His Friend and Companion, the Lovely Georgie Gilmour

It's been a while sooo... let's talk about the woman in our hero's life... Georgie Gilmour.

Georgie is a young widow living alone in a crappy little flat and struggling to make ends meet with very little money. Originally from a lower-middle class family she fell on hard times and had to sell her house when her husband was killed in the war. Now she survives on her husband's war pension and makes a living illustrating children's books... later on in the comics she will enjoy modest success with a newspaper strip she creates about a little bear called Sidney.

I think because of the turn her life has taken when we first meet her she is quite a sad figure... melancholy and lonely. But after a while she starts to come out of her shell and it turns out she actually has quite a fun and adventurous personality. She is down-to-earth and smart and mischievous and cheeky and sometimes a little bit of a tomboy.

Georgie and her husband were not on good terms when he left for the war... their relationship had been strained for some time because of debt and she said some things she regrets... she was anxious to work it out with him but he never made it home.

Since she lost her husband she has trouble sleeping at night and often goes to a little all-night cafe near where she lives to sit and sketch... this is where she meets our hero. As i mentioned in a previous post Rupert is also unable to sleep since the war and has taken to wandering the streets at night incognito. Georgie likes to watch the people around her in the cafe for inspiration for her sketchbook so she sees through the working class clothes and accent and realises there is more to him than he wants people to see. Over time the two begin talking and confiding in each other and become close friends... two lost souls connecting.

But their relationship is complicated... both of them are damaged goods since the war... Rupert is a mess of nerves and emotions and Georgie is still grieving for her husband and is feeling guilty. So there is a strong attraction and connection there but also a sense that it is wrong and shouldn't be acted on... it all feels a bit illicit really.

Georgie was a tough nut to crack frankly.

I must confess that i have read almost none of the Shadow pulp stories... but i love the 1930s radio show and i listen to that over and over. One of the things i like about the show is the relationship between Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane. Margo isn't some clueless damsel in distress who needs to be rescued every week... she is capable and intelligent and witty. Cranston treats her as an equal... a companion and confidante. And the scripts dance around this with subtle innuendo and flirting but you just know the two of them are at it like rabbits secretly.

Similarly my favourite comicbook couple is Wesley Dodds and Dian Belmont from Sandman Mystery Theatre. I love that they have a mature and adult relationship that has ups and downs and is comlicated and interesting. It feels real. Dian is one of the most well observed and believable female characters in comics... over the course of the series you watch her change and grow as a person and discover who she is and what she wants out of life... which in comics is a rare and endearing thing. And of course we are left in no doubt that these two definately are at it like rabbits.

So i had those characters and relationships in mind when thinking about Georgie.

I said before that i wanted the Black Sheep to explore the seedy underbelly of interbellum Britain... i wanted to do something different than the usual posh-person-investigates-cosy-drawing-room-murder-mystery story which is all we ever seem to see in this era... i wanted to take a look people who didn't live in lovely country estates or twee little villages and who committed crimes that were horrible and grubby.

But because of the Batman-meets-Bertie-Wooster premise the Black Sheep had to be one of those posh persons... so i had to find some of way of drawing him into this other world that he would never be exposed to normally. I thought the easiest thing to do was make Georgie working class.

My original idea was that she should be a nurse. In fact she would have been a nurse in the psychiatric hospital where Rupert is sent to recuperate after the war... she would have formed a connection with him and continued to see him in secret... in the beginning just as someone who understood what he had been through and wanted to support him as he struggled to adjust to civilian life again... and then later as conspirators and lovers.

I liked that this idea made their relationship seem a bit more illicit and interesting.

But the more i looked into it in practical terms nursing just didn't work. Altho not unheard of it was rare in the 1920s for working class women to become nurses. Also most psychiatric hospitals were located way out in the country and for the sake of the stories Georgie really needed to live in the city. More to the point tho nurses work ridiculous hours so she just wouldn't have the time for any amateur crimefighting with some guy in a funny costume.

So i needed a bit of a rethink... it seemed like my options were limited badly.

I mean these stories are set in the 1920s and despite all the freaks and monkeys and death rays you have to ground them in some semblance of realism or it all becomes a bit too silly. In the 1920s the reality was that women did not have a lot of opportunities open to them in terms of careers... mostly they were expected to stay at home and be mothers and housewives... and what jobs they could get tended to keep them busy all day.

On the other hand i didn't want to go too far in the other direction and make her too independent and capable because that would seem unrealistic and silly.

I thought about resorting to the plucky investigative reporter trope but it seemed a little too cliche even for me... Lois Lane, Vicky Vale, Linda Park, Dale Arden, April O'Neil, Polly Perkins... it's been done to death... and in real life in the 1920s female reporters were very rare anyway.

I even thought about making her Rupert's maid or cook or something but i didn't want her to seem subservient or beholden to him... she had to be able to stand on her own two feet and make her own way.

And while i was thinking about all this i also had a notion that she should be active in one or two charities and women's movements too so that i could use her to look at some of the social issues of the time... so i was doing some research on the suffrage movement and i noticed that almost all of the more notable suffragettes were middle class and writers or artists of one kind or another.


I don't think i'm clever enough or well-read enough to write her as a serious writer... and i didn't want her to be too bohemian so i thought it best to avoid making her a painter or a sculptor or something. But the image of her hunched over a drawing table churning out work-for-hire illustrations and newspaper strips for little money and no recognition was for some reason quite appealing.

It all clicked from there... and hopefully people like the character and find her interesting.

So... that's Georgie Gilmour anyway.

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