A History of Girls’ Comics

Reviewed by 26-Jan-13

Despite copious nostalgia-tweaking illustrations, the vague and sloppy research disappoints.

A Much-Anticipated Disappointment

Speaking as an enthusiast about comics – which you all already knew – and in my other identity as a retailer of British comics, I have been waiting a long time for a definitive book on the much-neglected field of girls’ comics, which I have discovered over the last decade to be a treasure-trove of both inspired silliness and unheralded high-quality work.

Sadly, I’m still waiting. When I heard about this book, I really looked forward to it. Having finished it, I confess myself disappointed.

On the plus side, it’s an attractive-looking tome, copiously illustrated, with lots of full-colour and black & white illustrations to set the nostalgia glands a’tingling.

But once you get into the text, there’s sadly much less to this than meets the eye.

The overviews are skimpy, frequently missing out major parts of the series’ appeal or historical importance. No mention of The Avengers in Diana? Talking about Mandy without mentioning either of its long-running mainstays Valda or Angel? Lady Penelope barely mentioned in passing, without an entry of her own? It’s not a history, except in the most general narrative sense. It’s not a scholarly book at all, but a collection of sloppily researched, often exasperatingly formless reminiscences, which makes its being touted as a ‘history’ doubly galling.

Plus, given that there’s so little information or publicly-available research on this subject, a disturbingly large proportion of the 240 pages is devoted to modern, non-comic, girls’ magazines, and to partworks, which by no definition are comics, and should be in another book entirely.

Fully one-third of the text is given over to such completely irrelevant material, and a further fifth is repetitive, with the segment on characters often reiterating, with only minor rephrasing, portions of the earlier segment on series.

There are some informative snippets and useful insights, but overall, I was very let down.

So, the definitive history of girls’ comics – or any history of girls’ comics worthy of the name – remains to be written.

Looks like I’m going to have to do it myself…

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4 responses to “A History of Girls’ Comics”

  1. Mike Teague says:

    I await your version with anticipation, Will !

    Nevertheless, I might be inclined to pick this book up as an apetiser – whilst awaiting the main course – if I can find it, just to give me an idea of what it is all about….

  2. One way of looking at it would be to say that the premise is flawed to begin with.

    I mean, i can’t imagine anyone writing a history of boy’s comics. They’d pick one title, one publisher or some angle.

  3. Mike Teague says:

    Having found a copy of this book in a Remainder shop, I haven’t read it yet, but I am still waiting for Will’s definitive version !

  4. Mike Teague says:

    I have now read this and am at a loss as to what audience this book was targeted at.
    It seems to try to be many things, but the only thing it succeeds in being is a mess.
    It is not a history, it is more a hazy recollection. There is no real structure or sequence to the book. It lacks an editor who could spot repetitions – sometimes the same sentence is repeated in the next paragraph; and also some clumsy typing errors, such as one title that apparently started in June 1962, only lasted six months and was amalgamated in January 1973 (!) – now I’m not the world’s greatest mathematician, but even I can spot that one.
    And Pat Mills is mentioned just once ! Even John Wagner is referred to in passing as a co-creator of Judge Dredd.
    There also seemed to be a bias towards D.C. Thomson over IPC regarding the word counts of the respective titles.
    The main reason I bought the book (aside from it being cheap) was that I had no knowledge of Girls Comics. Well, I knew of The Four Marys and that Pat Mills had a lot to do with early 70s titles. Sadly my knowledge has not increased from reading the book.

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