Thursday, March 08, 2007

Tom Kerr

John Freeman's Down the Tubes (7 March) has revealed that IPC once planned a comic to feature a character named Captain Britain. The initial design for the character was by Tom Kerr and was recently dug up by Dez Skinn who had proposed the new title over three decades ago. The project was known only as JNP (Juvenile New Project) 55 and pre-dated Marvel's Captain Britain, launched in 1976; as Dez was working for IPC around 1970/72, the idea presumably dates from around that time.

The title would have been something new for IPC as the lead story was intended to run for 15 pages per issue. Many of IPC's regular artists (including Mike Western) and, according to Dez, "With a Jesus Blasco back up strip and the inevitable football strip accompanying the main story, it went through several versions." Eric Bradbury eventually redrew the first two episodes at the behest of Jack Le Grand. The script was written by Tom Tully and the story lettered by Jack Potter and coloured by Gina Hart.

You have to wonder why IPC did not pursue the project, although it may simply have been the case that they lacked faith -- in the early Seventies IPC's boys' adventure comics were losing sales across the board and even the long-running Lion was to fold in 1974. It would not be long before IPC called upon the talents of Pat Mills to revamp their line with three new titles, Battle Picture Weekly, Action and 2000AD which, although they gave more space to each strip (some ran to five or six pages per episode), they were still traditional weekly anthology titles with six or seven strips in total. Perhaps the idea of a 15-page lead strip was a step too far from tradition.

Reading the news got me thinking about Tom Kerr; John quotes Dez as saying "Tom's one of the unsung heroes of British comics," and it's perfectly true. He had a career that lasted at least 30 years and he worked on some of the most popular titles of the 1960s and early 1970s -- Knockout, Valiant, Princess, Buster, Jag, Lion, Eagle, Thunder, Jet... there weren't many Fleetway titles that he didn't contribute to. To this list you can add TV 21, Lady Penelope, Solo
and Look-In to his CV.

The earliest strip I know of dates way back to 1949 in a one-shot published by Philmar called Pets' Playtime Comic. He next surfaces in Weekend Mail Comic in 1955 with 'Fay' and (post-Frank Bellamy) 'Monty Carstairs' in Mickey Mouse Weekly. Kerr was also producing cartoon strips for Marilyn ('Mum', 'Wham! My Man!') and remained with girls' comics for some years -- School Friend, Girls' Crystal and June -- and dipping into boys' comics only occasionally. 'Rip Kerrigan' featured in Buster in 1961-62, but Kerr was often given fill-in jobs rather than his own strips, including 'Kelly's Eye', 'Captain Hurricane', 'The Steel Claw', 'Charlie Peace', 'Kraken' and 'Black Axe', usually for a matter of weeks while the regular artist took a holiday or recovered from illness. Kerr's longest run on strips were for Princess where he drew 'Life with Uncle Lionel' (1963-65) and 'Mary Jo' (1964-67). His longest run on a boys' title was probably with 'Oddball Oates' which he drew in Lion for 18 months in 1969-70.

In the 1970s, Kerr could be found drawing for D. C. Thomson's nursery comics Twinkle and Little Star... and that would seem to be where he ended his career. The Thomson girls' and nursery comics are very poorly indexed at the moment and more strips by Kerr may turn up in the future.

Kerr was represented by B. L. Kearley in the early 1960s and probably only rarely met with his editors which perhaps explains why nothing is known about him. Tom or Thomas Kerr is rather too common a name to track him through genealogical records. Hopefully a friend or relative will read this and get in touch and help fill in some vital information about Kerr and his work.

(* 'Phil the Fluter' appeared in Lion and is © IPC Magazines.)


  1. If I compare pages,Tom Kerr must have been one of the artists who draw Billy's Boots in Scorcher (1970) for a while.
    Before other artists took over. Among them John Gillat..

  2. Hi Alex,

    It wouldn't surprise me in the least. Kerr was more than capable of drawing a couple of strips a week and was doing three in 1971: Crowther in Trouble in Look-In, Phil the Fluter in Lion and Orphan Alone in June. Plus the Clarks Commandos advertising strip. In 1970 he was doing Oddball Oates, so a second strip seems likely.

    Unfortunately, there are still big holes in my contents lists for Scorcher and the other football comics (Score 'n' Roar, Scorcher and Score). I'll have to see if I can dig out copies of them one day.

  3. Hello Steve,

    I'am sure now. Tom Kerr did Billy's Boots in Scorcher from 28th March 1970 till 9 October 1971.

    The first artist on Billy is C.Page.(?) The writer Fred Baker.They never change the credits in the Dutch publications,but I don't believe Fred Baker wrote is for 30 years. About the art,it is clear to see when another artist took over. Although the translation between and Tom Kerr is done very clever. If you want,I can mail some samples.


  4. Hi Alex,reading this a year later.C.Page could be Colin Page!Can you send on some samples?The interesting thing is that Tom Kerr and Colin Page both drew Adam Eterno for Thunder comic.So I would be able to spot the differences/similarities,
    regards,The Cap!

  5. First artist to draw Billy's Boots (pages 1-5) was Mike Western.



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