Online comics discussion often throws up names whose careers remain, for many, a mystery but whose canon of work is often both remarkable and often overlooked. This is particularly true of many British artists and writers whose work was published uncredited by major publishers in times past, seeking to protect their “assets” from rivals in a time when you couldn’t track anyone down at the click of a button.
One such creator is Robert Forrest, whose contributions to British comics between 1951 up to his death in 1968 are recognised today only thanks to the research of pay books by dedicated archivists such as Steve Holland, publisher of Bear Alley Books, who’s currently working on a new magazine, and fellow researchers David Roach (if you haven’t already, do check out Master of British Comic Art!) and David Slinn, the latter both noted comic creators in their own right.
In turn, keen fans of work by creators such as Forrest, many contributing to discussion groups such as the Mighty World of British Comics on Facebook and elsewhere, are, thankfully, kindly sharing their discoveries with others. In turn, such discoveries assist publishers such as Book Palace Books, Hibernia Comics and Rebellion in crediting creators in their Treasury of British Comics collections – recognition long overdue and much appreciated.
Robert Forrest, who began drawing comics after a career at the Inland Revenue, is internationally recognised for his art on an adaptation of “The Martian” a strip version of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ “Princess of Mars”, initially for the Sun, a comic that should not be confused with the British national newspaper of the same name. Adapted by D.R. Morton, the strip ran for 31 weeks, published in the issues cover dated 25th October 1958 through to 23rd May 1959.
His first professional comics work is believed to be for Comet, drawing the front page strip, “Kit Carson”. Along with “The Martian”, his credits also include work for Cowboy Comics and Cowboy Picture Library, Ranger, Thriller Picture Library, Top Spot and Look and Learn.
Alongside his flair for drawing westerns such as the adventures of “Buck Jones” and historical adventure, perhaps his most recognised work as an, outside of “The Martian, are his adaptations of stories such as Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” for Thriller Picture Library (Issue 148), reprinted by Book Palace in Fleetway Picture Library Classics: Clash of Blades; and R.L. Stevenson’s famous story, “Jekyll and Hyde”, serialised in Top Spot in 1959.
Other credits also include “The Mad Emperor” for Knockout, published in 1960, a tale of 18th century Russian intrigue and “Black Dragon’s Perilous Quest” for the Champion Annual 1967.
The Illustration Art Gallery’s biography of Forrest highlights his strip adaptations of Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “The Sign of Four” for Look and Learn as “the best Sherlock Holmes picture strips ever produced”.
While Forrest’s known credits include just one strip published in colour, a serialisation of the story of Richard III for Look and Learn (perhaps his last commission, and a tale completed by Eric Parker), he also provided marvellous colour illustrations for titles such as The Bible Story.
Additional information is always welcome for these items.
Robert Forrest (born circa 1905, died late 1968
• The Illustration Art Gallery has a longer biography of Robert Forrest here, sourced from information from David Ashford, Norman Wright and its own researches – some information in this, such as a credit for working on “Karl the Viking” for Lion has not been verified
• Art by Robert Forrest on 2D Galleries (please note some art has been wrongly attributed)
With thanks to Steven Taylor and Phillip Rushton
Our thanks to Ernesto Guevara for starting me down this particular rabbit hole; and Steven Taylor and Phillip Rushton for much help with correct credits