In Memoriam: “Billy the Cat” Comic Artist Peter Foster

Peter Foster. Photo: Christine Burdeos
Peter Foster. Photo: Christine Burdeos

Comics archivist Matt Cole recently reported the passing of Australian comic artist Peter Foster, who passed away on 22 April 2022, a contributor to many British comics.

We paid tribute to his work in detail on downthetubes back in 2020, noting his work for both Australian and British comics.

Born in Caulfield, Victoria on 18th May 1931, Peter was an art teacher at De La Salle College in Melbourne, and became a professional comic book artist after moving to England in 1978, where he stayed until 1980.

Initially working on Hotspur, his many credits for DC Thomson include “Billy the Cat” and “Tuffy” for Buddy, “Crag” and “We Are United” for Champ, “The Mill Street Mob” for The Crunch and “Bleak Street Bunch” for Spike, and work on Commando and Football Picture Library.

He also drew some strips for IPC, including a one-off “Johnny Red” story for the 1979 Battle Holiday Special.

Peter also recalled drawing strips for girls comics, including “Nutmeg and Fritz” for Judy, a sequel to two previous stories drawn by Andy Tew, ” The Horse With a Mind of its Own” and “Nutmeg at the Olympic Games”.

Commando No. 5006 reprinted in 2017 - Story by Ian Clark, Art by Peter Foster and Cover by Jeff Bevan. Aerial and Nautical battle action on this detailed digest page by Peter Foster
Commando No. 5006 reprinted in 2017 – Story by Ian Clark, Art by Peter Foster and Cover by Jeff Bevan. Aerial and Nautical battle action on this detailed digest page by Peter Foster © DC Thomson Media
Action packed adventure with hard nosed copper Crag from the Crunch No. 11, published in 1979 © DC Thomson Media
The opening page of “Billy the Cat” from Buddy No. 8, published in 1981 © DC Thomson Media
A night sequence from “Billy The Cat” from Buddy No. 8, published in 1984. “Peter was really laying the down the ink and tones on this one,” notes Matt Cole  © DC Thomson Media
A night sequence from “Billy The Cat” from Buddy No. 8, published in 1984. “Peter was really laying the down the ink and tones on this one,” notes Matt Cole © DC Thomson Media
“We are United” football action from Champ No. 18, published in 1984
“We are United” football action from Champ No. 18, published in 1984 © DC Thomson Media

Not only was Peter a terrific artist, often surprisingly hard on his own work in interviews, he was generous in his time in terms of offering advice to aspiring creators.

Commenting, for example, on his work on “Billy the Cat”, he noted the shortcomings of the tones and textures in reference to a Letraset, but still applicable today.

“The Letraset company devised a whole series of tones and textures for line art. I had been using them in advertising some time before I got into comics and also earlier when I was teaching art at De La Salle Boy’s College in Malvern. Part of the course for the boys was the use of Letraset in a range of types, tones for the line art and textures. The boys loved using my leftover sheets for types and tones. The tones made up with black dots as in half tone, had a comprehensive range of tones from about 10% to 90%.”

“Billy the Cat”, from Buddy, cover dated 21st February 1981, showing how much tone work Peter Foster applied to this page © DC Thomson Media

“My use of tones in ‘Billy the Cat’ looked great on the finished art which was twice up in size and on a very white glossy art paper,” he continued. “However, it was a mistake to go to this far with this particular job because the paper it was printed on was the cheapest and the ink could not achieve the solidness of black depth required. I should have anticipated the problem and only used grey tones… Say 50%. That way I would have had three values: Black, white and one grey. The deeper tones started to clog up and above 80% were to close to the black. A lesson well learnt! However, the reader may not have even noticed.”

“Peter taught me at De La Salle in the early 70’s,” notes artist Graeme Pender of Peter’s teaching last year. “I went on to become a police artist for three years with VicPol. It wouldn’t have happened without Peter’s tuition and guidance as a young boy. Thanks Pete.”

“Through his art, music and faith he entertained and inspired a lot of people all over the world,” notes Matt Cole. “Condolences to his family, friends and fans. He was a very special man that I’m grateful to have known.”

Sentiments that I’m sure many downthetubes will share.

Here’s a downthetubes spotlight on Peter’s work compiled in 2020, with thanks to Daniel Ruiz Tizon, Matt Cole at Pikitia Press, and others

FURTHER READING

Peter Foster – Facebook Appreciation
Peter Foster contributes to this group by way of the moderator, Matt Cole

Nat Karmichael’s profile of Peter Foster here, which includes listings of his Commando and Football Picture Library work

• Pikitia Press: Peter Foster – Commando: The Pirate Killers

• Pikitia Press: Items Featuring Peter Foster, including book launch reports

Some of Peter Foster’s Commando stories are highlighted here on the official web site

With thanks, once again, to Matt Cole

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, Features, Obituaries

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

%d bloggers like this: