(Thanks to Lew Stringer for alerting me to this new annual of IPC Fleetway girls comics material: it is sold exclusively in Sainsbury so there is little information on the internet about it.)
Jokes: Fun Spot and Fun Time
Bella at the Bar (artist John Armstrong)
At the Midnight Hour (text story)
Fancy Dressing Up? (feature)
Good news for the birthday girl! (feature)
The Strange Story: Called to Save
Jokes: Fun Time
Friend of Alison (text story)
See Yourself – In Your True Colours (feature)
Sally Was A Cat
How To Make Baubles, Bangles, & Beads (craft feature)
Beattie Beats ‘Em All! (artist John Armstrong)
Holly Takes The Plunge! (text story)
Beauty From The Fridge (feature)
No Tears For Molly (writer Maureen Spurgeon, artist Tony Thewenetti)
Bag of Tricks! (craft feature)
Crocodile, Crocodile! More Fun With Minna From Mars (artist Colin Merritt)
Put Your Cards On The Table! (feature)
The Osmonds (pin-up)
Jokes: Fun Spot and Five More Fun Spots
As a reader of British girls’ comics, overall I think this is reasonably well-balanced as a selection; I’m not that fond of text stories generally but they do give you something chewy to go back and read once you’ve devoured the comics (always my primary focus), and it includes a reasonable range of kinds of comic story too, as well as some of the usual kinds of features. As a particular fan of Jinty, with my Jinty-blinkers on, I was pretty disappointed with how little material from ‘my’ title showed up in this annual – the cover image is from the Jinty annual of 1975, and it is possible that some of the jokes or features are taken from an issue that I don’t recall, but none of the stories do*. Fans of Tammy will find more in it that they remember.
That aside, it is a publication that I will be happy to share with my young daughter even if it doesn’t trip the nostalgia-button that the publishers may have been expecting. It’s not that large a book – 72 pages is thinner than the usual run of annuals – but it has some fun items to look through with her, without me needing to trust fragile forty-year-old paper to her tender mercies.
* Edited to add: “Minna From Mars” is taken from the 1976 Jinty Annual, but there is no representation of any of the stories from the regular Jinty weekly issues.
(The cover looks to me to be by the same (unknown) artist who drew “Concrete Surfer”, “Race To A Fortune”, and “Dance Into Darkness”. Colour doesn’t half make a difference sometimes; the feel of this cover is noticeably different from those other stories, to my mind.)
Shyness Isn’t Forever (text story with illustration by Terry Aspin)
Gypsy Rose ‘The Mirror That Knew The Truth’
The first story, drawn by Jim Baikie, is a ‘grief/redemption’ story: Karen Fields is a swimming champion, who is cross with her father for not making time to come and see her winning her races. In the ensuing argument, there is a car crash in which her father is killed; of course Karen blames herself. ‘I cared more for swimming than I did for him. But I’ll make it up to him… I’ll never swim again!’ She moves to a remote part of Scotland to live with relatives and is cold to them, until it turns out that in order to keep the ferry running that is her uncle’s livelihood, someone needs to swim the two and a half miles from the mainland to the island they live on. Her cousin Pat proposes to do it, and starts off; but Karen knows she is the stronger swimmer of the two and needs to take over when Pat gets into difficulties. Making the effort for her new family snaps Karen out of her frozen state of grief. ‘I feel free for the first time since Dad died. This time, my swimming has saved a life. I needn’t give it up any more…’
The “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” strip is fun as usual: Sue and her magic handbag Henrietta are on holiday too, like many of the readers. Cousin Brenda threatens Sue’s plans of a relaxing time watching Robert Redford at the cinema, but you know she will get her come-uppance via a well-placed spell or two! This sort of story, slight though it is, is a good introduction to the sort of content usually seen in the weekly comic. The same applies to the one-pager “Alley Cat”, here in full colour and set in the sort of fun-fair scenario that readers might also be enjoying on holiday.
The standout piece for me is the seven-page “Concrete Surfer” story (see below). It seems doubtful that it was written by Pat Mills as he has not specifically remembered it, though it tries to get in very similar digs on the class system. For me, it is the skateboarding tricks that makes it shine as a very welcome addition to the main Concrete Surfer narrative.
I am not a great fan of text stories generally, but was interested to see one pony story, “Merlin’s Friend”, credited to a named author. The story (old race horse uninterested in racing, about to be sold to the knacker’s, rescued through not entirely implausible plot element) worked well. I fancy I’ve read the same plot element in a Dick Francis novel, but then if horses really behave like that it is more than likely that multiple people would get the same idea. “Olé, Our Gran!” is also quite readable and peppy, if never my first choice simply due to preferring comics rather than text stories. Finally, the morality story “Shyness Isn’t Forever” works well; though it must be said that I gave it a second look mostly because of the Terry Aspin illustration.
There are always weak spots in a special issue like this, where length is part of the USP and ongoing stories cannot be included as it’s a one-off publication. The text story “When Emma came to stay” is about a cute baby goat, with pretty but rather baby-ish illustrations. Likewise, “Brenda’s Brownies” is a gag strip that has no particular connection with Jinty‘s normal story types. The “Animal Crackers” and “Bunny Funnies” single-panel gags are the sort of quick joke item that was normally seen in the weekly comic (and just as quickly skipped over). Not to be too soft on the comics items, I can also say that the two spooky stories are rather weak: one about a girl who lacks courage (she is given a piece of amber by Gypsy Rose and this encourages her to be braver without any magic needed), and one which looks like a reprint from elsewhere, as the framing sequence with Gypsy Rose looks redrawn (“The Mirror That Knew The Truth”).
There are a number of non-story items in the Summer Special. The first one is a ‘personality quiz’. These are normally not very exciting in themselves, but the illustrations are nicely done. For me as someone not living in the UK at the time of publication, this sort of thing also helped fill me in on some details of life here: the last question involves winning money on the premium bonds, saying that ‘That super bondsman Ernie smiles on you at last’. There are also pages dedicated to pet keeping and to crafty things to make and do (a soft silly-looking Wotsit to sit on or to decorate your room, recipes courtesy of the ‘Dutch Dairy Bureau’ ), a few puzzle items, the odd holiday-themed poem (nicely illustrated with bright colours). There is also a ’30 Things to do’ feature with a mix of all of the above and more (stick in a pin and do the thing indicated on the number corresponding to your choice – from ‘Give a Peculiar Party’ or ‘fill a plastic bag with rubbish on a walk’, to making a new jigsaw on the back of an old one or reading the first page of any book picked at random from a shelf of books – and imagine how you’d finish the story).
But – back to that Concrete Surfer story – here it is!
Somewhere Over The Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
Knight and Day
Clancy On Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)
This issue has the penultimate episode of “Concrete Surfer”, with the dramatic skate-off between Jean and Carol. Jean’s chosen music is the Star Wars theme: ‘The music fills me with hope and determination!’.
In “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, Dorrie and Max enjoy a fantastic time at the panto, but then tragedy strikes as their mum is killed by a car in front of their eyes. This is a tear-jerker from the beginning.
I always rather enjoyed “Cathy’s Casebook”: Cathy tries to help Joe, a patient of her dad’s, by making sure the regulars at his café don’t miss out while he’s in hospital. One regular is a grumpy ingrate, but the others are suitable happy even if Cathy finds it all rather harder work than she’d anticipated! But in the last panel it turns out that there’s been a spate of food poisoning – could she have been responsible?!
Sequel: a follow-up story was published in the 1978 Jinty Summer Special
Artist: Christine Ellingham
Writer: Pat Mills
Translations/reprints: Jinty reprint volume 2020; Translated into Dutch as ‘Ik heb altijd m’n skateboard nog’ (I Always Have My Skateboard), Tina #5, 1980.
Jean Everidge migrated with her parents to Australia, as “Ten Pound Poms“. This isn’t a success story, though, much less one set in far-away lands: Jean has returned alone to be looked after by relatives, with her parents making their way back slowly in failure. By contrast her cousin, Carol, is a winner: popular, rich, top of the class at school. And she means to keep it that way too, or so Jean suspects. There is one thing that Jean can shine at: skateboarding, or surfing the concrete waves.
Jean has got the biggest chip ever on her shoulder, and knows it: but it’s fed by the fact that every ‘up’ she encounters has a ‘down’ (though likewise every ‘down’ has an ‘up’). On arrival back in the UK she is turned off by her cousin Carol’s very fan-clubby friends, and goes off by herself to practice her skateboarding by herself. Carol’s friends see her skating and admire her trick (up), and in showing off on the slalom Jean nearly cannons into a woman who turns out to be her new form teacher (down). The next morning she is left to sleep in while Carol heads off to school (down). Furious, she skates as quick as she can to where she thinks the school is, and gets there just about in time (up) but it turns out that there are two similarly-named schools in the same town and of course she has gone to the wrong one first (down).
On accusation by Jean, Carol swears blind she left a note by the bedside telling her how to get to the school and pleads an early-morning gym class that meant she had to leave while Jean was still sleeping. Jean is mostly unconvinced, and this sets a pattern for their next few encounters: an unexpected triumph here (Jean writes a passionate essay that the formerly-hostile teacher loves, Jean is asked to demonstrate skating for a TV commercial that she will get paid for), a dubious incident there (Carol wants to send Jean upstairs so she can talk to her parents without the outsider girl hearing). An apology or a clarification by Carol makes it seem that everything is open and above-board, but the incidents keep piling up…
Jean starts to teach the other girls how to skate well, from simple tricks to more radical ones (artist and writer had clearly done their research in this area!). A gang of boys jeer and tease, only to be shown up by Jean’s skills; as they leave, one of the boys bumps into an old lady and they all run away. This puts the nascent teaching group into danger as they are forbidden to skate in the street again; but the new shopping area nearby is also going to be home to a skatepark! And in the meantime, the school is going to start a skate-club, which would be a joy to Jean except that – it wasn’t suggested by her, but by Carol, who looks like she is ready to take over the skating that is Jean’s only way to shine. Carol has been practicing in secret and sweet-talked her favourite teacher onside; between them they are making it a very rules-bound club, with no dangerous tricks and no fun.
Jean is ready to walk out and starts to do so, but this time it is the Head of the school who comes to the rescue. She asks to try some of the very tricks that teacher Miss Bainbridge has just been telling them off for doing, and has a good go, like the game old bird she is!
The showdown comes at the new skate park. To inaugurate it there will be a contest: both Jean and Carol are of course going to take part. The gleam in Carol’s eye shows that she thinks she will win, but Jean is determined not to let that happen. Carol clearly is angling to see Jean’s freestyle routine, and Jean is too wary to let that happen, but soon afterwards Jean’s skateboard goes missing from her bag! This is where the reveal happens – Carol commiserates and says how mean it is of someone to have taken it, whereupon Jean says that there is a serial number engraved on the board so the thief will soon be found by the police. Carol stumbles and says ‘Oh there isn’t, because I che-‘. Oops! It was a trap laid by Jean, and Carol went right into it. At this confession time, Carol says smugly and cheerfully that yes, it was her: it’s her right and duty to be top girl and Jean wouldn’t like it anyway because it’s hard work being at the top! And anyway she never really liked Jean anyway.
Open war is declared between them, which suits Jean fine. The smug Carol even gives Jean her board back when she thinks Jean has no chance of winning, but this spurs her on even further and of course she pips her cousin to the final post. Carol’s reaction? To fake an asthma attack – and to subtly blame Jean for her ill-health! Poor Jean is an outcast at school; her and her just-returned parents are pushed away by Carol’s parents and made to fend for themselves. Not that they do badly in fact: Jean is part of the skate park skating team, her dad gets a job in the associated repair shop, and her mum gets a job in the café. All is well, except that Carol is still feigning illness and blaming Jean for it. Jean goes over to see if Carol really is ill after all, and their frank chat (no, of course she’s not ill, she’s going to milk it for a bit longer yet) is overheard by Carol’s mum and dad. Following this revelation, aunt and uncle apologise handsomely (if patronisingly) to Jean, and the world carries on with a smile on Jean’s face.
I really like the light touch in the writing of the relationship between Jean and Carol. It takes a long time before we are sure whether Carol is smarmy or sincere, scheming or innocent, and Jean herself is not sure for a long time. It’s only now that I realise that we never hear Carol complimenting Jean on her skateboarding in the open way that her friends do; this is a nicely subtle way to show that Carol is not actually best pleased at this interloper cousin of hers! Carol and Jean are the flipside of each other – we never see Carol’s thoughts, only her words, while Jean is often outwardly silent but thinking loud rebellious thoughts that we see as readers. Jean’s words often belie her thoughts: the same is true of Carol, even if we don’t know it for sure for a long time.
I say ‘light touch’: the class distinction element of the story is more heavy-handed. Jean’s unspoken reaction to Carol’s humblebragging about Daddy’s new S registration car, her lovely bedroom, and her position as top girl of the class is pure Pat Mills: ‘You make me sick, Carol!’. I can just imagine him chortling as he wrote that line and others. I like the story for it – for instance, having Jean realise she needs to smile for the TV camera even though she is in pain, because otherwise she doesn’t get paid, is a strong moment.
I don’t know who the artist is, but I would love to know his or her name. This is the same artist who drew “Race For A Fortune” and “Dance Into Darkness“, though to my mind this surpasses either. There are exciting and imaginatively-drawn skateboarding tricks in pretty much every episode, apart from perhaps not the final one which is focused on the emotional reveal (though even then there is a shot of Jean skating). The artist really goes to town in terms of the page composition – see the last two pages featured above as an example, but most episodes include this sort of ‘wow’ factor.
It suits the fact that this is definitely treated as the lead story in Jinty at the time – it is featured on the cover more often than not, and is run as the first story in the issue almost every time. (One exception that bumps it off first place is the starting episode of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.) Exceptionally, there is also a story featuring the same characters in that year’s Summer Special: it is clearly a story specifically written for the special issue, of a sub-story that takes place during the feud. (I assume this too was written by Pat Mills, but would love to have confirmation.) [Edited to add: he thinks he didn’t write it.] I don’t recall this happening with other Jinty tales and take it as further supporting the special status of this story.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that this fits squarely in the category of ‘sports story’, but done in that Jinty way: like “White Water” or “Spirit of the Lake” it deals with an unusual sport outside of the usual school teams such as netball, hockey, swimming. This is a very egalitarian, literally ‘street’ sport though, and about as far as you can get from the snobbish heights of horse-riding!
Hide and seek with a ghost? Now how on earth can you do that? It would not be surprising if readers open the issue immediately to find out. And the story is on the first page, so they would be able to read it immediately.
In the other story profiled on the cover, Emma has finally had enough of all the persecution from the villagers who brand her a witch and an outcast. Her efforts to prove herself have got nowhere and now she going to strike back by becoming what they always say she is. Well, they asked for it. But where is it going to end?
The Mystery of Martine is now on its penultimate episode. Tessa has run out of moves to help Martine, and whatever is possessing Martine is now taking her to its ultimate conclusion – burning down the house she failed to get back from the woman she harassed. Something has to happen fast!
The cover says the issue is meant to be the Valentine’s Day issue. Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag does the honours with a sniffy teacher who confiscates “trashy Valentine cards”. Henrietta soon gets to work on her, of course. But where it ends up surprises even Henrietta, and it all ends happily and appropriately for Valentine’s Day.
In “Made-Up Mandy”, Mandy turns Balinese dancer to help a friend. It turns out that she is no Balinese dancer, but she wins plaudits for thinking on her feet. Her next disguise swings the pendulum to the other extreme – a “stiff and starchy governess”.
Artist: Ken Houghton Writer: Unknown Publication: 12 June 1976 – 28 August 1976
It is the year 1666. Bridey Brown and her father, a master baker, arrive in London in search of a job at the King’s Bakery. Unfortunately it is the night the Great Fire of London breaks out and Mr Brown gets the blame because the watchman saw him entering the bakery (to get back his certificate) when the fire broke out and the bakers make them scapegoats. Their accents mark them as strangers, which makes them all the easier to scapegoat in times when Londoners were xenophobic. So now there are prices on the heads of the Browns. Worse, Mr Brown was severely injured when he entered the bakery and is now crippled. So Bridey has to keep her injured father in hiding while turning to her own baking skills and wits to earn a living using the bakery they are hiding in, and somehow get medical attention for her father while dodging lynch mobs, the catchpoles (the Stuart equivalent of the police), and the dislocation, hysteria and upheaval in the aftermath of the Great Fire.
Eventually Bridey finds a doctor for her father, who knows nothing of their situation. Bridey also takes time out to help Samuel, a baker’s apprentice who is constantly beaten for incompetence and they become friends. But when his incompetence results in an oven catching fire, she takes the blame for him and ends up with a lynch mob on her tail. She takes refuge in the doctor’s house, but the mob follows. Among them is Bonnie Bates, the leader of an urchin gang Bridey had an unpleasant clash with earlier. The doctor manages to get rid of the mob and believes the Browns have been scapegoated over the Great Fire. He offers to use his influence to help clear them.
But then the urchin gang turn up to rob the place and the doctor’s snobby daughter Clara thinks Bridey is part of the gang. Bonnie throws a torch that sets the house ablaze. Everyone manages to escape, but now the doctor thinks the Browns tricked him. He has Mr Brown arrested and thrown into The Fleet (an old London prison) while thinking Bridey died in the fire.
Bonnie returns and tricks Bridey into smuggling a file into The Fleet in a loaf of bread – purportedly for Bridey’s father, but really to help three criminals escape. They were imprisoned for Puritan fanaticism and now they are out for revenge on London. This involves forcing Bridey to make a loaf in the shape of a crown for a bakers’ competition (part of Christopher Wren’s rebuild of London), which will be judged by Charles II himself. The plotters plan to poison the crown, which will kill the King when he tastes it. After the crown is finished, their leader, Master Oliver, takes it to the competition while the others attempt to drown Bonnie and Bridey in the Thames. The girls escape and set off to save the King.
Bridey does so by setting fire to the table laden with entries. She is recognised and everyone thinks she is fire-raising again – but the King realises the truth when he sees a dog drop dead after eating pieces of the crown.
But Master Oliver is up on the scaffolding, holding Bonnie at knife point. However, he steps on a plank that is not strong enough. It breaks and he falls to his death. Bonnie is in danger of meeting the same fate, but is saved by a mound of flour that was piled for her to fall into as a cushion.
The King is so impressed with Bridey’s actions that he now believes her father is innocent and pardons him. The other bakers invite Mr Brown to join the bakers’ guild, and Christopher Wren himself designs a bakery for them. Bonnie joins the Brown family in their bakery.
Fugitive stories are always popular, and the added frustration of the father being injured and incapable of running with Bridey certainly adds to the tension. The scapegoating of the Browns for the Great Fire of London because emotions are running high in the wake of the Great Fire, hysteria is on the rise, and the story being set in rough, brutal, xenophobic times in any case is well thought through. We really feel for the Browns as we know they could be lynched or thrown into one of the notoriously foul 17th century prisons, with little hope of justice at their trial. Whichever way this story will be resolved, we know it cannot be through the legal system of the period. And the Browns don’t stand much chance of proving their innocence, especially as Bridey’s name gets even blacker by covering for Samuel and then getting the blame for Bonnie’s torching of the doctor’s house, so how can they be cleared?
Less well thought through is the change of heart in Bonnie. She knew beforehand that the three criminals were “the three blackest gentlemen you ever met” and she was clearly frightened of Master Oliver, so why did she help them escape instead of leaving them there? Her overhearing them plotting to murder Bridey is plausible in her change of heart, but she already knew they were “the three blackest gentlemen”, so it should not have been much surprise. And Bonnie herself was not much better; she had committed robbery and arson earlier in the story. If she had been blackmailed into helping them escape it would have made more sense and her change of heart more convincing, but her motives for helping them are never explained, and something is not adding up about her change of heart.
It seems a bit ominous that the villain is called Oliver. It keeps having us thinking of Oliver Cromwell, who was responsible for the execution of Charles I and paid the price, even in death (his corpse exhumed and put through the traitor’s death) upon the restoration of Charles II. This Oliver was also out for regicide and, like Cromwell, he was a fanatical Puritan. Cromwell made his own Puritanism clear during the Interregnum, even to the point of banning Christmas celebrations. But both Olivers lose in the end and the monarchy wins. Clearly, Jinty is out to make some inference here.
Personally, I quite like the story for its historical settings and the bread-making theme that permeates the whole story from start to finish. Sometimes the bread-making helps and even saves the day; other times it unwittingly causes harm, including the Great Fire itself that the Browns are wrongly blamed for. Jinty must have had a marvellous time with the irony of the bakery theme – where the Great Fire started – becoming the running thread of the whole story that eventually becomes part of the rebuild of London.
It is pretty intriguing that Ken Houghton drew three Jinty stories in succession in 1976, and all three were on historical periods. The predecessor of this story, House of the Past, dealt with the 1930s. This story is set in Stuart times, and the story that follows, Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud, is set in Victorian times. Afterwards, Houghton never drew for Jinty again (though his artwork reappeared in Gypsy Rose as reworked reprints from old Strange Stories). What was behind it here – the same artist and writer team for all three stories, or was Houghton specifically engaged for some jag on historical stories that Jinty was having?
Willa on Wheels – first episode (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)
The Slave of Form 3B (artist Trini Tinturé)
Horse from the Sea – first episode (artist Rodrigo Comos)
Bridey Below the Breadline – first episode (artist Ken Houghton)
Then There were 3… (artist Phil Townsend)
Jinty’s centre page pull-out and competition push the stories off the cover with this issue – just as three new stories start. So we get blurbs telling us we have new stories instead of the usual panels or even titles on the cover that give us a taste to what they are going to be about.
The first new story is “Willa on Wheels”. Willa Keen lives up to her name because she is utterly determined to qualify as a nurse. But then an accident damages her spine and confines her to a wheelchair. She is still determined, but will it be enough for a comeback?
The second new story is “Horse from the Sea”. Tracey receives a summons from cousin Mrs Penrose-Harvey to Cornwall to be a companion for her invalid daughter. Desperate for work, Tracey accepts though the family have their doubts and suspicions. Suspicion grows even more when the Penrose-Harveys hear about Tracey’s encounter with the white horse along the way and seem oddly scared.
The third new story is “Bridey below the Breadline“. This is the second period story Ken Houghton drew for Jinty in 1976. He had just finished “House of the Past“, which dealt with the 1930s, and Bridey will be replaced with “Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud“, which is set in the Victorian era. But right now we have the Stuart period, where Bridey Brown and her father go on the run after being wrongly accused of starting the Great Fire of London.
In the regular stories, Old Peg comes to the rescue twofold in “For Peter’s Sake!” – saving another sick baby and Corrie’s feet, which have become blistered from worn-out boots. But can Old Peg save Corrie from interfering welfare busybodies, who begin to threaten trouble in the last panel? Fran of the Floods comes across a surprisingly self-sufficient community who are thriving against the floods. In “The Slave of Form 3B“, Tania is in deep trouble and disgrace in school and her parents are getting bad reports – all because of Stacey. And it gets worse when Tania is confronted by vicious dogs! In “Then There Were 3“, it is finally down to three – the last three girls on the barge who have not been scared off by all the creepy goings-on. But the blurb for next week gives us a hint that things are about to turn around.
Publication: 24 April 1976 – 5 June 1976 Artist: Ken Houghton Writer: Unknown
Anna Bentley has just moved from an orphanage to a girls’ hostel. At the hostel she is very surprised to come across a scrap of newspaper clipping which shows a photograph of a girl who looks exactly like her. The girl drowned over 43 years ago, on 16 April 1933, at Thunderham, Norfolk.
At a job hunting-agency, a Mrs Morris looks unusually interested in Anna and hired her as a live-in secretary at a large house in the country…in Thunderham. Anna is further surprised and alarmed to find herself staying in the same room as the drowned girl, whose name she discovers was Helen Fairley. It gets more mysterious when a photograph of Helen and her mother turns up in Anna’s room without explanation.
Things get even scarier when the house seems to be reverting to the year 1933. When Anna goes to sleep, she has dreams where she sees strange lights and hears voices saying she is Helen Fairley and the year is 1933. Mr and Mrs Morris turn up dressed in 1930s clothes, the morning paper says 1933 (the headline says Hitler has just been elected Chancellor of Germany), the clothes in Anna’s wardrobe change into 1930s ones, and her pop records change into 1920s music. And a strange woman turns up in her room while Mrs Morris feeds Anna drugs and she has more of those same dreams.
When Anna tries to escape, she finds there is no way out – everything is locked. She has to wait to find a ladder or some other means of escaping. And by now she is losing her sense of identity and beginning to think she is Helen Fairley. Seeing this, the Morrises are confident they can go on to the next step, which entails convincing Anna of one more thing and then she “goes to her doom.”
Meanwhile, Anna regains her sense of identity and discovers the mysterious woman is Mrs Fairley, Helen’s mother. She is a confused, grieving mother who has never accepted her daughter’s death and still waits for her. And this is apparently the reason the house is stuck in 1933. So says Mrs Morris, and there is only one way to break the spell. Anna plays along at being Helen to please Mrs Fairley.
Anna finds a full version of the newspaper report and discovers the Morrises were the only witnesses to Helen’s death. And then she realises the only way to break the spell is to die the same way as Helen. She tries to escape, but is stopped by Mrs Fairley and still obliged to go along with the charade of pretending to be Helen to humour Mrs Fairley. Later, Mrs Morris makes doubly sure of no escape by drugging Anna.
Next day the Morrises take Anna out on the boat while Mrs Fairley watches on the shore. The Morrises then attempt to drown Anna in a bid to force Mrs Fairley to accept her death. Anna successfully fools them into thinking they succeeded.
The motive is revealed when the Morrises try to get Mrs Fairley to sign everything over to them. She had never done so because she refused to accept Helen’s death, but now they think they have finally got her to accept it. However, Mrs Fairley’s confused head clears and she figures everything out. Then Anna arrives with the police and the Morrises are arrested. It is never established as to whether they really did murder Helen to inherit Mrs Fairley’s fortune, although the story did strongly imply it.
Anna stays on at the house – now living in the present – as Mrs Fairley’s new daughter.
From the moment Anna finds the newspaper cutting we know the direction where this story is heading. So the reversion to the 1930s pattern at the house is frightening, confusing and mysterious, but it does not surprise us. The mystery is how and why it is all happening. Is there really some supernatural force or perhaps even time travel mechanism at work? Or is it some sort of charade? And why does Anna look exactly like Helen? Is it a coincidence or is there something more? Could Anna be a long-lost relative of Helen or could the resemblance be due to some supernatural element, such as reincarnation? Above all, just what are the circumstances surrounding Helen’s death – and how will this bear out on what happens to Anna at the climax of the story?
The story does a pretty good job of keeping us guessing. Those dreams and flashing lights that Anna experiences do hint at some sort of charade. But then we hear the house is under a spell, and we begin to wonder again. And we sympathise with Anna, who is beginning to doubt her sanity and sense of identity because everything is saying 1933 and it looks like something or someone is trying to brainwash her. Even worse, the fate of Helen suggests that Anna’s life is in danger, a fact borne out by what the Morrises are hinting at.
On the other hand, Anna happening to come across that same newspaper clipping at the hostel, and then Mrs Morris just happening to be at the job agency and seeing Anna’s resemblance to Helen do stretch credibility a bit too far. And it does seem incredulous that the Morrises would spend 43 years trying to get hold of Mrs Fairley’s fortune or, we presume, finding a girl who looks exactly like Helen. Surely they would have come up with other ways in that time, such as hiring an actress to fool Mrs Fairley or forging her will. Or maybe they did some scheme or other before Anna came along – we don’t know. At any rate, it might have been better for a genuine supernatural element to be at work rather than just a fraud, attempted murder, and, we suspect, the murder of Helen, though this is never established. If so, it backfired on the Morrises for the simple reason that Mrs Fairley would not accept Helen’s death. And in the end, after 43 years of waiting and scheming, they ended up with nothing because they underestimated their would-be victim who was luckier than Helen.
The Gemini Girl – Gypsy Rose story (artist Maria Barrera)
Spell of the Spinning Wheel (artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie)
The Darkening Journey (artist José Casanovas)
The Robot Who Cried – first episode (artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw)
Kerry in the Clouds (artist Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson)
Mark of the Witch! (Phil Townsend)
Another of my favourite covers and an issue that has well and truly stuck in my memory. The splash panels from the opening episode of “The Robot Who Cried” have been assembled into a striking composition.
Another new serial is also coming up, because this is the penultimate episode of “Mark of the Witch!”. Emma finds out the hard way that the villagers were right all along about her not being good enough to beat Alice and win the Hudson Trophy. Alice is overhauling Emma fast, so desperation drives Emma into dangerous chances that could make or break her – literally. But the blurb for the final episode gives us a hint that Fate is about to intervene.
In “Creepy Crawley”, Jean has had several warnings that it would be dangerous to continue using the scarab brooch, although the book on the scarab’s history is missing vital pages (including, we suspect, the information on how to defeat the scarab). But then jealousy gets the better of Jean and the scarab is back in business.
This week’s Gypsy Rose tale is significant for the last two panels of Gypsy Rose on the final page of the story. Those panels will be used as paste-ups of Gypsy Rose in her later stories.
“The Spell of the Spinning Wheel” nearly kills Rowan this time. Only the fast action of a dog and a man with CPR save her life. And still the spell causes trouble while Mum unknowingly wastes doctors’ and Rowan’s time with the belief that her daughter is ill.
Kerry has posted her letter to meet famous actress Gail Terson. She regrets the action as stupid – but is then surprised to find it worked! But will Kerry get launched on her dream of becoming an actress or end up in the factory job her father arranged for her?
In “The Darkening Journey”, there is a missed opportunity for Julie to be reunited with Thumper. She receives a newspaper saying Thumper foiled hi-jackers, but it blows away before she reads it.
This is the third consecutive issue I’ve posted in date order over the past few days: I wanted to get out an issue to show spooky story “Come Into My Parlour” but was so entranced by the covers of the issues after it that I then wanted to post them all. It’s a cover very of its time: I showed it to my brother yesterday and he said ‘is that from around 1978?’ without looking at the date itself. The skating gives it away of course, but yeah, he could identify it as precisely as that just from the cover.
“Concrete Surfer” is interesting in the way it’s written: protagonist Jean is actually pretty quiet in terms of how much she says out loud, but her inner monologue is sharp and rather bitter. Told by the advertising man to do some solo skating while smiling, she thinks to herself “I don’t feel like smiling at the moment, but I’ve got to, otherwise I don’t get paid…”. We don’t hear her accuse her cousin Carol of being the smarmy, spiteful girl that Jean thinks she really is, or not out loud, so for quite a long time it hangs in the balance as to whether Jean is right in her judgement of the world, because no crisis is caused by her blurting out something sudden.
Stories in this issue:
Concrete Surfer (writer Pat Mills, artist Christine Ellingham)