Goof from the Comics UK Forum has kindly supplied a list of the comics work done by John Richardson over the years.
End Of The Line… 12/08/78 – 18/11/78
Red Knee – White Terror! (Beasts Story) 4/2/1978
Green Grow The Riches – O! 18/2/1978
The Dummy (Nightmare Story) 25/2/1978
The Secret Of Lan-Shi… (Beasts Story) 11/3/1978
The Haunting (Nightmare Story) 18/3/1978
Napoleon Comes Home… (Beasts Story) 25/2/1978
Stone Cold Revenge 6/5/1978
Sticks And Stones 20/5/1978
A Spell Of Trouble (Nightmare Story) 15/7/1978
Titch’s Tale… (Beasts Story) 29/7/1978
Dance Of Death 5/8/1978
Yet Another Teacher For Molly! (Nightmare Story) 16/12/1978
Examination Nerves 23/12/1978
A Girl’s Best Friend 30/12/1978
The Sad Eyes Of Sorrow 13/1/1979
Happy Birthday, Spooky Sue! 20/1/1979
Pot Luck 10/3/1979
The Curse Of The Wolf 31/3/1979
The Choice Of Silence 14/4/1978
The Uglies 14/4/1978
One Hour In Time 12/5/1979
The Disembodied 26/5/1979
A Stain On Her Character 23/6/1979
The Writing On The Wall 21/7/1979
Time To Spare 18/8/1979
Inside Story 25/8/1979
Mrs Grundy’s Guest House 29/9/1979
The Pig People 1/12/1979
Black Sunday Summer Special 1978
Old Ethna’s House Holiday Special 1979
The Pipe Dream of Marty Scuttle Holiday Special 1979
The Swarm Annual 1979
The Duchess of Dead-End Drive 2/03/74 – 16/03/74
Moonlight Prowler 17/7/1982
Shock Treatment 20/11/1982
Carla’s Best Friend 15/1/1983
(Reprint from Misty “A Girl’s Best Friend”)
The Turning Point 12/3/1983
Donkey’s Years 17/9/1983
Fair Shares 24/12/1983?
This is Your Life 14/6/1980
The Beauty Contest 6/3/1981
Monster Movie 28/3/1981
Lost for Words 11/4/1981
The House of Leopards 9/5/1981
Water Under the Bridge 13/6/1981
The Carrier Bag 22/8/1981
Down to Earth 10/10/1981
Safe as Houses 17/10/1981
Star Born 26/12/1981
The Burry Man 20/3/1982
All the Fright of the Fair ?
(?) The Pharaoh’s Daughter’s Stand-In (?) ?
The Gargoyle 16/1/1982
The Guardian 27/2/1982
Old Bug’s Last Trip 15/5/1982
Series: Wee Sue:
Weekly episodes 14/09/74? – 1982?
(Main artist from September 1974 to March 1977?)
1 story Annual 1977
1 story Annual 1979
3 stories Annual 1982
1 story Annual 1984
1 story Summer Special 1975
1 story Summer Special 1976
3 stories Holiday Special 1982
1 story Holiday Special 1983
…Through Rose-Coloured Glasses Annual 1982
Star of Wonder Annual 1982
Comics UK Forum poster Goof has kindly contributed the following appreciation of artist John Richardson, along with a detailed comics bibliography. Many thanks indeed, Goof!
John Richardson, who died earlier this year, was not a Jinty artist. He drew no serial stories for Jinty – in fact, he did few full serials of any kind – and is represented only by a few reprints. Yet for other girls’ comics, especially Tammy and Misty, he produced a body of brilliant and original work across a wide range of stories from the darkest horror to the craziest knockabout comedy.
Like nearly all artists who worked for girls’ comics, he was largely anonymous to his many readers, and information about his life isn’t easy to find. Born in 1943 in the North Yorkshire mining town of Eston, he started working as a commercial artist after studying at Art College. Before this, he once assured an interviewer, he had tried his hand at farm work and professional wrestling.
His earliest work includes what seems to have been his first foray into girls’ comics, the 1964 Bunty serial “Phantom of the Fells”. During the 1970’s, he worked on several IPC girls’ comics such as June and Princess Tina, and did a serial and some smaller items for D C Thomson’s Mandy. He also did a couple of series for Cheeky Weekly comic, and the cartoon strip “Amanda” for the Sun newspaper.
Around this time he also began his long run of work for Tammy, which over the years made a significant contribution to the character of the comic, especially his series of “Cover Girl” covers which did so much to define to look of the comic between 1973 and 1980, and his period as the main artist for the “Wee Sue” series. He continued to produce stories and covers for Tammy until the end of 1983.
He contributed short complete stories to Misty throughout its two year run, as well as the serial “End of the Line“, and took full advantage of the extra space which Misty offered to artists to create some of his most spectacular work.
During the 1980’s, he drew for 2000AD, especially “The Mean Arena”, a science fiction serial that he also wrote, and contributed to the serials “Ro-Jaws’ Robo Tales” and “The V.C.s”. He also drew two serials and a short story for Scream! He drew and wrote the cartoon strip “Flatmates” for the Sunday People newspaper, and strips for specialist car and bike magazines. Most memorably perhaps out of his cartoon work, he created the Goonish comedy science fiction strip “Jetman” for a computer magazine called Crash.
Unlike a number of artists who worked on IPC’s girls’ comics, it seems that he didn’t move over to D C Thomson after the last IPC picture story girls’ comics ceased publication in the mid-1980s, although he did produce two Judy Picture Story Libraries in 1983 and 1984. I have not been able to find any further girls’ comic work after the demise of Tammy, and it looks as if he may have stopped working for comics altogether around this time. The latest comics work that I have been able to trace was in two issues of the Enid Blyton’s Adventure Magazine, published in July and December 1986.
It’s not clear why he did comparatively few full serials during his 20 years drawing for comics. I have seen it suggested that he had no great liking for drawing stories written by other people, and this may have discouraged him from working on long serials, where the artist would normally work more or less under instructions from the writer. It may be no accident that some of his best and most inventive comedy is in the Tammy series of Cover Girl covers, where he was free to interpret the joke in his own way because the jokes were purely visual. Many brilliant examples of this series are illustrated in Mistyfan’s History of Tammy Covers on this website.
He had the kind of style which once seen, was instantly recognisable, and yet this didn’t seem to limit his ability to adapt to almost any kind of story. He once said in interview that his work as a last-minute substitute for other artists had helped him to “learn from other people and gradually evolve something unique”. It’s an interesting thought that imitating the styles of other people can help you develop an original style of your own, but certainly his frequent work as a filler artist didn’t stop him developing a highly individual and spontaneous style, with a good feel for human anatomy and convincingly realistic facial expression.
Although he could turn his hand to almost any type of story, his best work in girls’ comic stories was in horror and farcical comedy. He had a tremendous flair for the grotesque, and he was able to turn this to account equally in horror and comedy. There’s nothing unusual about extravagantly hideous creatures in horror tales, but John Richardson’s had an exuberance which was all his own, like this example from “The Uglies” (Misty 14 April 1978):
He could handle bizarre comedy with the same panache, even when the subject was something as humdrum as a parking meter (“Stella Starr – Policewoman from Outer Space” from Mandy Annual 1975):
But the impact of his work didn’t depend solely on his command of the grotesque and fantastic. He could convey the same chill in a horror story by the power of suggestion, through his flair for facial expression, and ability to compose a powerful page layout. From “Black Sunday” (Misty Summer Special 1978) and “Old Ethna’s House” (Misty Holiday Special 1979):
He was also able to draw on his cartooning experience to enliven slapstick comedy stories, as in the Judy Picture Story Library “Dora’s Dragon”, where a dragon costume brought to life by a witch becomes a boisterous mini-Godzilla enthusiastically devouring anything that moves:
Although his style was so distinctive, he was well able to adapt it when taking over an established series from another artist. The Tammy series “Wee Sue” is an interesting example of this. He succeeded to the original Tammy series artist Mario Capaldi in the issue of 14 September 1974, but unusually, he did so in mid-episode. Here are the first two pages of the episode:
Page one is clearly in Capaldi’s style, and I would say that the end of page two is clearly by
Richardson, although he has toned down the normal character of his work to harmonise with Capaldi’s. But at what point did he take over? I personally think that Capaldi drew the first three panels of the second page, and Richardson did the rest. The point is debatable, but it certainly shows how well Richardson was able to adapt his style to conform to the very different style of another artist. By way of contrast, here’s a later episode where he has remodelled Sue’s enemy Miss Bigger from the severe and tight-lipped martinet created by Capaldi into a crazed hobgoblin in his own distinctive style (issue of 26 February 1977):
I strongly feel that this art should be known and celebrated far more than it is, but as so often with girls’ comics, the first stumbling-block to recognition is simply a lack of reliable information about what work the artist did. Contributors to the Comics UK Forum have compiled a list of the work he is known to have done for girls’ comics, and this will be posted next. Inevitably, it’s not complete, and we would be grateful to hear from anybody who can offer further additions, or spot any mistakes. If you can give us any help with this, please let us know.
Yes, good pun, I didn’t notice it myself until the suggestion that the next follow up should be a Dundee-based one called Comics Marmalade. (Note to the unknowing – Dundee is famous for both marmalade and comics.)
On Saturday I went to the Cartoon Museum in London, to a small but perfectly formed event(follow link to Down The Tubes for fuller description). I feel very lucky to have gone: the numbers were limited due to the venue size, and I believe also the key person behind the gathering was keen to keep it sharp and focused. Many thanks indeed, therefore, to David Roach for suggesting me as an attendee and to Peter Hansen for finding a slot for me to join in. The event was called “Comics Jam” and the aim of it was to discuss ways to preserve UK Comics History (though the subtitle actually used was just the straightforward descriptive phrase, “British Comics History”).
The event started at the beginning of the afternoon: 2 pm, to allow everyone time to get there from far-flung locations (Dundee, Bournemouth, Wales, and indeed Peter Hansen himself is primarily based in Vancouver, Canada). Peter gave a short introduction of how he came to become a collector (recounted in more detail in a video included in the Down The Tubes link above) and we also saw an amazing short video walking us through his collection. The collection consists of a very large number of old comics of course (Peter shudders at the number of rusty staples he has pulled out of comics over the years, to prevent them from deteriorating further). Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, it also includes a large amount of original art work – but I think no one would expect the sheer number of pages of physical artwork that he has collected, which certainly numbers in the tens of thousands, stored in folders and on pallets.
Amazingly though, the collection also includes even rarer material. Tin plate adverts hung up outside newsagents, and a very few surviving paper adverts; leaflets and other promotional items including free gifts; dummies of comics never launched: all of great interest in giving a context to the business of publishing comics, of course. Best of all, the real holy grail for those of us who want to credit the creators behind it all: editorial correspondence, editorial bound copies of comics with annotations, and even pay books with information about who created what, and how much they were paid.
I hope the video, or a similar one, can be released at some time for wider appreciation. There is nothing quite like the impact it makes on the viewer as we watch Peter walking us through a simple door into a Tardis of comics ephemera: down corridors, along shelves, across pallets, peering into and out of art folders and banana boxes, and thence around many corners, up various stairs, and finally into a calm area where he catalogues his material. I was relieved to know that there is an electronic catalogue of the archive in spreadsheet format and that it’s not purely hard-copy, but it surely can’t be a complete work at this point as it consists of just Peter’s own labours rather than a joint effort or one done by someone brought in to complete this mammoth task. (Given that the event was co-organized by a number of academic bodies, perhaps this will change and a PhD student might end up with this task, or some part of it? Or Peter, please do correct me if I am wrong in my assumption about the completeness of it!)
Once we’d recovered from gawping at the Aladdin’s cave on the video, we had two discussion panels: the first was the one I was on (“The Story of British Comics: a round table discussion on the history of British comics, featuring Julia Round, Chris Murray, Jenni Scott, John Freeman, and David Roach, chaired by Phillip Vaughan“) and the second ranged from further historical discussions to information about what Rebellion and others are doing right now that will help to preserve this important part of cultural history. (“Celebrating and Preserving British Comics: a round table discussion on comics archives and preserving collections for the nation – featuring Peter Hansen, David Huxley, Rob Power, and Hannah Berry, chaired by Steve Holland”). Finally, we had a short trio of celebrities talking about their youthful memories of comics: Dave Gibbons and his youth as a comics reader and of course comics creator, Posy Simmonds on her early years reading both British and American comics (courtesy of a nearby USAF base) and Jonathan Ross talking eloquently on the rich texture of cultural history that a collection like Peter’s can hold for ordinary punters and for the research community alike (drawing on his experience as a governor for the BFI there).
Without going into detail of who said what and when (I didn’t take any notes for myself), I remember the discussion covering the below areas and more.
None of us present needed convincing of this ourselves, but as we stated and re-stated, these are important cultural and artistic artifacts for a number of reasons. They are elements of a shared history that has shaped the readership and affected the nation, while they also reflect back to us the concerns and interests of the nation at that time; but they are also amazing creations of a high artistic standard, denigrated and overlooked at the time and since then. This is evidenced by the lack of printed credits throughout most of the time that British comics were published, but also by people’s attitudes to it and the lack of attention paid to the area since the comics stopped being published. The publishers were hugely cavalier about the original artwork (though to be fair, it constitutes a real physical challenge for archiving and storage if you are going to do it properly!), and the creators themselves downplayed what they put out, typically not thinking of it as art.
As a result, the history and the artifacts from that time weren’t carefully preserved, and the knowledge of what it was made up of was being lost even when the main movers were still alive, let alone now, when more and more of those primary sources have died. We have lost and are losing memories and information as well as artifacts – who did what, but also how they did it, what it meant to the readers, what unrecorded processes might have happened as a part of the overall business of publishing. (That’s some of the meat and drink of the interviews on this blog of course: hearing that in-house people wrote stories as well as freelance writers, that in-house art editors shaped a lot of the look and feel of the resulting page.)
The knowledge or the information that is out there is very scattered and certainly isn’t brought together in any central way: the indexes and the archives that do exist need to be searchable, discoverable, queryable in ways that allow us to ask questions and perhaps get unexpected answers about the kinds of stories included in girls comics, or the numbers of women involved in girls comics as compared to boys comics, or any other similar question of interest that could be posed. At the most basic level, never mind those research questions: how about being able to refer to a complete bibliography of a high-quality but over-looked comics artist, or to be able to produce a complete list of all the stories written in a certain title?
The range of things we need to do is of course overwhelming, and one question I asked was about what will we do, how can anyone choose a priority to stick to (or does each person choose their own priority, maybe). Some voices were asking about digital formats and the archiving of that material – a physical lump of Bristol board is quite hard-wearing and withstands quite a lot of mistreatment, and concept sketches also can last well, whereas current creators probably don’t even keep their ‘draft’ digital files that show the processes they used in order to get to the final output. (And even if they did, would the storage media and the machines to run them on exist a few years later?)
We can’t do it all, though clearly different people will have different interests and aims – so what might or will we actually do, and what might happen first?
Rebellion are slowly going through their acquired archives to make use of it, seeing it as the valuable resource that it is; but the size of the challenge in front of them means they can only go relatively slowly if they are to do it right. Currently they are recruiting an archivist and sorting out things so that it will become somewhere that researchers and others can visit, but it isn’t at that stage yet. Peter Hansen also confirmed that there are discussions around Rebellion acquiring whatever IPC original artwork that he currently holds, because of course that would considerably reduce the work to be done by the Rebellion reprographics department, but that is still to come.
There is a consortium of interested parties working together to acquire Peter’s collection for the nation, but it would need substantial funding not only to acquire the material itself but also to make good use of it (storing it, recording it in some way, and making it available to the wider public and to researchers). Having said that, it’s not that this is all cost and no benefit – the recent Seven Stories touring comics exhibition, “Comics! Explore and Create Comic Art“, featuring art from Peter’s collection, has helped generate some £60,000 in income so far and over three years is expected to comfortably exceed that figure.
There were some digital archivists in the room so there is some interest in building up expertise in that area, but it is at a very early stage as yet.
Even what feels in comparison to be much smaller efforts, such as this blog, are part of the collective gathering of information and valuing of what was created – we are helping to show creators and readers from the time that it is worth bringing together, that it is worth preserving what we can of this. Not just the visible product of the weekly comic itself, but the invisible processes that went into it; the thoughts, the memories of how it was made, and how it was received by the readers themselves. After all, the Girls Comics of Yesterday blog made a great joint leap of attribution only the other day, bringing in not only the name of a really prolific writer – Marion Turner, writing under the pen name Fiona Turner – but also a long-sought-after name of an artist, Don Walker, given by Marion Turner’s son Philip. (Though I say ‘long-sought-after’ – seemingly the information must have been held at DC Thomsons all along as they are attributed with supplying the information to Philip in the first place.) So please, please keep writing in, anyone with any connection to the British comics publishing world!
I am very sorry to post the news that John Armstrong has just died. John Freeman from the DownTheTubes website has put together a tribute post, and additionally the site has got an interview “In His Own Words” detailing John’s comics career. Lew Stringer has also posted a tribute on his blog, with some great art samples included.
John Armstrong was a fantastic artist with an instantly recognizable style and great strengths in the key elements of girls comics. I am very glad that the Rebellion reprint of Bella came out in time for him to (hopefully) know that his work was being properly appreciated once again.
One of the other keynote talks that will be of particular interest to readers of this blog was the one by David Roach. If you have read his most recent book, “Masters of Spanish Comic Book Art“, then you would have found a lot of familiar material in his presentation, but we had the opportunity to hear him give the material in a lively talkative format and with the invaluable aid of some gorgeous pages of art and painting that David brought along. As with the Anne Digby talk, this has been recorded by Alex Fitch and hopefully will be broadcast on his internet radio show in due course. For now though, some notes, impressions, and key points I took away from it. (I am not, however, going to go into individual comics artists,: you need to look at the book or attend another of David’s talks in order to do that, I can’t do them justice here.)
David took us through the period from the 1950s to the 1970s, explaining how there came to be such a large number of Spanish artists working outside of their own country (in the UK but also in the US and in other European countries). He explained that after paper rationing came to an end in Britain, there was a tremendous demand for comics, magazines, and story papers. (We’d already heard in the Anne Digby talk the fact that School Friend in its heyday was selling 1 million copies a week, and David repeated this figure in his talk too.) There were just not enough British artists to keep up with the demand – the pre-war artists were getting older and literally dying out, the younger generation had gone off to the war and been injured or killed, and when the Amalgamated Press advertised for artists to join their stable, they only got two responses! So when European agencies started to knock at the doors of British publishers, they were very welcome. Not all of the agencies were Spanish – the Belgian agency A.L.I in 1954 started the flood, and Italian agencies Cosmopolitan and D’Ami were likewise two of the early strong contenders.
However, the Spanish agencies such as Selecciones Illustradas (S.I.) run by Josép Toutain, and Bardon (co-run by Barry Coker), and the Bruguera studio associated with the A.L.I. mentioned above, ended by dominating the scene to such an extent that it it is thought that at least 385 Spanish artists worked in the UK – more than there were British artists working in the same market during that time period!
In addition to touching on more well-known grounds (showing how much fantastic work the Spanish artists did, by displaying beautiful work in a range of styles, and explaining how editors conceived of certain groups of artists as matching certain kinds of work (Argentinian artists = muscular war artists, Spanish artists = romantic dreamers suited to girls and romance comics)), David also highlighted some unexpected aspects of the Spanish comics boom that I hadn’t previously been aware of. One of these was that the Spanish artists experienced this work not only as financially rewarding (the pay rate was hugely much better than they were getting in Spain, and the exchange rate was in their favour too) but also politically and socially rewarding too. These were young men whose work meant they got the chance to travel outside of Francoist Spain, and who additionally got sent reference material from the UK, so that they heard about the Beatles and suchlike popular culture icons before anyone else in Spain did. Indeed, they were some number of years ahead of the curve! Lest you think it was all one-way though, David was at pains to point out that images like the Serenade cover above is pop art avant la lettre – it was drawn some years before the Swinging 60s that you would assume it was representing, and so you can only think of it as more in the nature of an inspiration for the look of that time then a representation of what was already happening. Spanish-drawn romance comics as an inspiration for pop art and the Carnaby Street look? Stranger things have happened…
The other surprising aspect that David mentioned was that there was much more awareness of, and renegotiating of, copyright than I’d supposed. The British comics normally didn’t print credits, and although in the Spanish market it was usual to sign the artwork this might be done using a pseudonym or a variant of the artist’s legal name, and this might vary over the years of an artist’s career. It was not unusual for a proper identification of the original creator to be far from easy to establish (especially if they did most of their work in the British market and hence were not credited). In the British market, also, it was vanishingly unusual for creators to own their own material – the standard procedure for Fleetway, and I believe for D C Thomson too, was to cast the payment cheque in the form of a contract which assigned all rights to the publisher in perpetuity, so that in order to get paid there was no other option than signing away your rights. But David brought out some examples of painted artwork that was painted ‘on spec’ by artists – both war scenes and pensive domestic scenes – which were sold on a ‘first print rights’ basis, so that the publisher was only granted the rights to to use that material once. They were then able to re-sell the material if they could find a market. David had one example, a painting of a woman in a bedroom, which was sold to several places: women’s magazines in different countries, a romance comic, and to be the cover of a mass market paperback. No wonder the Spanish artists had a tradition of tending to go into fine art after some 10 – 15 years as a comics artist – it feels like a natural move, given the above.
The talk attendees were, I think, blown away by the range of art shown, but they also had pertinent questions to follow up with. Some of them were a bit unanswerable – how did the Spanish artists manage to produce so much output, and how did they come to be so very good at such a young age? Others touched on the political situation and drew out further aspects of what David had said about the political freedom that working for a foreign publisher gave – many of the artists became or already were Marxists, radical leftists, and subversives of one sort or another (at least one of whom had to flee the country at short notice). Finally, I know that there was a real rush at the end of the talk to come and look at the artifacts that he had brought along – a number of original pages of art (above) painted images, and even one of the portfolio samples that the agencies carried from publisher to publisher to entice them to sign up a new artist.
There was of course much more in the talk that is beyond what I can go into in a blog post here. Do seek out David’s book (linked to above), listen to Alex Fitch’s broadcast of the talk as and when it comes out, or take the opportunity to see him talk on this subject if you ever get a chance.
As promised, a few notes so far on the comics conference I am attending here in Bournemouth. Julia Round is one of the key organisers and as such it was always likely to have interest for girls comics readers as her own research interest at the moment is on Misty and the gothic. Also attending, speaking, and helping to organise the event are Joan Ormrod (who is interested in British weekly publications such as Mirabelle and Roxy) and Dr Mel Gibson whose “Remembered Reading” was discussed on this blog.
The key event on the first day of the conference was an interview session at the end of the day between Mel Gibson and Anne Digby. This was recorded by Alex Fitch (of internet radio channel Resonance FM) with the aim of transmitting it at a future date. Anne Digby talked about her start in working life, getting her first job at 16 as an editorial trainee or apprentice at Amalgamated Press in London, working on School Friend. This matched her early desire, from the age of 8 or so, to be a writer. Learning on the job and being paid to do so was right up her street. She had been a reader of comics and of School Friend itself as a child, so she was particularly thrilled from that perspective.
There was one other trainee when she joined the team, another young woman; they worked with an older lady, Isobel Winchester (corrected following confirmation with AD) who was an old hand and trained them in sub-editing tasks. In the talk, Anne didn’t go into lots of detail of what those tasks consisted of, but she did say that it included editing texts sent in by freelancers and other writers by tidying them up. Afterwards in separate conversation she also explained that it included the commissioning of work too, including the matching of artists to writers. It was very much a journalistic job, pulling together the finished creation that the reader consumes.
In case the above misleads on the prevalence of women in the comics business, Mel did ask about whether there were many other women writers or artists that worked at the time that Anne Digby was associated with the Amalgamated Press / Fleetway / IPC as it became over the years. Evelyn “Polly” Flinders, artist on the long-running girls school story “The Silent Three”, was an obvious example for her to mention; Anne had memories of her as a lovely person who didn’t look stereotypically ‘artistic’ (she wore tweeds and had her hair in a schoolma’arm bun). One interesting snippet was that Flinders was unusual in not having an agent to represent her, as the other artists generally did. (Writers did not have agent representation, but artists did.) She would turn up to deliver her art in person, carrying it in a large portfolio, so she was a regular figure to Digby. However, the number of women creative contributors engaged in producing the comics seems otherwise to have been relatively minimal.
The expectation in that job was that people would take the opportunity to do extra writing jobs on a freelance basis, and eventually transition to going completely freelance. Anne did indeed do this. She wrote text stories and comics for A.P. / Fleetway for some years, and children’s novels from the mid- to late 70s onwards. Indeed, her own take on why the comics market declined is precisely because of the rise of children’s novels at ‘pocket money’ prices – the Armada Lions and the like of the times expanded the market beyond what Puffin had done when they stood alone as the big name in children’s books.
Digby is clearly pleased with and proud of her work even at this distance in time; she has favorites that she happily cites (such as semi-supernatural story “The Dance Dream” and horse story “Olympia Jones”. This is as it should be, of course – her work was read by masses of children and stayed with those readers for a long time, and it stands up to the test of time on re-read. I hope that her wish to see “Olympia Jones” and other work re-issued will come to pass.
Further posts will follow, covering the David Roach talk in particular. However one thing I can quickly share is a photo of the script that Anne Digby brought along to the event: for a Strange Story called “The Cat”. The script was around 5 pages long but I didn’t photograph the rest of it. How lovely to see physical artifacts still around from that time, and still legible too!
With many thanks to Christine Ellingham for sending through such detailed and interesting answers to the interview questions below – and of course also thanks to her for getting in contact in the first place!
Question 1 – Can you please give a bit of background context to your time in comics – when did you start doing work for picture strips / comics titles, and what got you into them in the first place? You say that your time as a strip artist was short – what led you to cut it short, if there was anything specific?
As with a lot of the jobs I have done over the years, I arrived at IPC, then Fleetway Publications, purely by accident and good luck.
I had been a staff layout artist plus fashion illustrator on a girls’ teenage magazine called, Go Girl! (This is where I first met Malcolm Shaw.) Go Girl! was part of City Magazines, the magazine division of The News of the World. This was in 1968.
Unfortunately, Go Girl! folded after a very short life and it was suggested that I approach Leonard Matthews, the then Director of Juvenile Publications, not sure of his correct title, at Fleetway. I did, and was offered a job there. In those days it was relatively easy to move around from one job to another.
Initially, I was placed in a department with several other people, not a specific title, where we did odd jobs for different papers, i.e. illustration, lettering, pasteup and, in the case of Alf Saporito, cartoons. I remember John Fernley being one of us, possibly Tony Hunt, though I’m not sure.
After a short period I was moved to the Nursery group, under the managing editor, Stuart Pride, and there I worked on a new publication called Bobo Bunny. This had come from Holland and needed adjusting size wise and certain content adaptation making it suitable for the UK market.
By now John Sanders was the overall editor of the juveniles. I have a feeling I wasn’t the first to be offered the position of art editor of a new girls’ paper called Tammy but I accepted it nevertheless and moved from juvenile to teenage. John Purdie was the editor and Gerry Finley-Day and Iain MacDonald made up the editorial team.
Under John, we gathered writers and artists and the aim was to compete with D.C. Thomson’s Bunty and maybe other titles of that type. I remember John and I made a trip to Rome to talk to the Giorgetti stable of artists and we were wined and dined by Giorgio Giorgetti and his American wife. We also attracted all the relevant artist’s agents, Danny Kelleher and his son Pat of Temple Arts, Linden Artists and Bardon Art for example, and collected together a group of strip artists, writers and balloon letterers.
Eventually, Tammy was launched and did very well. I was able to contribute a small amount of artwork, the back cover of the first edition is mine, but really my job was to get it all together, see the agents and in one case, the artists themselves (I remember Roy Newby used to deliver his own work) but usually the agents would deliver the artwork.
I have to admit, I was not entirely happy in the role of art editor. I had studied illustration at Hornsey College of Art and that was what I wanted to do. I left Fleetway 1971/72. Barry Coker and Keith Davis of Bardon Art represented mainly Spanish strip artists. I thought that maybe I could ‘have a go’ at doing this as a freelance and doing it from Spain. Barry and Keith took me on and my then partner and I moved to Spain. Just like that! This was 1972. Amazing really.
First of all my work was for D.C. Thomson; they waited for a whole series to be complete before publishing so as I was a novice and slow, this suited me. Fleetway needed an episode completed in a week, too much for me then. I am hazy about the titles, there may have been something called, “Warning Wind Bells” and another with an Egyptian theme with a character or a cat called Nofret, or these could have been later for IPC. I have a few old diaries of that time and one story I worked on I have only the initials of the title, S.O.S. I wonder what that stood for! 1972. There was “Topsy of the Pops”, “Vet on the Hill” and “Lindy Under the Lake”, all for Thomson’s circa 1973. (This is the date that I drew them, not necessarily of publication.)
As agents, Barry and Keith were superb. They made sure I was never without work, one story followed immediately after another, that I was paid promptly and they gave me such good advice regarding page layout, technique and story interpretation.
While I was still working on Tammy I started to have problems with my right hand (I am right handed), it not functioning properly. This continued to get worse when we were in Spain and instead of speeding up and refining my style the opposite was happening, my work deteriorated. Bardon Art kept me going but eventually we had to return to England in 1974, where I continued to struggle depressingly.
During the Spanish time I illustrated at least two Annual covers, Tammy 1972, including the front endpapers depicting National Costumes and Sandie Annual 1973, plus various spot illustrations. I still have these annuals. Or I could have done these before Spain.
After inconclusive tests that found nothing terribly wrong with my hand or me generally, the GP at the time suggested I learn to use my left hand. After thinking initially, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I realised this was my only option. I remember one ten-part story for Thomson’s started with me using my right hand and gradually with training, ended using my left hand. I can’t remember which story that was.
From then on things got better. I speeded up and developed my style. Bardon got me the first IPC job. I’m not one hundred percent sure but it could have been, Cove of Secrets or Secret Cove, something like that, for the Jinty Annual possibly 1974. Also The Whittington’s Cat Princess, DCT, around the same time. To this day, I draw, paint and write using my left hand.
“Concrete Surfer” came later. That particular story stands out for me because it was such fun to do. It was all action with hardly any background, it was very modern and I love doing figure work. I remember we bought a skate board so that I could see what it looked like from all angles, a helmet too, still got them!
I cannot remember how many strip stories I worked on after “Concrete Surfer” but at some point I felt the need to move on, that I wasn’t being stretched any more. Bardon Art were no longer able to represent me, as strip was their speciality, and sadly, we parted company. I started contributing illustrations to Oh Boy, Loving and other IPC papers for older teens.
After a few years I moved on again and, as an illustrator, contributed to national newspapers, women’s magazines, house magazines, mail order publications, coin design, greetings cards and so on.
The work was still there after my retirement but the need to move on again got the better of me and now I paint, back in Spain.
Question 2 – On the blog we are always very keen to try to establish any creator credits for artists and writers, as these are otherwise very likely to get lost in the mists of time. As far as we can tell from the art style, it looks like you drew three stories for Jinty (“Race for a Fortune” (1977-78), “Concrete Surfer” (1978), and “Dance Into Darkness” (1978) plus some covers and spot illustrations, as well as a story in the Lindy Summer Special (1975) and in the Jinty Annual 1978. It may be asking too much at this distance in time, but what other work do you recall doing and in which publications?
I would have to look at these stories that you mention to verify that I actually drew them! As I have said, Concrete Surfer stands out because for me it was a joy to do. The others, some I have managed to see on line and they do look vaguely familiar. At the time I used my partner as a model. I found men more difficult to draw than women and girls and I have noticed him in certain frames even though I tried hard to make them not look like him! When I see him I know that I did that one!
Question 3 – At the time it was very usual for artists and writers to work quite separately from each other, particularly freelance creators. Was this the case with you, or did you know others working in the same area? I ask partly in case there are any interesting stories or anecdotes that you can relate at this distance in time, but also in case you remember any names of people on the creative or publishing side that can feed in to our information of who did what.
Yes, this was the case for me. Artists do lead a solitary life and being freelance meant I would be at my desk not wanting to be interrupted. The deadlines, especially for IPC, were pretty tight. In my case the work would be delivered to Bardon Art and they would take it to the publication in the case of Fleetway, a few minutes walk away. Though in Spain I posted it directly to DCT. Nevertheless, Barry and Keith were very much involved and would add their comments sometimes.
While we were in Spain the work was rolled into a tube and posted. The tubes had to be open at both ends, some string threaded through and tied and a description of the contents had to be stuck to the outside, or left with an official at the post office.
I did meet one artist in Spain, Miguel Quesada. It was he who told me how to send artwork to England. He and some of his very large family, (a lot of mouths to feed), visited us unexpectedly. He was one of Bardon’s and a contributor to Tammy. I never met any of the other artists apart from Roy Newby, but that was before I was a contributor myself.
I did meet John Jackson when he was the art editor of Jinty and of course, Mavis Miller.
Question 4 – I am keen to understand more about the creative and publishing processes of the time. Presumably the writer supplied a script, and the editor chose the artist, but I don’t know how everything interacted. Did you get any guidance (say as part of the written script) or conversely any interference from the editor or art editor, or was the published page pretty much under your design control including the composition of the page?
Yes, the editor would choose the artist, art editors didn’t have much say in the matter, (Though this is just from my experience of working on Tammy.) And I think the editorial team would have suggested an idea for a story to the writer, again, this is how it happened on Tammy.
The artists were given a lot of guidance. Before even starting, we would be briefed on the content and theme of the story, to get to know the main characters. In the case of IPC the scripts would come one at a time, having only just been written, probably. The artist would receive a document containing the dialogue for each balloon and the positioning of the balloons had to be in that same order in the frame, also, there would be instructions on the action and mood in the frame, i.e. the heroine to look sad, the bad girl to look vindictive; a closeup and so on. The composition of each frame would be influenced by the order and size of the balloons and the overall design of the page would have had input from the editor. Quite a lot to work out, now I come to think of it! [An example of a script has been previously sent in by Pat Davidson, wife of Jinty story writer Alan Davidson: see link here.]
I always had to submit pencil roughs that would be shown to the editor for his/her comments. In Spain there were many visits to the post office, pencils going off to Stan Stamper in Dundee, coming back with comments, a finished, inked episode flying off, the two passing each other on the way. Also, we artists had to work ‘half up’ so there was a lot of ground to cover. [‘Half up’ means using a larger piece of art paper – half as much again as the finished size, so that for instance if the finished publication is 10 inches by 12 inches, half up would be 15 inches by 18 inches – with the artwork being photographically reduced in size during the production process.]
Question 5 – A slightly self-indulgent question but with a point to it – how did you come across the Jinty blog? Was it a case of happening to suddenly remember something you worked on years ago and searching for it, or being sent to it? (I ask because I would love to hear from other creators from the time, and if there is anything I can do to increase the chances of someone posting a comment saying that they wrote or drew a story from the time, I will certainly consider it.)
I’m trying to think. How did I find it? I get carried away on the internet sometimes. I think I was looking up an old friend of my now husband’s, the two of them used to work together on Eagle, Swift, Robin and Girl papers, as balloon letterers and layout artists. I started looking at Girl artwork as I do have a couple of Girl Annuals, No.3 and No.5. I noticed that the writers and artists all got a credit; one name I recognised was the artist Dudley Pout, I wonder if he contributed to any of the Jinty stories? Though he was probably of another generation.
The friend of my husband had died but in reading his obituary I found links to other sites and by then I was interested to see if any of my work was featured anywhere, the only title I could think of was, “Concrete Surfer”!
Roy Newby is thought to have drawn only only a few stories in Jinty, but he was certainly a long-running artist in other girls’ comics titles, particularly Girl, where he drew “Robbie of Red Hall” for many years. I do not yet have a fuller comic bibliography to list in this post, but on the UK Comics Forum, mention is also made of a story in the second Girl Annual which is specifically credited to him as artist: “Late For Dancing”, written by George Beardmore. Additionally, comics newssite Down The Tubes states that Newby worked on stories that appeared in other titles such as Tammy, Poppet, Judy, and Valentine.
Newby died relatively recently, having lived to the age of 98; the obituary in the Guardian, written by his son Mike, can be seen here. Mike Newby has likewise created a dedicated site showing his work (though not including many examples of comics, unfortunately for us). Finally, the Lambiek Comiclopedia has a little more on him here.
List of stories attributable to Roy Newby in Jinty:
When researching this post, I got in contact with Mike Newby and his sister Clare, who shared some memories with me. Mike told me that “…Dad’s original artwork for his comics was destroyed by the publishers as soon as they’d done the necessary for a print-run. (What a shame!) But Dad kept pretty much everything in printed form. He’d go and buy that week’s edition of whatever comic he’d drawn and stick it in a scrapbook.”.
Clare told me more details of her father’s time as a comics creator and her time as a reader of comics: “Through the late 50s and 60s, Friday afternoon was comic day! After school, I got School Friend, Girl’s Crystal and one other; Jackie/Tammy/or whatever. I saw Dad’s stuff free! Whenever I was ill in bed, I used to look at the scrapbooks of mostly Girl. Dad said he preferred girls papers as they didn’t have as many technical, fiddly buttons and switches (spaceships) as boys. Also, he used to get any scripts set in dancing schools as he could use me for reference (I studied ballet which I went on to do professionally). He particularly liked historical costume stories. As I got older, he worked on Valentine and Roxy. I was about 13 and wasn’t allowed to read them, so I would sneak into his studio when he was out and read about teen life. I put everything back and thought I’d got away with it, but he told me years later, he always knew!”
Courtesy of Clare Newby, here are two images of her father’s work – a photograph of some of the scrapbook pages, and a beautiful little sketch of herself reading them in bed, when ill at one time. Many thanks indeed to her for sending those in!
It was very sad to hear the news today that Jim Baikie has died, aged 77. It seems that he had been in declining health for a while – I had asked around previously to see if there was a chance of interviewing him for this blog but was given indications that this would not be very likely.
The page on this blog about him outlines his contribution to Jinty in particular, but since the time that that post was written, we have widened the scope of this blog to cover earlier titles such as Sandie (where he drew humour story “Our Big BIG Secret”) and June & School Friend (where he drew “Gymnast Jinty”). He was truly an all-rounder in girls’ comics. In tribute, below you can find some pages of his art brought together.