Tag Archives: ballet

Slave of the Swan (1978)

Sample Images

swan-1

swan-2swan-3

Published: 1 April 1978 to 29 July 1978 (18 episodes)

Artist: Guy Peeters

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: De wraak van de Zwaan [Revenge of the Swan] (in: Tina 1980)

Plot

Katrina Vale is a talented ballerina. Her mother is a ballet teacher, but has to work as a cheap one. Therefore life’s so much on the poverty line that Mum collapses of malnutrition from having to cut meals, and she’s taken to hospital. Katrina has to find a relative to look after her or it’s welfare, but Mum has never talked about any relations or her past life. A search of Mum’s belongings reveals she used to be a famous ballerina, under the name of Katia Groves. This is quite a surprise to Katrina, who was never told any of this, and is puzzled as to why things changed so much for Mum (yes, why did they?). Another ballerina, Rosa Kachinksy aka “The Swan”, was Mum’s best friend. Katrina finds the address for the ballet school Kachinsky runs in London and decides to go to Kachinsky for help. But in London Katrina gets hit by a hit-and run driver and loses her memory. She makes it to Kachinsky’s school but now has no idea why she came or who she is.

Kachinsky catches on to who Katrina is, though. Unfortunately she’s gone from Mum’s best friend to her worst enemy because she blames Mum for being confined to a wheelchair. Now she intends to use Katrina to wreak her revenge. So she takes advantage of Katrina’s amnesia to feed her an orchestrated tissue of lies to make Katrina her slave and keep her away from her mother forever.

It starts with Kachinsky telling Katrina that her name is Mary Black, and she’s been taken from an orphanage to work as a servant. Soon she is turning Katrina into a drudge who is lumbered with all the worst jobs around the place, and loving every minute of watching Katrina slave away. And of course she isn’t paying Katrina a penny for all the work; she tells Katrina that she’s living off her charity. But that’s only the beginning.

Kachinsky gives Katrina a ragged hair cut while she’s in a drugged sleep to prevent anyone recognising her from newspaper reports of her being missing (and no doubt Kachinsky enjoyed giving the poor girl that dreadful haircut!). When Kachinsky sees Katrina stealing moments to dance she puts her feet into deliberately heavy boots, on pretext they are medical boots, to stop her dancing and anyone getting suspicious.

The ballet pupils begin to notice how Kachinsky is treating Katrina. They sympathise with Katrina and tell her she’d being exploited. Their sympathy grows when Katrina plays a piece of music she finds and Kachinsky is so upset that she slams the piano lid so hard on Katrina’s hands that her fingers are badly bruised. They tell her that she was playing “The Swan”, a title role that was created especially for Kachinsky, and it’s where her nickname comes from. It was Kachinsky’s final triumph, for soon after she had the accident that crippled her.

During this same incident Kachinsky made a slip that she knew Katrina’s parents. When Katrina confronts Kachinsky, she spins a line that the parents were thieves who died in prison. She takes advantage of Katrina reclaiming a piece of her mother’s jewellery to plant ideas in Katrina’s mind that she is a thief too. She also makes threats that if Katrina leaves she will get no references. After this, Kachinsky is confident Katrina won’t leave, no matter how badly she is treated.

Seeing that the ballet pupils are getting suspicious and sympathising with Katrina, Kachinsky decides her next move is to turn them against her. She begins working on Sarah by making it look like Katrina is stealing from her. When the ‘theft’ is discovered Kachinsky spins out more lies about Katrina’s ‘criminal’ past right in front of the whole school. The plan works. Now the girls think Katrina’s a thief and turn against her.

However, Sarah is still friendly and treats Katrina to a ballet performance. Katrina feels ballet is the key to her past and hopes for a clue there. There she hears people repeating a long-standing rumour that within an hour of performing “The Swan”, the woman who was Kachinsky’s best friend deliberately crippled her out of jealousy. That woman is Katrina’s mother. So now we know why Kachinsky is out for revenge. But from what we have seen of both Kachinsky and Mrs Vale, can we really believe the rumour is true? We need to get Mrs Vale’s side of things.

Meanwhile, the police finally trace Katrina to Kachinsky’s ballet school. Kachinsky manages to mislead them, but then realises Katrina is missing because she’s still at the ballet. There Katrina has impressed performers with her own ballet talent. And while she was dancing, fragments of memory began to return, but they are not strong enough. When Kachinsky arrives she drags Katrina off and says she’s having delusions.

However, Katrina is finally beginning to doubt what Mrs Kachinsky is telling her. She and Sarah go in search of the orphanage. Kachinsky finds out and pulls another trick: she leads them to a burned-out orphanage and takes advantage of it having been deliberately burned down and someone dying in the fire to have Katrina believe she’s a fire bug and a murderer as well as a thief, and she’s wanted by the police for it. She found Katrina in a daze after the ‘incident’ and took her in and kept her safe from the police because she believed she deserved a second chance. After this, Katrina is now well and truly in the power of the Swan, for she now believes that Kachinsky is her only friend who did so much for her. She now does any job for Kachinsky, no matter how horrible, without complaint or payment, because she thinks this is the only way to repay her. Kachinsky realises Katrina’s completely in her power now too, and is crying for joy.

While Katrina spring-cleans Kachinsky’s room, she accidentally finds a secret room hidden behind the wardrobe. It is a shrine filled with Kachinsky memorabilia, and even includes the costume from “The Swan”.

Then Kachinsky’s chauffeur gossips about Katrina being an arsonist and hysteria spreads about her pulling the same thing at the school. Kachinsky takes advantage to keep Katrina locked in a disused coal cellar to sleep. There Katrina gets a frightening visitor – someone in the Swan costume! Next morning she checks the Swan costume and finds evidence it has been moved recently, and concludes someone took it and used it to frighten her.

The rumours about Katrina being an arsonist grow more intense. So when Sarah’s costume accidentally catches fire, tongues wag that Katrina caused it although she saved Sarah by putting out the flames. Sarah goes to hospital and now Katrina has lost her only friend.

Katrina’s such a bag of nerves now about her ‘arson’ and everyone turning against her that she takes off in a panic when a policeman calls. She also sees a strange woman lurking around and thinks she is a plain-clothed policewoman who is on her tail. When she tells Kachinsky this, Kachinsky tells her that the woman is just a new ballet student, Rita Hayes. All the same, Katrina remains convinced that she’s right when Rita seems to be watching her, snooping around in her room and asking her questions.

Meanwhile, the Swan costume is resurrected again. Katrina is surprised to find someone dancing in the costume in the ballet studio to “The Swan” music. She can’t see who it is because the headdress obscures the face. The mysterious dancer doesn’t seem able to dance properly. She throws a real hissy fit and smashes the ballet record.

When Katrina goes to Kachinsky to report the matter she finds Rita snooping around in Kachinsky’s office. Katrina doesn’t listen when Rita tries to explain, and that it’s for her own good. Katrina alerts Kachinsky, but they find Rita has cleared out. Kachinsky realises Rita’s snooping must be because she is onto her game with Katrina and gone to alert the police. Not wanting to be cheated of her revenge before it is complete, she decides to get rid of Katrina altogether before the police arrive.

On pretext she is helping to conceal Katrina from arrest, Kachinsky takes Katrina to a rusty old boat in the canal to hide, but in fact she means to kill Katrina there. When Katrina enters the boat she is surprised to hear somebody shut the hatch on her, which locks her in. For a while Katrina does nothing because she has been fooled by Kachinsky’s assurances that her chauffeur will come with supplies. Meanwhile, the police have arrived to question Kachinsky. The pupils are perturbed at how pleased Kachinsky seems to be at Katrina’s disappearance, which seems very odd considering what she had them believe about her taking care of Katrina before.

Back in the boat, Katrina finally realises nobody is coming, but assumes it is because something happened to Kachinsky. But when the tide causes water to rise in the rusty old tub (as Kachinsky planned) Katrina realises she has to get out fast or she will drown. After a desperate struggle she succeeds.

Katrina is in a dreadful state but, thinking Kachinsky did not return as promised because something happened to her, staggers back to the ballet school to check on her. There she collapses, in full sight of her mother, who recognises her at once. Mum has tracked Katrina down, with the aid of Sarah’s family and Rita Hayes. It turns out Rita Hayes was a private investigator Sarah’s family had hired to help Katrina; it was part gratitude for saving Sarah and part suspicion about Kachinsky’s treatment of Katrina.

However, Mum now fears Katrina is dead. Seeing this, Kachinsky crows – right in front of everyone, including the police – she has taken her revenge at last by robbing Mrs Vale of her daughter. At this, the police arrest Kachinsky.

But no – Katrina is still alive, and she regains her memory when her mother addresses her by her proper name. Mum explains to Katrina that she and Kachinsky used to be best friends at a ballet company, and she never minded that Kachinsky was the better dancer. However, following Kachinsky’s one and only (and unforgettable) performance as “The Swan”, she was crippled by a fall down a staircase and wrongly accused Mum of pushing her out of jealousy. The accusation was widely believed and Mum was forced to leave the stage. “The Swan” has never been performed since and the swan costume itself disappeared. At this, Katrina leads Mum and Sarah to the secret room full of Kachinsky memorabilia.

Then in comes Kachinsky. She had given the police the slip – and she’s walking! She had secretly regained the use of her legs years ago. She kept it quiet because she could never dance properly again and couldn’t settle for anything less than perfection, and she enjoyed playing on people’s sympathy into the bargain. Katrina now realises Kachinsky was the one in the swan costume, and Kachinsky deliberately shut her in the rusty old tub – to die. Kachinsky gleefully admits both charges and tells Katrina “what a trusting little fool” she was to fall for those tricks and all the other lies. As the police take Kachinsky back into custody she raves that she still has more than Mrs Vale, who in her view has nothing. But Katrina does not agree – and neither do we.

Thoughts

There have been hundreds of stories about unscrupulous people taking advantage of amnesiac girls for their own ends, such as Jinty’s “Miss No-Name”. But this one could well be the most disturbing, even sickening, of them all. Usually the people who take advantage of an amnesiac protagonist are just doing it for profit and unpaid labour. Feeding them lies about having shady pasts and being on the run from the police to blackmail them into staying is a pretty common trick; Mandy’s “The Double Life of Dolly Brown” aka “The Double Life of Coppelia Brown” is one example. But the antagonist in this story isn’t doing it for money – she’s doing it for revenge. Of course it is useful to exploit someone for unpaid labour, but that isn’t her real motive; it’s just part of her campaign for revenge.

Having revenge as the motive for enslaving an amnesiac girl rather than the usual greed makes the story truly frightening. Revenge is extremely dangerous because it can drive the antagonist to the point where she has no limits. That certainly is the case with Kachinsky. She is capable of anything, including murder, to get revenge on the woman she hates. As Kachinsky’s revenge unfolds she reveals herself more and more as what a sick, cruel, twisted woman she is. She is not content with merely exploiting Katrina and keeping her away from her mother. She means to break Katrina entirely with endless psychological and emotional tortures at her ballet school, including using the swan costume to terrorise Katrina. When it comes to plotting murder, Kachinsky has no compunction or remorse about it either. When she tells Katrina to use a gangplank to go over to the boat she contemplates just pushing it away and knocking Katrina into the mud. But she decides against it because it’s too quick. She wants to watch and relish each minute of Katrina suffering slowly.

Kachinsky is also extremely clever in the ways she constantly manages to block Katrina’s attempts to remember her past and twist it around to reinforce her lies even more, cut Katrina off from avenues of help, and ensnare Katrina ever more tightly. Kachinsky pulls it off so well that Katrina ends up thoroughly convinced that Kachinsky is actually protecting her, that everything she does is for her own good, and that she actually deserves everything that she is going through because of her so-called arson, murder and thievery. Katrina is so taken in by Kachinsky’s lies that she does not even realise she is being exploited. This makes Katrina’s situation even worse than other amnesiac protagonists; at least they understand the antagonists are abusing and exploiting them. But Katrina can’t; she’s been so take in and brainwashed that she thinks the woman who is abusing her is actually her only friend. Readers would have been crying for Katrina every step of the way, not only because of the abuse she is going through but also because she can’t see it for what it is.

When it is revealed that Kachinsky had been faking paralysis all this time, it’s the last straw that puts her well beyond the pale. Her excuse for abusing Katrina is that it’s all revenge on the woman who confined her to the wheelchair. But when we discover Kachinsky isn’t really confined to the wheelchair at all – well, what a nerve she’s got there! The last possible reason for Kachinsky evoking any of our sympathy is gone.

It is only when we see Mrs Vale’s flashback of Kachinsky before the accident that we feel Kachinsky is in any way tragic. We can see she used to be a very nice woman who would never have even dreamed of doing all those things she did to Katrina. And she would still be a nice, happy woman if she hadn’t had the accident. But really, Kachinsky’s hatred destroyed her far more than the accident did.

It is no surprise to learn that Kachinsky wrongly accused Mrs Vale of causing her accident. This almost invariably is the case in revenge stories, and it makes everything all the worse for all concerned because we know it’s all been for nothing.

Is Kachinsky insane? Or is she just so full of hate it turned her into an evil, twisted monster? It is difficult to determine. Kachinsky does not come across as downright insane, just sick, cruel and perverted. Only a psychiatrist can judge on her state of mind, but we never find out what the courts decide to do with her. We can safely assume that she will lose her ballet school, her reputation, and all the sympathy and respect people have for her. When word spreads, people are certain to rethink Kachinsky’s accusations against Mrs Vale, and her reputation will be salvaged. Mrs Vale may even become a teacher at Kachinsky’s ballet school, or even take it over altogether. Who knows? Whatever the aftermath, we can be confident that the Vales’ revenge will be sweeter than Kachinsky’s.

Advertisements

The Kat and Mouse Game (1974-75)

Sample Images

jinty_0001jinty_0002jinty_0003

Published: 16 November 1974 – 5 April 1975 (18 episodes)

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Unknown

Translation/reprints: Dutch translation “Als kat en muis” [Like cat and mouse] in Tina 1985; translated into Greek in Manina.

Plot

Everyone avoids Kat Morgan at Barton Grange Ballet School because they all know she is a selfish, bullying girl who grabs all the best chances there are in the school, along with everything else she wants. What makes it even more distasteful is that Kat’s dancing is not as good as she thinks.

Meanwhile, new girl Letitia (her last name is not established) arrives. She was not keen on coming because she is a shy girl and happy to be the only ballet pupil in her village because of it. She only agreed to enrol at Barton Grange at the urging of her ballet teacher, who says the school can provide far better tuition for her talent than she can.

Shyness also makes Letitia gullible and naïve, so she proves easy prey for Kat’s false show of friendship. Kat has quickly realised what a sap Letitia is, and so she is taking advantage of Letitia to turn her into her personal handmaid. She also nicknames Letitia “Mouse”, and it sticks. But not even the humiliation of dubbing Letitia “Mouse” in front of everyone makes Letitia wake up; she meekly says she does not mind. Mouse does not listen to the girls’ later warnings that Kat is a creep who is making a mug out of her. Kat also poisons Mouse against Miss Randall the headmistress to make sure Miss Randall is not able to warn Mouse either. Eventually Mouse is left to stew in her own juice.

However, Kat soon discovers there is one snag to having Mouse as her skivvy once she sees her dance – Mouse is a far better dancer than she is. Jealousy unleashes the Kat’s claws, for she is not going to be upstaged by that Mouse. So Kat now plays a double game of stringing Mouse along as her skivvy while sabotaging Mouse to keep her in the background. To make sure of both, she wangles things for Mouse to come and live in her house, where she really enjoys having Mouse wait on her hand and foot and fetching and carrying everything for her. It is the same at school. The girls notice how Kat is turning Mouse into her slave. But when they try to speak to Mouse about it she just thinks they are being mean.

The double game has its drawbacks, though, due to Kat not thinking through the consequences of playing such a tricky double game. For example, Kat tricks Mouse into dancing badly at a test to make sure Mouse does not outshine her. But when Kat realises that this could get Mouse thrown out and she will lose her little skivvy, she quickly talks the teachers into letting Mouse stay, saying it was nerves.

Then Kat’s mother finds out how Kat is turning Mouse into her slave. In punishment, she stops Kat’s pocket money for two months. This comes at a time when Kat wants money to see a new ballet, as they will perform it later at their school and there are two places at stake in a ballet company. Of course Kat wants one of them. As there is no pocket money, Kat steals the money Mouse asked home for.

When Kat sees the ballet, she immediately sets her eyes on dancing the Tiger role in it. But Kat’s in for a surprise (and so are we) when she describes the Tiger performance to Mouse. Mouse visualises the Tiger so vividly that she puts up a stunning impromptu that has even Kat impressed. Realising Mouse could beat her to the Tiger role, Kat pulls more tricks to stop Mouse – and others – auditioning for it. But one trick backfires and gets Kat stuck in the lift. So she could be the one who misses out on the part. Sappy but kind Mouse isn’t having Kat miss out on her audition, so she dons the Tiger costume and pretends to be Kat. So thanks to Mouse, Kat gets the role. Now Kat has a new use for Mouse – have her stand in for her in the Tiger role, because she knows she could never top Mouse’s interpretation of the Tiger.

Then Kat starts getting worried that it’s getting too dangerous and the school might find her out. So, although she has enjoyed having Mouse as her mug, she now plots to get Mouse expelled. However, one of the tricks rebounds when it causes Kat to get her leg badly bruised in an accident. Moreover, Kat won’t seek treatment because that would mean the end of her Tiger role. However, she can’t dance properly because of her leg and she has to perform in front of the Mayor, so she cons Mouse into dancing it for her. Moreover, she is making sure Mouse, who blames herself for the accident, is waiting on her even more. Kat is really enjoying it, but is now treating Mouse in a bad tempered way. Mouse puts it down to the pain in Kat’s leg. Yes, there is that, but of course the real reason is that Kat is taking advantage to bully Mouse into the bargain.

Kat’s temper gets worse when she sees Mouse dancing the Tiger in the show. She realises that Mouse is getting even better in the role and her jealousy grows. Suspicion also grows when the girls comment on how well Kat danced with that badly bruised leg while Mouse looked like she had been dancing hard but she was not even in the performance.

Kat gets so jealous of Mouse that she sabotages a special platform that Mouse will leap onto so it will collapse under her. However, it backfires when Miss Randall tells Kat to leap onto the platform instead. Kat tries to avoid the weakened parts, but fails because of her bad leg, and the platform collapses under her.

Mouse saves Kat from serious injury – but oh, what a surprise! Mouse has picked up on clues that have made her suspicious of Kat. She now realises what Kat did and shouts at her over it: Kat spiked the platform, Kat betrayed their friendship, Kat hated her all along, they’re finished and she never wants to see Kat again. So now Mouse has finally seen through Kat and it’s the end of the story!

Oh rats, it’s not. Kat isn’t finished yet. She is now even more anxious to get Mouse expelled before everything comes out, and now plots to frame her for stealing. And Mouse is still living with Kat, which makes it easier. One night Kat goes to steal money from the head’s safe and blame it on Mouse. Realising Mouse has followed her, Kat pretends to be sleepwalking while taking the money. Mouse takes the money back to the safe, but is caught doing so. Mouse can’t fully explain because as she feels it would be sneaking and foolishly thinks Kat didn’t mean it. She even thinks Kat did it subconsciously for her because she is poor! So she takes the blame and is expelled.

The school has to wait for Mouse’s parents to come to remove her. So Mouse is put in isolation, but still around for Kat to take advantage of. Kat can’t dance properly because of her leg, and now the time has come to impress the ballet company director and get one of the two places. So again Kat wheedles Mouse into dancing the Tiger for her. However, the director is so overexcited by the performance that he rips off the Tiger mask on the stage, and everyone sees who was really doing the dancing.

Kat has to do some fast thinking on why an expelled girl is dancing in her place. So she dashes off, ties herself up, and spins a story that Mouse tied her up and stole the costume. Even the unbelievably gullible Mouse has to well and truly realise what a toad Kat is after this, but she can’t prove it.

Meanwhile, Kat is forced to go on stage in the tiger costume. But she can’t dance properly with her bad leg, and that mad dash to tie herself up has aggravated the damage. Her leg injury and its lack of treatment are soon discovered. Although by his own admission he is not a doctor, the director tells Kat that the injury will leave a permanent weakness in her leg, which means she can never become a professional dancer. Shocked to realise she has destroyed herself by her own dirty tricks against Mouse, Kat decides she might as well make a clean breast of everything and does so. At Mouse’s request, Miss Randall spares Kat the disgrace of expulsion and just lets her quietly leave because of her leg. Mouse gets into the ballet company and goes on to have a brilliant ballet career.

Thoughts

There has been a common feeling about this story that it’s difficult to be fully sympathetic for the protagonist because she’s so wet and unbelievably naïve and gullible that she believes anything Kat tells her. Even when Mouse does see through Kat after the platform incident, it does not last long. Before long, Mouse goes back to falling for Kat’s tricks and thinking Kat’s her friend. Any respect we gained for Mouse in that outburst is instantly lost. And any hope we have of Mouse finding a whole new backbone that sets her on the road to more confidence is dashed as well.

Mouse cuts off her own avenues of help by not listening to warnings, although this is partly because she has foolishly believed the lies that Kat has told her. Even when Kat’s mother finds out how Kat is treating Mouse and stops her pocket money in punishment, Mouse doesn’t open her eyes to it as well. She goes on thinking Kat is her friend whom she is only too happy to do everything for. All anyone can really do is watch and notice suspicious things that filter through, but they don’t have enough evidence to act on them.

The scheming follows a fairly common pattern in girls’ comics, where the schemer starts off just playing tricks on the protagonist because she is taking advantage her or thinks it’s just a huge joke. But later the scheming takes a more spiteful turn, with the schemer deciding to get rid of her victim altogether. This is because she’s gotten bored with it, or it’s gotten too complicated, or the victim has done something that’s really put the schemer’s nose out of joint and she’s out for revenge. And it’s here that things begin to unravel for the schemer. Other stories that follow this pattern include Tammy’s “Dulcie Wears the Dunce’s Hat” and M&J’s “What Lila Wants…”.

It is bad enough that Kat is playing a double game with Mouse, what with sabotaging her while taking advantage of her at the same time. But when it turns to scheming to get Mouse expelled, her conduct becomes really galling. Although she succeeds in getting Mouse expelled, she has the nerve to still take advantage of her because she wants Mouse to stand in for her in the Tiger role and be her unpaid servant. She isn’t even grateful to Mouse for saving her from the collapsing platform. Yes, she does say “thanks”, but nothing in her conduct or thoughts afterwards indicates true gratitude. Kat’s only redeeming quality is how she breaks down in the end and confesses everything, which saves Mouse. Could those tears be the start of a new improved Kat? We cannot say for sure, but we can be confident that Kat will never be the same again.

It is a real twist that the Kat ends up destroying herself through her own subterfuge on Mouse. Kat won’t seek treatment for an injury that was caused by one of her own tricks, just because she does not want to lose the Tiger role. Yet she can’t even dance the Tiger because of her own injury, so she still has to use the very girl she is trying to expel. Moreover, Kat let her leg go untreated and worsened it with her final trick on Mouse, so it deteriorated to the point where she would never be able to dance again. In any case, she never had enough talent to really get to the top to begin with, so no amount of trickery would get her there.

 

 

Slave of the Clock (1982)

Sample images

Page 1 of Slave of the Clock

click thru
click thru
click thru
click thru

Slave of the Clock

Publication 17 July 1982 – 30 October 1982 (skipped an episode in Tammy 25 September 1982)

Artist: Maria Barrera

Writer: this Tammy story is credited to Jay Over, who also wrote Jinty‘s long-running school soap opera, “Pam of Pond Hill”. As we will see, there are also a few thematic similarities between this story and others in Jinty, raising intriguing questions about what else Jay Over may have written in this comic.

Plot: Alison Thorne is a talented dancer, but that’s not the main focus of her interest; she’s a very active girl who enjoys all sorts of things, such as art and socialising with her friends. Dancing is great fun – the first thing we hear from Alison is “Dancing makes me feel good from top to toe!” – but we also hear her think straight afterwards “I’ll have to get a move on if I’m to make it to the Youth Club on time!” In short, she’s a happy-go-lucky girl who isn’t driven by ambition or focused on talent. This isn’t a problem to her, or to her parents either, and it wouldn’t be an issue for most people. Her ballet teacher Miss Dempster, though, has ambitions on Alison’s behalf (and some ambitions for her own fame as a teacher too). Dempster takes her pupil along to creepy Miss Margolia, who promptly hypnotises Alison so that the ticking of a clock will make her think of dancing… and only of dancing… as immediately shown when some friends come round to Alison’s house the next morning and put a clock to her ear to wake her up.

Thereafter, any ticking clock will not only force Alison to dance, but also to lose awareness of her surroundings. That first time, her friends leave her dancing, because she pays no attention to them, and she doesn’t even realise they have been and gone. At the next dance class, Miss Dempster is annoyed and disappointed to see that Alison is still not giving her whole-hearted attention to the class, but then she doesn’t know yet what the real key to Alison’s slavery is – the ticking clock. Another player is about to join the story, though – a girl called Kathy, who has sadly been injured and cannot herself dance any more. Alison, fairly nobly to be honest, thinks to herself that she should be careful to take Kathy’s mind off dancing by focusing on other activities. Once again, a ticking clock – this time a wristwatch – makes Alison dance at an inopportune moment – this time, when Kathy arrives. Not surprisingly, all present think Alison is just showing off in front of Kathy, very cruelly.

Alison manages to smooth over the awkwardness and persuade Kathy that she will have fun staying at their house. I expect she would do, to, but at the same time, Miss Dempster is on the phone to Madame Margolia asking what can have gone wrong with the hypnotism – and as a result, installing a damn great cuckoo clock into her dance studio… Alison nearly doesn’t hear the clock at all as she is keenly getting involved with the local youth club show for which she has firmly ruled out dancing as an option, but she has to go around town putting up posters, and Miss Dempster gets her into the studio on that basis. And of course as soon as she hears the clock, off she goes again…

This sets the pattern for the upcoming plot: Kathy gets crosser and more upset because she thinks she is being messed around, Alison gets more upset because she is mysteriously blacking out and finding herself aching the next day as if she has danced for hours, and Miss Dempster is gleeful because she is getting her way. There is a temporary moment of guilt on the ballet teacher’s part when she feels bad about making Alison dance to her command, but as soon as the prospect of a rich new pupil arises, she gets Alison to perform once again (with a ticking clock around her neck). Not that this works out the way Dempster expects – Alison is put in positive danger by her dancing unaware of her surroundings (Kathy has to rescue her from possibly falling into a swimming pool) and of course Kathy and Alison are thus enabled to band together and realise what must be happening, unlikely though it seems. (I don’t think the rich pupil was very impressed by the relentless and absorbed dancing either! so probably no win for la Dempster on that front either.)

Alison’s parents don’t believe the wild story that the two girls bring to them, of course, but the two friends go off to find and confront Madame Margolia. But Dempster meets them outside the house, and tells them that Madame Margolia has been taken ill – and died! Will Alison never escape the curse of the ticking clock? Seemingly not – even if she is not dancing all the time, her parents are now resorting to taking her to hospital for mental treatment – and a sticking wheel on a hospital trolley triggers her off dancing again, so perhaps the curse is even getting stronger. However, it is in the hospital that they find Madame Margolia – seriously ill, but not dead (what a surprise to find that Miss Dempster lied – not!). Not that they can do anything to contact her, because Alison is whisked off to see the (very unsympathetic) doctor, who says that all this forced dancing is purely in her mind, because she is scared of failing her dance exams – and therefore her parents make her take more dance lessons, with – guess who? Miss Dempster of course. Alison pleads to do her exams with any other teacher rather than her tormentor, but her father replies: “Considering the cruel accusations you’ve made against her, I think Miss Dempster’s a fine person to take you back and help you.” So not only has she to face the cause of her problems, she even has to be grateful to that person?! That’s a nasty twist.

In fact the lessons go surprisingly well, though of course at first Alison is trembling like a leaf and hardly fit to dance. Miss Dempster is feeling guilty again and forebearing to use the power of the clock, and Alison gradually relaxes more and enjoys dance again. Temptation falls in Miss Dempster’s path once again though – can she get Alison into the International Ballet School, where it’s been her dream to have a pupil? By now we know how weak la Dempster’s will is, of course. And yes, the climax of the story is that although Alison had started to happily believe she was cured of the dancing fits, instead she is once again made to dance, for her teacher’s benefit not her own. This time the International Ballet School judges clearly reject Alison’s mechanical, hypnotic dancing, making it very clear just how misguided Miss Dempster’s actions are on all fronts – and a surprise guest appears in the form of a wheel-chair bound Madame Margolia. Alison is finally cured, though Margolia and Dempster require the two friends’ silence as their part of the bargain. There is a last reward for faithful sidekick Kathy though – the limp she has had since her injury is psychosomatic, so Margolia is able to cure her of it with one last application of (benign) hypnotism.

Thoughts: There are some silly aspects to this story – hypnotism is intrinsically an over-the-top trope, and this has the hypnotic subject nearly dancing to her death, which can strike the reader as absurd. On closer read, though, it is a pretty disturbing story, not to say chilling.

The main feature of it is perhaps that it is a ‘grownups know best’ story: protagonist Alison is quite happy as she is, and there is objectively nothing wrong with her, but a grown-up has other ideas of what’s best, and rides rough-shod over the girl protagonist’s clearly-expressed desires and aims. Miss Dempster thinks that it is a waste that Alison doesn’t use her dancing talent; in just the same way, Susie Cathcart’s grandmother thinks that Susie should be using her intellect rather than her gymnastic skill, and so makes her into the “Prisoner of the Bell“.  Similarly, headmistress Purity Goodfellow uses her mystic drug to turn the schoolchildren of Edenford into a paradise along the lines that she deems best – even if the girls need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the infirmary where she will administer the drug. I could continue with more examples – for instance “Battle of the Wills” also has a determined grandmother who makes her granddaughter practice hated ballet rather than the gymnastics that she loves, though no mind-control is seen in that story. It is not the most frequent story theme in this comic, but you can see how it would strike a chord with the readers. It’s striking not only that the girl character expresses her desires clearly and unmistakably, but also that the grown-up simply dismisses them as foolish, worthless, clearly unacceptable – and other grown-ups are likely to be persuaded into this view too, even if they had started out on the side of the (actually perfectly nice and normal) protagonist.

Of course, the grown-up is pretty clearly shown not to have known best, in the end. As with Miss Dempster, their manipulations clearly fail on their own terms, and don’t produce the desired result even if they had seemed promising initially – free will does triumph over coercion, though it’s a long road in getting there. That’s pretty subversive to me, in a kids’ comic – it’s not just saying that grownups can get it wrong, but that they can positively be against you even when they’re not obviously evil. Dempster is very chilling – she is not as witchy-looking as Madame Margolia (a stately crone if ever I saw one), but she just doesn’t seem to care about Alison, except in flashes that are overcome all-too-easily. It’s a proper emotional abuse story, done quite strikingly. Dempster persuades herself that it’s for the right reasons, or that it will be worth it in the end, but not only does she ignore Alison’s stated wishes and aims, she disregards the pleas and the begging that the girl is driven to by the end. Lies and the use of her power for her own ends – Dempster does not look or act conventionally evil, never descending to cackling, but she is inhumanly self-absorbed nevertheless. Madame Margolia is far from innocent (quite apart from having applied the hypnotism in the first place, she also demands silence as her payment for taking it off, which is pretty much barefaced cheek on her part) but she can see the cost of the slavery much more clearly than her younger associate. If Dempster ever got the power to do hypnosis herself, I would be far more worried for the fictional world than with it staying in Margolia’s hands!

Battle of the Wills (1977)

Sample Images

Battle of the Wills 1Battle of the Wills 2Battle of the Wills 3 1

Publication: 2/7/77-1/10/77

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown, but see “Thoughts”

 

Plot

Kate Wills is a selfish, unsavoury girl – but then, so is her grandmother, in the way she treats Kate. Grandmother keeps forcing Kate to follow in her footsteps and be a ballerina, but Kate wants to be a gymnast. The two are constantly at war over ballet vs. gymnastics. Grandmother just does not comprehend that Kate cannot realise her full potential as a top ballerina because having ballet constantly forced upon her has made her hate it. She believes (or deludes herself) that the gymnastics is just a passing craze and Kate will soon love ballet. She squelches every attempt Kate makes to pursue gymnastics, including cutting gymnastics articles out of newspapers and sacking servants who disobey her instructions (because Kate intimidated them) to keep Kate away from gymnastics. And what’s worse, grandmother always wins in the end.

 

Then, grandmother says she is going away on a year-long world trip to visit her old ballet haunts. Kate sees the advantages immediately, especially when told she will receive an allowance of £50 a week. She goes off to enrol at the gymnastics college under the name of Kate Holmes, and the allowance will cover her fees. Sounds too easy? It is – the family lawyer, Perkins, tells Kate that the allowance will stop if her ballet training does, and he is going to monitor her to make sure she keeps up her ballet. It looks like grandmother has won again.

 

Then Kate is reminded of an article she saw earlier about a Dr Morrison who claimed to have invented a machine that can duplicate living beings. It was dismissed as a hoax, but Kate seizes upon it as the means to be in two places at once, which would solve her problem. So she heads off to Morrison (a female scientist) and demands that a clone be made of her. Morrison agrees when Kate points out that a clone of a human being rather than animals would be far more convincing proof that her machine is genuine.

 

The cloning works – but too well. The clone believes she is the real Kate, and hates ballet and wants gymnastics as much as Kate does. Morrison says she cannot tell them apart and the machine to reverse the process will not be ready for months. In the meantime, she sorts the matter with a coin toss – the winner goes to the gymnastics college and changes her hairstyle to differentiate her from the loser, who is forced to go home and the hated ballet, under Perkins’ constant guard (something that threatens to turn him into a nervous wreck because Kate is such a handful). But she isn’t having that, so now the battle of ballet vs. gymnastics is being fought between the two Kates, with ballet Kate playing tricks on gymnast Kate to get the gymnastics she wants, while gymnast Kate fights her every inch of the way to hold on to them.

 

Further complications arise when gymnast Kate’s selfish nature makes her extremely unpopular at the college. Only one girl, Pauline, has tried to be friends at first, but Kate alienates her when she blackmails her way into taking Pauline’s place in a gymnastics display. It gets even more complicated when gymnast Kate finds out that Perkins is Pauline’s father, which creates hijinks in preventing him or Pauline from seeing the wrong Kate or even both of them when their paths meet over various gymnastics events where ballet Kate is always causing trouble for gymnast Kate. Added to that is a constant cloud hanging over gymnast Kate – is she really the clone, and if so, are her days as a gymnast numbered by how soon Morrison perfects the reversal machine?

 

Then gymnast Kate discovers Morrison has the reversal machine already, not months away as she said before. Morrison says it was just not ready to test on humans at the time and has a further bombshell – she tells gymnast Kate that she is the clone. This gives gymnast Kate such a shock that she goes into a state of catatonia and amnesia and wanders about in a daze. She ends up in hospital, but runs off when a news item about the Tynchurch gymnastics display she was meant to participate in jogs her memory just enough for her to go there. She arrives there still in her daze, but somehow able to perform.

 

Meanwhile, grandmother sends ballet Kate a new ballet instructor from Russia, Alicia, who takes the right approach with her. Instead of forcing Kate to dance, Alicia encourages her with praise and taking her to a ballet performance to inspire her. It works; ballet Kate is soon surprising herself at enjoying ballet for the first time in her life. She now feels quite happy to leave gymnast Kate to her own devices at the college.

 

But before ballet Kate changes her mind about ballet, she tries to pull one last trick on gymnast Kate at the Tynchurch display. However, she gets caught up with the doctors who are looking for gymnast Kate and then finds out about the state she is in. So she decides to help gymnast Kate instead.

 

Meanwhile, Pauline finally rumbles there are two Kates, and ballet Kate explains everything to her. But gymnast Kate has taken off in a daze once again, and ballet Kate finds out from Morrison what is wrong. Morrison also wants the two Kates to come to a science convention, where she will demonstrate her reversal machine in public by merging them back into one. Ballet Kate tracks down gymnast Kate and explains. They head off to the convention, with gymnast Kate now resigned to her fate. Pauline comes along and so does Alicia, who has been informed of the situation.

 

At the convention, there are protests on all sides that the experiment is cruel and inhuman and should be stopped immediately. This raises hopes that the clone will be spared. However, the scientists’ opposition has Morrison take matters into her own hands and turn the reversal machine straight on the Kates. However, it is ballet Kate who disappears, not gymnast Kate. This is because Morrison lied about which one was the clone to protect her work until she was ready to prove it to the convention. But the scientists are so horrified that they ban her duplicating machine and have her arrested. Morrison expresses no remorse; only anger that the scientists do not appreciate her genius.

 

Kate returns home, full of grief over her clone. However, the experiences she went through have turned her into a more considerate girl who has now realised how selfish she has been. So when Kate hears that the real reason her grandmother went away was to seek medical treatment in Russia for a serious heart condition, but her post-treatment prognosis is uncertain, she decides to give up her gymnastics and humour her still-infirm grandmother about pursuing ballet.

 

Alicia and Pauline feel the sacrifice Kate is making will be too much for her. So Alicia comes up with a plan. She persuades Kate to go for the national gymnastics championship she was training for, while, unknown to Kate, she puts grandmother in the audience – under protest. The hope is that once grandmother actually sees Kate’s gymnastics, she will come around. But grandmother has severe prejudices about the gymnastics she has never even watched properly as well as being opposed to Kate pursuing them, and her reaction to Kate performing is inscrutable.

 

By the end, it looks like the plan has failed and Kate has left in tears, without even checking the results of the competition. She thinks it is the end of her gymnastics and does not even know her grandmother was there until Alicia owns up. However, grandmother eventually proves she has come around, by not only in accepting the trophy Kate has won on her behalf but also in the acceptance speech she gives. She is proud to support Kate’s dream of going to the Olympics, and her prognosis is now good.

 

Thoughts

 

This story is one that crops up frequently in Jinty discussions and seems to have endured with readers. It certainly is a cut above your average story about the protagonist fighting difficult parents who keep pushing her in the direction they want and have no respect for what she wants, which drives her to go behind their backs all the time. Here the protagonist resorts to what could be the most unique solution to the problem in the history of girls’ comics – having a clone created so she can be in two places at the same time. But the solution brings its own problems that act as the obstacles the protagonist so often faces when going behind her parents’ backs to pursue her path: keeping the secret, hijinks when things go a bit wrong, thinking fast when faced with the threat of discovery, and jealous rivals who are so often thrown into the mix. And the difficulties facing gymnast Kate are all compounded by a constant, niggling thought that surely none of her counterparts in other comics have ever faced – which Kate is the real one and which is just the clone whose life will end when the reversal machine is ready? And when the truth is revealed, which will win out – ballet or gymnastics? Of course we are all rooting for the gymnastics, but what is grandmother going to say about it when she comes back? It will be back to square one for Kate – unless grandmother is persuaded to change her mind.

 

What further adds to the appeal of the story is that the protagonist herself starts out as an unlikeable character and not a fully sympathetic one. This is quite unusual for this type of story; usually a protagonist fighting a difficult parent to pursue her dreams is a sympathetic character, such as Glenda Noble in “The Goose Girl”. However, although we sympathise with Kate’s situation, we do not sympathise with her character. She is pushy, even bullying, selfish, and does not see beyond herself. She is not above blackmailing Pauline and does not care about the servants who get sacked because of the constant war between her and her grandmother. So there is far more character development in this story; we know that Kate will change somehow, and we all the more interested in following her story to find out just how she will change and where it will lead in the battle over ballet vs. gymnastics.

 

It is not too much of a surprise that it is shock treatment that turns Kate around, though more extreme because she is threatened with a (false) near-death experience as well. It could hardly be anything else. What is a surprise is that what turns the clone around is the very last thing she expected – beginning to like ballet. And it is all because her new ballet teacher goes about things the right way – being likeable, encouraging and inspiring to induce Kate to pursue ballet out of her own interest – not forcing ballet upon Kate as grandmother does because it is what she wants, and not listening to what Kate wants. It is a rare lesson that any difficult parent/teacher learns in girls’ comics – learning to go about things the right way instead of the wrong way of forcing things upon people. If ballet Kate had been the real Kate after all, the story could have ended in quite an unconventional manner for this type of genre – the protagonist now doing what the parent wants because it is now what she wants instead of gaining the freedom to pursue what she wants.

 

This story is also pretty unconventional for Jinty in another manner. Although Jinty was known for her SF stories, the mad/eccentric scientist was one SF theme that seldom featured. But in this case it does, and what’s more, Dr Morrison is not your average mad scientist. Most mad scientists in girls’ comics are out for world domination or whatever. They often a dash of campiness about them and behave like maniacs. But this doctor is a completely cold fish, and what makes her even more chilling is that her true colours are not apparent at first. When we first meet Morrison, she seems a sympathetic character. She has been wronged because the science establishment rejected her machine as a hoax, lives in a dingy residence, and when the two Kates are created, she seems to be in a real dilemma. At one point she even comes to the rescue of gymnast Kate in fooling Perkins. But once her lies begin to unravel, her cold, ruthless nature begins to appear. Ballet Kate realises how heartless Morrison really is and that neither of them are much real to her; she just sees them as an “interesting experiment”. And the climax of the story, where Morrison wipes ballet Kate from existence without a flicker of remorse, just to prove herself to the convention, despite all their protests, has to be one of the most ruthless and cold-blooded scenes ever depicted in girls’ comics. This must have been a moment where the Jinty team really wanted to kick some butt; none of the clichéd last minute saves, as was what the Kates hoped for when the scientists protested that the experiment be stopped.

 

Jinty was also known for her sports stories, and “Battle of the Wills” was the first Jinty story to feature gymnastics. The other Jinty stories that did were “Land of No Tears”, “Wild Rose” and “Prisoner of the Bell”. Unfortunately, the gymnastics in all these stories were marred by one glaring error – having girls perform gymnastics on parallel bars, rings and Pommel horse. This is incorrect because they are used in men’s gymnastics. Some more accurate research into gymnastics could have been done there.

 

“Battle of the Wills” shares roots with several other stories that have me wondering that if at least some of them had the same writer. Kate’s ambitious but selfish nature that softens into a more considerate one sounds similar to how another selfish Jinty girl, Pandora, develops in “Pandora’s Box”. In “Prisoner of the Bell” Susie Cathcart also wants to pursue gymnastics, but her grandmother keeps forcing her to be an academic (and Susie is a confirmed underachiever) and thinks gymnastics are nonsense, just as Kate’s grandmother does. In this case, the grandmother uses hypnotism to compel her. The same goes for Alison Thorne in Tammy’s “Slave of the Clock” in 1982. Alison is another talented but reluctant ballerina. Unlike Kate, Alison does not hate ballet; she is just not passionate enough to make it her career. Then Alison meets a ballet teacher who goes about things the wrong way in the extreme – she hypnotises reluctant ballet students into doing ballet whenever they hear the ticking of a clock. The last was written by Jay Over, a known Jinty writer. It raises the possibility that Over wrote “Battle of the Wills” and “Prisoner of the Bell” because of various similarities they have with “Slave of the Clock”.

 

When comparing “Battle of the Wills” to “Prisoner of the Bell” or “Slave of the Clock”, it emerges as more superior in terms of character development. Once Alison and Susie are freed from the hypnotism they pretty much go back to what they were, as if nothing had happened. But Kate has grown, and become more considerate and mature. And if ballet Kate had indeed been the original, she would have really surprised herself. “Battle of the Wills” is also more superior in terms of lessons learned. The other two show what can happen when you go about things the wrong way and try to force them on other people. Seldom do you get the lesson about the results you can get when you go about things the right way. But this is what happens when Alicia appears in the place of the grandmother. Kate sees how different Alicia is and responds accordingly. However, there is no Alicia for Susie (to help her appreciate education more) or Alison (to encourage her to pursue her ballet talent to the full).

Edited to add: I have produced and added in a WTFometer. This story scores quite highly at 33.

Battle of the Wills WTFometer

‘Remembered Reading’ by Mel Gibson; book review

Remembered Reading: Memory, Comics and Post-War Constructions of British Girlhood“, by Dr Mel Gibson; ISBN 9789462700307, published by Leuven University Press, June 2015. Reviewed by Jenni Scott.

Remembered_reading

British girls’ comics are not much written-about, either within academia or within comics fandom. Even the people who read these comics as children tend to move away from then in their teenage years and forget about them as adults, until a deep well of memory is probed and an undercurrent of (often very strong) emotion is released. In looking at how people talked and thought about girls comics in the past, and how people talk and think about them still, this book is a great review both of the memories of the former girl readers, and of the criticism – often ill-informed or inadequate – made of these comics.

To be clear up front, this is an academic work based on Dr Gibson’s research for her doctoral thesis, and published by an academic press within a series of ‘Studies in European Comics and Graphic Novels’. Some of the writing includes some specialized vocabulary or concepts (in fact this is generally not too bad but it could put some people off). Perhaps more importantly for a work on comics, only a very few illustrations are used: this sort of book typically has definite budget constraints and it is hard to obtain permission to use this sort of old material (especially for free). It is not a lavish reference book for a general audience! Having said that, Dr Gibson has chosen wisely in including a four-page “Belle of the Ballet” story and an absolutely corking two page photo story from “Shocking Pink”. It also includes a very solid chapter on ‘The Rise and Fall of the British Girls’ Comic’, which provides an outline of publication history and of the development of this market. Its real strength, though, lies in the number of questions, thoughts, and avenues for investigation that it has provoked in me during my reading. (And what better thing can you say of an academic book than that it is fruitful?)

So, what is the book all about, in more detail?

Coverage

In the Introduction, Dr Gibson sets out her stall. This book aims to look at how the genre of comics aimed at British girls developed and why they disappeared, while also looking at other comics that were read by girls (such as American superhero comics) and to a lesser extent also at the phenomenon of boys reading girls’ comics too. This is in order to challenge the received idea in our Anglo-Saxon culture of comics as being by and for boys and for men: a prejudice that forgets and belittles the history of girls comics. Because it proved hard and expensive to get hold of issues of girls comics themselves, or at least in the range and quantity you’d need to do a good overview, Gibson ended up not looking at the titles directly, or the stories in them, but rather at people’s memories and what was important enough in those memories to stick with them until she interviewed them years and decades later. (These were interviews done at a range of events typically held in libraries, schools, and other organizations, thus not targeting a body of already-identified comics fans.) At the same time, Gibson is clear about needing to look at the history of British writing on comics too: a history that comprises a strand that considers comics functionally as an educational tool, a strand that reflects enthusiasm and positive interest in the medium, and a larger third, critical, strand that starts from the premise that comics are bad for readers. (Even in the Introduction, it’s obvious that Gibson is writing from the point of view of a keen and positive reader of comics herself, so that while she outlines and discusses the critical strand there’s no fear she is likely to endorse it.)

Chapter One starts off talking in more detail about why it was so hard for Gibson to find copies of the girls’ comics she would have liked to work on: you might not have thought this was a particularly interesting aspect to lead off with, but it actually reveals some interesting attitudes on the part of the comics dealers she was in contact with. The dealers themselves had prejudices and misconceptions about girl comics readers: they argued that girls only got given comics out of duty and “did not really like them”, while at the same paradoxically still keeping them – meaning that dealers ended up with stashes of girls comics that they didn’t value either, and typically destroyed rather than sell! So a perceived lack of interest in girls comics becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mass media writing about girls comics, too, ‘flattens’ and reduces the diversity of comics actually produced and read, and paints the comics that girls read as being all about boarding schools and middle-class respectability.

Between her own experience, the interviews with readers, and even some interviews with women involved in the creation of comics, Gibson promises us a much more nuanced view not only of the value and interpretations that girls do place on comics, but of the range of publications actually on offer at different times, and the relevant differences between them, particularly including perceived differences of class. This nuanced view is used not only to challenge the views of the dealers but also those of the few academics or educationalists who have written about this area. The analysis is even turned inwards too: Gibson confesses that “[a]s a younger reader I dismissed comics for girls as less significant, showing my own entanglement with value judgements and ideology” – a point she develops further in the rest of book that had a lot of resonance for me, too. Nevertheless, when discussing their memories with readers who came forward, she found that “these publications had been an important part of childhood reading”, used to construct the reader’s sense of what it was to be a girl in Britain at the time. (Not that everyone wanted to become a girl if that was what it meant to be one – some readers rebelled in various ways – but it clearly helped to shape them, either way.)

Chapter Two covers the publishing history of girls’ comics in Britain: this is a really good solid chapter which covers the gamut of work and of publishers. It starts with 19th and early 20th century text-based periodicals for girls, which were aimed at and read by a wide range of classes and ages. Girls’ comics themselves appeared rather later, in the 1950s; the key story is “The Silent Three” but the key title that comes under most discussion here is Girl. One particular point of interest in this chronological approach is that Gibson is able to highlight the treatment in Girl of ballet as “acceptable”, “although it had not been long since ballet had been seen as a problematic profession” – that is, although later generations of readers treated ballet themes as boring and conservative, we should remember there was a time when this was far from being the case! Gibson also highlights that titles with a mixture of content – features, fashion, pin-ups as well as comic strips – “came to be predominantly associated with British girls’ comics” (despite also being seen in boys’ titles such as Eagle and Look & Learn). Later titles such as Jackie in particular took this further, of course, and indeed led to the magazine format dominating the teenage and adult markets. At this point there’s a visible split in the market, with the titles for pre-teens (starting with Bunty, Judy, and Princess) being produced primarily in comics form rather than using more of the mixed format. “The comic medium, in not continuing through to periodicals for adults, was reinforced as an indicator of childhood.”

The section on Bunty and the subsequent section on Tammy and the new wave of comics will probably be of particular interest to readers of this blog, and won’t disappoint. There are some quotes from Benita Brown, who talks about writing the stories “Blind Bettina” (publication not traced),  “Hateful Heather”, and “Cathy’s Friend From Yesterday” (both in Mandy). Brown also wrote the sports tips that appeared in Jinty, “Winning Ways”, and it is implied though not stated clearly that she wrote “Spirit of the Lake” too. The final section is also interesting, covering the advent of photo-stories (illustrated by a parody one from feminist title Shocking Pink) and horror themes, before the death of the girls’ comic as a separate medium. Unfortunately for my personal interests, this chapter doesn’t go down to the level of detail I would ideally want to see about ‘production’ points such as sales data, who wrote what, who drew what, or editorial decisions and aims. Nevertheless it is a really good chapter that will give solid reference for anyone reading or researching in this area in the future.

Chapter Three is about how librarians, academics, teachers, and others have thought and talked about comics reading in Britain. It looks at moral panics and the fears that adults who are gatekeepers for children have had about comics: that comics are dangerous unless vetted for appropriate content, poorly-made, and will incite their readers to violent, criminal, or otherwise undesirable outcomes. These fears applied to boys and girls but particularly vehemently to girls; there was also a class element to the fears, with working-class readers felt to be more at risk than others. These worries came from various sides of the political spectrum as there were also plenty of feminist critiques made: that girls’ comics were unnecessarily twee and limiting, that they had too many stereotypes, that they were created almost exclusively by men, that they encouraged a victim mentality (especially the Cinderella and Slave story themes, as you can imagine).

On the positive side, Gibson counters these fears much more thoroughly than I’ve seen elsewhere. She cites Benita Brown as seeing her work in comics deliberately stretching the boundaries of the girls’ comics traditions; Brown also apparently “said that during her period of writing the majority of writers that she found out about, in both IPC and DC Thomson, were women”. (No further details were given on this statement – I’d love to hear more! – I also note that Mavis Miller, who also shaped girls comics publications at the time, wasn’t mentioned.) Gibson also points out the contradictions in the ‘moral panic’ reactions to comics – that commentators are scared comics will make readers ‘lazy’ and unwilling to move on to ‘proper’ books while at the same time noting that high volumes of comics being read tends to go hand in hand with high volumes of other materials being read by the same people. Gibson also points out changes over time in what is shocking and deplorable – at one point ballet is risqué, then Jackie becomes worrying because of its content about boyfriends and fashion, and subsequently titles like Just Seventeen and Mizz seem just as problematic. Each generation sees “a shift in defining what girlhood is and what the concerns of girlhood are.” Furthermore, once you start talking to the readers of the stories about them in more detail, you get a lot more about how they are interpreted or understood by those readers: girls discussed and argued about what they were reading, they interpreted them in different ways, it wasn’t just a mechanical equation or imposition of stereotypes onto vulnerable readers. It is precisely that area of reader response that is so valuable in the subsequent couple of chapters.

Chapters Four and Five are based on her interviews with readers of comics. It covers (of course) girls reading girls’ comics, looking at interview data to see how women talk about their girlhood reading and comparing this to academic writing that often makes incorrect assumptions about how that worked. Pleasingly, Gibson also covers boys reading girls’ comics, and girls reading comics that aren’t intended for girls (or not straightforwardly – she argues that even humour comics intended for a mixed audience are more firmly marked as being for boys than you might think).

Gibson showed through these interviews what readers of this blog will know from personal experience: girls don’t only read girls’ comics as might be assumed, they also read humour comics intended for a mixed-gender audience (The Beano) and titles intended for a male audience (Eagle, superhero comics). They read across class lines (there is often awareness of the idea of comics as a ‘lower class’ thing unless you read the ‘posh’ titles such as Girl). Most of all, readers read widely – borrowing other people’s comics, swapping, buying multiple titles per week – often communally, and with strong feelings about those comics even when remembering them as adults. Comics were fun to read and remembered fondly, but were also an important part of growing up: the transition from reading comics to reading magazines was often a marker of teenagerhood or early womanhood, and not infrequently this transition was forced on the reader to some extent by parents or by peer pressure. So on the one hand comics showed you ways of being a girl in British society (which you might reject by reading boys comics instead, or by interpreting the story differently from the way adults did), and on the other hand they were something you were expected or made to grow out of and put behind you – they belonged to childhood.

And girls comics stayed in one’s childhood, unlike the boys comics which have generated a collector base and fandom around them. Grown women are not, in our society, supposed to be still interested in those childish things for their own sake (though they are allowed to read comics if they have children who they are buying them for), and grown women do not as a rule, indulge themselves in re-buying their old comics and participating in ‘collecting’ activities. This is especially the case considering that comics are quite strongly marked culturally as being ‘for boys’ and ‘for men’, apart from the girls comics which are marked as being ‘of the past’. Some women will buck this trend, of course, but as exceptions to the rule.

The book ends with a good selection of end material, with an index and bibliography that has given me leads for further investigation in the future. One very welcome feature is a list of stories under discussion, which shows convincingly the wide range that Gibson covers. An index is also always useful, though a couple of quibbles – why not include Benita Brown in the index? (Pat Mills is also quoted but not included, so presumably no creators are listed in the index, but this still doesn’t make good sense to me.) Also, why is there no list of figures? There are only about 6 of them so it wouldn’t be a long list but it would be handy to refer back to and seems a striking omission for a book about comics.

I have a host of follow-up thoughts on this in terms of questions this book sparks, and further things to be looked at. This post is already very long though so those will continue separately.

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.

The Mystery of Martine (1976-77)

Sample images

Martine 1

(Click thru)

Martine 2

(Click thru)

Martine 3

Publication:18 December 1976-26 February 1977

Reprint: Jinty annual 1983

Artist:Trini Tinturé

Summary

Sisters Tessa and Martine Freeman are pursuing promising careers in the arts; Tessa is preparing for a ballet audition at a ballet company while Martine has landed the starring role in Nigel Ropley’s drama, “The Demon Within”. Unfortunately this is where the trouble begins and it creates the titular mystery that is never really solved.

Martine is playing the role of Vivien, a crazed, grasping, demented woman who has an obsession about getting her old house back from its current owner. She stops at nothing, “as if some demon was inside her” and increasingly acts in a manner that suggests she is possessed. Whenever Martine, onstage playing Vivien, hatches some sinister machination to take back the house, she clicks her bangles in a manner that sounds sinister, even off stage. The play climaxes with Vivien burning down the house when she decides she cannot get it back – with her enemy inside. Even when she is arrested, she still looks triumphant. The play is also triumphant, but Tessa soon finds that Martine still acts like Vivien, even off stage. The same facial expressions, vocal expressions, bangles, clothes – as if she is becoming Vivien in real life.

And there is a disturbing parallel with Vivien’s situation – Tessa’s current ballet school used to be the Freemans’ home. Now Martine is becoming obsessed with getting that house back Vivien-style. She starts hanging around the ballet school, clicking those bangles and staring at the house in the sinister manner of Vivien. She starts regarding the ballet teacher, Miss Bond, in the same manner that Vivien regards the woman who took over her house. At home, Martine starts behaving like Vivien to Tessa and other people, which is truly frightening. It also causes trouble with the other tenants in the apartment block. It doesn’t happen all the time – she usually returns to normal, but then she starts acting like Vivien again. Tessa is astonished when Martine agrees to pay her ballet fees, but she soon finds that this is a Vivien plot – it was a ploy to get into the ballet school and start harassing Miss Bond.

In the midst of all this trouble, Tessa still has to keep practising for her audition. Amazingly, she still manages to keep up with it. But of course there has to be a jealous rival out to make trouble, and in this case her name is Julie Worral. Julie starts causing trouble when Martine leaves a nasty note to Miss Bond “You are in my house. Get out or face the consequences”. Miss Bond throws the note in the bin and tells Tessa her concerns about how this will affect her dancing. If it proves detrimental to Tessa passing the audition, Julie is the next choice for it. They do not realise Julie has overheard.

Martine’s harassment of Miss Bond gets worse. She removes Miss Bond’s furniture and tries to move her new purchases of furniture into the house. Tessa has the furniture taken to their flat, but this gets the Freemans threatened with eviction. Tessa tries to get Martine removed from the play, but Martine convinces Nigel that Tessa is just jealous. Meanwhile, Julie retrieves the nasty note and tries to use it to blackmail Tessa into backing out of the audition. And then Tessa remembers that Vivien burned down the house she could not reclaim and realises that this is what Martine will do.

Sure enough, Martine is heading to the ballet school with a petrol can. However, an accidental fire (caused by Julie) starts instead and Martine is found unconscious on the lawn. The reason – Nigel noticed things and came to realise that Tessa was right. However, he decided that the solution was to rewrite the ending of the play. The new ending has Vivien’s personality changing from evil to good (and also makes for a far better play). The moment Nigel finished it, Martine says she felt Vivien go out of her and she was herself again, and then she just passed out. They are still not sure how it happened and conclude they never will know. But everything is sorted out happily, of course. The play, with its revised ending, goes to London where it is a huge success while Tessa passes the audition. Both sisters can now look forward to being stars.

Thoughts

This is an evil influence story, but with two major differences from the formula. First, it is never revealed just what the influence was or what caused it. This is a complete deviation from the standard formula, where it is always obvious what the evil influence is – at least, to the reader. The victim may start off knowing what it is herself as well, as in Jinty’s “Slave of the Mirror”. Or the victim does not realise what is going on until something – or an astute someone – tips her off, as in “Prisoner of the Bell”, also from Jinty. Either way, the reader is usually informed as to what it is that is taking hold of the protagonist in the first episode. Yet in this case, the reader is kept in the dark. Readers must have expected that everything will be explained by the final episode. But no – right up to the end it remains just as much a mystery to the reader as it is to the protagonists – and becomes a double pun on the “Mystery” in the title. Instead, readers are left to draw their own conclusions. Was it some kind of psychological cause? Was Martine getting so wrapped up in the role of Vivien that life started to imitate art, so to speak? Or was there truly some supernatural force at work? Indeed, there are hints of demons and possession in the play, and Nigel’s solution to the problem sounds ominously like exorcism. The mystery of it all makes it even more frightening because we do not understand what it is exactly that is making Martine act like Vivien.

Second, the evil influence story usually focuses on the point of view of the victim of the influence. We see her thoughts as she falls under the influence and her reactions to it: confusion, terror, bewilderment, desperation, torture, trying to make sense of it all and finding ways to deal with it. But here the story is told from the POV of the sister who is watching it all from a terrified, bewildered and desperate standpoint. We never get Martine’s point of view or thought bubbles that tell us what is going on in her head. And because we do not see this, we do not have the insight that can shed light on just what is happening to Martine. Nor can we see just what she is planning when Vivien takes over, so we have no idea just how or when she will strike. So we are all the more worried and frightened when Martine lurks around the school with that Vivien look and clicking those bangles. So having the POV from the sister rather than the victim makes the story even more frightening and helps to preserve the “mystery”.

Comix minx has commented on how Tinturé “seems particularly good at brunettes with snapping glares”. This is perfect for the facial expressions of the seemingly possessed, demented, crazed Viviene/Martine, such as where she sits on a chair, clicking her bangles, and her face is “terribly transformed!” There is even a wild look about her flowing black hair that further enhances her terrifying Vivien look and must have sent shudders up the spines of readers.

Jinty & Penny 3 January 1981

 

Image

  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • The Ghost Dancer – first episode (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Her Guardian Angel – final episode (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Sue’s Daily Dozen – final episode (artist José Casanovas)
  • Land of No Tears – reprint (writer Pat Mills, artist Guy Peeters)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Hougton)
  • No Medals for Marie – first episode (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Life’s a Ball for Nadine (artist Mario Capaldi)

This was Jinty‘s New Year issue for 1981. As Jinty was cancelled later that year, 1981 probably was not all that happy for her. But in the meantime, Jinty had promised in her Christmas issue “that we’re kicking the [new] year off in style!” – and she does with the return of her “smash hit story from 1977” – Land of No Tears. This was brought back as a result of Pam’s Poll in 1980. Other new stories for the New Year were Phil Gascoine’s first Jinty story for 1981, “No Medals for Marie”, and what would be Jinty‘s last ballet story, “The Ghost Dancer”. This is the only story where I have seen Phil Townsend draw ballet, and he certainly proved with this one that he could draw ballet beautifully. If there are any other stories where Townsend drew ballet, I would like to know about them.

Readers expected more new material with the end of Jinty‘s 1980 Christmas story, “Her Guardian Angel” and “Sue’s Daily Dozen”. They are promised that Gypsy Rose will be back the following week. And being New Year, there is emphasis on New Year themes. This takes the form of Pam, Sir Roger and Tansy working on their respective New Year resolutions. Predictably, this has hilarious and unexpected results. Lastly, Jinty has a page of magic tricks for readers to do over the Christmas holidays.

 

 

A Dream For Yvonne (1974)

Sample images

Yvonne 1

 (Click thru)

Yvonne 2

 (Click thru)

Yvonne 3

Publication: 11/5/74-27/7/74
Artist: Miguel Quesada
Writer: Unknown

Summary
Yvonne Laroon comes from a long line of circus performers and her family takes it for granted she will follow in their footsteps. But ever since Yvonne saw Swan Lake on television, she has had other ideas – to become a ballerina. She certainly has talent for it, thanks to her acrobatic circus skills, but no formal ballet training and does not even know what a plié is. Even worse, her parents do not approve, saying she is born for the circus and that is that.

Yvonne comes across Alexia Company Ballet School and climbs up onto the roof to take a look at a lesson. She gets more than she bargained for and ends up crashing through the roof. She is mistaken for a new girl they were expecting. After a demonstration of what dancing she can do, she is accepted into the school. But as her parents still won’t hear of her becoming a ballerina, to the point of Dad threatening to belt her, she runs away from the circus to the school. She decides to keep her circus origins secret, fearing expulsion because of it.

Having had no ballet training, Yvonne has to pick it up fast, by watching how others move and swotting up ballet books. And of course there has to be a jealous rival out to make trouble. In this case it is Lisa Telemann, a star pupil from a rival company, Pavel. Lisa becomes suspicious of Yvonne’s origins and eventually finds out the truth. Lisa gets peeved when Yvonne becomes a cygnet in The Dance of the Little Swans. She tries a blackmail note and then a phony telegram to recall Yvonne to the circus. At the circus, Yvonne discovers the trick. But her father disowns her when she insists on continuing with ballet.

Worse, on the way back Yvonne has an accident and loses her memory. This causes her to fall into the power of the unscrupulous Ma Crompton, who takes advantage of her amnesia and dance talent to exploit her. Yvonne eventually escapes Ma Crompton and comes across a Swan Lake poster that stirs some memory. She heads to the theatre, not realising Lisa has spotted her, and Lisa arranges for the doorman to block Yvonne.

Yvonne ends up in a home, where the matron takes her for a bad sort and threatens her with the reformatory. Yvonne runs off, where she bumps into the circus and saves the horses from an accident. During the process Yvonne bumps her head, which restores her memory. She is reconciled with her parents, who stop interfering with her dream after they hear what she has been through. They take her back to the ballet school. Lisa’s trick with the telegram is discovered, and she is expelled. Yvonne can now study ballet without interference.

Thoughts
Ballet stories are bread-and-butter in girls’ comics, so Jinty’s first line-up would hardly have been complete without one. It was drawn by Miguel Quesada, a regular on the Tammy team during her first five years, but this was his only outing in Jinty. Quesada drew some ballet stories for Tammy as well, but it must be said that he could have done with more research on drawing ballet. The poses look angular and positions often not drawn correctly. And the title itself sounds a bit uninspired and perhaps could have done with more imagination.

Storywise, there are certainly plenty of well-tried elements in girls’ comics to keep the drama high and ensure readers stayed hooked on this one: circus theme, fugitive theme, jealous rivals, amnesia, exploitation, determination and courage, difficult parents, a nasty matron, reformatory, and even some laughs as Yvonne gives demonstrations of her circus tricks. Ballet theme combined with circus theme would certainly have been a powerful combination. The circus is always popular in girls’ comics (although the theme was oddly sporadic in Jinty).

Contracting amnesia and falling into the clutches of a crook because of it is an oldie but a goodie in girls’ comics, and would certainly have helped to make this story popular as well. There is also plenty of action and the story moves at a cracking pace. In summary, “A Dream for Yvonne” had plenty in it to make it a strong, thrilling, fast-paced story in the first line-up.

The episode where the father disowns Yvonne is a shock that must have taken readers by surprise. Parents who disapprove of their daughter’s dreams are common enough in girls’ comics, but seldom do they go that far. The father’s move is even more shocking as the parents do seem loving and caring – just lacking a little understanding. It must have been a relief to readers when the parents finally change their minds and start helping Yvonne.

Incidentally, the episode where Yvonne is threatened with the reformatory has echoes of a Quesada story in Tammy, “The Stranger in My Shoes”. Could it be the same writer?