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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Oliver Brabbins Cover Gallery

This is a far from complete, chronological gallery of Brabbins's book covers.

Valley of Death by W. R. Hutton
Hamilton & Co., Dec 1946, 9d.
Futuristic Stories #2
Hamilton & Co., Dec 1946, 1/-.

Strange Adventures #2
Hamilton & Co., Jan 1947, 1/-.

Gun Treachery by Bruff Curfew
Hamilton & Co., Mar 1948, 1/-.

Back-Alley Blonde by Griff
Modern Fiction, Jan 1952, 2/6.

Too Tough to Live by Griff
Modern Fiction, Feb 1952, 2/-.

Spanish Holiday by Phyllis Sutton
Pinnacle Books, 1952, 2/-.

Love Bade Me Come by John Lodwick
Pan Books 340, Jun 1955.

The Clue of the New Shoe by Arthur Upfield
Pan Books 355, Sep 1955.

Hatred, Ridicule or Contempt by Joseph Dean
Pan Books 362, Nov 1955.

Little Caesar by W. R. Burnett
Corgi Books S455, 1957, 188pp, 2/6.

Prey for Me by Thomas B. Dewey
Corgi Books S473, 1957.

Lawrence of Arabia by Richard Aldington
Four Square Books 3, Oct 1957.

Dagger Before Me by Manning O'Brine
Corgi Books S493, 1958.

The Second Book of Crime-Craft by Helen McCloy & Brett Halliday
Corgi Books S535, 1958, 189pp.

High Sierra by W. R. Burnett
Corgi Books S536, 1958, 221pp, 2/6.

The Dark Window by Thomas B. Walsh
Corgi Books S619, 1958, 159pp, 2/6.

Tomorrow's Another Day by W. R. Burnett
Corgi Books S654, 1959, 188pp, 2/6.

Lead With Your Left by Ed Lacy
Corgi Books S670, 1959, 187pp.

The Tyler Mystery by Francis Durbridge
Hodder Paperbacks 436, 1960

The Scarf by Francis Durbridge
Hodder Paperbacks, 1962, 191pp, 2/6.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Oliver Brabbins Checklist (part 2)

The following list encompasses Oliver Brabbins's output of covers for major publishers, the bulk of them from 1955 onwards.

Arrow Books
200 Green Willow by Ethel Mannin (Jun 1950)

Pinnacle Books
1 Claudia by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
4 Young Claudia by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
6 From Claudia to David by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
Spanish Holiday by Phyllis Sutton (1952)

Pan Books
340 Love Bade Me Come by John Lodwick (Jun 1955)
341 Death at Half-Term by Josephine Bell (Jun 1955)
355 The Clue of the New Shoe by Arthur Upfield (Sep 1955)
362 Hatred, Ridicule or Contempt by Joseph Dean (Nov 1955)
365 Surface! by Alexander Fullerton (Jun 1956)

Graphic Books (US)
131 This Kill Is Mine by Dean Evans (1956)
135 Murder—Very Dry by Samm Sinclair Baker (1956)
136 Killer's Choice by Stuart Brock (1956)
138 The Corpse Next Door by John Farris (1956)
142 Fair Prey by Will Duke (1956)

Panther Books
719 Warrant for a Wanton by Michael Gillian (Sep 1957)

Four Square Books
3 Lawrence of Arabia by Richard Aldington (Oct 1957)
4 And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov (Oct 1957)
12 The Foxes of Harrow by Frank Yerby (Jan 1958)
13 A Woman Called Fancy by Frank Yerby (Feb 1958)

Corgi Books
S455 Little Caesar by W. R. Burnett (1957)
S462 Blind Date by Leigh Howard (1957)
S465 Run to Death by Patrick Quentin (1957)
S473 Prey for Me by Thomas B. Dewey (1957)
S479 Spin the Glass Web by Max Ehrlich (1957)
489 Second Ending by Evan Hunter (1957)
S493 Dagger Before Me by Manning O'Brine (1958)
T505  Night Man by Allan Ullman, from the screenplay by Lucille Fletcher (1958)
S525 Chain of Death by Sterling Noel (1958)
S535 The Second Book of Crime-Craft by Helen McCloy & Brett Halliday (1958)
S536 High Sierra by W. R. Burnett (1958)
S539 Man Alone by Victor Norwood (1958)
S548 Top of the Heap by Erle Stanley Gardner (1958)
S579 Guerrilla by Ira Wolfert (1958)
S619 The Dark Window by Thomas B. Walsh (1958)
S626 The Fight by Vernon Scannell (1958)
S654 Tomorrow's Another Day by W. R. Burnett (1959)
S670 Lead With Your Left by Ed Lacy (1959)
SC728 The Wife of the Red-Haired Man by Bill S. Ballinger (1959)
SC743 A Shadow in the Wild by Whit Masterson (1959)
SC799 The Kind of Guy I Am by Robert McAllister & Floyd Miller (1960)
SC861 Venetian Blind by William Haggard (1960)

Ward Lock Target Books
Dead Orchid by David Lawrence (1958)

Ward Lock (hardback dust jackets)
Raid by J. B. O'Sullivan (1958)
? Widow's Pique by Blair Treynor (1958)
One Night of Murder by Hamish Boyd (1959)
Danger in the Dark by Patricia Carlon (1962)

309 Two For Inspector West by John Creasey (1959?)
??? The Toff and the Deep Blue Sea by John Creasey
436 The Tyler Mystery by Francis Durbridge (1960)
??? The Scarf by Francis Durbridge (1960)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Oliver Brabbins Checklist (Part 1)

The following checklist encompasses Oliver Brabbins' output of covers at the cheaper end of the paperback market in the period up to 1954.

Hamilton & Co.
Valley of Death by W. Richard Hutton (Dec 1946)
Futuristic Stories No.2 (Dec 1946)
Strange Adventures No.2 (Jan 1947)
The Prairie Trail by Joel Johnson (Feb 1947)
Reckless Journey by John Eagle (1947)
Blazing Guns by N. Wesley Firth (1947)
Open Holsters by N. Wesley Firth (1947)
? Orchid Lady by Sheila A. Firth (1948?)
Broadway Racket by W. R. Hutton (1948?)
Wayward Wife by Ann Lemorris (1948?)
Skeleton Canyon by Lance Netton (1948)
Redheads Are Poison by Bevis Winter (1948)
Gun Treachery by Bruff Curfew (Mar 1948)
Thundering Hooves by Frank Griffin (Jul 1948)
Arizona Rangers by Denis Hughes (Jul 1948)
Rusters of the Rockies by David C. Steele (Jul 1948)
Enchanted Love by June Bryony (Sep 1948)
Smoking Guns by Bert Forde (Dec 1948)
Dangerous Bachelor by Jean Wattson (Jan 1949)
Love's Dilemma by June Bryony (1949?)
Love's Desire by Carrie Lancaster (1949?)
Operator from Chicago by Duff Johnson (Jan 1950) as 'G'
East-Side Assignment by Ross Kirby (Jan 1950) as 'G'
No Dice Sister by Bart Carson (1950?) as 'G'
Ransom for Miss Le Grun by Bruno Schwarz (1950) as 'G'

Grant Hughes
Guns and Saddles by Earl Ellison (Feb 1948)
Rough Riders by W. R. Hutton (1948)
The Fighting Sheriff by Morton T. Cayne (May 1948)
Black Stage Canyon by Denis Hughes (May 1948)
Riders of Ghost Valley by Joel Johnson (May 1948)
Dead Man's Creek by Rex Noland (Jun 1948)
He Was My Master by William Newton (Dec 1948)
Brand of the Outlaw by Jackson Evans (Jan 1949)

Maurice Hall
Fifth Avenue Number (1948?)

Bear Hudson
Thrilling Romances No.4 (Jul 1948)
Rip-Roaring Western (Aug 1948)

Paget Publications
Frame Up by Johnny Mack (1948)
Showdown by Johnny Mack (1948)
Paget's 1/- Westerns 1-4 (1948-49)
Of Sterner Stuff by Gaston Clair (Sep 1948)
Fall Guy by Johnny Mack (Sep 1948)
Shakedown by Johnny Mack (Sep 1948)
Come Live with Me by Sylvia Silk (Sep 1948)
Apache Arroyo by Buck Connor (Nov 1948)
Gunsmoke in Rimrock by Chuck Leroy (Nov 1948)
Pay-Off by Johnny Mack (Dec 1948)
Shamus by Johnny Mack (Dec 1948)
Harem Girl by Pat Reagan (Dec 1948)
Two Loves for Tricia by Sylvia Silk (Dec 1948)
Written in Sand by Louis Arthur Cunningham (Mar 1949)
Body in the Boathouse by Johnny Mack (Mar 1949)
The Riddle in Wax by Frank Peppe (Mar 1949)
Murder of a Musician by "Capstan" (Aug 1949)
Dancing with Danger by Peter Webb (Sep 1951)

Forsyte Press
Trigger Serenate by Jed Brady (Mar 1949)

Tempest Publishing
I'll Hire the Hearse by Michael Lisle (1949)

Curtis Warren
Girls for Sale by Nick Baroni (1950?)
? High Heels and Scanties by Nick Baroni (1950)
Miss Susan Regrets by Brett Vane (1950)
Shapely Lady by Nick Baroni (1951)

Park Trading Co.
Hollywood Number (1950?)

Arrow Books
200 Green Willow by Ethel Mannin (Jun 1950) 

Waterfront Rat by Danny Spade (Apr 1951) as Gilmore
Easy Come, Easy Go by Al Bocca (May 1951) as Gilmore
Some Stay Dumb by Dint Maddox (May 1951) as Gilmore
Move Fast, Brother! by Danny Spade (May 1951) as Gilmore
Double Snatch by Gray Usher (May 1951) as Gilmore
You Don’t Say! by Hans Lugar (Sep 1951) as Gilmore
The Lady Says When by Dail Ambler (Sep 1952)
Live Till You Die by Ross Angel (Sep 1952)
Nothing to Hide by Nick Perrelli (Sep 1952)
Corpse at College by Max Risco (Nov 1952)

Beacon Publishing
Chicago Strip Tease by Ben Sarto (1951)
A Street Woman by Paul Renin (Nov 1951)

Modern Fiction
Back-Alley Blonde by Griff (Jan 1952)
Too Tough to Live by Griff (Feb 1952)
That Room in Camden Town by Griff (Oct 1952)

Pinnacle Books
1 Claudia by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
4 Young Claudia by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
6 From Claudia to David by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
Spanish Holiday by Phyllis Sutton (1952)

Gannet Press
Tough Dames Don't Cry by Bud Cagson (Jun 1953)

Atlantic Books
Battle of Devil Hole by Arthur Groom (Apr 1954)

Monday, March 02, 2015

Oliver Brabbins

Oliver Gilmore Brabbins was born in Toxteth Park, Lancashire, on 2 May 1912. He was the eldest child of Oliver Brabbins (1881-1942), a Liverpool-born house painter who, at the age of 30, had married 24-year-old Irish girl, Serena Radcliffe Gilmore (1887-1951).

Oliver grew up in Toxteth Park where his sister Patricia was born in 1918. She subsequently married, in 1942, a Norwegian sailor named Finn Osker Gjersoe. She continued to live in Liverpool, although her death (in 2006) was registered in Warrington, aged 88.

He trained at the Liverpool School of Art. In 1939, on the outbreak of war, BrabbinsIn January 1942 he joined the Royal Navy and for the majority of his service worked as an artist in the Royal Naval Film Unit, producing paintings and drawings for educational films. 

Of Oliver's early career, little is known. After training at the Liverpool School of Art he moved to London. He was living at 16 Doughty Street, St Pancras, London W.C.1, when the Second World War began in 1939 and joined the St Pancras ARP as a Stretcher Bearer and served throughout the Blitz and subsequent air raids on London.

Brabbins then joined the Royal Navy and worked for the bulk of his service as an artist in the Royal Navy Film Unit, producing paintings and drawings for educational films.

After the war, Brabbins lived at various addresses in London: 23 Oakley Street, Chelsea [fl.1947/48], 71 Eardley Crescent, Earls Court [fl.1948] and Flat 5, 8 Avonmore Road, London W.14 [fl.1950/63] before he moved to 1 Trinity Crescent, Tooting Bec, London S.W.17, in around 1963 or 1964, which is where he remained until his death.
Brabbins was a prolific painter and watercolours, acryllic and oil paintings often come up for auction. His earliest surviving works date from the war, oil paintings of a minesweeper's wheelhouse (part of the Imperial War Museum collection) and a submarine's torpedo room (at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) date from 1944 and 1945 respectively.

Some of the artists' early post-war travels can be followed through his paintings, which include a harbour scene at Oslo dated 1946 and a canal in Amsterdam dated 1947.

In the late 1940s, Brabbins became involved with the burgeoning cheap paperback industry, supplying covers especially to Hamilton & Co., with whom he was associated for two years between 1946-48. Brabbins' earliest known cover (Valley of Death by W. Richard Hutton) was followed by two odd science fiction covers for Hamiltons' Futuristic Stories and Strange Adventures and a slew of romantic and western covers.

Brabbins also produced covers for Grant Hughes, Bear Hudson and Curtis Warren—all related one way or another to Hamilton—and was a regular cover artist for Paget Publications in 1948-49 (one later cover may have been left over from this period).

As the decade turned, Brabbins found work with other publishers, including Arrow Books, Modern Fiction, W. H. Allen (Pinnacle Books) and Scion Ltd. A painting of the Coronation was presumably executed in 1953 and one of Shoreham Yacht Club dates from 1954, proving that Brabbins did not limit himself solely to book covers during this period.

A 1955 passenger manifest notes a trip to Montreal, Canada, and another trip took Brabbins to America for four months in 1956. Whilst in America, Brabbins took the opportunity to travel and one of his paintings, a watercolour over pen and ink drawing of Orleans Street in New Orleans, dated 1956, was sold in 2004.

The trip may be responsible for the sudden appearance of a number of covers by Brabbins from a New York paperback outfit named Graphic Books. According to Kevin Smith's Thrilling Detective website, the company was "Run by Samuel Tankel and Zane Bouregy, Graphic Books was a short-lived New York publisher of paperback originals, mostly mysteries, that thrived from about 1949 to 1957. Now mostly recalled for their deliciously sleazy covers, not their literary merit."

The association did not last long, which was a pattern of Brabbins's work. The Canada trip may have been paid for by sales to Pan Books in early 1955, but his output for that company amounted to only a handful of titles. His brief contributions to Panther Books and Four Square Books may be explained by a lengthier and more productive association with Corgi Books, which was his main publisher in the late 1950s, although more research may reveal that he was also a prolific dust jacket illustrator for Ward Lock and Hodder & Stoughton, both of whom certainly published a few of his covers in the same period.

Brabbins's output seems to have tailed off in the 1960s. It is certain that he continued to paint—examples of undated portraits, pictures of film stars and still life subjects have come up for auction over the years—but his output of book covers certainly seems to have slowed down and he may have turned to other markets. Illustrations for women's magazines, for example. He is known to have contributed to Woman's Realm in the 1960s.

Of his life outside his artwork nothing is known. He appears to have never married and the only story I have heard of a meeting with the artist dates from around 1968 and paints a rather sorry picture of the man: a curmudgeon living in a gone-to-seed house in Tooting, South London. Brabbins owned an old Bentley that had seen better days and needed extensive repairs to the coachwork, rotten through years of neglect in a damp garage. As time went on, it became clear that the artist did not have the means to pay for the repairs, so offered to paint a portrait of the mechanic doing the work. The painting was a long time coming, but eventually was hung in the home of the mechanic's mother.

The changing style of book covers caused many artists difficulties in the 1960s. Some were able to adapt and find new markets; unfortunately, Oliver Brabbins appears to have struggled in his final years, which ended with his death on 15 June 1973, aged only 61.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

John Cooper (1942-2015)

John Cooper, who has died aged 72, had a career in comics that spanned five decades and dozens of characters, although it will be for two action-packed and often violent strips that he will be remembered, one the memorable precursor to ‘Judge Dredd’.

In 1975, John Wagner was appointed editor of the ailing Valiant, whose sales had fallen in line with many other comics during the turbulent early Seventies oil crisis. Cover prices had soared and Wagner was tasked with updating the comic for a modern audience. Wagner’s key creation for the relaunch was ‘One-Eyed Jack’, a tough street cop based shamelessly on Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry. Cooper took Eastwood as his model for the artwork and gave him Steve McQueen’s Mustang (from Bullitt) to drive. Wagner’s scripts were gritty, violent and often blackly humorous, a style of writing he would continue when he created Judge Dredd—another violent cop in an east coast American city—for 2000AD soon after.

Cooper was one of the first artists to draw the new character, but his story, ‘Mugger’s Moon’, was held back. Cooper later claimed that he had been asked to tone down the violence—his artwork arriving in the 2000AD office just as another comic, Action, was pulled from the newsstands. “They sent it back to me and said, ‘It’s too violent, John’,” Cooper said. “These muggers come after [Dredd] with guns and he just blew them all away—holes straight through them. I loved drawing that.” A toned-down version, with guns replaced with baseball bats, was eventually published in issue 19, by which time other artists (notably Mike McMahon) had established the look of Dredd and a cityscape that no longer matched Cooper’s version.

Instead, Cooper was sidelined, drawing a handful of episodes of ‘M.A.C.H.1’ and some ‘Tharg’s Future Shocks’ for 2000AD. It meant, however, that he was able to take over ‘Johnny Red’, an already popular Second World War strip in Battle Action when the strip’s original artist, Joe Colquhoun, was seconded to another strip. By the time Cooper took over, two-year veteran Colquhoun had established a look for the strip: “I had to slightly imitate his style at the beginning, but I think I just became more like him as I went along,” recalled Cooper. “I liked to do dramatic close-ups but with [Colquhoun-styled] stuff in the background—you’d have someone stood next to a big gun, someone else queuing for the toilet, then there’d be all these building and maybe a burnt-out plane.”

The story was one of Battle Action’s finest, relating how Johnny ‘Red’ Redburn found himself in charge of a Russian flying squadron, leading Falcon Squadron with a battered old Hurricane. “It was gritty, really rough and ready,” recalled Cooper. “All his crew were unshaved, dirty buggers, the planes patched to hell… Tom Tully was a brilliant writer. He was like Wagner in a way: he went for the gut, didn’t pull any punches.”

Over the next five and three-quarter years, Cooper was able to make the strip his own, eventually drawing over 1,100 pages of Johnny’s adventures spread across 303 episodes in the weekly comic, summer specials and annuals.

John Cooper was born in Featherstone, West Yorkshire, in May 1942, the son of Ernest Cooper and his wife Winifred (née Hollis). As a boy, he learned to draw by copying comics, a constant in a life spent travelling to wherever his father, a one-time bus driver, found employment as a pub landlord.  After growing in in Castleford and Wakefield, the family settled in Doncaster and young John helped tend the bar whilst studying in York and at Wakefield Art College.

After working for a shopfitters in Wakefield and for Falcon Studios in Leeds, Cooper decided to go freelance after a conversation with a patron at his father’s pub. He picked a London agent, randomly choosing Billie M. Cooper because of the coincidence of names, who soon found him work, his earliest illustrations appearing in Swift, Girl, Eagle and Boys’ World annuals in the early 1960s. Cooper then found work with a group of titles based around the puppet show creations of Gerry Anderson, his first strip (‘Agent 21’) appearing in the 1968 TV 21 Annual. After briefly taking over the lead strip for Lady Penelope in 1968, Cooper worked more extensively on ‘Captain Scarlet’ in TV21 and took over ‘Thunderbirds’ in the relaunched TV21 & Joe 90 from Frank Bellamy, drawing the strip for eight months.

Cooper continued his association with television shows at Look-In in the 1970s, drawing ‘Flight to Fortune’, ‘Doctor in Charge’, ‘Doctor at Sea’ and ‘Man from Atlantis’ as well as drawing for the girls’ comic Mirabelle, a task he was ill-suited for. He hit his stride in 1975 when he was offered ‘One-Eyed Jack’, which he continued to draw when Valiant merged with Battle Picture Weekly a year later. In keeping with the war theme, Jack transferred from his New York precinct to become an agent for American military intelligence.

Following Jack’s demise in 1977, Cooper drew ‘Gaunt’, about a British spy seeking revenge after his hand is crippled by an SS, before taking on ‘Dredger’ and ‘The General Dies at Dawn’ in the newly renamed Battle Action.

For nearly six years, Cooper drew ‘Johnny Red’, bringing a grim reality to Tom Tully’s stories. “I tried to put myself in their position,” he said of the stories’ characters. “It was the realism I enjoyed—that was what was always kicked into me with ‘Johnny Red’: you’ve got to think like them, make it look real, think how they lived.”

Always speedy and versatile, Cooper rarely limited himself to just one strip and he also drew number of war strips for D. C. Thomson’s Warlord, including ‘Sergeant Heavy’ and ‘The Wingless Hawk’, and complete stories for Eagle and Scream!!.

In 1983 Battle Action joined forces with Kenner Products to promote the Action Force toy line, eventually becoming Battle Action Force. Cooper became one of the main artists in the ongoing battle against Cobra for two and a half years.

Coopers’ output continued to appear in Eagle (‘Ultimate Warrior’ / ‘Computer Warrior’), Battle (‘Stormforce’), Mask, Ring Raiders and Victor, where he drew one of Thomson’s classic characters, ‘Morgyn the Mighty’. In 1990, he was asked by David Hunt to draw a football strip and, although he had no great love of the game, he took to the task with relish, eventually drawing ‘Goalmouth’ and ‘Hammersmith F.C.’ for Roy of the Rovers and working with Peter Nash on ‘Striker’ for the Sun newspaper.

During the Gerry Anderson revival of the early 1990s, Cooper found himself once again drawing Stingray, Captain Scarlet and Thunderbirds.

With boys’ comics in short supply by the late Nineties, Cooper drew a parody football strip, ‘Roy of the Losers’, for Private Eye until the early Noughties. He also worked for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, drawing caricatures and illustrating news stories where no visuals were available. Cooper was an early adopter of computers for work, and would take a drawing made with brush and pen and scan it into an Apple Mac, where he could make any finishing touches using Photoshop.

Following the publication of a short graphic novel Richard the Lionheart: The Life of a King and Crusader by David West & Jackie Gaff (Brighton, Book House, 2005), it was suggested that Cooper contact 2000AD again. This led initially to a one-off ‘Tharg’s Terror Tales’ episode in 2006 and then to taking over the futuristic crime drama (and Judge Dredd spin-off) ‘Armitage’ in 2008 in Judge Dredd The Megazine. His last episodes appeared in 2010.

In later life, Cooper suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which often left him tired and breathless. Although retired from comics, he satisfied his urge to keep drawing by producing maritime paintings, which found a ready market. In 2010, Cooper and others helped raise money to fund a new local RNLI lifeboat in Bridlington, which Cooper dubbed the Windsor Spirit at its naming ceremony.

Cooper passed away on 22 February 2015 after a short illness, survived by his second wife, Lesley, and two children from his first marriage.

(* The Action Force picture above was a private commission found here.)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Comic Cuts - 27 February 2015

I've reached a decision with the Don Lawrence Scrapbook to have it printed in China. The details still need to be worked out but the costs of producing the book in the UK in the way that I normally do make it uneconomical. I've had to think long and hard about this and, frankly, it has been a drain on my energy. Now the decision has been made, hopefully I'll be able to pick up my pace and get the book finished.

I did finish the clean-up on the 'Herod the Great' artwork and I will be back on layouts by the time you read this. I'm resizing the book so I'm scrapping everything I've done so far and starting again—so you can understand why this has been such a big decision to take. And frustrating as all hell as I wanted to have the book finished by the end of the month, which isn't going to happen now.

Frustrating for those of you who are looking forward to the book, too. But at the end of the day, the book will be better for the decisions being taken now. The next couple of books from me will come through a lot quicker, I promise.

A couple of books have been brought to my attention that might be of interest. Rich Thomassen has penned En MAZ creëerde Dick Bos, a 348-page biography of Alfred Mazure, a Dutch artist who moved to the UK, where he worked on a variety of newspaper strips, notably 'Romeo Brown' and 'Jane, Daughter of Jane' for the Daily Mirror. Mazure also wrote three novels.

'Dick Bos' was the character he was most famous for in Holland, a policier series banned by the Germans during WW2 and revived after the war a couple of times. You can find out more at the website of the publisher, Aspekt. (And here's a Google translation of that description for the non-Dutch speakers amongst us.)

Francis Durbridge: A Centerary Appreciation is a self-published book by Melvyn Barnes, surveying the novels and plays penned by Durbridge for radio, television, the stage and cinema. Barnes covers Durbridge's output in great detail, including cast lists and plot summaries. Although not a biography, per se, I do know that Melvyn was able to get biographical details from Durbridge's family, which will hopefully fill gaps in our knowledge of this fascinating writer.

The book runs to 140 pages and costs £10.99. For further information, the author can be contacted at melvyn.barnes AT

I mentioned last week that I was heading out to see Richard Herring last Friday. We had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I think this is the fifth time we've seen Herring at the Colchester Arts Centre (although it seems like more because we're fans of his podcasts and video releases) and this has been one of his best appearances. His shows of late have tackled some of the bigger questions in life (love, death, sex and religion) but this one is a little looser, a series of shorter, sketchier stories themed around Herring's feelings of inertia about his career. At the same time it celebrates some of the dafter decisions he's made and is a far livelier and funnier show than last year's We're All Going to Die.

Seeing Herring has meant I've been able to complete a lengthy quest to get my copies of Fist of Fun autographed. The first volume was completed a few weeks ago when I  got Stewart Lee's signature. For volume two I set myself the task of getting them to sign one of their catchphrases. You have to know the show to get it, but "Aaaaah!", "No, not 'Aaaaah'!" is hilarious. In context. Honest.

Random scans this week are a quartet of noir crime covers by Oliver Brabbins. I've come back to Brabbins fairly regularly in the four years I've been running these sets of scans. (Four years???? I think I started some time in 2010, so we must be coming up for the fifth birthday of this feature some time soon.) But about Brabbins... he was a superb artist, at his best on a series of crime novels published by Corgi Books in the late 1950s. I love his use of colour.

I'm planning to write a little more about Brabbins over the next few days, so there should be more examples of his fine cover art to look forward to. For now, I'll leave you with these excellent examples of the man at his best.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Commando issues 4787-4790

Commando issues on sale 26th February 2015.

Commando No 4787 – Deadly Drop
After a “friendly fire” incident cost the lives of his comrades, Private Ron Allan clashed violently with a fellow paratrooper, Corporal Alec Brown, the man he held responsible.
   Tensions were still high between them when, en route to a drop zone, history repeated itself. Alec’s Horsa glider smashed into Ron’s sending both spiralling downwards.
   Alec’s life was now in as much danger from his supposed colleague as it was from the Germans — provided they both survived the drop to the hungry sea below…

Story: George Low
Art: Olivera
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando No 4788 – Giant Killer
It was a blood-feud in the skies — a fight that began in the First World War between a British ace in a string-bag of a plane and the commander of a huge German Zeppelin…
   It had to be settled in World War II by their sons; sleek Spitfire pitted against merciless Messerschmitt 109, their guns chattering a song of death.

Don’t be fooled by Ken Barr’s cover — this is not a First World War tale. That zeppelin that only just fits on the cover is soon replaced by a Bf109; the SE5 becoming a Spitfire. With Peter Ford in charge of the inside art, that means you’re in for a treat as his flying scenes are so well-rendered. His ground scenes are just as good and those of you with good eyesight (or magnifying glasses) may just be able to make out some little extra details in the backgrounds of the scenes. Check out the walls of the crew room and perhaps the notepad on the ground controller’s desk.
   Better not forget Brunt’s “sins of the fathers” script, without which none of this showmanship would be possible. Thank you, sir.—Calum Laird, Commando Editor

Story: Brunt
Art: Peter Ford
Cover: Ken Barr
Originally Commando No 153 (February 1965), re-issued as No 771 (September 1973).

Commando No 4789 – Frozen By Fear
Most jungle firefights are fought over short range and are over in a few minutes. Vision is limited and snap shots at targets are the order of the day.
   Australian Army Corporal Jerry Warner was caught up in one such skirmish. With night falling and his life in jeopardy, he blazed away, knocking down attacker after attacker. Then he was blown unconscious by a mortar blast.
   He survived but that night continued to haunt him — and he couldn’t work out why!

Story: Ferg Handley
Art: Rezzonico
Cover: Janek Matysiak

Commando No 4790 – Flak Fever
Flieger Abwehr Kanone — a German mouthful that was shortened to “flak”, a word dreaded by every Allied pilot. It meant anti-aircraft guns, those multi-barrelled cannon and deadly 88-millimetre guns that could blast attackers out of the sky. Every important target in Nazi Europe bristled with them.
   Mosquito pilot Terry Franklin had met his fair share of flak and it terrified him. Yet here he was in a new squadron whose job it was to attack only the most difficult targets!

I imagine that if a current Commando author submitted the idea for “Flak Fever”, he or she might begin by writing something along the lines of, “Our hero is a pilot with PTSD…”
   Because of our modern-day familiarity with military terms such as the one mentioned above, we now know that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a serious condition which Armed Forces personnel acknowledge could happen to any one of them.
   However, back when this story was originally scripted, in the mid-1970s, the fictional hero believes that he has simply lost his nerve, and that his own perceived “cowardice” is something that he must hide. It’s an interesting story point, but it is not laboured, and seems all the more realistic for it.—Scott Montgomery, Deputy Editor

Story: R.A. Montague
Art: Gordon Livingstone
Cover: Ian Kennedy
Originally Commando No 1102 (February 1977), re-issued as No 2428 (December 1990).