Tag Archives: H. Romeu

“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at the exhibition, though there is a page of Evelyn Flinders pencil art and an incomplete piece of Shirley Bellwood unpublished Misty art both on display.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!

 

First Misty Ever Published – 4 February 1978

Misty cover

  • Cover – (artist Maria Barrera)
  • Message from Misty – (artist Shirley Bellwood)
  • The Cult of the Cat – first episode (artist H. Romeu)
  • The Sentinels – first episode (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Paint It Black – first episode (artist Brian Delany, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Moodstone – complete story – (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Roots (“Nightmare!” story) – (artist Maria Barrera, writer Pat Mills)
  • Moonchild – first episode (artist John Armstrong, writer Pat Mills)
  • Miss T – (artist Joe Collins)
  • Red Knee – White Terror! (“Beasts” story) – (artist John Richardson, writer Pat Mills)

In previous posts we have covered the first Jinty and last Jinty, and the first Tammy and last Tammy. Now we cover the third of the trio – the first Misty and the last Misty. We begin with the first Misty.

Pat Mills conceived Misty as the girls’ answer to 2000AD. Like Tammy, it would be intended to be revolutionary and go against the grain of ballet, pony and school stories. But Misty would do it with spooky stories and horror that were meant to frighten readers, yet fascinate them at the same time. Misty followed hard on the heels of the demise of Spellbound, a kindred comic in DCT that was a similar brave experiment, but had only lasted 69 issues.

Roots ending
Shock panel from “Roots”, Misty #1.

Although Misty was meant to kick ass with her spooky stories, there were still instances of editorial interference in some of the storytelling to tone things down and “not to scare the readers too much”. Two instances occurred in the first issue alone. In “Roots”, if Pat had had had his way, the story would have ended on the panel above. But the editor included another panel to dilute the shock, which Mills deletes from the reproduction of “Roots” in his discussion of Misty. In “Red Knee – White Terror!”, also written by Mills, the climactic attack of the spider on the girl in the bath is similarly amended to become a practical joke from her brother (below). But she still isn’t safe from the alert about a poisonous spider that has crept into the country in an import of bananas, some of which she bought earlier…

Red Knee White Terror
Climax to “Red Knee – White Terror!” from Misty #1.

Misty would go for several complete stories in each issue, some labelled “Nightmare!” and others “Beasts” (featuring an animal of some sort, ranging from spiders to dogs) to break up the comic a bit. They often featured unpleasant girls who came to a sticky end of some sort. The first of these is “Moodstone”, about a bad-tempered girl. “Moodstone” also showed readers that from the first, Misty would feature some full-colour pages in each issue, which is something neither Tammy nor Jinty ever did.

Moodstone
First full colour page from Misty #1.

I remember the cover of the first issue being advertised on television. I had never seen that before – or since – and for this reason that cover has stuck in my mind. As Misty goes, the cover is unusual because it was drawn specifically for cover purposes. It does not feature Misty (not even as a small head beside the logo) and has no bearing on the contents inside. Future covers would go for showing Misty herself or a full-blown cover version of a panel inside the comic. We do not meet Misty herself until we come to the inside page, where she delivers her first message to her readers.

The first story starts Misty off in style with the rendering of the Egyptian Temple. Sumptuous is the word for it. The moment you see that page, you just want to read “The Cult of the Cat”. This is the only story in Misty to spawn a sequel (not counting the sequel to “The Black Widow” that appeared in the merger later). It also inspires the free gift that will come in the next issue – a cat ring just like the one the protagonist in this story wakes up to find on her finger all of a sudden.

Cult of the Cat
Opening to “The Cult of the Cat”.

The splash panel that introduces us to “The Sentinels” (a pair of apartment blocks, one normal and one avoided because of strange disappearances) is no less impressive. Mr Richards defies both the reputation of the Sentinel – “it’s just superstitious nonsense, all that talk about the Sentinels” and warnings from his daughter and other relatives – and takes his family to squat there because they are homeless. Now why do we get the feeling that whatever’s going on with the Sentinel, it’s Mr Richards who is going to cop the worst of it?

The Sentinels
Meet “The Sentinels”!

The writers of Misty would draw heavily from popular books and movies. They start off with the Carrie-inspired serial, “Moonchild”, which proved hugely popular with readers. Rosemary Black is beaten and abused by her mother, who calls her “evil” and “wicked” for no apparent reason. But the mother is very eccentric in any case; she isn’t a religious fanatic like her counterpart in Carrie, but she does not allow electricity in her house, and wears a cloak when she goes out that makes her look like a witch, as does that frightening look on her face. At school, Rosemary is bullied by Norma Sykes, but unlike Carrie, Rosemary does have a friend as well. Then, when Rosemary discovers a strange moon mark on her forehead, things begin to happen that may have some bearing on her mother’s bizarre attitude and teach Norma a lesson to boot…

Miss T
The first appearance of Miss T. From Misty #1.

In “Paint It Black”, Maggie has never been good for anything much, much less being good at art. But then she finds a box of paints in a derelict house and suddenly finds herself able to paint a picture of a mysterious girl. The picture frightens Maggie for some reason – and the girl has a pretty frightened expression on her face, too. Now what can be the reason for that?

Although Misty was a horror comic, she did not leave out the humour, mainly in the form of a Joe Collins cartoon character, Miss T. Miss T would attract huge controversy on the letters page, with readers divided over whether she was a ridiculous feature in a horror comic that should be removed, or if she was needed to help balance the comic. One reader even proposed a Miss T fan club “S.O.W.” (Save Our Witch) to help keep her in the comic. We have no information on what became of S.O.W., but Miss T would not only remain but would also carry over into the merge with Tammy, where she became a companion to Edie. During the Tammy & Jinty merger they would join forces with Snoopa to become “The Crayzees”.