I'm beginning to type this at about 0520 in the morning. About the time, sixty-two years ago that I entered this world. So my Mother told me!
Before I receive phone calls from Family and Friends, before I hang out a week's worth of washing following a short holiday to Cairns (and a day trip to Lismore yesterday), and before we head off to the local op-shops I thought I would offer you, dear reader, a gift from me. It's a gift I just had to share!
Last month the Award-winning comic blog "Down the Tubes" was seeking information about unknown British comic artists (Click here for a link). Knowing former Melbourne cartoonist Peter Foster used to draw for Scottish comic publisher D.C. Thomson, I enlisted my fellow Australian Cartoonists' Association Committee Member Ian McCall to help out. (Peter does not have a computer, so there was no other way of getting in touch with him myself.) I'm not sure if the British researchers have Peter's publishing details, but just in case they have not, I thought I'd ask him for some details, so I can forward this information to them....
Peter has sent me such a wealth of information, I couldn't help but share it here on my blog for all posterity. (I'll seek permission, of course. If Peter objects, this site will no longer exist!) Once he gives me additional information, I'll add it to this posting...
Peter Foster was born in Caulfield, Victoria on 18th May 1931. This posting covers the twenty months Peter was in England from September 1978 and the years following (to 1996) that he drew from Australia. These were, of course, the days when comic art was physically sent to the publishers by post. Peter reports only losing a script once, but that his artwork "was never lost". He made it his practice to photocopy most of the work he did from Australia before posting, which has allowed him some certainty about the titles of the works he did (and, he says, "in some cases" the dates). Some of the samples Peter supplied in his mailing to me are enclosed here on this blog.
The artwork featured in the blog carries no dialogue balloons, as the publishers' art departments added the typesetting later. ("Blurk!" is Peter's only real comment about the practice.) The artwork was based on a tight script, which detailed the exact number of pages (and panels) which were required for the feature he was illustrating. "The most freedom I had in illustrating was the details I was able to place in the background art."
Peter felt his work for DC Thomson & Co Ltd. was "the more important" and was "vast, varied and consistent", with his work for the International Publishing Company (IPC) "more desultory". He was able to recall some ghosting of "other established artists with characters... [like] Johnny Red" for IPC. "The London pay was higher than the Scottish .. but not by much. Both paid pretty poorly." Peter initially went to London to allow his children extra education in their chosen field (music). ("My son Mark was already in Munich, Germany when we went over in the school holidays, in September 1978. It was easier for him to visit London [than Australia]." Peter gave himself a month's holiday before he began working for IPC. "We were living in this really old mansion before I started. I didn't find it too hard to find work there."
Peter says he doesn't have any photocopies (of the actual comics) of the work he did while living in England in the twenty months he was there in the late 1970s. He knows his first work was in the comic Hotspur in late 1978. (In a phone call to Peter in July 2020, he said he was unable to recall the name of the story, although he remembered the details of the story: about English fighter planes fighting in the Spanish civil war.) He was also able to recall the story of Craig, "a rebel detective who was hated by his bosses because of [his] unacceptable methods" that did result in the gangs being cleaned up! There were other Craig stories "in other comics" with one serial called "The Crunch". Any reader of this blog who can supply any additonal information to this blog, please feel free to contact me.
Peter worked for both boys and girls comics. The comics from DC Thomson and IPC were published weekly and in black and white. He recalls a character in a boys' comic about about a poor twelve year old boy, with a cute fluffy dog as his own companion, although Peter was not able to recall which comic it appeared in. He drew a few series of Billy the Cat, a "teenaged crime fighter dressed as a masked cat who could climb trees".
Most of the girls' comics were about their love of horse, which necessitated Peter's visits to the Maidenhead Public Library -- to research how to draw horses! In 1994, Peter went to the USA to attend the National Cartoonist Society's Award Night, with other Australian cartoonists: Jim The Potts Russell, Gary Swamp Clark, Paul Dallimore (gag cartoonist), Rod Emerson (political cartoonist) and Steve Panozzo (caricaturist). He was able to pick up a book by cowboy artist Fred Remington: "His paintings of horses are fantastic".
Other girls' comic stories illustrated by Peter included Heartease Number 2 (one story) and a few stories about a lady vet, Horse Doctor, Number 5.
Peter drew several series of The Mill Street Mob (between 1981 and 1990), which he describes as "fun". "It introduced me to soccer matches" and led to work on DC Thomson's "Football Library" digest-sized comics (which were limited to two and sometimes three frames per page).
While in England, Peter joined an art group who called themselves The Society of Strip Illustrators (not affiliated with the cartoonists society), with Peter assisting in the creation of the constitution. "They accepted my offer to draw up a trial run for the committee to pull apart and reconstitute." He made several good friends but lost contact on his return to Australia in 1981. Peter continued working for DC Thomson on his return, but did no further work for IPC on his return.
Peter has kept a list of most of his English "Commando" works, although he did not keep a record of the numbers. "Nearly all my Commando books were naval stories. They liked my ships and seas." He feels there were about eleven books in total. He has one photocopy untitled.
Storm Petrel [sic]
The Ship That Ran Away
Back From the Deep (October 1990)
Island Fighting ("This was my last job I ever did for DC Thomson, finished July 3, 1995.")
Go Down Fighting (Issue number 5008 is a reprint of the earlier work. Peter was given a copy by his son Dominic when he visited London earlier this year. He admits being "surprised" to find the author, the cover artist and himself being credited: "They have finally got around to it.")
Viking Breed (Issue number 2638 is another reprint on an earlier work.)
"Football Library" titles published by DC Thomson. Peter believes he drew eleven titles in total. Again, he has one untitled and undated entry in his file ("due to laziness on my part"), but otherwise his entries are fairly comprehensive, with all done on his return to Australia.
United W.C. 1990
Taylor's Team 1990
United. The Early Days 1990
Tug's Team December 1990
Room at the Top (a "United" story) 1991
Tug's Challenge no date; "possibly 1991-95"
Princes and Paupers no date; "possibly 1991-95"
Traditions no date; "possibly 1991-95"
Hight Rise Rovers Abroad no date; "possibly 1991-95"
Just going to finish here, as the first phone calls have been coming through. Carlene won't want me spending my whole birthday here, writing a blog either and breakfast is ready.... Anyone with any extra information please feel free to pass it on....
Comicoz is Nat Karmichael's publishing imprint. Nat is committed to preserving a permanent collection of Australian comic and comic strips. He feels that there is a need to recognise comics' contribution to and depiction of Australian culture.
Since 2011, Nat has self-published over twelve comic-related books and was Publisher-Editor of
Oi Oi Oi! -- the last series of nationally-distributed comic books of original stories to appear on Australian newsstands. He is a member of the Australian Cartoonists Association and edited the Association's journal Inkspot for 14 issues from late 2015. For numerous years he was the Lead Judge in the Ledger of Honour Awards for the Comic Arts Awards of Australia (formerly the Ledgers). These days Nat dreams of retiring from his occupation as a Clinical Nurse in the Psychiatric Emergency Centre in Queensland's largest public hospital, so that he can spend more time with his long-suffering wife and their six children and fourteen grandchildren. And perhaps publish some more comic-related books.
Comicoz acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay respects to elders, past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all First Nations peoples.
Australian Publications since 1976:
1 x Poster
19 x comics (one a co-production with Cyclone Comics in 1988/9, one a co-production with Cowtown Comics in 2022)
2 x Paperback books
10 x Hardcover books