Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jenny Reyn [Edna Clarke, nee Reynolds]

Jenny Reyn was one of the many anonymous toilers in the field who worked for British nursery comics for decades, producing delicate, colourful fairy tales and adaptations of young children's television shows, amongst them The Herbs, Barnaby and Babar.

Jenny Reyn was actually her working name, her real name was Edna Reynolds, Clarke once married. She was born in 1913 in Sittingbourne, her father a gardener and her mother a cook. The family moved because of work first to Chertsey and then to Fulmer in Buckinghamshire when she was about two. She lived in a cottage on the Fulmer Chase Estate with her parents and two older sisters; it sounded an idyllic childhood. The headmistress of the local school noticed her artistic talent and the council provided a bicycle so that Edna was able to attend the art school in Wycombe.

Collins Little Folks Annual

Pippin Annual 1979

On leaving she taught at a girl's private school, but then found work with Ralph Mott advertising studio in London in 1932. Her next job was as one of the first animators for Halas and Batchelor, first at Bush House in London and then as the bombing got worse they moved out to Bushey (apparently there were just six animators) later returning to London in Soho Square. She worked on films such as Digging for Victory (1942), Jungle Warfare (1943), warning soldiers of foot rot, and Handling Ships (1944-45), about ship control and navigation.

Daily Sketch Children's Annual

Parsley Annual 1973

Her first child was born in 1946 so she regretfully had to stop work. Her second daughter was born in 1950.

Wishing to continue working she was taken on by the Judy Boland Studio as a freelance illustrator and worked on various children's books and comics, Robin Annual, Sunny Stories, Daily Sketch Children's Annual, Collins Little Folks Annual and Playways Annual. She was a friend of the illustrators Hilda Boswell and Bill Backhouse ("I think Hilda helped her find her way into comics," says her daughter, Corinne).

Barbar Annual 1972

Collins Little Folks Annual

In the 1960s she worked on the Pippin and Playland comics, producing a spread every week something she continued to do right into her seventies, other annuals she worked on were the Pippin Annual, the Barnaby Annual, the Babar Annual and the Parsley Annual.

(* My thanks to Corinne, Edna Clarke's daughter, for the above information and scans.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Celebrating Beano's 70th Birthday

Welcome to The Beano's 70th birthday bash.

Don't forget, August 2nd (the cover-date of the anniversary issue) has been designated Gnashional Menace Day to raise money for CLIC Sargent, the Caring for Children with Cancer organisation.

Official Website
Background info:
News bulletins:
Recent coverage:
(* Happy Birthday, Beano! The Beano is © D. C. Thomson Ltd.)

Reg Carter: First artist of the first Beano

Today is the seventieth birthday of D. C. Thomson's The Beano Comic. Dated July 30, 1938, the first issue was actually released a few days before, on Tuesday, July 26th, but the tradition for British comics is to date them for the week-ending, in this case, the following Saturday.

The Beano Comic of today is a world away from the paper that debuted in 1938. The original 28 pages were a mixture of adventure and cartoon strips plus a healthy dose of text stories. This was an innovative format, unlike any of the rival papers published by Amalgamated Press. Thomsons had produced The Dandy Comic some thirty-five weeks earlier, which could be said to be the first 'modern' comic. Text stories aside, the Dandy and Beano aren't so different in format from their modern counterparts, approximately 8½ x 12 inches, colour covers and a free gift to give the new title a good send-off.

The Beano featured a free Whoopee Mask, now a much-prized treasure for collectors. The first issue sells for thousands of pounds—a copy with the free gift sold for £6,200 in February 1999, although the current record price is over £7,500.

Most of us—and I include myself—have only ever seen the cover of this piece of history, which got me thinking... what do we know about the man who drew that first strip that graced the first page of the very first Beano...

Like The Dandy Comic, launched shortly before Christmas in 1937, The Beano featured an anthropomorphic animal on its cover, although unlike The Dandy's 'Korky the Cat', Big Eggo was able to talk from the first panel (Korky would eventually find his voice). The gangling ostrich has lost his egg, finds one which could be his but which turns out to belong to an alligator, as Eggo discovers when it hatches.

The artist was Reg Carter, whose work in comics was studied by the late Bill Lofts, who said of Carter: "His tow most distinctive characteristics were his rather wooden-looking figures, more often than not wearing cloth caps (the forerunners of Andy Capp, perhaps?), with large rings around the eyes that gave them a cods-eye appearance. Strangely enough, his comic animals always seemed to have more life in them—probably why his 'Big Eggo' was accepted, and no doubt devised, to lead off page one of The Beano at the start of this famous comic's long run."

Reginald Arthur Lay Carter was born in Southwold, Blything, East Suffolk, on December 6, 1886, the son of Francis Wilby Carter (1856- ), a successful decorator, who had married Barbara Lay in 1883. Reginald was their second son.

In his teens, Reg Carter was already to be found drawing for several glossy and humourous magazines and, in 1914, contributed to the London Fun and Laughter Show, a curious event about which nobody seems to know anything. He also drew golfing sketches and picture postcard paintings of the Southwold Railway.

Shortly after the end of the Great War, Carter made his way into comics and, with issue 13 of Kinema Comic, began producing the full page 'Artful Antics of Babe Hardy'—as Oliver Hardy (pre-Laurel) was known. "It is interesting to note," says Bill Lofts, "that the large, burly figure of Babe Hardy, with bowler hat and moustache, usually in the form of a bullying foreman, featured a great deal in Carter's comic strips in forthcoming years."

His next strip—for Merry & Bright in 1921—featured Ernie Mayne, the music hall comedian. A year later, Carter created his first original character, 'Priceless Percy', in Sports Fun. Carter then followed Harold Mansfield, a former A.P. editor who left under something of a cloud, to a new venture called Monster Comic, where he created 'Wireless Willie and Broadcast Bertie', thought to be the first characters in comic strip form connected with that new discovery, the radio (a theme he returned to in 1931 when he produced 'Raymond Radio and Walter Wavelength' for Sparkler).

Denis Gifford noted that Carter seemed to specialise in alliterative characters in various walks of everyday employment: 'Ferdinand the Fire Fighter', 'Bill Bonzo the Billiard Marker', 'Happy Harold the Van Boy', 'Gussy the Gas Meter Manipulator' to name but a few.

Mansfield's operation was eventually bought out by his former employers, the Amalgamated Press, in 1928 and Carter's output began to tail off, although to young fans of cheap comics, he must have seemed one of the most prolific artists around as Mansfield sold the plates to his early titles to C. A. Ransom, who published dozens of reprints (Merry Moments, The Tip Top Comic, The Up-to-Date Comic, The Sunny Comic, etc.) derived from Mansfield's Monster Comic and Golden Penny Comic.

Carter found work with Frolix, the short-lived photogravure comic for nursery children and then with H. Louis Diamond, drawing for Sparkler, and thence back to the A.P. and Bo-Peep.

Carter found regular work on the early issues of Mickey Mouse Weekly, where he drew 'Troubles of Father', 'Bob the Bugler', 'Sea Shanties' and 'Circus Capers'. It was not to last: Carter's work looked rather old-fashioned compared to the lively style that Walt Disney was inspiring in other strips and Carter's next appearance was with another new paper, The Beano.

He kept up a steady supply of strips for The Beano for its first decade. 'Big Eggo' ran for 358 episodes, although later strips, reduced to a few panels, were drawn by George Drysdale. Carter switched to new characters 'Freddy Flipperfeet' (1947-48) and 'Peter Penguin' (1948-49). The latter strip came to an end in issue 361 (14 May 1949), a few weeks after the death of its creator. Reg Carter died on April 24, 1949, aged 62, leaving a small fortune although, as Bill Lofts pointed out, it is doubtful that this was gained purely from his artwork. Most editors recalled seeing his work, often when they were rejecting it as sub-standard, although none recalled ever meeting Carter himself.

(* Illustrations © D. C. Thomson Ltd. The first issue of The Beano was cheekily revisited in the Beano's 60th anniversary issue in 1998 when Eggo received a nasty gnip from Gnasher. I'm a little short of illustrations thanks to most of my reference books being locked away in storage, so I may revisit this column at some point and add a few.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hewlett & Martin's The 16s

The BBC News Magazine (29 July) has a brief report on a 1997 strip by Alan C. Martin & Jamie Hewlett. 'The 16s' was, according to Martin, the pair's answer to 'The Peanuts': "It's an eternal summer, always set outdoors, with archetypal characters. And it looks like the missing link between Tank Girl and Gorillaz," Martin is quoted as saying. "The 16s was a name that I'd had kicking around for a long time, taken from glam-band The Sweet's single The Six Teens. It had nothing to do with the strip or characters, but seemed to fit nicely."

The strip was the last collaboration between Martin and Hewlett following the disastrous Tank Girl movie.

Martin is currently writing new TG stories for the Judge Dredd Megazine, which will begin in the relaunch issue, #275.

(* The 16s © Alan C. Martin & Jamie Hewlett.)

H. Tamblyn-Watts

H. Tamblyn-Watts is an artist I've meant to jot down some notes on for ages. A year ago I did a bit of research into the Tamblyn-Watts family tree to see if I could discover where the name originated and published the results back in July 2007.

Harold Tamblyn-Watts is a name recognised by quite a few researchers into British comics. At the time my interest was his work on 'Out and About with Uncle Ben' for Jack & Jill (1962-64) and 'Katie Country Mouse' for the same paper, which he took over drawing from Philip Mendoza in 1964 and would draw for many years. To most British comics' collectors and to the much larger group of Gerry Anderson fans, he is inextricably linked through his work on 'Supercar' for TV Comic in 1961. He also contributed illustrations to Eagle Annual and Girl Annual, so he touches base with many collectors. In the mid-1960s he also drew 'The Pingwings' for TV Playland.

Harold William Tamblyn-Watts was born in Settle, Yorkshire, on May 5, 1900, the son of Thomas Massey Fisher Tamblyn Watts, a Westcliffe-on-Sea-based author and publisher who produced a number of books in the 1920s and 1930s, ranging from The Home Electrician (1927) to Wonderful Plants. Harold was educated at Southend School of Art and worked as Studio Manager for the Emmett Group in 1935-48. He exhibited watercolours and illustrated numerous books, especially nature and animal books for young children.

He lived in Shirley, Croydon, Surrey, where he died in November 1999. He was survived by a son, Graham. He was predeceased by his wife, May, and a second son, Stuart.

Tamblyn-Watts, who served in both World Wars, earned a brief local infamy in Shirley when a neighbour complained about his bagpipe playing and had to practice on Shirley Hills; the incident was reported in a national daily newspaper.

Illustrated Books
The Young Naturalist by Sir John Buchan-Hepburn. London, Chapman & Watts, 1949.

(* My thanks to Michael Breeze for photos of Tamblyn-Watts' paintings. The painting immediately above, 'Sweet Peas', was painted by Tamblyn-Watts as a wedding gift for Michael's parents in 1938.

Further information about Tamblyn-Watts' artwork for Supercar can be found at the Gerry Anderson Complete Comic History website.

Supercar © AP Films/TV Publications Ltd.; Katie Country Mouse © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Brits at Comic-Con

Entertainment Weekly online has some photos taken at the recent San Diego Comic-Con including...

Dave Gibbons meets Zack Snyder, director of the Watchmen movie, and...

Edgar Wright, Jessica Hynes and Simon Pegg of Spaced. Note Pegg's 2000AD t-shirt.

(* photos © Entertainment Weekly and Time Inc.)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

George Stokes - Wes Slade

Originally published 25 July 2007; see below for an update.

A while back I was asked about the 'Wes Slade' strip drawn by George Stokes for the Sunday Express. Unfortunately, I didn't even have the basic information of when it started and finished and a phonecall to the Express didn't help as, I was told, they didn't have any information on the strip.

As luck would have it, I was recently contacted by Germund von Wowern from Sweden, himself a comic book editor, who very generously sent me some copies of the strip. From these I've worked out that the strip must have started on Sunday, 29 January 1961. Not sure when it ended but the last strip Germund sent was for a story that ended on 13 February 1972, although the strip may have continued beyond that date.

The stories ran for around 13 to 16 weeks so the example at the top of the column was approximately the 7th story to appear. The last strip is numbered 567, implying that there were some 39 or so stories up to that point.

There is still very little known about the strip or its artist. George Stokes had worked for Mick Anglo in the early 1950s (prior to that I believe he had served with the Canadian Air Force) and then produced some strips for Fleetway. But the bulk of his career seems to have been dedicated to Wes Slade which he originally wrote and drew; later stories were written by Jim Edgar.

Below is a very rough schedule of stories based on the scattered examples I now have: if anyone can fill any gaps, please feel free to drop me a line.

Update: 27 July 2008: I've been able to add quite a bit of detail thanks to an e-mail received from Franco Giacomini who sent me a listing of Italian reprints. I ringraziamenti, Franco. [I hope that's "thanks, Franco".] I've retained the Italian titles as they may help i.d. further story titles in the future.
Further Update: 23 May 2011: My thanks to Torbjörn Svensson (see Comments) for much additional information about the end of the run. Torbjörn tells me that Jim Edgar is credited as the writer on the strip from the story 'Green Lebanon' in 1979 and that Harry Bishop took over as artist during the run of the story 'The Territory' in 1980.

1 The Living Dead ( )______________29 Jan 1961-?? [Lo Scefiffo Slade]
2 Fast Gun in Carrizal ( )______________________[Corruzione a Carrizal]
3 Ambush at Ochoa Springs (37-41)______________[Agguato a Ochoa Springs]
4 [Il padrone di Banjo Crossing] (42-54)
5 [La fine della pista] (55-68)
6 [I defradati] (69-80)
7 The Nesters (81-93)______________12 Aug-4 Nov 1962 [I coloni]
8 The Night Riders (94-103)_________11 Nov 1962-??
9 [La carovana della morte] (104-115)
10 [non individuata] (116-127)
11 [Una manciata di fango] (127-140)
12 Border Town (141-153)___________06 Oct 1963-?? [Citta' di frontiera]
13 [Il selvaggio] (154-167)
14 The Desperadoes (168-180)_______12 Apr 1964-??
15 [Il giocatore di Placerville] (181-192)
16 [non individuata] (193-206)
17 [La lancia di guerra] (207-220)
18 [El caballero] (221-236)
19 [non individuata] (237-250)
20 The California Road (251-264)_____21 Nov 1966-??
21 [Il rinnegato] (265-278)
22 [Penitenziario di stato] (279-292)
23 [non individuata] (293-306)
24 [Cacciatore di taglie] (307-319)
25 [Dodge City] (320-333)
30 A Day in Chandler's Fork (390-403)_15 Sep-15 Dec 1968
31 The Dud (404-419)_______________22 Dec 1968-6 Apr 1969
35 News from Shiloh (475-490)_______03 May-16 Aug 1970
37 Johnny Pueblo (507-520)_________13 Dec 1970-14 Mar 1971
40 The Maverick (552-567)__________24 Oct 1971-13 Feb 1972
___* No issue dated 26 December 1971.
XX Much Hombre (616-630)
XX The Gentle Gaffer (631-647?)
XX Blood Brother (648?-661)
XX Hard to Handle (662-678)
XX Fleckner's Territory (679-693)
XX The Medicine Man (695-710)
XX The Good Father Damien (711-726)
XX The Man From Loredo (727-742)
XX The Golden Widow (743-755?)
XX Corrigan's Kid (757?-772)
XX Uncle Shad (773-778)
XX Flowers for Maggie (789-806)_____23 May 1976-19 Sep 1976
XX Eye for an Eye (807-823)_________26 Sep 1976-23 Jan 1977
XX Day of Reckoning (824-842)______30 Jan 1977-5 Jun 1977
XX The Loner (843-860)_____________12 Jun 1977-9 Oct 1977
XX Seed (861-877)__________________16 Oct 1977-12 Feb 1978
XX Ballad of Moses (878-895)________19 Feb 1978-18 Jun 1978
XX The Moonshiners (896-911)_______25 Jun 1978-8 Oct 1978
XX Little Brother Crow (912-927)______15 Oct 1978-28 Jan 1979
XX Viva Montanez! (928-943)_________4 Feb 1979-20 May 1979
XX Green Lebanon (944-961)_________27 May 1979-23 Sep 1979
XX Witch-Brood (962-978)____________30 Sep 1979-20 Jan 1980
XX The Territory (979-995)___________26 Jan 1980-18 May 1980
XX Day of Wrath (996-1012)__________25 May 1980-14 Sep 1980
XX The Grafter (1013-1032)___________21 Sep 1980-1 Feb 1981
XX A Debt of Honour (1033-1041)______8 Feb 1980-5 Apr 1981
XX The Wild One (1042-1052)_________12 Apr 1981-28 Jun 1981

Somewhere I've got a copy of the little Wes Slade reprint put out by Express Newspapers in 1979 (which makes me think that the strip probably carried on well beyond 1972). The book contained three stories and I'll fill in the details when the book surfaces from whatever nook or cranny it's hiding in. Update: David Simpson filled in the story titles for me back when this was originally posted. We can now see from Franco's list that it reprinted the first three stories and the third tale was indeed rather short.

(* Wes Slade © Express Newspapers)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Comic Cuts: "Give your kids a comic..."

Bel Mooney the Daily Mail is telling readers of her problem's page (25 July), "Instead of giving counselling, give your kids a comic."

Mooney briefly discusses 'Teddy Tail', the long-running Daily Mail comic strip—the first of its kind in British newspapers, which began life in April 1915. Teddy was "the mouse that will make your children laugh", originally drawn by Charles Folkard. Hugely popular (there were numerous books of his adventures, a club (the Teddy Tail League) and annuals), Teddy finally went to the great cheese factory in the sky in 1960.

"There were no speech bubbles; the narrative was beneath the pictures (or at the side) and the storylines were tame," says Mooney of an annual she has managed to find. "No matter. Think what was going on in the world in 1915 when Teddy Tail first gave pleasure with his innocent pranks. He was needed. And Beano's longevity reminds us how much children still need the energetic, subversive humour of The Bash Street Kids and Dennis the Menace. Pressured by school and by SATs fiascos, they need to laugh."

That's true for all of us. It's eight o'clock on a Saturday morning, and the coffee hasn't started to kick in. Thirty-five years ago, I'd have been legging it down to the newsagent to pick up my copy of Valiant, alternatively being dragged and dragging the dog along for his morning walk. The newsagent was about fifteen minutes walk and I couldn't wait to get there to find out what was happening this week to Rick and Charlie Wild, Louis Crandell and Tim Kelly. Nowadays I head online to scan through the headlines in the newspapers first thing in the morning and I'm thinking of weaning myself off them because I'm sure it's responsible for me starting the day miserable or angry. Thirty-five years ago it would have been the first week of the summer holidays and we'd have been celebrating the beautiful weather and every day had the promise of infinite possibilities. Nowadays, it's all knife crime and the cost of gas and electricity soaring.

My point isn't that I've turned completely into a miserable old git but that we could all do with a laugh. I'm thinking: establish a cheerful mood first thing by cruising through some of the very funny web-comics that are available on the internet; get started on the day's work while my brain is fresh; don't look at the papers until at least 9 o'clock or even 10 o'clock.

The little pessimistic devil whispering in my ear tells me the reality will probably be: spend too long looking at web-comics; start work late and distracted wondering what's been going on in the world. Where's that little optimistic angel when you need her for balance?

On Wednesday I wrote "By the time you read this I should have the Sci-Fi Art book just about in the bag." I wasn't fibbing: I managed to finish and send off the introduction. Thursday and Friday were a complete change of pace: translating The Robots of Danderzei for the next StormThe Collection volume due in a couple of months. I've still to do the introduction but I'll hopefully have that wrapped up on Sunday leaving me free to start something fresh on Monday morning.

More good news: Frank Bellamy's King Arthur has been sent off to the printers, as has The Art of the Trigan Empire, a catalogue of Trigan artwork for sale via the Illustration Art Gallery. I wrote a brief introduction to it a month or so ago. Both should be out in time for the London ABC Show on Sunday, 21 September, where I shall be sat, pen in hand, while people wander past with sideways glances and puzzled looks wondering who the heck I am. Wasn't he the guy who sat next to Syd Jordan last year? Or maybe a few people will take pity and ask me to sign something.

Ahhh... welcome back optimistic angel.

(* Teddy Tail © Daily Mail; Calvin & Hobbes © Bill Watterson; Trigan Empire © IPC Media.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future audio book review

Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future
Voyage to Venus Part 1

Reviewed by Steve Winders

Orion’s new audio version of the first half of Dan Dare’s first ever adventure from Eagle sticks rigidly to Frank Hampson’s original script and this is a major strength of the production. Hampson’s story is well paced and his witty script, with strong character interplay, transfers well to audio. Without the pictures some listeners may find parts of the story hard to follow but this was not an issue for me, although this may be because I know it so well.

The production is presented by just three actors and a narrator but, thanks to the versatility of Rupert Degas, who plays most of the characters, it sounds like a full cast recording. Having said that, Degas’ accent for Digby occasionally slips across the Pennines, but this is a minor criticism as he captures Digby’s (and Hampson’s) dry Lancashire wit extremely well.

Less successful is Tom Goodman Hill’s rather pompous reading of Dan Dare and the exaggerated tone of the production, which reminds me of the B.B.C.’s 1972 remake of the first ‘Dick Barton: Special Agent’ radio serial from 1946. Of course, the original may also have been performed in exaggerated style but it was before my time. Whether it was or not, I thought that the unnatural enthusiasm and exaggeration by the actors to try to punctuate the ‘action’ scenes spoiled the production by making a parody of what could have been a tense and exciting story. This is partly true of Orion’s ‘Dan Dare’, although I think the story rises above misguided attempts to overact it.

As in the B.B.C. radio adaptation of the same story in 1990, the Treens have a distinctly metallic tone in their voices, which was probably achieved by using a ring modulator. Years ago some friends and I recorded our own plays on tape and one of them, a science fiction pastiche, featured the Mekon and Treens. We used our own voices without recourse to technological aids, creating a rasping reptilian sound from the back of our throats to convey Treen speech. It proved quite effective and was surely more in the spirit of Frank Hampson’s original concept of the Treens, who were neither robots nor cybernetic creatures. It was rather painful on our throats though, but nothing that a couple of strepsils couldn’t cure.

The Theron characters are also given their own accent, which sounds like a mild American accent. While a slightly more exotic accent might be more effective, the idea of giving them their own distinct accent is a good one, especially in the absence of visual images to distinguish them.

Peter Rinne’s music punctuates the action well and the sound effects are also successful. I look forward to Part Two …

Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future - Voyage to Venus Part 1. Orion (ISBN 978-0752898766), July 2008.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Anita Hewett

Anita Hewett was a popular writer of short stories, many of them published in collections by Bodley Head in the 1950s and 1960s. Later books (and her work was still in print in the 1990s) were reprints of earlier titles. She also contributed to Robin Annuals 2, 3 and 4 (1954-56).

Anita Mary Hewett was born in Wellington, Somerset, on 23 March 1918, the daughter of Harold Frank Hewett and his wife Anita (nee Welsh). Harold worked at Ellworthy's woollen mill at Westford, following in the footsteps of his father (Harold) and grandfather (Samuel), who had been a manager of the mill. The Hewett's had three children, Walter, Anita and Margaret Helen, all raised Baptists by their father who was a Deacon, Sunday School Superintendent and organist at the Rockwell Green Church. Anita ran the 'baby class' at Sunday School. It is no surprise that her own religious education meant she secured 100% and won a prize in an annual national Scripture Examination in 1934.

Anita was educated at Blackdown School, Wellington, and the University College of the South-West. Despite the fact that the Hewetts were an important family locally, Anita rebelled against her religious upbringing and after working as a teacher, left Wellington to found a school for young children in Kingston, Surrey. She began writing in the 1950s, also contributing the the BBC's Listen With Mother radio series. In the 1960s she was a producer for BBC schools radio and produced Let's Join In and Poetry Corner. She retired from the BBC in 1973 but continued to write scripts for schools radio, now BBC Education.

In October 1966, she married a widower named Richard Duke and the two lived in East Molesey, where Anita had moved to in around 1963. She continued to write very successfully, her animal stories gathered together in The Anita Hewett Animal Story Book (1972) which was reprinted in 1988 as The Puffin Book of Animal Stories. Several of her books were translated into a variety of languages and have also been popular in Japan.

In the 1980s, she scripted a BBC series for primary schools called Talk To Me and turned the script into a book which remains unpublished. Anita Duke died in the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher in March 1989, aged 70.

One of her children's novels, The Elworthy Children (1963), was autobiographical (the family name coming from the factory where Anita's family had worked). It was translated into several languages and won a prize from the Austrian Education Department for being accepted as a 'standard reader' in their schools.

Clip the Crab's Adventure. Leeds, E. J. Arnold & Co. (Bright Story Readers no. 629), 1950.
The Seven Proud Sisters, and other stories, illus. M. Jarman. London, Ginn & Co., 1952.
Slink the Shadow. Leeds, E. J. Arnold & Co. (Bright Story Readers no. 305), 1953.
The Crocodile That Couldn't Swim. Leeds, E. J. Arnold & Co. (Bright Story Readers no. 306), 1953.
Elephant Big and Elephant Little, and other stories, illus. Charlotte Hough. London, Bodley Head, 1955; New York, Barnes, 1960.
The Little Yellow Jungle Frogs, and other stories, illus. Charlotte Hough. London, Bodley Head, 1956; New York, Barnes, 1960.
Honey Mouse, and other stories, illus. Margery Gill. London, Bodley Head, 1957.
Think, Mr. Platypus. New York, Sterling Publishing Co., 1958.
A Hat for Rhinoceros, and other stories, illus. Margery Gill. London, Bodley Head, 1959; New York, A. S. Barnes, 1960.
Koala Bear's Walkabout, illus. Anne Marie Jauss. New York, Sterling Publishing Co., 1959.
The Laughing Bird Book, illus. Anne Marie Jauss. New York, Sterling Publishing Co., 1959.
Piccolo, illus. Dick Hart. London, Bodley Head, Dec 1960; New York, A. S. Barnes, 1961.
The Tale of the Turnip, illus. Margery Gill. London, Bodley Head, 1961; New York, Whittlesey House, 1961.
Piccolo and Maria, illus. Dick Hart. London, Bodley Head, Dec 1962.
The Little White Hen, illus. William Stobbs. London, Bodley Head, Dec 1962; New York, Whittlesey House, 1963.
The Elworthy Children, illus. Margery Gill. London, Bodley Head, Dec 1963.
The Pebble Nest, illus. Jennie Corbett. London, University of London Press, 1965.
Dragon from the North, illus. Gioia Fiammenghi. New York, Whittlesey House, 1965.
Mrs Mopple's Washing Line, illus. Robert Broomfield. London, Bodley Head, Apr 1966.
The Bull beneath the Walnut Tree and Other Stories, illus. Geraldine Spence. London, Bodley Head, Sep 1966; illus. Imero Gobbato, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1967.
Fire Engine Speedy, illus. Edward McLachlan. London, University of London Press, 1966.
Mr. Faksimily and the Tiger, illus. Robert Broomfield. London, Bodley Head, May 1967; Chicago, Follett, 1969.
The Anita Hewett Animal Story Book, illus. Margery Gill & Charlotte Hough. London, Bodley Head, Nov 1972; as The Puffin Book of Animal Stories, London, Puffin, 1988.
Kangaroo Joey Finds His Shadow. London, Ashton Scholastic, 1975.

Books as Anne Wellington
Mr. Bingle's Apple Pie, illus. Nita Sowter. London, Abelard-Schuman, Sep 1978; as Apple Pie, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall, 1978.
Grandfather Gregory, illus. Nita Sowter. London, Abelard-Schuman, 1980.

(* My thanks to Sue Gresham, a relation of Anita Hewett, who very kindly dropped me a line with a great deal of additional information. This was little more than a stub when originally posted 4 May 2007. Sue also sent the picture, which is from the jacket of The Anita Hewett Animal Story Book.

(The picture of Mrs Mopple's Washing Line was nabbed from where many of Anita Hewett's books can be found, although none appear to be in print any more.)

Ken Sprague Fund cartoon competition winners

The Guardian (23 July) has a report on the Ken Sprague Fund competition based around the theme of global warming. 19 of the winners and runners-up can be found in a related gallery, including the winning entry by Russian cartoonist Mikhail Zlatovsky (above).

I don't know if this was part of the same competition—I've a feeling it may have been—but I saved the following cartoon recently... funny and scary at the same time.

Another picture saved recently is even more scary because it's not a cartoon but a photo. If I remember correctly, it's a church in Spain which once sat on the edge of lake that has now completely dried up. There's just something haunting about it...

(* Apologies... I've no idea who has the copyright on these.)

Comic Cuts

By the time you read this I should have the Sci-Fi Art book just about in the bag. I managed to finish all bar one of the captions by Friday and spent the weekend putting together a short article on the Trigan Empire and sticking silver foil to walls (well, not really silver foil—that reflective stuff you put behind radiators). Monday was a bit of a train wreck : the redecorating was finished and much admired; the light fittings were re-fitted and the radiators re-hung. Then, disaster: tested the heating and nothing worked so we had to call in a plumber to sort it out—something to do with the pressure in the system dropping below the point where the boiler automatically cuts off.

That wasn't the first problem we had: the new back door, hung only a couple of weeks ago, has shifted slightly, so we can only close it by giving it a shove and a hefty kick simultaneously. The paintwork was signed off by our landlord's agent yesterday, which leaves the door open (pun intended) for the third lot of builders to come in shortly to rip down the porch and fix the foundations. Oh, joy! Hope they get the back door fixed before they board up the front of the house.

But I've got my TV back. So all's right with the world. I can order food online and they can pass it in through the shiny new windows.

But, back at the book. I now have most of the introduction finished and it should be done before the end of the day, God and builders willing. I'm rather embarrassed to say that I'm the last of the five authors to get their sections finished. But the book has a forgiving editor and it was the biggest section so I don't feel too guilty.

Next up on my schedule is to finish off the translation for Storm book 18 and the introduction to StormThe Collection volume 9. I'm not sure when these are due out. Possibly October, but that's a guess. Next week I'm planning to start work on another comics reprint project (which I'm keen to announce but I need to leave something to talk about later this year!) and probably the next Trigan Empire volume, which I imagine should wrap up my 2008 publications schedule. I don't think I can squeeze any more books in... but never say never! I may have to because my bank balance isn't looking too healthy at the moment.

A quick update on the Eagle dummy #2 that I mentioned recently: the whole thing can be found at Wakefield Carter's Lost Character's of Frank Hampson website. Lovely to see some of those strips—including a full page of colour Norman Thelwell artwork previously unpublished (see above). Hopefully some of the few surviving members of Hampson's team from the early Bakehouse Studio days will be able to comment (Greta Tomlinson and Bruce Cornwell are certainly still around).

And, finally, it looks like the second volume of War Picture Library reprints, Against All Odds, will be out as scheduled. I'm told that the first advance copies have just arrived at the Carlton offices and it looks good. It's officially out a week next Monday. I'll post the usual column with all the details for those of you who like to know who wrote and drew the stories.

News from Around the Net...

* I guess the most exciting thing I've spotted recently is the trailer for Watchmen...

... and the trailer for The Spirit...

Empire have a nice trailer-to-comics comparison for Watchmen. Lew Stringer has been getting into the right mood by re-reading the Absolute Watchmen collection. Meanwhile, Matthew Badham is promising to Send Alan Moore a Fiver if he goes to watch the film. It's scheduled for release on 6 March 2009 so there's still a while to go. Not quite so long before we get to see Frank Miller's take on The Spirit. It's due out on Christmas Day in the USA and on 2 January 2009 in the UK.

* Quite a while back I mentioned that the old D. C. Thomson Starblazer series was to be the basis for a new adventure game. Cubicle 7 have just released a 40-page preview [pdf] of the games' system for Starblazer Adventures at their website. The finished book, by Chris Birch and Stuart Newman, will run to over 620 pages and feature dozens of background features, including lists of major characters—both heroes and villains—who appeared in the various stories, settings, alien races and a lot more. It promises to be an interesting guide to the series even if you're not into gaming.

(* Another picture that didn't quite make it into the Sci-Fi Art book—lovely though it is. Frank Kelly Freas art for Fantastic Universe (April 1955) illustrating Algis Budrys' short story 'Who?', which I thought of using alongside Robert Engle's cover for the novel. Sadly, this one would have required a lot of cleaning up and we already had some very good examples of Freas. Incidentally, the story advertised on the cover is also by Budrys under the pen-name William Scarff.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is it just me...

... or does writer Paul Cornell bear an uncanny family resemblance to comedian Jeremy Hardy?

The Beano and the mysterious Italian artists

On 14 July, The Times ran a piece by Melanie Reid entitled "Mystery of the Italian brothers in at the birth of The Beano" in which she discussed the launch of the Happy Birthday Beano! exhibition, which opened on 18 July (and runs to 20 September) at the Lamb Gallery, University of Dundee.

A curiosity about the early issues of The Beano inspired the title: "An exhibition to mark the landmark anniversary of the venerable magazine reveals that in 1938 the Dinelli brothers were responsible for a cartoon, The Adventures of Robert Robot, that they posted to the publisher's headquarters in Dundee from their home in Italy."

By an odd coincidence, this was something I had hoped to discuss during the anniversary week of The Beano but, since the cat's peeking out of the bag already, I thought I'd put my tuppence-worth in now.

Actually it's only about a penny's worth... the brothers were actually called Torelli rather than Dinelli. I believe they were almost certainly Tristano and Bubi Torelli but a dig around Google hasn't turned up much at all. The Torelli brothers were based in Milan and subsequently published under the imprint of editore Torelli (or possibly Albi di Torelli) a number of comic books, including Il Piccolo Sceriffo (1948-65), an adventure strip featuring a young boy called Kit who becomes the sheriff of Prairie Town following the murder of his father. which ran to some 480 issues in various series. Torelli also published Sciuscia (1949-65), a story of the Canadian Mounted Police, and Nat del Santa Cruz (dates unknown).

How, ten years before the creation of The Little Sheriff, they came to be working for D. C. Thomson I've no idea, but they were responsible for two strips: 'Brave Captain Kipper' and 'Tin-Can Tommy' (The Clockwork Boy). The former strip ran for just over a year, coming to an end in issue 57 (26 August 1939). The latter, originally called 'The Adventures of Robert Robot', was about a couple who had lost their child and were given a robot boy as a replacement. "The Futurist style was admired," says Melanie Reid, "but [their] grasp of a snappy title was not, and the Robert Robot strip was swiftly renamed 'Tin-Can Tommy' for British consumption."

The Torelli brothers supplied the strip each week until issue 69 (18 November 1939). They had last been heard from a few months earlier when they wrote to D. C. Thomson to say that they were in France to avoid the unrest and were hoping to return to Italy soon to continue drawing. "Don't worry, our countries will not go to war," they wrote. Unfortunately, a few days later war did break out and 'Tin-Can Tommy' was continued by another artist, Sam Fair. The Torelli brothers had no further contact with Thomsons, even after the war.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hands up who wants one?

Having something of a black sense of humour but I can't help laughing at the juxtoposition of this story from today's Guardian and the advert next to it. "Hands up who wants one?"

You just can't help wondering what kind of morons are running the MoD. You lose a laptop or two and that's unfortunate. Any business would make allowances for the loss: there are people out there who will steal anything that's not nailed down.

But at what point do you increase your security and stop people taking sensitive data off-site? After three laptops have been stolen? Five? Ten? A dozen?

Or maybe you just think that sending out a memo saying: "Don't take laptops with sensitive data on them out of this office" costs more than the laptop. When does it become cost effective? The equivalent of twenty laptops? Thirty? Forty?

Once you get to fifty stolen laptops or seventy-five—oh, hell, let's go for broke and make it a hundred—you'd think that someone would ask the obvious question: are these personal laptops. If the answer is yes, why are you putting sensitive data on them? If the answer is no, why are you taking Government property out of the office? From the wording of the report these do appear to be MoD-owned laptops.

After you've lost one hundred and fifty laptops wouldn't you start asking people not to take them out of the office? And at two hundred wouldn't you tell them not to take them out of the office? At what point do you say: if your laptop contains sensitive data please do not take it out of the office. At two hundred and fifty is your memo more strongly worded (lose the "please")? At three hundred do you write your memo in CAPITAL LETTERS and stop using a smiley at the end?

When do you start firing people for neglect or gross incompetence or just plain idiocy? Four hundred? Five hundred? And the guy in charge... what's he doing about it? Is he resolving the problem? Is he, maybe, so weak in the head that losing five hundred laptops doesn't register as a problem? Is five hundred lost laptops just an inconvenience? How about five hundred and fifty? How about six hundred?

What other place of work would allow six hundred and fifty-nine laptops to be stolen? And we are, surely, talking about losses within the borders of the UK... surely not in combat zones. Would you risk committing sensitive information to a laptop that might fall into enemy hands? Once through overconfidence, maybe twice—but you're dealing in lives here, not property.

So: Hands up, who wants an MoD computer? Seems to me it won't be long before enough have gone missing for us all to have one.

(* Screen grab from The Guardian, posted 20 July 2008, © Guardian News and Media Ltd.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Revelations: The Other Trigan Empire Artist

Here's a good example of how things can be turned on their head in seconds in the wacky world of researching British comics.

For years fans have been compiling lists and information about the British comic strip 'The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire'. I think it would be fair to say that the strip is one of the most studied of all British strips—perhaps second only to Dan Dare. Although the strip has been unavailable in the UK for many years (only a handful of stories have been reprinted here since the strip's demise in 1982), it has been available across Europe. While most fans have concentrated on the episodes of 'Trigan Empire' drawn by Don Lawrence, there have also been albums reprinted featuring the artwork of other artists who worked on the strip.

A checklist of strips and artists appeared in Dutch reprint albums at least as early as 1985. The checklist includes credits for the artists and writers, including the artist Ramon Sola, credited with two stories. Here's the page with the credit...

Nobody has questioned this credit as being anything but correct and Sola has been thus credited with two stories, 'Doran the Hypnotist' (Look and Learn, 1972; reprinted as 'Het hypnotisch medaillon' in Sjors, 1975, and Trigië album #20, De groene plaag, 1980) and 'The Rogue Planet' (Look and Learn, 1974; reprinted as 'De Vorgplaneet' in Trigië album #23, Dood uit de ruimte, 1982).

Nobody has questioned the credit... until the other day when some of the pages from the latter strip were posted by Geoff West of The Book Palace for sale. David Roach looked at the pages and said: "That's not Ramon Sola!"

And a little frantic research proved him right. The strips long-credited to Sola aren't by him. Ramon has lived in the UK for many years (he came to the ICA when David and I were giving our talk on war libraries last year) so we were able to get a message to him and ask him directly: was this your work. The answer: No. Ramon didn't start drawing for British comics until 1975 when he moved from Spain to London.

So who did draw the strips? Step forward another Spanish artist Miguel Quesada. Here's part of the discussion I had with David:

"Forget everything you might know about these strips and look closely—especially at Geoff's pages which are really clear—and think: Who they look like? If you were casting around for an artist you'd probably say Luis Bermejo or even Jose Ortiz. Some of the poses are pure Bermejo.

"In 1972 I don't think Sola was even drawing in the UK, but Quesada was already working for Look and Learn—he drew the 'Wildcat Wayne' strip and as you know shared a studio for years with Bermejo and Ortiz . Quesada drew a lovely Dan Dare strip in the '73 Eagle Annual and if you saw it I think you'd be convinced it was the same person who painted these strips. Believe me these pages and Geoff's are Quesada whatever the Dutch reprints say."

This conversation took place before we'd managed to confirm with Ramon that he hadn't drawn the strip. Nobody seems to know why Ramon was credited with the stories in Dutch publications and it is only since the original boards were purchased by Look and Learn that we've been able to study them for the first time.

With the recent discovery of a second Eagle dummy, we've seen new information presented about two of the most carefully studied of all British strips... which I think just goes to show that even after twenty-seven years (I published my first article on comics in 1981), it's a hobby that still holds many surprises!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Revelations: The Second Eagle Dummy

Eagle Times is celebrating its coming-of-age year of publication in style with a fine Summer issue (vol. 21 no. 2), which contains details of a fascinating discovery made by Bear Alley contributor Richard Sheaf: the dummy for the second issue of Eagle.

Most British comics fans will have some notion of the origins of the famous paper: Marcus Morris wanted to produce a comic that was adventurous without being gruesome like the 'horror comics' that were available cheaply in the UK at the time from publishers stepping into the breach while the big two publishers (Amalgamated Press and D. C. Thomson) were producing titles at a reduced rate due to the post-WWII paper shortage. Morris was the vicar of St. James' in Birkdale, Southport, and one of the founders of the Society of Christian Publicity, through which Morris expanded his local parish newsletter, The Anvil, into a magazine which he hoped would gain national distribution. Morris hired a young, local artist called Frank Hampson to illustrated Anvil, a partnership that was soon to flourish as the two pieced together what was to become Eagle.

Morris and Hampson, with the assistance of other local artists and acquaintances, produced a printed dummy which, in November 1949, Morris hawked around a number of major London-based publishers. Hulton Press responded and the small, inexperienced team led by Morris suddenly found themselves with the task of putting together a finished product for publication. An announcement that paper was to come off the ration brought forward the deadline: Hulton wanted to launch Eagle in April to benefit from the increased supplies and establish their new title before other publishers launched their own new papers.

Richard Sheaf discovered the 12-page second dummy amongst recently acquired material at the London Cartoon Museum. Dated 10 March 1950, only five weeks ahead of the date on Eagle's launch issue, the second dummy looks far closer in style to the finished product. The large, red title panel is in place; the Dan Dare strip has moved to the front cover and the artwork is reasonably close to what was to appear six weeks later (the biggest 'tweak' between dummy and final product was to change the uniforms from purple to green). The contents had still not been finalised: the text story was 'The Speed Master' (replaced by Chad Varah's serial, 'Plot Against the World'); Norman Thelwell's unpublished 'Pop Milligan' and Walkden Fisher's 'Hiawatha' strips were to be dropped from Eagle; 'Rob Conway' was printed in colour...

This is a fascinating opportunity to see how Eagle—still rated amongst the finest comics ever published in the UK—evolved. Richard has given further details in his Eagle Times feature and there's an additional commentary from Adrian Perkins & Tony Cowley.

And that's just one feature. There are others, too (on the Science Museum exhibition, the many faces of Jeff Arnold, Blackbow the Cheyenne...), plus reviews and much more. It's well worth taking out a subscripition: £22 for four issues (overseas £26 in sterling) from Keith Howard, 25A Station Road, Harrow, Middlesex HA1 2UA. Give it a try.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Siege Diary - Day 11

The cracks are starting to show—and I don't mean the ones in the house, which are rapidly disappearing. I'm dead beat and the strain is starting to tell. Hence no posts for the past couple of days, although I've tried to keep up with the 'Rolling News', which you'll find over there on the right at the bottom of the links and whatnots.

My sleep pattern is completely screwed and we've another week of this to go. And after that, more chaos as the porch is pulled down and rebuilt, which will take about a month, although part of that time will be to allow the new foundations to dry—I'm hopeful that I'll have a week or so where I can get back to my normal, regular schedule for a bit. Maybe even get out of the house. Apart from B&Q on Sunday, I think I've only left the house twice in a fortnight: shopping last Saturday and a party Saturday night which I left disappointingly sober. And I spent half an hour of potential partying time digging through a friend's book collection to see if he had anything that I needed for the Sci-Fi Art book. (Hold your finger and thumb up to the screen and measure the width of this and you'll get an idea of how close I am to finishing.)

I'm amazed at how little I've missed watching the TV. There was a bit of a panic attack when we were told that the house was to be partially emptied on the day of the Doctor Who finale but I managed to keep hold of a TV for that. Not so lucky with the new series Bonekickers, although it has had mixed reviews and is bound to turn up again. I tried watching it on the BBC's iPlayer but it stopped every 10 seconds to download the next 10 seconds-worth of show so I gave up. We all squeezed around Mel's little TV to watch Mock the Week, which, frankly, is the only programme on tele at the moment we were determined not to miss.

I'm actually reading books again at a reasonable rate... currently reading Red Thunder by John Varley, one of my favourite SF writers. Why it took so long to get around to reading it I've no idea. I'll put together a Varley gallery at some point (once all my books are back from storage) and recommend some of his stories that you should read. This particular book is a Heinleinesque romp as a group of (college age) youngsters build a rocket so that Americans can beat the Chinese in a race to set foot on Mars. It builds slowly... towards what I'm not sure because I'm only 150 pages in but it has a likable cast of characters, some improbable inventions, bags of humour and carries you gently along for the ride. In my mind's eye, I picture Varley, rocking gently in a chair on his stoop, slowly telling the story, pausing occasionally to take a draw on his pipe and then continuing. In my mind's eye (again), as the tale ends and our narrator knocks out his pipe, we'll pan back and discover that the stoop and the house it's attached to is surrounded by red sand, Phobos and Deimos are visible through the thin atmosphere and we're actually on Mars. OK, I have no idea if Varley smokes a pipe, rocks in a chair or has ever been to Mars—but that's the way I picture it. Maybe it's the lack of sleep...

I've a couple of interesting items that I'm hoping to write up over the next day or two once I fire up the scanner and things should get back onto a more even footing once I can catch up with some sleep. I'm off to write some more captions now.


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