Follow by email

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Archive's Sunday Comics - Move over Harry Potter

This week's Archive Sunday Comic contains a surprise for younger followers -- boy wizards didn't begin with Harry Potter! Remember the magical rule and click on any of the images for a larger readable version.

It also gives us the chance to showcase the talent of one of Britain's very best artists, John M. Burns, whose career began in the 1950s on Amalgamated Press (Fleetway House) girls' comics like School Friend and Girls' Crystal. Burns is still working today, continuing his highly regarded contributions to 2000 AD (Judge Dredd, Nikolai Dante, the Bendatti Vendetta), and bringing famous literature like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights to new life in the Classical Comics series of graphic novels.

His treatment of the classics has introduced young readers to fine fiction in the past. A serialized version of Wuthering Heights had run as early as 1963 in Diana, a glossy, photogravure D. C. Thomson weekly for girls, and the same comic followed up with equally excellent Burns-drawn serializations of Great Expectations and Lorna Doone.

Later, Burns drew comic strips for newspapers, including the Daily Mirror (Jane), the Daily Sketch, and the Sun. For a while in 1978-79, he had a disappointingly short tenure as the artist for the Evening Standard's Modesty Blaise strip. Comics historian Steve Holland, who calls Burns one of his favourite artists, has asked at his Bear Alley blog,"Why was Burns given the boot? The answer to that is still a mystery: Charles Wintour, the editor of the paper which carried the strip, simply called up his cartoon editor, Gerald Lip, and ordered him to replace Burns immediately."

As already noted, John Burns' career was well under way in the mid 1960s, which is the vintage of today's strip.

Clearly, John M. Burns can bring a sure touch to everything from historical subjects to adventure thrillers, to glamour, to science fiction. But one of the oddest places for him to turn up was Wham! comic amidst the funnies created by Leo Baxendale, a Beano artist who had defected from publisher Thomson in Dundee to publisher Odhams in London. For Wham!, Burns drew the adventures of Kelpie the Boy Wizard.

Kelpie was medieval fantasy and ideally suited for the artist's style. Writer Keith Chapman (aka Chap O'Keefe) says, "I had the pleasure and privilege of scripting the Kelpie yarn here, a six-page complete that appeared in the first Wham! Annual in 1965 [dated 1966]. Burns' depiction of my Macbeth-like witches was superb!"  

No comments: