Friday, October 29, 2010

British Girls' Romance Comics: Valentine 21st December 1963

The British weekly girls' comic, Valentine, published by Fleetway from January 19th, 1957 to November 9th, 1974, appears to have been something of a forerunner to the subsequently highly successful Jackie. The first story in this December 21, 1963 issue of Valentine kicks off on the front page of the comic, and like the rest inside, is short and based on a song title. There's a few interesting components to this story - a hint of Islamophobia, and the girl also escapes a potential life of domestic abuse (her boyfriend Brian exhibits some of the signs - he's certainly controlling, unwarrantedly jealous, and blaming) for a future with a nice guy (a copper!).

While most of the stories are self-contained, this next one is an installment in an on-going serial. All I can say about this one is, Tom, with a love like that, you know you should be glad! But I've got a feeling you're going to lose that girl!

The whole comic is very pop icon focused:

From what I've seen of the digest-size British romance comics, the art in some of these Valentine stories, like "For You, For Me", seems to be drawn by some of the same artists. But the moodier panels in this story are even reminscent of Gene Colan's romance work for DC. It's interesting to note the universal romance story device of having the girl going over her situation while lying awake in bed. Some very nice art in this story about the importance of compatibility in a relationship.

Some of the familiar romance comic elements here - horoscopes, an ad for a remedy for pimples, and a jewelry ad. There's also promotion of some of Fleetway's digest-size romance titles for older readers.

Again another romance comic standard - the fashion feature. This time it's in the form of a sequential strip, however. I like the text at the end where the prices and sources of the clothes and other fashion items illustrated in the story are provided.

The centerfold of these Valentine comics is a poster of one of the heart throb musicians of the time. Here it's Billy J. Kramer of Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, a performer from Liverpool also managed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein and who achieved stardom singing Lennon/McCartney compositions.

This next 2-pager is also a serial feature, and has an unusual format. Lot's of suspect goings on!

The letters page and more ads:

The art in "What About Me?" is reminiscent of Italian or Spanish artists' work, and sure enough, it's signed Julio Vivas Garcia:

More pop stuff:

Next is a moral tale, "Dear Stevie", that seems to be a regular feature. Like some golden age American romance comics, it turns the problem page into a sequential art story.

This last three page story finishes on the back cover, and, while a little inconsistent in quality, contains some very nice panels, like the one in which Jean says, "I do know I love him but how can I marry someone who cares so little for the future?", while sitting in a fortune teller's tent:

All this for just a tanner! And that about wraps it up. I think it's time for me to scarper!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

British Girls' Comics: School Friend Annual 1959

School Friend was a British weekly girls' comic paper clearly aimed at an actual or aspiring middle and upper middle class audience. This one is the 1959 hardbound annual. The cover illustration says it all - would any school other than an upper crust private school be holding a regatta!!? It's all a jolly good show. The interior stories feature scenarios that working class British kids, certainly urban kids, would be unlikely to partake in - ballet, horse riding, skiing in the Alps. Nevertheless, there's a very interesting message pervading this and other girls' comics of the period - kind of a similarity with the world of Wonder Woman and the Amazons - powerful females able to assert themselves when they exist in a realm devoid of men, or in a dimension slightly to the side of that ruled by men. In these spaces between the activities of the patriarchs, females are able to reach their full potential.

There are quite a few sequential art stories in the book, and I've just chosen three for this post. Ironically, after what I've said above, the first, although it does have a female protagonist, Paddy, and antagonist, Claudette, also has a lot of male characters, including a main character, Terry. In fact Paddy is kind of a sidekick to Terry, but one who carries out a crucial role in apprehending the thief in this story.

In this next feature, The Jackson Family members are the heroes. With the parents absent (apparently deceased), it is headed by an older girl, with two younger siblings. They live out West, and are somehow self-sufficient in this rugged country. By including the utterance of "Gee", the author convinces us of their American identity, although much of their speech echoes British late 50s middle class parlance. Like the story above, another example of some accomplished artwork.

"Rival on the Alpine Snows" takes us to the resorts of the wealthier and nouveau riche echelons of mid-20th Century British society. In the early 60s it was skiing holidays that the up-and-coming aspired for.Then it became Spain, and nowadays the Brits seek an escape in Florida. Here again we see girls doing really adventurous and daring stuff competently and independent of any reliance upon males. I wonder what influence, if any, this kind of reading material had on those who would be in their twenties during the heyday of the Women's Movement, or whether it reflected the undercurrent of independence which was beginning to surface as the 1960s commenced.