Tag Archives: The Comp

Rhoda Miller – Interview

Rhoda Miller was a subeditor at DC Thomson and at IPC, working on girls comics and magazines between 1966 and 2008. In answer to my questions, she wrote the biographical piece below, which I am very happy to be able to publish. Many thanks, Rhoda!

I began work in August 1966 on Diana magazine in Dundee. Editor was George Moonie, Chief sub Ken Gordon. There were two other men subs and about four girls. From day one I was expected to write features and was sent out, (untrained!) to interview people such as The Walker Brothers, Amen Corner, Davy Dee, Dozy, Beaky Mick and Titch (?). Story ideas were discussed at “story sessions” and ideas sent out to script writers. The subs’ job was to prepare them for publication. Sometime, this meant a complete re-write! In 1970, I was in a one-way love affair and decided to move to London. A bit drastic, but there you go!

When I applied to IPC they had just paid off a lot of people and the unions wouldn’t let them take anyone new on. But John Purdie was keen to have someone from Thomsons, he took me on as a free lancer, but I was to work in the office full time, and if anyone asked, I was to tell them I was a “visiting free lancer”.

I was put in Desmond Pride’s old office with Annie Deam, who had recently been removed from her post of School Friend editor, and like me, was working on projects. Eventually I went onto Sandie and worked as a sub. My days of working there are very hazy, and I wasn’t there very long before personal circumstances propelled me back to Dundee. I do remember the art editor, though. His name was John Jackson, and he had come from Eagle, and I remember the artists agent, Jack Wall, and his best mate, an artist whose surname was MacGillivray (can’t recall his first name) [Robert MacGillivray] but MacGillivray’s nephew was the legendary Ali McKay who also worked for IPC for quite a few years.

Back in Dundee, I rejoined DC Thomsons, and went to The Bunty, where Harold Moon was editor, Ian Munro chief sub. These were amongst the happiest days of my working life. I was there for several years, writing scripts for “The Four Marys” among others. At this time, the company still employed several long-standing script writers. One of the most prolific was a lady called Olive K Griffiths. Her scripts needed a lot of re-writing, as I recall. In the weekly comic we didn’t have features, but we did in the annuals, and these the staff were required to write.

After that, it was Spellbound with Ken Gordon editing, and David Donaldson chief sub. By this time, some of the subs were writing more and more of the scripts, and the company was employing fewer outside script writers. Spellbound, a spooky magazine, only ran a few years before it ran out of steam. I remember we had a lot of interference from Norman Fowler, who was one of our managing editors.  He was keen to have horse racing stories in all the magazines!

After Spellbound, it was Mandy under Alan Halley, but when I objected to him wanting to run a horrible story about a wealthy couple planning to kidnap a poor girl and use her as a blood donor for their ill daughter, we fell out and I went to Nikki, where I wrote “The Comp”. As I say, my memory is not great for dates, or how long I was on each magazine, but in 1997, I was chief sub editor on Animals and You. Frances O’Brien was editor.

“Luv, Lisa” was my idea, and was quite an innovative idea, as it was a “dear diary” photo story rather than an illustrated one. Richard Palmer was the photographer (he also worked for IPC). After Animals and You, Frances and I moved to work on a new project, of which nothing came, but we did come up with the concept of The Goodie Bag Mag, and I worked on that with her, until I took early voluntary severance in 2008.

The artists who worked for us (that I remember ) were Claude Berridge, George Martin, David Matysiak, and Norman Lee. Spellbound had an amazing Spanish artist drawing one of our stories, but again the name escapes me! [I assume this may have been Romero who drew Supercats; if Rhoda is able to confirm then I will update.]

[Edited to add the following further additions from Rhoda, below. I had asked why she felt that the publishing industry moved from story-heavy titles to ones that were more focused on features or freebies, and about credits for artists and writers.]

I really cannot explain why the comics became less content and more free gifts, except to suggest that research showed children were less inclined to read great screeds of type and preferred more pictorial and less copy. The free gift phenomenon was very much a case of “the opposition are doing it, so should we.”

As to naming the script writers/artists, it was certainly a DC Thomson policy not to allow anyone to be credited. But some of the Spanish artists sneaked their names on and a blind eye was turned. Mainly because they were indispensable. Indeed, it was only in the past twenty years that Thomson allowed their newspapers reporters and columnists to get bylines!

Peter Wilkes

Sample Images

Tansy 1Tansy 2Tansy 3

Peter Wilkes came on board in Jinty in 1978 with “Sea-Sister”. He drew seven stories for Jinty, and made his presence felt strongly in 1981, right up until the last issue, because he was the artist who took over from Ken Hougton for “Tansy of Jubilee Street”. His work on Tansy is enjoyable, although his style did not quite match the zaniness needed to bring Tansy off in the way that Houghton could.

Wilkes has a very pleasing style that can fit several genres, including school, sport and animals. He seems to be strong on dog stories and drew two for Jinty (“The Four-Footed Friends” and “My Heart Belongs to Buttons”). Wilkes also has a knack for fantasy at times, especially if it has a dash of humour in it, as “Her Guardian Angel” does.

Wilkes also drew for Tammy (“Rowena of the Doves”) and Misty (“Master Stroke”, “Poor Jenny”, “Hold Tight, Please!”), but is best remembered for his work on “The Comp” in Bunty. As with Tansy, Wilkes was the second artist on that strip. He also worked in other DCT titles, and a (not complete) listing of his stories in those titles can be found at http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/tag/peter-wilkes/

Peter Wilkes Jinty stories

 

Jinty 22 July 1978

Jinty cover 1.jpg

  • Dance into Darkness
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Alley Cat
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Knight and Day
  • The Changeling – first episode (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)

A new story, “The Changeling”, begins with this issue and is introduced by an explosive three-panel montage of the three directions the life of Katy Palmer’s life is taking in the opening episode: living with a cruel uncle and her only solace is riding. Then, fate intervenes when Katy runs away and she discovers another means of escape – stealing another girl’s identity. But will living a lie really bring her happiness and permanent escape from her horrible uncle?

It is the penultimate episode of “Slave of the Swan”. Katrina Vale’s mother comes in search of her, and is horrified to find her bedraggled daughter collapse on the doorstep after the trap Miss Kachinsky set for her nearly killed her. Miss Kachinsky is crowing that she finally has revenge on Mrs Vale. In the final episode we will discover if Miss Kachinsky is right, and whether she was right to have revenge on Mrs Vale in the first place. Knowing girls’ comics, we suspect not.

In “Cathy’s Casebook”, the casebook on Dim Denis is closed, thanks to Cathy insisting they do tests on him. They reveal it is an under-active thyroid gland, not stupidity, and treatment is already having results. But no sooner than does one case close when another comes along.

Pat tries to escape her uncaring mother by heading back to the Hargreaves family that she was happy with. You would expect that move. Unfortunately that avenue of escape is soon cut off and it is back to “Knight and Day” misery.

Ron Lumsden, best known for drawing “The Comp” in Nikki/Bunty, is in charge of the only serial he drew for Jinty, “Clancy on Trial”. In this issue Clancy is trying to find the money to buy her cousin Sandra a bicycle to replace the one she traded to get Clancy a tandem. But raising the money is striking problems.