Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Tammy & Jinty Special 2019

The eagerly awaited Tammy & Jinty Special 2019 has arrived! Since acquiring the IPC back catalogue, Rebellion has been steadily releasing reprints of old favourites and also seem eager to try out some new material for these characters too. We’ve already had horror and humour specials, and is nice to see girls comics getting attention as well. Similar to the Cor!! Buster and Scream!Misty specials, although this is titled as Tammy & Jinty, they are not restricting themselves to just characters that appeared in those comics, but taking a look at the whole catalogue. The name Tammy & Jinty most likely was chosen as the most recognisable and adding Sally, Sandie etc. wouldn’t make for the most catchy title!

There are 9 stories in total in this special and we’ve got a mixture of old and new characters here. Returning favourites are: Justine Messenger of Justice, Maisie’s Magic Eye and Bella at the Bar, although they may not be quite as you remember them. Justine and Maisie origins are retold with how they got their powers. Justine (who first appeared in Sally with the title “The Justice of Justine”) has a few changes to her origins, such as the Greek Goddess Athena now being the one who gives Justine her magical items, and each of these items are tied to a Greek God – the winged sandals of Hermes, the golden bow of Hypnos and spyglass of Odysseus. Justine’s first job as a hero is to stop a Minotaur and at the same time she is trying to navigate her everyday problems,such as her difficulty talking to boys. This story seems ripe for continuation, especially with the good set up the story uses with Pandora’s box.

Bella at the Bar of course is so synonymous with John Armstrong work, that it would be hard to live up to and I think they’ve down the right thing with not trying to imitate his work and instead have a new, more stylised version. Cardinali’s art might not be to everyone’s taste, but it does well in capturing the energetic movements of Bella and I think Rachael Ball has succeeded in getting the tone of Bella right, as I could hear Bella’s voice clear in my head. It did feel things wrapped up a bit quickly but that is often the case with the limited space in Summer Specials (as was the case in the past too). Again Bella is another character that seems to have lots more stories to tell.

Another not so new character, is Rocky of the Rovers, sister of the famous footballer, Roy Race. The new updated Roy of the Rovers seems to be doing well, and this story shows Rocky stepping out of her brother’s shadow. The character has also recently had an online serial Rocky of the Rovers: France 2019  which coincides with this years Fifa Women’s World Cup, which means any new fans, will have some other material to check out. The last five stories are all new characters for the book, and there is the wonderful  mixture that you would expect in a girls comic, with cursed objects, sci-fi, sport, ghosts, time-travel and lonely schoolgirls. Of these, the two standouts for me were, The Enigma Variation and Duckface, though the others Affirmative ActionIn the Cold Dark, and Speed Demons are all solid stories in their own right too (I would like to see more of the roller derby team from Speed Demons). Duckface is a classic moral story, with a good message of not judging someone, the difficulty of loneliness, and to be careful about what you write about someone on the internet. This seems a very relevant story for young girls today and it is charmingly told, and it really worked as a short complete story. The Enigma Variation was an unexpected delight as a tribute to Alan Turing and the codebreakers of World War II and also featuring a smart protagonist, Beck and gorgeous art by Dani.

Rounding off this special, we get some words from the creators, and they really have put a lot of work and heart into this, it can be a daunting task especially when reviving characters people know and love, and I think they have done a good job. There is of course nostalgia value to these, (and some people may not be happy about how their old favourites have been re-imagined) but more importantly this should appeal to young girls today. If we are to see more of these specials it needs a new audience and I’ll be very interested to see how they react to it. I certainly would love to see these new stories continue.

The special will be available in selected shops from 27th June or can be purchased from the 2000AD website: https://treasuryofbritishcomics.com/catalogue?edition=print

UPDATE: Also worth a listen to hear from some of the creators behind this special, check out interviews here:  https://soundcloud.com/2000-ad/the-tammy-jinty-special

Room in your Heart for Two

Plot

Pretty and talented Dale Peters had been in Hill-side Children’s home since the death of her parents. She’d become close friends with Donna Ducksworth, a kind, but accident prone girl. Dale was determined she’d only go to a couple who’d take Donna too.

Notes

  • Writer: Alison Christie (Fitt)
  • Artist: Ron Lumsden

Appeared

  • Room in your Heart for Two – Tracy:   #209 (1 October 1983) – #224 (14 January 1984)

The Cor!!Buster Special

I haven’t dived into humour comics on this site, but now is a good opportunity, with the release of the recent Cor!!Buster Special. While for girls comics DC Thomson publications was what I grew up on, for humour comics I tended to read Fleetway/IPC books;  Buster and Whizzer & Chips  (and though it was before my time I have a memory of reading Monster Fun special, either I had got it from an older relative or I am mis-remembering details!). Of course I did have the occasional DCT stuff like Beano and Beezer and Topper too. For the most part as humour comics were filled with self contained strips (with maybe the one ongoing serial, like “The Leopard from Lime Street” in Buster), there was less of  need to follow every issue and easier to dip in and out of other comics.

Still there were favourite characters to follow and focusing just on Fleetway/IPC, I have fond memories of many of the characters that appeared in the comics such as; Ivor Lott and Tony Broke with Milly O’Naire and Penny Less, X-Ray Specs, Bewitched Belinda, Gums, Faceache, Top of the Class, Good Guy, Rodney & Dez, Beastenders and Bobby’s Ghoul. Some of which appear in the recent special. Of course with so many characters to choose from not all could make it to the special, but they have fit a lot into the comic, with 15 strips, puzzles and star-signs. For the nostalgic, people should enjoy seeing these old characters again, while some may not be keen on their new looks, I enjoyed the fresh take, and most importantly for the young people that this comic is really aimed at, there is lots to appeal to them. Lots of fun characters, different art styles and interesting stories.

Personal highlights for me:

Gums which managed to capture the old strips and modernise it perfectly, with Gums and Bluey (the surfer) joined by new character Sophie Justice, marine biologist. The art by Abigail Bulmer is kept pretty simple, with some great character expressions and Simon Bowland’s letters compliment it perfectly. It is a humorous story which still manages to touch on environmental and privacy issues. It was scripted by Lizzie Boyle, who is editor for the Tammy & Jinty special due out in June (2019), so I feel that special is in good hands.

Talking of editors, Who’s in Charge? is a fun strip where the editors of the old comics (such as Buster, Shiner from Chips, Frankie Stein from Monster Fun, and others) try to decide who should be in charge of the special. This strip follows on from a short feature about the characters. With script by John Freeman and art by Lew Stringer, this is a fun mash of characters, with some surprise appearances!

Of course with so many characters to choose from, having several appear in one strip, not only gives the opportunity to fit more characters in, but also allows some interesting interactions with characters, ones I wouldn’t have thought would go together. Such as I certainly wouldn’t have thought Captain Crucial Vs Fuss Pott would be an obvious choice, but the story works great, thanks to Lee Langford’s writing and Edward Whatley’s art.

Sure to be a favorite will be Tom Paterson’s Sweeney Toddler, where every panel is crammed with gags. Although confession time, while it is a good strip, Sweeney Toddler is a character I can take or leave, shocking I know! So I was more captivated by his other strip in the book; Grimly Feendish (with script by Ned Hartley), which only one page long but fits everything it need into just ten panels.

That’s the way of these comics is everyone will have their favourites and not all strips will work for everyone. As I mentioned I was a fan of the original Ivor Lott and Tony Broke with Milly O’Naire and Penny Less (though the title is a bit wordy!) and it was great to see these characters again, although this story lacked something for me. I would have liked to see all four characters  interact with each other more, but I really liked the redesign, so I’d still be interested to see more. Which is the big takeaway from this special, that it would be great to see more of this. I’ve barely touched on all the stories, art work and such that is in this book, and the great work people have put into this book, so there is bond to be something that appeals to readers. Also an advantage with this revival (compared to old days) is getting to know some of the creators behind it, I’d recommend checking out 2000AD Thrill-Cast episode on this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKmGNHBKeVs)or reading some of the interviews on the 2000ad site (https://2000ad.com/tag/corandbusterspecial).

You can pick up the special from the shelves or  through the 2000AD online shop (I opted for the bundle which includes 6 Rebellion specials out this year, and delivery has been very quick). I think any boy or girl would get a lot of fun out of this, so I hope it does well and I’m looking forward to the other specials that will be out this year too.

 

Geoffrey West – Blue Jeans Writer

I focus mainly on “girls comics” for this site, so I have not covered the more teen offerings such as Blue Jeans, Jackie, Romeo etc.  While I haven’t touched on them here, I did read such books when I was a teen and I still have some of my Blue Jeans Photo Novels and annuals. Photo stories were more limited in what they could depict compared to drawn art, so often they were used  for soap stories and romance and they were quite popular. It must have been appealing for readers to see people like themselves depicted in real life settings. The Blue Jeans Photo Novels were a companion to the Blue Jeans magazine, they were complete photo stories in small digest form, similar to the Bunty Picture Story Library. Stories that I read and stuck in my memory were “A Likely Story” where a girl finds her life mirroring the book she is reading, “All Together Now” where a group of people meet at a Madonna concert ticket line and “Car Trouble” where a girl buys a second hand car that turns out to be haunted! The Blue Jeans Photo Novels  lasted for 12 years (1980-1992) for over 500 issues. One of the writers for Blue Jeans and these photo novels, Geoffrey West, has kindly answered some questions about his work at this time.

Geoffrey’s mother was familiar with the magazine business as she worked for IPC, and it was her that advised him that DC Thomson would take work from unknown writers, if they could do what was needed. Geoffrey made attempts to write for Beano which he had loved as a child and Bunty which he thought had interesting stories, but he was deemed not the right fit for them. He was more successful with writing for Blue Jeans and Jackie.

“On buying Blue Jeans and Jackie, I thought I might be able to try, because they produced a leaflet with their requirements, and were nice and encouraging to new people  I followed the advice and had a go.  I probably had a few turned down to start with, but once I had one accepted, I got to know the friendly editors (Maria and Val and others).  Then I tried for BJ photo novels and found it really rewarding to do these longer stories, and Val Carr was so nice and pleasant to work with.”

As Geoff lived in London and DCT was based in Dundee, everything was done by post. That meant he did not get to work with other creators, but he had good relationship with his editors, though he only ever met one editor (Yvonne) in person, when she came to London on business.

“Working for DC Thomson magazines was my first experience in journalism, and was thoroughly enjoyable.  Maybe I was especially lucky, but all the editors I worked with at Thomson (Maria, Val, Rhia, Yvonne and others) couldn’t have been nicer or more encouraging.  Though they were ‘telephone friends’ I felt as if I really knew them, and influenced me greatly in having a liking for Scottish people. “

Geoff worked only on the scripts for the photo novels and didn’t get involved in other parts of the process. When writing the scripts he thought of the story in frames. It was later in life that he also took up photography, this wasn’t influenced by his time writing for photo novels, but when he needed photos for a book he was writing Dolls’ Houses that’s what got him interested.

“It was the first journalistic work I had ever done.  I just thought of the ‘frames’, did the dialogue and it seemed fairly straightforward.”

While he didn’t keep a list of the books he wrote, he does remember most of them, and when asked if he had any particular favourites, a couple sprung to mind.

“I did like the one (think called ‘Can’t buy me love’), where the heroine wins the lottery (or similar) and then falls out with the boyfriend, because he can’t take her patronising him, buying him presents, then she takes up with a swine who is after her money, and ends up with nothing at all, and the original boyfriend and old best friend rally round to save he from bankruptcy.  And I also like ‘All the way from America’, where the glamorous American boyfriend is not all he seems.”

As always it is interesting to get an insight from the people who worked on these books, so thanks to Geoff for taking the time to talk about it. Geoff has gone on to write a number of fiction and non fiction books, as well as working as a proof reader. More information on his other works can be found on his website: http://www.geoffreydavidwest.com/

A Brief Overview of Covers

Covers are such an important part of the comic, as that is what the potential reader first sees. It will be what draws them in and peaks their interest, this interest could be for many reasons; such as recognizing a familiar and trusted logo or character, bright colours that catch your eye, an interesting free gift, a humorous strip that makes you want to see what’s inside, a cover girl that you can identify with or the promise of exciting stories inside.

Looking  at just the 11 DC Thomson girls comics, I’ve identified 10 categories of covers that were most common. Of course there are some variations within these and I’m not going into composition details or other details just the main picture on the cover. So here are the 10 categories, in no particular order:

  1. Comic’s Namesake – Comic Strip

Apart from Spellbound, all the other DCT titles were girl names, so it made sense to create a character to represent the title. Giving that character a humorous strip on the cover, starts things off on a nice light note. With a lot of comics doing this, there was some variation in how this strip would be represented between comics, keeping things fresh. Usually though the strip kept to the format of having one large panel and some smaller panels (I only count those that had at least two panels with continuing narrative in this category).

To start this trend off was of course, Bunty. While the Bunty character went through some updates and changes in hairstyle, for a long run the cover consisted of 2-4 small panels and one larger panel of Bunty  there weren’t any speech bubbles just rhyming text captions. The layout was played around with at times to keep things interesting. This general theme lasted for nearly 30 years, the majority of Bunty’s lifetime,  so it must have been successful. This is probably why when Tracy launched,(after some short lived comics by DCT) it stayed close to this formula. It seemed to be trying to capture the classic look of some of the more long running comics.  Tracy was another blonde girl, accompanied by her budgie, Elton, with white background and with usually just one or two panels, it had captions rather than speech bubbles. This pretty much stayed for the entirety of its run.

    

I include Mandy in this category although it is a little different from the others, as it continued the comic strip on the back page (or inside cover), but as there was more than one panel at the front and it is a title character, I’ll include it here. This setup did give it advantage over others in this category as it left more space on the cover for the set-up. The strip used speech bubbles rather than captions. It had a very clean look and followed the same pattern for a long time, with white background and full profile of Mandy, making the whole cover for eye catching. This style was kept for about the first 11 years of the comic. Similar to Mandy, Debbie also had a comic strip with one large panel and one small panel that continued on the back page, although it was Debbie’s younger sister Maisie that would mostly take the lead in the story. Prior to those covers Debbie tried a few different cover types.

Diana, had many different covers,  but occasionally had a Diana strip as the cover. Initially it seems to have started with just a 3 panel strip at the bottom of the page with Diana and her friend Wendy. Later she got a full cover strip, some with the title Diana’s Daydream, so there would be a boxed panel followed by several cloud “daydream” panels and back to boxed panel when Diana was back to reality. As I don’t have too many issues during this time, so unsure how long it lasted or if there were other variations, it was bit different format to the Bunty and Tracy strips, although yet another blonde girl!

   

So quite a popular category and I think it does work well as a cover. Along with logo it brings instant brand recognition, stories inside may change but to have a familiar character, someone to visually identify with book,and have adventures to follow is quite effective.

  1. Comic’s Namesake as a Cover Girl

I consider this to be a separate category, though the lines sometimes get it bit blurry with the previous . But while these covers might  have a strip inside they weren’t a straight continuation from cover. Sometimes these covers could have a caption box but that was it. Comics mentioned in previous section, Mandy and Tracy switched to these type of covers but this  wasn’t a very big change for them.

In general, these comics made a good job of making these characters look distinct, such as the girl with a dark-haired bob is instantly recognisable as Mandy. Also the character’s often had a companion, whether it was Tracy’s budgie, Elton, or Judy’s three kittens, which again created a familiar visual for the reader. While characters changed their looks to keep with the times, Judy had the most  drastic makeover. She  started out as a platinum blonde straight haired girl, mostly wearing dungarees and when she returned after a break she became a curly haired brunette! This may have helped to distinguish her a bit more from other blondes and certainly when Tracy joined up it was easy to see who was who. Tracy and Emma and then of course Judy later joined with Mandy to become M&J While initially the M&J covers were same style to their inside strip, they later got a more painted look.

     

Debbie  was a bit different as it first depicted character with a full busy background of events going on in frame.  Then it changed to a close up Debbie with a plain coloured background. Sometimes this picture would have  a frame, such as pumpkins for Halloween. The comic Emma had the gimmick  of Emma being a reporter, so the covers with Emma often included the person she was interviewing that week.

So like the previous category, quite popular choice, again probably helped with name recognition to associate the comic with a particular character.

      

3. Comic serial

To really fit as much as possible into the 32 pages of the comic, there was possibility of using the cover (and usually back page) as a full serial. This was a long running trend for Judy it did this for one off serials such as Beneath the Blue Sea and Marina and the Monsters, but mostly used regular characters such as Sandra of the Secret Ballet and Bobby Dazzler. The latter being the longest running, so that Bobby must have become synonymous with Judy.

Nikki also tried this though instead of many panels  it was just one large panel with story continuing inside, this was used for a short serial Coping  but otherwise it was used for The Comp, Nikki’s most well know strip. It must have helped to have recognisable characters on the cover and once they’ve read that they would want to read more. It may also seemed like more value for money, getting an “extra” story.

  

4. Free Gift advertisements

At some point a comic would use this to attract the reader, most commonly first issue, but also often in conjunction with a big change in line up. This was sometimes used to advertise competitions too. Often a character would be showing off the free gift, such as wearing the bracelet.

    

5.Celebrities (both drawn and photos)

Using popular celebrities could also be good to draw in a reader. In the case of Emma it often had celebrities that would have features/interviews inside the comic. While Judy also used photos of celebrities, it also had drawings of them. Mostly celebrity pin ups were used on back of page, especially in later years which can make it hard for collectors when the comics is missing it’s back page (though not as bad as when the Bunty cut out wardrobe used to feature one the back!).

   

6. Photo Cover Girls

The appeal of using a girl around the same age as the reader must have been that it was someone they could identify with and maybe there was a possibility that they too could become a cover girl. This became the trend in the 90s, with M&J and Bunty, the last comics standing! It was also used previous to that in Suzy and Diana, but those comics were a bit more dynamic, with more variety and colourful backgrounds, and it also fit in with it’s more glossy magazine  feel. Occasionally other comics did this like Emma and Judy but not for a long amount of time. For the 90s though, that is all we saw and as they tended to be on white background, with similar poses and framing. this became quite generic and repetitive. From a glance it’s hard to tell what stories were running at these times, and  it’s my least favourite cover type.

   

7.Full cover of inside story

If I was to pick a favourite cover it would be in this category.  It would act as an advertisement for an inside story, giving us a taste of what’s to come. It showcased many great artists from the likes of John Armstrong, Ian Kennedy, Norman Lee and others.  Which meant there were some very dynamic covers, and also depicted a wide variety of scenes such as  historical, sci-fi, tragedy etc. so every week was new and different. Spellbound in particular had some great atmospheric covers that could be pin-ups in their own right. Judy, Nikki and Bunty also used these covers for a time.

       

8.Several inside stories advertised

Instead of full spread for a story, sometimes covers would advertise several things inside the comic, whether it be stories, or mixture of stories an features. Again a lot of comics tried this at some point. Seems like a good strategy for readers to see immediately what they could expect.

   

9. Non- character cover

Sometimes the cover would not be related to content inside the comic but would depict a girl that would be similar to reader’s age, that should appeal to them. This style could have different scenery and were generally very colourful. Diana used these covers to begin with and had  quite a variety of pictures. M&J also used these for a time, though they didn’t have as much going on in the background of picture, focusing more on close up.A few other comics did this style occasionally too.

   

10.Miscellaneous & Variations

I’m sure there are many others that don’t quite fit into the above categories. Some examples would be would be Girl Talk from Nikki. This could neary been counted in the first oof my list even though the characters Liz and Lucy weren’t named after the comic, they did essentially become representatives. Up to Date Kate also became a regular cover girl for Diana towards the end of it ‘s run.

There were special occasions and holidays to celebrate which could mean an appropriately themed cover. More unusual were instructional covers such as Judy‘s ballet & hairstyle instructions.

   

 

Final Thoughts

All this is to highlight what variety of covers that these 11 comics had over a span of 40 years. While I could have gone into a lot more detail, I think this highlights a good mix of covers. It is interesting how some comics, like Bunty stuck to one format for long periods of time while others like Judy changed things around quite often.

I’m sure everyone has their favourite style, like I mentioned previously my favourite is covers that depicted a story on the front, but there were plenty of other good covers too.  I did think the 90s photo girls were a bit plain in comparison and I can only speculate it that made it less attractive to readers at the time, but on the other hand many magazines used cover girls and did fine. Whatever the case there was some very interesting styles over the years and for long time they worked to grab the potential reader’s attention.

 

7 Years Celebration!

Today is the site’s  7th birthday!

A lot has changed since I launched it in 2011 – changes not only here, but in British comics and in my personal life. I’m glad that I have been able to keep this up and running and all the connections I’ve made through this site.

When I started writing this blog there seemed to be very little talk about old British girls comics,(which is what led to the  thought “why not do it myself!”)  but over the years, I’ve found I am not alone, there are more people interested in the topic. Special mentions for Mistyfan who contributes articles to this site and the jinty resources site and Derek Marsden (Phoenix) who has provided many details about the DCT publications. He is currently busy writing a book “Bunty and her Sisters” and I very much look forward to it’s release. The comicsuk forum have also been a helpful and lovely bunch, especially with helping to track down stories. I’ve been most happy to have gotten in contact with some of the creators of these stories and given them their must deserved credit.

Another pleasing change has been the revival of British Comic scene in general, in the last 7 years. When I started, Bunty (the last remaining girls comic) just stopped doing annual books and the weekly had been finished for years. On a brighter note, The Phoenix did launch soon after this site started and it still going strong today, along with the Beano and 2000AD. Comicscene a new magazine dedicated to British comics has just launched, it’s first issue focusing on women (highlights for DCT include articles on Valda and Supercats). But the biggest news of course was Rebellion’s purchase of old IPC/Fleetway titles and the launch of their Treasury line. I grew up mainly on DCT comics but  thanks to Rebellion reprints I am discovering some great gems of IPC stories too. It is also great to see new stories with a second Scream!Misty special coming this Halloween too. It’s exciting times, that I couldn’t have imagined  happening years ago. [Edit for Update: I just listened to the Classic British Comics Panel from SDCC,   it’s well worth a listen: https://2000ad.com/post/3875]

As for the site itself, I’ve slowed down a lot in the last year, having a toddler at home keeps me busy! But I am looking forward to sharing these comics with her when she’s older and in the meantime I’m glad I can still put out posts regularly. In the future, I still intend to do long posts covering stories in detail and I’ve few ideas for some different articles too.  I also want to keep on increasing the index of stories – which just gives brief description and issue dates. I am pleased that I now have a complete list of serials done for 4 of the shorter publications; Emma, M&J, Nikki and Spellbound. Those 4 publications also have lists that can be sorted by year as well as story name. As well as serials, I am also working on indexing the annuals.  So there’s plenty of work to keep me going for another 7 years and beyond!

 

 

Tuesday’s Child

Plot

Thirteen-year-old Avril Delman is expelled from the Regal Ballet School when her vindictive tutor, one-time star ballerina Marta Nicova, tells Madame Fontana, the school’s principal, that Avril is an athlete rather than a ballet dancer.

Later watching a gymnastics competition on television with her father, Avril realises that many of the movements in the gymnastic exercises are similar to the ones she has already perfected in her ballet classes. She comments on the similarity to her father, who promptly takes her to watch members of the Territorial Army doing their gymnastic training in the local Drill Hall.

Dad is all for going in to the Regal School the following morning to complain to Madame Fontana about the expulsion, but Avril has seen the light, and tells her father not to bother as she has decided that she will go to a normal school, and take up gymnastics instead of ballet.

After eventually winning the British Junior Championship, Avril is chosen for special coaching for the next Olympic Games.

Notes

Appeared

Tuesday’s Child – Bunty #504 (9 September 1967) – #523 (20 January 1968)

Update on Some Changes…

Just a quick post on some changes to the site. Most obviously I have updated the look, although I think I favored the old header as it gave a clearer image of Ken Houghton’s artwork, from the story “The Time Machine” (which seemed appropriate for this site!) but I prefer the new layout overall. I will keep having long posts on stories on stories and other comic related articles which will be listed under blog posts.

I had set up a separate site to be more of an index of the comics but I have now decided to merge the two sites.  I had a lot of the stories indexed with the help of Mistyfan, those posts provide short overviews on the stories, as well as creator and issue details when known. Those shorter posts will continue here, as well as that under Annuals, there are posts listing the content of the book, with some looking at Annuals in more details. Another plan is to add a creator index, this is one of the tougher projects as the comics were  not credited, but I’ll try and add what I do know.

Of course all this fits in around my job and other commitments, but I do want to keep posting regularly. Any feedback, questions and suggestions are welcome!

bunty reader

 

Star – Love Stories in Pictures

A popular format for stories were the small digest picture story libraries. These could tell a variety of stories and were a light easy read and complete, so no need to track down the rest of the story. I’ve already looked at some of the DC Thomson picture story library for girls that were published under the names of 4 of their popular titles; Bunty, Mandy, Judy and Debbie. IPC also had their equivalent picture library which is discussed on the Jinty blog here

DC Thomson published other types of digests to capture different audiences such as thestar  lighthearted Beano and Dandy comic libraries,  Commando war stories in pictures and romance based Star- Love Stories in Pictures. Another romance based digest was Blue Jeans photo novel but it used black and white  photos and was aimed at teens.  Although I never read the Star digests when they were originally published, it is nice to see some familiar artists and interesting stories available digitally.

DC Thomson has only a small collection of digital content on comixology (more details here) including Beano and  Dandy Annuals, Best of Bunty, Commando and Star, but the collection is growing and hopefully will continue to expand. The Star-Love Stories  were first published in the 1960s and lasted until the 1990s with over a thousand issues printed. The Star digests had something in common with the Commandos as they both had the same editor for a time Chick Checkley. Unfortunately like other DCT publications details of the creators involved are still hard to come by, some familiar artists do pop up though.  This looks to be Julian Vivas work.bitter paradiseAlso some familiar themes appear such as jealous rivals, career driven protagonists, historical stories, mysteries to be investigated, cruel guardians, family feuds and misunderstandings. One of my favourite’s in this collection is “Mistress of Jarmyle” digital issue #9  (originally printed in 1989 as #1195). A historical story set in Somerset in 1815, Caroline Bennet returns from America, to claim back her family home, Jarmyle, and seek revenge on Lord Grantley, the man  responsible for taking over Jarmyle and killing her father in a duel. She keeps her identity hidden in order to get close to the nephew of  Lord Grantley intending he will pay for his late uncle’s crimes. The art is very pretty and the digital upgrade makes it very clean and crisp. The plot is somewhat predictable but there are still some surprises and it’s a good read. The art on the covers of these books are nothing like the inside art, but they are very vibrant and striking.

Mistress of Jarmylemistress of jarmyle2

Another story “Journey to Love”  has orphan Jo Gibbs, a young woman who is taken advantage by her guardian who expects her to do all the housework and give her  the money she earns (a familiar setting!). Jo decides enough is enough and pursues her goal of becoming a nurse which leads her to taking a job at a residential home. This in turn leads to her  to be taken on the pensioner’s trip to Spain, where this potential romance and some shady business going on. Other stories include “Treacherous Heart” where an aspiring model, Alison, has to deal with a jealous rival who isn’t happy with her getting top jobs and envies her photographer boyfriend. She plans to sabotage Alison. In “Two Hearts” sisters Liz and Corrie move to the Scottish highlands to help with their father get his hotel up and running. The sisters are very different Liz more willing to muck in, while Corrie is more snobbish. They both find love interests but it seems that Corrie has her eye on Liz’s potential partner. I found the ending a bit rushed in this story but the story kept me interested as I didn’t know who was going to end up with who.

treacherous heart   two hearts

In the original format a small pin up of popular band or star would be inside the front cover. This is not included in the digital format but it may have been fun to include this in for nostalgia. Still for just 69p each, there is plenty of nostalgia to be captured in the stories. So far there are 12 digital issues available. They are fun reads and I’m looking forward to future releases.

Short Stories & Storytellers

Short stories were a popular feature in girls comics, most likely because it was quicker to plot out a  2-4 page story, a variety of artists and writers could work on a series of short stories with no pressure on developing a big plot. Also it was a good way to fill up space, complete stories also could be used as stand in, before a new serial started or to acknowledge a special occasion, such as a special Christmas story (e.g. Stir It Up- M&J). If there was a long running series of short stories, there was usually a theme or storyteller to tie the stories together. Often the story would still have their own individual title but would have the logo or storyteller introducing the story so we can have more of a  connection with it.

Themes

First looking at some of the regular short stories that were linked by a theme rather than a storyteller. The most loosely connected theme was in Nikki  where the logo of  Short Story is what linked the stories. This series continued in Bunty for a while after the comics  merged. Although these stories didn’t have a particular theme they were usually set in present day and based on school girls and often involved boys. A story with a more definite theme was; Broken Hearts (Suzy/Bunty) not surprisingly these stories often involved romance but not always as hearts can be broken in many ways. Such as a girl’s jealousy of her sister goes too far when her sister ends up in hospital and she regrets her actions. More stories that related to heart issues but focused solely on romance were Judy’s It Must Be Luv and later in M&J was The Boy Zone, the latter reprinted a lot of Nikki’s Short Story. Also in Judy was  Zodiac  where each story represented a star sign, like the Gemini story about twins who can’t agree about anything. An Emma short series focused on dogs in The Dog Next Door. In Debbie the fabled origin stories of flowers were told in old time setting in Flower Story. Misty had lots of short stories some of which came under the heading of  Beasts / Nightmares. More on the mystery and spooky side was A Turn of the Key in Spellbound, where hidden secrets were often uncovered. M&J  reprinted some of these under the slightly revised heading The Key Turns.

boyzoneit must be luvzodiac2Misty 001 28

Storytellers 

As well as having a theme a Storyteller was a popular way to tie things together. While still telling a variety of stories there was also a character that you could identify with the stories making it more connected and  maybe you could have your favourite storyteller. There was two frequent inspirations for storytellers either a special item, or those that were inspired by the mysterious and spooky.

Examples of the  item Storytellers include  Dolwyn’s Dolls (Bunty)  A Tale from the Toy Museum (Bunty) Mother Goose (Judy), The Silver Saddle (Mandy), Madame Marlova Remembers (Debbie) The Button Box (Tammy) and Jade Jenkins Stall (M&J).

Dolwyn’s Dolls took place in a small doll shop, where the owner sold and repaired dolls and told her customers many stories about dolls, sometimes the stories had a magical element. Very similar was  A Tale from the Toy Museum but it had a bit of wider scope with more toys rather than just dolls. Also the storyteller herself had more background development as she was a grandmother telling her bored granddaughter tales when she comes to stay with her over the holidays.  Mother Goose from Judy had another shop owner specialising in nursery and fairytale items. Once Upon a Rhyme in Mandy also dealt with fairy tales but was more magical as the stories were told by a fairy godmother. A more updated version of this theme was Jade Jenkins Stall, although it was not actually titled as such as each story Jade told had it’s own title. Jade stories came from items she sold at her second hand charity stall and she introduced each story. Jade addressed the reader the directly and also interacted with the characters in her tales, often they would return the item they bought at the stall. It was a good modernisation of item storyteller also Jade’s second hand stall meant stories were very much in the present. The Button Box has a more family theme, as a family heirloom is a box filled with buttons from all across history and social classes. Unusually it is not a wise older person telling the tales but a young girl Bev who was confined to a wheelchair. In Mandy’s The Silver Saddle Janet’s aunt Helen, tells her the stories of the girl riders and their mounts who have done notable deeds and earned an inscription on the silver saddle. Another story where we learn more about the storyteller is  Madame Marlova Remembers  from Debbie. Marlova didn’t collect a particular item but had many stories about the ballerinas she taught over the years. She went onto have a prequel serial about how she became a ballerina.

dolwyns-dolls    madame marlova

(Left to Right: Dolwyn’s Dolls,Madame Marlova Remembers)

The spooky storyteller was a popular choice, the stories were not so tied to one particular storyteller so could be used again, for example Tammy’s Storyteller’s Strange Stories were reprinted with Jinty’s Gypsy Rose now telling the tale (read more  about Gypsy Rose here). Two very similar looking character’s were The Man in Black, from Diana and Damian Darke from Spellbound. This is not surprising considering that Spellbound seemed to feature other stories that originated in Diana (i.e. Supercats, The Strange Ones).  Damian Darke proved to be popular enough to survive two mergers, first with Debbie then Mandy (He also appeared in some Debbie Picture Story Library books). Spellbound also had Miss Hatherleigh a custodian of Cremond Hall, who told strange stories of the Cremond family that date from the 12th century. Judy had She of the Shadows a mysterious veiled woman telling stories, but more notable was the later character Bones, a skeleton in Skeleton Corner  that also continued on in M&J. While other spooky storytellers may be mysterious a special otherworldly, having a skeleton truly passed it into supernatural.

damian darkeshe of the shadowsskeleton_corner_06

(Left to Right: Damian Darke, She of the Shadows, Skeleton Corner [Bones])

Thoughts

Clearly with the amount of stories that fall under the heading these were popular themes. As well as regular writers and artists, I suspect similar to 2000AD’s Future Shocks it could be a good way to test out new talents. While I liked some of the complete stories that had a theme, I found those linked with a storytellers as well were better, probably because I can more easily associate a particular story with a character. Also in some cases like The Button Box and Madame Marlova we got more insight into the storyteller and their lives. In some cases particularly the spooky stories the length constraints can affect the story, and sometimes the endings become predictable and rely on familiar twists. Still clearly a big advantage of these complete stories was you get a great variety in one serial, so you were sure to find a story that works for you.