My first article regarding the work of Ron Smith acted as a introduction, to remind us how great this veteran artist, now retired, has been over the course of his career.
The second article demonstrates how I am beginning to review Ron’s career in greater depth with a fairly complete listing of Ron’s work for The Hotspur from its relaunch in 1959 as a picture paper to 1969.
In this third article, we will look at what Ron managed to create for DC Thomson as he moved from staff artist to freelancer for the DC Thomson comic The Hotspur from 1970 until its’ demise in 1980 when it was merged with another picture paper, The Victor.
“The Black Guns Never Miss” Issues 538-548 covers dated 7th February to 18th April 1970. Cattle King Jacob Karnes is trying to drive all the townspeople from Willard Valley, but a mysterious masked man is helping the townspeople to fight back.
Ron continued to draw covers for Hotspur. By now, the covers were changing from a story covering both pages to an article on the back page and the front cover being the first page of a story that would continue in black and white on the next one to three pages.
This example is from Issue 540, cover dated 21st February 1970. Ron also drew the cover stories for Issues 592 and 596.
“Skid Kid” Issues 627-635 covers dated 23rd October to 18th December 1970, telling the story of how Nobby Platts becomes a leading light in the Chasers Speedway team.
“The Man’s A Marvel” Issues 653-662 covers dated 22nd April to 24th June 1972. The Honourable Martyn and his manservant Ruddock are fellow members of The Travellers Club, which dedicated itself to foiling Nazi plots since the invasion of Czechslovakia.
“The Flying Crusher” Issues 675-684 covers dated 23rd September to 25th November 1972. The World War Two adventures of a Royal Air Force crew in their giant helicopter as they fight in theatres of war from the English Channel to the Far East.
“Nick Jolly The Flying Highwayman” Issues 714-728 covers dated 23rd June to 29th September 1973. Nick is a 18th Century Highwayman, transported by an alien race into modern day Britain. His horse Bess is turned into a robot and his sword is electrified. A Robin Hood-style character, he helps the police by catching modern criminals until he is returned to his own time. During this period, each cover was the first page of the Nick Jolly story.
“Wyatt Earp – The Man Who Tamed The Wild West” Issue 751 dated 9th March 1974. A potted history of Wyatt Earp’s career.
“Mochila Mail” Issue 752 dated 16th March 1974. This was a potted history of the Pony Express from its’ inception in 1860 to its’ closure in 1861.
“Jesse James The Worst Man In The West” Issue 756 dated 13th April 1974. The life and death of Jesse James.
“Nick Jolly The Flying Highwayman” Issues 781-792 covers dated 5th October to 21st December 1974. Nick returns for a second series. this time seeking to capture Scarza, a modern day criminal who is the descendant of the 18th Century alchemist that betrayed Nick Jolly to the authorities.
“Nick Jolly The Flying Highwayman” Issues 802-819 covers dated 1st March to 28th June 1975. In this third and final series, Nick battles Simon Death, an evil sorceror. Again, Ron provided covers for the issues that he illustrated.
Unusually, Rod did not draw this entire run, but was spelled for issues 815 to 818 by a certain young Dave Gibbons.
“The Cowboy Cricketer” Issues 812-829 covers dated 1st May to 6th September 1975. Tex Weston stood to inherit £30,000 from his uncle, but there were two conditions. The first, that he had to be capped at county level for Midshire and the second that he had to do it without taking professional status.
“King Cobra” Issues 852-863 covers dated 14th February to 1st May 1976. Bill King was a journalist for the Daily Scene, but this was a cover for his activities as King Cobra, a crime-fighting masked hero using the inventions of his murdered father to catch criminals whenever he could.
In this first serial, his main enemy is Diablo, a master criminal who uses a variety of ways to carry out his robberies.
“Boys of Rocket Academy” Issues 864 to 875 covers dated 8th May to 24th July 1976. The sons of the scientists who worked on Project Star Spear thought themselves lucky to go to the multi-national Rocket Academy – until their new teacher Jason Barnard arrived and things began to go mysteriously wrong…
“King Cobra” Issues 890-902 covers dated 6th November 1976 to 29th January 1977. This second serial of King Cobra sees him pitted against The Mongoose, another arch-villain out to defeat King Cobra by any means possible.
“King Cobra” Issues 912-923 covers dated 9th April to 25th June 1977. The third serial sees King Cobra travel to the US to capture Joe Cranston, Mr Master, who is one of the last criminals that is still free and was involved in the murder of Bill’s father. Once Cranston is captured, King Cobra begins to work to bring the other criminals that infest the cities of America to justice.
“The Beetles of Doom” Issues 941-949 covers dated 29th October to 24th December 1977. The mysterious Kato lets loose a plague of beetles that can eat through any metal. His intention is to subjugate Britain before turning his attention to the rest of the world.
“Flying Fury” Issues 941-952 covers dated 29th October 1977 to 14th January 1978. The mysterious Sgt Fury is posted to 27B Squadron at the height of the Battle of Britain and Fury seems to be unkillable.
“King Cobra” Issues 956-970 covers dated 11th February to 20th May 1978. The fourth serial sees Bill King becoming a globe-trotting freelancer (we should be so lucky!) and where ever Bill King is, then King Cobra is not far behind…
“King Cobra” Issues 1000-1008 covers dated 16th December 1978 to 10th February 1979. In this fifth series, Bill’s spare suit is stolen by a small-time crook and Bill must devote time to beating this imposter.
“King Cobra” Issues 1059-1070 covers dated 2nd February to 19th April 1980. In this sixth series, Bill is once again a globe-trotting freelance journalist and a scourge of crime as King Cobra. In this series, Ron only illustrates the first three episodes and the final episode.
“Flying Fury” Issues 1068-1073 covers dated 5th April to 10th May 1980. In this second serial, Fury again pits his indestructability against the Nazi hordes. Culminating in Fury unmasking a spy, when Keith Shone takes over the illustrating duties until the end of this series in issue 1089. Thankfully, the two Flying Fury serials were given another airing in issue 24 of Red Dagger.
This series represents Ron’s last contributions to a comic that has seen some amazing art from a talented illustrator at the top of his game. I hope that you, the reader, are enjoying my meagre efforts to present Ron Smith’s art in as favourable light as I can manage. I have tried to pick some wonderful examples of his work and one of my all-time favourites is this scene where Sergeant Fury pays his respects to an unnamed Royal Flying Corps flier. I know that I love this scene but even now, I would still struggle to give a definitive answer as to why this is such a favourite.
In Part Four, I will look at Ron’s contributions to The Victor and Warlord.
A life-long comic fan, specialising mainly in UK adventure comics, Colin did his very best to support his passion for the comics of his youth, Commandos (still going!) and any small press that interested him. Sadly, Colin passed in March 2021, an invaluable downthetubes team member, much missed by us all