First female-led strip in a boys's comic

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Marionette
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First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by Marionette »

I started this in the 2000AD forum but it's got more general. I'm wondering when the first female protagonist appeared in a boys' comic.

For the purposes of this discussion I am assuming that the likes of Beano and Dandy are unisex: the rule of thumb being that it would be entirely acceptable for a child of either gender to be reading it. So that covers a lot of humour or nursery comics which, while predominantly featuring male characters, would assume a readership of both boys and girls.

I'm also assuming that comics weren't specifically aimed at a particular gender much before about 1940, though someone more knowledgeable will probably correct me on that.

And just to be entirely clear, I mean female as the protagonist of the strip. Not a woman who happens to be in the strip; not the love interest of the hero or a member of the group who makes the tea while someone else makes the decisions, but the one in charge.

Also, because it just struck me, I wonder when the first female villain appeared in a boys' comic.
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Digifiend
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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by Digifiend »

You're right about Beano and Dandy. For most of the 90s, the Dandy said "for boys and girls" on the cover. But you're wrong about the 1940 cut off point. There was a number of girls' story papers before that date, and they converted to or were replaced by comics at the same time the boys' story papers were, in the 50s and 60s. If story papers don't count as comics, then the start of true girls' comics was definitely after the war. If they do count, it's the 19th century!

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by Phoenix »

Digifiend wrote:If story papers.....do count (as comics), it's the 19th century!
Let's assume they do, Digi, in which case it would be useful if you could remind us please of a few standout titles. I'm sure Marionette isn't interested in generalisations, and any investigation needs to start somewhere.

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by dreamticket »

Marionette wrote:I started this in the 2000AD forum but it's got more general. I'm wondering when the first female protagonist appeared in a boys' comic.

For the purposes of this discussion I am assuming that the likes of Beano and Dandy are unisex: the rule of thumb being that it would be entirely acceptable for a child of either gender to be reading it. So that covers a lot of humour or nursery comics which, while predominantly featuring male characters, would assume a readership of both boys and girls.

I'm also assuming that comics weren't specifically aimed at a particular gender much before about 1940, though someone more knowledgeable will probably correct me on that.

And just to be entirely clear, I mean female as the protagonist of the strip. Not a woman who happens to be in the strip; not the love interest of the hero or a member of the group who makes the tea while someone else makes the decisions, but the one in charge.

Also, because it just struck me, I wonder when the first female villain appeared in a boys' comic.
Yes, she's got to either be the title character of the strip, or the lead character in the feature.

She'll certainly predate the suggested Judge Anderson (from your discussion on the 2000AD board) and I'd be very surprised if she won't herself be predated by the first female villain.

Star Lord comes to mind as being a comic with strong female characters, both good and bad, so that might be a good place to start (Mind Wars and Timequake in particular).

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by chrisb »

Off the top of my head, the earliest I can think of is from Tiger in 1973. Jo Tallon in the strip Tallon of the Track. She was a brilliant rider who was also the trainer of the Flying Ospreys Speedway racing team.

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by starscape »

Yeah, StarLord had Ardeni Lakam of Mind Wars. She had a male twin but was the lead and more powerful. Planet of the Damned also had a female villain.
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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by dreamticket »

starscape wrote:Yeah, StarLord had Ardeni Lakam of Mind Wars. She had a male twin but was the lead and more powerful. Planet of the Damned also had a female villain.
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Was Ardeni hero or villain? My memory was as a villain who redemes herself in the end, but I might be getting that mixed up with X-Mens Fenris (the Strucker twins).

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by philcom55 »

Interesting question. As far as I can tell the launch of School Friend in 1950 coincided almost exactly with the conversion of titles like Knockout, Sun and Comet from unisex comics to ones aimed mainly at boys. Certainly all their female characters such as 'Deadshot Sue' seemed to disappear round about the same time.

By contrast, there were a number of strips in girls' comics which starred male leads - for example Ben Hur, Macbeth and El Cid in Diana or The Man From UNCLE in Lady Penelope.

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by starscape »

DECADES-OLD SPOILER ALERT

Wouldn't quite call her a villain. She was tortured and manipulated into doing 'bad' things (like killing her brother) but eventually breaks free from her mental confinement. Kind of a Dark Phoenix in reverse.

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by felneymike »

Also Soylent Green is people, and Planet of the Apes is Earth in the future!

If you do count story papers, then Daisy Fairfax was a female detective in The Halfpenny Marvel in 1897. Or at least, I have one from 1897 where she stars in a story called Dark Deeds, though I believe there was a few others. The Halfpenny Marvel occasionally claimed to be "unisex", but would have been mostly read by boys.

Meg Foster - Footballer and Nell O' Newcastle were both female footballers in The Football Favourite in the early 20's. This may not even have been a dedicated story paper, but a football magazine with only a minority of fiction stories (a lot of magazines had at least one, in those days. Biggles started in a magazine for pilots and aircraft enthusiasts!). No doubt the readership was mostly male, though.

I wouldn't be surprised if The Captain had at least one female lead character in a story (almost certianly a short complete story, not a longer serial, though). The Captain began in late 1899 and was very "high class", though it was also more "experimental". One early school story had a teacher as the main character! Around 1916 there was a story set in an American "co-ed" school, with female characters, though I wouldn't be surprised if there had been some in the preceding years, too.

Oh, also in 1932 there was a series in The Gem where Arthur Augustus D'Arcy ("Gussy") goes on the run, after trying to give a prefect a "fwightful thwashin'". At one point he ends up hiding in a girl's school (the one where Bessie Bunter studies!), and the story follows the girls trying to keep him hidden and give him food on the sly. Until Bessie is surprised by him and starts to tell tales of "a robber with a gun in one hand, a knife in the other, and a club in the other"!

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by Phoenix »

felneymike wrote:At one point he ends up hiding in a girl's school (the one where Bessie Bunter studies!)
That would be Cliff House School.

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by davidandrewsimpson »

Many issues of Super Detective Library featured the adventures of female comic strip detective Lesley Shane back in the mid-fifties

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by philcom55 »

Circe, the evil sorceress from Greek mythology (drawn here by Ron Embleton) made a pretty impressive villainess in the classic Boys' World strip 'Wrath of the Gods'!

Image

Beyond that, however, I think the editors of comics like Lion, Tiger and Valiant were aiming at a target audience of prepubescent boys whose reaction to 'girls' would be similar to that of Richmal Crompton's William Brown when confronted by his lisping nemesis Violet Elizabeth Bott and her blood curdling promise to ‘scream and scream till I’m sick’! As a result, female characters rarely appeared at all in any of their stories - even as girlfriends, or victims to be rescued.

By contrast the short-lived comic Top Spot was aimed at older boys and young men, in whom raging hormones had rekindled an interest in the opposite sex. While this meant that a regrettable number of that title's female stars appeared as cheesy pin-ups and centrefolds, some of the features and stories treated women with considerably more respect - as can be seen in this strip from the issue dated Nov 7th 1959 (and not a firework in sight!).

Image

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by dreamticket »

philcom55 wrote:Circe, the evil sorceress from Greek mythology (drawn here by Ron Embleton) made a pretty impressive villainess in the classic Boys' World strip 'Wrath of the Gods'!

Image

Beyond that, however, I think the editors of comics like Lion, Tiger and Valiant were aiming at a target audience of prepubescent boys whose reaction to 'girls' would be similar to that of Richmal Crompton's William Brown when confronted by his lisping nemesis Violet Elizabeth Bott and her blood curdling promise to ‘scream and scream till I’m sick’! As a result, female characters rarely appeared at all in any of their stories - even as girlfriends, or victims to be rescued.

By contrast the short-lived comic Top Spot was aimed at older boys and young men, in whom raging hormones had rekindled an interest in the opposite sex. While this meant that a regrettable number of that title's female stars appeared as cheesy pin-ups and centrefolds, some of the features and stories treated women with considerably more respect - as can be seen in this strip from the issue dated Nov 7th 1959 (and not a firework in sight!).

Image

- Phil R.
Nice art on the Harry Tracy strip. Any idea of the artist? Ron Embelton again, perhaps?

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Re: First female-led strip in a boys's comic

Post by Stuart V »

starscape wrote:Planet of the Damned also had a female villain.
You must be thinking of another strip. Planet of the Damned didn't have a female villain - it barely had any female characters in speaking roles. You had an unidentified female who appeared in the first episode and only served to scream when the Ab-Humans were first revealed, Helen in the second issue (who might have been the screamer from issue 1) who was attacked by a cute native creature and died that same issue, an unidentified female who was drowned when she bit into an overly "helpful" piece of fruit in issue 6, and Lady Tabatha in Sanctuary in episode 7 who comes the closest to being a villain only if you count complaining about the smell of the new arrivals and telling the mad Professor Barnes to ensure they get washed to be villainous.

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