“She’s typical teenage. She’s 16, and has crushes and adores movie stars, and has great ambitions and builds everything up.” She’s enthusiastic and imaginative,” Doris Slater’s description of “Penny” given to Radio columnist Frank Chamberlain, Globe & Mail, 4 Nov. 1944.
“Penny’s Diary” began as a radio series on CFRB (1941-1945) written by Joudry, who later became a well established playwright for radio, television and stage. From the credits, it would appear that Joudry and Slater partnered to use the radio serial to create a cartoon series of the same name except that in a reply to my query, Joudry did not want to talk about it and suggested she had little involvement in the project. A thesis by Aviva Ravel says that Slater was inspired by Joudry’s radio series and that a copy of part of Slater’s adaption is to be found in Joudry’s collection. Therefore, was Slater adapting the radio scripts for a cartoon presentation or was the radio series simply an inspiration for Slater who wrote her own stories?
If the dates in the cartoon diary are any indication, this series began in Active Comics about December 1944. “Pat the Air Cadet ended in the Grand Slam Comics issue November 1944 which appears to confirm December as the month the “Penny” series began in Active. It seems most likely that Slater stopped working for Anglo-American and unable to use any of her Anglo-American characters, cast around for a new character, found it in Joudry’s “Penny” and with Joudry’s permission or help adapted it to the cartoon format and submitted it to Bell Features who began publishing it in Active Comics 19. However, Bell Features was itself on the ropes and “Penny’s Diary” ended with Active Comics 26. Active Comics 27 or 28, were the last to use Canadian content. Active Comics 29 was filled with American imports.
The series revolves around a young woman probably a teenager, her close friend Jeannie and the group she hangs out with. The stories are humorous and episodic, that is there is no real continuity from one story to the next. They usually involve the trials and tribulations of relationships with young men. The stories tend to be prosaic but the transformation in Slater’s illustration work is astounding. It is hard to believe that “Martin Blake The Animal King” and “Penny’s Diary” were drawn by the same person. In “Penny’s Diary” Slater’s illustrations simply soar. The increased experience in the art form does not adequately explain the transformation. Rather it would appear, Anglo-American did not give her the scope for a self expression that matched her abilities. In contrast, it seems Adrian Dingle the Art Director of Bell Features, who had an extensive “fine art” background did give Slater the freedom and perhaps the encouragement she needed to put on the page what she was capable of achieving. “Penny’s Diary” without a doubt is Slater’s finest work and is among the best visuals to come out of the war time cartoon industry.
Another interesting innovation, in “Penny’s Diary” is the cross media advertising where we see the cartoon story advertising the radio series. It would be interesting to know if the radio series advertised the cartoons story.
PERIODICAL GRAPHIC ANTHOLOGY:
Front :Illus., Doris Slater. Active Comics, 21, no date. Bell Features Co. Black & white.
|“Penny’s Diary.” Adapted from Pat Joudry’s radio series by Doris Slater. Active Comics, no date. Bell Features & Publishing Co. Black & white.|
Illus., Doris Slater. Active Comics, 21. Front cover.
Active Comics, 20:28
Active Comics, 21: 52
Active Comics, 24:25