Peter Fatches—The Mistaken Ambulance Mystery by Kevin Patrick

A rare Australian story

One of the pleasures of flicking through old Australian comics is that you never know what you'll find.

This was certainly the case when I picked up a secondhand copy of Super Giant Album 23, which was originally published by the KG Murray Publishing Company (Sydney).

By the mid-1970s, many of KG Murray's comics were reprinting an eclectic selection of strips from such American publishers as Marvel, DC and Charlton Comics, along with a growing number of translated Spanish comics, which were then starting to appear in English-language comics worldwide.

My copy of Super Giant Album, dating from the mid-1970s, was no exception. It featured an unusual selection of Western, science-fiction, horror, war and spy/thriller strips from American and European sources.

One strip, however, stood out from the rest. Titled A Case of Mistaken Ambulances, it was the story of three young surfers - Leon, Terry and Sue - who become the target of a ruthless crime boss when their old 1954 Dodge truck is mistaken for a missing drug courier's identical vehicle.

Unlike the other comics featured in the magazine, this story looked like a contemporary 1970s comic strip, with characters dressed in current-day fashions and driving new model cars.

A closer reading of the story, which was credited to 'Peter F. Fatches', revealed that it was set in New South Wales! The characters spoke using recognisably Australian slang, the crime lord's mansion was in Vaucluse - and you could even see an Ampol petrol station sign in the background of one panel!

Could this be an Australian comic? If it was, it would be the first time in 25 years that a new Australian comic had appeared in a KG Murray comic magazine, which had reprinted nothing but overseas material for decades.

So, who was 'Peter F. Fatches'? Excited by the possibility of uncovering an unknown Australian comic artist, I managed to track down this 'mystery artist', who now works as an architectural draftsman and freelance newspaper cartoonist in central New South Wales.