Leonard James Matthews (1914–1997) was a British editor, publisher, writer and illustrator of comics and children's magazines, best known as the founder of the educational magazine Look and Learn.
Born in Islington, London, on 10 October 1914, he joined the Amalgamated Press as an editorial assistant in 1939, starting as a sub-editor on the weekly comic Knockout under editor Percy Clarke. Matthews persuaded cartoonist Hugh McNeill, then working for rival DC Thomson's comics The Beano and The Dandy, to go freelance and work for AP. McNeill contributed "Deed-a-Day Danny" and "Simon the Simple Sleuth" to Knockout's initial lineup, and remained a mainstay of AP's comics for the rest of his life; he and Matthews remained friends until McNeill died in 1969.
Matthews served in the RAF during the Second World War, and also compiled training manuals for the Air Ministry in London. He volunteered as a fire lookout, and saved AP's offices at Fleetway House from burning down during an air raid. After the war he returned to Knockout, becoming editor in 1948. He featured more adventure strips, including adaptations of classic adventure novels, scripting some of them, including The Three Musketeers, drawn by Eric Parker. He wrote pirate strip "Captain Flame" for artist Sep E. Scott, and Dick Turpin serials for H. M. Brock and D. C. Eyles. He was also an artist, drawing strips like "Daffy the Cowboy Tec" for Knockout.
In 1949 he became editor of a second comic, Sun, acquired by AP from rival publisher J. B. Allen. Again, he increased the adventure content, hiring Geoff Campion to draw "Billy the Kid", and introducing new characters like Max Bravo and Battler Britton. In 1950 he launched Cowboy Comics, a digest-sized series repackaging western comics originated for the Australian market, and later became editor of Thriller Comics, which published historical adventure stories in the same format. He scripted several of them, including adaptations of Lorna Doone and Quentin Durward.
In the 1950s he became Managing Editor of AP's comics, including the girls' and nursery titles as well as the boys' titles. In 1958 AP was bought by the Mirror Group and renamed Fleetway Publications, and in 1961 Matthews was named Director of Juvenile Publications, and launched several new titles, including Princess, Buster and War Picture Library. In 1962 he launched Look and Learn, a lavishly illustrated weekly magazine inspired by the Italian magazines Conoscere and La Vita Meravigliosa, and in 1965 launched Ranger, which combined educational features with comic strips. He left Fleetway at the end of 1968 to set up his own company, Martspress, packaging comics and juvenile publications like Once Upon a Time for City Magazines.
A small man, Matthews liked to have tall men working for him. No male employee(or female supposedly)was allowed to have a beard or they'd be sacked. He died in Esher, Surrey, on 9 November 1997.
- Alan Clark, Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors, The British Library, 1998, pp. 107-108
- George Beal, Obituary: Leonard Matthews, The Independent, 5 December 1997
- Norman Wright and David Ashford, Masters of Fun and Thrills: The British Comic Artists Vol 1, Norman Wright (pub.), 2008, pp. 89-102
- Norman Wright and David Ashford, Masters of Fun and Thrills: The British Comic Artists Vol 1, Norman Wright (pub.), 2008, pp. 170-180
- Denis Gifford, Encyclopedia of Comic Characters, Longman, 1987, p. 57
- Norman Wright and David Ashford, Masters of Fun and Thrills: The British Comic Artists Vol 1, Norman Wright (pub.), 2008, pp. 8-9
- Brief history of Look and Learn
- Jack Adrian, Obituary: Leonard Matthews, The Independent, 5 December 1997