Tag Archives: Animal story

Food for Fagin [1981]

Sample Images

Food for Fagin 1Food for Fagin 2Food for Fagin 3

Published: Jinty 13 June 1981 to 18 July 1981

Episodes: 6

Artist: Trine Tinturé

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Olivia Twist (yes, and the Oliver Twist references persist throughout the story) wants a dog. Her mother keeps refusing because of the costs of buying and feeding one. After all, they’ve been pretty hard up since Dad died and Mum’s wages wouldn’t go far on a dog in addition to Olivia and her brother Billy.

Undeterred, Olivia saves up to buy a dog in the hope it will make her mother relent. Mum does, but gives the strict condition that it’s a tiny pup, which would surely mean a tiny appetite. However, after Olivia purchases her tiny pup, which she names Fagin (yes, after the Oliver Twist villain), she gets a warning that she and her mother have miscalculated: “You’ll be sorry you bought that tiny scrap! Little ‘uns have the biggest appetites!”

At first Olivia takes no notice, but in due course she finds out how all too right the warning was. The little pup grows into a huge dog, and appetite to match. Fagin eats far more than the whole family combined and his appetite is uncontrollable. It’s costing Mrs Twist a fortune to feed him, and he’s wolfing food right off the Twists’ plates and shopping bags so they end up going short. He starts doing the same with the neighbours, so he’s getting the Twists into trouble with them.

Mum tells Olivia she’s had enough. She will now pay for only one tin of dog food a day, and it’s up to Olivia to stump up the rest to keep Fagin fed. And if there’s any more trouble, Fagin will go to the dogs’ home.

Olivia is determined not to lose Fagin, so she does everything she can to find food for him: jobs to raise money, and finding avenues at school, friends and other networks that can spare food for Fagin. However, Fagin keeps wrecking all the avenues Olivia can find with his big appetite and bursting in to gobble up everything. One by one those avenues get closed off. It also gets Olivia into all sorts of trouble; for example, Olivia unwisely takes Fagin to a birthday party (part of a Mother Hubbard costume) and gets kicked out because Fagin ate the birthday cake. It gets to the point where nobody will give Olivia a job because of her dog’s reputation as a “greedy brute”, so she can’t raise any more money there to pay for his food. The last straw comes when Fagin’s eating wrecks the grocer’s store where Mum works and she nearly loses her job.

After this, it’s definitely the dogs’ home for Fagin. When Olivia sees their menu, she realises there is no way it can meet Fagin’s appetite. Sure enough, Fagin’s soon gobbling up every other dog’s ration in addition to his own, and the kennel maid warns Olivia that he’ll be flung out if this keeps up. Anxious not to let this happen, Olivia does everything she can to supplement Fagin’s food supply at the dogs’ home with additional food, but of course she can’t keep up either. Before long, the manager tells Olivia that Fagin can’t stay anymore. They are going to advertise a home for him. If none is found, Fagin will be put down.

Shocked at the thought of Fagin being put to sleep, Olivia begs her mother to take him back. Mum refuses because she does not want a repeat of the history they had with him. However, nobody takes Fagin. Well, an ad with “Home with never ending food supply wanted, for ever-hungry mongrel” is more likely to have put people off. Mum reclaims Fagin at the last minute because she couldn’t bear the thought of him being destroyed. She takes an additional job to keep Fagin fed, but in a month’s time she collapses from exhaustion and is hospitalised.

Olivia makes the heartbreaking decision to have Fagin destroyed herself for her mother’s sake. However, on the way to the vet there is a lucky break that changes everything. Fagin bursts in on a shoot for a dog food commercial and eats up the dog’s food, but the producer is delighted. He tells Olivia that Fagin is just what they need for their advertising. If Olivia signs him up, she will get a fee and any amount of their dog food free. This gives Fagin his never-ending food supply at last, and he’s paying for it himself. Olivia is very happy to say she will never need to “ask for more” for Fagin again.

Thoughts

This entry achieves one milestone: it completes all our entries on the 1981 Jinty stories. And all of them were written by myself, except for “Land of No Tears”.

“Food for Fagin” started in the same issue as “Dracula’s Daughter”. I like it for its light relief against the grimness of the insufferable, power-mad headmaster in that story. Many readers probably felt the same way.

The story is short, with just six episodes. This works well with how long the Twists can find ways to fill Fagin’s stomach without stretching credibility. However, the Oliver Twist references come across as rather irritating and also unrealistic. What mother would seriously name her daughter Olivia Twist? Perhaps it was meant to add humour to the story. In some cases the Oliver Twist references do work humorously, such as the stingy teacher who is meaner than “any workhouse beadle” in the dinner hall and won’t let Olivia have seconds (to fill Fagin’s stomach). At other times it doesn’t. At least it’s not used much, but the story could have done without it.

There have been plenty of humour stories with problem pets that get their owners into all sorts of scrapes. However, while this one has humorous elements too, there is an emphasis on emotion, what with the increasing desperation as Olivia fights an increasingly losing battle to keep her dog, and then an even more desperate battle to save him from being put to sleep. The irony is that Fagin’s gargantuan appetite keeps messing up Olivia’s efforts to keep him fed and landing her in trouble. In the end, it is a delightful twist to have Fagin’s appetite turn into an asset instead of a liability because it lands him the job on television that not only keeps him fed but also brings in more money for the Twists.

 

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Linda’s Fox [1981]

Sample Images

Lindas Fox 1Lindas Fox 2Lindas Fox 3

 

Published: Tammy 30 May 1981 to 1 August 1981

Episodes: 10

Artist: Ron Tiner

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None.  Groot Tina Winterboek in 1982 as “Linda’s vos” [Linda’s Fox].

Plot

Linda Barnes’ policeman father, Charlie Barnes, is wrongly imprisoned for stealing the money some criminals left behind. He was convicted solely on the (perjured) testimony of “Splinter” Mallory. More likely it was Mallory himself who stole the money or is covering up for whoever did; as Linda is about to discover, he is a criminal who commits regular crime sprees in the Exchester area where he lives.

Linda and her mother lose the house that came with Dad’s job. They have to move to a rundown house with little income to live on…in Exchester. Linda finds this so depressing, but she cheers up when she finds what is in the derelict house next door: a mother fox and her cubs. She starts making friends with the foxes, and she names her favourite fox cub Ross. Mrs Barnes does not approve of Linda’s visits to the foxes because the house is derelict and dangerous. But Linda continues to feed the foxes and make friends with them.

At school Linda makes a good friend with Julie, who is constantly annoyed by the school troublemaker, Kevin Mallory. Mallory? Yes, you guessed it – Splinter Mallory’s son! Kevin is a bully and delinquent, and he leads a gang who are always causing trouble for everyone. He likes to pick on Linda and Julie in particular. Pugnacious Julie says if she were Kevin’s mother she would give him a good hiding every day to mend his ways. If only Julie knew that Kevin’s bad behaviour is because this is the way Splinter and his wife have brought him up – to be a good criminal and do a “job” (crime) right.

When Kevin and his gang try to block the staff exit to a cinema after being banned for causing trouble there once too often, the girls spot them and call the police in. The police march Kevin straight home to his parents, where the only telling off they give is that Kevin needs to be more clever so as not to get caught. It is at this point that Splinter learns that the Barnes family are in the neighbourhood and tells Kevin to stay away from them. Too bad for Splinter that Kevin couldn’t tell him where the Barneses actually lived, though…but more on that later.

Meanwhile, the cubs are growing. As they do, they naturally start to venture into the world outside, where they encounter clashes with city life, and bigger, unfriendly animals – including Kevin and his gang. These adventures and misadventures progressively break up the litter until Ross is the only fox left in the derelict house.

It is at this point that Ross begins to cross paths with Splinter himself, which will prove to be Splinter’s undoing. It begins one night when Splinter tries to steal takings from the zoo. But he is foiled when Ross disturbs a lion, which rouses the zookeeper and he spots Splinter. Splinter has to run for it.

Then Splinter sees a house with an open window and proceeds to burgle it. Too bad for him he does not know it is the Barneses’ house. Or that Ross breaks the Barneses’ milk bottle, which wakes Mrs Barnes and alerts her to the burglary. Moreover, while Splinter makes his getaway, he cuts his feet on the broken milk bottle, and Mrs Barnes catches his licence plate number as well.

When the police trace the number back to Splinter, he goes into hiding – in the derelict house next door to the Barneses. He chases Ross off, who digs his own lair under the house. As Splinter is now next door to the Barneses, he soon finds out the joke fate played on him that night: “Damn bad luck I picked their house to burgle out of all the houses in town!”

Linda learns from Kevin that it was Splinter who burgled them. But Mum says that even if he were caught it would not help Dad. A confession to the frameup is the only thing that would. Linda has also guessed the hand, um, paw that Ross played in foiling the burglary.

A heavy downpour sets in; this, combined with the foundations that were weakened by Ross’s digging, causes the derelict house to collapse. It takes Linda’s bedroom wall with it, so that house is no longer fit to live in. Linda and her mother safely evacuate from the house. Linda is anxious about Ross, but Ross managed to escape as well. However, Splinter is not so lucky; they find him trapped, injured and calling for help under the debris of the collapsed house. Linda says she will only do so if he makes the confession to clear her father. Desperate and terrified, Splinter agrees to do so.

Dad is freed by Mallory’s confession, reinstated to the police force, and given a huge amount of compensation. They use the money to buy a house in the country. Linda, still wondering what happened to Ross, says Ross would feel quite at home here too. Little does she know Ross has in fact made his own way to the same place and is settling in very happily.

Thoughts

There have been hundreds of girls’ serials dealing with frameups. But it’s a very nasty twist to make a policeman the victim of a frameup. And it’s all on the word of one man against a police officer who clearly has an unblemished record and a sound reputation. In fact, one policeman expresses disbelief that Charlie Barnes is guilty because he does not seem the type to him. And PO Barnes is that while Mallory is…what? A police informer? A jailhouse snitch? An accomplice turning Queen’s evidence? What? It is presumably something to do with his nickname, but we are never told why he’s called “Splinter”.

And from the sound of it, there is not one shred of corroboratory evidence; PO Barnes goes down solely on Mallory’s evidence and nothing else. It sounds outrageous, but in fact that is how it really is in the English legal system and in many other Western legal systems (Scotland is one exception) that are modelled on it: a person can be charged, tried, and even convicted on the testimony of a single witness, without any corroboration whatsoever. Even a questionable witness, such as a jailhouse informer, can bring a person to trial. Not surprisingly, there have been many cases that illustrate how dangerous it can be for a criminal case to depend on a single witness without corroboration. The writer may or may not have been aware of this flaw in the English legal system, but either way they deserve a pat on the back for such realism.

When the foxes and Julie are first introduced, they are set up as pillars of support and comfort for Linda as she goes through her ordeal of her father’s false imprisonment and the downturn of her home life in the wake of it. Julie is a real standout. It’s not only because she’s strident, pugnacious, does not hesitate to stand up to Kevin and his gang, and is a really good friend who helps Linda cope with her ordeal. It’s also because she’s one of the few black protagonists we see in girls’ comics, and this makes the story stand out even more. The foxes add light relief and emotional appeal against the angst. They even dashes of humour to the story. For example, Ross accidentally gets into one of the boxes Kevin’s gang are using to block the cinema exit. They get a surprise when Ross bursts out of the box and helps to foil their trick!

Once it’s established that the Barneses have moved into the same neighbourhood as Mallory and that he’s committing regular crime sprees there, the stage is clearly set for exposing Mallory and clearing Dad. The question is how it is all going to fit together. Maybe Linda will expose Mallory, perhaps with Julie’s help?

It’s a real surprise twist when Mallory is the one to destroy himself, with some unknowing help from Ross: first by picking the wrong house to burgle, and then picking the wrong place to hide. In addition, he injures his feet on the Barneses’ broken milk bottle during his botched burglary. Wow, the karma is really biting there! We can imagine the police must have turned up something in the Mallory house with their search warrant that would link Mallory to other crimes as well.

It must have been both a surprise and a shock to readers when Linda tells Mallory that she will not get help for him unless he makes the confession to clear her father (below). Readers are more used to heroines being too nice to be downright mean to the villain, regardless of what the villain has done to them. But then, it was pressure that was required to make Mallory confess, and Linda was seizing upon what looked like her only chance to get that confession. After all, she could not depend on Mallory to make the confession out of gratitude for saving him (trite) or remorse (not bloody likely!). Besides, we know Linda wouldn’t really have refused to get help for Mallory.

Lindas Fox 4

It’s another delightful twist when Ross ends up in the same place as the Barneses in the country and it rounds off the story completely. Readers smile at the last panel where Linda wishes Ross was there, not knowing that he is and sharing the same panel with her. Let us hope they find each other again in their new home.

Mr Evans the Talking Rabbit [1983]

Sample Images

Mr Evans 1Mr Evans 2Mr Evans 3

Published: Princess II, #1 (24 September 1983) to #12 (10 December 1983)

Episodes: 12

Artist: Photostory

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None

In keeping with the Easter season, we present this rabbit-themed story from Princess II.

Plot

Jenny Andrews’ father is a children’s entertainer, but ever since his wife died his heart has not been in it. It gives him too many reminders of his late wife, plus he has also grown cynical about child audiences. As he can’t work properly no money is coming in for the rent, and eviction is imminent.

Dad does manage to perform at a children’s party at the Mortimers’ house. Jenny goes out into the garden to set up the puppet show. She is surprised to find a rabbit in a garden pen talking to her. At first she thinks it is her father’s ventriloquism, but the rabbit says he is in fact Arthur Evans, owner of the local joke/magic shop, who has been missing for weeks. He unwisely tried out a book of spells he found in the market and unwittingly turned himself into a rabbit. He retained the ability to talk, which he hides because he fears people will exploit him. He opened up to Jenny because he feels he can trust her, and he begs for her help to get him back to normal.

When Mr Evans does talk he is very disagreeable and ill-mannered. As a human he was an old grouch and even his wife calls him a “miserable old so-and-so”. As a rabbit he is not much better, but he does have more reason to be irritable considering his ordeal, especially after being imprisoned in the pen. It does not sound like the Mortimer children have treated him well either. When Mrs Mortimer pulls the rabbit’s ears, he protests in a justified but very offensive manner: “Let go, you stupid old bag!” Mrs Mortimer thinks it’s Jenny’s ventriloquism and sends Mr Andrews packing without payment (now we know where the bratty Mortimer kids get it from). So no money for the rent from that job, which means they’re even closer to eviction.

Mr Evans escapes and hitches a ride to the Andrews’ place. There Mr Andrews is so desperate for food and no money for it that he wants to eat the rabbit. The rabbit objects to that of course: “You’ve got to get me out of here before I end up sharing a plate with potatoes and two veg!” He tells Jenny. Mr Andrews assumes it’s Jenny’s much-improved ventriloquism.

Jenny and Mr Evans go to the joke shop for the book, but Mrs Evans has sold it and has no clue as to who bought it. She is not missing her husband much because he was such a misery boots. Mr Evans takes money from the till (hiding it in his mouth) to pay for groceries to keep the Andrews household fed. He does not regard it as stealing. “It’s my shop, my till, and my money! I can’t steal from myself, can I?” he tells Jenny. Yes, but tell the police that. When Mrs Evans discovers the missing money she assumes Jenny trained up the rabbit to steal it, and it’s in the newspaper: “Rabbit Steals Cash!”

The Mortimers come looking for the rabbit, which they correctly suspect got away with Mr Andrews. Mr Andrews pulls a magic hat trick to confuse them and keep the rabbit safe from them. “Squashed me a bit though,” says Mr Evans. “My back’s aching.”

Then grief overtakes Mr Andrews again. He is in no mental state to do a booked show, and they badly need the money from it. So Jenny decides to do the show herself, with the help of Mr Evans. At first he is reluctant because of the child audience: “…I loathe children – smelly, sticky, noisy little brats the lot of them. Always poking and breaking things. Definitely no!” However, Jenny persuades him otherwise. The show is such a success that Jenny is paid a bonus.

Mr Evans can smell other rabbits in the house, and says they are terrified. No wonder – they are being kept in a pen, waiting to be taken to the father’s research station for experimentation. Mr Evans goes into the pen to help them while the pen is not properly secured: “Hey, chaps – now’s your chance to make a break!” This only has Mr Evans get muddled up with them and Jenny takes the wrong rabbit. Later, Mr Evans manages to escape himself, but then he gets caught in a trap.

It doesn’t take Jenny long to realise she has the wrong rabbit, and when she goes back she discovers Mr Evans’ escape and does not know where to find him. Meanwhile, Jenny’s father gets a TV talent entrepreneur to come and listen to Jenny’s ventriloquism act, but her pathetic efforts make him look an idiot. He does not realise the talking rabbit was not her ventriloquism and the rabbit she has is not Mr Evans.

Eventually Jenny finds Mr Evans and frees him from the trap, but he becomes really ill. The vet says the rabbit has a heart condition, and if he were human he would receive hospital treatment, but as he is a rabbit he will have to be put to sleep. Of course this is not an option for Mr Evans. They need the book of spells more than ever now, so they start advertising for it.

The advertising gets no response until Dad gives Jenny the book of spells for a birthday present. So it was in the house all the time!

Dad comes over to believing Mr Evans the talking rabbit is for real and lends a hand with the counter spell. Unfortunately something goes wrong. Mr Evans starts growing into a monstrous giant rabbit, which sends the landlady into faint.

Jenny and her father finally get the magic right and Mr Evans returns to human form. The landlady assumes the giant rabbit must have been one of her dizzy turns. Mr Evans now hopes to make money out of the book, but it has been conveniently reduced to ashes. “Blast!”

Mr Evans can now receive the hospital treatment he needs. He even gets his wife to believe what happened and how the money really got taken from the shop till, so Jenny is cleared. As Mr Andrews is no longer up to entertaining, Mr Evans offers him a job as manager of his joke shop because he is going to retire and take his wife on a world cruise. Mind you, Mr Evans is still a grouchy man, and he is not pleased to be given a salad lunch in hospital: “Oh no – not more lettuce!” Just when he thought he was free of rabbit greens.

Thoughts

Few photo stories in girls’ comics are remembered today, but there seems to be some lingering memory for this one, even if it is a bit bonkers. This has to be due to Mr Evans himself. There is no doubt he is the star of the show. Every time he speaks in his rude, tetchy, sourpuss manner it makes you laugh out loud because it’s so funny. You just have to love it, and for this reason I’ve put up examples throughout the entry.

The story would be far less effective if Mr Evans talked in a more nondescript or formal manner. And for all his cranky ways, he is simply loveable – at least when he is a rabbit – because he’s a rabbit, and rabbits are so cute. “You were impossible as a rabbit,” says Jenny. “I can’t begin to think what you’d be like as a donkey or an elephant!” But that’s what makes it so funny. The juxtaposition of a cute rabbit talking in such a crabby uncivil manner is simply hilarious. His grouchiness makes him less likeable when he is a human, yet endearing as a rabbit. It’s ironic that an old sourpuss like him runs a joke shop.

We can just see the laughs the grouchy talking rabbit would raise if the story were televised, and it would make a delightful children’s programme.

Mr Evans’ surly disposition does not improve much as a rabbit. He is rude even to Jenny when he reaches out to her for help. In some ways he does have reason to be snappy: “You’d be a grouch too, if you’d been turned into a rabbit, lived in a hutch outside in all weathers, been thought of as a tasty meal, and then cuddled like some revolting pet!” Yes, he sure has been through quite an ordeal since he became a rabbit, and being turned into a rabbit must have been very traumatic. It certainly is not very comfortable: “It’s hot, wearing a fur coat all the time!” Added to that is his growing heart condition, which would hardly help his disposition. He becomes even more sympathetic when his illness is diagnosed, so now his very life depends on finding the book of spells and reversing the spell.

Mr Evans’ experiences as a rabbit do open his heart more to other animals. For example, when he encounters the research lab rabbits he thinks “Never thought I’d feel sorry for a bunch of rabbits!”, which shows how much he had thought about animal welfare before. That’s not to say he is a heartless man; his offering Mr Andrews a job shows he’s not such a bad old stick, even if he is a grump. He does not even mind (well at least he doesn’t object) when Jenny tells him how impossible he is, even when he becomes human again.

Mr Evans’ disposition would be projected far better if the story had been drawn. We could really see his surliness brought to life with say, lines and storm clouds around his head indicating anger. This would also bring in even more humour to the story. And his growth to giant rabbit proportions would be brought off far more effectively. Indeed, the story itself would be far better off being a picture story rather than a photo story.

It’s not surprising that Mr Evans’ adventures as a rabbit are a vehicle into the exploration of animal abuse and animal welfare. It begins with Mr Evans being abused by the Mortimer family, and comes up again with the caged rabbits bound for the research lab. Mr Evans even tries to encourage those rabbits into a jailbreak, but they don’t understand him.

When heroines in girls’ comics work in the entertainment business, they are as a rule quite proactive heroines and Jenny is no exception. She may not have enough experience or talent to follow her father, but she is not afraid to speak her mind. Mr Andrews’ occupation (conjuror, clown, ventriloquist, puppeteer) also lends liveliness to the story; the best scene is where he uses the hat trick to hide Mr Evans. This shows what a good entertainer he is, and it’s a real shame he has lost his passion for it. We really hope he would regain it. He does not, but it’s a relief that he is going to get a job where his conjuring skills will be transferable. He will most certainly be a more pleasant man for customers to meet in the joke shop than Mr Evans.

Finleg the Fox (1975)

 

Sample Images

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Published: Lindy #14, 20 September 1975 to #20, 1 November 1975; continued in Jinty and Lindy merger 8 November 1975 to 20 December 1975

Episodes: 14

Artist: Barrie Mitchell

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Una Price has been left orphaned and lame from a car crash and is in delicate health. Authorities send her to Blindwall Farm in the hope the country air will improve her health, but they have not counted on the Drays who are running it. The daughter, Dora Dray, bullies Una and lumbers her with all the work, despite Una’s bad leg, while she indulges in riding. Una soon gets the impression that Dora is a sadist who enjoys hurting animals and people. Mr Dray is a sourpuss who doesn’t have a good attitude towards Una either. They both push Mrs Dray around and take her for granted, so she is the only one who is kind to Una.

Dray is not pleased when Una rescues a fox from one of his traps. He also warns her about his landlord, Sir Arthur Stollard, who is a master of fox hounds. Una secretly nurses the fox, named Finleg because of his leg injury, in the barn.

Dora finds out and starts blackmailing Una. Soon Una has had enough of this and stands up to Dora. So Dora brings in her father, all set with a shotgun to shoot Finleg. But Finleg has recovered enough to escape, so Dray finds nothing and Dora gets a clip around the ear from him. Finleg is now back in the wild, but he is not forgetting the girl who saved him.

Meanwhile, Sir Arthur is trying to buy out Blindwall Farm when the Drays’ lease expires. Dray does not want to sell the farm he has worked on all his life, but feels he may have no choice because Sir Arthur is a powerful man.

Soon after, suspicious things start happening. Una finds a blood trail after Dray takes a shot at something in the night. The trail leads to a shed and a strange man, whose left hand is wrapped in a bloodied bandage. He knocks her out and runs off. When she describes the man to Dray, he gets oddly worked up and goes off on a hunt for the man – with his shotgun. He does not seem to have much success, but after this he softens towards Una and even spares Finleg when he has a brush with him at a disused railway track, where he has set up a den in the embankment.

But Sir Arthur’s fox hunt isn’t sparing Finleg. Dora has been invited, not realising Sir Arthur plots to get at Dray through her because she would know his weaknesses. Dora is eager to use the hunt to kill Finleg. Una helps a bunch of fox hunt protesters foil the hunt. Dora finds out and threatens to beat Una, but Finleg steps in to save her. Dora is even more narked when Sir Arthur tells her she is not good enough to join the hunt, so she gets even more vicious towards Una and Finleg.

That night Dray goes hunting for the man again and Una follows. The man knocks Dray out and is searching the embankment at the railway tracks. He finds Finleg’s den. Finleg and Una manage to scare him off and he tries to escape in a passing car, but the driver doesn’t stop. For some reason Dray is against the idea of going to the police and Una wonders what he is hiding. Una also loses her crutch at the scene and starts using a stick, which helps to strengthen her leg.

Dora again joins Sir Arthur as they prepare for another hunt, and Una is following. They stumble across the strange man, who has been shot dead. Sir Arthur finds a list of names on him, which he finds interesting and hides from the police. The man turns out to be an escaped prisoner named Stephens, and his death is a murder inquiry. Afterwards, Sir Arthur uses the list and Dray’s suspicious-looking head injury to blackmail Dray into selling the farm, with insinuations that he will have the police suspect Dray Stephens’s murder. Later Dray tells his family that they are leaving the farm at the end of the month. Seeing no further use for Dora now, Sir Arthur tells her not to bother with their next hunting date. Dora blames Una and hates her even more now.

Surmising that the driver of the car Stephens tried to jump into is the real murderer, Una goes back to investigate. Finleg leads her to the embankment, where she finds a huge cache of hidden money. She shows the money to Dray, who clearly recognises it but won’t have a bean of it. Una hides it in the barn.

Una sees the strange car in town, which is driving dangerously and nearly knocks her and another woman over. When Una helps the woman, a Mrs Pargeter, Dora tells her everyone says Mrs Pargeter is a witch (because Mrs Pargeter is psychic and treats animals with herbal remedies). Una rubbishes such nonsense, especially from Dora.

Dora seizes another opportunity to spite Una when she finds the crutch with blood stains on it and takes it to the police, claiming it is evidence that Una is linked to Stephens’s murder. The police realise Dora is a spiteful minx but they still have to investigate the bloodstains. The blood group belongs to Dray, but he doesn’t tell the police the full story of what happened and Una wonders why as she is sure he is innocent of Stephens’s murder. The police also search the property, but Finleg takes the sack of money before the police find it and puts it back in his den. The police leave, but Dray is still under suspicion.

Una goes to consult Mrs Pargeter, who says the money must have come from a train robbery ten years back, when the tracks were in use. On the way back the strange car actually tries to run Una down, but Finleg saves her. Later the strange car intercepts Dora, who says she is laying down poison for foxes (Finleg of course). The man tells her that if she comes across anything else to leave a note for him at Cobbett’s Mill.

The police are also investigating Cobbett’s Mill because a lady reported seeing a light there in the night. They find nothing, but their dogs got excited so they know there must be something. Later we learn that Cobbett was on the list of names Sir Arthur found, and so was Dray’s, but he can’t figure out what the other names mean. Realising the police are not charging Dray with Stephens’s murder at this stage, Sir Arthur again ingratiates himself with Dora to get at Dray.

Dora’s attempt to poison Finleg succeeds. Una finds him, and realises Dora was responsible when she bumps into her. Una takes Finleg to Mrs Pargeter, who has skills in healing animals. Her herbal remedies do the trick and Finleg is soon on the mend.

Meanwhile Dora finds the money in the den and leaves a note about it in Cobbett’s Mill for the man. Una sees Dora leave the mill. After a fight with Dora she finds the note and realises Dora has put herself in danger because of it. Sure enough, Mrs Dray tells Una that she saw two men kidnap Dora, but Dray refuses to call the police. However, he finally tells them the whole story. Two men who robbed the train came to his farm and coerced him into hiding some of the money. The gang was rounded up and imprisoned. One of them, Stephens, escaped and came back to look for the money. The man who killed Stephens must have been “The Boss”, the only member of the gang not to be caught, and his true identity is unknown. Realising “The Boss” must be the one who kidnapped Dora, Una, with Finleg’s help, keeps watch over the den where the money is hidden, figuring the kidnappers will come for it.

But Una is in for a big surprise at who shows up for it – Sir Arthur! Una follows him (her leg is now fit enough for her to do this) while giving Finleg a note explaining things to take back to the farm. The police have finally been called and when they see the note they go in pursuit, with Finleg leading them.

At the hideout Una overhears Sir Arthur and his accomplice (his estate manager, Bert Randle) planning to kill the bound and gagged Dora because she knows too much. Una unwisely goes in to tackle them and gets captured too, but it’s Finleg to the rescue with a bite on Sir Arthur’s leg. Sir Arthur is arrested and confesses to being “The Boss”, and Randle was his right-hand man in the robbery.

So the threat of Sir Arthur is no longer hanging over the farm and the Drays want Una to stay. Dora reforms, apologises to Una, and starts treating Una like her very own sister. Una now walks properly thanks to Finleg. Finleg becomes part of the family, but eventually the call of the wild summons him away while Una looks on.

Thoughts

This was one of two Lindy serials to make the transition into the merger with Jinty, so it has some distinction for that. It was also the only fox serial in Jinty, even if it is one that came to Jinty half way through its run. Jinty had some stories featuring an animal from the wild, but this was the only one to feature a fox.

Finleg shares some similarities with the 1984 story “Rusty Remember Me”, which started in Princess series 2 and was also completed in a merger, the last one in Tammy. Its protagonist is also a crippled girl who gradually overcomes her disability and walks properly again thanks to the friendship she strikes up with a fox. Perhaps it was the same writer.

However, Finleg has much meaner and crueller opponents than Rusty (a surly caretaker who is nasty but not downright evil). Finleg is up against a cruel and vicious girl who tries to kill him on several occasions, and that’s only the start. He is also up against fox hunters, who combine forces with the threat from Dora. The man leading the hunt isn’t just threatening Finleg; he’s a greedy, unscrupulous aristocrat who will resort to fair means or foul in order to get his hands on the Drays’ farm and force them off into a council house. Such villains are very common in girls’ comics. What is unusual is that Sir Arthur is also a mastermind behind a train robbery. That does sound a bit odd; you’d think such things would be beneath a snobby aristocrat like him. On the other hand, it says a lot about what makes him so rich.

The menace of Sir Arthur over the Drays, Dora’s cruelty towards Finleg and Una, the fox hunt threat, the problems of Una’s disability, and her friendship with Finleg make a durable combination for a good plot. But what really heat it up and keep it going are the introduction of the mystery elements, the murder of Stephens, and Dray being suspected of it, which means Una now has the additional task of clearing his name.

There’s also a horrible but fitting comeuppance for Dora when she is kidnapped by the very man she thought was her friend – Sir Arthur. When she heard them plotting to drown her in the marshes her life must have flashed before her eyes. The shock of it lends some plausibility to her change at the end, even if it does come across as a bit quick and pat. It’s a real twist for her that she is rescued by the efforts of Finleg and Una, the ones she had tried to destroy out of spite. Gratitude must have also been a factor in her change for the better.

Bet Gets the Bird! (1975)

Sample Images

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“Bet Gets the Bird!” Jinty 22 March 1975
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“Bet Gets the Bird!” Jinty 22 March 1975.

Published: 22 March 1975 – 31 May 1975 (11 episodes)

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Bet (short for Betty) has a long wait for a connecting train to take her to her boarding school, Forest Park School. To fill in time she visits old Mrs Carter, a friend of her grandmother. She finds Mrs Carter is going into a home and can’t take her beloved parrot, Rosy Posy, with her. Arrangements have been made for Mrs Carter’s nephew William to take Rosy Posy. However, when William arrives he strikes both Beth and Rosy Posy (but apparently not Mrs Carter) as a horrible man. Sure enough, he intends to strangle Rosy Posy at the first opportunity. Bet can’t let that happen, so she asks Mrs Carter to let her take Rosy Posy instead. Mrs Carter is worried about what the boarding school will say, but is persuaded when Bet says she could find a home for Rosy Posy with one of the day girls.

What this really means, though, is breaking school rules by bringing the parrot to school. Things get even more complicated when Rosy Posy’s squawks get her mistakenly enrolled as one of the pupils. Worse, teacher Mrs Cook is a tartar, so she is unlikely to understand if she discovers the truth. Therefore Bet has to hide the parrot, with help from Patty and Mary who share her dormitory, and keep up the pretence of a pupil named Rosy Posy at the school. This creates its own unforeseen problems, such as how to cover the homework that is supposed to be Rosy Posy’s. Bet finds herself doing double homework to cover up – and the first time she does it, the parrot messes up the homework book! So poor Bet has to do it again.

And of course there are the hijinks from the parrot. Rosy Posy is a very intelligent bird and whatever she says often seems to indicate she understands what’s going on. Other times what she says is well meaning but either comes out at an awkward moment or is misconstrued, which can lead to trouble. For example, one time Rosy Posy gets loose and ends up talking down the gardener’s telephone about “what a little pickle!” and “this is a nice kettle of fish! Help!” The telephone operator thinks there is some sort of emergency, and the gardener is surprised to find a policeman on his doorstep!

Other times the antics of Rosy Posy bring people their just desserts. For example, Patty’s grandparents celebrate their golden wedding anniversary but they have a most unsavoury guest – an old grouch who starts spoiling everything with his grumbling. But he’s allergic to feathers, and what with Bet having to bring the parrot because there’s nowhere else to keep her – plus more hijinks when Rosy Posy escapes from her cage – the day is saved for the grandparents.

It all makes for a very complicated situation that has lots of fun, humour, and animal appeal. But there is always the underlying element of risk and threat of discovery. Mrs Cook never finds out about the parrot, but there is one bully, Prissy, who does and starts blackmailing Bet and her friends over it. It is Rosy Posy herself who stops the blackmail, but Prissy tries to get revenge by poisoning Rosy Posy. Fortunately Bet finds out and then pulls a trick on Prissy that gets her removed from the school.

This story lasted 11 episodes, which is a fairly average length for a serial but rather short by the standards of Jinty’s humour strips. Why did Bet not last longer than 11 episodes? There was potential to spin it out further. Did Jinty want to move on to other things and decided to end Bet to make the room? Or did she want to free up Phil Gascoine to start on “The Green People” the following week? Whatever the reason, the story ended on a regular episode, but with a strong note. When Rosy Posy makes a good recovery from an accident, Bet tells Rosy how much she has missed her “even though you do get me into trouble sometimes!”

José Casanovas

Catalan artist José Casanovas (1934 – 2009) was well-known and well-loved by lots of readers, appearing as he did in many British comics over a number of decades. His detailed, stylish, and above all fun art was distinctive and he was credited in various publications, so it is easy to pull together quite a long list of his work (though no doubt still incomplete). Many British readers think of him as a 2000AD artist – that is how I first came across his name myself – and therefore perhaps as an SF artist primarily. If you count up the stories he drew and the titles he appeared in, though, by far the majority of his work seems to be for the girls’ comics market.

The list below has been pulled together with much reference to the Catawiki database in order to fill out the non-Jinty stories, so many thanks to the contributors to that site. (I have included the numbers of episodes listed for each story as per Catawiki, to emphasize how prolific he was. I am fairly sure the records on that site are not complete but it gives a good impression of his work. Of course, please do send in further information if you have it!)

  • Tammy
    • Cinderella Spiteful (1971-72) – 20 episodes
    • Two-Faced Teesha (1973-74) – 10 episodes
    • Ella on Easy Street (1974) – 8 episodes
    • The Town Without Telly (1974) – 12 episodes
    • Wars of the Roses (1975-76) – 11 episodes
    • Babe at St Woods (1976-77) – 39 episodes (you can see some sample pages here)
    • Down To Earth Blairs (1977-78) – 25 episodes
    • Running Rosie Lee (1980) – 10 episodes
    • Tomorrow Town (1982) – 10 episodes
  • Sandie
    • The Nine Lives of Nat the Cat (1972-73) – 38 episodes
  • Princess Tina & Penelope
    • Have-A-Go Jo (1970) – 25 episodes
  • Jinty
  • Lindy
    • Sophie’s Secret Squeezy (1975) – 7 episodes
  • Penny
    • Pickle, Where Are You? (1979) – 10 episodes

Mistyfan has recently done a post about “Sue’s Daily Dozen” in which she made the point that Casanovas is known for science fiction. There is one science fiction story done by him in a girls’ comic, namely Tammy‘s “Tomorrow Town”, which I take the opportunity to reprint here as being a piece of art that would otherwise not be likely to get a showing on this Jinty-specific blog.

Tomorrow Town pg 1

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Following Casanovas’ death in 2009, Steve Holland wrote an obituary Bear Alley post here, drawing also on the Spanish-language blog Tebeosfera’s post here. (Do follow this last link to see some lovely artwork from an adaptation of Pollyanna done for the local market.) There was also an interesting comment on 2000AD fan blog the Prog Slog about Casanovas’ work in the boys’ science fiction comics market. He drew well-liked characters Max Normal (some Max Normal art by Casanovas can be seen here) and Sam Slade Robo-Hunter (after Ian Gibson had stopped drawing this latter character). He also drew a number of one-off stories in 2000AD, and a story in Starlord, and people characterise him as a 2000AD artist therefore. The Prog Slog comment here clarifies that: “Casanovas early work for 2000AD, Starlord etc. was sporadic. First appearance was a ‘Future Shock’ in Prog 70 (24 June 1978) a 1.5 pager called ‘Many Hands’. “Good morning Sheldon, I love you” was his next, a six page future shock style one-off written by John Wagner in Starlord 11 (22 July 1978). He drew another one-off Wagner [story] in Starlord 16. There’s a gap then until Progs 148 & 149 (January 1980) where he does a 2-part Ro-Jaws Robo-Tale. He then draws the 11 page Mugger’s Mile by Alan Grant, the first ever Max Normal strip (“The Pinstripe Freak (He’s Dredd’s informer)”) in the first Judge Dredd annual (1981). He goes on to draw more Future Shocks in Prog 220, 241 and 245, another Max Normal in the 1982 JD annual, and again in JD 1983 annual. In the 1982 Sci-Fi Special he draws his first Dredd proper, a 10 pager by Wagner – The Tower of Babel. His first Dredd in the weekly is the excellent “Game Show Show” 2 parter in 278/279, August 1982, Wagner again. He did the second ever ‘Time Twister’ in Prog 295, a 4 pager called Ultimate Video. And that’s as far as my data goes for now, by Prog 300 he’d done 77.5 pages: 32.5 in the weeklies, 10 in specials, 23 in annuals and 12 in Starlord. According to ‘Barney’ online (http://www.2000ad.org) his last work was in Prog 822 (Feb 1993), Robo-Hunter”. The tally of his pages for 2000AD and the like must therefore surely be far outnumbered by the 90+ episodes of his run on Dora Dogsbody in Jinty alone!

The Goose Girl (1977)

 

Sample Images

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Publication: 20/8/77-5/11/77

Artist: Keith Robson

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Plot

Ever since she can remember, Glenda Noble and her mother have been fighting over birds. Glenda just loves birds and is a born naturalist. But for some reason Glenda’s mother has a pathological hatred of birds and tries to crush Glenda’s love for them wherever she sees it. She keeps pushing Glenda into fashion design, which Glenda hates and rebels against. The war between them is further compounded by the fact that they are opposites: Mum lives for fashion, the high life, social climbing and the city, while Glenda is clearly the country girl who loves the great outdoors.

When Glenda is fifteen, she and her mother have to move out of their posh Edinburgh flat and into a country lodge left by Mr Noble in Solway Firth. This suits Glenda, who has always hated city life, and she takes to her new home immediately. But Mum hates the move as she is a city person, and it seems to strike a raw nerve with her too.

Glenda is horrified to find it is goose-hunting season. She finds an injured goose, which she names Brodie. She tries to nurse Brodie back to health, but the bird-hating mother means Glenda has to keep Brodie hidden. This causes a lot of difficulties. And when Mum finds out, she tries to stop Glenda seeing Brodie by taking Glenda out of school and giving her private lessons in order to keep her at home. It’s also part of Mum’s design to have Glenda give up her ornithology and push her into fashion design. Her ambition is to open a fashion boutique with the money Glenda inherits when she turns eighteen (but that is in three years!). She even locks Brodie in the shed to turn him over to one Colonel Graham to be disposed of. This is all part of her social climbing as well – getting in with the gentry and the high life. But Glenda finds the key and saves Brodie, so Mum faces nothing but embarrassment at the hands of the angry Colonel.

Mum reveals that the reason she hates birds (and why Glenda loves them) is because her husband, a naturalist, was shot while defending the geese against the goose hunters. And it is these same goose hunters that Mum is now supporting against Brodie and the other geese!

Glenda starts campaigning against the hunt, but meets with little success and popularity. The locals say they want the hunt because it is good for trade when the nobility comes for the shoot. She also makes an enemy out of Chrissie Milne, who is only too happy to sneak on Brodie to Mrs Noble, which she does several times. However, it’s not long before Glenda has a whole flock of wild geese following her around! And she soon has dreams of opening a nature reserve in Solway Firth for them. But her goose demo not only meets more hostility from the locals but gets Mum into more trouble with the Colonel she is trying to get in with. After this, Mum watches Glenda like a hawk and even shams illness to keep Glenda close to her.

Mum is now trying to set up a clothes shop back in Edinburgh and also move back there to get away from the “backwater” she hates. Of course she has done this without consulting Glenda and does not care for Glenda’s feelings, which are the complete opposite. Also, Glenda has her doubts about the sincerity of the couple who are putting them up. She is soon proved right – the couple soon tire of them when Mum can’t find a job in fashion selling because she is too old and they think the Nobles are presuming on their kindness. To make things more complicated, Brodie has tagged along. When he flies into the flat, the couple reach their limit and Glenda has another bust-up with her mother. Glenda and Brodie head off back to the lodge – in a snowstorm!

Mum returns (the couple have thrown her out) and tracks them down. She says she has fixed Glenda up with an interview at Edinburg Art College for fashion design. Glenda uses it as a pretext to get to Edinburgh because she has spotted a job going for a year’s contract on an African nature reserve. But the interviewer for the art college meets her off the train, thus preventing her from skipping off to her own interview. Glenda makes sure she fails the art college interview but arrives too late for her own. She leaves in tears, not realising she has dropped the photographs she took of Brodie that show the progress of his recovery and her aptitude for the job.

The interviewer, Mr Donald, sees the photographs at reception. He is far more impressed with them than with anyone he had interviewed that day. He also happens to be an old friend of Glenda’s father. Glenda’s address was written on the back of the photos, so Mr Donald tracks her down and offers her the job. But the possessive, bird-hating Mrs Noble refuses to let Glenda go. However, Mum changes her mind when Mr Donald gives them a tape recording made by Dad, which reveals that he had wanted to open a nature reserve in Solway Firth – the same dream Glenda has! Glenda is off to Africa, but first they use the money Dad left in trust to open the Solway Firth reserve. So the now-recovered Brodie and the other geese are now safe from the hunters.

Thoughts

Jinty was known for her environmental stories and we can see the environmental theme underlying this one too. In this case it is the issue of hunting and both sides of it: people who care more for profit and consumerism than nature, and the naturalists who want to protect the environment and the animals and birds who live in it. But naturalists often have a hard time being heard against hard-line attitudes towards environmentalism, as Glenda discovers when her campaign to protect the geese meets animosity and even threats of mob violence.

The environmental themes in this story are given a brilliant atmosphere with the artwork. Keith Robson’s artwork is ideal to the ruggedness of the Scottish countryside and the wildness of nature. His depiction of the grotesque looks on Mrs Noble’s face when she gets on her high horse about Glenda almost seem a well-deserved caricature of her and her unhealthy, possessive attitudes.

When we find out why Mrs Noble has such a bad attitude towards birds, we are even more outraged by it because she is doing things that would have her husband spinning in his grave: hating birds, helping bird hunters, denying injured birds care, handing birds over to be destroyed, and not respecting the things that he loved and lived his life for. As Glenda herself points out to her mother, she should hate the hunters. After all, they are the ones who fired the fatal shots and are the ones responsible for his death, not the birds. We might (grudgingly) understand Mrs Noble’s hatred of birds if, say, a bird caused her husband to fall off the roof and break his neck. But, really – Mrs Noble hating birds because her husband was shot while defending them makes about as much sense as hating victims of mugging because someone you love was killed while defending a mugging victim.

And we have to wonder why the Nobles ever got married in the first place because they were clearly polar opposites. She loves everything the city has to offer and the high life while he was a naturalist who loved the country and its isolation; we can see this in Glenda, who is obviously her father’s daughter. He loved living in the lodge while she hated it because country life was not for her. Perhaps it was a case of opposites attracting. But if he had lived, we wonder if the marriage would be similar to the stormy relationship Glenda has with her mother. Still, at least Glenda would have had her father on her side and encouraging her love of birds, and a much happier home life.

When we see the war between Glenda and her mother, we admire Glenda for being the rebel who refuses to bend to her possessive mother who keeps trying to crush her love of birds and push her into undesirable fashion designing. Glenda flouts her mother wherever possible. This is one girl who is not going to take things in silent resentment and we like a heroine who does not take things lying down. But Glenda doesn’t always win, such as when Mum tears up her sketches of birds in the first episode. And the odds stack up against her even when she moves to the lodge because the locals are hostile to her ideas about birds and endorse the goose hunting because it is good for business. It must have been the same for her father all those years ago. It is ironic that in the end it is Mrs Noble who saves the birds by agreeing to open a nature reserve for them with the trust money once she learns it was her husband’s wish. In so doing, she not only redeems herself but also adopts a much healthier attitude towards nature. She tells Glenda that she has finally learned to let go. This includes letting go her pathological hatred of birds, and letting Glenda go instead of being so possessive about her and forcing her into her mould.