Monthly Archives: June 2014

Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (1975-76)

Sample images

Pg 1 Golden Dolly, Death Dust!
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Golden Dolly, Death Dust! pg 2
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Golden Dolly, Death Dust! pg 3
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Summary

Lucy Farmer and her French penfriend Yvette have no inkling of what lies ahead of them when a parcel arrives from Lucy’s great-aunt Hepzibah. The parcel contains a golden corn dolly and the ominous message that “they may need its help soon”. Very soon they are plunged into a good versus evil struggle: the Corn Dolly comes to life to help them against Miss Marvell, the richest woman in town, who also turns out to be an evil witch using the blackest of magic to kill all good green growing things.

Right from the first episode the girls are in danger from Miss Marvell, initially simply because they have gone somewhere they weren’t supposed to and seen something they weren’t supposed to – a great patch of bare grey earth in Miss Marvell’s garden, and plants that have crumbled to dust. The patch of grey earth is so strongly poisoned that the residue on the girls’ shoes poisons Lucy’s father’s garden too (and continues to do so in subsequent episodes even after he has patched it with new turf). Soon they are courting her anger more deliberately, once Corn Dolly has told them they must investigate Miss Marvell’s plans further. They are found and nearly caught in a secret room at the top of the witch’s house – her spooky henchthing, a scary mask, can communicate with Miss Marvell at a distance and do her bidding. Corn Dolly is their saviour this time, defending the girls with her strength from the sun and telling them to run to the trees, where the strength of living things will defeat Miss Marvell. However, this sortie has revealed jars and jars of death dust; there is only so much that Corn Dolly will be able to do to fight this black magic. The one thing she can suggest is a charm from ancient times, made with certain flowers, that can defeat witches.

There follows a back-and-forth cycle that oscillates with bigger and bigger swings. Miss Marvell destroys some plants; the girls must gather flowers for the charm; Miss Marvell wreaks more destruction to prevent them from finding the next flower on their list; against great odds the girls manage to get the next flower; people round about get more and more nervous and worried and downright frightened. Miss Marvell tries more and more tactics to beat the girls: she kidnaps Corn Dolly right out of Lucy’s school bag despite the protective rowan berries that Lucy put in (in her guise as benign school governor, Marvell asks an unsuspecting girl to remove them), she brainwashes Yvette and later on turns Lucy’s mother against her French visitor. The girls have Corn Dolly to help them, but she is neither omnipotent nor always totally patient: more than once she tells them they have to work things out for themselves as she cannot always be with them.

And indeed they are pretty resourceful: when the straw form of Corn Dolly is thrown on a fire by the vengeful Miss Marvell, they ask for sun and rain to douse the fire and strengthen her foe. They manage to ask in roundabout ways for important information like the location of a specific kind of rose for their charm, and enlist mundane help to deal with obstacles like an enraged bull or the antagonised mother.

It’s a pretty long series of episodes, though, with these power struggles that seem to each end quite similarly, if growing in violence. The last five episodes take on a different tempo: the ministry of agriculture forbids any entry to or exit from their town of Haylton until they find out what killed all the plants at the zoo (and the authorities are never going to figure out that the answer is black magic, of course). This means that the girls have to find out a way to escape from the town to get the last few flowers for the spell; it becomes a race against the forces of evil to get to another source of help – Great-Aunt Hepzibah in Cornwall – gathering the final ingredients on the way. Of course Miss Marvell is not far behind, inciting whoever shelters them to know “black, cold fear!” She too has allies – three evil witch ghosts in a haunted village, but once again Corn Dolly and the forces of the sunlight – or in this case, a timely lightning strike – defeat them.

The showdown is at the site of a “giant’s circle” on the shortest night of the year, but one which feels very long to the girls, chased as they are by Miss Marvell and the trees in an evil wood. The stone circle is perhaps something else that the witch thinks will be helpful to her, but the girls use the charm along with the first sun of midsummer’s day – and Miss Marvell is literally vanished away, and her death dust with her.

Themes and thoughts

This is a powerful story, if one which on re-read can feel a little long in parts as the girls gather their various different ingredients. The sample story pages included above are ones that I know I have not read for over thirty years until Mistyfan sent me scans, but the image of Miss Marvell scattering death dust on the buddleia is one that has been with me all the time since then (though as an adult I have been in more sympathy with the death-dust wielder, as this is a nearly-unkillable weed). Miss Marvell’s (rather un-African though so-called) mask, along with her cackling gleeful face calling down a storm, was part of the cast in my childhood nightmares. Luckily for me, Corn Dolly stood beside my bed (with other symbols of good such as Epona from “Guardian of White Horse Hill”) to defend me.

There is a noticeable hippyish streak in this story: the environmental struggle to protect the trees and the wildlife, the fact that the dark witch’s alter ego is that of a rich and powerful establishment figure* who is able to do some of her wrong-doing purely because she knows the right people to ask favours of. (There is a counter-example lord who is on the side of the good guys, but he is seen in only one episode.) Perhaps the self-sufficiency of the protagonist girls, prompted on occasion by the odd pointed comment by Corn Dolly, is also a reflection of that countercultural angle?

* Interestingly enough, Miss Marvell is also depicted as something of a scientist, with a laboratory in which she tests her death dust for potency. In this she is a little reminiscent of the villain in subsequent story “Girl In A Bubble”, also drawn by Phil Gascoine.

It is however pretty much a quest story. The extra layers that draw you in are attributable, I think, to Phil Gascoine’s narrative skills as much as anything: the contrast between the peaceful countryside or small town and the dark, twisted woods in which Miss Marvell aims to trap our protagonists; or between the limpid beauty of Corn Dolly and Miss Marvell’s increasingly wicked cackling face.

Publication dates: 6 September 1975 – 10 January 1976 (19 episodes)

Writer: unknown

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Jinty and Lindy 20 November 1976

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  • Go On, Hate Me! – first episode (artist Keith Robson)
  • Gertie Grit the Hateful Brit! (artist Paul White)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Rose among the Thornes (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – first episode (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • The Big Cat – first episode (artist Ana Rodrigues)
  • Girl in a Bubble (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Pat Mills)
  • Is This Your Story? (artist John Richardson)
  • Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Alley Cat

This issue marks the debut of one of Jinty‘s most popular humour strips, “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” This strip would run for three years, arguably longer than The Jinx from St Jonah’s and Dora Dogsbody. Sue sees a handbag (brought back from the mysterious Orient) at a jumble sale and just has to have it. It seems that the handbag, which Sue names Henrietta, seems to be grinning at Sue, but Sue has no inkling of what she has bought just yet. But we do when a thief snatches the bag with the takings. He takes a comb out of the bag and when he uses it, he is astonished to find his hair growing to monstrous proportions and then wrapping around a pole. He ends up begging a policeman to arrest him. Sue takes back her bag, not noticing its mischievous grin. An interesting approach to the first episode, where we’re not told everything at once, but we have been given enough to have us eager for the next episode.

Two other stories start, “Go On, Hate Me!” and “The Big Cat”. The panel of happy running girls on the cover is a stark contrast to its title “Go On, Hate Me!” and belies the ugly campaign of hate that will start against Hetty Blake in subsequent episodes. Ruth Lee in “The Big Cat” is the target of a campaign as well, one that sees the council evict her gypsy camp. Ruth burns her caravan gypsy-style and sets out on a journey. Readers will see how it explains her dying gran’s prophecy: “Take care of the big cat and she’ll bring you luck and happiness at last.” What big cat? We get a hint that we will find out in the next episode when we read the blurb for it: “‘That’s Ayesha…and she’s untameable! A killer!'”

“Rose among the Thornes” is reaching its climax, with an unexpected twist that could backfire on the Thornes. A canister fell from a plane and wrecked gran’s cottage, which gives them the excuse to pull it down. But they don’t realise the canister contains a dangerous toxic chemical and it is leaking! Rose is on her way to warn them, and it is the race of her life.

Stefa gets even more daft with her heart of stone. Dad threatens to get rid of her statue, so Stefa runs away – with the statue on a wheelbarrow! You just have to laugh, and of course Stefa can’t get far when she is carrying a statue along.

The Mystery of Martine (1976-77)

Sample images

Martine 1

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Martine 2

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Martine 3

Publication:18 December 1976-26 February 1977

Reprint: Jinty annual 1983

Artist:Trini Tinturé

Summary

Sisters Tessa and Martine Freeman are pursuing promising careers in the arts; Tessa is preparing for a ballet audition at a ballet company while Martine has landed the starring role in Nigel Ropley’s drama, “The Demon Within”. Unfortunately this is where the trouble begins and it creates the titular mystery that is never really solved.

Martine is playing the role of Vivien, a crazed, grasping, demented woman who has an obsession about getting her old house back from its current owner. She stops at nothing, “as if some demon was inside her” and increasingly acts in a manner that suggests she is possessed. Whenever Martine, onstage playing Vivien, hatches some sinister machination to take back the house, she clicks her bangles in a manner that sounds sinister, even off stage. The play climaxes with Vivien burning down the house when she decides she cannot get it back – with her enemy inside. Even when she is arrested, she still looks triumphant. The play is also triumphant, but Tessa soon finds that Martine still acts like Vivien, even off stage. The same facial expressions, vocal expressions, bangles, clothes – as if she is becoming Vivien in real life.

And there is a disturbing parallel with Vivien’s situation – Tessa’s current ballet school used to be the Freemans’ home. Now Martine is becoming obsessed with getting that house back Vivien-style. She starts hanging around the ballet school, clicking those bangles and staring at the house in the sinister manner of Vivien. She starts regarding the ballet teacher, Miss Bond, in the same manner that Vivien regards the woman who took over her house. At home, Martine starts behaving like Vivien to Tessa and other people, which is truly frightening. It also causes trouble with the other tenants in the apartment block. It doesn’t happen all the time – she usually returns to normal, but then she starts acting like Vivien again. Tessa is astonished when Martine agrees to pay her ballet fees, but she soon finds that this is a Vivien plot – it was a ploy to get into the ballet school and start harassing Miss Bond.

In the midst of all this trouble, Tessa still has to keep practising for her audition. Amazingly, she still manages to keep up with it. But of course there has to be a jealous rival out to make trouble, and in this case her name is Julie Worral. Julie starts causing trouble when Martine leaves a nasty note to Miss Bond “You are in my house. Get out or face the consequences”. Miss Bond throws the note in the bin and tells Tessa her concerns about how this will affect her dancing. If it proves detrimental to Tessa passing the audition, Julie is the next choice for it. They do not realise Julie has overheard.

Martine’s harassment of Miss Bond gets worse. She removes Miss Bond’s furniture and tries to move her new purchases of furniture into the house. Tessa has the furniture taken to their flat, but this gets the Freemans threatened with eviction. Tessa tries to get Martine removed from the play, but Martine convinces Nigel that Tessa is just jealous. Meanwhile, Julie retrieves the nasty note and tries to use it to blackmail Tessa into backing out of the audition. And then Tessa remembers that Vivien burned down the house she could not reclaim and realises that this is what Martine will do.

Sure enough, Martine is heading to the ballet school with a petrol can. However, an accidental fire (caused by Julie) starts instead and Martine is found unconscious on the lawn. The reason – Nigel noticed things and came to realise that Tessa was right. However, he decided that the solution was to rewrite the ending of the play. The new ending has Vivien’s personality changing from evil to good (and also makes for a far better play). The moment Nigel finished it, Martine says she felt Vivien go out of her and she was herself again, and then she just passed out. They are still not sure how it happened and conclude they never will know. But everything is sorted out happily, of course. The play, with its revised ending, goes to London where it is a huge success while Tessa passes the audition. Both sisters can now look forward to being stars.

Thoughts

This is an evil influence story, but with two major differences from the formula. First, it is never revealed just what the influence was or what caused it. This is a complete deviation from the standard formula, where it is always obvious what the evil influence is – at least, to the reader. The victim may start off knowing what it is herself as well, as in Jinty’s “Slave of the Mirror”. Or the victim does not realise what is going on until something – or an astute someone – tips her off, as in “Prisoner of the Bell”, also from Jinty. Either way, the reader is usually informed as to what it is that is taking hold of the protagonist in the first episode. Yet in this case, the reader is kept in the dark. Readers must have expected that everything will be explained by the final episode. But no – right up to the end it remains just as much a mystery to the reader as it is to the protagonists – and becomes a double pun on the “Mystery” in the title. Instead, readers are left to draw their own conclusions. Was it some kind of psychological cause? Was Martine getting so wrapped up in the role of Vivien that life started to imitate art, so to speak? Or was there truly some supernatural force at work? Indeed, there are hints of demons and possession in the play, and Nigel’s solution to the problem sounds ominously like exorcism. The mystery of it all makes it even more frightening because we do not understand what it is exactly that is making Martine act like Vivien.

Second, the evil influence story usually focuses on the point of view of the victim of the influence. We see her thoughts as she falls under the influence and her reactions to it: confusion, terror, bewilderment, desperation, torture, trying to make sense of it all and finding ways to deal with it. But here the story is told from the POV of the sister who is watching it all from a terrified, bewildered and desperate standpoint. We never get Martine’s point of view or thought bubbles that tell us what is going on in her head. And because we do not see this, we do not have the insight that can shed light on just what is happening to Martine. Nor can we see just what she is planning when Vivien takes over, so we have no idea just how or when she will strike. So we are all the more worried and frightened when Martine lurks around the school with that Vivien look and clicking those bangles. So having the POV from the sister rather than the victim makes the story even more frightening and helps to preserve the “mystery”.

Comix minx has commented on how Tinturé “seems particularly good at brunettes with snapping glares”. This is perfect for the facial expressions of the seemingly possessed, demented, crazed Viviene/Martine, such as where she sits on a chair, clicking her bangles, and her face is “terribly transformed!” There is even a wild look about her flowing black hair that further enhances her terrifying Vivien look and must have sent shudders up the spines of readers.

Mario Capaldi

Mario Capaldi (1935-2004) is an odd case of a key Jinty artist. He had a uniquely visible position as a long-term cover artist during not just one but two time periods, strongly setting the visual identity of the comic. Like fellow British artist Phil Townsend, Mario Capaldi had a very solid style, strongly grounded in the day to day world around him; his covers nevertheless show that he was well able to draw a wide range of sports that will have required research and imagination. However, when you come to tot up the comics stories that he did over that time, it is not as substantial a body of work as you might have thought. Despite that, he is clearly one of the key artists of this title.

Jinty cover 17Jinty cover 14Jinty 13 September 1975

He started off his time at Jinty drawing “The Jinx From St Jonah’s“, which from issue 4 occupied a prominent position on the cover almost every week. The cover page was nominally a page of comics in that it showed a sequence of two or three panels, but the big focus was on the splash image, a very dynamic drawing of Katie Jinks typically in the middle of some pratfall or other. This continued until the time of the Jinty & Lindy merger in November 1975. Mario Capaldi continued drawing the story for a while longer but by the middle of 1976 this too had come to an end.

That wasn’t the end of Capaldi’s work in Jinty, but he didn’t appear again regularly for some years. 1976 saw him start a stand-alone story (“Champion In Hiding”) but without finishing it: it was completed by another artist. (“Jinx” had also had episodes continued by other artists, but this is not as surprising for an ongoing humour strip with no fixed end point as it is for a story that will typically not last for much longer than four months or so in any case.) 1977 saw him start and complete another stand-alone story, “Cursed To Be A Coward!”; not one of my top picks, but handily proving he could pull off creepy just as well as zany.

He must have been in the mood for creepy work, because he did a lot of work for sister publication Misty over the two years that it ran. (I assume he did not leave Jinty purely in order to work for Misty, because that was first published in February 1978, some considerable time after the last episode of “Jinx” ran; and even if the first batch of stories for a new comic are likely to be written and drawn some time in advance, that would still mean Capaldi potentially drawing “The Sentinels” for Misty at a similar time as when “Cursed To Be A Coward!” was running in Jinty.)

His return to the pages of Jinty does follow quite nicely on the heels of Misty‘s merger with Tammy, so I could well imagine that’s not a coincidence.  He then drew a couple of key stories for Jinty – one of Mistyfan’s favourites, “Dracula’s Daughter“, and one of my favourites, “Life’s A Ball For Nadine”. It is his cover images, though, that will be a particular part of many Jinty readers’ iconic memories of the title.

His daughter, Vanda Capaldi, has more information his life and artistic development. She also wrote an article specifically for the Misty fansite (currently down, hopefully will return shortly).

[Edited in Jan 2015 to add the following]

It seems sensible to also include a list of the stories that Mario Capaldi is known to have worked on in other titles or publications:

  • The Sentinels (Misty)
  • The Button Box (Tammy)
  • Daughter of The Regiment (Tammy)
  • Wee Sue (Tammy)
  • Winner Loses All (Misty)

WTFometer II

Continuing from the previous WTFometer post, here are some worked-through examples.

WTFometer Song of the Fir Tree

Song of the Fir Tree” is not a fantastical story, but it is one that takes the reader quite far away from their usual context. There’s not just one girl protagonist but two, of mixed gender (the major focus is on Solveig, but her brother Per gets a lot of lines, action, and attention too). The story is set in Continental Europe, not very long beforehand but in a definite historical period compared to the readers of the time; and the children are more than poverty-stricken: they are in serious danger of starvation and of death by murder or by accident. In the absence of family, they have to make their own decisions and way all across many countries; this is all without special abilities like that used by “The Robot Who Cried” or Xenia in “Almost Human” when they also trek far distances.

I am experimenting with giving the stories scores on the WTFometer – a small score on a measure means that the difference (positive or negative) compared to the default is likewise small – a boy rather than a girl, but not an animal or an alien. A score in this column counts as 1 point. A big score on the measure means that the difference (whichever way it goes) is larger – their basic physical security is not just compromised to the extent of a broken leg or a hospital stay, but seriously enough to endanger their lives.  I am scoring these as 5 points, to give extra weighting accordingly. And an ‘Extreme’ score? That scores 10 points, and represents a protagonist death, or a school structure so different from the default to seem unrecognizable, or physical laws so warped to allow for just about anything.

Children of Edenford” is surprisingly tamer than I might have expected. Well, no, not tamer, but… more concentrated in its focus?

WTFometer Children of Edenford

Much of the set-up in “Children” is going to be very familiar to the readers. Patti is a girl much like the expected average reader: white, English, with parents who both work either to earn a living or to keep the house. The school, however, is very definitely out of the ordinary, and the contrast is the sharper for it; the same goes for the coercion and mind-control, so strong that it borders onto magic. (Perhaps I should have scored ‘agency in small things’ in the Extreme column to show this?) This is a case where I would really like to do a comparison of the early episodes with the later ones, to show how the departures from the average become more marked as the story develops.

There is no lack of Extreme columns for the last story: if you’ve read Mistyfan’s summary of “Worlds Apart” you will know it is going to be possibly the highest-scoring story in all of girls’ comics. The protagonists are no big deviation from the standard, apart from the fact that in each story they seem to gain considerable status and power; but boy are the schools that they go to in each world not half odd! Their agency is taken away, their mental capacity affected as they each take turn to lose their memories and, most striking of all, they die painful deaths – not just one death happening in front of the reader, but over and over again.

WTFometer Worlds Apart

Physical laws and real-life historical facts are overturned without compunction, the girls are given physical attributes both greater and lesser than the norm, their emotional and mental security is played with almost as much as their physical security; but still it all happens within a brief timespan in our own present time, and in a reasonably circumscribed location. Yes, it’s bonkers – but it’s not all bonkers.


 

I doubt I will be working through all the Jinty stories giving them WTFometer scores, but I’m sure I will come back to this another time. I would be very glad if others wanted to try it themselves; I have the grids available as spreadsheets that I will happily send out on request.

WTFometer; or, a measure of a story’s bonkersness

I wanted to come up with a good way of looking at some of the stories we’ve been describing, in a more structured fashion – something that would help me compare one story with another, or the early part of a story with the later part, or even the stories in one comic with those in another. Specifically, I wanted to be able to pinpoint the ‘WTF’ feeling that is so prevalent in reading these stories nowadays as an adult – is there a way I could sensibly talk about one story being more bonkers than another, and about the way that it is sublimely ridiculous?

(It’s not just about analysing the feeling of the adult reader – I’m sure that the WTF reaction in 2014 does map onto something that the writers and editors of Jinty wanted to foster in their original readers – an agog desire to read on and find out what will happen next, what will the writers dare give us. Jinty (and other girls’ comics) is a literature of excess not of minimalism, and from what we hear from editors of the time, that was always part of their strategy.)

To do this, I settled on looking at how far both the protagonist and the situation that she finds herself in during the story differ from a sort of assumed default average, or ‘platonic ideal’. I made up a structure of what that average reader of the time might look like: age, gender, family situation, social situation, and so on. This then gives a baseline that the comparison can be made from – we can ask, how far does the individual story (or story episode) take us from that baseline? And we can then compare the story that is set in something very like an average situation, with one or two key differences (the cruel stepmother, the emotional abuse) to the one that pushes the same themes further (torture and near-death), or to the one that pushes into weirder territory (mind-control, time-travel, alternate universes).

Of course, this ‘average’ is an artificial construction – there will have been many readers that were different from this default. Neither is it intended to elevate one option above others – certainly not to say that the white English average girl is more ideal than the non-white non-English counter-example. I also can’t say that I’ve got that assumed average correct, at this inital stage; I’d love to hear people suggest changes and fixes to my first  structure. I am however already finding it an interesting way to look at some specific stories, and to compare them on a much more like-with-like fashion than would otherwise be the case.

Finally, a word of warning – this analysis has nothing to do with psychological realism, or with quality of writing. Literary fiction shows us that writing about people like ourselves, living in situations like our own, can be written well or badly, making for exciting or for dull reading. I am definitely not saying that a story in which characters are more like the default average reader is necessarily going to be a boring story.

What, therefore, are the details of the structure? I have divided it up into 6 parts.


  • What is the background of the protagonist?

The default / average protagonist in Jinty (not necessarily in all UK girls’ comics) is:

    • a girl (a young human female – so a move away from this default could be to have a boy protagonist, or a grown woman, or a non-human such as Seulah the Seal)
    • white (so a move away from this default could be to have a Chinese, Indian, or Black British character)
    • English born and bred (in Jinty, even a Welsh or Scottish protagonist has a hint of the ‘other’, it seems to me)
    • Working or lower middle class (family needs to earn a living, but is able to do so; that is, the protagonist is neither rich nor poverty-stricken)
    • Modern in time (protagonist is a 1960s/1970s girl)
  • What is the underlying social/family/friends situation of the protagonist?

In the story, what is the setup of the main character’s friends and family, and of the society she lives in? The defaults I am using are that she:

    • lives in England (so a story set in Continental Europe, as per “Song of the Fir Tree”, is a move away from this default; a story set on another planet is a much bigger one)
    • two-parent household (a small difference would be a story featuring quarelling/divorcing parents, such as in “Ping-Pong Paula”; a larger one would be one with an orphan)
    • standard family structure (say one or two siblings, some extended family like aunts / uncles / cousins; counterexamples might be where the protagonist is alone in the whole world, or where she has lots and lots of siblings)
    • standard friends structure (say a small group of close friends, vs no friends or lots of friends)
    • standard pets (a single cat/dog/hamster, vs exotic animals or lots of ordinary animals)
    • standard school structure (comprehensive or day school vs boarding school; one with ordinary school policies)
  • What sort of free will or agency does the protagonist have?

Realistically, a girl in 70s Britain is going to have various constraints; no one has an entirely free will to do exactly as they like. At the same time, those girls will still have some normal, expected freedoms. In some stories in Jinty, these basic freedoms may be either massively reduced (in a slave story) or increased (perhaps if the girl is a loner or an orphan).

    • Laws and norms apply (she obeys the law of the land and the usual norms like wearing clothes and being polite to your elders)
    • Has agency in small things (she can decide how to spend her pocket money, probably can decide about things like clothes and hairstyles)
    • Lack of agency for large things (her parents or guardians make big decisions for her, so a story where she has to make all her decisions in the absence of such figures would be a difference from the default)
  • Is the protagonist reasonably safe and secure, or endangered?

Most girls in our default 1970s Britain will have an expectation of being normally fairly safe; they do not live in war zones or go about in danger of their lives. Individuals may suffer bullying or have mental health issues such as depression, but this is not part of the expected ‘default’.

    • Basic emotional security (love and friendship are normal and expected)
    • Basic physical security (may have the odd bump and bruise via sports or play)
    • Basic mental security (anxiety or claustrophobia would be counterexamples)
  • What abilities or talents does the protagonist have?

The ordinary reader isn’t a top cyclist, concert piano player, or even consistently head of her class.

    • Standard real-life talents (not a top class cyclist and so on)
    • Standard physical abilities (no special abilities like being super-strong or being able to fly; but likewise no disabilities either)
    • Standard mental abilities (no special mental powers like telepathy, second sight)
    • Standard intellectual abilities (no super-intelligence, but likewise no amnesia or learning disabilities either)
  •  Other story factors

Now we’re really entering the realm of the fantastical. Of course no real readers could be from the future or the past, or travelling outside their own time.

    • Current time period applies (story takes place in the ‘present time’ of the 1970s/80s, just like real life for the reader)
    • Current physical laws apply (magic doesn’t work in reality)
    • Action is within circumscribed locality (this is not actually fantastical, it just really reflects the fact that a 1970s girl was unlikely to be travelling much further than a British seaside on anything like a regular basis)
    • Current/actual historical facts apply (no made-up countries, robots, aliens, alternate universes, etc)

 

The above will be of little real use without examples, and it’s only the examples that will show whether this whole analysis is pointless or not. This post is already pretty long though, so the examples will follow next.

Snoopa (1979-1984)

Publication: (Snoopa) 29 April 1979-21 November 1981; (Crayzees) 28 November 1981-31 March 1984

Artist: Joe Collins

Snoopa 1

(Snoopa’s third appearance in Penny. He comments on the free gift that came with her third issue.)

Snoopa was a regular cartoon in Penny. He was with Penny from her first issue and proved his durability by going not through one merger but two. Of course Snoopa had the advantage of being drawn by the popular Joe Collins, which enabled him to be absorbed into the other Joe Collins cartoon in Tammy. More on that in a moment.

Snoopa 2

(Snoopa, 1 December 1979. Joe Collins is clearly more comfortable with Snoopa, whose appearance looks more developed than in his early days in Penny. And here, Penny makes one of her appearances in Snoopa.)

Snoopa was a mouse who (presumably) is a resident of Pennys house. I do not have the first Snoopa to verify that he did in fact live in Penny’s house, but Penny herself is seen in several of his cartoons. Interestingly, Penny’s face is drawn in a style that aims at realism rather than the cartoony style that Collins uses in his typical drawings of people (see Crayzees below).

Update: I have now viewed the first Snoopa cartoon, in which Snoopa mistakes the plastic cheese gift that came with the first Penny for real cheese and breaks his teeth on it. Penny takes pity on him. It still does not fully confirm that Snoopa lived in Penny’s house, but it can be safely assumed that he did.

Many of Snoopa’s gags centre on food because Snoopa has a big appetite and is often pilfering food. This leads to another running gag – weight loss schemes that have varying degrees of success. Other gags focus on him running the gauntlet with the resident cat with his pilfered food or getting into other scrapes with it.

Snoopa 3

(Snoopa’s first appearance in the Jinty & Penny merger, 12 April 1980.)

And Snoopa continued with his gags in the Jinty and Penny merger. Together with Tansy of Jubilee Street, he was the longest-running Penny feature in Jinty.

On 28 November 1981 Jinty merged with Tammy, and Snoopa merged with the Joe Collins cartoon in Tammy. Originally “Edie the Ed’s Niece”, it became “Edie and Miss T” when Misty merged with Tammy, which brought Misty’s Joe Collins cartoon, Miss T the witch, to the merger. When Snoopa joined, the Joe Collins cartoon became “Crayzees”. In my opinion, “Crazyees” was an even better cartoon than when its respective characters had their own strips. The amalgamation of three gag strips into one meant more characters, and they were very diverse characters. This made scope for more variety, situations, interactions, and a more diverse range of gags that ranged from fantastical (with Miss T being a witch) to gags that centre more on the animals in the strip, such as Miss T’s cat’s birthday.

To celebrate their merger, Edie, Miss T and Snoopa moved into a new house in Crayzee Street – presumably to give the name to their combined strip. Snoopa brings the key to the new house and declares, “I’m Snoopa from Jinty!” This upset one former Penny reader who said Snoopa was properly from Penny. She also complained about Penny‘s gradual disappearance in the merger. But that, sadly, is the way mergers go, and Snoopa did come over to Tammy from Jinty after all. In any case, as Snoopa is moving into a new house, that means he is leaving behind the one he shared with Penny in his own strip – and with it, his Penny roots.

Edie took an instant dislike to Snoopa because he was a mouse, and she never seemed to overcome it. But Miss T’s cat falls head over heels in love with Snoopa – which is really ironic considering that Snoopa had a cat for an enemy in his old cartoon. Snoopa found it increasingly unbearable to have the cat mooning over him and took refuge in his mouse hole. The cat pined, so Miss T’s solution was to make Snoopa the size of a human. The size of a human?!? Oh, well, this is called “Crazyees” after all. Snoopa’s new size displeased Edie, but it made Snoopa and the cat happy.

Crayzees lasted until Princess (series 2) merged with Tammy in 1984 and was replaced with Princess’s Joe Collins cartoon, “Sadie in Waiting”. Personally, I missed “Crazyees” but I guess there was room for only one Joe Collins cartoon in a merger.

Crayzees

(Snoopa, Edie and Miss T come together to form Crayzees. Tammy & Jinty, 28 November 1981.)

Jinty & Penny 4 October 1980

 

 

Image

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Girl the World Forgot (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Tears of a Clown (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Houghton)
  • A Call for Help – Gypsy Rose (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Behind the Scenes – Return of the Saint (TV feature)
  • Sue’s Daily Dozen – first episode (artist José Casanovas)
  • Child of the Rain (artist Phil Townsend)

This is the 101th post on this blog, and I used it to bring one of my favourite Mario Capaldi Jinty covers. I find it to be one of Jinty‘s most uplifting Capaldi covers, with its use of colour, the symmetry of the sails, the ocean setting, and the slight humour of one rider having a mishap on the far right. The pennants trailing across the Jinty logo are a nice elegant touch as well.

Inside is the beginning of José Casanovas’s last Jinty story, “Sue’s Daily Dozen”. Newcomer Sue Baker is a shy girl who has just moved in and having trouble finding her feet. Then she finds her cottage holds a secret – it used to belong to a witch and her collection of spells known locally as the Daily Dozen. But no – there is nothing evil or Satanic about it. It is how witches really were – wise women who tried to help people with magic and herbal remedies. The locals realise this and they embrace the Daily Dozen instead of fearing it or persecuting Sue for it. That’s what I really like about this story.

In “Tears of a Clown“, Kathy has failed to prove her worth again. This time it is fate rather than bully Sandra who foils her. But you know the story is peaking and the resolution is coming, because in this episode Kathy is pushed too far when she is humiliated on Sports Day instead of getting the respect she worked so hard for. The blurb at the end tells you she will use her talent to run off next week. So readers are all eager to buy next week’s issue for that alone.

In “Girl the World Forgot“, Mrs Owen begins to wonder if Shona is alive after all. Pity Mr Owen dismisses it instead of following it up, because Shona is indeed alive and marooned on an island. Meanwhile, Shona continues with hard lessons about survival, such as how to make clothes out sacks. But she has some fun in this episode by taking dips in the sea and enjoying her new seal friends. And in “Child of the Rain”, Gemma is learning yoga to keep focused on tennis. But yoga is no match for the strange power that causes Gemma to be filled with strength when it rains, but wilt like a flower when rain is absent. This is interfering not only with her tennis but with her life in general.

One hundred posts already!

I’m both amazed and amazingly pleased that this blog has hit the 100th post already – just over two months from the first post. Much of the kudos for this has got to go to co-writer Mistyfan, of course, who has written many posts about individual stories and issues, and who has been able to supply many scans that I’ve used along the way too. It’s been really motivational for me to know that there’s been someone else out there just as interested and passionate as me, but even more active, asking me when I plan to finish a certain post, story, or interview.

It also looks like there’s starting to be some fruitful collaborative discussion on the blog comments, which I’m also very grateful for and would love to see more of. This is a good cue to ask readers what you would like to see more of (or, even, what you might want to see less of!) I am planning one story post to come quite soon, and thereafter some more on individual creators and on issues. My next few posts, though, are likely to be about analytical ways of looking at stories from Jinty and other similar comics. I hope that these different ways of looking at stories and issues will help to show what it means to say a particular story is bonkers and extreme, and will give some structure to ideas that Jinty differs (or is similar to) from other comics in this way or that way. At the same time, I expect that Mistyfan will continue to feed us on story posts and issue posts, the staple of this blog.

Please do comment, though. Is there a particular story you are intrigued about and would like to know more on? Or one of the Jinty creators you want showcased sooner rather than later? Or some change in the frequency of posting, the way we structure the posts, the way the site hangs together, the way you can or can’t find material? I’d really like to know. And of course – many thanks go to you too, for reading!

Worlds Apart (1981)

Sample images

Worlds Apart 23a

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Worlds Apart 23b

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Worlds Apart 23c

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Worlds Apart 23d

Publication: 25 April 1981 to 3 October 1981

Artist: Guy Peeters
Writer: Unknown (this story has been incorrectly credited to Pat Mills in other publications)

Summary

“Imagine the dream worlds inside your head becoming real! That’s what happened to six girls from Crawley Comprehensive after an accident with a road tanker carrying dangerous chemicals from a secret government research establishment”.

Each world is governed by the respective girl’s characteristic – making it an ideal world for her, but a nightmare for the other girls: “It seems that given a free rein, the worst comes out in us.” The only release from these worlds is for its respective creator to die – and this happens when each creator meets her downfall through the very same characteristic that shaped her world. The respective adventures and nightmares in each world develop as follows:

Sarah (greedy): Sarah’s world is ruled by fat, greed and gluttony. The people only think about food and being as fat as they can possibly be; 20 stone is “such a trim figure”. Even the animals are fat, including the sparrows. Exercise is considered “disgusting”. The girls are emaciated by the standards of this world, even fat Sarah. So the girls are force-fed in hospital until they are so grotesquely obese that they can hardly walk. Sarah is the only one to enjoy this world because she can stuff herself with as much food as she likes and nobody calls her “fatty”. Then Sarah gets a horrible shock when sporty Ann dies from running half a mile because she is too fat. Now Sarah sees the fatty world in a whole new light. Afterwards she falls into a river and drowns because she can’t swim.

Ann (sporty): Ann’s world is ruled by sport. Education, clothes, foodstuffs, food consumption, architecture, city planning, transport, politics, war, and even the death penalty are all linked to sport. In fact, everything revolves around sport and keeping fit at all costs, even if you are old and infirm. Ann simply loves her world because she can indulge in sport at every waking moment. But like the others, Ann’s indulgence becomes her undoing. It begins when the Soviet Union declares war on Britain. War is played with a sports match; the losing team is executed and the invading country just walks in if its team wins. Ann is honoured to be in the British team, but doesn’t know that the Russians are cheating by taking drugs. When Britain loses, Ann meets her downfall by the very thing she loves – sport. The method used to execute her is to be tied to an exercise bicycle until she dies from exhaustion.

Samantha (vain): Samantha’s world is ruled by vanity. It is a fairy tale world and she is Sleeping Beauty – who rules this world more than her royal parents. But Samantha is no fairytale princess. She is cruel, tyrannical, power mad, and indulges in admiring her beauty at every waking moment. Her castle is known as the Castle of Mirrors because there are mirrors everywhere for Samantha to admire her beautiful face. As for the other girls, they are her downtrodden servants and threatened with torture if they displease her. Mo, whom Samantha dislikes, suffers the most in this world – partly because she refuses to be downtrodden.

Then, when Samantha dumps Prince Charming for the Frog Prince, he gets revenge by hiring the witch (Mo’s mother!) who originally put Samantha to sleep. So the witch turns Samantha’s vanity against her with a spell that causes Samantha’s face to appear as a pig when reflected in the mirrors. Samantha becomes hysterical when she realises that she can never see her beautiful face again. “How can I live without admiring myself? I can’t stand it!” Samantha shrieks like a maniac, shattering all the mirrors and herself in the process. Talk about narcissism.

Mo (delinquent): Mo’s world is ruled by crime, where crime, violence and anarchy are the rule. Everyone has prison numbers, and if they are stripped of them they become non-persons and fall prey to lynch mobs. Education at reform schools (which in the girls’ case is modelled on Alcatraz and patrolled by guards with live bullets in their guns) teaches crime (safe-cracking, forgery, framing, pickpocketing etc). The only crime in this world is to do a good deed, which is punishable by lynching – and nearly happens to the other girls. It seems the perfect world for the delinquent Mo to flourish – until she is kidnapped by gangsters and given a pair of concrete shoes. This has Mo anxious to turn over a new leaf if she returns to the real world before she is even thrown into the river to drown.

Clare (intellectual): Clare’s world is ruled intellectualism, and the size of your IQ determines your standing in society. At the top of society are the “swots” and at the bottom are the “dullards” – a dimwitted subhuman species who are classed as animals and are treated as such (experimentation, slaughter houses, etc). The other girls are dullards because Clare always considered them stupid, “so in her world, we are stupid.” Clare is an arrogant, clinical scientist ready to perform experiments on her “dullard” classmates. But she doesn’t get the chance because dullard liberationists break them out of the laboratory and turn them loose into the wild.

Clare comes after them, but she quarrels bitterly with her co-worker who wants to make a dullard wildlife film. Clare protests that this is cruel to the dullards because they cannot survive in the wild. The man retorts that she was cruel herself, for experimenting on them and what’s more, the law states that his word overrules hers because his IQ is higher than hers. Well, these were the rules Clare made for this world. Then the helicopter crashes. Clare is unhurt and is saved by her dullard friends. But she cannot survive in the wild herself; she runs away and dies in an unshown accident.

Jilly (timid): Jilly’s world is ruled by fear. It is a horror-movie Goth world where everything serves only one purpose – to terrify! There is a particular emphasis on vampires, and lessons in school are geared to turn pupils into vampires, with coffin building lessons, blood pudding (with real blood) in domestic science, and first aid class includes mouth-to-neck resuscitation i.e. be bitten on the neck and be turned into one of the Undead.

Clare realises that if Jilly becomes one of the Undead, she will never die – and the only way to escape this horror world is for Jilly to die. They will become trapped in this world if Jilly becomes one of the Undead and never dies, and in the penultimate episode it looks like this is going to happen. The girls do save Jilly from becoming one of the Undead, but she is a girl who is still scared of her own shadow. This too is taken to its extreme – Jilly is attacked and killed by her own shadow.

Afterwards
The girls now wake up in hospital in the real world. They discuss their adventure and ponder over why their worlds were so horrible: “We’re not terrible people, are we?” Clare decides it was because if you take things to extremes, it gets all twisted. The girls then reflect on the lessons they have learned, including becoming more tolerant and understanding, that greed, sport, cleverness and beauty are not everything, and crime does not pay.

Thoughts
“Worlds Apart” was Jinty’s last science fiction/fantasy story before her merge with Tammy in 1981. It was also the last serial that Guy Peeters drew for Jinty. In discussions of girls’ comics this story is widely regarded as Jinty’s ultimate classic in science fiction, not to mention being an incredible adventure story, perils-and-adversity story and a sobering, thought-provoking morality story. It touches all of us because we have all had a dream world at some point and wished they could come true. But if they did, would they live up to our expectations or would they turn out to be the stuff of nightmares?

Although “Worlds Apart” is considered one of the best, perhaps it could have been better. The ending suffers a bit because it looks like it was rushed to make way for the seven-issue ‘countdown’ to the merger. The last world is given short shrift (one and a half episodes while the others get four or five), so it is not as developed as much as the others and Jilly emerges as the only one not to learn anything from her world. Instead, the other girls end up feeling sorry for her for being so terrified. It feels a bit unsatisfying. All right, so maybe Jinty wanted to make a statement here that some people never learn. Or they cannot learn because they are too entrenched in what they are. This is what some of the others begin to think about Jilly: “If this is Jilly’s mind, she must be permanently scared, poor girl!” Then again, the last two episodes were given four pages instead of the usual three. I have observed that an increase in pages and even double episodes can be a sign of pressure to finish a story quickly to clear the decks fast for something big – such as a merger.

Nonetheless, “Worlds Apart” is far more hard hitting and bizarre than anything Jinty had produced before in moralism as it depicts the dangers of extremism (extremes of greed, sports-mania, vanity, crime, intellectualism and fear), and how terrible the consequences can be if extremism is allowed to carry to its logical conclusion. In fact, Clare decides that this is why the worlds were so horrible.

It also took the torture of its heroines to fantastical heights of grotesqueness and perversity that remain unmatched today. For example, in the fat world the girls are force-fed until they are grotesquely fat – probably the “trim figure” of 20 stone. In the sports world they are expected to exercise while they have their school dinners, take cold showers to toughen them up, and run across the town to their dormitories because the run will help keep them fit. And in the horror world, they have classes for building their own coffins for when they are turned into vampires. Talk about digging your own grave….

There is perverse and tongue-in-cheek humour and satire too, such as where the vain world turns the fairy tale on its head. Sleeping Beauty is a tyrant instead of an innocent princess, she jilts her prince, and you find yourself sympathising with the fairy-tale witch who punishes Samantha. There are some jokes even in the horror world – the train station, for example, is called Lugosi station, and Britain is called The United Kingdom of Transylvania. And in the sports world, we learn that Hitler fought World War II via a footy match. Yes, the class is shown a slide of Hitler – “German manager and chief coach” – in his footy gear!