Don Lawrence died of pneumonia on 29th December 2003 in a hospital near
his home in Jevington, East Sussex, England. He was 75.
Lawrence was born in London in 1928. He studied figurative art at
Borough Polytechnic (now South Bank University) in London. Comics
had not occurred to him as a career path until a visiting lecturer
spurred him to try breaking into the field. Leading publishers
Amalgamated Press rejected his samples in 1954, but when Lawrence
approached entrepreneur Mick Anglo's Gower Studios, he was hired on
the spot to join a band of freelancers supplying publishers with cheap,
ready packages of comic-book stories.
His early work graced such British classics as Marvelman.
For 11 years starting in the mid-1960s, Lawrence drew nearly
1,000 pages for The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire, a
fantasy by Mike Butterworth about the warrior Trigo on the
planet Elekton that appeared mainly in the weekly children's
publication Look and Learn. While maintaining this demanding
output, he still found time to draw The Adventures Of Tarzan,
Gerry Anderson's puppet series Fireball XL5 (for TV Century 21)
and Thunderbirds Are Go (for the Daily Mail), as well as drawing
the adventures of our girl Carrie for Mayfair magazine (Dutch:
Cathy, German: Virginia, French: Sophie). Carrie first appeared
in Mayfair in August 1972.
Unlike other publishing spheres, British comics paid
their artists only once for their work, and they received
nothing for reprints, translations or other rights. When IPC
refused to raise his page rate, or pay royalties, for the
numerous foreign Trigan Empire collections, Lawrence resigned.
That same afternoon, Dutch publishers Oberon offered him the
contract he wanted, and he never looked back. For their weekly
Eppo in 1977, Lawrence and writer Philip Dunn created a variation
on Flash Gordon entitled Storm. Later, Dutch writer Martin Lodewijk
contributed stories and became the regular scripter.
Failing health and eyesight reduced Lawrence's output in his
final years, but he continued to work on new Storm albums.
Acclaimed across Europe, appointed a knight of the Order of
Orange-Nassau in the Netherlands, yet little known in his
homeland, he stands as an exemplar in the remarkable British
tradition of fully painted adventure comics.