Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The King’s Cossack (1992)

Published: Commando #2583

Artist: Janek Matysiak

Writer: Unknown

I have come into another Commando drawn by Janek Matysiak, the son of popular DCT artist David Matysiak. It comes with both a gorgeous Matysiak Jnr cover and interior Matysiak Jnr artwork, which seems to be rare thing for Matysiak Jnr in Commando, who most often drew just Commando covers. So we get the best of both worlds here. Strangely, the issue is another omission from the wiki entry that is supposed to list all Commandos with Janek Matysiak as creator.

Plot

By World War II, most British cavalry regiments have gone over from horse power to machine power, but not everyone is happy with such newfangled developments. Among them is Major “Galloping Jack” Faraday, who would have a horse over a tank any day and still wears spurs with his uniform. Faraday’s constant companion is Trooper Tom Tuttle, although he does not share Faraday’s enthusiasm for horses. He’s a mechanics man, and his idea of riding is motorbikes. They are an odd couple for sure.

The Depot Commander doesn’t like Faraday and is always coming up with ways to get rid of him. Anything with a horse in it is guaranteed to do the trick, but right now the only thing available is an assignment to deliver old A-Nine tanks to Russia. Faraday accepts it all the same, as he can speak some Russian. He takes Tom along because his mechanics expertise will help with the tanks.

In Russia, the A-9s are loaded onto a train at Murmansk for delivery. But in transit, they have to be offloaded prematurely because the Russians require them for immediate action at a newly opened front. While Faraday and Tom are waiting for their return train, a freight train pulls up with a Cossack regiment aboard, who are bound for the front. Five of their horses have fallen ill and the Cossacks are all set to euthanise them, but horse-loving Faraday intervenes. He diagnoses their condition as colic, which is treatable. He waives the return train in order to take care of the sick horses, using the waiting room at the train station as their stall, and using all manner of bribery and bullying to get everything needed to treat them. The Cossacks head to the front on their remaining horses.

Once the horses have recovered, Tom and Faraday start their journey to return them to the front. It’s Tom’s first time in the saddle, and he struggles with it at first, but he begins to learn the basics of old-fashioned cavalry riding from Faraday. Their old A-9s and then horse carts give them tracks to follow to the front, but it’s a hard journey, and there is the problem of how to get back home once they deliver the horses. Faraday discovers the horses are “gun shy” i.e. they take fright at the sound of gunfire, something they must get used to in combat. He starts giving them training to cure them of that.

They are spotted by a Russian unit, led by Sergeant Afonka, who are hauling machine guns on horse carts to Major Taras Grischuk’s squadron at the front. Afonka, who is unfamiliar with British uniforms (and apparently, German ones too), mistakes them for Germans and opens fire. This spooks the horses as they are still gun-shy. Fortunately, the misunderstanding is quickly cleared up.

Afonka has lost one of his cart horses, so Faraday lends him one of their horses for the job, and the two parties combine forces. But when they meet up with Grischuk, he suspects the British soldiers are German spies. Then they are all attacked by German planes. Tom saves the day with his mechanics expertise, which enables him to wield one of the machine guns at the planes. After that they are welcome in Grischuk’s Cossack unit, and Grischuk insists Faraday call him by his friendly title of Taras Ivanovich.

The Cossacks move on next day and come across an enemy advance of foot soldiers. They charge, with Faraday far more experienced than Tom in horse cavalry charges. Tom is still not the best of cavalry horsemen and falls off his horse, but carries on in the fight with his gun. Meanwhile, Taras is impressed at Faraday’s prowess in the saddle. Their attack is a success and they capture a lot of arms and equipment that will prove useful later on.

Taras has been wounded and stubbornly carrying on without seeking medical assistance. Worse, another enemy advance is coming, and this time it is more than a match for the Cossacks because it is a tank unit. Taras sacrifices himself to buy time for his troops to get away by setting himself up as a decoy for the tank units.

The Cossacks are all for a revenge charge, but Faraday has a better idea. Using his mechanics expertise, Tom uses the mines they took from the first enemy column and then deploy their machine guns to attract the Germans’ attention and lure them into a trap – a minefield all set for them. After the trap is sprung and proves another success, they clean things up, including the unexploded mines.

Afterwards they go back for Taras’ body. Surprisingly, Taras is still alive – just – and with his dying breath he adopts Faraday into his family. For this reason the Cossacks choose Faraday as Taras’ successor to lead them and give him Taras’ sabre. Faraday is stunned at such an honour, which must make him a “King’s Cossack”.

Faraday sets his squadron to work in harassing enemy supply lines, with the captured explosives and Tom’s expertise, which are followed by Cossack horse charges. They carry out many such attacks and capture a lot of vital supplies, including feed for the horses. Fortunately for them, Blitzkrieg was not mechanised at the rear end, which still deployed horses and infantry, making it the most vulnerable point in Blitzkrieg for counterattack. The Germans turn the tide a little with occasional Luftwaffe strikes and, when winter comes, German ski patrols. The machine guns bring down those patrols.

But Faraday is still clad in British uniform, which looks a bit odd in a Cossack unit and makes him conspicuous. There are going to be questions when the Brigadier pays a visit to the unit. The Cossacks hastily disguise Faraday as a Cossack, but he insists on retaining his monocle (Cossacks don’t wear them, surely?) and still has a British accent. The Brigadier is told that Faraday is Taras’ brother and his accent is due to a broken jaw from childhood, but they’re left feeling the Brigadier is suspicious. Besides, the Brigadier said he received reports about the successes of the Cossack unit, but surely the reports also mentioned that the leader was in British uniform?

The Brigadier informs them that the Germans are rushing headlong to reach the railway, and they are detailed to support a tank regiment in bringing down those Germans. Along the way they come across the last of the old A-9s and bring it along for its last fight. Faraday suggests a strategy his unit knows very well: set up a trap of explosives, in this case a frozen lake, and use themselves as bait to lure the Germans into it and send them to a freezing death beneath the ice. The plan works, though Faraday has taken a bullet in the arm from it.

The Brigadier presents Faraday with the Order of the Red Banner and has a message for the “English Major”. Yes, he saw through it, and Faraday has lost his fake Cossack moustache anyway. Also, the British are asking about their two missing men. So Faraday and Tom are under marching orders – or rather, flying orders – to go home, and their plane is waiting. They leave with great respect from the Brigadier and cheers for “Galloping Jack” from the Cossacks.

But Faraday and Tom are not home for long, as the Depot Commander is always eager to get rid of Faraday. When Faraday recovers from his bullet wound, he assigns him to a horse-and-mule transport unit in Burma. Faraday volunteers Tom as one of his team. “Here we go again…” thinks Tom. Those assignments never give poor Tom the chance for well-deserved disembarkation.

Thoughts

This Commando came out the year after another Matysiak Jnr Commando, “Traitor’s War”, and one can see how his artwork has advanced between the two issues. The linework is cleaner, sharper and neater, and there is more attention to fine details, while in “Traitor’s War” some details look like they could have been handled with more care.

Horse stories are always popular with girls comics readers, so the story should give girls comics readers some appeal as well as boys. It gives the reader a taste of the world of the war horse, which makes a change from stories about ponies and show-jumping. And the glimpse we see informs us that the world of the war horse can be a tough one.

For one thing, there are the conditions the war horses face, which in warfare can be hellish, such as trekking across harsh terrain, being at the mercy of the weather, and there is the worry of running out of horse fodder, which may not always be easy to resupply in wartime. Not to mention the horrors and terrors of battle itself. By instinct they rear and bolt at the sound of gunfire, yet have to “stand like a rock” when a gun goes off right at their ears. “I’m blooming sure I wouldn’t!” thinks Tom, who must have felt great pangs of sympathy for the horses he has to help cure of gun-shyness. They are also at the mercy of their masters, and not all masters would be like “Galloping Jack”. This is illustrated in the scene where the Cossacks, out of ignorance and probably haste to get to the front, decide to shoot the sick horses, and they would have been if Faraday had not been there. Thank goodness there were no scenes of outright cruelty to the horses, which must have been an occupational hazard of the war horse as well.

The story makes a change from the more usual Commando formula of hero vs villain, which climaxes in a final confrontation where the villain gets killed off (blown up, shot, nasty accident or whatever) or captured. Instead, it’s more of a character development story, plus it features the journey story (always popular in girls comics) and action and adventure for the boys. Using the odd couple scenario also adds humour to the story. Tom and Faraday are an odd couple over machines and old-fashioned horses, but events prove that together they make quite a team, with their opposing intererests complementing each other and both proving invaluable to the cossack unit.

Faraday is somewhat pompous and obtuse – for example, he seems totally oblivious to the fact that his depot commander, “an old enemy”, dislikes him. And he refuses to remove his monocle when he dons Cossack disguise although wearing it could mar his disguise: “Certainly not. A chap has to keep up certain standards.” And his love of horses goes a bit overboard sometimes. But for the same reasons he’s also a funny character and gets many of the best lines that make the reader laugh.

Tom is more the sympathetic character of the odd couple. Although he’s Faraday’s constant companion, he seems to be a long-suffering one and never gets the chance for disembarkation because he always gets roped into those damn assignments with Faraday. He suffers even more in learning to ride a horse and the ins and outs of cavalry, and by the time it’s time for the cavalry charge, he hasn’t fully mastered it. He finds operating something mechanical, such as the machine guns or setting mines, a welcome relief from riding a horse. It’s not clear just how experienced he has become as a horseman or whether horses have grown on him by the time he leaves the Cossacks, but he must have emerged appreciating horses a lot more.

Both their interests prove invaluable in making the traditionalist and somewhat backward Cossack unit a more formidable fighting force than it would have been otherwise, what with Tom’s expertise in mechanics, explosives and modern warfare technology and Faraday’s experience with German forces as well as horses. The Cossacks start off not knowing a thing about German uniforms and call tanks “iron carts”, and emerge much more strategic and clued-up about how modern warfare works. Let us hope that they can now get along fine without Faraday and Tom. It must have been quite a wrench for them to leave the Cossacks. They were well settled in by the time they were discovered, and readers must have been hoping and wondering if they would stay. Sadly, their orders were to go home, and orders were orders.

Traitor’s War (1991)

Published: Commando #2472 (1991), reprinted Commando #4085 (2008)

Artists: Janek Matysiak (story); Ron Brown (cover)

Writer: Alan Hemus

Many names of the artists in girls’ comics are now very familiar to us, such as John Armstrong, Mario Capaldi, Douglas Perry, Veronica Weir, Maria Dembilio and Norman Lee. But what about their offspring? How many of their children have followed them into the comics industry, and what samples of their work might be around? Here is one sample, which is drawn by Janek Matysiak, the son of popular DCT artist David Matysiak.

Plot

In the Savoy Alps, 1943, Andre Huot has lived peacefully as a shepherd after losing his father Henri in the Battle of France. Then his Uncle Humbert, a small-time crook, arrives to rope him into joining “the gang”. No, not gangsters, he says (well, not gangsters of that variety, anyway). He means the Milice, also known as the Militia, the (hated) French anti-Resistance paramilitary organisation with a reputation to rival the Gestapo. It’s all in a good cause, he tells Andre: “we are the law…the noble service that keeps peace in France”. And to show he means business in having Andre join the Milice, Humbert casually shoots Andre’s beloved old dog dead, saying it would have been left to starve: “I did it purely out of kindness”. Of course, he just considered the dog a liability that would have no place in Andre’s Milice career.

Andre is soon picking up Milice training and impresses their lieutenant, Bernard Aubray. But despite the indoctrination from Uncle Humbert and his Milice training, he isn’t developing a genuine belief or loyalty in the Milice because he has no loyalty in serving the Germans as they do. Moreover, he came in from a sheltered, quiet country life. This made him a bit green and naive, and therefore hardly one for committing atrocities. So he soon has doubts about what he is doing, which causes increasing confusion about which side to be on.

It starts when Andre meets the Gestapo man the Milice serves: Doctor Gert Sigmund, known to them as “Herr Doktor”. Herr Doktor is, of course, one very nasty Nazi, and the Milice fear him as much as they respect him. When Andre protests to his uncle about serving Germans, the reply is that the Germans are the bosses now, and serving them is the way to keep you out of trouble.

Andre grows ever more troubled at the brutality of Herr Doktor’s Milice operations. He is dragged into watching acts of torture, roundups, and slaughter of fellow Frenchmen in retaliation for acts of sabotage and being forced to kill some people himself. He is revulsed to see his uncle torture an elderly man (watch this space) for information about a sabotaged train. Uncle Humbert reassures Andre it’s all a necessity to keep the peace, but that doesn’t help Andre’s conscience or clear up his confusion. And Andre is soon finding other reasons not to enjoy life in the Milice. He has noticed how his fellow Frenchmen hate the Milice, and for this reason none of them go outside their HQ alone. He feels an outcast among his own people and a virtual prisoner at Milice HQ. Even so, he doesn’t seem to realise what he is in the eyes of his fellow countrymen – a traitor.

But that changes one spring day in 1944. Andre is part of a raid on a house in Burgundy to bring down four Maquis (French Resistance) members. One Maquis man survives, Diderot (probably an alias or code name, as his name is later revealed as Marcel Blum). He got shot in the leg and finds himself facing Andre. He says, “Militia, eh? A traitor who serves the Boches.” Because of his injury, Diderot is taken to hospital for treatment before being turned over to the Gestapo.

Being called a traitor is the turning point for Andre. Though still a bit confused about which side to take, he decides to rescue Diderot, and takes advantage of his guard duty at the hospital to do so. There are problems in gaining Diderot’s trust, even when Andre allows Diderot the use of his gun. When Andre shoots down pursuing Germans during the getaway (in a car with the licence plate JANEK1), Diderot finally believes him and directs him to a safe house, where they part ways. Diderot rejoins the Resistance and Andre takes off quick, not wanting the Resistance to see his Milice uniform; at least he is now clear he does not want to take the Milice side anymore. After a change of clothes, he is heading home to his shepherd’s hut.

But shortly before he gets there, he sees German soldiers opening fire on a British unit (Birdy (Sergeant), Whacker (Corporal) and Eustace (Private)) who drove up from the Mediterranean. His confusion finally clears up about which side to be on, and he joins in to help the British against the ambush, forming an inseparable foursome with them. And so he joins the unit known as the Kitehawks, an unusual unit consisting of British soldiers and Maquis men. The latter Andre had been trained to regard as terrorist-saboteurs during his time in the Milice, but now he is accepted as one of them. The Kitehawks take their name from their leader, Captain Jim Hawkes. They accept the story Andre gives, but he has kept the Milice part secret. If they find out, it’s the firing squad for him.

Andre becomes part of Dog Section, the S.A.S. section of the Kitehawks, and his knowledge of the region makes him a useful guide in their sabotage missions against the Germans. They make rapid progress in the region, and when D-Day comes, they enter the south of France on Operation Anvil (later Dragoon) to liberate France from the south, making more and more progress in liberating the country. Andre, who had joined the Kitehawks with no rank, is promoted to Private, but then gets wounded and put in military hospital. And the more the Kitehawks penetrate France, the more the risk grows that Andre’s Milice past will catch up one way or other…

And then, while Andre is still recovering in military hospital, it finally happens. How exactly it happened is not explained, but in comes the old man tortured over the sabotaged train incident. He identifies Andre as one of Aubray’s unit, adding that Aubray has now been hanged for his crimes.

Andre is court-martialled and sentenced to death in a drumhead trial that has little regard for his good record in the Kitekawks: “Too many of your kind turned their coats when it became obvious their German friends were losing the war”, ignoring that Andre joined the Kitehawks before D-Day. It’s a French military court, and the French didn’t have much mercy for collaborators when France was liberated from the Nazis. Fortunately, Diderot/Blum happens to be there for another hearing, and gives evidence that Andre went against the Milice and saved him from the Gestapo. The court agrees to reverse the verdict and release Andre.

Andre, still recovering from his injury, is given a month’s sick leave. He heads back to his shepherd’s hut – only to find Uncle Humbert, Herr Doktor and a Gestapo goon named Bloch have taken refuge there as fugitives from justice and planning to flee over the Alps. When the Nazis see him in British uniform, they turn on Humbert. Humbert tries his usual ploy of talking his way out of it, but Herr Doktor orders Bloch to shoot Andre. Humbert tries to intervene, which causes him to take the bullet instead. It also gives Andre the chance to draw his concealed weapon, enabling him to kill both Nazis. He burns down the cabin along with the corpses of the Nazis and buries Uncle Humbert next to the very dog he killed. He then departs, vowing never to return, and hands in Herr Doktor’s ill-gotten gains along the way.

Thoughts

We begin with the Matysiak Jr artwork, as this was the reason for the entry. Matysiak Jr’s website shows that military history and Commando are a huge part of his portfolio. The illustrations of his war scenes on his site at https://janekmatysiak.carbonmade.com are utterly breathtaking and make your mouth water so much you could laminate them and put them on your wall.

A large proportion of Matysiak Jr artwork in Commando are covers, and examples include “The Fighting Sappers” #4691, “Night and Fog” #4464, and “Desert Heroes” #4697. Given how beautiful his digital/painted war scenes are, it’s no wonder he was a popular choice for Commando covers. A site of Commando listings where Matysiak Jr is listed as a creator can be found at https://commandocomics.fandom.com/wiki/Category:Janek_Matysiak. Oddly, “Traitor’s War” is absent from the list. Perhaps it was an oversight, but there are always updates.

Viewing interior Matysiak Jr artwork in Commando gives a different perspective of his style, as it appears in black and white instead of the colour and paintwork of the Commando covers. So the pencils, pens and inkwork can be seen more clearly. They render war, amiability and brutality with refined lines and elegant cross-hatching, which does not make it look heavy or rushed. The artwork really gives the impression that time and care were taken in rendering each line. The style is one that can bring off so many different sides to the story: the sinister Nazis, the gentle demeanour of Andre, more hardened commanders, the loud, brash Uncle Humbert, the battle and sabotage scenes, the time period, and the background scenes in which the various parts of action take place, from the Savoy Alps to the train tracks where enemy trains get blown up.

Now, we move on to the story and the character development. First, the villains.

Herr Doktor is pretty standard Commando fare of being one sinister, cruel and totally irredeemable Nazi. But he gets little development and far less part in the plot than Nazi nasties usually do in Commando. He isn’t playing the role of the main antagonist who drives the story all the way to the final panels, which is what Commando villains usually do. Neither is Aubray. Although the old man calls Aubray “the accursed Aubray”, he remains a minor villain who appears even more briefly than Herr Doktor.

By far the best villain is Uncle Humbert. He gets the most development and substance, is a more rounded villain, and he is far more of a plot driver than the Nazis. After all, if not for Uncle Humbert, none of the action would have taken place. Besides, it is obvious Andre would never have gone to war without a push of some sort. Despite his father being killed in the war and now old enough to fight, he just spends his days as a shepherd. Uncle Humbert, in spite of himself, gave Andre that push.

From the moment Humbert appears, he grabs your attention, and he stands out in all the panels he appears in. One of his greatest strengths as a villain is that he’s smooth talker and has a knack for talking his way out of trouble or, as in the case of Andre, talking someone into something. And it’s easy to understand his motives. Having always been a crook, he went into the Milice because it enabled him to what he would do in the world of crime and gangsters, but without fear of the law, because it’s all within the jackboot law of occupied France. Also, in Humbert’s view (or what he says), it’s all righteous: “we are the law…the noble service that keeps peace in France”. Plus there are a lot of perks in being Milice, such as getting the best of everything from the Germans, including non-rationed food and living in style with flash cars and such.

Humbert has the distinction of being the only villain to redeem himself, with his action to save Andre from the Nazis. It is not clear if he meant to sacrifice himself by taking the bullet or just got in the way of it while trying to intervene, but he is still the only villain in the story to die an honourable death. He has earned a measure of respect from the reader and pity from Andre, who decides he was “foolish and greedy” rather than evil (though the people who suffered under him and Aubray’s unit might have different views!). Andre burying his Uncle next to the dog he killed was even a gesture to keep him company.

The theme of a good man who is initially on the German side but changes sides because of Nazi atrocities has been done elsewhere in Commando, such as “Snowbound“, Commando #5517. But because the villains take a bit of a back seat in the plot, it’s less of a hero vs villain and more the journey of Andre Huot, both in terms of his career in soldiering and his character development.

Andre’s growth starts with him being a simple, sheltered country youth who’s never been so far from his Alpine home before. So he’s not difficult to be led on, and Humbert takes advantage of that. And Andre does go along with Humbert, despite knowing his uncle is a crook and witnessing the shocking fate of his dog. Of course, if Andre had refused his uncle’s offer, he could have used force – he has the gun, after all. Also, arriving in town’s a real culture shock for the country boy. So he’s a bit bewildered, which makes him even easier to indoctrinate.

At first glance, there’s plenty to impress Andre in joining the Milice: the rich, non-rationed food of the best kind, the smart blue uniform that looks so intriguing, the smooth talk, the praise for good work, the weapons training, and the programming that the Milice is “the noble service that keeps peace in France” and the people they hunt are dangerous terrorists who must be crushed to keep that peace. Uncle Humbert would be great at running a cult, and Andre would be easy prey for it.

As Andre is still too easy to be led on, he’s not breaking away so readily as other Germans in Commando stories have against the brutalities of the Nazis. The indoctrination vs his horror at the atrocities and the red flags that being in the Milice is leading him down the wrong path can only cause confusion in his mind. The shock of discovering how the other side sees him – a traitor – must have reminded him that his father fought the Germans, not helped them as his uncle says they should do. At any rate, by now all Andre can really think is that he wishes his uncle had stayed away. Even when he makes the decision to help Diderot escape, he’s still not sure in his mind that he’s doing the right thing. It’s his heart he’s following, which must be the only thing he can follow at this point.

Even after Andre doesn’t want to be part of the Milice anymore and now regards that intriguing blue uniform as “traitor’s clothing”, he’s still got that confusion in his mind. And when he joins the Maquis section in the Kitehawks, he’s still affected by Milice indoctrination (looking on the Maquis as terrorist-saboteurs). This must have taken a little while to overcome, but finding himself much happier and productive in the Maquis than the Milice would have helped considerably. And so would the very core of Andre Huot – a good-natured man of integrity. This remains intact throughout the story and could not be destroyed or corrupted. It prevented Andre from actually succumbing to the wrong side and helped him to turn to the right side before he paid the price for being on the wrong side – and nearly did.

Twinkle Annual 2003

I like to discuss an annual around Christmas every year. This year instead of the regular girl’s comics I am looking at a nursery comic that was also aimed at girls; Twinkle. This was another comic published by DC Thomson and was marketed to pre-school girls. Often ads in Bunty and others would tell the reader their younger sisters might like to read it. The weekly issues started in 1968 and finished in 1999, an impressive run. The annuals ran for few more years after the close of the weekly issues, this Twinkle 2003 being the last annual. I picked this up on ebay a little while back for my 4 year old daughter who loved it. We have read through it many times. Comics like this are really missed, as I find most magazines especially for pre-school children have maybe 2 stories and the rest is about puzzles, stickers and free gifts (which are fine sometimes but not when its same for every one of them!). While things are improving for kids a bit older with Beano, The Phoenix and the upcoming Monster Fun, focusing more on stories, there really is a lack of these comics for the pre-school age. The stories in this annual seem to be reprints as there are a few I recognize from first time round

Picture Stories

Note all the picture stories rather than speech bubbles, the story is told by paragrapps of text under each picture.

Nurse Nancy (Pages: 5-7)

Art: Sabine Price

A classic story of the girl, who looks after toys with the help of her Grandpa at the toy hospital. In this story Nancy realises her patients are looking a bit sad about spending time in hospital over Christmas, so she arranges a party after Christmas day and this cheers everyone up who agree it’s a great idea to have 2 Christmas days.

I think every child at some point must play doctors/nurses with there toys, so this appeals greatly to kids.

Patch (Pages: 10-11)

Paula Perkin’s cat, Patch,  doesn’t get on with her friend’s puppy, Ember, at first but then they find a game with wool that they both enjoy even if it does make a mess. I love the art layout in this one. These comics tended to have inventive layouts and rarely restrained themselves to the borders, the large splash page as we follow Patch and Ember around the room, with smaller panels embedded for the story is very effective.

Baby Brother’s Year (Pages: 14-16)

Art: Sabine Price

In a rhyming story a girl tells about what her young brother, Ben, gets up to every month of the year. Like Nurse Nancy this is drawn by Sabine Price and is a lovely colourful piece with a sweet premise.

Diana’s Ducklings (Pages: 22-23)

Diana likes the little ducklings near her house but the mother duck won’t let her near. She amuses herself by building a small dam in the river beside her house, then when there is heavy rain the duckling nest floats away but is luckily saved by Diana’s dam. After that the mother duck trusts her with the ducklings.

Polly  (Pages: 26-27)

Polly the Penguin wants to get presents for her friends for Christmas but she doesn’t know what to get them and everything is very expensive. Then she gets the idea to make ice Gnomes, which is a big success with everyone.

Silly Milly (Pages: 34-35)

Milly visits Santa’s Grotto, but accidentally causes so much trouble, such as getting tangled up with reindeer antlers, and knocking over the Christmas tree. When Mum returns a flustered Santa has placed Milly in a sack, to keep her out of trouble.

Elfie (Pages: 45-47)

Elfie is an elf that secretly lives in Mary’s house, he tries to help her whenever he can only Mary’s dog, Poochie, knows about him. Elfie’s impressed with Mary’s new ballerina musical box. When he notices the ballerina is broken and won’t dance he starts to fix it. Then Mary arrives back with a friend before he is finished. Poochie keeps Mary distracted while Elfie takes place of ballerina for minute while her friend looks, commenting on her “unusual” music box.

Sammy Skates (Pages: 60-61)

Sammy Snowman laughs at the animals attempts to skate he says he could show them better, but they point out he is frozen to ground. His animal friends get an idea crash sled into him freeing him and him and the sled end up on the ice where he can skate around with his friends holding on.

Text Stories

Sara and Sam (Pages: 8-9)

These characters originally appeared in the Pepper Street comic. Here the brother and sister celebrate Sara’s birthday, when the record player breaks it seems their game of musical chairs will not be able to continue but then Sam gets the idea to use the musical birthday card that Sara got from her grandpa.

The Blobs (Pages: 18-19)

The Blobs are little blobs of paint that come out of a paintbox into the wonerful world of Paintbox Land. In this story Powder Blue would like to enter pet sow but she doesn’t have any pet. All her friends Inky Black and Ghostly White were getting ready for the show so didn’t have any time for her.  This made her so sad she sat down beside a tree and cried. This attracted attention of a bluebird. When Powder Blue explained her problem, blue bird said he would go to show with her. Se was even more happy when she won first prize.

Speedy Spinning Top (Pages: 24-25)

Speedy a spinning top as been left forgotten in a dusty attic, until a new family buy the house. While the girl, Anna, is tidying the attic she accidentally hits Speedy, sending him spinning across the floor. He is delighted when she takes him down and her grandpa shows how it works. Anna is a bit nervous to start her new school and brings Speedy on er first day, at lunch time in the playground she soon gets attention playing with Speedy and makes new friends. She is happy that she found Speedy.

The Runaway (Pages: 29-31)

Rascal an adventurous puppy, escapes his garden and goes for walk, but soon finds its not as much fun as he thought it would be. He gets hungry but a baker chases him away from his shop, then he gets splashed by a car, he follows a woman to her house hoping she will dry him like his owner, Rosie usually does. He then spots a milk float, he crawls in falling asleep thinking it belongs to his milkman friend, Tom, but it is actually a different milkman. He brings Rascal to the pound. He doesn’t like it there, he dreams about being home with Rose. Wen he wakes up, he is on his way home, Rosie has collected him. He thinks he will never runaway again.

Jessica’s Fancy Dress (Pages: 38-40)

Jessica is staying at her grandparents when she gets invited to a fancy dress party. While helping her grandad with his gardening she wishes she had a costume to wear but she didn’t bring anything for her visit. Then her grandmother gets an idea, to use grandad’s old gardening clothes to make a scarecrow costume. It is a big success and she wins a prize for her costume at the party.

Sidney’s Sad Secret (Pages: 49-51)

Sidney is a little train, who is afraid of the dark. Then one day when he is meant to make a special trip, he can’t do it because it involves going in to dark tunnel. He is upset that he let everyone down, then the conductor brings him a gift of a lamp and he never has to be afraid again.

Sara and Sam (Pages: 54-55)

In, the second Sara and Sam story, Sara is excited to play netball match. Sam stops into a sweet shop and Sara is anxious that he is taking too long. But when they get to the game it seems it can’t go ahead because the referee forgot her whistle. Luckily one of the sweets Sam picked up is in the shape of whistle. Sara is now glad Sam took so long to choose.

Clever Scamp (Pages: 56-59)

Scamp a little dog, is excited that his tortoise friend, Shelley, is waking up from hibernation. They go for a walk with Ginger the next door neighbours cat. Then they meet Nutty the squirrel he is upset because he lost all his nut and can’t remember where he hid them Seeing some children walking with bag of nuts Scamp gets the idea to beg and perform tricks for the children so they give him the nuts. Nutty is very grateful for.

Features

There is a variety of features in the book, including puzzles, colouring, and cut-out wardrobe of Baby Brother Ben. There is two Witch Winkle pages with questions about what you see in the picture (for example how many stars in the picture? and how many people wearing masks), this was favourite for my daughter, she was also really liked the animal magic which had pictures of animals with pun captions.

  • My Baby Brother Poem (Pages: 2-3)
  • Peter’s Puzzles (Pages: 12-13)
  • My Baby Brother Cut-Out (Page: 17)
  • Witch Winkle (Pages: 20-21)
  • Make Your Own Christmas Calendar (Page: 28)
  • Christmas Cooking Game (Page: 32-33)
  • Witch Winkle (Pages: 36-37)
  • Star Search (Page: 41)
  • Animal Magic (Pages: 42-43)
  • Fun to Colour (Page: 44)
  • Busy Bees! (Page: 48)
  • Father Christmas Fun (Pages: 52-53)
  • Nurse Nancy Poem (Pages: 62-63)

 

Final Thoughts

It’s a very sweet book, with lots of wholesome stories. There isn’t lots of drama and tragedy that you find in the older books, but still has some similar characters such as the problem solver nurse, the clumsy humorous girl and the magical character. There’s also some lovely art throughout. I still remember Nurse Nancy and Elfie from when I was younger, and showing how enduring they are, these were also favourite stories or my daughter too. THe other stories we read a lot are Patch, The Runaway, Speedy Spinning Top and Sara and Sam.  She has had no interest in The Blobs or Sidney’s Sad Secret, we’ve read those probably just once.

As I mentioned at the start, it’s sad there really aren’t these story based magazines any more, but it is nice to see that these old stories can still appeal to young kids today.

 

 

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

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 nearly been counted in the first of 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!

 

 

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.