We’re sorry to report the passing of Eisner Award-winning Scottish comic artist Jim Baikie, perhaps best known to many downthetubes readers as co-creator of 2000AD’s alien-on-the-run, Skizz. He enjoyed a career in comics that began with work for girls titles in the 1960s that would go on to encompass “Charlie’s Angels” and “Terrahawks” for Look-In, 2000AD and superhero work in the United States. He was also a much in demand artist beyond the comics medium.
Jim was both born and lived in the Orkney Islands (moving back to the islands in 1970), was 77. His passing has come as a shock to his many friends and fans.
In 1991 when he was 51, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Initially the symptoms were mild enough that he could continue to work until 2004, after which his condition made it impossible to do so. He died peacefully from complications due to the disease.
“We have lost not only a great artist but a good and gentle man,” commented artist Rob Moran, who also lives there.
“Jim excelled in drawing beautiful and or pretty women,” he notes, “which is not surprising since he adored women and with five daughters and a wife lived in a housefull of them.
“It was largely due to Jim and Wendy’s kindness we moved to Orkney. He was a great artist, my friend and I will miss him. He was a sweet, lovely, gentle man.”
While perhaps best known perhaps for his work with Alan Moore on the 2000AD strip “Skizz”, as well as many memorable “Judge Dredd” strips, Jim had a long and varied career as an artist in comics. Born in 1940, he was inspired by comics from an early age, including Hogarth’s Tarzan and humour strips such as Gasoline Alley.
I just read and consumed everything that came in come form,” he told Comic Book Artist back in 2003, ” because we didn’t have television in those days, and comics were the pictorial medium of choice.
Encouraged by his father, he sold his first work, aged just 14, to Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine. a short-lived title that owed its existence to the success of Scion’s paperback-book line, which included many sf novels written by John Russell Fearn and published as by Vargo Statten.
Disappointed when the commissions didn’t start rilling in after this early success, Jim recalls he joined the Royal Air Force aged 16, because he’d heard the local RAF Training Station “had a cinema that showed actual CinemaScope movies.”
He served with the RAF between 1956-63, initially stationed at RAF Cosford, in Shropshire, for part of his service, then was sent to Cyprus, which stymied his chances of working at DC Thomson despite a job offer on his RAF release. In Cyprus, he worked as a cartoonist on a local newspaper as well as playing in bands and working on the base magazine – doing much of the work on the title alongside a Hungarian officer.
“I have to say Cyprus was good for me,” he told Comic Book Artist. “I got a part time job as a cartoonist with a local Greek newspaper and an evening job as a bass player in a rock and roll band, from which I made enough cash to fly home, get married and bring Wendy back with me to Cyprus.
On leaving the RAF he initially worked for the Morgan-Grampian studio in London in 1964 as an artist. He served as an illustrator for the National Savings Committee in 1965-66.
Jim broke into the comics industry with work for the girls title Valentine in 1966, drawing bio strips that, in 1968 included bands such as The Small Faces and The Herd.
Outside of comics, Jim was a member of various bands, playing bass in, initially The Whirlwinds (formed in Cyprus during his RAF service, and not to be confused with a band of the same name formed by 10CC guitarist Graham Gouldman), the R&B band Jaymes Fenda & the Vulcans, who reached the semi-finals of TV talent show Ready Steady Win, releasing one single, “Mistletoe Love” in 1964 and supported The Kinks; and, in the 1970s and 80s, Orkney bands such as Compass and Gerbil.
Jim’s work on girls comics was extensive, and fellow artist David Roach has detailed many of the titles Jim worked on during his career which we will publish separately soon.
He also worked on numerous annuals, for example providing illustrations, including the cover, for the 1969 TV Tornado annual, and work for the 1970 annual. He also worked on the Dan Dare, Doctor Who and Lady Penelope annuals (drawing “The Monkees” and “Spectrum” strips for the latter).
He also drew “The Monkees” for the Lady Penelope comic, taking over from Harry Lindfield.
In the 1970s, his strip work included “Gymnast Jinty” for June and Schoolfriend, and strips for and TV21 & Joe 90, including a brief stint on “Star Trek“.
He began drawing strips for the weekly girls comic Jinty starting in 1974 with “Left-Out Linda” in 1974. As Steve Holland notes in his obituary on Bear Alley, Jim was one of the leading artists for the comic in the late 1970s, his strips ranging from the bizarre “Spell of the Spinning Wheel” (sports meets horror, written by Alison Mary Fitt) and the ecological SF of “The Forbidden Garden”. He also drew the fondly-remembered “Fran’ll Fix It”, as well as drawing strips for Sandie and Tammy.
For the TV-inspired weekly comic Look-In, his work included “Charlie’s Angels”, “CHiPS”, “The Fall Guy” and Gerry Anderson’s “Terrahawks”.
In the 1980s, Baikie drew “The Twilight World” for Dez Skinn’s anthology title Warrior, as well as episodes of “Laser Eraser and Pressbutton”.
He was, perhaps, Alan Moore‘s longest-serving collaborator, from 2000AD’s “Skizz”, a wonderful E.T.-inspired alien on Earth story set in Birmingham, first published in 1983, to the end of Tomorrow Stories for ABC Comics, where he co-created First American.
Baikie was so attached Skizz that he went on to both write and illustrate “Skizz II” and “Skizz III” for 2000AD. Rebellion published The Complete Skizz earlier this year.
He also illustrated “New Statesmen” for Crisis, written by John Smith and “Doomlord” and “Bloodfang” for the modern Eagle.
In the United States his work includes Batman, Blackmask, Deathblow, Electric Warrior, Teen Titans, The Spectre, Vigilante, the adaptation of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed and The Victorian for Penny Farthing Press.
He also painted the mini-series Star Wars: Empire’s End (written by Tom Veitch) for Dark Horse Comics.
Alongside his better known work, there are some lesser known pieces, such as a double page adventure-style strip, “Saved from the North Sea!” for Melvin’s Money Fun No.1, published by the Department of National Savings, an eight-page title intended to encourage children to set up an account.
(His career might perhaps be considered to have come full circle for this one off strip, given his early work the National Savings Committee).
His work was regularly exhibited and he won numerous awards and plenty of deserved accolades for his work, including the SSI (Society of Strip Illustrators) Award for “Best British Adventure Artist” in 1983 and an Eisner Award for Tomorrow Stories in 2000.
Jim Baikie: Comics Community Tributes
Numerous creators have praised both Jim and his work online after learning of his passing. Here are just a few of the tributes.
“I first had the pleasure of working with Jim Baikie when he agreed to be the artist/creator of ‘Skizz’ — one of the few 2000AD strips set in the present day,” former Tharg Steve MacManus told downthetubes. “Jim came recommended by ‘Skizz’ writer/creator Alan Moore.
“Jim’s art on ‘Skizz/ showed him to be a master of his craft, displaying effortless figure work alongside a delightful range of varied facial expressions that truly made his characters come to life the page. As such, it was always a nice change of pace to encounters his oh so human characters, sandwiched as they were between 2000AD’s more prevalent unsmiling, stern-faced anti-heroes.
“Later, Jim collaborated with John Smith on ‘The New Statesmen’ strip for Crisis. The fact that the strip had a cast of fifty one super heroes, each needing to be individually designed, would have daunted many a fellow artist. But Jim approached the task with relish and I’ve often thought the series contains some of his finest work.”
My memories of Jim Baikie go back to TV Century 21 and, especially, his lively, if brief, tenure on ‘The Monkees’ for Lady Penelope,” artist David Slinn told downthetubes, “followed, a while later, by his also taking over Harry Lindfield’s, ‘Star Trek’, on TV21 & Joe 90.
“Over subsequent years, together with Sandy Calder and Cam Kennedy, he would travel down for some of the more significant Society of Strip Illustration gatherings – occasionally, accompanied by Wendy. They were always excellent company, not to say, also a great deal of fun. In addition, he is especially remembered at Look-in, along with Barrie Mitchell and Phil Gascoine, as a sort of interchangeable trio of talent capable of swiftly turning around whatever was asked of them.”
“He had an accomplished style and was one of those artists who could draw anything and make it look natural,” notes fellow artist Lew Stringer. “Whether the scenes required action scenes or quiet character pieces, Jim could master it and deliver the goods.”
“I remember him as a gentle giant, who made me laugh a lot,” notes writer Peter Hogan.
“I was so sorry to hear last night about the death of my fellow 2000AD artist,” says David Roach. “Jim and I lived at opposite ends of the country so we never actually met but we would often chat on the phone; long, rambling discussions about comics and art which I would fruitlessly try to re-direct to the subjerct at hand, but there was no reining him in, Jim went wherever he wanted to go!
“He’s best known for strips like ‘Skizz’, ‘New Statesman’ and ‘Judge Dredd’, but for a lot of his career he was essentially a girls comic artist and I think he carried that quality with him throughout his many assignments. A few years ago, I put together an index of his many strips which I know he was really pleased to see since he’d forgotten about so many of them, strips that appeared in titles such as Valentine, Lady Penelope, Jinty, Judy, Go-Girl, June and Schoolfriend, Star Love, Sandie and Tammy.
“As my frequent collaborator Alan Grant often said, the girls titles were particularly demanding, there was no hiding behind flashy layouts and glossy techniques, it was all about solid drawing, storytelling, observation and sensitivity. Jim quickly became one of the very best artists in the genre.
“These days it’s his stints on 2000AD, Warrior, Look-In and Star Trek which the fans are most likely to celebrate, understandably so, but I know he was very proud of his time drawing for girls. A great artist and a great chap. Here’s to you Jim.”
“Sad to hear of the passing of the wonderful Jim Baikie,” says artist Duncan Fegredo. “An amazing artist and a generous man, he was very helpful when I did my first pro comics, a guest episode of his and John Smith’s ‘New Statesmen’. As grounded as he was skilled, he’ll be missed.”
“I only knew Jim Baikie a little, back in the ’80s, and hired him for one job, which was just lovely,” US editor and writer Bob Greenberger recalls. “I really enjoyed his work on Electric Warrior. I am really sorry to hear of his passing.”
Jim’s influence on British comics and many comic creators extends well beyond those he worked with directly. Online tributes are scattered with instances of his support and offered guidance to aspiring creators – and those inspired by his work.
“He was one of the first comic artists whose work I knew by sight as a kid,” enthuses indie comics writer Dan Whitehead. “From Look-In through to 2000AD and Crisis, his art was a constant in my life from infant school through to college. So sorry to hear of his passing, but what a legacy…”
“If I had to pick one shorter piece to recommend, it’d probably be the ‘Hitman’ serial in Dredd. Dredd spends the best part of it in a hospital bed, and Baikie made us feel every drop of weariness in his old bones. Meanwhile, the titular Hitman – reduced mostly to a smile peeping out from cropped panels – oozed menace as he bantered with a hapless, doomed psychiatrist. A Wagnerian touch – others might have played it for laughs, but Baikie made it frightening.
“But really, anything with his name on it will deliver you some top-notch art.”
All of us here at downthetubes would like to extend our sympathies to Jim’s family and friends at this sad time. We will post further appreciations in coming days.
• Jim Baikie, born 28th February 1940, died 29th December 2017. He is survived by his wife, Wendy, children Jacqueline, Jane, Vanessa, Caitrian and Ellen, twelve grandchildren and two great-grandchildren
My thanks to Rob Moran, Colin Noble, David Hathaway Price, David Roach, Lew Stringer, Shaqui Le Vesconte and others for their help with this tributeAll art © respective publishers