‘Swiped’ Biggles Repeat

Here’s a fascinating one. On the right, an Alfred Sindall illustration first published in the 1937 ‘Biggles Air Commodore’ by W.E. Johns. (The other Sindall illustrations are posted on the Biggles page here. He was the main illustrator for the Oxford University Press published Biggles stories of the late thirties and early forties.)


On the left, the cover illustration on the republished Red Fox edition of 1994, the title ‘Air Commodore’ being thought too obscure for modern youth, it was retitled ‘Biggles and the Secret Mission’ which has much more of the Famous Five about it. (W.E. Johns was, for a number of years only second to Enid Blighton as a children’s author in sales.)

It’s an interesting copy of the original illustration, a ‘swipe’ as discussed and shown by the Facebook illustrators’ ‘Today’s Inspiration’ group. The new illustration is credited on the book to ‘FAB/NORMA’, who I’ve failed to find anything out about, but their artist/s have consistently hit a pretty poor level, here changing a number of details of a simple yet well crafted ink study into a more detailed yet more inaccurate artwork. Having illustrated Sopwith Camels in other Red Fox reissues, on this one, the fictitious multi-engine amphibian of the story has a Sopwith Camel nose section drawn in, bizarrely putting a single seat landplane on the water about to have four people enter it’s non existent cabin in the story. If you kneel like that on a wooden structure fabric covered wing, you’ll go through the fabric and probably break the wing ribs – a common mistake by artists who don’t understand the structure of what they’re illustrating. The insertion of a float (with incorrect perspective) under the aircraft’s wing confuses the position of the rescuers compared to Sindall’s original work as well. (A positive is the rigging the FAB/NORMA artist has drawn in is broadly correct though.) Ah well.

Still, the shark fin is always a good visual shorthand.

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.


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