Tag Archives: circus

The Fairground of Fear [1976]

Sample Images

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Publication: Tammy 14 February 1976 to 24 April 1976

Episodes: 11
Reprints/translations: Tammy annual 1983; Tina #24 as De wraak van een clown [The Wrath of the Clown]
Artist: Diane Gabbot
Writer: Unknown

Plot

Julie Whitland was adopted as a baby by Sir Edgar Whitland, landowner of Baychurch. But her home life is miserable because Sir Edgar is a dreadful snob who keeps himself aloof from the villagers (who call him the snob on the hill) and expects Julie to do the same. She feels a virtual prisoner in her own home where she is never allowed any freedom or mix with people that Sir Edgar considers too lowly for Whitlands. Whenever she tries, Sir Edgar always drags her off, so she does a lot of going behind his back. He is always telling her that she is a Whitland and must live up to her name by keeping aloof from common people. Also, Julie has always wondered who her natural parents were. But whenever she asks questions, she is always told to leave well alone.

Fraser’s Fairground arrives in Baychurch. It looks a golden opportunity for Julie to have some fun. The clown puts on a special display for her. A brief encounter with the fairgound owner’s daughter Carla looks like another chance for friendship. But as usual, Sir Edgar pulls Julie away. In addition to the usual admonishings about being expected to be a Whitland, Sir Edgar shows her a picture of his late daughter. He tells Julie that he adopted her when his own daughter, and a baby she had, both died. When Julie asks what happened to her husband, Sir Edgar snaps that he is dead and forgotten. Hmm, did Julie hit a nerve there?

That night Julie sneaks off to the fair. But this time it looks sinister. She goes into the House of Memories (“The past will come alive before your very eyes”) and the woman from the photo appears to her in a huge crystal ball. The woman warns Julie to leave well alone, and that the fairground is evil. Then the clown comes up from behind. But this time he looks evil and frightening – and he seems to hypnotise Julie. Julie blacks out, and when she recovers she has no memory of what happened.

The fairground is soon in full swing and the whole village seems to have gone crazy about it – even the adults. Julie sneaks off to enjoy it as well. But the fairground is soon showing a sinister side; for example some people on the ghost train seem to go crazy and start attacking each other and the clown seems to be enjoying it. Carla explains that the ride does not use props but technical gadgets that produce holographic ghosts. A malfunction must have caused the people to see each other as ghosts and monsters. Then the machine malfunctions again, causing Julie to have an accident. Sir Edgar is furious and is determined to shut the fairground down. He sends a magistrate to do the job. But the clown imprisons the magistrate in a weird holographic trap in the Hall of Mirrors. Sir Edgar is annoyed when the magistrate is reported missing, because this means he cannot close down the fairground.

Julie recovers enough from the accident to sneak off to the House of Memories for more clues about her past. There she remembers what happened before. The House of Memories tells her that the only people who know the truth are Sir Edgar, Dr Pearson the village doctor, and Miss Edna Grey, his former nurse. Then it gives her a message: “You must find the fairground’s secret to find yourself.” On the way back, Julie overhears Mr Fraser and the clown talking and it sounds like the clown has a hold over Mr Fraser. The clown says they have a busy day, “a grey day” tomorrow. She races back home, against the tigers the clown has ordered to be set loose as watchdogs.

Next day, Miss Grey is arrested for pickpocketing at the fair. After speaking with Miss Grey’s sister, Julie realises what the clown meant by a “grey day” – he used a hypnotist performance to hypnotise Miss Grey into stealing. When she tries to tell Carla what her father is helping the clown to do, Carla gets angry and throws Julie out. The clown takes advantage by luring Julie back into the fairground with a holographic image of Carla, and hypnotises her once more. While in a trance, she leads Sir Edgar to the unconscious magistrate and there is a note: “Don’t try to get rid of me again, Sir Edgar. We’ve a score to settle. There’s just you and the doctor left.” The signature is a clown’s head.

This note prompts a lengthy discussion between Sir Edgar and the doctor, but Julie cannot hear what they are saying. Afterwards the doctor tells Julie that Sir Edgar is a hard man who means to destroy the fairground. He gives her a key to his house and says that if anything happens to him she must retrieve a file from his desk and give it to the newspapers.

Sir Edgar tries a petition against the fairground; the clown responds by hypnotising the villagers into attacking his home, and Sir Edgar has extra security installed. The doctor is summoned to the fairground because Carla has fallen sick. When the doctor tries to leave, the clown strikes with more holograms and then terrors in the Crazy House. He causes the doctor to have an accident. Following the doctor’s instructions, Julie heads to his house to retrieve the file.

The file reveals that fourteen years earlier the doctor had sent the clown (whose name is now revealed as Alan Barker) to prison on a false charge. Sir Edgar arrives and tells Julie that the doctor was acting on his instructions. Barker was the man who married Sir Edgar’s daughter. The trouble was, the snobby Sir Edgar considered Barker too low for a fit son-in-law: “I couldn’t stand to have that nobody part of the great Whitland family.” So he set out to destroy the marriage by framing Barker, and now Barker has returned for revenge. Sir Edgar then burns the file to prevent Barker’s name being cleared – for if it is, the great name of Whitland will be destroyed and Sir Edgar is not having that. But an image of the clown appears in the flames. Julie realises that Barker knows what Sir Edgar just did and now things are going to get a whole lot worse.

Knowing the clown is planning something against the village, Julie bravely confronts him. For the first time, she catches him without his makeup, and is surprised to find that without it he does not frighten her. She tries to plead with him but fails. The clown says that Sir Edgar can stop it by clearing his name, but Julie knows Sir Edgar will never do that. On the way out she speaks with Carla and learns that the clown is the virtual owner of the fairground; Mr Fraser got into debt and the clown bought out his bills. The clown can take over the fairground at any time and Mr Fraser is powerless against him.

Next day, Miss Grey appears in court for pickpocketing, and Sir Edgar and Julie attend the trial. Julie now realises that Miss Grey knew about the clown’s frameup and this was his revenge on her. The charge is unexpectedly thrown out when the clown strikes again with one of his machines that causes the working age men to act like children. The judge and barristers start playing leap frog, bus drivers play football, the local police play cops and robbers, engineers play cowboys and Indians, and Sir Edgar’s cook reads comics. Of course, the men all end up on the rides at the fairground. The romping men have cut the outside phone wires, and when Sir Edgar drives out to seek help he is blocked by a force field. The clown has cut Baychurch off from the outside world.

The village is in chaos and cut off. Nonetheless, Sir Edgar is unmoved. “That clown can’t beat a Whitland!” And he still refuses to clear the clown’s name, because it would mean destroying the name of Whitland. He heads out the fairground to tell the clown that “nothing he can do to this village will make me give in!” Julie now realises that Sir Edgar is an utterly selfish, ruthless man, and there is nothing or nobody that he will not destroy in the name of Whitland.

Then the doctor arrives and tells Julie that she is the only one who can stop the clown. He explains that she is the baby from the ill-fated marriage and the clown is her true father. It had only been the mother who died. She was leaving home with her baby after a quarrel with Sir Edgar over Barker, only to be killed by a falling tree. Sir Edgar faked the baby’s death to prevent Barker from claiming her. Julie heads out to the fairground to tell the clown.

There she finds Sir Edgar confronting Barker, and telling him that nothing he will do will make him confess. Barker makes one last desperate attempt to make Whitland confess. He starts the merry-go-round at high speed while Julie is standing on it. He shouts to Whitland that the merry-go-round will go faster and faster, putting Julie in ever more danger, until Sir Edgar confesses. But Sir Edgar just says, “I can’t destroy the name of Whitland. I’ve nothing to say!” He stalks off, without lifting a finger to save Julie or waiting to see what happens to her. Barker, finding the machine has jammed, risks his life to save Julie.

Upon learning that Julie is the daughter he thought was dead, Barker becomes a changed man. He stops his revenge, uses his machines to make the villagers forget what happened (though how that is going to explain away all the damage he caused is not discussed), and returns the fairground to Mr Fraser. Julie decides to leave Sir Edgar forever – his conduct at the merry go round showed her just how much he really cares for her. She is going with her father and the fairground and start a new life with them, and refuses the chance to go back to Sir Edgar as they pass by his house when they depart. Barker promises Julie that he will now use his scientific expertise to help people.

Thoughts

Like Jinty, Tammy did not use the circus theme much in her serials. “The Fairground of Fear” is one of the exceptions, though it is more fairground than circus. It can also be regarded as one of Tammy’s best stories and worthy of reprint in a Tammy volume.

“The Fairground of Fear” has the distinction of being the first serial Diane Gabbot drew for Tammy. From then on Gabbot became a regular Tammy artist, ending her run with “Rosie at the Royalty” in 1981. Her other Tammy stories included “Circus of the Damned”, “Selena Sitting Pretty”, “The Black and White World of Shirley Grey” and “Donna Ducks Out”.

“Creepy” was what one Doctor Who companion once said about clowns, and eventually he agrees with her that clowns can be creepy. So do we after the first episode of this story. After initially conveying the impression he is harmless and amusing, the clown is quick to demonstrate that clowns can be creepy and scares the living daylights out of the girl who was so thrilled with him the first time they met. It’s not so much his incredible powers but that makeup of his that makes him so frightening.

Fairground and circus stories also have a long history of demonstrating that they can be as sinister and frightening as much as they are entertaining, and this one is no exception. Even before the fairground demonstrates its strange powers, seeing it in the dead of night makes it so scary. From then on the story is filled with thrills, chills and drama that are delivered at a cracking pace. Everything that is supposed to entertain people in the fairground is instead used to scare, hypnotise, imprison or manipulate them, even from a distance. Sometimes it is in perversely amusing ways, such as when the courtroom staff play leap-frog. Other times it is frightening, such as inciting a mob to attack Sir Edgar’s home. The only beneficial element in the fairground is The House of Memories.

There are also plenty of mystery elements to keep readers engaged. Girls just love mystery, and in this case there are not one but three mysteries here: the mystery of the fairground, the mystery of Julie’s parents, and the mystery of how and why they are linked. Although everyone tells Julie to leave the mystery of her parents well alone, we know the fairground won’t allow that once the House of Memories tells Julie she must unlock its secret to find out who she really is. Julie’s true identity is going to come out, and readers are riveted to find out where it will lead and how it will help with the mystery of the fairground.

The story also has plot twists that take us by surprise as much as shock us. One is where the relationship between Julie and Sir Edgar ends up at the story’s conclusion. When we first see it, Sir Edgar appears to be just an overly strict, over-protective parent who does have his daughter’s interests at heart – in his snobbish way – but is totally misguided, blinded by snobbery, and does not understand how he is stifling his daughter’s freedom and growth. However, we expect the fairground will somehow help him to come around by the end of the story, he will be less snobby, and Julie will be on far happier terms with him. It’s been seen so many times in overprotective problem parent serials such as “The Four-Footed Friends”. However, in this case that does not happen at all. Sir Edgar is not the well meaning but misguided parent he seems to be. Little by little he reveals his true colours (snob, unpopular, arrogant, hard-hearted) until he is finally exposed as the monster he really is. He, not the clown, is the true villain of the story. He would rather his own granddaughter die than dishonour the name of Whitland, and does not lift a finger to save Julie. He is totally beyond redemption and will never change, no matter what. Julie has no hope of getting anywhere with him. In fact, she must get away from him altogether or he could destroy her the same way he destroyed her parents.

The story takes the unconventional step of ending on a bittersweet note. Barker does get his daughter back and can start a new life with her. He also changes into a much nicer man who is not so consumed with hate and revenge that he is capable of terrorism, blackmail, and even physically hurting people. But unlike other wrongly convicted people in girls’ stories, he does not get his name cleared because Sir Edgar just won’t budge on that, no matter what. At least Julie and the fairground people know the truth and the skeleton is out of the closet. But if there is any exoneration for Barker, it will have to wait until after Sir Edgar dies, and the doctor and Miss Grey will be free to tell the truth.

For all the powers the clown has unleashed through the fairground, none of them really bring about comeuppance for Sir Edgar. Sir Edgar returns home to uphold the name of Whitland, the only thing he really cares about. And it’s all he has now. He has no heirs and unless that changes fast, the name of Whitland will die with him, and good riddance to it. Clearly, nobody will miss “the snob on the hill” when he dies.

Perhaps comeuppance will come in another form. After all, being the man he is, Sir Edgar must have made a lot of enemies and likely to have destroyed others. It would not be surprising if his life ends with him being murdered in his bed or something similar.

 

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Olympia Jones (1976-1977)

Sample Images

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Publication: Tammy 2 October 1976 to 1 January 1977

Episodes: 14

Reprint / translations: Tammy & Misty 25 April 1981 to 25 July 1981; Een paard voor Olympia [A Horse for Olympia], Tina Topstrip #31

Artist: Eduardo Feito

Writer: Anne Digby

Here we take some time out from Jinty to discuss one of Tammy’s classic and best-remembered stories, Olympia Jones. 

Plot

Olympia Jones is the daughter of an equestrian Olympic gold medallist, Captain Rupert Jones. She has been reared to follow in his footsteps and win an Olympic gold too; hence her name. Jones was reduced to animal trainer at Rott’s Circus after a riding accident disabled him and ended his show-jumping career. Jones makes such a profit for the circus because of his fame that Rott is anxious to keep him pleased. For this reason he tells his spoiled daughter Linda that he cannot exclude Olympia from her circus horse act, much to Linda’s chagrin. Linda is jealous of Olympia always being the crowd favourite in the act; this is because she has far better rapport with the horses (and animals) than Linda does.

But things change when Olympia is orphaned in a crash. Rott wastes no time in removing Olympia from Linda’s act and reducing her to animal trainer. All the same, it is Olympia’s training of the horses that makes Linda’s act so sensational and elevates Linda to star status, not any real talent on Linda’s part. A far more crippling blow for Olympia is that she is no longer able to compete in gymkhanas, so her Olympic dream seems to be over.

Then Rott buys a new horse for Linda’s act. His name is Prince and he needs special care and attention because he has been cruelly treated. Animal-loving Olympia is only too happy to provide it. Unfortunately Prince gets off to a bad start with Linda because she looks like his cruel owner, so from then on she regards him as “a bad tempered brute” and does not give him a chance. When Prince doesn’t perform for Linda the way he does for Olympia she starts beating him. And when he shows her up in front of the crowds on opening night she is so furious she gives him an extremely ferocious beating. This leaves him extremely subdued and miserable when he performs on the second night.

In the audience is Horace Phipps, an inspector from the League of Love for Animals (LOLA) who is paying a routine visit. Phipps notices how miserable Prince is, and immediately suspects what is happening. Before long he has photographed the evidence of Linda’s cruelty and confronts Rott over it. Rott covers up for Linda and saves himself from prosecution by putting the blame on Olympia, dismissing her without references, and ordering her to leave the circus.

Olympia realises Rott made a scapegoat of her to get out of trouble with LOLA, but she can do nothing to prove her innocence. However, she is not going to leave Prince with Linda Rott, so she does a midnight flit with him, leaving her antique gypsy caravan home in exchange. This exchange satisfies the Rotts (for the time being) and they think they are well rid of her and Prince. But what Rott did will come back to bite, because there is one thing he overlooked when he sacked Olympia…

Next morning Olympia secures a job as a pony trek leader at Summerlees Adventure Centre by impressing the staff so much when she saves a rider after his horse bolts. Olympia and Prince are much happier at Summerlees than they were at the circus. But Olympia strikes problems with a difficult pupil, Amanda Fry, who makes liberal use of a crop on her pony. (Ironically, Amanda’s father turns out to be the LOLA President.) Naturally, Olympia clamps down very hard on this and does her best to educate Amanda in handling her pony better. It doesn’t really sink in until Amanda’s use of the crop makes her pony bolt and she almost gets killed. After this, Amanda reforms. While galloping to Amanda’s rescue Olympia discovers Prince is a born show-jumper and has what it takes to become a champion. All of a sudden, her Olympic hopes are rising again.

With the help of the senior trek leader, Miss Carson (Carsie) Olympia begins to train Prince as a show jumper and they are soon winning some very classy events. This draws the attention of the Olympic Team Selection Committee. They ask Olympia to enter a list of qualifying events to get into the British team. Unfortunately Olympia has to enter them without Carsie’s help because Carsie suddenly has to go and nurse her ailing mother in Malta. When Summerlees closes for winter Olympia gets a farming job with one Farmer Bry, who agrees to provide transport to her events.

Olympia makes such progress that she is now making big news, which unfortunately catches the attention of the Rotts. Their circus is now suffering because Linda’s formerly sensational horse act and the animal training have deteriorated without Olympia – the thing Rott had overlooked when he sacked her. They realise Prince is now worth a fortune as an Olympic prospect and hatch a plan to make it all theirs, with LOLA doing all the dirty work for them.

So Rott goes to Phipps with his old (but not officially invalidated) ownership papers of Prince and a concocted story that Olympia stole Prince in revenge for her dismissal. He wants LOLA to get Prince back for him because he is afraid of the ‘cruel methods’ Olympia must be using to turn Prince into a champion, but does not want the police involved. Phipps promises Rott that he will intercept Olympia at her next event and get Prince back off her.

But Olympia and Prince slip through Phipps’ fingers and go on the run, which forces Phipps and the Rotts to call the police. Olympia has one last event to win to secure her place in the Olympic team. She manages it by disguising Prince, but finds the police waiting for her afterwards. She is arrested and Prince is returned to the circus (after a terrible struggle).

When the news breaks, it causes a national sensation. Amanda cannot believe it when she hears about the cruelty allegations against Olympia. Still owing Olympia for saving her life, Amanda mounts a secret vigil on Rott’s Circus, armed with a camera. So when Phipps presents his evidence of Olympia’s ‘cruelty’ at the trial, the defence counters with Amanda’s photographs of Linda Rott ill treating Prince in that manner. Linda flies into such a tantrum at being caught out that she has to be restrained by policemen, and her guilt is exposed to the court. The reactions of LOLA and the fate of the Rotts are not recorded, but of course the jury acquits Olympia – and after an extremely short deliberation, lasting barely twenty minutes.

Three days later Olympia is reunited with Prince and now has official proof of ownership. The same month (and one panel later) Olympia wins her Olympic gold. When she returns to Britain, Carsie is waiting for her. Carsie’s mother had passed over but left a house in Malta that she invites Olympia and Prince to share.

Thoughts

When Olympia Jones was first published there could be no doubt it was inspired by the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Montreal was extremely topical in Tammy’s 1976 year, probably because Bella was making a bid for it in her 1976 story. Olympia certainly had more luck at the Olympics than Bella, who had to settle for participating in the opening ceremony after being denied the chance to compete. Olympia Jones does not specifically refer to Montreal or any other particular Olympic Games, so it does not become dated as the 1976 Bella story would.

In terms of plotting Olympia is far superior to the 1976 Bella story, which turned into a rather silly plot line of Bella getting lost on the Continent while striving to reach the Games she can’t even compete in – and all without her passport! In contrast, Olympia has a strong, tightly plotted and well-paced storyline (except for the final episode, which feels a bit crammed), and strong characters whose ambitions, faults and personalities drive the plot in an exciting, dramatic manner.

Olympia was so popular that she was brought back by popular demand in 1981. Olympia also makes some humorous cameo appearances in Wee Sue’s special story commemorating Tammy’s 10th birthday issue, which is further proof of what a classic she had become.

The story has so much to make it so popular. First, it is a horse story, and horse stories are always a huge draw for readers. While not a Cinderella story as such, fairy tale elements are evident. Although there is no family relationship between Olympia and Linda, the relationship they share reads like the formula of “The Two Stepsisters” (one good, exploited stepsister, one bad, spoilt stepsister). The wicked stepmother (replaced by Mr Rott) ill-treats the good stepdaughter (Olympia) and spoils her bad daughter (Linda). But as in the fairy tale, it is the spoilt ways of the bad stepdaughter that are her undoing and that of her over-indulgent parent. The good stepdaughter is rewarded with gold (the medal?) and a royal.

The contrast between Olympia and Linda, particularly in their attitudes to animals, is what really sets up the foundation for the story to follow. Much of Linda’s bad character is rooted in her upbringing. Her mother is absent and her father has spoiled her. And he is definitely not a savoury role model for his daughter. He is forced to tolerate Olympia in Linda’s act while Mr Jones is present, but has no compunction in dropping her once Mr Jones is dead, just to indulge his daughter. Although cruelty has not erupted in his circus before and he does not seem to mistreat his animals, he does not reprimand Linda for her cruelty to Prince. His anger towards her is over nearly getting him into trouble with LOLA. And he is virtually the cackling, twirling-moustached villain as he drives to LOLA to put their conspiracy against Olympia into operation.

And there is the jealousy Linda has always harboured towards Olympia. The jealousy does not abate even after Olympia was removed from Linda’s act, and it must have been inflamed when Linda heard Olympia was becoming famous as an Olympic prospect while her circus act had deteriorated. Linda’s jealousy was what motivated her to hatch the conspiracy against Olympia. It must have also been a huge factor in why Linda hated Prince so much, as he was Olympia’s favourite horse, and why Linda did not listen to Olympia’s advice on how to handle him. If she had, things would have gone better between her and Prince. Compounding Linda’s jealousy is her arrogance; all she cares about is being a star and she just has to show off in the ring. As a result, Olympia and Prince put her nose so badly out of joint that they could never work well together.

Third is Olympia’s struggle to fulfil her father’s dream after fate seems to dash her hopes and reduce her to exploitation at the circus. Although her hopes rise again at Summerlees she still has to face difficulties, such as finding a job when Summerlees closes for the winter and ends up slogging under Farmer Bry. Although he does not exploit her he is a bit on the hard side and gets ideas about turning her into a money-spinner for him.

When the injustice angle is introduced it further adds to the development and interest of the story, because it has left plot threads that readers know will be taken up later. They would carry on reading to see how these threads get tied up. The way in which they do so creates the true drama of the story. Instead of some clichéd contrivance of Olympia being suddenly cleared at the end, the injustice thread is developed into the Rotts’ conspiracy against Olympia. The unfolding conspiracy, arrest and upcoming trial are even more riveting than Olympia battle against the odds to win the Olympic gold. The odds look even more stacked up against Olympia here because she has no case at all to prove in court. Everything weighs in favour of the Rotts and it all seems hopeless to Olympia. But readers might have got a clue as to what will save Olympia if they saw the sign outside Phipps’ office, which says Lord Fry is the president of LOLA…

Comparison between Linda and Amanda also adds interest to the story. Both girls are guilty of horse beating because they are spoiled and harbour unhealthy attitudes towards the treatment of animals. In Amanda’s case it is quite surprising as her father is the president of LOLA. Is he aware of how she treats her pony? However, unlike Linda, Amanda listens to Olympia. It is helpful that in this case Olympia is in a position of authority and there is no bad blood with Amanda, as there was with Linda. All the same, it takes the shock of the near-accident caused by her own cruelty to really turn Amanda around. Amanda ultimately redeems herself by bringing down the other horse-beater in the story, for whom there is no redemption. You have to love the irony.

One quibble is that so much is packed into the final episode that several things get short shrift. We don’t see LOLA’s reaction to the new evidence or what happens to the Rotts in the end. We can only assume the scandal destroyed their already-ailing circus, they faced criminal charges, and Rott would never forgive his spoilt daughter. Only one panel is devoted to winning the medal that Olympia had been striving for throughout her story. It would have been better pacing to spread the resolution over two episodes, or even just add an extra page in the final episode. But perhaps the editor would not have allowed it. Another quibble is that the courtroom dress in the trial scene is not drawn correctly; some more research could have been done there.

The artwork of Eduardo Feito also lends the popularity of Olympia Jones. Feito was brilliant at drawing horse stories, which made him a very popular choice in Tammy for illustrating them. The proportion of horse stories drawn by Feito in Tammy is very high, even higher than other regular artists in Tammy. Feito’s Tammy horse stories include “Halves in a Horse”, “Rona Rides Again”, “Those Jumps Ahead of Jaki”, “Odds on Patsy”, and “A Horse Called September”, the last of which reunites the Digby/Feito team. It would be very interesting to know if any of these other horse stories also used the same team. It would not be surprising.

Sandie: 12 February 1972 – 20 October 1973

Following the interview of John Wagner which ran on this blog a few days ago, I thought I would dig out my few issues of Sandie (only four, acquired somewhat at random). Because I have so few issues, and none of them are significant ones such as the first or last ones published, it didn’t seem worth reviewing them individually. Here therefore is something of an overview of this short-lived title – limited in scope by having so few originals to draw on directly, but I have tried to also bring together other relevant comments on this site and elsewhere, to give a wider context.

Let’s start with the contents of the four issues I do have:Cover Sandie 17 March 1973

Sandie 17 March 1973: Angela Angel-Face (artist Rodrigo Comos), Connie Courageous (unknown artist ‘Merry’), The Captives of Terror Island (artist Juan Escandell Torres, writer Terence Magee), Supergirl Sally (artist A. E. Allen), Isla and the Ice Maiden, Anna and the Circus, Brenda’s Brownies (artist and writer Mike Brown), Dawn at Dead-End Street (artist Bill Baker), Pop portrait: Paul Newman, Lindy and the last Lilliputians, The Nine Lives of Nat the Cat (artist José Casanovas), Quiz Kid Queenie (artist Luis Bermejo)

 

Sandie cover 28 July 1973

Sandie 28 July 1973: Slaves of the Eye (artist Joan Boix), Cinderella Superstar (artist ?Joan Boix), Wyn and the Witch (artist A. E. Allen), Connie Courageous (unknown artist ‘Merry’) – last episode, Sink or Swim, Sara! (artist Eduardo Feito), The Captives of Terror Island (artist Juan Escandell Torres, writer Terence Magee) – last episode, Dancing to Danger (artist Tom Kerr), Bridie at the Fair (artist Leslie Otway), All Against Alice, Sisters in Sorrow (artist Roy Newby)

Sandie cover 11 August 1973

Sandie 11 August 1973: The House of Toys (artist Douglas Perry), Noelle’s Ark (unknown artist ‘Merry’) – first episode, Wyn and the Witch (artist A. E. Allen), The Golden Shark (artist Santiago Hernandez), Cherry in Chains (artist Joan Boix), Slaves of the Eye (artist Joan Boix), Dancing to Danger, Bridie at the Fair (artist Leslie Otway), All Against Alice , Cinderella Superstar (artist ?Joan Boix)

 

Sandie cover 29 September 1973Sandie 29 September 1973: Angela Angel-Face (artist Rodrigo Comos), The House of Toys (artist Douglas Perry), Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie (artist Robert MacGillivray, writer John Wagner), Noelle’s Ark (unknown artist ‘Merry’), Cherry in Chains (artist Joan Boix), The Golden Shark (artist Santiago Hernandez), Dancing to Danger – last episode, Bridie at the Fair (artist Leslie Otway), Sister to a Star, Cinderella Superstar (artist ?Joan Boix)

 

 

There’s lots of good stuff in these issues, though I did find the covers rather old-fashioned, with mostly very blocky designs. Some of the inside content is rather old-fashioned too, and/or show possible signs of being reprinted from elsewhere. “The Golden Shark” is hand-lettered, and “Dancing to Danger” and “Bridie At The Fair” are lettered using a different font or technique to the other strips. The latter two are also only two pages long per episode, and have a painted aspect to the title element – I take these to have been reprinted from much earlier titles where there may have been an option to use more sophisticated colour printing.

Some of my interest in this title is in how it might have influenced, or been influenced by, work that is more directly related to Jinty. For instance, “Isla and the Ice Maiden” has an orphaned girl learning how to ice skate as she is taught by a mysterious woman: both the basic plot set-up and the visual design of the mystery woman is quite reminiscent of the Jinty story “Spirit of the Lake”. Likewise, “Lindy and the Last Lilliputians” has some wee travellers from Lilliput travel to stay with Lindy, a descendant of Lemuel Gulliver – who they claim must look after them. It sounds like the story has quite a lot of differences from Jinty‘s “A Girl Called Gulliver”, but there are certainly some big overlaps too.

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In terms of the artists included, there is a fair amount of overlap with the slightly later titles I am more familiar with – with representation from José Casanovas, Rodrigo Comos, Douglas Perry, Santiago Hernandez, and the unknown artist who drew “Merry at Misery House” and so many other stories. Obviously there are many artists unknown to me, also: the very striking Joan Boix, who drew “The Slaves of the Eye”, is very well represented inside these pages. There are a couple of stories where it’s hard to decide if the art is by Joan Boix’s, or by Cándido Ruiz Pueyo’s. These are “Cinderella Superstar” and “All Against Alice”. I would be inclined to think these both contained Boix’s art if not for the fact that this would imply that there might be as many as four stories by the same artist in one issue! I suppose this is not impossible but still. On balance, I think that “Cinderella Superstar” is likely to be Boix’s work (though it is not signed in any of the issues I have, unlike “Cherry in Chains” and “Slaves of the Eye”). “All Against Alice” is not close enough for me to assign to Boix – it looks more like Pueyo’s work, though again not really definitively enough for me to say so for sure.

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On the post with the interview with John Wagner, I asked for people’s impressions of the title compared to others from that era. Mistyfan commented to say that “Sandie had more regulars than Tammy, particularly “Wee Sue”. She also had a lot of circus themed stories such as “Sister to a Star”, “Cherry in Chains” and “Slave of the Trapeze”. Far more than either Tammy or Jinty. She followed the in vein of Tammy in having Cinderella and slave stories.” I haven’t got enough issues to have much representation of regular strips – there’s the start of “Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie”; “Nat the Cat” was so long-running as to perhaps count; and I do have two separate Angela Angel-Face stories in this short sample.

The circus theme is absolutely inescapable even in just these few issues, though! “Anna and the Circus” is in the March issue above, and the August and September issues include “Cherry in Chains” and “Sister to a Star”. There are very few circus-themed stories in Jinty, and not many in Tammy either, so this feels like a real unique selling point for this title. Of course there are also plenty of cinderella stories, ballet stories, and the like – a lot of what’s in the pages wouldn’t look out of place in Jinty or Tammy (and indeed some was reprinted in annuals and summer specials).

Mistyfan also previously posted on this site about the launch of Sandie and about issue 7 of the title – representing the earlier issues of the title. But after the title came to an end it still continued to make something of an impact as stories had a life after death. Quite a few of the stories were translated into the Dutch market: for instance “Sandra Must Dance”,  “The Return of Rena”, “Lorna’s Lonely Days”, “Anna’s Forbidden Friend”, and “Peggy in the Middle”. Of course “Wee Sue” and “Jeannie and her Uncle Meanie” had an ongoing life in the pages of other comics titles thereafter, as did others (more briefly). “Angela Angel-Face” was reprinted in Jinty but generally reckoned to be a very weak offering in that title, and “School of No Escape” was reprinted in the Misty 1980 annual.

So Sandie feels a little old-fashioned to me, and a little quirky with its love of circus stories (quite why so many of them were used, I’m not sure – they make for a good story backdrop but aren’t quite as flexible a story theme as the sports or SF themes that Jinty readers liked, or of course the spooky tales of Misty). It has quite a bit of overlap of stories or of artists with the titles I am more familiar with, and some cracking content – I’d like to read more of the exciting “Noelle’s Ark” which I give below (and which again has some overlap with a classic Jinty story – “Fran of the Floods”). At this point it feels to me a bit like a fore-runner of the more fully-developed, stronger Jinty/Tammy/Misty stable – but at the same time, I know readers who have only found this title recently and have become real converts. I will seek out more…

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Jinty 1 March 1980

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Cover artist: Carlos Freixas

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Spirit of the Lake (artist Phil Townsend)
  • The Perfect Princess (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Alley Cat
  • The Haunted Circus – Gypsy Rose story (artist Carlos Freixas)
  • Toni on Trial (artist Terry Aspin)
  • White Water (artist Jim Baikie)
  • When Statues Walk… (artist Phil Gascoine)

I bring you the cover of Jinty 1 March 1980 because it is one of my favourite Jinty covers. Gothic horror, in the form of the bat, vampire and skeleton (from The Ghost House in the circus story), was something seldom seen on a Jinty cover. But it does appear here, which makes it all the more striking.

The Gypsy Rose story featured on the cover is, I suspect, a reprint of a Strange Story because of the paste-ups of Gypsy Rose at the opening and close of the story. A circus is plagued by a series of strange events – the work of a joker, or a the ghost of Marvello, who had sworn revenge on them if they ever returned to the place where he had been killed? In the end, the hitherto sceptical circus owner does not know what to think, but gives the order to move on anyway.

In “Pam of Pond Hill”, Marty Michaels finally receives treatment for hurting her back and not telling anyone about it because she had sustained the injury while using the school trampoline without permission. But she unwittingly causes further trouble by deflecting the blame onto her sister Trina, which causes her to run off.  A stern lesson about honesty in facing the consequences for your mistakes. This is the final episode of the current Pam story, and a new one will begin next week. We are warned that it will feature mutiny because of school dinners.

“The Perfect Princess”, a story often regarded as one of Jinty‘s worst, concludes in this issue. We are promised that two new stories will begin next week. They are “Tearaway Trisha” and “The Venetian Looking Glass”. Incidentally, the latter is drawn by Phil Gascoine, who is still drawing “When Statues Walk” for Jinty. So Gascoine is drawing two stories simultaneously in Jinty – again. However, “When Statues Walk” has climaxed, with the evil Hel escaping her prison by switching bodies with Laura Ashbourne. So Gascoine does not have much further to go with it.

Meanwhile, Toni’s trials intensify in “Toni on Trial”, the relationship between Bridie and her mother takes a downturn in “White Water”, and the mystery of the “Spirit of the Lake” deepens as Karen ponders on who her mysterious coach is.

And what’s the exciting news the cover was talking about? In addition to two new stories, the next issue will feature “Wildflower Wonderland”, the start of a pullout on wildflowers. What they are, where to find them, their folklore, pressing them, poutpourri – and more!

 

 

A Dream For Yvonne (1974)

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Yvonne 1

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Yvonne 2

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Yvonne 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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