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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

John Allard (1928-2018)

John Allard, artist, writer and editor, who, for fifty years, helped chronicle the fantastic adventures through time and space of the Daily Mirror's 'Garth', died on Wednesday, 7 November, aged 90.

Allard left school at the age of 14, his exams disrupted by teachers receiving their call-up and having spent long hours in air-raid shelters. He worked for three months for the Inland Revenue, during which time he inquired about a position as an apprentice artist at the Daily Mirror. Art had been his favourite subject at school – the youthful Allard having drawn comics for his friends to read for a penny a story.

Of his interview he recalls: “Steve Dowling impressed upon me that it was a very precarious occupation, but he was offering me a job with one of the greatest cartoonists to work with. I would go to St. Martin’s in Charing Cross Road two days a week to study life drawing, which is the basis for all strip cartooning. My mates were eager to see my drawings of nudes, though these were usually hefty, middle-aged ladies. The other three days I was working on the strips.

“My memories are those of an adolescent to whom the strip-cartoonists were minor gods. It was small scale - even the fearsome [Guy 'Bart'] Bartholomew was someone you saw toddling off to El Vinos every lunchtime in his black homburg, black jacket and pinstripe trousers."

The artists worked at Geraldine House in a small office with three drawing desks shared by the artists. “I didn’t have a desk of my own – I just used any desk that was available. When I wasn’t required for doing strips and doing other runabout jobs, Steve Dowling had me copying ‘Terry and the Pirates’ strips because ‘Terry and the Pirates’ was the standard that we went by. You can see the influence on Steve Dowling, most noticeably by his use of silhouettes – Milton Caniff, who did Terry, was very good in using dramatic silhouettes and movie sequences.”

'Garth' was launched on Saturday, 24th July 1943, with Allard working closely with Steve Dowling. Dowling was every inch a gentleman: charming, even tempered, moustache neatly trimmed, wearing a dapper dogstooth suit, his hat set at a jaunty angle, a keen countryman and horse rider, having moved to a converted malthouse near Hastings in Sussex.

Dowling and Allard formulated a method of working whereby Allard would sketch out the strips which Dowling would then correct, inking in the main figures, leaving Allard to complete the inking of the backgrounds and do the lettering, a system which continued essentially the same for 25 years, with a break between 1946 to 1948 when Allard was called up for his national service in the R.A.F. and the task of inking fell of Dowling’s other occasional assistant, Dick Hailstone.

Allard remained Dowling’s assistant until 1969, when Dowling retired to run a farm and riding school, his last contribution to 'Garth' appearing in The Daily Mirror Book for Boys 1970.

Allard took over the strip full-time, working with writer Jim Edgar until 1971, when Frank Bellamy was invited to take over the strip and Allard found himself relegated to drawing backgrounds for some months before Bellamy took over the strip full-time.

Allard remained on the staff of the Mirror, guiding the cartoon page, of which he became Cartoon and Crossword Editor in 1986, and contributing illustrations to various features that appeared in the paper over the years, including illustrations for the 'Fishing with the Experts' column. launched in 1973, the 'Mind Bogglers' puzzle feature (1982-84) and 'Saturday Brain Teaser' (1991-92). His greatest achievement during that time was to return the full page of strips to the Mirror for the first time since 1962, although he will also be remembered as the creator of 'Scorer', the adventures of footballer Dave Storry, which ran for over 21 years from 1989 and for overseeing the return of 'Jane' (1985-90).

His association with Garth continued throughout this period. Allard co-scripted the strip with Edgar in 1977-83, returning again to write and co-write a number of serials from 1989. He also co-wrote 'The Perishers' with Maurice Dodd for some time.

Allard retired from the Daily Mirror in May 1993 but continued to write for 'Garth' until 1994. The Mirror discontinued the strip in 1997, but has been running reprints since 2011.

John Allard lived in Feering, near Kelvedon, Essex, with June Allard.

(* Garth, The Perishers © MGN Ltd.)

2 comments:

  1. As he lived so close to you Steve, did you ever meet John? Ant Jones interviewed him a few years ago and found him a very pleasant chap. My convalescences to his family and friends

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  2. Hi Norman. Sadly I never got the chance to meet him -- I interviewed him by phone during March and April 1993, shortly before he retired from the Mirror. I think I might have interviewed him again later, but I can't find any of my old notes... they will be in a folder, somewhere.

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