We’re sorry to report the death of comic artist Bill Mevin, who passed yesterday, aged 97. Perhaps best known for his work on TV Comic‘s “Doctor Who” strip and his work on later episodes of “The Perishers” with Maurice Dodd for the Daily Mirror, he had been in hospital for a while.
“Bill was as sharp as a tack right up to the end, bless him,” noted Vworp! Vworp! magazine’s Colin Brockhurst on Facebook, also revealing that an interview with the veteran creator will appear in the next issue of the Doctor Who comics-focused publication.
Born in 1922, Wilfred D ‘Bill’ Mevin attended the Liverpool School of Art. He subsequently went on to work for Gaumont British in the 1940s as an animator, and when when GB-Animation closed he worked on Batchelor and Halas’s full-length Animal Farm, released in 1954, working alongside comic artists such Maurice Dodd, Reginald Parlett and Harold Whitaker. It was the first full-length feature animation to be made in Britain – and part financed by the CIA as part of their campaign against Stalinism.
He joined the Sunday Chronicle as a topical cartoonist when Batchelor and Halas also closed its doors, working for them until the paper was taken over, and over a career that spanned several decades, drew strips for a variety of comics such as Eagle Extra, Express Weekly (drawing “Wee Sporty”), Pippin and TV Comic, drawing strips for the latter, initially published by Lord Beaverbrook and then by Polystyle Publications, such as 1970s episodes of “Barney Bear” (taking over from Bill Titcombe), “Bugs Bunny”, “Droopy”, “Lenny the Lion”, a strip centred on the puppet sidekick of ventriloquist Terry Hall, “Popeye”, “Space Patrol”, a terrific run on Gerry Anderson’s “Supercar”, “World Cup Willie”, based on the 1966 FIFA World Cup mascot, and, of course, “Doctor Who”, taking over from Neville Main.
Bill’s work on “Supercar” began on TV Comic in 1961, possibly prompted by the appearance of Supercar in one of a colour “Lenny the Lion” strip. Shaquille le Vesconte has previously noted Mevin returned the characters to their caricatured glory, instilling a lively cartoon movement that was absent in the series. The only time this was at odds in the strip was when the regulars would meet the more realistically depicted guest characters. “But this could be forgiven as the art was far more dynamic, and struck a fine balance between the drama and humour of the scripts,” Shaquille commented on his Complete Gerry Anderson Comic History site. “Part of this additional humour and characterisation may have been due to Mevin himself, as he was already writing (as well as drawing) Lenny the Lion, and collaborated with writer Alan Fennell on some of the story ideas.
Whereas most artists had only a professional interest in drawing strips, Bill Mevin was actually a long-time friend of the composer of the music for Supercar and other Gerry Anderson series, Barry Gray, as they had met in the RAF while serving in India. Shaquille le Vesconte noted Bill Mevin and Barry Gray both shared musical and artistic interests, and it was their mutual friendship which kept Mevin interested in Supercar – making him one of the more enduring of artists on any strip, clocking up three years straight – including the annuals and specials.
Bill remained proud of his six-month stint on “Doctor Who” for TV Comic throughout his life, returning to the strip to create two covers for Marvel UK’s Doctor Who Classic Comics (Issues 7 and 15) and also provided the cover for Paul Scoones limited edition hardback of his excellent The Comic Strip Companion.
His work for the young children’s title Pippin included “Bill and Ben, The Flowerpot Men”, “The Herbs”, “Morph” and “Pogle’s Wood”, among others, and “Happy Families” for Whizzer & Chips in the 1970s and 1980s.
When work in comics began to founder in the 1980s and 1990s he returned to working for newspapers, drawing the Dallas and Dynasty-spoofing strip called “The Soapremes” in 1986, then working with Maurice Dodd on “The Perishers” for the Daily Mirror from 1992, taking over from Dennis Collins, until the strip ended after Dodds death on 31st December 2005.
In retirement, Bill continued to draw pictures for Perishers fans and charity auctions, and wrote a novel for Young Adults, Peggy, about a flying pony, published by Troubador – a descendent of Pegasus – who is given to a young girl by Zeus himself.
“Years ago I provided an illustration of a jockey to Horse and Hounds, and reading through the printed magazine was inspired by teenagers’ love of ponies,” Bill said of the book. “I forgot all about it until I found the issue this year – which led me to write Peggy!” He also took inspiration from Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet.
“I’m sorry to learn of Bill Mevin’s passing,” commented author Paul Scoones. “Mevin deserves recognition as one of the pioneering creators of the Doctor Who comic strip. He was the first to illustrate the weekly strip in full colour and as double-page landscape spreads.
“On a personal level, I owe Mevin a debt of gratitude for painting the cover of limited edition hardback of The Comic Strip Companion.”
downthetubes extends sympathies to family and friends on his passing, another great of comics we have lost in 2019.
• Bill Mevin is one of several comics creators interviewed on a special release of the Doctor Who story The Time Meddler, released 4th February 2008
With thanks to Colin Brockhurst for Bill’s correct full name and Paul Scoones