It's slightly shocking to realise that it is just over nine years since the death of Angus McBride, whose wonderful illustrations graced more than 60 Osprey books (more if you count compilations) over the years. I am sure that many of us bought some of them simply for the illustrations, having no intention of collecting armies for the period in question.
I first became aware of McBride's illustrations in the sixties when his pictures regularly appeared in Look and Learn magazine. His first work for Osprey was in 1975 but just before this he did a series of illustrations, cartoons and even a comic strip for Mayfair Magazine. I have posted two of these paintings before (above), which appeared towards the end of his time working for Mayfair and appeared in the October 1975 issue. The top one was an illustration to a story and the bottom one was a cartoon.
The first illustration of his I can find in Mayfair is one for a story and dates from their June 1974 issue. It demonstrates the wonderful detail he put into his pictures: The damp parts of the tub where the water has run down to pool on the floor, the cat and dog facing off, the discarded stockings, the wonderful lighting provided by the fire and, above all, the expressions on the two figures which tell you everything about their two characters at a glance.
The next one is a cartoon from two months later; August 1974, This one is the first of several of his Mayfair works which contains a lot of figures and the first one showing pubic hair. Looked at from the perspective of today this is really quite dubious, if not downright disturbing. It seems to say, basically, that if you go through the park, girls, you will be pursued, thrown into the pond and raped by a gang of men (some of whom sport even more dubious Peter Wyngarde mustaches). The fact that the women seem to find this slightly inconvenient rather than terrifying tells you everything about attitudes towards women in the seventies.
September 1974's offering is just as bad. Here a miracle drug (decades before Viagra) has apparently made all the men in the hospital ward desperately horny. So what should they do? Assault all the nurses, of course! Even here the attention to detail is tremendous, with McBride including a drop of liquid shooting out the top of the hypodermic syringe which appears to be about to be driven into the bottom of a nurse being pinned down on the bed; presumably for having the temerity to wear tights rather than stockings. We hope that McBride didn't think up the subjects of these cartoons himself but was working to a brief provided by someone else. We really hope.
September 1974's issue eschews assault for a catastrophic picture of hunters falling off a cliff, enabling McBride to illustrate lots of accidentally revealed female skin, including quite a graphic spread legs picture. At least the women here being pawed are being so 'accidentally'.
This November 1974 story illustration also seems to show a lady being flung to the ground by an ardent suitor but at least this appears to be in the imagination of the male character. The barely concealed pudenda is much bolder than any photo Mayfair would have had in its pictorials as, unlike the other men's magazines in Britain at the time, they did not take part in the ever increasing move to more explicit shots.
Rounding out the year, in December 1974, we seem to have two young ladies, looking around a stately home, whose clothes have been removed by (presumably) a man hidden inside a suit of armour. At least we have a military element in this one.
Jumping the two illustrations from January 1975 at the top of this post, we have accusations of impropriety on a frozen pond, showing women of the time getting their own back on a suspected peeping tom. His expression is such that you think there may well be something in the lady's suspicion.
A pile up on the Helter Skelter for March 1975 and at least no-one is assaulting anyone else. Typical McBride detail in this one being the flying button from the crotch of the central lady's undergarments.
April 1975's cartoon has a barely dressed lady being threatened by a phallic fireman's hose as the firefighters prepare to give her a good...soaking.
May's offering is really McBride's most overtly sexual cartoon to date with the lady of the house appreciating her decorator's brushwork. Hopefully, she is voluntarily interacting here. The kicked over mug of tea is a typically clever detail.
In March 1976 we have, at last, a woman in charge who know what she wants, She is positively primly dressed compared to his other women. This is the last of McBride's Mayfair illustrations. From this point on, having moved to South Africa he would work mainly on Osprey illustrations.
Before this swansong, however, McBride produced a short-lived comic strip for the magazine called Adam's Eves, which debuted in September 1975. This first episode contained one of McBride's characteristic piles of bodies as Adam's clueless girlfriend causes chaos on a staircase.
Such full colour strips were not new in British men's magazines with Penthouse running a strip called Wicked Wanda from 1973 until 1980, which was produced by another Osprey stalwart Ron Embleton. That, however, was a series of ongoing stories. McBride's strip featured the eponymous Adam, an older bearded man, with the strip presenting a different girlfriend every week. Here we have the misadventures of a nymphomaniac cellist. The Legatus had a girlfriend who played the cello when he was at college. She was 6' 3" tall, quite scary and while very friendly was not a nymphomaniac.
Unlike Carrie, where the story was told in pictures only, Adam's Eves had (largely cringe worthy) text. December 1975's episode had a Christmas theme.
The fifth and final strip appeared in January 1975 and featured an older lady who, nonetheless was revealing rather more than her predecessors. I don't know why the strip didn't continue; maybe it was stylistically too similar to Carrie, maybe having a male figure in it didn't appeal or maybe it was because McBride had moved to South Africa. Or maybe it was because it was a bit rubbish.
None of the obituaries of McBride mention his work for Mayfair, even though they cover his other work (such as his Lord of he Rings paintings). Perhaps it is just that much of it is too politically incorrect for today. The seventies really were a different world. It is, at first, quite odd, seeing McBride's distinctive style for these saucy confections, just as the Legatus finds it odd to see some of Don Lawrence's Trigan Empire faces appearing in the adventures of a girl who can't keep her clothes on in Carrie.
Another day we will look at Ron Embleton's Wicked Wanda, which was a work on an altogether bigger scale.