Tag Archives: Dracula’s Daughter

Daddy’s Darling (1975)

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Published: 8 March 1975 – 16 August 1975

Episodes: 24

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Lee Simons is the daughter of a wealthy businessman, though not all is smooth sailing in their lives: her elder brother Peter was knocked over and killed while riding his bike and a year later, Lee’s mother dies of an illness that presumably she was not strong enough to fight off due to sadness. Lee and her father only have each other now – well, actually, Mr Simons has got the munitions factory and the large house too, not that Lee is all that bothered about those things. She would rather make her own life and choose her own friends – at least, this is the case by the time she is thirteen and has had five years of stifling over-protectiveness to cope with.

At the beginning of the story, though, the war gives her unexpected hope. First her governess resigns in order to join the land army, meaning that Lee has to go to the local village school; and then she pulls a fast one by volunteering to host an evacuee (something that her father was very against). She gets more than she bargained for – evacuee Maggie Hope is billeted on them but so is Maggie’s little brother, Joe – the family he had been going to were unable to take him after all. Lee is over the moon to have friends staying, but her father keeps them apart at every opportunity. He sends Lee to school in a chauffeur-driven car and makes Maggie and Joe walk behind even when it is raining; the other school kids taunt and despise Lee for that, even though Maggie sticks up for her. Mr Simons is susceptible to public opinion though, and when he eventually realizes it will look bad for him to keep doing that, he sends Maggie and Joe to school by car as well – but a different one, so that Lee is still kept away from the two ‘guttersnipes’ as he thinks of them.

And so the tussle goes – Lee intervenes with her father to protect and help the two Hope kids, Mr Simons protects and coddles his daughter but in a narrow, stifling way that keeps her isolated from other experiences and emotions, and Maggie and Joe bring more and more excitement into Lee’s life, willy-nilly. Even sending a food parcel to Maggie’s mum in London is a struggle, and it only happens because Mr Simons doesn’t want to look bad in front of others when a newspaper reporter sees Lee trying to post it.

Some fights are won by the kids and some by the father, at least initially. Allsorts, Maggie and Joe’s dog, is sent from London and the kids hide it in the air-raid shelter but of course it is not long before it is found – luckily before he is sent back, he saves Lee from a falling brick wall and so Mr Simons agrees to let the dog stay. Maggie and Lee both write an essay in class about their mothers – Maggie’s is chosen for a class prize because it is so emotionally written. The prize is a tour of a local factory – specifically, Mr Simons’ factory – and he ignores Maggie and only talks to Lee, as if she had won the prize herself. But the factory workers chat to Maggie and take to her, even choosing her as their social club queen.

They have a whip-round too, and Maggie wants to spend the resulting windfall on getting Joe a train set – but with the war on, there is none to be had in the shops for any money. Finally, a moment for Mr Simons to show a different side – out of the blue, he gives Joe the train set that Lee’s dead brother never got to use. Not that he’s softening towards them, mind you!

One incident causes her father to harden further rather than the reverse. Lee is tasked with opening an event – a sale of work – but on the way there , an RAF plane is downed and her clothes are all ruined, either by using them to aid the RAF pilot directly or because she is running across rough land and they are scratched and torn. Despite her heroism the result is that Lee is taken out from the village school and made to have lessons at home again – taken by a snobby maid who has been working at their house but who is a qualified teacher. Miss Johnson (former maid Daisy) is a nasty piece of work, but Lee is not left alone with her for long, because air raid damage conveniently closes the local school and so Maggie and Joe need to join the lessons, much to the disgruntlement of Miss Johnson and of Mr Simons. Young Joe proves to be quite a terror, teasing Miss Johnson with their dog, with a mouse, and with scurrilous caricatures, so quite soon Daisy heads off in a temper. Lee is delighted and although Mr Simons is cross, he is more upset by it being the anniversary of his wife’s death, leading him to snap even more nastily at the two evacuees.

It’s the anniversary of Joe’s father’s death too though, and they find him crying in the village graveyard. Maybe Mr Simons is softening after all – he puts his arm around Joe and even gives some money for the kids to go to the cinema – but it is only temporary and he very quickly turns up at the cinema and separates the two groups so that he has Lee all to himself. Nor will he invite Ma Hope over to visit the two kids, despite Lee’s pleas – but new maid ‘Mrs Watkins’ turns out to be Mrs Hope under an assumed name, come to be with her children. Lee takes to her instantly but they have to make sure that Mr Simons doesn’t find out and send her packing. Of course it is not long before the inevitable happens (a comic set-piece has Ma Hope soaking her feet in a warm bowl in front of the fire when she thinks the master is out for the evening, only to be interrupted by Mr Simons and posh guest).

So Mrs Hope is back in London when further air raids hit the East End, and of course her children are distraught with fear for her. Mr Simons bows to public pressure and has his chauffeur drive them back to their old area to check, but doesn’t allow Lee to go along with them and is not particularly upset when the two run away from the chauffeur to go on looking for their Ma. Lee of course is the next to run away, to find her dear friends – and although it looks like their mother is dead, she vows to stay and look after them so that they are not alone. Fat chance that Daddy will let her alone though: he drags her out and gives the Hopes the ultimatum that they can come to the hotel that the Simons will be at for the subsequent 24 hours, or they can stay and be left to their own devices.

It wouldn’t be a girls’ picture-story without a dramatic ending, of course – so as soon as that ultimatum delivered, Lee finds herself looking with horror at the house that the Hopes are in, as it burns down! Lee runs into the burning building and of course is immediately struck down – while she struggles for her life, Mr Simons has time to realize what a caring and unselfish child he has raised despite himself. And when she comes round, a week later, her new room mate turns out to be Mrs Hope, who is not dead – a wall fell on her and she was injured but not killed by the air raid that Maggie and Joe heard about. In turn, Mrs Hope hears about Maggie and Joe’s deaths in the penultimate episode. The final episode, however, has all being well – Lee and Mrs Hope are both discharged from hospital, Mr Simons continues with his change of heart and invites Mrs Hope to stay with them in the country, and although she says no (most vehemently) once Maggie and Joe are found, safe and sound after all, the grand house is turned in to a Convalescent Home with Mrs Hope as the House Mother. It is no longer only Lee who is Daddy’s Darling, but a wider group including Joe and Maggie and the other kids who will come to escape the war.

Thoughts

This is a long-running serial – not quite one of Jinty‘s longest (see more discussion on this post about story length) but nearly half a year’s worth of story. I don’t remember reading it when it first came out as I was a bit too young, but it must have been a successful product of the Alison Christie – Phil Townsend creative team to have run to that length. Some elements are a little repetitive, as is the danger with something of this length – Daddy’s single-minded attention to only his daughter’s comfort changes only towards the end of the serial and there are perhaps a little too many cases where Lee mourns his lack of caring towards others in similar wording to the earlier examples. But of course this is something that is more obvious on a re-read after the fact than at the time of original publication.

There were only relatively few stories in Jinty that feature the Second World War: “Daddy’s Darling”, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, and “Song of the Fir Tree“. (The first two are known to be written by Alison Christie and drawn by Phil Townsend, so of course it raises questions whether “Song of the Fir Tree” might also be, but it was not listed as such by Alison Christie in her earlier interview.) It feels to me as if in the case of this story it is more of a backdrop than a theme – the other two stories are about war, or about things that wouldn’t have happened without the war, whereas this story is really about a stifling over-protective parent. So this makes it more similar to another Christie story, “The Four-Footed Friends“.

In “The Four-Footed Friends”, the protagonist struggles with her stifling mother, who lost a child to illness and wraps her daughter in cotton-wool as a result; in “Daddy’s Darling” it is the father who is the antagonist that the daughter has to struggle against. This feels unusual: I know of a similar story, Tammy’s “My Father – My Enemy!”, where the socially-conscious daughter saves the workers at the mine owed by her Victorian father (thanks to Mistyfan, in the comments, for supplying further details) but not many others where the father is the blocker. “Dracula’s Daughter” is the obvious exception to that, but it is generally mothers or other women / girls who are the villains and antagonists in girls’ stories. There are a couple of examples of mystery stories where the villain is eventually revealed to be the father (photo-story “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory” is one such) or where a husband and wife team are equally to blame, but other than that, the antagonists are more typically headmistresses, female teachers, bully girls, mothers / step-mothers, grandmothers, aunts.

Mr Simons is not particularly evil but he is spectacularly clueless throughout. He does soften towards the two evacuees before the end, but his change of heart is depicted as somewhat out of the blue as it only really comes to pass in the last couple of episodes. In other ways the story develops quite nicely over its length: Maggie Hope is drawn as scrawny and plain to start with, and she becomes much more well-favoured by the end. Is that supposed to be as a result of better feeding than she’d get in the East End of London, or because Phil Townsend forgets to draw her quite as plain as at the start? Either way it works pretty well and matches the growing friendship of the two girls.

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The Four Friends at Spartan School [1971-72]

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Published: Tammy 23 October 1971 to 8 January 1972

Episodes: 12

Artist: Unknown artist – Merry

Writer: Terence Magee

Translations/reprints: None known

Special thanks to Robert Gairey for scans

Plot

Judy Jenkins is a bit uncontrollable at school and likes to play pranks to liven things up and relieve the boredom of school. She isn’t a bad kid; it’s just that her home life is neglectful and unguided what with Mum being dead, Dad being away on business so much, and a housekeeper who looks like she’s pretty much in loco parentis. When Dad gets the latest note from school, he decides that what Judy needs is discipline (not a parent who gives her proper time and attention, saying he can’t do that because of his work). So he sends her to “Spartan School”, a Swiss school that is very strong on discipline, and says it’ll do Judy “a power of good”.

We aren’t so sure about that when Judy and three other new girls (Amanda Rogers, Liz Orton and Sarah Williams) meet school prefect Siddons. Siddons is a cold fish who treats them with such severity she would make a heckling army sergeant look lovable. She says that they are all to take orders from her, and her sharp tongue is nothing compared to what awaits them at Spartan School, which will be “much worse things”. Amanda, who is a weaker character physically and emotionally, is quickly subdued by Siddons’ conduct. But Judy stands up to Siddons and says she won’t be downtrodden by such bullying, and neither Siddons nor the school will frighten her. The foreshadowing of how things are going to go in this story, obviously.

When they arrive at the school, Judy sees some pupils who have just finished their term and are going home. Although they do look disciplined, Judy is disturbed at how frightened and lifeless they are. Siddons tells the new arrivals that they will be just the same by the time Spartan School has finished with them.

Next, Judy meets headmistress Miss Bramble, who has been warned by Siddons that Judy will be troublesome. Miss Bramble tells Judy that she is a disciplinarian who doesn’t hold with “modern soft teaching methods”. She goes on to say rebels do not last long at Spartan School, and Judy will emerge from it a very different person. Siddons has already made it clear this means Judy will emerge just like the broken girls she just saw. The story’s subsequent text boxes say Miss Bramble runs the school like one from the Victorian era, with harsh punishments. Now that has to be an understatement. As we shall see, not even Victorian schools went to the lengths that Miss Bramble does.

Siddons shows the girls their dormitory, and continuing her ruthless army-like grind to break them into the Spartan School discipline. Once alone, the new girls tell Judy disturbing rumours they have heard about Spartan School. Amanda relates a story about a friend who was sent to it. Previously a wild girl, she never laughed or smiled again once she returned from Spartan School.

And the parents? Apparently they have no idea of what the school is like (or don’t believe it). Later we learn that Miss Bramble censors all the girls’ correspondence to their parents regarding her methods. The girls are to write glowing letters saying how happy they are at the school and learning to behave better. And what happens when they go home and tell their parents? By that time, says Miss Bramble, they are completely different people: “obedient and with a respect for authority”. In other words, too frightened to tell anyone.

Judy still isn’t fazed by her first impressions of Spartan School, and neither is Liz, who starts larking around. Unfortunately she accidentally breaks a lightbulb. When Siddons returns, she assumes Judy broke it and Liz doesn’t own up. Judy realises this is because Liz is more scared of the school and Miss Bramble than she is admitting.

In punishment, Judy is forced to stand in the dinner hall with her hands on her head and get no food. The food isn’t bread and gruel as you might expect, but it is bad quality food all the same. From the way the other girls look at Judy while she undergoes this humiliation, she gets the impression that niceness and kindness are unknown qualities at the school. But Judy’s punishment doesn’t end there. When Miss Bramble enters the hall (all pupils have to stand when she does), she inflicts the icing on the cake: Judy has to share a table with Miss Bramble where she gets a meal of bread and water while Miss Bramble gets a gourmet dinner.

Afterwards, Judy says she has never been so humiliated. The other girls are angry with Liz for not owning up and being responsible for what Judy went through. Judy herself is more understanding about Liz being too frightened to own up. Liz feels so guilty about it all that she sneaks to the kitchen to smuggle some proper food to Judy. Liz is disgusted to see how Cook feeds Jason, Miss Bramble’s cat, better than she does the pupils (a plate of the best chicken). Jason’s a real tiger though, and Liz has to run the gauntlet with him in order to get the chicken.

Judy is thrilled with the food and Liz is forgiven. The girls decide to band together in a friendship for standing up against Miss Bramble and Spartan School, and not let it break them.

The first test comes immediately when Miss Bramble and Siddons arrive about the stolen cat’s supper. This time Liz does own up. The girls rally behind her, saying they are all involved, as they do not want Liz to face the punishment alone. Realising the friendship that has formed, Miss Bramble tells them that she does not allow close friendships because these are bad for discipline, and is going to turn them all against each other. To make things even worse, the whole school, teachers and all, have turned against Judy because Miss Bramble is taking her rage over Judy’s defiance out on all of them, even the teachers.

However, Judy is more concerned about Amanda, whose health and nerves aren’t strong. Amanda was sent to Spartan School because her parents thought it would toughen her up, but instead it is making her ill. But the teachers are as cruel as Miss Bramble and show her no compunction or medical attention at all.

In the courtyard, Miss Bramble’s plan to break up the friendship gets underway. She has the girls toss a heavy medicine ball, and the one to drop it will be the victim for the punishment. As the weakening Amanda is bound to be the one, Judy saves her by dropping the ball deliberately and taking the punishment herself. The punishment is putting Judy in the pillory, with the whole school throwing rotten fruit at her. They are only too happy to do so as they have turned against Judy. Siddons orders the three girls to do the same, or Judy will be put in solitary confinement. Their response is to throw the rotten fruit at Siddons. Surprisingly, this results in the whole school rioting against Siddons and the school discipline while the three friends release Judy. But when reinforcements arrive, the other girls go back to their subservient selves and put the blame on the four friends. The four friends are put in solitary confinement, which means being imprisoned in cramped, freezing, rat-infested cells. Amanda emerges even weaker but recovers after a rest, and the others are even more defiant, angry and determined to stick together. Seeing this, Miss Bramble is even more anxious to destroy the friendship because in her view it impedes discipline. This time Siddons offers to have a go at it.

Siddons takes the four friends out for a skiing lesson. There are only enough skis for three, so Judy is excluded. She is directed to go down the slope to check it is clear. She finds it is clear, but when Sarah skis down, a branch hidden on the slope causes Sarah to take a fall. She accuses accuses Judy of putting it there on purpose and turns on her. Judy soon realises Siddons is behind it, and spots the proof – a glove Siddons dropped while taking the branch from the tree – but needs to sneak out and retrieve it if she is to convince Sarah. She succeeds, although she narrowly escapes being caught by Siddons.

Siddons soon realises her trick has failed, but soon has another one brewing: tricking the other friends into distrusting Judy. She forces Amanda to clean windows, despite Amanda telling her that she cannot climb ladders on medical grounds, and her health is worsening. Amanda ends up falling off the ladder, with Judy breaking her fall. Judy covers for Amanda by cleaning the windows herself while the others take Amanda to the dormitory. But she does not realise Siddons is watching and had planned it that way all along. After Judy cleans the windows, Siddons dirties them up again so Amanda will think Judy lied to her. And when Judy sees the look on Amanda’s face when Amanda sees the dirty windows, it looks like Siddons’ trick is going to succeed!

Realising Siddons’ trick, Judy pulls a smokescreen (literally) to cover up the windows looking like they were not cleaned. This succeeds in foiling Siddons and regaining Amanda’s trust. Unfortunately this also earns Judy the punishment that “never fails” at Spartan School – the Iron Mask!

Yes, a real-life iron mask that is straight out of the Middle Ages. Judy is to be locked into this ghastly contraption for two days, with no respite whatsoever. Out of all the tortures that have been inflicted on her so far, this is the one that is the most telling on Judy’s strength. It also makes Judy a target for bullying and cruel tricks from all the other girls, who have grown as heartless and cruel as Siddons because Miss Bramble’s ‘discipline’ has destroyed all sense of humanity in them.

Later, the girls rescue a pigeon from being clubbed to death by Siddons. After they help it to recover, they use it to carry a message for help and hope the message makes its way to a school inspector.

Next day, Judy is almost collapsing under the weight of the iron mask. It makes her so faint that she breaks a flask in science class and sets poisonous fumes off. While the class evacuates, Judy makes her way into the laboratory storeroom in the hope of finding something that will help her get the mask off. She succeeds, and then throws the iron mask down the mountain so Miss Bramble can never use it again.

Terrible punishment for this is inevitable. Sadistic Siddons suggests that the girls be allowed to choose the punishment as they all think Judy set off the poisonous fumes on purpose so she could get rid of the iron mask. Of course Miss Bramble thinks it is a marvellous idea. The girls’ punishment is a hockey match where they all take turns in fouling and brutalising Judy.

But just as this punishment ends, a helicopter arrives. The carrier pigeon did get through and the helicopter has brought in a school inspector, Miss Craig. Miss Craig indeed suspects something is wrong with the school after witnessing the inhumane hockey match and sees Miss Bramble for explanations. Miss Bramble says Jenkins must have goaded them but they will all be punished, while Judy tells Miss Craig that Miss Bramble put them up to it and it’s all part of how she runs the school through terror. Miss Bramble tries to cover up with smooth talk in how her school prides in discipline that turns unruly girls around. Nonetheless, Miss Craig tells Miss Bramble that in view of the note she has received about brutal treatment at the school, she will make a thorough inspection of the school.

The four friends realise Miss Bramble will try to pull the wool over Miss Craig’s eyes – and eventually it looks like she could succeed. They are desperate to find a way to find a way to make her see the truth. They get their chance when Miss Bramble gives the school a film show of documentaries to impress Miss Craig. Judy plants a Charlie Chaplin film (gee, how did that get to Spartan School in the first place?). She shows Miss Craig how the girls are reacting to the film: not laughing or smiling at all. She tells Miss Craig the girls are too cowed and scared to laugh because that’s what Spartan School does to its girls. Miss Craig understands what Judy is driving at, and when Miss Bramble lashes out at Judy in anger, Miss Craig wises up to her at last. She tells Miss Bramble her school will be closed down by tomorrow and gets ready to take Judy away from it immediately.

Miss Bramble is not having that and orders Siddons to get the cine-camera. She then threatens to beat Judy, and Siddons films Miss Craig holding the cane after she snatches it from Miss Bramble to make it look like it was Miss Craig beating Judy. They use it to blackmail Miss Craig into dropping her threat to close down the school. Appalled at how this frame-up could destroy her career. Miss Craig leaves without a murmur. While she leaves, Miss Bramble says to her, “These girls need the treatment I give them. It’s the only thing they understand.”

Afterwards, Miss Bramble gives the four friends an ultimatum: sign a document promising they will never defy her again or face terrible punishment the following day. Naturally, Liz, Judy and Sarah refuse to sign. Unfortunately Amanda’s weak nerves have reached breaking point and she feels she doesn’t have the strength of the others in continuing to defy Miss Bramble. Next day she signs the document while the others get a hosing for refusing. Amanda regrets signing, but has been brought up to keep her word and refuses to go back on it, even if it was forced. Later, the girls notice how Amanda is becoming more and more like the browbeaten, terrified girls.

That night, Amanda runs away. She is in serious danger because a blizzard is looming, but hard-hearted Miss Bramble refuses to organise a search for her. She locks up the three girls in a shed for the night when they try to force her to do so. Later, Miss Bramble grows worried that the girls might report her for refusing to search for Amanda, and Siddons hatches a plan to deal with this.

Next morning, Siddons offers to help the girls escape, claiming that she has seen how wrong Miss Bramble is and sends them off down the mountain in the cable car. When the cable car is half way down the mountain, Siddons cuts through the cable to kill the girls. Miraculously, they survive, and soon discover what Siddons did with the cable.

They make their way to the police station to tell their story and get help for Amanda. But they soon discover that Miss Bramble and Siddons have arranged another nasty surprise for them: they told the police a concocted story about the girls having run away after stealing money, and Siddons had planted the money on them before they left. The police escort the girls to the cells, but Liz helps Sarah and Judy escape by distracting the police with a ‘fainting fit’. Sarah and Judy make a fast getaway on a sleigh and head across the country to shake off the police.

They check out a hotel in the hope the guests found Amanda on the slope. Instead, they find Amanda herself! She says she found a calf on the slopes and they helped keep each other warm in the shelter of some rocks. After the blizzard eased, a farmer found Amanda when he came looking for his calf. He brought Amanda to the hotel, where she has made a good recovery. She phoned her father about Spartan School, who in turn contacted Judy and Sarah’s parents, and Mr Rogers is on his way to collect Amanda.

Just then, the police catch up to the girls, and they have brought Liz as well. But before the police can do anything, there is a sudden alert that an avalanche is imminent and will sweep Spartan School away. They cannot warn the school because the school phone has been cut off. What’s more, another blizzard has started. The girls decide to head back to Spartan School to warn them, making their way through the blizzard.

They make it back to the school. Knowing Miss Bramble is unlikely to listen to them, they decide to sound the old fire bell instead. But Siddons has seen them return and alerts Miss Bramble. They lock the girls in the bell tower. Miss Bramble does not listen to the girls’ warnings about the avalanche. Fortunately, Siddons does.

The girls manage to break down the door by using the bell as a battering ram. The noise the bell makes while they do so rouses the school, which enables Siddons to warn them about the avalanche. The school evacuates, and on the way down the slope, they bump into the rescue party consisting of the police, Judy’s father – and Miss Craig, who found the courage to report Miss Bramble to the authorities. The schoolgirls say they don’t know where the four friends are.

Meanwhile, the four friends have found Miss Bramble knocked out and unconscious on the bell tower steps. They pull her away with a sledge and eventually meet up with the search party. While they do so, the avalanche gets underway and destroys Spartan School.

Miss Bramble regains consciousness and cannot understand how these “wicked girls” were capable of saving her life. The police tell Miss Bramble how Miss Craig has told them about her “strange ideas of discipline”. When Miss Bramble says she was certain discipline would be good for the girls, Miss Craig tells Miss Bramble that discipline is good, but her “harsh tyranny” is not. However, seeing as Spartan School is no more, Miss Craig has little doubt the authorities will take no further action in the matter (whaatt?!?). Nonetheless, Miss Craig tells Miss Bramble that her teaching days are over – “over for ever!” Meanwhile, Siddons slinks away and is not seen again.

The four friends return to England and stay together at a much better and happier school.

Thoughts

This was the first story Terence Magee wrote for girls’ comics. It was also the first to pair up Terence’s writing with the artwork of the unknown artist who is nicknamed “Merry”. This pairing would occur again and again, most prominently in Jinty’s “Merry at Misery House”. Other occasions included the extremely popular Sandie story, “Slave of the Trapeze”.

Girls’ comics often made comment on progressivism vs. authoritarianism in education, particularly on how evil authoritarianism could be if it was taken too far. In so doing, it was linked with the bully teacher/principal theme, which was frequently used to illustrate what not to do in the classroom (or for the creators to purge their own memories of bully teachers?). The theme of tyrannical headmistresses going to extremes with discipline and reacting against modern teaching methods was in Tammy from the first issue with “The Girls of Liberty Lodge”. Here Miss Steele runs her school with such bizarre and harsh discipline that she stages show trials for girls in the school hall in front of the whole school. However, Miss Steele’s nemesis is not a pupil but a teacher, Miss Valentine. When Miss Steele reprimands Miss Valentine for showing a pupil kindness (so kindness is not allowed at this school either) Miss Valentine responds by quitting and establishing a progressive school, Liberty Lodge, in reaction against Miss Steele. From then on, Miss Steele pulls every trick in the book to destroy Liberty Lodge.

Jinty also used the theme on occasion. In one of her holiday specials she ran “The Spoof of St. Elma’s”, where the “cold and unfeeling” Miss Reed takes great pride in making St Elma’s “the harshest and strictest school in the country” (grim teachers and appointing the hardest girls as prefects are among her methods) and has no tolerance whatsoever for modern progressive teaching methods. She vows not to retire until she can find someone who can run the same way, and eventually tries it with a computer named Miss Steele. But it all blows up in her face when the computer malfunctions. As a result, her harsh, unfeeling legacy is completely swept away and progressive, caring teaching comes in with the new headmistress.

A variant Jinty had on the theme was “Children of Edenford”. Headmistress Miss Purity Goodfellow uses drugs to turn her pupils into brainwashed paragons of virtue in the name of perfection – with the full blessing of the girls’ parents.

Jinty’s most striking, and best thought-out example of the theme was “Dracula’s Daughter”, where authoritarian Mr Graves is determined to turn free-and-easy Castlegate into an old-fashioned grammar school. He rams it down everyone’s throats, even the teachers’, saying that he’s the headmaster so everything he says goes, and the teachers are to shape up to it or ship out. Mr Graves also believes fun and play belong in the home and not the classroom, and imposes this on the school too. However, unlike Miss Bramble or Miss Reed, Mr Graves is not a cruel, unfeeling sadist who subjects pupils to mock trials or ladles over-the-top torture with a shovel in the name of discipline. He is a bigot, not sadistic or insane like the headmistresses mentioned here. Ironically, he does have a heart and he shows he can be human when he believes it is appropriate for him to do so. Moreover, Mr Graves ends up becoming less rigid in his beliefs about education and learns to respect progressive education more. Still, everyone at Castlegate is relieved when Mr Graves leaves and goes back to his old grammar after discovering its discipline has slipped to the point of the boys becoming delinquent.

Spartan School is no doubt the most intense and excessive example of progressivism vs. authoritarianism in girls’ comics. Nothing is beyond Miss Bramble in her crusade to turn ‘unruly’ girls into her models of obedient and disciplined girls. However, we suspect discipline is just her excuse and the real motive behind her methods is that she’s a sadist who likes to torture girls emotionally, physically and psychologically. We suspect this even more when Miss Bramble says she has to stop the girls reporting her to the authorities because they would not understand her methods.

The text boxes say that Miss Bramble runs the school as if it were Victorian, but surely not even Victorian schools went as far as Miss Bramble. The girls either emerge as emotionally and psychologically traumatised zombies or like Siddons – unfeeling, bullying monsters with no trace of kindness or humanity to be seen. It is not just unruliness that is beaten out of girls but all trace of kindness, humanity and friendship as well. This is clearly because Miss Bramble does not tolerate tender emotions as she does not have any, and she does not allow friendships because they are building blocks to conspiracy against her discipline. She wants all her girls to be turned into models that are based on her personality. It could well be that Siddons came to Spartan School as an ‘undisciplined’ girl herself, and Miss Bramble’s ideas of discipline turned her into the stone-hearted monster and flunky that she is. As a result, Siddons is capable of anything, even murder. Or maybe she was a genuine badass kid in serious need of straightening out, but just got a whole lot worse at Spartan School. In any case, the four friends are the only oasis of kindness and courage we see in the entire school. Nowhere else is it to be seen.

Miss Bramble seems to ride on the shoulders of neglectful / useless parents who don’t seem to pick up on what’s going on at Spartan School or what their girls have become after they return from the school. Some may even approve of it. Rumours about the school’s cruelty circulate, Amanda herself has seen a damaged girl returning from Spartan School, and girls go home from Spartan School looking broken and frightened, yet nobody seems to step up and look into things. Parents still send their girls to it, believing it will do their girls a world of good. It’s not until Amanda manages to bring an inspector in that the cruelty of the school finally begins to get out. At least the four friends’ parents redeem themselves somewhat when they come in person to form part of the rescue party.

It is a bit annoying that Miss Bramble seems to get off a bit too lightly at the end of the story. Miss Craig takes the view that the authorities will not do much because Spartan School has been destroyed. Oh, come on, this is a woman who’s not only committed physical and psychological abuse against girls but is guilty of attempted murder as well! Shouldn’t there be at least a full public inquiry before deciding what should be done with Miss Bramble? Don’t the parents and pupils get a say in the matter? A lot of readers must have wished Miss Bramble had died in the avalanche or broken her neck on the staircase after reading Miss Craig’s view on what will happen to her. As for Siddons not being seen again after she disappears…well, it does suggest she might have come to a sticky end off-panel. Readers must have hoped for that anyway.

When Judy arrives at Spartan School, it’s where Miss Bramble finally meets her match, much in the way that Misery House does with Merry Summers. Like Merry, Judy refuses to be broken by the cruelties of the institution, finds strength in the only friends she has, and uses her quick wits to get out of the scrapes and dirty tricks that Miss Bramble and Siddons pull on her. As with Merry, Judy’s defiance takes the form of something that flies in the face of Spartan School and defies all attempts to break it. In the case of Merry, it is keeping on smiling and joking, no matter what. In the case of Judy, it is maintaining the four-friend friendship against all of Miss Bramble’s attempts to destroy it. And like Merry, Judy is determined to get word out about the cruelties of Spartan School and get it shut down. Unlike Merry, Judy succeeds on her very first try, although it takes time for help to arrive because of the blackmail Miss Bramble pulls on Miss Craig.

On this blog, Spartan School has been regarded as a forerunner of “Merry at Misery House”. For one thing, it is the same creative team. Parallels between the two stories have been noted above. The cruel institutions are physically destroyed (fire in Misery House, avalanche in Spartan School) as well as being shut down by authorities that have been finally been alerted by unsettling reports. Misery House also resorts to beatings, pillories, unhealthy isolation cells, poor food and other cruelties (but no iron mask, thank goodness) in order to break the protagonist. As with Judy, they also pull blackmail and other dirty tricks in order to isolate the protagonist from her friends and turn them against her. Character-wise, Judy could well be a predecessor of Merry; she likes to play jokes to liven things up a bit, but unwisely does them during class time. Liz is a bit like Merry too; our first impressions of her are that she is a chirpy girl, just like Merry.

In some ways, Spartan School does Judy a lot of good, albeit in spite of itself. Her energies, which went into practical jokes at her previous schools, are rechanneled into bringing down Spartan School and foiling all the tricks that are pulled to destroy the friendship. At the beginning we see a stubborn streak in Judy; once she puts her mind to something, she does it. This would have helped Judy immensely once she became determined not to let anything at Spartan School crush her. We get the impression that Judy emerged as a more toned-down and mature girl. No doubt she emerged as a much stronger and courageous one.

 

Jinty & Penny 20 June 1981

jinty-cover-20-june-1981

  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Food for Fagin (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • What the Eye Doesn’t See – text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Russalka – Gypsy Rose (artist unknown)
  • Just the Job
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)
  • Worlds Apart (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Working Horses
  • Dracula’s Daughter (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)

Pam tracks down runaway Steve during a school trip to London and that storyline is all wrapped up happily. It isn’t long before another one spins again, and it’s centred on a Pond Hill pupil named Mack who has a real ear for music. Mack’s also a non-white character, which is quite refreshing.

Mum has told Olivia her dog Fagin’s only getting one tin of food a day and it’s up to her to stump up the rest to fill Fagin’s bottomless tum. Olivia is doing her best, but is beginning to find Fagin is causing difficulties there.

In the text story, Sally is finding it difficult to accept wearing glasses. Then she finds the boy she fancies needs glasses too. So it’s a date thanks to glasses!

It’s another recycled Strange Story for Gypsy Rose. Russalka is a spirit who haunts the Danube River and lures men to their doom. Katerina discovers Russalka is trying to do this with her brother Georgi. What can she do?

In “Angela’s Angels” Sharon is getting into all sorts of scrapes helping a patient. First it’s getting her off a window ledge without falling and then helping to keep her boutique going – which causes a brush with the law. Meanwhile, the Angels’ bandaging class ends up looking like a casualty clearing station.

Sir Roger discovers they’re out of bread and needs to catch up to Gaye before the shops shut. Of course there are a lot of hjinks across the way, and it’s still not the end when they find the baker shut. They end up with floating bread as anything carried inside Sir Roger’s apparel becomes a ghost of its former self, while the baker finds floating coins coming out of his till. Meanwhile, there are hijinks in Jubilee Street over Japanese culture.

In “Worlds Apart”, the Russians cheat their way into winning the war against Britain and the British team is executed on exercise bicycles. Yes, even the death penalty in Ann’s dream world is governed by sport. But the joke’s on the Russians when Ann’s death by exercise bicycle causes the sports world to gradually disappear under their very eyes. The next dream world the girls arrive in starts with a medieval castle and they can’t move a muscle. Nor can anyone else around them. Looks like they’ve been that way for a long, long time because there are cobwebs all over the place, and all over them too.

In “Dracula’s Daughter” it’s Mr Graves’ first day as headmaster of Castlegate. It’s a nightmare for everyone, even the teachers. Is that a headmaster or Hitler addressing the school? The girls are calling it “Dracula”.

Alley Cat is back this week. He’s got a toothache but is scared of the dentist, so he tries some DIY dentistry. The results give the dentist a real laugh.

Jinty & Penny 18 July 1981

Jinty 18 July 1981 1

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey) – final episode
  • Food for Fagin (artist Trini Tinturé) – final episode
  • Mistaken Identity – text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Call from the Heart – Gypsy Rose story (artist Hugo D’Adderio)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)
  • Winning Ways 33: Table Tennis – Drop Shot (writer Benita Brown)
  • Worlds Apart (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Alley Cat
  • Dracula’s Daughter (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Feature – The Royal Wedding Party pieces

 

This issue carries the final episode of Pam of Pond Hill. But the editor has left an invitation for readers to ask for more Pond Hill stories if they wish. So is it really her last episode or is she just going on hiatus?

Meanwhile, “Dracula’s Daughter” will be taking over the Pam spot the week after next (after the Royal Wedding issue). And things have gotten worse in Castlegate after Mr Graves’ overzealous drive to turn it into a strict, old-fashioned grammar school drives a teacher out – because the replacement is a bully teacher! She picks on the entire form, except for Mr Graves’ daughter, whom she treats as teacher’s pet. Lydia is not happy at this, and realises the bullying she is getting from the other girls because of her father’s campaign will be getting even worse because of it.

“Food for Fagin” ends in this issue too. In this episode Fagin’s gargantuan appetite puts him in danger of being put down – twice. But a twist of fate ends up with Olivia turning Fagin’s appetite to his advantage in a television commercial. So now Fagin is paying for his own food and more.

In the text story, “Mistaken Identity”, a conceited girl brags once too often when she thinks two women have praised her good looks. But she ends up with a very red face and a well-deserved humbling when she finds out that the women were talking about their dog!

Nemesis also strikes in the Gypsy Rose story, “A Call from the Heart”, which appears in full in the next entry. An arrogant Victorian lady causes the death of a Victorian street cry girl who sells lavender. But the girl curses the lady with her dying breath, and the lady had bought lavender from the girl only a few minutes before, so what combination will follow?

The third dream world ends in “Worlds Apart”. It’s a very narcissistic comeuppance for the vain Samantha, who acts as heartlessly as the Victorian lady does to the lavender girl. But nemesis strikes through another curse that causes Samantha’s face to appear as a pig’s head in every mirror she sees. Samantha screams hysterically as she realises she can never see her beautiful face again, and she cannot live without admiring herself in a mirror. Then her screaming shatters all the mirrors – and herself!

In “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost” it’s hijinks when Gaye and Sir Roger go boating. Tansy of Jubilee Street and her brother Simon start fighting again, this time over who is the better tennis player. But with the way they carry on, they are in serious need of an umpire.

And in “Angela’s Angels”, one of the angels, Helen, has a crippled wing from a burnt arm that has turned septic. But she is scared of getting it treated because Sister Angela could suspend her from her duties if she finds out she is not capable of performing them. So it’s double-bluff time to get treatment while fulfilling duties, but will it work?

Jinty 29 August 1981

JInty 29 August 1981

In the text story profiled on this week’s cover, the paper boy is Suspect Number One when mail gets stolen. But readers must have noticed another Suspect Number One on the cover – one with cute puppy innocence.

The Gypsy Rose story is a bit surprising because it is not a recycled Strange Story. It is completely new, with both Gypsy Rose and the story being drawn by Pam of Pond Hill artist Bob Harvey. The story is about a spoiled, stuck-up rich girl who learns money isn’t everything – from a kite, would you believe!

The school governors visit in “Dracula’s Daughter”. It’s a bit incomprehensible that such an upright, stuffy lot are governors of a liberal, free-and-easy school. But it also gives you a clue as to what the hell they were thinking when they put Mr Graves, a man from a strict, old-fashioned grammar school, in charge of the free-and-easy one as headmaster. However they are reconsidering appointing him for the wrong reason – they have been deeply offended by Lydia’s one-girl demonstration against his changes, and his job is now on the line.

Mo’s crime world in “Worlds Apart” ends with her concrete shoes, and Jinty seems to be using it to make a statement about the evils of crime. When one world dies and another takes over, the usual pattern is for the firemen (at the chemical accident that caused the girls’ worlds to come true) to linger over the unconscious form of the particular girl whose world is about to unfold. But in this instance the story dwells on Mo’s murder and her thinking that she has been killed by very crime world she dreamed of. And in the real world, the firemen are looking at the unconscious Mo, who recovers briefly before drifting off into the next world, which is Clare’s. But the firemen don’t pause over Clare at all. Then Clare’s world starts with the girls becoming stupid sub-humans called “dullards’. The reason they are stupid in Clare’s world is that brainy Clare always considered them stupid in the real one. And they are being used as guinea pigs in her laboratory.

Elsewhere, Tansy finds a hanky with a knot in it and wracks her brains to remember what she tied the knot for. She finds out that what she should have remembered was to check to see if the hanky was hers in the first place! Angela’s Angels are dealing with a difficult patient who is bitter after being told he is now paralysed from the waist down. In “The Sweet and Sour Rivals”, Abigail thinks she can bring down the Choos’ restaurant when she hears them talking about “paddy fields” and thinks they are setting up rice paddies in the garden. But she ends up looking a noodle, as usual. In “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost”, things get steamed up when Sir Roger neglects a kettle and it burns out. And Dad turns Arab to protect the secret of the “Holiday Hideaway”. Although Hattie helps him, she hopes he will learn his lesson after ruse gets him caught in drenching rain and stop all this nonsense. Some hopes!

Jinty 5 September 1981

Jinty cover 1981

In this issue, “Dracula’s Daughter” takes a turning point, and it is an extraordinary one! Mr Graves, the authoritarian headmaster who has believed fun and play belong in the home and not in school, surprises the girls when he allows them to have some fun with comedy videos in gratitude for impressing the governors and saving him from the sack. So Mr Graves is finally learning to not to be so rigid in his views about how to run a school? Will the story actually end with him becoming human and a popular headmaster at the school? Maybe – we’ll have to see how it pans out. On the other hand, Miss Snape has turned nasty towards his daughter Lydia because Lydia spoiled her obsequious tactics to become deputy head. So Lydia’s hopes that her problems are over are going to be dashed in the next episode.

It’s now the fifth world in Worlds Apart. It’s the turn of brainy Clare, and her world is one where intellectualism rules and the rest of the girls are sub-humans who are treated as lab rats. But there are people in this world who don’t like this sort of thing. They have rescued the girls and turned them loose in the wild. Unfortunately the wild is not looking friendly, so will the girls survive?

The Sweet and Sour Rivals take a break from rivalry over their restaurants. In this issue the sour rivals pull dirty tricks on the sweet ones during a cross-country run. But as usual, things turn sour for the sour rivals in the end.

Angela’s Angels are having problems with a patient who’s all bitter after being left paralysed. And a jealous tea-girl is causing trouble for Jo because she is jealous of her.

Pam of Pond Hill is currently not running, but her strip ended with an open invitation for readers to ask for her back. She appears on the back cover to introduce us to the lineup of 1982 annuals, which probably raised the hopes of readers who wanted her to return.

Hattie is still lumbered with doing all the donkey work in covering up for her family who would rather hide in the house than admit they could not afford their holiday. This time it’s delivering phoney postcards. And then the secret is in danger again when girl guides do window-cleaning on their house.

Jinty & Penny 13 June 1981

Jinty cover 9.jpg

(cover artist: Mario Capaldi)

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Food for Fagin – first episode (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • There’s No One Quite Like Grandad – text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • The Resting Place – Gypsy Rose story (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)
  • Worlds Apart (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Dracula’s Daughter – first episode (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Alley Cat

This is one of the few issues where Phil Gascoine‘s artwork does not appear. He is in between “Diving Belle”, which finished in the previous issue, and his next story, “Holiday Hideaway”. Meanwhile, two new stories begin.

The first is a Trini Tinturé story, “Food for Fagin”. Olivia Twist (yes, and the Charles Dickens references continue throughout the story) has always wanted a dog of her own. Eventually her mother agrees, but on the strict condition that the dog won’t eat much, because they have a tight budget. So Olivia gets Fagin – and guess what sort of appetite he develops as he grows?

The second is “Dracula’s Daughter”. We get shades of Dickens again in the form of a headmaster who is virtually Dickensian in the way he believes a school should be run. And he is out to ram it down the throat of his daughter’s free-and-easy school with strong-arm tactics.

In “Worlds Apart”, the girls have finally figured out why they are ending up in these strange worlds; first a world of fatties and now a world of sports-mad people. It is their dream worlds becoming reality. They realise what must be done in order to escape the sports-mad world – Ann, the unknowing creator of the world, must die. But can they really allow Ann to die? At the end of the episode it looks like the question has become redundant when the villains of the piece in this world take a hand.

In “Pam of Pond Hill”, Steve runs away because he can’t stand his stepfather. But of course he would pick a heck of a time to do so – his mother is ill! “Angela’s Angels” have a problem patient, who is bad tempered, violent, and is now climbing out the window – on the seventh floor!

Mario Capaldi

Mario Capaldi (1935-2004) is an odd case of a key Jinty artist. He had a uniquely visible position as a long-term cover artist during not just one but two time periods, strongly setting the visual identity of the comic. Like fellow British artist Phil Townsend, Mario Capaldi had a very solid style, strongly grounded in the day to day world around him; his covers nevertheless show that he was well able to draw a wide range of sports that will have required research and imagination. However, when you come to tot up the comics stories that he did over that time, it is not as substantial a body of work as you might have thought. Despite that, he is clearly one of the key artists of this title.

Jinty cover 17Jinty cover 14Jinty 13 September 1975

He started off his time at Jinty drawing “The Jinx From St Jonah’s“, which from issue 4 occupied a prominent position on the cover almost every week. The cover page was nominally a page of comics in that it showed a sequence of two or three panels, but the big focus was on the splash image, a very dynamic drawing of Katie Jinks typically in the middle of some pratfall or other. This continued until the time of the Jinty & Lindy merger in November 1975. Mario Capaldi continued drawing the story for a while longer but by the middle of 1976 this too had come to an end.

That wasn’t the end of Capaldi’s work in Jinty, but he didn’t appear again regularly for some years. 1976 saw him start a stand-alone story (“Champion In Hiding”) but without finishing it: it was completed by another artist. (“Jinx” had also had episodes continued by other artists, but this is not as surprising for an ongoing humour strip with no fixed end point as it is for a story that will typically not last for much longer than four months or so in any case.) 1977 saw him start and complete another stand-alone story, “Cursed To Be A Coward!”; not one of my top picks, but handily proving he could pull off creepy just as well as zany.

He must have been in the mood for creepy work, because he did a lot of work for sister publication Misty over the two years that it ran. (I assume he did not leave Jinty purely in order to work for Misty, because that was first published in February 1978, some considerable time after the last episode of “Jinx” ran; and even if the first batch of stories for a new comic are likely to be written and drawn some time in advance, that would still mean Capaldi potentially drawing “The Sentinels” for Misty at a similar time as when “Cursed To Be A Coward!” was running in Jinty.)

His return to the pages of Jinty does follow quite nicely on the heels of Misty‘s merger with Tammy, so I could well imagine that’s not a coincidence.  He then drew a couple of key stories for Jinty – one of Mistyfan’s favourites, “Dracula’s Daughter“, and one of my favourites, “Life’s A Ball For Nadine”. It is his cover images, though, that will be a particular part of many Jinty readers’ iconic memories of the title.

His daughter, Vanda Capaldi, has more information his life and artistic development. She also wrote an article specifically for the Misty fansite (currently down, hopefully will return shortly).

[Edited in Jan 2015 to add the following]

It seems sensible to also include a list of the stories that Mario Capaldi is known to have worked on in other titles or publications:

  • The Sentinels (Misty)
  • The Button Box (Tammy)
  • Daughter of The Regiment (Tammy)
  • Wee Sue (Tammy)
  • Winner Loses All (Misty)

Jinty & Penny 25 July 1981

Image

(Cover artist: Mario Capaldi)

  • With Best Wishes… – text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Dracula’s Daughter – (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Holiday Hideaway – (artist Phil Gascoine) – first episode
  • The Veiled Threat – Gypsy Rose (artist Tony Higham)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost – (artist Hugh-Thornton Jones)
  • Happy Ever After – special feature
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)
  • The Sweet and Sour Rivals (artist Carlos Cruz) – first episode
  • Worlds Apart (artist Guy Peeters)

This is the last Jinty to feature the Penny logo. It would return, but be reduced to a smaller size, before being dropped shortly before the merger with Tammy. In this issue, Jinty commemorates the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer on 29 July 1981. So the issue is big on the wedding theme. The text story, “With Best Wishes”, brings us a story based on the royal wedding. For this reason, the text story is on the first page of this issue, which is very unusual for a text story. Jinty also has a competition to honour the wedding, with Kodak cameras as top prizes, and the back cover gives instructions for making party pieces for your own royal wedding celebration. And there is “Happy Ever After”, a feature telling us about the things to use to wish for happiness and good luck in a marriage.

Good luck is lacking in Gypsy Rose’s wedding themed story, “The Veiled Threat”. Liz is getting married, and her Aunt Vicky tells Liz how her mother forced her to marry a man for money although she couldn’t stand him and protested loudly at the wedding. When Liz wears Aunt Vicky’s veil (and there seems to be a black cloud hanging over it), she starts acting the same way Aunt Vicky did at her wedding. Is it wedding nerves or the veil? In the end, Liz gets happily married – without the veil. (By the way, this was a reprint of another Strange Story, and I have the original to prove it.)

Tansy of Jubilee Street also celebrates, with the family and friends determined to go to London to see the wedding. But they run into transport problems, including being diddled with a gypsy wagon – which they end up pulling themselves after the horse collapses. But everything works out even better than Tansy imagined when they catch the attention of a television crew.

“The Sweet and Sour Rivals” starts. It is one of the more rare stories that features ethnicity, because it stars a Chinese girl. Also starting is “Holiday Hideaway”, about a family who hide in the house and pretend to be on holiday, just because Dad is too embarrassed to let the neighbours know they can’t afford the real thing after his business failed.