If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls comics

Discuss all the girls comics that have appeared over the years. Excellent titles like Bunty, Misty, Spellbound, Tammy and June, amongst many others, can all be remembered here.

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Phoenix
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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

Post by Phoenix »

philcom55 wrote:I can't help noticing that Mrs. Moore seems to have more than a little in common with Enid Blyton who, in spite of being tirelessly devoted to her many millions of adoring readers, was remembered by her own daughter as cold and distant when it came to her own children.
Curiously, Phil, as far as I'm aware, only Imogen, the younger of her two daughters, recalls her mother as having been cold and distant. Her account of her childhood unhappiness and what she felt was rejection by her busy and distant mother can be found in A Childhood At Green Hedges, which she referred to as A Fragment Of Autobiography (Methuen 1989), and which she wrote under her married name, Imogen Smallwood.

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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

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philcom55 wrote: The fascinating thing about this series is the way in which it is seen primarily through the eyes of scholarship girl Mary Simpson rather than her three, more affluent, namesakes.
The principal reason for this is that The Four Marys is directly influenced by Smith Of The Lower Third, which first appeared in text form in The Wizard in 1947, and ran uninterrupted for over three and a half years before moving seamlessly into Smith Of The Fourth Form from December 1950 for a further year. Over the next few years there were many repeats covering different sections of the saga, appearing there constantly until 1959, clearly after the first appearance in Bunty of The Four Marys.

It is important to bear in mind when attempting an assessment of a boarding school story that they are all part of a tradition that goes back at least to the early years of the Nineteenth Century, quite apart from any specific influences that can be discerned. Thomsons' penchant for recycling material should not be ignored either, and consequently two other serials/sagas need to be looked into, these being Mary Brown's Schooldays, initially in Diana but repeated in Debbie, and Jane Green's Schooldays in Debbie.

One of the more immediate impressions is that of how ordinary the names of the protagonists are, Tom Smith, Mary Brown, Jane Green, all referencing the Tom Brown of Tom Brown's Schooldays, although the only really important factors to cross directly from that novel to the Tom Smith saga are the close friend (East/Ian Shaw) and the adversary (Flashman/Tacks Simmerson). In his Encyclopaedia Of Boys' School Stories, Robert Kirkpatrick lists other themes common to boarding school stories, such as pupils being indoctrinated into an acceptance of hierarchy, privilege and responsibility, the instilling of the public school ethos, of manliness, sportsmanship, loyalty to your house, organised games, and the prefectorial system. All these are present in Smith Of The Lower Third, and by extension, to some extent in the three girls' stories. Mary Brown's friend is Liz Frenchay, her antagonist is the snooty Sarah Dobbs, Mary is put in Clay's House, as was Tom Smith, and Mr Bridger, one of Tom's vindictive teachers, turns up at St Winifred's as the equally-abrasive Miss Bridger. Tom won a scholarship to Lipstone College from South Street Council School in Ironboro. Tom's parents run a grocers shop. Mary won a scholarship to St. Winifred's, a top boarding school for girls, from Grove Street Council School in Ironboro. She travelled there alone on the bus as her parents, who run a small grocers shop, couldn't take the time off. It is hardly coincidental that Tom and Mary are both punished by prefects on their first day at their new school for infractions of customs or traditions that they knew nothing about. Tom gets twelve strokes of the cane from Simmerson, Mary is sent to the Hooded Ones.

Jane Green passes an entrance examination that takes her to Hill Grange School. Her family cannot possibly afford the fees, but an anonymous benefactor not only pays them but also shells out hundreds more so that Jane is never disadvantaged at any time extra finance is needed, for whatever purpose. Jane is described as a Newt, coincidentally the same word used for new pupils at Lipstone. Her best friend is Bev Carew, the senior that Tom fags for after he gets clear of Simmerson is A.P.E. Carew, and a relationship of mutual respect starts immediately. The librarian at Hill Grange is Miss Simpson, who had been at school with Jane's mother. Jane is talented at hockey, lacrosse, although she had never played that game before, and singing. Tom excels at football, cricket and is also a decent boxer, and according to music teacher Mr. Thornley, he has a fine singing voice. Both Tom and Jane struggle with French and Latin.

Where The Four Marys are concerned, obviously all of them have three friends each at St. Elmo's, rather than just one. But the antagonistic pressure on them is doubled because they have to contend with the double-barrelled machinations of the incredibly snooty Mabel Lentham and Veronica Laverly. It is, however, important to point out that Mary Simpson won her scholarship to such a prestigious public school from a Council School in Ironboro, where her parents run a small grocers shop. Tom and Mary go into their respective Lower Third forms. Tom's Form Teacher, Mr Creef, becomes Miss Creef at St. Elmo's, and Mr 'Squawker' Gull, Tom's Housemaster, becomes the 'Squawker' Dr Gull, the Headmistress of St. Elmo's. Although the houses had different names, whole plots are transferred from Smith Of The Lower Third to The Four Marys. Examples include the long story about Johnson/Miss Johnson, the mysterious hermit teacher, the ending of the Rose Sixpence tradition (Mr Kane-Rinder is the Governor in both The Wizard and Bunty, the Quit Rent ceremony starting an inter-house feud, and the Hooded Avengers episodes. Naturally, the girls' serials eventually take on a life of their own, so Simpy's winning a beauty contest, and Mary Radleigh being invited to be a bridesmaid at Princess Zena's wedding, don't seem to owe anything much to Smith Of The Lower Third.

One final point. A play called The Guinea Pig was written in 1946 by Warren Chetham-Strode. It is quite possible that this had some influence on the constant underlying theme of Smith Of The Lower Third, with a resulting knock-on effect towards the three girls' stories. It couldn't have been the film with the same title starring Richard Attenborough as the boy Jack Read, Sheila Sim, Bernard Miles, Joan Hickson and Kynaston Reeves, because it wasn't released until 1948. The film is notable for being the first in which the word arse is used, Jack complaining that he had been kicked up his. I have yet to come across this word in any Thomson story!!

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philcom55
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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

Post by philcom55 »

A characteristically brilliant analysis Phoenix - Bravo! :)

Incidentally it's interesting to note that 'Once A Catholic' - Mary J. O'Malley's well-regarded 1970s play set in a convent school during the 1950s (and currently being revived by the formidable Kathy Burke) - focuses on three schoolgirls who also happen to share the name Mary. Of course there are many significant differences between the two schools but it's hard to believe the writer wasn't influenced in part by her childhood reading of Bunty!

- Phil Rushton

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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

Post by Tammyfan »

Phoenix wrote:
philcom55 wrote:I can't help noticing that Mrs. Moore seems to have more than a little in common with Enid Blyton who, in spite of being tirelessly devoted to her many millions of adoring readers, was remembered by her own daughter as cold and distant when it came to her own children.
Curiously, Phil, as far as I'm aware, only Imogen, the younger of her two daughters, recalls her mother as having been cold and distant. Her account of her childhood unhappiness and what she felt was rejection by her busy and distant mother can be found in A Childhood At Green Hedges, which she referred to as A Fragment Of Autobiography (Methuen 1989), and which she wrote under her married name, Imogen Smallwood.
Comparing Mrs Moore to Enid Blyton was a surprise for me. :?

It was a bit disturbing how this story showed that even charity work can cause misery if it is taken too far. The only other story I've seen that does this is Hard Times for Helen from Judy. Here Mrs Shaw gets way too busy and far too much in demand when she wins the Superworker award for charity work and becomes a local celebrity. Her daughter Helen is taking the brunt, suffering neglect, and also suffering harsh criticisms from her teachers and headmistress who unfairly compare her to her mother.

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philcom55
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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

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Phoenix wrote: whole plots are transferred from Smith Of The Lower Third to The Four Marys. Examples include the long story about Johnson/Miss Johnson...
Weirdly, I was looking at my sole episode of this 1959 story just a couple of days ago and, going by her behaviour and the way she was drawn, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd discovered the very first example of a genuinely transsexual character in a British comic.

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Of course it only took a moment's reflection to realize that this simply wouldn't have been countenanced in a children's publication of that vintage, so it's strangely gratifying to discover that - in one sense at least - Miss Johnson really did start out as a man! :shock:

- Phil Rushton

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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

Post by Tammyfan »

Pity Miss Johnson didn't become a regular. She would have been quite a character in the Four Marys cast.

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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

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...I must admit I'm intrigued to know what her 'secret' really was. :?

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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

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philcom55 wrote:I must admit I'm intrigued to know what her 'secret' really was.
The series ran in Bunty from issue 54 (Jan. 24 1959) to issue 69 (May 9 1959), Phil. Although she looks and acts quite like a tramp, and the teachers in the Staff Room are all appalled when they see her slurping her tea from a saucer, Dr Gull introduces her to the Third Form as their new form teacher while Miss Creef is involved in preparing the Fifth Form for their exams. Miss Johnson fluctuates between moments of clarity during which her comments suggest that she had once been a pupil at St. Elmo's, and more frequent periods of not knowing who or where she is. She is a fine cricketer though, excelling at batting and spin bowling, and coaches the girls considerably better than their gym teacher, Miss Stamper. Head girl, Ann Fairlie, and Mary Simpson are sympathetic towards her, and become the prime movers in the identity quest, hampered significantly by the fact that the name Johnson does not appear on any of the school's Honours Boards. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot that I haven't time to go into in any great detail, but they involve a yachting accident in which all passengers were presumed dead, a young girl called (Lady) Josephine Bramilly, who had been St. Elmo's Cricket Captain in 1921, and was in the shipwreck, and two rascally lawyers, Mr Tompkins and Mr Barling-Fledge, who are determined to do away with her in order to ensure their control over a £2,000,000 legacy. Miss Johnson's memory is very much stirred on reading an essay by Simpy on ancient heraldic devices, as coincidentally Mary has referred to the Bramilly Crest, Venture All To Achieve All. Ann discovers in an old school magazine that in 1930 Josephine Bramilly was awarded a Doctorate of Literature by Camford University, some three years before the yacht capsized. Miss Johnson stays on at St. Elmo's until Miss Creef returns to normal duties.

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philcom55
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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

Post by philcom55 »

Thanks Phoenix. :)

I really like those long storylines with a mystery at the heart of them - even if they did sometimes turn into a bit of a 'shaggy dog tale'. It's a shame that the 'Lucky Charm' format wasn't more successful as I'd love to have seen more classic serials in collected form (though I guess the 'Miss Johnson' saga could have been too long to fit into just 64 pages).

Incidentally it might be worth considering all the 'Lucky Charm' strips that haven't been mentioned yet as 'Top 100' material since I'd imagine that DC Thomson would never have selected them if they hadn't struck a chord with readers the first time round.

- Phil Rushton

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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

Post by Tammyfan »

philcom55 wrote:Thanks Phoenix. :)

I really like those long storylines with a mystery at the heart of them - even if they did sometimes turn into a bit of a 'shaggy dog tale'. It's a shame that the 'Lucky Charm' format wasn't more successful as I'd love to have seen more classic serials in collected form (though I guess the 'Miss Johnson' saga could have been too long to fit into just 64 pages).
- Phil Rushton
They would have cut some material out of the originals and edited panels to fit the story into 64 pages. I imagine Angel is one story that must have lost a few episodes in the Lucky Charm reprint. If they'd reprinted the Miss Johnson story they would have probably would have done the same.

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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

Post by Tammyfan »

philcom55 wrote:
Incidentally it might be worth considering all the 'Lucky Charm' strips that haven't been mentioned yet as 'Top 100' material since I'd imagine that DC Thomson would never have selected them if they hadn't struck a chord with readers the first time round.

- Phil Rushton
I have wondered the same myself. Here's a link to a list of the Lucky Charm issues. http://girlscomicsofyesterday.com/2013/02/lucky-charm/. Some of the titles have already made it to the list. Any thoughts on the ones that haven't? Remember that some of the reprints had their titles changed from the original run for reasons I don't know. For example, Down with St Desmond's was reprinted as Out to Ruin St Roslyn's.

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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

Post by peace355 »

I think the majority of Lucky Charm issues have already been represented here. Valda, Angel, The Four Marys, Climbing Rose, Balloon of Doom, Catch the Cat, Down with St. Desmonds/Out to Ruin St. Roslyns, The Children's Champion and Sandra of the Secret Ballet (Castle Ballet etc.) are currently in the top 100, so that accounts for 12 out of the 30 issues. Also Moira Kent, Taming of Teresa and Kathy Come Home were all nominated though they didn't make the list.

The only other Lucky Charm issue I've read is Wonder Girl a story about a girl that was raised by scientists and when she is sent to boarding school she finds it hard to fit in. It is drawn by Robert MacGillivray and it is a fun story but I don't think it's worthy for top 100, perhaps an honourable mention.

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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

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@ Philcom: I have an episode or two of that story. It was called Lona the Wonder Girl in its original run.
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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

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In case anybody is interested, I've been looking through approximately 250 issues of Debbie that I acquired just before the weekend, roughly fifty from 30th Century Comics, the rest in a Compal Auction lot, and I have noticed that the mystery story emerging from the coded message(s) sewn into some golden fabric, that I mentioned on 17 November in a synopsis of Jane - Model Miss, was repeated as Victoria Jones And The Golden Dresses in Debbie 271 (Apr. 22 1978) - 279 (Jun. 17 1978).

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Re: If we had a list of the 100 greatest serials in girls co

Post by Tammyfan »

@Phoenix: have you found any interesting serials in Debbie that might be worth considering for the 100 or honourable mentions?

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