Summer has arrived so I thought it would be fun to look at something appropriately themed – a Summer Special! This isn’t something that I’ve looked at before on this site, in part because Summer Specials seem to be more rarer to come by then other issues. There may be a few reasons for this, firstly just looking at the DCT girls comics, despite having many popular long running titles, it seems Bunty was the only comic to get Summer/Holiday Specials. For a few years it did combine with Judy (from 1974 to 1980) to share a special between them, but it means there just aren’t as many specials out there in the first place. To the best of my knowledge Bunty Summer Specials ran from 1963 to 2004, so there are only 42 issues in total. I wonder if they didn’t sell as well as the weekly issues, and weren’t deemed cost efficient to produce issues for multiple publications. Like the Annual, these were filled with favourite characters and one-off complete stories, so there was less of need to collect in case of missing an episode of an ongoing serial. Unlike the Annuals these were just a thicker weekly issue, so not as durable as the hardback books. They could have also been a bit more disposable, as they would be bought to entertain on holidays, long car journeys, read on the beach etc. , maybe not all of them made it back home again.
The comic I am looking at in this post is the Bunty Summer Special 1996 (issue 34). Also Special thanks to Jim Eldridge (The Four Marys artist) for sending me a copy. At 48 pages (including front and back cover) it is an extra 16 pages than the weekly comic. Inside there are 9 stories, 4 of them being regular characters, The Four Marys, Luv Lisa, Bunty -a girl like you and The Comp. The 5 others are complete stories and filling out the rest of the comic is a number of features, including Puzzles , Pin Ups, Star Chart , Cut-Out Wardrobe and a fun highlight for me, is a Four Mary’s Game.
Of course the features and stories stick with the holiday theme. First up in The Four Marys, (art: Jim Eldridge) the girls are in Venice with the rest of their class. Mabel and Veronica are flashing their money around, while the Marys enjoy exploring. It turns out all their walking around helps them stop a thief as they have learned the back routes to places and they get rewarded for returning the stolen purse. So while the Marys can enjoy treating themselves, Mabel and Veronica run out of money and the boys they were hanging around with are suddenly not interested any more!
Lisa Codd meanwhile is having trouble with her brother Martin in Luv, Lisa. For the Summer, they are meant to be sharing the job of looking after the dogs, but Lisa ends up doing all the work, alongside her summer job. She complains about the dogs taking up all her spare time, but when the family are to go away on holiday she doesn’t want them to just go in the kennels, and persuades her Mom to take them with her.
In Mystery Maid, while Becky is staying in a hotel her room keeps getting messed up and she sees a maid in a black uniform, but can never catch up with her. When her parents point out all the cleaning staff just wear jeans and t-shirts, she wonders who the girl is. Then coincidentally her friend arrives with the History Society group she is holidaying with. It seems they are doing tours of haunted buildings and they are at this hotel because it is meant to be haunted by a maid from when it was a private house…
In Bunty – a Girl Like You Bunty enjoys a day out at the beach, but she doesn’t enjoy the wet dog smell on the way home!
Holly’s Hero with art by Eduardo Feito is set in America, where A girl Holly is a big fan of Beach Watch (obviously a Baywatch reference) and in particular it’s star Chad Chadwick. When Beach Watch starts filming nearby, she is starstruck, but when her dog gets in trouble in the water and Chad wont help because it will mess up his hair and makeup, she sees him as the vain, selfish person he is. Luckily a friend, (a boy who has had a crush on Holly) saves the dog and Holly sees how he is much better than her “hero”.
The only other photo story besides Luv, Lisa, Dee’s Day Out is about a girl who just moved to a town. As it’s Summer holidays she hasn’t made any friends yet so she is quite fed up. She decides to make a trip to her old home town but misses the train. She does end up meeting a local girl, Tanya, who offers to show her around. By the end of the day she is pleased with what the new town has to offer, she has made friends and has a date.
In Rags to the Rescue, Yvonne is spending her Summer holidays at home in the remote farm, she is happy to have her dog, Rags for company but she wouldn’t mind some human companionship too. There is potential when a neighbouring farm has their nephew, Lee, visiting, but Yvonne seems to keep missing him. But when he gets lost in a cave it is Rags that tracks him down and it is a start of a friendship for Yvonne.
Karen and Jenny are best friends, but after a holiday together will they be Forever Friends? (art by Julio Bosch)At first they are excited that Karen’s parent’s are bringing them to a holiday camp but Karen is not pleased to see how much stuff Jenny is bringing with her. By the end of the car journey they are not talking to each other and neither one of them wants to make up first. After getting stuck on a chair lift together they realise how silly they’ve been and enjoy the rest of the holiday together. Although it looks like there will be more arguments on the way home!
The pupils at The Comp set off for a school trip to Scotland, Grim Gertie expects them to wear their uniform but luckily she is not actually on the trip and Carlton says they can change once they’re away from the school. Freddy and Hodge mess around at one of the Lochs causing Freddy to fall in and later the class participate in some highland games. When the boys get kilts on, Laura threatens to pin the photo on school notice board when they return.
While the regular characters all get at least 5 pages, but the other stories only get 3 pages. This can leave things a bit cramped plot wise, for example in Forever Friends? the girls having a fall out in the car seems a bit soon or in Mystery Maid, we don’t get much of a reason why the ghost maid would be messing things up, other than because she’s a ghost! Still it is a fun issue, that would certainly get readers in the holiday spirit, it has lots of colour and fun features, such as puzzles and it would be good entertainment, whether you were stuck on a long journey or just at home.