Tuesday, 15 December 2009

"You've got it wrong, love..." Mirabelle, No.1, 19th February, 1977

Greetings from beyond the grave, chums. To celebrate the fact that there are now at least 10 discerning culture-vultures who actually want to read this stuff (thank you, pals!) I thought it was about time I exhumed myself and dug into the fun-cupboard to reveal another useless, fusty artefact we can all enjoy.

Today we turn our attention to the fair sex and the ways of LOVE. Not something I am particularly expert in, it must be said. But, putting my own neuroses aside for a moment, I have always enjoyed girls' comics - a fact that, when mentioned over the years, has prompted many a raised eyebrow amidst the conspicuously weedy but distinctly hetero ranks of the comics cognoscenti, who generally prefer an adolescent power-fantasy to girly stuff like relationships, flowers, and all that rot.

Way back in the days before we males could admit to having any kind of sensitivity I used to keep it quiet. Indeed, I remember afternoons in the school summer holidays when I was a lad, circa the early 1980s somewhereabouts, when the best thing about the dismal prospect of having to be "looked after" by the next door neighbours was the chance to read their teenage daughter's copies of Misty, the now-cult British girls' comic that featured stories of ghosts, witches, strict schools and naughty girls getting their come uppance in inventively supernatural ways. In my heart, I always wanted to be able to get Misty delivered every week myself, but how could I? It was a girls' comic. So I thought I had to read Warlord and Victor instead, unfortunately for me. Have a pineapple, Fritz! Himmel! Boom! Argghh!

Maybe we'll talk about Misty one of these days. Or maybe not. But for now I want to draw your attention to another British comic for girls. One I certainly didn't see at the time, and one that I had never heard of until I stumbled across a copy at one of those aromatic comics fairs of which I am so inordinately fond. Today I would like to introduce you to Mirabelle. This, the first (and possibly the only issue) was recently found in one of the cheap boxes among a load of rotten British reprints of dull 1970s Marvel Comics and cost me 25p. I may have imagined it but I think the stall holder may well have given me a look of what could only described as sceptical disdain when I purchased said item: is there something wrong with you? I don't care. It's terrific! But it is definitely not Love Stories in Pictures as the cover misleadingly claims.

In fact, I can't find any of your standard love stories in pictures in here at all. Instead, I find romance fused with horror, bleak post-apocalyptic sci-fi and sleazy sex comedy. Take a look at the comic's opener, The Poison Valentine.

It's like a Mills and Boon paperback crossed with a Pete Walker movie. Splendid. Dig the "skull" motif. Paperchase, take note. These cards would sell.

Could it have something to do with her boyfriend? It's a serial, but the moral of the story might be: never trust a guy with gypsy looks, an enigmatic smile and a David Essex neckerchief. He may secretly be a "freak". But we'll never know...

Flip the page and we have a strip about a fashion model desperate to get the photographer to "notice me as a person". This is how she goes about it. Hang on a tick, I thought this was a mag for girls!

I say, ding dong! Something for the Dads, eh? But, wouldn't you just know it...

"You've got it wrong love...pop off and change." Methinks it is this Leo Sayer-esque snapper who has got it wrong. But each to their own, I suppose...

Anyway, there's three pages of that. What shall we have next? How about some love stories in pictures? If you insist, but let's combine it with the story of a girl and her dog in a post-apocalyptic world. As you do.

Oh Jacko. Sometimes I feel like I can't move another step. Probably the radiation poisoning. Didn't you read the government leaflet about painting your doors white, buy in the dustbin bags for the family corpses, or stock up on tinned fruit? Jacko looks happy enough, though. He could be doing an ad for Pedigree Chum, if you ignore the rubble.

I fear that, deep in her heart, she may already know the answers to both these questions. If she's hungry, it looks like Jacko has plenty of meat on him.

She's also being chased by a load of sinister, vaguely Russian-looking soldiers. But hang on, this is all a bit bleak, isn't it? Where are the love stories in pictures? Time for some irradiated love interest...

Not a bad spread, eh? Armageddon can be quite nice, really. Less competition from other chicks when you're attempting to snare a guy, and that's the main thing, eh? Even when you're vomiting every ten minutes.

Hmm, a few pages left to fill. How about some lust stories in pictures? How about an exceedingly seedy comedy comic-strip reminiscent of Confessions of a Driving Instructor, reinforcing every stereotype about women drivers you can possibly think of? That's sure to appeal to the young ladies, don't you think?

Check out this lost sleaze-classic. They don't do comic strips like this any more. Not that they ever did, apart from here, as far as I'm aware...

Wa-hey, eh? Every girl loves a driving instructor in Tartan flares. Irresistible.

So much for Mr. Grimes... but there are other cravatted Lotharios to contend with...

Hel-lo indeed. You get the picture. But there is a happy ending to Sue's tale.

Here's how she did it.

Do you know, I could have sworn there was this movement called "Women's Lib" in the 1970s. But I must have dreamed it.

Whatever happened to Mirabelle? According to an advert inside the back cover, number two was on the way...but did it ever make it to the newsagents' shelves? I wonder.

Eight great stories and free shampoo? Girls, how did you manage to resist?

Mirabelle is the weirdest British comic for girls I've ever read. You will find it in THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS.


  1. Andrew Darlington7 April 2010 at 04:01

    Sorry, you got it wrong. 'Mirabelle' hung around a lot longer, and a lot earlier than you seem to assume. Check out the full history in the 'Love Stories In Pictures' feature on the 'EIGHT MILES HIGHER' blogspot, then tell me what you think...!

  2. Does anyone want my Mirabelle magazine? Dated 2nd August 1975 with 32 pages, including a full page photo of David Essex, double page spread of Bay City Rollers, love stories, comic strips, fashion, and adverts. I will put it on ebay when I get round to it...

  3. I was working as a bass player on the cruise ship "Pacific Princess" in 1992. Larry Larkin was the featured comedian. He was easily one of the funniest comedians I have ever seen. We, the show band, backed up Larry's different routines. Larry could do it all (mild humour to "blue") AND could sing as well. Off stage, I got to know Larry a bit, and he was a very kind human being, something rare in show business. Near the end of my contract, I got a bit depressed (working ships will do that to you). Larry spotted that, took me aside, and reassured me that all would be ok. A real professional and great human being. Wherever he is now, I wish him the very best.