Monthly Archives: September 2021

Mike and Terry (1979)

Sample Images

Published: Jinty 7 July 1979 – 29 September 1979

Episodes: 12

Artist: Peter Wilkes

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Girl Picture Story Library #12 as “The Shadow”

Plot

Mike Temple and his assistant Terry (short for Theresa, apparently) have a well-carved reputation as a detective duo. They witness a man (later named as Jed Adams) being busted from prison and are hot on the trail, but another man, posing as a postman, lures them into a trap that nearly kills them. The killer leaves a calling card that informs them he’s “The Shadow”, Europe’s most wanted criminal, and he’s not called the Shadow for nothing. He’s both clever and dangerous, a master of disguise, as slippery as an oil slick, and nobody knows his true identity. He’s already fooled Mike and Terry with his postman disguise.

They go to investigate an old ruin, a known hideout of the Shadow. Outside they see a councilman in a bowler hat putting up a “no trespassing” sign, then screams of help coming from inside. It’s from a girl being held captive by thugs. They clobber two of the thugs and tie them up, and leave the councilman in charge while they pursue the third, but he gets away with the girl. Worse, too late they discover the councilman was the Shadow in disguise. He had untied the other men while they were gone and left his calling card behind. Mike and Terry are left with trying to figure out the connection between the convict and the girl, and why the Shadow wants them both. A poster informs them that the girl is Shirley Gold, a pop singer.  

Mike decides to have a word with Inspector Dent, though he and Dent do not get along. Terry heads back to the office but realises one of the Shadow’s goons is tailing her. She tricks him into thinking she’s gone back to the office and waiting for Mike to turn up, so as to leave him hanging around outside the office so they can watch him. She secretly heads on to Inspector Dent’s, where she finds Mike has scored a blank with Dent. They slip back and keep an eye on the goon until he moves, and they follow him. The trail leads to a graveyard. 

A hand rises out of a coffin and pulls a gun. Terry jumps on the coffin lid and slams it down on the gunman’s fingers. They discover the coffin is the entrance to an underground hideout. They meet the Shadow, who detonates a device that causes a cave-in. The rocks narrowly miss them, but they are trapped. Using a match to find a draught, Mike finds a way out. 

The Shadow gallingly sends a bouquet of flowers to their office congratulating them on their escape and informing them his next victim is Lester Sinclair, an upper crust vaudeville lady famous for her dog act. They warn Miss Lester, but she doesn’t listen. Mike figures the Shadow will strike at Miss Lester’s fancy dress party, so he is going disguised as extra staff and Terry in fancy dress. But it has to be said that the Shadow would laugh at their disguises (along with the readers!). 

At the party Terry spots the Shadow and follows him, but he traps her with an expert knife throwing act. Downstairs, the lights go off, and when they come on, Miss Lester is gone. Mike and Terry put up a pursuit, but the Shadow gets away with his victim. They realise the Shadow was acting as decoy while his goons pulled the abduction. Later they discover the Shadow took Miss Lester’s performing dogs as well.

Mike goes for another word with Dent, who is a bit more helpful this time. He informs them that the missing convict was an electrician. Meanwhile, Mary, a friend of Terry’s, informs her that there are some strange goings-on at the old Hippodrome, which is scheduled for demolition, but an amateur acting society has permission to use it in the meantime. However, they’re being plagued by sabotaged scenery, things falling off the wall, strange noises and people getting locked in rooms. Investigating, Terry discovers an old poster of a show dating back three years, and Shirley Gold and Lester were in the show. They figure the Shadow is trying to kidnap the whole cast, and the remaining ones are Charles Damon (ventriloquist), the Rinko Dancers, the Dart Brothers (acrobats) and Dirk Dare (trick cyclist). They figure Damon is the next target. Feeling it is unlikely Damon will listen to them, Mike decides grabbing Damon first is the only way. 

But when they arrive, they see the Shadow’s goons are already waiting in the wings for Damon. After finding and rescuing the manager the goons left tied up, they recruit the manager’s aid in an impromptu conjuring act and use the vanishing cabinet to make Damon disappear from the goons’ sight. The goons turn nasty at this, but Mike pulls a swift, hilarious hat trick on one and hooks the other. 

Together with Damon, they make a fast exit, and have to elude yet another goon along the way. They head back to the haunted hippodrome. The caretaker, Mr Cornelius Mumble, agrees to protect Damon. Then Terry finds herself being creeped out by a ghostly voice. Of course it’s the Shadow, who planted a microphone on Terry, and they soon find he’s made the grab on Damon and left his calling card. The Hippodrome is riddled with secret passages and such, making such things all too easy. 

They soon learn the Shadow’s already taken the Rinko Dancers and Dart Brothers. That leaves Dirk Dare, who is working at a fair at Bletcham. Mike decides to go on his own, but Terry isn’t having that and sneaks along. She takes a rest at a field, and is in time to see the Shadow and his thugs arrive. She’s just ahead of them and manages to pull a fast one on them by hiding a “beware of the bull” sign. The bull trick delays the Shadow’s goons, but not long enough for Terry to get a good start on them at the fair. It’s hijinks on the fairground rides as they give chase. Mike, in another laughable disguise as a gypsy, helps Terry to hide.  

They discover that Dirk Dare has swapped trick cycling for the human cannon ball, and he’s just been shot out of the cannon. When he hits the net, it is the goons who grab him, net and all. Everyone on the show bill has now been rounded up by the Shadow. They can’t figure out why the Shadow also wanted the electrician, but when Terry points out electricians are used for stage lighting and effects, they realise the connection. They head back to the hippodrome to check out any connection Adams had to the show. Mr Mumble informs them that Adams was working at the show, but lost his memory when some scenery fell on him. 

Then Terry finds Adams himself, who has escaped the Shadow and is willing to talk. He says the Shadow is bringing the old cast together to help him remember something, which must be a job he pulled but the amnesia made him forget what. Terry takes Adams back to the Hippodrome before the Shadow discovers he is missing. In the library, Terry goes through old newspapers and discovers there was a ruby necklace robbery on the night Adams lost his memory. She figures Adams slipped out of the performance to steal it, but the amnesia made him forget where he hid it. The Shadow has reunited the cast to restage the show in the hope it will jog Adams’ memory. Unwisely, Mike and Terry discuss their deductions in public. One of the Shadow’s goons overhears and reports back to him. The Shadow says he will be ready for them, and the show goes on for Adams’ benefit. Terry then realises Mr Mumble could be in danger because of this, and she warns him. 

The show does bring back Adams’ memory. He retrieves the necklace from its hiding place in the wall and hands it over to Terry and Mike. The Shadow is ready with a gun, but Terry feigns a faint to pull the carpet out from under him. The Shadow is temporarily knocked out and revealed as Cornelius Mumble. But the Shadow recovers and gets away to fight another day. At least Mike and Terry have the consolation of foiling the Shadow’s plot, and they are going to get a big reward for recovering the necklace and freeing the kidnapped people. 

Thoughts

Though Jinty had her share of mystery stories, the detective/sleuthing theme was something she seldom touched upon. The same went for Tammy. Jinty published this one because her readers clamoured for one after she ran a competition asking readers what stories they would like. It was a pity Jinty did not produce more detective stories or do a sequel on this story, which she could easily have done. The ending left everything set up for a sequel with “The Shadow Strikes Again” or something. Perhaps a sequel was planned but didn’t eventuate for some reason, possibly the change in Jinty editorship or the Penny merger in 1980. Or maybe the story just wasn’t popular enough for a sequel.

Mike and Terry were probably riding on the popularity of “The Zodiac Prince”, the first Jinty story to have a male protagonist as the star of the show, as it is the second Jinty story to have a male as one of the main protagonists. Unlike the Zodiac Prince, Mike isn’t quite the star of the show – more of a co-star with his assistant Terry, and she eclipses him on a number of occasions. She shows more brain, comes up with more of the brilliant deductions, and also does more of the work. She also gets a whole lot more fun, as she rubs shoulders with the Shadow and his goons more than Mike does. She’s not scared to tackle a villain when needed and can move like lightning for a fast move. However, that’s not to say Mike can’t pull his share of the fast moves or quick thinking. Perhaps his best moment is his impromptu conjuring act where he pulls some fast tricks on the goons that are as funny as they are fast. 

Mike and Terry also have a lot to offer in the way of humour. They aren’t goofy or klutzy, but they give plenty of light-hearted moments, such as when they return a dog that’s almost as big as Terry or when Terry pulls the bull trick on the goons. Their only serious incompetence is their lame disguises, seen twice in the story, and the readers just have to laugh. You would think that as they are pursuing a master of disguise, they would pick up a few tips, but no. The Shadow could give them some lessons. 

A necklace, albeit a valuable one, sounds like a lot of trouble to kidnap and assemble an old cast for. Still, the initial plan must have been to kidnap only Adams. But the Shadow hadn’t counted on Adams’ amnesia, and the upcoming demolition of the hippodrome made him resort to desperate measures to restore Adams’ memory. How exactly he knew the location of the necklace needed to be prised out of Adams’ brain is not explained. We can only assume it was through some connection the Shadow once had at the hippodrome, perhaps at the original show. 

It is a pity the Shadow did not return. He is such a brilliant villain. He’s cunning and always has 101 tricks up his sleeve. From the looks of things, many of them come from the days when he was a performer of some sort, perhaps a knife-throwing act. He makes ingenious use of darkness, shadows, costumes and creepy old hideouts to lurk in the shadows, conceal his identity, and frighten people. He’s an amazing disguise artist, and such a slippery eel that he rivals Houdini and the Scarlet Pimpernel. There also a strong dash of the vaudeville about him, which makes him even more colourful. Any prison would have a hard time holding the Shadow, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he has escaped prison time and time again. 

Mike and Terry had the potential to return, but they didn’t, and no other detective story appeared in Jinty. This is rather puzzling. Jinty must have seen the potential for more detective stories, as the demand was there. Perhaps it was editorship changes or the Penny merger. Or it could be to do with neither Jinty nor Tammy not bothering much with detective stories and preferring girls to solve mysteries rather than private eyes. Detective stories were seen far more often in DCT titles.

The Disappearing Dolphin (1979)

Sample Images

Published: Jinty 16 June 1979 to 1 September 1979 

Episodes: 12

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Girl Picture Story Library #4 as “The Dolphin Mystery”

Plot

Paula and her best friend Chris are on a school archaeological scuba-diving expeditition at a submerged Roman town in the Mediterranean. Raymond Gould represents the company funding the expedition and Miss Watson is the teacher leading it. However, there is some hint of locals being opposed to the expedition because they perceive it as a threat to their lifestyle. They don’t like the local dolphins either, regarding them as pests to their lobster fishing. 

At their first dive, Paula and Chris are delighted to befriend a dolphin. The dolphin starts helping the expedition, and he can somehow disappear and reappear again. They name the dolphin Dolphus and know him by a scar on his head. With Dolphus’ help they make their first find, though it’s only a piece of bicycle wheel. 

However, the girls soon discover they have an enemy as well: Mrs Ormerod-Keynes, a creepy lady who lives alone in a creepy house. She owns the land the school is built on (and half the town) and wants to shut down the expedition because it is making too much noise for her liking. Miss Watson is seriously worried about this and they hope a serious archaeological find will make Mrs Ormerod-Keynes reconsider. With Dolphus’ help they find it: Roman pottery with a dolphin emblem and sketches of what could be Roman ruins. Mrs Ormerod-Keynes is not impressed with the finds, but is surprisingly impressed when Paula stands up to her. For the moment she backs off. As they leave Mrs Ormerod-Keynes’ house, Paula notices something odd about Mr Gould: he was keen to tackle Mrs Ormerod-Keynes but was not interested in the find they made or showing it to the museum curator, who thinks it looks promising. 

The other girls get fed up with the expedition, leaving Chris and Paula to tackle the third dive alone. With Dolphus’ help they find a submerged Roman road, but again Mr Gould shows no interest. Instead, he shows them a new piece of equipment he has just developed to help the expedition. It can take samples from the seabed. 

Their boatman was always difficult, and now he flatly refuses to let his boat be used for the expedition any further. He lets them use his dinghy, but now they’re on their own. Mr Gould’s gadget, along with Dolphus’ assistance, helps things along with putting markers down below and collecting samples. But then the current sweeps Chris away. Dolphus saves her, but they have to leave the samples behind. On the surface, Mr Gould is downright callous when he hears the girls lost their samples because they ran into trouble, calling it a whole day wasted. 

The museum curator is now excited about the finds the girls are making and runs a newspaper article about it. This has the unexpected effect of enraging Mrs Ormerod-Keynes (over more disturbed peace) and the locals (over their lobster fishing). However, the article has an expert on Roman remains, Professor Potts, all excited, and he wants to take a closer look at the dish. 

But the dish has mysteriously disappeared, and they can only conclude someone stole it. The girls go back to retrieve the samples, but find them gone too. They find one sample that got dropped, and then go to investigate the other boats to find any evidence about who might be behind it. They soon find evidence on one boat, but their enemy locks them in and then sails the boat out to be wrecked on the rocks. Dolphus sees them and goes for help on the shore. The locals regard Dolphus as a pest and just throw rocks at him, but Miss Watson is more perceptive and asks a fisherman to help. They rescue the girls in the nick of time. The fisherman says the boat definitely does not belong to one of them.

The girls explain what happened. Miss Watson dives to the site to check things out for herself and finds something. She won’t say who she suspects but goes to arrange a meeting with the person. The girls meet Professor Potts by themselves, who is still impressed with things even though the dish has vanished. But Miss Watson has not returned and the girls get worried. They narrow down the suspects to Mrs Ormerod-Keynes, so they head to her house to do some investigating. At a stable on her property they find a trapdoor. It leads down to an underground sea cavern.

Then Paula falls into the water and Chris can’t get her out. Dolphus turns up to keep eye on Paula, which reveals the cave connects to the open sea and how Dolphus was able to pull those disappearing tricks; the cave was a short cut. Chris goes to Mrs Ormerod-Keynes’ house for help. But when they come back, there is no sign of Paula. Mrs Ormerod-Keynes says the place is her family’s old smugglers’ cave, and now it’s brought another death on her family conscience. 

Actually, Dolphus showed Paula how to get out of the cavern and back to the shore. On a cliff, Paula finds Miss Watson, who is badly injured on the ledge. Chris and Mrs Ormerod-Keynes follow and help to rescue Miss Watson. 

Miss Watson explains that Mr Gould is behind everything. He was using the expedition to investigate valuable mineral deposits behind his company’s back, but hadn’t counted on the girls making a serious archaeological find. This would attract unwanted publicity, which would threaten his scheme. When Miss Watson confronted him, she refused to go halves with him, so he pushed her off the ledge. The only evidence proving his guilt is the dolphin dish he stole, which he is going to throw back into the sea. The girls, Mrs Ormerod-Keynes’ servant Smithers and a fisherman give chase. They see Mr Gould try to throw the dish into the sea, but Dolphus retrieves it. The fisherman is so impressed at this that he’ll tell the other fishermen to leave the dolphins in peace. Mr Gould is soon rounded up.

Mrs Ormerod-Keynes is very happy to join the victory celebration. The dish will go to the British Museum, who will take over the expedition. The headmistress adopts the dolphin as the school emblem.  

Thoughts

“The Disappearing Dolphin” must have been a very popular story with readers. Probably not one of Jinty’s classics, but it has everything to make it enjoyable with any reader: adventure, intrigue, mystery, a creepy lady living in a creepy house, saboteurs, scuba-diving, the lovely Trini Tinturé artwork – always guaranteed to sell a story – and above all, an adorable dolphin. Who doesn’t love a dolphin that just has you go “awwwww”?

All right, maybe those fishermen who see dolphins as pests and even throw rocks at them – what a horrible thing to do to dolphins! We rather suspect poor Dolphus got that scar on his head from a rock thrown at him. If the fishermen learned to make friends with the dolphins as the girls did, everyone would be a whole lot more happy, for Dolphus shows that dolphins are intelligent, friendly creatures. In the end that is what happens, and we can imagine things will be a whole lot better for the fishermen as well as the dolphins.

The story moves at an effective pace: strong but no rushing, so there’s time for character and plot development. It is brilliant with creating the red herrings and the list of suspects, especially the character of Mrs Ormerod-Keynes. She’s a creepy witch type all right. One look at her sinister-looking house that stands alone on a cliff and you instantly think there’s some hidden secret in there, one she doesn’t want revealed, and it’s the real reason why she’s so opposed to the expedition. It turns out her house does hold a secret, but it relates to an entirely different mystery in the story – Dolphus’ disappearing tricks. The reason for Mrs Ormerod-Keynes and the fishermen’s opposition was what it was, and it was an adeptly handled misdirection from the clues that pointed to the real culprit – Raymond Gould. His plot was brilliant, and marooning the girls to be smashed on the rocks showed what he was capable of. His weakness was not being a good actor. He let his true attitude about the expedition filter through too much instead of maintaining a convincing act of a genuine supporter. The girls pick up on his odd behaviour but fail to realise it is a clue. 

We also get a salutary lesson in patience and persistence, both of which are essential qualities in archaeology. The other girls get fed up with the expedition too readily and turn to other school activities. By contrast, Chris and Paula persist, not only in the prospect of it possibly turning tedious but in the obstacles from the locals and their mystery enemy as well. And their efforts are well rewarded, far more than if they had quit like the other girls. They certainly have what it takes to be archaeologists.

Lights Out for Lucinda (1975-76)

Sample Images

Published: Tammy 6 December 1975 to 7 February 1976

Episodes: 10 single episodes, 1 double episode

Artist: Ken Houghton

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Rich girl Lucinda Prior is a spoiled brat, and she guzzles a lot too (not to the proportions of Bessie Bunter but still telling). She has her chauffeur drive out to where her father is having a meeting, which is oddly in the middle of nowhere on the moor. She is surprised to find soldiers on the moor, who tell her they guard a site of a ghost town called Blackmarket, which has been sealed off because WW2 top secret gas manufacturing made it toxic.

Lucinda then finds her chauffeur has stranded her on the moor. He did so because he got fed up with her bratty behaviour. He didn’t give a thought that this could put her in danger, which it does when a mist rises and she gets lost, and then she falls into a river. She washes up in Blackmarket.

Lucinda is astonished to find Blackmarket inhabited by people who are still living in World War II, right down to thinking they’re living in the Blitz. Blackmarket is surrounded by guards who ensure nobody ever leaves, even to the point of opening fire on them. The Blackmarket people say nobody is allowed to leave because the work they do is top secret. They don’t listen when Lucinda tries to tell them the war has long since ended. Soon Lucinda finds she’s in a virtual madhouse with nothing but 12-hour shifts in a WW2 factory, with constant blackouts, no street lighting, stuffy rooms from the blackouts, lack of decent food, and sections of the place that do look bombed-out. It’s all women and girls around her; all the men apparently off to war. Any men present are the army guards, seen only at a distance, and the sneaky spivs (black marketeers).

Certainly a shock to the system for anyone, but Lucinda’s spoiled behaviour is making it even harder for her to handle it. She is expected to pitch in and help the war effort with factory work, and is mortified to work alongside the unwashed and dirtying her hands. But the factory forewoman, Mrs Drew, isn’t the sort to take no for an answer. Moreover, Miss Guzzler is now faced with wartime rations, which lack nutrition and taste. Her spoiled conduct has them calling her “Her Ladyship”. 

Lucinda quickly switches to playing along as best she can, saying she’s confused and suffering memory loss after London bombing, which serves well as a cover for her not having the ID card they keep demanding or ration books. But she still hasn’t broken the pattern of her old behaviour, and is also taking advantage of good-natured people who try to help her, such as her new friend Annie. When Lucinda is told to clean a factory machine and slapped for not doing it, she foists it onto another worker, Gert, but is reported for shirking. To make Mrs Drew even angrier, Gert collapsed because of it. Lucinda’s punishment is to clean the canteen grease trap. 

At this, Lucinda makes a run for it, only to find the way she came has now been sealed, which not only cuts off this means of escape but also cuts Blackmarket even further off from the outside world. Lucinda is now convinced the gas is no longer a danger, so why is the army keeping Blackmarket sealed off? 

Lucinda then encounters a spiv who offers her chocolate flogged from the army, but the chocolate’s even worse than the war rations. She takes other foodstuffs the spiv offers in exchange for her watch. She offers it to Annie and her mother for making up for eating their cheese ration. But the WPC, who have called in about Lucinda’s shirking, confiscate it, and now Lucinda’s in trouble for black marketing as well as being work shy. 

Next day, Lucinda has to clean the canteen grease trap for shirking, which is a vile job. But this time she feels guilty when Annie and her friends pitch in to help her, as she knows this cuts into their 12-hour shifts and they will have to work even longer at the factory. She also begins to sympathise with the women and girls for the life they have to lead in Blackmarket. So much so that she begins to develop the wartime spirit and starts sharing food instead of scoffing it. Lucinda’s also impressed these people can find ways to cheer themselves up despite their hardships. It makes her realise how materialistic and hedonistic her old life was, and she’s making friends for the first time in her life. As time goes on, she begins to like her new way of life because of the friends she’s making, and is surprises herself at how selfless she is becoming. For example, she takes a box of chocolates she obtained earlier from the spivs to Gert to atone for the way she treated her. Along the way she gives a lot of the chocolates to kids who are so thin from wartime rations. Only two are left for Gert, who doesn’t mind when she hears why, and Lucinda did not scoff any of them.

As time goes on, Lucinda finds herself growing confused about whether it is the seventies or WW2. She’s hearing radio newsbroadcasts about how the war’s going, and now she’s even finding herself even thinking like she’s in WW2. Is the place getting to her and having a brainwashing effect, or is something else at work? She has to keep a grip on herself. 

Lucinda is finally introduced to the person in charge of Blackmarket: Commander Hobbs. The Commander issues Lucinda with an ID card and ration cards, but also strips her of her modern clothes and puts her in factory clothes to work in the factory. The Commandant later burns Lucinda’s clothes, destroying the one proof Lucinda belatedly realised she had to show WW2 has long since ended – made in Germany clothes. Lucinda also discovers the Commander deliberately removed the label saying so, who destroys it right in front of Lucinda. 

An air raid strikes, and even the spivs help to cheer people up in the air raid shelter. But Lucinda’s the only one to notice there is no evidence of bombing afterwards and says this out loud. The Commander’s reaction to this makes Lucinda suspect the Commander faked it, but Lucinda realises she’s made the mistake of alerting the Commander to her suspicions. 

Another thing that’s odd is that Lucinda has been at the factory for some time now, but it’s not been established just what they are manufacturing. And since it can’t be for the war effort as they believe, than what or who is it for? They also have to take pills with their rations – ostensibly, vitamin pills. When Lucinda resists taking hers because she hates tablets, Mrs Drew forces her to take it. 

Hearing the spivs are smuggling their goods in from over the wire, Lucinda tries to enlist a spiv to get a message out for help, but he accuses her of being a spy. Lucinda’s resistance against this strange setup has earned her a reputation as a troublemaker and possible Hitler sympathiser. 

Suspicious, Annie takes Lucinda to the Commander, where they overhear an odd remark between the Commander and the spiv about the vitamin pills making Lucinda “safe”. Following this and a strange spell of confusion where she finds herself thinking it is WW2, Lucinda suspects the vitamin tablets are really some sort of mind-bending drug. She decides to test her theory by not taking her pill, but the Commander and Mrs Drew force her to. Lucinda soon feels the effect of the drug, and is forced to stab her hand to break its power. She finds the pain sorely needed to keep a grip on her identity, as the effects of the pill are still lingering. 

There’s another air raid alarm. Now convinced it’s all a fake, Lucinda just walks out of the air raid shelter. Sure enough, there’s no air raid out there, and she suspects the sounds are coming from a door marked “Top Secret No Admittance”. But on the other side of the door the Commander has Lucinda on CCTV and, seeing the threat she poses, presses the red button. This causes an explosion to simulate a house being bombed, and Lucinda is caught in the debris. She is rescued from the rubble and now wondering if there really was a bomb raid. But Mrs Drew makes a slip of the tongue that has her realise the truth. 

Lucinda decides to play along, pretending she has succumbed, until she figures out what to do. Despite what happened before, she again tries to get the spivs to help her. Their reaction to refusing even bribery to help her makes her realise they must be in league with the Commander. The spivs chase Lucinda to the factory, where the workers rally around Lucinda and duff up the spivs for cheating them all the time. 

The fight distracts the Commander long enough for Lucinda to slip into into her top secret room. There she discovers the elaborate and definitely not 1940s technology that’s behind the whole charade. She’s also interested in what’s in an open filing cabinet, but then the Commander and Mrs Drew return. Lucinda manages to slip out, knocking out Mrs Drew in the process, and head back to the factory. At the factory it’s payday, at WW2 rates of £2/14/6, and what the spivs have reported to the Commander about Lucinda has aroused her suspicions. 

Lucinda turns to telling the workers there is no more WW2, they’re being brainwashed by those tablets, and they should take a look behind the locked door. She persuades them to stop taking the tablets, and they are also suspicious by the Commander and Mrs Drew’s reactions. The Commander threatens to blow up the factory at this sudden insurgence and takes Lucinda away to her office. 

In her office the Commander admits to the charade. She recruited WW2 Blitz widows as it was easier to bend their minds, and threw some kids into the mix for more authenticity. The spivs (and presumably the phoney army guards) are escaped convicts. She was using the women as cheap labour, using the WW2 simulation to pay them at 1940s rates instead of modern ones (and with predecimal currency in an era that has dispensed with £sd?!). The goods the workers make are sold at modern prices, making the huge difference between the cost of production and cost of retail a huge profit. The Commander then reveals Blackmarket’s biggest customer is…Lucinda’s father, and all the wealth Lucinda used to enjoy came from the Blackmarket operation. 

Dad comes along, and it looks like he is indeed the man behind Blackmarket and the Commander is his accomplice. He offers to take Lucinda home, nobody the wiser, but Lucinda repulses him. She’s going to help her Blackmarket friends, and runs back to them, despite Dad yelling she could get him thrown in prison. 

Back at the factory, Lucinda finds the workers have recovered their true memories after a break from the pills. Now everyone rises up against the Commander. The Commander and the spivs threaten to quell the revolt with guns, but Dad soon has them rounded up with a real army. 

Dad says he was forced to act the way he did. He genuinely did not know how the Commander was providing the goods so cheaply but was growing suspicous. When the Commander found out Lucinda’s true identity, she tried to blackmail him into keeping quiet, and also get more money out of him, in exchange for Lucinda’s freedom. Dad promises he will build a proper factory on the Blackmarket site and pay the workers modern rates. But first he’s going to throw a VE-Day celebration for them all.

Thoughts

As with Jinty, it was rare for Tammy to have a World War II serial. The theme was seen more frequently in Tammy’s complete stories, such as her Strange Stories. 

It’s one of Tammy’s many slave stories, but with a difference: we’re not sure what to make of it or what’s behind it, so there’s a mystery just begging to be solved. The setup being what it is, could it be people who got left behind in World War II when the town got cut off? Could Lucinda have even gone back in time to the real World War II? Is someone pulling some weird experiment? Is it someone’s crazy idea of boosting television ratings (a la Mr Grand from “Village of Fame” or “The Revenge of Edna Hack” from Tammy)? It’s certainly a very elaborate way to conduct a racket, but that’s precisely what it turns out to be. 

The racket is far more imaginative than many slave rackets we’ve seen in girls’ comics: slaves trapped in a simulation of a historical period where they can’t realise what’s going on because they’ve been drugged and everything looks like the era, and they think they’re working in a good cause. They’re totally isolated from anyone or anything able to tell them otherwise until Lucinda arrives. It certainly makes a change from seeing girls kidnapped, pulled off the streets, recruited from workhouses or pressganged in other ways to work as slave labour in factories, business operations, or rackets of various kinds. It also makes a change from punishment after punishment being piled upon the protagonist for constant resistance and failed escape attempts. Instead, the Commander tries to subdue Lucinda as she has the others – through the mind-bending drug. When that faces failure, she tries to dispose of Lucinda, and then, once she discovers Lucinda’s true identity, uses her to make herself even more of a Mrs Big of the operation. 

Having Lucinda start as an unlikeable person rather than a nice person gives her a more rounded personality and have her undergo far more character development. It must be said the panels with the bratty Lucinda are more attention-grabbing than ones of a good-natured protagonist, and this arouses our interest in the story even more. We all know Lucinda will change for the better at Blackmarket, but we are all eager to see just how the change unfolds, so we happily follow the story for this as well as unravelling the mystery of Blackmarket.

Lucinda’s initial bratty reactions to these unwashed people, being expected to dirty her hands alongside them and wartime rations are not surprising. Some problem girls are tough nuts to crack and take a while to reform. But Lucinda’s smart move to switch to playing along enables her to change fairly quickly, with little in the way of relapse, and her change for the better is realistically handled. Although Mrs Drew is clearly a villain and a hard case forewoman, we have to cheer her for ordering Lucinda the brat to clean the machinery and then the grease trap. 

Lucinda’s initial snobbishness changes to sympathy and admiration for how these people can bear up under the severe demands of wartime privations. Guilt also kicks in when she sees how others are suffering because she’s not doing her share of the work at the factory. Shock at seeing how thin the kids are from wartime diet has her change from guzzling food to sharing it. But the biggest lesson is learning the value of friendship and having friends for the first time in her life. So much so that she is willing to sacrifice the chance to go home with her father because she refuses to abandon her friends to their fate. Also adding to the change in Lucinda is the growing disorientation over where she is and keeping a grip on her identity. She knows it’s the seventies, but even before she starts the mind-bending tablets the place is getting to her and she’s beginning to think it really is World War II. It’s hard to keep up bratty behaviour against such stress. 

Lucinda is surprising even herself in the way she is changing. And the old Lucinda would be astonished at how she is now. Sharing food, willing to get her hands dirty, learning to appreciate what she took for granted, discovering the value of friendship, even stabbing herself to break the power of a mind-bending drug. The bratty Lucinda would never have dreamed of such things and only cared about luxury and the city lights. 

Subtle changes in the art reflect the changes in Lucinda’s body as well. She’s losing the weight gain from guzzling and going from being too chubby to fit into the clothes she’s ordered to slimming down to wartime proportions. Facing true hunger and restrictions on food has her learning to appreciate food, even the stodgy wartime rations. 

It’s an enormous shock to Lucinda when her own father is revealed to be the man profiting from Blackmarket. It’s the ultimate test for Lucinda’s new character: do what is right, although she’ll send her own father to prison, or take the easy way out with Dad? When Lucinda gallantly chooses the former because she won’t abandon her friends, for a moment it looks like she will go the way of Amanda Harvey, who discovers the man behind the sewing slavery racket of “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory” (Girl 2) is her own father and now has to turn him in. It is a relief when Dad says he was forced into behaving the way he did and had no idea what was going on. 

Mind you, that’s assuming he was telling the truth and not covering up for himself. There was that meeting he was having way back in the first episode – right in the middle of nowhere on the moor, right where the Blackmarket racket is operating. That sure is suspicious. And it is never explained. There might be a reasonable explanation, but are we willing to give him benefit of the doubt? 

The wartime hardships these women endure arouse not only Lucinda’s sympathies but ours as well. The creative team are giving us a serious lesson on how hard life was for British people in World War II from blackouts, bombings, slaving for the war effort, food rations that are in uncertain supply, the mental stress and breakdowns from it all (“bomb happy” as they call it), and hoping against hope that VE-Day will come. The effect is telling not only on their minds but also their bodies. They’re going unwashed because washing’s difficult. It’s not even Auschwitz, yet children are thin and stunted from short food supplies and the rotten wartime diet. Yet their spirits remain unbroken, they appreciate cheeriness and sparks of luxury wherever they find it, and they find courage and strength in the wartime spirit. The story shows us that even decades after World War II ended, the wartime spirit can still resonate and its message ring for modern generations.