Tag Archives: Bridey Below The Breadline

WFTometer V

Comixminx has devised the WFTometer, the idea of which “was to give a framework for looking at how bonkers (or not) a story’s plot was, by comparing the story to an assumed ‘average reader’s situation’. This gives a structured way of comparing stories, including the possibility of finding patterns of oddity in seemingly different stories which are perhaps odd in similar ways”. In WFTometer V, three historical stories from Jinty are put through the WFTometer. They are Bridey Below the Breadline, Slaves of the Candle and Bound for Botany Bay. The three stories also have a common thread of the heroines being victims of injustice. In the first, Bridey Brown and her father are wrongly accused of starting the Great Fire of London. In the second, Lyndy Lagtree is framed for the crime that her captor, Mrs Tallow committed. In the third, Betsy Tanner and her father fall foul of the harsh 19th century law that gets them transported. In this case they are actually guilty of the crimes that got them transported, but their crimes were of desperation and circumstance, not the black-hearted villainy that the judiciary calls it. The ratings for all three stories are very similar as the current times category has been rated “extreme”; all three heroines are in danger of physical death, so emotional, mental and physical security all have the same ratings; and current time period has been rated “big diff”. Their agencies are also very similar because of their backgrounds (class status etc). The differences in ratings mainly lie in family structure, school structure, talents, and in one case, physical location. Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 7.45.59 pm In Bridey Below the Breadline, Bridey still has her father but no immediate family or school. She and her father came to London in search of bakery work but ended up being accused of starting the Great Fire of London. As a result, Bridey has to hide her father, who was injured in the fire, while keeping ahead of the authorities, lynch mobs and using her own talent at baking to survive. And she also falls foul of unscrupulous people who take advantage of her “wanted” status to force her to work for them in a plot to assassinate Charles II. It scores a 38 on the WFTometer. Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 3.24.46 pm Slaves of the Candle scores slightly higher at 40. The main difference here is that while Bridey still has her father, Lyndy has no family or parents in sight, so it can be safely assumed she is an orphan with no family. Lyndy starts off as a maidservant who witnesses a crime committed by Mrs Tallow. To silence her, Mrs Tallow kidnaps her and brings her to her candle-making slave racket, where she holds girls prisoner in a basement and forces them to make candles. To make doubly sure of neutralising Lyndy, Mrs Tallow frames her for the crime, confident that the substantial price that is now on Lyndy’s head will deter her from escaping. However, Lyndy is determined to escape, shut down the racket and prove her innocence, but spends a lot of time being constantly recaptured from failed escape attempts. The escape attempt that does succeed leads Lyndy to discover that Mrs Tallow is out to steal the Crown Jewels. Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 7.47.51 pm Bound for Botany Bay scores the highest at 48. Family-wise, Botany Bay scores lower than Slaves of the Candle because Betsy still has her father while Lyndy appears to be an orphan. And unlike the first two girls, Betsy goes to school – at least, before she is transported. The main difference is the shift in location from England to Australia when Betsy and her father are transported. This scores a “big diff”. A small difference also comes in agency in local laws. While the first two heroines had standard ratings there (despite their being on the run), Betsy’s is rated “small diff” because she not only speaks out against the harshness of the penal system during her trial but her case becomes a focal point for prison reformers. But it is not rated “big diff” because in normal circumstances Betsy is an honest girl and law-abiding citizen who would never have dreamed of the things she did to get arrested.

Jinty & Lindy 31 July 1976

Jinty cover

The cover brings us promise that snobby Shirl will earn our respect for the first time since her story started. Shirley shoves her shoeshine brush into the face of a snobby classmate for insulting Alice. Such an unladylike but ballsy move raises our hopes that snobby Shirl is becoming more human. But when we learn that Shirley still looks on Alice as a servant, our hopes are dashed. This is one girl who should have lived in Victorian times. It’s the final episode of “For Peter’s Sake!” Peg the pram does not seem to have fulfilled her promise to cure Peter although she has cured every other baby rocked in her. But there is a last minute surprise to ensure a happy ending. Another Alison Christie story, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone“, starts next week. Jinty must have liked to keep her writers as busy as her artists. Bridey finds a man with influence who believes her father is innocent. But fate, in the form of a mob and a gang of thieves, is soon to cut off that avenue of help. David, self appointed king (and loony) of Glasgow, is the latest problem in “Fran of the Floods”. He’s taken Fran and Jill prisoner. All the same, Fran finds herself liking him for some reason. Will this help to sort things out with him? In “Horse from the Sea”, Tracey gets injured when the staircase collapses. But she could have sworn it was sound earlier. And what about those shots somebody fired at her on the moor? Sue is causing more trouble for herself in “Sisters at War!”. And now it looks like she’s going to be blamed for something she hasn’t even done and get into trouble with the police on top of everything else. Mitzi is striking more difficulties in keeping her “Champion in Hiding” fed because of her horrible aunt. Could a paper round be the answer? Willa gets off her wheels to help a surgeon who needs a theatre nurse. Next week we will see if she does prove herself this way.

Bridey below the Breadline (1976)

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Artist: Ken Houghton
Writer: Unknown
Publication: 12 June 1976 – 28 August 1976

Summary

It is the year 1666. Bridey Brown and her father, a master baker, arrive in London in search of a job at the King’s Bakery. Unfortunately it is the night the Great Fire of London breaks out and Mr Brown gets the blame because the watchman saw him entering the bakery (to get back his certificate) when the fire broke out and the bakers make them scapegoats. Their accents mark them as strangers, which makes them all the easier to scapegoat in times when Londoners were xenophobic. So now there are prices on the heads of the Browns. Worse, Mr Brown was severely injured when he entered the bakery and is now crippled. So Bridey has to keep her injured father in hiding while turning to her own baking skills and wits to earn a living using the bakery they are hiding in, and somehow get medical attention for her father while dodging lynch mobs, the catchpoles (the Stuart equivalent of the police), and the dislocation, hysteria and upheaval in the aftermath of the Great Fire.

Eventually Bridey finds a doctor for her father, who knows nothing of their situation. Bridey also takes time out to help Samuel, a baker’s apprentice who is constantly beaten for incompetence and they become friends. But when his incompetence results in an oven catching fire, she takes the blame for him and ends up with a lynch mob on her tail. She takes refuge in the doctor’s house, but the mob follows. Among them is Bonnie Bates, the leader of an urchin gang Bridey had an unpleasant clash with earlier. The doctor manages to get rid of the mob and believes the Browns have been scapegoated over the Great Fire. He offers to use his influence to help clear them.

But then the urchin gang turn up to rob the place and the doctor’s snobby daughter Clara thinks Bridey is part of the gang. Bonnie throws a torch that sets the house ablaze. Everyone manages to escape, but now the doctor thinks the Browns tricked him. He has Mr Brown arrested and thrown into The Fleet (an old London prison) while thinking Bridey died in the fire.

Bonnie returns and tricks Bridey into smuggling a file into The Fleet in a loaf of bread – purportedly for Bridey’s father, but really to help three criminals escape. They were imprisoned for Puritan fanaticism and now they are out for revenge on London. This involves forcing Bridey to make a loaf in the shape of a crown for a bakers’ competition (part of Christopher Wren’s rebuild of London), which will be judged by Charles II himself. The plotters plan to poison the crown, which will kill the King when he tastes it. After the crown is finished, their leader, Master Oliver, takes it to the competition while the others attempt to drown Bonnie and Bridey in the Thames. The girls escape and set off to save the King.

Bridey does so by setting fire to the table laden with entries. She is recognised and everyone thinks she is fire-raising again – but the King realises the truth when he sees a dog drop dead after eating pieces of the crown.

But Master Oliver is up on the scaffolding, holding Bonnie at knife point. However, he steps on a plank that is not strong enough. It breaks and he falls to his death. Bonnie is in danger of meeting the same fate, but is saved by a mound of flour that was piled for her to fall into as a cushion.

The King is so impressed with Bridey’s actions that he now believes her father is innocent and pardons him. The other bakers invite Mr Brown to join the bakers’ guild, and Christopher Wren himself designs a bakery for them. Bonnie joins the Brown family in their bakery.

Thoughts

Fugitive stories are always popular, and the added frustration of the father being injured and incapable of running with Bridey certainly adds to the tension. The scapegoating of the Browns for the Great Fire of London because emotions are running high in the wake of the Great Fire, hysteria is on the rise, and the story being set in rough, brutal, xenophobic times in any case is well thought through. We really feel for the Browns as we know they could be lynched or thrown into one of the notoriously foul 17th century prisons, with little hope of justice at their trial. Whichever way this story will be resolved, we know it cannot be through the legal system of the period. And the Browns don’t stand much chance of proving their innocence, especially as Bridey’s name gets even blacker by covering for Samuel and then getting the blame for Bonnie’s torching of the doctor’s house, so how can they be cleared?

Less well thought through is the change of heart in Bonnie. She knew beforehand that the three criminals were “the three blackest gentlemen you ever met” and she was clearly frightened of Master Oliver, so why did she help them escape instead of leaving them there? Her overhearing them plotting to murder Bridey is plausible in her change of heart, but she already knew they were “the three blackest gentlemen”, so it should not have been much surprise. And Bonnie herself was not much better; she had committed robbery and arson earlier in the story. If she had been blackmailed into helping them escape it would have made more sense and her change of heart more convincing, but her motives for helping them are never explained, and something is not adding up about her change of heart.

It seems a bit ominous that the villain is called Oliver. It keeps having us thinking of Oliver Cromwell, who was responsible for the execution of Charles I and paid the price, even in death (his corpse exhumed and put through the traitor’s death) upon the restoration of Charles II. This Oliver was also out for regicide and, like Cromwell, he was a fanatical Puritan. Cromwell made his own Puritanism clear during the Interregnum, even to the point of banning Christmas celebrations. But both Olivers lose in the end and the monarchy wins. Clearly, Jinty is out to make some inference here.

Personally, I quite like the story for its historical settings and the bread-making theme that permeates the whole story from start to finish. Sometimes the bread-making helps and even saves the day; other times it unwittingly causes harm, including the Great Fire itself that the Browns are wrongly blamed for. Jinty must have had a marvellous time with the irony of the bakery theme – where the Great Fire started – becoming the running thread of the whole story that eventually becomes part of the rebuild of London.

It is pretty intriguing that Ken Houghton drew three Jinty stories in succession in 1976, and all three were on historical periods. The predecessor of this story, House of the Past, dealt with the 1930s. This story is set in Stuart times, and the story  that follows, Daisy  Drudge and Milady Maud, is set in Victorian times. Afterwards, Houghton never drew for Jinty again (though his artwork reappeared in Gypsy Rose as reworked reprints from old Strange Stories). What was behind it here – the same artist and writer team for all three stories, or was Houghton specifically engaged for some jag on historical stories that Jinty was having?

Jinty & Lindy 12 June 1976

Jinty cover 10.jpg

  • Willa on Wheels – first episode (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • For Peter’s Sake! (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • The Slave of Form 3B (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Horse from the Sea – first episode (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Bridey Below the Breadline – first episode (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Then There were 3… (artist Phil Townsend)

Jinty’s centre page pull-out and competition push the stories off the cover with this issue – just as three new stories start. So we get blurbs telling us we have new stories instead of the usual panels or even titles on the cover that give us a taste to what they are going to be about.

The first new story is “Willa on Wheels”. Willa Keen lives up to her name because she is utterly determined to qualify as a nurse. But then an accident damages her spine and confines her to a wheelchair. She is still determined, but will it be enough for a comeback?

The second new story is “Horse from the Sea”. Tracey receives a summons from cousin Mrs Penrose-Harvey to Cornwall to be a companion for her invalid daughter. Desperate for work, Tracey accepts though the family have their doubts and suspicions. Suspicion grows even more when the Penrose-Harveys hear about Tracey’s encounter with the white horse along the way and seem oddly scared.

The third new story is “Bridey below the Breadline“. This is the second period story Ken Houghton drew for Jinty in 1976. He had just finished “House of the Past“, which dealt with the 1930s, and Bridey will be replaced with “Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud“, which is set in the Victorian era. But right now we have the Stuart period, where Bridey Brown and her father go on the run after being wrongly accused of starting the Great Fire of London.

In the regular stories, Old Peg comes to the rescue twofold in “For Peter’s Sake!” – saving another sick baby and Corrie’s feet, which have become blistered from worn-out boots. But can Old Peg save Corrie from interfering welfare busybodies, who begin to threaten trouble in the last panel? Fran of the Floods comes across a surprisingly self-sufficient community who are thriving against the floods. In “The Slave of Form 3B“, Tania is in deep trouble and disgrace in school and her parents are getting bad reports – all because of Stacey. And it gets worse when Tania is confronted by vicious dogs! In “Then There Were 3“, it is finally down to three – the last three girls on the barge who have not been scared off by all the creepy goings-on. But the blurb for next week gives us a hint that things are about to turn around.

 

 

Jinty and Lindy 3 July 1976

Jinty and Lindy 3 July 1976

Willa tries to help a fellow patient but, because she can’t walk properly, falls and knocks herself out. The patient could be severely affected by the delay caused by Willa not having just called for help while she could… I have sympathy with the exasperated hospital staff, but the fact they brutally say “you’re incapable of helping now” is rather too strong; it leads to Willa abandoning everything about her life as a nurse, including her old uniform which sinks symbolically into the mud.

This issue has a “Jinx From St Jonah’s” artist that I assume is Mike White; as it is certainly not Mario Capaldi; I am not very familiar with his work, so if someone else is able to confirm the artist I would be grateful. (Capaldi is at this time presumably busy drawing “Champion in Hiding”, that is advertised in this issue as starting in the following week.)

The episode of “The Slave of Form 3B” in this issue has Stacey finding Tania still hypnotised and out cold at the bottom of the wall that she was told to walk on top of – and of course Stacey’s only thought is to hide her so that she doesn’t get the blame! Talk about an anti-hero…

Stories in this issue:

  • Willa on Wheels (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s
  • For Peter’s Sake! (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • The Slave of Form 3B (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Horse From The Sea (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Bridey Below The Breadline (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Then There were 3… (artist Phil Townsend)

Jinty and Lindy 26 June 1976

Jinty and Lindy 26 June 1976

“Willa on Wheels” is one of those stories where everything is psychologically mis-handled (surprise). After having had the accident which put her in a wheelchair, Willa continues to think of herself as a nurse still, but the hospital is not set up to have a wheelchair bound nurse, let alone one who is supposed to be a patient rather than a staff member. The staff handle the mental transition that Willa needs to make in a very inept way, needless to say, and Willa herself is not being very sensible about it: risking some patients’ lives on the way.

I have not mentioned “Horse From The Sea” much in these issue posts, as it isn’t a story that I remembered very strongly from the time. It is a mystery story with the eponymous horse from the sea cast in the role of magical helper: in this issue we hear the tale of how it appears every time the heir of Penrose is in danger. The mystery is that the heir is, supposedly, someone other than the protagonist, and yet it is to the protagonist that the horse is appearing… The art, by Comos, is beautiful, but the story is only so-so, I feel.

This is the penultimate episode of “Then There were 3…“: the last two brave girls are captured by the criminals and are told all their plans – because it is not expected that they will be found again to tell the tale to the authorities!

Stories in this issue:

  • Willa on Wheels (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Alley Cat
  • For Peter’s Sake! (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • The Slave of Form 3B (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Horse From The Sea (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Bridey Below The Breadline (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Then There were 3… (artist Phil Townsend)

Jinty and Lindy 10 July 1976

Jinty and Lindy 10 July 1976

“Willa on Wheels” and “Bridey Below the Breadline” are the two ‘new’ stories here that have not been included in earlier posts about individual issues. In the first of these two stories, Willa was a student nurse who bravely saved lives in an accident but was herself left in a wheelchair as a result. In this episode, she leaves hospital and goes to stay with the family of the children she saved; she is depressed and bitter about her disability and unwilling to battle for improvement. The mother of the family tries ‘tough love’ to get her to snap out of it, but (not surprisingly perhaps) is not immediately successful. Of course, this being a girls’ comic story, she does eventually stir herself and decide to fight her situation.

“Bridey Below The Breadline” is one of Ken Houghton’s historical stories. Her challenge is to get her father well again and to avoid capture by the many people who think she and her father, as bakers, caused the Great Fire of London.

This is the first episode of “Champion In Hiding” and by the end of it the poor protagonist has lost her father, her home, and nearly her mother too (who is in hospital very ill); the aunt who takes her in is clearly a bad lot and only thinks of selling off the champion dog who is her only consolation. These first episodes drawn by Mario Capaldi are really beautiful, but sadly he didn’t stay the course as the story’s artist. The other first episode in the issue, “Snobby Shirl”, is also drawn by a classic artist – José Casanovas – though it’s not one of the top stories he worked on.

Stories in this issue:

  • Willa On Wheels (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • For Peter’s Sake! (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Champion In Hiding (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • The Slave of Form 3B (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Horse From The Sea (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Snobby Shirl the Shoeshine Girl! (artist José Casanovas)
  • Bridey Below The Breadline (artist Ken Houghton)