What the kids really think! II

Children’s questionnaire, the results – part 2

Last December Bring Back Bunty asked a number of primary school children aged 7–11 about comics and magazines. We wanted to know which comics and magazines they read, why they buy them and what types of stories they enjoy. In addition, to get a general feel for the kinds of stories that capture their imagination, we asked the children about the books they read, the websites they visit, and the TV programmes and films they watch. As far as we are aware the children were not prompted on their answers, but the questionnaire was completed in December making some of the answers distinctly seasonal. We have endeavoured to stay true to the children’s words, ergo some of the information may not be factually correct. In total we received 169 completed questionnaires, 89 were from boys and 80 from were girls. We will present the answers to our questions for all children, and on occasion by age and/or by gender to explore how the answers differ.

In this section we will examine: the kinds of stories the children enjoy, the books they read, TV programmes and films they watch, their internet usage, and the websites they like to visit.


We asked the children about the sort of stories they like to read in comics and magazines; they were given fifteen genres to choose from and were asked to tick as many as they liked (the total number of answers was 591). In this study the most popular genres for all the children, were action/adventure, comedy, mystery, history, sports and spy (in order, most popular first); with romance, non-fiction and sci-fi being the least popular. When we looked at the boys answers the order of preference changed to comedy, sports, war/battle, action/adventure, history and horror; while mystery, action/adventure, drama, comedy, and spy (in order of most popular first) were a hit with the girls. When we examine the percentage of girls and boys answers its clear to see which gender preferred the different sorts of story. “Other” answers include: cute, wise advice, mischief, animals, authors, celebrity, gaming, cartoon, cars, gardening, real lives and traumas, gossip, Spongebob Squarepants.



We asked the children what type of stories they liked to read to question what might interest them in a comic. Whether they preferred complete, one-off stories or long-running, serialised stories; again the children were asked to tick as many answers as they wished (the total number of answers was 220). In their response it was clear to see the younger age groups preferred complete, one off stories and comics full of longer stories, but as they aged the children liked the different types of stories equally.



The children were asked to list all the TV programmes and films that they enjoyed, they could list as many as they wanted. The Simpsons, Harry Potter, Horrid Henry, Scooby Doo and Spongebob Squarepants were all very popular with both girls and boys. When we look at the answers for girls and boys separately its clear to see the different gender-focused titles coming in, for example the boys enjoying Football and Star Wars and girls preferring iCarly and Tracy Beaker.

There were so many answers, we have kept the list of titles listed once out of the tables below.



We asked the children if they enjoyed reading books, the vast majority of them did. The numbers for both girls and boys were very similar.



In addition the children were asked to list some of their favourite titles and authors, they could list as many as they wanted. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, Roald Dahl and Mr Gum were favourites with both boys and girls. In addition, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Horrid Henry were particularly favoured among the boys, with the girls choosing Charlie Bone and Jacqueline Wilson. The girls listed more books overall perhaps suggesting they read more frequently or more variety, we didn’t ask how often the children read.

There were so many answers, we have kept the list of titles listed once out of the tables below.



The children were asked about their internet use, and the vast majority of them said they did use the internet. We found that slightly less of the younger children used the internet with the numbers increasing as they got older.



We wanted to know how often they were online; the majority of the children said they used the internet frequently. The answers for ‘every day’ suggests the children use the internet both at school and at home. “Other” answers include: anytime; 6 times a week; 5 days a week; 5 times a week; 4 times a week; 4–5 days a week; whenever I can, mostly for homework; when I can; when I have time; 3 times a month.



We were interested in the types of websites the children liked to use, with so many of websites linked to comics, magazines, TV programmes and authors we were very interested in their answers. Club Penguin, CBBC, Moshi Monsters, Bin Weevils and YouTube were favourites with both genders and all except YouTube are specifically designed for their age groups – and I know from my own family how popular these websites have become. When we look at the answers for girls and boys separately we can see some gender-focused websites listed below, but the most popular sites are the ones designed for all children with the emphasis on interaction.



Finally, we asked the children for their own ideas for new comics and any other comments they might have. Would they like to read a comic based on a favourite TV programme, film, book, author or website they’d already listed, or something else entirely? There were many varied answers and some of them listed comics that already existed – perhaps they didn’t know about those titles?

Here is a small sample of some of the answers:
“The Grinch, Cat in the Hat, Narnia.”
“Harry Potter, How to train your Dragon.”
“Phineas and Ferb, Spongbob Squarepants.”
“iCarly, Big Time Rush, Home Alone.”
“Mr Stink, Charlie Bone.”
“I like football comics the most especially about Liverpool vie Arsenal and Liverpool trashing the other team.”
“Kickin it, the Monster Hunters guide, I’m in the Band, Roblox.”
“Because then I don’t have to watch TV and it wont hurt my eyes.”
“I would like to read a comic about Good Luck Charlie.”
“I would like to read a comic based on The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and all the other books that are my favourite on just ones that I like.”
“J K Rowling, Percy Jackson, Animal Jam.”
“No way, I don’t like comics and magazines.”
“The Simpsons, Danni’s House”
“Merlin, Victorious, iCarly.”
“Magazines are excellent.”
“I think comics are the best kind of book that a child would read of the age of 5 or 4–10.”
“I don’t like it when the comics are all old because they fall apart and you don’t want to read them.”
“They are fun to read and are a bit interesting, knowledgeable and exciting.”
“I would like to read a book with pictures that were comic style, because if you liked comics and reading books it would be nice to have a mixture.”
“I really like comics and I would like there to be more!”
“I wish you can have loads of comics.”
“I also like reading what has no super heroes on it.”
“They’re too boy-like so you need to make girl ones as well.”


And that is it. Our survey has given us a window into the children’s thought on the comics, magazines and stories they enjoyed reading; and gave us an idea of the huge variety of media children are consuming either by watching, reading or interacting with online. It has been really interesting to hear what they had to say and I think we can conclude there is space out there for more comics for children, so lets not just Bring Back Bunty, but also Roy of the Rovers, Whizzer and Chips, Tammy, Jackie, Buster etc etc…

Thanks for reading!

What the kids really think!

Children’s questionnaire, the results – part 1

Last December Bring Back Bunty asked a number of primary school children aged 7–11 about comics and magazines. We wanted to know which comics and magazines they read, why they buy them and what types of stories they enjoy. In addition, to get a general feel for the kinds of stories that capture their imagination, we asked the children about the books they read, the websites they visit, and the TV programmes and films they watch. As far as we are aware the children were not prompted on their answers, but the questionnaire was completed in December making some of the answers distinctly seasonal. We have endeavoured to stay true to the children’s words, ergo some of the information may not be factually correct. In total we received 169 completed questionnaires, 89 were from boys and 80 from were girls. We will present the answers to our questions for all children, and on occasion by age and/or by gender to explore how the answers differ.



We asked the children if they read comics and magazines; overall two thirds of them said they did. In this study, reading comics and magazines appears to be more popular among the girls, with the exception of year 4.



The children were asked to list all the comics and magazines they read, they could list as many as they wanted. The Beano is evidently the undisputed favoured comic with all children, both girls and boys. And where football magazines, Moshi Monsters, Sparkle World and The Simpsons are very popular with all respondents, it becomes clear who reads the gender-focused titles when we look at the answers for girls and boys separately.



The children read a diverse array of titles incorporating various genres including: titles in their own right, titles derived from TV characters/programmes and films, titles based on toys and games, and titles dealing with sports and leisure interests. In addition, some of the comics and magazines clearly encompass more than one genre such as Match of the Day and Cars; while other titles may include items from other genres such as TV’s Harry Hill featuring in The Dandy which is primarily a stand-alone comic. Below, we have arranged all the titles read by the children according to genre.



We asked the children what they liked most about reading comics and magazines, there were so many varied answers (109 children answered this question) we decided the best way to present them is in a word cloud (created on www.wordle.net). Like, funny, stories and pictures are the words that appeared most frequently in the answers.

Here is a small sample of some of their comments:
“They have cartoon stories.”
“Because they are funny and cool.”
“They’re not like books.”
“They are my favourite thing.”
“The pictures and the speech balloons.”
“They are funny.”
“They have pictures. Every Tuesday a new one comes out. They have posters.”
“I like them because they inspire me to read more; it also lets my imagination run wild.”
“Funny, interesting, good drawings and pictures.”
“I can find out things I didn’t already know.”
“They are funny and I get inspiration to write a book.”
“They have stories and games in them, they advertise things and have pictures.”
“They have competitions in them, they are colourful, they include tips and fun things to do, they have interesting facts”
“They’re funny and exciting.”


See our Word Cloud on the Wordle website


Who purchases the children’s comics and magazines? Do they buy them themsleves or does someone else? It’s clear from the answers provided that Mums are the main buyers of comics and magazines, with Dads coming second and many children buying their own. If we combine numbers for Mum and Dad (113 for all respondents, 49 for boys and 64 for girls) it’s clear that the majority of comics and magazines are bought by parents; we do not know if purchases are made with their children present. “Other” answers include: Sister, Brother, Uncle, Auntie, school teacher, read in the Library, childminder, neighbour, friends.



We asked the children how they initially found out about the comics and magazines they read. Did they see them in the Newsagents? Were they recommended by friends? Or perhaps did they see an advertisement? From the answers given the majority of the children came across their comics and magazines in the shops and many were on recommendations from friends, relatives and carers. “Other” answers include: on the computer, Library, Airport, my Dad had them when he was younger, Brother, school teacher, childminder, free with the newspaper, TV programmes, charity shop, got sent in the post, my Dad/Mum/Grandad bought one for me.



Over two thirds of all our respondents would like to see more comics and magazines available; the apportion of answers from boys and girls was almost identical. Publishers please note, here is a resounding ‘Yes please!’ in answer to our question.



We asked the children if they read comics online and, if so, which ones. The majority of the children did not read comics online, but many of them added suggestions for what they would like to see available. The list of titles below is a combination of those already read online and titles the children would like to see available.




To be continued…

In part 2 we will examine: the kinds of stories the children enjoy, the books they read, TV programmes and films they watch, their internet usage, and the websites they like to visit.

Thanks for reading!

Hatching of The Phoenix

Last weekend we were very privileged to be invited to the launch party of the latest kids comic to hit the news-stands, The Phoenix, at The Story Museum in Oxford.


It was an exciting day, not only was it the launch party but Issue one was due any moment and there was an eight-page oull-out in The Times to be had. Luckily for us, just minutes before we were to leave the postman arrived with Issue one, which was duly read in the car on the way.

We had a really lovely time in Oxford. It was great to meet many of the amazing writers, illustrators, creatives and Phoenix staff involved in the comic. Niamh had enormous fun gathering as many autographs as she could, and the delicious selection of cakes added to the delight of the afternoon – thank you so much for the invite!


The children really do like the The Phoenix, it is full of potential (and fabulous stories) and we wish it every success for the future. 

You can read more about The Phoenix launch party here.



It’s all very well us ‘oldies’ wanting a return to the traditional comics of our childhoods… BBB has been busy over the past couple of months asking children for their views on comics and magazines. We have an enormous pile of questionnaires to get through and we hope to publish the childrens’ thoughts in the coming weeks.

The Phoenix has landed

A couple of weeks ago the excitement levels in our house hit the roof as an envelope containing Issue Zero of The Phoenix arrived through the letterbox.

As my six-year-old lad was drawn away by the powers of Lego, my daughter settled down to read the comic from cover to cover. Here is her review.


The Phoenix Comic – Issue zero
Reviewed by Niamh, aged 9

My first impressions.
It has a nice front cover, good title, and it would probably stand out in a shop. It’s obviously for kids and makes me want to find out more.
The comic.
In the Welcome page, I really liked the names of the characters on The Phoenix team and the ‘Phoenix fact’.
The first story is ‘The Pirates of Pangaea’, beginning with a map that I really liked. I enjoyed the way the characters speak with their ‘pirate talk’.
‘What will Happen Next’ (a puzzle page) – it looked strange at first, but once I looked online at Part 1 I loved looking for all the things that happened.
‘Tale Feathers’ (featuring an extract from a new book) – I loved this too, I really want to read the book now.
‘Star Cat’ – Quite good, funny and sci-fi.
‘How to Make Awesome Comics’ – I really liked this, good advice! I want to draw my own now. (Niamh filled this in straight away.)
‘The Apprentice’ – I like this story, the setting and the illustrations.
‘Corpse talk ‘– it was very funny and full of facts.
‘Bunny vs Monkey’ – quite good. I like the way it was set in the Jungle with talking animals. Funny too.
I also like the look of some of the stories that are advertised in this issue that will begin in Issue 1.

In general.
Nice illustrations. I really like the notes from the editors, Tabs and Chops, throughout the comic and I’m looking forward to reading the stories. Can’t wait for Issue 1!



Niamh did love it, and has since re-read it a number of times. It now lives at the bottom of her bed along with her copies of The Dandy, Mo-Bot High and various other comics and books – she reads a lot!

From a parents point of view, The Phoenix looks really promising and the artwork is wonderful. It’s great to see a comic for children full of stories and I wish it every success.

Digital vs Paper

The Beano and The Dandy have recently become available as iPad/iPhone apps, these have the potential to be a great format for children’s comics … so we just had to check them out.


We downloaded them both through the Newsstand on an iPad and as you’d expect, the comics looked great. The format displays the strips really well, the navigation is simple and each comic is very easy to access through an iTunes account. The two apps are virtually identical but we weren’t entirely sure of the pricing system; The Beano is clearly priced at £1.49 per issue but a couple of issues of The Dandy are priced at 69p with the rest at £1.49 – there are also a few free copies of each available to get you started.


I handed them over to my 9-year-old daughter and here’s what she had to say:

They were slightly hard to read. I had to zoom in and the zoom sometimes is hard to move around. I would say it wasn’t as good as it could have been. It’s not as good as actually reading and holding a comic!


Overall the digital versions are handy to have but we had hoped there would be some reduction for the digital issues compared to the paper ones. In newsagents, The Beano costs £1.50 and The Dandy £1.99 (prices accurate 1.12.11) so there is very little difference. Pricing the iPad versions at just one penny (or 50p) less than the paper comic doesn’t seem enough of a saving, or a reason to buy, the digital version over the real in-your-hand, under-the-bed, read-anywhere, traditional paper version.

We think it’s brilliant that such great comics are available to buy online, but ultimately as Niamh says, it’s “not as good as actually reading and holding a comic!”

We’re very excited!

The Phoenix Comic is almost here!

If you are looking for a new children’s weekly comic full of original and exciting stories this could be the comic for you.

It’s launching in January, but if you’d like to see a preview, a limited edition ‘Issue Zero’ is available through this weeks “Waitrose Weekend” magazine – look for the promotional code.

Full details of the comic, how to subscribe and sign up for the newsletter are on The Phoenix website.

We can’t wait to see our copies – and we hope it all goes well for The Phoenix!



The future looks rosy

Pat Mills Q&A


I posed some questions about the dearth of quality girls’ comics to ‘the godfather of British comics’ Pat Mills. He is a keen advocate of girls’ comics, having begun his career in the 1970s working on British girls’ titles Romeo, Tammy, Jinty, Pink, Girl, Sandie and Misty, before helping to revitalise British boys’ comics and going on to create 2000AD and other titles. With Pat Mills leading the way, the future of girls’ comics looks very promising. Here’s what he had to say on the subject…

Comics for girls

You began your career in the 1970s on girls’ comics. Do you look back on those days fondly?

Very much so. Those comics didn’t disappear because the market wasn’t there but because there weren’t enough professionals keeping them alive.

This is something I’m trying to change at the moment and I’m making a little progress.

Did you have a favourite title(s)?

I guess it would have to be Misty, which I originally devised as a female equivalent of 2000AD, but I dropped out when the publishers didn’t offer me the right deal. I then became an advisory launch editor.

Did you have a favourite story/strip?

Probably ‘Moonchild’, my lead story in Misty. Based on Carrie it was the first story to have a more visual and adult approach. Bunty was great and original in its heyday, but it could be rather “young” on occasion. I wanted Misty to be cool. Sadly there was still some old-style thinking amongst the professionals and it was not as cool as I’d have liked.



Can you pinpoint what it is that makes a comic written exclusively for girls different from one for boys? Do you write differently for girls?

Girl as lead character. Although they may be unisex, there is an emphasis on the heroine. The objectives are different… a typical heroine wants to overcome obstacles to achieve some sport objective which provides some action. A typical hero for boys wants to kick ass and possibly destroy something! Okay, that’s superficial, but you get the idea. There are key differences as I found to my cost. Thus girls love mystery (what’s in the locked room?) boys don’t care.

Girls’ stories influenced boys, thus my very successful series Charley’s War (anti-war, sixteen-year-old kid in the trenches of the Great War) is essentially a girls’ comic in its thinking. When new volumes are reprinted it outsells all the macho superhero stuff in Forbidden Planet (the number one comic shop in the UK), for between two to four weeks. This is so embarrassing to my superhero-orientated peers you will rarely hear it mentioned, which is why I enjoy relating it.

Basically the industry is now run by blokes who love superheroes and they don’t want girls’ comics (or girls’ comic thinking) spoiling their fantasies. They all ignore the fact that girls’ comics used to easily outsell boys’. What a surprise! It’s common knowledge that women have always bought more reading matter than blokes. But that, too, is embarrassing – so it’s quietly ignored.

The gap in the market is actually a chasm!

Do you write for girls knowing that boys will read them too? When you wrote for Jinty etc did you hope that brothers would also pick them up? (My husband says he always read his sister’s comics and he was a big 2000AD fan!)

Yeah, I’m aware of that. I used to read girls’ comics and girls’ novels (What Katy Did, Heidi etc) when I was a kid and when we did a recent straw poll, a twelve-year-old boy really enjoyed the girls’ stories we selected. That’s why with a revival I think we would avoid using full-on terms like “girls’ comics” which sounds rather dated, so boys can read them, too. But it’s vital to keep that “girls’ comic thinking” at the core of any revival, even if the phrase is not used.

In an article written by John Freeman in 2004 (“Let’s Hear it for the Girls”) you are quoted as saying girls’ comics were “destroyed from within”.

Yes, that’s right.

As you were working within the industry at the time, do you think this was the main reason for the decline of girls’ comics? Did girls’ interest in comics change, or was it more of a cultural shift? Perhaps the existing titles were unable to adapt and appeal to that generation of girls?

The main reason for the decline was the negative and even hostile attitude to girls’ comics from professionals and publishers – an attitude that continues to this day.

Most creative talent then and now either wants to do art house rather than mainstream or receive a proper financial reward and acknowledgement for their stories. When that was not forthcoming and faced with negativity, many left the industry. It has nothing to do with changing trends or demographics – although that will sometimes be used as an excuse. Many of us went on to revive the flagging male comic market and this left a hole in the girls’ market.

You then went on to write for and create new boys’ titles such as 2000AD; did you miss writing for the girls?

Totally. I still do.

There were some strong female characters in the 2000AD stories you created; did you write the stories to appeal to girls too?

Yes, as far as that was feasible.

Comics today

I have spoken about girls’ comics to many parents, teachers and comic creators over the past couple of months; there has been unanimous agreement that there is a gap in the market and much support for something new.

That’s good to know and I’m currently trying one approach with one publisher. If that fails, I will try another. There’s certainly strong interest – the key is to get them to reach for their cheque books, though! I’m one of the last professionals from the original girls comic boom era, so I feel I have some responsibility to do so.


What do you think of the quality of children’s comics and magazines available on the newsstands today?

They’re aimed at a younger audience and seem pretty shallow. Or they’ve picked the wrong material (e.g. the recent Best of Misty was actually the worst. Whoever chose it didn’t understand the market). Or they’re poorly packaged for reading – thus the Best of Bunty is a great sampler but no one could get into the stories and it’s clearly not designed for that. I also wondered about the content – I recall far better stories which were not included. Probably because the editor didn’t completely understand or know which stories worked and WHY.

A notable exception is W.I.T.C.H.E.S. Slightly younger than the age group that I know, it was very cool, fashionable and interesting – at least to start with. This was an international best seller – all over the world except for guess where? UK and USA. What a surprise. There’s something in our sensibility that is resistant to a product which sells in Croatia, Denmark, France, Italy and I’m told even in the Middle East. I actually read passive-aggressive comments from the US parent house towards W.I.T.C.H.E.S. I was left with the distinct impression they didn’t want their “junior” European publishing house upstaging them. Of course not. Let’s stick to Disney pink princess vapidity. It may have appeared in the UK, but it didn’t make an impact.

If a publisher or editor doesn’t want something they can be passively aggressive towards it and kill it. For a comic to work, it needs pro-active professionals and enthusiasm and energy with knowledge of what the Market wants (rather than what they want). This is at the heart of why British mainstream comics largely died and the malaise is still there today.

It’s particularly interesting that the teachers agree, as comics can help to improve/advance children’s literacy skills, especially “reading for meaning”; in KS2 literacy lessons the children often use storyboards to show their understanding of a story.

Absolutely. Although the subversive nature of comics is at the heart of why they worked. The middle-class Eagle worked, because of exceptional talents, but most of its successors failed because of a conscious need to impose education which kids will resist. For example, there’s a magazine called Aquila (latin for Eagle) put together by teachers, available by mail order and hostile to mainstream comics. I bet that sells like a lead balloon, no matter what they say to the contrary.

The reason mainstream (aka working-class) comics worked is because they reflected what readers rather than teachers wanted. Thus The Guardian loathed 2000AD when we first appeared – to my great delight. If they hated it, I knew I’d got it right.

There seems to be a huge jump from pre-school comics to commercially branded magazines for older children. Many of the magazines available to Key Stage 2 girls contain advertising, not much substance and barely any stories. The young girls who I know love reading, playing and just being girls; they’re not particularly interested in the latest fashions/pop stars. Do their advertising profits or their readers’ desires drive these magazines? Are they encouraging an aspiration to be older when girls should be allowed to be girls?

I totally agree with you. The girls’ stories I’ve devised and want to revive are free from those elements.

Seeing my own daughter’s interest, excitement and enthusiasm for the secondhand comics and annuals I’ve found for her, I think there is a need for a new contemporary girls’ comic. Do you agree?

Yes. I’ve pitched one and am waiting to see what happens. It has been adjusted for a 2011 sensibility, but its core will remain the same, because those stories from the 1970s still work today. A good story is not ephemeral – it will always be a good story.

Even though I don’t like them (for their middle-class “values”), Enid Blyton’s stories still appeal today, despite the negative press. Because she knew how to write. If I have the time, I want to analyse Angela Brazil who predated Blyton and see if I can identify on-going story elements that are relevant today. Because once again she knew how to press buttons. I’m also told her stories were totally innocent, although I recall buying a friend a book about Brazil’s heroine Lesbia. That seems a bit unnecessary – but perhaps subversion didn’t start in the 1970s. I guess every author has some kind of agenda whether it’s conscious or otherwise. In my case it’s anti-establishment and anti-middle class, as is fairly obvious I fear (!!)

Harry Potter is set in a classic boarding school. So is Never Let Me Go (although I really dislike it for its passive characters, no matter how stylish and fashionable I’m told the author is. Heroes and heroines should fight back against oppression, not take it). So some kind of boarding school story is high on my list!

Many parents I know spend lots of money on children’s magazines, as many of them cost about £3 each. The variety of children’s magazines is huge and people do buy them, because that’s the only thing available. Why not more comics full of stories instead? Is the choice of comics different today simply because there isn’t one? Can a comic that contains only stories work in today’s market?

The reason they’re not there is because most professionals don’t like mainstream comics very much. They want to appeal to elite audiences because of the financial rewards or prestige it will bring them. Although writing for mainstream is much harder.

Recently – when we did that poll – I was delighted to know ten-year-old girls thought my stories were great. That meant a lot more to me than some “prestige” award from an industry which has largely devoured itself through its obsession with superheroes.

Comics in the future

Many newspaper and magazine publishers are extending their frontiers on the Internet. Comics look great online, on computers, iPads and smart phones, where readers can interact with the story and individual images. As many children have access to the Internet, do you see digital media as a way for children’s comics to forge a future? Do you think a digital comic could open up a new audience?

Digital is the direction I’m coming from. Paper would be secondary. Whether we like it or not (and many don’t!) digital is the future.

In my limited research I’ve spoken to a large number of enthusiastic contemporary comic creators – there is a wealth of talent out there! It would be great to have some new comics, be it in paper or digital form for children to read and enjoy, weekly or even daily.

That’s my plan… To start with one digital comic and then expand. Formulae is everything in fiction. The wrong formula and it’s dead in the water. Art house creators are about personal expression, mainstream is about following story tramlines. Many creators don’t wish to do this, seeing it as a restriction on their vision. The trick is combining the two – not easy but possible. But I need to ensure the right business structure is also in place to make it happen. It’s looking promising.

Children love stories, be they traditional, Sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, jeopardy or another genre, and this love is reflected in their exciting and adventurous playground games and in the huge success of Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Star Wars and similar series. Which kind of stories do you think make a successful comic? Should a comic have a variety, or stick to one type of story/genre?

Bitter experience has taught me that children want one type of story/genre per comic. As adults we think variety would be great. Not so. Or not in the way we think as adults. Theme is everything – which kids understand immediately but adults are pretty slow on, often failing to recognise that theme is vital. Or even to understand what a theme is. I learnt that the hard way. I found any story that was slightly different to the others (usually in tone) would be pounced on and torn apart by the readers. Often unfairly and with a Lord-of-the-Flies savagery! I doubt today’s kids are different. These are lessons you never ever forget!

My daughter often wants to buy a book, but at roughly £5 each it gets expensive (we try to buy secondhand and borrow library books instead). A friend of mine was a great fan of the inexpensive “Picture Story Library” comic books. Do you think there a place for these in today’s children’s market? Perhaps publishers could consider releasing their back catalogue, or are the stories too old fashioned?

Good point. I have some personal insights into this. The potential is there and there’s around (say) 25% of the back catalogue which is cool and will work. 75% doesn’t work and is dated. But publishers don’t know which is which and are likely to print the wrong stuff – for all the reasons I’ve given (and more) about professionals. Hence the Best of Misty was the Worst of Misty.

It’s a jungle for other reasons, too, which I’d better not get in to here.

But your optimism is confirmed by one example – Commando… It recently went digital and has excellent digital sales AND paper sales went up too.

You and I can immediately see where that could lead the industry, but don’t hold your breath. Remember – the majority of people in comics don’t like mainstream, or don’t understand it, or don’t care, or want to impose an art house perspective or (worse) a middle-class perspective, or want to work for America (seeing Britain as beneath them or just a stepping stone to better things), or don’t have a pro-active publisher wanting to make it happen. If that sounds disgraceful, you’re right. It is. If you think I’m exaggerating, consider this: recently one leading publisher had to turn down reprinting a proven successful girls’ comic because none of his editors were interested including female editors.

You will note I barely mention female journalists/editors/writers in classic comics. This is because the majority (there were brilliant notable exceptions) actually hated girls’ comics because they wanted to work on features for teenage magazines and saw girls’ comics as embarrassing. That’s why us blokes mainly wrote and edited them – because we didn’t think it was beneath us and what would we know about teenage make-up and fashion?!! So you see very little has changed – good and bad – over the years!

Mulling over the comics of our childhood with friends and fellow parents, it seems most of us had regular access to comics when we were children:

We bought copies with pocket money, reserved copies with newsagents or subscribed weekly. We read our friends’, neighbours’ and relatives’ comics; we read them at sleep-overs, we poured over annuals all year long and re-read great piles of comics when we couldn’t get to sleep. Our bedrooms had a large heap of comics stored somewhere, and we read a huge selection of titles.

I feel for this generation missing out on all those wonderful, creative stories; it’s such a shame that the variety we had isn’t there anymore. Do you think today’s children are missing out too?

Completely. That’s why I’m so passionate about it.

You have been alluding to a possible return of girls’ comics; can you shed any light on your intentions?

Some clues above. It’s going to be a battle but I’m optimistic. I think it would broadly speaking be a digital girls’ mystery/supernatural.

Do you know of other past writers and artists keen to revive girls’ comics?

I’m the last man standing I’m afraid. One exception, Jenny McDade was writer on ‘Bella’ for Tammy. Very popular. She went on to write ‘Supergran’. She’s currently working on a female graphic novel. We were so desperate for an artist that a competition was held with a 1K prize. We found a fantastic young artist.

One other promising sign… I wrote some short digital strips for inFamous2 publicity. They will be on their website. That is a promising intro to a new generation of mainly female comic artists and mainly female-orientated strip.

It’s not much, but it’s a start!

Thanks for listening.


Image is copyright of Egmont, image is used for review purposes only.

Holiday reads

First day of the Summer holidays and the kids went to buy some magazines. My six year old son was spoilt for choice and happily decided upon “Doctor Who Adventures”. But for my nine year old daughter it was a different story. There was nothing to interest her, one title she did want, “Moshi Monsters Magazine” wasn’t yet available, so she ended up with a puzzle magazine instead.

This happens all the time, poor kid!

Here come the girls…

Last week I received an “annual award” at work… a copy of the 1981 Bunty annual — brilliant!! I remember owning a copy of this when I was a girl.


Some of the stories and artwork are great, I can see why I received the comic for years. I haven’t read it all yet, and it is dated in some aspects, but the stories are still exciting. Here’s a couple of examples from the inside pages…



(I am yet to find a copy of the doll/burglary story, if anyone knows where I can get hold of a copy please let me know – I’d love to see it again!)


On a more serious note.

Having spoken to many parents and comic people over the past couple of months there has been unanimous agreement that there is a gap in the market, a lack of comics available for girls today, and much support for something new on the newsagents shelves.

I think this is reflected in the latest media coverage on the debate about the sexualisation of children. Key Stage 2 girls (7-11 year olds) should be allowed to be proud to be what they are, not yearning to be older. Many of the branded magazines available to them seem to be massive marketing machines with not much substance and barely any stories. The young girls that I know are more interested in reading and playing and just being girls rather than the latest fashions. Niamh and her friends have recently read Monkey Nuts and Mo-Bot High. They loved both stories and have since been playing Mo-Bot High in the school playground. Their latest obsession is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of books — the format of these would work really well as a comic strip!

Lets give them something fun, original and packed full of stories, and let them enjoy their childhoods before they really do have to grow up.

Covers and images are copyright of DC Thomson, all images are being used for review purposes only.

Heaps of comics

After a mammoth 2 and a half weeks off the kids are back in school (yay!). Over the hols I have been mulling over the comics of our childhood with friends and fellow parents.

It seems most of us had regular access to comics back-in-the-day. Some of us bought our own copies with pocket money, others picked them up from the newsagents where they had been reserved (my own copies of Bunty had our surname written top right), and just a few subscribed weekly. We all read our brothers or sisters comics; we read them at friends, neighbours and relatives houses; we read them at sleep-overs; we poured over annuals all year long; and re-read great piles of comics when we couldn’t get to sleep. Most of our bedrooms had a large heap of comics stored somewhere, and we read a huge selection of titles. I feel for this generation missing out on all those wonderful, creative stories; it’s such a shame that the variety we had isn’t there anymore.

On a happier note, my daughter had the pleasure of reading Mo-Bot High this week, she loved it so much, she wants to know when book 2 is available!