Tag Archives: Eduardo Feito

Hush, Hush, Sweet Rachel [1978-79]

Sample Images

Hush Hush Sweet Rachel 1Hush Hush Sweet Rachel 1aHush Hush Sweet Rachel 1bHush Hush Sweet Rachel 1d

Published: Misty 18 November 1978 – 3 February 1979

Episodes: 11

Artist: Eduardo Feito

Writer: Pat Mills

Reprints: Best of Misty Monthly 3

Plot

Lisa Harvey is a popular girl at school, and Jackie and Janis are her best friends. Life is not perfect for Lisa, though. At home, Lisa’s mother is not devoting the attention to Lisa that she ought because she’s too wrapped up with her career in beauty consultation. At school, Lisa has an enemy in Rosie Belcher, “The Incredible Bulk”. Rosie is jealous that Lisa is popular while she is not. Rosie never thinks that she never does anything to make herself popular. She is a bully and is not kind or polite to anyone. Worse, she has very disgusting eating habits and manners that she likes to nauseate the girls with. We learn later the whole Belcher household is this way; Rosie’s brother Mervyn is apparently even worse than she is, and his nickname is “Gobber”. Rosie blames everyone but herself for being so unpopular: “It’s victimisation. They always pick on me.” Rosie does not appreciate that Lisa is kinder to her than the other girls: “Rosie lives next door and I feel a bit sorry for her.” They tell Lisa she is too nice for her own good and she would be wiser to avoid Rosie.

But Lisa’s problems really start when a strange woman starts following her around. Eventually Lisa decides enough is enough and confronts the woman, who says she will be in touch with her soon. In the wake of the woman’s appearance, Lisa starts experiencing strange bouts where she acts like a four-year-old girl, and then returns to normal.

Lisa also starts having nightmares in which she sees such a little girl in her dreams. She screams “Mummy-mummy-mummy! Let me out!”. The first time this happens she tries to get out of her bedroom window, which puts her in danger of falling. Her parents stop her in the nick of time. Out in the street, the woman is watching and seems to know what is going on. She thinks “Hush, hush, sweet Rachel, don’t you cry. We’ll soon be together – you and I. All your sorrows are nearly over.”

At school, Lisa’s odd bouts of acting like a four-year-old are worsening. Rosie intends to take advantage of it to get her revenge on Lisa. And as Rosie lives next door to Lisa and Lisa foolishly lets her get closer to her than the others do, this will make whatever Rosie plans easier to carry out.

The woman still follows Lisa around. Lisa snaps and tells her to clear off or she’ll call the police. The woman says she is “sure now” and has Lisa tell her parents she will call tomorrow evening. Scared, Lisa turns to Janis and Jackie for support as her mother won’t listen.

At the fun fair, Lisa raises Rosie’s temper, so she runs into the crazy house to get away from her. In the crazy house, Lisa is chased by a terrifying man who threatens to punish her for not taking her medicine. When the man corners Rosie, she reverts to her strange childish behaviour and screams, “Mummy-mummy-mummy, let me out!” When she comes out of the crazy house, there is no sign of the horrible man. The strange woman takes the shaken Lisa off for a soothing cuppa. The woman introduces herself as Mrs Prendergast, and she once had a beautiful daughter named Rachel. Rachel had a teddy bear just like the one Lisa has just won at the fair, which we suspect helped to trigger Lisa’s fit. She shows Lisa a photo of Rachel, which shows she is the girl from Lisa’s nightmare, but reveals little else.

Mrs Harvey doesn’t take what Lisa says about Mrs Prendergast seriously and thinks Mrs Prendergast is interested in her beauty products. But the Harvey parents get a shock when Mrs Prendergast tells her story. She lost her beloved Rachel at the age of four. Mrs Prendergast could still feel Rachel’s presence for some reason, and at her doctor’s advice went abroad, but she has never really come to terms with her grief. Mrs Prendergast stumbled across reincarnation, and in particular how a child who dies in tragic circumstances, before their time, can remember their previous incarnation if they come back too soon. When she returned to Britain, Mrs Prendergast saw a ghost of Rachel, which disappeared inside Lisa’s body. Realising how much Lisa reminds her of Rachel, Mrs Prendergast did some investigating and discovered Lisa was born at the same time Rachel died, and in the same hospital. So Mrs Prendergast believes Lisa is the reincarnation of Rachel, and for this reason she wants to visit Lisa regularly.

The Harvey family are naturally shocked and angry and tell Mrs Prendergast to go away. Lisa also notices a curious omission in Mrs Prendergast’s story – she did not explain how Rachel died. The parents want to forget the whole thing, and don’t take Lisa’s claims of strange nightmares seriously, but Jackie and Janis listen to Lisa more.

Lisa’s odd behaviour of reverting to four-year-old behaviour gets worse at school. Realising that this behaviour is triggered when Lisa is called “Rachel” (but Lisa returns to normal if she is called “Lisa”), Rosie begins to take advantage to ‘befriend’ Lisa when she is in Rachel mode and get her into trouble. She starts by having ‘Rachel’ scrawl pictures all over the classroom walls, and is very annoyed when the teacher decides leniency is the best approach. Suspicious, Jackie and Janis check Rosie’s desk and find the markers Rosie helped ‘Rachel’ with. They warn Lisa that she must well and truly watch out for Rosie now.

Lisa finds Mrs Prendergast is still hanging around. She follows Mrs Prendergast to Rachel’s grave. When Lisa finds she was indeed born on the same day Rachel died, she accepts what Mrs Prendergast says as true and begs Rachel to set her free. Mrs Prendergast overhears, and evades the question of how Rachel died when Lisa asks her directly. Instead, Mrs Prendergast repeats her desire to get close to Lisa, and even tries to bribe her into it. Lisa tells her to go away and runs off. Meanwhile, Jackie and Janis try to tell Mrs Harvey about Lisa’s strange behaviour at school, but she just dismisses it.

Rosie visits Lisa’s house and makes her act like Rachel, which enables her to steal money that Lisa was saving for a new skirt for the disco. After Rosie leaves, Jackie and Janis find Lisa still in Rachel mode, and are shocked when Lisa’s reflection changes to Rachel in a mirror. They plead with Rachel to leave Lisa alone. Rachel replies she is lost and does not know where to go. They tell her to go home, at which Rachel shows them an image of her house. This is followed by images of Rachel crying in her bedroom, and then banging on her bedroom window while screaming “Mummy-mummy-mummy-let-me-out!” Then the mirror explodes. Jackie and Janis decide to track down the house.

Meanwhile, Lisa enrages Rosie further by getting the money she pinched back off her and buys the skirt. While Lisa enjoys herself at the disco, Jackie and Janis head off to check the house. But while they do so, Rosie bullies her way in (by stealing another girl’s ticket) and gets Lisa to act like Rachel so she can use it to humiliate her in public. Rosie gets ‘Rachel’ to put on makeup in a manner that will make her look like a clown. Rosie thinks that the girls will get such a laugh out of the joke that she will become popular at last.

While they are all out, Mrs Prendergast phones Mrs Harvey to say Lisa is in danger because Rachel was reincarnated too soon, which means an early death. Mrs Harvey won’t listen because she is afraid of losing Lisa, which is the reason she’s been burying her head in the sand about the whole matter. She feels she has to carry on as if everything is normal, so she returns to her lingerie party, and hope the trouble will all go away.

Jackie and Janis find Rachel’s house burned out and abandoned, which is the first clue as to how she died. They also encounter a nasty man trimming the hedge, who calls them ghouls who wallow in other people’s misery and tells them to go away. Following this, they decide to investigate the house after dark.

Then Janis’s Uncle Bill comes along, and he is able to tell them what happened. Rachel’s father had a terrible temper and always made her suffer for it. One day he locked Rachel in her room, at the top of the house, as a punishment. But a fire broke out, the cause of which was never determined. Rachel was unable to escape because the door was locked and the window had been made childproof. This was how Rachel came to be banging on the window and screaming as she did. Mr Prendergast was too far away trimming the hedge to hear Rachel’s cries for help. By the time he did, it was too late. The fire claimed him as well when he tried to rescue Rachel, possibly because he felt too guilty to try to escape. When the girls ask for a description of Mr Prendergast, they find it matches the description of the man they saw – so his ghost has come back as well? After this, Janis and Jackie are too scared to enter the house after dark and head back to the disco.

They arrive back at the disco just in time to see how Rosie is humiliating ‘Rachel’, and get her back to normal mode. Rosie is banned from the hall for this and for her bullying of the other girl. Lisa heads for home, but Rachel’s power draws her to the Prendergast house, where Mrs Prendergast says it is time for them to be together.

Mr Prendergast’s ghost tries to warn Lisa off, but she recognises him as the horrible man who chased her in the crazy house and does not listen. She heads for Rachel’s bedroom, where Mrs Prendergast is waiting. Lisa starts the banging behaviour on the window and screaming for Mummy to let her out. Mummy now does so by opening the window. She then directs Lisa out the window, where they will both be free and the mistake of Rachel coming back too soon will finally be rectified.

Meanwhile, Jackie and Janis have called at Lisa’s house to check on her, and found her not there. Mrs Harvey tells them what Mrs Prendergast said and now regrets not having the situation seriously instead of trying to deny it. They head out to the Prendergast house, where they are horrified to see Mrs Prendergast and Lisa on the window ledge. When they call “No, Lisa! No!”, Lisa snaps out of Rachel mode. Once Lisa realises where she is, she tries to fight Mrs Prendergast. The struggle results in Mrs Prendergast falling to her death. Lisa realises the return of Mrs Prendergast was what stirred up the ghosts and memories of her Prendergast incarnation. So now that Mrs Prendergast is gone, they cease to plague Lisa.

Thoughts

Misty drew on much of the popular horror, fantasy and SF films and literature of her day. Hush, Hush Sweet Rachel is Misty’s version of Audrey Rose. Audrey Rose Hoover dies in a burning car while banging and screaming against the window. She is reincarnated as Ivy Templeton, but the reincarnation came too soon. This meant there was an insufficient in-between resolution period for Audrey Rose’s soul and its karma in the astral planes, and this is having adverse effects on the current incarnation.

Audrey Rose’s father Elliot starts interfering in the lives of Ivy’s family because he figured out the reincarnation and wants to get close to his daughter again through her reincarnation. This triggers nightmares in Ivy in which she keeps reliving the death throes of Audrey Rose screaming and banging against the car window while the fire rages. The only one who can handle Ivy’s fits is Elliot, but this eventually lands him in court on charges of kidnapping Ivy, with the existence of reincarnation on trial.

Unlike Audrey Rose, which is taken from the adults’ perspective rather than Ivy’s, Sweet Rachel is taken from the schoolgirl perspective of the protagonist and her two best friends. The parents are what they so often are in girls’ comics – completely useless because either they don’t listen or they don’t treat it with the seriousness it requires until near the end. Sometimes they don’t even wake up to it at all, as in Mandy’s Bad Luck Barbara. At least we get more insights into the psychology of it all than we usually do. At first Mrs Harvey comes across as a neglectful, thoughtless mother, but gradually we learn that she does genuinely love Lisa. Her cavalier attitude was motivated by fear and trying to evade the situation instead of facing it. Unfortunately, this led to her constantly failing Lisa until near the end. As for Mr Harvey, we hardly see anything of him except for the meeting with Mrs Prendergast, where he tells her to leave them alone.

Lisa’s nightmares of Rachel’s death throes parallel those that Ivy experiences. But, considering that visions and apparitions of Rachel do appear in the story, it’s hard to say whether Lisa’s odd behaviour stems from her just being a reincarnation of Rachel or if Rachel came back as a ghost and is possessing Lisa. When the ghost of Mr Prendergast is introduced, it becomes clear that the ghost theme is as strong as the reincarnation theme, and they overlap so much that it is hard to tell just what is going on with Lisa. Is it a disturbed reincarnation or a ghostly possession, or is it a blend of the two?

Also unlike Audrey Rose, Sweet Rachel goes along the path of a mystery story (which girl readers just loved) that needs to be unravelled. This stems from Mrs Prendergast not telling the whole story. For some reason she won’t say how Rachel died, and this is clearly linked with the strange nightmares Lisa is having. Mrs Prendergast has seen for them for herself, but unlike Elliot Hoover she does not explain what the nightmares are about or help to stop the nightmares when they occur.

As the story is told from the girls’ perspective, the school environment, school bullying and the teen scene take the stage rather than the theology of reincarnation, which gets so heavy in Audrey Rose. Rosie Belcher comes from a long line of jealous, unpopular girls who want to bring down the protagonist because she’s so popular, and set out to do it by playing upon the problem the protagonist develops in the story. In this case, Rosie is taking advantage of Lisa’s ‘Rachel’ behaviour to humiliate her, get her into trouble, and destroy everything she hates in Lisa. But every step of the way she fails, and her nasty tricks only serve to make her even more unpopular. Not that she sees it that way. Rosie just cannot understand that it is her own conduct that makes her so unpopular.

Just what the inspiration was for Rosie’s repulsive eating habits is harder to understand though. Perhaps it was based on a real person Pat Mills knew at school or real-life neighbours who were just like the Belcher family. Or, as this is Misty, did the Misty team decide to go for the gross-out with Rosie to make her a more interesting character? Or are the Belchers reincarnated pigs or something?

Rosie brings something to the story that Audrey Rose did not have – a villain. There are no villains in Audrey Rose, so Sweet Rachel definitely has more edge and menace there. Unlike Elliot Hoover, Mrs Prendergast can also be regarded as a villain. For one thing, she is clearly not giving the whole story. Hoover was upfront on how Audrey Rose died straight from the start, but Mrs Prendergast is evasive on how Rachel died, which makes her a more suspicious and ominous character. Moreover, while Hoover genuinely wants to help Ivy/Audrey work through an unsettled reincarnation, Mrs Prendergast is clearly trying to get Lisa/Rachel out of possessiveness, even if it means killing them both on the window ledge. For these reasons, Mrs Prendergast does not come across as a particularly sympathetic character, although her tragic story does make us feel sorry for her in many ways. She is a character who gives both Lisa and us the creeps, especially when we read her remarks that she and Rachel are soon going to be together. We don’t trust her at all. And it is very odd for Mrs Prendergast to warn Mrs Harvey that the hasty reincarnation could mean an early death for Lisa (now why would that be so?) and she could be in danger when it turns out Mrs Prendergast herself is the danger to Lisa/Rachel.

When we learn more about Rachel’s home life, we have to decide which Prendergast parent is more deserving of our sympathy. The dangers Mrs Prendergast posed to Lisa/Rachel have already been described. On the other hand, Mrs Prendergast was clearly the kind, caring parent who gave Rachel the love that she needed against a father who was borderline abusive. In fact, Mr Prendergast even looks like an ogre with a tall, burly build, a squint, and even red eyes! We have to wonder why Mrs Prendergast married him in the first place. Yet Mr Prendergast has more redeeming qualities than his wife. Although he is set up as a villain with his appearance and terrifying, aggressive conduct, it turns out he is not the true villain after all. Moreover, guilt over the tragedy redeemed him and his harsh parenting, and he tried to save Rachel twice. On the second round he is more successful, even if it is just because Lisa’s mother and friends arrived in the nick of time.

Eduardo Feito’s artwork really adds to the creepy atmosphere of the story, particularly in its use of tippling, etching, light brushwork, and shadowing, and even adding a dash of feral to it. The innocence in the expressions on Lisa’s face has a soft childlike quality, which blends in with the concept of possession by a four-year-old.

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A Leap Through Time… [1978]

A Leap Through Time

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Published: Misty 26 August 1978 – 7 October 1978

Episodes: 7 (part 1 almost the length of a double episode spread)

Artist: Eduardo Feito

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Een sprong in de tijd [A Leap through Time] Tina (weekly comic, 1985)

Plot

Elena Hare is on a school trip in Crete. The school party is not far from an old amphitheatre. As usual, Laura picks on Elena, calling her “rabbit”, a cruel twist on her surname, because Elena is no good at sport, has no confidence, and keeps herself buried in books.

Elena takes refuge in the old amphitheatre and begins to daydream. She then has a vision of herself in the amphitheatre in the days of ancient Crete. She is performing a sort of bull-baiting dance with a live bull (as explained in the text that describes life in ancient Crete) and wearing a crystal bull pendant. Elena’s final challenge is the bull leap, which means taking the bull by the horns in order to perform a somersault straight over the bull’s back. The leap is demonstrated in the story’s most striking panel below:

bull-leap

The crowd cheers her victory and someone throws her the crystal bull pendant, saying “wear it for me!”

The girls catch up and Elena tells them what she experienced. They all ridicule it, but the crystal bull is there. Elena is seized by a sudden impulse to shut up that sneering Laura once and for all. Still clutching the crystal bull, she performs amazing somersaults that take the girls by surprise.

It is time for the school trip to leave, but Elena does not want to go. She feels like she belongs there, and she has been having odd dreams about some Cretan girls pleading with her to stay.

Back at school, Elena takes everyone by surprise. Last term she was useless at gym. But now, with her new confidence – and crystal bull pendant – there is no stopping her from going to the gym and her new gymnastics skills are stunning. In fact, Elena feels she knows every trick in the book about gymnastics now and is a cert for the inter-schools gymnastics contest. But then she has more visions of the Cretan girls. This causes her to take a fall while performing on the parallel bars and she ends up in hospital.

In hospital, the doctors are puzzled as to why they can’t wrench the pendant away from Elena, who is in a coma. Elena’s visions grow even more terrifying. In them, she has taken a fall while showing the Cretan girls the bull leap. But she must recover in time to teach it to them, or they will all die on the day of the sacrifice. Crete is being plagued by quakes. The King of Crete thinks the quakes are due to the bull god being displeased and must be placated with sacrifice. So the girls (Iris, Hebe, Melina, Eyria and, of course, Elena) have been selected for sacrifice to the bull god.

The girls don’t understand Elena’s protests that she is a girl from England who doesn’t understand what the hell is going on; they tell her she is the most famous bull-dancer in Crete and will teach them how to face the bull. Elena soon finds there is no escape because the girls are too well guarded.

Elena finally understands she is on some sort of time trip to ancient Crete. The pendant was bequeathed to her from another Elena, an ancestress who wore the pendant before her and successfully leapt the bull. Elena decides she must help the girls.

Upon entering the hall of the bull, Elena realises the bull is a fake. It is just a man-operated wooden machine disguised as a bull, and it has been provided for practice. Treating it like the school gym vault, Elena begins to train the girls, but they don’t have much success with the vaulting. They too are lacking confidence. Moreover, they are being fattened up for sacrifice, which does not make them fit for athletics or somersaulting over bulls. Elena imposes serious training, with intense exercise, eating only wholesome foods, and says that she used to lack confidence as well. If she can overcome that, they can too!

A real bull is brought in, and Elena takes the girls down to practise on him. She is warned the bull is extra-dangerous because of an injury. But the warning comes too late – she’s already in the pit with him, and he’s coming too fast for her to do the bull leap! However, the other girls find their courage and distract the bull enough for Elena to get out.

Following this, the girls bond together as a team and overcome their fears. The bull handler planned it that way and continues to help them by bringing in another bull for them to practise with. Elena makes progress with the bull leap and coming up with strategies to defeat the bull on the day of the sacrifice.

However, the continuing quakes have the people so terrified that the King advances the date of the sacrifice. It will now be the following day, which cuts the time the girls needed to be properly prepared, and the four trainees have not learned the bull leap.

Elena manages to orchestrate a breakout through old sewers. But they get recaptured when they reach the harbour in search of a boat. Moreover, the harbour is high and dry because the water has receded drastically. The Cretans believe it is a sign that that the bull god is angry because the sacrifice girls tried to escape. But Elena recalls from geography lessons that the sea receding in this manner means a major earthquake is coming within 24 hours (uh, shouldn’t it mean that a tsunami is coming?).

But not even the girls listen to Elena’s warnings about this. They too believe the bull god will be appeased and the quakes stop once they are sacrificed, while Elena knows that no amount of sacrificial blood will stop what is coming. Even the birds are taking fright from the impending quake and fleeing.

In the arena, Elena faces the bull alone because the others are too frightened. Elena realises the bull is too big for the bull leap, so things look even more hopeless. Then fate steps in – a small earthquake strikes and opens a deep rift in the ground that cuts the bull off from Elena and makes it run away in terror.

The King takes this as a sign that the bull god does not want the girls to be sacrificed after all, and he orders them to be set free. But a few minutes later the huge earthquake strikes, killing everyone in the arena. Elena does not look much better off.

Elena now wakes up in hospital. She has been in her strange coma for 15 days. She finds her crystal bull is now smashed and is worried she will lose her newly discovered skills for gymnastics. But when she gets back to school she is relieved to find she still has them.

In another time and place, Iris, Hebe, Melina and Eyria watch Elena perform her gymnastics with the aid of a mystic. They are glad to see Elena so happy in her own world and thank the mystic for it.

Thoughts

This story certainly gets off to an unconventional start. Before we even start reading the first episode we are actually given a page of historical background on ancient Crete and the bull leap to give us some context and help us understand the story better. Seldom have girls’ comics had such foresight. The first episode itself is even longer than Misty’s usual four-page spreads.

At first it looks like the story will go off in the direction of a timid no-hoper girl who gains confidence and talent when she is given a magical object. The formula has been used over and over in girls’ comics, and is sometimes given an edge when the magic object turns out to have a dark side or causes awkward problems. But instead of having Elena and her crystal bull continuing to wow everyone at school while arousing jealousy in rivals, which is the more usual convention, the pendant takes Elena off on an abrupt time travel journey to ancient Crete to save four girls from death. It certainly is quite a departure from convention.

Elena, who is barely out of her own shell and only just acquired a talent for gymnastics, must now impart her new skills to these four girls who are pretty much like herself not long ago – lacking confidence and think themselves hopeless at such acrobatics. It’s a race against time against the date for the sacrifice, it’s a matter of saving the lives of four girls, and then it looks like a futile cause once Elena realises there is going to be a huge earthquake anyway, regardless of what happens in the arena. But Elena takes everything firmly in hand, even when it looks like it’s all pointless because of the impending earthquake. Surely no serial has made a more sterling message about having confidence in yourself and keeping the faith than this one.

The mechanics of the time travel and the crystal bull pendant are not really explained, which is not really surprising. At first it looks like Elena might be reliving some sort of past life or becoming possessed by the spirit of the other Elena. But at the end it is revealed that the four girls and a mystic are watching her from another time and place. So could the mystic have somehow engineered the whole thing? We are not told, and it probably best left to the imagination because it would give you a headache trying to figure it out.

Feito’s artwork does a brilliant job of bringing off the story, such as those huge sweeping panels of the amphitheatre, the bull leap acrobatics, and the bulls themselves. Drawing animals was always one of Feito’s greatest strengths. The story also shows that Feito’s artwork lends itself well to period stories that use settings of ancient civilisations. Another Misty story, “When the Rain Falls…”, which uses a Roman setting, also demonstrates this. Though John Armstrong remains unmatched for drawing gymnastics, the Grecian-style panel demonstrating the mechanics of the bull leap is one of Feito’s best ever.

 

 

Girl II #151, 31 December 1983

Girl 151

  • Splat! (photostory)
  • Animal Poem (feature)
  • Fun Fashion: Going in Disguise (feature)
  • Tippy’s Special Pool (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • A Special Friend – text story (artist Jenny Gable)
  • Beauty Resolutions: I Promise… (feature)
  • The Kitty Café Cats (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Secret Society of St. Nicola’s (photostory)
  • Flower’s First Days (feature)
  • Patty’s World (artist Purita Campos)
  • Slaves of the Nightmare Factory (photostory)
  • Help Me! (problem page)
  • Police pinup (feature)

This issue of Girl II was published on New Year’s Eve 1983, so it is not surprising there is a New Year’s resolutions feature. The Kitty Cats are also having a dispute over their New Year’s resolutions – the first one of which turns out to be “We promise not to argue”. Meanwhile, Patty hasn’t even got up to Christmas Day yet, and Christmas Eve is anything but merry because Patty’s stepfather has fallen foul of a road accident.

Splat the alien needs a food called “blengrens” in his alien language – which turn out to be peas – in order to remain a convenient doll size and not his usual 10 metres. But he might have been better off growing back to 10 metres after all because he’s now been kidnapped by Rita Harrison and Thelma Crow, the worst enemies of his friend Wendy Collins.

Nobody realises “Tippy’s Special Pool” is being used for dumping chemical waste, which has now poisoned Tippy the otter and his friend Frances. Can it all be cleaned up in the final episode next week?

“The Secret Society of St. Nicola’s” swears to help a new pupil when the headmistress does not allow her to keep her pet at the school. Still, the headmistress’s position is understandable when you consider the pet is a crocodile!

The plight of the “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory” grows even bleaker after escapee Ellen Crawley dies in suspicious circumstances. In punishment for her escape, the girls are given even higher dress quotas to meet. At least the toady is punished too, by losing her privileges and having to share the girls’ rotten diet. Then Natalie falls dangerously ill, but the crooks’ only response is to shut her in the Punishment Box because she was too ill to meet her quota. Amanda is shut in there too. On the other hand, this enables Amanda to discover that fate has played a cruel trick on the man who is the mastermind of it all, and it could cause everything to explode in the crooks’ faces.

Olympia Jones (1976-1977)

Sample Images

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Publication: Tammy 2 October 1976 to 1 January 1977

Episodes: 14

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

Artist: Eduardo Feito

Writer: Anne Digby

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

Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandie: 12 February 1972 – 20 October 1973

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

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

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

 

Sandie cover 28 July 1973

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

Sandie cover 11 August 1973

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jinty & Penny 2 May 1981

jinty-cover-2-may-1981-1

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.

Pat Mills: Interview

Pat Mills is someone who has already contributed lots to our knowledge of girls comics of this era, but even so there are still some gaps in our knowledge of what he wrote, and always plenty more questions to be asked. With thanks to him for his contributions now and in the past, here is a brief email interview.

1) In previous discussions you’ve identified the following stories in girls’ comics as having been written by you. Are there any stories missing from that list that you can remember? Some other stories have been attributed to you – also listed below – which you’ve either specifically said you didn’t write, or which haven’t been included in those previous discussions. It would be great to clarify this once and for all, if we can.

Known stories (Jinty)

You have also said before that you wrote a horse story, without identifying which one it was. Might it be “Horse from the Sea”? Or perhaps “Wild Horse Summer“?

Pat Mills: No. Doesn’t ring a bell. It’s possible I did the horse story for Tammy, but it wasn’t very good.

Tammy

  • Ella on Easy Street?
  • Glenda’s Glossy Pages?

Pat Mills: Charles Herring wrote Ella which I hugely admire. I wrote Glenda. Also – Aunt Aggie, School for Snobs, and Granny’s Town, but not all episodes.

Misty

  • Moonchild
  • Roots (Nightmare)
  • Red Knee – White Terror! (Beasts)

Pat Mills: Think “Red Knee” was mine if it was the spider story. Also “Hush Hush Sweet Rachel” – art by Feito.

And some Jinty stories you didn’t write but which are often attributed to you: “Knight and Day” (now confirmed as not yours), “The Human Zoo” (I think this is thought to be Malcolm Shaw’s), “Wanda Whiter Than White“, “Guardian of White Horse Hill” (you’ve previously thought this is likely to be Malcolm’s too).

Pat Mills: No, none of those are mine.

2) I appreciate that it’s harder to remember which stories were written by other people, if you even knew these details at the time. If there are any stories that you know the writers of, we are always up for adding to our store of attributions! We know that co-workers of yours such as John Wagner, Gerry Finley-Day, Malcolm Shaw, Charles Herring wrote for girls comics, in case that helps to trigger any memories. Did you also perhaps know Jay Over, Ian Mennell, Benita Brown, Maureen Spurgeon? (Some of those names are listed in the era when Tammy printed creator credits between 1982 and 1984, meaning we do have some story credits already in hand for that time.)

Pat Mills: Charles Herring was great – Ella and similar stories.  Pat and Alan Davidson wrote stories like Little Miss Nothing – Sandie and the equivalent in Tammy. They were top writers and that style of ‘Cinderella” story was hugely popular, but I don’t think they ever worked for Mavis. [In fact we do know that Alan Davidson wrote for Jinty, though Pat Davidson did not.]

John Wagner created and wrote “Jeanie and her Uncle Meanie” for Sandie, I think.  John was an editor on Sandie, but Gerry was the founding editor.

I wrote “Captives of Madam Karma” in Sandie.

John Wagner and I wrote “School of No Escape” in Sandie. (That was not bad) And “The Incredible Miss Birch” for Sandie. (Not our finest hour!) And I must have written at least one other story of this kind for Sandie.

I also wrote “Sugar Jones” and other stories for Pink, and “9 to 4” for Girl.

3) In Steve MacManus’ new book on his time in IPC / Fleetway, he talks about stories being measured in terms of the number of panels in the story: so for instance at one point he refers to a ‘twenty-two picture episode’ and at other points to a ‘thirty-picture script’. Is this something that you too remember from your time at IPC Fleetway? Did it happen at DCThomson too? I was interested in this because it seemed like a surprising way to think about comics, rather than in terms of page count.

Pat Mills: Yes. Steve is spot on. It’s a big subject. A thirty picture story in girls comics would theoretically deliver a lot of story. But it would be crammed and old fashioned. So I changed all that on 2000AD with less images on the page and started to apply it to Misty.

4) You’ve talked before about girls comics working differently from boys comics, and Steve MacManus recalls you saying that in a girls story the heroine would beat a bully, ride in a gymkhana, and still get back home in time to make her motherless family a hearty tea. Clearly girls comics were very full of plot! And you were a big part of rewriting a bunch of boys stories to make them fit the girls comics model more closely. Can you talk in a bit more detail about how this worked, in other words, what the mechanism was, more exactly? Is it a case of using fewer action sequences, more surprise reveals, lots of scene changes…?

Pat Mills: The big principle of girls comics that I applied to boys comics was “emotion”. Sometimes this worked well, but it needed applying in a different way. More “cool”, perhaps. Some girls principles didn’t adapt well:  jealousy for instance. Girls loved stories involving jealousy – boys didn’t. Hence “Green’s Grudge War” in Action wasn’t a hit.  Similarly, mystery stories work well in girls comics, boys didn’t give a damn about mystery. Hence my “Terror Beyond the Bamboo Curtain” in Battle, boys didn’t care what the terror was. It wasn’t a failure, but not the hit we hoped for.

However, where girls comics scored ENORMOUSLY was in having realistic stories that didn’t talk down to the reader. My “Charley’s War” is really a girls comic in disguise. Its popularity lies in it applying girls comic principles NOT boys comic principles – e.g. emotion is allowable in the context of World War One.

I was never that sold on “girls adventure” where there wasn’t a strong “kitchen sink”/Grange Hill factor. I think when Jinty went in for science fiction adventure it led the field, but not so sure about regular adventure which could seem “old school” – to me, at least. This was a factor everyone battled with on girls and boys comics, avoiding “old school” and creating stories that were “cool”.  Thus I would describe “Cat Girl” in Sally as uncool and old fashioned. Some of the Misty stories fell into that category – historical stories, for example.

Many thanks again to Pat Mills for his time, and for his memories and thoughts on this.

Exciting news about the IPC copyrights, pt II

Around this time last week, I met up with Ben Smith from Rebellion, to discuss the acquisition of the IPC copyrights and to pitch some possible ideas. This is not an interview (I didn’t take detailed notes), but it is a way of recording some particularly exciting elements of what’s looking plausible or likely.

First of all, Ben and the company as a whole are as keen to make great use of this new material as you could wish them to be. This is a significant investment for them, so it needs to be approached in a way that means it makes good long-term sense. There’s a lot of obvious value to be got from this treasure trove. A line of well-chosen reprints is a no brainer when you consider that the company has already proved the worth of that model (their reprint of Monster from Scream & The Eagle is one of their very best sellers).

Monster has name recognition factor (Alan Moore and John Wagner), but how do you sell the stories that don’t have quite such attention-grabbing names? And will it only be the ‘usual suspects’ that sit fairly comfortably alongside 2000AD – stories from horror comics or hard-hitting war tales? One of the things I was particularly happy to hear was that they really are looking in detail across the range of boys, girls, and humour comic stories. Ben was enthusiastic about all sorts of girls comics, from sports stories (yes, “Bella at the Bar” is a strong contender) to stories of everyday life (he name checked Pam of Pond Hill), and of course the science fiction / fantasy / creepy stories that were such a big part of Jinty, Misty, and Tammy. (We talked less about humour comics as it’s not my main focus, but they won’t be ignored in the line-up.) At the same time he was realistic in acknowledging that there will also need to be energy spent in making new markets; the nostalgia market is a great start but it needs to be grown to incorporate a new readership. Parents whose kids are outgrowing the Phoenix, or teens who are excited by the Olympics? Rebellion will be casting the net more widely than just the nostalgia market, wherever it ends up landing.

It’s not just reprints, though. We didn’t talk about relaunching titles or creating new material using the old characters – if these possibilities come into view I suspect it will be some way along the line, once the new playing field has been staked out and surveyed better. But merchandising, oh yeah. Again it needs to be done right, to make it work long-term, but can you imagine the bull leap from “A Leap Through Time” on a t shirt, or the cover of “Concrete Surfer” on a bag? Maybe you won’t have to just imagine it, soon.

bull-leap

Of course as a fan historian and interested blogger, I also wanted to ask other questions about the acquisition. Ben was quick to reassure that fan sites such as this one were very much fine by him (so long as people don’t ‘take the piss’ by which I assume he means reprinting whole issues or stories, or of course selling material commercially). They help to keep the buzz going, and are an important information resource. (Certainly any artist and writer credits that the reprints publish is more likely to come from bloggers and historians than from any official records, I fear.) So there is no problem with this site continuing to feature scanned art, sample episodes, posts about stories, and analysis (even if this includes spoiler details of story endings). You needn’t worry about changes to the content of this site, therefore (though I will now be amending the copyright information to credit Rebellion correctly).

I also asked about what sort of archives were included in the deal. Ben’s focus as the head of publishing is different from mine as a comics historian – he is thinking about the fact he will need to build around 80 metres of shelving to hold the bound file copies of the comics, and is looking forward to seeing if any of the new haul includes anything that could speed up the reproduction process (for instance, any usable film from the original printing – though he doesn’t hold out much hope). I am wondering if there might be any further material included in those archives – I don’t realistically expect there to be letters and editorial files, but you never know. Might there be a file copy of the issue of Tammy which never got distributed – the one which includes the last episode of “Cora Can’t Lose”? We know that there were 30 copies printed of the last pre-censorship Action, and maybe a similar situation could be the case here. I will be very keen to make a trip to the new archive location, once the dust has settled!

Dreamer 17 October 1981

Dreamer cover

  • My Strange Sister (photo story)
  • Shari King – Shark Girl (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Dawn Dreamer (cartoon)
  • Rose Among Thorns (photo story)
  • Cliff Richards – pinup
  • Pattern Printing – feature
  • Ugly Duckling (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Dog-in-the-Middle (photo story)
  • The Silver Ballerina (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • Who Stole Samantha? (photo story, writer Alison Christie Fitt)
  • Shower Power! (feature)

Like Girl, Dreamer was a 1980s IPC title that was a blend of photo stories and picture stories, and the blend seemed to be more balanced than in her sister comic Girl, which consisted of mostly photo stories. Dreamer was probably inspired by the popularity of Girl, a title that lasted nine years. However, Dreamer proved to be another short-lived title. It lasted 35 issues, from 19th September 1981 to 15th May 1982. It then merged with Girl.

We are privileged to know the writer of “Who Stole Samantha?”. Alison Christie Fitt, who has been credited more often with emotional stories, is writing a detective story here. Cheryl Homes (not Holmes!) is investigating who stole her sister’s doll, Samantha. She has to check six suspects and it is a race against time because little sister is pining for Samantha so badly that she refuses to eat.

“My Strange Sister” is also a mystery story. Joanne, who has been wheelchair-bound since an accident, is noticing her sister Eve is acting very strangely all of a sudden and sets out to discover why. But that wheelchair could be a handicap to investigations.

A ballet story is always a guarantee in a first lineup, and in this case it is “The Silver Ballerina”, about two girls who accidentally had their identities switched as babies and haven’t a clue until the power of the silver ballerina bracelet begins to reveal itself. Eduardo Feito demonstrates that he can draw beautiful ballet, and it is a pity he wasn’t called upon more regularly to draw ballet stories.

“Rose Among Thorns” is the school story. Rose is having trouble settling in at her new school and crossing a lot of bullies. And snooty old Mum nearly breaks up the only friendship Rose has there because the girl is not good enough for her. A dog is causing problems with another friendship in “Dog-in-the-Middle” where two friends start falling out over who should own the dog.

Our shark girl is a real cheat who has cheated all her way to team captain. Now she’s got her swimming team cheating against other schools. No doubt readers are reading on to see how her comeuppance shapes up. Meanwhile Sandra Swann is dubbed “Ugly Duckling” and trying to turn herself into a swan by learning to skate. It would do her well to take more care with her appearance too.

 

 

Sandie 25 March 1972

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  • No-one Cheers for Norah (artist John Armstrong)
  • Odd Mann Out (artist A.E. Allen)
  • Brenda’s Brownies – cartoon strip (artist unknown)
  • Anna’s Forbidden Friend (artist Miguel Quesada)
  • The School of No Escape (unknown artist – Merry)
  • Our Big Secret (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Not So Lady-like Lucy (artist unknown)
  • Wee Sue (artist unknown)
  • Wendy the Witch – cartoon strip (artist unknown)
  • Sandra Must Dance (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Bonnie’s Butler (artist Richard Neillands)
  • Silver is a Star (artist Eduardo Feito)

Sandie ran from 12th February 1972 to 10th October 1973 and was edited by John Wagner. She then merged with Tammy, bringing “Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie” and, more importantly, “Wee Sue”, who would last in Tammy until 1982.

I do not have the first issue of Sandie, so the seventh is presented to represent some Sandie context in Jinty’s family tree. The content of Sandie feels closer to that of the early Jinty than the early Tammy, which was more into dark tales of cruelty, abuse, exploitation and slavery. Sandie did have her share of such tales, but there was more of a blend with other types of serials. She did not have the heavy emphasis on science fiction and fantasy that Sally had either.

Tammy readers would be surprised to see how Wee Sue looked when she first began in Sandie, for her strip bears little resemblance to its premise in Tammy. Here it was not played for light relief and did not use a “story of the week” format where Sue’s famous big brains would come up with ways to get out of various scrapes, being the bane of the bullying Miss Bigger, or sort out someone’s problem. She does not attend Milltown Comprehensive and there is no Miss Bigger at all. Instead, her strip looks more like a serial, and she is a scholarship girl at exclusive Backhurst Academy, which has emphasis on sport. But it is facing closure, so Sue is trying to come up with a way to save it.

“No-one Cheers for Norah” has such a similar premise to Jinty’s “Toni on Trial” that there has been speculation that it was the same writer. Similar to Toni, Norah Day’s father was accused of theft at a sports event years ago; the scandal just refuses to go away and the stigma is now threatening Norah’s own career in the same sport. And both girls have to contend with a scheming, jealous rival as well. But Norah’s story has a tighter plotting than Toni’s; it is resolved in 12 episodes as compared to Toni’s 21, and the resolution is far more action-packed. It may also be the same writer as Jinty’s “Tricia’s Tragedy” as both serials climax with a do-or-die swimming race against a spiteful cousin, who gets roundly booed off for her conduct afterwards.

In “Odd Mann Out”, Susie Mann leads the resistance against the tyrannical administration at her school. The tyranny is not as over the top as in some stories with a dictatorial school (say “The Four Friends at Spartan School” from Tammy), which is quite refreshing. “The School of No Escape” has a school falling under a more mysterious form of oppressive administration – pupils mysteriously disappearing and then turning up in hooded robes and looking like they’ve been brainwashed or hypnotised.

“Anna’s Forbidden Friend” is a poor girl befriends rich girl story. But the threat is not so much from the rich father but his manager, who is conducting unscrupulous evictions. In “Our Big Secret”, the threat to a friendship comes from a Mum who won’t allow dogs, so Poppy Mason has to keep her new dog Pedro secret. This leads to hijinks, such as Pedro unwittingly starting a ghost hunt in this issue.

Aristocracy also features in a few strips. In “Not So Lady-like Lucy” it’s hijinks My Fair Lady style. In “Little Lady Nobody” it’s an evil squire out to cheat his niece out of her inheritance and even – shades of “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’” – make her work in a quarry! It’s even the same artist. Is that coincidence or what? And in “Bonnie’s Butler”, life gets more interesting for Bonnie Belthorp when she inherits a butler called Greston.

There just has to be a ballet story, and in this case it is “Sandra Must Dance”. Sandra can only dance through a psychic bond with her twin sister. Not the best way to be assured of a secure career, as the twins begin to discover in this episode. And now a jealous rival has worked out the secret too.

Eduardo Feito was a popular choice for drawing horse stories, especially ones that feature show jumping. “Silver is a Star” here is no exception.

And of course there are regular cartoon strips. In the case of Sandie it’s “Brenda’s Brownies” and “Wendy the Witch”.