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Friday, March 06, 2015

Comic Cuts - 6 March 2015

The decision to print the Don Lawrence Scrapbook in China has meant completely reworking everything I've done to date. We're moving to a slightly different size, American Letter rather than A4. It's slightly squatter and slightly wider, which meant redesigning everything from scratch. I used a lot of the same layouts, but took the opportunity to make a few changes, adding a few pages to the introduction which I've expanded from 26 pages to 30 pages. I also dropped some of the pictures, which I'll now use elsewhere in the book, and added quite a few new ones—56 illustrations has become 68 illustrations, of which 24 were new. Hopefully you begin to understand why this book is taking so long to put together.

I will say here that I'm happier with the book now than I was before. Not that there was anything wrong with the earlier version... but adding these new illustrations gives a more thorough historical overview of Don's career and, hopefully, will introduce people to a lot of strips and illustrations they've never seen. I'm now getting down to the bulk of the book and will hopefully have some good news on its progress by this time next week.

I've been working on the Don Lawrence Scrapbook to the exclusion of almost everything else. I took a couple of days off to put together the Oliver Brabbins posts for Bear Alley because I needed a break but I still didn't have enough time to make the gallery itself—Thursday's post—very extensive. What I'll do today is forget the usual random scans and instead just spend a few hours cleaning up covers and adding them to the Brabbins gallery. So scroll down and you'll find some new illustrations to enjoy.

Last week, 2000AD celebrated its 38th birthday with the release of a free 'Origins' digital download featuring the debut stories of a number of different characters. One is actually a debut from another paper as 'Strontium Dog' first appeared in Starlord. While I was thinking about this fantastic series, I stumbled across the news that there is to be a fan-film, not for profit and unconnected to 2000AD or Rebellion A/S. Written and directed by Steven Sterlacchini and Steve Green, the creators behind the recent Judge Minty film (see below) set in the Judge Dredd universe.

The film's Facebook page has carried the news recently that the film's actors have been involved in a costume test day, from which a couple of posters have been put together to introduce the characters. The cast includes Matthew Simpson as Johnny Alpha and Kevin Horsham as Wulf Sternhammer. Harvey and Middenface McNulty have also been cast.



I'm planning to hand over Bear Alley to Jeremy Briggs, who will be writing about 'Danny Dare' tomorrow. Next week we should have an article about Charles Fox by Robert Kirkpatrick plus the increasingly irregular Recent and Upcoming releases columns.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Oliver Brabbins Cover Gallery

This is a far from complete, chronological gallery of Brabbins's book covers.

Valley of Death by W. R. Hutton
Hamilton & Co., Dec 1946, 9d.
Futuristic Stories #2
Hamilton & Co., Dec 1946, 1/-.

Strange Adventures #2
Hamilton & Co., Jan 1947, 1/-.

Gun Treachery by Bruff Curfew
Hamilton & Co., Mar 1948, 1/-.

Rustlers of the Rockies by David C. Steele
Hamilton & Co., Jul 1948.

Trigger Serenade by Jed Brady
Forsyte Press, Mar 1949.

Back-Alley Blonde by Griff
Modern Fiction, Jan 1952, 2/6.

Too Tough to Live by Griff
Modern Fiction, Feb 1952, 2/-.

Spanish Holiday by Phyllis Sutton
Pinnacle Books, 1952, 2/-.

Love Bade Me Come by John Lodwick
Pan Books 340, Jun 1955.

The Clue of the New Shoe by Arthur Upfield
Pan Books 355, Sep 1955.

Hatred, Ridicule or Contempt by Joseph Dean
Pan Books 362, Nov 1955.

This Kill Is Mine by Dean Evans
Graphic Books 131, 1956.

Murder—Very Dry by Samm Sinclair Baker
Graphic Books 135, 1956.

Killer's Choice by Stuart Brock
Graphic Books 136, 1956.

The Corpse Next Door by John Farris
Graphic Books 138, 1956.

Fair Prey by Will Duke
Graphic Books 142, 1956.

Little Caesar by W. R. Burnett
Corgi Books S455, 1957, 188pp, 2/6.

Prey for Me by Thomas B. Dewey
Corgi Books S473, 1957.

Spin the Glass Web by Max Ehrlich
Corgi Books S479, 1957.

Lawrence of Arabia by Richard Aldington
Four Square Books 3, Oct 1957.

The Foxes of Harrow by Frank Yerby
Four Square Books 12, Jan 1958.

Dagger Before Me by Manning O'Brine
Corgi Books S493, 1958.

Chain of Death by Sterling Noel
Corgi Books S525, 1958.

The Second Book of Crime-Craft by Helen McCloy & Brett Halliday
Corgi Books S535, 1958, 189pp.

High Sierra by W. R. Burnett
Corgi Books S536, 1958, 221pp, 2/6.

Man Alone! by V. G. C. Norwood
Corgi Books S539, 1958.

Top of the Heap by A. A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)
Corgi Books S548, 1958.

Guerrilla by Ira Wolfert
Corgi Books S579, 1958.

The Dark Window by Thomas B. Walsh
Corgi Books S619, 1958, 159pp, 2/6.

The Fight by Vernon Scannell
Corgi Books S626, 1958.

Tomorrow's Another Day by W. R. Burnett
Corgi Books S654, 1959, 188pp, 2/6.

Lead With Your Left by Ed Lacy
Corgi Books S670, 1959, 187pp.

Two for Inspector West by John Creasey
Hodder 309, 1959.

The Toff and the Deep Blue Sea by John Creasey
Hodder ???, 1959.

Venetian Blind by William Haggard
Corgi Books SC861, 1960.

The Tyler Mystery by Francis Durbridge
Hodder Paperbacks 436, 1960

The Scarf by Francis Durbridge
Hodder Paperbacks, 1962, 191pp, 2/6.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Oliver Brabbins Checklist (part 2)

The following list encompasses Oliver Brabbins's output of covers for major publishers, the bulk of them from 1955 onwards.

Arrow Books
200 Green Willow by Ethel Mannin (Jun 1950)

Pinnacle Books
1 Claudia by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
4 Young Claudia by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
6 From Claudia to David by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
Spanish Holiday by Phyllis Sutton (1952)

Pan Books
340 Love Bade Me Come by John Lodwick (Jun 1955)
341 Death at Half-Term by Josephine Bell (Jun 1955)
355 The Clue of the New Shoe by Arthur Upfield (Sep 1955)
362 Hatred, Ridicule or Contempt by Joseph Dean (Nov 1955)
365 Surface! by Alexander Fullerton (Jun 1956)

Graphic Books (US)
131 This Kill Is Mine by Dean Evans (1956)
135 Murder—Very Dry by Samm Sinclair Baker (1956)
136 Killer's Choice by Stuart Brock (1956)
138 The Corpse Next Door by John Farris (1956)
142 Fair Prey by Will Duke (1956)

Panther Books
719 Warrant for a Wanton by Michael Gillian (Sep 1957)

Four Square Books
3 Lawrence of Arabia by Richard Aldington (Oct 1957)
4 And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov (Oct 1957)
12 The Foxes of Harrow by Frank Yerby (Jan 1958)
13 A Woman Called Fancy by Frank Yerby (Feb 1958)

Corgi Books
S455 Little Caesar by W. R. Burnett (1957)
S462 Blind Date by Leigh Howard (1957)
S465 Run to Death by Patrick Quentin (1957)
S473 Prey for Me by Thomas B. Dewey (1957)
S479 Spin the Glass Web by Max Ehrlich (1957)
489 Second Ending by Evan Hunter (1957)
S493 Dagger Before Me by Manning O'Brine (1958)
T505  Night Man by Allan Ullman, from the screenplay by Lucille Fletcher (1958)
S525 Chain of Death by Sterling Noel (1958)
S535 The Second Book of Crime-Craft by Helen McCloy & Brett Halliday (1958)
S536 High Sierra by W. R. Burnett (1958)
S539 Man Alone by Victor Norwood (1958)
S548 Top of the Heap by Erle Stanley Gardner (1958)
S579 Guerrilla by Ira Wolfert (1958)
S619 The Dark Window by Thomas B. Walsh (1958)
S626 The Fight by Vernon Scannell (1958)
S654 Tomorrow's Another Day by W. R. Burnett (1959)
S670 Lead With Your Left by Ed Lacy (1959)
SC728 The Wife of the Red-Haired Man by Bill S. Ballinger (1959)
SC743 A Shadow in the Wild by Whit Masterson (1959)
SC799 The Kind of Guy I Am by Robert McAllister & Floyd Miller (1960)
SC861 Venetian Blind by William Haggard (1960)

Ward Lock Target Books
Dead Orchid by David Lawrence (1958)

Ward Lock (hardback dust jackets)
Raid by J. B. O'Sullivan (1958)
? Widow's Pique by Blair Treynor (1958)
One Night of Murder by Hamish Boyd (1959)
Danger in the Dark by Patricia Carlon (1962)

Hodder
309 Two For Inspector West by John Creasey (1959?)
??? The Toff and the Deep Blue Sea by John Creasey
436 The Tyler Mystery by Francis Durbridge (1960)
??? The Scarf by Francis Durbridge (1960)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Oliver Brabbins Checklist (Part 1)

The following checklist encompasses Oliver Brabbins' output of covers at the cheaper end of the paperback market in the period up to 1954.

Hamilton & Co.
Valley of Death by W. Richard Hutton (Dec 1946)
Futuristic Stories No.2 (Dec 1946)
Strange Adventures No.2 (Jan 1947)
The Prairie Trail by Joel Johnson (Feb 1947)
Reckless Journey by John Eagle (1947)
Blazing Guns by N. Wesley Firth (1947)
Open Holsters by N. Wesley Firth (1947)
? Orchid Lady by Sheila A. Firth (1948?)
Broadway Racket by W. R. Hutton (1948?)
Wayward Wife by Ann Lemorris (1948?)
Skeleton Canyon by Lance Netton (1948)
Redheads Are Poison by Bevis Winter (1948)
Gun Treachery by Bruff Curfew (Mar 1948)
Thundering Hooves by Frank Griffin (Jul 1948)
Arizona Rangers by Denis Hughes (Jul 1948)
Rusters of the Rockies by David C. Steele (Jul 1948)
Enchanted Love by June Bryony (Sep 1948)
Smoking Guns by Bert Forde (Dec 1948)
Dangerous Bachelor by Jean Wattson (Jan 1949)
Love's Dilemma by June Bryony (1949?)
Love's Desire by Carrie Lancaster (1949?)
Operator from Chicago by Duff Johnson (Jan 1950) as 'G'
East-Side Assignment by Ross Kirby (Jan 1950) as 'G'
No Dice Sister by Bart Carson (1950?) as 'G'
Ransom for Miss Le Grun by Bruno Schwarz (1950) as 'G'

Grant Hughes
Guns and Saddles by Earl Ellison (Feb 1948)
Rough Riders by W. R. Hutton (1948)
The Fighting Sheriff by Morton T. Cayne (May 1948)
Black Stage Canyon by Denis Hughes (May 1948)
Riders of Ghost Valley by Joel Johnson (May 1948)
Dead Man's Creek by Rex Noland (Jun 1948)
He Was My Master by William Newton (Dec 1948)
Brand of the Outlaw by Jackson Evans (Jan 1949)

Maurice Hall
Fifth Avenue Number (1948?)

Bear Hudson
Thrilling Romances No.4 (Jul 1948)
Rip-Roaring Western (Aug 1948)

Paget Publications
Frame Up by Johnny Mack (1948)
Showdown by Johnny Mack (1948)
Paget's 1/- Westerns 1-4 (1948-49)
Of Sterner Stuff by Gaston Clair (Sep 1948)
Fall Guy by Johnny Mack (Sep 1948)
Shakedown by Johnny Mack (Sep 1948)
Come Live with Me by Sylvia Silk (Sep 1948)
Apache Arroyo by Buck Connor (Nov 1948)
Gunsmoke in Rimrock by Chuck Leroy (Nov 1948)
Pay-Off by Johnny Mack (Dec 1948)
Shamus by Johnny Mack (Dec 1948)
Harem Girl by Pat Reagan (Dec 1948)
Two Loves for Tricia by Sylvia Silk (Dec 1948)
Written in Sand by Louis Arthur Cunningham (Mar 1949)
Body in the Boathouse by Johnny Mack (Mar 1949)
The Riddle in Wax by Frank Peppe (Mar 1949)
Murder of a Musician by "Capstan" (Aug 1949)
Dancing with Danger by Peter Webb (Sep 1951)

Forsyte Press
Trigger Serenate by Jed Brady (Mar 1949)

Tempest Publishing
I'll Hire the Hearse by Michael Lisle (1949)

Curtis Warren
Girls for Sale by Nick Baroni (1950?)
? High Heels and Scanties by Nick Baroni (1950)
Miss Susan Regrets by Brett Vane (1950)
Shapely Lady by Nick Baroni (1951)

Park Trading Co.
Hollywood Number (1950?)

Arrow Books
200 Green Willow by Ethel Mannin (Jun 1950) 

Scion
Waterfront Rat by Danny Spade (Apr 1951) as Gilmore
Easy Come, Easy Go by Al Bocca (May 1951) as Gilmore
Some Stay Dumb by Dint Maddox (May 1951) as Gilmore
Move Fast, Brother! by Danny Spade (May 1951) as Gilmore
Double Snatch by Gray Usher (May 1951) as Gilmore
You Don’t Say! by Hans Lugar (Sep 1951) as Gilmore
The Lady Says When by Dail Ambler (Sep 1952)
Live Till You Die by Ross Angel (Sep 1952)
Nothing to Hide by Nick Perrelli (Sep 1952)
Corpse at College by Max Risco (Nov 1952)

Beacon Publishing
Chicago Strip Tease by Ben Sarto (1951)
A Street Woman by Paul Renin (Nov 1951)

Modern Fiction
Back-Alley Blonde by Griff (Jan 1952)
Too Tough to Live by Griff (Feb 1952)
That Room in Camden Town by Griff (Oct 1952)

Pinnacle Books
1 Claudia by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
4 Young Claudia by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
6 From Claudia to David by Rose Franken (Apr 1952)
Spanish Holiday by Phyllis Sutton (1952)

Gannet Press
Tough Dames Don't Cry by Bud Cagson (Jun 1953)

Atlantic Books
Battle of Devil Hole by Arthur Groom (Apr 1954)

Monday, March 02, 2015

Oliver Brabbins

Oliver Gilmore Brabbins was born in Toxteth Park, Lancashire, on 2 May 1912. He was the eldest child of Oliver Brabbins (1881-1942), a Liverpool-born house painter who, at the age of 30, had married 24-year-old Irish girl, Serena Radcliffe Gilmore (1887-1951).

Oliver grew up in Toxteth Park where his sister Patricia was born in 1918. She subsequently married, in 1942, a Norwegian sailor named Finn Osker Gjersoe. She continued to live in Liverpool, although her death (in 2006) was registered in Warrington, aged 88.

He trained at the Liverpool School of Art. In 1939, on the outbreak of war, BrabbinsIn January 1942 he joined the Royal Navy and for the majority of his service worked as an artist in the Royal Naval Film Unit, producing paintings and drawings for educational films. 

Of Oliver's early career, little is known. After training at the Liverpool School of Art he moved to London. He was living at 16 Doughty Street, St Pancras, London W.C.1, when the Second World War began in 1939 and joined the St Pancras ARP as a Stretcher Bearer and served throughout the Blitz and subsequent air raids on London.

Brabbins then joined the Royal Navy and worked for the bulk of his service as an artist in the Royal Navy Film Unit, producing paintings and drawings for educational films.

After the war, Brabbins lived at various addresses in London: 23 Oakley Street, Chelsea [fl.1947/48], 71 Eardley Crescent, Earls Court [fl.1948] and Flat 5, 8 Avonmore Road, London W.14 [fl.1950/63] before he moved to 1 Trinity Crescent, Tooting Bec, London S.W.17, in around 1963 or 1964, which is where he remained until his death.
Brabbins was a prolific painter and watercolours, acryllic and oil paintings often come up for auction. His earliest surviving works date from the war, oil paintings of a minesweeper's wheelhouse (part of the Imperial War Museum collection) and a submarine's torpedo room (at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) date from 1944 and 1945 respectively.

Some of the artists' early post-war travels can be followed through his paintings, which include a harbour scene at Oslo dated 1946 and a canal in Amsterdam dated 1947.

In the late 1940s, Brabbins became involved with the burgeoning cheap paperback industry, supplying covers especially to Hamilton & Co., with whom he was associated for two years between 1946-48. Brabbins' earliest known cover (Valley of Death by W. Richard Hutton) was followed by two odd science fiction covers for Hamiltons' Futuristic Stories and Strange Adventures and a slew of romantic and western covers.

Brabbins also produced covers for Grant Hughes, Bear Hudson and Curtis Warren—all related one way or another to Hamilton—and was a regular cover artist for Paget Publications in 1948-49 (one later cover may have been left over from this period).

As the decade turned, Brabbins found work with other publishers, including Arrow Books, Modern Fiction, W. H. Allen (Pinnacle Books) and Scion Ltd. A painting of the Coronation was presumably executed in 1953 and one of Shoreham Yacht Club dates from 1954, proving that Brabbins did not limit himself solely to book covers during this period.

A 1955 passenger manifest notes a trip to Montreal, Canada, and another trip took Brabbins to America for four months in 1956. Whilst in America, Brabbins took the opportunity to travel and one of his paintings, a watercolour over pen and ink drawing of Orleans Street in New Orleans, dated 1956, was sold in 2004.

The trip may be responsible for the sudden appearance of a number of covers by Brabbins from a New York paperback outfit named Graphic Books. According to Kevin Smith's Thrilling Detective website, the company was "Run by Samuel Tankel and Zane Bouregy, Graphic Books was a short-lived New York publisher of paperback originals, mostly mysteries, that thrived from about 1949 to 1957. Now mostly recalled for their deliciously sleazy covers, not their literary merit."

The association did not last long, which was a pattern of Brabbins's work. The Canada trip may have been paid for by sales to Pan Books in early 1955, but his output for that company amounted to only a handful of titles. His brief contributions to Panther Books and Four Square Books may be explained by a lengthier and more productive association with Corgi Books, which was his main publisher in the late 1950s, although more research may reveal that he was also a prolific dust jacket illustrator for Ward Lock and Hodder & Stoughton, both of whom certainly published a few of his covers in the same period.

Brabbins's output seems to have tailed off in the 1960s. It is certain that he continued to paint—examples of undated portraits, pictures of film stars and still life subjects have come up for auction over the years—but his output of book covers certainly seems to have slowed down and he may have turned to other markets. Illustrations for women's magazines, for example. He is known to have contributed to Woman's Realm in the 1960s.

Of his life outside his artwork nothing is known. He appears to have never married and the only story I have heard of a meeting with the artist dates from around 1968 and paints a rather sorry picture of the man: a curmudgeon living in a gone-to-seed house in Tooting, South London. Brabbins owned an old Bentley that had seen better days and needed extensive repairs to the coachwork, rotten through years of neglect in a damp garage. As time went on, it became clear that the artist did not have the means to pay for the repairs, so offered to paint a portrait of the mechanic doing the work. The painting was a long time coming, but eventually was hung in the home of the mechanic's mother.

The changing style of book covers caused many artists difficulties in the 1960s. Some were able to adapt and find new markets; unfortunately, Oliver Brabbins appears to have struggled in his final years, which ended with his death on 15 June 1973, aged only 61.