Monthly Archives: February 2020

The Ghostly Ballerina (1983-4)

Sample Images

Ghostly Ballerina 1Ghostly Ballerina 2Ghostly Ballerina 3

 

Published: Princess (second series) #13, 17 December 1983 to #18, 21 January 1984.

Episodes: 6, but a double episode in #18

Artist: Photo story

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: ‘Het spook van de balletschool’ [The ghost of the ballet school], Tina #14, 6 April 1984. https://www.catawiki.nl/catalogus/strips/series-helden/doebidoes-de/77156-1984-nummer-14

Plot

At the National Ballet School, Clare Thomas lives for ballet. So she is devastated when she is told she has to leave the school because her dancing isn’t up standard and she’ll never make it as a ballerina.

Then a mysterious ballerina, Arabella Hood, appears to her. Arabella demonstrates she is a superb dancer and says she has the power to make Clare dance equally so. But she says the price is high, and it includes total obedience to her. Clare accepts and is stunned to suddenly find herself dancing brilliantly. Later, Arabella also seems to be able to just disappear into thin air, and she’s already beginning to frighten Clare. It does not take long for Clare to realise that Arabella is dancing through her, and nobody can see Arabella except her. Yes, Arabella’s a ghost.

The director and Dame Anna see Clare’s incredible dancing and can’t understand why they never saw Clare dance so well before; they think it must be hidden talent or something. They give her the principal role in the upcoming gala and plan a huge publicity campaign for it. But this upsets Clare’s best friend Sonja, who had the role originally, and she and Clare fall out. This is the first sign of something Arabella hinted at earlier: “There is no room for friends in the future I have planned for you!” Clare asks the director and Dame Anna to give Sonja the role, but they decline, and can’t understand why Clare is so upset when she’s on the rise to stardom.

Meanwhile, a famous dancer named Anita Stanton says she suddenly wants to quit ballet. The director and Dame Anna can’t understand why she’s doing so when she’s still at the top. They comment on how history seems to be repeating itself: Anita used to be a poor dancer but one day, bang, she was brilliant.

Clare discovers that Anita can see Arabella too. Anita says the same thing happened to her, and to another famous dancer, Stepnova. She explains that Arabella was a Victorian ballerina who died in a fire when she was on the verge of success. She seeks the success that was denied her by targeting mediocre dancers and dancing through them. But the price you pay for dancing brilliantly through Arabella is too high: no friends, no self-respect, and no true success because Arabella is the one who is really doing the dancing. All you do is provide the body. The applause and accolades you receive are not truly yours because you are a fraud, and the fame that comes your way through Arabella brings you nothing but misery. But none of that matters to Arabella: she is ruthless and doesn’t care about how you feel. You are just her puppet who has to do as she says. Anita advises Clare to get out fast.

At first, Clare is too tempted by the ghost’s promises to make her a great dancer who would stay in the world of ballet. But it isn’t long before Clare realises what Anita means. At home, Clare’s parents congratulate her on her victory and can’t understand why she isn’t feeling happy about it. That night, Clare has horrible nightmares of Arabella. Worse is to come when Arabella demonstrates even more frightening powers: she can read your mind and inflict pain on you if you don’t obey her. And she threatens to do even worse to Sonja if Clare doesn’t do as she says.

Terrified for Sonja, Clare pretends to snub her and says it’s best if they are not friends anymore. However, this has Sonja wondering if something strange is going on. Her suspicions grow when she overhears Clare shouting at Arabella after the gala performance. Clare yells about how she used to love ballet even if she wasn’t much good at it, but now Arabella’s ideas of turning her into a famous ballerina are destroying her love of ballet.

Anita has been watching Clare’s brilliant performance at the gala and knows exactly how Clare feels: the ghost is controlling her and all that applause is nothing because you haven’t really earned it. Nobody else understands why Clare is in tears when she should have been happy at such a magnificent performance at the gala. Anita repeats her advice to get out before it is too late, but Clare explains that Arabella has threatened Sonja if she does not obey.

Arabella sees Clare talking to Anita and thinks they are plotting against her. In retaliation, she carries out her threat against Sonja, who gets hurt in an accident. It is only a sprain, but Sonja tells Clare she felt as if someone was controlling her. When she recounts the other strange things she has noticed, Clare decides to tell her everything (despite Arabella warning her not to).

They discuss what to do and realise the reason Arabella haunts is bitterness over being denied fame because she died prematurely. Therefore, the solution must be to give Arabella fame, so they look at a ballet about Arabella’s life story. Arabella not only jumps at it but also says she will choreograph the ballet, which will be called “Arabella”, through Clare.

When the ballet is performed it reveals the full tragic details of Arabella’s story for the first time. She started out as a street urchin in Victorian London, stealing food to survive. Then she went through years of imprisonment in a workhouse with only her love of dancing to keep her going. One day a rich woman spotted her, adopted her, and sent her to ballet school. On the night of Arabella’s debut, fire broke out, and both she and her dreams went up in flames. However, her ghost lives on, dancing through others. The director and Dame Anna particularly like that last bit. (If only they knew!) Clare dances the lead, but the reason the ballet is so successful and convincing is because it was all done through Arabella’s power. At the end, Arabella takes the bow she has been long waiting for and says she can rest in peace now.

Clare is relieved to be free of Arabella but knows she can’t dance that way without her. So, with Anita’s help she convinces Dame Anna that it really was the power of Arabella that made her so exceptional. Sonja takes the lead for the remaining performances of “Arabella”. Clare asks to just be a corps ballerina, and is happy with it because she will still enjoy ballet and remain at the ballet school.

Thoughts

This was the only ballet story to appear in Princess II’s short-lived run. It was also her only ghost story and “evil influence” (girl falls under an evil power) story.

Many of Princess’s stories weren’t particularly distinguished, but this is one of her better offerings. It is pretty dark stuff, and it’s not just because we have an evil ruthless ghost who makes terrifying demands, threats, and can control every muscle in your body. It also has a strong message about how fame brings you nothing but misery if the price you pay is too high. And that can happen even without this ruthless ghost pulling your strings and bringing you fame that isn’t really yours. This is such a contrast to the true Clare, who wants to dance because she loves it, even if she is not strongly talented. She does not care about fame – it’s happiness she wants.

Come to think of it, the haunting isn’t bringing Arabella happiness either. Seeing as she keeps doing it over and over, she’s clearly not getting any satisfaction out of trying to acquire fame through others. This is because it’s not bringing her the fame that was denied her, but does she realise this? Apparently not. And so she can’t rest in peace until Clare and Sonja come up with a way to bring her true fame.

When we see Arabella’s life story in the ballet she becomes a more sympathetic character, so it’s sad to see what an evil ghost she has become. But we can understand it was the tragedy of her story that turned her into a twisted spectre. Her life story definitely is the stuff that deserves to be a full girls’ serial, or even a real-life ballet.

The photo story format has one downside: photo stories have never been a strong format for a ghost story because the models used for ghosts were not convincing, and for some reason they didn’t use SFX to make the models look more ghostly. The ghost of Arabella is no exception. Having the photo story in colour makes the model less convincing as a ghost because you can still see she is flesh and blood. Having the strip in black and white and adding more white makeup might have made the model more convincing.

On the other hand, using the photo story format guarantees accurate, realistic ballet in this ballet story because they would have had to use trained ballerinas for the models. You don’t always get well-drawn ballet in a picture story.

Princess II, 25 February 1984

Princess II cover 25 February 1984

 

  • Flight from the Romanys (artist Maria Dembilio)
  • The Dream House (artist Mike White) – first episode
  • Laura in the Lyon’s Den! (artist Bob Harvey)
  • Rowena of the Doves (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • The Runaway Clown (artist José Canovas)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Sheena and the Treetoppers (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • Horse from the Sea… (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • The Saddest Dog in Town (artist Eduardo Feito)

 

We are now well and truly into the run of Princess II where she is falling back on reprints from Tammy and Jinty. From Jinty we have “Horse from the Sea” and “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”. Many former Jinty readers would have envied Princess readers for getting a reprint of Stefa. Jinty’s letter page indicated there was a popular demand for this serial to be repeated, but for some reason neither Jinty nor the Tammy & Jinty merger obliged. From Tammy we get “Rowena of the Doves” and now “The Dream House”.

Nonetheless, Princess is still producing her own stories. One is the cover story, “Flight from the Romanys”. Lydia Parks is kidnapped by nasty gypsies, for no other reason than to make a slave out of her and profit from the chattels she had on her (rich clothes, a horse). Considering her father is a wealthy lord, they could have shown more imagination than that! This episode is dedicated to establishing just how cruel Lydia’s kidnappers intend to be to her, and Lydia showing us her resolve to escape despite her tears or the gypsies’ attempts to discourage her.

A more savoury gypsy gives “The Runaway Clown” both hope (her father will find her and no going back to the home she ran away from) and fear (danger from an elephant) when she looks into her crystal ball. Of course the fortune teller means Princess, the vicious elephant trainer who has been gunning for Cindy. This time Princess gets caught out and sacked, but has Cindy really seen the last of that nasty piece of work? Time will tell. Meanwhile, the weather presents its own dangers, and it leads to the death of the fortune teller.

Spoiled Laura is showing improvement in the “Lyon’s Den”. But is it genuine, or is it because she hopes to get a shopping trip in Paris out of it? Mrs Lyon suspects the latter, but readers are left wondering if the former is coming into it. Later, Mrs Lyon is surprised to see Laura on television donating her prize pony to the children of the blind home and promptly phones Laura’s aunt as she smells a rat. Is she right?

Two Princess stories, “Sheena and the Treetoppers” and “The Saddest Dog in Town”, reach their penultimate episodes. The Treetoppers are trying to find a missing will that would save their treehouse, but no luck. And now the demolition men are asking the councillor whether or not they have the green light to demolish the old house and the treehouse with it.

Lucy and Martin Denton are not having much luck tracing the owner of the “Saddest Dog in Town” either and turn to the local newspaper for help. Then a lorry passes by and the dog runs after it because he has recognised the engine sound. His rightful owner at last?

Sadie, Cook and Grovel all jump on the table in fright when they see mice on the bench, not realising they are only sugar mice intended as a gift for them. They not only end up feeling very silly but lose their treat as well, because the cat ate the mice.

Princess II, 14 January 1984

Princess II cover 14 January 1984

  • School of Dark Secrets! (artist Carlos Cruz)
  • The Ghostly Ballerina (photo story)
  • Fairy Tale (artist Julio Bosch)
  • Suzy and Snowdrop (artist Peter Wilkes ) – final episode
  • Best of Friends… (photo story) – final episode
  • Sheena and the Treetoppers (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Sadie-in-Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • Princess – Bright Ideas Box (feature)

Surprisingly, there is no Princess Di pin-up in this issue. Instead, we get a how-to-make page. Meanwhile, two stories end this issue and two reach their penultimate episodes.

Feeling responsible for Katie and Lizzie falling out, Linda hatches a plan to bring the “Best of Friends” back together. It not only succeeds but gets Linda happily accepted as a third friend as well.

In “Suzy and Snowdrop”, matters come to a head when Jane runs off because of her demanding Aunt Alice – but doesn’t get far because she falls asleep in the stable. Meanwhile, Suzy discovers why Aunt Alice has been so demanding – she was trying to get Jane to take her place after she lost her nerve from a riding accident. Auntie turns over a new leaf and even gives Snowdrop back to Suzy.

“Fairy Tale” and “The Ghostly Ballerina” are the stories on their penultimate episodes. The evil Morgana is obliged to kiss the Frog Prince to make him human – “Yeeeuuurgh!”, to which he replies, “the feeling’s mutual!”, so he can kiss Sleeping Beauty awake. But now Morgana is sending everyone to the executioner’s block so she can be fairest in the land. Now this really has us wondering what can happen in the final episode to have everyone in this mix-up of fairy tales live happily ever after – minus Morgana, of course.

Clare Thomas is now well and truly understanding the nightmare of being in the power of “The Ghostly Ballerina”, and it’s driving her mad. Then her friend Sonja suspects something is wrong. So we know Sonja will help somehow and eagerly await to see how she does so in the final episode.

For some reason “School of Dark Secrets” gets an exclamation mark in its title this week. Maybe it’s because Judy gets a clue about its dark secret: a legendary coven of witches that needs 13 to be complete. Could this coven be the staff at her school – which Judy has suddenly noticed are all women? This could explain the weird goings-on Judy saw in the night, but they are one short of 13, to Judy’s relief. But in the final panel the headmistress says: “Our waiting is over. The thirteenth one is here!” Now who can that be? Oh, surely not…who we think it is?

The Treetoppers Secret Society is formed, but it gets Sheena and her siblings into trouble with their parents. They get a grounding that interferes with their next meeting. Can they find their new friend Jenny and explain?

Grovel is lazing about, as usual (watching Playschool?!). But he is forced to get his hands dirty digging up his shoes, which Princess Bee’s corgi has buried in the garden. The trouble is, the corgi has buried a lot of other shoes in the garden too, not to mention bones.

 

Princess II, 24 December 1983

Princess cover 24 December 1983

  • The Last Christmas Carol (artist Purita Campos) – complete story
  • The Grovel Game – feature (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Ghostly Ballerina (photo story)
  • Fairy Tale (artist Julio Bosch)
  • Best of Friends… (photo story) – first episode
  • Cinders on Ice (artist unknown) – final episode
  • Sadie-in-Waiting (artist Joe Collins)

 

More Princess II’s have been added to my collection. Christmas may have been a couple of months ago, but here is Princess II’s one and only Christmas issue anyway.

Leading off the cover is a complete Christmas story from Purita Campos. Sue and Jill Crawley are new to the neighbourhood and feel lonely. They go out carol singing for charity, which turns into a spooky time travel trip to the Blitz. They give an old lady her final Christmas carol and return with souvenirs of the 1940s.

Christmas carolling does wonders on Grovel too. He’s pressganged into being Santa Claus but is more like the Grinch until Christmas carols work some Christmas magic on him and he starts enjoying himself. We can also play “The Grovel Game”, where the objective is to be the first to give Princess Bee her presents, but Grovel is trying to stop you.

There is also a Christmas dinner in “Cinders on Ice” to celebrate the fairytale ending we all expected. Yep, that story was definitely written to tie up with the Christmas issue.

The Ghostly Ballerina gives Clare Thomas the power to dance brilliantly, and everyone is surprised at the sudden improvement. But it is obvious that the power comes at an unpleasant price, which starts with it turning Clare’s friend Sonja against her.

Fairy tales get screwed up and turned on their heads in “Fairy Tale”. This week it’s a dotty old genie who is hard of hearing and can’t hear wishes properly – or even hear if what people say really is a wish. As a result, our protagonists get unwanted hair length and now they look like Rapunzels.

In the new photo story, Lizzie and Katie are “Best of Friends”. Then the old “three’s a crowd” comes in between them when new girl Linda comes along, and Katie’s in tears.

No Cheers for Cherry (1978-79)

Sample Images

No Cheers for Cherry 1No Cheers for Cherry 2No Cheers for Cherry 3

Published: Jinty 2 September 1978 – 13 January 1979

Episodes: 17

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Geen applaus voor Sandra [No Applause for Sandra] in: Groot Tina Zomerboek 1983-4)

Plot

In Inverglay, Scotland, Cherry Campbell dreams of going on stage and has already taught herself several song-and-dance numbers. One day Cherry’s Aunt Margot from England comes to visit. She’s a cunning, manipulative woman out to bamboozle her naïve sister out of priceless family heirlooms. But there’s worse. She also gets her hands on Cherry, saying she will develop Cherry’s talent at their theatre business, Theatre Rose.

The reality is, Aunt Margot only wants Cherry as unpaid help, a slave to the whole family on the barge, as her son (Marvin) and daughter (Michelle) are too selfish and lazy to help out. Uncle Bernard treats Cherry slightly better. He seems to have a soft spot for her, but he sure knows how to act sweet and kind when it comes to fooling her, and for the most part he exploits her as much as the rest of the family.

Cherry is shocked to see the reality of Theatre Rose. It’s a barge and the stage is one the family set up and take down wherever they stop. It’s not what she expected and she wonders if it really will help her dreams of making it on stage. Moreover, it is soon obvious that Cherry’s relatives are far better actors when it comes to swindling than the stage. Theatre Rose is not making much money and audiences are not impressed with the performances. In one episode a bunch of schoolkids give Aunt and Uncle a well-deserved pelting (and we don’t just mean the ham acting). From the sound of it, it happens to them all the time. In another episode, Michelle and Marvin send the audience to sleep with their wooden acting, which is because they don’t care about the family business anymore; they want to break away from Theatre Rose and make their own way as performers.

What keeps Cherry in their power is that she is just as naïve and good-natured as her mother. For this reason, she just can’t see she is being taken advantage of, not even when it is staring at her right in the face. For example, she notices that she has done nothing but housework since she arrived instead of learning how to perform but thinks nothing of it. In another episode, she is forced to work in cold, wet clothes after nasty Marvin sends her flying into freezing water until she becomes ill. But not even this makes her wake up to the way she is being treated.

What’s more, her relatives are very cunning at pulling the wool over her eyes, to the extent of convincing her that all the slaving she is doing is all for the benefit of her training as an actress. And as long as Cherry doesn’t realise she is being abused, she is making no moves to escape or seek help. There’s no schooling either where she might get help or welfare taking a hand; her uncle and aunt keep her off school so she can continue slaving for them, and Cherry is only too happy to be off school to realise why.

One evening Cherry puts on an impromptu song-and-dance number for her relatives and Uncle Bernard instantly sees her star quality – and the money it will make for them. But they don’t say that to her. However, they don’t want her getting downhearted and going home because they will lose their skivvy. So Uncle Bernard suckers her even more by promising to coach her and have her think that it will be his doing that makes her a star when her big break comes. But he’s not offering her real coaching at all; it’s all part of keeping her as the barge skivvy. What coaching Cherry gets comes from herself. Unknown to them, she learns the scripts of their plays as a secret understudy so she can step in when one of the relatives can’t perform, and prove herself that way.

Her chance comes when Marvin skips off to play guitar at a club instead of performing at the family play. Aunt and Uncle grudgingly allow Cherry to replace Marvin as she knows the lines: “Anyhow, most of the old ducks in the audience were asleep last night. They probably wouldn’t notice if a performing seal went on in Marvin’s place!”

But Cherry has to turn things around into a Charlie Chaplin-esque comedy performance because that’s the only way her costume will allow it. As a result, the performance is a smashing success (for once) and everyone loves her. Cheers for Cherry at last. It’s her first debut, and Cherry even discovers a press cutting about it later. Will it lead to better things with her relatives?

Not really. They are just as bad as ever, and next night they hustle her away when she’s about to do a repeat performance because a social welfare officer is sniffing around and getting too close to Cherry’s situation.

Then Cherry gets spotted by famous actress Eena Blair, who offers her an audition. Her relatives are out to take advantage, to the point of snatching the bracelet Eena gave her and selling it, which breaks Cherry’s heart. But they doll her up in such a ridiculous way that she fails the audition because she feels wrong. Even her scheming uncle is sincerely disappointed for her and gives her genuine advice: keep going and keep faith in herself.

Later, Cherry bumps into her classmates from Inverglay. They offer her a chance to go home, but Uncle cons her into staying with crocodile tears about how she’s breaking his heart at leaving. Another chance to escape gone, without Cherry even realising it.

Another break comes when Cherry joins a street busker in a performance and gets noticed again. This time it’s Doris Keene of “The Keene Kids”, an agency that provides young actors for commercials. Aunt and Uncle are all for it (because of the money of course) and put on a free show so Doris will see her in action. But Michelle gets jealous at Cherry getting all the breaks and steals the audition for herself. She gets a job in commercials and is happy to break away from Theatre Rose.

What finally frees Cherry from her sly relatives is news that her mother has been involved in an accident, and this time she insists on returning home. The problem is money, which Cherry still doesn’t realise her aunt and uncle are pocketing at her expense. They have even spent the money Cherry just earned at another performance on a whole new wardrobe for Michelle at her new job.

Then an audience, remembering Cherry’s one-night Charlie Chaplin-esque performance, turn up in droves to see her again. Cherry puts on her self-taught song and dance numbers and raises a huge sum of money. Aunt Margot is all set to pocket it and spend it on home comforts, but Uncle Bernard’s kinder half towards Cherry prevails (or maybe he doesn’t want to risk Cherry finally realising the truth). He lets her have all the money and gives her permission to go home, saying her talent outclasses the Theatre Rose and there is nothing more they can do for her.

Aunt Margot is furious: “What about your grand plans for her? She was going to keep us in clover, you old fool!”

This is said right in front of Cherry, but she still doesn’t grasp the significance. Instead, she is full of tears and gratitude towards her uncle, and to the very end she fails to realise they’ve being exploiting and cheating her from the very beginning.

Cherry returns home and is relieved to see her mother has recovered. But she suffers from people gossiping about her failure as an actress. Plus her schoolwork is lousy because her Aunt and Uncle kept her off school. She has also lost heart in pursuing the stage.

Then Cherry is asked to participate in a variety show for charity, which she intends to be her swansong. However, her performance is televised and gets her noticed, and she receives an offer to star in a children’s show.

Thoughts

This story is in the vein of the Cinderella theme, which was prevalent in Jinty and Tammy during the 1970s. It’s also one of the last at IPC because the theme was phasing out by the late 1970s at IPC (though it remained popular at DCT). The difference is that this Cinderella just doesn’t realise that she is a Cinderella and is being taken advantage of by grasping, manipulative relatives. So, unlike Cinderella Smith, Make-Believe Mandy and other Cinderella types in girls’ comics she is not trying to escape the abuse or fight against it, because she just can’t see it for what it is. And others can’t see it either because it is itinerant (travelling with the barge) and Cherry is not going to school where someone might realise what is going on and help her. Nor can Cherry use her talent to console herself against the abuse and use it as a means of escape as so many of her counterparts have done.

So how the heck can this Cinderella escape from this situation? It clearly lies in either Cherry wising up or something freeing her from the exploitation, or even both. One possibility is that Cherry might win respect from her guardians as her talent develops and they treat her better. But we soon see that’s no good either. Like so many other abusive relatives they either get jealous of it (Michelle) or take advantage of it and pocket the profits (Aunt and Uncle). Maybe Uncle Bernard’s soft side for Cherry will somehow help; his attitude seems to improve a bit, such as when he is genuinely disappointed she failed her audition. Or maybe the people who take an interest in her might make her an offer that frees her without realising. But nothing seems to work, and it gets increasingly frustrating to watch as Cherry remains in the clutches of her mean relatives without her even realising what is going on.

In the end, Cherry does become a star and gets a lot of big breaks during her time with Theatre Rose. But did Theatre Rose actually help her to do it – in spite of itself? Would Cherry would have gotten those breaks without Theatre Rose? Did Uncle Bernard really help develop her talent after all, albeit in an underhand, roundabout way? After all, her mother can’t afford acting school, so she was less likely to get a break if she had stayed in Inverglay. Guess Jinty leaves it up to her readers to decide.

Still, the fact remains that Cherry’s relatives got away with exploiting her without any consequences whatsoever. Michelle even got a plum job out of it, which she wouldn’t even have got without Cherry. We are left wishing Theatre Rose gets struck by lightning and sinks to the bottom of the river or something.

Tammy & Misty 16 February 1980

Tammy cover 16 February 1980

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • A Girl Called Midnight (artist Juliana Buch) – first episode
  • Who’s Your Valentine? – Feature (writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Spider Woman (artist Jaume Rumeu)
  • Misty’s House of Mystery Game – part 3
  • Sister in the Shadows (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Sour Grapes for Sophie (artist Tony Coleman) – first episode
  • Too Close an Encounter (artist Jose Canovas) – Strange Story from the Mists

Valentine’s Day is nigh, and to commemorate I have brought out the Tammy Valentine issue from 1980. This is the last Tammy Valentine issue to have the Cover Girls honour the event. Later in 1980 they were dropped in favour of story covers.

This is not the first time Tammy used the joke of big sister feeling narked that little sis got more Valentines than her. The same gag was used on the Cover Girls’ first Tammy Valentine cover in 1974. Talk about bookends.

Also in the issue is a feature that cites old customs for finding a Valentine before presenting a “Misty-ic Messenger board”, where you can ask Valentine questions to an oracle board. Definitely influence of Misty here on this one.

This week’s episode of Wee Sue could have been used for the Valentine theme, but instead she’s going shopping for new clothes. Sounds simple, but Sue is embarrassed to have to use the toddlers department because of her size, and that’s just the start of the hijinks.

The Strange Story from the Mists, “Too Close an Encounter”, looks like it was originally written, perhaps drawn, for Misty. The story length (four pages) and artist (from the Misty team) point to this. Jackie’s grandfather claims to be in contact with aliens and they’re going to land in the garden, but nobody believes him except his granddaughter Jackie. Everyone else laughs and Mum thinks grandfather is going senile. But will grandfather have the last laugh on them?

Two stories begin this week: “Sour Grapes for Sophie” and “A Girl Called Midnight“. Oddly enough, both feature newcomers who act awkwardly towards everyone around them. In Midnight’s case it’s because nobody wants to foster her for long; her “black midnight moods” see to that. Now what can these moods be, and how will her latest foster family, the Brights, react to them? In “Sour Grapes for Sophie”, Sophie Drew starts a new school, but is rude to both classmates and teachers alike, and turns them against her. At the end of the episode Sophie has a sudden burst of repentance and explains to classmate Jackie that she does want to make friends, but only has six months. Now what can Sophie mean by that, and what’s it got to do with sour grapes? And even if she is sorry, can she undo the damage she has done on her first day?

Bella qualifies for the Moscow Olympics despite all the obstacles she has encountered in the competition. But now she finds out why her wealthy guardians didn’t show up to cheer her on: they’ve gone bankrupt. This has left her high and dry and stranded in a foreign country, with no way to return home or press on to Moscow. At least she has plenty of experience with being stranded in foreign countries, and she has something that could lead her to her next move: a note from a well-wisher.

Bullies Angela and Honey stoop to a whole new low in “Sister in the Shadows“, and it’s alarming. They’ve not only got the whole class sending poor Wendy to Coventry but get a family member help to play tricks on her too. What B.S. they fed to big brother to pose as a reporter and help trick Wendy into breaking a new school rule we don’t know. But it’s having us really dread what those two horrors have in store next for Wendy.

Spider Woman has dragged Paula off to her lair, where she brags about her latest plan to conquer the world with her specially bred spiders. Then she just lets Paula go, saying she will require Paula’s services later. Now what can she mean by that? It’s not like she is using mind control on Paula, as she did on the two girls she captured in her first story. Added to that, something is creeping up behind in the bushes behind Paula and her family. Meanwhile, the Navy find the boat Mrs Webb infested with her man-eating spiders and begin to realise Mrs Webb is up to her tricks again.

 

Blind Faith (1980)

Sample Images

Blind Faith pg 1 (26 April 1980)
From Jinty 26 April 1980. Art by Philip Townsend
Blind Faith pg 2 (26 April 1980)
From Jinty 26 April 1980. Art by Philip Townsend
Blind Faith pg 3 (26 April 1980)
From Jinty 26 April 1980. Art by Philip Townsend
Blind Faith pg 4 (26 April 1980)
From Jinty 26 April 1980. Art by Philip Townsend

Published: Jinty 26 April 1980 – 30 August 1980

Episodes: 14

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Clare Hollings loves Dad’s horse Cromwell. Dad is training him up for the Hampton Cup, which the family want to win to bring more publicity to their riding stables. She is annoyed Dad is not allowing her to ride Cromwell for the trophy, although she is the only one Cromwell really responds to, and it’s only with her riding him that he can tackle the water jump, which is a real sticking point for him as he has a fear of water. Despite her successful demonstration of this, Dad still won’t allow her to ride Cromwell in the competition as his mind is set on an experienced rider, not a novice.

Then Cromwell is blinded in an accident. Although it was dog Caesar’s fault for chasing a rabbit right under Cromwell’s hooves, putting him off his stride and causing him to fall over the jump, Dad blames Clare, saying it happened because she was showing off, and now Cromwell will have to be destroyed.

Mum protests at how unfair Dad is towards Clare. He eventually repents his harshness, saying it was an emotional reaction to his ruined hopes of saving his business. But the damage is done. He’s got Clare blaming herself and she goes on the run with Cromwell. She’s not going to have Cromwell destroyed, and she’s going to show Dad that Cromwell can win the cup, whether he’s blind or not.

This means somehow working out how to train a blind horse to jump, staying a fugitive and ahead of all attempts to find her and Cromwell, and keeping Cromwell safe from being destroyed. And all the while, Clare’s blaming herself for what happened and is having horrible nightmares over it. But soon they are joined by Caesar, who insists on sharing their life on the run and making himself useful.

Other dangers arise in addition to living wild. In one instance, Cromwell gets stolen and sold to the knacker’s yard. Clare breaks into the knackers to rescue him, Caesar lets all the other ponies loose as a cover, and somebody yells that Clare is stealing all the ponies. Which means the police could be after her on criminal charges as well as running away from home.

In another instance Cromwell is facing down an angry bull, but Caesar succeeds in chasing the bull off. Unfortunately, Farmer Monkton, who owns the bull, shoots Caesar dead (he has the grace to provide a grave for Caesar). He realises who Clare is and says he’s calling her parents.

We then find out Monkton has a daughter named Angie. Like Cromwell, Angie was blinded in a riding accident. It hasn’t put her off horses though. All sympathetic, Angie helps Clare to escape. But then there’s another problem – Cromwell has broken loose and heading for a cliff he can’t see. Angie uses her guide dog, Sabre, to turn Cromwell back from the cliff. Angie then helps Clare and Cromwell into hiding.

However, it doesn’t take Monkton long to realise this. He tails Angie and soon finds the fugitives. But then he sees how happy Angie looks in helping them, and she hasn’t looked happy since she went blind. He becomes torn between what he should do and what his heart says. For the moment his heart seems to rule as he does not turn Clare and Cromwell in this time.

Clare begins to make progress in teaching Cromwell to jump blind. Angie gets them an entry form for the Hampton Cup, which they have to enter under assumed names. But there is one big problem: entry fee is £20. Where can they get money like that? Overhearing this, Monkton gives Angie the money. Angie soon realises why and is so grateful.

Cromwell is making further progress. That water jump is still a sticking point with him, but Clare persists with it until Cromwell doesn’t seem to have a problem with it anymore. But at the Hampton Cup itself – what a time for Cromwell to refuse the water jump!

However, Clare’s parents are watching, realise it’s her in disguise, and cheer her on. Encouraged by this, Clare completes the round. Clare and Cromwell succeed in winning the Hampton Cup. However, Amelia, Clare’s old nemesis who was originally considered for riding Cromwell in the cup, discovers Clare’s disguise and gets her disqualified for entering under false pretences. But Clare has made her point to Dad, and he agrees to let Cromwell live. Moreover, she’s created huge publicity for the riding school in the press, so the riding school gets saved after all.

Thoughts

This story is still remembered – not as a Jinty classic mind you, but for the criticism that it is too unbelievable. A blind show-jumping horse is what the critics seem to find implausible, though there have been counter-claims that there have been a few blind show-jumping horses in real life. One such is Wren Blae Zimmerman. Perhaps it’s a matter of opinion. Still, girls’ comics are well-known for stretching credibility anyway, and I’ve seen far more incredulous stuff in girls’ comics than a blind show-jumping horse. So now we’re moving on.

Though not one of Jinty’s classics, the story certainly delivers on emotion and drama. Clare is not only faced with saving her beloved horse from the scrap heap (a common enough dilemma in girls’ serials) but also with a guilt complex and trauma over blaming herself for Cromwell’s condition. Like many girls’ serials dealing with guilt complexes, it is unfair and unreasonable, and this one is the result of Dad handling things badly. Although Dad repents this pretty quickly, it comes too late to help Clare. Moreover, even if they did sort out the guilt complex, there is still the matter of Clare wanting to save Cromwell and Dad insisting he be destroyed. Added to that, Clare later sees the horror of Caesar being shot dead. Now that is a shocking moment to have in a girls’ serial, and one reader wrote in to express how moved she was at that scene.

Unlike some emotional stories such as “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, the emotional side is not drawn out, nor does the situation just go on and on with no end in sight. Clare, though she has her moments on the run, does not spend a lot of time endlessly stumbling from one scrape to another until she finally gets a break as some protagonists in girls’ stories do. This helps to keep the pacing credible and the story does not start to drag or get tedious. Unlike “Over the Rainbow” or “For Peter’s Sake!”, Clare does not spend a vast number of episodes on the run making one narrow escape after another. In fact, it does not take her many episodes to find the help she needs, in the form of the Monktons.

The Monktons are well-conceived, rounded characters who get their own development. Angie, though blinded from riding, still loves horses and would love to get back into the saddle. No, she hasn’t become embittered or lost her nerve in any way over riding. And she does make a comeback in a way, through Clare. Mr Monkton is initially crusty and unsympathetic towards Clare’s situation, and we can see it stems from bitterness over his daughter being blinded in a riding accident. He scorns the idea of his daughter wanting to ride again although she is blind. If only he had access to the Internet; it lists a number of stories about blind horse riders, including show-jumpers. Maybe Angie will go that way in the end anyway. After all, this is girls’ comics. And frankly, Angie’s crying out for her own serial, a serial about a blind show-jumping girl (say, is there such a serial somewhere?). As it is, we are impressed with Mr Monkton turning into a softer character and becoming more human once he sees it is doing Angie a world of good. He goes from nearly unseating Clare’s mission to helping her achieve it.

Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (1979-1981)

Sample Images

Gayes Gloomy Ghost 1 1
The Arthurian legend according to “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost”. Jinty 5 July 1980.
Gayes Gloomy Ghost 2 1
The Arthurian legend according to “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost”. Jinty 5 July 1980.

Published: Jinty 22 December 1979 – 21 November 1981 (final issue)

Episodes: 96

Artist: Hugh Thornton-Jones

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

In the vein of “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” and “The Jinx from St. Jonah’s” is this regular humour strip, which lasted from 1979 right up until Jinty’s final issue. At 96 episodes, Gloomy Ghost had a respectable innings, though not as long as Fun-Bag or Katie Jinx.

Jinty was not high on ghost stories, so there is some irony that her last regular humour strip is one to star a ghost, and also use ghosts and hauntings to raise loads of laughs with readers.

Our story begins at Stoney Hall, and initially there are three ghosts. They hate how Stoney Hall has become commercialised and they can’t scare anyone because the tourists are all unbelievers and don’t show ghosts any respect. They consider the caretaker’s daughter Gaye the worst of the worst. Two of them pack their bags and leave, never to be seen again. The remaining ghost, a knight called Sir Roger de Grohan, wishes he could materialise so he could really throw a scare into those tourists. The Amalgamated Association of Resident Ghosts and Haunters (A.A.R.G.H.) gives Sir Roger the ability. But when Sir Roger tries it out on Gaye, things don’t exactly go scaringly. Far from being terrified, Gaye is delighted at the ghost, and the two end up striking a friendship.

And so the premise is established for the rest of the strip. Sir Roger and Gaye become firm friends…well, most of the time. Much of the humour derives from their differences and character flaws. Sir Roger is gluttonous and always after food. He can be boastful too; for example, his iceskating ability (below) is nowhere near as brilliant as he claims it is. On the other hand, it helps to get rid of a bully and Gaye gives him the reward she knows he will love: food. He is also a coward at heart. Despite his being a ghost, people scare him more often than the other way around.

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Gaye’s flaw is that she has bit of a mean, bullying streak at times. Indeed, several other supernatural forces, including Henry VIII, meet their match in her. She calls Henry an “over-stuffed spectre!” and chases him off with a broom. Henry offers Sir Roger his commiserations about having Gaye for a companion: “Verily, thou has a right one there! And I thought I wast hag-ridden!”

Sir Roger, who prides himself on being cunning, often has to engage in a battle of tricks with Gaye to see who can outsmart the other. Often he proves himself crafty and also makes the right observation, such as Elizabethan gear suiting Gaye far more than a hideous disco outfit. Other times it is Gaye who wins in the end. And when it comes to getting out of scrapes they constantly land in (supernatural or otherwise), Gaye has the edge on brains.

How exactly Sir Roger became a ghost is not established and he is never given an origin. We can safely assume he died from decapitation as his head becomes separated from his body on several occasions. In one episode his head gets accidentally switched with that of Anne Boleyn! It is a pity this was not turned into a full episode. It would have been hilarious to see how Sir Roger goes with Anne’s head and Henry VIII getting the shock of his life to see Sir Roger’s head on Anne.

As Sir Roger is a ghost, a lot of gags derive from the other supernatural forces he brings in with him, such as his mother and father, both of whom wreak havoc on the hall with their demands. The mother is outraged Stoney Hall is sparkling instead of cobwebby, dusty and dull, and Sir Roger is not putting scares into humans. She is a match even for the bossy Gaye, who has to resort to a bit of cunning (a fake telegram from hubby) to get her to leave. But no sooner have they got rid of her when hubby himself descends on the scene. “Crumbs! Here we go again!”

None of the supernatural visitors are outright scary. They are more a nuisance. And of course much humour is derived from Sir Roger being a ghost and having ghostly abilities, including floating, walking through walls, and having the ability to materialise (which sometimes goes a bit wrong). There are also ghost rules to provide humour, such as keeping his sword and armour rusty, and be proud of it. In one episode Sir Roger gets magnetised and has to go through the indignity of a bath to become demagnetised, which comes at the price of losing the rust he is so proud of. He can only hope no other ghosts see him looking so clean and shiny or he will be the laughingstock of the ghost world.

Other gags come from Sir Roger being a real glutton who can eat you out of house and home. He could give Slimer from Ghostbusters a run for his money. For example, in one episode he steps in to make a plump teacher stick to a sponsored slim when she keeps taking naughty snacks. He says it’s all in a good cause – but his ‘help’ seems to include taking opportunities to grab the teacher’s food for himself. Still, he is so successful in slimming the teacher down that she makes a nice sum for charity. On the other hand, Gaye has noticed Sir Roger seems to be putting on a bit for some reason.

Much humour is derived from Sir Roger being from a different time period. Exactly what period Sir Roger is from is a bit inconsistent. Sir Roger’s outfit looks Elizabethan, but he demonstrates throwbacks to living in Tudor, medieval and even Arthurian periods when he was alive. Perhaps some of it should be taken with a pinch of salt, such as his version of King Arthur (above). The throwbacks to earlier times do have their own humour, such as clamping Gaye in the stocks, then she does the same on him to get her own back.

Sir Roger being from another time also lends to plenty of “man out of time” jokes where he has problems understanding the 20th century. For example, he does not understand fruit machines and gets frustrated when he keeps winning “groats” instead of the fruit. In the same amusement arcade he does not understand that the “shoot-a-spook” stall is not shooting real spooks and raises a complaint with the management.

Sometimes Sir Roger’s old-style views work out better than modern times. For example, we have to take Sir Roger’s side when he is shocked to see Gaye dress up in that hideous disco outfit, whereupon he exercises his cunning to see it’s destroyed. In his view, Elizabethan dress is far more becoming, and once Gaye puts it on she thinks it actually suits her very well.

Unlike “Fun-Bag”, which ended on a regular episode, the end of Gloomy Ghost is a definitive one. Sir Roger is offered the chance to join the Hall of Ghosts, but deliberately fails the exam because he mistakenly thinks Gaye will miss him too much. When Gaye finds out, she lends him a bit of…um…help, and this time he passes. Gaye knows she will miss him, but she wants him to pass on to the Hall of Ghosts. And when he does, his luggage goes with him, Stoney Hall loses its last remaining ghost, and there is no scope for appearances in the merger with Tammy. The Gloomy Ghost is well and truly laid to rest.