We’re sorry to report the passing of former Polystyle Publications staff member John Harvey, whose duties included editor of Pippin in Playland, and who also wrote the title’s “Sooty and Sweep” stories.
John passed away 15th January 2020, aged 89.
Growing up in Tottenham, John left school at 14, and did his National Service with the RAF. During his media career, he worked for the Croydon Times and, later, the Ham and High in Hampstead.
In comics, he will be best known for his work as editor of Polystyle Publications Pippin in Playland, introduced to the company by Arthur Thorne, where he also wrote the stories for “Sooty and Sweep“.
Working at Polystyle from the mid-1960s until 1980, when he was made redundant, he also had a wider editorial role within the company, working on licensed material, such as agreeing stories and artwork for “Ivor the Engine” with the show’s creators, Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate.
He also had dealing with actor Jon Pertwee for the company’s “Doctor Who” strips, presumably for TV Comic.(His work in this area is to be documented by Colin Brockhurst in an upcoming issue of Vworp! Vworp! magazine).
A popular staff member at Polystyle, artist and veteran illustrator Jim Eldridge, whose many credits include “Tarzan” for TV Comic, “Roy of the Rovers”, and numerous strips for several girls comics, drew a picture of John, which the writer kept his entire life.
John also worked with and spoke highly of artist, editor script writer Dick Millington, who died in 2015, and also worked with creators such as Roger Noel Cook, who’s best known for his work on TV Comic, particularly his long run writing “Doctor Who”.
Pippin in Playland, the title debuting in July 1975, was the result of a merger of two other Polystyle titles – Pippin, launched in 1966 (cover dated 24th September 1966), and Playland, launched in 1969 (cover dated 13th January 1969).
The titles featured stories based on young children’s BBC TV favourites, rotated over time as older series disappeared and new series began. These included Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin’s The Pogles (whose Pippin character gave the comic its name), Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley, Ivor the Engine, Sooty and Sweep and many more. Some characters appeared in both Pippin and Playland before the merger.
Each issue was around 16 pages in colour and black and white, and also featured a puzzle page, readers letters and photographs, and a Bible story, the latter for Pippin in Playland usually written by John.
Stories were generally of four or eight numbered panels, with a short sentence below each illustration (similar to the Express newspaper strip, Rupert the Bear), although some stories did appear in prose form.
Running for 1044 issues, the final edition of Pippin in Playland was cover dated 26th September 1986, when it was absorbed into Buttons. Separate hardback annuals for both Pippin and Playland were also published even after the merger, containing new stories and puzzles. Regular holiday specials were also published.
Outside comics, John was an active member of the West Green Baptist Church in Tottenham, where he was a deacon, Sunday School teacher, and Boys Brigade leader, was involved with both the cricket and football teams – and used to edit church magazine.
Through his church, he met his beloved wife, Stella, at an open air meeting with Robins Mission and they were married in 1956.
Only last year, before losing his battle with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, John had organised the 150th Anniversary at West Green – and had even climbed up a ladder onto the roof to place a banner there!
After his time in publishing John was later transport manager for Haringey Council.
“He was incredibly proud of his six children, their partners and of course his beloved grandchildren and great grand child,” his daughter Clare Harvey-Nguyen says. “He reached out to everyone and was a loyal friend to many.
“He embraced technology and certainly moved into the 21st century, keeping in contact with Facebook, WhatsApp, emojis and
using Google to check the latest cricket and Spurs scores,” says Clare. ‘Why carry a cumbersome bible,’ he said, ‘when I have it on my phone!
“We are so sad he didn’t get to write his autobiography.”
downthetubes extends its sympathies to John’s family at this time.
• John’s family would love to get in contact with anyone who knew him from his time at Polystyle Publications. Please feel free to leave memories here – comments are initially moderated but once approved, further comments can be added by visitors, thank you
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. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 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.