Sunday, October 7, 2012

Teenage tear jerkers, beautifully drawn

"You draw like a comic artist." My friend Pete compared his drawing to mine. We were on holiday, and had taken sketchbooks and pencils. Not that we were sketching the gorgeous seascape and cliffs we could see from our holiday cottage; no, we were copying photos of faces from magazines to improve our portrait sketching.

I looked at my drawing. Yes, I agreed with him. Pete's drawing was all soft lines, light and shade... too much shade really, his faces looked they were drawn at night! But mine... mine harked back to my days copying art from the girls' comic magazines I used to read when I was 11 or 12, namely Tammy and Pink, with defined lines.

I used to draw my own comic strips, laboriously imitating the eyes and faces of my preferred artists from those comics. I didn't learn until recent years that my favourite artist was called Juliana Buch (or Juliana Buch Trabal to give her her full name) and that she resides in Spain.

Try as I might my illustrations have never achieved the fluid lines of Juliana Buch's. Have a look at this sample of her work from Pink Magazine in the mid 70s.

Wow! Isn't that stunning? Wasted on a kids' mag. I always loved the way she drew hair. I loved the patterns on her clothing, her use of light and shadows. Really, all the illustrators on these magazines were world class, but in my books she, along with Jose Casanovas, is tops.

These British girls' comics and mags were a big influence on my drawing development and the storylines of my own comic strips. Each publication was a slightly different genre.

Tammy, which I subscribed to for nearly four years, specialised in tear-jerkers. Orphaned girls living with nasty relatives. Girls who were threatened with the death of a beloved pet unless they did what evil father/mother/step-parent/aunt/uncle/friend demanded. Girls desperate for a career in ballet or equitation who had to overcome terrible odds. Girls going through hell at boarding school. And let's not forget the odd ghost story. Or poor Molly Mills, the 1920s servant who suffered under the eagle eye and ears-on-stalks of butler Pickering. 

Honestly, some of the story lines wouldn't be allowed today in a modern children's magazine! But I loved them and so did all my friends who read them. My mother read Tammy each week after I'd finished and liked Molly Mills best.

Pink was aimed at a slightly older audience, young teens rather than girls of 10 to 12, and the many adverts for tampons and pads were clear evidence of that. The stories were a bit different too, with many of the lead characters teenagers or young women working for a living. Boyfriends - and the getting of - played bigger roles in the plots than in Tammy. There were still tearjerkers (those evil relatives keeping Our Heroine a virtual prisoner or slave) however. Pink was more of a magazine than a comic, filled with gossip about pop stars (David! And another David!  Michael! Jermaine! Noddy! All you'd want to know about them!). It merged with Music Star in the mid 70s to nobody's surprise.

It's a terrible pity these comics no longer exist. Tammy lasted until the mid 80s and I don't know what happened to Pink. There apparently isn't a market to produce them any more as girls have grown out of that type of storytelling, but I do wonder: look at the popularity of Manga and graphic novels with teens. The cost of commissioning artwork for them would push the price of a weekly mag through the roof anyway if nothing else. 

Having discovered a marvellous repository of Pink on the interweb, I have spent several hours this weekend in utter delight, squawking over the artwork and also the pop stars and the music of the day that I grew up with. 

I hope a Tammy archive will be set up by someone at some point. I did a stupid thing when I was in my twenties: I threw away that four years' worth of Tammy, gave it to a girl up the street and heaven knows what she did with it. I didn't really want to let it go but needed the storage space. I regretted it at the time and have regretted it over the years when I think of the gorgeous artwork in some of those stories.

It's enough to make me want to draw a comic strip again. Just for the hell of it and in memory of those graphic stories I loved as a girl. If I'll find it here.

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