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Wednesday, October 21, 2020 

The obscenely notorious history of an Australian comics artist who was imprisoned for heinous crimes

If you've ever wondered about dangerous criminals existing in the medium's past, Australian Broadcasting Corp. has some history of one Leonard Lawson, a comic artist from the middle part of the 20th century living in New South Wales who was convicted and imprisoned for rape and murder, in a very sad moment for the history of the medium in its entire. It begins by noting:
The future of one of Australia's oldest prisons is uncertain, but murals painted inside by murderer and rapist Leonard 'comic book killer' Lawson will be preserved.

The Grafton Correctional Centre, opened in 1893, will soon be closed after its inmates were transferred to the new Clarence Correctional Centre at nearby Lavadia in July. [...]

Among the tags and scrawl are several intricate murals painted by murderer, rapist, and bestselling comic book artist Leonard Lawson.

The New South Wales Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has issued a statement saying the future of the building is 'under review' but Lawson's murals "will be preserved along with other heritage elements on site".
He may have long died off in 2003, but I'm sure this is bound to lead to some controversy in Oz over whether his paintings should be made into museum material, because of the obscene crimes he committed in his time, with the worst part being that the parole boards stupidly released him:
Lawson had served 48 years in New South Wales prisons before he died in Grafton in 2003 at age 76.

In 1954 he raped two and sexually assaulted three models at gunpoint and was condemned to death, but was released from prison after serving seven years.

In 1962 he raped and murdered 16-year-old Jane Bower, before taking a hall of students hostage at the Sydney Church of England Girls' Grammar School, where he shot and killed 15-year-old Wendy Sue Luscombe.

Lawson was then sentenced to life in prison
.

In 1972 at Parramatta jail he attacked visiting dancer Sharon Hamilton with a knife. Six years later, Hamilton died by suicide. [...]

In 1994, survivors of the school siege and family members of Lawson's victims discovered he was being considered for parole. They successfully protested against his release.
And the victims' families were right to object. Here's what he was once known for in the early 1950s in Australia:
Prior to his criminal activity, Lawson, who was originally from Wagga Wagga, was renowned for creating some of Australia's most famous comics, including the Action Comic's characters The Lone Avenger and The Hooded Rider.

Mr Best said one of the reasons Lawson was so popular was because he signed every page of The Lone Avenger.

"If he hadn't gone to prison and done what he'd done he might have been considered one of the great artists," Mr Best said. [...]

However, Mr Best said the quality of the artwork did not make Lawson a "good" person.

"He wasn't a nice person and he had several faces — one that was 'woe is me' and the other that was this monster that rose within him that led him to rape and kill,"
he said.
With that sort of an offensive personality, that's exactly why, while his art may be part of history, it doesn't change that he was a most satanic creature who exploited every weakness he could find in the system to cause tragedy for innocent and defenseless women, and anybody who commits crimes that heinous can't possibly be interested in maintaining fame in history. You could easily wonder if the real reason he signed every page in one of the comics he drew was more out of smugness and greed. Does somebody with motives that phony deserve praise? Of course not.

As far as I know, no contributors to the medium since who were accused of criminal acts have ever committed crimes on as abominable a level as what that creep Lawson did, and let's hope it remains that way. But for now, what the ABC is reporting is definitely a very sad, staining moment for the whole comics industry, to know that there was at least one felon contributing to it who carried a very repulsive record with him.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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