When our beloved editor John Freeman (or if you prefer, He Who Must Be Obeyed) mentioned that comic artist Jeff Bevan, perhaps best known for his cover work on Commando, has had little love on the internet, I was a bit stunned. Jeff’s work – both his many covers and comic strip work for a variety of DC Thomson boys’ titles – are truly things of beauty. For him not to have had anyone promote his work so far is a little bit worrying.
So fear not, your intrepid DC Thomson fanboy is here to look at just some of the work of this underrated artist, who died unexpectedly in 1992 but whose work still features on the comic today…
My first thought was to get an idea of what he was like, so I asked fellow artist Ian Kennedy.
“A lovely big tall fellow,” Ian recalls. “Always nice to meet and chat to.” And that is not the worst way to be remembered by a fellow artist. But as Ian is a freelancer and Jeff was a staff artist, it was rare for them to meet let alone mix. However, Ian did drop the little nugget of information that Jeff was the “go-to” person for any naval art. And when you look at some of the reference work Jeff created for Commando comics, you cannot be surprised that the staff created the three articles for the official web site – Unseen Naval Artwork, More Unseen Naval Artwork and More Exclusive Naval Artwork (as of 2023, links now to Wayback Archive of pages, some images missing – Ed). This material is part of what would be sent to Commando artists as reference material for any naval story.
I must admit that I was intrigued that a DC Thomson artist would have this sort of knowledge, but when I discovered that Jeff spent part of his working career on the sand boats that worked the River Tay, it’s not so surprising that he had a love of all things maritime that would colour his career as a staff artist.
Jeff was a prolific creator of covers for Commando, delivering 240 over a 19-year period from 1973 until 1992, which Commando fan Vic Whittle has listed on his terrific “British Comics” site. Six of these were used after his unexpected death in 1992.
While I would love to put all 240 covers up here, I have a limited amount of space even if this is the Internet, so I am going to put up his first, his last and a couple of personal favourites which I think are worth showing to people to remind them of how talented Jeff was.
In fact, former Commando editor Calum Laird, describes this and several of his other covers as “.. almost like graphic designs — stark and angular. The one of a huge gun on a red background illustrates my point perfectly.” And with that, I knew exactly which cover he meant.
The other cover I have picked is because I wanted a piece to reflect how well Jeff could capture the dynamic of movement in a still piece.
As a staff artist, Jeff also did 176 covers for the weekly comic, Rover. Once again, we have another fan to thank – Ray Moore – for kindly listing all of them in the Rover cover thread on the ComicsUK forum.
I have found a few of the covers, including this one for the issue of Rover cover dated 31st October 1964.
I have also included the second to last cover that he did for Rover – and it’s interesting to note the title is a reversal of his last published Commando cover, which was published 23 years later.
And here is the cover to the final issue of The Rover for your appreciation.
He also drew the final cover of Wizard, which had the issue date of 24 June 1978.
Jeff also drew the final cover of Warlord, cover dated of 27 September 1986.
In addition to his prolific output of covers, Jeff carried out the art duties for several serials in Hotspur and Warlord, detailed below, and, as a staff artist, he was also a go-to guy for the features that could fill the odd internal page or two, as well as illustrating numerous text stories for titles such as The Rover and Wizard, noted over on the British Comic Art blog.
Here, for example, is some of his work from Warlord Issue One —
… And another aviation example, this time from Spike issue 6.
This article is by no means a complete index of Jeff Bevan’s work for DC Thomson – there are holes in it as big as the Tay River sand boats that you could pass through my collections. But hopefully, I’ve given you of an idea of the breadth of Jeff’s body of work. I hope this article should go a little way to redressing the wrong that has been done to Jeff’s memory in not recognising him before as one of British comics unsung heroes.
Jeff Bevan Checklist
My apologies for the the deluge of issue numbers that follows, but this will allow the discerning reader to track down some more of Jeff’s work and there certainly is lots of it. Please note, this is not a complete listing of all Jeff’s work, as noted above!
See above: 240 covers, detailed by Vic Whittle on his “British Comics” site. Six of these were used after Jeff’s unexpected death in 1992.
For the Hotspur, Jeff drew several serials from 1962 until 1966. These serials were “Ruthless Ruff of the RFC” (Series 1, Issues 156 to 172, 15th September 1962 to 2nd February 1963 and Series 2, Issues 344 to 358, 21st May to 27th August 1966); “Motor Bike Morgan” (Issues 190 to 201, 8th June to 24th August 1963); “The Yellow Jersey“, Issues 243 to 252 (13th June to 15th August 1964); “Grasshopper Green” (Issues 311 to 328, 2nd October 1965 to 29th January 1966); “Dicky Dunn” (Series 1, Issues 330 to 333, 12th February to 5th March 1966 and Series 2, Issues 338 to 343, 9th April to 14th May 1966); and “Black Hawk” (Issues 362 to 376, 24th September to 31st December 1966).
See above: 176 covers, detailed by Ray Moore in the The Rover cover thread on the ComicsUK forum.
Jeff drew 242 of the covers for Warlord. These were issues 20, 23, 24, 39, 44, 49, 51, 53, 60, 71, 76, 77, 84, 88, 89, 91, 93, 94, 96, 97, 99, 100, 101, 102, 105, 106, 111, 112, 115, 116, 118 to 123, 125, 127 to 147, 149 to 154, 157 to 185, 187, 190 to 223, 226, 230, 231, 233 to 240, 244, 245, 249 to 295, 307, 324, 369 to 372, 444 to 470, 472, 473, 474, 505, 507, 509, 510, 511, 512, 515, 517, 523, 529, 533, 536, 542, 548, 551, 558, 559, 563, 579, 584, 586, 595, 603, 607, 611, 613, 617 and 619.
Jeff also drew the covers to the 1977 and 1978 Warlord Summer Specials.
For Warlord, Jeff drew “Drake of Malta” (Series 2, Issues 51 to 61, 13th September to 22nd November 1975, Series 3 Issues 69 to 74, 17th January to 21st February 1976 – and a solo issue in Issue 123, cover dated 29th January 1977).
He also drew “Men At War“, which was a back cover feature that ran from Issues 208 to 223 (16th September to 30th December 1978) and then from Issues 233 to 246 (1oth March to 9th June 1979). This was a series that looked at famous people from World War Two and gave a potted history of their achievements.
Another feature was “It Happened This Week” which was an occasional series that would be used every so often to educate the reader on an event that happened during the week that the issue was on sale. One particular memory of mine is due to issue 254 dated 4th August 1979. This one has stuck in my mind for over 37 years and it was the historic flight of the Enola Gay to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
The other series that I have identified as being part of Jeff’s output for Warlord were “The Mareth Line” (issue cover dated March 22nd 1980); “The Dutchman’s Revenge” (cover dated 16th January 1982); “Long Sally” (Issues 388 to 407, 27th February to 10th July 1982) “Waggers On the Frontier” (Issues 482 to 501, 17th December 1983 to 28th April 1984), “Clancy’s Crew” (Issues 551 to 560, 13th April to 15th June 1985), “The Sea Slug” (Issues 579 to 594, 26th October 1985 to 8th February 1986) and “Bligh of The Fastsure” (Issues 619 to 627, 2nd August to 27th September 1986).
Wizard had issue numbers up to the merger with The Rover. The numbering was discontinued after the merge, so the last numbered issue of Wizard was issue 153. So to keep this from becoming a list of dates, I have continued the issue numbers up to the final issue of Wizard dated 24th June 1978 (issue 437) which was when it was merged with Victor.
Jeff drew 214 of the Wizard covers, which were Issues 149, 155, 156, 158, 163 to 165, 167, 169, 171, 173, 174, 176, 178, 181, 183, 186, 188, 189, 191, 193, 195, 196, 197, 199 to 240, 243, 249, 250 to 253, 256, 258, 260 to 262, 264, 265, 268, 269, 273, 275 to 277, 283, 285, 287, 289, 291, 293 to 295, 297 to 300, 302, 304, 305, 307 to 327, 329 to 384, 389, 390 to 396, 398 to 402, 404, 406, 407 and 409 to 437.
• This Was The Wizard by Derek Marsden and Ray Moore (ISBN 978-0955197819) is available through secondhand bookshops | AmazonUK Affiliate Link | AbeBooks – be warned, it is not cheap! Read our review here
With thanks to Ian Kennedy and Calum Laird; and the archive skills of Ray Moore, Vic Whittle and the British Comic Art blog
All art © DC Thomson
The Fine Art of Jeff Bevan
In 2023, downthetubes reader Paul Van Dyck very kindly sent us some of Jeff’s fine art his family own, which I felt was best including here, opening with this superb painting of the Belgian Navy Algerine class mine sweeper.
This painting was commissioned by Paul’s father, Vice-Admiral J.P. Van Dyck, in 1976, and he’s inherited the painting, which hangs in his study.
“The Algerine class minesweeper, HMS Fancy, was sold to the Belgian Navy in July 1951 and my father was appointed commanding officer of the vessel at the hand-over in Portsmouth when she was renamed AF Dufour (M 903),” Paul tells us.
There’s more about the history of HMS Fancy and the AF Dufour here on Wikipedia.
In 1977, Jeff sent Paul’s family a Christmas card featuring the BAR lightship, which started her service at Bar station in Liverpool Bay (1960-1972). The ship was sold to Trinity House in 1972, and renamed LV23, and subsequently stationed at Kentish Knock, Varne and Channel – the last manned lightvessel on the Channel station.
Following decommissioning in 1989, the vessel was sold into private ownership in July 1991, returning to Liverpool in 1992, was located for a time at the Historic Warships Museum, Birkenhead.
The LV23 Planet later served as a restaurant and nightclub before being towed to Sharpness Docks in September 2016, where she is currently impounded here, after a row over unpaid mooring fees and was later advertised for sale for £100,000, in 2016. The sale of the ship prompted dismay from campaigners who had been trying to keep it in Liverpool.
The vessel also appeared in the first series of the BBC drama His Dark Materials, minus her lantern, fortunately not removed in reality.
There’s more information about the ship and its current status here.
Categories: Art and Illustration, British Comics, Comic Creator Spotlight, Creating Comics, Featured News, Other Worlds