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Walter Howarth's career spanned 60 years. At 13 he won a scholarship to Bolton Art College, and in 1946, aged just 16, he made his first professional sale, a cover to Bolton's Salute to the Soldier Week programme. Upon leaving art school he went to work for Manchester's Industrial Art Services, bringing him into contact with their client, book, comic and annual publisher World Distributors Ltd. His first work for World Distributors was a cover for John Wayne Adventure Comics, a reprint of the Toby Press series, for which he subsequently became the regular cover artist; he also provided art for many of their other licensed reprints, including Cisco Kid and Billy the Kid. He also became World Distributors' most favoured cover artist for their licensed annuals, working on such diverse titles as The Avengers, Bewitched, The Beverly Hillbillies, James Bond, Danger Man, Maverick, The Munsters, Outer Limits, The Saint, Tarzan and Wagon Train, but he became best known for his artwork on the Doctor Who and Dalek Annuals, to the extent that the 2006 Doctor Who Trilogy trading card set included a Walter Howarth card as one of their rare autograph cards, a privilege normally reserved for the show's actors and creators. Through Industrial Art Services Walter Howarth also provided illustrations for other companies, including jigsaw puzzles for Bonanza, Coronation Street, Rupert Bear and Disney characters. In later years, his work included illustrations for Ladybird's 1980s Batman books. Health issues saw him retire from regular illustrating in 1993, though he continued to do private commissions until 2006, when failing eyesight forced him to stop. He passed away in 2008.

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