By Richard Sheaf and John Freeman
Walkden Fisher (1913 – 1979) might be best known to downthetubes readers as as a cutaway artist in Eagle, as a modelmaker for the “Dan Dare” strip and as a contributor to Eagle – for instance, a 12-part series on “Running a Model Railway”, to the Eagle annuals (Number 3) and the spin-off books (Trains, Modern Wonders and Hobbies).
But he was also a talented cartoonist, his distinctive signature in the shape of a fish instantly recognisable.
Recently, a number of pieces of his original art have been offered for sale on eBay and through other avenues, including, most recently, his delightful “Jasper Dog” strips, which were collected in a book, The Adventures of Jasper by Ellison Hawks.
In his detailed biography on Bear Alley, Steve Holland notes Fisher began his artistic career illustrating books written by Ellison Hawks, a Hull-born journalist and photographer who had worked as advertising manager for Meccano Ltd. and then as a general editor for Amalgamated Press and editor of The Dog Owner. Hawks had been producing dozens of books on science, astronomy and aircraft since around 1910 and Fisher’s association with him lasted for over a decade.
In addition to his work for Eagle, he also contributed freelance illustrations for many brochures and advertisements and is also remembered as a pioneer in slot car racing, who later became art editor of Model Car magazine and a technical editor of the American magazine Model Car and Track.
Walkden, who lived in Stockport where Eagle was first created, played a major role in the early success of the Automobile Road Racing Association slot car racing group, preceded by the Southport M&EC in which Fisher also played a role, which is still running today.
Walkden played a huge part in the building of the club’s first main layout, which featured in an article he wrote and illustrated for Eagle Annual Volume 8 and also appeared in articles in Model Maker and Meccano Magazine.
“Walkden was a stickler for having everything look realistic and had as much scenery as he could fit in,” recalls one former Automobile Road Racing Association member in a discussion thread on the International Slot Car Forum about the history of the Stockport-based club, which features many pictures of the layout and club members.
The auction items serve to shed renewed light on the distinguished and varied career of this Southport-based artist, including sales on eBay that include newspaper strips and birthdays cards that have been documented in detail on the Boys Adventure Comics Blog.
• Built with Passion – The Story of Rail Racing by J R Davies, tells the story of how rail racing started (and how slot racing developed), looking back at the events that led to rail racing becoming the national electric model racing sport. Explore the world of the 1950s with many interviews of the people that were there at the time including the only woman national rail/slot racing champion, Ve Whitbread. The book showcases articles on Walkden Fisher, Tom Cook, Dave Day, Pete Mells and other such figures, with many wonderful rail car pictures including detailed chassis shots showing the detail and vast range of designs that were used
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.