We’re sorry to report the passing of veteran artist Mike Noble, perhaps best known for his work on the British weekly comics TV Century 21 – drawing strips such as “Fireball XL5“, “Captain Scarlet” and “Star Trek” and Look-In – working on strips such as “The Famous Five“, “Follyfoot“, “Robin of Sherwood“, “Timeslip” and many more.
Growing up, Mike’s work was amongst the comics art I most admired, and along with Ron Embleton and Frank Bellamy he did much to cement my love of comics from an early age. He will be very much missed and fondly remembered by many British comics fans for his distinctive work that captured the imagination of so many.
Born in Woodford in 1930, Mike grew up in London, and although initially evacuated had many memories of his experiences as a youngster during after World War Two. (He related in one interview in 2011 how he thought he avoided becoming the victim of a V1 bomb).
“As a boy, I used to enjoy drawing,” he explained. “My brother and I used to spend happy hours on a wet afternoon filling up the the drawing books that our parents bought for us.”
After the war he studied commercial, rather than fine art at South West Essex Technical College and School of Art, then St. Martins in London, joining an advertising studio aged 17. In 1949, aged 18, he was called up for National Service and was in the 8th Royal Tank Regiment in North Yorkshire for 18 months, after which he spent three years in the Territorial Army, where his artistic talent came into good use producing graphics of military hardware.
In 1950 he got a job at Cooper’s Studio, London and began working in comics field in 1953, starting with “Simon and Sally“, a strip for Eagle’s younger sibling comic, Robin. He also worked on illustrations for a wide variety of magazines including Titbits, Woman’s Own and John Bull, and the regional newspaper the Birmingham Weekly Post. He often noted how much he owed Leslie Caswell, who he worked with at the time.
In 1958 he started a long run of regular work in comics, with the strips such as “Lone Ranger and Tonto” for Express Weekly and “Range Rider” for TV Comic. But it was his work on TV Century 21, starting with “Fireball XL5” in colour in 1965 that would confirm him as one of the British comic greats, followed by his work on “Zero-X” and “Captain Scarlet“. He eschewed the look of Gerry Anderson’s puppet creations for a realistic more approach that energised the comic – and set his style for decades to come.
Working on “Timeslip” for Look-In and many other strips that revealed his tremendous ability to bring any TV show to the printed page with considerable skill. His work on “Follyfoot” and “The Adventures of Black Beauty” showed off his talent for dynamic figure work as well as his ability to draw realistic animals.
But he was more than happy to turn his talents toward “Worzel Gummidge“, too, capturing lead actor Jon Pertwee’s likeness (as he did many others), perfectly.
Although he retired from drawing comic strips in the 1980s, due to family health problems, he still worked on magazine covers and illustrations, returning to the world of Gerry Anderson in the 1990s, drawing covers and colour pin ups for Fleetway’s Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Stingray comics.
Earlier this year, Network released a special edition Captain Scarlet Blu-Ray collection that included cover art (and a poster) by Mike and Lee Sullivan, and Lee also worked with Mike on the Big Chief Captain Scarlet 12″ figure, due for release soon.
“I’m extremely sad to hear of Mike’s passing,” says Lee. “In my view, he was one of the greatest comic strip artists this country has produced, and a lovely gentleman. It was a privilege to get to know him and collaborate with him in the last few years.”
In retirement, his talents were employed more locally in his home village of Balcombe, Sussex, where he designed a lychgate and stained glass windows for St Mary’s Church.
“I’m very grateful to have had the chance to meet Mike Noble,” noted writer Helen McCarthy in a tribute for downthetubes on his 84th birthday in 2014. “And I’m very glad that there are some excellent blogs and websites where you can find out more about him and his work.
“He didn’t just draw Supermarionation – he drew everything from American TV to British pop star biographies to Japanese puppet fantasies.”
Writing on Facebook earlier today, she revealed she and partner, artist Steve Kyte, had visited him recently and had a wonderful afternoon with him.
“He was in great form, a very good host and still working on a board on his knees. He showed us some astonishing character illustrations he’d done for Under Milk Wood, just for fun – someone ought to send them to the Folio Society, they deserve their own new edition!
“I wrote to him at the end of last week to suggest a date for a pre-Christmas visit, but too late, alas”.
“To me, he was the ultimate illustrator of the TV21 and Gerry Anderson universe within the comic strip medium,” feels artist Graham Bleathman, well known himself for his work inspired by the Supermarionation shows of the 1960s. “He captured the spirit of Century 21 perfectly whilst adding so much to it; many of his panels in TV21 had ‘over the shoulder’ shots which, even if it wasn’t deliberate, gave the impression of events unfolding before a camera lens, perfect for the ‘newspaper of the future’.
“I also loved more subtle approaches used in his non-SF work for Look-In; particularly the use of colour in strips like ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘Follyfoot’ – which I gather were favourites of his – and also the graininess of his black and white ‘Wurzel Gummidge’ strips.
However, it’s his TV21 work that he is always going to be remembered for, and in that, he was the definitive comic strip illustrator of the worlds of Gerry Anderson.”
“So very sad to hear this morning that one of the greatest artists to ever grace the pages of TV Century 21 and so many other publications has passed away,” noted Fanderson’s Stephen Brown on the club’s official Facebook page. “Mike Noble was one of the nicest people that you would ever want to meet and Lynn, myself and so many others have been privileged to have known such a lovely chap.
“Over the years he had been a great friend to the club and was one of the most popular regular guests at conventions. He had a great bubbly nature and would find time for anyone whenever they wanted to chat to him about his work.
“If there is such a place as heaven, then Mike deserves to be up there amongst the best.”
“From TV21 to Look-In, he made such an impression on me as a kid” notes comic artist, writer and publisher Dave Elliott.”I think without him, Frank Bellamy, and Ron Embleton, I might not have enjoyed comics long enough to discover Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko.”
“Mike drew many wonderful pages for comics from the 1950s until recent years,” notes artist Nigel Parkinson. “… Meticulous draughtsmanship, line weight, colour work. The best of the best.”
For many, many, British comic fans, Mike Noble was, simply, the best. He leaves a legacy in terns of influence and his many fans that would be hard to equal. My sympathies to his family and friends.
• Mike Noble, born 17th September 1930, died 15th November 2018 | In memory of Mike donations can be made to the Sussex Heart Charity
• Read artist Lee Sullivan’s tribute to Mike Noble – “A True Inspiration”
• Lee Sullivan‘s wonderful tribute to Mike Noble on YouTube
• Read Helen McCarthy’s tribute to Mike written on the occasion of his 84th birthday in 2014
• Bear Alley – 1993 Interview with Mike conducted by Steve Holland and Bill Storie
• Mike Noble interview on The Complete Gerry Anderson Complete History (Cached via Archive Today)
• Art by Mike Noble on the Illustration Art Gallery
• Mike Noble on Lambiek | Wikipedia
• More on the Captain Scarlet figure here from BIG Chief Studios
• Mike Noble shared his memories of working on the “Worzel Gummidge” strip for Look-In with Stuart Manning for The Worzel Book, published by MIWK
ARTIST and FANDOM TRIBUTES TO MIKE NOBLE
• Anderson Entertainment: Mike Noble’s passing announced
• Barnaby Eaton-Jones, organiser of Robin of Sherwood events and more, offers a poignant tribute to Mike here on Facebook
• Lew Stringer pays tribute to Mike here on his Blimey! Blog
Categories: British Comics, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, Obituaries, Star Trek
In my humble opinion the best artist ever to grace a comic, loved Look-in as a kid and Mike was the main reason. Sad news…RIP
My Wife and I visited Balcombe a couple of years ago with the express wish of meeting my childhood hero and the reason for taking up drawing as a seven year old child with the advent of TV21 in 1965.
Those remarkable comic strips opened up a new world of space travel, action, adventure and I was completely hooked, for me they surpassed the future world that Gerry Anderson created for television,
I had written a brief letter, describing his tremendous influence on me as a child and how grateful I still am for bringing this wonderful body of work into our homes every week and yes, we did meet him, my Wife recognised him as he walked past the coffee shop we were in, catching up with him as he left a convenience store clutching a box of Dairy Milk.
A lovely man, genial, conversational, he took my letter and I have a wonderful photograph of the two of us to treasure.
Extremely sad at Mike’s passing. Was aquanted through my brother after I kept asking him who did the drawings he had on the wall in his house in Balcombe.
Eventually met him at a party, went to see him on a few occasions thereafter and what an unassuming, friendly and chatty gentleman. You would not have known that he was one of the top comic book artists in his time, and in my opinion to this day.
Luckily he did a few for me and have them on the wall. I stop every day and wonder at his pen and ink work, second to none, even Frank Bellamy.
RIP Mike, your work will love on for many many years.
I was so sad to hear about the death of Mike Noble,
I had the pleasure of meeting the great, we were both In the same ward in Brighton Royal Sussex hospital 6th December 2017, I only realised it was Mike Noble, when we were all talking on the ward when he said was a illustrator, and I asked his name, I was like OMG this man drew my childhood, he really was an all round lovely man, we had some great chats and walked around the floor of the ward for exercise, his brother came to visit everyday,
I gave him a Christmas card and to my surprise for a Christmas card he drew me a brilliant sketch of Captain Scarlet and put Best Wishes and signed it,
I heard him muttering to himself ‘Now how did I used to draw it it’s been a long time’
It is now framed and I will treasure it.
Mike Noble was a stunning and inspirational illustrator. I wrote to him a few years ago to tell him how wonderful I thought his work was, and he sent me a lovely letter in reply. It was characteristically humble, of course. I could write an entire essay listing all the qualities that make his artwork so remarkable, but everyone reading this will already be aware of it all, I’m sure.