A BEST-SELLING author returned to his old school to surprise his English teacher.
In a show of gratitude, graphic novelist Tony Lee visited Rosedale College, in Wood End Green Road, Hayes, and dropped in on Barbara Polatajko, the English teacher who taught him more than 20 years ago.
Mr Lee passed on an award given to him when Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, his adaptation of Jane Austen's classic tale, topped the New York Times best-sellers list in the paperback graphic books category in May. The book occupied the number one spot for three weeks, and is still riding high in the top 10.
Mr Lee, a former Hayes resident who has lived in Wanstead for the past 11 years and attended the school when it was known as Hayes Manor, told the Gazette it was Mrs Polatajko's encouragement during his school years that made him pursue a career in comic books.
He said: "I was actually told by one teacher that my writing style was suited to comics, something that was meant as an insult, but Mrs Polatajko insisted that I keep at it.
"She just encouraged me to be creative and to test my boundaries, and I feel very grateful for the early support. I probably wouldn't be where I am today had it not been for her, and me giving her this award is my way of saying thank you and showing her that she has played a big part in my success."
Mr Lee's career began in the early 90s, and in that time he has written for top publishers including DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and IDW Publishing.
Other popular adaptations he has written include Doctor Who and Spider-Man, and he is currently working on comic book versions of the Power Of Five fantasy series, written by acclaimed author Anthony Horowitz.
Mr Lee said: "I am incredibly proud to have been named as a New York Times best-seller - it's one of the highlights in my career so far.
"I get to travel a lot, doing book signings and going to comic book conventions, and it's just a lot of fun."