(Updated, 23/2/11): National newspaper The Mirror has announced it will be reprinting some of the best of Garth stories featuring the time-travelling British hero who featured on its pages for over 50 years, and whose creators included Frank Bellamy and Martin Asbury.
Garth will again flex his rippling muscles to battle evil from next Monday – after what the paper says have been “countless requests” from readers.
Garth, the brainchild of Stephen Dowling, made his Mirror debut in July 1943 when, with his ship torpedoed, he was washed ashore with amnesia on to a remote island.
And, long before the last of his 165 adventures in 1997, he had become firmly established as one of Britain’s most iconic fictional heroes, reprinted in France, Norway, Australia, India, Spain and many other countries.
The strip was revived briefly a couple of years back by artist Huw-J and featured on the Mirror‘s web site, but the revamp appears to have proved unpopular with his fans, who clearly hankered for the swashbuckling, daring do original.
Over the years, Mirror readers learned he had been adopted by a Scottish couple who found him on a Shetlands beach. Garth went on to become a navy captain and military genius, then discovered his ability to travel through time after finding a ringed helmet that gave him that power.
“The time-travelling side of Garth influenced Doctor Who without a doubt in my opinion,” former Mirror cartoon editor Ken Layson told the Mirror.
Layson says that his popularity even saw fans christened their daughters Dawn, the name of one of Garth’s many girlfriends down the years, out of their love for the comic strip.
Garth really became a hit in the early 1970s, when Frank Bellamy, whose credits include Dan Dare, Thunderbirds and Doctor Who illustrations for the Radio Times, took over the strip.
“When Bellamy took over, the character of Garth took off,” Ken recalls. “His artwork was dynamic with strong shadows and beautifully sculpted figures.”
“Garth is synonymous with the Daily Mirror,” feels artist Martin Asbury, who brought him to life between 1976 and 1997. “And he’s the stuff of legend because he goes back so far. He evolved from an enormously strong hero used to inspire troops during the war to a time-traveller with psychic abilities who could influence history.
“He’s essentially a good character, always fighting evil and one of England’s only pure homegrown superheroes.”
Update, 23/2/11: In terms of the strips that will feature, we’re told the Mirror plans to focus on the Frank Bellamy and Martin Asbury periods, the strips chosen by the paper’s current strip editor. It’s unlikely that the more SF-oriented stories from earlier periods will feature.
Spaceship Away will conclude its colour reprint of ‘The Bubble Man’ in their next issue, out in March. The team there are already working on colouring up another Garth story.
• Martin Baines is interviewed about his work on Garth and other projects here on the Blimey! It’s Another Blog About Comics blog
• There’s more on Garth’s return on The Mirror’s web site here – the online version of a full page feature in the paper published on 18th February 2011