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  • Noel Cook (1896 - 1981)

    Biographic details

    Taken from the catalogue for Noel Cook, veteran comic illustrator : an "International Year of the Child" exhibition : Auckland City Art Gallery, May 5-June 17, 1979.

    Exhibition CatalogueBorn in Foxton in 1896, has been taken for a Latin. Sometimes it has been useful - at other times he has had to go as far as to take an oath that his mother was of English parentage. She was born in Melbourne and his father, William Thompson Te Rauparaha Cook, was of English and Maori extraction. His Grandfather, Thomas Uppadine Cook, is recognised as founder and 'father' of Foxton, Manawatu. Noel's father, a compositor-journalist, originally in Foxton and later in Masterton, established the Taumarunui Press. He disposed of this during the Great War when he acquired the Rodney and Otamatea Times in Warkworth, which is still published by his descendants. In his Youth, Noel has a plentiful supply of paper with which to indulge his drawing proclivities.

    He was articled to a Taumarunui firm of architects and engineers as his first job, then worked as clerk for the local borough council as assistant town clerk in Tauranga. He enlisted with the 15 Reinforcements, altering his age to get in. While on serice he won the welter-weight boxing championship for his brigade. He was severely wounded in thigh and legs at the Battle of the Messines in 1917

    When he returned to New Zealand he took on a cadetship to the NZ Herald and Weekly News as an artist through a Rehabilitation Deptment programme. During this time he shared a studio with Robert Johnston, George Finey and Unk White. Became life-times friends with them.

    Two years later he went to Australia to freelance as a black & white artist with Smith's Weekly, Sydney Bulletin etc. In 1923 he created the strip Peter and the Other Roaming Folk for Sunday Times . On the strength of this the Sydney Sunday Sun gave him a half page in full colour for Peter's "Fantastic adventures on Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. Venus and other planets and Asteroids". Peter is notworthy as the earliest of space comics. Most of the original art has been lost for Peter, two house fires having ravaged Noel's archives of original art. Colour printing proofs were used for the exhibition. Noel could work fast over long hours, often completing fifty pages per month.

    Pat Sullivan, an Australian artist resident in New York and creator of Felix the Cat, was involved in brokering an offer of work from Bell Syndicate to draw Peter in New York. Noel declined, as he was already "happy and prosperous" in Australia.

    Noel "also indulged in the higher aesthetics of water colour and oil painting", producing 150 Cartoon books, and also held a position with Australian Women's Weekly and Sydney Sunday & Daily Telegraph

    During WWII he served with the Camouflage Unit on the New Guinea theatre. After the war's end he went to London to work as a freelancing illustrator in Fleet Street for a while, then gained a job as Art Editor with Amalgamated Press where he created strip cartoons on top of other freelance illustration.

    After he retired he was commissioned by the BBC to do posters for serious and comedy programmes. He left London in 1973 for a short stay in Toronto, then spent six months in San Francisco, visted Sydney and then ended up back in London to visit his son Peter. In late 1977 he returned to New Zealand (via Australia).

    Previous Exhibitions

    The Auckland City Art Gallery exhibition was the first time his comic work had been shown in a gallery setting.

    Works displayed

    Title Date Publisher Medium
    Romantic Drawing Based on 3 Musketeers 1919 Frank Lynch Pen and Ink
    - Executed at a studio in Wellesly street, Auckland.
    Kiwi Kid 1919 N.Z. Newspapers Pen and Ink
    Dead Diggers (ANZAC day 1920) "Marching On" 1920 N.Z. Observer Pen and Ink
    Peter 1924 Sunday Times Colour Overlay
    Peter 1924 Sunday Times Colour Overlay
    Peter 1925 Sunday Times Colour Overlay
    Peter 1925 Sunday Times Colour Overlay
    Peter 1926 Sunday Times Colour Overlay
    Lost In Space 1926 F. Johnson Colour, gouche
    Allies In Space 1927 F. Johnson Colour, gouche
    Hawk Larse 1926 Felix the Cat Productions Colour, gouche
    Sally Sharp 1926 Felix the Cat Productions Pen and Ink
    Bobby & Betty 1927 Daily Telegraph Hobart Mercury Colour, gouche
    Dick Dean 1928 Syndey Daily Telegraph Pen and Ink
    Script holders for Radio 2UE, Sydney 1928 Radio 2UE Silk Screen
    Dinny Dingo, Dingo Dell, Mrs Hippo, Dinty Dingo 1927 Felex the Cat Productions Pen and Ink
    Kokey Koala 1927 Felex the Cat Productions Pen and Ink
    Kokey Koala 1927 Felex the Cat Productions Pen and Ink
    Kewpie Koala 1927 Bell Syndicate Wash, Pen and Ink
    Kewpie Crusoe 1927 Bell Syndicate Wash, Pen and Ink
    Corky Koala 1930 Elmsdale Syndicate Pen and Ink
    Kewpie Koala and Whale 1930 Elmsdale Syndicate Pen and Ink
    Whizz the Wizard 1932 Elmsdale Syndicate Pen and Ink
    Doc Stork & Eggs, Dinny Dingo, Kewpie Koala, Tassie Wolf and Willie 1933 Elmsdale Syndicate Pen and Ink
    Cavalcade of Communications 1939 A.W.A. Colour Poster
    - Original painted in oil 18 feet wide by 10 high. At time of exhibition the original was hung inside the Harbour-side pylon of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
    Planet of Fear 1942 Emvee Publications Colour, gouche
    Peril Planet 1943 F. Johnson Colour, gouche
    Cassidy Gold 1944 Emvee Publications Colour, gouche
    Horror Planet 1945 Offset Printing Colour, gouche
    Pirate Planet 1946 Emvee Publlications Colour, gouche
    The Cassidy Twins 1949 Kenmure Press Colour, gouche
    Space Cadet 1949 Felix the Cat Productions Colour, gouche
    Dick Turpin 1953 Felix the Cat Productions Colour, gouche
    Galactic Miracle 1956 G. Newnes Publishing Co. Colour, gouche
    - Used as cover for exhibition catalogue
    Planet of Power 1958 G. Newnes Publishing Co. Colour, gouche
    Cosmic Calamity 1959 Miiller Publications Colour, gouche
    Love Story 1964 Children's Newspaper Colour, gouche
    The White Rajah 1963 Children's Newspaper Pen and Ink
    King Herold 1963 Children's Newspaper Pen and Ink
    Tunnel Bridge or Rocket 1961 Children's Newspaper Pen and Ink
    Montage of Drawings "Suspense, etc" 1965 Amalgamated Press Pen and Ink
    Jeff Barker 1965 Toonder Publlications Pen and Ink
    "It was a long time ago--the ship passed through our ower beam.." 1966 Miiller Publications Pen and Ink

    The Auckland City Art Gallery lists six of Noel's works in their current collection, and also appears to hold a clipping file for him.

    Noel Cooks' experiences in WW1

    Biography from Bonzer: Australian Comics 1900s - 1990s

    Noel Cook was born in New Zealand and little is known of his early life. He emigrated to Australia and by the late 1920's was producing a strip for the Sunday Times called Roving Peter.

    During the 1920s Cook shared a room with another artist from New Zealand - Cecil 'Unk' White.

    Cook was a prolific producer of comics. In August 1933, the Daily Telegraph published his Bobby and Betty . When the strip began it was old fashioned in style, with the text appearing below each Panel. Cook's style changed, however, as he sought to emulate the techniques of American artists Alex Raymond and Burne Hogarth, whose work featured a close relationship between pictures and text.

    Cook was interested in the science fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and he produced science fiction comics such as Pirate Planet and Peril Planet for the NSW Bookstall Co. P/L. Cook's The Red Ray was published as a one-shot title by K.G. Murray early in 1946.

    For the offset Publishing Company Cook reprinted his former newspaper strip drawn for the Daily Telegraph. He also created new stories for this publishing house, including Dick Dean - Star Reporter and Bobby and Betty,

    Cook created adventure strips such as Boris of Mars and Hawk Larse - In the Year 2000 AD for Frank Johnson Publications. Late in 1947, Elmsdale Publications introduced Cook's Kokey Koala and his Magic Button which was very popular with younger readers.

    Cook later worked as a staff artist with associated Newspapers and Consolidated Press in Sydney. In 1950 he travelled overseas. In 1964 he became art director of children's magazines by Fleetway Publications in London.

    They reference John Ryan's Panel By Panel: A History of Australian Comics, 1979

    Excerpt from Comics in the Antipodes: A low art in a low place by Tim Bollinger

    The country exported cartoonists from an early time. Perhaps New Zealand's greatest contribution to world comic book history dates from 1924 when Auckland cartoonist Noel Cook drew one of the earliest recorded science fiction strips ever, Peter and all the Roving Folk, for the Australian Sunday Times . Legend has it that in its first year of publication Cook was offered a lucrative contract in New York to continue the feature for Bell Syndicate. Cook turned down the offer only to witness the popular rise of Buck Rogers (billed by international comics historians as 'the first American science fiction strip') some five years later.

    The 1930s saw the rise of full colour weekly comic supplements in many of New Zealand's leading newspapers. These mostly featured syndicated American strips like Bringing Up Father,Mutt and Jeff, and The Katzenjammer Kids and the occasional New Zealand one, like the Tee Wees Adventures which ran in the Christchurch Star during 1931.

    The advent of the American adventure strip alerted the fears of the establishment to the 'dangers' of comics (mainly because they were American) for the first time. NZ Truth began the regular publication of an Adventure comic supplement in 1938, featuring the early Hal Foster and Alex Raymond strips. That same year tough new import controls were introduced.

    Exchange controls gave a built-in bias to British imports. British comics were considered culturally morally and artistically 'superior' by the state authorities teachers and librarians alike. Those with fewer speech balloons and more explanatory text as in the British style, were considered more sophisticated and thus more beneficial to younger readers.Under import controls the invasion of American comic culture was effectively delayed until the 1950s. In response to demand, there developed a small local comic book printing and publishing industry.

    A similar thing happened across the Tasman where Noel Cook and other kiwi expatriates found plenty of work for their cartooning skills throughout the 1940s.

    With an almost total ban on imported American comics in Australia, Cook and Unk White in particular drew for Frank Johnson Publications' Blue Star Comics'. Unk White drew the cover for the first FJP comic Amazing in 1941 and was responsible for the company's first adventure strip Blue Hardy and The Diamond Eyed Pygmies. These were readily available in New Zealand, despite continued objections from the country's moral guardians.

    From http://www.nzda.ac.nz/graphic/comics/history/ (which is currently offline while the nzda is reshaped.)

    Letter from Noel Cook to Strips Magazine

    Published 1979

    It is not only inconsiderate. but intolerable to the 1980s outlook on life. and times now - but one must always consider the spring from which the modern space. Superman. Marvel and supernatural comic heroes sprang.

    Jules Verne. (remember Captain Nemo and A Journey to the Centre of the Earth?) Jules Verne was a French author with imagination and the first to express it in story form. Then there was Arthur Conan Doyle. the English author and creator of Sherlock Holmes (a superman detective. always with us) and he wrote The Country of the Blind). Then. another English author. H. G. Wells wrote many imaginative stories The War of the Worlds which sparked off many more stories all over the world and inspired American movie makers to perpetuate the stories in movies which they'll never transcend and which, like the Bible will be added to and will live forever and anon! Jules Verne and Conan Doyle and H. G. Wells experienced the First world War which produced no supermen and then another war which produced an evil man, Hitler, who solved nothing also, and then repression, depression. and hope for a better future.

    They (humans) have been saying this for thousands and thousands of years according to archaeologists, through ancient excavations they have been, and still are, exploring over the world. You understand, there were so-called civilisations before ours.

    The new world the United States, with an avid population asking for news was supplied with same in their newspapers with what was then called the funnies (comics) and with the help of brilliant and aggressive almighty dollar men - saw the effect of adding more and ; more readers to their newspapers. The ordinary citizen demanded more and more and thus U.S. became the home from which the comic was a must and still is!

    In 1922 a newspaper in Sydney, Australia called The Sunday Times and owned by Hugh D. Mcintosh (later knighted) and who sponsored the heavyweight boxing championship of the world, between Jack Johnson and Tommy Burns ( The White Hope) a phrase coined by Jack London - the American author, who was in Sydney at the time to cover the fight for U.S. papers - which fight, to the chagrin of Jack and his U.S. public. the Negro won.

    This was where yours truly came in; in 1923, Hugh D. Mcintosh asked me to do a strip cartoon for his newspaper - he liked the strip - a cartoon called Peter and published it as a half page in black and white and I depicted Peter having, then, fantastic adventures on Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus and many more real and imaginary planets and asteroids - great fun - these strips attracted the attention of the Sydney Sunday paper and they offered me a half page in their then prestigious paper in full colour! The Sunday Times, whom I'd informed of the offer and could not equal at that time the Sun's offer said "Take it" - I still did another strip for The Sunday Times and yet was launched onto The Sun -Or The Sun, instantaneous success after 3 issues and even in those days fan mail was something - then after Peter had appeared for 3 months and through the auspices of Pat Sullivan, (originator of Felix the Cat) who was in Sydney. I was offered a (then) fantastic salary to draw Peter in New York - happy and prosperous in Sydney I declined the offer.

    Not long afterwards, in the U.S. commenced a whole spate of futuristic cartoonery Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Superman, Captain Marvel etc, etc, etc, and still going and syndicated in different languages also.

    It had to happen and good luck to all space fiction addicts - I have a new one in mind - title will be mine and you'll hear of it maybe, from Fleet Street this time, if I'm still above ground.

    Comics

    Magic A Magpie Comic, (1941)
    Contribution: 'Boris of Mars'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Star (1941ish)
    Contribution: 'Planet Deep'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist
    Modern A Magpie Comic, (1942)
    Contribution: 'Gorilla Gold'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Sensation (1943ish)
    Contribution: 'Hawk Larse'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist
    Alan Strong (1944ish)
    Noel Cook
    NSW Bookstall Co. P/L (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Pep #A134 (1944ish)
    Contribution: 'Bobby & Betty'
    Offset Printing Co. (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist
    Tornado #A135 (1944ish)
    Contribution: 'Bobby & Betty'
    Offset Printing Co. (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist.
    Explosion #A139 (1944ish)
    Contribution: 'Bobby & Betty; Peter'
    Offset Printing (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist
    Mammoth #A136 (1944ish)
    Contribution: 'Bobby & Betty; Peter'
    Offset Printing (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist
    Quickfire #A139 (1944ish)
    Contribution: 'Bobby & Betty; Peter'
    Offset Printing (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist. See Explosion - also numbered A139, with Same Cover!)
    Sparkler #A128 (1944ish)
    Contribution: 'Bobby & Betty; Peter'
    Offset Printing Co. (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist.
    Speed #A137 (1944ish)
    Contribution: 'Bobby & Betty; Peter'
    Offset Printing Co. (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist.
    Kayo #A127 (1944ish)
    Contribution: 'Dick Dean'
    Offset Printing (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Zip #A126 (1944ish)
    Contribution: 'Dick Dean'
    Offset Printing Co. (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist.
    Ajax (1944ish)
    Contribution: 'Fortress Phill'
    Offset Printing (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Peril Planet (1945ish)
    Noel Cook
    NSW Bookstall Co. P/L (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Pirate Planet (1945ish)
    Noel Cook
    NSW Bookstall Co P/L (P)
    Note: From Bonzer checklist
    Koala Komics (1945ish)
    Contribution: 'Adrift in Space'
    Elmsdale Publications (P)
    Opc Volcanic Adventure #C27 (1945ish)
    Contribution: 'The Atomic Shell'
    Offset Printing (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Opc Secret of the Wreak #C28 (1945ish)
    Contribution: 'The Crystal Ball'
    Offset Printing (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Adventure A Magpie Comic, (1946 ish)
    Contribution: 'Kim Hale'
    Frank Johnson (P)
    30 pp
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Champion Comics (?) A Magpie series, (1946ish)
    Contribution: 'Hawk Larse'
    Frank Johnson (P)
    285*210mm (F)
    30 pp
    350 George st, Sydney, Aust
    Note: Several sections out of comic
    Dauntless A Magpie Comic, (1946 ish)
    Contribution: 'Kim Hale'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Exciting A Magpie Comic, (1946 ish)
    Contribution: 'Kim Hale'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Fearless A Magpie Comic, (1946 ish)
    Contribution: 'Kim Hale'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    King A Magpie Comic, (1946 ish)
    Contribution: 'Peace Planet'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    285*210mm (F)
    14 pp
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Bonzer (1946ish)
    Noel Cook
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist
    Wizard (?) (1946ish)
    Contribution: 'Allies in Space'
    Frank Johnson (P)
    285*210mm (F)
    18 pp
    350 George st, Sydney, Suat
    Note: Section out of a larger comic - Listed in Bonzer Checklist
    Avalanche (1946ish)
    Contribution: 'Bobby & Betty; Peter'
    Offset Printing (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist
    Champion (1946ish)
    Contribution: 'Hawk Larse'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer Checklist
    Modern A Magpie Comic, (1946ish)
    Contribution: 'Hawk Larse'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: from Bonzer checklist
    Sensational A Magpie Comic, (1946ish)
    Contribution: 'Hawk Larse'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist
    Universal A Magpie Comic, (1946ish)
    Contribution: 'Hawk Larse'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist
    Universal A Magpie Comic, (1946ish)
    Contribution: 'Hawk Larse'
    Frank Johnson Publications (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer checklist
    Koala Komics #6 (1946ish)
    Contribution: 'Spy Breaker'
    Elmsdale Publications (P)
    Kokey Koala and His Magic Button #1-55, then Vol 8 #1-5+ (1947-55)
    Contribution: 'Kokey Koala (1+); Shadowman (29+); Whizz the Wizard (29+); Major Future (29+)'
    Elmsdale Publications (P)
    Treasure Planet A Blue Star Comic, (1947ish)
    Noel Cook
    K.G. Murray (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer
    The Blue Ray A Blue Star Comic, (1947ish)
    Contribution: 'The Blue Ray'
    The K.G. Publishing Co. (P)
    285*210mm (F)
    32 pp
    Aust
    Note: Missing Cover - Listed in Bonzer
    Blue Star All-Australian Comic A Blue Star Comic, (1947ish)
    Contribution: 'The Crystal Ball'
    The K.G. Publishing Co. (P)
    Note: Listed in Bonzer
    A Climax All-Australian Comic (1947ish)
    Contribution: 'Lost in Space'
    K.G. Murray (P)
    273*192 (F)
    12 pp
    Note: Listed in Bonzer
    Koala Komics #9 (1948ish)
    Contribution: 'Shadowman'
    Elmsdale Publications (P)

    Other References