Adi Tantimedh writes,
There’s a lot of admirable scholarship on the history of British comics that’s been done, but still not enough of British Girl’s comics. Back in the Sixties all the way to the Eighties, weekly girls’ comics were plentiful alongside the Beano, Dandy, Topper, 2000AD and various war and action comics before dying the death. These weekly anthology comics had titles like Jinty, Judy, Bunty, Tamny, Misty and so on, and one of the last times anyone wrote about them was in The Guardian in 2012. While many of the defunct Boys’ Comics are often written about and even reprinted at length, there has been very little of it reproduced and even less written about them, despite the efforts of writers and historians like Dennis Gifford and Paul Gravett.
Girls’ comics anthologies had the usual genres you might expect, series about girls at school, student nurses, ballerinas, athletes and gymnasts and so on, but there were also supernatural, thriller and horror series as well. Writers like Pat Mills, John Wagner and the late Steve Moore regularly wrote for those comics during their heyday in the Seventies, yet their work is seldom discussed or reprinted now. I might argue that many British Girls’ comics are as important a part of Comics History as the Boys’ comics, yet so few or the series are discussed anymore.
There’s one particular Science Fiction series that I never forgot, but unfortunately I’ve forgotten which British Girls’ anthology weekly it ran in. I never knew who wrote or drew it, yet I still remember the story and the art vividly. I was in primary school, and for a week, my older sister had to have dental surgery. My mother didn’t want to leave my younger sister or I at home, so she took us along to wait in the dentist’s waiting while my sister had her teeth drilled, cleaned and fixed. The dentist’s office had magazines and a complete run of this particular Girl’s weekly comic in the waiting room but no Boys’ comic. I never discriminated when it came to comics, so I happily read them all during those afternoons at the dentist’s, and by the time my sister’s teeth were all done, I’d read through the entire story arc of this particular comic series.
This Science Fiction series was clearly influenced by the Incredible Hulk TV series and the short trend on US television of shows featuring a hero who was on the run and on the road, hitchhiking his way from one town to another to get tangled up in a Plot of the Week while being hunted by some authority figure or another. The comic series featured a teenage girl who was a princess from another planet, sent to Earth by her mother when a crisis threatens to destroy life on her home planet. The heroine finds herself alone in rural England with only mild superpowers and her backpack of spare clothes, depending on the kindness of strangers as she hitches rides with families and other girls looking for safe haven, wary of drawing attention to herself let the government takes her away to be imprisoned and dissected. This was the 1970s when serial killers like the Yorkshire Ripper were not yet at the forefront of the British zeitgeist, but there was still plenty of tension in the story a homeless young girl alone on the road.
Our teen heroine has one problem: her alien biology makes her body lethal for any Earth being to touch. Unsurprisingly, this makes her life on Earth rather difficult. She has to shun being touched by anyone, even a cat to brush against her, lest they drop dead right there, which makes anyone she tries to make friends with suspicious or wary, thinking she’s standoffish or even mentally unstable whenever she recoils from them. This was as perfect a metaphor for a teenager’s sense of awkwardness, loneliness and alienation as any Young Adult novel being published right now. The heroine finds herself shunned and even feared, especially when she uses some of her superpowers to save someone’s life. She then has to run away from people lest they bring the authorities down on her and expose her as an alien.
Things came to a head in the series when the heroine, while taking shelter from a thunderstorm, was struck by lightning, but awoken to find that Earth animals and humans could touch her skin without dying. Finally able to fully engage with humans and make friends properly, her happiness is cut short when she discovers that her powers were weakening from the accident and that she was in fact dying. That’s when her new friends discover she’s an alien and find a device in her bag that can get in touch with her mother the alien queen. Her mother instructs her friends to save her before the UK government can find and take her away by fashioning a way to send her back to her home planet now that the crisis that threatened her world has been averted, and the heroine is reunited with her mother back home after saying her goodbyes to the first real friends she ever made. All in all, it was a satisfyingly poignant series with a beginning, middle and definitive end.
I wonder what’s happened to all these lost girl’s comic series now. Are they in public domain? Who actually owns them now that publishers like Fleetway are no more? Does what’s left of DC Thompson still care about this library of properties they have? You could easily pitch a TV series of this Science Fiction series to a US or UK TV network now, but how owns this series? If someone were to pitch this idea, would there be an owner who emerges from the shadows to sue? Not that I want to pitch it. I just want to find out who write it, drew it and published it if I can still remember it so vividly from my childhood. There are several movies, TV shows and comics that I’ve been trying to track down: one is a Mainland Chinese comic adaptation of Monkey: Journey to the West with gorgeous pen-and-ink art by one of those anonymous artist’s collectives that I can’t find any reprints or information about in any internet search. The other is this Girl’s Science Fiction comic series. No scans of artwork have turned up on my searches.
I’ve drawn a quick sketch of the heroine of this comic series entirely from memory. She was a sad-eyed blonde in a turtleneck sweater. Not a hoax, not an April Fool’s joke, and I’m quite sure I didn’t dream or hallucinate this series. Blimey, this feels like one of those Missing Persons appeals you see on the telly. If any of you reading this recognizes her, the name of the series or the anthology comic she appeared in, I’d love to hear from you in the forums.
Comics critics and scholars Paul Gravett and Jenni Scott, creator Alex DeCampi and Andrew Otiss Weiss on Twitter have helped track down this series.
It was called Almost Human featuring a heroine named Xenia and ran in Jinty. Jinty was notable for its emphasis on supernatural and adventure stories featuring female heroes and villains who were all proactive in their situations and perils with no boyfriends or men around to save them. The heroines were always in charge of their own fates, whether they were in trouble or the villains who used mental powers to dominate and bully a classmate. The stories were darker and weirder than many other comics and Almost Human has been on many fans’ lists of favourite series from British Girls’ comics. It’s probably not a surprise that his fair share of the series in Jinty were written by Pat Mills.
Thanks to everyone who showed interest and did the detective work. I love the internets.
In search of lost comics at email@example.com
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