recent interest in UK girls’ comics

this started a few years ago now when someone must have noticed that titles like princess tina had the widest range of different styles of artwork you will find anywhere. the scripts were often terrible – either underestimating the intelligence of their readership or more likely understanding that some of them were very young (under 8?) – but if your interest is in sequential art they’re potentially a goldmine. the montage below (an ad for the second issue of tina from look & learn 268) ought to give you an idea

there are only two things people already know about this comic (assuming they used to read the old british price guide): it had meet the space girls by keith watson (out of frank hampson’s studio) + jane bond secret agent by michael hubbard (one of the artists on the jane strip for the daily mirror) in it

in fact jane bond seems to have been the best strip in the magazine – the only one to have consistently decent scripts (with a very creative line in female villains) + a high standard of artwork

brave lady mary looks like the work of a hampson studio artist (see below) + is a more interesting eg than the space girls because of its daft rendering of christians, jews + muslims – I’m not sure which would take the greater degree of offense at their stereotype. the objective of the strip was to show a female character being put through a metaphorical mangle but still not giving up on her mission + on that level it does succeed. as long as you remember anything in the strip which might reflect actual religeous affairs in the middle east is entirely coincidental it ought to make sense

anyone who has driven down the A11 when the ads are up for how to pay your zakat or whatever they call the 2.5% of your savings to charity will tell you how central that is to islam. the arabs in this strip are worse representations of actual arabs than hugh griffith was in ben hur

the following examples of different types of artwork all come from a handful of issues of princess tina from the late 60s / early 70s. artists are identified where they’ve signed their work

super girl sandra      artist: alberto salinas

as with a lot of comic strips with short runs which are now forgotten the art on this one became very sketchy as it went on – the eg below is from an early episode

note the picture frame panel borders when the action moves to da vinci’s studio + the range of expressions necessary to tell the story. high quality artwork like this can lift a simplistic script + get it appreciated by a wider readership

this strip definitely beats vanessa from venus in june + schoolfriend, the events of which always seemed contrived + unlikely. salinas also drew moira slave girl of rome, + it beats that as well with the random things he had to draw happening to claire + sandra

penny on her own     artwork by frank langford

who famously drew the centrefolds for lady penelope + was poached by DC to work on their romance titles, during which period he apparently also worked for princess tina, from the evidence below possibly at high speed

note the way he alternates black + white areas to focus the viewers’s attention – the extreme lighting is not intended to represent the actual conditions (outdoors vs inside a cellar on a bomb site), it’s entirely motivated by the composition, as is the indistinct geography of the location. obviously this is nothing will eisner or wally wood hadn’t done before but it’s a different technique to the art shown so far (look at salinas’s rendition of da vinci’s studio for comparison)

plus there’s something about penny’s hair, which is often completely abstract – just a swirl of curved lines

alona

there is something very solid (3d?) about the characters, the way they are posed (see panel 9) + the spatial relationships between them (probably because the blocking emphasises the dimension of depth). also note they get more cartoony the further they are from the camera (compare panel 5 with panel 1) – that isn’t unusual, but normally artists only alter their style for background figures which are just going to be glanced over by the readers, not ones to which their attention is intended to be drawn. this artist seems to have grades of detail depending on how much is in the shot, which may also work to assist the impression you get when reading the strip of being shown things at varying distances as you read from panel to panel

plus the composition is great – eg note the way the eye is led along diagonal lines from low on the left to high on the right across the first row, + what that means for reinforcing the impression of depth as well

the dare devil drews     by ruiz pueyo

who is not a great artist but he did sign his work so we know what to call him. this is included here for the contrast to alona above – note everything is drawn with the same level of detail whether it’s an object in the background or a profile of someone’s face in the foreground. in the movies that would be described as deep focus (+ again that is not unusual in comic book art). the images look comparatively flat (compared to the ones in alona) as a result of this, + of the blocking of the characters in close groups, the borderless panel 4 being an extreme example

the odd thing about ruiz pueyo’s work when you look at it closely is the way he tends to draw a specific, different looking supporting cast for idealised fantasy school girl protagonists – penny + mia look unnatural in a way the rest of the cast don’t

+ he seems to be good at situating distinctive characters in a (more or less) consistently rendered environment, which you imagine you could find your way round in, as opposed to langford’s random set designs

chairman cherry

in my view this is the second best strip in princess tina (assuming you’ve found a good episode of it – a whole one is reproduced below)

this artist is the opposite of the one on lady mary – he or she uses a sketchy drawing style most of the time, which works well for what are basically cartoon characters (chick is a joke surname), but the art can get refined when necessary if you look at panel 4

locations are simple walls, doors, fences, etc – they’re only supposed to signify a change of scene, + allow the readers to focus on the characters. after this, pueyo’s detailed backgrounds suddenly start to look clever. he designed his strip to get his readers to pick up loads of extra visual information (lifestyle of the villains, what type of island it is) subliminally

three last images:

nita nobody

spooky + sinister artwork to go with a tale of an orphan being chased by a particularly nasty villain. this is by the same artist as westward the wagons in earlier issues of princess tina (who I thought was jim baikie)

have a go jo

this looks like casanovas may have drawn it (not very well – the characters’ expressions don’t often match the dialogue – find the rest of the strip) or someone strikingly similar if it wasn’t him

compare the image below with either of two of casanovas’s masterpieces from starlord eight years later – sheldon (22 jul 78) + earn big money while you sleep (26 aug 78)

the happy days

seems to have been the most popular strip in the magazine – sue day had her own annual + various spin off publications

this artist (who from memory actually used to get a credit) seems only to be able to draw a few types of people – sue is virtually indistinguishable from her best friend at school – he also seems to have a short range of facial expressions to put on them

it’s still a different style to look at though + the extract below says something which ought to be of interest to us now about how schoolgirls in the late 60s fitted into their environment + were supposed to behave

ad for tina (c) IPC 1967      all other images (c) IPC 1969 -> 1970

a brief appendix

you can’t write an article about princess tina without mentioning fashion, ballet or ponies – the top three interests of its readership according to whoever edited it

here is a fashion quiz (if it’s too small to read get in touch) followed by a particularly grotesque example of the sort of thing they’re quizzing you about

it’s not her fault, obviously, but the model on the left couldn’t rock those flowers even if they came with a volume control

 

addendum oct 2018

conversations with people some of whom own artwork by the artists mentioned but not identified above came up with the following:

alona = Leslie Otway

https://www.lambiek.net/artists/o/otway_leslie.htm

+ a higher resolution pic of the actual original art for the eg used in the article above can be seen on the link below

https://www.2dgalleries.com/art/otway-alona-the-wild-one-au-lavis-bleu-14897

chairman cherry = Colin Merritt

https://www.lambiek.net/artists/m/merritt_colin.htm

nita nobody (+ westward the wagons) = Jorge Moliterni

https://www.lambiek.net/artists/m/moliterni_jorge.htm

the happy days = Andrew Wilson

https://www.lambiek.net/artists/w/wilson_andrew.htm

+ have a go jo is definitely by casanovas – he drew stacks of stuff for other UK girls’ comics as well during this period. it turns out his first name(s) was/were jose maria:

José María Casanovas

https://www.lambiek.net/artists/c/casanovas_jose-maria.htm

note his career summary on this link is a little brief for someone who seems to have contributed a sizeable body of work to the UK comics industry

lambiek:

information about artists on lambiek is not searchable by comic or strip title. to identify an artist whose name you do not already know, use ‘lambiek’ plus comic or strip title as your search terms in google + you should get a link to the right page in their online database

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