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Monday, April 30, 2007

Fleetway Super Library

I was planning to get some pictures up yesterday evening of the comics fair at the Royal National but when I got back home I found there was an interesting e-mail waiting for me from Romano Felmang asking about a series of British comics that had appeared in the late Sixties. It just so happens that I picked up about half a dozen of these only recently to add to my (still very incomplete) collection.

(And yes, I recognised Romano's name immediately -- he's very well known in Italy as the artist of The Phantom amongst other things, although I believe only one episode has ever appeared over here in the UK when Wolf Publishing produced a short run of Phantom comics in the early 1990s.)

The series Romano mentioned was the Fleetway Super Library which appeared in 1967-68 and which has some claims to being Britain's first ever series of original graphic novels. These were an experiment based on the already established pocket library which had been appearing in the UK since April 1950 and the debut of Cowboy Comics. The format itself -- roughly the size of a digest paperback -- dates back even further but had previously only been used for text stories; some of the more famous titles include The Boys' Friend Library (which launched in Sep 1906), The Girls' Friend Library (Dec 1906) and The Sexton Blake Library (Sep 1915) which varied between 64 and 128 pages. The pocket library format for comic strips was firmly established with Cowboy and the titles that immediately followed, Thriller Comics (Nov 1951), Love Story Library (Aug 1952), Super Detective Library (Apr 1953) and True Life Library (Aug 1954).

The boys' adventure libraries (Cowboy, Thriller and Super Detective) were a mixture of original and reprint material (primarily the former, but also drawing on newspaper strips and serials reprinted from the weekly comics). The romance libraries, however, were all-original and perhaps are also contenders for the title of the first original graphic novels series. Each contained 64 pages of a single story strip plus a cover; the format, although flimsy, had a spine down which the title was printed.

I guess it depends how you define 'graphic novel'. What we think of today as a typical pocket library (Commando being the obvious choice as it is the only survivor but true of many of the libraries that appeared in the 1970s) contains two panels per page with the occasional full page illustration giving roughly 135-140 frames per story. In the 1950s it was more common to have 3 panels and even 4 panels per page, or between 160-180 frames per story; generally there was also a lot more text in the dialogue and descriptive captions.

If length is a criteria, the Fleetway Super Library series has a better claim as each issue was advertised as "132 pages of action pictures" -- actually 128 plus four pages of a thin card cover. The main story ran to 122 pages, the rest of the title filled out with humour strip reprints, a quiz, feature pages or a short complete 6- or 8-page story. Those 122 pages contained some 255 frames and the strips were all new.

The Fleetway Super Library actually encompassed three series -- Stupendous, Secret Agent and Front Line -- with two titles appearing a month for each series.

Stupendous series

The first two episodes were given the title 'Fantastic Series' but this became 'Stupendous' with the second month's output. The two characters were already established in the weeklies: The Steel Claw had been appearing in Valiant since 1962 and The Spider in Lion since 1965. The Steel Claw stories were drawn primarily by Studio Rosi (pencilled by Giorgio Cambiotti, inked by Sergio Rosi with backgrounds and inks by Massimo Belardinelli), Carlos Cruz and the strip's original artist Jesus Blasco. The Spider had a rather more diverse set of illustrators including Francisco Cueto, Gerogio Trevisan, Silio Romagnoli and Aldo Marcuzzi.

The Steel Claw yarns also featured one of my favourite cover artists, Carlo Jacono, who is well known in Italy for his 'giallo' artwork (I may be wrong -- and I'm sure someone will correct me if I am -- but I think the name comes from a specific series of covers with a circular image in a yellow background) which I think of as crime noir -- iconic images of (usually) guns and dames that would look good on any Chandler novel.

Front Line series

This series introduced two brand new characters, Maddock's Marauders (named, no doubt, after the American commando unit known as Merrill's Marauders) and Top-Sergeant Ironside. Maddock's Marauders were a small, special unit led by Captain Matt Maddock which consisted of oversized Dutchman Jan Smit, the incorrigible French jester Jules Garceau and the tough little Polish count nicknamed 'Mick' Paulski. Sergeant Ironside, meanwhile, was a veteran with the US Army who welded his force of rookies together with his ice-cool command and bravery in the line of fire.

Most of the early episodes for both series were the work of various Creazioni D'Ami artists, including Ferdinando Tacconi, Gino D'Antonio, Antonio Canale and Giorgio Trevisan.

Both character survived beyond the Front Line and transferred to Battle Picture Library in February 1968 where they continued their adventures for some years, Ironside last appearing in 1974 and Maddock's Marauders in 1975.

Secret Agent series

Johnny Nero, the first of the two Secret Agent series characters, was actually a former MI5 agent who had left after inheriting a fortune; finding life as a rich industrialist boring, he was often tempted back into the world of spying by his one-time boss, Colonel Jason. On his adventures, Nero was often accompanied by his shapely secretary, Jenny Bird.

Johnny Nero alternated adventures with Barracuda who, under the title 'Code-Name Barracuda', had first appeared in Lion in September 1966. In the tradition of the James Bond movies which had helped establish the names Smersh and SPECTRE in the public's mind, Barracuda and his sidekick Frollo fought an unceasing war on behalf of a secret committee of the United Nations against WAM, an international criminal organisation who had no allegiance to any country or cause, only for power and money... hence their name, War Against Mankind.

Just to keep you on your toes, the usual alternation slipped out of sequence with issues 11 and 12 (the latter featuring Johnny Nero, who usually starred in the odd numbered issues). I've also seen one Barracuda issue which accidentally printed pages from that month's Johnny Nero yarn, a problem the printers resolved by doing an insert with the correct pages. (Presumably there is also a Johnny Nero adventure with Barracuda pages.)

For Romano, here are a couple of internal pages drawn by Antonio Sciotti (Johnny Nero) and Paulo Montecchi (Barracuda).

All three series began publishing in January 1967 and came to an end after thirteen pairs of issues in January 1968. All titles were printed by Gibiemme, in Milan, Italy, and the series appeared throughout Europe, perhaps elsewhere too. I have a copy of Main d'acier, the French language version of The Steel Claw, published by Editoriale Gemini in Italy for distribution in France, , Belgium, Algeria, Switzerland, Marocco and Canada. Beginning in June 1968, this series continued well beyond the 13 issues published in the UK, using reformatted material from Valiant, eventually running to 48 issues before coming to an end in 1975; it was replaced almost immediately by Collection Main d'acier (1975-77) which reprinted the early issues. The interesting thing about the original series is that (at least some of) the stories were abridged from 122 pages to 106 pages by removing various frames or even whole pages.

The Italian version was L'Artiglio d'Acciaio which went through at least a couple of publishers (Ed. Agena, 4 issues 1967, and Ed. Bianconi, 9 issues, 1967-68) with covers by Carlo Jacono and Pino D'Angelico. In Spain, the Claw appeared as Zarpa de Acero but I'm not sure whether these were reprints of the Fleetway Super Library stories or episodes from Valiant.

The term 'graphic novel' is used so broadly that reprints of Ally Sloper way back in the 1870s could be called graphic novels, but by the simplest definition -- a complete single narrative that has not been previously published -- I think the Fleetway Super Library has a good claim to the title of being the first series of original British graphic novels.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Jane Gross

Another Robin Annual author, Jane Gross contributed to no.7 (1959). I can find nothing else about her beyond the fact that she also wrote a book for Hulton Press under their 'Robin Books' banner. Seems odd that an unknown would be supplying a novel to Hulton as all the other Hulton comics tie-ins related to strips appearing regularly in the weeklies. The two stars of the book, a young girl and her black cat, appeared in two strips in the Annual released the year following. Perhaps there was an intention to run the characters regularly as a strip but, for whatever reason, it didn't work out.

The artwork was by Paddie Spratley... and you can read all very little about her below.

Books
Harriet & Smith, illus. Paddie Spratley. London, Hulton Press, 1958.

Paddie Spratley

Paddie Spratley illustrated the 'Harriet & Smith' strips in Robin Annual 7 (1959). A book written by Jane Gross based on the characters had appeared a year earlier and this was the only credit both Spratley and Gross received in the Robin Annual. Why this is I've no idea.

The only other credit I can find for her is as the illustrator of A Pink Robin Story Book (London, Longacre Press, 1961).

Friday, April 27, 2007

Comic Clippings - 27 April

I'm pleased to announce that the latest two Storm books published by Don Lawrence Collection are out and, to prove it, here are scans of the covers. Storm: The Collection Volume 6 contains 'The Labyrinth of Death' and 'The Seven of Aromater', the second and third storylines from the Chronicles of Pandarve; Volume 7 contains 'The Slayer of Eriban' and 'The Hounds of Marduk', stories four and five.

The books look fantastic -- large (at 13 ½" x 9 ½"), limited edition deluxe hardcovers with dustjackets -- and the print quality is second to none. The books are all digitally remastered and, for the most part, appearing in English for the first time (one of the stories was published in the US Heavy Metal, although the version here has been newly translated).

The stories in the Storm series were getting better and better during this period as Storm -- and author Martin Lodewijk -- got to explore more of the fantastic worlds of Pandarve, a place on the edge of the universe where physics and the natural laws we take for granted are not always constant. The cover to Volume 6 offers a clue, as Storm, Nomad and their friend Rann are abandoned in space on a tiny asteroid. Over these books, Storm begins to learn about the Pandarve, why he has been taken there and the powers he, an anomaly in the system, now seems to possess.

The books are expensive, I won't deny it, but the cost is all in the quality of production. You can order copies of the books from the publisher via their website, The Worlds of Don Lawrence, or from the Book Palace.

A quick update on other things. The Karl introductions are progressing slowly -- I think I've written around 8,000 words so far with a long way still to go. I'll be cracking on with some more this evening and tomorrow before heading off to the ABC comics show at the Royal National Hotel on Sunday.

We now have almost 16,000 images up on the Look and Learn website and a growing collection of blog entries and downloadable copies of the Children's Newspaper. If you've not had a chance to visit before, make yourself a cup of tea and take a half-hour off... you won't regret it. The collection has some of the finest artwork ever produced.

I was interviewed by Sean Blair for a piece he's written for the BBC Online Magazine. 'Gott in Himmel!' celebrates the publishing of the 4,000th issue of Commando Library, interviewing George Low, collector Vic Whittle and I get a few seconds shaved off of my fifteen minutes of fame towards the end. Look and Learn gets a mention, too.

If it sounds like all work and no play that's not quite the case. I went to see Lucy Porter last weekend and just haven't gotten around to writing it up. This was part of her 'Good Life' tour which she has been touring for some time (it was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006. We've seen her live before so I knew what to expect. She's petite, delightful, warm and filthy.

And quite why she's dressed as a carrot at the beginning of the show... you'll just have to go see her and find out for yourself.

And in the news...
Er... that's it.

Eileen Gibb

Eileen Gibb was the author of a series of books featuring 'The Adventures of Sammy the Shunter' which were published by Ian Allan in a small, oblong format similar to the railway stories of the Reverend W. Awdry, whose 'Thomas the Tank Engine' the series closely resembled. Very closely. The stories were still being reprinted in the 1970s.

For Robin, Eileen Gibb wrote stories featuring a new character called 'Tubby the Odd-Job Engine' which starred another Thomas look-alike. The series, launched in the first issue (28 March 1954) was illustrated for many years by Arthur W. Baldwin who had been associated with the Sammy the Shunter books. After a year or so, the short Tubby yarns began alternating with other characters ('Tracey the Tug Boat', 'Basil Bus Stop', etc.) but continued to appear until volume 14 when the series took on a wider focus and became 'Honeytown Tales', still featuring Tubby but also giving more space to other inhabitants of Honeytown. I've yet to establish when the series ended.

But what of Eileen Gibb? I've been unable to find anything else by her beyond the stories mentioned above, the books below, and a number of contributions to Robin Annual (3-8, 1955-60). The few records that remain relating to Robin seem to indicate that Eileen Gibb may have been the pen-name of one E. Holder (perhaps Eileen and perhaps a married name? perhaps a married daughter?), although later stories, published in the 1960s, were by actor Donald Bissett.

Books
The Adventures of Sammy the Shunter:
__1 Sammy Gets Streamlined. London, Ian Allan, Dec 1949.
__2 Sammy Goes to the Circus. London, Ian Allan, Sep 1950.
__3 Sammy Goes to Sea. 1951?
__4 Sammy Goes to America. London, Ian Allan, Nov 1951.
__5 Sammy Goes to Fairyland. London, Ian Allan, Aug 1952.
__6 Sammy Meets Father Christmas, illus. Arthur W. Baldwin. London, Ian Allan, Nov 1952.
__7 Sammy and the Old Engines. London, Ian Allan, Jun 1954.
__8 Sammy Joins the Scouts. London, Ian Allan, Jun 1955.
__9 Sammy Goes to the Pole, 1957?
__Sammy the Shunter Bumper Book, illus. Jack Atkins. London, Ian Allan, Oct 1954.
Billy the Bus series:
__1 Billy and the Robbers, illus. Arthur W. Baldwin. Hampton Court, Surrey, Ian Allan, Feb 1953.
__2 Billy Goes Exploring. London, Ian Allan, May 1953.
Sammy Rhymes series:
__1 Sammy Goes to School. London, Ian Allan, Jul 1953.
__2 Sammy Sees the Doctor. London, Ian Allan, Feb 1954.
Tubby the Odd-Job Engine, illus. Jill Franksen. London, Hulton Press, 1959.
Sammy Saves a Railway Line, illus. Jack Atkins. London, Ian Allan, 1965.

Others
My Trains Book. London, Ian Allan, 1953 (contains 'The Holiday Train' and 'Sammy on the Christmas Tree' by Eileen Gibb).

(The Sammy the Shunter covers I grabbed from a recent eBay sale. Tubby the Odd-Job Engine is from Robin Annual 5 (1957) and is © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Billy Thatcher

Billy Thatcher was the co-writer of the 'Princess Tai-Lu' strip, about a magical Siamese cat, in Robin and Robin Annual. I covered his co-writer Shelagh Fraser a couple of days ago.

The Princess Tai-Lu character had a life beyond Robin where the strip appeared for some years (1953-57). Although I've not been able to confirm it, I believe Tai-Lu also appeared on BBC TV and on radio as well as in books. A Princess Tai-Lu figurine was produced by Luntoy in 1952 and Merrythought (famous for their teddy bears) made a Princess Tai-Lu toy in 1955.

With Betty Jardine in Whatever Happened to George (1934)

Thatcher was born in London on 28 April 1921 (I believe his entry at IMDB is wrong about the year based on his entry in British Theatre and his age at death), and made his debut on the stage in 1933 when he appeared in Emil and the Detectives at the Vaudeville. He appeared in Yours Tunefully before taking the lead role in What Happened to George by Vera Beringer at the Savoy Theatre, the story of a young schoolboy who sets out to find a ruby stolen from his father. Other theatre roles included Eskimos Ahoy (Duke of York's Theatre, 1936), the Children's Variety Show, Diversion (Wyndham's, 1941), Rise Above It (Comedy, 1941) and Whitehall Follies (Whitehall, 1942). He joined the Noel Coward Company and appeared in Flare Path (Apollo, 1943), Alice in Wonderland (Palace, 1944), Ethel Fry (tour, 1945) and Tomorrow's Eden (Embassy, 1945). A later appearance was in The Adventures of Alice (Q Theatre, 1953).

As the March Hare in Alice (1953) with Julia Lockwood & Peter Butterworth

Thatcher also appeared in radio plays, films and in Dixon of Dock Green (1959).

Plays written by Thatcher include the comedy And His Mother Came Too (1951) and The Lion in the Lighthouse, with Rolf King (1955), set behind the scenes of a TV panel game.

He died in Marylebone, London, in November 1964, aged 43.

Books
Tai-Lu Talking, with Shelagh Fraser, illus. Janet & Anne Grahame-Johnstone. London, Heinemann, 1952.
Tai-Lu's Birthday Party, with Shelagh Fraser, illus. Janet & Anne Grahame-Johnstone. London, Twirly Books, 1954.
Tai-Lu Flies Abroad, with Shelagh Fraser, illus. Kenneth Rowell. London, Chatto & Windus, 1955.

(Sorry about the quality of the pics. The Princess Tai-Lu figurine (top) is from a recent eBay sale, the photos, already poor, were further degraded because blogger only takes jpegs and gifs.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Carlton Unleash Hell

Carlton have officially announced the War Picture Library and Battle Picture Library titles I put together for them and released cover images, so I guess that means I can talk about them here. The two titles are Unleash Hell and Death or Glory and they're both due for release on 3 September. Carlton, and their Prion Books imprint, have a whole bunch of new titles due that day, including the next new Commando Library book and a Best of Look-In. There may be some I've missed or some that have yet to be announced, but the following are the titles I know have been announced:

Unleash Hell (ISBN 1853756296)
In all its grim glory, the Second World War is brought to life in 12 of the grittiest war dramas ever committed to paper. "War Picture Library" was the daddy of them all - the first pocket library and for many fans, the best. The conflict that engulfed Europe forced ordinary men to give up their safe, happy lives and fight for freedom against an enemy who had been preparing for war for years. Debuting in 1958, "War Picture Library" celebrated the heroic actions of the Allies as they fought back on land, at sea and in the air. No theatre of conflict was ignored. Written by authors who had themselves seen combat, from the baking deserts of Africa to the steaming jungles of the Far East, these complete stories gave youngsters growing up in the years after the war an answer to the question, "What did you do in the war, daddy?" Gathered here is some of the most striking war art ever produced, reproduced 25 per cent bigger than the originals so you can feel every bullet hit, every crashing wave and every nerve shattering explosion. This is military history as you've never read it before. Amazon.co.uk.

Death or Glory (ISBN 185375630X)
When it comes to telling stories about the Second World War few did it better than the authors of "Battle Picture Library"! Here at last is the collection you've been waiting for, gathering together 12 of the toughest tales of war ever told. From the bomb-shattered roads of Europe to the stifling jungles of the Far East, below the crashing waves of the Atlantic or in the war-torn skies over England's green fields - these stories of courage and comradeship stirred the imaginations of generations of British children whose parents and grandparents struggled against the Axis powers bent on enslaving nations. The stories you'll find in this volume have an incredible range, from action with the Desert Rats to top-secret missions for Military Intelligence via the nightmare dreams of a Captain in the airborne division and the heroic rise of Jack Charlton (not that Jack Charlton) to the head of Baker Company. It's not just rattling good history... it's explosive! Attracting some of the finest talent from across Europe, these visceral pocket novels are reproduced 25 per cent bigger than the originals so you can revel in every glorious detail. If you remember these books from your schooldays, get ready to relive the excitement. If you're new to them... have we got an experience for you! Amazon.co.uk.

Commando Library
The next Commando Library book from Carlton Books will be appearing in the UK on 3 September 2007 under the title All Guns Blazing!. The Anzacs at War title previously announced is still coming out in Australia as far as I know and I'm pretty sure this isn't just a retitling of that book. Update: Terry from New Zealand has confirmed (8 May) that the book was available in NZ well in time for ANZAC Day on 25 April. According to Amazon.co.uk, the book (ISBN 1844420590) will be available in the UK from 6 August 2007.

All Guns Blazing! (ISBN 1844422844)
Handle this latest bumper book of the best of "Commando" war stories with care. You'll need nerves of steel to cope with the drama and the excitement, and once you've found a safe spot to settle in and open the book... well, you'll be hooked and unable to put it down. Where else could you come across titles like "Desert Fox", "They Flew by Night", "Sea Strike", "The Death or Glory Mob", Zero Smasher". And where else could you go into action alongside a British army sergeant hunting down a Jerry tank with only his Tommy gun and a couple of grenades... or the Lancaster pilot who knew no fear until he was put behind the controls of a bomber that was jinxed. You can read about all these ordinary men turned into heroes and their stories for yourself. They are all here in this great collection of the best of "Commando" picture stories where all guns are blazing and every page is packed with action and adventure. Amazon.co.uk.

More titles to look out for...

The Best of Jackie Annual: All Your Favourites (Prion, ISBN 1853756261)
No Christmas is complete for the 30-40-something woman without a "Jackie Annual". "All Your Favourites" is another treasure trove of hilarious nostalgic gems, reproduced in facsimile form true to the original, to pore over and enjoy. With compulsive quizzes, such as 'Are You Nice or Nasty?', great advice, including 'A Jackie Guide to Kissing', super fashion stories, pop and TV news, plus a cautionary Reader's True Experience photo story 'I Tried to Change Him', nobody is going to want to miss out on this. Amazon.co.uk.

The Best of June and School Friend (Prion, ISBN 1853756253)
"Schoolfriend" was the biggest-selling girls' comic throughout the '50s, followed closely by the slightly more modern "June", then publishers Fleetway combined the two in the 1960s, keeping the most popular features of each. And this book is a wonderful collection of the best of those, from the 1960s and 1970s. There are comedy capers with Bessie Bunter, the funniest girl in school; uplifiting tales of triumph over terrible adversity with "The Girl with Big Feet"; the heart-wrenching ordeals of "Emma in the Shade - the girl who is a nobody", and thrilling short stories such as Gwenda's "Desperate Ride". All this, plus fashion, advice, competitions and charming pinups of beautifully groomed dogs, "The Best of June and Schoolfriend" is a wonderful oasis of innocence from times past. Amazon.co.uk.

(Steve: This is a 144-page title similar to last year's Best of Girl title from Prion containing a mixture of comic strips, features, beauty tips, letters' pages and pin-ups mostly from the mid and late-1960s issues of June & School Friend.)

Charm School (Prion, ISBN 1853756245)
'Did you know that the way you treat your feet today could very easily have an effect on the sort of woman you will be in ten or fifteen years from now?' Throughout the 1950s, Girl picture-strips "Charm School" and "Concerning You" offered firm guidance to young girls on how to make the best of themselves. Strict footcare regimes, daily manicures, sensible shoe shopping ('if bewildered by a wide choice of styles, always choose the plainest'), and good grooming were all instilled into Girl readers beginning to take an interest in their appearance, before any bad habits had a chance to set in. And for the young woman with ambitions beyond the home, the paper ran a careers advice picture strip, 'I Want To Be...', which each week would feature a suitable calling such as nurse, nanny, typist, receptionist, air hostess or riding teacher. This book gathers together the best of those strips for a complete tutorial in making the most of your skills and natural assets. For former Girl readers who didn't care for their feet perhaps this will be a painful reminder of where it all went wrong, but those who did can bask in the good sense offered by their favourite weekly paper all those years ago. And everybody else can enjoy the comedy. Amazon.co.uk.

Look-In: The Best of Look-In From the Seventies (Prion, ISBN 1853756229)
"Look-in", aka "Junior TVTimes", was the essential subscription for children growing up in Britain in the 1970s. It offered behind-the-scenes glimpses of their favourite TV shows, interviews with stars, pin-ups and TV spin-off picture-strip adventures. With exciting installments of "Black Beauty", "The Six Million Dollar Man", and "Sapphire and Steele", hilarious "Robin's Nest", "On The Buses" and "Please Sir!" picture strips, features on "TisWas," "Junior Show Time" and "How", an exclusive Roger Moore interview and pin-up and much, much more, this compulsive book takes you back to a time when we had three TV channels, we listened to LPs and singles on our record players, our crackly transistors were tuned to 275/285m Medium Wave for Radio 1, and the Bionic Man could have all that work done for a mere $6m. Amazon.co.uk.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shelagh Fraser

Our first Robin Annual author for a while...

Shelagh Fraser is probably the most famous of all contributors to Robin and Robin Annual, although she may be better known to most as Luke Skywalker's Aunt Beru in Star Wars than under her own name. Fraser was a prolific actress, appearing in dozens of films ranging from Welcome, Mr Washington in 1944 to Edith's Finger, released in 2000, including The History of Mr. Polly (1949), The Witches (1966) Till Death Do Us Part (1969), Doomwatch (1972) and Hope and Glory (1987). She also made numerous TV appearances in Z-Cars, Gideon's Way, Public Eye, Dixon of Dock Green, Follyfoot, Softly Softly, Shadows, The Professionals, A Touch of Frost, Heartbeat and Midsomer Murders. Her finest role was probably as Jean Ashton in A Family at War.

Born in Purley, Surrey, on 25 November 1920 (not 1922 as is almost universally given), Shelagh Mary Fraser was the sister of ballerina and actress Moyra Fraser. Her father, John Newton Mappin Fraser, was in the jewellery business and travelled widely; sister Moyra was born in Sydney, Australia, where her father was sent to launch a branch of the famous Mappin and Webb company. After an early battle with spinal tuberculosis, Shelagh Fraser attended St. Christopher's School in Kingswood, Surrey, winning a scholarship to a drama school attached to the Croydon Repertory Theatre where she made her acting debut in 1938.

As well as her movie and TV appearances, Fraser had a long career in the theatre and appeared in more than 500 radio plays. For a while she was a member of the BBC Repertory Company.

She was married to director and producer Anthony Squire on 15 December 1961 although the marriage was dissolved.

She died in London on 29 August 2000 (not 13 September 2000 as the IMDB states and widely copied elsewhere).

The National Portrait Gallery has a couple of small pictures of Fraser dating from the 1950s, including one of her looking at a mural of Siamese cats.

I mention the latter because Shelagh Fraser's contribution to Robin was the story of Princess Tai-Lu, a magical Siamese cat which she co-wrote with Billy Thatcher, a fellow theatre actor/writer. The artists for the strip were Janet & Anne Grahame-Johnstone.

Books
Gipsy's Great Adventure by Victor Becker; English adaptation by Shelagh Fraser, illus. Lucien Lowen. London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1951.
Tai-Lu Talking, with Billy Thatcher, illus. Janet & Anne Grahame-Johnstone. London, Heinemann, 1952.
Tai-Lu's Birthday Party, with Billy Thatcher, illus. Janet & Anne Grahame-Johnstone. London, Twirly Books, 1954.
Tai-Lu Flies Abroad, with Billy Thatcher, illus. Kenneth Rowell. London, Chatto & Windus, 1955.
Captain Johnnie, illus. Derek Crowe. London, Jonathan Cape, 1965.

Non-fiction
Come to Supper! by Moie Charles, as told to Shelagh Fraser. London, Chatto & Windus, 1956.
Say--Cheese!, with Moie Charles. London, Chatto & Windus, 1958.
The Cheeses of Old England. London, Abelard-Schuman, 1960.
Clare Goes Cooking. A cookbook in pictures for young people, illus. Pauline Bewick. London, Arco Publications, 1962.

Plays
Judith (performed at the R.A. Theatre, 1949).
Always Afternoon, by Dido Milroy, based on a story by Shelagh Fraser (performed at the Embassy Theatre, 1950; Garrick Theatre, 1950).
Fools of Fortune. A play in three acts, with Victor Becker. London, Samuel French, 1953.

Radio Plays
The Maid's Room.
The Salt of the Earth (adapted from the novel by Rebecca West).
The World My Wilderness (adapted from the novel by Rose Macauley).

(The above episode of Princess Tai-Lu comes from Robin Annual 5 (1957) and is © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Paladin the Fearless

We did so well with 'The Flying Furies' the other day that I've put together a little batch of other European strips that I've not been able to identify. Most come from Champion, which was launched with European strips in mind; the lead strip, 'Jet Jordan', was actually 'Dan Cooper' by Albert Weimberg and the paper included other strips culled from the pages of Tintin and Spirou.

I've put up five this evening and... well, I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed that someone can recognise them. You'll have to scroll down the page to see the others.

The first strip, 'Paladin the Fearless', actually comes from Valiant rather than Champion. It was published in 1962-63 in Valiant and is, I believe, by Albert Uderzo.

Update: later that same evening...
We have our first i.d. (thanks, George). 'Belloy' originally appeared in Pilote in 1962. Valiant reprinted the first two stories, 'Chevalier sans armure' (1962) and 'La princesse captive' (1962-63), drawn by Uderzo from scripts by the ubiquitous Jean-Michel Charlier.

I'm rather pleased by the coincidence that the last couple of days have revealed a number of Uderzo's little-known contributions to British comics and the man himself celebrates his 80th birthday on Wednesday. Must remember to put something up.

Hunters Without Guns

'Hunters Without Guns' was a strip about a wildlife photographer in Africa. The strip appeared in Champion in 1966.

Update
After a lot of digging around the internet, I think this is almost certainly 'Marc Franval' or 'Les Franval' (from 1964) from Tintin. In 1965 (in both the Belgian and French versions of Tintin) the Franval family went on a trip across three continents, drawn by Edouard Aidans, written by Yves Duval. I'm not 100% sure but 'Visa pour 3 continents' and the sequel 'Alerte aux vautours' are likely to be the source of 'Hunters Without Guns'. The family consist of dark haired Marc, his blonde wife and young son, all of whom can be found in this strip -- Franval is renamed Steve Hunter and the Hunters are, of course, his family.

Astounding Adventures of Dr X

More from Champion... possibly from Tintin.

Update
As with 'Hunter Without Guns' above I'm pretty sure I've identified this one. It's 'Alain Landier' from Tintin, drawn (and scripted?) by Albert Weinberg. The character in the strip looks like Landier but the clincher is that rocket on the third page which is a dead ringer for the ship on the cover of Tintin (France) #710 (1962); the cover perfectly fits this episode of 'Dr X'. I'll stick it in after the strip... see if you agree. (The pic is from the BDoubliées page on 'Alain Landier'.)

World of Champions

A series on comic strip features, 'World of Champions' covered a wide range of subjects. The two examples below are General Patton and The Harlem Globetrotters and other biographies included cyclist Jacques Anquetil and jet-engine creator Frank Whittle. Ah, but where did they first appear? Spirou? Tintin?

Update
And just to wrap up the updates... I think this series was also a reprint from Tintin. Patton was featured in issue 9/64 (3 March 1964) and Jacques Anquetil in 23/64 (9 June 1964). I'm sure a dig around other issues would turn up the others. The artwork for the series was by a number of different artists (Luco [Lucien Colsoulle] for Patton, Jean Graton/Christian Denayer for Anquetil) but both were written by the same author, Yves Duval. Whether that holds true for the rest I don't know.

Now, if anyone has copies of Champion can they let me know the titles of the 'World of Champions' feature in the issues they have? I'll see if I can figure out where they came from.

Whacker

For once I do actually recognise the artist of the strip below... it's the famous Andre Franquin.

Update
Ah, how wrong can one be...! So close, yet so wrong. If you check the comments to this entry you'll find that George and Marc-André have managed to identify the original strip as 'Starter', originally a character created by Franquin to introduce various features on cars in Spirou . He, and his sidekick Pipette, also appeared in a number of comic strip stories. The particular story below is, I believe, a reprint of the story 'La bulle du silence' which appeared in issues 1433-1458 of Spirou in 1965.

The artist, however, is not Franquin but his long-time assistant Jidéhem (the pen-name of Belgian writer Jean De Mesmaeker). Jidéhem has a brief entry at Wikipedia and a slightly longer entry at Wikipedia Français. According to the BDoubliées site, the storyline for the above tale was penned by Vicq (the pen-name of Belgian writer Antoine Raymond).

Seven Days a Week... epilogue

An epilogue to last week's series from Jeremy Briggs...

As a final thought, here is an advert for a comic that is not coming out on a given day - in fact IPC really didn't know when it was coming out. In the early 1970s we were much more interested in reading our comics than listening to the grown-up work of trade union disputes, energy crises and three day weeks. Sometimes however that world made its presence felt. (Donald And Mickey, 1972)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Seven Days a Week (7)

Bringing Jeremy Briggs' delightful series of daily comics to a close we have...

No comics were published on a Sunday but The Sunday Post comes to our rescue with Mr and Mrs Brown and their family, no doubt read at your grandmother's house since she would be the only one to buy that particular newspaper. (The Broons 1985).