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Monday, 25 August 2014

William (Bill/Billy) McCail 31st March,1902 –12th August 1974

     William McCail was born in West Hartlepool and his father was, unsurprisingly for that period, a shipyard worker and William initially found a job at the shipyard as well.  However, an unfortunate (or fortunate?) accident allowed him to pursue an artistic career. He went on to become a staff illustrator for D.C. Thomson in Dundee,  (publishers of The Beano and Dandy, of course) where he worked in the art department of The Courier, coincidentally, his artist brother John had worked there before him.

     McCail provided art for all types of magazines including Boys Papers such as  Rover, Adventure and Wizard also the women's story papers Red Letter, Weekly Welcome and Women’s Companion. Anyone interested in British Golden Age comics or illustrated papers will know he was the regular artist of the 'Dixon Hawke' detective stories in Sporting Post.

     Unfortunately, Thomson was a very conservative company (and still is).  You got paid a, uh, ’fair amount’ for your work and you were expected to doff your cap and humbly get back to work on the next set (comic strip).  William was guilty of “politicking” -unforgiveable back then- and so left Thomson.

   A pity certain modern day creators working for the company don't have that kind of backbone.

     In 1940, William moved to London aiming to work as a freelance artist and, together with his brother, started work with publisher Gerald Swan and this work lasted a number of years —Back From The Dead is probably his most famous work though he also produced “Headline Henderson”,”Calling All Cars”, ”Red Martin” and the pirate adventure “Old Hooky” and many others.

     Although his stories seemed to be a little what Denis Gifford termed “slap-dash”, they were well plotted and paced and William was very popular amongst the readers of Swan Comics.  At least with Swan he was told how readers appreciated his work.  Also, he had no problems with what we might call creators rights at Swan.

     Back From The Dead featured in War Comics[1940], Topical Funnies [1941] and, along with help from brother John (possibly the better artist of the two and he drew TNT Tom, Captain Comet et al) the whole story was compiled into a 52 pages long Picture Epics No.1 –along with that famous cover!

     Back in Dundee, in 1944, William set up "Livingstone Studios" which was later re-named “Strathmore Studios”.  Curiously, he specialised in drawing horses and was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy. 

     In 1962,William McCail retired.

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