Bizzie Bet and the Easies (artist Richard Neillands) – first episode
The Forbidden Garden (artist Jim Baikie)
Boney is beautiful! (feature on pop group Boney M)
Prisoner of the Bell (artist Phil Gascoine)
I’ll Make Up for Mary (artist Guy Peeters, writer Alison Christie)
You Wanna Be a Millionaire… or do you? (quiz)
Daughter of Dreams
Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
The Four-Footed Friends (artist Peter Wilkes, writer Alison Christie)
Kate Bush (pin up)
Children of Edenford (artist Phil Townsend)
What price beauty? (feature)
Alice follows the sound of Chana’s voice and discovers that they have both been betrayed – Chana has been exiled from the city and will thereby surely die, and Alice’s cousin Karen has got the golden urn and declared herself sun goddess. The temple priestesses seize Alice on sight and she is forced to dress as a jester in order to appease her cousin, who is finding that power has gone to her head!
It is the first episode of “Bizzie Bet and the Easies”, a lightweight two page humour strip that has started running in the place of “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!”. Bet is an energetic girl but her friends the Easies are much keener on a quiet life with minimal effort. I like their style, personally!
Laika is starting to grow her forbidden garden, but she has to balance the needs of tending to it with the danger of getting caught in the Forbidden Zone. This time the police nearly catch her, and her weak little sister Valli is half-dead with anxiety.
Susie is no longer the prisoner of the bell – at least temporarily so, because her gran can’t get at her while she is on the residential gym course. A weight seems to have lifted from her, and Susie’s gym mojo returns – but the gran doesn’t give up as easily as that!
Ann tries to emulate her sister by demanding that the bullies who have pinched a precious photo album give it back – but instead they just rip up the photos! Ann is heartbroken but more importantly she can’t face telling the news to the old lady whose photo album it is. When the story comes out, more and more people are disappointed in Ann and she feels once again that she can never make up for her dead sister.
The “Daughter of Dreams” is Pauline Starr – she’s really just a figment of shy Sally Carter’s imagination, but such a strong imagination that she comes to life! Sally is the only person who can see her, but the fantastical creation can nevertheless have an effect on the world around her… and on Sally’s confidence, of course. The sequel to this story is drawn by the unknown artist who drew Merry, but this is done by the hand of a different artist (probably a Spanish person by the looks of the style).
The four-footed friends are posh Peke Winston and scruffy mongrel Riley – their owners are also fast friends, but Laura’s mum is having none of it. Riley ends up shut in a shed, with a threat to turn him over to the police, as a vermin spreader.
Patti is still a normal teenager in “Children of Edenford” but not so the girls next door – Mandy and Debbie used to be lazy messy little horrors who never helped out, but now they make posh suppers for dinner parties and listen to poetry records for fun. Patti escapes to visit her friend Jilly – only to find that Jilly too, is proposing to do some maths homework for a bit of fun, and has taken down all her Travolta posters! “Pop music is a waste of time. It neither enriches the soul nor challenges the intellect.” Yikes!
She Shall Have Music (artist Ron Smith) – last episode
The Four-Footed Friends (artist Peter Wilkes) – first episode
I’ll Make Up for Mary (artist Guy Peeters)
Spice Up Your Ideas! (cooking feature)
Alice visits Chana in her wee slave cell, to find out how on earth she can pass the test that will prove she is the Sun Goddess so that she can save Chana’s life. The clues she gets are all very well, but the test requires true bravery as well. Will Alice be able to climb to the top of the wall of the maze, so that she can see the temple she has to get to?
“Sea-Sister” ends this issue. Helen is put on trial by the great Sea-Judge for the crime of telling her friend Jane about the existence of the drowned village of Ullapond. Jane has to plead for Helen and give up something very dear to her heart in order to prove how much it means to her that her friend should not be banished; the plea works and Jane is even rewarded for her tenacity, though her memory is wiped of all that has happened.
Susie Cathcart is still the prisoner of her grandmother, who wields a hypnotic power over her via the tinkling of a handbell. Susie’s dreams of a career in gymnastics have been ruined by her grandmother’s interference, and her nerves are shot. The high-flown gym course that Susie would previously have killed to go on, now feels like a scary ordeal. Will her friend Lorraine manage to pull her out of it? Not if the gran can help it, of course…
It’s not that often that you get a single-page advert for an upcoming story in the same comic. Here is one for “The Forbidden Garden“, which of course proved very popular and successful. The editors must have been very excited for it – regular gag strip Alley Cat did not appear in this issue so presumably was dropped in favour of this teaser for the following week. “Daughter of Dreams”, which also starts the same week, is briefly mentioned, but it comes across as rather an afterthought.
“Children of Edenford” shows Patti and Jilly eating a superb lunch in the posh refectory at Edenford school – but there are sinister signs that very soon both of the girls may be turned into perfect schoolgirls, just like their classmates. Certainly that’s what Miss Goodfellow, the headmistress, promises: “You shall be one of us soon! Very soon!”
“She Shall Have Music” comes to a heart-wrenching end in this issue, with a four-page episode in which Lisa’s redemption becomes complete. “The Four-Footed Friends” starts – another Peter Wilkes story to fill the gap left by “Sea-Sister”. Laura is rather a “poor little rich girl” whose mother wraps her in cotton wool – she doesn’t know why, but the cheeky little pekinese who they are about to buy ends up giving all the answers.
Ann Ridley’s schoolmates are giving her the cold shoulder because they think she ratted on them to the teachers. She will continue to be misunderstood and unhappy for the rest of “I’ll Make Up for Mary”, of course.
The back page ‘crafts’ feature is food-based this week: it suggests using your spice cupboard to create some tasty treats such as Gingered Pears, Cinnamon Toast, Curried Butter, and Spiced Chocolate.
I’ll Make Up for Mary (artist Guy Peeters, writer Alison Christie)
“Alice in a Strange Land: is the lead story at this point – Alice and her cousin Karen are told by the mysterious High Priestess that there is a prophecy that a “white-skinned goddess” will lead the tribe back to greatness. Will that goddess be Karen or Alice – and what test will decide between them?
Sea-Sister Helen and her friend Jane are stuck in the ocean – Helen was trying to return to the underwater village that she comes from, but with Jane also on board her sea-shell boat it was not able to return properly. An oil tanker that is stuck on the rocks threatens the two girls, and also a number of friendly birds – Helen tries to save them all but in then end a giant wave sweeps the two of them overboard and under the sea. That’s fine for Helen, who is finally home again – but what of Jane, who has ended up visiting the underwater kingdom without permission?
In “Prisoner of the Bell”, Susie Cathcart is afraid she’s lost her nerve and can’t face doing gymnastics any more. Loyal friend Lorraine thinks of a way to help her get back into the swing of it and even lends her twenty pounds for it – a residential course at a gym school. But the meddling gran finds the money and instructs Susie to “destroy that friendship forever!” The hypnotized Susie can only reply “Whatever your orders, Grandma, I will obey!”
We normally haven’t touched on the features and extraneous items in the pages of the comic. I include the page with the horoscope (and who better to present it than Gypsy Rose, of course – here drawn by Phil Townsend) and a crossword. The clues on the crossword seem surprisingly hard for the intended age range of 8-12, I’d think: but have a look at the tiny upside-down answers, if you can, and see what you think. You will need to click through, of course.
This is just the second episode of “Children of Edenford”. Patti has arrived at the clean and beautiful village of Edenford, but she knows that something’s not right about it. Well, the runaway terrified girl being pursued by grim blank-eyed schoolgirls, and the headmistress whose motto is “Others strive for perfection – we achieve it!” is a bit of a give-away, maybe.
Lisa Carstairs is still a snooty snob in “She Shall Have Music”. Her mother is ill and unable to cope: Lisa is told to stay on with her friend Tracey but instead runs off to stay with her London godmother. Will it work out? Not likely…
There is a two-page text article about a trapeze artist act, the Caravettas: three sisters and a brother. Very exciting!
Fran is playing at being the Fire Officer, which is great fun, so long as she doesn’t screw it up badly enough that she gets into the Headmistress’s bad books, cos that would mean that big bully Martha Stump would have a chance to get her own back.
Shy Ann has changed her hairstyle and other looks to match her dead twin’s – and the other girls on the school bus are understandably rather freaked out when they first see it. Being back at school after the traumatic holiday where her sister was drowned is difficult in many ways, however hard Ann tries.
Alice Jones is a timid orphan who lives with her uncle, aunt, and cousin Karen. Karen is much more confident and outgoing than her cousin, and overshadows Alice at everything. Some people have faith in the shy girl – for instance one of her teachers at school says that if she had confidence in herself she could do so much better, because she is very clever at most subjects. Her family are pretty dismissive of her, in ways bordering on abuse – the two girls share a birthday, but while Karen is bought a pretty party dress and made much of, Alice is simply bought a pair of socks as a present and told to be grateful that they have looked after her for all those years.
We don’t see much of this miserable home life, though. The initial four page episode sees both Karen and Alice apply for a school exchange holiday in Texas – exciting! – which they are both chosen for (much to her family’s disgust), and the small group of seven schoolgirls sets out in an equally small twin-prop plane. The plane is too small to survive a huge storm that blows up, and it goes way off course – instead of heading to Texas, the girls find they are flying over South America! The final straw is when the pilot’s eyes are dazzled by the shining golden roofs of a mysterious lost city, which the stewardess only has time to exclaim must be “El Dorado, the lost golden city of the Incans!” before the plane crashes. The two grown-ups are killed and the seven schoolgirls are left alone in an exotic jungle. Alice wants them to head towards the golden city, but Karen, who has appointed herself the natural leader of the group, calls the idea absurd – because Alice was the only one of the schoolgirls to see the golden roofs.
Karen takes charge and leads the girls onwards – luckily in the direction that Alice thinks they should be going in anyway (they’re following the path that the plane made as it crash-landed). In the forest a bird appears – again, Alice is the one that sees it first, but Karen notices that its beak and claws have been painted gold, and that it is a tame bird. It leads them all to the lost city after all! Karen is furious at being proved wrong and drags Alice along with her to the temple that the bird is leading them to. In the middle of the temple is the image of the sun, and it starts to glow mysteriously, as the two girls are surrounded by robed priestesses who hail them as ‘great ones’ and bow down to worship them!
The priestesses hail the two girls as part of a prophecy of a ‘white-skinned goddess to lead us back to greatness’, and seem to be treating all the group to luxurious accommodation. Alice is the only one who is suspicious – she believes they are being imprisoned under the guise of having servants waiting on them hand and foot. And something she overhears the head priestess talking about gives her a fright – the priestesses need to decide which out of Alice and Karen is the Sun Goddess and so they will be put to a test. Of course Alice wouldn’t usually stand in Karen’s way for such acclaim, but she does so in order to protect a slave girl, Chana, who is threatened with death simply for daring to look upon the group of schoolgirls.
In return for Alice’s support, Chana gives her some clues to help pass the test. Just as well The two girls are made to navigate a gigantic maze and to get past the guardian at the centre of it – a sleek black jaguar. Following the instructions to ‘go above the maze’ and to ‘call the black one by his name’, Alice succeeds: she climbs the walls (despite her great fear of heights) and soothes the jaguar by calling him Aquila as instructed. At the last minute however, she hears the echoing voice of Chana, calling to her: “Help me Sun Goddess, or I will die!” The treacherous high priestess has gone against her word and banished Chana from the city, which will mean death in short order if she is not allowed to return. But a nasty surprise meets Alice on her return to the centre of the temple: the urn that she had already reached, and which she needed to take to the high priestess to prove her claim, is gone! Of course Karen had taken it despite knowing that Alice was there first – and Alice is now branded the “false goddess”.
The only thing that is keeping Alice going is the thought of letting Chana down – Chana being the only person so far who has believed in Alice and not seen her as “some kind of bundling idiot”. Alice is also justifiably worried about the whole dangerous situation that they are in – a danger that none of the other girls realise. Not that she understands all the dangers – another slave girl tells her that if she wants to walk out of the temple into the city and nearer to Chana, all she has to do is to walk past the guards. Which she does – but it’s the act of entering the palace that the guards are there to prevent. Alice is left wandering in a deserted city which seems not to have been lived in for hundreds of years. Where is Chana and what is the fearful secret of this mysterious land?
The few locals who live in the city are not very helpful – on hearing that Alice has come from the temple, they lock her up overnight and then bring the leader of their people to see her. He is surprised to see that she has not visibly changed on her overnight stay: “everyone who belongs to that temple changes when they leave it”. And once he takes he to Chana, Alice understands why: Chana has turned into an aged woman, almost literally overnight! Inside the temple is a spring that grants eternal life – but if you fail to drink from it even once, then your true age returns to you and you will die. This is the fate that awaited Chana on being exiled from the temple – and in order to return to the temple, Alice herself will need to accept the slavery of the spring of eternal life! And return to the temple she must – moments after telling her tale to Alice, Chana is killed by an earthquake, and the temple is where Karen and the others are. The high priestess knows exactly what she is making Alice do, even though Karen impatiently says “What’s got into you? It’s only a little drink of water!”
Here is where Karen once again shows herself as being much less astute than her cousin (as well as much less kind and considerate, of course). Why on earth would the high priestess make it a condition that all new joiners to the city must drink the water from this specific spring, if not for some nefarious reason? It’s not done as part of some big joining ceremony, it’s just Alice, Karen, and the high priestess. Karen even impatiently says she will drink some of the water to prove it’s not poisoned, but Alice can’t accept that risk, and dashes the cup over the posh robes that her cousin is wearing, so that Karen leaves in a huff. That suits the high priestess all right, who knows jolly well who’s figured out what: “You, little one, are too clever. You have found out too many of my secrets!” And under the threat of death, Alice drinks – and finds that, as promised, her previous life becomes like a dream.
She works in the kitchen alongside other slaves, agog to even catch a glimpse of the fabled Sun Goddess and her servants. The sight of the magnificent goddess playing catch in the sun seems to ring a bell but the memory fades as soon as it has come – the reality of life is her work in the kitchen and the threat of recurrent earthquakes that the city suffers from. A fellow slave informs Alice that the Sun Goddess is to be sacrificed to save the city from the anger of the god that makes the earth shake – and even this does not rouse Alice from her dreamlike state. After all, a goddess cannot really die, just appear to do so – really she will just be returning to the sun. Nice explanation!
Even in this dire situation, Alice is not entirely without friends. No, not the group of school girls that she came with – the rotten lot are following Karen’s lead and ignoring her entirely, happy for her to end up as a mere slave. But one of Chana’s friends advises her that she must try to avoid drinking the water from the spring of life, and then she will remember who she is and what she is trying to do. And so she does – but only at a point when she is trapped below the kitchens and outside a locked door, menaced by the rising waters of an underground lake!
That’s the point at which the episode in the sample above comes in. She is rescued, almost unbelievably, by an old Victorian gent out for a spot of fishing – “Sir Edward Carter, explorer to her Majesty Queen Victoria, at your service, my dear!” The old gent is a dab hand at rescuing her and making sure she’s warm, dry, and fed: but otherwise is a bit of a patronising old git when told about the danger of the high priestess: “Humbug!”. Not that this is surprising once we get to the end of the episode and realise that it is his own daughter, Lady Dorotea, who is the very same high priestess! Alice is in more danger than ever before, but she hopes that if she stays close to Sir Edward, his daughter will fear to tip her hand in a way that makes him see the double-game she has been playing. But the high priestess sends some henchmen (henchpriestesses?) in the middle of the night to kidnap Alice and bring her to where the other girls are being kept – now in a dungeon, awaiting Karen’s sacrifice the very next day!
The girls plot a desperate plan, under Alice’s lead (even Karen now acknowledges how brave and clever she has been). The sun goddess must go to her death willingly, otherwise the sun god will be angry – so the bribe for that to happen is that if she does, the other girls will be set free, and if not, they will all be killed. So someone must put herself up for sacrifice, and conveniently the costume has a golden mask, so someone else could take Karen’s place while the others go to Sir Edward for help… not that anyone is willing to risk death, apart from Alice of course. By the end of the episode she is bound to a sacrificial altar, hoping fervently that the ceremonial chanting will take long enough to give Sir Edward plenty of time to come and save her – until another earth tremor convinces the high priestess to move the schedule on a bit quicker!
The earth tremors only grow further in intensity, and the panicking Incas start to flee for their lives. When Alice manages to free her hand enough to remove her golden mask, the sight of their ‘false goddess’ causes the rest to flee – but not Lady Dorotea of course, who is all too willing to kill the stumbling block in her way. Finally the cavalry arrives, in the form of Sir Edward, who informs his daughter that the earthquake has stopped the spring from flowing, and so they are both doomed in any case. Of course the vengeful harridan would still like to have a final stab (very literally) at Alice, but a convenient chasm opens up beneath the two Victorians and swallows them up, leaving the girl as the sole survivor. She manages to escape the crumbling cavern and rejoins her happy (and, finally, grateful) cousin for a joint river escape with the rest of the schoolgirls. The girls are safe and are returned home, in a blaze of publicity!
Of course the uncle and aunt are a fly in the ointment – they are delighted to have their darling daughter back, but know that “it can’t be true'” that Alice was the heroine – it must have been Karen! Alice is understandably worried that she will find herself back in the same situation as she left some four months previously (the newspaper article gives the timeline) – downtrodden by her blood relatives. But no – Karen really has changed her tune, and says “I’m not going to let them bully you into being a mouse again, even if they are my mum and dad!” And all ends happily after all.
This is a fantastic story and one of my absolute favourites, though not without flaws (see below). The action moves on swiftly throughout and is full of excellent imagery – the mutton-chop wearing old gent, the deranged high priestess, the beautiful lost city. So much of that is down to artist Terry Aspin, of course, but he had a very strong base to work on and I hope he got a real kick out of it. The elements of the lost city and the spring of eternal youth are far from new, but seen through Alice’s eyes they still work as well as when H Rider Haggard was penning similar tales of “She” and of “King Solomon’s Mines”.
“Alice” was clearly the lead story throughout its run: it was positioned on the first double-page spread of each issue it was in (apart from the first issue, which had the last episode of “Girl Who Never Was“). It also was on the cover 6 times, though always sharing the billing with another story (unlike “Sea Sister”, “The Four Footed Friends“, and “The Forbidden Garden” which all had one or more covers dedicated to their protagonists during this time). This is despite the amazingly strong run of stories at this point – the same issues that this is in also include the stories above and the fantastic “Children of Edenford“, which never was granted cover status). This story was well-thought-of in the editorial office, and deservedly so. It is one of the stories that I never forgot from the time of first reading it, to when I regained copies of Jinty as an adult (and when I first watched Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, I knew the best way for the teen heroine to beat the maze well before she figured it out for herself). I am surprised that I can’t immediately note a translation or reprint version of this story – I am sure I have seen mention of one, so I hope it’s just that I have mislaid the relevant information on any European translation details.
On the downside, once again in Jinty (and indeed in girls’ comics stories generally) the lack of serious research strikes (though I am much more inclined to forgive it in this story than in the lacklustre “The Sceptre of the Toltecs”). To many British people, them-there mysterious lost peoples of the Americas are all very similar – Incans, Mayans, Aztecs are much of a muchness. (The same imprecision extends to naming – the correct term is “Incas” or “Inca”, not “Incans” as the story has it.) The writer of this story got right the focus on gold and on the sun god, which were big elements in Inca society, but seems to have imported much of the rest of the flavour from Mexico (Aztec human sacrifice) or from the Yucatan peninsula that stretches down to Guatemala and Belize (Mayan temples lost in the overgrown jungle). The tame bird that is seen in the second episode is very similar to the beautiful Quetzal bird which is the symbol of Guatemala, but El Dorado is a legend that has its origins in Colombia and hence relates more closely to the Incas. And so on. Of course in some ways it would be wrong for this sort of fantastical story to link itself too closely to a specific real location or people – whynot cobble various elements together into one? – but then the fact it refers to the real Inca belies that. Never mind, it’s a great yarn – and as someone who visited some amazing Mayan ruins as a child, the scene setting worked very well for me nevertheless.
To the modern reader there are a number of glaring holes. The local people understand English? The tribe have a white saviour complex? The high priestess turns out to be a Victorian explorer’s daughter? The two Victorians and the rest of the temple staff don’t seem to have lost their memories with all the drinking of magic water every night? Yeah right. But the various implausibilities of the stories never detract from the solid and exciting story that rushes you along. It’s a long run – 17 episodes – but it never drags or repeats itself. I hope that it will be chosen as an example for Rebellion to reprint in short order – it would certainly very well repay any new attention to it.
“Alice in a Strange Land” finds the temple is a prison that nobody is willing to escape from because of what lies beyond it. The guards don’t even try to stop Alice. And Alice gets her first hint of why when she finds the city outside is nothing but ruins and nobody around. This land is getting stranger and stranger!
Bizzie Bet tries to get the Easies into training. But they end up with injuries from it, which gives them a valid reason to lie about again.
Desperation drives Laika to break the law and steal water for her plants. To make matters worse, Gladvis the “meanest prefect in the school” has photographed her in the act. And it looks like Gladvis is worse than Laika thinks, because it looks like she is out to blackmail Laika instead of reporting her.
Grandma is determined to bring the prisoner of the bell back under her power and sets her up to be expelled from the gymnastics college. Now that is not very becoming for a grandmother!
Ann tries to take Mary’s place at the drama club, and so far, so good. But will it stay that way or will the jinx that seems to dog Ann’s every attempt to emulate Mary strike again? Meanwhile, in “Daughter of Dreams” Sally Carter is gearing up for a dance production.
Mrs Marshall is foiled once more in her efforts to break up “The Four-Footed Friends”. Then she’s off on her high horse again when she discovers the council is going to extend the estate, which will bring more “riff raff” into the area. She does not realise it is so the “riff raff” will be liberated from dreadful slums.
Patti is still waging war against whatever is turning the “Children of Edenford” into goody-goody automatons – but in the last panel it looks like she has succumbed to it herself!
We have a very beautiful, striking cover from Audrey Fawley. Instead of advertising a story, it advertises the beauty treatment feature on the centre pages.
“Alice in a Strange Land” is forced to take the mixture to make her forget her past life. Now that may not have been much of a life, but it’s better than being a slave in the strange land in South America. Then Alice has a flashback of her old life, so the drug clearly isn’t all that perfect.
Meanwhile, Patti and Jilly find a way to break through the headmistress’s strange power to turn her pupils into goody-goody automatons of perfection. So now they’ve turned on the school sprinkler system to flush it out of everyone!
It’s the last episode of “Prisoner of the Bell”. It looks like grandmother has finally won and turned Susie into the prisoner of the bell completely. But it all backfires on grandmother at the worst possible moment and could get Susie killed! There is no blurb saying what will replace this story, so we just have to wait and see.
The dreadful cleaning job Laika has been blackmailed into is taking its toll on her (and giving her a taste of what it is like to work in the dreaded Industrial Zone where her father will be forced to work in later on). She can barely drag herself back home, she flops at her school test because of her horrible job, and still no water for her plants. And now vicious dogs that have been dumped in the Forbidden Zone are threatening to eat her up!
Ann leads a protest demonstration at school. But as with all her other attempts at emulating Mary, it all goes pear-shaped and Ann ends up in Coventry just as she is planning a party.
Another party is threatened too, in “The Four-Footed Friends”. It’s Riley’s birthday, but that’s not stopping spoilsport Mrs Marshall from keeping him away from his friend Winston. However, they score one over Mrs Marshall and it’s a happy birthday for Riley.
Gatecrashers have wrecked yet another party in this issue, in “Daughter of Dreams”. It gets even worse when imaginary friend Pauline suggests a conga dance, which backfires. But Pauline is determined to put things right…
This issue also advertises the first issue of Penny, a title destined merge with Jinty the following year. Penny had more impact on Jinty than Lindy, the previous title to merge with Jinty.
“Alice in a Strange Land” learns about the Spring of Life – waters that can make her immortal, but she will forget everything her old life (though that may not be such a huge loss, considering how unhappy it was), and become a brainwashed slave of the temple. And in the final panel she is being ordered to drink from it!
Brainwashing is big in Jinty at the moment, with two other stories featuring it. In “Prisoner of the Bell”, Susie is being brainwashed into becoming an academic through the power of grandma’s bell. And in this episode she not only succumbs to it completely, but the change in her is also getting the blessing of her parents. But luckily for Susie it sounds like the final episode next week.
In “Children of Edenford”, Patti has worked out a way to counteract the strange brainwashing at her school that is turning everyone there into obedient robots and has now freed her friend Jilly. They have now combined forces against the brainwashing, while pretending they have succumbed to it.
Ann is still having no luck in “making up for Mary”. A housewarming party is ruined and the blame is put on her, quite wrongly. And it looks like another party has gone wrong for “Daughter of Dreams”. How can her magical companion help her put it right?
Snobby Mrs Marshall is still coming between “The Four-Footed Friends”. How is she going to react when she discovers they have managed to defy her once again and get their photograph in the paper in this episode?
In this issue we see “Laika’s dirty job”, the one we would have seen in the 30 June 1984 issue of Tammy had the strike not intervened, making the 23rd June issue the last one ever. It’s a gruelling, unpleasant job cleaning out huge vats in a food-processing factory, in the dreaded industrial zone where people are stuck on dead-end jobs of the worst kind. And to make things even worse, Laika has to cleaning chemicals that are choking her, and there’s no time to do a ton of homework. And the job is dirty in another way too – it is illegal because Laika is underage, and Gladvis is getting off-ration food from her uncle for in return for Laika. And Laika is stuck there unless she can find a way out of Gladvis’ blackmail.
And in this issue, Jinty gets an exclusive interview with the then Superman, Christopher Reeve. It reveals some interesting information on Reeve’s audition for the role and the filming of the first movie.
Following on from my earlierposts, more about what makes a story work. The discussion points in this post are more focused on the work of the artist, whereas the ones in the previous post were more around what the writer does.
Art quality. Is the art convincing and solid, with movement and vigour where required? Can the artist actually follow-through on technical requirements such as drawing ballet steps, gymnastics, and horses? Or is it inaccurate, stiff, or lifeless?
Of course this is primarily the artist’s responsibility, but there is some input from editorial departments. They may ensure, for instance, that art drawn by Spanish artists matches the British location that most stories are supposed to take place in by adding in pillar boxes and the like. Few artists in Jinty and other comics of this era are anything other than good to extremely good, so overall art quality is normally not a factor in the story not working. However, the artist may have specific gaps in what they can and can’t draw convincingly.
Stronger: There are so many strong artists that it is difficult to pick out one over the other except on the basis of personal preference. Mario Capaldi can draw faces, action sequences, and solidly convincing backgrounds, and is almost universally loved, but you could also say the same of my personal favourites Trini Tinturé, Phil Gascoine, and Phil Townsend. I think perhaps my favourite art on all the stories might however be Terry Aspin’s work on “Alice In A Strange Land”, in which he brings a strange jungle-wrapped lost city to life, alongside the British schoolgirls who have strayed into it.
Weaker: I find the Ken Houghton art on “Tansy of Jubilee Street” to be adequate but unexciting. It can be stiff at times when the artist has intended an action sequence, which is bad news. But even excellent artists can have off-days, too: Jim Baikie’s art is normally top-notch, but in parts of “Miss No-Name” some faces and sequences are very patchy, and possibly even filled-in by another hand. Finally, even if the artist is generally good, a specific failure to draw ballet well will condemn the story in the eyes of those who can spot that, as Mistyfan commented on a previous post.
Art style. The style of the artist needs to be matched to the story requirements. A light-hearted comedy story typically uses a more exaggerated style, and a sentimental or sad story might need something more restrained.
This might be an editorial decision in commissioning the right artist for the job, but it might also involve the artist deciding to use a variation on their usual style. Mario Capaldi and Jim Baikie are examples of artists who had humorous and serious styles that can be readily distinguished not because they look radically different but by the exaggeration of the character’s actions and expressions.
Stronger: This was generally a close match in any case. In other titles you could cite the use of John Armstrong to illustrate gymnastics in the Bella stories; in Jinty a close parallel would be the usage of Mario Capaldi for any sports story – for instance his superb depiction of the dramatic moments and of the swimming action in “Cursed To Be A Coward!“
Weaker: I think I would choose the selection of Trini Tinturé in “Prisoners of Paradise Island”. Trini is an excellent artist for showing scheming and plotting elegant ‘bad girls’ rather than hockey-playing schoolgirls. Similarly, José Casanovas in “The Darkening Journey” is always a slight mis-match for me as his animal characters are beautifully drawn but a tad too intrinsically cheeky-looking for such a sad and dramatic story. Finally, although I like Keith Robson’s art on “The Goose Girl” a lot, the Dutch publishers of Tina clearly felt that they wanted an art style that matched the continental expectations (such as a clear, clean line) as the same fundamental story was re-drawn in a Tina Topstrip.
Consistency of art. If the artist or the quality of the art changes visibly during the run of the storyline then this will be noticed by readers and is likely to have a negative impact on how well the story works overall.
If the artist is unwell or over-committed there might be a requirement for the editorial team to get another artist to fill in some or all of the remaining episodes of a story. Alternatively, another artist might perhaps collaborate to help finish the work in time (for instance by inking the original artist’s pencilled drawings). Presumably this might be an informal arrangement between artists if they were able to do this (for instance if they shared the same studio), but as there will have been people’s salaries at stake too I am assuming this was more likely to be an editorial decision to ensure that the story could be completed rather than abandoned.
Stronger: I am not aware of any examples where an inconsistency in the artwork actually benefitted the story (for instance if a mediocre artist was replaced by a better one). Even if the art changed for the better, the change itself would be jarring and intrusive. Ongoing humorous strips such as “The Jinx from St Jonah’s” did tend to have a few different artists working on it over the years and this was workable as there tended not to be a single story that would be badly affected by this change.
Weaker: This didn’t actually happen very often in Jinty‘s run. The obvious example is “Champion in Hiding” which started off with Mario Capaldi’s beautiful work and moved on to being drawn by Hugh Thornton-Jones, better known for his art on humour stories such as “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!”.
Character design. Making the characters in a story look and behave distinctively on the page is partly visual and partly about their dialogue and actions. Is the result a solid, convincing character or can you hardly tell them apart from other characters in girls’ comics? Worse, can you hardly even tell who’s who in the same story?
There is a lot of responsibility on the artist to bring a clear and distinctive visual identity to the character; at a minimum the inhabitants of the story should have different hairstyles, shapes, clothes that separate everyone out and make sure the reader is not confused. Ideally they should also have distinctive body shapes, body language and so forth too. The writer will have an impact too, in giving the protagonists an individual drive that will make them separate from others via distinctive dialogue and so forth.
Stronger: Jim Baikie was a very long-running Jinty artist, illustrating many continued stories and one-off Gypsy Roses. He certainly reused hairstyles (Fran of “Fran’ll Fix It!” shared a hairstyle with the protagonist of this Gypsy Rose story) but nevertheless each of his characters is visually distinctive in multiple ways – body shape, body language, freckles, and so on. No danger of mistaking his characters even when they do have some features in common.
Weaker: Comos’ schoolgirls across various stories illustrated by him have a bit too much similarity, I feel: I’d pick out the characters in “Destiny Brown” and the protagonists of “The Haunting of Form 2B” as being particularly visually similar.
Layout. There is a lot of thought that goes into getting an effective layout at the level of the individual panel and at the level of the whole page. Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Always Work gives an idea of the sort of panel layouts that a US mainstream comics artist might use to vary the visual interest on a page; the conventions and standards for British weekly comics may differ a bit but will share a lot of requirements for varying the focus in each panel. Page layouts likewise can be pedestrian or innovative, with varying sizes of panel within and artwork that breaks out of the constraints of the panel border.
Again much of the responsibility of this lies with the artist, but the editorial team may also have input – for instance there may be a general instruction that pages should use a layout based on a nine-panel grid or on a six-panel grid to allow for larger panels. Pat Mills talks interestingly about working with the artist to create a dymanic page layout and strong panel layouts too. I don’t think that writers in this kind of comic usually would script down to this level (though in US mainstream comics they often will) but of course Pat was also an editor.
Stronger: There are a lot of really good and interesting layouts in Jinty, Misty, and Tammy, perhaps more so than in other titles from the time. “Concrete Surfer” has some very dynamic and interesting layouts depicting the protagonist’s skateboarding tricks; “Land of No Tears” is slightly more conventional but often breaks the borders or uses irregular panels for a dramatic effect.
Weaker: no immediate examples come to mind.
Incidentals. I am using this to refer to little background details in the artwork or the story.
This could be down to ideas from artist or from writer. Perhaps the artist will particularly need to fill the background somehow and may therefore put in extra detail either humorous or nostalgic.
Stronger: For instance Jim Baikie includes little jokes in the background of “Fran’ll Fix It”: they may be joky signs or funny things happening behind the protagonist’s back. There may also be little touches of colour that the writer may also include; I have always remembered a bit of dialogue in “Merry at Misery House” where Merry says she’s “not as green as [she’s] cabbage-looking!’ This is not in fact anything invented by writer Terry Magee but it’s a nice touch of appropriate vernacular and always lived on in my memory.
Weaker: It would be possible for the background detail to be over-egged and too intrusive. I can’t think of an immediate example that comes to mind however.
Design / font / lettering. The lettering of the dialogue in Jinty and similar comics are all typed in a standardised font, without any big distinction between strong emotion and ordinary ones (there can be a slightly bolder effect used but with the low print quality on newsprint this is not very easy to distinguish). However, the logo for the story title itself is more distinctively rendered to match the story it heads up. There are also lettering elements in the artwork that can be done well or less well – shop-fronts, newspapers within the story, and so on. Unlike in other comics genres, sound effects (another possible element to be done well or less well) are not greatly used.
I assume the story logo would have been done in-house editorially but this would need confirmation; I could also imagine it as supplied by the artist. The lettering would certainly be done by someone other than the artist as we can see by the consistency of the font used.
Stronger: A number of the story logos have a fairly simple design just using a natty font, so anything more than this can be quite striking. I like the design of the “Fran of the Floods” logo, with plain lettering but the addition of rain and a pool of water.
Weaker: Sometimes the logo font has no obvious sympathy with the title and just seems to have been chosen because it hadn’t been used particularly recently. “The Four-Footed Friends” is an example; nothing wrong with the story logo, but it doesn’t add anything extra.
Format / edition / pagination. The Jinty stories were only reprinted by British publishers in annuals rather than in albums collecting the whole story together, but of course translated editions did exist that brought the whole of a story under the same covers. This could potentially mean that a story either feels stronger in reading it as a cohesive whole, or perhaps that weaknesses of pacing are more clearly felt and so the whole story works less well when read as a single edition. Alternatively, a story may even be entirely too long for some formats. Finally, the format also includes the page size and other publishing decisions – how many pages will be in that week’s issue? Which pages will be printed on the double-page spread at the centre, or on the front or back where you can only see a single page at a time? These decisions are all very specific to the individual printing of a story and don’t necessarily impact how a story reads over its lifetime over more than one printing.
These format decisions are all editorial and would be unlikely to be down to anything decided by artist or writer (though a popular artist or writer could be ‘rewarded’ by being given a plum location in the weekly edition of a title, of course). I would assume that in these cases, the writer and artist will not typically have known in advance whether their story was to be printed on a double-page spread or on the right-hand page (meaning that the reader needed to turn over to reveal the next page) and would not have specifically tailored the story as a result. (In other kinds of comics publications this kind of fine-tuning is possible and even normal.)
Stronger/ weaker: I have not got good examples of stories that could make a stronger or weaker impact depending on the editorial choices of edition and pagination, but perhaps a reader of one of the translated albums may have views based on that experience.
Alice in a Strange Land – first episode (artist Terry Aspin)
She Shall Have Music (artist Ron Smith)
Be My Valentine (quiz)
Fran’ll Fix It! (artist Jim Baikie)
I’ll Make Up for Mary (artist Guy Peeters)
The Valentine issue for 1979 has a Valentine quiz and the craft section tells you how to make a heart pendant. Henrietta and Sue are apparently not celebrating Valentines Day because Henrietta has a cold but does not like the medicine Sue offers. She prefers her own, thank you very much.
In this issue, two Terry Aspin stories overlap (rather than Phil Gascoine stories). It is the last episode of “The Girl Who Never Was”. Tina arrives back in her own world, and is surprised to find that her experience in the magic world was apparently a dream she had while she was comatose. But she is told she has one spell left, so she uses it to make everyone like her now that she wants to be liked and be likeable. “Children of Edenford” takes its place next week. Elsewhere in the issue, Aspin starts on the first episode of one of his best-remembered Jinty stories, “Alice in a Strange Land”. It is a story of Alice Jones, who is not taken seriously because she has no confidence in herself and is considered a wet blanket. And the put-downs from her aunt and uncle don’t help. So it’s a surprise when she is chosen for the same trip to America as her bolder cousin Karen. But we know things are going to change for Alice, and it all starts when the plane crashes in South America.
Fran is elected fire officer and her brain is bursting with ideas on how to improve fire safety – and that means even more danger than fire. Bully Beryl is still interfering with Ann’s attempts to make up for Mary, and this causes things to go dangerously wrong at a children’s playground. Lisa’s drive to have music causes her mother to collapse. Is this the wake-up call for how selfish she is about pianos? The Prisoner of the Bell gets a call from Gran in the dead of night to come and learn the vocabulary for her French test the next day. But neither of them realise that Lorraine has followed and become suspicious. The French teacher is astounded at Susie getting 100% on the test, but the PE teacher is less happy when Susie suddenly says that gymnastics are bad and she will not waste time on them. Another ‘lesson’ Gran drilled into her that night. And we are warned that this will have dangerous consequences for Susie next week.
It’s Jinty’s Easter issue for 1979, but the only thing that celebrates Easter is the cover. Inside, it is business as usual. Even Alley Cat is up to his war against Spotty Muchloot instead of fossicking an Easter treat, and the craft-and-make on the cover is to make a mobile rather than something for Easter.
Meanwhile, “Alice in a Strange Land” goes in search of Chana in a deserted city, and is shocked to find her suddenly turned into an old woman! In “The Forbidden Garden“, grotty Gladvis discovers a victim fit for blackmailing in Laika. Laika is to be blackmailed into gruelling work at Gladvis’s uncle’s food-processing plant in the industrial zone. The industrial zone is infamous for giving its workers all the “awful jobs”, and it is here that Laika and the reader get a taste of it first hand. So we get an idea of what Laika’s father will go through at work when the family is transferred to the industrial zone later in the story.
In “Prisoner of the Bell“, Susie loses Lorraine, her only protection against her gran at Harford Manor. Lorraine is forced to take the blame to prevent Susie from being expelled after Gran’s dirty trick. Susie begins to pick up, but soon Gran and her bell strike again.
In “I’ll Make Up For Mary”, Ann tries acting to make up for Mary, but stage fright ruins everything and it’s another failure. Pity Ann doesn’t have a magic companion as Sally Carter does in “Daughter of Dreams” to pep her up when shyness takes over.
A photograph of the slums the common people come from does shock Mrs Marshall, but not enough to stop her campaign against them and “The Four-Footed Friends“. The heat is on with Josie’s counter-campaign. Then Winston gets sick and Mrs Marshall blames Riley.
Patti has succumbed to the power that turns “Children of Edenford” into goody-goodies. But then she discovers its weakness – shedding tears breaks the power. Now she has a secret weapon.