Just days after receiving word of an appeal for original The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire art comes the sad announcement of the death of its creator, Don Lawrence.
His official web site reports the talented comics artist and writer died on 29th December from pneumonia, in a hospital near his hometown of Jevington, surrounded by his family. He was 75.
Announcing his death to many UK comics creators, artist Liam McCormack Sharp, who worked as his assistant for many years, described Don as his “mentor and dear friend” and “one of the comic industries true greats. He will be terribly missed.”
Don Lawrence is probably best known for “The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire” for Ranger and Look and Learn, and his his long running science fiction series Storm, which he had been drawing for the last 22 years.
Don started out as a comics creator in the Gower Street Studios in London, first working on Marvelman – for which he was paid one pound a page – then moving on to “Karl the Viking” for Lion, followed by the full colour strip, “The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire”, initially for Ranger, then for Look and Learn. Although he received no royalties, the strip, which he drew for 10 years, was sold to dozens of other magazines worldwide.
Sadly, his official web site reveals, Don wasn’t aware of the strip’s success until he got in contact with a Yugoslavian agent, Ervin Rustemagic, at an International Comic Convention. Ervin told Don how well the series was doing on the continent and the day after Don asked his publisher for a big raise, which was rejected. He immediately resigned from the strip and accepted an offer from Dutch publisher Oberon (Big Balloon) to draw Storm, which he co-created with Martin Lodewijk.
Although the strip has seen only limited English release it is one of the most popular comic series in Holland and Germany, with over two million albums sold to date.
Just a few months ago, Don Lawrence was the special guest at Comicdays, a huge comic festival in Holland. Many fans stood in line for over one hour at the stand where Don Lawrence was signing, to have a chat and to congratulate him on his upcoming 75th birthday.
“That was the greatest thing about Don,” says one of the fans who runs his web site. “He always took time to have a chat and was interested in who you were and what you were doing. This made him the most beloved artist in Holland were his publishers house was.”
The Filth and Ministry of Space artist Chris Weston, who also worked with Don for a year, told Comic Book Resources the artist’s death was similar to the US industry losing a Jack Kirby, Gene Colan, or Joe Kubert.
“I was privileged to call Don my friend and mentor,” he told CBR. “He was generous enough to offer me a whole year’s personal tuition in the art of illustrating comics… a time I’ll treasure forever. I’ll miss him terribly.”
• The Guardian: Don Lawrence obituary by Paul Gravett – published 23rd January 2004