Tuesday 7 June 2011

Giorgio D' Gaspari - More of the Missing Jewels

More and more of Giorgio D' Gaspari's exquisite art from the golden years of Fleetway pocket libraries is surfacing. D' Gaspari's first UK pocket library covers appeared in Fleetway's Thriller Picture Library. It was almost happenstance that his covers began to dominate the earliest issues of War Picture Library. Happenstance insofar as many of the earliest issues of War Picture Library were originally scheduled as Thriller Picture Library specials, or Battler Britton issues. A case in point being Fight Back to Dunkirk, which was originally to be titled Dunkirk and run in Thriller Picture Library. You can detect some of the Battler Britton issues, The Gallant Few being an interesting case, where Britton was relegated to a mentor'esque role to the young flight sergeant upon whom the story hinges. It has to be stressed that Battler Britton was the sort of chap that would take on the entire Whermacht with nothing more than his bare fists and a line of jolly repartee. This was in jarring contrast to the much more character driven and gritty scripts which became the staple of War Picture Library and it's successors, Battle and Air Ace Picture Libraries. Nowhere is the contrast between the two schools of writing more evident than the Battler Britton script that ended up in Air Ace Picture Library under the title Flash Point, where even the superb artwork of Joe Colquhoun and a cover by Pino Del Lorco failed to elevate this issue from being one of the worst of the entire run of Air Ace comics.

The story was reprinted in the otherwise excellent collection of Air Ace stories edited by none other than Steve Holland titled Aces High and again it's the only truly duff story in the collection, but I suspect that Steve was as beguiled by Joe Colquhoun's peerless artwork as I am, which makes it at least worth skimming through.

Anyway enough of my waffle, here's some more D'Gaspari artwork:


  1. On D'Gaspari's early work for the Fleetway libraries it's interesting to check out the venerable Sexton Blake series as well - particularly this issue I recently picked up from 1958, some months before War Picture Library made its debut:


    You may also experience an odd sense of deja vu in looking at this cover (sourced from the excellent Blakiana site) as - unless I'm very much mistaken - it was later reused for an issue of WPL itself!

  2. In fact I think it was the last of the D'Gaspari inventory that was used as a War Picture Library cover Phil.

    I'm wondering about showing some of the pages from "Flash Point" and some of the other stories that reveal the Battler Britton connection with WPL and Air Ace.

    Certainly the cover to Wings of Victory (WPL No. 2) fits seamlessly into the Thriller Picture Library canon of Patrick Nicolle Battler Britton covers.

    I should mention that David Roach was the source of this fascinating insight into the genesis of War Picture Library.

  3. It's a shame Colquhoun didn't produce more work directly for the Picture Libraries. On the other hand I do think his Paddy Payne strips for Lion tended to be of a much higher standard than Battler Britton's exploits - even though both characters belonged to the same school of wartime superheroics that culminated in the appalling Captain Hurricane!

  4. Ahhhh yes Phil - Captain Hurricane.

    Worthy of a post all to himself.

    But not on this blog...