Friday, 14 September 2018

Spotlight On Tom Kerr

Something a little different this week, gang. At the recent Don Con, I ran into pal of this here blog Colin Brown, who asked me why I'd never done a piece on Tom Kerr. When he showed me some of Tom's art, it was instantly recognisable but I had to confess I'd never known the artist's name ( hey, even I don't know everything from the UK Bronze Age! I'm not Lew Stringer! ). However, I promised I'd rectify this glaring omission as soon as possible.
Well, it would seem unfair for me to take all the credit as Colin is obviously a bigger Kerr fan than me, so I figured, let's hand the blog over to him for some choice examples of this great artists work. Here's Colin:

I recently met Pete at NICE in Bedford. After telling him how much I enjoyed this blog, I pointed out that he had never featured one of my favourite British comic artists, Tom Kerr.
Kerr’s style is instantly recognisable to anyone who read British comics in the sixties and early seventies with his work appearing in at least 20 titles showcasing his ability to adapt to humour or adventure with ease. There is virtually no personal information about him - the man is an enigma. The agency who represented him says he left them in the mid-1960s to go on his own. It is believed he passed away in the 1970s.
When Pete suggested I write a blog about him, I thought I could cover the many strips he did that were based on television programmes. He was excellent at capturing likenesses, something some other artists did not enjoy trying to do. Apologies to anyone under the age of 50 – you may have never heard of many of the programmes featured. Strips usually appeared the same year the TV programme aired for obvious reasons.
Our first stop is 1966 and The Monkees featured in Lady Penelope. The first of the “manufactured” boy bands? For two years, Kerr worked on 9 strips for City Magazines Ltd which also published TV21 and Solo.

Over to TV21 in 1967 and we have Get Smart which was a spoof American spy series prompted by the popularity of the Bond films at the time.

Still in the pages of TV21 then transferring to Solo, is Sgt Bilko. This was actually made in the fifties and has been shown many times over the decades by the BBC. One of the best sitcoms of all time. The same year, Kerr was illustrated Fireball XL5 in TV21 for a short period resulting in three of his strips appearing in the same issue several times.

Hands up anyone who remembers Run Buddy Run? No-one? To the best of my knowledge, it wasn’t shown on UK television. A spoof of “man on the run” concept used in The Fugitive. Solo was an odd comic for content also including strips based on Disney films such as Mary Poppins, Lt Crusoe RN and Dr Syn.

In 1968, the popular series The Avengers was featured in TV Comic and Kerr had a short run on it. I would have loved to have seen him do more of this one.

Still in 1968, and another ITV series – Orlando – tales of an ex-smuggler now solving crime. If only they had let Kerr loose on Doctor Who which was also featured in TV Comic at the time.

We jump forward a few years now to 1971 and the “Junior TV Times” Look-In which Pete has featured several times. Leslie Crowther was a comedian / TV presenter who I remember mostly for being on Crackerjack and going round children’s hospitals on Christmas morning giving out presents. Crowther in Trouble wasn’t an adaptation of a programme, more about his wacky adventures as a celebrity.

The Fenn Street Gang was a spin-off from the school sitcom Please Sir. Fabulous likenesses.

In 1972, Doctor in Charge was one of many series based on the novels by Richard Gordon. Others included Doctor in the House, at Large, and at Sea. This appears to be the last work Kerr did for Look In and he then worked on the children’s comics Little Star and Twinkle.

And no, this hasn’t just been an excuse to show my piece of original art by Tom Kerr but I thought I’d include it anyway.

Thanks to Pete for lending me the keys to the blog. Other bloggers elsewhere have featured Tom Kerr and hopefully if this continues, we can raise his profile and publishers may reprint some of his work. There’s a lot of it out there to enjoy.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Moon Knight: Black Spectre

As I've bored about before, as well as being maybe the last great superhero of the Bronze Age, Moon Knight always felt to me like the superhero for grown-ups.
We were all rapidly approaching adulthood, and Doug Moench was telling us that was a scary place we were about to walk into.
And Bill Sienkiewicz' art, particularly in this issue, looked like the rabid scratchings of inmates on the wall of the asylum. This series was very definitely a step up, and I don't believe ever really gets the credit it deserves.
Like the logical extension of the superheroes with problems trope, Moon Knight really had problems, like schizophrenia, manic depression and a constant lack of self-worth.
Still he was mega- rich and had the super hot Marlene waiting at home, so y' know, swings and roundabouts.
Herein, Moonie teeters over, and nearly falls into that precipice he was always on the edge of ( and which lesser writers than Moench gleefully pushed him over ).
Like a lot of issues in this initial series, Doug takes an old plot, in this case the villain that's a mirror image of the hero, and delves deep into the psychology of a man who tries to repair his life by pushing all that pain onto another, in this case Moon Knight.
These are real people hurting themselves, and each other, in every way possible.
Just a comic book, by the way.