Artist profile: Nell Brinkley – Serial Girls

Artist profile: Nell Brinkley – Serial Girls

Every month, I profile an artist who inspires my own art,
in several segments.

 
Besides Golden Eyes, Nell Brinkley created several other characters who had adventures across the covers of American Weekly (hence the name “cover serial” for this type of story).

The main characters of these cover serials are obvious from their titles: “Kathleen and the Great Secret”, “Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages”, “The Adventures of Prudence Prim”, “Dimples’ Day Dreams”, “Romances of Gloriette”, “The Fortunes of Flossie”, “Sunny Sue”, and “Pretty Polly”. Other serials include “The Princess from Nowhere” and “Heroines of Today”.

Of these, “Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages” is the most lavish; Betty and Billy remember all their previous lives together with the help of a crystal ball. The story ran for twenty-two covers.

Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages No. 6, "The Bride of Baal" (American Weekly, Jan 22, 1922)
Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages No. 6, “The Bride of Baal” (American Weekly, Jan 22, 1922)

Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages No. 10, "The Druid Priestess" (American Weekly, Feb 26, 1922)
Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages No. 10, “The Druid Priestess” (American Weekly, Feb 26, 1922)

Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages No. 11, “Betty of the Arabian Nights” (American Weekly, Mar 5, 1922)
Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages No. 11, “Betty of the Arabian Nights” (American Weekly, Mar 5, 1922)

Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages No. 21, "Betty of Old Virginia" (American Weekly, May 21, 1922)
Betty and Billy and Their Love Through the Ages No. 21, “Betty of Old Virginia” (American Weekly, May 21, 1922)

What I find interesting about “Betty and Billy” is that, in several of their past lives, Betty and Billy come from different cultures, proving the strength of their love. In No. 21, she is the daughter of a wealthy British man and he is a Native American scouting for rebel American forces; after the Revolutionary War, they go out and “tame the wilderness”.

Brinkley did not write the text for all of these stories; “The Adventures of Prudence Prim”, for example, had rhyming verses by Carolyn Wells. This serial shows how Brinkley organized her comics – though she sometimes used rectangular panels, she more often drew a collage of images with numbered captions that explained the action.

The Adventures of Prudence Prim (American Weekly, Dec 20, 1925)
The Adventures of Prudence Prim (American Weekly, Dec 20, 1925)

“Kathleen and the Great Secret” is the one I want to read. Over eighteen installments, Kathleen rescues her boyfriend Jim from kidnappers who want his secret formula (possibly for atomic power) – exciting!

Kathleen and the Great Secret No. 18, "The Cup of Love" (American Weekly, Mar 13, 1921)
Kathleen and the Great Secret No. 18, “The Cup of Love” (American Weekly, Mar 13, 1921)

I would also be interested in “Romances of Gloriette”, in which the titular character, a French girl, adapts to American culture.

Join me next week for Brinkley’s glamorous girls, who have fun while dressed in the latest fashions.

Other parts in the Nell Brinkley artist profile series
Introduction
Girls who toil
Golden Eyes
Glamorous girls

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