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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stan Lee (1922-2018)

(* Here's the original text submitted to The Guardian, which was slightly trimmed for publication. It was written a couple of years ago so I've briefly updated it to include links to some of Lee's more recent problems.)

Stan Lee revolutionised the comics industry in the 1960s when he created the mythic figures that are today inspiring new generations to flock to cinemas. Lee’s creations – Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, most of the Avengers (Hulk, Iron Man, Thor), Daredevil and Doctor Strange – helped rescue the costumed superhero from obscurity and usher in the Silver Age of American comic books.

Superhero comics had collapsed in popularity after the Second World War (their Golden Age) and the introduction of the Comics Code in 1954 had outlawed crime and horror comics with any real bite. Lee, then an editor with Atlas Comics, watched the industry folding up around him but kept Atlas going with a small staff and the sales of romantic adventuress Millie the Model and wild west gunslinger Kid Colt.

Adding to his woes, Lee’s related-by-marriage boss, Martin Goodman, decided to close down the company through which he distributed his comics and strike a deal with American News Company, who dominated newsstand distribution in the mid-1950s but who promptly went out of business. Atlas were forced to agree restrictive terms with Independent News Distributors, owned by their closest rival, National (later DC) Comics which limited Atlas to eight titles a month.

Lee grew tired of churning out dozens of semi-literate scripts each month. On the point of quitting, his wife, Joan, suggested, “before you do why don’t you do one book the way you would like to do it. The worst that happens is Martin will fire you, and so what? You want to quit anyway”.

This advice coincided with a major overhaul of characters at National where editor Julius Schwartz had been reinventing many of the company’s old costumed heroes before teaming them up in a new monthly, Justice League of America. Goodman – in the process of changing the name of Atlas Comics to Marvel Comics – heard that the title was selling well and suggested to Lee that he should  invent a superhero group.

Lee realised this was his chance and created the Fantastic Four, a team with powers and problems in equal measure. Super-elastic scientist Reed Richards (Mr Fantastic) and his girlfriend Sue Storm (Invisible Girl) try to hold the team together while her brother Johnny (The Human Torch) and Ben Grimm (The Thing) bicker and fight. Lee’s instinct was to humanise the characters: Richards is wracked by guilt about turning his best pal Grimm into a monster who looks like an pile of orange boulders; Grimm is filled with anger and self-loathing; and Johnny, like any teenager, prefers to drive fast cars and use his superhero status to pull girls, resenting Sue and Reed’s attempts to reign him in.

Further innovations were to set the Fantastic Four series in New York rather than a fictional city and have the team visit real places. Briefly Lee kept the new team out of superhero costumes but was persuaded to have them don spandex by fans of the new series.

Lee’s next character, the Incredible Hulk, was inspired by a combination of Jekyll and Hyde and the notion of the misunderstood monster, exemplified by Boris Karloff’s depiction of Frankenstein’s monster. Caught up in a gamma radiation explosion, Dr Banner turns into a gigantic, green-skinned creature driven by hatred whenever he becomes angry. The angrier the Hulk gets, the stronger he becomes.

A radioactive spider was responsible for Lee’s most popular creation, although to many Spider-Man wasn’t about fighting malformed or transmuted enemies like the Green Goblin or the Lizard but about a shy, bullied young boy with a crush on a beautiful girl from his school but who lacked the confidence to ask her out.

Martin Goodman had so little faith in the character, he was not given his own book. Instead, Spider-Man debuted in the final (15th) issue of Amazing Fantasy, which sold particularly well. Goodman quickly gave the teenager his own title and The Amazing Spider-Man debuted a few months later. (A copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 sold for over $1m in 2011.)

Spider-Man was the first major character of this revitalisation of Marvel Comics that was not drawn by Jack Kirby. Kirby, one of the most influential and innovative artists to have worked in American comic books, had been involved in Atlas’s predecessor, Timely Comics, where he and Joe Simon had created Captain America in 1940. Simon and Kirby, the stars of the comic book industry of the time, departed shortly after, Simon claiming that they had not been paid their share of the profits from Captain America.

Kirby returned to Atlas in 1958 and was soon churning out 8-10 pencilled pages a day across all genres, although his weird fantasy and monster stories are his best known from this period.

When Lee introduced his new breed of superheroes, it was to Kirby that he turned. Disputes would later arise over who should be credited with creating the stories for these, although the initial development of a storyline would be down to Lee, who would write out a storyline in longhand and then discuss it with an artist until the plot gelled. With artists he knew well and trusted there was no need for a detailed panel breakdown – Kirby could work from the briefest outline of a plot (sometimes described over the phone) which Lee would then embellish with dialogue and captions once the pages came in. Since he was writing so many stories each month, this became Lee’s usual working style, sometimes called the ‘Marvel method’.

Lee made no secret of the way stories were produced and was quoted in a 1966 New York Herald Tribune interview as saying: “I don’t plot Spider-Man any more. Steve Ditko, the artist, has been doing the stories . . . We were arguing so much over plot lines I told him to start making up his own stories. He won’t let anybody else ink his drawings either. He just drops off the finished pages with notes at the margins and I fill in the dialogue. I never know what he’ll come up with next.” Lee’s argumentative relationship with Ditko, which included the co-creation of eastern mystic Doctor Strange, ended when Ditko left Marvel in 1966.

Iron Man was created by Lee as someone who should be hated by the readers – an inventor of military hardware who was benefiting financially from the Vietnam War – but whom he would turn into a hero. Lee also took the unfashionable subject of World War II and created Nick Fury, who led a multi-ethnic platoon known as the Howling Commandos. His most popular creations in 1963, however, were The X-Men, a group of mutants brought together by Professor Xavier for mutual protection and The Avengers, the latter originally made up of Iron Man, Hulk, Ant-Man, Thor and Wasp. Lee’s blind superhero Daredevil appeared in 1964, drawn by Bill Everett.

Lee and Kirby continued to create new characters, including The Silver Surfer, a galaxy-spanning traveller who was also Lee’s philosophical voice, and Black Panther, the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics. Both appeared in the pages of Fantastic Four in 1966, as did Galactus, a planet-eating cosmic entity intent on destroying Earth. Lee’s heroes were only as good as his villains and, with Kirby, he also gave the Marvel Universe Magneto and Doctor Doom.

Lee seemed to feed off the power and elegance of Jack ‘King’ Kirby and the eccentricity of Steve Ditko. One must not forget that the characters he was creating were unleashed after 21 years in the business. He was already approaching 40 – Kirby, 5 years older, was 44 – and this was Lee’s first opportunity to write something with greater depth than the stories he had been churning out for whatever comic needed to be filled that particular day.

Lee was finally allowed to give his characters flaws and, where superheroes had previously immediately embraced their powers, Lee’s heroes were often reluctant. Lee gave his characters voices, from pithy catchphrases – “Flame on!”, “Hulk smash!”, “It’s clobberin’ time!” – to pages littered with thought balloons out of which would grow some truth that the hero needed to learn, not the least of which was Peter Parker’s “With great power there must also come – great responsibility”. In his regular “Stan’s Soapbox” features that appeared in Marvel titles from 1967 he tackled Viet Nam and bigotry and shamelessly overhyped Marvel’s comics at the expense of their rivals (Brand Echh!). His high-spirited editorials where adolescent fans – “true believers!” and “keepers of the flame!” – were told to “Face front!”, offered No Prizes and rewarded for buying more comics by becoming a recognised “R.F.O.” (“Real Frantic One”), were hyperbolic, fun and funny and typically signed off with an exuberant “Excelsior!”

In a 1965 Esquire poll, Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk were ranked alongside Bob Dylan and Che Guevara as the favourite revolutionary icons among college students. As early as 1968, Lee said “Our goal is that someday an intelligent adult would not be embarrassed to walk down the street with a comic magazine. I don’t know whether we can ever bring this off, but it’s something to shoot for.” Lee has been widely recognised for his works, including being indicted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995, receiving an honourary degree from Bowling State University and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011. Long Beach, Los Angeles, celebrated Stan Lee Day on 2 October 2009.

Born Stanley Martin Lieber in Manhattan on 28 December 1922, Lee was the son of Romanian immigrants, Jacob Aaron Lieber and his wife Celia (née  Solomon). He grew up in Washington Heights and The Bronx where Jacob, for the most part unemployed during the Depression, worked occasionally as a dress cutter. Brother Larry (Lawrence David Lieber) was born when Stan was nine.

Lee attended DeWitt High School where he wrote for the school magazine, The Magpie, but had an otherwise uneventful schooling. He had several jobs during his teenage years, including delivering lunches to offices at the Rockefeller Center, selling subscriptions to the New York Herald Tribune, working as a theatre usher and as an office boy for trouser manufacturer H. Lissner & Son.

After graduating at 16, Lee joined the Federal Theatre Project, funded by the Works Progress Administration, but left soon after when he learned through his uncle, Robbie Solomon, that Timely Comics, a subsidiary of Magazine Management owned by Martin Goodman (related through his marriage to Stan’s cousin, Jean), was looking for an assistant in the editorial office run by Joe Simon.

Lee’s first job was to fill inkwells, collect lunch, erased pencil lines and proofread finished pages. His first story was a text filler, “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge” in Captain America 3 (May 1941). A few months later, he found himself in charge of the office when Simon and his artistic partner, Jack Kirby, struck a deal with rivals National.

Lee’s first superhero creation was a journalist called Keen Marlow. Caught behind enemy lines, he was experimented upon with a serum that turned him into The Destroyer. Other early Lee creations included Jack Frost and the scythe-swinging, hooded hero Father Time.

Lee was the cheerleader of Marvel Comics for over sixty years, as editor-in-chief from 1941 and as publisher from 1972 until 1996. He enlisted in the US Army in 1942 and trained with the Signal Corps but spent most of his three years working with a unit writing training films, manuals and posters.

Lee met English model Joan Clayton Boocock though a cousin and they married in Reno in 1947. A daughter, Joan Celia ("JC") Lee, was born in 1950; a second daughter, Jay, died after just three days.

Lee moved from Manhattan to California in 1980 where he set up an animation studio, narrating the Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends TV shows, and became involved with Marvel’s Hollywood ambitions. Lee also made numerous appearances on TV and in movies, beginning with an appearance as a jury foreman in The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk (1989), his extensive credits include playing himself in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats, The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory. Virtually every Marvel movie contains a cameo from Lee.

Marvel went into Chapter 11 liquidation in 1996 and emerged a new company in 1997. Lee, who had been paid $1m a year by Marvel Entertainment Group, which fell to half that from the newly founded Marvel Enterprises.

A year later, launched Stan Lee Media with Peter F. Paul. This was one of the biggest internet start-ups of the time, employing 165 people to create and market a variety of branded franchises. Web animation series The 7th Portal debuted in 2000, but within months had run out of capital. Paul fled to Brazil from where he was eventually extradited, beginning a 10-year sentence in 2009. Litigation surrounding Paul and Stan Lee Media dogged Lee for years.

Lee set up POW! Entertainment in 2001 and has since involved himself in a wide variety of media and entertainment projects ranging from the adult animated TV show Stripperella (voiced by Pamela Anderson) to reality TV series Who Wants To Be A Superhero?. He sued the company for damages in 2018, but dropped the suit after two months.

In 2002, Lee took Marvel to court over unpaid profits from the run of highly successful movies – Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 grossing over £1bn worldwide – and was rewarded with a multi-million dollar decision in his favour in 2005. In recent years he was the subject of worrying reports of elder abuse which resulted in a police probe and a restraining order issued against his business manager, Keya Morgan. The restraining order was renewed in August 2018 and required that Morgan also stay away from Lee's daughter, JC, and 86-year-old brother Larry.

Lee has been the subject of numerous books on the history of the comic book and co-wrote (with George Mair) his autobiography, Excelsior! The Amazing Life Of Stan Lee, in 2002. Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible, a graphic memoir by Lee, Peter David and Colleen Doran, was published in 2015.

Joan died in July 2017, and Lee is survived  by his daughter JC and brother Larry.

(* Picture: Stan Lee receives his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on 4 January 2011. Photo: Kathy Hutchins /

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Releases from Rebellion for 13–15 November 2018.

2000AD Prog 2107
Cover: Clint Langley
JUDGE DREDD: THE SMALL HOUSE by Rob Williams (w) Henry Flint (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SKIP TRACER: LEGION by James Peaty (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Dylan Teague (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
BRINK: HIGH SOCIETY by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THARG'S 3RILLERS: INFESTINAUTS ARE GO! by Arthur Wyatt (w) Pye Parr (a+l)
KINGDOM: ALPHA AND OMEGA by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Abigail Bulmer (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

Hope by Guy Adams & Jimmy Broxton
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08658-2, 13 November 2018, 68pp, £10.99 / $14.99. Available via Amazon.
In an alternate post-war 1940s Los Angeles, where occult forces are a fact of life, Mallory Hope is a private detective haunted by his past… and by the demon he works with. When a new case involving a missing boy reminds him of his own lost child, Hope is determined to find him. But he soon discovers all is not what it seems, with dark powers lurking behind the lights of Hollywood… A gritty detective tale from Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton that blends classic Hollywood noir with the occult!

El Mestizo by Alan Hebden & Carlos Ezquerra
Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08657-5, 15 November 2018, 65pp, £14.88 / $19.99. Available via Amazon.
A bitter sweet and much-needed collection of the late Carlos Ezquerra's unconventional Western series. In 1862, as the American Civil War tears a nation in two, dangerous men prosper through bloodshed. El Mestizo was once a slave who managed to escape to Mexico. Now he's come back over the border, a mercenary for hire. But is he really allied to neither side? High-octane revenge Western from the co-creator of Judge Dredd. Perfect for fans of Moebius's Blueberry and the motion picture Django Unchained.

Monday, November 12, 2018

El Mestizo

'El Mestizo' came about from a request by artist Carlos Ezquerra, who wanted to do something different to the Second World War strips he was working on for Battle Picture Weekly. He had worked with writer Alan Hebden for some years, drawing 'Rat Pack' and 'Major Eazy', and it was Hebden who took up the challenge of coming up with a gunslinging hero in a kind of Wild West setting.

Inspired by The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Hebden took the Civil War for his background, against which he needed a character who was not aligned to either side but who had a strong connection with the soul of the country being fought for. Enter the former slave El Mestizo – the half-breed – who had escaped across the southern border but was now drawn back in pursuit of a Mexican murderer named Hutardo he has tracked half-way across Mexico.

Both sides believe El Mestizo could be of use to them and, once Hutardo is captured and taken back to Mexico, the half-breed returns to America, to Alabama where he was once a slave working the cotton fields. He sees a familiar face among the cotton pickers, a girl named Shelley, enslaved to the former overseer, Black Patch. While he is dealing with Patch, the slaves are killed by a Yankee raiding party that has the support of the Union Army's General Collins, who says they have been tasked with disrupting agricultural production in the South, even if it means killing the people they are meant to be helping.

Aware that he cannot fight gangs of raiders on his own, El Mestizo uses the forces of the North and South to his advantage, setting up an ambush with the Confederates to destroy the Yankee raiders and a deal with the Unionists to deal with a renegade army deserters who are stealing from the weak and wounded.

Alan Hebden varied the stories, which generally lasted two or three weeks, so the strip never became dull or predictable. In one story, a Yankee-hating doctor tries to introduce a strain of bubonic plague, which leads El Mestizo to blowing up a ship blockading the port through which the doctor has sailed north and hiring a privateer to chase down the ship he boarded; in another the half-breed carries orders from the President to a rogue General who would rather kill the messenger than follow instructions that he desist from killing innocent civilians.

El Mestizo appeared in Battle Picture Weekly & Valiant between June and September 1977, one of a group of characters that appeared within a matter of months of each other: Johnny Red and Joe Two Beans had appeared in January, and The Sarge and Gaunt both debuted a couple of weeks after El Mestizo. With such a strong line-up it seems something had to give, and El Mestizo stood out from the core of World War 2 adventures that Battle focused on.

Strips celebrating an epic British/Allied victory were clearly more attractive to the young, British audience the comic had; perhaps the very nature of the conflict El Mestizo found himself in worked against the strip's success: Hebden made bad guys of both sides and the hero of the strip was happy to work for either as long as the money was good. Although not the first black character to appear in British comics, he may well have been the first mercenary.

Ezquerra had yet to develop the broken/dotted line that was such a trademark of his work from the 1980s on, but the detailed pen-work meant that while it sat comfortably alongside the works of  Eric Bradbury, Joe Colquhoun and Mike Western it still looked scratchier and dirtier. Looking back, while the Civil War setting and ambiguous hero worked against it at the time, it is the combination of those same elements, along with its memorable artwork, that has made the strip such a favourite in the memories of fans of Battle. New readers will simply revel in the action and energy that Ezquerra brought to the strip and Hebden's array of short stories that went way beyond the original inspiration.

El Mestizo by Alan Hebden & Carlos Ezquerra. Rebellion ISBN 9781781086575, 15 November 2018, 65pp, £14.99 (hardcover). Available via Amazon.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Frank Jennens

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Frank Jennens was an artist for nursery comics for the Amalgamated Press in the 1920s, and later, in the 1940s, a minor illustrator of children’s books, largely re-issues of classic children’s novels. He was also an accomplished stage actor and producer.

Christened Frank Douglas Beaufoy Jennens, he came from a family of clockmakers. His grandfather, William Jennens (born in 1817), was a clockmaker in Hockley, Birmingham, who married Martha Beaufoy in Handsworth, Birmingham, in 1839. In the mid-1850s they moved to Clerkenwell, London, following William’s sister Ann, who had married another clockmaker, Phillip Bradford, and his brother John Creed Jennens, who had established his own clockmaking business in Birmingham before moving to Clerkenwell in the early 1850s. William joined John as an assistant in 1871, and at the time of the 1881 census he and his wife were living at 25 Sutton Street, Clerkenwell.

They had eight children, one of whom, Joseph (born in Hockley on 1 November 1855) established his own clockmaking business at 4 & 5 Skinner Street, Clerkenwell in the late 1880s. He had married Isabella Venners (born in Birmingham on 30 August 1855, the daughter of Charles Venners, a silversmith) at the New Christian Church, Argyle Street, St. Pancras, on 4 June 1876. They went on to have seven children: Isabella Ruth (1879), Lilian May (1883), Maud Ethel (1884), Lily Gertrude (1886), Alfred Edward (1889), Frank Douglas Beaufoy (1893), and Lawrence Ewart (1895).

At the time of the 1881 census, Joseph and Isabella were living at 14 Cantlowes Road, Kentish Town, London. They moved to 38 St. Augustine’s Road, Camden, in 1886, where their last four children were born, Frank Douglas Beaufoy being born on 25 April 1893.

Joseph Jennens died on 27 May 1900, leaving an estate valued at £3,849 (around £400,000 in today’s terms). Two months later, on 24 July 1900, Frank Jennens was enrolled at Burghley Road School, Camden, alongside his younger brother Lawrence. Where Frank was educated after this is not known. At least one source states that he received his artistic training at the Slade School of Art, but he is not listed in any of the  Slade’s registers between 1907 and 1926.

In the 1911 census Frank Jennens was recorded as an artist, living at Avoncourt, Loom Lane, Radlett, Hertfordshire, with his widowed mother and three of his siblings. By 1914, he appeared to have moved to Hendon, Middlesex, where he was a Scoutmaster and developing his acting skills by appearing in scout concerts. What he did during the First World War is not known, although in around 1915 it is known that he designed Christmas cards for G. Delgado Ltd. It is also known that he was acting professionally from 1912 or 1913 onwards, often using the name “Frank Douglas,”

It has been said that he joined the Amalgamated Press shortly after the war, although it appears that none of his work has been identified prior to the late 1920s, when he provided illustrations for Tiny Tots, Rainbow and Sunbeam, and for The Bruin Boys Annual. He was also at around this time working as a writer, for example contributing a story (“The Scarlet Signal”) to Hulton’s Girls’ Annual in 1927.

In the meantime, in 1924 he had won a prize in a competition in The Sketch, when his address was given as 42 Hemingford Road, Islington. He remained in north London for the next few years, acting and producing for the Mill Hill British Women’s Temperance Association between 1926 and 1928, then with the Islington Junior Operatic Society (1930), before touring the country as a professional actor, working with the Leeds and Bradford Civic Playhouse Company in 1931 and 1932. He then moved to The Manor, Baldcok, Hertfordshire, and acted with the nearby Biggleswade Amateur Dramatic Society in 1935 and the Arlesey Amateur Dramatic Society in 1936. He also became involved with the Baldock Dramatic Society, formed in April 1935.

In 1937 he moved to Kent, where he lived at a number of addresses: 4 Royal York Mansions, Margate (1937), Palmerston Lodge, Palmerston Avenue, Broadstairs (1938-39 – he was recorded in the 1939 Register as a “Press Artist”), I Royal York Mansions, Margate (1941-46 – although he was listed in the 1945 Electoral Register at 21 Totteridge Lane, Finchley), East Northdown House, Margate (1948-50), Elmwod, Broadstairs (1953), and finally 5 Albion Road, Broadstairs (1954-57). He continued his amateur acting career, working with the Margate Repertory Company and then the Ramsgate Repertory Company. In the late 1940s, he became known as “Mr Broadstairs”

His career as a book illustrator appears to have taken off in 1947, when he began working for the publisher P.R. Gawthorn, illustrating re-issues of The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper and Peter the Whaler by George Manville Fenn. He went on to illustrate at least nine more re-issues of well-known children’s novels for Gawthorn, including The Swiss Family Robinson, Good Wives, Masterman Ready, Mr Midshipman Easy, Tom Brown’s Schooldays and Black Beauty. In addition, he illustrated a further five re-issues of similar titles published by the Bruce Publishing Company of Watford. He also wrote and illustrated two children’s books himself – Brown Mouse and Brown and White – both published by Gawthorn in 1947. (These centred on a modern-day Cinderella, bossed around by her two attractive sisters.)

He also contributed to annuals and omnibus volumes such as Adventure Stories for Boys, published by Beaver Books in the late 1950s. Throughout his life, he also painted in both oils and watercolours.

As an illustrator, he was very good at capturing action, and many of his pictures have a suitably cheerful feel, although this frequently jarred with the text – for example, in his illustrations for Tom Brown’s Schooldays (and in some other books) the boys all look far too young.

He never married, and appears to have spent many years living with his mother and sister Lily. His mother died in December 1939, He died at his home at 5 Albion Road, Broadstairs, on 22 September 1957, leaving an estate valued at just £260. One of his nieces, Lorna Ruth Steele (born in 1902) became an illustrator, after being influenced by Jennens. She contributed to numerous children’s annuals and story collections, as well as occasionally writing stories, and she also produced greetings cards and postcards. She died in 1990.


Novels written and illustrated by Frank Jennens
Brown Mouse, P. R. Gawthorn, 1947.
Brown and White, P. R. Gawthorn, 1947.

Books illustrated by Frank Jennens
Tiny Tots. A Picture Story Book for Little People, Amalgamated Press, c.1930. (with other artists)
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, P.R. Gawthorn, 1946 (re-issue)
Peter the Whaler by W. H. G. Kingston, P.R. Gawthorn, 1946 (re-issue)
Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, P.R. Gawthorn, 1947 (re-issue)
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, P.R. Gawthorn, 1947 (re-issue)
Masterman Ready by Captain Marryat, P.R. Gawthorn, 1947 (re-issue)
Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Marryat, P.R. Gawthorn, 1947(?) (re-issue)
Good Wives by Louisa M. Alcott, P.R. Gawthorn, 1947 (re-issue)
What Katy Did and What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge, P. R. Gawthorn, 1947 (re-issue)
Anytime Tales by Herbert J. Brandon, Bruce Publishing Co., 1948
Fun and Frolic Stories by Berta Lawrence, Bruce Publishing Co., 1948
Play Time Stories (author not known), Bruce Publishing Co., 1948
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, Bruce Publishing Co., 1948(?) (re-issue)
The Life and Strange Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Bruce Publishing Co., 1948(?) (re-issue)
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, Bruce Publishing Co., 1948(?) (re-issue)
Bevis, The Story of a Boy by Richard Jefferies, P.R. Gawthorn, 1949 (re-issue)
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann R. Wyss, P.R. Gawthorn, 1951 (re-issue)
Robin Hood and His Merry Men, Hampster Books (Early Reader Series 28), 1960(?)
The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Other Stories from Grimm's Fairy Tales, Hampster Books (Early Reader Series 31), 1960(?)

(* I previously covered Frank Jennens back in 2009. Here's a link to the earlier piece, which has a couple of photos of Frank.)

Friday, November 09, 2018

Comic Cuts - 9 November 2018

I had a bit of a disaster on Sunday morning. One of my hard drives failed, a back-up containing about 2tb of stored files. Now, this is a bit of a disaster, not a TOTAL disaster, because, for just this reason, I have all the files backed up twice, so one back up mirrors the other.

The irony is that I was using the drive at the time to back up my e-mail. I was starting to get a bit worried as I had mail dating back to the early 2000s – correspondence with hundreds of people relating to books, magazines and comics, work-related mail and all my Bear Alley correspondence. I had no idea where all this was even stored, let alone how much space it was taking up.

I asked some friends on Friday and, following their advice, managed to track down a folder with 16gb of mail. I was copying this folder onto a pair of hard drives when one of them failed. I turned it off and turned it on again, which is the limit of my technical abilities, but it was stone dead, having turned in an instance from a highly intricate piece of technology into a brick.

Thankfully I still had a couple of the older drives that I had taken out of service when I bought the new ones, so I spent all of Sunday and all of Monday backing up the files that I now had only one copy of.

Thankfully the drives weren't full and I managed to fit all the files onto the two smaller drives. I did discover that one spare drive I had was busted and no longer worked. Thinking about it, this might have been the drive that failed the last time I had to replace back up drives and I just hadn't gotten around to throwing it out. I want to dispose of them responsibly, but at the same time I want to smash the actual drives into tiny fragments to stop anyone getting hold of the data. I took a hammer to a failed drive once and it was hugely satisfying.

So I need to buy a new pair of drives. I'm working on the principal that if one has failed, the other (bought at roughly the same time) might also be on the point of failure, so I may as well pick up a couple of drives for peace of mind.

Thankfully, I was offered a little bit of freelance work during the week – only a couple of days' work – but it ought to cover this unexpected expense. Now all I need is for someone to pay me enough for a new TV, as the old one is on its last legs!

Which reminds me. Don't forget I'm flogging off some books and magazines on Ebay. Treat yourself. You can see what I'm selling by looking at the "see other items" on the right hand side of the page. At the moment there's a bunch of Cinefex magazines up for grabs. Beautiful mag. I just don't have the shelf-space for them anymore.

The few spare moments I've had I've spent mostly on the Forgotten Authors essay mentioned last week, which I've still to finish, and starting to put together a pitch for a book or three as job hunting is going very slowly.

The big news of the week, distracting from Brexit for once, was the US midterms. Feeling in need of something a bit more lighthearted after Tin Star, I have been catching up with Veep, the Thick of It-style US series by Armando Iannucci.

The show is only a half hour in length, so I have been tempted to binge on it and watch three or four episodes at a time. A normal US sitcom clocks in at around 22 minutes, so you can watch three in an hour. I keep forgetting that this is an HBO show and a half hour is a half hour. Three episodes is half again what you get from three episodes of, say, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. No wonder I'm feeling so knackered as I've been watching them to wind down at the end of the day.

I'd watched a couple of seasons previously so I picked up the storyline where Selina Meyer (the vice president, or veep, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has been temporary president following the resignation of President Hughes. With elections due, she has been on the trail drumming up votes and, at the end of the fourth season, the election resulted in a tie, with Selina and her running mate Tom James (Hugh Laurie) wining the same number of electoral college votes as her rivals.

This forces a vote in the House of Representatives, with each of the fifty states given a single vote. And if this should result in a tie, the deadlock is resolved with a vote by the Senate for their favourite of the two vice presidential nominees. The fifth season sees everyone in political overdrive as they try to woo voters to Selina's side, but with Tom James working against her, hoping that he will have a shot at the Presidency. When it looks like James has won, the deadlock is broken by Andrew Doyle, Selina's despised Vice President, who realises that Selina has no intention of moving him out of his backwater job, and casts his vote for the opposition.

It sounds like a complicated and confusing show, until you realise that all the characters are dogs fighting over scraps under a table. They have nothing but self-interest at heart and form alliances only for their own security and to defeat others. It's only the tight focus of the storylines, the inventiveness of the dialogue and the pace that stops you realising just how horrible everyone is. In fact, you can only have the slightest iota of sympathy for the main cast because the people outside their circle are an even more ghastly, bunch of back-stabbing bastards and bro-wannabes, only still functioning because the strength of their ambition blinds them to their incompetence.

I'm now in the middle of season six, with Selina, unable to cope outside the limelight, trying to establish her legacy and wondering whether to run in the 2020 Presidential race. Season seven (due early next year) will be the last. That'll leave us with two years of real American politics to cope with without the sitcom filter. Aaaaargh!

Random scans... I only managed one pair before the clock hit midnight, so the rest are, for the most part, recent purchases.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Rebellion releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 7 November 2018.

2000AD Prog 2106
Cover: INJ Culbard
JUDGE DREDD: THE SMALL HOUSE by Rob Williams (w) Henry Flint (a) Chris Blythe (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SKIP TRACER: LEGION by James Peaty (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Dylan Teague (c) Ellie De Ville (l)
BRINK: HIGH SOCIETY by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THARG'S 3RILLERS: INFESTINAUTS ARE GO! by Arthur Wyatt (w) Pye Parr (a+l)
KINGDOM: ALPHA AND OMEGA by Dan Abnett (w) Richard Elson (a) Abigail Bulmer (c) Ellie De Ville (l)

Monday, November 05, 2018

Comic Scene #3 (December 2018)

The monthly Comic Scene goes from strength to strength it seems and the latest issue is probably the best yet, with a over two dozen features wrapped up in cover celebrating Charley's War. It's a timely celebration given the recent release of Rebellion's three collections of the strip, considered a masterpiece in and out of the industry.

Richard Sheaf is given the task of tracking down the various Charley's War reprints that have appeared over the years, which he does in his usual entertaining style. Sheaf is one of the regulars at Comic Scene and is also responsible for (but not limited to) articles on Frank Bellamy's Happy Warrior strip (the life story of Winston Churchill) for Eagle, and the short-lived True War, which had some remarkable artwork by Ian Kennedy and James Watson.

Colin Noble, Luke Williams and Stephen Jewell are names you'll recognise from earlier issues, as is that of Pat Mills, who continues to provide a 'Last Word' – in this instance about some of the impact Charley's War has had. We're in safe hands as far as the writing is concerned, so let's romp through the contents, because there's a lot to enjoy here.

Although in no way planned, this is something of a tribute issue to Carlos Ezquerra, who turns up in an early article on Marvel's Fury comic, where he was the regular cover artist, turning in dynamic images each week for the paper's six-month run. Then there are features on 'Rat Pack', the Battle favourite that first united Ezquerra with writer Alan Hebden, the lead story in Crisis, 'Third World War', written by Pat Mills with Ezquerra providing most of the early artwork, and 'El Mestizo', the story of an Alabama slave who becomes the scourge of the American Civil War, also penned by Alan Hebden for Battle.

Comic Scene also celebrates Commando with a couple of features outlining its history and how it is celebrating the Armistice.

Rogue Trooper's complex continuity, the wartime cartoons of Carl Giles, a look at the influence of war on the works of Jacques Tardi, how Kek-W revived an old Fleetway favourite (Black Max), a look at the classic 'Britain invaded' trope, the story of Peter Flint (Codename–Warlord), the War Doctor (Who),

Outside of the war theme, we also have a feature on Stan Lee's visits to UK conventions, comics (Whackoman), the new Roy of the Rovers, new and upcoming graphic novels from the small press and a look at the independent comics scene and a small press spotlight.

Comic Scene is now available to order through Diamond and your local comic shop. Issue 3 is released on 15 November 2018 and can be ordered through their website, as can the Great Big ComicScene Christmas Annual 2019, which will be released in December.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Minnie: 65 Years of Minxing

Not the first feminist figure in comics (Pansy Potter and Beryl the Peril both predate her), Minnie the Minx is, however, the most famous. Her distinctive look was a deliberate attempt at branding... like a wasp's yellow and black strips spell danger, the red and black striped jumper signifies that havoc is about to be wrought, chaos about to descend and teachers, parents, softies – indeed boys in general – are about to be menaced.

Two years after Dennis the Menace appeared in The Beano, editor George Moonie was keen to introduce a female character with a similar anti-authoritarian streak and his choice of artist was Leo Baxendale, then enjoying his first success with Little Plum. Baxendale wanted to create an Amazon warrior of a girl, wildly slapstick and utterly anarchic.

What set her aside was her desire to win at any cost. She had the will-power and a laser-like focus on getting what she wanted and beware anyone who got in her way or tried to thwart her desires. Usually that was mum and dad, but anyone from the local bobby on his beat to a neighbour in the wrong place at the wrong time, would be bowled over by this one-girl stampede.

Minnie: 65 Years Of Minxing is a 64-page 'bookazine' filled with memories of minxing days gone by, beginning with a look at Minnie's origins. There's a reprint of the very first Minnie strip – published in The Beano for 19 December 1953 – the image taken from the original art board. Minnie started as a half page, switching to a full page later that decade and then, in 1970, to two pages.

We are introduced to Minnie's artists: Leo Baxendale (1953-62), Jim Petrie (1961-2001), Tom Paterson (2001-08), Ken Harrison (2008-12), Nigel Parkinson (2012-16), Paul Palmer (2016-18) and Laura Howell (2018- ). Along the way we also learn what a Minnie script looks like, learn how to draw Minnie, look at some of the famous faces that have appeared in her stories and meet some of the female artists inspired by Minnie's adventures. In between, there are almost two dozen strips from across Minnie's sixty-five years to remind us why we love her.

Thomsons always make a good job of this kind of celebratory magazine. What I especially like are the unique items that readers would never otherwise get to see: the original art board for the first strip, a Jim Petrie try-out for a solo Minnie comic and Laura Howell's try-out which earned her the position of Minnie's current artist. This is gold dust to collectors and long may DC Thomson continue to celebrate their classic characters. Bash Street Kids turns 65 next year... just saying.

Minnie: 65 Years of Minxing, edited by John Anderson. D. C. Thomson, October 2018, £6.99.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Stanley Berkeley

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Stanley Berkeley was a talented and very versatile painter and illustrator, who covered subjects varying from animals to sporting, historical, military and adventure, with a target audience from very young children upwards.

He was born in January 1855, and, rather oddly, baptized, as Stanley Tyerman Berkley, twice – firstly on 16 January 1855 at St. Mary’s Church, Paddington Green, London, and then on 18 May 1862 at St. Luke’s Church, West Norwood, Lambeth (both churches being Anglican). His father, James Thomas Berkley, was a stockbroker, who had married Amelia Maria Cook in Stoke Newington on 15 May 1833. Stanley was the last of their nine children.

It should be noted that the family name was BERKLEY, and Stanley’s surname was spelt this way in his baptism records, marriage record, and census returns up to and including 1891. However, for some reason Stanley started using the spelling of BERKELEY in around 1883, in his early book illustrations, although he was still signing some of his paintings BERKLEY in 1885. (He also signed some of his early work “S B” or “S Berkley”).

At the time of the 1861 census, the Berkley family was living at 19 St. Leonard’s Terrace, Paddington. A year later, Stanley’s second baptism record gave the family address as Gloucester Villas, West Norwood.

It is not known where Stanley received his early education, although in an interview in the boys’ story paper Chums in October 1904 he revealed that he was always first in his art class, and was so obsessed with art that he drew on almost every available surface, only avoiding punishment because his teachers recognized his talent. However, he was not allowed to pursue an artistic career after leaving school, and instead was obliged to join his brother James as a solicitor’s clerk. (They were both recorded as such in the 1871 census, living in the family home which was then at 19 Manor Road, Deptford, Greenwich).

Stanley left his job at an unknown date, and, as revealed in his Chums interview, spent six months in dire poverty, living in cheap lodgings in the east end of London, doing odd jobs and painting and selling the occasional picture. He was eventually offered a job at £50 a year copying old prints and maps at the British Museum. He also went on to spend a lot of time at London Zoo, reflected in his later passion for animal pictures.

In 1877 he enrolled at Lambeth School of Art, and went on to win the school’s Gold Medal in 1880. The winner of the Silver Medal that year was Edith Sarah Savill, who went on to win the Gold Medal the following year, and who subsequently became Stanley’s wife.

In 1881 Stanley was still an art student, living as a lodger with Thomas Barnes, a tailor, and his family at 56 Princes Square, Lambeth. Two years later, on 3 May 1883, he and Edith Savill married at St. John’s Church, Brixton. Born in 1858 in Kensington, Edith was the daughter of Thomas Choate Savill, a printer, and Eliza Clarissa, née Dixon, a dressmaker. They moved to 38 Finborough Road, Kensington, while Stanley (and probably Edith) worked from a studio at 39B Old Bond Street, and later at 2 Bolton Studios, Redcliffe Road, Kensington.

In the meantime, Stanley’s professional career as an artist had begun in 1880, when he contributed to the boys’ story paper The Union Jack, owned by W.H.G. Kingston and published by Griffith & Farran. The following year, he exhibited his first painting at the Royal Academy, and illustrated his first book, providing a series of sketches for a book on horseriding.

Between 1892 and 1900 he contributed to numerous periodicals, including The Illustrated London News (1882-1898), The Graphic, The Infant’s Magazine, The Girl’s Own Paper, Chatterbox, The Penny Illustrated Paper, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, The Pictorial World, The Art Journal, Black and White, Chums, The Boy’s Own Paper, The Badminton Magazine, The Leisure Hour, The Sketch, The Road, The Children’s Friend and The Windsor Magazine. In 1900 he began contributing to The Sphere, in particular producing pictures of the Boer War, and he also contributed to Great Thoughts, Pearson’s Magazine and Cassell’s Magazine.

He was also illustrating a wide variety of books, mainly children’s books in a range of genres – adventure stories, school stories, bible stories, and historical stories. Amongst the authors whose books he illustrated were John Percy Groves, George Manville Fenn, F.W. Farrar, H.C. Adams, F. Bayford Harrison and J.R. Hutchinson, and amongst the publishers who commissioned him were Griffith & Farran, the Religious Tract Society, the S.P.C.K., Blackie & Son, Sampson Low, S.W. Partridge & Co., A.& C. Black, and Chapman & Hall. He also provided illustrations for books such as Athletics and Football in Longman, Green & Co.’s Badminton Library, and A Year of Sport and Natural History published by Chapman & Hall.

He was also commissioned by A. & C. Black to illustrate two titles in its Drybugh Edition of The Works of Walter Scott – Woodstock and Peveril of the Peak, published in 1894. He was also one of numerous artists asked to illustrate Robinson Crusoe, on this occasion an edition published by the S.P.C.K. in 1890. He seems to have contributed to only a handful of children’s annuals, all in the 1890s – these included Nister’s Holiday Annual, Bright Eyes: An Annual for Young Folk, and The Fireside Pictorial Annual.

Several of his illustrations also appeared in books apparently published only in America, by publishers such as McLoughlin Brothers and Donohue, Henneberry & Co. It may have been the case that these illustrations had previously appeared in in some of the periodicals Berkeley had contributed to.

Throughout the period 1883 to 1900 he was also exhibiting his paintings all over the country. He continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy (14 times between 1883 and 1902), and he also exhibited with the Society of British Artists (later the Royal Society of British Artists), the Nineteenth Century Art Society, the Dudley Gallery Art Society, the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours, the Institute of Painters in Oil Colours, the Bristol Fine Arts Academy, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Institute of Painters in Watercolours, and the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts. He was also included several times in Cassell & Co.’s annual exhibition of black and white illustrations, and his work was also exhibited in numerous municipal and private galleries up and down the country. In 1884 he was elected a member of the Society of Painter-Etchers. Many of his paintings were issued as photogravure prints by Henry Graves. In an interview in The Windsor Magazine (July 1899) he said that he never made rough sketches before starting a picture, and he never used models.

He also undertook various commercial commissions, such as an advertisement for Bovril in 1895, and a series of postcards for Raphael Tuck in 1900.

By 1887 Berkeley and his wife had moved to Ham Common, Richmond, and they subsequently moved to “The Rosery”, Portsmouth Road, Thames Ditton, Surrey, where they lived from around 1890 to at least 1902. (This address is sometimes given as being in Esher, Surrey).

Most of his work after 1903 was for Dean & Son, in particular providing colour illustrations for their series of “Rag Books” aimed at very young children. Almost all of these featured animals, with titles such as Animal Alphabet, Friends and Favourites, My Animal Book, Farmyard Families and Animals and Their Little Ones. He also contributed to The British Workman, The Lady’s Pictorial and The Royal Magazine, with his last periodical illustrations appearing in The Sphere in 1908.

Berkeley died at his home at 2 Fenton Villas, Hook Road, Surbiton, Surrey, on 17 April 1909, and was buried on 23 April in St. Paul’s Churchyard, Chessington, Surrey.

Edith Sarah Berkeley was also a painter and illustrator. She exhibited at the Royal Academy six times between 1884 and 1891, and she also exhibited with the Royal Society of British Artists and the New Watercolour Society. She illustrated several children’s books, including some for Dean & Son. She was sometimes referred to as “Edith Stanley Berkeley”, or “Mrs Stanley Berkeley.” After Stanley’s death she moved to 44 Upper Hill Lane, Croydon, where she died in April 1925, being buried alongside her husband.


Books illustrated by Stanley Berkely
Riding on the Flat and Across Country: A Guide to Practical Horsemanship by M. Horace Hayes, Thacker & Co., 1881
Barford Bridge, or Schoolboy Trials by H.C. Adams, Richard Edward King, 1881(?) (re-issue)
The Young Moose-Hunters: A Backwood’s Boy’s Story by C.A. Stephens, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1882
From Cadet to Captain: A Tale of Military Life by John Percy Groves, Griffith & Farran, 1883
Kate Temple’s Mate by anon. (Francis E, Reade), S.P.C.K., 1883
A Story for the Schoolroom, Religious Tract Society, 1883
Mama’s Bible Stories Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, 1884
Masaniello, or A Nine Days’ Wonder by F. Bayford Harrison, Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, 1886
Athletics and Football by Montague Shearman, Longmans, Green & Co., 1887
Round the Ring: Stories, Pictures and Poems for All the Year by various authors, 1887(?) (with other artists)
The History of Arthur Penreath by Commander Lovett Cameron, Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, 1888
Story After Story, McLoughlin Brothers (USA), 1888 (with other artists)
Blacks and Bushrangers, or Adventures in North Queensland by G.B. Kennedy, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1889
Three Boys, or The Chiefs of the Clan Mackhai by George Manville Fenn, Gridffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, 1889
Emin Pasha and the Rebellion at the Equator by A.J.M. Jephson, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1890 (with other artists)
The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, S.P.C.K., 1890 (re-issue)
The Giant Story Book, McLoughlin Bros. (USA), 1890 (with other artists)
The World’s Heroes: A Storehouse of Heroic Actions, Golden Deeds and Stirring Chronicles by various authors, Cassell & Co., 1890(?) (with other artists)
A Ride to Picture-land: A Book of Joys for Girls and Boys, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1890 (with other artists)
Hal Hungerford, or The Strange Adventures of a Boy Emigrant by J.R. Hutchinson, Blackie & Son, 1891
Boys’ Book of Adventures ed. by E.T. Roe, Donohue, Henneberry & Co. (USA), 1891
My Personal Experiences in Equatorial Africa, as Medical Officer of the Emin Pasha Relief Exhibition by Thomas Heazle Parke, Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1891 (with other artists)
The Boys of Mirthfield Academy by Laurence H. Francis, Este & Lauriat (USA) 1892
Little Footprints ed. by E.T. Roe, Donohue, Henneberry & Co., (USA), 1892 (with other artists)
Dog Pictures by L. Valentine, Frederick Warne & Co., 1893(?) (with other artists)
Woodstock, or The Cavalier by Walter Scott, A. & C. Black, 1894 (re-issue)
Peveril of the Peak by Walter Scott, A. & C. Black, 1894 (re-issue)
Stories and Sketches for Young America by various authors, Oriental Publishing Co., (USA) 1894 (with other artists)
Julian Home: A Tale of College Life by F.W. Farrar, A. & C. Black, 1895 (re-issue)
A Year of Sport and Natural History ed. by Oswald Crawfurd, Chapman & Hall, 1895 (with other artists)
Uncle Charlie’s Sunday Book of Pictures and Stories from the Bible, Griffith, Farran & Co., 1895 (with other artists)
Cassell’s Illustrated History of England Cassell & Co., (part-work), 1895 (with other artists)
Happy Children, Donohue, Henneberry & Co. (USA), 1897 (with C.J. Staniland)
Our Animal Friends in Picture and Story, Grand Union Tea Company (USA), 1896 (with other artists)
52 Stories of Heroism in Life and Action for Boys ed. A.H. Miles, Hutchinson & Co., 1899 (with other artists)
Thrilling Stories by Sea and Land, (publisher not known), 1900(?) (with other artists)
Animal Land for Little People, Cassell & Co., 1900 (with other artists)
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, McLoughlin Brothers, 1901(?) (with other artists)
What is This? What is That? By Vernon Bartlett, Dean & Son, 1903
Beauty’s Walk: Charming Stories for Boys and Girls, W.B. Conkey Co. (USA), 1903 (with other artists)
Have Some Hay, Old Boy? An Animal Picture Book, Dean & Son, 1904(?)
Animal Alphabet, Dean & Son, 1904(?)
A New Speaker for Our Little Folks: A Book of Choice Readings for Boys and Girls in the Home and School, Bradley-Garretson Co., (USA), 1904 (with other artists)
Kings of the Forest by A.E. Bonsor, Dean & Son, 1905
Dog Toby by Himself by Cliff Bingham, Dean & Son, 1905 (with Eugénie Richards)
The Poetical Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson, Collins, 1905(?) (with other artists)
Toddles ABC, Dean & Son, 1905
Pig Book, Dean & Son, 1905
Home Pets, Dean & Son, 1905(?)
The Farm, Dean & Son, 1905(?)
Gee-Gee Book, Dean & Son, 1906
Friends and Favourites, Dean & Son, 1907
The Jungle, Dean & Son, 1907
Playtime Stories, Ernest Nister, 1908 (with other artists)
The Farmyard Painting Portfolio, Dean & Son, 1908(?)
A Bow-Wow Book, Dean & Son, 1909
My Animal Book, Dean & Son, 1910
Manco, the Peruvian Chief, or An Englishman’s Adventures n the Country of the Incas by W.H.G. Kingston, Collins, 1911 (re-issue)
Farmyard Families, Dean & Son, 1914
Animals and Their Little Ones, Dean & Son, 1914(?)
Troopers of the King, or The White Cockade: A Tale of Bonnie Prince Charlie by E.R.G.R. Evans, Collins, 1933

Date not known
Famous Adventures, McLoughlin Brothers (USA), (with other artists)

Books illustrated by Edith Berkeley
Lasses and Lads by Theo Gift, Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, 1888
Where Lilies Live and Waters Wind Away by F.W. Bourdillon, Marcus Ward & Co., 1889
Some Other People by Alice Webber, Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, 1889 (with other artists)
Sing Me a Song by E. Oxenford and A. Scott Gatty, Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, 1889 (with other artists)
By the River: Verses by F.W. Bourdillon, 1890
By the River by F.W. Bourdillon, Marcus Ward & Co., 1890
Our Chicks A.B.C., Dean & Son, 1890(?)
The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe by F.E. Weatherly, Hildesheimer & Faulkner, 1891(?)
Voices in the Starlight: A Poem by Sarah Doudney, Marcus Ward & Co., 1892
A – Z (an illustrated alphabet of nouns), Dean & Son, 1897
Sunshine, International Art Publishing, 1897
Goody Two Shoes, Dean & Son, 1897
Two Nursery Favourites, Dean & Son, 1900 (with other artists)
Bonnie Bairns, Dean & Son, 1900 (with other artists)
The Dog and His Shadow and Other Fables, Dean & Son, 1903
The Twins A.B.C., Dean & Son, 1914
Doggie’s A.B.C., Dean & Son, 1914
Beasties and Birdies, Dean & Son, 1914
Rustic Rambles by E. Constance Thompson, Meissner & Buch, 1915(?) (with John Fullwood)
Dean’s Nursery Alphabet, Dean & Son, 1916

Friday, November 02, 2018

Comic Cuts - 2 November 2018

Finally, finally, I finished the index for the latest volume of Forgotten Authors. Previous volumes have taken a couple of days, but this one just seemed to take forever. I'm allowing anything to distract me these days. My e-mail has been playing up and I've spent an extraordinary amount of time trying to figure out quite why but achieving nothing. It also turns out that, Ebay is like a kettle and nothing happens while you're watching it. Squirrels are fun to watch, as are robins, the neighbours' cats, collared doves, pigeons... but amusing as it is to watch the antics of these critters, it isn't getting the work done.

Another huge distraction was a discovery about one of my "mysteries that have me mystified" authors. I've had a fascination for lost and forgotten writers and artists since my schooldays, first through wondering who was drawing the comics I was reading, and then discovering that writers used multiple names to publish their work. I've had a particular fondness for old paperbacks from the 1950s, because they used such outlandish pen-names and because someone once told me that I'd never be able to discover who was behind those names. Red rag met bull in that moment.

Many of those names have now been resolved. There is still an awful long way to go, but many of the key writers have now been identified and we know at least something about their lives as well as the bare bones of their writing careers. Over the years I've returned to some of the more mysterious writers time and time again, trying to chip away at the anonymity of the authors behind many of the most lurid pen-names.

Well, one author was identified this week and the picture of his career is fascinating. We knew him as an actor and author; what we didn't know was that he was also a house-breaker and a jail-breaker! I'll reveal all once we have the full story... and I should acknowledge that the key discovery wasn't mine, but that of a friend. But I get the fun of writing it up.

There are still a few mysterious authors out there. I'd say the one bugging me the most these days is J. A. Jordan.  I still haven't managed to discover anything about him since I last visited his work back in 2009.He wrote over 50 novels, but there's not a thing known about him.

There are a couple of things I still need to do before volume four is finished. There's the cover to do and I also need to rearrange the footnotes into end notes for the e-book edition. But the actual writing is now finished and the long-awaited Fifty Forgotten Authors project has hit its target and an astonishing 280,379 words. For something I expected to top out at 100,000 words back when I started, it has been a mighty interesting project and about 180,000 words of pure indulgence!

I've finally caught up with Tin Star, starring Tim Roth (try saying that fast six times), Genevieve O'Reilly, Abigail Lawrie and Oliver Coopersmith. It's a 10-parter originally shown on Sky Atlantic last year that I've been wanting to get to for ages, having heard it was good. And it is. Good. Tim Roth is brilliant as he always is—he's been let down by films, e.g. The Incredible Hulk, but I can't think of any film or TV series where Roth has knowingly given a poor performance.

He doesn't always play nice characters (recent TV shows include 3 seasons of Lie to Me as an arrogant psychologist who is an expert in reading body language and micro-expressions, and murderer John Christie) but not every show needs a stereotypical hero. Here he definitely isn't a hero; everything he does is driven by anger and booze. A blackout drunk, Jim Worth has sworn off the bottle and is two years sober when we first meet in his new job as the Chief of Police in a small Canadian town. That doesn't last long: his five-year-old son is killed by a group of men from Jim's past and Jim, a former undercover cop, has to drink to unleash his violent, psychopathic alter-ego, Jack.

OK, so it doesn't sound too promising, but you'll be carried along by the pace of the story. There are a few "wait...what?" moments that you just know are necessary to the plot, mostly confined to leaving vulnerable people alone in empty places so they can be attacked/kidnapped/wooed; the most stupid example is when a woman hands her unarmed daughter a rifle as she tries to persuade her not to shoot someone. It's not the first TV show to turn smart characters into idiots for plot purposes.

The show makes great use of its setting near the Rockies, with long, sweeping shots and beautiful panoramas of rivers against mountainous backgrounds. There are some oddities that I can't figure out whether they're coincidences or deliberate, like the number of times we see a car doing a U-turn or people turning back along the route they're travelling on. I might be trying to find deeper meaning where there isn't any. The "24 hours earlier" flashback device is overused, and it came to a satisfying and final conclusion which, due to the fact that Sky are trailering a second season, isn't final...

I'm not selling this very well. I think it best just to say that if you're a Tim Roth fan you'll love it. If not, you'll probably think this is a character worth a single, self-contained series. That story is told, so let's move on.

Our random scans this week are a galaxy of stars...

(* image from Tin Star 2 is © Sky.)

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Commando 5171-5174

Brand new Commando issues are coming today! Commemorate the centenary of the Armistice with Commando, featuring an exclusive CORGI Old Bill Bus competition, and the first issue of the brand new series ‘The Weekes’ War’! For further information on the latter, scroll down.

5171: War Bus
In the First World War, over one thousand London buses were used to ferry soldiers from Blighty to the front line in France. It was a long, dangerous journey, one that would take trainee bus driver Sam Porter far away from the depot in Hackney. 
 Now in the driving seat, in a big, bright red AEC Type “B” Omnibus, the next stop for Sam was the trenches!

Story: George Low
Art: Manuel Benet
Cover: Manuel Benet

5172: Stolen Glory
Max Brandt emerged from World War One covered in honours. Justly so, for he had shot down the famous French air ace, Rene Dumont.
    But two men knew he was not the victor of that dogfight. Brandt himself, and the British pilot who had really downed the Frenchman.

Story: CG Walker
Art: Carmona
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No. 1592 (March 1982).

5173: Danny’s War
By late 1918, Captain Daniel ‘Danny’ Weekes had been in the trenches for longer than he could remember. He could no longer recall all the faces of the men who had served with him or died under his command. He would do anything to put a stop to the fighting.
    But with three brothers, a sister and his father fighting their own battles, who knew if Danny’s war was ending… or just beginning?
    Issue 1 in the special five-part series: ‘The Weekes’ War’

Story: Iain McLaughlin
Art: Defeo & Morhain
Cover: Ian Kennedy

5174: Front-Line Fear
The pilots and soldiers fighting in and above the trenches, tracing their way across France in the First World War, knew all about fear. They faced it every day and made the best of coping with it.
    That was never easy and if it did become too much, there was always a price to pay. Ask Bill Kane – he didn’t crack up, but somebody said he had and that led to all sorts of danger…

Story: Robert Smith
Art: Janek Matysiak
Cover: Janek Matysiak
Originally Commando No. 3698 (February 2004).

The Weekes’ War

100 years ago. One war. Five Stories.
    Commando presents ‘The Weekes’ War’, a special five-part series depicting the end of the First World War as you’ve never seen it before!
    Never has a Commando series tackled the shared experiences of one family with five different interwoven narratives. In this one of a kind, one-off series, Commando brings together a collaboration of eight different artists and writers, working as one to show you the final days before the Armistice of 11 November 1918 from five different perspectives.
    Follow the story of the five Weekes siblings’ survival on the front line, behind enemy lines, aboard a battleship, in the skies above the trenches, and right down in the mud. Five issues about five siblings struggling to survive the conflict. But will they all make it back home?
    We put some of our best creators on this unique project to commemorate 100 years since Armistice.
    On the Commando Team, we feel it’s important to honour the men and women involved in the First World War by telling their stories.
    The creators and editorial team have crafted an innovative Commando comics experience. We hope that the readers will enjoy each self-contained story and the series as a whole.” – Gordon Tait, Commando Editor.
    The series also features a set of collectable matching covers illustrated by legendary comic artist Ian Kennedy.
    Not only is this brand new exciting series coming your way, for the entirety of November Commando is publishing never before reprinted World War One issues to tell a holistic story of the Great War.

5173: Danny’s War
The eldest of the siblings, Captain Danny Weekes is right in the thick of it, down in the trenches. Desperate to find a solution that will end this messy war once and for all, he is sent on a suicide mission behind enemy lines. His cause is just, but his methods are maverick – Danny is going to force the enemy generals to surrender – no matter what the cost.

Story: Iain McLaughlin
Art: Defeo & Morhain
Cover: Ian Kennedy
On sale 1st November

5175: Michael’s War
The only Weekes the take to the sky, Michael had seen his friends fly away and never return. Then, when his Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 went down over no man’s land, he found himself out of his depth with a gang of German communist rebels.

Story: Richard Davis
Art: Defeo & Morhain
Cover: Ian Kennedy
On sale 15th November

5177: Billy’s War
Youngest of the Weekes, Billy has a lot on his shoulders. Forever looked upon as the baby of the family, Billy felt he had more to prove than the others in order to truly get his seat at the table. When the German Navy retreated, Billy thought he’d never get his chance. That was until a U-boat ignored the return to port order – and Billy’s Royal Navy Destroyer was tasked with taking them down!

Story: Heath Ackley
Art: Klacik & Defeo
Cover: Ian Kennedy
On sale 15th November

5179: Harriet’s War
Being the only female Weekes sibling wasn’t going to hold Harriet back! As soon as her brothers signed up – she did too, immediately entering the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry to do her bit on the front lines. She took risks and drove like a bat out of hell to rescue men who needed her. Nothing and nowhere was too dangerous for a Weekes!

Story: Andrew Knighton
Art: Khato
Cover: Ian Kennedy
On sale 29th November

5181: Tommy’s War
The last Weekes is missing! The Armistice had been signed and Tommy was nowhere to be seen. But the Weekes weren’t a family who left their people behind – ever! And they were going to find Tommy and bring him home.

Story: Iain McLaughlin
Art: Defeo & Morhain
Cover: Ian Kennedy
On sale 29th November