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Barracuda Bay [1975]; from June & School Friend [1970]

Sample Images

Barracuda Bay cover

Barracuda Bay 1aBarracuda Bay 1b

Published: June & School Friend 23 May 1970 to 19 September 1970. Reprinted Jinty 23 August 1975 to 22 November 1975

Episodes: 14

Artist: Santiago Hernandez

Writer: (possibly) Len Wenn

Translations/reprints: Barracudabaai (in Tina 1971)

Plot

Susan Stevens leads an “extraordinary double life” that alternates between an assistant to a British secret agent, Martin Risen, and odd jobs when not assisting him. The current one is working for a solicitor, which Susan finds dead boring.

Then Risen sends Susan a newspaper ad for an adventurous girl as an assistant (mostly secretarial work with some possible scuba diving) in an expedition for historical treasures in a sunken Spanish galleon at Barracuda Bay in the Bahamas. Susan jumps at the chance to escape her boring job.

Risen added a warning of possible danger to the ad, and later he informs Susan that the department organised it all because they want someone there to help find three missing scientists, Wellington, Menworth and Slade. All three were working on a new process for refining oil, and they mysteriously disappeared off vessels that were sailing in Barracuda Bay. Kidnapping is suspected, and the department’s job is to find them.

In Barracuda Bay, Susan meets her new employers, Mr and Mrs Prinze. The Prinzes want Susan to type up the book on the expedition. Prinze also teaches her to scuba dive, and soon Susan is diving down to the galleon. She finds Risen there too, who instructs her to meet him in Sam’s Shanty restaurant, where he works undercover as a kitchen hand (under a chef who hates him). At the restaurant Risen tells her about a multimillionaire named Cornelius Kane (who looks like Kingpin from Spiderman, and he wouldn’t look out of place in a 1960s James Bond film either). Kane is their suspect, and Susan is to get into his home, the Villa Lotus Flower, and see what clues she can find. Risen warns her not to arouse suspicion or Kane will become dangerous.

Susan manages to wangle her way into Kane’s house, and deliberately leaves her handbag behind so she will have a pretext to return. Meanwhile, Kane and Susan see a fire at Prinze’s store shed. The fire is put under control, but Susan sees suspicious tyre tracks of a truck that backed into the shed. Kane also warns Prinze to lay off his diving expedition, in a most threatening manner.

Suspecting the tyre tracks lead to Kane’s villa, Susan heads back to investigate. Meanwhile, Kane has found Susan’s purse, but it arouses his suspicions – which means he’s now dangerous. Sure enough, he orders his henchman Parker to deal with the suspected snooper if she returns.

However, Susan is one step ahead with binoculars and detects Parker. So she sneaks in the back way. In Kane’s study she finds all the drawers locked, but then sees a glasses case – and Kane does not wear glasses. The case has the initials PJW, which are the same initials as one of the missing scientists. Susan also finds the suspect truck and an empty petrol tin beside it.

Susan has to rendezvous in Barracuda Bay to report to Risen. They then spot an underwater light and dive down to investigate. But as they approach the reef they run into a strange black cloud that blinds them. They are forced to turn back.

That night Parker turns up at the Prinzes’ house to return Susan’s purse and delivers a veiled warning not to go back to Kane’s house. He is also carrying a gun, and his explanation that it is meant for protection does not ring true. Susan realises Kane suspects her.

Then when Prinze takes Susan out on his launch, it floods and sinks. Susan discovers too late that Parker sabotaged it. The sabotage maroons them on a deserted island in dreadful weather. They are surprised to stumble across a shed that is locked, and the padlock is new. They also find a patch outside that looks like oil. Prinze assumes it is somebody storing fuel, which has Susan realise someone could use the island for anchoring big ships. Just then Risen arrives and rescues them after seeing the wreckage of their launch. Susan reports what she has discovered, and Risen decides the shed needs further investigation.

They spot a mysterious yacht approach the island and don scuba gear to investigate. Susan sees Kane, Parker and a man who looks like Wellington on board, but does not realise Kane saw her. He hatches a plot for her to have a fatal ‘accident’ next time she dives down to the wrecked galleon, which he puts in motion the following day.

Down in the galleon, the black cloud returns and knocks Susan out. When she recovers she finds herself trapped in the galleon and her oxygen is nearly gone. Fortunately Risen and the Prinzes sense something is wrong. They see debris floating up from the galleon and realise it is a call for help. Risen dives down to the galleon in the nick of time and realises someone shut Susan in deliberately. He now wants to send Susan home because it is getting too dangerous. Susan insists on carrying on, but Risen puts her in a hotel for her own safety.

Risen investigates the shed and discovers it belongs to Kane. He also finds a newspaper that has marked the arrival of SS Pacific Star, which has another oil research scientist on board, a Charles Scott. Realising Kane is plotting another kidnapping, Susan and Risen head out to the Pacific Star to keep an eye on Scott. The ship is holding a fancy dress party, but Scott is suddenly called away to the boat deck because a man wants to speak to him. But of course it is a trap where Kane’s goons are lying in wait to grab Scott. They are all in scuba gear, which means they must have swum underwater and sneaked aboard. Susan has followed Scott, and as the goons are pressed for time they decide to grab them both. They are taken out by dinghy to a rendezvous with a submarine. The submarine takes them to an underwater cave at Barracuda Bay that has been converted into a secret hideout. This explains why Kane was trying to get rid of the Prinzes and their underwater expedition. Susan guesses the cave is not far from Kane’s house.

Scott chooses this moment to put up a fight, which enables Susan to make a break for it. She finds a scuba suit and tries to dive to safety, but is recaptured with more black cloud, which she learns is black dye they squirt to blind inquisitive divers. Susan is taken to Kane, and yes, the cavern is connected to his villa. But that’s not the only secret in his villa – it also has a cell where he is keeping the kidnapped scientists in chains. Susan is chained up with them.

Kane, being an oil tycoon, wants the scientists and their expertise in oil refinement for developing a secret formula that will make him the richest and most powerful man in the world. To ensure their cooperation Kane is making threats to harm their families. Their work is nearly finished, and Kane plans to move them to Texas for the final tests.

Susan tries to phone Risen for help, but Kane catches her. Because of her stunt, he orders the scientists to be moved to Texas that night. Susan still thinks her message got through, and the scientists decide to make a break for it. They succeed and Risen tries to get them to safety – but then Kane captures the lot of them. He prepares to take the scientists to Texas in his yacht while he follows in the submarine, and he locks Susan and Risen in a cell in the underwater hideout. Charges are rigged to blow up the hideout – and the two prisoners with it.

But a miracle occurs in the form of an earthquake, which damages the hideout enough for Susan and Risen to escape. They don scuba gear and hope Kane left the doorway to the base open so they can swim through. It turns out he has, but not in the way they expected: the quake has caused the doorway to jam right on Kane’s submarine and trap it. Outside help is needed to free Kane and his goons. But then the charges detonate, which blow up Kane and his trapped submarine. The explosion also triggers a tidal wave. Susan and Risen barely manage to survive it.

The Navy soon picks up Susan and Risen, and intercepts the yacht to free the scientists. Susan decides she needs a holiday after all this, but it is to be a relaxing one with deck chairs and ice cream. No more deep-sea diving adventures, thank you very much.

Thoughts

This serial was an odd one to appear in Jinty, because it was not an original Jinty serial; it was reprinted from June. Yes, it had been five years since the original run, which seemed to be the minimum time span before an IPC story could be reprinted. So “Barracuda Bay” was free for a reprint by that stage. However, it is puzzling as to why the young Jinty should suddenly reprint a story from an older comic when she was not even old enough to start her own reprints. And she was more than capable of coming up with her own serial for the slot.

It is difficult to put the reason for the reprint down to economics. Unlike Princess II, Jinty had not become an ailing comic that was being forced to fall back on reprints from older titles to cut costs. Could the serial have been reprinted as a filler, maybe? Most of the episodes are two-pagers rather than the usual three-page spreads Jinty used for her serials, which would make it a neater fit as a filler story.

Barracuda Bay originally appeared at a time when James Bond-inspired serials about spies and secret agents became popular in the late 1960s. It is hard to say if this was still so topical in 1975, but the serial still works because it is full of suspense, mystery, kidnappings, action, dangers, spying, scuba diving, sunken treasure (even if they are historical treasures rather than valuables), and a balmy tropical setting. And it’s all rendered through the artwork of the popular Santiago Hernandez. What’s not to love about these things? Any reader would be hooked with the story because it is so strong, racy, tightly constructed, full of mounting excitement and thrills, and has a very proactive action heroine who’s also a secret agent. Even the title adds to the drama with the word “Barracuda” in it, because the word conjures up images of ocean menace.

Kane and his secret underwater base look like they drew some inspiration from the James Bond film You Only Live Twice and its villain, Blofeld. Like Blofeld Kane is bald, though he is a much heavier and stockier build and does not wear a Blofeld outfit. He does not stroke a lap cat (or any other sort of pet) and is not a camp villain like Blofeld. Still, his decision to blow up his secret underwater base is not unlike Blofeld activating the self-destruct to destroy his own secret volcano base. However, while Blofeld escapes the self-destruct, Kane does not. He gets caught in his own explosion when the earthquake causes his submarine to get jammed in the doorway. A pretty strong way for June to end a villain, but the way things went there was no way around it. Unless, of course, he jumped into an escape pod, fled the submarine before it was blown up, and returned to haunt Susan in her subsequent June stories.

The Haunting of Hazel [1975-1976]

Sample Images

Haunting of Hazel 1aHaunting of Hazel 1bHaunting of Hazel 1c

Published: 11 October 1975 – 24 January 1976

Episodes: 16

Artist: Santiago Hernandez

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Hazel en haar berggeest [Hazel and her Mountain Ghost] in Tina 1976/77, Tina Topstrip 27 (1981)

Plot

A group of girls are heading towards Black Crag Mountain for a course in mountaincraft and are looking towards a national championship. The group leader, Hazel Grenilda Williams, is being haunted by nightmares and feelings of foreboding. Rightly so, for the locals tell the girls that Black Crag has always had a reputation for being evil. Black Crag is said to be at its worst when it’s shrouded in mist, because that is when the evil really brews. Lately Black Crag has gotten worse, and is killing and maiming people. The locals live in dread of Black Crag and many have even been driven away. Hazel gets the same impression of the mountain when she sees it and is full of more foreboding and shivers. She feels Black Crag is like a great big beast waiting for prey. Yet she also has a fascination for Black Crag and feels drawn to it.

More mystery follows when Hazel finds a section of the guesthouse they are staying in, which is converted from an old school, has been sealed off and she is warned not to go beyond the locked door. A cleaner at the guesthouse, Annie, reacts strangely when she hears Hazel’s full name. Annie gets in a panic when a flock of crows mysteriously follow Hazel and her friend Gwen home, because the crows are Black Crag’s evil spirits and bring bad luck to the village. A letter from Hazel’s family arrives warning her not to go to Black Crag, but it’s come too late; Hazel’s already there.

Hazel has been having horrible feelings about Black Crag and now thinks they must be connected to psychic powers, which her family has a history of. She decides to investigate the locked door while having an odd feeling that she knows the place. Beyond the locked door Hazel and her group find a musty old library. In a book of old school records she finds a reference to another Grenilda. She is surprised as she thought nobody outside her family used the name. A page has been torn out just as it was about to record the details of Grenilda.

The group instructor, Miss Price, is injured when she falls through rotten floorboards in the library. She can’t join in the mountaincraft, which the girls start practising. However, rumblings are growing in the group that Hazel is not fit to lead. She has been acting out of character ever since they arrived, is letting that superstitious nonsense get to her, and is becoming irresponsible. The rumblings grow even more when Hazel goes off track during compass reading practice, which prompts a search.

Hazel went off track because her powers draw her to a new ally, Old Marnie the Witch. Old Marnie has psychic powers too and the locals call her a witch because of it. She tells Hazel Black Crag respects courage, so when she defied it, it left her alone. Hazel tells Old Marnie how Black Crag both terrifies and fascinates her and Old Marnie says it’s because they both have similar powers. Later Old Marnie tells Hazel that Black Crag acts the way it does because it has many enemies who misuse it. But if they befriend Black Crag, it can bring good instead of evil. Old Marnie had tried and failed and hopes Hazel will succeed.

A crow shows up again and it causes Hazel to stumble into a graveyard. One of the tombstones reads “Grenilda Williams”. And the tombstone is a new one! Hazel faints at the sight and Annie’s father, Albert Mann, sees her and carries her to the guesthouse. While she regains consciousness, she speaks in a strange manner. Mann is very surprised at this, because it is the old mountain dialect, which is supposed to be extinct. Miss Price informs Hazel that a trust was set up to renew that tombstone each year, which is why it was new. Grenilda is a local girl who died over 100 years ago in strange circumstances.

Hazel is also in further trouble because she left the girls on the mountain while going off after the tombstone. She and Mann go in search of the girls, and find them with the mysterious aid of the crows. After this, there is serious talk of cutting the mountaincraft course short because of Hazel.

Eventually Hazel is given another chance and they go climb Black Crag. No sinister happenings are occurring so far, but Hazel comes across evidence that someone is planting dynamite on Black Crag and it is causing explosions. If that is the case, Black Crag will surely cause even more trouble.

A violent thunderstorm forces the party to shelter in a hut. Hazel finds the name Grenilda Williams again. She senses Grenilda is haunting the place and Grenilda wants her to do something. Grenilda leads Hazel to a cupboard, where Hazel finds what looks like a Bible, a string of beads and a lock of hair. Later, Hazel finds writing at the front of the Bible that could be a clue, but it is very faded.

The party arrive back successfully and even save Old Charlie’s sheep, which they rounded up on the mountain. Charlie is grateful for this, but when he learns what Hazel has found in the hut, he warns her not to meddle. Mann seems oddly angry at Hazel saving the sheep. He then gives Hazel a telegram for Miss Price, which informs her that she must leave for a few days and leave Hazel on charge on her own.

Grenilda then summons Hazel back to the library, where Hazel finds Grenilda’s old diary. In it, Grenilda criticises the dangerous use of child labour in a silver mine on Black Crag. She speaks to the mine owner about it, but he just throws her out, saying they are the only ones small enough to go through the narrow shaft in the heart of Black Crag. Black Crag tells her such exploitation will end in disaster. Sure enough, a violent thunderstorm causes a cave-in, and Grenilda says it is the mountain’s curse on the exploitation. Children are still trapped down there; Grenilda is the only one thin enough to go down the shaft, and she feels Black Crag wants her to do it. A newspaper clipping says she rescued them, but she died doing so. The remorseful mine owner set up the trust to renew her tombstone each year.

Just then Steffie from the mountaincraft party decides Hazel deserves a little scare. But Hazel is such a bag of nerves from the haunting that the fright makes her go absolutely crazy with fright and she runs off. She finds herself back at Grenilda’s grave, and the ghost warns her that there is danger for her under the school roof and she is not to go back.

At this, Hazel drags the girls right out of the place and into camping in terrible weather on Black Crag. On the way they pass Annie, who says it’s the dark of the moon, when Black Crag is at its most dangerous, and she’s got a charm from Old Marnie to protect her. One of the girls breaks her leg and Hazel braves the mountain and terrible weather to get the doctor, with the aid of Grenilda. She succeeds, but the girls have had enough of her bizarre behaviour and send her to Coventry. The course continues without Hazel, but at least it gives her more time to pursue the mystery.

Grenilda is helping Hazel out while they do more investigating at the old school. She does not realise Mann is watching and does not like what she is doing. She learns Grenilda saved her brother from the mine, and he is Hazel’s ancestor. Now she realises why her parents wanted her to stay away from Black Crag and why the name Grenilda runs in her family.

Miss Price returns, and when she hears what has been going on she sends Hazel packing. Hazel isn’t having that, so she jumps off the train at the next stop and walks back, but finds the terrain unfamiliar and tough going. Grenilda brings help in the form of Old Marnie. They head for Grenilda’s old home on Black Crag. Old Marnie warns Black Crag is extremely disturbed and angry, and then Grenilda warns Hazel that something evil is approaching.

That evil turns out to be Mann and an accomplice. Hazel overhears Mann saying that he has been trying to scare those girls out of the school, presumably by having Annie winding them all up with scary stories about Black Crag. Once they are gone he does he will move on to the final part of the plan. But it isn’t just the girls he has been scaring; he has also been scaring the villagers into selling their land for a pittance because he wants to reopen the old silver mine. The men have been dynamiting their way through the blocked workings to reach the silver. Hazel now realises why Black Crag is angry. She heads off to tell Old Marnie and spread the word about Mann. On the way Hazel hears a terrible wailing, and Old Marnie tells her it is the Crying Stone, which only wails when something terrible is about to happen to the village.

Hazel then realises the girls are on Black Crag and in danger from a growing thunderstorm, so she must get to them. She makes a most dangerous short cut up a sheer rock face to do it, with Grenilda’s help. Hazel proceeds to get the girls off the mountain in the face of the bad weather. This is followed by dangerous landslides, which Hazel believes are the result of the angry mountain speaking out. Miss Price is so impressed with Hazel’s heroism she overlooks the previous trouble.

The landslides destroy Mann’s shop, and an inspector says the area can never be used for mining again because it is now too unstable. So Mann is now punished and his scheming foiled. Grenilda and Black Crag are now at peace, which means Hazel is too. Now Hazel is no longer haunted she can lead the mountaincraft group properly, and they intend to soar to greater heights in the mountaincraft national championship.

Thoughts

This is the only story Santiago Hernandez drew for Jinty (“Barracuda Bay” is now believed to be Hernandez artwork too, but the story is reprinted from June). Hernandez’s artwork is brilliant at bringing off the foreboding atmosphere of Black Crag, the horrors that constantly haunt Hazel, and the terrifying environments in which they erupt, whether it is the spooky old library or dreadful weather on Black Crag. Further adding to the creepy atmosphere is the rugged, rural environment of Black Crag and the peril that always accompanies mountain climbing, even on a normal mountain.

The real twist of the story is that the things that constantly terrify Hazel turn out not to be the true threat. They are not evil, just angry and disturbed, and it is eventually revealed they have good reason to be. Black Crag, which was initially portrayed as the evil of the story, turns out to be a helper. The real evil comes from Albert Mann, who is trying to scare off people (and is presumably responsible for all the killings and maimings that have been blamed on Black Crag) for his own profit. In so doing he is not only cheating people but also stirring up genuine supernatural forces that start affecting Hazel.

Hazel is the most susceptible to the supernatural forces because she has inherited the family’s psychic powers. But Hazel’s powers have awakened in a most disturbed manner and she cannot fully understand them. Fortunately she has guidance from Old Marnie, who is more experienced with such powers and can inform her about the correct way to handle Black Crag. Unfortunately, but understandably, the members of the mountain group Hazel leads think she’s just losing her marbles and shouldn’t be listening to such superstitious rubbish. In a sense they are right, because it turns out Mann is trying to scare them off and presumably put Annie up to winding them up with crazy, embroidered stories about Black Crag. Yet Hazel is right too, and being unable to find anyone to listen except Old Marnie and Grenilda almost wrecks her career.

One thing is puzzling: when the girls go mountain climbing, they never wear safety helmets. Were safety helmets not worn so much at the time, or is this an error in the story?

Slaves of the Candle [1975-1976]

Sample Images

Slaves of the Candle 1Slaves of the Candle 2Slaves of the Candle 3

Published: Jinty & Lindy 8 November 1975 – 24 January 1976

Episodes: 12

Artist: Roy Newby plus unknown filler artist

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none

Plot

It is the year 1830. Lyndy Lagtree works as a maidservant for the Duchess of Dowgate. Mrs Tallow, the best candlemaker in London and highly respected for it, arrives with a candle chandelier that she always provides for the grandest parties. Then the whole chandelier is extinguished when one candle proves faulty, which plunges the room into darkness. Afterwards they find a painting has disappeared. Lyndy overhears a guest talking about a similar incident at another grand house, at which a necklace vanished afterwards. She begins to suspect Mrs Tallow is using her chandeliers as a cover for a series of thefts and hides in Mrs Tallow’s wagon so she can do some investigating.

At Mrs Tallow’s shop Lyndy discovers the shop is a front that conceals a secret workshop where Mrs Tallow is using children as unpaid slave labour to make her candles. Later it is established that making them work around the clock with little chance to sleep seems to be a common occurrence, and food consists of cold gruel and the like. The slaves are totally cut off from the outside world in their underground cellar, except for a crack in the wall Mrs Tallow does not know about. It also means they have to work in very poor light. Instead of developing eye problems though, they develop the ability to see in near darkness.

Then Mrs Tallow catches Lyndy – and yes, Mrs Tallow hid the painting in one of her candles. To silence Lyndy, Mrs Tallow and her henchman Wick hold her captive in the workshop with the other slaves. They all learn from the Peelers that Lyndy has been blamed for the theft of the painting. Now there is a price on her head for 100 guineas and her “wanted” posters are plastered all over London. At this Mrs Tallow and Wick are now confident that Lyndy can never try to escape.

But they are wrong. Lyndy is determined to escape, prove her innocence, and bring down Mrs Tallow and her racket. Here Lyndy contrasts to the other slaves, who don’t even try to escape as they consider themselves just “rubbish” in society and have nowhere else to go. She is also the oldest and the strongest in spirit, which makes her a natural leader of the slaves. Lyndy is also lucky in to discover she is a natural for making candles once the slaves teach her. Mrs Tallow herself even calls Lyndy her best candle maker, even if she is trouble. If only circumstances were different, Lyndy could chuck skivvying in favour of a more lucrative living in the candle making business.

Lyndy explores the workshop chimney, feeling it is an escape route. A cowl at the top blocks her way, but Lyndy sees a clue down below. Mrs Tallow is giving the stolen painting to her dealer, who then gets into a coach with a coat of arms on it. Lyndy etches the coat of arms onto the candle she has brought.

Back in the workshop Lyndy has to act fast to stop Mrs Tallow seeing the coat of arms candle and rumbling what is going on. A diversion with a bottle of candle dye does the trick, and Lyndy also manages to retrieve the candle. But Mrs Tallow is furious at getting colour on her dark clothes and threatens to make Lyndy suffer for it. Lyndy finds this reaction very odd, and from this point on Mrs Tallow’s sanity is called into question.

Lyndy soon finds out what Mrs Tallow means by making her suffer. She is going to make Lyndy go into hives, and risk being badly stung, in order to get beeswax for beeswax candles. Lyndy tries to escape again along the way, but fails. And things get worse when they arrive: the bees are disturbed and extremely dangerous. But Mrs Tallow, still determined to punish Lyndy, forces her to go in. Lyndy succeeds in getting the beeswax without a sting with an improvised smoker she made out of a candle. Mrs Tallow admits she has to give Lyndy credit.

Back in the workshop Lyndy has the others rig up dummies made out of wax to fool anyone who comes to check. While they do this, she and her closest friend Lucy go up the chimney and break through the cowl with scissors. They escape into the street, but Lucy injures herself on landing. Then the coach comes, and Lyndy overhears Mrs Tallow and her mysterious coach accomplice plotting to pull the candle chandelier trick at Ballam House. But then the coachman spots Lucy and Lyndy, and the chase begins. Mrs Tallow has the Peelers join in, having led them to think the girls are thieves.

The girls make it to the heath, but Lucy’s injury is taking its toll and she passes out. Lyndy modifies the coat of arms candle to make it look like a Peeler’s torch, and manages to draw the Peelers off. But she’s lost the coat of arms etching on the candle.

When dawn comes, Lyndy comes across Ballam House, and Mrs Tallow is making her delivery. Lyndy and Lucy take jobs at the house to try to foil Mrs Tallow. But Mrs Tallow outwits Lyndy with a fake mask (made of wax) and then sets fire to the house to cover her tracks while she and her accomplice recapture Lyndy and Lucy, and make off with the valuables they were after. Later, Lyndy is shown a “wanted” poster that shows she has been blamed for Mrs Tallow’s crimes at Ballam House as well, and the price on her head is now £700. Wow!

A new cowl is fitted over the chimney. Just what extra security Mrs Tallow is making there is not clear, but she still does not know about the crack in the wall.

Mrs Tallow has a new job for the slaves: make a candle that is a replica of the Tower of London, which her mysterious coach accomplice takes. It is a gift for Queen Victoria, who is so impressed she wants Mrs Tallow to provide the lighting for her upcoming Lumiere Celebrations. Lyndy wonders why Mrs Tallow wants to win favour with the Queen. (Don’t you think it sounds like it’s going to be the candle chandelier ruse on an even grander scale, Lyndy?) Meanwhile, Lucy manages to make a wax impression of Mrs Tallow’s key.

Later, from the crack in the wall, Lyndy sees the coach accomplice assault a blind pedlar who is selling candles. His candles are ruined, but Lyndy makes a friend of him by giving him their own candles. When he returns, they slip him the wax impression so he can get a key made and slip it to them. He gets arrested while doing so, because the Peelers do not approve of him selling cheaper candles in the vicinity of a quality candle shop.

Mrs Tallow wants the girls to make candles for a special night at the Tower of London. When Lyndy uses the key to escape the workshop and poke around the place, she discovers why Mrs Tallow is so interested in the Tower of London: she is plotting to steal the Crown Jewels. Lyndy slips back to the workshop before she’s missed.

Mrs Tallow has Wick stand guard over the workshop. Another clever plan from Lyndy puts him out of action long enough for the girls to escape, but he recovers and soon he and Mrs Tallow are after the girls. They give their pursuers the slip, but Lyndy goes to the Tower of London in the hope she will be believed. She speaks to the governor, and then sees a ring on his desk with the same coat of arms. She realises the accomplice is in the Tower, but does not connect it with the governor – and she should have! By the time she does, she has unwittingly led him and Mrs Tallow to the girls. Lyndy and Lucy escape into the river, but the other girls are recaptured. Lucy seems to have drowned, but Lyndy makes it onto another boat. Mrs Tallow then informs Lyndy what will happen if she goes telling tales: she burns a candle that is a replica of the House of Candles in a symbolic threat that she means to burn down the House of Candles with the girls inside.

Rivermen fish Lucy out of the river. Before she passes out she tells Lyndy they said “candles an inch past midnight.” The royal barge passes by and the rivermen explain it is the time the Queen goes to the Tower to examine her treasures, and it will be at midnight – the time when Mrs Tallow will strike. Lyndy slips aboard the royal barge with the help of the rivermen and back to the Tower. There Mrs Tallow’s candles are set up to light the Tower at midnight, when the treasures will be opened.

Then Lyndy finds out what “an inch past midnight” means. The wicks are only one inch long, which means the candles are rigged to burn for a brief time and then go out all at once to plunge the Tower into darkness. And under cover of darkness, Mrs Tallow and the governor steal the Crown Jewels. Yes, definitely the old chandelier candle trick, but on a royal scale.

But Mrs Tallow also pulls a double cross on the governor, which makes it clear to him that she never had any intention of helping him get out heavy gambling debts in return for his services. As will be seen, this causes him to have a change of heart.

Meanwhile, Mrs Tallow heads back to the House of Candles with the Crown Jewels, which she gloats over and calls herself “The Queen of the Candles”. Lyndy follows, as Mrs Tallow threatened to burn the other girls alive in it. Mrs Tallow has it all rigged up with wood shavings and candles to set them alight once they burn down. Once she recaptures Lyndy she has Lyndy tied up so she will burn too. Lyndy screams at Mrs Tallow that she is mad.

But then the governor appears, agrees Mrs Tallow is mad, and comes to Lyndy’s rescue. He knocks out Wick and puts out the candles with his sword. Oddly, Mrs Tallow just sits there, so the governor ties her up while she screams that she wants the jewels because she’s the Queen of the Candles.

Lyndy and the other children get out, and take the Crown Jewels with them. The governor tells them to go for the Peelers. But then Mrs Tallow screams for help. The governor missed one candle, and now it’s threatening to make her scheme to burn down the House of Candles backfire on her. Lyndy tries to stop the candle but fails. The House of Candles goes up in flames, and Mrs Tallow with it. Wick recovers enough to stagger out behind Lyndy, and the Peelers are waiting.

In gratitude, Queen Victoria gives all the girls royal patronage and protection, and promises them assured futures. The false charges against Lyndy are presumably sorted out too. The fate of the governor is not recorded.

Then, from the royal coach window, Lyndy spots a beggar woman selling candles. Lyndy is not 100% sure as she cannot see the woman’s face, but it looks like a much altered and punished Mrs Tallow. She wonders if Mrs Tallow’s flame is still burning after all, albeit in a harmless manner…

Thoughts

“Slaves of the Candle” was one of the new stories to commemorate the Jinty and Lindy merger and the first group slave story in Jinty since “Merry at Misery House”. It was also the first serial in Jinty with a Victorian setting. What a pity it contains such a glaring historical error: the story is set in 1830 and Victoria did not come to the throne until 1837, yet Queen Victoria appears in the story. In fairness, the 1830 reference disappears in later episodes and the time period is just referred to as Victorian. Perhaps they spotted the error.

“Slaves of the Candle” brought Lindy artist Ron Newby to Jinty. There is a strong indication that the story itself was originally written for Lindy but appeared in the merger instead. For one thing, the protagonist’s name is Lyndy. Just change the first “y” to an “i” and it’s the same name as the comic merging into Jinty. Second, Newby had already drawn period stories for Lindy that feature girls being exploited as child labour (“Nina Nimble Fingers” and “Poor Law Polly”). Indeed this story brought Newby to Jinty. Lastly, Lindy had a stronger emphasis on such stories than Jinty did. In fact, Jinty ran just two more serials with 19th centuries settings while the Lindy logo was on the cover, and then them dropped for good. Only some of the Gypsy Rose stories used the 19th century setting afterwards. Tammy, on the other hand, used the 19th century setting far more frequently. This is another major difference between Jinty and Tammy, and it’s an odd one.

The Victorian age, being notorious for exploitative child labour, was a popular and natural setting for group slave stories. This one is no exception and the grittiness of the Victorian age is the perfect ambience to this insidious racket that takes advantage of both light and dark to fulfil evil schemes.

Making candles isn’t the cruellest of slave labour. Girls have been put to far worse and more dangerous labour than that in group slave stories, such as working in mines, quarries or prisons. But Mrs Tallow is no mere cruel employer who just takes advantage of cheap child labour. She is a criminal who uses the candles from the slavery for evil purposes: first it was just robbery, but then she moved up to treason by stealing the Crown Jewels. Her criminal dealings must be why she keeps the child labourers as prisoners and slaves in a secret workshop. After all, she would not want any of them getting loose and reporting her to the Peelers. And when it’s hinted she’s insane as well, it adds another sinister dimension to this creepy woman. In fact, you have to wonder if her motive to steal the Crown Jewels was greed, as it had been with the other thefts, or her Queen of the Candles delusion. Being Queen of the Candles is no mere fantasy; it is all part of her insanity, as is made clear when she refuses to get off her throne because she’s the Queen of the Candles, despite the danger around her.

Like any other racketeer of a group slave story, the main villain has to meet her/his match in the main protagonist and rue the day she/he ever enslaved her. And that is the case here. It’s not just that Lyndy is a very sharp-witted, resourceful girl who refuses to be broken by whatever the racketeers throw at her. It’s also adding insult to injury to be enslaved by the very woman who framed her and is leaving her to carry the can over the crimes. Lyndy is very determined to prove her innocence instead of never daring to escape as the racketeer thought. It also helps that she’s the oldest of the slaves, which makes her a natural for a leadership/maternal role, and also helps to rouse these slaves, who were so resigned that they hadn’t even tried to escape.

The story gets a bit tedious with Lyndy going through so many failed escape bids and being recaptured each time. Of course she does make progress even with her failures. But we do have to wonder why Mrs Tallow does not punish Lyndy far more severely for being constant trouble or try to get rid of her altogether, even if she is the best candle maker. Maybe it’s more of Mrs Tallow’s weirdness.

The weirdness extends even to the names of the villains, which reflect the very business they operate in: candle making. Perhaps Mrs Tallow changed her name and that of Wick to tie in with their business and her fantasy with being Queen of the Candles. The candles and everything associated with them (wax, flint, fire, wick) permeate throughout the story. Even the governor’s coat of arms looks like flames. The candles and their associated properties are not just for the candle trade. By turns we see the candles used as tools for crime, escape, disguise, bee repellents, communication, and even weapons. And it’s both sides that are doing it, which means Mrs Tallow’s candles are being used against her as much she puts them to her own use. There’s an amusing poetic justice and irony here. Of course it carries right through to the downfall of Mrs Tallow. Her own candles become the instrument of her final retribution, while her former slaves enjoy a happy new employment with the very Queen Mrs Tallow tried to rob. We never see what sort of employment the Queen offers them, but we would not be surprised (though we may groan) if it has something to do with candles.

The final hint that Mrs Tallow may not be as dead as they thought has the story end on a stronger note than a simple happy ending. But it’s not on a note that she will rise again, which makes it less cliched. It is also more poetic justice, having Mrs Tallow (if it is her) reduced to the same level as the candle-selling pedlar.

Ping-Pong Paula [1975-1976]

Sample Images

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Published: 6 September 1975 – 17 January 1976

Episodes: 20

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Paula Pride wants to become a champion tennis player. Her father runs a garage business and enjoys a happy marriage with Mum. The Prides have always been content with living in a council house.

But then comes the day Mum visits her old school friend, Joan. Joan is married to a bank manager, which enables her to live a wealthy lifestyle in a high-income house, and says she would find a council house so “dreary”. Mum, being a proud woman, gets jealous, dreads what Joan will think if she visits and sees they live in a council house, and becomes discontented with the council house they have.

Dad loves Mum so much that he agrees to take on extra work at his garage so they can afford a mortgage for a posh home like Joan’s. He should have thought more carefully before indulging Mum’s pride in this manner, because it turns out to be a dreadful mistake. They find a house as posh as Joan’s all right, but Dad now has to work all hours to pay the mortgage, plus all the luxurious furnishings that Mum wants for the new home. He is taking on so much work that soon he has no time for his family.

Mum feels neglected because of this. She is also lonely because she has no friends in their new neighbourhood (the new neighbours are too snobby and her old friends don’t visit), and is deeply hurt when Dad forgets their wedding anniversary because he is working too hard. Dad and Mum begin to quarrel over it all. Mum is accusing Dad of being too wrapped up in cars to care for his family while not considering that Dad is doing it all to pay for what she wanted, not because he’s a workaholic. It’s her fault he took on so much work in the first place.

It gets even worse when Joan is invited over to see the Prides’ new home. Snobby Joan is not impressed to see Dad in grubby garage clothes, says she’s so pleased her husband is a white collar worker and not a blue one, and walks out.

Eventually, when Dad lets Paula down at an important table tennis match because he has to go clinch a business deal, Mum gets into such a strop that she decides to right walk out on Dad and out of the posh house she had wanted so much. And she insists on dragging Paula out with her.

They end up in a seedy flat with lumpy mattresses to sleep on after Mum meets up with Coral Bly, another old school friend of hers who is now a hippy artist. So much for living like Joan!

Mum is too huffy and proud to care about Paula’s protests that she did not want to leave Dad. Nor does she care about making Paula miss table tennis practice, just because she doesn’t want Dad to snatch Paula back. Paula’s table tennis begins to suffer, but it’s Dad to the rescue when he hears. He installs a table tennis table at their old posh house for her to practise with.

Paula falls sick because of Coral’s unhealthy accommodation, but she and Mum just get kicked out. Instead of going back to Dad as Paula hoped, Mum shacks them up in a guesthouse and gets a job in a dispensary. Paula recovers in the guesthouse, but now finds her father has fallen ill from overwork (it had to happen). She starts going back to their old house to nurse him, but has to do it behind Mum’s back because Mum would have a fit if she found out Paula was seeing Dad. Mum’s definitely not allowing Dad to have any visitation rights, and Paula’s becoming a real-life ping-pong ball between her estranged parents. Paula is also missing her table tennis practice in order to care for Dad.

Mum and Paula’s coach Miss Park find out about Paula seeing Dad instead of going to table tennis practice. When Paula explains about her sick father, Miss Park is understanding and sympathetic. However, Mum is just too far up on her high horse of pride to even care that her husband is ill, much less nurse him. At least she arranges for Auntie June to nurse Dad, but she doesn’t even go to see him while he’s ill. Meanwhile, Paula is free to get back into table-tennis shape and is making strides at it.

But a jealous rival just has to come along to make trouble for Paula on top of her other problems. It comes in the form of Myra Glegg, who is also a new boarder in the guesthouse where Mum and Paula are staying. This makes it easier for Myra to play dirty tricks on Paula, such as hiding her bats or having her switch rooms to make her lose sleep.

Paula manages to work her way through Myra’s tricks and is on the rise as inter-school champion. Both parents are delighted for her, but when they come together at a match, they don’t put aside their acrimony for her sake. Paula is hurt and embarrassed when they refuse to sit for a family photo for the press. Dad takes off and Paula poses for the photo with Mum, but the upset spoils the photo opportunity.

At the county final Paula finds out her opponent is none other than Myra Glegg! So that explains the dirty tricks. And Myra tries to pull another – stirring up trouble between the quarrelsome parents to upset Paula. It fails and Myra does not even shake hands when Paula wins. Back at the guesthouse Myra rips up Paula’s table tennis photos out of spite, but the landlady catches her in the act and throws her out of the guesthouse.

Myra’s no longer a problem for Paula now, but she’s still a ping-pong ball between her separated parents. Paula tries to use her celebratory dinner at a posh restaurant to bring them together. After a bad start it begins to show some hope, but then Mum sees Dad is still wearing garage boots with his dinner suit (oops, working too hard again!). Prideful Mum makes a real scene over it because she believes she has been shown up in front of her friends. Both Paula and Dad are furious with her for shouting about it so much – and in public – when nobody would have even noticed otherwise. At any rate, it’s back to square one.

Then the landlady falls ill, so Mum and Paula have to find new lodgings. All the other guesthouses are full and relatives won’t take them in because they’re on Dad’s side and say Mum should jolly well go back to him. But she won’t because she’s still too proud for that. She’s too proud to go into a night refuge centre for down-and-outs too, so she is utterly mortified when the police put her and Paula in one.

For Paula, this is the last straw in being shunted around in boarding houses, hotels and shabby accommodation with Mum. She leaves Mum altogether and goes back to living with Dad, much to Mum’s consternation when she finds out. And it also means that Paula has no idea where her mother will be living next.

Paula is now training for the junior all-England championships, which are in four months’ time. Then Paula finds out Dad is falling behind on the mortgage payments and then learns it’s because his garage is ailing very badly. Paula takes a café job to help make ends meet but collapses with exhaustion from juggling it with her other commitments. The recuperation period the doctor prescribes puts her table tennis on hold for a month.

Dad’s business now closes down altogether, so he cannot pay the mortgage. Paula says there’s no point now anyway; it was only Mum who wanted the house, but now she isn’t even there to live in it. Dad agrees with Paula’s suggestion that they move back to a council house, as they were quite happy with one before. Paula is not sorry to leave the house that caused nothing but trouble for her family.

At the new council house Paula puts up Mum’s photo as a gesture of hope. Dad finds a job as a chief mechanic in another garage. He’s now got more times on his hands now he doesn’t have to work so hard, but is spending it showing that he misses Mum as much as Paula does.

They both begin looking for Mum, but they come up empty. Paula’s 16th birthday comes, but this does not bring the parents together. Instead it’s separate gifts, with Mum sending Paula a ticket for the top table tennis player Gordon Simons display match – anonymously. When Paula sees Mum there (something Mum was trying to avoid) she gives Paula a parcel for Dad. It turns out to be a farewell gift for him, along with a note saying that Mum is moving to Australia. It looks like the marriage is well and truly over, and all Paula can do is throw herself into her training.

At the championship Paula is not on form because Mum is not there. Then Mum, surprisingly, shows up and sits beside Dad. Paula’s assumption that they have reconciled puts her back on form and she wins. But she is wrong; Mum just takes off afterwards. Mum is now feeling sorry for everything and realises how Paula has taken the brunt of their split. But her pesky pride still won’t let her make up with Dad, and she also stupidly assumes Dad and Paula are better off without her. Paula dashes out after Mum, which causes her to get hit by a car and she falls into a coma.

But not even this brings the parents together. At the hospital they visit Paula separately while neither succeeds in rousing Paula from the coma, and they cold-shoulder each other whenever their paths cross. Seeing how they never see their daughter together, the nurse tells them, very pointedly, that if they want their daughter to wake up they must go in together, because that is what she wants. Mum’s pride still gets in the way and she objects, but Dad tells her they must put aside their differences for Paula’s sake. They do so, and Paula responds to them both being there. Mum is so overjoyed she finally forgets her pride and says she wants to come back and live with them, which speeds up Paula’s recovery. When Paula is discharged she finds her parents are living together again, and they say she won’t be a ping-pong ball between them anymore. For Paula, having her parents together again is even more important than winning the championship.

Thoughts

They say pride is one of the seven deadly sins, so this must be one of the deadliest sin stories Jinty has ever produced. The misery the Pride family goes through is all because Mum is just too proud. That pride got badly bruised the day she visited Joan and got jealous. Joan was far higher up the social ladder and living far better than Mum was, and Mum wants to start climbing up there too.

Though the rest of the family are happy as they are, Dad feeds Mum’s pride by giving her what she wants, which turns out not to be in the family’s best interest. Mum just gets stroppy at Dad when he starts spending too much time working at the garage, although it’s all to pay for what she wanted in the first place. It’s her own fault, but she’s too proud to admit that. Instead she just walks out, although she is walking out on the very thing she wanted in the first place. So what was the point of it all?

Instead of climbing up the social ladder to join the ranks of Joan, Mum starts tumbling down, down even further than the council house that she found so inadequate after seeing Joan. And she’s dragging down Paula with her, not caring about Paula’s feelings or what she is going through because the split and being constantly shunted around. Mum is just too wrapped up in her pride for that. Her pride drives her to most despicable acts at times, such as refusing to see Dad when he falls ill, or trying to keep Paula away from him. She ruins Paula’s celebratory dinner when she throws a tantrum at what her high-class friends will think if they see Dad wearing garage boots with his dinner suit. Hmph, since when did she ever have any high-class friends? She never got far with social climbing while living in the posh house, and she has long since left the place and is resorting to cheaper and even substandard accommodation. Even when she finally begins to feel sorry for everything, her pride just won’t let her even attempt reconciliation. And in so doing she is letting her pride tear the family apart and destroy her marriage.

Dad proves to be the more caring and mature parent, in stark contrast to his wife who is behaving like a spoiled brat. For example, he tries to help Paula keep up her table tennis when Mum interferes with it. He is the more sympathetic of the two parents and the relatives are quite right to side with him. His wife is too wrapped up in herself to think about the extra demands she has put on him to get her what she wants, and they are making him suffer terribly. He is working far too hard and is under way too much stress, he falls sick because of it and can’t work, and ultimately his business fails. This is all just to get what his wife wants – and then she just turns her back on it. There’s gratitude for you. On top of that, he is deprived of Paula because of his wife and he is left with a house of loneliness that he is straining to pay the mortgage for.

At the hospital, the reactions of the parents to the nurse’s urging that they must go see Paula together best shows the vast difference between them and their attitudes. At first Mum flatly refuses to do what the nurse says because she’s just too proud to be in her estranged husband’s company, even though her daughter’s recovery depends on it. By contrast, Dad tells Mum to forget her pride and their quarrel because they must put Paula first.

And caught in the middle is poor ping-pong Paula. The title has a sadly appropriate double meaning: a girl who is both a table tennis player and a real-life ping-pong ball between divided parents. So many readers caught between separated or divorced parents or being split down the middle in custody battles would have really felt for Paula.

All the while Paula has to keep up her table tennis and strive to become a champion while her parents are splitting. At the urging from her coach, Paula has to learn to put her parent problems aside when she’s working on her table tennis. But Paula has her limits, such as when she’s in danger of losing the championship because she’s too upset over Mum not being there. She might have lost if Mum had not shown up at the last moment – only to take off again because of her pride.

As if the problem with her parents wasn’t bad enough, Paula also meets a jealous rival, Myra Glegg, who plays dirty tricks on her. Fortunately Myra doesn’t last too long, and all the other competitors are good sports.

The trouble over the parents even puts Paula in hospital – an all-too-common thing in girls’ comics. Ultimately it provides the resolution, though unlike most serials the shock of it all does not provide immediate resolution. The parents are still fighting and divided despite their unconscious, injured daughter and Mum realising Paula has taken the brunt over her split from her husband. It needs a wise outsider to step in and have a serious word with the parents before Paula’s accident can provide the resolution.

I’ll Make Up for Mary (1979)

Sample images

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Published: 20 January 1979 – 2 June 1979

Episodes: 20

Artist: Guy Peeters

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Ann and Mary Ridley are identical twins but a contrast in personality. Mary is an outgoing, confident extrovert and has lots of friends while Ann is a quiet, shy introvert and doesn’t find it easy to make friends. At a seaside holiday at Westsea Mary tries to bolster Ann’s confidence by improving her swimming to the point where she can swim in the sea. But it all goes tragically wrong when the sea gets choppy. Ann panics and unwittingly pushes Mary under, and she gets hit against a huge rock. Dad manages to save Ann, but Mary dies.

On the night of the funeral Ann overhears her grief-stricken parents lamenting. She gets the wrong impression that her parents wish Mary had been spared instead of her because Mary had been the confident one and Ann the ‘dull’ one. Ann also blames herself for Mary’s death, and feeling guilty that she survived while Mary did not when Mary was the more ‘deserving’ one. Now Ann thinks she must make things up to her parents by being like Mary, as if she was still alive.

So Ann starts resurrecting Mary by adopting her hairstyle, clothes and activities. But of course it just creates trouble for herself. When Ann changes her appearance to look like Mary she thinks it’ll please her parents so much to see this. Instead she has her grief-stricken parents thinking they’re seeing ghosts and they are utterly shocked. And Ann thinks the shock is to her being dull old Ann instead of the real Mary, not that she’s reopening the wounds of their grief. The parents don’t find it easy to get used to Ann looking like Mary, and they can’t understand it at all.

Meanwhile, Ann doesn’t understand that she is trying to be someone who was total opposite of what she herself is. Moreover, she still lacks confidence in herself and does not have the skills that Mary had, including how to handle bullies. As a result, Ann starts falling foul of Mary’s old enemy, the spiteful Beryl. Beryl keeps causing trouble for Ann at every turn, such as wrecking a party Ann holds at home. On another occasion she ruins things for children at a play centre, puts the blame on Ann and gets her banned from the Youth Club. Beryl is sorted out eventually and gives no more trouble.

But it’s not just Beryl that’s the problem. Ann’s every attempt to be like Mary just seems to end in failure and she keeps landing in one scrape after another. Sometimes it’s not even her fault, such as when classmate Laura rigs the voting so Ann will become class captain as Mary had been. When Ann tries to stop this, she ends up being accused of cheating. Misunderstandings erupt as well, such the class wrongly accusing her of sneaking during a field study course when in fact she was trying to warn them, but it went wrong. On the same course Ann freezes up while Laura is drowning because it’s brought back the memory of Mary drowning. In the end Ann is removed from the course in shame, and thinking she has failed in what her parents want out of her.

None of the disasters shake Ann out of her misguided thinking. She thinks it’s because she’s still the same old boring Ann, she is failing to become like Mary, and is not pleasing her parents in the way she thinks they want to be pleased. Instead, it looks like she’s just letting them down in that regard and they’re getting even more heartbroken because of it. And it is not helping that a lot of people, including the parents and classmates, compare Ann unfavourably with Mary when she lands in trouble.

There are some positives to it. Ann starts making friends among Mary’s old friends, particularly Julie, Tim and Sharon at the Youth Club, and the vicar who runs the place, and Laura and Karen at school. She also develops confidence at things she had never tried before, such as becoming more proficient at cycling and disco dancing. Ann even finds herself as the lead in a theatre production – only to freeze up at the actual performance.

But on the whole it looks like one big colossal failure and disappointment. Eventually, Ann’s increasing frustration her constant failure to ‘make up for Mary’ reaches breaking point. She snaps at her classmates at how they all think the wrong twin was saved, that she’s tried so hard to be like the clever and popular Mary, but she’s failed. Then she runs home from school. Her friends, teachers and headmistress realise something is seriously wrong and that Ann is trying to be like Mary for some reason. They decided to go see her parents.

Meanwhile Ann overhears her parents considering a move and mistakenly thinks it’s because of her disasters. It’s the last straw in her failure to ‘make up for Mary’. She goes back to Westsea and the scene of the accident. Tim and Julie see her head out there and report this to the parents, who are in consultation with the others from school. Surmising that Ann is blaming herself for Mary’s death, they head after Ann in the car, and they arrive just as Ann dives into the sea and is on the verge of drowning as well because the sea is so rough. Ann is surprised when Dad saves her because she didn’t think she was worth that. They clear up what Ann misconstrued; they love her just as much as Mary and they wished Mary had been saved as well as her, not instead of her. They also insist Mary’s death was just an accident and Ann should not blame herself. Ann realises she has gained some things from trying to copy Mary, such as new friends, but she is going to be herself from now on.

Thoughts

Here we have another Alison Christie story where grief has consequences that go way beyond the tragedy itself when it causes the protagonist to develop a flawed attitude. In this case it’s motivated by love (pleasing the parents), not selfishness, anger or revenge. But there are feelings of guilt and inadequacy all tangled up in it as well. So Ann is a more sympathetic character than Stefa from “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, who closed her heart to love and didn’t care who she hurt in the process.

However, from the beginning we know Ann is as misguided as Stefa, both in what she is trying to do and what she thinks it will accomplish. It will not only lead to trouble but also make things even worse for herself and her parents because it will only serve to compound their grief over Mary. In fact, it almost leads to Ann meeting the same fate as Mary.

This is a story with “be yourself” and “don’t try to be something you’re not” morals too. Ann is trying to be something she simply is not, and no matter how hard she tries, she can never replace Mary. This is the real reason why Ann’s every bid to be like Mary ends in disaster, though the nasty Beryl and misguided interference from school mates are not helping either.

In some ways it is also a story where a shy girl begins to grow by developing skills, new experiences and bids to make friends that she had never tried before. But it’s a perverse route because she’s going about it the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. As a result her confidence keeps being knocked back and she thinks she’s still her dull old self who never amounted to much and can’t make up for her sister. But once Ann stops trying to be like Mary, she does realise the growth she has achieved. We sense Ann isn’t going to go back to her old wallflower stay-at-home self. It’s going to be a new Ann, the real Ann who has discovered the gains she has made.

 

Finleg the Fox (1975)

Sample Images

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Published: Lindy #14, 20 September 1975 to #20, 1 November 1975; continued in Jinty and Lindy merger 8 November 1975 to 20 December 1975

Episodes: 14

Artist: Barrie Mitchell

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Una Price has been left orphaned and lame from a car crash and is in delicate health. Authorities send her to Blindwall Farm in the hope the country air will improve her health, but they have not counted on the Drays who are running it. The daughter, Dora Dray, bullies Una and lumbers her with all the work, despite Una’s bad leg, while she indulges in riding. Una soon gets the impression that Dora is a sadist who enjoys hurting animals and people. Mr Dray is a sourpuss who doesn’t have a good attitude towards Una either. They both push Mrs Dray around and take her for granted, so she is the only one who is kind to Una.

Dray is not pleased when Una rescues a fox from one of his traps. He also warns her about his landlord, Sir Arthur Stollard, who is a master of fox hounds. Una secretly nurses the fox, named Finleg because of his leg injury, in the barn.

Dora finds out and starts blackmailing Una. Soon Una has had enough of this and stands up to Dora. So Dora brings in her father, all set with a shotgun to shoot Finleg. But Finleg has recovered enough to escape, so Dray finds nothing and Dora gets a clip around the ear from him. Finleg is now back in the wild, but he is not forgetting the girl who saved him.

Meanwhile, Sir Arthur is trying to buy out Blindwall Farm when the Drays’ lease expires. Dray does not want to sell the farm he has worked on all his life, but feels he may have no choice because Sir Arthur is a powerful man.

Soon after, suspicious things start happening. Una finds a blood trail after Dray takes a shot at something in the night. The trail leads to a shed and a strange man, whose left hand is wrapped in a bloodied bandage. He knocks her out and runs off. When she describes the man to Dray, he gets oddly worked up and goes off on a hunt for the man – with his shotgun. He does not seem to have much success, but after this he softens towards Una and even spares Finleg when he has a brush with him at a disused railway track, where he has set up a den in the embankment.

But Sir Arthur’s fox hunt isn’t sparing Finleg. Dora has been invited, not realising Sir Arthur plots to get at Dray through her because she would know his weaknesses. Dora is eager to use the hunt to kill Finleg. Una helps a bunch of fox hunt protesters foil the hunt. Dora finds out and threatens to beat Una, but Finleg steps in to save her. Dora is even more narked when Sir Arthur tells her she is not good enough to join the hunt, so she gets even more vicious towards Una and Finleg.

That night Dray goes hunting for the man again and Una follows. The man knocks Dray out and is searching the embankment at the railway tracks. He finds Finleg’s den. Finleg and Una manage to scare him off and he tries to escape in a passing car, but the driver doesn’t stop. For some reason Dray is against the idea of going to the police and Una wonders what he is hiding. Una also loses her crutch at the scene and starts using a stick, which helps to strengthen her leg.

Dora again joins Sir Arthur as they prepare for another hunt, and Una is following. They stumble across the strange man, who has been shot dead. Sir Arthur finds a list of names on him, which he finds interesting and hides from the police. The man turns out to be an escaped prisoner named Stephens, and his death is a murder inquiry. Afterwards, Sir Arthur uses the list and Dray’s suspicious-looking head injury to blackmail Dray into selling the farm, with insinuations that he will have the police suspect Dray Stephens’s murder. Later Dray tells his family that they are leaving the farm at the end of the month. Seeing no further use for Dora now, Sir Arthur tells her not to bother with their next hunting date. Dora blames Una and hates her even more now.

Surmising that the driver of the car Stephens tried to jump into is the real murderer, Una goes back to investigate. Finleg leads her to the embankment, where she finds a huge cache of hidden money. She shows the money to Dray, who clearly recognises it but won’t have a bean of it. Una hides it in the barn.

Una sees the strange car in town, which is driving dangerously and nearly knocks her and another woman over. When Una helps the woman, a Mrs Pargeter, Dora tells her everyone says Mrs Pargeter is a witch (because Mrs Pargeter is psychic and treats animals with herbal remedies). Una rubbishes such nonsense, especially from Dora.

Dora seizes another opportunity to spite Una when she finds the crutch with blood stains on it and takes it to the police, claiming it is evidence that Una is linked to Stephens’s murder. The police realise Dora is a spiteful minx but they still have to investigate the bloodstains. The blood group belongs to Dray, but he doesn’t tell the police the full story of what happened and Una wonders why as she is sure he is innocent of Stephens’s murder. The police also search the property, but Finleg takes the sack of money before the police find it and puts it back in his den. The police leave, but Dray is still under suspicion.

Una goes to consult Mrs Pargeter, who says the money must have come from a train robbery ten years back, when the tracks were in use. On the way back the strange car actually tries to run Una down, but Finleg saves her. Later the strange car intercepts Dora, who says she is laying down poison for foxes (Finleg of course). The man tells her that if she comes across anything else to leave a note for him at Cobbett’s Mill.

The police are also investigating Cobbett’s Mill because a lady reported seeing a light there in the night. They find nothing, but their dogs got excited so they know there must be something. Later we learn that Cobbett was on the list of names Sir Arthur found, and so was Dray’s, but he can’t figure out what the other names mean. Realising the police are not charging Dray with Stephens’s murder at this stage, Sir Arthur again ingratiates himself with Dora to get at Dray.

Dora’s attempt to poison Finleg succeeds. Una finds him, and realises Dora was responsible when she bumps into her. Una takes Finleg to Mrs Pargeter, who has skills in healing animals. Her herbal remedies do the trick and Finleg is soon on the mend.

Meanwhile Dora finds the money in the den and leaves a note about it in Cobbett’s Mill for the man. Una sees Dora leave the mill. After a fight with Dora she finds the note and realises Dora has put herself in danger because of it. Sure enough, Mrs Dray tells Una that she saw two men kidnap Dora, but Dray refuses to call the police. However, he finally tells them the whole story. Two men who robbed the train came to his farm and coerced him into hiding some of the money. The gang was rounded up and imprisoned. One of them, Stephens, escaped and came back to look for the money. The man who killed Stephens must have been “The Boss”, the only member of the gang not to be caught, and his true identity is unknown. Realising “The Boss” must be the one who kidnapped Dora, Una, with Finleg’s help, keeps watch over the den where the money is hidden, figuring the kidnappers will come for it.

But Una is in for a big surprise at who shows up for it – Sir Arthur! Una follows him (her leg is now fit enough for her to do this) while giving Finleg a note explaining things to take back to the farm. The police have finally been called and when they see the note they go in pursuit, with Finleg leading them.

At the hideout Una overhears Sir Arthur and his accomplice (his estate manager, Bert Randle) planning to kill the bound and gagged Dora because she knows too much. Una unwisely goes in to tackle them and gets captured too, but it’s Finleg to the rescue with a bite on Sir Arthur’s leg. Sir Arthur is arrested and confesses to being “The Boss”, and Randle was his right-hand man in the robbery.

So the threat of Sir Arthur is no longer hanging over the farm and the Drays want Una to stay. Dora reforms, apologises to Una, and starts treating Una like her very own sister. Una now walks properly thanks to Finleg. Finleg becomes part of the family, but eventually the call of the wild summons him away while Una looks on.

Thoughts

This was one of two Lindy serials to make the transition into the merger with Jinty, so it has some distinction for that. It was also the only fox serial in Jinty, even if it is one that came to Jinty half way through its run. Jinty had some stories featuring an animal from the wild, but this was the only one to feature a fox.

Finleg shares some similarities with the 1984 story “Rusty Remember Me”, which started in Princess series 2 and was also completed in a merger, the last one in Tammy. Its protagonist is also a crippled girl who gradually overcomes her disability and walks properly again thanks to the friendship she strikes up with a fox. Perhaps it was the same writer.

However, Finleg has much meaner and crueller opponents than Rusty (a surly caretaker who is nasty but not downright evil). Finleg is up against a cruel and vicious girl who tries to kill him on several occasions, and that’s only the start. He is also up against fox hunters, who combine forces with the threat from Dora. The man leading the hunt isn’t just threatening Finleg; he’s a greedy, unscrupulous aristocrat who will resort to fair means or foul in order to get his hands on the Drays’ farm and force them off into a council house. Such villains are very common in girls’ comics. What is unusual is that Sir Arthur is also a mastermind behind a train robbery. That does sound a bit odd; you’d think such things would be beneath a snobby aristocrat like him. On the other hand, it says a lot about what makes him so rich.

The menace of Sir Arthur over the Drays, Dora’s cruelty towards Finleg and Una, the fox hunt threat, the problems of Una’s disability, and her friendship with Finleg make a durable combination for a good plot. But what really heat it up and keep it going are the introduction of the mystery elements, the murder of Stephens, and Dray being suspected of it, which means Una now has the additional task of clearing his name.

There’s also a horrible but fitting comeuppance for Dora when she is kidnapped by the very man she thought was her friend – Sir Arthur. When she heard them plotting to drown her in the marshes her life must have flashed before her eyes. The shock of it lends some plausibility to her change at the end, even if it does come across as a bit quick and pat. It’s a real twist for her that she is rescued by the efforts of Finleg and Una, the ones she had tried to destroy out of spite. Gratitude must have also been a factor in her change for the better.

Hettie High and Mighty! (1975)

Sample Images

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Published: Lindy #14, 20 September 1975 to #20, 1 November 1975; continued in Jinty and Lindy merger 8 November 1975 to 13 December 1975

Episodes: 13

Artist: Unknown artist “Merry”

Writer: Terence Magee (concept, synopsis, first episode); remaining episodes unknown

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Dock End School is a bit run down, but it’s a happy and peaceful place – until Hettie King arrives, that is. Hettie’s previous school, Firdale Academy, was a posh academy that has turned her into a haughty high-and-mighty snob. Her dad is now sending her to Dock End, saying it will do her good and knock that snobbishness out of her.

Now that is a most unwise thing to say to Hettie’s face, because the obvious result is that she will react against it, which sets the stage for what follows. From the first, “Hettie High and Mighty” looks down on her new school and the girls who attend it, including the hockey team captain, Janie Downs. But Janie soon finds out that Hettie has far worse qualities than snobbishness. She is also a nasty troublemaker who is extremely cunning at getting her own way, worming out of trouble, and even ingratiating herself with the girls she had upset before.

On the other hand, Hettie is a brilliant hockey player and would be a valuable asset on the hockey team. However, the girls quite naturally don’t want her on the team because of her bad behaviour, and Janie isn’t going to grovel to her to get her to play either.

Then Janie overhears the headmistress saying that the council means to pull down the school and relocate the girls to a new school that is miles away. However, if the school wins the hockey championship, the prize money would enable them to spruce up the school to council standard. Realising the school must win, Janie decides she must grovel to Hettie after all. But she cannot reveal the reason why, because if Hettie finds out, there’d be nothing she’d like better than to see Dock End close down.

Hettie agrees to be in the team – in exchange for Janie doing her homework – but of course she isn’t showing any team spirit although she plays brilliantly. In fact she gets up to all sorts of tricks, the mildest of which is hogging the ball, the worst of which is playing deliberately foul play and giving Janie concussion in front of reporters – but she is so slick that poor Janie cops the trouble and the unpopularity. Eventually Hettie’s tricks make Janie so unpopular with her team mates that they are demanding her resignation and Hettie nearly steals the captainship from her. Later we learn that Hettie was just as bad with the Firdale hockey team and they were glad to see the back of her. Well, well, well! At least they can see her for what she is.

Then Hettie moves into Janie’s home where she starts ingratiating herself with Mrs Downs with lots of expensive presents (colour television, automatic tea maker, electric blanket). Unfortunately Mum gets so cosy with all the gifts that she’s late for work and gets the sack. Janie blames Hettie and although it’s hard to say if Hettie actually planned it that way, she doesn’t give a hoot about Mrs Downs losing her job. Yet her “nice” act has her father completely fooled when he returns suddenly and he thinks she’s changed her “high and mighty ways”. Ah, so that explains why she acted nice in the first place!

Back on the hockey pitch, Hettie is lording over the girls so much that they finally see through her. But all Hettie has to do is threaten not to play in the championship and Janie has to let her stay, no matter how badly she behaves. All the same, Janie is coming to the end of her rope with Hettie and is counting down to the days of the championship, when she’ll not have to put up with Hettie any longer.

But Janie finds she has miscalculated: Mr King and Mrs Downs fall in love and get married. So now Janie is stuck with high-and-mighty Hettie for a stepsister! Hettie is lording it all over Janie at home now, having her to do all the housework and wait on her hand and foot while she lounges around. Mum is making a big fuss over Hettie, so Hettie really appreciates having two people wait on her hand and foot. However, she has not accepted Mrs Downs as a stepmother (she still addresses Mrs Downs by her Christian name) or shows her any respect.

Then Hettie finds out why Janie wants her in the team and Dock End is facing closure if they lose the championship. As Janie feared, Hettie quits the team and leaves them in the lurch to lose the championship, just so the school she despises so much will close down. Not content with that, Hettie deliberately gets Janie on the wrong bus so Janie will miss the championship too, and is crowing all over her. Janie tells Hettie that what she needs is a jolly good hiding.

Which is precisely what Hettie soon gets. Mum had followed once she realised they were on the wrong bus, overheard everything, and gives Hettie a jolly good hiding! Moreover, Mum is thrashing her in a public café. This means her punishment has an audience, which would add humiliation to it. After Mum is through, she demands proper respect from Hettie and good behaviour. Hettie complies, and Janie is satisfied Hettie has finally gotten what she needed: discipline and humbling.

Mum then directs them to a short cut across the common she had known from childhood to reach the match. But Mum doesn’t realise a private property has been built there since her time, so Hettie and Janie unwittingly trespass into it and fall foul of guard dogs. For the first time Hettie shows unselfish behaviour when she offers to draw off the dogs, but in the process she gets bitten.

By the time they arrive at the match Hettie is limping badly and in a lot of pain. To add to their problems, the rival team are known as “The Amazons” because they play tough, brutal and dirty (a bit like Hettie once!). The Amazons pick up on Hettie’s injury and start to play upon it. The nurse says Hettie should withdraw for treatment, and Dock End is losing. Janie peps up the girls for a fight by telling them just what is stake, and Hettie courageously stays on to teach those Amazons a lesson for trying to cripple her. Dock End’s comeback, particularly from Hettie, takes the Amazons by surprise. They lose their grip and start making mistakes, which gives Dock End the edge to win. The school is saved, and Janie now considers Hettie as the best sister she could ever have.

Thoughts

This story is one of two Lindy stories to have the distinction of making the transition into the Jinty and Lindy merger. The other is “Finleg the Fox”, which coincidentally started in the same Lindy issue as Hettie. Hettie also brought a hockey story (well, part of one) into Jinty. Hockey stories were rare in Jinty, despite her emphasis on sports stories.

The story is not a memorable or distinguished one. Still, it holds its own because it is a combination of several proven formulas that have stood as serials in their own right. The first is the protagonist being forced to tolerate an odious girl because something is at stake. The second is a school bully who becomes a stepsister and makes the protagonist’s home life as unbearable as school. Third is a courageous battle to win a competition to save a school, but of course it’s filled with sabotage and obstacles along the way. Fourth is a nasty troublemaker who revels in causing misery for everyone. The last is turning an unsavoury girl into a reformed character.

Reforming a nasty troublemaker is not something that always happens in “troublemaker” stories (it did not happen in Judy’s “Be Nice to Nancy!”, for example). However, once Hettie becomes Janie’s stepsister she just has to be reformed, not just for the sake of winning the championship and saving the school but also to stop the marriage between their parents from being torn apart from the bad blood between the girls. Hettie also has to be reformed for her own sake as well, because she will never realise her full potential as a top hockey player if she persists in her bad behaviour, because hockey is a team sport and demands team spirit.

Until then, Hettie is a brilliantly conceived snob and troublemaker that you just love to hate. Like Nancy Norden in “Be Nice to Nancy!” she is a dreadful snob who despises her new school because it’s not good enough for her, and she is also a nasty troublemaker who loves to cause trouble and misery for everyone. Even the posh school that turned her into a snob found her unbearable. She was probably on the verge of being expelled before her father yanked her out and transferred her to Dock End in the hope it would change her haughty ways. Sorry Mr King, but you need to take a much firmer hand with Hettie than that! Mrs Downs is living proof of this when she cured Hettie’s bad behaviour with just one good thrashing. Hettie is also a lot more slick and cunning than Nancy in getting her way and pulling the wool over people’s eyes with phoney “nice” routines.

It is debatable as to the way in which Hettie is turned around (a good hiding in public) is all that convincing because it seems a bit too instant and pat. Still, you just have to love Hettie getting that jolly good hiding, and you wish so many other unsavoury girls in girls’ comics could get one too – Nancy Norden, for example.

Afterwards the hockey championship becomes Hettie’s redemption and helps convince Janie and the other girls that she really has reformed and they can make a fresh start with her. She didn’t just play to help them win the championship; she also braved a great deal of pain and dirty tricks (not unlike the ones she herself played once) in order to pull it off. You could say Hettie even got a taste of her own medicine through the Amazons; they were playing dirty on her, just as she used to play dirty, even on her own team mates. It is a pity the Firdale girls didn’t see it too and realise how much the badly behaved girl they despised so much has changed.

Winner Loses All! (1979)

Sample Images

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Published: Misty 4 August 1979 to 24 November 1979

Episodes: 17

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Sandy Morton’s father is the despair of her. Once he had been an equestrian champion, including an Olympic champion. But he has never been the same since his wife died in a crash five years back because he keeps irrationally blaming himself for her death. As a result he has sunk into chronic alcoholism. He is now on the verge of being fired from his stable hand’s job at Hornby Riding School for being constantly drunk. This would also get them turned out of the house (even if it isn’t much of one) that goes with his job.

Sandy is desperate to find a way to stop Dad drinking and restore him to his old self. She also has dreams of following in his footsteps and become an equestrian champion, but that looks hopeless now because of the downward spiral her father has fallen into. The snobby rich girl Jocasta Forsyth-Major at the riding school really loves to rub her nose in that, and that Sandy can’t be part of the Worthing Cup competition the school is training for.

When Sandy finds the old sign of the now-ruined Black Horse Inn with the black horse on it, she wishes aloud the horse was real and she could have one like him.

Bookie Mr Dayville from the betting shop has overheard her. Dayville says he can give her everything her heart desires: her father restored to what he was, a decent home, the Worthing Cup, a horse of her own, become an equestrian champion. There is just one small price to pay for it all – Sandy’s soul!

Oh no, it’s no joke, dear Sandy. Moments later, Dayville is proving his true identity as the Devil himself. Sandy will come to suspect Dayville uses his position at the betting shop to tempt more people into his pacts, and she will wonder just how normal the village really is with all these secret Devil pacts that must be going on. As the story progresses, she will find out more about just how right she is.

In due course Dayville says almost everyone ends up in Hell anyway, so why not get some benefits out of it? He also reveals that the population of Hell is divided into two categories. The first are people who were truly evil in life and so are blessed with demonic form in Hell and the Devil treats them like pampered pets. The second are good, noble souls like Sandy who just make up the numbers and the Devil probably treats them like second class citizens. Gee, what does it take to get to Heaven then? But the story never goes into religion, the Bible or Jesus Christ.

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Some facts about Hell, from the Devil himself. From “Winner Loses All!”, part 6, Misty 1979.

Right now Sandy won’t have any dealings with the Devil, but he isn’t taking “no” for an answer. He’s going to tempt her with a free trial. So when Sandy arrives home she finds her father transformed to his old self, Dayville offering to sell him a black stallion (named Satan, of course) for Sandy, and the black horse has vanished from the inn sign. But next morning it’s all back to normal, with Sandy’s drunken father lying on the floor. Sandy has to hide him behind the sofa before Mrs Hornby sees him drunk again and gives him the sack.

Temptation is not the only weapon in Dayville’s armoury. He turns the screw with emotional blackmail, telling Sandy how the booze is going to slowly kill Dad until he dies, and she could have saved him. Finally, when Jocasta threatens to tell on Mr Morton for drunkenness, Sandy panics so much that she caves in and accepts Dayville’s bargain. All signed with her own blood in the Devil’s book of contracts, of course.

So now Dad is transformed, no longer drinking and eager to turn their lives around, and Mrs Hornby is impressed. But with the Devil being behind it, there has to be a sting in the tail. Sure enough, we see it when we learn that the transformed Dad still blames himself for his wife’s death, which was the real root of his alcoholism.

The deal also includes an upcoming Olympic gold for Sandy and the black horse on the inn sign come to life (though as a living painting, not a real flesh-and-blood horse) for her to ride under the name of Satan. Dayville will claim her soul after she wins her Olympic gold – which will be in one year’s time at the 1980 Games! It also means Sandy and Satan have to be up to Olympic standard in a year, and they are still only novices.

There are some surprises. For example, Jocasta tries to spite Sandy by having her father buy Hornby Riding School, with the dismissal of Mr Morton as part of the deal. But Jocasta’s father also has a pact with Dayville (so that’s why Jocasta’s family is so rich!), so it’s an easy matter for him to persuade Forsyth-Major to withdraw his offer.

Though alive, Satan is not a real horse, and his fate is still bound to the old inn sign. So when the sign gets run over and snapped, Dad sees Satan’s legs break. Sandy finds the damaged sign and holding it together makes Satan whole again. The vet is bemused at this and rumours start that Dad imagined the broken legs out of drunkenness. When Dayville hears, he threatens to kill Satan to prevent discovery of Satan’s secret. To save Satan, Sandy is forced into another bargain with Dayville: if anyone finds out the truth about Satan, Dayville will claim Sandy’s soul instantly.

This almost happens when Dad and the vet take Satan to run secret tests because Dad wants vindication from the rumour that the booze made him imagine those broken legs. Sandy manages to stop them, but Dad gets the wrong impression that Sandy does not care about him (what a cruel irony!) and is deeply hurt. Dayville is ecstatic because he feeds on such negative emotions and misery.

By now Sandy realises that it’s going to be nothing but torment, torment, torment all the way from Dayville from now on, long before she reaches Hell. And she soon finds out she is not the only one he means to torment.

Cheating just has to be part of the Devil’s design to make her an equestrian champion: he’s got all his demons nobbling the competition by scaring and tormenting their horses, and she is the only one who can see them. Well, he never specified how he was going to make you a champion when he drew up the contract, did he, Sandy? As a result of this, Sandy wins the Worthing Cup by default and gets no joy out of winning it. Dayville also pulls the strings on another contracted person, Sir Geoffrey Ricketts, to get Sandy entered in an international event.

The vet takes the sign away for cleaning, which causes Satan’s legs to break again when the weak piece comes off. Sandy has to run the gauntlet with the demons, who don’t want her to get the sign back before the vet gets too close to Satan and find out his secret. Surprisingly, Dayville lends a hand by mending the sign, so Satan gallops away “from a very perplexed vet” and virtually apologises for his demons, saying they got a bit over-enthusiastic. However, the vet is still suspicious of Satan and the sign, and arranges for a test to be done on Satan when he performs at Ricketts’ show.

At the Ricketts show Dayville has the demons get up to their usual tricks to spook the competition out of Sandy’s running. Sandy tries to plead with Dayville to stop this, but it’s no use; after all, he is the Devil. And there is a bonus that has Dayville laughing even more – Dad has overheard them!

Soon Dad is informed about Sandy’s pact with the Devil (but not the reason for it) and shown the demons that are tormenting the horses. Thinking Sandy did it for her own Olympic ambitions, he is outraged and says she’s no daughter of his. Sandy nobly chooses the estrangement with Dad over having him know the real reason for the pact and blame himself. However, Dad works it out for himself when he goes for a drink but finds something is stopping him getting a single drop of alcohol past his lips.

Once Dad realises the full truth, he does something that takes even Dayville by surprise: he offers to let Dayville take his soul instead of Sandy’s. As Dad is willing to give up his soul immediately, Dayville considers it a better deal and happily accepts. As part of the deal, Dayville makes Satan a real horse – which puts paid to the test the vet arranged for him, and in the nick of time – and Sandy his legal owner. Moments later, Dad suddenly dies of a heart attack.

Sandy braves her grief in order to go into a spectacular and clear round (while bowling Dayville clean over!). Jocasta is so impressed with Sandy’s courage that she repents her unsavoury attitude towards her. The demons have stopped interfering with the other horses, so Sandy wins fair and square. She changes Satan’s name to “Phoenix” as she quite understandably can’t stand his old name. At Dad’s grave, Sandy vows that she and Phoenix will win the gold at the 1980 Olympics in his memory.

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That’s the Devil she’s bowling over! Yes, THE Devil! From “Winner Loses All!”, final episode, Misty 1979.

Thoughts

This story is regarded as Misty’s jewel in the crown and one of the best-ever serials in the history of girls’ comics. It deserves such recognition, for it is bold enough to use the Devil himself as the heavy and pushes the boundaries like no other serial ever has in terms of scares, torture, misery and courage, not to mention Satanism and demons that would scare the living daylights out of kids. It doesn’t even end happily although Sandy was saved from Hell. Even by Misty standards it’s extremely strong stuff. It’s a wonder this story didn’t have parents up in arms in Parliament, especially ones who were Christian fundamentalists.

Sandy Morton must be the most tortured heroine in the history of girls’ comics. Even before Dayville gets to work on her, she’s in the pits of misery with her alcoholic father dragging her down into a despairing downward spiral along with him. She sees no future at all, much less any hope of becoming an equestrian champion like the Dad she used to know.

The story then takes the “wish fulfilment with strings attached” route, with the Devil himself offering to grant Sandy’s wishes in exchange for his usual fee. But you can’t expect the wishes to bring happiness when the Devil is granting them. And that is precisely the Devil’s design, as Sandy soon discovers. While granting her wishes, he uses them as a means to torture her emotionally and psychologically every step of the way to The Pit. He uses loopholes in the contract to torment her even further. For example, his idea of making Sandy an equestrian champion is to cheat her through to victory by using his demons to nobble the competition by scaring and torturing their horses. He makes her watch in horror as his demons torment the horses. He knows she does not want to win this way and will not enjoy it when she does win. That’s the whole idea, and he’s loving every minute of it!

The difficulties in keeping her secrets from her father adds to the torment and the Devil’s delight when it causes misunderstandings with her father and they become estranged. Even Satan, Sandy’s only comfort and friend against all her misery, is being used to add to the torment when Dayville forces her into the clause that he can claim her soul instantly if anyone finds out the truth about him.

Even when Sandy’s soul is saved from Dayville he still torments her. As she looks down at her father’s grave, she knows he is now down in Hell in her place, swelling the ranks of noble souls who are just there to make up the numbers. And on top of everything else, she’s now an orphan, and only has Phoenix to accompany her in the world. All she has left to live for is win the Olympic gold in her father’s memory.

The depiction of the Devil in human form as Dayville is brilliant. It makes a change from the usual horn-headed, goat-footed figure with the red cape and trident (except when he gives Sandy glimpses of his real form). His position as bookie is a most crafty and insidious way to tempt people. Maybe Misty is making a statement about the evils of gambling? It is also quite funny to think of the Devil having a day job in the human world.

There are also dashes of humour about Dayville that make him oddly endearing at times. For example, when Sandy turns him down initially he says he’ll give her a free trial, for he has to move with the times. (Nice to know the Devil isn’t a stick in the mud!) When Sandy signs Dayville’s book of contracts he says he is so pleased she is able to sign her own name instead of making thumbprints as people used to do in more illiterate times, and he appreciates the value of education. And while Dayville is always finding ways to use his contract to torment Sandy, he never actually lies to her or goes back on his word. He always remains within the boundaries of honesty. Yes, the Devil isn’t called cunning for nothing, is he?

Dayville’s comment about the two divisions of souls in Hell is disturbing. If the idea of Hell is to punish wrongdoing, what are noble souls doing there? He never says why or how they ended up there. Did they foolishly enter contracts with the Devil too, or was it for something they failed to do – like not believing in Christ, maybe? Yikes, that’s beginning to sound like something out of a Jack Chick tract. But as stated above, the story never even mentions Christianity, much less reveal what role it could play against the Devil’s contract with Sandy. There isn’t a priest, Bible or prayer in sight.

WTFometer VII: Cinderella Story

Comixminx has devised the WFTometer, the idea of which “was to give a framework for looking at how bonkers (or not) a story’s plot was, by comparing the story to an assumed ‘average reader’s situation’. This gives a structured way of comparing stories, including the possibility of finding patterns of oddity in seemingly different stories which are perhaps odd in similar ways”.

This seventh volume of the WTFometer will look at three Cinderella stories that already have entries on this blog. They are Cinderella Smith and Make-Believe Mandy from Jinty, and Bella at the Bar (original Bella story) from Tammy.

As the name suggests, the Cinderella story means a serial where the protagonist is treated like Cinderella by cruel parents, foster parents or other type of guardian. There is often a wicked stepsister type (though not always) who is spoiled and joins in the abuse of the protagonist. Most often the protagonist’s one hope of escape comes from a talent she has discovered or special secret, but the abusers throw all sorts of obstacles in the way.

When comparing the results on the WTFometer, the scores remain the same for agency in small/large things and emotional/physical/mental security. They remain “small difference”. One reason is that the emotional/physical/mental security issues are not serious enough to go into “big difference”. For example, the abuse the protagonist endures is not severe enough to put her at risk of death, so it remains “small difference”. The variations in scores are seen in the sections on household structures and standard real-life talents. This ties in with the Cinderella format, where family structure is the basis for establishing the abuse, and where a special talent/secret is often the key to freeing the protagonist from the abuse. None of the stories hit “extreme” in any category.

First: Cinderella Smith

Score: 10

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Cindy Smith is sent to live with her two elder cousins while her father is away. They exploit and abuse her to the point of putting her in chains and making her eat out of the dog’s dish. Although they live a luxurious lifestyle they make Cindy live in mean conditions and put her in tattered clothes. Their abuse is prompted by stinginess and hatred towards Cindy’s mother, who is now dead. Cindy takes a secret modelling job. The cousins’ dog Woozums, initially hostile to Cindy, becomes her companion and co-modelling star. Cindy also gets help from her friends at school in working against her cousins’ abuse.

This story scores a 10 on the WTFometer. This is because it is the most consistent with the patterns observed above. There is “small difference” in “standard pets” because of Woozums, which takes up the scoring slightly more. It would score higher if Cindy was an orphan, but she is not. Her father is still alive. The “standard friends” structure remains “standard”, but this is in fact unusual for a Cinderella serial, in which the protagonist tends to be more isolated from any friends to help her.

Second: Make-Believe Mandy

Score: 14

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Mandy Miller’s family hate her for some reason. The parents make her do all the housework and slave in their second hand clothes shop while they devote all their attention and money on their spoiled daughter Dinah. The parents always compare Mandy unfavourably with Dinah, calling her ugly, useless and not fit to be seen with her. Whenever Mandy threatens to go one better than Dinah, the parents get even more cruel with her.

Gradually Mandy realises their hatred stems from her not being related to them by blood. She is in fact a foreign princess who was left in their care when calamity struck the country. When payments for Mandy’s upkeep fell through the Millers were left stuck with her. But now officials from Mandy’s home country have located her whereabouts, and after a series of tests to determine her identity, they want her to reclaim her throne. The Millers try to stop this by locking Mandy in the coal cellar, and Mandy is making a seemingly impossible bid to escape through the coal chute.

The scoring is similar to “Cinderella Smith”. One difference that would make the scoring lower than Cindy is that the ticket out Mandy’s misery is her royal birthright, not a special talent, so standard real-life talents are ranked as “standard. However, Mandy scores “big difference” on the two-parent household category because the Millers are not Mandy’s real parents and it can be safely assumed her birth parents are dead, which would make her an “orphan”. So Mandy scores four points higher than Cindy.

Third: Bella at the Bar

Score: 24

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Orphan Bella Barlow is exploited by her Uncle Jed and Aunt Gert, who wring as much money and work out of her as possible. They make her do all the housework, slave at Uncle Jed’s window cleaning business (without payment), don’t feed her properly and keep her off school.

Bella has a genius for gymnastics, but the Barlows either do not allow it because it will make no money for them or they take advantage of it if they do see a way to make money from it. This includes sending Bella to a seaside show where they will get money from her gymnastics acts. The seaside show manager exploits and abuses Bella as much as the Barlows do, and the acts she is being forced to do threaten her health.

Bella follows the same patterns as Cinderella Smith in the real-life talents and emotional/physical/mental security sections, but in other sections it scores higher. Unlike Cindy, Bella is an orphan, which means “big difference” in the two-parent category. The Barlows don’t let her go to school, which means “big difference” in the school category. There is “small difference” in the locality section because of the shift to the seaside show.