European Translations

In the couple of days since the interview with Alison Christie was published, we have had some particularly interesting information sent in. Candela, who writes about girls’ comics in Spain, tells us that Alison’s ‘story “Over the Rainbow” was very popular in Spain and reprinted in two different girl’s magazines, and of course all the stories under the Gypsy Rose head, which in Spain sometimes were reprinted under the Uncle Pete’s stories.’ Likewise, Peggy from Greece wrote in to say ‘I was really touched to discover after 40 years the writer of one of the stories (“My Name is Nobody”) that I loved in my early youth! It is such a lovely story about the power of friendship’. She was even able to send in some scans of the Greek translation of this story, shown here with many thanks to her (see below for the first and last episodes). She also says that ‘”My Name Is Nobody” was selected to be among the stories to be included in the first issues of the Greek magazine Manina (issue 9), something that shows the significance of the story itself! Just for your information, the other stories of the first issues were “The Cat Girl” (from Sally),  “Molly Mills” (from Tammy), “Lucky’s Living Doll” (from June &  Schoolfriend), “Jackie & the Wild Boys” (from Princess Tina)” and “Bessie Bunter” (from June & Schoolfriend).’

Greek translation of “Nobody Knows My Name” (originally published in June & Schoolfriend, 1971)

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Nobody Knows My Name ep 1 pg 3

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Nobody Knows My Name last ep pg 2

Nobody Knows My Name last ep pg 3

The work done by writers and artists in comics like Jinty was typically on a work-for-hire basis, with a flat fee being paid and no expectation of earning royalties on reprints or translations and so forth. The artwork was owned by the publishing company and not sent back to the artist. A lot of the communication we’d perhaps expect to be happening was just not on the cards: for instance it does not seem that Alison was very aware of the extent of her stories’ popularity, and certainly she was not aware that “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” was reprinted in Princess in 1984. (Indeed, in a reply to a reader’s 1981 letter, this story was described as one of Jinty‘s most popular stories.) Translations into another language were presumably something that creators were unaware of the existence of, except as a vague possibility.

(In a separate email, Alison says ‘I did know that DC Thomsons had a room with magazine journalists seconded to doing this, syndicating picture stories for European countries. As the payment slips freelancers like myself got always had at the foot, “All copyright for all purposes”; this meant they could do what they liked with picture stories etc, once they had paid the writer and artist a one-off payment. However, I had no idea that IPC did this as well – but I didn’t keep any payslips from them, and I can’t remember what was written on them. It must have been on these lines.’ From my own personal knowledge, I was involved with the SSI – the Society of Strip Illustrators – in the early 1990s and there was much talk at the time about work-for-hire contracts and the rather brutal agreements in place. There was little or nothing in the way of a formal contract, and instead as Alison says, your actual payment slip confirmed that this was in consideration of all your creators rights. There would have been no way round this if you wanted to be paid! At the time I was involved in these areas, there was a lot of work being done to change this situation, but at one time it was very normal and not even questioned by many.)

However, it is clear that there was a lot of this translation going on over the years, in many directions. The Dutch auction site Catawiki is an invaluable resource for many British comics but particularly so for this question; although details are not all complete in every cases it lists stories by issue, artist, writer, and original title. Many stories were reprinted in the Tina series Tina Topstrip, as albums collecting the whole story with a new cover. Usually the protagonist was also renamed to something locally suitable (so the protagonist of “Becky Never Saw The Ball” turned into “Eefje”). There was also a monthly magazine, Tina Club, which reprinted stories in an anthology format with what looks like a couple of stories in each one. For instance, “Gwen’s Stolen Glory” was translated as “De droom van een ander / The Dream of Another” in 1975.

Some of the individual Tina Topstrips I have looked at on Catawiki are listed below.

As can be seen from the above list, a number of the Jinty creators were represented in these Dutch translations – prolific artists Phil Gascoine, Jim Baikie, and Phil Townsend were all published in this series, and popular writer Alison Christie is represented too, along with Pat Mills. Nowadays the flow of material will presumably be more likely to go the other way, if at all (Trini Tinturé has recently had original Dutch material being republished in UK magazine Girls & Co).

I’m not in the best position to check, but I would love to know more about the details of these translated editions. How faithfully was the translation done? What changed, apart from names and covers – were story lines ever abridged or even amended? Were credits given to artists and writers in any cases? (I do have one or two of the Tina Topstrips and don’t believe anyone was created apart from the local artist who drew the new cover.)

I would also love to know whether this was limited to Europe or not? Once you’ve translated material into Spanish or Portuguese then Latin America becomes available as a market, but it is a lot further away for connections to be made and that may well just not have happened. I know that Brazil and Mexico have their own local comics publishing traditions, as does Argentina (I don’t know about the other Latin American countries), with quite a different feel from the British weekly comic. Certainly in Brazil and Mexico if you see a foreign translation then it is very likely to consist of American reprinted material: Disney material such as the Donald Duck stories, and the Harvey comics such as Little Lulu and Richie Rich. Marvel and DC also make a strong showing in those markets, but the sort of emotional long-running story seen in British girls comics is not very prevalent as far as I know. They would match well with the interest in telenovelas (soap operas) but perhaps this connection is one that was never made?

Further information from Sleuth of Catawiki:

I have never closely looked at the translations done in the Netherlands. My impression is that stories are usually complete and properly translated, although the names are often changed (“Patty’s World” is translated as “Peggy’s wereldje”, probably because there already was a “Patty” strip in Tina at the time). Having said that, I should compare “Gail’s Indian Necklace” to the translation: reading the story in Jinty I found an episode in London with Gail travelling the tube that might have been taken out as it seemed new to me. Perhaps too outlandish! They always tried to make it look like the stories took place in Holland. That did not work for the school stories with all the uniformed girls of course (no uniforms at school here). I read somewhere that a girl had even asked her parents to send her to boarding school because of the stories in Tina. She did not like it very much when she got there. Boarding schools here are for children whose parents are travelling or for children with behaviour problems or illnesses which cannot be taken care of at home. Another story that I should compare one of these days is “Maartje het ganzenmeisje” (Marge the goose girl). The story very much resembles the story of “The Goose Girl”, but the story takes place in Holland and is drawn by Dutch artist Piet Wijn.

28 thoughts on “European Translations

  1. I know Tammy and Misty’s “The Sea Witches” was reprinted in Dutch. And I’ve been told that “I’ll Get Rid of Rona!” (Tracy) was reprinted somewhere in Spanish. I wonder if the unfinished “Cora Can’t Lose” from Tammy was reprinted somewhere in the foreign reprints too?

    Ooh, how about that – Tina Topstrip #31 reprints “Olympia Jones”, one of Tammy’s classics, as “Een paard voor Olympia” (A Horse for Olympia). Number 11 reprints another Tammy story, “Steffi in the Swim” as Sonja en de mysterieuze zwemcoach (Sonja and the mysterious swim coach).

    And it looks like “Patty’s World” has turned up here as well. Surprise, surprise.

    The Tina Topstrip covers look gorgeous, too!

  2. Take a look at Tina Topstrip #40. Although the girl’s hair is different, do you think it reprints The Goose Girl? The Dutch title is Maartje net ganzenmeisje (Maartje just goose girl).

    1. I have wondered the same before now but on balance I think probably not. I have a copy (must dig it out) and it is all drawn by a different artist. Also there are a few Maartje titles in the TopStrip series so I think probably this is something else. We need a Dutch reader to clarify for sure, though!

  3. I know that Anne Digby aka Pat Davidson retained the copyright to Olympia Jones, so maybe there were exceptions to creators losing rights once the story was submitted to the publishers.

  4. This comic was published in Spain in 2 mags too (Lily and Esther) under the title Margie and Nena, the artist of course being Carlos Freixas Very popular too. If you required any scan, just let me know, I do have plenty of them!

    1. Do you mean that “My Name is Nobody” was titled “Margie y Nena”? That would make sense. Yes, it would be lovely to have a scan of it in Spanish, that would be great! I can add it to the post so that we can have different views of the story in the different languages.

  5. “I’m not in the best position to check, but I would love to know more about the details of these translated editions. How faithfully was the translation done? What changed, apart from names and covers – were story lines ever abridged or even amended? Were credits given to artists and writers in any cases?”

    My experience is, that the tone of the Dutch translations was a bit more “grown up”. I do not have many of the British magazines, but the ones I have contain some stories that were also printed in, for example, Tina. The original British publications used a more simple, girlish way to tell the stories, while the translations in Tina seem to have been made for a slightly older audience.

    Most of the time they printed the complete stories, but sometimes they had to be edited. For example: ‘Girl in a bubble’ had episodes that started on the front page (covering approximately 2/3 of the page). Because Tina did not do that, they edited the pages in a way that the story fitted complete pages.

    What was nice about Tina, is that the stories were always in full colour. And they always had a beautiful portrait of a girl by Purita Campos on the front page.

    We also had a monthly magazine called Debbie (1977-1988, after 1988 they only reprinted older stories), and they butchered almost everything. The maximum amount of pages a story could have in Debbie was 48. If a story was longer, the cut parts out, sometimes complete episodes.

    Then there was Anita (1977-1985). This magazine was in black and white, and had mostly scary and supernatural stories. Unfortunately this didn’t work (just like Misty and Spellbound in the UK were only short lived), so after only a few years they changed to mostly silly romantic stories.

    There were several more magazines (Peggy (1981-1988) (same butchering of the stories as in Debbie), Mariska (1982-1984), Kitty (1979), Tina Club (1973-1976)), but never as many as in the UK.

    After many magazines in the UK had seized to exist, Tina, the main Dutch girls magazine, started to publish older stories from the 70’s that they before had turned down. When the well of more or less suitable stories had completely dried out, they only published “home made” stories. To me Tina had its best year in 1983, and from 1986 onward it all went downhill.

    About crediting: only stories that were written espcially for the magazine had credits for artist and writer. Stories they licensed from the UK had no credits. In later years only the name of the UK publisher/rights holder got a credit.

    1. Marc, many thanks indeed for this context! Very much appreciated. It sounds like Tina did a really nice job of the repackaging and translation. I am interested also in what you say about the level of the translation being aimed at a slightly older age. I have got a couple of the albums but my Dutch is very minimal so there is no way I’d be able to judge something like that.

    2. Also, I wonder why the girls titles with the scary stories such as Anita / Misty / Spellbound were so short lived? I guess I think that the reason Misty was short-lived is probably at least two-fold: partly because the publishers were pretty merger-happy and didn’t necessarily expect to keep titles around for long in all cases, but also I think the fact it had so many short stories and few serials can’t have helped. But perhaps there is (or was at the time) also a smaller population of girls keen to read horror?

      1. Yes, I think most girls preferred to read stories about something that *could* happen to them. I remember there were many girls at school who read Tina, which was an immensly populair magazine at the time. But there was only one girl who liked the scary stories, and together we talked often about what we thought would happen in next week’s episode. The others prefered the stories about horses, sports, boarding schools and blind girls that could see again, and invalids who all of a sudden could walk again. I like many of those stories too, but I prefer the ones that are a bit more scary. Orrr… the very dramatic ones, in which the heroine has to suffer, and suffer, and suffer, until finally she gets adopted by a nice old lady, or something like that. 🙂

        This week I bought the complete collection of 101 Misty magazines. I can’t wait for it to arrive, and read stories I don’t know yet, and compare some of the others to the Dutch versions.

        My “dream” is to own all the girls comics that were ever published in the UK. But I think it’s impossible, unless I would find myself a millionaire one day. They all seem to be so rare and expensive, and there are so many! Over here girls collected magazines like Tina for many years, and read and re-read them over and over again, which is why many of them are not hard to find and very affordable. It seems in the UK they were treated like a newspaper, and thrown away after they had been read.
        So, a complete collection of all girls comics from the UK will be an impossible dream, but I would like that find more of Jinty and Tammy.

        1. Hah hah! The very long-running suffering ones (Cinderella stories) were very popular in the UK, for whatever reason. I always liked the more WTF bonkers stories – the SF ones, the spooky ones. Have you seen my old post about the WTFometer ( I must do a few more of those analyses.

          I would also love to own all the girls’ comics ever published in the UK! Alas, an impossible dream as you say. I was very lucky with my Jinty collection – I had to re-buy it but this was 20 years ago and there was one person who offered to sell me the bulk of 4 years worth of Jintys in one go. It cost me £48 at the time, which was obviously more money then than it is now, but so well worth it. The typical experience of girls in the UK was not necessarily that they were treated like newspapers and thrown away almost immediately, so much as that one’s mother would get rid of them when one was a bit older (say mid-teens) and not reading it any more. The collection I bought had sat in the attic for a long time, and of course not everyone has an attic or the ability to store things for long. Enjoy your Misty comics – what a treat for you! 🙂

  6. For what I know in Spain, the issue with translation/stories was a bit different, so I will explain how it worked there and how you got here in UK so many stories from Spanish artists. There were a coupe of “International Agencies”. One was inside Bruguera editorial who was responsible of the main titles in Spain They would have a group of artists who were commissioned work for overseas. They were sent the scripts, these were translated in house and then given to the artists. They got paid a flat rate too and no copyrights or royalties. They never got their originals backs. And these were reprinted in Spain too in their magazines for girls (Lily, Esther, Gina, Chicas, Christie, and sometimes albums and then specials: Super Lily, Extra Lily, Esthra Esther, Christmas Specials, Spring Special, Summer… etc). So in fact they were getting paid for work abroad (the pay was substancially better) and then these comics were used in Spain too bought back to Sindication without the authors getting paid extra money.
    As per today, Purita Campos did more than 3000 pages only in Patty’s World and never got a single page back. She has a couple of pages I bought and gave to her as a present and I do have like 6 originals from those times. Absolutely horrific to think of all the pages that were burnt and all (in Spain there was a huge fire in the warehouse and many originals from many artists from other comic genres were lost forever). also they used to cut the strips and destroy them so nobody could use them. Very little regards for their creators!
    There was another agency too, they worked more with the likes of Valentine, Mirabel, Boyfriend, etc, all romance).

    As per they way they were published… some of them were only printed in UK in black and white but in Spain they would color them, alter backgrounds and destroy original features with strange colors. Also the titles were not always accurate. I might have most of these stories you are talking about but I cannot recognize them only by name because of the changes. So when I see the images I go.. “hay! I now this one!”
    Hope this helps.

    1. Thanks for all this great detail, Ruth. Yes, shocking how terrible they were with artwork and suchlike. I know some was sent back to UK artists at least, but I’m sure lots of it is either still stored or more likely just gone.

  7. It seems practices were the same in UK than in Spain. We also benefited from loads of french and dutch comics, in fact we had the magazine Jana that what the Spanish version of the Dutch Tina

  8. One of the great stories that were published in Tina in 1982, was ‘Dagboek van een ballerina’ (Diary of a ballerina). It ran for 20 3-page episodes. The story is about two sisters: one is a great dancer, the other mediocre. The talented one gets cripled, and the other all of a sudden becomes a star ballerina. All this happens after she received a music box from an old lady. When she plays the music box, she gets to a room where there’s a diary, in which she has to write. As it turns out, it’s all a scheme by an evil dancer (I think her name was Marova, or something like that) who wants to live on and on, and has taken the body of many a young dancer who has used the music box and wrote in the diary over the years, leaving the girls in the old, dying body. Eventually the criplled sister finds out, and discovers that the dancer on stage is not her sister, and that her sister is now in the body of the dying woman who gave the music box. Will she be in time to save her sister’s life? Ta-da-da!
    Does this sound familiar to anyone? Is this a story from Jinty?

      1. It was one of those stories “everybody” was talking about at school. Even though it was a thrilling story, it was quite accessible to everybody, because of the ballet theme.

    1. It doesn’t sound like a Tammy story and is definitely not Jinty. There was a ballet story in Tammy “Rosie of Ragged Row” that featured a magical music box, but that does not fit the description. I don’t recognise it at all.

      1. I just found out where the story is from: it was published in Girl in 1981 as ‘Diary of a ballerina’ (so the Dutch translations was literal). It had 15 episodes, so instead of the 20 3-pagers we had, it must have had four pages each week. The artist was Santiago Hernandez.

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