Back at the beginning of this summer I received a note from David Roach, British comics artist of Judge Dredd, author, historian, and long-time TI subscriber. David had the most incredible story to tell me, and has agreed to allow me to share it with you:
"I was trying to track down some 70's IPC strips for a Spanish company and rang round everybody I could think of, finally speaking to someone in licencing who mentioned 2 warehouses - one with bound volumes in it and another with the art. A warehouse full of art - dear God!"
"I went along soon after (this is early 2005 I think) to a very rough part of London called Canning Town and found stack after stack of comic pages and covers stretching back to the 50's - just as I always dreamed might happen but never thought actually would. Just think of the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark and you'll get a good picture of the scene. It turned out that they had no idea what was there (or even which comics they'd published!) so I suggested I do an inventory for them which I duly did throughout that summer."
All told there were about 26,000 (yup, that's right) comic book pages from girls and boys comics as well as about 10,000 Nursery pages. Around 1400 war covers had survived, the best of which are in my books. My chum Rufus (currently drawing Tank Girl) helped and has said on several occasions that it was the best summer of his life - and you can bet the same goes for me - I was in heaven."
"At some point an editor from Carlton books was in IPC's offices and saw a few covers which had been moved there. He was so inspired by them he decided to put out 2 collections of them whereupon I was drafted in as the only person in the country who could actually identify the artists and could write about them. As a fan I was thrilled to see how the first one came out - the reproduction was incredible so I'd have bought it myself if I hadn't written it."
David agreed to share with us some examples from this astonishing treasure-trove, and has provided his expertise about the artists and the publications for which they worked. If you reside in North America, I suspect much or all of this material will be entirely unknown to you, as it was to me. It is with great pleasure that I invite you to join me on this week's journey of discovery of the long-forgotten cover art of British war comics, with my sincere thanks to David Roach for being our guide...