Phil Townsend

Phil Townsend is not an artist whose life and career I know much about. It seems from Bear Alley that he was a contributor to the sixties title Boys’ World and probably also illustrated some children’s books (but the thorough Steve Holland had not at the time of writing that post found any more information). He was a regular Jinty artist from very early on: while not in the very first issue, his beautiful clean style appeared in the title within the first couple of months of publication. After Jinty, he became a regular in Tammy, but from then on my information runs out. I would be very grateful if anyone were able to supply more information, as even his Comiclopedia entry is exceedingly brief.

Rivalling Phil Gascoine for productivity with 20 stories drawn for the title, his impact on Jinty is amongst the strongest of any artist: many beautiful and striking covers were derived from his internal artwork, and he has a number of memorable stories to his credit too. Many of the stories have a ‘type’; we’re informed by Mistyfan that in Tammy he regularly drew stories written by Alison Christie, and quite possibly a similar circumstance applied in Jinty too. Many of the stories he drew were tear-jerkers: “Always Together…”, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, “Nothing to Sing About”, and of course in particular the well-loved classics “Song of the Fir Tree” and “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” had children dealing with grief, lost homes, lost parents. Others were more mystery-focused: “Then There Were 3…”, “Stage Fright!”, and “Waking Nightmare” were earth-bound mysteries resolved through non-supernatural means, while “Spirit of the Lake” had a real ghost (unlike “The Ghost Dancer”).

For me his top story would clearly be the previously written about “Children of Edenford“, but the mermaid-child tale “Combing Her Golden Hair” comes close behind, and I have soft spots for both the slightly-spooky “Child of the Rain” (tennis player is mysteriously affected for good or ill by the rain forest she visits) and the strong near-thriller “Stage Fright!”. Likewise, Mistyfan has expressed her admiration for the persecution story “Mark of the Witch!” I think that most Jinty fans would be likely to count at least one Phil Townsend story amongst their favourites. Of course the writer drives the story forward as much or more, but the immediate and lasting impression of the comic is so strongly shaped by the art; it is hard not to look at a Phil Townsend-illustrated story and to love it, be the story stronger or weaker.

To illustrate this post, I have chosen some pages from “Combing Her Golden Hair”, taken from the issue dated 6 October 1979. Tamsin has found a mysterious silver comb, which is altering her life dramatically, but not in ways that her stern grandmother approves of! The last panel leaves us with a striking cliff-hanger, of course, though it turns out that the grandmother has better reasons for her actions than we know at this point.

Jinty 6 October 1979
(click thru)
Jinty 6 October 1979
(click thru)
Jinty 6 October 1979
(click thru)

List of stories attributable to Phil Townsend:

(Edited to add: Alison Christie (Fitt) has posted a comment to say that she wrote a number of stories for Jinty, many of which were drawn by Phil Townsend.)

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42 thoughts on “Phil Townsend

  1. He also did work on Hulton’s Press: Girl. He worked with other artists on “Susan of St Brides” and “Wendy and Jinx” and he also worked for June in the 60s.

    1. Thanks for this! Clearly he was a seasoned comics artist well before starting work in Jinty, which is pretty evident but good to have firmer info on.

  2. Townsend could have worked on School Friend too. I found some annuals where Townsend art appeared in the Strange Stories. They could have been reprints from School Friend or June.

    I have not seen Townsend art post Tammy. As far as I know, his art never appeared in the DCT titles.

    1. I wonder if he retired, or moved onto do other things artistically? There is a Macmillan children’s book that he is credited with illustrating, mentioned on the Bear Alley blog; perhaps he did more of that, or something.

  3. It’s so interesting to read about the creators of the stories, and finally learn their name. Like I wrote on the page about European translations, the stories licensed from the UK never had credits for artist and writer. I always loved Phil Townsend’s work, and quite a few of his stories from Jinty were published in Dutch magazine Tina. My favouries were ‘The ghost dancer’ and ‘Combing her golden hair’, two great stories of which I missed the final episode at the time. Frustrating! 🙂
    Two stories that seem to be very interesting, but have never been published overhere, are ‘Song of the fir tree’ and ‘Children of Edenford’. I really must try to find those Jinty’s.

    1. Like you, we are only now finding out more about the writers, although some of the artists have been identified by others a while ago. I also was very happy to learn the names of my favourite artists such as Phil Townsend and (when we tracked him down) Terry Aspin.

      Are you still missing the final episodes of those stories? I can send them later if you want.

  4. Thank you, that’s really very kind of you, but no: I already have them. From the Dutch Tina I’ve got every issue from the first in 1967 until the last of 2004.
    By 2004 the magazine had not been interesting anymore for quite a few years, but because there are always serials that continue, it’s difficult to decide to end your collection. In the final issue of 2004 all the serials finished, because the magazine was going to continue at a different publisher. So there was no need to continue to collect the issues from 2005 onwards.
    I also have complete collections of Dutch girls comics Anita, Peggy, Debbie, Marjolein and Kitty, and almost complete collections of Tina Club and Mariska. From Tina I also have all the seasonal books (4 were published each year) and the reprints of serials in books like Tina Topstrip. If there’s something you think that might be interesting for you to put on your blog, just let me know.

  5. I, as Mark, too have some Tina’s magazines from the 70s-80s mainly (around 20 of them maybe) and Biggy from Germany and of course all the ones in Spain. As I promised before, I will send some scans of these stories as soon as I have a minute (hope to do it this weekend).
    Does anybody knows if Phil is still alive?

    1. I wonder. His first work seems to be from 1952. Let’s say he was a very young artist at the time, born around 1930. He then would be well into his 80’s now. It is possible of course. I googled a bit, but didn’t find any information that is not already on this page. Perhaps Phil Townsend was a pseudonym?

    2. I have been assuming he is dead, but with no definite confirmation either way I guess we just don’t know. I would love it if he was still alive!

      1. Yes, me too. And I think it would be nice for him, and other artists, to know people still love and appreciate their work. And important: that through this blog they finally get credited for their achievements.

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