David Langdon OBE, who died on 18 November aged 97, came to prominence as a cartoonist in the 1930s drawing for Punch but his most famous character was born out of the wartime blackout. Mr. Billy Brown of London Town was a pinstriped, bowler-hatted gentleman who, in a series of posters on safety issues for London Transport, everything from taking care when you step off a bus in the dark to calling out the names of stations and stops on train and bus roots (impossible to see when windows were blacked out). A 1943 campaign to promote the idea of people standing on the right of escalators offered a £10 prize for adding further lines to the couplet "Here's another bright suggestion / Standing RIGHT prevents congestion." The winner added, "On the right it's 'Stand at Ease' / On the left it's 'Quick March,' please."
Born in London on 24 February 1914, Langdon was the son of Bennett Langdon and his wife Bess. Educated at Davenport Grammar School, where he studied design and decoration, he joined the Architects Department of the London County Council in 1931.
After publishing cartoons in the staff magazine he began to send out his work to other publications, selling to Time and Tide and the Sunday Referee before breaking into Punch in 1937. He was the magazine's most prolific contributor over the next few years and a collection of his cartoons appeared as early as 1941.That same year Langdon, having served as an Executive Officer with the London Rescue Service, joined the R.A.F. as a pilot officer. He became a Squadron Leader in 1945 but spent his time as a cartoonist and edited the Royal Air Force Journal in 1945-46, where he continued to feature Billy Brown.
After being demobbed, Langdon continued to contribute to Punch and contributed heavily to Lilliput and the Sunday Pictorial (later the Sunday Mirror), which published a column of his cartoons each week from 1948. His contributions also appeared in Reynolds News, The Evening Standard and, from 1952, The New Yorker; he also drew the strips 'Professor Puff and His Dog Wuff' (1953-57) and 'Simple Simon' (1957-58) for Eagle. He drew caricatures of High Court Judges for Sweet and Maxwell (1956) and of racing celebrities for Ladbrokes' Racing Calendar (1959-94). In later years he was also the official artist to Centre International Audio-Visuel d’Etudes et de Recherches, St Ghislain, Belgium (1970-75). Exhibitions of his work have been held in Ottawa, Oxford, New York, Lille and London.
He continued to work for the Sunday Mirror until 1990 and for Punch until it closed in 1992. He was awarded the OBE in 1988 and elected FRSA that same year. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Cartoon Art Trust in 2001.
Langdon married April Yvonne Margaret Sadler-Phillips in 1955. They had three children: Alison B., Richard B. and Miles D. Langdon.
His books included Home Front Lines, 1941; All Buttoned Up, 1944; Meet Me Inside, 1946; Slipstream (with R. B. Raymond), 1946; The Way I See It, 1947; Hold Tight There!, 1949; Let’s Face It, 1951; Wake Up and Die (with David Clayton), 1952; Look at You, 1952; All in Fun, 1953; Laugh with Me, 1954; More in Fun, 1955; Funnier Still, 1956; A Banger for a Monkey, 1957; The Puff and Wuff Adventure Book, 1957; Langdon At Large, 1958; I’m Only Joking, 1960; Punch with Wings, 1961; How to Play Golf and Stay Happy, 1964; David Langdon’s Casebook, 1969; How To Talk Golf, 1975; Punch in the Air, 1983; and Soccer—It’s a Funny Old Game, 1998.
This week's progress report on the C. L. Doughty collection has - unlike last week - some progress to report! I spent all weekend and Monday on completing the artwork clean-up and relettering of three of the strips, so I now have 65 pages finished, subject to proofing. The fourth strip is scanned but the pages are so huge I had to do each one in four parts which need to be pieced together like a jigsaw before I can begin doing the clean up. But it's worth the effort, as you can see from the picture above.
Actually, the picture (much reduced and compressed to make uploading it from my end and viewing it from your end much easier and quicker) doesn't do the original artwork justice. The boards are enormous - around 62 ½ by 52 ¼ cm or 24 ½ by 20 ½ inches. They're drawn "twice up" which is actually four times the area of the printed page as it appeared in Look and Learn. I have never been a collector of original artwork, which has always been way beyond my earnings, but I can understand why people want to have originals hanging on their wall. The pages I've seen from Doughty these past few months have certainly given me a greater appreciation for his talent and, I'm sorry to say, a lower opinion of the quality of printing of British comics.
If the effort I'm putting into making the artwork look good is reflected in the finished book, I can say with confidence that it will look fantastic.
Random scans. Two more from the cache of SF novels picked up recently. The two Fred Saberhagen books form a rather odd panorama — normally you will see books creating panoramas when placed side by side but these two are top and bottom of a larger pic by Peter Jones.
Next week... I'm not 100% sure. I may have a strip or I may continue with my trek through World of Wonder. Depends on how I feel on Sunday after we've chopped back some more of the hedge - or, rather, the tangle that purports to be a hedge. Life would be so much easier if it was just books and comics...
Our second selection of World of Wonder illustrations includes a feature on the chemical composition of the body. I find this kind of trivia endlessly fascinating and it's absolutely guaranteed to distract me from the job in hand, which is cleaning up the pics for this column. If you want to follow up on how much your body might actually be worth, there are some interesting takes on the subject online. However, don't expact to find a straight answer as it depends on how you add up the costs: the basic chemicals are estimated to cost between under a dollar to just over $160.
At the other end of the scale, your body is actually worth more than the sum of its chemical parts because those chemicals are put together in interesting ways and can do very clever things. Wired magazine worked out that the human body could be worth as much as $45 million. Organlegging was science fiction back in the late 1960s when the phrase was invented by Larry Niven. The internet has opened up a market for organ sales and aBay had to incorporate rules over the auctioning of body parts into their terms and conditions as early as 1999. By 2004 the trade in organs was so worrying that the World Health Organisation had to adopt a resolution on the subject.
Anyway, here's what World of Wonder had to say on the subject in 1970, plus a couple of other illustrations from the same issue on rather less controversial topics.
Over the next few days I'm planning to run some illustrations from the pages of World of Wonder, an educational weekly that appeared between 1970 and 1975. Edited in London by Bob Bartholomew, the paper was intended to be a cross-European magazine and was designed in such a way that the text could be easily removed and translated text could be dropped in. The results were printed in Holland and then distributed in the UK by Fleetway.
World of Wonder has always been seen as the younger, weaker sibling of Look and Learn, already well established as Britain's best-selling children's magazine. Even in 1970 it was still selling 150,000 copies a week, although sales were falling; for a publisher, this is often the very reason for putting out a new title. A whole new audience of baby boomers had reached the target age by the late 1960s; Fleetway put out Tell Me Why to meet this audience, again with the idea of producing a paper that could be published around Europe. Packaged outside of Fleetway, Tell Me Why had a broader and more interesting European focus not found in Look and Learn and for its 85 issues was probably the better magazine. However, it may be for this reason that it did not find its audience in the UK and it was decided to bring the paper in-house and make it a little more Look and Learn-like.
I'm lucky enough to have a pretty good run of World of Wonder — not a complete run by any means, but a good stack of them — and recently had to look through all the issues I had. Now, I was one of the people who was a bit sniffy about the quality of the magazine, so I was pleasantly surprised at how often I was stumbling across great artwork. I don't know the names of all the artists (frustratingly few signatures appear over the 258 issues) but that doesn't mean you can't appreciate the talent on show. I'm hoping that readers might be able to name some names for me.
This is a roughly chronological selection and somewhat random. The criteria for inclusion is simply that I've looked through an issue and these are the illustrations that I went back to take a second look at — think of it as a representative selection of what I consider some of the best artwork. Hopefully you'll also enjoy this trip through the pages of the magazine.
Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) was a British scientist who made some astonishing, occasionally controversial, claims about the universe. He was a champion of the steady state theory but, coincidentally, also coined the term 'Big Bang' for an alternative theory now widely accepted. I read an article some time ago which argued that Hoyle should have received a Nobel prize but... well, read the article.
Hoyle the novelist is probably best remembered as the author of A for Andromeda, which was based on his TV series of the same name. Most of his novels were written in collaboration with his son, Geoffrey (1941- ).
The Black Cloud (London, Heinemann, 1957)
Penguin Books 1466, 1960, 219pp, 2/6. Cover by John Griffiths
---- [2nd imp.] 1962
---- [3rd imp.] 1963. Cover by John Griffiths (as 1st with diff. layout)
---- [4th imp.] 1964
---- [5th imp.] 1965
---- [6th imp.] 1967
---- [7th imp.] 1968. Cover by David Pelham
Penguin Books 0140-01466-7 [8th imp.] 1971. Cover by David Pelham (diff. to above)
---- [9th imp.] 1971
---- [10th imp.] 1973
---- [11th imp.] 1975, 219pp, 60p. Cover by David Pelham (diff. to above)
Penguin Books, 1980, 219pp. Cover by Adrian Chesterman
---- [xth imp.] 1983. Cover by Jon Harris
Penguin Book 978-0753-82710-9, 2010, vii+215pp.
Penguin Books 0141-19640-8, 2010, vii+214pp. Cover by John Griffiths [afterword by Richard Dawkins]
Ossian's Ride (London, Heinemann, 1959)
Four Square Books 317, 1961, 189pp, 2/6. Cover by Jack Kirby
New English Library, Nov 1967, 190pp, 3/6. Cover by unknown
A for Andromeda, with John Elliot (London, Souvenir Press, 1962)
Corgi Books YS1300, 1963, 173pp, 3/-. Cover: stills. TV Tie-in.
Corgi Boosk 0552-08199-X, 1969, 3/6.
Corgi Books 0552-09938-4, 1975, 174pp.
Souvenir Press 0285-63588-3, 2001, 176pp.
Fifth Planet, with Geoffrey Hoyle (London, Heinemann, 1963)
Penguin Books 2244, 1965, 221pp, 3/6. Cover by Magritte (L'Oiseau Fleur)
---- [2nd imp.] 1967. Cover as 1st with different layout.
Penguin Books 0140-02244-9 [3rd imp.] 1971. Cover by David Pelham
---- [4th imp.] 1974, 221pp, 40p. Cover by David Pelham (diff. to above)
---- [xth imp.] 1979. Cover by Adrian Chesterman
The Andromeda Breakthrough, with John Elliot (London, Souvenir Press, 1964)
Corgi Books GS7347, 1966, 189pp.
Corgi Boosk 0552-09939-2, 1975, 205pp, 45p.
October the First is Too Late (London, Heinemann, 1966)
Penguin Books 2886, 1968, 175pp. Cover by Mullins/Sampson
Penguin Books 0140-02886-2 [2nd imp.] 1971. Cover by David Pelham
---- [3rd imp.] 1973
---- [4th imp.] 1974, 175pp. Cover by David Pelham (diff. to above)
---- [5th imp.] 1975. Cover as 4th.
---- [6th imp.] 1976, 175pp, 50p. Cover as 4th.
---- [xth imp.] 1980. Cover by Adrian Chesterman
Element 79 (New York, New American Library, 1967) [Collection]
(no UK edition)
Rockets in Ursa Major, with Geoffrey Hoyle (London, Heinemann, 1969)
Mayflower 0583-11912-3, 1971, 124pp, 25p. Cover by Chris Foss
Seven Steps to the Sun, with Geoffrey Hoyle (London, Heinemann, 1970)
Penguin Books 0140-05132-5, 1981, 188pp.
The Inferno, with Geoffrey Hoyle (London, Heinemann, 1973)
Penguin Books 0140-05133-3, 1979, 170pp, 85p. Cover by Adrian Chesterman
The Molecule Men and the Monster of Loch Ness: Two Short Novels, with Geoffrey Hoyle (London, Heinemann, 1971)
(no UK paperback edition)
Into Deepest Space, with Geoffrey Hoyle (New York, Harper & Row, 1974)
Penguin Books 4401, 1977. Cover by Peter Tybus
The Incandescent Ones, with Geoffrey Hoyle (London, Heinemann, 1977)
Penguin Books 0140-04859-6, 1979, 156pp, 75p. Cover by Adrian Chesterman
The Westminster Disaster, with Geoffrey Hoyle (London, Heinemann, 1978)
Penguin Books 0140-05301-8, 1980, 188pp.
Comet Halley (London, Joseph, 1985)
(no UK paperback edition)
The Energy Pirate, illus. Martin Aitchison (Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1982)
(no UK paperback edition)
The Frozen Planet of Azuron, illus. Martin Aitchison (Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1982)
(no UK paperback edition)
The Giants of Universal Park, illus. Martin Aitchison (Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1982)
(no UK paperback edition)
The Planet of Death, illus. Martin Aitchison (Loughborough, Ladybird Books, 1982)
(no UK paperback edition)
The Bash Street Kids are some of the best known and beloved Beano characters. Their first appearance was in the issue of the comic dated 13 February 1954 when their strip was initially called 'When The Bell Rings' and was drawn by their artistic creator Leo Baxendale. Their popularity continues today, almost sixty years later, with their adventures now being drawn by David Sutherland.
It is said that the then Beano editor George Moonie got the original idea of the Bash Street Kids from the children in the school playground that he could see and hear from the window of the Beano's office in Dundee. In the Bash Street Kids section of the History Of The Beano, published jointly by DC Thomson and Waverley Books in 2008, the book states that George Moonie “was able to draw never-ending inspiration from the view outside his office window. The view of the pupils cavorting in the neighbouring High School Of Dundee playground was invaluable to this extremely talented Editor and script writer.”
The High School of Dundee is still there today right beside DC Thomson's Courier Building headquarters in Dundee’s Albert Square and is a private school that takes pupils of both primary and secondary age. The imposing school building was opened on 1 October 1834 although the school can trace its roots back as far as a charter issued by the Bishop of Brechin in the 1220s to begin schooling in the local area, a charter that was confirmed by a Papal Bull from Pope Gregory IX dated 14 February 1239. Recent former pupils of the school include BBC journalist and broadcaster Andrew Marr, author A. L. Kennedy and the singer-songwriter KT Tunstall.
In comparison to the age of the grey High School building, the reddish brown Courier Building, named for DC Thomson's Dundee Courier newspaper and just across the road from the school, is a mere youngster dating from 1902 with its tower at the rear being a 1960s add on.
On a recent visit to the Courier Building I had the opportunity to experience the noise and commotion of the playground that inspired the Bash Street Kids all those years ago. As the school lunchtime started and the children left their classes and headed into the playground, the noise started, crossed the road, rose up the building and made its presence felt even through the closed windows.
Thomson's staff are so used to it that they don't really notice it anymore but it made me look out of the window at the playground and for me in that moment a piece of the Beano's history came to life.
(With thanks to DC Thomson Archivist Morris Heggie, who was a little bemused that I wanted to take a photograph of his office window.)
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