Category Archives: Stories

A Spell of Trouble [1980]

Sample Images

A Spell of Trouble 1A Spell of Trouble 2A Spell of Trouble 3

Published: Jinty 5 July 1980 – 30 September 1980

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown

Episodes: 12

Translations/reprints: translated into Dutch as Anne Tanne Toverheks [Anne Tanne Sorceress] in Tina 1984-85

Plot

For centuries, the Black family have been the richest and most successful family in Witcham. Nobody realises that this is due to their being a family of witches, and that is because they take great care to guard their secret.

Carrie, the youngest Black, urges her mother for a lesson on how to look into the future. But they get a shock when they do, because the sight that greets them is of a homely, stupid-looking girl. Even the two witches are revolted at how ugly she looks. Her name is Angela White and she is an orphan that Matron is desperate to get rid of because she’s a bungling, walking disaster area who can’t do anything right. Her stupidity and well-meaning ‘help’ in combination with her klutziness make her even more of a menace than “The Jinx from St Jonah’s”, who at least had a brain and could do some things right. Now Matron has finally traced Angela’s relatives, so it looks like she will be rid of Angela at last.

Consultation with Uncle Bertrand the family ghost confirms the worst: Angela is descended from the Whites, the ‘black sheep in reverse’ of the Black family, and she is on her way here to live with them. The Blacks grow even more repulsed at that thought when Uncle Bertrand foretells, “the Blacks shall fall by the hand of a White!”

But it’s too late for any spells to stop Angela, because she is already outside with Matron. Matron ‘persuades’ them to take Angela in by dropping hints of unpleasant PR for them in the neighbourhood by not doing so. So the Blacks take Angela in while concealing their dislike of her and being witches. After all, says Mrs Black, Angela is family, and instructs Carrie to be nice and use no magic on Angela.

Carrie pretends to be friendly but is finding Angela blithely aggravating. For example, Carrie’s cat Jasper gives Angela a wide berth after the klutzy girl accidentally steps on his tail. Uncle Bertrand walks out on the Blacks and refuses to return while Angela stays after she cleaned up his nice, dusty, cobwebby attic – and also ruined the broomstick that was the Blacks’ family heirloom. Carrie tries to scare Angela with her pet spiders, but the joke is on her when Angela compassionately sets them free in the garden. We have a sneaking sympathy towards Carrie when Angela tries to have her watch “Marmaduke Mouse” (bleech!) because she thinks Carrie’s pop programme is unhealthy; Carrie snaps and turns Angela into a mouse. But she didn’t bargain on Jasper trying to eat Angela while she is a mouse and the spell has to be removed – fast!

The Blacks try a spell to foist Angela off onto another couple. But it fails because soppy Angela thinks the Blacks will be heartbroken if she leaves.

A further complication then comes up: the witches’ coven has a rule that a non-witch cannot live with a witch family. So when the Witch Inspector finds out about Angela, she says that either Angela has to become a witch or the Blacks will have their powers removed.

Now Angela knows the truth about her relatives, and once she hears what the Witch Inspector wants her to become, she is repulsed: “I’m not a horrid witch like you and I never shall be either!” she tells Carrie. She won’t have a bar of becoming a witch. Carrie tries to find ways to make Angela change her mind, including an evil Egyptian ring to corrupt her personality and make her amendable to becoming a witch, but nothing works. The failures are due to Angela’s bungling as much as her resolve, and sometimes spells exploding in Carrie’s face as well, including the evil ring. The Blacks manage to stall the Witch Inspector with a spell to make Angela and Carrie switch bodies so Carrie, in Angela’s body, will impress the Witch Inspector with Angela’s ‘progress’.

But of course the witches eventually find out Angela has not become a witch and strip the Blacks of their powers, which fulfils Uncle Bertrand’s prophecy. No magic is very hard on the Blacks because they’ve never got by any other way and they depended on magic to be successful and rich. Mum can’t use magic to pay the bills, so she has to take a job, which she isn’t strong enough for. Carrie’s self-esteem plummets and her schoolwork deteriorates because she can’t do it magically (all right, perhaps cheat through it magically would be a fairer description).

Seeing this, soft-hearted Angela decides to become a witch after all so the witches will return the Blacks’ powers. Unfortunately she does this without consulting her Black relatives beforehand or getting their advice. They only find out once they find Angela’s note explaining what she’s done and has now gone off to the witches’ coven to show it – and also find themselves attacked by brooms that dopey Angela bewitched to clean up the place and then forgot to un-bewitch afterwards! Mrs Black tells Carrie to get after Angela, because anything could happen now that bungling idiot is a witch.

Sure enough, Angela is bungling witchcraft, just as she bungles everything else, and she hasn’t got the brains to use her powers wisely or discreetly. Realising her train is going in the opposite direction from the coven, Angela casts a spell that makes it go backwards, which leads to confusion and chaos for the angry passengers and the hapless stationmaster. Then she asks the stationmaster where the coven is – as if he would know – which makes him suspicious, and the witches’ secret is in danger.

The witches have seen it all in their crystal ball. They now realise Angela should not be a witch because she is too much of a bungler to do it right. So they agree to return the Blacks’ powers, but on strict condition that Angela is depowered and never allowed to become a witch again.

Now that the non-witch rule is no longer a problem, the road is clear for non-witch Angela to get along with her witchy Black relatives.

Thoughts

The Jinx from St Jonah’s meets Bewitched. Well, it sure has all the ingredients for a sitcom, having a family of witches meet their match in a bungling oaf of a relative who always goofs up, sometimes without even realising it. There are always loads of laughs for the reader in every episode, no matter whether it’s the Blacks or the White who get the upper hand. But it is always the non-magic bungling White who wins in the end, much to readers’ delight.

Trini Tinturé’s artwork is the perfect choice in bringing out both the witchiness of Carrie Black and the goofiness of Angela White, often in the same panels. Not to mention all the hijinks that ensue from Angela’s bungling and the sometimes-bungling magic as well. Tinturé was a very popular Jinty artist, and having her draw this story would have really added to its popularity. Indeed, “A Spell of Trouble” was one of my personal favourites when it first came out.

The Blacks themselves add to the humour too, most often when some things, including their own spells, go a bit wrong for them. They are not all that nice and can be mean, but they can’t really be described as evil or villains although they are witches. Anti-heroes, er, anti-heroines would be the best description. They’ve got their human touches and can come across as sympathetic, such as Carrie enjoying pop music programmes, and thinking the boarding school Angela tries to enrol at in one episode “belongs in a museum”.

When the pressure to make Angela a witch begins, the story becomes a battle of the wills, albeit still in a hilarious way. Angela may be a bungling idiot, but we have to give her full marks for resolve when she adamantly refuses to become a witch. We have to wonder where it will all end up. Perhaps Angela will end up as a toad, a transfiguration Carrie threatens her with several times. But considering Uncle Bertrand’s prophecy, we get the impression the Blacks will lose the battle. In fact, it all ends up where nobody foresaw, though the warning signs were there – that Angela is too much of a bungler to make a competent witch. The witches should have made an exception to the non-witch rule in her case, which they do in the end. It is fitting enough, and everything ends happily for both the Blacks and their White relative after all.

Minnow [1980]

Sample Images

Minnow 1

Minnow 2

Minnow 3

Published: Jinty 3 May 1980 – 30 August 1980

Episodes: 12 (skipped one issue)

Artist: Peter Wilkes

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Minna Purves’ class starts swimming lessons. For some reason Mum is totally against Minna going to the swimming class. She says it’s wrong for Minna, but won’t explain why. However, nobody is excused from swim class without a note, so Minna’s off to it anyway – behind Mum’s back.

Minna has no swimsuit, so she has to make do with an unflattering swimming costume from lost property (no wonder nobody claimed it!) that makes her a butt for teasing, especially from Sharon. They call her “tadpole”, but the swim coach, Miss Garrett, more kindly calls her a “minnow”, and so her nickname is born. Emma is Minna’s only friend in the class.

Surprisingly, Minna soon finds she is a natural in the water and Miss Garrett even thinks she will become a very good swimmer. But when the waves machine comes on, Minna has a strange panic attack that she can’t explain (hmm, could this be what Mum was on about?). Following this, it becomes obvious Miss Garrett will have to give Minna some special attention if she is to regain confidence and carry on swimming.

Mum finally tells Minna that her father was drowned at sea, which gave her a phobia about water and losing Minna to it (but is that all there is to it?). In Minna’s view, this is all the more reason to improve her swimming. The coach for the local swimming club, Mr Byrnes, comes scouting out the class for new members, and Minna wants to join. They do trial laps to get into the club, but the noise from the cheering has Minna going off into another panic attack. This time there is a flashback too, of clouds and seagulls. Minna is pulled out and despite the mishap, Mr Byrnes wants her to join. But there are two problems: first, Minna has to pay fees, and second, she needs the signature of a parent/guardian. Minna addresses the first with her savings, which is easy enough. As for the second, well, she has little choice but to forge Mum’s signature.

While looking for something to copy Mum’s signature from, Minna finds other surprises that deepen the mystery: old letters in a foreign language, and a photograph of her mother and father holding swimming trophies. Later, when Minna wonders why her mother never lets her handbag out of sight, not even indoors, she can’t resist opening it – and finds an Olympic gold swimming medal with her father’s name on it. When Minna tackles Mum about it, Mum says it’s best for Minna not to know why.

That evening Minna goes to the swim club. To her consternation, bully Sharon is there too, but at least Emma is there also. When trying to dive off the diving board, the faces in the water and their voices yelling for Minna to jump set off another panic and she runs off, screaming that she has got to get away or she will drown like her father. As Minna runs off she unwittingly knocks Sharon into the pool, which makes Sharon hate her even more. Minna is encouraged to return to the water later, when there are no voices or faces, and her love of water returns.

Miss Garrett gives Minna a better swimsuit so Sharon will stop teasing her over the old one. But Miss Garrett also wants to question Mum about the strange panic attacks, not realising Minna is swimming behind her mother’s back. Minna does some quick thinking and says Mum is not in – which turns out to be true, as she’s late home from work.

At the next swim session, Sharon has the girls all teasing Minna by splashing water at her – which triggers off another panic attack. Sharon is stricken with remorse when she sees she nearly caused Minna to drown and she has to be pulled out. From then on she gives Minna no more trouble. Minna remembers more from the strange flashback: this time she saw mist over the water. But it all fades again. Miss Garrett says she seems to remember a bit more each time, and Minna finally tells her not to approach Mum about the matter because of the upset it could cause.

Newspaper reporters come in to do a feature on the swim club – and they would take a photo of Minna jumping off the diving board, which makes the front page the next day! Minna tries to hide it from Mum, but of course she finds out eventually. After the initial shock and anger, Mum agrees to let Minna continue with swimming, but she says something odd: “I think the damage may already be done…” Now what can she mean by that? Mum also says that she couldn’t save Minna’s father from drowning, but then Minna wonders how this could be if Mum and Dad were champion swimmers. She realises Mum is not telling her the full story and there is more to it. Mum also seems to be getting more overprotective in her behaviour when she suddenly starts collecting Minna from the swim club. While she does so, Mr Byrnes seems to think he knows her from somewhere.

Then two suspicious-looking men take a photo of Minna and Mum outside the club and drive off in a hurry, and they are clearly not reporters. The strange men send Mum off into a real fright. She whisks Minna off home and locks the place tight. She says it’s something she’s been dreading all of Minna’s life but still won’t explain what the hell is going on.

That night, Minna has more nightmares of the strange flashbacks, and this time she dreams she is a drowning baby with yelling voices all around her. One voice yells, “Leave me. Save the baby!” But as always, it fades.

Next day, Mum goes out to withdraw all their savings and tells Minna not to let anyone in. But the sinister men return and, with the unwitting help of a neighbour, make their way in and kidnap Minna. They tie her up and take her to a ship, which has notices written in the same language as Mum’s letters. They won’t explain what the kidnapping is about because they assume Mum has done it already (which she hasn’t). And then the ship starts sailing.

However, Minna manages to break out when a man brings her food (stupid idiot left the door open while untying Minna’s hands!) and she dives off the ship. (You will find it all on the Peter Wilkes page in the panel gallery.) The swim back to shore in the cold water tests all her new swimming skills to the limit, but she makes it – just.

Minna arrives home, where Mum and Mr Byrnes are so relieved to see her. Mum says the men were using Minna as blackmail to force her to return home, which is an Iron Curtain Eastern European country. Mum met Minna’s father at the Olympic Games, where he won his gold medal (and Mr Byrnes a bronze, which is how he came to know her). When Mum’s home country would not allow her to go to England with her new husband and newborn Minna, he tried to help her escape by boat. But it all went horribly wrong when fog caused the boat to founder against some rocks. Mum managed to save baby Minna from the water, but Dad was killed. Minna realises that this disaster was what she had been recalling in her flashbacks, and now she can see it in its entirety for the first time.

Mum made it to England with Minna, but has always lived in dread of her Iron Curtain home country catching up with her and dragging her back. This was the real reason why she had been so opposed to swimming, and she even gave it up entirely. She also realised her home country would try to grab Minna once they realised what a good swimmer she was, because they never give up.

Sure enough, the men come back to try again. However, the police are waiting for them this time. The police say they will arrange for Mum to remain in England. Mr Byrnes says it would be easier if she married another Englishman (hint, hint!).

A few weeks later, Mum is back in the swim with her new husband (Mr Byrnes, of course). Minna’s panic attacks have disappeared, and she is learning more and more about swimming from her Olympic champion parents.

Thoughts

This story must have been popular, because it prompted one reader to write to Jinty on how she loved the mystery and leaving everything unexplained until the last episode so readers could keep having a go at solving it. She also asked Jinty to write more mystery stories, which was a suggestion Jinty didn’t seem to take up much for the remainder of her run.

Girls always loved mystery serials. It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to guess that Minna’s strange flashbacks, Mum’s opposition to Minna learning to swim, and Dad’s death from drowning are all connected. The mystery is just how they are connected. It deepens when Minna finds evidence that both her parents were swimming champions, so what’s turned Mum off the swimming that made her a champion? It gets even more tantalising when it becomes more and more obvious that Mum is not telling the whole truth. Not even when the sinister men show up, which makes the situation cry out for her to tell Minna everything.

When the creepy men appear in the story, their introduction makes it evident that Mum is not just some problem parent who is unreasonably opposed to the swimming because she was traumatised by a tragedy associated with it, as other parents in similar stories are. It becomes even more so when Mum starts behaving that she is clearly in hiding and making preparations to run away. This not only deepens the mystery still more but also makes it even more exciting. And when Minna is kidnapped by the strange men who won’t tell her what’s going on either and have her bound for some unknown destination, it all comes to a very exciting and dramatic head.

This is the first Jinty story since “Curtain of Silence” to use the topic of the Iron Curtain. As with “Curtain of Silence”, it uses sport and kidnapping as part of the Iron Curtain oppression. Unlike “Curtain of Silence”, however, the Iron Curtain element is not revealed until the end of the story, and it’s all part of the mystery that permeates the story right up until the final episode. We don’t even know the name of the Iron Curtain country or exactly who the kidnappers are. It also raises the disturbing question of just how much people who manage to flee the Iron Curtain ever fully escaped from it. Even in a democratic country, did the shadow of the Iron Curtain continue to hang over them in one way or other?

Nothing To Sing About [1979]

Sample Images

Nothing to Sing About

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Published: 9 June 1979 – 25 August 1979

Episodes: 12

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: Girl Picture Story Library #15 as “I’ll Never Sing Again!”

Plot

Linette Davis dreams of being a top singer like her father Gary, who is a very famous singer. As far as Linette is concerned, things couldn’t be better. But there are warning signs of storm clouds ahead. Dad had been receiving medical advice to take it easy, which he is not heeding. Dad’s adoring fans have an unfortunate tendency to get carried away when they mob him for autographs and souvenirs, and have even torn his jacket off. When Mum and Linette watch Dad’s concert in Croxley, there’s an ominous poignancy about his singing…as if he’s doing it for the last time. Afterwards Linette hears that Dad went ahead with the concert although he was feeling poorly.

After the Croxley concert the fans mob Dad again, but he suddenly collapses. He dies in hospital, and Linette’s world is shattered. Mum says it was a heart attack, which had been coming for some time. But Linette blames the fans, saying they crushed and trampled him to death. This causes her to turn into an extremely bitter and irrational girl. She calls the fans murderers and lashes out at any fan of Dad’s that she encounters.

Moreover, Linette now can’t stand singing or music in any form, and she wants to block them out of her life. Whenever she hears Dad’s music being played (at record shops etc) she can’t stand it and wants to run away. Linette locks up Dad’s piano and throws the key away so it will never play that music again. She even goes as far as to try to stop birds singing in the garden. And she herself refuses to sing anymore; she gives up her singing lessons and burns all her singing books.

Linette refuses to listen to Mum’s urgings that Dad’s death was due to a heart attack and nothing to do with the fans, and that she shouldn’t give up on singing. As far as Linette is concerned, singing stopped the day Dad died.

Dad’s death has brought on financial difficulties too. They cannot afford to keep up their big house. Linette suggests they take in lodgers, as long as they are not singers. But singers are precisely what Mum takes in and she is helping them with their singing too. Linette can’t stand it and tries to get rid of the lodgers. But she ends up with Tom Bruce, the secretary of Dad’s fan club, and his daughter Anna.

Linette promptly starts taking her anger against the fans out on Anna and her Gary Davis fan club. Despite this, Anna tries to reach out to Linette. And Linette is forced towards Anna even further when the financial situation means Linette has to transfer to Anna’s comprehensive school.

At Anna’s fan club, Linette tries to crush it by yelling accusations about their being responsible for his death at their meeting. However, she is interrupted when a sudden fire breaks out, which nearly claims her. She won’t believe that it was one of Dad’s fans, Lucy, who saved her from the fire. And it’s too much for Linette when Mum agrees to let the fans hold their meetings at her house because they’ve lost their meeting place from the fire.

So Linette decides to run away, to a place where nobody sings and Dad’s music is not played. Silly girl; there’s no place like that, short of running away to a desert island or something. Sure enough, everywhere Linette turns she finds Dad’s songs and fans, and music. And she is forced to break her vow never to sing again after she loses her money and has to raise some at a talent show with her singing.

More problems come when Linette seeks lodgings. The landlady, Mrs Huggins, turns out to be a dodgy woman. Once Huggins realises Linette is a runaway, she starts blackmailing her into being the hotel skivvy, with no pay. And there is still no escape from Dad’s music when Linette discovers the Gary Davis impersonator that Huggins has hired for a cabaret evening. By the time the embittered Linette has finished with the impersonator, the cabaret evening is ruined and Huggins is furious because it cost her a fortune. In fact, Huggins is so furious that she is going to turn Linette in. But Linette runs off before Huggins finishes the phone call to the police.

Linette is forced to take shelter at a record shop, where she finds there is still no escape from Dad’s music because it is full of Gary Davis merchandise. The record shop owners, Mike and Sue, take her in, and Linette is a bit ashamed when she finds their disabled son loves singing and it brings the family sunshine. At first it’s extremely painful for her to work in the record shop, which sells Gary Davis merchandise, and it’s a hot seller. But to Linette’s surprise, hearing Dad’s music begins to bring comfort. Her experience in the record shop has her realise that he lives on through his songs and will never really gone altogether.

However, Linette still blames the fans for Dad’s death and refuses to go home because of the fan club. Then Linette sees her mother making a televised appeal for her to return. Appalled at how ill her mother looks, Linette returns immediately. She realises it was her conduct that has made her mother ill and is ashamed. Unfortunately she still blames the fans for Dad’s death and can’t accept their staying at her house. She lashes out at Anna over it, which causes her mother to collapse altogether.

In hospital, Mum urges Linette to sing her one of Dad’s songs. Linette can’t bring herself to sing, but does so when Tom tells her to stop being so selfish. A man from a record company overhears Linette singing and asks Linette if she would be interested in a contract, but she refuses. Singing is still off as far as she is concerned. Back home she still snubs the Bruces and the fan club, and even calls in the police when they hold a disco at her house. But the police find they have permission for it. Linette is ashamed when told they were raising money for her father’s favourite charity and begins to soften towards the Bruces a bit.

But Linette still blames the fans. Her hatred flares up again when she discovers that Mum and Tom are now engaged and she is going to have Anna for a stepsister. And when she finds Anna playing Dad’s songs on his piano (reopened with a new key) she yells that she does not want one of the fans who killed her father for a sister. When Mum asks Linette why she can’t accept that the fans did not crush Dad to death, Linette says she knows better than that. And to prove her point, she’s going to see Dad’s doctor about it – he should know.

And the doctor does. In fact, it’s the doctor who finally convinces Linette that Dad was not crushed to death by fans. It was indeed a heart attack, which was already on the way and could have struck at any time. It was just unlucky coincidence that it did so while the fans were crowding Dad.

Linette goes home ashamed and anxious to apologise – but it’s too late. The engagement’s been called off and Tom and Anna have moved out, all because of Linette’s conduct.

To put things right, Linette arranges a surprise that means resuming the singing she had tried to eschew. She then gives Mum, Tom and Anna tickets to a concert at Croxley (yes, where Dad died), where they all hear her sing. Tom and Mum get the message of the lyrics “We’ll always be together, you and I…” and resume the engagement. The records company boss is also there and repeats his offer, which Linette accepts this time. At Mum and Tom’s wedding, Linette does more singing honours and welcomes the cheering fans she used to hate so wrongly.

Thoughts

No sooner had Alison Christie finished one emotional story about a misguided, grief-stricken girl (“I’ll Make Up for Mary”) for Jinty when she started on another, “Nothing to Sing About”, which replaced Mary. The story also reunites the Alison Christie/Phil Townsend team, a combination which has been a long-standing stalwart in Jinty, especially when it comes to emotional stories such as “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, and would continue well into the merger with Tammy e.g. “A Gran for the Gregorys” and “It’s a Dog’s Life!”. Jinty sure liked to keep Christie cranking out those emotional stories to give her readers a good cry.

Although not as classic or well-remembered as Stefa or Rainbow, Linette’s story is still a strong, solid one. It is also more psychologically complex because it combines two emotional problems to compound Linette’s grief rather than the one problem that Mary and Stefa had. And they both have to be untangled and resolved if Linette is to get past her father’s death and learn to live her life again.

The first is Linette shutting all music and singing out of her life because she finds it too painful in the wake of her father’s death. This is not unlike how Stefa tries to shut all love out of her life in the wake of her friend’s death. This alone is enough to carry Stefa’s story.

But in Linette’s case there is a second problem that carries the story even more intensely  – the hatred that has consumed her because she blames the fans for Dad’s death. Her hatred is making the grieving over Dad’s death even worse, not only for her but also for everyone around her. And to make it worse, she is quite wrong to do so, but she won’t accept that.

Irrational hatreds that stem from wrongly blaming someone/something for a loved one’s death are a common feature in Alison Christie’s Jinty stories. More often, though, it is on the part of the antagonist of the story and the protagonist suffers because of it. Examples where this has occurred include “The Four-Footed Friends” and “Cursed To Be a Coward!”. But here Christie takes a more atypical step of having the protagonist carry this hatred. And by insisting on believing it was the fans when Mum pleads it was a medical condition, Linette does not understand that she is making things even worse for herself and hurting everyone around her even more, or that she is dishonouring her father’s memory by lashing out at his fans. Nor does she realise that she is the architect of her own misfortunes, such allowing her irrationalities to have her run off and getting into all sorts of scrapes, including being blackmailed and exploited by Mrs Huggins.

It does make a change to have the voice of authority (the doctor) being the one to bring the misguided, aggrieved girl/woman to her senses instead of the more usual shock treatment, such as their conduct causing an accident or something. Readers might have expected Linette’s time on the run to provide the cure, but it doesn’t, which makes another change. Though Linette finds running off is no escape from Dad’s music, it does not sink in that his music is impossible to run from or be silenced. In fact, there would have been a swelling of popularity of Dad’s singing in the wake of his death, but Linette does not realise that either. Nor does seeing her mother ill really make Linette see reason, though she realises she is responsible for it because of the way she is behaving. Once she does see reason and the damage she has caused, she is forced to go back to the singing she had tried to erase from her life. And in so doing she learns to appreciate singing all over again, become much happier by letting go of her pain, and honour her father by following in his footsteps.

Casey, Come Back! [1979]

Sample Images

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Published: 16 June 1979 – 30 June 1979

Episodes: 3

Artist: Unknown artist “Merry”

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None

Plot

Josie Stanton has lived and worked on her grandfather’s farm since her parents died, but it’s miserable and lonely living there. Grandfather is a stern man and a real sourpuss who does not show her any affection or appreciation. He treats her like an unpaid labourer, takes her completely for granted, and gives her nothing but work, work, work. Josie’s only friend is the farm dog, Casey, and she does not know what she would do if she ever lost Casey. For this reason she can get quite jealous and possessive if anyone else takes an interest in him.

This happens when Casey and Josie encounter a holidaymaker, Mandy Prescott, who is on a caravan holiday with her parents. Mandy is spoiled, but she’s feeling lonely because she has nobody to talk to on holiday, and welcomes Casey’s company. This makes Josie jealous, but there’s worse to come – the Prescotts ask Granddad to sell Casey to them, and he agrees.

When Josie finds out, she is heartbroken and furious. She goes after the holidaymakers, but they are now leaving. Josie has no clue as to who they are and where they come from, and neither does Granddad. Josie is even more furious with Granddad when he expresses no apology or sympathy for her hurt feelings. The only gesture he makes is offering her some of the money he made from Casey, which Josie of course refuses. He does not listen to her pleas to help find Casey either. He tells her she can always get another dog, so shut up and get on with the chores. That’s the last straw for Josie. She tells him to get another slave and runs off in search of Casey.

Josie has a stroke of luck at Bill’s garage when he happens to mention the holidaymakers. She questions Bill about them. Fortunately Bill did some mechanical work for them and is able to give her their name and address. Josie sells her jacket to catch a train there.

Meanwhile, spoilt Mandy has begun to realise the responsibility of looking after a dog and is not even bothering to walk him. All the same, when Josie turns up, Mandy is not going to give Casey up without a fight. And a fight is precisely what it turns into, right on the doorstep!

However, while the girls are fighting, Casey runs off. And being a country dog, being lost in traffic would be dangerous for him. When Josie tells Mandy this, she is upset and agrees to help search, but in vain. Josie tells Mandy why Casey means so much to her, and Mandy repents taking Casey away from her. She did so because she was jealous of seeing Casey and Josie together and did not understand the circumstances.

Granddad is summoned. He is now deeply sorry for what happened, especially after he hears Josie saying that she thinks she means nothing to him except cheap labour. He really does love her, but it took the shock of her running off to get him to show it.

Casey then returns, and once they realise Casey wants them to share him, it’s agreed he will return to the farm and the Prescotts will visit him every holiday. So Josie returns to a home that is much better than before, and with a new friend in Mandy.

Thoughts

During 1979 Jinty ran several three-part stories that feel underdeveloped and would have been far better stories if they had been given more episodes. This one also feels like it’s over before it’s hardly begun. Though it probably does not have enough steam to stretch out into a standard length serial, a bit more length to turn it into, say, a six-parter like “Food for Fagin”, would have developed the characters more and made the story a far better one.

For example, the story could have developed more insights into the grandfather and why he is so stern towards Josie. Is he just one of those people who are not the demonstrative type and don’t find it easy to express affection? Is it something in his past? Is it sexist attitudes towards females, seeing them as only fit to slave around the house? Or is it something else? And we could also have seen more of just how much life has changed at the farm and how things have improved between Josie and her grandfather.

We get a taste of how Josie’s lonely home life and lack of friends except Casey has bred some unhealthy traits in her, such as her possessiveness and unwillingness to share Casey. There is some hint that her miserable life is turning her into a sourpuss in the eyes of everyone else; for example, Bill tells Josie she ought to smile more than she does. But we don’t know for sure because it’s not explained or developed enough. What does emerge is Josie not only becoming a happier person but learning to show it. Still, more episodes could have developed Josie further. For example, what is her school life like? No schoolmates visit her farm, but does she have any friends at school?

More length could have also developed the emotional elements more. As it is, we can see it has plenty of potential. Although Granddad is not cruel or abusive as some guardians in Jinty serials are, he definitely is thoughtless and insensitive towards Josie. It’s no wonder she thinks he has a heart of stone, couldn’t care less about her, and she is so miserable living with him. It turns out that he does have a heart and loves Josie, but it takes the shock of seeing the consequences of his thoughtlessness to bring it out. Josie and Mandy are both in their own ways miserable people and both seek friends and companionship, with they eventually get in a most ironic way – through Granddad’s thoughtlessness.

Alice In A Strange Land (1979)

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Published: Jinty 17 February 1979 – 9 June 1979

Episodes: 17

Artist: Terry Aspin

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none identified to date

Plot

Alice Jones is a timid orphan who lives with her uncle, aunt, and cousin Karen. Karen is much more confident and outgoing than her cousin, and overshadows Alice at everything. Some people have faith in the shy girl – for instance one of her teachers at school says that if she had confidence in herself she could do so much better, because she is very clever at most subjects. Her family are pretty dismissive of her, in ways bordering on abuse – the two girls share a birthday, but while Karen is bought a pretty party dress and made much of, Alice is simply bought a pair of socks as a present and told to be grateful that they have looked after her for all those years.

We don’t see much of this miserable home life, though. The initial four page episode sees both Karen and Alice apply for a school exchange holiday in Texas – exciting! – which they are both chosen for (much to her family’s disgust), and the small group of seven schoolgirls sets out in an equally small twin-prop plane. The plane is too small to survive a huge storm that blows up, and it goes way off course – instead of heading to Texas, the girls find they are flying over South America! The final straw is when the pilot’s eyes are dazzled by the shining golden roofs of a mysterious lost city, which the stewardess only has time to exclaim must be “El Dorado, the lost golden city of the Incans!” before the plane crashes. The two grown-ups are killed and the seven schoolgirls are left alone in an exotic jungle. Alice wants them to head towards the golden city, but Karen, who has appointed herself the natural leader of the group, calls the idea absurd – because Alice was the only one of the schoolgirls to see the golden roofs.

Karen takes charge and leads the girls onwards – luckily in the direction that Alice thinks they should be going in anyway (they’re following the path that the plane made as it crash-landed). In the forest a bird appears – again, Alice is the one that sees it first, but Karen notices that its beak and claws have been painted gold, and that it is a tame bird. It leads them all to the lost city after all! Karen is furious at being proved wrong and drags Alice along with her to the temple that the bird is leading them to. In the middle of the temple is the image of the sun, and it starts to glow mysteriously, as the two girls are surrounded by robed priestesses who hail them as ‘great ones’ and bow down to worship them!

The priestesses hail the two girls as part of a prophecy of a ‘white-skinned goddess to lead us back to greatness’, and seem to be treating all the group to luxurious accommodation. Alice is the only one who is suspicious – she believes they are being imprisoned under the guise of having servants waiting on them hand and foot. And something she overhears the head priestess talking about gives her a fright – the priestesses need to decide which out of Alice and Karen is the Sun Goddess and so they will be put to a test. Of course Alice wouldn’t usually stand in Karen’s way for such acclaim, but she does so in order to protect a slave girl, Chana, who is threatened with death simply for daring to look upon the group of schoolgirls.

In return for Alice’s support, Chana gives her some clues to help pass the test. Just as well The two girls are made to navigate a gigantic maze and to get past the guardian at the centre of it – a sleek black jaguar. Following the instructions to ‘go above the maze’ and to ‘call the black one by his name’, Alice succeeds: she climbs the walls (despite her great fear of heights) and soothes the jaguar by calling him Aquila as instructed. At the last minute however, she hears the echoing voice of Chana, calling to her: “Help me Sun Goddess, or I will die!” The treacherous high priestess has gone against her word and banished Chana from the city, which will mean death in short order if she is not allowed to return. But a nasty surprise meets Alice on her return to the centre of the temple: the urn that she had already reached, and which she needed to take to the high priestess to prove her claim, is gone! Of course Karen had taken it despite knowing that Alice was there first – and Alice is now branded the “false goddess”.

The only thing that is keeping Alice going is the thought of letting Chana down – Chana being the only person so far who has believed in Alice and not seen her as “some kind of bundling idiot”. Alice is also justifiably worried about the whole dangerous situation that they are in – a danger that none of the other girls realise. Not that she understands all the dangers – another slave girl tells her that if she wants to walk out of the temple into the city and nearer to Chana, all she has to do is to walk past the guards. Which she does – but it’s the act of entering the palace that the guards are there to prevent. Alice is left wandering in a deserted city which seems not to have been lived in for hundreds of years. Where is Chana and what is the fearful secret of this mysterious land?

The few locals who live in the city are not very helpful – on hearing that Alice has come from the temple, they lock her up overnight and then bring the leader of their people to see her. He is surprised to see that she has not visibly changed on her overnight stay: “everyone who belongs to that temple changes when they leave it”. And once he takes he to Chana, Alice understands why: Chana has turned into an aged woman, almost literally overnight! Inside the temple is a spring that grants eternal life – but if you fail to drink from it even once, then your true age returns to you and you will die. This is the fate that awaited Chana on being exiled from the temple – and in order to return to the temple, Alice herself will need to accept the slavery of the spring of eternal life! And return to the temple she must – moments after telling her tale to Alice, Chana is killed by an earthquake, and the temple is where Karen and the others are. The high priestess knows exactly what she is making Alice do, even though Karen impatiently says “What’s got into you? It’s only a little drink of water!”

Here is where Karen once again shows herself as being much less astute than her cousin (as well as much less kind and considerate, of course). Why on earth would the high priestess make it a condition that all new joiners to the city must drink the water from this specific spring, if not for some nefarious reason? It’s not done as part of some big joining ceremony, it’s just Alice, Karen, and the high priestess. Karen even impatiently says she will drink some of the water to prove it’s not poisoned, but Alice can’t accept that risk, and dashes the cup over the posh robes that her cousin is wearing, so that Karen leaves in a huff. That suits the high priestess all right, who knows jolly well who’s figured out what: “You, little one, are too clever. You have found out too many of my secrets!” And under the threat of death, Alice drinks – and finds that, as promised, her previous life becomes like a dream.

She works in the kitchen alongside other slaves, agog to even catch a glimpse of the fabled Sun Goddess and her servants. The sight of the magnificent goddess playing catch in the sun seems to ring a bell but the memory fades as soon as it has come – the reality of life is her work in the kitchen and the threat of recurrent earthquakes that the city suffers from. A fellow slave informs Alice that the Sun Goddess is to be sacrificed to save the city from the anger of the god that makes the earth shake – and even this does not rouse Alice from her dreamlike state. After all, a goddess cannot really die, just appear to do so – really she will just be returning to the sun. Nice explanation!

Even in this dire situation, Alice is not entirely without friends. No, not the group of school girls that she came with – the rotten lot are following Karen’s lead and ignoring her entirely, happy for her to end up as a mere slave. But one of Chana’s friends advises her that she must try to avoid drinking the water from the spring of life, and then she will remember who she is and what she is trying to do. And so she does – but only at a point when she is trapped below the kitchens and outside a locked door, menaced by the rising waters of an underground lake!

That’s the point at which the episode in the sample above comes in. She is rescued, almost unbelievably, by an old Victorian gent out for a spot of fishing – “Sir Edward Carter, explorer to her Majesty Queen Victoria, at your service, my dear!” The old gent is a dab hand at rescuing her and making sure she’s warm, dry, and fed: but otherwise is a bit of a patronising old git when told about the danger of the high priestess: “Humbug!”. Not that this is surprising once we get to the end of the episode and realise that it is his own daughter, Lady Dorotea, who is the very same high priestess! Alice is in more danger than ever before, but she hopes that if she stays close to Sir Edward, his daughter will fear to tip her hand in a way that makes him see the double-game she has been playing. But the high priestess sends some henchmen (henchpriestesses?) in the middle of the night to kidnap Alice and bring her to where the other girls are being kept – now in a dungeon, awaiting Karen’s sacrifice the very next day!

The girls plot a desperate plan, under Alice’s lead (even Karen now acknowledges how brave and clever she has been). The sun goddess must go to her death willingly, otherwise the sun god will be angry – so the bribe for that to happen is that if she does, the other girls will be set free, and if not, they will all be killed. So someone must put herself up for sacrifice, and conveniently the costume has a golden mask, so someone else could take Karen’s place while the others go to Sir Edward for help… not that anyone is willing to risk death, apart from Alice of course. By the end of the episode she is bound to a sacrificial altar, hoping fervently that the ceremonial chanting will take long enough to give Sir Edward plenty of time to come and save her – until another earth tremor convinces the high priestess to move the schedule on a bit quicker!

The earth tremors only grow further in intensity, and the panicking Incas start to flee for their lives. When Alice manages to free her hand enough to remove her golden mask, the sight of their ‘false goddess’ causes the rest to flee – but not Lady Dorotea of course, who is all too willing to kill the stumbling block in her way. Finally the cavalry arrives, in the form of Sir Edward, who informs his daughter that the earthquake has stopped the spring from flowing, and so they are both doomed in any case. Of course the vengeful harridan would still like to have a final stab (very literally) at Alice, but a convenient chasm opens up beneath the two Victorians and swallows them up, leaving the girl as the sole survivor. She manages to escape the crumbling cavern and rejoins her happy (and, finally, grateful) cousin for a joint river escape with the rest of the schoolgirls. The girls are safe and are returned home, in a blaze of publicity!

Of course the uncle and aunt are a fly in the ointment – they are delighted to have their darling daughter back, but know that “it can’t be true'” that Alice was the heroine – it must have been Karen! Alice is understandably worried that she will find herself back in the same situation as she left some four months previously (the newspaper article gives the timeline) – downtrodden by her blood relatives. But no – Karen really has changed her tune, and says “I’m not going to let them bully you into being a mouse again, even if they are my mum and dad!” And all ends happily after all.

Thoughts

This is a fantastic story and one of my absolute favourites, though not without flaws (see below). The action moves on swiftly throughout and is full of excellent imagery – the mutton-chop wearing old gent, the deranged high priestess, the beautiful lost city. So much of that is down to artist Terry Aspin, of course, but he had a very strong base to work on and I hope he got a real kick out of it. The elements of the lost city and the spring of eternal youth are far from new, but seen through Alice’s eyes they still work as well as when H Rider Haggard was penning similar tales of “She” and of “King Solomon’s Mines”.

“Alice” was clearly the lead story throughout its run: it was positioned on the first double-page spread of each issue it was in (apart from the first issue, which had the last episode of “Girl Who Never Was“). It also was on the cover 6 times, though always sharing the billing with another story (unlike “Sea Sister”, “The Four Footed Friends“, and “The Forbidden Garden” which all had one or more covers dedicated to their protagonists during this time). This is despite the amazingly strong run of stories at this point – the same issues that this is in also include the stories above and the fantastic “Children of Edenford“, which never was granted cover status). This story was well-thought-of in the editorial office, and deservedly so. It is one of the stories that I never forgot from the time of first reading it, to when I regained copies of Jinty as an adult (and when I first watched Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, I knew the best way for the teen heroine to beat the maze well before she figured it out for herself). I am surprised that I can’t immediately note a translation or reprint version of this story – I am sure I have seen mention of one, so I hope it’s just that I have mislaid the relevant information on any European translation details.

On the downside, once again in Jinty (and indeed in girls’ comics stories generally) the lack of serious research strikes (though I am much more inclined to forgive it in this story than in the lacklustre “The Sceptre of the Toltecs”). To many British people, them-there mysterious lost peoples of the Americas are all very similar – Incans, Mayans, Aztecs are much of a muchness. (The same imprecision extends to naming – the correct term is “Incas” or “Inca”, not “Incans” as the story has it.) The writer of this story got right the focus on gold and on the sun god, which were big elements in Inca society, but seems to have imported much of the rest of the flavour from Mexico (Aztec human sacrifice) or from the Yucatan peninsula that stretches down to Guatemala and Belize (Mayan temples lost in the overgrown jungle). The tame bird that is seen in the second episode is very similar to the beautiful Quetzal bird which is the symbol of Guatemala, but El Dorado is a legend that has its origins in Colombia and hence relates more closely to the Incas. And so on. Of course in some ways it would be wrong for this sort of fantastical story to link itself too closely to a specific real location or people – why not cobble various elements together into one? – but then the fact it refers to the real Inca belies that. Never mind, it’s a great yarn – and as someone who visited some amazing Mayan ruins as a child, the scene setting worked very well for me nevertheless.

To the modern reader there are a number of glaring holes. The local people understand English? The tribe have a white saviour complex? The high priestess turns out to be a Victorian explorer’s daughter? The two Victorians and the rest of the temple staff don’t seem to have lost their memories with all the drinking of magic water every night? Yeah right. But the various implausibilities of the stories never detract from the solid and exciting story that rushes you along. It’s a long run – 17 episodes – but it never drags or repeats itself. I hope that it will be chosen as an example for Rebellion to reprint in short order – it would certainly very well repay any new attention to it.

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

Sample Images

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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

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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.