Tag Archives: Girl

Roy Newby (1912-2011)

Roy Newby is thought to have drawn only only a few stories in Jinty, but he was certainly a long-running artist in other girls’ comics titles, particularly Girl, where he drew “Robbie of Red Hall” for many years. I do not yet have a fuller comic bibliography to list in this post, but on the UK Comics Forum, mention is also made of a story in the second Girl Annual which is specifically credited to him as artist: “Late For Dancing”, written by George Beardmore. Additionally, comics newssite Down The Tubes states that Newby worked on stories that appeared in other titles such as Tammy, Poppet, Judy, and Valentine.

Newby died relatively recently, having lived to the age of 98; the obituary in the Guardian, written by his son Mike, can be seen here. Mike Newby has likewise created a dedicated site showing his work (though not including many examples of comics, unfortunately for us). Finally, the Lambiek Comiclopedia has a little more on him here.

List of stories attributable to Roy Newby in Jinty:

Stories in Tammy:

  • The Secret Ballerina (1971-72)
  • Tina on a Tightrope (1972)
  • Minions of the Mine (1972)

Stories in Lindy attributable to him:

  • Nina Nimble Fingers (1975)
  • Poor Law Polly (1975)

Stories in Girl: many, including:

  • Robbie of Red Hall
  • Late for Dancing

When researching this post, I got in contact with Mike Newby and his sister Clare, who shared some memories with me. Mike told me that “…Dad’s original artwork for his comics was destroyed by the publishers as soon as they’d done the necessary for a print-run. (What a shame!) But Dad kept pretty much everything in printed form. He’d go and buy that week’s edition of whatever comic he’d drawn and stick it in a scrapbook.”.

Clare told me more details of her father’s time as a comics creator and her time as a reader of comics: “Through the late 50s and 60s, Friday afternoon was comic day! After school, I got School Friend, Girl’s Crystal and one other; Jackie/Tammy/or whatever.  I saw Dad’s stuff free! Whenever I was ill in bed, I used to look at the scrapbooks of mostly Girl. Dad said he preferred girls papers as they didn’t have as many technical, fiddly buttons and switches (spaceships) as boys. Also, he used to get any scripts set in dancing schools as he could use me for reference (I studied ballet which I went on to do professionally). He particularly liked historical costume stories.  As I got older, he worked on Valentine and Roxy. I was about 13 and wasn’t allowed to read them, so I would sneak into his studio when he was out and read about teen life. I put everything back and thought I’d got away with it, but he told me years later, he always knew!”

Courtesy of Clare Newby, here are two images of her father’s work – a photograph of some of the scrapbook pages, and a beautiful little sketch of herself reading them in bed, when ill at one time. Many thanks indeed to her for sending those in!

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Pat Mills: Interview

Pat Mills is someone who has already contributed lots to our knowledge of girls comics of this era, but even so there are still some gaps in our knowledge of what he wrote, and always plenty more questions to be asked. With thanks to him for his contributions now and in the past, here is a brief email interview.

1) In previous discussions you’ve identified the following stories in girls’ comics as having been written by you. Are there any stories missing from that list that you can remember? Some other stories have been attributed to you – also listed below – which you’ve either specifically said you didn’t write, or which haven’t been included in those previous discussions. It would be great to clarify this once and for all, if we can.

Known stories (Jinty)

You have also said before that you wrote a horse story, without identifying which one it was. Might it be “Horse from the Sea”? Or perhaps “Wild Horse Summer“?

Pat Mills: No. Doesn’t ring a bell. It’s possible I did the horse story for Tammy, but it wasn’t very good.

Tammy

  • Ella on Easy Street?
  • Glenda’s Glossy Pages?

Pat Mills: Charles Herring wrote Ella which I hugely admire. I wrote Glenda. Also – Aunt Aggie, School for Snobs, and Granny’s Town, but not all episodes.

Misty

  • Moonchild
  • Roots (Nightmare)
  • Red Knee – White Terror! (Beasts)

Pat Mills: Think “Red Knee” was mine if it was the spider story. Also “Hush Hush Sweet Rachel” – art by Feito.

And some Jinty stories you didn’t write but which are often attributed to you: “Knight and Day” (now confirmed as not yours), “The Human Zoo” (I think this is thought to be Malcolm Shaw’s), “Wanda Whiter Than White“, “Guardian of White Horse Hill” (you’ve previously thought this is likely to be Malcolm’s too).

Pat Mills: No, none of those are mine.

2) I appreciate that it’s harder to remember which stories were written by other people, if you even knew these details at the time. If there are any stories that you know the writers of, we are always up for adding to our store of attributions! We know that co-workers of yours such as John Wagner, Gerry Finley-Day, Malcolm Shaw, Charles Herring wrote for girls comics, in case that helps to trigger any memories. Did you also perhaps know Jay Over, Ian Mennell, Benita Brown, Maureen Spurgeon? (Some of those names are listed in the era when Tammy printed creator credits between 1982 and 1984, meaning we do have some story credits already in hand for that time.)

Pat Mills: Charles Herring was great – Ella and similar stories.  Pat and Alan Davidson wrote stories like Little Miss Nothing – Sandie and the equivalent in Tammy. They were top writers and that style of ‘Cinderella” story was hugely popular, but I don’t think they ever worked for Mavis. [In fact we do know that Alan Davidson wrote for Jinty, though Pat Davidson did not.]

John Wagner created and wrote “Jeanie and her Uncle Meanie” for Sandie, I think.  John was an editor on Sandie, but Gerry was the founding editor.

I wrote “Captives of Madam Karma” in Sandie.

John Wagner and I wrote “School of No Escape” in Sandie. (That was not bad) And “The Incredible Miss Birch” for Sandie. (Not our finest hour!) And I must have written at least one other story of this kind for Sandie.

I also wrote “Sugar Jones” and other stories for Pink, and “9 to 4” for Girl.

3) In Steve MacManus’ new book on his time in IPC / Fleetway, he talks about stories being measured in terms of the number of panels in the story: so for instance at one point he refers to a ‘twenty-two picture episode’ and at other points to a ‘thirty-picture script’. Is this something that you too remember from your time at IPC Fleetway? Did it happen at DCThomson too? I was interested in this because it seemed like a surprising way to think about comics, rather than in terms of page count.

Pat Mills: Yes. Steve is spot on. It’s a big subject. A thirty picture story in girls comics would theoretically deliver a lot of story. But it would be crammed and old fashioned. So I changed all that on 2000AD with less images on the page and started to apply it to Misty.

4) You’ve talked before about girls comics working differently from boys comics, and Steve MacManus recalls you saying that in a girls story the heroine would beat a bully, ride in a gymkhana, and still get back home in time to make her motherless family a hearty tea. Clearly girls comics were very full of plot! And you were a big part of rewriting a bunch of boys stories to make them fit the girls comics model more closely. Can you talk in a bit more detail about how this worked, in other words, what the mechanism was, more exactly? Is it a case of using fewer action sequences, more surprise reveals, lots of scene changes…?

Pat Mills: The big principle of girls comics that I applied to boys comics was “emotion”. Sometimes this worked well, but it needed applying in a different way. More “cool”, perhaps. Some girls principles didn’t adapt well:  jealousy for instance. Girls loved stories involving jealousy – boys didn’t. Hence “Green’s Grudge War” in Action wasn’t a hit.  Similarly, mystery stories work well in girls comics, boys didn’t give a damn about mystery. Hence my “Terror Beyond the Bamboo Curtain” in Battle, boys didn’t care what the terror was. It wasn’t a failure, but not the hit we hoped for.

However, where girls comics scored ENORMOUSLY was in having realistic stories that didn’t talk down to the reader. My “Charley’s War” is really a girls comic in disguise. Its popularity lies in it applying girls comic principles NOT boys comic principles – e.g. emotion is allowable in the context of World War One.

I was never that sold on “girls adventure” where there wasn’t a strong “kitchen sink”/Grange Hill factor. I think when Jinty went in for science fiction adventure it led the field, but not so sure about regular adventure which could seem “old school” – to me, at least. This was a factor everyone battled with on girls and boys comics, avoiding “old school” and creating stories that were “cool”.  Thus I would describe “Cat Girl” in Sally as uncool and old fashioned. Some of the Misty stories fell into that category – historical stories, for example.

Many thanks again to Pat Mills for his time, and for his memories and thoughts on this.

Girl and Tammy 25 August 1984

Girl cover 25 August 1984

  • The Return of Splat! (photo story) – first episode
  • Animal Poem – competition
  • Olly Decides! (artist Trini Tinturé) – complete story
  • Let’s Go Pop! Regular feature
  • The Kitty Café Cats – cartoon (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wham Pinup – feature
  • Village of Shame (photo story)
  • Patty’s World (artist Purita Campos, writer Phillip Douglas)
  • The Final Curtain (photo story) – last episode
  • Help Me! – problem page

We continue exploring the context of Jinty’s family tree with Girl. IPC published Girl from 14 February 1981 to 1990. Later IPC published the Best of Girl Monthly, which reprinted stories from the original comic.

This was the second series called Girl; the first was a comic that ran from 1951 to 1964. Another photo story/picture story comic, Dreamer, merged with Girl in 1982. Tammy was scheduled to merge with Girl in 1984 but was instead dropped after a strike, leaving her stories unfinished. None of the Tammy stories carried on in Girl. Only the Tammy logo made it, mysteriously appearing on Girl’s cover (as is the case here), some time after Tammy disappeared with no explanation. It appears about the time Tammy was originally scheduled to be cancelled, so it was probably meant as a token gesture. All the same, Girl readers must have been puzzled by the sudden appearance of the Tammy logo. In 1990, Girl merged into My Guy.

Note: As Tammy came out Monday and Girl Thursday, my theory is that Tammy, being originally meant to be cancelled in late August, was set for cancellation 22 August and readers instructed to pick up the week’s issue of Girl on Thursday 25 August.

Girl II was largely a photo story comic, but always included two picture stories. One was the regular, “Patty’s World”, which made its way into Girl after going through several other titles. The other picture story was a serial or complete story. The photo stories were in black-and-white. Strips included “Nine to Four” (written by Pat Mills), “The Haunting of Uncle Gideon”, “No Mother for Marty”, “The Pink Flamingo”, “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory“, “The Evil Mirror”, “Wish of a Witch”, “The Runaway Bridesmaid”, “The Perfect Pest” and “To Catch a Thief”.

Most of the photo stories were about school, boyfriends, horse riders, gymnasts, theatre and ballerinas. But some photo stories did have a supernatural theme, such as “Wish of a Witch”, where a girl is given a ring that can grant seven wishes. But she gets greedy and also wastes several wishes because she is not using the power thoughtfully. “Splat” and its sequel, which starts in this issue, are among the few Girl photo stories to delve into science fiction. Occasionally the photo stories used the theme of tortured and abused heroines as well. One, “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory”, was about a racket where girls are abducted and used as slave labour in a dress factory – in the 1980s.

The early Girl annuals are noteworthy in that they reprinted serials from Tammy, Jinty and Misty. These include “Tricia’s Tragedy”, “Secret of the Skulls” and “Journey into Fear…” – which was a badly abridged reprint, with about half of the material cut out. The annual would have done better to use a shorter serial or one that lent itself more readily to abridging.

And now we turn to the issue that has been chosen to represent Girl. In this issue, we see the start of a sequel to an earlier Girl story, “Splat!”, about a space alien. Splat returns in response to a call for help from his Earth friend Wendy. But another alien has landed too. Is it friend or foe?

It is the final episode of “The Final Curtain”. It is the final curtain in more ways than one because Julian Berridge, who has been giving Sherry Martin acting lessons, dies on stage after helping her give the performance of her life.

In “Village of Shame” the Walker family are on holiday at a fishing village – only to find it mysteriously empty. Except for some bank robbers who are now holding them hostage! But the bank robbers could be in trouble too if there is some supernatural force responsible for the empty village. And it’s not much of a holiday for Patty either – she has discovered the holiday chalet her family booked got destroyed in a cliff collapse! And the place they do end up in delivers another whammy – Patty’s arch enemy Doreen Snyder is there too!

“Olly Decides!” is a complete story, where a dog has to end up choosing between the girl who has taken him over and loves him, and his previous owners who have suddenly turned up to claim him.

References

http://ukcomics.wikia.com/wiki/Girl_(1981-1990)

http://britishcomics.wikia.com/wiki/Patty’s_World

http://britishcomics.wikia.com/wiki/Girl_(IPC)

Last Tammy Ever Published: 23 June 1984

Tammy cover 23 June 1984

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • No Use to Anyone! (Eduardo Feito)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Forbidden Garden (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Secret Sisters – first episode (artist Maria Dembilio)
  • A Walk in the Country – feature
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Jemima and the Arabian – a Pony Tale (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Top Girls! – Feature (Mari L’Anson)
  • I’m Her – She’s Me! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Cora Can’t Lose (artist Juliana Buch)

This is the last issue of Tammy ever published – for the wrong reason in that Tammy simply disappeared after this, leaving all the stories inside unfinished. In particular, former readers are still frustrated to be left dangling on the penultimate episode of “Cora Can’t Lose”. The final episode was set for the next issue, but there never was a next issue. Only a few months later did Tammy reappear, but in logo only, which appeared on a few issues of Girl.

What happened? From what another Tammy enthusiast, Marionette, has pieced together from former IPC, Tammy was due for cancellation anyway, but not until August. Presumably, Tammy was then to merge with Girl. Then, after this issue was published, there was a strike that took many weeks to settle. By the time it was, the Tammy editors decided not to pick up where they left off, because it would have taken even longer to finish the stories. So everything here was dropped and left unfinished.

Tammy was not the only title to disappear because of the strike. The same went for “Scream!”, which was only on its 15th issue when the disaster struck. (Despite this, “Scream!” has become a cult favourite and its issues can command high prices.) But unlike Tammy, “Scream!” was allowed to continue in Eagle and finish things off. Presumably Girl did not have the room to complete Tammy’s stories, because she was nearly all a photo-story comic. But IPC still had a duty to the Tammy fans to let them know how the stories ended, which they did not meet. Unlike “Scream!”, there is no evidence of the unpublished material appearing in Tammy’s holiday specials. Tammy’s remaining annuals did not take the opportunity to publish any of the material either, except perhaps the Button Box stories; instead, they went for reprints. Another possibility could have been a special final issue that included the last episode of Cora and potted summaries for the other stories, but that wasn’t done either.

It is also telling that Tammy has dropped the Princess logo all of a sudden. Princess had only merged with Tammy in April, so dropping the logo of a merging comic in such a short space of time is disturbing. It hints at the direction Tammy was going with her sales and what was in store for her had the strike not intervened.

So just what inside was left dangling? First, Bella finds a coach who offers to get her back into proper gymnastics – on condition that she quit the acrobatics she has done with Benjie. But this will mean letting Benjie down. Bella is left with a tough choice to make, but we never find out what she decides. Ironically, it is virtually 10 years to the day here that Bella started: she first appeared on 22 June 1974.

In “No Use to Anyone!”, Kirsty gets some tips on how to train her puppy, Clumsy. But now the blind Clumsy has been trapped by a herd of cows, and Kirsty is terrified of them too. We never find out how she rescues Clumsy.

“Sadie in Waiting” had come over from Princess, and it brings Grovel, the first villainous butler since Pickering of “Molly Mills”, to Tammy. Grovel is out to win the “Servant of the Year” award in his usual fashion, which does not include working hard or honestly.

Sadie

In Tammy’s reprint of “The Forbidden Garden”, Gladvis has started blackmailing Laika over her water theft. This is about to include forcing Laika to do a dreadful job in the dreaded industrial zone, with water instead of money for wages. Perhaps the reprint of “The Forbidden Garden” had something to do with Princess, which had reprinted several old serials from Tammy and Jinty in her final issues, including “Stefa’s Heart of Stone“, “Horse from the Sea” and “The Dream House”. However, it is a bit surprising that Tammy chose to start reprinting a long serial when she was set for an August cancellation, and it is unlikely that Girl would have had the room to finish the story. So one wonders how the reprint would have been finished off. In the previous issue, the story had a double-up spread, but that is not the case here. Perhaps once Cora was finished, there would have been more double-ups until the merger.

“Secret Sisters” starts in this issue, but sadly never got beyond episode one. Jill Paget is an adopted child who wishes she had siblings. Then she finds out she has three sisters who were adopted separately and wants to find them. Next week is supposed to include a “surprise move”, but we never find out what it is.

In “Pam of Pond Hill”, Pam is set to move on to Tess Bradshaw, the third classmate she is going to stay with while Pam’s family are away. But all of a sudden Tess says she can’t have Pam and even slams the door in her face. The blurb for next week tells us that we are going to find out what is wrong with Tess, but we never do.

(Click thru)

Incidentally, Pam’s various sleepovers with her classmates have developed their characters and home lives in surprising ways. During her stay with Goofy, Pam was surprised to find that Goofy could be extremely determined when he fixed his mind on beating something. The trouble is, that determination could take him to obsessive levels. Pam’s stay with Di (Diana) has changed the life of Diana’s mother for the better. She is going to be less house-proud, just to satisfy the demands of her husband, while he is going to be less demanding of her.

There is no Button Box story in this issue. Instead, we have the last Pony Tale ever published, “Jemima and the Arabian”. The Arabian is proving a bit too spirited for the stablehands until the horse strikes a surprise friendship with a cat called Jemima. Next week we are promised a complete tennis story, but we never get it.

“I’m Her – She’s Me!” is Phil Gascoine’s last, and incomplete, story for Tammy. Nice Paula Holmes and nasty Natalie Peters have somehow switched bodies after a strange lightning strike. Natalie is all set to explore new avenues of nastiness under her new identity while Paula is desperate to get help. She finally does so in this episode, where she manages to convince her ballet teacher of what happened. But then they strike new problems – Natalie has now gone and broken one of the legs in Paula’s body, and then Natalie’s unfit father shows up and is trying to drag Paula, in Natalie’s body, back home, where he has something unpleasant in mind for her. We never find out if the ballet teacher manages to rescue her, how the girls get their bodies back, or, for that matter, just how that bolt of lightning caused them to switch bodies in the first place.

(Click thru)

And now we come to the most frustrating part of Tammy’s sudden disappearance – the penultimate episode of “Cora Can’t Lose” with no final episode ever coming after. When this story came out, it really had me hooked and I was anxious to find out what was going to happen in the final episode. From the sound of comments on the Internet, so were a lot of other readers.

Cora Street has gone on an obsessive sports cup-winning frenzy to win the respect of her parents, who kept sneering at her for not winning sports trophies as they did when they were at school. But this is putting Cora’s life in danger, because she cares more about winning the trophy her mother failed to win than seeking treatment for a head injury that is currently affecting her vision and hearing and will ultimately kill her if left untreated. Not even the identikit issued by the hospital in this episode brings her to her senses. And now the injury is causing another problem: it may have caused Cora to unwittingly spike her main rival during an event. If she’s right, she could face disqualification and be out of the running for the cup.

Final note: The ending of “The Forbidden Garden” is known because it is a Jinty reprint, and a summary of the story can be found on this site. If anyone has any information on how the other unfinished stories would have ended, they are welcome to drop a line here.

 

 

Douglas Perry

Douglas Perry is an artist whose style will be recognized by most readers of girls comics as he has had a very prolific history of drawing for IPC/Fleetway and for DC Thomsons across many decades. I think of him as a Jinty artist because he drew two particularly striking serials for this title, and a number of Gypsy Rose stories too. In fact however the bulk of his artistic output was clearly done for other titles, particularly IPC’s Tammy and DCT’s Bunty.

As my particular memories of Douglas Perry are from his spooky stories in Jinty, I want to illustrate this post with some pages from 1978’s “Shadow on the Fen“; they show his distinctive style (loose but effective) well, and give a chance to shiver at the creepy atmosphere he brings to life.

Shadow On The Fen pg 1

Shadow On The Fen pg 2

Shadow On The Fen pg 3

You can see from the above that Perry’s art has a lot of movement and energy in it, with some lovely touches in the composition, like Rebecca’s hair breaking the boundaries of the panel in the last page.

Douglas Perry stories in various girls comics (incomplete bibliography)

  • Jinty
    • Come Into My Parlour (1977-78) ‘Kom maar in mijn web’ in Dutch Tina 1981
    • Shadow On The Fen (1978)
    • Various Gypsy Rose stories including “The Thirteenth Hour”, reprinted in the 1983 Annual
    • Miss Clever Thinker (1986 Annual)
  • June / June & School Friend

    • The Haunted Playroom (1965)
    • The Dream (1965)
    • Crash Point (1965)
    • The Missing Manuscript (1966)
    • The Wishing Well (1966)
    • The Gay Dolphin (1966)
    • Milly the Mindreader (1967)
  • Misty
    • The Chase (complete story)
    • A Voice from the Past (1979 Annual)
    • String of Seven Stones (1980 Annual)
  • Sandie
    • The Return of Rena (1972)
    • Sandra Must Dance (1972) ‘De pas-de-deux van Sandra en Jessie’ in Dutch Tina in 1972
    • The House of Toys (1973)
    • The Plan That Rocked the School (1973 Annual)
  • Tammy
    • Various Uncle Pete / Storyteller stories (his art was often used for the ‘talking head’ intro or outro on these)
    • Palomo (1971) reprinted in Penny Annual 1980 and Dutch Tina book 1980
    • Bernice and the Blue Pool (1971)
    • The School on Neville’s Island (1971)
    • The Dragon of St George’s (1972)
    • The Camp on Candy Island (1972-73)
    • Cherry’s Charter (complete story) (1973)
    • Sarah the Scapegoat (complete story) (1973)
    • Granny’s Town (1973-74)
    • The Revenge of Edna Hack (1973)
    • Leader of the Pack (1974)
    • Swimmer Slave of Mrs Squall (1974)
    • Secret Ballet of the Steppes (1974)
    • Rona’s Rainstones (1974)
    • Crystal Who Came in from the Cold (1974)
    • Slaves of the Hot Stove (1975)
    • Carol in Camelot Street (1975)
    • Serfs of the Swamps (1975)
    • A Lead through Twilight (1976)
    • The Sungod’s Golden Curse (1976)
    • Curtains for Cathy (1976-77) ‘Applaus voor Kitty’ in 1978 in Dutch Tina
    • Dark Star Wish (1977)
    • The Dance Dream (1977) (writer Anne Digby – see the interview with her for a sample from this story)
    • Molly Mills (1977 – 82)
    • My Shining Sister (1980)
    • Black Teddy (complete story) (1982)
    • The Grand Finale (complete story) (1982)
    • Midsummer Tresses (complete story) (1983)
    • Swansea Jack (complete story) (1984)
    • Listing supplied by Mistyfan in comments below – many thanks!
  • Bunty
    • “Visit to Venus” (1967)
    • “The Legend Of Lorraine” (1970) De geheimzinnige ballerina in the Dutch edition of Debbie 1984
    • The Little Shrimp (1971) ‘De kleine garnaal’ in the Dutch edition of Peggy 1984
    • “The Laughing Lady of Hamble Hall” (1972 Annual)
    •  Supergirl (1977-78) ‘Bionische Susie’ in Dutch edition of Debbie in 1985
    • Parker versus Parker (1981-82) ‘Parker tegen Parker’ in 1982-83 in Dutch Tina
    • The Fate of the Fairleys (1982-83) ‘Het geheim van Bella Vista’ in a Dutch edition of Debbie Parade Album from 1985 or 1986
    • “T for Trouble” (1985 Annual)
    • ‘Sally on Planet Serbos’ (1985)
    • ‘Trapped in Time’ (1986)
    • “The Seven Sisters” (c1988)
    • “Little Miss Lonely” (c1988)
    • “The Trouble With Boys” (1989)
    • “I’ll Never Forgive You!” (1989)
    • “A New Life For Lily” (1994) ‘Lotje’s nieuwe leven’ in Dutch Tina 1994
    • “Lonely Lynn” (1994)
    • “Stop, Thief!” (1995)
    • “The Impostor!” (1995)
    • “The Seeker” (1996-97)
    • “Shivery Shirley” (1983)
    • These items were taken from a discussion thread on the Comics UK Forum and added to by Marc in comments below
  • Mandy
    • “Go Girl Go” from the 1971 Mandy album
  • Dutch translations with original titles unknown
    • ‘Billy MacGuire, hoofd van de clan’ [‘Billy MacGuire, head of the clan’] (Dutch Tina book 1981), original unknown
    • Een hoofdrol vol gevaren! (1987, Dutch Tina)

See also this discussion thread about him on the Comics UK Forum, which includes some example art uploads. The Girls Comics of Yesterday site, which focuses on DC Thomson titles, also has a Douglas Perry tag. Here is a Catawiki tag list too.

I am sad and surprised to see how little information there is available about this fine artist on the internet. There is nothing on Bear Alley, or the UK Comics Wikia entry, nor even anything on Lambiek’s Comiclopedia. I suppose we must count ourselves lucky that Perry drew for Tammy during the years they were running credits.

As ever, further information (particularly in order to add to the Bibliography) would be extremely welcome.

Edited to add: Mistyfan has sent through scans of the Misty story that Perry drew: “The Chase”. It is a great spooky tale and I include it here to show more of his artwork.

Douglas Perry, The Chase - originally printed in Misty

Douglas Perry, The Chase - originally printed in Misty
click thru
Douglas Perry, The Chase - originally printed in Misty
click thru
Douglas Perry, The Chase - originally printed in Misty
click thru

‘Remembered Reading’ – further thoughts

On reading and reviewing Mel Gibson’s new book “Remembered Reading”, I found it triggered lots of thoughts and fruitful avenues for future exploration. The pages of my copy are considerably marked with green highlighter now, so there are too many discussion jumping-off points for me to sensibly cover in the scope of this blog, but I did want to pick up on one or two specific key ones. Apologies for the delay in completing this post – I had wanted to do it much closer to the time of the original review.

The main point I wanted to cover was about the divided emotions that grown-up readers of girls’ comics might typically feel, along with the impact I see that as having on the longer-term validation and appreciation of those comics. Gibson’s interviews show readers of girls comics as having enjoyed comics at the time but then feeling that they need to put them away as they grow up; or, having grown up, realising how some aspects of those comics are more uncomfortable than they’d noticed at the time. (For instance a grown-up feminist might be uncomfortable about the female roles in the girls comics that they loved at the original time of reading.) Even if one-time readers of girls comics continue to read comics as adults, they typically read different comics, or in a different way – maybe they rejected girls comics in favour of 2000AD, or continued to read children’s comics because they were ‘allowed’ to as parents of children who were getting comics in their turn. What they didn’t do is continue to read girls’ comics as part of a fandom – a group of interested peers discussing artists, writers, stories, and themes – sharing knowledge and critical thought. There is no significant fandom for girls comics, or historically at least there hasn’t been. And why is this important? Because fandom and its activities validates the material under discussion as being worth discussion – within the group of fans, at any rate, regardless of whether the outside world agrees.

Take my case as an example. I loved Jinty. Once I stopped reading it I moved wholeheartedly onto Marvel comics, first as British reprints and then as the imported issues. I kept an eye out at school for other girls’ comics and read the odd issue as I came across them but have little memory of that reading. Marvel had a lot of fan activity associated with it – letters pages discussing the story lines and the creators, printed credits that name the artists and writers so that you can follow a particular favourite creator as well as favourite characters or stories – and of course they were available in comics shops too, so once I found one of those that I could visit I could absorb more discussion going on around me even though there was no specific group of fans I was associating with. When I was 17, I saw an advert for the UKCAC convention in London and went to it, mind boggled. None of that activity touched on girls comics at all; in essence, they might as well not have existed. Likewise, when I went to university and found a group of comics-reading friends, there was no discussion within that group about girls’ comics: not many of those friends were women in any case, but also we were all very focused on Marvel, DC, and the new wave of British comics influence in the form of V for Vendetta and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. If even your comics-loving peers don’t think girls comics are worth knowing stuff about and discussing in a fannish way, then they really must be beneath contempt! Or at the least, it means that we, as fans of comics, thought about girls comics as forming a very separate stream of comics material.

All in all this means that despite being a comics fan from an early age, I never saw girls’ comics in a fannish way until very recently (until starting this blog, and discovering similar blogs, and joining the UK Comics Forum). I think that had a number of direct impacts. The key one in my mind is that I have been associating with comics professionals since the early 90s, including people who did work on girls’ comics or who could have had contacts from those times. I could have been asking Phil Gascoine about his background in girls’ comics, on those evenings when I went to the SSI  (Society for Strip Illustration). As it was, I asked him about it precisely once, in a crowded convention bar, shortly before he died. What a waste of historical knowledge! This will have been repeated time and again, of course.

I also had a lot invested mentally (it turns out) in seeing Jinty, ‘my’ comic, as exceptional. An easy way to counter the slight sense of shame that grown up readers might feel about their attachment to a piece of ‘trash from the past’ is to rubbish the rest and elevate your own particular love object. Like others had done before and after me, I ‘flattened out’ my memories of girls’ comics and reduced them in my mind to being all about ballet, pony-riding, and school stories – or at least I did this to the ones that weren’t Jinty! I had no good way to put Jinty into the correct historical context of other publications or to relate the artists and writers on this one title to other titles published before, during, and after it. In a fannish environment there would have been much more encouragement to branch out and learn more about related comics created by the same people or in the same genre. Again, what a waste – this time of the reading enjoyment I could potentially have had.

On a less heart-felt note, I identified a few titles referred to in Remembered Reading that I want to get hold of myself – though I suspect that some of the sources that Gibson used may perhaps be infuriating or dry reading (there was a Royal Commission on the Press published in 1977 that might be interesting, and a later report on children’s reading published by the Roehampton Institute in 1996). One must-buy is going to be the Mum’s Own Annual published by Fleetway – Gibson is not entirely sure whether this is intended as a parody or not, but it sounds like it might have some insider views that are worth a look at. For instance, the following quote comes from the Mum’s Own Annual: “The girls involved in the market research for Tammy generally confirmed the editors’ assumptions about preferred content, but the readers’ enjoyment of stories that made them cry came as a surprise”.

Finally, I did also have an area of fruitful possible further investigation that Remembering Reading brought up for me – namely, on some of the differences and similarities between girls comics and boys comics. Of course this is something covered by Gibson. She explains how traditional girls’ comics had rules on how to write girl protagonists – Marcus Morris, the editor of Eagle and Girl, felt that while you could have action stories with female leads, the “motivation should be personal” to keep her marked as properly feminine (pg 81), “unlike male protagonists in the Eagle who would be depicted as responding to more abstract motivations, like national pride, for instance.” (pg 45) There is further good analysis of the differences between Eagle and Girl content-wise – girls had active roles but were either schoolgirl investigators or at the beginning of their working life, not grown policeman or pilots. As with boys’ comics, the publishers of girls comics still needed to produce interesting, involving stories – and while the outside world might reject them as racist, sexist, and poorly written (pg 79), creators and editors saw their work differently, knowing that you couldn’t get away with a ‘wet’ lead character, girl or boy (pg 80). But how does a publisher of stories for boys, and a publisher of stories for girls, approach the overall aim of making interesting and readable stories – are there real, notable differences between the resulting stories, or prejudices and assumptions about them that vanish under further analysis?

For instance, if girls’ comics are a way for girls to choose to either conform (by accepting the version of girlhood presented) or to rebel (by rejecting it), then that presumably means that writers and editors have to juggle the aims of attracting readers versus not pushing away parents and other gatekeepers. Do they have to do this more so than the people who are making boy’s comics, or to a similar degree? Boy readers play with conformity in a different way from girl readers – reading a comic already is a ‘boy thing’, unless it’s a strongly gender-marked girls comics – but then if it is made into too ‘girly’ a thing even the staunch girl readers may desert it. What does this mean for the content of the titles?  Gibson says that “the publications present adult, and especially the editors’, perceptions of what is appropriate to girlhood in terms of both entertainment and education. However, this does not mean that the titles were ideological monoliths” (pg 38) and points to the emotional turmoil, wit and resilience of central characters. Often in girls’ comics these are lone, misunderstood heroines – perhaps with a lot of cruelty and victimhood, but a secret heroine who puts things right, one who is active not passive. I think there is a lot that can be looked at to compare how stories work in boys’ comics and girls’ comics – similarity and differences of themes, or of what kinds of stories work or not, or about what kind of shape they have as stories (happy endings or sad, character development or no character development, story ending back where it started or not, long narrative arcs or not). Why, I don’t actually even know for sure that the Cinderella or Slave theme might not have featured in boys’ comics, perhaps a little less obviously than in the girls’ ones! Certainly the trope focusing on a group of friends (“The Four Marys” and so on) is easily transferable to boys’ comics.

There is considerably more that I could pull out and highlight as further thoughts for future developments. Please do read the book yourself if you are able, and comment with your own further thoughts!

‘Remembered Reading’ by Mel Gibson; book review

Remembered Reading: Memory, Comics and Post-War Constructions of British Girlhood“, by Dr Mel Gibson; ISBN 9789462700307, published by Leuven University Press, June 2015. Reviewed by Jenni Scott.

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British girls’ comics are not much written-about, either within academia or within comics fandom. Even the people who read these comics as children tend to move away from then in their teenage years and forget about them as adults, until a deep well of memory is probed and an undercurrent of (often very strong) emotion is released. In looking at how people talked and thought about girls comics in the past, and how people talk and think about them still, this book is a great review both of the memories of the former girl readers, and of the criticism – often ill-informed or inadequate – made of these comics.

To be clear up front, this is an academic work based on Dr Gibson’s research for her doctoral thesis, and published by an academic press within a series of ‘Studies in European Comics and Graphic Novels’. Some of the writing includes some specialized vocabulary or concepts (in fact this is generally not too bad but it could put some people off). Perhaps more importantly for a work on comics, only a very few illustrations are used: this sort of book typically has definite budget constraints and it is hard to obtain permission to use this sort of old material (especially for free). It is not a lavish reference book for a general audience! Having said that, Dr Gibson has chosen wisely in including a four-page “Belle of the Ballet” story and an absolutely corking two page photo story from “Shocking Pink”. It also includes a very solid chapter on ‘The Rise and Fall of the British Girls’ Comic’, which provides an outline of publication history and of the development of this market. Its real strength, though, lies in the number of questions, thoughts, and avenues for investigation that it has provoked in me during my reading. (And what better thing can you say of an academic book than that it is fruitful?)

So, what is the book all about, in more detail?

Coverage

In the Introduction, Dr Gibson sets out her stall. This book aims to look at how the genre of comics aimed at British girls developed and why they disappeared, while also looking at other comics that were read by girls (such as American superhero comics) and to a lesser extent also at the phenomenon of boys reading girls’ comics too. This is in order to challenge the received idea in our Anglo-Saxon culture of comics as being by and for boys and for men: a prejudice that forgets and belittles the history of girls comics. Because it proved hard and expensive to get hold of issues of girls comics themselves, or at least in the range and quantity you’d need to do a good overview, Gibson ended up not looking at the titles directly, or the stories in them, but rather at people’s memories and what was important enough in those memories to stick with them until she interviewed them years and decades later. (These were interviews done at a range of events typically held in libraries, schools, and other organizations, thus not targeting a body of already-identified comics fans.) At the same time, Gibson is clear about needing to look at the history of British writing on comics too: a history that comprises a strand that considers comics functionally as an educational tool, a strand that reflects enthusiasm and positive interest in the medium, and a larger third, critical, strand that starts from the premise that comics are bad for readers. (Even in the Introduction, it’s obvious that Gibson is writing from the point of view of a keen and positive reader of comics herself, so that while she outlines and discusses the critical strand there’s no fear she is likely to endorse it.)

Chapter One starts off talking in more detail about why it was so hard for Gibson to find copies of the girls’ comics she would have liked to work on: you might not have thought this was a particularly interesting aspect to lead off with, but it actually reveals some interesting attitudes on the part of the comics dealers she was in contact with. The dealers themselves had prejudices and misconceptions about girl comics readers: they argued that girls only got given comics out of duty and “did not really like them”, while at the same paradoxically still keeping them – meaning that dealers ended up with stashes of girls comics that they didn’t value either, and typically destroyed rather than sell! So a perceived lack of interest in girls comics becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mass media writing about girls comics, too, ‘flattens’ and reduces the diversity of comics actually produced and read, and paints the comics that girls read as being all about boarding schools and middle-class respectability.

Between her own experience, the interviews with readers, and even some interviews with women involved in the creation of comics, Gibson promises us a much more nuanced view not only of the value and interpretations that girls do place on comics, but of the range of publications actually on offer at different times, and the relevant differences between them, particularly including perceived differences of class. This nuanced view is used not only to challenge the views of the dealers but also those of the few academics or educationalists who have written about this area. The analysis is even turned inwards too: Gibson confesses that “[a]s a younger reader I dismissed comics for girls as less significant, showing my own entanglement with value judgements and ideology” – a point she develops further in the rest of book that had a lot of resonance for me, too. Nevertheless, when discussing their memories with readers who came forward, she found that “these publications had been an important part of childhood reading”, used to construct the reader’s sense of what it was to be a girl in Britain at the time. (Not that everyone wanted to become a girl if that was what it meant to be one – some readers rebelled in various ways – but it clearly helped to shape them, either way.)

Chapter Two covers the publishing history of girls’ comics in Britain: this is a really good solid chapter which covers the gamut of work and of publishers. It starts with 19th and early 20th century text-based periodicals for girls, which were aimed at and read by a wide range of classes and ages. Girls’ comics themselves appeared rather later, in the 1950s; the key story is “The Silent Three” but the key title that comes under most discussion here is Girl. One particular point of interest in this chronological approach is that Gibson is able to highlight the treatment in Girl of ballet as “acceptable”, “although it had not been long since ballet had been seen as a problematic profession” – that is, although later generations of readers treated ballet themes as boring and conservative, we should remember there was a time when this was far from being the case! Gibson also highlights that titles with a mixture of content – features, fashion, pin-ups as well as comic strips – “came to be predominantly associated with British girls’ comics” (despite also being seen in boys’ titles such as Eagle and Look & Learn). Later titles such as Jackie in particular took this further, of course, and indeed led to the magazine format dominating the teenage and adult markets. At this point there’s a visible split in the market, with the titles for pre-teens (starting with Bunty, Judy, and Princess) being produced primarily in comics form rather than using more of the mixed format. “The comic medium, in not continuing through to periodicals for adults, was reinforced as an indicator of childhood.”

The section on Bunty and the subsequent section on Tammy and the new wave of comics will probably be of particular interest to readers of this blog, and won’t disappoint. There are some quotes from Benita Brown, who talks about writing the stories “Blind Bettina” (publication not traced),  “Hateful Heather”, and “Cathy’s Friend From Yesterday” (both in Mandy). Brown also wrote the sports tips that appeared in Jinty, “Winning Ways”, and it is implied though not stated clearly that she wrote “Spirit of the Lake” too. The final section is also interesting, covering the advent of photo-stories (illustrated by a parody one from feminist title Shocking Pink) and horror themes, before the death of the girls’ comic as a separate medium. Unfortunately for my personal interests, this chapter doesn’t go down to the level of detail I would ideally want to see about ‘production’ points such as sales data, who wrote what, who drew what, or editorial decisions and aims. Nevertheless it is a really good chapter that will give solid reference for anyone reading or researching in this area in the future.

Chapter Three is about how librarians, academics, teachers, and others have thought and talked about comics reading in Britain. It looks at moral panics and the fears that adults who are gatekeepers for children have had about comics: that comics are dangerous unless vetted for appropriate content, poorly-made, and will incite their readers to violent, criminal, or otherwise undesirable outcomes. These fears applied to boys and girls but particularly vehemently to girls; there was also a class element to the fears, with working-class readers felt to be more at risk than others. These worries came from various sides of the political spectrum as there were also plenty of feminist critiques made: that girls’ comics were unnecessarily twee and limiting, that they had too many stereotypes, that they were created almost exclusively by men, that they encouraged a victim mentality (especially the Cinderella and Slave story themes, as you can imagine).

On the positive side, Gibson counters these fears much more thoroughly than I’ve seen elsewhere. She cites Benita Brown as seeing her work in comics deliberately stretching the boundaries of the girls’ comics traditions; Brown also apparently “said that during her period of writing the majority of writers that she found out about, in both IPC and DC Thomson, were women”. (No further details were given on this statement – I’d love to hear more! – I also note that Mavis Miller, who also shaped girls comics publications at the time, wasn’t mentioned.) Gibson also points out the contradictions in the ‘moral panic’ reactions to comics – that commentators are scared comics will make readers ‘lazy’ and unwilling to move on to ‘proper’ books while at the same time noting that high volumes of comics being read tends to go hand in hand with high volumes of other materials being read by the same people. Gibson also points out changes over time in what is shocking and deplorable – at one point ballet is risqué, then Jackie becomes worrying because of its content about boyfriends and fashion, and subsequently titles like Just Seventeen and Mizz seem just as problematic. Each generation sees “a shift in defining what girlhood is and what the concerns of girlhood are.” Furthermore, once you start talking to the readers of the stories about them in more detail, you get a lot more about how they are interpreted or understood by those readers: girls discussed and argued about what they were reading, they interpreted them in different ways, it wasn’t just a mechanical equation or imposition of stereotypes onto vulnerable readers. It is precisely that area of reader response that is so valuable in the subsequent couple of chapters.

Chapters Four and Five are based on her interviews with readers of comics. It covers (of course) girls reading girls’ comics, looking at interview data to see how women talk about their girlhood reading and comparing this to academic writing that often makes incorrect assumptions about how that worked. Pleasingly, Gibson also covers boys reading girls’ comics, and girls reading comics that aren’t intended for girls (or not straightforwardly – she argues that even humour comics intended for a mixed audience are more firmly marked as being for boys than you might think).

Gibson showed through these interviews what readers of this blog will know from personal experience: girls don’t only read girls’ comics as might be assumed, they also read humour comics intended for a mixed-gender audience (The Beano) and titles intended for a male audience (Eagle, superhero comics). They read across class lines (there is often awareness of the idea of comics as a ‘lower class’ thing unless you read the ‘posh’ titles such as Girl). Most of all, readers read widely – borrowing other people’s comics, swapping, buying multiple titles per week – often communally, and with strong feelings about those comics even when remembering them as adults. Comics were fun to read and remembered fondly, but were also an important part of growing up: the transition from reading comics to reading magazines was often a marker of teenagerhood or early womanhood, and not infrequently this transition was forced on the reader to some extent by parents or by peer pressure. So on the one hand comics showed you ways of being a girl in British society (which you might reject by reading boys comics instead, or by interpreting the story differently from the way adults did), and on the other hand they were something you were expected or made to grow out of and put behind you – they belonged to childhood.

And girls comics stayed in one’s childhood, unlike the boys comics which have generated a collector base and fandom around them. Grown women are not, in our society, supposed to be still interested in those childish things for their own sake (though they are allowed to read comics if they have children who they are buying them for), and grown women do not as a rule, indulge themselves in re-buying their old comics and participating in ‘collecting’ activities. This is especially the case considering that comics are quite strongly marked culturally as being ‘for boys’ and ‘for men’, apart from the girls comics which are marked as being ‘of the past’. Some women will buck this trend, of course, but as exceptions to the rule.

The book ends with a good selection of end material, with an index and bibliography that has given me leads for further investigation in the future. One very welcome feature is a list of stories under discussion, which shows convincingly the wide range that Gibson covers. An index is also always useful, though a couple of quibbles – why not include Benita Brown in the index? (Pat Mills is also quoted but not included, so presumably no creators are listed in the index, but this still doesn’t make good sense to me.) Also, why is there no list of figures? There are only about 6 of them so it wouldn’t be a long list but it would be handy to refer back to and seems a striking omission for a book about comics.

I have a host of follow-up thoughts on this in terms of questions this book sparks, and further things to be looked at. This post is already very long though so those will continue separately.

Female writers in a girls’ genre

This is my 100th post! To celebrate, a thinky piece of the sort I particularly enjoy having the space to do here on this blog. Comments and further information very welcome indeed, as ever, but especially useful for this sort of wider coverage article.

For a genre based around a female readership, you could be forgiven for thinking there were hardly any women involved in producing British girls comics. In 1998 I first started writing about Jinty, and looking back at that article (published in feminist ‘by women for people’ zine GirlFrenzy), the few names mentioned were of men: Jim Baikie, Casanovas, Pat Mills. These were the only creators I recognized from having seen them, their work, or their commentary in the fairly male world of British mainstream comics.

Some years later I met Pat Mills in person, and he subsequently attended the Oxford-based comics festival CAPTION2004, during which I interviewed him about his editorial and authorial role in Jinty, Misty, and Tammy. Some more creator names were added to the pot, but really only two female names stood out – those of Mavis Miller and of Pat Davidson, of which Pat Davidson was the only name of a writer. (I was by then aware of Trini Tinture’s work, too.) Additionally, I’d also managed to ask Phil Gascoine who wrote “Fran of the Floods”, but he could remember no names, just that it was a female writer.

As recently as early last year, therefore, there was so little information readily available that it was still possible for Adi Tantimedh’s post on Bleeding Cool to attribute the authorship of the vast majority of stories in girls comics to Pat Mills or to ‘the creators of Judge Dredd and 2000AD’. (He subsequently corrected the article text to read ‘his fair share of the series in Jinty were written by Pat Mills.’) This isn’t helped by the fact that when in that interview Pat M did give us Pat Davidson’s name, it was linked to a fairly sweeping assessment of women writers: “Generally, it was male writers in this field. I think Pat Davidson is the only woman I can think of who genuinely had a better touch in the way she did this, she wrote far more from the heart, the rest of us were 23-year-old guys killing ourselves laughing as we wrote this stuff, but she wrote from the heart, and it was quite genuine.”

We’re now in a position where we can bring together more information so that we can bring a more nuanced analysis to bear. Alison Christie is now known to have written not only a great swathe of Jinty stories, but also to have written many stories for other titles before, afterwards, and simultaneously (very literally!). We also have heard that Veronica Weir wrote at least one story for Jinty. (We also know that one of the writers was Len Wenn, then only a few years away from his retirement age and hence also quite far from the demographic highlighted by Mills.) Generally we now know what could have been guessed before, which is that creating comics was quite a good profession for women at the time: drawing or writing comics is something that a young mother can do from home! We also know that the same people worked for a range of comics; we could have guessed that from the artists, but a writer can be working on more than one script at the same time more easily than an artist can, so they are if anything more likely to be working for multiple titles.

To try to get a view on the historical context, we can note that there are a couple of titles that ran credits for at least some of their time. Girl was the first title to be dedicated to a readership of girls: it ran from 1951-64 and included creator credits (I don’t know whether the credits continued throughout the whole run though). Towards the other end of the main period of publication of girls’ comics, Tammy also ran creator credits for a little while from the middle of 1982. I haven’t got access to any very complete information about the stories and creators in Girl, but looking at the Wikipedia page for it I found a couple of names I’m unfamiliar with – Ruth Adam and Betty Roland, who wrote a number of stories between them. These included the nursing strip “Susan of St Bride’s” and the adventure strip “Angela Air Hostess” respectively, both of which were popular stories featuring resourceful, independent female characters. Looking at Catawiki’s entries on Girl would take more time to do properly than I currently have available, but I note that a sample issue from 1955 picked randomly includes these two female writers plus two others (Valerie Hastings and Mollie Black).

Of more immediate applicability to the subject of this blog, the women who wrote for Tammy may well have done so for Jinty too; luckily for me, there is more information available to me on who did what there, as co-writer Mistyfan has kindly sent me an index of Tammy stories. We can therefore look in some detail at the comics stories running in Tammy during the second half of 1982, where we find:

  • “Bella” written by both Malcolm Shaw and by Primrose Cumming
  • “The Button Box”: created by Alison Christie, specific individual episodes written by Ian Mennell or Linda Stephenson
  • “Nanny Young” written by Tom Newland and Maureen Spurgeon
  • “Rae Rules OK”written by Gerry Finley-Day
  • “Come Back Bindi” written by Jenny McDade
  • “Saving Grace” written by Ian Mennell
  • “A Gran for the Gregorys” written by Alison Christie
  • “Slave of the Clock” written by Jay Over
  • “Tomorrow Town” written by Benita Brown
  • “Cross on Court” written by Gerry Findley-Day
  • “Cuckoo In the Nest” written by Ian Mennell
  • “Romy’s Return” written by Charles Herring
  • Out of the 12 complete stories on the Tammy index I am referring to, two seem to be uncredited while three were written by Roy Preston, four by Maureen Spurgeon, one by Chris Harris, one by Ray Austin and one by Barry Clements

That’s fairly evenly spread; there are more male writers than female overall but not by that much. A count by number of pages printed might show a different picture, but then I also haven’t included the writers of text stories (in particular Anne Digby). We can also have a quick look at the Catawiki entry for an individual issue from the time (I chose issue 600) which lists stories by Benita Brown, Anne Digby, and Maureen Spurgeon – I assume that the Anne Digby is an illustrated text story rather than a comic. Another issue, 609, has more stories by female writers: two stories by Maureen Spurgeon, one by Alison Christie, and one by Primrose Cumming. In the absence of a concerted effort to count the number of pages written by women over a few representative issues (any volunteers?) I’d estimate that some 15% – 40% of the comic at a time might have been written by women: under half of the content for sure, but a substantial section.

Clearly we only have two very solid data points here – Girl in the 50s and 60s, and Tammy in the early 80s – but the fact they corroborate each other is strongly suggestive that yes, over the decades of comics published for a readership of girls, female writers have always been present, and in reasonable numbers rather than as the odd exceptional talent. They have written popular stories both in their own right and as jobbing writers taking on someone else’s initial creation. Can we say anything else about that, for instance about what sort of stories they wrote? Now that is rather more difficult, because we have to factor in individual preferences of writers. Alison Christie is clearly a writer of heart-tugging stories, so we can attribute a female writer to a number of stories in that style. That doesn’t mean that other female writers have the same preferences: Benita Brown is credited as the writer of a science fiction story, and Veronica Weir’s one known outing as writer was on a story with spooky overtones but mostly concerned with loneliness and survival. I don’t know the Tammy stories list above well enough to say what themes they represent, but in the list of Jinty stories we just don’t know enough about who wrote what to say anything much more concrete.

Likewise, can we say anything much to compare how well the stories worked with the gender of the author – could we say that the stories made by young men killing themselves laughing were better or more effective than those by women or indeed by older men such as Len Wenn? One difficulty is that in judging effectiveness or memorability, individual reader preferences will come strongly into play – my own list of top stories is skewed to the spooky, mystical, and science fictional and away from the heart-tuggers. Mostly though I think we just don’t know enough about who wrote what, in Jinty at least, to be able to say whether the the most popular, longest-running, most memorable, or otherwise most effective stories tended overall to be written by one group of writers versus another. We have examples written by women (“Stefa’s Heart of Stone”) and by young men (“Land of No Tears”, “The Robot Who Cried”), but the vast majority still lie in the camp of ‘unknown writer’.

Writing this post has sparked off other thoughts that felt a bit tangential to the main point of this piece; I will follow up with more on ‘What makes a story work’ (and indeed how can we tell that it does work).

Edited in Aug 2015 to add: subsequent discussion on the Comics UK Forum leads me to add another known female writer to the list of names acquired to date: Jenny Butterworth, writer of the long-running series “The Happy Days” in Princess Tina (amongst other stories).

Edited in December 2015 to add: we now know that “Fran of the Floods” was not written by a female writer; it can be attributed to Alan Davidson per his wife’s recent comments. At the time of writing, Davidson was a family man who also did not fall in the category of “23 year old guy killing himself laughing” at what he was writing.

Edited in January 2016 to add: Anne Digby has sent in an interview with information about writing comic stories for titles such as Tammy. It is noteworthy that she did not only produce text stories for this title, but also comics adaptations of her previously-published novels.

Edited in March 2016 to add: Phoenix on the Comics UK forum scanned and uploaded a snippet from the Guardian of a letter from one Mary Hooper, writer for Jackie in particular, but perhaps also for other titles?

Edited in January 2017 to add: clarification that Alison Christie (Fitt) created “The Button Box” and was the main writer on the story, though some individual stories were farmed out by editor Wilf Prigmore to Ian Mennell and to Linda Stephenson.

Leo Davy

One of the things I am most appreciating about this blog is the way that it is able to take part in an expanding network of resources: the existing UK girls’ comics blogs, the Comics UK forum, Catawiki, the original creators or editors where we are able to make contact with them, and interested fans and experts internationally. This not only means that things known in one area (artists of specific strips, contents of individual issues) are made more readily available to other interested parties, but also that inconsistencies can be corrected and new knowledge promulgated. This is particularly important as, sadly, there is no single reliable source of this information in the shape of publishing archives or editorial records; I recently spoke to copyright holders Egmont who confirmed that they have no editorial files or information held from that time. This makes our current networking and sharing of memories, information, and analysis the only way we can come up with a good picture of who did what, when, how, and where.

I posted back in November about the artist attribution we have been giving for “Angela’s Angels”; we have given the name of the artist as Alberto Cuyas, though in fact we seemingly should have listed him as Manuel Cuyàs. However, Sleuth from Catawiki has recently emailed me a number of pages of art definitively credited to Manuel Cuyàs and to Leo Davy, confirming to me that we should change the attribution of “Angela’s Angels” to the latter artist (now done).

There is quite a bit of artwork attributed to Leo Davy and Phil Townsend together; they drew two Girl strips together, “Susan of St Bride’s” and “Calling Nurse Abbott!”. There is some similarity here of faces and other details when compared to “Angela’s Angels”: look at the bottom left of the first page and the bottom right of the second.

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“A Scooter To Sydney” is credited to Leo Davy alone, as is a smashing adaptation of “The Day of the Triffids” – Bill’s face in the second row of panels, in particular, is a very good match with the “Angela’s Angels” artwork to my mind. (Moreso than the art on “Sydney”, which is in a very finished style.)

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Here are some more faces from the nursing strips:

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Finally, some more “Angela’s Angel’s” artwork for comparison:

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Cuyàs has similarities of style; he is a vigorous artist with lots of movement in his drawing, and his characters are not pretty-pretty. However, his faces are distinctively different (those noses!) and he often signs his work. His art appeared in June & Schoolfriend, Bunty, and other classic girl’s titles, and some of it was reprinted in Jinty: the 1979 Jinty annual (post to follow) includes the rather fun collected story “Trudy on Trial!” (originally published between 24 June 1972 and 19 August 1972 according to Deskartes Mil). The 1975 Jinty annual republishes the story “Eve’s Dream” which I assume is also from June & Schoolfriend, though I would be grateful for confirmation of this.

Manuel Cuyàs
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Manuel Cuyàs
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There is very little information available on the internet about Leo Davy. As Girl printed credits for writers and artists, we can attribute the following stories to him:

  • Susan of St Bride’s (with Phil Townsend)
  • Calling Nurse Abbott! (with Phil Townsend)
  • The Day of the Triffids (adaptation of the John Wyndham book)
  • A Scooter to Sydney
  • The Red Pennant

The only Jinty strip attributable to him is “Angela’s Angels”, including a short story featuring the same characters in the Jinty 1974 annual. There is also a longer list of titles available on Catawiki here; I haven’t reviewed it fully or sense-checked it for any oddities yet, though.

Looking at those strips in Girl, Leo Davy has a very classic, elegant style. The strips he draws are energetic and also pretty neat and meticulous; “Angela’s Angels” is less meticulous to my eye, looking in some places as if it was pencilled but not fully inked or painted. Could this be a sign of an experienced draughtsman towards the end of his career, still drawing beautifully but less carefully and precisely?

Leo Davy fits well as the artist on “Angela’s Angels” – especially in the first issues of a new title, getting an experienced artist on a nursing story to do another makes good sense! Cuyàs would also be unsurprising as an artist in Jinty, having probably previously worked with Mavis Miller or colleagues of hers, but compared to the themes in his previous stories it would be a little more of a leap for him to turn up as the creator on a nursing story.

With particular thanks to Sleuth from Catawiki

What sort of stories did Jinty not cover?

Any comic has to have a focus, a remit of what will be covered and therefore inevitably what will not be covered. The choices made, however, may be revealing in themselves, or may raise further questions as to why one thing was included and another skipped over.

Non-fiction

UK girls comics did not generally include non-fictional comics stories such as biographies. They did include some text items that were non-fictional in nature – snippets of information about sports, history, the origin of names, current pop stars – but not done as ongoing comics stories. Other classic British titles had done this – The Eagle included some biographical strips, for instance; and other children’s magazines had covered non-fiction rather more thoroughly (for instance Look and Learn’s whole raison d’etre was to be educational). Why not cover non-fiction? I imagine that the editors at the time wanted to very firmly steer away from the diactic, ‘good-for-you’ image of The Eagle and Look and Learn, both of which were the sorts of titles that tended to be bought for you by well-meaning parents. [Edited to add: Girl did print some non-fiction stories, such as one in 1959 about Marie Curie, subsequently reprinted in Princess Tina. See this comment on the UK Comics Forum for further details.]

In more recent years, The Phoenix’s “Corpse Talk” has gone back and mined this vein very effectively, showing that biographies can be done in comics form amusingly, interestingly, and well. (Creator Adam Murphy also does some strips about science using a similar format.) Even at the time, it would have been quite possible to do at least some non-fiction without it being boringly didactic, had the will or interest been there. I have just been reading some biographical material about Caroline Herschel, and her story would fit amazingly well in a ‘slave’ story: she was cabined, cribb’d, confined by her mother and her eldest brother, made to work long and hard hours on tasks as the equivalent of a maid, not allowed to stay in bed when ill, and so forth – to be subsequently rescued by her kindly older brother William Herschel, and eventually to triumph as William’s scientific assistant and indeed as a discoverer of comets in her own right! Similar tales could no doubt have been spun about the obvious eminent women such as Florence Nightingale and Boadicea, but also about the less obvious ones such as Aphra Behn and Mary Seacole (though as a black woman it would have been particularly unlikely for the latter to have been written about, sadly).

So, Jinty and similar comics weren’t ones that you read in order to learn; and nor were they ones where factual content was sneaked in under the radar, either. Sneaking it in could have happened: in boys’ war comics of the time, accuracy on details like uniforms, badges, battles, and weapons was prized by the readers and striven for by the creators. (More recently, my two young kids are getting a kick out of “Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures” on the telly: plenty of learning-through-fun there.) History, geography, science, maths, languages were prized in Jinty mainly as set-dressing when a story called for it, if at all; and the level of research and accuracy was not high, as has been noted previously.

There were some small, local exceptions to this – some areas that Jinty covered that it did care about getting right, and which you could have a reasonable expectation of learning from as a reader.

  • Sports: at one point there was a dedicated sport section, teaching you finer points of passing the ball in netball, using the parallel bars in gymnastics, and covering aspects of more exotic sports like water polo. Even aside from that dedicated sports section, there were a lot of stories featuring sporty protagonists who were given or gave tips on table tennis (“Ping-Pong Paula”), competitive cycling (“Curtain of Silence”), or netball (“Life’s A Ball For Nadine”).
  • Crafts and cookery: each issue had a page or two on how to make a little present from odds and ends, how to revitalise an old skirt, or how to prepare some easy recipe.
  • Trivia: origins of names, the story of mince pies, snippets of amusing anecdotes about, yes, Boadicea or Queen Anne.

Overt political and social issues

As a publication intended for an age range of around 8 – 12 years, you wouldn’t expect much in the way of political discussion unless there was a specific radical intention (as with the creation of Shocking Pink magazine slightly later). There is however in Jinty an utter absence not only of political comment or explanation, but even of reference: no cheeky images of the current prime minister or mention of recent or current events such as the Three Day Week or the IRA bombs. The monarchy does get a look-in with a patriotic celebration of the Jubilee and the Royal Wedding (but then, to do otherwise would be to make a republican statement in itself).

There is also very little overt coverage of wider social issues, such as feminism, racism, colonialism. Without wishing to say that we are now in some paradise, the Britain of that time was clearly a more discriminatory society; Jinty was not in the business of providing substantive challenges to this. Very overt acts of racism would no doubt have been opposed, if they had ever come up – but for instance the paki-bashing that some readers’ families might well have condoned was invisible in these pages and hence never in fact challenged. Related issues do get the occasional airing, though: for instance “Bound For Botany Bay” has some statements about the evils of slavery in a setting that is comfortably far-off in time.

It is not exactly surprising that Jinty was not proactively anti-racist or anti-colonialist; it would have taken a radical mindset to challenge these social issues, and this was a mainstream publication. What about feminism – as a comic published with girls in mind, did any women’s rights issues sneak in under the radar? Not very overtly, I’d say; there were some stories that touched on girls not being treated fairly or being laughed at by boys as incapable of X or Y, but these were mostly treated as individual problems rather than systemic ones. In “Two Mothers For Maggie”, the protagonist complains of being expected to do housework and baby-sitting when she has her homework to do and the stepfather has finished his work for the day; but the issue there is framed as one of poverty not primarily of sexism. In “Black Sheep of the Bartons”, protagonist Bev wants to do boyish sports like judo, but this again is painted as a personality quirk, especially in contrast with her gentle and delicate younger sister who is far more ‘girly’. It might also be played for laughs: there was an early “Jinx of St Jonah’s” story where Katie Jinks  and her friends had a bet on with the nearby boys’ school where they each had three gender-swapped stereotypical tasks to do (making shelves for the girls, making dresses for the boys); they all failed fairly equally and we are supposed to laugh at them for stepping out of the gender roles.

The aspect of Jinty which leads most clearly to a real feminist point is, paradoxically, the fact it was part of such a separate publication stream from boys’ comics. So many of the characters are girls you could almost imagine it is set in one of the parallel worlds devoid of men, favoured by a certain strand of feminist science fiction. The outcome is that there is a great multiplicity of female roles available as models for readers: villains who are misguided, evil, powerful, petty, misunderstood, or plain off their head; protagonists who are vain, strong, smart, brave, clumsy, deft, sporty, bullied, powerless, and sometimes even clever (the latter not so often, sad to say); friends who are loyal, fickle, blind, shallow, and sometimes smarter than they seem. This is in stark contrast to today’s media world in which girls are assumed to read stories with male protagonists but not vice-versa, women are expected to watch films with male characters but not vice-versa, and the story-telling that we’re supposed to accept as progressive is one where the female character is ‘strong’ or ‘kick-ass’ but still far from actually being rounded and fully-developed.

There are some other social issues that sneak in slightly surprisingly. Environmentalism gets a look-in in various stories: there are a couple of anti-motorway or anti-car stories (“The Green People” and “Guardian of White Horse Hill” feature local protests against the building of motorways through sensitive areas, “Save Old Smokey” is anti-car). More drastically, “The Forbidden Garden” is set in a dystopia where the earth is poisoned and nothing can grow naturally. Animal Rights, too, get a look-in: “The Human Zoo” and “Worlds Apart” both feature sections where animal rights protestors are seen as rightly protesting terrible treatment of animals (even if the protesters are also shown as causing as much harm to the animals as they cause good).

However, the big social issue covered that might be surprising to modern readers is inequality. Lots and lots of stories had fat-cat villains, wealthy uncaring capitalists, rich  family members who were greedy or miserly, cruel and heartless. Stories like “Bound for Botany Bay” made much greater play of the evils of class distinctions than they did of the evils of racism and slavery; and stories like “Ping-Pong Paula” and Tammy’s “Ella on Easy Street” were pretty clear that it was better to be poor with a loving family than rich with a distant one. Maybe this is part of a ‘poor little rich girl’ trope prevalent in children’s stories? Maybe it resulted from the core market of readers who were less well-off than was the case for some of the earlier, more middle-class comics? But also, the Britain of that time was actually a less unequal society than it is nowadays. WWII didn’t feel that long ago, which had also driven some reduction in inequalities. Did this mean that it was more possible to have villains who were fat-cats, capitalists, because inequality itself was less acceptable?

Growing up, sex, and romance

Again not surprising as an omission given the age range, but boyfriends are pretty much completely missing in Jinty. Older girls or young women may have boyfriends or even fiancés – sisters, young teachers – but the protagonist herself does not. In one near-exception, “Pam of Pond Hill”, Pam’s friend Goofy is someone she is teased about, and the word boyfriend is used in that teasing, but there is no kissing or cuddling involved in that relationship. So although the protagonists are depicted looking as if they are some years older than most of the readers, the concerns addressed are much more focused on intense friendships and rivalries than on romantic or sexual relationships.

The characters are often drawn with enough of a developing body to require a bikini top or bra and pants rather than the more demure vest and slip of more traditional times, but this is not addressed explicitly in the story. No Judy Blumes to be found in these pages! The letters pages sporadically included an agony aunt element, but even then this focused more on interpersonal relationships with other girls than it did puberty, periods, bodily hair, and boyfriends. Girls moved onto older magazines such as Jackie and Just Seventeen (these may or may not have had a comics element) and it was in those pages that they learned some of the subjects now taught in British schools under acronyms such as PSHE.