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Monday, October 18, 2010

Peter the Whaler part 1

Our first comic strip in some while and to my mind a bit of a treat. "Peter the Whaler" is based on the novel by W. H. G. Kingston, one of the most prolific writers for boys in the Victorian era. Peter the Whaler was his first juvenile, Kingston having already penned a handful of novels for adults, beginning with The Circassian Chief, published in 1844.

At the time William Henry Giles Kingston was living in Oporto, Portugal, where his father was a wine merchant; however, the success of Peter the Whaler allowed him to devote himself full time to writing. In all he wrote some 130 books, but today is almost unknown, remembered, if at all, as the translator of some early English-language editions of Jules Verne which he contracted to do for Sampson Low in the 1870s when various publishing ventures had almost bankrupted him. The translations were actually the work of his wife, Agnes. Kingston, instead, concentrated on churning out novels - 34 in 1875-79 alone - looking for another, elusive, best-seller.

Peter the Whaler contains all the excitement and adventure boys' could have wanted in a novel, alongside countless reminders of British superiority over foreigners (especially the French) and a strong dose of Christian morality. Toned down, thankfully, in the comic strip, but it was the stuff of Empire and earned Kingston some exceptionally good reviews when the book originally appeared.

I apologise for the quality of some of the pages that will be appearing during this serialising of the story. They're from a set of rather grubby low-res reference scans prepared when Look and Learn was being revived a few years ago and I've cleaned them up as best I can in the time I have. Not perfect, but readable.

And it's worth following if you're a fan of good art because the artist is Alfonso Font, probably best known in the UK as the artist of "Black Max", which appeared in Thunder and Lion in the early 1970s. Font only drew a handful of strips for British comics, so I'm pleased to be able to revive this long-forgotten gem.

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission. The header illustration is by James E. McConnell)

1 comment:

Mike W said...

Great to see this forgotten gem - Look & Learn was a formative influence on my childhood. Steve, have you ever done a feature on the Beau Geste books by PC Wren? I'm sure it would be fascinating. There were actually 5 altogether although only 3 started with the word Beau in the title.