Monday, May 26, 2008
Mike Western 1925 - 2008
One of the greatest illustrators of British comics, Mike Western, died on Tuesday May 13th, aged 83. Many fine tributes have already been written about him by people more knowledgeable of his career than I (links at the foot of this column) but I wanted to add my own short tribute here.
Mike's comics career began in the early 1950s on Knockout, but for many fans his style would be best remembered for his long stint as cover artist of Valiant. The comic was fairly unusual in that its cover featured an historical article (rather than a strip or full page story teaser). In lesser hands this idea could have turned out very dull indeed but Mike always made each cover strong and dynamic, no matter what subject matter he was asked to illustrate. In the 13 years he worked on Valiant Mike illustrated over 500 covers. Here's just a few of them:
Mike Western was also a regular artist inside Valiant on the popular and long running The Wild Wonders. With this strip Mike changed his style a little to reflect the comedy in Tom Tully's light adventure scripts. The story of the two "Wild Boys" who became super athletes was a perfect vehicle for Mike to draw action and slapstick as this page demonstrates:
Even in the strip's quieter moments, Mike's layouts still held the reader's interest with his superb balance of black and white art:
Mike was also the original artist for the first episode of Billy's Boots, another hugely popular IPC strip. This page from Scorcher No.1 (1970):
When Valiant had a revamp under a new editor in 1975 Mike moved on to IPC's new war comic Battle Picture Weekly. As the comic was tougher in its tone than other IPC weeklies Mike was able to use a gritter art style to suit the more realistic stories, such as his outstanding work on Darkie's Mob:
Comics historian Steve Holland was in the process of compiling a new book, The Mike Western Story, at the time of the artist's death. I'm pleased to hear that the book is still going ahead and knowing Steve's dedication to his subjects is sure to be a marvelous tribute to this most skilled and versatile artist.
Steve has written an obituary of Mike Western here:
and there are more tributes here: