Alice Playing Cards - art by Jesus Blasco

WebFind: Alice in Wonderland Playing Cards by Jesus Blasco

British comic fans will be familiar with the name Jesus Blasco, an artist whose distinctive style thrilled many on strips such as “The Steel Claw” for Valiant and 2000AD’s “Bill Savage” – but he was a dab hand at lighter subjects, too, such as Alice in Wonderland.

Alice Playing Cards - art by Jesus BlascoAlice Playing Cards - art by Jesus Blasco

I came across these playing cards quite by chance on eBay, sold in the UK by the Pink Cat Shop, but produced by an Italian company, Lo Scarabeo, who also make specialist tarot decks and much more.

Their whole range looks a delight, but I wonder if Look and Learn Limited know about them, since the cards are based on art for a version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland originally drawn by Jesus Blasco back in 1970, for the much-admired Once Upon a Time magazine, which they own.

(Unless, of course, Blasco, aided by his talented family, redrew the art, separate to his comics commission).

Once Upon a Time No.89 - with a cover of Alice by Jesus Blasco
Once Upon a Time No.89 – with a cover of Alice by Jesus Blasco

"Alice In Wonderland" for Once Upon a Time - art by Jesus Blasco"Alice In Wonderland" for Once Upon a Time - art by Jesus BlascoOnce Upon a Time No.97 - with a cover of Alice by Jesus Blasco

As comics archivist Philip Rushton has previously noted in a long-running discussion on ComicsUK, the art clearly shows he was just as much at home with nursery subjects like “Alice in Wonderland” (not to mention “Gulliver’s Travels” and “The Water Babies”).

The Lo Scarabeo Playing Cards are an inspired secondary use of comic art, and it’s a very pretty deck for both collectors and players.

Once Upon a Time for ran at least 163 issues first appearing in February 1969 and running until April 1972, before merging into the Disneyland magazine (No. 62, cover dated 29th April 1972).

First published in 1865, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known by his pseudonym of Lewis Carroll), is considered one of the masterpieces of children’s literature, as its follow up, Through the Looking-Glass. Blasco’s take on Alice wasn’t the first in British children’s comics: for example, Tiny Tots ran a version in 1958, the artist sadly uncredited – but it may be Pat Nicolle.

Alice in Wonderland for Tiny Tots, published in 1957 - the art possibly by Pat Nicolle
Alice in Wonderland for Tiny Tots, published in 1957 – the art possibly by Pat Nicolle

Phillip Mendoza also drew Alice illustrations, for the magazine Treasure, both “Wonderland” and “Looking Glass”, his Alice visiting Carroll’s works as a contemporary-looking youngster.

Alice in Winderland by Philip Mendoza, for Treasure
Alice in Winderland by Philip Mendoza, for Treasure

Alice in Winderland by Philip Mendoza, for TreasureAlice Through the Looking Glass - art by Phllip Mendoza, for Treasure

Alice Through the Looking Glass - art by Phllip Mendoza, for Treasure
Alice Through the Looking Glass – art by Phllip Mendoza, for Treasure

Ron Embleton also illustrated Alice, when her adventures in Wonderland were serialised in the educational magazine World of Wonder.

The Walrus and the Carpenter by Ron Embleton, from "Alice in Wonderland"
The Walrus and the Carpenter by Ron Embleton, from “Alice in Wonderland”

Pembrokeshire-based UK stockist the Pink Cat Shop describes itself as a “a labyrinth of stylish, crazy, highly unusual gifts for guys, girls and kids; a houseful of bath, bed, bar, lounge, garden and kitchen madness; an array of jokes, sex, zombies, blasphemy and voodoo; wild decor, aprons, fridge magnets, party and smoking equipment, fab accessories.”

The March Hare from Alice in Wonderland by Philip Mendoza
The March Hare from Alice in Wonderland by Philip Mendoza

In fact, “Everything left field, delightful, original and bizarre, you don’t need but have to have…” I think many downthetubes will feel it’s worth checking out!

• Alice in Wonderland Playing Cards are available in the UK from the Pink Cat Shop on eBay here | Pink Cat Shop: www.pinkcatshop.com

The Book Palace has a selection of Philip Mendoza’s work on Alice in Wonderland for sale here

• Over on Bear Alley, Steve Holland has an article on Blasco’s first nursery-artwork for a British publisher: ‘The Story of the Babes in the Wood‘, in Playhour (March/April, 1957). He certainly knew how to illustrate a fairy-tale for young readers

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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