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).

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