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Monday, September 29, 2008

Arthur Mee: Encyclopedist

An old friend of mine has just mentioned that he heard me on the radio the other night, which came as a bit of a surprise. After a dig around the 'listen again' feature at the BBC I discovered that a show I'd been involved in has just been broadcast. Arthur Mee: Encyclopedist was recorded last June and I was involved through my work on Look and Learn last year, which included helping to put a few hundred issues of Mee's The Children's Newspaper online. If you want to listen to the broadcast, BBC Radio 4 has a podcast of the show which you can find here.

A while back I pieced together a list of story writers whose work had appeared in The Children's Newspaper. One day I'll get back to writing up a few more of the authors, but you can see who has been covered by taking a look at the Children's Newspaper Authors file.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Comic Cuts

I've spent all day, on and off, working on the Trigan introductions. I finished typing up the text to the last two stories that I hadn't quite completed for volume 12 and then went back to the introduction of volume 1, which may sound a little strange but there's a good reason. The books were published out of order so that there was an opportunity to track down original art boards. When we started this project back in 2003, the most complete volume was chronologically volume 8, followed by volume 11, then 10, 9, 4, 7, 3, 2, 6, 5... and now we've reached volumes 1 and 12.

Ducking back and forth around the chronology has made writing the introductions an interesting experience. Since I now expect newcomers to the series to start with volume 1, I've got to presume that they know nothing written for later volumes, so I've gone back to square one to introduce the whole series.

Which has proven trickier than it sounds. After writing quite a few tens of thousands of words about The Trigan Empire over the last few years, it's almost impossible to find new ways of approaching the same subject, so I spent most of the morning writing openings, scrapping them, writing different versions, scrapping them, and, finally, coming up with something I liked... just before lunch, which brought everything to a grinding halt. This evening I've put together two articles, one about Don Lawrence and one about Mike Butterworth and now I'm going to leave it for a few hours. With any luck, the little grey cells will be working behind the scenes while I'm watching Poirot and I'll get back to the computer knowing how all the bits of articles can be pieced together. Or I may just have an early night and worry about it tomorrow.

One day it will be nice to revisit all that introductory material and put together a book about the series. One of the problems with the series is that the author, Mike Butterworth, invented things as needed, played around with geography and every second story seemed to introduce a new race that lived on the far edges of the Plain of Vorg. We've jumped through some hoops just trying to make the Trigan Empire work! I've certainly stretched my knowledge of astrophysics to breaking point with the latest volume and there's a whole chunk of text about binary systems that we won't have space for. So a book might be a possibility. Definitely something to think about.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mel's birthday

There will now be a slight pause while we celebrate Mel's birthday... starting with this birthday cup of tea. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

9:50 am update: quote of the morning: "I'm just going to hoover my jeans." And it's not even 10 o'clock yet!

Friday, September 26, 2008

History of the Beano

Now available, a 352-page hardcover from Waverley Books: The History of the Beano: The Story So Far. The editor is Morris Heggie. The book, published on 25 September, is broken down into ten-year sections, each taking a look at the seven ages of The Beano. As well as reprinting many strips from the original artwork, editor Morris Heggie and his team of writers (including Bill Graham) will be offering a ton of background material on the editorial staff and creators, as well as fascinating facts, revealing, for instance, that the highest selling issue of the comic was the 22 April 1950 issue, which sold 1.9 million copies.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Comic Cuts

They say no news is good news so I guess I have good news. I'm still working on the Trigan intros, having spent Monday on another mini-essay for the upcoming War Comics book. Took a day off yesterday to clear out some more boxes (nearly finished!) but spent most of the afternoon working on yesterday's blog piece on Netley Lucas... I'd planned to put up a squib I'd written a few years ago but got carried away. Today: Trigan Empire. Tomorrow: Trigan Empire. So not much in the way of news, although I might have some soon.

I've posted a page for the newly arrived King Arthur book which you'll see if you scroll down. I'll add in a link to it in the 'My latest books' vanity column (over there on the right somewhere) shortly.

Given my own lack of anything interesting to ramble on about, here are a few things from around the net...

* The former Virgin Comics has undergone a change of ownership thanks to a management buyout by Liquid Comics led by Virgin's founding management team of Gotham Chopra, sharad Devarajan and Suresh Seetharaman. According to a press release: "Under the new Liquid Comics name, the management team plans to proceed with a number of projects previously announced as Virgin Comics and will make announcements shortly regarding those projects and the restructured launch dates." What this means for the second series of Dan Dare is still unknown as the champion of the character was Virgin's Richard Branson.

* John Adcock has recently discovered a 3-part article that appeared in the Canadian newspaper The Maple Leaf in July 1945 in which Jack Scott takes a look at 'The Story of "Jane"', which includes some quotes from Jane's creator, Norman Pett, and writer John H. G. Freeman. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

* Lance Parkin's Alan Moore, which appeared from Pocket Essentials a few years back (it was one of a handful of titles that I handled when I was briefly an editor for the firm!) has been revised and updated. The new edition is due out 20th November and runs to 160 pages.

* I'm breaking my usual "no American comics" (there are other sites who offer more and far better coverage than I could ever manage) for The Vertigo Encyclopedia, recently released by Dorling Kindersley. I justify the move because (a) Vertigo was home to lots of British creators and (b) the book was put together in the UK, edited by Dorling Kindersley's Alastair Dougall (although written by American SF and comics writer Alex Irvine). Really it's just an excuse to link you to the following video which has appeared on YouTube advertising the book...



* Unique Collectables, who produced the Commando and Starblazer calendars mentioned here recently, have now listed quite a few new products on their website, including limited edition prints based on a number of covers (some with the Commando logo and title lettering, some without) by Jose Maria Jorge, Carlo Jacono, Ken Barr and Ian Kennedy. Each print comes with a certificate of authenticity signed by Commando editor Calum Laird. More prints from the pages of Beano and Dandy can be expected shortly.

* This one's not out for another year, but Mainstream Publishing have already announced Football's Comic Book Heroes: Celebrating the Greatest British Football Comics of the Twentieth Century (ISBN 978-1845964085, 3 September 2009).

"Ever since comics for boys were first published in the late nineteenth century, they have offered their readers fun, adventure and escapism. As participation and attendance at sports events rose dramatically during the first half of the twentieth century, boys' comics began to regularly feature sportsmen of all types, and footballers became the ultimate favourite. The introduction of football comics presented in a cartoon-strip format became immensely popular during the 1960s, with Rover, Hotspur and Wizard amongst the top titles. Although these comics are no longer in circulation, there is still a significant level of interest amongst boys and men of all ages, and the culture of the comic-book hero continues.Renowned publisher D.C. Thomson has delved into its archives to produce the definitive document of the most legendary footballing characters to grace the pages of boys' comics, including such favourites as Limp Along Leslie, Roy Race, Billy Dane and Hotshot Hamish. Extensively researched to cover the history and the storylines associated with these comics and their heroes, this is a unique, nostalgic account of the football comic-book phenomenon that will jog the memories of older readers and introduce the magic of these imaginary sporting stars to a new generation."

Frank Bellamy's King Arthur and His Knights

Out now from Book Palace Books. Frank Bellamy's King Arthur and His Knights: The Complete Adventures is a companion volume to the Frank Bellamy's Robin Hood: The Complete Adventures volume published in March 2008. This new volume contains two complete serials, 'Swiss Family Robinson' and 'King Arthur and His Knights', drawn by Bellamy for the children's comic Swift.

'Swiss Family Robinson' was the first strip that Bellamy drew from first episode to last (he had previously drawn episodes of 'Monty Carstairs' for Mickey Mouse Weekly and a few episodes of 'The Fleet Family' for Swift). Originally published in Swift v1 #30 to v2 #29 (9 October 1954 to 16 July 1955), the strip has never been reprinted.

'King Arthur and His Knights' is an early classic. By the time the strip began appearing (again in Swift v2 #31 to v3 #18, 30 July 1955 to 5 May 1956), Bellamy had a firm grasp of the storytelling techniques he was to use so brilliantly in later strips. Although he was not allowed to break out of the panel borders, which became something of a trademark in his artwork, he made full use of widescreen panels in jousting and battle scenes, giving 'King Arthur' a dose of Cinemascope-like swashbuckling action that was at odds with the staid and gently humorous with other strips in the pages of Swift. Although aimed at a young audience, Bellamy packed every line of all 41 episodes with excitement and drama.

Order your copy from Amazon.

Reviews
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Netley Lucas

Something a little different for you today. A few years ago I picked up some volumes of something called Detective Magazine, which featured an interesting mix of true crime and fiction. My main interest was that they had published a number of stories by Gwyn Evans but it turned out there were many other interesting characters in the pages of the magazine, not least the curiously named Netley Lucas. I've been sorting out some copies of various articles for someone who is doing a study of Lucas but he is such a fascinating figure that I thought I'd share a piece I wrote a few years ago, ahead of something more definitive.

Netley Lucas was a minor celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s. A fraudster and thief, he extended his conman career into the literary world as a publisher, biographer and plagiarist. He wrote a number of well-received books and claimed to have ghost-written books for others but at least one of his two autobiographies was ghosted for him and it is likely that other books he claimed as his own were by other hands.

The problem with Netley Lucas is that he made a career out of lying, so finding authentic information about him isn't so easy. You may have to take some of his claims with a pinch of salt.

Netley Lucas was named after Netley harbour, Southampton, where he was born in 1903 on a yacht. His mother died in childbirth and his father reputedly left for Paris on the money he inherited and died mysteriously soon after. Lucas was placed in the hands of foster parents.

At the age of 14, Lucas was expelled from public school for stealing and forging his housemaster's signature, and quickly drifted into a life of petty crime. He was arrested and charged with obtaining money under false pretenses from the secretary of a London club and soon stood before the first of many magistrates. He was remanded to Brixton Prison, having lied about his age, but on his next appearance in 1917 was found guilty and sent to a remand home in West Drayton, although he soon ran away. He was subsequently bound over in 1918 for begging and, shortly after, re-arrested in the Strand where he had become embroiled with a particularly vicious local group. This time he was sent to the reformatory ship Cornwall at Purfleet, Essex, but, in August 1919, escaped yet again.

In June 1920 he was arrested yet again for stealing cheques and obtaining credit from various establishments by fraud. Although still only 17, he claimed to have served as a Captain in the Navy during the war and, masquerading as the son of 'Lady Lucas', the Hon. Netley Lucas hired various cars from Harrods, driving friends down to Brighton, and staying at the Grand Hotel. He was arrested at the Imperial Hotel, Russell Square and, found guilty, sent to the original Borstal Institution near Rochester on August 27, 1920, for three years.

Released on license in 1922 after 20 months, he returned to petty criminal activities within a few days. Still in his teens, he had cultivated a gentlemanly accent and manners which, coupled with his natural good looks, he used to defraud young women by offering them bogus jobs. Dressed as a naval officer, he claimed his father was an influential man looking for a secretary. He was returned to Borstal. In October 1922 he travelled to the south of England, where he committed numerous cases of larceny and forgery, for which he was sentenced at the Old Bailey in June 1923 to 10 months imprisonment, the judge describing him as "nothing but a mean sneaking railway and hotel thief."

In 1924, Lucas went to Canada with another man, where they were soon arrested for running a crooked employment agency, serving his 30-days' sentence at Toronto’s Gaol Farm before being deported.

In 1924, his earliest known articles began to appear in Detective Magazine, a series of reminiscences (almost certainly ghosted by Richard L. Dearden) which served as the basis of The Autobiography of a Crook (1924). A number of other titles about criminology followed over the next few years, including Criminal Paris, Crooks Confessions, London and its Criminals and Crook Janes, the latter a study of female criminals.

After publishing a single novel, Lucas began writing for boys’ papers. A series of stories featuring Anthony Grex, the human bloodhound appeared in Golden Penny Comic; and another series published around 1927-28 featured “Tom Mex, Reporter – Detective”, and listed Lucas as the author of “The Borstal Boy” and “Crime Club”, etc., etc.

A literary career should have proven quite lucrative if the list of titles that Lucas contributed to is to be believed: Daily Mail, New York, Ideas, People, New York American, Star, People, Sun, Chronicle, Worlds Pictorial News, Pearson's, Sovereign, Detective Magazine, Mystery Story Magazine, Popular Magazine, Action Stories, Glasgow Weekly Recorder, Birmingham Mail, Yorkshire Evening Post, South Wales Echo, Bristol Times & Mirror, Union Jack, Competitor's Journal, Everybody's Weekly, Humanist, Police Review, Motor Cycle, Motor Boat, Cycling, Motor Transport, Granta, Writer, Wireless, Car Topics, etc.

However, Lucas did not confine himself to straightforward writing. In 1925, a number of American papers serialised The Underworld of Paris by Lucas, "whose knowledge of criminals and their life was gained during the years that he spent as a famous character in the underworld of New York, London and Paris." This was based on the memoirs of Alfred Moraine the Prefect of Police in Paris, whose The Underworld of Paris. Secrets of the S├╗rete appeared in translation from Jarrolds in 1930.

In January 1928, Lucas found himself the centre of attention in America when it was announced that he was to marry the notorious gun-woman 'Chicago May' Churchill. 'Chicago May' was born May Duignan in Ireland, arriving in America in 1890 at the age of 19 where she combined prostitution with robbing her clients. She was most notorious for her association with Eddie Guarin who, in 1901, attempted to rob the American Express Company. He was captured and sent to Devil's Island, but escaped, with the aid of Chicago May, to England in 1905 where he lived under the names Thomas Garen and Edward Thomas Garin. The two fell out and in 1907, May, under the name May Vivienne Churchill, and Charles Smith (real name Robert Considine) were charged with attempting to murder Guarin. May was sentenced to 15 years penal servitude.

Lucas claimed that he had met May in Canada whilst investigating the drugs trade. May, also staying at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto, had it in her mind to rob him but decided not to as the two became more familiar. He was able to use some of the material he gleaned in Crook Janes, released in the USA as Ladies of the Underworld in 1927. Lucas then joined the League of Nations as part of the team investigating slave trafficking before returning to the United States where he tracked down May once more.

Their engagement was simply another example of Lucas's flair for self-publicity: May was more than twice his age, although, as Lucas explained: "Well, she’s a blonde, and a man in the toils of a beautiful, fascinating and unscrupulous woman has no power to control his own actions." Elsewhere he admitted "She is very charming and I am fascinated by her. Further than that, she is a gold mine of crime stuff. It is partly a business proposition. My publishers practically insist on it. We have all sorts of fine offers. It's too good a thing to turn down."

At the same time Lucas denied his criminal past, saying that he had never spent any time in British reformatories and that his five volumes of "confessions" were an invention, based on his experiences as a police reporter on The London News and partly on reading up on the subject.
I made a mistake when I started to confess, but now that I'm in that line there is nothing to do but to keep right on with it. In the first place, I started to write my confessions as third-person fiction. That was in England. The publishers hounded me into putting it out in the first person and under my own name. It had a tremendous sale. I made £450 out of my first set. I confessed enough for two or three lifetimes in that first book, but it went so well that I have just had to confess, confess and confess ever since to everything that I could find that was interesting.

Recently I have been writing about other criminals and underworlds of big cities, throwing in confessions of my own here and there as I went along. It's rather enjoyable work and the readers like it.
Chicago May had been living an impoverished life in Detroit until being rediscovered; the story of her career had been revived and published in installments in 1927 and as Chicago May: Her Story by May Churchill Sharpe (New York, The Macaulay Company, 1928). Lucas promised that her confessions were nothing compared to what he was planning to write once the married couple had settled, probably in Hollywood.

It was all a publicity stunt that fizzled out fairly quickly. Lucas returned to England and Chicago May died on 30 May 1929 after being admitted to the Philadelphia General Hospital for an operation for an abdominal disorder. Her final wish had been to marry Robert Considine

Not that Lucas could have married her as he was already married, in 1925, to Elsie M. Liggins. Although separated, the two were not divorced until 1938.

Lucas disappeared from literary sight after the publicity generated in America by his engagement to Chicago May; however, before long a new writer by the name of Evelyn Graham began to make a name for himself, announcing in November 1928 that he was in the process of writing a biography of the Queen of Spain. Part of the proceeds from the sale of the book were to fund a campaign against tuberculosis in Spain.

Evelyn Thomas made his debut in 1929 with a series of impressive and seemingly authentic biographies. Windsor Magazine carried his illustrated ‘Life of the Prince of Wales’ and he contributed to Britannia and Eve magazine.

The biography of Princess Mary, published by Hutchinson & Co. was described as an intimate and authoritative life story by Miss Evelyn Graham, published with the approval of her Royal Highness. Hutchinson promoted two further books heavily, stating that The Queen of Spain contained “a number of exclusive photographs specially lent by the Queen for publication with this biography” and that Lord Darling & His Famous Trials was “an authentic biography prepared (for publication) under the personal supervision of Lord Darling” who was then Lord Chief Justice of England. The biography was given a mixed review in The Times, who said that “His [Darling’s] admirers would require a somewhat fuller treatment of his early days than that accorded by Mr. Evelyn Graham” although “they will have no other quarrel with this book.”

About the same time, Graham was assisting Sir George Aston with a biography of the Duke of Connaught and Stathearn, and writing further books on royalty.

In May 1931, a London literary agent received a letter from Lady Angela Stanley, the former lady-in-waiting to Queen Alexandra (the wife of King Edward VII, who had died in 1925), who had written an intimate portrait of Her Majesty. The manuscript was sold to Messrs. Harrap who, after enquiring if the book had the approval of the Royal Family, were assured by Victor Stanley, Angela Stanley's son, who enclosed a letter from Lord Stanfordham, the private secretary to King George.

At the same time, the Daily Mail began to investigate the successful Evelyn Graham, whose best-selling biographies had earned the author some £20,000; soon after, Chief Detective-Inspector Percy Smith of Scotland Yard was called in to investigate some of the allegations made in the articles, and quickly discovered that Evelyn Graham was none other than Netley Lucas, as were Lady Angela and Victor Stanley (and to which could be added Mrs. Charlotte Cavendish, Richard C. Dent and Robert Tracy, and the earlier Paul Evelyn and publisher Albert E. Marriott). Lucas, it was revealed, had forged any credentials needed to persuade his publishers that his books were as intimate and authorised as they claimed, and used 'ghost' writers to produce the books.

Lucas, who was then calling himself Leslie Graham and living with a girlfriend in a studio flat on the Kings Road, was arrested in July 1931 and charged with obtaining money under false pretenses, specifically £225 from James Pinker, a literary agent, and attempting to obtain £52. 10s. from Margery Hamilton, the assistant editress of Weldon's Ladies' Journal, for the serial rights of the Queen Alexander biography. Unfortunately, enquiries were made by the publishers at Buckingham Palace and it was discovered that Lady Angela Stanley was not known there. Harrap, who had purchased the book, then discovered that the biography of the Duke of Connaught written by Lucas had not been authorised by the Duke despite the author's assurances. Further police investigation also uncovered a case of plagiarism when, in June 1930, Lucas had sold the exclusive rights to a biography of King George V to Macmillan. The New York publisher had the manuscript in book form before they discovered that it was almost identical to another book that had been published a year earlier (The Life Story of King George V by Richard C. Dent, New York, E. P. Dutton, 1930).

Lucas was tried before Sir Ernest Wild at the Old Bailey in September 1931 and was found guilty by the jury without having to leave the box. He was sentenced to eighteen months with hard labour.

Shortly before his arrest, Lucas had, with another man, set up a publishing company of his own at 37-38 Golden Square, London. Albert E. Marriott produced an interesting selection of books over the course of 1929-30 before the enterprise failed. The following may be incomplete:

The Airway to See Europe. A woman round the airways of Europe by Eleanor Elsner [1879- ].
The Biography of H.M. Queen Mary by Charlotte Cavendish [Netley Lucas].
The Biography of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales by W. & L. Townsend. Sep 1929.
The Biography of His Holiness Pope Pius XI by W. & L. Townsend.
The Biography of President von Hindenburg by A. M. K. Watson. [A revised version of the book of the same title by Rudolph Weterstetten and A. M. K. Watson, New York, Macmillan & Co., 1930]
Black Cap. Murder Will Out by W. & L. Townsend.
Dress of the Day. War-and-after reminiscences of the British Navy by William Barnett Logan.
The Elizabeth Gift Book. 1931.
Ex-Husband [anonymously published, reprint from New York, The Macaulay Company, 1929]
Ex-Mistress by Dora Macy [pseud. of Grace Perkins]. 1931.
Ex-Soldier. We Are Dead by William MacKay.
Famine Alley by Prudence O'Shea [pseud. of Jasmine Chatterton].
The Intimate Life of the Queen of Sheba. A fancy by Norman Hill [pseud. of Norman Hillson]
The Italian Artists as Men by Norman Hill [pseud. of Norman Hillson]
Meet Jane by Evadne Price [pseud. of Helen Zenna Smith]
Mother-in-Law India by Donald Sinderby [pseud. of Donald Ryder Stephens, 1898- ]
"Not So Quiet..." Step-daughters of War by Helen Zenna Smith.

A petition for bankruptcy was made by printers Hazell, Watson & Viney and Mr. Justice Maugham ordered the compulsory winding-up of the company in December. Hazell, Watson & Viney, one of the creditors was owed £1,250. Helen Zenna Smith was also represented as a creditor, claiming £473 in respect of royalties. Lucas and his partner left the country in October 1930. Investigations into the company lasted until at least 1932.

After his release, Lucas reputedly returned to Fleet Street and started a number of literary agencies and journalistic enterprises but by this time was so well known that his contributions were barred by most reputable newspapers and publishers. In 1933, the American Weekly syndicated a series entitled 'Unblushing Confessions of a Versatile Rascal' and, under the joint byline Netley Lucas and Evelyn Graham, Arthur Barron published a colourful autobiography entitled My Selves (1934). Lucas then appears to have departed the literary scene.

In 1938, Lucas was divorced from his wife, Elsie, and that same year married Mavis J. Cox.

Around April 1940, using the name Robert Tracy, he rented a furnished house in Fetcham, near Leatherhead, Surrey, where he is said to have spent most of his time drinking. In June 1940, aged only 37, he was found dead in the partly burnt lounge of the house. His body was cremated at Woking.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels
The Red Stranger. London, Stanley Paul, 1927.

Non-fiction
The Autobiography of a Crook [ghosted by R. L. Dearden]. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1925 [1924].
Criminal Paris, with a foreword by Dr. Edmond Locard. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1926.
Crook Janes. A study of the woman criminal. London, Stanley Paul, 1926; as Ladies of the Underworld. The beautiful, the damned, and those who get away with it, New York, J. H. Sears & Co., 1927.
Crooks Confessions. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1926; New York, George H.. Doran Co., 1926?.
London and its Criminals. London, Williams & Norgate, 1926.
My Selves, by Netley Lucas and Evelyn Graham, with a foreword by Sir James Purves-Stewart. London, Arthur Barron, 1934.

Non-fiction as Charlotte Cavendish
The Biography of H.M Queen Mary. London, A. E. Marriott, 1930.

Non-fiction as Richard C. Dent
The Life Story of King George V. New York, E. P. Dutton, 1930.

Non-fiction as Evelyn Graham
Princess Mary, Viscountess Lascelles. An intimate life story. London, Hutchinson & Co., Sep 1929.
The Queen of Spain. An authorised life-story. London, Hutchinson & Co., Oct 1929.
Lord Darling and his Famous Trials. London, Hutchinson & Co., Oct 1929.
His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. A life and intimate study by Major-General Sir G. Aston, K.C.B., with the assistance of Evelyn Graham. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., Nov 1929.
Edward P. A new and intimate life story of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. London & Melbourne, Ward, Lock & Co., Nov 1929.
Albert, King of the Belgians. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1929; New York, Dodd Mead, 1929; revised as Albert the Brave: King of the Belgians by Netley Lucas, Hutchinson & Co., 1934.
The Life Story of King Alfonso XIII. London, Herbert Jenkins, Aut 1930.
Fifty Years of Famous Judges. London, John Long, 1931.

Non-fiction (Ghosted)
The Biography of Marshal Foch by Major-General Sir George Aston. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1929.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"The Vicar's not pulling his weight!"

Three examples of Horlicks advertising from the 1950s. Nobody seems to have any idea who the artists might be, although the first two at least are the kind of thing that Geoff Squire did very well.

Adverts from Daily Graphic (1952) and Picture Post (1955), the latter grabbed from eBay. My thanks to John Adcock of Yesterday's Papers for the two examples from the Graphic.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

ABC Show 21 September 2008

Yesterday's ABC Show turned out to be another excellent day with everyone for the most part happy with the number of people through the door and many folks finding gems that they've been looking for. Including me!

Although I've been in the privileged position for the past couple of years of being a guest and getting to sign books at these shows, it's still 90% about rooting around in boxes trying to find magazines and comics to fill holes in my collection. I wanted to concentrate this year on later Sexton Blake titles as I realised the other day that I wasn't far off having a complete run of the 4th series. I managed to put a dent in my wants list and I'm now missing about thirty in total. Hopefully a few more shows and I'll be able to boast a full set, all (bar one or two) in fairly good condition.

Top buy of the day for me was a copy of Braddock and the Flying Tigers paperback 'written' by George Bourne—actually a pen-name as Sergeant George Bourne is the navigator for Matt Braddock who, over the years and numerous stories in the pages of Rover, flew most types of aircraft during his exploits in World War II. This particular adventure originally appeared as a serial in Rover in 1956. I've often wondered who the anonymous authors of the Braddock stories were. I believe Gilbert Dalton, a prolific writer for D. C. Thomson's story papers was one of the authors, although whether this book was one of his is anybody's guess.

Thankfully I managed to get to the show nice and early so I did my rooting around before the crowds started to gather, by which time I was stuck in a corner of the room to field questions about various reprint books that have come out in the past month or so. I'm pleased to say I got to sign quite a few copies of books; High Noon seemed to go down well... if you look in the pic at the top you'll see a solitary copy left on the table and that was only because it had been damaged in transit (there was a nasty crease on the back). The Frank Bellamy's King Arthur and His Knights book earned some high praise and this time we'd managed to ship in enough copies so that make sure that everyone who wanted one managed to get one. The various war books sold steadily as did The Art of the Trigan Empire catalogue once people realised that it contains every page of Ron Embleton's two Trigan Empire strips, all shot from the original artwork, with lettering intact. Not even I'd spotted that until I actually had a copy in my hands.

I wasn't the only person pushing new books. Norman Wright and David Ashford were also on hand with their new book, Masters of Fun & Thrills, which I now have a copy of. Readers of Book and Magazine Collector will be familiar with the series of 'Great British Comics Artists' that David and Norman have been producing for the past few years. This new volume gathers up fourteen essays covering a nice wide range of British artists in depth and with a nice selection of black & white artwork. The real bonus is an eight-page colour section and photographs the often anonymous talents who created so many classic comic strips between them.

The full line-up of artists featured includes Geoff Campion, Roland Davies, Ron Embleton, Derek C. Eyles, David Law, Hugh McNeill, John Millar Watt, Patrick Nicolle, Eric Parker, Reg Perrott, Ken Reid, Septimus Scott, Ron Turner and Dudley D. Watkins. As you'd expect from Norman and David, each essay is packed to the gills with details of obscure strips and cover artwork produced by each of the artists covered. This is hugely recommended and a snip at £18.50. I'm not sure if that includes p&p so your best bet is to order it directly from Norman (wrightnorman AT hotmail DOT com) or go visit the Book Palace website and scroll down their 'What's New' section.

I'll leave you with something else I picked up today (pre-ordered but it saves on postage to have these things hand-delivered!)... The Eye of the Dragon by G. H. Teed, one of my favourite Sexton Blake authors. This one actually features a Blake rival called Nelson Lee but, frankly, the two are interchangable when Teed was writing them. I've now got to talk myself into not reading this—or the Braddock—before I finish the last novel I started.

Thomson Annuals 2009

Out now...

The Bash Street Kids in Space Cadets. ISBN 978-1845353520, 3 September 2008.
Brand new look! Now offering special, extra long adventures created by cult artist Mike Pearse! Sure to be loved by kids and comic connoisseurs alike, follow the Kids' out of this world adventures as they terrorise new galaxies.

The Beano Annual 2009. ISBN 978-1845353490, 3 September 2008.
Coming hot on the heels of The Beano's 70th birthday celebrations, Dennis the Menace, The Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx and many more bring their own brand of fun and mischief to everyone's favourite comic annual.

The Beano and The Dandy: Comics in the Classroom. ISBN 978-1845353476, 3 September 2008.
All kids that have loved The Beano and Dandy have another thing in common--SCHOOL! Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan and Minnie the Minx attended class too--poor old teachers for they were BAD pupils. So, open your books at page one and enjoy classic classroom fun in Beano and Dandy style.

The Broons and Oor Wullie: Happy Days 1936-1969. ISBN 978-1845353599, 3 September 2008.
Spanning the years 1936 to 1969, The Broons and Oor Wullie "Happy Days!" features the ups and doons o' life through the years in the company o' Scotland's first family and a'body's favourite wee scamp, immortalised in the timeless artwork of Dudley D. Watkins.

Bunty for Girls 2009. ISBN 978-1845353506, 3 September 2008.
A 21st century twist is always a winner. Take classic characters like The Four Marys, add lots of funky facts about the latest TV and movie stars, cool puzzles, cute images and quizzes and you have Bunty 2009.

The Dandy Annual 2009. ISBN 978-1845353483, 3 September 2008.
Starring comics legends like Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat and Bananaman, as well as new stars Cuddles and Dimples, Jak and Ollie Fliptrik, it's stuffed with cheeky comic strips, fun puzzles and jokes galore!

Dennis the Menace and Gnasher Annual 2009. ISBN 978-1845353537, 3 September 2008.
Packed with stories about The World's Wildest Boy and his trusty hound, this Denfest brings you all the fun of the Gnashflea Circus, Photo Fun with Dennis on location and some weird and wonderful animal facts that even Swotty Walter was impressed by. If you enjoy full on mischief then this annual's right up your street!

Oor Wullie [2009]. ISBN 978-1845353582, 30 October 2008. Forthcoming.
Wee in size but big in laughs, that's Auchinshoogle's favourite son. Follow the fun filled adventures of Oor Wullie and his pals, Fat Bob, Soapy Soutar, Wee Eck and Primrose Patterson, as they tackle problems as diverse as politics and pizza delivery. Traditional humour at its best, a perfect treat for the whole family!


WAVERLEY BOOKS

The Broons' Burns Night. ISBN 978-1902407715, 9 October 2008. Forthcoming.

The History of the Beano: The Story So Far. ISBN 978-1902407739, 25 September 2008.

Maw Broon's But an' Ben Cookbook. ISBN 978-1902407616, 18 September 2008.


AURUM PRESS

The Broons and Oor Wullie: Facsimile edition of the first annuals [in slipcase]. ISBN 978-1845133948, 1 October 2008. Forthcoming.


And finally...

...this mystery title from the D. C. Thomson catalogue...

The Hotspur Annual 1966 [re-mastered]. I can't find an ISBN number or a publication date for this... so watch this space for more info... if I can track any down.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Best of 2000AD

The Best of 2000AD is a difficult title to live up to. With over 30 years of strips to choose from any editor approaching a book with that title would is on a hiding to nothing as the paper has now gone through generations of fans, all of whom will have favourites from the particular period they were reading 2000AD. Get ready for plenty of reviews featuring the sentence beginning "How could they not have included..."

This is more a taster volume than a serious attempt to gather the best strips from the Galaxy's favourite comic. Rebellion, current owners of 2000AD and publishers of their own wide-ranging series of collections mining the paper, must be rubbing their hands with glee. A nearly 400-page hardcover catalogue advertising their books would have cost them a fortune... here they get one for free and someone has paid for the privilege.

I'm approaching the book from the direction of someone who has a pretty substantial collection of 2000AD anyway, so I'm not the true market. As with other Prion books (many of which I've been involved with), the book is aimed at the so-called 'nostalgia market'—in this case the forty-year-old with a marriage and a mortgage under his belt who is looking back longingly at simpler times. If you picked up 2000AD when it first came out and just want a taste of that excitement you felt, this is the book for you.

The spread of strips actually encompasses a fair few years, but most of the contents are from early issues. You can re-read the first Dredd tale and the complete 'Call-Me-Kenneth' series; there are the opening episodes of 'Invasion', and 'Harlem Heroes', plus 'M.A.C.H.1' and Flesh, although represented by the opening episodes of 'Flesh Book 2'.

"Opening episodes" is going to be a frustrating experience for some. You can read five episodes of 'The Ballad of Halo Jones', four episodes of 'Robo-Hunter', three episodes of 'Strontium Dog', three episodes of 'Rogue Trooper', two of 'Shako', five of 'The Mean Arena' and six of 'The Mean Team'. Not all of them end with any sort of conclusion. There are a few yarns that are complete in one or maybe two episodes, including 'D.R. & Quinch', 'Tharg's Future Shocks' and 'Tharg's Time Twisters' (mostly from the pen of Alan Moore), but if you need an answer to the question "Could Hammerstein be the leader I'm looking for?" you'll not find it here as there's only a single episode of 'A.B.C. Warriors'.

But if you just want to dip into the origins of, say, Nemesis or Slaine or Bad Company or Judge Death, you'll at least find out how they got started. And if you want more of the same, at least you can turn to the Rebellion reprints (they're all listed over to the right in the Comics Bibliography column).

The Best of 2000AD. Prion ISBN 978-1853756689, 1 September 2008.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Daily Graphic strips 14 February 1952

Daily Graphic strips from 14 February 1952. Most will be recognisable to American readers as the Graphic ran a ton of reprints. 'Tom Corbett Space Cadet' was drawn by Ray Bailey and ran in US papers in 1951-53, based on the popular television series (1950-55) which span off into a series of radio shows and adventure books by the pseudonymous Carey Rockwell. The abbreviated 'Space Cadet' harks back to the characters' origins, as Tom was partly inspired by Robert Heinlein's novel, Space Cadet (1948).

(Seven of the Carey Rockwell novels are available online at Project Gutenberg. There's a great Tom Corbett website here.)

Blondie was the long-running strip created by 'Chic' Young, still running in the USA. More at Wikipedia.

Pop was the creation of John Millar Watt in 1921 but he retired from the strip in 1949. Gordon Hogg ('Gog') took over and kept it going until 1960. Pop was very popular and had a companion annual published for two decades (1924-49) as well as being syndicated to the USA.

Roger Lincoln is also a US-originated strip, drawn by Milton Luros, a strip artist who later gave up comics for pornography. The strip, originally drawn by Irv Novick, began under the title 'Cynthia' in 1946 but shifted focus and was retitled 'Roger Lincoln' in 1951. Luros took over the strip and kept it going until 1953. Luros had formerly illustrated SF magazines and covers, but gave up SF for the more profitable pin-up market. He set up his own publishing company in 1959 and by 1965 was the richest porn-merchant in the USA, his magazines earning $20 million a year.

(* © Kemsley Newspapers)

Daily Graphic odds & ends

A few more Daily Graphic features from 1952.

(* © Kemsley Newspapers)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Harold Challenor (1922-2008)

Harold Gordon 'Tanky' Challenor, a one-time SAS war hero who joined the Metropolitan police in 1951, died on 28 August 2008, aged 86. Raised in brutal family conditions during the Depression, Challener had a succcession of jobs before enlisting in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He volunteered for the SAS in 1944 and was awarded the Military Medal.

Challenor became a detective constable in 1956 and joined the Flying Squad in 1958, working as a detective sergeant overseeing Soho from 1962. Short, stocky, loud and aggressive, Challenor had a good arrest and conviction rate despite complaints of beatings and planting weapons.

His downfall began on 11 July 1963, when a group of protesters gathered outside Claridge's Hotel to protest the state visit of the King and Queen of Greece, especially the Queen, formerly Princess Frederica of Hanover. One of the protestors was cartoonist, Donald Rooum, a layout artist and typographer with various advertising agencies who drew cartoons for Peace News and was a member of the National Council of Civil Liberties.

Rooum was arrested by Challenor, who claimed that he had found a brick in Rooum's pocket, charging him with carrying an offensive weapon. Refusing the sign for it as part of his property, Rooum was kept overnight in custody and, at the first court hearing the following morning, handed all his clothes to his solicitor. No brick dust was found and Rooum was acquitted by Magistrate Edward Robey. Another defendant who offered the same evidence was found guilty, although his conviction was later quashed.

Challenor's mental condition subsequently deteriorated and, he was pronounced unfit for duty in September 1963. Seven weeks later he was certified insane. In June 1964, he and three other CID officers were charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The three officers each received three years' imprisonment while Challenor was found unfit to plead and sent to a mental hospital. On his release, Challenor worked for the firm of solicitors who had represented him and later retired to Cornwall.

Rooum nowadays draws 'Wildcat' for Freedom and 'Sprite' for The Skeptic.

Obituaries: The Guardian (18 September), The Times (19 September), The Independent (23 September).
Further Information: Hansard (2 July 1964); Donald Rooum (Wikipedia).
Books by Donald Rooum: Amazon.co.uk.

(* Wildcat © Donald Rooum)

Comic Cuts

The new porch—a vast improvement over what it looked like a few weeks ago...

The last couple of days have been awful from a work point of view. The building work reached the stage where the roof over my office was being replaced and I defy anyone to concentrate with people thumping around just over their head. It was so distracting that I actually got around to doing some more tidying up of boxes which earns me nothing in cash but maybe a few brownie points with the people I rent the house with.

I did manage to get a few bits 'n' bobs written over the weekend and finished off one of the essays for the War Comics book on Monday (they're only short little things). One more to go. The Trigan intros. are 75% done for volume 1; I'm still waiting on a few things before I can get cracking on the other volume. Instead of work I've managed to squeeze in a couple of things I've been meaning to do for a while, including the checklist of Commando authors, posted Tuesday. Hopefully I'll find the time to put together a few more of these in the future, including listings for War and Battle Picture Library. The one complaint we had regarding the The War Libraries index was that there was no creators index. The book was already long (at 196 pages) and any additional lists would have pushed the price up on an already expensive volume.

A box of books landed on the new porch floor today which I'll be reviewing and discussing over the next few days. The box included copies of my own books from Carlton, including an advance copy of High Noon, which I'm really pleased with. My favourite of the volumes so far. Scoot down the page a little bit to take a look at the contents.

I'm hoping that we'll have a few copies of High Noon for sale at the ABC Show on Sunday. If you've never visited, it's a comic fair held at the Royal National Hotel in Southampton Way, a short walk from Russell Street underground station (and a slightly longer walk from Holborn). The show is actually two shows in one: The London ABC Show is a British comics offshoot in its own room linked to The National Collectors Marketplace, which is primarily American but with a fair number of tables dealing in both UK and USA comics and artwork.

I'll be on hand to sign whatever anyone wants me to sign (except blank cheques). We'll have copies of the brand new Frank Bellamy's King Arthur and His Knights book, which we've had flown in especially, plus the new Art of the Trigan Empire catalogue. We have a stock of Carlton's new releases (I'm told that Geoff may even have a small number of copies of the Rick RandomSpace Detective book, which I'm looking forward to seeing).

Since I'm not much of an attraction myself, Norman Wright and David Ashford will also be on hand to sign copies of their Masters of Fun & Thrills book (see here for a few more details).

For further information and directions how to get to the show, follow this link.

Books aside, I received a couple of other goodies today. Unique Comic Collectables have produced calendars for Commando and Starblazer for 2009.

The monthly images were selected by editors from the two series, Calum Laird and Bill McLoughlin and both are definitely fans of Ian Kennedy, who dominates both calendars. In Starblazer he shares space with only one other artist (Colin MacNeil). The Commando has something of a wider selection, including artwork by Chaco, Jeff Bevan, Keith Page, Gordon Livingstone and Jose Maria Jorge.

The calendars are backed with a thick card sheet which I think helped them survive the rigours of the British postal system—my copies arrived without being bent, spindled or mutilated. There's enough space to jot down notes in the actual calendar, although I suspect these will be bought by fans of the artwork for their wall and not by anyone who needs a date planner.

(* King Arthur & His Knights
© Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.; Commando & Starblazer © D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Comic Cuts: Bestselling British Collections

Back on July 14th and August 16th, I posted a Top 20/10 (all I could manage) for the best-selling British graphic novels (i.e. collections of stories of UK origin rather than British editions of American GNs). Here are the chart positions as of September 17th. Pleased to see my own Against All Odds volume in there.
1. Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files 01. Rebellion/2000AD (ISBN 1904265790), Dec 2005.
2. Against All Odds: War Picture Library Vol. 2, ed. Steve Holland. Prion (ISBN 978-1853756610), 4 Aug 2008.
3. Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics, ed. Paul Gravett. Robinson (ISBN 978-1845297107), 26 Jun 2008.
4. The Best of 2000AD. Carlton Books (ISBN 978-1853756689), 1 September 2008.
5. The Ballad of Halo Jones. Rebellion/2000AD (ISBN 978-1905437184), Jan 2007.
6. Modesty Blaise: Green Cobra. Titan (ISBN 978-1845764203), 2 Sep 2008.
7. Dan Dare: The Man From Nowhere. Titan (ISBN 978-1845764128), 27 Apr 2007.
8. Dan Dare: Voyage to Venus Part 2. Titan (ISBN 978-1840238419), 24 Sep 2004.
9. Dan Dare: The Red Moon Mystery. Titan (ISBN 978-1840236668), 22 Oct 2004.
10. Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol.10. Rebellion/2000AD (ISBN 978-1905437689), 15 Jun 2008.
11. Dan Dare: Voyage to Venus Part 1. Titan (ISBN 978-1840236446), 23 Apr 2004.
12. Dan Dare: Reign of the Robots. Titan (ISBN 978-1845764142), 25 Apr 2008.
13. Modesty Blaise: Death Trap. Titan (ISBN 978-1845764180), 23 Nov 2007.
Back in August only 10 of the top 100 at Amazon related to British comics; this time round there were 13 titles so it's still a bit of a short list. I should add that Amazon update their charts hourly so there can be dramatic changes over the course of a day.