Category Archives: Stories

25 Things You May (or May Not) Have Noticed in Girls’ Comics: Volume 3

We’ve had two instalments of “25 Things You May (or May Not) Have Noticed in Girls’ Comics”. You know, the ones that start with:

“We have all noticed certain things in girls’ serials. Things about plot, character and setting that always seem to crop up and we comment on them a lot. Then again, there are other things about plot, character and setting that always crop up as well, but we hardly even notice them. At least, not until someone else points them out.”

Well, here we are again, with:

25 Things You May (or May Not) Have Noticed in Girls’ Comics: Volume 3

 

1: We get plenty of serials with spooky moggies…

Cat
Image credit: “Cat!”, M&J, 1991.

 

2: … but not many with spooky doggies.

Whistle and I'll Come..
Image credit: “Whistle and I’ll Come…” Misty 1978-79.

 

3: Antagonists who trick protagonists into signing contracts don’t make sure they are legally valid.

The Stables Slave

Image credit: “The Stables Slave”, Tammy 1972-73.

 

4: When you count on something, there’s always something you didn’t count on…

Bad Luck Barbara
Image credit: “Bad Luck Barbara”, Mandy 1985.

 

5: We all laud the one true friend who stands by the unfortunate protagonist through thick and thin…

Move Over, Maria
Image credit: “Move Over, Maria”, Bunty 1994.

 

6: … yet we all wonder why the hell the true friend sticks by the protagonist when she’s a pain in the butt and nobody else likes her!

Snobby Shirl the Shoeshine Girl!
Image credit: “Snobby Shirl the Shoeshine Girl!”, Jinty 1976.

 

7: The main villain suddenly reforms if they cross an even bigger villain.

Sadie in the Sticks
Image credit: “Sadie in the Sticks”, Tammy & June 1974.

 

8: Parents with a problem child seem to think a schoolgirl and change of scene will be the instant magic cure.

Be Nice To Nancy!
Image credit: “Be Nice To Nancy!”, Judy 1989-1990.

 

9: We don’t get many girls’ serials where the main antagonist is a boy.

 

bullied
Image credit: “Bullied!”, M&J 1996.

10: So often is a magic object more trouble than it’s worth, even if it does have its uses.

Topsy Turvey
Image credit: “Topsy Turvey”, Mandy 1985.

 

11: Aliens with advanced science often have poor scientific methods.

The Human Zoo
Image credit: “The Human Zoo”, Jinty 1978-79.

 

12: About 99% of the time, protagonists/antagonists out for revenge find out they were mistaken.

Down with St Desmonds
Image credit: “Down with St Desmond’s!”, Bunty 1977-78.

 

13: The plot always sets you up to beware of girls who look so sweet and angelic you could use them for artificial sweeteners.

Angela Angel-Face
Image credit: “Angela Angel-Face”, Jinty 1980.

 

14: The problem in a dystopian world of the future is nothing the 20th century can’t fix.

Trixie of 2087
Image credit: “Trixie of 2087”, Debbie PSL #107, 1987.

 

15: Nobody but the protagonist seems to act if an animal is being mistreated until the final episode.

Olympia Jones
Image credit: “Olympia Jones”, Tammy 1976-1977.

 

16: An award, prize or big win always turns out to be a jinx – unless it’s won at the end of the story.

The £100,000 headache
Image credit: “The £100,000 Headache”, Debbie PSL #33, 1980.

 

17: They never let you get away with deception, even if your reasons for it are sympathetic/noble.

Ashamed-of-Her-Mum-5
Image credit: “Ashamed of Her Mum”, Debbie PSL #100, 1986.

 

18: There are plenty of girls’ serials with bully teachers…

Helen-1
Image credit: “Hard Times for Helen”, Judy 1984-85.

 

19: … but not many with bullied teachers.

Patsy on the Warpath
Image credit: “Patsy on the Warpath”, June 1969.

 

20: So often everyone seems to conveniently lose all memory of something weird happening except the protagonist and all trace of it disappears at the end of the story – even when there is no reason for it.

Who is Astra?
Image credit: “Who is Astra?”, Mandy PSL #62 (and #211), 1983.

 

21: Loads of girls’ serials are set in World War II…

 

Catch-the-Cat-5a
Image credit: “Catch the Cat!”, Bunty 1976.

 

22: … but few set in World War I.

For the Love of Lucy
Image credit: “For the Love of Lucy”, Diana 1978.

 

23: Beware of sweet-talking ladies who offer to take poor homeless orphans under their wing.

Slaves of the Teasets
Image credit: “Slaves of the Teasets”, Bunty PSL #292 (and #438), 1987.

 

24: Somebody does not listen to warnings when they should have…

Minnie-7
Image credit: “Minnie the Meanie”, Judy 1982.

 

25: … with predictable results to shape the rest of the story.

Minnie-5
Image credit: “Minnie the Meanie”, Judy 1982.

25 Things You May (or May Not) Have Noticed in Girls’ Comics: Volume 2

In our previous blog entry we listed 25 Things You May (or May Not) Have Noticed in Girls’ Comics. You know, the one that went:

“We have all noticed certain things in girls’ serials. Things about plot, character and setting that always seem to crop up and we comment on them a lot. Then again, there are other things about plot, character and setting that always crop up as well, but we hardly even notice them. At least, not until someone else points them out.”

But it doesn’t end at 25. Oh no, you wouldn’t expect that, would you? No, of course not! Now we present:

25 Things You May (or May Not) Have Noticed in Girls’ Comics: Volume 2

 

1: Parents fail to stand up for themselves at the worst moments… and with the worst consequences.

Down with St Desmonds 1
Image credit: “Down with St Desmond’s!”, Bunty 1977-78.

2: The lengths overprotective parents go to to protect their offspring are so ridiculous they’re laughable – yet the consequences are not.

Namby Pamby
Image credit: “Namby Pamby”, Tammy 1983.

 

3: If all else fails, bring in a deus ex machina to redeem the mess the protagonist is in.

Down with St Desmonds 2
Image credit: “Down with St Desmond’s”, Bunty 1977-78.

 

4: Protagonists making claims of harassment often turn out to be faking the whole thing…

Pam of Pond Hill 3
Image credit: “Pam of Pond Hill”, Tammy & Princess 1984.

 

5: … yet real harassment/ bullying often seems to go unnoticed by those in authority.

Tears of a Clown 1
Image credit: “Tears of a Clown”, Jinty 1980.

 

6: We are surprised if the school tries to sort out a bullying situation before the end of the story…

They Call Me a Coward
Image credit: “They Call Me a Coward!”, June 1971.

 

7: … but we aren’t at all surprised if they sort it out at the end of the story.

Pam of Pond Hill 2
Image credit: “Pam of Pond Hill”, Tammy 1983.

 

8: Schemers plotting to get rid of someone keep failing to do so, no matter how much they discredit them (except when they are required to temporarily succeed before being found out).

That Bad Bettina
Image credit: “That Bad Bettina!”, Mandy 1985.

 

9: Parents never listen to warnings that something weird’s about to strike the family.

The Sentinels 1
Image credit: “The Sentinels”, Misty 1978.

 

10: Guess who cops the worst of it.

The Sentinels 2
Image credit: “The Sentinels” Misty 1978.

 

11: We get lots of serials about World War II and fighting the Nazis – but it’s rare to see Hitler in any size, shape or form.

Worlds Apart 3
Image credit: “Worlds Apart”, Jinty 1981.

 

12: Bodging could have some pretty funny results.

Sharon's Shadow
Image credit: “Sharon’s Shadow”, Tammy annual 1983.

 

 

13: For some reason we always know when parents have picked the wrong person to put in charge of their daughter while they are away… which seems to happen quite a lot.

Tina's Telly Mum 1
Image credit: “Tina’s Telly Mum”, Tammy & Misty 1980.

 

14: Witches with pointy hats and broomsticks often seem to be played sympathetically or for humour…

Worlds Apart 4
Image credit: “Worlds Apart”, Jinty 1981.

 

15: … while witches who look like crones or beautiful but sinister women  are played for the chills.

painting6
Image credit: “The Painting”, Bunty 1989-90.

 

16: Ordinary antagonists aren’t killed off much.

Katie on Thin Ice 1
Image credit: “Katie on Thin Ice”, Tammy 1977.

17: Supernatural/ SF ones are.

electra-of-the-evil-eye-4
Image credit: “Electra of the Evil Eye”, Bunty 1980.

 

18: We are very surprised if a parent problem is resolved by the daughter making her parent/parents simply see sense.

Ill-Never-Forgive-You-4
Image credit: “I’ll Never Forgive You!”, Bunty 1989.

19: We are not surprised when the parent/parents see sense after the daughter runs off… or gets run over.

B&W World of Shirley Grey 2
Image credit: “The Black and White World of Shirley Grey”, Tammy 1981.

 

20: The only time the protagonist gets acquitted at trial is when her pal arrives at the very last minute with the evidence that will clear her.

Olympia Jones 1
Image credit: “Olympia Jones”, Tammy 1976-1977.

 

21: In regular strips, brothers are a pain in the ass.

Tansy of Jubilee Street
Image credit: “Tansy of Jubilee Street”, Tammy & Jinty, 1982.

 

22: It’s unusual to have a serial starring a plump/ plain protagonist outside of an “ugly duckling” serial…

willa-will-dance-3
Image credit: “Willa Will Dance”, Debbie 1974

 

23: … or a humour strip where the protagonist doesn’t give a s*** about the way she is!

Bessie Bunter
Image credit: “Bessie Bunter”, June.

24: People just say the protagonist is not right in the head when she tries to convince them of something…

End of the Line
Image credit: “End of the Line”, Misty 1978.

 

25: … but when she really is not right in the head they don’t realise it.

Waves of Fear 1
Image credit: “Waves of Fear”, Jinty 1979

 

 

 

25 Things You May (or May Not) Have Noticed in Girls’ Comics

We have all noticed certain things in girls’ serials. Things about plot, character and setting that always seem to crop up and we comment on them a lot. Then again, there are other things about plot, character and setting that always crop up as well, but we hardly even notice them. At least, not until someone else points them out. To give you the idea of what we mean, we present:

25 Things You May (or May Not) Have Noticed in Girls’ Comics

1: The protagonist is always an only child, except when the plot requires her to have siblings.

Pam of Pond Hill 1
Image credit: “Pam of Pond Hill”, Tammy 1984

 

2: The protagonist endures even the worst abuse imaginable rather than upset dear old mummy and daddy by telling them what’s going on.

Witch
Image credit: “Witch!”, Bunty 1991.

 

3: Problem parents always make the wrong assumptions about their daughter until the end of the story.

Hard Times for Helen
Image credit: “Hard Times for Helen”, Judy 1984-85

 

4: If the daughter speaks out against it, it’s not until the climax.

Hard Times for Helen 1
Image credit: “Hard Times for Helen”, Judy 1984-85.

 

5: Parents sense they have a problem with their daughter – but don’t do anything about it except shout the house down.

Waves of Fear 1
Image credit: “Waves of Fear”, Jinty 1979.

 

6: And then they discover they handled it all wrong – but not before it’s led to something totally preventable.

 

Waves of Fear 2
Image credit: “Waves of Fear”, Jinty 1979.

 

7: The protagonist doesn’t write to a problem page for help, though there are plenty of them in girls’ comics.

Write to Kim
Image credit: Problem page, Girl (second series), 1981.

 

8: The order and favourite story coupons they always tell you to fill out ruin the comic for future collectors because they leave holes in it.

Favourite story coupon
Favourite story coupon, Tammy 1981.

 

 

9: (Except when the plot allows it), child welfare’s never around when you really need ’em…

Bella at the Bar 1
Image credit: “Bella at the Bar”, Tammy 1974.

 

 

10: …but alway stick their noses in when you least want ’em.

Bella at the Bar 2
Image credit: “Bella at the Bar”, Tammy 1974.

 

11: No boys in girls’ adventures, though men are allowed…

The Human Zoo 3
Image credit: “The Human Zoo”, Jinty 1978-79.

 

12: …except very young boys, mostly kid brothers.

Somewhere over the Rainbow
Image credit: “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, Jinty 1978-79.

 

13: A lot of exonerations are contrived because we simply must have happy endings.

B&W World of Shirley Grey
Image credit: “The Black and White World of Shirley Grey”, Tammy 1981

 

14: Advanced aliens never developed the know-how that could have saved them – but less advanced humans have.

Human Zoo 2
Image credit: “The Human Zoo”, Jinty, 1978-79.

 

15: Serials about girls sent to reform / special school are either sent unjustly or only need a little toning down…

Merry at Misery House
Image credit: “Merry at Misery House”, Jinty 1974-75.

 

16: …never because they’re utter toerags who really deserve it!

Be Nice to Nancy
Image credit: “Be Nice to Nancy!”, Judy 1989-1990

 

17: The weather’s always fine, except when the plot demands otherwise.

Human Zoo 1
Image credit: “The Human Zoo”, Jinty 1978-79.

 

18: Historical accuracy is not a strong point in girls’ comics.

Sit It Out, Sheri
Image credit: “Sit It Out, Sheri”, Tammy 1976.

 

19: Protagonists / antagonists don’t do their homework before they embark on an evil campaign – which would have told them it was a complete waste of time.

Witch 2
Image credit: “Witch!”, Bunty 1991.

 

20: No boys in sight, no matter what world you land in.

Worlds Apart 1
Image credit: “Worlds Apart”, Jinty, 1981.

 

21: Ye Editor does not pick up all the goofs – but we do.

The Sentinels
“The Sentinels”, Misty 1978.

 

22: We groan at how so many villains get off too lightly at the end of the story!

Spartan School
Image credit: “The Four Friends at Spartan School”, Tammy 1971-1972.

 

23: In serials about difficult mother-daughter relationships, there’s never a father who could intervene.

No Haven for Hayley
Image credit: “No Haven for Hayley”, Tammy 1981.

 

24: In serials about a shrinking parent, it’s always the mother.

mum-1024x356
Image credit: “Mary’s Mini Mum”, M&J, 1991.

 

25: Protagonists don’t realise the obvious until it’s pointed out to them.

Make Believe Mandy
Image credit: “Make-Believe Mandy”, Jinty 1974.

 

 

Knight and Day (1978)

Sample Images

Knight and Day 1aKnight and Day 1bKnight and Day 1c

Published: Jinty 20 May 1978 – 26 August 1978. Not to be confused with “Day and Knight” (1984), Princess/Tammy

Episodes: 15

Artist: Unknown

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Pat Day’s mother abandoned her four years earlier and never bothered with her since. Pat is now happily fostered with the Hargreaves, has a foster-brother named Terry, and she has just qualified for the school county swimming team.

Then Pat’s mother, now remarried as Mrs Knight, successfully applies to get her back. Pat protests that she doesn’t want to go back to her or leave the Hargreaves. Mrs Hargreaves can’t believe social welfare is allowing it after how the mother treated Pat before, but it’s no use. The Hargreaves have no rights, not even visitation rights. Pat has to go back to her mother. Terry gives her a parting gift: his precious Chinese coin, which he has turned into a pendant for her.

But Pat soon finds out her mother only wanted her so she, her new husband and stepsister Janet could get a council flat. Neither parent cares about Pat, and Janet bullies her and makes her life a misery. Ironically, it is soon obvious that the parents aren’t particularly good to Janet either.

Later, Pat finds out Janet is the school bully and hated by the whole school. Moreover, Janet is the unbeaten school swimming champion. She thinks she’s the greatest. And she does not like the threat Pat poses to her there. She also intercepts and destroys a letter the Hargreaves send to Pat. All Pat has now are swimming and the coin pendant.

School is of little help because once the girls realise Pat is the school bully’s stepsister, they want nothing to do with her. Moreover, Janet cunningly poisons them against Pat by pretending to act nice to her at their expense. One girl, Laura, sees through this trick, but can’t convince the others.

However, the girls cheer when Pat beats Janet at swimming (finally) and gets a place on the swimming squad. Soon Pat is impressing the swimming teacher with her diving and swimming capabilities. But Janet is furious over her humiliation and is playing dirty tricks to get revenge. Her first is getting Pat lumbered with a paper round, on pretext of the family needing extra money. As planned, this cuts into Pat’s time for her swimming coaching.

The only drawback to this plan is that Janet has to do the round as well. Meanwhile, the man hiring Pat lets his daughter Cheryl accompany Pat on the first round. Cheryl is afraid of water and can’t swim, and Pat offers to teach her. She and Cheryl become friends, much to Janet’s chagrin. At school, Laura guesses the real reason why Pat got lumbered with the paper round. She still believes Pat is not like Janet, but again nobody is listening to her.

Cheryl’s dad hears about the coaching problem and offers to pay Pat to teach Cheryl to swim. So Pat can now get her coaching and Janet gets lumbered with the paper round. And Dad says she has to do it or feel the back of his hand. Ha, ha!

A package arrives for Pat from the Hargreaves, with money and a lovely swimsuit, but Janet steals it and shows it off in front of Pat at Cheryl’s swimming lesson. When Pat sees Janet in the swimsuit she finds it odd, because her foster parents were going to buy her a costume like that. Janet takes advantage to taunt her that not hearing from them (because she intercepts the mail) shows how much they care for her. This really hurts Pat, and Janet loves it. She pulls other nasty tricks, such as shaking Pat off the diving board and trying to poison Pat’s mind against the Hargreaves. Cheryl is more suspicious about the origins of the swimsuit and tries to convince Pat that Janet is just being spiteful and bullying, but Pat is still fooled by Janet’s phony kindness to her.

At home, Mum gives Pat a letter; it came with the parcel and Janet overlooked it. Once Pat reads it she realises what Janet did. Pat confronts Janet, says she now sees Janet for what she is, and takes her swimsuit back.

The parents slap both of them for fighting. Both Pat and Janet cry over it. Janet’s trying not to, but Pat can hear it, and she now realises why Janet is the way she is. But she’s had enough and is also scared she will end up like Janet because of those parents. So she runs back to the Hargreaves. However, the police are there when she arrives and take her back to the Knights.

To the police, Mum puts on a good show of loving mother who was worried sick over Pat running off. But once they’re gone, Mum hits Pat for running off, and spills her guts over how she really feels about Pat. She never loved Pat or her father, never wanted Pat at all, and only got her back so they could get the council flat. Otherwise, she would have been quite happy never to see Pat again. But now they’re stuck with each other, she says, and there’s no escape. There is little doubt that lumbering herself with the daughter she never cared for, just to qualify for the flat, is turning Mum’s unfeeling towards Pat into downright hate.

After this frightening scene with her mother, Pat starts cracking up. It begins with outright rebellion. When Janet tries to steal Pat’s swimsuit again, she cuts it up rather than let her take it. She smashes crockery, threatens to wreck the flat, and defies her mother when she tries to force her to eat. This looks like the beginning of a hunger strike because Pat refuses to eat all day. Then she turns to depression, thinking the whole light has gone out of her life and there is no escape from her miserable home life. She is snappy to the other girls at school. Again, Laura correctly guesses what’s wrong. At the school gala Pat refuses to dive and just bombs off the diving board. Worst of all, she shoplifts a bracelet from a store, not realising security caught her on the store camera.

Suddenly, Pat is struck by guilt and wants to return the bracelet, but not eating all day is catching up and she feels faint. A policeman sees this and takes her home, where her parents give her a terrible beating for breaking the crockery. However, Cheryl discovers this when she comes to the door to enquire after Pat. She realises Pat’s parents are mistreating her.

Even Janet is shocked at the state Pat is in after the beating, and it’s the start of a whole new relationship between them. The parents force Pat to stay home until the injuries heal as they don’t want the teachers to see them and ask questions. They force Janet to stay home as well, to make sure Pat does not go to school. Janet protests that this means missing the swimming competition, but Dad clouts her: “If you don’t want to end up like her, you’ll do what you’re told!”

Seeing Janet’s new-found sympathy, Pat agrees to stay at home – but then remembers the bracelet. She slips out to return it, disguising her bruises as best she can with a scarf and dark glasses, but her attempt to return the bracelet goes wrong. What’s more, security recognises her from before and alerts the staff and police.

They don’t believe Pat was trying to return the bracelet. But then the police remove her glasses and scarf and see she is a battered child. The police realise she needs serious help and offer to do so. However, Pat is overcome by shame and runs off.

Meanwhile, at school, Janet is beginning to redeem herself. She threatens to menace a girl but stops when she sees how terrified the girl is, just like Pat, and makes a kind offer of help with swimming instead. This surprises everyone and Laura realises the change in Janet. Janet further redeems herself when she leaves the swimming to go home and check on Pat.

By now, Pat hasn’t eaten for two whole days. At the canal, lack of food, the beating and running from the police take their toll and she collapses. She falls into the canal, hasn’t the strength to swim, and she’s got cramp and blacking out. Someone needs to rescue her or she’ll drown.

Cheryl has been following Pat about the beating, and now she’s the only one to help. The trouble is, she can’t swim and is scared of water. Nonetheless, she bravely goes in to save Pat but soon realises it’s beyond her. Janet sees how foolhardy Cheryl is and tells her to get out fast. Janet rescues Pat herself.

In hospital, Pat goes into a coma for three months. Despite this, she has horrible nightmares about her ordeal and her mother separating her from the loving Hargreaves forever. But when she wakes up from the coma, she finds everything has been sorted out. The store did not press charges over the bracelet. Janet and Cheryl helped the police inquiries about the battering. The parents were prosecuted and given suspended sentences. Pat returns to the custody of the Hargreaves, who are adopting her now. Pat’s swimming coach is arranging special coaching for her in her own town, and now Pat couldn’t be happier.

As for Janet, she’s now the heroine for saving Pat and her redemption is complete at school. She has taken over giving Cheryl swimming lessons. Cheryl’s brave attempt at rescue had clearly been the first crucial step she had to take to overcome her problem with water. Mind you, Janet still thinks she’s the greatest! Pat and Janet are reconciled and all is forgiven. There’s still rivalry between them at the swimming gala, but it’s friendly. Janet is staying on with her parents, who weren’t quite so bad to her, and is hopeful they will treat her better because social welfare is watching.

Thoughts

“Knight and Day” is cast in the mould of the Cinderella theme, a common formula in girls’ comics, but goes against it in several ways. In so doing, it depicts a far more realistic and grimmer picture of the horrors of domestic child abuse. First, the heroines in the Cinderella serials are usually resilient and refuse to broken by the cruelties they are subjected to. They come up with ways to fight back, usually with a little secret or talent of some sort. But not in the case of Pat. From the outset, her only response is to cry a lot. She still clings to her swimming and pendant for comfort and hope, but on the whole she is far less resilient than most Cinderella-type protagonists such as Bella Barlow. There can be little doubt it stems from her being damaged by her mother’s initial neglect, and the damage is exacerbated by her being forcibly removed from the home where she was loved and happy.

Second, when Pat finally fights back, it is first by standing up to Janet and then running off, then lashing out and hunger strike, and even a mutinous act of shoplifting. But then depression sets in. Pat loses all fight and hope, and self-inflicted food deprivation is not helping. Her will is just about broken. This is quite surprising as it’s not normally how Cinderella heroines in girls’ serials react. Sure, they can get depressed and demoralised, but they usually bounce back somehow. On the other hand, it is pretty close to how things would be in real life with an abused child, which makes the story very realistic indeed.

Third, Pat may be the worst-off daughter, but it’s a surprise to see the parents don’t spoil Janet or treat her as the favourite at Pat’s expense, which is usually the case in similar serials e.g. “Make-Believe Mandy”, also from Jinty. In fact, they’re not fit parents for Janet either. For example, Janet comes home soaked to the skin from the paper round, but they don’t care and haven’t even left any breakfast for her: “We’re not your bloomin’ servants. Make your own.” And the only thing for that is a slice of stale bread. They also clout Janet as much as they do Pat, although they don’t go as far as to beat Janet all over.

Finally, the parents use both girls for their own advantage, not just the ill-used heroine. They use Pat to get the council flat. None of the money either girl earns from the paper round or the swimming coaching goes to them, as it should. Instead, the parents pocket it all. The pretext is that the parents are hard up. There may be some truth in this, but it is still blatant exploitation. The girls should at least have some of it.

We get some secondary characters who are more perceptive of what is wrong. Laura correctly guesses at every turn what is going on. Unfortunately she can’t be of further help because all the other girls overrule her and even threaten her with Coventry if she speaks to Pat. So she gets little development as serious help for Pat and takes no part in the resolution of the story. That part belongs to Cheryl, whose attempts to help Pat help her to overcome her own problem: her water phobia. Cheryl also witnessed the beating, which would be of immense help to Pat.

Social welfare and the police are, as usual, depicted as totally useless and until the near the resolution of the story. Up until then they are totally fooled by Mrs Knight’s phony acts of concerned mother and don’t listen to Pat’s protests.

We wish the parents could have been given a proper jail sentence instead of a suspended one, but presumably it was because they could take care of Janet. As it is, they would have lost their council flat because they no longer qualify, and now have the stigma of abusive parents.

We agree with Pat that it’s no wonder Janet is such a bully with those parents of hers. Although she does not show it, it is clear she is also miserable with her home life. Her response to it is toughen up in order to survive, not cry miserably all the time like Pat: “[Crying] won’t do any good. You’ve just got to learn to survive…keep your nose clean,” is her advice to Pat after the beating. But for all this acting tough, it is obvious that Janet is full of hurt from her parents’ treatment, and she’s taking it out on the girls at school with behaving hard and tough and bullying. So, although Janet is mean, spiteful and bullying, she is a more sympathetic character than is usually the case for wicked stepsisters in Cinderella-type serials. It’s not just Pat we want rescued from the situation; it’s Janet too. If something is not done about her unfit parents and dysfunctional home life, she will spiral down a very dark path indeed, as Pat begins to once her ill-treatment gets too much. Not to mention have no chance of redemption from her spiteful bully behaviour.

It would take a horrible shock for Janet to realise that bullying’s not the way, and she gets it when she sees the horrific beating Pat gets from her parents. Though they had frequently slapped both girls, they had never gone that far before. Janet would be terrified by this; after all, suppose they do the same to her? They even threaten her with it. This is the turning point for Janet, and it’s realistic because it’s credible.

As is often the case with bullies and dysfunctional children, the parents are Janet’s bad behaviour. Both of them are selfish, unfeeling, abusive people. They clearly deserve each other but are not at all fit to be parents. Even after Janet grows hopeful her relationship with her parents will improve, we seriously doubt they will show her any genuine love because they’re just not the loving type. We rather wish the Hargreaves could take Janet too.

Ironically, if Janet had been on the right side of things instead of a bully, she would have been the resilient Cinderella heroine we expect in a girls’ serial. In fact, she would have been a much stronger one than usual as she is not given to tears and has learned the hard knocks of being tough in order to survive. We would have cheered the story for having a heroine like this all the way.

Note: The unknown artist of this story has not been linked to any other serial or title at IPC, and this was his/her only story for Jinty. It is presumed the artist was a guest artist from DCT. If anyone has any information about the artist or other serials he/she drew, it would be much appreciated.

 

Somewhere over the Rainbow (1978-79)

Sample Images

Somewhere Over the Rainbow 1aSomewhere Over the Rainbow 1bSomewhere Over the Rainbow 1c

Published: 20 May 1978 – 10 February 1979

Episodes: 36

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: Spanish translation as “Más allá del Arcoiris”, publication unknown

Plot 

Just as the end of World War II is in sight, Mrs Peters and her daughter Dorothy (Dorrie for short, 13 years of age) and son Max (seven) receive the dreaded envelope that means Dad has been killed in action. This somewhat dampens their V-Day celebrations shortly after.

Some time later, the Peters family attend a Wizard of Oz production. During the performance Mum tells Dorrie that she and Max will find happiness over the rainbow. Afterwards, the programme blows away and Mum gets run over and killed while trying to retrieve it. Now the Peters children are orphans. Dorrie takes Mum’s final words to her deeply to heart and from then on, The Wizard of Oz inspires them all the way to seek out rainbow’s end. But where the heck do they even begin to look for the rainbow?

It certainly isn’t at social welfare, which is now in charge of the children. None of the foster homes for the children work out for one reason or other. In fact, one foster mother, Mrs Soper, is more like the Wicked Witch of the West. Things get worse when social welfare puts them in separate homes because mixed sexes aren’t allowed. At least Dorrie can visit Max, who is taking this rainbow’s end thing a bit literally.

Then Dorrie and Max find out about a home in Scotland that really is called “Rainbow’s End” when it advertises for a housekeeper in the newspaper. They decide that’s where they must seek the end of the rainbow. So they run away from social welfare and make the arduous trek all the way from London to Scotland (no, not singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”). This means plenty of adventures, misadventures, dangers, injuries and illnesses, hunger, bouts of horrible weather, helpful people, not-so-helpful people, and hitching lifts on assorted vehicles, beginning with sneaking aboard a lorry to get out of London. Sustaining them along the way and helping out in a lot of scrapes is their natural talent for song-and-dance routines, especially – you guessed it – The Wizard of Oz. All the while they are fugitives from social welfare and keeping one step ahead of them. World War II, still fresh and raw, casts its own shadow over the whole enterprise.

The Wizard of Oz itself always seems to pop up in one form or another. In one occasion, the children defend a scarecrow from being burned. In another, the children make their escape from a suspicious billeting officer who is reminiscent of Miss Gulch. And now and then they hear snatches of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” when Dorrie isn’t singing it.

Not all of the twists and turns of their odyssey will described here because of the story’s length. However, some highlights and key points will be discussed.

On one occasion Max is forced to confront his wartime prejudices against Germans. It starts when they take shelter in an old army camp in an empty village, but are surprised by a man with a German accent. He’s a German soldier, and it’s soon obvious he is a fugitive in hiding too. He is not happy to find Dorrie and Max have taken over his bed, but kindly offers them breakfast in the morning. Max is too consumed by his hatred of Germans to have anything to do with him or his food, while Dorrie is less prejudiced and more receptive to his kindness. However, Max is so full of hate he rushes off to turn the German in. The German realises Max is running into danger – an unexploded mine – and risks his own life to save him. This has Max realise that “[not] all Gerries are bad…rotten!” and Germans are human beings too. From then on they’re friends. His name is Hans, a shot-down airman who was rescued by a British girl and they fell in love. However, she died before they could marry after the war, leaving him still a fugitive. Dorrie and Max persuade Hans to stop hiding, using their motto of “happiness over the rainbow”, and give himself up. They have high hopes Hans will be all right and get a fresh start in Germany.

Before long, Christmas is coming (issue-wise, a bit premature as this is three months before Jinty’s Christmas issue), but how to celebrate it while they’re on the run? Max buys Christmas decorations, but he forgot they have nowhere to hang them. Oh, dear. Dorrie does some busking with “Somewhere over the Rainbow” to raise cash for something for Christmas, which not only raises money for presents and Christmas treats but also lands her the lead in another Wizard of Oz production for Boxing Day. Performing it while keeping their fugitive status secret from the producer Mr Harris is not easy, but the show must go on. And it does, with “Shy Dorrie Makes Her Debut” in the newspaper because she can’t talk to the press.

Meanwhile, Max takes a plunge in freezing water because he unwisely tried out the ice. Dorrie hates leaving him alone while he’s still affected, but she has the show to do and the show must go on. But when she returns, the winter cold and plunge in freezing water have caused Max to develop pneumonia, which turns critical. Mr Harris helps him to hospital. Dorrie croons “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to him, which helps him to recover.

Unfortunately, Mr Harris is a social worker and it is his duty to return the children to the London home. However, at the station the children get away from him and stow away aboard a train going north. They get discovered and the conductor is set to turn them over, but he changes his mind when the children keep the passengers entertained when snow blocks the train. He lets them off at a station instead.

But the snow is thick, the cold is biting, Max is still weak from pneumonia, the children are starving and Dorrie has lost her ration books. Hunger makes Dorrie collapse, but they are picked up by a kindly man, Joe McDonald, who was in the same regiment as Dad. He owes Dad a favour, and taking in the children is his way of doing it. He also gets a mate from London to give them a lift further north. But the truck goes over a broken bridge and the children pull the driver to safety, but getting help means they get caught again. The police say sorry, but it’s their duty to turn them over to social welfare. But instead of London they take them to a children’s home, converted from an old army barracks, in Scotland.

Well, at least the children are in Scotland, but the home is definitely not the end of the rainbow – more like the castle of the Wicked Witch of the West. The kids are tough and bullying, and the matron is an ex-army officer who runs the place like a sergeant major of the worst kind and the heart of the witch herself. She treats children like soldiers, not children, with merciless army-style discipline. For example, she forces Max to do 20 laps around the ground with an army pack, ignoring Dorrie’s protests that he has been weakened by pneumonia, and poor Max collapses.

When Dorrie rises up in rebellion against their treatment, Matron locks her and Max in detention while taking the children on a long march. This turns out to be a blessing, because while the others are out, waters from thawing snow flood the establishment, which helps Dorrie and Max escape on an old air bed. The home looks well and truly washed out and half-submerged, a nice surprise for bully Matron when she returns. With any luck it will be the end of that establishment. Later, the children learn from a newspaper that the authorities think they drowned when the home got flooded, so the police and social welfare are off their backs now. They can carry on unmolested.

They journey further into Scotland, but fresh trouble is never far off. It happens when Dorrie sprains her ankle. No further trekking until it’s better, and they have to camp out in an old German plane. Max is reluctant to do so because it is German but relents when Dorrie reminds him of their encounter with Hans and not all Germans are bad.

It’s up to Max to get the food while Dorrie is recovering, but again his actions are not well thought out. For example, his idea of disguising himself from nosey coppers is to buy a scary Halloween mask! Worse, he puts the food right where dripping rainwater ruins it.

Then it looks like Max takes a hit from a man shooting rabbits. Fortunately, it turns out Max just took a fall and a bump on the head and the man is another helper. But he advises them to move on fast because the authorities take a hard line on squatters.

So the children have to move on although neither of them are fit for the road because of their injuries. Fortunately they meet a friendly ex-soldier who helps them get a lift to Glasgow where his grandmother can put them up. The children note that Glasgow has had its own share of bombing (watch this space). But things go wrong when they get there and the children are on their own again. Then they finally see a rainbow and hope rises again.

They get a lead that the home they are looking for is near Iverness, which means even more trekking north. They get more help from friendly people, and even a palm reading from a gypsy, who is surprised to see both children have a rainbow in their palms. If that weren’t omen enough, they find an old chair labelled “Rainbow’s End Home”.

Five miles on, they finally make it to Rainbow’s End Home. There they show Matron the ad for the housekeeping job that prompted their journey. However, they are dismayed to find Rainbow’s End is an old folks’ home, not the children’s home they were expecting. It looks like it was all for nothing and skies aren’t blue for them at all. But it leads to their being adopted by a lovely couple who lost their own children in the Glasgow bombing and are look-alikes for their own parents. So they find happiness at Rainbow’s End after all.

Thoughts

Comixminx and I have balked at doing this one for a long time because of its supreme length. At 36 episodes, it is the second-longest running serial in Jinty’s history, which makes it a challenge to summarise. However, an entry on this story was way overdue, and as we are in lockdown with plenty of time at home, what the heck.

Rainbow belongs to a long line of Alison Christie/Phil Townsend pairings for emotional stories to warm your heart or bring tears to your eyes. It also shares many roots with other Jinty stories, notably “Song of the Fir Tree” and “For Peter’s Sake!”, both of which are lengthy stories where the protagonists set out on quests with fugitive elements attached. Like Rainbow, Fir Tree is set in the aftermath of WW2 where a brother and sister (Solveig and Per Amundsen) are also fugitives, from a Nazi out to kill them. In addition to outwitting his numerous attempts to kill them, they have to contend with other dangers and obstacles, just like the Peters children. They have a more clearly defined goal than the Peters children: make it home to Norway. As in Rainbow, we have an elder sister who is the pillar of strength and a younger brother who is less strong. In both stories, the children are not only sustained by a title; the title of the song is the title of the story as well. It could be that Alison Christie wrote Fir Tree too. We have no confirmation of this, but it would not be surprising.

The journey in “For Peter’s Sake!”, also written by Alison Christie, is the reversal of Rainbow: Corrie Lomax is making her journey with Old Peg the pram all the way from Scotland to London while the Peters children are doing the exact opposite. She is on a mission of mercy for her baby brother with Old Peg, but it turns into a fugitive story with the police and then social welfare on her tail. As with the Peters children, she has to make an escape from a horrible children’s home en route. She also gets weakened by pneumonia, just as Max does. Like the Peters and Amundsen children, Corrie meets more helpful people than not. In fact, we could almost swear that a number of these people have guessed these children are runaways but are turning a blind eye to it.

The endings of the two stories share similarities in that the children make it to the end of their journey, only to find everything seems to end in a big let-down because the initial outcome did not meet their expectations (Rainbow’s End being a home for olds, not children, and Old Peg not curing Peter). However, the twist is that it does bring about what they wanted in the end, just not in the way they expected.

The story takes time out to comment on the hardship and knock-on effects of WW2, even though peace has come. Food rationing continues, food shortages e.g. a sign saying “Sorry no spam”, and the war posters saying things like “Plan your meals to avoid waste” and “Careless talk costs lives” remain in place. Buying sweets on rations is a real treat. Make-do-and-mend is still the rule e.g. Mum making best dresses out of old curtains. Mum feels the change in women’s lot once peace comes; during the war she worked in a munititions factory, but afterwards, she struggles to find a job because preference is given to returned servicemen and women. Eventually she finds a part-time cleaning job at a theatre, where the fateful Wizard of Oz evening unfolds. Bombed-out planes and buildings are still visible on the landscape. So are old air-raid shelters, one with “We won the war” scrawled on it. We also see the mental effects it has had on some people. For example, they meet a kind lady who unfortunately has a screw loose; she thinks Dorrie and Max are her own evacuee children and a scarecrow in her husband’s old army uniform really is him. Post-wartime rebuilding is also evident; for example, we see a “Prefabs Homes for the Homeless” to help meet the housing shortages. And the Hans storyline is a clear message about confronting the demons of WW2 and not letting old hatreds consume you.

Max is the weaker of the journeying pair because he is younger and less mature, but he does not have a weak constitution like his counterpart in Fir Tree. Until his bout with pneumonia he remains a healthy kid. And he does have his bright moments, particularly when he wants to cheer Dorrie up. Some of them are more thought out than others, such as buying flowers in honour of Dad. But as he is a very young, spirited boy, more often he makes ill-judged decisions, one of which leads to him developing pneumonia. He is also more prone to being emotional and losing his temper, for example, when he meets Hans.

Jinty produced a number of journey/quest/fugitive stories, such as “The Darkening Journey” and the aforementioned “Song of the Fir Tree” and “For Peter’s Sake!”. They all ran for a while, a testament to how popular they were. But “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is by far the longest. It was so long that it holds the record for second-longest serial in Jinty’s history. This shows how popular it was, and there are so many elements to make it popular: the backdrop of WW2; the fugitive elements; the Wizard of Oz theme, which has always been popular; the adventures and dangers; and above all, the emotional elements to tug your heart and make you really feel for these children.

Another thing to make this story popular is that nobody knows what to expect at the journey’s end, not even the children. All they know and believe is, they will find happiness. Okay, happiness, but in what way? What form will it take? This is a suspenseful mystery element, and we are holding our breath to see just how it all turns out at rainbow’s end. This sets it apart from the other journey stories Jinty has run. In those case, everyone expects the outcome that the protagonist expects. But not in this case. Neither we nor the children know just what to expect at the end of the story, which keeps us in suspense all the way. Also keeping us in suspense is the nagging doubt as to whether the children’s home they expect really is their key to happiness; after all, the other children’s homes they encountered in were bad experiences, so would they be all that happy with another? We are so glad it ended in a happy adoption with new parents instead.

Their Darling Daughter (1983)

Sample Images

Their Darling Daughter 1Their Darling Daughter 2Their Darling Daughter 3

Published: Princess (second series), #1, 24 September 1983 to #6, 29 October 1983

Episodes: 6

Artist: Bert Hill

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: ‘Dat kind hoort hier niet!’ [That child does not belong here!] Tina 42, 1984. https://www.catawiki.nl/catalogus/strips/series-helden/dat-kind-hoort-hier-niet/77184-1984-nummer-42

Plot

Lord and Lady Towne lost their daughter Rachel a year ago and still mourn her intensely. While they are still in mourning, they foster Sylvie from a children’s home. There is something puzzling as to how they came across Sylvie in the first place or why they are so interested in her. It’s not shown or explained at the beginning.

Sylvie feels out of sorts at her new home as it’s such a big jump from a children’s home to an aristocratic mansion and all the rules of deportment that go with it. She thinks she can’t live up to the pedigree or to Rachel who, from the sound of it, was brilliant at everything, and everyone still grieves for her. Nowhere is this reflected more than in Rachel’s room: everything is laid out as if she had just popped out for five minutes, and is obviously intended to be a shrine. Clearly, it is not going to be easy to fit into her new home. At least Rachel’s dog Ben takes an instant liking to Sylvie and becomes her friend, so there’s solace in that.

But Sylvie soon finds her real problem in her new home is Mrs Crooks, the housekeeper. Mrs Crooks took the loss of Rachel very hard as she worshipped the girl. On Sylvie’s first night in the mansion, Mrs Crooks scares Sylvie by saying she’s not going to take Rachel’s place and makes it plain she wants Sylvie out.

However, next day, Mrs Crooks is all sweetness and light and apologises to Sylvie. She didn’t mean it; it was just the grief, and she is willing to be friends. Sylvie accepts this explanation and offer of friendship, and even buys a present for Mrs Crooks.

But it soon becomes obvious that Mrs Crooks is just pretending to be nice to Sylvie in order to play tricks to get rid of her. She tricks Sylvie into selling porcelain dogs at a bric-a-brac shop to raise money for Lady Towne’s birthday present; when Lady Towne notices they are missing she is upset because they were a birthday present from Rachel. At the birthday party, Mrs Crooks tricks Sylvie into wearing the dress Rachel wore when she died. When Lady Towne sees this, she faints in shock. The party is ruined and Sylvie is sent packing from the party.

Of course this has Sylvie realise Mrs Crooks’ game. But she can’t convince her foster parents because Mrs Crooks is now poisoning them against her and leading them to think she is a dishonest, disturbed problem child. They become even more convinced of this when they find the porcelain dogs in the shop and think Sylvie stole them for the birthday present.

Meanwhile, we’ve been getting hints that Mrs Crooks’ husband (the chauffeur) knows what his wife is up to and does not approve. However, every time he protests or wants to speak out she shuts him up. In one exchange, she says they will go to prison if the Townes find out the truth. Prison? Come on, the punishment for this wouldn’t be worse than the sack, would it? What’s the old bat on about? As it is, Sylvie’s only friend and helper right now is the dog Ben.

Sylvie tries to escape the situation by packing her bags and going back to the home, but the Townes have none of it. So Mrs Crooks tries again by making it look like Sylvie wrecked Rachel’s room. However, Sylvie and Ben manage to foil that that one by tidying it up in time, which has Mrs Crooks looking a fool in front of her employers.

However, Mrs Crooks is so angry at this that she brings out her big guns and makes threats that have Sylvie really scared. What’s more, the Townes are going to leave Sylvie alone with Mrs Crooks for the weekend. This has Sylvie well and truly terrified, especially when Mrs Crooks whispers that this weekend will be her last. Sylvie suspects Mrs Crooks is crazy and capable of doing anything to her. But the Townes won’t listen to her pleas not to leave her alone with Mrs Crooks.

Then Ben leads Sylvie to Rachel’s grave, where she overhears Mrs Crooks reveal something extraordinary: Rachel was actually Mrs Crooks’ daughter and the Townes’ “real daughter [Sylvie] is here”, and Mrs Crooks vows she won’t let Sylvie take Rachel’s place.

Mrs Crooks detects Sylvie’s presence, realises she overheard, and catches her. She drags Sylvie to the house and ties her up while explaining that she switched Sylvie and Rachel in the hospital when they were born so her daughter would grow up privileged. She put Sylvie in the orphanage and became housekeeper to the Townes so she could watch Rachel grow up while being near her. Now she’s going to kill Sylvie to be rid of her and make it look like an accident. Sylvie’s worst fears about Mrs Crooks are confirmed.

Meanwhile, Ben runs for help. Fortunately the Townes’ car has not got far because Mr Crooks was stalling while trying to work up the courage to tell the truth. When Ben arrives, they realise something is wrong and head back. Mr Crooks tells them what’s going on, adding that he was behind their meeting Sylvie (with an anonymous letter about her while not revealing her true identity). He had never endorsed what his wife did and was trying to put it right discreetly. Lord Towne comments that this was why he felt an immediate bond with Sylvie when he met her.

When Mrs Crooks sees them return she realises her husband has spilled the beans. There have been hints throughout the story that her sanity was questionable, and being discovered pushes her over the edge. She heads to Rachel’s room, intending to burn down the house with herself and Sylvie in it.

The Townes and Mr Crooks rescue Sylvie. They drag Mrs Crooks – whom they find cradling Rachel’s doll in the burning room and singing “rock-a-bye baby” – kicking and screaming from the house. The fire is brought under control and the authorities take charge of the Crookses. Mrs Crooks is placed in psychiatric care and Mr Crooks will probably get a short jail sentence (suspended, we hope).

Sylvie takes her rightful place with the Townes and calls them Mum and Dad for the first time. But Rachel’s memory will always be cherished.

Thoughts

Stories about spiteful antagonists playing tricks to get rid of a cousin/foster child were very commonplace at DCT; seldom did a few weeks go by without a DCT title starting one. However, for some reason the theme was far less common at IPC, which makes this story unusual for having it.

The story also breaks with the formula in several ways, which makes it even more unusual. First, the schemer is a creepy housekeeper; more often it’s a stepsister, foster sister or cousin. Second, the victim is warned right from the beginning that she’s got an enemy because the enemy tells her so herself. More often, the schemer works secretly so the protagonist doesn’t realise what’s going on and can’t understand why things keep going wrong for her and she gets in so much trouble. Third, the protagonist has a helper and even someone who knows what is going on but is having difficulty speaking out. More usually the protagonist is pretty much on her own, and if she does gets help it’s someone who has somehow become suspicious.

From the beginning we’ve been led to believe it’s misguided loyalty and grief for Rachel that’s driving Mrs Crooks to scheme against Sylvie. This could give us a measure of sympathy and understanding for her. If so, that fast evaporates once the baby switch and the real reason for Mrs Crooks’ hatred are revealed.

Having it turn out everything’s because Sylvie threatens Mrs Crooks’ deception in switching her and Rachel at birth is a flabbergasting surprise and twist to the story. However, the baby switch sounds a bit too Dickensian. The story would have gotten away with this more if it had a period setting. And so would have Mrs Crooks. We are finding it hard to believe Mrs Crooks managed to pull off the switch in modern times, especially when she herself says she and Lady Towne were in different parts of the hospital and Lady Towne was in a private suite. And what about the name tags on the babies? It is highly unlikely Mrs Crooks could have made the switch before the tags were put on.

The twist also has us question the wisdom of Mr Crooks in sending the Townes the letter. Sure, we can understand his desire to put things right somehow. But he must have known what his wife’s reaction would be, which would have exposed Sylvie to serious trouble. What was he planning to do about that? He doesn’t do anything more than make token protests at his wife, clearly because she dominates him. We don’t see him trying to stop her or help Sylvie until the end of the story.

The story only lasts six episodes, which was common for Princess II stories. But frankly, it could have done with more episodes, which would have been the case if it had appeared in, say, Mandy. For example, the first episode could have been used to fully develop the anonymous letter and how it leads to the Townes meeting Sylvie. Moreover, the anonymous letter would have added a mystery element to the story that would have piqued readers’ interest. Instead, it’s all mentioned in the final episode and readers are left thinking, “what anonymous letter?” The letter was never mentioned or shown in the story before, so the belated mention of it comes across as annoying.

The choice of villain for the schemer gives the story an edge of creepiness and terror that you don’t normally get in schemer stories, and this makes the story even more exciting. Usually the schemer is despicable and nasty but not frightening. And the warning signs that Mrs Crooks is going insane add an extra element of dread for Sylvie because what comes next could be anything – even murder.

We get some nice Bert Hill artwork in this story. Hill was a regular artist at DCT, working for many years on all three of its biggest girls’ titles. However, it is unusual to see his artwork at IPC. The only other known sample of Bert Hill IPC artwork is “Porridge Pulls His Weight” (Tammy, 3 September 1983), which, incidentally, was his only known credited piece of work.

 

The Ghostly Ballerina (1983-4)

Sample Images

Ghostly Ballerina 1Ghostly Ballerina 2Ghostly Ballerina 3

 

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

Episodes: 6, but a double episode in #18

Artist: Photo story

Writer: Unknown

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

Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Princess II, 25 February 1984

Princess II cover 25 February 1984

 

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

 

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

Nonetheless, Princess is still producing her own stories. One is the cover story, “Flight from the Romanys” (not good grammar there). Lydia Parks is kidnapped by nasty gypsies, for no other reason than to make a slave out of her and profit from the chattels she had on her (rich clothes, a horse). Considering her father is a wealthy lord, they could have shown more imagination than that! This episode is dedicated to establishing just how cruel Lydia’s kidnappers intend to be to her, and Lydia showing us her resolve to escape despite her tears or the gypsies’ attempts to discourage her.

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

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

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

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

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

Princess II, 24 December 1983

Princess cover 24 December 1983

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Cheers for Cherry (1978-79)

Sample Images

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

Published: Jinty 2 September 1978 – 13 January 1979

Episodes: 17

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown

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

Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts

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

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

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

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