Category Archives: General

How do you know who’s the hero (in British girls comics)?

I have been thinking about how you can tell who is the hero, or at least the main character, in British girls comics. I’m sure that as readers most of us can tell who’s the hero most of the time, but there are always some odd cases that test the boundaries. Perhaps we will learn something about some underlying rules of British comics storytelling if we have a deeper look?

Below I suggest five key tests to check who is the main character in a story. These tests aren’t anything to do with how nice or kind the person is – they would apply to an anti-hero as much as to the most perfect hero. Rather, they should tell us whether or not the story is about that person.

Reference in title

You would think the title of the story would be a dead giveaway as to who the story is about – but it’s not always as simple as that, of course. The main villain might be the one featured in the title (“Angela Angel-Face“, “Wanda Whiter Than White“) or, particularly in the case of Jinty, the title may be fairly allusive (“The Valley of Shining Mist“, “Waves of Fear” and many others).

For most stories, though, it’s true – the title does give away who the main character is. Often her name is right up front as the first element of the title along with the key struggle of the story: “Gwen’s Stolen Glory“, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone“, “Glenda’s Glossy Pages“, “Cora Can’t Lose“. But is Amanda Blay the main character in “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled“? And in “The Slave of Form 3B“, is the main character weak-willed Tania or the villainous (and rather more interesting) Stacey?

Hearing their words

A more important test than the title of the story seems to me to be whether we know what the character thinks and says. Do we see the character’s words (spoken or thoughts) directly on the page or not?

  • The sample episode of “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled” has Amanda’s words showing (in speech or word balloons) in only 10 out of 28 panels in the episode. Her antagonists, Jane and Marty, have their words or speech reported in 22 of the 28 panels (including ones where Amanda also speaks).
  • The sample episode of “The Slave of Form 3B” does not include any words or thoughts of Tania’s, but only those of Stacey (in the 26 panels shown, we hear Stacey’s thoughts or words in all bar 5).

amanda must not be expelled crop

Seeing their face

Similarly to the test above of whether we hear their words directly, do we follow them on the page and see what they do, in each panel or the majority of the page?

  • You might think that it comes to a fairly similar outcome if you check how many panels the person appears in;  I would expect the main character in a British girls comic to be in most of the panels (and that, by some way). However, in the same episode of “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled”, Jane and Marty are visible in 23 of the 28 panels while Amanda is in 18 of the 28 panels. Amanda is visible in quite a lot more panels (18 panels) than just the ones where she says or thinks something (10 panels): she is a focus of the reader’s attention without actually being the main person that you put yourself in the place of.
  • In the sample episode of “The Slave of Form 3B”, Stacey appears in slightly more panels than she speaks in – there are only 3 panels that she does not appear in, compared to the 5 that she does not speak in.

 

Active doer, or passive done-to?

This can be a bit harder to determine, I think. Does the hero (or the person who might be the hero) kick off the actions and make things happen, or is she ‘done-to’ rather than actively ‘doing’? In girls comics there is a definite theme of the downtrodden underdog hero, whose heroism lies in her endurance and persistance rather than in solving the world’s woes, so this may be a less definitive way of singling out the hero of the story. What happens if we look at the two sample stories to check how active the characters are?

  • Jane and Marty ensure that Amanda gets back to the dorm without being spotted and expelled (foiling her intent), and even sneak back the gown and mortar board that Jane dressed up in, to remove all evidence of what they were up to. But Amanda is pretty active too, by the end of the episode: she takes a pair of scissors from the needlework room and sets out to pick herself a bouquet of the headmistress’s prized tulips, as a way to get herself expelled. Honours are relatively even, though I think that on the showing of this single episode, Jane and Marty feel like the initiators of more action than Amanda does.
  • In “The Slave of  Form 3B” Tania is unconscious throughout the whole sample episode and therefore as passive as she could possibly be. Stacey initiates the action throughout: she hides Tania out of sight of possible rescuers, and she makes it look as if Tania has run away. The teachers initiate a search of the grounds, but again Stacey’s action is the decisive one as she lies to the other searchers to decoy them away from where she has hidden Tania.

Slave of Form 3B pg 1 crop

Who has the emotional journey?

Pat Mills is currently writing a series of blog posts on storytelling, and one of the recent entries is on the Emotional Journey. Many thanks to him for this post, as it was something I nearly overlooked in this series of tests. We can sensibly ask, is there a shape to the story and if so, who does that story-shape belong to? There are a number of fairly well-worn story ‘shapes’ and these also help to identify the main character. ‘Spoilt girl redeems herself’ is one of them, and ‘brave girl beats her bullies by enduring’ is another – and by phrasing the story in this way you immediately understand who the hero is. But another way to think of it is, who undergoes the emotional journey – who is changed by the end of the story? Not all stories necessarily have change as part of their core structure, but many do, and it can provide an interesting contrast to the answers derived from the other tests.

  • To answer this question you need to think about the story as a whole, not just individual sample episodes, so it can be harder to determine unless you know the story reasonably well. I don’t know “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled” very well but Mistyfan has provided a detailed synopsis. From this it does look very much to be the case that it is Amanda who has the emotional journey – going from desperately wanting to be expelled to being glad she never managed it, and from hating even being at school to being proud of it and wanting her team to win. Jane and Marty do not obviously seem to change throughout the story, their motives and psychology remain pretty consistent.
  • In “Slave of Form 3B” then again, when we look at the overall story, the sense of who is the hero is rather different from when we look at the details. Tania, who starts off the story weak-willed and very passive indeed, ends up still pretty ‘done-to’ rather than actively bringing about Stacey’s downfall. It is Tania who is acclaimed by her schoolfellows due to her persistence and survivorship, so at least she is changed from being a timid outcast to being someone that all her fellows know and think well of. Stacey, in contrast, has not changed her motivation or aims at all; if anything she has just become more fixed in her ambitions. The arc of Tania’s emotional journey is rather tacked-on in the final episode or two though, which dilutes the effect considerably.

 

Summary

I called the above ‘five key tests’ but of course most of the time it’s hardly necessary to apply a series of tests to determine who is the hero or main character in a story. For more unusual cases like the two stories chosen here, it can however shed some interesting light on aspects of the story.

  • Is Amanda the main character in “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled”, or are Jane and Marty the real heroes? If you just look at the sample episode then Jane and Marty are acting much more like the main characters – they are the ones that the reader sees and hears, and the ones who move the action forward more substantially. But taking the story as a whole, especially when you consider the intention signalled by the story title, it is Amanda who the story is most ‘about’, as the person who has the significant emotional journey.  Perhaps if we re-ran the tests on who we see and hear, and who initates the action, based on a later episode, she would be more obviously marked as the main character?
  • Is Timid Tania, who is the Slave in question, the hero of “The Slave of Form 3B”, or is it wicked Stacey? Stacey is by far the most active and most visible character throughout the story, though there may be other episodes where she does not dominate the action quite as fully as in this sample epsiode. The final part of Tania’s emotional journey feels very tacked on at the end, though there are earlier points in the story where she stands up for herself to some extent. Even taking the story as a whole it does not feel like Tania is ‘really’ the main character; possibly the writer intended her to be so, but had much more fun writing the frankly rather evil Stacey instead!
Advertisements

Mistyfan’s 500th Post!

Yes, I have now reached another milestone – my 500th post. To commemorate, I am going to do something I have not done before on this post – look back on what I have done and why, and hear your suggestions on what I could do for this blog in the future.

As Comixminx has commented on, I am the more prolific contributor to this blog, and it is because of this that the blog has expanded at the rate it has. Far more Jinty stories have been covered than they otherwise would have, and I have helped keep the blog active. It has been largely through my efforts that the blog has expanded into non-Jinty subjects as well, to provide context and to keep the blog expanding as more and more Jinty gaps are filled and Jinty material begins to run out.

I believe this stems from how I used to read the girls’ comics. Although I was a Tammy reader I loved to pick up and glance through other girls’ titles that were on display at the shops (Girl II, Bunty, Tracy, Jinty, Debbie, Suzy etc). Budget and space prevented me from actually buying them. It was not just girls’ titles either. I enjoyed glancing through the funnies too, and in particular liked to follow the Leopardman in Buster. Looking at those same shelves now, I can see how times have changed. Instead of a wide range of newsprint comics that were cheap enough to fit into most amounts of pocket money or provide an instant library to quickly flick through, there is nothing but pink girly gloss wrapped in plastic that hardly has so much as a photo story now, and is way more expensive.

My first Tammys, Debbies, Mandys, Buntys, Jintys and Mistys came from school fairs and such. The earliest were ones that somehow appeared in my house and I liked the look of them. Ones I remember included the first episode of “Battle of the Wills”. So I started looking out for those comics myself. So as you see, I was not confined to one title. I was familiar with a wide range of them, and I believe that this broad familiarity is why my non-Jinty contributions to this blog are in a far greater number. In fact, it is why some of them, such as as “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory“, are here at all. But it was not until much later in life that I started actual collections. For space and money reasons I have to limit my titles.

Some titles I have addressed on this blog are ones I came across later in life. For example, I had never heard of “Scream!” until I found some back issues in a second hand book shop, decided to buy them, and liked them once I got them home and read them. Several of my other entries on this blog were prompted by what others have posted on the Internet. For example, my entry on “They Call Me a Coward!” started with the Great News for All Readers posting a June entry featuring the story on the cover. I was immediately struck by how the story sounded similar to “Waves of Fear” and I instantly wanted to track it down. In a similar vein, my entry on “The Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain” started with Pat Mills mentioning it on an online interview. And some of my other entries, such as my Commando entries, were prompted by me wanting to contribute something different. That was how my Commando entries started, but now they are reflecting how Commando itself is changing from having exclusively male protagonists to having a more female presence in some issues.

Once Comixminx raised the subject of OuBaPo on this blog I was off, and I was aided by having some knowledge of Photoshop and drawing comics. I have taken OuBaPo on dimensions on this blog that included parodying girls’ comics, and much inspiration has come from another of my favourite titles – Mad Magazine.

For the future, is there anything in particular you would like to see? For example, what remaining Jinty stories would you like Comixminx and me to cover? Tearaway Trisha, Blind Faith, Child of the Rain, Waking Nightmare, Horse from the Sea, Miss No-Name, Two Mothers for Maggie and Destiny Brown are some of the Jinty stories we have not covered yet. Is there anything in the non-Jinty range you want to see? Perhaps you have any suggestions for new types of OuBaPo? Or do you have any new ideas or suggestions for the blog? Please let us know. Meantime, I am turning back to “Scream!” entries.

Top 10 Tammy Villains

We have had my lists of the Top 10 Jinty Villains and the Top 10 Misty Villains. Now it makes sense to conclude with Top 10 Tammy Villains. In compiling this list I found Tammy was relatively low on supernatural or SF villains. I believe this is because Tammy had a high emphasis on cruel, abusive villains who tortured and exploited the protagonists, particularly in her early years. Jealous rivals, scheming employers and gold diggers were also frequent.

As always, I have tried to be as broad as possible in the types of villains that appeared in Tammy, and acknowledge that the list may be subject to second guessing and alternative suggestions. Please express your views in the comments below.

Now, the countdown will begin…

10: Sir Edgar Whitland

Story: The Fairground of Fear

Creators: Diane Gabbot (artist); writer unknown

Tammy Villain Whitland

Although Sir Edgar was not initially set up as the villain in the story he turns out to be the true one, and it is his ruthless acts that are responsible for why “the fairground of fear” is bringing such trouble to the village of Baychurch. He is such a snob and a hard-hearted man, and holds the good name of Whitland so high above all else that there is nothing and nobody he won’t destroy in order to uphold it. He is capable of wrecking the lives of innocent people, even those of his own family, just to uphold the name of Whitland. He ruined his own daughter’s marriage to Alan Barker by having Barker sent to prison on a false charge, just because he could not stand the thought of “that nobody” being part of the “great Whitland family”.

When Barker returns for revenge and clearing his name, Sir Edgar absolutely refuses to bow to Barker’s coercion to make a confession because he will not destroy the great name of Whitland. He even destroys the evidence that would have cleared Barker. He does not care squat that the village is suffering because of his refusal to confess or even when it puts the life of his adopted daughter/granddaughter Julie in danger. Instead, he abandons Julie to her fate and won’t make any confession to save her. All he cares about is the great name of Whitland. He does not even make any effort to help Julie. It’s no wonder Julie never wants to see him again after that. Sir Edgar Whitland is one of the most despicable characters ever to appear in Tammy. Not many Tammy villains would arouse the same repugnance that readers would have for this ruthless snob with a heart of stone.

9: Aunt Aggie

Story: Aunt Aggie

Creators: J Badesa (artist); Pat Mills (writer)

Tammy Villain Aggie

You know those serials about a girl who seems so sweet and angelic but in reality is a dirty schemer who takes advantage of people? Aunt Aggie is the adult version. Aunt Aggie is the star of a famous down to earth chat show and famous for her kind, generous personality and helping people. However, her adopted daughter Helen Gray knows all too well that off-screen, Aunt Aggie is a hard-hearted, selfish, scheming woman. She only gets involved in charity events in order to pull dirty tricks to turn the event to her own advantage. However, Helen always comes up with the answer to thwart those schemes of Aunt Aggie’s and give her would-be-victims the last laugh without them even realising it. Aunt Aggie was so popular that she even spawned her own competition where readers had to send in ideas of schemes of her to pull and Helen to foil.

8: The Crystal Aliens

Story: E.T. Estate

Creators: Guy Peeters (artist); Jake Adams (writer)

Tammy Villain AliensTammy Villain Aliens 2

Space aliens were not common villains in Tammy, but these gaseous crystal aliens are ones to dread far more than most alien invader serials. They are body snatchers who feed off the life forms they replicate (and keep trapped in their crystals). They spell doom for any planet they land on because they will continue to feed off all its life forms until the planet is stripped bare and all life on it becomes extinct. In other words, it’s genocide and mass extinction on a planet-wide scale. Then they will go back into outer space and drift for so many years until they find another suitable planet.

7: Bert

Story: It’s a Dog’s Life!

Creators: Phil Townsend (artist); Alison Christie (writer)

Tammy villain Bert

There aren’t many boy villains in girls’ comics, but this one is a worthy rarity for the villains list. The animal cruelty Bert (no last name given) is capable of is so sickening and brutal he goes straight into the Top 10 list.

Bert is being paid to mind a dog, Riley, as his owner is away so much. Now, you’d think that one look at this thuggish-looking boy should alert Riley’s owner as to what sort of carer Bert is and he would be wiser to take Riley to the kennels, but no. Bert’s list of cruelties against Riley include starving him, constantly kicking him like a football, putting him on a chain that is too short, no proper shelter, and having him pull a shopping trolley that is way too heavy for him. It’s a wonder Riley hasn’t died under Bert’s charge. It would not be at all surprising if Bert is also the worst bully in the school and notorious for beating up other children.

6: The Rotts

Story: Olympia Jones

Creators: Eduardo Feito (artist); Anne Digby (writer)

Tammy villain Rotts

Much of why Olympia Jones is such a well-remembered Tammy classic is due to its two villains: Mr Rott and his daughter Linda. In fact, it’s their scheming that gives the story far more excitement and thrills than Olympia’s quest to win an Olympic gold. Rott sacked Olympia for cruelty (brutal whippings) to one of his circus horses, Prince, when he knows very well his daughter Linda was the one responsible. He did it to cover up for Linda and worm his way out of trouble with animal welfare officer, Horace Phipps. The Rotts don’t mind when Olympia runs off with Prince afterwards because they have gotten a good exchange out of it.

But some time later the Rotts discover Olympia has turned Prince into an Olympic prospect, which makes him worth an even bigger fortune. Seeing their chance, the Rotts take advantage of Phipps, his animal welfare society, and then the police to get Prince back for them. They trick these poor mugs into laying false charges of horse theft and animal cruelty against Olympia, and she ends up in court. Poor Olympia looks done for because she has absolutely no case to offer against what the Rotts have concocted to destroy her. And Prince looks set to face the same cruelty yet again at the hands of the Rotts…

5: Miss Bigger

Story: Wee Sue

Creators: various artists and writers

Tammy Villain Bigger 2Tammy Villain Bigger

Bully teachers and old dragons cropped up regularly in school stories as teachers/headmistresses that readers just loved to hate. The best remembered and longest running of them all is Miss Bigger, the nemesis of Wee Sue. Miss Bigger is a real tartar of a teacher who specialises in “whacking great helping[s] of homework”. And the girls dread the moment when Miss Bigger is in a foul mood, for she will take it out on them. Miss Bigger is also vain, conniving, and forever trying to ingratiate herself with the higher levels in society and taking undeserved credit. She often ropes the girls into doing the donkey work in one of her grand schemes, of which she plans to profit from.

Miss Bigger’s biggest dislike is the smallest girl in her class, Sue Strong. Sue is always coming up with schemes to get the girls out of Miss Bigger’s monstrous amounts of homework or whatever she has lined up for them, and Miss Bigger finds it most infuriating that the midget’s brains are too mighty for her. Still, Miss Bigger is allowed to win now and then, and there are times when she and Sue both lose. There are also plenty of occasions when Miss Bigger finds herself in desperate need of Sue Strong when she is in a jam, or even outright danger. In fact, there are some stories where Miss Bigger and Sue are almost friends. It is a curious love-hate relationship between Miss Bigger and Sue, which is played for light relief and to delight the readers.

Continued next page…

Top 10 Misty Villains

I now present my list of the top 10 Misty villains. In compiling it I found it hard to find a respectable number of seriously memorable villains in Misty’s run. This is likely due to Misty having fewer serials due to her stories having four-page spreads and having an over-abundance of complete stories. Plus she only had a two-year run. These factors combined did not allow much room for more serials to run. So I have also included villains who were more on the unusual side or caught my eye for one reason or other.

In compiling this list I tried to be as broad as possible about the types and archetypes of villains. In so doing, I found that Misty had a very high emphasis on mad scientists, evil doctors, twisted Victorians, and characters that originated from earlier time periods. In contrast, I was surprised to realise Misty was light on supernatural villains such as witches and wizards despite being a spooky comic. As a matter of fact, she never used a witch or wizard as the heavy; ghosts and hellspawn had a stronger presence as supernatural villains. She was also low on villains who were peers of the protagonist, such as school bullies and jealous rivals. I believe these differences in emphasis on particular types of villains from more conventional titles like Jinty gave her a higher proportion of male villains than female villains. And unlike Jinty, Tammy or June, not one single Misty serial used space aliens as the main villains.

The choices are entirely mine and I am aware they may be subject to second-guessing. Some of you may have different choices or different rankings of Misty villains. Please feel free to express your views below.

And now, on with the countdown…

10: The Alt-world Gestapo Interrogator

Story: The Sentinels

Creators: Mario Capaldi (artist); Malcolm Shaw (writer)

Misty Villain 2

In this story about a parallel world where the Nazis won WW2, this Nazi appeared in only two panels, had no given name, and hardly had the chance to contribute much to the plot. So how come he made it to this list, you ask? In the panels where he does appear, he delivers one of the most powerful and disturbing scenes ever in girls’ comics – his brutal torture of Mr Richards. All the brutality of Nazism is summed up in the splash panel that depicts this torture, with all the ruthlessness in which the Nazis inflict it, and all without shying away from the horror while not going over the top.

Also, he is the only Nazi in this parallel world to have any form of substance. All the other parallel-world Nazis in this story were flat, hard-faced goons who looked pretty samey and had no development or names whatsoever. But this was the Nazi who had the real potential to represent to the protagonists the horror of this Nazi parallel world if only he had been developed more. Frankly, this character is crying out for further development. After all, Nazis are common enough in girls’ comics, but a Nazi who serves a Hitler who actually won the war – that’s different.

9: Rosie Belcher

Story: Hush, Hush, Sweet Rachel

Creators: Eduardo Feito (artist); Pat Mills (writer)

Misty Villain 4

Rosie Belcher “The Incredible Bulk” might not be as evil or dangerous as some of the Misty villains who didn’t make it to this list. But she is one of Misty’s more striking baddies because she must be the grossest character ever in girls’ comics. She has the most disgusting eating habits, which she enjoys revolting her classmates with because it gives her such a feeling of power. There is no limit to her depravity of disgusting. The worst example of this is taking bets that she can eat a mountain of school dinner slops, which she mashes together to nauseate her classmates even more before she eats it (why the heck don’t the teachers or dinner lady crack down on this?!). Plus, she is a bully and a totally unpleasant character with no redeeming qualities, except having been brought up that way; her family are as bad and disgusting as she is. And she wonders why she has no friends, which she blames on victimisation.

8: Miss Nocturne

Story: Nightmare Academy

Creators: Jaume Rumeu (artist); writer unknown

Misty Villain 9

Every girls’ comic has its own “evil headmistress” story. Some are just sadists while others have more sinister intentions. This is the Misty version: a headmistress who is a vampire, and her school is a “nest of vampires” that trap pupils as new prey or recruits in her vampire army. Drugs, hypnotism and three hellhound guard dogs bring the pupils into submission; obedience is Miss Nocturne’s first lesson. School classes under Miss Nocturne are taught at night, because of course vampires can’t be active during the day. As vampires go, the depiction of Miss Nocturne is unusual and therefore more interesting. Usually female vampires are drawn like Vampirella, but Miss Nocturne has blonde hair and has a more occult-like costume with miniature skulls on her neckline. She could easily have been taken for a witch if not for those fangs and vampire tendencies.

7: Mrs Black

Story: Moonchild

Creators: John Armstrong (artist); Pat Mills (writer)

Misty Villain 1

Misty’s answer to Mommie Dearest, and the nearest Misty has to a witch being the villain in one of her serials. Wherever Mrs Black goes, people whisper she’s a witch because of her crone-like appearance and the black cloak she always wears. More likely she’s an eccentric, as she doesn’t even allow electricity in her house or allow her daughter Rosemary to dress fashionably or have normal friendships. That wouldn’t be so bad if not for the way she constantly beats Rosemary because she says there is a form of wickedness in her, which she doesn’t really explain. It turns out to be the power of telekinesis that runs in the family, but passed over Mrs Black. Mrs Black has a long-standing bitterness towards it because it unwittingly caused her father’s death. However, jealousy is the true cause of her cruelty to Rosemary; she’s jealous of Rosemary having the power while she doesn’t. Moreover, if she had been born with the power she would have used it for evil, which shows how truly inclined she is towards villainy. Plus, she just abandons Rosemary at the end of the story, which shows what an unfit mother she is and how much she really cared for Rosemary.

6: The Marshalls (and their accomplice, Gerry)

Story: The Four Faces of Eve

Creators: Brian Delaney (artist); Malcolm Shaw (writer)

Misty Villain 6

The Dr Frankensteins of Misty, except in this case they create a girl from the bodies of three dead ones. They did it because it was a challenge to feed their egos. They name her Eve and pass themselves off as her parents, but make it obvious to Eve that they don’t care for her at all. In fact they refer to Eve as “it”, not “she”, because they just see her as an experiment, not a person – and they can casually throw that experiment away if it turns out to be less successful than they thought. And this is what they try to do once Eve finds out what she really is and they could face prison terms for what they did. They don’t even regard killing her as murder because they don’t look on her as a human being. Dr Marshall and his accomplice Gerry are the ultimate, cold-blooded doctors who are the likes of Dr Mengele and are capable of anything in the name of science. Only Mrs Marshall has any conscience about what they have done, and she redeems herself by trying to help Eve when her husband wants to get rid of her.

5: Lord Vicary

Story: End of the Line…

Creators: John Richardson (artist); Malcolm Shaw (writer)

Misty Villain 8

Contrary to what the guide thinks, that portrait of Lord Sefton Roland Vicary is finished and that is exactly how his eyes are now. It is a side effect of the elixir of life that Vicary has extracted from his botanical studies and now he is immortal. This alone raises his creepiness levels high enough for him to be considered as one of Misty’s more standout villains.

Rejecting the Industrial Revolution and its encroachment on the power of the aristocracy, Vicary sealed himself, his hapless servants, and a slave labour gang in a subterranean Victorian world within the London Underground. In his world he continues to live out the good ol’ days where the aristocracy ruled over downtrodden servants. He is waiting for the day humanity above wipes itself out with warfare and he can emerge to rule the world. But for Vicary’s servants, endless life with Vicary’s elixir means endless drudgery and misery in an underground world where they never see the sun, moon or sky. For the slave labourers it is even worse – constant backbreaking labour under constant whippings and merciless slave drivers. For this reason the labourers don’t last long in this world despite the elixir of life, so Vicary resorts to kidnapping people from the London Underground to replace them.

There have been plenty of stories about heartless Victorians who live off the backs of the people they exploit, abuse, and regard as expendable and totally beneath them. But this Victorian takes it to a level like no other by making them immortal. In so doing, he has ensured his downtrodden slaves don’t even have the option of death to release them from his oppression.

Continued next page…

Panel Borders (internet radio show): Girls’ Comics Autumn Special

On a happier note than the last post, I have received notification of two recorded talks that are due to be broadcast on Panel Borders, the UK internet radio show about comics (hosted by Alex Fitch).

Panel Borders: Girls’ Comics Autumn Special

Cartoonist and Graphic Novels editor Corinne Pearlman introduces a pair of interviews about “Girls Comics”:

  • Comics scholar Mel Gibson interviews Anne Digby, the author of the Trebizon novels, who was also the writer of a variety of strips for Tammy.
  • Also, Jenni Scott talks to a pair of female graphic novelists – Hannah Eaton and Hannah Berry – about how girls comics influenced their work, and relaunch of Misty as an annual Halloween comic…

This is due to be broadcast at 5.30pm on Wednesday 5th September 2018, with a repeat broadcast at a time TBC. You can find it on Resonance 104.4 FM and DAB (London), or:

IGNCC18, Bournemouth: Thoughts on re-reading and ephemera

I attended a number of other talks and events at the IGNCC in Bournemouth. It was very full of great content – over the three days, there were three streams of talks generally happening at any one time, so you had to pick and choose quite carefully as to what stream or track of talks you wanted to go to. Generally there were a number of 90 minute sessions consisting of three 20 minute talks grouped together by theme and arranged into three streams; there were also a number of 1 hour sessions with two 20 minute talks grouped together, again arranged into three streams; and then there were hour-long ‘keynote’ talks without anything scheduled against them, so that the expectation was that all attendees could / would attend those longer talks. (The Anne Digby interview and David Roach’s paper were both keynote sessions.)

Many of the sessions were not specifically relevant to girls comics and the other subjects covered in this blog, so I won’t go into them here. They did however trigger some thoughts that I am still musing on, which are more relevant to this audience, I think and hope.

One of the first talks I went to was called “How Do We Know What Time It Is In Comics?”, by Paul Fisher Davies.  He talked about the idea that as comics readers, we assume that the action happening in front of us is necessarily happening ‘now’, unless it is specifically indicated otherwise. One of the examples he showed us of different times being depicted on a page was in “Watchmen”, where Dr Manhattan is on Mars, musing about times past and time in the future (as he is a time-traveler that makes sense for him to do). It’s a complicated page, which may require a reader to re-read it quite a bit to understand it; and on a second or subsequent re-read, you may draw different conclusions from on your first reading. Likewise in a couple of other sessions (keynotes by Ian Gordon and by Woodrow Phoenix) there was mention made of re-reading of comics and the way you may understand them better, or as saying something different, on re-read.

That led me off on a separate train of thought – I wonder if comics are a kind of item that historically has been re-read more than other kinds of things? I mean, obviously people do re-watch TV and film multiple times (though for TV that had to wait until video recording was invented for it to become a mass-market phenomenon). Many people re-read books multiple times (though in my experience there is a type of person that voraciously re-reads, and another type of person who may be a great reader but never re-reads). But perhaps comics are a slightly peculiar case where it was always very normal, or expected, to re-read them? In a talk that Joan Ormrod gave in Oxford earlier this year, she looked at weekly comics aimed at a teenage audience in the 50s (Roxy / Mirabelle and the like) and she highlighted the fact that when these came out, there was little in the reader’s life that was a permanent, accessible object that told them about the music of the time. The other ways they had of learning about what’s what in music was to listen to a program that was only broadcast once or twice a week – all the other ways they had of being a music fan, or a pop culture fan, were so ephemeral that most of the time you had nothing but your memories to go on. The comics, in contrast, were right there with you, ready to be re-read (and lent out to friends, and re-circulated). And as so many of the stories were serialised, did the readers make a normal practice (as I did) of going back and re-reading earlier episodes once the story came to an end, or of going back to the beginning of your whole pile and starting again with the satisfaction that you know what’s ahead of you?

I’m not trying to say that comics are either necessarily something that people re-read by definition, or that all comics are re-read (either would be wide of the mark). But I can think of a few reasons why comics might go hand-in-hand with regular re-reading of them. For one thing, comics have often been published as serials, in weekly episodes, which means that each weekly issue would have a fairly limited number of pages and stories included. As I say above I can see that in this situation the reader might read their new weekly issue and then either go back and re-read earlier issues, or perhaps say ‘aaargh! Too long to wait until next week!’ and turn to page 1 of the new issue and start re-reading there and then.

A comic is also ‘the right sort of thing’ to be re-read easily. It’s delivered in a tangible format, not hard to store, and you don’t need any extra steps or equipment to be able to come back to it another time (unlike needing to have some sort of recording equipment to capture a broadcast). Of course you could give away your week’s issue, or chuck it away, but if you didn’t do that then they would be ready to hand as an obvious easy thing to pick up again later (and with an inviting cover to boot).

Did readers typically throw comics away? Of course some people will have done, but even the horror stories you hear about ‘my mum threw away my comics!’ are talking about comics collections kept for some time, and not instantly disposed of. We also heard quite a few stories at the conference of how hard it often was to get hold of one’s comics: Mel Gibson spoke about the lengthy bike rides she took as a kid, to make sure she covered all the various newsagents that stocked different titles. If they were often hard to get hold of, that’s going to make them feel more valuable right away. It’s not a necessary conclusion that they would be re-read frequently as a result, but it certainly all adds up to lots of plausible reasons why readers could or would often re-read.

The above are fairly circumstantial and rooted in historical happenstance, and those are happenstances that will be subject to change. (For instance nowadays lots of people get their reading as digital comics or web comics, which are definitely not tangible or delivered in limited weekly doses, and not particularly hard to find and buy either.) There is one more aspect which is something potentially more directly linked to the nature of the medium: the fact that the words and the pictures can be read at different speeds and in different ways. You can read the words quickly, to find out ‘what happens next’ or to get the gag, but on re-read you have lots of extra enjoyment to dig out of the art. That’s two levels or two ways that you can read a comic on, right away: you don’t have to be an expert in textual analysis or Lacanian subtext to do that, it’s easily accessible, so to speak. So, built into what it is to be a comic, there is at least one reason that might drive people to re-read them as a matter of course.

It may seem like an inconsequential question, but it does seem worth it to me to ask whether re-reading was a normal thing, an expected thing, as well as being a frequent thing. Did editors, writers, artists expect the readers of the comics to routinely re-read things? If so, wouldn’t that mean that you could expect a certain sophistication to quickly develop across a community of comics readers? For instance a development in comics reading ability, to work out plot twists or potentially-confusing elements on the page. Wouldn’t it perhaps influence the creators and publishers if you knew or had a reasonable expectation of comics reading ‘competency’ so that you could challenge the readers with something new (fancier layouts, more stylized art)? Or perhaps it is a driver behind how extreme some of the plots of the comics became, with the Cinderella story ending up having shackled slaves, perhaps because the readership was very used to the mundaneities of less extreme stories…

It also challenges the idea that I think a lot of non-comics readers would have, of comics as ephemeral. Clearly for the readers of this blog, they haven’t been ephemeral – but I think that nor were they ephemeral for the usual reader of the time, whether or not they went on to be life-long devotees. Comics were certainly re-read a lot – most of us reading this can bear witness to that – but I can also think of a few different reasons, as above, why they might generally have been re-read *more* than other things you wouldn’t think of as ephemeral.

IGNCC (International Graphic Novel & Comics Conference) 2018: Bournemouth

Over the next three days I shall be attending IGNCC at Bournemouth: an academic comics conference on the theme of “Retro! Time, Memory, Nostalgia”. I have had a paper accepted with the title “Lost In Time: The Problem Of Crediting The Creator In Girls Comics” – drawing on lots of the discoveries and discussions from this blog, of course! Other people are talking about girls comics too – for instance in the same panel session Selina Lock will be talking on “Behind The Panels: The Hidden Histories Of Women In British Comics”.

Of particular interest to the readers of this blog, though, are probably the following two keynote sessions, which I will try to take notes on and write a post or two about.

  • Anne Digby (writer for School Friend, Girl, Tammy, Jinty and the Trebizon series of
    children’s books) in conversation with Mel Gibson (Remembered Reading) on British
    Girls’ Comics.
  • David Roach (2000AD, Masters of Spanish Comic Book Art) – The Spanish Masters

More to come as I get it, over the following days…

Further reprints from Rebellion: “Bella” and two Jinty stories

You will perhaps have already seen the latest exciting information on the internet: Rebellion Publishing is bringing out two volumes of girls comics reprints from Tammy and from Jinty respectively.

bella

Bella at the Bar” is billed, appropriately, as “A modern day Cinderella story”. At 96 pages it is the right length to include the first two “Bella” stories but the blurb is fairly general and gives little away to the aficionado as to exactly what the contents are. It seems unlikely that it includes Bella’s later struggles to reach the Moscow Olympics or travels to mysterious Arab countries where she tutors princesses – or at least not yet, as this is billed as Book One. May there be many more!

Rebellion have chosen a strong pair of stories from Jinty to launch what is again billed as Volume One of (hopefully) a series: “The Human Zoo” and “Land of No Tears”. No cover is shown on the initial announcement on the Simon & Schuster website, but there are plenty of great images that could be used, of course. As with the Misty volumes, they have made sure to link the two stories in some clear way – this time rather than choosing the same author, they have gone for the same artist. Guy Peeters is an under-recognized girls’ comics artist and I am glad to see him get more attention.

Jinty cover 19 August 1978

Where possible, I am keen to link to the original publisher’s site. I see that the Bella book is listed as being one of the “Treasury of British Comics” line, but it is not yet mentioned on the specific website for that imprint. I found it on the Simon & Schuster website: I think that Rebellion have a distribution deal with them, which is presumably why it is listed there. I’m not quite sure why the Jinty volume is listed as being one of Rebellion’s Graphic Novels (a list that on searching seems to include “Charley’s War” and “Marney the Fox”, but also some less all-ages titles such as “Bleach”). It would be nice to see all the announced titles listed clearly on the Treasury of British Comics site, which is a good dedicated shopfront that is easy to navigate and use.

Finally, a word of warning to other sites announcing these two new titles  and future ones in the series – be careful to attribute the creators and the stories correctly. “Bella” is correctly credited as being by Jenny McDade as writer and John Armstrong as artist, but in future Bella stories it will be harder to be sure of the writer. During Tammy’s era of printing credits, Primrose Cumming is known to have been the writer of the time – hopefully the publishers will check with erstwhile editor Wilf Prigmore in case there was any other writer in between those two times, but certainly Jenny McDade did not write all the Bella stories over the ten years that it ran.

“The Human Zoo and Land of No Tears” is billed as being by Pat Mills as writer and Guy Peeters as artist. The sharp-eyed reader of this blog will spot straight away that “The Human Zoo” is known not to have been written by Mills – although the writer is not definitively established it is thought likely to have been one of Malcolm Shaw’s. That uncertainty presumably makes it harder for the publishers to be clear about the authorship: in the circumstances they can’t just say straight out that it is by Malcolm Shaw I suppose. However, that lack of clarity will muddy the waters for others and I fear it will lead to a perpetuation of the unexamined notion that Pat Mills wrote the vast majority of girls comics – something which he does not himself claim, but which others not infrequently do on his behalf.

Site announcement – small reorganization

As I have been lucky enough to get a run of 69 issues of Sandie, and am now posting about each issue in consecutive order, it seemed sensible to tweak some of the elements of the blog to reflect the wider range of titles included.

The page that previously was just called ‘Issues’, which listed all the issues of Jinty which we’d posted about, is now called Indices of issues and annuals. The aim is to mention the key titles covered on this blog, with a link to the separate page where the index of each title is held.

Below this in the menu there are currently links to the following pages:

  • Index of Jinty issues and annuals (the same information as before, just re-titled)
  • Index of Sandie issues (links to my recent posts and a few earlier posts on Sandie)
  • Index of other titles (the same information as before but with the Sandie links moved onto that index)

I’ve also updated the posts on the first three Sandie issues to list a couple of additonal artist credits. I checked on Catawiki and I see that Sleuth on that site has credited “Wee Sue” to the artist Vicente Torregrosa Manrique, and “Bonnie’s Butler” to artist Julio Bosch. She also credited “Little Lady Nobody” to Desmond Walduck (artist on “Slaves of War Orphan Farm”) but I feel like the art is a better match to Roy Newby, per my original credit. Anyone have an opinion on this? I will post some scans later on to help with this identification, if need be. Edited to add: I now think this is not a match with Roy Newby’s work and am taking back this identification.

Portuguese Translations of Jinty Titles

Following on from Mistyfan’s post where she had a go at translating a number of Jinty story titles into Latin, I am going to do the same for a (smaller) number of titles. Latin is not one of my strengths though, so I will be using a modern language – namely, Brazilian Portuguese. (I was born in Brazil and speak Portuguese fluently, though it’s a long time since I have had to speak it day in and day out, so there are definite rusty patches in my vocabulary.)  won’t be doing as many as Mistyfan managed, but I will be putting a little commentary behind my thought processes so that will bring something different to the proceedings.

I started with “Combing Her Golden Hair“, turning it into “Pente de prata, cabelo de ouro” [literally, silver comb, golden hair]. I thought that it was important to stick to the allusive nature of the story title – it wouldn’t have been appropriate to call it something spoiler-y like “the mermaid’s daughter” or anything. Having said that, there is a song lyric which goes “Qual é o pente que te penteia” which might have possibly worked [literally, what is the comb that combs your hair?], but the song has specific references to Black Brazilian hair types so probably not a great match.

The Human Zoo” is another nicely allusive story title in Jinty. The Portuguese for ‘zoo’ is quite long – jardim zoologico – so instead I turned it into “Somos pessoas, não animais!” [literally, we are people, not animals!]. I wonder if it might have overtones of political or racial repression rather than the animal rights references that the original story had – not that I think the original writer would have been against that sort of extension as such, but it might be a shift in meaning.

It wouldn’t be a representative sample of girls’ story titles if it didn’t have an alliterative title or two somewhere in the mix. “Paula’s Puppets” and “The Disappearing Dolphin” seemed like good ones to try. If you are going to reference a girl’s name then you have to match it to the locality it’s going to be read in – Paula would be fine to use as a Brazilian girl’s name but it wouldn’t alliterate with the word for puppet [marionete] so that had to be changed. I’d initially thought of using the name Maria, which is a very normal name in Brazil, but it seemed a bit too ordinary and so I went with “As marionetes da Mônica”. Another option might perhaps have been “Mônica dos marionetes” [Monica of the puppets] but the first one might be more likely to also mean that other characters in the story are being played for puppets by Paula.

“O boto que desaparece” is a very straightforward translation of the original title – it just means ‘the dolphin which disappears’. I didn’t think that this story really called for something cleverer – it’s a straightforward thriller / action story at its heart. It’s a shame to miss out on the alliteration though – not always going to be possible to transfer everything to the target language, of course! Perhaps someone whose Portuguese was less rusty would make a neater job of it. Having said that, I well remember that the popular film “Airplane” was rendered into “Fasten your seatbelts, the pilot has disappeared!” on its cinema release in Brazil – so it’s not always about a faithful adaptation, to be fair.

On our pages about translations into other languages (the one on Dutch translations is the longest I think) you can see a similar range of translation choices – some are fairly literal / exact translations (Wenna the Witch / Wenna de heks), some are very similar but with choices to match the local market more closely (Kerry in the Clouds / Klaartje in de wolken), some are about as allusive as the original (The Human Zoo / Als beesten in een kooi [Like Animals in a Cage]; or another great example is Come into My Parlour (1977-78): Kom maar in mijn web [Just Come into My Web]).

I find the cases where the translator has gone in quite a different direction to be almost more intriguing – did they think the original title wasn’t exciting enough? was there a risk of giving away plot twists ahead of time? – but then it was also in keeping with some of the other off-piste titles seen in some of the girls’ comics publishing. Of this last group, I think my top pick might be the choice to turn “Gail’s Indian Necklace” into the name of the Indian deity on the necklace, Anak-Har-Li – not a very obvious choice, and one which makes the rather run-of-the-mill original title into something rather more unexpected I think.