Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nostalgic for comics

Comics... not superhero stuff. I never read those and today I can't follow them when I try. I'm talking about comics for girls, or picture stories, which I think are just called magazines today. In fact, I'm not sure the comics of my childhood even exist any more. Today they're about make-up and pop stars. Then, they were mostly about orphaned girls enduring terrible hardships at the hands of mean relatives.

My older sister bought the comic Mandy every week during the mid-to-late 70s. I had a couple of favourite artists, and the way the strips were drawn was sometimes more important than the story. Wikipedia lists some of the stories - I don't recognise most of them so I think they must not be from the era I was reading. One of my favourites - it may have been called "Darla" - was about an alien named Darla who joins the household of our heroine. Everyone else is brainwashed into believing that she has always been there, the younger sister, but our heroine knows better. I think Darla could blast mind-control rays from her eyes. The heroine learns that relatives far from home don't know who Darla is, so the brainwashing only extends so far. She eventually discovers two people from the town have been replaced by aliens, and along with Darla are plotting an evil takeover of some sort.

Some of the stories were rather more mundane. "Rita the Record-Breaker" is determined to break a world record - any world record will do. One of her attempts involves eating a lot of macaroni cheese. In the end I suspect she broke the world record for attempted world records. "A Ticket For Timmy" is about a family emigrating to Australia who can't afford the £100 ticket for their dog. Our heroine finds ways to raise the money herself, week by week. And how's this one for a great YA novel idea? I don't remember the title but it's about an orphan living with cruel relatives (of course), forced to be the voice of her talent-free cousin. During stage performances, she stands in the wings and sings into a microphone while her cousin lip-syncs.

I also remember stories about a girl with a terrible scar on her face, a girl terrorized by the ghost of her dead twin sister (who turns out not to be dead), a girl faking deafness, a girl faking blindness, and the touching story of a magic music box that has been passed down 13 generations from mother to daughter, and takes the heroine back in time to meet each of her ancestors, where she has to help them out with some problem.

And that, along with Enid Blyton's boarding school and secret club stories, comprised the literary influences of my early childhood.

I now recall that Mandy was also my first publishing success, although I didn't receive a penny. The comic published a letter of mine in about 1980.


Nicole Murphy said...

I was very much a series girl when I was little - Secret Seven, Famous Five (which I much preferred), Trixie Belden.

The ones I most remember were actually old books of my mother's - the Donna Parker series. Set in America, they were about a smart and pretty girl having very innocent adventures. Because I had dark hair, and was good at English like Donna, I loved them better than the Trixie books. I re-read them several times before I moved onto Dad's science fiction and fantasy collection.

Not sure I'd want to read them now - I bet they're terribly politically incorrect and would ruin my wonderful memories of them.

Sara Creasy said...

I loved the Secret Seven and didn't read much Famous Five, but I did watch the TV show later.

As for un-PC, I recently read an Enid Blyton story meant for 5-year-olds (in the doctor's waiting room, no less) where Daddy gives the boy a "well-deserved" belting because he keeps talking back. I don't think Supernanny would approve of that.

Lynn August Linse said...

There are a lot of 'online' self-publish comic sites these days.

Drunkduck dot com is one I read once in a while. Obviously a mix of 'ratings' and grossness/cuteness.

Keith Stevenson said...

Can't say I've read much. Honest, I was holding those copies of Bunty for a friend! But my partner, Nicola, is a sucker for the Chalet School books. Lots of girl-school fun in the Alps and the odd nazi to foil.

Sara Creasy said...

We didn't have the chalet books but I remember borrowing them on a camping trip. They were about older girls, though - teenagers. I loved The Naughtiest Girl in the School series, which was about general boarding school life rather than solving mysteries etc. I so wished I could go to boarding school!

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