Monthly Archives: January 2017

Wenna the Witch (1974)

Sample Images

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Published:  10 August 1974 – 2 November 1974

Episodes: 13

Artist: Carlos Freixas

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Wenna de heks [Wenna the Witch] in Tina 1976, Tina Topstrip 34, 1981; Greek translation in Manina; Indonesian translation Wenna, Si Penyihir [Wenna, the Witch] Tina TopStrip 34.

Plot

Wenna Evans (formerly Lomax) is the foster-daughter of the Evanses, who live in the Welsh village of Llarygg. It is a village where the locals still believe in witches. Still, that has never been a problem for Wenna. She has always seen herself as a girl like any other, and so do the villagers.

But all that changes when a stranger named Mr Burr arrives. He declares in public, right in front of the villagers, that he is looking for Wenna Evans because his research has uncovered that women in her Lomax ancestry were burned at the stake for witchcraft. (More likely they were victims of ignorance, superstition and persecution, probably because they possessed psychic powers of some sort.) Mr Burr thinks Wenna may have inherited the powers and asks her, right in front of everyone, whether she has ever noticed anything unusual about herself, particularly any “dark stirrings” or even visions? Now either this man has absolutely no tact or common sense, or he’s as ignorant and superstitious as the villagers themselves. Of course Wenna is absolutely outraged and yells at him to go away and not come back. As Mr Burr leaves he has a bad accident, and the villagers think Wenna put a curse on him.

So now the villagers think Wenna is a witch and the persecution begins. Her worst enemy is Blodwen Hughes, an expelled schoolgirl who has always been jealous of her. Blodwen’s job in a village shop is the perfect vantage point for her to spread the gossip about Wenna and fan the flames as much as she can. They get inflamed even more when Blodwen is taken ill and says Wenna put the evil eye on her.

Bad things happen one way or other and they are blamed on Wenna. Unfortunately some of them look a bit uncanny, such as when Wenna is surrounded by an angry mob while at the water pump and wishes for them to be swept away – and then jets of water shoot out of the pump, which drives them off. They all blame Wenna’s witchcraft, notwithstanding that their stone-throwing ruptured the pump in the first place.

There are actions Wenna takes that do not help matters. She borrows a book on witches to help her better understand what she is faced with. But when word leaks out it fuels the rumours against her. Wenna goes to the Gallows Hill, which is shunned and feared because it is said to have druid powers. She calls upon the ancient druids to grant her wish to make the villagers stop persecuting her. Unfortunately the villagers see her and accuse her of casting a spell that causes an accident.

At times Wenna herself wonders if she has powers, and there is evidence of it too. Mr Evans tells her that her ancestors were a strange lot and her mother was said to have second sight. Just before the encounter with Mr Burr Wenna had a vision of herself looking absolutely terrified. During the night she had a vision of Mr Burr’s operation and wished for his recovery – and next day she hears he had a miraculous recovery at the time when she wished for it. There are moments of anger where she wishes the villagers would be swept away or suffer in some other way. Then either something happens or she has visions of something happening, and she’s full of doubt about herself and wondering if the villagers are right after all.

Wenna has some friends, in the form of Myfanwy “Fan”, her dog Taffy (thank goodness Taffy isn’t a cat, or the villagers would persecute him as much as Wenna!), her foster parents, and Dr Glynn the village doctor who sticks up for her and chastises the villagers for their stupidity. As the persecution intensifies Wenna gets banned from school because parents won’t allow their children to attend while she’s there, and she gets shunned in the street, with doors slamming on her everywhere. Angry villagers tell Wenna’s foster parents to throw her out or suffer themselves, which forces Wenna to run off at one point. It escalates into a stone-throwing mob trying to drive her out of the village.

Meanwhile, there has been heavy rain that is showing no sign of abating.

The violence drives Wenna back to Gallows Hill, where she thinks she will be safe because the villagers are too scared of the place. She falls asleep and has an ominous dream of villagers being drowned in floodwaters from the heavy rain. Next day Fan comes to warn her that the villagers have guessed where she is and are coming after her, despite their dread of Gallows Hill. Wenna escapes by taking a tumble down a ravine called Devil’s Gullet, where she stows away aboard a truck. The villagers are baffled by her disappearance (for the time being).

The truck is going to the dam, which is in danger of bursting. Wenna overhears the engineers saying that if the dam breaks the water will flood Devil’s Gullet. They think the dam is holding – just – but when Wenna tries to cross the dam to get away from her enemies she discovers it is beginning to burst. She has more visions of the village flooding and villagers drowning in the floodwaters.

Wenna informs the engineers that the dam is bursting, and she decides to put aside all the things the villagers have done to her in order to help them. They all head to the village to warn the villagers. They pass by the witch-hunting villagers at Gallows Hill, who have now realised Wenna went down into Devil’s Gullet. The mob goes down after her, too crazed with witch-hunting fervour to heed the engineers’ warnings that the ravine is going to flood. Wenna goes down after them and, pretending to be a witch, scares them into going back up the hill and away from the floodwaters. Unfortunately she does not make it herself and the floodwaters carry her away.

Back on the hillside, the engineers tell the mob Wenna actually saved their lives by scaring them out of Devil’s Gullet, and it was Wenna who raised the alarm about the damburst. The engineers then do what they can to mitigate the flood damage to the village.

The villagers change their minds about Wenna when they learn how she helped save the village. They are stricken with remorse and think they have driven her to her death when they find her washed up in front of the village cross. However, Wenna is still alive and Fan says it is a miracle. When Wenna recovers, the villagers greet her with apologies, smiles and flowers. Even arch-enemy Blodwen has come around and says Wenna has powers to work small miracles. Wenna comes to accept that she may have inherited genuine powers from her Lomax ancestors, but everyone knows she will use them for good.

Thoughts

Lingering witch-beliefs in some rural areas of Britain have formed the basis for a number of girls’ serials where the protagonists are persecuted by villagers who still believe in witches. The formula was not used much, but some stories that had it include Mandy’s “Bad Luck Barbara” and Bunty’s “Witch!” Jinty ran two serials with the formula, the first being Wenna and the second being “Mark of the Witch!”.

Wenna is in line with the typical formula of the villagers believing the protagonist is a witch because of her alleged ancestry. How it starts is so astonishing as to be unbelievable. Nobody ever thought Wenna was a witch until Mr Burr comes barging into the village, tells people he has discovered she is descended from these executed Lomax witches, and then starts questioning Wenna right in front of everyone about what powers she has. What the hell was this man thinking? At best he’s incredibly stupid and tactless, not to mention rude, and deserves to get his face slapped. At worst he too is a witch believer who deliberately stirred things up against the girl he believed to be a witch. Whatever his motivation, the damage was done.

It is a common thread in the formula for odd things to happen to the protagonist (nightmares, visions, voices in the head, shouting at persecutors and then things happen to them) that have her wondering if she does indeed have strange powers. However, in Wenna it is more overt, such as her visions of villagers drowning. In similar serials, such as “Witch!”, these weird occurrences are usually kept more ambiguous in order to leave scope for readers to make up their own minds.

Wenna has more support than most of her counterparts do. Usually there is only one person who sticks by them, but they don’t always do so for the duration of the story as Fan does. Sometimes they abandon the protagonist and go over to the other side, as in the case of “Witch!”. However, in this case Fan not only sticks by Wenna but so do the foster parents, Taffy the dog, and the doctor.

The resolution of the story – the villagers change their minds about Wenna because of her heroism in the flood – ensures a happy ending, if not a realistic one. When witch-believers brand someone a witch the label sticks, if not extremely hard to remove, and casts a long shadow. For this reason the endings to “Bad Luck Barbara” and “Witch!”, are more realistic, where the protagonist leaves the village with the villagers still hating her.

Wenna is notable for two things. First, it was the first Jinty story drawn by Carlos Freixas. Two more Freixas stories followed: “Slave of the Mirror”, which replaced Wenna, and the best-remembered one, “The Valley of Shining Mist”. Second, it was the first Jinty story to have the protagonist narrate the story herself. The only other Jinty strip to do so was “Pam of Pond Hill”.

Jinty #5, 8 June 1974

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Katie’s jinxing has a water theme this week, from jinxing water skiers to having the swimming team walk miles in the rain.

Judy tries to get help from the police about the haunting, but of course they’re not going to believe a thing like that. And Judy is even more terrified to realise that whatever is causing the haunting and making her friends dress like Victorian girls is going to target her next!

Gwen is riding high on the glory she has stolen. Of course that means a fall sooner or later, and it is already starting. Julie Waring is getting suspicious and has also overheard Gwen’s troubled conscience speaking out loud. Is Gwen about to be caught out?

The girls try to bust out of Misery House, but they not only fail but are also duped into playing a cruel trick on Carla, who was caught during the escape. One up to Misery House, but we know there will be a next time.

Angela’s Angels are accused of stealing, but it turns out the patient was foisting the blame onto them. We see acid-drop Angela has a heart: she sticks up for the Angels when they are accused and covers up for one somewhat errant Angel later on.

The scheming girls did not mean Yvonne to take a fall down the stairs when they soap the soles of her shoes, and only her acrobatic skills save her. It doesn’t cut much ice with jealous Lisa though, who is furious when Yvonne is chosen over her for the Dance of the Four Cygnets.

Miss Madden’s test for Mandy this week is very odd, even for her. She has Mandy dress up like a princess and then puts her in a posh room, where a two-way mirror enables Miss Madden and her colleagues to watch Mandy. Then Mandy panics for some reason when she hears the tune from a music box. Now what could have brought that on?

The influence of the Indian necklace has Gail’s friends turning away from her while she gets very sneaky and deceptive in getting what she wants. Daisy’s Victorian employers turn up their noses at coconuts and are not impressed with her fishing. It all ends up with their going hungry and Daisy slipping away, full of fish, so they don’t lumber her again. Dora helps out a dog that is being mistreated, but makes sure the dog doesn’t go to the dogs’ hotel either.

Jinty #40, 1 March 1975

Cover 1 March 1975

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mike White)
  • Tricia’s Tragedy (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Merry at Misery House (writer Terry Magee)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)
  • The Kat and Mouse Game (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Prisoners of Paradise Island (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • The Hostess with the Mostest
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Bird-Girl Brenda (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Always Together… (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie) – last episode
  • Slave of the Mirror (artist Carlos Freixas)

Katie fools a pony-napping gang in the cover story – there are some crooks who are stealing away the foals of some wild ponies and selling them to a nearby pony riding school. You’d think the school would soon spot that the ponies are wild, but the crooks tell them that ‘they’ll soon settle down’! Well, luckily Katie has hitched a couple of rides – first on one of the mother ponies trekking after her stolen baby, and then in the truck taking the ponies away. So she soon foils the plans, and is a hero to the neighbourhood.

Tricia’s tragedy takes place in this issue – cousin Diana dives too close to Tricia when she is in the pool, and the next thing Tricia knows, Diana seems stunned… unconscious! and when she wakes up, suddenly the cousin has been struck blind.

In Merry at Misery House, she is trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of the sinister figure – the joker who is turning the place upside down, but only at times when Merry is blamed for the pranks! But at last the prankster gets Miss Ball dismissed as deputy warden – and Merry finally gets a clue as to what is happening. We are promised that she will be unmasking the joker – next week.

The Kat and Mouse Game” is nearing its climax. Mouse is still dancing Kat’s part and letting her take the credit, but is hurt because Kat doesn’t seem to be acting like a real friend and taking any interest in Mouse’s small dance solo. The scheming Kat plots to sabotage even this small triumph – but we can tell that it will rebound on her, one way or another. The sample page on the story post shows you what happens in the following week’s episode…

The Prisoners of Paradise Island aren’t yet seeing through the luxury trap that Miss Lush has set for the hockey team. Sally Tuff has managed to get out a radio message to Miss Granley, their sports mistress – will she be the saving grace?

It is the last episode of Always Together…. Little sister Beth is desperately ill but all is sorted out in the final few pages – even to the extent of restoring the lost mother and the family home!

Finally, in “Slave of the Mirror“, Mia is still being manipulated by the mirror at the times when she feels most resentful for her sister’s bossy ways. But nice old Major Rose has build Mia a beach hut that she can escape to when she feels stressed out. She does so, and prepares to go for a dip – unaware that she is being watched by two men. Are they sinister stalkers such as we would expect them to be nowadays, or far more benign?

Jinty 18 June 1977

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  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • The Sable Knight (Gypsy Rose story) – artist Keith Robson
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • Meet the Modest Star… Richard Beckinsale – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds (final episode) – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie
  • Memento of a Memorable Year! – feature

It’s the final episode of “Kerry in the Clouds”. There are hard lessons learned for both Kerry (the dreamer with her head in the clouds) and Gail (who took advantage of this to get revenge on a film producer) before the happy ending. “A Boy Like Bobby” takes its place next week.

“The Spell of the Spinning Wheel” is coming to an end too. This week Rowan is let down by a man who seemed to believe her, but it turns out he was a student psychiatrist who thought she was a nut case, and Dad shows him the door. Fortunately the final episode is next week, so something is finally going to help. Meanwhile, Rowan is outracing the spell of the spinning wheel to get medical help for her injured mother.

“Creepy Crawley” is beginning to approach its conclusion as well. The invasion of insects continues at Jean’s school, but Mandy, the only one who can stop it, is finally on her way. However, Mandy is not sure she will be able to stop the invasion because it requires her to forgive the very girl who did so many horrible things to her…

Madam Kapelski takes Yvonne on a special tour of the dreaded State Home for Children of Dissidents to bring her into line. Afterwards Yvonne decides to cooperate with Kapelski, but secretly isn’t giving up on escape.

The Darkening Journey takes an even darker turn when Thumper falls foul of a cruel man who abuses him. It gets worse when a fire breaks out, but Thumper can’t escape because he is chained up!

Katy has stunned everyone with her turn of speed at racing, but then it looks like she’s developing a malfunction.

In this week’s Gypsy Rose story, Prue Preston has trouble from two evil, cruel men at a jousting tournament. One is alive and one is long dead – but his ghost comes out in full armour to join the fun!

Henrietta uses her magic to help a street artist, but her spells aren’t working out as she hoped, which leads to hijinks. Of course everything turns out happily in the end.

Jinty 11 June 1977

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  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • The Marble Heart (Gypsy Rose story) – artist Carlos Freixas
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Jubilee Week competition
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • Silver Spoon Stars (Barry Sheene) – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie
  • Memento of a Memorable Year! – feature

Jinty commemorates the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!”, Rinty ‘n’ Jinty and Alley Cat all celebrate it, and of course there is a competition to go with it. Not to mention a feature on how to make your own commemorative mug. In keeping with the silver theme Jinty is turning the spotlight on celebrities born with silver spoons in their mouths, starting with Barry Sheene. Sue and Henrietta are already planning ahead to the Golden Jubilee. I wonder Jinty had any anticipation that the Queen would make it to her Diamond Jubilee as well?

What “Curtain of Silence” has been building up for in the early episodes finally happens: Madam Kapelski takes advantage of Yvonne’s striking resemblance to Olga to kidnap her and force her to take the now-dead Olga’s place. Yvonne has lost her voice, so she can’t tell anyone. Olga’s cousin Tanya figures it out, but Madam threatens her with the dreaded State Home for Children of Dissidents to keep her silent.

Carlos Freixas has been absent from Jinty since “The Valley of Shining Mist”, but this week he’s back for a one-off with the Gypsy Rose story. A Greek girl was turned into a statue as a punishment when she unwittingly causes the death of her lover through the cruel way she treated him. She continues to serve as a warning to other girls not to be cruel to their lovers. Unfortunately the warning comes too late for Patsy, who gets dumped by her boyfriend for the cruel way she treated him.

In Creepy Crawley the evil scarab gets the insect invasion underway. A plague of locusts traps everyone in the school and Jean warns them it’s just the beginning. And there’s no end either, because Mandy, the only person who can stop it, is absent.

Susan is getting more suspicious of Katy, especially after the professor’s goon grabs her because he mistook her for Katy. But Katy is not confiding in her.

The Darkening Journey continues, with Thumper and Beaky on the run from a vet, of all things.

Kerry in the Clouds has been heading for a fall for a long time because Gail Terson is taking advantage of her for some purpose. Now it finally comes when Kerry gets a contract for the starring role in a film – and then realises she can’t act! Terson had known that all along, and now the truth is out she’s looking like the cat that got the cream. But why?

Rowan survives a road accident and now she’s got an offer of help from a hiker about dealing with the evil spinning wheel. But next week’s blurb hints that his offer is not what it seems.

Slaves of the Nightmare Factory (1983-84)

Sample Images

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Published: Girl (second series) 10 December #148 – 14 January 1984 #153

Episodes: 6 (with four-page spreads)

Reprint: Girl Monthly (issue number unavailable)

Artist: Photo story

Writer: Unknown

Special thanks to David Roach for scans

This is the only group slave story (girls become slaves in a cruel institution/business/racket/regime) run by Girl II from IPC. Its publication is unusual as it came at a time when the group slave story had long since faded at IPC. Tammy, which used to pioneer in slave stories and Cinderella stories, had stopped running them by the late 1970s. Jinty had her share too in her early days, particularly Merry at Misery House, but had given them away by the late 1970s as well. Lighter fare had taken over from dark stories filled with tortured heroines that had made Tammy so pioneering and made her the blueprint for the early Jinty and the short-lived Sandie and Lindy to follow.

It is most unusual for a group slave story to be published in photo story format, so Slaves of the Nightmare Factory may even be one of a kind.

Plot

Amanda Harvey and Natalie Jones (whose mother works for the wealthy Harveys as a cleaner) are best friends despite their differing backgrounds and Natalie secretly envying Amanda’s wealth. But one day some thugs kidnap them and bring them to a dress factory, which abducts girls for slave labour.

The racket is so secretive the girls do not even know the name of the factory manager; she just tells them to address her as “Ma’am”. The factory itself is located deep underground somewhere near the London dockland and disguised as some sort of wasteland above. Later we discover the goons themselves do not know the identity of the man who owns the factory. There will be more on the factory owner later.

The racket has been going on for a long time; one girl, Sandy, has been there for three years. Another girl, named Ellen Crawley, has been there for two, and is clearly cracking up because she is having constant hysterics. Nobody has ever successfully escaped from the factory, and the racketeers like to constantly reinforce this point to demoralise the girls.

Ma’am is under strict orders to kidnap only runaway girls. However, recent slave shortages have driven her to break the rules; hence the abduction of Natalie and Amanda, and probably other non-runaways too.

Amanda and Natalie soon discover that getting the dresses churned out is like a monomania with Ma’am. Much of her cruelty towards the girls is driven by her single-minded obsession about producing the dresses and making sure the girls meet strenuous quotas. Girls who fail to meet their quotas go to the dreaded Punishment Box, which means spending the night, or even 24 hours, in a crate where the victim can neither stand up nor stretch out.

The racketeers provide no necessities of life for the girls, including medical facilities: “They don’t even have ‘band-aids’! They don’t care what happens to us!” The food is dreadful; it’s nothing but bread and a foul-tasting slop (delivered in a bucket!) that the girls just have to get used to. In return for better food, one slave girl named Sarah has turned Ma’am’s toady and works as an overseer and guard (and bully) in the workshop where Amanda and Natalie work.

Conversely, Ma’am allows the girls to have a television set. This is the only way the girls can see anything of the outside world, which they are completely cut off from because the factory is so deep underground. The television set enables Amanda and Natalie to see that their abduction has hit the news. Ironically, Natalie’s mother is making her appeal while wearing one of the factory dresses.

During this time Natalie confesses her envy of Amanda, who says her envy’s no good now. Natalie also starts applying her notebook and journalistic ambitions to keeping a secret record of their slavery.

Then Ellen manages to escape, and hopes rise that help is coming. However, Ma’am directs the girls to a news broadcast, which informs them that Ellen died during her escape and her body was found in a reservoir.

In punishment for Ellen’s escape Ma’am increases the girls’ arduous dress quotas even more. Sarah does not emerge unscathed either: Ma’am withdraws her special rations for failing to stop Ellen and she must now eat the same substandard food as the other girls. But the girls realise Sarah will try to regain favour with Ma’am, so they must be even more careful around her.

Eventually the slavery takes its toll on Natalie and she falls ill at her sewing machine. As Natalie cannot meet her quota, Amanda tries to cover for her. However, Sarah reports them and in return is given back her special rations. Amanda and Natalie are sent to the Punishment Boxes.

While Amanda is in the Punishment Box the owner of the factory passes by and she overhears the conversations that are made. It is at this point the goons say that even they do not know who the owner is. But Amanda identifies him from his voice – it’s her own father! So the racket is the source of the wealth Natalie had so envied.

Amanda reports her discovery to the other girls, but is not sure what to do about it. For his part, Dad has clearly somehow begun to suspect who kidnapped his daughter because he orders polaroids to be taken of the girls kidnapped over the past month for him to check through the following night. Amanda had overheard him giving that order and guesses the reason for it.

Natalie’s condition is now so bad that Amanda persuades all the girls to join her in a mass breakout in a desperate bid to get help. After tying up Sarah they all set off, with Amanda dragging the sick Natalie (and her notebook) along. Amanda’s father unknowingly passes by them while returning for the polaroids, which also helps them to find the exit to the factory.

When Dad discovers the escape – and Amanda’s photograph among the polaroids – he orders his henchmen to discreetly let Amanda and Natalie go while rounding up the others. He does not realise Amanda and Natalie have hidden themselves in his car. Ma’am is astonished at Amanda and Natalie being allowed to go. Dad just tells her that her disobedience in kidnapping those two girls who were not runaways has caused him a lot of problems. He then orders her to clear out the factory and move the girls to the other workshops because the police will be coming soon, which suggests there is more than one factory.

As Dad approaches his car Amanda is surprised to hear him whistling, because he only whistles when he’s happy. She does not realise he thinks he has managed to get her back while keeping his operation relatively intact. But there are a couple of things he does not know either…

Dad drives straight home. Mum and a policeman assigned to the kidnapping case are there too. They are quite surprised when Amanda suddenly walks in. After a brief reunion with Mum and a call for an ambulance, Amanda gives them Natalie’s notebook, saying it contains a complete record of everything. She has not explained things yet, but gives them the impression her father is suspect and Dad realises she has found him out. Dad crumples in his chair, Mum looks at him with suspicion, and Amanda says he’s not her father anymore. Amanda goes back to Natalie and tells her that soon the whole world will know their story.

Thoughts

As Nightmare Factory is a photo story, the setting has to be in modern times (period settings would have been too expensive and difficult), which makes the slave racket all the more horrifying. You expect this sort of thing to belong to the past or Third World countries, not 20th century Britain. Seeing the cruelties inflicted on pictures of actual flesh-and-blood girls as opposed to artistically drawn girls may add to the horror even more. And the black-and white photographs perfectly complement the grimness of the situation.

Nightmare Factory certainly is a very dark story, but it doesn’t go over the top with its cruelties or descend into absurdity as some group slave stories do. Its cruelty remains rooted in dark, gritty realism and delivers some real shockers, such as the death of Ellen from what looks like culpable homicide if not first-degree murder. There is an insidious overtone to the whole racket and so many unanswered questions about it (like Ma’am’s real name never being revealed), which makes the story even more disturbing and creepy. Insinuating that there are other Nightmare Factories makes it even more frightening; most of the cruel outfits in slave stories are stand-alone operations.

Perhaps because Nightmare Factory is a photo story, it is not a long story in comparison to other slave stories. There are only six episodes, although each has four pages rather than the usual three. So the plotting is extremely tight while the pacing is well handled and it does not feel rushed. Unlike so many group slave stories, it is not padded out with a lot of middle (constant failed escape attempts, tortures being laid on ever more thickly, schemes to score one over the villains, getting medical aid for fellow victims), which can get tedious and meandering before the story finally reaches its climax.

As the serial uses photo story format and live models, the villains look less stereotyped than they would be in picture-story slave stories. Ma’am is quite a change from the sinister crones and old dragons that so often serve as the main slave drivers in slave stories. The model does a brilliant job with the facial expressions in conveying Ma’am as a cold, ruthless bitch. It is also quite surprising to a couple of non-whites among the henchmen (if none among the girls in the workshop).

From the beginning, Amanda is the strong-willed protagonist who is determined not to break and resolves to escape and bring down the racket. She is a rich girl, but is neither spoiled nor bratty. Sometimes rich girl protagonists in slave stories are that way, in which case the slavery knocks the arrogance out of them, turns them into more sober girls and brings out their strengths. But not in this case. The rich girl is established as a sympathetic character right from the first, when just before the kidnapping she tries to persuade her father to give Mrs Jones a raise because she is so concerned at how the Joneses have so little while they have so much. However, the father insists Mrs Jones’ wage is fair although it does not let them afford much. This gives a hint of the sort of man he really is, although Amanda always regarded him as a kind man before she discovered his secret. Amanda remains the one to bring down the racket. But the way in which she does it is most unexpected and awry from how the protagonist usually brings it down, and it’s a perverse twist of fate that causes the whole racket to backfire on Mr Big himself.

However, there is no redemption for Amanda’s father. He loves Amanda enough to let her escape, but we doubt he would have done that if he had known she had discovered his secret. The twist of Amanda’s own father being behind it all puts a sting into the tail that means the story will not end on a trite happy ending. Amanda does regain her freedom, saves Natalie, and is reunited with her mother. But she can never really be happy again now she knows what her father has done, and it will blight her life forever.

The ending is a bit unsatisfying because it leaves us dangling on the fate of the Nightmare Factory. Knowing the factory is being cleaned out and its operations shifted elsewhere makes it all the more troubling. There isn’t so much as a text box to wrap things up and tell us what happened to the girls and racketeers in the end. We only have Amanda’s final word to reassure us that justice will be done.

Kerry in the Clouds (1977)

Sample Images

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Published: 16 April 1977 – 18 June 1977

Episodes: 10

Artist: Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto

Writer: Alan Davidson

Translations/reprints: Klaartje in de wolken [Klaartje in the clouds] in Tina 1978

Plot

Kerry Langland has just left school. Her nickname is “Kerry in the Clouds”, partly because she lives so high in an apartment block that clouds settle over it sometimes. But it’s mostly because she always has her head in the clouds with dreams of being a famous actress. She loves to dress up and go out on the balcony, imagining that she is an actress, and getting away from the apartment block she hates living in. Her former classmates have always teased her over her dreaming. They say her dreams are all castles in the air and she doesn’t have what it takes to be an actress. Kerry’s parents share the same view and fix her up with a dead-end factory job, saying she can’t expect better because she wasted her schooling on dreaming.

So Kerry writes to her idol, the famous actress Gail Terson, for help. Much to Kerry’s surprise, Terson shows up in person to see her and agrees to help, saying Kerry has the talent to make it as an actress. She gives Kerry a complete makeover to make her glamorous, takes her around the high life, gives her plenty of media exposure, and fixes her up with an agent for a soft drink ad that will be circulated nationwide. As people see Kerry’s ad on the billboard, the teasing stops and nobody calls her “Kerry in the Clouds” anymore.

Kerry’s parents warn her it’s all too good to be true and she shouldn’t buy into it because there must be a catch somewhere. They are right: Terson is just taking advantage of Kerry and her head always being in the clouds, but just what Terson wants Kerry for is not clear. Kerry’s own suspicions begin to grow after seeing Terson use a dress that looks suspiciously like the one she bought for Kerry in a shopping expedition. But Terson pulls the wool over Kerry’s eyes by saying the dress is all part of an acting role she has got for Kerry.

So Kerry goes back to living the high life. Her picture is getting in all the papers, her parents are astonished at the whole new glamorous wardrobe Terson has bought for her, her pay cheque for the poster ad is far bigger than anything she would have earned at the factory, and the press say she is tipped as a girl who is going places. Kerry even finds herself being mobbed by autograph fans, including the two girls who used to tease her at school.

Kerry realises her makeovers and new wardrobes have been designed to build her up for the starring role in a film called “The Buttercup”, the role Terson plays in the stage version. Then Kerry learns that Terson had wanted the same part in the film, but film producer Mel Simpson turned her down because he considered her old and stale while the public wanted someone new. Kerry wonders why Terson helped her to get the role that she wanted so badly.

Crunch time comes when shooting starts, and all of a sudden Kerry realises she can’t do the role because she can’t act at all! Which is precisely what Terson had known all along. She had known from the first that Kerry was just a dreamer and had no real acting talent – which is what the parents and schoolgirls had always said to Kerry. She had just been stringing Kerry along to get her revenge on Simpson by lumbering him with a talentless girl in the leading role and being stuck with her because of the contract.

Kerry is distraught at being played for such a fool and realises her parents had been right all along. She releases Simpson from the contract and disappears, and the papers are full of it. Once Terson reads about Kerry’s disappearance she is struck by remorse and goes after Kerry, whom she finds on the roof of the apartment block. She apologises to Kerry, saying she never considered Kerry’s feelings while plotting revenge against Simpson. Kerry says the experience has made her grow up and realise how her constant dreaming was so unrealistic, so she bears no grudges. Terson offers Kerry a job as a personal assistant, and Kerry accepts.

Thoughts

This story is not one of Jinty’s more memorable stories. But recently it has attracted comment on the Jinty blog for two reasons. First, we have been provided with a glimpse of the script for part one, which still exists and came to light in writer Alan Davidson’s files. Second, there is some controversy over the identity of the artist. Is the artist’s name Cándido Ruiz Pueyo or Emilia Prieto? It is Pueyo, but for a while he worked under the pseudonym Emilia Prieto, and a panel in the final episode of this story is signed with his pseudonym.

Although the story is not one of Jinty’s classics, it certainly breaks some moulds in the Cinderella and “dream fulfilment” formats. It does not end up with the heroine realising her dream of becoming an actress and having the last laugh on the parents and schoolgirls who said she was just a silly dreamer. Instead, it is revealed they were right all along, and Kerry is made to realise it when she is forced to act for the first time in her life and discovers she can’t. In all those years she dreamed of being an actress, she clearly made no serious attempt to realise her ambitions by, say, pursuing drama clubs and school plays to get experience. If she had, she would have realised long ago that she was no actress. Instead, she just indulged herself with dreaming while not doing anything serious to fulfil her dreams until she writes to Terson.

The story is also a cautionary tale in that old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is”. Kerry was very fortunate in that the woman who took advantage of her eventually found her conscience and made amends by offering Kerry a high-paying job that would still get Kerry into the acting world, of sorts. So Kerry would not be stuck in dead-end factory jobs like Dad and continue to live in the graffiti-smeared apartment block she hated so much. There are many sleaze bags out there waiting to prey upon the dreams of innocent, naive girls to take advantage of them.

Jinty 28 May 1977

jinty-28-may-1977

  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • Tell Us – problem page
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • The Face at the Window (Gypsy Rose story) – artist Phil Townsend
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Play the Game ! – feature
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • The Dead End Kids are Going Places! – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie

Creepy Crawley’s plan to get Mandy expelled succeeds, and she has even manipulated things so Mandy thinks poor Sheila was the one who framed her! But there is a new ray of hope – Sheila recalls seeing another copy of the book that would explain everything about the evil scarab. Including, we hope, the way to stop the scarab.

A bully teacher in “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” thinks the sound of birds singing is for the birds. Naturally, that is an open invitation for the fun-bag to teach her a lesson.

Sandra Frazer thinks she has photographed a ghost at a run-down cottage, and even Gypsy Rose is a bit stumped for an answer. But then they discover the photograph is of a missing girl who is trapped in the cottage. A ghost from the future, would you believe!

Yvonne is relegated to reserve for bad behaviour and does not realise look-alike Olga is stringing her along. The gypsy woman still warns Yvonne to get out of Mavronia, but we know Yvonne won’t heed that advice.

Rowan thought she had a respite from the spinning wheel because it was broken. But now she’s falling asleep from humming noises again, and Mum is bringing back the spinning wheel. Looks like it’s been fixed, so its curse is back in action, worst luck!

Beaky and Thumper are in big danger this week from a violent storm and floods, and end up separated. Will they ever be together again?

Kerry is soaring higher than ever. A flash new wardrobe, autograph fans, a huge pay cheque, and the starring role in a movie, all courtesy of Gail Terson. Oh, why do we get the feeling the fall is coming for Kerry?

Jinty 21 May 1977

jinty-21-may-1977

  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • The Warning Windbells (Gypsy Rose story) – unknown Concrete Surfer artist
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Home-Made Refreshers for Hot Days! – feature
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • Cheeky Cheggers Chats to You! – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie

Creepy Crawley hopes to stop her campaign against Mandy now – but will the scarab let her? Of course not. She obviously didn’t pay more attention to the book’s warning that nobody would be safe from the scarab, even after it defeated the rival. Sheila has discovered Jean’s secret, but now Jean is blackmailing her into doing everything she says, so can Sheila do anything to stop the scarab? We will have to wait and see.

Rowan’s attempt to switch the evil spinning wheel with a harmless replacement fails and she almost gets killed too. Then the spinning wheel reveals a weakness when it gets broken: its curse does not work while it is out of action. So Rowan is free of the curse for the time being, but Mum intends to get the spinning wheel fixed. If she does, it’s back to square one.

Yvonne and Olga are struck by how alike they look. But Yvonne has no idea how their lives are such a contrast. Olga is the virtual slave of a slave-driving coach whose mere threat of the dreaded Home for Children of Dissidents keeps Olga in line; Yvonne is swelling up her big head with dreams of becoming a cycling star, much to her team mates’ annoyance.

Gail Terson is giving Kerry a complete makeover and giving her everything to become a star: money, glamour, publicity and fans. Then Kerry begins to feel that it is a bit too good to be true – which means it usually is.

A well-meaning fortune-teller helps Beaky and Thumper escape and they’re back on the road. Unfortunately she did not foresee what would mean Dad missing his chance to find them and bring them to Julie.

When a carpet seller has a nasty encounter with a bully, Henrietta turns one of the carpets into a flying carpet to teach the bully a lesson and trick him into buying a carpet from the seller at well above the price it was selling for.

Anna Wong tells Gypsy Rose the story of the family’s Chinese windbells, which only chime when there is impending danger. Unfortunately not everyone receives or heeds their warning but Anna does, and they help save her life in a fire.

Katy doesn’t know her own strength in this episode, which is causing mayhem on a bus. And her lack of understanding about human ways is not making her popular in school.

Creepy Crawley (1977)

Sample Images

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Published: 9 April 1977 – 2 July 1977

Episodes: 13

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown

Translations/ reprints: Katy 8–9; In de macht/ban van een broche [Under the Spell of a Brooch], Tina 1979 and Tina Topstrip 60 1984. Indonesian translation Dalam Cengkeraman Sebuah Bros [In the clutches of a brooch]

Plot

Jean Crawley is the star pupil of St Bridget’s. She always wins at everything and is very proud that nobody has ever beaten her. Then Jean meets her match in Mandy Collier, the team captain of the rival team at a hockey match, and is stunned to lose for the first time in her life. Then Mandy – horrors! – transfers to Jean’s school. So now Jean under serious threat from the girl who always seems to beat her, and she is not taking it well.

Then Jean stumbles across an antique shop and is drawn to an Egyptian scarab brooch. The owner tells her it belonged to an Egyptian princess named Neferitta, who lost her throne to a rival but used the power of the scarab to recover it. Jean disappears out of the shop with the brooch before she receives the book that accompanies it – or the owner’s warning that the brooch changed the princess’s personality for the worse while helping her regain her throne.

The brooch begins to push back Jean’s rival at school, but there are warning signs that it is dangerous and evil. For example, mysterious swarms of insects start hanging around Jean. Jean asks the scarab to help her against Mandy when Mandy starts to suspect her of underhandedness, whereupon bees attack Mandy and leave her badly stung while Jean is unharmed while going to the rescue. Jean’s misgivings – and guilty conscience – grow worse when she goes back to the shop to get the book about the brooch. Unfortunately most of the pages are tantalisingly missing. What remains warns that the power of the scarab gives its wearer power over all insects, which Neferitta used to defeat her rival. But the scarab also brought a curse to the land and not even the defeat of the rival stopped it. Terrified, Jean stops wearing the brooch.

However, when Jean is reminded of the threat Mandy poses to her, her jealousy resurfaces and she goes back to using the brooch. And after Jean saves Mandy from the bees, Mandy is fooled into thinking Jean is her friend, which makes it easier to work against her. Mandy is even more fooled when Jean is the only one who seems to be friendly to her when the other prefects send her to Coventry because they think Mr Collier bribed the headmistress with a grant to make Mandy a prefect. Which is precisely what Jean led them to think, of course.

Mysterious help from insects keeps cropping up to destroy Mandy whenever she threatens to score one over Jean. Termites destroy her wooden sculpture in an art competition, so Jean wins. Gnats attack Mandy while the class is on a pony trekking weekend.

However the latter backfires on Jean when it unwittingly puts Sheila in danger. Jean has to move fast to save her. Jean has a pang of conscience, telling the scarab it has changed her for the worse and now nearly killed Sheila, and wishing she’d never summoned its powers. Jean does not realise Sheila overheard what she was saying – and believes it.

But the power of the scarab is getting too strong for any twinge of conscience, as both Jean and Sheila discover when Sheila tries to hide the brooch. Another swarm of insects mysteriously appears and Jean finds herself compelled to open the window for them and they direct her to the brooch’s hiding place. Jean realises someone is on to her, but does not know who.

The pony trekking turned into a fiasco because of the insects, and the girls blame Mandy for it. As a result Mandy loses her prefect’s badge while still thinking Jean is her friend. The rival is being defeated, but now Jean suspects the scarab will not stop there.

Jean discovers it was Sheila who had rumbled her. After another incident with the scarab Jean decides she cannot destroy the brooch without destroying herself. So she now plots to get Mandy expelled in the hope this will break its power (obviously, she did not remember what the book said about nobody being safe from the scarab even after the defeat of the rival). And she scares and tricks timid Sheila into helping her do it, with blackmail. Jean’s plan is to wreck the costumes for the play and frame Mandy for it, with Sheila’s unsuspecting help.

Sheila caves in, wishing she had the confidence to stand up to Jean. Then she finds Jean’s incomplete book on the scarab brooch and recalls another copy somewhere. Next day, Jean’s plan succeeds in getting Mandy suspended. Worse, Jean engineered her plan so cleverly that Mandy thinks it was Sheila who framed her, and was behind all the trouble she has had. Too late Sheila realised what Jean’s plan was, but of course nobody, including Mandy, believes her when she tries to explain about the scarab.

However, Jean soon finds out she has miscalculated. Even with Mandy gone, she cannot break free of the scarab. Its power over her is getting stronger as it makes her ever more evil and turning her into a tyrant (like it had done with Neferitta, as it turns out). Jean is forcing all pupils to wear blazers at all times, even when the weather is boiling hot. When one pupil swats a fly Jean assaults her, because all insects are sacred to the scarab. Everyone, including the headmistress, now have second thoughts about Jean because of her strange conduct.

Sheila, now having read the other copy of the book, which was in her father’s library, knows Jean is going the same way as Neferitta after she deposed her rival, and every evil action she makes is strengthening the power of the scarab. But the worst is yet to come: the scarab has designs of power and conquest. It had Neferitta lead an invasion of insects, which means it intends to do the same with Jean. Sure enough, the scarab has Jean go to the insect house at the zoo to let all the insects loose for the invasion.

The scarab’s power over Neferitta was broken by her rival forgiving her, which means Mandy must do the same with Jean. But how can Mandy even forgive Jean when she does not even realise what Jean has done and thinks Sheila is responsible for her expulsion? Sheila goes to Mandy’s house to try to explain, but Mandy still does not listen. All Sheila can do is leave the book with her and hope. Eventually Mandy reads it, but she is not convinced.

Meanwhile Mandy’s parents have gone to a garden party at school to speak to the headmistress about getting Mandy reinstated, but are not successful (yet). Then the insect invasion strikes the school, and it’s got real nasties in it. There are locusts that make short work of the school garden and drive everyone into the school building, and bees and wasps that keep them trapped there, with Jean laughing at them. They all realise Jean is in the power of the evil scarab brooch.

Realising her parents are overdue, Mandy goes to the school to check things out. She sees the insect invasion and is finally convinced. She gets past the insects by way of an old air raid tunnel. When Mandy confronts Jean, Jean brags how she got rid of her. This clears Mandy’s name, but it does not make her conducive towards forgiveness. However, she does so when Mrs Crawley points out that the scarab brooch was responsible for Jean’s conduct.

Mandy’s forgiveness frees Jean, but it is only for the time being. Jean has been so weakened by the scarab that it could possess her again, and the insect invasion is still out there. The only way to stop the scarab altogether is to put it in a pyramid.

Fortunately Sheila checked out for a pyramid, and there is a pyramid-shaped summerhouse in the neighbourhood that was built by a Victorian eccentric. So Sheila, Jean and Mandy race to get to the pyramid, but find the insects have blocked the air raid tunnel. Jean uses the power of the brooch to command the insects to step aside.

As the pyramid comes into sight, Jean has grown so weak that she faints, and Mandy hurts her ankle. So it’s up to Sheila to bravely make the last lap of the journey while running the gauntlet with the insects. With the aid of a lucky accident, Sheila gets the scarab into the pyramid and its power is broken. The insects disperse and Sheila crushes the scarab underfoot to make sure nobody uses it again.

The school takes the view the scarab was responsible for everything, so no action is taken against Jean. However, Jean voluntarily steps down from her position as head girl – and announces that Sheila as her replacement. Sheila is surprised at this because she sees herself as a coward and timid person. Jean and Mandy say she is far more courageous than she thinks, and she proved it with her heroic deed.

Thoughts

Evil objects that take possession of girls and force them to do terrible things have a long tradition in girls’ comics. But this evil object has a far bigger agenda than simply making the protagonist its slave and forcing her to act nasty, or to enact revenge as some evil objects do, such as in “Slave of the Mirror”. This evil object is out for world conquest, and it is doing it by controlling all insects. When you think about it, that’s a really scary thought; there are millions more insects on the planet than there are people, and there are thousands of species of insects that can do untold damage to humans, from disease-spreading mosquitos and fleas to stinging bees and wasps. During the story we see the damage that even small groups of insects can do, such as Mandy’s wood carving being devoured by termites. If that is what the scarab could do with insects in small numbers, what could it do if it grows strong enough to control all the insects on the planet?

The scarab clearly could not do it unless the person who fell into its power had negative feelings that could be fed upon, nurtured, twisted, and intensified to turn that person into an evil personality who could be controlled while believing the scarab was helping her (or him) to get whatever she wanted, crush the person she hated, and raise her to power beyond imagining. It is unlikely that the scarab could have possessed either Jean or Neferitta if they had lost gracefully to their rivals. They needed to have feelings of hatred, anger and jealousy to begin with if the scarab was able to take control of them at all. As we watch how Jean’s personality worsens under the power we have to wonder if what the scarab is really doing is bringing to the surface what had always lurked there.

If the scarab was sentient (and perhaps it is) we see how extremely crafty it is in ensnaring Jean and gradually entrapping her as its slave. Jean surprises herself at how brilliant her schemes in defeating Mandy are getting and puts it down to the brooch. She thinks it is doing her tremendous favour. Even when Jean has surges of conscience or terror at the power of the scarab, it does not take much for them to be overcome. Jean senses the power of the scarab is growing, but at this stage it is getting too strong for her, and it is corrupting her with temptations of power. She does not realise that the scarab is just using her as a tool and playing upon her jealousy and increasing corruption to feed its strength and carry out its own agenda. One suspects that the scarab’s power would reach the stage where it would not even need Jean anymore.

Jean’s dominance over Sheila is not unlike how Stacey dominates Tania in The Slave of Form 3B. There is no mind control (though the scarab displays some powers of hypnotism, such as making the zoo keeper forget Jean’s break-in at the insect house), but it is still the power of an intimidating personality over a weaker one. Much of it stems from Sheila’s timidity and lack of self-confidence. She looks upon herself as a coward and has no backbone. Even after her heroism she still looks upon herself as a coward. It takes pep talk from Mandy and Jean afterwards to make her see the light. Sheila replacing Jean as head girl is akin to Tania replacing Stacey in the same position at the end of Slave of Form 3B, except that unlike Tania, Sheila has actually earned it. And it’s not just because of her heroism in getting the scarab to the pyramid. Though timid like Tania, she is more proactive than Tania and she is the one who is crucial to the resolution of the story by tracking down the full history of the brooch and (eventually) informing the others what they need to know. Though she knows Mandy will most likely slam the door in her face she bravely tries to talk to Mandy about the brooch and failing that, leaves the book with her.

The artwork of Trini Tinturé is always popular in Jinty, and it does a brilliant job in illustrating the evil that is growing in Jean as the brooch increasingly corrupts her. Tinturé has a long tradition of drawing evil flint-eyed brunettes in Jinty who have insanity or evil exuding from their very eyes and facial expressions, and this one is no exception. Tinturé would have done an amazing job of drawing the corrupted Princess Neferitta herself if she had been allowed some flashbacks instead of being just briefly discussed in the book. One does feel that there is an untold story in the case of Neferitta and it could make quite a story to see the story of the scarab-enslaved Neferitta and her rival told in full. Prequel, anyone?