Tag Archives: Athletics

Common Cathy (1974)

Sample Images

Published: Tammy 27 April 1974 to 15 June 1974

Episodes: 8

Artist: John Armstrong

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Cathy Sampson lives for running – which she does barefoot. It’s her only joy in the miserable life she leads with her parents (or foster parents, as they referred to at one point). They treat her worse than Speed, their racing greyhound, who gets expensive steak to keep fit for racing, whereas Cathy gets a cheap diet. Living off Speed’s winnings is the only way they live, as neither of them are bothered to work. But even Speed is prone to being ill-treated.

Cathy’s ambition is to join the local athletics club and beat the local champion, Helen Douglas. Helen and her fellow athletes have heard of Cathy, but they, along with the rest of the neighbourhood, look down on her because she lives in a slum house and her parents, known as “the smelly Sampsons”, have a bad reputation. As a result, Cathy has no friends, except for Speed. Cathy also has a reputation among the athletes as a wild girl, and she is tagged with the moniker “common”, which comes as much as from her spending so much time on the common as the way she lives. 

Cathy uses her time on the common to train secretly while helping Speed to do the same; training Speed is something her parents constantly lumber her with. She has also learned how to forage for nutritious food growing there to compensate for her home diet, which is hardly suitable for training on. In the garden, she has a secret stash of money, which are her savings to join the club.

One day, Helen and the other athletes drop by Cathy on the common and tease her. Cathy gets her own back by setting Speed on Helen. She then chases after Helen herself, and discovers she is a match for Helen and could even best her. Unfortunately, Helen has realised it too, which sets the stage for what follows: not allowing Cathy to prove it to the club or overtake her as local champion. 

After her race against Helen, Cathy heads to the club to get the enrolment form for joining up. But Dad finds her secret stash for the joining fee, which all goes on steak for Speed, of course. However, after reading the enrolment form, Cathy discovers that if she can demonstrate exceptional talent, she can join without a fee. The club secretary, Mr Bennett, is a bit reluctant, as this rule is seldom applied, but eventually agrees to Cathy’s deal: if she beats Helen, she can join. What can be more exceptional than beating the club champion? The race is set for the following day. 

Helen isn’t having this, and knowing Cathy could beat her, tries to make trouble for her by reporting Speed’s attack to the police. The police warn Cathy’s parents that Speed will be destroyed if there is another complaint. This really gets their backs up as they depend on Speed for their livelihood. They go around to Helen’s place to read out the riot act to her and her family, and the scene they make gets really ugly. Mr Bennett, after seeing their conduct, is put off allowing Cathy to join, and she realises it. It looks like Cathy’s parents have ruined things for her again.

Cathy decides to go back to apologise for her parents’ conduct. There she meets Mrs Mirren, who agrees to pull a few strings. However, Dad is so angry at Cathy going back to apologise that he forces her and Speed through extra-hard training, which leaves her too exhausted to perform well against Helen, and she fails the test.

However, Mrs Mirren can’t forget Cathy and has Helen take her around to Cathy’s place. She is appalled to see the house Cathy lives in and senses Cathy is in desperate need of money to join. Cathy sees them approach. She doesn’t know if it’s jeers or second thoughts, but eventually assumes it’s the former. Meanwhile, Dad sees them both off with Speed. Mrs Mirren still won’t forget Cathy, so Helen is desperate to find a way to put her off Cathy altogether. 

Deciding money is the problem, Mrs Mirren decides to loan Cathy the money for the joining fee, encloses a note to join in time for the inter-club competition on Saturday, and has Helen deliver it. But, as Helen plans, Cathy’s parents pocket the money, which they intend to put on Speed’s race the following day. When Cathy asks questions, the parents spin a lie that Mrs Mirren doesn’t think she’d make a runner and sent 25p to feed her up as she looks skinny. Cathy’s left heartbroken and raging at Mrs Mirren for such an insult. Meanwhile, Helen tricks Mrs Mirren into thinking Cathy conned her out of the money. Now both mistakenly thinks badly of the other. 

Then, a newspaper informs Cathy that Mrs Mirren is one of Britain’s top coaches and Helen is one of her discoveries. This renews Cathy’s hopes of beating Helen and getting her chance. Meanwhile, back at the stadium, which is also used for the greyhound racing, Mrs Mirren discovers how horrible Cathy’s parents are to Speed. He’s lost the race and the money they put on him, and they’re beating him. She then overhears them rage on how they lost all that money they took from Cathy and now suspects the truth. 

Sensing Mrs Mirren has overheard them, the parents make fast tracks for home and silence Cathy, fearing Mrs Mirren will come asking questions. But Cathy overhears Mrs Mirren asking what happened to the money she sent for the joining fee. The parents try to fob Mrs Mirren off with more lies, which she doesn’t believe, but she can’t do much without seeing Cathy. Cathy, of course, now realises her parents have tricked her and is desperate to explain to Mrs Mirren, but doesn’t know where to find her. After making enquiries, Cathy realises her only hope of finding Mrs Mirren is the championship on Saturday. But when Cathy sees the crowds at the event, she realises finding Mrs Mirren will be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Then, when Cathy sees Helen running in the 800 metres, she gets a crazy idea on how to get Mrs Mirren’s attention. There’s nothing to lose, anyway. She jumps straight in and races after the competitors. The spectators are initially angry at Cathy gatecrashing the race, but they soon start cheering at her amazing speed, how she’s narrowing the gap and “going through them like a hot knife through butter” – and doing it barefoot! And this time, Cathy beats Helen.

Of course, Cathy’s win isn’t official, so the medal goes to Helen. But it’s a hollow victory for her because she’s been beaten at last, and Cathy is the hero of the event. She’s made her point, gotten Mrs Mirren’s attention, and soon explains what her parents did. Mrs Mirren replies that she guessed as much. Mrs Mirren not only takes over Helen’s training but her welfare too, so Cathy leaves her horrible parents forever. Sadly, Speed’s still in their clutches, and Cathy can only hope he wins enough to keep safe from ill-treatment.

Thoughts

This story was published in the weeks leading up to the June merge with Tammy on 22 June 1974 and ended, along with all the other running Tammy serials, the week before the merger. Yet it does not give the impression it is intended as a filler story, even if it was. The length of eight episodes feels right, and the pacing is good. Nothing feels rushed or underdeveloped. It would have worked well as a reprint in an annual somewhere.

Common Cathy was one of many serials to follow the Cinderella format, but it does have some differences from the formula, which makes it refreshing. The main one is that there is no wicked stepsister/cousin who gets the lion’s share in everything at the expense of our ill-used Cinderella protagonist. Instead, there’s a dog who gets the lion’s share of the food expense, but he’s far from spoiled. In fact, he’s as liable to be as ill-treated as Cathy herself. He’s only there for profit and income, and the parents don’t care any more for him than they do for Cathy. His racing is the only means of income for the parents, who are too lazy to work, but his winnings are subject to hit and miss, and he suffers if it’s a miss. And he serves not only as Cathy’s friend but also in helping her to become the speedster that she hopes will be her salvation from her miserable life. 

Cathy does not seem to be as much of a drudge as other Cinderella protagonists, such as Bella Barlow. For example, we don’t see her being forced to do all the work her parents are too lazy to do. The drudgery seems to be more focused on training Speed, as her father is too lazy to do it, and getting the leavings of the food expense. She is also very innovative in how she makes up for the poor diet she gets at home, so she is not underfed as some Cinderella protagonists are. But there is no question she is not well treated, and the RSPCA ought to have serious concerns about Speed too. 

The parents’ nickname, “the smelly Sampsons”, sure makes us laugh. It’s not quite clear if it’s their B.O., their slum house or what, but there is no denying they are stinkers in everything they say and do. They would live better than they do if they made their own income instead of depending on Speed’s racing, but they are too lazy for that. It’s surprising they are not involved in any criminal activities, given the type of people they are. 

Again, we have abusive parents that are not punished in any way for how they treated Cathy. But what’s even more concerning is that they still have Speed. Mrs Mirren has seen for herself that they mistreat the dog, but nothing is done in that regard. Being left on the hope Speed will win enough to stay safe is not very reassuring, especially as Cathy is no longer there to train him. The story would have ended on a much happier note if Speed had been removed from his abusive owners and maybe come along with Cathy.

A race to win is always an exciting resolution to any serial, and making it unofficial, with Cathy crashing the race out of desperation rather than being officially entered, makes it even more so. Seeing Helen seething over a hollow victory and a medal that means nothing while Cathy is cheered as the real winner gives us a whole lot more satisfaction than seeing Cathy claim an official victory and the medal. Moreover, Cathy not being officially entered in the race gives Helen no time for dirty tricks, as she’s been taken by surprise. Readers would be reading Cathy’s race to win over and over. 

Miss No-Name (1976)

Sample Images

Published: Jinty 24 January 1976 – 29 May 1976 

Episodes: 19 

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Lori Mills is a brilliant athlete at Fleetwood Athletic Club, her specialty being the pole vault, and she is selected for the county trials. A jealous rival, Rachel, sabotages Lori’s pole vault during training to put her out of the trials. The ensuing accident causes Lori to lose her memory. Rachel is swift to seize upon this to get Lori to leave the club. The amnesic Lori wanders the streets, trying to get help, but gets mistaken for a shoplifter. Thinking she is now a wanted fugitive, Lori runs like hell from the town and ends up taking shelter in a junkyard.

Unfortunately for Lori, the junkyard is run by the evil Ma Crabb and her daughter Stella. They are cruel and abusive, and they also work as fences for a criminal known as Fingers. When the Crabbs find Lori and see she has lost her memory, they promptly take advantage to make Lori an unpaid slave – and worse. Begging acts and criminal acts are all part of what they want out of Lori as well as making her a drudge. Ma Crabb tells Lori she’s her niece Polly, dresses her in rags, and crops her hair to make her unrecognisable from Lori’s “missing” photos. Lori is not convinced she is Polly Crabb but can’t remember the truth. Lori’s only friend is the Crabbs’ donkey Neddy, which they abuse as much as they abuse her. The Crabbs use Neddy for blackmail purposes over Lori – do what they say, or the donkey suffers. Other times they use the whip, chain her up, starve her, make her slog, and other forms of abuse. 

Fingers also helps to keep Lori enslaved. For example, when Lori makes a run for it, Ma Crabb has Fingers tail her. But he’s not to bring her back – Ma Crabb’s plan is for him to make so much trouble for her that her will breaks and she will come crawling back. This works just as Ma Crabb planned, beginning with Fingers stealing a vase and putting the blame on Lori. But when Lori discovers the vase at Ma Crabb’s, she sees through the whole charade and breaks the vase over Fingers’ noggin. From then on, Lori declares war on the Crabbs and Fingers, such as foiling Fingers’ pickpocketing at a market when he tries to drag her into it though she knows she will suffer for it later. 

Lori is quick to find her athletics and that she has a desire to keep in training. Her athletics becomes her weapon against the Crabbs, whether it’s to try to escape or just annoy them, particularly when they try to punish her for her defiance or break her will. In the course of the story we see Stella taking a number of hilarious falls whenever she makes a lunge for Lori but Lori is so fast and nimble she dodges them every time. 

When Ma Crabb sends Lori out to sell logs, Lori meets people could be her tickets to freedom. She tells a kindly old lady about her problems, but the old lady doesn’t offer anything but sympathy. She sees a boy in training and gives him some tips, which makes her realise she must be trained. The boy belongs to a posh school, and at the school Lori is challenged to compete in a hurdling event, which she wins hands down. The headmaster is interested in her to help with coaching. But Ma Crabb does not want that headmaster sniffing around. She has Lori put the headmaster off, threatening to beat Neddy if she doesn’t.  

Next, Ma Crabb forces Lori, under threat of more donkey abuse, to climb a dangerous tower as practice for a job. Lori soon finds this means being forced to help Fingers’ gang rob a jewellery store. Lori manages to snatch the jewellery back and return it to the store. Then she just runs until she collapses, and is surprised to wake up in a proper bed. It’s the lady who was kind to Lori earlier. But the Crabbs aren’t far away and hatch a cunning plan. Ma Crabb feeds the old lady lies about Lori being a thief and Fingers plants of the old lady’s jewellery on her. The old lady falls for it, and Lori is forced to leave. She soon guesses who was behind it, but she has no choice but to go back to Ma. 

Lori finds Ma’s latest punishment is to sell Neddy to a knacker’s yard. To save him, she has to raise money in record time to buy him back. She succeeds, but again the Crabbs have been tailing her, guessing what she was up to. But Lori isn’t having them take Neddy back – and neither is Neddy, who knocks Stella into the canal. Lori hunts around to find him another home and finds a good one at an orphanage. Neddy is now safely out of Ma’s clutches and she has lost her source of blackmail over Lori. That’s that problem solved, but Lori soon finds she is not yet rid of the Crabbs.

As Lori returns from the orphanage, she passes a shop that seems familiar. Realising it must be linked to her past she goes in, but the shopkeeper does not recognise her. Lori realises it is because of her shorn hair and now understands why the Crabbs cut her hair off. This confirms her suspicions she is not Polly Crabb. 

Lori confronts Ma over this, and says she knows what to do. She would have been wiser to have kept her mouth shut, for she has alerted the Crabbs. And if she had done some investigating in Ma’s caravan she would have found the answer – a newspaper report of the missing Lori Mills, which Ma had the whole time. Instead, Lori goes in search of a wig resembling her old hairstyle so someone might recognise her, but the Crabbs are onto her immediately. What’s more, Lori has no money to buy a wig. 

Then Lori spots a silver trophy as a prize for an open athletics event. Her plan is to win the cup, sell it, and buy a wig with it. But again the Crabbs are onto it and block her from entering. Undaunted, Lori enters the competition under a blackface identity (perhaps not very PC today, but the disguise works well enough to get past Stella). She wins the event, but as the reporters take her photos, they spot the blackface starting to run from sweat. Lori she has to make a fast exit with the trophy. She manages to hide it when she gets back to the junkyard, but her disguise is still there for the Crabbs to see through. When they read the newspaper report about Lori’s win, they want to know where that cup is. They fail to find it, but Fingers later snatches it when Lori tries to sell it. 

Lori follows up on her only hunch – if she was trained, she must belong to an athletics club, and the only one around is Fleetwood. She goes to Fleetwood, but the two girls she meets don’t know her. She wanders around town, which does seem familiar, and asks if anyone knows her. Nobody recognises her as Lori, a policeman nabs her for obstruction, and then Ma Crabb shows up to take her back. 

But in a dream, Lori recalls the accident at Fleetwood that caused her to lose her memory. She realises the two girls may not have known her because they were new to the club. So she heads back to Fleetwood. To make herself recognisable she needs the wig. There’s no money to buy it, but a wig shop owner agrees to let her borrow one. 

This time, Lori is recognised at Fleetwood, but jealous Rachel snatches the wig, exposing her cropped hair, and tries to have them believe it’s not Lori. The club coach gives Lori a chance to prove her identity – do the pole vault in the way only Lori Mills can do. Lori succeeds, and they are convinced of her identity. At this, Rachel makes herself scarce.

But Lori still does not have her memory back. Then the Crabbs catch up again with those phony claims she’s Polly Crabb, and try to drag her back. But not this time. During a struggle with the Crabbs, Lori takes a crack on the head, which restores her memory. Now the game is up and Lori is threatening to tell the police how she was treated, the Crabbs follow Rachel’s example, saying they won’t go near Lori again. 

Thoughts

Whenever a girl loses her memory in girls’ comics, a villain out to take advantage of this is never far behind. In some cases the true identity of the amnesic girl and how she lost her memory is kept a mystery to the readers e.g. “The Double Life of Dolly Brown” aka “The Double Life of Coppelia Brown” from Mandy or “Sadie in the Sticks” from Tammy. In such cases, unravelling the mystery is part of regaining her memory and freeing herself from her abusers. However, this isn’t always the case, and it’s not the case here. We know from the outset who Lori is and how she lost her memory. And regaining her memory is the key to freeing herself from her oppressors. No matter how many times Lori tries to escape from the Crabbs, they always catch up one way or other with their false claims she’s Polly Crab, they’ve come to claim her, and she’s an out-of-control girl who is best left to them. 

The only way for Lori to beat the Crabbs for good is to discover her true identity. Unlike some amnesic heroines, such as Katrina Vale from “Slave of the Swan” (Jinty), Lori has the advantage of not really falling for her abusers’ lies. From the outset, she is not convinced she is Polly Crabb, and she grows increasingly sure she isn’t. After all, Ma Crabb is not treating Lori as if she were her own niece. Ma Crabb also made the mistake of not operating in a more insidious manner to enslave Lori psychologically as well as physically, as in “Slave of the Swan” or “No Cheers for Cherry” (Jinty), and fool her so well she may not even realise what’s going on. No, it’s straight out abuse from the beginning. The harsh treatment Lori gets from the woman who is supposed to be her aunt makes her increasingly suspicious that Ma Crabb is no relation of hers. For this reason, the Crabbs can’t enslave Lori fully and have her swallowing all the lies she’s told until she doesn’t know which way to turn except to her captors. 

However, though Ma Crabb doesn’t fully enslave Lori, she still has crafty ways to keep Lori under her thumb. Her secret weapon is Fingers, whom she instructs to shadow Lori when she first escapes but to play tricks on her to break her will and make her come crawling back. And it all goes like clockwork for Ma – until she slips up and leaves the vase where Lori can find it and rumble the trick. But if Lori hadn’t discovered the trick and turned into a rebel against Ma because of it, it could have enslaved her altogether. And no matter how often Lori tries to escape, the Crabbs always catch up. They already have a pretty good idea where to look from what they know about Lori, and Fingers is a very capable shadow. Their biggest weapon is using Neddy to blackmail Lori into doing what they want. For this reason, selling Neddy is ultimately a mistake for them. It not only frees Lori from the blackmail and gives her more scope to escape but eventually frees Neddy from the animal abuse as well. 

Eventually, Lori’s suspicions she is not Polly Crabb are fully confirmed. But being convinced of it is one thing – proving it is another. There are many stories where protagonists have their identities stolen and are trapped in a false one, such as “The Stranger in My Shoes” from Tammy and “The Imposter!” from Bunty. It’s bad enough for these girls to prove their identities while fully knowing who they are. How the heck can Lori prove her identity when she can’t even remember it herself and Ma Crabb doing such a good job of disguising her that nobody recognises her as the missing girl, Lori Mills? Her only clues are her original hairstyle, indications she’s a trained athlete, gradual memories that begin to resurface, and everything progressively pointing to Fleetwood Athletic Club. 

The abuse from the Crabbs does tend go over the top at times, such as keeping Lori dressed in that ragged dress, making her sleep on sacks, and even chaining her up. Moreover, their grotesque faces and dark, coarse appearance, which makes them so reminiscent of fairy tale witches, not only adds to the excessiveness but should also alert anyone to the sort they are straight away. You would think the Crabbs have a reputation around the town, and the police would already be suspicious of their activities and watching them closely. Yet Ma Crabb finds it so easy to fool anyone who gets too close with her lies about her “niece”. 

When Lori threatens the Crabbs with the police over the way they treated her, they beg her not to, promising they’ll leave her alone, and beat a fast exit. Yes, but aside from their treatment of Lori and Neddy – which they go unpunished for – there’s still the matter of their criminal activities, and that should be reported to the police. We’re left feeling the Crabbs are yet another bunch of villains who got off too easily, and Fingers is still at large.  

It is touching to read the blurb at the end of the story. Instead of telling us what’s coming next week, it closes with a final word about Lori: “Lori had courage and talent – but it was her courage that helped her in the end!” Yes, it was the courage to not only remain steadfast and determined but defiant as well, and fight back any way she could. On many occasions, the way Lori strikes back has us laugh and cheer, such as sending Stella into dirty puddles. So Lori Mills must stand as one of Jinty’s most feisty heroines.

Paula’s Puppets (1978)

Sample Images

Paulas Puppets 2aPaulas Puppets 2bPaulas Puppets 2c

Published: Jinty 4 February 1978 to 22 April 1978

Episodes: 12

Artist: Julian Vivas

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: De poppen van Petra [Petra’s Puppets] (in: Tina 1979, Tina Topstrip 54, 1983).

Plot

Paula Richards has come out top athlete at Handley Athletics Club and has a very jealous rival in Marnie. Paula’s father is a prominent man because he owns the biggest toy factory in town. Unfortunately Dad has spoiled Paula ever since her mother died, so she’s a bit on the selfish side. For example, Paula just finds it boring to hear that her father’s factory has taken a downturn in recent months instead of worrying. She isn’t too worried either when a fire burns Dad’s factory to the ground; she just tells him the insurance will put everything right.

For everyone else, though, the fire was the worst thing that could have happened because the factory was the source of the town’s employment. Now they are rendered jobless and there’s no other work around. Then nasty rumours go around the town that Dad burned his own factory down for the insurance; even the housekeeper Mrs Black believes it and walks out on the Richards family. Dad is getting really down but Paula is merely angry over Mrs Black and thinks it’s just a stupid fuss over a “silly old fire”. She goes off to the burned out factory, where she finds some wax puppets that have survived the fire. She gives vent to her anger about Mrs Black by making one puppet look like her and giving it a big fat wart on the nose.

Then Dad really is charged with burning down the factory and protests his innocence as the police take him away. Everyone turns against Paula when word about it spreads. Dad has no chance at his trial; everything seems to point to his guilt. Even Paula thinks the jury is right when they find him guilty, and she turns on him as well.

Meanwhile, Paula is very surprised to see Mrs Black has developed a swelling on her nose, which looks just like the wart she moulded on the puppet. Paula now begins to wonder if the puppets have some sort of power, and whether she can use it to get revenge on the town.

The only friends Paula has left are club coach Joanne Phillips and her father, who was her father’s partner in the business. They take her in, and Joanne encourages Paula not to give up her athletics. However, the girls, led by Karen Thompson, want Paula out. They refuse to run in the relay team unless Joanne gives Paula’s place in the team to Marnie. Joanne refuses to give in to their blackmail while Paula angrily walks out – and towards the puppets for her revenge. She models one on Karen and mimics Karen getting a sprained ankle from a fall in the high jump. This is precisely what happens to Karen later. So the puppets’ power is definitely for real.

Paula is too angry to realise some of the girls have become apologetic, including Karen before the fall happened. Lindy seems more sympathetic, but something makes Paula so ruthless that she nobbles Lindy during the hurdles. An inquiry is now pending and Paula is in danger of being banned. She begins to wonder if the puppets are a bad influence and she should stop using them. But she does so anyway, with a puppet made to look like Lindy. At the inquiry, she directs the puppet to have Lindy say it was a mistake. It works, but Lindy has now lost her sympathy for Paula. Paula wonders if she should destroy the puppets while Joanne advises Paula to stop thinking everyone is against her.

That advice is hard to take when Paula sees “Get out of Handley, Paula Richards” daubed on the old factory wall. Two girls, one of whom resembles Lindy, wrote the graffiti, and passers by just let them go because they are hostile to Paula too. Paula goes back to the Lindy puppet for revenge, but gets really scared when she gets startled and drops the puppet.

The hurdles race is being re-run, and this time Paula resolves to win it fairly. But the other girls are not, what with hiding Paula’s running gear in the gym attic and taking the ladder away when she tries to retrieve it. Lindy comes in and offers to help by crossing a beam. Paula sees the beam looks dangerous, but finds she can’t make a sound when she tries to warn Lindy – and then realises why when she remembers her own words of revenge against Lindy just before she dropped the Lindy puppet. So the beam cracks under Lindy and she falls to the floor, which renders her comatose. The girls confess to the trick on Paula, while Lindy’s brother blames Paula for the accident, but out of the bitterness towards her father: “We heard how Lindy risked her life for the daughter of a jailbird!”

Paula tries to destroy the puppets but finds they won’t burn. So she decides to give up the athletics club because of the hostility towards her that tempts her to use them. However, Joanne is not having that and wants Paula to enter a cross-country championship. Paula agrees, but starts ducking out of school to train for the event because she wants to avoid temptation to use the puppets because of the bullying at school.

Meanwhile, Paula’s athletics club enemies have begun to notice a pattern about the things that have happened to them and are beginning to (correctly) suspect Paula has something to do with it. One girl, Rhoda, puts her name down for the cross-country event so they get another chance for revenge. They also discover Paula is playing truant in order to train, and spitefully sneak on her. When Joanne hears, Paula makes the excuse that it was the bullying, which Joanne finds understandable. She withdraws Paula from school and teaches her at home. Paula also starts getting personal training from Joanne, but does not realise Marnie is spying on her and trying to figure out her weaknesses.

Discovering there is still no change in Lindy’s condition, Paula decides to see if the puppets can be used for good for a change. She dresses one like Lindy and another like herself, and mimics Lindy waking up when she goes to visit her in hospital. She does not realise Marnie is trying to spy on her while she is doing this. After Paula leaves, Marnie investigates the puppets’ hiding place. She thinks nothing of the puppets she finds, but takes the puppet made to look like Paula for her kid sister.

Paula succeeds in waking up Lindy, and in doing so finally discovers the joy of helping people. However, she soon finds this does not improve people’s attitude towards her. Lindy’s brother remains as hostile as ever towards her, and has the hospital ban Paula from seeing Lindy.

Then Paula discovers that Marnie has taken the puppet she had made to look like herself. She manages to sneak into Marnie’s flat and retrieve the puppet without being detected. But she is very surprised to find Marnie lives in such a shabby, rundown place and overhears it’s that way for everyone in town; Marnie’s family have been driven into poverty and no job for the father after the factory fire. Marnie moans at how Paula does not understand poverty because she has always lived in luxury, and that she had always taunted her for dressing shabbily.

Paula realises Marnie is right and now understands why Marnie hates her so much. Recalling how she had taunted Marnie about wearing tatty plimsolls just before the fire, Paula decides to give her a present of her spare pair of plimsolls to make amends. But Marnie just throws it in her face and Paula soon finds out the reason why – everyone but her (Joanne wouldn’t tell her) knows that her father has just escaped from prison!

Thinking that getting her father recaptured is the only way to make everyone stop hating her, Paula turns to her puppets to do it. Later, when Dad shows up, he protests his innocence and asks for her help in proving it, but Paula turns him in. Dad is deeply hurt, which has Paula believe him for the first time and she now hates herself for what she did.

The newspaper prints the story of how everyone’s hatred drove Paula to betray her father. This has the athletics club girls repenting how they treated her and now wanting to be friends. They invite her to Lindy’s “welcome back” party, but things get ruined when they start whispering as to what a crook her father is. Paula sticks up for her father and then walks out.

She asks the puppets for help in clearing her father, at which one of them walks to the puppets’ prop box and points to it. Inside she finds a letter to Mr Phillips that she cannot understand. The correspondent says that in accordance with the instructions of Mr Phillips’ last letter, he is cancelling all future supplies of raw materials to the factory. Now what the heck does this have to do with Dad’s innocence?

Paula takes the letter to Joanne for help in understanding it. Joanne gets upset when she reads it and demands to know where Paula got it. Of course she does not believe Paula’s story about the puppets and thinks it was all crazy imagination. This leads to Joanne having a big argument with her father; she tells him it can’t go on and it’s having Paula imagining things. Next day, Paula finds them both gone to attend to some business, and nobody to cheer her on when the cross-country event begins. Paula’s heart is not in the race, and it shows – but then Dad appears to cheer her on! Now Paula is spurred on to win, and she does.

Dad explains that Mr Phillips burned down the factory to cover up that he had been embezzling from the factory; the letter was proof he had been cancelling orders for raw materials and withholding the money. He did not mean Dad to take the rap, but had been too frightened to confess. However, Joanne, who has had her suspicions about the embezzling, has persuaded him to do so. So Dad has been vindicated and released.

Joanne now tries to leave town as she thinks Paula no longer wants to be her friend. However, she misses the train because she went back for the puppets as a memento of Paula, which enables Paula to catch up and prove she still wants to be friends. Paula believes it was the power of the puppets that made Joanne miss the train. Joanne seems to believe in their power now and asks Paula if she still needs them. In response, Paula leaves the puppets behind at the station for someone else in need of help. Hmmm…

Thoughts

There have been countless stories in girls’ comics about dolls/puppets with supernatural powers, but this is the only Jinty serial to use the theme. The serial is even more unusual for not following how the formula is used. The cover introducing the serial says the puppets have evil powers, but as the story develops they do not come across as evil. Usually evil dolls/puppets in girls’ either exert an evil power over the protagonist that forces her to act nasty or out of character, or they cause trouble, mayhem or destruction for our protagonist. But that is not the case at all with these puppets. They do have powers, but how their power works depends on how they are used, which can be for good or evil. It depends on the intentions and scruples of the user, and how carefully he or she thinks before using them.

In the hands of Paula Richards, we are deeply worried as to how things will go with the puppets. Paula, though not downright nasty, is definitely spoiled and selfish. Moreover, she has good reason to be bitter and vengeful, what with everyone turning against her because of something that she is not responsible for. This could easily send Paula down an extremely dark path. Even a good-natured girl could find it hard to resist the lust for revenge against the way all these people are treating her.

Admittedly, some of the hostility may have been Paula’s own fault for not being very nice to people to begin with. We see this in the case of Marnie. From the beginning, Marnie comes across as a spiteful, jealous girl who is taking advantage of Paula’s downfall to make things even harder for her. It’s a surprise when we learn that Marnie did have a reason to hate Paula in the first place because Paula teased her over her shabby gear.

It’s also surprising to see that the terrible consequences of using the puppets for revenge and personal gain are what begin to turn Paula around. She tries to stop using them, but really she can’t avoid temptation to use them against the people who hate her because it’s everywhere and there’s no hiding from it. So she hits on the idea of trying to use them more wisely, and it works. Paula also begins to open her eyes to how there are people who are less fortunate than herself and no longer puts them down as she did before. Sadly, her efforts to reach out to them and help them more go unappreciated because they feel nothing but hate and bitterness towards her. Joan’s advice that acts of kindness will make people less nasty towards her proves to be woefully inadequate because everyone’s just too full of hate. It takes the shock treatment of seeing what they drove her to – turning her own father in – to make at least some of them stop and think.

The other theme in this story – clearing a wrongly accused father – also breaks with the formula that girls’ serials usually follow when they use this theme. Usually it is the daughter who believes the father is innocent, sometimes when nobody else does. This is what sustains her throughout the story, but Paula does not even have that. She believes her father is guilty too, which makes her even more bitter because she feels he’s let her down. In effect, she disowns him and does not even visit him in prison. It takes the shock of how she hurt her father and his frantic pleas of innocence to finally get through to her. And she finally does what she clearly should have done in the first place – turn to the puppets for help in clearing up the trouble. And would you believe they held the solution to the problem all this time – the evidence in their box! All Paula had to do was ask.

Having it turn out the protagonist was staying with the people who were responsible for her father’s false imprisonment all this time is not an unusual one; “The Girl with the Power” from Tracy is one example where this happened. What is unusual is that these are people with a conscience who are struggling to find the courage to put it right. Until they do, they are pillars of support for Paula and the only friends amid all the enemies she has in town. Usually they are unscrupulous crooks who not only take advantage of the father taking the rap for them but also take advantage of the protagonist as well. Again, “The Girl with the Power” is one example of this.

The final fate of the puppets – being left for someone else needing help to find – also goes against the usual formula of evil dolls/puppet serials. Usually they either get destroyed or lose their powers, but neither happens. The story ends on a worrying note that they might end up in the wrong hands; perhaps even with somebody with no scruples at all. We can only hope Paula is right in that they can influence whom they end up with because that person needs help.

Toni on Trial (1979-1980)

Sample Images

Toni 1

Click thru

Toni 2

Click thru

Toni 3

Publication: 1 December 1979-19 April 1980

Artist: Terry Aspin

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Toni Carr is a promising runner. When her parents are killed in a crash, she is sent to live with her maternal grandparents, the Halls, in Millcastle. Toni is surprised to learn about them, for her late mother never mentioned them before. She is told that her mother ran away from home when she was sixteen.

Sounds like a skeleton in Mum’s closet? Oh yes, and it starts rattling when Toni is even more surprised to find a photo of her mother wearing a sports medal in an album; she had never known her mother to be athletic too. She is further surprised – and in a most unpleasant manner – when Granddad rips up the photograph, saying he thought they’d got rid of Mum’s sports photos.

Toni discovers the sports club on the side of town that looks wealthier than where her grandparents live. There she shows promise at the trials for the junior team. But the sports coach, Miss Adela Rogers, is nasty to Toni once she realises she realises who her mother was. She tells Toni that her mother was a thief, and that was why she ran away.

When Toni confronts her grandmother, she is shown a newspaper article that says her mother stole a sports trophy out of spite because she lost it to another girl (later revealed to be Adela Rogers) in a race. The ensuing scandal was so bad that Mum ran away and gave up the athletics she had shown so much promise at. The grandparents were also forced to move to the poorer part of town where they still live today after Granddad lost his job defending his daughter. But even they doubt her innocence. Toni refuses to believe her mother was a thief and resolves to get to the truth.

Toni has shown so much promise at her trials that Olympic champion Sharon Peters wants her in the team. But Toni is finding that her mother’s disgrace is now threatening her own career. Granddad is opposed to Toni pursuing sports because of the trophy scandal and only agrees begrudgingly. But neither he nor grandma will give Toni any support or encouragement. And Miss Rogers only agrees to put Toni on trial until she proves her character, but is always out to bully her because of her mother. This does not make Toni popular with the other athletes, and Toni ends up banned from the club and having to train on the old track her mother once used.

Worse still, Toni makes an enemy on the team in the form of Julie. Julie and her crony Patti start playing tricks on Toni. Toni makes some headway in the trials despite the dirty tricks, hostility from her mother’s shame, and Miss Rogers banning her from the club because of it all. Toni eventually realises an enemy is sabotaging her, but thinks it is Miss Rogers.

Eventually the misery from her mother’s disgrace gets too much for Toni and she runs off in tears. This leads to her saving a child and she becomes a local heroine, which should ease the trouble from her mother’s disgrace. But Toni is so badly affected by it and her unknown enemy that she gives up athletics. Sharon arranges a special event with handicapped athletes to change Toni’s mind.

Toni does, but is dismayed to find her club is about to compete for the very same trophy her mother was accused of stealing. And when she does win it, her grandparents ban her from the presentation party because that was when her mother was branded a thief after the trophy was found in her bag. Toni goes anyway, but the old trouble is hanging over the party. However, Toni meets Sharon’s sister, Mrs Collins, who was her mother’s best friend. Mrs Collins says she does not believe the mother stole the trophy either. She would have helped the mother prove her innocence and knows something that might help.

But Mrs Collins is interrupted when a real thief steals the trophies. Toni manages to stop him. However, her only reward in the paper is the headline “Brave Athlete Saves Cup Her Mother Stole!”

Toni meets Mrs Collins again, who explains that Miss Rogers hated her mother because she was jealous. After she beat Toni’s mother, Mrs Collins overheard a row between them. The quarrel was over a rule Adela broke when she won the trophy; Toni’s mother told her to own up but Adela refused, saying it was a silly rule. Mrs Collins is sure the quarrel is connected with the trophy theft, but her mother never explained what it was about.

Later, Miss Rogers bans Patti from an event because she broke the no-drugs rule in taking hay fever medication. Recalling that Miss Rogers also gets hay fever, Toni sees parallels with the quarrel Mrs Collins overheard. She now suspects that Miss Rogers is behind everything, but has no proof.

Things come to a head when Miss Rogers steals some belongings and plants them in Toni’s bag. But Patti sees this and backs Toni up when she accuses Miss Rogers of it. At this, Julie makes an angry outburst at Patti that gives her away as Toni’s enemy.

Cornered, Miss Rogers confesses that she planted the trophy on Toni’s mother because she thought she was going to report her for breaking the same rule as Patti. Later she discovered she had been mistaken, but by then things had gone too far and she was too scared to confess. She is compelled to resign as club coach and leaves in tears. All for a broken rule.

Meanwhile, Julie is warned to mend her ways if she is to stay in the club.

Toni’s trial period is now over and she becomes a lifelong member of the club. Now the mother has been cleared, the grandparents back Toni’s athletics all the way. Toni is soon on her way to London for the English team try-outs.

Jinty 1 December 1979

Thoughts

This story is something of a milestone for three reasons. First, it is the last story Terry Aspin drew for Jinty. After a run of Jinty serials that began with “Curtain of Silence” and included the classics “Alice in a Strange Land”, “Almost Human” and “Cathy’s Casebook”, Aspin ends his Jinty run with Toni.

The same goes for Jim Baikie, who ends his own Jinty run with the other sports story to start in the same issue, “White Water”. Is this a coincidence, or does it say something about what is going behind the scenes of Jinty? It is known that Mavis Miller left about this period and things were not quite the same again with Jinty under the new editor.

Second, “Toni on Trial” and “White Water” begin Jinty’s sports pages section and banner to match. Although sports stories had been strong in Jinty since 1977, the sports pages section marks a whole new emphasis on sport in Jinty that would be further underlined by Mario Capaldi’s sports covers starting in mid 1980 and Benita Brown’s “Winning Ways” tips for winning sports.

Third, Toni on Trial is the last Jinty story to feature the theme of injustice from a wrongful charge. The topic had been in Jinty from her first issue with her longest-running serial, “Merry at Misery House”, where Merry Summers is sent to a cruel reformatory after being wrongly convicted of theft (the exact details of which were never explained). After Merry ended, Jinty didn’t use the theme much. Stories that did feature it were infrequent (“Paula’s Puppets”, “Slaves of the Candle” and “Waves of Fear” were ones that did) and after Toni, the theme disappeared altogether.

Toni on Trial is not quite one of Jinty’s classics. The formula – quest to prove someone’s innocence, frame ups, jealous rivals, difficult guardians interfering with a girl’s dream – is a bit standard and does not have the innovation that made a lot of the Jinty classics that Aspin drew what they are.

However, while the formula may be an oldie it is still a goodie, and makes the story a solid one and far from average. It’s also a mystery story, which is always popular in girls’ comics. The fact that it’s not just the whole town believing Toni’s mother is a thief but even her own parents doubt her gives the story an extra edge. This has some parallels with “Waves of Fear”, where even the parents turn against their own daughter after she is branded (a coward in her case), becomes the outcast of the town, and is eventually driven to running away before it is established that she was wrongly accused. And both stories appeared at the same time, so there may be some overlap in the writing.

What’s even more angst is that for the most part, Toni has to battle alone to prove her mother’s innocence. Although Anne and Sharon refuse to tar Toni with the ‘sins of the mother’ that everyone else in town does, they are not part of Toni’s drive to clear her mother. There are no allies to help Toni, and nobody to talk it over with. It’s not until near the end of the story that the person who can really help Toni finally turns up. This is not unusual in stories where the heroine sets out to clear somebody’s name. But the fact that even your own relatives won’t help because they don’t really believe it’s an injustice makes it more disturbing than the more usual case where the relatives do believe it, but can’t or won’t do anything to help. Maybe it’s to do with the town itself and the way it has reacted to the whole affair. It is still green in everyone’s mind, even after all these years, and people are so ready to attack Toni because of it, just because of who her mother was. Nowhere is this more apparent – and cruel – than the headline “Brave Athlete Saves Cup Her Mother Stole!” All right, so maybe Miss Rogers had a hand in it, but what a way for the press to treat a girl who should be honoured for her bravery! You have to wonder what kind of people the people of Millcastle are if they publish headlines like that. One should jolly well hope the town came out with some jolly good apologising to Toni and her grandparents once Miss Rogers had confessed.

Story theme: Sports

Many apologies for the long break in between posts. Life has got hectic and the run-up to Christmas didn’t help!

Jinty and Penny cover 7 February 1981

Stories featuring sports are very prevalent across the range of girls’ comics titles. This clearly taps into both the day-to-day experiences of many or most schoolgirls (playing on their hockey or netball teams) and into aspirational ideals (winning regional or national contests, going on to have a career in their chosen sport, excelling at unusual sports). At one end of this theme, many many stories will have some element of sports included, simply as a part of the protagonist’s daily life; I don’t count these as “sports stories” per se. At the other end of the spectrum, there are stories that are clearly mostly about the pursuit of excellence in the protagonist’s chosen sport, with a sprinkling of some complicating factor to spice the story up, such as peer rivalry. And in between there are stories where the sports element are strongly included but given a reasonably equal weighting with other elements.

To me, therefore, a “sports story” needs to feature the sport in question as the main story element, or with equal weight with the other elements. Often the story positively teaches us various details of that sport in a didactic way, as if part of the expectation is that readers might have their interest sparked by that story and go on to take it up themselves. The protagonist is someone who takes seriously the idea of practice, learning, improvement in their chosen area: they are not just naturally gifted without trying at all, and part of the drive of the story is about their drive to improve or to excel.

It seems obvious, but it also needs to be a sport not an art: as you would expect, there are plenty of ballet stories, and these are excluded from my categorisation. Ballet has its rivalries but it is not a competition with winners and losers, except in artificial ways that the writer might set up (for instance in “The Kat and Mouse Game”, the ‘winner’ gains a contract with an influential ballet impresario).

Finally, it is worth remembering Jinty also had a strong focus on sports in ways that lay outside of the stories themselves: for a period of time there was a specific sports section in the comic, with articles about specific sports, improvement hints and tips (such as how to win at a bully-off in hockey), and interviews with sports women and men. Over and above this, there was a lengthy period where Mario Capaldi drew cover images illustrating a very wide range of sports – netball and rounders, yes, but also archery, bob-sledding, ski-jumping… These are not sports stories, but form part of the context in which the sports-themed stories need to be read.

Core examples

There are so many strong sports stories that it is hard to choose a single one as a core example. A wide range of sports are represented: ones that a schoolgirl might well have direct experience of such as hockey, gymnastics, running; and more unusual ones like judo, water-skiing, and figure skating.

“White Water” (1979-80), drawn by Jim Baikie and included in the sports section that Jinty ran for a year or so from late 1979, is a classic example of a story that includes teachable elements as well as dramatic ones. Bridie is in a sailing accident with her father, who is killed: her grieving mother moves them away from the sea and into an industrial city that depresses Bridie mightily. As well as grieving for her father, she also has a gammy leg that was badly hurt in the accident, so Bridie is pretty fed up; but she then finds out about a local canoe club. She is determined to learn canoeing, especially once she is told about sea or white-water canoeing. Along the way there are rivalries and misunderstandings – her mother hates the idea of Bridie doing anything at all like sailing, and the existing star of the canoe club doesn’t like the challenge represented by this bright (and sometimes tetchy) new member. But the story includes lots of information about canoeing techniques, certainly enough to either help interest a reader in the sport, or even to help someone already learning it.

You can see below the wide range of sports represented in Jinty.

  • Prisoners of Paradise Island (1974) – hockey
  • Hettie High and Mighty (1975) – hockey
  • Ping-Pong Paula (1975) – table tennis
  • Tricia’s Tragedy (1975) – swimming
  • Miss No-Name (1976) – athletics
  • Go On, Hate Me! (1976-77) – athletics, particularly running
  • Battle of the Wills (1977) – gymnastics and ballet.
  • Concrete Surfer (1977) – skateboarding
  • Cursed to be a Coward! (1977) – swimming
  • Curtain of Silence (1977) – cycling
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel (1977) – cross-country running
  • Darling Clementine (1978) – water-skiing
  • Wild Rose (1978) – gymnastics
  • Black Sheep of the Bartons (1979) – judo
  • Prisoner of the Bell (1979) – gymnastics
  • Waves of Fear (1979) – swimming/hockey/orienteering
  • Toni on Trial (1979-80) – athletics
  • White Water (1979-80) – sailing/canoeing (see above for details)
  • Blind Faith (1980) – showjumping
  • Tears of a Clown (1980) – long-distance running
  • Child of the Rain (1980) – tennis
  • Minnow (1980) – swimming
  • Spirit of the Lake (1980) – figure-skating
  • Tearaway Trisha (1980) – cycling
  • The Bow Street Runner (1981) – long-distance running
  • Diving Belle (1981) – high-diving
  • Life’s A Ball for Nadine (1981) – netball (and disco dancing, competitively)

 

Edge cases

As ever, there are clearly-related stories that don’t quite fit in the main theme. Sports are such a pervasive trope in the life of Jinty and other girls’ comics precisely because they were an important part of many girls’ school lives. Of course they also made up a big part of other popular fiction read by girls; it becomes a reinforcing theme that is always available for use.

  • Jackie’s Two Lives (1974-75) – features a mentally disturbed woman grieving over her late daughter and trying to recreate her in another girl, but also features horse riding and show-jumping
  • Wanda Whiter than White (1975-6) – the main story theme is constant trouble with an interfering, tale-telling girl, but also features horse riding and show-jumping
  • Champion In Hiding (1976) – the champion in question is a sheepdog, trained to win at dog trials
  • Rose Among the Thornes (1976) – the main story theme is family rivalry, but there are sections where Rose is involved in running races in her local village
  • Stage Fright! (1977) – includes some realistic elements of sailing
  • Land of No Tears (1977-78) – gymnastics and swimming as part of the futuristic competition to find the most perfect schoolgirl
  • The Changeling (1978) – main character loves horseriding and this is used as part of the abusive family/wishfulfilment story
  • Knight and Day (1978) – really a story about an abusive family but includes a family rivalry based around swimming and competitive diving
  • Paula’s Puppets (1978) – a story of magical objects and group strife, but includes elements of athletics (running)
  • Combing Her Golden Hair (1979) – a strange comb has the protagonist rebelling against her strict grandmother, whose rules include a ban on swimming
  • Freda’s Fortune (1981) – mostly wish-fulfilment gone wrong, with horseriding
  • Holiday Hideaway (1981) – protagonist has gymnastic skills
  • Worlds Apart (1981) – each dream-like parallel world featured a society built around an individual’s interests, and this included a sporty girl’s world

 

Other thoughts

This is probably one of the most pervasive themes you could possibly have in a girls’ comic; no doubt those who are expert in other comics titles will be able to mention many more examples of stories and of unusual sports featured in them. Reviewing the list above, I am surprised not so much by the number of stories as of the range of sports included. Of course the sports that girls played on a regular basis at school – hockey, swimming, athletics, netball, running – would feature in the girls’ comics. Even then, the weighting of specific sports doesn’t seem entirely even, mind you – in Jinty there was only one netball story compared to two or three hockey stories, and a few athletics stories. There is a noticeable absence of lacrosse stories despite the fact they are a staple of girls school prose fiction (I am sure they must be included in some other comics titles). I also don’t recall any rounders stories, which was a very typical summer sport for girls to play.

I am sure that other titles included some aspirational sports such as figure-skating or show-jumping as Jinty did, and the inclusion of some ordinary if less usual sports such as orienteering doesn’t seem unlikely either. However, the fact that skate-boarding, table-tennis, and judo were included as part of the range of stories shows, I think, that Jinty wanted to push the boat out and include elements that were not just a bit unusual, but also modern, fresh, and popular in the wider world: elements that were not marked as ‘élite’ and expensive.

Go On, Hate Me! (1976-1977)

Sample images

Jinty cover 8

(click thru)

Hetty 1.jpg

(click thru)

Hetty 2.jpg

(click thru)

Hetty 3

Publication: 2 November 1976-22 January 1977
Artist: Keith Robson
Writer: Len Wenn

Summary
Hetty Blake loves athletics, especially running. She and her friend Carol are picked for a 400m relay at their athletics club. Hetty starts training hard and pushes Carol to do the same. She does not listen to Carol’s pleas that she is feeling unwell. Too bad for Hetty – if she had listened, she might have saved herself the nightmare that is to follow.

Carol ends up collapsing and is rushed to hospital. Hetty blames herself, but Carol tells her not to; she collapsed because she had a heart condition that she had not told Hetty about and did not have long to live anyway. Before Carol dies, she makes Hetty promise to win the relay and to look after her younger sister, Jo.

Afterwards, Hetty still blames herself and a doctor reassures her it was all due to Carol’s weak heart. Jo overhears what was said but believes the former, not the latter, and shouts hatred at Hetty. Soon Jo starts spreading the word around that Hetty caused Carol’s death by driving Carol too hard. Nobody listens to Hetty’s pleas that Carol just died of a weak heart; Jo says Carol would have told her if that was the case. Worse, Hetty is stuck with looking after Jo because she promised Carol. And Jo is adamant about staying so she can make Hetty’s life miserable.

Hetty’s athletics club has turned against her, but Hetty is adamant about staying and winning the relay as she had promised this to Carol. And she is determined to run, despite the hatred and secret tricks from Jo – one of which damages her feet. She does win, but gets no applause or thanks.

Jo proceeds to turn the whole town against Hetty. Hetty loses her job and cannot get another because nobody will dare to hire her. Now Hetty cannot afford the rent, and lack of income raises problems in looking after Jo. So Jo is now faced with the prospect of ending up in welfare. Hetty has been advised to leave town and does so, still lumbered with Jo. They end up roughing it and even getting a brush with the law. Jo does not understand that these are the consequences of her own malice towards Hetty and goes on blaming her.

In another town, Hetty finds a school where she gets a job as a fill-in PE teacher and Jo becomes a pupil there. Hetty starts an athletics team. But Jo starts spreading the word about Hetty, and this causes many of the girls to drop out. Hetty is worried that she may be forced out of yet another district. However, enough of the girls remain in the team for Hetty to train.

Hetty gets a shock when she finds they will be competing against St Viner’s – Jo’s old school! The Viners girls recognise Hetty and are waiting for her with a nasty surprise – a hate-filled demonstration. This is the last straw for Hetty and she runs off in tears. However, Jo’s attitude towards Hetty has softened towards forgiveness and she runs after Hetty. This has Jo almost getting knocked down by a motorcyclist; Hetty pushes her out the way but takes the brunt.

In hospital, Jo tells Hetty that she found an entry in Carol’s diary that she had not noticed before because the page got stuck down. The entry proves that Hetty had been telling the truth about Carol. Jo explains that she ran after Hetty because she had forgiven her, but now she knows she had been wrong all along and apologises. She wants them to be friends and stay together, and Hetty is very happy.

The reaction of the hatemongers is not recorded.

Thoughts
Stories where girls conduct a hate campaign against someone (or sometimes an institution, such as a school or hospital) because they wrongly blame them for something were common in girls’ comics, and could be told from the POV of either the persecutor or the victim. Sometimes there is a mystery involved, such as the victim trying to unravel why the person is persecuting them, as in Jinty’s “Cursed to be a Coward!”. But one thing remains constant – it always turns out that the victim was wrongly persecuted and the persecutor made a ghastly mistake. Usually, though, this comes to light at the end of the story, often with the victim not realising who and/or why until the end approaches. But here it is at the beginning. Jo did hear the doctor tell Hetty that Carol died of a weak heart and she should not blame herself. And presumably he did try to reason with Jo during the few days he kept her in hospital following her angry outburst at Hetty. But apparently none of it made any impression on Jo, who continues to blame Hetty until the final episode.

Another unusual feature of this story is that it is told from the POV of both the victim and the persecutor. Usually it is one or the other. It is even more unusual that it is not just one person doing the persecuting but whole groups of people. This makes the story even more disturbing, and it must make one strongest statements about how hideous hate can be when you see it in the face. The hatred Hetty encounters is truly frightening, ugly and even dangerous, with people going as far as to pelt her. And in the final episode, it puts Hetty’s life in danger as well. Keith Robson does a brilliant job in illustrating the hatred on people’s faces with his heavy line work, especially on their eyes and twisted expressions. And it is hatred that Hetty cannot escape from because she is bound by a promise to look after the girl who hates her.

The only thing that can counteract hate is love, and this is the statement that the story makes as well. The penultimate episode tells us that next week an act of hate will produce an act of love at last. And love is the key that makes the ending so powerful. It could have ended with Hetty just having the accident because the bully girls drove her out into the road, and then Jo finding the diary entry and just apologising to Hetty. But instead the story makes a powerful point about love and forgiveness, with Jo finally seeing past her hate and forgiving Hetty, and then running after her to try to put it right. And once she had forgiven, Jo must have felt an enormous difference as the hatred left her and learned a lesson about the value of forgiveness. Not to mention getting her facts straight before accusing people and the consequences of spreading nasty rumours!

It seems a bit odd that there seem to be no parents or relatives for either Hetty or Jo. Moreover, Hetty looks hardly old enough to have her own flat or job; she does not look much older than fourteen. The same goes for Carol. All right, so it was not uncommon for girls to be drawn younger than they actually were to be in girls’ serials. For example, Greta Jones in Tammy’s “Nurse Grudge” was eventually revealed to be twenty years old, but she looks like she is still in her mid teens. But it is stretching credibility a bit that both girls are apparent orphans with no grown relatives and looking hardly old enough to be independent. Ah, one of the things we are probably best not to think about too much in girls’ comics.