Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Phil Rushton talking about Phillip Mendoza at comicsuk forum

 Post subject: Re: Treasure: Wee Willie Winkie visits Fleetway
PostPosted: Tue Apr 30, 2013 10:40 am 
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Great stuff Irmantas - Here's my tuppenceworth! (sorry about the duplication)

Following Leonard Matthews' retirement as Editorial Director of the IPC Juveniles Group in the late 1960s it must have come as a shock to his old colleagues when he immediately began putting together a brand new children's weekly for one of their main rivals: City Magazines Ltd., the publishers of TV Century 21.

During his time at AP/Fleetway/IPC Matthews had been a major innovator who introduced a brand new form of streamlined adventure strip to the pages of Knockout, as well as launching some of their most successful titles, including the Thriller Picture Library, Jack and Jill, Playhour, Princess, look & Learn and Treasure (not to mention a smaller number of brilliant failures such as Top Spot and Ranger). And in order to fill these ground breaking publications he spent much of his time recruiting a team of established artists from outside the world of comics - many of them already famous as top book illustrators. Because of the care he took over the look of his titles he quickly became known as 'the Artist's Editor' - inspiring intense loyalty in many of his own protégés as he repayed them with a paternalistic concern for their own welfare (though he could be less than generous with artists like the troubled Frank Hampson who came from outside his own stable).

As a result of these connections it's no surprise that Matthews’ new creation Once Upon A Time attracted a stellar line-up of contributors which easily outshone city's flagship TV21 - a comic that was by then entering into a period of serious decline after its own glory days of the mid-sixties. The early issues became a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of artistic talent which included Phillip Mendoza, Nadir Quinto, John Millar Watt, Jesus Blasco, Don Lawrence, Ron and Gerry Embleton, Angus McBride, H.M. Brock, Derek Eyles, Mike Hubbard, José Ortiz and many others - all of them turning out exquisite pages that were printed on the best full-colour photogravure presses available.

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What’s more, the timeless nature of most fairy tales meant that Matthews and his editor (who also happened to be his wife) were free to re-adapt many of the familiar stories they’d previously used in Fleetway’s nursery titles without worrying about copyright. Thus, alongside Nadir Quinto’s ‘Cinderella’, Ron Embleton’s ‘Aladdin’ and Don Lawrence’s ‘Pinocchio’, the first issue also reunited Phillip Mendoza with the continuing adventures of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse (along with a note that their story dates from antiquity and didn’t begin with Fleetway’s ‘Katie Country Mouse’!). However, as Katie herself was still appearing in Jack & Jill every week in tales drawn by Harold Tamblyn-Watts, this new version of an old character was duly renamed Winifred or ‘Winnie’ for short, while her town-dwelling cousin was now called Stephanie or ‘Steve’.

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Apart from the changed names, the most obvious difference between Mendoza’s old ‘Katie’ stories and this new series was the fact that it used full-page illustrations accompanied by text instead of a picture strip format. Mendoza himself was now in his seventies and, according to some accounts, more often than not the worse for drink - all of which was reflected in his work. Gone were the delicate miniature watercolours and intricate penmanship of his earlier days; instead he now favoured bold, impressionistic landscapes painted in broad, opaque strokes with thick poster paint. Apparently it became necessary to ‘finish off’ his paintings at the office as he lost patience with niceties like panel borders and perspective, while messengers frequently had to be despatched to his flat in order to collect overdue artwork. But though the aging artist had undoubtedly lost some of his old skill and professionalism he had also gained something even more valuable.

To my mind Mendoza’s late paintings (many of which have a surprisingly dark, autumnal feeling) come closer than almost anything else I’ve ever seen in a popular comic to the condition of Fine Art. I confess that my initial reaction to ‘The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse’ was that its accompanying illustrations looked disappointingly crude when compared to the superficial brilliance of Ron Embleton or Don Lawrence, but the more I looked at those full-page images of mice situated in murky landscapes of giant puffballs and forests of grass the more I began to appreciate their sheer emotional power. And in addition to that I began to see the way in which the very paint had a physical quality comparable to canvases by Van Gogh or Turner - making me feel that it belonged alongside them in an art gallery rather than in the pages of a children’s publication.

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This is the way all old artists should end their lives: not trying (and inevitably failing) to recapture past glories, but forever striving with all their might to conquer brand new vistas of artistic achievement.

As far as I can tell ‘The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse’ appeared in every issue of Once Upon A Time until it finally ceased publication in 1972. Phillip Mendoza died the following year.

(Meanwhile, the errant Leonard Matthews had settled his differences with IPC in order to launch an entirely new series of nursery titles for them - but that’s a story for another day...!)

- Phil Rushton

http://www.comicsuk.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5412&start=60




Last edited by philcom55 on Tue Apr 30, 2013 11:09 am, edited 1 time in total. 

Once upon a time magazine full-page paintings of Town Mouse and Country Mouse by Phillip Mendoza


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 Post subject: Re: Treasure: Wee Willie Winkie visits Fleetway
Unread postPosted: Tue Apr 30, 2013 8:29 am 
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I received my joblot of Once Upon a Time magazines and I think they are brilliant. I am particularly fascinated by those full-page paintings of Town Mouse and Country Mouse by Mendoza. They have some sort of serene magic about them… Have they ever been put in a book as they so much deserve?

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 Post subject: Re: Treasure: Wee Willie Winkie visits Fleetway
PostPosted: Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:18 pm 
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Intrigued by the discussion on this tread and the images shown here, particularly by Phil, I bought that large joblot of Treasure on eBay some time ago and am now slowly going through them discovering artists I wasn’t familiar with until now. I like Mendoza, especially his illustrations of Through the Looking Glass and Wind in the Willows.

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 Post subject: Re: Treasure: Wee Willie Winkie visits Fleetway
PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 9:04 am 
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As far as I can tell Blaing's dates sound right (though I must admit I've never heard of the second series of Once Upon a Timementioned by Matrix).

When Phillip Mendoza was headhunted by Leonard Matthews in 1951 he was already in his fifties, having enjoyed a long and successful career in various aspects of commercial art. Along with the Stephen Francis (aka 'Hank Janson') he'd even found time to produce one of the most sought-after of all British comics - the legendary Mighty Atom.

Like Quinto, Mendoza's earliest assignments for AP appeared in their newly-launched picture libraries - including a number of obligatory Robin Hood shorts. With the creation of the glossy new nursery title Playhour in 1954, however, he quickly established himself as a superb visualizer of colourful picture stories aimed specifically at very young children. The first of these strips included 'The Seven Dwarfs' and 'Children of the Forest', but it was in the depiction of anthropomorphic animals such as Gulliver Guinea-Pig and Katie Countrymouse that he really excelled.

Like his human namesake, Gulliver Guinea-Pig was an intrepid explorer who travelled to increasingly fantastic destinations such as 'Fairy Tale Land', the World inside the TV Screen and (as below) a version of the Moon that was very different to the one on which Neil Armstrong eventually set foot just eight years later:

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(To be continued...)

- Phil Rushton


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 Post subject: Re: Treasure: Wee Willie Winkie visits Fleetway
PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 9:48 am 
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Beautiful, I look forward to seeing and reading more, Phil. I searhced the web for details about the run of Once Upon A Time and found a link to an expired eBay auction for a near complete set. The description said the total number came to 167 issues, the last one dated 27th April, 1972, so blaing‘s info is nearly accurate (thanks, Bruce!).

This thread is responsible for my most recent purchases – 2 Once Once Upon A Time annuals on eBay this morning and a joblot of 118 weeklies in a private deal. From what I‘ve seen here so far, I have a feeling I will get an urge to complete the set. Just when I was beginnig to think my collection has reached saturation point...

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 Post subject: Re: Treasure: Wee Willie Winkie visits Fleetway
PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:50 pm 
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What a delightful story...love the cheese being parachuted down to the mice on earth...

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 Post subject: Re: Treasure: Wee Willie Winkie visits Fleetway
PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2013 7:41 pm 
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On the whole I don't think you'll be disappointed with your copies of Once Upon A Time Irmantas - though Mendoza's late-period artwork might not be quite what you expected on the basis of his work on Gulliver Guinea Pig and in Treasure. Also, looking at my own copies, it occurs to me that the proportion of actual comic strips is a little lower than I suggested. Sorry if I misled you in that respect.

I've plenty more to say about Mendoza's artwork in Once Upon A Time but, meanwhile, here are some more examples of the lovely, sensitive nursery strips he produced for Fleetway during the early 1960s - this time featuring his other major children's character Katie Country Mouse (and not forgetting her somewhat posher cousin Matilda Town Mouse!).

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- Phil Rushton

http://www.comicsuk.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5412&start=45

Don't miss this forum post at comicsuk forum it is brilliant and shows how good nursery comics can be!!! Thanks to Phil Rushton and 

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