“Jane” was a comic strip which originally appeared in The Daily Mirror as a means to boost morale during World War II.The main appeal of Jane centered on the titular character’s lack of clothing as a means of entertainment. The strip was so popular, Prime Minister Winston Churchill jokingly stated that Jane was “Britain’s secret weapon” during World War 2.A typical “Jane” comic would follow Jane Gay and her dachshund Fritz through many light-hearted adventures. In several strips Jane would have direct interaction with military personnel, and would proudly display her particular talents to all of them. However, despite Jane’s lack of dress, her honor always remained intact.

“Jane” was published on 5 December 1932 as “Jane’s Journal – The Diary of a Bright Young Thing” and was created by Norman Pett (1891-1960) who drew her until 1948. Originally “Jane” was a daily comic with no real story arc until the start of World War II, when she was given a continuous story plot. In addition to her comic strip, Pett also drew pin-ups of Jane in her underwear, and sometimes nude. Pett was succeeded by artist Mike Hubbard (1902-1976) who had started assisting Pett in 1946. During Hubbard’s tenure as artist, Jane made the transition from her wartime shenanigans to a soap opera. The series ended on 10 October 1959 with Jane sailing off with the man of her dreams.

The model behind the titular character “Jane” was originally Norman Pett’s wife. But in 1940, Pett met Christabel Leighton-Porter (1913-2000) while she was modeling for an art class in Birmingham. Leighton-Porter became quite recognizable as the new face (and body) of Jane, and was quite popular with her male audience.In addition to modeling for the comic strip, Christabel Leighton-Porter portrayed Jane onstage in several burlesque shows in the early 1940s. The story of Jane was also adapted to film in The Adventures of Jane (1949), which also starred Leighton-Porter. Christabel Leighton-Porter’s depiction of Jane was widely embraced by soldiers during the war, and Jane’s figure was painted on airplanes as well as jeeps.

Jane is considered by some to be one of the world’s first pin-up girls, and certainly one of the more popular ones. Her popularity transcended the times and, for a while, she continued to appear in different incarnations. For example, in the 1980s “Jane” made a return in a raunchier story, but the story failed to sell and it was canceled after only a few strips. A second “Jane” film titled Jane and the Lost City (1987) was also made, starring Kirsten Hughes (1963) in the titular role.

— Michael Baker

Further Reading

  • Pett, Norman, and Donald Freeman.The Misadventures of Jane. London: Titan Books, 2009.
  • Saunders, Andy. Jane – A Pin-Up at War. Yorkshire: Pen and Sword, 2004.