Jim Baikie (1940-2017) was one of the longest-running Jinty artists. While he was not in the very first issue, his starting story (“Left-Out Linda” in 1974) was done fairly early on in his career (he started in 1966); after he and Jinty parted ways, he went on to become well-known in his 2000AD work as well as in American comics. In recent years some news items have been posted on his Facebook page, where the news of his death was also posted by his family. (See also his Comiclopedia page.)
My trajectory as a comics reader is such that pretty much alone amongst Jinty artists, Baikie is someone whose subsequent work I came across again and again. As well as reading Jinty, I also read American comics (primarily Marvel), and later on I read 2000AD as so many of my university peers did. The short-lived comic Crisis was a must-read too, and that included an ongoing story drawn by Baikie (“The New Statesmen”). I don’t remember quite when I identified him as having been the artist on the memorable “The Forbidden Garden”, but I remember how it felt: excitement, surprise, and a mental ‘click’ as two disparate parts of my comics-reading life came together.
He drew a number of different kinds of story in Jinty: ones about troubled family relationships, spooky stories, a science fiction strip, a humour strip. The first great swathe of stories are nicely done, but nothing outstandingly different: they are well-observed and good to read, but only “Face The Music, Flo!” and “Ping-Pong Paula” made much impression on my memory at the time. “Spell of the Spinning Wheel” moves up a gear while still being an evil object story matching other ones (“Creepy Crawley” ran at precisely the same time, making it a great time for fans of spooky stories).
For me, both “The Forbidden Garden” and, rather differently, “Fran’ll Fix It!”, represent the peaks he reached in Jinty. Both are fairly unique within the set of stories he drew in this title: one science fiction story, one humour strip. We have previously seen a lot of repetition of a given writer & artist combination – Terence Magee stories being drawn again and again by the ‘Merry’ unknown artist – and I could well imagine that in the list below, ‘Linda’, ‘Kat’, ‘Flo’, and so many other stories might be written by a popular Jinty writer who produced a number of similar stories along the same themes. But ‘Fran’, in particular, strikes me as something that a writer-artist – or more precisely, a cartoonist – could well have produced. There are so many sight-gags in the background, such a zany feel to the whole story, that I am very tempted to think that Baikie is likely to have written the whole lot as well as drawn it – or at the very least, had a large creative hand in it.
We now know that there was at least one case of an artist writing their own strip, as Veronica Weir is known to have done this on “Girl The World Forgot“. Baikie is also known to have written his own material at subsequent points in his career, too (he wrote sequels to the Alan Moore science fiction strip “Skizz” amongst others). Might he even have written “The Forbidden Garden” as well? This striking story has a soulless future dystopia where the soil is poisoned and the people are oppressed, barely one step up from being robots: echoes of the Megacity that Baikie’s future colleagues were simultaneously creating in 2000AD. It could be said to parallel the other Jinty science fiction stories, but it doesn’t feel particularly close to any of them. This is probably my wishful thinking, though.
Leaving aside this speculation, you don’t have to think much about it to see why he was such a well-loved artist. The Gypsy Rose four-page story above has beautiful, energetic composition: the girl’s running foot in the first panel, the echo of the tree root in the forked lightning just below, the girl’s face forming the bottom section of the third page. It’s full of dynamism and individuality. Likewise, although he drew 14 stories plus various Gypsy Roses over the years, his characters are all clearly identifiable without blurring into each other. As one small example, ‘Linda’ and ‘Flo’ have similar hairstyles (though one dark, one blonde) – but their facial expressions are distinctively their own. There is no danger of mistaking one for the other, even if separated from their story context – but that’s something for a follow-up article sometime. (How did long-running artists manage to avoid visual repetition, indeed?)
List of Jinty stories attributable to Jim Baikie:
- Left-Out Linda (1974)
- The Kat and Mouse Game (1975)
- Face The Music, Flo! (1975)
- Ping-Pong Paula (1975)
- Miss No-Name (1976)
- Willa on Wheels (1976)
- Rose Among the Thornes (1976)
- Spell of the Spinning Wheel (1977)
- Fran’ll Fix It! (1977, 1979)
- Two Mothers for Maggie (1978)
- Wild Rose (1978)
- The Forbidden Garden (1979)
- Village of Fame (1979)
- White Water (1979-80)
- Gypsy Rose (various)