Mar 26 2012: Fifty-One Monochrome Illustrations From Girl Annual Number Nine (1961)

As can be seen below, the differences between the illustrations featured in Girl Annual in 1958 and those of three years later, in 1961, are fairly minimal, considering the social changes that were happening during the same period. True, the girl above is now on holiday in Amalfi rather than Cornwall, but the same escapades with local smugglers are the pretext of the story she illustrates. Likewise, we glimpse a few small shifts in the appearance of a strip about an air hostess and another outlining the route to a career as a dietitician, though both affirm decidedly 1950s values: a girl’s career choice is defined by her aptitude for domestic skills, and her role aboard an aircraft is (in this case) to smuggle a dog home from Nairobi on behalf of a sick child travelling to London for treatment. This makes Angela, Air Hostess a sort of sharper-uniformed version of her predeccessor Susan Marsh, the eminently sensible and kindly nurse, who appeared in 1958, and remains in 1961, upgraded to a full colour strip cartoon story. The beginnings of influences from television and popular music are glimpsed in passing – with an appearance from a very young David Attenbrough and scenes in which the heroines of the Dietiticians story go dancing after passing their GCE exams – but we’re still a few years off from the first major impact of The Beatles (1963), in a realm where the softened, showbiz-orientated Denmark Street version of mid-50s Beat Music was still dominant, and the alternatives were beatnik folk and trad jazz. Even so, the stirrings of the coming change are glimpsed in the use, in 1961, of the first full colour photographic cover seen on the annual since its beginnings in 1953. It shows a smiling girl with a sledge, so hardly anticipates the pop influence that would impact more fully through 1964 and 1965, but the nature of the image format marks a move that would prove very significant.

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