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Ma Kelly's Telly

"The Wonderful World Inside Ma Kelly's Telly", Sparky, 1971

Leslie Alfred Barton was born in Wareham, Dorset, on 8 December 1923, and grew up in north London. He left school at fourteen to work as a telegraph clerk, and served as a despatch rider in the Signals Corps during the Second World War. In 1944 he was transferred to Scarborough to train as a military draughtsman following a motorike accident, and sold his first cartoons, to the Militant Miner. The following year he was sent to Nigeria to replace a demobbed draughtsman, and began contributing regular cartoons to the Royal Signals Magazine and the West African Magazine. He published a book of cartoons, Miles of Smiles, in 1946, based on his performances as a ventriloquist at Army concert parties.

After being demobbed in 1947, he worked as a process artist for the magazine publisher Iliffes, retouching photos and designing adverts for magazines like Autocar, Farmer & Stockbreeder and Electrical Trader. He drew cartoons for Iliffes publications, including political cartoons for The Statist, as well as freelance cartoons for other publications like Reveille, the London Evening Standard and Punch, drawing as many as twenty a week. He drew his first comics in the late 1940s and early 50s: two issues of The Evil Eye Thriller, published by Bernard Kaye in 1947, and episodes of Billy Bunter for Knock-Out, filling in for Frank Minnitt.

He returned to comics in the late 60s, drawing "Granny and her Scooter" for one of DC Thomson's titles, followed by "I Spy", written by George Glencairn Urwin, for the Sparky. In 1970 he left Iliffes to become a full-time freelance artist, drawing "Harriet and Her Horse" in Cor!!, "The Wonderful World Inside Ma Kelly's Telly" in the Sparky, "Knight School" in Whizzer & Chips, "Phone the Crows" and "Autotech" for the Topper, and "The Slugs" for Oink! (signed "Lezz"), among others. He was staff war artist for The Sun during the Falklands War in 1982, and continued selling cartoons to numerous magazines and newspapers, designing greetings cards, illustrating books, and doing live caricatures at business functions, well into his eighties. He died after a long illness in a nursing home in Hayes, Middlesex, on 20 October 2008.

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