Denis McLoughlin: 1917-2002
McLOUGHLIN -- DENIS aged 84 years, died suddenly on 22nd April 2002.
The dearly loved husband of the late DOROTHY, brother of the late COLIN,
brother-in-law of Bernice, a loving uncle and great uncle.
The cortege will leave the Funeral Home on Friday 26th
April 2002 at 9.30am, followed by service and committal at
Overdale West Chapel at 10.00am.
All inquires to Westhoughton Funeral Services, 300 Leigh
Road. Telephone 01942 811000
Friday, April 26, 2002
A 'one-man art department' among comic-strip artists
30 April 2002
Denis McLoughlin was a noted comic-strip artist and illustrator, and creator of some of the very best cover art of the "hard-boiled" school. He never retired and was working right up until his sudden death, on his latest action strip for D.C. Thomson's Commando, a series of monthly comic books to which he had been regularly contributing for 20 years.
In the history of British illustration there is no one who can be
reasonably compared to McLoughlin. He had a vivid sense of
pictorial composition and his use of unusual angles to create
dramatic tension is often breath-taking. His work had a great affinity
with American culture, particularly the cinema and the pulp
magazines of the 1940s. This is particularly evident in the covers he
painted for the tough, mostly American, mystery thrillers that T.V.
Boardman published from the late Forties to the late Sixties, as well
as in his western illustrations and strips for Boardman's Buffalo Bill
Wild West Annual.
Of mixed English, Scots and Irish ancestry, Denis McLoughlin was
born in 1918 in Bolton, Lancashire. As a youngster, he was, as he
himself has admitted, "a puny and sickly child and plagued with
asthma". In adult life he remained small and slight – though anyone
who knew McLoughlin would testify to the toughness of his spirit
and personality. At the age of 14, he won a scholarship to the
Bolton School of Art but soon left and began work at the Ward &
Copley Art Studio in Manchester, doing catalogue illustrations and
Called up in 1940 – "Dad hinted they would never take a wreck like
me in the forces but the sods did!" – he spent the Second World
War at the Royal Artillery Depot at Woolwich, east London, where
he seems to have spent most of his time painting more than 50
enormous, humorous and "saucy" murals (featured in the magazine
Illustrated in November 1943), three of which were destroyed by a
V1 rocket. During this time, he was also able to contribute to
magazines and cartoon books and, most importantly, to design
several book covers.
It was in 1945 that he began his long association with the firm of
T.V. Boardman, for whom he was to produce his major body of
work. For more than two decades after the war, Boardman was
England's fifth largest publisher, particularly noted for the publication
of a wide range of mostly American crime and mystery novels and
for their Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual. The popularity of
Boardman's output was due, not only to the quality of the writers,
which was considerable, but most particularly to the work of
He has been described as Boardman's "one-man art department"
and illustrated virtually their entire post-war output. How it was
possible to keep up such a high standard of full-colour pictorial book
jackets and paperback covers (he was also responsible for the
stylish and distinctive lettering for each book), while at the same
time drawing picture strips and designing and illustrating children's
annuals, it is difficult to conceive.
McLoughlin's best-remembered strips are those featuring the
western hero Buffalo Bill, and McLoughlin's own creations Swift
Morgan, a time-traveller and spaceman, and Roy Carson, a
hard-boiled "special agent". These comic books were published by
Boardman between 1948 and 1954 and sold mostly through
Woolworth's. The combination of strong characters, fascinating
plots, amusing dialogue, pleasing two-colour photogravure printing
and, all- importantly, the dynamic strip art, made them immensely
Most issues of these comics were written by McLoughlin's brother
Colin, and this successful collaboration continued in the 13 issues
of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual. First published in 1949, the
annual sold in the region of 250,000 copies each year. No annual
has ever been designed with such lavish care and attention: the
colour, the layout, even the lettering for the story headings, are all
cleverly and imaginatively conceived.
Whilst working on the Buffalo Bill annuals, McLoughlin realised
there was no comprehensive encyclopaedia of the American West,
so he compiled the racily written Wild and Woolly, first published in
1975. Of all his achievements, it was of this vastly entertaining book
that he was most proud.
The Independent, April 30, 2002
Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Denis McLoughlin obituary
by Mike Kidson
JUST as this issue of Borderline was on the verge of completion, Internet comics fans were apprised of the sad news that veteran British comics artist Denis McLoughlin had died suddenly at his home in Bolton, Lancashire on April 22, just one week after his 84th birthday.
McLoughlin was born in Bolton and lived there all his life, attending local schools then winning a scholarship to the Bolton School of Art. He began his professional career during the 1930s, working as a catalogue illustrator and doing his first comics work drawing homegrown covers for newspaper reprints of US Sunday comic strip supplements.
During World War II he served in the Royal Artillery but continued to produce much freelance work, in particular painting cover illustrations for thrillers. He is estimated to have produced more than 700 such illustrations during his career.
In 1946 McLoughlin joined in the post-war vogue for production of independent comics and published his own one-shot Lightning Comic. This brought him to the attention of T.V. Boardman, a publisher of thrillers which was moving into the comics business, and from 1948 to 1953 McLoughlin produced for the company three series which are regarded by collectors as being amongst the classics of British comics; the SF strip Swift Morgan, a detective series named Roy Carson which was a superb example of British crime comics, evoking the dingy, desperate atmosphere of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock rather than the more usual Chicago-style gangsterisms, and the Western title Buffalo Bill.
The setting of that last series was particularly dear to McLoughlin (who was sometimes nicknamed “The Lancashire Cowboy”), and he developed its concept further in what is probably his best remembered and most loved body of work, the Buffalo Bill Annuals published by Boardman between 1949 and 1961. Unlike most British annuals these were not just collections of discrete stories, strips and puzzles relating to a weekly comic or film or TV series; they were a fully integrated series, with some internal continuity, in which each year three modern schoolboys travelled back through time to the Old West and experienced the nature of a cowboy’s life. The earliest ones were written by Arthur Groom, but McLoughlin subsequently produced them solo, creating an almost unique hybrid of prose and comics intended to be read as a book, not as a set of separate stories. His passion for the subject matter - in 1973 he wrote a prose encyclopaedia of the West’s history, Wild and Woolly, which remains one of the most engaging and informative works on the topic - ensured the books’ authenticity, and his imaginative sense of design, incorporating illustrative page frames, full painted art, dramatic strips and humorous cartoons, made the Buffalo Bill books perhaps the most attractive British annuals ever published.
McLoughlin continued to work for Boardman until the company ceased trading in the late 1960s, producing some comics and turning out many dustjacket paintings and paperback covers for their Popular Press imprint. In the 1970s he switched to working for the two major British comics publishers, turning out a number of dramatic series including Sabre and Big Hit Smith for Tiger (IPC) and The Green Lizard, Iron Fist and Frankie and Johnny for Wizard (DC Thomson).
As the British action/adventure weeklies began to be cancelled during the 1980s, McLoughlin took his traditional style of action art to one of the last thriving venues for it, DC Thomson’s Commando Picture Library. Continuing working right up until his death, he drew and inked on average around four complete 65 page stories a year for the series, totalling about 80 in all. (A review of a current reissue of a Commando story he drew in 1987 can be found in “The Verdict” elsewhere in this issue of Borderline.)
Francis Hertzberg’s study of McLoughlin’s work describes him as a “master of light and shade”. It is an accurate description. Where most British comics artists of his generation opted either for painted work or for decorative, flowing linework, he evolved an instantly recognisable style which combined solid spotted blacks, firm outlines, small discontinuous curved lines indicating detail and precise, 45 degree angled straight lines to represent grey shades. The results often had something of the quality of an engraving, highly detailed but also full of subtleties, and particularly well suited for night-time scenes and seascapes.
With the exception of his Buffalo Bill Annuals, much of McLoughlin’s work was, like that of many of his British contemporaries, published anonymously. Consequently it has for many years been known and admired only by a small number of fans and collectors, never receiving the recognition it deserved from comics fans at large. In recent years, though, international awareness of his achievements has increased, largely due to the efforts of American fan Matthew Gore, whose McLoughlin websites, http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Hills/6569/DenisMc/ and http://www.leylander.org/intercom/DenisMc/denis.htm , contain a wealth of information about the artist and many examples of his work.
Borderline: The Comics Magazine, May 2002, #10 (Available May 1st)
Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Prolific cult illustrator behind Buffalo Bill and other heroes
Friday May 10, 2002
The fame of the illustrator and artist Denis McLoughlin, who has died aged 84, was largely confined to a hardcore of fans who cherished his work, discussed and dissected it in magazines and books, and dedicated a website to his talent.
Comic strips and covers flew from McLoughlin's pen. His most enduring work was for the Buffalo Bill Annual, which sold in the region of 250,000 copies through Woolworth's each year between 1949 and 1961. The series benefited from his fascination with the American west, using authentic characters and an incredible amount of accurate detail that took up to six months to prepare.
During 20 years with TV Boardman, then the fifth largest British publisher, McLoughlin produced 700 dustjackets, scores of paperback and magazine covers, strips and illustrations, and a 2ft-high balsa and plaster promotional bloodhound for a trade exhibition. There were numerous other annuals and comics, among the best being a series featuring futuristic hero Swift Morgan and hardboiled crime-fighter Roy Carson.
It was McLoughlin who designed the pipe-smoking, deerstalker-wearing Bloodhound emblem that graced the Boardman Bloodhound Mystery series, and a total of some 600 crime novels alone, most of them featuring his distinctive, lower-case signature.
When TV Boardman was taken over by Purnell in 1967, McLoughlin began drawing comic strips for IPC's Tiger, Thunder and Lion, before taking time off to complete a 570-page Encyclopedia Of The Wild West (1973), and write and draw five children's books featuring the character Derek the Tortoise. In 1974, he began working for DC Thomson's Wizard, and the company's other weekly adventure comics, after which he concentrated on drawing 64-page adventure strips for Commando Library, his distinctive cross-hatched artwork instantly recognisable in some 160 issues.
McLoughlin was born in Bolton, the elder son of a hair specialist, and educated at Sunninghill school and White Bank central school, where he drew posters for film and pet shows, winning art competitions as early as the age of 11. He won a scholarship to Bolton School of Art in 1932 and, two years later, joined the Ward and Copley Studio in Manchester, drawing for mail order catalogues.
In 1938, he produced covers for batches of imported American newspaper comic supplements, and subsequently cam up with his own spoof comic parodying Hitler, Snow White and the Seven Twerps, which sold outside railway stations at a penny a copy.
From 1940, between duties as a Royal Artillery gunner, he painted 50 humorous and pin-up murals, some so large they took up to six months to complete. One told the story of Ivanhoe, in 26 4ft x 4ft murals at the Royal Arsenal depot, Woolwich, and earned him a mention in the magazine Illustrated. McLoughlin used his half day's leave to approach London publishers with samples and, from 1941, began drawing covers and cartoon books for Wells Gardner & Darton and others.
His long association with TV Boardman began in 1945, with the cover for Basil Tozer's biography, Roving Recollections, which led, two years later, to an exclusive contract with the company. Early books featured fully air-brushed art (around 1957, the colour was reduced to save money) and were mostly in coloured inks, poster colour and coloured pencils - a particularly effective mixture in annuals. Later books were pen and ink drawings, another cost-cutting decision, but McLoughlin was able to get the maximum potential from each medium.
Over the years, his work ranged from fully painted action illustrations to minimalist designs. He was not frightened to experiment with layouts, incorporate photographs or mix realism and metaphor. With his brother Colin, he often acted out scenes for reference photographs, and both starred in more than one cover.
McLoughlin had a no-nonsense approach to his work; he maintained a 50- to 60-hour, six-day week, only in recent years admitting that he was "slowing down". A short, energetic Lancastrian, he would, even in his 70s, cheerfully sign books for fans who had sought out his illustrations from 50 years past.
McLoughlin was predeceased by his wife Dorothy.
Denis McLoughlin, artist, born April 15 1918; died April 22 2002
Guardian Unlimited, May 10, 2002
Friday, May 10, 2002