Women Making Girls Comics – further thoughts arising

Talk at the House of Illustration: Paul Gravett, Mel Gibson, Jenni Scott, David Roach (thanks to Alice London for image)

The excitement of Saturday’s event is receding a bit; I have subsequently thought of further things that came up in the discussion that will be relevant to readers of this blog.

One important point is David’s repeated emphasis of how ‘cheap’ IPC were. For instance, to get stories reprinted or translated, they didn’t photocopy the art, send out the copy and keep the originals carefully for future reference: instead they sent the originals out to Spain or wherever, where the new text was physically pasted over the original words on the artwork itself. The original logo was torn away and pasted over or drawn over (and typically in IPC generally the artist signature was tippexed out, though people can’t have always been that rigorous over that because quite a lot of signatures survive).

A good example of this is shown in the Rodrigo Comos page below, which is from “Horse From The Sea”; it survives because it was reprinted in Princess (David is not aware of any other Jinty pages having survived). The logo itself was produced in house and was again not copied for re-use week by week: typically the same logo was removed from week 1 and re-pasted onto the space left for it on week 2’s artwork, from what David says.

Comos Horse From The Sea orig

The company didn’t want to spend money on storing old artwork; it simply didn’t value anything it wasn’t immediately using. David recounts horrific stories of mistreatment of artwork – used as cutting mats when working on newer art, or put on floors to soak up the rain. (Yes, really!) Apparently there was a huge bonfire (literally) of girls comics artwork once the company decided it didn’t need it any longer. When people say that none of the IPC girls’ comics artwork survives, this is the history that they are referring to – one in which a relatively recent reprint of Misty (as recounted by an audience member) was done from issues of the weekly comic, not from pristine art cleaned and tidied up. One feeble ray of hope might be that if the originals were sent to Spanish or Dutch publishers who had a better approach to keeping the artwork then perhaps some might be found in those countries, as David does not think that artwork sent for translation was typically returned to the original publishers.

I took the opportunity to ask David how it came to be that Tammy published credits in the later issues. His memory of Wilf Prigmore’s answer (the Tammy editor at the time) was that Wilf just decided to do it withouth asking anyone’s permisson, and no-one made him stop. David’s assumption was that the credits continued until the cancellation of Tammy but in recent posts on this blog we’ve seen that this wasn’t the case. Did a new editor take over Tammy in the final weeks after 11 February 1984? In any case, many heartfelt thanks are clearly due to Wilf and his unilateral decision!

I also thought to ask David something that there have been a lot of myths and rumours about, namely why were there so many Spanish artists in girls and boys comics of the time? He is the right person to ask about this (he has a book in the works about Spanish artists, which I shall be keenly interested to hear more about when any announcements are made). His understanding was that there was simply so many pages to be filled at the time that the British artists simply wouldn’t have been able to do it all! He specifically demystified the assumption / rumour that the Spanish artists were paid less and therefore undercut the rates of the British artists – they were paid the same. And of course there are a great number of extremely good Spanish artists, too, so the British publishers were very definitely getting their money’s worth.

I nearly forgot to mention one particular key point – in thinking about the pay ledgers that David saw, he was able to tell us that in the 50s, the absolute majority of names on the pay books were of female creators – perhaps 90%. Comparing that to the 70s and 80s, the number of female creators involved had obviously gone down subsequently. This was tentatively linked with the fact that the number of years that each female creator was visible on the pay books was not all that long, overall – perhaps a few years each, or some ten years of career visible on those ledgers at maximum per creator. Were they stopped from working once they became wives and mothers? Clearly not entirely so, by the anecdotes recorded from Alison Christie and Benita Brown, both of whom wrote at home while bringing up young families. But that was later, and times could well have changed by then.

There are many more snippets that I was very interested to hear at the talk, from audience members too. I will try to add key items to this post as they come to me, without making it hugely long.

15 thoughts on “Women Making Girls Comics – further thoughts arising

  1. I wonder if artwork that was sent to the Netherlands has survived. The only comics reprinting material from IPC’s girls’ comics were Tina and Anita. Anita was cancelled in December 1985. Tina is still being published, but has since the 90’s changed published twice. I would be surprised if new published were interested in keeping the old artwork, since the format has changed so much since then, and they were sure never going to use any of the old stories anymore. But who knows?
    Also some stories were edited from their original format, and I guess they just cut up the originals, instead of making copies, if they did not have to return the orginals. But if you like, I could make some enquieries.

  2. What a way to treat original artwork! At least they kept a “file copy” of an issue. Hope they kept them more carefully.

  3. They ripped off logos to reuse in the next issue because it was cheaper? The logo must have been a tough thing to be constantly ripped off and pasted on again.

    1. It does seem like an unlikely thing to do. David says they designed the logos in house so presumably they could have recreated it if it got too tattered but surely putting it on
      a piece of acetate would have been the obvious thing to do!

      1. I have just read ‘The blue Island mystery’ from Penny by Keith Robson. He made the logo part of the artwork, so no need for someone to rip it off and paste it on the next episode. The logo looked slightly different every time, because it was re-drawn for the first panel of each episode.

      2. I agree it seems an unlikely thing to do. Even making several copies on paper would be more obvious, or, like you say, putting it on a piece of acetate. It can not have been *so* expensive that they had to cut corners there.

  4. Really interesting, would have loved to have gone to the talk if I was anywhere near London! Bonfire anecdote reminded me, that’s where majority of my comics when I was younger ended up, although I would have hoped the publishers would have kept better care, but it’s not all that surprising either. It’s like when tv stations didn’t bother keeping recording of shows and just taped over them (Doctor Who missing episodes still being sought after today!)

    1. Yes, until 1974, the BBC wiped a lot of the programs they had broadcast. Many good and populair series became lost or incomplete, or exist only in inferior copies, because they were transferred to video before they were archived.

  5. Just imagine the prices original Misty artwork would fetch today if IPC had been more careful to make sure that more of it had survived. Still, maybe some of the employees took the original artwork home because they took a fancy to it.

  6. Appalling revelation about treatment of artwork; it harpoons any hopes I might have – all right, DO have – of seeing post-cancellation Tammy material. One can imagine a conversation such as, “Got a saucer? The canteen’s run out.” “No, sorry, use this sheet of ‘Cora Can’t Lose’, we won’t be needing that.” It’s chilling to think that the scenario I just postulated (in light-hearted terms – with as much or as little success as you see fit to discern) could very well have happened.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s