Tag Archives: Angela Angel-Face

Sandie 29 September 1973

Sandie cover 29 September 1973

  • Angela Angel-Face (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • The House of Toys (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray, writer John Wagner)
  • Noelle’s Ark (artist “B. Jackson”)
  • Cherry in Chains (artist Joan Boix)
  • Sandie’s Pop Special – Geordie
  • The Golden Shark (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Dancing to Danger – last episode (artist Tom Kerr)
  • Bridie at the Fair (artist Leslie Otway)
  • Sister to a Star (artist Joan Boix?)
  • Cinderella Superstar (artist Joan Boix?)

The issue begins with part two of the first print of the “Angela Angel-Face” story that will be reprinted in Jinty 1980 and Tammy 1984. It is generally agreed among Jinty readers that the less said about that one the better, so we move on to other things in the issue.

Sandie sure had a big thing for circus stories. There are not one but two of them running, plus one with a fairground theme. The first, “Cherry in Chains”, stars a heroine who’s an escape artist, which is a real delight to have. There are not many Houdinis in girls’ comics who can get themselves out of being tied up. There are many scenes I can recall in girls’ comics where they sure could have done with that. But Cherry’s unknown enemy is making her escapes even more dangerous and escape-proof than normal because he or she is using them to kill her. Who could be doing it? Everyone’s a suspect because everyone thinks Cherry’s father is a traitor. But there really can only be one person – the one who framed him.

In the other circus story, Mary Suza in “Sister to a Star” is a trapeze artist. She has defied her overstrict guardian in running away to the circus. In this episode she loses her nerve, gets it back, but the ageing trapeze star, Sue Suza, will have not have Mary in her act. No, she is not bloody well getting too old, she says! Meanwhile, the fortune teller sees tragedy in the cards, which will no doubt have bearing on the final episode next issue.

The fairground story, “Bridie at the Fair”, looks like it was reprinted from an earlier title, maybe School Friend. Amnesiac girl Bridie Donovan joins a travelling fair to find her true identity. Now Bridie has finally discovered her old nursemaid, Mrs Kerry – only to find the poor old woman was being taken advantage of by a nasty fortune teller. No wonder when it’s revealed that a nasty relative is out to steal Bridie’s estate, and then Bridie’s enemies, led by the fortune teller, close in to stop her claiming it!

“Dancing to Danger” also has the impression it was reprinted from an earlier title. Pat White is a ballerina who is in fact an undercover secret agent in occupied France. It’s the final episode and Pat has now earned a medal in addition to her bouquets, but that has to be kept secret until after the war. Right now, it’s more undercover work while dancing with those pointe shoes.

Sandie also had two ballet stories running at the same time. In the second ballet story, Ellie Villiers wants to be a ballerina, but her Aunt Stella and cousins do everything they can to stop her. It’s not just a matter of treating her like Cinderella. It’s also something to do with a locked room, which Ellie has found is full of tutus and other ballet paraphernalia, and they once belonged to a ballerina named Sylvia Coral. What’s more, Aunt Stella says weird things that sound like she thinks she’s being haunted by Sylvia’s ghost or something. Sylvia’s diary holds the answer, but Aunt Stella is trying to stop anyone from reading it.

“The Golden Shark” looks like another reprint from elsewhere as its lettering is not the same as Sandie’s. Perhaps it originally appeared in June. Like “Barracuda Bay” (a June reprint in Jinty), it’s an underwater sea adventure, and it’s got underwater exploration, pirates, a treasure hunt in a sunken galleon, and a giant octopus.

“The House of Toys” is “and then there were none” story. Jill Small and nine girl gymnasts have somehow found themselves on a mysterious island when they were headed for another, and the only house on it has nothing but strange toys. Now the girls are disappearing one by one. Even the food is disappearing into thin air, and we don’t mean eating. Is it because these toys have strange powers or is someone pulling a fast one on them? In this episode the girls discover there are definitely two people on the island, but now another girl vanishes!

Uncle Meanie is running for Parliament, would you believe? His campaign is to stop needless spending and save, save, save. In other words, he would issue tight-fisted McScrimp-style black budgets given half the chance. As nobody in their right mind would vote for him, he is turning to dirty tricks to sabotage the other candidates. And then his ideas begin to grow in popularity once he learns to appeal to the miser in people. Can Jeannie find a way to stop him?

Like “Fran of the Floods“, “Noelle’s Ark” was ahead of its time in anticipating rising sea levels and worldwide flooding. This week Noelle encounters a mystery boat that carries a deadly fungus. She manages to get rid of the fungus, but it’s had a weird effect on her – she’s turning so nasty she’s on the verge of pushing her friends overboard!

In “Slaves of the Sorcerer” Beth Williams finally gets the police onto Caspar. But when they arrive at the fairground there’s no sign of him. The lead they have been given is in fact another trap for Beth set by Caspar, and he’s waiting to pounce.

Boys are admitted to Wee Sue’s school. They get quite a shock when the titch they tease turns out to be brilliant at footy. Then Sue finds one of the football boys stuck on a ledge and climbs up to the rescue.

“Odd Mann Out” is now leading a demonstration against the tyrannical way things are run at her school. But why the hell is the headmistress smiling about it instead of looking worried?

Trudy loses Silver – to the rag-and-bone man. And everyone knows how cruel he is to animals. Can Trudy get him back?

In “Friends and Neighbours” Ann Friend and her family have moved into a new house. The neighours haven’t been friendly but now Anne believes they are worse than she thought – they are trying to scare her family out of the house with a ruse that it’s haunted. They deny it angrily and mean to prove it by sitting up with them.

 

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Tammy 31 March 1984

Tammy 31 March 1984

  • Dear Diary – I Hate You! (artist Maria Barrera) – final episode
  • Cassie’s Coach (artist Tony Coleman, writer Alison Christie)
  • Pearls of Wisdom (artist Hugo D’Adderio) – complete story
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins) – final episode
  • Angela Angel-Face (artist Rodrigo Comos) – final episode
  • On Your Feet! (feature)
  • The Flying Horse (artist Hugo D’Adderio) – pony tale
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Pretty Trimmings (feature)

 

In the previous entry we profiled how the final issue of Princess prepared for the merger with Tammy on 7 April 1984. Now we profile how the Tammy issue for that week did the same.

The page advertising the merger is similar to Princess, except there are no characters or information telling us what to expect in the merger issue, apart from Rusty the Fox. Later in the issue we are informed “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” will be here next week. It replaces “Angela Angel-Face”, which is a repeat of the same Angela Angel-Face reprint that appeared in Jinty in late 1980. Angela is finished off with a two-part spread.

Tammy great news

“Dear Diary – I Hate You!” is another story that has been cleared out quickly to make room for the merger. For the past few weeks it had been running on six-page spreads before the usual three for the final episode. In the story, Tammy takes one of her rare forays into the blackmail story. It is the type of blackmail serial where the protagonist is forced to be ‘nice’ to an odious, unpopular girl, which makes her unpopular with her classmates and her life a nightmare. This scenario appeared frequently at DCT, with stories like Judy’s “Be Nice to Nancy!” However, it was far less common at IPC for some reason, and this is one of the few examples I have seen of it at IPC. In this case the blackmailer is expelled without the blackmail itself coming out. That is a bit odd for this type of story, but it has to be this way because of the tricky situation that caused the blackmail.

Pam’s current story has been a two-part filler. It had the potential to be spun out for several more episodes, but instead was told in two episodes. A new girl is being made a prisoner by her parents in her own home. They go as far as to escort her to school and back and even try to have the headmaster Mr Gold keep her away from her classmates at break times. Hurrah for Mr Gold for telling them he has no right to do that. It turns out they were reacting too harshly and rigidly to a violation of trust and their daughter getting into serious trouble and bad company. They themselves eventually realise they went about it the wrong way, and there is a happy ending with help from Pam of Pond Hill.

Sadie-in-Waiting from Princess takes over as the Joe Collins cartoon next week, so this week is the final episode of “The Crayzees” (below). No goodbyes from them; it’s a regular episode.

Crayzees 31 March 1984.jpeg

This week’s Button Box story is a story about rights for left-handed people. Alison thinks she can’t sew because she is left handed. So the button story Bev spins is one about a left-handed 1920s girl who was brilliant at sewing, but her sewing suffered at school because her sewing teacher kept forcing her to sew right handed. The teacher was silenced in the end. Alison emerges not only with a whole new confidence for sewing but also reminded as to how lucky she is not to be living in the bad old days when schools forced left-handed kids to use their right hands.

“Cassie’s Coach” is the only Tammy serial that carries on into the merger. The reason Tom has gone missing is that he has gone to sweep chimneys, and Cassie and her sister are worried sick. Of course Tom’s employer, Mr Scrimmet, is a cruel (and ugly) one, and won’t tell them where he is. So it’s a search to find Tom as soon as possible. When they do track Tom down they have to come up with a cunning plan to rescue him, because Scrimmet is not letting him go.

Not surprisingly, there are complete stories, which act as fillers. Both of them are period stories drawn by Hugo D’Adderio. One, set in the 15th century, is of a nobleman, Lord Belmont, being held to ransom in France while his brother Ambrose uses the ransom money (wrung out of the unfortunate peasants) to usurp Lord Belmont’s estate and keep himself in luxury. Ambrose even goes as far as to make Lord Belmont’s mother and daughter Meg servants in their own home. Once Meg finds out what Ambrose is really doing with the ransom money she devises a “desperate gamble” to get rid of him, which does come across as rather contrived and unbelievable, though of course it works.

The other D’Adderio story is a pony tale set in 1820, where Lucille Beringer works in her Uncle Marius’ hippodrome. Things go smoothly until Marius starts forcing Lucille and her horse Sultan into a stunt that is increasingly dangerous for the horses. Eventually Lucille decides to make a run for it with Sultan, but Marius is in hot pursuit and ready to horsewhip them into an even more dangerous stunt. This spurs them into the final effort they need to escape. Their panel on the cover is of the work they find in a more savoury horse show afterwards.

 

Jinty & Penny 13 December 1980

Cover 13 December 1980

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

Stories in this issue:

  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Her Guardian Angel (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Girl the World Forgot (artist and writer Veronica Weir) – last episode
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Behind the Screen: The Goodies (feature)
  • Angela Angel-Face (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Sue’s Daily Dozen (artist José Casanovas)
  • Winning Ways 37: Netball – Marking and intercepting (writer Benita Brown)
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)

This issue sees episode 2 of Jinty‘s last Christmas story, “Her Guardian Angel”: as Mistyfan pointed out in the post about the previous issue, by the following Christmas this title had merged with Tammy. And Pam is still struggling hard to make a cheerful Christmas party for the local orphans, despite many arguments between her friends and her supporters. But by the end of this week’s three pager, it looks very much like it may all be off…

Girl The World Forgot” comes to a dramatic end this week as some reenactors dressed as Vikings from the mainland come to the island. They rescue Shona and explain to her local ghost Alice Drunnon has been haunting the castaway girl. Shona is reunited with her parents – on Christmas eve, of all days. What an emotional present for all concerned!

“Sue’s Daily Dozen” sounds like it is nearing its end – we even see an appearance by Granny Hayden, as a vision helping Sue to defeat some crooks. Just about the last thing for her to do seems to be to help George the blacksmith have a truly blessed wedding – blessed by the spirit of Granny H herself, mind you!

Nadine is still combining disco dancing with netball, much to the displeasure of stiff-necked captain Betty. This time the other netball players need to rescue Nadine on the dance floor, by getting a huge strobe lightbulb from one end of the crowded dance floor to the other – in record time – using their netball skills, natch.

Sandie: 12 February 1972 – 20 October 1973

Following the interview of John Wagner which ran on this blog a few days ago, I thought I would dig out my few issues of Sandie (only four, acquired somewhat at random). Because I have so few issues, and none of them are significant ones such as the first or last ones published, it didn’t seem worth reviewing them individually. Here therefore is something of an overview of this short-lived title – limited in scope by having so few originals to draw on directly, but I have tried to also bring together other relevant comments on this site and elsewhere, to give a wider context.

Let’s start with the contents of the four issues I do have:Cover Sandie 17 March 1973

Sandie 17 March 1973: Angela Angel-Face (artist Rodrigo Comos), Connie Courageous (unknown artist ‘Merry’), The Captives of Terror Island (artist Juan Escandell Torres, writer Terence Magee), Supergirl Sally (artist A. E. Allen), Isla and the Ice Maiden, Anna and the Circus, Brenda’s Brownies (artist and writer Mike Brown), Dawn at Dead-End Street (artist Bill Baker), Pop portrait: Paul Newman, Lindy and the last Lilliputians, The Nine Lives of Nat the Cat (artist José Casanovas), Quiz Kid Queenie (artist Luis Bermejo)

 

Sandie cover 28 July 1973

Sandie 28 July 1973: Slaves of the Eye (artist Joan Boix), Cinderella Superstar (artist ?Joan Boix), Wyn and the Witch (artist A. E. Allen), Connie Courageous (unknown artist ‘Merry’) – last episode, Sink or Swim, Sara! (artist Eduardo Feito), The Captives of Terror Island (artist Juan Escandell Torres, writer Terence Magee) – last episode, Dancing to Danger (artist Tom Kerr), Bridie at the Fair (artist Leslie Otway), All Against Alice, Sisters in Sorrow (artist Roy Newby)

Sandie cover 11 August 1973

Sandie 11 August 1973: The House of Toys (artist Douglas Perry), Noelle’s Ark (unknown artist ‘Merry’) – first episode, Wyn and the Witch (artist A. E. Allen), The Golden Shark (artist Santiago Hernandez), Cherry in Chains (artist Joan Boix), Slaves of the Eye (artist Joan Boix), Dancing to Danger, Bridie at the Fair (artist Leslie Otway), All Against Alice , Cinderella Superstar (artist ?Joan Boix)

 

Sandie cover 29 September 1973Sandie 29 September 1973: Angela Angel-Face (artist Rodrigo Comos), The House of Toys (artist Douglas Perry), Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray, writer John Wagner), Noelle’s Ark (unknown artist ‘Merry’), Cherry in Chains (artist Joan Boix), The Golden Shark (artist Santiago Hernandez), Dancing to Danger – last episode, Bridie at the Fair (artist Leslie Otway), Sister to a Star, Cinderella Superstar (artist ?Joan Boix)

 

 

There’s lots of good stuff in these issues, though I did find the covers rather old-fashioned, with mostly very blocky designs. Some of the inside content is rather old-fashioned too, and/or show possible signs of being reprinted from elsewhere. “The Golden Shark” is hand-lettered, and “Dancing to Danger” and “Bridie At The Fair” are lettered using a different font or technique to the other strips. The latter two are also only two pages long per episode, and have a painted aspect to the title element – I take these to have been reprinted from much earlier titles where there may have been an option to use more sophisticated colour printing.

Some of my interest in this title is in how it might have influenced, or been influenced by, work that is more directly related to Jinty. For instance, “Isla and the Ice Maiden” has an orphaned girl learning how to ice skate as she is taught by a mysterious woman: both the basic plot set-up and the visual design of the mystery woman is quite reminiscent of the Jinty story “Spirit of the Lake”. Likewise, “Lindy and the Last Lilliputians” has some wee travellers from Lilliput travel to stay with Lindy, a descendant of Lemuel Gulliver – who they claim must look after them. It sounds like the story has quite a lot of differences from Jinty‘s “A Girl Called Gulliver”, but there are certainly some big overlaps too.

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In terms of the artists included, there is a fair amount of overlap with the slightly later titles I am more familiar with – with representation from José Casanovas, Rodrigo Comos, Douglas Perry, Santiago Hernandez, and the unknown artist who drew “Merry at Misery House” and so many other stories. Obviously there are many artists unknown to me, also: the very striking Joan Boix, who drew “The Slaves of the Eye”, is very well represented inside these pages. There are a couple of stories where it’s hard to decide if the art is by Joan Boix’s, or by Cándido Ruiz Pueyo’s. These are “Cinderella Superstar” and “All Against Alice”. I would be inclined to think these both contained Boix’s art if not for the fact that this would imply that there might be as many as four stories by the same artist in one issue! I suppose this is not impossible but still. On balance, I think that “Cinderella Superstar” is likely to be Boix’s work (though it is not signed in any of the issues I have, unlike “Cherry in Chains” and “Slaves of the Eye”). “All Against Alice” is not close enough for me to assign to Boix – it looks more like Pueyo’s work, though again not really definitively enough for me to say so for sure.

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On the post with the interview with John Wagner, I asked for people’s impressions of the title compared to others from that era. Mistyfan commented to say that “Sandie had more regulars than Tammy, particularly “Wee Sue”. She also had a lot of circus themed stories such as “Sister to a Star”, “Cherry in Chains” and “Slave of the Trapeze”. Far more than either Tammy or Jinty. She followed the in vein of Tammy in having Cinderella and slave stories.” I haven’t got enough issues to have much representation of regular strips – there’s the start of “Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie”; “Nat the Cat” was so long-running as to perhaps count; and I do have two separate Angela Angel-Face stories in this short sample.

The circus theme is absolutely inescapable even in just these few issues, though! “Anna and the Circus” is in the March issue above, and the August and September issues include “Cherry in Chains” and “Sister to a Star”. There are very few circus-themed stories in Jinty, and not many in Tammy either, so this feels like a real unique selling point for this title. Of course there are also plenty of cinderella stories, ballet stories, and the like – a lot of what’s in the pages wouldn’t look out of place in Jinty or Tammy (and indeed some was reprinted in annuals and summer specials).

Mistyfan also previously posted on this site about the launch of Sandie and about issue 7 of the title – representing the earlier issues of the title. But after the title came to an end it still continued to make something of an impact as stories had a life after death. Quite a few of the stories were translated into the Dutch market: for instance “Sandra Must Dance”,  “The Return of Rena”, “Lorna’s Lonely Days”, “Anna’s Forbidden Friend”, and “Peggy in the Middle”. Of course “Wee Sue” and “Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie” had an ongoing life in the pages of other comics titles thereafter, as did others (more briefly). “Angela Angel-Face” was reprinted in Jinty but generally reckoned to be a very weak offering in that title, and “School of No Escape” was reprinted in the Misty 1980 annual.

So Sandie feels a little old-fashioned to me, and a little quirky with its love of circus stories (quite why so many of them were used, I’m not sure – they make for a good story backdrop but aren’t quite as flexible a story theme as the sports or SF themes that Jinty readers liked, or of course the spooky tales of Misty). It has quite a bit of overlap of stories or of artists with the titles I am more familiar with, and some cracking content – I’d like to read more of the exciting “Noelle’s Ark” which I give below (and which again has some overlap with a classic Jinty story – “Fran of the Floods”). At this point it feels to me a bit like a fore-runner of the more fully-developed, stronger Jinty/Tammy/Misty stable – but at the same time, I know readers who have only found this title recently and have become real converts. I will seek out more…

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Jinty and Penny 29 November 1980

Jinty 29 November 1980

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Girl the World Forgot (artist and writer Veronica Weir)
  • Angela Angel-Face – first episode (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Behind the Screen – Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • The Demon Eye – Gypsy Rose story (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • Sue’s Daily Dozen (artist José Casanovas)
  • Winning Ways 35: Netball – Dodging (writer Benita Brown)
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Care for Your Countryside – feature

In this issue, Pam wraps up one of her most classic tales, her school trip to France. It has climaxed in a most unexpected manner – the French teacher being mistakenly arrested for kidnapping! What a story to get around the school when they get home! Fortunately the misunderstanding is sorted out and everyone is back home. But while the kids are all agog for an even bigger adventure next time, the teachers seem to be nervous wrecks from the French trip for some reason…

“Angela Angel-Face”, a reprint from Sandie, starts in this issue. It is not regarded as one of Jinty’s better moments.

In “Girl the World Forgot”, we get a hint that Shona will be home in time for Christmas, because her mother has bought her Christmas presents although she thinks Shona will never get them (or won’t she?). Meanwhile, Shona’s struggle for survival gets worse and worse as winter sets in, food is getting scarce, and Shona feels unwell, with no medical facility available.

Sue seems to be more comfortable with the Daily Dozen now that nobody has burned her at the stake or anything for wearing Gran Hayden’s witch gear and mixing her potions in public. But then Sue begins to doubt the Daily Dozen again when one of her clients collapses.

In “Life’s a Ball for Nadine”, it’s fancy footwork time as Nadine attempts to attend both a disco competition and a school netball game in Birmingham.

Sir Roger is not cock-a-hoop when he tries out the hula hoop, but it does help him to hoop two criminals. And in this week’s Gypsy Rose story, a girl’s superstition about cats bringing bad luck is annoying her friend, but saves lives when it leads to a premonition of impending disaster.

 

Rodrigo Comos

Comos signature on Haunting of Form 2B

Rodrigo Rodríguez Comos (1935- ) is an artist with a distinctive style, quickly recognizable as a strong contributor to Jinty and to other British girls’ comics over many years. The Lambiek Comiclopedia has a detailed entry for him in English; likewise there is an entry on Spanish reference site Tebeosfera. He seems to have only started drawing for the non-Spanish market in the late 60s or early 70s, so his work for Jinty was probably quite early on in his career in British girls’ comics. This is in contrast to his slightly old-fashioned style, which I could happily have imagined to have been brought through from the days of comics such as Girl. I say this not to do him down: he is the artist on some key reader favourites. He lives in Spain and currently focuses on oil painting.

“The Haunting of Form 2B” is one of the stories in the launch issue in 1974, establishing Comos as one of the stable of Jinty artists thereafter. This ghost story set in a school has many classic elements: a mystery to be resolved, a school teacher with a difference, weird and scary goings-on, and danger to life and limb before all is cleared up. The fact that the main plot driver is ghostly rather than fantastical or science fictional lends it a less Jinty-like tone; but then Comos drew more ghostly or spooky stories than he did fantastical ones, in Jinty‘s pages at any rate. Having said that, the key story he will be particularly remembered for in this title is the classic SF story “The Robot Who Cried“.

As with many of the Spanish artists seen in Jinty and other comics of the time, Comos often signed his art, which helps to make attribution straightforward.

Jinty cover 12Jinty cover4.jpg

List of Jinty stories attributable to Rodrigo Comos:

  • The Haunting of Form 2B (1974)
  • Destiny Brown (1977)
  • Horse From The Sea (1976)
  • The Robot Who Cried (1977)
  • Various Gypsy Rose stories (various dates between 1977 and 1980)
  • Angela Angel-Face (1980, reprinted from Sandie)
  • Dutch-original stories featuring Fran from “Fran’ll Fix It!”

 

What makes a story work, pt 2?

Following on from my earlier post on how we can sensibly say that a story works (or doesn’t), I want to look at the elements that can add to, or detract from, how well a story works. These are elements that are mostly down to decisions made by the writer or the artist (or both), though editorial decisions can also be relevant. For each of the elements, therefore, I will consider what the balance of responsibilities tends to be, as well as discussing the nature of each of them.

  • Plot. What actually happens? How well tied-together are the events of the story, and how naturally or consistently do they flow from earlier ones? Is it a very run-of-the-mill plot or does it have innovative elements? Is the plot simple or convoluted, full of sidelines or straightforward? In particular, does the ending follow well from the main part of the action or does it undercut the earlier events, for instance through by use of a deus ex machina to wrap everything up neatly and too-quickly?
    • This lies mostly in the writer’s corner, though the editorial department may make suggestions.
    • Stronger: “Concrete Surfer” is a tightly-plotted story where everything that happens drives the action forwards to the skate-off between rivals and the subsequent denouement. Not a moment of action is wasted and it all hangs together.
    • Weaker: in “Fran of the Floods” lots of things happen, but in a quite meandering structure with sub-plots that you can get lost in. The later happenings are not very tightly tied into the earlier events, though there is a wrap-up at the end of the story. This is a danger for road-trip sort of stories.
  • Title. Is the title overly-explanatory or does it promise without revealing too much? Is it ho-hum or unusual?
    • As far as we know, coming up with the story’s title seems to have been part of the writer’s tasks. Sometimes it might have been changed by the editorial department either before publication or on reprint / translation.
    • Stronger: There are lots of really evocative story titles in Jinty. Examples like “Girl The World Forgot” or “Golden Dolly, Death Dust!” are suggestive without giving the whole game away.
    • Weaker: the formula girl’s name + descriptive reference was over-used in girls’ comics generally and feels hackneyed as a result. “Badgered Belinda”, “Angela Angel-Face”, “Diving Belle” are examples in Jinty, but looking at a single issue of Lindy the ratio of such titles seemed considerably higher so things could have been much worse!
  • Theme. Is the theme a well-trodden one such as the Slave or Cinderella themes? Is it an intrinsically unlikely one such as the Exploited Amnesiac? In either case it probably needs something extra to make it stand out.
    • Again as far as we know the story theme was mostly under the control of the writer, though the editorial office would, according to Pat Mills, aim to have specific themes represented such as the two mentioned above. Some writers would focus preferentially on certain themes, so we know that Alison Christie wrote a number of heart-tugging stories with Runaways or Guilt Complexes. The art style (discussed in the next post) was probably chosen to match the theme as far as possible, though of course it is entirely possible that the availability of an artist was used to inspire a writer on occasion.
    • Stronger: I wouldn’t say it is that clear that one theme is stronger than another but there is a lot of personal preference that will govern whether a story works for an individual reader or not.
    • Weaker: as mentioned above, some themes such as the Exploited Amnesiac are so intrinsically unlikely and indeed rather melodramatic and silly that it means that the story is battling against something of a headwind.
  • Pacing. Girls (and boys) comics of this era typically feature fast-paced stories, with cliff-hangers at the end of each episode. The conventions of this sort of story are rather different from Japanese manga, where the action tends to take place over a far greater number of pages. If a story is compressed more than usual for this genre it would feel confusing, or if it was too slow-paced likewise it could throw readers off.
    • This lies solidly in the remit of the writer, though the page layout and composition could have some effect too.
    • Stronger: “Concrete Surfer” has some of the best pacing I can immediately think of: it builds evenly and the momentum never stops. Every panel and page builds on the last.
    • Weaker: the pacing on “Freda’s Fortune” makes it an odd read, with much of the plot line of a normal horse & rival story compressed into two 6-page episodes.
  • Tone. Is the story light and frothy, silly, adventurous, realistic, tear-jerking, hard, gritty, subversive, or even sadistic? The dialogue is a big part of what sets the tone so I am including it in this element, though others might prefer to separate it out.
    • The style set by the comic overall is very linked to the tone of the individual stories inside; whether this is mostly to do with editorial choices as to which stories to publish or writers to commission, clearly the editorial focus has a part to play. Pat Mills reckons that there is a big divide between working class comics (Tammy, Misty, Jinty, Pink, and most of Bunty) and middle-class, ‘safe’ comics, and that this divide was purposeful, to try to move past the ‘old hat’ style of the past. The individual writer is the prime mover of the tone of the story but the artist also has an important role to play as the writing and art must of course match. Additionally, the artist is in a position to add a lot of background detail in their art, to really bring things to life (John Armstrong draws graffiti in the background of “Moonchild”, and Jim Baikie draws details from the London Underground of the 70s or earlier in his recreation of the futuristic world of “The Forbidden Garden”.)
    • Stronger: Of course one tone is not in itself ‘better’ than another, but some are more unusual or more consistently applied throughout. “Knight and Day” is the epitome of a gritty and realistic story of physical and emotional abuse within a family, played seriously and with enough emotional effect to convince the reader.
    • Weaker: In the link above, Pat Mills says that light and frothy stories are ‘safe’ and boring to the reader. This is arguable, but certainly a light and frothy story such as “The Perfect Princess” is by its nature one that is easier to dismiss the more emotional or tear-jerking tales. Perhaps more fatal to a story is a sudden shift in tone, such as Lorrbot mentions having happened in “Balloon of Doom” in her comment on the last post.
  • Resonance. I’m stretching a bit things here in using this term in this way. What I mean is whether the story has a certain mythic resonance, a re-use (in a purposeful way) of cultural material. Mermaids, spinning wheels, magic mirrors, wicked and cruel women: these all have resonance as they have been used in countless stories to tell us how to behave or what to be careful of. Re-use of a current successful story from a different medium also gives the comics narrative a chance to grab some resonance from elsewhere.
    • I am assuming this is mostly in the care of the writer, though of course the artist will be able to add in many visual elements that will strengthen the references.
    • Stronger: “Who’s That In My Mirror?” combines ideas of vanity, moral peril, and the idea that a mirror can hold a reflection of a kind of truth. It has echoes of “The Picture of Dorian Grey” and of the Andersen tale “The Shadow” – and its denouement is as spooky as anything in comics.
    • Weaker: There are so damned many stories of haunted mirrors that it’s very easy for the shine to wear off! For me, “The Venetian Looking-Glass” was just another one of many: the element of resonance had become repetition.
  • Audacity. This is sort of the flip side of Resonance, and again I am stretching things a bit in using this term in this way. By this I mean the ‘WTF’ element where you can’t quite believe that anyone dared to put that on the page! It is the element of surprise and of novelty, but it is quite a delicate balancing act.
    • The written story bears a lot of the responsibility for this element but the art is key in making sure that the reader’s suspension of disbelief doesn’t flag. The editorial and publishing teams are the ones who would be on the bosses’ carpet if it all goes horribly wrong (as it did for boys’ comic Action after questions were asked in parliament), so they are part of the mix too.
    • Stronger: “Worlds Apart” is one of the most audacious stories in girls’ comics, with each protagonist having to die in grotesque and excessive ways in order for them to progress to the next scenario. “Children of Edenford” is also outrageous but a bit more quietly so as it criticises the shibboleth of social mobility ahead of the tide of Thatcherism and yuppiedom to come.
    • Weaker: When audacity tips the scales of suspension of disbelief, the wheels come off. For me, the cruelties at the end of “Slave of the Swan” and “The Slave of Form 3B” push it a step too far.

To follow in the next post, discussions on:

  • Art quality
  • Art style
  • Character design
  • Page layout / composition
  • Art incidental details
  • Design / font / lettering
  • Format / edition

What makes a story work pt 1 – how do we know it does work?

I wanted to write a post looking at what makes a story work, but first it seems sensible to consider how we can tell that a story has worked at all – or not, of course. It seems to me that there are some general principles we can reasonably consider when thinking about stories in the titles under discussion – Jinty/Misty/Tammy in particular. (I should add a caveat that here I am particularly considering stories which have a beginning, middle, and end, rather than gag strips or humour stories that tend to consist of indivudal self-contained episodes.)

What evidence do we have that it worked at the time?

Looking at evidence from the past, we can clearly say that people at the time judged some stories to have worked better than others.

  • Some stories are known to have been particularly popular; we may have information from editors (we know that “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” was very popular). The publishers certainly canvassed readers for indicators of the most and the least popular stories, either through the invitation to specify your faves when writing a letter to the editor, or more rarely through initiatives such as “Pam’s Poll“.
  • Reprinting of stories is likely to indicate a positive judgement on how well they worked – why waste space on a story you didn’t think was worth it? At the same time, some reprints are hard to see as being particularly strong – “Angela Angel-Face” being a case in point. Sometimes, therefore, the fact that a story has been reprinted might just be a recognition of its ready availability as a cheap space-filler.
  • Translation of stories is surely a stronger indication of success; a third party has selected the story (in some way – it would be good to know more about how this happened), paid for it, and put work into producing a translated edition, possibly with new cover artwork or more colouring.
  • And then sometimes we have seen the translation go on to further usage – collection in an album format (the Dutch Tina Topstrips), and then perhaps further translations derived from those earlier selections (the Indonesian Nina reprints that drew heavily on the Tina Topstrip editions). “The Spell of the Spinning Wheel” is an example of a story that scores particularly highly, having been translated into Dutch and Indonesian in just this way.
  • Story length may be another indicator. “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” ran for 36 episodes and “Fran of the Floods” ran for 35 episodes, where a story was more usually some 15 episodes long. The obvious reason for this extraordinary length is that as the story was popular, the writer will have been asked to make it carry on for longer, or at any rate not stopped from continuing. (This may have turned out as a double-edged sword: we understand that for instance Dutch Tina didn’t reprint stories past a certain length because of format constraints, so a very long story of this sort was actually less likely to be translated and reprinted elsewhere.)
  • (edited to add) Promotional and editorial decisions may also give some pointers. The editorial office decides about which story to feature on the cover, and to what extent – for instance when dramatically using a panel from the interior art to create a striking cover. They also decide which stories to feature in prime positions in the publication: the first and last stories are key positions, but the centre pages can also be an important focus for the reader. Some pages are in colour and again this will reflect a specific editorial decision to add something extra (requiring more work) to that story compared to others. Finally, some titles will be highlighted in adverts published in other titles.

As you can see, though, none of these indicators are foolproof. The most reliable indicator would be evidence direct from the editorial office to confirm that a story was popular, and even then of course you can quibble about whether popularity necessarily relies on the story being strong… though what you could certainly say in that case is that the most important critics, the readers, had voted in favour to say that it had worked for them.

What can we say about whether it works now?

And coming to stories that we read now, what tools can we use to think about whether a story works? (For instance we may come across a new story that we didn’t read at the time, or re-read a story in a new light.)

It is entirely legitimate to consider our own uncritical reaction as readers: “I love this sort of thing”, or “it’s not my cup of tea”, or “I know it’s very generic but I have a soft spot for this story”. Perhaps when you read the story initially, you hadn’t ever come across that particular cliché, and even though you recognize how hackneyed it is you still like it. Or perhaps there is some detail of script or art that just gives it something extra in your eyes. We can say “this story works for me”, acknowledging that others may read it and judge it more harshly; we may need to be aware of the limitations of our judgment, while at the same time still seeing those judgments as valid in themselves.

Likewise if we re-read a fondly remembered story now as adult readers, we may find that it is just as exciting as those memories had it as; or we may find that since then we have brought a lot more experience (and perhaps cynicism) to bear as readers, and the story just doesn’t work any more. Maybe events have overtaken it entirely (a story featuring casual racism or a now-known sex predator would be seen quite differently now than at the time). So the story might not work for us as individuals, or more generally, and we can make judgements accordingly.

Finally, there are a whole range of elements we can analyse to see what can make a story work, coming from the contribution of the artist and of the writer and even of the editorial office. Looking through these elements, as I want to do in my next post, we may find that we see more in the story than at first glance, and that it works more effectively than we’d given it credit for initially. I am finding this can happen for me when reading Mistyfan’s posts on stories, as we (naturally) have some differences in reading taste – for instance, reading her post on “Go On, Hate Me!” gave me a different view on how and why the story worked, although this is a story I might otherwise have dismissed as only moderately interesting. Using more analytical tools we are therefore able to say that a story works well or less well as a narrative of its kind, on its own merits, regardless of its reception at the time or by us as individuals.

Jinty & Penny 6 December 1980

JInty Cover 7

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Her Guardian Angel – first episode (Peter Wilkes)
  • Girl the World Forgot (artist and writer Veronica Weir)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Behind the Screen: Crossroads (feature)
  • Angela Angel-Face (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Sue’s Daily Dozen (artist José Casanovas)
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Winning Ways 36: Netball – Two more dodges

The buildup to the Christmas issue is well underway. In this issue, Jinty starts her 1980 Christmas story, to act as a filler and add to the Christmas theme over the holiday season. The story, “Her Guardian Angel”, was Jinty’s last Christmas story; by next Christmas she had merged with Tammy.

Pam of Pond Hill is trying to instil some Christmas spirit too, but it seems to be lost on everyone else. Pam gets permission to hold a Christmas party at school, which turns into one for the kids from the orphanage. But far from instilling the Christmas spirit Pam wanted, it has everyone quarrelling, and the blurb for next week warns us that more problems are ahead.

The Girl the World Forgot knows Christmas is coming, and the only present she wants is a ship to get her off the island she is marooned on. In the final panel, it looks like she is going to get one at last – but it is a Viking boat! What gives?

Thieves strike in “The Daily Dozen” and one of them even knocks Sue out. But as it is the cauldron they are stealing, we know the next episode can only “spell” trouble for them. Nadine does a whole new take on “roller disco”, with the aid of netball – again. Scheming Angela Angel-Face has wangled a trip to Meringaria, but she has not bargained on the company that comes with her – the very girls who know what she is really like. Tansy’s Dad tries pigeon-racing, and of course this causes mayhem for Tansy. Sir Roger loses his head – literally – because it is too windy. Next time he goes out, he wears full armour although there is hardly a breeze.

 

 

Jinty & Penny 20 December 1980

JInty Cover 3

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Her Guardian Angel (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Snoopa (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Friend from Far Beyond – Gypsy Rose story (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Behind the Screen: The Professionals
  • Angela Angel-Face (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Sue’s Daily Dozen (artist José Casanovas)
  • Winning Ways 38: Netball
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Winter Warmers (feature)

It is the issue before the 1980 Christmas issue, so this issue is gearing up for it, the New Year, and the New Year lineup. The Mario Capaldi cover is unusual; it features neither a sport during the run of sports covers or a hint of the festive season. Instead it features campers – presumably campers braving the winter chill.

Pam of Pond Hill has run into a huge problem with her Christmas party for the kids from the orphanage – Mr Gold the headmaster has banned it, thanks to larking from Fred and Terry. Pam decides to hold it in secret with the help of the school caretaker so as not to let the kids down, but fate still seems to be against her. But next week is the Christmas issue, so things have to work out, right? Well, the blurb for next week says there will be a surprise visit from Father Christmas himself!

Gabbi, the over-zealous guardian angel, finally gives things a rest at Christmas dinner. But she overdoes it and gets the hiccups, yet she still adds some angel magic to the party!

Tansy wants to send out Christmas cards, but can’t find any. Will fortune favour her at the end of her usual Jubilee Street misadventures? And Sir Roger is trying to be fairy godmother, but he has no money to buy Gaye the present on her wish list.

It’s the penultimate episode of “Angela Angel-Face“, so another story is being cleared out for the 1981 lineup. The last episode could be interesting because in this episode Angela gets kidnapped! “Sue’s Daily Dozen” looks like it is heading towards its finish as well, because the latest spell says that the Daily Dozen’s work will be done once it is carried out. As for Nadine, she looks like she is still going strong and will last well into 1981.