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Dr Mel Gibson's "Remembered Reading": book abt girls comics 
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Joined: 09 Jul 2015, 16:41
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I've just received a review copy of Dr Mel's new book, "Remembered Reading". It looks like a corker to me, though I will warn that it is an academic book and therefore a) priced accordingly and b) written accordingly style-wise.

I did flick back to the index and other pages at the end, and found something that needs correcting, which I hope others might be able to help with. There's a mention of a story called 'No Time For Pat', which is listed as being a Jinty story, but isn't (and of course now that we have a complete list of Jinty stories on the related blog we can prove it :D ). The story is described as being about a girl who is told she has six months to live and decides to devote them to looking after a crippled child at a nearby orphanage. (The mistake isn't Mel's directly, it's in an earlier reference work by a P Cadogan, who really disliked lurid death scenes apparently - and hence was pretty worked up about the worthlessness of girls comics as you can imagine! :lol: )

Without having read the whole argument though it looks like Mel has also included information and interviews from the creators themselves which is one of the bits that is getting me particularly excited - but I also want to be able to correct any small errors when they come up, of course. So if anyone can identify this non-Jinty story I'd be grateful!

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07 Aug 2015, 07:57
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Well now! It turns out that "No Time For Pat" is in a Jinty after all, but not as a weekly story - it's in the only annual we haven't yet covered - the 1980 one! I do have a copy of this I think so will go back and check again. Catawiki comes up trumps with answering this question.

I do also want to see if this story looks original to Jinty, or reprinted from something earlier.

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07 Aug 2015, 11:58
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comixminx wrote:
Well now! It turns out that "No Time For Pat" is in a Jinty after all, but not as a weekly story - it's in the only annual we haven't yet covered - the 1980 one! I do have a copy of this I think so will go back and check again. Catawiki comes up trumps with answering this question.

I do also want to see if this story looks original to Jinty, or reprinted from something earlier.


Comixminx - "No Time For Pat" did indeed appear in a Jinty Annual but it was a reprint of a weekly serial from June comic. To me, Jinty has always been the modernised continuation of June (also both having Mavis Miller as editor).


07 Aug 2015, 14:00
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This book is on my "to buy" list. Either that or drop hints for my birthday and the event at the end of the year that I am not mentioning in August.

How does the book compare to other reference books? And let us know if it is a good read once you want to report back to us.

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07 Aug 2015, 15:00
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helsbels wrote:
comixminx wrote:
Well now! It turns out that "No Time For Pat" is in a Jinty after all, but not as a weekly story - it's in the only annual we haven't yet covered - the 1980 one! I do have a copy of this I think so will go back and check again. Catawiki comes up trumps with answering this question.

I do also want to see if this story looks original to Jinty, or reprinted from something earlier.


Comixminx - "No Time For Pat" did indeed appear in a Jinty Annual but it was a reprint of a weekly serial from June comic. To me, Jinty has always been the modernised continuation of June (also both having Mavis Miller as editor).


Excellent, many thanks for confirming this. I agree about Jinty being quite a continuation of June in many ways. I have read this story reasonably recently, it turns out - definitely one of those tear-jerkers where the readers must have loved being made miserable! I seem to remember it actually turns out all ok in the end though.

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07 Aug 2015, 16:01
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colcool007 wrote:
This book is on my "to buy" list. Either that or drop hints for my birthday and the event at the end of the year that I am not mentioning in August.

How does the book compare to other reference books? And let us know if it is a good read once you want to report back to us.


So far I am gripped by it, wanting to see what Dr Mel has found out through interviewing women involved in creating the comics in question. It looks like she may have interviewed Benita Brown and identified some stories she wrote! Very exciting to me. Other than that, it depends what you are interested in (as ever). It is quite an academic work and written with some jargon - I wouldn't say it's overpowering or too hard to read but it might be too much for some if they don't fancy such. I haven't yet got to the bits with the interviews with readers or with the creators, at the moment she's talking about the history and context of girls comics, which is interesting to me too. In any case this is a review copy so I can write a nice detailed review for the Jinty blog, which I'll link to here.

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07 Aug 2015, 16:07
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I'll certainly be buying this. I met Mel recently at Pete Hansen's when we were discussing the best way to archive and display Pete's collection. Mel's dad was a real US comics fan and Mel grew up on a diet of DC rather than DC Thomson and if I remember correctly her favourite comic hero was the Flash.
By the way isn't 'a P Cadogan' actually Mary Cadogan in the second edition of her book, written with Patricia Craig, 'You're a Brick, Angela'. A seminal work in the history and classification of girls literature, including girls comics, in Britain 1895-1985.


07 Aug 2015, 18:08
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Kashgar wrote:
I'll certainly be buying this. I met Mel recently at Pete Hansen's when we were discussing the best way to archive and display Pete's collection. Mel's dad was a real US comics fan and Mel grew up on a diet of DC rather than DC Thomson and if I remember correctly her favourite comic hero was the Flash.
By the way isn't 'a P Cadogan' actually Mary Cadogan in the second edition of her book, written with Patricia Craig, 'You're a Brick, Angela'. A seminal work in the history and classification of girls literature, including girls comics, in Britain 1895-1985.


You're quite right to correct me on Mary Cadogan's name; I noticed afterwards that I got that wrong but I was back reading by then. I think I partially got confused because of the name of the story quoted, but also because there is an SF writer with a similar name (Pat Cadigan).

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07 Aug 2015, 20:07
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Just to say that I have written a review of this book now and posted it to the Jinty blog.
https://jintycomic.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/remembered-reading-by-mel-gibson-book-review/

I will also post a link to it in the Reference section of the forum in case someone goes straight there in the future.

It's a great book, well worth the read. I don't know how it compares to other reference books as it's not straightforwardly one of those (and anyway I haven't actually looked at many reference books). A better comparison would be to Martin Barker's books. My copy now has highlighter all over it! :D

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13 Aug 2015, 10:38
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Where can you get that book? All info I seem to find is the University web and is going to cost me 40 pounds the book and around the same to be shipped to Ireland :S

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13 Aug 2015, 10:51
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RuthB wrote:
Where can you get that book? All info I seem to find is the University web and is going to cost me 40 pounds the book and around the same to be shipped to Ireland :S


I got a review copy I'm afraid. Do you have a local library that you can ask to order it for you? Or a local university campus bookshop that could order it on your behalf?

This site offers free shipping:
http://ukbooks.sg/en/book/Remembered-Reading-9789462700307

Oddly other than that, a lot of the sites offering it are Australian(!). Bit too far for it to be shipped for you I guess!

Having said that, I did find it on Amazon (which I'm boycotting personally so won't link directly).

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13 Aug 2015, 10:58
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ah! Will try my favourite bookshop

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13 Aug 2015, 11:47
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Dr Mel Gibson's Remembered Reading is a good book. In fact, overall it is a very good book. I do have some caveats though, but they do not really take anything away from this assessment. However they should be considered if a second edition is ever required.

The author is Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies at Northumbria University, and as she has nine entries for her previously published works in her Bibliography, it can be assumed that this monograph is to some extent a development from those. As it is more firmly based on the research that she did while working towards the production of her PhD thesis, we can categorise it as an academic work that is aimed more at experts in the fields of Communication, and Cultural and Media Studies, in particular those with Gender Studies as their specialism, rather than at the lay reader.

In her Introduction Gibson explains that she is going to be looking at comics aimed at British girls between the 1950s and the 1990s, and at the memories of some of the women who bought them at the time of issue, with the clear aims of trying to discover answers to such questions as what comics they bought and why, what effect they had on them, what pressures they had to deal with from parents, siblings, teachers and school friends, and why they eventually stopped reading them.

One issue she is especially interested in is class, almost obsessively so, in truth, not just the one the readers thought they were in, but to what extent that mattered, and which class the comics were aimed at, and how that mattered in school or friendship scenarios, and perhaps more importantly how their parents saw them.

Some of Gibson's research was done by mail, the rest at face-to-face interviews and during courses she ran for the general public in venues such as libraries and school halls. I assume that these exchanges were recorded so that she could analyse them later at her leisure. She says that there were basically 56 people who contributed to this research in one form or another, a figure that seems a bit on the small side for her conclusions to be completely persuasive. She does add the information that she was able to access some autobiographical material and some of the radio coverage of Bunty's 40th birthday in 1998. I have five radio programmes about Bunty from that year but as I haven't listened to them for some considerable time I have no comment to make on them here.

Gibson seems to have consulted many of the major works of analysis and criticism, and relates their relevant findings to her thesis. However, I am not quite so happy with her habit of drawing conclusions from just one issue of a girls' paper, although in the case of Girl she does say that she does so after some sample reading. She also looks at just one issue of Princess, Jinty and Tammy, and surprisingly she invests Mum's Own Annual with some authority it doesn't deserve. My complaint here though is that she should really have felt willing to apply the same rigorous approach to her writings on the individual girls' titles that she applied to her masterful analysis of the four-page picture strip Belle Of The Ballet In Little Miss Nobody. What a pity too that she didn't treat the two-page photo-story Heartbreak Hospital in the same way especially as photo-stories were then becoming ubiquitous, and a similar analysis could have been helpful in guiding us towards a greater understanding of how the camera angles and distances used were integral to the effect of the presentation on the reader. If indeed they were!

Ultimately I don't think she knew the comics particularly well, and this led her to draw major conclusions on flimsy evidence. She does state at one point that girls' comics were difficult to acquire, but she does admit that she visited the British Library. In my opinion she should have gone there more often. (I'm pausing here, and posting. More shortly.)


15 Nov 2015, 11:46
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(Continuing) Had Gibson done so, when she introduced the theme of working class girls in general and Mary Simpson in particular, who was of course the one of the four Marys who had won a scholarship to St Elmo's, and therefore didn't have to pay any fees, she could have taken the opportunity to broaden the canvas by linking Simpy to two other working class girls in public schools, Mary Brown in Mary Brown's Schooldays in Diana, and Jane Green in Jane Green's Schooldays in Debbie, although she is unlikely to have known that these two serials had been influenced by Smith Of The Lower Third, an extremely long school story in the boys' text story paper The Wizard, nor the fact that the parents of Tom Smith, Mary Simpson and Mary Brown all ran grocer's shops in the town of Ironboro.

The above comments relate to either the Introduction or chapters 1 and 2. The rest of the book is interesting and persuasive. Nevertheless you can almost hear her give a sigh of relief at the beginning of chapter 3 because by this time she is on much safer ground, and her surefootedness is obvious. I find little in chapters 3, 4, and 5 that is contentious in her many threads that develop, expand, reverse, and criss-cross. I have to admit though that some of Gibson's argument gets quite abstruse, particularly where she trots out technical terms that are not used in my normal discourse. There is one moment though when in her eagerness to relate material to her thesis she misses a much more obvious point. It comes when one interviewee bitterly rather than humorously, articulated another view of the title (Look & Learn). She said,

I've always thought that the reason my brother got to Cambridge and I went to Birmingham Polytechnic was because he read Look & Learn and I read Bunty. There was quite definite discrimination here, I mean, obviously Look & Learn was available to me to read as well, but I read Bunty and he read Look & Learn and learnt a lot of facts and all I ever learned was how to make a Christmas decoration or something equally useless.

Gibson's comment is,

Here parental intervention in reading ensured that children were given 'suitable' texts, those being clearly gender-specific. Comparing her experience with that of her brother, both of reading and of education, this interviewee saw the girls' comic as limiting girls' aspirations.

That may well be so but I can't dredge up any possible excuse for the interviewee. Given the fact that she admits to having access to her brother's Look & Learn week in week out, she has no right to complain that she didn't extract from them the same information that her brother extracted. Secondly, however informative the magazines were, they certainly didn't get him into Cambridge, nor was her failure to read them the reason she ended up at Birmingham Polytechnic. Furthermore, if we assume that they were reading their magazines at the age of ten or eleven, do the next seven years or so not count in terms of preparing for 'O' and 'A' level exams and university entrance? Gibson's response may well be accurate in terms of her thesis in this book, but isn't the more obvious response to point out that either the girl was simply too lazy and lacking in ambition, or the boy was simply a lot brighter than she was?

Gibson is for the most part in control of her material. She covers a lot of ground and delivers a lot of information and insights. There is, in my opinion, rather too much repetition during her various summings-up. Her supervisor would have appreciated such control in her PhD thesis, but this is a book for an interested public who might well feel that it is over-egging the cake.

There are quite a number of mistakes in the book, all of which should have been corrected at one or other of the proof reading stages. They are as follows:-

1. The Mystrey Of Eilian Mor (p49) - corrected in the list of titles
2. Benita Brown's memory fails her when trying to recall the titles of stories she wrote, Blind Bettina and Cathy's Friend From Yesterday being the culprits.
3. Damien Dark (p65) should be Damian Darke. The spelling errors are repeated in Appendix 2.....and also corrected there.
4. I don't recall any Damian Darke stories in Judy, but he certainly appeared in Debbie.
5. In Appendix 2 Diana is said to have merged with Judy. She actually merged with Jackie.
6. Judy Picture Story For Girls should be Judy Picture Story Library For Girls.
7. The Judy entry should read when merged with Mandy.
8. Judy merged with Emma, and later with Tracy.
9. Debbie merged with Spellbound.
10. Mandy merged with Debbie.
11. Bunty merged with Suzy.

In the Bibliography, the third entry for Gifford, D is tabbed in. In the Index Sally acquires an interloping full stop, (Sall.y).
And somewhere, I didn't make a note of where, Kirsten Drottner is called Kristen.

All quotations and other references in this review are copyright Dr Mel Gibson and/or Leuven University Press.


15 Nov 2015, 14:45
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Great stuff, Phoenix - really glad to see this detailed look at Mel's book. I spotted a few typos too but quite a bit of what you have seen or commented on reflects your greater knowledge compared to mine and is new to me.

I'm a little surprised that you say Mel has based her conclusions on one copy of Jinty (and other titles that she considers less central to her study). There are a number of Jinty stories in her index, and as a Jinty fan I didn't feel hard done by or as if she was totally skimping on it. I don't have "Remembered Reading" to hand right now though, to confirm. It may be that I felt well-disposed to Mel and so assumed she had read more widely of some of the titles! Part of my target in reading it was to think about how plausible it felt, I guess, as much as anything.

I think you are a little harsh on the girl who bitterly remembered her brother getting Look & Learn. Necessarily with an interview of this sort we don't get that much detail or background, and there's lots we don't know about the family in question - would the sister really have much access to Look & Learn to pick up the info herself, or would she be able to get at it only in gaps when her brother wasn't reading it? Was the parents' purchasing habit a reflection of other biases, like giving the sister lots of chores and the brother lots of time to do homework? OK, that sort of stuff is not mentioned in the quotes we're given, but they are plausible too. I read that bit as a symptom of wider issues or prejudices in the family, myself.

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16 Nov 2015, 10:28
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