Tag archive: Girls’ Comics
Back when I was a wee lad, I never lost my temper. I never accidentally stabbed my sister with a metal badge in the shape of a thumb.
There was, however, a small boy – coincidentally looking just like me and living in our house – who’d frequently commit acts of naughty badness. His name was “Jivvy”, and he’d routinely depart the scene of various crimes just as I arrived. Leaving me to clean up his mess and take the rap for his indiscretions. Damn imaginary bastard.
In young Mia Blake – put-upon protagonist of Jinty‘s “Slave of the Mirror” (1974) – I recognise a kindred spirit. While slaving, skivvy-like, in the attic of her sister Janet’s Cornwall boarding house, she stumbles across an antique mirror. An antique mirror in which a leering, diabolic face is reflected back.
A diabolic face whose penetrating gaze decides (just for yuks, presumably) to crush her will and force her to commit anti-social acts of boarding-house-destroying eeeevilll. She tries her best to resist…
…with mixed results.
Her sis, noticing this abrupt change in young Mia’s attitude, decides to cheer her up…by nailing the devil mirror to her bedroom wall. Oh dear.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all told ourselves, “I’ll never let demonic faces in mirrors (that no-one else can see but me) tell me what to do again. I’ll kick the habit. Cold turkey”. But then…you’re up late. You’re bored. You think, “One more quick look can’t hurt”. And then…
It cannot be defeated. It cannot be reasoned with. It wants nothing less than to devour, digest, and then shit out our souls (while adversely affecting the reputation of a seaside guest house). This is why I haven’t stared into a mirror for 30 years. Jivvy lives there. And I must obey him…
What does one do on a miserable Sunday such as this (a Sunday dragged straight from the depths of Satan’s arse)? Watch DVDs? Check. Waste an hour or two playing the Wii? Check. Idly flick through the thousands of comic covers at coverbrowser.com? Check once again.
Though I wish it were otherwise, the vast majority of the images on Cover Browser relate to stories I shall never get the opportunity to read. In some ways, however, this doesn’t matter a great deal – for very few of the tales could measure up to the vivid brilliance of their associated covers.
In this they call to mind the diabolically brilliant mendacity of those back page adverts one used to find in American comics of yore. How many children, upon receiving their long-desired X-Ray Specs in the post, must have sobbed & thought (after a cursory examination of the contents), “This is a cruel and terrible world!”? Thus was learned a harsh but essential lesson, namely, that life frequently delights in kicking you in the face. So it goes…
Anyway, here follows a selection of smashing covers.
A classic childhood situation. You’re in your bedroom and a knock comes on the door.
“Billy, what are you doing in there?”
“Summoning monsters from the beyond. Leave me alone!”
“Alright son, no need to bite my head off. Are you sure you know how to make them disappear?”
“Yes!! God…you’ve no faith in me. Go away!”
10 minutes later the house is in ruins and your grandparents have been devoured.
“Look, I said I was sorry…OK!”
Though I’m desperate to know what has led Barry to become “The Man Who Hated His Hair!”, I respect his privacy enough not to pry further. Doubtless it’s something unutterably terrible…perhaps involving demonic dandruff that whispers to him in his sleep (“They’re all laughing at your flaky scalp, Barry. Kill them. Kill them all!”). Whatever the case, his set jaw indicates that he’s bearing it all with a grim & stoic determination.
Good man, Barry.
Despite having read my fair share of jingoistic war comics, DC‘s Blitzkrieg (“Searing Battle Sagas of World War 2 As Seen Through Enemy Eyes!”) had managed to escape my notice until today. It appears to have only lasted 5 issues – indicating, perhaps, that the appetite for preternaturally evil “Krauts” was on the wane in late-1970s America.
“Hugo” is about as unambiguously malevolent a German soldier as one could wish to avoid. Not only does he gleefully riddle some “Tommy” corpses with machine-gun fire (“So what?? It is good target practice!”), but he also takes a dim view of merciful attitudes toward civilians:
Gott in Himmel! What a bastard.
Ah yes, the classic “Mistaken Identity” technique – much used by desperate, lonely stalkers everywhere. Despite dozens of “B-But I’m N-Not Bonnie!” rejections the determined degenerate hopes that someone, someday, will feel his embrace tighten around her waist and think “You know what? Maybe I could be Bonnie!”.
P.S: Speaking of comics, there was a most enjoyable Roy of the Rovers piece (by Miguel Delaney) in today’s Sunday Tribune. Well-researched, affectionate in tone and unapologetic. A rare thing to see (on such a subject) in d’papers. Oh and he even mentioned this here blog and my discussion of RotR‘s Matrix-esque “bullet time”.
Update 23/01/08 – I’ve emailed a few people who’ve shown (or casually expressed) interest in FIZZOO! to discuss format, structure, page & word count etc. If anyone else fancies getting involved please email me (or leave a comment below) and I’ll forward details on to you. Remember, it’s very much an amateur exercise. So come one, come alll.
A new year. A new project.
Like me he grew up supplementing his regular comics intake with surreptitious dips into the wonderful worlds of Bunty, Misty, Mandy et al. These dips have left lasting impressions – ensuring that he and I remain committed fans of the “girl comic” and all its conventions.
And so…after some thought (about 10 minutes’ worth) we’ve decided to create FIZZOO! A Girls’ Comic…by Boys (and maybe some girls).
Fizoo! will (when/if it gets going) be hosted online here, feature 1-2 page collaborations between interested writers and artists, and attempt to offer askew (or even twisted) takes on such girls’ comic staples as…gothic horror, schoolgirl misery, orphans, ponies, supernatural companions etc., etc.
Such a venture does, of course, run the risk of wandering into territory covered ad nauseam by Viz. A concerted-ish effort needs, then, to be made to avoid Viz‘s tried and tested goofy scatologica. In other words, don’t expect to see something like…em…”Mavis McGog and her vomiting Dog”. Actually, that’s pretty funny…so ignore all previous remarks.
The first two stories will be tackled by Simon and myself – with art likely to be supplied by the fabulous “Q”. To keep it going we’re going to need fresh blood and fresher imaginations. If any of you regular (or irregular) readers fancy having a go at either d’writing or d’illustrating of a story then please leave a message below (or email me…see sidebar).
The aim is to be fairly slavishly faithful to the feel of Bunty, Mandy (et al) but with (as I said) a dirty twist or two.
Let us know what ye think.
P.S: I wrote the above after 2 pints of Guinness, 2 glasses of red wine, a brandy and a hot port…so if I gobble my gook please forgive me.
P. P. S: In other news – Greetings Earthlings has finally been updated.
The second entry to go on display in fustar.info‘s Museum of Cultural Waste is not (I admit) wholly dissimilar from the first entry. I’d intended to drift away from vintage Girls’ comics and discuss (say) the merits of James Last records, or Costa Del Sol knick-knacks, but the charms of these annuals are impossible to resist. I surrender willingly.
From Bunty for Girls 1983 (the contents of which this blog milked dry) we move on by moving back – ten years that is, to Mandy for Girls 1973.
While none of this volume’s stories manage to scale the bonkers heights of Bunty‘s classic “Flights of Flopear”, they do demonstrate the persistence/popularity of certain themes & scenarios – Girl with magical object (“Carol’s Cauldron”), Girl with exotic animal companion (“Elsie’s Elephant”, “Mona’s Monkey”) etc.
Also present and correct is the kind of single concept tale that Viz once routinely parodied – “Late Kate”…a high-larious narrative about the girl who’s “Never on Time!” (plenty of scope for development there).
None of the above, however, are to be the main focus of today. Instead I’d like to record for posterity a story so spectacularly ill-conceived (and offensive) that it simply leaps from the page demanding to be critiqued. Here’s a portion of panel one:
A young (somewhat overweight) girl arrives at a new boarding school with all the usual anxieties and concerns about fitting in or standing out. Are we to see a sensitively-handled yarn about bigotry and (ultimate) acceptance? Any confidence one might have about the progressiveness of the writer’s agenda must be tempered by the fact that the story’s title is (rather unbelievably) “Tessa Pulls Her Weight”. On we go:
I think you can guess where this is leading (hint: not to hand-shakes and pledges of undying friendship)…
And so it goes. Constant bullying. Constant ridicule. Until, though she can scarcely believe it, Tessa is picked for a school sport’s team. The sucker punch is duly delivered however, as a mortified Tessa realises she’s been lined up to “pull her weight” in the Tug-of-War. The results are (predictably) calamitous, with Tessa’s eagerness to please costing the school the competition. Cue universal scorn and derision.
Then, when all hope of acceptance seems long gone, a sea-side outing riding ponies (beside a cliff!) lurches suddenly towards tragedy. A pony bolts. Young Christine (the 4th form captain) can’t control it and off it goes on a mad dash for the cliff edge. Tessa springs into action, grabbing the reins before…being dragged, sickeningly, over rocky ground. Christine is saved, but Tessa is horribly wounded, as a disturbing panel gruesomely reveals:
So what’s the moral here? Well, since it is (presumably) Tessa’s weight that prevents the pony from flinging itself (and Christine) into the sea, one might imagine that it’s a muddled message about how everyone can make a difference (using those “talents” peculiar to themselves). Or how “Bravery and selflessness are not the preserve of the conventionally good-looking”.
At the very least you’d expect Tessa’s bullying class-mates to be whistling a different tune. As she arrives back from a five-month stay in hospital it seems that a new attitude is, indeed, in the air:
The ambulance door opens to reveal…a denouement of flabbergasting nastiness!
Splutter! A cynical and cowardly retreat by the Mandy hacks. The solution to bullying by body fascists is, it seems, to get dragged behind a horse, suffer terrible injuries, and spend 5 months at death’s door in hospital. It might sound drastic girls, but at least you’ll be skinny and popular!
Fate, as the unluckiest among us no doubt realise, can be a cruel and capricious thing. To some it regularly deals four (or even five) aces, to others it simply administers crippling punches in the groin. Being on the receiving end of this nasty groin-punching is (of course) never pleasant, but reading tales of people so afflicted is rarely less than captivating.
Take the misadventures of Blake (no relation to Noel) Edmonds for example. At one time this former Formula 1 champion “had it all” (if by “having it all” one means fame, fortune, and a square & manly jaw).
In, however, stepped a devastating combination of fate and a malfunctioning plane engine.
There’s nothing quite like a melted off face to expose the superficiality of one’s well-wishers and hangers-on. While his previous youthful, athletic vitality proved intoxicating to the (fickle) general public, Blake’s mangled, skeletal visage was obviously too “grim spectre of death”-like for mainstream tastes.
Those who remember “Death Wish” (which moved from Speed to Tiger and on to Eagle) will probably well recall the delightful way in which it combined the tragedy and pathos of The Phantom of the Opera with the thrills and (potentially fatal) spills of stunt performance. The “Death Wish” of the title was, of course, Blake’s own. With little left to live for (and painfully straddling this world and that beyond) he participated in ever more outrageous and dangerous stunts. In spite of such recklessness the sweet embrace of death never came, and so he continued to walk the earth, shielding his ruined face with a grimly stoic mask.
The whole thing was (to my boyhood mind) deeply moving. In marked contrast, the ostensibly similar adventures of “D-Day Dawson” were merely enjoyably silly.
All of which leads us on to a connection with the “Girls’ Comics” fixation I’m currently trying to shake. Thanks to “steelclaw” at ComicsUK I’ve been introduced to a Gothic, female version of “Death Wish” (minus the motorbikes and action) called “The Girl in the Mask” (click below image for full page goodness):
The short synopsis brings us up to speed with our heroine Dorinda Lacey’s life thus far. I think it’s safe to say that “Aunt Clara” is out of the running for any “Compassionate and Supportive Guardian of the Year” awards.
Orphan Dorinda Lacey was brought up by her wealthy Aunt Clara who told her she was terribly ugly, as her mother had been. Although Aunt Clara was now dead, Dorinda still wore a mask to hide her face.
While not quite wishing for death, the pressure of terrible ugliness has obviously darkened Dorinda’s mood. Lacking the military support that might channel her depression into lunatic acts of bravery, Dorinda is left to dwell on the vagaries of fate. With these words she captures a sense of what we all (at times) feel…in moments of drunken self-pity, or on wet and windy Monday mornings:
“Oh Mary. If only I weren’t so dreadfully ugly. I could throw away this mask and live a normal life”
Though I’ve yet to see more than a page of this sad tale I’m willing to bet handsome amounts of cash that her supposed ugliness is ultimately proven to be a gross lie, spun by her vindictive Aunt Clara. Like 80s movies where one can still keep the cash at the end, as long as one learns a few humbling lessons along the way, Dorinda will (I’m sure) finish up rich, beautiful and beloved by the sick and indigent.
Either that or she ends up having her not-actually-ugly face melted off (before being shot in the heart).
P.S: Thanks to “philcom55″ and “Captain Storm” for the “Death Wish” images.
Like a deep, dark, weirdness-filled mirror the world of Bunty (and girls’ comics in general) continues to hold fustar.info in its thrall. The more I look, the more wonders (and terrors) I see returning my gaze.
Two weeks ago we revisited the jolly adventures of “Belle” and a ball that “had developed remarkable powers after being treated by space travellers from the planet Orbis”.
As is the case with many such powerful, “paranormal” objects, ownership passes (over the centuries) from person to person. A quick bit of detective work (by myself and Jess) revealed the identities of the previous and current guardians – Sylvia Plath, and the Cruise/Holmes child-bot:
Thanks to the good people over at the Comics UK forums I’ve been reminded that narratives about young girls and “uncanny balls” were by no means rare or unusual. Take, for example, this brief excerpt from “The Ball of Hate”
A demonic glass ball that tells young Ms. Thorpe seductive (and destructive) untruths = fantastic stuff. It’s not clear who/what “treated” (or possessed) this particular ball, but the fact that it’s difficult to get rid of clearly marks it out as a thing of evil. Perhaps the dark gods of “Orbis” are responsible?
Speaking of evil, any discussion of uncanny balls and young girls must make mention of Mario Bava’s Operazione Paura (a.k.a. Kill, Baby… Kill!) – a film in which…
“…the townsfolk of a backwards Carpathian village are bedevilled by the spectre of a young girl with long blonde hair, whose ghostly visitations are announced by the arrival of a white ball that rolls into the scene, seemingly with a will of its own.”
The Movie Morlocks article “Follow the Bouncing Ball” (source of the above quote) also reminds us that Fellini borrowed the image for “Toby Dammit” (“his contribution to the horror anthology Spirits of the Dead“). Behold:
Creepy and scarifying, but I’ve saved the best till last. Not a ball this time, though not far off. Courtesy of that man “philcom55″ (over at Comics UK) comes this slice of freakiness, scanned straight from the pages of Bunty No. 1471 (March 22, 1986). You’ll need to click on the image for the full effect…
That’s some intuitive leap by young Katherine. Her town is hit by a “violent storm” and she becomes convinced that the blame lies with her sister’s “strange balloon”.
Since “philcom55″ himself has succinctly captured the unease the page generates (even among adult readers/viewers) I’ll leave the penultimate words to him:
I’m particularly struck by the way in which a symbol of childish joy and wonder is transformed into something so horrifically sinister (rather in the style of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’); what’s more the effect is cleverly enhanced by limiting any colour to the balloon itself while everything else is depicted in black and white.