Even when an artist is credited for their work, it doesn’t necessarily mean we know a lot about them. Such is the case for Peter Kay, whose work people may recognise from the 1950s Girl comic. Girl was initially published by Hulton Press as a sister paper to the Eagle, and it was one of the few publications that actually credited those that worked on the stories, which helps us identify what else an artist may have worked on. Peter Kay worked on many of Girl‘s prominent stories including Susan at St Bride’s, Wendy and Jinx, and Lindy Love. He also did cover work for Princess, and Schoolgirls picture libraries, as well as work on Mandy covers.
Thanks to a relative of Peter’s getting in contact we now have some background information on the artist, who led quite an interesting life. Born Bruno Kleinzeller circa 1906 in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, he and his older brother Erich started their careers as commercial artists. As well as work on magazines and advertisements, Bruno worked on movies posters. One example of these posters is from the 1938 Czech film “Svět kde se žebrá” (The World Where She’s Married). Bruno moved to Prague and then to England, escaping the rise of the Nazi party and before the German annexation of the Sudetenland. His brother Erich and sister-in-law, were not so lucky and unfortunately were arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where they died in the gas chambers. Bruno meanwhile changed his professional name to the more British sounding “Peter Kay” and worked for magazines in London. It was there that he met his future wife, Mary “Tommy” Thom, who was from Aberdeen originally. Bruno/Peter continued to work on various publications, doing illustrations for The Scotsman, as well as numerous girl comics and the occasional film poster. He often signed his work off as “Kay”.
Bruno and Tommy lived in London during the Blitz and later had a son, David, who tragically died young, during the polio epidemic in the late 1950s. On a more happy note he was able to reconnect with his older sister Steffi in the late 1960s, they had lost track of each other when they had left their home country for different parts of the world. It is Steffi’s granddaughter who was able to provide information and photos of Bruno. Bruno died in the early 1980s after some health problems, Tommy died in the 2000s. Bruno/Peter was a talented illustrator with a large body of work and I am happy to be able to bring some of his work and life into the spotlight.
(Tommy and Bruno – 1944)