Robert Thomas "Bob" Bartholomew was born in Eltham, South London, on 25 August 1923. He left school at 14 and joined The Children's Newspaper, initially as a messenger boy, later supplementing his income by writing the occasional news story. Meanwhile, he studied mechanical engineering, maths and French at the South-East London Technical School. He joined the Air Force and trained as a pilot, and during the Second World War he served as a navigator on Liberator bombers patrolling the Atlantic.
He returned to the Children's Newspaper as a sub-editor after the war, under editor Sydney Warner, who attempted to bring it up to date. Bartholomew introduced sport to the paper. He married Joyce Theresa Wates in 1950, and they had three children.
In 1963, after the merger of publishers that created IPC and the closure of The Children's Newspaper, he replaced John Sanders as editor at Look and Learn. However, recent changes to the Eagle had been unsuccessful, and Bartholomew was drafted in as editor to try and restore its fortunes, with Sanders returning to Look and Learn. One strip he introduced was Tom Tully and Frank Bellamy's Heros the Spartan. He wrote a few scripts for the title himself, including the "Dan Dare" serial "Underwater Attack" (1967-68) and the last few instalments of "The Guinea Pig" (1968-69). He was part of the team that developed Boys' World, assisting editor Jim Kenner. In 1970 he became editor of World of Wonder for five years, and in 1980 he launched World of Knowledge.
In 1977 he was managing editor of the boys' adventure group at IPC, which included Action and 2000 AD. It was his job to approve, or not, advance copies of the the comics before they went to print, and he was resented as a censor by the editorial teams, who tried to push the boundaries and sneak objectionable material past him. When Action was withdrawn and relaunched in watered-down form, it was Bartholomew who approved all content.
Kevin O'Neill managed to get creator credits past him on 2000 AD. It was Bartholomew's dislike of a tube chase sequence in "Ro-Busters" that led that episode's creators, writer Pat Mills and artist O'Neill, to create "Terror Tube", the first "Nemesis the Warlock" story, featuring an even more elaborate tube chase sequence, just to annoy him. It was also his insistence that comic characters should not be shown smoking that led to John Wagner and Ian Gibson creating Sam Slade's robot cigar, Stogie, in "Robo-Hunter". However, he did introduce Harry Harrison to 2000 AD editorial, which led to the adaptation of three of his Stainless Steel Rat novels.
He left IPC in 1981, succeeded by Barrie Tomlinson. After that he mainly worked for Gutenberghus, publishers of Disney Magazine, on a freelance basis. He also compiled crosswords for The Times. He retired in 1992. He died on 9 October 2013, aged 90.
- Alan Clark, Dictionary of British Comic Artists, Writers and Editors, The British Library, 1998, p. 10
- David Bishop, Thrill Power Overload, Rebellion, 2009
- Steve Holland, Look and Learn: a History of the Classic Children's Magazine, 2006
- Steve Holland, Bob Bartholomew (1923-2013), Bear Alley, 27 October 2013