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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Leo Baxendale (1930-2017)

Leo Baxendale, one of only a handful of artists in Britain to advance humour comic strips in the past seventy years, died on Sunday, 23 April 2017, aged 86. Baxendale, who once described his favourite recreation as “seeping into the woodwork and rotting it,” wrote and drew some of the most enduring comic creations of all time and helped The Beano enter a golden age in the 1950s when he worked alongside the likes of Davey Law, Ken Reid and Paddy Brennan. Although he worked in the mainstream comic industry for only 22 years, his influence endures to this day.

Of his work Baxendale said: "Any limitations on my children’s comics have been self-imposed. The Beano readership was in the age range 6-13 (plus a sizeable subterranean adult following) and by the age of six a child has a sufficiently large body of knowledge in the mind to cope with strong, complex comedy. That was a sufficient base on which to structure a vast, expanding universe of comedy...That was the market I was working for. Nevertheless I drew what made me laugh out loud (ruthlessly discarding anything that didn’t) on the assumption that it would likewise make the reader laugh. I treat children as adults, and speak to them (through my work) straightforwardly as such." 

Born Joseph Leo Baxendale in Whittle-le-Woods, Lancashire, on 27 October 1930, Leo was the son of Joseph Baxendale and his wife Gertrude (nee Dickinson). His parents were both weavers, who found themselves unemployed after the local mill closed down; the family moved to Preston where Joseph held a number of jobs, including work as a chauffeur, gardener and boiler supervisor at a local power station.

Leo's talents for drawing developed as a young boy and even at the age of five he was encouraged by his parents, who allowed him to decorate the wall alongside the staircase from top to bottom. After leaving Preston Catholic College, a Jesuit grammar school, he found work designing paint labels for the Leyland Paint and Vamish Company. Between 1949 and 1950 he served with the catering corps. of the R.A.F., after which he worked as a staff artist for the Lancashire Evening Post, drawing sports cartoons, editorial illustrations, adverts and his own series of self-penned articles.

Aged 22, and inspired by David Law’s "Dennis the Menace", he submitted work to D.C. Thomson's The Beano, a comic he had read as a child, and was immediately accepted by editor George Moonie, who liked his robust style. His earliest work included 'Oscar Krank, The Mad Inventor' (which disappeared entirely), 'Charlie Choo', a Chinese detective who surfaced in the Beano Book in 1954, and 'Jamie the Gamie', which made its way into a Thomson newspaper some while later.

However, it was not long before Baxendale began creating his own characters, "Little Plum your Redskin Chum", who, along with his horse Treaclefoot and Chiefy, leader of the Smellyfoot tribe, waged a constant war with rivals the Puttyfoot tribe and the bears that inhabited the same area.

Five months later, in September 1953, Baxendale created "Minnie the Minx", a female counterpart to the popular Dennis, whom the artist later described as "a girl of boundless ambition. She was convinced that certain characters were trying to hold her back – and she was probably quite right. She didn't have any magic powers or superhuman strengths but she was an Amazonian warrior – the power was in her mind."

A month later his third Beano set was accepted by Moonie. Inspired by Giles's rampaging family of tiny children, the single panel "When the Bell Rings" would later become a full-page strip under the title "The Bash Street Kids". This was Baxendale's first strip to introduce a group of characters and develop the group dynamic. It appeared in February 1954, seven months before the release of The Belles of St Trinian's, based on Ronald Searle's cartoons, although Baxendale's were urban, working class kids.

The atmosphere of total mayhem that Baxendale was developing was certainly at odds with the traditional humour strip, particularly those of the Amalgamated Press, Thomson's main rivals. A contemporary of Baxendale's, Ken Reid, was similarly minded, and The Beano was unrivaled for humour at that time. Sales of over one and a half million copies a week and a far wider readership meant that a generation of the country's young  grew up on Baxendale's strips in the 1950s.

In November 1953, he moved to Scotland, finding a home in Broughty Ferry, a suburb of Dundee where D. C. Thomson had their editorial offices. He was able to earn £10 a week from the three Beano strips, more than an average working wage, and often added more to his workload, filling in on "Dennis the Menace" and "Lord Snooty"; in 1956 he began drawing "The Banana Bunch" for the newly launched Beezer and in 1959 created "The Three Bears" for Beano.

The workload proved too much. Baxendale, now married and raising five young children and suffering from exhaustion and depression, eventually contracted pneumonia in 1960. He struggled to draw his compliment of pages throughout 1961 and into 1962. He then impulsively quit working for The Beano in 1962 after an argument with editor Harold Crammond, who had asked him to redraw what Baxendale thought was a perfectly good page.

Baxendale continued to work for The Beezer, edited by Ian Chisholm and then Bill Swinton, adding "The Gobblers" to his regular work on "The Banana Bunch". The mechanical production was beginning to gall, and he visited Crammond with an offer to return to The Beano. Baxendale's strips had been farmed out to various other artists and Crammond turned down his offer flat.

Seeking work elsewhere, Baxendale contacted Odhams and Fleetway, Thomsons biggest rivals in children's comics, and immediately received offers from both. Odhams invited him to create a new title, which he began working on in late 1963. Although it did not quite match his original hopes, Wham! was a riot of invention, with Baxendale creating a whole army of new strips, from "General Nit and his Barmy Army", "Georgie's Germs" and "The Tiddlers" to "Biff" and the full-colour double-page "Eagle-Eye, Junior Spy". Most of the strips were  after the first issue, and

Baxendale even succeeded in tempting Ken Reid from Thomsons but had to keep up a prodigious output of strips, which, once again, began to cause health problems. To help him relax he cut back on his output, passing on strips to other artists to continue and began publishing a weekly newsletter, The Strategic Commentary, written by Terence Heelas. Baxendale, who had previously been organizer of Dundee CND in 1962, later wrote "The Strategic Commentary sought to demonstrate, on grounds of cold military logic, that America could not win the war in Vietnam." The newsletter ran for two-and-a-half years, folding when Baxendale moved his family back to England in June 1967, first to a rambling house in Painswick in the Cotswalds and then to a more compact bungalow in Eastcombe.

Such was the initial success of Wham! that a companion paper, Smash!, was added, with Baxendale creating more new characters, including "Bad Penny", "The Nerves" and "Grimly Feendish". However, when Wham!'s sales began to slide, Baxendale threw himself into trying to rescue the title, but became so stretched that he began reworking old Thomson sets (Minnie becomes Bad Penny, Little Plum becomes General Nit), much to the ire of the latter company. Baxendale's two-year contract was coming to an end and Odhams offered him another contract, but only for a year. Baxendale began circulating the idea of a monthly 'super-comic' to publishers and his relationship with Odhams naturally soured.

Needing an income, he began drawing for Fleetway creating "The Pirates", "The Cave Kids", "Mervyn's Monsters" nad "Big Chief Pow Wow" for Buster, "The Nits of the Round Table" for Tiger, "Bluebottle and Basher" for Valiant and "The Lion Lot" for Lion over the next few years. Unwilling to give up his lucrative work for the better-paying Odhams, he also wrote scripts, sent in by a friend in Scotland, and drawing artwork via Mike Brown, who inked many pages, and via Hampstead Studio, which was set up by Baxendale and Irene Rooum.

When Odhams was absorbed by l.P.C. Magazines in 1969, Baxendale continued to work for Smash!, drawing "Bad Penny" and "The Swots and the Blots" before creating "Sam's Spook". That same year, Fleetway launched Whizzer and Chips under editor Bob Paynter and Baxendale supplied countless sets during the next six years: "Champ" (Whizzer & Chips), "Clever Dick", "Nellyphant" and "Snooper" (Buster), "The Krazy Cats" (Knockout), "Match of the Week" and "Sweeny Toddler" (both Shiver & Shake) as well as continuing "The Swots and the Blots" in Valiant.

His swan song for IPC was "The Bad Time Bed Time Book", a series of 8-page booklets that were printed as a pull-out in Monster Fun, usually a parody of a popular book, TV show or fairy tale given a creepy twist such as "Punch and Chewday" and "Star Truck".

Baxendale left lPC in 1975, and over the next few years concentrated on writing and drawing three volumes featuring Willy the Kid for Duckworth, who also published his autobiography, A Very Funny Business, in 1978. Baxendale drew for Eppo in Holland whilst preparing a case against Thomsons for recognition as creator of his many Beano characters which had continued under various different artists. The case finally came to a mutually agreeable but undisclosed settlement in 1987 after seven years. Baxendale celebrated the result with the release of Thrrp! from Knockabout, his first work in the UK for 12 year. His court case against Thomsons became the subject of The Encroachment Part One, which Baxendale published in 1988 under the imprint Reaper Books, followed a year later by On Comedy: The Beano and Ideology.

In 1990 he returned to the comic strip with "I Love You Baby Basil", a weekly strip for the Guardian newspaper, which he continued to draw until March 1992.

As Reaper Books, Baxendale continued to publish further titles: two collections of Baby Basil, I LOVE You Baby Basil (1991) and Down the Plughole (1995), an autobiography, Pictures in the Mind 2000), and further treaties on comics, The Beano Room and Other Places (2005) and Hobgoblin Wars (2009).

In 2003 Baxendale received the Cartoon Art Trust Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was indicted into the British Comics Awards Hall of Fame in 2013.

Baxendale married Peggy (Margaret Mary Green) in 1955. She survives him, as do their five children Martin, Carol, Stephen, Heather and Mark; ten grandchildren Rosie, Jacob, Zuza, Jo, Misho, Eloise, Joel, Jake, Owen, Tamsin; and three great grandchildren Rupert, Barney and Zoe.

Martin Baxendale's tribute to his father.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Comic Cuts - 28 April 2017

Work on the new book continues apace. It's difficult to come up with a measure of what can be classed as a good and bad week because wordage alone doesn't take into account the need to chip away at the actual index section to make sure all the information presented is correct.

Fact-checking information in the index can be incredibly time-consuming and pulling together scans of two, three or four samples to send around to friends with sharp eyes can take an hour or more, all for the sake of four or five words added or changed in the index. One thing that pleases me is that in almost every case we're finessing information rather than making outright corrections, although there was one strip I read this week where the artist has been wrongly credited for the past two decades.

The fault was with the Valiant Index published back in 1994; the error was then repeated in the Buster Index a couple of years later and has since spread... well, I won't say "all over the internet" because it's only in three or four places, but clearly the information has come from the Buster Index. That's one of the reasons I wanted to re-do all the indexes: to try and correct errors that we made back in the 1980s that crept into the books published in the 1990s, including typos that were made when I transferred all of the hand-written and typed lists onto my brand new computer in 1989!

This week I had the fun task of re-reading 'Raven on the Wing', which was a favourite of mine as a kid, despite the fact that I wasn't into football in a big way. And I'm pleased to say that it has stood up to the test of time. Also re-read 'The Shrinker' (great fun!) and I'm looking forward to reading a huge chunk of 'Mytek the Mighty' when I get back into the swing of things after the Bank Holiday.

I was deeply saddened to hear about the death of Leo Baxendale. There are very few people who genuinely innovated in comics but Baxendale was one of those few. Thinking back, I suspect that the first time I saw his work was 'Bluebottle and Basher', which was a very cartoony strip for Baxendale. It was when 'Swots and the Blots' moved over from Smash! that I really fell in love with his work. Later, I discovered his work for Odhams and then his early work for D. C. Thomson, so you could say that I followed his career in reverse.

I had the good fortune to interview Baxendale once, way back in my Comic World days and covered some of his career in my Power Pack book. One day I'll get around to revamping the latter. One day...

I'd best close. And to celebrate my reading of 'Raven on the Wing' here are some birds on the wing for your viewing pleasure...

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Leo Baxendale: A Tribute

LEO BAXENDALE (1930 – 2017)
Steve Winders pays tribute to one of Britain’s greatest comic cartoonists.

In The World Encyclopaedia of Comics, Denis Gifford described Leo Baxendale as “the most influential and most imitated comics artist of modern times.” His subversive humour and drawing style have been much imitated. When he worked for Odhams Press on their Wham! and Smash! titles in the 1960s his style dominated most of the humorous strips, leading many to believe he had produced them all single handed. In fact Odhams employed several artists whose styles closely imitated Leo’s, who was their inspiration. At the same time, his former employers D.C. Thomson, who did not want to cancel or alter the successful creations he had left behind, also employed artists who would maintain his style. But his work also inspired others. The celebrated comics writer Alan Moore claimed that it is thanks to Leo Baxendale’s anarchic strips in the Beano which they read as children, that so many British writers have imbued a subversive element in the American comics they now write for.

I almost knew Leo Baxendale. His parents and younger siblings lived in the road where I was brought up in Preston and I knew them well, but when I moved there as a toddler Leo had already gone to Dundee to work on the Beano and Dandy. He attended the same Grammar school as I did, twenty three years before me, but as an adult in the 1970s I knew one of his old teachers who had subsequently become Head of another school. He remembered Leo as a student with a talent for drawing, but had no idea that he had become a famous cartoonist!

Leo created Little Plum, The Bash Street Kids, The Three Bears and Minnie the Minx for The Beano. He also worked on the Dandy and the Beezer for D.C. Thomson, during his decade in Dundee, from 1952 till 1963 before disillusionment led him to seek work elsewhere. In 1964, he launched Wham! for Odhams, creating most of the characters who appeared in the comic. These included Eagle Eye Junior Spy, Georgie’s Germs and General Nitt and His Barmy Army. I was in my last year at Primary School when Wham! appeared and while my classmates always got excited at the launch of a new comic, Wham! caused particular excitement because Leo’s family were well known members of the parish and the Lancashire Evening Post, where he had worked before going to Dundee produced a feature on his new comic. Our teacher even discussed it with us in class. She knew of his fame!

At this time Leo began to produce a regular weekly newsletter The Strategic Commentary. Written by Terence Heelas, it endeavoured to prove through ‘cold military logic’ that America could not win the war in Vietnam. His first subscriber was the American philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky.

Two years after Wham! a companion comic Smash! appeared and Leo created several memorable strips for its launch. The memorable villain ‘Grimly Feendish’ from his Eagle Eye Junior Spy strip got his own page in Smash! Other creations included Bad Penny, The Man From BUNGLE, a spoof of The Man From UNCLE, which was popular on television at the time and The Swots and the Blots. In 1966 at the end of his initial two year contract with Odhams, Leo tried to interest them in a monthly ‘supercomic’ but when they passed over the idea he suggested it to other publishers, leading to a fall out with them. He started to produce work for Fleetway, including Mervyn’s Monsters for Buster and Bluebottle and Basher for Valiant, while still producing work ‘undercover’ for Odhams. In 1969, Fleetway and Odhams were merged under the I.P.C. banner and Leo was asked to take over Bad Penny and The Swots and the Blots in a relaunched Smash! The Swots survived the merger of Smash! with Valiant in 1971 and ran successfully until 1974.

His final major work for I.P.C. was The Bad Time Bedtime Books for Monster Fun in 1975. These were eight page mini comics, inspired by famous stories. The extended stories gave him the idea to produce a whole children’s comic annual and this led to the creation of Willy the Kid and his friends and ridiculous pets. He produced three Willy the Kid books between 1976 and 78 and these were published by Duckworths who also published his 1978 autobiography A Very Funny Business

In 1987 he produced an adult comic book THRRP! which was published by Knockabout Comics. For much of the 1980s Leo was involved in a legal battle with D.C. Thomson over the rights to his creations for their publications which was eventually settled out of court. As a consequence his creatorship of many characters was formally acknowledged and he was given thirty pieces of his original artwork which he was able to display in exhibitions. Major exhibitions of his work have toured the country. He has also exhibited in Angouleme in France and Treviso in Italy (both hosts of major International Comics Festivals).

With the money he received from the settlement with D.C. Thomson he started his own publishing company ‘Reaper Books’ and produced high quality collections of his Willy the Kid and I Love You Baby Basil cartoons. Baby Basil was created for the Guardian newspaper and ran from 1990–93. He has also published his own reflections in The Encroachment (1988), On Comedy; The Beano and Ideology (1989), Pictures in the Mind (1998), The Beano Room (2005) and Hobgoblin Wars (2009).

In 2013 he became the second inductee into the British Comics Awards Hall of Fame. His contribution to the world of comics is immense. He will be greatly missed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

Rebellion releases for 26 April 2017.

2000AD Prog 2028
Cover: D'Israeli
Judge Dredd: Harvey by John Wagner (w) John McCrea (a) Mike Spicer (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w) Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w) D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Frederic Mullally cover gallery

Danse Macabre (London, Secker & Warburg, 1959)
Pan Books X110, 1962, 281pp.
Pan 10110

Man With Tin Trumpet (London, Arthur Barker, 1961)
Pan Books X214, 1963, 218pp.

Split Scene (London, Arthur Barker, 1963)
Pan Books M131, 1966, 285pp.

The Assassins (London, Arthur Barker, 1964)
Pan Books, 1967.

No Other Hunger (London, Arthur Barker, 1966)
New English Library, 1967.
Ensign Books 0723-55784-5, 1975, 316pp, 45p.

The Prizewinner (London, Arthur Barker, 1968)
Pan Books 0330-02435-3, 1970, 285pp, 30p (6/-).

The Munich Involvement (London, Arthur Barker, 1968)
Pan Books 0330-02560-0, 1970, 239pp.

Oh, Wicked Wanda! (London, Sphere, 1970)
Sphere 0722-16265-0, 1970, 144pp, 5/-.
Sphere 0722-16266-9, 1970 (1971?), 144pp, 5/- (25p). Cover photo

Clancy (London, Hart-Davis, 1971)
Pan Books 0330-23450-1, 1973, 576pp.

The Malta Conspiracy (London, Hart-Davis, 1972)
Pan Books 0330-23621-0, 1973, 175pp.

Venus Afflicted (London, Hart-Davis Macdonald, 1973)
Pan Books 0330-24369-1, 1975, 239pp.

Hitler Has Won (London, Macmillan, 1975)
Pan Books 0330-24883-9, 1977, 293pp.

The Deadly Payoff (London, W. H. Allen, 1978)
(no UK paperback??)

The Daughters (London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1988)
(no UK paperback??)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Anthony Rolls

C. E. Vulliamy was the author behind the pen-name Anthony Rolls, a byline used on four crime novels published in a short period in 1932-34. He later wrote further crime novels under his own name in the 1950s. Vulliamy wrote widely on his many interests. An obituary began "Vulliamy was a writer of many parts and of individual and rewarding quality. Although he was without academic training of any kind he had the tastes and capacities of a scholar, and it is possible that his early work both as archaeologist and historian might have received wider recognition if it had been supported by the conventional authority of a university post. He established himself as a writer of historical and literary-historical biography, with the age of Johnson and the mid-Victorian era as his favourite periods, joining to wide if at times slightly wilful scholarship a felicitous turn of irony and a habit of independent judgment. In later years he displayed an increasing relish for satire and took a skillful and entertaining hand, in a series of imaginary biographies and memoirs, in guying the Victorians."

Colwyn Edward Vulliamy was born in Glasbury, Radnorshire, Wales, on 20 June 1886, the son of  Edwyn Papendick Vulliamy and his wife Edith Jane (nee Beavan), and baptized on 18 July 1886 at Llowes, Radnorshire. The surname derived from a clockmaker named Francois Justin Vulliamy (1712-1797), born in Pay de Vaud, Switzerland, who moved to Paris and then to London. Justin Vulliamy set up shop in Pall Mall in partnership with Benjamin Gray, watchmaker to King George II, and married Gray's daughter, Mary.

1902 portrait by Percy Elizabeth Flora Thomas
Justin had four children, two girls and two boys; of the sons, Benjamin maintained the family tradition by became a watchmaker – as did his son and grandson – while Lewis (1791-1871) became an architect. Edwyn was the fourth child of Lewis and his wife Elizabeth Ann (nee Papendick). Born in London, Edwyn became a landowner in Glasbury, Radnorshire, Wales, and helped in the building of a local church in 1883.

His son, Colwyn Edward Vulliamy, was educated privately and as a young man began studying art under Stanhope Forbes at the Newlyn art colony, near Penzance, Cornwall, in 1910-13. Soon after, he wrote his first book, a Fabian tract on Charles Kingsley.

His father died on 29 March 1914, leaving an estate of £8,290; Glasbury House and various properties were left to his wife and the remainder to his son.

There is some confusion about his wartime experiences. An obituary in The Times (the chief source of biographical material for Vulliamy) notes "In the war of 1914-18 he held a commission in The King's Shropshire Light Infantry, serving in France, Macedonia and Turkey. Transferring to the Royal Welch Fusiliers, he was in 1918 attached to headquarters of the 28th Division as ADC and camp commandant, and, after the armistice, was appointed education officer to the division. He was demobilized with the rank of captain."

Attempting to unpack and prove this information has proven quite tricky as available army records for Vulliamy are particularly badly scanned and almost impossible to decipher. Certainly the story isn't as straightforward as the obituary claims.

Vulliamy enlisted for service in the regular army in 1914 but failed to pass the medical test. "His action is all the more appreciated because, owing to the recent death of his father, he has many responsibilities at home," wrote Charles W. Simpson in a letter to the Cornish Telegraph (24 September 1914). "If every man with domestic ties would come forward we should soon hear the last of those who are at liberty to volunteer and fail to do so. Buck up the Newlyn artists!"

He was able to enlist in 1916 and was posted to Army Reserve on 27 January 1916. He married Eileen Muriel Courtenay Hynes on 29 April 1916 in Penzance, Cornwall, and was mobilized shortly after on 14 July 1916. He was sent to France  with the 6th Battalion Kings Shropshire Light Infantry but fell ill and was hospitalized in September 1916. After recovering, he performed Military Police duties and seems to have thereafter served with the Military Foot Police, possibly in Macedonia and Turkey. He was discharged from the Military Foot Police on 6 April 1918, aged 31. He also served as 2nd Lieut. with the 3rd (Res.) Garrison Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers and was made a temporary Captain whist employed as an Education Officer between January and November 1919. He was made a Captain in 1922.

Whilst serving in the near east, Vulliamy developed an interest in archaeology and his interest grew when he returned to civilian life. He published a number of books on the subject throughout the 1920s, also editing the letters of Tsar Nicholas II to the Tsaritsa, 1914-1917, and a selection from the volumes of The Red Archives. In the 1930s he penned biographies of Voltaire, Rousseau and John Wesley, "the latter a genuine feat of sympathy, for Vulliamy's own standpoint was fundamentally agnostic, and 'enthusiasm', in the eighteenth century sense, had no part in his make-up," revealed The Times, continuing,
And then Vulliamy, always a learned Johnsonian, conceived the idea of writing a biography of literature's most celebrated biographer—James Boswell. The book, which appeared in 1932, was calculated to cause some stir. Although it disposed effectively of the legend of Boswell's stupidity, it presented him in no very pleasant guise, making of him a conceited and drunken clown and even going so far as to cast doubt on his sanity. The case was, without a doubt, rather strained, although like almost everything of Vulliamy's it was well documented and vigorously handled.
A biography of Quaker and Founding Father William Penn from the same period was the basis for Lance Comfort's 1942 film Courageous Mr. Penn starring Clifford Evans. He also penned biographies of Mrs. Delany, Mrs. Thrale and George III.

Using the pen-name Anthony Rolls, Vulliamy also began writing crime novels. Although he wrote only four, he attracted the attention of Julian Symons who wrote in Bloody Murder that Rolls' The Vicar's Experiment (1932) was one of the most notable crime novels influenced by Francis Iles' Malice Aforethought, a psychological thriller which inverted the detective story by following the murderer as he plots the death of his wife and then carries out his plans; in Rolls' book, the murderer is a clergyman who suffers murderous impulses towards an obnoxious parishioner. "A good deal of what follows is very amusing," Symons opined, "although the story falters sadly once suspicion of the clergyman has been aroused."

Each of Rolls' novels seems to have had something to distinguish them: "Clever character drawing as well as a skillfully devised mystery distinguishes Anthony Rolls' Lobelia Grove (Bles). By way of a change from the remote country mansion that is frequently the setting for a mystery story the action in this instance passes in a garden city," reported the Lincolnshire Echo (2 November 1932). Family Matters was well received by Dorothy L. Sayers who thought "The characters are quite extraordinarily living, and the atmosphere of the horrid household creeps over one like a miasma." The story was something of a farce, with a number of dysfunctional family members and friends intent on finishing off the detestable Robert Kewdingham but whose efforts counteract one another.

Rolls' final novel, Scarweather, was briefly reviewed by the Yorkshire Post thus: "Mr. Rolls usually gives us a quite commonplace setting for his crime stories, which tends to make them all the more realistic, but in Scarweather he breaks new ground with a story about archaeology. To everyone but the narrator the crime and how it was committed must have been fairly obvious, but it is certainly a new departure to bury the corpse in a barrow so that the skeleton may be taken for a relic of the Stone Age." (28 November 1934)

He joined the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps during World War Two, but relinquished his commission on 30 March 1940 due to ill-health.
It was with a demi-semi-autobiographical volume, Calico Pie, Vulliamy showed clear signs of coming into his own as a satirist. The free and flowing admixture of the fictitious in this volume that gave promise of excellent entertainment, and it was the series of biographies of wholly imaginary nineteenth-century characters, set against an accurate and detailed historical background, that provided the satirist with his best opportunities. In A Short History of the Montagu-Puffins (1941); The Polderoy Papers (1943); Doctor Philligo (1944); Edwin and Eleanor (1945); Vulliamy often combined instruction and sharp-edged humour to admirable purpose. 
In Prodwit's Guide to Writing, Vulliamy was aiming his satirical pen elsewhere. According to this review. "I'm sure that Vulliamy's main reason for writing the book was that it allowed him to say exactly what he thought of the book world without incurring the sort of wrath that would result if he had written a direct and controversial attack on the good and the great. And, despite the good-clean-fun approach, it is pretty clear that he had a fairly low opinion of how certain aspects of the post-war book trade were conducted.

In the 1950s, Vulliamy returned to writing crime novels with Don Among the Dead Men (1952), described by Martin Edwards as "The Vicar's Experiments, but this time the deranged killer was an Oxford academic." It was filmed in 1964 as A Jolly Bad Fellow. Five more novels followed, the last published in 1963.

Vulliamy died in Guildford, Surrey, on Saturday, 4 September 1971, aged 85. His wife Eileen had died in 1943, aged 57. They had two children: daughter Patricia Drift Vulliamy (14 February 1917-1987) and son John Sebastian Papendick Vulliamy (17 March 1919-2007), an architect who married children's writer and artist Shirley Hughes. Their children include author Ed Vulliamy and children's book illustrator Clara Vulliamy.


Calico Pie: An autobiography. London, Michael Joseph, 1940.
A Short History of the Montagu-Puffins. London, Michael Joseph, 1941.
Doctor Philligo: His journal & opinions. London, Michael Joseph, 1944.
Edwin & Eleanor: Family Documents, 1854-56. London, Michael Joseph, 1945.
The Poldenoy Papers. London, Michael Joseph, 1946.
Henry Plumdew: His memoirs, experiences and opinions. London, Michael Joseph, 1950.
Don Among the Dead Men. London, Michael Joseph, 1952.
The Proud Walkers. London, Chapman & Hall, 1955.
Body in the Boudoir. London, Michael Joseph, 1956.
Cakes for your Birthday. London, Michael Joseph, 1958; New York, British Book Centre, 1959.
Justice for Judy. London, Michael Joseph, 1960.
Tea in the Abbey. London, Michael Joseph, 1961.
Floral Tribute. London, Michael Joseph, 1963.

Novels as Anthony Rolls
The Vicar's Experiments. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1932.
Lobelia Grove. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1932.
Family Matters. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1933.
Scarweather. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1934.

Novels as Twim Teg
Jones: A Gentleman of Wales. London, Chapman & Hall, 1954.

Charles Kingsley and Christian Socialism. London, Fabian Society, 1914.
Prehistoric Remains in West Penwith. St. Ives, J. Lanham, 1921.
Unknown Cornwall. London, John Lane, 1925.
Our Prehistoric Forerunners. London, John Lane, 1925.
Immortal Man. A study of funeral customs and of beliefs in regard to the nature and fate of the soul. London, Methuen, 1928.
The Red  Archives. Russian State papers and other documents relating to the years 1915-1918, selected and edited by C. E. Vulliamy, translation by A. L. Hynes, with an introduction by Dr. C. T. Hagberg Wright. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1929.
The Letters of the Tsar and the Tsaritsa, 1914-1917, translated by A. L. Hynes from the official edition of the Romanov correspondence, edited and with notes by C. E. Vulliamy. London, John Lane, and New York, Dodd, Mead & Co., 1929.
The White Bull, with Saul and various short pieces by Votaire, translated, with an introduction and notes, by C. E. Vulliamy. London, Scholartis Press, 1929.
The Archaeology of Middlesex and London. London, Methuen & Co., 1930.
Voltaire. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1930.
John Wesley. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1931; 3rd ed., London, Epworth Press, 1954.
Rousseau. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1931; Port Washington, N.Y., Kennikat Press, 1972.
James Boswell. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1932
William Penn. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1933.
Judus Maccabaeus. A study based upon D. Quarto Karadyne's translation of the Ararat codex, edited by C. E. Vulliamy, illus. Gladys Hynes. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1934.
Aspasia. The life and letters of Mary Granville, Mrs. Delany, 1700-1788. London, Geoffrey Bles, 1935.
Mrs. Thrale of Streatham: Her place in the life of Dr. Samuel Johnson and in the society of her time. London, Jonathan Cape, 1936.
Royal George. A study of George III. London, Jonathan Cape, 1937.
Outlanders. A study of imperial expansion in South Africa, 1877-1902. London, Jonathan Cape, 1938.
Crimea: The Campaign of 1854-56. London, Jonathan Cape, 1939.
English Letter Writers. London, Collins, 1945.
Ursa Major. A study of Dr. Johnson and his friends. London, Michael Joseph, 1946.
Men and the Atom. London, Michael Joseph, 1947.
Byron. London, Michael Joseph, 1948.
Prodwit's Guide to Writing. London, Michael Joseph, 1949.
The Anatomy of Satire. An exhibition of satirical writing compiled & edited by C. E. Vulliamy. London, Michael Joseph, 1950.
Rocking Horse Journey, Some views of the British character. London, Michael Joseph, 1950.
The Onslow Family, 1528-1874. With some account of their times. London, Chapman & Hall, 1953.
Little Arthur's Guide to Humbug. London, Michael Joseph, 1960.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Comic Cuts - 21 April 2017

I eased my way back into work on Tuesday after a long, lazy Easter weekend, catching up on some TV (finishing off Danish financial thriller Follow the Money and US horror series Penny Dreadful) and a couple of movies from last year (Moana, Sing) that definitely lightened the mood after the cheerless (if fitting) endings to the two TV shows.

Our TV viewing seems to be split nowadays between shows we watch weekly – recently that has included Vera, Robot Wars and Marvels Agents of SHIELD; the new Doctor Who also falls into this category – and others we "binge" watch... and I use the word cautiously because I'm not sure how quickly you have to watch a show to class it as a binge. What I mean by the term is that we wait until we have the whole thing and watch an episode every night, barring those nights when we have something else on.

Currently that show is Lucifer, the American TV series based on the Sandman/Vertigo character; there are elements from the Mike Carey run in the TV show but it has been turned into a police procedural with the addition of a female police officer named Chloe Decker. The show seems to have gone down well in the US (the second season is currently running and a third season has already been announced) but I'm finding Lucifer Morningstar a bit whiny. I think the character suffers from the Superman problem, that he's so utterly powerful/evil that his power could resolve everything in no time at all. Hence, in Superman's case, Kryptonite, to lessen his powers. In Lucifer's case, our "hero" limits himself by chanting the mantra "I just want to find out who really needs to be punished," and having only one power: that he can talk you into revealing your deepest desires... sometimes. It doesn't always work. Having him reveal his true face and threaten to rip you limb from limb might get the right answers quicker, but it might also leave every episode 20 minutes short.

Hopefully the quality will pick up. I'm certainly going to give it until the end of the first season.

As I work from home I can also slip in a show at lunchtimes and I've been watching The Expanse season 2, which I'm really enjoying. It's based on the novels of James S. A. Corey and the TV show sticks fairly closely to the books. Shuffled around a little to make it work on television, but essentially the same. I've read book one (Leviathan Wakes) and I'm just starting book two (Caliban's War); the TV show introduced some characters from the latter into the first season and ended about three-quarters of the way through the book; the second season has completed book one and I'm three episodes from the end, which is about half-way through book two. At this rate, with at least nine books planned, we could still be enjoying the series in 2027!

Before you start thinking that's all I've been doing, I've also been working on the Valiant index. I spent a couple of days working through the 'House of Dolmann' stories. A lot of the information that went into the first edition was compiled in the late 1980s/early 1990s and the index was published in 1994. This is the first time I've been through every issue since and we're managing to identify a lot of previously unidentified artists. This new edition will, for instance, add at least four new names to the list of 'Captain Hurricane' artists, and two new names for 'House of Dolmann'. The other day I spotted a Tom Kerr episode of 'Kelly's Eye' that I'd previously missed and we're refining the information for a great many other strips. The annuals and summer specials are being added for the first time, so the index area at the back of the book will be a huge improvement over the previous edition.

I'll be working on the introduction again once I've finished writing this!

I think that's my cue to line up some random scan. Here are some devilishly good covers inspired by mention of Lucifer...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Commando issues 5011-5014

Commando issues on sale 20 April 2017.

Issues 5011-5014 deliver a hotpot of unique wartime adventures, ranging from WWII Home Front detectives to grizzled Yankees in the Vietnamese jungle. While Flight of Fancy and Killer Commando tackle different genres, delivering time honoured Commando themes and stories with a Science Fiction twist and Film Noir flair, Launch the Wildcats! offers a different perspective on the Germans in WWII, and The Hill, with its Vietnam setting, tackles notions of duty and pacifism. There’s certainly something for everyone in these issues!

5011: Flight of Fancy
“No, it can’t be? A flying saucer! It’s right here in front of me…just like in those comics!”
    In a singular George Low story, Commando dips its toe into the realms of Science Fiction as WWII Private Roger Brown, general knowledge mastermind, encounters a flying saucer! Roger’s squad immediately dismiss him, thinking he’s gone mad. But was the aircraft only a figment of his imagination, or could it possibly be one of the Nazis’ experimental “Vengeance Weapons”?
    The otherworldly ideas of this issues are highlighted by the stand out greens and reds of Ian Kennedy’s cover, contrasting the alien nature of the aircraft against the natural forest backdrop. However, Rezzonico’s interior art keeps Commando’s military realism intact, featuring detailed illustrations of Tiger Tanks, Panzers, PIATs and Flugkreisels.

Story | George Low | Art | Rezzonico & Vila | Cover | Ian Kennedy

5012: Launch the Wildcats!

Giving the rare perspective of a British subject raised in Germany, McOwan’s story shows that there is prejudice on both sides, and emphasises a varied view of the Germans, many of whom hated the Nazis. These blurred enemy divides are highlighted in Gordon C. Livingstone’s action packed cove, as deep blues bleed into reds and purples across the page.
    Franz Braun, really Frank Brown, attended school in Germany, cared for by his loving aunt and uncle. But as he grew, Nazism tightened its grip on his adopted homeland and Franz was forced to return to Britain. Then, when the war started, Franz fought against the country that had raised him in order to free it from its oppressive government.

Story | McOwan | Art | Gordon C Livingstone | Cover | Gordon C Livingstone
Originally issue 332 (May 1968) and 1039 (June 1976)

5013: The Hill

It’s January, 1968. Rookie troops are stationed on Hill 466, A.K.A. Little Round Top. There’s booby-traps, deadly wildlife, sweltering heat - and the North Vietnamese Army is closing in, but the men must defend that hill with their lives. This tension is felt from page one as Janek Matsiak’s cover puts you right in the action, seating you inside a helicopter looking out at a fight of armed choppers hovering over the tangled green mass of the Vietnamese jungle. However, what makes this story unique is the characters’ view that, unlike the two world wars, this fight may have no reason…
    An ensemble of characters, different motives and reservations are voiced against and in for the Vietnamese war, but thanks to Rodriguez’s detailed illustrations, each character is distinctive.

Story | Ferg Handley | Art | Rodriguez | Cover | Janek Matysiak

5014: Killer Commando

Ian Kennedy’s second cover in the collection, the close-ups of the hero and villain, complete with a fedora, trench coat and silencer pistol are all reminiscent of the Film Noir style it pays homage to, which C T Rigby takes full advantage of in the interior art.
    Mike Knowles’s story is a tale of old versus young, when a rogue Commando, trained as an expert assassin, can no longer see the line between right and wrong. After killing his ex-smuggling partner during an air raid, decorated Dunkirk veteran Kenneth Bagnall thinks he has gotten away with murder – but hot on his tail is veteran civilian policeman Ernest Hallows.
    But who will win this deadly game of cat and mouse…?

Story | Mike Knowles | Art | C T Rigby | Cover | Ian Kennedy
Originally 2545 (February 1992)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rebellion Releases (2000AD)

April 19

Judge Dredd Megazine #383
Cover: Adam Brown
Judge Dredd: Gecko by TC Eglington (w) Karl Richardson (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Anderson, Psi Division: Dragon Blood by Alan Grant (w) Paul Marshall (a) Dylan Teague (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Havn by Si Spencer (w) Jake Lynch (a) Eva De La Cruz (c) Simon Bowland (l)
Lawless: Long-Range War by Dan Abnett (w) Phil Winslade (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Features: Interrogation - Dermot Power, Interrogation - David Aja, Alex De Campi, Kei Zama, New Comics: Freeway Fighter, New Books: The Last American
Bagged reprint: Dead Signal by Al Ewing (w) PJ Holden (a)

2000AD Prog 2027
Cover: Matt Ferguson
Judge Dredd: Harvey by John Wagner (w) John McCrea (a) Mike Spicer (c) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Defoe: Diehards by Pat Mills (w)   Colin MacNeil (a) Ellie De Ville (l)
Brink: Skeleton Life by Dan Abnett (w) INJ Culbard (a) Simon Bowland (l)
Scarlet Traces: Cold War - Book 2 by Ian Edginton (w)  D'Israeli (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)
Cursed: The Fall of Deadworld by Kek-W (w) Dave Kendall (a) Annie Parkhouse (l)