Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?
Romeo Brown first appeared in 1954 in London's Daily Mirror, home of the grandmother of "girlie" strips, Norman Pett's Jane.
Romeo Brown was a clueless private detective who fancied himself
irresistible. His mysteries always found him surrounded by beautiful
girls wearing clothes that never stayed on. The drawings were by Alfred
Mazure, a Dutch-born illustrator with a long and interesting career both
at home and in England. (I'll talk about his background in my next
post.) Mazure drew the strip through 1957.
is poorly-documented and its history is obscure. Many online sources
credit writer Peter O'Donnell as co-creator with Mazure. This is clearly an error: O'Donnell began writing Romeo in 1956. No one seems to know
from whom he took over. In an interview O'Donnell merely said he was
offered the job because "the editor was dissatisfied." Given that Mazure
had written his own scripts in the past, might he have been the
original Romeo writer? Maybe, but several sources state that Mazure,
after working with O'Donnell for a year, left Romeo to launch "his own
creation," Carmen & Co., at a rival newspaper. If he'd been the original Romeo Brown
author, wouldn't Romeo count as his "own creation"? At any rate,
following Mazure's departure O'Donnell continued writing and Jim
Holdaway took over the art chores. We all know where those two wound up.
(One source said Holdaway had been Mazure's assistant, but I haven't
found confirmation of this.)
In a 2002 online interview,
O'Donnell described the strip thus: "Romeo Brown was a comic private
detective, and my brief was that every story was to revolve around a
girl or girls, and the more clothes I could safely get off them the
The Holdaway-O'Donnell Romeo Brown has
gained a small international following, though reprints are few. It's
too bad that Mazure's Romeo has suffered as a result. While Mazure's
free, brushy style and Holdaway's sharp-focused penwork were worlds
apart, both men were excellent cartoonists and both did a fine job on Romeo Brown.
the greatest difference between the two artists' approaches was in
posing. Holdaway developed a broad slapstick approach, while Mazure's
work was always tempered by fashion-art elegance. As we see in the
present story, languid, long-legged realistic women co-exist with
broadly-cartooned men. Romeo himself has a cucumber head and shoebutton
eyes, while his adversaries' husbands--one a wizened alcoholic, the
other a bloated bureaucrat--are so incongruous that the reader wonders
what the girls see in them. However there's no question what their
husbands see in them.
As a fan of both men's work,
I'm reluctant to label one the "better" artist. All the same, I'd like
to suggest that though Holdaway brought a more consistent, more exciting
look to the strip, he never managed to best his predecessor in one
area: drawing pretty women. Don't misunderstand me. Holdaway's beauties
had great bodies. Their faces were cute. But Mazure could draw a face
that was knock-down gorgeous. He proves it in this episode, especially
with Pussy, the more free-wheeling of the larcenous ladies. Mazure knew
he had a good thing going, and provided us a wealth of ravishing
closeups. These faces showcase the best features of Maz' bold, free
The following story begins with strip N208. British strips I've seen with letter/number identifiers use the letter to identify which story it is (A for the first story, B for the second, etc.) and the number to indicate where the strip falls within the story (so A1 is first story, first daily and E65 is fifth story, 65th daily). That doesn't seem to be the system here "N" may mean the 14th story, but "208" must mean something else. Probably not the cumulative number of strips--that would yield an average of only 15 strips per story!
I have never found Mazure's work in English. This story came from an Italian fanzine called Wow.
I translated their script back into English. But it's possible that the Italians shot their strips from a French reprint. In that
case my approximate script is three generations removed from the original
dialogue. But we're here for the pictures anyway, right?