Posts Tagged ‘Modern Motor’

Terence James Trowell was an incredibly talented writer and graphic designer/illustrator.
‘Jet Black, Racing Driver’ was one of his many accomplishments, its excellence made easy for him as a lifetime car nut and race fan.
Google is such a tricky little minx, sometimes you can give her a tickle and get the result anticipated, on other occasions you nibble her ears much the same way you did a couple of days before and she surprises you with her secrets, this is one of those happy occasions.
I’d never heard of Terry Trowell until Tuesday night. His was a shortish but full, fascinating life. Many thanks to Kevin Patrick, this article is the GTAm ‘allegerita-modificato’ version of his Trowell profile in Comics Down Under of March 12, 2010.
Born in Katanning, in Western Australia’s south-west on September 4 1918, Trowell’s formative childhood years were in Malaya where his father was a mining engineer in Ipoh, Perak. He returned to Australia in 1926, boarding at Perth’s Guildford Grammar. At 20, after studying journalism at the UWA he returned to Malaya as a journalist on The Straits Times.

Having returned home in 1940, Trowell enlisted in the Australian Army in July 1942, where his unique skills as an artist with personal experience and knowledge of the Asia-Pacific region, earmarked him for military service with such specialised branches as Operational Intelligence, the Allied Intelligence Bureau and Z-Force, a special operations commando unit which undertook dangerous missions behind Japanese lines. Trowell’s duties included topography, map-making and interrogating prisoners of war in Malaya at the end of hostilities.

Discharged with the rank of corporal in July 1946, Terry travelled to England where he studied art before going to France where he worked as a freelance artist. He returned to Perth in 1948, via the United States. Back home he created a series of murals for several hospitals, hotels and commercial buildings and was then commissioned to illustrate a series of social studies books documenting Western Australian history, the first volume, Early Days of W.A. Towns, was published in 1949.

The following year, he moved to Melbourne with his wife, Patricia Powell, a school teacher studying music and training to be a concert pianist. This was the beginning of his involvement in Australia’s then-booming comic book industry. During 1950/1951 he was a freelance writer and illustrator for Atlas Publications, a Melbourne company which scored early commercial success with the superhero comic Captain Atom.

Trowell’s first series for them was The Grey Domino, a masked vigilante described as “the hooded nemesis of crime”, which debuted in 1951. His storylines were set in exotic locales and featured glamourous women and implacable rogues and were illustrated with great skill – a creative combination for success.

For his next series, Terry inherited a cowboy comic titled The Ghost Rider, a wandering cowboy who dons a black mask to become ‘The Ghost Rider’, whenever trouble looms. Trowell’s work on The Ghost Rider marked a significant advance in his ability as a comic book storyteller.

In 1952 Terry returned to Perth where he established an art studio, but he continued to work as a freelancer for Atlas Publications on The Grey Domino, The Ghost Rider and Rhino Beresford, released by Atlas in 1957. Accompanied by his loyal aide and ‘gun-boy’, M’Bolo, (in most politically incorrect fashion for this day and age), the phlegmatic British hunter, Major Beresford, is known and respected throughout French Equatorial Africa as ‘Bwana Kifaru’ (‘Master Rhino’), able to best any man or beast in the jungle.

Trowell was appointed Art Director of Modern Motor in 1956, published by Modern Magazines Pty. Ltd., a company which also produced Modern Boating and Australian Cricket. Capitalising on his new employers size, he re-entered the comic book market, creating Jet Black – Racing Driver (11 issues), which took its bow in 1958.

Jet Black was a former World War II fighter pilot, who is now the number one driver for the Cougar Racing Team, managed by his wartime colleague, George Faversham. Accompanied by Jet’s girlfriend, Rusty Redd, the trio became entangled in foreign intrigue wherever they went on the racing circuit.

Terry seems to have taken his inspiration from the real ‘JB’ who had not long before joined Cooper Racing, although Cougar Racing was in decline, which Cooper most certainly was not at that stage anyway!

‘Drama is maintained and racing interrupted with a steady stream of villains and beautiful female Interpol agents while a good pair of fists is as useful as a four-wheel drift’ observed ‘Repco 22’ on The Nostalgia Forum.

Modern Magazines was keen to align Jet Black with its racing publication. Trowell’s richly painted covers were adorned with the blurb, ‘Modern Motor presents Jet Black’, while the comic featured text stories and photos taken from Modern Motor, profiling contemporary racing drivers and their cars.

‘The inside back covers offered photos and news of current happenings in the real racing world and there were board games featuring famous circuits on the back page’ Repco 22 adds. It was ‘Altogether a delightful package. A pity it only ran to thirteen issues but American comics were being dumped cheaply on the Australian market and our (comics) industry drew to a sudden halt.’

 

In 1956/7, despite being in Sydney, Terry and his brother John were on the Western Australian Sporting Car Club organising committee of the 1957 AGP held at Caversham that March. His skill as a graphic designer is shown in the suite of material he created for the race which extended to signage, tickets, the program and promotional material.

Trowell also designed a series of full-colour ‘Famous Racers’ posters and ‘Race Games’, depicting well-known circuits which were printed on the comic’s back covers. Each issue of Jet Black was endorsed by the publisher as “an original story, based on authentically drawn scenes and cars, which is both entertaining and educational for readers of all ages.”

At this stage Terry also produced three issues of the True Western comic book series for Modern Magazines. These comics, titled Truth about Jesse James, Truth about Custer’s Last Stand and Killer Marshal – Truth about Wyatt Earp, were factual accounts of famous figures from America’s ‘Wild West’ era.
‘Trowell’s other major comic for Modern Magazines was the offbeat, one-shot title, Purple People Eater. Taking its name from the popular song recorded by Sheb Wooley in 1958, Purple People Eater was a freewheeling romp of a comic, full of space aliens, a hip-swivelling Elvis look-alike, beatniks and a spear-wielding witchdoctor that not only defied description, but mirrored some of the best satirical comic strips then appearing in America’s famous Mad Magazine.’

Lindsay Ross ‘Kerry Cox lights up the retreads on the Paramount Ford out of Newry Corner, Longford 1965 (oldracephotos.com)

Aha! A sidebar. So the nickname of the ‘Krazy Kerry’ Cox famous Paramount Jaguar Spl aka ‘Purple Petrol Eater’, was nicked from either the pop song or Terry’s comic!
Cox was an immensely popular driver amongst his peers and spectators alike, his sportscar was one of Tasmania’s most iconic sixties racing cars.
In 1960 Terry returned to Western Australia, to establish ‘Trowell Purdon Advertising’. He entered the television industry in 1960, working for the Australian Broadcasting Commission for whom he appeared in a children’s television program to use puppets for on-air drawing lessons. He joined J. Gibney & Sons Art Studio as chief illustrator and designer in 1962.
Sadly, his life was cut short on 23 October 1964, when he died from a war-related medical condition. ‘While the history of Australian comics is all the poorer for his untimely death, Terry Trowell nonetheless left behind a significant body of work which entertained countless readers and enriched the comic book medium.’

(HRCCT)

Cox built the Paramount Ford together with Norm Nott, the machines’ chassis was based on the tubular chassis of a Paramount Ford, a British low volume car of the early to mid fifties.
Rather than the puny Ford Consul 1508 cc four, power was provided by a Ford Customline V8 with ‘mechanical bits donated from more than a dozen makes’ wrote Ellis French. The body, which was constructed mainly of fibreglass was laid out and formed over chicken wire as shown in the photograph above.

(Reg Dalwood via HRCCT)

Great shot of Cox blasting the Paramount Ford away from Longford village, he is about to jump the railway line and then charge along Tannery Straight. The shot below is more like Kerry, a very fast driver of great exuberance and skill, Symmons Plains circa 1965.

(HRCCT)

Ellis French tells us once Kerry moved on to the Le Mans Jaguar the Petrol Eater was sold to Ralph Terry before ultimately ending up on the northwest coast of Tassie, perhaps East Devonport, with a replica appearing at Symmons Plains circa 2010.
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