We’re very sorry to bring you the news that Mike Noble, best known for his stunning artwork in the TV21 comics of the 1960s has died aged 88.
Mike Noble’s father was a stockbroker’s clerk who had artistic talent himself, which he passed on to the young Noble before he was evacuated during the Second World War, although he returned to London and endured much of the blitz. After school Noble attended South West Essex Technical College and School of Art where he studied commercial, rather than fine art. At the age of 17 he joined an advertising studio but found the meticulous reproduction of every day objects limited him in scope. In 1949 he was called up for National Service and for 18 months was in the 8th Royal Tank Regiment in North Yorkshire after which he spent three years in the Territorial Army, where his artistic talent came into good use producing graphics of military hardware.
Returning to the same advertising studio he decided to move on and got a job at Cooper’s Studio, London in 1950. Noble admits to learning a lot from Leslie Caswell, (an artist whose figure work in 1950s romance magazines such as Home Notes and weeklies like Everybody’s and John Bull, are renowned). Noble’s first published comic strip (the field in which he was active for 5 decades) was Simon and Sally, a strip for the comic Robin (from Hulton’s line of children’s comics). Noble stayed with Billy Cooper’s studio and contributed spot illustrations to national magazines, such as Titbits, Wide World, Woman, Woman’s Own, and John Bull as well as the regional newspaper Birmingham Weekly Post.
In 1958 he started a long run of regular work in comics, with the strip Lone Ranger and Tonto (Express Weekly) followed by Range Rider for TV Comic.
In 1965 he started work for Gerry Anderson’s TV Century 21 comic, illustrating Fireball XL5 in colour and, later, Zero-X and Captain Scarlet. He also contributed Star Trek to the later incarnation of TV21 but the imminent demise of this comic led him to jump ship and follow Alan Fennell (his editor at TV Comic and TV21) in illustrating Timeslip, and a few strips of Space:1999 in Look-In.
Noble’s use of bright colour made him a recognizable artist for his many UK fans. His work on the subsequent strips Follyfoot and The Adventures of Black Beauty showed his talent for dynamic figure work as well as his ability to draw realistic animals. After a short run of other strips he was asked to draw, in black and white, another creation from the Gerry Anderson canon, Space 1999. Although very capable in drawing hardware (from his work in National Service) he was most happy to be asked to draw the Worzel Gummidge strip.
Noble retired from illustration but still contributed pieces to the Fennell revival of TV21 strips in the 1990s and also enjoyed using his talents locally in illustrating a millennial celebration poster for his village as well as designing a lychgate and stained glass windows for his local church.
Thanks to his involvement with fellow Anderson comic artist Lee Sullivan, Mike also produced a number of special commissions through the 2000s and 2010s including a striking Zero-X print that debuted at Andercon 2014, and most recently Mike and Lee had collaborated on a special poster and comic cover featuring Captain Scarlet for Network Distributing’s 50th anniversary Blu-ray box set.
Fans were lucky enough to get the opportunity to meet Mike at several conventions over the last 4 years, where he was always amazed and humbled by the boundless love and enthusiasm fans showed for his work.
Mike passed away on Thursday 15th November 2018, aged 88.
Next week’s Gerry Anderson Podcast (Pod 24) will be dedicated to Mike – with excerpts from a lengthy chat between Mike Noble, Lee Sullivan and Jamie Anderson that was recorded in July 2017.