Published: Jinty 6 September 1980 – 22 November 1980
Artist: Phil Townsend
Reprints/translations: None known
Jemma West has always loathed rain. So accompanying her naturalist father on a trip to the Amazon rainforest where he has to navigate mud-soaked tracks in pouring tropical rain is not her idea of fun. What’s more, these driving conditions make Jemma fling out of the jeep and she gashes her leg on a tree.
While recovering in hospital, everyone is astonished to find Jemma suddenly dancing happily in the rain. Jemma is just as astonished. All of a sudden, the rain-hater has become absolutely crazy about rain and she just can’t get enough of it.
That’s only the beginning of Jemma’s strange new association with rain. Jemma soon finds that when it rains she is filled with amazing strength and energy. But when it’s fine she wilts like a flower. As for drought – that sends her right to sleep.
Jemma is one of the best tennis players in the school, but this strange effect that the presence/absence of rain has on her is becoming a real nuisance on the tennis court and hindering her performance. She can’t perform properly on the court when the weather’s fine, and sometimes rain does too good a job on her – her strength rises to such levels that she’s knocking the tennis ball miles out of the court. Everyone is worried she is ill or something, and it looks like she is not fit to enter the championships. And Jemma can’t explain because she can’t understand it herself. Once rain revives her, she’s back in the game, but unfortunately rain is not always present.
Jemma’s lengths to find rain to revive herself when it’s dry get really desperate at times and they get her into constant trouble at home and school. She also finds that she is crazy about anything to do with the Amazon rainforest. For example, when Dad gives a slideshow about the Amazon rainforest, Jemma goes right up and kisses the image on the screen, right in front of everyone. Naturally, Dad is embarrassed and very displeased with Jemma! When Jemma is given tree bark from the Amazon rainforest, she finds the bark has much the same effect on her that rain does.
Things finally come to a head when Jemma suddenly finds a pain starting in her leg where the gash had been. She tries to hide it because the school tennis championships are coming up, but the problem turns into a life-threatening infection and she is hospitalised. Surgical investigation reveals a splinter of wood from the tree was lodged deeply in her leg, which started an infection. It is removed, but Jemma does not respond to antibiotics. The infection is poisoning her blood and on the verge of killing her. The doctors are stumped and helpless.
In desperation, Dad flies Jemma back to the Amazon rainforest to seek help from a local medicine man he knows. The medicine man’s treatment may look like pure mumbo-jumbo, but it succeeds where the antibiotics failed. Jemma is soon waking up, looking much better, and very surprised to find herself back in the rainforest.
Jemma soon finds rain is not having that mysterious effect on her anymore, and concludes it must have been that splinter in her leg. The school kindly held back the tennis championships until Jemma recovered. She has no problem winning the championship, particularly as that rain effect is no longer a problem. However, Jemma retains her love of rain and the Amazon rainforest.
This was the only tennis serial to appear in Jinty. This may seem strange for a comic with a high emphasis on sport, but then several sports only scored one or two serials in Jinty while they were dime a dozen in titles like Bunty.
Child of the Rain also links in with Jinty’s emphasis on environmentalism, with the Amazon rainforest being the force that drives the whole plot, although the story contains little that touches on environmentalism itself. The message of environmentalism is a whole lot more muted than it is in other Jinty environmental serials such as “The Forbidden Garden”. However, the Amazon rainforest is such a powerful influence in the story that the reader would emerge seeing it in a whole new light, as does the protagonist herself. The strange power she gains from the rainforest leaves her with a new appreciation of nature, the Amazon rainforest, and her father’s naturalist job.
Not all protagonists who acquire a strange power in a serial find it beneficial, and this is definitely the case with Jemma. Though the power is beneficial when it rains, for the most part it is just a nuisance that is interfering with Jemma’s life and tennis. In fact it is not only a nuisance but eventually life-threatening as well. In terms of benefit, the power serves more to develop Jemma’s character than help her along with her tennis as she goes from rain hater with little interest in nature to a rain and rainforest lover.
Though this story is not one of Jinty’s classics, there appears to be a lingering fondness for it. Maybe it’s the rainforest elements.