Themes in boys' comics

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comixminx
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Themes in boys' comics

Post by comixminx »

In girls' comics there are a number of readily-identifiable themes - the Cinderella story, the slave story, the sports story, and so on. (Here is a list focusing on Jinty specifically, but across the range of girls' comics the same themes are used again and again.)

What themes were seen in boys' comics, and how much overlap was there with the girls' comics? I would assume that boys' comics have sports stories (which might work differently from those in girls' comics for all I know) and war stories (which don't appear as such in girls' comics, though of course there are ones which feature war as a background).

I will be very interested to see what comes up! Example stories and the titles they appear in will be very useful too, please, as I know fairly little about this area.
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colcool007
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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by colcool007 »

Some themes are fairly easy to identify in the boys' comics.

The most obvious one is the Revenge theme. This has featured in a lot of Commandos over the years, but a good example of the serial version is Sniper from Warlord (issues 155 to 171) and was reprinted in Red Dagger issue 4. This is where a character or characters seek revenge for the death of their mates/team.

The next one is the Redemption theme where a main character has to overcome a personal lack to once again become a valued member of the team and realise the value of being part of a team. For my money, one of the best examples of this is Commando issue 469. 1336 or 4462 Death Of A Wimpey.

Another main theme is the Goal theme. This is where a character or a group of character has a set task or must reach a set goal in order for the story arc to be complete. This is quite often the theme for most sports stories, but not always. Notable examples are Edinburgh or Bust! from Victor where Alf Tupper has to recover from a horrendous accident in order to compete in the Commonwealth Games in 1970. Just to show how bad Alf's luck was he had to recover from the same accident in 1986! Another example is Rogue Trooper's hunt for the Traitor General in the pages of 2000AD.

And one more theme to keep you going is the Mystery/Puzzle theme. This is where the main chararacter(s) had to solve a puzzle as they went along in order to take the story to whatever climax it needed to get to. The Zip Nolan stories in the 1960's Lion where you had to solve the puzzle/crime each week was a good example of this theme.

There is more to add as I have just had a look at your Jinty list and there is some overlap. I will go into that in a bit.
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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by paw broon »

War and horror did appear in girls' comics. Mam'selle X from Tammy and pocket libraries and The Cat from Bunty were both war related. Misty was horror.
Oh, I see what you mean. Both my examples are hero stories with war as the situation in which the heroes work. That took me a while and I plead age as an excuse :oops:
But boys' comics did have what to my mind is an over dependence on sport - and war for that matter. But the more fantastic - SF, costumed hero, anti-hero story types are what appealed to me. What did appear in both girls' and boys' comics were the historical hero/ine themes, and the masked, robed school groups and gangs - Silent 3, Grey Ghosts, Phantom Circle, Phantom Protector. Also some costumed masked mystery heroes. Spring Heeled Jill, The Cat, Starr of Wonderland, Cat Girl, Ghost Hunters and the male ones from Boys' comics.
And of course detectives but sometimes male detectives in girls' comics, e.g. Terry Brent and the 'tec from Girls' Crystal. Sorry memory fails me.

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colcool007
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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by colcool007 »

I enjoyed reading your list and there is a fair bit of overlap. So to make it easy for me, I am going to take your themes and give an example where I can.

Adventure Story There are plenty of those and they usually overlap into another theme. A good example is Wagner's Walk from Tornado where three prisoners decide to escape from their Siberian Gulag and walk to India

AfflictionThere are a number of football stories where the main character is slowly going blind, but the one I think of that best reflects the growing problem of an illness or injury is D-Day Dawson from Battle where Sgt Dawson is wounded on D-Day and has a bullet pressing down on his heart so he is going to die at any time and carrieds out insane acts of bravery to keep his troops safe. Or you have Black Jack from Action who is slowly losing his sight and is determined to keep boxing to win the world title before he is completely blind.

Companion The story that immediately springs to mind is Flying Fury from Hotspur. Sgt Fury is almost indestructible and protects the men of 27B Squadron from the worst effects of the war.

I know it is only three but hopefully that gives a few more places to look. There are lots more to mention such as survival, sport, scifi and storyteller. But I am surprised that you have not got horror as there must be at least one or two horror stories that appeared in Jinty.
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babington
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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by babington »

Not exclusive to boys' comics, but here are some things which came up in the adventure comics pretty often,

Circus
Crime and Police
Disasters (Shipwrecks)
Empire
Explorers
Feats of Strength
Heroism (Rescues, Escapes, Endurance)
Highwaymen
Hunting, Fighting
Jokes, Riddles, Rhymes
Knights, Dragons, Damsels
Magic tricks and practical jokes
Marvels & Wonders
Monsters & Dinosaurs
Photography
People around the world
Pirates (Walking the Plank)
Puzzles
Radio and Cinema
Royalty
School
Science Fiction & Robots
Sport, esp. football, boxing, cricket
Stamps, Coins, collecting
Transport – Aeroplanes, Cars, Motorbikes, Ships, Trains
War
Wild Animals
Wild West – Cowboys and Indians
World Records

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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by philcom55 »

One noticeable difference between boys' and girls' comics of the 50s, 60s and 70s (leaving aside titles aimed at a younger, mixed audience) was the fact that the majority of protagonists in the latter tended to be young girls that the readers could personally identify with, whereas boys' heroes were mostly adults who broadly fitted into the same sort of all-action genres that grown men liked to read about (War, Western, Detective, SF, etc.). I guess one could draw some interesting conclusions from this about the lack of adult female role models that were available during that period - you only have to look at the menial career opportunities outlined in comics such as Girl and Diana! With one or two notable exceptions like Jane Bond, Lady Penelope and real-life heroines such as Madame Curie the sad fact was that nearly all female characters beyond a certain age were expected to be obsessed with romance and meeting 'Mr. Right!' :roll:

Of course, one exception was the school story which generally seemed to appeal to boys and girls equally - often resulting in similar plots being re-used across the gender divide.

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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by comixminx »

colcool007 wrote:I enjoyed reading your list and there is a fair bit of overlap. So to make it easy for me, I am going to take your themes and give an example where I can.

Adventure Story There are plenty of those and they usually overlap into another theme. A good example is Wagner's Walk from Tornado where three prisoners decide to escape from their Siberian Gulag and walk to India

AfflictionThere are a number of football stories where the main character is slowly going blind, but the one I think of that best reflects the growing problem of an illness or injury is D-Day Dawson from Battle where Sgt Dawson is wounded on D-Day and has a bullet pressing down on his heart so he is going to die at any time and carrieds out insane acts of bravery to keep his troops safe. Or you have Black Jack from Action who is slowly losing his sight and is determined to keep boxing to win the world title before he is completely blind.

Companion The story that immediately springs to mind is Flying Fury from Hotspur. Sgt Fury is almost indestructible and protects the men of 27B Squadron from the worst effects of the war.

I know it is only three but hopefully that gives a few more places to look. There are lots more to mention such as survival, sport, scifi and storyteller. But I am surprised that you have not got horror as there must be at least one or two horror stories that appeared in Jinty.
Thanks Col, and of course thanks all who have commented so far! Lots of great stuff. The Affliction story theme in particular sounds like a very close overlap with girls' comics. In some of the examples in your earlier post some of them are similar to what you might get in girls comics - eg revenge is a motivation for various characters - but perhaps not quite as close a match. I think in girls' comics revenge is mostly not something that the heroine tries to take, it's something that a villain might pursue and a heroine have to defend herself against. Of course there could be stories of misunderstandings, which lead the heroine to mistakenly try to get her own back, only for everything to be cleared up in the end.

Horror, hmm. Well of course Misty had lots of horror. but I'm not sure that Jinty did have any, really. It had spooky stories with witches, magical curses, and so on - plenty of cliff hangers - but everything pretty much could be guaranteed to turn out ok in the end, whereas in the Misty short stories the protagonist could end up in pretty deadly trouble. The closest one in Jinty is "The Birds", clearly riffing on the Hitchcock film, which does include a death though of the parents rather than of the main character.
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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by comixminx »

paw broon wrote:War and horror did appear in girls' comics. Mam'selle X from Tammy and pocket libraries and The Cat from Bunty were both war related. Misty was horror.
Oh, I see what you mean. Both my examples are hero stories with war as the situation in which the heroes work. That took me a while and I plead age as an excuse :oops:
But boys' comics did have what to my mind is an over dependence on sport - and war for that matter. But the more fantastic - SF, costumed hero, anti-hero story types are what appealed to me. What did appear in both girls' and boys' comics were the historical hero/ine themes, and the masked, robed school groups and gangs - Silent 3, Grey Ghosts, Phantom Circle, Phantom Protector. Also some costumed masked mystery heroes. Spring Heeled Jill, The Cat, Starr of Wonderland, Cat Girl, Ghost Hunters and the male ones from Boys' comics.
And of course detectives but sometimes male detectives in girls' comics, e.g. Terry Brent and the 'tec from Girls' Crystal. Sorry memory fails me.
Thanks Paw! It's true that war did appear in girls' comics more than I'm allowing for - in Jinty there are some stories where it is a setting, but you're quite right to point out that in some stories it was clearly what it was about. I suppose also I was thinking that in girls' comics they're not expected to wage war as such, whereas in Commando etc the main characters are themselves warriors.

Costumed masked heroes is a definite area of overlap, as is detective stories, ta.
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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by comixminx »

babington wrote:Not exclusive to boys' comics, but here are some things which came up in the adventure comics pretty often,

Circus
Crime and Police
Disasters (Shipwrecks)
Empire
Explorers
Feats of Strength
Heroism (Rescues, Escapes, Endurance)
Highwaymen
Hunting, Fighting
Jokes, Riddles, Rhymes
Knights, Dragons, Damsels
Magic tricks and practical jokes
Marvels & Wonders
Monsters & Dinosaurs
Photography
People around the world
Pirates (Walking the Plank)
Puzzles
Radio and Cinema
Royalty
School
Science Fiction & Robots
Sport, esp. football, boxing, cricket
Stamps, Coins, collecting
Transport – Aeroplanes, Cars, Motorbikes, Ships, Trains
War
Wild Animals
Wild West – Cowboys and Indians
World Records
thanks Babington. A fairish of overlap there but certainly not 100% the same concerns. When you mention Stamps/collecting, and Transport - is that as part of the comics stories, or as articles in the titles?
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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by comixminx »

philcom55 wrote:One noticeable difference between boys' and girls' comics of the 50s, 60s and 70s (leaving aside titles aimed at a younger, mixed audience) was the fact that the majority of protagonists in the latter tended to be young girls that the readers could personally identify with, whereas boys' heroes were mostly adults who broadly fitted into the same sort of all-action genres that grown men liked to read about (War, Western, Detective, SF, etc.). I guess one could draw some interesting conclusions from this about the lack of adult female role models that were available during that period - you only have to look at the menial career opportunities outlined in comics such as Girl and Diana! With one or two notable exceptions like Jane Bond, Lady Penelope and real-life heroines such as Madame Curie the sad fact was that nearly all female characters beyond a certain age were expected to be obsessed with romance and meeting 'Mr. Right!' :roll:

Of course, one exception was the school story which generally seemed to appeal to boys and girls equally - often resulting in similar plots being re-used across the gender divide.
Indeed, Phil, and the comics publishers will presumably have done this on purpose (having protagonists in girls comics be young girls rather than grown-ups) precisely because it made girls comics less threatening and subversive to the adult gatekeeper (teacher, parent). In the US they did have grown up heroines of course, but then the readership of the time included a lot of teen and adult women who presumably didn't need the intervention of as many gatekeepers.
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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by Phoenix »

comixminx wrote:Costumed masked heroes is a definite area of overlap, as is detective stories,
I have no idea how many detective serials there were in Jinty or Tammy, but off the top of my head I can only remember two in Thomsons' output. They were both in Judy, a text tale called Little Miss Lonely Heart in 1962, and the picture serial Maddie Hatter in 1972.

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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by philcom55 »

It occurs to me that one popular theme in boys comics that didn't seem to appear in girls' comics so often was that of the 'villain as hero'. Of course outlaw heroes like Robin Hood who battled for truth and justice against a corrupt authority had plenty of female equivalents - notably those who fought the Nazis in occupied Europe during WW2. Where boys' comics differed significantly, however, was in their tendency to elevate out-and-out criminals to headline status: for example the Spider and the Steel Claw, both of whom started out on the wrong side of the law before they eventually reformed. And beyond those there was a whole range of robbers and killers who were 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' like the Black Sapper, Black Max, Dr. 'Ratty' Rat and the Waxer - not to mention the real-life murderer and burglar Charlie Peace in Buster! Admittedly these strips often included representatives of law and order who pursued the villain and occasionally frustrated his schemes, but there was never any doubt who the real star was!

As a matter of interest can anybody think of any female master criminal who had her own strip in a girls' comic? (I suppose there are one or two evil witches that might qualify)

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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by paw broon »

It was annoying me that I couldn't remember the 'tec in Girls' Crystal, so I looked it up. He was Noel Raymond and later he had a girl assistant, his niece, June Gaynor, who really was the star of many stories. The early Raymond stories were quite exciting with oriental gangs occasionally appearing.
So, June Gaynor qualifies as a girl detective in girls' comics. You can read, "Detective June's Most Thrilling Case" on Friardale.
Phil, as with the Claw and Spider, Black Sapper became a hero later on. Awfy good stuff the Black Sapper. Also, Scarlet/Black Hawk was a criminal before deciding to fight on the side of justice.

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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by colcool007 »

paw broon wrote:It was annoying me that I couldn't remember the 'tec in Girls' Crystal, so I looked it up. He was Noel Raymond and later he had a girl assistant, his niece, June Gaynor, who really was the star of many stories. The early Raymond stories were quite exciting with oriental gangs occasionally appearing.
So, June Gaynor qualifies as a girl detective in girls' comics. You can read, "Detective June's Most Thrilling Case" on Friardale.
Phil, as with the Claw and Spider, Black Sapper became a hero later on. Awfy good stuff the Black Sapper. Also, Scarlet/Black Hawk was a criminal before deciding to fight on the side of justice.
And we have Nick Jolly as a time travelling highwayman brought forward to the present to fight crime. Another Ron Smith to think about. Excuse me while I go and find my Hotspurs!

And the guys in Death Game 1999 were turned into crime fighting heroes when they moved into Battle for Spinball Wars.
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Re: Themes in boys' comics

Post by comixminx »

paw broon wrote:It was annoying me that I couldn't remember the 'tec in Girls' Crystal, so I looked it up. He was Noel Raymond and later he had a girl assistant, his niece, June Gaynor, who really was the star of many stories. The early Raymond stories were quite exciting with oriental gangs occasionally appearing.
So, June Gaynor qualifies as a girl detective in girls' comics. You can read, "Detective June's Most Thrilling Case" on Friardale.
Phil, as with the Claw and Spider, Black Sapper became a hero later on. Awfy good stuff the Black Sapper. Also, Scarlet/Black Hawk was a criminal before deciding to fight on the side of justice.
There weren't that many detectives in girls comics but there were some (and do the masked "Silent Three" count as masked heroes or as detectives or both?). In Jinty there was "Mike and Terry" - a professional private detective and his female assistant. Also "Barracuda Bay", where again the female character was supposedly the sidekick or junior partner of a duo, but got a lot of screentime and action to herself. Very James Bond!
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