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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wendy: The British Comic Not Published in Britain

Wendy: The British Comic Not Published in Britain
by Jeremy Briggs

There is a modern comic associated with DC Thomson that gets mentioned from time to time but most people know little about it because, unlike Commando, BeanoMAX or the other DCT titles, we can't just go into a shop and buy one - not in the United Kingdom at least. Wendy is a comic magazine aimed at 8-15 year old girls with a theme of horses and ponies that is currently published by Egmont in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Various comic strips that have appeared in Wendy are supplied to Egmont by DC Thomson and are referred to collectively by DCT as Pony Stories. Wendy is copyrighted to Wendy Promotions Ltd which is made up of Egmont and DC Thomson & Co Ltd.

Before he retired DC Thomson editor Bill Graham edited the Pony Stories for Wendy and in a 2008 interview on the downthetubes comics site he said, "The magazine called Wendy was first published in Germany in 1986, using stories reprinted from our girls' papers. The character Wendy first appeared in 1991. Wendy is published weekly in Germany and fortnightly in Denmark, Sweden and Norway by the various arms of Egmont. It is also published under licence under other titles in France and Holland (I think quarterly). Wendy is huge in the territories where it is published. Along with the magazine there is considerable marketing. A range of toys based on the characters was launched last Christmas and I believe it won Toy Of The Year in Germany."

While that interview is now over three years old and the publication schedules have changed, putting 'Wendy' into the search engine of the German shows just how many Wendy related items are still available in Germany from toys to books, CDs to computer games.

This is the November 2011 Swedish issue of Wendy. In Sweden the title is now published 8 times a year, so approximately every 6 weeks. It is a full colour, glossy, stapled magazine that is 52 pages long and, like so many UK comics aimed at a similar age range, it is bagged with gifts and has a cover price of 39 Krona which is around £3.50 - £3.75. There are three different comic strips in this issue, the adventure strip Wendy which is 19 pages long split 10/9 over two parts, the animation style strip Horseland which is 12 pages long and the single page humour strip Snobben & Skrutten. Of the rest of the magazine, 12 pages are given over to features, posters, pin-ups and quizzes using colour photos of horses, there are 4 pages of adverts, 2 pages of a text story with no illustrations, plus the front cover and the contents page.

Wendy is a 15 year old blonde, horse loving girl who lives with her parents and younger sister and who has adventures with her friends. In this Swedish version her surname is Thorsson, however in Germany she is Wendy Thorsteeg, in Denmark Wendy Thorup and in Norway Wendy Thorn. The other characters, both human and equine, change name between countries as well. In this story entitled Den Svarta Mustagen (The Black Mustang) Wendy is on holiday at a ranch in America and is taken by one of the local Indian tribe to see cave paintings of horses while hoping to encounter a wild horse.

Horseland is a more tongue-in-cheek story of an equestrian centre with six friends plus their horses and other assorted pets and farm animals. In the strip the animals talk to each other, but not to the humans, in the same way that Snowy in Tintin or Jolly Jumper in Lucky Luke talk to other animals. In this episode entitled Stackars Timmi! (Poor Timmy!) the humans, along with the help of their animals, rescue hedgehogs would were looking for Timmi, the missing youngest member of the hedgehog family. As the art is in a modern animation style it is not surprising to discover that the strip is based on an American CBS-TV animation series of the same name and was supplied by Tooncafe and not DC Thomson.

Snobben & Skrutten is a one page humour strip about two horses, one a posh thoroughbred and the other a down-to-earth pony. In Denmark the pair are known as Snobby & Snuske while they are Lord & Lauser in Germany. The Snobben & Skrutten page in this issue of Wendy has modern stylised artwork but the strip was originally illustrated by DCT artist Willie Richie in a much more traditional humour style. While it has never been published in the UK it does have an English title, Snooty and Scamp, and a page of it in English was displayed at the Willie Richie art exhibition in Dundee University as part of the Dundee Comics Day in 2010. In his tribute talk about his late friend and colleague on that day, Bill Graham told the attendees that Willie Richie had drawn over 800 pages of Snooty and Scamp over the years for Wendy.

In the downthetubes interview, Bill Graham also listed the various other artists that he had used on the Pony Stories strips including British artists Barrie Mitchell, Jim Colthorpe and Phil Gascoine plus Spanish artists Jaume Forns, Rodrigo Comos, Jesus Pena, Antonio Perez and his son David, and Joaquin Romero along with Rojo, Roca, Blase and Redondo.

Another DC Thomson staffer who worked on Wendy was editor Bill McLoughlin who again was interviewed on downthetubes in 2008 and when asked if any of the thousands of pages of comic strips produced for the Wendy comic had been published in the UK said, "A version of Wendy appeared in Animals & You, but I don't think there are any plans to publish stories here."

Wendy may not the sort of comic that readers of Judge Dredd Megazine or CLiNT would be interested in, but it is a title that has provided work for British comics creators for over two decades.

Further Information

The website of the German Wendy comic is here.
The website of the Danish Wendy comic is here.
The website of the Norwegian Wendy comic is here.
The Swedish Wendy comic does not have a separate website.

German TV advert for Wendy Gee Gee Friends toys.

(* Wendy is © Wendy Promotions Ltd.)


Phil Rushton said...

A nicely researched article on a British comic that is strangely elusive in its country of origin. You may, however, be surprised to learn that Bill Ritchie's Snooty & Scamp did make a few appearances over here as 'Horse Laughs':

Jeremy Briggs said...

Good link - thanks for that Phil. It doesn't surprise me that DC Thomson have used Snooty and Scamp as fill-in pages here and there over the years considering just how many pages of it that they have available.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an interesting article... Any idea who the editor is now?