The first lady of Polish comic books. Author of the series about the adventures of Jonka, Jonek & Kleks as well as the series about Kubuś Piekielny. Born in 1950, passed away 7th September 2018.
The first lady of Polish comic books. Author of the series about the adventures of Jonka, Jonek & Kleks and creator of the series about Kubuś Piekielny.
Szarlota Pawel was the artistic alias of Eugenia Szarlota Pawel-Kroll. In 1974, the artist graduated from the Faculty of Graphic Arts at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. She took up making comic books by chance. One of her lecturers was looking for a person skilled in drawing comic books who could be hired at the editorial office of the periodical Świat Młodych. Pawel applied for the job even though she knew little about comic strips – she was, however, in need of money.
At the editorial office she encountered Henryk Jerzy Chmielewski, the author of comic albums with stories about Tytus, Romek and A’tomek. He showed her foreign comic books and shared with her his recipe for a successful album for younger audiences: two kids and a fantastic character that has special powers. Such is the origin of the legendary series about the adventures Jonka, Jonek and Kleks (Ink Stain), the blue monters that jumped out of an inkpot.
Jonka, Jonek and Kleks
At first the adventures of Jonka, Jonek and Kleks appeared in episodes in Świat Młodych (the early instalments were black and white, later the stories about the three characters were printed in colour). The comic strips were usually published in the periodical before they were altered and issued as albums. The author worked on the series from 1974 until 1990. The most well-known books about Jonka, Jonek and Kleks include Przygody Jonki, Jonka i Kleksa (The Adventures of Jonka, Jonek & Kleks -two parts), Smocze jajo (Dragon’s Egg), Kleks w krainie zbuntowanych luster (Kleks in the Land of the Rebel Mirrors), Złoto Alaski (The Gold of Alaska), Porwanie księżniczki (The Kidnapping of a Princess), W pogoni za czarnym Kleksem (Chasing Black Kleks), which referenced Henryk Sienkiewicz’s W pustyni i w puszczy (In Desert and Wilderness), and Pióro kontra flamaster (Fountain Pen versus Marker), arguably the best album of the series, which is still very much topical as it tells about the fight for clients that is waged by companies producing modern markers and old-fashioned fountain pens. The two last albums were Pawel’s favourites.
The artist also created a series about a character named Kubuś Piekielny (Hellish Kubuś). The stories about this hero are firmly set in the realities of a deteriorating communist Poland. The series revolves around two families that receive apartments in newly constructed buildings. Kubuś and Malwina are the main characters.
The idea behind the tales about Hellish Kubuś brings to mind the television series Alternatywy 4 (4 Alternative Street) created by Stanisław Bareja in the times of communist Poland, which showed the lives of the inhabitants of a newly built Warsaw housing project. It is worth noticing, however, that said comic book appeared shortly before the television show premiered.
The artist worked on the series about Kubuś Piekielny from 1977 until 1990. Szarlota Pawel’s albums were often reissued both in communist Poland and after the political shift of 1989. The artist also created a series of educational comic books for the Warsaw Rising Museum as well as the album Kodeks zdrowego życia (The Code of Healthy Living) for the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology and the comic book Zakupy z MAXem (Shopping with MAX) for the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (story by Alicja Pacewicz and Agnieszka Brzezińska).
Pawel also dealt with press illustrations and books. She prepared layouts for Świat Młodych and for other periodicals. In interviews, she admitted that she didn’t like to draw stories based on other people’s ideas, but preferred to develop her own. The aforementioned educational comic books and also Bunt krasnoludków (The Rebellion of the Dwarves) were exceptions to this generalisation. What Pawel liked to do was reinvent fairytales. This is most clearly exemplified by the album Z Kleksem na przełaj przez bajki i nutki (Across Fairytales and Notes with Kleks), which also appeared in the form of a calendar. At the 22nd International Festival of Comic Books and Games in Łódź an anthology was issued in homage to Szarlota Pawel. This publication contains various creators’ renditions of Pawel’s heroes. The author of the Kubuś Piekielny series is said to have many unpublished comic books about Kleks in her archive.
The artist was honoured with the Bronze Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis.
Author: Łukasz Chmielewski, December 2013, translated by: Marek Kępa; updated by AZ, Sept 2018