Girls in Print: Female Figures in British Comics Opens In Dundee

“The Nine Lives of Kitty Foster” by Carlos Freixas from Spellbound 1977 (copyright DC Thomson & Co Ltd).

Girls in Print: Female Figures in British Comics is a new exhibition at the University of Dundee, running until October 2017.

The way that female characters have been portrayed in comics has changed considerably over the years. In Britain, comics aimed specifically at girls were hugely popular from the 1950s to the 1980s, but have now largely disappeared.

Dundee-based publishers DC Thomson were especially prolific in this area – as well as the famous Bunty (1958-2001) they produced many other titles including Judy (1960-91), Diana (1963-76), Mandy (1967-91) and Spellbound (1976-77).

“Supercats” from Spellbound. Image: DC Thomson

The stories and characters in these comics covered a surprisingly wide range. The focus was mostly on teenage girls – their daily lives and their thirst for adventure and new worlds. They addressed important issues such as how to deal with new classmates; how to become a ballet dancer; how to fly a spaceship and save the world…

“Beware the Mystery Dolls” from Spellbound. Art by Adolfo Usero

The girls’ comics of DC Thomson reflect the attitudes of their time, but were also quick to respond to readers’ demands. The traditional pony and ballet strips were soon joined by sports stories, historical dramas and tales of the supernatural. The majority of artists and writers were men, but recent years have seen a huge increase in the number of female writers and artists, creating new representations of women and girls in comics and graphic novels.

This exhibition presents original artwork on loan from DC Thomson as well as a selection of pieces by current comics creators, offering a broad range of interpretations of what female figures can be in the British comic culture.

A sketch for “Take it as a Compliment” by Maria Stoian 2013 (copyright the artist)

The exhibition has been curated by Louise Quirion, a recent graduate from the University’s MLitt course in Comics Studies.

• Girls in Print: Female Figures in British Comics runs until 21st October 2017, Monday – Friday 9.30 – 7.00 Saturday 1.00 – 5.00pm, Tower Foyer Gallery, University of Dundee. More information online here

Images copyright DC Thomson. Item with thanks to Louise Quirion

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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