British Girls' Comics
March 30, 2015 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Girls' Comics of Yesterday From the 1950s to the turn of the 21st century, generations of British girls enjoyed weekly comics full of text and picture stories, about an astonishing range of topics: ballerinas, aliens, ghosts, Victorian serving-girls, magic mirrors, wicked stepparents, boarding schools, horse riding, sci-fi dystopias, boys, plucky heroines solving mysteries, and really anything you could imagine ... although to be honest, there were a lot of ballerinas.

The first of the classic girls' comics was Girl, launched in the 1950s as sister paper to the Eagle. After a complex series of mergers, the last survivor, Bunty, folded in 2001. In between came Judy, Jinty, Mandy, Tammy, Misty (previously) and all the rest.

You can find out what these comics meant to their young audience by reading Jacquelyne Rayner's essays for the BBC and the Guardian (also linked here previously), or this essay by Dr Mel Gibson, who has built her whole academic career on the study of comics. Perhaps you'd like to know more about what went on behind the scenes in girls' comics publishing?

Or maybe you just want to revel in scans and recaps of the weirdest and most wonderful strips archived online?
posted by daisyk (15 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Ghosts, aliens, boys and mystery solving? Sounds a lot like the shoujo manga I read in the 80s and 90s.
posted by happyroach at 12:13 PM on March 30, 2015

I had completely forgotten about these. I'm American but from the age of 11 to 13 I lived with a British/Rhodesian family that subscribed to several of these girls' weekly or monthly mags. It's going to be interesting digging into them, exploring the messages I received from reading them at an impressionable age. Thanks.
posted by mareli at 12:20 PM on March 30, 2015

I read these as a Canadian kid and still think about them! I remember a story with a Jean/Jean confusion leading to a visiting male student in an all women family. They made ginger beer and I've always wanted to try it. There was also a story about a poor girl who had to sell her violin? and the man who did the demonstration at the auction so she could rebuy it cheaply.

These links should be fun to check out.
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:28 PM on March 30, 2015

I see nothing about the Belles of St. Trinians. Not a magazine, granted, but still - great stuff, and well worth your time.
posted by BWA at 12:31 PM on March 30, 2015

There used to be a huge cache of these annuals at my gran's house when I was a kid, amassed by my mum and my older cousins. I didn't know at the time how lucky I was to have access to them! My favourite stories were always the ones about Valda.
posted by daisyk at 12:34 PM on March 30, 2015

These are a huge part of British comics history. Here's Pat Mills on Misty, "the female 2000AD".

Sadly they pretty much met the date of every other British comic that wasn't 2000AD during the brutal hatch-match-and-despatch days.
posted by Artw at 12:39 PM on March 30, 2015

I used to read my sister's Bunty and Judy after I'd read my Battle and Warlord cover to cover - our grandmother used to buy them for us for when we'd go to her house after school, c. 1979-82. I think I enjoyed her stories, about orphan girls raising their siblings and nice girls bullied by mean girls at boarding school, just as much as mine about trench warfare and dogfights, and I still find myself thinking about them. But when she got older she graduated to teen comics, which rather than drawn strips would use photos of model/actors with speech balloons overlaid, telling soapy stories about teenage romance that made no sense to me
posted by Flashman at 12:58 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

My sister was addicted to these while I preferred Beano and Dandy. I think I have a hardcover Bunty annual somewhere, gifted as a birthday present.
posted by infini at 1:02 PM on March 30, 2015

I had a pile of these from somewhere, no idea where. They were great. I mean, I loved my VICTOR and HOTSPUR too. But I can still remember the anguish as the poor girls in the orphanage ALMOST got the evil owners removed and escaped their torment! (I'm a boy).
posted by alasdair at 1:13 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

(Are "Bunty" and "Jinty" first names? The rest all seem to be…)
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:43 PM on March 30, 2015

Jinty is a name, bit Scottish, bit old fashioned. Not so sure about Bunty.
posted by Artw at 1:51 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Internet says the same of Bunty. That's probably more Scottish because it's DC Thompson.
posted by Artw at 1:54 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I came across a big stash of ancient Buntys and Girls in a cupboard in my boarding school once, which was odd, considering, as the only way for them to have got there is if one of the nuns had brought them with her for her ministry. I did like the drawings though. People used to come out of art school really well able to draw in those days.

For contemporary comics (this is the 60's) my sister used to get Jackie, which was all photo strips and soapy stories as above, and I used to get Smash! - ft Grimly Feendish, The Nervs and Frankie Stein. Which was lively and a lot more fun than the rather high-minded Eagle. Happy days. I still like the quality of drawing in the girls' comics though.
posted by glasseyes at 5:39 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I remember my sister's Jackies as well!

is this where we'll come to have a discussion on Enid Blyton's influence on generations of excolonies worldview shaping?
posted by infini at 10:32 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, E. Nesbit for me, I'm afraid* I don't think I'm....nice enough to appreciate Blyton somehow *scowls* As for excolonies worldview, there's just something about that conversational Edwardian voice that slips right under your guard to sit on your shoulder. Kipling had it too of course. And then you go and read Plain Tales.

*though they need a bit of censoring.
posted by glasseyes at 12:11 PM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

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