Sunday, 13 August 2017

The Sun & Battler Britton

While researching a post about fifties war comics I recently bought some issues of the long-running comic Sun. 

They came from 1959 and were, to be honest, somewhat lacklustre compared to earlier issues I've read.  The paper and printing quality had been downgraded and, with the exception of an adaptation of "A Princess of Mars" the stories seemed mundane and tired.

What's more, the covers of the comic had moved from colour to Black and White, with just the title and the "A Five Star Weekly" symbol being printed in red.   It was no surprise that the title was cancelled soon after.

But there was one redeeming feature, making a virtue of the black and white printing, I'd managed to hit a run of striking covers by illustrator Renato Fratini.

Just a few years later Fratini would grow into one of the best know illustrators of the period.  He painted cinema posters and covers for books.  It was when he was brought to London by the Downton Agency in about 1963 that his career really took off.  Fratini would produce posters for many of the Carry On movies,  for "From Russia with Love" and "Khartoum".  In 1970 he was paid £2,000, an almost unheard of fee for the poster of the epic Waterloo film.

 He lived the life of swinging sixties London, marrying a fashion designer and hanging out at Ronnie Scott's Jazz club. 

His comics work had all come in the late fifties, he had painted covers for Sexton Blake and Thriller Picture Library and finally produced these beautifully rendered covers for a few of the final issues of Sun. 

The Sun comic ran from 1947 to 1959 a total of 551 issues.  Starting out as a mainly text-based story-paper, it had specialised in westerns and swashbuckling tales of old featuring pirates and outlaws.   Dick Turpin, Robin Hood and Billy the Kid had all been popular and long-running features.   Battler Britton was a late addition to the comic and one of the first war stories to appear.  By the time Fratini lent his work to the title, the writing was probably on the wall.  New comics like The Victor were on the way and Sun was looking tired.   I'm not sure how the Fratini covers would have been seen by the school boys at which Sun was aimed, but they look pretty special now.   I'll show a couple here in this post and save the rest for that other, longer post I'm working on.


Sun Issue 532
Sun Issue 533

More information on Fratini can be found in the second issue of Illustrators Magazines from Book Palace.

Big thanks for Steve Holland in identifying Fratini in the first place.   Check out his excellent Bear Alley Blog.


No comments:

Post a Comment