Anthea Skiffington – DCT Writer

Anthea Skiffington, a writer for DC Thomson, wrote for the comics, Suzy, Nikki, M&J and Bunty. She had a long career with the comics and her most famous story being the long running soap story The Comp.

To note, as people’s memories are not always the most reliable, especially when trying to recall stories written 40 years ago, it was once said a previous headmaster came up with the story idea The Comp but as that was second hand information it is possible that it was confused with another story such as Bunty’s School’s Out a similar story which predated The Comp joining Bunty. Also there have been other claims for the idea for the story of Luv, Lisa, but may have been collaborative talk between editors and writers.

Thanks to Anthea for sharing some of her memories and experiences writing these comics.

How did you get your start working on these comics?

Back in 1981, on a whim, I submitted an idea for a series, “The Travels of Troyah”. The editors were looking for stories for a new paper, “Suzy”. They liked Troyah, and off the back of that, I met with three of the editors in London (they would come down twice a year for story conferences) and they commissioned further series from me, initially for Mandy and Judy. All short 12-episode types – The Comp was really the first long serial we did, when Nikki came along in 1985.

You wrote The Comp for many years and I noticed some good continuity over the years, did you keep notes on all the characters?

No, I don’t think I did – I just remembered things better in those days!!!

The Comp started in the Nikki comics following a set of characters who later moved on, and a new set of characters were introduced. Can you remember if this was a choice by editors or something you wanted to do?

It was the editors’ idea, and took me rather by surprise. I think the editors regretted it at first, as Sam, Julie, Lisa and Megan had been very popular, and there were a LOT of complaints from the readers when they suddenly disappeared. Luckily everyone got used to Laura, Becky, Hayley and Nadina in time!

You also mentioned you wrote another long running soap story Penny’s Place, as well as Luv, Lisa and even some Four Marys stories. That was sure to keep you busy, but were there any other stories you wrote, like one-off series?

Lots, too many to recall!! But I do remember writing such stories as “Ernie’s Girl”, “Please, Mum”, “Sally’s Seven Sisters”, “Call Me Joe” and many more. Once I started on all the serials the series started to taper off as I didn’t have much spare time.

When the editors first pitched the idea for Sally’s Seven Sisters to me, it was to have been Sally’s SEVENTEEN Sisters – and they were all to have been Sally’s age , I talked them round and got it down to seven, and demoted Sally to a mere twin. Much more believable – and workable!

I wasn’t the regular writer of the Four Marys, I was honoured to be asked to write five stories for them in 1990 – ostensibly to “update them” for the new decade.

   
(Sally’s Seven Sisters and Ernie’s Girl)

You wrote a lot of soap stories with ongoing storylines, what was your favourite part of writing these?

I liked being able to develop characters and situations, and the way one story idea would often segue into another. It made thinking up plot-lines rather easier. too. Also I felt I got to know the characters in more depth – hopefully the readers did, too!

Getting to write some stories for the famous The Four Marys must have been fun. Were there other stories you would have like to tackled?

No, I think I got to write everything I wanted to – I was lucky!

As these comics were mostly not credited, I’m always interested to find out about people behind the scenes, were there any other creators that you worked with or knew?

Alas, I too only ever met with the editors. They would, as I mentioned above, come to a London hotel twice a year and the writers would travel up to have individual story conference sessions with them. On a few occasions they flew me up to Dundee when they wanted to talk in more depth (such as when we were working out how to merge the Comp storylines from Nikki into Bunty, for instance).

Writing for comics, Nikki and M&J which would eventually merge with Bunty, and then eventually Bunty also closed up, did that news surprise you when they would stop a comic? Did you continue on writing after Bunty finished?

Sadly, no. When circulation fell below a certain number (usually around 40,000, as I recall), it became unprofitable for D C Thomson to keep a title going, and they warned us in advance when things were going to shut down, or when two titles were going to merge.

I’d already had three books published, so I think I was about written out. When the comics ceased publication I changed career and became a medical secretary, a job I loved

Any other memories or thoughts that you’d like to add?

Just that working for D C Thomson was enormous fun and I felt very privileged to have been able to earn my living for 20 years doing something I enjoyed so much!

 

 List of Stories written by Anthea Skiffington
  • The Travels of Troyah – Suzy: #19 (15 January 1983) – #34 (30 April 1983)
  • Sally’s Seven Sisters– Judy: #1241 (22 October 1983) – #1254 (21 January 1984), #1509 (10 December 1988) – #1522 (11 March 1989) and #1537 (24 June 1989) – #1544 (12 August 1989)
  • Call Me Joe! – Suzy: #82 (31 March 1984) – #94 (23 June 1984)
  • “Please, Mum!” – Bunty:  1401 (17 Nov 1984) – (?)
  • Ernie’s Girl –  circa #1428 (25 May 1985)
  • The CompNikki:  #01 (23 February 1985) – #237 (02 September 1989) and Bunty: #1650 (26 August 1989)– #2243 (6 January 2001)
  • Luv, Lisa –  Bunty:  #1659 (28 Oct 1989) – #1688 (19 May 1990)
  • The Four Marys – Bunty (5 stories circa 1990s)
  • Penny’s Place – M&J: #93 (20 February 1993) – #315(24 May 1997) and Bunty: #2055 (31 May 19) – #2249(17 February 2001)

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