Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Slave Story Theme

Pat Mills has declared online that there were three lynchpins for a girls’ comic that he would have if he launched a girls’ title today: the Cinderella story, the friendship story and the slave story (personally, I would add the regular story, the spooky story and the funny story). Apparently when readership was taking a dip, they would bring out the slave story.

This post will be taking a look at the slave story. But as samples from Jinty are too limited to cover the variations of the formula, serials under discussion will expand beyond Jinty to include serials from DCT, Tammy, Girl (series 2) and Battle.

What was the slave story? There were two types: the individual slave story and the group slave story. In the group slave story, a group of girls or people are being held captive and used as slaves. The setting could be a cruel institution or prison, such as an orphanage, workhouse, factory, reformatory, prison camp, mine, quarry, or a school that is run along the lines of Wackford Squeers types. Sometimes the setting takes a more unusual form, such as a circus, a restaurant, a totalitarian regime, or a dystopian world. Or the enslavement could be based on an activity, such as hockey, ballet or swimming. For example, in “Secret Ballet of the Steppes” (Tammy) a ballet class is abducted to Siberia and forced to dance for the last remnant of the tzars and their imperialist rule, right down to starving peasants who get massacred when they beg for the release of food supplies.

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Sometimes there is more to the slavery than mere exploitation; the slavers may have more ulterior motives such as an underground crime ring or forced labour racket. And there are times when the slavery takes a form that is more insidious. On the surface it looks harmless, even enjoyable, but underneath it all, its residents are being ensnared for sinister purposes, such as in “The Camp on Candy Island” (Tammy) or “Prisoners of Paradise Island” (Jinty).

Occasionally the slave story focused on individuals trapped in slavery, such as “Bound for Botany Bay”. This will be discussed later. Right now the discussion will look at the group slavery.

The protagonist of the group slavery story could be either:
1. The slave who refuses to be broken by the cruelty. She is determined to escape and bring everything down. In the meantime she is singled out for the harshest treatment and her jailers pile on one torture after another which frequently went way over the top. Tortures over the years have included being locked in pillories, drip cells, dungeons, rat-infested cellars, punishment boxes, cages, underground pits and iron masks; forced to work in blazing hot sun until sunstroke sets in, being forced to play hockey with damaged sight; standing for long hours in freezing weather; even be targeted for murder, which is often part of the story’s climax. Or the protagonist could be:

2. The secret helper i.e. the one who is secretly helping the slaves. Sometimes, as part of her ruse, she pretends to side with the villains, and in so doing, makes herself hated by the victims she is secretly helping. Stories where this occurs include “Detestable Della” (Bunty) and “Hateful Hattie” (Mandy). Or the helper may help via a disguise, such as Lady Sarah in “Lady Sarah’s Secret” (Judy). Lady Sarah helps victims of a cruel orphanage by disguising herself as the legendary ghost of the orphanage. Sometimes the helper is just there and coming up with quick plans to help the victims, such as “Betty vs Bumble” (Judy). This variance on the formula can allow for the slave story being played for laughs and comical comeuppances for the villain every week, as in “Betty vs Bumble”.

Sometimes, but not always, there is a mystery attached to the slave story. Resolving it is the key to resolving the story and bringing down the villain. Some common mysteries are:

1. What secret scheme are the villains up to? Sometimes it is evident they are up to something crooked as well as abusing and exploiting people, but the protagonist has to figure out what it is eg “Slaves of the Candle” (Jinty).

2. Who is the secret helper? Sometimes the secret helper is the mystery, not the protagonist of the story – and also part of its resolution. A mysterious helper keeps popping up to help the girls, such as the mystery trainer in “Land of no Tears”, (Jinty) who turns up in a disguise of a wig and heavy makeup (can’t she disguise herself better in this world of the future?). When the protagonist finally discovers who the woman is, it is another twist on the secret helper who has to pretend to be a villain as part of her ruse to secretly help the slaves.

3. How exactly is the racket operating? Sometimes motives or identities of the villains are kept hidden and need to be unravelled. For example, in “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory” (Girl, series 2), the slaves do not know exactly who is running the sewing factory that kidnaps girls and uses them as slave labour. Their supervisor keeps herself nameless and they have to address her as “M’am.” When Amanda, the protagonist in this story, discovers the man operating the racket is her own father, it makes for one slave story that does not have a totally happy ending.

4. Hidden secret regarding protagonist. Sometimes there is a secret regarding the protagonist that she does not know herself. The jailers may know it and the torture is part of it, as in “Poor Law Polly” (Lindy), or it becomes part of resolving the story “Nina Nimble Fingers” (Lindy).

Lastly, there may be a toady character. A member of the group or more senior girl who helps the villains and participates in the torture of the girls. Sometimes it is the toady character who is the key to the resolution of the story. Essentially, the villain goes too far to the toady’s liking. Shocked, the toady has a change of heart and starts helping the victims. One example is Adolfa in Jinty’s “Merry at Misery House”. Right up until the last episode Adolfa has been the reformatory inmate who helped to torture them, especially Merry. But when Adolfa discovers the warden is out to kill Merry, she has an instant change of heart; she saves Merry and takes a hard crack on the head for doing so. But in some slave stories this was not the case with the toady, eg “The Four Friends at Spartan School” (Tammy) or “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory”. And at times no such character is used, or not used much.

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Perhaps the most famous – or infamous – slave story was “Slaves of War Orphan Farm”. It was launched in the first issue of Tammy, and it made Tammy‘s name for the darkness, cruelty and tortured heroines that she pioneered at IPC. Ma Thatcher (yes, named after a milk snatcher and future prime minister) running a racket where she uses war orphans she was supposed to be taking care of as slave labour in a rock quarry. She also locks them in cages as a punishment, even in cold weather, sets vicious dogs and gin traps on them, and even tries to burn them alive in the barn at the climax of the story. But the mysterious helper, in this case a woman called Mad Emma, has been steadily helping some kids to escape. Now they combine forces for the great escape with the help of Bonnie, a toady who does have a change of heart.

Other slave stories followed thick and fast in the early years of Tammy. They included The Revenge of Edna Hack, Secret Ballet of the Steppes, Dara into Danger, The Camp on Candy Island, Swim for Your Life, Sari, Slaves of the Hot Stove, Swimmer Slave of Mrs Squall and Waifs of the Wigmaker.

It is not surprising that Battle, which drew much inspiration from the dark trend that pioneered in Tammy, attempted the slave story in its first issue. This was “The Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain”. Sadly, Bamboo Curtain proved that the slave story was one trend in girls’ comics that did not work so well with the boys and it folded after twelve episodes. But the attempt shows a world of difference when the slave story is played in the man’s world that is worth discussing here.

The evil Sado runs a Japanese POW camp. He revels in punishing prisoners by sending them into the Bamboo Curtain, a bamboo forest rigged with deadly booby traps. Alarmed at how the Bamboo Curtain is intimidating his fellow prisoners, Jim Blake gets himself sent there in the hope of overcoming it and stopping it turning his friends into “cringing coolies.” Blake does survive the Bamboo Curtain but is surprised to stumble across a nest of brainwashed British soldiers in the power of Sado. They mysteriously disappear before he can probe too much.

Determined to help the soldiers, Blake returns to the camp as the answer to the mystery must be there, although he risks even more savage punishment and perhaps death from Sado. The extra tortures include being locked in a metal hut in blazing heat, forced to fight a masked man to the death (Blake is shocked afterwards to find it is one of the brainwashed soldiers), being trapped in a minefield, and being tied to Sado’s jeep and being dragged behind. War-based tortures that soldiers are more likely to encounter than girls. Nor would you expect the girls to punch their jailers in the face and take up guns in their escape.

The story also made daring breaks with clichés, such as when Blake fails to save his friend Jensen from the quicksand trap in the Bamboo Curtain. And, when Blake and Sado face off in the final episode – no spoilers, so let us say we do not get the typical clichéd honourable conduct we would normally expect from the hero.  Unlikely that even Tammy would have done the same.

So how did the slave story play out in Jinty? As the early Jinty was cast in the same mould as the early Tammy, there was of course a slave story in the first lineup. This was “Merry at Misery House”. Wrongly sent to a reformatory nicknamed Misery House because of its harshness, Merry Summers is cast in the mould of the protagonist who refuses to let the cruelty break her spirit. This singles her out for one torture after another to break her down and turns the story into the longest running slave story ever. It ran for over a year before the misery finally ended with the warden and head guard being arrested for racketeering, Misery House burning down and Merry getting her name cleared.

Maybe the sheer length of this slave story is the reason Jinty had fewer slave stories than Tammy. But the ones she did have were:

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Prisoners of Paradise Island (1974-75): a hockey team is kidnapped and taken to a tropical island. In a twist that turns the slave story on its head, they are given every luxury instead of being tortured, abused and exploited. But the purpose is just as evil – their captors want to make them fat, unfit and lazy so they cannot win a hockey championship. Then the crooks will take punts against them and make a fortune.

Barracuda Bay (1975): More of a twist on the slave story than a pure slave story. The slaves are a bunch of kidnapped scientists in this James Bond style story.

Too Old to Cry! (1975-76): a cruel orphanage run by a matron who can lie her way out of anything. In a break with the usual pattern, Nell, the protagonist, escapes from the orphanage in the early stages of the story. Many episodes pass before the matron catches up to Nell.

Slaves of the Candle (1975-76): Lydia Lagtree falls foul of Mrs Tallow, who is running a candle making slave racket. But she is also committing thefts that she often has Lydia carrying the can for. Mrs Tallow believes the price that keeps rising on Lydia’s head will keep her under control, but Lydia remains determined to escape and stop the racket. As the story progresses, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Mrs Tallow is planning something even bigger, and it involves the Tower of London. Hmm, could there be treason here?

Bound for Botany Bay (1976): it is more individual slavery than group slavery in this story about the horrors of transportation in the 19th century. But Betsy Tanner is arriving with a group of convicts and they will be slaves all but in name, and later encounters a group of slaves in an opal mine.

Land of No Tears (1977-78): The slave story set in dystopia, which makes a nice change from the more common settings of factories, schools etc. Lame Cassy Shaw is transported to a future world where perfection is everything. People who are not perfect are classed as Gamma and regarded as inferior. In the hive (children’s home) where Cassy ends up, the Gamma girls are slaves who do the cleaning, wear shabby clothes, and eat nothing but scraps left by the perfect Alpha girls. The Alphas bully them and live in luxurious rooms while the Gammas share a cold, grim dormitory. This story is regarded as one of Jinty’s classics, so while Merry was the longest slave story in Jinty, this one has to be the best.

The Human Zoo (1978): not strictly a slave story but contains some elements of it. Sisters Jenny and Shona Owens and some other people are kidnapped by aliens and taken to their planet. The aliens think humans are animals and treat them as beasts of burden.

Children of Edenford (1979): hints of the slave story can be seen in this story too, though it is not a slave story as such. Bamboo Curtain is one example that brainwashing techniques are sometimes used in the slave story, but this one takes it to frightening levels that threaten the whole world. Insane headmistress Purity Goodfellow is obsessed with perfection. To this end she turns her pupils into glazed-eyed docile zombies by feeding them drugged food. But she isn’t stopping there – soon it is the whole district and eventually it is revealed she has her eyes on the whole world.

Now we turn to the individual slavery story. This centres on one individual who is enslaved by legal slavery or exploitation of some sort or, more often, by criminals and other nasty types. In the case of the latter, the girl often has amnesia, lost her voice or has some other disability that has made it easier for the villain to enslave her. Overcoming her disability or regaining her voice/memory is the only way to escape. At other times straight out blackmail is used, though blackmail themes did not seem to occur much in Jinty. And finally, there are villains who use hypnotism or other brainwashing techniques to enslave the girl.

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Notable Jinty stories with this theme were:

Tricia’s Tragedy (1975): Tricia Hunt becomes a slave to her cousin Diana Lloyd because she blames herself for an accident that left Diana blind. But Mr Hunt thinks something is fishy, especially when it becomes apparent that the Lloyds are trying to stop Tricia winning a vital swimming trophy.

Miss No-Name (1976): Lori Mills loses her memory and becomes ensnared by Ma Crabb and her daughter Stella, who abuse her and force her into crime. For good measure, Ma Crabb cuts off Lori’s hair so nobody recognises her as the missing girl in the papers.

The Slave of Form 3B (1976): bully Stacey discovers she can hynotise new girl Tania. She uses it to force Tania into theft, sabotage, cheating, bad conduct and eventually an accident that nearly kills Tania.

Bound for Botany Bay (1976): Betsy Tanner and her father are enslaved by convict transportation.

Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (1976-77): Lady Daisy de Vere is mistaken for a servant, Maud, and ends up in a cruel household where even the other servants mistreat her.

Made-up Mandy (1976-77): Mandy Mason is not a slave per se, but the employer at the beauty salon where Mandy works as a caretaker does not treat her well.

Curtain of Silence (1977): Yvonne Berridge is kidnapped in an Iron Curtain country and forced to pose as their cycling star. Yvonne has lost her voice, which makes it hard for her to get help.

No Cheers for Cherry (1978): Cherry Campbell joins her aunt’s theatre boat in the hope of drama training and stardom. But she finds herself being used as an unpaid servant. This story has some overlap with the Cinderella theme.

Slave of the Swan (1978): Again an amnesiac girl, Katrina Vale, is taken advantage of, this time by a ballet mistress who wants revenge on her mother rather than simply exploiting the girl.

As the 1970s wore on, slave stories (and the accompanying lynchpin, the Cinderella story) faded from Tammy. The same happened with Jinty. This was particularly the case with the group slave story. Counterrevolution and changes in editorship had set in against the revolution of cruelty and tortured heroines that Tammy pioneered and the early Jinty followed. Yet the slave story remained popular at DCT, and it played over and over in Bunty, Mandy and Judy long after it faded at IPC.

 

Jinty and Lindy 15 May 1976

Jinty and Lindy 15 May 1976

It is a tussle between amnesiac Lori Mills and the wicked Ma Crabb, once again: Lori tries and tries to escape Ma’s clutches by finding someone who might recognize her despite her shorn scalp. Will she succeed? We are left on a cliffhanger, of course!

We get another cliffhanger in “Fran of the Floods”: a village that the girls have come across is forbidding entry to any strangers. Fran has to risk it to find her friend Susan, who has gone to try to find a doctor for her leg, but the ominous crosses on the doors are going to make the reader think of plague and illness.

In “The Slave of Form 3B”, Stacey is gloatingly aware of her ‘power of life and death over Tania’: she has hypnotized the timid girl to fall into the school pool once a key phrase is said. This is so Stacey can act the heroine by doing a quick spot of life saving. However, this act ends up getting Matron involved, who gives Tania a tape recorder, upon which Stacey’s next set of hypnotic instructions are recorded… will this tip off Tania once and for all about the malevolence of her supposed friend?

Stories in this issue:

  • Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • For Peter’s Sake! (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • House of the Past (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Alley Cat
  • The Slave of Form 3B (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Bound for Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)
  • Then there were 3… (artist Phil Townsend)

Jinty and Lindy 14 February 1976

Jinty and Lindy 14 February 1976

This issue has a filled-in (but not cut-out and sent) version of the form you were supposed to send in with your letters. It gives the reader’s name as Lillian Coates, age 12, living in Leytonstone. Her favourite stories were “Wanda, Whiter than White”, “Fran of the Floods”, and “Save Old Smokey”.

In “Miss No-Name”, the wicked Ma Crabb cuts Lori’s hair so that no-one will recognize her as the missing young athlete: meaning that the Crabbs can keep her as their unwilling wee slave. This sort of petty humilation is not untypical of a slave story, of course.

In “Fran of the Floods”, Fran has not yet started out on her voyage to find her sister; things are getting progressively more and more savage near to home, as climate change is making more of an impact locally as well as globally.

Stories in this issue:

  • Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Friends of the Forest (unknown artist ‘Merry’)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Too Old To Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Wanda Whiter Than White (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Bound For Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)
  • Save Old Smokey! (artist Phil Townsend)

Story theme: Evil influence/supernatural influence

This is the first in a new category of post, covering the various story themes seen in Jinty in more detail. As we will see, the story themes are often not clear-cut; many themes overlap or become fuzzy at the edges when investigated further. Nevertheless, definite strands can be traced.

There is a long-running story theme in girls’ comics based around someone or something (normally an object) influencing the protagonist to do things she normally wouldn’t do, in a way that is supernatural or unnatural. The influencing object usually has its own agenda, and in service of this it often ends up taking away the protagonist’s free will, and perhaps even her memory, such are the extremes that are gone to. The object (or, sometimes, person) is often evil, though sometimes it can be just driven by its own underlying requirements, which the protagonist must serve in order to resolve the situation.

Core examples

Probably the purest form of this story theme in Jinty can be found in the spooky story “Spell of the Spinning Wheel” (1977). Rowan Lindsay pricks her finger on the spinning wheel that her mother has just bought and finds that she is made to fall fast asleep every time she hears a humming sound – like the sound of the wheel when it is being used, but also the hum of a hairdryer, a car, and so on. The spinning wheel is entirely malicious: its agenda seems simply to spoil Rowan’s running career and indeed her life. When Rowan tries to give it away or destroy it to save herself, it responds dramatically by trying to make her go over a cliff, drown in a river, or get knocked down by a car; certainly it’s not possible to just tamely pass it on. In the end it must be destroyed by cleansing fire, but this can only happen once the whole family is united in determination to remove its malign influence: the heroine does not have enough power to get rid of it by herself. (In this story this works partly through the wheel’s power and partly through the mother’s disbelief: although the father is soon persuaded of the spinning wheel’s malice, the mother is turned against her family and refuses to co-operate with them until finally the wheel goes a step too far and shows her its true colours.)

Clear examples of this story theme in Jinty are:

  • Gail’s Indian Necklace (1974): Gail acquires a mysterious necklace made of wooden beads in a jumble sale: it originally came from India. Initially it grants some desires that are unspoken, or socially wrong: she cannot afford a bicycle and so the necklace makes her steal one, or she wants her aunt out of the way and the aunt gets knocked over by a car. The necklace has a specific agenda, to be returned to its original location; once Gail complies she is free of its influence and is even rewarded by it.
  • Slave of the Mirror (1975): Mia Blake finds an old mirror in her house and it makes her turn against her sister. The mirror possesses her and makes her destroy things in the house, sabotaging her sister’s attempt to run a boarding house. It turns out to be haunted by the ghost of a Spanish serving-girl who was ill-treated by a previous owner of the house; her spirit is set to rest and the possession stops.
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel (1977): see above.
  • Creepy Crawley (1977): Jean Crawley comes across an old scarab brooch in a shop; it comes with the promise that it can help her defeat her rival. She doesn’t stay around long enough to listen to the associated warning she would have been given: once it gives her her wish it will go on to further its own ends, up to and including a reign of insects! Very soon she is unable to give up the brooch or gainsay it in any way; the defeat of the evil object has to be done by a friend of Jean’s, and by the rival herself, who has to be persuaded into forgiveness to break the spell.
  • Come Into My Parlour (1978): Jody Sinclair is made to wear a cat’s-paw necklace by an evil witch, who uses it to get revenge on the descendents of a judge who hanged her wicked ancestor. At first she is made to do things against her will as if she were a puppet, but her inconvenient conscience is eventually eliminated by changing her personality entirely. In the end she is only freed when the house that the witch has been living in is burned down, with the witch inside.
  • Paula’s Puppets (1978): Paula finds some mysterious wax puppets and finds they act like voodoo dolls, and she can make things happen to whoever she makes the puppets resemble. At first the bitter Paula uses them to exact revenge, but eventually she realises she can use them to help her father. (Here, protagonist Paula is the active force behind the influencing object, which differs from usual in this story theme.)
  • The Venetian Looking Glass (1980): the protagonist finds a hand mirror which starts to control her life and wreak its revenge, ultimately being revealed as due to an angry ghost. As with other stories above, the spirit can only be laid to rest with the help of a wider group of people than just the enthralled protagonist, and forgiveness plays an important part too.
  • A number of Gypsy Rose stories also include this story theme, with a more diverse set of evil or haunted objects such as a handkerchief and a tambourine.

Edge cases

Of course, there are always fuzzy edges around definitions, with examples that don’t match the story theme quite as obviously. Looking at these less clear-cut cases can help to challenge our definitions.

  • The Haunting of Form 2B” (1974) has a whole class being haunted by a ghostly teacher. The schoolgirls are taken over mentally by objects given to them by the ghost, but it’s quite a number of varied objects that are influencing them rather than a specific one or two.
  • In “The Haunting of Hazel” (1975) the protagonist is strongly influenced by a ghostly ancestor, but it feels more like a standard ghost story than a case of possession.
  • In “The Mystery of Martine” (1976-77), the source of the possession is not very clearly delineated: is it the bangles that Martine clanks together, or is it the script written by the playwright, or is it all perhaps in Martine’s mind?
  • Sometimes the object is not that clearly evil, or has an influence without appearing almost anthropomorphic. Tamsin Tregorren finds a silver comb that belonged to her mother in “Combing Her Golden Hair” (1979) and the comb shows her visions and leads her to frolic in the water like a dolphin despite never having learned to swim. Eventually she is brought to the sea where she meets her mother, who is a mermaid, and who wants her to come and live in the sea too. The comb serves the agenda of the mother, who is not evil (and though she is portrayed as selfishly not caring whether or not Tamsin would be able to survive in the same environment, this is never actually proven one way or another).
  • In “Child of the Rain” (1980), Gemma West is strongly affected by the rain after a trip to the Amazon rainforest; it is found that some bark from a tree was left in her leg after an accident in the forest, and it is that that is affecting her, rather than any evil object or tennis-mad spirit .
  • In “Who’s That In My Mirror” (1977), the special mirror in question does not remove Magda’s free will, though it does seem to tempt her to worse and more selfish actions than she would have done alone. It’s also not entirely clear at the end whether perhaps the mirror might be intended as an ultimately moral force, to make her repent of her selfish deeds?

Related but different

Further away again from my core definition sit some related themes:

  • Hypnotism and brainwashing are the keys to “The Slave of Form 3B“, “Prisoner of the Bell”,  “Children of Edenford“, and “Jackie’s Two Lives”: the active agents are people, working in ways that aren’t actually strictly realistic but can’t be classed as supernatural.
  • Wish fulfillment: “Dance Into Darkness” has the protagonist forced to dance whenever music plays, with her free will eroded by the curse she takes on. It could be classed along the same double-edged gift that tempts Jean Crawley, but it feels more like irony than evil. And of course a wish fulfillment story can also be purely mundane, such as in “Food for Fagin” and “Freda’s Fortune”.
  • Not to be confused with: a magical companion, who persuades or helps rather than forcing or tempting. Stories with such a companion include “Guardian of White Horse Hill”, “Her Guardian Angel”, “Daughter of Dreams”. The companion may leave the protagonist in a sticky situation but she is not compelled or possessed.

Other thoughts

It’s an old-fashioned sort of story theme, in many ways. The magical objects in question are typically very gendered – mirrors, necklaces, a brooch, a spinning wheel. It feels like a trope from old stories or fairy tales, continued on in girls’ comics as a morality tale. The girl who is affected by the evil object often picks it up initially for the wrong reasons, or is in places she’s not supposed to be: the object promises revenge or oneupmanship, and the seeds of the main character’s undoing are sown because they are heading in the morally wrong direction from the start.

Then There Were 3… (1976)

Sample images

Jinty 15 May 1976 "Then there were 3..." pg 1

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Jinty 15 May 1976 "Then there were 3..." pg 2

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Jinty 15 May 1976 "Then there were 3..." pg 3

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Publication: 17 April-3 July 1976
Artist: Phil Townsend
Writer: unknown

Summary
Ten school girls are to spend their holiday exploring a derelict canal on the old narrow boat. It starts with ten, but the opening blurb tells us the numbers will reduce on a trip that is to turn into a nightmare. It starts right away when Tina, who finds it ominous that the boat is called Water Witch, finds the gangplank break under her feet. She hurts her ankle and is off the trip. Gail replaces her, so the number stays at ten – for now. The other girls do not like Gail much as she is a bit pushy and does not like taking orders, but she soon blends in. And she is soon overtaking Sharon, the leader of the group, in terms of brains, courage and leadership qualities.

The supernatural element is further reinforced the moment they meet the boatman’s wife who is in charge of them. She is a creepy looking gypsy like woman and her name is Mrs Bogle. How subtle. She tells them they are heading off to Creeping Weed Pool. And once they reach it, they see a warning sign that says “Beware: Lucifer Canal”. Now this is getting spookier by the minute. And it gets worse when Pickles and Jill wake up in the night to find the creeping weed all over their boat. And then it grabs Jill. She is saved from being dragged under but is scared off the trip. Down to nine.

In order that their jobs are allotted fairly, Sharon has marked ten dolls with each girl’s name for the roster. But as you might have guessed, the dolls are soon marking something far more sinister. After Jill has her encounter with the weed, they find her doll smashed. The template of things to come. And others are getting rattled by the warning sign that sailing further on the canal is dangerous and getting ideas that it is haunted.

And so it goes on, with one spooky thing after another, with girls getting progressively scared off and their corresponding dolls getting mysteriously smashed. The stops they make give the impression of haunting – or do they? At one point they stop at a supposed derelict inn, but find a sumptuous banquet inside and everything cosy. But when they wake up next morning, the place is derelict and cobwebby and nobody could have lived there for years. And Gail finds a question mark etched on the table. But what really scares even her off are the bats. Afterwards, Gail finds tyre tracks and a can of soup that is the same brand as the one they consumed at the inn. Coincidence or clue? At another, they encounter a ghost in a mill, but Gail finds it is just a bunch of clothes tied to a rope.

From the outset, Gail has been level-headed about it all and says they are just accidents. But now she thinks someone is trying to scare them off. Gail suspects Mrs Bogle as she does seem to be trying to persuade them to leave, winding them up with stories that the canal is cursed. At one point she even tries to get the police to send them home. Gail’s suspicions are confirmed when she finds Mrs Bogle’s brooch beside yet another smashed doll.

By this time the ten is down to the titular three – Gail, Pickles and Sharon. Convinced that Mrs Bogle is trying to stop them reaching the end of the canal, the girls pull a ruse to make her think she has succeeded. They pretend to turn back and put on an act of being scared off for Mrs Bogle’s benefit. She buys it and believes it is safe to tell the others it is safe to carry out the final stages of their plan. Now what can that be? Well, we know now it can’t be hauntings.

The girls sneak to the end of the canal to investigate. They find an iron grille gate and – giant frogs the size of men?!? Sharon loses her nerve at this and goes back. Down to two. Pickles and Gail swim in and find a counterfeiting ring in operation. The giant frogs are men in frog suits (literally) which explains how they managed to rig things along the canal for the girls. Gail and Pickles are captured by the counterfeiters and are locked in. The counterfeiters are now ready to roll with their forgeries and proceed to make their getaway. But the  girls manage to escape. Gail knew it all along because she brought their dolls so they would not get mysteriously smashed like the others. Obviously, Mrs Bogle had been breaking them to throw a scare into each girl before arranging an accident for her.

They go on the trail of the counterfeiters, who find their getaway blocked by the Water Witch. In fact, they smash into it and are tipped into the water. Sharon had gone to the police, who had been hunting for the forgers for a while. The forgers fell into the trap set by the police and Sharon. They are soon rounded up, with Pickles and Gail personally catching Mrs Bogle.

Now the girls turn back along the canal, revisiting the various places where they got their various scares and discuss how the counterfeiters must have rigged them. This time, though, things are more peaceful. When they are back where they started the trip, the other girls who had been scared off return to cheer the three who had stuck it out until the end.

Thoughts
The title and opening blurb of the story make it clear what is going to happen. And when you meet Mrs Bogle (is that her real name?) you immediately share Gail’s suspicions about her. The question is, how does it all fit together? From the way the opening panel sets things up, you wonder if Mrs Bogle is going to spirit these girls away one by one or something. The girls are all winding themselves up for supernatural events. So do the people who have lived on the canal, judging by the names they have given these stops. Creeping Weed Pool? Lucifer Canal? Maybe that is why the canal is derelict. And with Mrs Bogle sharing the same theme of name, you may wonder if she is a real witch. And maybe the accidents are accidents, but why so many of them, and why does a doll smash around the same time an accident occurs? Could there really be supernatural forces closing in on them?

The scares the criminals set up for the girls are brilliant, and it would not be surprising if they had pulled similar tricks on other people. The scene where they pull the weed all over the barge is extremely creepy. And the haunted inn scene would have just about anyone believing they had been in some kind of time warp to the past and come back to the present. But afterwards the criminals start making mistakes. It had to happen. And the ghost of the mill that turns out to be a rigged up dummy is where Gail is really tipped off. The crooks must have been losing their touch there. It is not surprising that their game starts to unravel after this.

But until then, you can’t make out what is causing all these strange events at all. Are they unlucky coincidences, accidents and overactive imaginations? Or is there some supernatural force at work that is growing ever more dangerous the more the girls venture down the canal? It comes as a relief to discover that it is all sabotage and scares rigged by criminals. And they would have gotten away with it all if Gail had not joined the crew at the last minute. Her level-headedness, courage and quick wits, and determination to stay when others dropped out in fear is what carries the trip and the story through to the happy ending.

“Then There Were 3…” may not be one of Jinty’s classics, but it is an effective, well crafted story of fear and mystery that would give readers lots of creeps and scares before the girls start to turn the tables. And we have plenty of action, adventure, and and exciting ending when Sharon, the leader who supposedly chickens out turns up trumps with the police. But it would not have ended that way if not for Gail’s determination and, more importantly, her skepticism.

Fran of the Floods (1976)

Sample Images

Jinty 14 February 1976 "Fran of the Floods" pg 1
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Jinty 14 February 1976 "Fran of the Floods" pg 2
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Jinty 14 February 1976 "Fran of the Floods" pg 3
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Artist: Phil Gascoine
Writer: Alan Davidson
Publication: 17 January 1976 to 11 September 1976

Summary

The sun sends out an extra glimmer of heat, which melts ice caps and evaporates oceans,  and this triggers worldwide torrents of rain that never seem to stop. The freak weather is causing worldwide flooding and catastrophe as well as bizarre environmental changes, such as lush green growth in the Sahara Desert. In Britain, the rain is causing widespread flooding that gets worse and worse because the rain never stops.

In Hazelford, Fran Scott is watching the developments on the news and treats the whole thing as a joke while her parents get a sense of impending apocalypse. The seriousness soon sets in for Fran as dams break down, people on lower levels start to flee as their towns vanish under the ever-rising waters, parts of the coast return to the sea, and then there are power cuts, food shortages, stockpiling, panic buying and looting, fuel shortages and stoppages, and higher levels are being swamped with refugees. Even London is disappearing.

Hazelford, being on the hills, is still reasonably safe. But during a school concert, the waters overcome the reservoir and come rolling in. In the ensuing chaos, Fran is separated from her parents and best  friend Jill, and thinks they have died. She herself nearly drowns and is saved by the school bully Rosie Stevens, who sadly does not make it herself. As Fran rows off, a radio informs her that everything has now ended – government, law enforcement, electricity, telephones and other services – and then the radio itself goes because there are no more radio broadcasts. Britain itself is now barely sticking out of flood waters that just go on rising.

Fran, now on her own, sets out on a dangerous journey north to Scotland to be reunited with her sister June, who had left for Scotland earlier after a quarrel with Fran. Along the way, Fran meets a young girl called Sarah and her pet rabbit Fluffy. They too have been isolated by the flooding. Fran finds herself reunited with Jill along the way, giving them fresh hope that their parents did make it.

It’s a journey of survival and courage against the never-ending rain and dangerous floodwaters (without rain gear, but they never seem to catch colds or pneumonia). Fran nearly drowns more than once in the course of this story. And of course there is an array of more human and animal dangers that have arisen from the catastrophe. These include starving and savage birds, rats and other animals driven aggressive and dangerous. Other dangers include spread of disease, chemical pollution, and marauding gangs of thugs calling themselves The Black Circle who have themselves up as tin-pot dictators in the power vacuum left by the breakdown in law and society. They use people as slave labour, forcing them to work ploughs in drenching rain under threat of the lash. The floods claim the Black Circle while their prisoners escape, but are there other disparate groups like them? Afterwards, the girls find a home for Sarah and carry on by themselves.

Fran and Jill also help other people in need, such as finding an injured girl aboard a ship and seeking medical help, and coming up with a cure for a disease-stricken village.

The girls certainly learn some hard lessons about people, for better and worse. Some people have responded for the better. The girls encounter a self-sufficient community which has set up in caverns. There is a strong community spirit and a touch of hippiness. Then the floods come rolling in, destroying everything. Everyone takes refuge on a hilltop, the last piece of land for miles. You can’t help but get a hint of Mt Ararat here. Their leader responds by having everyone pray for a miracle.

And wouldn’t you know it – at this point the rain finally does stop! The sun, the cause of it all, appears for the first time in months. Then it is prayers of gratitude.

Others have turned for the worse, such as the Black Circle. And in Glasgow, the girls encounter King David, the self styled king of Glasgow (complete with crown, robe and a throne room full of treasures) who is the only inhabitant and hell bent on keeping it that way, even if it means blowing up the refugees who are now returning from the floods. Yes, a man driven mad by it all, but not mad enough for Fran to succeed in appealing to his better nature. At one point Fran herself almost succumbs to bestiality when hunger and desperation almost drive her to kill Fluffy the rabbit for food.

Even after the rains stop, the problems are not over. The freak weather patterns continue, such as Scotland turning tropical and growing flora to match, and getting hurricanes. There are other bizarre changes in nature such as the girls encountering a huge wall of seaweed and dolphins swimming around Glasgow and London. And of course there is the slow rebuild with returning refugees, official attempts to establish law and order among the chaos and salvaging what can be salvaged. In a bookend to the radio that cut out to mark the end of society as Fran knows it, repaired radios now report the progress of the rebuild.

Fran does find June, and is very surprised to find her parents as well. They too survived and also trekked to Scotland to find June. They go back to Hazelford, where they start rebuilding their homes and lives with a new-found appreciation for it all. In Hazelford Jill makes a surprise reunion with her own family.

The Hazelford survivors also take pause to remember the people of Hazelford who did not make it, including the people in the early episodes who personally helped Fran or showed extreme courage when the floods came to Hazelford. The last panel of the story is of a memorial that Hazelford built for these people so they will not be forgotten.

Thoughts
When you look at this story today, you are immediately struck as to how far ahead of its time it was. It anticipated global warming and devastating changes in weather patterns that cause real-life flooding, hurricanes and other catastrophes. It’s hard not to look at this story and see in it a foreshadowing of what our world could become.

The story is extremely realistic and intelligently crafted in its portrayal of the encroaching disaster and the struggle to survive. And all the while the story of the Biblical Flood is in the back of our minds as we read this. But we read it with a sense of the apocalypse and end of the world and wonder if that is how it ends up. Even if the rain stops, which it doesn’t seem to be doing, we know the devastation it would leave behind cannot make for a totally happy ending. So where is it going to end?

The first few episodes, with Fran’s initial reaction of treating it as a joke while it is still relatively distanced on the news reports, and then progressively realising it is no joke as the floods and the ensuing crises (refugees, power cuts, shortages, looters etc) mount in her own back yard are very much like real life. And then, when her own house is attacked by looters and saved by Rod Pearson, it brings it all home for her. Finally, when everything collapses and it’s every person for themselves, it is a grim, shocking picture filled with desperate life and death struggles.

The story does not hesitate to show us that some people, such as Rosie, do not survive the struggle. And in the final panel we are not allowed to forget them. The memorial stands as a sobering reminder that there were some people who did not make it: “Lest We Forget.” Among them are Rod Pearson and his family. And the Stevenses survive, but are left to mourn Rosie, the bully who had redeemed herself in the last moments of her life. The ending may be happy, full of joyous reunions and rebuilding of society, but is not allowed to be overtly so; few readers will come away from the last panel without tears in their eyes. The emotional impact of this story carries through right to the end, making it arguably Jinty’s best emotional story.

In the Jinty Top Ten it was noted that this serial was running at the same time as the apocalyptic drama series “Survivors”. In fact, many of the perils Fran and Jill face are uplifted from the series, including the slave gang they are consigned to in the Black Circle segment. And both “Survivors” and “Fran” climax in the Scottish Highlands. It cannot be said whether readers thought “Fran” was a blatant ripoff of “Survivors”, or whether they looked on it all as a double dose that was so much the better for them to enjoy. But there can be no doubt that “Fran” was hugely popular and must have prompted some readers to watch “Survivors”. Her story ran for seven months, making her second to “Merry at Misery House” as Jinty’s longest running serial.

But “Fran” has far greater significance in Jinty history than being her second-longest serial. If there was a serial that established the SF element that Jinty became famous for, it was this one. Aside from “The Green People” (no, not little green men) in 1975, there had been no SF in Jinty. She was still pretty much following the Tammy template of cruelty and tortured heroines. But after “Fran of the Floods”, more SF stories, especially ones with environmental elements, appeared in Jinty. Later in 1976, Jinty ran “Jassy’s Wand of Power”, and the environmental disaster under the spotlight swings from flooding to drought. In 1979 there was “The Forbidden Garden” where humanity has poisoned the environment and nothing can grow, and “Almost Human”, about an alien girl whose race is facing extinction from environmental catastrophe. But in terms of intelligent and thoughtful plotting, emotional intensity and breadth of scope, and exploration of the human psyche, “Fran of the Floods” must reign supreme. And in today’s climate of global warming, melting ice caps, rising ocean levels and alarming changes in weather patterns, it seems even more relevant now than it was in 1976.

‘Draw Misty for Me’ – British Library, Sunday 17 August 2014

Event held as part of COMICA. Guest post by Pet Jeffery (http://chomupress.com/our-books/jane/) to whom, many thanks.

I’d intended to take my camera. Probably, I thought, there would be the opportunity to take Shirley Bellwood’s picture. It might – dared I hope? – be possible to persuade someone to take my picture with Shirley Bellwood. About three minutes from my front door, I realised that I’d left my camera on the parlour table. I paused for a moment. Should I return to retrieve my camera? After a few seconds, I thought bother it, and carried on toward the station. Subsequently I wondered what odd intuition had prompted me not to turn back.

‘Draw Misty for Me’ took place at the British Library on 17th August. Three people were scheduled to speak – Pat Mills, Dr Julia Round and, above all, Shirley Bellwood. Shirley illustrated a number of British girls’ comics but, the work being anonymous, perhaps only Shirley herself could provide an account of what she drew for which comics. That’s with one notable exception – she drew Misty for, well… Misty.

This was to be her first public appearance, which seemed to me a very big deal.

In spite of not going back for my camera, I arrived absurdly early. So, I settled myself on one of the British Library’s reasonably comfortable seats and took my Kindle from my bag to while away the time reading a strange age regression story. Only later did this strike as curiously apt for an adult waiting for a talk on a children’s comic.

The first disappointment was that most of the seats in the auditorium were empty. There were maybe a couple of dozen people present. Either the event hadn’t been publicised as well as it should or I was unusual in regarding it as a big deal. Or maybe very few Misty fans live within striking distance of London. Or all three, perhaps.

A second disappointment came when only two of the speakers mounted the rostrum, neither of whom could be Shirley Bellwood. One was far too young, and the other the wrong sex. When Dr Julia Round spoke, she added sadness and concern to my disappointment. Shirley Bellwood, she explained, would not be able to join us as she was suffering from pneumonia. A card was handed round the auditorium for us to add our get well messages. The card was fairly small for the messages of a couple of dozen people, so I kept mine brief and squashed it in a corner.

I am told that Shirley is now making a good recovery. Dr Round seemed to think that she might be available for an event in the autumn – someone mentioned Halloween. It would be pleasant to think that it will be so. Several factors, including the disappointing turn out, leave me with considerable doubt. We shall see. Maybe I’m unduly pessimistic.

Shirley retained some presence, with an image of her only surviving original Misty artwork projected on to the wall. Or, at least, the image remained in place for most of the time. It was projected from a laptop computer. Paul Gravett, the comics historian, scurried to rectify matters every time the device went to screen saver.

Mr Gravett said only a few words. Instead of Shirley Bellwood, Pat Mills did most of the talking, with Dr Julia Round providing him with questions and prompts. I imagine that Mr Mills talked for significantly longer than he expected. What is more, he was talking of matters from the 1970s, presumably drawing on his recollections rather than documentary sources. I would be hard put to speak of the things in which I was involved from 1978 to 1980, and so – I imagine – would most people who were around at that time. There is no wonder if his precise contribution to Misty, apart from writing “Moonchild”, struck me as somewhat vague. Listening to him, I formed the idea that he’d been the first editor of Misty, then he seemed to imply that he hadn’t actually edited the comic. Possibly, others may have come away from the session with more precise information than I did. [More information on this point is available in this interview: Pat Mills was Associate Editor of Misty, so while he was responsible for initially creating it, he was not the day to day editor of the title.]

At least some of what he had to say repeated things I’ve read in published interviews. Amongst these points was his analysis of the reasons UK girls’ comics passed from existence. Essentially, and I trust that I do him no injustice, this amounts to the publishers failing to treat their readership with sufficient respect. He cited the merger of comics into others quite different. While I’m sure that this played its part, I don’t think that it can be the entire explanation. The comics survived by many years the emergence of unmistakable signs of such disrespect. School Friend, for example, was merged with June as early as January 1965 – thirteen years before Misty was launched. Misty’s target readership wouldn’t have been born when these lamentable mergers started.

Amongst the other issues raised included the differences between boys’ and girls’ comics. While this gave rise to, I thought, rather too many mentions of 2000AD, some significant issues were aired. Amongst them, was the victim-hero – of which Pat Mills cited the early Tammy serial, “Slaves of War Orphan Farm”, as an example. A great deal more, it seemed to me, might have been profitably said on this. To be sure, the victim-hero would not have been acceptable for a 1970s or 1980s boys’ comic, but such a hero had not always been an exclusively female figure. Surely, Oliver Twist is an excellent example of the male victim-hero.

The questions of when this change emerged, and why, were beyond the scope of ‘Draw Misty for Me’, but are well worth addressing. Towards the end, Pat Mills took a few questions from the audience. One question concerned the scarcity of women engaged in creative work for the UK girls’ comics. Shirley Bellwood seems to have been the only female contributor to Misty. We were considering a comic aimed at girls founded more than five years after the launch of Spare Rib. I suppose that the publishers, rather than Pat Mills, have questions to answer on this. All the same…

I wonder whether I was the only person to feel perturbed by the dynamics of the occasion. They were, in some wise, a model of patriarchal society. We had come to hear a woman speak about a comic aimed at girls. Instead, we listened to a man speaking on that subject. The only woman on the platform, Dr Round, was cast in a supportive role for Mr Mills. I was somewhat reminded of the role assigned to a magician’s glamourous assistant. Dr Round is a scholar who has devoted herself to the study of comics. According the blurb for ‘Draw Misty for Me’, she is a lifelong Misty enthusiast. Surely, she deserved to take a more active part in the proceedings. I, for one, would have liked to hear her take on the issues raised. In several regards, it was a disappointing and saddening afternoon.

The Slave of Form 3B (1976)

Sample images

Jinty 3 July 1976, "Slave of Form 3B" pg 1

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Jinty 3 July 1976, "Slave of Form 3B" pg 2

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Jinty 3 July 1976, "Slave of Form 3B" pg 3

Publication: 13 March 1976-17 July 1976
Artist: Trini Tinturé

Another discussion of this story can be found here.

Summary
Tania is a new pupil at Waverly Boarding School. Unfortunately for her she is a shy, weak willed, nervous girl. This, as it turns out, makes her very suggestible. She gets all the more nervous when she realises she is arriving at her new school on the thirteenth of the month. Her mother tells her not to be so silly, but Tania is not far wrong when she says the date feels like an omen.

At Waverly, Stacey is a bossy girl who wants to be on top and be someone at her school. But all she does is aggravate everyone with the way she tries to organise them all the time. The teachers realise it too and Stacey is annoyed to be constantly passed over for big positions such as games captain.

Tania arrives, and the headmistress puts Stacey in charge of her. She drops hints that handling the new girl kindly will put Stacey in the running for head girl. This is a ploy from the headmistress to keep Stacey’s interfering under control. But as it turns out, this is the worst thing the headmistress could have done – you should have heeded your own impression that Stacey is a bit of a bully, lady!

When Stacey tries her usual organising on Tania, she is very surprised to find she can do more than that – she can actually hypnotise Tania! And so begins Tania’s ordeal as the slave of 3B. Or rather, the slave of Stacey.

At first Stacey thinks it is a huge joke and uses the power to play cruel jokes on Tania, such as hypnotising her into putting her uniform on all wrong so Tania finds herself humiliated in front of everyone. Small stuff, which soon turns into bigger stuff that eventually hits a frightening and dangerous level of darkness. Once Stacey realises the real advantages of her power – that she can make Tania her slave – she is soon moving on to darker and more ambitious designs. She uses the power to hypnotise Tania into doing her assignments, cheat at tests and class work (Stacey had never pulled her weight there), steal things, and sabotage her rivals. Tania is bewildered by strange things happening, such as waking up to find she has copied the answers to a maths test half way through (car backfire broke her trance), but Stacey always plays slick manoeuvres to keep Tania in her grip. All the while, Tania is frightened as to be doing awful things and not understanding why.

Stacey also takes steps to systematically cut Tania off from other potential friends and all possible avenues of help. She hypnotises Tania into believing that Stacey is her only friend and can’t trust anyone else, so Tania starts snubbing other girls without understanding why, and other girls turn against her. She can’t confide in the staff either because she has been hypnotised into trusting nobody at school. She is an outcast and thinks only Stacey is her friend.

Tania makes a friend outside the school (something Stacey overlooked in her hypnotic command) and starts helping a play group. But Stacey sabotages that friendship by hypnotising her into stealing from them and then ruin the kids’ pictures.

The teachers begin to notice something is wrong and Tania looks ill. The head gives Tania a room of her own in a ploy to get her away from Stacey. Unwisely, she also hints to Stacey that she is increasing her chances for Girl of the Year with her chaperoning of Tania.

Stacey sneaks into Tania’s room to hypnotise her into sabotaging gym ropes. When Tania finds rope burns on her hands, she thinks she might be doing bad things in her sleep and starts locking her door. This foils Stacey’s next bid to hypnotise her (into stealing the answers to another test paper) and Stacey plans a nasty revenge. She hypnotises Tania into having an accident in the pool, where Stacey will then act the heroine and rescue her. It works, but suspicions among the staff grow. At matron’s suggestion, Tania keeps a tape recorder under her bed to record how she sleeps. As a result, the tape recorder records Stacey’s next hypnotic session. When Tania plays it back, she finds out the truth!

She confronts Stacey, who wipes the evidence on the tape, and bullies Tania into staying quiet. And the power still holds sway although Tania tries to fight it, and Stacey still hypnotises her into doing things. The mind control gets even more intense and frightening when Stacey suddenly develops telepathy and can read Tania’s very thoughts! She can even use her telepathy to hypnotise Tania from a distance. This gets Tania into even more trouble at school, to the point where she is forced to wear a sign saying “The School’s Shame”.

All the while, Stacey is determined to use Tania to score points for “Girl of the Year”, and so now she is doing really well thanks to her tricks. She is now the school heroine and centre of admiration, and it is riding on the things she has forced Tania to do. The girls hold a midnight feast for Stacey, where Stacey issues a dare to walk the school wall, with a dripping candle to leave waxy proof of the walk. Naturally, she hypnotises Tania into doing it and plans to take the credit. But the dare goes badly wrong and Tania falls off the wall. She is seriously hurt and unconscious.

When Stacey discovers the injured Tania, she isn’t calling for help. All she cares about is how this might affect her chances of becoming Girl of the Year. Stacey drags Tania to an old outbuilding, throws a sack over her, and leaves her there. When Tania is missed (and everyone has suspicions that make Stacey even more worried) and the search begins, Stacey goes back to the shed to make sure they don’t find Tania. She finds Tania’s condition has worsened. But she still doesn’t get help; she tries to revive Tania herself with smelling salts. She is just plain infuriated when the salts fail and tries to move Tania in the wheelbarrow. She gets even more alarmed when next door neighbour and school governor Colonel Bragg is called in and agrees to phone the police. While Stacey is listening, the salts finally work on Tania. But she is still in the trance and tries to walk the wall. Stacey finds her, breaks the trance, and orders her to pretend to run away.

Tania crawls into Colonel Bragg’s garden. He finds her and she mumbles claims about Stacey’s hypnotic powers over her, and begs him not to take her back to the school. He thinks she is deluded and takes her back to the school. However, he expresses his concerns to the headmistress about Tania being frightened of one of the girls and suspects bullying. Tania is confined to sick bay, still terrified of Stacey.

Meanwhile, Colonel Bragg begins to consider Tania’s story more and his conscience won’t stop niggling. He decides he must do something. Together with his daughter Cicely he sets a trap for Stacey. When Stacey comes into sick bay to hypnotise Tania into taking the blame, she walks straight into the trap. When Stacey finds herself caught out, she confesses – in a bragging, defiant manner, mind you! Stacey is expelled, with a warning on her record to any future school she goes to (presumably, a warning that she may try hypnotism on other girls like Tania).

The remorse-stricken girls who were fooled about Tania now vote her Girl of the Year. There is talk that Tania will be the next head girl, and it is Tania’s name that goes down in the school records as what Stacey was after – a somebody at Waverly School.

Thoughts
“The Slave of Form 3B” is one of Jinty’s best remembered and highly regarded stories. In fact, on the Jinty Top Ten list, it says of this story that “if Slaves of War Orphan Farm was Tammy’s most notorious story, there can only be one candidate for Jinty‘s!”

Indeed, bullying stories have seldom gone to the depths that this one does. And it is not just the various tortures and ordeals that Tania goes through over the span of 19 episodes but the extremes that the bully goes to as she spirals down an increasingly dark path of depravity. Stacey hits the nadir with the absolute lack of concern or remorse about finding Tania badly injured and she is responsible. All her moves to handle the injured Tania are to cover her own tracks and protect her Girl of the Year points. The sheer callousness of her conduct must have shocked readers to the core and ranks as one of the most appalling moments in girls’ comics. Stacey’s callousness goes through right to the end, with her lack of remorse when she confesses. She brags what great fun it was and she is cleverer than they are. Indeed, Stacey is a clever bully as well as as well as a callous one; for example, hypnotising Tania into distrusting everyone else at school is a masterstroke that instantly cuts Tania off from making friends, avenues of help and keeps her completely under Stacey’s thumb. And Tinturé, who is brilliant at drawing sharp eyed villainesses, captures the essence of Stacey’s hypnotic powers to perfection with those narrow, flinty, hypnotic eyes that exude the power, evil and cruelty that is growing inside her.

The episodes where Stacey demonstrates telepathic control over Tania are going too far and stretching credibility past believing. Such things belong in SF or supernatural stories and this story is neither. It would have been more convincing if Tania was imagining the telepathy or maybe Stacey hypnotising Tania into believing it. Perhaps the editor or writer realised it was a step too far as well, because the telepathy quickly disappeared from the story. The story returns to the more sensible move of following Stacey’s growing evil as a villainess through her appalling actions over Tania’s accident.

And at the end, while Tania is freed and emerges triumphant, Stacey is still streets ahead as the more powerful character and one of the best villains to ever appear in Jinty. She could easily return in a sequel as, say, a full grown woman with frightening hypnotic powers who snares some unsuspecting victim into a crime wave.

Tania, on the other hand, is voted Girl of the Year and may become Head Girl, but has she the strength of character for it? Throughout the story she has been a weak, timid person who is all too easy to dominate and bully, even without the hypnotism. Then again, perhaps Tania gained confidence with her new accolades and prestige at Waverly and became stronger. We would like to think so, anyway.

Phil Townsend

Phil Townsend is not an artist whose life and career I know much about. It seems from Bear Alley that he was a contributor to the sixties title Boys’ World and probably also illustrated some children’s books (but the thorough Steve Holland had not at the time of writing that post found any more information). He was a regular Jinty artist from very early on: while not in the very first issue, his beautiful clean style appeared in the title within the first couple of months of publication. After Jinty, he became a regular in Tammy, but from then on my information runs out. I would be very grateful if anyone were able to supply more information, as even his Comiclopedia entry is exceedingly brief.

Rivalling Phil Gascoine for productivity with 20 stories drawn for the title, his impact on Jinty is amongst the strongest of any artist: many beautiful and striking covers were derived from his internal artwork, and he has a number of memorable stories to his credit too. Many of the stories have a ‘type’; we’re informed by Mistyfan that in Tammy he regularly drew stories written by Alison Christie, and quite possibly a similar circumstance applied in Jinty too. Many of the stories he drew were tear-jerkers: “Always Together…”, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, “Nothing to Sing About”, and of course in particular the well-loved classics “Song of the Fir Tree” and “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” had children dealing with grief, lost homes, lost parents. Others were more mystery-focused: “Then There Were 3…”, “Stage Fright!”, and “Waking Nightmare” were earth-bound mysteries resolved through non-supernatural means, while “Spirit of the Lake” had a real ghost (unlike “The Ghost Dancer”).

For me his top story would clearly be the previously written about “Children of Edenford“, but the mermaid-child tale “Combing Her Golden Hair” comes close behind, and I have soft spots for both the slightly-spooky “Child of the Rain” (tennis player is mysteriously affected for good or ill by the rain forest she visits) and the strong near-thriller “Stage Fright!”. Likewise, Mistyfan has expressed her admiration for the persecution story “Mark of the Witch!” I think that most Jinty fans would be likely to count at least one Phil Townsend story amongst their favourites. Of course the writer drives the story forward as much or more, but the immediate and lasting impression of the comic is so strongly shaped by the art; it is hard not to look at a Phil Townsend-illustrated story and to love it, be the story stronger or weaker.

To illustrate this post, I have chosen some pages from “Combing Her Golden Hair”, taken from the issue dated 6 October 1979. Tamsin has found a mysterious silver comb, which is altering her life dramatically, but not in ways that her stern grandmother approves of! The last panel leaves us with a striking cliff-hanger, of course, though it turns out that the grandmother has better reasons for her actions than we know at this point.

Jinty 6 October 1979
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Jinty 6 October 1979
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Jinty 6 October 1979
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List of stories attributable to Phil Townsend:

(Edited to add: Alison Christie (Fitt) has posted a comment to say that she wrote a number of stories for Jinty, many of which were drawn by Phil Townsend.)

Jim Baikie

Jim Baikie (1940- ) is one of the longest-running Jinty artists. While he was not in the very first issue, his starting story (“Left-Out Linda” in 1974) was done fairly early on in his career (he started in 1966); after he and Jinty parted ways, he went on to become well-known in his 2000AD work as well as in American comics. He is largely retired now, but there are some news items posted on his Facebook page. (See also his Comiclopedia page.)

From Jinty 7 May 1977

From Jinty 7 May 1977
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From Jinty 7 May 1977
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From Jinty 7 May 1977
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My trajectory as a comics reader is such that pretty much alone amongst Jinty artists, Baikie is someone whose subsequent work I came across again and again. As well as reading Jinty, I also read American comics (primarily Marvel), and later on I read 2000AD as so many of my university peers did.  The short-lived comic Crisis was a must-read too, and that included an ongoing story drawn by Baikie (“The New Statesmen”). I don’t remember quite when I identified him as having been the artist on the memorable “The Forbidden Garden”, but I remember how it felt: excitement, surprise, and a mental ‘click’ as two disparate parts of my comics-reading life came together.

He drew a number of different kinds of story in Jinty: ones about troubled family relationships, spooky stories, a science fiction strip, a humour strip. The first great swathe of stories are nicely done, but nothing outstandingly different: they are well-observed and good to read, but only “Face The Music, Flo!” and “Ping-Pong Paula” made much impression on my memory at the time. “Spell of the Spinning Wheel” moves up a gear while still being an evil object story matching other ones (“Creepy Crawley” ran at precisely the same time, making it a great time for fans of spooky stories).

For me, both “The Forbidden Garden” and, rather differently, “Fran’ll Fix It!”, represent the peaks he reached in Jinty. Both are fairly unique within the set of stories he drew in this title: one science fiction story, one humour strip. We have previously seen a lot of repetition of a given writer & artist combination – Terence Magee stories being drawn again and again by the ‘Merry’ unknown artist – and I could well imagine that in the list below, ‘Linda’, ‘Kat’, ‘Flo’, and so many other stories might be written by a popular Jinty writer who produced a number of similar stories along the same themes. But ‘Fran’, in particular, strikes me as something that a writer-artist – or more precisely, a cartoonist – could well have produced. There are so many sight-gags in the background, such a zany feel to the whole story, that I am very tempted to think that Baikie is likely to have written the whole lot as well as drawn it – or at the very least, had a large creative hand in it.

We now know that there was at least one case of an artist writing their own strip, as Veronica Weir is known to have done this on “Girl The World Forgot“. Baikie is also known to have written his own material at subsequent points in his career, too (he wrote sequels to the Alan Moore science fiction strip “Skizz” amongst others). Might he even have written “The Forbidden Garden” as well? This striking story has a soulless future dystopia where the soil is poisoned and the people are oppressed, barely one step up from being robots: echoes of the Megacity that Baikie’s future colleagues were simultaneously creating in 2000AD. It could be said to parallel the other Jinty science fiction stories, but it doesn’t feel particularly close to any of them. This is probably my wishful thinking, though.

Leaving aside this speculation, you don’t have to think much about it to see why he was such a well-loved artist. The Gypsy Rose four-page story above has beautiful, energetic composition: the girl’s running foot in the first panel, the echo of the tree root in the forked lightning just below, the girl’s face forming the bottom section of the third page. It’s full of dynamism and individuality. Likewise, although he drew 14 stories plus various Gypsy Roses over the years, his characters are all clearly identifiable without blurring into each other. As one small example, ‘Linda’ and ‘Flo’ have similar hairstyles (though one dark, one blonde) – but their facial expressions are distinctively their own. There is no danger of mistaking one for the other, even if separated from their story context – but that’s something for a follow-up article sometime. (How did long-running artists manage to avoid visual repetition, indeed?)

List of Jinty stories attributable to Jim Baikie:

  • Left-Out Linda (1974)
  • The Kat and Mouse Game (1975)
  • Face The Music, Flo! (1975)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (1975)
  • Miss No-Name (1976)
  • Willa on Wheels (1976)
  • Rose Among the Thornes (1976)
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel (1977)
  • Fran’ll Fix It! (1977, 1979)
  • Two Mothers for Maggie (1978)
  • Wild Rose (1978)
  • The Forbidden Garden (1979)
  • Village of Fame (1979)
  • White Water (1979-80)
  • Gypsy Rose (various)