Many artists’ commissions never get to see the light of day. They are commissioned for a dummy issue of a new comic, a potential new character that doesn’t make the grade for an current comic, or they are too late for a comic that has just folded. This does not mean they are bad art, just unlucky in their timing.
However, we at downthetubes have been fortunate enough to get to see not one, but an entire series of these hidden treasures from the pen of John Cooper and we would be interested to find out if they did make it into print.
Born in Featherstone, West Yorkshire in 1942, John Cooper, now retired, is considered one of the UK’s most prolific comic artists. He drew such iconic characters as the “Thunderbirds” (for TV21) and “Judge Dredd” and his five-year stint on Johnny Red in Battle is seen as the defining look for the character. He joined Battle in 1976 and over the next 11 years he worked on practically every issue. His other many credits include strips such as “One-Eyed Jack”, “General Dies at Dawn”, “Gaunt” and “Dredger”.
In recent years his work often featured on Channel Four News – his reputation for drawing quickly making him an ideal choice to illustrate stories for which no visual recording had been obtained or was impossible to acquire.
There are at least three theories regarding the images in this feature drawn by John, who cannot recall their origin.
The first theory is that they are chapter headings in a book. If so, what is the book and where can we buy it?
The only clues that we can offer is that if you look closely at the building in the first image, you can see that it is intimating that it is a Barnardos Home while in a later image the main character is seen grubbing through a wheelie bin. Now wheelies bins were only introduced into the UK in 1989, so we know that this art must have been produced in the last 20 or so years. However, if you look at the second image above in all its’ evocative glory, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a Dickensian take of doom and gloom.
If you have the answers to our questions, please drop us a line!