In Review: Bear Alley Books “Longbow” classic British comics collections

Bear Alley Books - Longbow Covers Montage

Bear Alley Books have launched two stunning collections of the classic British comic strip “Longbow, the Last of the Cheyenne” from Swift and, later, Eagle, the strips drawn artists that includes Geoff Campion, Gerry Haylock, and Don Lawrence – some of the greats of British comics.

Featuring covers by Don Lawrence, best known for his work on “The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire”, the two volumes collect the complete story written by Mike Butterworth, spanning over 70 adventures – the strip drawn by a variety of great artists.

Artists on Longbow, the Last of the Cheyenne include Juan Gonzalez Alacreu, Jesus Blasco, Geoff Campion, Francisco Cueto, Gerry Haylock, Frank Humphris, Don Lawrence, Cesar Lopez, R. Charles Roylance, Martin Salvador, Keith Shone and Rodney Sutton.

  • Longbow Volume 1 - Cover by Don Lawrence
  • Longbow Volume 1 - Sample Art
  • Longbow Volume 1 - Sample Art
  • Longbow Volume 1 - Sample Art
  • Longbow Volume 1 - Sample Art
  • Longbow Volume 1 - Sample Art

Volume One includes a history of the character revealing his origins a decade earlier in the shape of Strongbow the Mohawk, how the strip mixed old and new stories by Mike (Trigan Empire) Butterworth and how his adventures were to continue following a merger of Swift (where the story originally ran as “Blackbow the Cheyenne”) and Eagle.

  • Longbow Volume 2 - Art by Francisco Cueto
  • Longbow Volume 2 - Art by Don Lawrence
  • Longbow Volume 2 - Art by Juan Gonzalez Alacreu
  • Longbow Volume 2 - Art by Gerry Haylock
  • Longbow Volume 2 - Art by Don Lawrence
  • Longbow Volume 2 - Art by Jesus Blasco

Volume Two continues the story as Steve Winders delves into the history of Blackbow the Cheyenne in the pages of Eagle and how the character changed under the pen of Ted (“Robot Archie”, “The Spider”) Cowan and brush of artist Frank Humphris.

In Longbow, we meet Doctor Jim Bennett, who had a strange secret – he was also Longbow the last of the Cheyenne, a white man who had been brought up as the son of a Cheyenne chief.

In moments of danger, he would quietly steal out of Powder Creek and head for a hidden grove of giant redwood trees which lay beyond Cheyenne Crest. Before the mightiest of the redwood trees – the tree of the Great Spirit which bore the sacred mark of the Cheyenne and which was guarded by Longbow’s magnificent stallion, Flying Star…

This two-volume collection is, perhaps, one of publisher Steve Holland‘s most ambitious to date and as ever his research into the origins of the strip, its creators and ancillary information, positively shines in accompanying the accompanying features over both volumes. The origins of Longbow are fascinating, spanning an era of paper shortages, company buy outs and series revamps, and Steve pulls no punches in notes acknowledging the historical inaccuracies in the stories.

As ever, he gives full credit to the artists involved, and writer Mike Butterworth too, acknowledgment these amazing creators rarely received when the strips were first published.

But of course it’s the strips that are the main attraction of these gigantic 130-plus page collections, and while there a huge range of artists features, the quality of the work is tremendous, a veritable Who’s Who of classic British comics. There are no three or panel pages here, as in some modern comics – we’re given up to 12 panels a page in places, delivered with consummate style.

Offering intense, fast-paced action adventure throughout, this strip is surely classic British weekly comics at its best in terms of satisfying its contemporary audience ever eager for western-based tales, spurred by their popularity in the cinema and on the TV sets of the day.

If you’re a western comics fan, or simply enjoy the work of the artists featured, these Longbow collections are an absolute joy. Just take the historical background with a very big pinch of salt!

John Freeman

Longbow Volumes One and Two can be ordered direct from Bear Alley Books

Volume 1, A4, b/w, 134 pages. Price: £13.99
Volume 2, A4, b/w, 140 pages. Price: £13.99

Top Tip: You can buy the two volumes of Longbow together, and for a limited time Bear Alley are offering 10% off each volume and combined postage, adding up to a significant saving over ordering both books separately

Addendum: Since posting this, I’ve learnt the Longbow collections owe no small debt to artist Martin Baines who suggested the project. “Martin has really championed the books and helped out greatly along the way,” Steve notes.

“When I originally saw odd pages by Jesus Blasco on the Look and Learn website over five years ago and knew Don Lawrence had drawn a few pages I thought it may have legs as a potential high quality reprint and suggested it to Steve Holland,” Martin says. “He then told me Don Lawrence had drawn around 40 pages that were not even listed by his Dutch fan club.

“For me, it turned into quite a buried treasure find discovering artists such has Gerry Haylock and Frank Humphris had worked on the series. I am really glad that Steve has chosen to publish this lost classic and he deserves to be supported.”

Longbow © Look and Learn Ltd.

Categories: British Comics, British Comics - Collections, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Features, Reviews

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2 replies

  1. John, I’m glad to see this, as I wasn’t aware of the history of the character, which I read avidly as a boy in Eagle. (Years later I got to interview artist Frank Humphris and got to see his armoury of western weaponry, as well as owning a page of his artwork for the strip.)
    However, I must query two points here: I only ever read him under the name of Blackbow the Cheyenne (never Longbow), and his alter-ego’s name was Doctor Jim Barnaby (not Bennett).
    Humphris incidentally, an expert on western lore and a genuine sharpshooter, described the strip as ‘a load of old tosh’ and thought it not a patch on ‘Riders of the Range’, his previous strip for Eagle.

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