Following the passing of one of Britain’s best-loved and most influential comic artists, Mike Noble, who died last moth, Norman Boyd turned his attention to some of his lesser known, earlier work for the long-running adventure magazine Wide World…
I knew Mike Noble, having first met him on 27th July 2002 – and wondered how I could add anything to what others have said following his death.
Born in 1931, Mike will be best remembered for his black and white and colour comic strip work, particularly for the weekly comics TV Century 21 and Look-In, but his work extended well beyond that. A recent query from fellow comics archivist Shaqui le Vesconte, who has done so much to pin down details of Gerry Anderson’s characters in comics, led to me thinking how I could share Mike’s work in Wide World.
Wide World began with the slogan “the magazine for everybody” but soon turned into “the true adventure magazine for men”. It was launched by George Newnes in 1898, and opined how the adventures presented are examples of how truth can be stranger than fiction. In the 1950s, it featured superb illustrations by the likes of Langhammer, Clive Upton, Gordon Davies, A. E. Batchelor and many others. However the reproduction left a lot to be desired, with artwork being cropped and published in half-tone, in black and white.
The “soul” of Wide World for most of its life was long-time editor Horace Pitt-Kethley, a man of great humour and intelligence, who introduced the “Wide World Brotherhood” in 1949, which offered its members badges and stickers, penfriends and safe havens in far-off places. According to living relative Fiona Pitt-Kethley, he ran the Wide World on a shoe-string budget and the vast majority of the stories were contributed free by non-writers, which he would then rewrite into his own style.
“My father claimed Vic was totally untravelled and never left England,” she notes. “You will find other articles by him in the Strand Magazine… There was one piece on Motoring in Scotland which amused my father who said: “He couldn’t drive and he hadn’t been to Scotland!”
The magazine, like many others of the late 1950s and early 1960s moved from illustration to the use of photographs, which limited the representations that could appear. It survived until 1965, but by then was a pale shadow of its former self.
I, like many others, interviewed Mike and the version as it was published appeared in True Brit back in 2004, edited by George Khoury. But Mike made no mention of Wide World, which I’d previously visited because of Frank Bellamy and Raymond Sheppard, where I have previously written about the magazine in general terms.
I’m presenting here Mike’s artwork for Wide World as it appeared in the magazine during 1962. I have made no extensive search so do not claim this as an exhaustive list and will reproduce others from as far back as I have found (May 1957) on StandBy4Action in due course.
When I excitedly discovered a treasure trove of Mike’s artwork and sent him copies with a note, he replied:
“It was kind of you to unearth them – my murky past coming back to haunt me.”
I wish now I’d asked what he meant, but hope you enjoy this small tribute to Mike.
Rest in peace, my friend, and thanks for so many happy memories.
• This article first appeared on Norman’s own blog, StandBy4Action and is represented here with his kind permission. Norman is also the author of the authoritative site about artist Frank Bellamy, the Frank Bellamy – The Checklist, which resides at frankbellamy.co.uk; and the Raymond Sheppard Blog at raymondsheppard.blogspot.com
• For more about Wide World, check out this article by Greg Ray on Collecting Books and Magazines, which includes memories of its editor and comments from some of its contributors
Obituaries for Mike Noble
•Wikipedia page listing most of Mike’s known work
• Boyd, Norman, 2004, in Khoury, George, ed. True Brit: A Celebration of the Great Comic Book Artists of the UK. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. pp. 150–155 – available in digital format here. (The e-format contains full colour and additional pages compared to the out of print version)