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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Brian Lewis

(* I posted a couple of covers by Brian Lewis recently and received a comment requesting information about the artist. After a lot of digging around, this is what I've found... )

Brian Moncrieff Lewis was born 3 June 1929. An ex-R.A.F. man with engineering design experience, he became an active member of SF fandom in the early 1950s, co-editing and contributed to The Medway Journal, although his first professional science fiction work is thought to have been an illustration for Journey Into Space in the Radio Times.

He published illustrations in New Worlds as early as 1954, followed by covers for all the Nova group of SF titles, beginning in July 1957. In total he supplied 40 covers for New Worlds, 21 for Science Fantasy and 19 for SF Adventures between 1957-62. Jon Gustafson and Peter Nicholls, writing in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, comment that Lewis was "A skilled painter whose work dominated UK sf magazine covers in the mid- and late 1950s, [Lewis] often showed a strong influence from Surrealists such as Paul Klee (1879-1940) and Max Ernst (1891-1976), perhaps partly mediated through the book-cover illustration of Richard Powers ... His colours were strong and plain and seemed laid on thickly, an impression few other illustrators give." He also produced a handful of covers for Digit Books during this period.

I believe Lewis made his comic strip debut in Lone Star in 1959 and TV Comic in 1960, but it was with 'Jet Ace Logan' in Tiger in 1961 that he began to make his name as a strip artist. After three months he switched to 'Captain Condor' in Lion, which he drew between December 1961 and January 1963. For Eagle, Lewis drew 'Home of the Wanderers' and 'Mann of Battle'. Given his credentials as a science fiction artist, Lewis may have seemed an odd choice for drawing sports and war strips, but he found a semi-regular home in Tiger with stints on 'The Suicide Six', 'Paddy Ryan' and 'Memorable Moments in Sport' in 1962-63 before finding himself a more regular home in Boys' World drawing the adventures of John Brody and various features, including covers.

He returned to SF with 'The Destroyer from the Depths' in Tiger and the various adventures of Planet Z in Hurricane (both 1964) before taking over 'The Guinea Pig' in Eagle for eight months (1965). Lewis also developed a more cartoony style for 'Pest of the West' and 'Georgie's Germs' in Wham!, these strips appearing at the same time as his adventure strips in Smash! and Lion.

Around 1966 he disappeared from comics to work in animation and children's puppet films, including the production of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (1968). His name has also been linked with The Muppet Show [see note at bottom].

Returning to comics in 1970, he drew various adventures for Countdown and Look-In as well as continuing his cartoon work with 'Tomboy' for Cor!! and Buster and 'Les Dawson is Superflop' for Look-In. Lewis also drew various advertising strips such as 'Inchman' in the 1970s. One time Buster sub-editor Dez Skinn made better use of Lewis's talents in the pages of House of Hammer where Lewis drew adaptations (including 'The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires', 'The Quatermass Xperiment' and 'The Reptile') and numerous covers between 1976-78.

Lewis also returned to Fleetway, briefly drawing 'Dan Dare' for 2000AD (1978) as a fill-in for Dave Gibbons and various covers. His last comic strip work appeared in the Van der Valk Annual published by Brown Watson in 1978. In his final year he also produced technical drawings for Harry Harrison's Mechanismo (Pierrot Publishing, 1978)

Lewis's last completed commission was for The Wall of Years by Andrew M. Stephenson (Futura, 1979). He died on 4 December 1978.

In 1982, a Halls of Horror Winter Special reprinted most of Lewis's strips from House of Hammer.

Jim Croasdale's British Comic Art website has various examples of Lewis's strip and cover work. Further strips and covers can be found here as can an accompanying article on Lewis (in Spanish). My thanks to Steve Winders for confirming Lewis's connection to the 'Wanderers' strip in Eagle. Jeremy Briggs was the original scanner of the photo at the top of the page, taken from Starburst no.6.

The Muppet Show:
Jeremy Briggs notes: "I looked for ... any connection between Lewis and The Muppet Show. I know that there are mentions elsewhere that he worked on it but I could find nothing to substantiate it and I suspect that Lewis actually did the comic strip in the Brown Watson early Muppet Show Annuals and the story has got distorted with time. I think that I put that into the first of the Brown Watson pieces in the Alley with a question mark against it."

13 comments:

  1. Steve,

    I have an oversized Usborne book from 1975, Battlegame Book 3: Galactic War, which features some rather fine Brian Lewis illustrations. The book features some simple board games, bracketed with factual articles about astronomy and spaceflight.

    The author/compiler is Andrew McNeil. I'm not sure if books 1,2 and 4 feature any Lewis illustrations, as they're titled The Wild West, Knights at War, and World War II, respectively.

    If the work was commissioned for the book, not just reprinted, then this must represent some of Lewis's final output.

    Ken.

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  2. not forgetting his 1978 work on Starlord comic, check it out here..

    http://www.watchthestars.sevenpennynightmare.co.uk/starzines/12.htm


    Richard

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  3. Of course!
    and here...
    http://www.watchthestars.sevenpennynightmare.co.uk/starzines/08.htm

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  4. Hi Steve.

    Wow, what a quick turnaround! Thanks for the article about Brian Lewis. Fantastic stuff!

    I remember those Battlegame books. I had the sci-fi and WW2 editions. I know of one illo in the WW2 book that's BL's; it's a painting of a T34 tank.

    Nice to see my website (British Comic Art) mentioned too.

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  5. Brian was still working in comics in the late sixties Steve. Using a humour style he drew 'Space Jinx' for SMASH! in 1966 and also many (but not all) of the 'Charlie's Choice' strips for the same comic until 1968.

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  6. He also drew Moon Madness which I seem to remember was a barking mad strip about an alien being landing on Earth in bits. It didn't last long.

    I think the Charlie's Choice strip ran until September 1968. Yellow Submarine was released in the UK on 17 July 1968 so he must have been working on both at the same time. But the next strip I have for him is Captain Scarlet in Countdown, 29 May 1971. Wonder what he was doing during 1969/70?

    I've also had it pointed out that Lewis did some strip work for D C Thomson, including episodes of the 'Chilling Tales of Mystery from Damian Darke' in Spellbound in 1976.

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  7. Thanks for this information,what a fantastic artist.

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  8. I'd just like to say thank you for this information about Brian Lewis. He was my grandad, although he died before I was born. I decided to see if I could find any of his work and this has helped narrow down my search. Thank you again. Also it was the muppets annual he worked on, although not sure of the year.

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  9. Hi Cealloway,

    Good to hear from you and thanks for confirming that it was the Muppet Annual rather than the actual TV show he worked on. These rumours spread and it's difficult to disprove something once mis-information is out on the web.

    As you can see from the comments, Brian's work is well appreciated, so if you or your family care to share any further information about Brian and his life and work, please drop me a line direct (address just below the photo top left).

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  10. Brian Lewis was my dad and I can confirm that he did a lot of the original artwork for the Muppet show...in fact I can clearly remember him taking me with him to deliver it and leaving me in the studios at Boreham wood to watch the Muppet show being filmed. I also had the opportunity through him to meet with Jim henson.
    He did the illustrations not for the annual but it was the Muppet show diary. I have the original artworth that was used.

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  11. Great to hear from you. As you can see from the comments, there's a lot of interest in your dad's work. Perhaps you could drop me a line directly (my e-mail address can be found top-left under the photo) as I'd be very interested to learn more about his career.

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  12. Anybody out there who knows the whereabouts of any Brian Lewis artwork please contact me at WARREN318@sky.com as our family would very much like to put his collection of work back together again. yours Thankfully

    WARREN.AUSTEN.LEWIS

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  13. Good day

    I'm Axel Korinth, one of the authors of the "A Is For Apple" project about The Beatles' Apple company. We're currently researching Apple's Timothy Travel movie which was directed by Brian Lewis. We would appreciate if any of his descendants could get in touch with us. Thanks!

    Best regards

    Axel
    research@aisforapplebook.com
    www.aisforapplebook.com

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