Slave of the Clock (1982)

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Slave of the Clock

Publication 17 July 1982 – 30 October 1982 (skipped an episode in Tammy 25 September 1982)

Artist: Maria Barrera

Writer: this Tammy story is credited to Jay Over, who also wrote Jinty‘s long-running school soap opera, “Pam of Pond Hill”. As we will see, there are also a few thematic similarities between this story and others in Jinty, raising intriguing questions about what else Jay Over may have written in this comic.

Plot: Alison Thorne is a talented dancer, but that’s not the main focus of her interest; she’s a very active girl who enjoys all sorts of things, such as art and socialising with her friends. Dancing is great fun – the first thing we hear from Alison is “Dancing makes me feel good from top to toe!” – but we also hear her think straight afterwards “I’ll have to get a move on if I’m to make it to the Youth Club on time!” In short, she’s a happy-go-lucky girl who isn’t driven by ambition or focused on talent. This isn’t a problem to her, or to her parents either, and it wouldn’t be an issue for most people. Her ballet teacher Miss Dempster, though, has ambitions on Alison’s behalf (and some ambitions for her own fame as a teacher too). Dempster takes her pupil along to creepy Miss Margolia, who promptly hypnotises Alison so that the ticking of a clock will make her think of dancing… and only of dancing… as immediately shown when some friends come round to Alison’s house the next morning and put a clock to her ear to wake her up.

Thereafter, any ticking clock will not only force Alison to dance, but also to lose awareness of her surroundings. That first time, her friends leave her dancing, because she pays no attention to them, and she doesn’t even realise they have been and gone. At the next dance class, Miss Dempster is annoyed and disappointed to see that Alison is still not giving her whole-hearted attention to the class, but then she doesn’t know yet what the real key to Alison’s slavery is – the ticking clock. Another player is about to join the story, though – a girl called Kathy, who has sadly been injured and cannot herself dance any more. Alison, fairly nobly to be honest, thinks to herself that she should be careful to take Kathy’s mind off dancing by focusing on other activities. Once again, a ticking clock – this time a wristwatch – makes Alison dance at an inopportune moment – this time, when Kathy arrives. Not surprisingly, all present think Alison is just showing off in front of Kathy, very cruelly.

Alison manages to smooth over the awkwardness and persuade Kathy that she will have fun staying at their house. I expect she would do, to, but at the same time, Miss Dempster is on the phone to Madame Margolia asking what can have gone wrong with the hypnotism – and as a result, installing a damn great cuckoo clock into her dance studio… Alison nearly doesn’t hear the clock at all as she is keenly getting involved with the local youth club show for which she has firmly ruled out dancing as an option, but she has to go around town putting up posters, and Miss Dempster gets her into the studio on that basis. And of course as soon as she hears the clock, off she goes again…

This sets the pattern for the upcoming plot: Kathy gets crosser and more upset because she thinks she is being messed around, Alison gets more upset because she is mysteriously blacking out and finding herself aching the next day as if she has danced for hours, and Miss Dempster is gleeful because she is getting her way. There is a temporary moment of guilt on the ballet teacher’s part when she feels bad about making Alison dance to her command, but as soon as the prospect of a rich new pupil arises, she gets Alison to perform once again (with a ticking clock around her neck). Not that this works out the way Dempster expects – Alison is put in positive danger by her dancing unaware of her surroundings (Kathy has to rescue her from possibly falling into a swimming pool) and of course Kathy and Alison are thus enabled to band together and realise what must be happening, unlikely though it seems. (I don’t think the rich pupil was very impressed by the relentless and absorbed dancing either! so probably no win for la Dempster on that front either.)

Alison’s parents don’t believe the wild story that the two girls bring to them, of course, but the two friends go off to find and confront Madame Margolia. But Dempster meets them outside the house, and tells them that Madame Margolia has been taken ill – and died! Will Alison never escape the curse of the ticking clock? Seemingly not – even if she is not dancing all the time, her parents are now resorting to taking her to hospital for mental treatment – and a sticking wheel on a hospital trolley triggers her off dancing again, so perhaps the curse is even getting stronger. However, it is in the hospital that they find Madame Margolia – seriously ill, but not dead (what a surprise to find that Miss Dempster lied – not!). Not that they can do anything to contact her, because Alison is whisked off to see the (very unsympathetic) doctor, who says that all this forced dancing is purely in her mind, because she is scared of failing her dance exams – and therefore her parents make her take more dance lessons, with – guess who? Miss Dempster of course. Alison pleads to do her exams with any other teacher rather than her tormentor, but her father replies: “Considering the cruel accusations you’ve made against her, I think Miss Dempster’s a fine person to take you back and help you.” So not only has she to face the cause of her problems, she even has to be grateful to that person?! That’s a nasty twist.

In fact the lessons go surprisingly well, though of course at first Alison is trembling like a leaf and hardly fit to dance. Miss Dempster is feeling guilty again and forebearing to use the power of the clock, and Alison gradually relaxes more and enjoys dance again. Temptation falls in Miss Dempster’s path once again though – can she get Alison into the International Ballet School, where it’s been her dream to have a pupil? By now we know how weak la Dempster’s will is, of course. And yes, the climax of the story is that although Alison had started to happily believe she was cured of the dancing fits, instead she is once again made to dance, for her teacher’s benefit not her own. This time the International Ballet School judges clearly reject Alison’s mechanical, hypnotic dancing, making it very clear just how misguided Miss Dempster’s actions are on all fronts – and a surprise guest appears in the form of a wheel-chair bound Madame Margolia. Alison is finally cured, though Margolia and Dempster require the two friends’ silence as their part of the bargain. There is a last reward for faithful sidekick Kathy though – the limp she has had since her injury is psychosomatic, so Margolia is able to cure her of it with one last application of (benign) hypnotism.

Thoughts: There are some silly aspects to this story – hypnotism is intrinsically an over-the-top trope, and this has the hypnotic subject nearly dancing to her death, which can strike the reader as absurd. On closer read, though, it is a pretty disturbing story, not to say chilling.

The main feature of it is perhaps that it is a ‘grownups know best’ story: protagonist Alison is quite happy as she is, and there is objectively nothing wrong with her, but a grown-up has other ideas of what’s best, and rides rough-shod over the girl protagonist’s clearly-expressed desires and aims. Miss Dempster thinks that it is a waste that Alison doesn’t use her dancing talent; in just the same way, Susie Cathcart’s grandmother thinks that Susie should be using her intellect rather than her gymnastic skill, and so makes her into the “Prisoner of the Bell“.  Similarly, headmistress Purity Goodfellow uses her mystic drug to turn the schoolchildren of Edenford into a paradise along the lines that she deems best – even if the girls need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the infirmary where she will administer the drug. I could continue with more examples – for instance “Battle of the Wills” also has a determined grandmother who makes her granddaughter practice hated ballet rather than the gymnastics that she loves, though no mind-control is seen in that story. It is not the most frequent story theme in this comic, but you can see how it would strike a chord with the readers. It’s striking not only that the girl character expresses her desires clearly and unmistakably, but also that the grown-up simply dismisses them as foolish, worthless, clearly unacceptable – and other grown-ups are likely to be persuaded into this view too, even if they had started out on the side of the (actually perfectly nice and normal) protagonist.

Of course, the grown-up is pretty clearly shown not to have known best, in the end. As with Miss Dempster, their manipulations clearly fail on their own terms, and don’t produce the desired result even if they had seemed promising initially – free will does triumph over coercion, though it’s a long road in getting there. That’s pretty subversive to me, in a kids’ comic – it’s not just saying that grownups can get it wrong, but that they can positively be against you even when they’re not obviously evil. Dempster is very chilling – she is not as witchy-looking as Madame Margolia (a stately crone if ever I saw one), but she just doesn’t seem to care about Alison, except in flashes that are overcome all-too-easily. It’s a proper emotional abuse story, done quite strikingly. Dempster persuades herself that it’s for the right reasons, or that it will be worth it in the end, but not only does she ignore Alison’s stated wishes and aims, she disregards the pleas and the begging that the girl is driven to by the end. Lies and the use of her power for her own ends – Dempster does not look or act conventionally evil, never descending to cackling, but she is inhumanly self-absorbed nevertheless. Madame Margolia is far from innocent (quite apart from having applied the hypnotism in the first place, she also demands silence as her payment for taking it off, which is pretty much barefaced cheek on her part) but she can see the cost of the slavery much more clearly than her younger associate. If Dempster ever got the power to do hypnosis herself, I would be far more worried for the fictional world than with it staying in Margolia’s hands!

Misery Loves Company, or, the sadomasochism of readers?

Attendees at talks like the Comix Creatrix event have a tendency to marvel at the prevalence of stories about misery, cruelty, and slavery in girls comics. It’s particularly the case that, if the attendee is someone who isn’t steeped in reading stories in this genre, they may well bring out loaded words or phrases referring to the ‘sadomasochism’ in the stories, or they may indicate that something is a bit ‘dodgy’ or ‘ooh-er’ (at the end of the talk this came in with discussions of “War Orphan Farm” and “Slave of Form 3B“). I’m not immune to this effect either – in earlier days I have certainly referred to slave stories with wink-wink innuendo, for instance. But it’s not true to the material being referred to, and what’s more I think that it plays into the wrong hands, as I will explain below.

Girls comics feature a lot of cruelty, misery, and slavery, it’s true. Mistyfan’s post on the Slave Story theme gives a relevant run-down of how a large subsection of girls’ stories worked, including a range of examples. We haven’t even given misery and cruelty any specific categories of their own in our list of themes, but they are clearly part of the more discrete story themes of Affliction, Bullying, Cinderella, Guilt Complex, and Troublemaker, to name only a few. Stories frequently feature mental domination, abuse, and physical brutality; may include handcuffs and ropes; and occasionally allow the death of the main character. And these are not incidental aspects of the stories – they are the main reason for them, the thing that makes them popular and memorable. A story may continue for half a year or more with the protagonist growing more and more hard-done-by, and the resolution typically only comes in the last episode or even the last few panels. It’s hardly surprising that this is so much a feature of discussions of girls comics when it comes up outside the confines of a blog like this.

But does this mean either that the stories are full of sadomasochism, or that the readers were secret sadists or masochists to enjoy them in such numbers? I’d say no, to both.

If you look at the stories themselves, and the experiences of the protagonists within then, they are just not stories of sadomasochism. For a start, they’re not overtly sexual (no publisher of the time in the UK would have countenanced that, of course, though as has been pointed out by Paul Gravett, the Shojo manga publishing phenomenon in Japan at around the same time was able to go down this route). They’re not covertly sexual either (not that I think girls of that age and in that era particularly went for hidden innuendo – we passed around Lace and The Thorn Birds, and of course we all devoured the Flowers In The Attic series). Fundamentally the stories of cruelty/slavery , even though they can spark associations of BDSM to the adult reader, weren’t about submission. The protagonists didn’t learn to enjoy being humiliated or dominated by their rivals: it was just that they were not strong enough to win against the villain or the society they were in. It’s a trope about powerlessness and fighting back even when it’s hopeless: eventually, even though it seems terribly unlikely, you may win. That’s a message of strength to young girls, collectively one of the least powerful groups in all society.

Slave stories end with the slave being freed and reinstated, and the villain reformed or defeated. (See the Tammy blog’s post about Slaves of “War Orphan Farm” where all eventually ends happily.) There are some stories where the slave accepts the brainwashing of the antagonist at points, and believes she deserves her punishment (Jinty‘s “Slave of the Swan” includes this plot element), but clearer eyes than the deluded protagonist see through this deception and it is not seriously proposed as something that the protagonist should believe. These are not stories with hidden subtexts of the delights of submission to loving authority in the way that Marston’s Wonder Woman stories were.

There are also a large number of tear-jerker stories which get mentioned as part of this idea of the sadomasochism of girls comics. I think here the feeling is that because such stories are so focused on misery, it is sadistic, or possibly masochistic, of the girl reader to enjoy them so much. Some of the obvious key contenders from the massively popular misery / tear-jerker trope are:

  • “No Time for Pat” in Jinty Annual 1980. Originally printed in June (1972)
  • Stefa’s Heart of StoneJinty (1976), reprinted in Princess / Tammy & Princess (1984)
  • DC Thomson’s “AngelMandy (1977) reprinted three times, with two subsequent sequels One of the few misery stories that takes the story through to the death of the protagonist, but as she was suffering from a terminal disease this feels like a naturalistic and almost uplifting ending – you could say she ‘wins’
  • Nothing Ever Goes RightJudy (1981) Reprinted (1989-90) Another exception of a misery story in which the protagonist dies in the end.

These stories don’t really have a specific villain, though some other similar ones may do. The cause of the misery is often simply cruel fate. Possibly because cruel fate is much less personal, it is sometimes carried through to the logical conclusion whereby the protagonist dies in end: something that you can’t really do with a slave story because then the villain would win. (Unless anyone knows of a counter-example?)

Clearly girl readers loved a good cry! But why label the readers so strongly, bandying around terms like masochist? Didn’t the Victorians also love sentimental sob stories? What about classical tragedy, which far more often ends in unswerving death? Or indeed devotees of East Enders or the Archers? Consumers of these stories don’t get the same labels. I can only see it coming down to the policing of girls’ reading – it falls outside our expectations of what girls should read, and so we boggle at it more than at Victorian sob stories. If we fall in with this policing of ‘appropriate’ reading we play into the hands of authority’s disapproval of comics. Sometimes that manifests itself relatively mildly, as when Mary Cadogan complained about lurid death scenes in girls comics, citing “No Time For Pat” as an example (incorrectly, in fact) and using that as a lever to indicate that all girls comics were of low worth. At the other end of the spectrum, Frederick Wertham used his assertions of inappropriate themes and images to press for wide-ranging ‘reform’ of comic book publishing and the implementation of the US Comic Book Code.

Tammy and Princess merger: 7 April 1984

Tammy and Princess cover

  • Bella – new story (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Rusty Remember Me – from Princess (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Day and Knight – from Princess (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Diana – A Queen’s Dream – complete story (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Maureen Spurgeon) Adapted from Maureen Spurgeon’s “For Love of Elizabeth” in her book “Romantic Stories of Young Love”
  • Cassie’s Coach (writer Alison Christie, artist Tony Coleman)
  • What Kind of Fool Are You? – Quiz (writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone – from Princess (writer Alison Christie, artist Phil Townsend)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)

Princess (series II), no connection to Princess/Princess Tina, was the last comic to merge with Tammy. It had been another short-lived title, lasting 28 issues. In terms of Jinty history, Princess is significant for reprinting some serials from her and Tammy. One, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, carries over into the merger here. It is known from Jinty’s letter page in 1981 that there had been a huge demand in the 1980 Pam’s Poll to reprint the story. But the Editor was still asking readers if they wanted Stefa to be repeated – as if he was hesitating to do it for some reason.

Other stories carrying on from Princess are “Day and Knight” and “Rusty Remember Me”. After some flashbacks filling Tammy readers in on how Dad’s remarriage has brought bully Carrie Knight into Sharon Day’s home, the story moves to its climax with Sharon being driven out of her own home because of the bully. There are also quick flashbacks to fill new readers in on “Rusty Remember Me” as well. But the story looks like it has more to go. Mum now knows the children are hiding a fox, but her fur allergy is complicating things. Dad left home to find work, but when the children see him, he is in a bad way. “Cassie’s Coach” is the only Tammy story to continue in the merger. It does so without any flashbacks for new readers’ benefit, and it’s taken a nasty turn – Cassie has suddenly collapsed from overwork.

The merger does away with “The Crayzees”. Instead, Tammy is taking over Princess’s Joe Collins cartoon, “Sadie in Waiting”. In so doing, it brings us Grovel, the first villainous butler since Pickering from “Molly Mills”, to Tammy. But while Pickering was a cruel, bullying slave driver, Grovel is more of a nuisance, in the way he sucks up to his employer, Princess Bee. Most often this leaves Princess Bee annoyed and Grovel in trouble. But like Pickering, Grovel is capable of scheming to get his own way.

Bella and Pam start afresh in the merger. There is a brief introduction to Bella and her back story that enables new readers to get to grips with her immediately, before her new story starts in earnest. Bella the wanderer decides it’s time to make another move, but it doesn’t look like a good one. Bella’s new location has no gymnastics club, so Bella is trying her hand at sports acrobatics instead. The trouble is, the coach is not very pleasant to her. And she’s not welcome in the home she is boarding in – someone has wrecked her room and left a message telling her to get out!

The Pam story is an introductory one, in which Pam introduces new readers to her school and friends through back issues of “The Pond Hill Printout”. This is a clever way to familiarise the new readers with Pam. Pam’s proper story starts next week.

The story “Diana – A Queen’s Dream” is a curious one. It is adapted from “For Love of Elizabeth” in Maureen Spurgeon’s book “Romantic Stories of Young Love”. In the story, Queen Elizabeth I takes a hand in a forbidden romance in the Spencer family. At the end, she dreams of a Lady Diana Spencer – who is realised as Princess Diana in the 20th century.

 

Ana Rodriguez

One of the artists mentioned in the recent talk about girls comics was Ana Rodriguez. David Roach has a set of portfolio samples used to showcase her drawing abilities (see below) which credits her as such. Initially I had little luck in finding any internet trace of her but eventually I found an entry for her on Spain’s comic artist database, Tebeosfera, as Anita Rodriguez Ruiz . This also links to an entry on Lambiek’s Comiclopedia.

Ana Rodrigues art sample
Art from “Cindy of Swan Lake”, published in Tammy

Stories in Jinty:

Stories in Tammy:

  • Mandy and the House of Models (1973)
  • Trina Drop-Out (1973)
  • Last Song at Sunset (1974)
  • Cindy of Swan Lake (1979-80)

(The latter list is taken from Catawiki, with many thanks to that site.)

She also drew a large number of stories in DC Thomson titles such as Debbie, Judy, Tracy. See the Girls Comics of Yesterday site for posts tagged with her name.

Her particular focus is clearly on girls comics, though there is little solid information on the Tebeosfera and Comiclopedia sites about other work done by her. Here are some pages from “Blind Ballerina”, where Ana Rodriguez’s showcasing of the girl protagonist’s faces is very evident.

Ana Rodriguez 27 September 1975

Ana Rodriguez 27 September 1975
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Ana Rodriguez 27 September 1975
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Last issue of Jinty merger: Tammy & Jinty 10 July 1982

Tammy and Jinty cover 10 July 1982

  • Bella – final episode (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • The Destiny Dolls – final episode (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Molly Mills and the Ghosts – complete story (artist Douglas Perry) – last appearance
  • Bessie Bunter – last appearance
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Human Zoo – final episode (artist Guy Peeters, writer Pat Mills)
  • Can You Spread a Little Sunshine? – Quiz (writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Punchinello’s Dance – The Strange Story (artist Mario Capaldi) – last appearance
  • Di and the Dolphins – final episode (artist Eduardo Feito)

This is the last issue of the Tammy and Jinty merger. Next issue will be a clean break that is most notable for starting credits in Tammy! (Thank you, Wilf Prigmore, for starting them!) Of course the centre pages are full of the “great news” and the stories and gifts that will be present next week.

So this issue is filled with a lot of endings, including the end of features that have been in Tammy for years. This is the last time the Jinty logo appears. Curiously, there is a small ampersand beside it instead of the usual “and”. Molly and Bessie make their last-ever appearances in Tammy. They both end on regular stories, which in the case of Molly is a complete story. There is nothing to say they have ended. There is no Wee Sue either. This is the last issue to feature a Strange Story. But it is only labelled a Strange Story; the Storyteller himself is nowhere to be seen. And there is no Monster Tale. But there will be several monster-themed stories running for a while yet, so there must have been some scripts left over from the series.

All of Tammy’s running serials, including the current Bella story, end in this issue to make way for the clean break next issue. The reprint of “The Human Zoo” from Jinty had an episode or two cut out so it could end in this issue. It was announced last issue that Pam would take a break in this issue, no doubt to make some room for clearing out more material here.

Women Making Girls Comics – further thoughts arising

Talk at the House of Illustration: Paul Gravett, Mel Gibson, Jenni Scott, David Roach (thanks to Alice London for image)

The excitement of Saturday’s event is receding a bit; I have subsequently thought of further things that came up in the discussion that will be relevant to readers of this blog.

One important point is David’s repeated emphasis of how ‘cheap’ IPC were. For instance, to get stories reprinted or translated, they didn’t photocopy the art, send out the copy and keep the originals carefully for future reference: instead they sent the originals out to Spain or wherever, where the new text was physically pasted over the original words on the artwork itself. The original logo was torn away and pasted over or drawn over (and typically in IPC generally the artist signature was tippexed out, though people can’t have always been that rigorous over that because quite a lot of signatures survive).

A good example of this is shown in the Rodrigo Comos page below, which is from “Horse From The Sea”; it survives because it was reprinted in Princess (David is not aware of any other Jinty pages having survived). The logo itself was produced in house and was again not copied for re-use week by week: typically the same logo was removed from week 1 and re-pasted onto the space left for it on week 2’s artwork, from what David says.

Comos Horse From The Sea orig

The company didn’t want to spend money on storing old artwork; it simply didn’t value anything it wasn’t immediately using. David recounts horrific stories of mistreatment of artwork – used as cutting mats when working on newer art, or put on floors to soak up the rain. (Yes, really!) Apparently there was a huge bonfire (literally) of girls comics artwork once the company decided it didn’t need it any longer. When people say that none of the IPC girls’ comics artwork survives, this is the history that they are referring to – one in which a relatively recent reprint of Misty (as recounted by an audience member) was done from issues of the weekly comic, not from pristine art cleaned and tidied up. One feeble ray of hope might be that if the originals were sent to Spanish or Dutch publishers who had a better approach to keeping the artwork then perhaps some might be found in those countries, as David does not think that artwork sent for translation was typically returned to the original publishers.

I took the opportunity to ask David how it came to be that Tammy published credits in the later issues. His memory of Wilf Prigmore’s answer (the Tammy editor at the time) was that Wilf just decided to do it withouth asking anyone’s permisson, and no-one made him stop. David’s assumption was that the credits continued until the cancellation of Tammy but in recent posts on this blog we’ve seen that this wasn’t the case. Did a new editor take over Tammy in the final weeks after 11 February 1984? In any case, many heartfelt thanks are clearly due to Wilf and his unilateral decision!

I also thought to ask David something that there have been a lot of myths and rumours about, namely why were there so many Spanish artists in girls and boys comics of the time? He is the right person to ask about this (he has a book in the works about Spanish artists, which I shall be keenly interested to hear more about when any announcements are made). His understanding was that there was simply so many pages to be filled at the time that the British artists simply wouldn’t have been able to do it all! He specifically demystified the assumption / rumour that the Spanish artists were paid less and therefore undercut the rates of the British artists – they were paid the same. And of course there are a great number of extremely good Spanish artists, too, so the British publishers were very definitely getting their money’s worth.

I nearly forgot to mention one particular key point – in thinking about the pay ledgers that David saw, he was able to tell us that in the 50s, the absolute majority of names on the pay books were of female creators – perhaps 90%. Comparing that to the 70s and 80s, the number of female creators involved had obviously gone down subsequently. This was tentatively linked with the fact that the number of years that each female creator was visible on the pay books was not all that long, overall – perhaps a few years each, or some ten years of career visible on those ledgers at maximum per creator. Were they stopped from working once they became wives and mothers? Clearly not entirely so, by the anecdotes recorded from Alison Christie and Benita Brown, both of whom wrote at home while bringing up young families. But that was later, and times could well have changed by then.

There are many more snippets that I was very interested to hear at the talk, from audience members too. I will try to add key items to this post as they come to me, without making it hugely long.

“Women Making Girls Comics” – talk at the House of Illustration, 16 April 2016

Along with Dr Mel Gibson, David Roach, and a good-sized audience, on Saturday I took part in a lively and high-quality discussion about female creators of girls comics and many other related topics. It was organized as part of the Comix Creatrix exhibition of female comics artists; a great subject for an exhibition (particularly timely in the light of the kerfuffle at the Angouleme festival this year). As tends to be the case, UK children’s comics didn’t get much of a look-in at the exhibition, though there is a page of Evelyn Flinders pencil art and an incomplete piece of Shirley Bellwood unpublished Misty art both on display. The exhibition is focused on mature readers on purpose – hence the ‘x’ in the word ‘comix’ – but the gap in the coverage of UK girls comics was pretty palpable following discussions on co-organizer Paul Gravett’s facebook page. And lo, it came to pass that some months later the three of us named above were convened at the House of Illustration, near King’s Cross.

Paul Gravett introduced us all to kick off the proceedings, and Mel gave a more in-depth introduction of our various areas of specialities. Phoenix has described the event from his perspective, over on the Comics UK Forum, and there are some other posts on social media by attendees, with further description and photos. The talk was some two hours long (until shortly before it started I’d assumed it would be just 1 hour or so, but there was so much to talk about it never dragged!) and included time for questions as we went along, and afterwards too.

I can’t at this point cover everything that we discussed, partly because I was obviously not in a position to take notes, and partly because of lack of time. I understand that the venue is supposed to have been recording the discussion, and assuming that is forthcoming I will update with details of how to listen to the recording. There are a couple of immediate points of ‘breaking news’ arising from the event, though – David Roach has dug out a set of samples by Emilia Prieto, who is clearly the artist on “Sceptre of the Toltecs” and “Kerry In The Clouds” – both art and signature match. It’s not very clear to me right now as to how the original misattribution could have happened, but the signatures of both artists are very similar, and of course there is always the question of whether a pseudonym was used at any point. I shall nevertheless be amending this blog’s references to specify “Emilia Prieto” instead.

Emilia Prieto
NB artist signature was seen on a different piece of art that I did not photograph

David also clarified some outstanding questions about the artist on “The Cult of the Cat”, credited on this blog as “H. Romeu” or “Honiera Romeu”. The artist’s pen name for many years was “Homero”, riffing off the Homer of antiquity (and ‘Honiera’ must therefore simply be a typo that crept in somewhere along the line). From the end of the 1970s or the beginning of the 1980s he reverted to his real surname (he was a Catalan, and in the Franco era it was forbidden to use Catalan surnames – people had to use the Castilian equivalent) for all purposes. So his real name, which I will change all the references on this blog to use, is “Jaume Rumeu”. However, as his penname during the relevant period was still Homero, I will include this as reference too. It may take a little time to apply this change consistently so do bear with me.

Jaume Rumeu letter

One of the discussions points that I was particularly intrigued to hear was the fact that David catalogued some 40,000 pages of Amalgamated Press / Fleetway artwork, and had sight of the payment books from the relevant times – between the 1940s and 1960s I think he said. Between that and the fact that he has information originating from Barry Coker’s agency which dealt directly with many Spanish artists, David clearly has a huge amount of knowledge that is not only derived from long experience of analysing art, but also from actual records and archives. Watch this space for a future email interview with him, therefore!

 

Jinty and Penny 17 January 1981

Jinty 17 January 1981

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • The Ghost Dancer (artist Phil Townsend)
  • A Gift for Gaynor – Gypsy Rose story
  • Behind the Screen – Record Breakers
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Land of No Tears (artist Guy Peeters, writer Pat Mills)
  • Jinty’s Magic! – Feature
  • No Medals for Marie (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alison Christie)
  • Winning Ways 41: Netball – A Two-Footed Landing (writer Benita Brown
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)

Three weeks into 1981, but winter chill is still in the air in Jinty – see the dog’s breath on the cover? The chill continues in “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost”, with Sir Roger trying ice skating, but a spoilsport is out to destroy the fun by smashing the ice to pieces.

In “Land of No Tears” there is chill of a different sort – Perfecta’s idea of disciplining Cassy is to force her to take a shower that is 10 degrees below zero! We learn that this is what Perfecta does with herself every morning, for twice the length of time.

We all encounter a scheming cousin/foster sister/stepsister story now and then, and it’s happening in Pam of Pond Hill. Pam’s cousin Veronica is making all sorts of bragging claims about her abilities, and Pam is beginning to doubt they are true. But Veronica has turned everyone against Pam, and even her best friend Tracey doubts her. However, the blurb for next week hints that Pam will expose her cousin.

Ferne has sworn never to dance again to punish her father, whom she blames for her mother’s death. But we know she won’t be able to keep that up. Sure enough, Ferne gives in and starts dancing secretly. But that is already leading to repercussions when fellow ballet student Jolie spots her dancing from a distance without realising who she is. And Jolie is a big blabbermouth! The plot is really going to thicken now.

The lengths Marie is forced to go to because of her jealous godmother’s mandate that she wins no medals – this week it’s turning to vandalism to avoid winning a medal! What next?

This week’s Gypsy Rose story prompted a intriguing letter from a reader later on: the reader’s name is Gaynor, she is thirteen, and loves gymnastics – same as the girl in the story! Gaynor must have treasured this issue forever to show her family. Gypsy Rose looks like she has been drawn by the same artist, so this must be a completely new story, one of the few Gypsy Rose stories of 1981 that is not a recycled Strange Story.

Tansy is put in charge of minding a neighbour’s budgie this week. Sounds simple? Oh, no, we know it will get complicated.

In “Life’s a Ball for Nadine”, the goalkeeper gets some unusual training to get her back into form. She, Nadine and the others are catching rubbish thrown by her unruly rock ‘n’ roll brothers who don’t like the acts in a talent show that aren’t rock ‘n’ roll – especially the disco act, of course.

 

Jinty and Penny 29 November 1980

Jinty 29 November 1980

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Girl the World Forgot (artist and writer Veronica Weir)
  • Angela Angel-Face – first episode (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Behind the Screen – Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • The Demon Eye – Gypsy Rose story (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • Sue’s Daily Dozen (artist José Casanovas)
  • Winning Ways 35: Netball – Dodging (writer Benita Brown)
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Care for Your Countryside – feature

In this issue, Pam wraps up one of her most classic tales, her school trip to France. It has climaxed in a most unexpected manner – the French teacher being mistakenly arrested for kidnapping! What a story to get around the school when they get home! Fortunately the misunderstanding is sorted out and everyone is back home. But while the kids are all agog for an even bigger adventure next time, the teachers seem to be nervous wrecks from the French trip for some reason…

“Angela Angel-Face”, a reprint from Sandie, starts in this issue. It is not regarded as one of Jinty’s better moments.

In “Girl the World Forgot”, we get a hint that Shona will be home in time for Christmas, because her mother has bought her Christmas presents although she thinks Shona will never get them (or won’t she?). Meanwhile, Shona’s struggle for survival gets worse and worse as winter sets in, food is getting scarce, and Shona feels unwell, with no medical facility available.

Sue seems to be more comfortable with the Daily Dozen now that nobody has burned her at the stake or anything for wearing Gran Hayden’s witch gear and mixing her potions in public. But then Sue begins to doubt the Daily Dozen again when one of her clients collapses.

In “Life’s a Ball for Nadine”, it’s fancy footwork time as Nadine attempts to attend both a disco competition and a school netball game in Birmingham.

Sir Roger is not cock-a-hoop when he tries out the hula hoop, but it does help him to hoop two criminals. And in this week’s Gypsy Rose story, a girl’s superstition about cats bringing bad luck is annoying her friend, but saves lives when it leads to a premonition of impending disaster.

 

Jinty 16 June 1979

Jinty cover 16 June 1979

  • Casey, Come Back! – first episode (unknown artist – Merry)
  • Bizzie Bet and the Easies (artist Richard Neillands)
  • The Forbidden Garden (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Alley Cat
  • A Girl Called Gulliver (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Nothing to Sing About (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Take Your Pick! – General Knowledge Quiz
  • The Disappearing Dolphin – first episode (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • The Four-Footed Friends (artist Peter Wilkes, writer Alison Christie)
  • Your Own Seaside Rock! (feature)
  • Pandora’s Box (artist Guy Peeters)

As the cover announces, there are two new stories in this issue. And the moment we open up the issue, we see the first one: “Casey, Come Back!”. Josie Stanton lives a lonely life with her grandfather. While not downright cruel or abusive like some guardians we’ve seen in Jinty, grandfather does not show Josie any affection, takes her for granted, and just expects her to work hard on the farm. Casey the dog is the only friend Josie has. Then grandfather deprives Josie of even that when he sells Casey! Looks like he’s taken Josie for granted once too often.

The other story is another Trini Tinturé story, “The Disappearing Dolphin”. An underwater archaeological dig turns to mystery when a dolphin shows up and then disappears without explanation.

“The Four-Footed Friends” is now on its penultimate episode, so we will be seeing a new story pretty soon. Mrs Marshall finally pushes Laura too far with her ridiculous carry-on about germs and mixing with ‘common’ people. So now Laura is running away, with the dogs in tow!

In “The Forbidden Garden”, they have advanced the programmed rainfall, which puts Laika’s precious plants in danger of being ruined. Talk about “it never rains but it pours”!

In part two of “Nothing to Sing About”, Linette’s father dies. Linette blames the fans, despite her mother saying it was just a heart attack that could have struck at any time. Linette’s bitterness is making everyone suffer, and she’s vowed never to sing again. Hmm, that may be harder than you think, Linette!

Pandora has been confident that she can get by at stage school without her aunt’s box of witchcraft. But her confidence is shattered when she gets mixed feedback on why she was such a hit at her school show, with some saying that she is not all that good and just gets noticed because she is “so pushy” and a “big-head” (no arguments there). So she gives in to her aunt and accepts the box.

In “A Girl Called Gulliver”, Maloney snatches Gwenny’s bag to get his hands on the Lilliputians. But then a policeman gets his hands on Maloney! However, more trouble is soon brewing for the Lilliputians, in the form of a vacuum cleaner and then a cat, whom Minty is determined to fight.

Bizzie Bet hopes the Hobbies Fair will make the Easies more active. But of course they go for a hobby where they can still go easy. And it’s yoga. Maybe they should try meditation too.