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16 February 2019

Artist Graeme Neil Reid talks Commando (covers)

It's been a while since I last caught up with illustrator Graeme Neil Reid (our last chat can be found here) - in fact since then Graeme has become not only a Commando cover artist but, whisper it, nearly a regular cover artist. Anyhoo, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Like I say he's only recently become a Commando cover artist but he's already racked up 3 covers (#5153 - The red devil; #5187; Ice-cold commando; #5193 - Cold steel) and he has another one on the way...

...just pencils...


and he's also teasing us with the cover after that one.

So I thought I'd catch up with Graeme about all things Commando...

When did you first think you could make a career as being an illustrator?
I’m not entirely sure when that would have been. I was late to drawing but when I started it was all I liked doing. But really as much as I went to college to study design and illustration I wouldn’t have said it was the right course for me in the long run and I ended up working in the design industry for a long time. I don’t think it occurred to me or that I was ever steered in a direction that would lead to becoming an illustrator. I was never surrounded by people who knew anything about that kind of thing and it was only through the years rolling by that I became aware that I could give it a go. 2006 was roughly when I started getting commissions from time to time but I guess for about four or five years before then I kind of wished I was creating art rather than paying the mortgage with a steady job :)

The pencils for issue 5193 - Cold steel

Before your work was published by Commando where else will people have seen your work?
Well I’m a jobbing illustrator so I’ve done (and continue to do) a lot of work that people wouldn’t realise I was involved in. I’ve had brief dalliances with comic work, TV, animation, magazine, books etc all the usual stuff. Probably around five years ago I started to tailor the work I do and concentrate on jobs that I actually wanted to do rather than just because it was offered to me. I’m more interested in enjoying what I create than grudgingly churning out art I don’t care for.

...the finished cover...

There's a link here all about the making of the Cold Steel cover.

How did the work with Commando come about? Were you pitching to them? Did they approach you?
I’d done work for DC Thomson before, they have various groups and divisions within the company which I’d done different jobs for. A friend of mine, Gordon Tait, has worked at Thomson’s for a long time and he’d hired me to illustrate things every now and then. So through doing work for him and just generally chatting to him as a friend he knew what I’d like to work on and what I’d be interested in. I’d always popped my head in to say hello to past editor Calum Laird and Scott Montgomery and I’ve chatted to Kirsten Murray and Laura Brown but I’d never really seriously pushed for any work from those guys. It was just always a daydream that I might get to do some covers, on a check list of wishful jobs you might say. Last year Gordon changed his job within the company and became head of the Heritage Brands which includes Commando. So in this case it is definitely a case of who you know! I like to think I might have made it eventually anyway but I’m not the best at pushing for work so it helps when you have a friend who can see what you could be capable of to give you a hand in achieving it.

When Commando HQ ring up looking for a new cover how does the commissioning process work?
Well I’m onto my fifth cover now so the usual way is just for an email to arrive to check on my availability and with the proposed brief attached. Usually this will include some very basic information about the story, characters, setting, situation and a few panels of the interior art. Often they have a rough idea of what they want from the cover, sometimes based on a panel supplied or a reference image sourced to give me an idea of what they want to achieve. Usually there will be a few images of the type of uniform or weaponry, normally just enough to make sure I know what I’m actually looking for myself when I go hunting for reference to use.

And before that there were these 2 covers...

How much to-ing and fro-ing is there for a new cover?
Very little. I’m going to say that is down to their good briefing and my ability to hit the mark :) Seriously I’ve had to make a few adjustments to an idea rough but usually it is plain sailing. The team are very easy to talk to and I don’t feel any pressure from them, they’re cool to work with.
Once I’ve read over the brief I tend to spend some time familiarising myself with the topic or point in history the story refers to. I’ll check out images for more uniforms and whatever else might be appearing in the story before sitting down and creating a rough pencil layout sketch of the intended cover. This will be where the editorial team can check I’m on the right track or not and make any alterations they might want.

Once the design is agreed how long does it take to pencil / ink / paint the actual cover?
Well once it’s agreed I pencil the art, fine tuning things and getting the details correct. I do this onto tracing paper in reverse and then when I’m happy with that I transfer the pencils onto an art board ready for painting. Once I’m done painting I then scan it in and spend a good while tidying up the image, making colour corrections or adding elements I knew would be easier in an application like Photoshop. I find it difficult to state an actual time for all of this as some covers have more to them than others. I’m very cautious when it comes to time management so I’m always asking the team for the most time they can possibly give me and then generally hit the deadline anyway :) 

Do you have a particular battle / historical period that you are hoping to illustrate for Commando next?
No I have no particular favourite. I guess I’m more inclined to WW2 but it is interesting to paint scenes from other periods. I haven’t painted any planes yet and I’m generally fond of a tank of any description so hopefully I’ll get to paint some of those.

How can people find you online?
Oh I’m all over the internet but I spend the most time on my Patreon site posting my work in progress and sharing my art. And my Patreon site also has a ‘Making of’ post for Commando No.5193 ‘Cold Steel’ which available to the public to read. Here are a pile of links:

Thanks for your time Graeme - I look forward to seeing your next cover very soon

15 February 2019

Dan Dare the musical - part 1

From March 2003 here's a selection of items relating to Dan Dare the musical (what do you mean you've never heard of it?) - a trip to South Shields was essential for any Dan Dare fan that year...

More to come!

14 February 2019

Modesty Blaise original book cover art for sale

Modesty Blaise is Peter O'Donnell's star of books and comic strips, a selection of books shown here, and the Book Palace have a selection of the original art from a selection of book currently up for sale... 

Here's a cover by Stephen Richard Boldero - yours for £2,500 and can be found here

There's another by Roger Hale here

There's another example here

But, in my opinion, the best book cover example is here and is by John M Burns - note this was not used as the book cover.

John had this piece of art adorning the cover of one of the 1980s Titan Books Modesty Blaise reprints  here

13 February 2019

UPDATED: rare Captain Condor merchandise not to be sniffed at

A while ago I wrote about some obscure Captain Condor merchandise...

Dan Dare really monopolised British comics space-based merchandise but his rival Captain Condor was not above getting in on the merchandise action...First 2 images are small handkerchiefs from my collection (of comic stuff, not handkerchiefs)...

This final image is one that I grabbed from an ebay listing a while back and show that, innovatively, the handkerchief set actually tell a story...
This image also shows that different colour schemes were used on the same image - compare my red-edged handkerchiefs with the ones above. I'm sure that collecting a set of these is hard enough without worrying about getting a blue-edged set, a green-edged set and a red-edged set. Who knows though? If you're a big Captain Condor fan there's not a lot of '50s merchandise out there for you to collect and this may be your Holy Grail. Good luck with it.

...UPDATE and now another two have come to light

This is an ebay swipe and is entitled "Arrival on the moon"

This one is entitled "Martians space ships" and is clearly, unlike the earlier handkerchiefs, not part of a story.
So these two look like they could be part of a 'non-storytelling' set, in which case there's maybe just two more to find.

12 February 2019

Wheels comic - the first 3 issues

Wheels Comic - special preview edition

The main strip is 'Jack Justice'...the artwork isn't too bad but it's not really up to the same quality of its contemporaries.

...and a humour strip at the back of the comic

Issue 1

Still no great clues as to where these strips come from (but I can see the phrase 'Inglese' on the bottom of some of the pages so I'm still convinced these are foreign strips) - the art is still hardly on a par with 2000ad (which is priced at 12p at this time so is significantly cheaper).

Issue 2

Sparrow Hawk represents an upturn in the quality of artwork (from the slightly amateurish art of Jack Justice) so I declare this the best issue yet.

11 February 2019

Wheels comic - 1978/9

Wheels comic was published by Byblos Publications in the late 1970s - Byblos published a series of comic all seemingly featuring foreign reprint material. I've not collected all their titles (Tarzan for instance) but a couple of titles have appealed to me - here's the first then, Wheels comic.

I'm not sure quite how many issues there were but as far as I can find out it's just these 8 issues so far...

Denis Gifford's Complete catalogue of British comics dates this preview edition as June 1978

Issue 1 - October/November [1978]

Issue 2 - Dec '78 / Jan '79

Issue 3 - February / March [1979]
The worst cover of the whole run - you can see the colouring in!

Issue 4 - April / May [1979]

Issue 5 - June / July [1979]
A cheap collage cover

Issue 6 - August / September [1979]
Another cheap collage cover

Issue 7 - October / November [1979] 
A 5p price rise but look at the improvement in the cover alone, the best cover to date - this could be on Action, new Eagle

And that's it (I think)

Coming soon! A look inside Wheels - it's an eclectic mix of foreign strips, I wonder where from, perhaps we'll never know.

10 February 2019

John 'PC49' Worsley - maritime art for sale

I'm used to thinking of John Worsley as the artist on the PC49 strip in the original Eagle comic, of course as a professional illustrator he worked in a number of different fields - he worked as a courtroom artist and illustrated Wind in the Willows books - so that's not a bad range.

What we see less often is, as his Wikipedia entry (here) highlights, the work that led him to be president of the Royal Society of Marine Artists. Luckily there's a stunning painting currently on sale on ebay here (auction ends Monday lunchtime) that shows this side of his work off perfectly...

Bidding starts at £2,000 for this painting of the Royal Yacht Britannia (and 2 initial water colour trials).

It's a world away from the grime and crime of PC49's London but it's a fantastic piece. Price is a bit high for me but if you've got the cash to splash then good luck to you.

Some of the PC49 annual that John Worsley provided illustrations for...

I met John Worsley at the Eagle Society annual 'do' in 1997 - here's his autograph...I must have some photos of that somewhere, will see if I can dig them out...