Publication: 11 May 1974-1 November 1975. Returned 31 January 1976-5 June 1976.
Artist: José Casanovas
Writer: Various, including Terence (Terry) Magee and Pat Mills.
It has been said that the Cinderella story is (according to Pat Mills) one of the lynchpins in a girls’ comics. Well, it could also be said that in girls’ comics there are two types of Cinderella stories. The first is the serious type, with the ill-used heroine suffering constant exploitation and abuse from nasty guardians and struggling to find a way to escape. The second is the humour type, whereby the heroine is treated like Cinderella, but each week ends in a comical comeuppance for the nasty, scheming slave driver, and our heroine gets the last laugh (until next time). The best known of these is probably “Cinderella Jones” from Judy.
In Jinty’s first line-up, “Make-Believe Mandy” belonged to the first type. And Dora Dogsbody, the strip under discussion here, belonged to the second type. Dora Dogsbody is the first story to greet us when we open the first issue of Jinty. And as it is drawn by the popular José Casanovas whose style works brilliantly with animals, humour and the zany, it catches our attention immediately. Casanovas’ art is the type you can fall in love with immediately.
Dora Watson has lived in an orphanage until one day she is out for a walk. She rescues a dog (which she names Scamp) from being beaten up by bigger ones and in so doing demonstrates a way with dogs that does not go unnoticed by Mr and Mrs Siddons. They explain that they run a dogs’ hotel and ask Dora to come and live with them in exchange for helping their dog guests. It seems like a dream come true for any orphanage girl – a home at last. And the hotel sure is swanky for the dogs. They dine at posh tables as if they were humans (complete with napkins around their necks) and eat caviar and steaks. They have a television room, a room each, and are in every way pampered. But Dora notices that they still look miserable and believes it is not because they are treated like real dogs.
As a matter of fact, Mrs Siddons shows that she is no animal lover. In fact, she has a cruel streak towards them. For example, when Scamp chases a cat in the hotel (which frightens the dogs), Mrs Siddons kicks him. She is a snob who does not regard Scamp in the same league as her pampered guests. And for all her pampering, Mrs Siddons soon shows that she has little love for her own doggy guests; for example, she is not above undercutting their food as punishment or to make economies. Clearly, Mrs Siddons is only running the dog hotel for the money. And initially, Mr Siddons is as bad as his wife, though the weaker of the two. Later he becomes more of a henpecked husband in the grip of his dominant wife, and Dora takes a sly hand to help him at times. For example, she plays on Mrs Siddons’ vanity so Mr Siddons will play Sherlock Holmes in a fancy dress parade as he wants to do, instead of being coerced into being Charles II so Mrs Siddons can play Nell Gwynn.
But back to the first episode. As you might have guessed, the Siddonses have not adopted Dora out of the kindness of their hearts. Dora soon finds that Mrs Siddons only wants her as a skivvy who does all the dirty work in the hotel. She is also given a cold, draughty room that is a far cry from the luxurious dogs’ rooms and fed on scraps. But she decides to stay on to see if she can turn things around for these dogs. So each week it is Dora vs Mrs Siddons, whether it is to foil one of Mrs Siddons’ grasping machinations, to save a problem dog, or some other scrape. Some of these have included Biscuit, a dog who is in danger of being put down because he seems to attack women. Mrs Siddons does not listen to the circus owner’s explanation that the dog was only doing his old circus act of caning women with red hair, but Dora outsmarts her and restores Biscuit to the circus. In another story, Mrs Siddons wants to put down another dog, Binkie, because he is blind, and Dora is rather hard put to save Binkie’s life. Other dogs have bizarre or even dangerous behaviours that Dora is frequently lumbered with sorting out. For example, Dora is lumbered with taming a difficult dog, Wolf, which she eventually does with the help of another dog, Kipper. However, Mrs Siddons does not appreciate Kipper – and is even more furious when Dora gives the money for taming Wolf to Kipper’s owner. Some animals are not even dogs, such as Henry the cat. Mrs Siddons insists on having Henry in the hotel because his owner, Lady Jane, is an aristocrat. But Henry soon proves a horrible cat that deliberately causes trouble for the dogs the moment he is let out of his basket.
Occasionally it does not all go Dora’s way, which helps to keep it fresh. For example, in one episode, Dora thinks she has foiled Mrs Siddons again – until Mrs Siddons tells her that they are now lumbered with a pile of turnips and she will be eating them all week. In another, Dora and the dogs go on a walk-out in protest against Mrs Siddons’ cost-cutting measures which include depriving them of food, heat and light – and in winter weather! But the march is a disaster because of bad weather.
Dora proved one of the most popular and long-lasting strips in Jinty’s first line-up. She was the only one of two Jinty characters to return after a break and, unlike “Fran’ll Fix It!”, it was not due to popular demand from readers.