Comic Creator Spotlight: David Williams, aka “Bill”, creator of “Dr. Panzwarmer” and other Gerald G. Swan characters

While helping his parents clear their loft, downthetubes reader Stuart Williams came across a number of artworks drawn by his grandfather, commercial artist David Williams, also known professionally as “Bill” and Dave Williams. The artworks were drawn for various comics during the 1940s and 50s, some for publisher Gerald G. Swan, the market trader turned publisher behind numerous independent comics of the 1930s to 1950s, and others unknown.

They’re now trying to find out some history regarding these items – and where and when they were likely published.

Stuart kindly sent us scans of some strips drawn by David featuring the characters “Mister Deeds is in Town” and “Dr. Panzwarmer“, and a single panel illustration, too.

Dr. Panzwarmer by David Williams (aka "Bill")
Mister Deeds by David Williams (aka "Bill")

With the help of fellow archivists – especially Nigel Fletcher, who runs the web resource, “Publications of Gerald G. Swan“, a fantastic Listing and Description of the publications of Gerald G. Swan, we’ve so far gathered the following information.

Nigel tells us he has only seen two pages of “Dr Panzwarmer“, published in the 1955 Cute Fun and Comicolour albums. To date, he hasn’t come across the “Master Deeds” strip yet in a Swan comic.

David Williams did also sign his work as “Bill” on such strips for Swan as: “Old Nick’s Dream Pills”, “Joe the Genii”, “Fuzzy Fox”, “Pop and Son”, “Percy and the Pirates”, “P.C. Pie Snatcher”, “Leo’s Day Out”, “Marvo’s Apprentice”, and “Safari Sam”.

Dr. Panzwarmer by David Williams (aka "Bill")

Alan Clark recently published The Laughs of a Nation, a book focusing on the comics by Gerald G. Swan. David Ashford’s article at the back mentions another two strips, “Grab and Snatch” and “Polly – Pride of the Prairie”. (More about Alan’s book here).

In his books, the late Denis Gifford mentions strips called “Hobin Rood”, which appeared in Coloured Slick Fun, “Low and Behold” in Comicolour, and “Danny Dimple and Dobbin” in Kiddyfun, and we also know David also illustrated the Fairies albums for 1947 and 1948, the covers for Space Fact and Fiction in 1954, and several of Elleston Trevor’s Woodland series of books: Deep Wood, Green Glade, Heather Hill, The Island of the Pines, and Squirrel’s Island.

He was also one of several illustrators of Pictures to Please the Very Young and illustrated Professor Rice Pudding (1953)

Denis Gifford’s British Comic Catalogue also gives mention to “Round the World in the Flying Fish” and “Sam the Supercat” for the The Comet (1946), published by J.B. Allen at the time, and “Orphan of the Desert”, also for The Comet in 1948; and “When the Redskins Rose”, “Where the Redskins Roamed” and “Merry-Go-Round” for The Planet (1949), and “Overland Emigrants” (date unknown).

While there have been few official reprints of work published by Swan, “Dr Panzwarmer” features in a number of the compilations of work released by the publisher on ComicBook+, which is a platform for public domain comics.

David Williams wasn’t the only talented artist in the family. David R Williams, another ancestor, drew for various publication around the 1890s, including Funny Folks, and Scraps, the latter mentioned in correspondence; and again, Stuart would welcome further information.

“We have a lot of artwork and letters,” Stuart tells us. “We’re not entirely sure of where he sits in the family tree.”

I think we can all agree it’s wonderful that these items have been preserved by the family, and delighted to have the opportunity to share.

Do any downthetubes readers recall the work of David Williams and David R Williams? Please let us know, by commenting below – thank you!

A Quick Checklist of Gerald G Swan titles and publication dates

The Laughs of a Nation by Alan Clark Montage

Gerald Swan was a street trader turned publisher who, from the late 1930s until 1960, issued scores of titles, many of them comics. Born in South Tooting, Wandsworth, London on 23rd January 1902, in 1921 he borrowed thirty shillings (£1.50) from his mother to start his own market stall trading in books and magazines. For many years that stall was at London’s well-known Church Street Market; it was here that he stamped all his stock with the imprint of a Swan. 

He became a publisher when World War Two started in 1939, taking the opportunity to start his own line in comics. Having seen how popular the American comic books had been when they arrived in England by various means, sometimes as ballast on cargo ships, he gave his new titles a pronounced US flavour.

Although he established his publishing company before the war, Swan stockpiled his books, rather than distributing them, and thus had a supply of paper when it was rationed during the war. He virtually cornered the magazine market as a result, released hundreds of publications in all fields of fiction.

The first was New Funnies (February 1940); then, in rapid succession, all in 1940, came Topical Funnies (April), Thrill Comics (April), War Comics (May), Slick Fun (June), Fresh Fun (June) and Extra Fun (July).

All initially modelled on the American format they were a huge success and Swan expanded his publications to include all manner of titles, all covered in this book.

As well as David Williams, British creators who worked on his titles included Harry Banger, perhaps better known for drawing strips for Amalgamated Press titles such as Comic Cuts and Illustrated Chips, and “Koko the Pup” for DC Thomson’s The Magic Comic; the hugely imaginative and versatile Bert HillDenis Malcolm Reader, creator of “Cat Girl”, Murdock StimpsonWilliam Ward, and others.

“Gerald Swan, apart from a small but dedicated cognoscente of collectors and aficionados, is an unsung hero,” Alan Clark argues. 

“Not only is he the man who brought American-style comic books to the UK, he’s the publisher who gave artists and writers an essential life line during the darkest of dark times in the Second World War.”

List compiled by Nigel Fletcher – all links are to his site, Publications of Gerald G. Swan

• Archie Annual / Giant: #1-29 (1953? – 1958?)
• Archie (Series 1): #1-10 (1953? )
• Archie (Series 2): #1-11 (1957 – 1958)
• Archie’s Christmas Stocking: #1-3 (? -1958)
Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica: #1-8 (1957 – 1958)
• Archie’s Joke Book: #1-10 (1957 – 1958)
• Archie’s Pal Jughead: #1-9 (1957 – 1958)
Babies, Bibles and Birthdays (published annually, dated 1954 to 1957)
• Blue Bolt: #1-22 (1952 – 1954)
• Boys Fun: #1-19 (1952 – 1954)
• Boys Fun Annual: 1954-1955
• Bride’s Diary: Publication Date Unknown
• Coloured Slick Fun: #20-88 (1948-1951) – See also Slick Fun for #1-19
• Comicolour: #1-9 (? – 1948)
• Comicolour Volume II: #1-3? (? – ?)
• Comicolour Album: 1947 – 1955
Confessions of Love: #1-14 (1954 until 1955)
• Cute Fun: #1-43 (1946 – 1951)
• Cute Fun Album: 1947-1956
Darling Romance: #1 (1950)
• Dynamic Thrills: #1-10 (1951-1952)
Extra Fun: #1-4 (1940)
Fairies Album (1944-1959)
• Fresh Fun: #1-35 (1940 – 1951), Winter Special (1942)
• Funnies Album: (1942 – 1959)
Funnies Budget #1-2
Girls’ Fun: #1-24? (1946 – 1948)
Girls’ Fun Book: (1948)
Girls’ Fun Special: 1949
Girls’ Fun Volume II #1-30 (1949 – 1951)
Girls Fun Annual: 1948 – 1958
Girls’ Bumper Annual (c.1950)
Girls’ Fun Omnibus (1954)
Girls’ Funnies Album: (1958?)
• Indian Warriors Album: 1956
Kiddyfun: #1-12 (1945 – 1951?)
Kiddyfun Series II: #1-3 (1953)
Kiddyfun Album: 1945 – 1958
• Mighty Comic Annual: (1951 – 1954?)
New Funnies: #1-42 (1940-1951) Winter Special (1940s)
New Funnies Special: Spring, Autumn, Winter – 1941; Winter – 1942; Spring – 1943; Winter – 1944
• Pep: #1-10 (1957 – 1958)
Picture Epics: #1-4 (1952)
Picture Story Album: one-shot – published in 1943
Pictures to Please the Very Young (1946)
Popular Teen-Agers Secrets of Love: #1-15 (1955, probably until 1956)
The Prisoner in the Tower (1948, Girls Fun compilation)
• Schoolboys Album: 1944 – 1959 (mostly text only)
• Schoolgirl: #1 (1955, one shot)
Schoolgirls Album: (1944-1959, mostly text only)
Scramble: #1-57 (1947 – 1950)
Scramble Annual: 1948 – 1951
• Secrets of Love: #1-13?
Slick Fun: #1-19 (published irregularly between June 1940 and 1945) Spring and Winter Specials (1942) – see also Coloured Slick Fun, above
Slick Fun Album: 1949 – 1956
Space Fact and Fiction #1-8 (1954)
Space Fact and Fiction Album (Date Unknown)
Television Titles: Lassie, Tales of Wells Fargo, Wagon Train and more, various dates
Thrill Comics: #1-35 (1940 – 1950)
Thrill Comics Specials: Summer Special 1941, Special Spring Number 1942, Special 1943
Topical Funnies: #1-36 (1940 – 1951) Double, Autumn and Winter Specials (last 1942)
Topical Funnies Specials: Spring (1941); Autumn (1941); Summer (1942); Winter (1942); Double (1946) 
Top Love Stories: 1-15 – published from 1954 until 1956
True-to-Life Romances: (1954 – 1955)
True-to-Life Romances Album: #1 (1955)
Victoria Lincoln (1948, Girls Fun compilation)
• War Comics: #1-15? (1940s) Summer and Winter Specials
Western Album: 1946
Western Comic Album: 1957 – 1958
Western Fun Comic: #8-13 (1953 – 1954)
Western Fun Album: 1953 – 1956
• Western Outlaws: #1-8 (1954 – 1955)
Western War Comic: #1-5 (1949 – 1950)
Western War Comic (New Series): #1-7 (1951 – 1953)

The Laughs of a Nation by Alan Clark

A number of Specials were also published – let us know if you’re aware of any titles, thank you

• The Laughs of a Nation by Alan Clark is available from eBay here

Do any downthetubes readers recall the work of David Williams? Please let us know, by commenting below – thank you!

Web Links

Publications of Gerald G. Swan – compiled by Nigel Fletcher

• Gerald G. Swan’s SLICK FUN – article by Lew Stringer

• Magazines published by Gerald G. Swan, Ltd.

My thanks to Nigel Fletcher, Alan Clark and Steve Holland for help compiling this article

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. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek 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.



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