Tag Archives: alternate reality

Jassy’s Wand of Power (1976)

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Jassy 1

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Jassy 2

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Jassy 3

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Jassy 4

Publication: 2 October 1976 – 13 November 1976

Artist: Keith Robson

Writer: Unknown

Plot

In an future world (possibly alternate reality) of the 1980s, Britain has been in drought for seven years. It has now reached the point where people are desperate, starving and psychologically reverting to more savage levels. Refugees flock to the cities in search of food; when such people arrive at Fountain-le-Green, they are beaten off by armed parish council men led by Mr Danby, who don’t want outsiders getting their food. Jassy Hurst is more kind and gives the starving people what food she can spare, but this does not make her popular with the hard townsfolk who say she is throwing away food on “trash”.

Then Jassy accidentally finds she has a gift for water dowsing, apparently inherited from her grandfather, and is soon finding her own water sources. But people get suspicious when they see how lush her garden is and Jassy tells Danby her secret. But this puts her in great danger, because psychic people have been the targets of witch-hunting martial law state persecution ever since a man with second sight prophesied that there would be no rain for many years.

Danby and his council blackmail Jassy into finding water for them. Unknown to her, they are also extorting payments from people in exchange for her services and making a profit. When Jassy finds out, she runs off and finds a power plant run by Sir Harmer Jeffreys. Sir Harmer takes her prisoner. He has heard stories of what Danby has been up to with Jassy and soon realises who she is. He explains that the drought is crippling his power plant and wants Jassy to find water for him. He assures Jassy that he will share whatever water she finds with the villagers and not take it all for himself. But his word is doubtful as he looks a real villain.

Sure enough, Sir Harmer is soon exploiting Jassy’s water dowsing powers as much as Danby did. It takes the form of a false religion, with Jassy blackmailed into being set up as a water goddess who can work miracles. Worse, it practises human sacrifice, with a blind boy named Mark being used as the sacrifice.

Jassy does not realise the real reason for the sacrifice: Mark has his own psychic powers that threaten Sir Harmer. While bouncing a ball he sings:

“Bouncing high, bouncing low, I’m the only one to know. Never, never shall it rain while the power plant shall remain.”

Jassy beats Sir Harmer at his own game by feigning the divine will of the goddess that Mark become a servant to her priestess. Sir Harmer is forced to agree to having Mark at the posh apartments he has set up for Jassy. But he is worried as he would be in serious trouble if people catch on to what Mark was singing.

Mark’s ball has been confiscated and he can only sing his psychic songs when he has the ball. It is found and Mark sings his song again. Jassy realises what it means – the chemicals from the new process at Sir Harmer’s plant are causing the drought. They must escape and warn the government. They do so by distracting the guards with a fire and with the guidance of Mark’s powers.

They are taken in by a kindly couple, Mr and Mrs Blake who know all about how villainous Sir Harmer is. They say he is also one of the richest men in England who will be building more of his power stations across the world – which will mean a world-wide drought. Jassy  tells them that Sir Harmer’s plant is causing the drought and what they are trying to do. Jassy also decides to track down other dowsers in hiding and rally them into a force for the government to take notice of, and this is soon getting results. But of course Sir Harmer is trying to hunt them down.

Soon the children experience another danger – a wandering lion. But it turns out the lion belongs to one Lord Merrow, who used to have a safari park before the drought. Lord Merrow takes them in. Upon hearing their story, he uses what petrol he has to get them on their way, and then faces up to Sir Harmer’s men who are in hot pursuit. They end up shooting Lord Merrow and his lion.

The children are captured by a bounty hunter who is after Sir Harmer’s reward. A policeman spots them and tries to stop what looks like an attempted kidnapping. But upon hearing the children have psychic powers, the policeman has the children brought to the Tower of London where other psychics are imprisoned. The bounty hunter informs Sir Harmer that the children have been taken care of.

Jassy continuously makes warnings that Sir Harmer’s plant is causing the drought, and people begin to take notice. Sir Harmer hears of this and orders that the children be brought to him. But the rumours about Jassy and the plant have spread far enough for an angry mob to attack Downing Street, demanding water and that the Prime Minister release the children. The Prime Minister agrees to Jassy being brought to him.

In the Tower, Mark sings another song that hints that courage will win through. So when the guards come, Jassy insists that Mark come too. When they arrive, Sir Harmer tries to shoot Jassy while she tries to tell the mob outside the truth. Mark stops Sir Harmer and he is taken into custody. Jassy tells the crowd that she has found water dowsers all over the country who can help them find water, including the people imprisoned in the Tower. The Prime Minister has the psychics released from the Tower and shuts the plant down. The water dowsers help find water until rain finally falls, which it does three months after the closure of the plant. Jassy can now put away her wand of power.

Thoughts

In 1976 Jinty ran “Fran of the Floods“, a story on environmental extremes; in that case, extreme flooding. In this story, in the same year, the pendulum swings to the other extreme with drought. Is it coincidence or did Jinty really intend to explore two diametrically opposed forms of environmental extremes? At any rate, this story could be considered as anticipatory as “Fran of the Floods”, which anticipated global warming. In a world where droughts are an increasing problem because of climate change and water supplies are beginning to deplete, Jassy could be considered another Jinty story ahead of its time.

But while Fran of the Floods dealt with natural environmental disaster, this is a man-made one in the form of Sir Harmer’s power plant releasing chemicals that are causing drought. Echoes of the same theme can be seen in Jinty’s 1978 story “The Birds“, where chemicals released from a new plant cause birds to go crazy and attack people.

It is a bit confusing as to how or why Sir Harmer was causing the very same drought that was also crippling his power plant through lack of water. Did he not realise what his chemicals were doing, or did he ignore or disbelieve warnings as to what the chemicals would do?  Or did he know it all along and was just using it to jack up prices for his electricity and make even more money? Any of these are possible and would accommodate what would be a plot hole. What is less accommodating is why everyone was saying it was a “new” process that was causing the drought when the drought had been in effect for seven years – hardly a “new” thing. Did the plant perhaps exacerbate what was already an existing drought?

However it started, we can sure see the effects the drought is having on society. People are not only getting desperate, even savage in the face of food and water shortages, but those fascist-style uniforms the state police wear indicate that the drought has swung Britain in the direction of a totalitarian state. A state with hints of the old Nazi Germany, which is even more disturbing. Exactly how far it goes is not clear, but it is psychic people who are taking the brunt; a twist on the witch-hunting theme that appears in many serials such as “Mark of the Witch!” But instead of being persecuted by witch-hunting mobs and burned at the stake they are taken away Gestapo-style. And it’s all just because one psychic predicted the drought. A take on the old scapegoating trick? Or, if this is an alternate universe, is it an indication of superstitious attitudes that this society has? The false religion that Sir Harmer tries to set up with Jassy does point to this. People are so willing to fall for her being a miracle goddess. Has desperation driven people to extra gullibility and vulnerability, or is it also because they live in a more superstitious Britain than ours?

Keith Robson’s artwork does a brilliant job of bringing out the harshness, desperation and primal instincts that are coming out of people in the face of the droughts with the visceral quality to his heavy lines, inking and cross-hatching. His depiction of the hard, ruthless Danby men, for example gives them a near-grotesque appearance in their swarthy, thuggish looks. And Sir Harmer looks like he has fangs when he gets angry!

Jassy herself starts as an oasis of kindness (not unusual in girls’ strips) in a world where most people in her village are losing their humanity and despise her for giving food to refugees. And is that peace badge she wears on her right knee a coincidence or a symbol of how much she sets herself apart with her kindness? This alone has set her apart from her harsh society, but she becomes well and truly a victim when she discovers her special power. Worse, it makes her vulnerable not only to state oppression but to exploitation by money-grabbing men like Danby and Sir Harmer who see her power for what it is worth in this drought-stricken society.

It is no surprise that Jassy becomes a crusader and rebel out to change things in her oppressive society either. It takes the revelation of Mark, another psychic, that the plant is causing the drought, to turn her into one. But once it starts, she is quite revolutionary about it, in her campaign to rouse other psychics in hiding into rebellion. Perhaps this could have done with more development and treatment; it feels that the ending comes a bit too soon and was rushed. The psychic rebellion was an aspect that could easily have been developed more and taken an even bigger hand with the conclusion.

Although Jassy’s Wand of Power is not one of Jinty’s best remembered stories, it is still an intriguing story that is filled with elements that would disturb readers more than usual. Armed thugs ready to drive off people who are desperate for food? A false religion that practises human sacrifice? Fascist-style state police in Britain rounding people up? A man shot in cold blood for trying to save the children? It would certainly give readers the shudders. Its strongest point of all is the environmental aspect and the damage mankind is doing to the Earth. And considering the global-warming world we live in, that point would be felt even more strongly than when it came out in 1976.

Worlds Apart (1981)

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Worlds Apart 23a

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Worlds Apart 23b

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Worlds Apart 23c

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Worlds Apart 23d

Publication: 25 April 1981 to 3 October 1981

Artist: Guy Peeters
Writer: Unknown (this story has been incorrectly credited to Pat Mills in other publications)

Summary

“Imagine the dream worlds inside your head becoming real! That’s what happened to six girls from Crawley Comprehensive after an accident with a road tanker carrying dangerous chemicals from a secret government research establishment”.

Each world is governed by the respective girl’s characteristic – making it an ideal world for her, but a nightmare for the other girls: “It seems that given a free rein, the worst comes out in us.” The only release from these worlds is for its respective creator to die – and this happens when each creator meets her downfall through the very same characteristic that shaped her world. The respective adventures and nightmares in each world develop as follows:

Sarah (greedy): Sarah’s world is ruled by fat, greed and gluttony. The people only think about food and being as fat as they can possibly be; 20 stone is “such a trim figure”. Even the animals are fat, including the sparrows. Exercise is considered “disgusting”. The girls are emaciated by the standards of this world, even fat Sarah. So the girls are force-fed in hospital until they are so grotesquely obese that they can hardly walk. Sarah is the only one to enjoy this world because she can stuff herself with as much food as she likes and nobody calls her “fatty”. Then Sarah gets a horrible shock when sporty Ann dies from running half a mile because she is too fat. Now Sarah sees the fatty world in a whole new light. Afterwards she falls into a river and drowns because she can’t swim.

Ann (sporty): Ann’s world is ruled by sport. Education, clothes, foodstuffs, food consumption, architecture, city planning, transport, politics, war, and even the death penalty are all linked to sport. In fact, everything revolves around sport and keeping fit at all costs, even if you are old and infirm. Ann simply loves her world because she can indulge in sport at every waking moment. But like the others, Ann’s indulgence becomes her undoing. It begins when the Soviet Union declares war on Britain. War is played with a sports match; the losing team is executed and the invading country just walks in if its team wins. Ann is honoured to be in the British team, but doesn’t know that the Russians are cheating by taking drugs. When Britain loses, Ann meets her downfall by the very thing she loves – sport. The method used to execute her is to be tied to an exercise bicycle until she dies from exhaustion.

Samantha (vain): Samantha’s world is ruled by vanity. It is a fairy tale world and she is Sleeping Beauty – who rules this world more than her royal parents. But Samantha is no fairytale princess. She is cruel, tyrannical, power mad, and indulges in admiring her beauty at every waking moment. Her castle is known as the Castle of Mirrors because there are mirrors everywhere for Samantha to admire her beautiful face. As for the other girls, they are her downtrodden servants and threatened with torture if they displease her. Mo, whom Samantha dislikes, suffers the most in this world – partly because she refuses to be downtrodden.

Then, when Samantha dumps Prince Charming for the Frog Prince, he gets revenge by hiring the witch (Mo’s mother!) who originally put Samantha to sleep. So the witch turns Samantha’s vanity against her with a spell that causes Samantha’s face to appear as a pig when reflected in the mirrors. Samantha becomes hysterical when she realises that she can never see her beautiful face again. “How can I live without admiring myself? I can’t stand it!” Samantha shrieks like a maniac, shattering all the mirrors and herself in the process. Talk about narcissism.

Mo (delinquent): Mo’s world is ruled by crime, where crime, violence and anarchy are the rule. Everyone has prison numbers, and if they are stripped of them they become non-persons and fall prey to lynch mobs. Education at reform schools (which in the girls’ case is modelled on Alcatraz and patrolled by guards with live bullets in their guns) teaches crime (safe-cracking, forgery, framing, pickpocketing etc). The only crime in this world is to do a good deed, which is punishable by lynching – and nearly happens to the other girls. It seems the perfect world for the delinquent Mo to flourish – until she is kidnapped by gangsters and given a pair of concrete shoes. This has Mo anxious to turn over a new leaf if she returns to the real world before she is even thrown into the river to drown.

Clare (intellectual): Clare’s world is ruled intellectualism, and the size of your IQ determines your standing in society. At the top of society are the “swots” and at the bottom are the “dullards” – a dimwitted subhuman species who are classed as animals and are treated as such (experimentation, slaughter houses, etc). The other girls are dullards because Clare always considered them stupid, “so in her world, we are stupid.” Clare is an arrogant, clinical scientist ready to perform experiments on her “dullard” classmates. But she doesn’t get the chance because dullard liberationists break them out of the laboratory and turn them loose into the wild.

Clare comes after them, but she quarrels bitterly with her co-worker who wants to make a dullard wildlife film. Clare protests that this is cruel to the dullards because they cannot survive in the wild. The man retorts that she was cruel herself, for experimenting on them and what’s more, the law states that his word overrules hers because his IQ is higher than hers. Well, these were the rules Clare made for this world. Then the helicopter crashes. Clare is unhurt and is saved by her dullard friends. But she cannot survive in the wild herself; she runs away and dies in an unshown accident.

Jilly (timid): Jilly’s world is ruled by fear. It is a horror-movie Goth world where everything serves only one purpose – to terrify! There is a particular emphasis on vampires, and lessons in school are geared to turn pupils into vampires, with coffin building lessons, blood pudding (with real blood) in domestic science, and first aid class includes mouth-to-neck resuscitation i.e. be bitten on the neck and be turned into one of the Undead.

Clare realises that if Jilly becomes one of the Undead, she will never die – and the only way to escape this horror world is for Jilly to die. They will become trapped in this world if Jilly becomes one of the Undead and never dies, and in the penultimate episode it looks like this is going to happen. The girls do save Jilly from becoming one of the Undead, but she is a girl who is still scared of her own shadow. This too is taken to its extreme – Jilly is attacked and killed by her own shadow.

Afterwards
The girls now wake up in hospital in the real world. They discuss their adventure and ponder over why their worlds were so horrible: “We’re not terrible people, are we?” Clare decides it was because if you take things to extremes, it gets all twisted. The girls then reflect on the lessons they have learned, including becoming more tolerant and understanding, that greed, sport, cleverness and beauty are not everything, and crime does not pay.

Thoughts
“Worlds Apart” was Jinty’s last science fiction/fantasy story before her merge with Tammy in 1981. It was also the last serial that Guy Peeters drew for Jinty. In discussions of girls’ comics this story is widely regarded as Jinty’s ultimate classic in science fiction, not to mention being an incredible adventure story, perils-and-adversity story and a sobering, thought-provoking morality story. It touches all of us because we have all had a dream world at some point and wished they could come true. But if they did, would they live up to our expectations or would they turn out to be the stuff of nightmares?

Although “Worlds Apart” is considered one of the best, perhaps it could have been better. The ending suffers a bit because it looks like it was rushed to make way for the seven-issue ‘countdown’ to the merger. The last world is given short shrift (one and a half episodes while the others get four or five), so it is not as developed as much as the others and Jilly emerges as the only one not to learn anything from her world. Instead, the other girls end up feeling sorry for her for being so terrified. It feels a bit unsatisfying. All right, so maybe Jinty wanted to make a statement here that some people never learn. Or they cannot learn because they are too entrenched in what they are. This is what some of the others begin to think about Jilly: “If this is Jilly’s mind, she must be permanently scared, poor girl!” Then again, the last two episodes were given four pages instead of the usual three. I have observed that an increase in pages and even double episodes can be a sign of pressure to finish a story quickly to clear the decks fast for something big – such as a merger.

Nonetheless, “Worlds Apart” is far more hard hitting and bizarre than anything Jinty had produced before in moralism as it depicts the dangers of extremism (extremes of greed, sports-mania, vanity, crime, intellectualism and fear), and how terrible the consequences can be if extremism is allowed to carry to its logical conclusion. In fact, Clare decides that this is why the worlds were so horrible.

It also took the torture of its heroines to fantastical heights of grotesqueness and perversity that remain unmatched today. For example, in the fat world the girls are force-fed until they are grotesquely fat – probably the “trim figure” of 20 stone. In the sports world they are expected to exercise while they have their school dinners, take cold showers to toughen them up, and run across the town to their dormitories because the run will help keep them fit. And in the horror world, they have classes for building their own coffins for when they are turned into vampires. Talk about digging your own grave….

There is perverse and tongue-in-cheek humour and satire too, such as where the vain world turns the fairy tale on its head. Sleeping Beauty is a tyrant instead of an innocent princess, she jilts her prince, and you find yourself sympathising with the fairy-tale witch who punishes Samantha. There are some jokes even in the horror world – the train station, for example, is called Lugosi station, and Britain is called The United Kingdom of Transylvania. And in the sports world, we learn that Hitler fought World War II via a footy match. Yes, the class is shown a slide of Hitler – “German manager and chief coach” – in his footy gear!