Tag Archives: Cinderella story

Sally in a Shell [1976]

Sample Images

Sally in a Shell 1Sally in a Shell 2Sally in a Shell 3

Published: Tammy 4 September 1976 to 20 November 1976

Episodes: 12

Artist: Juan Garcia Quiros?

Writer: Unknown. Terence Magee

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

At Eastport holiday resort, the Shores run a deckchair hire business – with the younger daughter Sally doing all the work. Sally is the family drudge, mistreated and unloved by her father and her elder sister Dora. Although Dad metes out the abuse, Dora is the one at the root of it. She is a glamour puss who looks on Sally a nobody who is only fit to be the source of money that pays for her luxuries (posh clothes, ritzy social life, hobnobbing with the upper class etc). She is too lazy to lift a finger to pay for it herself – or do any work around the place, for that matter. In Sally’s words: “She gets all the gravy and I do all the donkey work.” The donkey work to pay for all the gravy.

Dora has Dad wrapped around her little finger and he does everything she tells him, including lumber Sally and hit her when she tries to speak out. For example, when Dad briefly protests against having Sally work nights in his new arcade in addition to the day work she does with the deck chairs, Dora tells him not to be so soft and it will make even more money. If she were his wife instead of his daughter, he would be the henpecked husband. In any case, like Dora, Dad has ambitions of making more money, rising to bigger things, and becoming somebody in this town.

So Sally is now forced to work nights at Dad’s new arcade as well as days as deckchair attendant. Her only friend is Mr Cliff, who runs the donkey rides.

As with other girls in similar serials, Sally has a talent to help keep her spirits up. In Sally’s case it is making ornaments and jewellery out of seashells. She tries to keep it a secret from her abusive family and find ways to fit it around all the drudgery. She hopes to make a living out of it in time and be able to leave her horrible home life. When Dora spots a new craft shop, “Nick Nacks”, she realises it could be the place to sell her wares.

The owner, Miss Hanning, agrees to take a look at Sally’s shell-craft. This does not please the shop assistant Edwina, a snooty, unpleasant type who looks on Sally as a scruff. Unfortunately it is at this point that Dad and Dora discover Sally’s shell-craft and smash it to pieces. Fortunately, people, including Mr Cliff, rally around to provide Sally with more shells. Sally uses them to make a sample for Miss Hanning. She is impressed and wants more for the shop.

Meanwhile, Dad tricks Mr Cliff into signing a contract that hands his donkey business over to him. Mr Cliff wrongly assumes that Sally was in on the plot to cheat him when in fact Dad and Dora took advantage of their friendship. Really, it’s his own fault for signing the contract without reading it first because he foolishly extended his trust of Sally to her family. As it is, Sally has now lost her only friend.

On the bright side, Sally discovers a secret cove that is crammed full of shells, which is a real treasure trove for her. Sally’s shell-craft starts selling at Nick Nacks, and it’s doing well. Sally takes the money from it to Mr Cliff to start a fund to buy his business back. This convinces him he misjudged Sally and they are friends again.

Unfortunately Dora soon discovers what Sally is doing with her shell-craft, and naturally wants to take advantage of it. She pretends to be nice to Sally in order to get Sally to make shell-craft for her, but Sally still wants to sell her shell-craft at Nick Nacks. Discovering Edwina’s dislike of Sally, Dora recruits her help in forging a letter from Miss Hanning that she is terminating her business with Sally. Sally falls for the trick while Miss Hanning thinks Sally has played her for a fool when she sees the Shores selling Sally’s shell-craft at a stall opposite her shop and stealing business from her.

Sally soon realises that Dora is only out make money out of her shells. Indeed, Dora and Dad have seized upon Sally’s shell-craft as the means to fulfil their ambitions to make their mark on the town. It isn’t long before Sally discovers the letter trick either (later still, she discovers Edwina’s role in it). And she finds out something else – Dad and Dora mean to buy out Miss Hanning’s shop. It’ll be easy pickings because she’s losing business because of the stall and, being asthmatic, her health is deteriorating because of it. In fact, she collapses altogether and is put in hospital.

Sally tries to warn Miss Hanning, but two thugs that Dad and Dora have hired stop her. Dad takes advantage of Miss Hanning’s weakened condition to have her sign her shop over to him. And Miss Hanning still thinks Sally is to blame for her troubles. Miss Hanning is put in a convalescent home and Sally has no idea where, so she can’t straighten things out with Miss Hanning.

Dad and Dora now keep Sally a prisoner in a squalid room, making shell-craft for them at a sweatshop pace. They even force her to work around the clock if necessary. The two thugs are her guards and the Shores plunder Sally’s secret cove for shells. Nick Nacks now reopens as “The Shell Shop”, a shop exclusive to Sally’s shell-craft. To add insult to injury, Sally discovers that Dora is stealing the credit for the shell-craft. And of course the exploitation is crushing Sally’s talent and making her lose her enthusiasm for it.

Mr Cliff assures Sally that the greed of her father and sister will catch up to them, and indeed it had started even before he said it. The new flush of money has Dora really going to town on buying extremely expensive items for her to show off in Eastport. Dad blanches at the bills rolling in for Dora’s new mink coat, valuable jewellery and the like. But Dora won’t listen to Dad’s protests that not even Sally’s shell-craft can make that kind of money and she will drive them into debt and bankruptcy at this rate.

Sally tries to make a run for it, but the thugs come after her. They set a pile of deck chairs on her with such force that her hands are all but crushed. Seeing this, Dora sacks the thugs. But she forces Sally to carry on with her shell-craft regardless of her damaged hands, although of course Sally’s hands are too now totally unfit for that.

Meanwhile, Edwina realises the Shores just used her, and now they have what they want from her they shove her out the door, without a job. She is annoyed that the “scruff” is still around; she had thought the purpose of the letter was to help achieve her desire to get rid of the “scruff”. She gets revenge by going to the convalescent home and setting the record straight with Miss Hanning herself (without confessing her role in it) and informing her that the Shores are abusing Sally.

Although Miss Hanning has not fully recovered, she bravely returns to check things out. When Miss Hanning shows up on the Shores’ doorstep, Dad quickly takes Sally out of the way to get more shells – but not before Sally leaves a message in shells saying “Help” for Miss Hanning to find. When Miss Hanning does, and sees the room Sally has been forced to work in, she becomes even more convinced the Shores are mistreating Sally. Dora shoves her out the door.

Miss Hanning heads for the cove, and soon finds Dad, Sally and Mr Cliff. Sally’s injured hands tell her all she needs to know, and Mr Cliff says he can act as a witness. Miss Hanning threatens Dad with the law for stealing shells from her privately owned cove (probably a bluff there!) unless he stops abusing Sally. The threat of the police scares him into agreeing to her demands. Without Sally bringing in the money, and what with Dora’s bills defeating the whole point of the exercise anyway, Dad is obliged to sell the arcade and shop to avoid bankruptcy. This enables Miss Hanning to get her shop back.

Sally gets a rather mealy-mouthed apology from Dad, who says: “It was your sister’s fault – she made me.” Yeah, like Dora actually forced him to constantly hit Sally, make her a drudge, and exploit her talent sweatshop-style.

A few days later, it’s back to square one with the deck-chair business for Dad. He blames Dora’s greed and has her working as the deckchair assistant now, although she finds it a great comedown: “Well you can bloomin’ well help me for once.” Well, at least Dad has finally found some backbone in how he handles Dora.

Sally’s hands are on the mend. She is eager to resume her shell-craft, and the first thing she wants to do with it is help Mr Cliff buy back his donkey business.

Thoughts

“Sally in a Shell” was one of the last Tammy stories to use the Cinderella theme, which had abounded in Tammy since her early days. From the mid-1970s onwards the Cinderella theme faded from Tammy, never to return. The exception was Bella Barlow, as her Cinderella story made her a regular character in Tammy.

The reasons for making Sally a drudge are better defined than some Cinderella serials. It’s all to indulge and pay for the high life her sister Dora wants to lead. Moreover, Dad and Dora have big plans to rise above the deckchair hire business and make themselves big in their hometown, and are ready to pounce on the first opportunity they see in order to get it. And it just happens to be Sally’s talent.

Dora’s domineering personality and control of her weak father makes it easy for her to exploit Sally in the name of her indulgences. She is totally ruthless about how she treats her own sister and there is nothing she won’t stoop to in order to wring every penny she can out of Sally’s labour.

Although Dora dominates her father, it’s clear that he is every bit as bad as she is. He won’t hesitate to play dirty to raise money; he’s got no scruples, for example, about the way he cheats Mr Cliff out of his business. The only difference is that he is weak while Dora is strong. He caves into her all the time and does not stand up to her. Even when Dora is running up bills they can’t possibly afford, he pretty much caves in to it despite his protests. It’s the way he belatedly stands up to Dora in the end and demands she help him with the deckchair business that redeems him somewhat. Certainly more so than that feeble and unconvincing apology he gives Sally in the final episode.

Compounding the problem is the absence of Mrs Shore. Although there is no way of telling what role she would have played in the story had she been around, her absence is clearly a factor in the abuse Dora and Dad inflict on Sally. Miss Hanning is the nearest thing Sally has to a loving mother figure in the story.

Another problem with Sally is that in the early episodes she can be easily duped by her sneaky family when she should have been more wary, and this helps to trap her in her predicament. When she receives the phony letter from Miss Hanning she can’t understand the reason for it at all, but believes it must be true. She does not take it to Miss Hanning and ask, “Please, Miss Hanning, what’s the meaning of this?”, which would have exposed the trick immediately. When Dora suddenly comes all over nice to Sally she is taken in and not at all suspicious although she has seen them pull phony niceness before. Doesn’t she remember them doing that with Mr Cliff in order to trick him into signing away his business to them? Nope. Sally is even fooled by Dora’s assurances that she will speak to Dad about giving Mr Cliff his donkeys back, and she hopes the money from the stall will go towards that. Sally does not realise the truth until it slaps her right in the face – with Dora taking all the money she raised from the stall right off her and pocketing it.

Sally’s talent becomes a double-edged sword for her. Her talent for shell-craft, which she hoped would help her escape her drudgery, traps her in even worse drudgery once her abusive father and sister discover the profit they can make from it. What’s more, they can do so at extremely low cost, which would inflate their profits even more. After all, the shells themselves are free, and easy to obtain in a seaside town.

It’s ironic that Dora and Dad are the ones who unwittingly set in motion the events that unravel everything, rather than Sally succeeding in running off and getting help. The first is their double-cross of Edwina, who takes revenge by recalling the only person who can help Sally and bring the story to its resolution. The second is those thugs they hired; the heavies go too far with Sally and damage her hands, which just about kills the goose that lays the golden eggs for Dora and Dad. The final factor is Dora herself – her vanity goes to her head and she runs up crippling debts on indulgences that would have ultimately destroyed the very enterprise they had built out of Sally. So Sally’s rescuer got there first and forced them to give it up, but it would have been interesting to see just how far they would have gone in destroying themselves. Let’s hope they emerged from it all with a bad reputation in Eastport.

 

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WTFometer VII: Cinderella Story

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”.

This seventh volume of the WTFometer will look at three Cinderella stories that already have entries on this blog. They are Cinderella Smith and Make-Believe Mandy from Jinty, and Bella at the Bar (original Bella story) from Tammy.

As the name suggests, the Cinderella story means a serial where the protagonist is treated like Cinderella by cruel parents, foster parents or other type of guardian. There is often a wicked stepsister type (though not always) who is spoiled and joins in the abuse of the protagonist. Most often the protagonist’s one hope of escape comes from a talent she has discovered or special secret, but the abusers throw all sorts of obstacles in the way.

When comparing the results on the WTFometer, the scores remain the same for agency in small/large things and emotional/physical/mental security. They remain “small difference”. One reason is that the emotional/physical/mental security issues are not serious enough to go into “big difference”. For example, the abuse the protagonist endures is not severe enough to put her at risk of death, so it remains “small difference”. The variations in scores are seen in the sections on household structures and standard real-life talents. This ties in with the Cinderella format, where family structure is the basis for establishing the abuse, and where a special talent/secret is often the key to freeing the protagonist from the abuse. None of the stories hit “extreme” in any category.

First: Cinderella Smith

Score: 10

wtfometer-cinderella-smith

Cindy Smith is sent to live with her two elder cousins while her father is away. They exploit and abuse her to the point of putting her in chains and making her eat out of the dog’s dish. Although they live a luxurious lifestyle they make Cindy live in mean conditions and put her in tattered clothes. Their abuse is prompted by stinginess and hatred towards Cindy’s mother, who is now dead. Cindy takes a secret modelling job. The cousins’ dog Woozums, initially hostile to Cindy, becomes her companion and co-modelling star. Cindy also gets help from her friends at school in working against her cousins’ abuse.

This story scores a 10 on the WTFometer. This is because it is the most consistent with the patterns observed above. There is “small difference” in “standard pets” because of Woozums, which takes up the scoring slightly more. It would score higher if Cindy was an orphan, but she is not. Her father is still alive. The “standard friends” structure remains “standard”, but this is in fact unusual for a Cinderella serial, in which the protagonist tends to be more isolated from any friends to help her.

Second: Make-Believe Mandy

Score: 14

wtfometer-make-believe-mandy

Mandy Miller’s family hate her for some reason. The parents make her do all the housework and slave in their second hand clothes shop while they devote all their attention and money on their spoiled daughter Dinah. The parents always compare Mandy unfavourably with Dinah, calling her ugly, useless and not fit to be seen with her. Whenever Mandy threatens to go one better than Dinah, the parents get even more cruel with her.

Gradually Mandy realises their hatred stems from her not being related to them by blood. She is in fact a foreign princess who was left in their care when calamity struck the country. When payments for Mandy’s upkeep fell through the Millers were left stuck with her. But now officials from Mandy’s home country have located her whereabouts, and after a series of tests to determine her identity, they want her to reclaim her throne. The Millers try to stop this by locking Mandy in the coal cellar, and Mandy is making a seemingly impossible bid to escape through the coal chute.

The scoring is similar to “Cinderella Smith”. One difference that would make the scoring lower than Cindy is that the ticket out Mandy’s misery is her royal birthright, not a special talent, so standard real-life talents are ranked as “standard. However, Mandy scores “big difference” on the two-parent household category because the Millers are not Mandy’s real parents and it can be safely assumed her birth parents are dead, which would make her an “orphan”. So Mandy scores four points higher than Cindy.

Third: Bella at the Bar

Score: 24

wtfometer-bella-at-the-bar

Orphan Bella Barlow is exploited by her Uncle Jed and Aunt Gert, who wring as much money and work out of her as possible. They make her do all the housework, slave at Uncle Jed’s window cleaning business (without payment), don’t feed her properly and keep her off school.

Bella has a genius for gymnastics, but the Barlows either do not allow it because it will make no money for them or they take advantage of it if they do see a way to make money from it. This includes sending Bella to a seaside show where they will get money from her gymnastics acts. The seaside show manager exploits and abuses Bella as much as the Barlows do, and the acts she is being forced to do threaten her health.

Bella follows the same patterns as Cinderella Smith in the real-life talents and emotional/physical/mental security sections, but in other sections it scores higher. Unlike Cindy, Bella is an orphan, which means “big difference” in the two-parent category. The Barlows don’t let her go to school, which means “big difference” in the school category. There is “small difference” in the locality section because of the shift to the seaside show.

Bella at the Bar (1974) – first Bella Barlow story

Sample Images

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Published: Tammy 22 June 1974 – 7 September 1974

Episodes: 12

Artist: John Armstrong

Writer: Jenny McDade

Translations/reprints: Bella’s Book of Gymnastics 1981 as Bella – the Beginning; Bella at the Bar Vol. 1, 2018

Plot

Orphan Bella Barlow lives with her Uncle Jed and Aunt Gert, who abuse and exploit her. Their exploitation is motivated by laziness, tight-fistedness, greed, and squandering their money on gambling (bingo, dog racing), and in Jed’s case, drinking. Their background must come into it as well as they are low working class people who don’t look very far above the poverty line and they live in a very seedy house. They make Bella do all the housework, the cooking (while making her eat separate, substandard food and often starve her altogether), and make her a slave at Uncle Jed’s window cleaning business. They never pay her anything, making the excuse that her board and keep are the payment. They keep her away from school and are not above beating her. And if they see any way to make money out of Bella they will seize upon it.

Bella lives for gymnastics and has rigged up makeshift apparatus in the back yard (probably cobbled together from the scrap Jed collects). She uses every spare moment she can to work on it. Oddly, Jed and Gert do not interfere with her makeshift apparatus although they disapprove of her “wasting time” on it instead of working.

While working at the window cleaning, Bella comes across a gymnastics class at a school and immediately wants to be part of it. The teacher, Miss Mortimer, is happy to have Bella, especially after she helps a pupil in trouble.

However, there are two problems. First, grasping Uncle Jed won’t give permission because there is no money in it. Second, the school is an exclusive one and the snobby headmistress would not allow a “guttersnipe” like Bella into the classes. So although it would put her job at risk, Miss Mortimer decides to coach Bella in secret out of school hours because Bella is so talented. Meanwhile, Bella gets around Jed by tricking him into thinking she is getting money from the gymnastics by taking a secret car washing job (and the employer later exploits her too, with blackmail). When Jed and Gert hear that Bella could be good enough to compete internationally, they (mistakenly) think there could be big money in it for them. So they allow the classes and Bella to practise at home, and they start treating her kindly, with proper feeding and not lumbering her with so much work.

Soon Bella is making such progress that Miss Mortimer enters her in a competition for experience. Unfortunately at this moment the snobby headmistress finds out about Miss Mortimer secretly coaching Bella. Bella has to go or Miss Mortimer gets the sack, so it’s the end of Bella’s coaching with Miss Mortimer.

Bella keeps this secret from Jed and Gert, otherwise it will be back to the old drudgery with renewed vengeance. She lets them go on thinking things are just carrying on. She finds ways to keep up her exercises but has to go into the competition without proper coaching for it or even really knowing what she is supposed to be doing. Despite the difficulties and no win, Bella makes a respectable impression on officials, who say she could go far with more experience. Bella also makes some contacts among the other competitors, who go to the gym class run by Mr Benson, head of the sports centre. Mr Benson has also noticed Bella and offers her a place in his own gymnastics class. Jed declines as he still thinks Miss Mortimer is coaching Bella, and is not willing to pay the fee either. Bella has to put up money from her secret work (now a babysitting job) to pay the fee and join Mr Benson’s gym club.

Jed gets impatient about Bella’s gymnastics not bringing him money and means to see Miss Mortimer about getting Bella into winning competitions and being a money spinner. Bella tries to stop him seeing Miss Mortimer and find out everything, but fails. The Barlows are furious to discover their mistaken assumption that Bella’s gymnastics would make them money. It’s back to the old mistreatment. Worse, Bella’s confidence in her gymnastics has taken a knock because she is now under the impression she does not have what it takes to become a top gymnast.

While the Barlows are out the girls from Mr Benson’s class drop by and persuade Bella to come to class, which restores her confidence. She does so well that Mr Benson chooses her to take part in a gymnastics display for charity. Much to Bella’s surprise, Gert agrees to it. Bella realises there must be an underhand reason for it, but decides to concentrate on the show.

After the display Bella receives encouragement from Mr Benson that she could become good enough to compete for England. However, the Barlows do not allow her to continue with Mr Benson. They only allowed her to perform in the show in the hope that their friend, Murton Stone, the owner of “The Strolling Stones” seaside theatrical show, would take her on for gymnastics acts in his show. Stone agrees to it, and Bella reluctantly decides to go along with it because she thinks it would enable her to keep up gymnastics.

In terms of proper treatment, Bella soon finds she isn’t much better off at The Strolling Stones. The Stones are as stonyhearted as their names suggest. In fact, the Stones tell their spoiled daughter Amelia to make as much use of Bella as she likes. Amelia seizes upon with this with alacrity because she hates Bella. On top of the exploitation and bullying from Amelia, Bella finds that Stone himself exceeds even Uncle Jed for slave-driving her.

When it comes to the gymnastics acts Stone strips away all the dance elements in Bella’s floor routines when Amelia protests that she is the dancer of the show (which she doesn’t have much talent for). He tells Bella to stick exclusively to the acrobatic elements in her gymnastics performances, which are to be spiced up to the max and look as spectacular as possible. Before long Bella notices her body is acting up after the performances, but fails to realise it is a danger signal. She puts up with the Stones’ mistreatment because she thinks the show is the only way to keep up gymnastics and it is better than nothing at all.

But Bella soon finds out otherwise when Mr Benson catches up with her at the seaside show. When he sees the souped-up acrobatics in Bella’s act he tells her to stop immediately, because they are both improper gymnastics and damaging to her body. When Bella tries to tell him why she can’t stop, he misunderstands and does not give her a chance to fully explain. He thinks she is putting money over her wellbeing and leaves in disgust.

By now Bella’s body is well and truly telling her how right Mr Benson is. She realises she must get out fast. But if she simply leaves, Jed and Gert will just send her back. So she tries to get the sack by putting on bad performances. Unfortunately it backfires, and as a result Bella finds herself forced into humiliating burlesque gymnastics acts and being an abused clown sidekick in Amelia’s dancing routine.

In the end Bella simply runs away from the Stones and heads home. When she arrives she finds Jed and Gert have gone away on a two-week holiday (no doubt by using the money they made from the Stones’ exploitation of her). This proves fortunate because it gives Bella freedom to pursue gymnastics and make her own money without hindrance.

Unfortunately her misunderstandings with Mr Benson are making him think she is unreliable and irresponsible. He allows her to return, but Bella gets the impression he will expel her if she does not overcome her difficulties in getting to classes. Moreover, her gymnastics have deteriorated because of the seaside show abuse and she has to make extra efforts to get back into shape.

Then child welfare discover Bella is living on her own and insist on putting her in a children’s home. Bella does not like the prison-like home, especially when she gets on the wrong side of the unpleasant staff. Moreover, she is desperately worried that their interference will make her miss her next gym class.

So Bella just runs off to get there. But on the way she helps out at a road accident, which leaves her badly injured and she is hospitalised. She missed her gym class and now fears she is out of Mr Benson’s class for good. However, it turns out the men she helped at the accident were big Russian officials. They reward her with a place at a top Russian gymnastics school.

Thoughts

This is one of the most pivotal girls’ serials ever because it changed the course of girls’ comics history. Bella, who started out as just another serial in her first story here, proved so popular that she went on to become a regular in Tammy who held a joint record with Molly Mills for Tammy’s longest-running character (10 years each). Bella Barlow remains one of the most beloved and best-remembered characters ever in girls’ comics. She also changed the course of the career of her artist, John Armstrong, and he himself modelled her on his own niece.

However, the subsequent history of Bella and her sequels will be excluded from this discussion. It will concentrate on the first story itself.

One thing that would have made the first Bella story so popular is that it is firmly rooted in the Cinderella formula that had been in Tammy from issue one. It would remain frequent in Tammy until the late 1970s. It is atypical in that there is no wicked stepsister figure, but then it is difficult to imagine the wicked stepsister figure fitting into the Barlow household. After all, the Barlows squander so much money on what they do raise that they could hardly afford to spoil a wicked stepsister. The nearest we get to the wicked stepsister is Amelia Stone, but she is not part of the Barlow household.

Bella is set in the Tammy tradition of abused heroines who endure countless trials, torments and setbacks of all sorts before the happy ending. From the start she encounters obstacles and people that not only hinder her ambition to be a gymnast but also mistreat her at every turn. Bella has problems even with the people who do help her (Miss Mortimer, Mr Benson) until she meets the Russian officials. And readers would have lapped it up. They just loved the stories of ill-used heroines being forced through tribulations and tortures of all descriptions.

The abuse and hindrance Bella suffers at the hands of the Barlows stems from both their personalities and their working class background. They don’t live well and Jed is unlikely to make much money from his window cleaning business. All the same, they would be living better than they do if they used their money more sensibly and did not squander it on gambling and booze. They would also do a whole lot better if they worked more, but they are too lazy and selfish to do so. The only thing they work hard at is finding ways to make money any way they can, especially by wringing it out of Bella.

Bella’s move to the seaside show is no escape from exploitation and abuse either. The hindrance it gives to Bella’s gymnastics is even more of a threat than the Barlows because Bella is incapable of recognising it as such. She thinks that it at least is enabling her to do gymnastics. She does not realise the stunts Stone is forcing her to do are actually detrimental to both her gymnastics and her body until Mr Benson informs her.

When we first meet Bella we are impressed at what a perky figure she is despite all the abuse she suffers at home. We have to wonder how she does it. And from the first, her determination to pursue gymnastics despite all her difficulties really shines through. She has an unusual companion in the form of her bucket, which is a rather cute element. However, the bucket does not last long as a helper and not referred to as such again.

As is the case with so many of Tammy’s Cinderella stories, Bella has only one thing that makes her miserable life worthwhile and could be her ticket out of her misery if she keeps it up despite everything. In this case it is gymnastics.

The gymnastics themselves would have helped to popularise the story. The serial came out at a time when Olga Korbut was creating huge publicity for the sport. Tammy had run one other gymnastics story, “Amanda Must Not Be Expelled” in 1972, but it was Bella who caused gymnastics to really take off in Tammy and made gymnastics one of the most central features in Tammy right to the end of her life. Moreover, the gymnastics are all brought to life through the brilliant rendering of John Armstrong. Nobody in girls’ comics has ever matched Armstrong for drawing gymnastics. He drew the gymnastics in a realistic, fluid, anatomical style that would have had readers crying out for more. There can be no doubt that the choice of artist was one of the biggest factors in making the first Bella story so popular.

The plotting is well structured and the pace strong and tight, with no meandering or padding just to spin it out. One puzzling thing comes right at the end, when the Russian officials say they have found out about Bella’s miserable home life. How did they manage to find that out, especially as the Barlows must still be away? It sounds a bit pat and contrived there.

It is not hard to see why the first Bella story was so popular. It was a strong, well-written story that was based on established formulas that had long guaranteed popularity in Tammy, and it was filled with lots of emotion and drama and strong, convincing characters. Rather than the more hackneyed ballet or horse riding the story used a sport that had only recently been spotlighted and popularised, which would have been quite refreshing. And the choice of artist to bring the gymnastics to life could not have been bettered and would have left readers hankering to see more of it.

But just what was it that made the first Bella story so popular that readers were writing in demanding a sequel as soon as her first story finished? What made Bella so different to the other Cinderella stories that had gone before and after her that enabled her to spawn a sequel and then more sequels? Finding the answers would probably spin a thread of speculation a mile long. Certainly the final panel helped. It had a slightly open ending, which left scope and even a hint for a possible sequel. Perhaps Tammy planned it that way. The editor would have seen the popularity of Bella and did not want to close the door on her altogether, just in case. Well, if that was the editor’s intention, the rest is history.

No-One Cheers for Norah (1972)

Sample Images

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“No-One Cheers for Norah” was one of Sandie’s very first stories. It is going to be discussed here because it has been mentioned in several Jinty blog entries as sharing parallels with Jinty’s “Toni on Trial”. There has been speculation it was the same writer. A promising athlete (or swimmer in Norah’s case) finds her career under threat from an old theft charge that was levelled at her mother/father.

When examining this story I also noticed it shares parallels with “Tricia’s Tragedy”, so it could be the same writer here too.

Published: Sandie #1, 12 February 1972 – #12, 29 April 1972

Artist: John Armstrong

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Norah Day is a keen swimmer, but her widowed father is so poor they are driven to training her in the canal. Nonetheless she has managed to win one trophy.

Dad falls ill and Norah is sent to stay at rich Uncle Phillip’s while he’s in hospital. Straight off the mark though, her relatives treat her like a piece of dirt. They call her a “slum kid”, a disgrace to the family, and they don’t let the neighbours even see her. Cousin Lorna says she doesn’t want her friends to know Norah is her cousin. They make her sleep in a shabby attic when they could easily give her a nice room. At mealtimes they won’t let her share the table with them and she has to eat separately. They see her as being more useful as a servant. In fact, that is what they lead Mrs Maddox, the president of the Dolphins Swimming Club that Lorna is a member of, to believe – that Norah is their new help. Lorna even throws Norah’s newly won trophy out the car window!

When Norah tries to join the Dolphins Swimming Club too, Lorna rips up Norah’s swimsuit and tells her to get out of the club. The relatives are making it loud and clear that they are not going to let Norah keep up her swimming, especially as it could pose a threat to Lorna’s swimming career. Swimming club President Mrs Maddox says she wants Lorna to win the club championship again and she thinks Lorna is now ready for bigger things. Besides, there are the swimming club fees Norah can’t afford and of course her horrible relatives won’t cover them.

Determined to keep up her swimming, Norah turns to swimming in the park lake. Eventually Mrs Maddox notices Norah and offers her a free place, but she has to go through a trial, which Norah wins despite a number of faults in her swimming. They decide the faults can be corrected with proper training, and on the whole Norah has potential as a swimmer. They agree to let Norah compete in the championship finals. Lorna realises how big a danger her cousin is. She still lets Mrs Maddox think Norah’s the family servant and enrols her at the club under a false name. The other club members are snobby and look down on Norah too, and the committee is quite snobby towards her as well. Meanwhile, Mrs Maddox senses that Norah reminds her of someone, but can’t quite place it.

When the news gets back home, the family predictably treat Norah worse than ever. However, Mrs Maddox eventually discovers how badly they are treating Norah, and how they have led people to believe she is their servant because they were too snobby to let them know the truth. Mrs Maddox is the most important person in town, so being shown up in front of her is extra-humiliating for the nasty relatives.

Poor Norah still has to wait upon her snooty relatives, though. And they still pose a threat to her swimming: Uncle Phillip says he has to tell Mrs Maddox who Norah really is because of the difficult position Norah has put them in. Meanwhile, Mrs Maddox begins coaching to correct Norah’s swimming faults and she begins to improve.

But then Uncle Phillip tells Mrs Maddox what he had been planning to tell her, and making the excuse it was the reason they had put up the story Norah was their servant. Whatever it is, it has Mrs Maddox deeply shocked and telling Norah it is best they don’t meet again. Norah has no idea what it is about. When she confronts Lorna, Lorna says her father was a crook who served jail time. Norah thinks Uncle has been telling Mrs Maddox a pack of lies. Lorna picks a fight with Norah, which Uncle and Aunt blame Norah for. He says he’s not keeping Norah in the house any longer and sends her to his clothing factory in Claydon, where he instructs his manager to give her all the worst jobs.

Norah goes to see Mrs Maddox, who says the story is true. Norah’s father was once the secretary of the club, but was sent to jail for stealing a sum of £480 from the club twenty years ago. Realising Norah is not like her father (as Uncle said), Mrs Maddox resumes Norah’s training. She is going to put Norah in the Dolphins team and get the English selectors to take a look at her. This is something Norah’s father always wanted as his imprisonment robbed him of that chance, but he can now fulfil it through Norah.

Norah goes to see her father. Dad’s condition has worsened, and the only thing keeping him going is the hope Norah will be selected for England. His thought bubbles reveal he is innocent of the charge that sent him to prison. So who is guilty?

After visiting her father Norah can’t go back to her uncle’s, so she sleeps in her dad’s house. But then new tenants move in. Norah has no choice but to go back to her uncle’s – only to be thrown right out of the house. They figure a night of roughing it in bad weather will make Norah unfit for the selections. Norah sneaks into her uncle’s factory to spend the night there.

While looking for food Norah comes across an old document, which reveals Uncle Phillip set up his business with a down payment of £480. This is the exact amount Norah’s father was accused of stealing, and the date of the down payment corresponds with the time the money was stolen. Norah recalls that Uncle Phillip used to bear a physical resemblance to Dad. Then she puts two and two together.

Uncle Phillip now catches her in the act and she confronts him over what she has deduced: he stole the money and left Dad to carry the can over it when (presumably) they mistook Uncle Phillip for Dad because of the physical resemblance. When she tries to run for it he knocks her out and locks her in the cellar (at least with some food and water). Norah escapes through a drain, but has to swim for her life against a torrent of dye waste being released from the factory. By the time she arrives at the baths she is bright purple!

Norah tells Mrs Maddox what happened and what she has discovered about Uncle Phillip, flourishing the document she still has (and has somehow survived the dye bath). She also begs to be allowed to compete for her father’s sake. Mrs Maddox says they will sort out the theft business later, and tells Norah she can compete. Everyone knows this is going to be tough because they know Norah is exhausted from that dye bath swim and Lorna won’t give an inch. And the Dolphins club girls are still unfriendly to Norah. As the race unfolds, however, cheers are heard for Norah as people see how well she is swimming despite everything. Norah’s determination, lust for revenge, and amended swimming faults are outweighing her tiredness. She wins against Lorna and is selected for England.

Afterwards, Mrs Maddox tells Norah her uncle just slunk off and the guilty look on his face told her all she needed to know. Mrs Maddox then tells Lorna to pack up and leave the Dolphins Club: “there’s not very much to be said for you either!” Lorna is roundly booed as she goes, for word has been around. Soon after, Lorna and her parents move away in shame.

Mr Day recovers and is eager to start a new life now that his name has been cleared. This includes marrying Mrs Maddox, and Norah welcomes her as a stepmother. Six weeks later, Norah wins her first race for England.

Thoughts

These will be discussed in context of the parallels with “Toni on Trial” and “Tricia’s Tragedy”. There certainly is a parallel with Toni in that a wrongful charge of stealing from a sports club was levelled at the protagonist’s parent years before and is threatening her own sports career. However, the wrongful charge is a much more powerful plot driver in Toni than in Norah. In Toni it’s established by part three and casts a cloud over the protagonist that just won’t go away because the townsfolk just won’t forget and the real culprit keeps fuelling it. So Toni is anxious to get to the bottom of it all for her own sake as well as clearing her mother’s name. In Norah the wrongful charge is not even revealed until nearly two thirds of the way through the story, and it’s only done so because Uncle Phillip believes it’s the only way to neutralise the threat Norah poses to Lorna. Even after it’s established, clearing the parent is not a priority. It only happens by sheer luck in Norah finding the document, drawing the right conclusions, and Mrs Maddox believing her. The wrongful charge and exoneration serve more as part of the plot resolution and punishing the unpleasant relatives than driving the plot as they do in Toni. The story format is more like a Cinderella story than an “exoneration” story, as was the case with Toni.

The parallels with Tricia are much stronger. First, both stories feature swimming. Second, a rogue uncle is responsible for a wrongful accusation against the protagonist’s father, which has driven him and his family deep into poverty while the rogue uncle’s family have grown richer and cruel to them because of it. Third, in both Norah and Tricia the protagonists can’t afford to train at the baths so they have to resort to a quarry pool (Tricia) or a canal or lake (Norah). Fourth, divisions between rich and poor have created further rifts between the poor protagonist and her unpleasant rich relations, who just rubbish her and her family. But the nasty relatives are not content with this and try to ruin the protagonist even more to stop her triumphing over their daughter at an important swimming match. In the case of Tricia it’s to stop her inheriting money from her grandfather. In Norah, it’s because they’re so snobby they don’t even want people to know she is family. Fifth, in both Norah and Tricia the unpleasant relatives take advantage to bully the protagonist, turn her into a slave, and pull all sorts of nasty tricks to stop her beating the cousin in the swimming match. Finally, in Norah and Tricia it all culminates in the swimming match where everything is at stake and it’s a battle for revenge. And once the truth is established, both the unpleasant cousins in Norah and Tricia are roundly booed off and soon move away in shame with their parents.

Pat Davidson writes to the blog

I am very excited to say that Pat Davidson has written in to reply to the comments made by Malcolm Shaw’s wife, Brenda Ellis. She clarifies that, contrary to the information previously supplied by Pat Mills, Pat Davidson did not write for Jinty herself, and indeed did not write the classic “Little Miss Nothing” which she has been wrongly credited with. Here are her own words to explain:

How much I agree with Mrs Shaw that – like her late husband Malcolm –  some, at least, of the men who wrote for Jinty took their work seriously, writing stories of real quality.  And I know how hard they  worked. In the 1970s, when we too had a mortgage to pay – and four children under eight – my husband Alan Davidson wrote many wonderful stories for Jinty, including “The Valley of Shining Mist”, “Fran of the Floods“, “Gwen’s Stolen Glory” and – one of Jinty’s all-time favourites – “Jackie’s Two Lives“.  In earlier years, he had written the breakthrough “Little Miss Nothing” which was often reprinted and became the template for a stream of ‘Cinderella’ stories written (in my opinion) by lesser writers.

After Jinty, Alan wrote many successful books for children in various genres, including humour and no doubt Malcolm Shaw, had he lived, would have done likewise.  IPC’s policy not to credit writers or artists was a disgrace and I’m grateful that Alan kept careful records, including copies of all his scripts together with his invoice books (IPC tending to be rather late-payers)! Although I remember Alan mentioning Malcolm’s name as a fine writer, sadly I have no knowledge  of which stories he wrote. Perhaps someone else will remember for Mrs Shaw? I do hope so.

Pat Davidson also kindly sent in a photo of the young Alan Davidson.

Alan Davidson, author of various Jinty stories such as "Jackie's Two Lives"
Alan Davidson, author of various Jinty stories such as “Jackie’s Two Lives”

I hope that this blog will be able to follow up this very interesting contact and to give further details on other stories written by Alan Davidson. On a personal note, I am particularly happy to know the authorship of “The Valley of Shining Mist”, which is a story that lived on in my memory from reading it as a child.

What makes a story work, pt 2?

Following on from my earlier post on how we can sensibly say that a story works (or doesn’t), I want to look at the elements that can add to, or detract from, how well a story works. These are elements that are mostly down to decisions made by the writer or the artist (or both), though editorial decisions can also be relevant. For each of the elements, therefore, I will consider what the balance of responsibilities tends to be, as well as discussing the nature of each of them.

  • Plot. What actually happens? How well tied-together are the events of the story, and how naturally or consistently do they flow from earlier ones? Is it a very run-of-the-mill plot or does it have innovative elements? Is the plot simple or convoluted, full of sidelines or straightforward? In particular, does the ending follow well from the main part of the action or does it undercut the earlier events, for instance through by use of a deus ex machina to wrap everything up neatly and too-quickly?
    • This lies mostly in the writer’s corner, though the editorial department may make suggestions.
    • Stronger: “Concrete Surfer” is a tightly-plotted story where everything that happens drives the action forwards to the skate-off between rivals and the subsequent denouement. Not a moment of action is wasted and it all hangs together.
    • Weaker: in “Fran of the Floods” lots of things happen, but in a quite meandering structure with sub-plots that you can get lost in. The later happenings are not very tightly tied into the earlier events, though there is a wrap-up at the end of the story. This is a danger for road-trip sort of stories.
  • Title. Is the title overly-explanatory or does it promise without revealing too much? Is it ho-hum or unusual?
    • As far as we know, coming up with the story’s title seems to have been part of the writer’s tasks. Sometimes it might have been changed by the editorial department either before publication or on reprint / translation.
    • Stronger: There are lots of really evocative story titles in Jinty. Examples like “Girl The World Forgot” or “Golden Dolly, Death Dust!” are suggestive without giving the whole game away.
    • Weaker: the formula girl’s name + descriptive reference was over-used in girls’ comics generally and feels hackneyed as a result. “Badgered Belinda”, “Angela Angel-Face”, “Diving Belle” are examples in Jinty, but looking at a single issue of Lindy the ratio of such titles seemed considerably higher so things could have been much worse!
  • Theme. Is the theme a well-trodden one such as the Slave or Cinderella themes? Is it an intrinsically unlikely one such as the Exploited Amnesiac? In either case it probably needs something extra to make it stand out.
    • Again as far as we know the story theme was mostly under the control of the writer, though the editorial office would, according to Pat Mills, aim to have specific themes represented such as the two mentioned above. Some writers would focus preferentially on certain themes, so we know that Alison Christie wrote a number of heart-tugging stories with Runaways or Guilt Complexes. The art style (discussed in the next post) was probably chosen to match the theme as far as possible, though of course it is entirely possible that the availability of an artist was used to inspire a writer on occasion.
    • Stronger: I wouldn’t say it is that clear that one theme is stronger than another but there is a lot of personal preference that will govern whether a story works for an individual reader or not.
    • Weaker: as mentioned above, some themes such as the Exploited Amnesiac are so intrinsically unlikely and indeed rather melodramatic and silly that it means that the story is battling against something of a headwind.
  • Pacing. Girls (and boys) comics of this era typically feature fast-paced stories, with cliff-hangers at the end of each episode. The conventions of this sort of story are rather different from Japanese manga, where the action tends to take place over a far greater number of pages. If a story is compressed more than usual for this genre it would feel confusing, or if it was too slow-paced likewise it could throw readers off.
    • This lies solidly in the remit of the writer, though the page layout and composition could have some effect too.
    • Stronger: “Concrete Surfer” has some of the best pacing I can immediately think of: it builds evenly and the momentum never stops. Every panel and page builds on the last.
    • Weaker: the pacing on “Freda’s Fortune” makes it an odd read, with much of the plot line of a normal horse & rival story compressed into two 6-page episodes.
  • Tone. Is the story light and frothy, silly, adventurous, realistic, tear-jerking, hard, gritty, subversive, or even sadistic? The dialogue is a big part of what sets the tone so I am including it in this element, though others might prefer to separate it out.
    • The style set by the comic overall is very linked to the tone of the individual stories inside; whether this is mostly to do with editorial choices as to which stories to publish or writers to commission, clearly the editorial focus has a part to play. Pat Mills reckons that there is a big divide between working class comics (Tammy, Misty, Jinty, Pink, and most of Bunty) and middle-class, ‘safe’ comics, and that this divide was purposeful, to try to move past the ‘old hat’ style of the past. The individual writer is the prime mover of the tone of the story but the artist also has an important role to play as the writing and art must of course match. Additionally, the artist is in a position to add a lot of background detail in their art, to really bring things to life (John Armstrong draws graffiti in the background of “Moonchild”, and Jim Baikie draws details from the London Underground of the 70s or earlier in his recreation of the futuristic world of “The Forbidden Garden”.)
    • Stronger: Of course one tone is not in itself ‘better’ than another, but some are more unusual or more consistently applied throughout. “Knight and Day” is the epitome of a gritty and realistic story of physical and emotional abuse within a family, played seriously and with enough emotional effect to convince the reader.
    • Weaker: In the link above, Pat Mills says that light and frothy stories are ‘safe’ and boring to the reader. This is arguable, but certainly a light and frothy story such as “The Perfect Princess” is by its nature one that is easier to dismiss the more emotional or tear-jerking tales. Perhaps more fatal to a story is a sudden shift in tone, such as Lorrbot mentions having happened in “Balloon of Doom” in her comment on the last post.
  • Resonance. I’m stretching a bit things here in using this term in this way. What I mean is whether the story has a certain mythic resonance, a re-use (in a purposeful way) of cultural material. Mermaids, spinning wheels, magic mirrors, wicked and cruel women: these all have resonance as they have been used in countless stories to tell us how to behave or what to be careful of. Re-use of a current successful story from a different medium also gives the comics narrative a chance to grab some resonance from elsewhere.
    • I am assuming this is mostly in the care of the writer, though of course the artist will be able to add in many visual elements that will strengthen the references.
    • Stronger: “Who’s That In My Mirror?” combines ideas of vanity, moral peril, and the idea that a mirror can hold a reflection of a kind of truth. It has echoes of “The Picture of Dorian Grey” and of the Andersen tale “The Shadow” – and its denouement is as spooky as anything in comics.
    • Weaker: There are so damned many stories of haunted mirrors that it’s very easy for the shine to wear off! For me, “The Venetian Looking-Glass” was just another one of many: the element of resonance had become repetition.
  • Audacity. This is sort of the flip side of Resonance, and again I am stretching things a bit in using this term in this way. By this I mean the ‘WTF’ element where you can’t quite believe that anyone dared to put that on the page! It is the element of surprise and of novelty, but it is quite a delicate balancing act.
    • The written story bears a lot of the responsibility for this element but the art is key in making sure that the reader’s suspension of disbelief doesn’t flag. The editorial and publishing teams are the ones who would be on the bosses’ carpet if it all goes horribly wrong (as it did for boys’ comic Action after questions were asked in parliament), so they are part of the mix too.
    • Stronger: “Worlds Apart” is one of the most audacious stories in girls’ comics, with each protagonist having to die in grotesque and excessive ways in order for them to progress to the next scenario. “Children of Edenford” is also outrageous but a bit more quietly so as it criticises the shibboleth of social mobility ahead of the tide of Thatcherism and yuppiedom to come.
    • Weaker: When audacity tips the scales of suspension of disbelief, the wheels come off. For me, the cruelties at the end of “Slave of the Swan” and “The Slave of Form 3B” push it a step too far.

To follow in the next post, discussions on:

  • Art quality
  • Art style
  • Character design
  • Page layout / composition
  • Art incidental details
  • Design / font / lettering
  • Format / edition

The Changeling (1978)

Sample images

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Changeling 1.jpg

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Changeling 2.jpg

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Changeling 3.jpg

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Publication: 22 July 1978-5 August 1978
Artist: Phil Gascoine
Writer: Unknown
Summary
Katy Palmer lives a miserable life with her brutal uncle and his shabby flat. Uncle puts Katy out to work in the stables, little realising that this is the only time she gets some joy. This is when Katy indulges in the only thing that makes her life bearable – riding. Lately she has been putting in extra riding with Midnight because her employer, Miss Peers, is training him up for an event at Ryechurch. Unfortunately the stables job and riding are cutting into homework time, and Katy is constantly in trouble at school because of it.

Then Uncle yanks Katy out of the stables job to work as a dishwasher, which robs Katy of her only joy. At this, Katy reaches her limit and just runs off. Before she knows what she is doing, she is on a train to Ryechurch. On the train she meets another Katy, Katy Blair. Katy Blair is on her way to Ryechurch to meet her uncle and aunt, whom her lawyer has only just traced.

Then the train suddenly crashes. The accident leaves Katy Blair apparently dead. Desperation drives Katy to steal her suitcase and take her place at Ryechurch so she can finally have a happy life with loving parents. And they have everything Katy could wish for – love, a comfortable life and even stables and horses, where Katy can continue to indulge her passion with horses. She gives her new horse the same name as Midnight.

But Katy soon finds she cannot have real happiness because she is living a lie. All the while there are twinges of conscience. And then the past catches up. First Katy spots Miss Peers and the other Midnight at the Ryechurch event (forgot that bit, didn’t you, Katy?) and has to do a fast sick act so Miss Peers does not see her.

And then – horror – Katy spots Katy Blair! Is she seeing ghosts?

No. It turns out that Katy Blair is not dead after all; she was just in a coma. She has amnesia though, and is trying to recover her memory. At last conscience gets the better of Katy. She confesses the truth to Katy Blair and then her aunt and uncle.

They take Katy to see her uncle. After they see for themselves what an unfit guardian he is, they pull Katy away and tell him they are going to apply to the courts for legal custody of her. The application is successful; the two girls are now sisters and share their riding together. (Mind you, we’re not told how the parents differentiate between two girls named Katy.)

Thoughts
This story is very odd in being so short lived. It only lasted for three episodes when there was potential to spin it out more. For example, we could have had some more development on the villainy of the nasty uncle and, in particular, what he does when he realises Katy has run off. And we could have had more on Katy’s conflicted conscience, the mounting fear of being found out and dragged back to her uncle, and what situations this leads her into. Moreover, having more episodes before Katy Blair returns would have made more sense, because Katy Blair seems to have made an all-too-quick recovery from her coma.

So why did this story only have three episodes? The fact that the episodes have an extra page (or half a page, as in the first episode) suggests it was meant as a filler story and was not intended to be spun out or be a serious length serial. It is a bit disappointing, because this story was crying out for more length and development and could have been a popular Jinty serial.