We’re sorry to report the passing of comic artist and illustrator Brian Walker, artist on many memorable humour strips for DC Thomson and IPC/ Fleetway. He was 94.
Brian had suffered from Alzheimer’s, a condition which, sadly, had eventually forced his retirement.
His daughter Jo Burgess has paid tribute to the cartoonist and illustrator in The Guardian, noting he was known for “being quick, versatile and brilliantly effective at delivering on his brief, he was always much in demand.
“As result he reckoned to have drawn 5,400 pages worth of comic strips and illustrations by the time he retired in 2009,” she says.
Over 50 years, Brian’s work appeared in comics such as Beano, The Dandy, and Whizzer and Chips, in humour-led publications such as Punch, serious magazines such as The Countryman, and in more than 80 books.
Born in Somerset in 1926, Brian enrolled in a correspondence art course with Pitman’s Press aged 14, and joined the Bristol Evening World aged 16, where he drew cartoons and war maps. Serving in the RAF from 1944 to 1947, he went on to study at the West of England College of Art and won a Punch scholarship.
His comics career began in the 1950s with cartoons for Cycling Weekly, followed by work for magazines such as Farmers Weekly and Punch, moving on to drawing comics in the 1960s, drawing over 700 pages of Dennis the Menace rival “Smasher” for The Dandy, first drawn by Hugh Morren,
He also took on “I-Spy” for Sparky (a character most associated with Les Barton, who passed in 2008), drawing it for three years, drew “Spike”, the masthead character for the eponymous comic launched in 1983 by DC Thomson, “Pop, Dick, and Harry” for The Beezer.
Also working for IPC from 1970, he drew strips such as “Three Story Stan” and “Wizards Anonymous” for Whizzer and Chips, and over 500 pages, over six years, of “Scream Inn” for Fleetway, which first appeared in Shiver and Shake in 1973, running there for 79 issues, before moving to Whoopee the following year.
In a feature on the development of “Scream Inn” for his Kazoop! Blog, Irmantas Povilaika notes that in an interview for the fanzine, Golden Fun, (Winter 1979) Brian declared “Scream Inn” his major success at IPC – and also the most rewarding one. Praising editor Bob Paynter for a good piece of editorial planning, tailoring the strip’s formula to suit the artist’s strong points, (the ability to create atmosphere, architectural settings, organise a crowd of characters visually, cope with complicated action effects, etc.), Brian recalled that before he started it he was given a general formula upon which he could build. There had to be an Innkeeper and a family of ghosts and there had to be an old inn setting, and each week somebody had to try and stay in the haunted bedroom for a prize of a million pounds and each week they got chucked out – and the rest was left to the illustrator.
“Brian Walker told the interviewer he evolved all the characters and the setting from that outline,” Irmantas notes. “He also designed the Scream Inn itself – doing a near architectural drawing of it so he could get the whole setting right all the time. In addition to the entrance hall and the Haunted Bedroom upstairs, there was a torture chamber, a kitchen and Spooks’ Common Room where resident ghosts spent their leisure time doing jigsaw puzzles, playing pool or ping pong (using shrunken skulls for balls).”
The first three episodes of the strip were written by Roy Davies, succeeded by Brian’s friend and near neighbour, fellow cartoonist Cliff Brown, and was so popular it was licensed as a board game by Denys Fisher, released in 1974.
Brian’s other IPC credits also included “The Ghost Train” for Whoopee, “Misery Buckets” “Mike’s Bike” for Jackpot, and “Boxatricks” for Buster.
Later comic credits also include VIZ, creating “Goldfish Boy” and also drawing “Johnny Fartpants”, and provided strips such as “Trouble in Sweetball Alley” for Ron Holland’s sadly short-lived SCOOPS project.
Working from his home Mendip Hills of Somerset, he also drew the newspaper strip “Little ‘Uns” for the Bristol Evening Post, and illustrated countless articles and short stories for The Countryman, a magazine it was rare for him not to feature in from the 1970s onwards.
During his career he also illustrated several books, such as Landscape With Solitary Figure by Colin Willock (1966 re-published in 1980), How To Be a Motorist and Stay Happy by George Haines (1967), and the first edition of A Countryman’s Lot by Max Hardcastle, published in 1990.
Beyond comics, Brian was a keen cyclist, learned to play tuba from Acker Bilk and played with The Wurzels.
Brian is survived by his wife, Rosemary (nee Beer), a laboratory assistant, who he married in 1961, his two daughters, Jo and Sarah, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Our sympathies to family and friends at this time.
In 1970, Brian Walker took over the artwork from Les Barton on “I-Spy”, a long-running strip in Sparky. I-Spy was clearly an inspiration for the later Inspector Gadget, with a hat and overcoat filled with extraordinary crime-fighting devices. Walker’s page designs and vibrant, kinetic artwork were really ahead of their time in British comics. The Cartoon Museum in London is lucky to have these original A2 artwork for a two-page episode…