Tag Archives: class system

Granny’s Town (1973-74)

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Published: Tammy 27 October 1973 to 23 February 1974

Episodes: 18

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Pat Mills [edited to add: Mills credits the concept and direction to Gerry Finley-Day]

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Jen Young comes to the seaside town of Crone-on-Sea, also known as Granny’s Town, to help with her grandfather’s boarding house. It’s a favourite retirement place for old ladies, but so incredibly old-fashioned, with amusements, transport, accommodation and so forth that are decades out of date. Modernism seems to have bypassed it completely, and it looks like nothing ever happens there. 

However, Jen soon discovers the grannies in Granny’s Town are operating some kind of secret society/underground movement, and it’s enabling them to run the town all but in name. The movement is led by a granny known only as Her Ladyship. 

Under Her Ladyship and her granny army, the only law in town is Granny’s Law. Anyone who treats any granny rudely, crosses them in any way or interferes with them gets swiftly dealt with in mysterious ways and scared into leaving town. Innocuous granny activities such as knitting, embroidery and crochet are used as weapons to frightening effect against such people, such as sending threats or tying them up. And there are so many of them (always men) who cross the grannies. In what appears to be the first attack, which makes front page news in the local paper, a rude train conductor and businessman get tied to lamp posts with wool in a night vigilante attack, and cushions are left behind with a stitched message: “Get out of Granny’s Town”. This first attack strikes at night, but subsequent ones strike in broad daylight. Among them, an uncivil workman who won’t shut down the racket he’s making with his roadworks gets bound and and gagged and locked in a grandfather’s clock, to be near-deafened by its chiming and ordered to get out of town. A new supermarket owner threatens fierce competition against a long-standing store run by dear old Mrs Mullins; the grannies sabotage the supermarket and it soon closes down. 

There are danger signals about Granny’s Law. In one case, the grannies stake out a boorish donkey ride man on a lawn but just leave him there, with no release or keeping an eye on him. By the time Jen finds him he’s nearly dead from heatstroke. When Jen tries to investigate further, the grannies seize her, tie her to a peepshow machine, and force her head down into the machine to read a message: “Next time mind your own business, Miss Nosey Parker.” Unlike the others the grannies have forced out, that doesn’t stop Jen or drive her out. But the grannies always keep one step ahead of Jen when she tries to probe their activities.

It’s not just rudeness that brings down the wrath of the grannies. Anyone trying to modernise the old-fashioned town is also targeted. A rude developer wants to turn the movie theatre where the grannies enjoy silent movies into a bingo hall. They tie him up with film and force him to watch silents – with Charlie Chaplin as the movie projector – while tickling him to make him laugh. 

Things really heat up when the Mayor wants to enforce modernism on the town, demolish the old-style buildings, and pack off the grannies to old age homes. This brings out the granny fight military style and now they turn into a full-scale army. They send messages in code, such as using their knitting to click out out Morse, march like soldiers, organise councils of war, and rouse to Her Ladyship’s version of Winston Churchill’s famous “We shall never surrender” speech. 

Jen notices it’s not just the Mayor’s modernism the grannies are rebelling against. They’re striking against anything modern now, including football, a TV studio and cars, the last of which gets banned and the grannies take delight in the old-style horse and carriage. Things come to a head when the Mayor wants to pull down the pier and build an oil rig. The grannies’ tricks have him resigning in disgrace. After the Mayor resigns, Her Ladyship becomes Mayoress.

Now Her Ladyship is Mayoress, she swiftly becomes a cross between Queen Victoria and Hitler of the whole town. It’s unbelievably easy for her to do so. Everything just seems to turn into a police state in Granny’s Town at Her Ladyship’s command, no protest, no questions asked, no human rights issues raised. Granny’s Law shifts to making it a virtual crime to be young or modern. The grannies’ retaliation changes its focus from punishing those who are rude or abusive to grannies to those who do not support the granny rule. It begins with Her Ladyship throwing a free celebratory party and has Jen sell flags for it. Seems innocuous, but Jen discovers the party is Her Ladyship’s way of identifying anyone at the party who opposes her (by not wearing her flags) and remove them all by having them arrested – on no charge whatsoever: “It’s the orders of the new mayoress!” Jen is the only one shocked at this Gestapo-like action; the grannies just think it’s amusing and say Her Ladyship must have a very good reason for it. 

Under Her Ladyship, Granny’s Town is stripped of any remnant of modernity and reduced even further into an old-fashioned pattern that takes it right back to Victorian times. Coal and gaslights replace electricity. People are given Victorian clothes to stay warm after a power cut. Jen soon discovers the power cut is meant to be permanent. The town is mysteriously cut off from the outside world when the trains get blocked and telephone lines non-operational until after the upcoming Granny’s Day celebration. Everyone is trapped in Granny’s Town with these weird going-on. Yet nobody except Jen seems to realise something’s weird about the clock turning back to the 19th century in this town that was old-fashioned to begin with. They treat it as a joke and think what Her Ladyship is doing is just marvellous. 

Jen snoops into Her Ladyship’s house and discovers doll-sized dummies of everyone in town, with the doll of Her Ladyship rigged up as queen. She realises that is precisely how Her Ladyship intends to rule Granny’s Town. There can be no doubt it has something to do with the upcoming Granny’s Day celebration.

Jen soon discovers the dolls have another purpose – a means of terrorising people who still pose a threat to Her Ladyship. She walks into a store to get something trendy to replace her Victorian dress. The shop assistant, initially happy to help, receives the doll of himself from Her Ladyship’s house, now broken, and a note: “Greetings to you on Granny’s Day.” He screams they’re going to get him, he can’t serve Jen after all, and shuts up his shop fast. Later, Jen receives a package: it’s her own doll, now broken, and the same message. Now she really knows Her Ladyship is gunning for her. It looks like the granny retaliation, served in an underground way before, is becoming more open now the grannies are in charge. 

The elderly Misses Charity, Hope and Faith are regulars at granddad’s boarding house and have been friendly with Jen from the beginning. They are present when Jen receives the broken doll. She decides to take a chance and tell them what she’s discovered, and hope her trust is not misplaced. They give some indication they might help.

Granny’s Day is a grand celebration, with only Jen seeing the grannies lined up like an army. It is announced that Her Ladyship is going to demolish houses in certain roads as part of a new town planning scheme. Everyone, including Jen, thinks it’s just innocuous slum clearance and old houses going. Then men in terrifying oversized masks start chasing Jen. Nobody but Jen realises they are there to terrorise her; they think it’s part of the fun. 

Jen takes refuge from her pursuers in the town hall. There she finds a model of Granny’s Town, with all the dolls of the young people in town being thrown in a box and only the granny dolls on the model. Later, Jen discovers what it means and what the town planning scheme is really about: Her Ladyship has condemned all the modern buildings, just to evict the young people in them and force them to leave town, and make Crone-on-Sea the exclusive reserve of the grannies. The young people just seem to leave their homes and the town without a murmur of protest.

Misses Hope, Charity and Faith then seize Jen and say she’s coming with them. It looks like her trust in them was misplaced. She gives them the slip and disguises herself as a granny, but then it starts to rain heavily, washing off her makeup. She is discovered and taken to Her Ladyship. Her Ladyship is now on a virtual throne in the town hall. The only thing missing is the crown she wore in her model. She is now so powerful that all the grannies are under her control and doing everything she says, and she even has spies everywhere. 

She has Jen locked up to be dealt with later. While in her cell, Jen sees the rain turn into a thunderstorm. It gets so bad it weakens the sea wall, which threatens to flood the town. Misses Hope, Charity and Faith rescue Jen from her cell, saying they were secretly trying to help earlier without being detected. They realise “[Her Ladyship’s] a little silly and has to be stopped”. 

The sea wall is now cracking really badly and the water’s pouring in, but the grannies are too old and frail to do anything. There are no young people to help and no telephone to call for help, thanks to Her Ladyship. Jen starts a fire (in torrential rain!) to start a beacon that will hopefully alert the evicted people in the next town. It works, and the young and old forget their differences while they start sandbagging to stop up the wall. Jen is hit by a falling tree and knocked unconscious. 

When Jen wakes up, the town is safe and the granny rule has been dismantled. Her Ladyship fled in a hot air balloon during the storm, not to be seen again. The grannies have learned from the flooding business that they can’t live on their own and need young people. The young people are back and reconciled with the grannies. Everything is forgiven, but Jen knows she will never forget the days of Granny’s Law. 

Thoughts

In girls’ comics, one constant message has been to never underestimate a granny, whether good or evil. This message has been seen in so many stories, including Pam of Pond Hill. 

These grannies don’t just have the monopoly in Granny’s Town – they have it in the entire story itself as well. It’s always grannies in the story; grandpas never feature in Her Ladyship’s movement or on the plans for Granny’s Town. The dolls on the model are all grannies – no grandpas. In fact, the only gramps in the story is Jen’s grandfather, and even he barely appears in it. Again, it’s always a girls’ world in girls’ comics.

This story is making a particularly strong statement about ageism and Grey Power. Only it’s not doing it in a positive light, and the grannies, although they believe they are rightly striking back at abusers and threats to their old-fashioned livestyle, are not portrayed as the heroes of the story. In a humour serial, the direction the story could have taken, the granny movement would provide the readers with loads of laughs. We would all cheer the grannies on in giving these nasty types their just desserts. Instead, we all feel uneasy and creeped out about the whole thing because that’s the way Jen feels about it all. Though there is some humour to the way these nasty types are punished, it’s perverse humour and we are not laughing. There is nothing funny about being their being forced out of town by the grannies, just for one act of callousness. It’s vigilantism, and vigilantism can be very dangerous. Indeed, in several instances it does get dangerous and goes too far, such when the staked-out man nearly dies in the heat or Jen gets tied to the peepshow machine. 

Grannies are not normally people to be scared of, but you do get the creeps from these grannies and whatever they might be up to next, beginning with Her Ladyship. Her Ladyship gives Jen the chills right from the start. She never gives her name (“prefers to remain anonymous”) and never shows her face; she’s always veiled and she favours dark clothing. She’s also drawn at angles and distances that give the impression she operates at a distance and from the shadows. When she becomes Mayoress she switches from the veil to dark glasses that she never takes off, giving her a Mafia look. From the beginning to the end she never shows her face or gives her name, which makes her even more chilling. 

To make the grannies even more frightening, they remain unseen each time they strike, so we never know just who is behind the attack and it’s hard for the victim to prove anything. Panels only show groping hands reaching out to pull a trick, utensils (feather dusters, canes, hatpins, scarfs, etc) being applied to victims, the threats the grannies leave behind, and the odd clue Jen finds. Compounding the terror is that the grannies are so crafty in what they do that they always keep one step ahead and win every time. However much people really know about what’s going on, nobody does anything. After all, they are old ladies, and it’s a hard thing to rise up against old ladies. All the same, nobody has any backbone. One attack from the grannies and they run scared from town – except Jen of course. 

When the Mayor starts his campaign to modernise the town, the story goes in a vast change of direction. Up until this point it was episodic, with an unsavoury type getting a mysterious comeuppance at granny hands each week and driven out of town. Now the story structure switches to a full-scale story arc, with the grannies shifting from an underground movement to moving out more openly as an army and a political force that rises up to take over the town completely, with nobody but Jen realising. 

As the granny takeover unfolds, we wonder if Pat Mills was reading up on how Nazism came to power in Germany and why Hitler held such sway over the German people. We can definitely see the parallels. As with Hitler and Nazism, the granny movement starts off well and seems to be well intentioned; Her Ladyship does things that makes her extremely popular with her followers, just as as Hitler did with the Germans when he came to power. To her followers, Her Ladyship offers great benefits that are everything they could want and address their needs. It makes them feel like somebody, improves their lives, gives them great power, and shows everyone what Grey Power’s about. Nobody is able to touch them, and anyone who crosses them is always removed quickly, and serve them right too. As with the rise of Nazism, most people watching it all think it’s no big deal, serves good, and will benefit its subjects. At worst, the non-granny residents think it’s “a bit barmy”, but for the most part they just laugh at it. After all, these are just old biddies running the show. What harm can they do? Anyway, it’s to be expected they might be a bit dotty. As for this sudden turnback to Victorian times, aww, how quaint and nostalgic it is, the good old days are here again. Those who see the dark side of it (whether Jen or Winston Churchill) are voices crying in the wilderness. 

As with Nazi Germany, the dark side of it is how extreme it becomes and targets those who do not fit into its ideals because the person leading it all (whether Her Ladyship or Hitler) is a fanatical dictator. But nobody but an isolated few can see what a dangerous fanatic that leader is and the extremes they are capable of for their ideals, because it’s veiled as something that serves good and benefits those who follow it. Even Jen does not understand just how fanatical Her Ladyship is until she sees the models, and realises Her Ladyship is a crazy woman who is out to rule like Queen Victoria of the town and have her very own Victorian kingdom with all her granny subjects. 

The extreme led by this power-hungry fanatic is making the town exclusively granny and old-fashioned, to the exclusion of all those who are neither. Under her rule, everything in town must be how it was in the good old days, from architecture to transport. It becomes a crime to be young or modern, just as it became a crime to be non-Aryan, anti-Nazi or Jew in Nazi Germany. You don’t even have to be rude to a granny anymore to become a target of their retaliation. Simply not supporting the granny movement or not being able to do so makes you a target. Nobody but Jen seems to realise what’s going on, either because they don’t take it seriously or are blind to it. If anyone does realise it, they are likely to be too scared to speak out. Nobody puts up any fight or protest. The young people who have their perfectly sound houses condemned for no good reason just leave. There’s no picketing, demonstrations or marches on the town hall. The mod shop man just shuts up shop in terror after receiving the doll threat. The police arrest people who don’t support grannies at the party without charge or crime, because Her Ladyship ordered it. There are no human rights for anyone who isn’t a granny, but not a word is said about it. Her Ladyship has spies all over. Granny’s Town is turning into a police state right under everyone’s noses, and nobody but Jen realises. Had the storm not cut Her Ladyship’s reign short, we can just see it escalating into a reign of corruption, greed and terror for even her own subjects. Had the story been taken further, there can be little doubt Her Ladyship’s rule would have gone down this path. 

Girls’ comics have shown time and time again that when things are taken to extremes they inevitably lead to disaster and threaten self-destruction. You must learn the lessons of moderation, tolerance, and understanding that your way is not everything. This is what the grannies learn the hard way when the flood makes them realise that granny rule to the exclusion of the young is ultimately doomed to failure and destroy itself. They cannot survive on their own and need young people for things they cannot do themselves because they are too old to do it. They also need severe reminding that they were once young themselves and these young people will in turn be old people someday. Old and young must live side by side in Granny’s Town, which they do happily once Her Ladyship is gone and the emergency made them forget their differences. 

Further thoughts from Pat Mills

Pat Mills added via Twitter: “Gerry was inspired by Arsenic and Old Lace and possibly similar films. He gave me the story but because it was ‘his baby’, I did an okay job, rather than something more. Readers liked it okay, but weird mysteries were never as popular as ‘Cinderella’ stories. Great art.”

Concrete Surfer (1978)

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From Jinty 3 June 1978

From Jinty 3 JUne 1978
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From Jinty 3 June 1978
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From Jinty 3 June 1978
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Publication: 28 January 1978 – 10 June 1978

Sequel: a follow-up story was published in the 1978 Jinty Summer Special

Artist: Christine Ellingham

Writer: Pat Mills

Summary

Jean Everidge migrated with her parents to Australia, as “Ten Pound Poms“. This isn’t a success story, though, much less one set in far-away lands: Jean has returned alone to be looked after by relatives, with her parents making their way back slowly in failure. By contrast her cousin, Carol, is a winner: popular, rich, top of the class at school. And she means to keep it that way too, or so Jean suspects. There is one thing that Jean can shine at: skateboarding, or surfing the concrete waves.

Jean has got the biggest chip ever on her shoulder, and knows it: but it’s fed by the fact that every ‘up’ she encounters has a ‘down’ (though likewise every ‘down’ has an ‘up’). On arrival back in the UK she is turned off by her cousin Carol’s very fan-clubby friends, and goes off by herself to practice her skateboarding by herself. Carol’s friends see her skating and admire her trick (up), and in showing off on the slalom Jean nearly cannons into a woman who turns out to be her new form teacher  (down). The next morning she is left to sleep in while Carol heads off to school (down). Furious, she skates as quick as she can to where she thinks the school is, and gets there just about in time (up) but it turns out that there are two similarly-named schools in the same town and of course she has gone to the wrong one first (down).

On accusation by Jean, Carol swears blind she left a note by the bedside telling her how to get to the school and pleads an early-morning gym class that meant she had to leave while Jean was still sleeping. Jean is mostly unconvinced, and this sets a pattern for their next few encounters: an unexpected triumph here (Jean writes a passionate essay that the formerly-hostile teacher loves, Jean is asked to demonstrate skating for a TV commercial that she will get paid for), a dubious incident there (Carol wants to send Jean upstairs so she can talk to her parents without the outsider girl hearing). An apology or a clarification by Carol makes it seem that everything is open and above-board, but the incidents keep piling up…

Jean starts to teach the other girls how to skate well, from simple tricks to more radical ones (artist and writer had clearly done their research in this area!). A gang of boys jeer and tease, only to be shown up by Jean’s skills; as they leave, one of the boys bumps into an old lady and they all run away. This puts the nascent teaching group into danger as they are forbidden to skate in the street again; but the new shopping area nearby is also going to be home to a skatepark! And in the meantime, the school is going to start a skate-club, which would be a joy to Jean except that – it wasn’t suggested by her, but by Carol, who looks like she is ready to take over the skating that is Jean’s only way to shine. Carol has been practicing in secret and sweet-talked her favourite teacher onside; between them they are making it a very rules-bound club, with no dangerous tricks and no fun.

Jean is ready to walk out and starts to do so, but this time it is the Head of the school who comes to the rescue. She asks to try some of the very tricks that teacher Miss Bainbridge has just been telling them off for doing, and has a good go, like the game old bird she is!

The showdown comes at the new skate park. To inaugurate it there will be a contest: both Jean and Carol are of course going to take part. The gleam in Carol’s eye shows that she thinks she will win, but Jean is determined not to let that happen. Carol clearly is angling to see Jean’s freestyle routine, and Jean is too wary to let that happen, but soon afterwards Jean’s skateboard goes missing from her bag! This is where the reveal happens – Carol commiserates and says how mean it is of someone to have taken it, whereupon Jean says that there is a serial number engraved on the board so the thief will soon be found by the police. Carol stumbles and says ‘Oh there isn’t, because I che-‘. Oops! It was a trap laid by Jean, and Carol went right into it. At this confession time, Carol says smugly and cheerfully that yes, it was her: it’s her right and duty to be top girl and Jean wouldn’t like it anyway because it’s hard work being at the top! And anyway she never really liked Jean anyway.

Open war is declared between them, which suits Jean fine. The smug Carol even gives Jean her board back when she thinks Jean has no chance of winning, but this spurs her on even further and of course she pips her cousin to the final post. Carol’s reaction? To fake an asthma attack – and to subtly blame Jean for her ill-health! Poor Jean is an outcast at school; her and her just-returned parents are pushed away by Carol’s parents and made to fend for themselves. Not that they do badly in fact: Jean is part of the skate park skating team, her dad gets a job in the associated repair shop, and her mum gets a job in the café. All is well, except that Carol is still feigning illness and blaming Jean for it. Jean goes over to see if Carol really is ill after all, and their frank chat (no, of course she’s not ill, she’s going to milk it for a bit longer yet) is overheard by Carol’s mum and dad. Following this revelation, aunt and uncle apologise handsomely (if patronisingly) to Jean, and the world carries on with a smile on Jean’s face.

Further thoughts

I really like the light touch in the writing of the relationship between Jean and Carol. It takes a long time before we are sure whether Carol is smarmy or sincere, scheming or innocent, and Jean herself is not sure for a long time. It’s only now that I realise that we never hear Carol complimenting Jean on her skateboarding in the open way that her friends do; this is a nicely subtle way to show that Carol is not actually best pleased at this interloper cousin of hers! Carol and Jean are the flipside of each other – we never see Carol’s thoughts, only her words, while Jean is often outwardly silent but thinking loud rebellious thoughts that we see as readers. Jean’s words often belie her thoughts: the same is true of Carol, even if we don’t know it for sure for a long time.

I say ‘light touch’: the class distinction element of the story is more heavy-handed. Jean’s unspoken reaction to Carol’s humblebragging about Daddy’s new S registration car, her lovely bedroom, and her position as top girl of the class is pure Pat Mills: ‘You make me sick, Carol!’. I can just imagine him chortling as he wrote that line and others. I like the story for it – for instance, having Jean realise she needs to smile for the TV camera even though she is in pain, because otherwise she doesn’t get paid, is a strong moment.

I don’t know who the artist is, but I would love to know his or her name. This is the same artist who drew “Race For A Fortune” and “Dance Into Darkness“, though to my mind this surpasses either. There are exciting and imaginatively-drawn skateboarding tricks in pretty much every episode, apart from perhaps not the final one which is focused on the emotional reveal (though even then there is a shot of Jean skating). The artist really goes to town in terms of the page composition – see the last two pages featured above as an example, but most episodes include this sort of ‘wow’ factor.

It suits the fact that this is definitely treated as the lead story in Jinty at the time – it is featured on the cover more often than not, and is run as the first story in the issue almost every time. (One exception that bumps it off first place is the starting episode of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.) Exceptionally, there is also a story featuring the same characters in that year’s Summer Special: it is clearly a story specifically written for the special issue, of a sub-story that takes place during the feud. (I assume this too was written by Pat Mills, but would love to have confirmation.) [Edited to add: he thinks he didn’t write it.] I don’t recall this happening with other Jinty tales and take it as further supporting the special status of this story.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that this fits squarely in the category of ‘sports story’, but done in that Jinty way: like “White Water” or “Spirit of the Lake” it deals with an unusual sport outside of the usual school teams such as netball, hockey, swimming. This is a very egalitarian, literally ‘street’ sport though, and about as far as you can get from the snobbish heights of horse-riding!

Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (1976-1977)

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Daisy Drudge 1

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Daisy Drudge 2

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Daisy Drudge 3

Publication: 4 September 1976-1 January 1977
Artist: Ken Houghton
Writer: Unknown

Summary
In Victorian times, spoilt and selfish Lady Daisy De Vere is heading out to London to meet a school party for a finishing school in Switzerland. Daisy dismisses her nanny and then (unwisely, as it turns out) sets off to enjoy the sights of London on her own while waiting for her party. But you can only expect to get into trouble if you wander about in a strange city on your own, and this is precisely what happens – big style. Daisy asks Maud, a skivvy from Park Square Mansion, to deliver her letter of explanation to the school party. She has no money (all foreign for her journey abroad), so she gives Maud her cloak as payment. This leads to a case of mistaken identity that gets Maud sent to the finishing school in Daisy’s place. Nobody listens to Maud’s protests and her Cockney accent and ignorance of manners are all taken for typical upper class eccentricity. Eventually Maud decides to just go along with it and enjoy it. The trouble is, Maud finds the high life not what it is cracked up to be, with the strictures, mannerisms and high standards expected, and Maud’s common ways cause problems with the upper class pupils. Eventually she befriends Mary, a girl who is snubbed because her family has fallen on hard times. Mary cannot understand why the supposedly selfish Daisy is taking pity on her, but is grateful.

Meanwhile, Daisy has gotten lost, messed up, and tries unsuccessfully to get help from a flower girl who does not believe her. Eventually, she ends up being mistaken for the skivvy at Park Square Mansion. So instead of the finishing school, Daisy finds herself learning about life downstairs the hard way. Her fellow servants do not believe her story and her posh mannerisms do not endear her to them either. They end up turning against her. So it is loneliness and isolation on top of hard work (which she does not know how to do and is thrown in at the deep end) without proper rest or decent food, beatings from the tyrannical cook, and uncomfortable travelling conditions for the servants when the household goes away. Other cruelties include  being chained to a stove while cleaning it, forced to do ironing with a broken bone in her hand, and bullying such being drenched in water from the pump. Daisy is desperate to escape, but doors and windows are locked each night, and Daisy is locked into her attic room as well. Daisy’s attempts to prove her identity to people who know her as Lady Daisy de Vere also fail.

Then, a climbing boy tells Daisy that she can escape by climbing the chimney. He gives her a map of the chimneys to guide her and advises her of the risks. This is a dangerous, life-threatening escape, but it succeeds. However, Daisy has a brush with a criminal who tries to get the map. He fails and she gets away to find help, tearing up the map as she does so. This time she is more successful in getting help from the flower girl, whose name is Betsey. But Betsey falls ill and is taken to the poor hospital – and few come out of it alive.

At the finishing school, Maud’s high life comes to an end when she falls foul of a blackmailer. The blackmailer points out that Daisy could be in trouble and if so, Maud would certainly get the blame for it. Maud realises that he could be right about Daisy. She pretends to give in to the blackmail but in fact calls his bluff by writing to Daisy’s family to explain the situation. Eventually Maud comes back to London to find Daisy, but her queries get her arrested for being a nuisance. In prison she overhears the aforementioned criminal talk about his failed bid to get the map from Daisy. She is quickly released and follows up the lead, which eventually leads her to Daisy. Maud has learned that Mr De Vere is also searching for Daisy, and Daisy knows where to find him. Everything is sorted out happily, right down to Mr De Vere giving Daisy, Maud, Betsey (now recovered) and Mary a house where they set up a partnership for helping poor people.

Thoughts
Maidservant serials were always popular in girls’ comics. Wee Slavey (Judy) and Molly Mills (Tammy) are two long-standing examples of how popular servant stories could be. Serials where rich girls (or middle class girls) become servants were also very common in girls’ comics. They may switch places with a servant (willingly, accidentally or be tricked), or get a job as a servant as a cover for a secret mission such as finding a lost will eg “The Secret Servant” (Bunty), or become servants after falling on hard times. Sometimes switching with servants, as in this case, comes as a punishment that humbles and reforms a spoilt girl. Other times the rich girl is a kind person who entered it not knowing what she has let herself in for e.g. “Sarah Below Stairs” (Judy) or was tricked into it e.g. “The Imposter!” (Bunty). Whatever the circumstances, the rich girl learns the hard way about how the other half lives below stairs, the abuse they suffer because they are considered lowly, and the abuses the servants can inflict on each other because of the servant system itself. They emerge as crusaders for the downtrodden.

Daisy seems to have a harder time than most rich girls who get a taste of the servant life. Usually, no matter how hard they are oppressed, they at least had some friends. But not Daisy – she suffered isolation and loneliness in addition to the abuse because her fellow servants ostracised her and she did not have a single friend among them. In addition, Daisy risked her very life with a terrifying, dangerous escape through the chimney. Girls’ serials set in Victorian times seldom missed the opportunity to comment on the horrors of the climbing boys. But here a hitherto high-born Victorian girl, who would never have lowered herself in such a manner before, gets a taste of the horror first hand.

But Daisy ends up expressing that she is glad that it happened, because it opened her eyes to how selfish and arrogant she had been before, and has become more caring about people less fortunate and vowing to deal with some of the awful things she saw as a servant. Daisy’s new-found altruism emerges during her time as a servant; for example, she gives the climbing boy her uneaten breakfast once she hears that his life is even worse than hers. She also learns to be grateful for small mercies, such as appreciating a black cat brooch gift when she had been used to valuable jewels back home, or appreciating the shelter Betsey gives her when she would have turned up her nose at such lowly dwellings before.

When a serial deals with a low class Victorian girl who is suddenly elevated to the high life, she often finds that it is not all grand and fun because of the strict decorum and lady-like expectations that come with it. This is what Maud finds and she tells the blackmailer that she is glad to give it up because it has been so strenuous for that reason. But what is so impressive about Maud’s experience at the finishing school is that it brings out strength in character for Maud as well, in a reverse manner from Daisy. While adversity brings out the good in Daisy, luxury tests the goodness in Maud, and she comes through with flying colours. She never let the luxury, which could have gone to her head, corrupt her. For example, she refuses to use Daisy’s money because she considers it stealing. She too stands up for the oppressed, such as standing up for Mary by throwing water over girls who are bullying her. And she also tries to help less fortunate people, such as caring for an injured ragged boy while the other girls comment on common people carrying dreadful diseases. And in the end, the experience elevates Maud, a low-class girl, into position in society where she can continue to work to improve the lot of poor people.

So what is really intriguing about this story is the use of opposites. The opposites in the characters and backgrounds of Daisy and Maud; the opposites in the two girls going to each other’s end of the spectrum; the opposites in the experiences they endured; and the opposites in how the experiences brought out the strengths in the girls’ characters. And the opposite experiences ended with them working together to campaign for people less fortunate in Victorian society.

Note: Ken Houghton was a sporadic artist in Jinty until Tansy of Jubilee Street came over from Penny. Afterwards, Houghton was a regular artist until Peter Wilkes replaced him on Tansy. Interestingly, all three of Houghton’s Jinty serials addressed historical periods: “Bridey Below the Breadline” (Stuart period), “Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud” (Victorian period, and it also replaced Bridey), and “House of the Past” (time travel to the 1930s).

Land of No Tears (1977-78)

Sample images

Land of No Tears episode 7 pg 1
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Land of No Tears episode 7 pg 2
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Land No Tears ep 7 - 3

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Publication: 5 November 1977 – 11 February 1978; reprinted 3 January 1981 – 11 April 1981 as a result of Pam’s Poll.

Artist: Guy Peeters

Writer: Pat Mills

Summary

Cassy Shaw was born with one leg shorter than the other and a consequent bad limp, but she doesn’t feel sorry for herself; what’s more, she is quite happy to play on the sympathies of those who do. Her parents have different ideas: they arrange for her to have an operation that will correct her disability. In the operation, something very unusual happens: Cassy is whirled away through time into the future, a cruel future in which girls who are less than utterly perfect are treated as second-class citizens. She is greeted (with something very different from the sympathy she is used to) by Alpha girl Perfecta, who takes her to the nearest communal home or hive, run by a ‘hive mother’, who takes in children from the age of four and turns them into emotionless, physically perfect “superior girls”.

Cassy quickly revolts against this harsh treatment, where the Gamma girls are dressed in shabby clothes, treated like skivvies, and given literal scraps from the Alpha girls’ tables while the latter hone their mental and physical perfection and live in luxurious surroundings. She urges the Gamma girls to train at sports in order to beat the Alphas and win the Golden Girl award, proving that ‘rejects’ like them can’t safely be despised and humiliated. At first the Gamma girls are understandably sceptical, but Cassy finds allies first in her fellow Gamma, Miranda, who would have been an Alpha if her robo-nurse hadn’t left her too near a radiator which caused her to have a bald patch; and subsequently in Miranda’s mysterious mother, who wears heavy make-up and is clearly hiding a secret, but who is a fantastic trainer. Cassy herself has always been good at swimming and finds that the hive pool has a pace-setter – film of Perfecta swimming. “Racing against Perfecta is just what I need to spur me on. I’ll do anything to beat that stuck-up snob!”

Things initially look sticky in the first round of the Golden Girl trials, but Cassy wins her swimming heat, causing Perfecta to sweat as she realises “She’s better than me! She’s better than me! Those wretched Gamma girls could get through to the final… Could even win the Golden Girl award. I feel sick!” Not so fast – an announcement comes over the tannoy saying that Cassy has been disqualified – there are no records for her, and so the authorities think she must be competing under an assumed name. A reprieve happens when the computer fails to match her up with anyone else – as indeed how could it, as Cassy’s voiceprint and fingerprints never got recorded in this future time. However, this has brought suspicion on the hive generally and further investigations are promised.

Miranda’s mother appears in time to watch her gymnastics performance, which starts off lacklustre but is spurred on by her mother’s presence. This gives the Golden Girls another win, but the mother is furious – with Cassy. “Thanks to you, the Hive Inspector is coming down to investigate. He’ll ask questions about everyone. He’s certain to find out I’ve been meeting my daughter in secret. And then they’ll take her away from me, for ever!” (Yes, that was her secret – or at least, part of it…) Because of this, Miranda feels she can’t be friends with Cassy any longer; and Perfecta, desperate to train as hard as possible, breaks off with her best friend too, setting things up for a head-to-head between the perfect girl and the 20th century “reject’.

It’s a head-to-head that seems doomed to failure for Cassy, not because she is slower than Perfecta, but because Perfecta is about to spill the beans to the visiting Hive Inspector about having seen Miranda’s mother where she wasn’t supposed to be. “When I tell him, he’ll have Miranda and her mother put into a special prison… and serve them right, too!” Cassy can prevent this – but only by promising to lose to Perfecta in the Golden Girl finals. Miranda’s mother comes, sobbing and grateful, to thank Cassy for this sacrifice; the heavy make-up comes off with her tears and reveals … Miss Norm, the Hive Mother! That’s how she has managed to appear and disappear so unexpectedly at times.

Miss Norm tells the story of how the robo-nurse was left to look after Miranda when she was a baby, because Miss Norm wanted to enjoy herself without the responsibilities of motherhood; but as the nurse’s heat sensors were faulty she put the cot too close to the radiator and Miranda’s head got scorched. “If it hadn’t been for the accident, Miranda would have been an Alpha girl. She was perfect…” – Miss Norm doesn’t regret the cruel system of Alphas and Gammas, she just regrets the accident that placed her daughter on the wrong side of the divide. “I had to make things up by protecting her now… When the time came for her to be taken away to the Hive, I changed my name and got the job of Hive Mother.”

Cassy is out of the running because of her promise, but she hasn’t told any of the other Gamma girls, who do well in the final heats. Perfecta draws inexorably ahead as Cassy lets her win, but suddenly Perfecta screams in pain – she has done something to her spine by pushing herself faster and further! She is out of the race, and Cassy speeds up to try to make up for lost time. Even the crowd are on her side, now, despite the Hive Inspector urging them to “Remember your conditioning… “Feelings – bad! Bad! Self-control… Good! Good!” In a final surge, Cassy pips the other racers and ensures that the Gamma girls win the award – to the cheers of the crowd, who push the protesting Hive Inspector out of the way and into the pool.

In the aftermath, Miranda and Cassy are chatting about the changes that have happened since their win: “it seems people were pretty fed-up with things. When a bunch of “reject” girls won a top sports award, they realised they’d had enough of being bullied.”  But Cassy is still stuck in this future world – until their walk takes them near to the ruins of the hospital, the place where Cassy first emerged and met Perfecta. She falls down a crumbly part of the ruined site and… wakes up in her own time, with the leg operation having been successful. Was it just a dream? No, because she is still clutching her Golden Girl medallion. “Then everything did happen… the Hive, the Gamma girls, Miss Norm, Miranda! I’ll always have this to remember them by… and the time I spent in the land of no tears.”

Themes and further comment

I keep on comparing Jinty stories with other media items: Children of Edenford with The Stepford Wives, Almost Human with Superman. Not without reason – this revisioning of  stories from elsewhere was an acknowledged policy of girls’ comics, as Pat Mills explained to me back in 2005. Well, this story is nothing so much as Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s sf classic, done schoolgirl-style. The future is cold, regimented, divested of family feeling, inhuman; the people in it are divided into superior types and inferior “rejects” (even the Alpha and Gamma terminology is taken from Brave New World).

However, the main point of the story is picked up in the word “elitism” that Mills mentions in that interview. Like “Children of Edenford”, the newcomer is faced with a group that creates and values a certain set of élite qualities, though the specific qualities are different in this story, focusing as they do more on physical perfection. Protagonist Cassy is fired up by the injustice of this; her response to this society is not just selfishly wanting the sympathetic response she was used to in her previous world, but to tear down the whole evil structure – a true class warrior response. (In fact, although her normal world is much more comfortable for her, it also did her few favours by not making her challenge herself in the way that she is clearly capable of, not that she would necessarily have seen it that way.) Cassy’s journey from selfish manipulator to crusader is quick: in the first episode she is shown cannily and coldly getting her own way, but as early as the second episode she is already thinking of the wider picture (she comforts one of the crying four-year-old new Hive entrants by giving her a doll).

Again as with “Edenford” and other stories of this kind, some of the interest is in the sheer outrageousness of how far the writer is prepared to ladle it on. The future girls are called ‘Perfecta’ and ‘Divina’; they take showers in icy-cold water; the girls wear big As or Gs on their clothes to denote their status. This verve moves the story on quickly, still including touches of realism, such as the bitchy relations between the lower-class Gamma girls, who have no-one but each other to pick at. If you are picky, there are indeed plot holes to poke at. How did we get from our current soft-hearted society to the future hard-nosed one? Does the setup apply across the world, and if so what will happen given the collapse of the hive society at the end of the story? (And if it wasn’t world-wide then what happened in terms of collaboration between different types of society?) And most of all, how can it be that positive human emotions such as the love shown between Miranda and her mother is at all sustainable, even in hiding, in this repressive set-up? These are however side-issues that don’t occur as you avidly read through this exciting story.

Unlike almost all other Jinty stories, in this case we know both the artist and the writer. Pat Mills is well-known for writing science fiction and anti-establishment stories, so it comes as little surprise to assign his name to this story. Artist Guy Peeters has a distinctive style that makes it easy to link his uncredited art to the stories he did later on when credits were published. I would say that this is one of Peeters’ best works, with varied layouts, expressive features on the characters, and a solid depiction of the uncaring future society. It is little surprise to me that this story was shortlisted in Pam’s Poll for readers to vote on a reprint of, nor that it should have emerged a winner.

Desert Island Daisy (1974)

Sample images

Desert Island Daisy 1Desert Island Daisy 2

Publication: 11/5/1974-6/7/1974
Artist: Robert MacGillivray
Writer: Unknown

Here we go with another of Jinty’s first stories. It was the most short-lived of the lineup, yet it made its way into the early Jinty annuals. Perhaps the annuals used unpublished episodes from the strip. It was drawn by popular artist Robert MacGillivray but was the only Jinty strip illustrated by this artist.

In Victorian times Sir Richard Carstairs, his wife, and their spoilt daughters Agnes and Letitia are on a voyage to visit their relatives in Australia. In their cabin, their maidservant Daisy Bates has to clean up the mess the girls have left behind, which shows how spoilt and selfish they are, but it’s the servant’s job (sigh). Then a storm wrecks the ship and the Carstairs escape in a lifeboat, with Daisy doing all the rowing until her hands are sore.

They end up on a desert island and become castaways. But even on a desert island the Carstairs uphold class distinction. This means Daisy does all the work while the Carstairs indulge themselves as high class Victorians. Daisy’s only friend is a lizard called Cuthbert. But the Carstairs’ indulgence also leads to the hijinks that give Daisy the last laugh every week. For example, Daisy makes grass skirts for the girls and applies mud pack. Then they get angry and start chasing her. As a result, Sir Richard thinks Daisy is being attacked by cannibals and thwacks his own daughters by mistake. Daisy takes advantage to finally get the shade and rest she has been desperate for in this episode. In another, Daisy finds a secret hoard of turtle eggs, which the girls mistake for buried treasure. When they go for them, they meet the angry mother who keeps them trapped the sea for hours Daisy seizes the opportunity to eat the eggs herself. In the last episode, the family accuses Daisy of getting lazy and sends her off to wash the clothes. Cuthbert dresses himself up in Lady Carstairs’ cap and petticoat. The girls laugh uproariously when they see this. But their mother is not amused and thwacks them. Daisy starts laughing at how funny life on a desert island can be, and not so bad after all.

Desert Island Daisy is a castaway story played strictly for laughs, and MacGillivray’s style is perfect for the slapstick humour. The laughs centre on jibes at the Victorian class system and getting one up for downtrodden maidservants every time the family’s arrogance towards Daisy, or their follies and self-indulgences backfire on them, and give her the last laugh. There are no laughs centred on goofed-up bids to escape a lá Gilligan’s Island. Indeed, there is nothing at all about attempts to escape, and the strip ends with their not being rescued at all.

This early Jinty strip did not last long and was the first to be axed from the first lineup. Why? Was it not popular enough, or did the editor decide to nix it in favour of another strip? Whatever the reason, after Daisy ended, the castaway theme disappeared completely from Jinty until 1980, where it was revived with the more serious “Girl the World Forgot”.