John M. Burns – RIP

British comic artist John M. Burns has passed away.

John Michael Burns

1938 – December 29, 2023

From John Freeman:

We’re very sorry to report the passing of British comic artist John M. Burns, perhaps best known for his work on 2000AD and Look-In.

John passed away peacefully, in hospital on Friday 29th December. He had been ill for some time, and announced his retirement from comics last year.

Announcing the legendary British comic artist’s passing on the John M Burns Art Facebook Group administrator Colin Brown, joining many offering condolences to John’s wife, Julia, family and friends, declared, “If there is such a thing as an afterlife, I hope they have a well-stocked art supplies shop.”

Last year Freeman covered John Burn’s career on the occasion of the artist’s retirement:

John is one of the grandmasters of British comics, revered by creators and fans alike for his dynamic action sequences, fluid storytelling, and realistic characterisations. He has been plying his trade in every major British comic and newspaper for decades, working into his eighties with “The Order” for 2000AD.

Fifteen years ago Lew Stringer discussed John’s early work adapting classics to comic format:

Late 1963/early 1964 saw John’s work appear in the weekly with the adaptation of Emily Bronté’s Wuthering Heights. Episode five, shown above, appeared in Diana No. 46, dated 4th January 1964. Credit to John for using a mature colour palette although some of the browns reproduced a bit muddy even with the benefits of Photogravure printing. Today, the intense script would be considered “compressed”, but Burns handles it well, retaining readers interest with a nicely designed layout…

Paul Hudson in his The A to Z of British Newspaper Strips lists 15 comics by John Burns: The Tuckwells; The Pickwick Papers; The Seekers; The Adventures of Bonnie and Clyde; Danielle; George and Lynne; Matt Marriott; Modesty Blaise; Smithie; Flat-Mates; The Royals; Eartha; Jane; Girl Chat; and Psycops.

Two of the strips John drew appeared in the U.S.

Modesty Blaise was syndicated to newspapers from 1966 to 1967 and again from 1976 to 1981. But they didn’t run Modesty in order, jumping around in the strip’s history, so Burns’ run of 1978-1979, following Romero, was skipped and never appeared in U.S. newspapers.

The Seekers by John did appear in U.S. but not in newspapers. From 1973 to 1978 The Seekers appeared in the weekly comic strip reprint tabloid The Menomonee Falls Gazette. When that publication ended the same Street Enterprises included the strip in their monthly comics news magazine The Comics Reader from 1979 to 1983.

ComicArtFans has a nice gallery of John M. Burns comic book and strip pages with a number of Modesty Blaise.

One thought on “John M. Burns – RIP

  1. The Gazette was a great paper, along with the companion pub.The Guardian, that broadened my exposure to comic strips. Much thanks to Street Enterprises (the “T” in “ST” posts regularly here) for providing the education. Until those papers came along, my only exposure to British comics was “Andy Capp” but through those two papers, I found that there were a lot of really great English adventure strips, intelligently written and beautifully drawn – “Modesty Blaise”, “Tug Transom”, “The Seekers”, “James Bond”, “Garth”, and my personal favorite, “Jeff Hawke”. I still remember that first week of “The Seekers”, seeing Burns’ expressive work for the first time, and thinking “this is going to be good” and it was. He had an amazingly long and productive career; the listing of his works in Wikipedia seems to go on forever. May he indeed rest in peace.

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