Monthly Archives: July 2014

For Peter’s Sake! (1976)

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Publication: 13 March 1976 – 31 July 1976

Artist: Ana Rodriguez

Writer: Unknown – but see “Thoughts”.

Update: My “thoughts” were correct – Alison Christie (now Fitt) wrote this story.

Summary

In pre-WWII Britain, Corrie and Dawn Lomax are delighted when they are presented with a baby brother, Peter. But then disaster strikes. First, Mr Lomax dies in a work accident. Then Peter falls ill. Peter’s illness is resisting effective diagnosis or cure, and he has to be treated as an outpatient because the hospital is short of beds. To add to the Lomax household stresses, money is tight (bread and dripping for tea every night now), and Mrs Lomax has no time for Corrie and Dawn. So Mrs Lomax accepts an invitation to send Corrie to Granny Mackie in Drumloan, Scotland, where Corrie can receive motherly attention.

Granny has a pram called Old Peg. She uses Old Peg for community work (carting soup, delivering mail, laundry and other uses). But what is really strange is that Old Peg also has a reputation in the community for possessing curative powers for infants. Any sick infant rocked in Old Peg seems to recover immediately. Corrie’s mother has always been sceptical about this, but Corrie and Granny believe Old Peg will do the same for Peter if only they can get the two together.

Then Granny dies. Corrie finds a note in Old Peg saying “Push it to Peter”, and the pram is equipped for a long journey. So Corrie begins a long journey of pushing Old Peg all the way from Scotland to Peter in London, sleeping in her at night, and having all sorts of adventures, mishaps and dangers on the way. She also has to keep ahead of the law, as she has been reported missing in Drumloan.

Corrie’s first misadventure is falling foul of tinkers. They pretend to hide her from the police, but then blackmail her into slaving for them. She escapes by pretending to have a game with Peg and their children, and then shooting off down a slope.

Unfortunately Corrie lost her tin opener to the tinkers and she is hungry. She finds some escaped chickens. She rounds them up and a girl at the farm gratefully gives her a meal. But the girl’s father, who is a bully, takes a dimmer view of her and throws her out.

Another problem arises when Peg loses a wheel. Corrie takes her for repairs, but the man recognises her as the missing girl and calls the police. Corrie makes a fast exit, with Peg still unrepaired. She rescues a boy from drowning and his grateful family repair Peg. And they do not turn her in when a policeman knocks.

Corrie is off again, but she has run out of food and money. She tries to find work at a village, but people turn her away and one woman cheats her because they think she is a tinker. Eventually Corrie and Peg stumble into a circus where the folk are far kinder. They pay Corrie well, and Corrie and Peg are even part of a circus act. But the circus is going north and Corrie needs to go south. It’s back to pushing Peg again.

While sleeping in Old Peg, Corrie takes a drenching in the rain. As a result, she develops pneumonia. She makes it to a house before she collapses. She is taken to hospital, where she is recognised as the runaway girl. Once she recovers, the doctor is going to take her back to Drumloan. But then he discovers what she is trying to do. He takes pity on her and gives her a train ticket to London. Unfortunately, Corrie discovers that Peg is not allowed to travel free and she has no money to cover the extra cost. She discards the ticket, but it is picked up by a woman who does need it, and she pays Corrie half fare.

But Corrie is now back to pushing Peg, and she has not recovered enough from the pneumonia. She takes a rest in the park and is feeling depressed. A Salvation Army officer gives her one of their news sheets. There is an item about Peter, which says he is still sick and Mum is taking him to the seaside in the hope of a cure. This renews Corrie’s strength to get Peg to London.

Another thing is worrying Corrie – how to write to Mum, who thinks she is still in Drumloan and will be surprised to see a different postmark. Then she bumps into an old woman, Jessie, who happens to be an old friend of Gran’s. Corrie confides in Jessie, who helps her with a cover story for writing to Mum. Jessie also gives Corrie new supplies, including the beeswax polish that is always used for Peg.

However, a new problem strikes – blistered feet because Corrie’s boots have worn through and need repair. While Corrie bathes her feet, a gypsy woman comes along with a sick baby. Her medicine does not work, but Old Peg’s magic touch soon has the baby better. The grateful gypsies help Corrie out in a number of ways, including repairing her boots and hooking Old Peg to their wagon so Corrie can ride in her for a while and rest her feet.

Soon it is back to pushing Peg. Corrie takes a rest in a park when some schoolgirls take an interest in Peg and start sketching her. But one gets suspicious that Corrie is not in school and calls social welfare. When a social welfare officer finds Corrie sleeping in Old Peg, he wheels her to a children’s home. It has the feel of a prison, with locked gates, uniforms and a detention room with a barred window. Corrie tells them her story in the hope of help, but they do not believe her. Corrie finds herself falling foul of the strict matron and a blackmailer while boisterous children bounce in Peg (and keep getting tipped out every time they do it). Corrie manages to escape the home with Peg, but the police are alerted immediately. She manages to evade them with the aid of old clothes someone throws into her pram, but now the police search for her intensifies.

At the next town, Corrie calls in at a house to get water for her hot water bottle. The people are kind to Corrie, but she soon finds it is pretence. They are antique collectors who are after Peg. Corrie has to do a bit of breaking and entering to get Peg back.

Corrie and Peg do another family a good turn, and as a reward they give them a lift to London. But when Corrie arrives in London, she finds her family has shifted to a place nearer the hospital. While trying to find them, she comes across a headstone which looks like Peter’s. It turns out to be coincidence, but the shock has her running out into a road and being hit by a car. Mrs Lomax then finds Corrie. Corrie only has minor injuries and is soon discharged to her new address and reunited with her family.

Now it is time to rock Peter in Old Peg. But Corrie is surprised and disappointed when it does not have the curative effect that it had on other babies; Peter remains as sick as ever. Mrs Lomax explains that Peter is dying. His only chance is an American clinic, but she does not have the money for it.

Feeling Old Peg has let her down, Corrie shoves her down the road in a fit of pique. The crash rips the mattress in Old Peg, revealing that Granny had sewn her life savings into it. There is over £300, so now the Lomaxes can afford Peter’s treatment in America. Soon Corrie and Dawn, together with Peg, see Mum and Peter off on the plane. Then Corrie finds herself surrounded by reporters who want the full story of her trek from Scotland with Peg. She tells them that Peg will be giving Peter a victory rock when he comes home cured. And of course he does.

Thoughts

The writer is not known, but there are clues as to who it may be. “For Peter’s Sake!” bears some strong similarities to a 1983 Tammy story, “Room for Rosie”. Both stories feature an old boneshaker of a pram that is a real workhorse and famous in the locality for community work. Both are owned by grandmothers who bequeath them to their granddaughters upon their deathbeds and charge them with a special mission for it. Towards the end it looks as if the granddaughters have failed in those missions despite all their efforts, and they are heartbroken. But an unexpected turn of events at the last minute changes everything and ensures a happy ending.

As Tammy was running credits at this stage, we know that Alison Christie wrote Rosie. Did Christie write “For Peter’s Sake!” as well? The stories Christie was credited with indicate she specialised in emotional, heart-warming, tear-jerking stories, and this story certainly is one. Analysis of Christie’s other credited serials in Tammy (“A Gran for the Gregorys”, “Cassie’s Coach” and “It’s a Dog’s Life!”) also imply that Christie liked to end her serials with a surprise last-minute turn of events that turns a moment of black despair into a happy ending. And this is precisely how Peter’s story turns out happily…hmm. We cannot credit this story to Alison Christie without confirmation, but we would not put it past her.

Update: Alison Christie (now Fitt) has now confirmed that she wrote this story.

Stories about missions of mercy were always popular in girls’ comics. And when it’s a baby that needs saving, you can’t miss with winning the hearts of readers. We’ve also got fugitive elements, right down to a prison escape with the children’s home segment, adventure and adversity, life-threatening situations, people and situations in all shapes and sizes on Corrie’s long journey, and even a hint of the supernatural with Peg’s supposed curative powers for babies. There’s something for everyone in this story.

The conclusion has a surprise twist that does give us our happy ending – but it does not come in the way we expected and leaves things to our imaginations. We are left wondering as to why Peg’s curative power not work on Peter when it seemed to work on every other baby that was rocked in her. Was there something to Mrs Lomax’s scepticism about Peg’s curative powers after all? Was Peter’s illness beyond even the power of Peg to cure? Or was the cure withheld because something better (the money) was planned? The money not only saves Peter but helps ease the Lomaxes’ financial burdens following the death of Mr Lomax. Whatever the answer, it is a brilliant piece of plotting that gives the happy ending while avoiding trite clichés and schmaltz, and it leaves the readers wondering what statement the writer was trying to make with it.

 

 

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Jinty & Lindy 20 December 1975

 

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  • Slaves of the Candle (artist Roy Newby)
  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Finleg the Fox – final episode (artist Barrie Mitchell)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Too Old to Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Wanda Whiter than White – first episode (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • The Haunting of Hazel (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)

This issue concludes the second serial to come from Lindy, “Finleg the Fox”. The mysterious “boss”, the leader of a robber gang who kidnapped Dora in the previous issue turns out to be landowner Sir Arthur. Dora gets a whole new respect for Finleg and Una, who save her after she and her family have mistreated them. They are all one happy family now, but the wild soon calls to Finleg. The wild is never away for long though in girls’ comics – next week we will meet “Friends of the Forest”.

This issue sees the beginning of “Wanda Whiter than White”, the girl who takes truth-telling to such extremes that she is “the most hateful tell-tale ever”. Everyone suffers from Wanda’s tale-telling – even the teachers! Wanda has only been at her new school for one morning and her tattling has the form teacher so embarrassed that she is just about in tears.

Hazel gets some clues as to why she is haunted, but the locals are not very forthcoming in helping to explain them. However, next week we are promised a diary that will explain the tragedy that Hazel suspects happened.

In last week’s episode of “Ping-Pong Paula” we got hints that Dad’s business is in trouble, but now Paula learns it is worse than she thought – it goes bust altogether! At least they can take things easier with a new job for Dad and a council house. But there is no Mum and their searches for her go nowhere. Next week is Paula’s birthday, but we get a hint that it won’t bring the estranged parents together.

And in “Song of the Fir Tree” Captain Amundsen’s search for his beloved children ones goes nowhere as well. This time, a girl deliberately misdirects him in the mistaken belief he is Grendelsen, the man out to kill the children. Meanwhile, Grendelsen gets stalled when his car breaks down.

In “Too Old to Cry!”, Nell and Sara are finally friends. But other things, including Nell’s appearance, are against her at the beauty academy. And the shadow of the cruel orphanage Nell escaped from is still hanging over her.

Mrs Tallow demands a wax sculpture of The Tower of London from “Slaves of the Candle”. We get the feeling that she is hatching her masterplan with this one and Lyndy will soon find out exactly what she is up to.  Meanwhile, the slaves have set an escape plan in motion. Ironically, they are getting help from a man who sells candles!

Jinty 27 October 1979

Jinty 27 October 1979

Another beautiful Phil Townsend cover, from one of my favourite stories: “Combing Her Golden Hair”. There were a number of striking covers from this story, in fact. Tamsin lives with her strict gran, who is so strict we are led to think in terms of a slave story or emotional abuse as in “Mark of the Witch!“. However, spookier and stranger things are going on; the controlling or slave element is seen not just in the relations with the adult in the story but also with the silver comb that Tamsin has found.

In “Almost Human“, Xenia is enjoying being able to integrate with human society but is getting weaker physically, so the end of the story is heading towards us…

A story forgotten from the story-list is “My Heart Belongs to Buttons”, a realistic story of training a puppy to be a guide dog. Julie is heart-broken when her old dog Buttons died; her parents suggest that they become puppy-walkers for the Guide Dogs For the Blind Association. Julie finds it very hard to see another dog, even an engaging puppy, in her beloved Buttons’ place. Of course in the end her heart will be melted – but this puppy isn’t to stay with them, she has to go on to her new blind owner…

Another couple of realistic stories in this issue are “Waves of Fear” (bullying and claustrophobia handled sensitively by the writer and pretty badly by all the adults in the story) and “Black Sheep of the Bartons”. The latter is a sports story featuring the unusual sport of judo. Not totally realistic, of course: it also has the trope of hair colour enforcing outcome, in that Bev is the only family member who has black hair and both feels and is treated differently accordingly. I mean what, do they think she’s an illegitimate child or something?

Stories in this issue:

  • Almost Human (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Bizzie Bet and the Easies (artist Richard Neillands)
  • Village of Fame (artist Jim Baikie)
  • My Heart Belongs to Buttons (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Waves of Fear (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Combing Her Golden Hair (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Miss Make-Believe (unknown artist ‘Merry’)
  • Black Sheep of the Bartons (artist Guy Peeters)

Jinty & Lindy 13 December 1975

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  • Slaves of the Candle (artist Roy Newby)
  • Penny Crayon
  • Finleg the Fox (artist Barrie Mitchell)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Too Old to Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Hettie High and Mighty – final episode (unknown artist – Merry)
  • The Haunting of Hazel (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)

I’m rather puzzled as to the reason for the state of the cover. Maybe someone left part of it in the sun for too long.

At any rate, this issue sees off one of the stories to come from Lindy, “Hettie High and Mighty”. Miss High and Mighty was finally knocked off her high horse in the previous issue when her new stepmother gave her a jolly good hiding and told her to lead the team to victory, or else. The trouble is, Hettie was bitten by a dog on the way and now she is lame. Nonetheless, she is determined to help her team win despite the pain she is in, and her heroism is honoured on the cover. It sure is one way to redeem herself after all the trouble she has caused, but can she score the victory? Next issue, Hettie will be replaced by “Wanda Whiter than White“, another girl who causes trouble for everyone, but in a very different way – she “is the most hateful tell-tale ever!”

It is also revealed in this issue that the next one will have the conclusion of the other story to come from Lindy, “Finleg the Fox”. This episode sees a surprise twist – nasty Dora Dray, who tried to poison Finleg the fox, has been kidnapped! It is all because of money Mr Dray was forced to hide from a train robbery and a mystery man known as “the boss” who led the gang. Nobody knows who the boss is, and when our heroine finds out in the final panel, she cannot believe it. And we probably won’t either when we see who it is in the next issue.

Things get bloody in “Song of the Fir Tree” – Solveig and Per go out on a limb to stop some Nazi guerillas and Solveig takes a bullet to the head! Worse, it affects her memory and causes erratic behaviour. Just the thing you need when a man is out to kill you. And in “Slaves of the Candle”, Lyndy is left carrying the can over yet another of Mrs Tallow’s crimes. Now the price on her head has been raised to £700! In “Ping-Pong-Paula”, Paula collapses because she took a job on top of everything else to help pay the mortgage for the posh house her mother wanted. But now  that Mum has walked out, what is the point of keeping the house anyway? Nobody wanted it in the first place but her.

 

Mark of the Witch! (1977)

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Publication: 8 January 1977-30 April 1977

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Unknown

Summary

In the village of Kettleby Yorkshire, Emma Fielding is branded “Black Emma” – a witch, a bad sort, and an outcast because of the black streak in her hair. The black streak runs in the Fielding family and the stigma began with the first Fielding to have the streak, Simon Fielding. He was an evil 18th aristocrat who tyrannised and terrorised the countryside, and his black streak struck fear into anyone who saw it. Since then, the Fielding black streak has been associated with evil and the Fieldings have been persecuted as bad people. The persecution is made easier by the fact that the Fieldings no longer have the wealth and power that Simon Fielding had; they are the poorest people in the village and “the lowest of the low”. Their ancestral home, Fielding Castle, built by Simon Fielding, is now nothing but a ruin. But like the Fieldings themselves, Fielding Castle is avoided and feared by the villagers. Everywhere Emma goes, she is taunted by children and shunned by adults. She has become wild because she reacts aggressively against the abuse, which brands her even further as a bad lot. Emma herself has come to believe she has a bad streak, which shows when she lashes out or hates people, and thinks she must fight it.

There are only two bright spots in Emma’s life. The first is her loving mother, a gentle contrast to her frightening and sometimes violent father. Like Emma, Mr Fielding is aggressive and bitter because he has led a terrible life due to his own black streak. The second is riding, the only thing Emma does well. But there is another girl at Emma’s riding lessons who she hates more than any other – Alice Durrant. Emma is jealous of Alice because she has everything Emma does not, and her family is the most respected in the village. Emma thinks the hand of friendship Alice offers her is phony. But it is genuine; Alice alone sympathises with Emma, does not despise the black streak, and desperately wants to be her friend. But Emma keeps spurning her and does not believe Alice is trying to help her.

As the story progresses, Emma discovers another with a black streak – a horse with a black streak in its mane. The horse’s owner deems him a bad lot because he acts wildly. Eventually, of course, Emma and the horse will team up.

Things get worse for Emma when she discovers a fire at the Durrants’ farm. She tries to put it out, but the villagers, ever ready to make her a scapegoat, accuse her of starting it. Mr Durrant discovers the fire was accidental, but the damage is done – the rumour mill has culminated in an angry mob that attacks the Fielding house. Alice tries to stop them, but gets get hurt by one of their stones. Unfortunately Emma does not see this. If she had, it would have proved to her that Alice is genuine.

Emma’s embittered father blames her for the attack and throws her right out of the house – and to the stone-throwing wolves. Emma flees for her life and manages to throw off the mob. But now she has had enough and decides there will be no more fighting her black streak (as she believes). From now on, she will embrace it and become the bad person the villagers say she is. “If that’s what they expect from me, that’s what they’ll get!” She sets up camp at Fielding Castle to start her own campaign against the villagers. As part of her revenge, she decides to enter the equestrian cross country race, The Hudson Trophy. She means to take the trophy away from Alice Durrant. Doing so would really humiliate the villagers because Alice is the darling of the village.

But there is one problem – she has no horse. This problem is solved when she finally acquires the horse with the black streak from its owner, who had lost patience and was on the verge of shooting the animal. Naming the horse Midnight, she starts breaking him in herself before training him up for the trophy.

Emma’s campaign of revenge intensifies when some boys dig a trap for her to fall into. Her beloved mother falls into it instead and narrowly avoids a serious accident. Furious, Emma dresses herself up as a witch in her grandmother’s clothes and falls upon the villagers. “If you say I’m a witch, I’ll be a witch, in every way! And you’ll regret it!” She curses one John Pike for throwing a stone at her and then confronts Dave Young, the leader of the gang who set the trap. She tells him that she has his name in her Book of Vengeance, which she has just started for listing the names of people who have aggrieved her, and she is now off to settle the score with him. She does so by destroying Mr Young’s wheat field. Other things happen which seem to reinforce the witch persona: a storm blows up as Emma accosts the villagers; John Pike has a road accident soon after receiving the curse; and Emma is adopted by a black cat.

Later, Emma announces her intention to enter the Hudson trophy and take it away from Alice Durrant. This is greeted with intense scorn by the villagers, who say she is hopelessly outmatched by Alice. They all eagerly anticipate watching the event to see Black Emma make a fool of herself and see (as they believe) good triumph over evil in what will be a needle race. Alice is reluctant to go against Emma in the race because she wants to be her friend. But she is persuaded to do so.

In the meantime, Emma’s campaign of vandalism and thievery against Kettleby continues, and names get ticked off in the Book of Vengeance. The local council takes drastic action by sealing up Fielding Castle to drive Emma out. Eventually this fails, but not because Emma nearly gets herself killed trying to get into the castle. Midnight saves her, but the near-accident has Emma all the more determined to have revenge at the Hudson Trophy.

But when the race starts, Alice takes a strong lead against Emma. Eventually Emma realises that the villagers were right – Alice is better than her and she faces defeat. This drives her into taking reckless and dangerous chances to pull ahead, which are cruel to her horse and horrify the onlookers. However, this does enable Emma to take the lead.

Then, when the girls cross a river, Alice falls off her horse and is in danger of drowning. Emma now faces a choice – the trophy or Alice’s life? Eventually, Emma decides to sacrifice the trophy and go in after Alice. This puts Emma in danger too, but she is surprised to find herself feeling happy at fighting with Alice against the current instead of against her.

Meanwhile, the villagers are surprised to see it is not Alice at the finishing line and go to investigate. By the time they arrive, Alice is in danger of going under and only Emma is keeping her afloat. This time, the villagers realise Emma is trying to do good instead of assuming she was being bad, and save them both.

Following this, the black streak stops being a mark of stigma for the Fieldings and everything is different for them. Now Emma is a heroine, and the villagers treat her with love, friendship, remorse, and gifts of flowers (presented by John Pike). Emma returns home and is reconciled with her father. Mr Durrant offers Mr Fielding a good job, which enables the Fieldings to climb out of poverty. Emma and Alice are now friends and share their rides together.

Thoughts

In some parts of the English countryside people still believe in witches. This has been the inspiration for several serials where girls fall victim to lingering witch-beliefs. “Mark of the Witch!” was the second – and last – Jinty serial to explore this theme; the first was the 1974 story “Wenna the Witch”. The endings of the two stories are similar; the girls prove their goodness with an act of heroism that has the witch-believing villagers changing their attitudes towards them and presenting them with love, apologies and flowers. It could be that the serials had the same writer, or that Wenna had an influence on this story.

Other stories with the theme included “The Cat with 7 Toes” and “Bad-Luck Barbara” (Mandy), and “Witch!” (Bunty). In some variants on the theme, the girl is branded a witch because she has a genuine power or is in the grip of a malevolent one, such as in “The Revenge of Roxanne” (Suzy).

In general, the theme did not appear much and serials to feature it were infrequent. Where it did appear, it often featured strange things happening, such as bad things happening to people who taunt the girl, the girl having strange visions, or other weird things that seem to happen whenever she is around. Readers are challenged to make up their own minds about what is going on. Is she really a witch? Is there some genuine supernatural force at work? Or are these things just coincidences and the products of ordinary explanations such as hysteria? Whatever it is, it proves to a brainwashing effect that is so powerful that the girl herself can succumb to it. She may start to doubt herself and wonder if there is something to what her accusers are saying. It even has Alice’s parents going although they are not like the backward, superstitious villagers. When John Pike has the accident, Mrs Durrant wonders if it really was due to the curse Emma put on him. Alice rebukes her mother outright: “It’s all just silly superstition!”

In the case of Emma Fielding, one thing is certain. She is sad proof of the words of Socrates: if people keep telling a man he is five cubits high, he will end up believing he is five cubits high, even if he is only three cubits high. People have been calling her a bad lot for so long that she has come to believe it. She thinks there is a bad streak in her, personified in the black streak in her hair, which she must fight. But eventually she comes to believe it does no good to fight it. Instead, she becomes what the villagers say she always was, saying that if that is what they expect, that is what they will get, and it is their own fault for the way they treated her. Indeed it is, but the villagers do not see it that way. Instead, it reinforces the views about Emma that they have always had. It is a vicious cycle. A vicious cycle that Alice is so desperate to break, but she cannot convince Emma of this. Her frustrated efforts to get through to Emma are reminiscent of the persistent efforts of Ruth Graham to get through to stony Stefa in Phil Townsend’s previous story, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”. But like Ruth, Alice’s efforts go nowhere until the very end, when a surprise turn of events turns things around. And they turn around because Emma found that she was not a bad person at heart. Faced with the choice, she realised that she could not leave Alice to drown, even though trying to save Alice meant sacrificing the lead she had gained and winning the trophy.

After the villagers see Emma try to rescue Alice, they automatically stop their hatred and treat her with respect and acceptance. This seems a little too pat, the villagers giving up hatred that has lasted for generations in only one day. And it does not ring true with people who believe in witches either. Witch believers simply do not act in the way the villagers do in suddenly accepting Emma as good and presenting her with flowers and apologies. The ending of “Wenna the Witch” followed the same pattern, which is very neat and happy, but it is not convincing. In real life, once people with this type of thinking brand someone a witch, the label sticks, even generations later. And the past has proven that even if the person branded a witch is cleared, the label casts a long shadow that can come back to bite. This is why the endings of “Witch!” and “Bad-Luck Barbara” are more realistic. The girls end up being taken away from the village, with the villagers still hurling hatred and abuse at them as they go. Yes, Emma (and Wenna) did perform a good deed that saved lives, but it is unlikely that even that would shift the label of “witch”. An ending where the villagers are compelled to keep their hatred to themselves and leave Emma alone once she has won the respect and protection of the Durrants might have worked better.

But on the whole, this is a powerful, disturbing and compelling story that is a stark warning against labelling and mistreating people and using them as scapegoats. Life would be so much better if these people were treated as human beings – the message that Alice represents in her persistent efforts to befriend Emma. Gays, Jews, coloured people, minorities, victims of caste systems and class distinction, exploited workers and other types of oppressed people – we see them all in Emma. What Emma becomes is exactly what her persecutors made her out to be – a warning to persecutors everywhere and the stuff of revolution that oppressed masses would love. The revolt of Emma Fielding against her oppressors ultimately leads to the end of her oppression. In real life that would not come so readily, but girls’ comics prefer a happy ending.

Jinty and Lindy 8 January 1977

Jinty and Lindy 8 January 1977

The striking aspect of this issue has got to be the cover artwork from “Mark of the Witch!“, which begins this week. This story shows emotional abuse happening generation after generation, though the abuse is not purely limited to being within the family: it’s perpetuated by the protagonist’s grim, tough father but also indulged in by the whole village. There is a telling panel where she avoids the father with palpable relief on her face – treading on eggshells, indeed.

Stories in this issue:

  • Go On, Hate Me! (artist Keith Robson, writer Len Wenn)
  • Gertie Grit, the Hateful Brit! (artist Paul White)
  • Sceptre of the Toltecs (artist Emilia Prieto)
  • Made-Up Mandy (artist Audrey Fawley)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh-Thornton Jones)
  • The Big Cat (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • The Mystery of Martine (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Alley Cat
  • Is This Your Story?
  • Mark of the Witch! (artist Phil Townsend)

Jinty 9 July 1977

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  • The Robot Who Cried (artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • “The Winged Spirit” – Gypsy Rose story (artist Juan Garcia Quiros)
  • Alley Cat
  • Curtain of Silence (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Fran’ll Fix It! – first episode (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Darkening Journey (artist José Casanovas)
  • A Boy Like Bobby (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Battle of the Wills (artist Trini Tinturé)

This issue marks the first appearance of perhaps the zaniest humour strip in Jinty, “Fran’ll Fix It!” Fran’s debut is celebrated with an unusual cover arrangement of three panels from the first episode – rather than the usual single panel – which are arranged in a descending diagonal line. The three panels have curved in edges instead of straight ones, which give them a refreshingly less boxy appearance, and convey an unconventional feel which blends in with our newcomer.

Our perky newcomer, Fran Anderson, likes to style herself as a fixer who can fix anything. But, as the blurb on the cover and the panels indicate, she gets herself into as much trouble as she is in fixing it. The good news is that Fran also has a secret weapon to help her get out of the messes she gets herself into. But we don’t see what it is until the next issue – or how it saves her from being sent to her ghastly aunts if her fixing gets her expelled (again).

In this issue, Jinty has a feature on Charlie’s Angels. It discusses the actresses in the first season (Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett-Majors and Kelly Garrett), so we get some insights of what it was like to be married to Lee Majors, who played The Six Million Dollar Man. We also find out the Angels got a lot of fan mail about their clothes and cosmetics (surprise, surprise!).

A few weeks ago, in the 25th Jubilee issue, Jinty asked readers for letters on what present they would give the Queen for her Jubilee. The best letters would receive cash prizes. In this issue they print some of these letters. Gifts readers would give the Queen included a bag of fish ‘n’ chips, light crown jewels for easier wear, a talking parrot, a silver watering can, a portable palace and a guinea pig.

Is This Your Story? aka Could This Be YOU? (1976-1977)

Sample images

ITYS1.jpg

ITYS2.jpg

(artist: John Richardson)

Publication: 16 October 1976-22(?) January 1977

Artists: Various, including John Richardson and Richard Neillands

Writer: Unknown

“Is This Your Story?”, also known as “Could This be YOU?”, was one of Jinty’s more unusual, if short-lived features. It was a true-life feature, and each week it would run a complete story that was based on common problems among girls. But unlike the teen magazines, it was not based on letters that readers had sent in where they recount their real-life experiences or outline a problem. The stories were composites of common real-life problems.

The title “Is This Your Story?” was meant to be a touching strip that strike a chord with readers, hence the underline under “Your”. Later the title “Could This Be YOU?” was used. Would any of the readers have encountered a situation similar to the one in the story? If so, they would see themselves in that story. If not, it might be a situation they were familiar with or a warning if they did encounter one.

The first episode concerned a girl named Peggy who rejects her new dog because she still grieving for her beloved Punch (maybe her parents bought the new dog too soon). The new dog is miserable at not getting her love and on the very verge of being sent to the kennels when Peggy takes a liking to it at the very last minute. This one was probably inspired by the then-running “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” where Stefa Giles refuses to love anybody and turns into a block of ice after her best friend dies.

Other problems the series tackled included a girl called beanpole, little sisters always tagging along, getting jealous when a brother finds a girlfriend, and resenting a new stepfather. Common enough problems that many readers could identify with one way or another.

Sometimes the stories were told by the girls themselves. One case is Shirley, who feels her parents are treating her like a baby when they say she is trying to grow up too quickly. Shirley sneaks off to a night on the town to show her parents that she is old enough to do it. But she runs into trouble and a night of terror before her local bus driver comes to the rescue. Afterwards she tells us that her parents were right. And they were pretty sporting parents too, in not giving a Shirley a row for what she did. Instead, they say they understand, having been young themselves (and probably had the same trouble with their parents!).

Some of the stories showed real insight into human psychology by more drawing on reality than patronising moralising. For example, Freda’s problem (above) is telling lies. This is not because she is deceitful by nature but because it is a habit she has gotten into. But then she tells one lie too many (she had to slip up sometime) and in danger of facing serious trouble at school. And we get another lesson into the bargain – don’t try smoking!

In another story, Claire impresses all her friends because she is always so stylishly dressed, and no outfit is the same. But in reality Claire helps herself to her sisters’ clothes to make that impression because she is dissatisfied with her own. And Georgie’s problem is that she flies off the handle too readily and often finds herself hurting people’s feelings very badly. She always apologises and really means it, but she thinks she cannot control her temper. The class sends her to Coventry for a day to teach her that she can and must control it. Afterwards, Georgie does make serious efforts to keep her temper. It is not easy, but she finds she is much nicer now.

Of course, each story always ends happily, with solutions being found to the various problems. Some of those solutions sound a bit improbable and even drastic. For example, Claire’s sisters punish her by locking up their wardrobes and hers, so she is forced to go to school in her mother’s dress. It is too big for her of course and gives everyone a laugh. The whole story comes out, but instead of teasing her over it for days on end, the girls are understanding and help Claire out with expanding her own wardrobe. They must be some classmates you don’t see every day. Freda, the habitual liar, is extremely lucky to have a teacher in a million with Miss Birdlace (above). In real life, she would be far more likely to find herself hauled up before the head and get a rocket the size of a megaton.

Towards December, “Is This Your Story?” did not appear in some issues, and it began to take on the feel of a filler story than a regular feature. Was it not as popular as Jinty hoped? Was there not enough room for it in some issues? Or did the editor indeed start using it as a filler feature rather than a regular feature? Indeed, it only had a two-page spread which made it easier to use for that purpose.

“Is This Your Story?” was the second (and last) of Jinty’s strips to foray into the world of the agony aunt and real life problems; the first had been the short-lived “Jenny – Good  or Bad Friend?” in 1974, where Jenny tells the story of how her friendship broke up and the editor questions her along the way, and readers to make up their own minds at the end. The Jenny formula was not repeated, which suggests it did not work out. “Is This Your Story?” was more substantial, but it did not last long either. Perhaps Jinty found that real-life problem based strips were better left to teen magazines and she should stick to problem pages.

What sort of stories did Jinty not cover?

Any comic has to have a focus, a remit of what will be covered and therefore inevitably what will not be covered. The choices made, however, may be revealing in themselves, or may raise further questions as to why one thing was included and another skipped over.

Non-fiction

UK girls comics did not generally include non-fictional comics stories such as biographies. They did include some text items that were non-fictional in nature – snippets of information about sports, history, the origin of names, current pop stars – but not done as ongoing comics stories. Other classic British titles had done this – The Eagle included some biographical strips, for instance; and other children’s magazines had covered non-fiction rather more thoroughly (for instance Look and Learn’s whole raison d’etre was to be educational). Why not cover non-fiction? I imagine that the editors at the time wanted to very firmly steer away from the diactic, ‘good-for-you’ image of The Eagle and Look and Learn, both of which were the sorts of titles that tended to be bought for you by well-meaning parents. [Edited to add: Girl did print some non-fiction stories, such as one in 1959 about Marie Curie, subsequently reprinted in Princess Tina. See this comment on the UK Comics Forum for further details.]

In more recent years, The Phoenix’s “Corpse Talk” has gone back and mined this vein very effectively, showing that biographies can be done in comics form amusingly, interestingly, and well. (Creator Adam Murphy also does some strips about science using a similar format.) Even at the time, it would have been quite possible to do at least some non-fiction without it being boringly didactic, had the will or interest been there. I have just been reading some biographical material about Caroline Herschel, and her story would fit amazingly well in a ‘slave’ story: she was cabined, cribb’d, confined by her mother and her eldest brother, made to work long and hard hours on tasks as the equivalent of a maid, not allowed to stay in bed when ill, and so forth – to be subsequently rescued by her kindly older brother William Herschel, and eventually to triumph as William’s scientific assistant and indeed as a discoverer of comets in her own right! Similar tales could no doubt have been spun about the obvious eminent women such as Florence Nightingale and Boadicea, but also about the less obvious ones such as Aphra Behn and Mary Seacole (though as a black woman it would have been particularly unlikely for the latter to have been written about, sadly).

So, Jinty and similar comics weren’t ones that you read in order to learn; and nor were they ones where factual content was sneaked in under the radar, either. Sneaking it in could have happened: in boys’ war comics of the time, accuracy on details like uniforms, badges, battles, and weapons was prized by the readers and striven for by the creators. (More recently, my two young kids are getting a kick out of “Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures” on the telly: plenty of learning-through-fun there.) History, geography, science, maths, languages were prized in Jinty mainly as set-dressing when a story called for it, if at all; and the level of research and accuracy was not high, as has been noted previously.

There were some small, local exceptions to this – some areas that Jinty covered that it did care about getting right, and which you could have a reasonable expectation of learning from as a reader.

  • Sports: at one point there was a dedicated sport section, teaching you finer points of passing the ball in netball, using the parallel bars in gymnastics, and covering aspects of more exotic sports like water polo. Even aside from that dedicated sports section, there were a lot of stories featuring sporty protagonists who were given or gave tips on table tennis (“Ping-Pong Paula”), competitive cycling (“Curtain of Silence”), or netball (“Life’s A Ball For Nadine”).
  • Crafts and cookery: each issue had a page or two on how to make a little present from odds and ends, how to revitalise an old skirt, or how to prepare some easy recipe.
  • Trivia: origins of names, the story of mince pies, snippets of amusing anecdotes about, yes, Boadicea or Queen Anne.

Overt political and social issues

As a publication intended for an age range of around 8 – 12 years, you wouldn’t expect much in the way of political discussion unless there was a specific radical intention (as with the creation of Shocking Pink magazine slightly later). There is however in Jinty an utter absence not only of political comment or explanation, but even of reference: no cheeky images of the current prime minister or mention of recent or current events such as the Three Day Week or the IRA bombs. The monarchy does get a look-in with a patriotic celebration of the Jubilee and the Royal Wedding (but then, to do otherwise would be to make a republican statement in itself).

There is also very little overt coverage of wider social issues, such as feminism, racism, colonialism. Without wishing to say that we are now in some paradise, the Britain of that time was clearly a more discriminatory society; Jinty was not in the business of providing substantive challenges to this. Very overt acts of racism would no doubt have been opposed, if they had ever come up – but for instance the paki-bashing that some readers’ families might well have condoned was invisible in these pages and hence never in fact challenged. Related issues do get the occasional airing, though: for instance “Bound For Botany Bay” has some statements about the evils of slavery in a setting that is comfortably far-off in time.

It is not exactly surprising that Jinty was not proactively anti-racist or anti-colonialist; it would have taken a radical mindset to challenge these social issues, and this was a mainstream publication. What about feminism – as a comic published with girls in mind, did any women’s rights issues sneak in under the radar? Not very overtly, I’d say; there were some stories that touched on girls not being treated fairly or being laughed at by boys as incapable of X or Y, but these were mostly treated as individual problems rather than systemic ones. In “Two Mothers For Maggie”, the protagonist complains of being expected to do housework and baby-sitting when she has her homework to do and the stepfather has finished his work for the day; but the issue there is framed as one of poverty not primarily of sexism. In “Black Sheep of the Bartons”, protagonist Bev wants to do boyish sports like judo, but this again is painted as a personality quirk, especially in contrast with her gentle and delicate younger sister who is far more ‘girly’. It might also be played for laughs: there was an early “Jinx of St Jonah’s” story where Katie Jinks  and her friends had a bet on with the nearby boys’ school where they each had three gender-swapped stereotypical tasks to do (making shelves for the girls, making dresses for the boys); they all failed fairly equally and we are supposed to laugh at them for stepping out of the gender roles.

The aspect of Jinty which leads most clearly to a real feminist point is, paradoxically, the fact it was part of such a separate publication stream from boys’ comics. So many of the characters are girls you could almost imagine it is set in one of the parallel worlds devoid of men, favoured by a certain strand of feminist science fiction. The outcome is that there is a great multiplicity of female roles available as models for readers: villains who are misguided, evil, powerful, petty, misunderstood, or plain off their head; protagonists who are vain, strong, smart, brave, clumsy, deft, sporty, bullied, powerless, and sometimes even clever (the latter not so often, sad to say); friends who are loyal, fickle, blind, shallow, and sometimes smarter than they seem. This is in stark contrast to today’s media world in which girls are assumed to read stories with male protagonists but not vice-versa, women are expected to watch films with male characters but not vice-versa, and the story-telling that we’re supposed to accept as progressive is one where the female character is ‘strong’ or ‘kick-ass’ but still far from actually being rounded and fully-developed.

There are some other social issues that sneak in slightly surprisingly. Environmentalism gets a look-in in various stories: there are a couple of anti-motorway or anti-car stories (“The Green People” and “Guardian of White Horse Hill” feature local protests against the building of motorways through sensitive areas, “Save Old Smokey” is anti-car). More drastically, “The Forbidden Garden” is set in a dystopia where the earth is poisoned and nothing can grow naturally. Animal Rights, too, get a look-in: “The Human Zoo” and “Worlds Apart” both feature sections where animal rights protestors are seen as rightly protesting terrible treatment of animals (even if the protesters are also shown as causing as much harm to the animals as they cause good).

However, the big social issue covered that might be surprising to modern readers is inequality. Lots and lots of stories had fat-cat villains, wealthy uncaring capitalists, rich  family members who were greedy or miserly, cruel and heartless. Stories like “Bound for Botany Bay” made much greater play of the evils of class distinctions than they did of the evils of racism and slavery; and stories like “Ping-Pong Paula” and Tammy’s “Ella on Easy Street” were pretty clear that it was better to be poor with a loving family than rich with a distant one. Maybe this is part of a ‘poor little rich girl’ trope prevalent in children’s stories? Maybe it resulted from the core market of readers who were less well-off than was the case for some of the earlier, more middle-class comics? But also, the Britain of that time was actually a less unequal society than it is nowadays. WWII didn’t feel that long ago, which had also driven some reduction in inequalities. Did this mean that it was more possible to have villains who were fat-cats, capitalists, because inequality itself was less acceptable?

Growing up, sex, and romance

Again not surprising as an omission given the age range, but boyfriends are pretty much completely missing in Jinty. Older girls or young women may have boyfriends or even fiancés – sisters, young teachers – but the protagonist herself does not. In one near-exception, “Pam of Pond Hill”, Pam’s friend Goofy is someone she is teased about, and the word boyfriend is used in that teasing, but there is no kissing or cuddling involved in that relationship. So although the protagonists are depicted looking as if they are some years older than most of the readers, the concerns addressed are much more focused on intense friendships and rivalries than on romantic or sexual relationships.

The characters are often drawn with enough of a developing body to require a bikini top or bra and pants rather than the more demure vest and slip of more traditional times, but this is not addressed explicitly in the story. No Judy Blumes to be found in these pages! The letters pages sporadically included an agony aunt element, but even then this focused more on interpersonal relationships with other girls than it did puberty, periods, bodily hair, and boyfriends. Girls moved onto older magazines such as Jackie and Just Seventeen (these may or may not have had a comics element) and it was in those pages that they learned some of the subjects now taught in British schools under acronyms such as PSHE.

Jinty 13 August 1977

Jinty 13 August 1977

“The Robot Who Cried” is in full runaways mode right now, with robot Katy Fife trying hard – and unsuccessfully – to fool the kind doctor she is staying with. “Curtain of Silence” also has the protagonists trying to fool an adversary, also unsuccessfully, but the stakes feel much higher here as the the adversary is the villainous Madam Kapelski, who will have no compunction in putting Yvonne’s little brother out of harm’s way – forever!

Fran is acting cupid in another amusing episode of the fix-it story. She’s not a dodger like Roger and she always means well – for the people she likes! – but mayhem inevitably ensues. Right now she has a parrot and a talent for ventriloquism, and she’s not afraid to use them to make sure that her nice teacher Miss Harmony ends up with lovely boyfriend Michael instead of rotter Basil.

There are four pages in the initial episode of “Cursed To Be A Coward”, drawn beautifully by Mario Capaldi. They take us through the first few years of protagonist Marnie’s life; her chubby legs as a toddler are particularly delightful. She’s a pretty tragic heroine right from the start, though – her father is already dead in those initial panels of her as a baby, and in the next page or two her beloved older cousin is paralysed in an accident that starts off the persecution by a sinister fortune-teller.

“A Boy Like Bobby” shows us Phil Townsend back to one of his usual story themes: a small family unit down on their luck trying to stick together. This time it’s done differently, as the family unit in question consists of a tough older boy and a young brother, who touches protagonist Tessa’s heart because he looks just like her dead brother Bobby.

Stories in this issue:

  • The Robot Who Cried (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Who’s That In My Mirror?
  • Alley Cat
  • Curtain of Silence (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Fran’ll Fix It! (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Cursed To Be A Coward! (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • A Boy Like Bobby (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Battle of the Wills (artist Trini Tinturé)