Saturday 30 May 2020

The Knockout Art of Diving - Sinbad Simms

From April 1957 until May 1960, Knockout featured the adventures of Sinbad Simms, Shark Boy of the Seven Seas. Sinbad had rescued a baby shark which he named Jasper and who became his loyal companion. The original artist on the strip was Eric Roberts. In July 1958 he moved on to the Billy Bunter strip but a ten-page story featuring his art also appeared in the 1959 Knockout Annual, published in the autumn of 1958. The cover is by Art of Diving favourite Mike Western.

In 1964 Fleetway launched a new comic called The Big One. They were already publishing the tabloid-sized Buster so they went one better and The Big One was broadsheet-sized. Many of the strips were reprints and Sinbad Simms was one of them (Roberts' Mike, also from Knockout, here renamed Smiler, was another). The comic only lasted for 19 weeks before being merged with Buster and the reprints of Sinbad continued there (as Sinbad Simms and his Shark Pal, Jasper). The final issue of The Big one had an edited version of the strip from the Knockout Annual and I thought I'd share that here as well so you can see how 10 pages were edited down to a single page, albeit an oversized one.

Eric Roberts was born in South London in 1910. He studied at St. Martin's School of Art and began working for D.C. Thomson in 1937, drawing strips in The Dandy and The Beano. He joined the RAF in 1942 and his artistic talents were put to good use. During the late 40's and throughout the 1950's he worked for both the AP (Knockout, Film Fun) and Thomson's (The Dandy). In 1960 he began drawing Dirty Dick for The Dandy, followed by Winker Watson in 1961. From this point on he worked exclusively for Thomson's and produced 775 episodes of Winker Watson between 1961 and 1979. His last published work was in the Dandy Book 1981. Sadly lung cancer forced his retirement and he died in 1982.

Eric's daughter Erica wrote a lovely piece about her father for Peter Gray's blog. If you click on the label at the bottom of the piece you'll find further entries that Peter has written about Eric.

On his Blimey! blog, Lew Stringer featured some original Eric Roberts Billy Bunter artwork that has a diving angle. If I ever track down a copy of the published strip I'll feature it on the Art of Diving but in the meantime you can get a taste here.

Monday 25 May 2020

The Familiar Art of Diving - Weddell Seals of Antarctica

Just a quick one today. Last September I featured an article from Popular Mechanics about scientists diving beneath the ice in Antarctica to record the sounds made by Weddell Seals. Well it turns out that Look and Learn also did a piece an the same subject not long afterwards, although their article has a slightly broader theme. (Click for larger image).

Thursday 21 May 2020

The Knockout Art of Diving - Kelly's Eye

Six years ago today I launched this current iteration of The Art of Diving and I thought why not mark the occasion with the work of the man whose Valiant cover inspired me to start the blog - Mike Western. This strip is from the final issue of the long-running Knockout, published in February 1963, and appropriately it features a shark encounter.

Knockout was published by the Amalgamated Press/Fleetway from 1939 - 1963, running for 1,251 issues. It absorbed the story paper The Magnet and Comic Cuts along the way. Originally called The Knock-Out Comic, at various times the name changed to Knock-Out - the Victory Comic, Billy Bunter's Knockout and just plain Knockout.

In July 1962 Knockout had received the final revamp of its long run and saw the first appearance of Kelly's Eye. The strip told how Tim Kelly came to possess the Eye of Zoltec, a magical crystal that made him invulnerable. Originally drawn by Francisco Solano Lopez, Tom Kerr took over during the first story and continued with the second. For some reason this final instalment was drawn by Mike Western who had recently  been drawing a western (!) strip for Knockout in addition to his work in Buster. A possible reason might have been to allow Kerr to get a head start on the new three-page strip he would be drawing in the combined Valiant and Knockout. Western's McTavish of Red Rock would later be reprinted in Valiant (as The Laird of Lazy Q), as would several of his Buster strips. Kelly's Eye continued until 1974, once again drawn by Solano Lopez, and was my favourite strip when I read Valiant as a kid.

In future stories Tim Kelly was able to function underwater without diving gear, surviving quite happily thanks to the powers of the Eye of Zoltec. Presumably Trader Olsen hadn't realised this after stealing the stone from Tim. (Click for larger images).

Monday 18 May 2020

Look and Learn with the Art of Diving - The Wealth Beneath the Sea.

Ley Kenyon is a familiar name to long time Art of Diving followers and in 1964 he wrote and illustrated a seven-page feature in Look and Learn, featuring this impressive centre spread. The diver at top right wouldn't look out of place in the second Professor Jack Ransom strip that Kenyon wrote and drew for Rocket in the late 50s. (Click for a larger image).

You can see the entire feature here.

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Three of a Kind - The Frogmen

First published in 1951 The Frogmen is still in print and available as an e-book (the most recent edition (2014) is called Naval Frogmen). Here are just three of the many covers that have graced the book over the years. (Click for larger images).

This Pan paperback edition was first published in 1954 and appears to be signed by John Berry.

This Norwegian edition is from 1957.

The first US paperback edition was published in 1959 at a cost of 35c so judging by the cover price I'd say this edition is from the 1960's.

Saturday 9 May 2020

When in Doubt - Sharks!

I couldn't decide on a subject for this post so I just gathered some random shark illustrations!

Ranger was a short-lived boys' magazine that featured a mix of comic strips, text stories and educational features. It was the original home of the popular science-fiction strip The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire. Ranger ran for 40 issues before merging with Look and Learn. This early cover is by James E. McConnell.

This is the first issue of Gold Key's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea comic based on Irwin Allen's TV series. The cover might be by prolific Gold Key artist George Wilson but I'm not 100% sure about that.

This Men in Action dates from 1955. I'm still trying to work out which of those titles the cover illustration applies to!

This Man's Conquest is also from 1955. I think that fella's going to need a bigger knife!

I don't know who painted this Frogmen cover but I like the light effect on the shark.

Now, I know this next cover doesn't feature a shark - although I think the lady with the spear-gun looks meaner than any of the sharks on the other covers here! - but bear with me.

Twist of the Knife was the US title of Victor canning's His Bones Are Coral. The cover above is by Charles Copeland. The book was given yet another title when it was re-issued in the UK in  1968.

In 1967 it was turned into a film starring Burt Reynolds, which appeared in cinemas in 1969. Originally to be called Twist of the Knife, director Samuel Fuller rewrote the script and changed the title to Caine after Reynolds' character. The film caused controversy when one of the stuntmen, Jose Marco, was attacked and killed by a shark. A photo spread appeared in Life magazine and the producers changed the title to Shark to cash in on the publicity. They also re-edited the film without Fuller's involvement and refused his demand that they remove his name.

The film was re-released in 1975 as Man-Eater following the success of Jaws. Sadly the advertising once again concentrated on Jose Marco's death.