Leonard Matthews, General Managing Editor of Fleetway and the Eagle Group of Comics, was a Creative Visionary… but that, Roger Perry argues in his extensive biography of the man which continues here on downthetubes, is only due to him having utilised the ideas of others.
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, Roger recalls how Men Only was given a new lease of life – and Leonard Matthews’ ignorance of Star Wars…
Paul Raymond Did… What Matthews Morally Just Couldn’t
One of Leonard Matthews’ earliest moves had been to acquire some old (now defunct and a long-time unpublished) titles. Amongst these had been Men Only, once a mildly saucy pocket-sized monthly magazine published for a time by Newnes.
You might be surprised to learn that the title had already been around for some 32 years – the Men Only title having begun life in 1935. It was founded by C Arthur Pearson Ltd and had been blunt in its aims: “We don’t want women readers. We won’t have women readers…” and, generally it sought in bringing forth “bright articles on a variety of current male topics”!
If you are anything like me, you probably will have never ever heard of C Arthur Pearson Ltd.
It all began with the birth of Cyril Arthur Pearson in 1866 in Wookey (close to the City of Wells in Somerset). Having worked for Newnes for six years, he left in 1890, aged 24, to form his own publishing business. Within three weeks he had created the periodical journal Pearson’s Weekly, a title so revolutionary that that first issue had sold a quarter-of-a-million copies. It appeared monthly and dedicated readers were able to store their collected issues in specially-produced binders.
In 1898, he purchased the Morning Herald and two years after that, merged it into his latest creation – the halfpenny Daily Express. The Express was a departure from other papers of its time by carrying news on its front page instead of a rash of advertisements. Unfortunately, due to glaucoma, Pearson began to lose his sight and in 1916, had passed the control of the paper over to Sir Max Aitken (who later became Lord Beaverbrook).
Four years earlier, however, and before all that had happened, Pearson published his Pearson’s Easy Dictionary in Braille. By 1915 he was completely blind, but he was not idle – he founded the Blinded Soldiers and Sailors Care Committee for servicemen who had been blinded by gas attack. As a reward for his dedication to this cause, he received a Baronetcy, thus giving him the honour of being able to address himself as 1st Baronet of St Dunstan’s. Sadly, his life was brought abruptly to an end while still in his prime, for in 1921 – at the age of 55 – having slipped and knocked himself unconscious in a fall, he drowned in his bathwater.
Despite the demise of Sir Arthur Pearson, the company he’d founded not only had continued in his memory but it was unrelenting in bringing out some quite obscure publications (including Men Only, some fourteen years later).
By 1965, the title Men Only (which had not been published for a good many years) had been bought by City Magazines. Then Leonard Matthews had come onto the scene and taken it over.
The burning question is: did Matthews actually buy the Men Only title from City Magazines or was it some sort of swapping of ownership in exchange for x-number of Once Upon a Time issues?
The Men Only magazine Matthews published reverted back to appearing monthly. Although he ran more pin-ups, it was still virtually all in black and white, with only a colour cover and a single colour centre spread offering a pin-up. It really hadn’t stood much of a chance: not only competing against the likes of Playboy but – and this is no disrespect to Matthews – let’s not forget his morals were such that he’d become twitchy over what professionally qualified child psychologist Dr James Hemming might or might not have written to an eleven-year-old girl. It’s hardly likely that his offerings would have raised anything more than the odd eyebrow at a church fete.
Matthews appointed Tony Power as its editor, a lad in his mid 20s who had been editing children’s comics at Fleetway House since 1959. The story of how Tony Power came to be on the scene was related to me in one of Brian Woodford’s emails.
During the time when Brian had been a sub-editor on Film Fun, Fleetway had hired a new office boy named Anthony Power (or Tony, as he was more commonly known), and it had been Woodford’s job to supervise and teach him as much as he could about the trade. Power had remained on Film Fun until he was scooped out to work in a separate department with Ron ‘Nobby’ Clarke – “Nobby probably having been the best pure comic strip creator at Fleetway at that time. He would pencil draw all his scripts onto large art pads and all the artist then had to do was to copy ‘Nobby’s’ work. Tony had worked alongside ‘Nobby’ thus honing his own scripting skills.”
Tony eventually left Fleetway and went to work for Matthews at Martspress. Men Only had been slowly dying on its feet, and its demise had seemed inevitable. Power – out for an evening’s sex-education – had, by chance, met with Paul Raymond, who ran a number of night-clubs in London’s Soho district.
The outcome was that Matthews sold the title to Raymond, who turned Men Only – still with Power as its editor – into the hugely successful publication it eventually became. But because of its new-look (and perhaps its association with Paul Raymond), the magazine’s launch hadn’t been particularly smooth-running…
Although dated to be sold in 1971, copies of Men Only were printed by November 1970 – but following complaints (plus a refusal to distribute them by the giant retailer Menzies), the new Men Only had quickly become labelled pornographic. A court order saw police out and about to hunt down the newly-printed copies with the view to having them confiscated and pulped.
This was the beginnings of the top-shelf-publishing era.
With the closure of Century 21 Publishing (Books) some eighteen months earlier, ex-Editor Robert T Prior – my old boss – had launched a small business producing free ‘give-away’ newspapers (called premiums). One such premium was The 208 Club for Radio Luxemburg, where the cost of printing and distribution was paid for by revenue brought in by advertisements. Prior also produced a large number of ‘soft porn’ titles for a couple of seedy individuals called the Gold Brothers of South London (for which I undertook much of the photography). In the three months between having taken voluntary redundancy from Hamlyn Books and to the time when I became Art Editor on Countdown for Polystyle Publications, for my sins, I worked for Bob Prior.
In the world of publishing, it’s very much a case of who knows who and although I was never privy to the lurid details, the outcome was that these Men Only magazines had been offered a secure and dry roof to lie under – they were stored in a side room in Bob Prior’s three-floor set of offices in Christopher Place! I can confirm all this as I saw these illicit copies for myself.
This contraband was stored no more than a hundred yards away from Selfridges; 75 from bustling Oxford Street and little more than a stone’s throw from the private medical practitioners’ haven of Wigmore Street and Harley Street to the north-east. These unlawful magazines remained undisturbed until such time as Paul Raymond – using his own business muscle and alleged underworld connections – could iron out all the intricacies of the problem.
For those of you who have chosen to struggle through my ramblings, you will have become aware that every now and then I offer morsels that although are connected, sometimes appear to go off at quite a different tangent altogether.
As you will read later on in this story, due to a greater understanding on the mechanics of astrology during the late 1970s, I also began to understand the reasons behind the turbulent events that took place in the late 1960s and just why it was that public opinion generally – not just those in and around the UK but also those of the whole wide world around us – had taken on this far less prejudicial attitude over the male / female gender aspect.
When the Planet Uranus moved in to occupy the sign of Libra on Saturday, 28th September 1968 (as seen from planet Earth), our attitudes, our prejudices and even our views on what our fellow men and women should or shouldn’t be doing had begun to change . . . in fact, the effect of its power had been brewing away for a good year or so – such is the way of these things. Known as The Awakener – Uranus is a planet that encourages long-term bizarre behaviour – It brings about long-lasting changes (as opposed to Mercury that does much the same thing but in rather more minuscule lumps with the result of it being much more short-lived). As for Libra, Librans will already know that it is the sign of justice, of balance, of partnerships and of equality. In a word – long-lasting changes in equality.
During this important transformational period – when all that had previously seemed unacceptable and downright sordid but now had mysteriously mellowed and appeared to have become the norm – I had been employed as a designer for Hamlyn Books. I clearly recall of being aware of these changes . . . although at the time, I hadn’t understood the reasons as to why. Let me list a few pointers, some of which you might have noticed for yourselves:
- Women burnt their bras and often walked around not even wearing one
- In the Sexual Offences Act 1967, the act of Parliament decreed that homosexual acts between two men – both of whom had to have attained the age of 21 – was now legal
- In a nationwide wave of protest during August 1970, the Women’s Strike for Equality captured the spirit of optimism
- The rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals came to prominence following the discrimination of same-sex activity across the UK between 1967 and 1982
- The censorship of films, television and the stage had become far more relaxed… much to the growing annoyance of Mrs Mary Whitehouse
- Women’s blouses were so thin that their bras could be easily seen through the material . . . and no-one really cared
- No longer could we advertise a vacancy and state that the applicant had to be male (or as the case might be), female
- No longer could us male-chauvinist-pigs speak of chairmen but had to re-name them as chairpersons or, if that offended you, then just chair
With an orbital period of 84 years, Uranus had therefore remained in the sign of Libra for seven years. However, there is always a certain amount of blurring and overlapping as it passes from one sign and into the next, so its influence expanded at each end before moving on into Scorpio where its influence had begun to create other bizarre-orientated mayhem.
In much the same way that the timing of Eagle had been perfect for the Reverend Marcus Morris in 1950 for the reasons I have said so many times elsewhere, so too had the timing of Paul Raymond’s Men Only, (plus the dozen or so of his other titles including Mayfair, Escort and Club International).
I must confess that I had become somewhat unstuck in keeping tabs on the activities of Leonard Matthews and Martspress during the early and middle 1970s, and in order to keep my head up high, I place here another piece that has been taken from the Independent newspaper dated Sunday, 23rd October 2011 – the article authored by Jack Adrian a.k.a. Christopher Lowder:
A man more at ease with legend than reality; great events – with which he had no possible connection – at times passed him by.
In the late 1970s, when George Lucas’s Star Wars was vast and you had to be a New Guinea caveman not to know the names Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and all, he buttonholed me to write some stories for an exciting new project he was working up for W.H. Smith. It was science fiction. “I’ve got a very good title”, he said. “I’m surprised no one’s used it before – Star Wars”.
“I said I thought George Lucas might not be too impressed to have that galaxy-famous title pinched. There was a puzzled silence on the phone.
“Who’s George Lucas?” said Leonard.
However, it was David Slinn who on reading these scribes, had sent me an email which as you will soon see, had contained some quite fascinating information. He said this:
“The Space Wars: Fact and Fiction title Leonard Matthews was packaging for WH Smith in 1980 contained stories from Ranger’s 1965 “Space Cadet” series. Leaving aside speculation on how the original boards came to be available – in this instance, I’d have thought, by agreement with IPC – but, however they had, the opening two-page episode wasn’t amongst them. Geoff Campion, the original Ranger series’ artist, was approached to tackle the replacement artwork; intriguingly, he redrew the required fourteen-frame sequence comprised of slightly changed compositions and altered perspectives of the developing action.”
The highly versatile artist Campion started out with a career as a tax inspector. It was after World War Two, in 1948, that he responded to an advertisement placed by the Amalgamated Press who were looking for artists when he was hired by Matthews to draw humour strips such as “Professor Bloop” for Knockout. Matthews then commissioned him to draw westerns for Cowboy Comics Library, and when Campion protested that he couldn’t draw horses, Matthews replied “Bloody well learn then!” Campion learnt.
Down the years, he drew for titles such as Battle, Comet, Lion and Sun, working on strips such as “Spellbinder”, “Typhoon Tracy” and many, many others.
Leonard Matthews was an interesting character whose Napoleonic-like machinations had mellowed considerably by the time he (and his one-time secretary and now able-bodied assistant Elizabeth Flower) had visited Berkshire House in Maidenhead. This was during the latter half of 1978 when, on being shown round Purnell Books, managing editor Charles Harvey had come into my office and had made the appropriate introductions.
It was the first time in seventeen years that I’d come face-to-face with The Napoleon of Fleet Street and with a sparkle in his eyes, Leonard’s first words to me had been: “My! Aren’t you nice and tall?”
George Beale: “A small man, he was a keen admirer of Napoleon Bonaparte and, like him, not entirely democratically inclined, but his leadership was tempered with a charismatic quality which quashed resentment. Matthews tended to recruit tall men on to his team.”
Jack Adrian: “That was Leonard all over. A cocky little bantam, he liked to have very tall men as minions, dashing around at his beck and call although, like all monumental egocentrics, he was convinced everyone was plotting against him.”
As far as I can see – now looking back 38 years – there could be only one possible reason for Matthews to have visited Purnell Books in Maidenhead – it was to view (and more importantly) lay his hands onto the stack of already-used Walt Disney artwork.
Purnell Books had the licence to produce new stories using the characters originated by the Disney studios – not only of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, but also the characters from films such as Lady and the Tramp, Dumbo, Bambi, Chip ‘n’ Dale, the cast of characters in the Jungle Book, Peter Pan – and hundreds more. In theory, once used, this original artwork is no longer needed… for in those days, the illustration would have already been colour separated in readiness for being printed in the four reproduction inks of Magenta, Cyan, Yellow and Black. From these ‘repro films’, the work can be used time and time again, and unless the film is scratched of damaged in some way, it will never deteriorate.
The returned artwork therefore had just been stored away in a smallish back room and totally forgotten about. Maybe – just maybe – Leonard Matthews had been in the process of doing a deal with Charles Harvey. I shall come back to this in Part Eleven.
The Walt Disney artwork I had produced was perfect – it had to be, for it was all vetted and given the seal of approval by Sue Williams and Ayse Ulkutay. The first of these beauties was a blue-eyed over-weight blonde with huge helpings of self-esteem and acne in equalling proportions, and the other heralded from Asia’s most western country – Turkey. They were the two senior members of art staff at the UK’s Walt Disney studio, whose offices were housed on the top floor of the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall. I’d had a small number of artists at hand that had included Pete Adby (whose full-time job had been Art Director at Falcon Jigsaws), Keith Mosley (who ran a studio of a dozen artists in the Lake District) and lonesome-but-professional Colin Petty – all of whom whose art had been up to the Disney studio’s highest expectations.
During 1978, Sue Williams had been invited to spend a week or ten days at the Burbank studios but on her second day there, in using a car loaned to her for the duration, she had turned left instead of right on a dual carriageway (thus facing on-coming traffic) and had spent her whole US trip being patched up in a local Burbank hospital.
I met both Leonard and Elizabeth once again a few months later, in April 1979. This was at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair where I regularly had driven out one week earlier than the remainder of the visiting staff so that I might build the Purnell Books exhibition stand. That year, I had chosen to take with me as my co-driver-cum-co-building companion, David Westcott (Purnell Books’ Production Manager).
Apparently (and unknown to me) there had been bets back at Maidenhead as to how long it would take before I had punched David on the nose. We, in fact, never did come to blows and had got on well during the ten days we were together. However, during the construction of a false ceiling, I had indeed inadvertently clonked him one on the bridge of his nose with a 12-foot length of 2 by 2, thus drawing blood which brought about much discussed suspicion when the others had finally arrived in time for the big opening.
It was at Leonard’s suggestion that while David and I were driving back to the UK, we should detour slightly and call in at their sea-hugging apartment on the Italian Riviera coast at San Remo. We hadn’t stopped long – not much more than an hour or so – but it was long enough for Elizabeth to suggest that as I had nothing yet organised for our annual holiday, that perhaps my wife Jenny, the two offspring Rae and Marcus and I would like to make use of their luxurious poolside-side accommodation – an offer that was difficult to refuse.
This happened in August 1979 and was also a time when Dan Lloyd (ex-Eagle Chief Sub Editor) had been in the throes of teaching me the art of astrology (hence the reason behind the bit of mumbo-jumbo being offered above). Unfortunately, on the poolside in Italy, my eyes were divided equally between figures of astrological bodies as set before me in Raphael’s Ephemeris and (much to the disgust of Jenny) the figure of an animated 18-year-old whose lithe body had been clad in an all-revealing black swimsuit.
“You just can’t take your eyes off her, can you?”, my wife had said accusingly. Oh Boy, I can see her now!
Having worked as Art Editor for Purnell Books for the previous eleven years, I again opted to take voluntary redundancy (for it was becoming quite a profitable pastime). The company had found itself about to move halfway across the country for a second time in four years under the directives of Robert Maxwell and I’d felt I’d had more than enough of having our lives disrupted by a certain Bouncing Czech (whose most frequently-quoted quip had been that he was living in the most expensive Council House in the country).
Following on from the marriage of Prince Charles to Diana four years earlier, in the run-up to Christmas each year and alongside an editorial colleague, I designed a specially-commissioned 32-page book for Robert Maxwell whereby the subject matter in every case had been on various members of the Royal Family. There was a book on Diana, Princess of Wales one year; Diana and the Queen came next; then a book on the Royal children and so on and so on. It was often said that Maxwell was hoping for a knighthood.
But despite all that, Purnell’s had changed – almost all of those with whom I had once worked were now gone. Three had died; two others had gone up north to join World Distributors; and the Purnell boss man – Charles Harvey – had become a liability due to his secret drinking (a brand new bottle of vodka a day had lain in the bottom right-hand drawer of his desk). For a while, he’d lost his driving licence and I’d had to step in to transport him back and forth in his BMW between Princes Risborough and Maidenhead. Eventually he was instructed (by the directors of Purnell & Sons) to step down.
By default, a newcomer – who had replaced Michael Thomas when he joined World Distributors – had taken over the reins with the result being that all the fun of working for Purnell Books had just about been flushed down the pan. Apart from saying that he was one of those individuals who truly believes that running down his co-workers behind their backs increased his own popularity, on that note, I shall leave this unpleasant fellow’s name unspoken, for that is a story for another time.
In Part Ten, a phone-call out of the blue brings about a closer relationship with the one man I had once feared the most…
Acknowledgments to David Slinn and to Darren Evens of Eagle Times for producing certain scans as used in this article.
• Steve Holland has a number of articles detailing work by Geoff Campion on the excellent Bear Alley blog
• The Illustration Art Gallery features a number of Geoff Campion artworks
• An archive of a site on British Comic Art on the Internet Archive includes some of the information published about Geoff and further examples of his work
More Eagle Daze
Roger explores the beginnings of the destruction of the Eagle…
The comic magazine Top Spot, published in 1958, was Matthews’ brainchild – but it was the male counterpart of an already existing magazine and it was a title that faced plenty of problems as it ran its course before merging with Film Fun after just 58 issues…
Roger outlines how Matthews jealousy almost destroyed the Eagle…
Roger reveals a possible mole working on the Eagle and trouble behind the scenes on Girl…
How a Marks & Spencer Floor Detective Became Managing Editor of Eagle…
Roger reveals how Dan Dare co-creator Frank Hampson was thorn in Leonard Matthews side…
Trouble at the top for ‘The Management”, the troubled debut of Boys’ World – and the demise of Ranger
On the creation of Martspress, the company that would publish TV21 in its later, cheaper incarnation…
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, Roger recalls how Men Only was given a new lease of life – and Leonard Matthews’ ignorance of Star Wars…
A phone-call out of the blue brings about a closer relationship with the one man Roger had once feared the most…
A search for elusive promotional film stills end in the middle of nowhere in a one horse town without a horse – and Eagle‘s production methods are recalled
Roger clarifies points made in past chapters, looks back on Leonard Matthews career – and sums up his contribution to British comics – and publishing in general…
This article, which is being published in a total of 12 parts, has been put together using material from Leonard Matthews’ obituary as written by George Beal for the Independent newspaper dated Friday, 5th December 1997; also taken from the Independent newspaper dated Sunday, 23rd October 2011 is a piece authored by Jack Adrian (a.k.a. Christopher Lowder); Living with Eagles compiled and written by Sally Morris and Jan Hallwood (particularly pages 219 to 222); David Slinn’s research notes during 2005 in connection with the authoring of Alastair Crompton’s Tomorrow Revisited and from Brian Woodford’s association with Matthews at the Amalgamated Press between 1955 and 1962. Entries also come from both Wikipedia and from the internet under the heading Fleetway Publications.
Further pieces have been taken from Eagle Times as and where identified; the blog-spots of Michael Moorcock’s Miscellany (particularly 9th and 10th April 2013) and Lew Stringer’s Blimey! where he refers to the Top Spot magazine. The remainder is from my own personal association with Leonard Matthews between the years of 1978 and 1991.