Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Oh Mandy, you came and you gave me a turkey....

Well, it's twelfth night so I'm going to allow myself one more Christmas issue this year. Mandy No.310, dated Dec. 23, 1972.
I'm not counting this as a Christmassy blog as, unlike all the humour titles I've covered so far, the story comics, both boys' and girls', don't tend to focus on Christmas in the same way.
This may be due to most of the strips being serialised and hence hard to crowbar in a festive story without derailing the narrative a bit, but nary an issue of Battle or Warlord seems to feel the need to put tinsel up on a tank.
Mandy's title cover star is at least seen here taking a Christmas tree home before indulging in some typical banal low-jinks on the back cover.
Then it's off for some of the weirder strips in the Girls' Comics pantheon.
As always, let's start off with some facts. Mandy was one of the most successful girls' comics, a DC Thomson stablemate of Debbie, Judy and Bunty. It ran from 1967 to 1991, when it merged with Judy (just like Topper and Beezer at around the same time) to form first Mandy and Judy, then M&J which surprisingly lasted until 1997.
Like those other comics, Mandy largely consisted of stories about girls of around 14 years being plucky in the face of hardships. I don't know why this formula was adhered to with such slavish devotion in these comics whereas boys' comics featured grown-up menly men punching their problem as well as small boys (and occasionally girls) causing problems.
Anyway, the 1970s were the heyday for these and in this issue the first story inside is this:
 Yes, The Truth About Banjo Belle is that it is a terrible hybrid instrument.


The actual truth is that Belle is not really a 70-year-old former music hall entertainer, out of retirement to perform again, she is Belle's 15-year-old granddaughter, wearing old-lady make-up as a gimmick!

And if anyone finds out the truth, her career will be ruined! It's like an age-bending Hannah Montana!
 Has anyone checked if this is what Angela Lansbury is?

Weirder still is Valda in the Secret City, with a girl protagonist kept mysterious even to the readers. In this story there is a lost city in Africa. Normal so far. It's a culture based upon ancient Greece, which is a bit weird. It's divided up into Athenians (goodies) and Spartans (baddies). Into this came outsider Valda, whose origins are kept from us.

Ordinarily, Valda would come from the story trope of the great white saviour, but this African city is already entirely populated by white people.
 In this chapter Valda saves the Olympic games for the Athenians but at a terrible cost to herself before doing an Aslan.
Letters page next and here's a charming misunderstanding, marred by an unnecessarily racist response:

And now: Readers' Pets:That Guinea-pig is long dead.

 The next girl we meet also has a double life: The Double Life of Dana. She works as a maid at the Arden Ballet School while secretly auditioning as Ann Smith! As with a lot of these strips she has to put up with almost superhuman levels of snobbishness from the rich students.
 My second-favourite strip in this issue is The Star with the Statue, 14-year-old Paula Pastaza lived in a remote South American village with an unnaturally superior talent! For tennis!

Discovered by a travelling sports promoter for the Rupert Racquet Company, Paula is persuaded to go on a world tour as a means of fulfilling a prophecy.
 Oh, Paula, you and your silly primitive god!

In this issue Paula finds herself in Las Vegas where her fish-out-of-water status marks her apart.
 What? How could you not know the Vice President?

Show of hands: Who would recognize the present US Vice President if he got out of a car in front of you right now? Be honest. Thought so.

Excitingly, less than half-way through this chapter, Paula rescues the Veep from an assassination attempt by hitting the would-be killer with a tennis ball. MID-GAME! And she still wins straight sets!
 Incidentally, the Vice-president at the time would have been the well-known anagram Spiro Agnew.
 As Nixon's right-hand man history has not judged him kindly. He was even portrayed as an actual supervillain in Denny O'Neill and Neal Adams' Green Lantern Green Arrow No.83.
In that comic, one of the less subtle issues in the now-legendary series that introduced political commentary to the DC Universe, a sinister figure (clearly based on Agnew) is the puppet-master behind a bunch of children with psychic powers, one of whom happens to look like Nixon. With pigtails.
I'm not advocating assassination, obviously, but Paula could have saved the world a lot of trouble.
Also: I have no idea what "The Statue" in "The Star and the Statue" is.
Next up: Have-a-Go Flo, a child with a writer father who, er, tries out the stuff in his stories? I think?
 More snobby shenanigans in The Outcasts of Underwood School, where two (ugh) scholarship students are bringing the tone down for the worthy rich kids.
 Melinda - You're a Marvel! is a strip about a remarkable fix-it girl who works as PA to the owner of a cosmetics company, along with her boss' niece Tilly, who doesn't always have faith in Melinda.
 As so often, the day is saved through the use of horses.
 I like horses.

Best of all the animals.

There is a three-page text story of Dickensian poverty and girl who tries to sell her teeth like Fantine.

There's brolly-based African adventures in The Girl with the Umbrella (not as fun as it sounds) and humour strip Hockey Hannah, about a girl and her hockey stick.

Hannah can do anything with that stick. Hang the decorations:
Restrain a dog:Or stir the Christmas pudding:
Er.. None for me thanks.
My favourite strip, however, is Netta's Newshound.
The introduction paragraph starts as follows: "Only Netta Norris knew that Sam Bates, an ace news reporter, was turned into a dog by unfriendly creatures from outer space." I am sold already.
In this week's strip, Netta and Sam visit an airshow with Uncle George. Netta's concerned that this won't be nearly interesting enough. Then they meet a former WWII Spitfire pilot and then...
 ...his German equivalent. But it's okay, I'm sure he's not an actual, literal Nazi. That would be weird, right? No, there were millions of young men in the war who did not realise the extent of the cause for which they were fighting.
 However, this guy seems to be proudly wearing a swastika armband. In 1972. Pretty unambiguous that. Sam knows better than Netta, who is too young to truly be aware of the Holocaust.

But then Sam attacks the RAF chap with a hose, seemingly to start a fight.
 And before long the two pilots have taken to the air in what the public think is a fun display until...
 Who the aitch-ee-double-Hannah's-hockey-sticks gave them bullets? In 1972?

Then the story goes completely Tonto when Sam flies a WWI biplane in order to bring them down!

 I am not making any of this up!

And this is the exact sort of comics craziness I love.

And with that, Christmas is definitely over.


  1. Everything in this comic is astounding; several LOLs from this gem. I like velly much. I keep rereading "and the prophecy of our god jibaro well come true" and chuckling.

    Zack Snyder has bought the film rights to Valda in the Secret City.