Garth (comic strip)
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Garth as drawn by Frank Bellamy
|Launch date||July 24, 1943; February 21, 2011 (reprints)|
|End date||March 22, 1997|
Garth was a comic strip in the British newspaper Daily Mirror that ran from July 24, 1943 -- March 22, 1997. The strip belonged to the action-adventure genre and recounted the exploits of the title character, an immensely strong hero who battled various villains throughout the world and many different chronological eras. Garth was widely syndicated throughout English-speaking countries during its long run. The 1960s Australian fast bowler Garth McKenzie was nicknamed after the comic strip hero. Due to public demand, reprints of classic stories began in 2011 and have been revered amongst fans ever since.
Steve Dowling and Gordon Boshell were the originators of the Garth character. Dowling wanted to create a British adventure comic strip, and took inspiration from the American comic strips Superman, Flash Gordon and Terry and the Pirates. Dowling and Boshell took on 15-year-old John Allard to work on Garth, who stayed with the strip for its entire lifetime. After 59 adventures, Dowling retired and handed Garth over to Allard, which he carried on until 1971 when Eagle comics' Dan Dare artist, Frank Bellamy, took over the art with Allard writing the scripts. Garth's longevity had been established by Don Freeman, who created almost every basic Garth plot on which the saga was built. Peter O'Donnell, Jim Edgar and Angus Allan also wrote extensively for the strip during its decades-long existence. Philip Harbottle is a leading Garth expert and collector of the strips, and he wrote several of the stories during the 1990s. Martin Asbury became Garth's artist after Frank Bellamy's death in 1976, drawing the strip and writing many of the stories until its final episode in 1997.
In 1993, Bill Storrie produced perhaps a dozen or so 60-page photocopied magazines titled The Gopherville Argus Special Edition No. 1 featuring Garth as a tribute to the writers and artists who had been involved with the strip. Most if not all Garth strips are now owned by Mirror.
As of Wednesday 13 August 2008, "Garth" has reappeared on the website of the Daily Mirror, drawn by the artist Huw J. Davies (aka HuwJ, currently HuwJ Matsumura ).
The online strip, was a successful re-visiting and re-imagineering of the character, taking him back to the Pre-Steve Dowling origins and establishing him in a historical setting.
Having successfully worked in the Media Entertainment industry and Printed Media for over three decades (Including periods at Disney, Warner, and Fox) Huw J believed that the re-imagined version could easily cross from the digital, back to the printed medium, and ultimately licensing to other media. This was discussed and the future of the character in print was agreed upon. with a new ongoing daily strip in print being planned to run at the end of the 2nd online story arc, King of New York. (which also established the reasons behind the character's dislike for guns)
However, due to an untimely accident involving Long standing cartoon editor Ken Layson, with who the agreement had been made things became muddied and internal politics with the Mirrorpix licensing arm of the newspaper created issues that delayed and inevitably halted this decision.
Huw J decided to honor the characters History, and under the terms of his License re-branded the character tipping the hat to Don Freeman longtime writer of the strip by giving Garth a surname, the graphic novel Titled Captain Garth Freeman of the Armed Services and in 2010 was launched initially under British publisher Markosia, and was a success. Selling out both at specialist comic stores and conventions, as well as online. It was re-published in 2013 By Pummie Productions Ink, at first in its usual format and (also in 2013) with a new cover by Spider-Man artist and Stan Lee collaborator Andy Tong it was repackaged with the Garth title in honor of the 70th anniversary of the character with all proceeds going to Help for Heroes.
In 2015, it was published again by Pummie Productions Ink, the character starred alongside Sexton Blake, in the first of what is promised to be a series of comic books, under the Captain Garth Freeman of the Armed Services title. This again sold out and if the team continues to publish the comic it will be collected in a bumper edition after the 5th book.
Huw J believes that the online revamp of the character was the catalyst that got the longtime fans of the character to push for a return of the hero and what ultimately led the newspaper and its licensing arm to re-color the old strips and relaunch them in the paper
Garth started a run of reprints in the Daily Mirror coloured by Martin Baines in the issue dated Monday 21 February 2011. and continues at present, the strip and the character are a testament to the longevity of good solid storytelling and characters with robust ideals. and looks to still have a promising future
Characters and story
Garth's time-travelling adventures lasted for over 50 years and covered 165 stories (plus two additional stories published in the Daily Mirror Book for Boys, 1970–71). In the backstory, Garth washed ashore in Shetland and was adopted by an elderly couple. Garth developed almost superhuman strength and eventually became a naval captain and all-round military genius. Garth travelled through many eras and confronted villains such as Madame Voss and Apollo. His true love was the ancient goddess-like figure, Astra. Garth's sidekick and mentor was Professor Lumiere, who psychoanalyzed the hero and recovered memories of his previous experiences.
Garth strips were reprinted as trade paperbacks on a number of occasions:
- Garth in "The Last Goddess" and "Romeo Brown", Daily Mirror, c.1960
- The Daily Mirror Book of Garth 1975, Fleetway Publications, 1975, ISBN 0-85037-139-2
- The Daily Mirror Book of Garth 1976, Fleetway Publications, 1976
- Garth Book One: "The Cloud of Balthus", Titan Books, 1984, ISBN 0-907610-34-X
- Garth Book Two: "The Women of Galba", Titan Books, 1985, ISBN 0-907610-49-8
- Garth ( Captain Garth freeman of the Armed Services ) 1st printing Markosia 2010 ISBN 978-1905692361 / 2nd Printing Pummie Productions 2013
As shown above, Garth has only been reprinted sporadically in the UK, but in recent years the All Devon Comic Collectors Club were allowed to reprint episodes on a strictly for members only basis.
It was announced that Penguin Books India were to issue the Complete Garth in a collectible 5-volume hardback graphic novel box set. This would comprise all 16,000 strips covering the 165 stories published in the Daily Mirror on 3,000 plus pages. The Penguin India reprint would be an Indian subcontinent-only production and the tentative release date was set for September 2009. However, Penguin Books India have now confirmed that the publication of the set has been postponed indefinitely.
- Jane (comic strip) a comic strip that was contemporary with Garth and which also ran in the Daily Mirror.
- Maurice Horn, The World Encyclopedia of Comics. New York: Chelsea House,1976. ISBN 0791048543 (p.274-5).
- Andreas C. Knigge, Comics, vom Massenblatt ins multimediale Abenteuer. Reinbeck bei Hamburg : Rowohlt, 1996 ISBN 3499165198 (pp. 225)
- Franco Fossati, "Garth", in I Grandi Eroi del Fumetto. Rome : Gremese Editore, 1990 ISBN 8876054960
- The Return of Garth, interview with Huw J by John Freeman, Down The Tubes, August 31, 2008
- Washington, Georgia M (Nov 2015). "Anatomy of a British Hero". Journal of Historic Comic Book Literature 2016.