Friday, November 06, 2015

The Strange, Strange Story of Phillip Wearne: Part Five

Continuing the story of obscure Australian comic book artist Phillip Wearne.

Part Five: Wearne's Final Years

Wearne’s divorce was taking its toll.  The courts had seized his taxation records and banking details and was busily trying to unravel it all.  Wearne had built such a complex web that it’s possible that even he didn’t know his true worth, not that his true worth was as impressive as he wanted to believe.  The court worked out that he owned two houses, one in Sydney, one in Melbourne, and both were heavily mortgaged.  He had recently sold a third property but had yet to disclose what he was set to earn from the sale. In addition to the house sale, Wearne was now stating that his Australian Trade Union Press was insolvent, possibly due to his ASIO surveillance, which had been reported to the relevant ministers of Parliament and then to members of the ALP who would then pass the information onto the unions.  Wearne’s accounts vanished and people couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.  As of May 1962 Wearne, by his own account, was unemployed and claiming no income which, he believed, excused him from paying any alimony to Joyce and Phillip.  In addition to that he was now toxic as far as the ALP were concerned.  A trial date for the divorce was set down for the end of July, 1962.  By now Wearne owed an incredible £325 in alimony and had been given until mid-August to pay.  Instead he left for Melbourne with Queitzsch.

The now defunct Nation exposed Wearne as early as 1961
Wearne’s financial dealings reached a new low when it was revealed that he had arranged for furniture to be purchased by Labour Newspapers and delivered to the family home.  Wearne wasn’t home the day it was delivered, so Joyce duly signed for it.  She also signed on the day the phone was connected, only to find that now she was liable for payment and now owed £1900, which she did not have.  Wearne, naturally, denied it.  The furniture was removed, leaving Joyce to fend for herself in an unfurnished house with a small child.

Wearne (1962)
The ASIO investigation into Probe signed it’s death warrant.  The newspaper was dead and buried by September, 1962.  Typical with Wearne’s publishing ventures, the end of Probe saw him slip further into debt as he refused to pay his office rent and printing costs. But Wearne wasn’t finished.  The court had ordered that he start paying alimony or face 90 days jail.  With everything taking its toll on him he got ready to play his trump card in the divorce and it would come at what was expected to be a simple two day trial for unpaid maintenance in February 1963.

The trial started simply enough until Wearne dropped a bombshell.  A witness, one John Campbell, was called to give evidence that Joyce Wearne had also committed adultery with him in 1960.  New laws regarding divorces had recently been introduced which meant that witnesses were bound to answer questions put to them if they were deemed relevant to the proceedings.  However any such answer might leave Campbell open to perjury, as this wasn’t raised in Campbell’s own divorce proceedings in 1960, so the magistrate denied the question and sought advice from the State Attorney General.  If Wearne was buying time he’d succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Wearne sues Scientology
The Scientologists finally threw Wearne out in March, 1963.  Wearne had paid dearly for his auditing sessions, which he stated he was coerced into undertaking – he claimed £2,700 – and he wanted justice so he turned on Scientology as savagely as he did anyone who he felt crossed him.  First he filed suit against the church in the Victorian courts, asking for his money back.  The Scientologists promptly paid him off, giving him £1,500, with the view of removing him as a thorn in their side.  He then made contact with John ‘Jack’ Galbally, a former Collingwood footballer, then a senior minister in the Victorian Government, who started a campaign against Scientology, mentioning the Church, and Wearne, in the House in November, 1963.  Then he reached out to ASIO and provided them with another report on the actions of the church.  The result of this was Wearne being invited to lunch, in Tasmania, by a man named Earl Wilkinson.

According to Wearne, Wilkinson informed him he was on the right track and offered to fund him to dig up more dirt on the Scientologists.  More importantly, for Wearne, was that Wilkinson told him that he, Wilkinson, was a CIA operative.  That was all Wearne needed.  With ASIO and now the CIA on his side, he felt invincible and unleashed on the Scientologists.

Wearne’s first step was to form a new company called The Committee for Mental Health and National Security.  He was the only real employee of the company and referred to himself as its Director, Publicity Officer or Investigating Officer, depending on who he was talking to. Others came and went into the Committee, including Douglas Moon, another ex-Scientologist who had a beef against the organisation.

Wearne attacked Scientology in 1964
Wearne promptly placed advertisements in Melbourne newspapers calling for anyone who had, “lost anyone as a result of the processes or teachings of mental health practitioners’ to contact him and speak to a Methodist priest, the Rev John Westerman.  At times it appeared that he was the only member of the committee but Wearne claimed, more than once, that there were several hundred members, all of whom had been brainwashed.  He wrote to ASIO again, a long, rambling letter in which he spoke almost in the third person, explaining how the Scientologists were brainwashing people for their own purposes.  Wearne claimed that the Scientologists wanted to rule the world in a subtle form of religious terrorism.  At the same time the Victorian Parliament was also investigating Scientology and announced both a ban and called for an official Board of Enquiry to look into the workings of the church.  Wearne was delighted; he would be a star witness.

As early as 1964 ASIO knew Wearne
was unstable
Called before the Board of Enquiry into Scientology, Wearne, representing the Committee for Mental Health and National Security, made a series of amazing claims.  He stated that ASIO had given him a codename along with a PO Box number where he could send his reports.  He also stated that Wilkinson had paid him for the duration of the Enquiry, had set up a phoney finance company (from which Wearne drained funds) along with coaching him on what to say.  Wearne drew more people into his web; one lunchtime meeting brought him face to face with the editor of the Melbourne Truth, Sol Chandler.  At this meeting, according to Wearne, Chandler revealed that he was working for M.I.6, the English Intelligence Agency.

Wearne stated that he often blacked out when being audited as his sessions would last for five hours a day, five days in a row.  The sessions, according to Wearne, consisted of him looking endlessly at books, bottles and walls and then being bombarded with questions until he became physically ill with stomach and back pains to the point of lapsing into unconsciousness. He also claimed that the Scientologists wanted to ‘clear’ Australia. The plan was to infiltrate the Australian Government, take it over and then use the country as a launch pad for world domination. Wearne himself had played a part in this with his publishing venture providing the means to spread propaganda, via Reality, Probe and the numerous union newspapers, as well as trying to get himself, and others, employment at the highest levels within the ALP. Thus, while denying any link between his publishing ventures to ASIO, Wearne was admitting to it under oath to the Board of Inquiry.

Eventually the Board figured out what the Scientologists had and what ASIO were rapidly working out – Wearne was unstable.  Both he and Moon all but kidnapped one witness and coached her overnight on what to say before the Board, resulting in Anderson officially warning Wearne about his constant approaches to potential witnesses and his attempts to force them into giving testimony against Scientology.

The Anderson Board wrapped up after hearing 160 days of evidence from 151 separate witnesses, both for and against, on the 14th of December.  Wearne had attended every day of the hearing, firing questions at witnesses. He was confident that the report, when issued, would feature him prominently and result in the downfall of Scientology. He filed suit against L Ron Hubbard personally claiming £105,000 for lost wages and mental damage for the five year time period that he was involved with them.

Throughout all of this drama, Wearne was still negotiating his divorce.  He ceased making repayments on the Sydney property, resulting in the bank threatening foreclosure, which would see Joyce and Phillip homeless.  The court demanded that he restart payments, Wearne refused and once again faced being thrown into jail.

The divorce entered a new stage, its fourth year, with Wearne asking for a reversal of the decree which had been granted the year previously; on the grounds that Joyce had committed adultery, presumably before Wearne had. This resulted in yet another two day trial, after which the court decided enough was enough and made the decree absolute in early October, 1964.  Wearne wasn’t free of Joyce though, he would still have to pay alimony but he rarely would.  With the divorce and the Scientology battle weighing him down, Wearne skipped on yet another debt, this time rent payments for his old office in Carlton.  Ironically, for a man who owed thousands, this simple debt of £165 would lead him into bankruptcy with the commencement of formal hearings in the South Yarra courthouse.  From owning three houses, luxury cars, business and offices, Wearne was moving between small flats in South Yarra and Toorak, leaving once the landlords’ realised he couldn’t pay rent.  Adding insult to injury, once the divorce was settled, the Tax Office had jumped in and hit Wearne with a bill of £27,418. It was more money that just didn’t have.  Despite selling the Randwick property that he had bought for himself and Jill to live in, his debts far outstripped his assets; most of the latter were on hire purchase anyway.  Appearing before Justice Clyne on the 10th of November, 1964, Wearne was formally declared bankrupt. He now had no house, no money, no car and no reputation.

Throughout it all Wearne kept up his one-sided correspondence with ASIO.  Over the next few years Wearne would claim to have found the true source behind Scientology (Chinese Communists), long rambling reports and a host of outlandish claims.  ASIO had heard enough.  Wearne had given them nothing of value and they were keen to wash their hands of him.  A directive was sent out to all offices informing staff not to encourage Wearne, let alone invite him to any offices.  Wearne knew nothing of this and firmly believed that he was working undercover for the organisation and continued to bombard them with reports.  Always on the make for money, Wearne eventually suggested that ASIO place him on the payroll, a request that was ignored.  A similar request to the Australian Commonwealth Police was also ignored to the point of not even being acknowledged.  Wearne had no idea if his letters and reports were getting through, but he kept up with them regardless.

This massive, 14 page manifesto written by
 Wearne was dismissed by ASIO as
 being plagiarised.
Wearne was finally caught out by ASIO for his old trick – he had plagiarised several communist and anti-communist writers in his latest report, as well as trying to pass off L Ron Hubbard’s own writings as his own.  His latest report was given back to Wearne, by hand, without comment.  ASIO now wanted to keep him under surveillance from afar and from September, 1965 onwards, ASIO would not make any direct contact with Wearne.  As far as they were concerned, he was dead.  Wearne kept supplying them with reports though, attacking not only Scientology and communists, but also the Securities and Exchange Council, the Christian Ant-Communist Crusade and the newly minted Psychological Services Bill.

In late September, 1965 The Anderson Report was tabled in Victorian Parliament.  The report called for more public awareness, the registration of psychologists and generally denounced Scientology as a religion, instead calling it ‘pseudo-science’.  For all his efforts, Wearne was mentioned twice in the report, once referred as being vehemently anti-Scientology and the other when he attempted to explain the difference between Scientology and Christian beliefs.  It wasn’t the personal vindication that he had expected but it made him happy that Scientology was now officially banned in Victoria.  Similar bans followed in South Australia and Western Australia.

The Church of Scientology would now attack Wearne as ferociously as he had attacked them. They issued several documents and pamphlets attacking the Anderson Inquiry as being illegitimate, and Wearne as a person, taking care to note that he had no academic qualifications, was not an expert in Scientology or psychiatry, even though the Board has given him similar access to evidence as they did lawyers. These attacks would continue long after Wearne was dead.

ASIO blackballed Wearne in 1970
By 1966 Wearne’s mental health had deteriorated considerably.  He was 41 years old, bankrupt, and had a failed marriage behind him along with a string of failed businesses and publishing ventures.  He was being shunned by ASIO – labelled as being not a responsible informant.  The CIA, if Wilkinson was ever connected with them, denied knowledge of him and he was reduced to supplying endless, rambling, reports to investigative agencies that would never read, let alone act upon, them.  His magus-opus came with a fifteen page, single spaced, tightly typed, virtually unreadable document in which Wearne outlined the woes of the world, tracing them all back to communism and mental health.  The document was incredible; again ASIO duly filed it and refused to acknowledge that they’d even received it, keeping up their silence.

Wearne moved back to Sydney after marrying JillaineQueitzsch in 1966 and tried to settle down.  He bought yet another house, this time in Randwick.  He made his will in 1967 while aged 41.  In it he left everything to Jillaine, other than a single painting (Bacchus by Myer Issacman) to a close friend. He appeared to settle into a quiet life, but reared his head once more in 1970 when he attempted to establish contact with ASIO.  He first asked for permission to deal with an ‘overseas crowd’ – with the implication being the CIA.  This time the plan was to establish a Securities and Exchange Council which would be in competition with the stock exchange and funded, presumably, by the CIA.  This time he’d reached a new branch of ASIO, with new people who weren’t aware of him.  A quick check of the files brought him undone. “He was in 1966 and may still be an Undischarged bankrupt and is something of a con-man in business,” the internal memo read.  “Wearne appears to suffer from psychoneurotic condition and consideration will be given to blacklisting. At next contact Wearne may be informed that his activities are of no concern but at same time he should be firmly discouraged from meddling on (sic) fringe of security.”

Wearne was also described as being, “…obsessed with National Security.”  It was all too much for ASIO who formally blacklisted him in early February, 1970.  The processes were put into place, the electoral office contacted for details of Wearne’s address and the application for blacklisting was approved.  It made no difference; this attempt would be Wearne’s last contact with any intelligence agency and he would be dead before the blacklisting process could be completed.

Wearne's death certificate showing he
 died of a drug overdose.
It is not known if the overdose was
 accidental or deliberate.
Wearne was increasingly depressed by the lack of action and responses from ASIO and had turned to medication for help.  Typical for Wearne, it was all or nothing.  At some point on Friday, the 6th of March, Wearne took an overdose of Mandrax, which was commonly available in Australia in the early 1970s.  It is unknown if the overdose was taken on purpose or accidently, but it no longer mattered, it would prove fatal.  Jillaine found him unresponsive in their bed at Wood Street and called for an ambulance.  He was taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital where he was pronounced dead.  How he died isn’t important anymore.  Wearne passed away on the 7th of March and was laid to rest at the Roman Catholic Cemetery at Botany in Sydney’s outer suburbs on the 11th of March.  He was 44 years old. The death certificate listed his occupation as ‘pensioner’.

An autopsy was carried out and, as the death was drug related, an inquest was held on the 17th of August, but the findings were inconclusive.  The coroner found that Wearne had, “Died from the effects of poisoning due to Methaqualome following his admission to that hospital on 3rd March, 1970, from 21 Wood Street Randwick, but wether (sic) accidentally ingested or otherwise the evidence adduced does not enable me to say.” Nowhere in the coroners findings is a beating mentioned, only a drug overdose. The first theory also does not give an explanation as to why Wearne would be transported across Sydney, from Kings Cross to Randwick when the St Vincent Hospital is closer.

Wearne was worth a considerable sum.  His estate was probated as being worth in excess of $12,300 after death duties, taxes and other expenses, the bulk of which came from the Wood Street property that Wearne owned in Randwick.

Even in death Wearne figured in dealings with ASIO and the Scientologists.  For decades since his passing the Church of Scientology has sought to discredit Wearne by painting him as vexatious, a drug addict, a liar and worse.  For years a violent scenario was told by Scientologists who supposedly witnessed how Wearne met his demise.  Wearne, it was said, had taken to hard drugs and, in doing so, had fallen into his usual habit of grabbing what he could and not paying.  He owed money, lots of it, and he had finally ripped off the wrong person. Legend has it that Wearne was taken to the back of a Kings cross nightclub and beaten to death.  His body was dumped onto the gutter where it was discovered and duly taken by ambulance to hospital only to be pronounced dead.  This untruth was probably told by Scientologists in an attempt to further disgrace Wearne’s name.

ASIO claimed that he was an unreliable witness and one that they never encouraged.  The truth is that Wearne, for all his flaws, and there was certainly many of them, got caught up in a whirlpool which he couldn’t get out of.  But, from the young man who, aged 17, managed to produce a comic book, through to the man he became, Wearne’s worst enemy was himself.  He managed to do more in his 44 years than most people would ever manage to do; more is the pity that he didn’t stick to the comic books.  It would have been safer.

Wearne’s first publisher, Henry ‘Harry’ Hoffmann left the publishing field completely in 1949 and moved back into his role as a customs agent.  He passed away in 1972.

Jillaine Wearne was a widow at the age of 42.  She remained in the Randwick property for much of the 1970s, eventually moving to Double Bay. She never remarried and passed away in 1985.

Doug Maxted, Wearne’s friend from art school and his replacement in Hoffmann’s comic books, moved back to England and forged a long career drawing for IPC titles such as Valiant, Roy of the Rovers and Tiger.  He moved back to Adelaide in 1983 and passed away in 1999 at the age of 85. His passing saw the last link with Hoffmann’s Adelaide publishing venture go.

Max Judd, Wearne’s other art school colleague, created several stories for Hoffmann’s many comic books, such as The Strata Rocketeers, Racey Rhodes and the Sky Police. He would eventually leave the comic book industry and fade into obscurity.

The Scientologists would move on from Wearne, as would ASIO, the CIA, MI6, the ALP and every other organisation that he’d touched. In their combined history Wearne barely rates a footnote mention.

Wearne’s first wife, Joyce, was still alive at the time of the writing this article, having celebrated her 90th birthday in 2015. After her divorce was finalised she became a highly successful company director, in conjunction with her son, Phillip, who is still living, and her third husband.  She still lives in Sydney.

She refuses to speak about her second husband.


Burrows, Toby and Grant Stone (eds.), Comics in Australia and New Zealand: The Collections, the Collectors, the Creators, The Haworth Press Inc, New York, 1994
Ryan, John, Panel by Panel: A History of Australian Comics, Cassell Australia Limited, NSW, 1979
Shiell, Annette (ed.). Bonzer: Australian Comics 1900-1990s. Redhill South, Vic.: Elgua Media, 1998

NAA: A9301, 442738
NAA: A1336, 39178
NAA: A6122, 2608
NAA: M132, 297
NAA: A6122, 2609
NAA: A6122, 2610
NAA: A6122, 2612
NAA: M1353, 26
NAA: B2455, HOFFMAN H E 1744

NEWSPAPERS (1889 – 1970)
Australian Capital Territory
The Canberra Times
New South Wales
Barrier Miner
Goulburn Evening Post
The Sydney Morning Herald
Courier Mail
Queensland Times 
Sunday Mail
The Telegraph
South Australia
The Daily News
The Mail
The News
The Register
The Weekly Times
The Age
The Nation

Australian Trade Union Press.Reality : a publication of Australian Trade Union Press Pty. Ltd 1960
Doherty, Bernard, Colonial Justice or a Kangaroo Court?Public Controversy and the Church of Scientology in 1960s Australia, Alternative Spirituality and Religion Review, Volume 6, Issue 1, 2015, pgs. 9-49
Hubbard College of Scientology.Kangaroo Court : an investigation into the conduct of the Board of Inquiry into Scientology, Melbourne, Australia Hubbard College of Scientology, Church of Scientology of California East Grinstead, Sussex 1967
Maxted, Douglas F. and Connell, Daniel.  Doug Maxted interviewed by Daniel Connell [sound recording] 1995
Tampion, Ian Kenneth.A Petition, not an indictment, to the Victorian Parliament, [by Ian Kenneth Tampion and others] Church of Scientology of California East Grinstead (Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead, Sussex) 1972
Victoria. Board of Inquiry into Scientology.and Anderson, Kevin. Report of the Board of Inquiry into Scientology Govt. Printer Melbourne 1965
Victoria. Hansard 42 CA V273 Nov-Mar 1963-64
Wearne, Phillip B. The Legion of space : an inter-planetary adventure strip / by Phillip Wearne Messrs. H.E. Hoffmann and P.B. Wearne Largs Bay, S.A 1943
Wearne, Phillip B. The space legionnaires : an interplanetary adventure strip / by Phillip Wearne Messrs. H.E. Hoffmann and P.B. Wearne Largs Bay, S.A 1944
Wearne, Phillip B.  The Legion of Space / Phillip Wearne  Invincible Press Sydney  [1949 - 1950]
Wearne, Phillip B. ProbeCarlton, VIC, 1961

Correspondence between Doug Maxted and John Ryan, 1978
Divorce papers Joyce Patterson Wearne - Phillip Bennett Wearne, Jill Quietzsch
Probate packetsPhillip Bennett Wearne
Ryan, John. and Nicholls, Syd. and Cross, Stan. and Mercier, Emile. and Dixon, John. and Donald, Will. John Ryan collection of Australian comic books, ca. 1940-1960 [manuscript] 1940
Wearne, Phillip B. What is Mental Health to do with Nation Security? 1966

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance and support of Prof Bernard Doherty, Kevin Patrick and Jeremy MacPherson.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Strange, Strange Story of Phillip Wearne: Part Four

Continuing the story of obscure Australian comic book artist Phillip Wearne.

Part Four: Wearne hits a money maker and meets the Scientologists

It was in Melbourne in the early 1950s that Wearne became attached to the Australian Labor Party, working as a Publicity Officer.  Nobody could ever clarify exactly what Wearne did for the ALP, or why he was drawing a salary, and Wearne himself, when asked, was evasive.  What is known is that Wearne had found the perfect get rich quick scheme, with minimal effort and almost no outlay.  As the money came flooding in he set up house in Toorak, bought a Jaguar and a striking white MG and dressed himself in expensive clothing.  The way Wearne made money is still a confusing web, even today.

Wearne set up a company called the Australian Trade Union Press.  The ATUP drew up and accepted contracts from unions all over the country and produced the official union newspaper for three state branches of the ALP; The New Age in Queensland, The Western Sun for Western Australia and South Australia’s The Herald. Wearne would then sell advertising space in the newspapers that he produced, charging both the unions and the ALP, and filled the rest of the newspapers with editorial content.  Wearne was pulling in an amazing £500 weekly, although that amount would rise considerably and Wearne himself would deny it. When it came to the union movement what Wearne did next was incredible.

He was able to tap into the goodwill that each union had, managing to convert an otherwise intangible asset into a money making machine. He approached the unions, offered to produce their publications free of charge; all they had to do was provide the editorial, gratis.  Wearne then sold advertising space to interested parties.  As the unions had members who would automatically buy the newspapers, he was guaranteed a sizable profit before the presses ran. As with the ALP, Wearne would insist on being called that union’s Publicity Officer, thus guaranteeing him an official title, removed from that as a publisher. The key clause that he wrote into each contract with each union was that only he could speak on its behalf and accept the many calls from salesmen who wanted to buy advertising space. In this manner he was able to open shop in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, with each city having a different company set up with the bulk of the shares in Wearne’s name and a token share in the name of another person Wearne nominated.  At his height his publishing arm produced the following: The Retort, The Voice, The Gasworker, Solidarity, The Bricklayer, The Plasterer, The Journal, The F.E.D. Journal and Reality. All of these were produced for various Unions.  The potential was almost limitless.  For example, Queensland branch of the ALP had their publication, The New Age, taken over by Wearne with an established fortnightly distribution of 15,000 copies.  In addition to the publishing and advertising, Wearne also controlled the distribution of all his publications.  Life was looking up for him, and he was finally, in his own eyes, ready to settle down.

Wearne married in 1955
Wearne met Joyce Bower, a recent divorcee with a young son, when she came to work for his company in 1954.  Joyce had married a man named Fred at the age of 22 but the union didn’t last, despite the pair having a child, Phillip, who was born in 1951.  Joyce separated from Fred six years later, obtaining a divorce in 1953.  Finding herself a single mother with no form of support, Joyce went looking for work and was hired by Wearne’s company in Sydney.  In November, 1955, the pair married, with Wearne now describing himself as a Company Director.  The following month Wearne moved back to Adelaide.  He remained until October, 1956, when he moved, with Joyce and her son, Phillip, back to Sydney.  Wearne had itchy feet. He had no sooner than he settled back in Sydney when he was back in Adelaide, this time for a short visit.  Wearne returned to Sydney until May 1957 when he moved to Melbourne.  Wearne would divide his time between Melbourne and Sydney, leaving Joyce to live alone in Sydney.  The continued absences meant that young Phillip lived with his maternal grandmother for much of his childhood. Something had to give, and it would.

Even more important for Wearne is that, while in Melbourne, he joined the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International in 1958. He also set himself up with another perk of being rich; a mistress.

It’s highly likely that Wearne saw Scientology as yet another way to get rich quick with minimal effort. In this he was to be greatly disappointed.  The various techniques that the scientologists engaged didn’t sit well with Wearne.  After one processing session he began to hallucinate that he had been caught in a web and devoured by a forty foot spider as a child.  What didn’t help Wearne was that he was continuing to drink and had begun to use drugs as a form of release.  Whatever happened to Wearne during his time with the church is a matter of contention.  For Wearne it wasn’t the processing as much as the electro shock treatment that he alleged was given to him. No matter, by 1962 Wearne was done with Scientology as a religion, but he was only just starting on it as a target and cause.

Wearne began the first of many failed publishing ventures with Reality. Reality was a free publication aimed at members of the ALP, but only lasted eight months before it folded.  Reality was a forerunner to his next publication, Probe and both newspapers covered very similar ground, controlling workers, brainwashing and mind control.  As with Reality, Probe was issued free of charge, only this time to as many Federal Government offices that he could get to as he wanted everyone and anyone to read his thoughts.  The first issue of Probe, published in July 1961, contained a series of sometime rambling articles about management techniques and staff retention.  However it was an article that Wearne wrote about security checking using L Ron Hubbard’s E-Meter that drew attention to him from the highest spy agency in the country, The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation – ASIO for short.

After reading Probe some agents at ASIO toyed with the idea of obtaining an E-Meter for their own use but dismissed it.  Instead they began to investigate Wearne and placed him under surveillance. Using an undisclosed source within the Scientologists they quickly ascertained that Wearne was acting alone and they quickly disassociated themselves with Probe.  This went against a disclaimer that Wearne included on the rear of the newspaper, stating that, “Probe Magazine acknowledges the assistance and copyrights of the Hubbard Communications office and its Trustees for Technical Information made available.”  This led ASIO to come to a conclusion, that being that Wearne was clearly associated with Hubbard.  They needed to establish the link further, so surveillance was stepped up.  In addition to his divorce, ASIO were checking into him, he was missing his court ordered payments to Joyce and a warrant of possession was about to be issued against him.  Things would only get crazier for Wearne.

Wearne always needed money. His marriage came to a crashing stop in 1961.  Wearne, now with three companies under his control, all haemorrhaging cash, told Joyce in February, 1961, that he was heading to Melbourne for three weeks in order to oversee his business ventures there.  He came back for six nights, left again for Melbourne, where he bought a house, and returned to Sydney where he bought another house, all without telling Joyce.  He moved into a house and set himself up.  It came undone when Joyce, in company with un-named friends, attended Wearne’s new residence to find a Wearne in residence, clothed only in a dressing gown and a naked woman in his bed – it was his mistress.  The woman gave her name as Margaret Mead, but her real name was Jillaine ‘Kanga’ Queitzsch.

Jillaine Quietzsch (1947)
Jillaine Isabel Queitzsch, of German descent, was born in Brisbane in 1928.  She came from a well off family and managed to become somewhat of a socialite while still a teenager.  She lived in Europe while in her early teens and was frequently mentioned in Brisbane newspapers, described as being a striking beauty.  She spent her early 20s travelling the globe, managing to meet the Queen while living in London in 1953.  She was in New York at the age of 25, before heading back to London where she remained until 1957.  Once back in Australia she settled at Kangaroo Point, Queensland, and started a career as a model.  Intelligent, attractive and vivacious, Wearne was immediately smitten.

Wearne didn’t deny the charge of adultery; indeed he drafted and signed a confession on the spot, stating that he had met Queitzsch in 1960 and begun an affair with her, eventually bringing her to Sydney after the first three week Melbourne trip in February and setting up house with her.  Other reports have Wearne marrying Queitzsch as early as 1958, but Wearne was still married to Joyce at that point.  Still, Wearne couldn’t care less what was going on, he allowed Joyce to file for divorce – it was just another battle to be fought and he had bigger fish to fry.

The divorce proceedings began in October, 1961 when Joyce claimed in court that Wearne had deserted her and left her without any income.  Even more damning was the charges that Wearne was earning more than £5,000 a week, if not more, from the ALP alone.  The list of publications that Wearne was associated with and making money from read like a Who’s Who of Australian Unions.  They included;
Australian Labour Party
The Federated Engine Drivers' and Firemen's Association
The Gas Employees Industrial Union
The Leather and Allied Trades Union (Glue and Gelatine Section)
The Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia
The shop Assistants and Warehouse Employees' Federation of Australia
The A.L.P. and Trade Union Co-Ordinating Committee
The Federated Municipal and Shire Council Employees' Union of Australia
The Hospital Employees' Association of New South Wales
The Australian Builders' Labourers’ Federation (N.S.W. Branch)
The Rubber, Cable and Plastic Workers' Union (N.S.W. Branch)
The Club Managers' Association of New South Wales
The “Herald” The Official Organ of The Australian Labour Party (S.A. Branch)
The United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia
The Labor Day Celebration Committee of South Australia
The Australian Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees' Association
The Australian Railways Union (S.A. Branch)
The Transport Workers' Union (S. A. Branch)
The Federated Engine Drivers' and Firemen's Association (S.A. Branch)
The Federated Gas Employees' Industrial Union (S. A. Branch)
Australian Government Workers' Association Federated Clerks' Union
Australian Builders' Labourers’ Federation (S. A. Branch)
Operative Bricklayers, Tilers and Tuckpointers' Society of South Australia
The Plasterers' Society of South Australia
The Carpenter's and Joiners' Union (S.A. Branch)
The Baking Trades Union (S.A. Branch)
The Shop Assistants' and Warehouse Employees' Federation of Australia (S.A. Branch)
Australian Labour Party (Queensland Branch)
The Boilermakers' Union (Queensland Branch)
The Hospital Employees' Union (Queensland Branch)
The Amalgamated Food Union (Queensland Branch)
Australian Labor Party (Western Australia Branch)
The Australasian Meat Industry Employees' Union West. Aust. Branch)
The Australasian Society of Engineers (W.A. Branch)
The Western Australian Timber Industry Industrial Union of Workers
The Hospital Employees' Federation (W.A. Branch)
The Electrical Trades Union (W.A. Branch)
The Clothing Trades Union (W.A. Branch)
The Painters' Union (W.A. Branch)
The Water and Sewerage Employees' Union of Western Australia
The Transport, Timer and Building Trades Union Committee (Hobart)
The Federated Engine Drivers' and Firemen's Association (Tasmania Branch)

Wearne confesses to adultery, 1961
Wearne was the official Publicity Officer for each branch and union, was producing a newspaper for each and making extraordinary amounts of money for the time.

Joyce began to unravel Wearne’s business dealings in court. “I say that the Respondent received the gross proceeds of all advertising space sold in the publications of the abovementioned organisations amount to an average of £5,000. per week and more,” Joyce claimed in her affidavit.  “These moneys were banked in the name of the Respondent and he paid the expenses of distribution of the expenses of printing and producing the said publications were borne by Labour Newspapers (South Australia) Limited of which the Respondent was the majority shareholder and governing Director. The accounts for printing were rendered to the Respondent who paid to the account of' the said Company moneys from his own accounts to meet these charges.  From the gross amounts received in respect of each publication as before mentioned, the Respondent paid to the organisation concerned an amount equivalent to 2 ½ percent of such gross amount.  The balance of the gross amount so received was retained by the Respondent and after payment of the before mentioned expenses and outgoings the balance represented his profit from the said publicity business so carried on by him.”

In short, Wearne was laundering money through his many businesses, moving cash from location to location in order to hide his true income and minimise his tax.  The court, and in particular the Australian Taxation Office, took particular interest in this turn of events, particularly as Wearne was already crying poor and had stopped paying tax a few years earlier.

Wearne, it was claimed, had the capacity to earn upwards of £50,000 per year.  The average annual wage for 1961 in Australia was just over £3,100.  The houses that Wearne had bought were around £5,000 each.  Joyce was existing on £20 per week and, to add insult to injury, Wearne wrote her a letter to inform her that he was selling the house she was currently living in.  Joyce wanted justice and asked for custody of Phillip (Wearne's step-son), maintenance in the form of £50 per week, the house that Wearne was offering for sale, along with its contents and all costs.

The beginning of the end,
Joyce files for divorce
from Wearne
Wearne wasn’t going to give in without a fight.  Firstly he denied the figures that Joyce was stating.  According to Wearne during, “1956 and November 1960 he carried on business on his own account as a Publicity Officer for Labour Party and Trade Union Publications and that his net weekly income varied. At no time was it £1,000. His taxable income for the year ended 30th June 1959 was £4,092. His taxable income for the year ended 30th June 1960 was £1,784. In November 1960 his said business was purchased by Australian Trade Union Press Proprietary Limited. Since 26th March 1961 the Respondents only means of livelihood has been £300 per week which he has received on account of the purchase price payable by Australian Trade Union Press Proprietary Limited. Such weekly sum of £300 has been applied to meet the mortgage payments as aforesaid and £2,000 has been loaned back to the said company to keep its bank account in credit.”  Despite the claims of large amounts of money coming in, Wearne was crying poor. Everything he owned, from his houses to his clothes to his cars, the Jaguar and the MG were owned by the company. Further muddying the waters, Wearne sold his publicity business, which controlled the accounts of the unions, to his parent company the Australian Trade Union Press, and was merely drawing a weekly salary, paid to him by himself.

As he was struggling, or so he claimed, Wearne’s counter offer was insulting – no house, no furniture, custody of Phillip, £3.50 per week and each party would pay their own costs. Wearne then instructed his lawyer to draw up papers selling the family house for £500 to his own company, Australian Trade Union Press.  Upon learning this Joyce immediately applied to the court for an order preventing the sale. It was granted.

ASIO find Wearne
One another front, ASIO found it hard to believe the Scientologists when they said that Wearne, and Probe, had no connection with them.  ASIO were already investigating the organisation in Australia and this was more attention than they wanted.  More inquiries, this time to Wearne’s printer, Southdown Press, revealed nothing they didn’t already know, but in January 1962 ASIO decided that Wearne was a loose cannon.  “There is little doubt that Wearne is certainly a go-getter,” read a memo from the Regional ASIO Director of Victoria, “one might say a con-man, who is prepared to approach anybody or anyone if he can see a chance of making a bit for himself.” The Scientologists had also worked that out and promptly threw him out of their organisation.  Wearne was ready to fight that battle as well.

TOMORROW: Wearne fight Scientology and ASIO, and loses. His final years.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The Strange, Strange Story of Phillip Wearne: Part Three

Continuing the story of obscure Australian comic book artist Phillip Wearne.

Part Three: Wearne Grows Up

By mid-1945 Wearne was busy trying to get himself out of the R.A.A.F.  The war had finished and he wanted to pick up his career where it left off.  He had managed to obtain leave for the legal action against Hoffmann in 1944 and now he wished to be released so he could finish the third instalment in the Space Legion series.  Sensing that the R.A.A.F might refuse his request, Wearne approached the Federal Member for Boothby to contact the Minister for Air, Arthur Drakeford, to plead his case.  The book, T.N. Sheehy wrote, would earn Wearne the rich sum of £300.  If Wearne couldn’t be given leave, then surely he could be released from duty earlier than expected? The reply was as expected; Wearne would have to go through the proper channels, the same as anyone else.  Another tack was tried when Horace Wearne fell ill.  Again bypassing the regular channels, Wearne contacted Sheehy who contacted Drakeford.  This time the R.A.A.F, like Hoffmann, had reached their breaking point with Wearne and duly released him.

Wearne in the RAAF. Obviously
before he got airsick
When Wearne was finally released, in October, 1945, it was to the Thyer Rubber Company, where he was to be employed as a rubber worker.  Horace, although described as being ‘gravely ill’, would last until June, 1946, before he passed away at the age of 47.  Once back in Adelaide Wearne went right back to his old jobs.  He approached Hoffmann with the view of having his comic books reprinted and new strips published, only to find that he was not a wanted commodity.  Hoffmann, twice bitten, wanted nothing to do with Wearne and was more than content to continue publishing comics with the more reliable, and more stable, duo of Doug Maxted and Max Judd.  Wearne then re-joined the City Taxi Service as a cab driver, working his way up to a supervising position before he decided to move to Sydney in December, 1949, believing that he would be offered a position with Ezra Norton.

Ezra Norton was the son of John Norton, the proprietor of The Truth. Ezra grew up around newspapers and as soon as he was able he began to work in the industry.  Ezra was disowned by his abusive father, as was his wife, Ada, who promptly took to the courts to gain control over the newspaper empire John Norton left his estate to his daughter, Joan in his will. Once Ada succeeded, she, Ezra and Joan each received a third of the estate, thus allowing Ezra to gain control of The Truth. Choosing to do battle with Sir Frank Packer, Norton then founded a daily newspaper, titled The Daily Mirror in 1941.  It was at the Mirror that Wearne often told people that he had serialised Legion of Space for publication, but there is no record of the strip ever appearing on a daily basis, or even as a Sunday strip. In the mid-1970s comic book historian John Ryan began to note what strips appeared where in Australia by physically reading every newspaper stored and having other, trusted, people do the same for Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart.  Nowhere does a mention of Wearne or a Legion of Space newspaper strip appear in Ryan’s copious notes.   The likely scenario was that Wearne was hired as a staff artist and did uncredited spot illustrations for The Mirror and other Norton publications.

In 1955 Wearne successfully filed
suit against Hoffmann for
 ownership of his work
What Wearne did do was to arrange for his two 1944 comics to be reprinted by Norton’s comic book line, Invincible Press in 1949.  Sales of the two reprints were good enough for Norton to commission two more Space Legion books, which Wearne duly delivered in early 1950. Unlike his previous efforts, where he at least attempted to disguise the source material, Wearne now outright plagiarised Jack Williamson’s work.  And that was it.  Wearne’s comic book career was finished.  Williamson’s own Legion of Space book was finally published as a paperback in 1947. This was followed up by a magazine reprint in 1950.  By now it was clear, for anyone who cared to look, that Wearne hadn’t written his work, but no matter, Wearne was long gone, drawing an end to his career as a comic book artist.

Wearne failed as a comic book creator due to his inability to come up with another solid concept or even an idea.  He could keep mining the Legion of Space series for as long as Jack Williamson was being published in the USA, but that was it. He seemed incapable of generating any original ideas and was also reluctant to work with other writers.  If he had recognised his limitations as a writer and worked only as an artist, he could have forged a career along the lines of his peers, Australian comic book artists such as Keith Chatto, Len Lawson (who, despite his later criminal actions, was writing and drawing one of the most successful comic books of the early 1950s with The Lone Avenger), John Dixon and Maxted. But Wearne’s ego would never allow him to relinquish control.

Many artists broke into the comic book scene at the same time as Wearne.  The downturn in the Australian comic book industry came in the 1950s when imports began to flood the scene in the form of cheaply manufactured reprint comics. Comics were also under fire from censors at the time, in Queensland in 1954, the newly established Literature Board of Review banned numerous comic books that they felt were undesirable, resulting in publishers filing suit in court.  From action to horror to romance, comic books were not seen as a viable career. Many of the publishers soon discovered that importing material was cheaper than paying local talent and that was it.  The Australian comic book industry was dealt a blow that, even today, it has never fully recovered from.

Artists, such as Monty Wedd, Stanley Pitt, John Dixon, Phil Belbin and Keith Chatto had long and illustrious careers due to the high quality of their artwork, their eagerness to work, their ability to adapt to the changing times and their ability to hit deadlines.  Others, such as Moira Bertram, Hart Amos, Jeff Wilkinson, Peter Chapman, Albert DeVine, Kathleen O’Brien, Arthur Mather, Larry Horak and many more, had mixed successes, through no fault of their own.

Some continued with art, either in comic books, advertising or in newspapers with strip art and spot illustrations, others simply left the industry completely never to return. Some moved into new industries and eventually drifted back when the scene became healthier. Some, like Arthur Hudson, were firmly rooted in advertising and dabbled in comic strip art; Maurice Bramley was another who moved from commercial illustrations to draw more comic book covers than arguably any other Australian. Paul Wheelahan, a protégé of Stan Pitt and the creator of the long running comic book The Panther (72 issues), left the field in 1963 to become one of Australia’s most prolific writers of western pulp novels. Wilkinson and Maxted eventually returned to England and worked there for IPC.  There was work if people wanted to fight for it, but Wearne wasn’t for fighting.

Wearne never returned to comic books. Ezra Norton saw more value in publishing books that collected strips he was already publishing in his newspaper.  Boofhead and Bluey and Curley went side-by-side with reprints of American and British titles as Buzz Sawyer, Garth, Candy and Tim Tyler’s Luck.  To his credit Norton did preserve with original books such as Tim O’Hara (Carl Lyon, who would eventually replace Stan Cross on the highly successful Wally & The Major newspaper strip), Dan Eagle (Moira Bertram) and Virgil Reilly’s Silver Flash titles. Wearne’s storytelling and artistic abilities were as good as any of the second tier artists working at the time.  The difference between the creators mentioned and Wearne is that they were less trouble for Norton to deal with. Wearne wanted to be rich with little effort.  He quickly realised that he’d not become wealthy from comic books as page rates and pay for artists had dropped from what it once was and the work had become harder.

While in Sydney Wearne began to study Business Management at Sydney University before flying back to Adelaide and continuing taxi driving.  In December, 1950, Wearne decided to move to Melbourne and re-join the R.A.A.F. It was a good plan, but as he was leaving, he managed to burn bridges with the Adelaide taxi driving industry.  He had another reason to want to leave Adelaide, one that would see him locked up.

The News, 13th December, 1950.
 Wearne arrested.
Wearne gave his notice and headed out to Parafield Airport to board his Melbourne bound plane on the evening of the 12th of December, 1950. He had almost reached the tarmac when he was arrested by the police and lead away to the city watch house.  Facing court the next morning, Wearne was charged with embezzlement – he had kept the proceeds of jobs that he had done during his employment at Leonard Johnson’s taxi company.  The amount, £27 (worth over $1,000 in today’s money), was discovered missing on the 11th of December after Wearne had handed in his daily takings on his last day of duty.  Once the shortfall was discovered, Wearne was given the benefit of the doubt and asked to repay the money by 6pm that night.  Instead he went home, finished packing and headed to the airport the next day.  To place this crime in context, the average weekly wage at the time was just over £8.

Knowing he was leaving the state, Leonard Johnson called in the authorities and had him detained.  Wearne pleaded not guilty, quietly repaid the money and the charges were dropped.  Wearne was now free to head to Melbourne and re-join the R.A.A.F.  But there was more than one stumbling block in the way.  The R.A.A.F didn’t want him anymore than the taxi industry did and although he had applied in Adelaide for a posting in Melbourne, Wearne settled in Sydney.

At that time many former service personnel were signing back up as jobs weren’t as bountiful as before the war.  To this end the armed services could afford to be picky and when Wearne’s application arrived his former commander was contacted for his comments.  “Teleprinter operator,” the report read. “Failed at EFTS as pilot. Although educational standard ok, past service reports do not impress as being suitable type.”  Not knowing this, Wearne went through the process of re-enrolling, pumping himself up as a business leader, a supervisor and generally a man in charge of lesser beings.

Wearne was given a time and date to attend a formal interview as part of the process, but didn’t make it, due to illness. The only difference it made to Wearne’s application was to give the R.A.A.F an easy way out. They informed Wearne that the quota was now full and they’d let him know if a vacancy arose in the future.

The RAAF formally rejects Wearne, January 1951
Now firmly entrenched in Sydney, Wearne formed a company called Realty Factors with himself as director.  Realty Factors purpose was to buy and sell land and buildings and to arrange loans and packages for interested parties.  In order to raise the necessary funds, Wearne brought in investors, one unknown in the form of William Duffy and others whose names Wearne did his best to keep out of the limelight.  Wearne had decided that, in order to get rich quick, cutting investment deals with shady individuals and criminals was a good option, as long as they remained silent partners and didn’t get upset.  One man who connected himself with Wearne was already known to a lot of people, especially the authorities, Abe Saffron.

Abraham ‘Abe’ Saffron, also known as Mr Sin, was already linked to organised crime in 1952 when Wearne joined forces with him.  Saffron, who always described himself as a property developer and nightclub owner, was a loan shark who wasn’t above using violence as a way to collect outstanding debts. He also had links to high political circles, and this would have appealed to Wearne, along with the promises of earning easy money as a front man.  In 1975 Saffron reached his zenith, so to speak, when he became embroiled with the disappearance and presumed murder of an anti-development campaigner, and newspaper publisher, Juanita Nelson, who was leading a public campaign against him.  Although suspected, there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Saffron and Nelson’s body was never found.

1953. Wearne finds himself mentioned in newspapers connected with notorious criminal Abe Saffron
That was in the future, but in 1953 the mention of Saffron’s name in any property deal was enough to have any licensing court asking serious questions.  Saffron’s own company, Macleay Enterprises, was in the process of being wound up due to court orders and Saffron himself was busily fronting court charged with giving false evidence to a Royal Commission.  Wearne was hauled before the Goulburn Licensing Court where his connections with Saffron were exposed.  While admitting that Saffron had been a member of the firm, Wearne stated that he was long gone and wouldn’t be admitted back in.  It was of no use, his name was linked to one of Sydney’s most notorious criminals. Saffron wasn’t the only underworld figure that Wearne worked with during this time.  He worked as a legitimate front man for several well-known criminals, using his skill as a baby-faced, articulate cleanskin to get his way, but Saffron was the first to be publicly linked with him, thus meaning his use as a front was now at an end.  His own front man, Leslie Davis, withdrew from Realty Factors and went it alone, finally being granted the hotel license that had been sought by Saffron.  Once free from the Realty-Saffron tangle, Wearne not only refused to talk about this period of his life, but would actively deny it had ever happened.

Once Jack Williamson's The Legion Of Space
appeared as a paperback novel
in Australia, Wearne
was exposed.
As was his wont in life, Wearne deflected attention by fleeing.  This time he flew back to Adelaide for his brother’s wedding.  Neil Wearne, who would later become an author in his own right, married his fiancée, Jeanne Simpson, at Scots Church in August, 1954. From there he went to back to Sydney and began to divide his time between there and Melbourne.

TOMORROW: Wearne Gets Married, Wearne Gets Divorced, Wearne Makes Money and Picks Fights He Cannot Win

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Strange, Strange Story of Phillip Wearne: Part Two

Continuing the story of obscure Australian comic book artist Phillip Wearne.  You can read Part One here.

Part Two: Phillip Wearne: The Comic Book Years

Phillip Wearne was a precocious child to the point of hyperactivity.  He attended the Glenelg Public School, graduating in 1938 and moving to what was then called Intermediate, now called High School.  It was while studying at Adelaide Technical High that Wearne’s artistic talents were spotted.  In the late 1930s and through the early 1940s school inspectors would visit classes and enquire about students.  Those who showed a particular aptitude or talent were often told to further their talents in any number of specialist schools around Adelaide.  Wearne was tapped on the shoulder and sent to the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts after completing his leaving Certificate in 1940.

The South Australian School of Arts and Crafts was established in 1861 and is the oldest public art school in Australia.  The principal at the time was the artist and etcher, F Milward Grey and boasted such teachers as Sir Ivor Hele.  During Wearne's time there the school was located on North Terrace, opposite Pultney Street, but was demolished in favour of new buildings when the University of Adelaide was upgraded in the 1960s and 1970s.

Wearne undertook a number of subjects at the school including Geometric Drawing, Lettering & Showcard Writing, Dimensioned Sketching and Perspective, all of which he passed without any real distinction.  At this time Wearne was living with his family on Osmond Terrace, Fullarton.  Osmond Terrace lies just over five kilometres from the centre of Adelaide, but, sadly, the house that Wearne grew up in no longer stands, having been demolished in the 1990s in favour of units.
“Towards the end of the 20th century the utilisation of Atomic energy as an almost infinite source of power made space-travel possible. Space-freighters transported valuable cargoes from the uranium, thorium and mercury mines of the asteroids. Space pirates attacked and looted many of the freighters. Earthmen organised the Legion of Space to check this piracy, they equipped it with a fleet of armoured space-ships.”
-Introduction to The Legion of Space
Milward Grey encouraged his students to express themselves and Wearne decided to create a comic book from scratch as a project. As he would do when faced with such a challenge in his life, Wearne took shortcuts.  In this case he not only lifted the title but also the basic story of a then relatively unknown science fiction novelette called The Legion Of Space by Jack Williamson.  Williamson’s story had appeared as a serial in Astounding Stories in 1934, which, presumably, is where Wearne saw and read it.  

Wearne took the story and was able to create the artwork to go with it, an impressive feat for a seventeen year old who would have been referring to period comic strips of the time.  Looking at the art it becomes clear that Wearne was influenced by the strips of the day, ‘Speed’ (Flash) Gordon by Alex Raymond, Tarzan by Burne Hogarth, Red Gregory by Syd Miller and Tightrope Tim by Reg Hicks. These strips were available via interstate newspapers, in South Australian publications Wearne would have been reading the likes of Ben Bowyang by  Alex McRae, Alec The Airman by Lionel Coventry and Joe Jonsson’s Uncle Joe’s Horse Radish.  Wearne took a lot of shortcuts when it came to the actual art.  Not wanting to create new characters, he based the cast on famous film stars such as Edward G Robinson, Gary Cooper, Raymond Massey and others. He also reused panels in the same story, sometimes in the same sequences, merely flipping them or moving them into different angles.  Once finished Wearne approached a customs importer that he’d been working part time for named Henry ‘Harry’ Hoffmann.

Henry Edward Hoffman, (he spelt his name both with a single and double ‘n’) at times called Harry to distinguish himself from his father, also named Henry, was born at Birkenhead, near Port Adelaide, in 1896 and lived there for all his life, finding work as a clerk.  In 1915, at the age of 18, he, like thousands of other young Australian men, signed up to fight in the Great War.  He entered the Australian Infantry Service as a lowly private and left, nearly four years later, as a Lieutenant Colonel. Along the way he saw action in France, was gassed twice and shot once.  His final exposure to mustard gas saw him discharged from the AIS as being medically unfit for duty. No matter, he had done his part.  He returned to Adelaide and settled down to a quiet life as a customs import agent, working for Smith Channon & Co.  He moved up in the firm to become a partner, a position he held until his retirement in 1961.  Hoffmann’s world was tragically interrupted in 1934 when his son, Lyall, fell out of the back of a truck that he was playing on, resulting in the truck running him over and fracturing his skull.  He lapsed into a coma and sadly never recovered, dying at the age of 10.

Phillip Wearne, aged 17
When Wearne approached him Hoffmann was intrigued by the idea of publishing comic books.  The first thing he did was to encourage Wearne to continue his work.  As an import agent, Hoffmann would have known how popular comic books were in the early 1940s and as such knew that a publishing venture was more likely to succeed than to fail and that, in doing so, he would corner the market in South Australia by becoming the only publisher of comic books in the state.  Hoffmann was also smart enough to understand that any such venture would need more than Phillip Wearne, no matter how talented Wearne might want people to believe, in order to be successful.  He asked Wearne to sound out others at the School of Arts.  Flushed by his success Wearne approached two other students in his figure study class named Max Judd and Doug Maxted.

At the time Maxted was working at Kelvinators, selling fridges to earn his living, but, much like most young boys of the period, wanted to draw comic books.  As he later recalled, “Phil Wearne said he was producing a comic book together with Max Judd and would I draw some comic strips for the publication, which I did.”  It wasn’t as simple as that though.

“While I was working at Kelvinators,” Maxted recalled in an interview in 1995, “a chap came up to me, I think it was the foreman, he says, ‘There’s a chap outside wants to see you, Doug’. So I went out and it was a certain Mr Hoffman, Harry Hoffman - he introduced himself. He said, ‘Oh, Mr Maxted?’ I said, ‘Yes’. He said, ‘Well, now, I’m producing comics’. He said, ‘I’ve heard of you from Phil Wearne, who is in your class at art school and I believe you’re a cartoonist’. He said, ‘Would you be willing to draw a few cartoons for my comic?’  He said, ‘Do me a sample of your work’.

“So I went away and I thought up this old character, sort of a very ebullient old man who was very energetic and I called him Uncle Si. All he had was three hairs on top of his head and a full beard and so forth, and just a shirt and waistcoat and red trousers sort of thing. Anyway, there was no dialogue. He just went into sort of a comical childish action, because it was for a comic, and nothing too sophisticated, very simple, but a simple joke. He wanted half a dozen pages. Anyway, he was very pleased with them when he saw them. He said, ‘Yes, you can keep going with that’. It was very good and the pay was good. It was the equivalent of the basic wage in those days I was getting for each page. Well, I could knock out a page in about six hours. There were six frames a page and it took me an hour to do a frame, so it was about six hours. So it was good pay.”

Hoffmann publishes Wearne, 1953
Hoffmann became the first publisher to break the Sydney-Melbourne comic book publishing market, concentrating on all original work (as opposed to importing reprint material) by Adelaide based artists.  Max Judd’s Sky Police borrowed heavily from Hurricane Hawk but worked well enough for Hoffmann to keep going.  Three Star Comics, introduced in 1944, saw the beginning of a series of colourful one shot comics with names such as Real, Modern, Crack, Extra, Click, Champion, all of which showcased Judd and Maxted to great effect.  Maxted’s Uncle Si became a regular as he (Maxted) became the unofficial staff artist for Hoffmann’s line of comics, able to work in the field of funny animals, cartoons and serious art.

It wasn’t to last.  By 1947 Hoffmann pulled up shop and gave up on publishing comic books and retreated back to his life of a customs agent. He wasn’t alone, cheaper, post war, imports and an increase in the price of newsprint drove several publishers out of business but, before that would happen; Hoffmann would have to deal with Wearne.

Hoffmann was moving far too slowly for Wearne’s liking.  Part of the problem was that Wearne wanted to own the copyright to his work and, as the writer/artist that came first, felt that he was the star of the publishing venture.  Wearne had become problematic and his ego was further buoyed by an article in The Mail, one of the major newspapers in South Australia, introducing him to the public.
The Mail, 21st August, 1943
The article, titled ‘Lad, 17, Draws Virile Adventure Strip’, showed a beaming Wearne and detailed how he had created the first comic book ever to be published in South Australia. Milward Grey, quoted in the article, was generous, stating that Wearne’s work showed, “…much promise” and praising the efforts of all his students.  Hoffmann, who was name checked as Harold Hoffmann, was described not as the publisher of the comic, but as Wearne’s ‘partner’.  This, added to Wearne’s habit of hiring others, was too much to bear.  Hoffmann wasn’t to be trifled with though and quickly informed Wearne’s colleagues who the true power behind the venture was.

The splash page to Wearne's Legion Of Space
Wearne was nothing if not impulsive.  While waiting for Hoffmann to establish the comic book line and the copyrights to fall into place, he decided, at a whim, to join up in order to fight in the war.  Armed with letters of reference from both Hoffmann and Milward, Wearne enrolled in the R.A.A.F with the hopes of becoming a pilot.   His enrolment form was a perfect read.  Wearne, a month shy of his 18th birthday, detailed his academic career as being perfect along with his expertise in wrestling, boxing, swimming and ju-jitsu.  His file showed that he was neat, ‘appeared intelligent’ and that ‘he should do well with training’.  A further assessment saw him upgraded, he was ‘above average’, ‘bright and alert’, and had a ‘good educational background’. All in all, Wearne was described as a ‘good type’.  Wearne was duly accepted into the Royal Australian Air Force with the view of being a pilot.  As he was underage, his mother, Gladys, signed the forms for him.

While he waited to turn 18, Wearne applied for, and was granted, an extension to his eventual induction into the R.A.A.F.  He then used the time to create a second comic for Hoffmann.  Titled The Space Legionnaires, it picked up where The Legion of Space ended as Wearne continued to mine Williamson’s story.  This time Wearne made sure that he was listed on the copyright forms as the co-publisher.  He wanted people to know that he was more than just an artist.  It made no difference to Hoffmann. Giving him the co-publisher title was a minor inconvenience, and a small concession for Hoffmann who was by now thoroughly sick of Wearne.  As Maxted later remember, “According to Hoffman, Phil was throwing his weight around and holding up production.”  The result was a win for Doug Maxted and Max Judd as they quickly moved up the pecking order and quickly emerged as able replacements for Wearne.  Maxted was faster than Wearne, was more agreeable and happier to work.  Judd was a better artist and able to create solid war stories which young boys loved.  Both men also had another advantage, neither were going to war.  Wearne was called up in mid-December, 1943.  He could no longer avoid it, he was going to serve.

In the short amount of time that Wearne had deferred his enrolment, he had managed to land in court twice.  Continuing a family habit, Wearne was charged with traffic offences, speeding.  These came about due to his employment as a taxi driver around Adelaide.  The R.A.A.F were about to discover what Hoffmann had already found out, Wearne wasn’t what he appeared to be.  Describing himself as a ‘cartoon book publisher’, a misnomer as, at best, he was a co-publisher, Wearne completed his ground training without distinction.  His results showed that he was more talk than action, scoring ‘above average’ on Leadership and Enterprise, but average in every other way, barring Persistence, for which he was marked down to ‘below average’.  The general remarks section of his final report described him as being careless, but did note that he showed initiative and intelligence.  He had done enough to be sent to flying school at Point Cook, Victoria.

Part of Wearne's RAAF report card
For Wearne, flying school was where he wanted to excel.  The thought of being a pilot, much in the mould of an Errol Flynn type, appealed to him. Sadly the reality was going to be a lot different as he was about to be found out. Almost 3,000 WWII fighter and bomber pilots came out of Point Cook, including noted aces Nicky Barr and Bill Newton, but Wearne wasn’t one of them.

Wearne failed Elementary Flying School miserably.  He trained in a deHavilland 82, logging 10 hours flying as a co-pilot and was assessed in two different areas, Flying Test and Personal Characteristics.  Out of a possible 1000 points available for the Flying Test, Wearne scored 586.  Out of a possible 100 points in Personal Characteristics, he did worse, scoring a miserly 45.

The comments on Wearne’s sheet were now starting to look very familiar.  “Does not possess the required aptitude,” they read.  “Full of his self-importance. Not impressed with his work. Much doubt if he has an aircrew outlook. Lacks airsense (sic), reactions slow.”  He wasn’t technical enough, he couldn’t judge height, and he was throttle shy and jerked the rudder.  He was knocked back on three faults, ‘No Enthusiasm, Rough on Controls and Forgets Instructions.’  Even worse, it was discovered that Wearne became airsick when flying, a death sentence for a potential pilot.

As he was of no use the R.A.A.F as a pilot Wearne was shuffled off to Bradford Park, NSW, in order to be trained as a clerk or a recorder.  In terms of action that Wearne sought, this was as demeaning as it could get.  Wearne filled in his time corresponding with Hoffmann over the ownership of The Space Legionnaires.  Although Hoffmann wasn’t willing to be pushed around, when Wearne brought legal action against him Hoffmann wanted out and couldn’t divest himself of the work fast enough.  He promptly wrote to the Register of Copyrights to forfeit any rights he may have had in the work and also wrote to Wearne handing over the copyright in full.  Wearne promptly registered the work in his own name.  He was thinking forward, having made a contact in Sydney and wanted to sell his work to Ezra Norton and his Invincible Press.

Wearne still had the R.A.A.F to contend with.  His service record was blotted by an instance of being unfit for duty due to ‘alcoholic stimulants’, loosely translated, he had gotten drunk the night before and was massively hung over.  He waived the rights to a trial and accepted the seven days field punishment, not the first time he would be find himself on the wrong side of the law and, sadly, it wouldn’t be the last.

TOMORROW: Wearne sues Hoffmann, leaves the R.A.A.F. and continues to draw, drive cabs and steals lots of money

Monday, November 02, 2015

The Strange, Strange Story of Phillip Wearne: Part One

Comic book pioneer Phillip Wearne is largely forgotten these days in the Australian comic book circles.  He drew a handful of comic books and it’s the circumstances around those books that are fascinating.  Even more fascinating though is his life, where he came from and what ultimately happened.  Wearne was a pioneer in the comic book field.  He was savvy enough to create a book from scratch, write and draw it alone and arranged to co-publish it, all at the age of 17. By the time he was 20 years old he had fought his publisher for ownership of his work, and won. He controlled his work, he could publish it as he saw fit, eventually shopping it around for the best deal possible. He should have been hailed as a visionary, yet he was labelled a plagiarist and a hack by virtually all Australian comic book historians, who all but ignored what he was able to do.

In the end his comic book career spanned a few years, one concept and four issues. His main downfall was his inability to generate any original concepts. That, even more so than his hubris, hobbled him.

Away from comic books his life was even more colourful; he was accused of theft, he set up businesses and consorted with criminals, he contested a divorce that saw the presiding magistrate seek advice from the Federal Attorney General and launched a one-man crusade against Scientology, resulting in the religion being banned in Victoria.  He was intelligent, egotistical and subversive, the former kept him one step ahead of people, and the latter two traits saw him classed as a crackpot by ASIO.  He crossed paths with spies, the mental health industry and publishing…and along the way he rarely looked back.

Over the next five days you’ll discover the weird and often unbelievable world of Phillip Wearne, writer, artist, publisher, spy and agitator.
Part One: The Wearne Family Tree

Broken Hill, 1888
Phillip Bennett Wearne’s family line can be traced back to the 1600s in England.  The first of Wearne’s ancestors to visit Australia was William Bennett Wearne, who was born in Cornwall, England, in October, 1847.  The Wearne name was well known in Cornwall, Wearne's have been living there since the 1500’s.  Cornwall, the southernmost peninsula in England, was known for its strong family ties and an economy built on the back of fishing and mining for both copper and tin.  Life in England during the mid-1800s was hard and drab and, although the Cornish mines were better than most, there wasn’t much of a future for miners, other than a life down in the pits and a possible early death.  After hearing about opportunities in a new country, Australia, Wearne packed up and arranged to work his passage on the Transatlantic, leaving England in 1863 and arriving in Sydney in June of the same year.  He then arranged for passage to Moonta, South Australia, where mining was reaching a peak.  At the time Moonta was an outback town, originally settled on the back of its rich copper mines.  Most of the settlers in Moonta were of Cornish descent, drawn by the promises of good money for hard work.  Wearne had left England, sailed around the world and was seeking his fortune, all before the age of 18.

Wearne settled in Moonta and quickly established himself as a miner.  In November, 1869, at the age of 22, he married Susan Metters, a bright 18 year old who was born at North Adelaide.  Once William Bennett Wearne Jr was born, two years later in 1871, W.B. Sr became a family man with responsibilities.  However life in Moonta wasn’t making Wearne as rich as he wanted to be and people were always on the lookout for new, fresh mines to establish.  Thus, when word arrived about the untapped wealth in the ground at Broken Hill, New South Wales, where vast tracts of silver ore were found, a rush of people promptly moved  in search of riches.  Sensing an opportunity, Wearne, now aged in his 40s, packed his wife and family, loaded a cart and a buggy and hitched the lot to two horses.  The Wearne's then made the perilous journey by foot, across some of the most inhospitable terrain anyone was likely to see.  Travelling the same journey by car today, it’d take you just under six hours. Travelling by horse and cart in 1887, across the outback where few roads existed, it would have taken weeks, if not the better part of a few months, to make the trip.  Once in Broken Hill, the Wearne’s settled in and started to assert themselves.

The Barrier-Miner, 2nd March, 1889
Wearne Sr promptly went back into mining, as did almost every able bodied male who made the trip to Broken Hill.  Like a lot of others, Wearne Senior promptly lost as much money as he made.  He was well known in the district for staking claims, talking them up, selling shares and then losing cash hand over fist when the mines turned out to be duds.  He also moved into real estate, first buying a general store and then building a mansion which he turned into a hotel. He spared no expense in making his hotel one of the most popular in Broken Hill, however he soon got bored with it and converted his mansion-hotel first into a boarding house and then into a shop, out of which he operated another general store.

As well as mining, Wearne Sr dabbled in the stock market and set himself up as a share broker, although how successful he was at this might be reflected in a series of ads he placed in the local newspaper.  On the 22nd of January, 1890, Renowden, Wearne &Copp announced their new partnership to the world as, “Auctioneers, Mining, Land and General Commission Agents”.  The very next day an announcement appeared declaring that Renowden, Wearne and Copp had dissolved their partnership by, “mutual consent”.  The third day brought a repeat of the first day’s ad, only this time it was for Renowden and Wearne alone. It didn’t stop him from buying and selling.

W.B. Wearne, Sr, passed away in 1909, his wife, Susan Wearne, would outlive her husband by twenty years, passing away in 1929.

The Barrier-Miner, 12th January, 1890
W.B. Wearne Jr also went into the business of operating a general store, establishing his storefront in 1892, also in Broken Hill. Described as a ‘pedestrian’, which was another way of calling a person an amateur sprinter, Wearne married young, in 1893, and sadly his wife, Jane, would pass away in 1912 at the age of 41.  Before she died she gave birth to a son, Horace Oswald Wearne, who was the father of Phillip Wearne.

While W.B. Jr was busy in Broken Hill, his son Horace, or Horrie as he was known, made the move to Adelaide.  A gifted short distance runner, it was reported that he competed in a number of events in and around Adelaide and won them all including the prestigious Bay-Sheffield in 1916, which was known as the Sheffield Handicap and run at Semaphore Beach, before it moved to its current location in Glenelg.  However there is one problem with this – the official winner of the 1916 Bay-Sheffield isn’t H. Wearne; the history books show a H. Taylor as the winner that year. Wearne claimed to have won other, similar, races, but, thanks to poor record keeping, there is no way to test the veracity of his claims. If Horrie Wearne did make up stories to send back to Broken Hill to be reported in the local newspaper, the Barrier Miner, it would have set a precedent that his own son would ultimately follow.

Horrie was back in Broken Hill by October, 1916, as he was named in a then notorious legal case. In Sydney twelve members of the Industrial Workers of the World were arrested and charged with treason against the crown for distributing seditious literature and sabotage in the form of lighting fires with the intent to eliminate their competition. The case was a cause celebre at the time and Horace Wearne was deposed to give evidence against the twelve men and stated that he and W.B. Jr were removing chaff from the railway only to discover fire accelerants present in the chaff.  The case was exciting, full of twists and turns and included people being enlisted into the I.W.W. at gunpoint, spies, assaults and even the rumour of death.  As the nation was at war, the case couldn’t have been bigger and the charges were proved and lengthy prison sentences handed down.
Broken Hill, 1888

Horace was also the driver of one of the first automobiles in Broken Hill, and proved to be one of the first four wheeled recidivists when it came to breaches of the road code, being pulled up and fined for such infractions as having failed to carry a lighted lamp at night and failing to carry his licence.

In the early 1920s Horace was sharing his time between Adelaide and Broken Hill, still running and claiming to be playing SANFL football with the North Adelaide Football Club.  Sadly the Wearne name does not appear in the official North Adelaide Football Club records, but one thing is known – Horace was breaking the law in Adelaide, being picked up and fined, and spending time doing hard labour, mainly for exceeding the speed limit.  In between his running, selling chaff and being arrested, Horace made time to marry one Gladys Carver.  Their first son, Phillip Bennett Wearne was born on the 19th of September, 1925, at Rose Park, Adelaide.

In mid-1930 W.B. Jr was enjoying a normal day in his general store, opening as usual and having a lunch of fritz.  Shortly after his lunch he was serving a customer in his general store when he grabbed his chest and collapsed. He was immediately rushed to hospital but died that night.  With the death of W.B. Jr, Horace cut all ties with Broken Hill and settled in Adelaide permanently.

TOMORROW: Phillip Weane goes to school, draws a comic book and joins the R.A.A.F only to be bundled out for getting airsick.