Reviews: At last, something for all of those Comely Girls out there…

Published On November 24, 2014 | By Richard Bruton | General

The Comely Girls Annual

By Gareth Brookes and Steve Tillotson

Avery Hill Publishing.

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Those goodly comic making sorts Brookes and Tillotson have previously entertained gentlemen of all ages with their refined and thrilling guide for the modern chap: The Manly Boys Annual. As fabulous as it was to read tales of daring-do and heroic manly adventures, one couldn’t help but ponder that perhaps the ladies were missing out somewhat. Surely if the two artists had such up to the minute and relevant advice for us chaps, then they’d surely be able to educate and inform the ladies?

Luckily they have… The Comely Girls Anuual is a stuffed full of interesting and important advice regarding things most important to those girlies… ‘Marriage, the path to happiness‘, ‘Make up tips for thrifty girls‘, ‘Ponies‘, ‘How to care for your baby‘, ‘Spinsterhood‘. It’s really all a comely girl could ever need. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction by Major General Sir Henry George Neville Balfour II’s wife…

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As you may have guessed, this is all tongue so firmly in cheek that it probably hurts, Tillotson and Brookes’ cleverly retaining that style of 19th Century self-improvement manuals and the best of Viz Comic that they did so well with Manly Boys (which is receiving a reprint edition from Avery Hill to match this companion volume).

Inside you’ll discover all manner of self-improvement tips and advice. You too could cook Mary Anning’s rock cakes (useful for keeping her hysteria at bay), or whip up Emmeline Pankhurst’s pancakes (tasty enough to negate her reputation as an ‘unmarriagable blue stocking‘). Or perhaps you’re a thrifty girl in need of make-up tips? in which case you’ll be delighted to discover such money-saving tips as using India ink instead of expensive eyeliner or raiding your brother’s model making paints to give your lips a special red glow that are ‘glossy and vibrant, and last for days, if not weeks‘. If you’re particularly interested in your future, the Comely Girls Annual has all the answers in its Dress Up guide (Housewife, Space housewife, Gypsy peasant housewife, Red Indian housewife).

And if all of these tips in how to improve oneself and live out your natural role as housewife and mother don’t work, should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being the wrong side of 24 and still without a husband, the Comely Girls Annual has advice for you poor unfortunates as well:

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(The 3 Cs of Spinsterhood? Cats, companionship and church.)

The smile rarely left my face through The Comely Girls Annual, although having already experienced The Manly Boys Annual, I wasn’t surprised, as Brookes and Tillotson really do have the tone just right, just this side of cruel, the gags all having that believable excess about them, all with a voice somewhere stricter and more stiff upper lip than the best Victorian Governess.

And please don’t get the impression that The Comely Girls Annual is without comic strips, there are three excellent short strips, two by Tillotson, one by Brookes. In these, you get a somewhat unexpected view of the young girl’s world, starting with Tillotson’s tale of poor ‘Conscientious Jenny‘, so eager to please her father that she’s off to make an improvised cake using whatever she can find under the sink. Ooops. Bad idea Jenny. Borax and Brasso may be essential ingredients in your daily chores, but not in your cake!

Brookes’ fine comic gives us that little insight into the secret world of young Comely Girls, away from that all important male gaze, on the vicious battlefield that is the world of competitive school hockey:

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And then, later in the Annual, Tillotson really impresses with a more modern tale, of poor Alice, whose dream is to be a mechanic. Poor Alice. This may be the 50s or 60s but surely you ought to know your place even in these enlightened times. Fear not, some of the chaps on your course will help set you straight. Poor, poor Alice…

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Both Brookes and Tillotson are on fine, fine form in the pages of The Comely Girls Annual, loads of laughs, lots to smile about, a little to wince over as well. But I keep coming back to that Alice strip by Tillotson, something about it really impressed. His style has shifted slightly, or perhaps he just hit a rich vein of form that day, whatever it is, that strip is some of his best work, the relaxed line of Alice so well done, the stylings perfect. More please.

The Comely Girls Annual does everything it meant to, educational, informative, spiffing even. You can get it from the Avery Hill webstore.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

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