Friday, July 30, 2021

Comic Cuts — 30 July 2021

I'm pleased to say that I've had a busy week writing a couple of introductions for a pair of Spanish reprints of British comics (The Spider, The Steel Claw). It was a nice break from writing about wartime comics, as that can be quite frustrating. I'm researching as I go along, often into artists or publishers who have never been written about, and finding information can be hard. If I'm lucky, I might turn up something in family history records or old newspapers. If I'm unlucky... well, it has taken me just as long — and sometimes longer — to find nothing as it would to find something.

A good for instance is Reg Bunn. There seemed to be almost nothing known about his family origins. Even Wikipedia has no mention of his parents. So I spent Wednesday afternoon trying to think of various ways to search family records, and while I managed to turn up the names of his parents, I spent even more time looking for, and failing to find, the family in the 1901 and 1911 census records. They just seem to have been missed entirely.

The census records aren't 100% complete and also the search algorithms at Ancestry and Find My Past aren't infallible, so you often have to approach these things from a dozen different directions: searching for parents and siblings and searching for variations of names. Eventually you end up searching for every "Bunn" in the Birmingham area in the hope that you can spot something in the thousands of results.

Eventually I had to give up — the work day ended, so we went for a memorable walk. Memorable because we got half-way around the block when the skies opened and we were soaked to the skin in a matter of seconds. A little while later, as it wasn't my turn to cook, I spent another hour looking again to see if I could find out what Reg's father's occupation was. With the same amount of joy that I had felt getting doused in a rainstorm.

There are other frustrations. For instance... who was Edward Lowe? As far as I can tell, Lowe drew only two comic strips, the first appearing just after the war in 1946 and running until 1948, and its replacement appearing only briefly in 1948-49. They comprise only three dozen or so pages in total, and then Lowe disappears.

This is not an uncommon story. The years immediately after the war saw a continuing fight for paper supplies for both book and periodical publishers and newspaper proprietors. Towards the end of the 1940s, restrictions began to lift, and magazines and newspapers began to slowly return to their pre-war size; small comic publishers — the pirate publishers, as they were nicknamed — began to fall by the wayside and artists who had established themselves in their pages either had to find other work with the majors (AP, DCT) or newspapers (Ron Embleton, Joe Colquhoun, Ron Turner and Jim Holdaway were among the artists who achieved this) or disappeared to work in other fields.

Could that have been the fate of Edward Lowe? If it was, it was a shame. He shows a real confidence for a first-timer and he could have emerged as a major talent. I have only seen three episodes of his comic strip 'Igor' and they are far superior to 95% of the other strips that were appearing at the time. The figurework isn't brilliant, but it's a style that is quickly forgiven as you are carried along by the story, which is fairly simple, but dynamic in both layout and its cinematic choice of angles.

I'll have to open this up to those of you who know more about American comics than I do... could Edward Lowe have been swiping from someone like Alex Raymond or Burne Hogarth? Below you'll find the complete first episode, plus a couple of spreads from the two other episodes I have. It would be interesting to hear what people think.


  1. The other difficulty is that Edward Lowe may perhaps be a non de plume for an artist at the start of his career, whose style hasn't yet fully developed into that which he was later known for under his own name. Jack Kirby used quite a few pen names, and none of his art styles were anything like his later Marvel style.

    1. Not that I'm suggesting it's by Jack Kirby obviously, just naming him as an example of what I'm talking about.



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