Among the collage of back page images included in Beyond, the latest publication celebrating the work of comic artist and illustrator Ron Turner, there’s a photo of the artist himself in his studio, taken sometime around 1993. He’s putting the finishing touches to the cover art used for this new collection of stories, a barbaric masked figure astride a green multi-eyed reptilian steed on a volcanic plain beneath two huge moons. An instantly recognisable style that he’d made very much his own.
Among pulp-SF cultists and nerdy comic-book aficionados Ron Turner is an almost mythic name to be whispered in hushed tones of reverence and awe. He was there painting those garishly beautiful ‘Vargo Statten’ (John Russell Fearn) paperback covers for Scion, as early as Annihilation in long time-lost 1950, or the two-fisted hard-SF Deadline To Pluto (a pseudonymous EC Tubb) a year later. Original copies of those vintage editions now fetch tidy collector’s sums.
Born in Norwich, 22nd August 1922, Ron was equally renowned for his meticulously-detailed comicstrip work for “Space Ace” – who debuted in the Lone Star comic, and galaxy-travelling Space Detective Rick Random, for a series of highly-regarded pocket library books, some of which were scripted by Harry Harrison. He was still around in the 1970s (and, indeed, beyond), in time to illustrate “Robots”, an early “Judge Dredd” case file for 2000AD Prog 9, offering an iconic vision of the future Mega City One lawman.
Although he died 19th December 1998, Ron’s legacy has been carefully nurtured through the good graces of publisher Phillip Harbottle, and his friend and agent John Lawrence, the latter producing a series of excellently reprinted, colourised collections of his tales. This latest attractively-packaged edition, Beyond, gathers some of the last and previously low-visibility strips Ron Turner produced during the 1990s, artfully coloured by John Ridgway.Two were previously featured in Spaceship Away magazine, the other two are previously unpublished.
“The Blonde Bombshell” was scripted by John Lawrence with the intention of penetrating the US market through Kevin Eastman’s more adult Heavy Metal magazine, with a full-page panel peeking into the Pleasure Houses Of Rigel VII with much naked frolicking taking place between various blue and green-skinned alien species, including the Beautiful Butterfly-Girls Of Lepidoptras and the Sensuous Cat-Girls of Tigeris. But unfortunately for the scheming space-haulier Spence, hijacked midway on the Earth-Titan run, the nubile stowaway he discovers on his ship turns out to be a love-droid primed to detonate. While unfortunately for Ron Turner, the strip was never used, it’s cleanly defined lines proved an uneasy fit for its target market.
The other new strip, “Lone Eagle”, follows in the tradition of Ron’s work for the War and Battle Picture Libraries. Which, as with his contribution to the wonderful “Scoop Donovan: War Cameraman” from 1959 – 1962 issues of Film Fun, are still in copyright and not currently within John Lawerence’s means to reprint. This exploit draws on Ron’s own World War Two experience, as a determined pocket of Tommys strive to hinder Nazi expansion through 1940 France, with a dramatic aerial dog-fight thrown into the mix. An editorial shift at Battle-Action comic determined this four-page exploit was also never used.
“The Killing Zone”, previously in Spaceship Away, was both written and illustrated by Ron in a deliberate attempt to recapture some of the swashbuckling galactic derring-do of his earlier “Space Ace” tales, plundering the same mythic futures as those widescreen Star Wars planet-busters.
Declaring a personal interest, I scripted “Terror From Moon 33” as an authorised tribute to John Gillatt, Frank S Pepper, and Ron himself, in recognition of their Jet-Ace Logan work, strips that I loved so very much. Intended as the first of a series of new stories featuring the happy-go-lucky RAF space-pilot of the future, this was the only one to see completion. To avoid potential copyright problems the text has been amended, but the full history is explained in the accompanying Making-Of feature.
Needless to say I was delighted with Ron’s inventive treatment of my script, and where I considered myself daring in hazarding that Jupiter might have that many moon, the latest count reveals as many as 79-Jovian satellite worlds, so my guess turns out to be a little on the conservative side!
Each of the four tales has a fascinating commentary page, and even the “Beyond” title-banner was prepared by Ron for the subsequently failed launch of a new SF journal. For Ron Turner devotees, and for anyone who appreciates high-action adventure-strips, this is a nostalgic feast to be enjoyed.
• Ron Turner’s Beyond and available issues of Space Ace cost £9.50 (UK) £12.95 Europe and £14.95 (international). Copies may be obtained via PayPal (please use friends and family option) at: email@example.com. Otherwise cheques (UK funds only) payable to: John Lawrence, to 39 Carterweys, Dunstable, Bedfordshire, LU5 4RB
• Also on downthetubes: Our review of Space Ace Volume One | Volume Two | Volume Three | Volume Four | Volume Five | A “Sneak Peek” of Space Ace Volume Six | Review of Space Ace Volume Seven | Volume Eight | Volume Nine | Volume 10 | Volume 11 | Volume 12 | Ron Turner’s Beyond
All images © The Ron Turner Estate