60s Comics: A Brief History by Max Galli – PART 2
As the mid-Sixties gave space to new experiments in graphic arts, so comics evolved into a new age. Italian architect Guido Crepax – already famous for illustrating jazz records covers in the late 50s, published his carachter Valentina on the new comic magazine Linus in 1965. Originally named ‘Neutron’, starring a man with extraordinary psycho-cinetic powers hidden in the features of American art critic Philip Rembrandt, Valentina was intended to be only Neutron’s girlfriend, but things turned out to be a bit different. The girl, a professional fashion photographer with Louise Brooks-like haircut, was potentially a sexy character, so Crepax set about making Valentina sexier and sexier, also introducing new elements in the very way to draw comix – a new film-like cut of frames, close to Michelangelo Antonioni’s sense of visuals, ‘fetish’ details, the confusion between reality and dream. Every single page of Valentina was a piece of art, as the ‘comic’ orthodoxy was transcended. At the end of 1967, Valentina completely replaced Neutron as the main character of the story. A curiosity: Valentina is also remembered for being one of the very first graphic characters to get older as time passes.
If italians did their best to join in the cultural revolution, the French didn’t sleep at all. Belgian-born illustrator Guy Peellaert created Jodelle in 1966, a swingin’ chick with more than a resemblance to pop singer Sylvie Vartan. Set in a rather funny and surrealistic ancient Rome, Jodelle lives together with his boyfriend, a bizarre young guy studying to be a druid (?!?), who gets angry quite often and occasionally sports a pair of long and sharp vampire-like teeth. Published by Eric Losfeld, the king of French sexy comics, Jodelle is widely recognised as the first pop-art comic.
In 1967 Peellaert invented another pop-art comic strip, Pravda ‘la survireuse’ (one who lives day-by-day). If Jodelle was all about fun and a bit of optimism, Pravda is a cynical, disillusioned girl with an anarchic attitude. She hates almost everything and everyone, and she’s never satisfied with anything. This time, the model for Peellaert’s artwork is Francoise Hardy, and the story of Pravda is not even a story, but a mix of various episodes.
In the UK, Jenny Butterworth & Pat Tourret created Tiffany Jones around 1965. Tiffany Jones comes to London from ‘up north’, and sets up a new life at her cousin’s flat – evolving from a plain provincial chick to a fashion model, having a go to all those cool jobs that epitomised Sixties youth. Here, our girl looks like a bit of a do-gooder, although representing (in part) the typical cultural zeitgeist of the era.
Lovely Tiffany is basically a good girl who only wants to do the best she can in life, but without being particularly ambitious or original. All the other characters are just there to frame to Tiffany’s adventures: neither completely square, nor completely hip, just somewhat in the middle.
That said, let’s talk about the artwork – The drawings are captivating and much passion for the ‘Swingin’ London’ is included in every single frame. I should say that the beauty of this comic strip resides in its drawings and (pop) graphics.
In the US, the nascent counterculture was generating new horizons in comic design. Robert Crumb created Fritz the Cat in 1964, named after his own cat Fred. Fritz had nothing to do with the usual Disney or Warner Bros animal characters. He had all the human attitudes you can imagine, as he liked to smoke (both cigarettes and pot), drink, and have sex with his fox-like girlfriend and many other female characters. Fritz continued throughout the Sixties and lasted till 1972, when director and cartoon animator Ralph Bakshi made a film out of it. Robert Crumb – it must be said, with very rare coherence – didn’t like his underground cat going mass-media, so answered back with a bitter end, killing Fritz in an almost forgotten episode, stabbed to death with an ice stiletto by his last, ostrich-like, girlfriend.
Crumb also created another funny character, Mr Natural, a sort of tricky guru who liked to annoy a certain ordinary guy called Foont.
(continued in Part 3)
Originally posted 2011-05-25 13:38:48. Republished by Blog Post Promoter