Who hasn’t heard of The Beano and The Dandy, the two classic comics from Dundee publisher, D. C. Thomson? Both comics were first published in the late 1930s, went on to achieve great success during the golden age of comics and in the case of The Beano still exists today. These publications didn’t just appeal to boys. The comics featured strong female characters too. The Beano’s Minnie the Minx was not to be messed with, whether you were a girl or a boy. Nevertheless, as comic sales soared after the end of the Second World War, publishers, D. C. Thomson, were quick to spot an opening in the market for a more girl- orientated comic. This is not to say that comics aimed at girls had not existed before then. Titles such as Schoolgirls’ Own had run from the 1920s, but, as the name suggests, had consisted mainly of stories set in boarding schools. In January 1958 a new type of comic for girls was launched, with a much wider range of stories and topics than had been previously seen.
This comic, Bunty, was to become another D. C. Thomson classic and went on to become a firm favourite for generations of young girls. It is worth noting that many
a young boy also sneaked a peek at his sister’s comic. Bunty spawned iconic characters such as The Four Marys and ballet dancer, Moira Kent, that are still remembered with great affection today. There was much more besides, with free gifts, competitions, letters and puzzles pages.
For this reader, at least, the most anticipated feature in the comic was the Bunty paper doll with her cut- out wardrobe. Having glued the doll onto a piece of cardboard, the reader could then cut out the different outfits that appeared each week and attach them to the doll using the paper tabs provided.
Doesn’t sound too exciting, does it? Maybe not to modern tastes, but it kept me, and many others, amused for hours. Paper dolls were very popular at the time. Indeed, I had already come across this phenomenon in Twinkle, another comic from the D. C. Thomson stable that was intended for younger readers. I recall that such was my enthusiasm for Twinkle’s cut- out outfits, I designed my own fashion catalogue making use of the designs!
Bunty and Twinkle may be the best remembered of D. C. Thomson’s girls’ comics, but they produced many others including Judy, Mandy, Debbie and Emma. Clearly the use of a one word girl’s name for the title was a tried- and- tested formula.
I still have in my possession an old Mandy comic. Mandy was first issued in 1967 and followed the usual format of various picture stories,
together with a number of other features. The stories in my issue include “The Lying Eyes of Linda” and “Little Lord Percival”. These illustrate two of the common themes that featured in Mandy stories over the years — girls taking advantage of charitable ( and usually wealthy) people and girls who acquired seemingly supernatural objects with often disastrous results. Stories always ended on a cliffhanger each week to keep the reader hooked, but, rest assured, girls who were liars or cheats always received their comeuppance in the end.
Sadly, as tastes changed over the decades, the days of the girls’ comic became numbered. Their popularity began to wane from the late 1970s onwards and titles began to merge or disappear altogether. Bunty proved the most enduring, but the writing was on the wall and finally in February 2001, after a run of 43 years, it ceased publication.
For those of us who grew up with these comics, it seems incredibly sad that not one of them is still in publication. However, it has been good to see the revival of interest in these classics recently with the issue of several books featuring compilations of some of their best bits. These compilations are unsurprisingly proving very popular, allowing us to relive some of the fondest memories of our childhood.
A colourful collection of girls’ comics published between the 1960s and the 1990s by D. C. Thomson.
Schoolgirls’ Own was published by Amalgamated Press. The weekly story paper ran from 1921 to 1936 before merging with The Schoolgirl.
Twinkle annuals from the 1970s. The D. C. Thomson comic ran from 1968 to 1999.