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Friday, May 06, 2016

Comic Cuts - 6 May 2016

Maybe it's all the talk of celebrity deaths, but the last couple of months have been poor ones for British comics, with the demise of Ken Barr, Scott Goodall and most recently the announcement that both Shirley Bellwood and Gil Page have also passed away. I corresponded with Scott, but only occasionally. Gil, on the other hand, I knew from correspondence dating back to the late 1980s, and we finally met when I was editing Comic World, which gave me plenty of opportunities to visit the Fleetway offices in, at that time, Tavistock Place.

Gil was managing editor in charge of a busy roster titles, including 2000AD, Roy of the Rovers, Eagle, Buster and many others, and while for many this was a gloomy time as far as British comics was concerned—most of the comics of my youth had folded and sales of surviving titles were nowhere near their peak—it shouldn't be forgotten that Gil oversaw some major successes. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one, the title at one point selling over a third of a million copies per issue. Gil was also in charge when Eagle was relaunched in 1982. The photo that heads this column dates back to that time, with – left to right – David Hunt, Barrie Tomlinson and Gil checking through artwork from the first issue. He also helped shepherd Judge Dredd Megazine, Crisis and Revolver into existence, and it was under his watch that Fleetway began  returning artwork to artists. And it was Gil who held the tiller while Fleetway navigated the difficult waters of the Maxwell years and the sale of Fleetway to Gutenberghus.

Gil was always only a phonecall away when I was working on one or other of my books about comics. It's no coincidence that I picked Hurricane and Champion when I wanted to launch Bear Alley Books. Although he said his memory was poor, we still managed to identify a goodly number of writers from his days on Champion and he provided plenty of background detail, fleshing out the history of the paper, which he edited. I shall miss our cheery conversations.

I mentioned last week that we were having some work done on the trees in the front garden and down the side of the house. Well, bang on the dot of 8.30 am last Friday, a couple of trucks arrived at the top of the drive and parked up. Out poured a team of... I'll call them lumberjacks, although that conjures up images of mighty Scots Pines floating down the rivers of British Columbia; this was a bunch of lads with chainsaws and ropes, a cherry picker and a shredder.

They made short work of the job and were cleared up and away by 4.30 pm. I'm amazed at the job they did. The difference it has made to the light getting to the house is incredible.

The work involved taking out entirely two Leylandii located down the side of the garage; branches had spread so far that they were blocking the light to our neighbour's upstairs window. At the front, there was an Elderberry close to the fence that was being smothered by all the other trees; it was effectively a bare trunk reaching upwards for sunlight; next were two enormous yew trees and, in the corner, a sycamore. All these were to be substantially reduced.

The end result is a driveway no longer overhung with branches that have to be brushed aside, and sunlight on the grass and to the front of the house where it was once shrouded in shadow until late evening. I now have to close the curtains a bit when we listen to the radio in the early evening because of the blinding light, but it's a small price to pay. This has always been a cold house and, fingers crossed, now we'll get a bit more sunlight to warm it through.

Today's random scans, as promised, are a handful of Tarzan yarns from the Pinnacle Books range published by Mark Goulden in the early and late 1950s. I'm not sure who the artist was for some of these. Tarzan the Invincible was book #3 in the series (originally unnumbered but adverts and later editions added the number); it went through at least three editions with the same cover, based on the original 1931 hardcover dust jacket by Studley Burroughs. The later 1958 edition had a change of cover art, this time painted by James McConnell.

Third down is #4 Tarzan at the Earth's Core, was based on the 1930 J. Allen St John Metropolitan Press dust jacket. #8 Tarzan and the Forbidden City is based on the John Coleman Burroughs dust jacket for the ERB Inc. 1938 first edition. And, finally, #10 Tarzan and the Leopard Men was another reprint, of J. Allen St John's ERB Inc. dust jacket from 1935.

Gallery time: there should be something posted tomorrow. And next week we will be starting a major new series of posts by Roger Perry discussing the part photography played in comics and annuals.

1 comment:

Kid said...

I'm saddened to hear of the death of Gil Page. I remember when the IPC Youth Group moved out of King's Reach Tower into Irwin House, and Gil arranged for me to have access to the Tower as I arrived in London around 6 in the morning, and Irwin House (which was just along the road) didn't open until 8 or 8.30. Sat in his office on the day he arranged this, he offered me a coffee and was extremely friendly and didn't act like the 'big boss'. Many years later, I asked him for some reminiscences about his time in comics, to be published in The Illustrated Comic Journal, but the publication sank without trace. I later offered it to Crikey! and they published it in, I think, their 5th issue. I still have the photo that Gil sent me along with his finished article. I think he was quietly proud to see the finished article in print. His death is sad news indeed.