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!
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.
Lasting 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.”
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.
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
No.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
No.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
• There’s more about Selecciones Ilustradas here on Fuga Historietas (part four in a series on Spanish comics, in Spanish)
(With thanks to Steve Holland and David Roach for identifying the cover artist to my market stall purchase!)