Tag Archives: Alison Christie

The Button Box [1982-84]

Sample Images

Button Box 1Button Box 2Button Box 3Button Box 4

Tammy: 20 November 1982 – 16 June 1984

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Main Writer: Alison Christie

Sub-writers: Ian Mennell and Linda Stephenson

The button box is a Jackson family heirloom, and every single button in the box has a story behind it. When Beverley Jackson becomes confined to a wheelchair after a road accident, Gran gives her the box so Bev can use the stories to occupy her mind and cheer herself up whenever she is feeling down. Bev knows all the stories by heart (she must have a photographic memory or something) and every week she dips into the box for a story to tell. The stories have accumulated not only over the years, but the centuries as well – and they are still growing as Bev makes her own additions from her assorted holidays, friends, teachers, penpals, and even celebrities. Some new additions are being made even as an episode unfolds. In these cases the narrator is the donor, who is telling Bev the story before donating the button to the box.

The buttons come from all walks of life, social classes and cultures across the world and centuries. Therefore the buttons can be used as vehicles to explore a multitude stories that are set in a whole variety of backgrounds, cultures and eras. Since people of both sexes and all ages use buttons, readers get a multitude of different types of people starring in a Button story, including soldiers, beggars, teachers, celebrities, performers, lovers and even a boy or two. The buttons are also educational. For example, readers get snippets of information about the history of buttons and the things people used to do with them. Among them are the game of “touch buttons”, from the bygone days when kids played with everyday items, and charm-string buttons, which were popular with American ladies in the 19th century. The person to add the last button to the string and finish it was the husband-to-be.

A number of the buttons are directly linked to Bev’s family history. The Black Glass button tells the story of how her grandfather and grandmother met; the Black Op-Art button does the same for Bev’s parents. If Bev gets married, no doubt there will be yet another button to tell that tale. The very first button story, that of the Broken Pink Button, tells readers that Bev’s gran wanted a sewing kit for her sixth birthday but her mother said she is too young for it. Gran proved otherwise by sewing the pink button on her cardigan. Sure enough, she got the sewing kit for her birthday. During her birthday party the button got broken, but grandmother keeps it as a “precious memory”.

The buttons tell stories to entertain, educate, inspire or chastise, but nearly always they have a moral of some kind. For example, many buttons tell rags-to-riches stories, such as the Coin Button and Imitation Jewel Button. In these cases their owners kept the buttons to remind them of their origins and keep their feet on the ground. Pity coachman Billy Lowe of the Coachman’s Button tale didn’t do that. Lowe marries into the nobility and becomes so arrogant he turns into a monster. Then, when he is given a coachman’s button (a shopping muddle) it reminds him of his coachman origins and thereafter he wears the button inside his sleeve to keep reminding himself. Bev’s friend, Prue Holt, who has overheard the story and realised she let her own good fortune go to her head, starts doing the same.

Even when a button starts as a mere novelty item it ends up teaching the very message it exhibited as a novelty. One is the Liar Button, which is inscribed with the words, “YOU LIAR”. It is a novelty button but it was actually used to punish a girl who told lies to impress her friends. The T Button is simply a button inscribed with a letter “T”, but it became attached to a story featuring “T’s”. Tara is nicknamed “The Tomorrow Girl” because she is an habitual procrastinator. Then Tara gets a shock when she thinks she has put off one thing too many and become indirectly responsible an accident. Fortunately it turns out to be a false alarm, but Tara resolves to become “Tara the Today Girl”.

Bev is only too happy to give buttons away to people who need them. The Walnut Button which Bev gave to a newcomer named Tara is unusual because the button came into her collection with no known story to tell, but left her collection with one: “The Cracking of Tough Nut Tara”. Tara is so affected by grief that she freezes up and refuses all offers of friendship to avoid further hurt. On her birthday, when the only presents she has received are from her parents, the tough nut finally cracks, realising that she has only made herself even more miserable. Bev takes pity on Tara and gives her a special birthday card with the walnut button sewn on to make a point about what a tough nut she has been. One can just see Tara showing the walnut button to another girl who is rejecting friendship and telling its story to her.

Other buttons tell stories of inspiration, courage, and even equal rights. The motto of the Ladybird Button is “never give up”. The Dog’s Nose Button is an instruction in overcoming stage fright, which Bev uses to buck her mother up when she is nervous about giving a speech. Southpaws will cheer the story of the Daisy Button. In the 1920s, Lena Brown loves sewing but hates her school sewing lessons because the teacher keeps forcing her to sew right-handed although doing so makes her sewing suffer. The teacher is silenced when Lena wins a prize for sewing a blouse left-handed after breaking her right arm.

There are heaps of buttons that warn against judging on appearances. The Volcano Button tells us not to underestimate people who seem shy. The Rusty Raincoat Button and Snake Button warn against intolerance and not being hasty to judge people just because they seem different.

On a related theme, some button stories leave you thinking about something in a different light. The Warden’s Button reminds us that traffic wardens are human beings just like us; they just do an unpopular job. If you think Girl Guides are stuffy and uncool, the Guide Button will have you thinking again; its story relates how a lost dog was reunited with its owner thanks to guide training.

Button stories about kindness and generosity being returned manifold are one of the most popular themes in the strip. For example, the story about Austrian “Tinies” Buttons is about a selfish girl who learns to share her toys when she sees what a poor girl has for a toy – a lump of wood done up as a doll. And if you think you are not talented at anything, the story of the Imitation Jewel Button teaches you that if you are kind, you have the greatest talent of all.

The Acorn Button and Ivory Buttons teach environmental messages, and you could say the Barrel Button has a message about recycling. When a friend is about to throw an old barrel on a bonfire, deeming it useless, Bev stops her with the barrel button story to demonstrate how useful a barrel can be. In the story, a water barrel helps save the day when an American pioneering family is hit by rustlers. The barrel gives its name to the frontier town that springs up soon afterwards.

Even when the button story conveys no explicit moral, one can still be implicit. For example, Bev tells the story of the Eye Button to entertain a child, but we can hear a moral in the story: think outside the box. Nina’s dream of becoming a nurse is shattered because she does not meet the physical requirements. Nina’s parents advise her to set her mind on something else, but she cannot. Then, when Nina uses an ‘eye’ button to mend a toy, an astute neighbour spots the solution. Through her, Nina does become a nurse – at the dolls’ hospital. The Eye Button is one of the button stories on how some of the buttons got people launched on new jobs and careers.

One of the more amusing button stories is the Mattress Button, and its story of how greed (and not caring for your relatives) brought its own punishment. A grasping couple are waiting for their uncle to die so they can seize the fortune he has stashed somewhere. What they don’t know is that the money is hidden in his bedroll – which they have just thrown into a bonfire!

Not all the button stories come from Bev’s collection. She collects button stories during visits, holidays and public exhibitions. A golf club exhibits buttons that were specially made to promote equal rights for women golfers. A priceless dress decorated with pearl buttons is being auctioned and the pearl buttons carry another rags-to-riches story. The Button Church gets its name from three silver buttons given by a poor girl because they were all she had to give. The buttons become an inspiration for the vicar when the church is bombed during the war and has to be rebuilt. The three silver buttons are set in the wall of the church, reinforcing Christ’s message of giving all you have.

Since we have a disabled girl as the star of the show, it is not surprising that a number of the buttons tell stories about the disabled. One example is the Star-Shaped Button. When Emma Drake goes blind she spends a whole year brooding, calling herself a “useless cabbage,” refusing to help herself and spurning her parents’ every attempt to buck her up. Finally, Emma changes her mind when her enhanced sense of feel leads the police to the robber who burgled the house. Bev gives the star button to her friend Alison to give her confidence in starting blind school.

Perhaps the best button story of all is the Salvation Army Button, which is reproduced above. This story even prompted a letter to Tammy. The button’s appearance is dull, but Bev considers it her brightest button because the Salvation Army brightens lives, as it did for Milly Hawkins, the daughter of a Victorian beggar-woman. After being orphaned, raised in a cruel orphanage, turned out to learn her own living and finally driven to the brink of suicide, everything turns around when a retired Salvation Army officer gives Milly her jacket. Naturally, Milly joins the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army Button may have brightened lives, but there are buttons in Bev’s collection that have actually saved lives. For example, the Soldier’s Button is about a World War I soldier who is dying from his injuries. His buttons save his life: they reflect moonlight and get him spotted by friendly locals. The Horn Buttons (made from the hooves of cattle) save the life of a tearaway boy who has got himself into one scrape too many: he is dangling by his braces and could plunge to his death unless those horn buttons live up to their promise.

The only thing missing from the button collection is the supernatural. However, Alison Christie said in an interview that she intended the strip to end with Bev regaining the use of her legs while reaching for a button, implying that there was something supernatural about the buttons all along. If this ending had been used, it would most likely have been in Tammy’s final issue before her merge into Girl. However, it never happened due to Tammy’s sudden disappearance after 23 June 1984 from a strike. The last published Button Box story appeared 16 June 1984 and was a regular story. No Button Box story appears in the last published issue of Tammy.

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Tammy and Princess 28 April 1984

Tammy 28 April 1984

Cover artist: Maria Barrera

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Cassie’s Coach (artist Tony Coleman, writer Alison Christie)
  • Open an Easter Egg! (writer Maureen Spurgeon) – quiz
  • The Horse Finders – A Pony Tale
  • Day and Knight (artist Juliana Buch) – final episode
  • Easter Parade – feature
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, main writer Alison Christie)
  • Easter Fun Spot – Easter jokes
  • Rusty, Remember Me (artist Eduardo Feito) – final episode
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Picture Yourself! – feature

 

We finish off our spread of Tammy Easter issues with the very last Tammy Easter issue in 1984. Easter is celebrated here with Easter features, an Easter quiz, Easter jokes, and a beautiful spring cover drawn by Maria Barrera.

It is four weeks into the Tammy and Princess merger, and two of the stories that came over from Princess end this week. In “Day and Knight”, Sharon now realises the only way to make her heartbroken father happy is to allow her bully stepsister Carrie a second chance. However, her wounds from all that bullying are making it very hard for her to do so, and she does not understand that her bully stepsister is now genuinely sorry. So it’s a real dilemma. Meanwhile, helping Rusty to get his leg fit again is what finally gets Donna to stop depending on her leg brace and work on improving that leg with exercise.

“Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, which Princess reprinted from Jinty, carries on, as Stefa has still not learned that a heart of stone is not the answer. Ruth, who now realises Stefa’s game, has the girls rally around for a “Melt Stefa” campaign to soften that stony heart. But so far all this gets is rude rebuffs from Stefa. Next week is Stefa’s birthday. Will this make things any different?

Bella has persuaded Benjie to join the sports acrobatics group as her partner. Pity the instructress is so unfriendly to Bella because she is a former gymnastics champion. An encouraging coach would really help the partnership to flourish more.

“Cassie’s Coach” reaches its penultimate episode, and it’s a tear-jerking plot development. Mr Ironside has been such a father figure to the Lord children ever since their mother was wrongly imprisoned. There is so much they could not have done without him – like find the old coach that became their home. But this week they lose him because he has to give up his business (can’t afford to replace his horse) and go work at his cousin’s farm. Can the Lord children survive without him?

“The Horse Finders” are commissioned to find 60 of the near-extinct black Zarah horse breed. They find 50 readily enough, but the final 10 are proving elusive, and time is running out. And time has just about run out when they are one short. But the 60th appears in a most surprise manner.

In this week’s Button Box story, Bev hears a church button story that is instructive in the evolution of hassocks. They started out as tufts of grass for poorer parishioners to kneel on. Unfortunately tufts of grass also made a mess on the church floor. So they became the more practical, decorative and non-messy cushions.

A Pond Hill girl, Catherine Bone, is being terrorised by a secret society known as “The Group” because she had been such a sneak. While Pam is appalled at what “The Group” is doing, others are unsympathetic and say it’s Catherine’s just desserts for sneaking. Di is one of them – but then Catherine turns up on the doorstep, dripping with paint that “The Group” threw all over her. What do you say to that, Di?

Tammy 9 April 1983

Tammy 9 April 1983

Cover artist: Santiago Hernandez

  • The Secret of Angel Smith (artist Juliana Buch, writer Jay Over)
  • It’s a Dog’s Life (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, (sub)writer Ian Mennell)
  • Spring into Summer! (artist Joe Collins, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Tom Newland)
  • Princess and the Bear (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Chris Harris)
  • Pair Up for ‘Champions All’! – gymnastics freebie
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • ET Estate (artist Guy Peeters, writer Jake Adams)
  • Take-Away Fashion for Spring – feature

 

Tammy’s spring issue for 1983 immediately follows her Easter issue. It merits inclusion in our spread of Tammy Easter issues because of its colourful cheery cover, which is a very Easter-like cover with those cute little chicks and field full of daisies. It looks like one of the chicks is about to find out that bees are not for eating, though! Tammy also has a spring quiz. When she ran credits, we learnt it was Maureen Spurgeon who wrote the quizzes. She might have written Jinty’s quizzes too.

“It’s a Dog’s Life” and “E.T. Estate” are on their penultimate episodes. When Rowan runs away from the bullying with Riley, she finds the refuge she was aiming for is no longer available, and there’s nowhere else to go. Of course it is not long before the police catch up. It looks like back to the bullying for Riley and Rowan – or maybe not, as the final episode is next week. Meanwhile, other policemen are called in to investigate the goings-on at ET Estate, but the aliens quickly get rid of them with their hypnotic powers. Jenny and Dora are still tied up. Can nothing stop the aliens’ pod from reaching maturity? If it does, it will spell doom for all life on Earth, including the human race.

Abby, getting nowhere with her father over what she knows about “The Secret of Angel Smith” because he’s been led to believe it’s jealousy, decides to play Angel at her own game and act ruthless to get what she wants. Her plan is to force Dad to watch her on the trapeze and let her into the act – but then the trapeze snaps and Abby looks badly injured from the fall! Could Dad’s fears about losing Abby the way he lost his wife (from a trapeze fall) be prophetic after all?

This week’s Button Box tale is a sad, cautionary tale about seeking revenge without getting your facts straight first. So many revenge-seekers in girls’ comics have found out they had persecuted innocent people because they had misjudged them (or had been misled about them). And the girl in the tale (Ann Freeman) suffers for her error far more than they do. She has spent a whole year in shame, tears and guilt, and too ashamed to even write to the girl – her best friend – whom she had hurt so badly in her mistaken revenge. But it doesn’t sound like she has owned up or apologised to her friend, which is the first true step in the healing.

Bella discovers her Uncle Jed’s trick over the gym he had her believe he was renting for her when the gym owner finds her and kicks her out. (Oh, come on, Bella, you really should know have known better!) Sure enough, it was another of Jed’s schemes to make money out of Bella. Now there is a new mystery over the woman who owns the gym – she wears a mask. Bella is drawn back to her, and discovers the mysterious masked lady is a brilliant gymnast.

Nanny is still having problems over Barbara, who is jealous over her new baby brother because it seems that he’s stealing all attention from her. At least Nanny now fully understands the problem.

This week’s complete story is a cautionary tale about showing consideration to both animals and people. The officers of the Second Hussars do not heed Princess Elena’s advice to treat their soldiers considerately, as she does with the mascot bear that they mistreat. The soldiers mutiny in protest of their treatment, and when they take Elena prisoner, the bear repays her kindness by helping her escape.

In the new Pond Hill story, Goofy enters a film competition that requires a short documentary about your school. A film about Pond Hill? Now that sounds even more dramatic and problematic than a soap opera! Yep, it sure is. Goofy finds that even the stern Mr Gold goes gaga when he is in front of the camera!

Tammy 2 April 1983

Tammy 2 April 1983

Cover artist: Santiago Hernandez

  • The Secret of Angel Smith (artist Juliana Buch, writer Jay Over)
  • It’s a Dog’s Life (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Alison Christie)
  • Strawberry Delight! Competition
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Tom Newland)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Thief by Night (artist Eduardo Feito) – complete story
  • Easter Bonnets – feature
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • ET Estate (artist Guy Peeters, writer Jake Adams)

The cover of this Tammy Easter issue has always had me craving for a yummy Easter egg.

But anyway, Wee Sue, Bessie Bunter and even the Storyteller have been dropped by this stage, so how does the issue commemorate Easter? There is a feature on how to make an Easter bonnet, Easter jokes, and Easter hijinks with the Crayzees. Miss T tries a spell to enlarge Easter eggs and thinks she’s succeeded, but finds that what she has really done is shrink herself and Edie so the Easter eggs just look big to them. And when she tries to reverse a spell, she ends up turning herself and Edie into giants, so now the eggs look like mini eggs to them.

You’d think there would be an Easter tale somewhere in “The Button Box”. Instead, it’s shades of “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” with the tale of “ ‘Tough Nut’ Tara”. New girl Tara is a hard case who snubs all offers of friendship. But when it’s her birthday she gives in. She admits to Bev that, like Stefa, she reacted badly to grief and tried to harden her heart so she would not be hurt that way again, but now she realises her mistake. Thank goodness tough nut Tara was not as hard to crack as Stefa!

The complete story slot could have been used for an Easter story. Instead, it’s a reprint of a Strange Story. By this time Tammy was running reprints of Strange Stories, but the Storyteller has been replaced with text boxes.

In the serials, Abby Fox can’t help but be jealous of Angel Smith, the girl who wants to enter the family’s trapeze act while Abby is excluded because Dad does not want to lose her the way he lost her mother. Now Abby suspects “The Secret of Angel Smith”, whatever that is, and Stalky the clown could help her there. But Stalky has oddly clammed up and Abby thinks it’s because the circus boss has been at him over it.

In “It’s a Dog’s Life”, Rowan Small is bullied in the children’s home, and the bullying she gets shares some parallels with the ill-treatment Riley the dog gets next door. Both Riley and Rowan have been making progress in striking back at their abusers, but this week the bullies bring in reinforcements, which trebles the bullying for both of them. Rowan decides it’s time to run away – with Riley in tow, of course.

Bella is so badly out of training that she has to go through the basic tests to get back into gymnastics. It’s a bit of a come-down for an ex-champion like her, but at least she gets through. But Bella should have known better than to believe her devious Uncle Jed would have genuinely been hiring the private gym he found for her. And in the final panel it looks like she is about to find out the hard way…

Nanny Young is in charge of a baby this time, and there are suspicious signs that his older sister Barbara is jealous of him. Nanny tries to reach out to Barbara while looking for the solution, but so far it’s evasive.

The current Pam of Pond Hill story concludes this week. Fortune-seekers have been out to steal Goofy’s inheritance from his great-aunt, which they believe is hidden in the doll’s house that was bequeathed to him. They tear the doll’s house to pieces to find it and leave in haste when they turn up empty. It turns out they didn’t look hard enough.

In “ET Estate”, the alien invaders finally catch up with Jenny and Dora. They hold them prisoner while explaining the next stage of their plan – which will make all life (humans included) on Earth extinct, just to keep them fed!

 

Princess II, #26, 17 March 1984

Princess cover 26

  • The Secret Swimmer (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • The Dream House (artist Mike White)
  • Rusty, Remember Me (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Day and Knight (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Are You a Teacher’s Pet? (quiz)
  • Flight from the Romanys (artist Maria Dembilio)
  • Fun Fair – puzzles
  • Horse from the Sea (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • The Haunted Station (artist Julio Bosch)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)

 

The merge into Tammy is in three weeks, so how does this issue contribute towards the merger? “The Dream House” has a double episode, it looks like “Flight from the Romanys” is getting close to finishing, but “The Secret Swimmer”, “The Haunted Station”, “Rusty, Remember Me” and “Day and Knight” are on their second episodes. And anyone familiar with the original run of “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” knows it still has a long way to go.

Liza now becomes “The Secret Swimmer” and secretly training for the event Nikki is now out of, because she feels it is the only way to get the girls to talk to her again after wrongly blaming her for Nikki’s accident. But getting up at early hours for training and pushing herself too much are beginning to take their toll.

Mr Day is pushing headlong into his new marriage with Carrie Knight’s mother, despite protests from his daughter Sharon that Carrie is bullying her. Dad is not listening and Carrie is very good at pulling the wool over his eyes. And now Carrie is causing another heartbreak for Sharon – she has to rehome her beloved cat Monk because of Carrie’s asthma.

In “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, Dad’s job is on the line because of Stefa’s tricks to dodge Ruth, Joy’s look-alike at school. Stefa gets no sleep because her heart of stone is struggling against her guilty conscience. But conscience does not win, and neither does common sense. By the final panel it looks like Stefa will indeed get Dad sacked because of her wanting to avoid Ruth.

Donna Jones needs a vet for the injured fox cub, now named Rusty, but money is a problem. And there is another problem – animals aren’t allowed in their flat, and the caretaker is not the sort who would understand the situation.

Jan Dale is becoming more convinced that the doll’s house is evil and taking away the elder members of the family she is working for. Now Diana, the eldest daughter, has disappeared like the parents, but the two youngest kids seem to be helping it.

Lydia Parks, who has only just escaped from the gypsies who kidnapped her, now has to escape from a workhouse. She finally does, but it’s now more urgent than ever to get home, because her sick friend at the workhouse badly needs help.

In “Horse from the Sea”, Janice and Tracey Penrose discover a rift in the Penrose family that stems from when Charles Penrose blamed his father for a mining accident because the old miser was cutting corners at the expense of safety. It would not be surprising if Janice’s stepfather was descended from the old meanie, because it looks like he’s deliberately keeping Janice an invalid so she won’t inherit, and committing other fraud too.

“The Haunted Station” is more like a time travel device. It has already sent Linda Brent and Wendy Smith to the 1930s, where they get entangled with a frightened girl who is being chased by someone. Now it looks like it’s about to send them back to the 1930s again.

Princess Bee wants to go riding – and so does Grovel. He ends up regretting it because Princess Bee uses him for her mount after he messes things up (below).

Sadie in waiting riding
Horse hijinks, “Sadie in Waiting”, Princess II, 17 March 1984

Princess II, #21, 11 February 1984

Princess 21 cover

  • School of Dark Secrets (artist Carlos Cruz) – final episode
  • Laura in the Lyon’s Den (artist Bob Harvey)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • The Runaway Clown (artist José Canovas?)
  • How Mean Are You? – Quiz
  • Horse from the Sea… (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • Princess Pet Book part 3
  • Rowena of the Doves (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Sheena and the Treetoppers (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • The Saddest Dog in Town (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • Fun Fair (puzzles)

This is Princess II’s one and only Valentine issue. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which gives it topical flavour. Only Sadie in Waiting actually commemorates Valentine’s Day (below), and we get a hint that Grovel has a softer side, though of course he won’t admit it.

“School of Dark Secrets” reveals its secret. The staff are descended from the Witches of Barnham. All they need to complete the coven and receive the powers of the original witches is Judy, the descendant of Alvira, the 13th witch in the portrait. Too bad for the witches they failed to spot the clue that the portrait of Alvira had been painted over with that of Judy’s great-great-grandmother, so they grabbed the wrong descendant. Now did someone paint the portrait over to fool the witches or because they couldn’t stand the sight of Alvira’s ugly mug? At any rate, the school is closed down and then reopened with more wholesome staff.

Laura is way too much for Mrs Lyon this week – she actually throws a huge, creamy cake in the woman’s face! She’s still serving in the restaurant though.

Stefa starts on the path to turn her heart into stone to avoid feeling grief again. Everyone is upset by the change in her but don’t realise why. The doctor advises a complete change. A fat lot of good that’s going to do.

Princess, the elephant performer, is so jealous of “The Runaway Clown” that she sets a tiger on her. This backfires big time on Princess, and it looks like it’s about to lead to the Big Top going up in flames as well.

The Treetoppers fend off an escaped lion, but their treehouse is still facing the bulldozers. Then Sheena has a brainwave – but what is it?

The origin of the “Horse from the Sea” is revealed this week. Legend says a Penrose married the daughter of the King of the Sea, and she came up from the sea on the horse. Ever since then the horse has appeared whenever the heir of Penrose is in danger, which apparently is what is happening now.

Rowena’s father, King Guthlac, has sent her to summon her three brothers to his aid. One brother has already refused, as has the second this week, because he’s in the power of a vampire. It’s all down to the third now.

In “The Saddest Dog in Town”, a clue emerges as to who the dog’s lost owner is. He is linked to Jess, a girl who wanted to learn ballet, but her parents couldn’t afford it. But where is Jess?

Sadie in Waiting Valentine

Jinty and Penny 7 March 1981

Jinty cover 7 March 1981

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Ghost Dancer (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Farah’s Three Wishes (artist Hugo D’Adderio) – Gypsy Rose story
  • Just the Job – feature with Leo Sayers and Rod Stewart – first episode
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Land of No Tears (artist Guy Peeters, writer Pat Mills)
  • No Medals for Marie (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alison Christie)
  • Winning Ways 47 (writer Benita Brown)
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)

This week’s sports cover has Mario Capaldi drawing gymnastics, a sport we seldom see him depicting in girls’ comics. “Just the Job” replaces “Behind the Screen” this week, and its job is to inform us what’s behind the world of pop music. Alley Cat takes the spot as the humour cartoon this time. Snoopa must have been on holiday.

The Gypsy Rose story is another recycled Strange Story, and it’s a morality tale in “be careful what you wish for”. A genie grants Persian girl Farah three wishes – but warns her to think carefully before making a wish because he can only grant exactly what she asks for. This means granting her wishes literally, as Farah finds out when she blows her first two wishes because she jumped the gun and did not heed the genie’s warning. Will she think carefully about the third wish and make it the right one? Or will she end up wasting three perfectly good wishes – and maybe have an even deeper regret than that?

Ferne’s plan to help Jolie get over her dancing block is to dress up in her mother’s Firebird costume and pass herself off as “The Ghost Dancer”, which the girls all think is haunting the school. The plan does help Jolie’s dancing – but then blabbermouth Jolie tells everyone, so now the ghost rumour is worse than ever.

In “Land of No Tears”, the Gamma girls beat the odds and make it through the preliminary rounds in the Golden Girl award. Unfortunately there’s now a lot of heat on them, especially as the authorities are astonished to find no record of Cassy in their computer (well, there wouldn’t be as she’s an unwitting time traveller from the 20th century!). The dreaded Hive Inspector is being called in, and Perfecta is on the trail of the Gamma girls’ secret trainer.

Miss Simon – after a taste of what asthmatic Paul goes through – agrees to Marie’s request to let her have Simon Hall a year earlier because Paul is deteriorating so badly. Even so, it’s still nine months off. Will Paul last the distance?

Pam’s still stuck on the school magazine and Miss Peeble tries to help, but not very successfully. Miss Larks is definitely not under arrest, but she is on leave, and it’s linked to what Pam thinks is a blackmailer. She spots someone in Miss Larks’ apartment who could be the miscreant and gets the gang organised to catch him.

Sir Roger answers a “ghost for hire” ad. Sounds reminiscent of the old “Rent-a-ghost” strip from Buster. Tansy tries all sorts of nutty tactics to avoid “Dismal Dee” – but she’s the one who ends up dismal, because it cost her the chance of a concert ticket to see her current favourite pop group.

As well as having to fend off the cheating Syreeta and Selena, who are out to cheat her out of a disco contest (Syreeta) and netball match (Selena), Nadine now has to choose between the two events. For the first time she shows team spirit and chooses netball over disco. Stuffy Betty has had a change of heart too, and she wants to help Nadine against the two cheats.

Jinty and Penny 28 February 1981

Jinty cover 28 February 1981

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Ghost Dancer (artist Phil Townsend)
  • The Golden Touch (artist Peter Wilkes) – Gypsy Rose story
  • Behind the Screen – Worzel Gummidge
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Land of No Tears (artist Guy Peeters, writer Pat Mills)
  • No Medals for Marie (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alison Christie)
  • Snoopa (artist Joe Collins)
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)

There is no “Winning Ways” this issue, but we have Snoopa back. The letter column reveals another covert male Jinty reader, and this time it’s a dad. Dad let his secret slip when he suddenly asked his daughter if Roz got rid of her guardian angel and she realised he was referring to “Her Guardian Angel”. He was a bit embarrassed to be caught out in having had a sneaky peek into his daughter’s Jintys.

In the stories, Pam is still struggling to get the school newspaper together while the headmaster is nagging her about its progress. Meanwhile, the mystery about what’s bothering Miss Larks really deepens when Pam and Trace overhear her saying on the phone that she could be in trouble for aiding and abetting – and then the police actually take her away! Good grief, could she actually be under arrest?

Jolie is actually calling upon the ghost of Ferne’s mother for help with her dancing. After realising what is wrong with Jolie’s dancing, Ferne hatches a plan to help her. However, it looks like it’s going to play on the rumour Ferne accidentally started that her mother’s ghost is haunting the school. Unwise move – even if the plan does help Jolie, it is certainly going to fuel the rumour even more.

Marie snaps at Miss Simon (about time!) when she assumes Miss Simon has sent her chauffeur to keep tabs on her and make sure she wins no medals. But then she discovers that she was mistaken and the chauffeur was there for a different reason. Has she blown her chance of Simon Hall for her sick brother?

Talk about fighting fire on two fronts! Nadine discovers there are two cheating sisters (Selena and Syreeta) out to nobble her at both a disco competition and a netball match. And they are succeeding in putting a lot of nasty bruises into her legs to make her unfit for both.

Things get off to a very bad start for the Gamma girls because of the hostile spectators booing at them – who are then taken by surprise when Cassy beats the Alpha girls at the swimming event. Then there’s a shock for Cassy when she’s disqualified – but why?

This week, Tansy and Simon are revealed to be so terrified of going to the dentist that Mum and Dad resort to underhand tactics to make sure the appointment is kept. The folks tell Tansy they want her help to get Simon to the dentist – but Simon seems to be under the impression that the folks want his help to get her there…

Sir Roger conjures a potion that makes Gaye invisible, but he’s the one who ends up needing invisibility when she discovers the trick he played on her – withholding the secret to making her visible again.

It’s another recycled Strange Story, from Ireland, for Gypsy Rose this week. Sheena Murphy and her grandmother are so badly hit by crop failure that they need a crock of gold from the leprechauns. Knowing the leprechauns, even getting that wish could have a lot of impish humour attached.

Jinty and Penny 21 February 1981

Jinty cover 21 Feb 1981

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • The Ghost Dancer (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Zebras of Zendobo (artist Peter Wilkes) – Gypsy Rose story
  • Behind the Screen – Peter Davidson
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Land of No Tears (artist Guy Peeters, writer Pat Mills)
  • No Medals for Marie (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alison Christie)
  • Winning Ways 46: Table Tennis – service (writer Benita Brown)
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)

I have the issues out, so here is a round of 1981 issues we have not yet covered.

In this issue, Peter Wilkes takes over from Ken Houghton as the Tansy of Jubilee Street artist. Wilkes is also the artist of this week’s Gypsy Rose story, so we get a double helping of Peter Wilkes art. In the former, a stray dog follows Tansy home and she has to find a home for it because Dad won’t allow dogs. But wouldn’t you know it – the same dog later follows Dad home and he decides to keep it! In the latter, grandfather’s sacrilege over shooting two sacred African zebras awakens when his granddaughter Billie opens his trunk and decides to use the zebra skins for her bed. Of course she does not get a peaceful night’s sleep for that and gets increasingly terrifying night visitations from the zebras, but she is reluctant to take advice that the skins are better off in a local exhibition on Africa. The story is one of the few 1981 Gypsy Rose stories that is an original and not a recycled reprint from Strange Stories.

In Pam of Pond Hill, something is on Miss Larks’ mind, and so much that her domestic science classes are turning to custard. Pam thinks Miss Larks is being blackmailed, but it remains to be seen if Pam’s right. Meanwhile, Pam is still having trouble getting the upcoming school newspaper together and clearly needs serious help.

In “Land of No Tears”, the Gamma girls begin to discover the full extent of the opposition towards them as they begin to compete for the Golden Girl Award. Their Alpha girls have been taunting them for days about it, but that’s nothing to what they get from the spectators, who boo and hiss at them on all sides. This does not bode well for their performance.

The rumours Ferne has unwittingly started about her mother haunting the school are really snowballing now. The girls are trying to contact the ghost by Ouija board and one pupil, Jolie, is calling upon the ghost for help because lack of confidence is affecting her dancing, which she tries to cover by goofing off in class.

This week, conceited Sir Roger meets his match in a bratty kid who’s a real horror and not at all scared of him. Readers will have to decide where their sympathies lie.

Marie decides to go against Miss Simon’s “no-medals” blackmail to some extent and come out on top in exams for her sick father’s sake. It is just the tonic he needs, but then Miss Simon’s blackmail indirectly puts Marie’s life in danger – for the second time in this story.

For the first time since Nadine’s story began so many episodes ago, she is up against a real enemy – Selena on a rival netball team who keeps trying to foul her, and doing it in crafty ways so the umpire doesn’t notice. And why is Selena so interested in Nadine entering the disco dancing competition? That has nothing to do with netball.

No Medals for Marie [1981]

Sample Images

Marie 1Marie 2Marie 3Marie 4

Published: Jinty 3 January 1981 to 21 March 1981

Episodes: 12

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: Girl Picture Library #17 as “Winner-Loser!”

Plot
Marie Smart has always been a brilliant girl who excels at everything and wins at everything she goes for. This is one bright spot in the lives of her parents, who don’t make much money at the jobs they have. Worse, they constantly worry about their son Paul, who is seriously ill with asthma, and the polluted industrial town they live in makes it progressively worse. Paul’s health is deteriorating so badly that they badly need to move to the countryside. The trouble is, the parents can’t afford it.

Marie wins a scholarship, and it means everything to her parents for her to fill her sideboard with medals and trophies; Dad is even working overtime and risking his own health because of it so he can afford Marie’s new school. Marie understands this and resolves to fulfil their wish to fill that sideboard with medals.

But then Marie’s godmother, Miss Simon, invites her to her country home. Dad has misgivings because Miss Simon is an “eccentric old bat” who might put “strange ideas” into Marie’s head. Mum persuades him otherwise, but it turns out his fears were more than justified. Miss Simon has never won any medals in her life, and her jealousy over it is so twisted that she resolves the person to inherit her hall won’t win any either. She wants Marie’s family to inherit the hall when Marie turns 16 – but on strict condition that Marie wins no medals in the interim. And not a word to her parents about it. Marie agrees to the perverse terms because this is the only way her sick brother can move to the countryside.

So Marie starts deliberately failing things that have a medal or trophy attached. Her family is disappointed to see the sideboard not filling up with medals, but Marie has been forced to agree not to tell them why. Sometimes Marie has to resort to lengths that get her into real trouble in order to avoid winning medals, including vandalism and embarrassing her family with a lousy performance at the school pantomime. Twice Marie’s life is even put in danger because of her deliberate failures at medals.

Soon there is another problem – it will be two years before Marie is 16, and Paul is getting so sick that he could die well before that time arrives. So Marie takes the plunge and asks Miss Simon if she can have the hall when she turns 15 instead. At first Miss Simon refuses because she doesn’t understand or care about the seriousness of Paul’s condition, dismissing it as “a tickle in his chest”. She changes her mind – somewhat – when a fire in her room gives her a taste of not being able to breathe, just as Paul can’t during his asthma attacks. She agrees to let Marie have the hall when she turns 15.

But Miss Simon’s new-found sympathy for Paul is not enough to turn her around. She does not let up on Marie either although Marie helped to save her from the fire. She remains jealous because she has no medals herself and still insists Marie win no medals. When she mistakenly thinks Marie has won one, she refuses to hand over the hall to her, regardless of how much Paul’s life depends on it. Fortunately Marie manages to convince Miss Simon that she jumped to the wrong conclusion there. The trouble is, it will be some months before Marie is 15, and time is fast running out for Paul; the parents now fear for his life.

Towards the end of the school year the Smarts organise a holiday that will get some country air into Paul. But then both the parents lose their jobs and can’t afford the holiday. So a cheaper holiday is organised at Simon Hall. But finally, Marie cannot help herself from winning a medal. When the jealous Miss Simon hears, she refuses to hand over the hall, calls off the holiday, and leaves Paul to slowly die in the smoky town.

The family manage to organise a car so they can at least get some country holiday. However, a breakdown drives the Smarts to Simon Hall, where Marie decides to confront the jealous old bag once and for all. To her surprise she finds Miss Simon has had a change of heart because she has finally won a medal and now realises how horrible she had been. So Miss Simon hands the hall immediately over to the Smarts, with a job to go with it for Mr Smart. The family are thrilled, as it is the answer to their prayer. The move from the air-polluted town to the countryside of Simon Hall soon has Paul’s health going from strength to strength and his asthma fades.

Miss Simon now goes from stopping Marie from winning medals to challenging her as to which of them can fill their sideboards with medals the fastest. No medals for guessing who is soon in the lead.

Thoughts

IPC girls’ titles delved into the blackmail theme far less often than the DCT titles, who used it so frequently. Jinty herself hardly ever used it, and this is one of the exceptions. Objects of blackmail have included jobs, incriminating diaries, and family reputations. The health or even the life of a loved one being held hostage has been used too.

However, Miss Simon is unusual in that she did not start using Paul’s ill-health as a blackmail ploy to begin with as most blackmailers in girls’ comics would have. In fact, it sounds like she did not even know about it until Marie pleads for the hall a year early because of Paul’s deteriorating condition. So at the beginning she hardly had any leverage to seriously get Marie to agree to her no-medal condition, and Marie would have most likely to tell her to sod off. So how she could have seriously believed she would get Marie to agree is difficult to understand and does create a plot weakness. Perhaps it’s that eccentricity Dad was on about. Eccentrics are not known for common sense.

Miss Simon is also unusual is that she is not lying about guaranteeing the saving of the sick relative in return for agreeing to the blackmail. This usually is the case as shown in DCT titles like “Meg and the Magic Robot” (Tracy) and “April Fool” (Mandy). The blackmailer leads the protagonist to believe that they will do their bit to save the sick relative in exchange for the protagonist agreeing to their demands, but eventually the protagonist finds out the blackmailer was lying and not doing anything of the sort. But this is not the case with Miss Simon. In fact, it’s not really her idea to hold Paul’s life hostage in the first place.

This is one of the redeeming qualities about Miss Simon, who already comes across as a despicable character with her twisted jealousy and later, her callousness in leaving Paul to slowly die in the polluted town, just because Marie had won a medal. Her callousness is even more disgusting because she does understand and sympathise with his plight once she gets a taste of not being able to breathe, yet she is still willing to leave him to just slowly die if Marie wins a medal. We’re not really sure Miss Simon even deserves to win a medal because of her petty conduct, which not even eccentricity can excuse. All the same, Miss Simon winning a medal is the only way to make her see sense and resolve the story.

Miss Simon truly redeems herself in handing over the hall immediately once she stops being jealous over medals, instead of waiting until Marie is 15. No doubt it was prompted by guilt over the way she behaved and how she treated Paul (leaving him to his fate) who had, ironically, always liked her.

Marie Smart arouses our sympathies far more than a victim in a regular blackmail story usually does. For one thing, she is a sympathetic character from the start in that she has never let her brilliance go to her head and make her conceited like Tina Williams in “The Girl Who Never Was”. We really laud her for that, and for the way she puts her sick brother ahead of herself. Marie does not grieve over the failures she forces herself to do; instead her heart bleeds over how it is disappointing and even shaming her family. She knows how much it means to them, especially how Dad is working overtime to pay for her new school and expects medals in return. Dad going through a heart attack must be attributed to his overtime and his deep disappointment at no medals on Marie’s sideboard. Marie decides to at least come out top in mid-year exams to please him and inject him with encouragement to recover, and it’s a real tonic for him. But that’s all she can do; there are to be none of the medals he really wants because of Miss Simon.

Our hearts bleed for the parents as well. They are already under a lot of stress and worry because of Paul’s condition. The only remedy – move to a cleaner environment – is unaffordable for them and they watch in anguish as Paul’s health deteriorates in the polluted town. Marie winning medals is one of the few things to give them joy, but now they are deprived of that because of Miss Simon’s pettishness. Their constant disappointment compounds the anxiety they are already under, and it’s so unfair to them. Then they sink even lower in losing their jobs and Dad’s health not fully recovering from his heart attack.

And then final anguish – being denied the hall and watching Paul slowly die because of her medal, is the most heart breaking of all for Marie. Even the parents and Paul, who don’t know about the situation, are devastated at Miss Simon cancelling the holiday.

It’s no wonder that Jinty advertised this story as “nail-biting”. It is not one of Jinty’s most distinguished or memorable stories, but as with so many Alison Christie stories, emotion is still its strength.