Britain has a long and distinguished tradition of publishing comic-branded hardback annuals featuring comic strip, stories and features. There aren’t as many as there once were – the humour comic BEANO being a one of a handful of exceptions to this, along with a Dandy Annual, too, even though that comic ceased physical publication in 2012.
Buffalo Bill was a staple of British comics through the 1950s and into the 1960s, with kids here as enamoured of the much fictionalised Wild West as much, I imagine, as many American children were, boosted by the popularity of various TV shows and feature films of the time.
Featured here is the original art for the 1962 Buffalo Bill True West Annual published by Dean, offered for sale by the Illustration Art Gallery, signed by the British artist Denis McLoughlin, who was a very much in demand artist well known for his work on western comics.
The artwork shows both the front and back cover of the book, the front a superb western scene and the back cover showing both Billy the Kid and General Custer of the 7th cavalry.
McLoughlin is perhaps best-remembered for his work on the highly-collectible series of thirteen Buffalo Bill annuals (published from 1949 to 1961), beautifully illustrated with meticulously authenticated Western lore.
“As a child, I collected them, and loved them, especially the features on what we’d now term Native American history and culture,” enthuses comic archivist Andrew Darlington in an article for downthetubes profiling McLoughlin’s space hero, Swift Morgan, as well as documenting the artist’s long career.
McLoughlin was also responsible for painting the full-colour covers for as many as 700 paperback and dust-jacket novels, Cowboys and Romances. His art adorns a new edition of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde as early as 1946, plus TV Boardman’s “Bloodhound Mystery” titles such as The Canvas Coffin by William Campbell-Gault, plus books by Fredric Brown, Ed McBain, Jack Webb and Theodora DuBois.
Later, his distinctive picture-strip artwork could also be found inking Saber: King Of The Jungle who, with Umbala his Zulu companion, encounters lost plateaus, ruined cities and malevolently carnivorous plants (Tiger, 1967-69, and Vulcan, 1975-76). “As proud and untamed as nature herself,” any resemblance to Tarzan is, of course, purely deliberate.