Cartoonist Lew Stringer reports that Walt Howarth, the prolific artist of many British annual covers of the 1960s and 1970s has died, aged 80.
This is Lancashire reports Walt, whose credits include work on Doctor Who, The Lone Ranger, Dempsey and Makepeace and Bonanza annuals and illustrations for Bolton Wanderers programs in the 1950s, died in his sleep on Thursday morning at the Royal Bolton Hospital.
His wife of 58 years, Renee, said: “He died peacefully, which is the main thing. He kept his sense of humour, right up until the end.”
Mr Howarth, a great-grandfather who celebrated his 80th birthday last November, was also a former landlord of the House Without a Name pub in Bradshaw, near Bolton, who began work as an illustrator aged just 16 after attending Tonge Fold School and Bolton Art College.
“Like many artists of his generation, his work was often uncredited, but his work would be familiar to many children due to his prolific and varied output,” says Lew. “His career spanned 60 years but he was best known for the many covers he illustrated for the tv theme annuals published by World Distributors such as the early Doctor Who annuals.
“In a pre-DVD age, Walt Howarth had to produce likenesses and representative artwork often based on minimal photo reference.”
His work is still in high demand – he painted many spoof Lone Ranger ‘covers’ before his illness prevented him from working – and special edition packs of Doctor Who cards feature his autograph.
He also created covers for many other popular character items, including scrapbooks and puzzles, and provided concept art for titles such as this 1960s Famlous Monsters in Filmland scrapbook which was never put into production, left, which sold for nearly $500 on auction site Hakes in 2006.
“I was very proud to be associated with Walt for the last 10 years or so,” commented Steve Penny, owner of Pure Nostalgia which sells Walt’s art.
“I have been selling British annuals since 1985,” Steve recalls in comments posted on Lew’s blog but which Mr Penny has given us permission to reprint here, “and I have a good many fond recollections of Walt.”
“My first words to him were ‘Hello, Mr Howarth. You don’t know me but you have kept me in business for the last 15 years’!
“Walt didn’t only illustrate children’s annuals,” Steve points out. “He also painted World Distributor comic covers in the 1950s (John Wayne, Cisco Kid, Billy the Kid and many others) and he painted many of the jigsaw puzzles from that era (Coronation Street, Wells Fargo, Bonanza, Doctor Who etc.
“Every time I met up with him he would come up with a new ‘gem’, telling me ‘I painted that’.
“Walter had a happy disposition and he will be sadly missed by all his friends in the the business.”
“He had a wonderful life and loved his job,” his wife told local press on announcing his death. “He became down when he could no longer draw.
“Through his drawings his memory will live on.”
Walt was a lifelong Bolton Wanderers fan and his family plan to scatter his ashes at the club’s ground.
Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to Derian House children’s hospice.
• Walt Howarth, 1st January 1928 – March 2008
(Added June 2023): WJ Heritage aims to continue Walt’s legacy, with a range of high quality clothing adorned with the WJH logo
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.