Tag Archives: Cinderella

Cinderella Smith (1975)

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Published: 22 March – 30 August 1975 (24 episodes)

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown

Translations/ reprints: None known

Plot

In all the years since Cindy Smith’s mother died, her life has been a succession of flats and hotels. This time, Dad means Cindy to have a settled home while he is away. So he sends Cindy to live with her cousins, Jemima and Agnes (presumably they are generation or two removed from her as they are much older than she is). They are two elderly ladies who are very rich, live in luxury, and have a pony and a dog. They sound like great relations to live with all right. The only snag Dad mentions is that they never took to Cindy’s mother and may have “funny little ways” as they are elderly. As it turns out, that is a forewarning of what is to come. From the moment Agnes and Jemima see Cindy, she gets the impression they are not taking to her either.

“Funny little ways” is the most misleading description of their ways too. Although the cousins live in luxury, they force Cindy to sleep in a shabby, miserable attic that has never even been installed with electric fittings as the rest of the house is. They flog all her clothes to make more money and make her wear tatty second hand clothes, which she has to wear to her new school as well. The cousins have the nerve to tell the headmistress that Cindy is wearing those clothes because she is poor! When the school insists on school uniform, Cindy has to go through the humiliation of the school kitting her out in a second hand one. The cousins don’t feed Cindy properly, and they even go as far as to give her leftovers from the dog’s dish. And of course they make her do all the work around the house. Even their spoiled dog Woozums joins the abuse (to begin with). The cousins threaten Cindy with canings to get her into line and they even chain her up while she’s working. When they catch Cindy trying to write to her father they lock her in the attic and torture her until she signs a contract that not only gives them the allowance she receives from her father but also makes her swear to silence about the abuse. Cindy tries to fight them, but she soon finds they are too strong, especially when they wield the cane against her.

At first it seems the reason for their mistreatment of Cindy is that they are real tightwads. Plus, they are too lazy to do any work around the house and lumber her with it all. They won’t spare a penny on Cindy (or anything else) if they can help it. The only thing they spend any money on is themselves. They won’t call in professional help for jobs they can make Cindy do for free, such as sweeping the chimney or painting the house. They won’t spend money on professional help for jobs that Cindy can’t do either (watch this space). They sell Cindy’s pendant containing her mother’s picture for the money when they don’t really need the money. All the while they receive money from Cindy’s dad for her upkeep. But of course they don’t use the money for her upkeep.

However, Cindy eventually realises the cousins have deeper motives for their cruelty when she discovers they have cut out her mother’s face from her wedding photo. She realises Agnes and Jemima hate her mother for some reason and are projecting that same hatred onto her because she looks like her mother. Cindy never finds out why the cousins hate her mother.

School is Cindy’s only respite from the abuse. Cindy finds a new friend Kay, and tells her how her cousins are treating her. At first Kay finds this hard to believe, but she comes to realise it is true and becomes one of Cindy’s helpers against the cousins. So too is Kay’s mother, who gives Cindy a Saturday job to help her raise money and she also senses the abuse Cindy is going through. It is during this job that Cindy learns some innings about the fashion world and dressmaking, both of which foreshadow what is to come later. While working at her Saturday job and other jobs to buy back the pendant, more people grow concerned about Cindy’s welfare, as they notice she looks half starved but never steals any food while working at the market.

Then Cindy finds another outlet from the abuse when she is invited to a party, and has to put together an escape plan (crowbar for the window bars the cousins installed, skewers for picking locks, and an escape ladder) to get there. At the party, Kay’s father Mr Bates discovers how photogenic Cindy is after seeing her in the party photos he took, and proposes a modelling contract.

The modelling contract requires the cousins to sign their consent as legal guardians, which means a bit of cunning on Cindy’s part. Hence Cindy stuffs them with so much food in order to make them so sluggish that when she flashes the contract under their noses (slipped in among old documents appropriated from the school office), they just sign without reading first. Payback for tricking her into signing away her allowance!

So Cindy’s modelling job begins, but Cindy is now lumbered with the burden of having to go about it while keeping it secret from her cruel cousins. Kay and another school friend Susie lend a hand in helping Cindy, such as providing Cindy with suitable interview clothes and helping her go to modelling jobs in disguise. Mr Bates also does his bit to help Cindy along against her cousins. Cindy is further helped by the fact that her modelling image requires her to wear a wig, which helps keep her cousins from recognising her in any of the photos or modelling shows. All the same, Cindy has to take precautions such as disfiguring or destroying photos of herself in magazines before her cousins see them. When the cousins are set to go to a fashion show where Cindy will be modelling, it’s some fast thinking and help from Kay to make sure they don’t recognise her.

In order to have a pretext to get to a modelling job, Cindy offers to take Woozums for a walk. This leads to very unexpected consequences that change the face of the story. Up until now Woozums has been as hostile to Cindy as the cousins are. But when Cindy has to bring him to the modelling studio where he ends up sharing the shoot with her, he loves the attention so much that he behaves himself. As it turns out, this is the start of a friendship with Woozums. It cements when Woozums gets sick from rotten biscuits the cousins left out for Cindy to have (trust them!) and she gets treatment for him. From that point on, Woozums becomes a good doggie to Cindy and even makes his own escape so he can accompany Cindy on her new modelling shoot.

Unfortunately this causes another close call, and with consequences. The cousins spot Cindy and Woozums’s shoot on television. They don’t see through her disguise, but they do notice the dog looks like Woozums and then they realise he is not around. When Cindy and Woozums return, the cousins are full of hard questions and then hit Cindy. This prompts Woozums to growl at them, at which the cousins deem him a savage dog (or guess his change of heart?) and say they will have him destroyed. Cindy takes Woozums to Mr Bates’ office, and he is only too happy to have Woozums as he is now part of Cindy’s image. Woozums will now have a salary too – but he must earn it of course.

Cindy’s new shoot is at a stately home background, which would require the whole day away from the cousins. Mr Bates understands the situation and tricks the cousins into coming to the stately home on a line that they are connected with the duke who lives there. Cindy comes as their maid and is free to slip away to her shoot with Woozums.

Alas, the trick has an unexpected backfire. The cousins come home so super-snobby that they are determined to all determined to spruce up their home to reflect their high connections. But as usual, they are too mean to pay for getting it professionally done. Instead, they lumber poor Cindy with painting the whole house from top to bottom, and it’s all being paid for with the money they have cheated out of her. This enormous, gruelling job has all the girls at school now realising just how badly the cousins treat her. Cindy is so exhausted from it that when she and Woozums set off for their new shoot she falls asleep on the train.

While Cindy is out, the cousins’ miserliness explodes right in their faces. They have been too stingy to get the house rewired (and from the sound of it, the wiring hasn’t been looked at since grandfather’s time!). So, during the night the ancient and neglected wiring finally crumbles and starts a fire. The cousins escape, but the house burns to the ground. And guess what? The old skinflints had been too mean to get insurance! As a result they lose everything and are reduced to sleeping in their own barn. Now it’s their turn to sleep in miserable accommodation.

When Cindy comes back, she is surprised to find her cousins being chased by a lynch mob because everyone thinks they deliberately left her to die. That part is soon sorted out. Still, the whole story of their mistreatment of Cindy is splashed all over the papers, so now they are publicly disgraced as well as ruined and homeless. Cindy decides not to press charges as she feels prison would be too comfortable for them. She is much happier with the punishment her cousins have brought on themselves. This includes their having to work for a change – which is slogging in Cindy’s school canteen.

Cindy gets her father’s allowance back in addition to her salary and is staying with Kay until her father returns. There is an extra reward for Kay – she is coming on Cindy’s new shoot in the south of France.

Thoughts

At 24 episodes this is no doubt Jinty’s longest running Cinderella story. It makes no qualms about its parallels to Cinderella either. “Cinderella” is in the title itself, and the cousins are the archetypal wicked stepsisters: one is tall and thin, the other is shorter and fatter, and both are caricatures of ugliness, which is how the wicked stepsisters are always portrayed in Cinderella pantomimes. There is no wicked stepmother figure. Still, she isn’t needed in this case because the wicked stepsisters, er, cousins, are more than old enough to do it themselves.

Agnes and Jemima must rank as two of the most extreme and sadistic of wicked stepsister figures in Cinderella serials. To the best of our knowledge, even Cinderella herself was not put in chains, subjected to downright torture or being forced to eat from the dog’s dish. But this is what happens to Cindy. They are not merely out to wring cheap labour out of Cindy and take advantage of her to save on more pennies. They are also deliberately inflicting physical and psychological torture designed to break Cindy down completely, and it stems from their hatred of Cindy’s mother.

The reason they hate the mother is never explained. The way they defaced the photograph suggests they were jealous of the mother’s good looks. This would tie in with the Cinderella theme, but it cannot be said for certain that this was the reason for their hatred. Cindy wonders if the answer to the mystery lies in the house somewhere. But she never gets to investigate it further. Jinty must have either forgotten to follow it up or dropped the ball on it for some reason. Either way, this particular loose end is left dangling, which is annoying. It would have given more depth to the psychology of the cousins if we had learned the reason they hate Cindy’s mother and just what they are projecting onto the daughter. Is it jealousy? Is it disapproval of the marriage? Or is it something else entirely?

Even without their hatred of the mother, their stinginess and selfishness alone would have driven them to mistreat Cindy and wring every penny they can out of her. A lot of misers in girls’ comics are played to satirise stinginess such as “Jeanie and Her Uncle Meanie”. However, these two misers are definitely not played for laughs. In fact, their miserliness goes not only to callous levels but dangerous ones as well, such as leaving the house wiring neglected and in danger of starting a fire.

They must get their stinginess from grandfather. In the first episode they said he never bothered to get the attic level wired, saying young children made it dangerous to have light up there (yeah, riiight).

After their downfall, there is no sign of them expressing any remorse. Nor does the story go into whether or not they were shocked into changing their stingy ways. We only see them grumbling at the humiliation of slaving in the school canteen, right in front of the girl they used to mistreat.

Only the artwork from Trini Tinturé serves to add some dilution to the cousins’ villainy by giving them a somewhat caricatured look. In the hands of a more serious, straight artists they could have been really terrifying.

The story does take quite a while to find the outlet of the modelling job, which occurs around the middle of the story. Up until then it’s futile attempts to fight the cousins, finding ways to break free of the attic and shackles, and doing the odd jobs to raise the money to buy back the pendant before it’s sold. So the earlier episodes may be construed as lacking a bit of focus, while the later episodes go in a clear plot direction once Cindy becomes a secret model. On the other hand, the early episodes could be intended as groundwork for the plot, what with Cindy finding ways to get away from her cousins, make friends to help her against the cousins, and the early job of working in fashion and dressmaking, which is an ideal and foreshadowing lead-in to the modelling job. It’s the perfect foundation on which to build her secret life as a model against all the cousins’ abuse.

The turnaround of the dog Woozums is well handled and believable. Being included in the shoot appeals to his selfish nature and gets him lots of attention. So he’d only be too happy to come back for more and behave himself, if only for that. Gratitude for Cindy saving his life changing him for the better is also credible, even if we do have to wonder why Woozums didn’t smell out that the biscuit was rotten. Woozums still causes the odd problem, but these stem more from his doggie nature than his former attitude towards Cindy. One example is where he digs up the earnings Cindy hid in the garden before she could bank them, so the cousins spend all the money. On the whole, though, he becomes wonderful companion for Cindy on her modelling jobs. Where he truly redeems himself is where he growls at his mistresses for abusing Cindy. He has gone from being a fellow abuser to helping Cindy stand up against the cousins’ abuse. For his pains, the cousins turn against their own pet and having him put down as a “savage” dog. This is one of the moments where the cousins show just how spiteful they are, for it looks suspiciously like the real reason they are putting him down is because they sense he has gone over to Cindy’s side.

In the end of course, Woozums is rewarded with a much nicer owner, his own career, and even his own salary. This would be the final and fitting punishment for the cousins. While they have been ruined, made homeless and forced to sleep in substandard conditions, and slaving away at menial jobs that wouldn’t pay much, the girl and dog they abused are now rich and famous with high-paying salaries. And they brought it all in themselves through their own miserliness, cruelty and spite.

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Tammy Annual 1984

Tammy annual 1984

  • Cover: John Richardson
  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Animal Magic – feature
  • Fun Time
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Vassilya’s Doll – Strange Story (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Wee Sue – artist Robert MacGillivray
  • Bessie Bunter
  • The Lucky Sixpence – text story (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Edie and Miss T (artist Joe Collins)
  • Calendar of Events – feature (artist John Johnston)
  • Bella – artist John Armstrong
  • Animal Magic – feature
  • Victim of Vesuvius – Strange Story (artist Diane Gabbot)
  • Tasty Tuck-In – feature
  • Knights of the Road – text story (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Fun Time – feature
  • ‘Sleigh’ Them, Father Christmas! – feature
  • Mask for Melissa – artist Angeles Felices
  • Wee Sue – artist Robert MacGillivray
  • The Christmas Visitor – text story (artist Diane Gabbot)
  • What a Cover-Up – feature
  • On with the Show… – feature
  • Quite a Puzzle – feature
  • Edie and Miss T (artist Joe Collins)
  • Animal Magic – feature
  • Room of Shadows – Strange Story
  • Wee Sue – John Richardson
  • Fun Time – Feature
  • Tasty Tuck-In – feature
  • Bessie Bunter
  • Molly Mills – artist Douglas Perry

Tammy annuals would not normally feature on the Jinty blog. But the last three do feature Pam of Pond Hill, so they will have entries here for this reason.

Tammy annual 1984 takes over the Pam of Pond Hill appearances in the annuals, leaving the Jinty annual for that year somewhat reduced in pure Jinty content because she clearly could not have Pam. The Pam story (reproduced here in full) incorporates the Orwellian 1984 theme that was big in that same year, for obvious reasons. Here we get a twist on the Big Brother theme.

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This was the last Tammy annual to have the Cover Girls on the cover. The Cover Girls disappeared from the regular comic in late 1980 after a run that can be traced back to 1974. They are certainly enjoying themselves in the snow.

The annual has a lot of reprints, many of which I am pleased to see. The Strange Story “Room of Shadows” was one of my favourites when it first came out, so I am delighted to have it again.

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There does seem to be some new material as well; the Molly Mills story, for example, is not a reprint (unlike the next two annuals). Unwanted puppies are dumped on the doorstep, and Molly has to find a home for them fast because Pickering has nasty ideas about drowning them.

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Theatre is a big theme in this annual. One feature, “On with the Show”, discusses what goes on behind the scenes during a performance. The theatre theme is probably why they reprinted the 1978 story, “Mask for Melissa”, in which aspiring actress Melissa Mappin gets such an enormous chip on her shoulder from a facial disfigurement in a road accident that she can’t look at herself in a mirror. She resumes her career by hiding behind a facial mask and changing her name to Gaye Traynor. But the deceit is bringing its own problems – like not able to have people touch her face because they’ll find out it’s a mask – which leads to misunderstandings and unpopularity.

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Cinderella is also a running theme as well, starting with the Strange Story on page 14, “Vassilya’s Doll”. Two jealous aunts go out to more extremes than most wicked stepmothers when they plot to send their drudge to her death because they can’t ruin her looks with hard work. But they did not count on a babushka doll and (despite herself) a witch. Yes, perhaps the moral of that story is that fairy godmothers can come in all shapes and sizes – and surprises. And it’s a moral that continues in the Bella story, where Bella finds herself a Cinderella, both in a panto production and in the children’s home where she has taken a job, because of the bullying orderlies who are also cast as the wicked stepsisters. When they try to put Bella out of the panto altogether, fairy godmother arrives in a most unexpected form – Aunt Gert, who is usually Bella’s wicked stepmother. And Bella is now appearing in full colour after several annual appearances in the usual black-and-white, sometimes with red colouring. She is the only character in the annual to appear in full colour, apart from Edie and Miss T. Does this say something about her status?

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And in one Wee Sue story, the school Cinderella panto looks like a shambles when Miss Bigger sticks her oar in with her casting ideas, and then more disasters strike just before the first performance.

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In one Bessie Bunter story, Miss Stackpole is conducting a lesson on what life will be like in the 21st century, which prompts another dream sequence for Bessie. It’s the 21st century now, so how close did the Bessie story get? Well, there are still another eight-and-a-half decades left in the 21st century, so maybe it’s too early to tell yet?

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Tale of the Panto Cat (1979)

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Publication: 8 December 1979 – 29 December 1979

Artist: “B Jackson”

Writer: Unknown

Summary

In Daisy Green Youth Club, Verna is known as “the original panto cat”. She is conceited, bossy, domineering and self-centred. She walks over everyone to have everything her way.

The club members are discussing what to do for their Christmas special when Verna barrels in, tears up their suggestions and pushes ahead with her own – a pantomime for the kids who will be confined to Farley Hospital over the Christmas season. But Verna doesn’t stop there. She allows no discussion of what the pantomime will be – it must be Cinderella. Before the meeting is over, she casts everyone in the roles as she sees fit. And of course she casts herself as Cinderella. Gwen is feeling very indignant at the way Verna carries on.

But there is worse to come when Gwen finds Verna is writing the panto as well. She is astonished to find the script Verna gave her is only two pages long and the lines are awful. The same goes for everyone else, and they find out why at the next meeting – Verna’s part is three times as big as theirs! They reach their limit at this and shelve Verna’s script in favour of one in the club library. But they still give Verna a chance to be Cinderella if she is good. But of course the panto cat is anything but good, and in the end she finds herself without any role (not even as wicked stepmother, the only role that really suits her personality).

Gwen says they still have to let Verna be director, but that proves to be a bad mistake. Now the panto cat has lost the limelight she turns vicious. She gets her claws out and sets out to wreck the panto now she cannot be in it. As director, she tries to stir everything up, make everyone’s life a misery, and even smash the pumpkin. All this does is get her removed from the panto altogether.

Another club member, Minna, suggests they have Verna’s father make Cinderella’s coach. Gwen says they should keep Verna out, but Minna feels it is rotten to do so because it is Christmas. This is another bad mistake. Verna sabotages the coach so it will fall apart on the night. Instead it falls apart at a rehearsal, leaving Cinderella with a sprained ankle, Prince Charming with a black eye and the Fairy Godmother with an injured leg. It looks like the show is off and the panto cat has got the cream.

But then Gwen has a brainwave – convert a piece of the coach into a puppet theatre and have a puppet Cinderella show instead. Unfortunately, Minna tells Verna about how they have salvaged the disaster, thinking she is acting in the spirit of Christmas. So the cat gets ready to pounce again. On the night of the show, Verna tries to sabotage them at the club as they make preparations to set off. She fails, and her tricks put Gwen on her guard.

At the hospital, Gwen sends Verna on an errand to get her out of the way. Verna spots a jug of water in a ward and goes in for it, planning to spill it on the puppets and make them too wet to use. But she failed to spot a warning notice on the door saying there is a child with scarlet fever quarantined in the ward. Verna has got too close to the child, and the nurse tells Verna she now has to be quarantined as well. The cat’s last minute pounce to wreck things has backfired. Verna has to spend Christmas in quarantine (later the editor informs us in the letter page that she did not contract scarlet fever) and watch the show she tried to sabotage through the observation window.

The show is a huge success and everyone except Verna enjoys it. Afterwards, the girls have a Christmas party back at the club and Verna’s fate gives them all the more reason to celebrate. Minna says she enjoyed the panto despite all the problems and they must do it again.

Thoughts

“Tale of the Panto Cat” was one of the Christmas-themed filler stories that Jinty ran over her build up to Christmas. But what Christmas message does this tale of spite, sabotage and deliberate attempts to wreck a Christmas production have for readers? Well, every Christmas has a Grinch somewhere. If Jinty ever had a Grinch story, this has to be it. But unlike her Seuss counterpart, the heart of Verna does not swell to the right size when faced with the spirit of Christmas. Rather, she destroys herself in her efforts to wreck the show. It backfires on her and she ends up spending Christmas in quarantine.

Instead of a sentimental story about the true spirit of Christmas, we get a more typical story of an unpleasant type who causes trouble and getting her eventual comeuppance. Christmas is used more as the theme and setting for the story. This makes the story a nice, refreshing, atypical break from the more standard Christmas fare in girls’ comics. And Verna does not change into a nicer person in the light of Christmas, which makes it even more realistic.

Minna is the only one who strives for real Christmas spirit in the way she insists on keeping Verna in the loop over the panto. But in so doing she unwittingly helps Verna to cause more trouble. Perhaps the story is making a statement that the spirit of Christmas is lost on some people. In fact, although it was Verna’s idea to put on the show for the children in hospital, Verna clearly did not do it for the sake of the kids. All she cared about was being the star of the show and the centre of attention. When she could not have that, she turned just plain vindictive and set out to wreck things in any which way she could with no thought for the kids or anyone else. That is hardly the way to behave, much less at Christmas time. One can only hope Verna left the club for good after she came out of quarantine and was not around to interfere with the next Christmas special.

Dora Dogsbody (1974-1976)

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Publication: 11 May 1974-1 November 1975. Returned 31 January 1976-5 June 1976.

Artist: José Casanovas

Writer: Various, including Terence (Terry) Magee and Pat Mills.

It has been said that the Cinderella story is (according to Pat Mills) one of the lynchpins in a girls’ comics. Well, it could also be said that in girls’ comics there are two types of Cinderella stories. The first is the serious type, with the ill-used heroine suffering constant exploitation and abuse from nasty guardians and struggling to find a way to escape. The second is the humour type, whereby the heroine is treated like Cinderella, but each week ends in a comical comeuppance for the nasty, scheming slave driver, and our heroine gets the last laugh (until next time). The best known of these is probably “Cinderella Jones” from Judy.

In Jinty’s first line-up, “Make-Believe Mandy” belonged to the first type. And Dora Dogsbody, the strip under discussion here, belonged to the second type. Dora Dogsbody is the first story to greet us when we open the first issue of Jinty. And as it is drawn by the popular José Casanovas whose style works brilliantly with animals, humour and the zany, it catches our attention immediately. Casanovas’ art is the type you can fall in love with immediately.

Dora Watson has lived in an orphanage until one day she is out for a walk. She rescues a dog (which she names Scamp) from being beaten up by bigger ones and in so doing demonstrates a way with dogs that does not go unnoticed by Mr and Mrs Siddons. They explain that they run a dogs’ hotel and ask Dora to come and live with them in exchange for helping their dog guests. It seems like a dream come true for any orphanage girl – a home at last. And the hotel sure is swanky for the dogs. They dine at posh tables as if they were humans (complete with napkins around their necks) and eat caviar and steaks. They have a television room, a room each, and are in every way pampered. But Dora notices that they still look miserable and believes it is not because they are treated like real dogs.

As a matter of fact, Mrs Siddons shows that she is no animal lover. In fact, she has a cruel streak towards them. For example, when Scamp chases a cat in the hotel (which frightens the dogs), Mrs Siddons kicks him. She is a snob who does not regard Scamp in the same league as her pampered guests. And for all her pampering, Mrs Siddons soon shows that she has little love for her own doggy guests; for example, she is not above undercutting their food as punishment or to make economies. Clearly, Mrs Siddons is only running the dog hotel for the money. And initially, Mr Siddons is as bad as his wife, though the weaker of the two. Later he becomes more of a henpecked husband in the grip of his dominant wife, and Dora takes a sly hand to help him at times. For example, she plays on Mrs Siddons’ vanity so Mr Siddons will play Sherlock Holmes in a fancy dress parade as he wants to do, instead of being coerced into being Charles II so Mrs Siddons can play Nell Gwynn.

But back to the first episode. As you might have guessed, the Siddonses have not adopted Dora out of the kindness of their hearts. Dora soon finds that Mrs Siddons only wants her as a skivvy who does all the dirty work in the hotel. She is also given a cold, draughty room that is a far cry from the luxurious dogs’ rooms and fed on scraps. But she decides to stay on to see if she can turn things around for these dogs. So each week it is Dora vs Mrs Siddons, whether it is to foil one of Mrs Siddons’ grasping machinations, to save a problem dog, or some other scrape. Some of these have included Biscuit, a dog who is in danger of being put down because he seems to attack women. Mrs Siddons does not listen to the circus owner’s explanation that the dog was only doing his old circus act of caning women with red hair, but Dora outsmarts her and restores Biscuit to the circus. In another story, Mrs Siddons wants to put down another dog, Binkie, because he is blind, and Dora is rather hard put to save Binkie’s life. Other dogs have bizarre or even dangerous behaviours that Dora is frequently lumbered with sorting out. For example, Dora is lumbered with taming a difficult dog, Wolf, which she eventually does with the help of another dog, Kipper. However, Mrs Siddons does not appreciate Kipper – and is even more furious when Dora gives the money for taming Wolf to Kipper’s owner. Some animals are not even dogs, such as Henry the cat. Mrs Siddons insists on having Henry in the hotel because his owner, Lady Jane, is an aristocrat. But Henry soon proves a horrible cat that deliberately causes trouble for the dogs the moment he is let out of his basket.

Occasionally it does not all go Dora’s way, which helps to keep it fresh. For example, in one episode, Dora thinks she has foiled Mrs Siddons again – until Mrs Siddons tells her that they are now lumbered with a pile of turnips and she will be eating them all week. In another, Dora and the dogs go on a walk-out in protest against Mrs Siddons’ cost-cutting measures which include depriving them of food, heat and light – and in winter weather! But the march is a disaster because of bad weather.

Dora proved one of the most popular and long-lasting strips in Jinty’s first line-up. She was the only one of two Jinty characters to return after a break and, unlike “Fran’ll Fix It!”, it was not due to popular demand from readers.

Make-Believe Mandy (1974)

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Publication: 11/5/74-31/8/74
Artist: Ana Rodriguez
Writer: Unknown

Pat Mills once said in an interview that there were three lynchpins that a new comic for girls must have (personally, I think there are five). He identified them as the slave story, the friendship story, and the Cinderella story. In the case of the first Jinty, the slave story was “Merry at Misery House”, the friendship story was “Angela’s Angels” – and the Cinderella story was “Make-Believe Mandy”. Mandy was the first Jinty story drawn by Ana Rodriguez, who would be a regular on the Jinty team for the next two years.

Summary

Mandy is the Cinderella of the Miller household. 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 send Dinah to a posh stage school and even hire a hall for her birthday. Mandy takes refuge in dress-up and fantasy, and particularly loves to act as a princess.

The Millers exclude Mandy from Dinah’s birthday celebrations, calling her plain, ugly, useless and not fit to be seen with Dinah. Poor Mandy is starting to believe it herself, but tries to go to the party anyway. But when she arrives, the parents tell her that they didn’t want her and to go away. Dad throws Mandy’s present for Dinah on the ground while Dinah says, “D’you think I want my friends to see what an ugly sister I’ve got?” Mandy now realises her family hate her, and she has no idea why. A mystery to be solved and to hook the readers in even further!

Earlier that evening Dad had seen an advert for an audition for a princess in an amateur play, with all applicants receiving 50p. Now that is a bit weird, isn’t it? Dad threw the paper aside while Dinah scorned such a lowly role. But when Mandy comes home, she finds the advert and decides to have a go, despite how the Millers’ taunts erode her self-confidence. After all, a princess is her favourite fantasy. What nobody realises is that the advert has a connection with the reason for the Millers’ hatred of Mandy.

The Millers hate Mandy even more when she passes the audition (which was as weird as the advert, and Mandy thinks it was a setup). If there is one thing they cannot stand, it is Mandy scoring one over Dinah, and they get more nasty than usual whenever she does. This becomes a critical plot point when Dad cottons on to what is going on here.

Ah, so there is more to the audition than an amateur play? Oh, yes. The producer, Miss Madden, promises Dinah a better life if she passes a series of tests. These tests are a test of character – testing honesty, kindness, loyalty, self-sacrifice, courage and other virtues. What have these got to do with the play? Nothing at all – it is obvious this has more to do with the reason the Millers hate Mandy. The first clue we get is when Miss Madden establishes that there is only a three month age difference between Mandy and Dinah, so how can they be sisters? Aha! So Mandy is not related to the Millers by blood, eh?

Eventually, Dad guesses Miss Madden’s motives. He does not explain what he suspects, but he wangles it for Dinah to go for the audition as well in the hope that she will grab what he thinks Miss Madden has in store for Mandy. He also makes a point of not letting Miss Madden know which girl is his real daughter – hmmm … now, that’s interesting! They also start pretending to be nice to Mandy. But of course the selfish, spoiled Dinah cannot pass the tests of virtue. When Dad finds out he is furious. He tells Dinah that she has thrown away the chance of a lifetime and given it straight to Mandy.

What does he mean? Miss Madden tells Mandy the story of the princess of Slareznia, who was smuggled out of the country when a revolution broke out. A governess brought the princess to England, but then they disappeared. Miss Madden and her agents have been trying to trace the princess and bring her back to Slareznia … yes, Mandy is a real princess! The governess left the princess with the Millers and paid for her upkeep, but evidently made a bad choice of guardians to take care of the princess. Then she vanished, leaving the Millers feeling stuck with Mandy. The whole audition setup had been to find the princess and then determine which of the Miller girls was her. Miss Madden has one last test for Mandy – be on the train to Slareznia departing from Victoria Station. She warns that it will be Mandy’s hardest test.

And she isn’t kidding. As said before, the Millers absolutely hate it when Mandy scores one over Dinah, so seeing Mandy on her throne will be the ultimate insult for them and their spoiled daughter. Moreover, they need Mandy in the shop to pay for Dinah’s stage school fees. So they lock her in the coal cellar to make her miss the train. Mandy struggles to get out through the coal chute. It looks impossible, and Mandy even knocks herself out doing so. But eventually she succeeds – something she didn’t think she could do – and makes a mad dash for the station, where she scrambles on the train just as it is departing. Mandy passes the test that seemed impossible, and Miss Madden starts courting her with royal honours. As the train travels on, it passes by the Millers’ house. They are absolutely furious that Mandy has escaped the cellar. And no doubt they will be even more furious when they find she has made it to Slareznia.

Thoughts

Cinderella is a fairy tale, and this Cinderella-based strip is far more fairy tale than Cinderella-based strips usually are. Usually, it is some talent the heroine has, or long-lost relative, or some kind person that becomes an adoptive parent that rescues the heroine from her drudgery with her cruel guardians. But this one is more the stuff that fairy tales are made of, with the heroine turning out to be a real princess, and a series of trials that the good sister passes because she is virtuous, and the bad sister does not because she is spoiled and horrid. The ‘series of trials’ element would be used in another of Jinty’s Cinderella stories, “The Valley of Shining Mist”, in 1975. In that strip it looks even more like a fairy tale because it seems there is real magic at work.

The methods Miss Madden uses to determine which girl is the princess do come across as a bit bizarre, convoluted and contrived. And it all depended on whether or not Mandy would go for the audition, and then stick with Miss Madden once she found there was no play but some weird setup with no explanation. Surely Miss Madden could have worked out something much more credible and simple to find the princess?

On the other hand, it all added to the mystery element – why the Millers hate Mandy – which is another reason readers would have kept reading. Mystery stories were always popular in girls’ comics. The hatred the Millers have for Mandy, and the mystery about the reason for it, add a further level of drama and thrills to the story. Usually the motives of the guardians have in exploiting the heroine are plain to see (cheap labour, greed, laziness, cruel personalities) and are not part of the plot development. But in this story they are, which makes the story a bit different to other Cinderella-based strips, where the story development focuses exclusively on surviving and escaping the drudgery. It also makes the Millers slightly more three-dimensional villains than most cruel guardians in a Cinderella-based strip, who do it just because they are nasty, greedy, and favour their spoiled daughter (if there is one). Eventually, it turns out that this is why the Millers treat Mandy so badly too, but there is more background and edge to it than most.