Review of the Picture Stories in the Bunty for Girls 1999 Annual (Part 1)

For those of you who haven’t heard of Bunty, it was a weekly British girls’ comic that ran from 1958 until 2001 although after this time, summer specials ran until 2004 and the annuals continued until the 2009 one. 

The first taster I got of Bunty was the 1999 annual that I received for Christmas in 1998 (I was 11 years old then). My mum gave it to me because she read the Bunty comic when she was 9 – 11 alongside similar titles such as Mandy and Tammy (she also read Jinty briefly when she was 14). I thought the Bunty 1999 annual was an entertaining read at the time I received it with an eclectic mix of picture stories (similar to comic strips although a lot of the picture stories were written in a more serious tone), photo stories (again similar to comic strips but with photographs instead of drawings), features and posters. In early 1999, my mum started buying me the weekly comic. The stories in the comic I could remember the most were Looking After Lois (a one-off photo story serial about the titular Lois, a scheming French girl who stays with a British family while her mother looks for a new home in the U.K.), The Comp (a picture soap story set at the mixed gender Redvale Comprehensive School) and The Four Marys (another regular Bunty story that was set at a school albeit a girls’ boarding school called St. Elmo’s). In 2011, I repurchased the 1999 annual from eBay and I have gone through phases of buying other girls’ comics and annuals from there since. In February 2021, I won a bid on eBay of 34 Bunty comics from 1999. This set of comics included a few editions where I could recall some of their stories very well.

The blog posts in this series are inspired by the girls’ comic annual blog posts that were written by Lorraine who runs the fantastic fan site Girls Comics of Yesterday. Because this post would be super duper long if I wrote about the whole annual in one post, I decided to write separate blog posts about it; this one and another about the picture stories; one about the photo stories; one about the text stories; and one or two about the features, puzzles and pin-ups.

Here are the picture stories in the Bunty 1999 annual and what I thought of each one (WARNING: This section contains spoilers):

The Comp (pp. 5 – 9)

Artist: Peter Wilkes

This is the first of two instalments of The Comp in this annual and this particular instalment is the first Bunty story I ever read. In this one, Laura Brady and her best friend, Becky Sinden, go Christmas shopping after they finish school for Christmas. During their shopping trip, they encounter the headmistress, Miss Grimstyle (AKA Grim Gertie) and fellow pupils, Claire and Nikki (I’m pretty sure Nikki was named after the girls’ comic The Comp originally appeared in). Unfortunately, trouble ensues when a suspected pickpocket steals Laura’s purse, which leaves her unable to buy any Christmas presents. Luckily with help from Hodge and Freddy, the police catch the pickpocket and arrest him, thus leaving Laura and Becky to resume their Christmas shopping now that Laura has her purse back.

I found it very interesting that the first The Comp story I ever read mostly took place outside the school. The story starts off in a fun way, tension builds up when the pickpocket steals Laura’s purse and it ends happily.

Fear of the Future (pp. 19 – 25)

Artist: John Armstrong 

Fiona Nelson is on a trip by the seaside with her friends Katy, Jen and Jodie. Whilst there, Fiona sees a fortune teller while her friends go to the funfair. At first, Fiona is not impressed with her predictions but when the fortune teller looks at her instant photograph, she predicts an accident that will involve someone in the photograph, will result in injury and will happen in the next two weeks. Fiona is so scared by this prediction that she saves her friends from danger such as persuading them to go home from their seaside trip early by pretending to feel sick, ruining Jen’s romance with her new boyfriend and stopping Jodie from being in the school hockey team, much to their frustration. When the fortnight is up, no disasters seem to have happened. Fiona decides to revisit the fortune teller only to see that her tent has gone. It is revealed that the wind blew the statue (which was in Fiona’s instant photograph) onto the fortune teller’s tent, thus breaking her arm.

The artwork by the late great John Armstrong is realistic, expressive and detailed while the story itself is gripping with the shocking twist of the fortune teller predicting her own injury.

Love Thy Neighbour (pp. 28 – 31)

Artist: Peter Wilkes

Wendy and her parents return to their old house after having lived abroad for two years. Although Wendy is looking forward to seeing her old friends again, her dad says he already knows the neighbours. Unfortunately, this causes Wendy to remember Paul (his surname is given as Smith and Bowen, so I don’t know which one is correct) who she has hated since she was younger. Upon returning to her old school, Wendy gets a glimpse of Paul and although she thinks he looks gorgeous, she still thinks he’s a pain. When Paul visits Wendy at her house, they have an hour-long catch up that ends with him accidentally knocking his drink on her, much to her annoyance. On the way to school the next day, Wendy thinks Paul and his friend put something in her bag while she was in the newsagent but they were actually laughing at a joke. When Wendy visits Paul with a message from her mum that evening, Paul shows Wendy some photos of themselves when they were young children. While Wendy says Paul was always a pain, he points out a photo of her putting ice cubes down his neck. Paul persuades Wendy to forget about the past and asks her if she wants to be his girlfriend. Wendy agrees because she has secretly fancied Paul all along. 

This is one of the three picture stories that Peter Wilkes illustrated in the annual (he also drew the illustration for the text story Carly’s Crowd), although it appears to have been drawn in a more straightforward colour palette than both instalments of The Comp. Even though this story is only four pages long, I like the ending of Wendy and Paul becoming an official couple.

Bunty – A Girl Like You (pages 32 and 65)

Artist: Andy Tew

This is a humour strip that revolves around the titular character and her antics with her family and friends. It ran in three different incarnations throughout the weekly comic’s run (the first two were drawn by Doris Kinnear), although the one I remember the most fondly is Bunty – A Girl Like You (renamed Girl Zone in the comic in 1999 and subsequent annuals).

In the first strip in this annual, Bunty is writing out her Christmas list. Her parents drop hints of what they would like for Christmas, but it turns out that she is making a list of what she wants for Christmas herself. 

In the second strip, Bunty is decorating the Christmas tree but she notices that the fairy is missing her wand. Bunty then sees her cousin, Kylie, blowing bubbles and the bubble wand gives her an idea.

I like how the Bunty comics and annuals had humour strips based on the comic’s namesake. The two strips in the 1999 annual were cleverly written, especially the second one.

Who’s Next Door? (pp. 43 – 49)

Artist: Julio Bosch

Jodie Miller lives in a small village. One evening, she is watching a news bulletin about an escaped convict. Her mum tells her that a new neighbour has moved next door to them. Soon, Jodie notices some strange behaviour from the new neighbour such as keeping his curtains closed during the day and mowing the lawn in the middle of the night. This makes Jodie initially think the new neighbour is the escaped convict, but her mum is not convinced. One day when Jodie is sitting outside, she sees some smoke coming from the new neighbour’s house, so she rushes in to help him. As the smoke clears, she notices that the new neighbour is actually none other than the pop star, Jason Piper. The reason Jason kept his curtains closed during the day and mowed his lawn in the middle of the night is because he wanted some peace and quiet even though he loves his fans. When Jodie tells her mum who their new neighbour really is, her mum informs her that the escaped convict has been arrested in Italy.

Despite the mistake of Jodie’s outfit changing colours when she sees who her new neighbour is, I like the touch of mystery the story has. While a lot of stories throughout Bunty’s run have focused on both real life pop stars (such as an instalment of The Comp in 1989 where Laura and Becky go to a Bros concert against their parents’ wishes) and fictional pop stars (such as a series of The Four Marys instalments that revolved around a girl band named B True in 1999), this one only mentions a pop star in the climax and at the end. This story also reminds me of the Harper Lee novel To Kill a Mockingbird where siblings Scout and Jem Finch are curious about their mysterious neighbour, Boo Radley. 

Prefect’s Pet (pp. 53 – 59)

Artist: Andy Tew

Amy Dawson and her parents move house because her dad gets a new promotion at work. Upon starting a new school, Amy’s new classmate, Louise, tells her to watch out for Sarah Bowen, the bossiest prefect there. In chemistry class, Sarah learns Amy’s name and begins to give her special treatment afterwards such as letting her come to the front of the queue for the tuck shop and not including her name in the late book. All this attention makes her feel singled out, it leads to her new friends being annoyed and even Louise calls her a prefect’s pet. When Amy is home from school one day, she learns that her dad’s colleague, Dave Bowen, wanted the job that her dad had, but his wife and daughter took it hard. Amy then realises that Dave is Sarah’s dad and all the special attention at school was a pretence because Sarah actually hates Amy and didn’t want her to have any friends. While Amy borrows her dad’s Dictaphone for her homework, she has the brainwave to challenge Sarah the following day. After Amy plays the recording of Sarah saying she’ll make her suffer to her classmates and the headteacher, Sarah is no longer a prefect and Amy is glad to have her friends back. 

As one of three stories that Andy Tew illustrated for this annual, I like the title of this story being a pun on the phrase, “teacher’s pet,” as well as the twists and turns from Amy’s new friends and the shocking revelation about Sarah.

The Four Marys (pp. 71 – 75)

Artist: Jim Eldridge 

In this first instalment, the Four Marys – Cotter, Field, Radleigh and Simpson (also known by their respective nicknames Cotty, Fieldy, Raddy and Simpy) – notice a circus being set up on the common in the run-up to Christmas. Their headmistress, Mrs Mitchell, gives them permission to watch the circus on a Monday. They are impressed with it and they even get to meet the performers afterwards. The performers then plan a special show to raise money for a children’s home on Saturday, but unfortunately this show is initially cancelled due to family bereavement. The Marys then decide to fill in for Gigi’s parents, who are going to the funeral of her great uncle in Italy, and rehearse for the circus. Simpy and snobs, Mabel (who originally volunteers to be an acrobat, but acrobatics are not her forté) and Veronica, are clowns, Fieldy is part of the acrobat troupe, Raddy rides a horse, Cotty has knives thrown around her and teacher Miss Creef is the ringleader. The show is a success and the Marys declare this their best Christmas ever.

Although I could hardly remember this instalment from when I first read it, I enjoyed reading it more 13 years later and I was glad that the Four Marys, Mabel, Veronica and Miss Creef could help out at the circus.

(Continued in Part 2)

Disclaimers: This is not a sponsored blog post. All opinions expressed are my own.

The images used in this blog post belong to D.C. Thomson & Co., Ltd., although I have made my own scans of them. I have also taken my own photograph of the annual.

Links to my other Bunty for Girls 1999 annual blog posts

Photo stories: https://stompgal87.blog/2021/05/29/review-of-the-photo-stories-in-the-bunty-for-girls-1999-annual/

Text stories: https://stompgal87.blog/2021/06/13/review-of-the-text-stories-in-the-bunty-for-girls-1999-annual/

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