From Sketches to the Comics

The Spitfire as inspiration for draftsmen

The popularity of the Spitfire comes to us many formats; in word and pictures in books, movies, documentaries, and thousand of pages on the internet. Also draftsmen and painters use the Spitfire often as a popular subject. From early on, when the Spitfire was introduced, it was evident to preserve it from every angle with a lens or pencil.

The first drawings of the Spitfire were the sketches by the engineers working for Supermarine. An important aspect of the charm of the Spitfire was undoubted the beautiful elliptical wing. One of the designers, Alf Faddy convinced Reginald Mitchell, head designer at Supermarine, to the idea of the elliptical wing with it’s advantages. The undercarriage had enough depth and the outer ammunition box for the machinegun could find room and all that without loss of performance.
Mitchell gave his okay and it developed from a sketch to a technical draft

Links; Drawing 30000, Sheet 11, the first design by Alf Faddy
where the elliptical shape is evident.
Right; Sheet 13 The famous wing is more detailed.
The most important feature to make the shape; the main spare
in the wing is no longer in an angle but one straight line.

The technical studies were not interesting for the main public. When the Spitfire developed from paper to a real plane her beauty became her power. To show her beauty to the public, artists from all sorts of live jumped on this bandwagon. Many Spitfires were drawn and painted, but not every picture was a success. (Photographs do not belong into this category because there is not a single photo of a Spitfire that is not of any interest.)

Below are some examples of Spitfires and her pilots. From 'Aircraft Identification', the first cartoons and to the high tech drawings, they are all here.

An 'Aircraft Identification' booklet from 1940

As a war machine it was important that everyone knew how the Spitfire looked from every angle. For this purpose there were some booklets published with pictures and black silhouettes of aircraft. These so called 'Aircraft Identification' booklets were published for example at Temple Press LTD in co-operation with the magazine 'The Aeroplane'.

The Spitfire Mk I from the 'Aircraft Identification' booklet.

Beside these serious publication, the Spitfire was portrayed with her pilot in fictional and non-fictional books. For a collector of Spitfire items it’s a challence to look for early drawings in old books and magazines. One of these finds is shown below.

'Behind the Spitfires' was published in October 1941 and was compiled,
but mostly drawn by someone called ‘RAFF’. The Spitfire and her personal
were pictured in at least 200 little light hearted cartoons.

Halfway the fifties, of the last century, the 'Croydon-aircraft series’ was published. Into three booklets one was to paste pictures of planes that were distributed with Croydon Virginia cigarettes. In total 192 plane pictures were needed to fill the booklets. Among these were two Spitfires (an Mk IX (picture 21) and an Mk IX floatplane (22) in album 1). Most of the pictures in the albums had a photo as a basis and were coloured with pencil and crayon.

Picture 21 and 22 from the 'Croydon-aircraft series' (album 1, 1954)

Not only the drawings, as illustrations or cartoons, were published in books. The heroic part played by Spitfires influenced many comic writers. In the sixties and seventies the so called mini-comics were published. In Holland they had tough names as: Strijd (Battle) Classics, Commando Classics, Victoria, Oorlog (War) and Bajonet (The last one is pictures below)

In these little comics the Second World War was the source of inspiration, sometimes they were based upon a true story, but often it was fiction. (Not only the Second World War was published in these series, also the Great War, western- and horror story’s, etc saw the light of day trough these comics). This writer was once the owner of an huge collection. But after I lent them to someone, they were lost. Now I have started a new search and the collection is growing. The colourful cover was often not an accurate picture for the contents.

Left a cover with a Spitfire attacking a Zeppelin airship?!?
In this comic is not a Spitfire to be found!,
but plenty of bi-planes, because it plays in the Great War.
That makes these comics so charming, because of this kind of ‘mistakes’.

Sometimes these booklets were not made to a high standard, but other times there were little nuggets among them. Then your 60 (Dutch) cents were well spent. One of such better comic was No.344, 'Met Grof Geschut' (With Heavy Weapons) from the Victoria series. The cover (a tough guy with a ‘Tommygun’ and grenades is fighting Germans at a de-railed train) promises us a story that is not to be found inside the comic. The story inside, about two rivalry Spitfire pilots, is illustrated in 64 pages of beautiful picture drawings. It is made by an unknown illustrator. That’s also a criteria, the makers are always a mystery.

The love for the Spitfire jumps from every page
made by the unknown illustrator of 'Met Grof Geschut' (With Heavy Weapons).
Above and below some examples.

Not only in small comics the Spitfire is to be found, but also in the larger format, such as ‘The Battle of Britain’ by Pierre Dupuis from 1975 (original title, 'La Bataille d'Angleterre'). The comic contains for the most part Hurricanes, but the odd Spitfire is to be found. The drawing that opens this article (on top of this page) comes from this album. Below the cover is shown (the Dutch version).

On the next page more on the larger comic, such as the 'Biggles' series. Also on the illustrations of the boxes of model kits and the future Spitfire in the PC, and much more.

My advice,… click on the picture below
(also from the mini-comic 'With Heavy Weapons’)