BEAR ALLEY BOOKS

BEAR ALLEY BOOKS
Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books

Friday, October 31, 2008

Cursitor Doom

It's Hallowe'en and I thought I'd treat you to an episode of Cursitor Doom. Some of you may remember seeing one of his stories in the Albion Origins collection so you'll know a little of his background. The strip was drawn by Eric Bradbury, one of my favourite artists. Eric was responsible for many of the finest strips I read when I was growing up ('House of Dolmann' was a huge favourite) so I am completely biased in his favour. I had the great fortune to meet Eric in 1993; he was in his early seventies, snowy-haired, charming and gracious and nothing like the dark, brooding artist you would expect to be drawing the dark, brooding comic strips that were his forte. Ken Mennell, whom I never got to meet, was the author and creator of Doom, who first appeared on 15 March 1969 when Smash! was relaunched by IPC.

So, here for your Hallowe'en pleasure, is the first ever episode. Enjoy...

(* Cursitor Doom © IPC Media.)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Comic Cuts

Not much to report on the work front. I've spent all week putting together a dummy for a possible book. After a couple of false starts it has now just about come together and I should have it wrapped up tomorrow (Friday). Good news, 'cos that's the deadline for it!

Next week I'm planning to finish off recording the last dregs of my LP collection and catch up with some other odds and ends that I've had hanging around forever. Might even get around to scanning some book covers for the galleries I've promised in the past.

I've a couple of updates for items published recently: remember Patti? She was the replacement for Jane in the Daily Mirror back in 1959. Well, Franco Giacomini kindly sent me another panel from the strip (see above) which mystery artist Bob Hamilton signed and guess what—his name's not Bob Hamilton. The error seems to date back to Denis Gifford's book on British newspaper strips, Stap Me!, published back in 1971. That's where the panel I previously published came from.

The artist was Rab Hamilton, not Bob. Rab was a nickname... his real name was Alex Hamilton and he appears to have started in the 1950s drawing for Fleetway's romance comic Valentine, although as he started in the very first issue (with a story entitled 'Whatever Will Be Will Be') I suspect he may have appeared even earlier elsewhere. Post-Patti, he drew various strips for Marilyn, Roxy and Serenade, including the long-running tales 'My Sister's Impossible Husband' (Marilyn, 1961-64) and fashion strip 'Ann and Pam' (Roxy, 1962-63).

Most people will know his work from TV Century 21, where he drew 'Secret Agent 21' (later retitled 'Mr. Magnet') in 1965-69. At the same time, for TV21's companion, Lady Penelope, he drew 'Marina, Girl of the Sea' (1966-67), 'The Girl from UNCLE' (1967) and 'Class Six Sterndorf' (1968). He then seems to have drawn mostly one-off stories and short-run strips for a variety of papers, including Sally, Joe 90, June, Countdown, Sandie and TV Action where his last known work appeared in 1973.

Beyond that, nothing seems to be known about him. I'm guessing from the nickname he was a Scot.

Another update: Jane, Daughter of Jane. Thanks to Rich Thomassen, I can now offer you a checklist of stories, although they add almost nothing to our knowledge of what the strips were about because none of the stories had a title.

1. (untitled) (U204-U270) 28-08-61—13-11-61
2. (untitled) (U271-U294) 14-11-61—11-12-61
3. (untitled) (U295-V20) 12-12-61—23-01-62
4. (untitled) (V21-V81) 23-01-62—04-04-62
5. (untitled) (V82-V124) 05-04-62—25-05-62
6. (untitled) (V125-V183) 26-05-62—02-08-62
7. (untitled) (V184-V237) 03-08-62—04-10-62
8. (untitled) (V238-W178) 05-10-62—27-07-63
9. (untitled) (W179-W207) 29-07-63—30-08-63

The artist for the run of the strip was Alfred Mazure, about whom Rich is something of an expert having written two books about him: Van Alfred Mazure tot Maz (Rotterdam, Comicshop Dick Bos, 2001) and De Wereld van Dick Bos (Rijswijk, Elmar, 2003). Both are in Dutch and can be ordered via Rich. If anyone is interested, drop me a line and I'll pass it on. The books cost 10 Eur. and 12,50 Eur. respectively, plus postage which will depend on where you are in the world.

While we're on the subject of Europe (oh yes we were), the latest issue of Hop! has just landed on my doorstep. It's a French comics' fanzine, much admired. The latest issue is #119 which contains an interview with Pierre Le Guen, plus an extensive bibliography, and features on Gaston Niezab and Claude Henri, also with extensive bibliographies, a dossier on 'The Phantom', a look at some strips that appeared in Coq Hardi and a strip called 'Le Fantome Vert' by Fergal, who was featured in an earlier issue.

OK, I'm missing out hugely because my knowledge of French runs to the fact that BD is comics and that's about it. But I can look at the pretty pictures and marvel at the lists. I like lists. You wouldn't have guessed, would you?

(* Our column header is an episode of 'Maxwell Hawke' from Buster, 29 September 1962 because by the time most of you read this it will be Hallowe'en. Maxwell is © IPC Media; Patti © Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ken Hunter (1917-2008)

Peter Gray reports that Ken Hunter, prolific contributor to D. C. Thomson's humour comics from the early 1950s until the late 1980s, died on Monday, 20 October, at the age of 91.

Hunter was one of the many anonymous talents who provided strips for Thomsons' papers, his style distinctive and popular in the pages of The Beano and Topper for many years. Hunter is best known for light-hearted adventure strips, especially those featuring odd and quirky aliens.

I know nothing of his background. He began contributing to The Beano in 1952 with the first series of stories featuring 'Wee Davie', a diminutive lad who is tasked by the King Willie of Pomegrania to protect the land from a giant called Hunk the Terrible. Wee Davie's fantasy adventures, which included dragons, spells and a great big baby, ran for seven series until 1957.

Hunter found himself fantasist-in-chief, also drawing Wildfire The Magic Horse, Ali Ha Ha, Johnny the Half-Pint Wizard and 'The Horse That Jack Built'. For the opening issue of Topper he drew the first tale of 'The Terrible Tasks of Big Fat Boko', Boko being a very hungry wizard who journeyed the land of Bolonia with his companion, a crafty crow named Koko. 'Sir Laughalot', another Topper favourite, featured a medieval knight and his donkey, Dandelion. 'My Pal, Baggy Pants' featured a boy who could summon a genie.

'Mick on the Moon' (Beezer, 1956-57) was the first in a long line of science fiction adventures which also included the adventures of Jeff and Bill Star in the kingdom of Zero (Topper, 1957-61), 'The Survivors' (Beezer, 1959) and Professor 'Potassium' Roberts and youngster Nobby Clark (Beezer, 1960-65) as they battled Dr. Q and the Jellymen.

Other long-running strips included 'Big Chief Running Chump' (Topper, 1957-69), 'Billy Benn's Den' (Topper, 1964-66), 'Mr. Flippy' (Beezer, 1967-69), 'Barney's Barmy Army' (Beezer, 1971-74), based on Dad's Army, 'Danny's Tranny' (Topper, 1972-86), 'Mr. Licko and His Lollipops' (Beezer, 1978-81) and 'Stan and Oily, the Runaway Robots' (Topper, 1986-88).

Ray Moore adds: "As well as his work for the comics he did do the odd strip for the girls papers and even the Hotspur picture paper early on, usually with Nature or animal themes. I've always thought, when in more serious mode, his style and that of Charlie Grigg were rather similar and open to similar uses."

To my knowledge, his last strip appeared in Topper Book 1990 after which he retired, already in his seventies.

(* Art © D. C. Thomson, borrowed from the blog of Peter Gray, towards which I suggest you cast your gaze for more images. Then visit Lew Stringer for a few more.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

One-Eyed Jack

A comic first: the debut episode of "One-Eyed Jack" from the pages of Valiant's 20 December 1975 issue, where two other new stories, a 'Valiant's Bag o' Tricks' fold-out supplement' and the chance to win one of five Chopper bikes or 60 "super pocket-money prizes" was also on offer. To all intents and purposes, Valiant was being relaunched: new strips, new attitude. A hard-hitting new war series, "Death Wish" and a new style football strip, "The Lout That Ruled The Rovers", debuted in the same issue. The editor was John Wagner, recently involved in the launch of Battle Picture Weekly, which he helped put together with Pat Mills. Mills went off to create Action and Wagner was offered the editorship of Valiant, having previously held editorial posts only on girls' titles.

Wagner took over the title shortly after a new batch of strips had just begun so it took some months before he was able to stamp his mark on the title (and then not for long as he quit not long after). Of the new strips, "One-Eyed Jack" is probably the most Wagner-ian: violent with occasional doses of black humour. It predated Action's "Dredger" by a few months which also used Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry as a role-model.

As I happen to have the issue to hand and the scanner's free, here's the opening episode. The artwork is by John Cooper who was to rise to greater heights in the pages of Battle when he took over the artwork on "Johnny Red".

(* One-Eyed Jack © IPC Media.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dorothy Hartley

(* More from the prolific pen of Tony Woolrich...)

Dorothy Hartley 1893-1985

Dorothy Hartley is known today as the writer of Food in England (1954), which is still in print and is regarded as a classic of cookery history, but she also wrote and illustrated a number of other books about the traditional working life of Britain before the second World War.

She was born in 1893 at Skipton, Yorkshire, and was educated in a convent there until 1904, when her father, an ordained schoolmaster, retired and took the living of the parish of Rempstone. Nottinghamshire. Dorothy went to Loughborough High School and then Nottingham Art School. During the first World War she worked in a factory and resumed her education in 1919 at the Regent Street Polytechnic. She taught at Nottingham Art School between 1920 and 1922, and later taught in London.

Whilst still a student she illustrated with numerous line drawings two books for T. Geoffrey W. Henslow, his Early Poems and Ye Book of Sundials. In the 1920s and early 30s she wrote with M. M. V [Madge] Elliott Life and Work of the Peoples of England (6 vol), Old Book; a medieval anthology and Medieval Costume and Life.

Life and Work of the Peoples of England covered the time from the Conquest to the eighteenth century, and comprised illustrations from contemporary manuscripts, drawings and prints. The object of the series was to give a view of the social life of each century through the eyes of the people who lived in it. The writers tried to select records suitable for general and school use, which has meant examining some thousands of MSS., prints, drawings and reference books. They were not children’s books as such but were compiled with an educative purpose. Hector Bolitho noted that teachers were not drawn to them but preferred the Quennells’ books, as “they preferred their stuff predigested.”

As well as an artist she was a skilled photographer and her records formed the basis of the many line drawings with which she illustrated her writings. In 1931 she travelled in Africa and an exhibition of her photographs was held in London. Between April 1933 and April 1936 she wrote a series of 150 articles for the Daily Sketch describing the country people of the British Isles and their trades. According to Chard North (see reference below), at first she travelled by bicycle, and later by car, sleeping under a hedge if necessary.

From this time she wrote and illustrated a succession of books about the working life of the countryside and the small town. Thomas Tusser, his Good Points of Husbandry, 1931, Here’s England, 1934, Countryman’s England,1935, Made in England, 1939, Irish Holiday, 1938, Food in England, 1954, Water in England, 1964, The Land of England, 1979, and Lost Country Life, 1979.

She recorded in some detail the practicalities of the crafts she wrote about, and her work is an invaluable resource for historians of techniques.

According to Chard North she was an aircraftswoman in the second World War, and after the war she taught for a number of years at University College and Goldsmiths’ College, London, and was even an adviser to BBC The Archers programmes.

Her mother’s family were property owners at Fron House, Frontcysylltau near Llangollen, north Wales and, in 1933, she made a cottage on the estate her base. After the Second World War she rented Fron House out and the tenants ran a B & B there. She worked from Frontcysylltau for the rest of her life and died on 22 October 1985. Her ashes were interred in the family grave at St David's Church, Froncysylltau. Her photographic collection and other papers (including a set of cuttings of her Daily Sketch work) were willed to the Museum of Rural Life at Reading, where a printed catalogue of them is available for consultation.

The following list of Dorothy Hartley’s work has been compiled from the online British Library Catalogue, COPAC and WorldCat augmented by titles noted by book dealers in ABE. Many of the books went into several editions, but the earliest ones traced are the ones noted. More references might be added for Dorothy Hartley’s book illustrations.

PUBLICATIONS

Non-fiction
Life and Work of the Peoples of England: a pictorial record from contemporary sources, with Margaret M. V Elliott. London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 6 vols, 1925-1931. [The 17th Century volume is available online]
The old book; a mediaeval anthology. London, A. A. Knopf, 1930.
Mediæval costume and life; a review of their social aspects arranged under various classes and workers with instructions for making numerous types of dress, with Francis Michael Kelly. London, B. T. Batsford, Ltd, 1931.
Thomas Tusser, his Good points of husbandry. London, Country Life, 1931. [With a facsimile of the 1557 edition of A hundreth good pointes of husbandrie]
Here’s England. London, Rich and Cowen, 1934.
Countryman’s England. London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1935.
Made in England. London, Methuen, 1939.
Irish Holiday. London, Lindsay Drummond, 1938. [The story of a journey tracing out the places in Ireland visited by a Welshman , Giraldus Cambrensis, in the twelfth century]
Food in England. London, Macdonald, 1954.
Water in England. London, Macdonald, 1964.
The Land of England. London, Macdonald General Books, 1979.
Lost country life. New York, Pantheon Books, 1979.

Illustrated
Ye Book of Sundials by T. Geoffrey W. Henslow. London, E. Arnold, 1914. [With several hundreds of Dorothy Hartley’s drawings, some dated from 1912; available online]
Early Poems by T. Geoffrey W. Henslow. London "The Gentlewoman," [1917?] [With around 90 of Dorothy Hartley’s drawings]
Adventures into history for primary schools by J York Smith & Edward J S Lay. London, Macmillan, 1941.
The shellfish we eat by Lee Chadwick. London, Cassell [Pantoscope book series No 20], 1963.
How the fish is caught by Lee Chadwick. London, Cassell [Pantoscope book series No 22], 1963.

References:
I am grateful to Ms Joanna Loxton, of the library of the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading, for information about the Hartley Archive, Cat. Ref: D HART.
Hector Bolitho, A Batsford Century: The Record of a Hundred Years of Publishing and Bookselling, 1843–1943, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1943, p 128
Chard North, ‘The scholar gipsy’, WER Magazine, 30 September 1979 (photograph of Dorothy Hartley by Christopher Cormack) [accessed at http://www.btinternet.com/~billevans/hrtly ]
The Times (Obituary), 6 November 1985
Mary Wondrausch, ‘Hartley, Dorothy Rosaman (1893-1985), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, [http://www.oxfordbnb.com/view/article/50449, accessed 13 August 2008 ]
BBC Wales Hall of Fame, Arts in NE Wales, article ‘Dorothy Hartley c 2004 [accessed at http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/northeast/guides/halloffame/arts/dorothy_hartley.shtml ] The comments attached to this page show how much she was appreciated and loved by her readers world-wide].

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Les Barton (1923-2008)

Les Barton, cartoonist and comic strip artist, died on 20 October 2008 at Hayes Cottage Nursing Home, not far from his home town of Uxbridge, Middlesex, after a long illness.

Born in Wareham, Dorset, on 8 December 1923, Leslie Alfred Barton was a self-taught artist. Leaving school at the age of 14 he found work as a telegraph clerk before serving as a dispatch rider in the Royal Signals during World War II; a motorcycle accident led him to retrain as a draughtsman with the War Office Signals. He published his first cartoon in the Militant Miner in 1944 and regularly appeared in WAM (West African Magazine) when he was stationed in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1946.

After the war he found work as a photographic retouching artist for Associated-Iliffe Press and worked also in advertising. He spent his evenings producing up to 20 cartoons a week. His break came in 1949 when he sold a cartoon to Reveille (earning him a princely £7) and, from 1954, he was a regular contributor to Punch. His work appeared in Blighty, Everybody's, The Autocar, Weekly Mail, Tit Bits, Sporting Record, Nursing Mirror, Men Only, Daily Mirror, Daily Sketch, Evening Standard, The Times, Money, Observer, The Oldie, The Spectator and Private Eye.

He was the political cartoons and caricatures for The Statist (1963-64) and, during the Falklands War in 1982, was staff war artist for The Sun due to the dearth of photographs in the early stages of the conflict. He also designed humorous greetings cards for Camden Graphics, Rainbow Cards and Cardtoons. He was a founder-member of the Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain in 1960 and became treasurer for 20 years.

His first comic strips appeared in The Evil Eye Thriller shortly after the war, Barton drawing two issues of the 8-page comic for Bernard Kaye in 1947; he also drew occasional filler strips for 'Billy Bunter' in Knockout when Frank Minnitt was indisposed. Barton returned to comics in the late 1960s with 'I Spy' in Sparky and maintained a steady output of strip throughout the 1970s, including 'Harriet and Her Horse' (Cor!!), 'Ma Kelly's Telly' (Sparky), 'Knight School' (Whizzer & Chips), 'Phone the Crows' and 'Autotech' (both Topper). As 'Lezz' (with which name he had often signed his early cartoons) he also drew a strip about the punk band 'The Slugs' for Oink.

Barton was survived by his wife, Dorothy, and three children, Bob, Lisa, Peter and Samantha.

Obituaries: Blimey! (21 October); Down the Tubes (22 October); The Independent (22 November); The Guardian (15 January 2009).

Books
The Best of Barton... Cartoons. Padiham, Jasmit Publications, 1960.

Books Illustrated
The World's Best Monster Joke Book by Joel Rothman. London, Magnet, 1983.
The Most Awful Monster Joke Book Ever by Joel Rothman. London, Magnet, 1985.

(I Spy
© D. C. Thomson; illustration © Les Barton Estate.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Comic Cuts

I'm in a rather more relaxed mood tonight than I've been for the past few weeks. Everything seems to have been going reasonably well compared to the last few months. Potentially this is the first uninterrupted week I'll have had since June. We're just about finished on the building & decorating front (a few cosmetic odds and sods are still going on and there's only one potential disaster on the horizon) although there are still boxes that need to be emptied. From being a month behind with work in August I'm down to just a few days; we shall just have to see how many days off I actually get on my planned "holiday from work" next week.

The two Trigan Empire books are now done bar one paragraph that needs a rewrite and the proofing; the introductions clocked in at around 17,000 words across the two volumes and, not for the first time, I've got a few bits left over—notes on the planet Elekton's orbit and other weird oddments. This often happens if I'm not careful. I once compared my writing with dérive, the situationist concept of wandering streets aimlessly and following certain pathways on a whim or for aesthetic reasons rather than practical. That seems to be the way I do my research, wandering down all sorts of back alleys not quite knowing where I'll end up, gathering up information that might be useful along the way and hoping that, somewhere along the line, I'll get to a point where I can see some sort of pattern emerging.

I wouldn't recommend this to anyone as a way of working. It's an incredibly slow way of doing the work but the only one I'm comfortable with when I'm writing about something I don't know too well—and I seem to have had quite a bit of that this year what with writing about Robin Hood, King Arthur, Vikings and lots of SF artists, some of who's work I was only vaguely aware of, all of which is well outside my comfort zone. I get nervous if I haven't explored all around the edges of a subject to make sure I've not missed something obvious.

Methodical and painstaking, I call it, to which most editors reply, "Yes, very good, but will you have it finished by Friday?"

Another reason I'm feeling relaxed is because I've been listening to dozens of my old LPs over the last few weeks. I've had most of them boxed up or sitting in a crate for fifteen years, only occasionally dragging one out to play on my ancient stereo. One of the reasons was that the needle needed replacing and I didn't want to bugger up my collection; the other is that I found it incredibly frustrating having to change sides every 15-20 minutes. CDs have completely spoiled my pleasure listening to vinyl.

A few months ago I solved both problems by buying myself a USB turntable and I've been recording the lot. About 140 so far and still another 60 or so to go. It's quite a mixture—lots of rock (the usual suspects), heavy metal (especially New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands as the NWoBHM was in full swing when I was 17), prog rock, space rock (tons of Hawkwind) and lots of what nowadays gets called ambient music (you wouldn't have The Orb if it wasn't for Steve Hillage).

I'm enjoying it all the more because it's something I can be doing while I'm working and there's a huge sense of achievement every time you finish a run on a particular band. When work is piling up and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight you need these little victories to keep you going.

The Bumper Book of Roy of the Rovers

This one brings back some memories. This is 120 pages of solid Roy of the Rovers footballing goodness drawn from the old Roy of the Rovers Annual with a few contemporary adverts from the pages of Tiger thrown in to give it that authentic 1950s/1960s feel—deliberately pandering to the nostalgia of middle-aged blokes who remember tearing at wrapping paper to get to the annuals we used to get every Christmas as kids. Not the thin things you get nowadays that masquerade as annuals but large hunks of books that would take you until New Year to read all the way through.

Strips, text stories, hints and tips about how to play, features, the Bobby Charlton story, training with Roy, a trip round Melchester Stadium... it's all here. The paper even has that rough feel of old newsprint and being slightly off-white it has, I'm sure, helped with the reproduction of these old strips as the artwork doesn't need to be digitally bleached quite so far, which causes fine lines to disappear along with the yellow tint of aging paper.

As I have a soft spot for Roy and his adventures (see my earlier review of The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1980s), I think this was always going to be a winner as far as I was concerned (and, yes, I even have some of the original annuals from which these stories come from); it's from an era far earlier than the days when I couldn't wait for Saturday to come around to find out how Melchester Rovers had performed that week and I suspect that will be true of a lot of fans who feel that Roy's heyday was the 1970s and 1980s when he had his own comic. At £12.99 it's a good deal pricier than the earlier book... maybe a reflection on how many Titan expect to sell (although you can get 40% off by following the link below). But if you like Roy, this is a great sampler of the Roy your Dad followed back in the 1950s. It bodes well for the upcoming Archive volumes.

The Bumper Book of Roy of the Rovers. Titan Books (ISBN 978-1845769581), 24 October 2008, 120pp, £12.99.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Patti

Following on from yesterday's post about Jane, here's a checklist of stories featuring Patti, the strip that replaced Jane in the Daily Mirror in 1959. I know very little about the strip other than that it featured the titular character, a teenager who was probably thought to be more to the liking of a 'modern' (1959) audience than Jane, whose heyday was probably considered to be the 1930s and 1940s.

The writer was Jenny Butterworth who would later go on to script 'Tiffany Jones', one of the most popular strips of the 1960s—a lost classic if ever there was one, although I did spot (on a cruise around the internet looking for information) that some of the strips were collected in Scandinavia a few years ago.

The artist, Bob Hamilton, is someone I've never come across before or since and I'd welcome any information that anyone has. I don't even have much to offer in the way of examples of his work as I've only a single example—indeed, only a single panel—of 'Patti'. The strip lasted only around 22 months before being replaced when the Mirror realised its mistake and the strength of the 'Jane of the Daily Mirror' brand and brought back 'Jane, Daughter of Jane' in 1961.

My thanks to Franco Giacomini for the following checklist of stories.

1 I'm Patti (S243-S310-T1-T16) ??-10-59--??-01-60
2 In the Money (T17 - T88) 1960
3 The Fixers (T89-T172) 1960
4 The Beloved Man (T173-T232) 1960
5 Back to Bruddersfield (T233 - T294) 1960
6 Hit and Run (T295-T311-U1-U42) 1960-61
7 That Man Mike (U43-U83) ??-07-61-??-08-61

(* Patti © Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jane

Just ahead of the appearance of a new book featuring the famous Jane strip from the Daily Mirror, I thought I'd attempt a checklist of stories. Franco Giacomini kindly sent me a list of strips that had appeared in the Italian paper Il Giorno, along with the codes as used on various Daily Mirror strips. To this I've added those titles I've been able to gather from other sources. Where I don't have the original English titles I've retained Franco's titles from his Italian listing.

Jane
Began as a single-panel weekly series 'Jane's Journal—or the Diary of a Bright Young Thing'. Don Freeman was Pett's scriptwriter from December 1938. Norman Pett was given as assistant in 1946 and he, Mike Hubbard, took over drawing the strip in May 1948, a position he held until the strip came to an end in 1959.

X
Hush-Hush House (350-426) 15-01-40—
Sea Legs (427-546) 15-04-40—
Jane on Leave (547-582, 1-12) 02-09-40—
Jane's Rival (13-100, 1-71) 28-10-40—
Land Girl (72-276, A1-98) 05-05-41—
Jane's Island Romance (A99-A260) 27-04-42—
(missing for a week)
Factory Girl (A261-B103) 09-11-42—01-05-43
Queen Jane (B104-B238) 03-05-43—
Married by Proxy (B239-C102) 07-10-43—
N.A.A.F.I. Say Die (C103-C225) 01-05-44—
Behind the Front (C226-D147) 21-09-44—
Jane's Summer Idle (D148- ) 25-06-45—

X

Heiress By Mistake (G302-311, H1-H80) 1948—49
x
(Jane e il "Club Barbarbiù) (H247-H310, J1-J107) 1949—50
(La stravagante crociera di Jane) (J108-J245) 1950
(Jane tra due amori) (J246-J309, K1-K83) 1950—51
(Jane guida turistica) (K84-K209) 1951
Nature in the Raw (Jane al priorato) (K210-K299) 03-09-51—??-??-51
P.C. Jane (Jane poliziotta) (K300-K310, L1-L111) 1951—52
Georgie Tries Again (Il sogno di Jane) (L112-L189) 1952
Jane's Wedding (Le nozze di Jane) (L190-L213) 1952
(Jane nel safari) (L214-L310, M1-M3) 1952—53
College of Courtship (M4-M104) 05-01-53—02-05-53
Model Ambassadress (Jane in oriente) (M105-M206) 04-05-53—29-08-53
Double Scotch (M207-M254) 31-08-53—24-10-53
Box o' Tricks (M255-M310, N1-N26) 26-10-53—30-01-54
Jane on Ice (N27-N68) 01-02-54—20-03-54
The Ruby of Love (N69-N175) 22-03-54—24-07-54
Jane's Cojntinental Tour (N176-N262) 26-07-54—03-11-54
Jane's Hotel (N263-N310, O1-O31) 04-11-54—05-02-55
The Kissman Report (O32-O96) 07-02-55—18-05-55
A Model Pair (O97-O225) 19-05-55—15-10-55
Gun Girl (O226-O289, P1-P72) 17-10-55—24-03-56
Dude Ranch (P73-P131) 26-03-56—02-06-56
The Bathing Pool (P132-P203) 04-06-56—25-08-56
The Guinea Pig (P204-P306) 27-08-56—24-12-56
Counter Measures (P307-Q89) 27-12-56—13-04-57
Jane's Latin Lover (Q90-Q242) 14-04-57—10-10-57
(Voiti per il cinema) (Q243-R7) 1957—58
(La vacca che canta) (R8-R81) 1958
(L'ipnotizzatore) (R82-R207) 1958
(Angeli custodi) (R208-R258) 1958
(Jane e il Lama) (R259-R300) 1958
(Piccole stelle) (R301-S57) 1958-59
(La loconda del pescatore) (S58-S135) 1959
(Jane nel catello) (S136-S208) 1959
(Jane e il tesoro) (S209-S242) 1959—10-10-59

Jane, Daughter of Jane
Revival of the strip which ran 28 August 1961 to 30 August 1963, drawn by Alfred Mazure and written by Mazure and Roger Woddis.

X

Jane
New series featuring the granddaughter of the original Jane ran 15 April 1985 to 1 September 1990 with artwork by John Burns. Written by Roger Mahoney, Hilary King, Tim Quinn and Les Lilley.

1. 15-04-85—
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8. The Long-Legged Detective (HK) (V41-V???) 17-02-87—
9. Soap Bubbles (TQ) (V???-V???) ??-05-87—
10. Granny Jane and Lola (HK) (V197-V???) 18-08-87—
11. (title unknown) (V???-W40) ??-11-87—16-02-88
12. Haring Around (HK) (W41-W118) 17-02-88—17-05-88
13. Hillbilly Hullabaloo (TQ) (W119-W196) 18-05-88—16-08-88
14. The Romancing of Jane (TQ) (W197-W274) 17-08-88—15-11-88
15. Queen Jane (HK) (W275-X38) 16-11-88—14-02-89
16. Home 'Tweet' Home (TQ) (X39-X116) 15-02-89—16-05-89
17. Pirates Aboard (LL) (X117-X194) 17-05-89—15-08-89
18. Granny Jane at War (HK) (X195-X272) 16-08-89—14-11-89
19. Date in the Desert (TQ) (X273- ) 15-11-89—
20.
21.
22.

(* Jane © Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Jane Eyre (Classical Comics)

Jane Eyre is one of a clutch of new titles that have come out from Classical Comics recently, the other two being Frankenstein and A Christmas Carol. Of the three, this was the one I was looking forward to the most, solely for the artwork by John M. Burns, possibly the finest comics artist working in the UK at the moment. Burns has been drawing comic strips professionally for fifty years and worked on everything from Modesty Blaise to Judge Dredd in that time. He brings to Jane Eyre the experience of someone who has drawn historical strips before (including, many years ago, adaptations of Wuthering Heights and Lorna Doone) and the skill to depict one of the essential ingredients of the story—Jane growing from a child of nine to a young woman of nineteen.

I doubt if I would have ever read Jane Eyre (or Wuthering Height and Lorna Doone, etc. for that matter) had it not been for comics—a bit too much of a girly historical romance for my usual tastes... and old fashioned... and probably clunky and full of thee-ing and thou-ing. Which is not the case. The language, albeit a little old fashioned, is actually quite clear to a modern audience even in the original text version I was reading; perhaps only one or two anachronistic words (at least a couple of words not in my vocabulary) but nothing to send you scurrying to a dictionary every five minutes.

Although the language is that used by Charlotte Bronte (the descriptions are abridged but the dialogue and captions are all from the original novel), there is no room for mistaking what the characters are saying or thinking thanks to the illustrations. The images bring the story to life with delightful clarity. You begin to notice things in the story that you might otherwise have missed. To take one little for instance: the book's metaphor of birds. "Birds were emblems of love," says Jane (p.91) and birds are a recurring motif of how Rochester imagines her, comparing her to a nonnette and a linnet; he imagines Jane will "come with soft flight and nestle against my heart." Burns draws each in the thoughts of the man as he speaks. Birds continue to feature throughout: when Jane runs away she is helped by sisters Diana and Mary "as they would a half-frozen bird"; at Ferndean, Mr Rochester is a "caged eagle"; his hair reminds Jane of an eagle's feathers and his "nails are grown like birds' claws"; and, lastly, Rochester compares her to a skylark and Jane decides that their relationship is "just as if a royal eagle, chained to a perch, must entreat a sparrow to become its purveyor." I wonder how many would spot this quite so easily had the artwork not made it so obvious in some of the frames.

Artistically, Jane Eyre is nothing short of superb and the book is an unexpected delight as poor Jane suffers one dreadful torment after another before she and her true love can finally be together. Classical Comics should be applauded for their efforts (indeed, they have been, with an IPPY award last May). The series is tied closely to the school curriculum, hence the concentration of Shakespeare, Dickens and other classics. They're good hunks of books, too, Jane Eyre running to 125 pages plus 8 pages of background material. If Jane Eyre is not your cup of tea, give one of the others a try: A Christmas Carol is a Dickens' classic with ghosts and artwork by Mike Collins & David Roach; Frankenstein adapts Mary Shelley's monster-fest with art by Declan Shalvey. There should be something for most tastes and if your tastes don't run to the original text, there's always the 'quick text' adaptations which modernise the language without losing any of the story elements.

Jane Eyre (Original Text, abridged). Classical Comics ISBN 978-1-906332-06-8, 29 September 2008.
Jane Eyre (Quick Text). Classical Comics ISBN 978-1-906332-08-2, 29 September 2008.
Frankenstein (Original Text, abridged). Classical Comics ISBN 978-1-906332-15-0, 29 September 2008.
Frankenstein (Quick Text). Classical Comics ISBN 978-1-906332-16-7, 29 September 2008.
A Christmas Carol (Original Text, abridged). Classical Comics ISBN 978-1-906332-17-4, 1 October 2008.
A Christmas Carol (Quick Text). Classical Comics ISBN 978-1-906332-18-1, 1 October 2008.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Barrington John Bayley (1937-2008)

Sad to hear that Barrington Bayley, died on Tuesday, 14 October 2008, from complications following bowel cancer, at the age of 71. Barry Bayley was born in Birmingham on 9 April 1937, the son of John Bayley (a toolmaker) and his wife Clarissa Mary (nee Love). Aged around 8, the Bayley family moved to Shropshire where Barry attended Adams Grammar School.

Bayley briefly worked as a reporter and civil servant (1954-55). He also wrote short SF stories, his first story appearing in the Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine in 1954 ("Combat's End" as J. Barrington Bayley); more stories appeared in Authentic and the British Space Fiction Magazine (as Vargo Statten became) before Bayley joined the R.A.F. for his National Service (1955-57). He subsequently worked as a public servant in London, clerk, typist and coal miner.

He also returned to writing. After meeting Mike Moorcock in 1958, Bayley began writing (both solo and in collaboration) stories, features and strips for Fleetway Publications. The two collaborated on numerous features for Boy's World (1963-64) and, solo, Bayley wrote "The Astounding Jason Hyde" for Valiant (1965-68) and "Bartok and his Brothers" for Champion (1966).

Unable to sell to New Worlds—editor John Carnell thought him a poor writer—he began submitting stories under the name P. F. Woods and sold over half a dozen to Carnell's magazines. When Moorcock became editor of New Worlds, Bayley contributed regularly to the magazine and to its later incarnation as a paperback anthology. Later stories appeared in two collections, The Knights of the Limit (1978) and The Seed of Evil (1979) and he was a regular in the pages of InterZone.

His first novel, The Star Virus, was published by Ace Books in 1970. His science fiction novels have been described as sophisticated Space Opera, often based around grand staples of the SF genre (time travel in Collision with Chronos, The Fall of Chronopolis; robots in The Soul of a Robot, The Rod of Light). Galactic cultures, futuristic mobsters, alien races were used to explore the themes of power and its abuse and the relationship between man and authority; Jefferson M. Peters comments that Bayley used space opera "both to expose humanity's hunger for power and death and to offer paths of transcendence via empathy and objective knowledge of human history." His work was often pessimistic and his novels did not necessarily conform to what readers expected of galactic adventures. He did, however, gain a small but intensely loyal following.

Barry was married to Joan Lucy Clarke in 1969 and had a son and a daughter.

Obituaries: Locus online (15 October); The Independent (27 October); The Times (13 November); The Guardian (13 November).

PUBLICATIONS

Novels
The Star Virus. New York, Ace Books, 1970.
Annihilation Factor. New York, Ace Books, 1972; London, Allison & Busby, 1979.
Empire of Two Worlds. New York, Ace Books, 1972; London, Robert Hale, 1973.
Collision Course. New York, DAW Books, 1973; as Collision with Chronos, London, Allison & Busby, 1977.
The Fall of Chronopolis. New York, DAW Books, 1974; London, Allison & Busby, 1979.
The Soul of the Robot. New York, Doubleday, 1974; revised, London, Allison & Busby, 1976.
The Garments of Caean. New York, Doubleday, 1976; revised, London, Fontana, 1978.
The Grand Wheel. New York, DAW Books, 1977; London, Fontana, 1979.
Star Winds. New York, . New York, DAW Books, 1978.
The Pillars of Eternity. New York, DAW Books, 1979.
The Zen Gun. New York, DAW Books, 1983.
The Forest of Peldain. New York, DAW Books, 1985.
The Rod of Light. London, Methuen, 1985.
Warhammer 40,000: Eye of Terror. Nottingham, Games Workshop, 2000.
The Sinners of Erspia. Holicong, PN, Wildside Press, 2002.

Omnibus
The Fall of Chronopolis and Collision with Chronos. London, Pan Books, 1989.
The Pillars of Eternity and The Garments of Caean. London, Pan Books, 1989.

Collections
The Knights of the Limits. London, Allison & Busby, 1978.
The Seed of Evil. London, Allison & Busby, 1979.

About Barrington J. Bayley
The Writings of Barrington J. Bayley by Mike Ashley. Harold Wood, Essex, Beccon Committee, 1981.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Comic Cuts: Bestselling British Collections

I posted the last Top 13 (all I could manage) for the best-selling British graphic novels (i.e. collections of stories of UK origin rather than British editions of American GNs) back on September 17th. Here are the top positions for October 17th. I've broken it down into two as the list for 'graphic novels' on Amazon is dominated by annuals. Here's today's chart...
TOP 27 ANNUALS
1. High School Musical Annual 2009. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405239042), 4 Aug 2008.
2. The Beano Annual 2009. D. C. Thomson (ISBN 978-1845353490), 3 Sep 2008.
3. Top Gear Annual 2009. Penguin (ISBN 978-1405904551), 7 Aug 2008.
4. Doctor Who. The Official Annual 2009. Penguin (ISBN 978-1405904278), 7 Aug 2008.
5. Hannah Montana Annual 2009. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405242929), 30 Oct 2008. But out now.
6. Ben 10 Annual 2009. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405239097), 4 Aug 2008.
7. The Dandy Annual 2009. D. C. Thomson (ISBN 978-1845353483), 3 Sep 2008.
8. Peppa Pig. The Official Annual 2009. Ladybird Books (ISBN 978-1846469565), 30 Oct 2008. But out now.
9. Dennis the Menace and Gnasher Annual 2009. D. C. Thomson (ISBN 978-1845353537), 3 Sep 2008.
10. Disney Princess Annual 2009. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405239059), 4 Aug 2008.
11. SpongeBob Squarepants Annual 2009. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405239073), 4 Aug 2008.
12. The Rupert Bear Annual [2009]. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405238908), 4 Aug 2008.
13. The Bash Street Kids: Space Cadets. D. C. Thomson (ISBN 978-1845353520), 3 Sep 2008.
14. Thomas & Friends Annual 2009. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405239134), 4 Aug 2008.
15. My Extremely Good Charlie and Lola Annual 2009. Puffin Books (ISBN 978-0141384030), 7 Aug 2008.
16. Dora the Explorer Annual 2009. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405239127), 30 Oct 2008. But out now.
17. Bunty for Girls 2009. D. C. Thomson (ISBN 978-1845353506), 3 Sep 2008.
18. Rupert [1963 Facsimile]. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405241120), 4 Aug 2008.
19. Lazy Town Annual 2009. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405239066), 4 Aug 2008.
20. In the Night Garden Annual 2009. Penguin (ISBN 978-1405904704), 7 Aug 2008.
21. Brownie Annual 2009. The Guide Association (ISBN 978-0852602423), Aug 2008.
22. Animals and You Annual 2009. D. C. Thomson (ISBN 978-1845353513), 3 Sep 2008.
23. Power Rangers Annual 2009: Operation Overdrive. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405239028), 4 Aug 2008.
24. Bob the Builder Annual 2009. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405239158), 4 Aug 2008.
25. Rainbow Magic Annual 2009. Orchard (ISBN 978-1408302729), 7 Aug 2008.
26. Disney-Pixar: The World of Cars Annual 2009. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405239035), 4 Aug 2008.
27. Shaun the Sheep Annual 2009. Egmont (ISBN 978-1405239172), 4 Aug 2008.

TOP 12 OTHERS
1. Beano and Dandy: Comics in the Classroom. D. C. Thomson (ISBN 978-1845353476), 3 Sep 2008.
2. Charley's War: Return to the Front. Titan Books (ISBN 978-1845767969), 24 October 2008. But out now.
3. Commando: Bandits at 12 O'clock, edited by George Low. Carlton Books (ISBN 978-1847321282), 1 September 2008.
4. Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel, by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin & Giovanni Rigano. Puffin Books (ISBN 978-0141322964), 4 Oct 2007.
5. Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files Vol.11 by various. Rebellion (ISBN 978-1905437795), 9 October 2008.
6. The Best of Roy of the Rovers: The 1980s. Titan Books (ISBN 978-1845769482) 13 Jun 2008.
7. Silverfin: The Graphic Novel [Young James Bond], by Charlie Higson & Kev Walker. Puffin Books (ISBN 978-0141322537), 2 Oct 2008.
8. The Best of 2000AD. Prion Books (ISBN 978-1853756689), 1 September 2008.
9. Battle Picture Library: Let 'em Have It, edited by Steve Holland. Prion Books (ISBN 978-1853756719) 6 October 2008.
10. Commando Ammo Box. Carlton Books (ISBN 978-1847320872), 6 October 2008.
11. Alice in Sunderland, by Bryan Talbot. Jonathan Cape (ISBN 978-0224080767), 5 Apr 2007.
12. The Cream of Tank Girl by Alan C. Martin & Jamie Hewlett. Titan Books (ISBN 978-1845769420), 24 October 2008.
I should note that Amazon update their charts hourly so there can be dramatic changes over the course of a day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hugh Munro

A little mystery has been raised by my mate John Herrington. Hugh Munro, the author of the Clutha detective novels, has an entry in Contemporary Authors in which he says "I have been beating a typewriter ever since my youth, turning out articles and short stories—and also adventure serials for boys' weeklies—but only within the last five years have I attempted novel writing."

As his first novel appeared in 1958 it strikes me that Munro could have been one of the anonymous contributors to the likes of Adventure, Rover, Hotspur and Wizard for D. C. Thomson, as they were among the few regular boys' adventure story papers being published in the 1950s.

Munro, who first names are variously given as Macfarlane Hugh or Hugh Macfarlane, was born in Glasgow, the son of George Michele Monro (a riveter) and his wife Margaret (nee Robinson). His year of birth is unknown but he was married on 16 September 1939 to Elizabeth Baird, implying he was born no later than 1923 and probably in the 1910s.

He was educated at Scottish schools, leaving at the age of 14 to work as a newsboy, farm hand, in shipyards and factories before becoming a freelance writer. "In a rather misspent youth my chief interests were chasing girls, playing soccer, playing the Highland bag-pipes and dancing, including Highland dancing. Nowadays fiction writing leaves little time for anything other than an occasional game of chess," he told Contemporary Authors, where he described himself as a Christian who was suspicious of all politics.

As well as writing articles, short stories and serials, Munro also contributed to radio and wrote plays for amateur drama festivals. He was also the editor of Scottish Bagpipe Magazine.

In his 1958 debut novel he created the character of Clutha, "as hard as a chunk of Aberdeen granite and as knobby as a tree root. Clutha was Scotland's answer to Philip Marlowe, a tough, bowler-hatted, uncrushable detective who worked for a Glasgow shipyard. He had a nice turn of sentimentality and a thorough knowledge of all kinds of infighting and trickery.

Clutha appeared in seven of Munro's ten novels, the last of which appeared in 1978. Whether Hugh Munro is still with us I've no idea (he'd be in his mid-eighties at least if he were). His last known address was in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, Scotland.

Update:

Jamie Sturgeon has located Munro's dates in a copy of The Glasgow Novel: A Survey and Bibliography by Moira Burgess (Scottish Library Association, 1986) where they are given as 1909-1982.

Novels (series: Clutha)
Who Told Clutha. London, Macdonald & Co., 1958; New York, Washburn, 1958.
Clutha Plays a Hunch. London, Macdonald & Co., 1959; New York, Washburn, 1959.
A Clue for Clutha. London, Macdonald & Co., 1960.
The Clydesiders. London, Macdonald & Co., 1961.
Tribal Town. London, Macdonald & Co., 1964.
Clutha and the Lady. London, Hale, 1973.
Get Clutha. London, Hale, 1974.
Evil Innocence (Clutha). London, Hale, 1976.
The Brain Robbers (Clutha). London, Hale, 1977.
The Keelie. London, Hale, 1978.

Note: Crime Fiction Bibliography lists Hugh Munro as one of the authors behind the house name Jason, which was used on a series of hardboiled crime novels featuring the character J. C. Jason. Munro set all his novels in Glasgow, bar one which took place in Italy (Get Clutha); Jason was a world traveller whose adventures had titles like High Litre Lolita, Honolulu Slay Ride and Three's a Shroud. They were published in 1958-59 by Webster of Sydney, Australia, and I cannot for the life of me see a connection.