Sunday 25 April 2010

D.J.s and Bloodhounds - More McLoughlin Magic

With yesterday's posting of some truly fabulous Denis McLoughlin 'noire' paperback covers, I thought it might be fun to show you some of the equally amazing dustjacket covers he did for the Boardman Bloodhound series.
Essentially the same genre, in fact many of the paperback covers enabled the artist to revisit the same text and provide yet another interpretation to it as in the example of June Truesdell's "Be Still My Love", which he also  reworked in terms of content and setting for "The Corpse on the Hearth".

It's unfortunate that more attention hasn't been devoted to McLoughlin's noire art, whereas his comics and Buffalo Bill annuals are relatively familiar to many comic collectors as good as these are they frequently overshadowed by the the comic strip work of artists such as Don Lawrence, Ron Embleton Frank Hampson and Frank Bellamy. McLoughlin's art noire on the other hand is simply untouchable and in terms of inventiveness, design sense,  handling and creation of typography, atmosphere, and sheer storytelling in one effective and punchy image he is Mr Untouchable.

And here's why:

P.S. Anyone recognise the model for "Private Eyeful"?


  1. You're right Garen!!!


    I nearly put a photo of Diana up but decided on the teaser instead.

    The face on "The Big Fix" is Denis himself and he used both himself and his wife Dorothy for a lot of the dramatis personae who inhabit these covers.

    He also used to comb through a lot of those U.S. True Crime type magazines for mug shots of various ne'er do wells, which gives that added edge of sleaze to his characters.

  2. Fantastic stuff - I can't wait to see the book! With Mcloughlin working as a one-man art department at Boardman, the great Eric Parker bringing the world of Sexton Blake to life at AP and Ron Turner cornering the market in Science Fiction covers, readers of genre paperbacks were positively spoiled throughout the 1950s!

    As for his strip work being frequently overshadowed by Hampson, et al., however, I'd say that only really applies to his post 1950s art. To my mind the best of his Roy Carson, Swift Morgan and Buffalo Bill stories bear comparison with *anything* that was being produced on either side of the Atlantic at the same time. The problem is that most people today are likely to be more familiar with his later IPC work on strips like Saber (which imho tended to be almost overdrawn for the size at which it was reproduced, and often ended up a bit too lush for its own good) and of course his more recent contributions to Commando - which, though remarkable for a man in his eighties, were nevertheless quite dull when compared with his own earlier standards.

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  4. Hmmmmm ... well Phil, I think (to be awkward and devil's advocate), I'd still stick with my original postulation, even the best of McLoughlin's Buffalo Bill, Roy Carson and Swift Morgan strips pale when compared to Frank Bellamy's Heros the Spartan, Fraser of Africa, Embleton's Wulf or Lawrence's strips.

    But and it is a very important but, none of the above could have achieved what McLoughlin did when it came to the Boardman crime fiction covers, the 'noire' cover example I posted a few months ago by Ron Embleton is seriously good but not in the same league as McLoughlin's covers.

    I think my contention is that McLoughlin's natural strengths lay in the sense of design and atmosphere he brought to those covers, rather than his comic strip work, although I think it's very good it's just not in the same league as his 'noire' work.

    Hopefully one day there will be a book devoted to all his covers in this genre - they have much more resonance with a much broader audience than a lot of the work that has already been reprised.

    Hookers, hoodlums and wiseguys are a perennial source of attraction - they represent a kind of liberation from the mediocrity of the here and now and a two fingers up to the system.

    McLoughlin's work in this regard is truly ageless

  5. In my 'umble opinion.

    I do enjoy being devil's advocate.

  6. ...Aw, you're right of course Peter: virtually nothing could trump Bellamy - particularly on Heros the Spartan! (though I'd be interested in your opinion of the Roy Carson page I'm sending you: as far as I'm concerned it holds two fingers up to the system just as effectively as any of McLoughlin's 'noire' covers; I only wish these stories were more widely available today)

  7. Brilliant as ever , theBig Fix and Narrow Gauge are my personal faves.Really look forward to these posts I'm a massive fan of McLoughlin since you started posting these last year.

  8. One thing I really appreciate about your blog Peter is that even when it highlights material I'm already familiar with your insightful thoughts frequently lead me to reassess my opinion of it. In the case of McLoughlin I must confess that I don't own a great deal of his Boardman comics work (including only one original Roy Carter and a handful of Buffalo Bill Annuals) - however your comments have inspired me to dig them out and I've come to the conclusion that...on the whole you're probably right!!! The thing is that Denis was clearly a brilliant designer of single illustrations, with a natural talent for lettering, but when it came to putting these alongside each other within a comic strip there's rarely any visual continuity at all: in effect he was placing one self-contained drawing after another.

    Having said that I would still argue that his Buffalo Bill Annuals are outstanding for the dramatic blending of words and pictures in their splash panels, which at the time were only equalled by Will Eisner's Spirit - and in later years, perhaps, by Jim Steranko's SHIELD.

    Of course that's just my opinion: I'll quite understand if you continue to differ. :-)

  9. Oh no, I think in the case of the Buffalo Bill Annuals they are true labors of love and in fact are more pleasing than the three Birn Western Annuals Ron Embleton did in the early fifties and that's high praise indeed.

    My only reservation about the spotlight being forever focused on his Buffalo Bill Annuals, is that most comics fans are already familiar with them in fact they're still not THAT difficult to track down.

    But westerns like that were a thing of the fifties and I doubt that McLoughlin's Buffalo Bills have the universality of his "noire" work and for me, if I was given the choice of either all McLoughlin's Boardman crime novels or everything else that he did with which to cram my shelves, I'd go for the noire stuff everytime.

    Ultimately (imo) it's just so goddam cool.

  10. There are no arguments from me about the extreme coolness factor of those covers Peter.

    To be honest I wasn't much of a fan of McLoughlin at all until I began to discover his 1950s output quite recently (Westerns didn't really do it for me as a kid and I never much cared for his later strips such as Saber). You could be right that most comics fans are already familiar with his BB Annuals, but I suspect that a blog post on the splash panels (particularly the later ones) would come as something of a surprise to many of your regular followers. To my mind McLoughlin's feel for, and love of, the American West was equally as strong as his affinity with the crime noire genre, and it's significant that both allowed him to give full reign to his typographic genius.