Mike Western: 1925-2008

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This is a sad week for fans of British comics, as we have to report that veteran artist Mike Western died on Tuesday, May 13th at the age of 83. Not a household name to many, as indeed most of his generation of comics pros weren’t (thanks to the then common practice of refusing to allow creators to be credited in print), Mike was nonetheless a prominent figure in the British industry for decades.

He began his comics career on Amalgamated Press/Fleetway’s Knockout in the early ‘50s, drawing strips such as Lucky Logan (a Western, appropriately enough) and Johnny Winco (about the adventures of a former RAF pilot).

Moving to TV adaptations No Hiding Place and Biggles for TV Publications’ TV Express in 1960, and then moving back to Fleetway to work on Buster in 1962 (where he created The Shrinker and the super-heroic Leopard from Lime Street, pictured right, amongst others), he really hit his stride on the legendary British weekly comic Valiant. He would work on the title for 13 years on a variety of strips - most notably writer Tom Tully’s The Wild Wonders, about a couple of youths who grew up on a desert island and later became champion athletes.

Following the demise of Valiant, Western moved over to Battle Picture Weekly, where, over the next few years, he created probably the finest, and certainly the best remembered, work of his career on strips such as The Sarge, John Wagner’s HMS Nightshade and in particular the now controversial Darkie’s Mob pictured below right (also written by John Wagner). 

This latter strip followed the mysterious, misanthropic "Captain" Joe Darkie and his band of misfit soldiers waging a savage private war on the Japanese in World War II. Darkie’s Mob, criticised for its excessive violence and hard hitting storylines, is nonetheless a classic example of British comics at their best, and was reprinted in recent years in the Judge Dredd Megazine.

In 1980, Mike moved over to the short lived boy’s weekly comic Speed to draw WWII strip Bakers Half Dozen and later to Tiger, where he worked on Topps on Two Wheels, the story of egocentric biker Eddie Topps. He drew Computer Warrior and The Avenger for the relaunched Eagle, classic football strip Billy’s Boots for Roy of the Rovers, and also drew the Roy of the Rovers newspaper strip for the Daily Star from 1992-1993. He continued to work on strips until 2000, and continued to draw until 2003, his career eventually spanning five decades! With his death, the British comics industry has lost another of its true greats, a man whose work provided pleasure for generations of readers. He is survived by his wife, Enid, and their children, to whom we offer our condolences.

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