Tag Archives: Emotional story

Ping-Pong Paula [1975-1976]

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Published: 6 September 1975 – 17 January 1976

Episodes: 20

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Paula Pride wants to become a champion tennis player. Her father runs a garage business and enjoys a happy marriage with Mum. The Prides have always been content with living in a council house.

But then comes the day Mum visits her old school friend, Joan. Joan is married to a bank manager, which enables her to live a wealthy lifestyle in a high-income house, and says she would find a council house so “dreary”. Mum, being a proud woman, gets jealous, dreads what Joan will think if she visits and sees they live in a council house, and becomes discontented with the council house they have.

Dad loves Mum so much that he agrees to take on extra work at his garage so they can afford a mortgage for a posh home like Joan’s. He should have thought more carefully before indulging Mum’s pride in this manner, because it turns out to be a dreadful mistake. They find a house as posh as Joan’s all right, but Dad now has to work all hours to pay the mortgage, plus all the luxurious furnishings that Mum wants for the new home. He is taking on so much work that soon he has no time for his family.

Mum feels neglected because of this. She is also lonely because she has no friends in their new neighbourhood (the new neighbours are too snobby and her old friends don’t visit), and is deeply hurt when Dad forgets their wedding anniversary because he is working too hard. Dad and Mum begin to quarrel over it all. Mum is accusing Dad of being too wrapped up in cars to care for his family while not considering that Dad is doing it all to pay for what she wanted, not because he’s a workaholic. It’s her fault he took on so much work in the first place.

It gets even worse when Joan is invited over to see the Prides’ new home. Snobby Joan is not impressed to see Dad in grubby garage clothes, says she’s so pleased her husband is a white collar worker and not a blue one, and walks out.

Eventually, when Dad lets Paula down at an important table tennis match because he has to go clinch a business deal, Mum gets into such a strop that she decides to right walk out on Dad and out of the posh house she had wanted so much. And she insists on dragging Paula out with her.

They end up in a seedy flat with lumpy mattresses to sleep on after Mum meets up with Coral Bly, another old school friend of hers who is now a hippy artist. So much for living like Joan!

Mum is too huffy and proud to care about Paula’s protests that she did not want to leave Dad. Nor does she care about making Paula miss table tennis practice, just because she doesn’t want Dad to snatch Paula back. Paula’s table tennis begins to suffer, but it’s Dad to the rescue when he hears. He installs a table tennis table at their old posh house for her to practise with.

Paula falls sick because of Coral’s unhealthy accommodation, but she and Mum just get kicked out. Instead of going back to Dad as Paula hoped, Mum shacks them up in a guesthouse and gets a job in a dispensary. Paula recovers in the guesthouse, but now finds her father has fallen ill from overwork (it had to happen). She starts going back to their old house to nurse him, but has to do it behind Mum’s back because Mum would have a fit if she found out Paula was seeing Dad. Mum’s definitely not allowing Dad to have any visitation rights, and Paula’s becoming a real-life ping-pong ball between her estranged parents. Paula is also missing her table tennis practice in order to care for Dad.

Mum and Paula’s coach Miss Park find out about Paula seeing Dad instead of going to table tennis practice. When Paula explains about her sick father, Miss Park is understanding and sympathetic. However, Mum is just too far up on her high horse of pride to even care that her husband is ill, much less nurse him. At least she arranges for Auntie June to nurse Dad, but she doesn’t even go to see him while he’s ill. Meanwhile, Paula is free to get back into table-tennis shape and is making strides at it.

But a jealous rival just has to come along to make trouble for Paula on top of her other problems. It comes in the form of Myra Glegg, who is also a new boarder in the guesthouse where Mum and Paula are staying. This makes it easier for Myra to play dirty tricks on Paula, such as hiding her bats or having her switch rooms to make her lose sleep.

Paula manages to work her way through Myra’s tricks and is on the rise as inter-school champion. Both parents are delighted for her, but when they come together at a match, they don’t put aside their acrimony for her sake. Paula is hurt and embarrassed when they refuse to sit for a family photo for the press. Dad takes off and Paula poses for the photo with Mum, but the upset spoils the photo opportunity.

At the county final Paula finds out her opponent is none other than Myra Glegg! So that explains the dirty tricks. And Myra tries to pull another – stirring up trouble between the quarrelsome parents to upset Paula. It fails and Myra does not even shake hands when Paula wins. Back at the guesthouse Myra rips up Paula’s table tennis photos out of spite, but the landlady catches her in the act and throws her out of the guesthouse.

Myra’s no longer a problem for Paula now, but she’s still a ping-pong ball between her separated parents. Paula tries to use her celebratory dinner at a posh restaurant to bring them together. After a bad start it begins to show some hope, but then Mum sees Dad is still wearing garage boots with his dinner suit (oops, working too hard again!). Prideful Mum makes a real scene over it because she believes she has been shown up in front of her friends. Both Paula and Dad are furious with her for shouting about it so much – and in public – when nobody would have even noticed otherwise. At any rate, it’s back to square one.

Then the landlady falls ill, so Mum and Paula have to find new lodgings. All the other guesthouses are full and relatives won’t take them in because they’re on Dad’s side and say Mum should jolly well go back to him. But she won’t because she’s still too proud for that. She’s too proud to go into a night refuge centre for down-and-outs too, so she is utterly mortified when the police put her and Paula in one.

For Paula, this is the last straw in being shunted around in boarding houses, hotels and shabby accommodation with Mum. She leaves Mum altogether and goes back to living with Dad, much to Mum’s consternation when she finds out. And it also means that Paula has no idea where her mother will be living next.

Paula is now training for the junior all-England championships, which are in four months’ time. Then Paula finds out Dad is falling behind on the mortgage payments and then learns it’s because his garage is ailing very badly. Paula takes a café job to help make ends meet but collapses with exhaustion from juggling it with her other commitments. The recuperation period the doctor prescribes puts her table tennis on hold for a month.

Dad’s business now closes down altogether, so he cannot pay the mortgage. Paula says there’s no point now anyway; it was only Mum who wanted the house, but now she isn’t even there to live in it. Dad agrees with Paula’s suggestion that they move back to a council house, as they were quite happy with one before. Paula is not sorry to leave the house that caused nothing but trouble for her family.

At the new council house Paula puts up Mum’s photo as a gesture of hope. Dad finds a job as a chief mechanic in another garage. He’s now got more times on his hands now he doesn’t have to work so hard, but is spending it showing that he misses Mum as much as Paula does.

They both begin looking for Mum, but they come up empty. Paula’s 16th birthday comes, but this does not bring the parents together. Instead it’s separate gifts, with Mum sending Paula a ticket for the top table tennis player Gordon Simons display match – anonymously. When Paula sees Mum there (something Mum was trying to avoid) she gives Paula a parcel for Dad. It turns out to be a farewell gift for him, along with a note saying that Mum is moving to Australia. It looks like the marriage is well and truly over, and all Paula can do is throw herself into her training.

At the championship Paula is not on form because Mum is not there. Then Mum, surprisingly, shows up and sits beside Dad. Paula’s assumption that they have reconciled puts her back on form and she wins. But she is wrong; Mum just takes off afterwards. Mum is now feeling sorry for everything and realises how Paula has taken the brunt of their split. But her pesky pride still won’t let her make up with Dad, and she also stupidly assumes Dad and Paula are better off without her. Paula dashes out after Mum, which causes her to get hit by a car and she falls into a coma.

But not even this brings the parents together. At the hospital they visit Paula separately while neither succeeds in rousing Paula from the coma, and they cold-shoulder each other whenever their paths cross. Seeing how they never see their daughter together, the nurse tells them, very pointedly, that if they want their daughter to wake up they must go in together, because that is what she wants. Mum’s pride still gets in the way and she objects, but Dad tells her they must put aside their differences for Paula’s sake. They do so, and Paula responds to them both being there. Mum is so overjoyed she finally forgets her pride and says she wants to come back and live with them, which speeds up Paula’s recovery. When Paula is discharged she finds her parents are living together again, and they say she won’t be a ping-pong ball between them anymore. For Paula, having her parents together again is even more important than winning the championship.

Thoughts

They say pride is one of the seven deadly sins, so this must be one of the deadliest sin stories Jinty has ever produced. The misery the Pride family goes through is all because Mum is just too proud. That pride got badly bruised the day she visited Joan and got jealous. Joan was far higher up the social ladder and living far better than Mum was, and Mum wants to start climbing up there too.

Though the rest of the family are happy as they are, Dad feeds Mum’s pride by giving her what she wants, which turns out not to be in the family’s best interest. Mum just gets stroppy at Dad when he starts spending too much time working at the garage, although it’s all to pay for what she wanted in the first place. It’s her own fault, but she’s too proud to admit that. Instead she just walks out, although she is walking out on the very thing she wanted in the first place. So what was the point of it all?

Instead of climbing up the social ladder to join the ranks of Joan, Mum starts tumbling down, down even further than the council house that she found so inadequate after seeing Joan. And she’s dragging down Paula with her, not caring about Paula’s feelings or what she is going through because the split and being constantly shunted around. Mum is just too wrapped up in her pride for that. Her pride drives her to most despicable acts at times, such as refusing to see Dad when he falls ill, or trying to keep Paula away from him. She ruins Paula’s celebratory dinner when she throws a tantrum at what her high-class friends will think if they see Dad wearing garage boots with his dinner suit. Hmph, since when did she ever have any high-class friends? She never got far with social climbing while living in the posh house, and she has long since left the place and is resorting to cheaper and even substandard accommodation. Even when she finally begins to feel sorry for everything, her pride just won’t let her even attempt reconciliation. And in so doing she is letting her pride tear the family apart and destroy her marriage.

Dad proves to be the more caring and mature parent, in stark contrast to his wife who is behaving like a spoiled brat. For example, he tries to help Paula keep up her table tennis when Mum interferes with it. He is the more sympathetic of the two parents and the relatives are quite right to side with him. His wife is too wrapped up in herself to think about the extra demands she has put on him to get her what she wants, and they are making him suffer terribly. He is working far too hard and is under way too much stress, he falls sick because of it and can’t work, and ultimately his business fails. This is all just to get what his wife wants – and then she just turns her back on it. There’s gratitude for you. On top of that, he is deprived of Paula because of his wife and he is left with a house of loneliness that he is straining to pay the mortgage for.

At the hospital, the reactions of the parents to the nurse’s urging that they must go see Paula together best shows the vast difference between them and their attitudes. At first Mum flatly refuses to do what the nurse says because she’s just too proud to be in her estranged husband’s company, even though her daughter’s recovery depends on it. By contrast, Dad tells Mum to forget her pride and their quarrel because they must put Paula first.

And caught in the middle is poor ping-pong Paula. The title has a sadly appropriate double meaning: a girl who is both a table tennis player and a real-life ping-pong ball between divided parents. So many readers caught between separated or divorced parents or being split down the middle in custody battles would have really felt for Paula.

All the while Paula has to keep up her table tennis and strive to become a champion while her parents are splitting. At the urging from her coach, Paula has to learn to put her parent problems aside when she’s working on her table tennis. But Paula has her limits, such as when she’s in danger of losing the championship because she’s too upset over Mum not being there. She might have lost if Mum had not shown up at the last moment – only to take off again because of her pride.

As if the problem with her parents wasn’t bad enough, Paula also meets a jealous rival, Myra Glegg, who plays dirty tricks on her. Fortunately Myra doesn’t last too long, and all the other competitors are good sports.

The trouble over the parents even puts Paula in hospital – an all-too-common thing in girls’ comics. Ultimately it provides the resolution, though unlike most serials the shock of it all does not provide immediate resolution. The parents are still fighting and divided despite their unconscious, injured daughter and Mum realising Paula has taken the brunt over her split from her husband. It needs a wise outsider to step in and have a serious word with the parents before Paula’s accident can provide the resolution.

I’ll Make Up for Mary (1979)

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Published: 20 January 1979 – 2 June 1979

Episodes: 20

Artist: Guy Peeters

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Ann and Mary Ridley are identical twins but a contrast in personality. Mary is an outgoing, confident extrovert and has lots of friends while Ann is a quiet, shy introvert and doesn’t find it easy to make friends. At a seaside holiday at Westsea Mary tries to bolster Ann’s confidence by improving her swimming to the point where she can swim in the sea. But it all goes tragically wrong when the sea gets choppy. Ann panics and unwittingly pushes Mary under, and she gets hit against a huge rock. Dad manages to save Ann, but Mary dies.

On the night of the funeral Ann overhears her grief-stricken parents lamenting. She gets the wrong impression that her parents wish Mary had been spared instead of her because Mary had been the confident one and Ann the ‘dull’ one. Ann also blames herself for Mary’s death, and feeling guilty that she survived while Mary did not when Mary was the more ‘deserving’ one. Now Ann thinks she must make things up to her parents by being like Mary, as if she was still alive.

So Ann starts resurrecting Mary by adopting her hairstyle, clothes and activities. But of course it just creates trouble for herself. When Ann changes her appearance to look like Mary she thinks it’ll please her parents so much to see this. Instead she has her grief-stricken parents thinking they’re seeing ghosts and they are utterly shocked. And Ann thinks the shock is to her being dull old Ann instead of the real Mary, not that she’s reopening the wounds of their grief. The parents don’t find it easy to get used to Ann looking like Mary, and they can’t understand it at all.

Meanwhile, Ann doesn’t understand that she is trying to be someone who was total opposite of what she herself is. Moreover, she still lacks confidence in herself and does not have the skills that Mary had, including how to handle bullies. As a result, Ann starts falling foul of Mary’s old enemy, the spiteful Beryl. Beryl keeps causing trouble for Ann at every turn, such as wrecking a party Ann holds at home. On another occasion she ruins things for children at a play centre, puts the blame on Ann and gets her banned from the Youth Club. Beryl is sorted out eventually and gives no more trouble.

But it’s not just Beryl that’s the problem. Ann’s every attempt to be like Mary just seems to end in failure and she keeps landing in one scrape after another. Sometimes it’s not even her fault, such as when classmate Laura rigs the voting so Ann will become class captain as Mary had been. When Ann tries to stop this, she ends up being accused of cheating. Misunderstandings erupt as well, such the class wrongly accusing her of sneaking during a field study course when in fact she was trying to warn them, but it went wrong. On the same course Ann freezes up while Laura is drowning because it’s brought back the memory of Mary drowning. In the end Ann is removed from the course in shame, and thinking she has failed in what her parents want out of her.

None of the disasters shake Ann out of her misguided thinking. She thinks it’s because she’s still the same old boring Ann, she is failing to become like Mary, and is not pleasing her parents in the way she thinks they want to be pleased. Instead, it looks like she’s just letting them down in that regard and they’re getting even more heartbroken because of it. And it is not helping that a lot of people, including the parents and classmates, compare Ann unfavourably with Mary when she lands in trouble.

There are some positives to it. Ann starts making friends among Mary’s old friends, particularly Julie, Tim and Sharon at the Youth Club, and the vicar who runs the place, and Laura and Karen at school. She also develops confidence at things she had never tried before, such as becoming more proficient at cycling and disco dancing. Ann even finds herself as the lead in a theatre production – only to freeze up at the actual performance.

But on the whole it looks like one big colossal failure and disappointment. Eventually, Ann’s increasing frustration her constant failure to ‘make up for Mary’ reaches breaking point. She snaps at her classmates at how they all think the wrong twin was saved, that she’s tried so hard to be like the clever and popular Mary, but she’s failed. Then she runs home from school. Her friends, teachers and headmistress realise something is seriously wrong and that Ann is trying to be like Mary for some reason. They decided to go see her parents.

Meanwhile Ann overhears her parents considering a move and mistakenly thinks it’s because of her disasters. It’s the last straw in her failure to ‘make up for Mary’. She goes back to Westsea and the scene of the accident. Tim and Julie see her head out there and report this to the parents, who are in consultation with the others from school. Surmising that Ann is blaming herself for Mary’s death, they head after Ann in the car, and they arrive just as Ann dives into the sea and is on the verge of drowning as well because the sea is so rough. Ann is surprised when Dad saves her because she didn’t think she was worth that. They clear up what Ann misconstrued; they love her just as much as Mary and they wished Mary had been saved as well as her, not instead of her. They also insist Mary’s death was just an accident and Ann should not blame herself. Ann realises she has gained some things from trying to copy Mary, such as new friends, but she is going to be herself from now on.

Thoughts

Here we have another Alison Christie story where grief has consequences that go way beyond the tragedy itself when it causes the protagonist to develop a flawed attitude. In this case it’s motivated by love (pleasing the parents), not selfishness, anger or revenge. But there are feelings of guilt and inadequacy all tangled up in it as well. So Ann is a more sympathetic character than Stefa from “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, who closed her heart to love and didn’t care who she hurt in the process.

However, from the beginning we know Ann is as misguided as Stefa, both in what she is trying to do and what she thinks it will accomplish. It will not only lead to trouble but also make things even worse for herself and her parents because it will only serve to compound their grief over Mary. In fact, it almost leads to Ann meeting the same fate as Mary.

This is a story with “be yourself” and “don’t try to be something you’re not” morals too. Ann is trying to be something she simply is not, and no matter how hard she tries, she can never replace Mary. This is the real reason why Ann’s every bid to be like Mary ends in disaster, though the nasty Beryl and misguided interference from school mates are not helping either.

In some ways it is also a story where a shy girl begins to grow by developing skills, new experiences and bids to make friends that she had never tried before. But it’s a perverse route because she’s going about it the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. As a result her confidence keeps being knocked back and she thinks she’s still her dull old self who never amounted to much and can’t make up for her sister. But once Ann stops trying to be like Mary, she does realise the growth she has achieved. We sense Ann isn’t going to go back to her old wallflower stay-at-home self. It’s going to be a new Ann, the real Ann who has discovered the gains she has made.

 

Fran of the Floods (1976)

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Artist: Phil Gascoine
Writer: Alan Davidson
Publication: 17 January 1976 to 11 September 1976

Summary

The sun sends out an extra glimmer of heat, which melts ice caps and evaporates oceans,  and this triggers worldwide torrents of rain that never seem to stop. The freak weather is causing worldwide flooding and catastrophe as well as bizarre environmental changes, such as lush green growth in the Sahara Desert. In Britain, the rain is causing widespread flooding that gets worse and worse because the rain never stops.

In Hazelford, Fran Scott is watching the developments on the news and treats the whole thing as a joke while her parents get a sense of impending apocalypse. The seriousness soon sets in for Fran as dams break down, people on lower levels start to flee as their towns vanish under the ever-rising waters, parts of the coast return to the sea, and then there are power cuts, food shortages, stockpiling, panic buying and looting, fuel shortages and stoppages, and higher levels are being swamped with refugees. Even London is disappearing.

Hazelford, being on the hills, is still reasonably safe. But during a school concert, the waters overcome the reservoir and come rolling in. In the ensuing chaos, Fran is separated from her parents and best  friend Jill, and thinks they have died. She herself nearly drowns and is saved by the school bully Rosie Stevens, who sadly does not make it herself. As Fran rows off, a radio informs her that everything has now ended – government, law enforcement, electricity, telephones and other services – and then the radio itself goes because there are no more radio broadcasts. Britain itself is now barely sticking out of flood waters that just go on rising.

Fran, now on her own, sets out on a dangerous journey north to Scotland to be reunited with her sister June, who had left for Scotland earlier after a quarrel with Fran. Along the way, Fran meets a young girl called Sarah and her pet rabbit Fluffy. They too have been isolated by the flooding. Fran finds herself reunited with Jill along the way, giving them fresh hope that their parents did make it.

It’s a journey of survival and courage against the never-ending rain and dangerous floodwaters (without rain gear, but they never seem to catch colds or pneumonia). Fran nearly drowns more than once in the course of this story. And of course there is an array of more human and animal dangers that have arisen from the catastrophe. These include starving and savage birds, rats and other animals driven aggressive and dangerous. Other dangers include spread of disease, chemical pollution, and marauding gangs of thugs calling themselves The Black Circle who have themselves up as tin-pot dictators in the power vacuum left by the breakdown in law and society. They use people as slave labour, forcing them to work ploughs in drenching rain under threat of the lash. The floods claim the Black Circle while their prisoners escape, but are there other disparate groups like them? Afterwards, the girls find a home for Sarah and carry on by themselves.

Fran and Jill also help other people in need, such as finding an injured girl aboard a ship and seeking medical help, and coming up with a cure for a disease-stricken village.

The girls certainly learn some hard lessons about people, for better and worse. Some people have responded for the better. The girls encounter a self-sufficient community which has set up in caverns. There is a strong community spirit and a touch of hippiness. Then the floods come rolling in, destroying everything. Everyone takes refuge on a hilltop, the last piece of land for miles. You can’t help but get a hint of Mt Ararat here. Their leader responds by having everyone pray for a miracle.

And wouldn’t you know it – at this point the rain finally does stop! The sun, the cause of it all, appears for the first time in months. Then it is prayers of gratitude.

Others have turned for the worse, such as the Black Circle. And in Glasgow, the girls encounter King David, the self styled king of Glasgow (complete with crown, robe and a throne room full of treasures) who is the only inhabitant and hell bent on keeping it that way, even if it means blowing up the refugees who are now returning from the floods. Yes, a man driven mad by it all, but not mad enough for Fran to succeed in appealing to his better nature. At one point Fran herself almost succumbs to bestiality when hunger and desperation almost drive her to kill Fluffy the rabbit for food.

Even after the rains stop, the problems are not over. The freak weather patterns continue, such as Scotland turning tropical and growing flora to match, and getting hurricanes. There are other bizarre changes in nature such as the girls encountering a huge wall of seaweed and dolphins swimming around Glasgow and London. And of course there is the slow rebuild with returning refugees, official attempts to establish law and order among the chaos and salvaging what can be salvaged. In a bookend to the radio that cut out to mark the end of society as Fran knows it, repaired radios now report the progress of the rebuild.

Fran does find June, and is very surprised to find her parents as well. They too survived and also trekked to Scotland to find June. They go back to Hazelford, where they start rebuilding their homes and lives with a new-found appreciation for it all. In Hazelford Jill makes a surprise reunion with her own family.

The Hazelford survivors also take pause to remember the people of Hazelford who did not make it, including the people in the early episodes who personally helped Fran or showed extreme courage when the floods came to Hazelford. The last panel of the story is of a memorial that Hazelford built for these people so they will not be forgotten.

Thoughts
When you look at this story today, you are immediately struck as to how far ahead of its time it was. It anticipated global warming and devastating changes in weather patterns that cause real-life flooding, hurricanes and other catastrophes. It’s hard not to look at this story and see in it a foreshadowing of what our world could become.

The story is extremely realistic and intelligently crafted in its portrayal of the encroaching disaster and the struggle to survive. And all the while the story of the Biblical Flood is in the back of our minds as we read this. But we read it with a sense of the apocalypse and end of the world and wonder if that is how it ends up. Even if the rain stops, which it doesn’t seem to be doing, we know the devastation it would leave behind cannot make for a totally happy ending. So where is it going to end?

The first few episodes, with Fran’s initial reaction of treating it as a joke while it is still relatively distanced on the news reports, and then progressively realising it is no joke as the floods and the ensuing crises (refugees, power cuts, shortages, looters etc) mount in her own back yard are very much like real life. And then, when her own house is attacked by looters and saved by Rod Pearson, it brings it all home for her. Finally, when everything collapses and it’s every person for themselves, it is a grim, shocking picture filled with desperate life and death struggles.

The story does not hesitate to show us that some people, such as Rosie, do not survive the struggle. And in the final panel we are not allowed to forget them. The memorial stands as a sobering reminder that there were some people who did not make it: “Lest We Forget.” Among them are Rod Pearson and his family. And the Stevenses survive, but are left to mourn Rosie, the bully who had redeemed herself in the last moments of her life. The ending may be happy, full of joyous reunions and rebuilding of society, but is not allowed to be overtly so; few readers will come away from the last panel without tears in their eyes. The emotional impact of this story carries through right to the end, making it arguably Jinty’s best emotional story.

In the Jinty Top Ten it was noted that this serial was running at the same time as the apocalyptic drama series “Survivors”. In fact, many of the perils Fran and Jill face are uplifted from the series, including the slave gang they are consigned to in the Black Circle segment. And both “Survivors” and “Fran” climax in the Scottish Highlands. It cannot be said whether readers thought “Fran” was a blatant ripoff of “Survivors”, or whether they looked on it all as a double dose that was so much the better for them to enjoy. But there can be no doubt that “Fran” was hugely popular and must have prompted some readers to watch “Survivors”. Her story ran for seven months, making her second to “Merry at Misery House” as Jinty’s longest running serial.

But “Fran” has far greater significance in Jinty history than being her second-longest serial. If there was a serial that established the SF element that Jinty became famous for, it was this one. Aside from “The Green People” (no, not little green men) in 1975, there had been no SF in Jinty. She was still pretty much following the Tammy template of cruelty and tortured heroines. But after “Fran of the Floods”, more SF stories, especially ones with environmental elements, appeared in Jinty. Later in 1976, Jinty ran “Jassy’s Wand of Power”, and the environmental disaster under the spotlight swings from flooding to drought. In 1979 there was “The Forbidden Garden” where humanity has poisoned the environment and nothing can grow, and “Almost Human”, about an alien girl whose race is facing extinction from environmental catastrophe. But in terms of intelligent and thoughtful plotting, emotional intensity and breadth of scope, and exploration of the human psyche, “Fran of the Floods” must reign supreme. And in today’s climate of global warming, melting ice caps, rising ocean levels and alarming changes in weather patterns, it seems even more relevant now than it was in 1976.

Badgered Belinda (1981)

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Publication: 10 October 1981 – 21 November 1981

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown

Summary

Orphan Belinda Gibson is a trust-paid pupil at Brockhill Boarding School. She is badgered (bullied) by the other girls, especially Frances and Katie. We get the impression Belinda is a target of bullying because she is shy and has no pedigree or friends. The bullying makes Belinda so miserable that one night she decides to run away.

Belinda is making her way up a slope when she comes across a badger, which soon dies. Belinda suspects it was poisoned. Then Belinda finds the badger’s new-born litter. One of them is pure white and she soon calls him Whitey. She lingers to feed them, but unwittingly caves in the tunnel, leaving them vulnerable to predators. So she ends up a surrogate mother to the sett, guarding them all night. This upsets her plans for running away. Eventually she decides to quietly return to the school so she can continue to secretly look after the sett, and voluntarily endure the bullying for the sake of her badgers.

Upon Belinda’s quiet return, Frances and Katie bully her again. But the bullying backfires when one ruins her silk gown and the other her tennis racquet. Later, Belinda uses the items to help the badgers, and has a good feeling at how her wonderful secret is helping her confidence. Back at school she starts swotting up on badgers. Frances and Katie notice Belinda’s apparent early rising for this and get suspicious. But in fact Belinda has been sneaking out at night for the badgers and loss of sleep starts showing in her lessons and getting her into trouble.

Belinda begins to feel that she should inform the headmistress about the sett. But then, Squire Blackmore, who owns the land next to the school, speaks at assembly. The squire announces that he will be lending his stables and horses to the school for riding lessons. He is also a big fan of hunting and endorses it to get rid of vermin. Fearful that badgers will be classed as vermin, Belinda decides to say nothing about the sett.

The girls have a free afternoon. The others use it for the riding lessons while Belinda goes into town to buy supplies for the cubs. But Whitey follows, and the bus with the girls on it is coming. Belinda hides Whitey in her bag, but his scent causes problems with other animals when she arrives in town. Belinda then bumps into Miss Green the biology teacher and discovers that she has been buying poison for vermin traps. Remembering the fate of the mother badger, Belinda gets even more scared. Back at school, she finds the squire has gifted prints of hunting scenes to the school and they are proudly displayed on the wall. Belinda is revolted to see that one print shows badger digging.

The secret tending of the badgers continues. But Belinda still suffers from lack of sleep and this causes problems, including more bullying from Frances and Katie who set out to disrupt Belinda’s attempts to catch up. There are other close shaves that almost expose Belinda’s secret as well, including the bullies poking around. And the squire seems to be going out of his way to become a fixture at the school, with constant visits, his prints and offers of free riding lessons. Belinda is now forced to go on one. She can’t ride, so she is relegated to mucking out. But then a pack of the squire’s hunting dogs gets loose and Belinda fears for her badgers. She manages to draw the dogs off with some aniseed balls until the squire’s hunting horn calls them off. But when she attends to the badgers that night, there is a man about with a spade, and he looks suspiciously like the squire. And there is evidence he was digging for something. Belinda begins to suspect the squire let the dogs loose on purpose and wonders if there is another secret about.

At the squire’s stables the next day, Belinda overhears the squire on the phone. It was indeed him she saw last night, and he knows there was a schoolgirl out there. He then says “I’ll leave the problem to you to deal with.” And when Belinda prepares to leave the dorm that night, someone comes in. She manages to evade the intruder but cannot see who it is. Later, she suspects it was one of the staff and now feels she cannot turn to anybody because there is nobody she can trust.

When Belinda goes to the sett again, she finds the squire and another man digging and frightens them off with her torch. Next day, the squire announces he will be holding a ball the following night to celebrate 200 years of hunting and the school is invited. However, a day history trip has Belinda drawing the conclusion that the squire is digging for buried treasure, which means the badgers must be safe.

Meanwhile, the teachers begin to notice the bullying. Frances and Katie are eventually caught red-handed and are punished with detention instead of going to the ball. Belinda tries to sneak away from the ball with food for the badgers, but gets caught by a teacher, Miss Harper. She is forced to explain everything to Miss Harper and show her the sett.

Miss Harper then tells Belinda something that only she knows about. Many years ago a rich lady took an interest in the sett. When the school fell into debt in 1881, she gave a grant that still keeps the school solvent, but on condition that the sett remains unharmed. And now that Belinda has shown her where the sett is, the squire can get rid of them once and for all. So Miss Harper is the squire’s accomplice! The whole plot has been to find and destroy the sett so the grant will end and the school forced to sell. The squire will then buy the grounds for development. And at this very moment the squire and his men are setting about badger digging on the slope. That badger-digging print had been a clue, but Belinda missed it entirely!

Belinda tries to escape Miss Harper, and is ironically saved by Katie and Frances. They like badgers too and are repulsed at the badger-hunt, and at Miss Harper for calling badgers vermin to be got rid of. They lock Miss Harper in a store room. Once Belinda tells them the story, they set off to rescue the badgers. On the slope, a race begins between the squire and the girls to get to the sett.

Evidently the squire was so confident of victory that he did not linger to see the outcome. He goes back to the ball and brags to his guests that their school is closing and it is their fault for not knowing about their school history (he may have a point there). But the grin is wiped off his face when the girls come into the hall with the badgers. They got to the badgers first!

It is the squire who is forced to sell out while Miss Harper resigns. Belinda is now best friends with Katie and Frances. There is only one type of badgering for her now, and it is out there on the slope. The whole school is now devoted to looking after the badgers.

Thoughts

“Badgered Belinda” was one of the filler stories for the last seven issues of Jinty. It has four page spreads throughout its run rather than the usual three. It is very unusual for a Jinty serial to have four-pagers for the entire duration of its run; usually four-pagers appear when a story is winding down, but there is pressure to finish it quickly. This happened with “Worlds Apart” and “The Human Zoo”. But Belinda was a four pager from start to finish. What could be the reason? Was it to pack as much story as possible into the seven episodes that the story was allowed? Or was it so that Belinda would help fill out the last seven issues more?

In any case, Belinda was the last Jinty story drawn by Phil Gascoine, and it literally bookends Gascoine’s run in Jinty; his artwork appeared in the first issue with “Gail’s Indian Necklace” and in the final issue with Belinda. In between, Gascoine’s artwork has been continuous in Jinty. There were very few instances where his artwork did not appear and several where it appeared in two stories in the same issue.

Story wise, Belinda is not one of Jinty’s classics, but she can be regarded as one of the stronger filler serials to appear in the final issues of Jinty. Belinda may even be the best serial in the line up that Jinty selected for her last seven issues.

Bullying stories are always guaranteed to be popular, and this one takes the twist in which the victim decides to endure the bullying, for the sake of the badgers, rather than trying to free herself from it as most victims in bully stories do (a la “Tears of a Clown”). The bullying is serious; we see Belinda shoved around on the sports field, constantly being pushed out of bed as her wake-up call and being forced under a cold shower among other nasty incidents. It is ironic that Belinda’s secret mission to take care of the badgers and keep them safe from the hunters helps her with confidence that she did not know she had. For example, desperation for the aniseed balls to draw off the hounds has her barrelling her way to the counter to buy them. This takes the girls by surprise as they always considered her “a weed” (although this does not stop them from punishing her with the cold shower).

Animals (especially orphaned animals) are always a hit as well, and Jinty makes a very strong stance against hunting. Girls’ comics have always come out strong against blood sports. But it is unusual to use badgers for this; foxes and deer are more commonly used when girls’ comics commented on the issue. The hunting has a very insidious side to it as well as a cruel one; when the squire has his hunting prints plastered on the school walls, offers the girls free riding lessons and invites them to his ball to celebrate hunting, it’s almost as if he is indoctrinating them into the sport. Belinda alone seems to stand against it. So it is a surprise when it turns out that the bullies take such a strong stance against the badger hunt that they lock the teacher in the store-room and join forces with Belinda. Mind you, how many pupils would really dare to lock up a teacher? That would be an expelling matter, wouldn’t it? Fortunately for them, it was justified. And the bullying problem reaches its final resolution. It goes from punishment, with the bullies being caught out in the penultimate episode, to redemption in the final episode.

Girls love mystery stories too. So as the mystery element creeps its way into the story with the introduction of the squire and his strange generosity, and then the strange goings-on on the slope, it would certainly have jacked up the drama and thrills and kept the readers engaged. It is a bit jarring that it turns out to be Miss Harper, though, because there have been no hints beforehand to suggest it might be her. In fact, she hadn’t even been named until then. Perhaps there was not enough scope in the seven episodes the story was allowed for sufficient clues and red herrings to be dropped for the readers to ponder on in solving the mystery.

Lastly, there is an environmental element in this story too. Jinty had been strong on environmental stories such as “The Forbidden Garden” and “Fran of the Floods”. We see it again in Belinda, with the indiscriminate use of poisons that are meant to kill pests but can also kill innocent wildlife. This is how the mother badger dies. If Belinda had not been there, the cubs would have died too. A whole family of badgers killed through the thoughtless of humanity. But the badgers are saved by a kind girl who not only finds courage and confidence in the face of bullying but ends up saving her school and finding friends at last.

 

 

 

Freda’s Fortune (1981)

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Publication: 26 September 1981-3 October 1981

Reprint: Tammy Holiday Special 1985

Artist: Trini Tinturé
Writer: Unknown

Summary

Freda Potter and her parents have just moved to Ashdown in the country and Dad has opened a supermarket. Freda is delighted with the move, but money is tight until Dad’s business takes off. Freda has always wanted a pony, but her family cannot afford it.

While out on a walk to meet some local girls, Freda has an unpleasant encounter with a girl rider who is “Ashdown’s prize snob, Susan Hamlin.” Freda then befriends Roz Hunt and they go to the gymkhana. Roz warns that Susan will show off there.

At the gymkhana there is a raffle going. Stung by Susan’s taunts, Freda buys a ticket although it will mean going broke. But Freda gets the last laugh when hers is the winning ticket. And the prize is – a pony! His name is Fortune.

Susan is furious and sees Freda as a potential rival, especially after seeing how well Freda is riding him for a beginner, and bare-backed too. She gets even more furious when she sees Fortune and Freda are soon showing a natural talent at show-jumping.

But then the problems of keeping Fortune arise, especially with the family’s tight budget. Freda soon discovers that Susan is out to undermine her in finding a grazing field and tack. Freda manages to find a field for Fortune with Roz’s help but it is only temporary, and Susan buys the tack Freda was after. Feeling beaten, she decides to return Fortune to Susan. Susan tells Freda that her father only donated Fortune because he was useless and unsuitable for their stables, and will be put down. Freda is not having that and takes Fortune away. As Freda goes, Susan is gleeful at sorting out a rival.

Freda decides on a broader search for a field. She helps save a farmer’s bull and in return he lets Fortune graze on his field. Another favour with an elderly lady gets Freda some tack and a hard hat. Freda is also finding that riding Fortune is great advertising for her dad’s business.

But then another trick from Susan has Freda and Fortune thrown off the field. And by the time the next gymkhana arrives, Freda thinks it will be her first and last event as she cannot find a place to keep him. Then she meets Mr Hamlin and tells him about his putting Fortune down because he thought he was not fit for his stables. Mr Hamlin is furious, saying he would not put a useless pony up for a raffle. They then realise the trick Susan has pulled.

Mr Hamlin is all for banning Susan from participating in the event as a punishment. Susan is tears. Freda begins to think, and wonders if Susan acted as she did because she thought she would let her father, the owner of the poshest stables in the district, down if she allowed a newcomer to become her rival. So she persuades Mr Hamlin to let Susan stay so they can settle their rivalry in a fair competition. Mr Hamlin agrees, and tells Freda that she can keep Fortune at his stables. So that problem is solved.

Susan apologises to Freda as she makes her way to the event. But she must have been affected by the upsets, because she does not do as well as usual. Freda does not win either, but it is her first event. Afterwards, Susan says she is no longer bothered about losing, and she no longer acts snobbishly either. She and Freda become friendly rivals and train together.

Thoughts

This was Trini Tinturé’s last story for Jinty. And it is clearly one of the filler stories that Jinty put in to fill her last seven issues. It is a two-parter that is run at six-page spreads. Six page spreads are often hailed as a special treat for readers, and indeed readers would have loved six-pagers. But was the story run at this pace as a special treat or because there was pressure to finish it faster than usual? Under normal circumstances it would have been a four-parter with the usual number of pages. Or it could even have been spun out into more episodes, and it does have the potential for that. There are clear characters and situations that could have had more development. Why was this story not given more weeks to run to help fill the closing issues of Jinty? Was there no room for it, as the editor had to find spaces for “Pam of Pond Hill”, “The Bow Street Runner” and “Badgered Belinda”? Or was there some other reason the editor did not take Freda further?

Horse rival stories (or two riders feuding over the same horse) are an old favourite in girls’ comics. Often there is spite and dirty tricks from a jealous rival, who may end up changing for the better, as Susan did, or getting their comeuppance. And of course readers always love pony stories, which must have made “Blind Faith” (a show-jumping horse who is blind to boot!) and “Horse from the Sea” popular. Sadly, Freda is really not up there with Jinty’s better-remembered stories. The story is not as developed as it could have been because of its extremely short run. It reflects the situation with the other serials that Jinty ran in her final issues – okay stories that served their purpose and would keep readers entertained, but they were meant as fillers or bridges to the merger. There is a feel about the last seven issues that there was a drop in energy and quality – understandable with a comic whose cancellation was fast approaching. But it is hardly the sort of atmosphere to produce classics.

While Freda lasted, readers would have enjoyed her story because it pushed a lot of buttons to make a serial popular: ponies and riding, jealous rivals, determination and courage to beat the odds which always seem to stack up, and a competition to see how it resolves. Freda suddenly feeling sorry for Susan and gaining psychological insight into her bad behaviour feels a bit quick and slick, and is somewhat irritating and unconvincing. But the outcome of the gymkhana is impressive. Neither girl wins it, which is a refreshing change from trite endings where the heroine wins the match because she was determined and in the right. Readers must have been a bit sad that Freda did not last longer and were wishing they could have seen more of her.

 

 

For Peter’s Sake! (1976)

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Publication: 13 March 1976 – 31 July 1976

Artist: Ana Rodriguez

Writer: Unknown – but see “Thoughts”.

Update: My “thoughts” were correct – Alison Christie (now Fitt) wrote this story.

Summary

In pre-WWII Britain, Corrie and Dawn Lomax are delighted when they are presented with a baby brother, Peter. But then disaster strikes. First, Mr Lomax dies in a work accident. Then Peter falls ill. Peter’s illness is resisting effective diagnosis or cure, and he has to be treated as an outpatient because the hospital is short of beds. To add to the Lomax household stresses, money is tight (bread and dripping for tea every night now), and Mrs Lomax has no time for Corrie and Dawn. So Mrs Lomax accepts an invitation to send Corrie to Granny Mackie in Drumloan, Scotland, where Corrie can receive motherly attention.

Granny has a pram called Old Peg. She uses Old Peg for community work (carting soup, delivering mail, laundry and other uses). But what is really strange is that Old Peg also has a reputation in the community for possessing curative powers for infants. Any sick infant rocked in Old Peg seems to recover immediately. Corrie’s mother has always been sceptical about this, but Corrie and Granny believe Old Peg will do the same for Peter if only they can get the two together.

Then Granny dies. Corrie finds a note in Old Peg saying “Push it to Peter”, and the pram is equipped for a long journey. So Corrie begins a long journey of pushing Old Peg all the way from Scotland to Peter in London, sleeping in her at night, and having all sorts of adventures, mishaps and dangers on the way. She also has to keep ahead of the law, as she has been reported missing in Drumloan.

Corrie’s first misadventure is falling foul of tinkers. They pretend to hide her from the police, but then blackmail her into slaving for them. She escapes by pretending to have a game with Peg and their children, and then shooting off down a slope.

Unfortunately Corrie lost her tin opener to the tinkers and she is hungry. She finds some escaped chickens. She rounds them up and a girl at the farm gratefully gives her a meal. But the girl’s father, who is a bully, takes a dimmer view of her and throws her out.

Another problem arises when Peg loses a wheel. Corrie takes her for repairs, but the man recognises her as the missing girl and calls the police. Corrie makes a fast exit, with Peg still unrepaired. She rescues a boy from drowning and his grateful family repair Peg. And they do not turn her in when a policeman knocks.

Corrie is off again, but she has run out of food and money. She tries to find work at a village, but people turn her away and one woman cheats her because they think she is a tinker. Eventually Corrie and Peg stumble into a circus where the folk are far kinder. They pay Corrie well, and Corrie and Peg are even part of a circus act. But the circus is going north and Corrie needs to go south. It’s back to pushing Peg again.

While sleeping in Old Peg, Corrie takes a drenching in the rain. As a result, she develops pneumonia. She makes it to a house before she collapses. She is taken to hospital, where she is recognised as the runaway girl. Once she recovers, the doctor is going to take her back to Drumloan. But then he discovers what she is trying to do. He takes pity on her and gives her a train ticket to London. Unfortunately, Corrie discovers that Peg is not allowed to travel free and she has no money to cover the extra cost. She discards the ticket, but it is picked up by a woman who does need it, and she pays Corrie half fare.

But Corrie is now back to pushing Peg, and she has not recovered enough from the pneumonia. She takes a rest in the park and is feeling depressed. A Salvation Army officer gives her one of their news sheets. There is an item about Peter, which says he is still sick and Mum is taking him to the seaside in the hope of a cure. This renews Corrie’s strength to get Peg to London.

Another thing is worrying Corrie – how to write to Mum, who thinks she is still in Drumloan and will be surprised to see a different postmark. Then she bumps into an old woman, Jessie, who happens to be an old friend of Gran’s. Corrie confides in Jessie, who helps her with a cover story for writing to Mum. Jessie also gives Corrie new supplies, including the beeswax polish that is always used for Peg.

However, a new problem strikes – blistered feet because Corrie’s boots have worn through and need repair. While Corrie bathes her feet, a gypsy woman comes along with a sick baby. Her medicine does not work, but Old Peg’s magic touch soon has the baby better. The grateful gypsies help Corrie out in a number of ways, including repairing her boots and hooking Old Peg to their wagon so Corrie can ride in her for a while and rest her feet.

Soon it is back to pushing Peg. Corrie takes a rest in a park when some schoolgirls take an interest in Peg and start sketching her. But one gets suspicious that Corrie is not in school and calls social welfare. When a social welfare officer finds Corrie sleeping in Old Peg, he wheels her to a children’s home. It has the feel of a prison, with locked gates, uniforms and a detention room with a barred window. Corrie tells them her story in the hope of help, but they do not believe her. Corrie finds herself falling foul of the strict matron and a blackmailer while boisterous children bounce in Peg (and keep getting tipped out every time they do it). Corrie manages to escape the home with Peg, but the police are alerted immediately. She manages to evade them with the aid of old clothes someone throws into her pram, but now the police search for her intensifies.

At the next town, Corrie calls in at a house to get water for her hot water bottle. The people are kind to Corrie, but she soon finds it is pretence. They are antique collectors who are after Peg. Corrie has to do a bit of breaking and entering to get Peg back.

Corrie and Peg do another family a good turn, and as a reward they give them a lift to London. But when Corrie arrives in London, she finds her family has shifted to a place nearer the hospital. While trying to find them, she comes across a headstone which looks like Peter’s. It turns out to be coincidence, but the shock has her running out into a road and being hit by a car. Mrs Lomax then finds Corrie. Corrie only has minor injuries and is soon discharged to her new address and reunited with her family.

Now it is time to rock Peter in Old Peg. But Corrie is surprised and disappointed when it does not have the curative effect that it had on other babies; Peter remains as sick as ever. Mrs Lomax explains that Peter is dying. His only chance is an American clinic, but she does not have the money for it.

Feeling Old Peg has let her down, Corrie shoves her down the road in a fit of pique. The crash rips the mattress in Old Peg, revealing that Granny had sewn her life savings into it. There is over £300, so now the Lomaxes can afford Peter’s treatment in America. Soon Corrie and Dawn, together with Peg, see Mum and Peter off on the plane. Then Corrie finds herself surrounded by reporters who want the full story of her trek from Scotland with Peg. She tells them that Peg will be giving Peter a victory rock when he comes home cured. And of course he does.

Thoughts

The writer is not known, but there are clues as to who it may be. “For Peter’s Sake!” bears some strong similarities to a 1983 Tammy story, “Room for Rosie”. Both stories feature an old boneshaker of a pram that is a real workhorse and famous in the locality for community work. Both are owned by grandmothers who bequeath them to their granddaughters upon their deathbeds and charge them with a special mission for it. Towards the end it looks as if the granddaughters have failed in those missions despite all their efforts, and they are heartbroken. But an unexpected turn of events at the last minute changes everything and ensures a happy ending.

As Tammy was running credits at this stage, we know that Alison Christie wrote Rosie. Did Christie write “For Peter’s Sake!” as well? The stories Christie was credited with indicate she specialised in emotional, heart-warming, tear-jerking stories, and this story certainly is one. Analysis of Christie’s other credited serials in Tammy (“A Gran for the Gregorys”, “Cassie’s Coach” and “It’s a Dog’s Life!”) also imply that Christie liked to end her serials with a surprise last-minute turn of events that turns a moment of black despair into a happy ending. And this is precisely how Peter’s story turns out happily…hmm. We cannot credit this story to Alison Christie without confirmation, but we would not put it past her.

Update: Alison Christie (now Fitt) has now confirmed that she wrote this story.

Stories about missions of mercy were always popular in girls’ comics. And when it’s a baby that needs saving, you can’t miss with winning the hearts of readers. We’ve also got fugitive elements, right down to a prison escape with the children’s home segment, adventure and adversity, life-threatening situations, people and situations in all shapes and sizes on Corrie’s long journey, and even a hint of the supernatural with Peg’s supposed curative powers for babies. There’s something for everyone in this story.

The conclusion has a surprise twist that does give us our happy ending – but it does not come in the way we expected and leaves things to our imaginations. We are left wondering as to why Peg’s curative power not work on Peter when it seemed to work on every other baby that was rocked in her. Was there something to Mrs Lomax’s scepticism about Peg’s curative powers after all? Was Peter’s illness beyond even the power of Peg to cure? Or was the cure withheld because something better (the money) was planned? The money not only saves Peter but helps ease the Lomaxes’ financial burdens following the death of Mr Lomax. Whatever the answer, it is a brilliant piece of plotting that gives the happy ending while avoiding trite clichés and schmaltz, and it leaves the readers wondering what statement the writer was trying to make with it.

 

 

Mark of the Witch! (1977)

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Publication: 8 January 1977-30 April 1977

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Unknown

Summary

In the village of Kettleby Yorkshire, Emma Fielding is branded “Black Emma” – a witch, a bad sort, and an outcast because of the black streak in her hair. The black streak runs in the Fielding family and the stigma began with the first Fielding to have the streak, Simon Fielding. He was an evil 18th aristocrat who tyrannised and terrorised the countryside, and his black streak struck fear into anyone who saw it. Since then, the Fielding black streak has been associated with evil and the Fieldings have been persecuted as bad people. The persecution is made easier by the fact that the Fieldings no longer have the wealth and power that Simon Fielding had; they are the poorest people in the village and “the lowest of the low”. Their ancestral home, Fielding Castle, built by Simon Fielding, is now nothing but a ruin. But like the Fieldings themselves, Fielding Castle is avoided and feared by the villagers. Everywhere Emma goes, she is taunted by children and shunned by adults. She has become wild because she reacts aggressively against the abuse, which brands her even further as a bad lot. Emma herself has come to believe she has a bad streak, which shows when she lashes out or hates people, and thinks she must fight it.

There are only two bright spots in Emma’s life. The first is her loving mother, a gentle contrast to her frightening and sometimes violent father. Like Emma, Mr Fielding is aggressive and bitter because he has led a terrible life due to his own black streak. The second is riding, the only thing Emma does well. But there is another girl at Emma’s riding lessons who she hates more than any other – Alice Durrant. Emma is jealous of Alice because she has everything Emma does not, and her family is the most respected in the village. Emma thinks the hand of friendship Alice offers her is phony. But it is genuine; Alice alone sympathises with Emma, does not despise the black streak, and desperately wants to be her friend. But Emma keeps spurning her and does not believe Alice is trying to help her.

As the story progresses, Emma discovers another with a black streak – a horse with a black streak in its mane. The horse’s owner deems him a bad lot because he acts wildly. Eventually, of course, Emma and the horse will team up.

Things get worse for Emma when she discovers a fire at the Durrants’ farm. She tries to put it out, but the villagers, ever ready to make her a scapegoat, accuse her of starting it. Mr Durrant discovers the fire was accidental, but the damage is done – the rumour mill has culminated in an angry mob that attacks the Fielding house. Alice tries to stop them, but gets get hurt by one of their stones. Unfortunately Emma does not see this. If she had, it would have proved to her that Alice is genuine.

Emma’s embittered father blames her for the attack and throws her right out of the house – and to the stone-throwing wolves. Emma flees for her life and manages to throw off the mob. But now she has had enough and decides there will be no more fighting her black streak (as she believes). From now on, she will embrace it and become the bad person the villagers say she is. “If that’s what they expect from me, that’s what they’ll get!” She sets up camp at Fielding Castle to start her own campaign against the villagers. As part of her revenge, she decides to enter the equestrian cross country race, The Hudson Trophy. She means to take the trophy away from Alice Durrant. Doing so would really humiliate the villagers because Alice is the darling of the village.

But there is one problem – she has no horse. This problem is solved when she finally acquires the horse with the black streak from its owner, who had lost patience and was on the verge of shooting the animal. Naming the horse Midnight, she starts breaking him in herself before training him up for the trophy.

Emma’s campaign of revenge intensifies when some boys dig a trap for her to fall into. Her beloved mother falls into it instead and narrowly avoids a serious accident. Furious, Emma dresses herself up as a witch in her grandmother’s clothes and falls upon the villagers. “If you say I’m a witch, I’ll be a witch, in every way! And you’ll regret it!” She curses one John Pike for throwing a stone at her and then confronts Dave Young, the leader of the gang who set the trap. She tells him that she has his name in her Book of Vengeance, which she has just started for listing the names of people who have aggrieved her, and she is now off to settle the score with him. She does so by destroying Mr Young’s wheat field. Other things happen which seem to reinforce the witch persona: a storm blows up as Emma accosts the villagers; John Pike has a road accident soon after receiving the curse; and Emma is adopted by a black cat.

Later, Emma announces her intention to enter the Hudson trophy and take it away from Alice Durrant. This is greeted with intense scorn by the villagers, who say she is hopelessly outmatched by Alice. They all eagerly anticipate watching the event to see Black Emma make a fool of herself and see (as they believe) good triumph over evil in what will be a needle race. Alice is reluctant to go against Emma in the race because she wants to be her friend. But she is persuaded to do so.

In the meantime, Emma’s campaign of vandalism and thievery against Kettleby continues, and names get ticked off in the Book of Vengeance. The local council takes drastic action by sealing up Fielding Castle to drive Emma out. Eventually this fails, but not because Emma nearly gets herself killed trying to get into the castle. Midnight saves her, but the near-accident has Emma all the more determined to have revenge at the Hudson Trophy.

But when the race starts, Alice takes a strong lead against Emma. Eventually Emma realises that the villagers were right – Alice is better than her and she faces defeat. This drives her into taking reckless and dangerous chances to pull ahead, which are cruel to her horse and horrify the onlookers. However, this does enable Emma to take the lead.

Then, when the girls cross a river, Alice falls off her horse and is in danger of drowning. Emma now faces a choice – the trophy or Alice’s life? Eventually, Emma decides to sacrifice the trophy and go in after Alice. This puts Emma in danger too, but she is surprised to find herself feeling happy at fighting with Alice against the current instead of against her.

Meanwhile, the villagers are surprised to see it is not Alice at the finishing line and go to investigate. By the time they arrive, Alice is in danger of going under and only Emma is keeping her afloat. This time, the villagers realise Emma is trying to do good instead of assuming she was being bad, and save them both.

Following this, the black streak stops being a mark of stigma for the Fieldings and everything is different for them. Now Emma is a heroine, and the villagers treat her with love, friendship, remorse, and gifts of flowers (presented by John Pike). Emma returns home and is reconciled with her father. Mr Durrant offers Mr Fielding a good job, which enables the Fieldings to climb out of poverty. Emma and Alice are now friends and share their rides together.

Thoughts

In some parts of the English countryside people still believe in witches. This has been the inspiration for several serials where girls fall victim to lingering witch-beliefs. “Mark of the Witch!” was the second – and last – Jinty serial to explore this theme; the first was the 1974 story “Wenna the Witch”. The endings of the two stories are similar; the girls prove their goodness with an act of heroism that has the witch-believing villagers changing their attitudes towards them and presenting them with love, apologies and flowers. It could be that the serials had the same writer, or that Wenna had an influence on this story.

Other stories with the theme included “The Cat with 7 Toes” and “Bad-Luck Barbara” (Mandy), and “Witch!” (Bunty). In some variants on the theme, the girl is branded a witch because she has a genuine power or is in the grip of a malevolent one, such as in “The Revenge of Roxanne” (Suzy).

In general, the theme did not appear much and serials to feature it were infrequent. Where it did appear, it often featured strange things happening, such as bad things happening to people who taunt the girl, the girl having strange visions, or other weird things that seem to happen whenever she is around. Readers are challenged to make up their own minds about what is going on. Is she really a witch? Is there some genuine supernatural force at work? Or are these things just coincidences and the products of ordinary explanations such as hysteria? Whatever it is, it proves to a brainwashing effect that is so powerful that the girl herself can succumb to it. She may start to doubt herself and wonder if there is something to what her accusers are saying. It even has Alice’s parents going although they are not like the backward, superstitious villagers. When John Pike has the accident, Mrs Durrant wonders if it really was due to the curse Emma put on him. Alice rebukes her mother outright: “It’s all just silly superstition!”

In the case of Emma Fielding, one thing is certain. She is sad proof of the words of Socrates: if people keep telling a man he is five cubits high, he will end up believing he is five cubits high, even if he is only three cubits high. People have been calling her a bad lot for so long that she has come to believe it. She thinks there is a bad streak in her, personified in the black streak in her hair, which she must fight. But eventually she comes to believe it does no good to fight it. Instead, she becomes what the villagers say she always was, saying that if that is what they expect, that is what they will get, and it is their own fault for the way they treated her. Indeed it is, but the villagers do not see it that way. Instead, it reinforces the views about Emma that they have always had. It is a vicious cycle. A vicious cycle that Alice is so desperate to break, but she cannot convince Emma of this. Her frustrated efforts to get through to Emma are reminiscent of the persistent efforts of Ruth Graham to get through to stony Stefa in Phil Townsend’s previous story, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”. But like Ruth, Alice’s efforts go nowhere until the very end, when a surprise turn of events turns things around. And they turn around because Emma found that she was not a bad person at heart. Faced with the choice, she realised that she could not leave Alice to drown, even though trying to save Alice meant sacrificing the lead she had gained and winning the trophy.

After the villagers see Emma try to rescue Alice, they automatically stop their hatred and treat her with respect and acceptance. This seems a little too pat, the villagers giving up hatred that has lasted for generations in only one day. And it does not ring true with people who believe in witches either. Witch believers simply do not act in the way the villagers do in suddenly accepting Emma as good and presenting her with flowers and apologies. The ending of “Wenna the Witch” followed the same pattern, which is very neat and happy, but it is not convincing. In real life, once people with this type of thinking brand someone a witch, the label sticks, even generations later. And the past has proven that even if the person branded a witch is cleared, the label casts a long shadow that can come back to bite. This is why the endings of “Witch!” and “Bad-Luck Barbara” are more realistic. The girls end up being taken away from the village, with the villagers still hurling hatred and abuse at them as they go. Yes, Emma (and Wenna) did perform a good deed that saved lives, but it is unlikely that even that would shift the label of “witch”. An ending where the villagers are compelled to keep their hatred to themselves and leave Emma alone once she has won the respect and protection of the Durrants might have worked better.

But on the whole, this is a powerful, disturbing and compelling story that is a stark warning against labelling and mistreating people and using them as scapegoats. Life would be so much better if these people were treated as human beings – the message that Alice represents in her persistent efforts to befriend Emma. Gays, Jews, coloured people, minorities, victims of caste systems and class distinction, exploited workers and other types of oppressed people – we see them all in Emma. What Emma becomes is exactly what her persecutors made her out to be – a warning to persecutors everywhere and the stuff of revolution that oppressed masses would love. The revolt of Emma Fielding against her oppressors ultimately leads to the end of her oppression. In real life that would not come so readily, but girls’ comics prefer a happy ending.

Is This Your Story? aka Could This Be YOU? (1976-1977)

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(artist: John Richardson)

Publication: 16 October 1976-22(?) January 1977

Artists: Various, including John Richardson and Richard Neillands

Writer: Unknown

“Is This Your Story?”, also known as “Could This be YOU?”, was one of Jinty’s more unusual, if short-lived features. It was a true-life feature, and each week it would run a complete story that was based on common problems among girls. But unlike the teen magazines, it was not based on letters that readers had sent in where they recount their real-life experiences or outline a problem. The stories were composites of common real-life problems.

The title “Is This Your Story?” was meant to be a touching strip that strike a chord with readers, hence the underline under “Your”. Later the title “Could This Be YOU?” was used. Would any of the readers have encountered a situation similar to the one in the story? If so, they would see themselves in that story. If not, it might be a situation they were familiar with or a warning if they did encounter one.

The first episode concerned a girl named Peggy who rejects her new dog because she still grieving for her beloved Punch (maybe her parents bought the new dog too soon). The new dog is miserable at not getting her love and on the very verge of being sent to the kennels when Peggy takes a liking to it at the very last minute. This one was probably inspired by the then-running “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” where Stefa Giles refuses to love anybody and turns into a block of ice after her best friend dies.

Other problems the series tackled included a girl called beanpole, little sisters always tagging along, getting jealous when a brother finds a girlfriend, and resenting a new stepfather. Common enough problems that many readers could identify with one way or another.

Sometimes the stories were told by the girls themselves. One case is Shirley, who feels her parents are treating her like a baby when they say she is trying to grow up too quickly. Shirley sneaks off to a night on the town to show her parents that she is old enough to do it. But she runs into trouble and a night of terror before her local bus driver comes to the rescue. Afterwards she tells us that her parents were right. And they were pretty sporting parents too, in not giving a Shirley a row for what she did. Instead, they say they understand, having been young themselves (and probably had the same trouble with their parents!).

Some of the stories showed real insight into human psychology by more drawing on reality than patronising moralising. For example, Freda’s problem (above) is telling lies. This is not because she is deceitful by nature but because it is a habit she has gotten into. But then she tells one lie too many (she had to slip up sometime) and in danger of facing serious trouble at school. And we get another lesson into the bargain – don’t try smoking!

In another story, Claire impresses all her friends because she is always so stylishly dressed, and no outfit is the same. But in reality Claire helps herself to her sisters’ clothes to make that impression because she is dissatisfied with her own. And Georgie’s problem is that she flies off the handle too readily and often finds herself hurting people’s feelings very badly. She always apologises and really means it, but she thinks she cannot control her temper. The class sends her to Coventry for a day to teach her that she can and must control it. Afterwards, Georgie does make serious efforts to keep her temper. It is not easy, but she finds she is much nicer now.

Of course, each story always ends happily, with solutions being found to the various problems. Some of those solutions sound a bit improbable and even drastic. For example, Claire’s sisters punish her by locking up their wardrobes and hers, so she is forced to go to school in her mother’s dress. It is too big for her of course and gives everyone a laugh. The whole story comes out, but instead of teasing her over it for days on end, the girls are understanding and help Claire out with expanding her own wardrobe. They must be some classmates you don’t see every day. Freda, the habitual liar, is extremely lucky to have a teacher in a million with Miss Birdlace (above). In real life, she would be far more likely to find herself hauled up before the head and get a rocket the size of a megaton.

Towards December, “Is This Your Story?” did not appear in some issues, and it began to take on the feel of a filler story than a regular feature. Was it not as popular as Jinty hoped? Was there not enough room for it in some issues? Or did the editor indeed start using it as a filler feature rather than a regular feature? Indeed, it only had a two-page spread which made it easier to use for that purpose.

“Is This Your Story?” was the second (and last) of Jinty’s strips to foray into the world of the agony aunt and real life problems; the first had been the short-lived “Jenny – Good  or Bad Friend?” in 1974, where Jenny tells the story of how her friendship broke up and the editor questions her along the way, and readers to make up their own minds at the end. The Jenny formula was not repeated, which suggests it did not work out. “Is This Your Story?” was more substantial, but it did not last long either. Perhaps Jinty found that real-life problem based strips were better left to teen magazines and she should stick to problem pages.

Stefa’s Heart of Stone (1976)

Sample Images

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Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Publication: 7 August 1976 to 11 December 1976

Reprint: Princess (series 2) 28 January 1984 and concluded in Tammy & Princess 2 June 1984

Summary

Stefa Giles and Joy Brett have been the closest of friends since they were toddlers. Mr Giles worries that they may be a little too inseparable, and Stefa tends to love too much, which can leave her open to being badly hurt. His concerns prove justified when Joy falls ill and dies.

The shock, pain and grief at losing Joy, are so traumatising for Stefa that she cannot bear the thought of experiencing it again. Taking a cue from a statue in her garden which seems impervious to everything because it is made of stone, Stefa resolves to turn her heart into stone so she will never again experience such pain. So Stefa, who had hitherto been a loving girl, refuses to love people anymore. She snubs her classmates, freezes off all friendships, and swallows down any emotion because “statues don’t!” She even strives to stop loving her parents, believing she must so that she will not grieve if she loses them.

The Giles parents put Stefa’s conduct down to the trauma of losing Joy, but they are deeply upset by how Stefa seems to be deliberately hurting them. At the advice of a doctor, they transfer to a new location. Stefa insists on bringing the statue, which she calls Stonyface. She ends up carrying Stonyface on her lap in the car as there is no room in the boot! Her parents are worried and upset that Stefa seems to be care more about the statue than them. They do not realise that Stefa identifies Stonyface as her only friend now that she is turning her heart into stone. Stefa’s pathological relationship with Stonyface leads to some hilarious situations, such as Stefa running away from home with Stonyface on a wheelbarrow – which gets her caught of course. On another occasion she sleeps on the lawn with Stonyface, only to wake up shivering from all the dew.

At her new school, Stefa snubs her classmates, who dub her “The Ice Maiden”. But Stefa is in for a shock – one of them, Ruth Graham, is a near double of Joy! Ruth also has the same sunny, caring personality as Joy and makes every effort she can to be friends with Stefa, regardless of every rebuff Stefa gives her. Ruth’s efforts intensify once she discovers Stefa’s problem. And as Ruth looks like Joy, Stefa finds it extremely difficult to fight her off; emotionally, she wants to embrace her. The presence of Ruth also brings out the grief that Stefa has not resolved and Stefa is embarrassed and humiliated when her grief keeps slipping through her stony behaviour. She becomes desperate to get away from Ruth, but her ploys to do so result in Dad losing his job and having to take a less paid one. The reduced income forces them to move into a council house.

Stonyface becomes a target for stone-throwing kids, but Stefa is not worried; the stones cannot hurt Stonyface, just as nothing else can. But her mother gets hit by a stone and is put in hospital. Although Stefa softens and cries over her injured mother, she soon hardens up again, believing she failed with her stony heart. “I should have been hard and uncaring like you!” she says to Stonyface and redoubles her efforts to turn into stone. So Mum, who was raising hopes that Stefa is her old self again, is in for a shock when she returns home.

After this Dad has had enough and decides it’s time to teach Stefa a lesson. He tells Stefa she must buy and cook her own food. Stefa welcomes it as it will widen the rift between her and her parents. But it becomes another test of her stoniness because Stefa is such a bad cook (although she is fifteen) that she suffers chronic indigestion. But in this case, the way to a person’s heart is not through their stomach, and she remains hard.

Stefa is still determined to avoid Ruth. But Dad will not have Stefa changing schools or ducking out of school to avoid Ruth. So Stefa tries to get expelled, but Ruth keeps foiling her. And Stefa soon finds she cannot avoid Ruth at home either because her parents start inviting her over. One sleepover has Stefa camping out on the lawn with Stonyface because she cannot share a room with Ruth. Stefa wakes up shivering from dew and her father is not impressed. She feels jealous of the attention her parents give Ruth, but swallows it down: “statues don’t!”

Stefa also finds that Ruth has suffered loss even greater than hers – her parents and brother. Stefa is briefly ashamed at Ruth having more courage than her. But she soon hardens her heart again, as she is confident that this will ensure she never suffers grief again while Ruth will.

Then another of Stefa’s tactics to avoid Ruth ends up with her having an accident, and Ruth insisting on going to her aid. In hospital, Stefa finally welcomes Ruth – but then finds the accident has caused her to turn into real stone. She has become a robot, incapable of any feelings or shedding tears. “She might as well be a tailor’s dummy,” says her mother, who is heartbroken to see Stefa worse than ever. It is such a horrible experience for Stefa that she does not want a stony heart anymore. But she cannot break free of the stony heart that now imprisons her. And now Stefa resents Stonyface, whom she believes has the key to her stony cell.

But then the cell unlocks when Stonyface is struck by a bolt of lightning and is smashed to pieces. When Stefa sees this, her stony heart shatters too and she returns to her loving self. Stefa’s parents are overjoyed to see this. Stefa apologises to Ruth and now asks her to be her friend. But there is more – Stefa’s parents want to adopt Ruth, so now Stefa and Ruth will be sisters as well.

Thoughts

Readers of girls’ comics love powerful emotional stories that tug at their heartstrings and reduce them to tears. No doubt this was one reason why Stefa was one of Jinty’s most popular stories. We know Stefa was one of Jinty’s most popular stories because in 1981 the editor said so in response to a letter asking for the story to be reprinted. The editor’s response also reveals that there was a huge demand in Pam’s Poll to repeat Stefa. Yet he still asked if there were others who wanted Stefa too. Hmm, was he hesitant about bringing Stefa back for some reason or did he want to test the waters a bit more? In any case, Jinty did not repeat Stefa, nor did the Tammy & Jinty merger. Eventually Stefa was reprinted in Princess (series 2) in 1984 and concluded in the Tammy & Princess merger. In fact, Princess repeated several old serials from Tammy and Jinty towards the end of her run – not a good sign for a new comic to be recycling old strips and it was an indication that Princess was in trouble.

Stefa was not the only serial to feature a girl who freezes her heart to avoid feeling grief again; Mandy’s “Little Miss Icicle” tried the same thing as Stefa, as did Tough Nut Tara in one Button Box story (Tammy). Jinty’s “Nothing to Sing About” had a similar theme, where the protagonist refuses to sing after her father, a famous singer, dies. Other Jinty stories that feature a protagonist who reacts badly to a loss include “The Ghost Dancer”, “I’ll Make Up for Mary” and “My Heart Belongs to Buttons”.

In most cases the grieving protagonist retains a measure of our sympathy as we watch and wait for the breakthrough that will bring them to their senses. But in this case it gets extremely difficult to sympathise with Stefa because she becomes an increasingly unsympathetic person in the way she treats her parents, classmates and Ruth in her efforts to stop loving. She does not seem to care that she is causing her parents a lot of heartache, anguish and trouble. The family is forced through two shifts; Mum has a near breakdown and then gets hospitalised; Stefa costs Dad his job and he is forced to take a lower-paid job that he finds a real comedown. The Giles family, who used to live well, are now reduced to living in a shabby council house. All because of Stefa’s conduct, but none of it shifts her stony heart. Nor do other things that we expect to make some impression, such as Stefa’s indigestion or discovering Ruth had a greater loss than hers. Even where it looks like something has got through at last, it is only temporary; Stefa soon hardens again.

Stefa is not only utterly selfish with her conduct but stupid too. She does not realise that she is ruining her life and making herself even more miserable than ever. One extremely sad example is Stefa’s birthday (above). It could have been a happy event, with Stefa enjoying her presents, new friends, a party, and her new guitar. But her stoniness turns her birthday into an unhappy one. She does not show the least pleasure in her birthday or gratitude for her presents; in fact, she throws them in the faces of the people who have given them. Stefa is determined to keep up her heart of stone, even on her birthday. What she would have done on Christmas Day we dread to think. Fortunately, it did not come to that.

It is so exasperating that nothing seems to get through to Stefa at all. For a moment something does seem to work, but it does not last and Stefa is back to her stony self. Is there anything that will work, or, as Ruth fears, Stefa has become too hard to melt? In any case, our sympathies turn more to Stefa’s parents and Ruth, and we marvel at Ruth for continuing to care about a girl who goes out of her way not to care about anything.

Ironically, the thing that does get through is what Stefa wanted – a stony heart. Once she has it, she finds she does not like it. Ah, the monkey paw experience does it again. And then, when Stonyface is smashed by lightning, Stefa realises that she has been mistaken about stone being impervious to everything. There are things that can affect stone and it can get damaged too. Clearly, the lightning did what should have been done all along.

One reason why Stefa must have been so popular was that it pushes so many buttons. In the real world, there are real-life Stefas who react against grief by becoming bitter and refuse to love again for fear of experiencing grief again. But like Stefa, all they do is make their lives even more miserable. And there the Ruths who work through their loss, refuse to let it ruin their lives, and come out of it even stronger. There are also warnings about loving too intensely as this can lead to tragedy. It is a warning shared by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which the lovers do not heed either. Finally, the story is a stern warning against bottling up emotions, especially grief. Express, acknowledge and accept them, or they will lead to emotional and psychological problems. Or get a good counsellor!

Go On, Hate Me! (1976-1977)

Sample images

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Publication: 2 November 1976-22 January 1977
Artist: Keith Robson
Writer: Len Wenn

Summary
Hetty Blake loves athletics, especially running. She and her friend Carol are picked for a 400m relay at their athletics club. Hetty starts training hard and pushes Carol to do the same. She does not listen to Carol’s pleas that she is feeling unwell. Too bad for Hetty – if she had listened, she might have saved herself the nightmare that is to follow.

Carol ends up collapsing and is rushed to hospital. Hetty blames herself, but Carol tells her not to; she collapsed because she had a heart condition that she had not told Hetty about and did not have long to live anyway. Before Carol dies, she makes Hetty promise to win the relay and to look after her younger sister, Jo.

Afterwards, Hetty still blames herself and a doctor reassures her it was all due to Carol’s weak heart. Jo overhears what was said but believes the former, not the latter, and shouts hatred at Hetty. Soon Jo starts spreading the word around that Hetty caused Carol’s death by driving Carol too hard. Nobody listens to Hetty’s pleas that Carol just died of a weak heart; Jo says Carol would have told her if that was the case. Worse, Hetty is stuck with looking after Jo because she promised Carol. And Jo is adamant about staying so she can make Hetty’s life miserable.

Hetty’s athletics club has turned against her, but Hetty is adamant about staying and winning the relay as she had promised this to Carol. And she is determined to run, despite the hatred and secret tricks from Jo – one of which damages her feet. She does win, but gets no applause or thanks.

Jo proceeds to turn the whole town against Hetty. Hetty loses her job and cannot get another because nobody will dare to hire her. Now Hetty cannot afford the rent, and lack of income raises problems in looking after Jo. So now Jo is now faced with the prospect of ending up in welfare. Hetty has been advised to leave town and does so, still lumbered with Jo. They end up roughing it and even getting a brush with the law. Jo does not understand that these are the consequences of her own malice towards Hetty and goes on blaming her.

In another town, Hetty finds a school where she gets a job as a fill-in PE teacher and Jo becomes a pupil there. Hetty starts an athletics team. But Jo starts spreading the word about Hetty, and this causes many of the girls to drop out. Hetty is worried that she may be forced out of yet another district. However, enough of the girls remain in the team for Hetty to train.

Hetty gets a shock when she finds they will be competing against St Viner’s – Jo’s old school! The Viners girls recognise Hetty and are waiting for her with a nasty surprise – a hate-filled demonstration. This is the last straw for Hetty and she runs off in tears. However, Jo’s attitude towards Hetty has softened towards forgiveness and she runs after Hetty. This has Jo almost getting knocked down by a motorcyclist; Hetty pushes her out the way but takes the brunt.

In hospital, Jo tells Hetty that she found an entry in Carol’s diary that she had not noticed before because the page got stuck down. The entry proves that Hetty had been telling the truth about Carol. Jo explains that she ran after Hetty because she had forgiven her, but now she knows she had been wrong all along and apologises. She wants them to be friends and stay together, and Hetty is very happy.

The reaction of the hatemongers is not recorded.

Thoughts
Stories where girls conduct a hate campaign against someone (or sometimes an institution, such as a school or hospital) because they wrongly blame them for something were common in girls’ comics, and could be told from the POV of either the persecutor or the victim. Sometimes there is a mystery involved, such as the victim trying to unravel why the person is persecuting them, as in Jinty’s “Cursed to be a Coward!”. But one thing remains constant – it always turns out that the victim was wrongly persecuted and the persecutor made a ghastly mistake. Usually, though, this comes to light at the end of the story, often with the victim not realising who and/or why until the end approaches. But here it is at the beginning. Jo did hear the doctor tell Hetty that Carol died of a weak heart and she should not blame herself. And presumably he did try to reason with Jo during the few days he kept her in hospital following her angry outburst at Hetty. But apparently none of it made any impression on Jo, who continues to blame Hetty until the final episode.

Another unusual feature of this story is that it is told from the POV of both the victim and the persecutor. Usually it is one or the other. It is even more unusual that it is not just one person doing the persecuting but whole groups of people. This makes the story even more disturbing, and it must make one strongest statements about how hideous hate can be when you see it in the face. The hatred Hetty encounters is truly frightening, ugly and even dangerous, with people going as far as to pelt her. And in the final episode, it puts Hetty’s life in danger as well. Keith Robson does a brilliant job in illustrating the hatred on people’s faces with his heavy line work, especially on their eyes and twisted expressions. And it is hatred that Hetty cannot escape from because she is bound by a promise to look after the girl who hates her.

The only thing that can counteract hate is love, and this is the statement that the story makes as well. The penultimate episode tells us that next week an act of hate will produce an act of love at last. And love is the key that makes the ending so powerful. It could have ended with Hetty just having the accident because the bully girls drove her out into the road, and then Jo finding the diary entry and just apologising to Hetty. But instead the story makes a powerful point about love and forgiveness, with Jo finally seeing past her hate and forgiving Hetty, and then running after her to try to put it right. And once she had forgiven, Jo must have felt an enormous difference as the hatred left her and learned a lesson about the value of forgiveness. Not to mention getting her facts straight before accusing people and the consequences of spreading nasty rumours!

It seems a bit odd that there seem to be no parents or relatives for either Hetty or Jo. Moreover, Hetty looks hardly old enough to have her own flat or job; she does not look much older than fourteen. The same goes for Carol. All right, so it was not uncommon for girls to be drawn younger than they actually were to be in girls’ serials. For example, Greta Jones in Tammy’s “Nurse Grudge” was eventually revealed to be twenty years old, but she looks like she is still in her mid teens. But it is stretching credibility a bit that both girls are apparent orphans with no grown relatives and looking hardly old enough to be independent. Ah, one of the things we are probably best not to think about too much in girls’ comics.