Artist John Ridgway is an artist well know for his distinctive work on Doctor Who, Hellblazer and the recently-collected Summer Magic for 2000AD, but one of his earlier jobs in comics was an artist on Enid Blyton’s Adventure Magazine, which we featured here earlier this week, and he kindly dropped us a line about his time on the title and how it changed his career.
“The Famous Five was what got me into comics full time (after working part-time for many years),” he reveals. “The magazine was to have a twelve month lead-in, so I was guaranteed a year’s full-time work at a time when my engineering job was ‘going down the tubes’”.
“My name had been put forward by David Lloyd, who was chairman of the Society of Strip Illustrators at the time,” he recalls. “I was invited down to London, to an office on Harley Street and men the editor in charge of the project, Jorgan Fogedby from Gutenberghus in Denmark. Here I met the team that would be working on the magazine, including Jorgan, Gail Renard and Les Lilley.
“I was told the magazine would each contain a complete Famous Five story in colour. It would be published internationally, but the continental editions would contain an additional Secret Seven story in black and white. Jorgan explained that each artist would each be working on a complete story.
“For the colour work, he required us to work to a more open style than was typical of British black and white comics, and selected the work of one of the group to be the basis of our common style,” says John of the visual approach to the project. “Unfortunately, the artist later fell ill and did not work on the project. I tried to get nearer to the style and came up with one I also used on Cyril the Editor Droid for Marvel UK. None of the other artists appeared to change from their original styles.
“Gail Renard appeared to be acting as a consultant at this stage,” John suggests. “Jorgan had plotted out the stories, based fairly loosely on the originals and Les Lilley wrote the working script in very formal English. For my first two stories, I worked with Steve Parkhouse – me drawing all the figure work and Steve doing the backgrounds. Steve dropped out afterwards.
“The stories were lettered by Annie Halfacree and sent off to Denmark. They were then filmed and sent to Holland be coloured and separated. The lettering was stripped off (the original version was only used to facilitate foreign-language translations) and the script re-written by Gail Renard in more colloquial English and re-lettered by Elitta Fell.
“The magazine was published on good-quality paper and the colour was better than that on American comics pre-computer colouring,” John notes, “although it was still very-much flat colouring and was not very vibrant or eye-catching.
“I enjoyed working on the magazines,” says John, “which was completely different to the Commando stories I had worked on for a long time. It made me think about character relationships and how to express body language.”
Some time ago, John started to colour a couple of pages of his Famous Five tales, to see how they would look if he were to colour them myself. Below, you can see the page as originally printed in “Five Go to Smugglers’ Top“, published in Issue 10 of Enid Blyton Adventures – and the same page as partly re-coloured by John.
More About Enid Blyton
The Enid Blyton has a great listing of every Enid Blyton-related periodical here