Category Archives: Stories

Slaves of “War Orphan Farm” (1971)

Published: Tammy 6 February 1971 (first issue) to 17 July 1971 

Episodes: 29

Artist: Desmond Walduck

Writer: Gerry Finley-Day

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

In World War II, Kate Dennison’s parents are killed in the Blitz and she is evacuated to a farm in the Lake District run by Ma Thatcher. Ma Thatcher is ostensibly a benefactor offering a good home to war orphans, but Kate soon discovers she is a monster. Together with Ned and Benskin, she operates a racket using war orphans and evacuees as slave labour. She also makes a profit out of the money the government sends for the children’s upkeep. The children are forced to sleep in a barn, all their belongings are taken for her use, and they are used as slave labour in Benskin’s quarry. Ma gets a nice sum for the slave labour she supplies him. Other farmers seem complicit in the racket, and even help to bring back escaped children. Their reasons are not clear. Perhaps it’s because they benefit from it too, as Ma hires the children out to work on their farms as well as slave in the quarry. 

Ma has terrible punishments for rebellious children, but her specialty is the animal cage. Children are locked in it overnight, regardless of weather or state of health, to be exposed to all the elements. There are beatings too, and as the story goes on, other unbelievable tortures and punishments are added that has you wondering why none of these children are maimed or dead. 

Kate is the only one willing to stand up to Ma and never waver from trying to escape and seek help, no matter how many times she fails – which is often. She prompts the other slaves to fight back and do something, something they weren’t doing before she arrived because they think nothing can be done. She also tries to get help for weak or sick children, and acts of rebellion and sabotage against the work. One ruse is rigging up a water flask as an unexploded bomb in a pool in the frequently flooded quarry. Of course the slavers discover the trick eventually, but it’s given the children a break from the quarry labour. 

Kate’s rebellion against Ma singles her out for extra-cruel treatment intended to break her will, such as being forced to stand still for hours with vicious guard dogs all around her, threatening to tear her apart if she moves. 

When Kate arrived, the number of slaves was small, but as time goes on it grows with more arrivals. Things get worse when one, Bonnie Sykes, becomes the flunky, collaborator and under-guard. In exchange for better treatment, which includes sleeping in the farm house instead of the barn, she helps Ma with the slavery, acts as watchdog over the other children, and joins in the cruelties. 

Sadly for them, the children are still prone to gullibility and have to learn the hard way about that. When, all of a sudden, Ma starts treating the kids nicely, they refuse to have anything to do with Emma, suggesting that she’s trying to spoil their now happy family. Of course it’s all a ruse. Evacuation inspectors are coming to the farm, so Ma needs to give the impression that all is well. Even Kate is largely fooled, though still suspicious. She tries to escape in the inspectors’ car, but finds Ma there, waiting for her in case of tricks like that. She’s kept tied up while the inspectors visit and see the happy, unsuspecting children. By the time the children discover they’ve been fooled, it’s too late and their rescue is gone. At least Kate, once untied, gives them the satisfaction of seeing her rip up the money their slavers have just received from the inspectors.  

In time, another character appears. She is Mad Emma, a woman who always conceals her face, and she’s the only person who scares Ma. Emma secretly helps the children, such as smuggling things in to help, throwing scares into the slave drivers and messing things up for them, and then moves up to helping some of the sicker children escape.

Kate and Emma progressively spirit three of these children away, and they are hidden in a nearby evacuated village. But after the third escape, Ma decides it’s time to get rid of Kate. So she forces Kate to work alone in the quarry, with Benskin to arrange a few ‘accidents’. Despite Kate watching him closely, he comes close to killing her until Emma sends him plunging, and he is knocked out. She then takes Kate to the evacuated village.

There is still the matter of how to free the remaining children, and now the mystery of Emma is revealed. It turns out she is the owner of the farm. When she wouldn’t sell to Ma, Ma stole the farm and started a fire to drive Emma off. Emma escaped, badly burned, and wandered in a state of shock until she stumbled across the abandoned village. She had lived there ever since, hiding her badly scarred face. She had taken a long time to start helping the children because she was living in seclusion, suspicious of strangers. Then one day she decided to take a look at her farm and discovered what was going on. 

Back at the farm, Ma learns Kate has escaped, but she has something more pressing to worry about. She has received a letter informing them that the bombing is easing up, so the children will now be sent home. Realising the children will tell people about their treatment, Ma decides to silence them by locking them in the barn and burning it down.

Bonnie draws the line at murder and has a change of heart. She runs away and bumps into Kate and Emma, and explains things. She covers for them while they dig the tunnel into the barn and help all the children escape through it. Ma almost shoots Kate as she makes her escape, but Bonnie causes her to miss and follows Kate into the woods. Now Ma knows Bonnie has turned against her.

With all the children safe, Emma decides it is (long overdue!) time to get the police. But after several hours there’s still no sign of activity. Kate goes in search of her and again gets captured by Ma Thatcher, who has also captured Emma and Bonnie. She uses them as hostages to force Kate to flag the police away. 

Ma then locks Bonnie and Kate in the barn and sets fire to it, keeping Emma back to make her tell where the other children are. Emma breaks free and rushes into the barn to save Kate and Bonnie. Ma is forced to go after Emma, as she’s the only one who can tell her where the other children are. Ned panics at all this and makes a run for it. When Kate hears Ma crying for help, she goes back to rescue her. Her reward? Ma tries to kill her again, with the shotgun Ned dropped. 

However, the other children, who got worried at the delay, have brought in the police themselves. The police arrive in time to catch Ma in the act of trying to shoot Kate. Ned is soon rounded up, and joins Ma in custody. The farm is restored to Emma, and the children are very happy when the authorities allow them to stay with her. 

Thoughts

Well, here we go with Tammy’s most famous (or infamous) tale of all, and one of the most pivotal stories in girls’ comics. This is the one that really made Tammy’s mark from the first issue, and its impact lingers on today. If one serial were the jewel in Tammy’s crown, it would have to be this one. But what a dark jewel it is. It has been deemed the cruellest of Tammy’s tales, perhaps the cruellest of all in the history of girls’ comics. Of all the dark, misery-laden tales Tammy was known for, this one is the reigning queen. 

And the readers lapped it up. Its length alone – a staggering 29 episodes – shows how popular it was with readers. Its formula proved a guaranteed hit, copied countless times at IPC, and spawned what became known as the slave story. Or perhaps, more accurately, the slave group story (as distinct from the single slave story). The slave story was one of the lynchpins in the new trend of grittiness Tammy set. Said Pat Mills of the slave story: “slave stories were always very popular, and I think a psychologist might have a field day, not just with the people who wrote them, but with the readers! … We actually would sit down and say, when we were constructing a girls’ comic or revising an existing one, ‘Right, let’s have the slave story’, and the reason was because they were so popular with the readers!” (Interview with Jenni Scott, 26 September 2011, https://comiczine-fa.com/interviews/pat-mills).

“Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’” was the one that set the template for it all in Tammy and her sister comics. The template ran as follows: 

1: The protagonist falls foul of a racket, evil person or cruel institution where others are held captive for a sinister purpose or used as slaves. Settings have included workhouses, harsh boarding schools, factories, remote environments and prison camps. 

2: The protagonist is the only one to rebel against it (and in some cases, even realise what is going on, as the evil purpose is sometimes disguised) and try to break them all free from it.

3: Her rebellion singles her out for extra-harsh treatment or puts her in more danger than the others.

4: There is a flunky type (not always used) working with the antagonist against the protagonist.

5: A helper often, though not always, emerges to help. The helper can either work in secret and disguise, or come in to investigate and sense something’s wrong. Sometimes the protagonist herself is the secret helper, either donning a disguise or pretending to be the flunky to help the slaves. Examples of this are “Lady Sarah’s Secret” (Judy) and “Hateful Hattie” (Mandy).

Other Tammy stories to use the formula included “Slaves of the Hot Stove”, “Secret Ballet of the Steppes”, “The Chain Gang Champions”, “Waifs of the Wigmaker”, and “The Revenge of Edna Hack”. Jinty’s “Merry at Misery House”, beginning with her first issue and going on to become her longest-running serial, owed its roots to “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’”.

It could not have been the formula alone that made the serial its mark. It would also have been the lengths it took with its cruelties, which have made it regarded as the cruellest of them all (with “Merry at Misery House” running a very strong second). The scale of violence and torture must have been unprecedented and shocking, and the levels it went to have been seldom seen since: Kate being constantly bludgeoned, dangerous labour in a flooded quarry, the animal cage, fox traps, even attempted shootings, and so much else. The story stops at showing blood, broken bones and other injuries (except for one child getting her leg caught in a fox trap) or outright death, but it’s always dancing on the edge of it, and the only reason it doesn’t happen is, well, this is girls’ comics. 

Also adding to its impact was Tammy clearly naming the villainess after an unpopular figure: Margaret Thatcher, then known as “Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher” for her cuts on free milk given to children when she was Secretary of Education. And Ma Thatcher is a villainess with no redeeming qualities whatsoever and one of the evil baddies ever created in girls’ comics. Nowhere is this shown more where Kate saves Ma’s life – twice – in the story. But there’s no gratitude from Ma, only more of the same from her, even trying to kill Kate in return for having her life saved. She ought to be running a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, what with the tortures she inflicts (vicious dogs, fox traps, the animal cage, beatings, atrocious working conditions, etc.). She’d feel right at home with those brutal SS guards.

As well as no redeeming qualities, Ma Thatcher has no nuances to her character. There’s no dashes of humour, backstory, redeeming qualities, or even sprinkles of the human touch to her. The only thing that gives her a little roundness is how brilliant she is at pretending to be the kind grandmotherly benefactor when the authorities come calling. But essentially, Ma Thatcher is just cruel, evil and unredeemable. 

The hatching and crosshatching in the Desmond Walduck artwork give it ruggedness against a softer edge of linework, which makes it not only a perfect fit for the harshness of the story but for the country setting and the time period as well. Not surprisingly, Walduck has been a popular choice for other period stories with a hard edge to them, such as “The Shadow in Shona’s Life” from Tammy and “The Worst School in the World” from Judy.  

“Slaves of ‘War Orphan’ Farm” was not strictly the first in the line of (group) slave stories. The aforementioned Worst School in the World from Judy was one also, and predated it by two years. There were probably others at DCT that also predated “Slaves of ‘War Orphan’ Farm”. But at IPC, “Slaves of ‘War Orphan’ Farm” was more than enough to be the first to matter. 

Little Miss Nothing (1971)

Published: 5 June 1971 to 4 September 1971 

Episodes: 14

Artist: Updated: Miguel Rosello, Miguel Quesada and Luis Bermejo credited by David Roach

Writer: Alan Davidson

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Annabel Hayes is the drudge of her family. Her parents say she’s nothing and have eyes only for her younger sister Dora. Everything goes on Dora, including Annabel being forced to slave on her father’s market stall, and he doesn’t care that it makes Annabel late for school. At school, Annabel is brilliant at sewing. Her sewing teacher, Miss Turner, says she could make a real career out of fashion and design, and gifts her a book on dressmaking.

Then the family moves to be closer to Dora’s modelling school. Dad yanks Annabel illegally out of school to work full time to help pay Dora’s fees and tells her to lie about her age if anyone asks questions. Dad even rips up Annabel’s dressmaking book when she tries to rebel against his latest ill-treatment, but she manages to salvage the pieces. 

At her new home, Annabel is forced to sleep in an attic, but this works in her favour when she finds an old sewing machine there. Later, she discovers an evening dress and design class she could go for. After finding some materials and thread, she is in business.

As Annabel works at her sewing, she bemoans how she must everything for herself, from the nothing her parents say she is, while the spoiled Dora gets everything handed to her on a plate for her modelling and doesn’t lift a finger for herself. Well, at least Annabel has the talent. Does Dora have the talent too? We haven’t been shown that part yet. 

Annabel’s first day on the market stall goes badly, as she is forced to work on it alone with no experience in sales pitch, and she’s up against Tom, who really knows how to sell stuff on his own stall. Dad’s furious at Annabel not making any money and clouts her. And now Dora’s been recommended to the De Vere fashion house, so the pressure on Annabel to make money at the stall is worse than ever. 

Next day, Tom, who saw the way Dad treated Annabel for making no money, gives her a hand, and she makes more money on the stall. She has used some material left behind on the stall to make some items, which she hopes to sell on the stall and raise her own money for the evening sewing classes. None of them sell until towards closing time, when a Mrs Crawford, seeing the flair and design that went into making them, scoops up the lot and places an order for six bags in dark red.

Unfortunately, Dad grabs the money Annabel had just raised, leaving her with nothing to buy the red material for the bags. All the money has gone for expensive material to make Dora’s new dress – which happens to be dark red. When Dora takes the material in to be made up, Annabel makes a grab for the scraps (getting herself into a few scrapes along the way) and makes up the bags, but just as she brings them to the stall, Dad finds them. He throws the bags away – but happens to pick the moment when Mrs Crawford arrives and sees everything. She puts Dad very firmly in his place, “you dreadful man”, and forces him to apologise to Annabel. 

Mrs Crawford says she wants to have tea with Annabel to discuss things. Sensing what a rich friend Annabel’s suddenly got, Dad realises he could take advantage, especially for Dora. 

All of a sudden, Dad goes all nice to Annabel at home, and tags along with her to the tea. Mrs Crawford says she wants Annabel to work for her in the fashion business and needs a guardian’s consent. Dad gives it, and then he puts on a great “poor man act” to cadge some junk for the stall. While doing so, he helps himself to some more valuable items Mrs Crawford bought at auction. Annabel discovers this and runs off to return them, with Dad giving chase. She manages to get them to Mrs Crawford, but Dad tries to put the blame on her. It looks like the end of Annabel’s job with Mrs Crawford, and Dad’s furious at how Annabel has wrecked his chance of a fortune. Unknown to them both, Mrs Crawford is not convinced Annabel took the paintings. 

Annabel is now so heartbroken and fed up that she just runs away, leaving the market stall unattended. Dad’s livid when he discovers this. When Mrs Crawford returns to the market stall to make further enquiries about the paintings, Dad tells her about Annabel’s disappearance and yells at her for interfering.

Meanwhile, it’s time for Dora’s modelling audition at the De Vere school. We’re finally shown just how good Dora is at modelling, and no, she definitely does not have what it takes. Dora overhears Miss De Vere say she was the only one she was not impressed with. 

But Dora gets an even bigger shock when she sees the row between Mrs Crawford and Dad at the market stall – Miss De Vere and Mrs Crawford happen to be the same person! (Later, they find out De Vere is Mrs Crawford’s professional name.) So Dad and Dora really need Annabel now, to pull strings with her “rich friend”, if Dora is to get the modelling job. 

The hunt for Annabel begins, with the family all anxious, and all nice and making a big fuss when they find Annabel injured and save her from drowning at the embankment. Saying things are sorted out with Mrs Crawford, they have Annabel bring her over to tea, and Dora tearfully asks Annabel to say the reason she didn’t do so well at the audition was because she was worried about her disappearance. Annabel falls for it despite the show of phony niceness they had shown before. The end result is Mrs Crawford taking on Annabel as a trainee designer and Dora as a model, and both are to report to her fashion house. Unknown to them, Mrs Crawford is not entirely fooled, but is not sure just who to believe. 

But of course Dora doesn’t want Annabel coming with her to their appointment at the fashion house. So, as they set off to report, Dora “loses” Annabel, and makes sure she is the one with the address. Annabel had no idea what the address was to begin with and can’t find it herself (no doubt, something else they made sure of). At the fashion house, Dora tells Mrs Crawford Annabel has changed her mind and not coming. The family make sure Mrs Crawford and Annabel don’t meet up when Mrs Crawford comes around asking questions and spin them both lies about the other. Annabel is left thinking Mrs Crawford now thinks she’s unreliable and wants nothing more to do with her; Mrs Crawford still has her suspicions but not sure what to think. As Dad planned, Annabel’s back on the market stall, thinking she’s Little Miss Nothing again. 

Meanwhile, Dad’s received a crooked offer from a friend of his, Harry Marks, and there’s an ominous hint it has something to do with Mrs Crawford. Dora doesn’t want it, saying she now has everything she needs to advance in modelling without “any crookery”. But then there’s a further development that could change her mind…

By now, Mrs Crawford has seen enough of Dora to confirm her earlier impressions that she is not modelling material. Her suspicions have also deepened as to why Dora is at her school and Annabel is not. Mrs Crawford confronts Dora over it all, shows her the bags Annabel had a natural talent for making, and says it’s Annabel she wants at the school, not her. At this, Dora’s jealousy overboils. She says she made the bags, not Annabel. Her proof? Her dress, which is made from the same material, and she claims she made the bags from the scraps. Sceptical, Mrs Crawford decides to test her by telling her to bring in something else she designed. 

Of course, Dora cons Annabel into doing the design for her, saying it’s home-based design work Mrs Crawford is offering as preliminary for a second chance at the fashion house. This time, Mrs Crawford really does fall for Dora’s trick and now thinks Annabel is a liar and a cheat. She is also so impressed with the design that it’s going into her autumn collection, Dora will model it, and the design is soon made up. 

Meanwhile, Annabel finally finds the address for Mrs Crawford’s fashion house and nips along to see how things are going with her design. The results are the whole truth blowing up right there and then right in front of everyone. Mrs Crawford sacks Dora, throws her out, and Dora angrily rips up the dress to spite her. 

Annabel finally gets her job at the fashion house, but then loses the roof over her head. Her family throw her out because of what happened. Not knowing where else to go, she heads for Mrs Crawford’s fashion house, now locked up, and slips in for the night. Unfortunately for her, she has left a window open, which unwittingly sets the stage for the Hayes’ next move. 

Burning with rage and thirsty for revenge, Dora is now all too eager to listen to that earlier proposition from Harry Marks. This entails stealing Mrs Crawford’s fashion designs for his buyer, a rival fashion designer. They find it easy to break in through that open window, and then Dora discovers Annabel fast asleep there. Dora seizes her chance for revenge on Annabel by planting one of her shoes at the scene of the crime and then tipping off the police about the break-in. The frame-up works, and now Mrs Crawford is back to believing Annabel is the cheat. Dora’s crowing over this, convinced she can now worm her way back into Mrs Crawford’s favour. Annabel tearfully makes a run for it.

Annabel soon guesses who was behind it all. But she can’t prove anything. Her only chance is to confront her family. First stop is back home, and after she confronts her mother, she realises she must check out the market. She arrives in time to see Dad and Dora hand over the designs to Marks. Dora is promptly interested in working for Marks’ buyer as a model, and all three head for his fashion house. They don’t realise Annabel is desperately hanging on at the end of their car. The designs are handed over to the fashion designer, a man looking as shady as Marks, and he agrees to take Dora on as a model. He’s doing so on the spot, by looks alone and no audition, which shows how professional he is in comparison to Mrs Crawford. 

Unwilling to report even her horrible family to the police, Annabel decides to just burst in and grab the designs to return to Mrs Crawford. When they try to block her, she escapes by window, but takes a fall and damages her knee. Despite it, she manages to run to Mrs Crawford’s before her knee gives way. She desperately rings the doorbell for help, only to find nobody in; Mrs Crawford, still thinking Annabel took the designs, had decided to go away for a bit. Dad and Dora catch up, but rather than hand the designs over, Annabel rips them up. At this, Dad starts thrashing Annabel, as the buyer said the deal is off without the designs. He is caught red-handed by Mrs Crawford, who had suddenly decided to return. She has seen enough to realise who really had stolen the designs and who to believe now. 

Dad is jailed for his role in the theft. Dora is let off because of her age, but it’s the end of her modelling hopes. Now she is the one miserably and bitterly slogging on the market stall (how this fits in with her being even more underage to work on it than Annabel is not explained), and she is humbled. 

A month later, Annabel’s design receives the loudest applause at Mrs Crawford’s fashion show, and she’s on her way to a brilliant career in fashion and design. Mrs Crawford finds out Annabel is not the Hayes’ natural child. They adopted her in infancy but went off her when Dora arrived. Mrs Crawford, who had always wanted children, now adopts Annabel as her own. Annabel takes pity on Dora after seeing her plight at the market stall. She arranges for Mrs Crawford to take her in at the fashion house, and they are reconciled. 

Thoughts

“Little Miss Nothing” is one of Tammy’s most pivotal stories and definitely in her Top 10 of the best. In fact, Pat Mills is one to regard it as one of the most ground-breaking serials ever in girls’ comics: “it was the first of its kind” in establishing the template of the Cinderella stories for other Cinderella stories to follow. And they followed big style! Among them in Tammy were “Jumble Sale Jilly”, “Nell Nobody”, “Sally in a Shell”, and “Sadie in the Sticks”. Cinderella-based Jinty stories, such as “Make-Believe Mandy” and “Cinderella Smith”, also owe their roots to “Little Miss Nothing”, as does the 1983 “Cinders on Ice” in Princess II. Most significant of all, the Cinderella template set by “Little Miss Nothing” led to the creation of Bella Barlow. 

Mind you, “Little Miss Nothing” was not quite the first of its kind. The text story version of “The Sad Star”, an even grimmer Cinderella story from Mandy, predated it by a few months, and went on to become Mandy’s most popular text story ever and enjoy several reprints, in both text and picture story form. There may be other Cinderella stories at DCT to predate Tammy’s ground breaker here, but there is currently no confirmation. Was it a case of “Little Miss Nothing” being the first of its kind to matter? Or it being the first of its kind at IPC? Or was it the template it set for others to follow?

In his Millsverse blog, Pat Mills said on “Little Miss Nothing”:

“Little Miss Nothing by Alan Davidson in Tammy (1971) was hugely popular – equivalent in success at the time to Judge Dredd in 2000AD. It was the first of its kind and it was such a massive hit that it was meticulously studied and analysed by the editorial staff. They identified its vote winning ‘formula’ and then endlessly duplicated it with subsequent remarkably similar serials. I recall there were at least ten ‘begats’ of this ground-breaking story.”

Wow, a pioneering girls’ serial with success the equivalent of Judge Dredd is serious stuff! 

The template of the Cinderella serial “Little Miss Nothing” can be seen as follows: 

  1. The protagonist is treated as a drudge by cruel guardians.
  • The protagonist is also exploited to feed the indulgences of a wicked stepsister type. This element is not always used in a Cinderella serial, as in the case of Bella Barlow.
  • The protagonist has a talent/secret to keep her spirits up. It is her only joy in life, and she fights to keep it up against all odds. 
  • Her talent is spotted, enabling her to find a fairy godmother figure and friends to help her, achieve her dream, and ultimately help her to break free of the ill-treatment. But in between there are still obstacles and ill-treatment from the cruel guardians, which often include their causing a fallout between the protagonist and her fairy godmother. 

Cinderella has always been a popular fairy tale, told in many versions and cultures throughout the eons. So Tammy was guaranteed a hit if she used the Cinderella theme as a ground-breaker. Modelling, fashion and design have always been popular in girls’ comics, so throwing those into the mix were guaranteed to make it even more popular. Plus there is the growing undercurrent of criminal conduct in addition to the abuse to make it even more exciting. Readers would be on the edge of the seats to see how that unfolds.

The writing is mature, well-paced, and well-constructed, particularly in how it keeps the ill-treatment of Annabel within the bounds of realism. We can easily imagine a real-life child being treated that way. It does not go over the top or taken to excess, which has happened in some Cinderella serials. For example, Annabel is not kept frequently underfed, as in the case of Bella Barlow, or put in chains, as in the case of Cinderella Smith. The reasons behind the Hayes’ increasing exploitation of Annabel are also well-grounded in realism: she was not their own flesh and blood as Dora was; they were unfit guardians and unprincipled people by nature; and they would never be able to afford Dora’s modelling on their own income, so they need Annabel to generate the income required.

Also realistic is how so many key people, from Miss Turner to Tom, do sense the Hayes are unfit guardians, but although they are helpful and sympathetic, none of them take any action against the abuse itself. This has been an all-too-common phenomenon for many years.

It is also credible in how the contrasting upbringings Dora and Annabel have had have shaped the ways in which one will get to where she wants and the other not. Dora, even if she did have the talent for modelling, has been too spoiled to learn the lesson that to achieve your dream, you must work hard and have guts, determination and persistence against obstacles and challenges, and be grateful for all the help and encouragement you can get. In fact, Dora never learned to work at all, as everything was just handed to her on a plate by her parents. The only thing she works hard at is being nasty. When she ends up on the market stall, she is working for the first time. But she is not making any effort to work her way out of it as Annabel did. Instead, she’s wallowing in bitterness, jealousy and misery as she works on the stall. It takes yet another thing handed to her on a plate – Annabel’s kind offer – to help her out of it. 

Annabel, by contrast, won’t give up her dream, but she has to do everything for herself against all obstacles set down by her family. This includes the constant knocks to her self-esteem as her parents call her a nobody while they hit her. The saving grace is the good people who raise Annabel’s confidence by telling her she has talent and could go far and offer various means of help. But everything, whether good or bad, all helps to give Annabel far more tools to get where she wants than Dora. 

The reconciliation between Dora and Annabel at the end of the story is typically fairy tale, very sweet, and in line with Cinderella. But it is a bit hard to understand how Dora could ever go back to the fashion house all. Surely Mrs Crawford would not want her anywhere near it after what happened. And what could Dora do at the fashion house anyway, as she has no talent for modelling or fashion? 

Would just leaving Dora on the market stall have made more sense as well as give us more satisfaction? Dora’s counterpart in “Nell Nobody” meets a similar comeuppance, and it gives readers great satisfaction to see her just left there to slog and hate every minute of it. On the other hand, the final panel between Dora and Annabel is very moving, as Dora sheds tears for the first time in the story. It leaves us wanting to think things will work out between Dora and Annabel somehow. 

Friends of the Forest (1976)

Published: Jinty 27 December 1975 – 10 April 1976

Episodes: 16

Artist: “B. Jackson”

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Published: Jinty 27 December 1975 – 10 April 1976

Episodes: 16

Artist: “B. Jackson”

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Published as ‘Vrienden door dik en dun’ (Friends through thick and thin) in Tina in the Netherlands in 1988.

Plot

Sally Harris and her mother live in the New Forest. Sally has made a special bond with a deer named Star and taught Star tricks. Unfortunately, the grasping Walkers have spotted this and inform Josh Green, a circus boss who badly needs a new attraction for his ailing circus. When Green tries to buy Star off Sally, she tells him to shove off and runs away into the forest with Star. But Green isn’t giving up so easily, and now he and the Walkers are working together to capture Star.  

Sally returns, hoping Green has cleared off, but finds her mother has had a bad accident. Mum is now in hospital with a damaged spine, and she will be there for a while. To avoid being taken into care and separated from Star, Sally accepts the Walkers’ offer to take her in while Mum is in hospital. She is a bit surprised at this, as the Walkers have always been so rough and unfriendly. But she soon finds out that they are not only in league with Green to get hold of Star but also working her to the bone as an unpaid slave. Miss Knight, Sally’s teacher, soon suspects something’s wrong. Sally realises this, but doesn’t confide in Miss Knight because she doesn’t want to go into a home and be cut off from Star. 

The Walkers capture Star, but there’s surprise help from a strange girl, who helps Star escape. Her name’s Maya Lee, and she is a gypsy girl who is hiding from the forest to avoid a children’s home, which is prison to her. Sally soon discovers Maya has her own cosy little homemade setup in the forest. She also has the gypsy gift of communicating with animals, which gives her a rapport with the New Forest animals. They are able to warn Maya when danger’s coming. In this case, it’s two men, Ramsden and Blakeley, presumably from social welfare. They grab Sally in mistake for Maya, and they say living wild in the forest is not good for her. Maya uses her special talents to get the New Forest ponies to scare them off, and it throws a scare into the Walkers as well.

The Walkers hatch another plan to get hold of Star: lock Sally in her room, to lure Star in search of her. To make sure she has no opportunities to slip away at school, they escort her to and from school (which makes Miss Knight even more suspicious). Then Leaper, Maya’s pet squirrel, appears at the classroom window. Sally uses the squirrel to smuggle a note to Maya about what’s going on and warn her and Star to stay away. Sally also sees Blakeley and Ramsden making queries at the Walker farm about Maya. They blow the stunt Maya pulled on them out of proportion, calling her a savage who attacked them. 

Then Mrs Viney from social welfare calls, and through her Sally finds out Ramsden and Blakeley are not from social welfare as she assumed. So, who are they, and what do they want with Maya? Sally listens in on them and finds out some old man is paying them to find Maya. Mrs Viney hears about these imposters and is now making serious queries with the Walkers about it. This distraction enables Sally to slip away to warn Maya.

But when Sally reaches Maya’s treehouse, she discovers Green is there too. Maya manages to scare him off with her animal friends. Maya knows about Ramsden and Blakeley, who have been trying to find her since she was young, and her parents instructed her to run like hell from them, fearing they were trying to take her away from them. 

At the Walker farm, Green discovers the Walkers have failed in their latest plan with Sally, and angrily tells them he’ll get Star without their help. The Walkers talk him around, telling him about Ramsden and Blakeley being after something in the forest, which has given them a new plan. This involves their suddenly being nice to Sally, saying they are through with Green, and Sally is free to see Star. Sally isn’t fooled by their phony niceness and suspects a trap. 

Meanwhile, Ramsden and Blakely have gotten Sergeant Parker and Mrs Viney involved in getting hold of Maya and putting her in care. They organise a posse, beater-style through the woods, to search for her. Mrs Viney’s son Billy tells Sally he’s a long-standing friend of Maya who has been smuggling food to her, and he warns her about the posse. Sally realises the Walkers will be part of it to catch Star. They hit on a plan to hide Maya and Star in Mrs Viney’s attic (the last place she’ll look!). Another gypsy, Old Bella, helps them. Sally also drops a hint to Miss Knight, the only other person she trusts, about Maya.

But Blakeley and Ramsden are watching outside the Viney house and suspect what’s happening. The Walkers, recalling Billy’s fondness of the New Forest, also suspect he is helping Maya and advise Mrs Viney to watch him. 

When the posse is assembled next morning, Bella tells Sally the crystal ball has sent a warning for Maya. She says she saw a house like a prison and an angry old man, then Ramsden and Blakeley, who will capture Maya because of Star. 

Sally bumps into Miss Knight, and this time tells her the whole story (minus where Maya and Star are hiding). But Sally and Billy find Maya and Star have vanished from the attic and realise the Walkers have taken them to their farm. Sally finds them locked in the barn and manages to free Maya. Freeing Star takes a bit more doing, but Sally succeeds with Leaper’s help. Sally then heads over to Miss Knight’s for help, but overhears a conversation that sounds like Miss Knight is going to help Green get his hands on Star. 

Meanwhile, Sally discovers the posse have discovered Maya’s hideout in the forest, so no more safety for her there. She meets up with Old Bella, who advises that Maya rejoin her tribe and not go near Star, for that is how they will be captured. 

Later, Miss Knight finds Star in her garden, which makes her realise Sally must have overheard. Instead of turning Star over to Green, she conceals her from him, but Green realises his quarry is around when he sees the footprints. Sally comes upon the scene and, using the strange telepathic link between her and Star, tells her to make a run for it (knocking Green over in the process). Sally now comes to a decision: she and Star are going to leave the area and live like gypsies as best they can. 

Meanwhile, the Walkers and Green have discovered Star and Maya’s escape from the farm, and the raving Green says to find them in 24 hours or the deal’s off. Elsewhere, Miss Knight is demanding explanations from Blakeley and Ramsden. Surprisingly, they tell Miss Knight they just want to tell Maya she’s a heiress. 

Bella informs Maya that her mother was a non-Romany who married a Romany, and gets a clearer vision of the house that Maya feared was a prison. Maya now sees it does not look like a prison. It looks more like a grand mansion. Then there’s another vision – of Star getting hurt. Soon afterwards, Star gets shot by a hunter. 

Sally and Maya have to take her to a vet, Mr Wilson. Of course Mr Wilson asks questions about how it happened. Sally decides to just tell him everything. Miss Knight, Ramsden and Blakeley catch up. Miss Knight says she was trying to trap Green into an admission of guilt of illegally taking a deer from the New Forest in earshot of witnesses (Sergeant Parker secretly listening). 

What happens to Green exactly is not recorded, but it is fair to assume that he and his circus are soon dealt with. The Walkers hastily leave the district once word of their treatment of Sally spreads.

The mansion in the vision is White Towers, owned by Colonel Weatherby. Colonel Weatherby explains Maya is his granddaughter, the product of a forbidden marriage and elopement between his daughter and a gypsy. He disinherited his daughter (so that was the angry old man!), but had a change of heart once he heard about the birth of his only heir, Maya. He had been searching for her discreetly and hired Ramsden and Blakeley for the job. White Towers is Maya’s inheritance. She agrees to stay there, is very happy no hunting is allowed there, and Sally and Star can come too. Sally stays at White Towers until her mother recovers. Once Mum is back, Colonel buys the Walkers’ old farm and puts Sally and her mother in charge of it, all help supplied. 

Thoughts

It’s a nice surprise twist that the house Maya feared was a prison turned out to be her inheritance and the two men who wanted her were not the monsters they seemed to be. Nor was being captured because of Star the disaster that Old Bella thought it was. Having Old Bella misconstrue her own crystal ball gazing and get things wrong (something we will see elsewhere, such as in Jinty’s “Destiny Brown”) puts even more of a twist on the tale. Ramsden and Blakeley and the grand house turned out to be all right and helped to give Maya a happy ending. Mind you, Blakeley and Ramsden sure were giving the wrong impression. After all, they were being a bit heavy-handed in their approach, such as when they made the grab on Sally when they mistook her for Maya, or when they arranged the posse to find Maya. The buildup was they were out to put Maya into care, and their conduct has you more than convinced that they really were going to do that. If they’d taken a different approach, things could have been sorted much more quickly.

By contrast, you don’t get things wrong with the Walkers or Josh Green. One look at them ought to tell you the sort they are and to steer well clear of them. It’s a bit surprising the Walkers don’t seem have the reputation around the district they ought to have, even though we learn they are careful to stay onside with the police. What a contrast to Miss Knight, who is perceptive about things right from the start, so we know it’s her who’s going to be key in resolving the story. Put Miss Knight on the force any time!

This is a solid, rollicking story, and a plot so full of twists and turns, plenty of chasing, dodging, getting captured and escaping, and increasing layers of complexity and mystery that it leaves you a bit out of breath at times. There are also touches of both humour and intrigue with these strange connections with the forest animals who often get these pursuers in the story their just desserts and leave you laughing. We’ve also got the Cinderella elements (Sally’s abuse at the Walker farm), the shifty circus owner, and the mystery of why Blakely and Ramsden want Maya. If there’s one thing girls love in girls comics, it’s mystery. And of course, there are the animals, and animal stories are always popular. The affinity Maya and Sally have with the animals heightens the animal elements even more; readers are on the edge of their seats to see what the power does next to help save the day. What’s not for a girl to love in this story?

It is a bit of a let-down not to hear the final fate of Josh Green, and the Walkers aren’t punished as much as they should have been. They leave the district when word of their treatment of Sally gets out, but they don’t get much more than that. We’re left a bit worried about what they might get up to in their new locality. It’s also a bit surprising to hear Sally is willing to stay on at the Walkers’ old farm – even with her mother – after the way she was treated there. Surely it would have too many bad memories for her, and Sally would be happier at White Towers. Still, the final panels are filled with such happiness for the girls and their beloved animal friends at White Towers that we are more than satisfied it’s a happy ending.

Save Old Smokey! (1976)

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Published: Jinty 7 February 1976 – 17 April 1976 

Episodes: 11 

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Billie Stephenson and her grandfather live and work at the local railway line of Whistledown, and for years grandpa has run Old Smokey, the commuter steam train between Whistledown and the big city. But then Councillor Gresby sets up a garage, offering rival commuting by car, and is trying to push out Grandpa. He even puts up an ad outside the railway station (cheek!) saying, “It’s cheaper by far, to travel by car!”. His selling point is cheap petrol, and, as the Stephensons soon discover, his scheme is making the villagers so dependent on car travel they lose interest in the trainline, thinking they don’t need it anymore. 

Before long, Gresby is pinching not only Grandpa’s customers but his staff as well. Grandpa has to cover their jobs as well as his own, and it’s wearing him out. A flu epidemic closes the school, enabling Billie to help with Grandpa’s workload. But Gresby sends in a railway official to inspect things, and after seeing how poor custom has become, he closes down the railway line altogether. And Gresby still isn’t through; he tries to buy out Grandpa by offering him a job at his garage, and then he buys all the railway cottages for his garage employees. This pulls out the Stephensons’ home right from under them, and now they’re homeless. Gresby’s game is clear to Grandpa: “Take a job from him or get out!” 

Still, it’s not all going Gresby’s way. The housewives have wised up to how Gresby pulled strings to close the railway line. As they need the train because they don’t have cars, they rally around for Old Smokey and launch the fight to reopen the line. This gives Grandpa the resolution to fight as well. He soon finds a way to stay on living at the railway line – buy an old railway coach and convert it into a home. Billie organises a petition to Save Old Smokey.

But Gresby is finding his own way around the difficulties, and he seems to be cutting off the Stephensons at every turn. People are treating the Stephensons’ railway home as a joke, and Gresby takes advantage. He pays off the girls at school to really bully Billie over it. He then deals with the housewives by offering them a luxury bus to take them to the shops. Now they now say they don’t need Smokey and won’t bother with the petition. Billie only gets a handful of signatures. She also finds the closure of the railway line has driven more people to buy cars because there’s no other way of commuting, so now they don’t think they even need Smokey anymore. Gresby has the Stephensons’ water supply cut off, and the neighbours seem too scared to give them water (probably under threat of losing their jobs). Gresby sends in a scrap merchant to have Smokey scrapped. However, Billie manages to get a letter from British Rail telling Gresby he does not have the authority for this because Smokey is their property, not his. When the railway home springs a leak, giving Grandpa bronchitis, Gresby has the sanitary department around to inspect the home. They tell them to make the place damp proof or find another place to live. 

On the bright side, Billie finds a surprise ally – Gresby’s son Simon. Simon says he loves trains and stands up for Billie against the bullies who were paid off to pick on her. At first, Grandpa doesn’t trust Simon, but Billie thinks she can. Another friend is Farmer Miles of Whistledown Farm, who helps with water and other supplies.

Simon soon proves he can be trusted. He repairs the leak in the railway carriage as the Stephensons can’t, and seeing how poorly the petition is going, comes up with an interesting way to help it along – take the petition and get signatures himself. He gets into a fight with his own father over it, right in front of everyone in public. The rough way the enraged Gresby treats Billie and Simon shocks everyone so much they rally around with support and signatures. Hmm, did Simon plan it this way, or did it just happen?

The fight is not the only reason why the villagers have turned against Gresby; they are finding his service and maintenance charges are too high, so they’re looking at Smokey again. His petrol is the only thing that is cheap, but Billie knows that will increase too, once Gresby has gotten rid of them.

Gresby tries to destroy the petition by having one of his mechanics setting fire to the railway carriage. The arson does a pretty good job of making a mess of the place, but Grandpa was one step ahead of Gresby on the petition – he hid it inside Smokey in case Gresby tried to destroy it. Gresby is seething to see the petition being posted to the railway company. 

Billie soon gets warning Gresby is up to something else, and she also sees his garage is doing extremely well despite people turning on him after the public fight. He takes over the village dump site for his new car show room, so what’s going to be the new dump site for the old rubbish? Yep, you guessed it – the railway station. Billie and Grandpa are horrified to wake up to find themselves woken up surrounded by rubbish, and Gresby renames the old railway station “Whistledown Scrap Yard” (more of that cheek!). He is confident that as the railway line is closed, the railway company will not make a fuss about all the rubbish dumped on its property.

But Gresby soon finds he has miscalculated. When Mr Martin, a representative from the railway company, comes in response to the petition, he has Gresby remove the rubbish or face legal action. What’s more, as the council won’t remove the rubbish, Gresby has to pay a private firm to remove it, and there’s nowhere to put it but his own front garden! The Stephensons really have the last laugh on him this time. 

Mr Martin says they will reopen the line, but only if they can find a guard and a station master. So the Stephensons advertise, but Gresby is onto it with his own advertising, to tempt the jobseekers away with better jobs at his garage. However, the railway company find the men to do the jobs. Gresby bribes the coal merchant not to sell them any coal for Old Smokey, but the villagers overhear and rally around with their own coal. 

Grandpa insists on fixing up Old Smokey for the big day despite stormy weather, which makes him ill again. Gresby takes advantage by telling everyone they can’t have a sick old man like that as a driver, makes the train service unreliable, and they’re far better off with cars. Grandpa overhears, and this time he wonders if Gresby is right; he’s old, getting sick, and Smokey needs a young driver although it seems unthinkable that anyone but Grandpa can drive her. Though he recovers, he grows depressed and loses interest in everything, even in Smokey. 

Then, on another stormy night, matters come to a head when Gresby comes to the Stephensons begging for help. Simon’s got appendicitis and the storm has blocked the road, so no cars or ambulances can get to the hospital. Grandpa and Smokey are his only chance of saving Simon, as the railway line is the only other way to the hospital. So, Gresby is now forced to use the very steam engine he’s forced into retirement for months. And now he has discovered the hidden folly of making everyone in Whistledown – including himself – too dependent on just one means of commuting to the city and putting all their eggs in one basket.

Of course, the mission of mercy to the hospital on Smokey is how it’s all resolved. Simon is saved, and a grateful Gresby apologises, makes peace with the Stephensons and leaves them in peace, and concedes there’s room for both the railway and the garage in Whistledown. Smokey and Grandpa become heroes in the press and are back in business. Smokey is now tooting merrily along the railway track again.

Thoughts

According to Comixminx, at the time of publication, the story illustrated the increasing move to car usage. Nowadays, nearly fifty years later, we live in an age where increased car usage is causing multiple problems: too many vehicles, traffic congestion, traffic jams, parking problems and costs, increasing pollution, environmental damage, carbon footprints, fuel shortages and increasing petrol prices. These are driving us more and more to alternative forms of transport, preferably ones that are cheaper and more environmentally friendly. 

None of this was really in vogue at the time of publication, and none of it comes up in the story. All the same, the themes that come up in the story – too much car usage, not enough alternate means of transport, discarding existing means of transport that are still serviceable and could be upgraded, profitability at the expense of welfare and common sense – now seem more relevant today than in 1976.

The only major concern at the time of publication was rising cost of petrol. This is probably why Gresby’s cheap petrol is such a selling point. His other selling points include reliability, convenience, and cars being cheaper to run. Against this are his exorbitant charges for car maintenance and services. The petrol is the only thing that is cheap, but that will rise too, once the Stephensons are out of the way. If it happens, Gresby could well price himself out of the market.

However, from the outset we can see Gresby is so greedy at making his the only means of commuting to keep his garage profitable that he fails to see the folly that has been there from the start – having only one means of commuting puts too many eggs in one basket, which makes people over-reliant on it. But there will be times when it fails for one reason or other, and can’t always be available. He finds this out the hard way at the story’s climax. Besides, not everyone is willing or able to use that particular means of transport and may prefer others. Trains and cars have their pros and cons; rail has advantages that cars don’t have, and vice-versa. Therefore, both have ended up complementing each other, and this is what happens at the end of the story.

The Stephensons, in their own way, are as short-sighted as Gresby. The reason they want people to continue to use Smokey is that she is their life and blood, and they can’t live any other way. Moreover, to them, Smokey is not just a train but a person and their dearest friend, and they will move heaven and earth to save her. However, they are not looking all that much beyond this, to look at other reasons why Smokey should carry on, or if not, what else she could be used for. There are so many arguments they could use for public appeal. Over-dependency on one means of commuting has already been discussed. Heritage value and tourism could be another. This was used in a Button Box story (also written by Alison Christie) where a railway company closes down a railway station for economic reasons, to the devastation of the dedicated station master. As with Grandpa, the station was his life. However, the station’s heritage value comes to the rescue. A railway enthusiast converts it into a railway museum, beginning a whole new life for the station and its station master. There are also people like Simon who just love trains, and an old steam engine would build up on nostalgia appeal. And of course, there are people who prefer to be taken along the scenic route and avoid the traffic.

The villagers get so annoying in the way they constantly change back and forth between supporting Smokey and not doing so because of Gresby’s crafty manoeuvres to keep their custom. One minute they begin to see the pitfalls of the garage and the switch to cars, and even see Gresby for what he is. Then they change their minds in a flash once they receive yet another lucrative offer from Gresby or, in some cases, an off-panel threat from him. However, in the times when they do support Smokey, they always leave something behind to help. Ultimately, this takes the form of the filled petition. The petition in itself does not save Smokey, but it opens up the avenue to what ultimately does – prove to everyone, including greedy Gresby, that there is still a use for rail in Whistledown and they should not rely on just one means of commuting.

Miss No-Name (1976)

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Published: Jinty 24 January 1976 – 29 May 1976 

Episodes: 19 

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Lori Mills is a brilliant athlete at Fleetwood Athletic Club, her specialty being the pole vault, and she is selected for the county trials. A jealous rival, Rachel, sabotages Lori’s pole vault during training to put her out of the trials. The ensuing accident causes Lori to lose her memory. Rachel is swift to seize upon this to get Lori to leave the club. The amnesic Lori wanders the streets, trying to get help, but gets mistaken for a shoplifter. Thinking she is now a wanted fugitive, Lori runs like hell from the town and ends up taking shelter in a junkyard.

Unfortunately for Lori, the junkyard is run by the evil Ma Crabb and her daughter Stella. They are cruel and abusive, and they also work as fences for a criminal known as Fingers. When the Crabbs find Lori and see she has lost her memory, they promptly take advantage to make Lori an unpaid slave – and worse. Begging acts and criminal acts are all part of what they want out of Lori as well as making her a drudge. Ma Crabb tells Lori she’s her niece Polly, dresses her in rags, and crops her hair to make her unrecognisable from Lori’s “missing” photos. Lori is not convinced she is Polly Crabb but can’t remember the truth. Lori’s only friend is the Crabbs’ donkey Neddy, which they abuse as much as they abuse her. The Crabbs use Neddy for blackmail purposes over Lori – do what they say, or the donkey suffers. Other times they use the whip, chain her up, starve her, make her slog, and other forms of abuse. 

Fingers also helps to keep Lori enslaved. For example, when Lori makes a run for it, Ma Crabb has Fingers tail her. But he’s not to bring her back – Ma Crabb’s plan is for him to make so much trouble for her that her will breaks and she will come crawling back. This works just as Ma Crabb planned, beginning with Fingers stealing a vase and putting the blame on Lori. But when Lori discovers the vase at Ma Crabb’s, she sees through the whole charade and breaks the vase over Fingers’ noggin. From then on, Lori declares war on the Crabbs and Fingers, such as foiling Fingers’ pickpocketing at a market when he tries to drag her into it though she knows she will suffer for it later. 

Lori is quick to find her athletics and that she has a desire to keep in training. Her athletics becomes her weapon against the Crabbs, whether it’s to try to escape or just annoy them, particularly when they try to punish her for her defiance or break her will. In the course of the story we see Stella taking a number of hilarious falls whenever she makes a lunge for Lori but Lori is so fast and nimble she dodges them every time. 

When Ma Crabb sends Lori out to sell logs, Lori meets people could be her tickets to freedom. She tells a kindly old lady about her problems, but the old lady doesn’t offer anything but sympathy. She sees a boy in training and gives him some tips, which makes her realise she must be trained. The boy belongs to a posh school, and at the school Lori is challenged to compete in a hurdling event, which she wins hands down. The headmaster is interested in her to help with coaching. But Ma Crabb does not want that headmaster sniffing around. She has Lori put the headmaster off, threatening to beat Neddy if she doesn’t.  

Next, Ma Crabb forces Lori, under threat of more donkey abuse, to climb a dangerous tower as practice for a job. Lori soon finds this means being forced to help Fingers’ gang rob a jewellery store. Lori manages to snatch the jewellery back and return it to the store. Then she just runs until she collapses, and is surprised to wake up in a proper bed. It’s the lady who was kind to Lori earlier. But the Crabbs aren’t far away and hatch a cunning plan. Ma Crabb feeds the old lady lies about Lori being a thief and Fingers plants of the old lady’s jewellery on her. The old lady falls for it, and Lori is forced to leave. She soon guesses who was behind it, but she has no choice but to go back to Ma. 

Lori finds Ma’s latest punishment is to sell Neddy to a knacker’s yard. To save him, she has to raise money in record time to buy him back. She succeeds, but again the Crabbs have been tailing her, guessing what she was up to. But Lori isn’t having them take Neddy back – and neither is Neddy, who knocks Stella into the canal. Lori hunts around to find him another home and finds a good one at an orphanage. Neddy is now safely out of Ma’s clutches and she has lost her source of blackmail over Lori. That’s that problem solved, but Lori soon finds she is not yet rid of the Crabbs.

As Lori returns from the orphanage, she passes a shop that seems familiar. Realising it must be linked to her past she goes in, but the shopkeeper does not recognise her. Lori realises it is because of her shorn hair and now understands why the Crabbs cut her hair off. This confirms her suspicions she is not Polly Crabb. 

Lori confronts Ma over this, and says she knows what to do. She would have been wiser to have kept her mouth shut, for she has alerted the Crabbs. And if she had done some investigating in Ma’s caravan she would have found the answer – a newspaper report of the missing Lori Mills, which Ma had the whole time. Instead, Lori goes in search of a wig resembling her old hairstyle so someone might recognise her, but the Crabbs are onto her immediately. What’s more, Lori has no money to buy a wig. 

Then Lori spots a silver trophy as a prize for an open athletics event. Her plan is to win the cup, sell it, and buy a wig with it. But again the Crabbs are onto it and block her from entering. Undaunted, Lori enters the competition under a blackface identity (perhaps not very PC today, but the disguise works well enough to get past Stella). She wins the event, but as the reporters take her photos, they spot the blackface starting to run from sweat. Lori she has to make a fast exit with the trophy. She manages to hide it when she gets back to the junkyard, but her disguise is still there for the Crabbs to see through. When they read the newspaper report about Lori’s win, they want to know where that cup is. They fail to find it, but Fingers later snatches it when Lori tries to sell it. 

Lori follows up on her only hunch – if she was trained, she must belong to an athletics club, and the only one around is Fleetwood. She goes to Fleetwood, but the two girls she meets don’t know her. She wanders around town, which does seem familiar, and asks if anyone knows her. Nobody recognises her as Lori, a policeman nabs her for obstruction, and then Ma Crabb shows up to take her back. 

But in a dream, Lori recalls the accident at Fleetwood that caused her to lose her memory. She realises the two girls may not have known her because they were new to the club. So she heads back to Fleetwood. To make herself recognisable she needs the wig. There’s no money to buy it, but a wig shop owner agrees to let her borrow one. 

This time, Lori is recognised at Fleetwood, but jealous Rachel snatches the wig, exposing her cropped hair, and tries to have them believe it’s not Lori. The club coach gives Lori a chance to prove her identity – do the pole vault in the way only Lori Mills can do. Lori succeeds, and they are convinced of her identity. At this, Rachel makes herself scarce.

But Lori still does not have her memory back. Then the Crabbs catch up again with those phony claims she’s Polly Crabb, and try to drag her back. But not this time. During a struggle with the Crabbs, Lori takes a crack on the head, which restores her memory. Now the game is up and Lori is threatening to tell the police how she was treated, the Crabbs follow Rachel’s example, saying they won’t go near Lori again. 

Thoughts

Whenever a girl loses her memory in girls’ comics, a villain out to take advantage of this is never far behind. In some cases the true identity of the amnesic girl and how she lost her memory is kept a mystery to the readers e.g. “The Double Life of Dolly Brown” aka “The Double Life of Coppelia Brown” from Mandy or “Sadie in the Sticks” from Tammy. In such cases, unravelling the mystery is part of regaining her memory and freeing herself from her abusers. However, this isn’t always the case, and it’s not the case here. We know from the outset who Lori is and how she lost her memory. And regaining her memory is the key to freeing herself from her oppressors. No matter how many times Lori tries to escape from the Crabbs, they always catch up one way or other with their false claims she’s Polly Crab, they’ve come to claim her, and she’s an out-of-control girl who is best left to them. 

The only way for Lori to beat the Crabbs for good is to discover her true identity. Unlike some amnesic heroines, such as Katrina Vale from “Slave of the Swan” (Jinty), Lori has the advantage of not really falling for her abusers’ lies. From the outset, she is not convinced she is Polly Crabb, and she grows increasingly sure she isn’t. After all, Ma Crabb is not treating Lori as if she were her own niece. Ma Crabb also made the mistake of not operating in a more insidious manner to enslave Lori psychologically as well as physically, as in “Slave of the Swan” or “No Cheers for Cherry” (Jinty), and fool her so well she may not even realise what’s going on. No, it’s straight out abuse from the beginning. The harsh treatment Lori gets from the woman who is supposed to be her aunt makes her increasingly suspicious that Ma Crabb is no relation of hers. For this reason, the Crabbs can’t enslave Lori fully and have her swallowing all the lies she’s told until she doesn’t know which way to turn except to her captors. 

However, though Ma Crabb doesn’t fully enslave Lori, she still has crafty ways to keep Lori under her thumb. Her secret weapon is Fingers, whom she instructs to shadow Lori when she first escapes but to play tricks on her to break her will and make her come crawling back. And it all goes like clockwork for Ma – until she slips up and leaves the vase where Lori can find it and rumble the trick. But if Lori hadn’t discovered the trick and turned into a rebel against Ma because of it, it could have enslaved her altogether. And no matter how often Lori tries to escape, the Crabbs always catch up. They already have a pretty good idea where to look from what they know about Lori, and Fingers is a very capable shadow. Their biggest weapon is using Neddy to blackmail Lori into doing what they want. For this reason, selling Neddy is ultimately a mistake for them. It not only frees Lori from the blackmail and gives her more scope to escape but eventually frees Neddy from the animal abuse as well. 

Eventually, Lori’s suspicions she is not Polly Crabb are fully confirmed. But being convinced of it is one thing – proving it is another. There are many stories where protagonists have their identities stolen and are trapped in a false one, such as “The Stranger in My Shoes” from Tammy and “The Imposter!” from Bunty. It’s bad enough for these girls to prove their identities while fully knowing who they are. How the heck can Lori prove her identity when she can’t even remember it herself and Ma Crabb doing such a good job of disguising her that nobody recognises her as the missing girl, Lori Mills? Her only clues are her original hairstyle, indications she’s a trained athlete, gradual memories that begin to resurface, and everything progressively pointing to Fleetwood Athletic Club. 

The abuse from the Crabbs does tend go over the top at times, such as keeping Lori dressed in that ragged dress, making her sleep on sacks, and even chaining her up. Moreover, their grotesque faces and dark, coarse appearance, which makes them so reminiscent of fairy tale witches, not only adds to the excessiveness but should also alert anyone to the sort they are straight away. You would think the Crabbs have a reputation around the town, and the police would already be suspicious of their activities and watching them closely. Yet Ma Crabb finds it so easy to fool anyone who gets too close with her lies about her “niece”. 

When Lori threatens the Crabbs with the police over the way they treated her, they beg her not to, promising they’ll leave her alone, and beat a fast exit. Yes, but aside from their treatment of Lori and Neddy – which they go unpunished for – there’s still the matter of their criminal activities, and that should be reported to the police. We’re left feeling the Crabbs are yet another bunch of villains who got off too easily, and Fingers is still at large.  

It is touching to read the blurb at the end of the story. Instead of telling us what’s coming next week, it closes with a final word about Lori: “Lori had courage and talent – but it was her courage that helped her in the end!” Yes, it was the courage to not only remain steadfast and determined but defiant as well, and fight back any way she could. On many occasions, the way Lori strikes back has us laugh and cheer, such as sending Stella into dirty puddles. So Lori Mills must stand as one of Jinty’s most feisty heroines.

Too Old To Cry! (1975-76)

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Published: Jinty 8 November 1975 – 6 March 1976 

Episodes: 18 

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot 

Nell (short for Eleanor) has grown up in Blackthorn House, a very grim pre-WW2 orphanage run by the cruel Mrs Arbuthnot, who is also very cunning and can lie her way out of any situation. Nell has the additional problems of being plain and having crooked teeth and a lame leg, which makes her a bit clumsy. Children have to toughen up fast to survive in the orphanage, and Nell has developed serious toughness. She is not tough to the point of scorning tenderness; the other children respect her for being kind and helping them as much as she can. A newcomer at the orphanage gives Nell a gold necklace in return for helping her.

Then Nell stumbles across her orphanage record. It informs her about a Mrs Grace, a woman who is her legal guardian, her mother maybe, and paying for her upkeep. This and the gift of the necklace prompt Nell to run away from the orphanage in search of Mrs Grace. She seizes her chance while the hawk-eyed Mrs Arbuthnot is on temporary absence from the orphanage. Along the way she swaps the necklace for a dress she plucked from a washing line and lands a washer-up job at a café. This earns her enough money for the train fare to the town where Mrs Grace lives. 

However, Nell is shocked to see what she finds at the address: Academy of Beauty and Grace for Ladies. Being no beauty, she is at a loss as to how to introduce herself. She watches the academy for a while. While doing so, she observes the arrival of one very reluctant newcomer, Sara Wellby, who will play a big part in her story. Sara’s mother is forcing her to attend the academy to forget “all that nonsense” i.e. horse riding, which she disapproves of for snobbish reasons and also because (with more justification) she thinks Sara’s head is too full of it. 

Eventually Nell decides to just go for it after seeing Mrs Grace looks a nice person. But right on Nell’s heels are Mrs Arbuthnot – who claims Nell is a bad lot and stole the necklace from her – the owner of the dress Nell took, and policemen! Once Mrs Grace realises who Nell is, she kindly sorts things out and arranges with Mrs Arbuthnot to let Nell stay at the academy. Mrs Arbuthnot seems only too happy to do so, saying she does not want Nell back. So Mrs Arbuthnot is gone (for now, anyway) and everything looks a lived-happily-ever-after fairy tale ending for Nell. 

However, Nell is soon down to earth with a bump when she discovers she is not welcome at the academy. She overhears Mrs Grace saying she just took her in for personal reasons but wants her kept out of sight, downstairs, because of her looks.

When Nell confronts Mrs Grace about what she overheard, Mrs Grace is impressed by her spunk. But she refuses to explain the mystery and tells Nell the story is she will take her on as a pupil. Nell realises Mrs Grace is just keeping her out of charity and she will be beholden to her. This offends her pride, but there’s not much option. 

But really – is a beauty academy seriously taking on an ugly duckling with a limp and a rough ‘n’ tough attitude from her harsh orphanage upbringing as a pupil? In an establishment where the other pupils are glamour and grace and posh? And Mrs Grace never really wanted Nell in the first place because of her physical shortfalls? If this is not a joke, it’s a recipe for trouble. Not surprisingly, things get off to a bad start for Nell with the other girls. Nell is quick to realise not to let word get around about her orphanage origins. Nell has many angry/crying fits at feeling unloved and unwanted at the academy, and her reactions at being perceived as an embarrassment by the establishment because she’s a rough kid become aggressive.

Things begin to look up when Nell makes a friend in Sara. She loves her horse, Mister Flicker; she wants to be a professional show jumper, but, as already stated, her parents disapprove. She only agreed to come to the academy if Mister Flicker came too, but is angry at Mrs Grace because there’s no sign of him. Nell strikes a friendship with Sara, and it is the only thing making life at the academy bearable for Nell where she’s an unwanted misfit. 

Mrs Grace, offering to be more friendly with Nell, explains that Mister Flicker’s arrival has just been delayed by a vet check, but she does not approve of the growing friendship or either girl getting too interested in horses. Nonetheless, Nell covers for Sara in class when Mister Flicker does arrive and she wants to help him settle. 

Unfortunately, those lovely hair products in class are too big a temptation for a scruffy kid from an orphanage that did not offer much in the way of decent body wash products. And when Nell uses them to help clean Sara up from the stables, things go a bit wrong. Sara unwittingly uses hair dye and ends up looking like a piebald pony. She takes it in good part and gets a short haircut to go with it. But when Mrs Grace hears what happened and why, she orders Nell not to mix with the other girls. However, this does not stop the girls’ friendship.

Next, Sara wants to secretly enter gymkhanas with Nell’s help. The event is being held at near a contest the school is entering, one to find the prettiest hands for an advertising campaign at Wickley Factory. Nell is surprised to hear from Sara that though her face is plain, her hands are pretty enough for enter. So the plan is for Nell to enter the hand contest under Sara’s name while she sneaks off to the gymkhana – where she fails dismally. Not enough preparation, rushing her horse, not putting him first, say the judges. Worse, Sara hadn’t bargained on Nell actually winning the hand contest in her name! 

Of course the deception is discovered. Nell cops worse punishment than Sara (such as getting a whacking on her hands in front of everyone but Sara doesn’t) though Sara is to blame too. The girls blame Nell for the trouble Sara got into, and discovering her orphanage background turns them even more against her. Now she’s even more isolated at the academy, with nothing but her rough ‘n’ tough hide developed from her orphanage years to keep her going. Sara is banned from seeing Mister Flicker for a month or speaking to Nell, and her friendship with Nell sours.

Despite everything, Wickley is still interested in Nell for their campaign. Hearing this, Nell’s hopes rise again, but she has to work with them in secret. 

Then disaster strikes again when Nell overhears a conversation in the stables about a horse being destroyed and mistakenly thinks it’s Mister Flicker. She tries to hide him in a shed, but her actions make him ill. Sara thinks Nell tried to kill Mister Flicker out of spite for ending their friendship. She has the girls cut Nell so dead they draw a death head on her door. This has a spooky, frightening effect on her. Nell feels the death head is cursing her, and it shows in her performance. Worse, her deal with Wickley falls through because it would expose the secret to Mrs Grace. And she needed the money from the job to pay for Mister Flicker’s treatment, but now she can’t afford it. 

Next, it’s Open Day, and Nell sees a chance to use some of the goods to raise the money. Again things go wrong when a policeman spots her selling cheap food to poor kids. He means to escort her back safely to the academy, but the embarrassment wrecks the Open Day and the story of the orphanage child at the academy now circulates among the stuck-up parents.

Nell sneaks into Mrs Grace’s office to find out the truth about herself, but accidentally starts a fire that almost burns the school down and Mrs Grace is injured. Sara, who saw Nell sneak into Mrs Grace’s office, thinks Nell started the fire on purpose and won’t listen to Nell’s pleas that it was an accident. The school is temporarily closed and the girls are sent home. Nell, who has nowhere to go, is taken in at none other than Sara’s house! 

The long, messy trail of disasters and misunderstandings at the academy is not making Nell’s stay at the Wellbys’ a happy one. Sara now thinks Nell is strange and dangerous; her distrust of Nell has her spending far more time with Mr Flicker than ever, which has Nell thinking Sara cares more about Mister Flicker than her; Sara’s snobby parents are mortified to find Nell is a common kid; Nell tries to run away when she discovers this, but this just leads to more misunderstandings and trouble with Sara; and Nell thinks all she can do is put up with things under yet another luxurious but hostile roof with everyone against her.

Things couldn’t get any worse? They do when Mrs Arbuthnot shows up again. She’s after Mrs Wellby’s money, as “donations” for the orphanage, and forces Nell to help her. She also gets hold of Mister Flicker to sell on for a good price. When Sara finds out, she has Nell take her to the orphanage. Sara is shocked to see what a horrible place Nell has come from, and finds the treatment of Mister Flicker just as bad. He’s in the coal shed with nothing but stale bread – which he only got because the orphans kindly smuggled it in. Mrs Arbuthnot had no intention of feeding him. Sara is all for removing Mister Flicker right then and there, but Nell, who knows it is technically stealing and Mrs Arbuthnot can lie her way out of anything, persuades Sara that they have to find another way. They strike a bargain: Sara helps Nell prove Mrs Grace is her mother and Nell will help get Mister Flicker back. The orphanage kids will keep an eye on Mister Flicker. Unfortunately Sara’s parents are caught up in party preparations to celebrate their anniversary, so it’s a bad time for Sara and Nell to approach them about their little problems. 

During the party, one of the orphanage kids arrives with bad news: Mrs Arbuthnot has suddenly advanced her plans for Mister Flicker and he’s gone. Fortunately, another orphanage kid, Tim, sneaked into the horse box and laid a trail, enabling them to find Mister Flicker, and discover Mrs Arbuthnot sold him to a racket. Sara gets the police, the racket is sorted out, and Mister Flicker is back. What happened to Mrs Arbuthnot is not clear, but angry remarks from Mrs Wellby give the impression she is now sorted out too. However, Sara’s parents are more concerned about the embarrassment this has caused them and send Nell back to the academy. They are definitely not going to help Nell discover her past, and Sara is so wrapped up with Mister Flicker she forgets her side of the bargain to Nell. This has Nell feeling let down and unloved again.

Nell discovers the fire she accidentally started at the academy has destroyed Mrs Grace’s private papers, dashing her hopes of proving her past. The housekeeper snaps at her in anger for starting the fire. This is the last straw for Nell and she runs off, leaving a note. She heads to the shed where she hid Mister Flicker but breaks her leg, and it’s pouring rain. She’s in serious danger but manages to crawl into the shed.

Nell’s note is discovered, and a search party finds her in the nick of time. Sara realises this is partly her fault for the way she failed Nell, and she apologises. Also shocked by what happened, Mrs Grace tells Nell the truth. Nell’s mother was a servant employed by Mrs Grace, but she unwittingly caused the mother’s death. She then sent Nell to the orphanage, paying for her upkeep, without realising how cruel the orphanage was. Mrs Grace now officially adopts Nell, arranges treatment for Nell’s lame leg and crooked teeth, and gives her a complete makeover. The academy is converted into a decent orphanage for the orphans. Nell and Sara go to college, and they will help run the place when they return, complete with horse riding.  

Thoughts

The story could easily have taken the route of Nell enduring the harshness at the orphanage while trying to do something about it, failing time and time over but never giving up, and ultimately succeeding. The formula has been frequently seen in girls’ comics, such as Jinty’s “Merry at Misery House”, “The Worst School in the World” from Judy, and “The School for Unwanted Ones” from Bunty. 

Instead, when Nell first escapes from the orphanage, the story takes the unusual route of not having her dragged back there and face terrible punishment, which does not stop her from trying again. The cruel matron, rather than being the main antagonist throughout the story, is used to help set up the early episodes and then the resolution of the story. In the meantime, Nell’s first escape attempts succeeds, only to lead her down the ugly duckling/misfit route where she just finds herself more and more of an outcast, and her efforts to do something helpful or find out who she is just get her into ever-increasing trouble. For all the luxuries her new life brings her, it is not bringing her the love or happiness she craves. She finds herself actually pining for the orphanage; grim and cruel though it was, at least she was among her own and had friends. She discovers that “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it” (Proverbs 15:17) is all too true. 

Nell’s story shares similarities with Little Orphan Annie: an abused but feisty orphan (Nell/Annie) running away from an orphanage to find her parents and strikes it good with rich people; the orphanage run by a cruel woman (Mrs Arbuthnot/Miss Hannigan) who abuses her and then takes advantage of the adoptive rich people to make money; the orphan failing to reunited with her birth parents but is adopted by the lovely rich person (Mrs Grace/Daddy Warbucks). As with Annie, Nell has no given surname (at least, not in the story), which further adds to the mystery. 

But unlike Daddy Warbucks, Mrs Grace does not really want Nell. She is only taking her in because she is responsible for her and, as we ultimately discover, she is also feeling guilty about the death of Nell’s mother. Even so, she could have done a lot more to help Nell instead of making Nell feel she’s an embarrassment to the establishment and best kept out of the way. Giving scruffy, plain Nell a makeover, particularly after she discovers Nell’s hands are beautiful, would have gone a long way to making Nell feel a lot more confident and giving her a sense of belonging in the academy. When she finally does give Nell a makeover at the end of the story, ugly duckling Nell has turned into such a swan the readers would be hard put to recognise her. 

Nell is surrounded by snobby girls who look down on her because she’s rough and common. Being an outcast in a posh place because you’re not posh is a common thing in girls’ comics, but in Nell’s case it is even more heart-breaking because she’s a lonely orphan who came to seek the love she craved, only to find herself in a gilded cage, in the lap of luxury, but nobody cares for her. At Sara’s house, things get even worse for Nell because even Sara has turned against her. The irony is that at the orphanage, Nell dreamed of luxury, only to find that luxury without love is meaningless. The grim orphanage becomes preferable because at least she had friends, but there is no crawling back to it. 

The snobs also find it suspicious as to why Mrs Grace has her at all. When they find out Nell’s orphanage background, they are not surprised to find out it is a form of charity. Nell does not like the charity either. This is not just because it hurts her pride; it’s also because it’s not what she wants. She wants the love and caring she believes she should be getting from the woman she thinks is her mother. But why the hell isn’t she getting it? She feels so let down, which adds to her misery.

Nell’s rough reactions to the snobbishness against her, borne of the toughness she developed in the orphanage, are not endearing the people at the academy to her. And in some ways, Nell’s tough conduct is making things worse for her. It does give the impression she is too tough, maybe even delinquent. So, when things Nell does keep going wrong, it is all too easy for even Sara to get the idea Nell is a bad lot. But to the reader, Nell’s feistiness is admirable. She has beans and backbone while most protagonists in girls’ comics tend to take things in silence.  

Sara could almost be in the role of Sandy the dog, Annie’s faithful friend. But unlike Sandy, Sara is not doing much to help Nell beyond being her only pillar of support in the academy. And she isn’t that much of a pillar of support or a friend either. In fact, Nell does more to help Sara (or at least tries to) than the other way around. It is not until the very end that Sara at last seriously helps Nell and becomes a real friend.

In some ways Sara is a sympathetic character; her snobby mother is forcing her to give up riding, just because she disapproves of it. To do so, she drags Sara off the beauty academy, which Sara quite understandably hates. We have seen similar things in girls’ comics time over, such as “Battle of the Wills” from Jinty. And in the end, riding wins out. 

But Sara has one serious problem – she is selfish. She is too absorbed with Mister Flicker and cares for nothing and nobody but him. As a result, she is not thinking of others, which limits her ability to make friendships because she is too selfish to reciprocate them. The way she keeps getting Nell to help her carry on riding against orders is on the verge of taking advantage of her. 

Sara has to learn that riding is not everything. It takes shock treatment, which Sara gets at the final episode, to make her realise this. In the end, Sara is still riding, but she is doing it in a more sharing and caring manner at the new orphanage, and showing that she is now looking beyond herself and riding. Mrs Grace is now looking beyond her narrow horizons too, and putting her efforts into something really caring and loving as well as giving Nell the love she has been expecting for so long.

Make Headlines, Hannah! (1979-1980)

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Published: Tammy 17 November 1979 – 26 January 1980 

Episodes: 11

Artist: Tony Coleman

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Girl Picture Library #23 as “Fame and Fortune”

Plot

Hannah Hilton is regarded as the failure of her family, a line of success stories. She lives in the shadow of her sisters Jane and Louise, who are showered with attention and the lion’s share in everything because they are brilliant and succeed in everything. People are always whispering and laughing at what a failure Hannah is. Her apathetic parents treat her as if she doesn’t exist. They don’t lend her any help, encouragement or sympathy, especially her mother.

Great Uncle Matt, who is paying a visit, tells Hannah he will give her £100 if she can make a name for herself in the papers upon his return. It appears to be meant as a joke as much as an incentive. Still, it sets Hannah going and she starts entering a series of events to hit the headlines and prove herself. Her actions eventually focus on the town carnival. 

However, Hannah’s every attempt to hit the headlines keeps being foiled by dirty tricks from her sisters. When they become the carnival princesses, they are in a stronger position to sabotage Hannah at the carnival. However, the sisters’ spite has the unexpected effect of Hannah acquiring help from others, though not from her apathetic parents. In fact, Mum just grumbles at how Hannah has changed since Uncle Matt’s money promise, as she’s not sitting quietly in the back seat anymore and even shouting at her sisters for their spite. By contrast, Hannah’s new friend Derek has noticed the sisters’ dirty tricks and offers help in any way he can. Another helper emerges at the carnival after Jane and Louise wreck Hannah’s attempt to present a letter to the guest pop star. To cheer her up, he gives her a costume to help raise money. Hannah is successful at this, but it doesn’t make her name. 

Jane and Louise’s next trick is to set Hannah up at a rag week fund-raising competition to make a fool of her. Following this, Hannah finds another helper, Mrs Taylor. In return for Hannah finding her lost dog, Mrs Taylor says the Colonel is just what she needs to succeed. The Colonel is a stuffed fortune-telling parrot who was a popular attraction in Victorian times. Mrs Taylor had several requests from the mayor to revive him, but as she is too old for it, she is lending him to Hannah to do so at the antiques fair. Outside, the sisters and a friend of theirs, Mandy, hear Hannah and Mrs Taylor talking about Colonel. The sisters just laugh, but it rings a bell with Mandy and she seems more intrigued. 

Soon everything looks all set for Hannah to hit the headlines when she revives Colonel at the fair, complete with reporters and the mayor all eager to see it. But on the morning of the fair, disaster strikes – someone breaks into Mrs Taylor’s cottage. The place is turned inside out and Colonel vandalised. Hannah manages to repair Colonel and is determined to put him on anyway. Before she does, she confronts her sisters over her suspicions that they were behind it. However, she is not so sure when she later hears them accusing each other of it. 

At the fair, she discovers her display stand has been dismantled because the fairground staff heard about the attack and thought she wouldn’t be able to make it. But she is surprised when Uncle Matt turns up. Derek had written to him about Hannah’s situation and he has come to help. He pushes things to get a stall for Hannah and Colonel and pictures with the mayor. But he pushes things so far for Hannah rather than helping her to do things for herself that he unwittingly pushes Hannah into the background again. 

Uncle Matt is so impressed at Hannah’s hard work at the fair that he gives her the money he promised. But Hannah feels it did not bring her the success she was looking for. What’s more, she soon discovers she still hasn’t really earned her family’s respect and her sisters still hog the family limelight. Besides that, there is still the mystery of the attack on Colonel.

Then Hannah learns more about Colonel’s history and discovers there are rumours about him guarding some sort of treasure. Believing this is the motive for the attack and figuring the culprit is someone who knows her, Hannah works out a plan to catch them. She also examines Colonel and finds a name plate on his base with the word “Domingo”, but can’t figure out what it means. 

To flush out the culprit, Hannah throws a party with Uncle Matt’s money, to gather all the people who know her. Her sisters steal the limelight at the party, but Hannah is more interested in using the party to set a trap. This entails drawing everyone’s attention to Colonel at the party, say they’re dropping him off at Mrs Taylor’s cottage, and then wait. The thieves take the bait, and Hannah sneaks inside to surprise them while Derek calls the police. The trap snares Mandy and an unnamed boy, all ready for the police. Belatedly, Hannah remembers Mandy overheard her discussing Colonel with Mrs Taylor.

The police also clear up the mystery of Domingo: it’s the name plate and last surviving piece of Nelson’s flag ship “Domingo”, and it’s worth a fortune at auction. The valuable find and catching the thieves earns Hannah the name and respect she had been seeking for so long.

Thoughts

Girls’ comics have a long tradition of serials about plain girls who never shine at anything, are written off as losers, often get teased over it, and grow tired of living in the shadows. But stepping out of the shadows is far from easy, and there are always loads of setbacks and disappointments in between. And it’s never because they are genuinely incompetent or stupid. It’s because a) they have poor self-esteem and no confidence in themselves, b) their appearance is often against them, c) their home and/or school environment is letting them down, and d) there’s always some spiteful person out to sabotage them. 

Hannah is no exception. Lack of confidence and self-esteem rather than incompetence are the obvious cause of her never winning anything, and her home environment is clearly to blame for it. It is doing nothing to build her confidence or support or help her in any way. In fact, it is doing the total opposite. Hannah’s school environment is not shown, but it is unlikely to be helping much either. A serious makeover would go a long way to building Hannah’s confidence, but nobody in the family ever gives her one. The only family member to help Hannah in any way is her Uncle Matt. After all, it is his promise of money that finally gives Hannah the incentive to make something of herself and climb out of the shadows. But even he is not quite going about things the right way. 

Hannah is lucky in that she does find genuine helpers, most notably Derek and Mrs Taylor. Many girls in similar situations don’t have even that e.g. Kathy Clowne in “Tears of a Clown” (Jinty). Without their help Hannah could never have overcome her spiteful sisters and finally made a name for herself. Some failing parents in similar stories offer last-minute help that helps redeem themselves and save the day, such as “Sheena So Shy” and “Belinda Bookworm” from Tammy. Sadly, this is not the case with Hannah’s parents.

We also note that Hannah would have won far sooner if her sisters hadn’t keep interfering, and her failures to hit the headlines have nothing to do with incompetence. We also have to wonder why the sisters bother to sabotage her at all if they’re so confident she won’t succeed in getting the money anyway: “Caterpillars will be walking to the moon and back before Hannah shines at anything!” Unlike, say, Sandra Simpkins in “Tears of a Clown”, their motives for derailing Hannah are not clear. The nearest we get to it is their telling Hannah she’s only thinking of the money, but that doesn’t sound like their real motive. Do they secretly fear she might win after all? Do they want to make doubly sure she won’t succeed and fail to get the money? Or are they just doing it out of spite and think it’s all one huge joke?

Most heroines in Hannah’s situation discover some surprise talent and try to prove themselves through it. Kathy Clowne, for example, finds she is brilliant at running, and Sheena Willcox in “Sheena So Shy” discovers how to turn her refuge in disco dancing into a fight for success. But Hannah doesn’t go this route. This is probably because she has to meet Uncle Matt’s deadline, so it’s hit the headlines any way she can as fast as she can. But instead of her just winning in the end and getting the money, the story takes the novel route of making Hannah a winner by giving her a mystery to solve. And if there is one thing girls love, it is mystery. Unravelling the mystery makes the final episode even more exciting to read. The story also takes a surprise twist of Hannah using the money she is promised to help her succeed when readers expected Hannah to just make her name and being given the money. 

There is just one question readers may be wondering: is Hannah’s triumph at the end going to be a one-off, or will it be the start of Hannah’s own success? The story gives no hint, but along the way to hitting the headlines, a number of hidden talents did come to light for Hannah: creativity, fund raising, horseshoe throwing, deduction, fortune telling with Colonel, and even ventriloquism. Any one or all of these could be taken further to boost Hannah’s confidence and further her gains as a success. And, as mentioned earlier, poor self-esteem and lack of confidence and support were at the root of Hannah’s failures. Now these are sure to get a boost, Hannah is bound to make strides in improving herself.

Spider Woman (1980)

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Published: Tammy & Misty 19 January 1980 – 22 March 1980 

Episodes: 10

Artists: Jaume Rumeu 19 January to 1 March 1980; Mario Capaldi 8 March to 22 March 1980 

Writer: Bill Harrington

Translations/reprints: Misty Presents: The Jaume Rumeu Collection (2021)

In the last entry we briefly touched on the subject of Spider Woman. So here she is for the final entry in our Halloween lineup.

Plot

Mrs Webb, the villainess from Misty’s “The Black Widow”, returns. She has abandoned revenge for her husband’s death in favour of world domination, and has established a base on an island in Australasia that was once a leper colony. Her new weapon is a strain of man-eating spiders she has developed, and her plan is to use them to scare the whole world into submitting to her and her spiders. 

Accidentally stumbling into this are Paula Moore, on holiday in Australia, and her grandparents. Their boat got blown off course by a storm and they discover the ship that was the first test for Mrs Webb’s man-eating spiders. It’s a ghost ship, with crew stripped to the bones from the spiders, which are still on board. 

Sensing danger from the spiders, they quickly head back to their boat and radio mainland to report the incident, but Mrs Webb is watching them on her monitor. Posing as naval authority, she kidnaps them and strands them on her island base, with nothing but decrepit old leper huts for accommodation and tales of leper ghosts to frighten them. Gran is bitten by one of the spiders Mrs Webb left to guard their boat and falls gravely ill. In her delirium she raves about spiders and ghosts of lepers who don’t want them around. They are forced to take shelter in one of the leper huts. 

Paula goes in search of the woman who stranded them in the hope of treatment for gran. Mrs Webb has her servant, Gorza, who looks like some sort of weird, lumbering cross between a dumb waiter, Frankenstein and a ogre, capture Paula and bring her to her base. She introduces herself and her plans to Paula, and she wants Paula’s full cooperation if her family is to stay alive. She knows the Navy will soon discover the ghost ship, and she wants Paula and her family to tell them of her great power. Mrs Webb then releases Paula.

Paula finds her gran is now recovering from the bite. She tells her family who they are up against, but they discover their boat, previously guarded by the spiders, is now gone altogether. And in the bushes, something or someone is watching them. Later they find a chimpanzee in the bushes, which is not native to the island, and they conclude he must have escaped from Mrs Webb’s experiments. But gran is convinced someone else is around and raves about leper ghosts and the previous inhabitants being into voodoo and black magic. Back at the hut, they do find evidence someone else could be around, but it’s in the form of a delicious meal waiting for them. 

Back at the ghost ship, the Navy have found the horrors on board and guess who they are up against before Mrs Webb even sends her first message to them on her TV monitor. She informs them she has hostages. They are to return to the mainland and report what her spiders are capable of, and she is going to do the same to the whole world if there is no global submission to her. The Navy radio her message back to HQ and start a search of all the islands in a 30-mile radius for the hostages. However, Mrs Webb is using her helicopter to see whether they are obeying her orders or not, and when she sees they are not, she drops a case of her man-eating spiders on the ship, who are soon doing their deadly work. The Navy hose the spiders off the ship and their radar tracked her helicopter. They are now hot on her trail.

Paula and her family now discover who else is on the island: an ex-leper named Jarvis. He remained on the island after being cured of leprosy and wants to join the fight against Mrs Webb. He shows Paula and grandpa a secret entrance into her lair, and they take advantage of her absence to sneak in. But they discover the entrance is guarded by an enormous killer spider. Jarvis quickly dispatches the spider, and they enter Mrs Webb’s lair to use her equipment to call for help.

Unfortunately it’s at this point that Mrs Webb returns and catches them. Mrs Webb straps Jarvis to a table to be the first test of her latest serum – one that can turn a human being into a spider! She adds that she has not developed an antidote.

Then a bombardment from the Navy shakes the base, causing Mrs Webb to accidentally inject the serum into herself. And like she said, there is no antidote available. Gorza is knocked out by falling debris. Mrs Webb makes a run for her helicopter, but as she prepares to take off, the serum starts to take effect and one of her arms turns into a spider’s leg. 

Paula impulsively makes a rush for the helicopter but is captured by Mrs Webb. Mrs Webb uses her remaining arm to get the helicopter into the air and tries to use Paula as a hostage against the Navy. When Paula yells at them not to give in to the threat, Mrs Webb angrily throws her against the controls, causing the helicopter to pitch. Mrs Webb makes another lunge at Paula to kill her with spider venom, causing another pitch that makes her fall out of the helicopter and into the sea. The Navy fail to find her, dead or alive, or in what form. They pick up Paula and her grandparents, but Jarvis wants to stay on the island.

Thoughts

Mrs Webb was the only Misty villain to return for a sequel, and one of the few who could. Misty being Misty, she liked to send her villains to sticky ends (an end Mrs Webb finally meets in this story!). Not all Misty villains met this fate, and Mrs Webb’s first story hinted she escaped and might be back. It’s a bit odd this followup didn’t appear in Misty when there was still time for it to do so before the merger. At IPC, a sequel tended to appear within a year after the original, and the first Mrs Webb story appeared in 1978. Perhaps the sequel had not been written at that stage? Did they decide to save the sequel for the merger? Or did ye Editor trawl through old issues of Misty to see what could be brought into the merger and ordered the sequel?

When I first read this follow-up, I found Mrs Webb way too camp and over the top for my taste, an opinion that has not changed much. Also, she was more into demented grandstanding than menace, which made her even more annoying. In her first story her planning showed shrewdness and cunning despite her insanity, but now her plans don’t seem to be well thought out. She seriously believes she can scare the whole world into submission by threatening them with spiders, even if they are ones capable of eating people alive? All the Navy had to do to stop her man-eating spider attack was bring out the hoses, and the world has insecticides and fumigation as well. 

Also showing lack of proper planning is how Mrs Webb wants to make use of Paula. She captures Paula and demands her cooperation, but she does not enslave her or ever make any real use of her as she did with her two slaves Sadie and Freda in her first story. After making her demands she just lets Paula go. She does not even use an enslaving device on Paula, which she did with Sadie and Freda. Doing so would have added even more punch to the plot. Instead, one is left feeling Mrs Webb capturing Paula at all was rather pointless, and the only purpose it serves in the plot is to inform Paula what’s going on. Okay, when comparing Mrs Webb now to what she was like in her first story, it is obvious that her insanity has increased, very likely at the expense of clear thinking. So perhaps it is understandable.

Also coming across as a bit improbable is the amazing recovery gran makes after the spider bite. Her recovery, without any medication, is so miraculous it’s unbelievable. She actually leaves the island looking hale and hearty, as if she had never been bitten at all. Was she lucky and only received a sublethal bite, or did she have some kind of fluke resistance to the poison?

The story could have done with a fuller explanation of who Mrs Webb was for the benefit of readers who had not read her original story, particularly the Tammy readers. We’re given the impression she has struck before and the Navy captain says she’s “the fiend who terrorised England some years back”, but there are no details. Some flashback or explanation would have been welcome by readers who sensed another story here and wanted to know the gist at least, and it would have enhanced the story more.

On the plus side, the story sure is high on the gross-out factor, which is so rare and bold for girls’ comics. Panels showing people being eaten alive by spiders, one being driven mad with pain and throwing himself overboard, and corpses that have been eaten to the bones must have shocked Tammy readers and given them nightmares for days. It’s also high on creepiness and sinister atmosphere, and it’s not just those spiders that are genetically engineered to be dangerous weapons. It’s the setting on the leper island itself. Those sinister-looking, decaying huts that were once home to lepers and the island graveyard full of leper graves creep us out immediately. Mrs Webb and then gran’s delirium set everyone high on anxiety and terror that there could be ghosts lurking around that are every bit as evil and dangerous as Mrs Webb’s spiders. And in a place like that, we’re more than ready to believe there are ghosts or something even more diabolical. Winding us up even more is the buildup to something or someone else on the island who is watching the stranded family. It’s quite a twist to have it turn out to be benign and friendly instead of menacing.

The apex of the horror is definitely the experiment to turn a human being into a spider. A human actually turning into a spider of unknown hybrid? Cor blimey! Having Mrs Webb herself not knowing exactly what the end result will be really adds to it.

It is a great Misty-style comeuppance to have this backfire on Mrs Webb and set her on the path to turning into a spider herself. It is a pity we don’t see the final form of this transformation. It feels like another missed opportunity and we’re rather left dangling as to how it would have turned out. It would have really turned the story up a few notches to have our protagonists up against a totally transformed Mrs Webb. We can just see her as the biggest Black Widow spider you ever saw, but still with a human mind that is totally insane, rampaging like Godzilla, and maybe laying clutches of eggs that hatch into swarms of giant killer spiders. That would have turned it into a really exciting story that would have readers on the edge of their seats while giving them the stuff of nightmares. 

Come Into My Parlour (1977-78)

Sample Images

Published: Jinty 19 November 1977 to 11 February 1978

Episodes: 13

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Kom maar in mijn web [Just Come into My Web] (in: Groot Tina Boek 1981-3)

There’s nothing like a story with a creepy cackling crone, a black cat, and a hubble-bubble cauldron for a Halloween lineup. So we bring you this one from Jinty 1977.

Plot

Jody Sinclair is starting a new job at the kennels with Mrs Denham when she begins to have strange visions of an old hag calling out to her to come to a creepy old house, one that is supposed to have been empty for years. In the house there is a portrait of the hag. The hag is a witch named Mother Heggerty, but she compares herself to a spider as well: “Come into my parlour!” and “Let me see what I have caught in my web this night!” 

Mother Heggerty places a cat’s paw necklace around Jody’s neck to enslave her. Under Mother Heggerty’s bidding, whenever Jody touches the necklace she does whatever Mother Heggerty says. To test her, Mother Heggerty has Jody deliberately takes a dog off its lead when she walks it. Afterwards Jody has no memory of it at all. Mother Heggerty says she is using Jody to destroy old enemies of hers. 

Jody is aggressively defensive when her younger sister Tess asks her about the cat’s paw necklace. This odd behaviour makes Tess suspicious. Then Tess sees Jody wandering off in the dead of night and decides to follow. However, the witch realises Jody is being followed and has Jody lock Tess in a shed. In the parlour, Mother Heggerty is no longer in the portrait; she’s lurking behind a secret panel as a full-fleshed person, complete with bubbling cauldron and a black cat named Satan. Mother Heggerty now reveals she wants revenge on the Saxton family for injuring her ancestral family, but they need a bit of finding first because “they hide like rats”.

On the way back, Jody, who has no memory of locking Tess in the shed, lets her out. Mother Heggerty forces Jody to lie about things to Tess. At this point, Jody realises how Mother Heggerty has enslaved her through the necklace, which she soon finds she can’t remove. She also senses she has developed a kind of split personality because of Mother Heggerty: one is her own side, the good side, the other the bad side wanting to do evil. And the two sides are locked in conflict. Oddly, Jody finds herself gaining new confidence with her growing evil side into the bargain and can stand up to people in a way she could not before. 

Jody’s search for the Saxtons begins. Nobody seems to know who or where they are, but eventually Jody stumbles across Saxton Cottage, which was once part of the Saxton estate. The big house they once lived in has burned to the ground and it’s only a ruin now. Jody reports to Mother Heggerty that it looks like there are no more Saxtons. Mother Heggerty says there are because she can feel their presence. She orders Jody back to the ruin to light a fire there as part of a spell to find what happened on the night of the fire. Through this, Jody learns the Heggertys put a curse on the Saxtons, which culminated with the fire that destroyed their home. To get away from the curse, the Saxtons changed their family name and sank from sight. 

Then Tess takes the cat’s paw necklace (looks Mother Heggerty goofed and failed to take precautions to ensure nobody else could remove the necklace!). But now Tess is wearing it and she’s the one now enslaved by Mother Heggerty. Not wanting this for her sister, Jody runs after her to get it back, but the bewitched Tess pushes her into the river. Jody manages to save herself and make it to Mother Heggerty’s. She agrees to be enslaved again to free Tess, who is made to forget what happened.

Two days later Mum gets a job working for Mrs King. Through this, Jody befriends their daughter Madge. Then Mother Heggerty summons Jody again, this time to a Saxton grave, and there are fresh flowers on it. Jody’s job is to find out who is visiting the grave, and she finds out it’s the Kings. Realising the Kings are the Saxton descendants, Jody tries to warn Madge, but the necklace makes her faint. To stop Jody’s good side interfering with her plans, Mother Heggerty puts Jody under a new spell to make her completely evil. Fortunately for Jody later, Madge comes on the scene at this point and sees Mother Heggerty with Jody. 

Jody now turns into an utter delinquent, cheating, bullying, shoplifting, even abusing the dogs at the kennel with a whip, and loving every minute of it. And then she starts playing nasty tricks on Madge that almost get her killed, and then in Mr King’s store once she gets a job there. Mr King gets suspicious of these incidents and has Jody watched by an assistant named Gina. Mother Heggerty detects this and orders Jody to remove Gina. This causes Jody’s good side to resurface, and the two sides are in conflict again. The evil side wins out and has Jody set fire to the store. However, she is caught doing so. She tries to tell Mr King about Mother Heggerty, but he doesn’t believe it, saying the Heggerty line has died out. He dismisses Jody.

Jody’s good side is so overwhelmed that she runs away in despair and almost drowns in a river. She is rescued, and while in bed Madge visits. She says she does believe Jody about Mother Heggerty, having glimpsed her earlier. 

Then Mother Heggerty calls out to Jody again, and everyone sees Jody wander off to the creepy house in a trance. However, the house is now on fire for reasons unknown. Everyone crowding around sees Mother Heggerty and Satan, and they are astonished to see someone residing in a supposedly empty house. The house collapses, destroying Mother Heggerty and the spell she put on Jody. Jody can now remove the cat’s paw necklace, and she tosses it into the flames.

Mr King now does believe it was Mother Heggerty and realises the Heggerty line was not as extinct as he thought. He explains that the Saxtons/Kings sent a Heggerty to the stake for witchcraft and the Heggertys had been out for revenge ever since. Now it really has died out with Mother Heggerty, the last of the Heggerty line, but Jody still gives the remains of her old house a wide berth. She and Madge are now best friends.

Thoughts

Malign influences that take over a girl in girls’ comics tend to go either one of two ways. The first is to simply act out of character, in alignment with the force that’s taking over, and get into terrible trouble because of it. Then it fades – until next time – and the girl is left bewildered as to what came over her. She doesn’t realise what’s going on, she is finding the power too strong to fight, or it has its perks that make it tempting to use again. Examples of this include “Weather-Girl Willa”, “Mary’s Moneybank” and “Head of Hate!” (Mandy), “Sit It Out, Sheri” (Tammy), and “The Power over Patti” (Debbie). 

In the second, the malign force has an agenda and the girl is the helpless slave forced to carry it out. Stories that follow this line include “The Revenge of Roxanne” and “The Curse of Carmina” (Suzy), and “The Hateful Hands of Heather Smith” (Tracy/Judy). Usually the motive is revenge, but sometimes other motives are used. For example, in “What’s Wrong with Rhona?” from Tammy, the force that overtakes Rhona believes its justification is the fight for survival. The malice that follows can be petty acts of spite against people, as in “The Hateful Hands of Heather Smith”, or, as in the case of Mother Heggerty, is more calculating and strategic. 

Mother Heggerty definitely falls into the second category, and is one of the most calculating and strategic. The reason is obvious – she can’t find the enemies she wants revenge on because they’re hiding under another name, so she needs to track them down first. For this she needs a human agent who can do the detective work for her, and then the dirty work. For this reason we don’t get much overt nastiness Jody is forced to do at first. It’s not until the Saxtons are found that it really gets nasty. 

And it’s far more nasty and disturbing than we expected. Normally when girls are forced to do evil things in girls’ comics, their true nature is protesting all the way, helpless against it but never giving up trying to find a way. But in this case, the evil influence has had a psychological effect of developing Jody’s dark side, so part of her is embracing it as well as hating it. The side effects of bringing new confidence in standing up to people are an added bonus hat makes it even more tempting to welcome. It gets even worse when Mother Heggerty, to turn her reluctant slave into a willing one, casts the spell to bring the dark side totally to the fore. After this, Jody is not being forced to do evil like other enslaved girls in “bad influence” stories – she’s now totally evil, an utter psycho who is growing increasingly comfortable with being capable of doing anything. Now that’s really frightening! We wonder how on earth she can be rid of the evil now her good side is no longer able to fight it. It’s a relief when Mother Heggerty gives orders that are too much even for the evil side, and the good side begins to resurface. 

There are also the added elements of mystery, and girls just love mystery. The first is the mystery of where the Saxtons are and what name they are under now. The second is just why Mother Heggerty wants revenge on the Saxtons. We get hints that it’s revenge for a family injury, but the full details are deftly kept secret until the last episode. 

One quibble is that it’s never explained how or why Mother Heggerty found Jody and called upon her to be her slave in the first place. Normally the protagonist falls under the influence because she unwittingly stumbled into the den (“The Revenge of Roxanne”), finds some object she should have left alone (“What’s Wrong with Rhona?”), or something was planted (“The Curse of Carmina”). When we see the connection between the girl and how she got ensnared, we also see how the evil force activates. So we accept it all as logical plotting and good story sense. But we don’t see that here. Mother Heggerty merely calls out of nowhere, lures Jody in, and once she looks Jody over she says, “Ah, yes, I think you will do very nicely.” Why wasn’t it anyone else before Jody? Did Mother Heggerty just pick Jody out of a crowd or something? Did she try with someone else but failed for some reason? Did she summon others but rejected them before settling on Jody? Or had she just set herself up in the neighbourhood? After all, everyone thinks the house has been empty for years.

A second quibble is that the fire that destroys Mother Heggerty’s house comes across as just too quick and convenient a way to end the story because the reason for the fire is not shown. It would have worked better if the story had established how the fire started e.g. the house got struck by lightning. 

Overall, this is a very effective “bad influence” story that is handled a bit differently to most in setting the protagonist on a path that could lead her to genuine evil instead of being merely forced to do it. This makes it more interesting to read than other bad influence stories, and the mystery elements to be unravelled add even further interest to keep readers hooked. The artwork of Douglas Perry brings it all off really well, from the craggy crone face of Mother Heggerty to the horrible looks on Jody’s face once she turns evil. And that cat’s paw necklace is a further element of creepiness, especially to the artwork. It’s repulsive to look at, and it somehow looks more like a spider than a cat’s paw. Mother Heggerty could just as well have been Spider Woman as a witch, in the way she sets herself up with “Come into my parlour.”

Nightmare at Grimm Fen (also the Face of Fear) (1976-1977)

Sample Images (as The Face of Fear, published 29 November 1975)

Published: Tammy 27 November 1976 to 5 February 1977. Plus a Strange Story prologue, “The Face of Fear”, 29 November 1975.

Episodes: 11, plus Strange Story episode

Artist: Diane Gabbot(t)

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

It’s Halloween season, so it’s time to bring out the entries on supernatural stories and covers. Leading off the lineup is this Tammy offering from Diane Gabbot(t), not just because it is a spooky story but also because it has one of the oddest publication histories ever seen in girls comics. It is very odd indeed, because what should have been the first episode of this story was instead published as a Strange Story, “The Face of Fear” (above). “The Face of Fear” appeared in Tammy on 29 November 1975, exactly one year before the serial itself began. It’s not a self-contained story, which Strange Stories usually were. Nor is it a Strange Story mini-serial, which sometimes appeared in Tammy. Strange Stories hadn’t been used that way before in Tammy or since then. Whatever was behind this aberration remains a one-off mystery that’s even stranger than a Strange Story.

Plot

(As) The Face of Fear

Patty and Mark Stephens are enthusiastic brass rubbers. At Grimm Fen, Grimmford, they go to a 12th century church, St. Frideswide’s, in search of brass rubbings. Inside the church they make a rubbing of an ominous-looking brass of a Frenchman named Robert le Mal (Robert the Evil One). They find it odd that he’s depicted as a skeletal figure wrapped in a shroud. His inscription reads: “When I wake up once more – watch out.” As soon as they finish the rubbing of Robert le Mal it gets hit by lightning and an extremely terrible storm blows up from nowhere. As they struggle to make their way back home in the storm, they hear a strange flapping sound. Back home, Dad says he saw a huge flapping figure following them. 

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