June 19, 2020


New release: The Book Palace, home of Illustrators quarterly, has recently published collections of some of the classic Fleetway comics from the UK. Spy Vibers will be especially interested in Fleetway Picture Library Classics: John Steel. This limited-edition book features art by Luis Bermejo and Reg Bunn. And with stories set in the Trad Jazz scene in London's Soho and among agents hunting war criminals, the comics are an interesting time capsule from the early 1960s. It can be tough to track down comics and art from this period, so it's great to see efforts being made to preserve some of this history. "Dark and violent tales of intrigue, espionage, spying and adventure post World War Two! John Steel takes on gangsters, Nazis, and spies in post-War London's Soho, Berlin and Hong Kong." I'm not sure the grittiness will be appealing to me, but they had me at "Trad"- one of my main areas of interest! The stories featured here are Blues For Danger ('61), Violent Tempo ('61), City of Shadows ('62), and The Rising Tide ('62). Published in April, 2020. 272 pages. Spy Vibers can order copies from The Book Palace in the UK and from Bud's Art Books in the US. Other Fleetway reprints in this series include John Steel Special Agent WWII, Jet-Ace Logan, Air War Stories, among other action and adventure titles. I'm hoping they will also collect the Secret Agent Series titles. I've sent them a query and will report if I hear anything back. Here's the press release with lots of historical context from Bud's: "Four complete John Steel Casebooks featuring the suave, sophisticated and successful private detective. Includes biographies of Luis Bermejo and Reg Bunn. Blues For Danger and Violent Tempo from 1961, with art by Bermejo and Reg Bunn. City of Shadows and The Rising Tide, both from 1962 and both by Bermejo. Beginning in 1974 he became one of the most prolific artists at Warren Publishing, with an entire issue devoted to him, and principal artist on The Rook and The Fox in VampirellaThe panels here are just two per page, allowing lots of detail and panoramic, powerful action. It's an excellent format for action adventure, very much in the James Bond vein, with fast cars, beautiful women, violent gun battles. Bermejo began his comic book artist career in Britain in the late 1950s. He worked on Thriller Picture, John Steel, War, Battle Picture Libraries, and Pike Mason in the early 1960s. In 1962 he started drawing the war-themed comic strip Mann of Battle for The Eagle, and would draw the strip Heros the Spartan for that title in 1963. Later in the 1960s he would draw the super hero Johnny Future. For much of the 1960s, Bermejo worked out of a studio in Valencia, Spain with other artists including José Ortiz, Miguel Quesada, and Emilio Frego. These artists, including Bermejo, started working with Italian agent Pierro D'Ami in 1968, where they would do many paintings for books and magazines. In 1974 Bermejo, along with José Ortiz and Leopoldo Sanchez, started working for Warren Publishing in the U.S. Bermejo quickly became one of the most prolific artists for Warren, and would draw a total of 78 stories from 1974 through 1983, more than any other artist except for Ortiz and Esteban Maroto. Highlights of Bermejo's period with Warren included a full issue of Creepy (issue 71) dedicated to him, as well as the role of the primary artist for The Rook, which was Warren's most well known recurring character after Vampirella. Bermejo also drew the serial The Fox in Vampirella in 1981-1982. He won the award for Best All Around Artist at Warren in 1981. Bermejo went on to write and draw an adaption of The Lord of the Rings in Spain in 1980. After Warren's collapse, he drew for Skorpio and Lanciostory in Italy, as well as Relatos Nuevo Mundo, Metropol and Zona 84 in Spain. He also created comics adaptations from the works of Isaac Asimov and Raymond Chandler." Related links: Fleetway Super Spies, Rock Kent, Billy Bragg Skiffle, my article for the Chris Barber websiteEnjoy! 

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