Monday, June 30, 2008

Comic Cuts: Upcoming Books (Titan)

Here's an update for titles announced by Titan Books as part of their autumn and winter schedule.

October 2008

  • The Best of Battle: Volume 1 (ISBN 978-1848560253, 24 October 2008). "Over 300 pages of relentless action are collected here, from the desperate dogfights of Johnny Red to the down-and-dirty Rat Pack, the reflective, critically acclaimed Charley's War and the uncompromising Hellman of Hammer Force! Created and drawn by some of the biggest names in British comics, including Pat Mills and John Wagner (co-creators of 2000AD), Joe Colquhoun ("Charley's War", "Johnny Red") and more, this is the ultimate gift for fans of blazing battle action!"
  • Charley's War: Return to the Front (ISBN 978-1845767969, 24 October 2008). "Returning to the front, Charley is reunited with old comrades Weeper and Old Bill—and, unfortunately, bully Grogan and the vile Lieutenant Snell. As the bullets fly and bombs fall, Charley faces as much danger from his own ranks as from the enemy's..."
  • The Cream of Tank Girl by Alan C. Martin & Jamie Hewlett (ISBN 978-1845769420, 24 October 2008). "Boasting tons of unseen artwork, rarely seen comic strips, every Jamie Hewlett "Tank Girl" cover ever, publicity posters, script samples and more besides, this is the ultimate guide to Tank Girl and her world! Bask in the glory of exclusive new commentary from writer Alan Martin! Shiver with pleasure at the sight of rarely seen drawings by Gorillaz genius Jamie Hewlett! Have a nice cup of tea whilst studying the recipe page! Verily, "The Cream of Tank Girl" is a smorgasbord of Tank Girl-osity."
November 2008
December 2008

  • Roy of the Rovers Archives: Season 1954-55 (ISBN 978-1845769499, 20 December 2008) He's back! Britain's most famous fantasy footballer, Roy Race, makes his long-awaited return, in this first of a series of spectacular archive volumes collecting all of Roy's thrilling escapades from the very beginning! Rarely seen, never collected, these are the original Roy of the Rovers tales, lovingly restored and presented in beautiful dustjacketed hardbacks. The first of a highly collectible library, this debut volume also sports fascinating features on the genesis and history of Roy, along with commentary, checklists and an exclusive introduction. As featured in the recent BBC 'Comics Britannia' documentaries, it follows Roy and Melchester Rovers through this, his debut 1954-55 season!
January 2009
February 2009
  • Dan Dare: The Phantom Fleet (ISBN 978-1848561274, 3 February 2009). It’s chocks away and tally-ho once again as Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, returns! First published in classic British comic the Eagle, these are the original adventures of one of the best known and loved of British comic characters. In the thrilling second instalment of this epic tale, the battle for Saturn is raging as Dan and his crew attempt to escape the clutches of the nefarious Dr Blasco and his Saturnian cohorts, while the friendly pirates of Phoebe mount a full-scale assault! This exciting volume also contains two extremely rare Annual stories "Operation Triceratops" and "The Planulid", plus a Frank Hampson sketchbook, and "The Way to Space" interviews with Eagle’s "backroom boys", Dare artist Frank Hampson, centrespread artist Leslie Ashwell Wood and scientific advisor James Hemming.
March 2009
More to follow as titles are announced.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mammoth Book of Crime Stories

Anthology collections of comics have been appearing from Mammoth for the past couple of years, amongst them the very successful, Ilya-edited Mammoth Book of Best New Manga series which has seen two titles in print and a third due in November 2008. David Kendall has edited The Mammoth Book of Best War Comics and the upcoming Mammoth Books of Zombie Comics and, to hand, we've perhaps the best of the bunch, Paul Gravett's Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics.

The best anthologies are in equal parts wonderful and frustrating: wonderful to be able to dip into a wide variety of comic strips that you might not otherwise see; frustrating that you only get a taste of something when you want to read more.

Paul's anthology is full of goodies: I'm a crime noir fan so I've dipped into quite a few of the strips on offer but I've still come away from the book with an overwhelming desire to see more. More of Dashiell Hammett's 'Secret Agent X9', beautifully drawn by Alex Raymond, because the 240 daily strips reprinted here have whetted my appetite. More of Will Eisner's 'The Spirit' because one 7-page story is never enough. More of 'Torpedo 1936' by Sanchez Abuli & Jordi Bernet because their little 8-page yarn makes me want to find the 17 albums that have appeared in Europe (the first two drawn by Alex Toth, also present), not one of which is available in the UK (although the first seven were reprinted by Catalan in the 1980s).

Even with 479 pages to play in, Paul has had to be mightily selective. So while you won't find, say, a Frank Miller 'Sin City' story—which I would have thought an obvious choice and probably precisely the reason Paul avoided it—you will find a couple of short examples of work by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, good names to have on any cover. Both stories appeared in the It's Dark in London anthology, although Moore is also represented with a very scarce (and here remastered) strip that has only previously appeared as a fold-out cover for The Sinister Ducks' single, 'Sinister Ducks'/'Old Gangsters Never Die' (1983). From crime fiction there's Mickey Spillane's 'Mike Hammer' and 'Mike Lancer', Ed McBain's '87th Precinct' (drawn by Bernie Krigstein) and Hammett's aforementioned 'Secret Agent X'. Max Allan Collins—champion of Spillane—is present with a 'Ms. Tree' yarn. From the much-maligned crime comics of the late 1940s and early 1950s there are a handful of tales (including the classic 'Murder, Morphine and Me' by Jack Cole) and, from the UK, a Denis McLoughlin 'Roy Carson' tale that imports American gangsters to Blackpool plus an episode of Paul Grist's 'Kane'. There are stories by Simon & Kirby, Sanchez and Munoz, Charles Burns, Grange & Tardi... it's an amazing line-up of talent and the quality of the stories justifies every inclusion.

Like all good compilations, you're definitely left wanting more by this selection. Let's hope it takes off in the same way that the New Manga series has and, next year, we can look forward to a second volume... and then a third...

Diminutive wooden building envy

I'm sure there's a medical condition and a Latin phrase for shed envy. After the last couple of weeks spent under siege of builders and the upcoming second phase of the same, I've an attack of green-eyed jealousy towards Alex Stewart—better known to the wider reading public as Sandy Mitchell, as that's the name Alex uses for his hugely popular Warhammer 40,000 novels. Even if you're not normally into that kind of thing, you really should try Alex's Ciaphus Cain series which owes more to George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman than anything in the Warhammer universe.

We spent Saturday afternoon barbecuing, drinking and soaking up the sunshine at Alex's shed-warming party. The photo makes the barbecue look deceptively close but, rest assured, the shed was not allowed to get too warm.

Alex "One Shed" Stewart

Oh, for somewhere to just go away and hide to get on with what needs doing! I'm told by Alex that he's managed to pick up the pace of his writing considerably and, an added bonus, once the day's work is done and he wanders down the garden back to the house, it's like leaving the office behind for the evening. There's a separation of work and home which, if you're like me, you don't get because wherever I am in the house, I'm no more than five seconds away from my office.

One online translator suggests effundo invidia for "shed envy" but that's wrong as that's "shed" as in an effusive outpouring. Vegrandis nemorosus aedificium edificium invidia is "diminutive wooden building envy". Not that I'm obsessed. I'm just not looking forward to the coming disruptions.

To take my mind off diminutive wooden buildings, here's another picture that I scanned alongside some more pics for the Sci-Fi Art book. Just proves that the Foss School lives on. The artwork is by Dominic Harmon who has done some very nice covers for the SF Masterworks series.

A couple of bits of news from a couple of people who have been big supporters and contributors to Bear Alley. Jeremy Briggs has just posted a very good interview with Bill McLoughlin at John Freeman's Down the Tubes website. I found it fascinating as Bill was my editor when I was writing for Starblazer many years ago.

And Richard Sheaf and his wife, Alice, have just had a baby daughter, Zoe Laura. I'm sure you'll all join me in offering huge and hearty congratulations to the proud (and probably exhausted) parents.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

John Harris

Another mini-gallery. John Harris is being covered (albeit briefly) in the Sci-Fi Art book so I won't say much here. A very good book of his work came out in 2000 entitled Mass, with text written by Ron Tiner, which offers a lot of insight into his thinking and techniques. A fascinating man who turns out fascinating artwork; he's an artist whose work isn't of the Foss school but nonetheless a master of massive scale.

Greg Bear, Psycholone, Gollancz 07488, 2003.

John Scalzi, The Ghost Brigades, Tor 45710, 2006.

Mary Rosenblum, Horizons, Tor 35515, 2006.

(* Artwork © John Harris.)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lee Gibbons

A mini-gallery of three covers by Lee Gibbons, whose work I really like. I tend to think of him as a recent addition to the many British SF cover artists I like but he's been around since the late 1980s. Guess I was looking the other way and missed him—although there's always that frustrating habit of publishers not to credit cover artists. These are the three dustjackets that appeared on Ken Macleod's 'Engines of Light' trilogy.

The first one reminds me of Tim White—the colouring especially. The last is more like Chris Moore. Two excellent artists, so I hope Lee won't mind the comparison.

(* artwork © Lee Gibbons.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Comic Cuts

The long wait is almost over. I'm pleased to say that the Karl the Viking box-set that DLC have been working on for the past couple of years is approaching the finishing line. The project dates back quite a few years: I think Rob—publisher and king-pin of DLC—first discussed it back in 2006. I first mentioned it here at Bear Alley in early 2007 as something that was going to be available that summer. But it took a long time to bring the scans of the original artwork up to scratch and Rob had the idea of reproducing the original lettering as it had appeared in Lion when the strip ran in the 1960s. Not the easiest task as all the balloons that were missing from the artwork had to be painstakingly scanned, cleaned up and reinserted into the artwork.

For my part, I started writing the introduction in April 2007. Because of the various delays, I didn't finish it until about seven weeks ago. We had a last minute juggle of the contents to squeeze in another annual story so that it truly was complete for all the Karl stories which meant a quick bit of rewriting to fit the new pagination for each volume. I think I excised about 1,300 words, which is no great loss. The final introduction consists of a foreword, a four-parter called 'The Saga of Karl the Viking' which runs across the four volumes, plus the two-part 'The Viking Age' which appears in the first two volumes; the total clocks in at something like 18,850 words.


The Sci-Fi Art book will probably work out at an even higher wordage. 20,000 at least, I should think, once you add all the captions.

Talking of which, even while I'm supposed to be concentrating on science fiction, I can't get away from comics. I'm reading Journeyman: The Art of Chris Moore by Stephen Gallagher and came across a mention of Brian Delaney. Delaney was a prolific artist for D. C. Thomson in the 1980s--his work was briefly discussed in the comments section of an old post about The Professionals. Take a look, though it's little more a bunch of people scratching our heads and admitting they know nothing.

Well, Chris Moore mentions that, after he left the Royal College of Art, he set up a design group in Covent Garden. This would have been around 1972. Moore says, "There was myself, a chap called Michael Morris who did graphics at the Royal College, and another guy called Brian Delaney, who also did graphics. Brian went off very shortly and teamed up with somebody called Darryl Ireland and they became Ireland Delaney..."

Not much to go on, I'll admit. It might be a completely different Brian Delaney, but it kind of fits if his work was appearing in the 1980s. If Chris Moore went on to become a book cover illustrator (and an excellent one, I must say), why couldn't Delaney have turned to comics?

Talking of Sci-Fi Art, here's a cover scan that hasn't made the cut. I was looking at a load of Jim Burns artwork last night and picked out a couple of likely examples to use. The image below was one of them—a lovely example of his work from the 1970s but impossible to clean up to the required standard. Still, nothing goes to waste when you've got a blog to fill. If you want to see the picture in all its glory, find yourself a copy of Jim Burns' Lightship. I picked up a copy recently from Book Palace and they have a lot of very good art books going cheap.

One of the images that will make the cut—editor-willing—is another Jim Burns cover that took me four attempts to get right. First attempt in two parts: couldn't quite match the two halves. Tried to patch it with a scan of the spine but couldn't match the colours. Tried scanning it the other way round: didn't work because the creases where you fold a dust jacket around a book pop out like nean striplights. Threw everything away and started again, rescanned the cover in three parts making sure I matched the colours, joined them all together perfectly except—d'oh!—for the quarter inch of the jacket flap that I'd somehow chopped off. Rescanned that (thankfully I hadn't reset the scanner or scanned anything else), merged it with the rest of the scan and... bingo! Two hours of my life gone but a damn fine picture for you to marvel at as a result.

I'm trying something new with Bear Alley, namely a rolling news column which you'll find somewhere down the right-hand column. I've been thinking about it for a while as I don't update on news very often and this seems a workable solution. If you spot any newsworthy items, drop me a line and I'll see about including them. I try to keep Bear Alley British-oriented as there are already plenty of very good US news sites (go visit Dirk Deppey's Journalista to see what a proper daily news column should be like ... please don't forget to come back).

That does not mean that Comic Cuts will disappear as there's always bits of news that are worth a link or a comment and I've occasionally got some news of my own to ramble on about. And I get to use up those otherwise unused scans...

I hear that the Rick RandomSpace Detective book is heading off to the printers. Against All Odds: War Picture Library Vol.2 was listed in the latest Previews and should be out in August. And we're hoping to have the Frank Bellamy's King Arthur book out in September which means I'll have seven books out that month if you count the four books in the Karl box-set as four rather than one.

Phew! (again)

News from Around the Net...

* Neil Gaiman's "The Witch's Headstone" has won the Locus Award for novelette. You can hear Gaiman himself reading a chapter here. The story is actually an excerpt from his forthcoming novel The Graveyard Book (due out at the end of September) and has also appeared in the collection M is for Magic. Gaiman's 'Sandman' was placed at #46 in the Publisher's Weekly 1000th issue celebration list of 100 Modern Classics. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons was #13 in the same list. Gaiman himself offered his Top 10 New Classic Monsters, led by Moore's 'Swamp Thing'.

* StarShipSofa presents a 3-part video interview with Mike Moorcock recorded in Paris in November 2007.

The video lasts about 9 minutes. Part 2 (9 mins) can be found here and part 3 (11 mins) here. Alternatively, there's a two-hour audio podcast version that can be found at the StarShipSofa website.

Michael Charlton (1923-2008)

I've received a note from William Charlton to say that his father, childrens' book illustrator Michael Charlton, died on 23 June after a long illness.

Michael Alan Charlton was born in Poole, Dorset, in 1923 and studied at Poole School of Art and Edinburgh College of Art. According to Dictionary of British Book Illustrators, "Illustrator of children's books in black and white and full colour. He draws fluently using either a pen or a brush and often creates appropriate surface textures with a variety of media and techniques."

As well as illustrating dozens of books, including Wheezy (1988), which he wrote, he also worked for Reader's Digest Condensed Books and contributed a single illustration to Eagle and another to Swift Annual 2 (1955).

He lived in Dorset.

Eagle v.2 no.36 (14 December 1951)

Books for Children
Wheezy, illus. by the author. London, Bodley Head, Apr 1988.

Illustrated Books
Icebergs and Jungles by Shirley Carpenter & Marie Neurath; illus. with Marjorie Saynor. London, Rathbone Books, 1954.
Adventure Ahead. A book of careers for boys by Newton Branch. London, Publicity Products, 1955.
My Favourite Stories of Courage ed. Douglas Bader. London, Lutterworth Press, 1963.
The Desperate Journey by Kathleen Fidler. London, Lutterworth Press, 1964.
My Favourite Stories of Exploration ed. David Attenborough. London, Lutterworth Press, 1964.
The Etruscan Leopards by Giuliana Pandolfi Boldrini, translated by Isabel Quigly. London, Bodley Head, 1967.
Help for Tommy by Madge Dangerfield. London, University of London Press, 1967.
The High Deeds of Finn Mac Cool by Rosemary Sutcliff. London, Bodley Head, 1967.
King of the Castle by Carol Vaughan. Blackie, 1968.
Gilgamesh, and other Babylonian tales by Jennifer Westwood. London, Bodley Head, 1968.
Adventure in Scotland by James Webster. London, Ginn, 1970.
Firelight the Red Stallion by Elisabeth Hartenstein, translated from the German by Rosaleen Ockenden. London, Bodley Head, 1970.
The Long Ride by Mary Elwyn Patchett. London, Lutterworth Press, 1970.
Vian Smith's Parade of Horses by Vian Smith. Harlow, Longmans, 1970.
The Unfinished Feud by Molly Holden. Leicester, Brockhampton Press, 1970.
Cameras on Carolyn by Irene Byers. London, Chatto, Boyd & Oliver, 1971.
The Key by Joan Penman. London, Chatto, Boyd & Oliver, 1971.
Rus into Moscovy. The history of early Russia by E, N, Almedingen. Harlow, Longman, 1971.
White Fang by Jack London, abridged by Olive Jones. London, Collins, 1971.
White Rose and Wanderer by Molly Holden. London, Chatto & Windus, 1972.
A First Look at Vets by Valerie Pitt. London, F. Watts, 1973.
Mammals by Valerie Pitt. London, F. Watts, 1973.
I Am Adopted by Susan Lapsley. London, Bodley Head, 1974.
Pets by Valierie Pitt. London, F. Watts, 1974.
Rocks by Diana Ferguson. London, Macdonald & Co., 1974.
Beowulf retold by Gordon Walsh. London, Longman, 1975.
The Puffin Book of Horses. An anthology ed. Susan Chitty & Anne Parry; illus. with John Verney. Harmondsworth, Puffin Books, 1975.
Rachel by Elizabeth Fanshawe. London, Bodley Head, 1975.
The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; foreword by Angela Maidwell. Cobham, Starfish Books, 1975.
The Boy Who Couldn't Hear by Freddy Bloom. London, Bodley Head, 1977.
Frog Paper by Marie Hynds. Glasgow, Blackie, 1977.
Oliver's Photo by Marie Hynds. Glasgow, Blackie, 1977.
The House of the Future by Marie Hynds. Glasgow, Blackie, 1977.
The Mint Market by Marie Hynds. Glasgow, Blackie, 1977.
I Went to School One Morning by Guido Waldman. London, Bodley Head, 1978.
Septimus and the Spy Ring by Stephen Chance. London, Bodley Head, 1979. (d/j)
Ben by Victoria Shennan. London, Bodley Head, 1980.
English for Oman: Pupils' Book by J. Hobbs. Harlow, Longman, 1980.
The Finn Gang by Catherine Sefton. London, Hamish Hamilton Children's Books, 1981.
The Taste of Fear by Vera Boyle. London, Macmillan Children's, 1981.
Toby, Peetie, Harry and Fred Were Here by Vera Boyle. London, Macmillan Children's, 1981.
The Golden Bicycle by Denise Hill. London, Hamilton, 1982.
Cosmos and the Five-a-Side Cup by Peter Woodcock. London, Scholastic Book Service (Hippo), 1984.
Mandy and the Hospital by Alison Coles. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1984.
Mandy and the Train Journey by Alison Coles. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1984.
Michael in the Dark by Alison Coles. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1984.
Michael's First Day at School by Alison Coles. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1984.
Mandy and the Dentist by Alison Coles. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1985.
Michael and the Sea by Alison Coles. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1985.
Anna by Margaret Wadhams. London, Bodley Head, 1986.
The Boy and the Tiger by Roderick Hunt; illus. with others. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987.
Kate and the Crocodile by Roderick Hunt; illus. with others. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1986.
County Rovers for Charlie by Joy Allen. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1988.
Sports Day for Charlie by Joy Allen. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1990.
My Brother's a Beast, ed. Helen Cook & Morag Styles. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Duppy Jamboree and other Jamaican poems by Valerie Bloom. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992.
The Story of Old Jock Jockaby by Sheila McCullagh. London, Collins Educational, 1992.
Winner's Magic by Jenny Robson. Oxford, Heinemann, 1992.
All in the Family compiled by John Foster. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993.
Look Out, Charlie! by Joy Allen. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1993.
The Tree House by Maeve Watt. London, Oliver & Boyd, 1993.
Kangaroo Daniel and the Canal Holiday by Dilys Gower. London, Scripture Union, 1994.
Mzungu by Kelly Cunnane. Oxford, Heinemann, 1994.
The Doctor's Daughter by Norma Clarke. London, A. & C. Black, 1996.
Across the Roman Wall by Theresa Breslin. London, A. & C. Black, 1997.
The Haunting of Nadia by Julia Jarman. London, A. & C. Black, 1997.
Picking Teams by Colin Pearce. Loughborough, Ladybird, 1997.
Stargazers by Marie Birkinshaw. Loughborough, Ladybird, 1997.
A Fight to Belong. A true story by Alan Gibbons. London, Save the Children, 1999.
Marlborough and Eastern Wiltshire by John Chandler. Salisbury, Hobnob Press, 2001.
Devizes and Central Wiltshire by John Chandler. Salisbury, Hobnob Press, 2003.
Beyond a Cottage Window by Mary Roberts. Salisbury, Hobnob Press, 2003.

(* Eagle © Dan Dare Corporation. With thanks to William Charlton.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Roy Worvill

Roy Worvill contributed an astronomy feature to Eagle entitled 'Look Aloft' which began on 5 March 1960.

Worvill is a rather uncommon name but has roots dating back to at least the 18th century in the Oxfordshire area which is where Roy Bernard Worvill was born in Chipping Norton on 9 May 1914. He contributed a number of books on astronomy to Ladybird Books in the 1960s and 1970s, often illustrated by Brian Knight and Bernard H. Robinson.

For many years he lived at Innisfree, The Leys, Chipping Norton. He died in Oxfordshire in November 2003, aged 89.

Exploring the Heavens, illus. John Dugan. Edingburgh & London, Oliver & Boyd, 1963.
Exploring Space, illus. Brian Knight. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1964; revised with illus. by Brian Knight & B. H. Robinson, 1970.
Sky and Stars, illus. Sally Mellersh; diag. John Payne. London, Ward Lock Educational Co., 1965.
Night Skies of the Year. An introduction to the science and folklore of the stars, diag. by Michael King. London, Kahn & Averill, 1968.
The Telescope and Microscope, illus. B. H. Robinson. Loughborough, Wills & Hepworth, 1971.
The Stars and Their Legends, illus. Robert Ayton. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1973.
Time, Caldendars and Clocks, illus. B. H. Robinson. Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1973.
Telescope Making for Beginners, illus. Stephen Weston. New York, Orbiting Book Service, 1974.
The Radio Universe. An introduction to radio astronomy and outer space, illus. Stephen Weston. London, Kahn & Averill, 1977.
Stars and Telescopes for Beginners, illus. Stephen Weston. London, Kahn & Averill, 1979.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Raymond Groves

Originally posted 21 December 2006, I've just added an interesting note from Don Grant, whose dad published much of Groves' work, and thought it worth bringing to your attention again.

Another artist I've found little about. Raymond Groves was a cartoonist who drew sporting cartoons, some of which were collected in volumes entitled Pit Stop (London, Autosport, 1953), Starting from Scratch (London, Autosport, 1954) and Loud Pedal (London, Autosport, 1956). He also produced watercolour paintings of motor racing subjects which are very popular when they come up for auction: one catalogue sale of a 1951 painting of Peter Collins driving a Cooper-Norton at Gamston, Nottinghamshire, described the work as "Of exceptional dynamic quality, few pictures capture the drive and determination of Peter Collins as well as this equally singular profile of one of these fericious little pioneering rear engined cars... Raymond Groves was prolific during the 1940s and 1950s. His work covered the design of posters and many commissioned works of racing cars in action."

Groves contributed a single colour plate to Swift Annual 1 (1954).

Update - 4 January 2007

I've managed to find an obituary for Groves which reveals that he was born c.1913, the second son of Walter Groves, the founding editor of The Motor. he was educated at St. Paul's School, West Kensington, and studied art at the Regent Street Polytechnic. For a time he was articled to Bryan de Grineau, who specialised in motor racing artwork -- some of his spectacular illustrations appeared in Modern Wonder magazine in the 1930s. Groves served in the Royal Artillery in the UK and Egypt between 1939-45.

According to his obituary, "He was a gentle and retiring man whose interest in motor sport sprang from boyhood visits to Brooklands in the years following the First World War. His tall figure was well known in the paddocks at Goodwood and Silverstone. where he would make lightning sketches of the cars he delighted to depict at speed. Although motor racing was his main interest, he was a versatile artist and his other work included portraits, landscapes, murals and Christmas cards."

Raymond Vincent Groves died suddenly at his home in Barnes on Boxing Day 1958, aged 45. He was survived by his wife.

Illustrated Books
Where the Cars Roar by Alfred Edgar. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1937.
The Wandering Speedman by Alfred Edgar. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1939.

Update - 24 June 2008

Don Grant has been in touch to say, "I was leafing through your web-site, looking for info on Pat Nevin, and came across a reference to that wonderfully understated cartoonist Raymond Groves. My dad was Gregor Grant, who founded and edited Autosport for 17 years in the 1950s and 1960s. He employed Mr Groves on a regular basis in the magazine, until his untimely death, and also produced those wonderful little books. I found a sketch for a Christmas card, presumably for Autosport in the mid-Fifties, which I attach. He never really had the same recognition as Russell Brockbank, but I certainly think he was equally funny and a really good draughtsman. I also attach a cover he did for the first edition of High Performance Cars, with dad and Peter Reece in a TR2, which you may not have seen before."

Since the previous update, I've managed to confirm that Groves' birth was registered in Richmond, Surrey, in 1913.

(* Illustration at top © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd. My thanks to Don Grant for the additional illustrations.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

PC49 Puzzle

Many years ago, someone sent me a colour photocopy of a PC49 puzzle which I used to illustrate an article on Alan Stranks. It turned up at the weekend while I was trying to sort through some of the reams of paperwork, scribbled notes and yellowing newspaper clippings that have built up over the years.

I'm not sure when this was issued—around 1955, I'd guess—but it was produced by Tower Jigsaws and the story was illustrated by one of Bear Alley's favourites, Roland Davies.

While trying to track down the date, I stumbled across Beyond Dixon of Dock Green: Early British Police Series by Susan Sydney-Smith on Google Books. Page 97 includes the erroneous statement that "Eagle was a boys' comic published by Chad Varah, evangelical Christian and press baron." We all make mistakes (if you scroll down to the additions and corrections section here, you can see some of mine!) but, since the book was published as recently as 2002, I'd have thought a quick search of the internet would have revealed the truth in a few seconds.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Curious Case of the Mayfair Mystery

Harold Ellicott Scarborough, c.1920

A few weeks ago, a curious case of plagiarism was mentioned on one of the lists I'm on. The author concerned was Gilbert Collins (1890- ), a Southampton-born writer of crime novels and tales of the Far East. Gilbert Henry Collins was the son of Henry Collins, a merchant, and his wife Harriett and was educated at King Edward VI School in Southampton. He worked for the British Consular Service in China, 1919-22, and appears to have begun writing at that time, his first book—the brief Sidelights of Song—appearing in 1920. His first novel, Flower of Asia, appeared in 1922 and he kept up a steady supply of new titles until 1937, including, amongst the last, a study of swimming, which was one of his passions; Collins was founder and chairman of the Saturday Night Swimming Club in Bournemouth, which was where he was living in the 1930s.

Gilbert Collins disappears rather suddenly in 1937 following the publication of Mystery in St. James's Square, published by Ward, Lock & Co. The explanation would appear to be connected with a court case and the death, two years earlier, of an American author called Harold Ellicott Scarborough.

The court case was covered by The Times. On 11 November 1937, it was reported that a settlement had been announced of an action taken by widowed Mrs. Gladys Mary Scarborough against publisher Ward Lock and author Gilbert Collins for infringing the copyright in her late husband's novel, Mayfair Mystery. The novel had never been published and Mrs. Scarborough was "horrified" to receive a royalty payment in respect of a novel entitled Mystery in St. James's Square which, she discovered, was a rewrite of her husband's unpublished manuscript, rewritten by Collins.

Gladys Scarborough accepted that the fault was not with Ward Lock, who had accepted the novel in good faith since it had been "obtained from a source which they had no reason to doubt"—the source was not revealed but was probably an agent. However, "it was extremely distressing for Mrs. Scarborough to find her husband's work rehashed up—the word was not used offensively—in language which was not her husband's, but was clearly a breach of copyright and a plagiarism of her husband's novel."

A payment of £175 had been paid into the Court by the defendents and it was agreed that this, along with the immediate delivery up of all copies of the manuscript and copies of the novel and an injunction on its further publication, was acceptable.

Mrs. Scarborough accepted that Gilbert Collins had no idea that she, as copyright holder, had not given permission for the novel to be rewritten; however, despite the settlement, the resulting negative publicity of being dragged into court may have put Collins off further writing—under his own name, at least. We've yet to establish when Collins died or whether he carried on writing under another name.

The court case was a further sorry addition to the story of Harold Ellicott Scarborough. Born in Belair, MD, on 25 October 1897, he was the son of Harold Scarborough (1861-1944), a correspondent with the Baltimore Sun and publisher of The Union News, and his wife Frances E. (nee Fantom, c.1868- ), who had married around 1893. Both their children, daughter Katherine C. and son Harold E., went into the newspaper business. By 1917, Harold was working as an editorial writer on the Baltimore News before joining the New York Tribune in 1920.

Scarborough initially came to Europe to do publicity work for the League of Red Cross Societies in 1920 and was married to Gladys Mary Jones at Christ Church, Brondesbury, in London on 16 April 1921. He was for some years London Correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune and President of the Association of American Correspondents in London in 1929-30.

In the 1920s, Harold also wrote a number of books, including Stephen, the Well-Beloved, published in 1923 by T. Fisher Unwin as part of their 'First Novels Library'. Unwin also published The Immortals (1924) and both books appeared from New York publisher Appleton in 1924.

A further book, England Muddles Through was published by Macmillan Co., New York, in 1932, erroneously credited by the Library of Congress to Harold Elliott Scarborough (1897- ), rather than Ellicott.

In the 1930s, Scarborough resided at 115 Gillingham Road, Golders Green, Middlesex, and Corringham Road, Hampstead, N.W. and was the European editorial manager and head of the London Bureau of the New York Herald Tribune. However, for reasons unknown he was recalled to Manhattan to write editorials. Instead, he resigned to freelance in London.

On 7 November 1935, the Berengaria, bound from New York to Southampton, was off the Isle of Wight and 38-year-old Scarborough was seen placing his passport and a wallet on the deck and then fall into the sea. The liner was stopped, lifebelts thrown overboard and a motor lifeboat lowered. After three-quarters of an hour, the search was called off.

(* My thanks to Jamie Sturgeon for the cover scan for The Immortals. Jamie also points out an interesting side-note: the counsel representing Gladys Scarborough in the case was Henry C. Leon, later a judge and (as Henry Cecil) himself an author.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Comic Cuts

There's a light at the end of the tunnel for the Sci-Fi Art book. Hopefully I've only a week's worth of work left on it, although there will still be some pictures to source and a few leftover captions to write. Not that things ease up because I've got two Storm Collections to do and the Frank Bellamy's King Arthur book to finish, all, hopefully, before the next round of building work starts in July.

I took a couple of hours off the other day to do a pre-recorded interview for a Radio 4 show that should be broadcast in early July. The subject was Arthur Mee, editor of The Children's Encyclopedia and The Children's Newspaper. Spent 40 minutes down at Colchester's tiny studio rabbiting on about Mee and his various books and magazines. Not sure when the show is to be broadcast but the working title is Arthur Mee's Encyclopedia.

Went to see the new Indiana Jones movie and thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn't really know what to make of reviving the character after so many years—a rip-roaring adventure and brilliant special effects was as high as my expectations went, so I wasn't disappointed. It hit every predictable note that you'd expect of Indiana Jones and had the most blatant example of impossible movie hero indestructibility as Indy survives a nuclear explosion without a scratch... but what the hell. It was fun.

If you're wondering what the pictures are, they're from the Storm books that we're just about to start working on. Something for you all to look forward to...

News from Around the Net...

* It's sales figures time once again: after a break in April, issue 6 of Virgin's Dan Dare was released in May and shows a sharp decline: issue 5 (March) sold 7,518 copies and issue 6 was over 1,000 copies down at 6,438, a drop of 14%. Note that these figures (from ICv2) are for copies sold via Diamond Distributors only, although I imagine they make up the bulk of the sales.

* Crikey!'s Glenn Fleming has posted some nice 'Avengers' artwork from DC Thomson's archive as part of his regular 'Crikey! It's Saturday' column at the Forbidden Planet International blog.

* Lew Stringer takes a look back at comics on the newsstands back in June 1968.

* Kenny Penman wishes he'd published the Jack Daniels' run of 'Riders of the Range' from Ealge at the new Black Slate Blog section of the Black Slate Books website.

* 2000AD's Simon Davis was second prize winner in the prestigious BP Portrait Award announced on Monday, 16 June. The Guardian (17 June) has a complete set of the shortlisted portraits here. (link via David Bishop's Vicious Imagery)

* Rod McKie begins an occasional column musing on comics. As he used to draw for Fleetway's humour comics it's no surprise that his first muse is about his first muse, Smash!.

* The second part of Pádraig Ó Méalóid's interview with Alan Moore has been posted at the Forbidden Planet International blog. If you missed part one... go here first.

* The Independent interviews Dave Brown, political cartoonist, who has worked for the paper for twelve years and is now the subject of an exhibition and new book, An Independent Line. The exhibition at the Political Cartoon Gallery (you'll need to scroll down past the David Low cartoon) also features the work of Peter Shrank and Tim Sanders.

* Talking of politics and cartoons, Martin Rowson explains in The Guardian (16 June) why George Bush was a god-send to the political cartoonists. And Gerald Scarfe, political cartoonist for The Sunday Times, is to be made a Commander of the British Empire.

(* Storm © Don Lawrence Collection/Elisabeth Lawrence/Martin Lodewijk)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Shoot: "They think it's all over..."

Shoot!, the famous football weekly is about to fold. I only mentioned the magazine a few months ago when it was about to be relaunched as a weekly after some years being published monthly. Here's the post from March which gives some background to the magazine:
Back in the days of my youth, the football magazine everyone bought was Shoot. Launched on 16 August 1969, Shoot quickly picked up a circulation of around 300,000 and for the next few years its premier position seemed unshakable. It absorbed Goal (launched in 1968) in 1974 and during the 1970s maintained a circulation of around a quarter of a million copies a week. In 1979 it was challenged by Match Weekly, launched on 6 September; IPC tried to stifle the new magazine by launching another of their own, Top Soccer a week later (dated 15 September); it didn't work, and Top Soccer folded only a few months later, absorbed into Shoot on 12 January 1979.

Eventually, Match (as its name was shortened to in 1983) emerged victorious. Shoot became a monthly in May 2001 and Match (website here) has remained the strongest selling of the two titles. Recent circulation figures have pegged the ailing Shoot at 35,830 copies a month whilst Match has had a healthy weekly sale of 113,049 for publisher Bauer Consumer Media who took over the title from Emap.

It seems that's all about to change as Shoot, aimed at the under 12 football fan, is trying to reestablish itself. Its website (which you can find here) describes the magazine as "the loudest, brightest, funniest and naughtiest footy magazine on the market." It has activity features, jokes, funny pictures and posters... "but even though we are all about "the fun", the new Shoot remains first and foremost a football title, dedicated to bringing our readers into the world of their heroes. Whether it be through interviews (they can even ask questions themselves!), jaw-dropping facts or how-to pages, the new Shoot is the mag that gets readers closer to the stars"

Following the release of the March 2008 issue, Shoot has just been relaunched as a weekly on February 26th. Plans had been in the offing for some time but had to be brought forward with the announcement that BBC were to launch their own football magazine, Match of the Day. Not the first time the BBC have had a magazine of that title--they had one back in the 1990s which was aimed at the same adult audience who regularly watched the TV show. The magazine folded after a five-year run in May 2001, and the revamped weekly title, planned under the code name 'Project Robin', is now being aimed at 8-to-14-year-olds. Edited by ex-Match editor Ian Foster, the new mag. will go on sale on Tuesday, March 4th.

But that's not all. The market has also recently seen the launch of Kick!, launched by Attic Media Network in 2006 following the successful launch of a German magazine of the same title in 2005 which sold 80,000 copies. Kick's latest ABC figure is 62,290, up 24% year-on-year--at a cost to Match which was down 13% in the same period. (Shoot was up 7.1% following a relaunch in September 2007.)

There are at least four other general (not club specific) soccer magazines aimed at a more adult audience: Champions (24,775), Four Four Two (114,215), When Saturday Comes (18,800) and World Soccer (44,020).

If that's not enough to fill the battlefield, Interactive Publishing (who took over various adult titles formerly published by Richard Desmond) are to launch their own monthly magazine called The League which they appear to be hoping will make it easier to get financing for new titles if they are not so reliant on adult titles.
The Guardian (17 June) is reporting that Shoot! will close down at the end of June after a 40-year run. Although sales figures for recent issues aren't available, the switch from £3.10 monthly to £1.80 weekly at the end of February has clearly not given the paper the sales boost it had hoped for. Even at £1.80, the paper was far more expensive than its rival, Match, which costs only 99p. The Daily Mail (17 June) notes that "insiders say that Shoot struggled with the fierce competition and that the product was becoming increasingly comic like, offering less news and insight than its competitors."

A press release quotes Paul Williams, the managing director of IPC Inspire (a subsidiary of IPC Media), as saying, "It is with great regret that we have had to make this decision. We are of course in consultation with the six permanent staff directly affected by the proposal, and every effort will be made to find alternative jobs if this becomes necessary."

IPC Inspire are in negotiation with Pedigree Books to sell the Shoot trademark, so the final whistle may not have been blown just yet. Pedigree publishes the Shoot! Annual and various other seasonal activity books using the Shoot brand.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fred Baker (d. 2008)

Another comics' great has passed away. Fred Baker was a scriptwriter who specialised in writing sports stories for Fleetway and DC Thomson for many years.

His career spanned over 50 years, starting in Stanley Gooch's department at the Amalgamated Press where he worked on Chips, Film Fun and Radio Fun. Eventually he became the editorial manager of Fleetway's teenage romance comics, such as Valentine, in the 1960s before turning freelance around 1966.

One of his earliest long-running strips was 'Skid Kids' in Buster (1966-71) but the 250 episodes he wrote featuring Simon Starr and Brainbox Cox paled against some of his other successes. Some of his strips lasted almost a decade: 'Martin's Marvellous Mini' in Tiger (1971-80?) and 'Tommy's Troubles' in Roy of the Rovers (1976-85); some lasted even longer, including 17 years' worth of 'Skid Solo' adventures for Tiger. 'Hot-Shot Hamish' served for twelve years in the pages of Scorcher & Score and Tiger before being teamed-up with 'Mighty Mouse' (already a six year veteran) in Roy of the Rovers where their combined talents saw them through another six years.

'Hot-Shot Hamish and Mighty Mouse' is a gem of a strip—something I mentioned only recently—and if any publisher is looking for a reprint they could do no better than take a look at this one. The combination of Baker's witty scripts and Julio Schiaffino's equally witty artwork made Roy of the Rovers a must-buy for me in the 1980s (and I wasn't even particularly keen on football).

However, topping even this was Baker's twenty years as the author of 'Billy's Boots'. From January 1970 until May 1990, Baker regaled comics' fans with the story of Billy Dane, whose extraordinary footballing skills came from an ancient pair of football boots that were once owned by soccer legend 'Dead-Shot' Keen. When he was wearing the boots, it was as if Billy was channeling Dead-Shot's talent. Of course, the stories tended to get even more exciting when Billy and the boots parted company and he was left with only his own meagre footballing skills.

For many years, 'Billy's Boots' was drawn by John Gillatt and, as with 'Hot-Shot Hamish & Mighty Mouse', this was the classic combination of the right writer and artist working together. Other artists helped launch the strip in Scorcher (including Colin Page and Tom Kerr) and other artists continued the strip in later years (Mike Western amongst them) but, for me, Billy was at his best in the hands of Baker and Gillatt.

Towards the end of his career, Baker also wrote for D C Thomson, his strips including 'We Are United' for Champ (1984-85).

Baker retired from writing in the 1990s and lived with his family in Cornwall. At the end he was suffering from Alzheimer's and died, on 4 June 2008, from pneumonia.

Barrie Tomlinson (former editor of Tiger and Eagle) has written a tribute to Baker which can be found at the Down the Tubes website.

(* 'Billy's Boots' © Egmont UK Ltd.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

From Top Secret to Action

Richard Sheaf has sent over another example of Fleetway's recycled covers. The cover for Top Secret Picture Library no.31 (1975) became to cover to Action Annual 1982 six years later.

Top Secret was one of my favourites when I was a kid. It featured the adventures of John Havok, an unwilling agent of a British Secret Service department, blackmailed into risking his life after he was unfairly blamed for the crash of a plane. John Havok of the original illustration becomes Dredger of D.I.6—another of my favourite characters from that era. Guess I just had a thing for reluctant secret agents.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Comic Cuts

Here we are 10 days after work on the house began and so far we've had workmen in on 5 of them. My office (cleared out 8 days ago) is a complete wreck and, although the window is in the hole I still can't move everything back in because the trim still needs to be done. Half of my office is in the living room, making that room unusable and the delicate eco-system of the office (which I share with a number of spiders) is ruined beyond all repair. Where books I needed to refer to were within arms' length, they're now buried somewhere.

Still, the windows look nice. And once we can get the curtains back up I'll start feeling a little less like an exhibit. I'm actually looking forward to doing some shopping and getting some fresh air that isn't swooshing in through gaping holes in the walls.

A quick review: the latest issue of Jeff Hawke's Cosmos is now out. Vol.4 No.3 (issue 12, April 2008), sees the magazine going perfect bound and the pagination increased to 80 pages. This allows space for the reprinting of three Jeff Hawke stories: 'Here Be Tygers' (originally published in the Daily Express in 1971-72), 'S.O.S.' (1969-70) and 'Rescue Party' (1970). Each story has accompanying notes by Duncan Lunan on their scientific background and, amongst the handful of other features in the magazine, Andrew Darlington examines the history of Ron Turner's comic strip 'Space Ace'. It all makes for a fine package and, bar a little moiré affecting some of the heavily letratoned strips, the reproduction of the strips is incredibly good.

Hopefully anyone introduced (or re-introduced) to Jeff Hawke by the recent Titan Books' reprint will discover Jeff Hawke's Cosmos. The background material on the stories makes great reading, but the strips themselves are enough to make this a must have. It's a snip at £7 per issue; subscriptions are available (£18.50 UK; £28 overseas airmail) from The Jeff Hawke Club, 6 The Close, Alwoodly, Leeds LS17 7RD (please enclose an SAE with enquiries). You can find out more about the publication and about Jeff Hawke at the Jeff Hawke website.

News from around the net... and elsewhere

* The latest issue of Book and Magazine Collector (#296, July 2008) contains a 70th birthday article for the Beano by Norman Wright & David Ashford.

* Photos from the recent Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and Sean Phillips signing at Forbidden Planet for Joel Meadows' Studio Space book, which is now available from Image Comics in both hardback (ISBN 978-1582409092, 31 May 2008) and softcover (ISBN 978-1582409085, 31 May 2008). (link via Journalista)

* Pádraig Ó Méalóid begins a long interview with Alan Moore at the Forbidden Planet International blog, with part two to follow.

* The final part of Kristy Valenti's appreciation of Peter O'Donnell is up: part 1, part 2, part 3. (link via Journalista)

* Jim McCarthy and Steve Parkhouse will be signing copies of Sex Pistols: The Graphic Novel (Omnibus Press ISBN 978-1846095085, 9 June 2008) at Forbidden Planet on Saturday, 28 June between 1 and 2pm.

* In The Independent (13 June) Tom Lubbock takes a look at a 1936 Punch cartoon by Pont (Graham Laidler)


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