Tag Archives: Battle of the Wills

Story theme: Redemption narratives

I recently wrote summary posts about two stories that I called ‘redemption narratives’: “The Girl Who Never Was” and “She Shall Have Music“. That’s a kind of story theme that we can all recognize as being fairly common in girls comics generally: in Jinty there are a number of other examples.  But how does this sort of story work?

Take those two stories as an initial guide: the protagonist is a difficult or disagreeable, probably dislikeable, girl who has some personal failing or issue that drives the story. It’s because of that failing that the story progresses; it may not have been due to something that was her fault that the story started off in the first place, but it is because of her moral or social problem that it continues and develops the way it does. Tina Williams lands in the alternate universe where magic works because of her conceited and annoying ways; Lisa Carstairs’s father doesn’t lose his money because of her, but if she wasn’t so obsessed with continuing her piano playing exactly as before, then she wouldn’t find herself in the same difficulties. It’s not just what happens to the protagonist (or how she is challenged in the story) but how she reacts to it. She has to be ‘the architect of her own misfortunes’, as Mistyfan puts it in her post about another redemption story, “Black Sheep of the Bartons“.

Does the story have to feature some sort of disagreeableness, some sort of outright nastiness or callousness on the part of the protagonist? No: I’d say that you could certainly include ‘guilt’ stories such as “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary”. The protagonist here  suffers huge pangs of guilt and despair because of the loss of a loved one – a best friend or a sister in the case of these two stories, but in other cases it can be a parent – a very natural feeling, but the failing here is that she lets those emotions overwhelm her and distort her common sense. The guilty feelings of the protagonist drive the story forward, but this guilt is portrayed throughout as excessive, as an indulgence that the main character should resist. It’s the lengths that their grief drives them to that causes their difficulties in their separate stories.

Also, it’s not just about having an objectionable main character who is nicer by the end of the story. “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” are not what I would call redemption narratives, despite having protagonists who start off pretty disagreeable and end up much improved. (Likewise “Battle of the Wills” is not, nor I think “Pandora’s Box”, but sports story “Black Sheep of the Bartons” is one I would class as such: Bev Barton isn’t horrible so much as thoughtless and reckless, but her carelessness nearly brings tragedy to her family.) Why don’t “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” count? Because when the girl main characters are swept into their initial circumstances – enslaved by a dictatorial coach, forced into third-class citizenship in a future world – their thoughts are not primarily about how they can continue to maintain their status quo ante but about how they can defeat their antagonist. Yvonne and Cassy aren’t just trying to get back to where they were at the beginning: their story is about a positive rebellion, not a futile rejection of the truth that the outside world is telling them. They end up much nicer than they started out being, but that’s not the whole reason for having the story in the first place – it’s because they have faced extraordinary circumstances which would change anyone by making them realise that some things are bigger than individual concerns.

Does the character who ends up being redeemed have to be the protagonist, or could they be the antagonist or villain? Overall I would say it has to be the protagonist, as the main character that you are supposed to sympathise with and want things to turn out well for, but maybe one counter-example is “Wanda Whiter Than White“. Wanda is not the main character of the story and she makes Susie Foster’s life a misery with her sanctimonious ways. At the end, it is revealed, as Mistyfan explains in her story post, that ‘Wanda’s own past is not as white as she would have us believe. In fact, she is on probation after being caught stealing.’ Rather than this reveal being painted as purely a victory for the main character, it ends up with Wanda being ‘truly redeemed when she tells a white lie to help Susie in return for Susie saving her life’. The reader wasn’t rooting for Wanda’s redemption all along, but it is a satisfying ending nevertheless.

What choices could the writer make that would move the story out of the category of being a redemption narrative? Let’s take Lisa Carstairs’ story as an example. As with the OuBaPo exercises, thinking about how a story could work differently will give us a view on how the stories actually do work.

  • Imagine Lisa’s parents still losing everything at the beginning of the story, and Lisa still losing her piano. The story could then have taken a different turn: rather than being about Lisa’s misguided piano obsession and selfishness, it could have been another kind of story entirely, for instance a mystery story where Lisa finds out that her father’s business partner was a crook who needs to be brought to justice. Perhaps Lisa’s piano playing could help her to find the clues she needs, and her obsession with it could be turned to a good cause in that way, so that she needs no redemption.
  • Or let’s say the story stays as being about Lisa’s obsession with playing piano but it’s portrayed as something not to be frowned on, rather as something acceptable or allowable. How would a story work where she can continue to be focused on playing piano to the exclusion of everything else, including her family? Perhaps her family would have to be a nasty, uncaring one, to make her disinterest acceptable.
  • Or perhaps the story could proceed more or less as it does, but with an unhappy ending where Lisa gets her comeuppance. This would make her into a more of an anti-heroine than normal but would not be unheard of.

Here are the examples I would identify as fitting most neatly into the category of ‘redemption narrative’ (core examples) and as being closely related to this category without necessarily definitely being classed as such (edge cases).

Core examples

  • “Dance Into Darkness” – Della just wants to live her life down at the disco with no regard for other people, but when her wish is granted she eventually discovers there is indeed more to life than her own self-interest.
  • There are a number of stories that are driven by a bereavement: the main character makes poor decisions as a result of her strong emotions of grief and anger because she is afraid of being hurt again. “The Ghost Dancer” is one of these, as is “Nothing to Sing About”, but of course “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary” are the strongest examples.
  • “The Girl Who Never Was” – discussed above
  • “She Shall Have Music” – discussed above
  • I said above that I thought that it needs to be the protagonist who is redeemed, not one of the other characters. In “Go On, Hate Me!” the antagonist is driven by grief into bullying the protagonist but in the end all is cleared and the antagonist is redeemed, so I would be tempted to class this alongside “Wanda Whiter Than White” as a clear example of this kind.
  • Jackie’s Two Lives” is more about the perils of wish-fulfilment, but Jackie’s snobbishness and the fact she is ashamed of her own family is definitely a character flaw that drives the story and she is cured of it at the end.
  • “Left-Out Linda” develops the redemption pretty well by recognizing that you can’t usually turn around your life by yourself: you have to have some help.
  • “Paula’s Puppets”: Paula has to learn to forgive her enemies rather than attacking them via the magical help she has been given.
  • “Tearaway Trisha”: Trisha’s recklessness has caused a serious accident; she tries to make amends but has to change her own character in order to do so.
  • “Valley of Shining Mist” has a clearly didactic message about the improving aspect of high culture: by playing the violin, Debbie will transcend the impact of her abusive family, who are low-class in their lack of culture and their morality.
  • In “Who’s That In My Mirror?” the protagonist’s selfish nature is made very literally visible and becomes more and more so until finally she is driven to renouncing it.
  • Worlds Apart” is the ultimate morality tale – one by one, six girls are shown the worst outcomes possible for each of their specific character flaws, and they have a chance to repent. The psychological development is minimal but the impact of the story was very dramatic.

Edge cases

  • “Fancy Free “- I know the main character is so independent that this may well be characterised as a fault, but I don’t really quite remember enough about the story to say whether it is the main thing that drives the whole plot.
  • The Four Footed Friends” – arguably another case where someone other than the protagonist ends up being redeemed, though it all feels a little sudden. “Hettie High-and-Mighty” likewise features a fairly sudden change of heart on the part of an antagonist who has mostly been about making  the protagonist’s life a misery until that point. I don’t think “The Kat And Mouse Game” quite counts, either: Kat may perhaps have realised the error of her ways at the end of the story, but will her change of heart actually stick?
  • I haven’t really made my mind up about “Gwen’s Stolen Glory” – it feels like it is mostly a story about deception, though clearly once Gwen owns up to the big lie this is a kind of redemption of her former deception.
  • In “Kerry In The Clouds”, Kerry is a day-dreamer imposed upon by a woman motivated by her own unfriendly concerns. Kerry’s day-dreaming nature is cured by the end of the story, but I don’t feel the main driver of the narrative was to improve her character.
  • The main character in “Mark of the Witch!” is hot-tempered and angry at all around her, and she comes to seek a more peaceful set of emotions by the end of the story. However, so much of her story is about the persecution and abuse that her neighbours visit on her that I don’t see her story being primarily about her renouncing her hot-headed ways.
  • I’m not sure about “Pandora’s Box” and whether it counts or not. Pandora’s witchy aunt does chide her at the beginning about being too cock-sure about her talents and says that she will need to use magic sooner or later, and this is all true: but I’m not sure what sort of morality story that adds up to – not a conventional one at any rate! The main nod in this story to more conventional morality is the fact that Pandora goes from disinterest in the pet she is stuck with (her black cat familiar, Scruffy) to loving him dearly and giving up her heart’s desire in order to save his life.

One last question struck me when thinking about this. What sort of things might the protagonist have done that means she needs to go through this process of redemption in the first place? Clearly it must be something negative: the story has a moral imperative of some sort, warning readers against some kinds of behaviour. But at the same time, some things would be beyond the pale of course, and would mean that any character doing that would be irredeemable. (There might therefore be some useful comparisons made with story villains: what does their villainy consist of?) If a character killed or seriously hurt someone on purpose then that would be beyond the pale: there are a number of villains who have gone this far, sometimes with a laugh on their cruel lips, but it would be hard to imagine that a girl protagonist could do this and still recover the moral high ground at the end of the story.

In the stories above it looks like the sort of wrong-doing that needs castigating but is still redeemable is often about emotional warmth and consideration for others – it’s not about ambition (by itself) or cleverness (by itself) for instance. An arrogant protagonist can still be the heroine, but if she is cold, selfish, or inconsiderate then that’s a good signal that this is a character marked down for improvement – by whatever means necessary. Preferably it will be a Shakespearean denouement, whereby her own moral failing brings about such a huge disaster that she has no option but to change her ways! And being too afraid to risk emotional commitment comes in for a bit of a kicking too, via the guilt / grief stories. The obvious next question: is this moral imperative specific to British girls comics? Do UK boys comics have redemption narratives too? Or those in other countries? My pal Lee Brimmicombe-Wood reckons that Japan’s flourishing manga industry has many stories about mavericks who insist on going their own ways – but in that industry’s story constraints, the mavericks are always right and never forced to realise that actually, there was a reason why everyone was telling them they were going about things the wrong way…

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Slave of the Clock (1982)

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Page 1 of Slave of the Clock

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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!

Jinty 24 September 1977

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A cover featuring two disturbing panels from the inside, and the colour combinations of red, black and burgundy make it even stronger.

“Battle of the Wills” reaches its penultimate episode and it contains one of the most ruthless acts ever seen in Jinty. Dr Morrison eliminates the cloned Kate in front of an audience of scientists with her reversal machine in order to prove her duplicating machine works. Everyone is horrified, but not the cold-blooded Dr Morrison, who only cares about proving her greatness.

It is also the penultimate episode of “Who’s That in My Mirror?”. The ghastly face of Magda’s own evil is getting worse and worse. Magda knows what must be done, but can’t do it, and traces of her old scheming ways still linger as well. So it is not surprising that in the final panel the evil face now threatens to do its worst.

“Destiny Brown” is in big trouble in school because she misconstrued her vision and plays truant. While doing so, she gets another vision of her runaway father. But a trip to Wales threatens her plans to search for him.

In “The Goose Girl”, Mum is getting really impossible with her bird-hating attitude and it is interfering with Brodie’s recovery. At the end of the episode, Mum goes too far – she locks Brodie in a shed and is going to arrange for the Colonel to dispose of him!

Linda reluctantly agrees to Lord Banbury’s condition to train as an actress under his wardship for the sake of her father. But the creepy old house she has to live in is really giving her “Stage Fright!”.

Marnie, the girl who is “Cursed to be a Coward!”, finds a swimming pool where she can train in without fear of the prophecy. And at the end of the episode she decides to tell her trainer, Miss Frame, why she has been so terrified of swimming lately. In the next episode we will see how much it helps.

Fran enlists the help of a bloodhound to find the missing school trophy, but he’s causing even more mayhem. It culminates when he has the headmistress standing on her desk in fright! The blurb for next week assures us that Fran will get herself out of this ‘fix’, so that’s a relief.

Jinty 23 July 1977

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As you see on the cover, Fran gets some unusual gear on because she’s not confident about being goalie, having never played hockey. It works all right – until Clara takes revenge by rolling Fran downhill and she bounces against a rock. Well, Sal did warn Fran that her scheme might bounce back on her. The Gypsy Rose story that features on the cover is about a ghost horse that comes back to save its descendant from fire.

“The Robot Who Cried” discovers a new emotion – hatred – when some unsavoury people threaten her friend Susan, and she’s about to take a shovel to their heads! And with that super-strength of hers, anything could happen next week.

Madam Kapelski raises Yvonne’s hopes of escape when she takes her back to England. Her plan is to crush Yvonne completely with false hopes and it looks like it’s working by the end of the episode. Yvonne is in tears when she sees her mother and can’t call out to her because she’s still mute. But the blurb for next week about “the mystery woman in black” entering the picture sounds like events are going to take another turn.

“The Darkening Journey” looks even darker right now. Thumper leaves an animal shelter because he senses Julie needs him. But his health is failing and hope is fading.

Gymnast Kate finds ballet Kate has pulled a fast one on her when she tries to break into her home to get the money for her allowance. But she gets the money anyway!

In “A Boy Like Bobby”, Tessa agrees to hide the boys from social welfare because they are scared of being separated. But this means living a lie and risking trouble with the authorities. And to make things more complicated, Tessa’s friend Cathy is suspicious!

 

Jinty 10 September 1977

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A cover featuring two of the supernatural- themed stories running in Jinty at the time, both with foreboding overtones. The panel featuring laughs with Alley Cat is quite a contrast.

In “Destiny Brown”, people are ostracising Destiny because her father has been connected to a robbery and bullies pick on her at school. But their bullying puts a girl’s life in danger – as Destiny foresaw with her second sight. In “Who’s That in My Mirror?”, Magda smashes the mirror in the hope this will free her from that ugly face that is a reflection of her own devil heart. But she is puzzled as to why the mirror is putting up no resistance to being smashed after resisting her attempts to get rid of it. Perhaps she should have taken the hint and put the rock down. But instead the drama of the story is going to accelerate towards its climax.

“The Goose Girl” learns why her mother hates birds. And now all readers must be more annoyed with the mother than ever. Hating all birds because her husband was shot while defending them from hunters? And now she’s helping those very same hunters who killed her husband? That woman really needs to get her head examined! Unfortunately that’s not going to happen, and her attitude is going to cause even more problems.

Marnie tries to get the curse lifted in “Cursed to be a Coward”. But instead she ends up with Madam Leo terrorising her over it and scaring the living daylights out of her just as she is about to do a high dive. Not a good combination, and this is just what that demented Madam Leo intends. Another Jinty character in serious need of a psychiatrist.

Fran the Fixer ropes some girls into shifting the grand piano for the Colonel. And she fixes a half holiday for the girls into the bargain!

It’s the last episode of “A Boy Like Bobby”. Next week Phil Townsend starts on his new Jinty story, “Stage Fright!”. Jinty is keeping her artists busy again.

“The Battle of the Wills” is put aside as the ballet Kate goes in search of the gymnast Kate, whom she thinks is in trouble. And she finds out how much Dr Morrison really cares about the cloned Kate; as far as the doctor is concerned, it’s “just an interesting experiment”. But little does ballet Kate know how much it is a foreshadowing of one of the most cold-blooded acts ever to be seen in girls’ comics.

Jinty 16 July 1977

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  • The Robot Who Cried (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • The Magic Tambourine – Gypsy Rose Tale (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Curtain of Silence (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • It’s the Big Time for Gregg – feature
  • Fran’ll Fix It! (artist Jim Baikie)
  • For a Royal Jubilee! competition
  • The Darkening Journey (artist José Casanovas)
  • A Boy Like Bobby (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Battle of the Wills (artist Trini Tinturé)

Another of my favourite covers, which makes striking use of purple and orange. We have two supernatural stories with different themes. What’s up with Sue? Sue uses Henrietta to clean the house. But Henrietta’s spell goes wrong and Sue is now taking refuge in a tree from her angry mother and aunt. The Gypsy Rose tale of terror features a cursed tambourine that forces anyone who plays it to dance forever – and with each step they take, their feet hurt like hell! Personally, the title of the story – “The Magic Tambourine” – doesn’t strike me as particularly inspired or descriptive of a cursed tambourine. Couldn’t they come up with anything better?

“The Robot Who Cried” is on the run with Susan, but her lack of understanding about human ways is causing more problems.

An escape plan with the help of the gypsies is underway in “Curtain of Silence”. But will it work, or is one of the other threads floating around in the strip the key to rescue?

In part two of “Fran’ll Fix It!”, Fran’s “secret weapon” is revealed. Dad warned her not to use it, but it does help to save her from expulsion – on her first day – and being packed off to her ghastly aunts. Moreover, she now has two more things to keep her from being expelled – a headmistress who is potty and her friend Sal to keep an eye on her. But poor Sal reckons lion-taming would be easier!

It’s another heartbreaking miss in “The Darkening Journey” when Julie’s parents finally track down Thumper – only to find he has taken off again.

Tessa finds the boys in more dire straits than she thought in “A Boy Like Bobby”. A filthy flat, no electricity because it got cut off, no parents, and now she suspects Tommy has been stealing.

There are now more “Battle of the Wills” than ever because Dr Morrison can’t tell which is the original Kate and which is the clone. And whichever one is the clone has also cloned Kate’s hatred of ballet, which leads to more clashes with one doing the hated ballet and one doing the gymnastics she wants. But which Kate is doing which?

Jinty also publishes more readers’ ideas on what they would give the Queen for her 25th Jubilee. Ideas include kiwifruit (Chinese gooseberry), bedsocks, a Japanese miniature garden, a lucky horseshoe and 25 different rose bushes for 25 years on the throne.

Jinty 2 July 1977

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  • Creepy Crawley – final episode (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • The Wish on Devil Rock! Gypsy Rose story (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Curtain of Silence (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Step on It! (feature)
  • Alley Cat
  • The Jeff Phillips Story… (feature)
  • The Robot Who Cried (artist Rodrigo Comos; writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • The Darkening Journey (artist José Casanovas)
  • A Boy Like Bobby – (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Battle of the Wills – first episode (artist Trini Tinturé)

This is one Jinty cover where the two panel format shows us artwork from the same artist, which in this case is Trini Tinturé. In fact, Jinty worked Tinturé more than usual here because Tinturé illustrates three stories in this issue! Not even Phil Gascoine worked that hard in the issues where his stories overlapped.

The first Tinturé story is the final episode of “Creepy Crawley” and the race to get the scarab to the pyramid that can negate its power before the insect invasion takes over. Jinty’s irrepressible and unforgettable “Fran’ll Fix It!” takes its place next week. The second is the Gypsy Rose story where a girl makes a wish for riches on a rock called “The Devil’s Rock” because it is shaped like the Devil’s head. But she soon finds out that you are asking for trouble when you make a wish on a rock like that! The third is one of Jinty’s well-remembered stories, “Battle of the Wills”. Kate Wills wants to be a gymnast but her grandmother keeps pushing her to be a ballerina. Kate decides the answer is to have a scientist make a clone of her so she can cover both ballet and gymnastics at the same time. But could Kate be asking for double trouble?

Elsewhere in this issue, Yvonne learns the backstory of Olga, the girl she is forced to impersonate in “Curtain of Silence”. The backstory also drops a hint that could play a key role in rescuing Yvonne. Then again, it might be Yvonne’s plan to contact the gypsy woman who tried to warn her of danger for help. In “A Boy Like Bobby”, Tessa tries to help the boys but it just seems to get her into more trouble. However, she won’t abandon them and has plans to turn the difficult, scruffy elder brother around. Hmm… that could be easier said than done! In “The Darkening Journey” it seems to be nothing but bad luck for Thumper and Beaky this time. But there is one piece of good luck they don’t even know about – the Burtons get a tipoff about them! Katy “the Robot Who Cried” escapes from the professor and goes on the run. The trouble is, Susan insists on going with her. This could make things complicated in the next issue, when they head for Scotland. And in “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!”, Sue feels that someone should teach Beryl the big-headed bore a lesson. No prizes for guessing who obliges.

Jinty 3 September 1977

Jinty cover 2

A strong cover which makes effective use of purple, orange, red and green in both panels to announce the return of Gypsy Rose and the appearance of the 1978 Jinty annual.

The theme of foretelling and prophecy-making established on the cover runs through in several of the stories. “Destiny Brown” foretells a bank robbery – but does not foretell her father will be accused of complicity in it and is now wanted by the police! The “blue water” prophecy in “Cursed to be a Coward!” is making Marnie more and more terrified of water and everyone is getting fed up with her because they don’t understand her problem and she won’t explain. At the end of the episode, Marnie resolves to fight back at the curse of drowning apparently laid on her by the sinister fortune teller who could be the antithesis to Gypsy Rose. But how do you fight a curse? And in “Who’s That in My Mirror?”, Magda finally realises the evil face in her mirror is reflecting her scheming nature and resolves to change. But she gets a sneering warning from the face that it won’t be as easy as that, and this also proves prophetic.

Elsewhere, it’s part two of the “The Goose Girl”, and now we see why the story is called that when Glenda and her mother move to their new home. Glenda takes a stand against goose hunters (little realising how history is repeating itself there) and starts nursing a goose they wounded.

For “Fran’ll Fix It!”, Fran is presented with a really challenging fix – shifting a grand piano to the music shop in town for Colonel Wellington, a school governor. And she has to do it without a truck because of a strike. But it’s that or be punished for giving him cheek and then dropping a bell on his foot. Fran is known for dropping clangers with her fixing, but that’s ridiculous….

In “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!”, Sue and Henrietta also do some fixing – on a twister who sells phoney magic plant food. Henrietta fixes him in an unusual ‘punishment fitting the crime’ way – making him think his potion really does work magic on plants!

A friendly girl finally discovers that there are two Kates in “Battle of the Wills”. It’s still not clear which Kate is the original and which is the clone. But at least the feud between the two Kates is set aside when one Kate realises the other Kate is in trouble and decides to help.

It’s the penultimate episode of “A Boy Like Bobby”. Tommy runs away and Tessa and Bobby’s hunt for him results in him putting himself in terrible danger. How will this end the story next week?

 

 

Jinty 27 August 1977

Jinty cover 10

  • Destiny Brown – first episode (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Who’s That in My Mirror? (artist Tom Hurst)
  • Alley Cat
  • Kermit Presents…Prizes! (competition)
  • The Goose Girl – first episode (artist Keith Robson, writer Alison Christie)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Fran’ll Fix It! (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Cursed to be a Coward! (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Alison Christie)
  • A Boy Like Bobby (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Battle of the Wills (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Takin’ It Easy… the Stars’ Way! (feature)
  • Cut out a Cape! (feature)

The cover announces the start of one new story, “Destiny Brown”,  but there is not even a mention of the other story starting, “The Goose Girl”. Presumably its space has been taken up by the competition being announced on the cover. Just answer two Muppet questions and you go into a draw to win a copy of the first Muppet album. But why is “Who’s That in My Mirror?” taking what could easily have been the space to announce the start of “The Goose Girl”?

“Destiny Brown” is the seventh child of a seventh child, so it’s no surprise that she suddenly develops psychic powers. And we have a new ‘parent problem’ story with “The Goose Girl”. Glenda Noble and her mother have been feuding over birds for years; Glenda loves them while her mother hates them. Moreover, she is the sort of mother who won’t let Glenda be herself and keeps pushing Glenda in the wrong direction. But Glenda is a rebel and constantly defies her mother, so she’s more ballsy than most regular heroines in that she can stick up for herself and even get her own way. But not enough to make her mother see reason.

Meanwhile, in “Battle of the Wills”, Kate Wills, who has been constantly rebelling against the grandmother who keeps forcing her into ballet, suddenly surprises herself by enjoying ballet for the first time when her new teacher arrives. If she is the original Kate, maybe she could stay that way forever. But is she? Dr Morrison says she is, while the other Kate, who has been told she is the clone, has gone into a state of shock and wandering in a daze. But Dr Morrison has been caught out in one lie already, so is her word to be trusted?

In “A Boy Like Bobby”, Tessa is defying her mother too in order to help the boys, and manages to fool her. But new problems are not far off, of course.

In “Cursed to be a Coward!”, Marnie’s hydrophobia is intensifying to ludicrous lengths. It is increasing her unpopularity at school, and she just won’t tell anyone what the problem is.

And as the cover states, the face of evil gets worse in “Who’s That in My Mirror?” as Magda’s scheming intensifies. In fact, in this episode she deliberately gives her own mother a dose of food poisoning!

 

 

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.