She was the world’s first pin-up girl and glamour model. She teased, thrilled and titillated a generation of fighting men, her likeness graced bombers, tanks and tattoos and at the height of her popularity she was enjoyed by over four million readers a day!

The new Jane anthology, the first in 20 years collects, together a year’s worth of classic cartoon strips as well as some extremely rare, full-color pin-up art not seen in print for over sixty years.


Jane started as a “flapper” character of sorts. Perpetually accompanied by a dachshund named Fritz (amateur Freudians, the time is now yours), she was a gag-a-day character until “Don” Freeman assumed the writing chores in 1938 and introduced continuity into the mix — not to mention plenty of puns, wordplay, and high-toned literary allusions. Artist Norman Pett delineated the “misadventures” of the leggy blonde beauty — many of which involved pratfalls that divested Jane of at least the top layer of her clothes — in a style hovering somewhere in the vicinity of Caniff territory, though with somewhat cruder figure drawing (especially noticeable in backgrounds and angled facial profiles, where Pett had a tendency to give everyone, including Jane, overly large noses).

World War II was the best thing ever to happen to the strip, giving Jane a less frivolous purpose in life and providing Pettliteral “strip.” Following the war, Pett left for other projects and the strip slowly foundered, finally expiring in the late 1950s. Several later attempts to revive JANE all tanked. However, Chrystabel with the perfect excuse to make the comic a Leighton-Porter, the primary model for Jane — she also appeared in movies and stage shows — remained popular with aging veterans until her death in 2000.


Unheard of in US newspapers, Jane actually appeared rather explicitly naked from time to time! This did not go unnoticed by England’s young tommies. In fact artist Norman Pett’s strip (and its real-life model, the wonderfully monickered Chrystabel Leighton-Porter) became symbols of what the boys were fighting for and adorned tanks, planes and other armory. No less than Winston Churchill called Jane “a national treasure.” There were movies and attempted revivals but JANE’s success seems forever tied to the War years.

In this collection of strips from 1944-1945, Jane goes “undercover” (that seems to be an inappropriate word, somehow) as a member of NAAFI (a service organization that provided refreshments and such to British troops) and ENSA (the British version of the USO) and encounters appropriately nasty Nazi agents and guerrilla fighters. The depictions of Jane’s foes aren’t exactly subtle; the “lingerie salesman” who’s actually a spy scoping out an RAF airfield is so transparently a bad guy that he should be wearing a SPY VS. SPY-style trenchcoat and dark glasses.

Far more interesting are the interactions between Jane and her there-and-back-again beau, Lieutenant Georgie Porgie — Freeman wasn’t that great with character names, either — and a shy NAAFI worker named Dinah, whom Jane convinces to shake loose of that metaphorical corset and ultimately snare a fiancee. As one might imagine, Jane picks up a few would-be suitors along the way, a French secret agent and a Russian officer among them, but stays loyal to Georgie (whom she would eventually marry at the end of the strip’s run). What makes Jane interesting to me is the fact that she is often used as the butt of physical humor — of the clothes-shedding variety and otherwise — yet Pett and Freeman obviously respect her as a clever, courageous woman who may be somewhat naive but is aware of her naivete on some level.



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: