If you missed yesterday’s Lawless: The Bunker, a virtual comics event organised by Su Haddrell and fantastic team of volunteers, run in place of the annual physical event usually held in Bristol, then you’ll be pleased to hear many panels are available on YouTube – and here are some “background notes” and links to expand on what was discussed.
This includes the British Comic History panel hosted by ComicScene publisher Tony Foster, with author and journalist Paul Gravett, comics historian extraordinaire and Bear Alley Books publisher Steve Holland, 2000AD artist and author David Roach and myself, John Freeman, in my capacity as publisher of downthetubes.
The wide-ranging panel discussion covered lots of creators, comics and topics and I thought you might like to know more about some of the topics and creators mentioned as we raced back and forth across 100 years-plus of comics history.
My thanks to the Lawless team for the invite, and the rest of the panelist’s for putting up with noisy interjections. It was a fascinating session, with some great recommendations for new work from Paul, and amazing industry anecdotes and information from David and Steve.
Thanks also to Richard Sheaf for live tweeting useful links during the videocast, included here.
Roll On Lawless 2022!
Participant Creator Web Sites
Host Tony Foster
ComicScene and the ComicScene Comic Club: comicscene.org
Join the Comic Club from only £2.50 a month. Your contribution helps support the work they do and you get extras including the History of Comics, dedicated sections for students of comics and comic creators, more comic news and access to over 3000 pages of additional material.
You can get the History of Comics Books – one book features one year in comics – at GetMyComics.com/ComicScene
Publisher of downthetubes.net
Check out his work and news blog at paulgravett.com
Bear Alley – bearalley.blogspot.com
Buy Masters of British Comic Art (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)
First published in Princess Tina in 1971, in colour from June 1972, and continued in the merged Pink and Tina for another six and a half years. After a year in Mates and Pink, the strip was relaunched in Girl in 1981 and ran until April 1988. Steve Holland notes in his 2019 tribute to creator Purita Campos that the strip proved hugely popular and was translated widely, running in the Netherlands (as ‘Peggy’ in the best-selling Tina magazine, 1971-86), Italy, Greece, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Campos’s native Spain, where it appeared as Esther y su mundo (“Esther and her World”) in Bruguera’s Lily magazine (1974-81), helping that magazine sell up to 400,000 copies a week, and then in Esther (1981-86).
The Phantom Patrol
Only rarely seen since it’s original appearance in Swift, Steve Holland planned to publish a collection of all 57 episodes of The Phantom Patrol back in 2009, but the project got mired down in licensing issues with then copyright owner Time Inc., then owners of IPC.
Written by Willie Patterson, who’s best known for for his vital,part in making Daily Express strip “Jeff Hawke” a success alongside that strip’s creator Dydney Jordan, The Phantom Patrol was drawn by Gerry Embleton.
In the summer of 1941, Sergeant Joe Timm and his infantry patrol were trapped in the Greek hills a mile away from the sea and a hidden landing craft that would take them to safety. The Germans hold a vital Pass ahead of them and escape seems impossible. German shells begin to drop around their heads, uncovering a cavern with a curious looking craft. Inside, Joe grabs a strange-looking apparatus and rejoins his men just as the Germans advance into their hiding place. Escaping through the cave system, they reach their landing craft only to face more danger as Stuka dive-bomber turns and screams down at them. As the men hit the deck, Joe accidentally pushes a switch on the apparatus.
The Stuka disappears. Instead, on the horizon they see ancient galleys battling and Corporal Jock McLuckie realises the truth… it was they who had disappeared, transported back 3,000 years. With a tank, a landing craft, a handful of guns and a captured Nazi, the British infantry unit find themselves in the midst of the Trojan Wars.
“The Phantom Patrol is a superb yarn of a kind that British comics did best,” Steve enthused back in 2009. “Fast-moving and wildly plotted, the story grows more complex as the patrol battles its way through Egypt and Private Paddy O’Connell finds himself adrift in time with a police trooper from the future. Flitting from past to future, will the Sarge and his men manage to escape back to now… and, given the situation they left behind, will they survive even if they do get back?”
With Rebellion more supportive to licensing strip rights to other publishers, Steve says he hopes at some point to discuss publishing his collection,which features a cover by Chris Weston, along with Cursitor Doom, with a cover by John Ridgway.
“Scream Inn”, a marvellous reader-participation buoyed strip, was one of the highlights in Shiver and Shake, and, later, Whoopee! The strip that “represented horror comedy at its very best”, argues Irmantas Povilaika on his terrific Kazoop! blog, was illustrated by Brian Walker who had joined IPC not long before “Scream Inn” started.
Wrath of the Gods
An adventure set amongst the people and places of Greek legend, first published in Boys’ World in 1963, written by Willie Patterson – described by comics archivist and collector Phil Rushton as “surely one of the most literate and literary scripters to have ever worked in British comics” – and drawn by Ron Embleton.
Michael Moorcock has mistakenly been attributed with writing “Wrath of the Gods”, but his job at Boys’ World was to write text features not comics.
“In spite of his aptitude for Science Fiction, Patterson had an omnivorous mind that devoured Latin and Greek literature with as much enthusiasm as he studied Astronomy or Physics,” comics archivist and collector Phil,Rushton noted back in 2012. “As a result his scripts for ‘Wrath of the Gods’ captured the authentic ‘feel’ of Greek Mythology, even as he played fast and loose with the archeological facts. Thus, the whole series is structured as a classic quest in which each week’s episode opens with a fresh wonder that the hero Arion has to overcome before he is sent on the next leg of his journey with a new instruction from the gods. And while Embleton later confessed to being unhappy with the historical inconsistencies that he had to negotiate, his ability to bring a sense of realism to the most fantastic scenes proved a perfect counterpoint to Patterson’s soaring imagination.”
British girls comics artist John Armstrong, co-creator of “Bella at the Bar” for Tammy and “Moonchild” for Misty, who died in 2017
Born in London on 6th October 1930, Ron(ald Sydney) Embleton began drawing as a young boy, submitting a cartoon to the News of the World at the age of 9 and, at 12, winning a national poster competition.
At 17, he earned himself a place in a commercial studio but soon left to work freelance, drawing comic strips for many of the small publishers who sprang up shortly after the war.
His biography on Book Palace notes he was soon drawing for the major publishers. His most fondly remembered strips include “Strongbow the Mighty” in Mickey Mouse Weekly, “Wulf the Briton” in Express Weekly, “Wrath of the Gods” in Boys’ World, “Tales of the Trigan Empire” and “Johnny Frog” in Eagle and “Stingray” in TV Century 21.
Embleton also provided the illustrations that appeared in the title credits for the Captain Scarlet TV series, and dozens of paintings for prints and newspaper strips.
A meticulous artist, his illustrations appeared in Look and Learn for many years, amongst them the historical series “Roger’s Rangers”.
Sadly, Embleton died on 13th February 1988 at the age of just 57.
The award-winning Spanish comic artist Purita Campos, best known in Britain for the strip “Patty’s World“, which as noted above, ran in Princess Tina.
“Purita was absolutely the top girls comic artist in the UK in the 1970s and 80s,” says David Roach, “drawing for comics like Princess Tina, Valentine, Romeo, Bunty and Mirabelle among many others.”
During the videocast, David noted “Patty’s World” as one of British comics most widely exported comics creation.
• Books by Purita Campos on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)
Gordon Hutchings is one of Steve Holland’s favourite artists from the nursery comics, ranking him “as one of the best discoveries I’ve made in the pages of Jack and Jill, Playhour and Harold Hare’s Own. “It’s astonishing to think that he was drawing comics for at least a quarter of a century and almost nothing is known about him or his work.” Steve has made sure to address that over on Bear Alley for over a decade, highlighting, in particular, his work on “Gulliver Guinea-Pig”, with its incredible backgrounds.
Artist Ian Jackson has enjoyed an incredible career, creating comics, greeting cards and much more, and we recently put the veteran creator in the spotlight here on downthetubes, in the week marking the 35th anniversary of the launch of Oink!, in which he played an integral part.
Online at shaneoakley.blogspot.com
Shane is probably best known for his co-creation of the Wildstorm mini series Albion, with Alan Moore, Leah Moore, and John Reppion which ran from 2005 until 2006, a series revived many long forgotten UK comic book characters such as the Steel Claw and Grimly Feendish, some of whom had not been in print since the 1950s. But he’s done much more, including strips for Deadline, comic covers, and, in 2007, an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” written by Dan Whitehead and published in Self Made Hero’s Nevermore anthology.
Online at woodrowphoenix.co.uk
Few creators have been stretching the capacities of comics to fully involve the reader as persistently as Woodrow Phoenix, who grew up in south London with four sisters. He is a comics artist/writer whose constant experiments with the form appear in newspapers, books and magazines in Japan, France, the US and South America. His strips have featured in The Guardian, the Independent on Sunday and the Observer. His handbound, one-metre square artists’ book/installation containing a large-scale, hand-rendered graphic novel called She Lives has been exhibited at venues around the UK with extended residencies at the British Museum and the Cartoon Museum.
Artist on many memorable humour strips for DC Thomson and IPC/ Fleetway. Over 50 years, Brian’s work appeared in comics such as Beano, The Dandy, and Whizzer and Chips, in humour-led publications such as Punch, serious magazines such as The Countryman, and in more than 80 books.
Steve, whose professional credits included colour work for Marvel UK and the DC Comics edition of V for Vendetta and author of Encyclopedia of Cartoon Techniques for over 20 years. He died in 2008, taken far too young.
“Steve was not only one of the finest colourists Britain has ever produced, but a great artist, a scholar of the comics medium, and a great teacher, too, who I worked with at The London Cartoon Centre in its various incarnations,” recalled friend and colleague David Lloyd at the time.
“He was a terrific guy – generous to a fault, full of enthusiasm about this medium of ours, and great company over a Guinness or three. He’ll be sorely missed by all who knew him.”
Featured Writers and Archivists
Derek Adley and W.O.G. Lofts
An extraordinary archivist of British comics who inspired Steve Holland, for one into his chosen career
Philip Harbottle’s latest videocast digs deep into the SF work of Denis Hughes… but his comics work has largely gone unrecognised. However, we’re pleased to report details of some of his output will feature on downthetubes soon, courtesy of his daughter
This wildly entertaining and educational tome is a journey through the history of British comics – from the birth of the 20th century to the 1980s invasion of American comics by the likes of Brian Bolland, Dave Gibbons and Kevin O’Neil (to name but a few), right up to today’s up-and-coming British art stars and the talents of tomorrow.
Revealing the extraordinary history of the UK’s prolific comic book industry from the 19th Century to the 21st, this ground breaking volume celebrates the incredible artists who made a huge impact on British comics and would go on to revolutionize the industry on a global scale. Featuring a Who’s Who of talent, including Brian Bolland, Yvonne Hutton, Dave Gibbons, celebrated greats such as Don Lawrence and lost masters like Reg Bunn and Shirley Bellwood. Author and 2000AD artist David Roach takes us on a journey through time detailing the surprising and fascinating evolution of the art from its humble beginnings to its current world-conquering status.
Including artwork from a vast number highly-acclaimed artists, carefully scanned from original artwork, Masters of British Comic Art is the definitive study and celebration of a beloved industry.
Bailey doesn’t realise he is about to fulfil his tragic destiny when he walks into a US Army recruitment office. Secretive, damaged, innocent, trying to forget a past and looking for a future, Bobby is the perfect candidate for a secret US government experiment, an unholy continuation of a genetics program that was discovered in Nazi Germany nearly 20 years earlier in the waning days of World War II. Bailey’s only ally and protector, Sergeant McFarland, intervenes, which sets off a chain of cascading events that spin out of everyone’s control. As the monsters of the title multiply, becoming real and metaphorical, the story reaches a crescendo of moral reckoning…
Read a review here on downthetubes by Allan Harvey. Paul Gravett also reviewed the graphic novel for the Times Literary Supplement
It’s the summer solstice weekend, and 150,000 people descend on a farm in the northeast of England for an open-air music festival. At first, a spot of rain seems to be the only thing dampening the fun – until a mystery bug appears. Before long, the illness is spreading at an electrifying speed and seems resistant to all antibiotics. Can journalist Zoe Meadows track the outbreak to its source, and will a cure be found before the disease becomes a pandemic?
A heart-racing thriller, Resistance imagines a nightmare pandemic that seems only too credible in the wake of COVID-19. Number one bestseller and queen of crime Val McDermid has teamed up with illustrator Kathryn Briggs to create a masterful graphic novel.
Published by Myriad Editions, Coma is an astonishing record of one woman’s will to survive against the overwhelming pull of the deep – a beautifully painted graphic novel and a visual diary recording the monstrous and mundane.
Here are the names of the massive team of people who helped put together the Lawless: The Bunker online event this year, led by Su Haddrell: Andy PalmerMe Ben Conan Cullis, Simon Belmont, Andy Poulastides, Steve Hargett, The77 comic Publishing Team, Awesome Comics Talk Team, Sector 13 – The Fanzine Team, Joanne Alexander, Stacey Dutton-Whittle, Mick Ramsey, Dave Wynn, Phillip Vaughan, Peter Adamson, Jim McClean, Tony Foster – and a whole host of others!