jack and Jill lived with their parents (the rarely seen Farmer and Mrs. Honey) was the safest, sunniest place in the world. The children could wander around the farm or down to the village without parental supervision and their 'adventures' usually consisted of them enjoying themselves. Activities included having a tea party (livened up when their puppy, Patch, steps in a dish of strawberry jam), walking down the lane on a windy day (a scarecrow's hat flies off and lands on Patch), looking at some ducks, finding a stray lamb, watching Patch play with a bunny rabbit... the tiniest amount of tension arrives when Patch goes missing, only to turn up in Jack's haversack.

Life was safe and sunny, bright and gay (in the old-fashioned sense of the word)... that was the message from Jack and Jill and young children lapped it up. Michael Berry, chairman of the A.P., reported in July 1954 that Jack and Jill "has done very well. It has won general acclaim among parents, school-teachers, and educational authorities. Our early confidence in this attractive colour-gravure weekly for children has been justified and it is good to know that there is still a big demand for this type of paper which has the right kind of contents for young children, together with a high standard of art work, printing, and production. Among new post-war magazines few have aroused greater interest and a sense of promise than this excellent little paper for the young."

McNeill would continue to draw these always delighted children until December 1955, although he shared the strip with a number of other artists before the strip was taken over by Eric Stephens.

McNeill's second strip in the early Jack and Jill related 'The Happy Days of Teddy and Cuddly the Baby Bears'. McNeill brought the same delight that he did for children to these woodland tales as Teddy and Cuddly (Teddy has the white face) get up to all sorts of mischief and the stories are distinguished by some beautifully drawn sequences when the bears roll logs or go swimming.

However, I have to admit that the strip improved greatly when Bert Felstead took over the artwork in 1956. Felstead actually had a background in animation and his abilities at depicting movement and action far outweighed McNeill's on this particular strip.

Why that should be is probably down to the subject matter; I suspect McNeill tried to inject a little realism into the strip and these were, after all, meant to be real bears. The stories were rather gentle and he was already drawing a knockabout character in which he could depict the kind of exaggerated animation that Felstead would bring to 'Teddy and Cuddly'.

This was 'The Fun and Frolics of Harold Hare'. Harold had been around for some years, first appearing as a background character in a text story written by George E. Rochester for the Knockout Fun Book 1946. The following year, Harold starred in his first solo story and, another year later, Hugh McNeill took over the illustrations. Harold and his neighbours from Wild Wood then starred briefly in a comic strip in Sun July-August 1950, although this was drawn by Harry Hargreaves (another ex-animator); a year later, Roy Davis brought the character back, although his run lasted only seven months from August 1951.

It took McNeill's particular brand of humour to bring Harold truly to life and he was to be one of the jewels of the nursery comics crown for the next thirty years, spinning off into a newspaper strip in 1957 and into his own title in 1959 whilst still retaining his place in Jack and Jill until it folded in June 1985, a boast even the title characters cannot claim.

Harold was the epitome of the Mad March Hare and his life is as topsy-turvy as you would expect: he lives in an upside down house on the outskirts of Leafy Wood and, as his close friend Dicky Dormouse sighs at the end of his first mad romp in the pages of Jack and Jill: "There's no peace for anybody when Harold Hare's about."

Harold just wants to fill his life with jam -- jam had become an overriding obsession by the time Harold bounded into Harold Hare's Own Paper -- and fun and running and splashing around. The stories were simple (approximately 30 words per panel, 8 panels per spread) and fun and just the thing for the young audience the paper was aimed.

McNeill saved some of his best work for Harold and continued to draw the strip long after he gave up both Jack and Jill and Teddy and Cuddly. However, his talents were in high demand when Leonard Matthews and Mike Butterworth were putting together Playhour Pictures a few months after Jack and Jill was launched. McNeill briefly drew 'The Wonderful Adventures of Peter Puppet' in late 1954 and later was the debut artist of 'Sonny and Sally of Happy Valley' -- Playhour's Jack and Jill -- in 1956 (again taken over by Eric Stephens).

In 1958, McNeill created another rabbit character for Tiny Tots. 'Bunny Cuddles' was even more obsessed by jam than Harold was: jam for breakfast, jam for dinner, jam for tea, jam for snacks and jam for supper. Bunny lived in Bunnyville and his best friend was the put upon Tiny Mole who is, more often than not, the sane voice when Bunny comes up with more and more elaborate schemes to obtain jam. Tiny even earned himself a regular mini-strip of his own. McNeill continued working on Bunny Cuddles when the strip was transferred to Playhour when Tiny Tots was merged in 1959.

1959 also saw the launch of the oversized Harold Hare's Own Paper which not only contained a full-page Harold Hare colour cover strip but also another McNeill creation, 'Flopsy Flufftail', a female Harold who spends most of her life creatively solving problems which always seem to involve some kind of mess, whether it's a muddy puddle or getting herself covered in glue. A diminutive sidekick was, by now, de rigeur for McNeill's family of rabbits and Flopsy was often dragged out of her latest mess by Freda Fieldmouse.

With three strips on the go -- Harold and Flopsy in Harold Hare's Own were a full page apiece and both Harold (in Jack and Jill) and Bunny Cuddles were two pages apiece -- you would have thought McNeill had enough on his plate. But the A.P. liked to get their best artists involved with new publications and the newly launched Buster had debuted in May 1960. Bill Titcombe had been involved with the launch of the paper and, with Ron Clark scripting, had been drawing 'Buster, Son of Andy Capp' on the front cover, plus a couple of spin-off strips -- 'Buster's Diary' and 'Busters of Bygone Days'. McNeill was present in the early issues with a reprint of an old strip, 'Claude and Cuthbert'. Then there was a bit of an unheaval when Bill Titcombe was dropped from Buster and McNeill took over drawing a new cover strip, 'The Daydreams of Buster' and a new spin-off, 'Buster's Good Deeds', from February 1961. (Why Bill was dropped is a whole other story which I'll talk about sometime soon.)

About a year earlier, Ron Nielsen (a very good artist in his own rights) had started colouring Harold Hare in Jack and Jill when the strip moved to the centre pages. In June, Harold returned to black & white but with Nielsen doing the wash tones. To allow McNeill to work on Buster also meant that another artist took over the Flopsy Flufftail strip in Harold Hare's Own Paper and McNeill trained an assistant, Pamela Cooper, to work with him on other strips, inking and (mechanical) toning the Harold Hare strip in the same paper and the Bunny Cuddles strip in Playhour.

'Buster's Good Deeds' came to an end to allow McNeill to work on 'Our Village', a double page spread in Jack and Jill, coloured by various artists including Arnold Beauvais, Peter Ashmore and Eric Stephens, and create another newcomer, 'The Funny Adventures of Nutty Noddle' for Robin. These knockabout adventures of a forgetful squirrel were soon taken over by Pamela Cooper who, by now, was able to perfectly mimic McNeill's style of drawing.

In 1962, McNeill left 'The Daydreams of Buster' but continued his association with that paper drawing 'Tim & Vicky, the TV Twins' and, over the next few years, was to draw 'Life With Uncle Lionel' in Princess, 'The Trolls' and 'Willy the Wily Wolf' for Tina, both of which continued with Princess and Tina merged as Princess Tina in 1967.

McNeill continued to draw Harold Hare into the 1970s as well as creating the occasional new strip such as 'Giggles Galore' and 'Gussie the Girl Guide' for Pixie and 'Meet the Beans' in Bonnie which proved to be his last strip creation. In 1976, McNeill suffered a stroke which left him unable to draw. He died at his home in Sussex on 22 November 1979, aged 68. A day later it was announced that he was to receive the Ally Sloper Award for his contributions to comic art.

McNeill's contributions to nursery comics have rather been overshadowed by his work in Knockout (even the creation of 'Pansy Potter, the Strong Man's Daughter' for The Beano tends to be a footnote). Hopefully this scamper through the topsy-turvy world of McNeill's later creations helps redress the balance a little.

(* A huge thanks to Norman Wright for the photograph of Hugh McNeill and his wife which heads this little essay. Our Ernie and Dick Turpin artwork is © IPC Media; all other characters and artwork are © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)


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