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Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone
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Author:  philcom55 [ Mon Mar 25, 2013 4:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

The Johnstone sisters were inseparable twins who lived and worked together right up to Janet's tragic death in 1979, after which Anne carried on by herself for another nineteen years. Although they were among the most sought-after children's illustrators in Britain during that time - having been personally chosen by Dodie Smith to illustrate the first edition of her children's classic 'The Hundred and One Dalmations' in 1958 - some people tend to dismiss them as followers of the cloyingly sentimental style popularized by Mabel Lucie Attwell. While this might be true of some of their work, however, it doesn't by any means apply to the vast majority of their output.

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For one thing few people are aware that they produced a great many comic strips for Robin during the late 1950s and early 1960s, regularly drawing a number of TV favourites like Andy Pandy and the Flowerpot Men, as well as adapting fairy stories such as 'The Water Babies' and 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin' (thereby putting the sisters in direct competition with artists like Hugh McNeill, Ron Embleton and Jesus Blasco who were simultaneously interpreting the same stories for AP's Playhour and Jack & Jill).

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To my mind, however, it was Purnell's launch of a new educational magazine in late 1962 that gave them a chance to show what they were really capable of. Although Finding Out was primarily intended as a competitor to the hugely-popular Look & Learn rather than a traditional comic, the publisher took one look at the Johnstones' work and immediately recognized that their unique storytelling skills would fit in perfectly. As a result they were quickly persuaded to leave Robin and begin work on a series of full-colour spreads based on mythological epics and folk tales from around the world. The noted author and academic Roger Lancelyn Green provided highly-readable texts for all of these and they were eventually collected together in five beautiful books that collectors now pay eye-watering sums to acquire.

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In order the series were 'Tales of the Greeks and Trojans', 'Myths from Many Lands', 'Folk Tales of the World', 'Sir Lancelot of the Lake' and 'Jason and the Golden Fleece' - and, while they were written and drawn for children, they didn't seem the slightest bit twee or sentimental! Instead, the sisters based each illustration on intensive research into the styles in which the stories were originally represented: for instance attic pottery for the Greek myths, or medieval tapestries and illuminated manuscripts for the Arthurian legends. As can be seen from the handful of examples shown above the results could be, in my opinion at least, quite spectacular!

- Phil Rushton

Author:  colcool007 [ Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

I have never seen their style before but I do love it for one thing. I am not trying to be insulting or derogatory about their work but their female characters do not seem to be "busting" out in the same way that a lot of male illustrators would have them do. And that is so nice to see.

Author:  Phoenix [ Tue Mar 26, 2013 11:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

colcool007 wrote:
their female characters do not seem to be "busting" out in the same way that a lot of male illustrators would have them do
Perhaps this is because it would be inappropriate in A Fairy Landscape, a piece painted for young children, and because all the other females presented are wearing body armour. :roll:

Author:  colcool007 [ Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

Phoenix wrote:
colcool007 wrote:
their female characters do not seem to be "busting" out in the same way that a lot of male illustrators would have them do
Perhaps this is because it would be inappropriate in A Fairy Landscape, a piece painted for young children, and because all the other females presented are wearing body armour. :roll:

And you have not seen some of the ladies in the comics that were aimed at the pre-teens? I can't honestly remember Cassandra Anderson ever being portrayed as less than womanly. Plus some of the females in Look-In were, shall we say, enhanced in their comic form...

Author:  Phoenix [ Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

But Colin, I was specifically commenting on the lack of 'busting' in the illustrations posted by Phil. If there is to be any meaningful comparison, it must be on a like-for-like basis. So, post some illustrations, by the artists you are referring to, that have appeared in any other comic at all from any era, where they are presenting, on the one hand, an idyllic scene containing 'busty' fairies, and, on the other, 'busty' adult females in upper-body armour. If you then wish to go further afield, please prove your point by posting some illustrations of the (busty) ladies in the comics that were aimed at the pre-teens, a couple from Look-In, as I have no copies to consult, and one or two of Cassandra Anderson, who I have never heard of before this evening.

Author:  colcool007 [ Thu Mar 28, 2013 1:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

Here's one of Cassandra aka Judge Anderson. I was looking for one of her earlier appearances as she was sassy/busty from day one. And to be honest, 2000AD did start as a pre-teen comic. While it did evolve, it did not really move its' core product from the pre-pubescent (8-11) to the growing old with you until the mid-80's.

As an adjunct to this, the other female character that I think of is Ebony Jones who appeared in Crunch, who while appearing athletic, did not have her talents "enhanced".

However, to my other point about Look-In of which you can find a great website with this link, it appears that the "busty" appearance was toned down.

I am not doing this to be prurient. It is just that I am constantly engaged by how the physical form is done differently by different artists. And to find any artist toning it down is fantastic, no matter what market it is aimed for.

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Author:  Phoenix [ Thu Mar 28, 2013 11:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

Phoenix wrote:
So, post some illustrations, by the artists you are referring to, that have appeared in any other comic at all from any era, where they are presenting, on the one hand, an idyllic scene containing 'busty' fairies, and, on the other, 'busty' adult females in upper-body armour
I think you missed this bit, Colin.

Author:  colcool007 [ Thu Mar 28, 2013 6:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

Phoenix wrote:
Phoenix wrote:
So, post some illustrations, by the artists you are referring to, that have appeared in any other comic at all from any era, where they are presenting, on the one hand, an idyllic scene containing 'busty' fairies, and, on the other, 'busty' adult females in upper-body armour
I think you missed this bit, Colin.

If I even attempted to post pictures like that, this thread will become 18 rated straight away! :D. While I take your point, I really do struggle to find any artist that downplays this aspect of female anatomy. Even when the comic attempts to not emphasise that aspect, it can end up drawing attention to it even more as shown in this link to the Misty website.

Author:  Phoenix [ Thu Mar 28, 2013 9:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

Downplaying is, of course, as dishonest as Upplaying. But we are essentially dealing with drawings of fictional characters, so we have to accept the artist's decision that the way he/she portrays an individual character's bust is not Upplaying for Upplaying's sake. Nobody can reasonably object to drawings of what we might call normal busts, but I think we should be wary when confronted by one like Judge Anderson's, because the gun and her aggressive attitude are such that her bust is more than a bust, it is a threatening object and it embodies her aggression. The artist's decision is to emphasise it. Upplaying? Downplaying? Who knows, but it's probably the former. In either case, she doesn't come across as attractive, at least as far as the general run of men understand that term. I will admit, however, that I'm not quite so sure about the Supercats in Spellbound. I still don't think though that any such emphasis is necessary, or appropriate, in titles for pre-teens. I've even checked my collection, if you can call it that, of nursery titles such as Pepper Street, Twinkle and Lucky Star. No busts, unless we include a slight suggestion on Mrs Parsons, and the vaguest hint on Baby Crockett's mother. In Bimbo, where some might reasonably be expected, zilch.

N.B. Anybody assuming that Colin and I are at daggers drawn must be disabused. We are good friends, but we do like a bit of an argument every so often, just to brighten our day.

Author:  Phoenix [ Fri Mar 29, 2013 12:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

I've just been tidying round because my granddaughter, Aurora, is popping up tomorrow from the smoke to spend Easter with me, bringing Andrew and Maria with her. I found this book Time For A Tale. It was published in 1975, so Andrew will have been four. He was already reading but he also loved to be read to. This was really for listening to I think. The illustrations in the book are shared between Elizabeth Woodhouse and Gerry Embleton. I'm posting the front cover, the rear cover, each of which forms half of the cover picture, and finally page three. Note the bound volume of DC Thomson papers on the left at the bottom of that page. Wizards and Magic. I must keep an eye open for that in secondhand bookshops.

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Author:  philcom55 [ Fri Mar 29, 2013 12:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

Phoenix wrote:
So, post some illustrations, by the artists you are referring to, that have appeared in any other comic at all from any era, where they are presenting, on the one hand, an idyllic scene containing 'busty' fairies, and, on the other, 'busty' adult females in upper-body armour


Two examples would be The Wizard King by Wally Wood And Jack Kirby's character Big Barda from his New Gods series. I think the main problem is that most of today's comic artists are working for a market which expects to see 'Marvel-style' anatomy everywhere - as delineated in Stan Lee & John Buscema's best-selling book 'How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way'.

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Having said that, however, it's worth pointing out that the Johnstone twins were more than capable of doing voluptuousness themselves - especially when it came to depicting evil Colchian sorceresses with a roving eye for lusty Greek seafarers!

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- Phil R.

Author:  Phoenix [ Fri Mar 29, 2013 1:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

Nice one, Phil! Mind you, Colin will be on your trail now that you've Upplayed the thread to his feared 18 rating. Only kidding. It's an inoffensive, happy scene. The baigneuses theme has attracted a number of fine painters across the years, including Picasso.

Author:  colcool007 [ Fri Mar 29, 2013 11:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

He's changed the rules! :-) First you say pre-teen. Now you say nursery. :lol: To be honest, we are just looking at the same thing but from slightly different perspectives.

So that we are all aware, this is exactly the sort of discussion that I believed we would have when I joined ComicsUK. So no appointments at dawn of either of us. 8) And thanks for the help Phil. :cheers:

And to check it wasn't just my male considerations, I have checked with two lady comic fans (not a big sample I'll grant you, but at least it is better than none) and they both struggle to remember any strip that would downplay that aspect of feminity. Most artists seem to portray women with waif-like waists and chests that would impress an opera director, much in the same way that the Marvel-style 'recommends'.

To mis-quote Kettles and Christine "If a girl was built like that in real-life, she would fall over."

Author:  Phoenix [ Fri Mar 29, 2013 1:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

colcool007 wrote:
He's changed the rules! :-) First you say pre-teen. Now you say nursery. :lol: To be honest, we are just looking at the same thing but from slightly different perspectives.
I didn't change the rules. I was always talking about readers between the ages of nine and twelve. As far as the nursery titles were concerned, I simply wandered whimsically in that direction to see whether their artists were also being dishonest with their Upplaying or Downplaying.
colcool007 wrote:
Most artists seem to portray women with waif-like waists and chests that would impress an opera director, much in the same way that the Marvel-style 'recommends'.
Now that's being dishonest.

Author:  AndyB [ Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone

The opposite was true for some UK artists - Davy Law, Dave Sutherland and Mal Judge all specialised in flat chests in the Beano, presumably among others, while Mike Lacey did the same for IPC.

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