Comic Spotlight: “Turville’s Touchstone”, aka “The Spellbinder”, from Lion

Here’s some smashing art featuring British comic character “The Spellbinder”, providing a story told in just one illustration, as you’ll discover reading on, presumably drawn by the series regular artist Geoff Campion.

Although “The Spellbinder” ran in Lion for several years, this art featured in The Valiant Book of Mystery and Magic (1976), one of the last appearances by the characters, where “Spellbinder” ironically gets a lion’s share of the pages. Copies of this, if you don’t have it, turn up on eBay fairly regularly, although prices vary.

You have to wonder if it was artist Geoff Campion who came up with all the book titles in this "Spellbinder" image, or one of the writers on the long-running Lion strip
You have to wonder if it was artist Geoff Campion who came up with all the book titles in this “Spellbinder” image in the Valiant Book of Mystery and Magic, or one of the writers on the long-running strip

Debuting in the first issue of the merged Lion and Eagle (issue cover dated 3rd May 1969) the strip ran to the issue of Lion and Thunder cover dated 18th May 1974, dropped when Lion merged with Valiant. The series was created by George Beal, and originally called “Turville’s Touchstone”, before changing to “The Spellbinder” with the issue cover dated 7th February 1970.

A strip that ran in Lion, between 1969 and 1974, “The Spellbinder” enjoyed long-running success, surely boosted by the debut of of Catweazle on TV in 1970, which had a similar premise of a magician from the past dropped into the 20th century.

The strip centres on Thomas (Tom) Turville, who inherits Turville Hall and its estate in Bladderstowe, only to discover his ancestor, Sylvester Turville, an alchemist and magician, in stasis in his laboratory, a prisoner of his own sorcery gone wrong since Elizabethan times. Together, the mis-matched pair enjoy a series of adventures, including time travel, and more.

There’s even a fourth wall encounter with the team at Lion in the 1975 annual, including the editor and the strip’s regular artist, Geoff Campion, referred to as Geoff Crampon. Only “Jack Adrian“, aka Christopher Lowder, gets his name spelt right, sneakily giving himself credit for the story in the process.

Lion Annual 1975 - Spellbinder - art by Geoff Campion
In the 1975 Lion annual, Sylvester Turville’s troublesome cousin, lookalike Tobias has kidnapped the comic’s editor, Geoff Kemp, gagged and tied up in this illustration, along with artists and writers identified in the story as, Geoff Crampon (Geoff Campion), Jack Adrian (the bearded Chris Lowder), plus, not necessarily in this order, Tom Twilly (Tom Tully), Sam Salt (Frank S. Pepper), Ted George (Ted Cowan, full name Edward George Cowan), and Kevin Minelli, (Ken Mennell)

It’s perhaps no coincidence the strip’s title was changed when it was, a couple of weeks ahead of the debut of the London Weekend TV series Catweazle, created by Richard Carpenter, which first aired 15th February 1970 – 4th April 1971. Lion’s editor must surely been aware of Catweazle and responded accordingly, offering readers the comic’s own take on magical comedy.

Scripts on the regular series were also by Roy of the Rovers creator Frank S. Pepper and Ken Mennell, the latter creator of “Black Max”, who Steve Holland has described as “a fantastic ideas man at IPC, who co-plotted many of the finest weird menace yarns published in the pages of Lion, Valiant and Buster.”

I’m sure there are plenty of Lion fans out there who’d welcome collections of this daft but often inventive strip, with its tales of magic, time travel and much more.

With thank to Reuben Willmott for sending me down this rabbit hole

Web Links

International Hero – The Spellbinder

Buy Lion – King of the Story Papers

Bear Alley Books second index in a series charting the history of British comics. Lion King of Picture Story Papers is a massive, 262-page volume covering the story of one of the most popular titles released in the post World War Two “silver age” of British comics. Launched in 1952, Lion was Amalgamated Press’s answer to Eagle, featuring its own space hero, Captain Condor on its cover. Read Steve Winders review here

Adam Eterno Fan Site – The Spellbinder Guide (some broken links)

Wikipedia: Catweazle

That Book Pile…

Valiant Book of Mystery and Magic 1976  - The Spellbinder by Geoff Campion - Book Pile

Shudders – edited by Cynthia Asquith

First published in 1929, a collection of ghost stories by writers including Walter de la Mare. Lady Cynthia Mary Evelyn Asquith was an English writer, now known for her ghost stories and diaries. She also wrote novels and edited a number of anthologies, as well as writing for children and on the British Royal family.

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by MR James

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by MR James

A horror short story collection by British writer MR James, published in 1904, somme stories previously featured in magazines. Some later editions under this title contain both the original collection and its successor, More Ghost Stories (1911), combined in one volume.

• Uncanny Tales by F Marion Crawford

Features all eight of F. Marion Crawford’s supernatural pieces, including the rare story “The King’s Messenger”, as well as such classics as “The Upper Berth” (considered by some to be the finest ghost story ever written) and more.

The Room in the Tower by EF Benson

A short horror story by E.F. Benson, first published in 1912. An unnamed young man has a recurring nightmare in which he visits a friend’s house in the summer.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker

When Jonathan Harker is summoned to Transylvania to finalise a property deal for the mysterious Count Dracula, he stumbles upon an ancient evil he is unprepared to face. When that evil escapes to England, the entire nation is suddenly under threat and only an aged vampire hunter, Professor Abraham Van Helsing, can put a stop to the bloodshed. 

Fear by Edith Nesbit

Another book on the pile far bigger than required – the first edition, published in 1910, runs to just 34 pages! (There’s a signed copy available here). The Collected Short Stories of E Nesbit Volume 1 – Gothic Horror includes “Fear”, along with earlier work.

Edith Nesbit, better known as the writer of The Railway Children and The Treasure Seekers, offers bite sized tales of red-headed temptresses, darkness and shadows, bodies coming alive, death of loved ones, being buried alive, philandering men, unrequited love, social poverty, and writing through the night to earn enough money to eat due to make ends meet. All themes which ran through the personal life of the author.

Dark Carnival by Ray Bradbury

Dark Carnival by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury’s first story collection, first published in 1947, is a must-read for any fan of the genre, spinning stardust and cobwebs in its wondrous wake. It contains twenty-seven stories, from science fiction’s master storyteller.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth … but he is not alone. Every other man, woman and child on the planet has become a vampire, and they are hungry for Neville’s blood.

By day he is the hunter, stalking the undead through the ruins of civilisation. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe

Including Poe’s most terrifying, grotesque and haunting short stories, Tales of Mystery and Imagination is the ultimate collection of the infamous author’s macabre works.

Considered to be one of the earliest American writers to encapsulate the genre of detective-fiction, the collection features some of his most popular tales.‘The Gold-Bug’ is the only tale that was popular in his lifetime, whereas ‘The Black Cat’, ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’ and ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ became more widely read after his death.

Skull-Face and Others by Robert E. Howard

A collection of fantasy and horror short stories by American writer Robert E. Howard. It was the author’s third book and was published by Arkham House in 1946. Most of the stories had originally appeared in the magazine Weird Tales.

Spellbinder - Tales of Darkness and Dread

• Broomsticks by Walter de La Mare

“Broomsticks” was a short story which first appeared in Broomsticks and Other Stories (1925) and then subsequently in The Scarecrow and Other Stories (1945), Collected Stories for Children (1947), Supernatural Cats (1972) and The Book of Cats (1977).

It’s the tale of a scheming and strange cat called Sam, who lives with an elderly lady in the middle of a moor, miles from anywhere and anyone. Sam begins to act strangely, seemingly escaping for long periods of time and disappearing…

As for what Tom Turville is reading – “Tales of Darkness and Dread” by Peter Deman – well, that book seems to be imaginary – and might indeed be the reason why the young adventurer is, well, so… spellbound by his reading choice (demon, geddit?)

Yes, you thought this was just a one-off illustration, didn’t you… but it seems whoever was behind it clearly put a lot of thought into telling a story in just one page to wrap the book!

“Turville’s Touchstone”/ “The Spellbinder” © Rebellion Publishing Limited

With thanks to comic archivist Reuben Willmott for sending me down this rabbit hole

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.



Categories: British Comics, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News

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2 replies

  1. Hi John, By the look of the ” broomsticks” book it ought to be Walter de la Mere?

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