Review by Frank Plowright
Because comics fandom was male dominated until the 21st century it’s long been Britain’s rich history of 20th century action and SF titles that’s been celebrated. Comics aimed at young girls that sold millions of copies in their day have been neglected, but Rebellion’s carefully curated reprint volumes have shown those girls comics were every bit as well crafted as those for boys (see recommendations). Some examples are included in short bursts sprinkled among newly created strips.
The new content takes into account that time has passed on, and the inclusion of contemporary issues like online bullying acknowledge social media as a powerful addition to the tormentor’s arsenal. In ‘Duckface’ Rachael Smith both uses that and supplies some thoughts that not every older person may have considered. Smith also contributes the excellent ‘Boarding School’, evocatively drawn by Yishan Li and building to confound all expectations.
Some creators take inspiration from older strips for their work. Sarah Millman’s ‘Speed Demons’ concerns Melodie’s roller derby career plagued by demonic skates, a twist on ‘Billy’s Boots’. Others update classic older strips. Rachael Ball and Vanessa Cardinali reimagine ‘Bella at the Bar’ very nicely, maintaining the class clash and tragic circumstances, but also injecting modern aesthetics and values. The same applies to Kate Ashwin and Kel McDonald’s update to ‘Masie’s Magic Eye’, although that’s a little more obvious. School stories still feature, but diversity is thankfully present in more accurately representing British society than the older comics did. An example is Ramzee and Elkys Nova’s Cat Girl, who’s the daughter of the original, also seen in their strip. While girls comics always promoted opportunities for their characters, those have broadened, so the strips here show archaeology, police and football as careers, and in the final strip editor Olivia Hicks and designer Gemma Sheldrake explain their trades.
Artistically, the closest in style to the classic UK girls’ comic story is Dani, which is strange, as she’s Greek, but she interprets Grainne McEntee’s novel script about time travel in busy, packed panels. She also uses black, white and a single colour, which was common in the 20th century Tammy and Jinty comics. The contrast between the reprinted strips and the newer work is marked. Detail is no longer a priority, and the plot no longer has to fit into three packed pages, but in addition to the greater diversity there are also more varied styles, with cartooning now more likely than realism.
Not everything in this Remixed Special is solid gold, but it’s all true to the source and the good easily outweighs the less inspired work. The specials combined here were successful enough to ensure another was issued in 2021.