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The Rise and Fall (And Possible Rise?) Of Girls Comics, Part Two

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#4
The lack of an actually organised fanbase does strike me as something that's very difficult to change- that feels very 'outside box' culture rather than the sort of 'inside box' issues within the industry that could be affected by a different editor or something.
It's an interesting one because in many other places, women founded fandoms or played significant early roles - comics is an outlier even in the face of other unpopular nerdy stuff!
 

Gary Oswald

Well-known member
Sea Lion Press staff
Pronouns
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#5
It's an interesting one because in many other places, women founded fandoms or played significant early roles - comics is an outlier even in the face of other unpopular nerdy stuff!
I was tangentially evolved in the beginning of organised female superhero fandom which was a bizarre experience.

Like you say compare it to fantasy or sci-fi where in those areas of fandom were primarily female driven and it's a huge difference.
 
#6
The lack of using new talent in girls' comics started early - as shown by the habit of the Amalgamated Press boys' comics/ storybook papers in the 1920s of reusing writers on their successful boys' magazines 'Gem' and 'Magnet' (the Billy Bunter 'Greyfrairs' stories and other similar posh boys' boarding-school stories, eg St Jim's) for their new girls' magazines, eg 1921 'Schoolgirls Own'. The latter's new editor Reginald Eves, formerly deputy editor of the Gem and Magnet group of comics, brought in writers from the latter to create new girls' boarding schools, eg Morcove in N Devon (written by ex-Magnet writer Horace Phillips, disguised under a female name, and Cliff House School in Kent - which shamelessly had Billy Bunter's equally large and greedy sister Bessie as its lead character. The use of the boys' stories model was carried on at the creation of 'Girls Crystal' in 1936 also with a lot of male writers from 1920s comics using female pseudonyms; G Cecil Graveley wrote the long-running 'Merrymakers' travel/ detective thriller series from 1939 to 1952 as 'Daphne Grayson', Sheila Austin the writer of Canadian Rockies thrillers was Stanley Austin, and Judy Thomas was Reginald Thomas (who was also Jane Preston); Eileen McKeay was Ernest McKeag. The GC editor C Eaton Fearn (male) wrote as 'Gail Western'. The state school 1950s adventures of lively schoolgirl 'Trixie' in 'Trixie's Dairy' in GC were written by the then editor Eric Rosoman, as 'Ida Melbourne' - and had stories very similar to some Enid Blyton 'Home Counties' school / detective plots.


I suspect the main reasons for this were a cautious desire to use proven writers and proven formulas, hence the tweaking of boys' school stories to create near-exact equivalents for girls and even re-using very similar characters and identical storylines, plus an 'old boys' network' in the companies owning the titles and a very male atmosphere in the office; and there were very few female writers in the world of boys comics in the 1920s-30s so using established writers meant that new, female ones did not get a chance. Safety first - as in more modern TV companies re-using established writers and comics (eg the Cambridge Footlights in set in the 1980s onwards?). It was the maverick (ironic considering its being run by a vicar and its patriotic nature) but socially conservative 'Eagle' boys comic in the 1950s that used some female writers for its stories in 'Girl' and had a female deputy editor , Jodi Hyland, though the actual comic was edited by the Eagle's own editors, Marcus Morris and later Clifford Makins. Indeed, Anne Digby (author of the 1970s-80s girls school series 'Trebizon') first appeared as a story writer in 'Girl' in the late 1950s and early 1960s - and her 1980s 'Jill Robinson' stories of a family in a New Town and state school setting first appeared in 'Girl' in 1964-5.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
#7
It was the maverick (ironic considering its being run by a vicar and its patriotic nature) but socially conservative 'Eagle' boys comic in the 1950s that used some female writers for its stories in 'Girl' and had a female deputy editor
it's definitely a fun quirk of history that some revolutionary work, and some forward-facing interesting stuff for girls, comes out of the work of a literal vicar who worried horror comics made kids avoid church