Author, comics editor and writer Barrie Tomlinson – perhaps best known for his work editing Tiger and Roy of the Rovers – has teased some work by the brilliant artist Mike Western, commissioned for Young Elite, an abandoned custom comic project.
“In the early 1990s, the airline Dan-Air asked me to produce a children’s comic to give way on their flights,” Barrie explained on Twitter, posting the dummy cover he put together, featuring art by Alan Burrows.
“Unfortunately, the airline went out of business before the comic could be produced,” he explained.
“One of the stories was going to be drawn by the great Mike Western.”
Started in 1953 with a single aircraft, Dan-Air (Dan Air Services Limited) began jet operations in 1966. It has become Britain’s largest independent airline by the mid-1970s, both in terms of passengers carried and fleet size, operating the country’s largest charter fleet. But by the early 1990s, the company faced plenty of competition, and was saddled with an ageing fleet. Following unsuccessful attempts to merge Dan-Air with a competitor, the ailing airline was sold to British Airways in 1992 for the nominal sum of £1.
Mike Western, who died in 2008, was one of the giants of British comics. His credits, spanning decades of British comics, included “The Wild Wonders” for Valiant; “The Leopard of Lime Street” for Buster; “Darkie’s Mob”, “HMS Nightshade” and “The Sarge” for Battle and many, many more fantastic strips.
In 2005, a special issue of the fanzine Eagle Flies Again celebrated the work of this great artist to mark his 80th birthday. downthetubes has an online, updated version of one of the features of the issue here, and tributes and memories from British comics creators and downthetubes readers to Mike appear on this page.
Coincidentally, British Airways had its own comics hero in the late 1970s and 80s – “Jet Jason”, a strip drawn by Dave Gibbons, that Richard Sheaf documented here for downthetubes.