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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Willie Blain

Picked this up on Saturday. On the surface it might not seem like the sort of thing I'd normally grab if I saw it in a charity shop, but Witch's Blood was written by one of the top editors at D. C. Thomson. William Blain was one of the principal creators of some of Thomson's most famous characters, including flying ace Braddock, super athlete Wilson and the Wolf of Kabul. In the 1930s, it was Blain who believed that there was a market for a humour comic and who put together dummies that would eventually emerge as The Dandy in 1937.

Eventually Willie Blain became Managing Editor of all of the Thomson line of comics, originating their girls' comics with Bunty (1958), their boys' adventure comics with Victor in 1961 and such famous titles as Jackie (1964). Although he rarely gets a credit, a poll of the most important figures in the history of British comics would almost certainly have to include Willie Blain in the top five.

(My top five, in alphabetical order: Willie Blain, Ted Holmes, Leonard Matthews, George Moonie, John Purdie. Bubbling under would be Albert Barnes, George Cantle, Reg Eves, Pat Mills, Marcus Morris and a bunch of others. Tomorrow I might have a completely different list but that's the list as I see it today.)

As well as his editorial work, Blain wrote two successful books. Witch's Blood (1946), the second (following a sea-faring biography entitled Home is the Sailor, 1940), apparently sold over a million copies and is still in print. The story follows five generations of the same family, one a witch, burned at the stake in 1660, who prophesyses that her family will become powerful figures in the town of Dundee. The reviewer for the Manchester Guardian (29 March 1946) found it "rather overpacked with turbulent incident," but concluded that it was "recounted with vigour and humour, and the family drama is interwoven with the drama of Scottish history."

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