Comic Creator Spotlight: Comic Artist Peter Foster

Ballantyne Volume One, by Jame H. Kemsley Snr. & Peter Foster
Ballantyne Volume One, by Jame H. Kemsley & Peter Foster

I was delighted to find a wonderful profile of Australian comic artist Peter Foster online recently, whose credits for British comics include work for both IPC and DC Thomson, including strips for Commando, Champ, The Crunch and many more.

Last year, we posted a shout out for information on a number of “Mystery” comic artists, prompted by an appeal from comics artist and archivist David Roach and following up on the “Comic Jam Symposium” organised by collector Peter Hansen (you can read the post here). Peter was one of the artists whose name was mentioned in response to the appeal.

Prompted by correspondence with London-based radio/podcast producer Daniel Ruiz Tizon, I’ve now discovered Australian blogger Nat Karmicheal, who runs the publishing imprint comicoz.com, not only picked up on the article but tracked Peter down, posting this terrific profile.

The artist, whose more recent comic work, including the Ballantyne series published in Australia, recalls his time in working in comics while based in the UK for some 20 months in the 1970s with much enthusiasm.

The opening page of "Billy the Cat" from Buddy No. 8, published in 1981 © DC Thomson Media
The opening page of “Billy the Cat” from Buddy No. 8, published in 1981 © DC Thomson Media. Peter’s memories of working on the strip, and problems with Letratone, feature here on a dedicated Facebook group

Born in Caulfield, Victoria on 18th May 1931, Peter was an art teacher at De La Salle College in Melbourne, and became a professional comic book artist after moving to England in 1978, where he stayed until 1980. Initially working on Hotspur, his many credits for DC Thomson include “Billy the Cat” and “Tuffy” for Buddy, “Crag” and “We Are United” for Champ, “The Mill Street Mob” for The Crunch and “Bleak Street Bunch” for Spike. He also drew some strips for IPC, including a one-off “Johnny Red” story for the 1979 Battle Holiday Special.

He also recalls drawing strips for girls comics, including “Nutmeg and Fritz” for Judy, a sequel to two previous stories drawn by Andy Tew, ” The Horse With a Mind of its Own” and “Nutmeg at the Olympic Games”.

The opening spread of "We Are United" from Champ No. 1, launched in February 1984. Peter recalls DC Thomson were impressed with his test pages and It ended up being the longest run of any of the strips he worked on, but it's not a strip he remembers fondly. "It meant I soon ran out of new ways of presenting football action," he recalled. "I fought to prevent boredom but not always with any great success because I was only repeating myself."  "The very first opening was about the whole team and the support people. I therefore had to invent a huge number of characters. Unbeknownst to me, the second script was about the sacking of about a third of the team and the building up of a new group. A large number of the new team had to be re-invented. I felt my first effort had gone to waste. Had I known that was going to happen I'd have not tried to be so creative."
The opening spread of “We Are United” from Champ No. 1, launched in February 1984. Peter recalls DC Thomson were impressed with his test pages and It ended up being the longest run of any of the strips he worked on, but it’s not a strip he remembers fondly. “It meant I soon ran out of new ways of presenting football action,” he recalls. “I fought to prevent boredom but not always with any great success because I was only repeating myself. The very first opening was about the whole team and the support people. I therefore had to invent a huge number of characters. Unbeknownst to me, the second script was about the sacking of about a third of the team and the building up of a new group. A large number of the new team had to be re-invented. I felt my first effort had gone to waste. Had I known that was going to happen I’d have not tried to be so creative.”
While the bulk of Peter Foster's career in the UK was for DC Thomson, he draw some strips for IPC, most notably an eight-page "Johnny Red" story for the 1979 Battle Holiday Special. Peter was the third artist to depict the adventures of Johnny Red, after original artist Joe Colquhoun and his successor John Cooper. For the grey tones on this strip, Peter used grey paint which he later lamented would have been easier to achieve with watered down ink.
While the bulk of Peter Foster’s career in the UK was for DC Thomson, he draw some strips for IPC, most notably an eight-page “Johnny Red” story for the 1979 Battle Holiday Special. Peter was the third artist to depict the adventures of Johnny Red, after original artist Joe Colquhoun and his successor John Cooper. For the grey tones on this strip, Peter used grey paint which he later lamented would have been easier to achieve with watered down ink.

On his return to Australia, he continued to work on strips for DC Thomson titles, producing over a dozen Commando and a similar amount of Football Picture Library stories. Miraculously, it’s noted here on the Pikitia Press blog, no artwork – estimated to have run to some 5000 pages – was lost in transit and only one script failed to turn up.

Peter also worked with the recently-passed James H. Kemsley Snr, father of “Ginger Meggs” cartoonist the late James L. Kemsley, on the “Ballantyne” strip for the Sydney Sunday Sun-Herald during the 1990s, since re-issued by Pikitia Press, who also published Peter’s update of the golden age Australian superhero, The Eagle, in Return of the Night Eagle

The Return of the Night Eagle by Peter Foster
The Return of the Night Eagle by Peter Foster
Art by Peter Foster for an unpublished story
The Comic Strip Book by Peter Foster

He also wrote The Comic Strip Book, published by Scholastic in 1995, which is full of ideas and hints for creating comic strips, and has also drawn humour strips such as “Local Guvmint and Captain Lamplight“, written by James H. Kemsley Snr.

A new edition of Peter’s adaption of the Australian literary classic, For The Term of His Natural Life, first published in 1986, was released in 2012, again by Pikitia Press. Expanded to 64 pages, this edition is in full colour, and includes background material and a foreword by Marcus Clarke scholar Laurie Hergenhan.

Proving a creator of many talents, in 2005 he composed the music for a musical, Call of Guadalupe, a musical in collaboration with lyricist John Lee. Originally performed in 2005, Call of Guadalupe has since been toured across Australia and in the Philippines to audiences of over 25,000, and a number of illustrations inspired by it feature on his dedicated Facebook group.

It’s great to learn more about Peter’s work and highlight coverage of his career here by many others.

You can read Nat Karmichael’s profile of Peter Foster here, which includes listings of his Commando and Football Picture Library work

FURTHER READING

• Peter Foster – Facebook Appreciation
Peter Foster contributes to this group by way of the moderator, Matt Cole

Pikitia Press: Peter Foster – Commando: The Pirate Killers

Pikitia Press: Items Featuring Peter Foster, including book launch reports

Some of Peter Foster’s Commando stories are highlighted here on the official web site

With thanks to Daniel Ruiz Tizon for sending me down this rabbit hole, Matt Cole at Pikitia Press for cross checking and additional information, David Roach for causing all the trouble in the first place, Nat Karmichael for his profile – and fantastic work for Australian comics, and Colin Noble for information on Commando


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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.



Categories: Adventure Comics, Comic Creator Spotlight, Commando, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, War Comics

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