In Memoriam: Jan Shepheard, 2000AD’s first Art Editor – an “unsung heroine” of British Comics

Jan Shepheard, art editor on Valiant and 2000AD. Photo © Sue Smith, used with permission.
Jan Shepheard, art editor on Valiant and 2000AD. Photo © Sue Smith, used with permission.

 

We’re sorry to report the passing of Jan Shepheard, an “unsung heroine” of British comics and first Art Editor of 2000AD, who may best be remembered by our readers for her famous “Judge Dredd” logo, but who created many of the definitive logos for various strips for comics such as Valiant and others at Fleetway/IPC.

David McDonald at Hibernia Press, publishers of a number of Comic Archive titles about British comics, broke the news late last week.

“I had the good fortune and privilege to correspond with her on several occasions,” says David. “She was always happy to talk of her time working in the comic industry, but slightly bemused as to why people would be interested.

Jan – Janet Shepheard – was born in 1935 and after she graduated from Hornsey College of Arts and Crafts in London, began her career in comics re-sizing US strips for UK publication at L. Miller & Son, later joining Amalgamated Press (IPC) as art editor on the weekly humour comic Buster. She became art editor of the adventure comic, Valiant, working with its editor Sid Bicknell, in the late 1960s, right up until its cancellation in 1976. The  job entailed layouts, designing covers, logos and feature pages, resizing and extending artwork for publication in different formats, and correcting and retouching errors in artwork, especially foreign artists’ pages.

Jan's logo for the Tornado comic strip "Angry Planet", a sci-fi serial set on colonised Mars.
Jan’s logo for the Tornado comic strip “Angry Planet”, a sci-fi serial set on colonised Mars.

 

She became 2000AD‘s first art editor in 1977, and designed the title logo for “Judge Dredd”. When IPC launched a sister comic, Starlord, the company offered the art editor’s job to her assistant, Kevin O’Neill, but he turned it down, preparing to stay on 2000AD. So it fell to Jan to become art editor of Starlord, which only lasted six months, working on the similarly short-lived Tornado a year later.

She then worked on Roy of the Rovers, Eagle and Scream until Robert Maxwell bought out Fleetway in 1987, and she went freelance, working on Roy of the Rovers on a freelance basis until it switched to digital layout.

“I best knew Jan when she worked as Art Editor on Roy of the Rovers,” recalls editor and writer Barrie Tomlinson. “She always did a good, conscientious job and was well liked by the editorial staff. She was one of the great all-rounders, doing layouts, title designs, art alterations and typesetting. A true professional.”

“I often think that Jan Shepheard was an unsung heroine of the Boys’ Comics Empire,” says Battle editor David Hunt. “Jan would have started her artistic career in the Amalgamated Press days when Linotype Operators and Monotype machines clattered at the printers. She was conscientious, meticulous, talented and a stalwart of the profession in the 60s and 70s when kids actually took the time to read and enjoy their comics.

“I first met her when she was Art Editor of Valiant, working with Sid Bicknell as her Editor,” David recalls. “Sid was ‘old school’ trained and only someone with Jan’s professionalism could have met and dealt so efficiently with Sid’s exacting requirements. Together, they created a very successful title that ran for many, many years.”

In an interview for One-Eyed Jack and the Death of Valiant, published by Hibernia in 2012, Jan recalled Valiant as being the best comic to work on and the editor Sid Bicknell being the best editor she had worked with.

“Sid worked in comics since before the war, fought in World War Two and returned to Amalgamated Press afterwards,” she recalled. “He wrote scripts to start with in the early days, and then of course became editor. He should have been group editor, but politics, you know, got in the way.”

“I recall working with Jan when she had gone freelance in the late 1980s,” David Hunt notes. “I was editing the New Eagle at the time and I’d visit Jan at her Chelmsford home with copy, photos and artwork for various feature pages that she was creating for me. You never had a problem with Jan’s work, it was always of the highest standard. We’d talk and talk and, with her charming husband John, I’d thoroughly enjoy those brief visits.

“Many a talented, budding art person would have come under Jan’s wing during her long and distinguished career and I’m certain all of them would have gained valuable experience from the association.

“A lovely lady who will be sadly missed.”

The first "Judge Dredd" logo, designed by Janet Shepheard.
The first “Judge Dredd” logo, designed by Janet Shepheard.

Original Judge Dredd Logo

 

Although 2000AD no longer have her original hand-drawn “Judge Dredd” logo in their files, their archive does contain photostat copies of it. The face in the ‘J’ of Judge and the Judge’s badge and the lettering in general is very striking and unique, and, according to Jan “a gimmick I used because it was a new sort of set-up. The whole story, the whole idea, was new and it needed a little something extra.”

“Jan’s work remains definitive and a landmark piece of design from the very birth of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic,” said a 2000AD spokesperson. “It was also rather wonderfully acknowledged in the opening of the DREDD film.

“The thoughts of everyone in the Nerve Centre are with her family and friends”.

“She was my one and only special aunt,” says Jan’s niece Sue Smith “and such a talented individual. It means so much to us that she is remembered for her talent and with such fondness. The family really appreciate it.”

Jan Shepheard (nee Evenden) born 1935, died June 2014

• One-Eyed Jack and the Death of Valiant includes a feature on Jan’s work and can be purchased directly from the publisher Hibernia Comics for just £3.99 (or as a digital download for only £1.50): http://www.comicsy.co.uk/hibernia. Artist Kevin O’Neill is also interviewed regarding the logo designs he himself created in the feature, and of his time working with Jan.

One of the last letters Hibernia publisher David McDonald received from Jan was a piece she had written about her Valiant Editor at IPC, Sid Bicknell. This will be appearing in a future Comic Archive.

Steve Holland has posted his tribute to Jan on Bear Alley here

Jan Shepheard’s Biography on the Women in Comics Wiki

• Jan’s work for 2000AD is also noted in David Bishop’s Thrill-power Overload, published by Rebellion in 2009

My thanks to David McDonald, David Hunt, Sue Smith and Barrie Tomlinson for their help compiling this tribute

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a “freelance comics operative”, currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY.

John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor.

He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY.

Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

12 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Jan Shepheard, 2000AD’s first Art Editor – an “unsung heroine” of British Comics

  • July 15, 2014 at 9:10 am
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    Here’s what Pat Mills had to say about Jan when I was interviewing him via email for the articles that became Thrill-Power Overload: “Jan Shepherd was the first art editor with Kevin O’Neill as her assistant and a huge source of inspiration and contacts in the final phase of 2000 AD before launch.”

      • July 15, 2014 at 11:51 am
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        Excellent piece. (One tiny thing: you give 2 different years of birth ’39 and ’35. Sorry!)

        • July 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm
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          Thanks – fixed. Definitely 1935, info from her family.

  • July 15, 2014 at 3:20 pm
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    Sad to hear. Art editors on print magazines really bring the book together. More than just the look and feel, their work ensures the quality and consistency of the book and their hands are often the last pair to handle the book before it goes off to print.

  • July 15, 2014 at 5:47 pm
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    Great tribute to a great lady. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a photograph of one of the most important people in the history of 2000ad, so thanks.

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  • March 6, 2015 at 11:43 pm
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    I was shocked when I heard of her passing; in fact I phoned her one time without knowledge regarding her health, saying: ‘You were good at your job.’ She replied: ‘Yes, I was…’ We both laughed at her modesty with the call going well, and I shall miss her for she was unpretentious and easy to work with, with a standard few can match.

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  • June 22, 2015 at 3:01 am
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    I was Jan’s art assistant on Starlord and Tornado and she was fantastic to work with. Not only did she teach me a lot, but we were always laughing and it was a joy to go into work every day. It was a shock to find out she’d passed away and my condolences to her family, who I know must miss her so much. RIP, Jan.

    • June 24, 2015 at 6:41 am
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      Thanks for commenting, Bev. We’re always interested in hearing behind the scenes stories from the days when the British comics industry was a very different beast.

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