A Short Introduction: Before his unexpected passing in 2016, author Roger Perry – a longtime contributor to this site and veteran of the British comics industry – sent downthetubes a number of articles which we planned to run, working back and forth to fine tune them in the run up to publication. At the same time, Roger submitted variants of some of his articles to other web sites and publications, and some material submitted expanded on his 12-part series on the life and times of publisher Leonard Matthews – but as he never had the opportunity to share details of what had been accepted elsewhere, I was rather unsure if I could post the articles at all.
Three years on from his passing, rather than consign these articles to history, I’ve decided to risk posting these items as snapshots reflecting his prestigious output. I hope you’ll enjoy them, and apologies if the content “steps on toes” elsewhere – John Freeman
December 2019 Update: While, sadly, Roger is no longer here to update and amend this piece, Brian Woodford has kindly furnished his own memories of his times in publishing covered in this two-part article, which have now been incorporated. My thanks to him for doing this.
Most Likely He Had Printing Ink Running Through His Veins!
We’ve remained friends for a good many years – the likes of which are a smidgen over half-a-century . . . although if the truth be told, there has been the odd decade or two when we’d rather lost contact with each other.
Currently, we live half-a-planet apart – he in Boise, Idaho, USA and me in deepest tropical Philippines – but with the benefit of being able to send messages electronically in seconds, we are perhaps closer now than we have ever been.
And so who am I talking about?
Brian Woodford: Sub-editor, editor, designer, author, assistant balloon-letterer, director, picture-frame maker and self-imposed International Spy.
From the beginning of 1963 until the end of 1966 – we had worked in fairly close proximity – he on Boys’ World and me on Girl… and separated only by a double-skinned steel partitioned wall with vertically-reeded glass. It was only for around the final six short months of 1966 – when both he and I had transferred jobs and gone to Century 21 Publishing – did we physically share an office… and even than I will have to admit that I don’t entirely recall him having been there sitting alongside me.
So perhaps Brian is right when he says (and repeatedly does so) that he chose the wrong profession. Maybe he really should have become a spy and worked for MI6! But then, there must have been something between us, otherwise, why would I have travelled some six-thousand miles in 1968 to end up by sleeping in his bath for a couple of nights?
(“When I arrived at TV21 virtually all the editorial staff and art staff occupied one large room with desks pushed up to each other,” Bob recalls. “Gillian Allan was there, too, working on the new Lady Penelope weekly. Allan Fennell shared an office next door with his secretary. Bob Prior was upstairs working on annuals and other publishing projects with an Aussie, Ed somebody or other.
“When Roger first arrived he took a desk in the large room mentioned above and began work on a Thunderbirds booklet entitled Thunderbirds Are Go, to be published in conjunction with the feature length movie that was to be released. Subsequently he moved upstairs into the office with Bob and Ed.
“When Ed left – I eventually met up with him in Montreal, Canada – I was glad to move off the weekly to take his place in the room with Roger and Bob P. I remained there until leaving at the end of December before moving in the January to Toronto, Canada.”)
Due to Brian’s quiet, unobtrusive manner, he always appeared to be so much older and far more mature than his true age . . . but the sad bald fact is, he is a good two-to-three years younger than me. Some people are cagy when it comes to divulging their true age, but not Brian, in a more recent email, he confirmed his date and place of birth by saying:
Brighton… I was born there, 5th January, 1940. I visited the place recently, and I’m quite surprised there isn’t a blue plaque on the wall of the house that I was born in.
I knew so little about his early days, nothing of his schooling, or as to how it was that he had ended up by going into publishing as and when he did. In a swift response to my presumptuous delving, he told me he had attended Forest Hill School for Boys “and was a pretty good student. I was always top in history exams and good at English too – especially on writing essays.”
Now, I suppose I could have left it at that. But then a few days later, Brian expanded further on his schooldays which, I’m sure like me, anyone reading it would have wanted to have known more. Oh boy, how the mind doth boggle.
“There was nothing particularly remarkable about my school,” Brian told me, “except that in the last year, events that we were not aware of were taking place among the teachers and headmaster that resulted in some pretty poor and slapdash supervision and teaching.
“Sometimes, our form was left alone for more than an hour with nothing but a silly set quiz supposedly designed to keep our heads down. It did nothing of the kind and produced only mayhem. I’d had enough and decided I would be better off leaving and going to work. Within about six months of my departure, at least 15 boys were expelled from the class for various misbehaviours.
“I left school before I was sixteen but had already decided early on that I wanted to do something in publishing. An advertisement in the Evening News had said that the Amalgamated Press was looking for messenger boys. As “AP” was in publishing, I applied and was subsequently hired.”
That was that in 1955 – when he was still only 15 – and when Brian started “earning an honest crust”.
Amalgamated Press – In the Beginning
Following in the footsteps of so many other young hopefuls who had begun their lives as office boys, Brian too began to trudge the long “road towards full-blown journalism”.
For him, work began inside a beautiful old building with a large clock that hung outside and high above the wide pavement. This was the old and original “Fleetway House” in Farringdon Road. It was situated roughly one-third of the way between High Holborn Viaduct and Ludgate Circus (the former being the major road that runs between the City of London and the highly popular West End, and the latter being where Fleet Street runs into it from the west and is close to St Bride’s Church, where Marcus Morris occasionally had held services, and the truly magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral).
In the late 1950s, a rather “bland white building” rose beside it – this becoming “New Fleetway House” – and although the two buildings were not connected at the front, towards the back staff was able to move freely between the “old building” and the “new”.
I sat in a small glassed office on the first floor of the old Fleetway House. It was the general office floor… payroll, accounts payable, etc. There were two or three other boys there with an older man acting as supervisor. Various offices from the publishing area upstairs would call down for a messenger and the supervisor would assign one of us to handle the chore. I was paid the princely sum of three pounds eleven shillings and seven pence (£3 11s 7d) per week. After a few months I gained a sense of what the company was all about and where the various magazines and comics were located.
One day, I was approached by John Ayers, the office boy on Playhour. He had been landed a job in the general art / finished lettering department but could not go there until a replacement had been found. He asked if I would apply. I fairly jumped at the chance… got the job, and moved up into the editorial office of Playhour on the sixth floor.
In addition to the usual duties of office boy on Playhour, I was also doing things for Monte Hayden (the overall Company Director of “Fleetway’s” Juveniles Section), and for Leonard Matthews (General Editor of Sun and Comet) whose office was right across the hallway. I also got the chance – when I could – to proof read and very soon wrote my first script for which I was paid extra. George Allen was the editor of Playhour, with David Roberts as his assistant.
And so Brian began his days as an office boy on the nursery weekly Playhour. It was there that he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Alan Fennell (later to become Managing Editor of TV Century 21) and Angus Allan, who became TV21’s Script Editor, before going back to his real love of being a freelance.
Having been guided (and encouraged) by others who’d also been keen to earn extra cash thus enabling them to add to their nominal wages, within a year Brian too was beginning to write the occasional script for a single page feature that had appeared on Playhour’s back cover. As he says: “I wrote my first script (‘Wink and Blink’) when I was sixteen.”
Usually on a Friday, when it seemed many of the artists would come in, they would discuss matters and drop in work they had done, and then they would go out for a liquid lunch with George Allen and David Roberts.
Many of the artists would come into the office, and Brian particularly remembers Phil Mendoza, Steve Chapman and Peter Woolcock.
I think it was Basil Reynolds who first introduced Ron Embleton to Fleetway at Playhour (Reynolds had come from Mickey Mouse, where I think he had used the services of Embleton). I did visit Embleton’s home – then near Ilford – once or twice to pick up artwork and recall discussing some of his more serious paintings that were in his studio. Nice man, as I recall. I also visited front cover artist Harry McCready, a very quiet, unassuming man who barely opened the door of his home (Clapham or Battersea, as I recall) to hand over the artwork and then close it just as quickly.
From there, Brian moved on to Jack and Jill, pretty much doing the same thing. Then onto Thriller Picture Library.
“I got to know David Roberts quite well. He was certainly a ‘one-off’ kind of guy,” he recalls. “He was assistant editor of Playhour with George Allen when I first started as office boy (having replaced John Ayers who moved over to the finished title lettering department). David was a super talented and creative writer especially in the very young age group to which Playhour had catered. His talent was writing rather than editing and he was one who never treated me less than an equal when in reality, I was this scruffy young kid doing little more than making the tea and running errands. He approved the very first script I ever earned extra for on Playhour and I remember him with nothing but good vibes. Later on, he was a major contributor to Look and Learn.”
“Thriller Picture Library”
In fairly quick succession and still in the role of office boy, Brian was transferred first to Jack and Jill and then onto Thriller Picture Library. In progressing from his office boy status on Playhour, Brian had now gone one step up the ladder to become “a junior sub”.
Under the leadership of Frank Capern (doing much of the editorial work) and with Australian Jim Storrie – a sub who wrote scripts and was helpful in those stories that Brian was working on for Thriller – this had clearly been a fairly small team.
It was during Brian’s time on Thriller that Leonard Matthews had come up with the idea of publishing Top Spot. While Frank Capern was carrying out the creative work on the Top Spot dummy, Matthews had regularly approached Brian to ask such questions as the likes and dislikes of teenaged boys and in general, as to what they would like to see in this new paper. It was due to Brian’s enthusiasm over this new project that – as the launch-date had approached – Matthews pulled him off Thriller and put him on to work on Top Spot – not only as an editorial assistant but he had also been given a regular weekly column to write.
For Brian, times were good. He was now an editorial assistant on the new Top Spot magazine where his responsibilities had not only included writing a weekly column on Jazz, but he was also acting out the role of a male model… he was being photographed wearing those clothes that had been picked out to be displayed and written about in the magazine’s weekly fashion page. In the promotional shot where Brian is sitting astride a Vespa, the girl riding pillion was Eileen Earl, who at that time was Leonard Matthews’ secretary.
Brian worked closely with the newly hired “art-man” Trevor Newton who had created most of the early design-work on the magazine. With staff quickly expanding to around 12, so too had come the compounding problems that possibly had contributed to its eventual downfall.
The following is taken from a blog called “Michael Moorcock’s Miscellany”. (If you don’t know who Michael Moorcock is, you will find out more about him in Part Two). In an exchange of mailings that spanned the 9th and 10th April 2013, Moorcock and Woodford (the latter writing under the guise of “Albion – Moonbeam Traveller”), had written:
Moorcock: Alf Wallace was known to the lads in his department as “ManTan the Mighty” because of his horrible orange bottled tan. He ‘edited’ (he had no real editing experience) a short-lived magazine called something like Top Spot.
I remember discovering that Alf [Wallace] was running a scam, paying himself for reprints by others on the pay-sheets. Outraged, I told Bill Baker, not [being] sure what to do. He told me to forget it. I then discovered that Bill was doing the same thing.
Woodford: Alf never actually did edit Top Spot. With the huge payroll it had – one of the reasons for its failure – it was difficult at times to know who actually was in charge. It was a cash cow for so many, including Alf, who paid themselves handsomely for such things as simply reading American material to determine if the British rights should be bought. It had been determined that [the] publication would cease but there was so much stock on the books that had to be “used up” before that could happen. Ed Burke did some editing, caption writing and such but I was essentially the editor
Moorcock: I’d forgotten about Ed Burke! He had some great Madison Ave stories. Alf bought himself three houses with his ill-gotten gains, Bill told me. Bill probably bought another round. He at least was a wonky idealist. Thanks Brian. Brian W Aldiss, right ?
Woodford: …you have the wrong Brian. It is Woodford. No reason, though, that you should remember. I have been told often that I would make a good spy…
According to Brian, the staff of Top Spot had not been shy in dipping their hands into the “freelance pot” for the slightest thing. Top Spot had bought in a huge selection of short stories and illustrations from a number of American magazines and this was where the staff had earned copious amounts of extra cash for just reading the material and giving it either the thumbs up sign… or down as the case may be. There were just too many “cooks in the kitchen” thus creating far too many overheads.
Due to sales failing to reach the desired levels, staff was either moved onto other magazines elsewhere or had left “Fleetway” altogether. A big effort was made to pull it out of the fire under the leadership of James Stagg, but these efforts were then thwarted by the disastrous printer’s strike which shut everything down for several weeks during the months of May and June of 1959.
After that, all that was left of the staff was myself and Ed Burke, an American writer who had been hired by Matthews. Ed helped out with proof reading, titles, captions etc, but I found myself in the main chair essentially as editor but without the title or the pay to go with it.
Branching away from Brian for a moment, during the month of March 1959, I became employed as an illustrator for a trade magazine at Hulton House called Farmers’ Weekly… the subject of this weekly paper having been a far cry from the likes of Top Spot I knew nothing of it, and to gain a greater insight into what this unusual magazine had been all about, I checked out what Lew Stringer of the “Blimey!” blog spot had had to offer:
“Top Spot, a weekly published by the Amalgamated Press in 1958. Like many attempts to capture the adult reader it didn’t really catch on, lasting just 58 issues before merging into Film Fun. However, it was a curious item that deserves to be remembered.
“The target audience for Top Spot was adult males, specifically late teens, early twenties, and to attract this demographic the paper (for it was more than a comic) used a mixture of tough comic strips and prose stories, articles on such items as jazz and sport, jokes, and titillating photos of glamorous models and film stars of the day.
“Top Spot tried to be all things to the young adult male readership it was pitched at, and was no doubt enjoyed, by many. Perhaps it would have endured a longer run had it not fallen victim to the printers’ strike of 1959. That summer saw Top Spot and other publications appear infrequently, and when it returned to regular publication it limped on for a few months before merging into Film Fun in January 1960.”
Brian notes that the intent of Top Spot, as explained to him by Matthews, was that it was to be a male counterpart of the successful Valentine that Mike Butterworth had created.
“Its failure to meet or define that premise contributed greatly to its demise,” Brian feels. “This assumed, of course, that there was a market for this age group in the first place.”
In Steve Holland’s Bear Alley Book Boys’ World – Ticket To Adventure, he indicated that Brian’s friend and working colleague Ed Burke had been the editor of Top Spot when – according to Brian – he never, ever fulfilled that role. If anyone had been editor during those last few months, it had to have been none other than Brian.
Top Spot was on its last legs and as staff was being spun off either into unemployment or transferred onto other titles, all that had remained was Brian and Ed with the former as an editorial assistant from the very first issue and the latter purely there as a writer with virtually no real editorial experience.
For all that, Brian always speaks highly of both Matthews, and of Ed Burke.
“Matthews did have his successes such as Look and Learn which was a smash,” he notes. “My liking of him is because he was instrumental in giving me a chance on the career ladder. He made me an editorial assistant on Top Spot and for its last several months – obviously when it was dying but had this huge volume of purchased stock – I was essentially the editor. Edmund Burke, an American writer who became a good friend, assisted but… production hadn’t been his forte.
“We shared an office with desks face to face,” Brian recalls. “We always had a chess game going on in the centre making our moves in between work bits.
“The only time we ever saw Matthews was when he would surprise us. The door would suddenly fly open – crashing back on its hinges – and he would just stand on the threshold glaring in without saying a word. Then he would turn away and stomp off. I don’t know if he was trying to catch us at something or what, but we had a good chuckle about it afterwards.”
The failure of Top Spot must have been a great disappointment for Matthews, and on slamming open the door with the view to saying something, perhaps “words” momentarily had (understandably) failed him. Mind you, he had other – of far greater importance – on his mind… such as the untouchable Frank Hampson and the Reverend Marcus Morris’s “jewels in the crown” that he was desperate to have control of.
“With the closure of Top Spot, I was moved onto Film Fun, as a sub working under Jack LeGrand. Jack had been there a long time for he had been working in that group at the outbreak of World War Two and before going off as a glider pilot at Arnhem. Val Holding was overall group editor of Film Fun, Radio Fun and Knockout.”
During the time when Brian had been sub-editor on Film Fun, they’d hired a new office boy named Anthony Power (or Tony as he liked to be known). It was Brian’s job to supervise and to teach him as much as he could. Tony remained on Film Fun until he was scooped out to work in a separate department with Nobby Clarke – probably the best pure comic strip creator at Fleetway at that time. Nobby would pencil draw all his scripts out onto large art pads and all the artist had to do then was to copy Nobby’s work. Tony was to work alongside Nobby thus honing his scripting skills.
Tony eventually left Fleetway and went to work for Matthews at Martspress. Brian isn’t quite sure how it eventually evolved but he ultimately became the editor of Men Only when it eventually became owned by Paul Raymond – the proprietor of the infamous Raymond Review Bar Club.
While Brian was still on Film Fun, Matthews came up with the idea for Buster (son of “Andy Capp”). One day, Jack LeGrand told Brian that he was likely to be selected as the new editor when the new magazine came together. But that never happened, because Jack himself got the job, before going on to be a group editor at a later stage.
Taking Jack LeGrand’s place as editor of Film Fun had been David Motton. But that too had been fairly short-lived, as the closure of Radio Fun had coincided with David’s wish to go freelance, thus enabling Sid Bicknell to become the new editor of Film Fun.
For those of you who are unsure what the term “freelance” entails, it means that the individual is no longer placed on the staff payroll but can still supply work which is paid for using that company’s scale of payments. It also means that he can not only work all the hours that he wants, but he is also not tied to any one particular magazine or even to any one particular publishing house. He is… a free agent.
Books and Annuals
Sid was one of those guys I just didn’t click with. Knowing that David Gregory was in charge of a number of annuals under Ted Holmes, I jumped from Film Fun to the annuals department, which was good, insofar that David was quite innovative. It was he who eventually had pushed for more football titles and the promotion of Roy of the Rovers to single status.
I worked on annuals until I was summoned and sent off to Boys’ World on Fleet Street. My time in annuals came to an abrupt end when David told me that the powers (presumably Matthews) had wanted me to move over to the Hulton’s building on Fleet Street to help out on the new weekly Boys’ World. Apparently it was running behind schedule and they needed extra assistance. By now, Look and Learn was booming away… I would have given my right arm to have been part of that. A publication right up my interest alley.
As he says, he wasn’t complaining, for having worked on Top Spot had been a fabulous learning opportunity. It was probably for this reason why Matthews had plucked him out of the Fleetway annuals department and had dispatched him over to Boys’ World. As he has said so many times: “I just wish Alf Wallace hadn’t been there”.
Unhappy Goings-On in Another Place
For Juvenile Publications (Odhams) based at Hulton House, Tuesday 5th September 1961 had been the day when everything changed, as I previously documented in more detail in my series of articles about Leonard Matthews career. The so-called “top brass” emanating from “Fleetway of Farringdon Road” had descended upon us from a great height. These were “The Gangsters of Fleet Street” (as Chief Sub Editor Shirley Dean liked to call them). Standing there in great-coats (despite it still being early September), hats (remaining on heads) and tinted horn-rimmed glasses, there had been a distinct resemblance between these three “hoods” standing there before us and those other undesirables one hears about that hale from the mountainous regions of Southern Sicily. With George Allen to one side and David Roberts on his other, Leonard Joseph Matthews began to lay down the law.
Their outrageous demands had created such anarchy and mayhem that in the midst of the bedlam, certainly one Art Editor was bluntly told to “clear out his desk and leave by Friday” (although these days he likes to give an alternative version for his rather rapid departure). I’ve spoken of it before, but it would appear that John Kingsford had written a similar account of what had transpired.
Kingsford – who’d been employed by the Eagle Group since 5th January, 1959 – had (just one day earlier) been up-graded to the position of Assistant Art Editor having replaced Roy Williams – and has written the following piece for Eagle Times:
“It would have been about this time that Roy Williams left and Charles moved me into his office from the layout department to act as his assistant for the brief period of time before he also left. I remember the day he handed in his notice as being quite a traumatic one, inasmuch as it was not accepted with much grace by the new hierarchy. He cleared his desk and was out of the building that same day.”
The indignation surging throughout the remaining employees had been such that a large number of senior staff – starting off with Eagle Editor Derek Lord and quickly followed by three or four others including Girl Editor Pat Jackson and Rosemary Garland – had voiced their intentions to resign also… (although in their case, it had taken rather a lot longer for them to “clear their desks and leave by Friday” – like four weeks – which was the customary notice period in those days,,, senior management or not).
One person who hadn’t given any ‘notice period’ but had just walked out had been the ‘un-co-operative puppet” Managing Editor Clifford Makins. By the time 5.30 had come around and we were all packing up our belongings in readiness for heading off home, Makins had already gone… he’d slipped out unobtrusively without saying a single, solitary “goodbye” to anyone – not that there had been any reason for him to have done so, for in the eight days that I had been there, not once did I ever see (or meet) the man.
Quoting from Living with Eagles, the book written by Sally Morris and Jan Hallwood (Sally and Jan being the Reverend Marcus Morris’s two daughters) on page 220, their text reads “Clifford described it as ‘a time of real hell. I was left with a bloody shambles.'”
And on page 222 we learn Marcus wrote to Clifford twenty years later, saying: ‘You made a great contribution to the children’s papers. I’m sorry you had to fight such battles after I left with the appalling people who moved in.'”
On the following Monday – 11th September, 1961 – Val Holding arrived to sit in Makins’ empty chair. Matthews had given him a one-year contract to come in daily; to sit in that room; and above all else, do nothing and touch nothing. In that one year, I saw Holding precisely once – not in any editorial capacity I might add but more so that we had passed in the corridor while going towards the lift – he hadn’t had a clue as to who I was.
Although it took them almost a year for Matthews’ shenanigans to come to their notice, halfway through 1962, a weekly news magazine in London appeared with its front page fully devoted to a cartoon. It showed the figure of a man in Napoleonic garb [and] flagged “Napoleon of the Comics”. This was Leonard Matthews, the newly created director of Fleetway Publications who one year earlier had irretrievably altered the course of “comic history”.
The loss of key staff had been one thing; the changes that Matthews had imposed upon Eagle’s” art content had been quite another. By the time the downgraded art had reached the eyes of dedicated readers, they were so utterly appalled that within weeks, the upshot was the loss of 150,000 sales weekly – the circulation had plummeted from 500,000 copies a week and down to 350,000. Letters of complaint poured in by the sack-load . . . and every one had remained unloved and unanswered. From “Living With Eagles” page 220:
As Dan Lloyd, the new chief Sub said: “Fleetway rooted out most of the stuff people bought Eagle for and put in a lot of the rubbish they had in their morgue. Some of that was originally black and white, and had to be coloured up to be introduced as a marvellous new feature. Eagle lost all the appeal it originally had and that was reflected in plummeting sales.”
“Matthews certainly was a man who would brook no opposition once he got his mind and sights set on something,” Brian feels. “But there is no telling what his thinking was in regard to Eagle when he took over.”
What is so particularly galling for me is that, again according to Living With Eagles, Leonard Matthews says that he didn’t take a lot of interest in the Eagle group.
“I acquired it and left it alone,” he claimed. “I didn’t seek to impose any form of government. They were doing very well without me and I took a back seat. I tried not to interfere with the editorial. I don’t remember having anything to do with the content.”
What an absolute lying toad.
But let us get back to the story on Brian Woodford before I tear out what remaining hair I do have… but that’ll come in Part Two, huh?
23rd September 2015
Boys’ World is one of the most fondly remembered of all British comics from the 1960s. An Eagle for the new decade, it featured across its centre pages the mighty ‘Wrath of the Gods’, an epic tale of deities and demons beautifully drawn by Ron Embleton. Readers thrilled to the adventure of ‘The Sea Ape’, puzzled over the question ‘What Is Exhibit X?’ and roared at the sporting antics of ‘Billy Binns and his Wonderful Specs’.
Boys’ World: Ticket to Adventure relates how the paper came into existence at a turbulent time for comics, how its original editor was replaced before the first issue even reached the newsstands and how it eventually folded into the paper it was meant to replace.
Compiled by Steve Holland, the book also includes extensive indexes to the paper’s contents as well as those of the Boys’ World Annuals; the book also includes title and creators’ indexes, outlines of every comic strip storyline the paper ran and a unique look at the payments made for three key issues.
MORE EAGLE DAZE
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part One
Roger explores the beginnings of the destruction of the Eagle…
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Two
The comic magazine Top Spot, published in 1958, was Matthews’ brainchild – but it was the male counterpart of an already existing magazine and it was a title that faced plenty of problems as it ran its course before merging with Film Fun after just 58 issues…
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Three
Roger outlines how Matthews jealousy almost destroyed the Eagle…
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Four
Roger reveals a possible mole working on the Eagle and trouble behind the scenes on Girl…
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Five
How a Marks & Spencer Floor Detective Became Managing Editor of Eagle…
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Six
Roger reveals how Dan Dare co-creator Frank Hampson was thorn in Leonard Matthews side…
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Seven
Trouble at the top for ‘The Management”, the troubled debut of Boys’ World – and the demise of Ranger
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Eight
On the creation of Martspress, the company that would publish TV21 in its later, cheaper incarnation…
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Nine
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, Roger recalls how Men Only was given a new lease of life – and Leonard Matthews’ ignorance of Star Wars…
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Ten
A phone-call out of the blue brings about a closer relationship with the one man Roger had once feared the most…
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Eleven
A search for elusive promotional film stills end in the middle of nowhere in a one horse town without a horse – and Eagle‘s production methods are recalled
• Eagle Daze: The Life and Times of Leonard James Matthews – Part Twelve
Roger clarifies points made in past chapters, looks back on Leonard Matthews career – and sums up his contribution to British comics – and publishing in general…
• Comics and Graphic Novels on Amazon UK (Affiliate Link)
Artist, designer, photographer and writer Roger Prölss Perry was the youngest of three children – the given name of Prölss deriving from the maiden name of his paternal German grandmother.
Born in Guildford, Surrey in July 1938, after school he studied at the Regent Street Polytechnic School of Art close to Oxford Circus, the West End and the BBC where he achieved the National Diploma in Arts and Design before commencing with a further year of study in commercial design under the guidance of Ley Kenyon DFC, noted for his writing, art and underwater photography, and lithographer Henry Houghton Trivick (1908-1982).
His first job in the media industry was as an in-house illustrator on Farmers’ Weekly, beginning in March 1959, working under the direction of Art Editor Alfred Harwood, working on the seventh floor of Hulton House at 161-167 Fleet Street, London. He was there for just five months before going into two years of National Service until August 1961, returning to the company (now Long Acre Press) as a layout artist (designer) at “Juvenile Publications”, the umbrella name for Eagle, Girl, Swift and Robin. He joined the team of three other layout artists – Bruce Smith, Ron Morley and John Kingsford – on Monday, 28th August 1961 where he remained until May 1966.
He then began work as Art Editor at Century 21 Publishing until June 1969. As he says: “Yes, I suppose I could be described as a ‘layout artist’ but I commissioned art (Art Editor), kept an eye on Andrew Harrison and Bob Reed (Studio Manager), took photographs as and when needed (Resident Photographer) and generally made sure that everything was present and correct when everything needed was being sent to the printer (Office Boy). I also (with the help of Linda Wheway) came up with the ideas and photographs for five books (Author?)”.
From Century 21 Publishing, Perry then went to Hamlyn Books (July 1969 to October 1970); and worked for Bob Prior’s premium packages for two months before joining ex-Art Editor of Century 21 Publishing Dennis Hooper in December 1970 who was now Editor of Countdown at Polystyle Publications.
Perry remained with Polystyle until September 1974, when he became Art Editor for Purnell Books, remaining with the publisher for eleven years – until 1985 when he started operating his own public relations business.
Due to his growing interest in the art and the close proximity of Bath where the nerve centre of the Royal Photographic Society is, he achieved the distinction of Associate Member in 1987 for audio/ visual presentations thus entitling him to display the letters ARPS after his name… although he rarely does.
Having had a life-long fascination for the Far East, he moved to the Philippines in the 1990s, where he married Marilyn Gesmundo. He lived for 11 years on Cataduanes before moving a number of times recently following Typhoon Haiyan, finally with Raquelyn Navarro in the city of Naga in Cebu.
Sadly, Roger died on 23rd July 2016 following a heart attack, just one day after his 78th birthday.
He is survived by his daughter, Rae. His son, Marcus, predeceased him after a long battle with cancer.