By­ways

Evergreen - - Contents - Mar­garet Breck­nell

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.

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