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Saturday, 24 October 2009

In Review: The Misadventures of Jane

Janepett.jpgThe Book: Charts some of the cartoon (mis)adventures of Britain's first and best-loved World War 2 pin-up - the scintillating, blue eyed, blonde-haired, clothes-phobic cartoon legend that is Lady Jane Gay. This collection features two full strips (no pun intended) - "N.A.A.F.I. Say Die!" and "Behind the Front", first published during the second world war, and some bonus features from the magazine Jane's Journal, including pin up art and an eight page full colour adventure.

The Review: When we interviewed collection editor David Leach last month it was clear then that The Misadventures of Jane - hopefully the first of a series if sales are good - was a labour of love. We're not disappointed: not only does this hardback collection offer two full stories, including Jane's first full 'strip' for her thousands of adoring fans who followed her adventures avidly in the Daily Mirror; the bonus features, which include a delightful, whimsical colour section and a fascinating contemporary feature n the strip's creation are a delight.

Created by Norman Pett for the Daily Mirror in 1932, using Christabel Leighton-Porter as the model (named Chrystabel or Crystabel Leighton-Porter on some sites, if you're the kind of person who will go off looking), the ever patriotic Jane wasted no time in joining up following Britain's entry into the war. It is two of these adventures that take up the bulk of the book, offering a fun, often fast-moving and comedic adventure as Jane battles spies and Nazis in her own inimitable, often chaotic but much-loved fashion. Modern political correctness may balk at the star's regular state of undress, sometimes caused by the most unlikliest of circumstance, but Jane herself more than proves she's a match for any of the men she's pitted against, be it at a sleepy army camp where the local handyman looks like Hitler (because he had his moustache before the dictator and is damned if he's shaving it off) or on the front line in more, shall we say, active service.

Jane is fun, joyous whimsy, and a fine example of British newspaper adventure strip - a creation that held its four-million strong audience for over 25 years, the original strip running until October 1959, and reportedly provoked outrage against the newspaper that published it when it tried to axe it.

This first volume stories is well chosen, and the quality of reproduction is much better than their previous appearance some years back, in Jane At War, although of course there are the usual, inevitable problems from greyscale drop out and muddying of line due to the age of the source material. Perhaps some collector of the original strips will step forward and remedy this minor issue - which does not diminish the enjoyment of the stories - for future volumes.

The inclusion of items from the rare and much sought-after Jane's Journal is also welcome, as this material has not been widely circulated in print for over 60 years. The quality of these pages is superb and a real bonus.

While the content of the book is of course what fans will buy it for, there are some wonderful touches to the finished product: remove the dust jacket, for example, and you'll find a gorgeous embossed Jane image on the deep red book cover, a hidden delight.

As I said, it's clear that a lot of work has gone into making this a memorable and well-presented collection and the result is a fine book that will appeal to many newspaper strip fans, setting a benchmark for the the presentation of such material for the future. Let's hope further collections follow.

More Reviews:

Lew Stringer

"Edited by David Leach, The Misadventures of Jane is another top quality book from Titan that is sure to appeal to aficionados of newspaper strips, glamour art and wartime memorabilia."

Steve Holland on Bear Alley

"Overall it's a nice selection. Even the strips that have appeared before are reproduced better (and on far superior paper) than in the Jane at War collection. An excellent feature from the pages of the Canadian magazine The Maple Leaf (18, 19 & 24 July 1945) offers a detailed background to the strip and an excellent introduction to Pett and his work."

Web Links

Let's Talk About Jane

An interview with collection editor David Leach

Lambiek: Comic Creator Norman Pett

Norman Pett at Work

Videos from Pathe, published on Bear Alley

Wikipedia: Jane

Go Comics: The Unforgettable Jane

The original GI Jane

A good short biography of Christabel Leighton-Porter

Daily Telegraph Obituary for Chrystabel Leighton-Porter: The Death of Jane, the model who helped win the war

New York Times Obituary

"When she reflected on the comic strip's popularity, Mrs. Leighton-Porter chose not to dwell on the risque. 'I think it was because Jane was a bit girl-next-doorish, a bit of England for the boys,' she said. 'Jane became a cult thing really, and I think wives and girlfriends were glad that their boys had something to get a kick out of.'

CNN Obituary

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