Reginald “Reg” Bunn was a fantastic British comic artist best known for being the co-creator next to Ted Cowan of the anti-hero The Spider. His popularity seems to have grown over the years, but very little is known about his life. Although by no means comprehensive, this blog post brings together the bits and pieces of information scattered around the net and in some ‘old fashioned’ books to give a biography of one of the most prolific British artists.
We know that Reg Bunn was born in King’s Norton, Birmingham, in 1905. Apparently, Reg did not come from a well-to-do family and led an impoverished life. He was married, although his wife’s name does not appear written anywhere. In 1944 he was involved in a serious car accident that left him paralysed from the neck down. The doctors told him that he would never walk again. Nevertheless, after developing some movement in his index finger, Reg taught himself to walk once more although his back continued to give him problems for the rest of his life. For this reason, Reg had to take a sedentary job. During the following years he had three children: Ian (1944-2013), Julia (1950), and Trevor (1955). Information regarding his formal training as an artist is missing, but it seems that after the accident he turned to his artwork, which he produced from a studio set in his own home.
When in 1948 the Amalgamated Press ran an ongoing advertising campaign in the newspapers looking for artists, only two people were selected out of the two hundred or so replies: Geoff Campion and Reg Bunn. According to Steve Holland, Reg’s first strip was not published in the UK, but in Australia. Apparently, the Amalgamated Press were publishing a number of magazines there right after WWII. These magazines were not dated, but as previously noted their publication began in 1949. Reg’s first strip titled “Buck Jones, Outlaw!” appeared in Buck Jones, issue #6.
It did not take him long to establish himself as a prolific artist in Comet (a comics magazine bought from publisher JB Allen by Amalgamated Press, later Fleetway Publications, and edited by Leonard Matthews), for whom he drew the adventures of Buck Jones between 1949 and 1950. His style these first years seemed to be open, rounded, and warm-spirited. This was also the style that he gave to his Robin Hood work between 1949 and 1951. As a matter of fact, his work on the latter became so popular, that even after he stopped drawing it he was asked to fill in the faces to give the strip some sort of visual continuity.
Reg continued to be a first-rate action-adventure artist, a quality that he displayed prominently in his extensive work for the Cowboy Comics Library with titles like Buck Jones and the Wreckers of Gunsmoke Gulch, Kit Carson and the Stagecoach Killers, Buck Jones and the Last of the Little Indians, Buck Jones and the Fighting Editor, Kit Carson and the Race to the Hills, Buck Jones and the Chinese Trouble Chaser, and Kansas Kid and the Rio Grande Rustlers, published between 1950 and 1952; Super Detective Library, with titles such as Bulldog Drummond Again: Final Count, The Mystery of the Hooded Men, The Secret of Lessinger’s Loot and The City in Space, published between 1953 and 1954; and for the Thriller Comics Library with titles such as The Man with the Red Beard, Rob Roy, Dick Daring and the Lust for Gold, Spy 13 of World War II published between 1952 and 1960. He was also hired to draw Clip McCord Special Agent and The Terrible Three for SUN in 1950, and he went on to work for Tiger and Lion in the 60s, working on titles such as Speed Fury, The Trykons, and Phantom of the Ring (1962-1963). Furthermore, he also did work on The Border Trumpet (‘US Cavalry Westerns of Ernest Haycox’), The White Invader (‘James Warner Bellah’) and on titles such as Black Hood, The Scottish Chiefs, and Captain Kid.
In 1965 Reg was also working for Lion and he was asked to create a new character for that comics magazine. With writer Ted Cowan, he came up with The Spider, a mysterious scientist whose goal is to become the greatest criminal in the world!
After over fifteen years working for the Amalgamated Press and related titles, Reg earned a reputation for turning pages in week after week without delay, which he continued to do until his death. In time his style changed, and towards the 60s it seems that his drawings became more angular–the type of work that is mostly associated with The Spider. Although he was capable of producing detailed work of the highest quality, the publishers often requested so many pages that he had to reduce his backgrounds. Many panels’ backgrounds were rendered impressionistically with finely-hatched line work that earned him the nick-name “the cross-hatch king” because of the quality of his finished art work. Still, he was a master of black and white art and his strongly hatched line-work was ideal for establishing not only the action, but also the settings of his comic strips.
Working from his studio in isolation for 20 years had a toll on Reg. He developed depression and he died from complications after spending nearly a year in Rubery Hill Mental Hospital (Birmingham) in 1971.
As Steve Holland mentioned, “Reg probably packed as much work into his 22 years as a comics’ artist as others whose careers lasted twice as long.” He has left a lasting impact in the history of British Comics and even today he is still revered and missed. Many of the comic strips on which he worked have been translated into other languages, including French, Finnish, and Hindi. In 2005, Titan Books published King of Crooks featuring The Spider, which brought back the first three adventures of the brilliant megalomaniac with a high-tech suit to a modern audience. Not to mention his revival in the six-issue comic book limited series Albion created by Alan Moore, Leah Moore, and John Reppion.
In 2007, Reg Bunn (1905-1971) was inducted into the Career Communications Group Hall of Fame. He also won a Comic Creators Guild Award for Outstanding Achievement.
Clark, Alan (1998). Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors. London: The British Library.
Holland, Steve (2008). “Comic Firsts: Reg Bunn.” Bear Alley Blog. Last accessed on April 26, 2016.
Khoury, George (2004). True Brit: A Celebration of the Great Comic Book Artists of the UK. Raleigh, NC: TwoMorrows Publishing.
UK Comics Wiki (n/d). “Reg Bunn (1905-1971).” Last accessed on April 26, 2016.
Wiacek, Win (2007). “The Spider.” Now Read This!: Graphic Novel Reviews and Recommendations by WIN WIACEK. Last accessed April 26, 2016.
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