Tag Archives: Dance into Darkness

Christine Ellingham – Interview

With many thanks to Christine Ellingham for sending through such detailed and interesting answers to the interview questions below – and of course also thanks to her for getting in contact in the first place!

Question 1 – Can you please give a bit of background context to your time in comics – when did you start doing work for picture strips / comics titles, and what got you into them in the first place? You say that your time as a strip artist was short – what led you to cut it short, if there was anything specific?

As with a lot of the jobs I have done over the years, I arrived at IPC, then Fleetway Publications, purely by accident and good luck.

I had been a staff layout artist plus fashion illustrator on a girls’ teenage magazine called, Go Girl! (This is where I first met Malcolm Shaw.) Go Girl! was part of City Magazines, the magazine division of The News of the World. This was in 1968.

Unfortunately, Go Girl! folded after a very short life and it was suggested that I approach Leonard Matthews, the then Director of Juvenile Publications, not sure of his correct title, at Fleetway. I did, and was offered a job there. In those days it was relatively easy to move around from one job to another.

Initially, I was placed in a department with several other people, not a specific title, where we did odd jobs for different papers, i.e. illustration, lettering, pasteup and, in the case of Alf Saporito, cartoons. I remember John Fernley being one of us, possibly Tony Hunt, though I’m not sure.

After a short period I was moved to the Nursery group, under the managing editor, Stuart Pride, and there I worked on a new publication called Bobo Bunny. This had come from Holland and needed adjusting size wise and certain content adaptation making it suitable for the UK market.

By now John Sanders was the overall editor of the juveniles. I have a feeling I wasn’t the first to be offered the position of art editor of a new girls’ paper called Tammy but I accepted it nevertheless and moved from juvenile to teenage. John Purdie was the editor and Gerry Finley-Day and Iain MacDonald made up the editorial team.

Under John, we gathered writers and artists and the aim was to compete with D.C. Thomson’s Bunty and maybe other titles of that type. I remember John and I made a trip to Rome to talk to the Giorgetti stable of artists and we were wined and dined by Giorgio Giorgetti and his American wife. We also attracted all the relevant artist’s agents, Danny Kelleher and his son Pat of Temple Arts, Linden Artists and Bardon Art for example, and collected together a group of strip artists, writers and balloon letterers.

Eventually, Tammy was launched and did very well. I was able to contribute a small amount of artwork, the back cover of the first edition is mine, but really my job was to get it all together, see the agents and in one case, the artists themselves (I remember Roy Newby used to deliver his own work) but usually the agents would deliver the artwork.

I have to admit, I was not entirely happy in the role of art editor. I had studied illustration at Hornsey College of Art and that was what I wanted to do. I left Fleetway 1971/72. Barry Coker and Keith Davis of Bardon Art represented mainly Spanish strip artists. I thought that maybe I could ‘have a go’ at doing this as a freelance and doing it from Spain. Barry and Keith took me on and my then partner and I moved to Spain. Just like that! This was 1972. Amazing really.

Christine Ellingham, 1973/74
Christine Ellingham, 1973/74

First of all my work was for D.C. Thomson; they waited for a whole series to be complete before publishing so as I was a novice and slow, this suited me. Fleetway needed an episode completed in a week, too much for me then. I am hazy about the titles, there may have been something called, “Warning Wind Bells” and another with an Egyptian theme with a character or a cat called Nofret, or these could have been later for IPC. I have a few old diaries of that time and one story I worked on I have only the initials of the title, S.O.S. I wonder what that stood for! 1972. There was “Topsy of the Pops”, “Vet on the Hill” and “Lindy Under the Lake”, all for Thomson’s circa 1973. (This is the date that I drew them, not necessarily of publication.)

As agents, Barry and Keith were superb. They made sure I was never without work, one story followed immediately after another, that I was paid promptly and they gave me such good advice regarding page layout, technique and story interpretation.

While I was still working on Tammy I started to have problems with my right hand (I am right handed), it not functioning properly. This continued to get worse when we were in Spain and instead of speeding up and refining my style the opposite was happening, my work deteriorated. Bardon Art kept me going but eventually we had to return to England in 1974, where I continued to struggle depressingly.

During the Spanish time I illustrated at least two Annual covers, Tammy 1972, including the front endpapers depicting National Costumes and Sandie Annual 1973, plus various spot illustrations. I still have these annuals. Or I could have done these before Spain.

After inconclusive tests that found nothing terribly wrong with my hand or me generally, the GP at the time suggested I learn to use my left hand. After thinking initially, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I realised this was my only option. I remember one ten-part story for Thomson’s started with me using my right hand and gradually with training, ended using my left hand. I can’t remember which story that was.

From then on things got better. I speeded up and developed my style. Bardon got me the first IPC job.  I’m not one hundred percent sure but it could have been, Cove of Secrets or Secret Cove, something like that, for the Jinty Annual possibly 1974. Also The Whittington’s Cat Princess, DCT, around the same time. To this day, I draw, paint and write using my left hand.

“Concrete Surfer” came later. That particular story stands out for me because it was such fun to do. It was all action with hardly any background, it was very modern and I love doing figure work. I remember we bought a skate board so that I could see what it looked like from all angles, a helmet too, still got them!

I cannot remember how many strip stories I worked on after “Concrete Surfer” but at some point I felt the need to move on, that I wasn’t being stretched any more. Bardon Art were no longer able to represent me, as strip was their speciality, and sadly, we parted company. I started contributing illustrations to Oh Boy, Loving and other IPC papers for older teens.

After a few years I moved on again and, as an illustrator, contributed to national newspapers, women’s magazines, house magazines, mail order publications, coin design, greetings cards and so on.

The work was still there after my retirement but the need to move on again got the better of me and now I paint, back in Spain.


Question 2 – On the blog we are always very keen to try to establish any creator credits for artists and writers, as these are otherwise very likely to get lost in the mists of time. As far as we can tell from the art style, it looks like you drew three stories for Jinty (“Race for a Fortune” (1977-78), “Concrete Surfer” (1978), and “Dance Into Darkness” (1978) plus some covers and spot illustrations, as well as a story in the Lindy Summer Special (1975) and in the Jinty Annual 1978. It may be asking too much at this distance in time, but what other work do you recall doing and in which publications?

I would have to look at these stories that you mention to verify that I actually drew them! As I have said, Concrete Surfer stands out because for me it was a joy to do. The others, some I have managed to see on line and they do look vaguely familiar. At the time I used my partner as a model. I found men more difficult to draw than women and girls and I have noticed him in certain frames even though I tried hard to make them not look like him! When I see him I know that I did that one!

Cover 19780708
Jinty 8 July 1978: cover shows “Dance Into Darkness”

Question 3 – At the time it was very usual for artists and writers to work quite separately from each other, particularly freelance creators. Was this the case with you, or did you know others working in the same area? I ask partly in case there are any interesting stories or anecdotes that you can relate at this distance in time, but also in case you remember any names of people on the creative or publishing side that can feed in to our information of who did what.

Yes, this was the case for me. Artists do lead a solitary life and being freelance meant I would be at my desk not wanting to be interrupted. The deadlines, especially for IPC, were pretty tight. In my case the work would be delivered to Bardon Art and they would take it to the publication in the case of Fleetway, a few minutes walk away. Though in Spain I posted it directly to DCT. Nevertheless, Barry and Keith were very much involved and would add their comments sometimes.

While we were in Spain the work was rolled into a tube and posted. The tubes had to be open at both ends, some string threaded through and tied and a description of the contents had to be stuck to the outside, or left with an official at the post office.

I did meet one artist in Spain, Miguel Quesada. It was he who told me how to send artwork to England. He and some of his very large family, (a lot of mouths to feed), visited us unexpectedly. He was one of Bardon’s and a contributor to Tammy. I never met any of the other artists apart from Roy Newby, but that was before I was a contributor myself.

I did meet John Jackson when he was the art editor of Jinty and of course, Mavis Miller.

Question 4 – I am keen to understand more about the creative and publishing processes of the time. Presumably the writer supplied a script, and the editor chose the artist, but I don’t know how everything interacted. Did you get any guidance (say as part of the written script) or conversely any interference from the editor or art editor, or was the published page pretty much under your design control including the composition of the page?

Yes, the editor would choose the artist, art editors didn’t have much say in the matter, (Though this is just from my experience of working on Tammy.) And I think the editorial team would have suggested an idea for a story to the writer, again, this is how it happened on Tammy.

The artists were given a lot of guidance. Before even starting, we would be briefed on the content and theme of the story, to get to know the main characters. In the case of IPC the scripts would come one at a time, having only just been written, probably. The artist would receive a document containing the dialogue for each balloon and the positioning of the balloons had to be in that same order in the frame, also, there would be instructions on the action and mood in the frame, i.e. the heroine to look sad, the bad girl to look vindictive; a closeup and so on. The composition of each frame would be influenced by the order and size of the balloons and the overall design of the page would have had input from the editor. Quite a lot to work out, now I come to think of it! [An example of a script has been previously sent in by Pat Davidson, wife of Jinty story writer Alan Davidson: see link here.]

I always had to submit pencil roughs that would be shown to the editor for his/her comments. In Spain there were many visits to the post office, pencils going off to Stan Stamper in Dundee, coming back with comments, a finished, inked episode flying off, the two passing each other on the way. Also, we artists had to work ‘half up’ so there was a lot of ground to cover. [‘Half up’ means using a larger piece of art paper – half as much again as the finished size, so that for instance if the finished publication is 10 inches by 12 inches, half up would be 15 inches by 18 inches – with the artwork being photographically reduced in size during the production process.]


Question 5 – A slightly self-indulgent question but with a point to it – how did you come across the Jinty blog? Was it a case of happening to suddenly remember something you worked on years ago and searching for it, or being sent to it? (I ask because I would love to hear from other creators from the time, and if there is anything I can do to increase the chances of someone posting a comment saying that they wrote or drew a story from the time, I will certainly consider it.)

I’m trying to think. How did I find it? I get carried away on the internet sometimes. I think  I was looking up an old friend of my now husband’s, the two of them used to work together on Eagle, Swift, Robin and Girl papers, as balloon letterers and layout artists. I started looking at Girl artwork as I do have a couple of Girl Annuals, No.3 and No.5. I noticed that the writers and artists all got a credit; one name I recognised was the artist Dudley Pout, I wonder if he contributed to any of the Jinty stories? Though he was probably of another generation.

The friend of my husband had died but in reading his obituary I found links to other sites and by then I was interested to see if any of my work was featured anywhere, the only title I could think of was, “Concrete Surfer”!

First episode of the 1978 story “Concrete Surfer”

Jinty 15 July 1978


  • Dance into Darkness (unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thorton-Jones)
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Knight and Day
  • The Zodiac Prince – final episode (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • The Lowdown on Showaddywaddy – feature
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Sand in Your Shoes? – Feature
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)

“Dance into Darkness” featured on a lot of Jinty covers and this week’s one is no exception. This week Della can’t stop dancing when she hears disco music, and it’s kept her out so late that her parents have called the police.

“The Zodiac Prince” ends his run this week. He’s down to his last astral gift, and this time he really must choose wisely in terms of recipient and the type of gift. Well, he can’t think of anyone more deserving than Shrimp, and we certainly agree. Talk about a parting gift! Next week sees the return of Phil Gascoine, whose artwork has been uncharacteristically missing from Jinty for weeks, as he starts on “The Changeling”.

Dorrie and Max are on the run as they make their way to the home in Scotland that they believe will give them happiness. This week they sneak a lift aboard a lorry to get out of London.

Pat does some running away too – away from her mother’s abusive household and back to the foster family who looked after her properly. However, Mum sends the police to get her back. Will they do so or will they listen to Pat’s side of things?

The kids at Berkeley Comprehensive are softening towards Clancy and she begins to make friends with them. But grandfather tells Clancy she must replace the bicycle Sandra sold to get the tandem, which means job-hunting for the girl who’s already got so much on her plate with trying to walk again.

Cathy’s father agrees to run some medical tests on Denis to see if there is a medical cause for his slowness. Finally, someone is listening to Cathy’s insistence that Denis is not as daft as everyone assumes. Meanwhile, the old trouble with Diane’s horse resurfaces as he goes out of control at the races.

The Swan well and truly shows just how evil she has become in the name of revenge against Katrina’s mother. She tricks Katrina into going into a rusty old tub that she will drown in once the tide rises. But it’s not just to protect herself from the police – the murder she is plotting is more revenge against Katrina’s mother, and she wants to play it out as slowly as possible to savour every minute of it. Katrina does not wake up to the danger she is in until the tide does rise…but is it too late?

Sue tells Henrietta that standing on her head is good therapy and sets Henrietta upside-down to prove her point. Naturally, that’s an open invitation for Henrietta mischief.

Jinty 1 July 1978


  • Dance into Darkness (unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thorton-Jones)
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Andy Gibb Talks to You – Feature
  • Knight and Day
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Not to be Sniffed At! Ways with Hankies – Feature


Whatever is happening to Della gets weirder, and she is surprised to find some of it is positive. She can see much better in the dark, and night itself seems much more comfortable. Oddly, cats are following her around at night.

Sue takes Henrietta on a London trip. But Henrietta doesn’t quite understand that the name Piccadilly Circus does not mean a three-ring circus. Or that waxworks are not meant to be that lifelike. Or that changing the guard does not mean changing his nappies! Oh, dear…

Dorrie and Max have been put in separate homes, but at least Dorrie can visit Max and they are still looking for the end of the rainbow. Max is taking that bit about the end of the rainbow a bit literally, though.

Janet is finding out the pitfalls of the paper round she is now lumbered with instead of Pat. Then the sneaky girl steals the swimsuit that was meant to be a present for Pat from her foster parents.

The Zodiac Prince has got real trouble this time – his chain has snapped and he’s lost his medallion! The Prince and Shrimp find a little girl has it, and they have to get it back quick.

“The Slave of the Swan” is really disturbed to find that new girl Rita Hayes is watching her and asking probing questions about her. And someone is definitely messing around with that Swan costume, which is supposed to be hidden away in Miss Kachinsky’s secret room. Katrina finds somebody wearing the costume and trying to recreate “The Swan” ballet.

In “Cathy’s Casebook” Diane, who was supposed to have a limp, is suddenly running. She had been faking because her father is pushing her into riding in the races, but she’s too frightened of her horse to do so. And then Denis runs away from home. Cathy hits on a way to tackle both problems at once.

Clancy enrols herself at Berkeley Comprehensive, the school her grandfather looks down upon (with some justification, as it is riddled with vandalism). The kids there don’t think much of grandfather either. They say he’s a skinflint and a snob who never does anything for anybody. So when they find out he is Clancy’s grandfather, they look set to give her a bad time.


Jinty 8 July 1978

Jinty 8 July 1978

Stories in this issue:

  • Dance into Darkness (artist Christine Ellingham unknown artist Concrete Surfer)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Knight and Day
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)

The cover image isn’t taken from an image inside this week’s episode of “Dance Into Darkness” – I am not sure without checking whether it is actually from next week’s episode, though I think it must be. It makes a fine spooky, gothic cover, and I love the little black cats winding their way around Della’s ankles.

Della Benson is starting to find out where her mysterious dancing skills have come from – along with her love of the dark and of the creatures of the night, such as the cats. What secret does the strange lady and her daughter hold?

Dorrie and Max run away from the grim chidren’s homes they have been placed in – they have found out that there is a place called “Rainbow’s End”, in Scotland, and they think it must be a sign that they will find their happiness there. It’s a rainy start, but they feel sure they can manage the long trek north.

“Knight and Day” is one of the grimmest, most realistic stories ever printed in Jinty. Pat Day was fostered to a loving couple but when her mother tried to get her back then she had to go – even though it all turned out to be a scam. Her mother and stepfather are abusive and uncaring, and Pat’s new stepsister is a bully and a thief.

“The Zodiac Prince” is a rare strip featuring a male lead character – though you could argue that his friend and sidekick Shrimp is the real lead, in some ways. It’s a light-hearted romp but it is coming to an end – this is the penultimate episode and Shrimp is nearly due to find out who the Prince really is and where he comes from.

In “Clancy on Trial”, Clancy has enrolled herself in the local comprehensive school, to force her grandfather to see that she can live as independent a life as possible without relying on him and his money. The schoolkids are not that friendly though.

“Slave of the Swan” is a pretty nasty slave story – Katrina Vale has lost her memory and is being very badly treated by Miss Kachinsky, who hated Katrina’s mother with great passion. Katrina is now in great danger as Miss Kachinsky tries to cover her tracks!

“Cathy’s Casebook” has doctor’s daughter Cathy cure Diana of her nerves when riding a particular horse she’d started to get afraid of. Next on Cathy’s list is wild runaway Denis. Will she find out what ails him, too?

Following my recent post on “The Mighty One”, where Steve MacManus mentioned the fact that editors of the time often thought in terms of stories filling a certain number of panels / frames / pictures, I thought I would count up the number of panels in a sample issue of Misty and one of Jinty, for comparison. (If I can also do the same for a typical issue of 2000AD from the time then I will, but right now it’s hard for me to dig out my old copies of other titles.)

Of the stories in this issue, this is how the panel count breaks down:

  • Dance Into Darkness – pg 1 8 panels, pg 2 8 panels, pg 3 9 panels (25 panels)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – pg 1 8 panels, pg 2 9 panels (17 panels)
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow – pg 1 7 panels, pg 2 10 panels, pg 3 7 panels (24 panels)
  • Alley Cat – pg 1 12 panels (12 panels)
  • Knight and Day – pg 1 8 panels, pg 2 9 panels, pg 3 8 panels (25 panels)
  • The Zodiac Prince – pg 1 8 panels, pg 2 9 panels, pg 3 9 panels (26 panels)
  • Clancy on Trial – pg 1 6 panels, pg 2 10 panels, pg 3 10 panels (26 panels)
  • Slave of the Swan – pg 1 7 panels, pg 2 9 panels, pg 3 9 panels (25 panels)
  • Cathy’s Casebook – pg 1 6 panels, pg 2 9 panels, pg 3 9 panels (24 panels)
  • = 24 pages of comics, 9 stories. Minimum number of panels = 6, max = 10 on a serial or 12 on a gag strip

I know this is not a huge sample to use, but I have compared to the issue of Misty with the same cover date of 8 July 1978

  • The Four Faces of Eve… – pg 1 3 panels, pg 2 6 panels, pg 3 7 panels, pg 4 10 panels (serial) (25 panels)
  • Nightmare – ‘Master-Stroke’ pg 1 3 panels, pg 2 8 panels, pg 3 7 panels, pg 4 2 panels (complete story) (20 panels)
  • Journey Into Fear – pg 1 4 panels, pg 2 7 panels, pg 3 8 panels, pg 4 6 panels (serial) (25 panels)
  • Wrong Station – pg 1 4 panels, pg 2 7 panels,  pg 3 7 panels, pg 4 7 panels (complete) (25 panels)
  • Beasts – ‘Where There’s a Will…’ – pg 1 4 panels, pg 2 8 panels, pg 3 7 panels, pg 4 7 panels (complete) (26 panels)
  • The Black Widow – pg 1 2 panels, pg 2 8 panels, pg 3 8 panels, pg 4 8 panels (serial) (26 panels)
  • = 24 pages of comics, 6 stories. Minimum number of panels = 2, max = 10

All the stories in Misty, whether they are serials or complete stories, are 4 pages long rather than just 3. There are fewer stories but it adds up to the same number of pages of comics. Each story has pretty much the same number of panels whether it is a 3 page Jinty story or a 4 page Misty one (though in Jinty the single page gag strip and the two page complete stories are certainly shorter in panel count). And the pattern in Misty is pretty striking and consistent, in this issue at least – the first page of each story has a considerably reduced panel count (so that the panels that are left can be large and visually striking) whereas subsequent pages are only very slightly shorter than a typical Jinty page in terms of the average number of panels used (and therefore the size of each one).

Story theme: Redemption narratives

I recently wrote summary posts about two stories that I called ‘redemption narratives’: “The Girl Who Never Was” and “She Shall Have Music“. That’s a kind of story theme that we can all recognize as being fairly common in girls comics generally: in Jinty there are a number of other examples.  But how does this sort of story work?

Take those two stories as an initial guide: the protagonist is a difficult or disagreeable, probably dislikeable, girl who has some personal failing or issue that drives the story. It’s because of that failing that the story progresses; it may not have been due to something that was her fault that the story started off in the first place, but it is because of her moral or social problem that it continues and develops the way it does. Tina Williams lands in the alternate universe where magic works because of her conceited and annoying ways; Lisa Carstairs’s father doesn’t lose his money because of her, but if she wasn’t so obsessed with continuing her piano playing exactly as before, then she wouldn’t find herself in the same difficulties. It’s not just what happens to the protagonist (or how she is challenged in the story) but how she reacts to it. She has to be ‘the architect of her own misfortunes’, as Mistyfan puts it in her post about another redemption story, “Black Sheep of the Bartons“.

Does the story have to feature some sort of disagreeableness, some sort of outright nastiness or callousness on the part of the protagonist? No: I’d say that you could certainly include ‘guilt’ stories such as “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary”. The protagonist here  suffers huge pangs of guilt and despair because of the loss of a loved one – a best friend or a sister in the case of these two stories, but in other cases it can be a parent – a very natural feeling, but the failing here is that she lets those emotions overwhelm her and distort her common sense. The guilty feelings of the protagonist drive the story forward, but this guilt is portrayed throughout as excessive, as an indulgence that the main character should resist. It’s the lengths that their grief drives them to that causes their difficulties in their separate stories.

Also, it’s not just about having an objectionable main character who is nicer by the end of the story. “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” are not what I would call redemption narratives, despite having protagonists who start off pretty disagreeable and end up much improved. (Likewise “Battle of the Wills” is not, nor I think “Pandora’s Box”, but sports story “Black Sheep of the Bartons” is one I would class as such: Bev Barton isn’t horrible so much as thoughtless and reckless, but her carelessness nearly brings tragedy to her family.) Why don’t “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” count? Because when the girl main characters are swept into their initial circumstances – enslaved by a dictatorial coach, forced into third-class citizenship in a future world – their thoughts are not primarily about how they can continue to maintain their status quo ante but about how they can defeat their antagonist. Yvonne and Cassy aren’t just trying to get back to where they were at the beginning: their story is about a positive rebellion, not a futile rejection of the truth that the outside world is telling them. They end up much nicer than they started out being, but that’s not the whole reason for having the story in the first place – it’s because they have faced extraordinary circumstances which would change anyone by making them realise that some things are bigger than individual concerns.

Does the character who ends up being redeemed have to be the protagonist, or could they be the antagonist or villain? Overall I would say it has to be the protagonist, as the main character that you are supposed to sympathise with and want things to turn out well for, but maybe one counter-example is “Wanda Whiter Than White“. Wanda is not the main character of the story and she makes Susie Foster’s life a misery with her sanctimonious ways. At the end, it is revealed, as Mistyfan explains in her story post, that ‘Wanda’s own past is not as white as she would have us believe. In fact, she is on probation after being caught stealing.’ Rather than this reveal being painted as purely a victory for the main character, it ends up with Wanda being ‘truly redeemed when she tells a white lie to help Susie in return for Susie saving her life’. The reader wasn’t rooting for Wanda’s redemption all along, but it is a satisfying ending nevertheless.

What choices could the writer make that would move the story out of the category of being a redemption narrative? Let’s take Lisa Carstairs’ story as an example. As with the OuBaPo exercises, thinking about how a story could work differently will give us a view on how the stories actually do work.

  • Imagine Lisa’s parents still losing everything at the beginning of the story, and Lisa still losing her piano. The story could then have taken a different turn: rather than being about Lisa’s misguided piano obsession and selfishness, it could have been another kind of story entirely, for instance a mystery story where Lisa finds out that her father’s business partner was a crook who needs to be brought to justice. Perhaps Lisa’s piano playing could help her to find the clues she needs, and her obsession with it could be turned to a good cause in that way, so that she needs no redemption.
  • Or let’s say the story stays as being about Lisa’s obsession with playing piano but it’s portrayed as something not to be frowned on, rather as something acceptable or allowable. How would a story work where she can continue to be focused on playing piano to the exclusion of everything else, including her family? Perhaps her family would have to be a nasty, uncaring one, to make her disinterest acceptable.
  • Or perhaps the story could proceed more or less as it does, but with an unhappy ending where Lisa gets her comeuppance. This would make her into a more of an anti-heroine than normal but would not be unheard of.

Here are the examples I would identify as fitting most neatly into the category of ‘redemption narrative’ (core examples) and as being closely related to this category without necessarily definitely being classed as such (edge cases).

Core examples

  • “Dance Into Darkness” – Della just wants to live her life down at the disco with no regard for other people, but when her wish is granted she eventually discovers there is indeed more to life than her own self-interest.
  • There are a number of stories that are driven by a bereavement: the main character makes poor decisions as a result of her strong emotions of grief and anger because she is afraid of being hurt again. “The Ghost Dancer” is one of these, as is “Nothing to Sing About”, but of course “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary” are the strongest examples.
  • “The Girl Who Never Was” – discussed above
  • “She Shall Have Music” – discussed above
  • I said above that I thought that it needs to be the protagonist who is redeemed, not one of the other characters. In “Go On, Hate Me!” the antagonist is driven by grief into bullying the protagonist but in the end all is cleared and the antagonist is redeemed, so I would be tempted to class this alongside “Wanda Whiter Than White” as a clear example of this kind.
  • Jackie’s Two Lives” is more about the perils of wish-fulfilment, but Jackie’s snobbishness and the fact she is ashamed of her own family is definitely a character flaw that drives the story and she is cured of it at the end.
  • “Left-Out Linda” develops the redemption pretty well by recognizing that you can’t usually turn around your life by yourself: you have to have some help.
  • “Paula’s Puppets”: Paula has to learn to forgive her enemies rather than attacking them via the magical help she has been given.
  • “Tearaway Trisha”: Trisha’s recklessness has caused a serious accident; she tries to make amends but has to change her own character in order to do so.
  • “Valley of Shining Mist” has a clearly didactic message about the improving aspect of high culture: by playing the violin, Debbie will transcend the impact of her abusive family, who are low-class in their lack of culture and their morality.
  • In “Who’s That In My Mirror?” the protagonist’s selfish nature is made very literally visible and becomes more and more so until finally she is driven to renouncing it.
  • Worlds Apart” is the ultimate morality tale – one by one, six girls are shown the worst outcomes possible for each of their specific character flaws, and they have a chance to repent. The psychological development is minimal but the impact of the story was very dramatic.

Edge cases

  • “Fancy Free “- I know the main character is so independent that this may well be characterised as a fault, but I don’t really quite remember enough about the story to say whether it is the main thing that drives the whole plot.
  • The Four Footed Friends” – arguably another case where someone other than the protagonist ends up being redeemed, though it all feels a little sudden. “Hettie High-and-Mighty” likewise features a fairly sudden change of heart on the part of an antagonist who has mostly been about making  the protagonist’s life a misery until that point. I don’t think “The Kat And Mouse Game” quite counts, either: Kat may perhaps have realised the error of her ways at the end of the story, but will her change of heart actually stick?
  • I haven’t really made my mind up about “Gwen’s Stolen Glory” – it feels like it is mostly a story about deception, though clearly once Gwen owns up to the big lie this is a kind of redemption of her former deception.
  • In “Kerry In The Clouds”, Kerry is a day-dreamer imposed upon by a woman motivated by her own unfriendly concerns. Kerry’s day-dreaming nature is cured by the end of the story, but I don’t feel the main driver of the narrative was to improve her character.
  • The main character in “Mark of the Witch!” is hot-tempered and angry at all around her, and she comes to seek a more peaceful set of emotions by the end of the story. However, so much of her story is about the persecution and abuse that her neighbours visit on her that I don’t see her story being primarily about her renouncing her hot-headed ways.
  • I’m not sure about “Pandora’s Box” and whether it counts or not. Pandora’s witchy aunt does chide her at the beginning about being too cock-sure about her talents and says that she will need to use magic sooner or later, and this is all true: but I’m not sure what sort of morality story that adds up to – not a conventional one at any rate! The main nod in this story to more conventional morality is the fact that Pandora goes from disinterest in the pet she is stuck with (her black cat familiar, Scruffy) to loving him dearly and giving up her heart’s desire in order to save his life.

One last question struck me when thinking about this. What sort of things might the protagonist have done that means she needs to go through this process of redemption in the first place? Clearly it must be something negative: the story has a moral imperative of some sort, warning readers against some kinds of behaviour. But at the same time, some things would be beyond the pale of course, and would mean that any character doing that would be irredeemable. (There might therefore be some useful comparisons made with story villains: what does their villainy consist of?) If a character killed or seriously hurt someone on purpose then that would be beyond the pale: there are a number of villains who have gone this far, sometimes with a laugh on their cruel lips, but it would be hard to imagine that a girl protagonist could do this and still recover the moral high ground at the end of the story.

In the stories above it looks like the sort of wrong-doing that needs castigating but is still redeemable is often about emotional warmth and consideration for others – it’s not about ambition (by itself) or cleverness (by itself) for instance. An arrogant protagonist can still be the heroine, but if she is cold, selfish, or inconsiderate then that’s a good signal that this is a character marked down for improvement – by whatever means necessary. Preferably it will be a Shakespearean denouement, whereby her own moral failing brings about such a huge disaster that she has no option but to change her ways! And being too afraid to risk emotional commitment comes in for a bit of a kicking too, via the guilt / grief stories. The obvious next question: is this moral imperative specific to British girls comics? Do UK boys comics have redemption narratives too? Or those in other countries? My pal Lee Brimmicombe-Wood reckons that Japan’s flourishing manga industry has many stories about mavericks who insist on going their own ways – but in that industry’s story constraints, the mavericks are always right and never forced to realise that actually, there was a reason why everyone was telling them they were going about things the wrong way…

Jinty 30 September 1978

Jinty cover 30 September 1978

  • Dance into Darkness – last episode (artist Christine Ellingham unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • No Cheers for Cherry (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Wild Rose – (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Tim Curry – feature
  • The Human Zoo – (artist Guy Peeters)
  • 7 Steps to the Sisterhood – last episode (artist Ron Smith)

Jinty is about to honour her promise to bring back “Fran’ll Fix It!”. There is an announcement saying that Fran will return in the next issue, and there will also be a new story called “The Girl Who Never Was”. They are replacing “Dance into Darkness” and “7 Steps to the Sisterhood”. The return of Fran means a double workload for Jim Baikie, who is still working on “Wild Rose”. But Rose has tracked down the woman in her locket now (Lady Vere), so maybe the ending to the story isn’t too far away.

Meanwhile “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is still going strong, despite Max falling dangerously ill and getting buried in snow. So is Clancy, who has now been named grandfather’s heir. But this is causing a rift with her cousin Sandra. Aunt and Uncle are understandably upset too; they have helped with grandfather’s business for years and must feel like they’ve been stabbed in the back.

Cherry still hasn’t caught on to how her relatives are taking advantage of her. They are very slick at pulling the wool over her eyes (they are actors, after all), and Cherry is by nature trusting and naïve, just like her mother.

Shona narrowly escapes being turned into food at the aliens’ slaughterhouse – a circus owner buys her in the nick of time. But now she is about to be forced into a cruel circus act where she is brought to the brink of drowning each time she performs it. And all because she can’t swim (like the aliens themselves, as it turns out).


Jinty 9 September 1978

Jinty cover 9 September 1978

  • Dance into Darkness (artist Christine Ellingham unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Was My Face Red! (feature)
  • No Cheers for Cherry (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Wild Rose – (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • The Human Zoo – (artist Guy Peeters)
  • 7 Steps to the Sisterhood – (artist Ron Smith)
  • Alley Cat
  • Let’s Go Blackberrying! (feature)

A new competition has pushed all the stories off the cover. The letters page of this issue informs us that popular demand has prevailed and “Fran’ll Fix It!” will return in one month’s time (almost a year after her first story ended). So now we know one story that will replace whatever ends in three weeks, which raises speculation as to what will end.

Della is beginning to find she is beginning to like Winnie after all – and suddenly realising that she does not like the idea of foisting the curse onto her. So Della, who started off as a rather selfish, shallow person, is beginning to change her ways. At least something is coming out of the curse.

The Cinderella theme is now manifest in part two of “No Cheers for Cherry”. Aunt Margot just wants Cherry to do all the donkeywork for her family, who are too selfish and lazy to pitch in to help their theatre barge business. Poor Cherry does not even have a proper bed – she is forced to sleep on the floor in her cousin Michelle’s cabin. Worst of all, she is too naïve to realise that her relatives are exploiting her.

By contrast, Wild Rose now knows how the fairground people have duped and exploited her, and she has run away from them. But they are determined to recapture her for their snake girl act.

With help from Nirhani, Shelley now realises what a dupe she has been as well. There is no “Sisterhood” at all – an enemy has set her up with phoney tests that are actually traps. It’s the turning point of the story, and now they plot to turn things around on the enemy. It’s started with the fourth challenge that was clearly meant to get Shelley expelled. And now the fifth one is here. What nasty setup is planned with this one?

Shona makes friends with Tamsha’s hitherto jealous pet, and now she has an ally. But then she is horrified to see her fellow humans at the zoo being humiliated and abused in the aliens’ version of the chimps’ tea party! And the reference to chimps’ tea parties shows how much things have changed for chimps in our PC times.

Dorrie is surprised to find herself being offered the role of Dorothy in another production of The Wizard of Oz. Let’s hope her being a fugitive doesn’t mess up her chance.

The sale of a priceless ring gets Clancy on the wrong side of her grandfather and then on his good side when she shows signs of his knack for profit. But then Clancy’s health problems begin to plague her again….


Jinty 2 September 1978

Jinty cover 2 September 1978

  • Dance into Darkness (artist Christine Ellingham unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Wild Rose – (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend)
  • No Cheers for Cherry – first episode (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Merry-Go-Round Mobile part 4 – last part (feature)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • The Human Zoo – (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • 7 Steps to the Sisterhood – (artist Ron Smith)
  • Salad “Flowers” – feature

“No Cheers for Cherry” starts in this issue. Cherry Campbell wants to pursue a career in the theatre. Too bad she takes after her mother, who is too trusting and easy to deceive. This makes them both prey to Cherry’s unscrupulous Aunt Margot, who pays a visit to con her own sister out of priceless family heirlooms. Worse, Aunt Margot cons her out of Cherry too, with false promises of taking Cherry on for her own theatre, “Theatre Rose”. But it is clear that Aunt Margot really wants Cherry for something that is not going to bode well for the unsuspecting girl.

It’s the last part of the merry-go-round mobile. So what will be on the centre pages next week?

In “Dance into Darkness”, we see the consequences Rozelle is facing in foisting the curse of darkness onto Della. Rozelle is having a ball indulging herself in light for the first time in her life. She just can’t get enough of light in her own home. But Rozelle forgot her mother is still cursed, and the light she is pouring into the house has driven poor old Mum to living in the cellar. How is this aspect of the story going to be resolved, as well as the main one in freeing Della from the curse?

Jealous Betty plays a dirty trick on “Wild Rose” that makes a fool out of Rose in the snake girl act that Betty’s family have forced Rose into. But there are hints that Betty’s jealousy may backfire.

Jealousy takes a more dangerous turn “The Human Zoo”. Shona is now a pet to alien girl Tamsha. But Tamsha’s other pet is so jealous that it’s about to attack Shona!

Shelley must have some guardian angel – she passes the third test of the Sisterhood (ride a dangerous horse bareback) without breaking her neck or getting into serious trouble with the headmistress (except for a punishment essay that has to be written in Spanish, which takes days to write). But when the fourth test arrives, it’s the limit – it is asking Shelley to steal!

Although Grandfather wonders if he has demanded too much of Clancy, he still hasn’t learned his lesson. His hardness is causing problems for the family, such as not forgiving Clancy’s mother for leaving home. And now he’s beginning to think Clancy is a weakling after all and not fit to inherit his fortune.

September is a bit early for Christmas in Jinty. But finding a way to celebrate Christmas is precisely what Max and Dorrie are trying to do this week, while sleeping rough and trying to find food.


Jinty 26 August 1978

Jinty cover 26 August 1978

  • Dance into Darkness (artist Christine Ellingham unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Wild Rose – (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Knight and Day – last episode
  • Merry-Go-Round Mobile part 3 (feature)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • The Human Zoo – (artist Guy Peeters)
  • 7 Steps to the Sisterhood – (artist Ron Smith)
  • Alley Cat

“Dance into Darkness” featured on a lot of covers during its run, and this one is no exception. The ad for part three of the carousel mobile provides whites and yellows of light to contrast with the darker colours used to for “Dance into Darkness”. However, the cover does feel like it has too many red and magenta hues in it. It could have done with some more contrasting colours, such as some blues.

Meanwhile, Della is finding she is not having much luck in fobbing the curse off onto Winnie. However, she is beginning to find advantages to the curse, such as sharing the night with nocturnal animals.

In “The Human Zoo”, Shona finds herself in a zoo. But things may soon look up as Shona is set to become a pet to an alien girl Tamsha, who is an animal rights advocate in the making (what a contrast to her father, who owns the zoo). The trouble is, Tamsha still thinks Shona is an animal, not a sentient being like herself.

Rose sets off to Bencombe Fair with a gypsy family in her quest to find her mother. But she soon finds herself forced into a contortionist act as “The Amazing Snake Girl”, and realises too late what a snaky lot she is travelling with.

Shelley’s second test – baking a strawberry cake and leaving it in the stables seems harmless enough. But then comes her third challenge – ride a dangerous horse barebacked! What will Shelley decide over this one – go through with it, or tell the Sisterhood to sod off, because she is not risking her neck for a secret society?

Both Pat and Clancy find themselves in danger of drowning when they pass out in deep water. For Pat, it leads to the resolution of her story and a happy ending. For Clancy, it’s a narrow escape and Granddad wondering if he had demanded too much of her. But Clancy’s left in deep depression afterwards, so no resolution in sight for her just yet.

Max transcends his hatred of Germans when the fugitive German soldier saves his life. In turn, they teach him their maxim about happiness over the rainbow, which persuades him to stop hiding. But they themselves are still fugitives, trying to find rainbow’s end before the authorities catch up with them.

Next week “No Cheers for Cherry” starts. This is one of the last Jinty stories to have the Cinderella theme. The Cinderella theme had been present in Jinty since her first issue (though not as frequent as Tammy), but by the late 1970s it was being phased out of IPC girls’ titles.

Jinty 19 August 1978

Jinty cover 19 August 1978

  • Dance into Darkness (artist Christine Ellingham unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Wild Rose (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Knight and Day
  • Alley Cat
  • Merry-Go-Round Mobile part 2 (feature)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • The Human Zoo (artist Guy Peeters)
  • 7 Steps to the Sisterhood (artist Ron Smith)
  • Sunny Memories

The cover for this issue is the cover that represents Jinty in her Wikipedia entry. The use of the pinks on the bottom half make it a standout, and the use of complementary colour in the green in the top half makes it even more striking.

In “The Human Zoo”, twins Shona and Jenny and their fellow abductees arrive on the aliens’ home planet, which has two suns (the astronomy term is binary star system). The aliens have already demonstrated how they discipline animals, including humans – with collars that inflict pain. And now there is emotional pain for the twins as well – they have been sold to different owners at the aliens’ cattle market, which means they have now been separated! The quest to find each other again is clearly going to be a major plot driver.

Rose sets off to find the birth mother in the locket that was left with her as a baby. A fortune-teller has warned her that there will be heartbreak (hmm, can of worms there?) but happiness at the end.

Shelley passes her first step to the Sisterhood. But the test could have gotten her into trouble as she had to borrow a priceless Thai costume for it (without permission) – and then someone throws water at her, which almost ruins the costume. Coincidence or sabotage? The next test looks harmless enough, but we are beginning to wonder….

In “Dance into Darkness”, the curse really has gotten Della into hot water this time – suspended from school and landed her parents with a whopping great big bill that they have to borrow money to pay for!

Dorrie and Max are having problems with the German they have encountered at the old army camp – but is it the German or Max’s hatred of Germans that is causing the problems?

Clancy is about to compete at the swimming gala, but her body is telling her that it’s not up to it. She could be heading for trouble.

Pat being caught returning a shoplifted item turns out to be a blessing when the police discover the injuries from the beating her nasty guardians inflicted. But Pat is too scared to accept their help and runs away – where she falls into a canal and is too weak to swim out of it. And the only girl around to help is her friend Cheryl – who can’t swim and is terrified of water!

Sue and Henrietta are back with this issue. Sue is grumbling about the beach being too crowded and wants to go back to a time when it wasn’t so crowded. But Sue soon finds herself on a be-careful-what-you-wish-for time travel lesson.