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Moira Bertram: 22 interesting facts

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By Gwylym Owen

Moira Bertram (1929 – ?), was an Australian comic book artiste and illustrator.

Moira Bertram was born in Sydney in 1929, the daughter of a Sydney wool shipper. She studied portrait painting under the noted Australian painter Antonio Dattilo Rubbo (1870–1955) during which period she then began writing and drawing comic books for her own amusement.

“When I was at school…I made occurring my mind to draw and write them . I was always unquestionably successful.”

Still in her teens, Bertram’s first published con was the fantasy-styled adventure strip, Jo, which debuted in Sydney’s Daily Mirror newspaper upon 8 January 1945.

“[I have been drawing/writing comics] since I was fourteen – I told the publishers I was sixteen for danger signal they wouldn’t proclaim them.”

Jo was a beautiful raven-haried dancer who, with the aid of her magic cape, to put going on to her American fighter pilot boyfriend, Serge Shawn, to outwit gangsters and the Japanese. The strip quickly established Bertram’s reputation as a vivid and imaginative cartoonist, her piece of legislation characterised by her granite-jawed heroes and voluptuous, glamorous women.

According to Kevin Patrick, Bertram was “Unlike many of her male counterparts of the time,” and “from the outset grasped the energetic storytelling possibilities of the comic stamp album page. Huge panels, inventive compositions and dizzying perspectives dominate her page layouts (many of which were prepared by her sister, Kathleen), while her use of over-the-top unquestionable effects anticipates the comic record paintings of 1960s ‘Pop’ artists subsequently Roy Lichtenstein.”

According to Ingrid Unger, “Bertram developed a striking visual style that included a clever use of varying angles for dramatic and witty effect.” “Bertram’s stories are action-packed, without subconscious excessively violent, and often contain humour. They feature strong women and a variety of other female characters.”

After completion work upon the Daily Mirror, she signed a three-month contract subsequent to publisher Frank Johnson in June 1945, with Jo & Her Magic Cape subsequently appearing in a range of Frank Johnson Publications during 1945–46.

“Moira was a proud handsome person and the strength in her measure showed in her personality. She had never married and considering the comics’ scene finally died, she did portraits and magazine illustrations for a number of publishers.”

In 1949, Moira and her sister Kathleen (who did the lettering) turned to self-publishing their comic book Red Finnegan, which ran for four issues. In the 1950s she worked for companies, including Horwitz Press, Invincible Press (The Thrilling Adventures of Dan Eagle (c.1954), Army and romance comics,Bring Back My Love (c.1956), Army (c.1956),Campus Snobs (c.1959) and Rivals in Love(c.1959)) and Calvert Publishing (pulp books). Bertram additionally illustrated covers for ‘Carter Brown’ novels, and contributed stories to the ‘Silhouette Romance Library’ (Reigate Pty Ltd). She ended her comic folder career in the late 1950s.

Another of her comic baby book creations was Flameman, published by K.G. Murray Publishing Company in 1946, which documented the adventures of a super-powered ‘genie of the sun’.

John Ryan in the comic photograph album anthology, Panel by Panel describes Bertram’s play a part as “highly stylised and confident; her experiments subsequent to perspective tally up placing large shapes in the foreground to affix the visual substitute of a story, and placing the reader above the action.”

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