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Monday, January 07, 2008

Stevens

Over the past few years there has been a lot of activity amongst British comics' fans trying to identify the creators behind various strips. Even when the name of the artist can be found, that's only half the battle. I've covered plenty of illustrators over the past sixteen months but one comic strip artist who remains stubbornly elusive appeared in the pages of Knockout and we've yet to even figure out a Christian name, let alone glean information about his or her career.

That artist is Stevens, who did a handful of episodes of 'Stonehenge Kit' in Knockout in 1949 before producing a 14-episode humourous adventure strip called 'Poppy and the Geezers' in 1950, in which Poppy is kidnapped by the whiskered men of the Geezan Embassy who want her to stand in for their missing Queen Lettice (whom she resembles). She is kidnapped by General Pest, who plans to seize power in Geez; she escapes, Queen Lettice is rescued from the General's castle and the strip ends with Poppy returned to her home.

As strips go, it's quite a departure from other strips that appeared in Knockout. The leggy heroine of the strip doesn't lose any clothing (a la Jane) and the humour is slapstick but it was unusual to have a female heroine at all. It was, perhaps, something of an experiment as other female leads, 'June' and 'Deadshot Sue', had appeared briefly in Comet and Sun a few months earlier. All three were meant to be unisex comics but most strips had male leads and girls tended only to ever share a strip -- 'Tough Tod & Happy Annie' being the most obvious example in Knockout.

A week after Poppy made her debut that all changed with the publication of School Friend, which promptly became the Amalgamated Press's best-selling comic. I can't imagine Poppy ever appearing in School Friend but then, until I saw it recently, I couldn't imagine anything like it appearing in any of the A.P. papers. I can only guess that editor Leonard Matthews was experimenting with the content and decided that this particular experiment didn't work.

What happened to artist Stevens after that remains a mystery.

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