When I was much younger and an avid reader of comics, we boys would sneer at girls' comics. Not that any of us had actually read any of them, but we just knew that the kind of stories they undoubtedly carried - about riding ponies, japes in exclusive girls' boarding schools and adventures in modelling - couldn't possibly compare to our regular diet of war, crime, occult shenanigans and football. This week I finally got to read a couple of those comics aimed at girls, courtesy of The Guardian which has been giving away free classic British comics all this week. It was an enlightening experience. Whilst, in some ways my long-ago prejudices were confirmed, I was pleasantly surprised by much of what I found. Indeed, I found myself enjoying the 1972 Bunty Summer Special
and the 1971 first issue of Tammy
far more than the 1981 edition of Roy of the Rovers
. I think part of the problem with the latter was that it was a pure football comic. Every
story was football-themed, making the whole comic feel a bit samey. I always preferred action-adventure comics like Valiant, which contained a whole range of strips, covering everything from war heroics to science fiction, usually including a single football strip. The two girls' comics, as it turned out, were much more in this latter mold.
, although contemporaneous, were surprisingly different. Bunty was definitely the more traditional of the two, and clearly aimed at middle-class girls. It was chock full of private school-based stories (usually with a token working class character, as in the 'Four Marys'), and tales of nice girls from good homes setting up agencies to help out people in 'trouble'. 'Trouble', of course. usually involved other middle class girls having their chances of competing in the gymkhana sabotaged by working class stable girls. Indeed, the portrayal of he working classes is summed up by the 'Tina the Tester' story in which the eponymous tester of consumer products, when looking for a dirty oven to test a new oven cleaner on, assumes that someone from the 'lower orders' will have such a thing. Tammy
was quite different, with a much greater emphasis on working class heroines, often struggling against overwhelming odds to keep their families together ('Our Janie'), or to achieve their dreams ('Bettina at Ballet School'). When it wasn't presenting its version of 'social realism', the comic exhibits a predilection for the more Gothic romance style of story, with various historical heroines being virtually imprisoned and terribly mistreated. In 'Slaves of War Orphan Farm' it is East End evacuees being exploited by evil rustics, whilst in 'No Tears for Molly' it is a 1920s East End servant girl desperate to earn money to support her poor old mother back in London, falling foul of toffs and nasty butlers in darkest Devon. Most interesting is 'My Father, My Enemy', an early 190s set story of a local mine owner's daughter rebelling against her father's reign of tyranny and siding with his down-trodden employees in an industrial dispute. As I intimated earlier, not at all what I expected. Indeed, with this level of left-wing political discourse in evidence, perhaps I should have been reading girls' comics all those years ago...
Labels: Musings From the Mind of Doc Sleaze, Nostalgic Naughtiness