Monthly Archives: August 2018

Top 10 Jinty Villains

I now present my list of the top ten villains from the run of Jinty. Some have been chosen because they are the most obvious choices while others have been chosen as representatives of particular types of villains. The choices on this list are entirely mine, and in making my choices I have tried to keep a broad spectrum of the different types and archetypes of villains that appeared in Jinty. But I am aware some of you may have your own views and some of my choices could be subject to second-guessing. Please feel free to suggest your own lists for the top ten Jinty villains in the comments below if you wish.

And now, counting down…

10: Mr Grand

Story: Village of Fame

Creators: Jim Baikie (artist); writer unknown

Jinty villain 10

Just how far would you go for the highest television ratings? Mr Grand goes to the lengths of spy cameras all over the village called Fame he’s chosen for his location where he can watch every move under pretext of collecting footage, devious publicity stunts, including a faked UFO abduction, genuine kidnappings, blackmail, and even hiring a hypnotist named Marvo to brainwash people to do whatever he wants. At the climax, this takes the form of a widespread television broadcast where Grand and Marvo attempt to hypnotise the whole village in order to restore the television ratings. Mr Grand takes the popular view of television as a one-eyed monster that hypnotises people with junk and intrudes into their homes to a whole new level.

9: Jean Marlow

Story: Waves of Fear

Creators: Phil Gascoine (artist); writer unknown

Jinty villain 4

As you might expect, there has to be a school bully somewhere on the list. There sure have been some nasty ones in Jinty, such as Sandra Simpkins (Tears of a Clown) and Lydia’s ex-friends in Dracula’s Daughter. But the worst of them all has to be Jean Marlow and her hate campaign against Clare Harvey. There can be nothing worse than bullying a mentally ill girl, and just because Jean hates her for some unknown reason. Jean takes advantage of Clare being branded a coward and becoming ostracised and bullied when her illness causes her to flee while her friend is drowning in a cave pool. Jean has the girls throw Clare into the same cave pool, which nearly drowns her. Then Jean plays upon Clare’s illness to get her expelled: she locks Clare into a classroom, forcing Clare to smash her way out once the illness overwhelms her, and then leading the headmistress believe Clare did it out of spite. As if that weren’t enough, Jean vandalises her own orienteering club in order to frame Clare for it because Clare stumbled across her cheating.

8: Miss Marvel

Story: Golden Dolly, Death Dust!

Creators: Phil Gascoine (artist); writer unknown

Jinty villain 5

It wouldn’t be complete without a witchy, cackling crone type on this list either. Jinty certainly had plenty to remember, such as Madam Kapelski (Curtain of Silence), Mrs Tallow (Slaves of the Candle) and Miss Vaal (Girl in a Bubble). However, Miss Marvel has been chosen to represent them all, for she is not only a real witch but also, in modern parlance, an eco-terrorist with her poisonous death dust. The death dust kills all the flora and fauna it touches, and Miss Marvel uses it to bring terror to the district by destroying all the plant life around. In an increasing climate of widespread pollution, mass extinction, environment destruction and, of course eco-terrorism, this sounds more relevant and disturbing than when it was first published. Plus Miss Marvel has one of the most frightening of accomplices – a terrifying Halloween mask that can float around and scare the living daylights out of anyone who sees it!

7: Mrs Siddons

Story: Dora Dogsbody

Creators: José Casanovas (artist); Terence Magee, Pat Mills et al (writers)

Jinty villain 8

Comical villains are a long-running staple in girls’ comics. A popular mechanism was a schemer getting his or her comeuppance every week at the hands of the protagonist. Such is the case with Mrs Siddons. Mrs Siddons runs a dogs’ hotel where all the pooches live in the height of luxury – but she is no animal lover. She only runs the hotel for profit and making extra money out of the dogs’ owners or crafty schemes wherever she can find them. Often these come at the expense of the dogs, such as undercutting their food and heating to save money. Moreover, she can’t be bothered doing the dirty work of running the hotel. So she brings Dora Watson in, ostensibly to adopt her, to do all the work as unpaid servant and treat her worse than a dog. However, it turns into grand hijinks and laughs for the readers every week with Mrs Siddons vs Dora Dogsbody as Dora rises to the occasion to foil Mrs Siddons. And the hijinks, scheming, and animals are all rendered brilliantly and amusingly with the artwork of José Casanovas.

6: Jemima and Agnes

Story: Cinderella Smith

Creators: Trini Tinturé (artist); writer unknown

Jinty villain 3

Cinderella-type stories are long-running staple in girls’ comics, where the heroine is made a drudge at the hands of cruel guardians and seeks solace and escape in a talent. The most famous one is Bella Barlow from Tammy. But surely not even Cinderella herself experienced cruelty like this at the hands of these two wicked stepsisters, er cousins. Locked in chains and deprived of food and water because she tried to tell her father how she was being treated? Being made to wear leg irons while she works? Forced to eat from the dog’s dish? Being tricked into signing away her inheritance? Deliberately given tainted food to make her ill? Made to live in a cold, shabby attic with no electricity, decent lighting,  heating or proper bedding, and forced to wear tatty clothing while the cousins live in the lap of luxury? Forced to paint a huge house from top to bottom? All these and more were inflicted on Cinderella Smith at the hands of her cruel cousins, Agnes and Jemima. They do it because they hate Cindy’s mother for some reason and are so stingy they make or save as much money as they can out of Cindy with free labour and any possessions she has. There have been hundreds of serials with cruel guardians who treat the protagonist like Cinderella. But the cruelties and excesses of Agnes and Jemima are hard to beat, even by Jed and Gert from Bella Barlow.

5: The Aliens aka The Silent Death

Story: The Human Zoo

Creators: Guy Peeters (artist); Malcolm Shaw (writer)

Jinty villain 6

The aliens, also known as the Silent Death, were the only alien race in Jinty to give readers cause to remember them. They may be highly advanced telepathic beings, but advancement has not brought enlightenment. They are a cold-hearted race who disapprove of all sentimentality and emotion, yet revel in bloodsports and animal cruelties. They lock animals – including humans, whom they kidnap from Earth – into obedience collars that give intense pain when activated. The humans kidnapped by the aliens in this story are by turn subjected to the aliens’ equivalents of bounty hunting, pain-induced discipline, cattle markets, zoos, slaughterhouses, circuses, bloodsports, beasts of burden, vivisection and even a hint of animal sacrifice. They regard humans as animals and their attitude is (with welcome exceptions who care for animal welfare) “they’re just animals, for us to use as we like”. These include cruel versions of chimps’ tea parties where they starve humans for the purpose and never let them get the chance to eat any of the food that is thrown at them, and circus acts where the non-swimming protagonist is nearly drowned every night while the aliens clap and cheer.

But what makes them such unforgettable villains is that we see so much of ourselves in them. Humans are guilty of the same atrocities against animals as the ones the aliens inflict on the humans in the story. Even today, particularly in Third World countries, you will see animal cruelties of all sorts that are just as horrible and barbaric as the ones the aliens commit.

Next page…

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Panel Borders (internet radio show): Girls’ Comics Autumn Special

On a happier note than the last post, I have received notification of two recorded talks that are due to be broadcast on Panel Borders, the UK internet radio show about comics (hosted by Alex Fitch).

Panel Borders: Girls’ Comics Autumn Special

Cartoonist and Graphic Novels editor Corinne Pearlman introduces a pair of interviews about “Girls Comics”:

  • Comics scholar Mel Gibson interviews Anne Digby, the author of the Trebizon novels, who was also the writer of a variety of strips for Tammy.
  • Also, Jenni Scott talks to a pair of female graphic novelists – Hannah Eaton and Hannah Berry – about how girls comics influenced their work, and relaunch of Misty as an annual Halloween comic…

This is due to be broadcast at 5.30pm on Wednesday 5th September 2018, with a repeat broadcast at a time TBC. You can find it on Resonance 104.4 FM and DAB (London), or:

John Armstrong (1923 – 2018)

I am very sorry to post the news that John Armstrong has just died. John Freeman from the DownTheTubes website has put together a tribute post, and additionally the site has got an interview “In His Own Words” detailing John’s comics career. Lew Stringer has also posted a tribute on his blog, with some great art samples included.

John Armstrong was a fantastic artist with an instantly recognizable style and great strengths in the key elements of girls comics. I am very glad that the Rebellion reprint of Bella came out in time for him to (hopefully) know that his work was being properly appreciated once again.

Spellbound No. 1, 25 September 1976

Spellbound cover 25 September 1976

  • When the Mummy Walks… – first episode (artist Norman Lee)
  • Spectre from the Flame – Damian Darke story
  • The Secret of Silver Star – first episode (artist Edmond Ripoll)
  • Nightmare (text story)
  • Supercats: Meet the Sun God (artist Jorge B. Galvez (possibly with help from Enrique Badía Romero))
  • The Haunting of Laura Lee – first episode
  • I Don’t Want to be a Witch – first episode (artist Norman Lee)
  • Lonely Lucy – first episode (artist Jordi Franch)

Spellbound Supercats

The DCT title Spellbound is best remembered today as the proto-Misty, the first girls’ title to be the first to be a horror/Goth title. Spellbound lasted for just 69 issues and merged into Debbie. Ironically, Spellbound folded in the same month Misty started. In the wake of the lingering affection for Misty, Spellbound is being rediscovered and her issues are becoming serious collectors’ items.

Spellbound is unusual for not having a girl’s name as her title, a la Bunty, Debbie, or even Misty. Because of this, no female host acts as the female the comic is named after or appears as a cover girl. This role is covered by The Supercats, regular characters in Spellbound who originally appeared in Diana as “The Fabulous Four”, and were resurrected in Spellbound to the point of dominating it. The comic’s club is named after the Supercats, they are the fictional writers of the letters page, and the weekly horoscope, the Zodiacat, is Supercat-themed. And when Spellbound merged into Debbie, the Supercats were the ones who carried on in the merger.

The theme of ancient Egypt is running high in the first issue, beginning with its first gift: the mystic sun pendant. It continues with the first Spellbound story, “When the Mummy Walks…”. The gorgeous artwork in its splash page hits you right in the eye and draws your attention straight into the comic the moment you open it. A Victorian museum featuring an exhibition on ancient Egypt incurs the curse of the mummy, which has broken out of its sarcophagus. No, it isn’t King Tut – it’s an Egyptian priestess.

Spellbound Mummy

Next is the other Spellbound regular character, Damian Darke. He hosted the weekly complete stories, which were of course spooky. In his first story, “Spectre from the Flame”, Jane Armitage senses something strange about the latest arrival in the antique shop where she works, an old candlestick. A burglar trying to steal the candlestick finds out too late what it is – the candlestick belonged to none other than the infamous Judge Jeffries! But for once we are rooting for Jeffries when his spectre appears to show the burglar the justice he was famous for. All the same, Jane is relieved when the candlestick gets sold. After Spellbound folded, Damian Darke carried on his stories in Debbie and Mandy.

Damian Darke 1

Spellbound Judge Jeffries

The second serial is “The Secret of Silver Star”. It feels a bit out of place in this spooky-themed comic as there is no supernatural theme about it, not even the titular horse being a spectre or something. Instead it’s about a horse that has to be put into hiding when it is to be destroyed. Perhaps the story’s mystery theme – an unknown saboteur trying to destroy the stables – is what is supposed to tie it into the comic. All the same, it does not feel like it really belongs in this type of comic and would be better off in a more traditional DCT title like Mandy or Judy.

After the text story “Nightmare” (which turns out to be a false alarm for the protagonist), we meet the Supercats in person. They are a group of intergalactic super-heroes: Helen Miller the leader despite her lack of superpowers; Hercula, who is super-strong; Electra, who can generate electricity; and Fauna, who can change colour. Their first adventure in Spellbound carries on the ancient Egypt theme. They land on a planet that looks like ancient Egypt and the Egyptian Sun God wants Helen as his bride. But it isn’t a wedding to make her so – it’s being sacrificed on his altar!

(Click thru)

It would not be complete without a story regarding an evil force of some kind taking possession of the protagonist, and this we get with “The Haunting of Laura Lee”. Laura Lee had only played the piano for fun. But that changes when she acquires a mysterious ring that won’t come off. All of a sudden she can play brilliantly, but she senses it wasn’t her playing. What’s more, she’s playing until she’s exhausted. She doesn’t like it one bit.

In “I Don’t Want to be a Witch”, Celia Winters does not want to follow the family tradition of becoming a witch and insists on going to an ordinary school. However, her Aunt Armida is out to change her mind, which means the story will follow the pattern of who will win the argument.

Finally, we come to “Lonely Lucy”. There is no outright supernatural theme, but it still blends into Spellbound better than Silver Star because it is a dark story, has a period setting, highwaymen, and persecution that stems from ignorance and superstition. Lucy Pilgrim has been dumped in an orphanage, which, as you might expect, is a cruel one. But for Lucy it’s even crueller as the children call her a witch because she’s left handed. She runs away, but runs slap bang into the highwayman himself! Has she jumped from the frying pan and into the fire? And will the branding of Lucy as a witch just because she’s left handed continue?

Spellbound Lonely Lucy

There are no humorous cartoon strips in the first issue to lighten things up a bit, as Miss T did in Misty.

 

 

Jinty: Land of No Tears! and The Human Zoo review by Olivia Hicks

Guest post: many thanks to Olivia Hicks for reviewing the Rebellion reprint edition of Land of No Tears and The Human Zoo

I have a somewhat fond, nostalgic relationship with Jinty, considering how little of it I have read. I had never (prior to this volume) read a complete Jinty story, and the real reason that Jinty occupies such a place in my heart is because it was the favourite comic of my mum, back when she was buying comics. So I was excited to see Jinty back in print, even if, on paper, neither of the stories particularly appealed to me. Land of No Tears! Uhm, ok. The Human Zoo? If we must. This was not, on the surface, the bizarre cruel science fiction that Jinty, through word of mouth and internet blog culture, had been distilled into for me. I wanted a Worlds Apart reprinting!

I had read about half of Land of No Tears! in the British Library, and had found it semi-engaging. The Human Zoo I had deliberately avoided. From the brief blurbs I had read, I had no interest in the story. So I settled down with my copy of the new Rebellion reprint, with my expectations quite muted. Warning: major spoilers for both stories follow (although I assume most of you have either read the stories or are aware of the plot!).

Land of No Tears! is written by Pat Mills and has art by Guy Peeters, and is about Cassy Shaw. She was born with one leg shorter than the other, and she uses her disability to manipulate those around her.  One day, whilst undergoing an operation to lengthen her leg (which Cassy is dreading, because she will no longer be able to use her disability to get what she wants), the anaesthesia somehow sends her through time to a future where humanity has achieved physical perfection and a lack of emotion, and those like Cassy (with Grade One Deformities) are forced to work as slaves for the benefit of the Alphas.

The story is in many ways quite typical; there is, of course, a mystery to be solved (what is the secret of Cassy’s new friend Miranda, and her mother), a lesson to be learned (with hard work you can overcome), and a problem which can, conveniently, be solved with sports; in this case, winning a sports championship will result in the complete overhaul of an entire society’s social structure! Cassy is an interesting main character because she resists the ‘victim-heroine’ coding of many girls’ comics characters. In fact, at the beginning, Mills goes out of the way to make her cynical and quite unsympathetic. This is, of course, to make her character arc more striking; the selfish, cynical, bratty lone wolf has to become an inspirational team leader and motivator who works and trains hard, and thus redeems herself. I’ve read quite a few girls’ comics stories now where villainous characters are shown using disability as a cover for their actions, so there seems to be a thread of problematic treatment of disability running throughout these comics, which Land of No Tears! falls into. The idea of a society divided by physical and emotional ability is a solid science fiction trope, but I think it is telling that the only disabilities Mills shows are: wearing glasses, being overweight and having a bald patch. The comic really skirts over disability (apart from in the beginning, when we see Cassy monopolising it for her own benefit; something which Teresa May and her cronies in the Department of Work and Pensions already think is widespread). ‘But Olivia!’ you say, ‘It’s a comic from the 1970s, how in depth can it be?’ Well, when you consider what Malcom Shaw achieves with the topic of animals rights in the accompanying tale, I think it’s fair to critique Mills for not really engaging with how society demonises disability.

Upon rereading (and finishing) Land of No Tears! in this collection, my favourite bit was definitely the passage where we see how Miranda lost her hair. The image of the robot nurse singing to the screaming baby who is being burned was pretty affecting and grim, and definitely will stay with me. It was an excellent example of horror being utilised in girls’ comics.

I also enjoyed the character arc of Perfecta. Her battle with those dreaded emotions was quite well done. I felt the ending, where Perfecta damaged her spine was a bit too literal and on the nose as punishment for her actions within the text. I also felt that the central mystery of Miranda and her mother was quite an easy one to solve, but then I’m in my mid-twenties, so definitely not the target audience of a youngster reading it week to week!

Whilst I enjoyed both stories, I definitely preferred The Human Zoo to Land of No Tears! This one was a cracker! Written by Shaw, with art again by Peeters, The Human Zoo is about twins Shona and Jenny, who are abducted by aliens. Jenny is experimented on in an allegory of animal testing, and Shona is sent to a zoo with some other captives. There is more than a little ‘Planet of the Apes’ vibe in this comic, and the way Shaw explored human nature in this story was exceptional. At one point Shona becomes a pet for alien girl Tamsha, but is sent back to the zoo for being too rebellious. Tamsha then replaces her with a more ‘docile’ human, another school girl who is more than happy to ‘act the pet’ in order to secure a cushy life. Another excellent scene was when the aliens starve the humans in order have the equivalent of a Chimpanzee’s Tea Party. Shaw’s central message, that we ‘dehumanize’ animals in order to profit off them and entertain ourselves, was, yes, preachy, but he dramatized it so skilfully that it worked. He also showed tension well, by allowing us to understand both the aliens and the humans, but never letting them understand each other.

The Human Zoo crammed quite a lot into its sixty pages: animal testing, animals rights activists, the morality of having pets, the morality of zoos, religion, forgiveness; all this and more gets thrown into the blender, and some of the threads (such as when Shona inadvertently becomes a god to the humans who have escaped captivity) are a little underdeveloped. There’s also a suggestion that the aliens are responsible for such mysterious mass disappearances as the Mary Celeste, which was interesting but I would have liked worked out just a bit more.

Both stories end with a ‘was it a dream….?’ resolution. In Land of No Tears!, Cassy learns from her mistakes and takes her lessons forward into her old life. However, much more poignantly, Shaw has Shona and Jenny completely forget their adventures, erasing their character growth and dooming them to continue in their ways. I’m a bit of a Shaw fan, as this review evidences!

To conclude, I was sceptical at first about the two stories, but ended up thoroughly enjoying them: I think this tells us that girls’ comics are far more than the sum of their plot synopsises! Malcolm Shaw was a top tier talent; I’m glad that the Rebellion reprints are reintroducing people to his work. The volume itself is quite beautiful, and the use of blue and yellow spot colouring on the back cover is effective (although I wish they had kept the original trippy colours for the cover of Jinty #1). My minor gripe is that it towers over both my 2000 AD and Misty trade paper backs. The sight of a single Jinty volume peeking over all the others irritated me enough that I had to relocate Jinty and Misty to a new section of my bookshelf. Such is the price of bookshelf perfection.

The Black and White World of Shirley Grey [1981]

Sample Images

shirley 1shirley 2shirley 3

Published: Tammy 7 February 1981 to 23 May 1981

Episodes: 16

Artist: Diane Gabbot

Writer: Jake Adams?

Translations/reprints: Tammy annual 1986

Plot

Shirley Grey’s best friend, Trisha Morris, has an accident and ends up in a coma because she defied orders and warnings in practising her diving at a dangerous cove, which tempted fate once too often. Although she was acting on Trisha’s instructions, Shirley blames herself because she had covered up about Trisha’s whereabouts to Mrs Morris. Mrs Morris also blames Shirley for the same reason (she does not know Shirley was only obeying Trisha) and lashes out at her whenever their paths cross.

In the wake of the accident Shirley swears never to lie again, but is taking it the extreme of not telling even a white lie, no matter what the circumstances. So what happens? A whole raft of circumstances where this gets Shirley gets into ever-increasing trouble as either a tattletale or a very rude girl. They are summarised as follows:

  1. Shirley twice insults the boss’s wife by giving a too-honest opinion on her clothes (hideous and don’t fit her properly because she’s too fat). As a result, Shirley’s father loses his promotion and his job is on the line, and Shirley’s parents are up in arms against her. Mum is having hysterics because they needed money from the promotion to buy a place away from the estate, which has been terrible ever since a gang of troublemakers moved in.
  2. Shirley begs a nurse to go against the Morris parents’ instructions (no visitors for Trisha except immediate family) and let her see Trisha. When Shirley is caught and the matron demands to know if the nurse let Shirley in, she says the nurse did. The nurse throws Shirley out, raging at how Shirley has repaid her – by getting her into trouble.
  3. Shirley falls foul of the school bully Evie Moore when she tells on Evie for stealing from a teacher because she can’t lie. Evie ruins Shirley’s blazer and demands menaces money of £1 a day, which Shirley can’t possibly pay, of course. When Shirley fails on her first payment Evie and her gang threaten to do something terrible to her. Shirley’s friends find their courage and rise up against the bullies, but Evie gets hurt. When the teacher asks Shirley who did it, Shirley says who it was without explaining why. Furious at how Shirley got them into trouble when they were trying to help her, the girls have everyone at school send her to Coventry. Even the teachers feel the effects of this.
  4. Evie’s final revenge against Shirley is to frame her for shoplifting. Shirley is convicted and the court is awaiting a social worker’s report before passing sentence.

All the while everyone is trying to tell Shirley she is being ridiculous, both in the way she is blaming herself and in thinking she can go through life without telling a lie because everyone has to one way or other. “You’ve got to pack it in,” says Shirley’s friend Hannah. “You can’t go through life without telling a lie – it’s not possible!” Even Evie tells Shirley she is mad about never lying, and around the district Shirley is soon derogatorily dubbed the girl who never tells lies. But Shirley says she can’t help not lying and won’t stop blaming herself. As things get progressively worse, Shirley comes to think it is all a punishment for Trisha’s accident. She fails to realise the trouble all stems from her blaming herself.

The final straw comes when Shirley overhears Mum having yet more hysterics that she can’t take any more of this and is going to have a nervous breakdown. Mum has been having nothing but these hysterics ever since Dad has lost his promotion. But when the false shoplifting charge came up Mum has been extremely selfish about it. Although she and Dad believe Shirley innocent, neither of them show her any sympathy, support or concern about it and treat her harshly. All Mum can think of is the shame of it all, that she’ll be struck on this dreadful estate, what everyone will think and how she won’t be able to hold her head up, etc, etc.

At any rate, Mum’s hysterics have Shirley decide that the only answer is to run away, which she does blindly. Shirley’s disappearance has the parents finally showing concern about her and they call the police.

Shirley finds herself back at the cove where it all started and the very cliff edge where the accident occurred. This gets very dangerous for Shirley when she falls asleep there and then the parents and police shine a blinding light in her eyes. She falls off the cliff, nearly drowns in the sea below, and takes a head injury that fractures her skull. She is rushed to hospital, and when Mum hears that it was her hysterics that made Shirley run off, she realises how selfish she has been.

Shirley finds herself in the next bed to Trisha, and still blaming herself for Trisha’s accident. The medical staff suggest Shirley talk to Trisha about their times together in the hope this will bring Trisha out of the coma. But Mrs Morris, who still blames Shirley for the accident, won’t allow Shirley near Trisha. However the same nurse from before helps Shirley to talk to Trisha secretly, and forgives what happened last time. After two weeks this brings Trisha out of the coma. Shirley finally stops blaming herself and the grateful Mrs. Morris apologises for her conduct. Shirley discontinues her vow never to tell even a white lie because she now understands “that things aren’t all black-and-white”.

But there is still the little matter of the problems Shirley created for herself with that guilt complex, and there is now a wrongful conviction hanging over her head as well. What about those?

Shirley finds most of these problems are now sorting themselves out, albeit in a somewhat contrived manner. Shirley’s remarks shocked the boss’s wife into slimming and a complete makeover. She is so grateful to Shirley that Dad gets his promotion after all. There is new hope that Shirley will be cleared of the shoplifting once the social worker get the courts to reconsider Shirley’s side of things because she was going to such extremes about not lying. What Shirley started about standing up to Evie has continued, despite her “dropping [the girls] in it”. As a result, Evie has lost her power as a bully and is no longer her “cocky, obnoxious self”. However, the girls have not forgiven Shirley. Trisha and the more forgiving Hannah try to persuade them, but they remain unmoved until they see Shirley covering up for them and telling the teacher the Coventry thing was just a misunderstanding that’s been sorted out. They go along with it and are reconciled with Shirley.

Thoughts

Essentially, Shirley has the same problem as Wanda White in Jinty’s Wanda Whiter Than White—she is taking truth-telling to extremes that causes problems both for her and for everyone around her, and it all stems from a huge guilt complex. In the end, Shirley, like Wanda, realises things aren’t all black and white and uses a white lie to help redeem herself. Unlike Wanda though, Shirley knows she is hurting people with all this extreme truth telling and feels terrible about it. But to her mind she can’t help it and she’s got to tell the truth at all times.

Again unlike Wanda, Shirley is a totally sympathetic character. She is tortured by guilt, keeps getting herself and others into constant trouble over her extreme truth-telling, becomes a victim of vicious bullying, a frame-up that gets her wrongly convicted, and nearly gets herself killed.

Like so many protagonists in girls’ comics who are suffering from a massive guilt complex, Shirley is blaming herself over something that is utterly ridiculous. If anyone is to blame, it is Trisha herself. That’s what everyone tells her, but they’re not getting through. This girl needs serious counselling and psychiatric help. But despite initial concerns about how badly Shirley has reacted to the accident and some talk of getting a doctor involved to help sort Shirley out, her parents never do so. Instead they degenerate into the common theme of parents handling things badly in girls’ serials. This is because they’re thinking too much about how the effects of it all are having on themselves. They’re not thinking about Shirley at all until her disappearance shocks them out of their selfishness.

The story also makes a serious statement about bullying and harassment, and ineptness in handling it effectively. It’s not just the vicious bullies at school that Shirley falls foul of. There is also a gang of delinquent girls who have been causing nothing but trouble ever since they moved in and turned a once-great estate into a nightmare for everyone. For example, they set fire to a lady’s washing. But nobody seems to do anything about them and by they end of the story they go unpunished. That’s pretty much how Evie Moore went too with her bullying until Shirley’s extreme truth-telling got her reported for the very first time. However, unlike Evie, they don’t add much to the story. The only time they really do so is when they chase Shirley while she is running off because she shoved one of them over. But she is too fast for them – hurrah! For the most part though, they are just distracting. Perhaps their purpose in the plot is to explain why Mrs Grey is so desperate to get away from the estate and keeps having hysterics that she’s going to be stuck there once Dad loses his chance of promotion.

Evie gets some punishment in that she loses her power and her bullying days are over at that school. But it feels she got off too lightly considering what she’s done, particularly to Shirley. She is not even expelled for stealing from the teacher. The headmaster just gives her a final warning and will expel her next time. “He’s too soft,” says one girl. “He should’ve expelled her now!” We certainly agree, and we feel the story is making a comment about schools not cracking down on bullying hard enough.