As you may or may not be aware, David Fickling the guy behind the eponymous DFC comic and arguably the only U.K. publisher with a real mission statement to create comic albums of originality and verve to equal those in the rest of Europe is launching a new series of albums based on some of the strips to appear in the now late lamented DFC. The first three, Mezolith, Spidermoon and Good Dog, Bad Dog go on sale next April and I would urge anybody remotely interested in graphic novels to check them out and even order them - they're all great and will be a real quality addition to any comic enthusiast's shelf space.
I did hear an interview with David Fickling in which he cited the comics of his youth as being one one of the dynamics behind him wanting to revive the fortunes of this art form in the UK. He mentioned in particular Boy's World and a comic strip titled "Wrath of the Gods". Scripted by Michael Moorcock it ran in the centre pages of the comic and was a spectacular tour de force, not only because of Moorcock's intensely suspenseful and it has to be said dark script but because of the truly stunning artwork by one Ronald Sidney Embleton.
Hearing that David Fickling had been as awestruck by this strip as I was reminded me of what a huge impact Ron Embleton's art had on my early youth. I was first introduced to his work via my ever indulgent dad who bought me a copy of Express Weekly which featured Embleton's Wulf the Briton as it's lead story. Embleton by this stage in his career had been working over ten years in the industry having cut his teeth with a variety of comic strips for small, schlocky publishers in post war London since the age of sixteen. By the time he embarked on Wulf at the age of twenty six he was a real veteran and sufficiently confident to undertake drawing two whole pages of Wulf the Briton a week, in addition to scripting and lettering the thing and - unbelievably - still taking on other work.
This was in complete contrast to Frank Hampson who would have been handsomely rewarded (at least in the short term) for his Dan Dare strip. But Hampson ever mindful of the grand project and dreaming of royalties and liscensing deals that were destined to never happen for him, would dissipate his resources on assistants, models, a studio - the list goes on. Embleton ever the pragmatist, just did the work.
The pages were drawn half to twice up and in the early days of the strip were rendered with brush and ink (latterly he did use a pen as well) over layers of carefully worked up coloured ink, with details etched out with opaque gouache. The overall effect was simply stunning, the guy could draw like a God and nothing was beyond his abilities. I spent most of my formative years wanting to be able to draw like Ron Embleton he was to my mind simply peerless in terms of illustration.
There's no doubt about it but with artists such as Embleton, Bellamy and Frank Hampson, U.K. comics were a force to be reckoned with in the late fifties and early sixties, fifty years later and with some of the talents out there at the moment there's no reason why we can't achieve a similar renaissance - so go and order those DFC albums.
The next issue of Doctor Who Magazine...
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