Discovered in Oxfam’s “please read me one more time” box for a mere 50p (i wish the Bury branch would do the same thing!) this is a proper gem of a late 50′s comic/storypaper annual, with the strips and text stories alternating. I’m not too sure of the history of the School Friend, but i’m pretty sure it originated alongside the Gem and Magnet, so by the time the 1960′s where coming knocking it probably looked well out of date, even with strip content. The stories themselves are mostly the typical “Girls’ Own” fare that revisionists (some of them even self-professed “fans”!) would have you beleive entirely made up the girl’s comics of the time, however there are a few surprises. Another surprise is the prescence of not one but TWO colour strips! There is also a painted “coloured plate” on different paper in the front of the book, but the coloured strips are on the same thick pulp paper as the black and white pages, just with “dotty” colouring added. I actually like the look, and find myself wondering if it can be replicated for my own comics in photoshop.
The cover, with one or two “improvements”. Probably added by Susan White, it’s evident second owner (the name is in biro) after Judith Fox, who’s name is on the title page in rather ornate handwriting. I beleive “The Millers” are a football team.
“The Silent Three” appear to be the most famous characters of the School Friend’s comic strips (they are in that British Comics book with Korky on the cover, dontcha know). I think that in it’s earlier days the paper also contained Charles Hamilton stories, but there’s none of that in this book. The Silent Three themselves belonged to a secret society in thier boarding school who put on robes and masks and fought against injustice (Kind of like a genteel version of V for Vengeance?) Here they are on thier summer holidays, but another school is still in session and Betty’s cousin, captain of the fourth, is upset at her form being framed for a series of pranks. The pranks turn out to be the work of a corrupt prefect who has found a clue to a treasure hidden within the school and wants to keep it for herself. Whilst this may not be by Charles Hamilton it isn’t straying too far from his territory! (Nb. British girl’s comics, and probably storypapers before them, where almost entirely written by men)
This story is about Princess Anita. The young apparent monarch (presumably the actual King or Queen is “away” for extended periods) of “Sylvanberg”, a kind of idealised swiss/bavarian type country. She dresses up in peasant garb and goes amongst her people in order to discover thier problems and then solve them using her powers as monarch. Here she is coincidentally saved by a “no good” man that a “well to do” woman wants to marry (against the wishes of her father). One awarding of a Legion d’honnuer-style medal later and the lovers can live happily ever after.
One of the colour strips, Jill Crusoe. In this her and her native friend M’lani live on “Paradise Island” in the 1890′s. A hot-air balloon accidentally descends onto a nearby island where cannibals keep the idol of thier fire god. As the girls move to rescue him they use the exploding gas in the balloon to convince the savages that the fire god is angry with thier plan to sacrifice the “sky demon”. Later on the airman is rescued by a passing ship but Jill and M’lani decide to stay on the island. How they avoid being eaten by cannibals is not adequatley explained.
A more tomboy-ish character, with a strange Irish accent. Her name is Paddy McNaught and she assists the detective Terry Brent. Here, beleiving crooks to be after him, he sends her out in his car with a waxwork model of him which happens to be laying around the office to throw them off the scent. She then realises they want to “settle for him”, but later finds out they knew the waxwork was a model all along. However a quick switch of the waxwork left sitting on a log with the real thing see’s the crims rounded up. It turns out some recently stolen