December 31, 2003:
Don Lawrence passed away
On 29 December, the British comic artist Don Lawrence, aged 75, passed away in a hospital near his hometown Jevington, East Sussex, suffering from emphysema of the lung.
In the Netherlands he was best known for the SF-comics series "Storm" and "The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire".
Donald Southam Lawrence was born on November 17 1928 in the London suburb East Sheen. In his last year at art school Don finally discovered what he wanted to do for a living: draw comics! He left art school without a diploma and found employment at Mick Anglo's Gower Street Studio's. There he collaborated with Norman Light and Dennis Gifford on the science fiction comic "Marvelman". From 1954 till 1958 he drew "Davy Crocket", "Daniel Boone" and was responsible for the spin-off "Marvelman Family".
In 1958 Don moved to Amalgameted Press, where he mostly drew western comics. His most famous comic from that period is "Wells Fargo". He was involved in several projects, e.g. "Olac the Gladiator" and "Karl the Viking". He also worked on the series "Thunderbirds" and "Fireball XL5".
His star really started to rise after he teamed up with scenarist Mike Butterworth.
From 1965 till 1976 they produced a total of 46 albums in the series "The Rise and Fall of the Trigan Empire", which was published in many countries and earned him world-wide fame.
When Don wanted to capitalise on that fame, in 1976, his publisher turned him down. That left him with his hands free to start on a new project. He signed up with Dutch publisher Oberon (from 1990: Big Balloon) and started out in the "Eppo" magazine with the series "Storm". Collaborating at first with scenarist Philip Dunn, later with Dick Matena, Kevin Gosnell and mostly with Martin Lodewijk, who is also famous for another series: "Agent 327".
Due to a botched cataract operation, his right eye became infected. Devastatingly, Don lost the sight in that eye altogether. He had to finish his last album "The Armageddon Traveller" with the help of former assistant Liam MacCormack-Sharp.
According to Big Balloon, in the Dutch speaking regions alone Don sold more than 3 million albums. In 1994 he received an award for the total body of his work, the Stripschapprijs, and in 2003 Don Lawrence received the ultimate token of appreciation when, on his 75th birthday, he was awarded a Knighthood in the Order of Oranje Nassau, a Dutch royal decoration. Unfortunately Don never got to see the acompanying certificate, as that was to be handed over to him at a official presentation in April 2004.
Don working in his studio above the garage, painting page
47 of "The Slayer of Eriban" (Sat. July 21, 1984). More photographs of André's visit to Don at this page