Category Archives: Creator

Alison Christie – DCT Writer

Alison Christie (now Alison Fitt) got her start in comics as a junior sub editor on Bunty at the age of 16. She went on to write for DCT comics Mandy, Tracy and others including nursery titles, Pepper Street, Bimbo and Twinkle and she also worked on Hi! Magazine as well as IPC titles, Tammy and Jinty. She already did an interview on the Jinty resources site which you can find here, but she also kindly gave me more details about her time at DCT as well as the stories she wrote for it.  A list of stories she wrote can be found on the next page.

Quick Link: Story list 

Memories of working in DC Thomsons:

All the comics were dreamed up and written on the second floor of that big red building in Meadowside, Dundee. There was a long corridor with offices on both sides, marked Dandy Room, or  Beezer  Room, etc- or the one I was placed in, The Bunty Room. DCT was male orientated. All men worked on these comics, including the girls’ ones! So I was one of the first females to  be given a job on Bunty.

My first task was opening the bundles of mail from readers. Many contained photos of school badges, as Bunty had a weekly feature of them on the back page. I also got to sub scripts that came in from free-lance writers. Imagine!( I thought in later years when I was sending scripts down to IPC that there might be some junior journalist subbing mine.)  I was also sent on errands- often to the Art department, with artwork needing attention. I hated going there. The artists sat in long rows facing the door, and ogled any female that ventured in. For a young girl like me, it was highly embarrassing.  Finally, having come up the best idea for a new serial, I was given the chance to write my first picture story, Queen of the Gypsies.

(Bunty: Queen of the Gypsies)

They were good times, though. The Bunty room looked out on the Howff, Dundee’s ancient grave yard. On hot summer days, us girls would scoff our sandwiches there while sunbathing amongst the grave-stones. On Fridays we received our pay-contained in secretive brown packets brought round on a tray and dished out by Jimmy from the general office below. No being paid through the bank in those days.

I was eventually moved from Bunty onto a new nursery comic called Bimbo, which ran for a while then was replaced by Little Star and Twinkle. Little Star soon folded, but Twinkle kept going.  By that time, we had moved to the eighth floor of the new courier building. I wrote Nurse Nancy storylines, and Baby Crocket, plus other features.

I left DCThomsons in 1968 and went free-lance. Still wrote for Twinkle, then started writing picture stories for DCs girls comics – Mandy, later Tracy, a few for Debbie and Nikki. At the same time I began writing picture story serials for IPC down in London. It was a great way to make a living from home, as I had three young children. It was the hey-day of British girls comics, so there were plenty of them to contribute to. But over the years, many of them folded and there weren’t so many left to write for. Though in the early nineties, DC   Thomson brought out Pepper Street a bright comic for little ones – followed by HI! a really good magazine for slightly older girls, with photo stories and fashion, etc. Neither ran for very long, but I wrote for both of them while they lasted.

Favourite age group to write for and favourite stories:

I much preferred writing for the girls comics as opposed to the nursery ones. I could get into the characters and think out what they would do or think and develop the storyline about them. Usually weepy emotional stories, though not all.

I liked all my stories  but  Room in your heart for two  and The Cloud on Sunshine cottage in Tracy and Patsy will take my place  and Emma’s Umbrella in Mandy, I particularly liked.

(Mandy – “Patsy Will Take My Place!”)

 

Jim Eldridge – Artist

Jim Eldridge is an artist who drew the long running serial “The Four Marys” in it’s final years (along with some other stories). He has kindly answered some questions on his timeworking for DCT and other comics.

Jim got his first work with DCT through LINK studios, under the agent Doris White. Another well known artist, Barrie Mitchell, also started his career in the same studio and both of them drew Roy of the Rovers strips at different times and have a similar style. This has led to some confusion of their work, but Barrie Mitchell did not draw The Four Marys, that was all Jim’s work. While Jim did draw other stories, it being so long ago, he can’t remember all the jobs he worked on then, and certainly none were as long as the time he spent on The Four Marys.

“When I joined LINK studios I had already has my first strip “Tarzan” printed for the TV Comic. I did various artwork jobs for DCT while with LINK studios but none for IPC. I wasn’t with them very long, I then moved to another agent “Roger & Co.” run by Jack  Wall and Kate Woolley, while there I did draw a few “Wee Sue” for Tammy and also got my first strip for the Bunty comic “The Three Imps” and  I also did “football libraries” for DCT.  That agency was taken over by Temple Art Agency run by Patrick Kelleher, it was while there I was offered “The Four Marys” for Bunty, and I also did Roy of the Rovers on a few occasions. I was with Temple for about 20 years. When Bunty ended I moved again to SGA agency for a few years and then to Linda Rogers agency for a while. I have been with my current agent Paul Beebee of Beehive Illustration for the last 16 years and illustrated many hundreds of Educational Books for most of the main publishers.” [You can see some of Jim Edridge’s more recent work here: www.beehiveillustration.co.uk]

       (The Three Imps – Bunty)

Jim got to know some other artists in the business; Barrie Mitchell, Mike White (Roy of the Rovers artist) and Mike Lacy, but there was no collaboration for Jim with the writers of the stories he drew for.  He was just given the script,  so he would just illustrate straight from script to final art. He only met with the Bunty editor Jim Davie, whom he got on very well with and he passed on the readers’ fan mail for The Four Marys to Jim. The Four Marys was a favourite with readers and many praised his artwork, the story was increased from 3 pages to 4 pages, keeping Jim busy as he had to produce this every week. He did have time for some other jobs but mostly The Four Marys kept him occupied enough, he had no idea it would run for 12 years and as a freelancer he was grateful for the steady work.

“With regard to The Four Marys. That was my favourite story to draw. I had no idea I would be drawing this story for 12 years [..]  I also did Four Marys picture library’s and summer specials as well as the Four Marys weekly pages and it was my artwork that modernised them and in colour.  It was an amazing long run to draw this story and I was thankful for the regular work. Being freelance. Looking back it was good to have drawn Bunty’s top story for 12 years.”

   

Of course sadly Bunty came to an end, but Jim has made his mark on the comic and is happily still working these days illustrating children’s books. “When Bunty finished it was a shock at the time, but I then moved on to Children’s book illustration”

List of Work:

  • Beehive Illustration
  • Football Picture Story Monthly
  • Mike’s Mini-Men (Roy of the Rovers)
  • Roy of the Rovers
  • Tarzan (TV Comic)
  • The Four Marys (Bunty)
  • The Three Imps (Bunty)
  • Wee Sue (Tammy)

Anne Bulcraig – DCT Writer

Another DC Thomson writer identified –  Anne Bulcraig started to write for M&J  before Scream coverunfortunately the comic was merged in Bunty. She wrote some Mandy Picture Story Library Books and at least one of the stories she wrote initially for M&J was later published in Bunty.

Anne loved Bunty and  Mandy comics when she was younger, so when she was 23 she sent in a short story to DCT. The Mandy editor at the time, Bill Moodie, liked it and published it as a text story in an annual. Anne can’t remember the name of the story but it was about a girl who’s dad booked her family a surprise holiday. Bill then asked her to write some scripts for M&J/ Mandy PSL.

“I earned around £40 per script so not much, even then, but it was a lovely feeling to write for my childhood mag.”

The scripts were then sent to artists,  most of which were in Spain. We know a couple of the artists that drew for Anne’s short spooky stories in Scream! , one of which was indeed Spanish, Carlos Freixas drew “Green Fingers” (which was later republished as “Selfish Sarah” in a Bunty Annual). Another Picture Story Library Anne wrote was Model Sister abut a girl who tries to uncover her sister’s secret enemy and help her succeed at being a model. The Picture Story Library Books stopped being published in 1997 at the same time Anne had wrote serials for M&J but  the comic also folded in 1997 and was merged into Bunty.

Scream 2

(Green Fingers – Mandy Picture Story Library #272)

“It was great to write for Mandy/Bunty, and I remember being so upset when I got the letter telling me M&J was folding, especially as I’d just built up such a good working relationship with the editor of M&J. I didn’t have a clue that they were finishing. I had many stories in the pipeline.”
At least one story did make it into Bunty –  Miss Fortune  a story about a girl who has a big win, but it brings her more trouble than happiness. Anne had completed other stories but she is unsure if any others made it to Bunty, she only ever saw her work by chance, as she wasn’t told when it was out on sale. After the comic folded Anne changed careers and became a medium, the story House Warning was influenced by an experience she had when she was younger. She has gone on to write a book Earth Angel about her experiences of being a medium.

 List of Stories written by Anne Bulcraig

  • Unknown Text Story – Mandy Annual
  • Model Sister – Mandy Picture Story Library #264
  • Scream! – Mandy Picture Story Library #272
    • Green Fingers reprinted as Selfish Sarah – Bunty Annual 2001
  • Miss Fortune – Bunty unkown publication date

Tracy J Holroyd – DCT Writer

Tracy Joy Holroyd wrote short stories and articles for many DC Thomson publications,  including Shout magazine and the later Bunty and Mandy annuals. Tracy’s uncles Bill Holroyd, Albert Holroyd, George Holroyd and Ken Reid had previously worked as cartoonists at DC Thomson too. She has kindly answered some questions about her writing experiences.

Quick Link: Publication list

How did you get your start writing  for DC Thomson?

I’d been writing for years, though not having much luck getting published. Then, inspiredbunty 2009 by a book about writing for children (can’t recall who wrote it), I decided to try my hand at a kids’ story. I researched the children’s market, then telephoned Maria Welch, who was then editor of D C Thomson’s Shout magazine. Maria encouraged me to submit my first story, which I did, and she bought it immediately!

Did your families history in comics encourage your interest in pursuing such a career?

I’d always wanted to be a writer – simply because I loved reading so much. Four of my uncles had worked for D C Thomson as cartoonists, Bill Holroyd and Ken Reid becoming particularly well-known. However, all had retired some years before I approached Thomson. Prior to writing my first story for Thomson, I’d visited my Uncle Bill in Scotland, and we got along so well that he actually invited me to move in with him and my Auntie Betty so that he could teach me cartooning – an invitation I didn’t accept, because I didn’t want to leave home. However, we spoke regularly by telephone,so he was able to give me lots of advice and encouragement. I recall his delight on hearing that I’d sold my first story – A Watery Grave – which I set in his home village of Ferryden, Scotland.

What was your typical process for writing stories?

I only wrote text stories. My stories were strongly plot-driven and panned out between 600 and 1200 words – so the first thing I had to do was come up with a plot. The hardest part! I liked spooky stories best, so tried to stick to that genre. I always opened with a hook – an action scene – then wrote a flashback to explain how my characters had reached the opening situation. The story had to move quickly. because of the limited word count, and the vocabulary had to be kept simple.  With practice, I could turn out a complete story in under two hours.

You said you wrote short stories, articles and puzzles, had you a preference for one thing?

Short stories. I’ve always loved spooky stories, and seeing my own published and illustrated makes me very proud.

Have you any favorite or memorable stories/articles that you wrote?

My first proper sale, of course – A Watery Grave. But I was particularly pleased with my later work, such as Scaredy Cat,The Werewolf and The Fortune-Teller.

Did you know anyone else who worked on these comics and were you able to work in collaboration with any other creators?

Only my commissioning editors, Maria Welch (Shout), Ayshea Scharf (Animals and You) and Anne Kemp (Cool Girl, The Bunty Annual and The Mandy Annual). I became particularly friendly with Anne. Of course, any story I submitted was subject to editing or re-writing as per an editor’s specific requirements. Some were even rejected as ‘too scary’!  I didn’t mind the editing too much – I was only really unhappy on one occasion, when my story’ s ending was changed beyond recognition!

Only once did I collaborate on a story – when I failed to come up with a plot for a Bunty commission. (I was going through a hard time personally and simply dried up.) Finally, Anne gave me a plot, and I produced the text. That was one of my very few non-spooky efforts – The Christmas Box.

Interesting that you succeeded in getting your work credited in Bunty Annual, what was that like and did you have support from others?

No, I just requested the credit. I’d always been credited for my magazine stories – and wasn’t bothered about my articles and puzzles so long as I got paid. However, when I realised that my name wasn’t appearing on my stories in the annuals, I contacted Anne and asked for future bylines on the grounds of Moral Rights. Anne not only secured this on my behalf, she also sent me copies of past stories with my name added, although they hadn’t appeared that way in many of the annuals. D C Thomson was notorious for not crediting their writers and artists even during my uncles’ day. It also demanded copyright on the stories. It was a case of either accepting the terms or not getting published.

Suzy Plays a trick

You’ve gone on to write books, do you find the process quite different?

My first book was the Children’s History of Manchester, commissioned by Hometown World. It was written to strict guidelines to fit in with a series, and went into second print within weeks of release. I was quickly commissioned to follow with the Children’s History of Lancashire. However, I ran into problems: I’d done the research, but dried up with the actual writing. My brother, David C Holroyd, jumped in to help me, and we wrote the rest of the book together – although he wouldn’t steal my thunder by letting me add his name to the cover.

David then approached me to help with his project – a series of books entitled The perfect pairPerfect Pair Dolphin Trilogy, the factional story of Europe’s top performing dolphins and their psychic trainer, set in the 1970s. I literally typed the manuscript (which David had written in longhand) and helped him to edit and polish. However, despite winning a couple of awards and being used to teaching English and Creative Writing in a UK university, the books have proven very controversial because of their strong anti-captivity message.

So, yes, I found the process different. Heavy research for the history books, and limitations on content, language and style. As for The Perfect Pair Dolphin Trilogy, I didn’t have the stress of turning out a gripping text, because David had already done that. However, the writing, typing and editing took six years in all, during which time we were attempting to look after our poorly dad, whilst also dealing with hostility from those who were trying to block the story.

Unfortunately, I have a short attention span, so have trouble writing substantial amounts of text. I like the fast reward and feedback that comes with writing short stories. 

What stories/articles did you work on and any other comments?

I’m still trying to track a lot of it down – I know for sure that I published many more articles, puzzles and quizzes. Thomson tends to change titles, so some of these stories may have been printed with different titles. I actually didn’t know that Suzy Plays a Trick appeared in The Bunty Annual 2009. I notice that you mention an article entitled We Love Elephants! That’s probably mine, too, because I wrote an article about elephants for Anne, but didn’t know where it featured.

Just as a point of interest, as a little girl, I read Twinkle, then moved on to The Bunty,The Mandy and Tammy. The first thing I ever had published was a letter to The Mandy, telling readers how I got my dog. I was about 13, and the letter was called Tracy’s Trixie.

For a list of publications go to the next page.

Maureen Hartley – Writing for DCT Girls’ Comics

Maureen Hartley has kindly written a piece about her experiences writing picture stories and working for DCT. A list of stories she wrote can be found on the next page.

Quick Link: Story list 

 

WRITING   FOR   THE   D.C. Thomson   GIRLS’   COMICS

I first started writing picture script stories in 1968.   I  had several short stories published by then, in women’s magazines  and had always fancied trying my hand at picture scripts,  so when I saw an advertisement in The Observer one Sunday asking for scripts for DCT comics,  I decided to try my luck.   MANDY had been launched the year before and the Mandy 425editors needed more writers to fill both the boys’ and girls’ comics.  There was a specimen script to follow and various helpful tips and I finally,  rather belatedly,  sent off my effort.    A few days later I received a letter from Dundee  –  could I meet the editors in Manchester?   Two of the editors were touring round the country meeting people who had submitted promising scripts  –  they had already planned their schedule,  but when my script had been read in Dundee I had been slotted into their programme.

That was the start.   They talked over my script with me,  pointing out mistakes  (e.g. describing two actions for one picture –  impossible for the artist to depict ),  and then suggested that I try a story.    I was given an outline of the plot, which we discussed in detail,  and told to submit the first instalment when I had finished it.

Sadly I cannot remember the name of that story but it did appear some months later in MANDY.   I learned afterwards from the editors that they had received thousands of scripts in answer to their advertisement.    100 possibles had been picked out,  30 people invited to meet the editors and out of those 12 had actually completed a story.

I worked for DCT from 1968 until 2001.  My last contributions to be published were 6 stories in the 2001 Bunty Annual.Lost in the Snow

(Lost in the Snow – Bunty Annual 2001)

I was working mainly for the editor of MANDY, and I soon learnt what was required.   He was extremely helpful, but could be quite sharp-tongued and demanded very high standards of work.    I learned that in every instalment the heroine must take some form of executive action.  That may seem highly obvious,  but it is easy to be distracted from the heroine by other facets of the plot or more interesting characters.   Also there must be no cliffhangers.   The editors felt strongly that the readers should get value for the money they had paid for the comic and should be given a full self-contained story in each instalment,  interesting enough to make them want to read more  but not blackmailing them with a cliffhanging ending into buying the next issue.

Synopses for new stories,  either from the editors or my own suggestions, were discussed at the regular sessions held with the editors when they travelled round the country to meet the writers.    The opening episode of each story would be worked out and the ending, towards which the story would move in 8 – 16  parts,  would be agreed.  What happened in between was up to me.   I would submit a synopsis for each instalment which would be approved by the editor of the comic it was intended for and then I would write it up.

Little auntie annie

(Little Auntie Annie – Mandy)

The opening frame of each instalment would set the scene,   usually with a caption bringing the reader up to date with the story,  then what was to happen in each frame was described very briefly for the artist,  together with the dialogue which would be added later in the speech bubbles.    I was told to trust the artists  –  they knew what they were doing and  only the briefest of descriptions were necessary.  When the final instalment had been written up and sent off to Dundee,  that was the last I had to do with the story.   The scripts were sent to the appointed artist and months later the story would appear.    The artists were indeed brilliant.     Sadly I never met any of them,  nor indeed any fellow writers,  and there was no chance of discussing the stories with them,  so I had no idea how
timid tinaeach story would turn out,  but with only one exception the artwork greatly enhanced the scripts.    The exception was a story of children in Victorian times working in a mine, drawn in an almost cartoon-like form which seemed quite inappropriate to the theme.   Much of the artwork was sent to Spain,  where figure drawing was considered to be of a much higher standard than in England,  but this could lead to language complications.  In a Wild West story for one of the boys’ comics the editor was surprised to find an extra figure standing in the corner in one of the scenes in a saloon bar.   This turned out to be the one-armed bandit the writer had mentioned in the script. (Above: Timid Tina – Art by Julio Bosch)

I soon learnt not to send off a synopsis to the editor if I felt in the slightest way uneasy about it.   Was there a flaw in the sequence of events?    Some part that did not hang together?   Or was it based on coincidence  (the worst possible crime in plotting)?    On several occasions I had my work packed up ready to send off  but  then ripped off the Sellotape and started again on the synopsis,  knowing that it would be returned with some telling comment if I did not tighten up the plot.

There have been a number of suggestions put forward by academics researching in the field of girls’ comics about the motives of the producers of the comics.   Feminists accuse them of attempting to reinforce the idea that girls see achieving  marriage and children as being the ultimate aim in life.   It is suggested that there may have been ‘emotional reorganisation’ and ‘attempts to reconstruct British girlhood’ as an aim of the stories.   However, in my experience there was no interest whatsoever among the editors in exerting this kind of influence over the readers.    There was no hidden agenda and I never felt under any pressure of any kind to push a particular message.     The editors’ primary  interest was to sell as many comics as  possible and that was done by giving the readers the kind of stories  they wanted.     Perhaps the main message of the DCT stories was simply that good should finally triumph over evil and should be seen to do so.

wedding of the week

(Wedding of the Week – Mandy)

The only possible market for a freelance writer of picture scripts at that time was D.C.Thomson.   IPC,  which also published girls’ comics,  only used staff writers for picture stories.   I soon realised that what was said about DCT  was,  sadly,  true  –  that their writers needed DCT more than DCT needed the writers.   Writers seemed to be at the bottom of the pile.    Payment to artists was three times more than that paid to writers.   With every payment slip came a form on which one signed away one’s copyright to the work,  so that the stories could be syndicated abroad under the DCT name with no further payment to the writer.   When the DCT comics ceased publication and I began to sell work through an agent to TINA,  a Dutch teenage girls’ magazine,  I was paid more than three times as much as I had received for similar stories published in Dundee.

All the work I did for DCT was for the girls’ comics.   It was an accepted fact among the staff there that women weren’t capable of writing stories for the boys’ comics.    Men could write for girls  –  the creator of ‘The Comp’ was a headmaster  –  but not vice versa.   Not that that I would have wanted to write about football or war,  which were the main topics for the boys.

The only story I didn’t enjoy writing was ‘Nothing Ever Goes Right’ for JUDY.    The editor offered me this story line to write up and it was clear when we first discussed the idea that he was fixed on an unhappy ending.   He relished the idea of the last frame,  showing people gathered round a nameless grave who would be remembering the girl who helped them all in some way and changed their lives for ever,  while regretting they never knew her name or where she had come from.   It was a tale of unremitting tragedy and sorrow for the poor heroine,  and I felt guilty as I worked out the next heart-wrenching episode that I couldn’t tell her,  as I did with all the other heroines-in-trouble,  to hold out  –  all would be well in the end.    Fortunately unhappy endings were very rare in the girls’ stories.

nothing ever goes right_06

(Nothing Ever Goes Right! – Judy)

I loved writing the fantasy stories,  in which you could make anything happen  –   I can well understand why JK Rowling kept going with the Harry Potter books!  –   and of course the many tales of lonely girls searching for  –  and finding  –  the family they longed for.    The shy girls,  the feisty ones who stood up for their friends and faced down the snobs and bullies,  the hardworking ones,   the girls who followed their dreams –  all became part of my life as I wrote about them.    And I often thought – “These girls are much nicer and braver than I am.” !

sad spells of fay martin

(The Sad Spells of Fay Martin – Mandy)

When I first started writing picture script stories the target readership was judged to be girls 11 – 12 years old.   Over the years the readers became younger and younger – by 1999 their average age had gone down to about 8 years.   The comics were no longer sustainable in their original form;  through the 1990s titles had been withdrawn or had merged with another comic until only BUNTY remained.   I believe in her final years I was one of only four writers of girls’ stories left in the country and in 1999 I was told the end had come for the last DCT girls’ comic and I completed my last story for DCT,  a Four Marys story called “The Mystery Virus”.

I moved on to writing for several years for TINA,  a Dutch girls’ comic still offering picture script stories.    This was done at a distance through an agent with no contact of any kind with the editors.    The stories were similar,  aimed perhaps at pre-teenage readers  ( they printed a large number of DCT stories with Dutch dialogue ) but it took me some time to work out that in these stories there were no villains  –  no evil rivals or sneaks of the Third year to make the heroine’s life a misery.   Also it was important not to show  mothers working in the kitchen  –  Dutch women did not want to be portrayed as spending their lives doing housework.

In the 1990s the look of the comics  changed,  with glossy colour pages and photo stories replacing the artwork and cheap newsprint of the original comics.   Other features such as whats newpop music and  fashion, were introduced following the model of JACKIE and other magazines aimed at teenagers.    And the stories became far less interesting to write.    Gone were the feisty heroines fighting to right a wrong,  or  searching against the odds for lost family members, or coping bravely with some terrible affliction.   No more fantasy stories  –  they could not be portrayed in photo stories   Now it was all about boys and shopping and sleepovers with mates,  with the moral message so important in the older stories that you should be good and kind submerged in the need to be popular and to have friends.   And as most of the current comics are product-based or centred on TV and film characters,  there are no opportunites for free-lance writers.   The world has moved on,  and the decline of BUNTY, JUDY, MANDY and their companions was sadly inevitable.    But the magic of the comics will still be there for those loyal readers who remember them with affection.