“The Filth” and “Ministry of Space” artist Chris Weston wrote CBR News Wednesday bearing some sad news. One of Britain’s most famous comic-strip artists, Don Lawrence, passed away Monday, suffering a bout of pneumonia. He was 75. While a virtual unknown in the United States, Lawrence was a super-star in the European comics market who influenced an entire generation of comic artists overseas. Weston put it into perspective for us, pointing out that Lawrence’s passing is “an event which, put into context, is similar to the U.S. industry losing a Kirby, Colan, or Kubert.”
Weston continued, “I was priviliged to call Don my friend and mentor; he was generous enough to offer me a whole year’s personal tuition in the art of illustrating comics… a time I’ll treasure forever. I’ll miss him terribly.”
Weston also forwarded the following biographical information about the work and life of Don Lawrence.
On Monday 29th of December one of England’s greatest comic-strip artists, Don
Lawrence, died at the age of 75 from pneumonia.
His work is little known in the states, but across Europe and especially in
Holland he was afforded super-star treatment. Dutch television newsprogrammes
reported his death, using footage from a documentary filmed at Don’s studio in
Don Lawrence was born at November 17, 1928 in London, England. He studied art
at the London Academy of Arts after which made his comics debut drawing “Marvelman,” a job that lasted him throughout the fifties. Some of this work saw print again, thirty years later, under the new title of “Miracleman.”He then spent several years drawing black and white strips for Amalgamated Press, titles such as “Olac the Gladiator” , “Erik the Viking” [1960-1964], “Karl the Viking” [1960-1964], “Thunderbirds” , “Fireball XL5”  and about eight western comics.
But his popularity amongst the readers soared once he started to work in full painted colour, particulary on the epic science-fiction saga, “The Rise” and “Fall of the Trigan Empire.” Written by Mike Butterworth, this strip ran for eleven years in the educational magazine, “Look and Learn”. Without Don’s knowledge, it was also being published in graphic novel form across Europe. Don only came to know the popularity of his comic when he received an award at a British comics convention in 1976. When he confronted his publisher with this and asked him for more money, the publisher ended their relation.
After his breakup his British publisher, Don started working for the Dutch comics magazine “Eppo.” He also contributed a strip to a soft-porn monthly called “Cathy.” In 1977 he created the graphic novel series “Storm” in co-operation with story-writer Philip Dunn. Other story-writers that contributed scripts for “Storm” are Martin Lodewijk, Dick Matena and Kevin Gosnell. He was to spend the rest of his life on this strip, despite an offer from Chris Claremont to pencil the “X-Men” in 1989.
Don was keen to share his knowledge and experience, and gave a years personal tuition to Liam Sharpe, artist of Wildstorm’s “The Possessed.” Later, he generously did the same for yours truly, Chris Weston, (artist of Vertigo’s “The Filth” and “Ministry of Space”). I’ll always treasure that time in Don’s company.
You can find out more about Don’s life and art at http://www.donlawrence.nl/eng/index.htm.