“The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad”, with art by Angus McBride – an early version of the much-loved fantasy tale

Genghis Grimtoad on the cover of Marvel UK's STRIP Issue 17
Genghis Grimtoad on the cover of Marvel UK’s STRIP Issue 17

Marvel UK fans may recall The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad, a wonderful fantasy strip that first ran in all 20 of the company’s short-lived STRIP, a title that initially featured a lot of creator-owned material in attempt to bring a British version of the Marvel US title EPIC Magazine to news stands here.

The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad -Splitter Collection
The German edition of The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad

The Marvel UK version, published in 1990, was written by by Alan Grant and John Wagner, with art by Ian Gibson, and the story was completed in a collection by the same company the same year, and enjoyed collection overseas, too – but until this week, I had no idea that there was an earlier version of the same story, published in the IPC title now owned by Rebellion, Look Alive – with art by Angus McBride.

Running for just five issues, the title, edited by Kelvin Gosnell, the magazine also featured spot illustrations too, some by John Cooper, Carlos Ezquerra and Don Lawrence.

It was intended as a replacement for Look and Learn, a title perhaps best known for its “The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire” strip (which is still owned by TimeUK). While that ran for 20 years and 1000 issues, the last edition appearing in April, 1982, Look Alive, was clearly – and sadly – not the success its publishers surely hoped.

Look Alive Issue 1 - 1982“The title was a lifestyle magazine for boys,” notes David McDonald of Hibernia Press, a company that specialises in limited edition British comic collections, “but neither the newsagents or the readers knew what to make of it.

“The magazine was a bit ahead of its time I think,”  he feels. “I did one would wonder if it was sales that killed it, or perhaps some other reason. Five issues would not have been enough time to determine sales.”

Despite its short run, the title is clearly remembered with great fondness by those who did find copies at the time, including artists Mark Wayne Barrett, who counts the Angus McBride “Grimtoad” as one of many great inspirations in his early work, Graeme Neil Reid and David Roach, who as with many great British comic finds, alerted me and others to this earlier version of the strip.

Born in 1931 of Highland parents but orphaned as a child, Angus McBride, who died in 2007, was educated at Canterbury Cathedral Choir School. He worked in advertising agencies from 1947, and after National Service, emigrated to South Africa where he lived and worked, in Cape Town.

Like Don Lawrence and Roy Embleton, he was a mainstay when it came to providing art for Look and Learn, his work featuring in hundreds of issues of the educational title, as well as titles such as Bible Story, World of Wonder and Military Illustration.

One of the world’s most respected historical illustrators, he contributed to more than 70 Osprey titles over three decades from 1975 onwards and also provided art for some of Iron Crown Enterprises role-playing books.

The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad is set on Shadow-Earth, the kingdom of Haven under attack by the hordes of an evil wizard, Toadthrax. When Eric, the Prince of Haven, flees for his life, heading for the land of Torbeck and sanctuary, he’s accompanied by Queen Jade, the barbarian warrior Quanah, knight of the realm Sir Hakkem – and apprentice sorcerer, Genghis Grimtoad.

Naturally, the party are a target for the malevolent sorcery of Toadthrax… but you’ll have to buy a copy of the story (copies available for just £3.30 on amazon.co.uk!) to find out what happens…

Look Alive Issue One - The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad Page 1

Look Alive Issue One - The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad Page 2

Look Alive Issue Four - The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad Episode 4

The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad Shadow Earth Map
The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad Shadow Earth Map

The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad - The Ballad of Haven’s Deep

Web Links

Osprey Books featuring the work of Angus McBride

Art by Angus McBride for sale on Illustration Art Gallery

Angus McBride – The Guardian obituary

In November 2004, more than twenty years after the last issue of Look and Learn, a newly-formed private company, Look and Learn Ltd, acquired from IPC Media Ltd (now TimeUK) the rights to the trade mark ‘Look and Learn’ and to the educational material in Look and Learn and various other magazines incorporated, directly or indirectly, into Look and Learn including: The Children’s Newspaper, Treasure, The Bible Story, Ranger, Speed & Power, Tell Me Why, World of Wonder, and World of Knowledge. TimeUK retain the rights to certain non-educational comic strips and, in particular, ‘The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire’.

The Chronicles of Genghis Grimtoad © Alan Grant, John Wagner & Ian Gibson

With thanks to Mark Wayne Barrett, David Hathaway-Price, David Roach, David McDonald and Graeme Neil Reid

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as a freelance editor, as Creative Consultant on the new Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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