Tag Archives: Diving Belle

Jinty & Penny 2 May 1981

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This week’s text story should delight readers who ever met a bully teacher. The appropriately named Miss Bull (which lends itself to “Bully-bonce”, “Bossy Bully” or, most often, “Bully”) runs her sports classes like a drill sergeant. So the girls are dismayed when Bully pushes her way into coming on their half-term camp. However, when Bully shows just how competent she is at pitching a tent, it’s a humbling for her and a huge laugh and relief for all the girls when the Head decides Bully’s not fit to supervise the camping.

Pam strikes problems in raising the money to cover the costs of the school magazine that the “Worms” ripped up. She hasn’t patched things up with Goofy, and we are warned nasty Jill Cook is going to make even more trouble.

Betty’s got a really crazy plan for Belle’s diving training this week – she wants Belle to take the place of a stunt diver at the fairground. Now this looks awfully dangerous for a girl who’s not trained in the stunt, and the stuntwoman has clearly taken years to perfect it!

In “Worlds Apart”, the girls learn the meaning of gavage in this bizarre world where everyone is grotesquely fat, and the fatter the better. In hospital, the girls are force fed until they are just as fat. Only greedy Sarah is enjoying it because it’s her kind of world. Could there be a clue here?

This week’s recycling of a Strange Story in the Gypsy Rose tales treats Jinty readers to some Eduardo Feito artwork. When Clare stops in a small village with her singing group she feels like she’s been there before. Even weirder things start happening when they rehearse in the community hall.

Gaye pulls tricks on Sir Roger with a tape recorder to stop him being so lazy. When Sir Roger discovers the ruse he decides to fight fire with fire, although he finds 20th century technology a bit incomprehensible.

Tansy’s heartthrob pop star is in town, but she’s having trouble getting even a view of him. In the end she goes better than she ever imagined.

Fancy’s mother finally tells her a few facts about her absent father. He’s an escaped convict who claims he was innocent of the crime he went to prison for. He remains at large and his whereabouts are unknown. Ben says he may be able to provide more information.

Helen’s struggling with her nursing and is swotting too hard. The girls give her a book that they hope will help. Later, suspicion falls on Lesley when a patient reports a theft.

Snoopa’s got earache, but wrapping his ear to keep it warm is getting him into all sorts of scrapes.

Jinty & Penny 11 April 1981

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  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Diving Belle – (artist Phil Gasoine)
  • Emily’s Last Stop – text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • The Puppet That Came to Life! Gypsy Rose Story (artist Carlos Freixas)
  • Just the Job
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Whose Face Will Appear in the Mirror? (Quiz)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Fancy Free! – first episode (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Angela’s Angels – first episode (artist Leo Davy)
  • Winning Ways 51 (writer Benita Brown)
  • Land of No Tears – final episode (artist Guy Peeters, writer Pat Mills)

It’s the last episode of “Land of No Tears”. The Gamma Girls’ win has sparked off more than they intended and it’s symbolised by the spectators knocking the Hive Inspector into the pool. The Gamma Girls have made people realise how fed up they were with the system that oppressed even their emotions. The letters page prints a letter from one reader thanking Jinty for reprinting the story, especially as she had lost her original copy.

“Land of No Tears” was reprinted because of “Pam’s Poll”, and in this issue another story starts repeating because of the poll. Many readers voted for a nursing story, so “Angela’s Angels” returns. Jinty made a strong point in the announcement that this was one of Jinty’s first stories, so newer readers must have been delighted to be reading a story from Jinty’s first days.

Pam has a bad falling out with Goofy because she laughed at his submission for the upcoming school magazine without realising who wrote it. On the day of the launch all the magazines are found ripped to shreds! Pam can only think of one person who had the motive, and is praying it wasn’t him.

Sir Roger’s sad to find that he’s badly affecting the Stony Hall business of guided tour by scaring people off. He tries to boost the business.

It’s Tansy and June vs Peter and Simon in a bike contest. When the contest is tied it’s up to the bike scrambling to break it. Tansy does scrambling in more ways than one – she accidentally causes Mrs Spikle’s eggs to go for a scramble. Despite this her bike scrambling nails a victory for her and June.

Fancy’s encounter with Ben and his wild bird hospital has brought on some improvement in her character: she begins to have second thoughts about bullying. Just as well, because she’s being taken to the headmistress.

Betty uses some pretty strong-arm tactics to get Belle diving again. At least it works.

Another Strange Story from June is recycled for Gypsy Rose. A Spanish orphan named Maria makes a living entertaining people with her puppet Chica. She wishes she could be rich and buy Chica a puppet theatre. Events starting with Chica somehow appearing in a rich man’s garden make this dream come true. But the mystery of how Chica got into the garden remains unsolved.

In this week’s text story, a leisure centre appeal is going badly. It is also up against competition from an appeal to save a loco named Emily, which does better but also fails. Then inspiration strikes: convert Emily into the leisure centre!

Jinty & Penny 6 June 1981

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  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Diving Belle – final episode (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Double Take – text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • The Dove of Peace – Gypsy Rose story (artist Bob Harvey)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Just the Job
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • The Mysterious Mynah – Gypsy Rose Story (artist Manuel Benet)
  • Worlds Apart (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Sporting Horses – feature
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)
  • Snoopa (artist Joe Collins)

In this issue Jinty has a double feature on Gypsy Rose stories. “The Mysterious Mynah” is another recycled Strange Story, but “The Dove of Peace” is completely new. This makes a nice change from the Strange Stories Jinty recycled in 1981. “The Dove of Peace” looks like it is being used as a filler because Jinty wanted to start the replacements for “Fancy Free!” (ended last issue) and “Diving Belle” (ends this issue) in one issue.

And how does “Diving Belle” end? Belle trusts Betty and her instinct enough to carry out the dive from the oilrig, even though it could kill her. Readers should not be at all surprised when the dive enables Belle to find her father’s bathyscaphe, so he and his comrades are rescued. That’s what this mysterious diving training has been for all along.

In “Worlds Apart” the sports world is getting increasingly bizarre. You don’t sit down to eat – you are expected to eat while playing table tennis at the same time. And of course it’s all health foods, which the girls loathe. School punishments don’t apply detention or lines; they are designed to make girls lose physical fitness. Meanwhile, Ann’s all set to compete in the war against the Soviet Union. But why is Clare hoping Ann’s side will lose?

Pam persuades the school staff to let the girls have a go at woodwork and the boys sewing. However, Pam is the only girl who enjoys the woodwork. Well, she always was a bit of a tomboy, after all. And the boys? The sewing teacher has not enjoyed teaching the boys because they had a great time wrecking the sewing machines!

In this week’s text story, a psychic bond between twins is causing one to feeling the other’s pain, which is rather putting a damper on the holiday one of the twins won. It all gets sorted out, of course.

Sir Roger’s a bit put out when Gaye says he can’t come to the seaside with the family. He sneaks along anyway, which proves fortuitous. He unwittingly scares off some people (car thieves, police and a packed beach) who would have otherwise spoiled things for Gay and her family.

Snoopa’s back this week with a big-headed mouse who boasts he can beat Snoopa at anything. However, when the mouse loses his voice it gives Snoopa the chance to beat him at one game – Snap.

Tansy’s lumbered with a dog that is trying to get out of getting his booster shot. But then Tansy and Simon are just as chicken when it comes to their shots, which are due too.

Matron’s all set to come hard down hard on Sharon, just because an emergency got her caught in her swimsuit instead of uniform. Fortunately the patient speaks up for her and she’s off the hook. The girls discover Lesley’s secret, and wonder what all the fuss was about in her hiding his occupation.

 

Diving Belle (1981)

Sample Images

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Published: 4 April 1981 – 6 June 1981 (10 episodes)

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Diving is big in the McBane family. Dad works as a deep-sea diver and his daughter Belle shows promise on the high-diving board. Dad is currently working on the oilrig at the “Fogbank”. The locals have misgivings about an oilrig on the Fogbank because of a superstition that the Fogbank is unlucky. Dad laughs at the superstition. He and his colleagues set off on a shift in their new bathyscaphe.

Later, Belle rescues a woman named Betty Black who is in danger of drowning. Betty says she will return the favour, but then she disappears.

There is an explosion out at the Fogbank rig, which causes Belle to have a bad accident at diving practice. The rig had blown up and is later abandoned. The bathyscaphe got lost, which means Dad is too, and the search is eventually called off. The doctor confines Belle to bed for a week, and of course she has lost her nerve for high diving.

However, Betty Black has other ideas. She says she has gypsy blood and can foresee the future. What she foresaw has her telling Belle that she must start diving again and be at her peak within days. Betty says she was a high-diving champion before she injured her back – so she couldn’t save herself when she was drowning – but she can still coach Belle to the upmost.

Belle is not 100% sure of Betty’s credibility or coaching credentials. She suspects Betty may be a thief too. Still, instinct keeps telling her to trust Betty. Betty is very insistent that Belle re-train as fast as possible, for time is limited. Betty’s tactics certainly are strong-armed in making Belle overcome her shattered nerves from diving, but it works. The coaching is not only intense but also takes liberties in finding avenues in which to train. They break into school for secret diving practice. When the caretaker discovers them it’s training on the cliffs with an improvised diving board. The board breaks, so next it’s Betty having Belle take the place of a stunt diver at the funfair. This really crosses the line to dangerous because Belle has to dive from a board that’s even higher than an international diving board, and she has to land in a shallow tub of water! Nonetheless she manages to pull it off. They then have to do a hasty retreat when the fairground people discover Belle is not their stunt diver. Next they gate-crash a garden party so Belle can use the diving board there. They are discovered and their efforts to get away cause chaos.

They arrive back at Belle’s home, where the police are waiting. They say Betty is wanted for burglary, shoplifting and common theft, and Belle has some serious explaining to do as well. Then Betty has the final vision of where Belle is meant to do the dive, and she must do it right now. They break away from the police and do a crazy dash to get there, with the police in hot pursuit. The place for the dive is none other than the abandoned oilrig – which means Belle has to do an extremely dangerous dive from the height of the oilrig!

Belle trusts her instincts, which say that she and Betty are doing the right thing. She dives, much to the horror of everyone who is watching below. They realise a dive from that height would make her go extremely deep in the ocean. Deep enough, it would seem, for Belle to find Dad’s bathyscaphe, which is all caught up in the legs of the oilrig. Belle’s dive and ensuing rescue save the men in the nick of time, for they were on their last hour of oxygen.

Afterwards it is surmised the blast sent the bathyscaphe all the way to the ocean bottom, out of reach of the initial search. It then floated upwards, but got caught in the oilrig’s legs and the search had been called off by then. If not for Belle’s dive and Betty’s visions the men would have died. So the police drop the charges against Betty. It turns out she had been quite truthful about being a diving champion before her injury. Belle resolves to win so many medals for Betty that she will become the most sought-after coach in Britain.

Thoughts

Now this could well be the most intense and offbeat “comeback” serial in girls’ comics. A girl loses her nerve after an accident, but she sets out to make a comeback, either because she loves her sport too much or something vital, such as saving a beloved horse, depends on it. In Belle’s case it is the latter, but the story is irregular in that Belle has no idea exactly what the comeback is supposed to be for. Not even Betty, who is having the visions in the first place, knows exactly what it is about. Her powers don’t give her the full picture, only flashes. The final vision only reveals where the all-important dive has to be. It doesn’t reveal why the dive has to be done. Some readers might guess it has something to do with saving Dad and his comrades, but it’s all kept mysterious until Belle finds the bathyscaphe. However, the reveal should come as no surprise to readers.

Adding to the mystery is that we, along with Belle, can’t be 100% certain that Betty can be trusted. Only intuition tells Belle to keep on trusting Betty, against the face of the more suspicious aspects about the woman. And in the end, intuition turns out to be 100% right. This story sure is a salutary lesson in trusting your gut.

What turns out to be a race against time against the dwindling oxygen supply in the bathyscaphe makes for very tight plotting. There can be no mucking around with padding to stretch out the story, or go gently with Belle’s shattered nerves after the accident. Of course retraining Belle for the dive still does not go smoothly, which is to be expected. Betty has to be very inventive in devising ways to train Belle up as avenue after avenue closes. Unfortunately this leads to conflict with the law, which is all the more reason for saving the men with the all-important dive.

Jinty & Penny 23 May 1981

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Pam of Pond Hill and her friends have been suspended from school because of that nasty Jill Cook, who is having them carrying the can for a crime she did. Their parents are outraged and want their children’s names cleared or they will take them away from Pond Hill.

This is the day for Diving Belle’s all-important dive. Betty has now had the final vision of where she is meant to do it, and she must do it urgently. But the police are closing in because of all the liberties Belle and Betty have taken, so will they get the chance to do the dive?

This week’s text story is about a do-it-yourself Dad who is about as good at DIY as Homer Simpson. Unlike Homer Simpson, he gives it up after the hijinks in the story.

Gypsy Rose recycles another Strange Story. Jenny mistakenly uses her dad’s raffle ticket for the old message-in-a-bottle routine. The bottle goes all the way around to Australia where Jenny, who has now emigrated there, uses it to fend off a shark!

Sir Roger is a film star this week. Unfortunately they forgot that being a ghost, he wouldn’t show up on film. Tansy is in need of pest control this week. No, it’s not her brother Simon and Peter the Joker – it’s a mouse that’s taken up residence in the house.

It’s the penultimate episode of “Fancy Free!”. Ben once told Fancy running away was a mug’s game, but now he’s doing it himself because he’s terrified the police will find him, and he’s an escaped convict. Unfortunately he has a serious accident while doing so.

In “Worlds Apart” the girls are surprised to find themselves clear of the fatties world after Sarah seems to drown and is rescued by Ann, who was supposed to be dead. They think things are back to normal. However, they realise this is not the case when they look out the window and find there is not a single vehicle in sight. Everyone is getting around by running and they’re all wearing tracksuits.

In “Angela’s Angels” an emergency catches Sharon at an awkward moment. She was sunbathing on the roof when the emergency chopper arrived, so she was wearing a swimsuit instead of uniform. Now disciplinary action is imminent!

 

Jinty and Penny 25 April 1981

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  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Diving Belle (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • A Lot to Sing About – text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • The Missing Link – Gypsy Rose story (artist Juan Garcia Quiros)
  • Just the Job – Feature
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Worlds Apart – first episode (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Fancy Free! – (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Easter Parade – Feature
  • Horses in History – feature
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)

This is Jinty’s Easter issue for 1981. Tansy and Gaye both have stories where they enter Easter parades. And Jinty has a feature on how to make things for Easter.

The letter column prints one letter that yields interesting information on Pam’s Poll. The reader and her sister want Jinty to reprint “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”. The editor replied that Stefa was one of their most popular stories and in Pam’s Poll lots of readers voted for it to be repeated. Yet the editor still asks if other readers would like to see it reprinted and please write in if they do. Now why does the editor need to ask this? Surely there has been demand enough already.

In this issue is the first episode of the serial that was Jinty’s jewel in the crown for 1981: “Worlds Apart”. Greed, sports mania, vanity, delinquency, intellectualism and fearfulness are exemplified in six girls who get knocked out by gas from a tanker that crashes into their school. When they wake up they are in hospital, but there is something odd about it – everyone in sight is grotesquely fat, and by their standards the girls are emaciated. The hospital treatment they are about to get is designed to forcibly turn them into fatties!

This week’s text story is a bit improbable. Violet is a dreadful singer (but tell her that!). When she starts singing in the street, people give old stuff just to get rid of her. It’s put to good use for a jumble sale – but come on, would people really give old stuff to get rid of horrible singing? Throw it, yes – but give it?

Pam reveals her two big dislikes about Pond Hill: school sago pud and Jill Cook. Now she dislikes Jill more than ever as Jill has become a bad influence for her boyfriend Goofy Boyle.

In “Fancy Free!”, Fancy’s in a huff when Ben tries to press his own rules on her. It culminates in a row at home, where Mum says she had the same trouble with Fancy’s mysteriously absent father.

Angela’s Angels are having a hard time learning the ins and outs of nursing. And Sister Angela looks a nervous wreck herself after a day of instructing them. Student Nurse Helen is put on night duty – but falls asleep on the job and now she’s in trouble!

This week’s Gypsy Rose story is another recycled Strange Story. Stacy Fletcher’s hobby in making jewellery leads to a strange time travel story where she drops a piece of jewellery in the past after unwittingly foiling a crime. This gives rise to a legend that a ghost left it.

In “Diving Belle” Betty’s coming up with all sorts of inventive ways to get Belle diving again. This week it it’s breaking into school to use the pool. When the caretaker finds them, it’s an improvised diving board on the cliffs. And Betty says time is pressing as there is only a day or two left. Day or two left before what?

 

Jinty and Penny 30 May 1981

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  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Diving Belle (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • She Who Laughs Last – text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • The Unlucky Rabbit’s Foot – Gypsy Rose story (artist Carlos Freixas)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Jinty Fights Junk! (readers’ submissions for anti-litter posters)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Fancy Free! – last episode (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Worlds Apart (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)

Jinty’s feature this week is anti-litter posters submitted by readers. This was a suggestion from one reader and Jinty said they would print the best one. However, they had trouble deciding which was the best one, so they printed several winners.

The text story this week is about a quest to get a pop star’s autograph, but the protective barriers are proving a bit unsurmountable. One fan finds a way around it – the pop star’s younger brother.

Pam of Pond Hill and her friends have been suspended for vandalism that the horrible Jill Cook is responsible for. Jill won’t own up, so Mrs Dankins is the only one who can clear them – but she hasn’t got the guts and wants to forget the whole thing. How selfish can you get?

Diving Belle is on her penultimate episode. She and Betty are running the gauntlet with the police to get to the place where she must do the all-important dive Betty foretold – which turns out to be the abandoned oil rig where Belle’s father was lost! Good grief, Belle has to dive from the height of an oil rig? It sounds like suicide!

Fancy Free concludes this week. It’s a very emotional ending, when Ben, the only one who ever cared for Fancy, dies in her arms. The difficult Fancy will definitely emerge more sober after this.

In “Worlds Apart” there are some amusing moments with politics in the sports world. The girls learn that in the sports world, wars are played as sports events. Hitler fought World War II as the coach for the German footy team (below). And Margaret Thatcher addresses the nation while wearing a tracksuit and working out on gym equipment. Thatcher informs the nation that the Soviet Union has declared war on Britain, which will be played as a swimming match. Ann is thrilled because she will be in the team – but the girls are horrified as the losing war teams are executed.

Worlds Apart Fave panel 1
“Worlds Apart”: How Hitler fought WW2 in Ann’s dream world of sport.

This week’s Gypsy Rose story is another recycled Strange Story. The people on Squire Robson’s estate are horrified when he marries the unpleasant Carrie Piggott. It’s as if she has him under a spell. In view of the strange things that start happening on the estate that seem to be connected with a strange hare, it could well be the case…

Sir Roger’s armour gets magnetised after a contretemps with a magnetic crane and he becomes ‘attractive’ in a way he doesn’t want. From Sir Roger’s point of view the cure is just as bad: he has to take a bath to de-magnetise his armour, which makes it – horror of horrors – clean!

Tansy’s trying to help old folks with redecorating this week, but things don’t work out as she expected. Worse, Dad now lumbers her with redecorating her room because he thinks she can do it herself!

In Angela’s Angels, Sharon is facing disciplinary action because she got caught up in an emergency while she was wearing a swimsuit. And Lesley finds it awkward to help one patient because he is the governor of the prison and her own father.

Jinty and Penny 18 April 1981

Cover 14 April 1981

Stories in this issue:
(Cover artist: Mario Capaldi)

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Diving Belle (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Best Foot Forward – text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Whispers In The Wind: Gypsy Rose story (artist Antonio Borrell)
  • Just The Job: Television Make-up Artists (feature)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • What Do You Make of It? (personality quiz)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (Ken Houghton)
  • Fancy Free (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)

This week’s issue has a free gift: two packets of ‘Sarah Kay’ stickers. It means that my copy of Jinty & Penny has a fairly big tear in the front cover where it was attached, but luckily the scan doesn’t show it all that badly.

Pam is upset: her friend Steve has been working together with her to make a magazine by and for their year at school, but it has been vandalised by mysterious person or persons unknown. Pam is worried that it might have been Goofy: it turns out not to have been, but her nemesis Jill Cook has been spreading rumours and Goof is in turn upset with Pam.

Belle McBane is “Diving Belle” – a story that to me feels a little old-fashioned and shoehorned in. Belle is being instructed in diving by a mysterious gypsy woman, who urges her not to lose time in getting better and better at diving. But why?

Text story “Best Foot Forward” is an ‘ugly duckling’ type ballet story – the main character has a jealous rival who tries to nobble her so that she has no chance of success in the audition for a dance school. Of course, talent wins out in the end.

“Whispers in the Wind” is a Gypsy Rose story that looks to have been reprinted from an earlier title – I don’t know the artist. Wendy Price stays in a haunted hotel room and helps to clear the reputation of a ghostly maid, who has proved that she is not a thief after all.

The feature on make-up artists is quite interesting and informative – it is part of a series on jobs that readers might be interested in doing when they are grown-up.

Personality quizzes were a staple of my childhood and early secondary school. This one has the quite nice twist that as you answer questions about what you would do in certain circumstances, you fill in a section of the picture with the specified colour. If you answer more pink answers then you will end up with a flower coloured in, or similarly a brown wren or a blue fish.

“Fancy Free!” is a Philip Townsend strip, about a troubled and angry girl who has few friends apart from wild birds, and a fellow bird enthusiast.

The last few pages include a reprint of an early episode of “Angela’s Angels“, one of the stories published seven years previously in the first issues of Jinty when it was a new title. With a reprinted serial, a reprinted Gypsy Rose story, a two-page letters section, and a text story this issue of Jinty feels to me slightly thin – perhaps a sign of the approaching merger with Tammy in November of the same year. There are only 20 pages of comics included, though to be fair the features are pretty good and the text story is quite readable.

What makes a story work, pt 2?

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

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

To follow in the next post, discussions on:

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

Story theme: Sports

Many apologies for the long break in between posts. Life has got hectic and the run-up to Christmas didn’t help!

Jinty and Penny cover 7 February 1981

Stories featuring sports are very prevalent across the range of girls’ comics titles. This clearly taps into both the day-to-day experiences of many or most schoolgirls (playing on their hockey or netball teams) and into aspirational ideals (winning regional or national contests, going on to have a career in their chosen sport, excelling at unusual sports). At one end of this theme, many many stories will have some element of sports included, simply as a part of the protagonist’s daily life; I don’t count these as “sports stories” per se. At the other end of the spectrum, there are stories that are clearly mostly about the pursuit of excellence in the protagonist’s chosen sport, with a sprinkling of some complicating factor to spice the story up, such as peer rivalry. And in between there are stories where the sports element are strongly included but given a reasonably equal weighting with other elements.

To me, therefore, a “sports story” needs to feature the sport in question as the main story element, or with equal weight with the other elements. Often the story positively teaches us various details of that sport in a didactic way, as if part of the expectation is that readers might have their interest sparked by that story and go on to take it up themselves. The protagonist is someone who takes seriously the idea of practice, learning, improvement in their chosen area: they are not just naturally gifted without trying at all, and part of the drive of the story is about their drive to improve or to excel.

It seems obvious, but it also needs to be a sport not an art: as you would expect, there are plenty of ballet stories, and these are excluded from my categorisation. Ballet has its rivalries but it is not a competition with winners and losers, except in artificial ways that the writer might set up (for instance in “The Kat and Mouse Game”, the ‘winner’ gains a contract with an influential ballet impresario).

Finally, it is worth remembering Jinty also had a strong focus on sports in ways that lay outside of the stories themselves: for a period of time there was a specific sports section in the comic, with articles about specific sports, improvement hints and tips (such as how to win at a bully-off in hockey), and interviews with sports women and men. Over and above this, there was a lengthy period where Mario Capaldi drew cover images illustrating a very wide range of sports – netball and rounders, yes, but also archery, bob-sledding, ski-jumping… These are not sports stories, but form part of the context in which the sports-themed stories need to be read.

Core examples

There are so many strong sports stories that it is hard to choose a single one as a core example. A wide range of sports are represented: ones that a schoolgirl might well have direct experience of such as hockey, gymnastics, running; and more unusual ones like judo, water-skiing, and figure skating.

“White Water” (1979-80), drawn by Jim Baikie and included in the sports section that Jinty ran for a year or so from late 1979, is a classic example of a story that includes teachable elements as well as dramatic ones. Bridie is in a sailing accident with her father, who is killed: her grieving mother moves them away from the sea and into an industrial city that depresses Bridie mightily. As well as grieving for her father, she also has a gammy leg that was badly hurt in the accident, so Bridie is pretty fed up; but she then finds out about a local canoe club. She is determined to learn canoeing, especially once she is told about sea or white-water canoeing. Along the way there are rivalries and misunderstandings – her mother hates the idea of Bridie doing anything at all like sailing, and the existing star of the canoe club doesn’t like the challenge represented by this bright (and sometimes tetchy) new member. But the story includes lots of information about canoeing techniques, certainly enough to either help interest a reader in the sport, or even to help someone already learning it.

You can see below the wide range of sports represented in Jinty.

  • Prisoners of Paradise Island (1974) – hockey
  • Hettie High and Mighty (1975) – hockey
  • Ping-Pong Paula (1975) – table tennis
  • Tricia’s Tragedy (1975) – swimming
  • Miss No-Name (1976) – athletics
  • Go On, Hate Me! (1976-77) – athletics, particularly running
  • Battle of the Wills (1977) – gymnastics and ballet.
  • Concrete Surfer (1977) – skateboarding
  • Cursed to be a Coward! (1977) – swimming
  • Curtain of Silence (1977) – cycling
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel (1977) – cross-country running
  • Darling Clementine (1978) – water-skiing
  • Wild Rose (1978) – gymnastics
  • Black Sheep of the Bartons (1979) – judo
  • Prisoner of the Bell (1979) – gymnastics
  • Waves of Fear (1979) – swimming/hockey/orienteering
  • Toni on Trial (1979-80) – athletics
  • White Water (1979-80) – sailing/canoeing (see above for details)
  • Blind Faith (1980) – showjumping
  • Tears of a Clown (1980) – long-distance running
  • Child of the Rain (1980) – tennis
  • Minnow (1980) – swimming
  • Spirit of the Lake (1980) – figure-skating
  • Tearaway Trisha (1980) – cycling
  • The Bow Street Runner (1981) – long-distance running
  • Diving Belle (1981) – high-diving
  • Life’s A Ball for Nadine (1981) – netball (and disco dancing, competitively)

 

Edge cases

As ever, there are clearly-related stories that don’t quite fit in the main theme. Sports are such a pervasive trope in the life of Jinty and other girls’ comics precisely because they were an important part of many girls’ school lives. Of course they also made up a big part of other popular fiction read by girls; it becomes a reinforcing theme that is always available for use.

  • Jackie’s Two Lives (1974-75) – features a mentally disturbed woman grieving over her late daughter and trying to recreate her in another girl, but also features horse riding and show-jumping
  • Wanda Whiter than White (1975-6) – the main story theme is constant trouble with an interfering, tale-telling girl, but also features horse riding and show-jumping
  • Champion In Hiding (1976) – the champion in question is a sheepdog, trained to win at dog trials
  • Rose Among the Thornes (1976) – the main story theme is family rivalry, but there are sections where Rose is involved in running races in her local village
  • Stage Fright! (1977) – includes some realistic elements of sailing
  • Land of No Tears (1977-78) – gymnastics and swimming as part of the futuristic competition to find the most perfect schoolgirl
  • The Changeling (1978) – main character loves horseriding and this is used as part of the abusive family/wishfulfilment story
  • Knight and Day (1978) – really a story about an abusive family but includes a family rivalry based around swimming and competitive diving
  • Paula’s Puppets (1978) – a story of magical objects and group strife, but includes elements of athletics (running)
  • Combing Her Golden Hair (1979) – a strange comb has the protagonist rebelling against her strict grandmother, whose rules include a ban on swimming
  • Freda’s Fortune (1981) – mostly wish-fulfilment gone wrong, with horseriding
  • Holiday Hideaway (1981) – protagonist has gymnastic skills
  • Worlds Apart (1981) – each dream-like parallel world featured a society built around an individual’s interests, and this included a sporty girl’s world

 

Other thoughts

This is probably one of the most pervasive themes you could possibly have in a girls’ comic; no doubt those who are expert in other comics titles will be able to mention many more examples of stories and of unusual sports featured in them. Reviewing the list above, I am surprised not so much by the number of stories as of the range of sports included. Of course the sports that girls played on a regular basis at school – hockey, swimming, athletics, netball, running – would feature in the girls’ comics. Even then, the weighting of specific sports doesn’t seem entirely even, mind you – in Jinty there was only one netball story compared to two or three hockey stories, and a few athletics stories. There is a noticeable absence of lacrosse stories despite the fact they are a staple of girls school prose fiction (I am sure they must be included in some other comics titles). I also don’t recall any rounders stories, which was a very typical summer sport for girls to play.

I am sure that other titles included some aspirational sports such as figure-skating or show-jumping as Jinty did, and the inclusion of some ordinary if less usual sports such as orienteering doesn’t seem unlikely either. However, the fact that skate-boarding, table-tennis, and judo were included as part of the range of stories shows, I think, that Jinty wanted to push the boat out and include elements that were not just a bit unusual, but also modern, fresh, and popular in the wider world: elements that were not marked as ‘élite’ and expensive.