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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Purita Campos (1937-2019)

Artist and illustrator Purita Campos, best known for her work on the long-running weekly strip 'Patty's World', which was translated to great acclaim and success abroad, died on Tuesday, 19 November, at the age of 82. She has been described as probably the most popular creator in Spanish comics.

'Patty's World' debuted in Princess Tina on 31 July 1971, in colour from June 1972, and continued in the merged Pink and Tina for  another six and a half years. After a year in Mates and Pink, the strip was relaunched in Girl in 1981 and ran until April 1988.

Its star was Patty Lucas, a frank, honest, shy, sensitive freckle-faced teenager who engaged her audience through first person narrative, allowing them to see her inner thoughts and even speaking directly to them through captions  ("Dunno about you, but I always feel so shy and awkward when I have to face a lot of strangers..."). The outlook of the strip was more modern than the traditional British schoolgirl story. Patty faced many real-life situations, loved fashion, had problems with her school friends and family, especially older sister Carol and her array of ex-boyfriends.

The freedoms that were natural to a teenager in 1970s England were not always available to Spanish readers. Going out to parties and freely mixing with boys would have been unthinkable. "It was not all romance and kisses," Campos explained in a 2014 interview. "Things were also happening on the street. [Spanish readers] liked it a lot as it was a window to a different world than Franco's Spain. Girls went out at night without a second thought. Here they would not leave without their mother. [Patty]'s readers would have loved to live like her"

The stories and characters were allowed to evolve over time. Patty was around 13 when the strip began but grew older as time passed. When first introduced, Patty's mother was already widowed, her husband Bill (a newspaper journalist) having died in an accident, but she is coming to terms with her loss and becomes romantically involved with "uncle" Ted Parsons, a policeman whom she subsequently marries. Cathy and Ted have a daughter, Laurita.

Family problems were a staple of the strip and readers were introduced to Francis, Patty's grandmother, Eddy Lucas, her father's twin brother, the black sheep of the family, Cousin Maggie ("Maggie the Mouse") and adventurous aunt Marga. Sister Carol eventually marries—Kerry, a doctor—but her problems are never over.

The strip proved hugely popular and was translated widely, running in the Netherlands (as 'Peggy' in the best-selling Tina magazine, 1971-86), Italy, Greece, Australia, Canada, South Africa and Campos's native Spain, where it appeared as Esther y su mundo ['Esther and her World'] in Bruguera's Lily magazine (1974-81), helping that magazine sell up to 400,000 copies a week, and then in Esther (1981-86).

Although the strip remained popular with girls, sales of comics drifted inevitably downwards, and the teenage girls' market all but vanished by the early 1990s. Campos and her husband established an art gallery, whose success prompted her to set up a small art school in Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, which attracted 150 students, but was drawn back into comics when Esther was reprinted and, when they came to an end, new stories were demanded. These featured an older, more mature Esther of around 40, a divorced nurse with her own teenage daughter, in stories written by Carlos Portela. 

This revival brought attention to the lengthy career of Esther's artist, and Purita Campos's work became celebrated. She had won the 2004 Haxtur Award for Autora que Amamos [author we love] at the Saló Internacional del Còmic del Principat d'Astúries Gijón. In February 2010, theMinistry of Culture in Spain awarded Campos the 2009 Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes [Gold Medal for Merit in Fine Arts]. In 2013, she was awarded the  Gran Premi del Saló Internacional del Còmic de Barcelona. An exhibition of her work was organised in Barcelona in 2014 and further exhibitions have been held in Gijón, La Massana, La Coruña, Madrid, Granada, Ávila, and Huelva. In 2016, the Associació d’Autores de Còmic [Association of Comics' Creators] awarded her the Premi Honorific. 

Born in Barcelona, on 18 August 1937, Purificación Campos Sánchez—usually shortened to Purita or Pura Campos—studied at Barcelona's Escuela de la Llotj for seven years, having developed a love for fashion through the pages of Vogue and Harper's that her mother, a dressmaker, brought home. She first worked as an illustrator and costume designer for various fashion magazines. She also attended the Insitut del Theatre, training under Mario Cabré, the bullfighter and actor who was romantically linked to Ava Gardner. While she did not continue her interest in acting, the training was useful to her in developing movement in her comic strip figurework.

After meeting at a bar, Campos's brother mentioned to cartoonist Manuel Vázquez, a leading figure in Spanish comics, that his sister was an artist. Invited to visit Editorial Bruguera, Campos took her portfolio to the offices the next day but Vázquez was not there. Instead, she met Victor Mora who liked her work and asked her to begin drawing for their magazines immediately, beginning with covers for Can Can, including Dalia (1959), Sissi Novelas Graficas (1961), Blanca (1961), Can Can (1961) and Celia (1963). 

Her work included strips, amongst them "La Historia de May Dunning" ["The Story of May Dunning"] written by Alberto Cuevas and Alicia Romero, illustrations and fashion drawings. Although her work was met with praise, in this very male-dominated world it was tempered with comments such as how good she was "for a woman" ["¡Qué bien lo haces para ser mujer!"]. "Everything was dominated by men," she would later say. "The man was always right because he was a man and the woman had to shut up. And the only way I had to make myself respected was through my work."

She was on the point of giving up comics, unhappy with the endless stream of romantic stories based on sketchy scripts (including material for UK magazines Marty, Mirabelle, Boyfriend, Romeo etc.), when she began producing more substantial artwork for foreign markets through the Bruguera agency Creaciones Editoriales. She began painting covers for Dutch Tina magazine, irregularly from 1970, then every cover between 1973 and 1983.Creaciones director Rafael González asked her to draw samples for a weekly strip for the UK market, which she originally declined, later saying that "I did not feel prepared, but he insisted."

The samples led to her being teamed up with writer Philip Douglas to create 'Patty's World', the two-page strip which would keep her busy for the next two decades. She also occasionally contributed to other British girls' magazines Mirabelle, Valentine ("The Salon of Secrets", 1973) and Melanie ("Life with the Logan's", 1973-74).

In 1974, she also began drawing the title character for Tina magazine in the Netherlands, scripted by Andries Brandt, which she continued until 2007 when it was taken over by Edmond. In 1978 she co-created another teenage character, Gina, with writer Frank Elliot, the pseudonym of Francisco Ortega, whom she later married. Gina was similar in nature to Patty, showing her daily life with family,  friends and youthful first loves, the stories seeing her grow from teenager to womanhood. Gina was collected in 2005.

 In 1989, they created "Dulce Carolina" for TBO magazine (Ediciones B). Around that time, she also worked on a comic strip adaptation of Johnanna Spiry's Heidi.

The New Adventures of Esther revived her comic-drawing career and the first volume, published in 2006, sold 20,000 copies. Collections of the original strip began appearing from Ediciones Glénat in 2007.

In 2011, the City Council of Getafe honored Campos by dedicating a street in the municipality to her.

2 comments:

  1. A brilliant talent and illustrious career that should be celebrated by all.

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  2. It's funny how all these Spanish artists all drew the same girls' faces. Some say it came from Pepe Gonzalez's way of drawing girls, but Longaron, who had been around for a while before Pepe, also drew those faces.

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