Saturday, September 29, 2007

Kids today...

... just wouldn't want to read the kind of comics we used to get when we middle-aged folk were children. I've heard this stated many, many times. I've always argued that, given the opportunity, they would. And here's the proof:

Simply put, they aren't given the opportunity because everyone knows that kids won't sit down and read comics. They know what kids want. Well, this particular kid had the run of my office today, was allowed to choose what she wanted to read and chose... 1959 vintage Harold Hare's Own Paper. No prompting, no "would you like to read this?" from me, just "have a look and let me know what you pick." (I have to say that because some of the comics are fragile and some aren't mine and some aren't suitable for little kids.)

OK, maybe my straw-poll of one child is not enough to persuade anyone to risk hundreds of thousands of pounds on launching an "old-fashioned" comic. But, please, don't tell me kids today just wouldn't want to read the kind of comics we used to get when we middle-aged folk were children. Because, given the choice and the opportunity, one did.

Arthur Ferrier [video]

Something for the weekend...a double dose of Arthur Ferrier for your delectation and delight. If you don't know Ferrier's work he was a glamour cartoonist of some renown, drawing 'Our Dumb Blonde' for the Sunday Pictorial, which was hugely popular during the Second World War, 'Spotlight on Sally' for the News of the World, 'Film Fannie' for Everybody's and 'Eve' for the Daily Sketch. He's usually thought of as the natural successor to Norman Pett and 'Jane'.

The first reel is dated 13 March 1924 and is something of an oddity.

Mr Arthur Ferrier - the well known artist - paints the nails of Miss Frances Carson - actress in "Havoc". The setting is an opulent drawing room. Miss Carson is dressed in an extravagant silver dress and cape with ostrich feathers. Extremely glamorous! She hands Mr Ferrier a piece of paper showing the designs she requires on her nails. C/U of the paper showing the following images drawn onto nails: a love-heart, a man's face, a diamond, a horseshoe and a question-mark. The artist takes Miss Carson's cape and she sits on a sofa which is high on a platform. Mr Ferrier kneels at her feet and proceeds to paint the designs on her nails. C/U of him painting on the nails. C/U of Miss Carson laughing. She admires her nails. C/U of the nails under a magnifying glass. Very cute.

Our second movie is dated 30 October 1944 and more of what we expect from Ferrier as Eileen Bennett poses for the artist as he turns her into "Sally".

(* The above film reels are © British Pathe Limited.)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Frank Hampson drawing Dan Dare [video]

Thanks to Ray Aspden, Barnaby, Jeremy Briggs and Mark Pontin who have commented or contacted me directly, the mystery of the Frank Hampson art board has been resolved. You'll find an update below the video. For anyone who missed this first time round, here's the original question...

Some of you will remember clips of this film reel appearing in the second part of the recent Comics Britannia. The reel dates from 20 February 1956 and I've got a feeling that the page Frank Hampson is seen working on doesn't exist: in February '56, the 'Rogue Planet' storyline had been running for a couple of months and Sir Hubert had no part in the storyline which was to rumble on for another year. It doesn't look like a rough for an annual -- the layout is very much an Eagle front cover. Do any Dan Dare experts know where the page appeared or is it another "lost" Hampson page?

(* The above film reel is © British Pathe Limited.)

Ray Aspden was first out of the gate to tell me that "The bottom half of the page in the film clip is almost Eagle vol.6 no.28, Man from Nowhere, 15 July 1955, except that the piece of Sir Hubert's arm being coloured in is occupied by Lero the Crypt in the published page. The main panel is, as you say, unpublished and doesn't make narrative sense, given that the Crypt ship it shows had exploded and crashed into the Pacific by this time."

It is widely known that Frank Hampson produced incredibly detailed 'roughs' for each page of Dan Dare; however, Barnaby (see comments below) tells us that the piece above was filmed on 17 January 1956, so it is clear that this was a page that Frank created solely so that he could be seen drawing Dan on camera.

Ray adds: "The board behind Hampson looks like the iconic full page view of Mektonia from Eagle no.15." Below you'll see the fate of the Crypt spaceship (related in vol.6 no.21, 27 May 1955) plus the cover that Ray refers to which does indeed look like it's lurking in the corner of Frank's studio.

Jeremy Briggs asks: "Is that Don Harley putting the Treen mask on Peter Hampson?" Yes, Don was Hampson's main assistant on Dan Dare at the time and was one of the chief 'actors' at the Hampson studio when it came to taking reference photos for the strip. The chap in the spacesuit I think is Eric Eden. Joan Porter, Frank's long-time assistant can also be seen looking at the page towards the end of the clip.

The Crypt spaceship seen above crashes into the Pacific and it's interesting to see how the page was constructed -- which we can thanks to Alastair Crompton's The Man Who Drew Tomorrow, which reproduces Frank Hampson's rough along with some of photographs used for various frames. It's good to see that Don was co-credited with the strip around this time via the double signature in the middle frame.

(* Dan Dare is © Dan Dare Corporation.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007


The old Fleetway war libraries are starting to haunt me. Having been involved in two reprint books (Unleash Hell and Death or Glory) and an index (The Fleetway Picture Library Index Vol. 1: The War Libraries), the latest book through the door is none other than David Roach's collection of war covers, Aarrgghh! It's War.

With 400 pages chock full of cover reproductions -- many from original artwork -- this is probably the most colourful book ever produced about British comics. The reproduction of the covers is superb, although I suspect some of the artwork has been cleaned up. Good in one sense (you get to see the covers pristine as they were intended to look with very few blemishes on show) but not so good if you wanted to look at some warts-and-all art boards.

Following the foreword by James May, David Roach evokes the memory of buying these books when he was a kid and the grittier style that War Picture Library had over the gung-ho adventures of Battler Britton and Spy 13 that were appearing in Thriller Picture Library at the same time. The focus of the book is on the covers and this is where David comes into his own, offering some fascinating details about the artists whose work he (and I) so long admired but who, for the most part, were nameless. David (metaphorically) raises a glass to the talents of Giorgio De Gaspari, Pino Dell'Orco, Alessandro Biffignandi, Nino Caroselli, Graham Coton and Oliver Frey, amongst others and discusses the fate of the original artwork and how, in 2005, he found himself in a freezing cold warehouse in Camden Town, surrounded by stacks of old comic pages and paintings. I was there, too, on a couple of occasions and, believe me, it was an experience.

The remainder of the book is split into three sections covering war on land, in the air and at sea, each with a brief introduction followed by page after page of covers. Some have been greatly enlarged, zooming in on a section of art until you can see every brush-stroke. Other pages reproduce covers four to a page, each with the artist identified -- only a tiny handful of the over 500 covers reproduced are by unknown hands.

My favourite section has to be the air war covers, mostly from Air Ace and War picture libraries, which contains 200 covers of incredible diversity. The artists put every ounce of imagination they could into them and, beyond the technical skill of being able to depict a plane in flight, there's incredible power and majesty in many of the illustrations.

The index to artists at the rear is occasionally awry (for instance, promising two illustrations by De Gaspari on page 38 when there is only one, ditto for page 121) but I've noticed only one actual error and one factual error: the illustration on page 382, supposedly Battle 244 is, in fact, a close-up of War 244 which is reproduced in full on page 151; and Pat Nicolle's name is mis-spelled Nicholle in the index and on page 35. Trifling mistakes given the scope of the volume.

I thoroughly recommend getting hold of a copy. If you're reading this, you're only a click away from Amazon where they're offering the book for half price. With so many of the pictures scanned from the original artwork and printed on good paper stock, the book really does live up to the promise that these little masterpieces have never looked so good.

Death Or Glory

Death Or Glory (Battle Picture Library Collection No.1) was released by Prion (an imprint of Carlton Books) in September 2007. The book is available from at a hefty discount, as is it's companion, Unleash Hell.


Shock Tactics (BPL 66, Jul 1962), Art: Anibale Casabianca
The Rats of Tobruk (BPL 1, Jan 1961), Art: Renzo Calegari
Fighting Blood (BPL 20, Jul 1961), Art: Roberto Diso/Santo D'Amico
Blood on the Sand (BPL 12, May 1961), Art: Leopoldo Duranona
Trained to Kill (BPL 3, Feb 1961), Art: Fred Holmes
Dawn Attack (BPL 37, Dec 1961), Art: (Creazioni D'Ami studio)
Blaze of Glory (BPL 32, Oct 1961), Art: Jorge Moliterni
Jaws of Hell (BPL 29, Oct 1961), Art: Aldoma Puig
Macey's Mob (BPL 71, Aug 1962), Art: Nevio Zeccara
Battle Order (BPL 13, Jun 1961), Art: Nevio Zeccara
Seize--and Hold (BPL 68, Jul 1962), Art: Renato Polese
Crack-Up (BPL 9, May 1961), Art: John Severin

The stories were written by H. Ken Bulmer (better known for his SF novels; 29, 37), A. Carney Allan (father of Angus Allan and a prolific writer for D. C. Thomson and Amalgamated Press; 1, 13), Donne Avenell (later better known for his scripts for The Phantom; 9, 68), J & S Thomas (66), Norman Worker (an editor on the girls' papers and, like Donne Avenell, a writer for The Phantom; 12) and Douglas Leach (20). Other writers are yet to be identified.


When it comes to telling stories about the Second World War few did it better than the authors of "Battle Picture Library"! Here at last is the collection you've been waiting for, gathering together 12 of the toughest tales of war ever told. From the bomb-shattered roads of Europe to the stifling jungles of the Far East, below the crashing waves of the Atlantic or in the war-torn skies over England's green fields - these stories of courage and comradeship stirred the imaginations of generations of British children whose parents and grandparents struggled against the Axis powers bent on enslaving nations. The stories you'll find in this volume have an incredible range, from action with the Desert Rats to top-secret missions for Military Intelligence via the nightmare dreams of a Captain in the airborne division and the heroic rise of Jack Charlton (not that Jack Charlton) to the head of Baker Company. It's not just rattling good history... it's explosive! Attracting some of the finest talent from across Europe, these visceral pocket novels are reproduced 25 per cent bigger than the originals so you can revel in every glorious detail. If you remember these books from your schooldays, get ready to relive the excitement. If you're new to them... have we got an experience for you!

Alternative cover

Promotional material


"This second collection of sixties war comics from the Fleetway stable is if anything even better than it's predecessor. While "Unleash Hell" devoted itself to 12 of the best War Picture Library stories, "Death or Glory" is sourced from Battle Picture Library, again these stories are similarly selected with exquisite good taste by editor Steve Holland, but importantly Battle Picture Library was launched some three years after the debut of War and the stories show a consequent maturity and depth of characterisation, which was becoming increasingly important as straight forward tales of derring-do made way for an altogether more psychological take on men in extremis.
"As a result the stories here are if anything even more vivid, as the heroic and phlegmatic heroic archetypes of the earlier war comics are replaced by men with often deeply flawed personalities. There are sterling examples of such tales contained within the pages of this impressive compendium, the disintegration of Colonel Jesse Stark literally reprising his worst nightmare as he leads a group of paratroopers on a seemingly doomed mission behind enemy lines in "Crack Up" (beautifully delineated by U.S. artist John Severin already familiar to readers of E.C.'s "Two Fisted Tales" and "Frontline Combat") or the memorable courtroom deposition of the events leading up to the murder of a British Officer on active service in the equally memorable "Seize and Hold" are both classic tales that engage the reader from the get-go, but even these pale in comparison to the phenonenal "Blaze of Glory" a story where the strong become weak, the weak become strong and two men's friendship is similarly rudely juxtaposed as situations beyond their control create one of the most memorable war stories ever committed to the pages of a comic, the denoument of this story is simply unforgettable and the last panel will sear it's way into your subconscious, it is perhaps one of the greatest ever panels from any kind of comic, let alone the relatively humble war comic.
"So a book well worthy of it's five stars.
"Usual beefs about the quality of reproduction still stand, i.e. could be a lot better, but then the original interior artwork is long gone and we are talking here about scanning from the comics themselves. Which means everything rests on the quality of the scans often trying to compensate for deficencies in the printing of these stories. Some are better than others, Renzo Calegari's beautiful artwork for "The Rats of Tobruk" comes off particularly badly but other stories fare better. Re-touching is conspicuous by it's abscence even when the stories would have benefitted from at least the removal of printing flaws created by the paper warp on the comics which were used as the source of these reprints.
"So definitely could do better in the repro department and the covers to these stories could be more adequately represented, and some credits wouldn't go amiss either. But really these are relatively minor (ish) caveats. The book is superb and anyone with the remotest desire to recapture their childhood via the pages of these books will not be disappointed.
"Can't wait to see more of these!" -- Amazon.

Unleash Hell

Unleash Hell (War Picture Library Collection No.1) was released by Prion (an imprint of Carlton Books) in September 2007. The book is available from at a hefty discount, as is its companion Death or Glory.


Fight Back to Dunkirk (WPL 1, Sep 1958), Art: Nevio Zeccara
The Crowded Sky (WPL 56, Jul 1960), Art: Nevio Zeccara
Action Stations (WPL 3, Oct 1958), Art: Renzo Calegari/(D'Ami studio)
Umbrella in the Sky (WPL 54, Jun 1960), Art: Luis Ramos
Crash Call (WPL 53, Jun 1960), Art: Gino D'Antonio
The Iron Fist (WPL 25, Sep 1959), Art: Hugo Pratt
Lone Commando (WPL 36, Feb 1960), Art: Jorge Moliterni
The Black Ace (WPL 141, Apr 1962), Art: Nevio Zeccara
Air Commando (WPL 52, Jun 1960), Art: Annibale Casabianca
Fire Power (WPL 129, Jan 1962), Art: Nevio Zeccara
The Red Devils (WPL 7, Dec 1958), Art: Gino D'Antonio
Task Force (WPL 66, Sep 1960), Art: Annibale Casabianca

Scriptwriters in this volume include Val Holding (later the editor of Eagle; 3, 7, 25), Willie Patterson (writer of the Jeff Hawke strip; 56), E. Evans, revised by Willie Patterson (36), Roger P. Clegg (52, 66, 129), David Satherley (53). Issue 141 was probably by A. Carney Allan.


In all its grim glory, the Second World War is brought to life in 12 of the grittiest war dramas ever committed to paper. "War Picture Library" was the daddy of them all - the first pocket library and for many fans, the best. The conflict that engulfed Europe forced ordinary men to give up their safe, happy lives and fight for freedom against an enemy who had been preparing for war for years. Debuting in 1958, "War Picture Library" celebrated the heroic actions of the Allies as they fought back on land, at sea and in the air. No theatre of conflict was ignored. Written by authors who had themselves seen combat, from the baking deserts of Africa to the steaming jungles of the Far East, these complete stories gave youngsters growing up in the years after the war an answer to the question, "What did you do in the war, daddy?" Gathered here is some of the most striking war art ever produced, reproduced 25 per cent bigger than the originals so you can feel every bullet hit, every crashing wave and every nerve shattering explosion. This is military history as you've never read it before.

Promotional material


"This handsome looking book clad in covers with punchy graphics and elements of some of the original cover paintings, is in many ways superior to the Commando collections. The Commando collections are primarily dominated by stories that appeared from the 1970s onwards, they're earlier and infinitely more lurid stories are conspicuous by their abscence. Not so with Holland's selection. He adroitly goes for the earliest issues which were by and large written by men who had direct and (self evidently} fairly recent experience of active service during the Second World War, consequently the stories are much more non PC, "Huns" and "Japs" are a ruthless enemy to be despatched with cold efficiency and there's not an awful lot of agonising on either side over the dehumanising effect of war, these guys mean business and the stories have a consequential drive and dynamic that make reading this collection a really vivid and engaging experience.
"The artwork is similarly powerful and throws you right into the streets of war torn Arnhem, the fetid jungles of Burma, the E-Boat infested water of the English Channel or the flak torn skies over the Ruhr. With the talents of superb draughtsmen such as Gino D'Antonio, Hugo Pratt and Jorge Moliterni the feeling that you are there as you read these stories has never been bettered." --

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Comic Cuts - 25 September

I've been letting the blog slide a little due to pressure of work. Apart from the ongoing writing of the Thriller Libraries introduction (on which I've just passed the 9,000 words mark) I had a request to write another introduction which I planned to knock out over the weekend but ended up writing far too much, which meant spending Monday evening trimming it back to the right size. It's for the Carlton reprint of Valentine Picture Story Library which is to be published around Valentine's Day next year. Fingers crossed there will also be more volumes of War and Battle picture library reprints in 2008 despite the problems we've had this year. The problem has been with the printers, by the way, which has caused the books to run late -- much to everyone's frustration. Amazon are offering the books -- Death or Glory and Unleash Hell -- as a pair at an astonishing saving at the moment -- £17.98 for the pair (a saving of £12) and free postage!

This afternoon, Stephen Pickles and I recorded an interview for BBC Radio Suffolk about The Bumper Book of Look and Learn which will go out on the Luke Deal show tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon. I've spoken to Luke before and he's very enthusiastic about comics. The Look and Learn team will be at the Brand Licensing exhibition next week, so if you happen to be at Olympia on Tuesday or Wednesday, come along to the stand and say hello.

Some random bits of news...

* Slate Magazine has a 27-minute video podcast interview with Posy Simmonds by Clive James. (link via Journalista)

* A rare Broons Annual signed by Dudley D. Watkins fetched £1,350 at auction recently.

* Lew Stringer takes a look at Jag, Fleetway's oversized boys' comic from the late 1960s.

* Meanwhile, Steve Flanagan is eyeing-up Varoomshka, heroine of a long-ago Guardian political strip drawn by John Kent.

* The Forbidden Planet International blog is reporting that Grant Morrison is amongst the nominees for this year's Scottish Style Awards.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Giles [video]

Carl Giles is perhaps the most fondly remembered of all British cartoonists. This film reel dates from 22 October 1945.

(* The above film reels are © British Pathe Limited.)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Jane and Norman Pett [Video]

A double treat for you today: two videos of Norman Pett, creator of 'Jane' of the Daily Mirror. The first video is dated 25 October 1943, the second 19 February 1945.

(* The above film reels are © British Pathe Limited.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tay Bridge

(* Welcome back Jeremy Briggs with a piece about another Scottish landmark...)

Tay Bridge

After the piece on the Forth Bridge, I have had several requests to cover the other famous Scottish railway bridge, across the Tay, in the same way. So here is my sequel.

The Tay Bridge carries the East Coast Mainline railway track from the village of Wormit on the south coast of the Firth of Tay to Dundee city on the north coast. The bridge itself is two miles long and lies to the west of the modern Tay Road Bridge. While the vast length of the Tay Bridge is nowhere near as iconic as the enormous Forth Bridge, it does appear in comics and magazines. However most of those same publications are not about the Tay Bridge that we see today, but about the first Tay Bridge.

The original Tay Bridge was completed in 1877 and at the time was the longest bridge in the world. Trains travelling over it were reputed to break the bridge’s speed limit in an attempt to beat the Tay ferries to the shore, although perhaps not as blatantly as DCT and IPC artist Keith Robson shows in the above illustration from the delightful Time Tram Dundee, a ‘Horrible History’ style book devoted to the history of the city. The bridge itself was a public marvel with even Queen Victoria making an official crossing of it, yet it is said that the men who worked on it after it was completed would regularly loose tools into the water below because of the movement of the bridge when trains passed over it, as shown here by artist Andrew Howat in Look and Learn 916, 11 August 1979.

However this first bridge would only last for 19 months. On Sunday 28 December 1879 there was a severe storm with winds blowing to Storm Force 10. The 5:20pm train from Burntisland in Fife to Dundee passed the bridge’s southern signal box and onto the single track bridge at 7:13pm. The train should have made the crossing in six minutes but 7:19pm came and went and the train never appeared at the north end.

We now know that the centre section of the bridge, known as the High Girders, was not designed strongly enough to withstand such a storm and on that fateful night it collapsed taking the train and all its 75 passengers and crew 88 feet into the river below. Yet the exact sequence of events remains open to speculation to this day. Had the section been weakened so much by the storm that it unexpected collapsed as the train went over it? Did the train derail and cause the weak structure to collapse? Indeed you can speculate yourself based on the facts at the Open University site about the disaster. The possibility also existed that the bridge section had collapsed before the train reached it and this scenario was shown in the factual story of the disaster in the 1972 Lion Annual, shown above, as well as in the aforementioned Look and Learn.

It was inevitable that the disaster would make the cover of Look and Learn. Issue 524 dated 29 January 1972 had this dramatic cover of Engine 224 taking its train and passengers to their doom.

The realisation of what had happened came fairly quickly. The signalmen at the southern end of the bridge could not contact the signal box on the north end and set out into that cold dark night along the bridge before being driven back by the storm. They saw what had happened only as the storm abated a little. As part of the Look and Learn 'This Made Headlines' series artist John Keay painted this image of the aftermath in Look and Learn issue 874, dated 14 October 1978.

In fact the steam engine was actually recovered from the Tay, yet only 46 of the 75 bodies were ever found, the last almost four months after the tragedy. Engine 224 was refurbished and, ironically nicknamed The Diver, would continue to serve for some forty years as shown in 'The Little Engine That Had Two Lives' from Ranger 2 October 1965.

All the above references have come from factual articles, indeed it would seem somewhat in bad taste to include such a tragedy in a fictional story for children, yet the Lion Annual for 1976 tackled the disaster with their own tragic character, Adam Eterno.

In the six page story Adam is called back to Earth on the night of the disaster to transport a gold key to Dundee on the doomed train and so is on board when the accident occurs. Since our hero can only be killed by a golden weapon, he is able to survive the wreck and make his way to Dundee city to complete his task. It has to be said that the art by the Spanish Solano Lopez studio portrays Engine 224 rather more like an American locomotive that the British steam engine it actually was.

The current bridge was completed in July 1887 having taken four years to build and in its 120 year history has been considerably safer than it predecessor. It was featured on the wraparound cover (above) of the See New Worlds free comic created for the Six Cities Design Festival in 2007. Written by Chris Murray and featuring art by Lyall Bruce, Victoria Baker and Stuart David Fallon, this mix of manga-like figure work in sketchy Dundee backgrounds is set in a virtual reality Dundee of 2037 which is being menaced by a creeping destructive darkness.

Slightly more obvious is the cover of Look and Learn Issue 921, 15 September 1979, where an Intercity train painted by Graham Coton crosses the bridge as a modern counterpoint to the first passenger steam train.

Today only the single row of caissons of the first bridge remain, rising out of the Tay just to the east of the current bridge, in silent memorial to the 75 lives lost in what remains one of the worst railway accidents in British history.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Comic Cuts -19 September

So much for my early night... here's some news!

* Jeremy Briggs has given The War Libraries a sterling review at the Down the Tubes blog. "To the collector the information in it is so valuable that it really makes the book itself invaluable. Since it is a limited print run don’t miss out on this mine of information." Phew!

* Lew Stringer reviews Albion Origins and gives it the thumbs up at Blimey! "Reproduction of the strips is extremely good considering scans of 40 year old comics were the source material. Thankfully, no attempt has been made to edit out the title logos at the beginning of each episode, and every strip retains the toplines, resumé captions, etc as they did in their original publications. Some may dislike this, thinking they disrupt the flow of story, but in truth they add to the authenticity of those bygone comics, when cliffhangers were described as "spine chilling" and each installment "breath taking". All of which was part of what made British comics of the sixties so compelling and exciting."

* Lew also points out that the new Dandy Xtreme is reprinting classic Dudley D. Watkins 'Desperate Dan' yarns newly coloured... and the strip he shows looks pretty good.

* Jonathan Ross had an article in The Guardian ('The unsung hero behind Spider-Man', 14 September) about his love of Steve Ditko to tie in with his In Search of Steve Ditko programme last Sunday. For more on Jonathan's trip to New York at license-payer's expense see here.

* Frazer Diamond (better known as Toonhound) has a feature at the BBC News website (14 September) in which he discusses the decline of... but wait... no! As Frazer points out, the British comics' industry has simply evolved. 'The comic lives on' -- they're not the comics you or I remember from the 1960s and 1970s but they're still out there.

* Steve Flanagan discusses 'Kitty Hawke and Worrals of the WAAF versus Angela Air Hostess' at Gad, Sir! Comics (19 September).

* Ever wondered what Belle of the Ballet did after leaving school? Look like she discovered spandex and joined X-Force. (Pic via Richard Johnston's Lying in the Gutters)

The War Libraries

I'm setting up this column to act as a clearing house for information on The War Libraries book written by myself and David Roach. Over time I will be including various items, including reviews, additions & corrections and links to related subject matter that has appeared in Bear Alley or elsewhere. The book is available from (see the "New or Used" section for the cheapest price) or directly from the publisher. There's a permanent link to this column on the right.

The Book

Published by The Book Palace in August 2007, The War Libraries is the first of a three-volume series that will also include The Thriller Libraries (covering Cowboy/Thriller/Super Detective) and Romance and Adventure Libraries (covering adventure, romance, schoolgirls and other genre picture libraries from Lion and Valiant PLs to True Love and School Friend).

This title covers the contents of Air Ace, Battle, Giant, War and War at Sea picture libraries plus related Holiday Specials, some 4,500 titles in all. Where possible we have identified the artists, scriptwriters and cover artists, titles of back-up strips and reprint information where titles had been previously published.

The book is 194 pages with stitch binding and a flexiback cover. There are two 16-page colour sections reproducing some of the best of the original artwork and the first 50 issues issues of Air Ace and Battle and the first 100 issues of War Picture Library. The book is heavily illustrated with examples of interior artwork, covers and advertising material.

The book has a 10,000 word introduction and even includes photographs of some of the staff who worked on these titles.


"To the collector the information in it is so valuable that it really makes the book itself invaluable. Since it is a limited print run don't miss out on this mine of information." -- Jeremy Briggs, Down the Tubes (full review)

"Hitherto almost impossible to locate, many of the earliest issues are now being republished in compendium sized collections devoted initially to War and Battle Picture Libraries, this index is an ideal and indispensable accompaniment to such a venture." -- Peter Richardson, 5.0 out of 5 stars (1) (full review)

"[The War Libraries] offers 196 large pages that not only comprises the most comprehensive and authoritative listing of all the war related series ... but also an array of over 400 illustrations (over 200 in colour) including a large number of cover paintings reproduced from the original artwork." -- Book and Magazine Collector no. 289 (Christmas 2007)

Additions and Corrections

With thanks to Jeremy Briggs, Jan Roar Hansen, François San Millan, Paolo Peruzzo, Jose Manuel Ruiz, Hans van Maar and Diego.

Air Ace 17: The correct title is 'Gun Shock'. 'Aim High' was used on reprints in Giant War PL and Battle PL.
Air Ace 64: Aldo Di Gennaro is mis-spelled Gernaro and additionally mis-spelled Gernnaro elsewhere (Air Ace 132, 133). The cover for AA64 is by Aldo Di Gennaro.
Air Ace 262: the correct title is 'Duel in the Sky'.
Air Ace 280: the correct title is 'Sky Wolves Go To War'.
Air Ace 300: Art: Aldo Marcuzzi?
Air Ace 305: Art: Aldo Marcuzzi?
Air Ace 307: Art: Allen Pollack
Air Ace 312: Art: Aldo Marcuzzi?
Air Ace 316: Art: Aldo Marcuzzi?
Air Ace 320: Art: Allen Pollack.
Air Ace 340: reprints WAR 145, Doodlebug.
Air Ace 348: reprints BATTLE 77, Bomb Run.
Air Ace 372: reprints WAR 181, Rogue Lancaster.
Air Ace 376: thought to reprint WAR AT SEA 24, Flight Deck.
Air Ace 379: the correct title is 'Grant's Gremlins'
Air Ace 406: features Battler Britton
Battle 50: Annibale Casabianca is mis-spelled Anibale here and in various other places (Battles 66, 93, and War at Sea 17, War 80, 356, 399). Casabianca is additionally mis-spelled as Cassabianca in three instances (War at Sea 17, War 356, 399).
Battle 299: the artist is not F. Solano Lopez. Possibly a Spanish artist also called Lopez but otherwise unknown to us, almost certainly Antonio Lopez who drew war stories for Editorial Ferma in Barcelona. The same artist (see samples below) was responsible for Battle 328 and probably also Battle 315 and 342.

Battle 493: the artist is probably Cesar Sapradi rather than Spaderi.
Battle 625: cover by Graham Coton.
Battle 836: + Desert Rat (add backup story). The same story that appeared in War 996?
Battle 1008: + Cool Courage (add backup story); cover by Ian Kennedy.
Battle 1151: + Play Safe and Die (add backup story).
Battle 1355: + Man Of Honour (add backup story).
Battle 1386: cover by Graham Coton.
Battle 1393: + A Losing Battle (add backup story).
Battle 1464: + Teamwork (add backup story).
Battle 1468: + Nobody's Perfect (add backup story).
Battle 1675: reprints Air Ace 17, Gun Shock (add original title).
Giant War 45: reprints Air Ace 17, Gun Shock (add original title).
Giant War 56: The 'Battle Report... Tarawa' back-up uses panels from War at Sea 2 drawn by Gino D'Antonio
War 503-505: dates should be 1969
War 620: + Costello's Prize (add backup story).
War 836: + The Viking (add backup story).
War 863: + Jungle Secret (add backup story).
War 1671: + Sniper's Debt (add backup story).
War 1799: + Wages of War (add backup story).
War 1802: + Target Trouble (add backup story).
War 1807: + Advance Party (add backup story).
War 1821: + Law of the Kukri (add backup story).
War 1872: cover by Oliver Frey.
War 1877: + Larkin's Luck, art by Ron Turner (add backup strip and artist).
War 1882: + Last Train (add backup story).

For additional corrections relating to Josep Marti, see here.

Additional Information

Nini Caroselli. Bear Alley.
Giorgio De Gaspari. Bear Alley.
Roy McAdorey. Bear Alley.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred from 6 April 1922 Eve's Film Review (a sister film reel to British Pathe). Pip, Squeak and Wilfred were, of course, the stars of a long-running strip in the Daily Mirror who had their own annual and club (The Wilfredian League of Gugnuncs). The artist seen here is Austin B. Payne, brother of G. M. Payne whose work I mentioned recently.

Here's a description of the action:

M/S of a dog, a rabbit and a penguin. "Not forgetting Mr A.B.Payne, the Artist, and Uncle Dick (who was having a little difficulty with Squeak)." M/S of a house interior (probably a set). The artist attempts to draw the penguin but it is waddling around all over the place. There is a model house in the room. "Uncle Dick" tries to get the penguin to stand still. M/S of the penguin who shakes his head. The penguin is given a fish. "Mustn't forget Wilfred said Mr Payne." A cartoon is taking shape on the easel. C/U of the rabbit who is sitting on the roof of the model house. Mr Payne continues with his drawing.

"And don't let him miss me, Uncle", said 'Pip'" Pip stands on top of the house as Uncle Dick hangs on to him. Uncle Dick shakes his paw. M/S of Mr Payne drawing Pip. Uncle Dick strokes Pip who doesn't look too happy balanced on the model house. "And Uncle who's a peaceful soul, promised them they'd all be in the picture - and they are." L/S of the domestic scene. Pip is inside the model house, the penguin on the ground in front of it and the rabbit - I'm not sure. C/U of the house. There is a label on one of the doors which reads "Squeak". The rabbit hops along.

(* The above film is © British Pathe Limited.)

Babs Moore

Anonymous has posted a question in the comments to my little piece on Cora Linda: "What about Babs Moore, 1930s author with Newnes Pocket Novels? Definitely wrote A Young Girl's Peril, printed as Newnes Pocket Novel no.8, 19th August 193?"

It's a series that hasn't been fully indexed, so if Anonymous has that issue to hand it would be interesting to learn if any other titles are advertised on that particular issue.

Newnes' Pocket Novels ran at least three series, the first in 1916-24 was in a very small format, 6" by 4 1/2". This became Newnes' Pocket Friendship Novels with issue 132 (1923) until the series ended with issue 151. It was then relaunched as Newnes' Pocket Novels (New Series) in a slightly larger size (7" x 5") and ran for 142 issues between 1926 and 1931. It was then relaunched again in another new series which ran from 1932. It's this third series that probably included the above title, which would date it 1932.

The only other titles by Babs Moore that I can trace are A Neglected Warning (NPN (New Series) no. 53, 1928) and The Man She Wronged (NPN (New Series) no. 100, 1930). I know absolutely nothing about the author.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Come on, Steve! redux

I've covered 'Come on, Steve!' previously. It's one of my favourite strips, drawn by Roland Davies, who appeared in one of the videos I posted the other day.

I spotted the picture below in The Children's Newspaper dated 22 September 1956. The designer of the Morecambe illuminations was clearly also a fan.I believe the strip came to an end in around 1949, having run in the Sunday Express and, later, the Sunday Dispatch since 1932.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Barry Ono [video]

Barry Ono was a former music hall comedian whose collection of old penny bloods and penny dreadfuls was legendary amongst fans of such things. Barry (real name Frederick Valentine Harrison) bequeathed the collection to the British Library when he died in 1941, but for years it remained uncatalogued. Finally, over 50 years later, Elizabeth James and Helen R. Smith catalogued this astonishing collection in Penny Dreadfuls and Boys' Adventures: The Barry Ono Collection of Victorian Popular Literature in the British Library (London, British Library, 1998). The collection had been microfilmed some years earlier and examples from Barry's collection often pop up on John Adcock's Yesterday's Papers blog.

You can find out a little more about Barry Ono here.

(* The above film is © British Pathe Limited.)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sketch Club [video]

This video, from 13 April 1953, is somewhat similar to the previous one about the Cartoonists' Club (10 March 1947) and includes some of the same artists. The pub known as the "mucky duck" was the White Swan in Tudor Street, off Fleet Street.

David Langdon (Sunday Pictorial), Maroc (Robert Coram, London Evening Standard) and Norman Pett (creator of 'Jane', Daily Mirror) are seen sketching Daphne, an art student, in her bikini. Joe Dowd (Daily Herald), the honorary secretary of the Sketch Club, then brings Lorna, an art teacher, to the front to pose with a beach ball. Elizabeth Cowley and Avril Showell of Woman are seen sketching, as are Preston Benson (The Star), Norman Williams (The Eagle) and Joss (The Star), who was a founding member of the Sketch Club.

(* The above film is © British Pathe Limited.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Meet Frank Richards [video]

Frank Richards (Charles Harold St. John Hamilton, 1876-1961) was the creator of one of Britain's greatest icons, Billy Bunter. He was a phenomenal writer, his lifetime output reaching somewhere around 75 million words, making him the most prolific author ever. There are many excellent websites about Hamilton and his creations; a good starting point is his entry on Wikipedia for a brief summary and the Collecting Books and Magazines and The Friars' Club websites if you want to learn more.

(* The above film is © British Pathe Limited.)

Nature Corner

Working from home, you tend to find entertainment wherever you can. The mouse family are top viewing for us this week, especially now that they're climbing trees to eat the elderberries. Taking snapshots out the kitchen window didn't work so I risked going outside to get closer and... well, you can see the results. Ahhhhh... cute... just don't try coming into the house.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Comic Cuts - 13 September

Rather sad to say that a number of deaths have been reported recently. Following the broadcast of Comics Britannia, the announcer revealed that Ian Gray, a writer with D. C. Thomson who was interviewed on the show, had died last week [Update: Obituary in The Guardian, 20 September]. Tuesday's The Scotsman carries an obituary of John T. Robertson, who was another Thomson writer, his work appearing in Hotspur, Wizard and other text story papers for many years. And I've just learned that Angus P. Allan, whom I'd known as an irregular correspondent for the past eight years, has also died. More information when I get it.

We had a problem with e-mail starting yesterday afternoon around 3 o'clock. Things seem to be back to normal now but I'm still receiving random mails dated yesterday. Still, the spam seems to be getting through as usual, which I guess is a good sign.

Books update: I hear that advance copies of Unleash Hell have been spotted in London, as have copies of Aarrgghh! It's War. Go buy them... if they're a success Carlton will want to do more next year and that hopefully means an Air Ace volume.

I'm currently working on the introduction for the Cowboy/Thriller/Super Detective index so I've lined up a number of other videos from the same source as the one below. I'll try to come up with something interesting in between but it might be short and sweet. Personally, I got a kick out of seeing what some of these famous cartoonists looked like -- including 'Come on, Steve' artist Roland Davies. A couple of the others I have lined up include model drawing, but I'll try to spread them out. Don't want you to get too excited.

News! News! News!

* David Lloyd is interviewed by Thomas and Björn at Comicgate (7 September). (Link via Journalista)

* John Freeman tries to find 'The Mysterious Mr. Low' at Down The Tubes (13 September). The mystery man in question is George Low, editor of Commando Library, who retires this month after working on the title for 44 years, the last 18 as editor.

* Steve Flanagan reviews The Best of Look-In -- The Seventies at Gad, Sir! Comics! (9 September).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cartoonists' Club [video]

The following video is from the British Pathe website and includes, amongst the luminaries on display, Frederick Joss (of the Star), Norman Williams (who drew various biographical strips for Eagle), Harold Hodges (Daily Express), Arthur Ferrier ('Spotlight on Sally', News of the World), Roland Davies ('Come on Steve', Dispatch), Norman Pett (creator of 'Jane', Daily Mirror), Trog (Wally Fawkes, Daily Mail), 'Uncle' Leslie Illingworth, Spot (Arthur Potts, 'Teddy Tail', Daily Mail), Leo Dowd, Gall (News of the World).

This film-reel, like other British Pathe news reels, is available in far higher resolution at their website -- but hopefully this will give everyone a nice, nostalgic trip back to the days when you could go down a pub called the 'Mucky Duck' and sketch half naked women without having the finger of scorn or suspicion pointed at you. Well done, British Pathe!

(* The above film is © British Pathe Limited.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The original Cowboy Comics

Originally published 29 July; updated 11 September with some additional contents information for which I'd like to offer additional thanks to Graeme Cliffe. I'm still looking for contents of other issues, so if you have any or know someone who has, please let me know.

Shortly after the end of World War II, with paper rationing still in force, the Amalgamated Press found that they had a problem. In the 1920s and 1930s, they had found a steady market for their story papers and comics in Commonwealth countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But with paper in such short supply, the home market could absorb all the copies the A.P. managed to print.

A thriving home-grown industry grew up in Canada. John Adcock's Yesterday's Papers blog often carries information on Canadian comics and it's thanks to John that I discovered 'Beyond the Funnies', a brief history -- but with a wealth of detail -- of Canadian comics. Well worth a read.

The folks at A.P. came up with a solution to the problem of supplying comics to Australia and New Zealand and produced a range of titles published in Sydney for the local market. I have a limited amount of information on these but, thanks to Graeme Cliffe and Kevin Patrick, I now have a slightly better knowledge of them.

There were five titles in all: Buck Jones, Kit Carson, Tim Holt, Thunderbolt Jaxon and Captain Flame. All were published in an oversized format running to 28 pages and were originally priced at 6d. Later issues of Buck Jones and Kit Carson were priced 8d.

Some of these titles did not last very long: Captain Flame is thought to have lasted only a single issue and Thunderbolt Jaxon (perhaps launched because Sydney-based K. G. Murray had discovered there was a market for Superman comics which they began issuing in 1947) lasted only 6 issues.

Tim Holt, reprinting stories from the Magazine Enterprises comic published in the USA drawn by Frank Bolle, ran for at least 16 issues. It was the two British-drawn western titles that lasted longest: Buck Jones ran for at least 35 issues and Kit Carson for 31 issues.

Dating the books has been a tricky task. None of the issues were dated or carried any publisher information, although Graeme has told me that it is believed by collectors in Australia that they were published by New Century Press. One issue, produced in c.1950/51, was printed by Sydney Land Newspapers. A series of (hopefully logical) guesses and presumptions has established that the two long-running cowboy titles were launched in late 1948 (probably between September and December, but this is only guesswork). The other titles probably began around the same time. Captain Flame, for instance, began a run in Knockout in November 1948 and the Australian comic probably dates from around the same time.

It is thought that quite a few (perhaps even the majority) of the stories that appeared in the western titles -- Buck Jones, Kit Carson and Tim Holt -- were resized and reprinted in the British pocket library series Cowboy Comics and I'm hoping that collectors who have copies of these Australian titles can help out. I've been able to establish that a number of covers were reused (for instance, the Australian Buck Jones no.19 [see pic at top] was reused on Cowboy Comics no.39) and some of the stories in the Australian Tim Holt also appeared in Cowboy Comics but I need more information -- a lot more information!

What I need to do is establish the titles that appeared in the Australian comics and, in the case of Tim Holt, where these originally appeared in the US comic. Also whether there are any internal adverts that might help establish a better idea of when issues appeared.

If anyone can help supply contents listings please let me know. Better scans of covers would also be welcome.


Buck Jones no.1 (c.1948, cover by George Cattermole)
The Diamond Clue
BJ & the Joker
BJ & the Framed Foreman

Buck Jones no.9 (c.1949)
BJ -- Wanted
BJ & the Stranger

Buck Jones no.23 (c.1951)
BJ & the Cyclone Kid
BJ & the Valley of Vanishing Men
BJ & the Boy Crook

Buck Jones no.25 (c.1951)
BJ & the War on the Range!
BJ & the Mystery Gang
BJ & the Rancher's Money Belt


Captain Flame no.1 (c.1949, cover by W. Bryce-Hamilton)
(4 stories drawn by Eric R. Parker)


Kit Carson no.1 (c.1948, cover by George Cattermole)
KC in Old Wyoming
KC & the Dillon Killers
KC -- King of the West

Kit Carson no.4 (c.1949)
KC & the Haunted Cavern
KC Gets His Man
KC & the "Pay or Die" Gang


Thunderbolt Jaxon no.2 (c.1948/49)
TB and the Frightened Lion Tamer
TB and the Mystery of Cavern Island
TB and the Honest Safe-Breaker

Thunderbolt Jaxon no.3 (c.1948/49)
TB and the Kidnapped Princess
TB and the Flying Wreckers
TB and the Kidnappers

Thunderbolt Jaxon no.4 (c.1948/49)
TB and the Island Princess
TB and the Queen of the Ice
TB -- Genie

Thunderbolt Jaxon no.5 (c.1948/49)
TB and the Golden Princess
TB and the Unknown Fair
TB and the Glamorous Cannon-Ball

Thunderbolt Jaxon no.6 (c.1948/49)
TB and the Mountain of Diamonds!
TB and the Bride of Tapu-Tapu
TB and the Precious Tennis Balls


Tim Holt no.2 (c.1948; cover by Geoff Campion)
(untitled, begins "When the masked riders of the Sleepy Gap Range rob...")
The Spur of the Conquistadore!
The Masks of Massacre Bend

(* My thanks to Graeme Cliffe for the contents of the above titles. Thanks also to The Book Palace for the pictures.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Comic Cuts - Comics Britannia

Just watched Comics Britannia, as I'm sure many of you have. I thought the whole thing was superbly handled and my initial worries from reading a couple of reviews were quickly forgotten.

In truth, this is not a series about the history of comics but three snapshots of certain aspects, the first show concentrating on The Beano and The Dandy when they were at their best. To show them at their bests, the producers concentrated on four artists -- Dudley D. Watkins, David Law, Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid -- and it would have been a real shocker if they'd screwed up with that line-up of talent. It was a joy to see the camera swooping in on pages of original artwork, complete with pencil lines on the word balloons and marked up in blue pen; the camera roved around the pages, as the eye would when reading a comic, blowing up the pages to ten times how we would normally see it. Sometimes that meant lots of colour dots (due to how the colour was printed back in the days of classic Beano and Dandy) but it bodes well for later episodes where we may see fully-painted originals of Dan Dare artwork. (Fingers crossed.)

There were a few quibbles, such as the implication that the Dandy created speech balloons and the statement that Dudley Watkins was the only artist at DCT allowed to sign his work*, but that's minor. Perhaps the biggest quibble is that humour comics beyond these four artists were rather dismissed out of hand: the stagnation at Thomsons was less to do with the implied lack of talent of the replacements, rather that the strips became formulaic, which seems to me the obvious result of artists being asked to work on other people's creations in a pre-set style (as happened with most of Leo Baxendale's creations) or trying to create new strips for a character thirty years out of date (Lord Snooty being perhaps the most guilty of this). Today we have Hunt Emerson drawing Little Plum and it's recognisably Hunt Emerson, not some third generation photocopy of Leo Baxendale, so the strip can be judged on whether it's funny or not on its own merits.

This aside, I thought the show was spot on: serious without being snobbish, accessible without being dumbed down. The interviewees tackled the racism of those early comics and the not-always-true "fact" popularised by journalists that all strips ended with a feast or a whacking (something Leo Baxendale denied, with evidence, in his book On Comedy). Overall the tone was of celebration. It walked a fine line between keeping fans happy and making it interesting and nostalgic mainstream viewing and as far as I'm concerned the series took its first strides confidently.

More information:
* Comics Britannia website at the BBC.
* Interview with Alastair Laurence at the Forbidden Planet International blog.
* Review by Charlie Brooker from The Guardian (8 September)
* Review by Kim Newman from The Times (8 September)
* Review by Lew Stringer at Blimey! (9 September)
* Review by James Walton from the Daily Telegraph (11 September)
* Review at TV Schoop (11 September)
* Review by Andrew Billen from The Times (11 September)

* Bryan Talbot's History of British Comics from The Guide (The Guardian, 8 September) is scanned at Rich Johnson's Lying in the Gutters.

(* I think I'm right in saying that Allan Morley also signed some of his work.)


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