Sunday, December 31, 2017

British Girls' Romance Comics: Valentine 1st February 1969

While on a recent trip to the UK, I visited Dave's Comics ( in the Lanes area of Brighton. The store is in a great, bohemian shopping area in downtown Brighton, with cafes, restaurants, and all kinds of vendors.

The thing that impressed me most about Dave's was the wide selection of back issues available at reasonable, realistic prices, aimed at encouraging rather than putting off the enthusiast. On top of that, the staff were very friendly and helpful. The store is on two floors:

There were a number of comics I would have liked to have bought, but I had to keep the bulk and weight of my luggage down, so I just opted for one comic that would be very hard to find back here in the USA.

There was a copy of Valentine hanging up on a wall display just as we entered the store, and that caught my eye. The condition wasn't so great, but I think it was well worth the £3 that I paid for it. Valentine is notable for featuring artwork by Spanish artists of the Selecciones Illustradas agency, and for stories based on the titles of popular songs. The one that I bought at Dave's was from 1969, so towards the end of Valentine's run. See what you think:

This first story looks like it was drawn by Enrique or Jorge Badia Romero, with lots of wild hair, bushy eyelashes, and very moody. Those large panels on pages two and four look like they might have been finished with a watercolor wash.

Following the opening story, the comic goes into a text-heavy section with short news articles about various stars, a two-page text story with some nice illustrations, more news and articles, and a couple of ads:

The next story again looks like the Badia Romero brothers. I'd hazard a guess that this is Jorge. Quite a treat:

The rest of the comic continues with more of the same mixture, articles focused on pop stars, interspersed with comics and some ads. But while we've seen the best of the artwork, the rest is still not too shabby:

A sign that times were changing...?

Fashion, of course...

An interesting story about a female delinquent...

The horoscope...

...and the problem page!

With a very interesting sequential art adaptation of a reader's problem and Stevie's response...

And for old Diana Rigg fans...

For those of you interested in these Spanish artists of the 1950s and later, you will do no better than buying David Roach's book, Masters of Spanish Comic Book Art.

That's all for now, folks! Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

British Story Papers: Girls' Crystal #521 (October 13th, 1946)

British comic papers were commonplace from the 1890s onward, and often consisted of some pages sequential art stories, i.e. actual comics, and some pages of text stories with or without an illustration. Alongside the comic papers were also story papers, that were composed solely of text stories that also might have an accompanying illustration. An interesting example of this kind of publication, interesting because it evolved into an actual comic later in its history, was Girls' Crystal. According to the UK Comics Wiki, "Girls' Crystal (known as The Crystal for its first nine issues), was a weekly Amalgamated Press, later Fleetway, publication that debuted on 28 October 1935 as a story paper. On 21 March 1953 it was reconfigured as a comic, and it continued until 18 May 1963 when it was merged into School Friend." Note that examples of stories from the 1959 School Friend Annual are featured on Out Of This World, and give a good idea of what Girls' Crystal became like as a comic.

The example of a Girls' Crystal story paper below shows that the front and back cover were printed with blue and red ink, while all other pages were in black ink only. Some of the stories were complete within one issue of the paper, while others, like 'The Merrymakers at College' in this issue, were ongoing serials. The paper/comic must have been popular, as it was published for 28 years! Here is issue 521 from October 13th, 1946:

The stories in this issue seem to be of the same ilk as those to be found in mid-twentieth century British girls' comics and story papers - very upper middle class, private school girls doing exciting stuff like searching for treasure, going ice skating in Canada, etc. The 'Merrymakers at College' serial is rather confusing to me, however. It appears to be set in America (upstate New York?) but everyone speaks with a dash of spiffing upper-crust British vernacular. When this issue of Girls' Crystal was published, many working class British girls (like my mother, for example, who was 13 at that time) were still dealing with rationing and the the rubble that was left all over London from the Blitz. The scenarios and characters presented in these stories would have been, in their own way, as other-worldly as science fiction - a fantasy world with a lifestyle that some maybe would have aspired to but which in reality was almost completely out of reach for most. But then isn't that the way that fantasy is supposed to work? We can all dream...