I’m guessing not a lot of people are familiar with this annual. Unfortunately, the annual I own is missing half its pages but I still think its worth talking about as it seems to be a rare item! This book was published in Ireland, it’s written and illustrated by Irish people and it actually credits the writers and artists. It’s 72 pages long (including covers) and cost £2.95 at the time. Other than this annual I do not know anything about the publication of Tara, the back cover says “see you soon girls”, which would imply it was going to be a regular book. This is the only Tara annual/comic I’ve come across though.
The contents are typical of a girls’ annual with picture stories ranging from the dramatic to the humorous, text stories involving heroic horses and informative features and art/craft items. Again my copy is missing a lot of pages but I will look at the 4 complete picture stories in the annual:
A Romance for Doris Karloff (Pages: 4-5)
Story & Art: John Byrne
This is a cute little story told in rhyme. Doris goes to the local disco hoping to meet a guy, but the potential “handsome hunks” either already have a girlfriend or obsessed with bikes. She is happy when she meets a guy who wants to walk her home. Alone outside the disco he tells her his name is Vince. Doris is delighted until she sees his pointy teeth and realises he’s a vampire. She is nearly done for but then the full moon rises and she shows that she has secrets of her own. She changes into a werewolf and chases Vince with the conclusion that True Love Conquers All! This is a fun story with some great cartoon illustrations.
“Crowning Glory” (Pages: 9-16)
Story: Emily Austin
In Paris 1650, fashion and beauty mean everything. Madame Clopin is a person of high society that has many admirers and jealous rivals. She is a vain creature and is not pleased at rumours that her looks are due to cosmetic skills of her young servant Marie, rather than natural beauty. Madame Clopin is a hard mistress and does not like that Marie could rival her beauty.
Marie is in love with a struggling artist, Paul, who protests at her giving him half her meagre wages. He promises when he makes his money they will be married and all her sacrifices will be repaid. Later back working at Chopin’s house, Marie takes in an old street seller and feeds her a good meal. She asks her to leave quietly so Chopin doesn’t find out she was there. The old woman tells her she can help her, and that a cruel mistress could put lines on a pretty face. She gives her a a potion that she says will perserve her good looks and give her good fortune. Marie is too polite to refuse but after the woman has gone she goes to dispose of the bottle. Madame Chopin catches her and thinks she is hiding good cosmetics for herself. She drinks the potion. The next day there are big shocks as all her hair has fallen out.
She fires Marie blaming her for the evil potion and she blacklists her so no one will hire her. She sends for doctors all over Paris to try and restore her hair. With no money left Paul has been taken to debtors jail. Marie comes up with the idea to make Clopin a wig from her own hair, and bargain for Paul’s freedom. Clopin gives her money and Marie and Paul are married. He becomes a famous artist and her a famous wig maker. Madame Clopin is still as vain as ever.
Aisling (Pages: 17-24)
Story & Art: Thomas McGee
In Ancient Ireland an assassin tries to kill the King, he fails and is killed for his treachery This is seen by his servant sister Morgyn and she promises to avenge his death. She gets her chance a few months later when the King and Queen give birth to a baby girl, Aisling. While everyone is at a feast celebrating the birth, Morgyn steals the child away and prepares to kill her in the woods. But she finds that she cannot go through with it and has to return the child. On her return they are attacked by wolves, she manages to save Aisling but not herself.
Later a huntsman finds Aisling and assumes the dead body near her, is her mothers. He takes her home to his wife and they call the girl Síona and they raise her. Years later when Síona is out gathering fruit, tragedy strikes as her home is attacked and she returns to find her parents dead. Passing warriors find her and take her back to the castle. She works as a servant there and one night she over hears some men planing to kill the king and boasting about killing her adoptive parents. She attacks them and alerts the guards. She is knocked unconscious but the guards turn up and kill the conspirators. The queen looks after Síona and notices she has the family birthmark and so she is their long lost daughter Aisling. (the family birthmark a common occurrence in stories of lost children!)
In the story I think Aisling/Siona could have spared more distress over the death of her adoptive parents and her comment at the end about finding her “real family” also seems dismissive of the people who raised her. Otherwise it is an interesting story. It really shows the Irish roots of the book and it is nice and unusual to see a story in a girls comic set in ancient Ireland with references to such things as Badhb (Irish Goddess of War). Of course Sláine started in 2000AD in 1983 as well so maybe that was an influence for the story. The art could be better in some areas such as awkward hand actions in places, but it has some nice atmospheric pieces like when Morgyn is attacked and the outside scenery is quite nice. .
Wonder Worm (Pages 49-56)
Story & Art: John Bryne
The cover girl for the annual gets her origin story told here. Obviously this is a parody of Wonder Woman and is full of puns. It takes place in Toadstool City and also features frog reporter, Croak Kent. It starts with evil Dr. Medusa ready to change her dimwitted dustbin henchmen into Supermen when they are interrupted by Wonder Worm. While wondering where she came from it flashes back to a newspaper office (Tadpole Times) where Croak Kent is given his assignment to interview Dr Issac Newt inventor of the Super formula.
While there Dr. Medusa breaks in and manages to steal a small amount of the formula. Dr. Issac explains to Kent the direness of this falling into the wrong hands. Kent is eating an apple at the time and throws it away in disgust when he sees a worm in it. Of course it lands right in the remaining potion. The worm after hearing the conversations decides the potion is too dangerous to keep around and drinks the whole lot. Kent meanwhile tracks down Medusa and her gang but passes out when actually confronted by them.
This brings us back to the start where the Worm having drank the potion has now grown in size and gained powers. Wonder Worm also finds she can shrink back down her size which she uses to her advantage, sneaking into a gun and throwing the bullet of balance so it destroys the stolen potion. She then proceeds to beat the baddies up and disappears before the police turn up.
A few days later newly promoted Croak Kent thinks he must have beat the criminals up during his blackout. Luckily Wonder Worm has stuck around and become his private secretary to help him out! It is an absurd little story but also a lot of fun.
Other contents in the annual include two text stories “Trixie Saves the Day” and “Tiger’s Adventure” both written by E. Colohan with spot art by E. Shaw-Smith. There’s some interesting features on elaborate doll houses, how cats were depicted in art and writing throughout history, and how to interpret dreams. There is also a drawing in grids lesson with a picture of Wonder Worm & Croak Kent.
Overall I don’t think it met the competitive standards of D.C. Thomson or IPC. Although it would be better to judge it if it wasn’t missing pages. That being said there is some fun stuff here and it’s nice to see Irish writers/artists trying to do their own thing. The book while having similar elements to other girls comics did still have it’s own style. Being Irish it’s nice to see some of myths being used like in Aisling and the John Bryne stuff is particularly fun. Also it’s always good to see people getting credited for their work. I wonder if it gained more popularity, bigger budget etc. would it have attracted more high profile writers and artists and could it have actually become a solid competitor in the girls comics market.