Pete Sutherland, the definitive Tupper artist

 

Editors note : When the Tough of the Track first appeared in Rover comic in 1949,  it was the story that gathered in the reader & not the single 'title illustration' on each episode.  DC Thomson later took the Rover stories & 're-cycled' them in their new venture, The Victor, but bought them to life with Comic strip illustrations.

Pete Sutherland was employed as a 'staff artist' & luckily for us, they gave him The Tough of the Track to illustrate. His drawings are, for me at least, & I suspect many many others, the definitive depiction of this fabulous character. Its high time that his genius was publicly recognised, as for too long, information about him has been almost impossible to come by. Hopefully this page redresses that slightly & will ensure that his name lives on thanks to the power of the internet.

Many many thanks to Pete's son & daughter, Paul & Susan, for putting together this lovely piece about their Father.

Peter Sutherland was born in 1923 in the Leicestershire village of Somerby.  He was always fascinated by art and began to hone his own drawing and painting skills at a very early age.  By his teens, his drawing abilities were outstanding.  His service in the REME during the Second World war was largely spent with a pencil or brush in his hand; he hardly saw a gun fired in anger.  The powers that be were far keener on him producing posters for camp entertainments than aiming weapons.

 

One of the major outcomes of the war, artistically, was the proliferation of American style comic books.  Peter was determined to get into this new art genre.  He sent in artwork samples to DC Thomson, the major comic publishers, who immediately set him to work.  From that time he was awash with scripts to draw.

 

After the war he married Peggy, a Scots girl from St Andrews.  They had two children, Paul and Susan.  When first married, they lived in Broughty Ferry, near the Scottish headquarters of  DC Thomson in Dundee. Here Peter worked in an office full of comic strip artists, having some of the happiest days of his artistic career.  He then decided to ‘go freelance’, and moved back down to Leicestershire, where he worked from scripts.  He sent the completed Indian ink on board artwork by post to the DC Thomson offices in Fleet Street.

 

Through the 1950s he worked on Kit Carson comic books.  This American frontiersman and hero was ideally suited to Peter’s outstanding ability to draw action scenes – particularly featuring horses – a notoriously difficult skill to master.   In the 1960s and 1970s Peter worked on many scripts in the expanding range of comics on the market.  The Victor comic was always his main home, but he also worked on the Hornet, drawing characters like ‘The Big Palooka’, a bowler hat wearing Scotland Yard detective assigned to work with a US police force.  ‘Mike Fink’, the American raft trader was another popular creation.  He was also responsible for a host of other stories among the DC Thomson comic firmament.

 

Peter started drawing Alf Tupper in the early 1960s, and was still drawing him just before his death in 1977.  Alf was always a special character for Peter.  If there could be a bond between an artist and his creation, then here one surely was.  His visualisation of this backstreet runner breathed life into a simple storyline.  Alf was lifted far beyond the given outline script.  He had emotions.  His body conveyed joy and dejection.  His face was a readable human face.  Alf was made to live for many of his followers each week in a way which few comic characters ever do.  When Alf “ran ‘em”, we all shared his joy.

 

When Peter died he left a rich legacy of comic creations, and with the knowledge he had given a great deal of joy to many devoted comic followers. 

 

Paul and Susan.