Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Philip Mendoza [Montague Phillip Mendoza]

I've mentioned Mendoza a few times on this blog, most prominently back in early December in a piece that examined his relationship to Dan Mendoza, the boxer. Today, I came across the above illustration which reminded me that, wearing my 'archivist' hat at Look and Learn, I have an outstanding query about Mendoza and his work.

There isn't a great deal known about Mendoza. His full name was Montague Phillip Mendoza, so when the British Library carefully correct the spelling of Phillip to Philip they do him a slight injustice (as do I sometimes). He was born in Dalston, London, on 14 October 1898, the son of Alfred Moses Mendoza and his wife Annie. Alfred was the son of Mordacai Mendoza, originally a clerk who became the Keeper of the Jew's Burial Ground in Mile End, London. Alfred, born in Spitalfields, grew up in Tower Hamlet and Mile End and was married to Annie Harriet Dobby in 1897; his new wife was born in Hatcham, Surrey (a later census gives Newcross, London), the daughter of Thomas (a builder's clerk) and Jane Dobby.

Little is known about the family, although as early as 1881, the then 21-year-old Alfred was listed in the census as an artist. Shortly after Phillip was born, the family moved north and a younger brother, Carl Lawrence Mendoza, was born in Tynemouth, Northumberland, in 1900. At the time of the 1901 census, the family were living at Ashton-Under-Lyne, Lancashire. Alfred is there listed as an artist, painter and sculptor, although I have yet to trace any of his work.

At the age of 14, Mendoza is said to have followed in the footsteps of Phil May by becoming a pavement artist, although this early artistic career was interrupted when he served as a private with the Army Service Corps during 1914-20.

Mendoza joined a firm of theatrical poster printers and also began freelancing political cartoons under a pen-name. At the time he became a popular poster designer but thought that most of his best work was turned down by conservative advertising agencies who disagreed with his notion that pictures, rather than more copy, sold products and ideas.

Under the name 'Flam', Mendoza drew the comic strip 'The Man You'd Like to Kick' for the Sunday Express, a character he revived during the war and submitted to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. RoSPA were looking for a more sympathetic character which Mendoza designed; the new character was called 'Percy Vere'. Mendoza later became the illustrator of another RoSPA character, Tufty, when his adventures began appearing in Treasure in the 1960s.

I believe I have traced Mendoza through various addresses in London the 1920s and 1930s: he was living at 43 Blenheim Crescent, W.11 (fl. 1926-27), 9 Triangle, W.10 (fl. 1928-29), 59A Bassett Road, W.10 (fl. 1931-34) and 35 Creswick Road, W.3 (fl. 1935-39). He was living at the latter address in West Acton when one of his paintings was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1939. During the war he produced a series of posters for the Ministry of Labour (some of which can be found in the Imperial War Museum) and for RoSPA. A 56-page comic strip biography of Winston Churchill appeared in 1942.

Mendoza had become a popular illustrator for the Evening Standard and magazines such as Lilliput and was also involved with a number of political books and magazines. He was introduced to publisher Stephen D. Frances of Pendulum Publications in around 1945 by the editor of Russia Today and his commissions for Pendulum included the autobiography of trade unionist Arthur Peacock; later, for the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers, Mendoza illustrated The Building Workers' Struggle, a 36-page centenary souvenir booklet. Whether Mendoza was politically active or simply spreading his net for work I cannot guess.

His connections with Frances led to some varied commissions. Pendulum Publications produced a wide range of titles and Mendoza produced covers for Jinn and Jitters, a fantasy anthology, and Tom Phillips' Cheap Glory, both published in 1946. Frances also published, under the imprint of Denlee Publishing Co., a 16-page comic entitled The Mighty Atom which featured a range of characters from cover star 'Thor, Sinister Ruler of a Strange Planet' to gang buster Gat Williams, highwayman Bill Nevison and a cowboy Robin Hood named The Oklahoma Kid. Unfortunately, the 6d. price tag for this ambitious, all-colour comic was too much for the young audience and it lasted only one issue.

Following the collapse of Pendulum, Frances had set himself up as a one-man writing and publishing industry, first of all banging out westerns on his typewriter before his distributors suggested that the market was awash with westerns. Pendulum had published two American-style gangster thrillers written by Frances, the first hacked out over a weekend to fill a printing slot. Thus was born Hank Janson. And when Frances needed a device to epitomise the tough, trench-coated hero of his new novels, he again turned to Mendoza who created the silhouette figure that would appear on the back page of dozens of Hank Janson best-sellers.

Frances also linked Mendoza with Scion Ltd., for whom he was writing another series of crime novels under the pen-name Duke Linton. Mendoza went on the draw dozens of covers for Scion, using a variety of noms-de-plume of his own: Gomez, Ferrari, Garcia, Grimaldi and Zero, producing everything from some of the sexiest 'good girl' cover art for Scion's American gangster thrillers to Westerns and Science Fiction. When the regular artist of Hank Janson was too busy to produce covers for two of the novels, Mendoza stepped in to deputise.

Mendoza's cover art was not limited to the low end of the paperback market and, under his own name, he produced a handful of covers for Pan Books.

In late 1951, Mendoza launched himself into a new career as a comic strip artist for the Amalgamated Press, his first strips appearing in issue 4 of Thriller Comics, the newly launched pocket library. Over the next few months, Mendoza drew episodes of 'Robin Hood', 'The Three Musketeers', an adaptation of 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves' and, for Cowboy Comics, 'Kit Carson'. At the same time he was producing illustrations for Sun comic ('The Golden Whistle', 'The School Against Him') before tackling his first weekly strip, 'Jak of the Jaguars' (1952).

Strips in Thriller Comics, Super Detective Library (a superb adaptation of 'The Island of Fu Manchu'), Comet and Sun were supplemented by the launch of Captain Vigour, an American-style monthly featuring the titular character, "the Strongman of Sport", whose adventures as a former Olympic champion in search of athletic talent also helped the publisher, Sports Cartoons, sell body building books and other products. Mendoza was soon to be replaced by another British comics giant, Jim Holdaway.

Mendoza's work on the boys' adventure titles diminished in 1954 with the launch of Playhour Pictures, a new comic aimed at younger readers launched in the wake of the success of the Amalgamated Press' Jack and Jill. Mendoza at first drew the centre-spread, a single panoramic colour illustration, but it proved to less of a success than other, more knockabout single-panel strips that had appeared in children's comics since the days of 'Casey Court'.

Mendoza quickly found his forte, drawing a number of cover illustrations of anthropomorphic animals, a hugely popular sub-genre of nursery comics which often took the everyday and turned it into something magical. Animals with human characteristics had been a staple of British comics since the 1920s and the huge success of 'Tiger Tim'. However, Mendoza's were not the rounded, cartoony animals of Herbert Foxwell nor the delicate watercoloured bunnies of Beatrix Potter, they were the more robust creatures of Ernest Aris. They had the spikes and ruffled fur of creatures that looked as if they could have actually just come from a hedgerow or corn field.

Once established in the pages of the nursery comics, Mendoza rarely left: apart from his ongoing work on 'Strongbow the Mohawk' for Comet and a spell drawing the 'Paul Temple' newspaper strip, he would stick almost exclusively to comic strips for the very young.

It was a task he excelled at. Mendoza wrote and illustrated a number of colour strips featuring a fairy by the name of 'Princess Petal' whose adventures ran in Playhour Annual for some years (1956-59). In 1958, David Roberts, the assistant editor of Playhour, created a new character for the weekly paper's back page, 'Gulliver Guinea-Pig', a roving world-traveller whose adventures on and off the map would run in the comic for over seven years. Roberts' vivid imagination took Gulliver to countries around the globe, visiting friends and relatives and seeking adventure or warmth from a harsh winter. Once he had visited everywhere from Japan to darkest Africa, Roberts sent Gulliver to meet the inhabitants of Long-Ago Land, Rainbow land and Nursery Rhyme Land. Over the years, Gulliver would climb Everest, fly to the Moon, fall through the screen of his TV and visit the land of fairy tales... all beautifully depicted by Phillip Mendoza in full colour until the strip was taken over by Gordon Hutchings in 1961.

In 1959, Mendoza was also to become associated with another character (two, in fact): 'The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse' was a brief fable by Aesop which was taken as the starting point for two distinct series linked by their artist. 'The Town Mouse' was a brief series in Tiny Tots which was just about to fold into Playhour where 'The Nursery Rhymes of Katie Country Mouse' began on 31 January 1959. In this series, Katie was a briefly-used framing character who told stories stories (drawn, for the most part, by Ron Nielsen). Katie would then begin a series of her own adventures on the back page of Harold Hare's Own Paper on 14 November 1959. This Katie was a resident of Bluebell Wood, also home to dozens of other species of small woodland animals, the stories written with great charm by George Allen, John Gill, David Roberts and others. When Harold Hare's Own folded into Jack and Jill (23 May 1964) Mendoza took his leave of the strip, handing over to H. Tamblyn-Watts.

Both 'Gulliver Guinea-Pig' and 'Katie Country Mouse' would continue to appear for some time and the stories were still being reprinted over twenty years later.

In early 1963, Mendoza became associated with Treasure, a junior educational paper launched because of the huge success of Look and Learn. Apart from drawing the illustrations for the weekly adventures of 'Tufty', Mendoza was also given the chance to tackle a number of classic children's books that were serialised over the next few years. 'The Borrowers', 'The Wind in the Willows', 'The Water Babies', 'Gulliver's Travels' and the two Alice novels, 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Alice Through the Looking Glass'.

During this period, Mendoza also drew 'Rolf Harris & Coojibear' and 'All at Sea' for the short-lived TV Toyland (1966-67), the latter continued in Playhour when the papers merged, before becoming associated with a second version of 'The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse'. Launched on 15 February 1969, Once Upon a Time was one of the finest-illustrated nursery comics to appear in this country. Written almost entirely by Barbara Matthews, the title ran for 167 issues (the last dated 22 April 1972) and Mendoza provided a full-page illustration to accompany the Matthews-written text adventures of Winifred and Stephanie. With a full page to play with, Mendoza provided a stunning array of animal antics; the stories often played with the contrast between Winifred, the down-to-earth country mouse, and her cousin, Stephanie, who had airs and graces, and allowed Mendoza to indulge his sense of humour in a way that his strip work did not allow although he had, some years earlier, drawn a weekly cartoon for Top Spot entitled 'Old Mendoza's Horror-Scope' (1959).

Mendoza's sense of humour was wicked when allowed full rein. In his days of illustrating western comics, he had been asked by an author to picture a "painted savage eating some nameless horror." Mendoza drew an Indian eating a baby's arm. Needless to say, the picture was changed before it saw print.

Although Mendoza spent years depicting the most delicate of woodland creatures, nothing could be further from the truth of Mendoza himself. Solidly built and swarthy, although not tall, echoes of his famous pugilistic ancestor, Daniel, Mendoza was of Spanish stock, although the family had lived in England for six generations. He had something a gypsy air to him, wearing a brightly-coloured neckerchief which added to the effect. (It is said that he spent some of his early years in South America but I have not been able to confirm this.)

Mendoza was married and had two daughters and a bull-terrier to whom the family were devoted. He drove around in an old-fashioned Bentley coupe, racing green in colour. He was, as many were, fond of his drink and was recalled by one colleague as "like Oliver Reed but without the temper." His fondness for the bottle unfortunately began to have a detrimental effect his work as the 1960s progressed; he was more often than not late delivering artwork and his editor would usually have to send someone round to his flat to collect it. It reached a point where he was incapable of drawing panel borders and incomplete artwork often had to be taken back to the office and hurriedly finished off in-house.

Phillip Mendoza died in 1973. He left behind an astonishingly versatile body of work, from the adventures of rugged pirates and highwaymen to the delicate lace undies of 'dames' and 'molls' and the delicate features of mice and moles. Some of his illustrations appeared in reprint books some years after his death but Mendoza is one of many British talents who deserve to have their work made more widely available.

Illustrated Books
It Occurs to Me by Yaffle, illus. by Flambo. London, New Leader, 1925.
Foiling the Red; or, The Heart of a Labourer. A review in one or more scenes by Yaffle, illus. by Flambo. London, Labour Publishing Co., 1926.
Bullets for Baldwinism. Points against the Tory Government from the "New Leader" with cartoons by "Flambo". London, I.L.P. Publication Department, 1929?
The English: Are They Human? by Dr. G. J. Renier. London, Williams & Norgate, 1931; 4th edition, London, Ernest Benn, 1956.
Letters to John Bull and others, ed. Robert the Peeler (David Davies). London, Williams & Norgate, 1931.
Hail, Hitler! The Nazi speaks to the world, introduced by V. London, Christophers, 1934.
The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame. London, Methuen, 1936.
The Early Life of Winston Churchill. London, E. J. Burrow & Co., 1942.
Biggles Charter Pilot. London, Oxford University Press, 1943.
Yours Fraternally by Arthur Peacock. London, Pendulum Publications, 1945.
Pity the Poor Rich by Yaffle. London, George Allen & Unwin, 1946.
The Building Workers' Struggle. Centenary souvenir. London, Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers, 1950.
The Story of the Engineers. Centenary souvenir. London, Amalgamated Engineering Union, 1951.
The Past Presented by A. M. Low. London, Peter Davies, 1952.
Katie Country Mouse to the Rescue. London, Fleetway Publications (Jack & Jill Books 3), Mar 1962.
Gulliver Guinea Pig's Magic Diary. London, Fleetway Publications (Jack & Jill Books 7), Apr 1962.
Katie Country Mouse Goes to London. London, Fleetway Publications (Jack & Jill Books 14), Sep 1962.
Gulliver Guinea-Pig's Mystery Trip. London, Fleetway Publications (Jack & Jill Books 18), Oct 1962.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, adapted by Barbara Sleigh. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1983.
Town Mouse and Country Mouse Stories by Barbara Hayes:
__Annabel Visits the Country. London, Blakie, 1986; New York, Modern Publihsing, 1986.
__Up, Up and Away. London, Blackie, 1986; New York, Modern Publishing, 1986.
__Flora Goes to Town. London, Blackie, 1986; New York, Modern Publishing, 1986.
__Adventures in the Water. London, Blackie, 1986; New York, Modern Publishing, 1986.


  1. Hi,

    I really enjoyed reading your research on Philip Mendoza, as I am his great grand-daughter. I would really like to get in touch as I believe we could exchange more information. I am currently researching my family tree, and this is certainly one of the more interesting parts!

    My email address is nattywoody "at" gmail dot com.

    I would really look forward to hearing from you,



  2. The English: are they human? / by G.J. Renier

    Illustrated by Mendoza.

    Author: Renier, Gustaaf Johannes, 1892-1962

    First published in May, 1931.

  3. Title : The Reluctant Dragon
    Authors : Illustrated By Mendoza Kenneth Grahame
    Binding : Hardcover
    Publisher : Methuen
    First Published : 1936-01-01

  4. Hi,

    I befriended Phil and his wife when they lived near the Willesden Green Synagogue, until I went abroad in Dec 1972. She died in 1971? They were both characters. You can contact me at gakingston@btinternet.com.


  5. Title : Letters to John Bull and Others
    Authors :Robert the Peeler [Illustrated by Mendoza]
    Binding : Hardcover
    Publisher : Williams and Norgate Ltd, London, 1931

  6. Hail, Hitler! The Nazi Speaks to the World [Hardcover]
    Illustrated by Mendoza
    Publisher: Christophers; 1st Edition (1934)
    ASIN: B000L99OCA



Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books