Blyton meets Spider-Man

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
TAKE THE daughter of Britain's most prolific - and to some, most discredited - children's writer, and introduce her to the man who introduced Spider-Man to the United States.

Let them talk about life, literature and a joint publishing venture, and what do you get? A new comic targeted at six to 10-year-olds and a fair proportion of their dads.

The new title, out this week, is Blue Moon. The woman is Gillian Baverstock, eldest daughter of Enid Blyton, and the man Tim Quinn, writer of comics for the past 20 years.

After Blyton's death in 1968, her work was savaged by critics who accused her of racism, sexism and snobbishness. Libraries and many schools banned her work, and despite a partial rehabilitation she is still frowned upon by many teachers. Not that their disapproval hit sales; she remains a best-seller and is one of the most translated of British authors.

Gillian Baverstock is a former primary head and a stout defender of her mother's reputation. She is president of the Enid Blyton Literary Society and was editor of the Enid Blyton magazine between 1951 and 1958. She is currently consultant editor on Noddy magazine.

Quinn is a long-time writer for Marvel Comics and has as much in common with the genteel, terribly English, Blyton-style as William Hague has with rap artists.

But Quinn says they have more in common than one might expect. "Gillian and I are particularly keen to shake up the fairy-tale character."

Which is where Blue Moon comes in. The content is traditional; Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk,Red Riding Hood and Aladdin. In time-honoured fashion there is a brain-teaser slot and a pictorial history lesson on dinosaurs. And it is not all cartoon strips - a short story featuring Rumpelstiltskin is included to "encourage reading skills".

And then there is the very 90s, comic strip called The Amazing Computer. It's a modern comic, claim the editors, which takes the best of the past and packages it in a manner appealing to today's children.

But in one respect it is very similar to all those Enid Blyton stories - all the characters appear to be white (except for the genie in Aladdin, who is a gruesome green).

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