InterCom Hall of Fame

General Information

InterCom, an International Comics discussion list, introduced the "Hall of Fame" in 1997, primarily as a means of spurring discussion among members and introducing persons from diverse countries to comic creators they might otherwise never have heard.

Every InterCom subscriber is entitled to nominate comic book or strip professionals to the Hall of Fame based on a loose set of criteria and then to cast five votes toward final induction. Inductions for 1997 were finalized in February 1998. Initial inductees range from giants in the international comic book industry to national or even regional favorites. Although a single member might place any name in nomination, it is impossible for that person to insure induction without gaining significant support from other members.

It is hoped to eventually present biographies on this page for all of the creators in the InterCom Hall of Fame. However, since this is primarily a volunteer effort, some entries are longer in coming than others. InterCom always welcomes new subscribers and new volunteers. Please refer to the front page of this web site to see how easily you can be a member of InterCom.

The Biographies . . .


Claus Deleuran
  • Denmark
  • HOF Nomination/Induction: 1997/1997
  • Born:
  • Died:
  • Biography by Stig Olsen
Deleuran, who died from a heart attack a few years ago at the age of 49, started out in Danish undergrounds in the 70s. While he wasn't the first underground artist in Denmark, I think Deleuran can be credited with having opened the floodgates for the stream of self-published comics that came out in Denmark in the 70s; he was certainly one of the most influential artists of that period. Let's see... what can I compare him to? A gentler Crumb? And then again, not really. He had a style that was uniquely Danish, for want of a better word, drawing on local current events, historical facts and myths, folklore, popular culture and so on, and using understatements as a very effective tool. Up through the 70s and 80s he published a number of humourous stories, such as the THORFINN albums and the JOURNEY TO SATURN (which was mentioned in a parliamentary debate on blasphemy!), and in the late 80s he embarked on the most ambitious Danish comics project ever, his ILLUSTRATED POPULAR HISTORY OF DENMARK, which was unfortunately cut short by his early death. Nine volumes were published, covering the period from the creation to the Viking era. A year or two ago, the Danish fanzine STRIP had a vote for the best Danish comics of the 20th century, and Deleuran won both 1st and 3rd prize.
For additional information:
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Rolf Gohs
  • Sweden/Estonia
  • HOF Nomination/Induction: 1997/
  • Born:
  • Died:
  • Biography by Stig Olsen
I really don't know that much about Rolf Gohs, but I nominated him on the strength of some episodes of his MYSTERIOUS 2, a series about two boys in Stockholm in which he uses the contrast between black and white extremely well. I know that he came to Sweden from Estonia after (or was it during?) the war, but I'm not familiar with whatever else he might have done.
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Albert L. Kanter
  • United States
  • HOF Nomination/Induction: 1998/
  • Born:
  • Died:
  • Biography by Matthew Gore
As for Kanter, yes he was the CI publisher. I think the status of Classics Illustrated as the highest circulating comics of all time would qualify him for the HOF but I nominated him because of the true international nature of the Classics Illustrated series. I don't think any other series of comics had anything like the international impact or reach of CI. I also like the switch of focus between the United States and Europe. By 1956 it was European sales that were driving the series, not US. Also, CI continued (continues, actually) all over the world long after the US series ceased publication.
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Rune T. Kidde
  • Denmark
  • HOF Nomination/Induction: 1997/
  • Born:
  • Died:
  • Biography by Stig Olsen
Kidde is, in my opinion, the second greatest Danish artist to come out of our underground movement in the 70s. He did crazy humour in a sketchy style - words like grotesque and anarchic would describe his art quite well, I think. Where Deleuran did longer stories, Kidde stuck to shorter pieces, often centered around a theme, such as his COMMON MAN's GUIDE TO THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY which is less than politically correct (for instance, Italians are described though a picture of Julio Iglesias (yes, I know, I know - he's Spanish) flashing himself in front of a flock of squawking chicken). His humour is quite dark and depressed at times, but funny as hell! Unfortunately, he is no longer active as an artist, as he lost his sight some ten years ago after an operation due to complications after diabetes (as he said, "well, it was a bit of a relief; I was tired of drawing small men with big noses, anyway") , but he is doing a lot of other things instead - especially writing, but I also think he has been involved in an opera. He's a multitalented guy.
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Andre Le Blanc
  • Haiti/Brazil/United States
  • HOF Nomination/Induction: 1997/1997
  • Born:
  • Died:
  • Biography by Matthew Gore
He was another of my nominees and one that I was surprised to see elected on the first ballot. Le Blanc certainly did hone his craft as a part of Eisner's shop but I nominated him primarily for his vast amounts of work in the religious comics or PIX published by David C. Cook. SUNDAY PIX has been in constant publication (it's a weekly) since about 1949. As such, I think it has accumulated more issues than any other US comic. Beginning in the late-1950s, Andre Le Blanc with writer Iva Hoth adapted new comic book versions of much of the Bible. These adaptations have been reprinted ever since with great success including a host of international editions. Le Blanc also was the first artist outside of the United States to work on the international editions of Classics Illustrated. He produced the first non-US issues for the Brazilian market. The success of these suggested to publisher Kantor the potential for true international editions.
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Denis McLoughlin
  • England
  • HOF Nomination/Induction: 1997/1997
  • Born: April 15, 1918, Bolton, Lancashire
  • Resides (2001): Bolton, Lancashire
  • Biography by Matthew H. Gore
With a continuing career that already touches eight decades, British illustrator Denis McLoughlin has recently gained a degree of long overdue recognition for his hard-boiled detective illustrations that graced book covers produced primarily for the London publishing house of T.V. Boardman, Ltd. (Boardman Books). It is this work, no doubt, with which McLoughlin will always be most strongly associated. Bio-bibliographer David Ashford claims for McLoughlin, "In the history of British Illustration there is no one who can be reasonably compared to him. He does not fit anywhere into the British tradition." Ashford concludes that when it comes to hard-boiled illustration, McLoughlin is simply the best.

Despite having produced over a hundred paperback covers, about 550 monthly Bloodhound Detective Story Magazine covers, "scores" of pulp magazine covers, and over a hundred other book covers, it is for his work in British comic books that Denis McLoughlin is recognized here. However, it would be impossible to consider the biography of Denis McLoughlin without touching the history of the Boardman publishing house at the same time.

Denis McLoughlin was born on April 15th, 1918, in Bolton, Lancashire, England, where, as of this writing, he still resides. Always interested in drawing, McLoughlin credits his artistic influence as film, pulp magazines (particularly the covers), and American comics. In the 1930s he collected American True Detective type magazines and American pulp magazines. McLoughlin also sought out the work of Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon, Secret Agent Corrigan) who he also calls an influence. On scholarship, in 1932, he attended the Bolton School of Art, which survives today as the Bolton College of Art, but left the same year for employment with Ward & Copley Art Studio of Oxford Road, Manchester. At Ward & Copley from 1932 until about January 1940 when lack of business ended his employment, McLoughlin found himself creating product illustrations for catalogs and newspaper advertisements for 10/- a week.

T.V. Boardman, Ltd., was but one of many London publishing houses turning out both paperback and hardcover books, pulp magazines, and comics. Boardman pioneered British reprinting of American comics. During the week of October 16, 1937, the first issue of a Boardman tabloid comic in the traditional British format, Okay Comics Weekly, arrived at newsagent's all over England. The content was mostly American newspaper strips and the first issue sported a cover strip by Will Eisner. Okay lasted only until February 26, 1938, or a total of twenty issues. At about this same time, other British publishers experimented with reprinting American comics and imports of the real thing began to land on British shores. It rapidly became apparent that a significant British market for American comic books existed.

However, the British declaration of war on Germany on September 3, 1939, immediately halted the official importation of American comics into the United Kingdom although masses of American comics intended for G.I.s began arriving in 1942. Already with a taste for American comics, Thomas Volney Boardman, Sr., made an arrangement with Everett Arnold of Quality Comics to produce British editions of two titles, Feature Comics (#29-33) and Smash Comics (#7-11) all appearing in 1940-1941. Because Boardman needed low priced titles to please his primary outlet, Woolworth's Department Stores, the British editions reprinted only about half the content of the American originals. To use the rest of the pages, Boardman created two additional corresponding titles in the American style, Super Funnies (#29-33) and Mystery Comics (#7-11).

Drafted in March of 1940, Denis McLoughlin served with the Royal Army's 101st Light Anti-Aircraft (Ack-Ack) and Anti-Tank Regiment (later the 1st Armoured Brigade). He managed to practice his art by painting a rhino insignia on the regiment's vehicles and by painting at least 37 murals of different sizes in various military buildings. His unofficial position of regimental painter gained Denis much greater freedom than the common soldier and allowed him several opportunities to practice his art. In the beginning, he painted officer's portraits for 5/- each. Soon, however, a London publisher, Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., offered him work painting book covers at the rate of 5 each. The first of these covers was for Frank Gruber's Navy Colt which appeared in 1943. Other covers followed for Wells Gardner, Darton & Co. which eventually recommended McLoughlin to Boardman Books. Having no work, however, Boardman passed Denis on to Australian owned Kangaroo Books.

For Kangaroo Books (their logo looked amazingly like that of America's Pocket Books), McLoughlin painted a few paperback covers but primarily produced joke books. The publisher paid 18 each for these which included writing about 50 jokes, illustrating them, and producing the cover. After doing the first joke book, probably Laughter for the Home Front,solo, McLoughlin enlisted the aid of his brother Colin (b. November 2, 1925) with the writing chore. Thus began a working relationship between the McLoughlin brothers that would last at least into the 1950s and that produced New Laughs for All, Laugh While You Work, You've Had It, and This Is It for Kangaroo.

It was for Kangaroo books that Denis McLoughlin produced his first comic book work. He created an eight-page adaptation of General George Armstrong Custer's last stand based primarily on his hazy memory of the film They Died With Their Boots On. The story seems likely to have seen publication in an unnumbered and undated 3d (three pence, that is) issue of Lightning Comics sometime between 1943 and January 1946.

Denis McLoughlin's "official" association with Boardman began after his January 1946 military discharge and took the form of a three-year book cover contract. Of McLoughlin's extensive cover work for Boardman Books a great deal could be said. However, in late-1947, T.V. Boardman, Sr., decided to go after a portion of the market for "American style" comic books left unfilled by the departure of the American army and the British governments continued ban on comic book importation. Boardman's re-entry into the comic field took place during a post-war comics publishing boom in England. McLoughlin's contribution to Boardman's comic publishing caused author Denis Gifford to call him "Boardman's one-man art department." Beginning in 1948, Boardman's comic book production followed two paths, inexpensive rotogravure comic books and lavishly produced comic annuals.

Boardman's three pence rotogravure series began monthly production in February 1948. Issues were twelve pages long and used both front and back covers as story pages. They were printed in three colors (generally black, white, and red or green) on clay coated paper and saddle-stitched at the spine. In American publishing, they most closely resemble Will Eisner's Spirit Sunday newspaper inserts. Mildly inspired by Alex Raymond, Denis and Colin filled the first seven issues with the adventures of detective Roy Carson and adventure/science fiction hero Swift Morgan alternately. Although titles changed with each issue, numbering remained consistent to the entire series. Issue eight saw the addition of Buffalo Bill reprinted from a Swiss source but always repackaged by Denis. Eventually, Denis would create some original Buffalo Bill stories for the series but his involvement with other projects for Boardman caused the reprint content of the rotogravure series to increase. Still holding the rights to material from Quality Comics, Blackhawk (at least sixteen issues) and the Spirit (probably only two issues) were added to the rotation of titles. These reprints were always repackaged by Denis McLoughlin. The twelve-page rotogravure format lasted for 44 issues until October 1951. In February 1953, the series numbering continued but with color covers and black & white interiors until probably sometime in 1954. It seems possible that number 61, featuring Blackhawk, was the last issue. Rebound newsagent returns of the rotogravure series were released as Super Colour Annuals (there were three).

One reason for McLoughlin's partial withdrawal from the rotogravure series late in 1948 was undoubtably the introduction of Christmas annuals to the Boardman line under their Popular Press imprint. The first of these, Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual number one, appeared in time for the 1948 Christmas market. The book's production was rushed because T.V. Boardman, Sr., did not decide to proceed with the project until the last minute. Success of the experiment assured that the title would continue and another Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual appeared in time for Christmas every year through the 1961 issue. Given the success of Buffalo Bill, it is hardly surprising that the "Adventure" annual series was soon added to the Popular Press offerings. Both annual series offered a mixture of American comic reprints (mostly from Quality) combined with British original comic stories (almost always by the brothers McLoughlin), text features, puzzles, gags, and games.

After the 1948 issue, each Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual took Denis, who had almost total creative control over the project, about six months to produce. He began with a blank dummy of the Annual and positioned each story and feature to get the layout. T.V. Boardman had to approve each project and a representative of Woolworth's Department Stores, which were the primary outlet for the annuals, had final veto power. McLoughlin obviously lavished his attention on the Buffalo Bill annuals. Here his graphic story-telling reached new heights. As the series progressed the amount of research for each story obviously increased contributing a high degree of realism to the series. By the last few annuals almost all of the stories were based on solid history. "Ghost Towns," for example, in 1958's Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual number ten provides a poignent comment on the passing of the American West with a level of understanding unique for the time and seldom seen in comic book westerns of any period.

Denis McLoughlin had the same creative control over the "adventure" annual series. Unlike the Buffalo Bill annuals, the Adventure series was not numbered. It also tended to contain a much higher percentage of reprinted American material and shows evidence of much less research. unlike the Buffalo Bill Wild West Annuals, the covers of the adventure series seldom had anything to do with the interior. The first of these publications was probably Ajax Adventure Annual which may have appeared as early as 1949 (or as late as 1952). Presuming that the 1949 date is correct which does seem likely, then the order of the adventure series is probably Ajax Adventure Annual in 1949; Adventure Annual, 1950; Okay Annual of Adventure, 1951; Okay Adventure Annual, 1952; Okay Adventure Annual, 1953; Okay Adventure Annual, 1954; and New Spaceways Comic Annual #1, 1955. Both Adventure Annual and New Spaceways Comic Annual feature Roy Carson and Swift Morgan stories. New Spaceways also features a variety of Quality super-hero reprints including Plastic Man and Doll Man and has art by Reed Crandall and Matt Baker making it, of all the Boardman annuals, the most desirable to collectors in the United States.

With the single exception of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Annual, by the mid to late-1950s, Boardman comics were no more and, after the 1961 issue, Buffalo Bill folded as well. Denis McLoughlin continued to illustrate book covers for Boardman Books until 1967, when the company folded. Even prior to Boardman's demise, McLoughlin turned to other publishers for work. Even though Boardman retained the copyright, the last four Buffalo Bill annuals were prepared for Dean & Son Publishing, Ltd., and printed by Purnell & Sons, Ltd., both London firms. After Boardman folded, McLoughlin helped produce four western annuals for Purnell, The Dakotas Annual for 1963 and 1964 and Gunsmoke Annual (based on the T.V. series) for 1965 and 1966.

In 1967, McLoughlin went to work for IPC, then the largest comic publisher in the United Kingdom. He took over the art chores on "Saber" (kind of a blonde Tarzan) and also drew "Big Hit Swift" (a cricket strip which McLoughlin detested) for the pages of Tiger. From March 20 to October 21, 1971, McLoughlin illustrated "Fury's Family" about a boy and his menagerie for Lion. McLoughlin then took about two years off from comics to finish the compilation of Wild & Woolly, his encyclopedia of the American West published by Doubleday in 1974 (Available through Amazon.com). Although McLoughlin had been promised that he would be able to return to IPC, no stories were made available after the book project was finished.

After sending art samples, McLoughlin found stories to illustrate for the Scottish publishing firm D.C. Thomson and Co., Ltd., in 1974. He has been working for them ever since and contributed to just about all of their adventure titles (all of which are now defunct) including Wizard, Victor, Buddy, Crunch, Bullet, and Scoop. Primarily, however, McLoughlin's work appeared in Wizard. At his height with the company (October 22, 1977), five McLoughlin stories graced the pages of two Thomson titles, Wizard and Bullet. Perhaps the best regarded of McLoughlin's strips for Thomson were "Sign of the Shark" featuring x-agent Jake Jeffords, "The Green Lizard" which was a science fiction tale, and "The Shark" featuring the crew of a German E-Boat during World War II. Unfortunately, the days of the traditional British comic story paper were already numbered by the late-1970s and by 1983, most ceased publication. Denis drew two western features for the 1983 Look and Learn Annual before beginning his monthly stint for Thomson's Commando, a 64 page war comic digest which sees four issues released twice a month (96 issues a year). As of this writing, in early-1998, McLoughlin is still producing about one issue of Commando a month.

For additional information:

David Ashford and Denis McLoughlin, The Hardboiled Art of Denis McLoughlin, (Harrow, Middlesex, England, 1994), 80 pages illustrated in color and black and white. Distributed by Norman Wright, 60 Eastbury Road, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD1 4JL, England.

Francis Hertzberg, Illustrated by Denis McLoughlin, (Higher Bebington, Cheshire, England, 1977), 42 pages illustrated in black and white. Available from the author Francis Hertzberg, 48 Shalmarsh Road, Higher Bebington, Wirral, Cheshire, L63 2JZ, England.

Best of British Comics and Stories, (Memphis, Tennessee, 1998), 16 pages illustrated in black and white. Reprints a Roy Carson story from 1953. Available from Matthew H. Gore, 5136 Downs Drive, Memphis, Tennessee, 38135.

Denis Gifford, The International Book of Comics (London, 1984), a general overview of comics all over the world. Emphasis, however, is on England and the United States.

Information on the Web:

The Denis McLoughlin Web Site: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Hills/6569/DenisMc



Dudley Watkins
  • England/Scotland
  • HOF Nomination/Induction: 1997/1997
  • Born:February 27, 1907, Manchester, Lancashire
  • Died:August 20, 1969, Winsterly
  • Biography by Colin Stuart
From around the turn of the century onwards, almost all British comic artists laboured in anonymity. Comic papers were aimed entirely at the children's market, and were viewed with contempt by adults. While some artists were permitted to place a discreet set of initials on the pages they drew, others sought ingeniously to sneak their signatures past their editors concealed in the detail of their work, while still others were happy to keep their association with this despised medium as quiet as possible.

One exception to the rule was Dudley D. Watkins, whose name appeared in neatly lettered block capitals at the foot of thousands of impeccably drawn pages, in billions of printed impressions, from 1946 onwards. It was a privilege which made him undoubtedly the best known British comic artist of his time, and perhaps of all time; it was also a privilege richly deserved.

Dudley Dexter Watkins was born in Manchester, England on 27 February 1907, the eldest of three children; his family moved to Nottingham when he was a baby. The son of a lithographer, he showed early artistic talent; at the age of six, a drawing of a local pageant earned him a commendation from the mayor of Nottingham, and four years later his paintings were included in an exhibition in Nottingham Castle, to cries of "schoolboy genius" from a local newspaper.

In the early 1920s, Dudley took a job with the Nottingham-based company Boots the Chemist, and in 1923 his first published artwork appeared in Boots' staff magazine, The Beacon. The following year he took up full-time study at [Nottingham/ Glasgow?] School of Art, and in 1925 he was offered a position in the art department of Scottish publisher D.C. Thomson. He accepted, and moved to their Dundee base; he was to remain with the company for the rest of his life.

The city of Dundee, it is said, was built on "jam, jute and journalism", and the last part of this trinity was embodied by the family firm of D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd. From its beginnings in 1905, the hard-headed businessmen who ran the firm had achieved spectacular success by aiming their newspapers and magazines unashamedly at the mass market, and had displayed an unerring instinct for the popular taste. E.S. Turner observes: "Its newspapers and weekly journals had a down-to-earth, forthright quality; they made no pretence at aiming at a highbrow public." Couthy homespun philosophy, rather than intellectual rigour, was the formula for success.

In 1921, the huge British market for boys' story papers was dominated by Lord Northcliffe's vast London-based Amalgamated Press. Thomson moved into this territory with the launch of a new and brash weekly, Adventure; Amalgamated responded with Champion (1922), which quickly reached an impressive weekly sale of 500,000 copies. Nothing daunted, the Thomsons promptly riposted with Rover and Wizard (both 1922), and later Skipper (1930) and Hotspur (1933). Collectively Thomson's weeklies came to be known as the "Big Five", and enjoyed tremendous success - at its peak around 1937, the Wizard reportedly sold about 800,000 copies every week, and a 1940 survey found that the Big Five were more popular than any of their competitors among boys aged between 12 and 14.

It was on these boys' papers that Dudley Watkins went to work in 1925, and he found himself called upon to illustrate a huge range of adventure stories. He rose to the challenge, becoming the cover artist for the Rover, and also contributed many illustrations to Thomson's weekly Topical Times. His colleagues of the time recall him as a snappy dresser but rather taciturn, though given to the occasional religious pronouncement.

It was not until 1933 that Watkins turned his hand to comic strip work; his first effort was published in The Rover Midget Comic, given away free with Rover on 11 February. Even then he was merely filling in on the "P.C. 99" strip, usually drawn by another artist. Assignments on a couple of small filler strips in Adventure followed, but he was still considered to be an illustrator rather than a cartoonist.

This was to change on 8 March 1936, when Thomson's Sunday Post newspaper launched a comic supplement entitled The Fun Section. It featured jokes, puzzles and comic strips, but at its heart were two full-page strips, both drawn by Watkins, entitled "Oor Wullie" and "The Broons". He would draw both strips every week for the next 33 years until his death.

"Oor Wullie" follows the adventures and misadventures of a small boy, about 8 or 9 years old, with spiky blond hair and black dungarees. He does the usual things that small boys do in British comics - gets into trouble with his teachers and the local bobby, plays truant with his gang, breaks neighbours' windows (usually by accident), fights the local bullies, torments softies and swots, eats vast quantities of food and sweets, and studiously avoids the romantic attentions of the local girls. But his heart's in the right place, and he loves his Ma. Each strip begins and ends with Wullie sitting on his trademark upturned metal bucket.

"The Broons" is a domestic comedy-cum-soap-opera about a large, argumentative but close-knit family - Maw, Paw, and their 8 offspring ranging from adults in their twenties down to the Bairn, a toddler. Paw's father, Granpaw, also has a prominent role. The family live in a large flat in a tenement block in one of Scotland's cities -which one is always unspecified. Each member of the large cast has distinctive character traits, and cumulatively the strips present a rich and warm-hearted picture of Scottish urban life.

Both strips, written in broad Scots dialect, were hits; the Scottish public rapidly took them to their hearts, and there is little doubt that they played a major part in the paper's phenomenal success. In 1971, shortly after Watkins' death, the Sunday Post had an estimated readership of just under three million, a staggering 79 per cent of the adult population of Scotland.

The success of the strips, which were originated by Watkins and managing editor R.D. Low, encouraged D.C. Thomson to prepare a weekly comic paper, to be sold through the whole of Britain, not just Scotland. The result, on 4 December, 1937, was the first issue of The Dandy Comic, and Watkins was brought in to illustrate three of its features - "Our Gang" (licensed from the Hal Roach film series), "Smarty Grandpa" and "Desperate Dan".

The last of these was to become a classic of British comic art, and Watkins' most famous character. Initially just half a page long, the strip was quickly promoted to two-thirds of a page, and by the end of 1939 it was a full page long. Again, Watkins would continue to draw the strip until his death.

On his debut, Desperate Dan was a rough, tough, bad-tempered cowboy, strong enough to carry a horse on his back and break a tree trunk in half with a punch. However, he soon mellowed into an amiable if none too bright character gifted with super-human strength and invulnerability. Barrel-chested and lantern-jawed, he was so tough he had to use a blow torch to shave.

Over the years, Dan picked up a regular supporting cast, including his Aunt Aggie, nephew Danny and niece Katey (both of whom were also super-strong, though not to the same extent). Recurring gags too, including his favourite meal, cow pie (basically an entire cow in a giant pie dish, tail hanging over the edge, horns protruding through the pastry crust).

But the most striking feature of "Desperate Dan" was the strip's setting, Cactusville. Dan's home town was a weird hybrid of 20th century Britain and the old Wild West. The town boasted a sherriff with six-gun and stetson, but also a British bobby with helmet and notebook. Saloons and stagecoaches were juxtaposed with red pillar boxes and tram cars. None of these discrepancies was ever commented on, they were just there. The strip was packed with bizarre situations and surreal images, all meticulously rendered, and it was reportedly Watkins' favourite - the widow of Dandy editor Albert Barnes described how her husband (whose vast chin was reputedly the model for Dan's) and Watkins would spend hours in uproarious story conferences.

The Dandy was an immediate success, prompting Thomson to release The Beano Comic (1938) and The Magic Comic (1939). Both titles featured contributions by Watkins from the start - "Lord Snooty and his Pals" (the adventures of an aristocratic juvenile delinquent and his distinctly proletarian kid gang, destined to become another classic) in the Beano and "Peter Piper" in the Magic.

The outbreak of war with Germany in September 1939 brought an abrupt reversal to the expansion of D.C. Thomson's comics line. Restrictions on paper supplies meant that both Dandy and Beano were cut back from weekly to fortnightly publication, and the Magic quietly expired with its eightieth issue in January 1941.

There was, however, no diminution in Watkins' output. In addition to his regular assignments on Oor Wullie, The Broons, Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty, he was drawing numerous other features, including "Gulliver", "Peter Pye", "Dick Whittington", "Danny Longlegs", "Tom Thumb", "The Shipwrecked Circus", "Jimmy and his Magic Patch" and "Strang the Terrible". Some were short-lived, some he passed on to other artists after a few instalments, others continued intermittently for years.

By the late 1940s, Watkins' style had fully matured. His humour strip work was distinctive, economical and assured, and his adventure illustration combined the rich cross-hatched texture of the traditional British style with the dynamism of American comics. His mastery of expression, gesture and storytelling was complete, and he had proved his ability to cope with anything his editors threw at him, no matter how weird the concept or outlandish the storyline; the 1947 Dandy feature, "Our Teacher's a Walrus!", was perhaps the ultimate proof of this. By now he was quite invaluable to the Thomsons, and his style defined the look of their whole comics line.

It is reported that in the 1940s another publisher made strenuous efforts to woo Watkins away from Thomson. However, he remained loyal to the firm and it was perhaps in recognition of this that he became, in 1946, the only Thomson artist permitted to sign his work. He was also paid handsomely, well enough to be able to build himself a large house, which he named Winsterley, at the small seaside town of Broughty Ferry near Dundee.

Besides assigning him the new front cover feature of the Beano, "Biffo the Bear", in 1947, Thomson now found yet another avenue for Watkins' talents in a series of adaptations of classic adventure novels. Serialised in the weekly People's Journal, they included Stevenson's Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Catriona, Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Dumas' The Three Musketeers, and several others. These were successful enough that several were reprinted in book form, and again in Thomson's first new comic launch following the relaxation of paper restrictions, The Topper (1953). In addition to the classic serials, reprinted in colour on the back cover, Watkins also drew the new tabloid's front cover feature, "Mickey the Monkey".

The Topper proved to be another solid success, and it was duly followed in 1956 by a second weekly tabloid, The Beezer. Yet again, Watkins was assigned the front cover feature, "Ginger".

Despite his prodigious output for the Thomson weekly comics and papers, as well as his contributions to their Christmas annuals and, from 1963, summer specials Watkins still found time to pursue outside interests, mainly of a religious nature. He was an active member of the Church of Christ in Dundee, through which he had met his wife. He contributed artwork for mission calendars and the like and gave "chalk-talk" religious chats for children. From 1956 he also produced a comic strip, "William the Warrior" for The Young Warrior, a children's paper published by the Worldwide Evangelisation Crusade. These strips, featuring a schoolboy much given to scriptural quotations, were collected in a series of booklets.

Watkins also illustrated some Biblical features for Thomson annuals in the 1960s, and it was his ambition to adapt the Bible into illustrated format. That ambition remained unfulfilled. On 20 August 1969 he died of a heart attack while at work in his study at Winsterley.

One reason for the enforced anonymity of British comic artists was that publishers preferred to treat them as interchangeable cogs. Artists could never be permitted to assume greater importance than the characters whose exploits they portrayed, week in week out. It is perhaps a measure of the scale of Dudley D. Watkins' achievement that after his death his work on Oor Wullie and the Broons was reprinted every week in the Sunday Post for seven years before a replacement was found; in the case of Desperate Dan, it was fully fourteen years before new hands were to take on the weekly task. All three strips continue today drawn by Ken Harrison, a thoroughly accomplished artist who, like so many others, owes a huge stylistic debt to Dudley Watkins.

For additional information:

The Broons and Oor Wullie, 1936-1996. D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd, London, 1996. ISBN 0 85116 633 4.

The Legend of Desperate Dan. D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd, London, 1996. ISBN 0 85116 657 1.

Alan Clark, The Best of British Comic Art. Boxtree Ltd, London, 1989. ISBN 1 85283 264 9.

George Rosie, "The Warlocks of British Publishing", in The D.C. Thomson Bumper Fun Book</I>. Paul Harris Publishing (1976) Ltd, Edinburgh, 1977. ISBN 0 905882 01 6.

E.S. Turner, Boys Will Be Boys, 3rd edition. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1976. ISBN 0 14 004116 8.

Steve Holland, "British Comics", in The Comic Book Price Guide for Great Britain, 1994/1995 edition. Duncan McAlpine, London, 1994. ISBN 0 9516207 4 6.

Information on the Web:


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Last Updated 21-December-2001 mhgore@aol.com