Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Angel Badia Camps (1929-2019)

Ángel Badia Camps, one of the leading Spanish cover artists whose work graced hundreds of British romance comics and magazines, died in Barcelona on 21 February 2019, aged 89.

Ángel Badia Camps was born in Puig-reig, in the Cataluña area of Spain, which borders southern France, on 13 December 1929. His father was exiled to France following the Spanish Civil War, only returning after nine years when Franco offered a conditional amnesty and allowed him to return and move with his family to Barcelona.

His love of drawing began early, encouraged by his parents, but his knowledge of comics was limited to En Patufet until he discovered American comics at the Sant Antoni market. Camps developed a fascination with American culture – with artists Milton Caniff and Alex Raymond, with the films of John Ford and Howard Hawks, with American literature, and with jazz and the music of Glen Miller.

Camps attended the Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes. He began working professionally in Ameller, drawing fairy stories, before contributing regularly in Florita, Aventuras de Capa Negra (17 issues written by Salvador Dulcet, 1953) and Pulgarcito (1954).

He drew only a handful of comic strips, including the humorous stories of "Pilaropo al servicio de las damas" for La Risa (1956) and medieval historical tales Aventuras de Flecha Roja [Adventures of Red Arrow] (1956-57) and Flecha y Arturo (1956) for Ediciones Gráficas Ricart.

However, it was with his work for romance comics such as "Marisol" (Lupita, 1950), Mariló, Sentimentale, Modelo, Dalia, Merche and Sissi that he established himself. He illustrated Bernadette (1956) for Editorial Bruguera. Through this romantic work, Camps developed a lengthy association with the British romantic comics' market, first appearing in Valentine in 1961. Over the next few years he contributed strips to Serenade, Roxy and True Life Library (1964). According to David Roach, "At first glance his drawing style was almost indistinguishable from [Jorge] Longaron's as he mixed a thrillingly loose and expressive line with an inventive and sophisticated sense of composition. His girls were the very epitome of 'the Spanish look' – heavy-lidded, thickly mascara'd eyes, big hair, big lips and lithe, languid bodies."

To give his work accuracy, Camps came to the UK and took over 300 reference photos of hospitals, buses, bridges, streets... everything had to be English, which was not entirely a chore as his work coincided with the era of The Beatles, swinging London, models and MG sports cars.

Camps is perhaps better known in the UK as a cover artist. Following his first appearance in 1960 on the Sexton Blake Library, he produced hundreds of covers for True Life Library, Star Love, Love Story Library, Oracle, Pop Pic Library, Charm, Young Lovers and other titles. The 1950s and 1960s were the heyday of magazine illustration before colour photography became the norm and Camps' paintings were widely reprinted throughout Europe and Scandinavia, often appearing in women's magazines before being reused as covers elsewhere.

For his native Spain, Camps produced heavily illustrated translations of Heidi (1966) and Otra Vez Heidi (1966), based on the works of Juana Spyri, Los Hijos del Capitan Grant (1968) and Viaje al Centro de la Tierra (1969), both by Jules Verne, Aventuras de Tom Sawyer (1969) by Mark Twain and stories featuring Robin Hood (by Norman R, Stinnet) and Davy Crockett (by Elliot Dooley) for Editorial Bruguera.

By the late 1960s, he was working again almost exclusively for Spanish markets, Editorial Bruguera employing him on various lines of paperbacks, including Libro Amigo, La Conquista del espacio, and
Selección Terror. Camps also produced work for Molino, Toray and Ceres.

Although he was still earning a good living, demand for cover artwork slowed in the 1980s as video became a more popular form of home entertainment than reading. Camps set up a school with fellow artist Rafael Cortiella, which ran for ten years. Camps subsequently concentrated on painting, although he had already been exhibiting his paintings since 1974.

Camps relates the story that he was painting whilst on holiday in Olot when the owner of a Barcelona gallery approached him and asked if he had ever exhibited his work. Camps said he was merely a Sunday painter but the gallery owner was persistent. "He asked if he could come to my studio and took almost everything I had." His work has, from 1986, featured in numerous solo exhibitions in Madrid, Barcelona, London, Brussels, Castellon and New York. His most regular exhibitor is the prestigious Sala Pares in Barcelona.

In 2018, Camps donated  over 40 drawings and paintings to the Guillem de Berguedà library in his home town of Puig-reig, where they are now on permanent exhibition.

Monday, April 29, 2019

ComicScene #3 (Jun 2019)

The third issue of ComicScene hit the newsstands last week with a one-two double punch from cover star Frankie Stein, setting up this month's theme of "The Funny Pages".

With the recent reprinting of  some classic Ken Reid strips and the upcoming Sweeny Toddler reprint, plus Rebellion's two specials (the Cor!! Buster and the free comic book day freebie, Funny Pages), it's a good time to look back at the traditional weekly British humour titles and celebrate some of the best, with Martin Dallard wandering down memory lane to discuss Cor!! and David Crookes looks back at the history of Buster, while Stephen Jewell and Lew Stringer reveal all about The Cor!! Buster Humour Special through interviews with some of the participants. An interview with Keith Richardson and a look back at the revamped (for Shiver & Shake) Frankie Stein by Irmantas Povilaika wrap up the funny pages for this issue.

There's still space for a great deal more in the 64-page Comic Scene. The issue launches with an interview with one of Britain's longest-serving – and still amongst the best – artists, Ian Kennedy, discussing the launch of The Art of Ian Kennedy with Richard Sheaf. After seventy years in the business, Kennedy has been enjoying a little limelight recently, a well-deserved "three cheers" from both fans and the industry for a man who has toiled so ceaselessly and, for the most part, anonymously. I defy anyone to find an illustration by Ian Kennedy where he has put in anything less than 100%.

My complaint in early reviews about the lack of longer articles in the magazine has been answered; the Kennedy piece is an excellent example of giving someone the space to discuss their art. Peter Gouldson's sprawling history of Marvel UK in the 1970s reaches its third episode, covering the likes of Star Wars Weekly, Hulk, and Doctor Who Weekly.

Other features include an interview with Doctor Who script writer Jody Houser by Ian Wheeler, Batman of the 1950s by Martin Dallard (continuing the series from last issue), and a look at Thor's "War of the Realms" by Stephen Jewell.

There's the usual TripWire section covering comics in other media (interviewing Will Simpson about his storyboards for Game of Thrones, and a preview of  Avengers: Endgame) and an interview with Roy Thomas

The issue is wrapped up with the ongoing comic strips "Our Land" and "Whackoman!", a reviews section that proves the diversity of comics available here in the Independent sector outside the mainstream and Pat Mills' always opinionated "Last Word" column, in which he discusses the vital 8 to 14-year-old age group of comics.

It's another fine issue and I hope editor Tony Foster can keep up the good work. Next month's issue will be taking a look at "To the Death" by Simon Furman & Geoff Senior, which debuted in the ComicScene Annual.

Details about subscriptions can be obtained from www.comicscene.org. Rates for print issues for the UK are £5.99 for one issue; £35 for 6 issues; £68 for 12 issues.You can get a pdf version for £3.99 (1), £22 (6) or £40 (12).

Payment can be made via PayPal to comicsceneuk@gmail.com. For other options, and for international rates for the print edition, visit their website.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Frank Wright

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Frank Wright was a minor illustrator whose career spanned 30 years, although he cannot be described as prolific.

(He should not be confused with other Frank Wrights who were artists, including the Frank Wright who was born in 1860 and who had a successful career as a painter and art teacher in New Zealand after emigrating in 1877.)

He was born in 1870 in Wolverhampton and christened Frank Tomlinson Wright, the seventh of eight children born to George Wright (born in 1832) and Caroline, née Partridge (born in 1829). At the time of the 1871 census, the family was living at Oak Road, Wolverhampton, with George described as a “Designer for Japan Work.” The family subsequently moved to London, where, in 1881, they were living at 33 Norfolk Road, Islington, with George described as a “Cabinet Artist.”

It is not known Frank Wright received his artistic training (unless it was at the Islington School of Art), but by 1891 he was working as an artist, living with his father and some of his siblings at 33 Norfolk Street – in fact, his father, brother Frederick and sister Clara were also working as artists. (His mother had died, and George had married Eliza Howes in 1890.)

Whilst he was working as an artist in the early 1890s, it is not known what he painted or illustrated until 1899, when he contributed to The Ludgate Monthly. Six years later, he began contributing to Punch, and he went on to sporadically contribute to a number of other periodicals up until 1929 – these included Cassell’s Magazine, The Red Magazine, The New Magazine, Cassell’s Magazine of Fiction, The Captain, The Strand Magazine, The Wide World Magazine and Chatterbox.

At the time of the 1901 census Wright was recorded as a visitor at the home of Mary Pailthorpe, at 6 Blythwood Road, Islington. In 1904, he was recorded as having a studio at 3 Terets Place, Islington, and between 1910 and 1915 he was recorded at 11 Grove Park Terrace, Chiswick, living as a boarder in the home of Henry Coldwell, a pianoforte maker, and his family.

He exhibited three times at the Royal Academy of Arts, in 1904, 1905 and 1911.

Wright’s career as a book illustrator appears to have begun in 1910, although again he only seems to have worked as such sporadically until the end of the First World War. In 1919, he began painting dustwrappers for Hodder & Stoughton and Methuen & Co., and paperback covers for George Newnes (including for an edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Valley of Fear in 1924). Between 1923 and 1928 he illustrated six boys’ school stories by Gunby Hadath, Richard Bird and Walter Rhoades.

Frank Wright died in Westminster Hospital on 16 December 1927, with his home address given as 93 Sarsfield Road, Balham, Surrey. Probate of his estate, a paltry £206, was granted to Ethel Coldwell, the wife of Henry Coldwell.

A handful of illustrations under his name appeared in subsequent years, in the children’s periodical Chatterbox (in 1929) and in the children’s annuals and story books The All-Story Wonder Book (Ward, Lock & Co., 1929) and The Blue Book of Stories for Girls and Enthralling Stories for Girls (Thomas Nelson, 1930). Rather mysteriously, he also supplied the frontispiece to The River School by A.W. Seymour, published by Blackie & Son in 1935, eight years after his death. (This may have appeared somewhere as a serial while he was still alive.)


Books Illustrated by Frank Wright
Three Xmas Gifts and Other Tales by A.D. Bright, Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton & Co., 1901
Twenty-five Years in Seventeen Prisons: The Life Story of an Ex-Convict etc. by “No. 7”, F.E. Robinson & Co., 1903
A Perfect Pickle by various authors, John F. Shaw, 1909(?) (with other artists)
The Red Eric, or The Whaler’s Last Cruise by R.M. Ballantyne, George Newnes Ltd., 1910 (re-issue)
My Lord Duke by E.W. Hornung, Cassell & Co., 1910 (re-issue)
The Man with the Red Beard: A Story of Moscow and London by David Whitelaw, Greening & Co., 1911
The Secret of Chauville by David Whtelaw, Greening & Co., 1911
The Green Graves of Balgowrie by Jane Helen Findlater, Methuen & Co., 1914 (dustwrapper)
The Blinded Soldiers and Sailors Gift Book ed. by George Goodchild, Jarrolds, 1915 (with other artists)
Woolly of the Wilds: A Story of Pluck and Adventure in North-West Canada by Robert Leighton, Ward, Lock & Co., 1917
The Pillar of Fire by H.C. Bailey, Methuen & Co., 1918
Little Frida: A Tale of the Black Forest by anon, Thomas Nelsopn & Sons, 1918
The Golden Scorpion by Sax Rohmer, Methuen & Co., 1919 (dustwrapper)
Rainbow Nights and Other Stories by Andrew Soutar, Hodder & Stoughton, 1919 (dustwrapper)
Equality Night by Andrew Soutar, Hodder & Stoughton, 1919 (dustwrapper)
The Man on the Dover Road by David Whitelaw, Hodder & Stoughton, 1919 (dustwrapper)
Call Mr Fortune by H.C. Bailey, Methuen & Co., 1920 (dustwrapper)
The Coming of Cassidy by Clarence E. Mulford, Hodder & Stoughton, 1921 (dustwrapper)
The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne, Methuen & Co., 1922 (dustwrapper)
Rovering to Success by Lord Baden Powell, Herbert Jenkins, 1922 (dustwrapper)
The Jolly Party Book, Blackie & Son, 1922 (with other artists)
The New House at Oldborough: A Public School Story by Gunby Hadath, Hodder & Stoughton, 1923
Mr Fortune’s Practice by H.C. Bailey, Methuen & Co., 1923 (dustwrapper)
The Case of Miss Dunstable by Joseph Hocking, Hodder & Stoughton, 1923 (dustwrapper)
Sparrow in Search of Expulsion by Gunby Hadath, Hodder & Stoughton, 1924
Miriam in the Moorland by Frank King, Hodder & Stoughton, 1924 (dustwrapper)
The Lifeline by Effie Adelaide Rowlands, Hodder & Stoughton, 1924 (dustwrapper)
The Art of Michael Haslett by Florence Ethel Mills Young, Hodder & Stoughton, 1924 (dustwrapper)
The Passionate Quest by E. Phillips Oppenheim, Hodder & Stoughton, 1924 (dustwrapper)
The Annam Jewel by Patricia Wentworth, Andrew Melrose, 1924 (dustwrapper)
The Red Lacquer Case by Patricia Wentworth, Andrew Melrose, 1924 (dustwrapper)
As I Hear Tell by Grace I. Whitham, Hodder & Stoughton, 1924 (dustwrapper)
The Golden Centipede: A Weird and Thrilling Romance of West Africa by Louise Gerard, Methuen & Co., 1924 (re-issue) (dustwrapper)
Quinneys by H.A. Vachell, George Newnes Ltd., 1924 (paperback cover)
The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle, George Newnes Ltd, 1924 (paperback cover)
The Fattest Head in the Fifth by Gunby Hadath, Hodder & Stoughton, 1925
Living Dangerously by F.E. Penny, Hodder & Stoughton, 1925 (dustwrapper)
By Order of the Five by Herbert Adams, Methuen & Co., 1925 (dustwrapper)
Mr Fortune’s Trials by H.C. Bailey, Methuen & Co., 1925 (dustwrapper)
The Big Five at Ellerby and Other School Stories by Richard Bird, Blackie & Son, 1926
Jimmy Cranston’s Crony by Walter Rhoades, Blackie & Son, 1927
Thanks to Rugger and Other School Stories by Richard Bird, Blackie & Son, 1928
Louisa by Mrs Hobart-Hamden, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1928
The River School by A.W. Seymour, Blackie & Son, 1935 (with other artists)

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Space Ace vol.12 (April 2019)

The final issue! This ought not to be a chock to regular readers, as it was announced in the previous issue that this twelfth number would be the last. But don't panic, dear readers, as there are plans to continue reprinting Ron Turner's work in colour in the future.

Before we get to that, the latest issue is a bumper 48 pages with a square spine and four stories, as well as a couple of bits of bonus material. As ever, the stories are the meat of the issue, and these are, as always, gorgeously coloured by John Ridgway, who has taken Turner's original black & white images and brought them beautifully to life in colour without losing the underlying art that is still recognisably Ron Turner.

Turner was also his own scriptwriter, but with only between seven and nine pages to play with – these stories coming from the pages of Space Ace (1960-61) – the plots could only ever be limited in scope and never so complicated they would confuse the juvenile audience they were aimed at. Despite this, Turner's imaginative chiaroscuro artwork made the simplistic stories memorable and, even almost sixty years later, they still entertain.

In 'Space Ace and the Two Enemies', Ace and Bill stumble upon a space battle between the Zakarons and Balkorians over a technology that keeps the Zakaron seas free of ice and the climate habitable. When the Balkorians steal the Thermovak, it is up to Ace and Bill to disguise themselves and head into the lion's den to get it back.

The barrier of 'Space Ace and the Barrier' is a protective force field stopping a corrosive gas that has surrounded a planet – and which causes Ace's Interstellar Patrol spaceship to disintegrate – from making planetfall.

'Space Ace and the Hollow Planet' begins with an emergency message sending Ace and Bill to Medron, a hollow planet with a sun at its centre, which a neighbouring race plans to destroy by drawing the central sun up to the inner surface.

Finally, and aptly as it was the last Space Ace Turner drew, 'Space Ace and the Arizona Crater' sees something mechanical exit a mile-wide crater in the wilds of America. Similar machines appear on the surface of all the planets in the solar system and begin systematically destroying everything in their path. Ace and Bill are captured as specimens of Earth.

As I said, they're thoroughly entertaining little yarns and I'm glad editor John Lawrence has brought them back from the brink of obscurity. John also provides a checklist of Turner's Space Ace stories and a feature on what Turner went on to draw in the aftermath of leaving Space Ace behind.

The good news is that John has announced that while Space Ace is coming to an end, he already has plans for a replacement, namely Ron Turner's Tit-Bits SF Comics, which will reproduce, with John Ridgway's superb colouring, Turner's contributions to the scarce 1953-54 Pearson comic. The smaller paperback format made it impossible to reprint the stories in the same format as Space Ace without extensive cropping and resizing. One story from the first issue will be the previously unpublished (in English) 'Diamonds of Death', which has only ever appeared in France.

You can get hold of this latest volume of Space Ace for £8.95 (UK) or £12.50 (Europe) and £14.50 (International) including p&p — and that's pretty much at cost, I can assure you — with payments through Paypal via spaceace.54 AT virginmedia.com or by cheque or postal order to John Lawrence, 39 Carterweys, Dunstable, Beds. LU5 4RB.

John tells me that he has some back issues available from volume 7 onwards, but it is best to check for availability before trying to order.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Comic Cuts - 26 April 2019

It's amazing how you can have sixty quid in your pocket one moment and the next it's gone! My trip for a check-up at the dentist on Wednesday morning went very well. In the past I've had some problems which seem to have been resolved by the simple act of changing my tooth brush (a Braun Oral B electric) and how I floss (never did get on with the string, much happier with the TePe).

Well, the gum-prodding and general hygiene went well... but one of my teeth requires a small filling. It's not causing any problems and I could have left it, but as it might cause problems in the future I thought I'd get it out of the way. Even on the NHS, every filling, however tiny, costs £62.10. I don't mind paying – although I will admit that I grumpily muttered "Isn't that what I pay NI for?" but too quietly for anyone to hear – but it caught me by surprise and I was scrambling amongst the loose change in my pocket to make up the full amount.

Something to look forward to.

I'm working on the text for The Return of "Hercule Esq.", the fourth of the Bill Kellaway books. I didn't have much time over the bank holiday as we (shockingly) went out and enjoyed ourselves rather than sitting around in front of computers/the TV.

Last Friday we went to see Gary Delaney, who is probably my favourite gag merchant (in a field that also includes Tim Vine, Milton Jones, Stewart Francis, etc.). This is a continuation of the Gagster's Paradise tour, which has already played once in Colchester. It has now sold out twice, which makes me wonder whether Delaney will be moving up a venue (from the 300 seat Arts Centre to the 800 seat Mercury) next time, as Richard Herring did on his last tour.

Delaney delivers 200 or so jokes, but breaks up the two halves of the show with asides about which jokes he didn't tell on "Live at the Apollo", which jokes are too filthy to tell, one of which he'll perform at the end for every groan the audience responds with during his set (we managed six), some visual gags via Power Point, including Wikipedia alterations and even a short film about Gary, Indiana. The latter is not especially funny, but you need a break every now and then, as Delaney well knows. We've seen him before and knew exactly what to expect... and Delaney delivered.

We hadn't seen Andrew Maxwell before and it was a very different audience we found ourselves amongst on Saturday. The title 'Showtime' didn't give the audience any clues as to what to expect, and I know that some of the audience were disappointed that the gag-to-politics ratio was quite low. I've heard Maxwell on radio shows and he's clearly a left-leaning humanist. He's also Irish, married to a Muslim, living in Kent and we're in the middle of a Brexit-made disaster. And it was the Saturday after Good Friday. Why would anyone be surprised that a bit of politics comes into his set.

It's clear that the Colchester crowd hasn't the foggiest clue about the border or how vital it is not to undo all the good that came out of the Good Friday agreement. Who would have thought that a porous 300-mile long border with 2,000 crossings would create problems if you have an imbalance between the two sides? Who would imagine that this imbalance might lead to criminal activity in a tinderbox ready to ignite due to rising tensions and riots?

Laughing and learning.

I've been watching The 100... the review has some spoilers so skip it if you want to avoid that sort of thing.

Ah, The 100... Originally broadcast on The CW in the US and on E4 in the UK. This is a post-apocalypse SF series which, from the trailer, looked like it was going to be a bunch of good-looking teenagers with artfully dirtied up clothes and slightly smudged make-up to remind viewers that not only has Earth been destroyed but, even worse, Dior don't make lipstick anymore.

Well, I was wrong. The story opens in The Ark, a space station hanging above a nuclear devastated Earth with a population in the thousands, well beyond its capacity. 100 teenage prisoners are dropped to the surface to see if the planet has become habitable. There they discover that survivors of the apocalypse have broken down into warring clans, with the untrained and unprepared 100 soon caught in the middle.

Thus begins a brutal story of making choices that could kill some and save others. Just how far will you go  to survive and how much of your humanity will you lose if you choose your life over others? What I've found over the five seasons of the story I've watched so far is that you don't always have empathy for the characters you think you ought to be rooting for.

As the show has progressed, three characters have come to the fore in the ensemble of survivors. Clarke (Eliza Taylor) is meant to be the moral heart of the story along with Bellamy (Bob Morley) and his troublesome sister Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos). As season five opens, Clarke has survived the meltdown of nuclear power stations known as Praimfaya which has turned everything to ash but for one small, green valley. She finds another survivor, Madi, a young girl whose blood can metabolise radiation – a religion has developed around these Nightbloods which has survived in pockets amongst the survivors who have reached season five.

Those survivors include the 400 or so who have been living in a bunker for the past six years, originally 1,200 but whittled down by gladiatorial games held between those deemed to be against the population, who call themselves Wonkru (one crew). With their food supply failing, the loyalty of the inhabitants to their leader, the now battle-hardened Red Queen, Octavia, is becoming more strained.

A small number have survived in space in the remains of The Ark. They see another spacecraft and a shuttle heading planetwards and use precious fuel to get to the spaceship. On Earth, the shuttle disgorges a group of well-armed, well-trained soldiers led by Charmaine Diyoza (Ivana Miličević), who take over the valley.

What I like about The 100 is that it's not afraid to wipe the slate clean and start afresh, although to do so usually means something apocalyptic has to happen at the end of each season. So be it. With most of the grounders now gone, a new enemy had to be created, and while most of the soldiers – actually ex-prisoners used for mining asteroids – are from central casting's rent-a-thug division, their leader is coldly rational, a strategist with one aim: the survival of her people.

Jumping forward by a few years has also allowed the characters to grow in new directions. Clarke is now a mother protecting her child at any cost; Bellamy is in love with Echo and has softened; Octavia has hardened and thinks the only solution to survival is to lead her people into a bloody battle for Shallow Valley... and she'll burn down all the bridges behind them to keep her people marching forward towards the battlefront.

Unlike most science fiction series, where there's a big red button that resets everything back to how it was by the end of the episode/season, The 100 has allowed its characters to develop in ways that keep them interesting. Clarke's troubles with Madi, as she begins to discover what being a Nightblood  commander demands of her, and with her drug-addled mother, Abby, lead her to make choices that she would never have taken in earlier series. As Madi says in one of the episodes: "We're on the wrong side of this war."

The ending is appropriately apocalyptic and I'm now looking forward to season six, which begins on The CW next Tuesday (30th April). The fifth season began broadcasting in May 2018, so hopefully it won't be far behind the American debut.

Today's random scans are a selection of books I've recently picked up...

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Art of Ian Kennedy

The work of one of the UK’s most famous comic artists, Ian Kennedy, has been celebrated in a beautiful art book, The Art of Ian Kennedy.

Ian is the longest serving DC Thomson Media illustrator, having worked for the publisher for 70 years, beginning his career in the company’s Art Department back in 1949. Since then, he has contributed to many of DC Thomson Media’s comics, such as Commando, Britain’s longest-running war comic, Starblazer, Hotspur and many more. Incredibly, Ian has created over 1,250 Commando covers, which continue to be very popular amongst readers.

The art book showcases Ian’s fantastic array of work for not only DC Thomson Media but also his own personal collection. The high spec 160-page art book includes both never before seen and classic covers, as well as illustrations from the DC Thomson archives, featuring titles as diverse as Lucky Charm and Buddy. Set out chronologically, the book showcases Ian’s career at the famous Scottish publishing house, from his early days working on ‘Red-Skull Branson’ and ‘Commando Jim’ to his most recent covers and commissions for Commando.

Gordon Tait, Heritage Comics and Licensing Editor, said, “The opportunity to work closely with Ian on this project has been an incredible and most rewarding experience. Many visits to the DC Thomson archives and Ian’s studio have provided a unique insight into the world of this most talented and inspiring comic creator.

“The Heritage Comics team are proud to present the first-ever ‘Art Of’ book dedicated to the artist and his career at DC Thomson. Fans of Ian’s work and of comic art, in general, are in for a real treat with this book. I hope, like me, you’ll discover something new every time you come to it”.

There is an official launch for the book to be held today (Thursday) at DC Thomson's HQ which they plan to live stream on Facebook from around 6.00 pm. Check with the Commando Facebook page.

The Art of Ian Kennedy is available to buy from the DC Thomson Shop for £40. Also available via Amazon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 24 April 2019.

2000AD Prog 2128
Cover: Staz Johnson & Jim Boswell (colours).
JUDGE DREDD: THE LONG GAME by Michael Carroll (w) M ark Sexton (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SCARLET TRACES: HOME FRONT by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
MAX NORMAL: HOW THE MAX GOT HIS STRIPES by Guy Adams (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
FUTURE SHOCKS: JUNCTURE by Andi Ewington (w) Anna Morozova (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
KINGMAKER: OUROBOROS by Ian Edginton (w) Leigh Gallagher (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

S Van Abbe

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

S. Van Abbe was the elder brother of the illustrator Joseph Abbey – he was also more talented, more prolific, and far better-known during his lifetime.

He was born in Amsterdam, as Salomon Van Abbe, on 31 July 1883, the second son of Maurice Van Abbe (1859-1919), a diamond cutter, and his French-born wife Rachel, née Rose (1859-1952). They had married in Amsterdam on 23 June 1881, and went on to have four children: Isaac (born on 11 August 1882), Salomon, Marianne (born on 27 August 1887), and Joseph (born on 8 December 1888).  Salomon moved with his family to England in 1890, where they initially settled at 51 St. Peter Street, Mile End Old Town. In October 1890 he enrolled at St. Peter’s School (after a brief period at a Dame School), and in November 1892 he entered Parmiter’s School, Bethnal Green. According to an article in The Artist (July 1949) he then received his artistic training at the People’s Palace, Bow; Toynbee Hall; the Central School of Arts and Crafts; Kennington School of Art; and, from around 1905, the School of Photo-Engraving and Lithography at Bolt Court, Fleet Street (where he met the artist and etcher Edmund Blampied, who later married Van Abbe’s sister Marianne). At that time he was apparently living in Herne Hill.

There is no trace of the family in the 1901 census, but in 1903 it is likely that Salomon was doing some professional work, as on 12 August that year he joined the Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Engravers and Process-Workers, although he resigned six years later. At the time of the 1911 census he was living with his family at 18 Marjorie Grove, Clapham, working as an artist alongside his brother Joseph.

On 3 August 1914, at Mile End Old Town Register Office, he married Hannah Wolff. Born in Bromley-by-Bow on 4 January 1891, she was one of eight children of Jonas Wolff, a frame-maker, born in Holland in 1863, and His wife Helen, née Levy, born in London in 1867. Salomon and Helen went on to have two children: Derek Maurice, born in Wandsworth on 28 December 1916, and Norman Jonas, born in Wandsworth on 26 April 1921.

In the article in The Artist it was said that his initial interest was portrait painting, “but the necessity of earning a living made him seek a more immediately lucrative occupation, so he devoted most of his time to illustrating books and magazines and designing dustjackets.” In an article in The Print Collector’s Quarterly (October 1939), J.H. Pender wrote that Van Abbe’s first job was on a newspaper, but it is not known what this was. Pender recorded that one of his jobs was to “prepare three drawings showing San Francisco in the throes of an earthquake….. He had never seen San Francisco or the results of an earthquake for that matter, but small details such as these were brushed aside and the drawings were prepared.” (This would have been in 1906).

His earliest-recorded work appeared on the cover of the Amalgamated Press’s The Club Room Magazine in November 1913. In 1914, he contributed to The Strand Magazine and Pearson’s Magazine, and he went on to contribute to many more periodicals until shortly before his death – these included The Christian Science Monitor, Hutchinson’s Magazine, The New Magazine, Woman, Cassell’s Magazine of Fiction, The Londoner, The Studio, Cassell’s Magazine, Colour, Outdoor Stories, The Storyteller, The Graphic, The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, The Sphere, The Illustrated London News, The Queen, The Novel Magazine, The Tatler, The Argosy, Britannia and Eve, The Windsor Magazine and The Artist.

Nevertheless, he went on to become an active artist and etcher, specialising in dry-point etchings, especially of the legal profession and political figures. In 1920, when he was living at 27 Moyser Road, Streatham, he exhibited two works at the Royal Academy. He also exhibited there in 1932. In 1923 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, and in 1933 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), going on to exhibit with the Society almost every year until 1955. He also exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1930 (where he earned an honourable mention) and 1939 (where he was awarded a bronze medal); The Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, the Royal Hibernian Academy (Dublin), the Royal West of England Academy, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, and the Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham. He was also an active member of the Streatham Art Society in the 1930s, and he also became a member of the St. Ives Society of Artists in 1936. He was also a member of the London Sketch Club, serving as its President in 1940-41, and a member of the Art Workers’ Guild, becoming President in 1941. In addition, he was a member of the Savage Club.

Some of his best-known dry-points were his series of 12 “London Types”, produced in the 1920s, and his later portrayals of the legal profession – judges, barristers, clerks etc., which were inspired by his time serving on a jury in around 1927.

As a book illustrator, his earliest-known work appeared in Hodder & Stoughton’s The Queen’s Gift Book in 1915. His main body of illustrative work appeared between 1943 and 1955, when he worked with a number of publishers including Blackie & Son (illustrating two books by Percy F. Westerman), Hollis & Carter, the Odhams Press, J.M. Dent & Sons, and William Collins. He was particularly well-known for his illustrations for re-issues of classic children’s novels such as Treasure Island, Little Women and Tom Brown’s Schooldays, published by J.M. Dent & Sons. In 1950 he produced the dustjacket and a coloured frontispiece for Anthony Buckeridge’s Jennings Goes to School, and he went on to do the same for a further four of the next five “Jennings” books, ending with According to Jennings in 1954.

However, it was as a designer of dustjackets that he became particularly well-known.  Unfortunately, there is some confusion between his work and that of his brother Joseph. In his history of the London Sketch Club (The London Sketch Club, Alan Sutton Publishing, 1994) David Cuppleditch referred to Joseph Abbey as “Joe,” and wrote that “Solomon [note the mis-spelling] was the better-known of the two – his nickname was “Jack” in the London Sketch Club but when it came to designing book covers he would often use the nom de plume J. Abbey.” However, it would appear that all the surviving dustjackets that are signed “J. Abbey” are the work of Joseph, as the signature is identical to that on all other Joseph Abbey illustrations.

While Salomon signed some of his dustjackets (and most, if not all, of his illustrations in periodicals and books) as “S. Van Abbe,” and likewise Joseph signed his work “J. Abbey.” there are countless dustjackets carrying the signature “Abbey.” Some sources have tried to distinguish these as being by either Salomon or Joseph by reference to stylistic quirks in different signatures – for example there are at least three variations in the way the letter “y” is produced – but the one constant in all of the “Abbey” signatures is the initial letter “A,” which is always rounded, as it is in all of the “S. Van Abbe” signatures. Joseph always signed his name with an angular “A.”

In the two articles in The Artist, Salomon was said to have designed the dustjackets for novels by Arnold Bennett, John Galsworthy, Dennis Wheatley, Dornford Yates, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace, Baroness Orczy, Alexandre Dumas, H.G. Wells, William Harrison Ainsworth, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Other authors whose novels had dustjackets signed “Abbey” included H.C. Bailey, John Bude, John Dickson Carr, Leslie Charteris, William Le Queux, John Rhode, Sax Rohmer, Dorothy L. Sayers, Hugh Walpole, J.S. Fletcher, Joseph Hocking and E. Phillips Oppenheim. Amongst the publishers of these were Ward, Lock & Co., Hodder & Stoughton, John Murray, Hurst & Blackett, Methuen & Co., Hamish Hamilton, J.M. Dent & Sons, Skeffington & Son, T. Fisher Unwin, Collins, Constable & Co., Rupert Hale and Herbert Jenkins.  (In particular, for Herbert Jenkins he did dustjackets for several of P.G. Wodehouse’s books, including Hot Water (1932), Mulliner Nights (1933), Thank You, Jeeves (1934), Right Ho Jeeves (1934), The Luck of the Bodkins (1935), Laughing Gas (1936), and Lord Emsworth and Others (1937)). All of these dustjackets carry the “Abbey” signature, albeit with stylistic differences.

The name of “Abbey” also appeared on the cover of the Christmas edition of the Radio Times in 1924 and 1925. It also appeared on the dustwrapper of the second “Tom Merry” annual in 1950, although the internal illustrations were all signed “J. Abbey.”

Salomon also used the name of “C. Morse” on a number of dustjackets (and in at least two books). David Cuppleditch suggested that this was at the behest of Edmund Blampied, who was acting as his agent, and worried that Salomon was getting too much work. Other sources suggest that the use of “Morse” was to avoid problems between different publishers. (This point was also made by J.H. Pender in The Print Collector’s Quarterly in 1939). This seems a little odd, as most of the surviving “Morse” dustjackets date from the 1920s, at the outset of Salomon’s career. These were books published by, amongst others, Collins, T. Fisher Unwin, Gerald Duckworth, E. Nash & Grayson, Herbert Jenkins, Cassell & Co., William Heinemann, Stanley Paul and Hutchinson & Co. Authors included Anthony Berkeley, Agatha Christie, William Le Queux, Archibald Marshall, Herbert Jenkins (in particular the portrayal of his cockney character “Bindle”), Freeman Wills Croft, Eden Phillpotts, Raphael Sabatini and Dorothy L. Sayers. (The name of “C. Morse” came from a distant cousin who was living in America).

As an illustrator, Salomon was helped by a large collection of reference books, on every conceivable subject. In a later article in The Artist (January 1950) he explained his particular fondness for historical fiction: “In costume novels there is a chance for more colourful characters than those of the more prosaic modern day...”

One his last commissions was from Associated British Pathe in 1953, which asked for a watercolour painting of the Coronation.

Throughout his career Salomon lived at a variety of addresses. In the late 1920s and early 1930s he lived at 19 Thornton Avenue, Streatham Hill; at the time of the 1939 Register he was living at “Fair Oaks,” Town Hill, Godstone, Surrey; in 1945 he was living at 15 Beechwood Hall, Regent’s Park Road, Finchley; and by 1948 he had moved back to 19 Thornton Avenue, Streatham Hill. After spending a year or so in South Africa and New Zealand (1951-52) he returned to Streatham Hill, but shortly afterwards loved to 42 Colebrook Close, West Hill, Putney.

David Cuppleditch wrote that Salomon Van Abbe was “grossly overweight and suffered from angina.” He died at 42 Colebrook Close on 28 February 1955, leaving an estate valued at £4,066 (around £100,000 in today’s terms), with probate granted to his widow Hannah and his son Norman. Hannah died, at 67A Manor Road, North Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey, on 12 November 1973.


Books Illustrated by Salomon Van Abbe
The Queen’s Gift Book, Hodder & Stoughton, 1915 (with other artists)
The Piper of Pax by E.K.Wade, 1924
Pam and the Fearless Fourth by Betty Laws, Cassell & Co. 1927 (as C. Morse)
Betty of the Rectory by L.T. Meade, Cassell & Co., 1928 (re-issue) (as C. Morse)
Loyalties: A Drama in Three Acts by John Galsworthy, Duckworth, 1930
The Golden Three by William Le Queux, Ward, Lock & Co., 1930 (as C. Morse)
The Great and the Goods by Ivor Brown, Hamish Hamilton, 1937
At the Circus: A Picture Book, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1937
With the Commandos by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1943
Combined Operations by Percy F. Westerman, Blackie & Son, 1944
The Secret of Storm Abbey by Ann Castleton, Hollis & Carter, 1946
The Forsyths of Ferncroft by Winifred Norling, Hollis & Carter, 1946
The Secret Fortress by J. Reason, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1946
My Lord Mayor and the City of London by William Kent, Herbert Jenkins, 1947
The Two Giants by Brian Battershaw, Hollis & Carter, 1947
The Children’s Own Wonder Book, Odhams Press, 1947 (with other artists)
The Wonder Gift Book for Children, Odhams Press, 1947 (with other artists)
Sergeant the Dog by Joan Begbie, Hollis & Carter, 1948
Smugglers on the Saltings by Douglas V. Duff, Hollis & Carter, 1948
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1948 (re-issue)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1948 (re-issue)
That Holiday at School by Ann Castleton, Hollis & Carter, 1949
Robin Hood, The Prince of Outlaws by Carola Oman, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1949
Adventure Abroad by Mary Kennedy, George Newnes Ltd., 1949
Tom Brown’ Schooldays by Thomas Hughes, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1949 (re-issue)
A Wonder Book by Nathaniel Hawthorne, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1949 (re-issue)
Jennings Goes to School by Anthony Buckeridge, Collins, 1950
The Bowmen of Rye by Lesley Morley, Macdonald, 1950
Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthrone, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1950 (re-issue)
Jennings Follows a Clue by Anthony Buckeridge, Collins, 1951
At the Villa Rose by A.E.W. Mason, University of London Press, 1951
Jennings and Darbishire by Anthony Buckeridge, Collins, 1952
Jennings’ Diary by Anthony Buckeridge, Collins, 1953
God Save the Queen, Raphael Tuck & Sons, 1953
Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1953 (re-issue)
According to Jennings by Anthony Buckeridge, Collins, 1954
The Mad Miller of Wareham by Joyce Reason, J.M. Dent & Sons, 1954
The Pilgrim’s Progress, Specially Rewritten for Children by Laurence S.G. Morris, Ward, Lock & Co., 1954 (re-issue)
Lazy Jack, and Other Stories by D.B. Charlton, Blackie & Son, 1955
The Story of Man, Part I: The World of Long Ago by J.B. Neilson, Longmans, Green & Co., 1955
The Heroes by Charles Kingsley, Blackie & Son, 1955 (re-issue)
Robin Hood and His Merry Men by Margaret Wall, Raphael Tuck & Sons, (?)

Books Illustrated as C. Morse
A Yorkshire Suburb by William Riley, Herbert Jenkins, 1920
Pam and the Fearles Fourth by Betty Laws, Cassell & Co., 1927
Betty of the Rectory by L.T. Meade, Cassell 7 Co., 1928 (re-issue)
The Golden Three by William Le Queux, Ward, Lock & Co., 1930

Friday, April 19, 2019

Comic Cuts - 19 April 2019

Before we get into the news, a quick note about the Bear Alley blog. I've had to set comments to moderated because I've been receiving a lot of spam comments and when I say a lot, I mean 23 comments in 7 minutes on Wednesday night spread across many recent posts. Whether it's some sort of robot doing it or whether it's being done by hand by someone in the Middle East (the messages are in Arabic) I don't know, but hopefully it will stop once the messages no longer automatically show up.

All I'm saying is that, if you have a genuine comment, it may take a while for it to show up as I check my e-mail every few hours when I take a break rather than let it interrupt me while I'm in the middle of something.

Thank you for your patience.

The profile work is almost finished and I'll be unemployed after Easter. I'm planning to spend a few days wrapping up the Gwyn Evans project, after which I'm going to be seriously looking for work. All other projects will have to go on hold until such times as I'm more financially stable.

The Evans books are coming along nicely. I've now finished the first run over the text for the third book and have the book roughly laid out; I've also started on the text for book four. I also have one rough cover, which is generic enough to use on three of the books (!). I'll see if I can replicate the style before I reveal all... things have a way of changing as I develop an idea, although that's mostly down to my lack of talent as an artist/designer.

Spring has arrived in full force and we've been forced into the wilderness outdoors to do some gardening. As you can see from the photo above, the garden fought back and after only an hour or so I'd been scratched and stabbed twenty or thirty times and had a splinter in the muscle where my thumb met the rest of my hand that took 24 hours to work loose enough for me to pluck out with tweezers.

More gardening news below, but first... this:

Umbrella Academy is reviewed below... there will be spoilers, so be warned.

I wasn't reading too many comics when The Umbrella Academy originally appeared from Dark Horse back in 2007 and was unaware of its quirky delights until the TV series came along. Since then I've managed to dip into the early issues of the first series, collected as The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite in 2008, and discovered that it's even more fun than the Netflix show.

It follows the same basic premise: on 1 October 1989, 43 women give birth despite showing no earlier signs of pregnancy. Of these, seven babies are adopted by a eccentric, monocled inventor and billionaire entrepreneur, Sir Reginald Hargreeves, who secretly trains the seven children until, ten years later, they are revealed to the world – in the comic saving Paris from the Eiffel Tower, which I would have loved to see in the television series but, sadly, it was not to be. Rather, the TV show jumps to twenty years later and the news that Sir Reginald has died, bringing the surviving, now adult, members of the Umbrella Academy together again for the funeral.

They are only known by their numbers:
  • One (Luther, aka Spaceboy) who only survived a mission when his adoptive father injected him with a serum that turned his body into that of an ape; he has super strength and has remained mission ready, even when sent to live alone on the Moon for four years;
  • Two (Diego), a knife-throwing brawler, equally adept at throwing a tantrum;
  • Three (Allison), now an actress but still able to command people's actions by telling them "I heard a rumour...";
  • Four (Klaus), a twitchy, flambouyant drug-addict who is able to communicate with the dead; his constant companion is his dead brother...
  • ... Six (Ben), whose body contained monsters from other dimensions;
  • Five (The Boy), who can jump through time but became trapped in a post-apocalyptic future for decades before being recruited by a time-fixing agency known as The Commission, for whom he has been working;
  • Seven (Vanya), who has been told that she has no powers; instead, she practices playing the violin to reasonable standards and jealously watches her brothers and sisters as they save the world. At the funeral, the missing Five reappears, the same ten-year-old who disappeared two decades earlier. He reveals that the end of the world is coming... in fact, it's only eight days away and the only clue he has is a prosthetic eye.
The Umbrella Academy is attacked by two goons (the bickering Hazel and Cha Cha), yet the siblings are too caught up with their own problems to worry about saving the world. Two's ex-girlfriend, a police detective, is killed; Three shares her suspicions with One that their father was murdered by their mother; Klaus is kidnapped and nobody notices; and Vanya has a chance to become first chair violin at an orchestral concert thanks to the support and aid of her new boyfriend.

If this sounds to you less like a superhero serial and more like a family drama where the kids have drifted apart and are now thrown back together again by circumstances, you'd be right. They area all carrying so much baggage that they can barely see past it to answer the bigger questions: Was their father murdered? Who is trying to kill them? How will the world end and can it be stopped?

The Umbrella Academy takes its time about answering some of these questions, and introduces a bunch of others.... can Klaus physically interact with the dead, is Vanya as powerless as she seems, is her boyfriend all he seems, will Hazel find a way to run off with Agnes from the donut shop that doesn't involve killing his partner, and how could Sir Reginald have known about the coming apocalypse?

All this and a monkey butler!

After the somewhat disappointing Titans, it's good to find a superhero adaptation that revels in its weirdness and has characters that, by the end, you genuinely care about. The sets are stylish, the plot convoluted enough to keep viewers on their toes, and the whole thing I found thoroughly entertaining. There will be a second season, so maybe we'll yet get to see the Eiffel Tower go berserk in a flashback.

We've had some reasonable success these past few years growing tomatoes and cucumbers. This year we thought we'd try cats and, as you can see, the first is growing quite nicely.

This week's not-so-random book cover scans... they're all by someone named Butler.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Commando 5219-5222

Brand new issues are out today!

5219: To Wear the Uniform

Jakob Rosenbaum had fought all his life. Like many Jewish people, Jakob fought persecution following the rise of Hitler and his Nazi thugs. Jakob thought things would be better for him in Britain. However, he found that because he sounded like the enemy he was treated like one. Jakob would have to fight yet again to prove he was worthy enough to wear the uniform of his new home!

Story: Iain McLaughlin
Art: Andrés Klacik
Cover: Ian Kennedy

5220: Sands of Doom

There’s a murderer in the desert, picking off Sergeant Jim Templeton’s squad one by one. All because of one padlocked box. But what was in the box and who was willing to kill to find out?!

Story: RA Montague
Art: L Rosell
Cover: Penalva
Originally Commando No. 644 (1972).

5221: Hellfire Pass

To celebrate ANZAC Day, ‘Hellfire Pass’ follows the story of Australian prisoners of war, Pete Mellion and Reg Willian, who were forced to build the Thai-Burma Railway by the Japanese. Slaving in the hellish heat of the Burmese jungle, the POWs were subjected to harsh conditions to cut through the mountain rock. But the brave cobbers would soon show the Japanese the true heroism of the Aussies!

Story: Brent Towns
Art: Morhain and Defeo
Cover: Neil Roberts

5222: The Last Nazis

Germany may have been defeated in 1945, but some fanatic diehards would not give up that easily! A group of zealous Nazis decided to commandeer two U-boats belonging to Kapitans Schmitt and Kesser and set sail with the seeds to create a new Nazi future. But would the Nazis succeed or would Schmitt and Keller stop them before it was too late?

Story: Anthony Knowles
Art: Gordon C Livingstone
Cover: Gordon C Livingstone
Originally Commando No. 2729 (1994).

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 17-18 April 2019.

The Cor!! Buster Humour Special 
Cover: Neil Googe

Buster and Cor!! were two of the biggest humour comics in Britain – and now they’re back and they’ve brought their friends! The 48-page Cor!! & Buster Special will hit newsstands in on 17th April, retailing at £4.99. From the world’s naughtiest baby, Sweeny Toddler, to Gums, the most incompetent shark in the seven seas, this one-shot special will feature top comics talent including a cover by Neil Googe (The Flash), and strips by Ned Hartley (Star Wars), Cavan Scott (Doctor Who), Abigail Bulmer (2000 AD) and Tanya Roberts (TMNT)!

Judge Dredd Megazine 407
Cover: Clint Langley

JUDGE DREDD: THE CRAZY by Kenneth Niemand (w) Nick Dyer (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
LAWLESS: ASHES TO ASHES by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
STORM WARNING: GREEN & PLEASANT LAND by John Reppion, Leah Moore (w) Tom Foster (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Simon Bowland  (l)
BLUNT II by TC Eglington (w) Boo Cook (a) Simon Bowland (l)
THE DARK JUDGES: THE TORTURE GARDEN by John Wagner (w) Nick Percival (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Features: New Comics: All-ages titles; New Comics: 2000 AD Villains Takeover Special; New Books: Rico Dredd: The Titan Years
Bagged reprint: Operation: Overlord Vol.4

2000AD Prog 2127
Cover: Cliff Robinson & Jim Boswell (col)

JUDGE DREDD: THE LONG GAME by Michael Carroll (w) M ark Sexton (a) John Charles (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SURVIVAL GEEKS: DUNGEONS & DATING (BASIC) by Emma Beeby, Gordon Rennie (w) Neil Googe (a) Gary Caldwell (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
SCARLET TRACES: HOME FRONT by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
MAX NORMAL: HOW THE MAX GOT HIS STRIPES by Guy Adams (w) Dan Cornwell (a) Jim Boswell (c) Simon Bowland (l)
KINGMAKER: OUROBOROS by Ian Edginton (w) Leigh Gallagher (a) Ellie De Ville (l)

M.A.C.H.1 Volume 2 by Scott Goodall, Alan Hebden, Steve MacManus, Roy Preston, Nick Landau, Pat Mills, Geoffrey Miller, Mike Lake, Gary Rice, John Cooper, Leopoldo Sanchez, Marzal Canos, Ramon Sola, Montero, Mike Dorey, Kevin O’Neill, Trevor Goring, Garry Leach,
Rebellion ISBN  978-1781-08674-2, 18 April 2019, 260pp, £16.99. Available via Amazon.

Super-spy action thrills in 2000 AD’s answer to James Bond and The 6 Million Dollar Man!
    When terrorists, super-weapons and other-worldly forces plot destruction, the British Secret Service need John Probe – their number one super-agent. But when Probe begins to question the motives of his superiors and the ruthless logic of his cybernetic brain, he finds the service has dark secrets up its sleeve… including failed prototype, M.A.C.H. Zero! The agency will find out what happens when they try to control Men Activated by Compu-Puncture Hyperpower!
    This volume collects the explosive finale of 2000 AD’s super-spy thriller and the M.A.C.H. Zero spin-off story!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Joseph Abbey

Robert J. Kirkpatrick

Joseph Abbey, the younger brother of the illustrator Salomon Van Abbe (perhaps best-known today for his dustjackets and frontispieces for several of Anthony Buckeridge’s “Jennings” books in the early 1950s), was a minor illustrator of children’s books, perhaps best-known for his dustwrappers and illustrations for six of Enid Blyton’s stories in the 1940s. He was also, for a while, in demand as a dustwrapper artist for adult fiction.

He was born on 8 December 1888 in Amsterdam, the third son of Maurice [also known as Morris, but born Mozes] Van Abbe (1859-1919), a diamond cutter, and his French-born wife Rachel, née Rose (1859-1952). They had married in Amsterdam on 23 June 1881, and went on to have four children: Isaac (born on 11 August 1882), Salomon (born on 31 July 1883), Marianne (born on 27 August 1887), and Joseph.  The family came to England in early 1890, and settled at 51 St. Peter Street, Mile End Old Town, east London, with Maurice having changed profession and now working as a cigar maker. (Isaac was not recorded, suggesting that he had died.)

On 23 June 1896 Joseph and his sister Marianne were enrolled in Senrab Street School, Stepney, Tower Hamlets, with his address given as 147 Stepney Green Buildings. A year later, on 21 May 1897, his mother was admitted to the Mile End Workhouse in Tower Hamlets, and, having been declared insane, was transferred to the lunatic asylum at Colney Hatch, Friern Barnet three days later. She appears to have remained there until her death in 1952.

Joseph was subsequently transferred to the District Jews Hospital and Orphan Asylum in Norwood, Lambeth, where he was recorded in the 1901 census. (There appears to be no trace of his family elsewhere in that year’s census.) In November 1902 he was recorded as having won a gramophone in a drawing competition in Pearson’s Weekly, for completing a picture of a clown.

It is not known when he left the school, or where he received his artistic training (if, indeed, he received any – he may have received some tuition from his brother). However, by the time of the 1911 census he was, alongside his brother, working as an artist, and living with his father, brother and sister at 18 Marjorie Grove, Clapham Common. Marianne was recorded as an artist’s agent.  The family name was recorded as “Abbey” – whether or not this was a mistake by the census enumerator, or a conscious decision by the family, is not known, although Joseph used the name “Abbey” thereafter.

On 14 June 1911 he joined the Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Engravers and Process-Workers, although he was excluded, for a reason not recorded, in 1915. (His brother had been a member of the same trade union between 1903 and 1909.)

His earliest-known work as an illustrator appeared in 1915, when he contributed to the magazine Yes or No, published by Harry Shurey. In 1921, he produced a cover for Charles Shurey’s boys’ pocket library series The Cogwheel Library, and over the following few years he contributed to the Amalgamated Press’s Detective Magazine, Yellow Magazine and Red Magazine, and George Newnes’s Crusoe Mag. In 1927 he began a long association with the boys’ story paper Chums, and served as its Art Editor during the 1930s.

At the same time, he had begun a career as an illustrator of children’s books, beginning with Archibald Hurd’s Ordeal by Sea, published by Jarrold & Sons in 1918. He went on to illustrate several more adventures stories, including Biggles In Spain (1939) alongside Howard Leigh, and two of J.W. Kenyon’s “Peter Trant” stories. However, he was best-known as the illustrator of the first six of Enid Blyton’s stories about the “The Five Find-Outers” – about five children, aged between 9 and 14 (and a dog) who stumble across mysteries and beat the village policeman to the solution.

In 1949 he provided the dustwrapper and internal black and white illustrations for the first “Tom Merry” annual, published by Mandeville Publications. He also provided the internal illustrations for the second annual, while it appears the dustwrapper was designed by his brother. He had previously contributed to a handful of children’s other annuals and story collections. He was also credited with writing and illustrating Birds and Their Eggs, published by Ward, Lock & Co. in 1949, and which contained 25 colour plates.

His work, in particular the dustwrappers he designed, seem to be occasionally confused with those produced by his brother Salomon. There are numerous dustwrappers from between the 1920s to the 1940s that are signed “Abbey,” with a range of stylistic flourishes. While it has been suggested that some of these were the work of Joseph, it appears more likely that they were done by Salomon – they all have a rounded capital “A,” which Salomon used when he signed his work “S Van Abbe,” whereas when Joseph signed his work “J. Abbey” he used an angular “A.”

One of the dustwrappers that carries the name “J. Abbey” was that for the first edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, published by John Murray in 1927 (with his brother having apparently designed the dustwrapper for the earlier His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes, published in 1917). 

He occasionally did other commercial work, such as the cover of a recording of "The Gondoliers” for H.M.V. Records in 1919.

It must be said that the quality of Joseph Abbey’s work varied enormously. His portraits of Sherlock Holmes, for example, are exemplary, and many of his other adult characters were skillfully done. But he was not always very good at drawing young children. Some of his Enid Blyton illustrations had children who were nothing like their written characters, and were often ugly or with mis-shapen heads, and others were simply slapdash. His colour frontispiece for Harold Avery’s A Close Finish must be one of the worst illustrations ever to appear in a boys’ school story.

In the late 1920s he moved to Streatham, in South London, where he became a member of the Streatham Art Society. In 1933, he was recorded as living at 19 Thornton Avenue, Streatham, and in the 1939 Register he was recorded, under the name Joseph Van Abbé, at 33 Leigham Court Road, Wandsworth.

He died on 11 August 1954 (after choking on a fishbone) at 28 Congress Road, Streatham, leaving a small estate of just £305 (around £7,600 in today’s terms), with probate granted to his brother Salomon.


Books written and illustrated by J. Abbey
Birds and Their Eggs, Ward, Lock & Co., 1949

Books illustrated by J. Abbey
Ordeal by Sea by Archibald Hurd, Jarrold & Sons, 1918
Brother and Sister: A Story of Japanese Life by M.J. Oxlad, S.P.C.K., 1923 (re-issue)
The Wife’s Trials and Triumphs by Emma Jane Worboise, Hutchinson & Co., 1924 (re-issue)
The Hunter: A Story of Bushman Life by Ernest Glanville, Jonathan Cape, 1926
Birds of the Seashore by H.J. Massingham, T. Werner Laurie, 1931 (with E.E. Clarke & Eric Daglish)
Out and About by G. Gibbard Jackson, Dean & Son, 1932
A Close Finish and Other School Stories by Harold Avery, S.W. Partridge & Co., 1934
Bred in the “Blue”, or Ways of the African Wildfolk by W.S. Chadwick, Andrew Melrose, 1936 (with Dorothy Kay)
Major Exploits: Further Adventures of The Major by Louis Patrick Greene, John Hamilton, 1936 (re-issue)
Biggles in Spain by W.E. Johns, Oxford University Press, 1939 (with Howard Leigh)
The Great Tabu: Adventures of Tabu Dick by Louis Patrick Greene, George G. Harrap & Co., 1940
Treasure Valley: A Tale for Boys by Louis Patrick Greene, George G. Harrap & Co., 1940
Flak: The Story of a Canine Hero of the War by Shirley Goulden, W.H. Allen & Co., 1943
The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1943
Peter Trant: Cricketer-Detective by James William Kenyon, Methuen & Co., 1944
The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1944
The Mystery of the Secret Room by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1945
Alan of the Athletic by James W. Kenyon, Methuen & Co., 1945
Peter Trant: Heavyweight Champion by James William Kenyon, Methuen & Co., 1946
The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1946
The Mystery of the Missing Necklace by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1947
Young Mohamed: A Tale by E. Gordon Savage, Noel Carrington, 1947
The Mystery of the Hidden House by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1948
Dark Champion by Arthur Waterhouse, Brockhampton Press, 1948
The Mystery of the Pantomime Cat by Enid Blyton, Methuen & Co., 1949
Kestrels Over the Beacon by Stanley Weston Mason, Brockhampton Press, 1949
Tom Merry’s Annual, Mandeville Publications, 1949
Rallying Round Gussy by Martin Clifford, Mandeville Publications, 1950
Tom Merry’s Own, Mandeville Publications, 1950
Adventures Among Books by J.J. Sullivan, University of London Press, 1950
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, abridged by J.B. Marshall, E.J. Arnold, (?)


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