From Sketches to Comics (part 2)

Spitfires in the Biggles comics

In 1990 the French comic series 'Biggles' saw the light of day. The comic is based on the original characters by W.E. Johns. The above pictured are translated in Dutch. In these series are some sub-series. Are the original comics drawn in the ‘clear’ line, the sub-series, like the Biggles Presents are little paintings. In a lot of these albums are Spitfires present, like the 'Battle of Britain', 'The Ball of the Spitfires and Squadron Biggles. These books are written and drawn by Francis Bergèse in a traditional, but very flashy style.

From the comic 'Squadron Biggles' text and drawings by Francis Bergèse

A very different kind are the Biggles Presents series. Every picture is a small painting in it’s own right. Some are very good, others are sometimes crude. Good examples are the triplet series about Pierre Closterman (The Big Show). These are painted by Manuel Perales. He uses for his inspiration real wartime photo’s. This makes his work a nice jigsaw of not related pictures glued to one storyboard. A good time to waste is finding the original picture with every little painting. Below are some examples.

A Spitfire from 313 (Czech) Squadron, inspiration for the painting below

The de-briefing of 19 Squadron pilots at RAF Fowlmere,
was used to illustrate the 453 Squadron

A final example

The Spitfire featured in many more books than I can mention here and many more will follow. In most books on Spitfires the popular profile drawings are used. Sometimes only the side of the fuselage is printed, but other times all the sides are featured. These pictures are of great help to the modeller of Spitfires.

Example of the profile sketch of an Spitfire,
in this case Mk, P9323 from 222 Squadron (artist, Claes Sundin)

The model maker, especially the kit builder, will be tempted to buy a Spitfire because of the illustration on the box. The nicer the illustration, the nicer the finished model will look,… we hope. Many times it's not to be. But nevertheless it is important for the marketing and sale that the box features a flashy Spitfire. So, a good artist is given the job to come up with something striking. Some of these are shown below.

A kit from Airfix, scale 1/48, the Spitfire Mk Vb of Neville Duke

Spitfire Mk VIII, A58-464, Grp.Cpt. Clive Caldwell from ARII

Some pictures are poor,…
Okay,… it has some features of a Spitfire.

Shown in the picture above, sometimes the artist was on the wrong trek. Maybe he was working from memory, without a picture at hand? Below another picture is presented of a ‘strange’ Spitfire.

Again a lousy Spitfire, this time a sticker from the ‘Album the Cromos’
(Published by 'Uitgeverij Nooitgedacht', 1971)

The next ‘created’ Spitfire version started her life somewhat stiff as a board. But that would change fast. These days the high tech Spitfire flies around and can be flown by all of us. These Spitfires are solely created in a computer. A popular example is the computer game 'Combat Flight Simulator' by Microsoft.

One of the first computer generated Spitfires

For most of us it is impossible to fly in a real Spitfire. A nice alternative is the virtual Spitfire in the PC. The graphics have jumped with enormous leaps in ten years time, only made possible because of the faster computers.

The PC graphic Spitfire nowadays, just ten years later with the one above!

In 2008 John Glanville contacted me if he could use some text from my pages for his work, the painting for Flight Simulator of two Dutch Spitfires, the H-15 and H-53. I was happy to give it. Below is a sample of John great his work.

Even Dutch Spitfires fly in 'Flight Simulator'!

Now we jump back in time to another Spitfire on paper. Beside the model kit of the Spitfire, there is the card made version. Not only the cover has a nice picture of a Spitfire in pencil, the whole model inside is drawn by an technical artist. Cut it with care, glue the lot and the model is done, no painting necessary.

Left a simple card Spitfire (Douglas Bader’s one)
(this one has also a Messerschmitt Bf 109). Right an expensive card model.
Below a detail of the instruction sheet of the model on the right (not for the beginner)

And so we return to the roots of the illustration in books. Sometimes great artists are contracted to illustrate books. These are the real masters among the plane painters. They bring a sparkle into their work that the unknown artist. One of these great masters with pencil and brush is Robert Taylor.

A section of a painting by Robert Taylor
A Spitfire from 41 Squadron over St Michael's Mount

In Holland are some well known illustrators of aviation. The most notable must be Thijs Postma. Below is an example of his work; the No. 322 Squadron Spitfire LF Mk IXc, MH424, H-53, over a vulcano in Indonesia. More of Postma his work can be found on this page (that describes the sold Spitfire MJ271 from the Aviodrome. Nowadays she can be found at Duxford, UK, where it will be restored to flying condition).

Thijs Postma painted the LF IXc, MH424,
during it’s days with the 322 (Dutch) Squadron

A somewhat lesser known artist in Holland is Serge Stone. His book 'Squadron - De jachtvliegerij in de naoorlogse jaren' (Squadron – The postwar years of fighterflying) contain some great drawings and watercolours. The Spitfire is a rare bird in this book, but keep your eyes peeled to find this great book ( Published by Unieboek, Weesp, ISBN 90 228 3774 2).

From 'Squadron' by Serge Stone. This time not a Spitfire,
but a pilot with his oxygen mask.

A very specialist way to paint airplanes is with the airbrush. It’s a technique which almost is photorealistic. One of these artists who make good use of the airbrush in Holland Herman Veltrop. Besides making canvases of the Formula 1 and nowadays airforce planes, Herman is devoted to his favorite plane,… the Spitfire.

an example of the work by Herman Veltrop

There are plenty more artists in Holland that produce Spitfires, but a lack of space prevent me to name them all (and I don’t want forget one). But I will mention just one more. In 1988 a large book was published to remember the Dutch Airforce; ‘Vlucht door de Tijd’ (Flight through time). And lo and behold, there was an illustration of two Spitfires. These were painted by Nico Peeters and shown below.

The Spitfires H-52 (MK205) and H-51 (MK485) by Nico Peeters
(from 'Vlucht door de tijd')

The maker of these pages made a lot of small cartoons that were published in the newsletter of the Dutch Spitfire Flight in the nineties of the last century. For those among us that are not familiar with the Spitfire (and I can’t belief that), there is a small caption below the cartoon.

Rolls-Royce produced not only the whisper silent cars
but also the Merlin and Griffon engine.

A couple of Spitfires were given floats,
and first testing was done with models

The Spitfires with floats
had not a retractable undercarriage!

During the invasion in Normandy, June 6th, 1944, the Allied aircraft
wore so called invasion stripes as a recognition marking
(just as MK732 in the nineties).

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