Jinty 7 April 1979

Jinty cover 7 April 1979

  • Alice in a Strange Land (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Bizzie Bet and the Easies (artist Richard Neillands)
  • The Forbidden Garden (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Alley Cat
  • Prisoner of the Bell (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • I’ll Make Up for Mary (artist Guy Peeters, writer Alison Christie)
  • Daughter of Dreams
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • The Four-Footed Friends (artist Peter Wilkes, writer Alison Christie)
  • Children of Edenford (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Your Easter Bunny– feature

“Alice in a Strange Land” finds the temple is a prison that nobody is willing to escape from because of what lies beyond it. The guards don’t even try to stop Alice. And Alice gets her first hint of why when she finds the city outside is nothing but ruins and nobody around. This land is getting stranger and stranger!

Bizzie Bet tries to get the Easies into training. But they end up with injuries from it, which gives them a valid reason to lie about again.

Desperation drives Laika to break the law and steal water for her plants. To make matters worse, Gladvis the “meanest prefect in the school” has photographed her in the act. And it looks like Gladvis is worse than Laika thinks, because it looks like she is out to blackmail Laika instead of reporting her.

Grandma is determined to bring the prisoner of the bell back under her power and sets her up to be expelled from the gymnastics college. Now that is not very becoming for a grandmother!

Ann tries to take Mary’s place at the drama club, and so far, so good. But will it stay that way or will the jinx that seems to dog Ann’s every attempt to emulate Mary strike again? Meanwhile, in “Daughter of Dreams” Sally Carter is gearing up for a dance production.

Mrs Marshall is foiled once more in her efforts to break up “The Four-Footed Friends”. Then she’s off on her high horse again when she discovers the council is going to extend the estate, which will bring more “riff raff” into the area. She does not realise it is so the “riff raff” will be liberated from dreadful slums.

Patti is still waging war against whatever is turning the “Children of Edenford” into goody-goody automatons – but in the last panel it looks like she has succumbed to it herself!

 

 

Jinty 28 April 1979

Jinty cover 28 April 1979.jpeg

Cover artist: Audrey Fawley

Alice in a Strange Land (artist Terry Aspin)

  • Bizzie Bet and the Easies (artist Richard Neillands)
  • The Forbidden Garden (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Prisoner of the Bell – last episode (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • I’ll Make Up for Mary (artist Guy Peeters, writer Alison Christie)
  • Mirror, Mirror – feature (Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Daughter of Dreams
  • The Four-Footed Friends (artist Peter Wilkes, writer Alison Christie)
  • Children of Edenford (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Make Matchbox Furniture – feature

We have a very beautiful, striking cover from Audrey Fawley. Instead of advertising a story, it advertises the beauty treatment feature on the centre pages.

“Alice in a Strange Land” is forced to take the mixture to make her forget her past life. Now that may not have been much of a life, but it’s better than being a slave in the strange land in South America. Then Alice has a flashback of her old life, so the drug clearly isn’t all that perfect.

Meanwhile, Patti and Jilly find a way to break through the headmistress’s strange power to turn her pupils into goody-goody automatons of perfection. So now they’ve turned on the school sprinkler system to flush it out of everyone!

It’s the last episode of “Prisoner of the Bell”. It looks like grandmother has finally won and turned Susie into the prisoner of the bell completely. But it all backfires on grandmother at the worst possible moment and could get Susie killed! There is no blurb saying what will replace this story, so we just have to wait and see.

The dreadful cleaning job Laika has been blackmailed into is taking its toll on her (and giving her a taste of what it is like to work in the dreaded Industrial Zone where her father will be forced to work in later on). She can barely drag herself back home, she flops at her school test because of her horrible job, and still no water for her plants. And now vicious dogs that have been dumped in the Forbidden Zone are threatening to eat her up!

Ann leads a protest demonstration at school. But as with all her other attempts at emulating Mary, it all goes pear-shaped and Ann ends up in Coventry just as she is planning a party.

Another party is threatened too, in “The Four-Footed Friends”. It’s Riley’s birthday, but that’s not stopping spoilsport Mrs Marshall from keeping him away from his friend Winston. However, they score one over Mrs Marshall and it’s a happy birthday for Riley.

Gatecrashers have wrecked yet another party in this issue, in “Daughter of Dreams”. It gets even worse when imaginary friend Pauline suggests a conga dance, which backfires. But Pauline is determined to put things right…

This issue also advertises the first issue of Penny, a title destined merge with Jinty the following year. Penny had more impact on Jinty than Lindy, the previous title to merge with Jinty.

 

 

Jinty 23 November 1974

Jinty cover 23 November 1974

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx from St. Jonah’s (artist Mike White)
  • Jackie’s Two Lives (artist Ana Rodriguez, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Merry at Misery House (writer Terry Magee)
  • The Kat and Mouse Game (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Wild Horse Summer (artist and writer unknown)
  • Always Together… (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Bird-Girl Brenda (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Slave of the Mirror (artist Carlos Freixas)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)

Katie Jinks is trying to help her dad with his interview for a new job, but of course jinxes it all over the place! The real problem though is that her dad’s reputation has been blackened by the way he lost his last job, leaving Katie furious and desperate to clear his name.

Jackie Lester is finding out more and more how Mrs Mandell will drive her cruelly and without regard for safety. In Misery House, stray dog Mr Nobody is looking out for Merry’s safety but will that work for long, or will he be destroyed, as per the Warden’s orders?

New girl Leticia is about as soppy as you can get, and a soft target for Kat’s mean-spirited domination over her. This story reminds me quite a lot of “Slave of Form 3B”, but without the hypnotism. Kat’s wangling gets Mouse moved out of the hostel where she’s supposed to stay (and where other people might find out about Kat’s emotional hold over the shyer girl) and into staying at Kat’s own home.

Revenge-crazed Jed sets it up to look like the Wild Horse has escaped from her barn, even though it’s the middle of a thunderstorm – but Daphne has seen what’s going on, and gone with her beloved white horse. In the darkness, Jed’s shot doesn’t hit the horse, but the girl! He is filled with remorse, but the mare doesn’t know that, and this may be the turning point that may turn her wild in earnest… We are promised the final episode next week.

The homeless family in “Always Together…” go from bad to worse luck. They are not dragged back to the children’s home, but Jilly’s hurt her arm badly and can’t earn money, and Beth goes too close to the fire and sets herself alight!

 

Jinty 16 November 1974

Jinty cover 16 November 1974

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx from St. Jonah’s (artist Mike White)
  • Jackie’s Two Lives (artist Ana Rodriguez, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Merry at Misery House (writer Terry Magee)
  • The Kat and Mouse Game (artist Jim Baikie) – first episode
  • Wild Horse Summer  (artist and writer unknown)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Always Together… (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • The Hostess With the Mostest (artist Stanley Houghton)
  • Slave of the Mirror (artist Carlos Freixas)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)

The cover story with Katie Jinks has a humorous start (with a prat-fall as usual), but moves quickly into a more thrilling story-line than we usually expect from Katie. Her father is home from sea, but with a secret – he was fired from his job because he was suspected of smuggling! Katie vows to help get him started in a new life, but you can also bet that she’ll end up trying to find out what really happened, too.

Jackie is turning her back further against her real family, while being ensnared more and more by Mrs Mandell. And more mysteries – how can Monsieur Charelle, the famous couturier, say that her measurements have hardly changed since the last time he saw her, two years ago?

Merry and co at Misery House have discovered that their mystery visitor isn’t a ghost, but a dog that has sneaked in! He’s lovely company for them, but of course the warden won’t be happy.

This issue sees the start of another rivalry / slavery story – “The Kat and Mouse Game”. Leticia has just joined ballet school Barton Grange, and spiteful bossy Kat has got her claws into her already, getting her to do chores and listen only to her and no one else. And of course even though Leticia – or Mouse, as Kat nicknames her – will have her chances of success at the school spoiled, too.

“Wild Horse Summer” is at a dramatic point – Daphne is stuck down an old mine shaft, an dependent on the wild horse to go for help. Of course the wild horse is torn between her love for Daphne and her fear of humans, but in the end she is instrumental in rescuing Daphne. It sounds like wonderful news for the girl, who will surely be allowed to keep the horse after all that – but farmhand Jed is still crazy with hatred for the white mare!

The kids in “Always Together…” are sleeping in a remote cave on the moors but still trying to do normal things, like taking part in a school concert. But one of the attendees to the concert is a Mr Giles, who knows they are runaways and may drag them back to the children’s home if he spots them… always a cliffhanger in this story.

Mia Blake is still thinking that she can stop being the Slave of the Mirror if she throws it away – but it will not break or free her from the spell of driving away all guests at the house run by Mia’s sister.

Jinty 27 September 1975

Jinty 27 September 1975

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Blind Ballerina (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Valley of Shining Mist (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)
  • “The Green People” (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Barracuda Bay (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)

Katie Jinks finds that a simple game of football kicks off some gender wars between her girls school and the local boys school, with the girls ending up trying to beat the boys at stereotypically ‘boys’ activities and the reverse. Luckily, they’re all amusingly hopeless at everything! It continues in the subsequent week’s issue too.

The Blind Ballerina escapes from near-death and is rushed straight to the theatre for her debut as a prima ballerina! But a further turn of fate awaits her on stage – Barbie hesitates visibly in front of the audience, who don’t know that she is blind and therefore do not realise the joyous feeling she has as she can suddenly see again! Will it be only temporary, or will she get to see her little sister with her newly-regained sight?

Despite some protective rowan berries, the evil Miss Marvell has managed to get a patsy to do the dirty work of pinching the corn dolly from Lucy’s bag at school – leaving the girls defenseless against her dark works, unless they manage to steal her back.

In “Dora Dogsbody”, a mix-up of hairdressers sees Ma Siddons getting the latest hair-cut – for a poodle! Heh heh, she does look a fright.

Debbie Lane has tasted success for the first time in “Valley of the Shining Mist” – thanks to the mysterious Mrs Maynard she has won a talent competition, but forgotten the challenge that she was set by the same lady. It turns out (after she has spent most of the prize money) that the challenge is to bring the whole lot – £100 – to the Valley to hand over! As her nasty cousin Elaine says, surely Debbie’s being taken for a ride!

Sister and brother Solveig and Per are literally taken for a ride in “Song of the Fir Tree”: they are making their way across Germany to return to Norway, hiding in the back of a lorry. When it stops at a checkpoint, the kids are locked up by Russian soldiers, but not for long – their lovely singing voices see them fed, clothed, and helped on their way to the next stage. Not that they are safe for long, of course…

The saga of “The Green People” is nearing its end. Evil aunt Zella has sent the true rulers of the peaceful underground world to meet the giant monster Krakengerd, expecting them to be slain. That may yet happen, along with their friend, surface dweller Julie!

In “Ping-Pong Paula”, table tennis champ Paula continues to be torn between her Mum and her Dad. Mum has left the house in disgust and taken Paula with her – but where can they stay? Family can’t help, and the friend they end up staying with is not really a good friend to Paula, even if she is to her mother…

Emilia Prieto

Thanks to a find by David Roach of a set of art samples, we are changing the attributions on this blog for two Jinty stories, from Cándido Ruiz Pueyo to Emilia Prieto.

  • Sceptre of the Toltecs (1976-77)
  • Kerry In the Clouds (1977)

Emilia Prieto is a mysterious artist; I cannot find out anything about her online. There is a Costa Rican artist and political caricaturist by the same name but nothing on the Spanish artist resource, Tebeosfera. She could be real but just not recorded anywhere – perhaps because of a short career or similar – or this name could be a pseudonym. If so then Cándido Ruiz Pueyo is a plausible candidate – looking on his Comiclopedia entry the style that the girls shoes are done in, and the way the signature is designed, are very similar.

Emilia Prieto

See also previous discussion on this subject.

Sceptre of the Toltecs pg 1 signature

Emilia Prieto only drew two stories for Jinty and I do not know of others for other girls comics. (Please let me know if you have more information!) “Sceptre of the Toltecs”, the first story, is rather too stiff for my taste, but in “Kerry in the Clouds” Prieto is much more in the swing of things, I think. I love the hairstyles and the attention to the details of textiles and clothing, and the faces have got lots of energy.

Kerry In The Clouds pg 1

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OuBaPo Experiment: Waves of Fear II

In my latest Jinty OuBaPo experiment, I have taken an entire episode – in this case the penultimate episode of Waves of Fear – and completely redrawn it using stock photographs and the cute cats from my computer cartoon kit. So Clare & Co have all been turned into cute cats, which also enables the episode to be rendered in a more cartoony fashion. The text stays the same, though in some cases I have added some touches of my own, such as changing some of the punctuation for dramatic purposes. I also took the opportunity to lay it into the spiteful Jean a whole lot more, whom I feel was not punished as much as she could have been in the original story. The original episode follows my Photoshop reworking of it.

Waves of Fear page 1

 

 

 

 

Waves of Fear page 2

Waves of Fear page 3

Original episode (click thru)

 

 

 

 

Shirley Bellwood

Shirley Bellwood, who died in January 2016 aged 84, is probably particularly familiar to most readers of this blog as the key Misty artist, creator of the beautiful cover and interior images of the mysterious dweller in the Cavern of Dreams. However, as this very informative piece on Down the Tubes explains, she had a long artistic career from well before Misty was published, starting in the 1950s.

In the pages of Jinty, she was most usually seen as the illustrator of text stories in Specials and Annuals. There were one or two comics stories drawn by her but these were reprinted from earlier titles.

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Slave of the Clock (1982)

Sample images

Page 1 of Slave of the Clock

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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.