Real Name: Garth
Identity/Class: Human / extra-terrestrial hybrid
Affiliations: Professor Lumiere; Astra
Enemies: Madame Voss, Baal
Known Relatives: Elderly Scottish couple (foster parents); Space Exploration Commander Wolfen (great-grandfather)
Aliases: None known
Base of Operations: Active throughout time and across the world
First Appearance: Daily Mirror (Saturday 24th July, 1943)
Powers/Abilities: Extremely strong. He was also a military genius.
History: As a small child the man who would become Garth was washed ashore in the Shetlands in a tiny coracle. Pulled out of the sea by an elderly couple who then adopted him, Garth grew up to be incredibly strong. He became a Naval Captain, but his boat was torpedoed. The shipwrecked Garth washed up from the sea on a wooden raft, amnesiac from his experiences, coming to land on a small island. He is discovered by Gala, a native girl, who introduces him to her people, and whom he later saves from a despotic tyrant. Later his friend Professor Lumiere psycho-analysed him, restoring his memories.
Garth had many adventures, travelling through time to a variety of eras and encountering a wide range of opponents. Among them was mad and evil scientist Madam Voss, who used a machine to exchange brains between bodies. Her brain ended up in Garths body and his in her body, but eventually Garth managed to restore his mind to his own body. She would return to battle him on a number of occasions.
Comments: In 1943, Steve Dowling created 'Garth', a time-traveling hero, for the Daily Mirror.
Adrian Kermode sent me a slew of information that expands on the sparse knowledge I had of this character. The origin above is taken from what he sent me, and since his information covers the character so well, I've included it verbatim starting here: "Nick Landaus introduction to Titans first volume of the collected Frank Bellamys "Garth" strips has this to say:
"Garth was the brainchild of strip cartoonist and writer Steve Dowling and BBC producer Gordon Boshell. Both were working on the British national newspaper The Daily Mirror at the time (and) were approached by the editor, who wanted a new strip. Boshell and Dowling came up with the concept of a "strong man" strip, loosely modelled on the popular American comic book "Superman"
"The first "Garth" daily strip appeared in the Mirror on Saturday 24th July 1943. It showed our hero, an amnesia victim, washed up from the sea on a wooden raft. He is discovered by Gala, a native girl, who introduces him to her people, and whom he later saves from a despotic tyrant."
The introduction goes on to say that Boshell was never able to write "Garth" himself so Dowling (already over-committed workwise) took on the scripting until another writer Don Freeman could be found. Freeman took on writing duties halfway through the first story.
Freeman, unhappy with Garths "man of mystery" origins and "lost horizons" setting, decided to give him a more solid background. He introduced the character of Garths sidekick/mentor Prof Lumiere, who psycho-analysed Garth and took him back through his previous incarnations in "The 7 Ages of Garth" story (which ran from 18th September 1944 20th January 1946) - the first instance of Garth travelling through time and space which would later become a staple of the stories.
It wasnt until the next story "The Saga of Garth" (which ran from 22nd January to 20th July 1946) that readers discovered his real origin: as a small child he had been washed ashore in the Shetlands in a tiny coracle, then pulled out of the sea by an old couple who adopted him and brought him up (strengthening the Superman parallel!). He later became a captain in the Navy and when his boat was torpedoed he was shipwrecked in Tibet (which has no natural coastline as far as I know!), which is where the readers first saw him in 1943."
Many thanks Adrian.
But this isn't the entirety of Garth's origin. Keith Ansell informs me that "There was a story called 'Journey into Fear' around 1970 in which we discover Garth has extra-terrestrial origins ie his great grand father was Space Exploration Commander Wolfen from the planet Saturnis who had fallen in love with an Earth woman while surveying our planet. The woman gave birth to Wolfen's child."
David Hackett provided the sample strip from Garth used below.
From left to right we can see Astra, Garth and Professor Lumiere. Russell Silk told me that "his (Garth's) true love Astra... was the last of the ancient god like entities dating back to ancient civilisations who conquered the natural world and were virtually eternal. A number of stories featured Astra (known to the Romans as the Greek God Venus), her nemesis the fallen Apollo who had aligned himself with the Dark Forces of Nature."
Probir Chakraverti adds "Garth's principal enemy - in the Garth strips I read as a kid for many years in the Hindustan Times in Delhi - was Baal, not Apollo. In what was I think the first appearance of principal girlfriend Astra, she faces off Baal in one of those surreal-beings-glowering-mystically-at-each-other sequences while Garth takes on some enormous beast type pal of Baal's. Garth finally kills off the beast, which enxourages Astra to out-glower Baal. Baal is destroyed and then Astra waves her hands about poetically and disappears for ever - but then you can always travel back to the past, right?"
Keith Ansell confirms this, as does Malcolm Smith, who adds "Astra and Baal were the last of a group of 5,000 year old beings who had somehow gained immortality and godlike powers. How, I can't say, because I missed the first part of the story. However, one thing these immortals could not do was fall in love. It deranged them. Baal had become evil after his mortal sweetheart had died.
I remember the climax very well. Baal resurrected the Beast of Belial by magically putting flesh on the skeleton of a terrible horned monster. Then, while Astra glowered at Baal, effectively holding his power in abeyance, Garth fought the Beast with an axe. When the Beast was killed, Belial (which is another name for the Devil) dragged Baal off to Hell. Afterwards, Garth and Astra said tearful goodbyes, and Astra committed suicide with an impulse of her will - lest she be also go over to the dark side due to her love for Garth."
Brian Bambrough got in touch to inform me about Garth being a military genius - "It was explicitly stated (probably by Professor Lumiere, but I'm not certain it was him)".
Garth was reprinted in a number of countries. In particular, Walter R. Zielinski
informs me that in Melbourne, Australia during the 1950s and 60s he appeared
in "The Age". Walter also informed me of Garth's foe, Madame Voss, and provided
a link to a list of Garth stories:
Stefan Gigacz notes he remembers Garth appearing in the Melbourne Herald, rather than The Age. Any other Australians able to clarify? It's entirely possible I suppose that Garth appeared in both, just at different times.
Thanks to Keith, David, Russell and Brian for their help. And thanks to Keith for donating the excellent image of Garth used at the top of this page.
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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