'Jill Crusoe in the Land of the White Queen' (School Friend #143).

Reginald Ben Davis was a British illustrator and comics artist, best known for his wildlife illustrations. After working as a commercial illustrator, Davis became a contributor of adventurous girls' comics for the Amalgamated Press magazine School Friend during the 1950s. In serials like 'Jill Crusoe, Castaway' (1950-1959) and 'Katy of Cedar Creek' (1957-1960) he could already show his skills in drawing flora and fauna. He later finetuned this specialization as a prominent illustrator of nature sections in the magazines Treasure (1963-1971) and Look and Learn (1970-1982).

Early life and career
Born in Wandsworth in 1907, Davis began his career around 1930 as a commercial artist, affiliated with Byron Studios. He began making cover illustrations for several of Britain's story papers during or shortly after the war. He is known for his post-war collaboration with writer Edward R. Home-Gall and his Panmure Press label. He illustrated covers for Panmure's 'Boys' Favourite Library' in 1948-1949, and also Home-Gall's two novels about the superhero 'The Human Bat' (Mark Goulden, 1950).

School Friend
By 1950, the artist began his collaboration with School Friend, a story paper for girls launched by the Amalgamated Press in 1950. Davis remained associated with the magazine throughout the decade, drawing many comics serials. Most of them starred heroic girls who are either stranded on deserted islands, going on dangerous expeditions or showing their skills on the rough American countryside. Like in most of that time period's girls' comics, horses, orphans, romances, ballet and the circus were also among Davis' repertoire.


'Jill Crusoe and the Stranger from the Sea' (School Friend #472).

Jill Crusoe
His best known and longest lasting feature was 'Jill Crusoe, Castaway' (1950-1959), a female version of the classic 'Robinson Crusoe' story. Jill's adventure began in the first issue of School Friend, when she shipwrecked in the middle of the Indian Ocean, while on her way to Australia. Her adventures among the island's natives and jungle animals proved popular enough to last through the decade. After the original serial came 'Friends of Paradise Isle', 'The Mystery Schooner' (a.k.a. 'The Land of the White Queen', 1952-1953), 'The Golden Bell' (1954-1955) and 'The Stranger from the Sea' (1959), while the characters also appeared in School Friend's annuals and its Picture Library. Roland Davies was for a long time credited as Jill's artist, but later on Reginald Ben Davis has been identified as the feature's actual illustrator.


'The Jackson Family to the Rescue' (School Friend Annual 1959).

Katy Jackson and other heroic girls
Equally adventurous were 'Jon of the Jungle' (1951-1952) and 'The Boy Who Guarded Faraway Isle' (1959-1957), two serials starring girls joining expeditions and treaure hunts in respectively the African jungle and a little known island in the South-Seas. 'Lost in Red Man's Land' (1953-1954) dealt with a family of American pioneers, heading for Oregon. It was a predecessor to Davis' other major contribution to School Friend, the long western feature about 'The Jackson Family' (1957-1960), set in 1890s Kentucky. In the original sixteen-month serial, 'Katy of Cedar Creek' (1957-1958), the brave Katy Jackson tries to win the Grand Prix with her tamed wild horse Duke, in order to save the family's ranch from the evil Crowley. Davis reused Katy and her two siblings in short stories published in the School Friend Annuals of 1959 and 1960. Another serial appeared in School Friend magazine in 1960, this time drawn by E.C. Julien.


'The Riddle of Beacon Heights' (School Friend #273).

Other comics
Other serials by Reginald Ben Davis for School Friend were 'The Riddle of Beacon Heights' (1955), 'Phantom Ballerina' (1959-1960), 'Call of the Circus' (1960, with the first pages drawn by Edmundo Marculeta), 'Dancers in Secret' (1960-1961), 'Penny of Maywood Stables' (1960-1961) and 'Four Winds Ranch' (1961). During the 1960s, he was additionally present in the Princess Picture Library with ' Sally's Christmas Ballet' and in the Schoolgirls' Picture Library with two issues about 'Zanna, Queen of the Jungle'. Many of Davis' series were later reprinted in June, Princess and the Schoolgirls Picture Library. For the latter, Davis furthermore illustrated several covers from 1957 on. In France, his stories appeared in such publications as Princesse, Frimousse and Nano et Nanette.

Wildlife illustrator
During the early 1960s, Reginald Davis dropped most of his comics activities, with the exception of the occasional strip for June ('The Strangest Stories Ever Told', 'Pony Tales', Speed-Girl Julie'). In 1963 he began his association with the educational magazine for young children, Treasure. He remained a contributor to the magazine until it folded in 1971, and painted animals for many of its covers and interiors. In the second half of the 1960s he also joined Fleetway's educational weekly Look and Learn. From 1970 until the final issue in 1982, he was the regular illustrator for wildlife sections like 'Life in Nature', 'Nature's Notebook' and 'Nature's Kingdom'. Davis also illustrated wildlife features for Once Upon a Time and contributed to a number of books published by F. Warne, F. Watts and Viking from the late 1960s until the late 1980s.

Reginald Ben Davis passed away in Alton, Hampshire, in 1998.

Reginald Ben Davis on the Illustration Art Gallery

More about Davis' French publications in Nano et Nanette

Series and books by Reginald Ben Davis in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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