In January the comic book club met to discuss a reissue of Misty, a British girl’s horror anthology which ran from the late 70s through to the early 80s. It was launched specifically as a girl’s equivalent to 2000 AD, employing some of the sci-fi comic’s best creatives including Pat Mills who provides one of the stories here.
Dan had coincidentally already bought this collection as a Christmas present for his partner B. She used to buy it as a child on holiday in the small Scottish village of Cullen, a dull place for a teenager, with just a chip shop, an ice cream parlour and a local store which blessedly stocked Misty. Cullen is exactly the sort of ordinary place you could imagine featuring in a Misty strip. It is a comic seething beneath the mundane surface with repressed evil.
He found it hard to read and couldn’t really get interested, but wondered whether this was partly to do with the original four page format which comes with a lot of inbuilt repetition and recapping. He hated the artwork which he described as ‘butt ugly and revolting.’ Dan can always be relied on to deliver good insulting adjectives.
As a read he ‘didn’t expect to enjoy it and didn’t’. Two stars.
Kelvin found it easy to read and really enjoyed it. He liked the central female characters, calling them ‘odd’ and ‘earnest’.
Taking on Dan’s usual job as font policeman, Kelv took issue with the lettering and its weird angular bubbles – a big stumbling block for me as well. It is certainly very different from the current standard. Kelvin described it as ‘sub optimal’.
It was three stars from Kelv – ‘I liked it a bit more than Dan.’
Tom is a big 2000AD fan, and knew about their publisher Rebellion’s acquisition of Misty and other British comics from the period. He wasn’t intending to read this one however and raised the interesting question which hangs over any gender specific publication, querying whether it was ‘for him’? For that reason he would normally steer clear of something like Misty, but was glad he hadn’t this time.
I wondered whether Misty would chime with a young, contemporary female audience? In the US, comics which appeal to girls have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years thanks to the likes of Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl and Moon Girl; heroes with attitude and a definite sense of fun. Salamander Girl and her moody, melodramatic ilk are notably absent from their ranks.
In the UK, which currently has precisely zero mainstream comics specifically aimed at girls (correct me if I’m wrong), there might still be a market for an updated version of this sort of thing amongster readers of Young Adult fiction. I could easily imagine a YA book being published featuring an outsider girl struggling to deal with her latent psychic powers.Why not give them some cool, beautiful comics too? Comics for everyone.
One thing I don’t think you’d get away with in such a publication today is employing an almost exclusively male creative team as they did on Bunty. The notable exception here is Shirley Bellwood, a stalwart of British girl’s comics who created many of the superb covers featuring the alluring, yet mysterious ‘Misty’. The character, rather fabulously, was based on Shirley herself as a young woman.
Tom said he thought the firs story in the volume, Moonchild was a very typical example of how comics were written at the time. The writers were under time pressure and would often look to the wider popular culture for inspiration – so a big movie Jaws might spawn a strip about pack of rabid, weaponized sharks.
Moonchild owes a debt to the movie Carrie, something author Pat Mills is open about in his introduction. He has suitably altered it for a younger British audience, with the school prom now a genuinely horrifying children’s party and the bucket of blood replaced by a birthday cake containing cat meat, fag butts, rotten eggs, fish tails and mud. Standard fare in 70s Britain.
The horror of child abuse scandals now hangs heavy over much entertainment produced in this era and Misty faces the subject head on. Moonchild opens with a startling courtroom scene in which a mother is acquitted of the brutal treatment of her child.
In the Four Faces of Eve, three dead girls become one when they are subjected to a Frankenstein like experiment. Eve runs from her abusive ‘creators’ who have decided to destroy her rather than let her expose their crimes.
Her salvation comes in the form of a travelling circus, whose apparently benevolent boss, we agreed, seems rather too keen to lie to the police when he takes her in as her own.
I had a few niggles about the production. Having acquired a few original issues printed on lovely warm brown paper, I was disappointed to see that the size had been somewhat reduced here and the glossy paper stock a little sharp. The first story has been edited together with some of the panels rather ham-fistedly retouched to fit the new format. While they had the felt tips out it might have been an idea to have a go at the horrible font too.
I gave the book four stars, and will be getting the next volume which features a story about a tower block containing ‘a parallel world where the Nazis conquered Britain in 1940’! I don’t think Dan’s partner B will be back for more, although it wasn’t the absolute worst Chrismas he could have got her: “At least it wasn’t Bunty,” she added. “Bunty was for babies”.