Tag Archives: David Roach

IGNCC18, Bournemouth: David Roach

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!

David Roach at IGNCC18, talking about Spanish artists in British and worldwide publications

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.

Advertisements

IGNCC (International Graphic Novel & Comics Conference) 2018: Bournemouth

Over the next three days I shall be attending IGNCC at Bournemouth: an academic comics conference on the theme of “Retro! Time, Memory, Nostalgia”. I have had a paper accepted with the title “Lost In Time: The Problem Of Crediting The Creator In Girls Comics” – drawing on lots of the discoveries and discussions from this blog, of course! Other people are talking about girls comics too – for instance in the same panel session Selina Lock will be talking on “Behind The Panels: The Hidden Histories Of Women In British Comics”.

Of particular interest to the readers of this blog, though, are probably the following two keynote sessions, which I will try to take notes on and write a post or two about.

  • Anne Digby (writer for School Friend, Girl, Tammy, Jinty and the Trebizon series of
    children’s books) in conversation with Mel Gibson (Remembered Reading) on British
    Girls’ Comics.
  • David Roach (2000AD, Masters of Spanish Comic Book Art) – The Spanish Masters

More to come as I get it, over the following days…

Ana Rodriguez

One of the artists mentioned in the recent talk about girls comics was Ana Rodriguez. David Roach has a set of portfolio samples used to showcase her drawing abilities (see below) which credits her as such. Initially I had little luck in finding any internet trace of her but eventually I found an entry for her on Spain’s comic artist database, Tebeosfera, as Anita Rodriguez Ruiz . This also links to an entry on Lambiek’s Comiclopedia.

Ana Rodrigues art sample
Art from “Cindy of Swan Lake”, published in Tammy

Stories in Jinty:

Stories in Tammy:

  • Mandy and the House of Models (1973)
  • Trina Drop-Out (1973)
  • Last Song at Sunset (1974)
  • Cindy of Swan Lake (1979-80)

(The latter list is taken from Catawiki, with many thanks to that site.)

She also drew a large number of stories in DC Thomson titles such as Debbie, Judy, Tracy. See the Girls Comics of Yesterday site for posts tagged with her name.

Her particular focus is clearly on girls comics, though there is little solid information on the Tebeosfera and Comiclopedia sites about other work done by her. Here are some pages from “Blind Ballerina”, where Ana Rodriguez’s showcasing of the girl protagonist’s faces is very evident.

Ana Rodriguez 27 September 1975

Ana Rodriguez 27 September 1975
click thru
Ana Rodriguez 27 September 1975
click thru

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.

“Women Making Girls Comics” – talk at the House of Illustration, 16 April 2016

Along with Dr Mel Gibson, David Roach, and a good-sized audience, on Saturday I took part in a lively and high-quality discussion about female creators of girls comics and many other related topics. It was organized as part of the Comix Creatrix exhibition of female comics artists; a great subject for an exhibition (particularly timely in the light of the kerfuffle at the Angouleme festival this year). As tends to be the case, UK children’s comics didn’t get much of a look-in at the exhibition, though there is a page of Evelyn Flinders pencil art and an incomplete piece of Shirley Bellwood unpublished Misty art both on display. The exhibition is focused on mature readers on purpose – hence the ‘x’ in the word ‘comix’ – but the gap in the coverage of UK girls comics was pretty palpable following discussions on co-organizer Paul Gravett’s facebook page. And lo, it came to pass that some months later the three of us named above were convened at the House of Illustration, near King’s Cross.

Paul Gravett introduced us all to kick off the proceedings, and Mel gave a more in-depth introduction of our various areas of specialities. Phoenix has described the event from his perspective, over on the Comics UK Forum, and there are some other posts on social media by attendees, with further description and photos. The talk was some two hours long (until shortly before it started I’d assumed it would be just 1 hour or so, but there was so much to talk about it never dragged!) and included time for questions as we went along, and afterwards too.

I can’t at this point cover everything that we discussed, partly because I was obviously not in a position to take notes, and partly because of lack of time. I understand that the venue is supposed to have been recording the discussion, and assuming that is forthcoming I will update with details of how to listen to the recording. There are a couple of immediate points of ‘breaking news’ arising from the event, though – David Roach has dug out a set of samples by Emilia Prieto, who is clearly the artist on “Sceptre of the Toltecs” and “Kerry In The Clouds” – both art and signature match. It’s not very clear to me right now as to how the original misattribution could have happened, but the signatures of both artists are very similar, and of course there is always the question of whether a pseudonym was used at any point. I shall nevertheless be amending this blog’s references to specify “Emilia Prieto” instead.

Emilia Prieto
NB artist signature was seen on a different piece of art that I did not photograph

David also clarified some outstanding questions about the artist on “The Cult of the Cat”, credited on this blog as “H. Romeu” or “Honiera Romeu”. The artist’s pen name for many years was “Homero”, riffing off the Homer of antiquity (and ‘Honiera’ must therefore simply be a typo that crept in somewhere along the line). From the end of the 1970s or the beginning of the 1980s he reverted to his real surname (he was a Catalan, and in the Franco era it was forbidden to use Catalan surnames – people had to use the Castilian equivalent) for all purposes. So his real name, which I will change all the references on this blog to use, is “Jaume Rumeu”. However, as his penname during the relevant period was still Homero, I will include this as reference too. It may take a little time to apply this change consistently so do bear with me.

click thru
click thru

One of the discussions points that I was particularly intrigued to hear was the fact that David catalogued some 40,000 pages of Amalgamated Press / Fleetway artwork, and had sight of the payment books from the relevant times – between the 1940s and 1960s I think he said. Between that and the fact that he has information originating from Barry Coker’s agency which dealt directly with many Spanish artists, David clearly has a huge amount of knowledge that is not only derived from long experience of analysing art, but also from actual records and archives. Watch this space for a future email interview with him, therefore!

 

On sources and resources

I have recently added a couple of new links on the links sidebar; it seems to me that there are some relevant points worth airing and asking about, in the area of attribution of work.

I’ve written before about the difficulty of attributing work to artists in the absence of proper printed story credits (how much harder to attribute work to writers! but that’s another post). On this blog many of the names of artists have come from information supplied by experts such as David Roach, or from internet links written by others who are particularly keen on one or other artist themselves. How to verify these different sources, when even experts can make mistakes or have their attributions occasionally mistyped?

Take Angela’s Angels, for instance; which has been consistently attributed to Alberto Cuyas on this blog. It now seems clear to me that we should have been listing him as Manuel Cuyàs all along, as this set of links on Spanish-language blog Deskartesmil shows. I got to that information via a link on the Comics UK Forum while looking for another artist, Stanley Houghton. Now Stanley Houghton is someone who is a possible candidate to be credited with the art on “The Hostess With The Mostess“; I have been pointed at a very useful reference site, Catawiki, which lists him as the artist on one issue of “Hostess” but not all of them. I will have to go back to my issues and see if the artist on this strip differs in different weeks, particularly as the Stanley Houghton art I have seen on links is very nice and I don’t remember the “Hostess” art being as nice as that.

So at this rate I have at least two sets of changes to make, one of which is more uncertain than the other.

Another name I have come across on Catawiki is Leo Davy, who is credited with the art on “Angela’s Angels” (see how it comes full circle!). There is little on the internet about this artist, but new-to-me blog ‘Out of This World’ has a post that includes the fact that Girl credited artists and writers, at least on the annual that is discussed. There are some pages of Leo Davy art posted there (it’s a long post, so search for “The Red Pennant” which is the story that Leo Davy drew). Based on this, I don’t agree with Catawiki’s attribution of “Angela’s Angels” to Leo Davy, but I am sure that Davy drew other stories I have come across.

Anyway, I have now linked to Catawiki and to ‘Out of This World’; the Comics UK Forum was already on the sidebar of links and has provided much useful information (and indeed scans) before now. I think the only conclusion that can be drawn is that attribution of artists is hard! The scans on sites such as Lambiek’s Comiclopedia, which I also use as reference, are often quite small and show the variety of styles that an artist can work in, which is great, but I think the best way to identify an artist is often a specific ‘tic’ – the way they draw hands, or mouths, or even shoes – and for that you need a good-size scan so that you can really focus on those details.

Later on I will update this post with some images from the various artists in question, and some “Angela’s Angels” artwork, as a direct comparison!

Images for comparison

Angela’s Angels artwork from first episode

Crop of image from Angela's Angels

Quite a nice range of faces, and a good couple of active moments in those first panels, meaning we should hopefully have enough to go on.

Miguel Cuyas art from Bunty

This is the art credited to Manuel Cuyàs, on a specialist Spanish blog. Some similarities to the “Angela’s Angels” art but also some differences there I think, in the faces and linework. (The same blog credits Manuel Cuyàs with “Angela’s Angels” but without attaching any art examples.) On the basis of these examples, I am tempted to retract the assignment of Cuyàs to “Angela’s Angels”, in fact – though I definitely have another Jinty story (in an annual) that I would be confident of saying is by Cuyàs.

Leo Davy crop from Girl 1965131

This is the Leo Davy art, credited clearly in the Girl Annual posted about on the ‘Out of this World’ blog. Of course “Angela’s Angels” isn’t in this more painted style. Again, there are similarities but I am not clear that this is the artist either.

So reader, what do you think?