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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!


  1. Hi Steve,the Vulcan Summer Special 1976 also featured an original (I think)Trigan Empire text story with illos,one in color.

  2. ... all drawn by Don Lawrence. We'll be including it in volume 12 of the Trigan Empire Collection coming out from DLC, which I'll be starting work on fairly soon.

  3. Excellent.Also plug time.I have started a new blog,an archive if you will of Steve Conley's AST web site(defunct since 2005).This American generously put his comic series online for free back in the day.An immensely enjoyable space romp.Hope you enjoy!

  4. D'oh! Here's the link!

    The Cap.