Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Born in Painswick, Gloucestershire, on 3 May 1920, Harry Bishop was a fan of illustrators like D. C. Eyles, Stanley Woods and H. M. Brock and was keen to attend art school, an interest supported by his parents. He was educated at Hatherley School and the Gloucester School of Art, leaving the latter in 1937 to travel abroad.
Bishop served in the R.A.F. during the war – mostly abroad and for some time with Bomber Command – and recommenced his art education in 1947, using his ex-serviceman's gratuity to began studying at Wimbledon College of Art. Graduating in 1952, he took up a position as a teacher at Mitcham Grammar School.
At the same time he began drawing comic strips for the Amalgamated Press, his earliest known work appearing in Comic Cuts, where he took over the artistic chores for the adventures of 'Cal McCord', the real-life cowboy and actor, in May 1953. Comic Cuts came to a close soon after, but Bishop was to find a regular home for his work in Swift, which was about to be launched in March 1954. His first strip, 'Tom Tex and Pinto' ran for eighteen months, during which time he also took over the colour cover of Swift, drawing 'Tarna Jungle Boy' from June 1954.
After this rapid rise, Bishop found work on Junior Express drawing 'Wyatt Earp', 'Red Cloud' and 'Rex Keene', for Thriller Comics drawing 'Jesse James' and for Sun drawing 'Billy the Kid'. Through these strips he established himself as one of the leading western artists in the UK. In April 1957, he began drawing 'Gun Law' for Express Weekly, continuing the weekly strip until March 1961. A year earlier, in April 1960, the strip had begun appearing in the Daily Express. He continued to write and draw the strip for almost two decades.
Bishop continued to contribute to British comics, although often for brief periods only, drawing 'Smiley!' (Swift, 1958-59), 'Billy the Kid' (Lion, 1959), 'Tarna Jungle Boy' (Swift, 1962-63), 'Morg of the Mammoths' (Lion, 1963-64) and numerous one-off features for TV Express, Boys' World, Eagle and Princess. In 1970-85, Bishop was also a prolific illustrator for Deans.
After drawing a second strip for the Evening Standard, 'Judy and the Colonel', Bishop drew 'Tarzan' and 'The Saint' for TV Tornado and 'Blackbow the Cheyenne' briefly for Eagle before departing comics around 1967. He returned almost a decade later with 'The Wrangler', a brief one-off in Ally Sloper (1976), which year marked his debut in the Dutch weekly Eppo, where he drew the western 'Laben Tall' until 1977. 'Gun Smoke' ended in 1978.
Bishop brought the 'Wes Slade' series to a close in 1980-81 following the death of its originator, George Stokes, after which he concentrated on painting. He has produced surprisingly few paintings on western subjects, although a 'modest number' (around 30) were sold via Frost and Reed of Bond Street, London; he has, however, painted landscapes and other subjects and worked in most media, although he prefers pen and ink.
In 1984-85, an eye infection caused him to give up painting completely.
Artwork by Harry Bishop can be found for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery.