When Rebellion began acquiring British comic archives and collating them into the Treasury of British Comics, there was always the hope that hidden gems would see the light of day. The Best of Sugar Jones, collected from the pages of 70s teen magazine Pink, is one of those gems, and it’s a real uncut diamond.
It’s not a complete stab in the dark from Rebellion – writer Pat Mills is one of the biggest names in British comics and the publisher has already mined other strips of his from titles like Jinty and Misty. Knowing and topical, Mills’ humorous scripts for Sugar Jones play fast and loose with 70s pop culture, twisting names just enough to keep them recognisable but out of trouble, with the likes of Animal Crackers, Dr When and Charley’s Cherubs!
But who actually is Sugar Jones? She seems to be “one of the trendiest, kindest stars on TV. But Susie, her assistant, knows that Sugar is mean… and forty!” Each episode is three pages of self-contained cultural satire. Sugar is the character we love to hate, who will do anything to use others as her stepping stones to greater things. What you see is what you get, as far as the strips presented here are concerned at least, but her character is slowly fleshed out towards the end. One highlight storyline showing a historical love affair with Charles Vaznamoor (Charles Aznavour, obviously!) hints there is more beneath the surface of Sugar Jones.
Artist Rafael Busóm Clúa was a Spanish illustrator who, like a number of his contemporaries, would work on the occasional UK girls’ comic strips in the 1970s. His style is exquisitely European, with flowing pen and ink lines creating expressive faces and figures, in energetic layouts. Rebellion’s reprographics department has done a fantastic job with the artwork here, considering it must have been scanned from magazines published nearly 50 years ago. Much of the gorgeous linework comes across as bold and crisp.
Perhaps the only frustration with the collection is a lack of biographical context. There’s nothing about Pink, and this collection only features 36 strips taken from 1974-1977. Is the first strip in here the first actually published? And how many episodes were there in total? However, we can glean from the dates given that Mills was still writing Sugar Jones’ exploits even after 2000AD had appeared – one day he’s working on Judge Dredd, the next Sugar Jones!
Overall, The Best of Sugar Jones features fabulous artwork and hilarious lampooning. It’s great to dip into and read in small doses, to savour over time. Here’s hoping there’s a follow-up, as this is fantastic stuff.