Ronald Sydney Embleton was born in London on the 6th of October of 1930. At the tender age of nine, Ron submitted a political cartoon to the News of the World. Shortly after his parents received a letter that said “you should have him trained” (Clark 1998, 54). Following this sound advice, Ron attended the south East Essex Technical College and School of Art and trained with the painter David Bromberg. At age twelve he won a national poster competition (Wikipedia) and at the age of seventeen he proceeded to sell his first cartoon strip, in 1947, to Scion, a small London publisher at the same time that he contributed to several titles published by Gerald G. Swan.
Later on Embleton went to work as a freelance artist for an art studio that he set up with his school friend Terry Patrick and a friend of the latter, James Bleach. The three established themselves rather quickly, submitting work to various publishers among which were Scion, TV Boardman, Norman Light, DCMT and others (Wikipedia). Embleton submitted many adventure strips to the big series of Scion, such as Big Slide, Big Pirate, Big Eagle, Big Indian (this one as a sole artist), Big Cowboy, etc. (Clark 1998, 54). Throughout this period he signed his work as “Ron”. In 1948 his career was interrupted when he was called up to do his National Service in Malaya where he stayed for two years.
In 1950 he went back to do what he did best, although by then the British comic scene had changed and comics displayed an “American-style” that was not present before. Embleton adapted. His work then appeared in several titles including Scion‘s Gallant Series, that is Gallant Adventure, Gallant Detective, Gallant Science, and Gallant Western. In addition, he contributed to Five Star Western and the science-fiction comics Jet and Star Rocket. His work also appeared in Comic Cuts from the Amalgamated Press, specifically in “The Forgotten City” and “Mowhak Trail” in 1951, and in Wonder in “The Dagger” and “Into Strange Lands” in 1952. Embleton also drew features for boys weeklies published by D.C. Thomson, in particular Hotspur. His finest work from this period was done for Mickey Mouse Weekly, specially for “Rogers’ Rangers” in 1953, “Strongbow the Mighty” in 1954-1957, and “Don o’ the Drums” in 1957.
In 1955 Embleton turned to newspaper strips, drawing “Johnny Carry” in Reveille and “The Life of Ben Hogan” as a daily for Beaverbrook newspapers, the later a sports comic strip. By 1957, Ron had begun to experiment more and more with oil painting, and his first painted comic strip “Wulf the Briton” appeared in Express Weekly. He created over three hundred coloured pages during his four-year run on the strip, from 1956 to 1960. His meticulously painted artwork had a tremendous impact that brought him to the attention of many fans for the first time.
In the early 1960s, Embleton embarked on historical illustrations for books and magazines for which he received several awards. He was elected as a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and the National Society of Painters and Sculptors, and exhibitions of his work were held frequently (Clark 1998, 55).
He continued to inspire with his work for Express Weekly (“Biggles” and “Battleground”), Boy’s World (“Wrath of the Gods”) and illustrations for the weeklies and annuals of Eagle as well as for Look-and-Learn, among others. Embleton was also responsible for “Stingray” published by TV Century 21, which led the show’s creator, Gerry Anderson, to invite him to create the artwork for the closing credits of “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.” Embleton created ten paintings that depicted Captain Scarlet in various states of danger appearing under the closing credits at the end of every episode. After shooting the paintings were stored in Reg Hill’s safe, the producer of the show, where they remained in perfect condition for more than thirty years. Reg Hill’s estate decided to sell the paintings in 2003, and they were auctioned at Christie’s in South Kensington. The artwork went for £2500 and £3500 each. Soon after, limited edition versions of the artwork were produced by the publisher Iconagraph, who got Francis Matthews, the voice of Captain Scarlet in the puppet show, to sign them.
In addition to the painting, Embleton was also commissioned to create the poster of the Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons bubble gum cards, which were released in 1968. One side of the cards carried a drawn action scene or photography from the tv series, the other side had a piece of the Embleton poster. The complete set would allow fans to put together the whole illustration like a puzzle, although the poster was also available as a whole.
In the 1960s, Embleton continued to be a prolific contributor to Look and Learn. He produced numerous illustrations for various series such as “The Bath Road” in 1962, “Pioneers Across the Atlantic” in 1962, “The Travels of Marco Polo” in 1964, “Men of the Jolly Roger” in 1965, “Rogers’ Rangers” in 1970 and “Legends of the Rhineland” between 1972 and 1973, among many others. In 1969, Embleton even got to illustrate a fill-in story for the long-running “Trigan Empire” comic strip, a page of which is usually on display at the Cartoon Museum in London. During this period, Embleton also provided illustrations for titles for young children, among them Playhour, Once Upon a Time, The Storyteller and many other books.
In 1971, Embleton contributed frequently to IPC‘s World of Wonder magazine, a similar publication to Look and Learn that also relied heavily on painted illustrations. Embleton provided artwork for long-running strips such as “Men of Waterloo” in 1971, “Ships of the Seven Seas” in 1971, “The Winning of the West” in 1972 and “Mutiny!” in 1972. In addition, he also did a number of cover paintings on issues 118, 124 and 131of World of Wonder. Late in 1973, he returned to this magazine to illustrate an adaptation of Lewis Carroll‘s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
In 1977 the editor of Penthouse, Bob Guccione, asked Embleton to to contribute to a “sex and satire” strip called “Wicked Wanda,” a commission that he tackled with his customary verve. The It turned out to be a huge success and it continued for many years.
He also contributed “Characters from Dickens” in This England Magazine all through the 1980s. He drew a total of 43 characters of Dicken’s stories and all but two of these coloured illustrations in large A2 format are still held by the magazine in Cheltenham. In addition, at this time he also worked in a project on Roman Britain for a Newcastle publisher.
Sadly, Ron Embleton’s career was cut short when he had a heart attack on the 13th of February of 1988. He was survived by his wife and daughter. His brother, Gerry Embleton, is also a noted comic artist (Clark 1998, 55).
Bishop, Chris (n/d). Spectrum Headquarters: Ron Embleton. Accessed July 16, 2016.
Clark, Alan (1998). Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors. London: The British Library.
“Ron Embleton.” Lambiek Comiclopedia. Accessed July 16, 2016.
“Ron Embleton”. Wikipedia. Accessed June 27, 2016.
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