Thursday, 18 January 2018

The Omega Man

It's funny what you can discover when you're packing up to move house.

I've seen that author's name somewhere before...
no idea what happened to the the illustrator, though

For decades I have carried around two A1 sized boxes stuffed with select work I'd produced at Design School in the mid 1980s, to freelance illustration in Scotland in the early 1990s.

Most of it is horrible and finally needed to be got rid of on a bonfire of inanities. But a few exceptions also exist, a tiny stack of scribblings which, more through accident than design, manage to hold up. By my standards, at least.
Among these are some illustrations I did for an Edinburgh-based magazine called Scottish Field, established in 1903 and despite publishing some of my work in 1993/94 are still going strong today.

These commissions came at a time when I really needed the money, and confidence boost, and were for a series of whimsical short stories about a retired butcher called Bodie who becomes a private investigator.

I'd supply two black and white roughs, then a colour rough for my
own reference, and finally the finished art in watercolour and ink.

I realised that I'd actually kept some copies of the magazine itself, and turning to one of these stories was struck dumb by a realisation twenty-five years after the fact (I can be slow on the uptake, but a quarter of a century for the penny to drop has to be a record).

The author of these stories was a man called Jack Gerson. And this might not have even meant anything to me now, if I hadn't written blog post about a television series and book which I took into my sad little geek heart so many years ago:

I had been illustrating stories by the writer and creator of The Omega Factor and hadn't even realised it.

It won't mean much to anyone else, as my wife's rather bemused expression conveyed when I shrieked this discovery. But this 'one degree of separation' rather rocks my world, sharing 'journalistic real estate' with a storyteller who's skill fired my imagination as a teenager and still does even now. And made all the more poignant by the fact that I was gormlessly unaware at the time.

But perhaps it's just as well, my Fanboy reaction and inevitable stalking of Mr Gerson might have only earned me a restraining order and termination of contract.

Finding an obituary, I discovered that Gerson passed away six years ago, leaving a huge body of work to the world.
The last writing he did was a radio play called Bodie’s Occupations, featuring, yes, the very same character whose earlier adventures I had illustrated.

The connections don't end there. As anyone who has to listen to me for longer than 5 minutes knows, I am currently writing a book about Hammer films, which has absorbed a huge part of my life recently.
The concept of 'Hammer Horror' really began with a 1957 film called The Curse of Frankenstein, starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in their first film together. Second billing went to a Scottish actor called Robert Urquhart, who played Frankenstein's tutor and eventual accomplice, Paul Krempe.

Urquhart himself had a long and illustrious career, and one of the final things he did before his death in 1995 was a certain radio play by his old friend Jack Gerson, where he took the title role of a private detective called Bodie.

My preliminary sketches for Bodie's appearance and
(inset) actor Robert Urquhart, who eventually played him on radio.

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