Here’s a comic art mystery that’s bugging a determined comic collector, involving 2000AD artist Mark Harrison, the BBC, and a horror comics documentary that may – or may not – have actually been made in the Eighties…
Back in 1984, the BBC commissioned artists Mark Harrison and Bob Cosford, the latter perhaps best known for creating the “flying sausage” graphic and more used in the Grange Hill title sequence, to create some art for an upcoming horror documentary. But does anyone recall seeing Mark’s dramatic work on TV?
Mark’s faux “Strange Science”cover painting is acrylic on board, measuring 30cm x 21cm and the EC comics style lettering was painted on clear acetate overlay by Bob Cosford, but the current owner of the artwork, Dave Dustin, says neither artist knows if BBC ever actually screened the documentary it was created for.
Does any downthetubes reader recognise the work – and can they confirm if there was ever a 1984 BBC horror documentary produced featuring this artwork for transitions, dissolves etc.?
“I contacted Mark, best known for his work on 2000AD,” Dave says, “although he has also painted over 480 book jacket illustrations, and since 2003 has concentrated on painting personal work for sale in chalk pastel and oil.
“He informed me that he had provided a couple of illustrations in 1984 for the BBC Pebble Mill and freelance graphics artist Bob Cosford for a documentary on horror which may or may not have been screened.”
Back then, Mark was fresh out of college at the time, finding his way and Bob’s wife was his agent for a short time.
“I think the image strongly resembles the splash page for the story “Fatal Scalpel” in the EC comic Haunted Thrills #5 after seeing it not too long ago,” says Dave, “and questioned if it was in fact based upon that comic.
“Mark replied ‘I was given a brief to work to, and left to my own devices to work up what was needed. As it was a show on horror, it would definitely include EC comics. I think it may well have been based on that image, but I can’t recall ever seeing it, just having it described. I think I based the doctor on Bob himself.’
“After finding that out, I searched up Bob Cosford,” Dave explains, “scrolled through a few photos, and actually found one that looks exactly like the caricature in the painting!
“It is also somewhat similar to the cover of Weird Science #1 (#12),”he also notes.
In addition to the cover art, Mark also submitted another piece of art with the painting to BBC – a fantastic zombie illustration that he only has a photocopy of, as the art was never returned.
“There’s an obvious nod to Berni Wrightson there,” Dave notes. Again, this art was to be used to zoom in on for transitions, dissolves etc. “Everything was shot old school, no scanners back then.”
Bob Cosford has told Dave he met Mark when he’d just left college, as a really talented young artist.
“I was a designer at the BBC in Birmingham at the time, working mainly on opening title sequences for TV programmes,” Bob, who hasn’t been in touch with Mark for a number of years, recounted. “However, as a trained illustrator I occasionally took on illustration work.
“I probably got Mark involved because he was really into comics and there was a tight deadline. I think I did all the typographic overlays. I must have decided to change the specifics on the covers to turn them into pastiches of that particular type/era of comic.”
If anybody out there recalls which documentary these works were commissioned for, do comment below, or drop us a line. A search of the BBC Genome project for Bob’s credited work hasn’t identified anything in the specific time period.
There was a season of films under the general banner, Late Night Horror, in early 1984, and it’s been suggested that perhaps the work was part of that, or some other film season, such as Future Tense, as promotional imagery?
However it was planned to be used, as Dave says, it would be fantastic to see if this painting actually was seen on screen back in the 1980s!
With thanks to Dave Dustin for permission to feature his appeal for information here on downthetubes