One of the items Peter Archer left me was this enormous, spectacular "working-out drawing for Letraset images of Indians and Cavalry". This sketch was an unexpected development which left me puzzling for a while. Was it for Peter's General Custer Super Action Transfer set?
A careful analysis suggests that although there are many similarities among the figures, this is not the same set. And Peter says "total 123 images", whereas the General Custer set has only forty-nine figures (plus assorted loose weapons).
So what could it possibly be?
Size: 718mm x 225mm
It actually wasn't all that hard to realise that although Peter said "Letraset" on the sketch, that was a mistake — & it wasn't Letraset at all. Because also in the Magic Envelope™ was this huge reverse proof:
Size: 386mm x 535mm
He's noted at the bottom "without yellow o. print", so we can only imagine what effect the missing overlay would have had.
So now we know that this is another Trans-Action product, presumably a follow-up Wargame to the D-Day Landing Battleground. But no-one has ever seen such a thing in the shops, as far as we know, & I'm inclined to believe that this project was shelved before it got that far. We know the transfers were printed in a reasonable quantity, because Peter's Magic Envelope™ contained many ordinary-sized envelopes, each stuffed full of transfers, roughly cut out, & enough for quite a few full sets plus plenty of spares (& I've been doling out these transfer sheets ever since to members of SPLAT in order to get them a wider audience — which I think Peter would have appreciated)! Why this Western project never got further than that may have to remain a mystery; however, I do have a theory which may account for it.
The D-Day set came out in 1975, so it would be logical for the Western set to be produced the following year — 1976. But 1976 was the year Letraset bought their Italian factory, Sodecor: & Sodecor was the factory used by Trans-Action to print their transfers. Naturally, Letraset would not be enthusiastic about allowing another company to produce rival transfers from their own factory! Not even (or perhaps especially) when the owner of that rival company was an ex-director of Letraset…
I think Peter Archer may have been lured away from Letraset by Alan Lythgoe, & worked on all the Trans-Action products — Bowyer's Action Sport '75, D-Day Wargame, & possibly even the mysterious Peace Transfers — until Trans-Action's supply of transfers was cut off. He may even have been misled by Alan Lythgoe into thinking these were "Letraset-related" projects, which might explain why he called his Western sketch "Letraset images".
Peter would have known Alan Lythgoe while the latter was still technical director at Letraset, through all the years of Panoramas & Action Transfers. In fact, I remember now that the first time I met Peter, the name he recalled most clearly from his time there was "Alan" (although he had forgotten the surname). At the time, I had wondered who he could possibly have meant, & subsequently I forgot all about it until writing the paragraph above reminded me — & now of course it makes perfect sense.
But either way, it looks like this was Peter's last transfers project. There was no going back to Letraset, even if this had occurred to him; John Hunt had by now brought in the David Clark Design Group from Bournemouth to take over the design of new products. Peter went on to a highly-successful career painting military scenes for the Army (a career which, as a pacifist, he found somewhat ironic). But from the Batman Panorama in 1966, through Tarzan, the Action Transfers, Super Action Transfers & Mini Action Transfers sets & many others, Peter Archer set a high standard — which perhaps has never been matched since.
Here's a photostat which was probably used to check the figures. Those marked with a cross in biro don't appear among the final transfer sheet figures — so those are freebies for you!
Size: 354mm x 210mm
To round everything off nicely, I've scanned the individual transfer sheets & arranged them in the order given by the reverse proof above. So not only are these all the sheets; they're even in the right order!
That's the end of this little diversion into Hasbro/Trans-Action style transfers; coming up next, the more traditional décalcomanies.
Picture Credit: The SPLAT Scan Archives
© Tom Vinelott 2023