Gypsy Rose tales always led off the mark during this run in Jinty, and they would have done even more so when they featured on the cover as they do here. This week’s story is about a box inhabited by an evil poltergeist that causes havoc in an antique shop. Poor Trish Drew is being blamed for the damage and turns to Gypsy Rose for help.
It’s the final episode of “The Big Cat”. Regretfully, my copy has a page missing at this point. However, it looks like Ruth and Ayesha save Mrs White from a fire started by the villainous Barwell, become heroines, and everything turns out rosy.
“The Darkening Journey” begins. Thumper the guide dog becomes separated from his blind owner Julie Burton when they move and he gets scared off by a firecracker. He sets off to find Julie with the help of his new friend, Beaky the rook. Little does he know that it is going to be a long, long journey that does not end in Jinty until 6 August 1977.
Rowan can’t figure out why she keeps falling asleep. But by the end of the episode, she has figured out that it is the “spell of the spinning wheel”. Fortunately her father believes it. But as they discover, the mother just won’t!
In “Sceptre of the Toltecs”, the girls have taken off with the sceptre as they feel it is not safe to keep it in the house with evil Uncle Telqotl about. They haven’t realised he has followed them, but they catch on when they get trapped in a hut by an out-of-season blizzard!
“Made-Up Mandy” has disguised herself to fill in for a pop star who doesn’t want her stuffy aunt to find out she is one. But Mandy’s in big trouble when the fans see through her disguise thanks to a naughty dog. And now it looks like the aunt is going to find out everything because of those fans!
“Freda, False Friend” finds out she was wrong about her dad causing the Grands’ accident. But now Gail has found Freda out! Things are going to head up to the climax now.
Emma, the girl with “the mark of the witch”, now seems to be getting even more witchy with her new get-up, conduct of revenge against the villagers, and weird things happening like storms appearing around her and a boy having an accident after she put a curse on him. But there is nothing supernatural about the revenge she takes on Dave Young for setting the trap that her mother fell into – she smashes down his father’s grain field.
A cover featuring two disturbing panels from the inside, and the colour combinations of red, black and burgundy make it even stronger.
“Battle of the Wills” reaches its penultimate episode and it contains one of the most ruthless acts ever seen in Jinty. Dr Morrison eliminates the cloned Kate in front of an audience of scientists with her reversal machine in order to prove her duplicating machine works. Everyone is horrified, but not the cold-blooded Dr Morrison, who only cares about proving her greatness.
It is also the penultimate episode of “Who’s That in My Mirror?”. The ghastly face of Magda’s own evil is getting worse and worse. Magda knows what must be done, but can’t do it, and traces of her old scheming ways still linger as well. So it is not surprising that in the final panel the evil face now threatens to do its worst.
“Destiny Brown” is in big trouble in school because she misconstrued her vision and plays truant. While doing so, she gets another vision of her runaway father. But a trip to Wales threatens her plans to search for him.
In “The Goose Girl”, Mum is getting really impossible with her bird-hating attitude and it is interfering with Brodie’s recovery. At the end of the episode, Mum goes too far – she locks Brodie in a shed and is going to arrange for the Colonel to dispose of him!
Linda reluctantly agrees to Lord Banbury’s condition to train as an actress under his wardship for the sake of her father. But the creepy old house she has to live in is really giving her “Stage Fright!”.
Marnie, the girl who is “Cursed to be a Coward!”, finds a swimming pool where she can train in without fear of the prophecy. And at the end of the episode she decides to tell her trainer, Miss Frame, why she has been so terrified of swimming lately. In the next episode we will see how much it helps.
Fran enlists the help of a bloodhound to find the missing school trophy, but he’s causing even more mayhem. It culminates when he has the headmistress standing on her desk in fright! The blurb for next week assures us that Fran will get herself out of this ‘fix’, so that’s a relief.
As you see on the cover, Fran gets some unusual gear on because she’s not confident about being goalie, having never played hockey. It works all right – until Clara takes revenge by rolling Fran downhill and she bounces against a rock. Well, Sal did warn Fran that her scheme might bounce back on her. The Gypsy Rose story that features on the cover is about a ghost horse that comes back to save its descendant from fire.
“The Robot Who Cried” discovers a new emotion – hatred – when some unsavoury people threaten her friend Susan, and she’s about to take a shovel to their heads! And with that super-strength of hers, anything could happen next week.
Madam Kapelski raises Yvonne’s hopes of escape when she takes her back to England. Her plan is to crush Yvonne completely with false hopes and it looks like it’s working by the end of the episode. Yvonne is in tears when she sees her mother and can’t call out to her because she’s still mute. But the blurb for next week about “the mystery woman in black” entering the picture sounds like events are going to take another turn.
“The Darkening Journey” looks even darker right now. Thumper leaves an animal shelter because he senses Julie needs him. But his health is failing and hope is fading.
Gymnast Kate finds ballet Kate has pulled a fast one on her when she tries to break into her home to get the money for her allowance. But she gets the money anyway!
In “A Boy Like Bobby”, Tessa agrees to hide the boys from social welfare because they are scared of being separated. But this means living a lie and risking trouble with the authorities. And to make things more complicated, Tessa’s friend Cathy is suspicious!
“Say hello to our pint-sized problem-solver – and maker!”
So said the opening blurb to introduce us to the Jinty character who made her name as “zany”, “madcap”, and became one of the most popular characters ever to appear in Jinty. In fact, Fran was the first Jinty character to come back by popular request.
In the very first panel where we meet Fran, we immediately see what she’s going to be like when we see her reading a comic book that is rated “not suitable for girls”. And as her strip develops, we are not disappointed: Fran is wacky, potty, outrageous, resourceful, quick-witted, cheeky, anti-establishment, loads of fun, and there is never a dull moment without her. Mind you, it’s hard to see where the “pint-sized” comes in. Fran appears to be a normal height and hardly a midget like “Wee Sue”.
Potty Fran Anderson, better known as Fran the Fixer, styles herself as a problem solver who can fix anything and her catchphrase is “‘s easy!”. But it is not always as “‘s easy” as Fran thinks, for her ideas of fixing things are crazy, madcap ones. For the most part they work out, but there is typically mayhem along the way, and sometimes things backfire on Fran. For example, Fran’s solution to the tea shortage is dandelion tea – but it ends up more like dandelion wine that gets the teachers drunk! In another crazy caper she and the other girls dress as window cleaners, but things go wrong when their false beards get stuck. Fran has to get to the shop for advice and disguises herself in Arab costume to hide her beard. But this gets her kidnapped by a sheikh, who has mistaken her for the princess he wants to marry. Needless to say, he soon gets ‘fixed’; ironically, it is with the help of the false beard.
Some of the mayhem comes from Fran’s cheeky nature. For example, she outrages school governor Colonel Wellington by leap-frogging over him instead of politely going around him. Then she drops a clanger – on his poor old gouty foot! All right, so that part was an accident. But he sporting and agrees to let Fran off if she can fix something for him – shift a grand piano to his house without trucks or moving men because there’s a strike on! And there is another occasion where Fran puts on a circus gorilla suit for a joke. But she gets stuck in it and the sight of the gorilla suit has people fainting and fleeing in terror when she tries to get help. Worse, her monkeying around causes a real gorilla to get loose – which then attacks her school!
Fran’s “secret weapon” gets her out of a lot of scrapes (caused by her ‘fixing’ or otherwise). The secret weapon also gives readers loads of laughs and no doubt heightened Fran’s popularity. And what is her secret weapon? It is ventriloquism, the power of throwing her voice, which she does with alacrity. She has made stuffed parrots, doughnuts and butterflies talk among other things. She is also skilled at mimicry when she throws her voice and can impersonate things like bees, cats and Miss Garston’s voice.
Fran has been expelled from several schools because of her ‘fixing’. Dad threatens to pack her off to her aunts Toni and Chloe (or Tooth and Claw as Fran calls them) if it happens again. And after Dad shows Fran a film of what it will be like to live with Aunts Tooth and Claw (who later show up in person at the school). Fran definitely does not want to be expelled from her new school, St Catherine’s School for Young Ladies. Nor does Dad, particularly as it is a snob school and he has paid big money for it.
But even when Fran tries, she still gets into trouble, and this nearly gets her expelled on her first day. It all starts when headmistress Miss Garston lets Fran carry her suitcase. Seems simple enough and a good start at her new school – but it all turns to disaster when a thief steals it and then Fran accidentally drops it on the head of Joggers the gardener. This establishes a running gag in the strip that has Joggers regarding Fran as more of a menace than rest of the staff do.
But to come back to the suitcase – by the time Fran hands the suitcase to Miss Garston, it is a mess. Fran has to do some fast fixing to butter Miss Garston up and save herself from expulsion and Tooth and Claw. She not only succeeds, but exposes the other side of Miss Garston. Underneath that stern exterior is a real softie, but more pertinently, Miss Garston is potty herself. In fact, sometimes her pottiness rivals Fran’s. One example is where Miss Garston takes them camping. The girls hate it and tell Fran to fix it so they will go back to school. But the headmistress’s pottiness outmatches Fran’s tricks (ghosts, bugs, flooding, rain) every time and Fran does not know what to do. But sometimes the fixing happens by luck rather than planning and this is the case here; the headmistress can’t get back to school soon enough after Fran accidentally sets some cows loose.
All the same, having a potty headmistress does help to keep Fran from expulsion. And so does her best friend Sally “Sal” Duff. Sal acts as a watchdog over Fran, although she reckons lion taming is easier. However, Sal has little success in stopping Fran’s schemes once Fran comes up with one, no matter how crazy it seems or in violation of school rules. Fortunately for the most part they work out. But sometimes things didn’t work out and Fran would typically take refuge in a tree until things had cooled down. She often got chased up a tree as well. Usually it was either Joggers the gardener or the resident bulldog (more on that in a moment) who were the very annoyed chasers.
Fran is not the only crazy resident of St Catherine’s. She has frequent trouble from “Slobberchops” aka Desmond the bulldog. Desmond is owned by the games mistress, the imposing Miss Lottie. Fran’s first encounter with Slobberchops comes when he eats Freda’s ‘talking’ doughnut and then chases Fran up a tree. Fran’s relationship with Slobberchops has swung from him going all ga-ga over Fran to chasing her with teeth bared and getting her up a tree or whatever. But things go really wild whenever he meets Fran’s parrot Beaky (who replaced the original stuffed version in the sample images above). Beaky, of course, heightens the zaniness of the strip. Strips with parrots are always guaranteed to be hilarious (such as “Bet Gets the Bird!”).
Of course there has to be a nemesis, and the regular villain of the piece is Clara. Clara is a snob who has looked down on Fran as a “scruff” right from the start. She was bitterly disappointed when Fran was not expelled. She confines herself more to playing tricks on Fran, but she always ends up getting ‘fixed’. She does not seem to do much to sabotage Fran’s schemes. Maybe they were too zany for her to figure out or she thought Fran would expel herself sooner or later.
Even the formidable aunts showed that pottiness ran in the Anderson family when they pay a visit to Fran’s school. Although they are dragons, they are also wacky – in their own way. We see this in their first panel when Aunt Toni points a blunderbuss at a porter whom the aunts think is stealing their luggage. At school, they cause as much mayhem as Fran; for example, on the hockey pitch they clobber the whole team. They also put the snobby Clara in her place (below). Maybe readers liked them better after that.
They have Dad’s permission to remove Fran to their farm if they disapprove of the school, whether Fran is expelled or not (aren’t you being a bit unfair there, Dad?). So far they are not impressed, deeming it too soft while they pride themselves on hardiness. Ironically, it is not Fran’s ‘fixing’ that saves her but the potty headmistress, whom the aunts make friends with. The only thing is, their visit has the headmistress send the girls on the aforementioned camping trip to toughen them up.
Wacky characters played for laughs and hijinks had been in Jinty from the very first issue. “The Jinx from St Jonah’s” established the trend, with Katie Jinks the jinx who was a walking disaster area. She could get the school orchestra in a tangle through playing a simple triangle, get chased by an ostrich, drop laundry powder in the swimming pool and get the swimming contest in a lather, and accidentally set the school boiler to dangerous levels. In one story her friends tried tying her up to stop her jinxing but disaster struck them anyway. And there was “Do-It-Yourself Dot“, who made “a nuisance of herself” in making things, though they often went right as well. Dot could be regarded as a “fixer” too while Fran can also be regarded as making a nuisance of herself.
Fran is clearly carrying on the tradition. Perhaps the same writers were involved. Whoever they were, they were certainly inspired by “Jim’ll Fix It!“, from which this strip clearly takes its cue. But whilst Katie’s capers come from her being a walking disaster area, Fran’s come from her personality and the skills she has learned to ‘fix’ things. Fran also differs from Katie in that most of her capers are told in story arcs spanning several weeks while Katie usually had weekly disasters. This allows for more development, storytelling, and more hijinks and laughs spanning over a single story. And the artwork of Jim Baikie lends itself brilliantly to the atmosphere of the strip. More often seen drawing some of Jinty’s more dramatic strips such as “The Forbidden Garden“, he showed that he could draw comedy as well. His style in Fran is looser and more exaggerated when drawing high comedy scenes. His depiction of Freda and her ‘talking’ doughnut (above) is an excellent example.
But it is the jauntiness of it all that makes Fran arguably the best-remembered comedy character in Jinty, for jauntiness summed up Jinty herself. It was hardly surprising that Jinty’s open invitation for readers to ask for her back at the end of her first story drew a response that proved successful. It would not be surprising if there had been a demand to bring back Fran in “Pam’s Poll” as well. If so, unfortunately it did not succeed that time.
It is a bit difficult to understand why Fran did not become more of a regular in Jinty and return more than once. Many characters in girls’ comics have done so (such as Bella Barlow in Tammy and The Honourable S.J. in Judy) once their popularity and staying power were established. Maybe something behind the scenes prevented it.
This is the 250th post on this blog! After a slow season in the run up to Christmas, we have been blazing away. How better to celebrate than with another creator interview?
Keith Robson contacted us via a comment on this site: “I drew ‘The Birds’ so can tell you that the writer was ‘Buster’ editor Len (Lennox) Wenn. Before going freelance in 1975 I was a staffer so Len and I were old friends. Len also wrote ‘Go On, Hate Me’ and many other Jinty serials.” He kindly agreed to answer a few questions for this blog, illuminating various aspects of the life of a freelancer and staffer at the time and subsequently.
Keith Robson stories in Jinty (see also the Catawiki list of his stories and the Lambiek Comiclopedia entry):
Can You Beat Sharp-eyed Sharon? – spot-the-clue feature in a Summer Special and the Jinty Annual 1979
1 Can you please outline your career in British comics? For instance, how did you start, which titles did you write for, how long did you draw comics for? I have read Dez Skinn’s article about IPC Fleetway when you both worked there, and of course in your original comment on this site you said that you started as a freelancer in 1975, but it would be great to know what led you to go freelance (it seems to have been a step taken by a lot of in house staff?).
I got my start in October 1968 in D.C.Thomson’s Meadowside art department in Dundee. This was a wonderful training ground where I learned far more than I ever did in Art College! There were over 50 artists, letterers and layout people at the disposal of all the Thomson publications so almost anything could land on your desk to be drawn, quickly and accurately. In those early days I drew lots of text story illustrations for the boys’ comics – Rover, Victor, Hotspur etc. Pat Mills and John Wagner were there at the time though I never got to know them, and they left before I did.
The Spanish and Italian artists used by the girls’ comics did beautiful work, but they could never get British things like policemen, buses, taxis, pillar boxes etc. right, so a typical job would be Anglicising pages for Jackie or Romeo. (I also appeared in Romeo, as did many young Thomson staffers, photographed to illustrate readers’ letters and problems!) More often though, 39 pages of an old girls’ serial would land on my desk to be updated- all the hairstyles updated, skirts shortened, blazer badges changed and so on. Thus acres of magnificent artwork passed through my hands, and once in a while there would be the opportunity to actually draw some pages. My first girls’ stories were for Diana starting with a serial on the back page (in full colour!) called ‘Little Donkey’. Assorted other Diana features and annual pages followed but the bread and butter work of the art department was repairs and alterations. In all, I spent two and a half happy years in Meadowside learning from some wonderful mentors, but really wanting to draw my own weekly pages and not seeing too much future for that in the Thomson Art Dept.
In the summer of 1971 I was down in London (hoping to find an agent) and found myself passing the offices of IPC Magazines with a folder of artwork under my arm and the number of an ex-Thomson staffer now in Look and Learn… An hour later after a hilarious interview with legendary managing editor Jack Le Grand I emerged back on Farringdon Street with a staff job (and some freelance work on Look and Learn)!
I returned to Dundee, packed my bags, bade a cordial farewell to D.C.Thomson, and a fortnight later joined Buster working with editor Lenn Wenn and sub editor Dez Skinn. (A week later we were all on strike!)
A daily visitor to the Buster office was Mavis Miller, and old friend of Lenn’s (they started at Fleetway together) and we often all went to lunch. I acquired an agent (Dan Kelleher of Temple/Rogers) and started doing freelance for assorted publishers, all kinds of work with a view to saving enough for a deposit on my own flat. Through the good offices of Dan and Pat Kelleher, (and since I had parted amicably from D.C.Thomson), I began drawing for the Sparky – a series called ‘Mr. Bubbles’.
Friends in Dundee alerted me to a suitable flat for sale in Newport-on-Tay (across the river from Dundee) I was able to get a mortgage, and a few months later took the plunge, moved back north and went freelance, working for both Thomsons and IPC.
2 Which stories did you draw, in Jinty and on other titles? On my list of Jinty stories that you drew, I have “Jassy’s Wand of Power”, “Go On, Hate Me!”, “The Goose Girl”, “The Birds”, and various Gypsy Rose stories. Of the stories you drew, do you have favourites or perhaps ones you now recall with a bit of a shudder? Did you know ever know who wrote “Jassy” for instance, or the Gypsy Rose stories you drew? We know from Veronica Weir that there was at least one case of an artist who wrote their own story; did you ever do that, or did you know of other cases where that happened at all?
It was through Pat Kelleher and knowing Mavis Miller that I got my first Jinty serial – “Jassy’s Wand of Power’’ – which I really enjoyed. They never told me know who wrote anything, I only knew the stories written by Lenn Wenn, so I can’t tell you who did those Gypsy Rose stories – except for the one I wrote myself. This was one of the first scripts I ever had accepted. A girl encounters a photographer with a Victorian camera at a ruined castle. She later realises he must be a ghost and that she has taped his voice on her new cassette recorder! However when she plays it back there’s nothing. The twist comes when she does some research in the library and discovers a 100 year old photo – of herself! [This story is reprinted below]
I didn’t find out that Alison Fitt had written “The Goose Girl” until 2006 when we met at the launch of ‘Time Tram Dundee’, a ‘Horrible History’-type book I illustrated that was written by Alison’s son Matthew.
3 In your time doing these comics are there any kinds of stories that you would have liked to draw that you didn’t get the chance to?
I enjoyed all the stories I did for Jinty, and I always tried to put in as much background detail as I could. I would love the opportunity to redraw any of them again now (I cringe when I see some of the stuff I did in those days!). I especially liked stories with a distinctive setting and lots of atmosphere. I can remember “Save Old Smokey” the train story that Alison mentioned. I would have loved to have been asked to draw that one as I love steam trains! Deadlines were often a bit of a struggle, and in order to stay on schedule with “The Goose Girl” I had to take my pages with me on holiday, and it was while drawing an episode in a caravan in Anstruther that the news came that Elvis had died (16 August 1977).
4 We are always keen to know who worked on the various stories, as explicit creator credit was very rare. You have already helped muchly with your crediting of Len Wenn as writer on “Hate Me!” and “The Birds”, and via Alison Christie we now know that she was the writer on “The Goose Girl”. Do you know names of other people who worked on Jinty and related girls’ comics?
After Jinty, I also did a serial for Penny called ‘The Blue Island Mystery’; again I was never told who the writer was, also a ‘spot the clue’ type detective feature called “Sharp-eyed Sharon” for the Summer Special [there were also two examples of it in the 1979 Annual]. My final girls’ serial was for D.C.Thomson in Mandy, which had been taken over by former Sparky editor, Iain Chisholm (shortly before he died). This was “Diana’s Dark Secret” – Blind Diana unexpectedly regains her sight in episode one, but because she fears they’ll take away Goldie, her beloved guide dog she continues (riddled by guilt) to fake blindness. Only the dog knows…
After Mandy, Thomsons moved me onto Topper (drawing “The Whizzers from Oz”) and Starblazer doing science fantasy covers, then on to their final two boys’ papers, Spike and Champ. When they folded I worked on school textbooks for Oliver and Boyd in Edinburgh, then over ten years on the Dandy writing and drawing “Black Bob”, and “Jonah” and “General Jumbo” for Beano. There was a brief return to girls’ type stories in the Dandy with a short-lived parody written tongue-in-cheek by Thomson staffer Duncan Leith called “Wendy’s Wicked Stepladder”.
5 In his article, Dez attributes the decline of comics to a contempt for the reader (and maybe also the creator?) that was down to a purely commercial vision – printing using old-fashioned presses, resizing artwork in a destructive fashion, and so on. Pat Mills also thinks similarly, talking of the hatch-match-dispatch process angrily. Of course the rise of competing claims on kids’ time and pocket money (computer games, tv) could also be held to blame. Where do you stand on this? Do you think the decline of the British comics industry was an avoidable misfortune, or inevitable in a changing world?
I feel it was very short-sighted that the comics were allowed to slide into decline. For sure, the rise of other media certainly played its part, but the publishers were always reluctant to invest when sales dropped, especially IPC with its hatch, match, and despatch policy. They never had much respect for the amazing pool of talent that they had at their disposal, and certainly never gave anyone credit. Payments hardly increased in the latter years, and our work was never returned. There was a constant anxiety that the comic might fold (they never told you that the end was coming) and there might be no more work…
Letterpress printing never did justice to the artwork and maybe, just maybe if they had gone upmarket into full colour and printed on decent paper, giving creators a name check they might have got a bit more attention and survived. Of course there was always a snobbery towards comics in this country, devalued and disparaged at the time by teachers, librarians etc. who thought they were just throwaway rubbish that would rot children’s brains.
Nowadays teachers are delighted to see children reading comics (reading anything!) and appreciate the creativity that goes into them. Thanks largely to ‘Time Tram Dundee’, I decided to qualify as a teacher and now have a whole new career (which I love!) going into schools and working with children to create and draw their own comics.
It surprises me that no-one has considered publishing some of those serials as graphic novels (suitably updated and with colour). I’ve worked with Alison Fitt on several projects and we’ve recently collaborated on a 72 page graphic novel ‘Nora Thumberland, Heroine of Hadrian’s Wall’ (yet to find a publisher) which 30 years ago could well have have been a Jinty serial…
Many thanks again to Keith for this great interview!
“Gypsy Rose: A Picture From The Past” published Jinty 3 December 1977
Mike and Terry (artist Peter Wilkes) – final episode
Waves of Fear (artist Phil Gascoine)
Combing Her Golden Hair (artist Phil Townsend)
Miss Make-Believe (unknown artist ‘Merry’)
Pandora’s Box (artist Guy Peeters) – final episode
“Almost Human” Xenia is happy that the lightning strike from last episode has drained enough of her life force that she does not kill earth creatures that she touches – just as well, as a kindly couple take her to the local hospital to have her burned hands treated. But it’s not only her extraordinary strength that still marks her out as an alien: she is also not able to be x-rayed, which raises enough suspicions in the minds of the medical staff that Xenia needs to run away again – this time by jumping out of a window and down several stories! She is still super-powered enough to be able to this easily, though in future episodes this will not be the case.
In “Village of Fame“, developments are afoot. Mr Grand has had all the schoolgirls in Sue’s class hypnotised, apart from snob Angela Grenfield; Sue and ex-spy Mandy are pretending they were also caught by the hypnotist. The fact he missed one girl to his knowledge is infuriating Mr Grand, who clearly has something up his sleeve to make his serial more exciting. The pacing is neat though – the weeks are shown going by with nothing happening, until finally some lever is pulled to get Angela out of the way. Come Monday morning, only the hypnotised girls are in the class: cue the permanent replacement teacher arriving, in the form of… Marvo the hypnotist, looking as sinister as you like!
It’s the last episode of “Terry and Mike”, the girl assistant who is lauded as the person who gets all her best ideas at just the right moments. The master criminal gets away, having been revealed as the person they least expected (he was dressed up as unassuming Cornelius Mumble, the caretaker), but the detective duo managed to free all the kidnapped entertainers and rescue the necklace that was the point of the whole caper. (The villain was reenacting the night of a show when thief Jed Adams hid the stolen necklace, just before some scenery fell on him and made him lose his memory – the idea being that re-staging the night would trigger his memory, as indeed it did.) Next week we are promised the new story “My Heart Belongs to Buttons”, drawn by the same artist.
“Waves of Fear” has Clare’s claustrophobia kicking in to such a degree that she runs out of her school assembly and even bites a teacher in order to get free of him as he attempts to prevent her! In “Combing Her Golden Hair”, Tamsin has smuggled a swimming costume out of the house despite her gran’s bag-checking habits. Sadly her silver comb gets mislaid in the changing room (a spot of minor bullying by classmates) and she loses her nerve as the time comes to swim. More bullying in the pool itself doesn’t help. At least by the end she has found her comb again, which encourages her to try again next time… if there is a next time.
It’s also the last episode of “Pandora’s Box”, where we’ve seen the conceited Pandora become softer-hearted as she realises how much she loves her enchanted cat, Scruffy. To save his life (he became ill while helping her cast a spell), she has to give up her heart’s desire – her part in the London musical ‘Alice in Jazzland’. Interestingly, although a lot of the imagery around Pandora and her aunt is that of stereotypical black magic – devilish statues in a circle, for instance – the spell to cure Scruffy is based around the sun, which is life. Pandora and her aunt are portrayed perhaps more like Wiccans than evil witches: they may use their magic for their own advancement but it is not clearly black or white in itself. Pandora does indeed lose her part in ‘Alice’ – and refuses to be just an understudy (more fool her in her unprofessional attitude). But actually that is the last flash of the old Pandora that we see – prompted by Scruffy, she gets her next part through proper hard work and determination, in much more the spirit that will see her have a career in show biz. Good for her! Next week we will see a different kind of pig-headedness in this slot – Bev Barton in “Black Sheep of the Bartons”, drawn by the same artist and written by Alison Christie.
And here is the third of the special issues (5-19 March 1977) with the Zodiac Chart pieces. Is it coincidence, or was the Zodiac chart the reason Gypsy Rose featured on all three covers?
The Gypsy Rose story, “The Hound from Hades”, is a story where spectral hound vengeance is wreaked on a man who ill-treats his dogs and he ends up in a watery grave. Misty would be proud of this one. Just one thing – on the cover it says “the hound from Hades takes his revenge!”(my emphasis) – but in the story, the spectral hound is female.
The “Spell of the Spinning Wheel” takes effect when Rowan pricks her finger on it and is surprised to feel a funny tingling feeling in her body. Does she drop off to sleep for 100 years? Well, she does fall asleep when she hears a humming noise….
The trap some boys set for Emma is sprung in “Mark of the Witch!” – but it comes back to bite the villagers who persecute Emma. It puts Emma on the warpath of revenge and starting her Book of Vengeance. The first name to go in there is that of the leader of the boys who set the trap.
In “Freda, False Friend”, Freda’s spying has her convinced that Gail’s father is innocent. But her dad is not listening. Then the Gail’s parents are hurt in a car crash and the accident seems to be linked to Freda’s father.
Malincha decides the “Sceptre of the Toltecs” is not safe in the house while that evil uncle is after it. But Jenny isn’t letting Malincha go off by herself.
“Made-Up Mandy” gets herself into another fix when she makes herself up to stand in for a pop star. She gets cornered by fans who want a song – but she can’t sing for “toffee nuts”!
We are also told that next week “The Darkening Journey” will start. What story it replaces is unclear as no stories have finished in this issue or preceding issue. Perhaps it replaces the Zodiac chart, which has now finished.
This follows on from Comixminx’s entry on Jinty and Lindy 5 March 1977. This is the issue where the evil spinning wheel makes its appearance – not only in its story, but also on the cover. So its entry wants for nothing. Its “frightening powers” are not yet manifest, but its reputation for them is when people warn Rowan not to buy the spinning wheel and say they wouldn’t touch it “for all the tea in China”. They don’t explain why, though. But the blurb for next week says it will become evident when Rowan pricks her finger and becomes “bewitched”. Sounds like something out of Sleeping Beauty.
The Gypsy Rose tales always seem to come first during this particular run of Jinty and Lindy. Funfairs have a history of striking terror in girls’ comics. This one is no exception, as the cover makes clear. Lucy and Gwenny stumble across a funfair and Lucy can’t resist. She doesn’t know there should be no funfair on that spot – there has not been one since a funfair collapsed through subsidence there and killed dozens of children.
Terror strikes at another funfair in “The Big Cat”. Ruth resorts to dangerous rodeo riding on a “demon mustang”. She wins the money but gets knocked out.
Malincha reveals her powers in “Sceptre of the Toltecs”. Unfortunately it is causing nasty Clare to spread nasty rumours that she is a ‘jinx’ and a ‘witch’, so the other girls are turning against her. Meanwhile, the evil uncle realises Malincha’s powers are strong and is appealing to his god for extra strength. Will his extra strength prove too strong for Malincha?
Mandy’s plan to clear Nikki of stealing works. But fresh trouble isn’t far off, of course. Freda’s spying on her friend gets stymied when her hand gets badly injured from bullies at hockey. And now she faces discovery as well. This issue sees how long Emma lasts with breaking in her horse and who drops first. But back at Fielding Castle, some nasty youths have set a trap for Emma – and unfortunately it looks like Emma’s mother could fall into it instead!
Spell of the Spinning Wheel (artist Jim Baikie; writer Alison Christie) – first episode
The Big Cat (artist Ana Rodriguez)
Made-Up Mandy (artist Audrey Fawley)
Freda, False Friend (artist Phil Gascoine)
Mark of the Witch! (artist Phil Townsend)
I dug this issue out to send the first episode of “Spell of the Spinning Wheel” to Mistyfan, but the opening story is the one that first grabs your attention: it is a really creepy Gypsy Rose story with a deadly doll, haunted by a vengeful ghost. It is very nearly responsible for turning a loving sister into a cold-blooded murderess… Terry Aspin makes sure the reader gets the creeps, as ever.
“Sceptre of the Toltecs” aims to give you the creeps, too: the sinister uncle has persuaded a jealous schoolgirl to put his talisman into Malincha’s bag so that he can acquire the sceptre and ‘crush the world underfoot!’ The protagonists are seriously threatened by Uncle Telqotl’s dark power but we are told in the strap-line for next week’s episode that though his power is strong, so is Malincha’s.
“Spell of the Spinning Wheel” gets off to a dramatic start. Rowan Lindsay is out with her dad, a shepherd, when he falls down the side of a quarry and severely injures himself: he will always walk with a limp thereafter and has no chance to make his name as a famous runner, in the way he’d hoped. He’s also lost his job as he can’t be a shepherd without being fit and able, so the family are in financial difficulties. The evil spinning wheel has not yet made its appearance, but it’s foreshadowed in the advert for next week: ‘I wouldn’t take that spinning wheel for all the tea in China, lass!’.
In “Mark of the Witch!“, Emma Fielding saves a vicious, wild horse from being shot – because it has a dark streak in its hair just like she does, and she believes they were meant for each other. But she has to set out to tame it first, which means riding bareback as long as it takes – throughout the night if need be. In the meantime her mother is worried about her and wishes she knew where she’d disappeared to; and Alice Durrant knows Emma’s whereabouts but doesn’t know how she can possibly help her.
The panel on the cover from the Gypsy Rose story inside makes this another cover that sticks in my memory. Mind you, “vengeful spirits” does sound like a misnomer for a story called “The Holy Stones” – even if the holy stones will crush anyone who tries to take a sacred treasure they guard. Still, the panel from the Gypsy Rose story and the panel from “Sceptre of the Toltecs” do make a nice spooky cover. Alley Cat looks a bit out of place beside the creepy panels. Maybe he was there for some light relief.
It is the final episode of “Sceptre of the Toltecs”. It will be replaced by one of Jinty’s best remembered evil influence stories – “Creepy Crawley”, about a jealous girl who uses the power of a scarab brooch to get rid of her rival. But she soon finds the scarab has an agenda of its own.
The “Spell of the Spinning Wheel” puts Rowan out of a marathon. And it’s now a whole lot harder to get rid of the troublesome spinning wheel because it’s bringing big business for the Lindsays.
It’s the penultimate episode of “Freda False Friend”, so we will see another new story soon. Gail has found out Freda has been using her to spy on her father. But Freda learns something that could put everything right in the final episode. And “Made-Up Mandy” looks like it is building up to its finish as well, what with the drama and tension accelerating fast in this episode.
Emma Fielding, branded an outcast in “Mark of the Witch!”, is becoming more and more like what the villagers keep calling her – a witch and a bad lot – and Alice’s latest attempt to get through to her just gets her badly hurt. It looks like it’s set to get worse next week, because the blurb says the local authorities are going to take drastic action against Emma.