Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Panel No.36: The Cartoon Museum (Again!) and #BigBen (Again Again!)

Daily Constitutional editor Adam takes us on a Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London –  a metropolis-wide search for all things illustrated. 

The tour so far has taken in everything from Gillray and Hogarth, to Scooby Doo and on to Deadpool and beyond! It also features the best in London comic book stores as well as galleries that showcase the best in the cartoonist's art. 





Adam writes…

In Panel 36 I'm swinging by TWO locations already visited on this blog "tour" so far – Big Ben and The Cartoon Museum for the excellent show Future Shock! 40 Years Of 2000AD in search of Dan Dare…


 


The world is in grave danger. Evil stalks us at every turn.

Worse yet… it's a real life situation. We're not in the pages of a comic book. There are no superheroes to swoop down and save the day.

The future of our very way of life is at stake.

To whom can we turn?

Well how about the combined might of Winston Churchill, the Communist Party of Great Britain, the National Union of Teachers and the Church of England? That lot could surely put even The Avengers to shame.

And what monstrous evil could unite such disparate forces as those listed above?

Comics, gentle reader. Comics.

American comics. Lurid American comics. Violent American comics. Shocking American comics.

You know the ones… the REALLY GOOD ones.


Back in 1953 all of the above organisations, along with individual clergymenmagistrates and even representatives from the field of psychology and concerned parents up and down the country, joined forces to have so-called "horror comics" from America banned from British newsagent shelves – and thus from the clammy, thrill-starved hands of horrid little boys* everywhere.


(* No offence, readers. I blog this as a card-carrying Horrid Little Boy.)



One clergyman, the Reverend Marcus Morris, had fired an early salvo in the campaign with an article in the Daily Sketch newspaper in which he told of "a nearly 40 per cent increase [in crimes committed] among children aged 10."

"I blame much of this," he thundered, "on their 'comics'. As soon as a child becomes old enough to read, he enters a new world of horror and vice, where there are no apparent morals."


Crikey!


The Minister of Education, the impressive Scot Florence Horsbrugh (the first woman to hold a cabinet post in a Conservative administration), was of the opinion that the whole furore "was being overplayed". And that might have been an end to it, had the issue not ended up on the desk of the Prime Minister of the day…

Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister in the general election of 1951. In February 1954, he asked personally to be appraised of "the sale of American type comics in this country and the social effects which they might be having".

The Home Office prepared a memo in which westerns and Tarzan comics are described as "harmless enough". But it also included prose so damning that every adjective pops with all the vim of the "Bam!" and "Pow!" flashes in a golden age Batman strip…

"Strong streak of sadistic cruelty"… "abound in representations of scantily dressed women"… "macabre supernatural scenes"… "frenzy of drug addicts"… "unwholesome"…

Stating that the comics are "Unlikely to be beneficial", it concludes: "the prevailing sense of values is shoddy and distorted."

Why was the Prime Minister involved in the first place? Why did such an issue get so high up the chain of command?

Legend has it that Churchill was advised by a close aide that the "unwholesome" comics in question were being published by Dundee-based firm D.C Thomson – a company that Churchill held in contempt because he believed that their editorials were instrumental in his losing the parliamentary seat of Dundee in 1922.

See my earlier post on DC Thomson HERE



The bill introduced by Home Secretary Gwilym Lloyd George (son of David) came into law in 1955 as The Children and Young Person's (Harmful Publications) Bill. It set out to ban…


"...any book, magazine or other like work which is of a kind likely to fall into the hands of children or young persons and consists wholly or mainly of stories told in pictures (with or without the addition of written matter), being stories portraying—

(a) the commission of crimes; or
(b) acts of violence or cruelty; or
(c) incidents of a repulsive or horrible nature;
in such a way that the work as a whole would tend to corrupt a child or young person into whose hands it might fall."



The aforementioned Rev Morris was, however, absent from the populist campaign. He was busy having taken action of a different kind: the publication of a wholesome, British comic alternative.

In April 1950 Eagle was launched, with Dan Dare Pilot of the Future as its star…





In an early draft, Dan Dare was not a pilot but a squadron padre – the chaplain or vicar attached to a military unit  – named Lex Christian. The surname is a clear indication of the direction that Morris and artist Frank Hampson were taking: respectable British values of decency, fairness and forgiveness would be our hero’s superpowers.

Unlike its American counterparts, The Eagle also featured longer reads and pieces on history and science. The Christian ethos of the title is perhaps most clearly seen in one of the other works for which Hampson is celebrated, The Road of Courage, a graphic retelling of the life of Jesus which first appeared as the back page strip in the Eagle in 1960…

 


Legend has it that Lord Jellicoe, Leader of the House of Lords (and former First Lord of the Admiralty) read The Eagle in the Palace of Westminster library. Similarly Lord Mountbatten is said to have placed a subscription for his nephew Prince Charles and once found cause to ring the publisher to complain when an issue failed to arrive in the post.

My London Walks colleague Donald Rumbelow once told me that it was one of the great privileges of his schooldays to be dispatched by the head master to pick up the school's copy of the comic – not least because he would then have the thrill of being the first to peruse its pages.



My own introduction to Dan Dare came in 1977 when he was revived from his state of suspended animation to star in the newly launched comic 2000AD.

The Eagle had endured a miserable 1960s with budget cuts and the loss of the great Hampson and had been subsumed into rival Lion comic in 1969. But we hadn't yet heard the last of the great Dan Dare.

2000AD celebrated its 2000th issue in 2016 and looks forward to its 40th anniversary this month (February 2017). Back in '77, its editor was Pat Mills. Mills had worked on Battle comic and had created the legendary British classic Action comic, a publication noted for its sensational, violent thrills. Its publication created a panicked scandal unseen since the days of the 50s detailed above.

Mills took the decision to add Dan Dare to the mix of 2000AD with the idea being that Dan was still a much-loved comic hero. His presence, it was hoped, would help the new title establish itself in the market place.

Italian artist Massimo Belardinelli was enlisted to create the new Dan…



As you can see, by '77 he's less clean-cut, more of the period (suspended animation has worked wonders on his barnet and mutton-chops) – but the trademark squiggly eyebrows are still in place.



Last week I dropped in on Future Shock – the exhibition that celebrates 40 years of 2000AD at the great Cartoon Museum and was delighted to see some original artwork from Belardinelli featuring the London of 2077. Here's how the published version looks…


 


I'm particularly fond of the flying tour of London drone to the right of Big Ben. I wonder if I'll be leading those as a hologram 160 years from now? I like the "Scenic Walk Eezee" too!


And there's Big BenAGAIN. Big Ben is rapidly taking over The Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London blog.

I've already covered the world's most famous clock in Spiderman & DeadpoolDanger MouseScooby DooThe Fantastic FourUber, Disney AND Wonder Woman.


The aforementioned Frank Hampson also gets in on the Big Ben act with his centre spread for the short-lived Marvel UK in the 70's…

 

… which pictured the Palace of Westminster in 2006.


In the 70s as in the 50's, Dan Dare's nemesis was The Mekon…


… and a right rotter he looks, too.

In the context of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster, The Mekon holds a place dear in the hearts of cartoon and cartoonist fans in this country thanks to The Guardian's Steve Bell who used Hampson's famous alien as his jumping-off point for his take on former Leader of the Opposition and former Home Secretary William Hague… 





In fairness to Hague, unlike his 50s forerunner Lloyd George, never once in his tenure as Home Secretary did he seek to deprive us of our comics or cartoonists.


I have every confidence that I'll be back to Big Ben before long on this blog. I will certainly return to the topic of The Cartoon Museum, not least because they've got The Inking Woman, an exhibition of British women cartoonists from April 2017



Credits…

Frank Hampson's son runs an excellent website dedicated to the work of his father, with some excellent original boards available for sale. Visit the website here:




The Cartoon Museum's current show celebrates the unprecedented 40 year history of 2000AD. Future Shock! 40 Years of 200AD runs until 23rd April 2017. Admission is £7, £5 concession and £3 for students. Their website is here www.cartoonmuseum.org

The exhibition is curated by Steve Marchant (the Comic Creators Project curator) - I blogged about Steve in an earlier post explaining why I started this Cartoon & Comic Book Tour Of London blog in the first placeCatch up with that post HERE.



For further reading on the social history of British comics I can highly recommend British Comics – A Cultural History by James Chapman. Mr Chapman's book was the main source for the political background in this blog. You can buy the book here.




This being a Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London blog you will, of course, require a map. I think you'll now how to find Big Ben, but here's how to get to the Cartoon Museum…






I've collated all the previous 35 Panels in this Cartoon & Comic Book Tour Of London blog in one place. I hope you enjoy them: cartoonandcomicbooklondon.blogspot.co.uk/



Next time on The Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London blog… Captain America and the Shard!


Panel No.35: Eisner Award-Winning Orbital Comics

Daily Constitutional editor Adam Scott-Goulding continues his Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London



You can catch up with the previous "stops" at the Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London blog here cartoonandcomicbooklondon.blogspot.co.uk.








Panel No. 35. Eisner Award-Winning Orbital Comics



I'm making a second visit to Orbital Comics on my Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London blog in the wake of some very good news from earlier this year.

Orbital Comics is the 2016 winner of the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Award for best comic book store! Orbital was chosen from a list of nominees from across the globe.

Congratulations to all the guys in Great Newport Street! You can see the award in the store.

In my original post - Panel No.6 – I looked a little bit into the history of Great Newport Street itself. You can catch up with that post here.

The Eisner Award is the Oscar of the comic book publishing world and as such is a seriously big deal.

It is named for Will Eisner (1917 - 2005) writer and cartoonist who is widely credited with coining and popularising the phrase Graphic Novel. His 1985 book Comics & Sequential Art hanseled the modern era of comics as vehicles capable of carrying complex and sophisticated stories worthy of critical analysis.

If that all sounds a bit high falutin, here's Allan Moore to cut through the BS:  


"Eisner is the single person most responsible for giving comics its brains."

Stan Lee put it pretty well, too: 


"Will Eisner was to comics what Babe Ruth was to baseball."


(The work of Moore & Lee featured earlier in this Comic Book London Tour – see HEREHERE for Moore and HERE for Stan Lee.)



Given that this is a Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London, I'll point you not only in the direction of Orbital, but of Eisner's most famous London-themed work: Fagin The Jew.



Eisner's 2003 work takes the form of an interview conducted by Dickens with Fagin (of Oliver Twist infamy) on the night before the latter is hanged.

The narrative is a bold confrontation of anti-Semitic stereotypes in literature and, as such, is powerful indeed. Eisner's approach reminds me of that of a method actor getting into a role: where does the character come from? How did he get to be this way? 

As Fagin's journey is unfolded, we learn of the plight of the Ashkenazi Jews in London, the hardships and prejudices they endured. These, Eisner suggests, are the factors that shaped Fagin's character. The Fagin that emerges by the book's end is a far more complex individual than the villain in Dickens's original.

In encouraging us to walk a mile in another man's shoes, Eisner ends up penning a Graphic Novel not only for Fagin, nor only for the Jewish immigrant experience, but for every Londoner. If you are a Londoner who has ever been proud of the slogan #LondonIsOpen Eisner's Fagin the Jew is a must read.

Fagin the Jew is published by Dark Horse.


You can find Orbital Comics on Great Newport Street here…





In a post planned for 2017 I'll return to the work of Dickens through the illustrations of Cruikshank and the many artists who have brought the great writer's characters alive on the page



Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Panel No.34: Gillray

Daily Constitutional editor Adam Scott-Goulding continues his Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London with a GUEST BLOG from London Walks Pen David Tucker!

You can catch up with all 33 previous "stops" at the Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London blog here cartoonandcomicbooklondon.blogspot.co.uk.





Panel No. 34. Gillray



Perspective. Getting it into. And making connections.

So if you’re walking with us on either our Wednesday afternoon Old Palace Quarter walk or its Wednesday afternoon stablemate the Chelsea London’s Riverside Village walk – let’s make a connection, let’s get things into perspective.

Let’s spare a thought for James Gillray, arguably the greatest caricaturist of them all.


And why Gillray now? What’s the now connection?


The thing’s of course gone viral. It’s in bad taste. It’s cruel – “this presidential campaign is turning into a weekend at Bernie’s”, that kind of thing.

But it’s a church social, near beer compared to the 192-proof vodka that Gillray trafficked in.  In the words of historian Andrew Roberts, Gillray’s oeuvre rejoiced in “disturbing sexual and scatological imagery…scenes of buggery, groping, excretion and flagellation…”

There but for the grace of 220 years goes HRC.

And quickly, let’s do the connections with our two walks. Gillray was born and grew up in Chelsea. His father, a Scot, had been a blacksmith. Gillray pere joined the cavalry, lost an arm at the Battle of Forteney. He became a pensioner at the Royal Hospital. He joined the extreme protestant second the Moravian Brotherhood. He was the sexton as their burial-ground at Chelsea for over 40 years.

I think there’s a fair chance that Gillray senior’s Moravian outlook “influenced” his son’s turn of mind. The Moravians were convinced of the fundamental depravity of man and the worthlessness of life; their cheerful reckoning was that death was a welcome release from life’s afflictions.

Those notions surely grist for the son’s artistic mill. A mill that ground out, for example, the celebrated print that showed Pitt as “an excresence – a fungus – alias a toadstool upon a dunghill.”




And as for The Old Palace Quarter… Gillray lived at 27 St. James’s Street. He lodged over the shop of Hannah Humphrey, the sister of his first publisher. She was a maiden lady, 15-20 years older than Gillray.

Stuff happened. A proposal of marriage was extended and accepted. The wedding was to take place at St. James’ Piccadilly, Wren’s only West End church. We visit it on the Old Palace Quarter walk.

The wedding almost took place. Gillray took fright at the church door and ran away.

He came back to St. James’s, though.

He’s buried there.


Find 27 St James's Street here…








Saturday, 17 September 2016

Panel No. 33. Sidney Paget & Sherlock Holmes


Panel No. 33. Sidney Paget & Sherlock Holmes

Sidney Paget's most famous work. As you can see I'm looking suitably shocked as Sherlock Holmes falls to his certain death at Reichenbach Falls… Or DOES he…?



Describe a superhero without using the words super or hero or powers...


fictional character with an outré costume who defends the world from evil.

or

being with gifts greater than those of the average human.

or

A crimefighter – often with a sidekick – possessed with excessive courage.


Looking beyond the heroics, I might suggest that all superheroes have a weakness, an Achilles heel. Thor, for example, is just a dodgy-looking roadie for a heavy metal band without his Hammer. Kryptonite kills Superman, as any fule kno.

Going a little deeper, what does the superhero says about the society from which s/he springs? Back to Superman, it's difficult to separate him from the great liberal ideals of the American Dream: is he not the ultimate immigrant? He has TWO jobs and he's assimilated with such passion that he's practically draped in the flag. Ditto Wonder Woman.

Then take Batman, the libertarian face of the same silver dollar. The right to defend one's territory by any means necessary. Slow to anger but ruthless in retribution.

In this respect both Superman and Batman are personifications of the United States, the world's supreme super power. The World's Policeman.


Take this role and add it to the list above - costumesidekickpowerscourage and one fatal flaw - and you have a pretty good picture of the colourful superheroes of Marvel and DC.

Now sepia-tint the picture. Remove the brash colours but keep all the other elements.

A courageous crime fighter with special powers, a distinctive costume and a reliable sidekick...

It's elementary, no?



Whenever I lead the Sherlock Holmes walking tour for London Walks"Sherlock as Superhero" is one of my running themes. And is Sherlock not the personification of the old Empire? All conquering, firm-but-fair, the ever-so-English gentleman-amateur.


Origin stories play a big part in Superheroland – the incidents that made the heroes super in the first place: Spiderman was bitten by a radioactive spider; Wonder Woman was an Amazon and daughter of the gods.

Sherlock Holmes's origin story is one of the most fascinating in all of popular fiction. In the common conception of the great detective, he is the child of many fathers, including the actors who have portrayed him on screen.

The starting point is, of course, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who launched his first Holmes story A Study In Scarlet on the world in 1887. In terms of description, however, Doyle at first gives gives us only this…


In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.


In discussing Sherlock in graphic terms, by which I mean his look or image especially in the popular imagination, this gives us very little to go on.

It's at this point that I turn to Sidney Paget

If I may mix my pop-cultural metaphors for a moment, Paget is the Sherlockian equivalent of The Fifth Beatle – the third lodger at 221b, if you will.

Paget was born in London in 1860. His father was the vestry clerk at St James's in Clerkenwell. Having attended the Royal Academy Schools, he became an illustrator on the famous Strand Magazine, the picture paper published between 1891 and 1950.


It is through Paget that the famed deerstalker hat enters the world of Sherlock Holmes. It has become the great consulting detective's trademark. It first appeared in The Boscombe Valley Mystery in 1891…



… and has become such a part of Sherlock lore that a mere silhouette is enough to put us in the picture…

Baker Street tube station
Is there another character in all of fiction that can be conveyed so efficiently through illustration?


An often-repeated myth is that Paget used his brother Walter as the model for Holmes.

More widely accepted is the story that the original commission to draw for ACD’s stories had been intended for the aforementioned Walter Paget, also an artist, but landed in Sidney's lap in error. If that's true then it's the happiest accident in the history of graphic storytelling – for Paget, for Doyle and for generations of fans.


I remember drawing my own Holmes as a kid, during the school holidays when the old Basil Rathbone movies were played on TV. For this blog I tried to draw Sherlock Holmes again, for the first time in nigh-on 40 years. And when I scribbled my own version…


… I was surprised and impressed by Paget all over again


Following Paget's conventions (however roughly) I realised that when drawing Holmes one is essentially drawing a villain: the sunken cheeks, the downturned brow, the shadows thrown by the cape. The narrow eyes are pure evil. The domed cranium exaggerated by the cheekbones is The Mekon from Dan Dare and 101 mad scientists from strips and animation the world over.

With his illustrations, Paget instinctively tapped in to the dark side of Conan Doyle's famous character. In this, it is a most modern interpretation. It predates Frank Miller's landmark, dark reimagining of Batman in 1986 by 100 years. It's thrilling to think what Paget could have done in the field of graphic storytelling today.

The most recent screen Holmes, the cadaverously handsome young Master Cumberbatch, has breathed yet more new life into the character. And the hand of Sidney Paget is still present. His deerstalker becomes something of a running gag…


(Pic source The Personal Blog of John Watsonwww.johnwatsonblog.co.uk)


Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (Watson) feature in a recent comic book incarnation of Holmes, a Manga version of Sherlock A Study In Pink, published in English but with the convention of reading right-to-left still in place…




This English translation of the Japanese hit comic takes the TV script of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and presents it in a highly-stylised comic book form by artist Jay. And the London locations are expertly captured…




Sherlock: A Study In Pink is published by Titan titan-comics.com


There's also a lot of really tremendous fan art out there, inspired by the Cumberbatch/Freeman twosome…


… much of it exploring the nature of Holmes and Watson's relationship…


The much-analised gay subtext is an area thoroughly out-of-bounds to Paget and Doyle back in the late 19th Century. But liberated 21st Century Sherlock fans (and scriptwriters) are having a field day.

Check out LOADS more Sherlock fan art here: pinterest.com/explore/sherlock-fan-art



Holmes is a natural comic book hero. As well as being a prototype for the 20th and 21st Century superheroes we know and love, he's also worked with Batman


… fought The Joker


… and even starred in his own title, all for DC.



But far and away my favourite of Sherlock comics has been the recent all-ages romp The Baker Street Peculiars written by Roger Langridge and illustrated by Andy Hirsch


The action takes place in 1930s London where one of the Trafalgar Square lions comes to life and runs amok through the city! Only Sherlock Holmes can save us now!

The Peculiars are, of course, an update of the Baker Street Irregulars, Holmes's band of street urchins who function as his eyes and ears in the darkest corners of London. The Peculiars differ from the Irregulars in that they drive the story and have a wider race and gender mix, much more accessible to the young modern comic reader. It's really lovely stuff, both words and pictures. The imaginative adventure rages through London from posh West…



…to wild East…




… and has some great villains (scary AND funny) and a wonderful twist on the oft-neglected Mrs Hudson. (I'll say no more! But you can buy the comic HERE or, better still, make an enquiry at London's Eisner-Award-winning comic book store Orbital Comics - their website is: www.orbitalcomics.com.)


There are no less than six portraits of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle held at the National Portrait Gallery – four photographic, one oil on canvas (by Henry L. Gates) and, my favourite, a Punch cartoon from 1926 by Sir John Bernard Partridge.


Like Paget, Bernard Partridge was born in London, son of the president of the Royal College of Surgeons and nephew of John Partridgeportrait painter to Queen Victoria. In a varied career (he was also, briefly, an actor) he worked as a designer for Lavers, Berraud and Westlake, the stained glass window makers. You can still see their former building today in Endell Street, Covent Garden…



Holmes and Paget were no strangers to Covent Garden themselves. Here's Paget's illustration for a The Blue Carbuncle, a Christmassy tale with a very important scene played out at Covent Garden Market…



Partridge joined Punch in 1891, the same year that Paget joined The Strand.

It was for Punch that he made the portrait of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that is now part of the National Portrait Galley archive.



It depicts the writer with his head in the clouds, dreaming perhaps of fame among the pantheon of the great intellectuals. But the clouds turn out to be merely wreaths of smoke belching from Holmes's pipe and the great detective is portrayed as a ball and chain tethering Conan Doyle's literary ambitions.

How attitudes change.

In the 21st century popular writers such as J.K Rowling, Ian Rankin and Val MacDiarmid are called upon to hold forth on the affairs of the day in the media with graphic novels discussed alongside Booker Prize nominees in the arts pages of the quality press. Doyle and Paget would have thrived in such a climate.

In terms of choosing a locating for this panel of my ongoing Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London, I absolutely LOVE Roger Langridge's Cambridge Circus and Palace Theatre (pictured above) but given that this is an homage to Sidney Paget, I'm going to direct you instead to the great illustrator's final resting place in East Finchley Cemetery on the East End Road in North London…







He may well be buried there but, as we have seen, his work lives on.



Monday, 16 May 2016

Panel 32: Wonder Woman in London

Daily Constitutional editor Adam continues his Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London



If you are on older reader returning to comic books after a period away – which is my own back story, having rediscovered drawing through my daughter a couple of years ago – then you're in for a wild ride… unless you keep the following three words in mind at all times:


Rebirth, reboot, relaunch.


In the world of 21st century comic books it's back-to-the-drawing-board time-and-again with new artist/writer teams reimagining the famous names in superheroes on a regular basis. Back-stories are plundered and retooled; new-look costumes are drawn; fresh slants – social, political and personal – are found on the pantheon of characters.

Wonder Woman is no exception.

Which is why she turns up here on this blog.

These days Wonder Woman is a Londoner.

Keep an eye out for her on the Jubilee, Bakerloo or Northern lines out of Waterloo Station, she has a pad near Big Ben



It would seem that her 70 year career as a superhero has served her rather well, what with the cost of renting properties in central London ranging from £350 - £3,230 per week

Suffice to say that your average comic book creator is more likely to live in humble (and wonderful) Brockley than in a riverside penthouse.

But then, in a fictional world where the protagonists sit and have a chat atop The Gherkin


… even the price of London property seems reasonably realistic.


The first frame above is taken from Wonder Woman The New 52 by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang & Tony Akins dating from 2011 in which the character's origins in Greek mythology are brought to the fore. It's a field of research that I've always been very fond of, and one that comes up as a theme when I lead my Sherlock Holmes tour for London Walks (more from Holmes on another day, in the meantime catch up with Daffy Duck's take ofthe great consulting 'tec HERE).

Before it all gets a bit high falutin', there's also a really splendid battle with Poseidon in the form of a sea monster in the Thames by Tower Bridge…




That's London Bridge in the background of the first frame and some nice detailing of the Tower itself as well as Tower Bridge in the third. And the "Bong"? Well that's the chimes o' Big Ben carried on what must have been a particularly forceful west-to-southwesterly wind to ring out over the London traffic nearly three miles away.

(Here we go again! Tower Bridge and Big Ben will soon have to pay rent on this blog, appearing as often as they have done. See also posts on Scooby Doo & Disney & Marvel & The Fantastic Four & Über & Danger Mouse.)


The author of this blog, nonplussed at all the kissing in his comic book


The image featuring The Gherkin (above) is from Superman/Wonderwoman by Charles Soule and Tony S. Daniel (2013) – in which WW and the Man of Steel get all kissy-kissy, have tiffs and do all soppy stuff. Yuk.

By which I mean their characters and relationships are explored in a depth never before seen in mainstream superhero comics.

Nah, I was righty first time: they get all kissy-kissy. Yuk.


Despite the kissing (yuk), it is a fascinating take on the most traditionally squeaky-clean of superheroes. And the most All-American - they are both practically dressed in The Flag, they even assimilate like only superimmigrants from Krypton & Paradise Island could.






Long before she acquired her flat in Zone 1 (does she have to pay congestion charge on her invisible plane?) Wonder Woman visited London on a number of occasions. You should also check out the great fun Sensation Comics No.9 (you can buy a digital version HERE) in which Wonder Woman takes on Catwoman at the British Museum, where the latter is planning to steal the Golden Fleece…



(I visited The BM earlier in this series, in Panel No.15 on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.)


Going back further yet, Wonder Woman swung by the capital about 2000 years ago when she joined Queen Boudicca, the Iceni Queen, in fighting the Roman army. 



WW's intervention sent the guys with the funny brush helmets home to Rome about 400 years ahead of their time.





Of the locations above, I'll chose the Gherkin to add to my Cartoon and Comic Book Tour of London…




Thursday, 3 March 2016

Panel 31: This Is London by M. Sasek

Many of you will have packed the kids off to school this morning dressed at their favourite character from a book for World Book Day 2016

It set me to thinking of the books I loved when I was a child. And I didn't have to look too far to find the best of them. Every time I climb the stairs to go to my desk, I pass this bookshelf…


The colourful spines are reprint copies of the great M. Sasek's This Is… series of travel books for kids. We have collected eight of them – San Francisco, Paris, Australia, New York, Venice, Edinburgh, Rome and, of course…




Panel 31. This is London (1959)
By Miroslav Sasek Universe Publishing Inc

Until few years ago, if one had been looking for the work of the great Miroslav Sasek, then several long days trekking round London’s fine old secondhand bookshops would have been the order of the day.

No bad thing, of course. The forgotten art of browsing, particularly in secondhand bookshops, is one of London’s great pleasures.

This is London, however, is such a special book that it deserves to be widely available.

Thankfully, some bright spark came up with idea of re-releasing (and updating) these children’s classics – and now you can pick them up everywhere from independent book retailers (support your local bookshop!) to the gift shops at the big galleries.

Sasek was born in Prague in 1916, which is where he trained as an architect. But it is as the illustrator and writer of the wonderful This is… series of children’s books that he will be remembered by generations of young readers. How many children caught the travel bug from Sasek’s masterpieces?

The first – This is Paris – was published in 1958. My own induction into the world of Sasek came via This Is Edinburgh (first published 1961) which I borrowed from the library on a regular basis when I was a boy. The thrill of seeing the familiar buildings of my native city rendered in those long, tall, Cinemascope lines of Sasek's has never left me. So much so that, long before she could read or even hold a book, I bought This is Edinburgh and This Is London for my daughter.

Here we are six years ago, when Isobella was 3, using This Is Edinburgh as a guide book at the floral clock in Princes Street Gardens…


        


(I love that the gardener's ladder is in both the drawing in the book AND the photograph.)



This is London was first published in 1959. This is how the Times Literary Supplement of the day reviewed it:

“The colour is magnificent and uninhibited, the draughtsmanship brilliant but unobtrusive (one gradually realizes that these bold, stylized drawings are minutely accurate as well as true in general impression). The humour is characteristic and pervasive but always subordinate. The jokes are all pointed. Miroslav Sasek has drawn the visitor's London from foggy arrival to rainy departure. His book is a series of impressions, unrelated, one would think, but they add up to a remarkably complete picture of the modern city. The words and pictures are closely integrated; each has it terse style and humour.”


The affection in which Sasek holds his star – London herself – creates an effect akin to a great director eliciting a once-in-a-lifetime performance from a famous actress of whom her public thought they had seen everything: only to be delighted all over again with a fresh and new take.

Visit the Miroslav Sasek website at www.miroslavsasek.com.


The picture – and location – that I am choosing for this "stop" on the Cartoon & Comic Book tour is St Paul's Cathedral…






For World Book Day my daughter Isobella (now aged eight-and-three-quarters) is dressed-up as a spy. The inspiration came from her fondness for a book called Spyology: the Complete Book of Spycraft by Duggald Steer and also from a book that I enjoyed when I was eight-and-three-quarters (and still do now that I am forty-seven-and-one-sixth) that I recently shared with Isobella, The Big Book of Secrets (1977)…


Giles Brandreth is the author and I recently Tweeted him some belated and quite OTT fan mail for his book which contains excellent tips on disguises, secret codes and suchlike…





In typically jolly fashion, Mr Brandreth replied…





In the context at hand – cartoons and illustration – I'd also like to pay tribute to the illustrator of The Big Book of Secrets Louis Hellman.

Mr Hellman, alas, is not on Twitter, so his fan mail has proven to be less instant (my Tweet was instant, even if it did take 38 years to compose) but it is no less heartfelt.

As you can see from the cover above, the pointy spy cartoons immediately bring to mind the famous (and ongoing) Mad magazine strip Spy vs Spy, created by Antonio Prohias in Cold War 1961…



… and I've often wondered if that was Hellman's leaping-off point.


Google Hellman and you will find him described as an architectural cartoonist – like Sasek, Hellman also trained as an architect. Sasek's knowledge of, and passion for architecture can be seen clearly in the pages of his books and in his take on St Paul's above.


Hellman's passion and talent are no less impressive and, like the great Sasek, Hellman too has a playfulness, a wit, a joie de vivre that leaps off the page. It's a beguiling combo.

Being both a walking tour guide in an urban environment and a cartoon fan, I am particularly fond of Sasek and Hellman – meeting, as they do, at the junction between my work life and my hobby.

My favourite example of Mr Hellman's architectural cartooning is from his famous Archi-Tetes series – in which he captures portraits of the great designers in the style of their buildings. Here's Hellman's take on Wren and the building at the hub of this Cartoon & Comic Book Tour post, St Paul's Cathedral


You can buy prints of Hellman's work direct from his website at www.louishellman.co.uk/architetes



Happy World Book Day 2016!

Here's how to find St Paul's…