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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Lost culture of Bunty for girls
Dan Dare
Dan Dare: one of many boys' comic heroes on the net
A lack of comics for modern schoolgirls means they miss out on role models and valuable visual skills, according to an academic.

A study into the effects of girls' comics on their readers has been carried out by Mel Gibson, a lecturer in culture at the University of Sunderland.

Ms Gibson told BBC News Online: "Titles like 'Girl' and 'Schoolfriend' from the 50's , 'Bunty' from the 60's, and 'Ginty' and 'Misty' from the 70's... have all disappeared.

"They have been taken over by womens' magazines, which offer a lot about consumerism and not a great deal else.

In a girls' comic you could not solve plot difficulties by blowing someone's head off

Mel Gibson, University of Sunderland

"Female heroines have disappeared, to be replaced by the Spice Girls or Atomic Kitten, or whoever is big that week."

Ms Gibson added: "While girls are considered the better readers, boys still get a set of visual skills from comics."

She claims that these skills help boys to understand the internet and educational computer games.

Ms Gibson, a former librarian and trainer in reading for young people, began her research into comics and graphic novels in 1993.

She started by interviewing teachers and librarians, but widened her work to include any woman who had read comics.

The research took her across the UK and eventually became a Phd.

'Inspirational texts'

Ms Douglas said: "I realised that women did not talk about comics that they had read as children, but I also knew that Jackie and Bunty sold in millions every week.

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson spent eight years researching comics
"So it struck me that there was a huge culture of comic reading that had somehow been lost and forgotten.

"In Britain we are not very good at celebrating girls' culture, as it is a bedroom culture... but when you talk to people about their memories, these texts were quite inspirational.

"It may be the first time women have talked about these things for 40 years, but they were utterly central to making them what they are.

"There were tales of solidarity, of girls being adventurous, of strong central characters in command, and the artwork was good.

"You had to be able to talk your way out of things in a girls' comic, you could not solve plot difficulties by blowing someone's head off."

Nostalgic websites

"But 'Jackie' was the beginning of the end. It started as a comic strip, but rapidly became more about romance and lippy, and buying the next product.

"The romance was picked up on in a more explicit way by magazines, and advertising and pop really took over."

Many of Ms Gibson's interviewees expressed regret that the kind of inspirational stories they once read were no longer available.

There are plenty of nostalgic internet sites associated with boys' comics, but there are none for girls' titles.

"In a car boot sale an 'Eagle' annual will go for five pounds, and anywhere else it will sell for 25... if you can find a girl's annual it would only go for five pounds," Ms Gibson added.

See also:

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14 Dec 99 | Education
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