(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.)
Stories in this issue:
- I’ll Never Swim Again! (artist Jim Baikie)
- When Emma Came To Stay (text story)
- Look Out – It’s Brenda’s Brownies
- Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag (artist Hugh Hugh Thornton-Jones)
- Alley Cat
- Merlin’s Friend (text story by Linda O’Byrne)
- Concrete Surfer
- Olé, Our Gran! (text story)
- Gypsy Rose ‘The Stone of Courage’
- 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!