Monday, February 28, 2011

The Song of Roland part 1

A change of pace from some of our recent strip serialisations. This one is in colour, for starters, and is an adaptation from the 11th or 12th century. Originally published in France, La Chanson de Roland was an epic poem and the oldest surviving major work of French literature. It tells the story of a true historical incident, the Battle of Roncevaux Pass, in the 8th century; by the mid-9th century, the story was already widespread. By the time of the earliest surviving manuscript dating possibly from the mid-1000s, it had evolved somewhat... but let me hand you over to Michael Moorcock, who penned the following for an early issue of Look and Learn...

The illustration above is by Ron Embleton and is scanned from the original artwork, by the way.

The artwork for 'The Song of Roland' is by Luis Bermejo, one of my favourite Spanish artists. The clean-up is a bit patchy in places due to the poor original scans I have to hand, so my apologies if you feel their not up to my usual standard. It's the best I could manage in the time I had. I've saved them in a slightly larger format because the text is so small. Hopefully that will make up for the quality issues. Here's episode one of eight... enjoy!

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hunt the authors

A bit of a change of pace today as I'm using this particular column as an open request for information. I've spent a little time this evening working on the next Fleetway Index volume and particularly on one of the romance libraries that was published by Amalgamated Press in the 1950s. Famous Romance Library, which ran for 171 issues between 1956 and 1961, probably isn't at the top of most people's wants lists but it demands study. Blame the completest in me.

Some surviving payment records have revealed a handful of names of writers. There are a few I recognise and expect to see: Joan Whitford, for instance, as she was a very capable scriptwriter often involved in adaptations; Adrian Vincent was editorially involved, so no surprise he scripted a few; Walter Tyrer was a prolific romance author even if he wasn't known for scripting strips.

But a couple of names are new to me and I've had no luck in tracing any other work by them. It seems unlikely that these people would come from nowhere, write prolifically for a pocket library then disappear again. They simply came from and moved to areas that haven't been indexed—women's romance magazines; maybe even D. C. Thomson's romance picture libraries.

So this is something of a wild shot into the dark in the hope that someone may someday look up the name of an author-relative and stumble upon this request for information.

First up... E. Tierney. This would appear to be a Miss Eileen Tierney, but that's the absolute limit of my knowledge of her. I've found no further work by her but she was one of the most prolific contributors to Famous Romance, debuting with issue 4 in 1956 and writing right through to the end, her last confirmed contribution being issue 156 in 1961, a total of 67 issues, which is 40% of the whole run. Quite a few stories appeared under the pen-name Ellen Gribbon, under which name she may have contributed to other magazines, although I've yet to trace any appearances.

The problem is that there are 33 birth records that could possibly be our Miss Eileen Tierney, presuming that she was indeed born in the UK. If we assume she was at least 20 when she started writing, there are 9 records in 1916-34 and a further 7 dating back to 1905. 16 possibles... but tracking her down is no easy task as there are also 40 marriage records for women named Eileen Tierney. There are 59 Eileen Tierney's on current or recent electoral roles... and I don't even want to contemplate the number of potential names that a search of each marriage record might produce, if there are 59 names for each of the 40 records, that's 2,360 possible suspects. Presuming that she was still alive in the last 10 or so years.

Our second subject is V. Humpherson. Humpherson isn't as common a surname as Tierney, but in this case we only have an initial. If we ignore Victor as a birth name, I've found two possibles in birth records: Vera and Violet but I've don't think either are "our" V. Humpherson—Vera Humpherson, born Ecclesall Bierlow area of Yorkshire's West Riding in 1926, married Clifford D. Cheetham in Sheffield in 1950 and they had at least one son; Violet Humpherson, born Wolverhampton, 1925, married Sydney F. Rubecamp in Wolverhapton in 1945 and subsequently moved out of the UK. In 1949, her address was in Portland, Oregon. In any case, payment records for her work, which appeared in 1959-60, would have been under her married name.

Which means we are looking for a Mrs. V. Humpherson, who was already married before 1959, which is a rather more tricky business as that generates hundreds of potential suspects. However, while I was digging around I've found one good suspect, a Violet M. Humpherson, born Violet M. Jenner in around 1900, who married Edgar C. Humpherson in Hambledon, Surrey, in 1931. Edgar died in 1958, aged 68, and Violet followed in 1963, aged 62.

Now, there are three birth records that might apply to her and each is in the name of Violet May Jenner: Camberwell, London (2Q 1899), Mutford, Norfolk (2Q 1900) and Hambledon, Surrey (2Q 1901). Given the place of marriage, the third seems the most likely of the three.

So now we have a possible suspect, Violet May Humpherson (1901-1963), whose husband died shortly before stories by V. Humpherson began appearing and who died shortly after stories by V. Humpherson stopped appearing. But how to prove that Violet is "our" V. Humpherson?

Just to finish off, here are a few other names from my known authors lists that I have little or no information about :—

H. Fairfield
R. Garner
G. Dunn
J. Heale
D. Leader
D. A. Sampson
E. Jackson
J. Gardner

(* Famous Romance Library © IPC Media; incidentally, all three illustrations are covers for issues scripted by Miss Eileen Tierney.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fontana Cover Cavalcade: John Keay

I know little about John Keay and what is known is confused by the fact that there have been two artists by the same name. I think - but I'm not 100% sure - that the artist who contributed to Fontana was known as Jack Keay but was born John Edwin Keay in Kings Norton in 1907 and died in London in 1996. He was represented by Linden Artists and Thomson Artists.

Then there was a second artist by the name of John R. Keay represented by John Martin & Artists who did various series for Look and Learn in the late 1970s, his work often to be found on the inside front cover on series like 'This Made Headlines' and 'Dateline'.

If anyone has any further information that might help me separate out the two, please let me know. In the meantime, here are a few of Jack Keay's covers for you to enjoy.

Cat by Val Gielgud
Fontana Books 439, 1960

Head of a Traveller by Nicholas Blake
Fontana Books 621, 1961

Crime and Again by Rex Stout
Fontana Books 629, 1962

The Other Side of the Coin by Pierre Boulle
Fontana Books 658, 1962

Friday, February 25, 2011

Comic Cuts - 25 February 2011

As well as the usual weekly chores, I've been hard at work on the Hurricane/Champion index and I'm just waiting on a printed proof before we go to press. A second book is almost completed, too, which I'll discuss next week—it's a bit of a vanity publication but something I'm quite proud of. I'm trying now to sort out what to work on next. I want to update some of the older indexes but it's nice to work on something new, as I have with Hurricane/Champion. We shall see.

The above cover is another teaser, I'm afraid. Until I see the proof I don't want to show off the index cover, just in case I have to tinker with it. But it's a good excuse to show off another of the original Hurricane covers as they really were unique in British comics.

At the moment I've an outside job on, acting as a reader for a book for the British Library. It's a big book (the MS is 450 pages, single-spaced) and densely packed with information. I can't say anything more than it's subject is the history of story papers dating back to the 18th century, but also covering more modern papers in later chapters. I've been able to crack on with it these past couple of days thanks to some weird timeshifting.For someone whose sleeping patterns are odd at the best of times, this week has been crazy. For reasons unknown I woke up at 4 o'clock on Wednesday morning, dozed off around 4.30 in the afternoon and slept solidly for five hours. This meant I was wide awake until around five the following morning, was back up at eight feeling quite lively and spent Thursday trying to be as relaxed as possible.

Admittedly I'd had a few very late nights—later than normal—since last weekend, putting the finishing touches to the Hurricane/Champion index, but I shouldn't be feeling this jetlagged. Hopefully I'll swing things back to "normal" over the weekend. I do like my nap in the afternoons!

Some genuine comics news occurred this week when the Daily Mirror announced last Friday that they were to began reprinting classic 'Garth' strips. After years out of the spotlight, 'Garth' is now appearing in two publications in colour: Monday's issue of the Mirror began reprinting 'The Angels of Hell's Gap', a 1975 story by James Edgar, newly coloured by Martin Baines; and Spaceship Away! continues to reprint 'The Bubble Man', another 1975 strip (also by Edgar), coloured by John Ridgway. The reproduction in the latter is far better than in the Mirror—and this is no slight intended on Martin's work—where the colours look a bit wishy-washy. Martin has said that he is trying to echo the colour palette Frank Bellamy used on strips like 'Fraser of Africa' and it's a notion I wholeheartedly support.

Martin had previously worked for the Mirror as a colourist on episodes of 'Scorer', the long-running football strip which came to an end on Saturday, 19 February. The latter, written by Barrie Tomlinson and his son James, was launched way back in 1989, originally with Barry Mitchell and John Gillatt doing the artwork. Latterly, the strip has been drawn by David Sque and coloured by David Pugh. A short interview with Martin appears over on Lew Stringer's Blimey! blog.

This wasn't the only change. From Monday they also began publishing 'Simon's Cat' by artist and animator Simon Tofield. Tofield's cat became an internet sensation when 'Cat-man-do' appeared on YouTube in 2007. The cat films have subsequently clocked up 116 million views and inspired two books (Simon's Cat and Simon's Cat: Beyond the Fence). Tofield has signed a three-year worldwide syndication deal with the Mirror group.

And so to today's random scans...

David Bateson is a bit of a mystery author. All I know is that he was a former teacher born in 1921 and wrote 10 novels in 1951-60, five of them featuring a private eye named Larry Vernon. The last two were set in Australia... perhaps Bateson also headed to Oz and continued writing. Two children's books appeared under the same byline in 1964 and 1973... the same David Bateson? The latter was entitled The Boy with the Golden Surfboard which also hints at an Australian connection.

Back in around 1959, Pedigree Books published a couple of Bateson's novels in paperback with superb covers. I've no idea who the artists was but they definitely deserve an airing.

(* Garth, Scorer, Simon's Cat © Mirror Group; Little Boy Blue pic © Look and Learn Ltd.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fontana Cover Cavalcade: John Rose

John Rose was a regular cover artist for Fontana, one of the most prolific in the early days of the company in 1953-56, although he continued to provide covers until at least 1961 and possibly 1962. He was responsible for providing covers to many of Fontana's major writers, including Agatha Christie, Peter Cheyney, Howard Spring and Eric Williams as well as the religious writings of C. S. Lewis.

He also contributed covers to Digit Books (1963), Consul Books (1964) and possibly Corgi Books in the late 1960s.

Rose was born in Yorkshire in the 1920s and I know very little about his career other than that he spent 30 years illustrating books. In the late 1960s his career took a dramatic turn when he was asked by Stanley Kubrick to produce conceptual art for 2001: A Space Odyssey. He subsequently worked as an illustrator on such films as Nijinsky (starring Alan Bates, 1980), Supergirl (1984), Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter (1990) and In Love and War (1996).

He was the storyboard artist on Give My Regards to Broad Street (starring Paul McCartney, 1984), Sky Bandits (1986), Death Train (starring Pierce Brosnan and based on a story by Alistair MacLean, 1993), First Knight (1995), Jane Eyre (1996) and 101 Dalmations (starring Glenn Close, 1996), Prince Valiant (1997).

Some of his finest work is said to have been for films that never saw the light of day, including a movie storyboarded for David Lean (possibly Nostromo) and a version of Moby Dick which was to have starred Sean Connery as Captain Ahab.

The little gallery below shows how diverse his work was for Fontana.

The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
Fontana Books 49R, 1955

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
Fontana Books 50R, 1955

Bland Beginning by Julian Symons
Fontana Books 72, 1955

Play a Lone Hand by Luke Short
Fontana Books 103, 1956

RIP by John Macdonald
Fontana Books 382, 1960

My Son, My Son by Howard Spring
Fontana Books 760, 4th imp., 1962 [possibly same cover as Fontana 59, 1955]

Screwtape Proposes a Toast, and other pieces by C. S. Lewis
Fontana Books 1074R, 1965 [same cover (with different colouring) as Fontana 49R]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fontana Cover Cavalcade: Eileen Walton

Today's Fontana Cover Cavalcade is an Eileen Walton special. It's unfortunate that nothing seems to be known about the talented Ms. Walton; she was a prolific cover artist for Fontana around 1960-61 and produced two known covers for Digit Books in 1963-64. Jamie Sturgeon (whose name pops up regularly here on Bear Alley), has a flickr gallery of some of Eileen Walton's dustjacket artwork from various hardcover publishers, including Arthur Barker (fl. 1960-61), Hammond Hammond (fl. 1963), Jarrolds (fl. 1964-65) and Robert Hale (fl. 1965-91).

Beyond her covers, the only thing known about Eileen Walton is that she is the sister of Barbara Walton, another talented book cover artist who has worked for Collins (fl. 1960-69), John Long (fl. 1962-68), Robert Hale (fl. 1963-2006), W. H. Allen (fl. 1964-66) and Ward Lock (fl. 1967-68). Jamie's flickr gallery for Barbara Walton can be found here.

The Foolish Gentlewoman by Margery Sharp
Fontana Books 420, 1960. Cover by Eileen Walton

If Death Ever Slept by Rex Stout
Fontana Books 454, 1960. Cover by Eileen Walton

The Stone of Chastity by Margery Sharp
Fontana Books 532, 1961. Cover by Eileen Walton

Dunkerleys by Howard Spring
Fontana Books 588, 2nd imp., 1961. Cover by Eileen Walton

The Notorious Lady Castlemain by Olivia Leigh
Digit Books R664, 1963. Cover by Eileen Walton

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fontana Cover Cavalcade day 2

Here's a second small batch of Fontana covers, recent additions for previous galleries featuring the works of Alistair MacLean and Ngaio Marsh.

South by Java Head by Alistair MacLean
Fontana Books 457, 1961. Cover by John L. Baker

Surfeit of Lampreys by Ngaio Marsh
Fontana Books 538, 1961.

Fear is the Key by Alistair MacLean
Fontana Books 790, 1963. Cover by John L. Baker?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fontana Cover Cavalcade

Digging around the internet in my hunt for covers for the Peter Cheyney (and, some while back, the Agatha Christie) cover gallery, I grabbed a few additional covers from various Fontana paperbacks. With luck and a good tail wind, I'll post a few of them over the next few days.

First up, four from Laurence Meynell, a prolific crime writer who also wrote children's books. There's a good biographical sketch about Meynell's career here and a list of his crime novels here should you want to find out more about him.

The Frightened Man
Fontana Books 194,  1957

The Man No One Knew
Fontana Books 294, 1959

Danger Round the Corner
Fontana Books 376, 1960. Cover by John L. Baker

The Abandoned Doll
Fontana 684, 1962. Cover by John L. Baker

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ted Percival (d. 2011)

Ted Percival (far right, in uniform). At the top of the steps, smoking, is Reg Parlett
Ted Percival, whose career in animation stretched over five decades, recently died in hospital. He had been ill since shortly before Christmas. After suffering a bout of pneumonia which weakened him further, he died on the morning of 3 February.

William E. (Ted) Percival was one of the animators who worked on the 'Animaland' cartoons at Moor Hall for Gaumont-British Animation. His credits include The Lion (1948), The Ostrich (1948), The House-Cat (1949). One of his former colleagues described him as "a lovely man, always singing as he went along the corridors at Moor Hall."

When GB Animation closed its doors, Percival went to work with Pat Griffin, another Moor Hall refugee, at an animation production unit at the top of Castle Hill, Maidenhead, working on commercials. Percival later recalled "Whenever [Pat] wanted to see us, he would roll a cannon ball down the stairs - thumpety, thumpety, thump."

He subsequently worked with another former Moor Hall animator, Jack Stokes, who was directing episodes of a series of Beatles animated shows made for the United States by George Dunning's T.V.C. London animation company. Percival animated sequences based on various Beatles songs, including 'Twist & Shout', 'I'm Happy Just to Dance with You' and 'Tell Me Why'. When the TV series, broadcast on ABC in 1965-68, came to an end, George Dunning went on to direct the animated Beatles feature film Yellow Submarine (1968). Percival was one of 200 animators who put the whole movie together in only eleven months.

Percival's later animation credits include The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1979), directed by Bill Melendez, the TV series Willo the Wisp (1981) for Nicholas Spargo's Cartoon Films Ltd., episodes of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show (1983) and Muzzy in Gondoland (1986).

Percival, who lived in Pinkney's Green, Maidenhead, met Elizabeth (Bettina) Hansford, a key background artist, at Moor Hall. They were married in 1949.

(* My thanks to Bob Egby for passing on the news. The Beatles pic is from this site, which has some additional information on the animated TV show.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Comic Cuts - 18 February 2011

The big news for me this week is that Hurricane & Champion: Companion Papers to Valiant, the index I've been working on for the past few weeks, is almost finished. The layouts are all done, although that doesn't mean there's no more work to do... there's still a bit of tweaking to get things looking the way they should and the whole thing needs to be proofed, but the release date is now only weeks away rather than months. I've still got to set up an ordering system but as soon as that's done I'll start taking orders.


The pic above isn't the cover, by the way. Just one of the Hurricane covers I cleaned up. The cover that will appear on the book is taken from original artwork... but I'll have to save that until next week.

The Lionel Fanthorpe radio show I mentioned on Monday wasbroadcast yesterday on Radio 4 at 11.30 am and is now available on the iPlayer for the next six days. Easiest way to get to it is through this page.

Commando is continuing its 50th anniversary celebrations with the launch of a new website, officially launched on Tuesday, and what they're calling a "full-scale assault on the digital world", including a digital subscription service using iPhone and iPad apps—a frst for D. C. Thomson's stable of publications. The new website also exclusively offers A1 posters of many of Commando's covers, currently with an introductory price of £19.99.

According to editor Calum Laird, "Being the first D. C. Thomson title to offer a downloadable digital comic via a web-based subscription service is quite a responsibility but one we are delighted to take on. Commando is a unique product in the UK marketplace and now it can be made available worldwide at the click of a mouse, or the tap of a screen for iPhone and iPad. These devices are almost tailor-made for the unique presentation of Commando. Backing up the subscription service with a fully-loaded website giving access to our timeless story archive will be welcomed with open arms by Commando fans."

The iPad and iPhone apps are free to download through the Apple iTunes App Store and a digital subscription is priced at £4.99 per month, compared to a £99 annual print subscription. Thomsons are currently offering 4 free issues to download prior to making a purchase.

Graham Rye of 007 Magazine has just published a heavily illustrated tribute to the late Raymond Hawkey, celebrated graphic designer of newspapers, magazines and books whose work had a tangible influence on the visual culture of Britain in the second half of the 20th century. His early interest in American graphics while a student at the Royal College of Art in the 1950s subsequently helped change the look of British newspapers and magazines and his ground-breaking book jackets had a major influence on the evolution of British book jacket design.

The tribute is written by a long-time friend of the designer, Edward Milward-Oliver, and has a strong focus on Hawkey's newspaper and paperback presentations of Ian Fleming's James Bond fiction and his long association with author Len Deighton.

Great graphic design, like great art, remains relevant beyond its time. Raymond Hawkey brought innovation, integrity, and a meticulous eye for detail to everything that he undertook: newspaper design, magazine covers, advertising, book jackets, film titles, original fiction and illustrated books.

Copies of 007 Magazine issue 54 can be purchased here.

Our strip adaptation of 'Michael Strogoff' drawn by Alfonso Font comes to an end tomorrow, so I'll have to think of a few things that we can run next week. I'm trying to achieve a balance with Bear Alley—the simple truth is that I can't write new material online and do the indexes and do my regular daily work (the stuff that brings in the rent money); the first thing that goes to pot when things get busy is e-mail correspondence, although I'm pleased to say that I'm keeping fairly well on top of it at the moment. With the Hurricane & Champion index almost done, I'm now looking at the next couple of projects I want to work on, including a thorough updating of The Valiant Index and various others.

Today's random scan... something a bit romantic since it was Valentine's Day this week. Famous Romance Library adapted dozens of novels into strip form, many from those famous old romantics Mills & Boon. Not everybody's cup of tea, I know, but well worth a look as they had some superb artists, both internally and on the covers. Here, for instance, is a cover by David Wright of 'Carol Day' fame.

A quick Thank You to Roger for sending the scan. See you next week.

Michael Strogoff part 12

(* Artwork © Look and Learn Ltd. Reprinted by permission.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books