Historically, U.S. comics have been geared towards boys, and until manga became popular, there were very few comics for girls—and even fewer good ones. The UK, on the other hand, had great girls' comics in the 1960s and 70s—I grew up reading them—but those comics faded away, due more to neglect on the part of editors than a lack of popularity. Says who? Says writer Pat Mills, whose manly credentials are in good order (he was one of the creators of 2000AD and contributed to Judge Dredd) but whose first love is girls' comics. Mills wrote for several girls' titles in the 1970s, and he created one of the best-loved girls' comics, Misty, which he originally conceived as a girl-freindly equivalent of 2000AD.
Mills recently talked to the Bring Back Bunty blog about his career in girls' comics and his plans to resurrect the genre. Clearly, he gets it: Asked what comics have girl appeal, he responded
Girl as lead character. Although they may be unisex, there is an emphasis on the heroine. The objectives are different… a typical heroine wants to overcome obstacles to achieve some sport objective which provides some action. A typical hero for boys wants to kick ass and possibly destroy something! Okay, that’s superficial, but you get the idea. There are key differences as I found to my cost. Thus girls love mystery (what’s in the locked room?) boys don’t care.
Why can't we have more of these? Mills says that girls' comics outsold boys' comics but were ultimately cut down by hostility from editors and creators; he contends that the desire to make "art house" comics rather than write good genre stories for mainstream comics doomed the category and left a gap in the market. The good news, though, is that Mills has been making pitches for a new girls' comic, which will probably start out in digital format. If you're not familiar with the richness of British comics, this article is a good starting point, and Mills, being a veteran, has some interesting insights into comics writing in general. As Bunty would say, jolly good show!