Tuesday 7 October 2014

The Art of Diving with Dolphins - Swordfish Attack!

Today I'm going to feature a complete story from the 1962 Topper Annual (published in 1961) which has nothing to do with the popular marine mammal. Apologies to any dolphin lovers out there!

The Diving Dolphins features characters seen in a strip called Lucky Dicky Dolphin that had originally appeared in the weekly comic in 1955. It told of the adventures of Skipper Dolphin and his two children, Sue and Dicky. Sue often seemed to get unfairly side-lined in a lot of stories but she's in the thick of the action here.

The gorgeous colour artwork seen here is by Ron Smith. Born in 1924, he began studying engineering before flying Spitfires during World War II. After the war he worked at the Gaumont British animation studio where his co-workers included Mike Western and Eric Bradbury, both featured previously in this blog. In 1949 he began his career at the Amalgamated Press drawing humour strips in Knockout. His first adventure work was an adaptation of the Burt Lancaster film The Flame and the Arrow.

In 1952 he moved to Dundee and joined the staff of D.C. Thomson & Co where he worked across the entire range of boys' and girls' comics. In 1972 he moved to Surrey and went freelance but continued to work for D.C. Thomson, primarily on the Hotspur where he drew characters such as The Cowboy Cricketer, Nick Jolly and King Cobra, a superhero that he created and persuaded Thomson's to publish. In 1979 he began illustrating Judge Dredd for 2000AD. He was a lot faster than some of the other Dredd artists and soon became one of the character's main contributors, also drawing the newspaper strip that appeared in the Daily Star. He also worked for a number of other IPC titles before retiring in the 1990s.

In the story featured here, Smith has included some interesting looking dive gear. Twin cylinders, twin-hose regulators with lots of detail at the base of the cylinders, but he also makes the same mistake as the likes of Dan DeCarlo and has the hoses coming directly out of the cylinders without a first stage to reduce the pressure. We also see the Dolphins go shooting to the surface on the last page! Still, I'm sure the thousands of kids who opened their Topper Annual on Christmas Day 1961 didn't care about that and just enjoyed the beautifully drawn underwater action.

(Click on the images for larger scans)

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