Category Archives: Specials and Annuals

Publications of holiday or summer specials (format like the weekly comic except longer and on better paper), and of annuals (hardback, perfect-bound)

Girls’ Crystal Annual 1967

Girls Crystal annual 1967

Cover artist: Peter Kay

Before Jinty, Tammy or even Bunty, there was the Girls’ Crystal (originally called The Crystal for the first nine issues). The Girls’ Crystal began on 28 October 1935 and was published by the Amalgamated Press and later Fleetway. It was published as a story paper but was reworked as a comic on 21 March 1953, and so it continued until 18 May 1963, when it merged with School Friend.

Here I present the only Girls’ Crystal annual I currently have as the cover ties in with the Christmas season. The Girls’ Crystal annuals started in 1939 and lasted into the late 1970s. Some of the stories were reprints from the Girls’ Crystal, which I suspect was the case with “Expelled!” and “Pepita Roams the Road”.

More information on the Girl’s Crystal and its annuals can be found here.

http://www.friardale.co.uk/Girls%20Crystal%20Annual/Girls%20Crystal%20Annual.htm

http://www.friardale.co.uk/Girls%20Crystal/Girls%20Crystal.htm

http://ukcomics.wikia.com/wiki/Girls%27_Crystal

Contents

Picture Stories

  • Not Like Lassie
  • Pepita Roams the Road (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Caught in the Act!
  • Jimmy in a Jam
  • Expelled!
  • When Fame Came to Fay

Text Stories

  • The Christmas Present (artist Dudley Wynne)
  • Mam’selle X Finds Danger at Midnight
  • Lady Jane
  • A Feather in Gillian’s Cap (artist Terry Aspin?)
  • The Witch on the Rock (Lorelei legend)
  • Tabu Island (artist Peter Kay)
  • The Silly Princess (based on The Swineherd from Hans Christian Anderson)
  • The Girl in the Moon (Goddess Diana legends)
  • Coconut Takes Over
  • The Last Empress of China (artists Sep & Scott)

Features

  • Party Magic
  • Sleep Sweetly
  • Schoolgirls in Australia
  • Just Jo (cartoon)
  • At Home in an Icy World
  • Sports and Pastimes Crossword
  • Tea in the Highlands
  • Picture Quiz
  • Butterflies for Your Party
  • Popsy
  • Silkworm Wonder
  • “Prickles” in the Garden (writer Melville Nicholas)

In its heyday, a major attraction of the Girls Crystal annual was the Noel Raymond series, written by Ronald Fleming under the pseudonym of Peter Langley. At the time it was almost unheard of for a male writer to write under a pseudonym in the girls’ papers. The Noel Raymond series was also unusual for using a male lead in a paper where the leads were exclusively female. But this annual appeared in 1967, 14 years after Girls’ Crystal disappeared into School Friend, so it is likely the annual was falling on reprints. “Expelled!” looks like a reprint from Girls’ Crystal. I could be wrong, but it looks like the story has been retitled.

The annual is a very good read and still bears up pretty well. It has 159 pages, so there is plenty of reading, and gives scope for reprints of two serials. “Pepita on the Road” is an early Robert MacGillivray. Pepita is an Italian girl who runs a puppet show. Then a volcanic eruption devastates the village and Pepita answers the call for funds to rebuild it by hitting the road to help raise money with her puppets. In “Expelled!”, Pauline Kane is wrongly expelled (as you might have guessed) and is determined to clear her name. Her determination takes her to the lengths of shacking up in a shabby backstreet boarding house instead of going home while trying to work out who framed her. Pauline gets a horrible shock when the trail leads to her own sports teacher, who even resorts to kidnapping her once Pauline rumbles her. And there seems to be a link between the teacher’s animosity and Pauline’s father, who is a famous lawyer. Pauline tells her story in her own words; unfortunately her dialogue comes across as formal and old fashioned when read today. All the same, “Expelled!” is one of my favourite stories in this annual. If anyone can provide information on when Pauline’s story originally appeared and what the original title was, if any, I will be pleased to hear it.

There are shorter picture stories as well. In “Caught in the Act!”, it is a delight to see two female magicians as the leads, who perform a popular disappearing act. They are forced to reveal the secret to the reader after partly using it to foil a robbery, but don’t worry ladies, I won’t repeat it here! “Jimmy in a Jam” is about a little brother who likes to help, but he always ends up as the one needing help. However, the jam he gets into is not due to klutiziness, but to a silly woman who is not looking after her dogs correctly, so Jimmy and the ex-gardener have to resort to drastic measures to ensure one of the dogs gets proper vet care. And it wouldn’t be complete without a ballet story, which we get with “When Fame Came to Fay”. Fay gets her chance of fame in the ballet show after the lead walks out. But when Fay learns the show needs the original lead if it is to really succeed, she has to choose between the show and her own opportunity.

Of course there are text stories too. Among them: a Mam’selle X story, a Christmas story for the Christmas season when it was published, and a castaway story with a mystery attached. One of the more striking text stories is “The Last Empress”, which tells us how a Chinese girl named Orchid was chosen to be one of Emperor’s wives. To be chosen was her dearest wish, but little did Orchid know that from there she would ultimately rise to become Empress Tzu Hsi, the last empress of China, and become even more powerful than the Emperor himself. The feature “Silkworm Wonder”, on Chinese silkmaking, ties in with the Chinese theme of this story.

Legends and fairy tales also make their way in here. There is no happily ever after for “The Silly Princess”, a retelling of “The Swineherd”, when her handsome prince decides she is not fit to marry him after she arrogantly rejects his gifts because they are natural but falls over him when he disguises himself as a swineherd and offers her a trinket. “The Girl in the Moon” tells us how anyone Diana fell in love with was doomed to misfortune because of her vow of chastity leads to difficult choices between her principles and her feelings. And the “Witch on the Rock” is not a witch but the legendary siren of the Rhine, Lorelei.

 

Shirley Bellwood

Shirley Bellwood, who died in January 2016 aged 84, is probably particularly familiar to most readers of this blog as the key Misty artist, creator of the beautiful cover and interior images of the mysterious dweller in the Cavern of Dreams. However, as this very informative piece on Down the Tubes explains, she had a long artistic career from well before Misty was published, starting in the 1950s.

In the pages of Jinty, she was most usually seen as the illustrator of text stories in Specials and Annuals. There were one or two comics stories drawn by her but these were reprinted from earlier titles.

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When Statues Walk… (1979-1980)

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Statues 1

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Publication: 22 December 1979 to 15 March 1980

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Gerry Finley-Day?; idea by Terence Magee (see comments)

Plot

Laura Ashbourne, her older brother Steve and their dog Scratch live in a high-rise flat at Craigmuir Estate. Steve is working on a building site in North Street, a street with a reputation for hauntings. The workings uncover some broken pottery. The pottery strikes Laura as unusual and she takes the pieces home. Later, Laura’s art teacher Miss Carter informs her about some unusual activity (bangs, screams, objects being thrown about) in North Street 50 years previously, and broken pottery was also found afterwards. The events drove her mother out.

In her room, Laura reassembles the pieces, which form a Viking’s head. Then the head starts screaming and shatters again.

At the site, a workman is attacked with no explanation. Laura finds more broken pottery, along with a pendant. When assembled, the pottery forms a hand holding a dagger, while the image of a crying Viking princess appears in the pendant, but only Laura can see her.

The hand holding the dagger comes to life and tries to attack the pendant, but Scratch smashes it. Then a Viking statue, minus its right arm, follows Laura all the way home and makes a grab for the pendant. But Scratch trips it up, and it smashes.

The princess in the pendant, later calling herself Leh, starts appealing to Laura for help in saving her from the warriors. She is growing weaker, and the warriors’ revenge will be complete.

Laura has a terrible nightmare of a cavern where Leh calls to her, but then she has frightening encounters with a serpent goddess, a wolf, and the clay Vikings statues who have fun with her. At the site the next morning, Laura sees the wolf from her nightmares, lying dead amid more broken pottery. It crumbles into dust.

A teacher confiscates the pendant, which has another clay warrior break into the school in search of it. It also gets smashed when Scratch attacks it, but the police blame Laura for the damage it causes. The pendant causes time to reverse, enabling Laura to get away. But then Miss Carter wants to reassemble the clay pieces, which would restore the warrior. Laura allows it, and then puts the pendant in the warrior’s hand to see what it does. It goes into a secret cavern.

Later, Laura makes her own way into the cave, recognising it as the cavern from her nightmare. She comes to a Viking longship, where she finds Leh tied to the mast. She releases Leh, but then Leh suddenly transforms into a hideous crone. Leh is really Hel, the demon goddess of the Underworld, and she has tricked Laura into unleashing her. (Leh is Hel spelt backwards.)

Hel ties Laura to the mast and explains that Thor sentenced her and her wolf, Fenrin (the wolf seen earlier) to death for the misery she inflicted on mankind. But being a goddess of the Underworld, the only way to kill her was to hold her captive for 1000 years, after which she would crumble into dust. Thor used animated clay warriors as her guards because they would be immune to her powers, which only affect mortals. They tied her to the mast and brought her to the cave that they built themselves, where they kept her under guard and repelled anyone who came near. The roadworks in North Street threatened Hel’s prison, and that is why they have been attacking it. They were trying to grab the pendant because they realised Hel was using it to try to escape. Most of the warriors got smashed over the years, like the ones Laura has seen, and only two remain. Now the 1000 years are nearly up and Hel is about to die. So she switches bodies with Laura, leaving Laura to perish in her place while she wreaks havoc in Laura’s body.

The clay warriors do not believe Laura when she explains what happened, but they eventually do so once they realise her demeanour is not the same. They untie her and go to her flat to retrieve Hel. But Steve takes them to be evil and smashes them.

Then Scratch, who has realised it is not Laura, attacks her. Hel uses her powers to repel Scratch and then Steve. This reveals herself, so she tells Steve who she is and that Laura is trapped in her dying body. After Hel leaves, Miss Carter arrives, and says analysis of the pottery revealed that it looked like human cells, but made of clay. So she believes Steve when he says what happened. A battered Scratch leads them to the cave and the dying Laura. Laura tells them to piece the warriors back together to restore them.

Tracking down Hel is easy because she could not resist causing havoc. Recapturing her is also easy, because Laura’s body could not take the strain of her powers and she is weakening. But Laura, trapped in Hel’s body, now looks dead.

They switch the bodies of Laura and Hel back in the barest nick of time – only milliseconds before Hel’s body crumbles into dust. Their task done, the warriors burn Hel’s remains, the longship, and themselves on it. But before they do, they give Laura the pendant, which now has their images on it.

Afterwards, Laura expresses a whole new respect for old people and the ravages of ageing.

Thoughts

This story is one of Jinty’s best-remembered spooky stories, and it’s no wonder –this has to be one of the scariest she has ever produced. Clay figures that come to life, scream, move around, follow you all the way home, and attack you? Whoa, that alone is the stuff of nightmares, and that’s even without the nightmare that Laura has, which is filled with nightmare caverns, frightening figures from Norse myth and a damsel in distress. The fact that it’s clay make it even more scary because clay is supposed to be inert. It’s a story worthy of Misty herself.

The use of Norse mythology adds to the atmosphere because there is a rugged brutishness and unearthliness about it that, say, Greek mythology, cannot reproduce, and readers can really sink their teeth into it. The artwork of Phil Gascoine is the perfect fit for the Viking theme, which enhances the story even more. And Vikings themselves are associated with brutality, which makes the story even more scary as you expect the Viking warriors might start burning and pillaging or something.

This is the only Jinty story that uses a goddess as a villain, though Hel can be put into the same class as the hag villains in other Jinty stories such as “Golden Dolly – Death Dust!”, because she pretty much is one by the time Laura meets her. And Hel is not a hag who bides her time gathering spells together or forcing some hapless girl to do her bidding. Nope, once she’s out, she’s off causing straight out mayhem and destruction that sends the whole town crazy. And this makes it even more exciting.

The twist that the story takes makes it even more effective because it completely takes us by surprise. We’re all set up for a damsel-in-distress who needs to be rescued from evil. It looks like it’s going to be the stuff of fairy tales. But then it all gets turned on its head when it is revealed that the princess is really the villain in disguise while the clay warriors, who had appeared to be the threat, were in fact the good guys. A salutary lesson that things are not always what they seem.

And then there is the anxiety when Laura is trapped in Hel’s ageing body and on the brink of death. She’s full of distress and tears, trapped in a 1000-year old body that could give out any time now. She’s lying in Steve’s arms, and he too is filled with torment at his sister’s plight and imminent death. It’s filled with anguish that takes us right up to the very edge of our seats, for by the time the warriors return with Hel in Laura’s body, Laura looks so far gone that it seems too late already. Nobody’s even sure that the reverse-body transfer is able to take place at all once the warriors start it. Incidentally, this is the first Jinty story that uses the theme of switching bodies (the second was “A Spell of Trouble”).

“When Statues Walk…” was one of the Jinty stories profiled in Pam’s Poll in 1980, which is further indication of how popular it must have been. It would not have been surprising if this had prompted a popular demand to bring it back. For it is a brilliantly-crafted story, filled with atmosphere, emotion, scares, the power of the gods, and twists and turns that go up right to the end. And it’s all flavoured with the mythology of Norse legend.

[Edited to add: the body-switching episode is so well drawn that it is worth adding the scans for it into the post, too. – Comixminx]

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The Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain (1975)

Sample Images

bamboo curtain 1

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Writers: Charles Herring, Pat Mills, John Wagner, Tom Tully (?). But only Charles Herring appears in the writing credits.

Artist: Giancarlo Alessandrini

Publication: Battle 8 March 1975 to 24 May 1975

Reprint: Tornado Annual 1980

Plot Summary

In World War II, “Big Jim” Blake is a prisoner in a Japanese POW camp in Burma where prisoners are forced to build a bridge on the Benwaddy River. Sado, the cruel commandant, takes great delight in punishing his prisoners by having them run the gauntlet in the Bamboo Curtain, a bamboo forest on one side of the camp that is laden with deadly booby traps. Concerned at the intimidating effect the Bamboo Curtain is having on his comrades, Blake deliberately gets himself sent to the Bamboo Curtain, in the hope that if he can somehow beat it, it will break Sado’s hold over them.

Sado declares Blake dead after seeing him fall into one of the booby traps and forces the prisoners to cheer at this. However, Blake escapes. He is then surprised to stumble across a band of British soldiers in Japanese uniform who are acting as if they are brainwashed/hypnotised and don’t even feel pain when branded. One of them he recognises as “Handlebars” Lewis from his old unit. He soon finds out Sado is behind it, but the men disappear into a ruined pagoda before he can investigate further. He decides that for the soldiers’ sakes he will return to the camp to find out what is going on, although he is risking big trouble from Sado.

Everyone at the camp is surprised to see Blake has not only survived the Bamboo Curtain but returned as well. Blake’s purpose in going into the Bamboo Curtain is fulfilled; the prisoners now see it is not so unbeatable and become more rebellious and rallying around Blake as a hero. Jensen, Blake’s best friend, is sceptical when he hears the reason for Blake’s return, because Handlebars had been sent to the Bamboo Curtain several months previously.

Sado starts inflicting heavy punishments (actually, tests) on Blake. He starts with the sweat hut, but loses face when he realises Blake is too strong to break that way. Next, Sado forces Blake to fight a masked man to the death, and Blake is shocked to discover it was Handlebars. The next punishment (Sado’s final test) – forcing Blake to find a way to escape from a minefield – backfires when Blake escapes into the Bamboo Curtain and back to the pagoda. There he discovers another soldier undergoing the brainwashing process. The process takes effect, and it causes the prisoner to go wild and nearly kill Blake. Then Sado recaptures Blake and takes him back to camp – by shackling him to the back of his jeep and dragging him along until he blacks out.

Sado now brings Blake to his hut for a surprise spread of food. Suspecting his food is drugged, Blake contrives to switch it for Sado’s plate. His suspicions are confirmed when Sado’s cat Suki goes crazy from eating the food and attacks Sado. Judging by what he saw with the brainwashed soldier, Blake guesses the drug in the food must be part of the brainwashing process and this was what Sado intended for him. He also notices the door to Sado’s office is heavily padlocked and suspects the reason is that the key to the mystery is in there.

Jensen has the men start a riot at the bridge as a diversion so Blake can go back to investigate the office. Breaking in through the roof, he rips open a desk, where he finds a paper listing the men who have been sent through the Bamboo Curtain – and his own name is at the top of the list. The rest is in Japanese, but Jensen can translate it.

However, Sado has guessed the reason for the now-quelled riot and returns to his office to check. He discovers the theft, but Blake manages to escape with the paper. Upon translation, it reveals that the true purpose of the Bamboo Curtain is a survival of the fittest test. Soldiers who survive the Curtain are incorporated into Sado’s private army. They undergo a brainwashing process to turn them into crazed killers who obey Sado robotically. The paper also reveals there is a secret entrance under one of the flagstones in the pagoda.

Determined to get his paper back, Sado has turned extra-nasty towards the prisoners. He is forcing them to work under even worse conditions (extra hours, reduced rations and sleep, drinking from a malaria-ridden source) until someone comes forward about the theft. This has Jensen and Blake escape before someone breaks and lets on, and they flee into the Bamboo Curtain. But Jensen gets caught in a quicksand trap and Blake fails to save him in time. Jensen’s death hardens Blake’s resolve to stop Sado.

Blake heads for the pagoda, where he disguises himself as one of the brainwashed soldiers. He learns that Sado is sending his army against the approaching British forces, and sets up an ambush for them at Hsenwo Valley. Blake slips away to warn the British forces, but the commander does not believe him and locks him up. Blake escapes, but bumps into some of Sado’s goons. He manages to fight them off, but then hears Sado’s signal to the brainwashed soldiers to attack the British forces. Blake stops the attack by taking Sado hostage.

Now the British forces have seen the brainwashed soldiers for themselves, they finally believe Blake. Sado is taken into custody and the brainwashed soldiers are sent to an army hospital in England for deprogramming. Soon Blake and the British are on their way to liberate Sado’s camp.

Then a report arrives to say that Sado has escaped. Blake insists on going after Sado personally and heads for the Bamboo Curtain, figuring Sado has gone there. But Sado corners Blake and is on the verge of killing him. Then Suki trips Sado up and he falls into the same quicksand that claimed Jensen. Sado begs Blake for help and mercy, but Blake rebuffs him, saying he never showed mercy to anyone. Blake leaves Sado to the quicksand while Suki looks on, and departs to rejoin the war that still needs to be won.

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Thoughts and Discussion

Although this story is from a boys’ comic, it has come up in many discussions of girls’ comics, with particular reference to discussing the slave story theme and transposing the themes of emotion, suffering, and cruelty used to revive girls’ comics in the early 1970s with Tammy to revive the boys’ titles with Battle and Action. It has also come up in several websites where former creators reminisce on what went on behind the scenes of IPC comics and the writing and editing processes of both boys’ and girls’ comics. And it has been mentioned several times on this blog. So now it is going to have its own entry here as it is related to the context of girls’ comics.

Tammy had led the field in the revival of girls’ comics in the 1970s with its emphasis on cruelty, suffering and deep emotion as opposed to stories on boarding schools, ballet and ponies. Girls were frequently abused and subjected to over-the-top tortures in schools, quarries, factories, abusive homes and other settings. The early Jinty followed in similar vein, but eventually developed her own character with science fiction, sports and fantasy stories. And finally there was Misty, who dared to be a horror comic for girls. Parents hated it, which meant their daughters loved it, and sales for the early Tammy soared.

The same elements of cruelty, emotion and suffering in Tammy were applied to Battle to make it the spearhead in reviving boys’ comics, which had fallen into a similar slump as the girls’. As Pat Mills explains: “…When we did Battle and so on, we followed the girls’ comic role model, and my boys’ comics were, and I take great pleasure in saying this, disguised girls’ comics!” http://www.comixminx.net/comixminx/articles/Entries/2008/5/31_Pat_Mills_at_CAPTION2004.html

Although this approach did make Battle a success, the creators soon discovered that there were differences between the sexes that made some formulas less successful than others. And Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain is one example where a girls’ comics formula (the slave story) proved less successful in the boys’ because of the differences between the sexes. So much so, in fact, that they never tried it again, which makes Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain a one-off stand-alone story in Battle. For this reason it is now undergoing reappraisals, with collectors appreciating what a unique story it was in boys’ comics.

The formula that Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain followed was the slave story theme, which is one of the lynchpins for a girls’ comic. The story had a group of girls (or one girl) who were being used as slaves or prisoners in an extremely harsh institution (reformatories, islands, quarries, factories, boarding schools and workhouses are frequent settings, while more unusual ones have included ships, restaurants, despotic regimes and dystopian worlds). The protagonist refuses to break under the torture, so her tormentors subject her to extra-harsh torture to break her down. Sometimes there is a mystery element involved, such as who is the mysterious masked helper who turns up to secretly help the girls, and solving the mystery is critical to the resolution of the story. This certainly was the case with Bamboo Curtain.

But Pat Mills believes it was the mystery element in Bamboo Curtain that made it unpopular and short lived in Battle:

“Mystery stories – girls, female readers, love mystery stories, say a school where there’s a mysterious headmistress, and girls are disappearing, and other girls are turning up in the dormitory – this gets them going! And the explanation can be complete crap, and it usually was, and it doesn’t matter!

“We tried this with male readers, we only did it once, and they hated it! That was Terror Beyond the Bamboo Curtain… You could see the thinking; we had the sadistic Japanese commander of the prisoner-of-war camp, and prisoners are disappearing, and strange things are going on, and the readers DID NOT CARE! They weren’t bothered about the mystery, they just wanted to see the action! What was the Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain? Who cares, bring on the violence! A female readership, even if you’ve got a mystery as simple as “What’s inside that box?”, that’ll keep them going for weeks! It’s a fundamental difference between the sexes”.

http://www.comixminx.net/comixminx/articles/Entries/2008/5/31_Pat_Mills_at_CAPTION2004.html

But co-writer John Wagner has a different opinion on what made Bamboo Curtain less than successful:

“… It wasn’t that popular a story, I think because they were prisoners and they weren’t proactive. They were having it done to them, rather than doing it themselves”.

http://viciousimagery.blogspot.co.nz/2007/01/john-wagner-talks-about-battle-picture.html

Less-than-proactive prisoners are a typical element of the slave story, even with the protagonist who refuses to be broken and is a constant rebel against her tormentors. And although Bamboo Curtain has its share of Blake striking back against his Japanese jailers (slugging guards and Sado, shooting out watch towers, fighting the masked man), he does fall into the same vein as his female counterparts when he throws away his escape from the Bamboo Curtain and returns voluntarily to the camp to solve the mystery, although he knows he is risking death at the hands of Sado. Boys must have been outraged because they had expected a more proactive approach, such Blake turning jungle commando or something to bring down Sado once he had escaped. And the cowering prisoners in the first episode must have left them less than impressed either. And they must have been used to oppressed men rising up against their oppressors and bringing on the ass-kicking action that boys wanted to see.

But now Bamboo Curtain is attracting comment and reappraisal online for daring to be different. And it is not just because it was a brave, if unpopular, attempt at transposing the slave story formula into a boys’ comic. The story also dared to break clichés:

“[Comics] had been too safe, samey, sanitised. Characters never died, nothing ever changed, nothing progressed. Like Captain Hurricane went on episode after episode, the same formula, he’d throw a raging fury and rip tanks apart, and in his raging fury always win the day. It was so unreal and we were fed up with it. We wanted to kick some butt”.

http://viciousimagery.blogspot.co.nz/2007/01/john-wagner-talks-about-battle-picture.html

The biggest kick in the butt has to be where Jim Blake actually fails to save Jensen from the quicksand trap. As Pat Mills explains:

“My favourite [great moment in the story] – Blake trying to rescue his buddy who is sinking into a swamp. “Will Big Jim save his friend? Find out next week!” Next week Blake fails to save his friend, who sinks and dies. I took such pleasure in writing that scene, because it raises truths we all have to deal with, that heroes don’t always arrive in time. And it mocks the cliché ending! Even today, in comics, we don’t challenge the clichés enough – although I do my best in Marshal Law”.

https://patmills.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/misty-the-female-2000ad/

The cliché gets mocked again right at the end when Sado falls into the same quicksand. You expect the hero to do the noble thing and extend a hand to save his/her enemy, as Patti does in “Children of Edenford”. But Blake does not. Instead, he leaves Sado to die, saying he never showed mercy to anyone. This is a most shocking and unexpected thing to see a hero do in comics and readers must have been wondering about Blake after reading the ending.

While the story turned some clichés on their heads, other clichés were hammed up. This is the case with Sado. He is cast in the model of the stereotyped Japanese, and he certainly is evil, sadistic and loves inflicting torture. Yet he is so campy that he is such an engaging and colourful villain, and he is the source of all the humour in the story, with lines like:

  • “See Fearnly run! He think he okey dokey, but he no get far – you see!”
  • “Englishman sing! He too tough for sweat box. Sado lose much face!”
  • “See – Suki like. Big boy like, too! Please to eat.”
  • “Sado have way of making prisoners talk. Work them double chop chop. Soon someone break – talk turkey with Sado.”

“Bouncie, bouncie! Big boy bounce along path like rubber ball!”

Yes, not very PC and unlikely to be allowed today. Or is Sado meant to be a parody of the stereotype rather than a depiction of it? After all, the intentional hamming up does make h8m a caricature. In any case, with lines like those you still laugh, even if they are questionable. Pat Mills says “It was even funnier when John and I were acting these lines out to each other”. It is small wonder that “Sado was popular in the company while we were writing it. One guy made and wore a ‘SAVE SADO’ badge”. Ah, the things writers could get away with sure have changed.

https://patmills.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/misty-the-female-2000ad/

But it seems that either the writers or editor did not agree, because Sado is not saved in the end.

The glasses Sado wears serve to heighten his role as a humorous villain and help dilute his evil to less extreme levels (it seems to be something about comic book characters who wear glasses). His cat Suki does fall into the cliché of the villain having a soft spot. Yet the Siamese does add a subtle sinister note to the story. For example, it knows all the safe routes in the Bamboo Curtain, and it gives the impression that it is deliberately luring Blake into a trap when he follows it. Blake knows the cat will lead him to Sado without falling into any booby traps, but what he does not know is that Sado is planning another trap for him – leaving a gun for him to find that is rigged to fire backwards.

The campiness of Sado was deliberate because: “This story didn’t work until we hyped up Sado. It was sitting there. We kept going over it and over it and couldn’t see what was wrong with it. Decided to hype up Sado”.

http://viciousimagery.blogspot.co.nz/2007/01/john-wagner-talks-about-battle-picture.html

Even with Sado hyped up, writing the story proved extremely problematic:

“I’m sure we wrote the first episode of this one [Bamboo Curtain – Herring, Wagner/Mills, Tully?]. Anything you see with Charles Herring on it, it was rewritten and rewritten and rewritten. He had lots of good ideas. You had to take one of Charles’ scripts and pick out those good ideas. This story didn’t work until we hyped up Sado. It was sitting there. We kept going over it and over it and couldn’t see what was wrong with it. Decided to hype up Sado. But it wasn’t that popular a story, I think because they were prisoners and they weren’t proactive. They were having it done to them, rather than doing it themselves”.

Here’s what Battle staff editor Dave Hunt had to say about how Mills & Wagner worked…

“Pat and John wrote the initial episodes and then farmed them out to other writers. GFD was the author of D-Day Dawson. Lofty’s One-Man Luftwaffe – that was John and Pat. Their brief was not only create a new title but bring in new talent into the industry. We’d worked with a bed-rock of people. When you launched a new title, you rang up Tom Tully, he would do four of the new strips, Ted Cowan – people of that era – Ken Mennall. A lot of the people in Battle #1 were new to me.

“John and Pat always listened and got what they wanted from you. They would see a glimmer of an idea in a script and the writer would get paid for it. John and Pat would shape that glimmer. You’d re-read it 14 attempts later and the idea would still be there but developed. I was full of admiration for them. Being freelance themselves, they always felt they shouldn’t destroy a contributor, they felt that was the last thing they should do. They wanted to train them more into their way of thinking. Often it didn’t work…I had absolutely no idea where the story was going. I’m sure we hadn’t thought past the first episode. We knew it was something pretty awful, believe me! [Sadism, violence and black humour?] That’s what happens when you put a couple of freelancers in a room together! They just egg each other on. Part of it all was a reaction to the way comics had been up until then. They had been too safe, samey, sanitised. Characters never died, nothing ever changed, nothing progressed. Like Captain Hurricane went on episode after episode, the same formula, he’d throw a raging fury and rip tanks apart, and in his raging fury always win the day. It was so unreal and we were fed up with it. We wanted to kick some butt”.

http://viciousimagery.blogspot.co.nz/2007/01/john-wagner-talks-about-battle-picture.html

Despite these problems, the end result is a story that is gripping and filled with themes (brainwashing, struggle for survival, fighting adversity, war, black humour) that are guaranteed to grab the reader. The structure is well paced and the plot holds together extremely well. There is a discrepancy or two (such as Blake losing his boots in the minefield, but suddenly wearing boots again when he leaves the pagoda). But the overall product is strong, with its greatest strength perhaps lying in the characterisation, particularly of the villain, though this has become more questionable than when it was first published. Still, at the time, hamming up Sado that way was the only way the writers saw to save the story. Nobody reading it would have guessed the problems the writers had in drafting it.

Tammy Annual 1986

Tammy annual 1986

  • Cover artist: Mario Capaldi
  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Animal Magic (feature)
  • The Bell – Strange Story (artist Jaume Rumeu aka Homero Romeu)
  • Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Wish Upon a Star (feature)
  • The Black and White World of Shirley Grey (artist Diane Gabbot, writer Jake Adams?)
  • Party Pieces (feature)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Yule Tide – text story (artist Tony Coleman, writer Ian D. Mennell)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Snow – poem (writer Deborah Pfeiffer)
  • What’s Your Resolution? (quiz)
  • Sally’s Secret – Strange Story (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Animal Magic
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Second Sight – Button Box story in text (artist John Johnston, writer Ian D. Mennell)
  • Animal Magic
  • ‘Make It’ a Great Year! (feature)
  • Flutter by, Butterfly! (feature)
  • Sweet Eats (feature)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Snowy, the Christmas Snowman (feature)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Molly Mills and the Sporting Life (artist Douglas Perry)

This was the last Tammy annual, with a gorgeous cover from Mario Capaldi. Capaldi had illustrated several covers for the Jinty annual and one for the Misty annual, but this was his first – and last – cover for the Tammy annual. Could it well be the last cover Capaldi ever produced for any girls’ annual as well? By this time the IPC girls’ titles had faded and DCT had taken more of a centre stage.

Pam of Pond Hill leads off the annual with her last Christmas story. Pam and Goof are sent to collect the Christmas tree for the school. Sounds simple and foolproof? Pam and Goof find out it’s anything but.

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The two text stories, “Yule Tide” and “Second Sight” take the unusual step of crediting the writer, Ian D. Mennell. “Second Sight” is unique for being the only Button Box story ever published as a text story, and it is a story that I have always enjoyed. Carmal, an Oriental girl, starts out as a selfish rich girl. Not surprising, considering that her uncle is a rogue. She mistreats a blind busker by putting buttons in his bowl instead of coins. But karma strikes when the uncle’s victims take a revenge attack that leaves Carmal blind and alone, and she is taken in by the very same busker she had mistreated. She learns his trade, and also learns what it is like to have mean people throw worthless rubbish in your busking bowl instead of money. In the process she becomes a more considerate and kind person – and so has the uncle, once he has tracked her down.

Meanwhile, Capaldi’s picture Button Box story is about a housemaid who hates her job because she is an outdoor type. When she foils a robber (realising he left a loose button from his jacket at the scene of the crime), it opens up a new career for her as a policewoman and enjoying the great outdoors on the beat.

Talking of housemaids, the last Molly Mills annual story reprints “The Sporting Life”, an annual sports event between the villagers and the Stanton Hall staff. Normally the villagers get on well with Stanton Hall, but when it comes to sports day it is far from a friendly match. It’s a needle event, and the needles are sharper than usual because the villagers have Olympic hopefuls on their team, and then spoilsport Pickering bans the staff from training after he gets caught up in mishaps from it.

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The poem “Snow” is also given a credit. The writer is Deborah Pfeiffer. This is the only work in Tammy credited to Pfeiffer.

The reprints are taken from 1981, including Diane Gabbot’s second-to-last Tammy story, “The Black and White World of Shirley Grey”. The original run had the honour of starting in Tammy’s 10th birthday issue. Shirley Grey refuses to tell lies in the wake of an accident she irrationally blames herself for. But Shirley is taking it to such extremes that she refuses to tell even a white lie, no matter what the circumstances. You can imagine what that leads to, and it starts with the boss’s wife asking Shirley what she thinks of her dress (which is hideous!).

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The annual is the one that stops the Bessie Bunter appearances. I find this a bit sad as I have always been a big fan of Bessie. Maybe there was no room for Bessie, or the editors decided she had had her day? If they did, it may reflect what happened in the regular comic. Bessie’s days became numbered in 1980 after Tammy swallowed Misty. During the merger Bessie was demoted from regular appearances to “from time to time” appearances while Wee Sue and Molly were still going strong.

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The Bella story is more intriguing in that Tammy is taking a serious attempt to giving the colouring more of a 3-D look in the use of the hues and tones. In the previous annuals this was only applied to skin toning, but now it is being applied to everything. The story has Bella losing her confidence because she is under a cloud that she won a medal by default when her rival withdrew. Bella’s coach is handling her badly, which only makes matters worse. But of course things turn around and it ends with Bella all set to make the coach eat his words. And it’s nice to see Bella’s last annual story focus on her gymnastics and not the machinations of Jed and Gert, which were the most frequent basis of Bella’s annual stories.

In the last Wee Sue story in the annual, Sue’s final word is “’bye!.” I wonder if this is meant to be a double meaning as this is the last-ever Tammy annual, and this particular reprint chosen for this reason.

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Tammy Annual 1985

Tammy annual 1985

  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Animal Magic
  • The Town Crier – Strange Story (artist John Johnston)
  • Fun Time
  • Animal Magic
  • Molly Mills and the Festive Season (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Are You Really Nice to Know? (quiz)
  • Animal Magic
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • The Indian Blanket – Strange Story (artist Maria Dembilio)
  • The Price of Fame – text story (artist Tony Coleman)
  • The Crazyees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Stick with Us! (feature)
  • Fun Time
  • A Girl Called Steve (artist Diane Gabbot)
  • Be a “Wise Owl” and Decorate a Plant Pot (feature)
  • Christmas Exchange – text story (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Lend a Helping Hand (feature)
  • Choose Chocolate (feature)
  • Who’s a Pretty Boy, Then? (feature)
  • Odds and Ends (feature)
  • Polar Bears and Arctic Hares – feature (artist John Johnston)
  • Fun Time
  • Animal Magic
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Be a Cover Girl! (feature)
  • Hidden Melody – Strange Story (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)

Continuing the theme of Pam’s appearances in the Tammy annual, this Pam story takes a break from the Christmas theme where everything’s gearing up for a Christmas celebration but fate threatens to throw a Grinch into the works. Instead, the story focuses on exam nerves. It’s the history exam that’s the biggest worry of all for Pam, and considering that she has never been strong academically, what will the results be?

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This annual is the last Tammy annual to have Bessie Bunter. One story has a guest appearance from Billy Bunter (below), so at least Bessie ends on a high. Meanwhile, this is the first annual to have The Button Box, and the button Bev selects tells an anti-fox hunting story and a harsh squire who is shocked into changing his ways after his fox traps nearly kill his own niece.

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The serial reprinted for the 1985 annual is the 1979 story, “A Girl Called Steve” (short for Stephanie). It’s a mystery story, but is unusual in that Steve gets two mysteries to solve, one after the other. The first comes when Steve joins her father’s archaeological dig in the caves at Clambourne Bay. Even on the journey up there, it becomes blatantly obvious that there are some very sinister types out to scare her away. Things get even worse when the superstitious locals tell Steve that the Acum (a monster said to haunt the cave) has cursed the village in retaliation for the archaeological dig, and they join the campaign to get rid of Steve and her father. But is there really a monster behind it all, or is whatever in the caves more to do with human greed? Once the Clambourne mystery is solved and Steve returns home, she soon embarks on mystery number two when the council wants to bulldoze the old tram lines and weird things start happening there.

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In the Bella story, Jed and Gert embark on one of their most idiotic dodges to make money – Gert running aerobics classes, despite the fact that she is overweight, out of condition, has no training or qualifications, and is no spring chicken. But it’s poor Bella who ends up carrying the can and fleeing the angry aerobics class once they realise they’ve been conned. However, this is Christmas, so the Bella story has to resolve that way.

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The text stories are new, but the reprints increase. The Christmas-themed Molly story is a repeat. It looks like nowhere for the Stantons to have Christmas because Pickering wrecked the hall by lighting a match in a kitchen full of gas. Claire suggests London’s East End where Molly’s family are, but are the Stantons too posh for a Cockney party? The Wee Sue stories and Strange Stories are more repeats. And it could be the cover is a reprint as well, possibly taken from Princess Tina, as the Katy covers were. Still, the annual and its content are solid and can be read again and again.

Tammy Annual 1984

Tammy annual 1984

  • Cover: John Richardson
  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Animal Magic – feature
  • Fun Time
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Vassilya’s Doll – Strange Story (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Wee Sue – artist Robert MacGillivray
  • Bessie Bunter
  • The Lucky Sixpence – text story (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Edie and Miss T (artist Joe Collins)
  • Calendar of Events – feature (artist John Johnston)
  • Bella – artist John Armstrong
  • Animal Magic – feature
  • Victim of Vesuvius – Strange Story (artist Diane Gabbot)
  • Tasty Tuck-In – feature
  • Knights of the Road – text story (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Fun Time – feature
  • ‘Sleigh’ Them, Father Christmas! – feature
  • Mask for Melissa – artist Angeles Felices
  • Wee Sue – artist Robert MacGillivray
  • The Christmas Visitor – text story (artist Diane Gabbot)
  • What a Cover-Up – feature
  • On with the Show… – feature
  • Quite a Puzzle – feature
  • Edie and Miss T (artist Joe Collins)
  • Animal Magic – feature
  • Room of Shadows – Strange Story
  • Wee Sue – John Richardson
  • Fun Time – Feature
  • Tasty Tuck-In – feature
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills – artist Douglas Perry

Tammy annuals would not normally feature on the Jinty blog. But the last three do feature Pam of Pond Hill, so they will have entries here for this reason.

Tammy annual 1984 takes over the Pam of Pond Hill appearances in the annuals, leaving the Jinty annual for that year somewhat reduced in pure Jinty content because she clearly could not have Pam. The Pam story (reproduced here in full) incorporates the Orwellian 1984 theme that was big in that same year, for obvious reasons. Here we get a twist on the Big Brother theme.

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This was the last Tammy annual to have the Cover Girls on the cover. The Cover Girls disappeared from the regular comic in late 1980 after a run that can be traced back to 1974. They are certainly enjoying themselves in the snow.

The annual has a lot of reprints, many of which I am pleased to see. The Strange Story “Room of Shadows” was one of my favourites when it first came out, so I am delighted to have it again.

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There does seem to be some new material as well; the Molly Mills story, for example, is not a reprint (unlike the next two annuals). Unwanted puppies are dumped on the doorstep, and Molly has to find a home for them fast because Pickering has nasty ideas about drowning them.

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Theatre is a big theme in this annual. One feature, “On with the Show”, discusses what goes on behind the scenes during a performance. The theatre theme is probably why they reprinted the 1978 story, “Mask for Melissa”, in which aspiring actress Melissa Mappin gets such an enormous chip on her shoulder from a facial disfigurement in a road accident that she can’t look at herself in a mirror. She resumes her career by hiding behind a facial mask and changing her name to Gaye Traynor. But the deceit is bringing its own problems – like not able to have people touch her face because they’ll find out it’s a mask – which leads to misunderstandings and unpopularity.

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Cinderella is also a running theme as well, starting with the Strange Story on page 14, “Vassilya’s Doll”. Two jealous aunts go out to more extremes than most wicked stepmothers when they plot to send their drudge to her death because they can’t ruin her looks with hard work. But they did not count on a babushka doll and (despite herself) a witch. Yes, perhaps the moral of that story is that fairy godmothers can come in all shapes and sizes – and surprises. And it’s a moral that continues in the Bella story, where Bella finds herself a Cinderella, both in a panto production and in the children’s home where she has taken a job, because of the bullying orderlies who are also cast as the wicked stepsisters. When they try to put Bella out of the panto altogether, fairy godmother arrives in a most unexpected form – Aunt Gert, who is usually Bella’s wicked stepmother. And Bella is now appearing in full colour after several annual appearances in the usual black-and-white, sometimes with red colouring. She is the only character in the annual to appear in full colour, apart from Edie and Miss T. Does this say something about her status?

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And in one Wee Sue story, the school Cinderella panto looks like a shambles when Miss Bigger sticks her oar in with her casting ideas, and then more disasters strike just before the first performance.

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In one Bessie Bunter story, Miss Stackpole is conducting a lesson on what life will be like in the 21st century, which prompts another dream sequence for Bessie. It’s the 21st century now, so how close did the Bessie story get? Well, there are still another eight-and-a-half decades left in the 21st century, so maybe it’s too early to tell yet?

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Jinty Annual 1980

JInty annual 1980

Cover artist: Audrey Fawley

  • Rinty (cartoon)
  • The Christmas Spirit (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Can You Beat Sharp-Eyed Sharon? (artist Keith Robson)
  • And Then There were Two – text story (artist Shirley Bellwood, writer Linda O’Byrne)
  • Alley Cat
  • Drat This Weather! (feature)
  • Sally Was a Cat (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • It’s a Mystery! (quiz)
  • Wrong End of the Tape – text story (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty (cartoon)
  • Gymnast Jinty (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • The Bride Wore Black (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Snow Dog – text story (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Noel Edmonds (feature)
  • If I’d been a Princess – poem
  • Superspud! Feature
  • Calendar 1980 (feature)
  • At the Midnight Hour… – text story
  • How Fruity are You? Quiz
  • The Whistling Skater – poem (Concrete Surfer artist?)
  • No Time for Pat (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Happy Ever After – text story
  • The Winning Loser (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Meet Some Hopeless Cases (feature)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • The Island of Mystery – Gypsy Rose story
  • Cat’s Corner – feature
  • The Town Girl – text story (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Take an Egg! (feature)
  • Fran’ll Fix It! (artist Jim Baikie)

The Jinty annual 1980 is a solid annual. Her own features are Alley Cat, Gypsy Rose, Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag, and Fran’ll Fix It! We learn that Fran is at her worst when she is trying to be helpful (spreading Christmas cheer) because that is when disaster is most likely to strike. Despite everything, Fran does spread cheer by making an old misery laugh at the sight of her after she tries to clean a chimney. But after this she gives up helping and goes back to fixing. Rinty is a bit unusual for having his own feature at the start of the annual. It’s just Rinty – no Jinty. Yet we get a Rinty ‘n’ Jinty cartoon later in the annual.

“Sally was a Cat” is a be-careful-what-you-wish-for story. The Robert MacGillivray artwork lends even more fun to the hilarity when sourpuss Sally Biggs wishes she could change places with her cat – and then finds the cat comes from a long line of witches’ cats and can therefore oblige her! You also have to be careful what you say around Henrietta too, in the fun-bag story. Sue wishes it could be holidays all the time instead of school, and Henrietta seizes on that in her usual alacrity. Sue changes her mind when she sees the spell has everyone else off on holiday too! No burgers, no buses, no mum to make tea, because they’re all taking a holiday. Still, Sue and her friends do end up with a holiday from school in the end because of flooding.

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“The Christmas Spirit” is lost on Julie. She is fed-up with being the butt of jokes because her surname is Christmas. She tries to find the Christmas spirit for her brother’s sake but isn’t having much luck – until she finds shelter in a snowstorm and things begin to happen. The Christmas spirit also comes to the rescue of “The Town Girl,” who is having trouble fitting into country life.

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In “The Winning Loser”, Jean and Alice Fisher try to get a replacement vase for their gran, who is comatose. Alice finds one going as a second prize in a tennis match, but has to learn to play tennis and go up against Selena, an arrogant girl who is always poking fun at her. At the tennis match, Alice starts playing a bit too well against Selena and could end up with first prize instead of the second prize she wanted for her gran. So she has to face a choice at the match – her pride or her gran?

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“The Bride Wore Black” is a demented bride still clinging to her wedding gown and feast decades after the wedding that never took place. An old cliché, but the creepiness is brought off to perfection by the Jim Baikie artwork.

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Jinty annuals have still not escaped the era of reprinting old serials from June. This time it’s “No Time for Pat”. No, it isn’t about a neglected girl. It’s a tear-jerker of a story about a girl who is living on borrowed time and using it to help a wheel-chair bound girl at the orphanage. Oddly, the June reprint has no border while the other reprints of June serials in other Jinty annuals do. Yet the Fran story does have a border.

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Other reprints include Gymnast Jinty, whom Comixminx has been wondering has been one inspiration for Jinty’s name. In this reprint, Gymnast Jinty is leading a camping trip instead of doing gymnastics. But her leadership faces a huge problem – Carol Lomas. Carol is a foolhardy girl whose lack of common sense causes all sorts of scrapes and could lead to big, big trouble – and it eventually does when Carol tries to show off while a storm is blowing up.

I wonder whether the text stories were actually written for the annual or reprints, or both. “Then There Were Two” is the only one with a credit, to Linda O’Byrne as the writer. It probably is a reprint as it is drawn by Shirley Bellwood. The same may hold true for “At the Midnight Hour” as the spot illustration artist is unknown but definitely not a Jinty artist. The spot illustrations of the other text stories were done by artists who have drawn for Jinty (Terry Aspin, Douglas Perry and Phil Townsend).

The Gypsy Rose story finally leaves Uncle Pete (The Storyteller under another name) behind. Gypsy Rose is now telling the story herself, although the story is still recycled from Strange Stories. Nonetheless, it is a sign that the Jinty annuals were beginning to outgrow reprints from older comics.

Jinty Annual 1983

Jinty annual 1983

Jinty annual 1983

  • Little Sisters (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Do You Doodle? Feature
  • Carnival of Flowers – Gypsy Rose story (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Where Do You Fit In? Quiz (artist John Johnston)
  • Snoopa (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Mystery of Martine (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Growing Pains – text story
  • For the Love of Horses – feature
  • Make Music – feature
  • Desert Island Bookshelf – feature (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Picture of the Past (artist and writer Keith Robson)
  • Make Your Own Cards – feature
  • Pond Hill Bazaar – feature (artist Bob Harvey)
  • The Thirteenth Hour – Gypsy Rose story (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Box of Tricks – feature
  • Chance to Say Sorry – text story (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Call of the Sea – Gypsy Rose story
  • Perils of Babysitting – feature
  • It’s the Custom! Feature
  • Alley Cat
  • How to Make a Fortune Teller – feature
  • At the Top of the Tree – feature
  • No Place Like Home – Gypsy Rose story (artist Carlos Freixas)
  • Nothing to Wear – feature
  • Strawberry Handkerchief – Gypsy Rose story (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Snoopa
  • Percy’s Christmas – text story
  • A Puzzle to Make – feature
  • All Around the World – feature
  • The Jigsaw Puzzle – text story (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Snowbound! Gypsy Rose story (artist Keith Robson)
  • Christmas with Dickens – feature (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Netball Quiz – feature

This could well be the annual where Jinty comes into her own, because she is no longer printing serials from older comics for the long story sections. Instead she is reprinting one of her own serials, “The Mystery of Martine“, in which an actress who plays a dangerous, obsessive woman who eventually burns down a house starts behaving exactly like the psycho. The story is reprinted in yellow colouring, which makes a nice change from the usual red to set off some black-and-white pages, or the blue that Jinty used for a while.

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The number of recycled Strange Stories as Gypsy Roses has been reduced (a couple of them were omitted from the Table of Contents for some reason); the rest are reprints of Gypsy Rose’s own stories this time. One Gypsy Rose story, “Picture of the Past” is unusual in that it is both written and drawn by the same person, Keith Robson. This is the second instance we have come across of stories being written and drawn by the same person in Jinty. Or girls’ comics for that matter.

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The cover is one of the most gorgeous covers I have ever seen in girls’ annuals. The artwork from Mario Capaldi is mouth-watering, but what really sets it off and makes it memorable is the use of the colouring. And don’t you just love exquisite pictures of Victorian times – oh, wait, is that a car and garage we see in the background, in subtle grey tones? Ah, we have very enterprising carol singers here who must have made a few extra quid by using Victorian costume.

Capaldi’s artwork continues on the first page with “Little Sisters”. This story appeared in the Tammy & Jinty merger, but the fact that it has an appearance in a Jinty annual suggests it was originally conceived for Jinty. “Little Sisters”, a popular story about a teenage girl, Carol, who finds her little sister Samantha “Sam” exasperating at times (yes, a lot of girls can relate to that) also continues the Christmas theme on the cover. Sam wants to know what is meant by “goodwill” at Christmas. She misunderstands when the family explain (not very well), but ends up sending a whole new message to them about the meaning of Christmas.

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The presence of “Little Sisters” may be the reason “Pam of Pond Hill” was reduced to a feature instead of its own story. But we get a whole new side to Pond Hill when we are shown what Pam & Co did for the school bazaar, complete with instructions on the items and games. Yes, it’s a different take on the obligatory craft-and-make features in any girls’ annual.

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In “Growing Pains” a quilting party is not Betsy’s idea of growing up. But quilting takes on a whole new meaning when her boyfriend Nathan leaves and his parting gift is a patch to sew into her quilt. This text story should have you thinking about quilting in a different light as well. And “A Chance to Say Sorry” reminds us that you are given a chance to make amends, take it. Ruth Oldham the youth drama group secretary is due to retire, but nobody likes her except Keith because she is a “bossy-boots, thinks she’s the greatest, and never lets anyone else get a word in edgeways”. Sounds like Verna from “Tale of the Panto Cat”. But unlike Verna, she turns out to be a sympathetic character with a problem. And “Percy’s Christmas” brings us the story of a know-it-all seagull who is havng trouble grasping the ways of humans and Christmas.

Some of the text features are really strong, informative, and you will read them over and over. “For the Love of Horses” tells us about Dorothy Brooke, a woman who went to track down the former World War I Army horses and mules and started rescuing them from animal abuse in Egypt. The end result was the Brooke Hospital for Animals in Cairo. I just had to show the feature to my World War I lecturer at university and she took a copy. I still wonder if the annual became a source in somebody’s essay or thesis because of this.

“I’ve Got Nothing to Wear” reminds us how lucky we are in being able to acquire clothes in comparison to clothes manufacturing in the past. Clothes had to be handmade, often from scratch, no patterns until Victorian times, and made to last because many people were lucky to have a second set of clothes.

Finally, “Christmas with Charles Dickens” rounds off the Christmas theme by telling us how Dickens celebrated Christmas. Not to mention how fit he must have been with the long walks he took all over London, sometimes covering as much as 15 miles. And he would return home ready for more while his friends were ready to collapse. The feature might have been even better if it had told us that A Christmas Carol revived Christmas at a time when it had fallen on such evil days many people didn’t bother with it. But I guess you can only put in so much into a two-page spread, plus spot illustration.

This annual definitely ranks as one of Jinty’s top annuals, one of her very best. It is well worth collecting. It is sad that the quality did not last – the next annual, though still good, reduced the Jinty content (no Gypsy Rose or Pam of Pond Hill), and the last two Jinty annuals contained just reprints of older material from other comics.

June Book 1982

June annual 1982

Cover artist: Jim Baikie

  • Lucky’s Living Doll (artist John Richardson)
  • Return of the Silver Mare – Strange Story (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Fun Spot
  • Wot’s Wot?
  • Spitter the Career Cat – text story
  • Tuck into Tucktonia! – feature
  • Box Clever – feature
  • Wonders of Nature
  • Bessie Bunter
  • The Strangest Alliance – feature
  • Disco Dancer – Strange Story (artist Tony Coleman)
  • Join the Nit-Wits! Feature
  • Could You Be a Tough Goody? – quiz
  • Fun Spot
  • Getting to Know You – feature
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Dairy Delicious – feature
  • Pictures of Matchstick Men – Strange Story (artist Angeles Felices)
  • Weather: The Rhyme and the Reason – feature (artist Joe Collins)
  • Bessie Bunter
  • What Age Are You? – quiz
  • The Phobia – Strange Story (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Bessie’s Tuck Shop – feature
  • Going with the Wind – feature
  • The Spirit of the Mary Rose – Strange Story (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • Half-Term in the Kitchen – text story
  • Lucky’s Living Doll – artist John Richardson
  • Fun Spot

In continuation with Comixminx’s entries on June, I now analyse the only June annual I still have, the one from 1982. This may have been the last June annual produced – I haven’t confirmed it.

The cover is a lively Christmas shopping scene from Jim Baikie and is more fluid and modern than the stiffer older style from June annuals of previous decades. But the annual has been reduced to 78 pages instead of the 126 that say, the Jinty annual of the same year has. This may be why it does not reprint any serial. Instead, we have Strange Stories (some of which I recognise from Tammy), reprints of Bessie Bunter and Lucky’s Living Doll, and two text stories. The two quizzes inside are strong. “Are You a Tough Goody?” tests to see if you have what it takes to be a Charlie’s Angel type or whether you should stay behind the desk like Bosley. “What Age Are You?” has nothing to do with how old you are – it tests to see whether you should have been born in ancient Rome, the Middle Ages or Victorian times.

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Lucky’s Living Doll is the first thing we see when we open the annual. It is reprinted from the era when John Richardson had taken over from Robert MacGillivray, and there has been feeling among June collectors that this marked a decline in the Living Doll series. But the story is strong; Lucky and Tina encounter a clown who has fallen on hard times but still spends far more than he can afford to keep his daughter Stella in school. He even goes to lengths such as going without food and stealing money to pay for her schooling! And he just can’t tell her what is going on, even when he collapses. Lucky and Tina decide Stella must be told, and if he won’t, they will. But are they doing the right thing?

Lucky’s Living Doll is also the last thing we read in the annual. Alarm bells go off when Cousin Matilda tells the family she is going to send “an absolute pet of a boa” to them! Tina’s imagination goes overtime as she pictures herself being eaten by a boa.

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The last June annuals also took to having one Strange Story in colour. In this case it is “The Phobia”. Other Strange Stories in the annual were in the old black-and-white. We get some good features, such as “Going with the Wind” (about windmills) and Bessie’s Tuck Shop, in which she provides recipes on how to make the Cliff House goodies in her tuck shop (though we have to wonder how they stayed around long enough to sell with Bessie in charge!). The presence of Poochy is a surprise; he did not appear in the regular strip.

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One text story “Spitter the Career Cat”, is an unusual and delightful one. It is a story about cats who go on the run, as told from one of the cats. But they don’t just run away – our narrator has his eye on getting into the high life and leading a life of luxury. It doesn’t quite go that way, of course. Eventually they settle on being travelling acting cats and take to theatre barges. “Half-Term in the Kitchen” leads to a half-term holiday leading to a battle with uncooperative wallpaper during redecorating and our heroine just about giving up before family cooperation turns things around.

It is not surprising that the June annuals had fallen into reprints by the 1980s, and they were reprints of shorter material because the reduced number of pages meant no room for reprinted serials. But the quality in this June annual is still good and I find it a delight to read.