Category Archives: Stories

Journey stories: how do they work?

I would not normally write at such length about a story theme, but there was an academic conference held the week before last, for which I submitted a paper. The subject was Travel and Comics, and I chose to look at Jinty‘s journey stories in some detail, meaning that I now have quite a lot to say on it… Last week’s earlier post about the Journey theme formed the first half of the paper, showing how the theme was prevalent and popular, particularly at certain points during Jinty‘s run. (I wonder exactly why this happened, but I suspect the answer is just ‘why not’!) Today’s post will look at some specific example stories in Jinty in more detail, asking the following questions:

  • How does the journey start – what is the triggering thing that means the main character heads off on a journey in the first place?
  • What keeps them going – why don’t they just stop and do something else? What is it that happens that means they can stop travelling at the end of the story?

(These points tell us quite a lot about what makes the story into a ‘journey’ story specifically: it is the distinction between a story that has some bits where some travelling happens, and a story that is more clearly about the journey.)

  • While they are travelling, do we see the characters shown on the page as actively travelling, or do we see them ‘having travelled’, perhaps at the end of the day?

I think that looking at this sort of question about how a story works, in more detail, will help uncover some things about the journey theme beyond the obvious fact that it involves a journey.

How does the journey start?

If you look at some example journey stories, one thing that leaps out fairly soon is that it’s not a free choice on the part of the protagonist to go on a journey. Fran sets out  into a flooded Britain once her town has been overwhelmed by the rising waters and she is separated from her parents. Thumper suffers an accident at the precise moment which means he is unable to travel with Julie at the point she is moving house. Solveig and Per are looking forward to going home to Norway in the official convoy, but they have to go on the run when they see that Grendelsen has come to collect them as part of that official convoy: they know he is their deadly enemy. And even happy-go-lucky Katie McNab only sets off from London to Yuckiemuckle in order to fulfil the terms of Great-Uncle Ebeneezer’s will: because her family is poor, the chance to win a fortune is a strong incentive.

This  constraint or forced situation underlying the journey might be because the reader is expected to be a youngish girl (perhaps somewhere between 8 and 12 years old), not herself at an independent stage in life. Would it feel unrealistic if the protagonist was able to set off on a journey of her own choice, in the way that that a reader would be unable to do? Maybe, but I think that perhaps looking at Bella Barlow’s wanderings might shed a different light on it. Bella travels to many countries – Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, and Russia among others. She doesn’t go on a journey, with a beginning and an end: she goes travelling, with no particular reason to come to a stop. (All right, if she made it to the Olympics she would be able to stop, but she’s Bella Barlow – part of the point of her story is exactly that she will never get a truly happy ending!)

In mainstream publishing likewise there are plenty of examples where the main character sets off of their own accord. Laurie Lee famously wrote “As I Set Off One Midsummer’s Morning” – he goes to seek his fortune wherever he might find himself. There is no clear driver right from the start that means he needs to go in a certain direction or to do a certain thing. The power of his story isn’t about the drama of leaving home and what made him go, nor about whether he will get to his destination safely. Reading his story we are interested in the landscapes he walks through, the people he meets, the food he eats, the foreign languages he shows us.

So I think that part of the point of a journey story, certainly in girls comics, is precisely that the protagonist is made to set out on her journey, by forces that are somewhat out of her control. (Lack of control or choice is quite common in girls comics in general, of course.)

What keeps the journey going? What happens that means that the protagonist can finally stop?

For it to be a real journey story, the travelling needs to be a significant part of it, and so it has to keep going for a while. If you look at the examples in Jinty, there are temptations along the way for the main character to stop: Fran Scott finds some occasional comfortable places to stay for a while on her tortuous journey up to Scotland, and Thumper could have made a new home with various of the friendly humans he met along his travels westward. These possibilities are properly tempting in their own right, because there are significant dangers on the way too: with a serial story comes a lot of cliff-hangers, and quite a few of those relate to physical dangers such as illnesses (fevers in “For Peter’s Sake!” and “Song of the Fir Tree”, plague in “Fran of the Floods”), or murderous humans (marauding bands in some particularly spectacular episodes of “Fran of the Floods”).

So, keeping going on the journey is typically dangerous (though in humour story “Race for a Fortune” any sense of physical danger is only minimally present). The reason to keep going in the face of this needs to be pretty strong in itself, otherwise why wouldn’t the protagonist just stop, and bring the story to an end (or turn it into a different sort of story). The reason to keep going is indeed a strong one – it is typically related to love, family, or some sort of stronger loyalty than self-preservation.

  • Fran keeps going in order to find her sister – the urge to find someone from her family, so that she doesn’t feel all alone in the world, is what drives her on, even though she doesn’t know for sure if her sister is alive in Scotland. When she is faced with a substitute possible family, it is not sufficient and she moves on regardless.
  • Thumper keeps going, despite increasingly sore feet and failing eyesight, in order to be reunited with his beloved owner, Julie. Other substitute possible owners, even though it is clear to him that they are loving and kind, are not enough for him to stay and he finds a way to move on regardless.
  • Corrie keeps pushing her pram southwards to London “For Peter’s Sake” as the story title has it – she is convinced that the pram is the only way that her ailing baby brother will be cured.
  • Although Katie McNab’s motive to keep going is less of a life-and-death situation than in the other stories, it is still an important one: a sense of family, in that she constantly muses on how the money she might inherit from great-uncle Ebeneezer would transform their impoverished lives.

The story does come to an end eventually, of course; generally with the protagonist reaching the end of their journey. The main character doesn’t just decide to stop travelling, though, as we saw above. The story end is tied up with the beginning of the story and the reason why she set off in the first place. Thumper finds Julie; Fran finds her sister; Corrie reaches London and her pram helps to cure Peter; Solveig and Per reach their home village in Norway and Grendelsen is defeated once and for all so he is no longer a threat. Some stories in Jinty have surprising endings that defy their beginnings; not so the journey story, which ends in a way consistent with the constant motivation.

How does this help us to understand what a journey story is or might be?

It seems to me that the above give us some important characteristics about what a journey story is and how it works, at least in British girls comics. The main character is forced by some sort of external circumstance to embark on the journey; she does not choose freely to set out. She keeps going on the journey for a serious reason, not lightly undertaken (and this is true even for humorous takes on the theme). She doesn’t just stop travelling because she feels like it, she has to complete the journey in a way consistent with the circumstance that forced her to set out in the first place.

You can easily enough imagine different versions of the stories, where one or more of these elements have been disregarded. Would they still count as journey stories, just ones that didn’t happen to have been written?

  • What sort of story might there be, if the protagonist had set out on a long journey of her own free choice?
    • You can certainly imagine a travel diary or a tourism story, perhaps like Patrick Leigh Fermor’s books. It would probably focus on something different rather than being a quest: perhaps it would be a didactic story, teaching the reader how to set up camp and survive under tough conditions, or perhaps it would be about the people and landscapes she found on her travels.
    • I can imagine a girls comic covering this as a historical story, say retelling the life of a great explorer such as Lady Hester Stanhope, or perhaps framing it as a moral tale of a missionary.
  • What if the main character could stop any time she felt like it?
    • Perhaps this might work if she had set out of her own choice in the first place as above. It does however feels to me as if this would take away from the journey aspect of the story: I am not sure if such a story would count as a journey story.
    • Can anyone think of a journey story where this happens?
  • What if the main character never stopped, or never found what she was looking for?
    • There are stories that work in something like this way, as far as I understand: Valda travels the world competing with athletes and always beating them (would she stop if she found someone who could beat her, is that stated in the story?). Boys’ comics character Wilson similarly travels around, though as I understand it, he trains other athletes rather than focusing on beating them.
    • To readers of these stories – do they feel like journey stories to you?

And Finally

For the conference, I also briefly looked at a question which I think would repay more attention than I was able to spend on it at the time. This was about the depiction of the process of journeying itself. While the characters in the story are travelling, do we see the characters shown on the page as actively travelling, or do we see them ‘having travelled’, perhaps at the end of the day? How much of the process of travelling is shown on the page?

It seemed to me that the stories I looked at often didn’t show that much travelling on the page itself, though it did vary as some stories did more than others.

  • Thumper and Beaky are typically shown arriving somewhere new at the very beginning of the episode, and leaving again in the last panel or two. The bulk of the episode is spent with them overcoming the challenge posed that week: chasing off robbers, avoiding deadly rats and packs of dogs, avoiding being penned in by would-be owners. This only really changes in the second to last episode (see sample images on the story post) where we see a lot more active travelling depicted on the page itself. Other than that, it is the narration that does a lot of the work: we are told that they have travelled for days, that he is footsore, that he has little strength left.
  • Although as with “The Darkening Journey”, many episodes are focused on the challenge of the week, in “Fran of the Floods” Fran is shown on the page travelling by row-boat, on foot, by raft, and even by cruise ship. Not every panel shows her travelling onwards, but it is quite a feature of the story.
  • Corrie Lomax pushes her gran’s pram over a considerable distance and it is again quite a feature of the comics art itself: in the sample images on the story post she is shown doing so in many of the week’s story panels.
  • “Race for a Fortune” works similarly to “The Darkening Journey”, with Katie shown arriving and leaving again on her trusty roller skates, but otherwise mostly dealing with the week’s challenges as the key focus of each episode.

You would think there might be more use made visually of the fact of travelling, but as I mentioned above, it seems that the narration plays more of a role in telling the reader about the journey than the art does. We don’t see lots of use of maps, for instance – showing how far the protagonist has travelled or still has to travel. We don’t typically see a lot of ‘local colour’ either, which is also a bit surprising – when Katie is in the Scottish Highlands she sees some people wearing tam o shanters and pretending there is a local lake monster as in Loch Ness, but this sort of ‘tourism touch’ is not done as often as I might have expected. (Would a Welsh reader feel a surge of local pride, say, if something was set in Snowdonia, or would that mostly tend to put off the larger group of readers who wouldn’t immediately identify with the local touch in question?)

As I said above, I think this could repay more attention across a wider range of comics. Do most other journey stories stick to the episodic ‘challenge of the week’ format with minimal travelling shown? Do artists who I haven’t looked at use more, or less, in the way of visual shortcuts to indicate the character’s travelling, or is it generally down to the writer to tell us readers about the journey? I hope you may have comments and thoughts on this, and the rest of my long post: so please share!

Advertisements

Story Theme: Journey Story or Quest

The Journey Story or Quest was a popular story theme at certain points in Jinty and in other titles. Indeed, at some points in 1976, it would have been possible to be reading an issue of Jinty which included three or even arguably four journey stories in the same week’s comic (see 24 April 1976 for an example). It’s a story framework which allows the creators to vary the setting and characters as much as they like, and to experiment with a range of local touches if desired (Scottish kilts, Welsh mountains, or European stereotypes could be brought in depending on the story). Within a Quest theme the dramatic tension is kept up, too – the protagonist is always thinking of the thing that keeps them on the journey – the danger they are avoiding or the goal they are trying to reach.

The journey story is of course focused around a lengthy journey, but it is also something of a quest, as the protagonist has someone she needs to find or something she needs to do before she can stop journeying. She does not just head out for the fun of it or to see the sights; there is some motivating reason for her to keep moving. Apart from the journey element, the other themes of the story can be fairly varied: there are journey stories in Jinty which are rooted in science fiction, humour, love of aninals, and more.

Core examples

Song of the Fir Tree” (1975-76). This story has siblings Solveig and Per traveling across Europe after they are released from the concentration camp they were held in during WWII. They travel from Germany to Norway under their own steam, constantly having to keep one step ahead of their enemy Grendelsen (though at the same time, unknown to them, their father is chasing after them also).

This was the first journey story printed in Jinty. Clear precursors outside of British girls comics are “I Am David” and “The Silver Sword”, both of which feature long journeys and have child protagonists dealing with the aftermath of WWII.

Fran of the Floods” (1976). After her home town is overwhelmed in flooding, Fran Scott travels the length of an apocalyptic Britain to see if her sister is alive and well in Scotland. This popular and well-remembered journey story is one of survival against the odds and courage in the face of barbaric behaviour on the part of other survivors.

Bound for Botany Bay” (1976). Betsy Tanner is transported to Australia; in addition to the lengthy sea journey, once she gets to Botany Bay she runs off and travels across dangerous countryside, eventually finding her father who was sentenced to transportation earlier on.

For Peter’s Sake!” (1976). Set in the 1930s, Carrie Lomax has a brother who is seriously ill. Her grandmother’s pram has rocked many babies back to good health in a seemingly miraculous way and she hopes that it will do the same for little Peter. However, Carrie and the pram are in Scotland and the rest of her family is in London, and she needs to push the pram all the way back to him on foot.

The Darkening Journey” (1977). Thumper has been separated from his owner Julie, who is moving house with her family, across Britain to the west country. To add to the pathos, both of them are going slowly blind: Julie because she needs an operation to cure her, and Thumper because of an accident at the time they were separated. Together with his friend Beaky, a clever talking rook, he travels towards the setting sun to see if he can be reunited with his beloved owner.

Race For A Fortune” (1977-78). This is a humourous take on the journey story: Katie McNabb must race her snobby cousins in a journey to inherit her skinflint great-uncle Ebeneezer’s money. The one who reaches Ebeneezer’s home village of Yuckiemuckle first, starting out from the south of England with no money to help them, will win the race and the terms of the will. Katie and her cousins battle it out, each overtaking the other at various points on their travels.

“Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (1978-79). This is the longest, most epic of all the journey stories in Jinty (indeed so long is it, at 36 episodes, that to date I have quailed before the mighty task of writing a story post for it!). Dorothy and Max are an orphaned brother-sister pair who run away from the state care they are put into when their mother is killed. Inspired by the Wizard of Oz song, they travel from the south of England all the way to Scotland, hoping to find happiness at a care home called Rainbow’s End.

Edge cases and uncertainties

The core stories listed above all feature epic, dangerous, and long journeys as a central aspect of the story. There are other stories in Jinty which feature travelling on the part of the protagonists, but without it being such a central part of the plot.

Then There Were 3…” (1976). This is more of a mystery story: ten girls hire a narrowboat and travel on the water for some time, but the plot primarily focuses on the mystery of what is behind the occurrences that spook the girls. Is it something supernatural in origin, or is it down to a purely human villainy?

“The Big Cat” (1976-77) When her grandmother dies and she is evicted from the gypsy camp she lives in, Ruth travels with the big cat Ayesha that the story is named after. We do not currently have a story post about this to confirm if this is more of a journey story, or a fugitive story where the protagonist runs away and spends time in hiding rather than in travelling towards a clear goal.

Not to be confused with…

There are plenty of stories that include an element of journeying or travelling, such as those ones where the main character runs away: for instance Jinty‘s first issue includes the story “A Dream for Yvonne“, where Yvonne runs away from the circus to become a ballerina. She does not travel throughout the story unceasingly until she reaches her goal, though: she runs away multiple times, loses her memory, is threatened by jealous rivals, and is eventually accepted by both her family and the ballet school. The journeying is not the main point of the story, but rather her challenge lies in how to be accepted by family and friends.

Likewise in many stories there is a dramatic finale where the protagonist runs away either to elicit sympathy or to enact some specific deed: Gail in “Gail’s Indian Necklace” and Lee in “Daddy’s Darling” are two such examples from Jinty‘s early days. I am not counting these either, as the main focus of the story is again not on the journey itself, which is pretty limited in the span of story time that it takes up.

Fugitive stories may overlap considerably with the journey story, but again the key question in my mind is whether the fugitive keeps running, or mostly hides away somewhere. “Always Together…” (1974-75) has an orphaned family (well, almost – read the story summary for more detail) who run away from the welfare state mechanisms which are threatening to split them up. They do not keep running continuously, but instead camp out in a few locations and fend for themselves throughout the bulk of the story.

There are a few stories with castaways (“Desert Island Daisy“, “Girl The World Forgot“): if you are going to be cast away on a desert island you can hardly avoid having travelled, somewhere along the lines! But the focus is then on the predicament of the main character, not on a prolonged journey. The same goes for “Alice In A Strange Land” which has a transatlantic plane journey at beginning and end of the story, and a dramatic crash landing in an early episode, but which does not focus on those elements in the core plot.

Elsewhere…

Journey-themed stories were of course not confined to the pages of Jinty, though the April 1976 spike in popularity of these stories is perhaps only seen in this title. The following stories are not meant to be a complete list of journey stories, but just to give a flavour of the prevalence and the variety of them across both IPC and DC Thomson. (Many thanks to Mistyfan for providing scans of the below and other stories, and also to Lorrbot and the Girls Comics of Yesterday site, which I checked for mention of journey stories.)

  • Glen, A Dog on a Lonely Quest (Tammy, 1971)
  • Janet and her Travellin’ Javelin (Debbie, 1974)
  • Towne in the Country (Tammy, 1976-77)
  • The Ride-Away Randalls (Debbie, 1978)
  • The Wandering Starrs (Bunty, 1978-79)
  • One Girl and Her Dog (Tammy, 1978-79)
  • Jumbo and Jet (Tracy, 1981)
  • Jet’s Incredible Journey (Suzy, 1986)

Other thoughts

This post is already rather long, but I have more thoughts about the theme. Another post will follow, discussing aspects of how journey stories actually worked in more detail, looking at some of the stories mentioned above.

The Darkening Journey

Sample images

click thru
click thru

Publication: 26 March 1977 – 6 August 1977 (20 episodes)

Reprint/translation: Translated into Dutch and published in Tina as “Samen door het duister” (1981)

Artist: José Casanovas

Writer: Unknown

Summary

Julie Burton’s eyesight is growing dimmer and dimmer, and her main support is her golden Labrador, Thumper, who almost acts as a guide dog. There are some bright spots in her future: her father has got a new job over in the west by the sea, and there is hope that an upcoming operation might give her good sight again. However, on the cusp of leaving to travel miles away to their new home, Julie and Thumper are separated and the dog suffers a blow to the head that leaves his own eyesight blurry. A friendly talking rook, Beaky, befriends Thumper and together they make their long difficult way west towards where Thumper remembers Julie’s new house to be located.

Their way is fraught with difficulties: it’s mostly humans who get in their way, either for positive or negative motives. First the talking rook is nearly recaptured by his former owners, only to be rescued by Thumper; then they both need to run away from a selfish rich lady who only wants to keep them while she’s able to show them both off to her snooty friends. (The rather more sympathetic chauffeur and secretary help them to escape in the end.) Sometimes Thumper and Beaky save the humans (foiling some lorry hijackers), sometimes they save each other (Beaky brings human help to save a trapped or injured Thumper more than once, though Thumper returns the favour when they are both trapped by floodwaters).

In the meantime, Julie is pining away thinking about Thumper, and he likewise seems to have an almost telepathic bond with her – her image is shown hovering over the setting sun more than once, as a beacon calling him to her, and she likewise often seems to be able to sense his misery. Increasing his woes, Thumper is suffering from more and more blind spells too. But there are many times when temporary blindness and separation anxiety are not the biggest evils they face – a few of the humans they meet have plans to put Thumper down; he is bullied by a pack of stronger dogs; and another time he is nearly eaten by rats.

Though by the end, Thumper in particular is moving more and more slowly, they eventually reach the westernmost limit of their travels: the final moorland, and the sea. The dramatic tension tightens right at the end as the dog, careless with happiness, hurts his foot badly and is trapped by the rising tide: but Beaky comes through again and brings Julie’s dad to the final rescue. All is well, once the two beloved friends each have operations to restore their eyesight.

Themes and commentary

It is an intrinsically pretty sentimental story, with the dog protagonist gifted with an implausibly good skill in navigating his way cross-country in the absence of a definite location to head for. (Not to mention the almost telepathic nature of the mental connection that he and Julie seem to share.) It must have been a popular story, at 20 episodes long and featuring on the cover twice, though at the same time not rivalling the most classic Jinty stories that were also running at this point. (Though they were shorter stories, both “Creepy Crawley” and “The Spell of the Spinning Wheel” featured on the cover four times in the same time period.) Journey stories in general seem to have been very popular at this time, and the addition of sympathetic animal characters will have given it a different angle from other journey stories.

José Casanovas is also always a talent to enjoy reading. His art style is much busier and ‘fuller’ than that of many other Jinty artists, who often like to include a lot more white space in their finished pages, but it makes a nice change of pace and feels very solid. This is a story that, while far from the first rank of stories running in this title at this time, is enjoyable on its own merits and will have a number of fans.

Hangman’s Alley [1979]

Sample Images

Hangmans Alley 1Hangmans Alley 2Hangmans Alley 3Hangmans Alley 4

Published: Misty #86, 29 September 1979 – #90, 27 October 1979

Episodes: 5

Artist: Jesus Redondo

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Best of Misty #5

Plot

Mel and Jacey Coombs and their mother move into an apartment above an old alley. It used to be called Hangman’s Alley because condemned criminals were taken through this alleyway from the gaol on the marsh to execution on Gallows Hill. Mum tries to hide this grim past from her daughters, but it’s no use. Their arrival has stirred up the ghosts – literally. The ghost of a servant girl who was wrongly executed returns from beyond the grave when the family move in, and she is full of bitterness and hatred. She is taking out her hatred on Mel, for no other reason than Mel is a dead ringer for her. She almost attacks Mel in the bedroom, and later she lures Mel onto a bridge in a trance and tries to throw her off.

Jacey, the only one who can sense or see the ghost, discovers what the ghost is trying to do, and confronts the ghost in a bid to save Mel. The ghost informs Jacey, through a series of visions, that she was wrongly executed for stealing a pearl necklace from her mistress. The evidence against her was extremely flimsy. She was cleaning her mistress’s jewellery and another servant saw her admiring the pearl necklace while doing so. On this alone, everyone just assumed she stole the necklace when the mistress found it missing later on. She was dragged to the gallows protesting her innocence, but in vain; angry people were yelling for her execution on all sides. Jacey strikes a deal with the ghost: she will clear the ghost’s name if the ghost will leave Mel alone.

Having read up the history of Hangman’s Alley, Jacey knows where to find the old gaol. At the gaol the ghost directs her to her name, which she gouged into the wall: Melinda Walpole. At least Jacey now knows the ghost’s name. However, Jacey is caught for trespass and gets into big trouble with Mum, especially as she skipped school to go there in the first place.

Unfortunately Jacey’s investigation is making slow progress. The ghost is getting impatient and her impatience is making her increasingly dangerous. The investigation is being further impeded by distractions the family unwittingly put up. The family host a housewarming party, but Jacey sees Melinda the ghost while doing preparations and realises Mel has gone. She finds Mel collapsed in the alley and a warning from Melinda written in cherryade on the wall, which Jacey realises is a warning it could be blood next time. The message reads, “Remember the promise or next time…”

Thinking Jacey is off colour, Mum sends her to the doctor, and the wait in reception is interminable. It’s another holdup on the investigation and more strain on Melinda’s patience. But at least Jacey gets another clue while waiting, in a magazine. It is an article on an old house, and one of the photos shows Melinda’s signature etched on the wall. So now Jacey has located the house Melinda worked in. It is now facing development while others want to preserve it.

Jacey goes to the house and heads for the old servants’ quarters to find the etching. Mel follows, and Jacey tells her she’s playing grand lady to cover up what she is really doing. Hearing this, Melinda thinks she has been mucked around long enough. Her patience snaps, and she locks them in the old servants’ quarters and sets the house on fire. While fighting their way out, a wall partition gives way and Jacey finds an old box hidden in there. They make their way out safely and a huge crowd gathers. Among them is a reporter hoping for a story that will help save the house.

He gets it when Jacey opens the box. It contains the stolen necklace and a written confession from the thief (whose identity is not revealed). She had contracted smallpox from the crowd while watching Melinda being executed. She was left to die in the attic, but before she did she wrote the confession. She then put the necklace and confession in the box and hid it in the wall.

The publicity the confession creates in the press saves the house and it is converted into a museum. Jacey is given the necklace as a reward. Melinda, speaking for the very first time to Jacey, puts the necklace on Jacey herself, and says she can rest in peace now her name has been cleared.

Thoughts

Serials about servants being wrongly accused are commonplace in girls’ comics, and serials about wrongly accused servants coming back as ghosts are not unusual either. “Shivery Shirley” from Bunty and “The Sad Ghost” from June are examples of such ghosts. But this one is particularly morbid for several reasons.

First, the wrongly accused servant is actually executed instead of simply dying in miserable circumstances as her counterparts mentioned above do. And she was not merely dismissed, imprisoned or transported – she was executed.

Second, the ghost, while having a sympathetic backstory and situation, is not very sympathetic as a character. Instead of crying out for help she is extremely malevolent and the atmosphere her presence creates is described as “evil”. Her maliciousness may be the product of the bitterness over the injustice, but there is no apparent reason for why she is attacking Mel or why she is taking it all out on Mel. And she simply has no excuse for attacking Mel either, as Mel had nothing to do with the injustice. So why the hell is she doing it? At least with “The Shadow of Sherry Brown”, another malevolent ghost in Tammy, there was a psychology to her behaviour that we could understand and it made her haunting more realistic. In the case of Melinda Walpole there is none and we just don’t get it – why is she acting in that way to Mel?

Finally, the depiction of Hangman’s Alley and the executions are gruesome and atmospheric. The hatching, linework and inking of Jesus Redondo renders it all brilliantly. We hear references to criminals being taken to the “gibbet” and there “die horribly”. And the flashback of Melinda being dragged to execution gives the impression her execution was little more than a lynching.

The story is not long at five episodes. Considering Melinda’s conduct and the slowness of Jacey’s investigation, this probably is just as well, and it does make the plotting very tight. The danger of the ghost gives a sense of urgency to get things done fast but things are just moving too slowly, which makes it even more worrying for Jacey and more dramatic for us readers. However, the ending feels like it came a bit too soon, and the menace of Melinda was too short-lived.

At the end of the story it is not revealed who the thief really was when her confession is found. Was it the servant who saw Melinda admire the necklace or was it someone else? Not being told whodunit is infuriating. The ending would have been better if the identity of the thief had been revealed.

The Shadow of Sherry Brown [1981-82]

Sample Images

Shadow of Sherry Brown 1Shadow of Sherry Brown 2Shadow of Sherry Brown 3

Published: Tammy & Jinty 28 November 1981 – 13 February 1982

Episodes: 11

Artist: Maria Barrera

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Katy Bishop is taken in by new guardians, Mr and Mrs Brown, in agreement with her gran, who is no longer capable of minding her. Katy is not impressed to find that the Browns’ interest in her was prompted by her being a dead ringer for their daughter Sherry, who had died eighteen months before. She is upset and angry at the unfairness of being in the shadow of their daughter and being given her room and things, as if Sherry were still alive, and making them feel she is alive again too. But Katy soon finds that is the least of her problems.

The daughter Sherry may be dead, but she is far from gone. Her ghost haunts the place, appearing as a shadow. The ghost is spiteful, jealous and vicious towards Katy whenever Katy acquires something – or someone – that was once hers. There are no limits to what Sherry is capable of to protect her former possessions from Katy, even if it comes close to murder. Even Sherry’s former friends and horse get attacked by the ghost if Katy gets too close to them.

Katy hears that Sherry had an extremely severe jealousy streak when she was alive. If anyone intruded on her friendship with Joan, her best friend, she would fly into a fury, and even attack Joan. She always apologised afterward and “all was all sweetness and light again”, but her jealousy always remained her biggest failing. The source of this information (above) is questionable as the girl who tells Katy this is the only one who did not like Sherry. And Sherry did have loads of friends, including Joan. All the same, it fits the pattern of the ghost’s conduct.

As Katy can’t really leave the Browns, Sherry can’t really get rid of her, short of actually killing her or something. Katy just tries to avoid anything that was once Sherry’s. But no matter how hard she tries she always seems to bump into one of Sherry’s former possessions, and the jealous ghost attacks her yet again. Moreover, the ghost can strike from anywhere; she’s not just confined to the home. The ghost is a shadow in more ways than one. She can stick to Katy like a shadow and be ready to strike the moment Katy finds anything of hers. Katy is forced to give up on things and people once she finds out they were once Sherry’s, including Sherry’s best friend Joan and her horse Snowball – and she liked them both so much.

Of course Katy can’t really settle down with the Browns because of Sherry or be happy living there. She always has the feeling of being threatened and lives in a constant state of fear. She can’t explain what’s going on. When she tries, nobody listens. Nobody else seems to see that shadow or sense the threatening, hostile atmosphere it projects towards her. She daren’t even refer to the Browns as “Mum” and “Dad”, much to their bewilderment and disappointment. But with the Browns now her guardians, she can’t leave the house and be free of Sherry forever.

Matters come to a head when the Browns’ wedding anniversary comes up. Having learned they like collecting miniature houses, Katy sets out to buy one at a gift shop. But then the shadow appears, and smashes all the goods and wrecks the shop. Outside Joan sees what is going on – and this time she does see the shadow, and it’s the shadow that’s causing the damage.

The shop owner thinks Katy caused the damage, of course. Joan backs up Katy’s protests of innocence. As the shop owner would not believe about the shadow, Joan tries to convince her it was vibration from passing lorries. The shop owner agrees not to call the police, but bans them both from her premises, as she is not fully convinced.

Realising Joan also saw the shadow, Katy tells her everything. And yes, Joan can feel the sense of being threatened too. But why did Sherry attack the shop?

Joan explains that it was because of how Sherry died (of which it is now the anniversary). Exactly two years ago now, she bought a wedding anniversary gift for her parents from the shop, but got so excited about it when she saw Joan across the road that she forgot to watch the traffic and got hit by a lorry. With her dying breath she told Joan she was disappointed that her parents would not receive her gift, which got smashed in the accident. By rotten luck it was identical to the one Katy was about to buy, and this must have really pushed the shadow over the edge.

They realise this disappointment is why Sherry couldn’t rest in the first place. So they figure that if the parents do get the gift her ghost will be laid to rest. Fortunately Joan still has the pieces. So they repair it and give it to the parents on Sherry’s behalf. Sure enough, they soon find they no longer feel threatened or have the shadow hanging over them.

Thoughts

This was one of the new stories to be launched when the Tammy & Jinty merger started. The merger gives the impression it was still using unpublished scripts from Misty, and this serial looks like it was one of them. Neither Tammy nor Jinty would have come up with such a malicious, spiteful ghost, but it is something Misty would definitely have gone for. Besides, the story is drawn by a former Misty artist who had not been a regular in either Tammy or Jinty before.

Tammy didn’t have all that many ghost stories (perhaps it was the long-standing Storyteller providing so much spooky material), but there is no doubt that “The Shadow of Sherry Brown” is the most frightening and disturbing one that Tammy ever published. In fact, Sherry Brown is one of the most terrifying ghosts ever to appear in girls’ comics. It’s not just because the ghost’s jealousy is making her so dangerous to Katy. It’s also because she acts so viciously even to those she once liked (Joan, Snowball) if they get to close to Katy or her heart. It’s not just terrifying; it’s repugnant as well. The ghost would be even more despicable if she had attacked her parents in the same way. And what makes the haunting even more miserable for the victim is that there is no escaping it wherever she goes, short of leaving the Browns for good. No matter where Katy turns, she comes up against it one way or other.

It is fortunate for Katy that what caused the haunting in the first place has nothing to do with Sherry’s jealousy. It’s disappointment over a failure (and a pretty minor failure at that). It is something that can easily be fixed once it is explained. In fact, Sherry could have explained it to Katy herself and asked for her help in solving her problem, if only she had thought of it. After all, getting rid of Katy would not get the gift to her parents, which is what she really wants if she is to rest in peace. But it seems Sherry was just too consumed with jealousy and possessiveness to think clearly on that point, and was cutting off her nose to spite her face there.

Danger Dog [1982]

Sample Images 

Danger Dog 1Danger Dog 2Danger Dog 3

Published: Tammy & Jinty 9 January 1982 to 17 April 1982

Episodes: 15

Artist: Julio Bosch

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

It is slightly ahead in the future (from the time of writing). Beth Harris’ town has a cruel practice in regard to stray animals: rounding them up and taking them to High Fell Research Station for experimentation. Her dog Sammy falls foul of this practice when he got lost. His collar got lost as well, so he was taken for a stray and ended up at High Fell. Beth breaks into High Fell to rescue Sammy, and is confident she got him out before the scientists did anything to him.

However, Beth’s father insists Sammy be returned to High Fell in case he is carrying some sort of contamination from that place and is dangerous. Beth does not believe that, and she is not having Sammy returned to High Fell either. She ends up going on the run with Sammy on the moor, intending to come back once she’s proved Sammy’s not dangerous.

Unfortunately for Beth a huge manhunt is soon after her, with men in contamination suits and tracker dogs searching the moors, and the High Fell owner insisting on Sammy’s return. He refuses to disclose details about the experiments performed on Sammy or exactly what sort of contamination he could be carrying. Considering what a horrible-looking man he is, his reticence is very suspicious.

The manhunt is all over the press and big news in town. As the news gathers momentum, there are hints that people who disapproved of High Fell and its animal experiments are beginning to voice their outrage and express sympathy for Beth. On the moor, Beth finds some of these sympathisers helping her whenever she meets them, such as an old lady living on the moor named Old Meg.

Meanwhile, Beth increasingly begins to realise that weird things have been happening to her, and have been ever since she got Sammy back. She is having bizarre bouts of going deaf, going blind, voice going wrong, seeing in the dark, super-strength, super-healing, and the muscles in her body going completely kaput. These wear off, but they are increasing in frequency and intensity. They happen to other people she comes into contact with as well. These include the kindly Old Meg and scheming gypsies who hold Beth and Sammy prisoner, hoping to claim a reward for bringing them in.

At first Beth thinks these things are due to her getting contaminated with chemicals during her rescue mission and she is the one who is dangerous, not Sammy. But eventually she realises these weird things only happen when she is in close contact with Sammy. He is dangerous after all. Whatever was done to him causes peculiar things to happen to any human he comes into contact with. She believes the High Fell scientists must have known this and it is the real reason they want him back.

Beth, the human who stays close to Sammy the most, is feeling the worst of these effects. She soon finds they are getting both worse and weirder. So bad now in fact, that Beth discovers that distance from Sammy is no longer safe. There is no telling where they will lead, and her very life could be in danger. But she can’t bear the thought of Sammy being destroyed or returned to High Fell. She tries to drive Sammy off, but realises that is not the answer either, as he could still come into contact with humans.

After long thought Beth makes the decision to leave Sammy tied up in an old cottage and go back to town to get help from her parents. But by the time she arrives home the chemicals are having such a bad effect on her – despite her distance from Sammy – that she is confined to bed. By the time she recovers, Sammy has been in that cottage without food or water for whole three days.

They get to Sammy in time, and also discover the three-day nourishment deprivation has cured him of the chemical effects. He is safe to go home. It is never established just what High Fell did to Sammy and why. Beth thinks they were developing a weapon of some sort. High Fell is closed down and their experiments stopped because of the bad publicity Beth caused them. Beth hopes that if the research station reopens, it will be to more savoury experiments.

Thoughts

“Danger Dog” was one of the best stories to appear during the Tammy & Jinty merger. It’s strong, dark, subversive, freaky, and chilling stuff. It is possible the story was originally written for Misty as there is evidence (Monster Tales) that Misty was still an influence on Tammy during the merger despite her logo’s disappearance on the cover. The story looks like it was strongly influenced by “The Plague Dogs” by Richard Adams. “The Secret of NIMH” could be in the mix as well.

Danger Dog not only decries the cruelties of animal experimentation but also the dangers of science when it is used for unethical ends. Unlike most evil scientists in girls’ comics it is never established just what those scientists did to Sammy or why. Never knowing exactly what that experiment was about makes the story even more sinister and creepy. As we see those weird effects on Beth, watch them grow increasingly bizarre, and eventually learn it is because of Sammy, it’s even more frightening, because we don’t know just what is behind it. For one thing, is the experiment backfiring or going wrong for some reason? Or is it unfolding as the scientists intended, with perhaps even more results than they anticipated? Are they really developing a secret weapon? Or is it some other chemical experiment?

The effects themselves add to the horror of it all. It’s not just because they are frightening but also because they are just plain weird. Seeing in the dark, and then going blind? All the muscles in your body going flat? Now that is just weeiirrd! And what makes it even weirder is that some of these effects can be described as temporary super powers, such as the super-strength or seeing in the dark. But the final effect turns Beth’s face into an utter horror story, which shocks her parents when they see it. It must have shocked the doctors and authorities as well, and if it didn’t have them tearing White Fells apart to find out just what that research station was doing we would be very surprised. And we can just see the angry demonstrators outside the research station once word of Beth’s condition spread. It would have been no surprise if Beth’s final state had been the final straw that shut down White Fells.

It’s the irony of the story that if Sammy had turned out to be safe like Beth hoped, High Fell might not have been shut down. Having him turn out to be dangerous after all would have been the clincher in stopping the High Fell experiments.

We strongly sympathise with Beth and Sammy, and we cheer Beth for wanting to save her dog from those experiments. We desperately want Beth to emerge triumphant at proving Sammy is not dangerous and not have to return to that research station. And we expect that to happen. After all, this is a girls’ serial. So it is gutting for us all when the story establishes that Beth was wrong all along and her dog really is dangerous like Dad said. It’s definitely not the way we expected the story to go.

After this, Beth is faced with a choice that no girl and her dog should ever face: the love of her dog or risk him being destroyed. And let’s face it: public safety and Beth’s own well-being are at stake, and they have to come first. But it’s an agonising, heart-wrenching decision for Beth, and here the story delivers its most powerful emotional impact.

Setting the story a little distance in an unspecified future year adds a dystopian element to the story. This makes the concept of a town sending strays to a research station for experimentation instead of animal shelters for rehoming a bit more credible. The unspeficied time setting also means the story will work anywhere, anytime, which will be handy if it comes up for reprint.

The Jinx from St Jonah’s [1974-76]

Sample Images

Jinx from St JonahsJinx from St Jonahs 2Jinx from St Jonahs 3

Published: Jinty 11 May 1974 – 30 October 1976

Episodes: 112 episodes

Artists: Mario Capaldi, Mike White, Hugh Thornton-Jones

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

The Jinx from St Jonah’s was one of Jinty’s very first strips, and it was the longest-running at 112 episodes. It was a humour strip, full of slapstick humour and hijinks galore with Katie Jinks. It’s easy to turn that into “jinx”, and Katie is indeed a jinx by name, jinx by nature. She is a walking disaster area; even innocuous things like playing the triangle, practising yoga, or minding a goldfish lead to hilarious catastrophes in the hands of Katie the Jinx. Even the school staff have to really watch out when Katie’s about.

Though Katie’s classmates know they have to watch out for Miss Klutzy too, there are plenty of times when Katie’s jinxing works to their advantage. For example, they all get a day off school when Katie’s jinxing gets all the school staff sent home, including the headmistress. And Katie is not a jinx all the time. There are occasions when Katie does something right, such as when she figures out a girl who won’t swim has a serious problem and she sets out to unravel what it is. But the time to really watch out is when Katie wants to be helpful because that is when her jinxing is at its worst.

There are plenty of occasions when Katie’s jinxing eventually leads to a happy ending and things work out to everyone’s benefit. But of course the road getting there is full of bumps and high jinxing.

On a frequent basis it’s comeuppance time for many a wrongdoer when Katie’s around. Bullies, gluttons, stuffy teachers, snobs, troublemakers and even criminals are among the unsavoury types who get their punishment from Katie the Jinx, whether she plans it or simply jinxes it. Either way we cheer and laugh when the unpleasant type gets jinxed into their long-awaited comeuppance.

Katie comes from a long line of jinx girls in girls’ comics whose blundering causes scrapes that provide loads of laughs for the readers. “Sailor Sally – She’s All at Sea” (Debbie) and “Simple Simona” (Tammy) were other examples. But Katie was one to reach such heights of popularity in Jinty that she not only ran for two years but also became cover girl, leading off Jinty’s cover with jinx hijinks to pull readers in with a huge laugh. The panel exhibiting the jinxy gag itself, such as Katie tripping over something or getting everyone in a heap, was often given jagged edging for emphasis. Examples of Katie’s glory days on the cover are shown below.

(click thru)

 

 


Edited by comixminx to add: the strip has the power to amuse modern readers just as much. My daughter (8 at the time of writing this) loves Katie Jinks’ hijinks more than just about anything in the comic. We have recently had the pleasure of having Trini Tinturé doing a piece of art for the family, and while my son chose to have himself illustrated with one of his favourite youTubers (Dan TDM), my daughter chose to be illustrated alongside Katie Jinks. Here it is, a new piece of Trini art with a direct Jinty link!

Two kids and two idols
Illustration by Trini Tinturé for two avid comics readers

Life’s a Ball for Nadine [1980-81]

Sample Images

Lifes a Ball for Nadine 1Lifes a Ball for Nadine 2Lifes a Ball for Nadine 3Lifes a Ball for Nadine 4

Published: Jinty 8 November 1980 – 21 March 1981

Episodes: 20

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

The B netball team at Greystreet School needs improvement. Their stuffy coach, Betty, is displeased with their standard and orders extra practice in the gym that evening. However, Sally Smith and Sue Sims realise that what they really need is another good player.

In the gym, the netball team is surprised to find new girl Nadine Nash arrive in disco gear and all ready to dance. She mistook the date of the school disco, but while she’s there they give her a demonstration of how to play netball. She has a go and everyone is surprised at how her disco reflexes are so transferable to netball and she scores a goal on her first attempt. She is a natural netball player. The trouble is, she is not interested in joining the team and cares far more for disco dancing. Undaunted, Sue and Sally set out to find a way to persuade Nadine to join the netball team. Eventually Nadine joins the team as Goal Attack, but is still more interested in disco dancing, which she is brilliant at.

For the most part of the story the episodes follow the format of lightweight exchange between disco and netball as skills and equipment from one helps the other. In one episode, the goalkeeper is in danger of being dropped because she has lost form. At the disco, she gets some unusual training to get her back into form when she, Nadine, Sue and Sally catch rubbish thrown by her unruly rock ‘n’ roll brothers who don’t like the acts in a talent show that aren’t rock ‘n’ roll – especially the disco act, of course. After that training Betty is astounded at how much the goalkeeper has improved.

In another episode Nadine is upstaged by gimmicky disco dancers who depend more on costumes and appearance than skill to clear the floor. But in the end it is the gimmicky dancers who are upstaged and the floor goes back to Nadine when Sue and Sally throw an old netball net to net the gimmicky dancers.

Sometimes netball helps Nadine at disco. In one episode netball helps Nadine to meet her favourite disc jockey, Disco Dave. In another episode the other netball players help rescue Nadine when she’s on the dance floor without a light, by getting a huge strobe lightbulb from one end of the crowded dance floor to the other – in record time – using their netball skills.

At times the disco/netball combination enables the girls to get one up on their stuffy coach, who does not see any value in Nadine’s disco dancing or her combining it with netball. For example, in one episode Betty challenges another stuffy coach of an old-fashioned boys’ school as to whether basketball or netball is better. Each team proves they are the best at their own particular sport but the coaches still argue as to which is best. While they aren’t looking, it’s disco that wins the day, when the girls discover the boys play disco secretly at their stuffy school, and they have a covert disco together.

The 101 uses for disco/netball continue for a long time in the serial and a lot of episodes run to the same format. However, the serial takes a different turn when it comes to its conclusion. The ending comes with a story arc spanning several episodes that not only bring the development of Nadine’s character full circle but also that of the stuffy Betty.

The story arc begins when Nadine discovers that two sisters, Syreeta and Selena, are out to cheat her on two fronts: a disco contest (Syreeta) and netball championship (Selena). They start by putting a lot of nasty bruises in her legs to make her unfit for both events. And that Selena is awfully clever in putting those bruises into Nadine’s legs during the netball events without the referee noticing those fouls.

When it comes to the night of both events Nadine gets a notice indicating that both start at the same time, so she has to choose one. It is at this point that the netball team says Nadine is selfish because all she thinks of is disco and has no team spirit, despite the journey of the 101 uses for disco/netball they have had together. This must have gone to Nadine’s heart because on the night in question she chooses netball over disco. She even spends the money for her new disco outfit on netball gear instead. Everyone is impressed. And Betty, who had unwittingly helped the two cheats earlier, shows a whole new human face and is willing to do everything she can to help Nadine. This includes buying Nadine-style wigs for the whole team to confuse Selena when she tries to nobble Nadine by bruising her bruises. After this, Nadine scores so many goals that her team wins. That’s that one cheat down, but there is still one to go.

Then Nadine discovers that the notice she received was a fake – another trick from those cheats – and the disco contest is yet to begin. The trouble is, the contest is miles away. Moreover, Nadine has no disco outfit, having spent her money on netball gear. Betty is undaunted. At Betty’s urging, they all run across town to enter Nadine in the contest. Betty will use the club money to buy Nadine the best disco outfit they can find.

But the two cheats aren’t beaten yet. Overhearing the team, Selena phones Syreeta to alert her that Nadine is coming. So Syreeta has her cronies block the team’s entry into the venue. To get Nadine past them, Betty and the team wrap her into a huge ball made out of an old billboard poster, and toss it over the heads of the cronies and onto the disco floor. Nadine bursts out of the ball, and the DJ says, “Wow, what an entrance!” That’s extra points for Nadine’s unstoppable, unforgettable performance that wins her the disco contest, hands down.

Before Nadine collects her trophy, she asks Sue and Sally to come up on stage with the netball trophy so they will share their double victory that pays homage to both netball and disco.

Thoughts

The first thought goes to the in-joke in the sample images above. Artist Mario Capaldi seems to be making a reference to himself with “Mario”, and also to his family’s ice-cream business. Mario himself helped out with the ice-cream business when he was younger. Is the in-joke Capaldi just couldn’t resist or was it something arranged between him and the editor? Either way, it is another in-joke in girls’ serials to be noted.

The first thing you notice about this story, though, is that the titular protagonist is black. Blacks and other non-white people did not have a frequent presence in girls’ comics. This was not intentionally racist, but it was a glaring absence that needed to be addressed a whole lot more. Sadly, Jinty was no exception. The only other black protagonists  in Jinty were Jo in “Angela’s Angels“, but she’s just one protagonist among six in that serial, and Mary the Aborigine girl in “Bound for Botany Bay”, who has more presence as a protagonist but she is not the main one. Pam of Pond Hill had a black pupil, Mac, but he didn’t appear much and was not by any means a regular in the strip. By contrast, Nadine is the star of her own serial and she definitely has a far more commanding presence as a black protagonist than Jo. It is a real delight to have a story starring a strong black protagonist, and this alone makes this story one of Jinty’s most noteworthy serials.

Nadine is not the only black presence in this serial either. The two antagonists, Syreeta and Selena, are also black, which makes the black presence even stronger. A few other black people also appear, such as Nadine’s mother and the cleaning lady who alerts Nadine to the trick with the appointment time.

Netball is a sport that was infrequently used in girls’ serials. This is one of the few serials that does feature netball (“Romy’s Return” from Tammy was another), which makes the story even more eye-catching. The way it is used has an amusing side while it is being used to complement Nadine’s disco. You would have never thought disco and netball could have so many uses or give so many people a comeuppance. For a long time this is the way the story runs, which makes it engaging and fun to read.

Recently Comixminx expressed in the entry “How do you know who’s the hero?” that knowing who the hero is in a girls’ serial is not always cut-and-dried. There are some odd stories that have you wonder whether the real star of the show is the titular protagonist or another main character – the antagonist, even. This story certainly can be added to that list. Nadine is the titular protagonist. She is a strong, endearing character throughout the story. Hers is the emotional journey as she learns that disco is not everything and there are other things that matter too. But for the most part it is Sue and Sally who come up with the ideas on how to apply disco to a netball situation and vice-versa, and it is their quick thinking that saves the day. Of course a lot of these situations and solutions arise through Nadine, but coming up with these clever ideas makes Sue and Sally more proactive characters than Nadine and they are serious plot drivers. True, there are times when Nadine is the one to come up with the brilliant save; for example, using goalkeeping to foil the garbage-throwing rock ‘n’ rollers is her idea. But by and large it is Sue and Sally, and, eventually, Betty.

 

Child of the Rain [1980]

Sample images

Child of the Rain 1Child of the Rain 2Child of the Rain 3

Published: Jinty 6 September 1980 – 22 November 1980

Episodes: 12

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Unknown

Reprints/translations: None known

Plot

Jemma West has always loathed rain. So accompanying her naturalist father on a trip to the Amazon rainforest where he has to navigate mud-soaked tracks in pouring tropical rain is not her idea of fun. What’s more, these driving conditions make Jemma fling out of the jeep and she gashes her leg on a tree.

While recovering in hospital, everyone is astonished to find Jemma suddenly dancing happily in the rain. Jemma is just as astonished. All of a sudden, the rain-hater has become absolutely crazy about rain and she just can’t get enough of it.

That’s only the beginning of Jemma’s strange new association with rain. Jemma soon finds that when it rains she is filled with amazing strength and energy. But when it’s fine she wilts like a flower. As for drought – that sends her right to sleep.

Jemma is one of the best tennis players in the school, but this strange effect that the presence/absence of rain has on her is becoming a real nuisance on the tennis court and hindering her performance. She can’t perform properly on the court when the weather’s fine, and sometimes rain does too good a job on her – her strength rises to such levels that she’s knocking the tennis ball miles out of the court. Everyone is worried she is ill or something, and it looks like she is not fit to enter the championships. And Jemma can’t explain because she can’t understand it herself. Once rain revives her, she’s back in the game, but unfortunately rain is not always present.

Jemma’s lengths to find rain to revive herself when it’s dry get really desperate at times and they get her into constant trouble at home and school. She also finds that she is crazy about anything to do with the Amazon rainforest. For example, when Dad gives a slideshow about the Amazon rainforest, Jemma goes right up and kisses the image on the screen, right in front of everyone. Naturally, Dad is embarrassed and very displeased with Jemma! When Jemma is given tree bark from the Amazon rainforest, she finds the bark has much the same effect on her that rain does.

Things finally come to a head when Jemma suddenly finds a pain starting in her leg where the gash had been. She tries to hide it because the school tennis championships are coming up, but the problem turns into a life-threatening infection and she is hospitalised. Surgical investigation reveals a splinter of wood from the tree was lodged deeply in her leg, which started an infection. It is removed, but Jemma does not respond to antibiotics. The infection is poisoning her blood and on the verge of killing her. The doctors are stumped and helpless.

In desperation, Dad flies Jemma back to the Amazon rainforest to seek help from a local medicine man he knows. The medicine man’s treatment may look like pure mumbo-jumbo, but it succeeds where the antibiotics failed. Jemma is soon waking up, looking much better, and very surprised to find herself back in the rainforest.

Jemma soon finds rain is not having that mysterious effect on her anymore, and concludes it must have been that splinter in her leg. The school kindly held back the tennis championships until Jemma recovered. She has no problem winning the championship, particularly as that rain effect is no longer a problem. However, Jemma retains her love of rain and the Amazon rainforest.

Thoughts

This was the only tennis serial to appear in Jinty. This may seem strange for a comic with a high emphasis on sport, but then several sports only scored one or two serials in Jinty while they were dime a dozen in titles like Bunty.

Child of the Rain also links in with Jinty’s emphasis on environmentalism, with the Amazon rainforest being the force that drives the whole plot, although the story contains little that touches on environmentalism itself. The message of environmentalism is a whole lot more muted than it is in other Jinty environmental serials such as “The Forbidden Garden”. However, the Amazon rainforest is such a powerful influence in the story that the reader would emerge seeing it in a whole new light, as does the protagonist herself. The strange power she gains from the rainforest leaves her with a new appreciation of nature, the Amazon rainforest, and her father’s naturalist job.

Not all protagonists who acquire a strange power in a serial find it beneficial, and this is definitely the case with Jemma. Though the power is beneficial when it rains, for the most part it is just a nuisance that is interfering with Jemma’s life and tennis. In fact it is not only a nuisance but eventually life-threatening as well. In terms of benefit, the power serves more to develop Jemma’s character than help her along with her tennis as she goes from rain hater with little interest in nature to a rain and rainforest lover.

Though this story is not one of Jinty’s classics, there appears to be a lingering fondness for it. Maybe it’s the rainforest elements.

Bizzie Bet and the Easies [1979]

Sample Images

Bizzie Bet 1Bizzie Bet 2

Published: Jinty 31 March 1979 – 1 December 1979

Episodes: 27

Artist: Richard Neillands

Writer: Unknown

A lightweight humour strip that ran in Jinty in 1979. The premise is Bet Bizzel, known as “Bizzie Bet” who’s such a bundle of energy and always working hard, versus her bone-idle friends, the Easies. Each week Bizzie Bet is always coming up with bright schemes to show the Easies the meaning of work and curing them of their lazy ways. But things always backfire on Bet eventually and the Easies win in the end. Such a premise wouldn’t have been out of place in a funnies comic like Buster or Whizzer & Chips. Imagine if this strip was drawn by one of their artists!

The Easies are also very inventive, coming up with their own creative ways of doing things – the very quick and laid back way, of course, but it does save a lot of labour and turns out well. You do have to hand it to them. The fact that sloth always wins in this story is what gives the story its humour. It’s a strip the lazy Garfield the cat would love.

Readers must have had a sneaking sympathy for the Easies. You do wish Bet would stop shoving her oar in all the time, stop trying to force hard work on the Easies, and let them be. Besides, doing all this extra work for Easies is just making Bet working far harder than she needs to and doing everything for the Easies is really not encouraging them to do things for themselves. In fact, if Bet took a leaf out of the Easies’ book and took things easy now and then, life would be easier for her. And she wouldn’t be the one doing all the work all the time, as her holiday dice game below proves. But maybe she can’t take it easy any more than the Easies could turn into balls of energy.

In the end Bizzie Bet and the Easies come to an arrangement where they agree to disagree, accept each other for what they are, and just be friends. It’s a very good, definitive ending. It did not end on a regular episode, which is very satisfying, and readers would have been very pleased with how it concluded.

Bizzie Bet had a fair run at 27 episodes. But in comparison to the longer-running “Jinx from St Jonah’s”, “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” or “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost” humour strips in Jinty, it didn’t have much staying power. It may have been a popularity issue, and this could well have been the case. Though the strip is fun, it doesn’t feel as strong, engaging or memorable as, say, “The Jinx from St Jonah’s” and is one of Jinty’s more forgettable  strips.

The artwork could have been the problem. A premise like this requires an artist who can really draw exaggerated, stylised cartoony humour, but Richard Neillands is not one of them. His style is for lightweight or sports stories but he can’t really pull off exaggerated comedy or make anyone laugh with his artwork. An artist like Robert MacGillivray or even a Buster-type artist is what’s required here.

Or it could simply be that Bizzie Bet was simply axed to help make way for “Pam of Pond Hill” and “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost”, both of which started shortly afterwards.

Bizzie Bet game 1Bizzie Bet game 2