The Darkening Journey

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Publication: 26 March 1977 – 6 August 1977 (20 episodes)

Artist: José Casanovas

Writer: Unknown

Summary

Julie Burton’s eyesight is growing dimmer and dimmer, and her main support is her golden Labrador, Thumper, who almost acts as a guide dog. There are some bright spots in her future: her father has got a new job over in the west by the sea, and there is hope that an upcoming operation might give her good sight again. However, on the cusp of leaving to travel miles away to their new home, Julie and Thumper are separated and the dog suffers a blow to the head that leaves his own eyesight blurry. A friendly talking rook, Beaky, befriends Thumper and together they make their long difficult way west towards where Thumper remembers Julie’s new house to be located.

Their way is fraught with difficulties: it’s mostly humans who get in their way, either for positive or negative motives. First the talking rook is nearly recaptured by his former owners, only to be rescued by Thumper; then they both need to run away from a selfish rich lady who only wants to keep them while she’s able to show them both off to her snooty friends. (The rather more sympathetic chauffeur and secretary help them to escape in the end.) Sometimes Thumper and Beaky save the humans (foiling some lorry hijackers), sometimes they save each other (Beaky brings human help to save a trapped or injured Thumper more than once, though Thumper returns the favour when they are both trapped by floodwaters).

In the meantime, Julie is pining away thinking about Thumper, and he likewise seems to have an almost telepathic bond with her – her image is shown hovering over the setting sun more than once, as a beacon calling him to her, and she likewise often seems to be able to sense his misery. Increasing his woes, Thumper is suffering from more and more blind spells too. But there are many times when temporary blindness and separation anxiety are not the biggest evils they face – a few of the humans they meet have plans to put Thumper down; he is bullied by a pack of stronger dogs; and another time he is nearly eaten by rats.

Though by the end, Thumper in particular is moving more and more slowly, they eventually reach the westernmost limit of their travels: the final moorland, and the sea. The dramatic tension tightens right at the end as the dog, careless with happiness, hurts his foot badly and is trapped by the rising tide: but Beaky comes through again and brings Julie’s dad to the final rescue. All is well, once the two beloved friends each have operations to restore their eyesight.

Themes and commentary

It is an intrinsically pretty sentimental story, with the dog protagonist gifted with an implausibly good skill in navigating his way cross-country in the absence of a definite location to head for. (Not to mention the almost telepathic nature of the mental connection that he and Julie seem to share.) It must have been a popular story, at 20 episodes long and featuring on the cover twice, though at the same time not rivalling the most classic Jinty stories that were also running at this point. (Though they were shorter stories, both “Creepy Crawley” and “The Spell of the Spinning Wheel” featured on the cover four times in the same time period.) Journey stories in general seem to have been very popular at this time, and the addition of sympathetic animal characters will have given it a different angle from other journey stories.

José Casanovas is also always a talent to enjoy reading. His art style is much busier and ‘fuller’ than that of many other Jinty artists, who often like to include a lot more white space in their finished pages, but it makes a nice change of pace and feels very solid. This is a story that, while far from the first rank of stories running in this title at this time, is enjoyable on its own merits and will have a number of fans.

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Jinty 30 April 1977

  • Creepy Crawley (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Cassie and the Cat – Gypsy Rose story (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Mark of the Witch! — final episode (Phil Townsend)
  • Alley Cat
  • The Darkening Journey (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Robot Who Cried (artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Kerry in the Clouds (artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel (artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie)
  • Don’t Forget to Remember! (craft feature)

This issue is from a great period of Jinty’s run. It includes a number of real classic stories that have stood the test of time and memory (“Creepy Crawley”, “Spell of the Spinning Wheel”, and “The Robot Who Cried” being the obvious stand-outs) and all in all is a really solid read.

“Creepy Crawley” shows the how mean the main character Jean Crawley can be: she goes to see her rival Mandy who is recovering from the bee stings that the scarab brooch caused to happen. But even when not under the control of the scarab badge Jean allows her jealousy to control her, enough so that she voluntarily goes back to wearing the scarab and letting it give her ideas on how to get the better of Mandy. And it’s not just limited to ideas – the scarab’s control over insects means that Mandy’s beautiful wooden sculpture is eaten by termites before it can beat Jean’s pretty painting in the school art competition.

In the Gypsy Rose story “Cassie and the Cat”,  Cassie rescues a cat from some bullies, but the cat is far from what it seems. Enjoy the creepy story, atmospherically drawn by Terry Aspin, at the end of the post.

It is the final episode of “Mark of the Witch!”, and outcast Emma Fielding redeems herself by saving rich girl Alice Durant, the girl who she’s persecuted in revenge for the persecution that Emma herself has suffered at the hands of the local villagers. As they keep each other afloat in the raging river, Emma takes a moment to think “It’s funny.. I could die, but I feel sort of happy! Happy to be fighting and struggling with Alice instead of against her!”

“The Robot Who Cried” is an invention of the bushily-moustached Professor Targett – codenamed KT5, she escapes from the laboratory and discovers that she can pass for a real girl – assuming she can sort out how human emotions like friendliness or loneliness work in real life, of course.

In “Kerry In The Clouds”, Kerry Langland is taken under the wing of famous actress Gail Terson, but Ms Terson clearly has an agenda of her own. There are echoes of the story “Jackie’s Two Lives”, also written by Alan Davidson – both feature a poor girl with ambitions beyond her station, manipulated in sinister ways by an older woman. Spanish artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo provides some very stylish hairstyles and clothing.

Spell of the Spinning Wheel” is a rare foray of Alison Christie’s into a spooky mystery story – I wish she had done more of it, it was very memorable. Rowan Lindsay is sporadically struck down by a mystery tiredness – she’s worked out that it is related to hearing humming sounds but she hasn’t persuaded anyone other than her dad to believe her yet, and the doctors have now forbidden her from running again.

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Jinty 26 September 1981

schoolgirls passing a collection box with the words Mayors Appeal on it

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

  • Freda’s Fortune – first episode (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • All over a farthing… – text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Child’s Play – Gypsy Rose story (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Holiday Hideaway (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Winning Ways – sports tips
  • The Sweet and Sour Rivals – last episode (artist Carlos Cruz)
  • Worlds Apart (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Snoopa (artist Joe Collins)

This is one of the last few issues of Jinty before the merger with Tammy. As a result it is full of penultimate episodes (Holiday Hideaway, Worlds Apart), a final episode (The Sweet and Sour Rivals) and complete or nearly complete stories (the Gypsy Rose story, and the first half of the two-parter Freda’s Fortune).

Freda wins a pony in a raffle – a stroke of luck for her, as she has longed for one since she was a toddler, but also some bad luck because not only does she have to find somewhere to keep it and food to feed it, she also earns the envy of snobbish Susan who will stop at little to throw a spoke in her wheel.

The text story “All over a farthing” has a struggling girl give away a lucky farthing to the school charity appeal, only to find that it brings luck back to her and her unemployed father in an unexpected way.

The Gypsy Rose story, “Child’s Play”, is a new one this week, drawn by Phil Townsend (though the subsequent week’s issue will have a reprint of a story by Trini Tinturé from 1977). I reprint it below.

“Holiday Hideaway” is coming to an end – the family in hiding prepare to ‘return from holiday’ which will mean they have to continue to lie to their friends by pretending they have been away on a cruise ship holiday all along. But the episode ends by a reveal that they can’t possibly have been on the ship – the liner never left England in the first place! How will Hattie Jones and her family keep their heads up now?

This is the last episode of “The Sweet and Sour Rivals”: at the school fair Mandy and her friend Suzie Choo face off against Abigail Beaton whose family run the town’s snootiest restaurant. As often happens with schoolgirl rivalries, the envious antagonist overreaches herself and the good girl(s) have to save the day, including the antagonist herself. This time the jealous rival entices a horde of hungry dogs to all the food stalls, risking her own parents’ food stall as well as the Choo’s one; and Suzie saves the day by building a wall of plates to keep the dogs away. Yes, it’s a Great Wall of China (groan).

In “Worlds Apart” the six schoolgirls are transported from brainy Clare’s world into scaredy-cat Jilly’s world – one inhabited by horror monsters. Read all about it in the summary of that story, linked to above.

Page 1, “Child’s Play” – Gypsy Rose story
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Bella at the Bar: Book One

Bella at the Bar 1

 

Tammy has now joined the slew of reprint volumes that Misty and Jinty are enjoying. And it makes sense for Tammy to begin with her most popular and enduring character, Bella Barlow. Bella never had the polarising among Tammy readership that Molly Mills had; many loved Molly while others hated her, frequently saying she was boring, and so stupid for not standing up to that bully butler, Pickering. Bella, by contrast, just seemed to grow and grow in popularity. She began as a regular Cinderella-themed story, a style that was so popular in Tammy’s early years. But instead of allowing Bella’s story to end on the Cinderella happy ending, readers brought her back by popular demand, where she endured a story that was even more cruel than the first time around. From there Bella came back again and again until she held a joint record with Molly as Tammy’s longest-running character.

The volume reprints Bella’s first two stories. The first one, already discussed here, tells us how Bella battled to overcome her window-cleaning drudgery, her memorably cruel Uncle Jed and Aunt Gert, snobbery, class distinction, depression and even injury to pursue her gymnastics dream. In true fairy tale fashion she is ultimately delivered from her guardians to pursue her gymnastics at a Russian gymnastics school. There it was expected to end, as so many Cinderella-themed Tammy stories had done. But not in the case of Bella Barlow. Popular demand brought her back, where she is flung into even more dregs of darkness. Bella’s time at the gymnastics school is tragically cut short before it’s hardly begun when a jealous rival, Natalia Orlov, gets her expelled on a false charge. It is not only back to the old window-cleaning drudgery with her horrible relatives – who treat her even worse than before – but also suffering unjust disgrace and ostracism in the public eye. Can Bella keep up her beloved gymnastics under these dual pressures? And how the heck can Bella clear her name?

At the time of the original print of the Bella sequel, there were a huge number of letters on it, many of which expressed confidence that Bella would triumph and be exonerated. Some even (correctly) guessed it had something to do with Bella running up against Natalia again. But the editor always said to those guesses: “Wait and see.” And when we do, we see the groundwork has been laid for a third Bella story in which she has to overcome yet another hurdle to get back into gymnastics. And Tammy says it will be starting soon.

Jenny McDade wrote the first two Bella stories. Future Bella volumes – which we eagerly anticipate – will tell if McDade wrote more Bella before the strip passed to other writers. When we read the stories in the volume we get a taste of how good writers helped to make titles like Tammy so great in their heyday. But contrary to the impression the volume might give, McDade did not start on Tammy with Bella Barlow. Her first Tammy story was “Star-Struck Sister” in 1972, which she took over after the first episode. It was also how McDade cut her teeth on writing for girls’ comics.

It has been decades since British girls enjoyed titles like Tammy and avidly followed exploits like those of Bella Barlow, Wee Sue, Molly Mills, The Four Marys and The Comp. Sadly, they have all vanished. To today’s generation of girls, the comics that girls used to know and love so well must be an unknown commodity, along with the characters who helped to make them so great. So the first reprint volume of Bella Barlow would not only bring back nostalgia for former Tammy readers but also give the new generation a taste of why girls’ comics used to be so popular, and what made Tammy such a hit in her earliest years: Cinderella theme, tortured heroine, adversity on all sides, a will that refuses to be beaten by it all, determination to triumph with a special talent and claim the happiness that is the heroine’s by right. And all brought to life by one of the most brilliant girls’ comics artists of all time – John Armstrong. To this day, John Armstrong’s fluid, brilliantly rendered anatomic artwork on gymnastics, sports and ballet is unmatched and simply mouth-watering. This was what always sold the Bella strip for me. It should do so for the new generation as well and leave them wondering why they don’t make British comics like that anymore.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday to Our Jinty Site!

Jinty cover 12 May 1979

Cover artist: Christine Ellingham

“A Resource on Jinty” is now five years old! On 16 April 2014 it was launched by Comixminx. The site was inspired by other resource sites such as Tammy Project (now defunct) and Girls Comics of Yesterday, and queries for help on strips that indicated a resource on Jinty was sorely needed for those wanting help on Jinty scans, issues, stories and other Jinty-related information.

In the words of Comixminx when she first launched the site:

“So in this new blog, I want to cover various Jinty-related items. I’ve got quite a few cover images and story pages already scanned which are just languishing on my computer invisible to other people who might be interested; let’s put them up. I’ve got details of individual comic issues which I will index following the lead given by UK Girls Comics, and details of specific stories will follow too. I also want to include sections on specific artists (I’d love to cover writers too but they’re much harder to identify, as Jinty never did run credits for stories). And if I run out of steam or fancy a break, I’ll also either reprint or link to articles relevant to Jinty.

“See you here soon – I think I’m going to enjoy the ride!”

It did not take long for me, Mistyfan to join the blog as a co-writer, and I soon proved to be the more prolific one. This was not only in terms of Jinty entries but also in expanding the site beyond Jinty. Tammy, Sandie, Misty, June, Girl II and even Commando have received entries on this site, especially when the entries were in some way connected to Jinty’s history or girls’ comics history in general, or the presence of female protagonists in ways they had not appeared before.

Our blog has also drawn a lot of surprises out of the woodwork. Among them are comments and information from former writers, which helped us to expand our credits on stories. The blog has led to contact and interviews with former artists and learning so much more about what went on behind the scenes. We have also received exciting titbits such as scripts of episodes to upload on our site. We even have an upload of very special Trini Tinturè fanart of Comixminx’s family with The Jinx from St Jonah’s.

The blog has inspired creativity in other ways. The best example of this was Oubapo, in which demonstrated how former girls’ strips could be re-imagined, either in terms of text or in artwork.

We have covered so much on Jinty in the past five years. But we still have plenty of years left and there is still Jinty material we have not yet covered. So is there anything in particular you would like to see on this site? Or do you have any suggestions on how we could develop our site even further? Please let us know.

And in closing: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR JINTY SITE!

 

Hangman’s Alley [1979]

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Published: Misty #86, 29 September 1979 – #90, 27 October 1979

Episodes: 5

Artist: Jesus Redondo

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Best of Misty #5

Plot

Mel and Jacey Coombs and their mother move into an apartment above an old alley. It used to be called Hangman’s Alley because condemned criminals were taken through this alleyway from the gaol on the marsh to execution on Gallows Hill. Mum tries to hide this grim past from her daughters, but it’s no use. Their arrival has stirred up the ghosts – literally. The ghost of a servant girl who was wrongly executed returns from beyond the grave when the family move in, and she is full of bitterness and hatred. She is taking out her hatred on Mel, for no other reason than Mel is a dead ringer for her. She almost attacks Mel in the bedroom, and later she lures Mel onto a bridge in a trance and tries to throw her off.

Jacey, the only one who can sense or see the ghost, discovers what the ghost is trying to do, and confronts the ghost in a bid to save Mel. The ghost informs Jacey, through a series of visions, that she was wrongly executed for stealing a pearl necklace from her mistress. The evidence against her was extremely flimsy. She was cleaning her mistress’s jewellery and another servant saw her admiring the pearl necklace while doing so. On this alone, everyone just assumed she stole the necklace when the mistress found it missing later on. She was dragged to the gallows protesting her innocence, but in vain; angry people were yelling for her execution on all sides. Jacey strikes a deal with the ghost: she will clear the ghost’s name if the ghost will leave Mel alone.

Having read up the history of Hangman’s Alley, Jacey knows where to find the old gaol. At the gaol the ghost directs her to her name, which she gouged into the wall: Melinda Walpole. At least Jacey now knows the ghost’s name. However, Jacey is caught for trespass and gets into big trouble with Mum, especially as she skipped school to go there in the first place.

Unfortunately Jacey’s investigation is making slow progress. The ghost is getting impatient and her impatience is making her increasingly dangerous. The investigation is being further impeded by distractions the family unwittingly put up. The family host a housewarming party, but Jacey sees Melinda the ghost while doing preparations and realises Mel has gone. She finds Mel collapsed in the alley and a warning from Melinda written in cherryade on the wall, which Jacey realises is a warning it could be blood next time. The message reads, “Remember the promise or next time…”

Thinking Jacey is off colour, Mum sends her to the doctor, and the wait in reception is interminable. It’s another holdup on the investigation and more strain on Melinda’s patience. But at least Jacey gets another clue while waiting, in a magazine. It is an article on an old house, and one of the photos shows Melinda’s signature etched on the wall. So now Jacey has located the house Melinda worked in. It is now facing development while others want to preserve it.

Jacey goes to the house and heads for the old servants’ quarters to find the etching. Mel follows, and Jacey tells her she’s playing grand lady to cover up what she is really doing. Hearing this, Melinda thinks she has been mucked around long enough. Her patience snaps, and she locks them in the old servants’ quarters and sets the house on fire. While fighting their way out, a wall partition gives way and Jacey finds an old box hidden in there. They make their way out safely and a huge crowd gathers. Among them is a reporter hoping for a story that will help save the house.

He gets it when Jacey opens the box. It contains the stolen necklace and a written confession from the thief (whose identity is not revealed). She had contracted smallpox from the crowd while watching Melinda being executed. She was left to die in the attic, but before she did she wrote the confession. She then put the necklace and confession in the box and hid it in the wall.

The publicity the confession creates in the press saves the house and it is converted into a museum. Jacey is given the necklace as a reward. Melinda, speaking for the very first time to Jacey, puts the necklace on Jacey herself, and says she can rest in peace now her name has been cleared.

Thoughts

Serials about servants being wrongly accused are commonplace in girls’ comics, and serials about wrongly accused servants coming back as ghosts are not unusual either. “Shivery Shirley” from Bunty and “The Sad Ghost” from June are examples of such ghosts. But this one is particularly morbid for several reasons.

First, the wrongly accused servant is actually executed instead of simply dying in miserable circumstances as her counterparts mentioned above do. And she was not merely dismissed, imprisoned or transported – she was executed.

Second, the ghost, while having a sympathetic backstory and situation, is not very sympathetic as a character. Instead of crying out for help she is extremely malevolent and the atmosphere her presence creates is described as “evil”. Her maliciousness may be the product of the bitterness over the injustice, but there is no apparent reason for why she is attacking Mel or why she is taking it all out on Mel. And she simply has no excuse for attacking Mel either, as Mel had nothing to do with the injustice. So why the hell is she doing it? At least with “The Shadow of Sherry Brown”, another malevolent ghost in Tammy, there was a psychology to her behaviour that we could understand and it made her haunting more realistic. In the case of Melinda Walpole there is none and we just don’t get it – why is she acting in that way to Mel?

Finally, the depiction of Hangman’s Alley and the executions are gruesome and atmospheric. The hatching, linework and inking of Jesus Redondo renders it all brilliantly. We hear references to criminals being taken to the “gibbet” and there “die horribly”. And the flashback of Melinda being dragged to execution gives the impression her execution was little more than a lynching.

The story is not long at five episodes. Considering Melinda’s conduct and the slowness of Jacey’s investigation, this probably is just as well, and it does make the plotting very tight. The danger of the ghost gives a sense of urgency to get things done fast but things are just moving too slowly, which makes it even more worrying for Jacey and more dramatic for us readers. However, the ending feels like it came a bit too soon, and the menace of Melinda was too short-lived.

At the end of the story it is not revealed who the thief really was when her confession is found. Was it the servant who saw Melinda admire the necklace or was it someone else? Not being told whodunit is infuriating. The ending would have been better if the identity of the thief had been revealed.

The Shadow of Sherry Brown [1981-82]

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Shadow of Sherry Brown 1Shadow of Sherry Brown 2Shadow of Sherry Brown 3

Published: Tammy & Jinty 28 November 1981 – 13 February 1982

Episodes: 11

Artist: Maria Barrera

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Katy Bishop is taken in by new guardians, Mr and Mrs Brown, in agreement with her gran, who is no longer capable of minding her. Katy is not impressed to find that the Browns’ interest in her was prompted by her being a dead ringer for their daughter Sherry, who had died eighteen months before. She is upset and angry at the unfairness of being in the shadow of their daughter and being given her room and things, as if Sherry were still alive, and making them feel she is alive again too. But Katy soon finds that is the least of her problems.

The daughter Sherry may be dead, but she is far from gone. Her ghost haunts the place, appearing as a shadow. The ghost is spiteful, jealous and vicious towards Katy whenever Katy acquires something – or someone – that was once hers. There are no limits to what Sherry is capable of to protect her former possessions from Katy, even if it comes close to murder. Even Sherry’s former friends and horse get attacked by the ghost if Katy gets too close to them.

Katy hears that Sherry had an extremely severe jealousy streak when she was alive. If anyone intruded on her friendship with Joan, her best friend, she would fly into a fury, and even attack Joan. She always apologised afterward and “all was all sweetness and light again”, but her jealousy always remained her biggest failing. The source of this information (above) is questionable as the girl who tells Katy this is the only one who did not like Sherry. And Sherry did have loads of friends, including Joan. All the same, it fits the pattern of the ghost’s conduct.

As Katy can’t really leave the Browns, Sherry can’t really get rid of her, short of actually killing her or something. Katy just tries to avoid anything that was once Sherry’s. But no matter how hard she tries she always seems to bump into one of Sherry’s former possessions, and the jealous ghost attacks her yet again. Moreover, the ghost can strike from anywhere; she’s not just confined to the home. The ghost is a shadow in more ways than one. She can stick to Katy like a shadow and be ready to strike the moment Katy finds anything of hers. Katy is forced to give up on things and people once she finds out they were once Sherry’s, including Sherry’s best friend Joan and her horse Snowball – and she liked them both so much.

Of course Katy can’t really settle down with the Browns because of Sherry or be happy living there. She always has the feeling of being threatened and lives in a constant state of fear. She can’t explain what’s going on. When she tries, nobody listens. Nobody else seems to see that shadow or sense the threatening, hostile atmosphere it projects towards her. She daren’t even refer to the Browns as “Mum” and “Dad”, much to their bewilderment and disappointment. But with the Browns now her guardians, she can’t leave the house and be free of Sherry forever.

Matters come to a head when the Browns’ wedding anniversary comes up. Having learned they like collecting miniature houses, Katy sets out to buy one at a gift shop. But then the shadow appears, and smashes all the goods and wrecks the shop. Outside Joan sees what is going on – and this time she does see the shadow, and it’s the shadow that’s causing the damage.

The shop owner thinks Katy caused the damage, of course. Joan backs up Katy’s protests of innocence. As the shop owner would not believe about the shadow, Joan tries to convince her it was vibration from passing lorries. The shop owner agrees not to call the police, but bans them both from her premises, as she is not fully convinced.

Realising Joan also saw the shadow, Katy tells her everything. And yes, Joan can feel the sense of being threatened too. But why did Sherry attack the shop?

Joan explains that it was because of how Sherry died (of which it is now the anniversary). Exactly two years ago now, she bought a wedding anniversary gift for her parents from the shop, but got so excited about it when she saw Joan across the road that she forgot to watch the traffic and got hit by a lorry. With her dying breath she told Joan she was disappointed that her parents would not receive her gift, which got smashed in the accident. By rotten luck it was identical to the one Katy was about to buy, and this must have really pushed the shadow over the edge.

They realise this disappointment is why Sherry couldn’t rest in the first place. So they figure that if the parents do get the gift her ghost will be laid to rest. Fortunately Joan still has the pieces. So they repair it and give it to the parents on Sherry’s behalf. Sure enough, they soon find they no longer feel threatened or have the shadow hanging over them.

Thoughts

This was one of the new stories to be launched when the Tammy & Jinty merger started. The merger gives the impression it was still using unpublished scripts from Misty, and this serial looks like it was one of them. Neither Tammy nor Jinty would have come up with such a malicious, spiteful ghost, but it is something Misty would definitely have gone for. Besides, the story is drawn by a former Misty artist who had not been a regular in either Tammy or Jinty before.

Tammy didn’t have all that many ghost stories (perhaps it was the long-standing Storyteller providing so much spooky material), but there is no doubt that “The Shadow of Sherry Brown” is the most frightening and disturbing one that Tammy ever published. In fact, Sherry Brown is one of the most terrifying ghosts ever to appear in girls’ comics. It’s not just because the ghost’s jealousy is making her so dangerous to Katy. It’s also because she acts so viciously even to those she once liked (Joan, Snowball) if they get to close to Katy or her heart. It’s not just terrifying; it’s repugnant as well. The ghost would be even more despicable if she had attacked her parents in the same way. And what makes the haunting even more miserable for the victim is that there is no escaping it wherever she goes, short of leaving the Browns for good. No matter where Katy turns, she comes up against it one way or other.

It is fortunate for Katy that what caused the haunting in the first place has nothing to do with Sherry’s jealousy. It’s disappointment over a failure (and a pretty minor failure at that). It is something that can easily be fixed once it is explained. In fact, Sherry could have explained it to Katy herself and asked for her help in solving her problem, if only she had thought of it. After all, getting rid of Katy would not get the gift to her parents, which is what she really wants if she is to rest in peace. But it seems Sherry was just too consumed with jealousy and possessiveness to think clearly on that point, and was cutting off her nose to spite her face there.

Danger Dog [1982]

Sample Images 

Danger Dog 1Danger Dog 2Danger Dog 3

Published: Tammy & Jinty 9 January 1982 to 17 April 1982

Episodes: 15

Artist: Julio Bosch

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

It is slightly ahead in the future (from the time of writing). Beth Harris’ town has a cruel practice in regard to stray animals: rounding them up and taking them to High Fell Research Station for experimentation. Her dog Sammy falls foul of this practice when he got lost. His collar got lost as well, so he was taken for a stray and ended up at High Fell. Beth breaks into High Fell to rescue Sammy, and is confident she got him out before the scientists did anything to him.

However, Beth’s father insists Sammy be returned to High Fell in case he is carrying some sort of contamination from that place and is dangerous. Beth does not believe that, and she is not having Sammy returned to High Fell either. She ends up going on the run with Sammy on the moor, intending to come back once she’s proved Sammy’s not dangerous.

Unfortunately for Beth a huge manhunt is soon after her, with men in contamination suits and tracker dogs searching the moors, and the High Fell owner insisting on Sammy’s return. He refuses to disclose details about the experiments performed on Sammy or exactly what sort of contamination he could be carrying. Considering what a horrible-looking man he is, his reticence is very suspicious.

The manhunt is all over the press and big news in town. As the news gathers momentum, there are hints that people who disapproved of High Fell and its animal experiments are beginning to voice their outrage and express sympathy for Beth. On the moor, Beth finds some of these sympathisers helping her whenever she meets them, such as an old lady living on the moor named Old Meg.

Meanwhile, Beth increasingly begins to realise that weird things have been happening to her, and have been ever since she got Sammy back. She is having bizarre bouts of going deaf, going blind, voice going wrong, seeing in the dark, super-strength, super-healing, and the muscles in her body going completely kaput. These wear off, but they are increasing in frequency and intensity. They happen to other people she comes into contact with as well. These include the kindly Old Meg and scheming gypsies who hold Beth and Sammy prisoner, hoping to claim a reward for bringing them in.

At first Beth thinks these things are due to her getting contaminated with chemicals during her rescue mission and she is the one who is dangerous, not Sammy. But eventually she realises these weird things only happen when she is in close contact with Sammy. He is dangerous after all. Whatever was done to him causes peculiar things to happen to any human he comes into contact with. She believes the High Fell scientists must have known this and it is the real reason they want him back.

Beth, the human who stays close to Sammy the most, is feeling the worst of these effects. She soon finds they are getting both worse and weirder. So bad now in fact, that Beth discovers that distance from Sammy is no longer safe. There is no telling where they will lead, and her very life could be in danger. But she can’t bear the thought of Sammy being destroyed or returned to High Fell. She tries to drive Sammy off, but realises that is not the answer either, as he could still come into contact with humans.

After long thought Beth makes the decision to leave Sammy tied up in an old cottage and go back to town to get help from her parents. But by the time she arrives home the chemicals are having such a bad effect on her – despite her distance from Sammy – that she is confined to bed. By the time she recovers, Sammy has been in that cottage without food or water for whole three days.

They get to Sammy in time, and also discover the three-day nourishment deprivation has cured him of the chemical effects. He is safe to go home. It is never established just what High Fell did to Sammy and why. Beth thinks they were developing a weapon of some sort. High Fell is closed down and their experiments stopped because of the bad publicity Beth caused them. Beth hopes that if the research station reopens, it will be to more savoury experiments.

Thoughts

“Danger Dog” was one of the best stories to appear during the Tammy & Jinty merger. It’s strong, dark, subversive, freaky, and chilling stuff. It is possible the story was originally written for Misty as there is evidence (Monster Tales) that Misty was still an influence on Tammy during the merger despite her logo’s disappearance on the cover. The story looks like it was strongly influenced by “The Plague Dogs” by Richard Adams. “The Secret of NIMH” could be in the mix as well.

Danger Dog not only decries the cruelties of animal experimentation but also the dangers of science when it is used for unethical ends. Unlike most evil scientists in girls’ comics it is never established just what those scientists did to Sammy or why. Never knowing exactly what that experiment was about makes the story even more sinister and creepy. As we see those weird effects on Beth, watch them grow increasingly bizarre, and eventually learn it is because of Sammy, it’s even more frightening, because we don’t know just what is behind it. For one thing, is the experiment backfiring or going wrong for some reason? Or is it unfolding as the scientists intended, with perhaps even more results than they anticipated? Are they really developing a secret weapon? Or is it some other chemical experiment?

The effects themselves add to the horror of it all. It’s not just because they are frightening but also because they are just plain weird. Seeing in the dark, and then going blind? All the muscles in your body going flat? Now that is just weeiirrd! And what makes it even weirder is that some of these effects can be described as temporary super powers, such as the super-strength or seeing in the dark. But the final effect turns Beth’s face into an utter horror story, which shocks her parents when they see it. It must have shocked the doctors and authorities as well, and if it didn’t have them tearing White Fells apart to find out just what that research station was doing we would be very surprised. And we can just see the angry demonstrators outside the research station once word of Beth’s condition spread. It would have been no surprise if Beth’s final state had been the final straw that shut down White Fells.

It’s the irony of the story that if Sammy had turned out to be safe like Beth hoped, High Fell might not have been shut down. Having him turn out to be dangerous after all would have been the clincher in stopping the High Fell experiments.

We strongly sympathise with Beth and Sammy, and we cheer Beth for wanting to save her dog from those experiments. We desperately want Beth to emerge triumphant at proving Sammy is not dangerous and not have to return to that research station. And we expect that to happen. After all, this is a girls’ serial. So it is gutting for us all when the story establishes that Beth was wrong all along and her dog really is dangerous like Dad said. It’s definitely not the way we expected the story to go.

After this, Beth is faced with a choice that no girl and her dog should ever face: the love of her dog or risk him being destroyed. And let’s face it: public safety and Beth’s own well-being are at stake, and they have to come first. But it’s an agonising, heart-wrenching decision for Beth, and here the story delivers its most powerful emotional impact.

Setting the story a little distance in an unspecified future year adds a dystopian element to the story. This makes the concept of a town sending strays to a research station for experimentation instead of animal shelters for rehoming a bit more credible. The unspeficied time setting also means the story will work anywhere, anytime, which will be handy if it comes up for reprint.

The Jinx from St Jonah’s [1974-76]

Sample Images

Jinx from St JonahsJinx from St Jonahs 2Jinx from St Jonahs 3

Published: Jinty 11 May 1974 – 30 October 1976

Episodes: 112 episodes

Artists: Mario Capaldi, Mike White, Hugh Thornton-Jones

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

The Jinx from St Jonah’s was one of Jinty’s very first strips, and it was the longest-running at 112 episodes. It was a humour strip, full of slapstick humour and hijinks galore with Katie Jinks. It’s easy to turn that into “jinx”, and Katie is indeed a jinx by name, jinx by nature. She is a walking disaster area; even innocuous things like playing the triangle, practising yoga, or minding a goldfish lead to hilarious catastrophes in the hands of Katie the Jinx. Even the school staff have to really watch out when Katie’s about.

Though Katie’s classmates know they have to watch out for Miss Klutzy too, there are plenty of times when Katie’s jinxing works to their advantage. For example, they all get a day off school when Katie’s jinxing gets all the school staff sent home, including the headmistress. And Katie is not a jinx all the time. There are occasions when Katie does something right, such as when she figures out a girl who won’t swim has a serious problem and she sets out to unravel what it is. But the time to really watch out is when Katie wants to be helpful because that is when her jinxing is at its worst.

There are plenty of occasions when Katie’s jinxing eventually leads to a happy ending and things work out to everyone’s benefit. But of course the road getting there is full of bumps and high jinxing.

On a frequent basis it’s comeuppance time for many a wrongdoer when Katie’s around. Bullies, gluttons, stuffy teachers, snobs, troublemakers and even criminals are among the unsavoury types who get their punishment from Katie the Jinx, whether she plans it or simply jinxes it. Either way we cheer and laugh when the unpleasant type gets jinxed into their long-awaited comeuppance.

Katie comes from a long line of jinx girls in girls’ comics whose blundering causes scrapes that provide loads of laughs for the readers. “Sailor Sally – She’s All at Sea” (Debbie) and “Simple Simona” (Tammy) were other examples. But Katie was one to reach such heights of popularity in Jinty that she not only ran for two years but also became cover girl, leading off Jinty’s cover with jinx hijinks to pull readers in with a huge laugh. The panel exhibiting the jinxy gag itself, such as Katie tripping over something or getting everyone in a heap, was often given jagged edging for emphasis. Examples of Katie’s glory days on the cover are shown below.

(click thru)

 

 


Edited by comixminx to add: the strip has the power to amuse modern readers just as much. My daughter (8 at the time of writing this) loves Katie Jinks’ hijinks more than just about anything in the comic. We have recently had the pleasure of having Trini Tinturé doing a piece of art for the family, and while my son chose to have himself illustrated with one of his favourite youTubers (Dan TDM), my daughter chose to be illustrated alongside Katie Jinks. Here it is, a new piece of Trini art with a direct Jinty link!

Two kids and two idols
Illustration by Trini Tinturé for two avid comics readers

Life’s a Ball for Nadine [1980-81]

Sample Images

Lifes a Ball for Nadine 1Lifes a Ball for Nadine 2Lifes a Ball for Nadine 3Lifes a Ball for Nadine 4

Published: Jinty 8 November 1980 – 21 March 1981

Episodes: 20

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

The B netball team at Greystreet School needs improvement. Their stuffy coach, Betty, is displeased with their standard and orders extra practice in the gym that evening. However, Sally Smith and Sue Sims realise that what they really need is another good player.

In the gym, the netball team is surprised to find new girl Nadine Nash arrive in disco gear and all ready to dance. She mistook the date of the school disco, but while she’s there they give her a demonstration of how to play netball. She has a go and everyone is surprised at how her disco reflexes are so transferable to netball and she scores a goal on her first attempt. She is a natural netball player. The trouble is, she is not interested in joining the team and cares far more for disco dancing. Undaunted, Sue and Sally set out to find a way to persuade Nadine to join the netball team. Eventually Nadine joins the team as Goal Attack, but is still more interested in disco dancing, which she is brilliant at.

For the most part of the story the episodes follow the format of lightweight exchange between disco and netball as skills and equipment from one helps the other. In one episode, the goalkeeper is in danger of being dropped because she has lost form. At the disco, she gets some unusual training to get her back into form when she, Nadine, Sue and Sally catch 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. After that training Betty is astounded at how much the goalkeeper has improved.

In another episode Nadine is upstaged by gimmicky disco dancers who depend more on costumes and appearance than skill to clear the floor. But in the end it is the gimmicky dancers who are upstaged and the floor goes back to Nadine when Sue and Sally throw an old netball net to net the gimmicky dancers.

Sometimes netball helps Nadine at disco. In one episode netball helps Nadine to meet her favourite disc jockey, Disco Dave. In another episode the other netball players help rescue Nadine when she’s on the dance floor without a light, by getting a huge strobe lightbulb from one end of the crowded dance floor to the other – in record time – using their netball skills.

At times the disco/netball combination enables the girls to get one up on their stuffy coach, who does not see any value in Nadine’s disco dancing or her combining it with netball. For example, in one episode Betty challenges another stuffy coach of an old-fashioned boys’ school as to whether basketball or netball is better. Each team proves they are the best at their own particular sport but the coaches still argue as to which is best. While they aren’t looking, it’s disco that wins the day, when the girls discover the boys play disco secretly at their stuffy school, and they have a covert disco together.

The 101 uses for disco/netball continue for a long time in the serial and a lot of episodes run to the same format. However, the serial takes a different turn when it comes to its conclusion. The ending comes with a story arc spanning several episodes that not only bring the development of Nadine’s character full circle but also that of the stuffy Betty.

The story arc begins when Nadine discovers that two sisters, Syreeta and Selena, are out to cheat her on two fronts: a disco contest (Syreeta) and netball championship (Selena). They start by putting a lot of nasty bruises in her legs to make her unfit for both events. And that Selena is awfully clever in putting those bruises into Nadine’s legs during the netball events without the referee noticing those fouls.

When it comes to the night of both events Nadine gets a notice indicating that both start at the same time, so she has to choose one. It is at this point that the netball team says Nadine is selfish because all she thinks of is disco and has no team spirit, despite the journey of the 101 uses for disco/netball they have had together. This must have gone to Nadine’s heart because on the night in question she chooses netball over disco. She even spends the money for her new disco outfit on netball gear instead. Everyone is impressed. And Betty, who had unwittingly helped the two cheats earlier, shows a whole new human face and is willing to do everything she can to help Nadine. This includes buying Nadine-style wigs for the whole team to confuse Selena when she tries to nobble Nadine by bruising her bruises. After this, Nadine scores so many goals that her team wins. That’s that one cheat down, but there is still one to go.

Then Nadine discovers that the notice she received was a fake – another trick from those cheats – and the disco contest is yet to begin. The trouble is, the contest is miles away. Moreover, Nadine has no disco outfit, having spent her money on netball gear. Betty is undaunted. At Betty’s urging, they all run across town to enter Nadine in the contest. Betty will use the club money to buy Nadine the best disco outfit they can find.

But the two cheats aren’t beaten yet. Overhearing the team, Selena phones Syreeta to alert her that Nadine is coming. So Syreeta has her cronies block the team’s entry into the venue. To get Nadine past them, Betty and the team wrap her into a huge ball made out of an old billboard poster, and toss it over the heads of the cronies and onto the disco floor. Nadine bursts out of the ball, and the DJ says, “Wow, what an entrance!” That’s extra points for Nadine’s unstoppable, unforgettable performance that wins her the disco contest, hands down.

Before Nadine collects her trophy, she asks Sue and Sally to come up on stage with the netball trophy so they will share their double victory that pays homage to both netball and disco.

Thoughts

The first thought goes to the in-joke in the sample images above. Artist Mario Capaldi seems to be making a reference to himself with “Mario”, and also to his family’s ice-cream business. Mario himself helped out with the ice-cream business when he was younger. Is the in-joke Capaldi just couldn’t resist or was it something arranged between him and the editor? Either way, it is another in-joke in girls’ serials to be noted.

The first thing you notice about this story, though, is that the titular protagonist is black. Blacks and other non-white people did not have a frequent presence in girls’ comics. This was not intentionally racist, but it was a glaring absence that needed to be addressed a whole lot more. Sadly, Jinty was no exception. The only other black protagonists  in Jinty were Jo in “Angela’s Angels“, but she’s just one protagonist among six in that serial, and Mary the Aborigine girl in “Bound for Botany Bay”, who has more presence as a protagonist but she is not the main one. Pam of Pond Hill had a black pupil, Mac, but he didn’t appear much and was not by any means a regular in the strip. By contrast, Nadine is the star of her own serial and she definitely has a far more commanding presence as a black protagonist than Jo. It is a real delight to have a story starring a strong black protagonist, and this alone makes this story one of Jinty’s most noteworthy serials.

Nadine is not the only black presence in this serial either. The two antagonists, Syreeta and Selena, are also black, which makes the black presence even stronger. A few other black people also appear, such as Nadine’s mother and the cleaning lady who alerts Nadine to the trick with the appointment time.

Netball is a sport that was infrequently used in girls’ serials. This is one of the few serials that does feature netball (“Romy’s Return” from Tammy was another), which makes the story even more eye-catching. The way it is used has an amusing side while it is being used to complement Nadine’s disco. You would have never thought disco and netball could have so many uses or give so many people a comeuppance. For a long time this is the way the story runs, which makes it engaging and fun to read.

Recently Comixminx expressed in the entry “How do you know who’s the hero?” that knowing who the hero is in a girls’ serial is not always cut-and-dried. There are some odd stories that have you wonder whether the real star of the show is the titular protagonist or another main character – the antagonist, even. This story certainly can be added to that list. Nadine is the titular protagonist. She is a strong, endearing character throughout the story. Hers is the emotional journey as she learns that disco is not everything and there are other things that matter too. But for the most part it is Sue and Sally who come up with the ideas on how to apply disco to a netball situation and vice-versa, and it is their quick thinking that saves the day. Of course a lot of these situations and solutions arise through Nadine, but coming up with these clever ideas makes Sue and Sally more proactive characters than Nadine and they are serious plot drivers. True, there are times when Nadine is the one to come up with the brilliant save; for example, using goalkeeping to foil the garbage-throwing rock ‘n’ rollers is her idea. But by and large it is Sue and Sally, and, eventually, Betty.