'Objective Destroyed' (Air Ace Picture Library #10, May 1960).

Ian Kennedy was a Scottish comic artist, whose seven-decade spanning career included contributions to most of Britain's top war and science fiction comics. Renowned for his dynamic action scenes and thrilling magazine covers, Kennedy was a longtime contributor to DC Thomson's war comic Commando. His story and cover art also appeared in IPC's Thriller, Air Ace and War Picture Libraries, before he switched to science fiction in 2000AD, Starlord, Eagle and Wildcat.

Early life
Charles Ian Kennedy was born in 1932 in Dundee, a city in Central East Scotland. His early talent for drawing was stimulated by his parents. The boy devoured comic magazines such as Adventure, The Beano, The Dandy, The Rover and Wizard, but singled out the boys' story paper The Champion (Amalgamated Press) as his favorite. Interviewed in 2008 by Chris Weston for The Pulse magazine, Kennedy cited Alex Raymond's 'Rip Kirby' and Milton Caniff's 'Steve Canyon' as graphic influences. In an interview for The Courier (19 February 2011), he also added the Italian artist Ferdinando Tacconi and the Salford comic artist George Ramsbottom, who worked in DC Thomson's art department.

As a child, Kennedy dreamt of joining the Royal Air Force. Not far from his Dundee family home were the Leuchars and Tealing military airports, as well as the Fleet Air Arms Base at Arbroath. During World War II, the teenager Kennedy was fascinated by the Hurricanes and Spitfires that flew over. At the time, he was too young to sign up, but when he reached the right age, a serious ear infection prevented him from enlisting. A mastoid operation relieved Kennedy from the pain, but left him with lifelong hearing problems. A more fortunate result from his hospitalization at the Dundee Royal Infirmary was his introduction to nurse Gladys, who became his wife in 1953. In the Pulse interview, Kennedy said that in the end, he didn't regret never flying an airplane. He wasn't sure whether he was the "right psychological type" anyway. Also, throughout his long and productive career, he could fully compensate for it, by drawing hundreds of aviation comics, all from the safe comfort of his drawing board.

'Billy the Kid and the Hunted Gunfighter' (Sun #316, 26 February 1955).

D.C. Thomson art department
While attending school at Dundee's Morgan Academy, Kennedy got art training from David Ogilvie, a family friend who worked in the art department of the publisher DC Thomson. By the time he graduated, Ogilvie got the seventeen-year-old his first job as an apprentice illustrator with the same publisher. Among the trainee's early tasks was inking the black boxes for the crossword puzzles in The Sunday Post. Although the intern spent a couple of months taking additional evening classes from the Dundee College of Art, he later claimed he learned far more during his five years at DC Thomson. In the Dundee publisher's vast archives, he found dozens of illustrations, which he meticulously studied and copied.

Amalgamated Press/IPC
By 1954, Kennedy and his wife had their first son. At DC Thomson, the young employee didn't make enough money to support a young family. So he turned to more lucrative freelancing instead. Some of his earliest art contributions appeared in the 1954 Collins Boys Annual by Wm. Collins Sons & Co. While also doing freelance work for DC Thomson, Kennedy began a fruitful collaboration with the Amalgamated Press, a London-based publishing company that later operated under the names Fleetway Publications and IPC. Among Kennedy's early AP contributions were western features, such as  'Billy the Kid' for Sun magazine (1954-1956) and 'Kit Carson' in Knock-Out. He later became a staple in the company's war-themed magazines, drawing 'Battler Briton' in the Thriller Picture Library and 'Air Ace' in the Air Ace Picture Library and War Picture Library. In the children's magazine Buster, Kennedy illustrated the adventures of private investigator 'Jeff Craig, Detective' (1964). In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, Kennedy also contributed war comics to the Battle Picture Weekly, and made stories for the boys' magazine Buddy.

'Minnie's Mad Motor' (Judy #920, 1977, reprint from 1973).

DC Thomson freelance work
By 1955, Kennedy was also working for DC Thomson again, this time as a freelance comic artist. Again, he did several war stories, including serials like 'I Fought in the Battle of Britain' in the boys title Hotspur and the World War II feature 'Tiger McTaggart' in The Wizard. Kennedy also did sports comics, such as 'Chained to His Bat' (1964), a serial about cricket player John Taggart in The Hotspur, and the auto race comic 'Typhoon Tennyson' in The Wizard. With writer Alan C. Hemus, he made The Wizard's historical serial 'The Winged Warriors of Flame Island' (1972). During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Kennedy's art additionally appeared in DC Thomson's girls' comics - most notably Bunty and Judy - and on the covers of the Annuals and Summer Specials of the adventure comic magazine The Victor. In the very first issue of The Bullet, Kennedy rebooted 'The Smasher' (1976-1978), a feature about a gigantic metal monster created by Doctor Doom to conquer the world. The original series appeared during the 1960s in The Victor, drawn successively by Frederick Philpotts and Anthony Coleman in The Victor. The Bullet version was drawn in alternation by Ian Kennedy and Terry Patrick.

Kennedy was particularly prolific in DC Thomson's Commando title, an action-adventure pocket book comic with special focus on the First and Second World War. From January 1970 up until his death in February 2022, Ian Kennedy drew dozens of stories and designed over 1,600 covers.

'Killer Kane' (Warlord Summer Special 1977).

Aviation comics
During his freelancing career, Kennedy worked on comics in several genres, but quickly specialized in war and aviation comics. During the 1950s, the demand for stories about brave and heroic aviators increased. Many novels, short stories, films, radio shows, TV shows and comics glorified the deeds of the Royal Air Force, especially during the two world wars. British aviation comic series like Frank Hampson's 'Dan Dare' (in Eagle) and Mike Butterworth and Geoff Campion's 'Battler Britton' (in Sun) and 'Jet-Ace Logan' (in The Comet) were instant hits. As an aviation enthusiast, Kennedy quickly jumped on the bandwagon, drawing many stories for IPC's Thriller Picture Library, Air Ace Picture Library and War Picture Library, as well as DC Thomson's Commando title. Interviewed by Tony O'Donnell in 2009, he recalled that he felt "in his element, at last (...) the world becoming my oyster."

Kennedy gained a reputation for visualizing dynamic and exciting aerial combat scenes. Although he wasn't a fast worker, he made an effort to deliver high-quality artwork before the deadlines. In a 2008 interview with The Pulse, Kennedy explained that he could envision objects three-dimensionally, even with only a two-dimensional plan or photograph at hand. This gave him an advantage over other artists, who preferred using models. At times, Kennedy used a pantograph to trace a drawing or photo. Kennedy's painted illustrations with acrylic colors have been frequently reused and are fondly remembered by longtime fans. Still, Kennedy was known as a humble worker. He famously had a sign on his desk reading "It doesn't have to be a bloody masterpiece", reminding him that a drawing is good enough when it meets the requirements of the assignment and satisfies his editors.

Famous Ian Kennedy cover illustration for 2000AD #446 (1985).

2000 AD
By the mid-1970s, science fiction comics overshadowed traditional aviation comics in popularity. From then on, Kennedy was commissioned to draw violent stories about dystopian societies, extraterrestrial voyages and space battles. In 1977, IPC launched its sci-fi comic weekly 2000 AD. In issue #2, he kicked off the 'M.A.C.H. 1' feature with writers Pat Mills and Robert Flynn, starring a computer-enhanced killer, known as the "Man Activated by Compu-puncture Hyperpower". The main artist for the rest of the series' run was Enio Leguizamón. Kennedy was also one of the artists of the alternate history feature 'Invasion!' (1977-1978), written mostly by Gerry Finley-Day, and he drew occasional episodes of the regular features 'Judge Dredd' and 'Tharg's Future Shocks', written by Alan Grant or Kelvin Gosnell.

Ian Kennedy was also present in 2000 AD's short-lived sister magazine Starlord (May-October 1978). In alternation with Carlos Pino, Kennedy drew installments of 'Ro-Busters', about the adventures of a robotic rescue team. With John Cooper and Magellanes Salinas, he formed the art team of 'Timequake', a police patrol hunting for time-traveling criminals, written by Jack Adrian. When after five months Starlord was discontinued, both 'Ro-Busters' and 'Timequake' moved to 2000 AD, but then drawn by other artists.

'Ro-Busters' in Starlord #5 (1977).

On 7 March 1982, IPC relaunched its popular sci-fi comic weekly of the 1950s and 1960s, Eagle. Just like in the original version, the main comic feature was about the "Pilot of the Future" Dan Dare. The new Dan Dare was however not the original - as created in 1950 by Frank Hampson - but his great-great-great-grandson, propelling the feature further into the future. Written by Pat Mills and John Wagner, the revamped feature was initially drawn by Gerry Embleton and Oliver Frey, with Ian Kennedy joining the artist team with the 31 July 1982 issue, and eventually becoming the feature's regular artist. To avoid confusion with the original Dan Dare, Kennedy gave the descendant a different look. Later adventures of the 'Dan Dare' reboot were drawn by Carlos Cruz and John Gillatt, until in 1989 the original version of the series returned, drawn by Keith Watson.

'Dan Dare - PIlot of the Future' (Eagle #51, 12 March 1983).

Later in the 1980s, Kennedy was present in other IPC science fiction magazines. Between 1986 and 1988, he was one of the British artists drawing locally produced stories based on the American cartoon TV series 'M.A.S.K.', published in the magazine of the same name. He was subsequently present in the short-lived Wildcat title (October 1988-March 1989). With writer Barry Tomlinson, Kennedy created the 25th-century adventures of Turbo Jones and his crew on board the spaceship Wildcat, roaming the universe after the destruction of planet Earth. Each crew member - Turbo Jones, Loner, Kitten Magee and Joe Alien - had its own comic feature by a different artist, with Kennedy focusing on the Turbo Jones stories. When Wildcat magazine was discontinued, the comic features moved to Eagle magazine until April 1990.

'Battle Cruiser' (Blake's 7 #4, January 1982).

Blake's 7
Ian Kennedy's sci-fi work also led him to other publishers. Between October 1981 and August 1983, Marvel UK brought out Blake's 7: A Marvel Monthly, a black-and-white magazine tying in with the popular BBC science fiction series 'Blake's 7' (1978-1981). Ian Kennedy was one of the magazine's regular artists, drawing the lead comic feature from scripts by Paul Neary and Ken Armstrong. Other artists on the comic were Mick Austin, John Cooper, Steve Dillon, Phil Gascoine, David Lloyd and Jerry Paris. The show was such a success that, even when no new TV episodes were produced, the magazine still lasted 23 issues in total. Near the end of the magazine's run, Ian Kennedy had to recover from a car accident, leaving him unable to draw the final episodes.

Swedish comics
During the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, Ian Kennedy teamed up with scriptwriter Norman Worker for an additional story production for the Swedish comic book publisher Semic Press. Between 1987 and 1990, they made seven comic stories with the adventurer Mark Hunter that appeared in the comic anthology Agent X9. In 1990, the character was revamped into the aviator Rey Tybalt, after which 'Tybalt' (1990-2002) became an irregularly appearing feature in Fantomen, the Swedish comic magazine based on Lee Falk's jungle hero 'The Phantom'. By 1998, Norman Worker was replaced by the scriptwriter Mats Jönsson, with whom Ian Kennedy made the remaining stories until 2002.


In 2017, the Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance, gave Kennedy an award for his "Outstanding Contribution to Comics". Although it was the only official award he received during his lifetime, Kennedy received more praise than many of his contemporaries. For decades, British comics were mostly made by anonymous artists. Later in life, Ian Kennedy saw his work being celebrated within the comic fandom community. The veteran artist was interviewed several times, and invited to book signings, comic-cons and other cultural events. With assistance from a friend, he had a prominent online presence in old age, maintaining Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, and running the website Ian Kennedy Art. In 2019, Ian Kennedy's artwork was celebrated in the book 'The Art of Ian Kennedy. Celebrating 70 years of Ian Kennedy's Artwork for DC Thomson' (DC Thomson Media's Heritage Comics, 2019).

Final years and death
Apart from comic art, Ian Kennedy produced artwork for many late 1980s/early 1990s air show events, organized at the Royal Air Force Station in Leuchars, Fife, near the Scottish East Coast. He also made limited edition prints with painted drawings of aircrafts and ships, and took commissions from his fans. Kennedy retired officially in 1997, with 'Bombs on Target 1997' being his final story for Commando magazine. However, he continued to make cover designs and other illustrations for Commando until his passing. Ian Kennedy, whose comics and illustrations delighted readers for almost seven decades, passed away on 5 February 2022, at age 89. Just before he died, Ian Kennedy had been working on a wraparound cover for 'Coming Home', a comic by the Welsh health charity Re-Live featuring the mental health stories of military veterans. Kennedy's final work of art was printed later that year.

Ian Kennedy has left a lasting mark on British war and science fiction comics. Artists who have cited him as an influence are Simon Fraser and Steve White.

Cover painting for Commando #5365 (2000).


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