When did you last see your tutor?
A couple of different things recently brought this book to mind, apart from reading that great interview with Posy Simmonds this week. Firstly, Bryan Talbot in what was very much his own version of the history of 'comics' recently in the Guardian, credited himself along with Raymond Briggs with introducing the 'graphic novel' to Britain in 1982. Even allowing for the existence of such a thing, that would of course be complete bollocks. Posy's True Love came out in 1981. I'm not putting up a different candidate for primacy, because you know I have no time for that race-to-the-patents-office mentality, but we can't let faulty facts end up in Wikipedia (Hell, it's already been in the Weekend Australian, and THEY gave him a four-year start).
The other thing that reminded me of this book was my argument over the last few days about the need to step outside of comicbook culture to view our subject ('that thing of ours'). You see, Posy is a good example of an artist who has worked entirely outside of that all her life (the reason indeed perhaps why she might be overlooked by Mr T, whose artistic ideas exist entirely within it). Her cartooning career started in 1969 (she'd have been twenty four) when she drew a regular panel cartoon titled Bear in the British newspaper The Sun. I can't find a single example of it online, but I think I just scored a copy of the 1969 book of the series (there was a second in 1975). More on that when it arrives. She went on to illustrate for the Guardian and started her series The Silent Three of St. Botolph's there in 1979. Later she did some great childrens books; her Lulu and The Flying Babies was a favourite around this house, and also the Famous Fred animated film, based on her book Fred, with Lenny Henry doing the voice. I had a lady friend in 1981, just before the book under discussion appeared, who followed Posy in the Guardian (as she checked in on Feiffer in the Observer Sunday magazine and Claire Bretecher in the Times Sunday magazine whenever those other papers fell within reach) who had no idea what the hell I was talking about when I showed her the cartoon novel I was working upon. She saw no possible connect between what Posy was doing and what I intended. I mention this to show how far outside of comic book culture Posy is and was. I thought my own thing (The King Canute Crowd) had no whiff of it whatsoever and I was anxious that it shouldn't. But there you go.
True Love, as I understand, was drawn specially as a story-book, as opposed to using material from the Guardian as her other two or three books around the time did, though it still used characters from the Silent Three. You can see the density of the work in the spread above, and also that it was printed in black, with one colour. The sequence you can glimpse that is predominantly pink is taking place in the memory of one of the characters.
The story is a satirical little piece about office girl Janice Brady who thinks the boss has an eye for her. Posy could, and still can, compose kinetic sequences as well as anybody in the strip biz.
I like the way she references other idioms, such as the boldly designed graphics of the soap opera strips. Sometimes the pseudo-heroine in these sequences looks deliberately badly drawn, somewhat crosseyed under a weight of mascara, as though Posy wants us to know that she is alluding to the idiom in its most ordinary generalisations rather than to the best it can offer;
Here she evokes a pastoral mood with delicate traceries of flexible pen:
A couple of pages where we lose sight of the characters:
And a pastiche of the painting by William Yeames, 'When did you last see your Father,' which was a subject of much hilarity with a certain generation in Britain, so that I was amused to find, quite late in the day, that my late and much missed Auntie Ella thought the original painting was intended as a joke.
My records show the book was published in hardback in Oct 1981, soft cover in '83 and has been gone since then. Worth noting is Posy's date on the pastiche, '1979', which appears quite late in the piece, so that we might assume she started it in '78 and it may even have preceded the start of the Silent Three in the Guardian. In other words, was she thinking of a book-length story before the self-contained, once-a -week version? Somebody should ask her about that one day.
In a better world, you'd read my affectionate recollection and immediately go out and buy a copy.