Walt Howarth, who has just died, aged 80, was born on 1st January 1928 in Bolton, Lancashire. His talent for drawing faces was noticed at 4 years of age, and at 13 he was offered a scholarship at Bolton Art School, where he studied for three years. His first professional work was for the cover of Bolton's Salute to the Soldier Week programme in 1946. An avid fan of Bolton Wanderers Football Club, soon Walt was drawing their programme covers and getting five shillings a time for caricatures of the players.
A prolific (if largely unsung) artist, the majority of his work was (via Industrial Art Services) for World Distributors Ltd, whose annuals will be remembered for their distinctive yellow spines. From 1950-1959 he painted six John Wayne Annuals and seventy-seven John Wayne Comic covers, plus for the annuals, illustrations to text stories, endpapers, title/contents pages, and the odd feature or game/quiz page.
In addition, during the 1950s and 1960s, Walt painted covers for many of WDL's Annuals including titles such as: Bronco Lane, Bonanza, Cheyenne, Tenderfoot, Billy the Kid, Rawhide, Maverick, Western Roundup, Cisco Kid, Gunsmoke, Gene Autry, Rawhide, Wells Fargo, Range Rider, Roy Rogers , Wagon Train, TV Favourites, Superman, Batman, Tarzan, Green Hornet, Bewitched and High Chaparral, work which required the skills of a portraitist in capturing the likenesses of the characters seen on television and in film.
Some of his other work (of particular interest to Eagle Society members) included the box art for the 'Merit' Dan Dare Cosmic Ray Gun (produced by J & L Randall in about 1953), and most possibly for other Eagle-related toys of that era. In the 1960s he painted the covers for Dan Dare's Space Annual 1963, and for Eagle Annual 1965.
Of more general interest, he was also responsible for the cover illustrations of the first two Doctor Who Annuals.
An illustrated article, 'Walt Howarth' by Derek Wilson was published in Eagle Times Volume 18 No 3 (Autumn 2005), and gives more details of Walt's career. It can be read at the Gateway site, where it was posted in March, 2006.
Other internet sites reporting the death and and paying tribute to Walt Howarth: