Tag Archives: Alan Davidson

Alan Davidson

Alan Davidson, author of various Jinty stories such as "Jackie's Two Lives"
Alan Davidson, author of various Jinty stories such as “Jackie’s Two Lives”

We have run a few posts about Alan Davidson before now on the blog, but not a complete summary post that serves as an appreciation of his work. Of course no summary post can be properly complete at this stage as we do not know all the stories he wrote for girls’ comics – his wife Pat Davidson has mentioned that he kept careful copies of his invoices and his scripts, but to go through those files is itself a lot of work. We can hope that we will hear more titles of stories in due course, and if so, I will certainly add them into this post. In any case, we now have story posts about all five of the Jinty stories that it is is known that Alan wrote, so the time seems right for an appreciation of him as a comics writer.

Known Jinty stories written by Alan Davidson:

Known stories in other titles:

  • Little Miss Nothing (Tammy, 1971)
  • Paint It Black (Misty, 1978)

Pat Davidson has also stated in a separate email that “[f]or older readers he contributed some excellent stories for Pink and often met up with Ridwan Aitken, the then editor. I don’t have any records of these to hand, although I remember a very original story about a hero who could predict earthquakes, which Alan much enjoyed writing. I can’t remember its title.”

Having set down these initial bibliographic details, what can we pull together in terms of an appreciation of his work, in girls comics and elsewhere?

Davidson’s work is not as strongly themed as Alison Christie‘s concentration on heart-tugging stories which forms the bulk of her comics writing. There is a clear focus on wish fulfillment in his Jinty stories: Gwen stumbles into a position where her schoolmates respect and appreciate her as she has always wanted, Jackie is swept up by a rich mother-figure who is prepared to take her away from her life of poverty, Debbie finds a mysterious valley and within it a sort of fairy godmother who will save her from her cruel family, and Kerry is likewise swept up by a rich mentor who looks like she is a route to the fame that Kerry has always wanted. The wish in question is almost always double-edged or positively treacherous: Debbie is the only one who ends up happy with getting what she has always wanted (and of course her fairy godmother figure is stern-but-kind rather than seemingly kind but morally dubious). However, Davidson plays the theme of wish fulfillment while ringing the changes: none of his stories are close repeats, even though they have this similar focus.

For Jinty‘s pages he also wrote the important science fiction story “Fran of the Floods” (1976) – perhaps not quite the first SF story that ran in this title (that is arguably 1975’s “The Green People”) but a hugely popular one that ran for some 9 months. Jinty‘s reputation as a title that ran lots of SF surely must owe plenty to the success of this key story. It is a strong story through to its end, though showing a few signs of padding in some parts of the long journey taken by the protagonist. (I note that Sandie ran a story called “Noelle’s Ark” a few years earlier which has a number of similarities without being as strong on characterization or drama: it would be interesting to know if this was something that Davidson was aware of, or perhaps even the author of.)

Davidson of course had also previously written a standout story that gave girls’ comics a key new theme: 1971’s “Little Miss Nothing” started the run of Cinderella stories which gave Tammy its reputation for cruelty and darkness. Pat Mills has lauded this as being written with a real lightness of touch and being written very much from the heart (note that he thought at the time that this was written by Alan’s wife Pat, which has since been corrected by Pat Davidson herself). We know less about what we wrote for titles other than Jinty: it seems he wrote little else for Tammy (unless Pat Davidson can correct that impression?), and only one story for Misty. “Paint It Black” was part of the opening line-up of that comic. While it was a compelling read it doesn’t seem to have struck the same chord with readers as some others from that title, and Davidson doesn’t seem to have written more for Misty (perhaps also due to the fact that he was finding success in children’s prose fiction from around that time).

It’s clear that Davidson’s writing is strong all round, and at its height was really mould-breaking (not just once, at least twice). There are ways in which it follows the conventions of girls comics writing reasonably closely: the titles of his stories tend to follow the standard set up of focusing on the girl protagonists (Gwen, Jackie, Fran, Kerry) though veering away from that in some cases (“Valley of Shining Mist” and most particularly “Paint It Black”). I’m not sure whether this all-round strength is part of the reason for another aspect of his comics career which I was struck by when looking back – he has not been associated with one particular artist, but rather been illustrated by a wide range of artists with no repeats that I know of. This contrasts with the partnership between Alison Christie and Phil Townsend, who created some seven very popular stories together for Jinty.

From the mid to late 70s, Davidson started to concentrate on prose fiction for children. It’s a little hard to search for details of his work online as he doesn’t seem to have had his own web presence and there are a few other well-known figures with the same name (such as a food writer and a cricketer). This Goodreads author page is the clearest list I have found of his prose works, while it’s also worth looking at his Wikipedia page, which tells us that he started off as a subeditor on “Roy of the Rovers” for Tiger. Writing children’s prose fiction has clear advantages over continuing in the world of juvenile comics: better recognition by your public rather than having no printed credits in the pages of the comics titles, better rewards for success in the form of royalties and translation money. At the same time, his most successful prose work, “The Bewitching of Alison Allbright”, is an effective re-working of his popular comics story “Jackie’s Two Lives”. The influence of the earlier writing clearly informs the later work too: what comics loses, children’s fiction gains.

If Davidson had been writing a decade or so later, might he have been swept up in the popularity of 2000AD and the migration that various British creators made to the US market? That only seems to have drawn in the creators working on boys’ comics, so I assume not. It is pleasant to imagine the talented writers of juvenile comics being fêted and recognized by name in a way that British publishers spent many years fighting to prevent. Ultimately however it is a sad thought: Alan Davidson, who is amongst those who most deserve that name recognition, is only now getting a small fraction of that recognition after his death.

Jinty 18 June 1977

jinty-18-june-1977

  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • The Sable Knight (Gypsy Rose story) – artist Keith Robson
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • Meet the Modest Star… Richard Beckinsale – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds (final episode) – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie
  • Memento of a Memorable Year! – feature

It’s the final episode of “Kerry in the Clouds”. There are hard lessons learned for both Kerry (the dreamer with her head in the clouds) and Gail (who took advantage of this to get revenge on a film producer) before the happy ending. “A Boy Like Bobby” takes its place next week.

“The Spell of the Spinning Wheel” is coming to an end too. This week Rowan is let down by a man who seemed to believe her, but it turns out he was a student psychiatrist who thought she was a nut case, and Dad shows him the door. Fortunately the final episode is next week, so something is finally going to help. Meanwhile, Rowan is outracing the spell of the spinning wheel to get medical help for her injured mother.

“Creepy Crawley” is beginning to approach its conclusion as well. The invasion of insects continues at Jean’s school, but Mandy, the only one who can stop it, is finally on her way. However, Mandy is not sure she will be able to stop the invasion because it requires her to forgive the very girl who did so many horrible things to her…

Madam Kapelski takes Yvonne on a special tour of the dreaded State Home for Children of Dissidents to bring her into line. Afterwards Yvonne decides to cooperate with Kapelski, but secretly isn’t giving up on escape.

The Darkening Journey takes an even darker turn when Thumper falls foul of a cruel man who abuses him. It gets worse when a fire breaks out, but Thumper can’t escape because he is chained up!

Katy has stunned everyone with her turn of speed at racing, but then it looks like she’s developing a malfunction.

In this week’s Gypsy Rose story, Prue Preston has trouble from two evil, cruel men at a jousting tournament. One is alive and one is long dead – but his ghost comes out in full armour to join the fun!

Henrietta uses her magic to help a street artist, but her spells aren’t working out as she hoped, which leads to hijinks. Of course everything turns out happily in the end.

Jinty 11 June 1977

jinty-11-june-1977

  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • The Marble Heart (Gypsy Rose story) – artist Carlos Freixas
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Jubilee Week competition
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • Silver Spoon Stars (Barry Sheene) – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie
  • Memento of a Memorable Year! – feature

Jinty commemorates the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!”, Rinty ‘n’ Jinty and Alley Cat all celebrate it, and of course there is a competition to go with it. Not to mention a feature on how to make your own commemorative mug. In keeping with the silver theme Jinty is turning the spotlight on celebrities born with silver spoons in their mouths, starting with Barry Sheene. Sue and Henrietta are already planning ahead to the Golden Jubilee. I wonder Jinty had any anticipation that the Queen would make it to her Diamond Jubilee as well?

What “Curtain of Silence” has been building up for in the early episodes finally happens: Madam Kapelski takes advantage of Yvonne’s striking resemblance to Olga to kidnap her and force her to take the now-dead Olga’s place. Yvonne has lost her voice, so she can’t tell anyone. Olga’s cousin Tanya figures it out, but Madam threatens her with the dreaded State Home for Children of Dissidents to keep her silent.

Carlos Freixas has been absent from Jinty since “The Valley of Shining Mist”, but this week he’s back for a one-off with the Gypsy Rose story. A Greek girl was turned into a statue as a punishment when she unwittingly causes the death of her lover through the cruel way she treated him. She continues to serve as a warning to other girls not to be cruel to their lovers. Unfortunately the warning comes too late for Patsy, who gets dumped by her boyfriend for the cruel way she treated him.

In Creepy Crawley the evil scarab gets the insect invasion underway. A plague of locusts traps everyone in the school and Jean warns them it’s just the beginning. And there’s no end either, because Mandy, the only person who can stop it, is absent.

Susan is getting more suspicious of Katy, especially after the professor’s goon grabs her because he mistook her for Katy. But Katy is not confiding in her.

The Darkening Journey continues, with Thumper and Beaky on the run from a vet, of all things.

Kerry in the Clouds has been heading for a fall for a long time because Gail Terson is taking advantage of her for some purpose. Now it finally comes when Kerry gets a contract for the starring role in a film – and then realises she can’t act! Terson had known that all along, and now the truth is out she’s looking like the cat that got the cream. But why?

Rowan survives a road accident and now she’s got an offer of help from a hiker about dealing with the evil spinning wheel. But next week’s blurb hints that his offer is not what it seems.

Kerry in the Clouds (1977)

Sample Images

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Published: 16 April 1977 – 18 June 1977

Episodes: 10

Artist: Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto

Writer: Alan Davidson

Translations/reprints: Klaartje in de wolken [Klaartje in the clouds] in Tina 1978

Plot

Kerry Langland has just left school. Her nickname is “Kerry in the Clouds”, partly because she lives so high in an apartment block that clouds settle over it sometimes. But it’s mostly because she always has her head in the clouds with dreams of being a famous actress. She loves to dress up and go out on the balcony, imagining that she is an actress, and getting away from the apartment block she hates living in. Her former classmates have always teased her over her dreaming. They say her dreams are all castles in the air and she doesn’t have what it takes to be an actress. Kerry’s parents share the same view and fix her up with a dead-end factory job, saying she can’t expect better because she wasted her schooling on dreaming.

So Kerry writes to her idol, the famous actress Gail Terson, for help. Much to Kerry’s surprise, Terson shows up in person to see her and agrees to help, saying Kerry has the talent to make it as an actress. She gives Kerry a complete makeover to make her glamorous, takes her around the high life, gives her plenty of media exposure, and fixes her up with an agent for a soft drink ad that will be circulated nationwide. As people see Kerry’s ad on the billboard, the teasing stops and nobody calls her “Kerry in the Clouds” anymore.

Kerry’s parents warn her it’s all too good to be true and she shouldn’t buy into it because there must be a catch somewhere. They are right: Terson is just taking advantage of Kerry and her head always being in the clouds, but just what Terson wants Kerry for is not clear. Kerry’s own suspicions begin to grow after seeing Terson use a dress that looks suspiciously like the one she bought for Kerry in a shopping expedition. But Terson pulls the wool over Kerry’s eyes by saying the dress is all part of an acting role she has got for Kerry.

So Kerry goes back to living the high life. Her picture is getting in all the papers, her parents are astonished at the whole new glamorous wardrobe Terson has bought for her, her pay cheque for the poster ad is far bigger than anything she would have earned at the factory, and the press say she is tipped as a girl who is going places. Kerry even finds herself being mobbed by autograph fans, including the two girls who used to tease her at school.

Kerry realises her makeovers and new wardrobes have been designed to build her up for the starring role in a film called “The Buttercup”, the role Terson plays in the stage version. Then Kerry learns that Terson had wanted the same part in the film, but film producer Mel Simpson turned her down because he considered her old and stale while the public wanted someone new. Kerry wonders why Terson helped her to get the role that she wanted so badly.

Crunch time comes when shooting starts, and all of a sudden Kerry realises she can’t do the role because she can’t act at all! Which is precisely what Terson had known all along. She had known from the first that Kerry was just a dreamer and had no real acting talent – which is what the parents and schoolgirls had always said to Kerry. She had just been stringing Kerry along to get her revenge on Simpson by lumbering him with a talentless girl in the leading role and being stuck with her because of the contract.

Kerry is distraught at being played for such a fool and realises her parents had been right all along. She releases Simpson from the contract and disappears, and the papers are full of it. Once Terson reads about Kerry’s disappearance she is struck by remorse and goes after Kerry, whom she finds on the roof of the apartment block. She apologises to Kerry, saying she never considered Kerry’s feelings while plotting revenge against Simpson. Kerry says the experience has made her grow up and realise how her constant dreaming was so unrealistic, so she bears no grudges. Terson offers Kerry a job as a personal assistant, and Kerry accepts.

Thoughts

This story is not one of Jinty’s more memorable stories. But recently it has attracted comment on the Jinty blog for two reasons. First, we have been provided with a glimpse of the script for part one, which still exists and came to light in writer Alan Davidson’s files. Second, there is some controversy over the identity of the artist. Is the artist’s name Cándido Ruiz Pueyo or Emilia Prieto? It is Pueyo, but for a while he worked under the pseudonym Emilia Prieto, and a panel in the final episode of this story is signed with his pseudonym.

Although the story is not one of Jinty’s classics, it certainly breaks some moulds in the Cinderella and “dream fulfilment” formats. It does not end up with the heroine realising her dream of becoming an actress and having the last laugh on the parents and schoolgirls who said she was just a silly dreamer. Instead, it is revealed they were right all along, and Kerry is made to realise it when she is forced to act for the first time in her life and discovers she can’t. In all those years she dreamed of being an actress, she clearly made no serious attempt to realise her ambitions by, say, pursuing drama clubs and school plays to get experience. If she had, she would have realised long ago that she was no actress. Instead, she just indulged herself with dreaming while not doing anything serious to fulfil her dreams until she writes to Terson.

The story is also a cautionary tale in that old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is”. Kerry was very fortunate in that the woman who took advantage of her eventually found her conscience and made amends by offering Kerry a high-paying job that would still get Kerry into the acting world, of sorts. So Kerry would not be stuck in dead-end factory jobs like Dad and continue to live in the graffiti-smeared apartment block she hated so much. There are many sleaze bags out there waiting to prey upon the dreams of innocent, naive girls to take advantage of them.

Jinty 28 May 1977

jinty-28-may-1977

  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • Tell Us – problem page
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • The Face at the Window (Gypsy Rose story) – artist Phil Townsend
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Play the Game ! – feature
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • The Dead End Kids are Going Places! – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie

Creepy Crawley’s plan to get Mandy expelled succeeds, and she has even manipulated things so Mandy thinks poor Sheila was the one who framed her! But there is a new ray of hope – Sheila recalls seeing another copy of the book that would explain everything about the evil scarab. Including, we hope, the way to stop the scarab.

A bully teacher in “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” thinks the sound of birds singing is for the birds. Naturally, that is an open invitation for the fun-bag to teach her a lesson.

Sandra Frazer thinks she has photographed a ghost at a run-down cottage, and even Gypsy Rose is a bit stumped for an answer. But then they discover the photograph is of a missing girl who is trapped in the cottage. A ghost from the future, would you believe!

Yvonne is relegated to reserve for bad behaviour and does not realise look-alike Olga is stringing her along. The gypsy woman still warns Yvonne to get out of Mavronia, but we know Yvonne won’t heed that advice.

Rowan thought she had a respite from the spinning wheel because it was broken. But now she’s falling asleep from humming noises again, and Mum is bringing back the spinning wheel. Looks like it’s been fixed, so its curse is back in action, worst luck!

Beaky and Thumper are in big danger this week from a violent storm and floods, and end up separated. Will they ever be together again?

Kerry is soaring higher than ever. A flash new wardrobe, autograph fans, a huge pay cheque, and the starring role in a movie, all courtesy of Gail Terson. Oh, why do we get the feeling the fall is coming for Kerry?

Jinty 21 May 1977

jinty-21-may-1977

  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • The Warning Windbells (Gypsy Rose story) – unknown Concrete Surfer artist
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Home-Made Refreshers for Hot Days! – feature
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • Cheeky Cheggers Chats to You! – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie

Creepy Crawley hopes to stop her campaign against Mandy now – but will the scarab let her? Of course not. She obviously didn’t pay more attention to the book’s warning that nobody would be safe from the scarab, even after it defeated the rival. Sheila has discovered Jean’s secret, but now Jean is blackmailing her into doing everything she says, so can Sheila do anything to stop the scarab? We will have to wait and see.

Rowan’s attempt to switch the evil spinning wheel with a harmless replacement fails and she almost gets killed too. Then the spinning wheel reveals a weakness when it gets broken: its curse does not work while it is out of action. So Rowan is free of the curse for the time being, but Mum intends to get the spinning wheel fixed. If she does, it’s back to square one.

Yvonne and Olga are struck by how alike they look. But Yvonne has no idea how their lives are such a contrast. Olga is the virtual slave of a slave-driving coach whose mere threat of the dreaded Home for Children of Dissidents keeps Olga in line; Yvonne is swelling up her big head with dreams of becoming a cycling star, much to her team mates’ annoyance.

Gail Terson is giving Kerry a complete makeover and giving her everything to become a star: money, glamour, publicity and fans. Then Kerry begins to feel that it is a bit too good to be true – which means it usually is.

A well-meaning fortune-teller helps Beaky and Thumper escape and they’re back on the road. Unfortunately she did not foresee what would mean Dad missing his chance to find them and bring them to Julie.

When a carpet seller has a nasty encounter with a bully, Henrietta turns one of the carpets into a flying carpet to teach the bully a lesson and trick him into buying a carpet from the seller at well above the price it was selling for.

Anna Wong tells Gypsy Rose the story of the family’s Chinese windbells, which only chime when there is impending danger. Unfortunately not everyone receives or heeds their warning but Anna does, and they help save her life in a fire.

Katy doesn’t know her own strength in this episode, which is causing mayhem on a bus. And her lack of understanding about human ways is not making her popular in school.

The Valley of Shining Mist (1975)

Sample Images

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Published: 31 May 1975 – 1 November 1975 (23 episodes)

Artist: Carlos Freixas

Writer: Alan Davidson

Translations / reprints: Het dal van de glanzende nevel (The Valley of the Shining Mist) in Tina 1977)

Plot

At the Cornish village of Armfield, Debbie Lane has lived with her aunt, uncle and cousin Elaine ever since her parents died. The upbringing she has received from them has been a terrible one. They are cruel relatives who abuse Debbie while teaching her to steal. Debbie also has a stammer and never spoken a full sentence in her life. As a result, everyone at school bullies her and calls her “Dumbie Debbie” and “stupid”. As she can’t talk back to the bullies because of her stammer, all she can do is lash out at them. Nobody cares for her at all or steps in against the bullies or the abusive relatives, although the teachers do notice it. Everyone compares her to a wild animal, and that’s just about what her behaviour has been reduced to because of the terrible life she leads.

On the upside, when Debbie passes the village antique shop she takes a moment to play a violin there, and the dealer says she has a genius for it. But what’s the use when she can’t get the violin or lessons? She also takes solace by finding solitude in the nearby valley, though it is dangerous from old mine workings.

One day Debbie lashes out at the Lanes and runs off when they are about to punish her for stealing food from a grocer. That’s pretty hypocritical of them, since they are the ones who teach her to steal. Moreover, they also drove her to steal the food in the first place by not leaving her anything to eat.

For the first time, Debbie heads for the valley while it is full of mist. She figures she will be safe there because everyone is scared to approach the valley when it is full of mist. When Debbie enters the mist, she is astonished to find an idyllic, shining fantasy world under it. And the valley farmhouse, which was in ruins before, is now intact and there is a woman there. Her name is Mrs Maynard, and there is something familiar about her that Debbie can’t place (clearly, a thread to be tied up later). She is the first to treat Debbie kindly and her home is everything Debbie has dreamed of: love, comfort, lots of food, and a violin she plays. Debbie is astonished to find that she is speaking proper sentences now and realises it is because she feels so relaxed in this loving, heavenly atmosphere and nobody is cruel to her. Mrs Maynard encourages Debbie’s gift for the violin, but when Debbie asks if Mrs Maynard can teach her, Mrs Maynard says that’s up to Debbie.

As Debbie leaves Mrs Maynard she steals a silver hairbrush with which to buy the violin she saw at the antique shop. But there is a strange, sad look on Mrs Maynard’s face as she watches Debbie go, and the text says it is as if Mrs Maynard knows what Debbie has done. Once Debbie is out of the valley, it returns to its normal state, with no trace of Mrs Maynard or the mist.

Debbie uses the hairbrush to obtain the violin, but can’t get far with it without proper lessons. When the violin attracts the attention of her cruel uncle, she tries to flee to the Valley of Shining Mist. But the mist rejects her, and she knows it is because of her theft. So she returns the violin to the shop, confesses the theft, and gets the hairbrush back. However, spiteful Elaine throws the hairbrush into the dangerous mine workings. This means Debbie has to risk her life to get the hairbrush out. However, she finds she does not mind the danger, even though she gets hurt, because she feels it is purging her of her sin in stealing the hairbrush.

This time the Valley of Shining Mist opens up for Debbie. She returns the brush, apologises, and promises Mrs Maynard that she will stop stealing. Mrs Maynard then gives Debbie her own violin. Later, when Debbie asks Mrs Maynard about her origins, she is vague, saying that perhaps she does not exist except in Debbie’s imagination, and only when Debbie wants it. As for why she seems so familiar to Debbie for some reason, she says that one day she will understand, but only if Debbie does everything she asks and becomes the great violinist she wants her to be.

Over time Debbie’s cruel family increasingly suspect she is up to something because of the objects she brings back from the Valley of Shining Mist, such as the hairbrush and the violin. Elaine soon realises it has something to do with the valley, but she just gets sucked down in bog when she tries to follow Debbie into the mist. Eventually the family force it out of Debbie, but of course they don’t believe a crazy story like that.

Debbie finds that if she is to continue to return to the Valley of Shining Mist and receive more violin lessons she must pass a series of tests Mrs Maynard sets for her. As the tests unfold, it becomes apparent that they are designed to bring out Debbie’s inner strengths, build her confidence, and shed the negative traits Debbie has developed from her abusive upbringing.

The first is to obtain a mug, which turns out to be the prize in a poetry reading competition – so Debbie is challenged to overcome her stuttering. The village is buzzing with astonishment and scorn when word spreads about “Dumbie Debbie” entering the poetry competition, and everyone turns up just to see how “Dumbie Debbie” fares. With the help of a strange vision from Mrs Maynard, Debbie manages to recite two lines of her poem without a stutter, but she is too overwrought to continue. The winner is so impressed that she insists Debbie receive the mug instead for her courage. Debbie also has to run the gauntlet with Elaine, who tries to take the mug from her, before she brings it to Mrs Maynard. In the Valley of Shining Mist, she makes tremendous strides with her violin under Mrs Maynard’s tuition. Mrs Maynard also suggests a shed where Debbie can practise in secret from her cruel family.

The next test is to obtain a brooch from Tracey Stocks – but that’s the girl who bullies Debbie the most at school! Then Tracey herself catches Debbie while she’s practising in the shed and starts bullying her over it. When Tracey snatches the violin, Debbie is pushed too far. She lunges at Tracey and during the fight the brooch comes off. Debbie takes the brooch while Tracey is in tears over losing it. Later, Debbie realises that taking the brooch like that had broken her promise to Mrs Maynard never to steal again. So she goes to the Stocks’s house to return it and is in for a surprise – Tracey’s home is as bad and abusive as hers! So they are two of a kind. Tracey is so impressed with Debbie’s kindness after all that bullying that she lets her keep the brooch to make things up to her. Tracey says she will be Debbie’s friend from now on, make sure the bullying stops (next day, Debbie finds it has), and Debbie can use her gang hut to practise.

Tracey is also very surprised to hear Debbie suddenly speaking almost proper sentences. The Lane family are noticing this and other changes in Debbie. Elaine begins to wonder if there is something in her story about “the valley of shining mist”, and wants to crush it.

Debbie’s third test is to enter a talent contest to demonstrate her violin ability in public, with a £100 prize for the winner. Mrs Maynard trains her up for it and gives her an envelope containing instructions. But Elaine has entered the contest too, so her spite towards Debbie is worse than usual. She throws Debbie’s violin down a hillside. By the time Debbie has retrieved it, her best dress has been ripped by brambles and her hands stung and blistered by nettles. This gets her off to a bad start when she finally arrives at the talent contest, but the miraculous strength she gets from visions of Mrs Maynard gets her through to victory.

Debbie treats herself to a spending spree with the prize money. Her family suddenly go all nice to her. She is completely taken in by their phoney kindness, and she does not realise they are just conning her into spending some of the money on them. But she forgot the sealed envelope, and by the time she opens it, she realised she should have taken the money to Mrs Maynard instead of spending it. Elaine sees the note and says Mrs Maynard is conning and exploiting her, which plants seeds of doubt about Mrs Maynard in Debbie’s mind.

Debbie returns the things she bought to recoup the money she spent. The Lanes continue to string her along because they are hoping to make money out of her talent, and they recruit a sleazy agent, Arthur Swain, for the job. Debbie is tempted by the money and fame Swain promises her and almost signs his contract. But in the nick of time she thinks the right things about Mrs Maynard and realises Swain is a nasty man. She leaves the contract unsigned and heads to Mrs Maynard with the money. Mrs Maynard said it was a test to see if Debbie could resist the temptation of money, and she shows what she thinks of those ideas of taking advantage of Debbie by burning the money.

Mrs Maynard then gives Debbie the last payment: bring Swain’s contract to her, all torn up, to show she will never sign it. However, the Lanes trick Debbie into signing it by having Elaine fake illness and saying they need Swain’s money for Elaine’s treatment. Debbie realises too late they have been fooling her and are as bad as ever. She runs off and her uncle gives chase. He forces her to retreat into the misty valley. Debbie is surprised to find herself in the Valley of Shining Mist after failing the last test. But no – she had passed it by signing the contract. It was really a test of selflessness and self-sacrifice. And the contract cannot be enforced against Debbie because she is a minor.

Mrs Maynard now says goodbye. She and the Valley of Shining Mist all dissolve in front of Debbie’s eyes and the valley goes back to its normal state. But in the village, Debbie is surprised to see Mrs Maynard get out of a car!

Er, it’s not quite Mrs Maynard. It’s Mrs Maynell, Debbie’s aunt, whom she had only seen once as a small child. She missed out on claiming Debbie when her parents died because she was out of the country at the time. She came to look for Debbie after getting a lead from a newspaper report about Debbie winning the talent contest. She shows Debbie a photograph of her house, and Debbie realises it looks exactly like Mrs Maynard’s home in the Valley of Shining Mist. Mrs Maynell has a stronger claim on Debbie than the Lanes do, and Debbie is only too happy to leave them and go with her. Mrs Maynell is a concert violinist and will encourage Debbie’s talent. When Debbie talks to Mrs Maynell, there is no trace of a stammer.

The Lanes just say “good riddance to her!” As Debbie and Mrs Maynell leave Armfield, Debbie requests one last stop at the valley. She deduces the Valley of Shining Mist was created out of her own imagination and subconscious memories of her one stay at her aunt’s. All those tests from Mrs Maynard were created by Debbie herself to rise above her abusive upbringing and the “wild animal” traits she had developed from it. She now says goodbye to the valley, but will always remember it when she plays her violin.

Thoughts

“The Valley of Shining Mist” was one of Jinty’s most popular and enduring stories and is fondly remembered in Jinty discussions. It has its roots in the “Cinderella” story, but it certainly is not your average Cinderella story. It is a Cinderella story that features one of the most intense, extraordinary, and emotional journeys in character development ever seen in girls’ comics.

Here the heroine is so emotionally and psychologically damaged by the abuse that she is likened to a wild animal. Mrs Maynard herself says a wild animal was what Debbie pretty much was when she first came to the Valley of Shining Mist. Nowhere is Debbie’s lack of self-esteem more evident than in her stammer. This must have struck a chord with readers who had stammers themselves. One even wrote in to Jinty’s problem page saying that she had a stammer just like Debbie.

So our heroine is set to not only rise above the abuse at home and bullying at school but also to overcome the psychological problems from it and find her true self: the violin genius. But Debbie is so damaged that she needs to do a whole lot more than develop her musical genius if she is to rise above the terrible life she leads.

This is precisely what Debbie gets in the Valley of Shining Mist (the fairy-tale land) and Mrs Maynard (the fairy godmother), both of which tie in appropriately with the Cinderella theme. But the fairy godmother does not help simply by giving Debbie gifts. She also helps Debbie to find her true self with a series of trials. Several of which seem unreasonable, bizarre and even impossible, but there always turns out to be a reason for them that does Debbie’s character development tremendous good. As Debbie progresses through the tests we see her strengths developing and her bad traits disappearing. The “wild animal” traits are being progressively shed and a more confident, compassionate and talented girl is developing. As Debbie’s character develops and strengthens everyone notices it, Debbie herself feels it, and it is reflected in her stammer, which gradually disappears after the first test. It is far more realistic to have the stammer disappear in stages, through each trial, rather than all at once.

One of the finest moments in the story is when Debbie discovers why Tracey Stocks is such a bully. It’s because she has an unhappy home life; in fact, she even has to sleep in the shed because there’s no room in the house. There’s no love for Tracey either; the only one who was ever nice to her was her late Aunt Betty, who gave her the brooch. The brooch meant everything to Tracey for that reason, so we realise it is a tremendous leap in Tracey’s own character development and redemption when she gives Debbie her beloved brooch because Debbie was the second person to be nice to her. Tracey Stocks would be worthy of a serial in her own right, and we wish she could find the Valley of Shining Mist too.

The explanation on how the Valley of Shining Mist worked at the end is the weakest part of the story. If Debbie had created the valley and tests out of her own imagination and subconscious memories of her aunt’s home, then where did the hairbrush, violin and envelope with the talent contest instructions come from? How did Mrs Maynard manage to give Debbie violin lessons? What happened to Tracey’s brooch and the £100 that Debbie took to Mrs Maynard? It would have been more convincing to have a more supernatural explanation, and preferably one that ties in with why the locals get so scared of the valley when it is full of mist – something that was never explained. Still, we can’t be certain that Debbie’s deductions about the Valley of Shining Mist were entirely correct. There may have been some supernatural force in the valley that she was not aware of. It certainly would tie in with the Cinderella theme beautifully.

Jinty 4 October 1975

Cover 4 October 1975

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Blind Ballerina (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Valley of Shining Mist (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)
  • “The Green People” (artist Phil Gascoine) – last episode
  • Barracuda Bay (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)

Katie Jinks’s school is competing against the nearby boys’ school, to see who does best at ‘gender-swapped’ tasks – so Katie and pals are making a concrete pathway for their school, and the boys are cooking a cordon bleu meal, which the victors get to eat! Of course, her equal-opportunity jinxing sees her ruining the chances of both groups equally – the boys win, but Katie’s antics end up with the boys locked in a store-room unable to eat their fine supper – so naturally the girls have to self-sacrificially eat it up… The tagline for upcoming stories advises readers that ‘there’s a long story starring Katie in the new Jinty Annual‘ (which turns out to be drawn by Audrey Fawley rather than Mario Capaldi).

Ballerina Barbie gets a shock as she is dancing before an audience – her sight returns and she can dance with more joy than ever! But she isn’t able to get to her sister quite in time to see the beloved face that she hasn’t seen for so many years.

Lucy and Yvette need to come up with a cunning plan to save Corn Dolly from the prison that Miss Marvell has put her in – the doll is powerless herself, surrounded as she is by black magic items in the local museum. But the brave and resourceful girls swop the doll for a very similar one that they have bought. Miss Marvell is fuming once she finds out of course, and threatens that ‘next time, there will be no half measures!’.

Debbie is stunned at the next request that Mrs Maynard makes – to bring her £100! A huge amount of money for the poor girl, of course, representing the entirety of her winnings at the talent contest. And she’s already spent her winnings, too! She sadly goes round returning the items she’d bought, but meanwhile her cruel family come up with ways to stop her from giving the money to Mrs Maynard. Will this mean that Debbie can never see her kind, if odd, mentor again?

Per and Solveig are still being pursued by Grendelsen, with much trekking through the woods. There’s natural dangers in the woods as well as Nazi stalkers though, as the kids are threatened by a wild boar and by a fierce dog too.

“The Green People” comes to an end this week. Moura’s aunt Zella has betrayed the peaceful underground people in a pact with the surface dwellers who want to build a motorway on the moor – but she finds that the dangerous monster Krakengerd is not as easy to control as she had thought. All ends well and the green people’s secret – and their lives – are safe.

“Barracuda Bay” sees Susan Stevens captured and trapped underwater, with her air running out. Will her partner Martin find and rescue her in time? This thriller is slightly old-fashioned in style and quite reminiscent of the Sandie story “The Golden Shark”, which also is a diving-based thriller with a female lead who has good hair. The art on “Barracuda Bay” is much tighter and more neatly-finished, though less obviously by the same artist as “The Haunting of Hazel” (which starts in the next issue). “The Golden Shark” gives a much clearer artistic link between the two stories that were reprinted in Jinty, which I was slightly surprised by.

Finally, “Ping-Pong Paula” has Paula suffering from lack of sleep, in the dodgy digs that her mother has dragged her to. Paula’s dad can support her table-tennis playing better, but of course her mother is bound to find out and to use it as more ammunition in the parental war.

Pat Mills: Interview

Pat Mills is someone who has already contributed lots to our knowledge of girls comics of this era, but even so there are still some gaps in our knowledge of what he wrote, and always plenty more questions to be asked. With thanks to him for his contributions now and in the past, here is a brief email interview.

1) In previous discussions you’ve identified the following stories in girls’ comics as having been written by you. Are there any stories missing from that list that you can remember? Some other stories have been attributed to you – also listed below – which you’ve either specifically said you didn’t write, or which haven’t been included in those previous discussions. It would be great to clarify this once and for all, if we can.

Known stories (Jinty)

You have also said before that you wrote a horse story, without identifying which one it was. Might it be “Horse from the Sea”? Or perhaps “Wild Horse Summer“?

Pat Mills: No. Doesn’t ring a bell. It’s possible I did the horse story for Tammy, but it wasn’t very good.

Tammy

  • Ella on Easy Street?
  • Glenda’s Glossy Pages?

Pat Mills: Charles Herring wrote Ella which I hugely admire. I wrote Glenda. Also – Aunt Aggie, School for Snobs, and Granny’s Town, but not all episodes.

Misty

  • Moonchild
  • Roots (Nightmare)
  • Red Knee – White Terror! (Beasts)

Pat Mills: Think “Red Knee” was mine if it was the spider story. Also “Hush Hush Sweet Rachel” – art by Feito.

And some Jinty stories you didn’t write but which are often attributed to you: “Knight and Day” (now confirmed as not yours), “The Human Zoo” (I think this is thought to be Malcolm Shaw’s), “Wanda Whiter Than White“, “Guardian of White Horse Hill” (you’ve previously thought this is likely to be Malcolm’s too).

Pat Mills: No, none of those are mine.

2) I appreciate that it’s harder to remember which stories were written by other people, if you even knew these details at the time. If there are any stories that you know the writers of, we are always up for adding to our store of attributions! We know that co-workers of yours such as John Wagner, Gerry Finley-Day, Malcolm Shaw, Charles Herring wrote for girls comics, in case that helps to trigger any memories. Did you also perhaps know Jay Over, Ian Mennell, Benita Brown, Maureen Spurgeon? (Some of those names are listed in the era when Tammy printed creator credits between 1982 and 1984, meaning we do have some story credits already in hand for that time.)

Pat Mills: Charles Herring was great – Ella and similar stories.  Pat and Alan Davidson wrote stories like Little Miss Nothing – Sandie and the equivalent in Tammy. They were top writers and that style of ‘Cinderella” story was hugely popular, but I don’t think they ever worked for Mavis. [In fact we do know that Alan Davidson wrote for Jinty, though Pat Davidson did not.]

John Wagner created and wrote “Jeanie and her Uncle Meanie” for Sandie, I think.  John was an editor on Sandie, but Gerry was the founding editor.

I wrote “Captives of Madam Karma” in Sandie.

John Wagner and I wrote “School of No Escape” in Sandie. (That was not bad) And “The Incredible Miss Birch” for Sandie. (Not our finest hour!) And I must have written at least one other story of this kind for Sandie.

I also wrote “Sugar Jones” and other stories for Pink, and “9 to 4” for Girl.

3) In Steve MacManus’ new book on his time in IPC / Fleetway, he talks about stories being measured in terms of the number of panels in the story: so for instance at one point he refers to a ‘twenty-two picture episode’ and at other points to a ‘thirty-picture script’. Is this something that you too remember from your time at IPC Fleetway? Did it happen at DCThomson too? I was interested in this because it seemed like a surprising way to think about comics, rather than in terms of page count.

Pat Mills: Yes. Steve is spot on. It’s a big subject. A thirty picture story in girls comics would theoretically deliver a lot of story. But it would be crammed and old fashioned. So I changed all that on 2000AD with less images on the page and started to apply it to Misty.

4) You’ve talked before about girls comics working differently from boys comics, and Steve MacManus recalls you saying that in a girls story the heroine would beat a bully, ride in a gymkhana, and still get back home in time to make her motherless family a hearty tea. Clearly girls comics were very full of plot! And you were a big part of rewriting a bunch of boys stories to make them fit the girls comics model more closely. Can you talk in a bit more detail about how this worked, in other words, what the mechanism was, more exactly? Is it a case of using fewer action sequences, more surprise reveals, lots of scene changes…?

Pat Mills: The big principle of girls comics that I applied to boys comics was “emotion”. Sometimes this worked well, but it needed applying in a different way. More “cool”, perhaps. Some girls principles didn’t adapt well:  jealousy for instance. Girls loved stories involving jealousy – boys didn’t. Hence “Green’s Grudge War” in Action wasn’t a hit.  Similarly, mystery stories work well in girls comics, boys didn’t give a damn about mystery. Hence my “Terror Beyond the Bamboo Curtain” in Battle, boys didn’t care what the terror was. It wasn’t a failure, but not the hit we hoped for.

However, where girls comics scored ENORMOUSLY was in having realistic stories that didn’t talk down to the reader. My “Charley’s War” is really a girls comic in disguise. Its popularity lies in it applying girls comic principles NOT boys comic principles – e.g. emotion is allowable in the context of World War One.

I was never that sold on “girls adventure” where there wasn’t a strong “kitchen sink”/Grange Hill factor. I think when Jinty went in for science fiction adventure it led the field, but not so sure about regular adventure which could seem “old school” – to me, at least. This was a factor everyone battled with on girls and boys comics, avoiding “old school” and creating stories that were “cool”.  Thus I would describe “Cat Girl” in Sally as uncool and old fashioned. Some of the Misty stories fell into that category – historical stories, for example.

Many thanks again to Pat Mills for his time, and for his memories and thoughts on this.

Jinty 8 February 1975

jinty-cover-8-february-1975

Stories in this issue:

 

This week Katie’s torn between getting her own back on a horror who keeps plaguing her with practical jokes and sticking to her New Year’s resolution of being nice to people. Katie’s jinxing turns out to be the perfect compromise.

Speaking of practical jokes, they are the order of the day in this week’s episode of “Merry at Misery House”. Merry has turned to pranking Miss Ball. Then another practical joke is pulled on Miss Ball – but it isn’t Merry! What’s going on here?

It’s the final episode of “Jackie’s Two Lives”. History threatens to repeat itself for the obsessive mother who hasn’t learned her lesson from the last time she drove her daughter too hard to win the Princedale Trophy. Next week, Jackie will be replaced by another Ana Rodriguez story, “Tricia’s Tragedy”. Jinty sure liked to keep her artists in business. As with Jackie, “Tricia’s Tragedy” sounds like it has a rich vs poor basis, and there’s a trophy at stake again.

Sally seems to have succumbed to the old adage, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. Actually, it’s another scheme to bring the “Prisoners of Paradise Island” to their senses. And it works! But will it last, or will the devious Miss Lush come up with another ploy to ruin them as hockey players?

Bird-Girl Brenda is given an ostrich egg and thinks it is a most appropriate gift for her. But perhaps it isn’t so appropriate when she starts having odd dreams about the egg.

The latest trick forced upon “Slave of the Mirror” destroys the reputation of an innocent man. But – surprise, surprise – the face in the mirror breaks down in tears when she hears what she’s done to the man! Maybe the spirit has a better side to her nature after all?

Kat definitely does not have a better side to her nature though. She’s playing nasty tricks on both Mouse and the juniors that Mouse has taken under her wing. Then she’s trying to ruin their costumes, while still trying to find a way to get Mouse expelled. All the while she still expects Mouse to do all her chores and cover for her in the role of the Tiger in the ballet show. What a nerve!

Dot is inspired to play Indians this week, which brings heap big trouble on her. Heap big angry croquet players play her at her own game and stake her out on lawn.

Ma Siddons has been so much more nasty than usual that Dora has walked out with the dogs. They’ve now taken refuge on a farm, where hijinks are ensuing between the dogs and the donkey. Things get even more hilarious when the Siddonses catch up and try to take the dogs back.

A Canadian offers to adopt the children in “Always Together”, but Beth won’t budge because she believes they should wait for their mother.