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Retro Girls’ Annuals

13th Oct 2010

Girls Annuals

Girls’ annuals were a big part of my childhood, despite being almost obsolete when I discovered them. A family friend gave me a collection she no longer wanted, then my mum remembered she had some 1950s ones stashed away somewhere.

And so it was that I grew up reading comic strips about innocent girls and their catty enemies, attempting bizarre craft projects and wondering whether my handwriting really could define my personality.

The annuals were usually based on weekly magazines, and titles included School Friend, Girls’ Crystal, Judy, Bunty, Tammy, Jackie… mostly a long list of girls’ names.

Many of the stories and comic strips have themes of identity and self-discovery – timeless issues for teenagers (and adults) everywhere. The innocence of the fiction is precious, and the posters are more likely to be of dogs and horses than men (although in the 70s annuals there are a few pin-ups of David Essex and the Bay City Rollers).

Girls' Annuals Comic Strip Rolling Pin

The comic strips and illustrations are stunning and the characters have such great style sense that they could be icons of their respective time periods. I deeply wanted to look like some of them, and confess to taking ongoing inspiration from them in the way that I dress.

The stories are not exactly feminist, but they provided girls with a world where females were the focus of every story. Along with this came a lot of bitchiness (or, um, ‘cattiness’) in the guise of quarrelling sisters and back-biting schoolmates. Perhaps not the healthiest of role models, but entertaining nevertheless.

Despite having discovered the annuals at the perfect time in my life, I can’t help feeling I missed out on the golden age. I can just imagine the excitement of unwrapping a Christmas present to find the latest annual of a favourite comic or magazine, then swapping with friends after reading.

During the 1990s, my friends were in fact prematurely reading Cosmopolitan while I was getting stuck into an epic story of a girl who scarred her face, changed her identity and wore a mask for several months without anyone noticing. And I wondered why I didn’t fit in at school…

But at least I learned a lot about girls’ hobbies and fashions throughout the decades, which seemed more interesting than anything Cosmo had to offer to a pre-teen.

I went on to collect more vintage annuals which I found at car boot sales and charity shops, sometimes for as little as 20p. With the rise in popularity of all things vintage, the price tags can now be quite high, regardless of whether or not they are collectible and in good condition.

No doubt many were consigned to the bin when their proud owners had finished scribbling in them, but I like to think the surviving ones will be cherished for years to come, squirrelled away in the bedrooms of misfit girls nationwide.

Alexis Somerville

Comments

  • Kerry Ryan says:

    I still get Bunty every Christmas though my mamie is struggling to find it these days. What about Misty? It was soooo spooky! I loved it! 2000ad for grrls!

  • Kate says:

    Wonderful post! I was also a huge fan of girls’ annuals when I was growing up and used to love going to stay with my grandmother where I could read all of my mum’s old comics from the 1950s. The stories pretty much evenly divided between school, ballet and (the best ones) ballet school. Less edifying were the career advice pages, which generously laid out all of the options open to women to at the time: nurse, nanny, kennel maid and (for the adventurously minded) chalet girl.

    When I got a bit older I graduated to more recently retro magazines with their daring photo stories, their of-the-moment name dropping of Duran Duran and Paul Young and their multiple choice quizzes which would reveal things like what sort of a friend you really were. As you say, they managed to retain an enchanting innocence while providing a female-centred view of the world which was an important raft in a sea of male-dominated media.

    Thanks for the reminder about them; I must dig mine out next time I go home…

  • Siany says:

    I’ve no idea where they came from, but my Nan gave my tons of the comics and annuals (they may well have been my aunt’s when they were kids). I remember a story about a girl who was deaf temporarily, but then got her hearing back but then pretending to still be deaf because her friends gave her sweets. Deep stuff.

    I’d spend hours reading them, they were great fun. Two thumbs up for reminding me.

  • Alexis says:

    Thanks ladies, glad I reminded you about your classic collections!

    Kerry – I have Misty annual 1980 and it’s great, I love all the ghost stories and mysteries!

  • I had the ‘Bunty’ annual, and I vividly remember this one story called “A Warning for Wendy… Who?” about four friends all called Wendy, who each had a troublesome family and felt really alone. It was so sad and brilliant at the same time.

    I remember my Mum burst into floods of tears while we read it together on the sofa one Christmas.

    Ahhh – memories. Great post X x x

    • Alexis says:

      That sounds amazing! I think I remember a similar story with girls who all had the same name – I wonder if that’s where the original idea for the film Heathers came from?! Ha ha.

      That’s a lovely memory:)

    • Lindsay says:

      I think I had that one too, it sounds very familiar! I used to like the 4 Mary’s, and I remember some kind of teenage Amazon called Zelda – she was pretty cool, and someone, possibly called Angel, who was Victorian and had a shelter for orphans. I think she was dying too! Can’t remember if Zelda and Angel were Bunty or one of the others though, they all blur a bit!

      • Jane Bradley says:

        Thanks Lindsay – I know what you mean about them all blurring into one! I do seem to remember a fierce Zelda character though, did she also have some sort of super power as well as being an Amazon? Or am I getting her confused with Wonder Woman?

  • Donna Moore says:

    I was just reading through your discussions and wondered if someone may be able to help me find a girls annual I have been searching for a long time.

    This annual is from the 1950s/1960s/1970s. Unfortunately I cannot remember its name.

    One of the text stories is about a girl and a big cat (cougar/puma/mountain lion?)called something like “Gatina”. I cannot remember the girl’s name. I think there is a flood and the big cat saves the girl. I think there is an illustration with the girl’s arms around the big cat’s neck. There is also an historical-type comic strip in colour about the rescue from a castle of two young girls by a man on horseback (one girl may have been a young Elizabeth I, the other girl may have been named Mary). (Maybe a royal murder plot?)

    I hope someone else has read this annual and may be able to tell me the name of it.

    • Jane Bradley says:

      Thanks for the comment Donna, I’m afraid that one isn’t ringing any bells with me but hopefully someone else might be able to help!

  • Maria says:

    Wouldn’t it be fantastic if at least one good girls comic made a comeback – generations of young girls are missing out on so much! I myself missed out on the golden generation of girls comics and annuals and, like the author of this post spent a lot of the early 90’s reading old annuals passed down to me from my Mum, we then used to regularly visit car boot and jumble sales to add to our collection – my mum was just as keen as me. Every Saturday, I would visit the corner shop for the families weekly magazine order and get my copies of Bunty and Mandy and Judy (which then combined as Mandy & Judy), and introduced newer modern stories such as ‘Penny’s Place’. As well as the comics and annuals, I also used to collect the monthly feature-length comic books solely based on one story. Eventually Mandy & Judy came to an end and Bunty was phased out not long after.

    I think it was either Tammy or Jinty which contained the story about the girl who suffered the scar to her face and then disguised it with a mask – I think that is one of my favourite stories of all time, it really was epic! I’ve always thought that story would make a great film idea. Something like Misty could have a place in today’s market, especially with all the Twilight hype. Maybe, instead of comics, these stories could be reintroduced by way of a mobile phone app or something for the Nintendo DS or Kindle? The stories could really come to life that way and there would be no printing costs involved……………!

    • Yes, that story was ‘A Mask for Melissa’ from Tammy Annual 1984 – it was really epic! I think I must have read it at least three times. I love the idea of reintroducing these comics for a new generation.

  • Sarah Thomson says:

    Who remembers Moria Kent the ballet dancer from the Bunty….?? Can anyone remember the 1st gift in the Bunty…. I can I still have mine …

  • Diane says:

    Hello, Just browsing the internet (as you do) and caught sight of RETRO GIRLS’ ANNUALS, My mum has just given me a box of my annuals following a “tidy” can anyone tell me where I may be able to sell them other than on e bay or at a car boot sale?
    Annuals were a big part of Christmas for me and I can still recall how happy I was reading these books curled up on the settee.

    • Alexis Somerville says:

      Hi Diane, I’m afraid I’m not really sure as the only places I’ve seen them for sale have been car boot sales, charity shops and eBay. Most are not worth a great deal but if you have any of the more sought after ones in good condition, then an antique bookseller might be interested, or someone who deals in vintage toys.