Tag Archives: animals

The Darkening Journey

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Publication: 26 March 1977 – 6 August 1977 (20 episodes)

Reprint/translation: Translated into Dutch and published in Tina as “Samen door het duister” (1981)

Artist: José Casanovas

Writer: Unknown

Summary

Julie Burton’s eyesight is growing dimmer and dimmer, and her main support is her golden Labrador, Thumper, who almost acts as a guide dog. There are some bright spots in her future: her father has got a new job over in the west by the sea, and there is hope that an upcoming operation might give her good sight again. However, on the cusp of leaving to travel miles away to their new home, Julie and Thumper are separated and the dog suffers a blow to the head that leaves his own eyesight blurry. A friendly talking rook, Beaky, befriends Thumper and together they make their long difficult way west towards where Thumper remembers Julie’s new house to be located.

Their way is fraught with difficulties: it’s mostly humans who get in their way, either for positive or negative motives. First the talking rook is nearly recaptured by his former owners, only to be rescued by Thumper; then they both need to run away from a selfish rich lady who only wants to keep them while she’s able to show them both off to her snooty friends. (The rather more sympathetic chauffeur and secretary help them to escape in the end.) Sometimes Thumper and Beaky save the humans (foiling some lorry hijackers), sometimes they save each other (Beaky brings human help to save a trapped or injured Thumper more than once, though Thumper returns the favour when they are both trapped by floodwaters).

In the meantime, Julie is pining away thinking about Thumper, and he likewise seems to have an almost telepathic bond with her – her image is shown hovering over the setting sun more than once, as a beacon calling him to her, and she likewise often seems to be able to sense his misery. Increasing his woes, Thumper is suffering from more and more blind spells too. But there are many times when temporary blindness and separation anxiety are not the biggest evils they face – a few of the humans they meet have plans to put Thumper down; he is bullied by a pack of stronger dogs; and another time he is nearly eaten by rats.

Though by the end, Thumper in particular is moving more and more slowly, they eventually reach the westernmost limit of their travels: the final moorland, and the sea. The dramatic tension tightens right at the end as the dog, careless with happiness, hurts his foot badly and is trapped by the rising tide: but Beaky comes through again and brings Julie’s dad to the final rescue. All is well, once the two beloved friends each have operations to restore their eyesight.

Themes and commentary

It is an intrinsically pretty sentimental story, with the dog protagonist gifted with an implausibly good skill in navigating his way cross-country in the absence of a definite location to head for. (Not to mention the almost telepathic nature of the mental connection that he and Julie seem to share.) It must have been a popular story, at 20 episodes long and featuring on the cover twice, though at the same time not rivalling the most classic Jinty stories that were also running at this point. (Though they were shorter stories, both “Creepy Crawley” and “The Spell of the Spinning Wheel” featured on the cover four times in the same time period.) Journey stories in general seem to have been very popular at this time, and the addition of sympathetic animal characters will have given it a different angle from other journey stories.

José Casanovas is also always a talent to enjoy reading. His art style is much busier and ‘fuller’ than that of many other Jinty artists, who often like to include a lot more white space in their finished pages, but it makes a nice change of pace and feels very solid. This is a story that, while far from the first rank of stories running in this title at this time, is enjoyable on its own merits and will have a number of fans.

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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!

Badgered Belinda (1981)

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Publication: 10 October 1981 – 21 November 1981

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown

Summary

Orphan Belinda Gibson is a trust-paid pupil at Brockhill Boarding School. She is badgered (bullied) by the other girls, especially Frances and Katie. We get the impression Belinda is a target of bullying because she is shy and has no pedigree or friends. The bullying makes Belinda so miserable that one night she decides to run away.

Belinda is making her way up a slope when she comes across a badger, which soon dies. Belinda suspects it was poisoned. Then Belinda finds the badger’s new-born litter. One of them is pure white and she soon calls him Whitey. She lingers to feed them, but unwittingly caves in the tunnel, leaving them vulnerable to predators. So she ends up a surrogate mother to the sett, guarding them all night. This upsets her plans for running away. Eventually she decides to quietly return to the school so she can continue to secretly look after the sett, and voluntarily endure the bullying for the sake of her badgers.

Upon Belinda’s quiet return, Frances and Katie bully her again. But the bullying backfires when one ruins her silk gown and the other her tennis racquet. Later, Belinda uses the items to help the badgers, and has a good feeling at how her wonderful secret is helping her confidence. Back at school she starts swotting up on badgers. Frances and Katie notice Belinda’s apparent early rising for this and get suspicious. But in fact Belinda has been sneaking out at night for the badgers and loss of sleep starts showing in her lessons and getting her into trouble.

Belinda begins to feel that she should inform the headmistress about the sett. But then, Squire Blackmore, who owns the land next to the school, speaks at assembly. The squire announces that he will be lending his stables and horses to the school for riding lessons. He is also a big fan of hunting and endorses it to get rid of vermin. Fearful that badgers will be classed as vermin, Belinda decides to say nothing about the sett.

The girls have a free afternoon. The others use it for the riding lessons while Belinda goes into town to buy supplies for the cubs. But Whitey follows, and the bus with the girls on it is coming. Belinda hides Whitey in her bag, but his scent causes problems with other animals when she arrives in town. Belinda then bumps into Miss Green the biology teacher and discovers that she has been buying poison for vermin traps. Remembering the fate of the mother badger, Belinda gets even more scared. Back at school, she finds the squire has gifted prints of hunting scenes to the school and they are proudly displayed on the wall. Belinda is revolted to see that one print shows badger digging.

The secret tending of the badgers continues. But Belinda still suffers from lack of sleep and this causes problems, including more bullying from Frances and Katie who set out to disrupt Belinda’s attempts to catch up. There are other close shaves that almost expose Belinda’s secret as well, including the bullies poking around. And the squire seems to be going out of his way to become a fixture at the school, with constant visits, his prints and offers of free riding lessons. Belinda is now forced to go on one. She can’t ride, so she is relegated to mucking out. But then a pack of the squire’s hunting dogs gets loose and Belinda fears for her badgers. She manages to draw the dogs off with some aniseed balls until the squire’s hunting horn calls them off. But when she attends to the badgers that night, there is a man about with a spade, and he looks suspiciously like the squire. And there is evidence he was digging for something. Belinda begins to suspect the squire let the dogs loose on purpose and wonders if there is another secret about.

At the squire’s stables the next day, Belinda overhears the squire on the phone. It was indeed him she saw last night, and he knows there was a schoolgirl out there. He then says “I’ll leave the problem to you to deal with.” And when Belinda prepares to leave the dorm that night, someone comes in. She manages to evade the intruder but cannot see who it is. Later, she suspects it was one of the staff and now feels she cannot turn to anybody because there is nobody she can trust.

When Belinda goes to the sett again, she finds the squire and another man digging and frightens them off with her torch. Next day, the squire announces he will be holding a ball the following night to celebrate 200 years of hunting and the school is invited. However, a day history trip has Belinda drawing the conclusion that the squire is digging for buried treasure, which means the badgers must be safe.

Meanwhile, the teachers begin to notice the bullying. Frances and Katie are eventually caught red-handed and are punished with detention instead of going to the ball. Belinda tries to sneak away from the ball with food for the badgers, but gets caught by a teacher, Miss Harper. She is forced to explain everything to Miss Harper and show her the sett.

Miss Harper then tells Belinda something that only she knows about. Many years ago a rich lady took an interest in the sett. When the school fell into debt in 1881, she gave a grant that still keeps the school solvent, but on condition that the sett remains unharmed. And now that Belinda has shown her where the sett is, the squire can get rid of them once and for all. So Miss Harper is the squire’s accomplice! The whole plot has been to find and destroy the sett so the grant will end and the school forced to sell. The squire will then buy the grounds for development. And at this very moment the squire and his men are setting about badger digging on the slope. That badger-digging print had been a clue, but Belinda missed it entirely!

Belinda tries to escape Miss Harper, and is ironically saved by Katie and Frances. They like badgers too and are repulsed at the badger-hunt, and at Miss Harper for calling badgers vermin to be got rid of. They lock Miss Harper in a store room. Once Belinda tells them the story, they set off to rescue the badgers. On the slope, a race begins between the squire and the girls to get to the sett.

Evidently the squire was so confident of victory that he did not linger to see the outcome. He goes back to the ball and brags to his guests that their school is closing and it is their fault for not knowing about their school history (he may have a point there). But the grin is wiped off his face when the girls come into the hall with the badgers. They got to the badgers first!

It is the squire who is forced to sell out while Miss Harper resigns. Belinda is now best friends with Katie and Frances. There is only one type of badgering for her now, and it is out there on the slope. The whole school is now devoted to looking after the badgers.

Thoughts

“Badgered Belinda” was one of the filler stories for the last seven issues of Jinty. It has four page spreads throughout its run rather than the usual three. It is very unusual for a Jinty serial to have four-pagers for the entire duration of its run; usually four-pagers appear when a story is winding down, but there is pressure to finish it quickly. This happened with “Worlds Apart” and “The Human Zoo”. But Belinda was a four pager from start to finish. What could be the reason? Was it to pack as much story as possible into the seven episodes that the story was allowed? Or was it so that Belinda would help fill out the last seven issues more?

In any case, Belinda was the last Jinty story drawn by Phil Gascoine, and it literally bookends Gascoine’s run in Jinty; his artwork appeared in the first issue with “Gail’s Indian Necklace” and in the final issue with Belinda. In between, Gascoine’s artwork has been continuous in Jinty. There were very few instances where his artwork did not appear and several where it appeared in two stories in the same issue.

Story wise, Belinda is not one of Jinty’s classics, but she can be regarded as one of the stronger filler serials to appear in the final issues of Jinty. Belinda may even be the best serial in the line up that Jinty selected for her last seven issues.

Bullying stories are always guaranteed to be popular, and this one takes the twist in which the victim decides to endure the bullying, for the sake of the badgers, rather than trying to free herself from it as most victims in bully stories do (a la “Tears of a Clown”). The bullying is serious; we see Belinda shoved around on the sports field, constantly being pushed out of bed as her wake-up call and being forced under a cold shower among other nasty incidents. It is ironic that Belinda’s secret mission to take care of the badgers and keep them safe from the hunters helps her with confidence that she did not know she had. For example, desperation for the aniseed balls to draw off the hounds has her barrelling her way to the counter to buy them. This takes the girls by surprise as they always considered her “a weed” (although this does not stop them from punishing her with the cold shower).

Animals (especially orphaned animals) are always a hit as well, and Jinty makes a very strong stance against hunting. Girls’ comics have always come out strong against blood sports. But it is unusual to use badgers for this; foxes and deer are more commonly used when girls’ comics commented on the issue. The hunting has a very insidious side to it as well as a cruel one; when the squire has his hunting prints plastered on the school walls, offers the girls free riding lessons and invites them to his ball to celebrate hunting, it’s almost as if he is indoctrinating them into the sport. Belinda alone seems to stand against it. So it is a surprise when it turns out that the bullies take such a strong stance against the badger hunt that they lock the teacher in the store-room and join forces with Belinda. Mind you, how many pupils would really dare to lock up a teacher? That would be an expelling matter, wouldn’t it? Fortunately for them, it was justified. And the bullying problem reaches its final resolution. It goes from punishment, with the bullies being caught out in the penultimate episode, to redemption in the final episode.

Girls love mystery stories too. So as the mystery element creeps its way into the story with the introduction of the squire and his strange generosity, and then the strange goings-on on the slope, it would certainly have jacked up the drama and thrills and kept the readers engaged. It is a bit jarring that it turns out to be Miss Harper, though, because there have been no hints beforehand to suggest it might be her. In fact, she hadn’t even been named until then. Perhaps there was not enough scope in the seven episodes the story was allowed for sufficient clues and red herrings to be dropped for the readers to ponder on in solving the mystery.

Lastly, there is an environmental element in this story too. Jinty had been strong on environmental stories such as “The Forbidden Garden” and “Fran of the Floods”. We see it again in Belinda, with the indiscriminate use of poisons that are meant to kill pests but can also kill innocent wildlife. This is how the mother badger dies. If Belinda had not been there, the cubs would have died too. A whole family of badgers killed through the thoughtless of humanity. But the badgers are saved by a kind girl who not only finds courage and confidence in the face of bullying but ends up saving her school and finding friends at last.

 

 

 

Freda’s Fortune (1981)

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Publication: 26 September 1981-3 October 1981

Reprint: Tammy Holiday Special 1985

Artist: Trini Tinturé
Writer: Unknown

Summary

Freda Potter and her parents have just moved to Ashdown in the country and Dad has opened a supermarket. Freda is delighted with the move, but money is tight until Dad’s business takes off. Freda has always wanted a pony, but her family cannot afford it.

While out on a walk to meet some local girls, Freda has an unpleasant encounter with a girl rider who is “Ashdown’s prize snob, Susan Hamlin.” Freda then befriends Roz Hunt and they go to the gymkhana. Roz warns that Susan will show off there.

At the gymkhana there is a raffle going. Stung by Susan’s taunts, Freda buys a ticket although it will mean going broke. But Freda gets the last laugh when hers is the winning ticket. And the prize is – a pony! His name is Fortune.

Susan is furious and sees Freda as a potential rival, especially after seeing how well Freda is riding him for a beginner, and bare-backed too. She gets even more furious when she sees Fortune and Freda are soon showing a natural talent at show-jumping.

But then the problems of keeping Fortune arise, especially with the family’s tight budget. Freda soon discovers that Susan is out to undermine her in finding a grazing field and tack. Freda manages to find a field for Fortune with Roz’s help but it is only temporary, and Susan buys the tack Freda was after. Feeling beaten, she decides to return Fortune to Susan. Susan tells Freda that her father only donated Fortune because he was useless and unsuitable for their stables, and will be put down. Freda is not having that and takes Fortune away. As Freda goes, Susan is gleeful at sorting out a rival.

Freda decides on a broader search for a field. She helps save a farmer’s bull and in return he lets Fortune graze on his field. Another favour with an elderly lady gets Freda some tack and a hard hat. Freda is also finding that riding Fortune is great advertising for her dad’s business.

But then another trick from Susan has Freda and Fortune thrown off the field. And by the time the next gymkhana arrives, Freda thinks it will be her first and last event as she cannot find a place to keep him. Then she meets Mr Hamlin and tells him about his putting Fortune down because he thought he was not fit for his stables. Mr Hamlin is furious, saying he would not put a useless pony up for a raffle. They then realise the trick Susan has pulled.

Mr Hamlin is all for banning Susan from participating in the event as a punishment. Susan is tears. Freda begins to think, and wonders if Susan acted as she did because she thought she would let her father, the owner of the poshest stables in the district, down if she allowed a newcomer to become her rival. So she persuades Mr Hamlin to let Susan stay so they can settle their rivalry in a fair competition. Mr Hamlin agrees, and tells Freda that she can keep Fortune at his stables. So that problem is solved.

Susan apologises to Freda as she makes her way to the event. But she must have been affected by the upsets, because she does not do as well as usual. Freda does not win either, but it is her first event. Afterwards, Susan says she is no longer bothered about losing, and she no longer acts snobbishly either. She and Freda become friendly rivals and train together.

Thoughts

This was Trini Tinturé’s last story for Jinty. And it is clearly one of the filler stories that Jinty put in to fill her last seven issues. It is a two-parter that is run at six-page spreads. Six page spreads are often hailed as a special treat for readers, and indeed readers would have loved six-pagers. But was the story run at this pace as a special treat or because there was pressure to finish it faster than usual? Under normal circumstances it would have been a four-parter with the usual number of pages. Or it could even have been spun out into more episodes, and it does have the potential for that. There are clear characters and situations that could have had more development. Why was this story not given more weeks to run to help fill the closing issues of Jinty? Was there no room for it, as the editor had to find spaces for “Pam of Pond Hill”, “The Bow Street Runner” and “Badgered Belinda”? Or was there some other reason the editor did not take Freda further?

Horse rival stories (or two riders feuding over the same horse) are an old favourite in girls’ comics. Often there is spite and dirty tricks from a jealous rival, who may end up changing for the better, as Susan did, or getting their comeuppance. And of course readers always love pony stories, which must have made “Blind Faith” (a show-jumping horse who is blind to boot!) and “Horse from the Sea” popular. Sadly, Freda is really not up there with Jinty’s better-remembered stories. The story is not as developed as it could have been because of its extremely short run. It reflects the situation with the other serials that Jinty ran in her final issues – okay stories that served their purpose and would keep readers entertained, but they were meant as fillers or bridges to the merger. There is a feel about the last seven issues that there was a drop in energy and quality – understandable with a comic whose cancellation was fast approaching. But it is hardly the sort of atmosphere to produce classics.

While Freda lasted, readers would have enjoyed her story because it pushed a lot of buttons to make a serial popular: ponies and riding, jealous rivals, determination and courage to beat the odds which always seem to stack up, and a competition to see how it resolves. Freda suddenly feeling sorry for Susan and gaining psychological insight into her bad behaviour feels a bit quick and slick, and is somewhat irritating and unconvincing. But the outcome of the gymkhana is impressive. Neither girl wins it, which is a refreshing change from trite endings where the heroine wins the match because she was determined and in the right. Readers must have been a bit sad that Freda did not last longer and were wishing they could have seen more of her.

 

 

Dora Dogsbody (1974-1976)

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Publication: 11 May 1974-1 November 1975. Returned 31 January 1976-5 June 1976.

Artist: José Casanovas

Writer: Various, including Terence (Terry) Magee and Pat Mills.

It has been said that the Cinderella story is (according to Pat Mills) one of the lynchpins in a girls’ comics. Well, it could also be said that in girls’ comics there are two types of Cinderella stories. The first is the serious type, with the ill-used heroine suffering constant exploitation and abuse from nasty guardians and struggling to find a way to escape. The second is the humour type, whereby the heroine is treated like Cinderella, but each week ends in a comical comeuppance for the nasty, scheming slave driver, and our heroine gets the last laugh (until next time). The best known of these is probably “Cinderella Jones” from Judy.

In Jinty’s first line-up, “Make-Believe Mandy” belonged to the first type. And Dora Dogsbody, the strip under discussion here, belonged to the second type. Dora Dogsbody is the first story to greet us when we open the first issue of Jinty. And as it is drawn by the popular José Casanovas whose style works brilliantly with animals, humour and the zany, it catches our attention immediately. Casanovas’ art is the type you can fall in love with immediately.

Dora Watson has lived in an orphanage until one day she is out for a walk. She rescues a dog (which she names Scamp) from being beaten up by bigger ones and in so doing demonstrates a way with dogs that does not go unnoticed by Mr and Mrs Siddons. They explain that they run a dogs’ hotel and ask Dora to come and live with them in exchange for helping their dog guests. It seems like a dream come true for any orphanage girl – a home at last. And the hotel sure is swanky for the dogs. They dine at posh tables as if they were humans (complete with napkins around their necks) and eat caviar and steaks. They have a television room, a room each, and are in every way pampered. But Dora notices that they still look miserable and believes it is not because they are treated like real dogs.

As a matter of fact, Mrs Siddons shows that she is no animal lover. In fact, she has a cruel streak towards them. For example, when Scamp chases a cat in the hotel (which frightens the dogs), Mrs Siddons kicks him. She is a snob who does not regard Scamp in the same league as her pampered guests. And for all her pampering, Mrs Siddons soon shows that she has little love for her own doggy guests; for example, she is not above undercutting their food as punishment or to make economies. Clearly, Mrs Siddons is only running the dog hotel for the money. And initially, Mr Siddons is as bad as his wife, though the weaker of the two. Later he becomes more of a henpecked husband in the grip of his dominant wife, and Dora takes a sly hand to help him at times. For example, she plays on Mrs Siddons’ vanity so Mr Siddons will play Sherlock Holmes in a fancy dress parade as he wants to do, instead of being coerced into being Charles II so Mrs Siddons can play Nell Gwynn.

But back to the first episode. As you might have guessed, the Siddonses have not adopted Dora out of the kindness of their hearts. Dora soon finds that Mrs Siddons only wants her as a skivvy who does all the dirty work in the hotel. She is also given a cold, draughty room that is a far cry from the luxurious dogs’ rooms and fed on scraps. But she decides to stay on to see if she can turn things around for these dogs. So each week it is Dora vs Mrs Siddons, whether it is to foil one of Mrs Siddons’ grasping machinations, to save a problem dog, or some other scrape. Some of these have included Biscuit, a dog who is in danger of being put down because he seems to attack women. Mrs Siddons does not listen to the circus owner’s explanation that the dog was only doing his old circus act of caning women with red hair, but Dora outsmarts her and restores Biscuit to the circus. In another story, Mrs Siddons wants to put down another dog, Binkie, because he is blind, and Dora is rather hard put to save Binkie’s life. Other dogs have bizarre or even dangerous behaviours that Dora is frequently lumbered with sorting out. For example, Dora is lumbered with taming a difficult dog, Wolf, which she eventually does with the help of another dog, Kipper. However, Mrs Siddons does not appreciate Kipper – and is even more furious when Dora gives the money for taming Wolf to Kipper’s owner. Some animals are not even dogs, such as Henry the cat. Mrs Siddons insists on having Henry in the hotel because his owner, Lady Jane, is an aristocrat. But Henry soon proves a horrible cat that deliberately causes trouble for the dogs the moment he is let out of his basket.

Occasionally it does not all go Dora’s way, which helps to keep it fresh. For example, in one episode, Dora thinks she has foiled Mrs Siddons again – until Mrs Siddons tells her that they are now lumbered with a pile of turnips and she will be eating them all week. In another, Dora and the dogs go on a walk-out in protest against Mrs Siddons’ cost-cutting measures which include depriving them of food, heat and light – and in winter weather! But the march is a disaster because of bad weather.

Dora proved one of the most popular and long-lasting strips in Jinty’s first line-up. She was the only one of two Jinty characters to return after a break and, unlike “Fran’ll Fix It!”, it was not due to popular demand from readers.

Desert Island Daisy (1974)

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Publication: 11/5/1974-6/7/1974
Artist: Robert MacGillivray
Writer: Unknown

Here we go with another of Jinty’s first stories. It was the most short-lived of the lineup, yet it made its way into the early Jinty annuals. Perhaps the annuals used unpublished episodes from the strip. It was drawn by popular artist Robert MacGillivray but was the only Jinty strip illustrated by this artist.

In Victorian times Sir Richard Carstairs, his wife, and their spoilt daughters Agnes and Letitia are on a voyage to visit their relatives in Australia. In their cabin, their maidservant Daisy Bates has to clean up the mess the girls have left behind, which shows how spoilt and selfish they are, but it’s the servant’s job (sigh). Then a storm wrecks the ship and the Carstairs escape in a lifeboat, with Daisy doing all the rowing until her hands are sore.

They end up on a desert island and become castaways. But even on a desert island the Carstairs uphold class distinction. This means Daisy does all the work while the Carstairs indulge themselves as high class Victorians. Daisy’s only friend is a lizard called Cuthbert. But the Carstairs’ indulgence also leads to the hijinks that give Daisy the last laugh every week. For example, Daisy makes grass skirts for the girls and applies mud pack. Then they get angry and start chasing her. As a result, Sir Richard thinks Daisy is being attacked by cannibals and thwacks his own daughters by mistake. Daisy takes advantage to finally get the shade and rest she has been desperate for in this episode. In another, Daisy finds a secret hoard of turtle eggs, which the girls mistake for buried treasure. When they go for them, they meet the angry mother who keeps them trapped the sea for hours Daisy seizes the opportunity to eat the eggs herself. In the last episode, the family accuses Daisy of getting lazy and sends her off to wash the clothes. Cuthbert dresses himself up in Lady Carstairs’ cap and petticoat. The girls laugh uproariously when they see this. But their mother is not amused and thwacks them. Daisy starts laughing at how funny life on a desert island can be, and not so bad after all.

Desert Island Daisy is a castaway story played strictly for laughs, and MacGillivray’s style is perfect for the slapstick humour. The laughs centre on jibes at the Victorian class system and getting one up for downtrodden maidservants every time the family’s arrogance towards Daisy, or their follies and self-indulgences backfire on them, and give her the last laugh. There are no laughs centred on goofed-up bids to escape a lá Gilligan’s Island. Indeed, there is nothing at all about attempts to escape, and the strip ends with their not being rescued at all.

This early Jinty strip did not last long and was the first to be axed from the first lineup. Why? Was it not popular enough, or did the editor decide to nix it in favour of another strip? Whatever the reason, after Daisy ended, the castaway theme disappeared completely from Jinty until 1980, where it was revived with the more serious “Girl the World Forgot”.

Girl the World Forgot (1980)

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Girl the World Forgot 14a

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Girl the World Forgot 14b

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Girl the World Forgot 14c

Publication: 6/9/80-13/12/80

Artist: Veronica Weir

Writer: Veronica Weir

“Ever wondered how you’d cope as a castaway?”

So began the blurb to introduce us to the story of Shona Owen, a Manchester girl who has thought little beyond discos and the pleasures in life. Then an accident at sea turns her into a castaway and forces her to learn a lot of things very fast in the name of survival.

This was Jinty’s second and last foray into the castaway theme. Her only other castaway serial – “Desert Island Daisy” way back in her first weeks – was short-lived and played for laughs. But this serial is definitely not meant to be funny. It is a serious, realistic exploration of survival on a deserted island, with menaces ranging from food shortages to an invisible threat.

It all begins when Shona and her dog Scuffer are tagging along on her parents’ scientific vessel on an expedition off the Scottish coast. A storm blows up, threatening to capsize the boat, and Dad sends out an SOS. He and Mum put Shona and Scuffer in a life raft, but a jagged rock cuts the line and they drift off into the stormy ocean. The parents are rescued in the nick of time. But the search for Shona and Scuffer yields only the empty life raft, and it is presumed that they both perished. The parents are grief-stricken, of course.

What they do not realise is that the life raft dumped Shona, Scuffer and supplies on a deserted island before being washed into the sea, where the search teams find it and draw the inevitable but wrong conclusion. Shona herself hears it on the radio, which was washed up with her. She starts calling herself the girl the world forgot because in the eyes of the world she no longer exists. Even worse, the radio does not inform Shona the fate of her parents (seems pretty odd, that – you’d think it would mention their reaction to her apparent fate). So while the parents are mourning for the daughter they think is dead, Shona has no idea whether her parents survived or not. For the duration of this serial we see parallels between the grieving parents and how they cope with their loss, and the emotional struggles Shona has in not knowing the fate of her parents. For example on Shona’s birthday, she celebrates with what she has to hand, but with tears over her parents – while back home they organise a birthday cake for her, but they too are in tears. As Christmas approaches, Dad keeps his promise to Shona to always have a Christmas tree for her, while she makes her own tree out of driftwood and shells.

The island is deserted but shows signs of former habitation, including a talking crow which Shona names Joe. Joe never seems to learn to say anything but “hello”, but provides companionship and light relief to the grimness of the story. But the most notable is the croft. It is deserted, but fully furnished, and there is even a kitchen table laid out for two. The calendar says it was last used in 1941 and there is a sign saying “welcome back” – as if the place had been laid out for someone who never arrived. From the beginning, Shona feels there is something strange about the croft. But as it turns out, Shona has no idea just how strange.

Meanwhile, Shona settles down to learning how to manage the livestock which are running wild on the island, fishing for food, collecting materials for a raft for escape, and working out ways to signal for help. It’s all a steep learning curve for the Manchester teenager who did not think much beyond discos and parties, and Shona herself says as much. But luckily for Shona she has her dog Scuffer to help, and for companionship, of course. Shona learns fast, and is constantly thinking about how much survival is changing her from the hedonistic girl she was before into a more serious and mature person.

The threats to survival are never far away, and they intensify as winter sets in. Colder weather, depleting food supplies, and fish stocks moving elsewhere mean that hunger, imminent illness, and possibly even death are setting in. But the real threat comes from the aforementioned invisible enemy. From the beginning, strange things start happening, such as the stock becoming unnerved for unexplained reasons and Shona having weird dreams of somebody wanting her out. The threat of the invisible enemy close in like a menacing coil as the signs grow that there is someone else on the island who hates Shona’s presence and does not seem to like the way she keeps changing things around at the croft. It gets worse when Shona is almost killed by a rolling boulder. It looks like someone was out for murder when Shona later finds a message on the window: “Leave!” But Shona cannot find anyone else on the island, which makes her all the more frightened. It climaxes on Christmas Eve when Shona sees a woman’s face at the window. The woman leads Shona to the shore, where she sees…Vikings burning a Viking longboat?

Not to worry, it’s just the local people honouring an annual celebration on Christmas Eve. But they get more than they bargain for when they turn into Shona’s rescuers. They explain to Shona that the previous owner of the croft, Alice Drunnon, left strict instructions on her deathbed that the croft be left undisturbed as a tribute to her late husband, who had disappeared on a fishing trip. But Shona unknowingly disturbed it, so she has been up against the angry ghost of Alice Drunnon. Shona respectfully leaves the croft how she found it before she, Scuffer and Joe go to meet their rescue ship.

There is a heart-warming tie-in with the upcoming Christmas issue as Shona is reunited with her parents in time for Christmas Day. She receives the presents her mother had arranged for her, but never thought she would give in person.  At the same time, two fishermen out enjoying their Christmas presents find Shona’s SOS note in a bottle. They dismiss it as a joke, ironically saying there are no people stranded on desert islands in this day and age.

The story bears some similarities to “Seulah the Seal”. They were both illustrated by Veronica Weir, whose strong but not harsh contour lines and use of cross hatching and inking work brilliantly for the rugged environment, animals and wildlife, and misty surroundings which blend in well with the eerie elements of the story. But there are other similarities between the two stories. First is the use of Scottish settings for the rugged, remote, wildlife environments in both stories. Second is the struggle for survival against threats from all sides, including forces that the protagonist does not fully understand (invisible enemy for Shona and seal hunters for Seulah). Third, there is the intense use of emotion, loss and grief intermingled with the love and friendship that keeps the protagonist going. Perhaps Seulah and GTWF had the same writer. Or maybe GTWF was originally scripted for Penny, inspired by the popularity of Seulah. Neither would be surprising. But GTWF has the added element of an increasing supernatural threat, which makes it a dramatic and gripping step up from Seulah.

Update: we have now been informed by Veronica Weir’s daughter that her mother wrote the story as well as illustrating it (thank you for the information!) The credit for the writer has been revised accordingly.

Penny 1 December 1979 and Seulah the Seal

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(Cover artist: Veronica Weir)

Seulah 1

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Seulah 2

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Seulah 3

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Seulah 4

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This issue of Penny marks the beginning of “Seulah the Seal” (posted above). The cover seems to have an error – isn’t a baby seal supposed to be called a pup? Seulah is the Penny serial that would conclude in the Jinty & Penny merger on 5 June 1980. Seulah must have been hugely popular if his serial lasted six months. Seulah is drawn by Veronica Weir, whose artwork would carry over to Jinty with the merger and illustrate the Jinty classic, “Girl the World Forgot“.

The issue also tells you something about the context behind the merger. When Penny began, she was printed on more expensive paper, similar to that of Girl (series 2). But by this time Penny was printed on cheaper newsprint, the same type of newsprint used for comics like Jinty, and so resembled Jinty more closely in appearance. The same shift in newsprint would appear again in Princess (series 2), which merged with Tammy in 1984. A shift to cheaper newsprint is a sign of cost-cutting, which implies that Penny was in trouble and not meeting costs of the earlier, more expensive production.

Penny gives the impression she was targeting a slightly younger audience than Jinty, what with her name, fairly lightweight fare and adaptations of popular children’s books, such as Heidi and the Secret Seven.  Tansy of Jubilee Street was the best match for the merger, because the zany humour of Tansy suited the flavour of Jinty. One of Penny‘s most striking features was Blunder Girl, a parody of Wonder Woman. Blunder Girl was drawn by J. Edward Oliver, an artist more frequently seen in Buster. Sadly, Blunder Girl did not make it into the merger.

  • The Deliverers (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Sad Sal and Smiley Sue (artist S.D. Duggan) – does not make it to merger
  • Heidi – adaptation (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Seulah the Seal – carries on in mergerr (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Snoopa (artist Joe Collins) – carries on in merger
  • Secret Seven Adventure – adapted from Enid Blyton series (artist John Armstrong)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Houghton) – carries on in merger
  • Blunder Girl!! (artist J. Edward Oliver) – does not make it to merger
  • Kathy’s Convict (artist Jesus Peña)

 

The Four-Footed Friends (1979)

Sample images

Four Footed Friends 1

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Four Footed Friends 2

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Four Footed Friends 3

Publication:17/3/79-23/6/79

Reprint: Jinty annual 1984

Artist: Peter Wilkes

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Problem parents.

You know the type – too strict, too old-fashioned, too snobby, or way too over-protective. They make you feel like a virtual prisoner, never let you have any freedom, and you feel you’re not being allowed to grow up. Or they keep forcing you to do what they want and won’t let you do what you want.

Parents like that cropped up frequently in girls’ comics. Their attitudes were what drives the story, causing untold misery that could be avoided if only they acted differently, before (with a few exceptions) the happy ending where they finally see the error of their ways. Often their attitude stems from some giant chip on their shoulder, the product of a tragic event which turned them into what they are. Such is the case of Mrs Marshall, who goes to ridiculous and unfair lengths to keep her daughter Laura and then her pet dog, Winston, away from germs and common “riff-raff” because…no, it will not be revealed yet. The reason why Mrs Marshall acts this way is meant to be a mystery that keeps readers guessing until the end of the story.

The Marshalls are a rich family who life in an upper class house in Happy-Hillcock Estate. Mrs Marshall hates “common riff-raff” and takes the silliest of precautions to protect her daughter Laura from their “germs”. Mrs Marshall drives Laura to school so she does not catch any germs from council estate houses (and nobody is living in them yet!). In class, Laura has to sit alone to avoid catching germs from “common” children, under orders from her mother. When new girl Josie from the estate is seated next to Laura, Mrs Marshall yanks Laura right out of school and hires a dragon of a home tutor for her. When the council starts moving more people to the estate houses, Mrs Marshall launches a campaign against the influx of “common riff-raff”, although the council is only doing it to liberate the people from slum areas. Poor Laura is caught in the middle, between being forced to help both her mother and Josie’s rival campaign for more estate houses.

Mrs Marshall buys a Pekinese, Winston, as a companion for Laura, because she has become even more lonely and miserable after being yanked out of school. Winston becomes inseparable with Josie’s mongrel, Riley. Unfortunately Mrs Marshall is as over-protective of Winston as she is of Laura, and makes his life just as miserable to protect him from Riley’s “germs”. She goes as far as to demand that Riley be destroyed, although Winston pines without Riley. She does not listen to concerns that the dogs love each other too much. No wonder Riley and Winston try to run away together, and get into all sorts of scrapes while trying to stay together. This provides a lot of animal humour, such as hiding in coal bins and singing doggy duets to Mrs Marshall’s piano rendition of “Danny Boy”.

When Mr Marshall returns from abroad, things start turning around. Mr Marshall knows the reason for his wife’s problem, but he does not share it. He tries to talk sense into her, telling her to let the past die, not blame all common people for what happened, and that she is fussing over Laura too much. But Mrs Marshall is not listening, and is even more furious to find her husband helping the growing estate by building a supermarket. But Mrs Marshall is forced to make concessions when Mr Marshall uses Riley as a guard dog, and even she is moved when she herself sees the slums the people are being moved from.

But Mrs Marshall still clings to her snobby, overprotective ways. Eventually Laura gets so fed up with her mother that she runs off. Running away is a common means of climaxing these types of stories and resolving them, and this one is no exception. Riley saves Laura from a nasty accident and Mrs Marshall is so moved (perhaps a bit too quickly?) that she asks Riley’s forgiveness and has a change of heart. Later, the mystery of Mrs Marshall’s problem is finally revealed. Her baby son Alan died from an illness that she believes was contracted from a dirty dummy that a grubby kid shoved into his mouth. Hence her problem with common people and germs, but now she finally realises she has been “unjust and ridiculous.” Thereafter, there is no looking back and we get the happy ending we have been waiting for.

There certainly is a lot to make this story popular with readers. It is a strong commentary (and satire?) on over-protective parents, and so many kids can identify with Laura’s situation. Readers also love mystery, and it grows increasingly apparent that there is a mystery behind Mrs Marshall’s attitude. We see it in the way she keeps staring at a photograph in her room and saying how common people have caused her heartache. What does she mean? The question goes unanswered until the last episode, presumably so readers can have a go at solving it and make it even more fun.

Readers also love a story that makes a statement against snobbery. As Mrs Marshall causes increasing trouble with her snobbish attitudes, we are just waiting to see how she has a change of heart, or failing that, her comeuppance. The story also makes a strong call for tolerance, as represented by the two dogs. Someone tells Mrs Marshall that if a pedigree and a mongrel can get along, why can’t we rich people and common people? Once Mrs Marshall gets the message, she reiterates it in a big way. She has Riley and Winston jointly open the supermarket: “They both think a mongrel’s as good as a Peke, any day!” Above all perhaps, it has dogs. Who doesn’t love an animal story? And this one is full of animal antics ranging from scrapes that give us loads of laughs, to tears when the dogs come under threat from Mrs Marshalls’ stupidity, and admiration at the dogs’ determination and courage to beat Mrs Marshall and stay together.