Down the Rabbit Hole: Who were the Creators behind Pop Pic Library?

Pop Pic Library No.11

The British comics scene has always been quick to capitalise on popular culture trends, and this is clearly in evidence with the 1960s romance title Pop Pic Library.

I came across a copy of No. 11 (“Whatcha Gonna Do About It”) on a market stall at the weekend and bought it purely for the striking cover by Jose Maria Miralles. Curiosity piqued by this full length tale of private detective Janice (and uncle) engaged in an investigation into a series of robberies packed with unlikely coincidences, I delved into the internet to find out more about the comic and who worked on it – with some success although as usual, more information always welcomed!

Pop Pic Library No.1

Launched in 1965, this 68 page black and white digest title, was published by London-based Wells Gardner, Darton & Co, a company founded by the Darton family best known for publishing childrens literature.

Pop Pic Library used the names of chart-topping singles, largely by British bands, for the titles of each issue, starting with “The Last Time” by The Rolling Stones, released in February 1965. Various commentators have used this date as the basis for dating the two edition a month releases cited in the title’s indicia.

Despite featuring a pop chart song as the story hook, the romance strips inside don’t actually feature the bands whose song inspired the story, though they are mainly set in the world of pop, or around it. The only reference to the bands is, in fact, a back page photograph.

This comes as no surprise. The music industry is fiercely protective of copyright, as I discovered while editing ROK Comics “audio edition” of the Look-In published The Beatles Story, created by Angus Allan and Arthur Ranson (released in a print collection by Rebellion this month). Even that “bio comic” is careful to restrict quoting Beatles lyrics to a minimum rather than risk a cease and desist. Utilising the bands themselves in a comic like this would have been well nigh impossible, despite the lack of organisation when it came to a lot of licensing back in the 1960s.

Ten Top 9Lasting 72 issues, Pop Pic Library was distributed in the UK, Australasia, South Africa, Rhodesia, Zambia and Malawi, and had a limited reprint in Norway under the name “Ten Top”, published by Williams Forlag.

Neither indicia nor cover offer dates of publication, and there are very few credits for cover artists and none at all for the creators of the strips themselves. Only the occasional cover signature helps in identification.

Comics historian David Roach, who surely should be commissioned as soon as possible to write a definitive guide to classic British girls comics, has identified the brilliant Ángel Badia Camps (who also drew strips for Valentine, Roxy and Serenade) as another artist on the book, and Daniel Garcia as one of the interior artists on the earlier issues, one of several creators who gained work in the UK through the Spanish agency Selecciones Ilustradas.

In a series of articles for the “Today’s Inspiration” blog, David outlines how, like many other Spanish artists, Camps was hired to fulfil a huge demand for comic artists working on disparate British titles from the 1950s onwards.

“To get an idea of the sheer numbers involved I should mention that I know of at least 75 artists from Argentina, 150 from Italy and over 370 from Spain who have worked at some time in British comics.,” David writes, noting that it soon became apparent that different nationalities were particularly adept at certain genres.

“All were put to work on the numerous war comics which flooded the newsstands, The Argentinians ( such as Alberto Breccia and Arturo Del Castillo ) were masters of the Western and the Spanish came to dominate the enormous number of romance titles.”

Agatha Christie Book cover by Ángel Badia Camps
Book cover by Ángel Badia Camps

Camps is, perhaps, far better known for his book cover art, but as that market contracted in the 1980s and ’90s he moved into fine art and academia, setting up his own art school with fellow comic book/ paperback artist Rafael Cortiella.

Jose Maria Miralles drew many romance titles for the UK market in the 1960s, working on titles such as Valentine, Marilyn and Roxy. However, he became more interested in colour illustration (which was and remains better paid) and started to alternate it with his comics.

There are some terrific examples of his work here on the Deskartes Spanish blog and he is of course profiled in the invaluable Masters Of Spanish Comic Book Art by David Roach.

As to the writers, there’s no information whatsoever on them, but an article on the series by Graham Tomlinson on the superb Pop Music Library site suggests that at least one of them was well versed in classic literature, using Greek classicist Aristophanes play Lysistrata as inspiration for Issue 20’s tale, “As Tears Go By”.

What is striking is that from the one issue I’ve found and Graham’s feature on the series, while the plots of Pop Pic Library are pretty ludicrous. the female leads are from the the shrinking violets so often (and wrongly) ascribed to girls comics. They are, rather, talented and accomplished characters in their own right, albeit often shoe horned into traditional “happy endings” with a boy on their arm by the end of the story.

My curiosity piqued by finding this comic and being struck by the cover, thanks to the GCD comics database site and a feature by Alan Dein on the After You’ve Gone blog, here’s a checklist to this pop pickers’ curiosity.

Pop Pic Library – a checklist

No.1 – The Last Time – The Rolling Stones

No.2 – A World of Our Own – The Seekers

No.3 – I’m Alive – The Hollies

No.4 – Set Me Free – The Kinks – cover by Jose Maria Miralles

No.5 – Heart Full of Soul – The Yardbirds

No.6 – The One in the Middle – Manfred Mann

No.7 – We’ve Got to Get out of this Place – The Animals

No.8 – You’ve Got your Troubles – The Fortunes

Pop Pic Library No.9No.9 – I’m Down – The Beatles

No.10 – Like We Used To Be – Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames

No.11 – Whatcha Gonna Do About It – The Small Faces – cover by Jose Maria Miralles

No.12 – Hark – Unit 4 Plus 2

No.13 – Yesterday Man – Chris Andrews

No.14 – Get Off Of My Cloud – Rolling Stones

No.15 – We Can Work it Out – The Beatles

No.16 – Don’t Bring me Your Heartaches – Paul & Barry Ryan

No.17 – A Must to Avoid – Herman’s Hermits

No.18 – Keep on Running – Spencer Davis Group

No.19 – You Were On My Mind – Crispian St. Peters

No.20 – As Tears Go By – The Rolling Stones

No.23 – I Can’t Let Go – The Hollies

No.25 – I Put a Spell on You – Alan Price Set

No.26 – Pretty Flamingo – Manfred Mann

No.27 – Not Responsible – Tom Jones

Pop Pic Library No.28No.28 – Sorrow – The Merseys

No.30 – Paperback Writer – The Beatles

No.32 – Out of Time – Chris Farlowe

No.33 – All or Nothing – The Small Faces

No.35 – I’m a Boy – The Who

No.36 – Bend It! – Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich

No.38 – I Can’t Control Myself – The Troggs

No.39 – Gimme Some Lovin’ – The Spencer Davis Group

No.41 – In the Country – Cliff Richard

No.43 – Got To Get You Into My Life – Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers

No.45 – On a Carousel – The Hollies

No.46 – Penny Lane – The Beatles

No.50 – Dedicated to the One I Love – The Mama’s and the Papa’s

No.52 – Silence is Golden – The Tremeloes

No.54 – Okay! – Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch

No.56 – All You Need is Love – The Beatles

No.59 – Hole in My Shoe – Traffic

No.60 – Flowers in the Rain – The Move

No.62 – I Can See for Miles – The Who

No.63 – Hello, Goodbye – The Beatles

No.64 – Let the Heartaches Begin – Long John Baldry

No 66 – Daydream Believer – The Monkees

No.69 – As You Are – The Tremeloes

No.72 – Congratulations – Cliff Richard

Web Links

Pop Pic Library article by Graham Tomlinson on the superb Pop Music Library site

Pop Pic Library – GCD Checklist

Ten Top – GCD Checklist

Some of the artists who worked for Selecciones Ilustradas.  Via Juan Royo
Some of the artists who worked for Selecciones Ilustradas. Via Juan Royo

Lambiek: Ángel Badia Camps Profile | Today’s Inspiration – articles by David Roach

Lambiek: Josep Maria Miralles

There’s more about Selecciones Ilustradas here on Fuga Historietas (part four in a series on Spanish comics, in Spanish)

Juan Royo documents and reports n the Spanish comics scene – modern and historical on his blog (in Spanish)

(With thanks to Steve Holland and David Roach for identifying the cover artist to my market stall purchase!)

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.