Thursday, February 26, 2009

Comic Cuts: British Comics' Circulations Charts

Circulation figures for the last six months of 2008 have just been released by ABC, so here's our bi-annual round-up. (See here for the August 2008 round-up.)


Since I began charting the circulations of children's comics here on Bear Alley, BBC Worldwide have always managed to top the pre-school charts, with Toybox in 2007 and In the Night Garden in 2007-08. Although both titles got off to a very good start—ten years ago, Toybox sold over 200,000 copies per issue—both titles have had a disastrous year. The new figures for July to December 2008 show that In the Night Garden shed 26,286, a fall of 25% of its circulation since the previous half-year figures, and a total of 30% year-on-year (y/y). The first drop I put down to the initial sales settling, but this latest fall seems purely down to the comic itself. The TV show the comic is based on was returned to the popular "Bedtime Hour" slot in August 2008 and one might have expected a rise in circulation given its prominence in the schedule (CBeebies highest viewing figures are from 5.30-7.00pm). However, with only 80 shows to offer perhaps boredom has set in with the target audience—the show did not manage a single entry in the Top 10 viewing figures for the channel in the week a series of 20 new episodes began broadcasting.

Toybox has also suffered a further massive fall in sales, down by 24,861—a third of its circulation—adding to the woes of the previous half-yearly figures, combining to make a 41.4% y/y loss of sales. Another BBC Worldwide title, Bob the Builder, also saw losses of 13,918 sales, a quarter of its circulation. A fourth title, Balamory, would appear to be on its last legs, shedding a fifth of its circulation (6,000 copies), a total loss of 37.6% of sales y/y. Teletubbies lost a quarter of its circulation and is down 31% y/y. Tweenies, which was selling 60,000 five years ago and 180,000 a few years before that, was cancelled.

Two other sharp declines, CBeebies Animals (down 17,094) and Lazy Town (down 12,294) may be put down to the figures settling as both titles were launched within the past 18 months. Egmont's Noddy Magazine could be for the chop if sales continue to decline, down by a quarter this half-year and 39% y/y.

A couple of titles have bucked the trend: Egmont's Disney and Me and Disney Fairies both made gains, the former up nearly 10,000 copies per issue and the latter regaining most of the ground it lost in the last half-yearly figures—perhaps benefiting from Disney's strong promotion of Tinkerbell as a brand.


The good news for Disney continues thanks to Disney High School Musical magazine, now outselling its nearest rival in this section by 36,000 and, rather than settling down has actually settled up by a few percent. The release of the third HSM movie probably helped.

The credit crunch seems not to have hit this section of the market too badly, although sales are following the general downward trend with most titles shedding a few thousand copies per issue. We may see some rather more dramatic downturns in August when the figures for the first half for 2009 appear.

However, some titles may not make it that far before cancellation. Both Transformers Comic (Titan) and Amy Magazine (BBC Worldwide) have had dramatic losses, of 14,116 and 10,013 respectively. Transformers is down 45.4% y/y and Amy is down 33.6% y/y. Other poor performers in 2008 included Bratz (down 27.8% y/y), Scooby Doo (down 24.9% y/y) and Spongebob Squarepants (down 23.2% y/y).

The biggest loss of all has been suffered by Doctor Who Adventures, which shed 11,586, bringing the yearly total losses to 72,784 per issue, a drop of 47% y/y. The sales are still in the region of 82,000, so it's unlikely that the magazine will be folding any time soon, but the irregular appearance of its parent TV show (only four specials will be broadcast this year, followed by a new series in 2010) can't be helping matters.

Good news for The Dandy: after years of falling sales, it managed to add around 3,000 per issue this past six months. That's still down from this time last year, but vital if Dandy is to survive to see its 75th birthday in 2012. Not such good news for BeanoMax which is down 19.4% y/y.

The Chart

Please note that the chart only covers titles where circulation figures are available and there are a number of comics and children's magazines on the newsagents shelves which do not make the list. Panini UK, for instance, publish 21 children's titles of which only a handful have audited circulations.

(* Fun to LearnFriends © Redan; High School Musical The Official Magazine © Panini UK.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Watchmen: Reviews, Interviews and more

It seems to be that things that were meant satirically or critically in Watchmen now seem to be simply accepted as kind of what they appear to be on the surface. So yeah, I'm pretty jaundiced about the entire "caped crusader" concept at the moment.—Alan Moore.
  • Wired magazine has posted long inteviews with Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore in the run-up to the release of the Watchmen movie.
  • "Filming the Unfilmable: Behind the Scenes of the Watchmen movie" by Adam Rogers (Wired, 23 February)
  • "Behind the Mask" (Daily Telegraph, 23 February) interviews Zack Snyder.
  • "Artist Dave Gibbons relishes seeing 'Watchmen' come to life" (New York Times Syndicate, 23 February)
  • "Watchmen Video Review" by Brendan Connelly (Slashfilm, 24 February)—video review plus footage from the yellow carpet (10:09). Dave Gibbons appears briefly at 1:20 and 4:45.
  • "Blockbuster Buzz: Dave Gibbons on Watchmen" by Michael Moran (Times Online, 24 February)—interview with Dave Gibbons.
  • "Watching the Watchmen: Look Out Again" by Mark Medley (Vancouver Sun, 25 February; reposted from the National Post, 6 November 2008)—interview with Dave Gibbons.
  • "Why Alan Moore Hates Comic-Book Movies" by Sam Ashurst (Total Film, 2 February)—interview with Alan Moore.
  • "Dave Gibbons, Zack Snyder Interview" by Sheila Roberts (Movie Online, 25 February)—interviews.
  • "Watchmen: First UK review" by Michael Moran (Times Online, 23 February)—"If you’re looking for a spoiler-free appraisal of how good this film is here goes: It’s terrific. It’s the first superhero movie aimed directed unambiguously at adults, with better effects than Iron Man and fewer plot holes than Dark Knight. As long as you’re old enough, see it. You won’t be sorry."
  • "Watchmen transforms from comic into film" by Kevin Maher (The Times, 24 February)—"As the first attempt to make a truly post-adolescent comic book movie, Watchmen is, literally, peerless."
  • "Clint Watches the Watchmen" by Clint Morris (Moviehole, 23 February)—"Part detective story, Part Superhero adventure, and Part Portrait of the Imperfect Human, Watchmen is a must-see movie."
  • "Watchment AU Review" by Patrick Kolan ( movies, 23 February)—"Turns out, it wasn't impossible to do Watchmen justice on-screen—it just took a long time, many different points of view, scripts drafted and deals done and dusted. Moore's 338 pages have been condensed into 150-odd minutes of the finest super-hero movie ever made, hands down."
  • "Who Watches the Watchmen? If You're Smart, not you" by Robbie Collin (News of the World, 24 February)—"It’s hard to tell who'll be most disappointed by this mess." First really negative review I've found.
  • "Who's Watching the Watchmen?" by Mike Ragongna (Huffington Post, 20 February)—"On every level, it will demand your attention and intelligence as it entertains; it's sophisticated and sensationally sophomoric; and for those just watching Watchmen for the Watchmen without any expectations or knowledge of the comic's storyline or historical importance, this really will be a blast."
  • "10 Reasons You've Got to Watch Watchmen" by Steve Anglesey (Daily Mirror, 24 February)—"As a whole, Watchmen was never likely to exceed the huge weight of expectation, but ... it’s closer than you'd think."
  • "My Own Private Watchmen" by Matt Selman (Time, 16 February)—"Is Watchmen even a good or bad movie? I have no idea. I stand powerless before the Gods I once worshiped in my attic bedroom, now moving and talking and fighting and loving on a giant screen. And I find myself unable to judge them."
  • "Watchmen Review" by Michael Leader (Den of Geek, 24 February)"What we have been given is presented almost entirely faithfully, with enough tricks and style of its own to warrant a viewing. It is hard to imagine a better screen representation of this 'unfilmable' graphic novel."
  • Jonathan Ross on Twitter (via RWD, 24 February)"It was probably the most faithful adaptation of a comic to the big screen. Ending changed very much for the better. Great sets, costumes, special effects—Rorshach especially good. Downside—too long, too reverential, lacks pace and feels a little dull at times. In short—I love it and at same time am unimpressed!"
  • "Watchmen Gets Sentimental on Screen" by Charlotte O'Sullivan (Evening Standard, 24 February)—"There are plenty of good reasons to watch Watchmen. Ultimately, though, it’s a movie about cynicism that is full of cynical moves; nastier than the book, yet more sentimental, too."
  • "Watchmen" by Ian Nathan (Empire, 24 February)—"Okay, it isn’t the graphic novel, but Zack Snyder clearly gives a toss, creating a smart, stylish, decent adaptation, if low on accessibility for the non-convert."
  • "Review: Watchmen" by Devin Faraci (CHUD, 24 February)—"A huge budgeted superhero movie that delivers intellectually? That takes serious, ballsy chances with the form? That isn't giving audience what they expect, and is possibly not giving them what they want? Why, that sounds like a piece of art. A glorious, epic, exciting, mind blowing piece of art."
  • "Watchmen Film Review" by Rohan Williams (Comic Book Resources, 25 February)—"For over 20 years, a successful adaptation of ‘Watchmen’ has been Hollywood’s Gordian Knot. I can only admire Synder and co. for doing their best to cut it, but ultimately, they leave it slightly frayed at best."
  • "Watchmen" by JoBlo (, 25 February)—"I didn't hate it. In fact, I'm pretty sure I liked it. I was just disappointed."
  • "Watchmen - Film Review" by Todd Gilchrist (h monthly, 25 February)—"It defines the difference between a movie and a film: not merely entertainment, but the articulation of real concepts and ideas, which are effective in their exploration, even if in some cases it’s to the exclusion of more immediate gratification."

Motion Comic Reviews

  • "Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic" by R. J. Carter (The Trades, 23 February)
  • "Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic" by Bill Gibron (, 24 February)
  • "Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic" by John J. Puccio (DVD Town, 25 Febraury)
Movie Premiere Photos
  • "'Watchmen' film cert reduced to 16" by Michael Dwyer (Irish Times, 25 February)—"IRISH CINEMAGOERS aged 16 and over may see the violent new US action film Watchmen following a decision by the Film Appeals Board. John Kelleher, director of the Irish Film Classification Office (Ifco), had given the film an 18 certificate—in tandem with a similar classification in the UK."
  • While the theatrical version of Watchmen clocks in at 163 minutes, a 190-minute 'Director's Cut' is already set to debut in June which will be available on DVD in July. The longer version is "considerably more violent" than the theatrical version; this may also be the version that will intercut the 'Black Freighter' material that director Zack Snyder has mentioned in interviews.
  • "The Watchmen Merchandise Cometh" by Sacha Howells (, 25 February)--"What happens when you leave decisions up to the merchandisers? The Rorschach desk blotter." Or, indeed, the Rorschach lunchbox...
Warner/Fox Litigation Fallout:
  • "Alan Moore Not the Only Guy Hoping Watchmen Movie Tanks" by Lane Brown (New York Entertainment, 25 February).
I'm expecting a lot more Watchmen interviews and reviews to pop up in the wake of the Odeon Leicester Square premiere so I'll update as regularly as I can until Wednesday night... after that I'll switch back to covering stories in the Rolling News column.

Watchmen: Watch the Movie, Read the Books...

Watchmen has sold around 750,000 copies since it was first published in 1986. Following its appearance in Time magazine's Top 100 English Novels since 1923 and the release of the Watchmen movie trailer, it has been racking up sales at an astonishing rate these past few months. It was the highest-selling graphic novel in the USA in 2008 and DC—Brian Hibbs revealing recently that Bookscan figures put the 2008 US sales at 308,396 copies (and that's probably a low figure as Bookscan does not cover all outlets).

If you've never read the book, now's your chance—you won't be disappointed. Here's a quick rundown and Amazon links to various editions of the original graphic novel and a number of movie tie-in books, plus the first of what will probably be a ton of academic studies of the series.

Watchmen Live Chat

A live Watchmen chat with Dave Gibbons and film director Zack Snyder took place today at 4 pm. Not surprisingly, you can now find it on You Tube. It's not your typical Q&A: this was a virtual chat for the Playstation Home online community, so rather than seeing the participants, you'll be watching avatars... and it's not exactly visually gripping but there are some interesting comments from Dave regarding previous potential versions of the movie and the fact that "If you can draw a hat, you can draw Rorschach".

The You Tube videos of the broadcast are split into four sections. Part 2:

Part 3

Part 4


Comic Cuts

Not exactly twitter—believe me, you'd be bored to tears if you followed my day minute-by-minute—but here's a bit of me news: I've been spreading myself thin over a number of books so Bear Alley was a little patchy last week and things may continue that way for a little while. I'm pleased to say that I'm still managing to post things as I stumble on them but posts may be a bit hit and miss while my attention's elsewhere.

I've pretty much completed work on a book that will zip up all of Frank Bellamy's work for Swift comic into one volume, which will include his work on "The Fleet Family" and "Paul English", along with some new introductory material. There's a second, related Bellamy project in the works which I'll have to skip over just now. Don't want to jinx it!

The other book is the Art of Ron Embleton book that was first mentioned way, way back. The first big chunk of research has been done on this—checklisting all of Ron's astonishing work for Look and Learn and tieing that list in with what original artwork we know to have survived so we can get the best-looking book possible. There's still a long way to go on this one but I'm hoping to knuckle down to work on it from next week once the Musketeers intro is out of the way.

That little lot hasn't left much time for anything else, but I did take some time off to read the latest issue of Paperback Fanatic (#9, February 2009), which is a must-read for anyone who collects old paperbacks. Editor Justin Marriott concentrates on the 1970s/1980s boom period when genre fiction spilled off the shelves and paperback originals could still become million-sellers. I'm especially fond of this period—it was the era I grew up in and one I explored a little in the pages of PBO, a fanzine I put out many years ago.

This issue takes a look at the Skinhead novels of Richard Allen (James Moffatt), the sexy spy capers of The Man from O.R.G.Y., the Specialist horror yarns of Errol Lecale (Wilfred McNeilly) and the artwork of Dick Clifton-Dey, plus interviews with Peter Berresford Ellis and Chris Lowder. It's a solid line-up, crammed into 44 pages behind a superb collage of Clifton-Day artwork. The next number also promises to be a packed issue and #11 should include my interview with Peter Leslie (conducted way back in 1996), so there are plenty of goodies still to come.

For more information, prices and back issues, go visit the Paperback Fanatic website.

Talking of fanzines, there are a couple of titles upcoming that will be worth looking out for. The 2000AD fanzine Zarjaz will be publishing a Pat Mills Special in May (issue #7). You can find out more about the issue, plus information about the companion title Dogbreath, at the Quaequam Blog, which also includes a mini-interview with Pat.

And the next issue of Crikey! is due to appear in early March, featuring interviews with Enrique Badia Romero, David Lloyd and... Pat Mills (always a good man to interview), plus articles on Top Secret Picture Library, Walt Howarth and the British Marvel.

Last item for now: the next National Collectors Marketplace and London ABC Show will be held at The Royal National Hotel, Bedford Way, Russell Square, London, on 15th March. Free admission and a chance to while away a few hours chatting to fellow collectors and banish those economic downturn blues with some retail therapy. See here for a location map.

Now... where was I...

Century 21: Volume 2

Marcus Hearn has forwarded the cover design for the second volume of the Century 21 comic reprint volumes on sale from 31 March. The two books will be available in paperback are already listed on advance order from Amazon:
Fireball XL5 - The Astran Assassination (artwork by Mike Noble)
Stingray - The Haunting of Station 17 (Ron Embleton)
Stingray - Superjunk (Gerry Embleton)
Thunderbirds - Chain Reaction (Frank Bellamy)
Thunderbirds - The Devil's Crag (Frank Bellamy)
Thunderbirds - Starburst (Brian Lewis)
Lady Penelope - The Luvenium Affair (Frank Langford)
Zero X - Planet of Bones (Mike Noble)
Captain Scarlet - The Football King (Mike Noble)
Captain Scarlet - Leviathan (Don Harley)
Fireball - Giant Ant Invasion (Mike Noble)
Fireball XL5 - Planet of Fire (Mike Noble)
Stingray - Monster Weed Menace (Ron Embleton)
Thunderbirds - Curse of the Elastos (Ron Turner)
Thunderbirds - Secret of the Iceberg (Frank Bellamy)
Lady Penelope - The Androids of London Affair (Frank Langford)
Zero X - Prisoners of the Eye Leaves (Mike Noble)
Captain Scarlet - Formicide (Don Harley)
Captain Scarlet - The Beginning of the End (Jim Watson & Mike Noble)
The cover for Volume 1 can be seen in the 'March' section of the Upcoming Releases list.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Savile Lumley

Savile Lumley is a name I've seen dozens of times in annuals. Lumley produced the very famous World War I recruitment poster "Daddy, What Did YOU Do In The War?" The story of how that poster came to be is related by Paul Gunn (extract found here):
One night my father came home very worried about the war situation and discussed with my mother whether he should volunteer. He happened to come in to where I was asleep and quite casually said to my mother, "If I don't join the forces whatever will I say to Paul if he turns round to me and says, "What did you do in the Great War, Daddy?" He suddenly turned round to my mother and said that would make a marvellous slogan for a recruiting poster. He shot off to see one of his pet artists, Savile Lumley, had a sketch drawn straight away, based on the theme projected about five years hence, although by the time it had taken shape the questioner had become one of my sisters. To end the story on a nice note, he joined the Westminster Volunteers a few days later!
The poster was commissioned by the British Parliamentary Recruiting Committee in 1915.

Little is known about Lumley and his career is generally dated c.1910-c.1950. I have seen 1950 given as his date of death but failed to find any record of his death between 1949-51.

Savile is a rare first name (although an occasional middle name); the only Savile Lumley I have been able to trace was born in Marylebone in 1876, the son of Henry Robert Lumley (c.1826- ), the proprietor of a newspaper, and his wife Blanche Day (nee Plum, c.1839-1913) who were married in 1863. Savile grew up in London and married in Lambeth in 1905. He may be related to Lord Savile, otherwise John Savile-Lumley (1816-1896) who was (to quote his obituary in The Times) "a man of wide culture and artistic tastes and had considerable talents as a draughtsman." Savile Lumley's brothers Lyulph (1867- ) and Osbert (1877- ) both went into journalism, the former as the editor of a court journal.

His earliest cartoons appeared in Sketchy Bits in the late 1890s and his work appeared in Tatler before the war and he also produced posters for railways. In the 1920s and 1930s he contributed heavily to children's magazines and annuals, including Boy's Own Paper, Champion Annual, Chatterbox, Chums, Little Folk, Nelson Lee Library, Printer’s Pie, Scout, Schoolfriend Annual, Schoolgirl’s Own Annual, Young England and elsewhere. Lumley also contributed picture stories to The Boys and Girls Daily Mail in around 1933. Cartoons appeared in The Humorist.

Update: 22 February 2009:
Finally cracked it. Lumley lived at "The Cedars", Belvadere Road, Erith, Kent [1916], 55 Overstrand Mansions, Prince of Wales Road, Battersea, London S.W.11 [1920/39] and 26 The Butts, Brentford, Ealing [1945/57]. His death is registered at Surrey N.W. in 2Q 1960, aged 84, making the 1876 birth noted above almost certainly correct.

Illustrated Books
Tom Tufton's Loyalty by Eleanora H. Stooke. London, Sunday School Union, 1906.
A Disputed Heritage by E. Everett-Green. London, Pilgrim Press, 1911.
Five Years on a Training Ship by John Dearden Bush & E. T. Miller. London, Pilgrim Press, 1913.
The Royal Navy Painting Book. London, Gale & Polden, 1916.
Chris and Some Others by Winifred Darch. London, Oxford University Press, 1920.
The Mystery of Maybury Manor by Eric Wood. London, Cassell & Co., 1920.
The Right of St. John's by Christine Chaundler. London, Oxford University Press, 1921.
The Deputy Captain by Richard Bird. London, Oxford University Press, 1922 [1921].
The Story of a Chinese Scout by S. V. Boxer. London, London Missionary Society, 1922.
By Canoe to Cannibal-Land by J. H. Holmes. London, London Missionary Society, 1923.
The Captain and the Kings by R. A. H. Goodyear. London, A. & C. Black, 1923.
The Life of the School by R. A. H. Goodyear. London, Jarrolds, 1923.
Battle Royal School by R. A. H. Goodyear. London, Jarrolds, 1924.
Pat of Whitehouse. A story of girl guides by Helen Beatrice Davidson. London, Sheldon Press, 1924.
'Run Away' Nursery Tales. London, The Epworth Press / J. Alfred Sharp, 1924.
Billy in Blunderland. London, The Epworth Press / J. Alfred Sharp, 1925.
My Very Own ABC Book. London, The Epworth Press / J. Alfred Sharp, 1925.
The Nursery ABC Book. London, Frederick Warne, 1925.
The School's Best Man by R. A. H. Goodyear. London, Jarrolds, 1925.
See How We Go. London, Frederick Warne, 1925.
Railway Picture Book. London, Frederick Warne, 1926.
Chappie and the Others by Constance Heward. London & New York, F. Warne & Co., 1926.
Punch and Judy in Animal Land. London, The Epworth Press / J. Alfred Sharp, 1926.
In the Clutch of the Green Hand by Frances Cowen. London, T. Nelson & sons, 1929.
The Secret Station by Ellersley Hall. Auckland, Whitcombe & Tombs, 1929.
Our Pets' Picture Book. London, The Epworth Press, 1931.
The Pendlecliffe Swimmers by Sid G. Hedges. London, Sheldon Press, 1931.
Stolen Feathers by Dora Percy Smith. London, Sheldon Press, 1932.
From a Cottage in Pennycook Lane by Isabel Cameron. London, The Religious Tract Society, 1933.
A School Libel by Richard Bird. London, T. Nelson & Sons, 1934.
The Tales of Apolo. Uganda folklore and proverbs by Apolo Kagwa; with an introduction by the translator F. Rowling. London, Religious Tract Society, 1934.
The Jubilee Book for Boys & Girls. London, The Queensway Press, 1935.
Wonder Tales of Past History by Robert James Finch. London, Shoe Lane Publishing Co., 1935.
Frankie and the Wolf Cubs by Margaret Stuart. London, Boy's Own Paper, 1936.
Holiday at Greystones by Phyllis Logan. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1936.
Win Through, Altonbury! by Anton Lind. London, Sampson Low & Co., 1936.
The Greyvale School Mystery by Peter Manton. London, Sampson Low & Co., 1937.
Secret Service at Altonbury by Anton Lind. London, Sampson Low & Co., 1937.
Tony Hits Out by Anton Lind. London, Sampson Low & Co., 1937.
The Impossible Prefect by Hubert J. Robinson. London, T. Nelson & sons, 1939.
Schoolboy Stories. London & Glasgow, Blackie & Son Ltd., 1939.
Fog in the Channel by Percy Woodcock. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1947.
The Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat. London, P. R. Gawthorn, 1948.
The Pathfinder by James Fenimore Cooper. London, P. R. Gawthorn, 1948.
The Young Fur-Traders by R. M. Ballantyne. London, P. R. Gawthorn, 1948.
The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. London, P. R. Gawthorn, 1949.
The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. London, P. R. Gawthorn, 1949.
Schoolboy Tales. London, T. Nelson & Sons [Thrilling Tales Series 5], 1949.
The World of Ice by R. M. Ballantyne. London, P. R. Gawthorn, 1949.
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. London, P. R. Gawthorn, 1950.
The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. London, P. R. Gawthorn, 1950.
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. London, P. R. Gawthorn, 1950.
The Cleverest Chap in the School by Robert Leighton. London, (Jarrolds?), n.d. (later reissue)
Ernest Fairfield; or, Two Terms at St. Andrew's by A. N. Malon. London, (Warne?), n.d. (later reissue)

(* My thanks to Robert Kirkpatrick for many additions to the original list of titles Lumley illustrated.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Advertising: Bellamy, Horak, Langford

My recent trek through the pages of Look and Learn turned up a few interesting adverts from the pens of comic strip artists, Frank Bellamy, Larry Horak and Frank Langford.

The Bellamy is known to fans but this was the first time I'd seen it. I'm told by Norman Boyd (of the Frank Bellamy Checklist) that this appearance on 1 May 1971 predates the previously known first appearance.

The Horak advertises the latest in a long line of Brooke Bond picture card series, probably known to every person of a certain age in the UK. The little album shown in the advert was issued by Brooke Bond and children who grew up in the sixties and seventies would pester their mums to buy their tea so we (and I include myself here) could get the free cards that were slipped into every packet. By coincidence, I still have the History of Aviation album, not quite complete, that dates from 1972. Horak is, of course, better known as the artist of the James Bond newspaper strip, which he drew for about 12 years from 1966.

Frank Langford we've covered before, so you can see more examples of his adverts here and here, the latter link offering a little background information on the artist.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bruce C. Windo

Bruce Windo is a mystery. He was a paperback cover artist who worked for Pan, Panther and Arrow Books in the 1950s and contributed articles on cars to Look and Learn in the late 1960s but, apart from the fact that he was born in Kent in 1920, I've been able to find nothing about him or his career.

Update: 31 January 2010
A few more snippets have emerged. Windo was the son of Percy Carrington Windo. Percy was born in 1871 in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, the son of John Carrington Windo, and was married in 1895, aged 23, in Bristol to 28-year-old Emily Martin, daughter of Samuel Martin. Percy was a school master and the couple had three children: Doris Emily (b. Bath, Avon, Somerset, 1896; married Francis W. Whitton in 1920), Beatrice Carrie (b. Bath, Avon, Somerset, 1897; married George W. Whitton in 1921) and Gertrude Jeannie (b. Singleton, Sussex, 1901; married Reginald O. Melling in 1934) by the time of the 1901 census. At that time they were running Bay School, in Singleton, Sussex. Percy Eric Windo followed on 16 June 1902, born in Tendring, Essex.

Emily Windo died in Strood, Kent, in 1906 at the early age of 39, possibly giving birth of Reginald Oscar Windo who died at birth or shortly thereafter. Percy was remarried to Gertrude Mabel Melling in Strood, Kent, in 1908. Gertrude was born in Singleton, Sussex, in 1877, the daughter of Henry and Emily Melling, and had been living with the Windos at the time of the 1901 census.

Percy was head teacher of Meopham Primary School between 1902 and 1934; he was described as "very talented at handicrafts and drawing and the pupils craftwork reached a high standard," which may in part explain where his son Bruce's talents came from. Percy also served as Parish Clerk.

Percy died in Eastbourne, Sussex, in 1955, aged 83. Gertrude died in Eastbourne, Sussex, in 1968, aged 93.

(* Rolls Royce illustration from original artwork © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

G. William Backhouse

Geoffrey William Backhouse was born 16 November 1903 and studied art at Heatherleys, subsequently working for Modern Art Studios. In 1927, he began drawing ‘Strongheart the Magnificent’ in Comic Life, the comic strip adventures of a magnificent German Shepherd modelled on a canine Hollywood film star. Strongheart continued his adventures when Comic Life was relaunched as My Favourite and would continue to appear, drawn by a number of different artists, until 1949.

Shortly before the war, Backhouse drew ‘The Stolen King’ for Comic Cuts and ‘Buffalo Bill’ for Butterfly. After the war, he illustrated a number of books for Collins including The Children’s Picture Dictionary (1951) and modern editions of Alice In Wonderland and Enid Blyton’s Shadow the Sheepdog.

Backhouse’s expertise at drawing animals and nature made him the perfect choice to draw a colourful feature strip starring George Cansdale for Eagle in 1954 and the adventures of ‘Tammy the Sheepdog’ for Swift (1955-58). Backhouse subsequently contributed many wildlife illustrations to Look and Learn and Treasure.

He lived at 16 Upper Tollington Park, London N.4, and died on 1 August 1978.

Illustrated Books
Mr. Mole's Circus by Douglas Collins. London, Collins, 1946.
Pongo the Terrible by Denis Cleaver. London, Collins, 1946.
On the Air by Denis Cleaver. London, Collins, 1947.
On the Films by Denis Cleaver. London, Collins, 1947.
A Dog's Life by Denis Cleaver. London, Collins, 1948.
The Runaway Four by Ann Beverly. London, Newnes, 1948.
Tales from a Bamboo Hut by A. H. Matthews. London, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1950.
Alice in Wonderland. London, Collins, 1951.
Soko at the Circus by Donald Cunningham. London, Collins, 1954.
Sea Hunters by Frank Robb. London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1955.
The Children's Picture Dictionary. London, Collins, 1957.
Do You Know About Animals? by David Stephen. London, Collins, 1962.
Shadow the Sheep-dog by Enid Blyton. London, Collins, 1976.

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Magazine. You can see more examples of Backhouse's original artwork at the L&L Picture Gallery.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Behind the Scenes of Stingray

I stumbled across the following article while I was looking through issues of Look and Learn for a project I'm working on. I've no idea if any Gerry Anderson fans have spotted it before but I bet there are a few who haven't seen it. The article dates from 5 June 1965. Enjoy!

(* photographs probably © Granada Ventures; text © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic History

Long-time readers will know that Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic History was written during last summer. Well, the book is out now and it looks fantastic, even if I say so myself.

My involvement came about because the original author was unable to do the book (I don't know the details but these things happen); the text was farmed out to a number of different writers and I got the opening couple of chapters—the longest two sections in the book—plus the introduction. As I was writing half the book (the other half being split between five other writers: Alex Sumersby, Steve White, Toby Weidmann, Adrian Faulkner and Tim Murray), I also got to write the introduction and get my name on the cover.

What was originally going to be two months work turned into three thanks to "real life" getting in the way of all my carefully laid plans, namely bits of the house being pulled down and rebuilt, all my reference books disappearing into storage and a constant flow of workmen through the house. One of the real problems was tracking down suitable images—this was, after all, a "graphic" history—and discovering that, when scans turned up, they were pretty dire. I'd say that a good half to three-quarters of the additional time I spent on the books was spent cleaning up pictures. (When I get a chance I'll dig out some of the original scans so you can compare them to the finished product in the book... they're on a hard drive that's buried somewhere in the office.)

I've had a chance to read the book and the whole thing hangs together amazingly well. The two chapters I wrote on SF art cover everything from 18th & 19th century illustration to the current crop of talented artists (Donato Giancola, Stephen Martiniere) via pulps, paperbacks and some incredible talents ranging from Frank R. Paul to Jim Burns and Frank Kelly Freas to Chris Foss. Other chapters cover comic books, concept art, cinema art and various other media, so Dan Dare gets to rub shoulders with David A. Hardy and H. R. Giger with the Halo XBox game, all under the same covers.

The cover, incidentally, is by that master of SF artistry, Vincent di Fate, whose Infinite Worlds was a real inspiration when I was writing up many of the artists. And the book has a thought provoking foreword by Brian Aldiss (who, once upon a time, also wrote a book about SF art called Science Fiction Art) which argues that the standardization of so much science fiction art has damaged the perception of SF, using the example of his novel Non-Stop: of the 20 or so paperback editions and translations, all but one features a spaceship on the cover; but the story takes place inside a spaceship amongst people who believe the ship is their world. Only one cover features a dramatic scene taken from the novel.

Me? I like spaceships. My biggest influence with regards to SF art was the artwork I saw each week as I scoured the shelves for new titles back in the mid- and late-1970s. This was the hey-day of Chris Foss and his followers and, no disrespect to these artists intended, the publishers clearly thought they were interchangeable. Their skilfully-drawn and beautifully air-brushed spacecraft were almost a brand, used willy-nilly on everything from E. E. 'Doc' Smith to Philip K. Dick. They were rarely a window illuminating the contents of the books and, if you weren't careful, you might pick up a Perry Rhodan and miss the latest Robert Silverberg.

On the other hand, I believe those covers opened up quite a few new worlds for me personally. I read an awful lot of SF (nothing but SF, in fact, for about eight years) and the spaceship "brand" led me to authors as diverse as Jack Williamson and Samuel R. Delaney. I didn't distinguish between thirties pulp and classy literature and non-specific covers that grabbed my attention meant that I read a great many more authors and a far broader range of science fiction than I might have done otherwise. (My argument falls down on one point: it meant I read a lot of crap, too. But I was a quick reader so my disappointment was soon dispelled by the next good book and I had an excellent memory for names to avoid.)

Odd that I should be praising uniformity while I'm talking about a book that celebrates the diversity of SF art! I don't think there has been a book out on the subject with this breadth before. Seriously, get yourself a copy of this book and let me know what you think.

Sci-Fi Art: A Graphic History. Ilex Books, January 2009.


SFX #180 (March 2009) 4.0 out of 5 stars

"a rare compilation of pop culture images that shaped the way we view the future from HG Wells to Final Fantasy." -- Selling Tomorrows (25 March 2009)

(* SFX © Future Publishing Ltd.)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Richard A. Gordon (1947-2009)

Richard A. Gordon, a.k.a. Stuart Gordon and Alex R. Stuart, who wrote science fiction novels, biker novels, travel guides and books on the paranormal, died on 7 February 2009, aged 62.

The son of a Scottish laird, Richard Alexander Steuart Gordon was born in Banff, Scotland, on 18 May 1947. As the eldest son, he was expected to take the title on his father's death but refused. Rich Gordon was a member of the BSFA in the early 1960s and his first stories appeared (as by Richard A. Gordon, to distinguish himself from Richard Gordon, the pen-name under which Gordon Ostlere wrote the Doctor novels) in New Worlds and Science Fantasy in 1965. He also sold two stories to Vision of Tomorrow.

His first novel, The Bikers, was published under the pen-name Alex Stuart to further distance him from Richard Gordon, although the byline became Alex R. Stuart on later books after complaints from Violet Vivian Stuart, who wrote historical novels as Alex Stuart. (Gordon's subsequent use of Stuart Gordon as a pen-name has also required bibliographers to note that he is not to be confused with Stuart Gordon the film director, the two being born the same year.)

The Bikers was the first of a series of novels inspired by stories of Hell's Angels and exploited by New English Library following the highly successful reprinting of The Black Leather Barbarians by Pat Stadley and Freewheelin' Frank by Frank Reynolds in 1969; Alex R. Stuart was used as a byline on four further novels, two of which were sequels to The Bikers, featuring a hook-handed outlaw biker called Little Billy, and two further novels featuring 'the devil's biker'.

As Stuart Gordon, he wrote a number of science fiction novels, starting with Time Story, published by New English Library in 1972. One-Eye, Two-Eyes and Three-Eyes was a post-holocaust trilogy, followed by a second trilogy, the 'Watchers' (Archon, The Hidden World and The Mask), involving time travel between medieval and near future eras. Stuart said of his books, "The label 'science fiction' is used to cover many different approaches to storytelling, most of which have little to do with 'science' as such, save in a romantic, generalized way. The thrust of my own work has typically been occult or mythic in its main concern, and can be defined as science fiction only insofar as it has been characterized (I hope) by that 'sense of wonder' which romantically typifies the genre as a whole." His interest in the occult and myths resulted in a number of books on the paranormal under the Stuart Gordon byline.

Gordon lived for some years in a commune in Wales. In the late 1990s, under his own name, he wrote a number of well-illustrated travel books relating the history of areas of Scotland.

In 2005 he began teaching at the Shanghai High School. His death was the result of a heart attack at the Lianhua Road Subway Station in Shanghai.

Novels as Alex R. Stuart
The Bikers. London, New English Library, Nov 1971.
The Outlaws. London, New English Library, Aug 1972.
The Last Trip. London, New English Library, Nov 1972.
The Devil's Rider. London, New English Library, Jan 1973.
The Bike from Hell. London, New English Library, Jun 1973.

Novels as Stuart Gordon
Time Story. London, New English Library, 1972.
One-Eye. New York, DAW Books, Oct 1973; London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1974.
Two-Eyes. New York, DAW Books, Oct 1974; London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1975.
Three-Eyes. New York, DAW Books, Nov 1975; London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1976.
__The "Eyes" Trilogy (omnibus of above three titles). London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1978.
Suaine and the Crow-God. London, New English Library, May 1975.
Smile on the Void. The mythhistory of Ralph M'Botu Kitaj. New York, Berkley Books, Mar 1981; London, Arrow, 1981.
Fire in the Abyss. New York, Berkley Books, 1983.
Archon!. London, Macdonald, 1987.
The Hidden World. London, Macdonald, 1988.
The Mask. London, Orbit, 1988.

Non-fiction as Stuart Gordon
Down the Drain: Water, Pollution and Privatisation, with Jennie Smith. London, Optima, 1989.
The Paranormal: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. London, Headline, 1992.
The Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends. London, Headline, 1993.The Book of Curses: True tales of Voodoo, Hoodoo and Hex. London, Headline, 1994; as The Book of Spells, Hexes and Curses: True tales from around the world, Secaucus, N.J., Carol Pub. Group, 1995.The Book of Hoaxes: An A-Z of famous fakes, frauds and cons. London, Headline, 1995.The Book of Miracles: From Lazarus to Lourdes. London, Headline, 1996.

Non-fiction as Richard Gordon
Round Inverness, the Black Isle and Naim. Walks and history. Buckie, Boar's Head Press, 1998.
Round Moray, Badenoch and Straphspey. Walks and history. Buckie, Boar's Head Press, 1999.
Round Aberdeen, from Deeside to the Deveron. Walks and history. Buckie, Boar's Head, 2000.

Gordon's Contemporary Authors entry (probably the source of his Wikipedia entry) lists a fourth novel in the 'Watchers' series, Eye in the Stone (Macdonald, 1990), although the book, if written, was never published.

(* Photo by Dave Straub, used under Wikipedia Commons license.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Something a little romantic for you...

You can find the full story here.

(* Carol Day © Patrick Wright.)

Laurence Houghton

One of the many unknown names who contributed to British comics, Laurence Houghton was probably better known as an illustrator—although nowadays he's equally obscure in that field, too. A shame, because he was an excellent artist. He contributed to Swift Annual, Schoolgirls Picture Library and Princess Picture Library, and contributed to both Girl (1962-64) and Princess (1962-67).

Beyond his contributions to Everybody's (and almost certainly various women's papers), little else is known about his career. I mentioned him to David Roach who recalls that he also did covers for Mills & Boon.

Despite a long search for Houghton, the only plausible suspect is one Laurence John C. Houghton, born at Hitching on 24 August 1913, who lived for many years at 49 Argyle Road, London W.13 [1951/84] and died in 1988, aged 74. Unfortunately, I've no way of confirming.

(* Illustrations (c) IPC Media. The last, piece of original artwork from the strip "Castle in the Mist" (Princess), recently appeared on eBay.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stella M. During

Stella M. During: Popular romance writer whose pedigree proved quite a challenge.

Originally published on 2 December 2009, this essay has been thoroughly updated and expanded for inclusion in Forgotten Authors Volume 1, now available in e-book and print formats via Amazon.

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon ES | Amazon IT | Amazon NL | Amazon JP | Amazon BR | Amazon CA | Amazon MX | Amazon AU | Amazon IN

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon ES | Amazon IT | Amazon JP

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sybil Campbell Lethbridge

Here's the first of a couple of tales I'm classifying as "Mysterious Tales of Romance Writers". I've covered a fair number of curious cases where author's names have changed over the years but that seems to be more prevalent amongst romance authors than any other field (see, for instance, the case of Kathleen Cornwell here). Trying to track down authentic information—even something as simple as a birth or death record—can turn into a hugely convoluted affair. A colleague of mine, John Herrington, has been looking for information recently and a few of the bylines he has mentioned have turned out to have quite interesting tales behind them. You know me... I hate to let research go to waste, so here's the first of our "Mysterious Tales of Romance Writers"...

Sybil Campbell Lethbridge was born Sybil MacGregor C. Allen at St. Giles, London, in 1873, and came from an old West Country family, although she herself preferred London. She supposedly grew up in part in Cornwall [according to one brief bio I read, but I suspect that should be Somerset, see below] but was educated abroad and lived out of England a great deal. Because of this, she left very little information behind in official records.

Her parents John Allen, born in Somerset in c.1827, and his wife Elizabeth, born in Thornton, Gloucestershire, in c.1835. They had 10 children...

William Cross Allen (1854- )
James ___ Allen (1855- )
John Allen (1857- )
Percy Edward Allen (1859- )
Alice Geraldine Allen (1861- )
Alexandra Gertrude Allen (1863- )
Sarah Elizabeth Allen (c.1864- )
Maria Grace Allen (c.1865- )
Margaret Frances Allen (1868- )
Dianna M. Katherine Allen (c.1870- )

The couple lived for almost two decades in Burnham, Somerset, where John was a brewer. In around 1869, the family moved to Charlinch, near Spaxton, Somerset, where they took over a farm of some 141 acres which employed 7 farmhands and 2 boys. John Allen would appear to have died soon after, in 3Q 1870 (certainly a 44-year-old of that name is registered at Bridgwater, the administrative town of the Sedgemoor district of Somerset).

The big mystery here is how could Sybil McGregor C. Allen (sister of Margaret Frances Allen and daughter of Elizabeth Allen) have been born in 1873; and why was she born in London when her siblings and parents lived in Somerset?

This is not the only mystery.

In 1894 she married William A. E. Lonergan in Blean, Kent, and when I did a little digging into his life, he turned out to be something of a Raffles.

William Lonergan (1813-1877) married Caroline Emma MacNolty (Liege, Belgium, 1824-Paris, France, 11 May 1898), daughter of Patrick MacNolty on 5 July 1857. She already had one child, John Marmaduke Joseph Stourton, 1847-1899) from her first marriage to John Joseph Stourton (1816-May 1847), who died seven days before his son was born.

William and Caroline had two children before they divorced in 1866: William Alfred Ernest Lonergan, born at Hyde Park, London, on 11 May 1859, and Arthur Charles Everard Lonergan (1861-?).

William, described as a "Gentleman", had a bright career in the army and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant of the 1st Warwick on 23 February 1878 and then to Lieutenant on 18 June 1879. He subsequently transferred to the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment and, in May 1881, was presented to the Prince of Wales by Lt.-Col. Hogge. Lonergan had been involved in the Maiwand action in Afghanistan and was one of the few surviving officers.

A few months later, in December 1881, Lonergan was accused of the theft of two shirt-studs (one emerald, one diamond) and two scarf-pins from the house of a friend, Hugh Wegelin, on 26 November 1881. Wegelin had shared a house with Lonergan when the two were living in Paris in around 1877. A police inspector interviewed Lonergan at his mother's home at 89 Elizabeth Street, Eaton Square: he claimed he had found the jewels and sold some of them to a pawnbroker. Lonergan was committed to trial in January but failed to appear. A warrant was issued for his arrest on 30 January 1882 but Lonergan disappeared completely for a decade. He was immediately dismissed from the army.

It was not until October 1892 that he entered Scotland Yard and gave himself up. He was tried on 14 November 1892, found guilty and sentenced to four months hard labour. (Details of the trial can be found here.)

Lonergan then married Sybil MacGregor C. Allen in Kent in 1894. She was aged 20 or 21 and it would seem that the newly married pair moved abroad because the next sign of her, under the name Mrs. Sybil Campbell Lethbridge, is in the 1901 census where she was living with her unmarried sister, Margaret F. Allen, at 19 Handforth Road, Lambeth, London. Her occupation is as an author.

Now, how Sybil Lonergan become Sybil Lethbridge is unknown. What is known is that, although married in 1901, she was soon widowed and, following her husband's death, settled in London at 28 Edwardes Square [1906/28]. "She is very fond of reading, and in her little garden has the scope for her love of gardening, having persuaded many flowers to grow in it to which hitherto London soot and smoke have been considered fatal."

She was a popular and prolific writer and was said to have "one gift that many authors, however brilliant and gifted, do not possess, and that is the power of arousing from the very first phrase the interest of her readers, and of keeping it to the concluding words. The reason for this is probably to be found in the fact that she enjoys writing her books so much that it is impossible not to enjoy reading them. She is a very rapid worker, and very methodical. As a rule her stories are founded upon some incident in real life. Everything, she says, suggests romance to her, and one of her most successful tales was founded upon a chance phrase she overheard at a dinner-party."

She had began writing as a child. "My first books were mostly startling and lurid melodramas that came, as a rule, to an abrupt end, owing to most of the characters dying in some violent fashion in the first chapters," she said on one occasion. Only one of her youthful efforts survived her childhood, a historical under the forbidding title Children of Cain.

Her contributions appeared in Horner's Pocket Library, Tit-Bits Novels and Smart Novels, and a number of her books were serialised in The Star newspaper, including "Her Fight With Fate" (1913), "The Serpent's Tongue" (1915), "Market Value" (1919), "False Heart and True" (1920) and "Fair Game" (1922).

After departing Edwardes Square, Sybil Campbell Lethbridge lived at various addresses in Wiltshire: Ivy House, Worton, Devizes [1929/35], The Angel, Lacock [1936], and Abbey House, Milton Lilbourne, Marlborough, Pewsey [1937/43].

She died in early 1945, aged 72, her death registered in Devizes.

The Shoreless Sea. London, Holden & Hardingham, 1912.
Love and My Lady. London, Holden & Hardingham, 1913.
The Shoreless Sea. London, Amalgamated Press (Fiction Lover's Library 8), Jan 1914.
Middle Life. London, Holden & Hardingham, 1915.
Let Be. London, Methuen & Co., 1916.
The Marauders. London, Aldine Publishing (Mascot Novels 57), May 1917.
One Woman's Hero. London, Methuen & Co., 1917.
The Sins of the Children. London, Holden & Hardingham, 1918.
The Journey Home. London, Skeffington & Son, 1919.
Misfits. London, Skeffington & Son, 1920.
The Crooked Tree. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1922.
Hard and Fast. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1923.
Gnats and Camels. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1924.
"You'll Love Me Yet!". London, Aldine Publishing (Aldine Novels 5), Oct 1924.
The Hidden Chain. London, Aldine Publishing (Mascot Novels 217), 1924.
The Odds Against Her. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1925; abridged, London, Mellifont Press, 1934.
Out of Bounds. London, Methuen & Co., 1927.
Tawny Eyes. London, Methuen & Co., 1929.
The Crime of Jane Dacre. London, Methuen & Co., 1930.
Common to All. London, Methuen & Co., 1930.
Her Double Life. London, D. C. Thomson (Red Letter Novels 286), 1931.
The Long Day's Task. London, Methuen & Co., 1931.
The Lover She Stole. London, D. C. Thomson (Red Letter Novels 276), 1931.
A High Flier. London, D. C. Thomson (Red Letter Novels 325), 1933.
The Wild Feather. London, Methuen & Co., 1934.
Sweet Fruit. London, Methuen & Co., 1935.
A Woman's Battle. London, William Stevens (New Moon Series), 1935.
The Tempter's Snare. London, Mellifont Press, 1936.
To Love at Last. London, Mellifont Press, 1937.
Won by Fraud. London, Mellifont Press, 1937.
An Island Wooing. London, Mellifont Press, 1938.
The Courage of Anne Carew. London, Mellifont Press, 1939.
From Gloom to Gold. London, Mellifont Press, 1939.
Seeing Life. London, Mellifont Press, 1939.
Caught in the Toils. London, Mellifont Press, 1940.
A Fight for Love. London, Mellifont Press, 1940.
Old Hillersley's Heiress. London, Mellifont Press, 1940.
A Poor Relation. London, Mellifont Press, 1940.
Two Loves. London, Mellifont Press, 1942.
When Love Conquered All. London, Mellifont Press, 1942.
The Golden Snare. London, Mellifont Press, 1946.

The Christ of the Forest by Robert Michel, translated from Jesus im Böhmerwald by S. C. Lethbridge. London, Methuen & Co., 1930.


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