Tag Archives: evil influence

Glenda’s Glossy Pages [1975]

Sample Images

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Glenda 2

Glenda 3

Published: Tammy 13 September 1975 – 15 November 1975

Episodes: 11

Artists: Mario Capaldi, plus Tony Highmore as a filler artist in one episode

Writer: Pat Mills

Translations/reprints: Tammy 1 October 1983 – 10 December 1983; De geheimzinnige catalogus [The Mysterious Catalogue] in Tina Boelboek 4, 1984

Plot

Glenda Slade lives with her widowed mother. Mrs Slade works in a low-paid job, so they live a poor existence. They are so poor that the only thing Glenda has to wear is her school uniform (which Mum had to scrape for). At school, spoiled and snobby rich girl Hilary loves to bully Glenda over her poor background.

Then one day a woman knocks at the door and shows Glenda a beautiful catalogue that is packed full of gorgeous items to order. Glenda is blown away and wants to order from the catalogue immediately. Her mother reminds her that they cannot afford it. Glenda decides to keep the catalogue in secret so she can at least dream about the items. The woman agrees and gives Glenda a strange, ominous smile as she leaves.

Glenda is surprised when the items she circles start appearing at her front door for real and there is no apparent bill to pay. Thrilled at having nice things for the first time in her life, she starts circling more and more items, which continue to appear with no apparent price to pay. At school, the items make her the centre of attention and she is pleased to get one up on Hilary, who is being pushed out as the one to admire because the girls now swarm around Glenda and the things she is getting. Even Glenda’s face is beginning to change, and she is amazed that she is beginning to look like the model in the catalogue. Hilary is jealous and then suspicious about these items of Glenda’s.

But odd, worrying things start happening to Glenda. Among them, Hilary calls the police in to investigate the items (more of her spite towards Glenda). Of course they do not believe Glenda’s story about the catalogue. But when they try to take the items they get a strange electric shock, which frightens Glenda.

Then, at the swimming pool, Glenda discovers a shocking, inexplicable change in her personality and behaviour. Hilary is having an attack of cramp in the pool, but Glenda, who is the nearest, just leaves her to drown and makes no attempt to save her at all. Glenda herself cannot understand why she acted in this way. When she realises there can only be one answer, the catalogue begins to well and truly scare her. The girls save Hilary, and in the wake of this incident, Hilary rises again as the centre of the girls’ attention while Glenda is sent to Coventry. Hilary is delighted at Glenda’s downfall. In fact, when Glenda tries to apologise to Hilary, Hilary just pulls a false act of Glenda bullying her in order to get her into even deeper trouble with the girls.

Finally, the police arrest Mrs Slade over the mystery items. They have no evidence against her, but she has a criminal record, and that is enough for them. They don’t know or believe she has reformed to the point where she has raised Glenda to be extremely strict about honesty.

Glenda is appalled at how everything is getting just worse and worse for her. And worst of all, she has a feeling the catalogue is not even through yet.

The woman appears again. Glenda confronts her and urges her to tell the police how she got the items from her catalogue for free. The woman tells Glenda that nothing in the world is free and she has to pay. Glenda then realises that she has paid after all – with all the misery and trouble she has gone through because of the catalogue. She now understands that the woman and her catalogue are evil, and they were all out to play on her greed to get her into trouble. The woman tells Glenda that she will go on paying. But Glenda is determined to beat the woman. When Glenda finds she cannot destroy or dispose of the catalogue, she tries to break its power by getting rid of the all the lovely items it brought her and sending them to a charity shop. It’s a wrench for poverty-stricken Glenda, turning her back on those beautiful things, but it does the trick. She is now able to throw the catalogue out and leaves it for the dustmen.

But Mrs Slade, who is released for lack of evidence (or maybe because of the temporary break in the catalogue’s power?) finds the catalogue and now she is the one who is tempted. Ignoring Glenda’s warnings, she orders as many items as possible so as to win the mystery prize the catalogue is offering. When the prize arrives, it is a lighter in the shape of a skull. Later, Glenda realises that a skull stands for death, and gets a horrible thought as to the price Mum is to pay. She manages to get out of school (thanks to nasty Hilary ripping her one and only skirt for a ‘joke’), rushes home to check up on her mother, and finds the skull lighter has started a fire.

The fire is spreading fast, and the skull itself seems to be fanning the flames. All the same, Mum is reluctant to evacuate and leave her lovely things behind, so Glenda has to do some persuading to make her agree to do so. However, they discover all the glossy pages’ furniture has suddenly moved to block all the exits and won’t budge. Clearly, the price the catalogue intends them to pay is for them both to perish in the fire. However, Glenda manages to create an exit by throwing the catalogue itself out the window, which makes the flames at the window die down enough for them to escape through the window. Across the street, Glenda sees the evil woman is watching, and the woman is looking absolutely furious that she and her glossy pages have failed. However, the emergency services whisk Glenda and her mother away before Glenda gets a chance to retrieve the book and stop someone else from falling into its power.

A few days later, Glenda and her mother are discharged from hospital. Their old house got destroyed, so they are given a new one. Glenda’s mother is relieved that at least their new start will be an honest one, even if it is from scratch. Glenda went back for the catalogue, but failed to find it. Glenda does not know that Hilary picked up the book while dropping by to gloat over the destruction of her home, and recognised those mystery items of Glenda’s in it. And rich girl though she is, Hilary is tempted by the catalogue and sets out to make herself the envy of all the girls with it…

Thoughts

This particular “wish-fulfilment with the inevitable catch in it somewhere” story has been an enduring one in Tammy. On the Internet it still attracts positive comment and is clearly well remembered. One reason has to be that Pat Mills wrote it. Pat Mills has established himself as one of the best writers in British comics, such as in 2000AD, Battle and Misty. He has written many classics in girls’ comics, including ones from Jinty herself, such as “Land of No Tears” and “Concrete Surfer”.

The themes the story explores also help to make it an enduring one: greed, fantasy, temptation, rags-to-riches, bullying, jealousy, the supernatural, the macabre, and the threat of the Grim Reaper. The protagonists themselves are ones who remain sympathetic, even when the power of the catalogue leads them so much that their personalities begin to harden, they lose common sense and sight of themselves, and become increasingly consumed by the temptations the catalogue is offering. Glenda at least has enough sense and virtue to notice the warnings. It takes a while for her to heed the warnings enough to stop using the catalogue, not least because it is so hard to break away from having nice things for the first time in her life. But as the nightmare intensifies and the evil increasingly obvious, she finally finds the strength to do so.

Mrs Slade becomes even more consumed by greed than her daughter. This would be partly because she has not received increasing danger signals as Glenda had. But it could also be rooted in her once being a criminal. Glenda’s birth made her go straight and she clearly resolved to bring Glenda up so strictly about honesty that she would not follow that deviant path. Mum was successful there until the catalogue came along. The catalogue did not make Glenda an outright criminal, but it did corrupt her and make her stray off the honest path her mother set her on. Mum, meanwhile, is tempted because although she had stayed honest, she felt that going straight had not lifted her out of the poverty she and Glenda had always lived in and it never seemed to do her any real good. It was these feelings that made it so easy for the catalogue to tempt her.

The only truly good thing to come out of the catalogue was Glenda and her mother being given a new home and a new start. We hope it will be the start of a better life for them. In any case, we know Mum has returned to the straight path when she says that at least they will start honestly. And after they have been through with the catalogue, we imagine they will stick to the honest path even more assiduously.

At the end of the story, Hilary also falls into the grip of the catalogue. Unlike the Slades, however, we do not sympathise with her when she does so. In fact, we feel like hoping the catalogue will give Hilary her comeuppance. She already has plenty of things of her own, and unlike the Slades she can afford them because she is so rich. She has no real need for the catalogue, yet she is tempted all the same. The catalogue is clearly playing on Hilary having far less moral fibre than Glenda Slade and being a more nasty character. Throughout the story Hilary has been portrayed as nothing but a spoiled, bullying snob who is always out to stick her knife into Glenda, just because she is poor. Hilary does not even have an ounce of sympathy at Glenda losing her home: “What a shame the scruff’s house was burnt down – I don’t think.” If there were a sequel to this story, which there isn’t, we would like to see how the trouble Hilary gets into with the catalogue improves her personality and makes her nicer to Glenda by the end of the story.

The ending itself is a skilful one that makes the storytelling even more powerful. Instead of the catalogue being destroyed and never able to tempt anyone again, the story ends on a grim, ominous reminder that evil is continuous. In fact, we would not be at all surprised if this woman distributes these evil catalogues all over the place, targeting the people she thinks would be the easiest to tempt, like the poverty-stricken Slades.

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Creepy Crawley (1977)

Sample Images

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Published: 9 April 1977 – 2 July 1977

Episodes: 13

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown

Translations/ reprints: Katy 8–9; In de macht/ban van een broche [Under the Spell of a Brooch], Tina 1979 and Tina Topstrip 60 1984. Indonesian translation Dalam Cengkeraman Sebuah Bros [In the clutches of a brooch]

Plot

Jean Crawley is the star pupil of St Bridget’s. She always wins at everything and is very proud that nobody has ever beaten her. Then Jean meets her match in Mandy Collier, the team captain of the rival team at a hockey match, and is stunned to lose for the first time in her life. Then Mandy – horrors! – transfers to Jean’s school. So now Jean under serious threat from the girl who always seems to beat her, and she is not taking it well.

Then Jean stumbles across an antique shop and is drawn to an Egyptian scarab brooch. The owner tells her it belonged to an Egyptian princess named Neferitta, who lost her throne to a rival but used the power of the scarab to recover it. Jean disappears out of the shop with the brooch before she receives the book that accompanies it – or the owner’s warning that the brooch changed the princess’s personality for the worse while helping her regain her throne.

The brooch begins to push back Jean’s rival at school, but there are warning signs that it is dangerous and evil. For example, mysterious swarms of insects start hanging around Jean. Jean asks the scarab to help her against Mandy when Mandy starts to suspect her of underhandedness, whereupon bees attack Mandy and leave her badly stung while Jean is unharmed while going to the rescue. Jean’s misgivings – and guilty conscience – grow worse when she goes back to the shop to get the book about the brooch. Unfortunately most of the pages are tantalisingly missing. What remains warns that the power of the scarab gives its wearer power over all insects, which Neferitta used to defeat her rival. But the scarab also brought a curse to the land and not even the defeat of the rival stopped it. Terrified, Jean stops wearing the brooch.

However, when Jean is reminded of the threat Mandy poses to her, her jealousy resurfaces and she goes back to using the brooch. And after Jean saves Mandy from the bees, Mandy is fooled into thinking Jean is her friend, which makes it easier to work against her. Mandy is even more fooled when Jean is the only one who seems to be friendly to her when the other prefects send her to Coventry because they think Mr Collier bribed the headmistress with a grant to make Mandy a prefect. Which is precisely what Jean led them to think, of course.

Mysterious help from insects keeps cropping up to destroy Mandy whenever she threatens to score one over Jean. Termites destroy her wooden sculpture in an art competition, so Jean wins. Gnats attack Mandy while the class is on a pony trekking weekend.

However the latter backfires on Jean when it unwittingly puts Sheila in danger. Jean has to move fast to save her. Jean has a pang of conscience, telling the scarab it has changed her for the worse and now nearly killed Sheila, and wishing she’d never summoned its powers. Jean does not realise Sheila overheard what she was saying – and believes it.

But the power of the scarab is getting too strong for any twinge of conscience, as both Jean and Sheila discover when Sheila tries to hide the brooch. Another swarm of insects mysteriously appears and Jean finds herself compelled to open the window for them and they direct her to the brooch’s hiding place. Jean realises someone is on to her, but does not know who.

The pony trekking turned into a fiasco because of the insects, and the girls blame Mandy for it. As a result Mandy loses her prefect’s badge while still thinking Jean is her friend. The rival is being defeated, but now Jean suspects the scarab will not stop there.

Jean discovers it was Sheila who had rumbled her. After another incident with the scarab Jean decides she cannot destroy the brooch without destroying herself. So she now plots to get Mandy expelled in the hope this will break its power (obviously, she did not remember what the book said about nobody being safe from the scarab even after the defeat of the rival). And she scares and tricks timid Sheila into helping her do it, with blackmail. Jean’s plan is to wreck the costumes for the play and frame Mandy for it, with Sheila’s unsuspecting help.

Sheila caves in, wishing she had the confidence to stand up to Jean. Then she finds Jean’s incomplete book on the scarab brooch and recalls another copy somewhere. Next day, Jean’s plan succeeds in getting Mandy suspended. Worse, Jean engineered her plan so cleverly that Mandy thinks it was Sheila who framed her, and was behind all the trouble she has had. Too late Sheila realised what Jean’s plan was, but of course nobody, including Mandy, believes her when she tries to explain about the scarab.

However, Jean soon finds out she has miscalculated. Even with Mandy gone, she cannot break free of the scarab. Its power over her is getting stronger as it makes her ever more evil and turning her into a tyrant (like it had done with Neferitta, as it turns out). Jean is forcing all pupils to wear blazers at all times, even when the weather is boiling hot. When one pupil swats a fly Jean assaults her, because all insects are sacred to the scarab. Everyone, including the headmistress, now have second thoughts about Jean because of her strange conduct.

Sheila, now having read the other copy of the book, which was in her father’s library, knows Jean is going the same way as Neferitta after she deposed her rival, and every evil action she makes is strengthening the power of the scarab. But the worst is yet to come: the scarab has designs of power and conquest. It had Neferitta lead an invasion of insects, which means it intends to do the same with Jean. Sure enough, the scarab has Jean go to the insect house at the zoo to let all the insects loose for the invasion.

The scarab’s power over Neferitta was broken by her rival forgiving her, which means Mandy must do the same with Jean. But how can Mandy even forgive Jean when she does not even realise what Jean has done and thinks Sheila is responsible for her expulsion? Sheila goes to Mandy’s house to try to explain, but Mandy still does not listen. All Sheila can do is leave the book with her and hope. Eventually Mandy reads it, but she is not convinced.

Meanwhile Mandy’s parents have gone to a garden party at school to speak to the headmistress about getting Mandy reinstated, but are not successful (yet). Then the insect invasion strikes the school, and it’s got real nasties in it. There are locusts that make short work of the school garden and drive everyone into the school building, and bees and wasps that keep them trapped there, with Jean laughing at them. They all realise Jean is in the power of the evil scarab brooch.

Realising her parents are overdue, Mandy goes to the school to check things out. She sees the insect invasion and is finally convinced. She gets past the insects by way of an old air raid tunnel. When Mandy confronts Jean, Jean brags how she got rid of her. This clears Mandy’s name, but it does not make her conducive towards forgiveness. However, she does so when Mrs Crawley points out that the scarab brooch was responsible for Jean’s conduct.

Mandy’s forgiveness frees Jean, but it is only for the time being. Jean has been so weakened by the scarab that it could possess her again, and the insect invasion is still out there. The only way to stop the scarab altogether is to put it in a pyramid.

Fortunately Sheila checked out for a pyramid, and there is a pyramid-shaped summerhouse in the neighbourhood that was built by a Victorian eccentric. So Sheila, Jean and Mandy race to get to the pyramid, but find the insects have blocked the air raid tunnel. Jean uses the power of the brooch to command the insects to step aside.

As the pyramid comes into sight, Jean has grown so weak that she faints, and Mandy hurts her ankle. So it’s up to Sheila to bravely make the last lap of the journey while running the gauntlet with the insects. With the aid of a lucky accident, Sheila gets the scarab into the pyramid and its power is broken. The insects disperse and Sheila crushes the scarab underfoot to make sure nobody uses it again.

The school takes the view the scarab was responsible for everything, so no action is taken against Jean. However, Jean voluntarily steps down from her position as head girl – and announces that Sheila as her replacement. Sheila is surprised at this because she sees herself as a coward and timid person. Jean and Mandy say she is far more courageous than she thinks, and she proved it with her heroic deed.

Thoughts

Evil objects that take possession of girls and force them to do terrible things have a long tradition in girls’ comics. But this evil object has a far bigger agenda than simply making the protagonist its slave and forcing her to act nasty, or to enact revenge as some evil objects do, such as in “Slave of the Mirror”. This evil object is out for world conquest, and it is doing it by controlling all insects. When you think about it, that’s a really scary thought; there are millions more insects on the planet than there are people, and there are thousands of species of insects that can do untold damage to humans, from disease-spreading mosquitos and fleas to stinging bees and wasps. During the story we see the damage that even small groups of insects can do, such as Mandy’s wood carving being devoured by termites. If that is what the scarab could do with insects in small numbers, what could it do if it grows strong enough to control all the insects on the planet?

The scarab clearly could not do it unless the person who fell into its power had negative feelings that could be fed upon, nurtured, twisted, and intensified to turn that person into an evil personality who could be controlled while believing the scarab was helping her (or him) to get whatever she wanted, crush the person she hated, and raise her to power beyond imagining. It is unlikely that the scarab could have possessed either Jean or Neferitta if they had lost gracefully to their rivals. They needed to have feelings of hatred, anger and jealousy to begin with if the scarab was able to take control of them at all. As we watch how Jean’s personality worsens under the power we have to wonder if what the scarab is really doing is bringing to the surface what had always lurked there.

If the scarab was sentient (and perhaps it is) we see how extremely crafty it is in ensnaring Jean and gradually entrapping her as its slave. Jean surprises herself at how brilliant her schemes in defeating Mandy are getting and puts it down to the brooch. She thinks it is doing her tremendous favour. Even when Jean has surges of conscience or terror at the power of the scarab, it does not take much for them to be overcome. Jean senses the power of the scarab is growing, but at this stage it is getting too strong for her, and it is corrupting her with temptations of power. She does not realise that the scarab is just using her as a tool and playing upon her jealousy and increasing corruption to feed its strength and carry out its own agenda. One suspects that the scarab’s power would reach the stage where it would not even need Jean anymore.

Jean’s dominance over Sheila is not unlike how Stacey dominates Tania in The Slave of Form 3B. There is no mind control (though the scarab displays some powers of hypnotism, such as making the zoo keeper forget Jean’s break-in at the insect house), but it is still the power of an intimidating personality over a weaker one. Much of it stems from Sheila’s timidity and lack of self-confidence. She looks upon herself as a coward and has no backbone. Even after her heroism she still looks upon herself as a coward. It takes pep talk from Mandy and Jean afterwards to make her see the light. Sheila replacing Jean as head girl is akin to Tania replacing Stacey in the same position at the end of Slave of Form 3B, except that unlike Tania, Sheila has actually earned it. And it’s not just because of her heroism in getting the scarab to the pyramid. Though timid like Tania, she is more proactive than Tania and she is the one who is crucial to the resolution of the story by tracking down the full history of the brooch and (eventually) informing the others what they need to know. Though she knows Mandy will most likely slam the door in her face she bravely tries to talk to Mandy about the brooch and failing that, leaves the book with her.

The artwork of Trini Tinturé is always popular in Jinty, and it does a brilliant job in illustrating the evil that is growing in Jean as the brooch increasingly corrupts her. Tinturé has a long tradition of drawing evil flint-eyed brunettes in Jinty who have insanity or evil exuding from their very eyes and facial expressions, and this one is no exception. Tinturé would have done an amazing job of drawing the corrupted Princess Neferitta herself if she had been allowed some flashbacks instead of being just briefly discussed in the book. One does feel that there is an untold story in the case of Neferitta and it could make quite a story to see the story of the scarab-enslaved Neferitta and her rival told in full. Prequel, anyone?

Slave of the Mirror (1974-5)

Sample Images

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Slave of the Mirror

Published: 9 November 1974 – 12 April 1975 (20 episodes)

Artist: Carlos Freixas

Translations/ reprints: De spiegel met de slangen [The Snakes Mirror] (in Tina 1976); translated into Greek in Manina.

Plot

In Cornwall, Mia Blake’s sister Janet has bought a run-down old 18th century house built by one Captain Scully and transformed part of it into a boarding house, “Scully House Private Hotel” (other parts are still shut up). There is a portrait of Scully on the wall, and he does not look very nice. Oh dear, could Mia and Janet be asking for trouble there?

Mia is expected to help out, but she is discontented and disgruntled at doing so. She feels Janet treats her like a dogsbody and does not even pay her, though she has the grace to understand that Janet would not mean it. She does not appreciate that the guesthouse is understaffed and Janet can’t afford more help until business takes off. Too bad Mia has those feelings, because they could have made her susceptible to what follows.

When Janet sends Mia up to the attic on an errand, she makes a discovery that proves fateful – an old mirror. The face that appears in it is not Mia’s reflection but the face of a young, beautiful woman. The woman’s identity and origins are as yet unknown, but she soon makes it clear she has powers to hypnotise Mia into playing dirty tricks that are aimed at driving off guests and giving the hotel a bad name. And the mirror also forces Mia to do things that are far worse than that, such as attempting to drown a dog in a well, drown a couple by scuttling their boat, stealing money from a guest, and ruining the Major’s reputation by forging a letter from him saying he cheated in a boat race. There are times when Mia does break free of the mirror’s control. For example, she stops herself killing the dog in time. The same goes for stealing the money, but Mia gets caught anyway, and so it’s another angry guest and another black mark on Scully Hotel. Mia scuttles the boat, but rescues the couple later.

Or perhaps it is because the mirror may have relented sometimes? There is a surprise when Mia realises what she did to the Major and confronts the mirror over it. The face in the mirror starts crying and helps her find a way to clear the Major. Could it be that the spirit is not as evil as it seemed? Whatever brought on the crying, though, it does not last. Soon the mirror is back to its usual tricks.

As only Mia can see the face in the mirror, she cannot convince Janet of what’s going on. Janet thinks her sister is turning delinquent or going crazy or something. Trying to dispose of the mirror or destroying it does not work either – the mirror always comes back. Janet’s losing guests and money because of all the trouble, and she is coming to the end of her tether with Mia. In the end, Mia is put in hospital because of her odd behaviour. Strangely, while Mia is in hospital two men spot her and they say she has what it takes to become a model. Afterwards they have her enter a beauty contest.

Mia’s on the verge of winning the contest when Janet comes up in a huff and yanks her out: “how dare you flaunt yourself in public like this!” Is Janet a prude or something? As Mia says, what’s the harm in a beauty contest? Janet won’t hear of Mia becoming a model either, saying she’s needed at the hotel. This time, Mia has more justification for feeling resentment towards Janet and slogging at the hotel for nothing in return – and that’s bound to increase the mirror’s hold over her.

Sure enough, Mia’s rage has her stealing money from another guest to enrol at modelling school because Janet won’t allow her the money for it. Fortunately she gets a free enrolment as a consolation prize from the contest, which means she can quietly return the money.

The mirror seems to be feeding and amplifying Mia’s own feelings of resentment. She perceives everybody being against her and Janet still treating her like a servant. Mia feels the mirror is sympathising with her there. Now Mia calls upon the mirror to help her with her own revenge against all the people she resents. She grows more violent and starts lashing out. When this happens in her modelling class, Mia is told that if it happens again she will be expelled.

Mia goes home still under the influence, which puts her in a black rage. This culminates in her slashing the portrait of Scully and screaming how much she hates him “you slave driver!” Hmm, could there be a clue there?

Meanwhile, Janet has hired a Spanish student named Inez to help with the guesthouse and take some of the pressure off Mia. Perhaps she thinks Mia has snapped under too much pressure and that’s why she’s acting out of character.

As it turns out, Inez is just the person to help Mia. Inez notices Mia’s odd behaviour when she stares into the mirror and begins to suspect the truth. Inez checks out the mirror with an antique dealer and they discover a note hidden inside it. It reveals that the mirror belonged to Isabella, an ancestress of Inez. In 1770 Isabella worked as a servant for Captain Scully. Sure enough, Scully was a horrible man. He treated Isabella very badly and when she fell ill, she was left to die of fever and neglect in her attic room. Before Isabella died, she wrote the note describing her treatment, how full of hate she is for the house and everyone who lives there, and made an oath to return from beyond the grave to have her revenge.

Now Mia knows the truth, she sympathises with Isabella and tries to tell Janet what’s been going on. But of course Janet doesn’t believe it. She sends Mia to her room. Instead, Mia goes to the attic where Isabella died, and the mirror and note are on her lap. Mia falls asleep where she starts reliving how Isabella suffered at the hands of Scully and was left to die from his neglect. She is full of rage and pity for Isabella. It is small wonder that when Mia wakes up, Isabella’s power is so strong that she has Mia set fire to the attic!

Inez finds Mia in her hypnotic state, which Mia snaps out of. Janet does not believe Mia’s story about being hypnotised and throws her out of the house. While Janet and Inez tackle the fire, Inez draws Janet’s attention to the mirror. Previously only Mia could see Isabella’s face in the mirror – but now both Inez and Janet can see it! And Isabella is crying. It seems Isabella has now repented to the point where she is showing herself to clear Mia’s name.

Meanwhile, Mia is guided towards Isabella’s grave. It just says “Isabella 1752–1770”. Inez follows Mia to the grave and suggests they pray for Isabella. Their prayers include pleas for Isabella to leave Mia alone and find peace. A ray of sun breaks through pouring rain and shines on Isabella’s grave. They take it as a sign that Isabella is happy now she has people who care for her at last.

Mia and Inez return to the house, where Janet says she now understands and asks Mia’s forgiveness. The face of Isabella in the mirror gives a loving smile, and then disappears from the mirror forever.

After the haunting stops, life becomes so good for everyone. Mia’s modelling career is now in full swing. She still works at the hotel, but now finds it enjoyable and works very happily with Inez and Janet. Isabella’s grave gets regular fresh flowers. The mirror is still around, but Mia is so happy that the only face she sees in it now is her own. The hotel is still called Scully House though – shouldn’t they change the name in light of what happened?

Thoughts

This serial has drawn comments that the acts Mia commits under the mirror’s influence are veiled excuses for delinquent behaviour. Still, the same could be said for any protagonist who falls under the power of an evil (or angry) force and is forced to do nasty things. One such victim, in Suzy’s “The Curse of Carmina” is actually sent away to a home for problem children because of the terrible things the evil object (in this case a puppet) is forcing her to do. Janet does not go this far, fortunately; the nearest is putting Mia in hospital.

There are strong similarities between this story and another malignant mirror story that appeared in Jinty several years later, “The Venetian Looking Glass”. It could well be the same writer. The protagonist, Lucy Craven finds a mirror that is haunted by an angry, vengeful spirit also named Lucy Craven, and Lucy Craven Snr hypnotises her into unleashing that revenge. Both stories climax with the protagonist being hypnotised into nearly burning the place down.

However, there are differences between how the two mirrors carry out their mayhem. The key one is that the Lucy Craven spirit can talk through her mirror but Isabella can’t speak through hers at all. As the Lucy Craven mirror can speak, it rapidly becomes established what the spirit wants and why. Lucy keeps trying to plead with her that she is hurting innocent people who have nothing to do with the ancient wrong. By contrast, Isabella can’t talk to Mia at all, so her identity and motives remain a mystery until near the end of the story. Furthermore, Mia can’t reason with Isabella that the people she is hurting have nothing to do with what Captain Scully did. All she can do is try to plead with the spirit not to force her to do things against her will. But most of the time they fall on deaf ears until near the end. Perhaps part of it was Janet bringing out the portrait of Captain Scully and calling the hotel Scully House. In Isabella’s eyes, this must have looked like a tribute to the very man who treated her so badly.

When the motives of the two respective spirits are established, one emerges as a far more sympathetic character than the other. Lucy Craven Snr brought the trouble on herself by being – to put it very bluntly – a bad-tempered bitch. By contrast, Isabella arouses sympathy because she was treated so badly by Captain Scully and her desire for revenge was understandable. Anyone decent would feel sorry for Isabella there. It is this sympathy that finally has Isabella resting in peace. Once she sees there are now people who care for her, something finally gets through to her.

Once Isabella’s motives are revealed it is also easier to understand the odd fluctuations of the spirit looking evil most times and then looking like it is having second thoughts now and then. The same thing has been seen over and over in “revenge” serials. In these serials there are moments when things go too far and innocents get hurt. These moments have the protagonist stop and think and maybe feel some remorse. Sometimes this is what turns her around. Other times the pause doesn’t last because the thirst for revenge resurfaces. Often the desire for revenge clouds their judgement and they do thoughtless, reckless and even dangerous things in the name of revenge. They do not stop think about the damage they are doing or the rights and wrongs of it all. Eventually, though, they learn their lesson.

Mia undergoes a whole new appreciation of life after the ordeal ends. In the beginning she’s completely negative in her outlook, discontented at working at the hotel and feels she’s being used as a servant. These negative attitudes could be why the mirror opened up to her in the first place and why she succumbed to its power. No doubt it is one reason why the mirror’s influence gets so powerful. It amplifies Mia’s bad feelings to the point of insanity; it has similar feelings, so it would empathise with Mia. At the end Mia has a positive attitude and really enjoys working in the hotel with Inez to help out. Being a successful model almost seems redundant. Even without the modelling job we feel Mia would be much happier at the hotel after the haunting ceases. After all, now she’s seen a real dogsbody at the hotel who was treated like a real slave, she would appreciate how lucky she is. She also comes away looking far smarter and more beautiful now that she is a full-fledged model.

Slave of the Clock (1982)

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Page 1 of Slave of the Clock

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Slave of the Clock

Publication 17 July 1982 – 30 October 1982 (skipped an episode in Tammy 25 September 1982)

Artist: Maria Barrera

Writer: this Tammy story is credited to Jay Over, who also wrote Jinty‘s long-running school soap opera, “Pam of Pond Hill”. As we will see, there are also a few thematic similarities between this story and others in Jinty, raising intriguing questions about what else Jay Over may have written in this comic.

Plot: Alison Thorne is a talented dancer, but that’s not the main focus of her interest; she’s a very active girl who enjoys all sorts of things, such as art and socialising with her friends. Dancing is great fun – the first thing we hear from Alison is “Dancing makes me feel good from top to toe!” – but we also hear her think straight afterwards “I’ll have to get a move on if I’m to make it to the Youth Club on time!” In short, she’s a happy-go-lucky girl who isn’t driven by ambition or focused on talent. This isn’t a problem to her, or to her parents either, and it wouldn’t be an issue for most people. Her ballet teacher Miss Dempster, though, has ambitions on Alison’s behalf (and some ambitions for her own fame as a teacher too). Dempster takes her pupil along to creepy Miss Margolia, who promptly hypnotises Alison so that the ticking of a clock will make her think of dancing… and only of dancing… as immediately shown when some friends come round to Alison’s house the next morning and put a clock to her ear to wake her up.

Thereafter, any ticking clock will not only force Alison to dance, but also to lose awareness of her surroundings. That first time, her friends leave her dancing, because she pays no attention to them, and she doesn’t even realise they have been and gone. At the next dance class, Miss Dempster is annoyed and disappointed to see that Alison is still not giving her whole-hearted attention to the class, but then she doesn’t know yet what the real key to Alison’s slavery is – the ticking clock. Another player is about to join the story, though – a girl called Kathy, who has sadly been injured and cannot herself dance any more. Alison, fairly nobly to be honest, thinks to herself that she should be careful to take Kathy’s mind off dancing by focusing on other activities. Once again, a ticking clock – this time a wristwatch – makes Alison dance at an inopportune moment – this time, when Kathy arrives. Not surprisingly, all present think Alison is just showing off in front of Kathy, very cruelly.

Alison manages to smooth over the awkwardness and persuade Kathy that she will have fun staying at their house. I expect she would do, to, but at the same time, Miss Dempster is on the phone to Madame Margolia asking what can have gone wrong with the hypnotism – and as a result, installing a damn great cuckoo clock into her dance studio… Alison nearly doesn’t hear the clock at all as she is keenly getting involved with the local youth club show for which she has firmly ruled out dancing as an option, but she has to go around town putting up posters, and Miss Dempster gets her into the studio on that basis. And of course as soon as she hears the clock, off she goes again…

This sets the pattern for the upcoming plot: Kathy gets crosser and more upset because she thinks she is being messed around, Alison gets more upset because she is mysteriously blacking out and finding herself aching the next day as if she has danced for hours, and Miss Dempster is gleeful because she is getting her way. There is a temporary moment of guilt on the ballet teacher’s part when she feels bad about making Alison dance to her command, but as soon as the prospect of a rich new pupil arises, she gets Alison to perform once again (with a ticking clock around her neck). Not that this works out the way Dempster expects – Alison is put in positive danger by her dancing unaware of her surroundings (Kathy has to rescue her from possibly falling into a swimming pool) and of course Kathy and Alison are thus enabled to band together and realise what must be happening, unlikely though it seems. (I don’t think the rich pupil was very impressed by the relentless and absorbed dancing either! so probably no win for la Dempster on that front either.)

Alison’s parents don’t believe the wild story that the two girls bring to them, of course, but the two friends go off to find and confront Madame Margolia. But Dempster meets them outside the house, and tells them that Madame Margolia has been taken ill – and died! Will Alison never escape the curse of the ticking clock? Seemingly not – even if she is not dancing all the time, her parents are now resorting to taking her to hospital for mental treatment – and a sticking wheel on a hospital trolley triggers her off dancing again, so perhaps the curse is even getting stronger. However, it is in the hospital that they find Madame Margolia – seriously ill, but not dead (what a surprise to find that Miss Dempster lied – not!). Not that they can do anything to contact her, because Alison is whisked off to see the (very unsympathetic) doctor, who says that all this forced dancing is purely in her mind, because she is scared of failing her dance exams – and therefore her parents make her take more dance lessons, with – guess who? Miss Dempster of course. Alison pleads to do her exams with any other teacher rather than her tormentor, but her father replies: “Considering the cruel accusations you’ve made against her, I think Miss Dempster’s a fine person to take you back and help you.” So not only has she to face the cause of her problems, she even has to be grateful to that person?! That’s a nasty twist.

In fact the lessons go surprisingly well, though of course at first Alison is trembling like a leaf and hardly fit to dance. Miss Dempster is feeling guilty again and forebearing to use the power of the clock, and Alison gradually relaxes more and enjoys dance again. Temptation falls in Miss Dempster’s path once again though – can she get Alison into the International Ballet School, where it’s been her dream to have a pupil? By now we know how weak la Dempster’s will is, of course. And yes, the climax of the story is that although Alison had started to happily believe she was cured of the dancing fits, instead she is once again made to dance, for her teacher’s benefit not her own. This time the International Ballet School judges clearly reject Alison’s mechanical, hypnotic dancing, making it very clear just how misguided Miss Dempster’s actions are on all fronts – and a surprise guest appears in the form of a wheel-chair bound Madame Margolia. Alison is finally cured, though Margolia and Dempster require the two friends’ silence as their part of the bargain. There is a last reward for faithful sidekick Kathy though – the limp she has had since her injury is psychosomatic, so Margolia is able to cure her of it with one last application of (benign) hypnotism.

Thoughts: There are some silly aspects to this story – hypnotism is intrinsically an over-the-top trope, and this has the hypnotic subject nearly dancing to her death, which can strike the reader as absurd. On closer read, though, it is a pretty disturbing story, not to say chilling.

The main feature of it is perhaps that it is a ‘grownups know best’ story: protagonist Alison is quite happy as she is, and there is objectively nothing wrong with her, but a grown-up has other ideas of what’s best, and rides rough-shod over the girl protagonist’s clearly-expressed desires and aims. Miss Dempster thinks that it is a waste that Alison doesn’t use her dancing talent; in just the same way, Susie Cathcart’s grandmother thinks that Susie should be using her intellect rather than her gymnastic skill, and so makes her into the “Prisoner of the Bell“.  Similarly, headmistress Purity Goodfellow uses her mystic drug to turn the schoolchildren of Edenford into a paradise along the lines that she deems best – even if the girls need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the infirmary where she will administer the drug. I could continue with more examples – for instance “Battle of the Wills” also has a determined grandmother who makes her granddaughter practice hated ballet rather than the gymnastics that she loves, though no mind-control is seen in that story. It is not the most frequent story theme in this comic, but you can see how it would strike a chord with the readers. It’s striking not only that the girl character expresses her desires clearly and unmistakably, but also that the grown-up simply dismisses them as foolish, worthless, clearly unacceptable – and other grown-ups are likely to be persuaded into this view too, even if they had started out on the side of the (actually perfectly nice and normal) protagonist.

Of course, the grown-up is pretty clearly shown not to have known best, in the end. As with Miss Dempster, their manipulations clearly fail on their own terms, and don’t produce the desired result even if they had seemed promising initially – free will does triumph over coercion, though it’s a long road in getting there. That’s pretty subversive to me, in a kids’ comic – it’s not just saying that grownups can get it wrong, but that they can positively be against you even when they’re not obviously evil. Dempster is very chilling – she is not as witchy-looking as Madame Margolia (a stately crone if ever I saw one), but she just doesn’t seem to care about Alison, except in flashes that are overcome all-too-easily. It’s a proper emotional abuse story, done quite strikingly. Dempster persuades herself that it’s for the right reasons, or that it will be worth it in the end, but not only does she ignore Alison’s stated wishes and aims, she disregards the pleas and the begging that the girl is driven to by the end. Lies and the use of her power for her own ends – Dempster does not look or act conventionally evil, never descending to cackling, but she is inhumanly self-absorbed nevertheless. Madame Margolia is far from innocent (quite apart from having applied the hypnotism in the first place, she also demands silence as her payment for taking it off, which is pretty much barefaced cheek on her part) but she can see the cost of the slavery much more clearly than her younger associate. If Dempster ever got the power to do hypnosis herself, I would be far more worried for the fictional world than with it staying in Margolia’s hands!

Shadow on the Fen (1978)

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Fen 1

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Publication: 18 February 1978-13 May 1978

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Unknown (but see thoughts)

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #25 as “The Witchfinder”

Plot

Linden James and her family have just moved to the village of Wychley Green, but things aren’t off to a good start for her. She misses her old home and isn’t making friends because they think she’s standoffish. At the Wishing Tree she wishes for a friend, without much hope of getting one.

But then a girl from the 17th century appears. Her name is Rebecca Neville and her evil cousin, Matthew Hobley “The Witchfinder”, has accused her of witchcraft. Part of it is Rebecca having her grandmother’s ‘healing hands’ and treating sick people and animals with them. But the real reason is that Hobley is after her inheritance. Hobley was leading a witch-hunting mob against her all the way up to the Wishing Tree, and she suddenly found herself in Linden’s time. Linden draws the conclusion that it was the Wishing Tree. She tells Rebecca that she is quite safe here because people here don’t believe in witches anymore. Rebecca is upset to find her home in ruins and her grandmother’s grave (which does not give the date of her death). However, she moves in with Linden, swapping her 17th century clothes for modern ones and school uniform happily enough.

But soon there are warning signs that Hobley has followed Rebecca into the 20th century. During a thunderstorm, they are terrified when a frightening silhouette that looks like a Puritan appears in a mirror. Soon the same shadow is following them about. And Linden, who is confident that Hobley can’t stir up people against Rebecca in this period because people no longer believe in witches, is soon to learn otherwise.

It begins when the school visits an archaeological dig, which Rebecca realises is unearthing an apothecary’s shop. The Witchfinder attacks with a pile of bricks, which narrowly misses Rebecca and the Professor in charge of the dig. The classmates blame Rebecca and start to whisper she is a witch. She gets particular trouble from the wayward Smith boys. Meanwhile, the dig uncovers a ring on a trap door that could lead to something.

Linden buys a witchball (an old charm against witches) for her mother’s birthday. On the way back from the shop the shadow of the Witchfinder appears. Linden threatens him with the witchball and he retreats. They now have a protection against the Witchfinder, but odd attacks start at Linden’s home and seem to be targeting the witchball.

The whispering against Rebecca gets worse when she offers to help Mrs Perks look for her cat while the Smith boys tease Mrs Perks over it. Mrs Perks is also rumoured to be a witch because she is psychic. They help Mrs Perks find her cat and in return Mrs Perks reads Rebecca’s palms. She says Rebecca has healing hands and warns her that there is an evil shadow pursuing her.

The dig uncovers a box that contains items from the apothecary. Among them is a gold locket belonging to the apothecary’s granddaughter Catherine. Catherine was a friend of Rebecca’s, and she and the apothecary stood up to Hobley for her. Then the Professor uncovers a document listing the names of people brought to trial for witchcraft – and Rebecca’s name is on the list! This renews the rumours that Rebecca is a witch. Linden covers up by saying the other Rebecca must be an ancestress, which calms things down. But they wonder how the list got there.

That question is answered when the Witchfinder turns up in person at school, posing as Professor Hopkin who has joined the dig. Linden and Rebecca learn that Catherine searched Hobley’s room for false evidence against Rebecca and stole the list. But she was discovered, so she, the apothecary and their cat were hanged as friends of a witch. However, Catherine is not quite finished – her ghost appears when the Witchfinder traps them at the fen and gets help for them.

They now realise the Witchfinder must be a wizard in his own right and turn to Mrs Perks for help. The Witchfinder tries to scare them with ghosts, but the ghosts fade when they approach Grandmother Neville’s grave, and they figure it must offer protection against the Witchfinder. Mrs Perks helps them figure out the secret of the Witchfinder’s power – a box containing a black wand, a black book and a book bound in black leather. If they destroy those items, they destroy the Witchfinder.

They discover that the Witchfinder/Hopkin has gone into hiding. Mrs Perks suggests he may be at Deepdene Cottage and gives Rebecca a cross and rowan flowers for protection. She says the cross was carved by an ancestor, whose wife became one of Hobley victim’s – so she has her own score to settle with Hobley.

They find the box at the cottage but are attacked by the Witchfinder’s minions – ravens and vicious dogs. They manage to retrieve the wand and destroy it. But the Witchfinder still has the book and knife.

Mrs Perks tracks down the box again, but the Witchfinder attacks in person – and right in front of the Smith boys. Linden repels him with the cross, and they destroy his book. But he gets away with the knife.

Mrs Perks ends up in hospital. The Witchfinder gave the Smith boys such a fright that they have reformed and are looking after Mrs Perks’ garden. Mrs Perks warns the girls that the Witchfinder will be even more dangerous now because he is frightened, and they still have to destroy the knife. Their search for him goes nowhere, and now he sends a mist that cuts off the village from the rest of the world.

Rebecca heads back to the Wishing Tree on her own, figuring that is where she will find Hobley and the knife. She finds the knife, but has forgotten her cross. So she is unprotected when he emerges, ready to drag her back to their own time and burn her at the stake.

However, Linden discovers the oversight, heads to the Wishing Tree with the cross, and arrives in the nick of time. As she flourishes the cross, lightning strikes. The Wishing Tree is destroyed and Hobley is reduced to bones, which crumble within the hour, leaving only his hat. But there is no sign of Rebecca.

Then Linden finds a book Rebecca left for her. It contains a reference to a statue in the churchyard that is a tribute to Rebecca. It reveals she survived Hobley’s persecution, became Rebecca Bartlett, and died a noble old lady at 77. Linden is relieved to know Rebecca got back safely and goes to put flowers on her grave. She finds the epitaph reflects their whole adventure: “Time and Death are illusions – but Friendship survives forever”.

Thoughts

This story is certainly a cut above the formula about evil sorcerers/witches who use their evil magic to wreak havoc while the protagonists try to stop them, and it almost invariably ends with the sorcerer/witch being destroyed. But there is always a lot of dark, spooky, scary stuff along the way, and this can leave panels that resonate with the reader years after she reads the story.

Shadow on the Fen is using the formula to make a serious statement about witch-hunting and where the evil really lies – with the accused or the accuser? Its strongest underscoring in this regard is in the hypocrisy of it all – the Witchfinder accusing people of being evil witches while he is the one who is an evil wizard. There is humour in the irony in that the Witchfinder is the one who is allergic to the things that are supposed to repel witches – witchballs, rowan and crucifixes. It further underlines the hypocrisy. While real witch-finders could hardly have been evil wizards, they were certainly evil people who would go to any lengths, such as heinous torture, to make a bounty and a fortune.

The story also touches on human psychology and how much we have actually outgrown the thinking that sent people to the stake for witches in olden times. And how far has Wychley Green itself outgrown it? For example, are the rumours against Mrs Perks the product of stupid, ignorant people, or could there still be traces of witch-beliefs in Wychley Green? Lingering witch-beliefs in modern villages have formed the basis of several ‘persecution’ serials such as Wenna the Witch and Mark of the Witch!

The story should be appreciated for taking a few moments to depict witches as they really were – wise women who helped people with charms, folk magic and herbal remedies. They were not agents of the Devil – a myth invented by the Inquisition – but their healing practices made them ready targets for accusations of witchcraft. When Rebecca first meets Linden, she recounts how several people in her time went this way, and her own healing abilities have made her vulnerable to the same accusation.

The name of Matthew Hobley and his alias, Professor Hopkin, are clearly references to Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General. The fact that Hobley turned out to really be a dark wizard may be a reference to the (probably apocryphal) legend that Hopkins was declared a wizard by his own witch-hunting methods and executed.

Several years later the theme of the Witchfinder General resurfaced in Tammy, with Spell of Fog, 29 October 1983 – 17 December 1983. This time, though, it is Hopkins himself. A film crew want to make a film about one of his victims, Alice Compton. Sally Groves, who has been deeply affected by the Compton case, protests when the director announces he is making a sensationalised version that depicts Alice as an actual agent of the Devil, not a hapless victim of superstition and hysteria.

Then a strange fog appears where Alice’s remains have been scattered. Its power cuts the village off from the outside world and has the village progressively reverting to a 17th century pattern in technology, dress and people’s thinking. Hysteria erupts in the village as the fog takes hold and people think it’s Alice’s revenge. Sally is the obvious scapegoat because she alone has remained unaffected, so she becomes a target of mob attacks and people calling her a witch. Eventually the fog takes over completely and the persecution of Alice Compton is re-enacted, with Sally as Alice and the film director as Hopkins.

But it turns out the power behind the fog is neither Alice nor Hopkins – it’s the villagers who burned Alice at the stake. They acted out shame and guilt over what they did, but also to remind the modern villagers that witch-hunting is not something that belongs in the past. It can erupt in any day and age because the psychology behind it (unreason, prejudice and fear of what you do not understand) is in every human. (Yes, you only have to look at things like the Red Scares and Satanic Ritual Abuse Scares to know what they mean.) They leave the villagers with a warning not to let a modern witchfinder take advantage of their fears.

There are similarities between Fen and Fog – witchfinders, evils of witch-hunting and mass hysteria, and supernatural forces and mists that cut off villages from the outside world and turn modern people into witch-hunting idiots of olden times – that have me wondering if it is the same writer. The mist in Fog sounds like a step up from the fog in Fen – going from what seems a belated last-ditch effort on the part of the Witchfinder to becoming the driving force of the entire plot. The credits for Fog list Jake Adams as the writer and George Anthony (actually, Tony Coleman) as the artist.

Fog 1Fog 2Fog 3

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Who’s That in My Mirror? (1977)

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Mirror 1

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Mirror 3

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Publication: 30/7/77-1/10/77 (also translated into Spanish twice, under the titles “The Ghost in the Mirror” and “The Other side of the Mirror”)

Artist: Tom Hurst

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Magda Morrice has the face of an angel but the heart of a devil. She schemes her way to anything she wants and her pretty face belies it all to everyone. She gets jealous when Janie Gray wins the third form prize for fashion design and deliberately puts a dent in it. She then quietly takes the trophy from Janie, under pretext of having it mended. Later, at the market, she tricks her way into acquiring a mirror she fancies.

But when Magda gets the mirror home, she is surprised to find that the mirror is reflecting two images of her! She does not realise that the second face is actually a reflection of the devil in her – not yet, anyway.

The reflection takes a hand in helping Magda with her schemes. These are designed to take advantage of Janie and pretend to be friends with her while stealing Janie’s work and passing it off as her own, while sabotaging Janie’s other work to make her look bad in the eyes of their fashion teacher, Miss Winn. She also pretends to Janie that her mother is ill (and even gives her mother a dose of food poisoning to complete the effect) in order to pull Janie’s heart-strings and cadge off her for things such as a sewing machine. And she is very slick at pulling the wool over the eyes of Miss Winn, who thinks she is improving marvellously while Janie seems to be losing it.

But while the face continues to help Magda, it also grows increasingly ugly, evil-looking and frightening.

Magda catches on to what is happening in the mirror and tells the reflection that she is going to change so the reflection will be pretty too. But the reflection just sneers at her – and it is right. Magda soon finds she cannot change the things she has started without getting into trouble. Besides, she has gained things out of them, such as receiving accolades from Marcus Greg, a famous theatrical designer. She is soon lapsing into her scheming ways.

Now Magda has had enough of the terrifying face and tries to get rid of the mirror. But it always finds its way back to her – more of its powers. So Magda smashes it instead. She is puzzled as to why the mirror does not resist her as she throws a rock down on it.

But she soon finds out! Far from ridding herself of the face, she finds the face is following her everywhere! Every time she looks a mirror, pane of glass or anything reflective, she sees that face. It is getting uglier by the minute, and bigger too. It is such a nightmare that Magda can’t sleep and isn’t brushing her hair because of that hideous reflection in the mirror. People notice what a state Magda is in but of course Magda can’t explain why. The only way out seems to be to confess, but she is too caught up in what she has started to change anything now, and not with accolades from Mr Greg in person. Morever, she can’t quite work up enough courage to confess.

And there are still traces of Magda’s selfish, scheming old ways left in her. Eventually she gets so afraid of discovery that she takes her latest work and Janie’s (some costumes) to school with the intent of destroying the evidence.

But it is then that the worst happens. The pile of costumes suddenly comes alive, and it has that hideous face for a head! The strange monster is now coming towards Magda and seems to be about to speak to her.

Magda is so terrified that she faints.

When she comes to, Miss Winn is standing over her. Magda is so terrified that she finally makes a full confession to Miss Winn, Janie and then her mother. Miss Winn is all for punishing Magda (if only she knew), but Janie is forgiving and still wants to be friends. Magda returns the trophy she tricked Janie out of. As it has to go back at the end of term, she decides to buy Janie a replica she can keep forever, as a way of making it up to her.

When Magda next looks in a mirror, she finds the hideous face has gone. Hers is the only reflection now. But she resolves to be as good as she looks from now on – in case it comes back.

Thoughts

Now this is one story that takes established formulas and does a take on them to give us something fresh and different.

The first is what I call “the sweet-faced schemer” formula. Cunning schemers who get away with murder because they look so pretty, angelic and innocent have abounded in girls’ comics. They cropped up regularly in DCT titles, such as “Move Over, Maria” (Bunty) and “The Truth about Wendy” (Mandy). Sometimes they have been regulars, such as “Angela Angel-Face” (Sandie). Perhaps the most cunning sweet-faced schemer of them all was Carol in Jinty’s “Concrete Surfer”. This schemer was so cunning that not even her victim, Jean was sure if she was a real schemer or victim of misunderstandings until the climax of the story where Carol finally slips up.

The general focus in these stories is to catch out the schemer, and it is not easy. They are so slick, manipulative and innocent-looking that they have everyone around their little fingers (or play tricks to put them out of the way). But here the focus is on reforming the scheming girl and making her as nice as she looks.

And here is the second thing that is unusual about this story. Stories dealing with turning unsavoury girls around usually deal with girls who are spoiled, selfish, snobby or arrogant. Seldom do they deal with a girl who is downright nasty or scheming. But this is the case here. And it is one of the rare serials I have seen where a sweet-faced schemer does change her ways. Usually they just get caught out at long last and are expelled or whatever.

The third is the evil influence formula. Instead of forcing a nice girl into doing terrible things, which is what normally happens in evil influence stories, the influence actually seems to be helping an already nasty girl with her machinations. In the early episodes, readers may have felt a sense of outrage at the mirror helping a scheming girl. Shouldn’t she be getting her comeuppance or something from this mirror? But as the face grows increasingly hideous, readers must have reconsidered and wondered if this story would go the comeuppance way after all.

Magda’s reactions to the image are realistic in that she doesn’t change all at once. One reason for this is that she doesn’t quite know how without getting herself into trouble. Another is that her old ways keep resurfacing. She tells herself that she will have to make up for things some other time, but of course that is just bandaid treatment for a rousing conscience and does not stop the evil image from haunting her. It continues right up to the end, where Magda decides to destroy the evidence – but it is then that the evil image threatens to do its worst. Magda realises she must act now, or goodness know what might happen.

The intentions of the evil image are a bit confusing. The evil reflection encourages and abets Magda’s own evil. Yet at the same time it seems to be scaring Magda into changing her ways with its deteriorating, frightening appearance. It is not like other evil mirror stories that have appeared over the years. Girls either see a reflection in the mirror that is not their own but means big trouble (such as in “The Venetian Looking Glass” and “Slave of the Mirror” from Jinty), or the mirror creates evil reflections that set about taking over (“The Evil Mirror”, Girl series 2). But here the reflection is a reflection of the girl’s own evil that seems to start off helping her and then progressively scares the living daylights out of her. Furthermore, other stories where an object reflects a girl’s evil tend to do so in a reproving manner. One example is Mandy’s “Portrait of Pauline”, where Pauline’s new portrait starts reflecting her selfish nature and then her progress and setbacks in changing her ways. But this is not the case here. Rather, the image reflects Magda’s evil in a manner that flourishes in Magda’s evil. Maybe the answer lies in what would have happened if the image had spoken to Magda in the end, or if Magda had not confessed. But we never find out because Magda finally does the right thing in the nick of time.

What was the purpose in a magic mirror that behaves like that? Is it an evil mirror that feeds off people’s evil? Is it a magic designed to punish evil people in a rather unorthodox manner? Was it the result of magic that went a bit wrong? Was it designed to be some “monkey’s paw” thing? Or was it something else? We never know because the origins of the mirror are left unexplained and the image never speaks to Magda – assuming that was its intention in the final episode.

Still, it’s a different take on the evil influence theme, and we like the serial for that.

The theme of an unpleasant girl being haunted by evil-looking faces that turn out to be distorted reflections of herself – or perhaps reflections of the evil inside her – has cropped up in the “Strangest Stories Ever Told”. “The Face of Greed” (Tammy 4 October 1975; reprinted as a Gypsy Rose tale in Jinty 8 November 1980) and “Marcia’s ‘Ghost’” (Tammy 22 March 1980) are two examples, and there are probably more elsewhere. But those were complete stories. This is one occasion where I have seen the idea explored in a serial.

The art has been credited to Tom Hurst following Ruth’s comment below.

Note: This is the only Jinty story drawn by Tom Hurst.

Cursed to be a Coward! (1977)

Sample images

Cursed 1

Cursed 2

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Cursed 3

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Publication: 13/8/77-29/10/77

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #21 as “The Fortune Teller”; Tina Topstrip #49 as Zoals de waarzegster voorspelde (As the fortune teller predicted)

Plot
Ever since infancy Marnie Miles has shown promise as a brilliant swimmer like her late father, and Mum encourages her. At her new school, Marnie becomes one of the best swimmers at “The Mermaids”, the school swimming club, and can’t get enough of water.

That is, until she meets Madame Leo, a sinister-looking fortune-teller. Madame Leo makes a prophecy for Marnie’s cousin Babs: “I see falling, falling…there is much danger.” A year later it comes true when a plank falls on Babs and leaves her crippled. Then Madame Leo turns up again and seems to be shadowing Marnie, warning her that they will meet again in a week. And a week later, at the school fete, Madame Leo shows up and scares Marnie with another prophecy: “You are going to end up in blue water!” Marnie flees the tent in terror. She also feels odd, as if she had been cursed.

Marnie takes the prophecy to mean that she is going to drown in blue water. As a result, she develops hydrophobia (fear of water). When she fails a drowning child because of it and people call her a coward, she believes she is now “cursed to be a coward” by that fortune-teller.

The hydrophobia just gets worse and worse. Marnie won’t cross a puddle because she is too terrified of water. She begs the bus driver to let her out once she sees it is about to cross a river of blue water. At a high-diving event she asks for a rubber ring! As Marnie’s hydrophobia intensifies, so do the problems it creates. She failed to help that drowning child because she is too terrified of water. As the word spreads, the girls at school gang up on her, calling her a coward. Their bullying intensifies along with Marnie’s hydrophobia. Not even the presence of Marnie’s mother makes the bullies back off, and Marnie finds “COWARD” daubed on her house. Miss Frame, the swimming coach, is surprised at Marnie’s behaviour she seems to be losing her nerve or something. At home, Mum can’t understand why Marnie is suddenly turning against water and giving up on swimming. Marnie won’t tell Mum because she doesn’t want Mum to worry.

Marnie tries to fight back against the curse that seems to be turning her into a coward, but her hydrophobia is too strong. She turns to Babs for help, and Babs agrees to a cover story for Marnie giving up on swimming.

But the problem is still there, so Marnie decides to go back to Madame Leo to see if Madame Leo is willing to redress the problem. Marnie just finds the crystal ball, which shows a rather vague image of her waving her arms around. Marnie thinks it shows her drowning and takes off in a fright, not realising Madame Leo has seen her.

When Marnie participates in a high-diving event, Madame Leo turns up in the gallery and terrorises her with reminders of the prophecy. Marnie faints and falls right off the diving board! She is rescued, and now tells her mother the truth. Mum tries to track down Madame Leo but fails, and loses her job as a result.

Then Mum gets a housekeeper’s job with Mr Rennie. He has a swimming pool. The water there is green, not blue, so Marnie decides the water is safe for her to swim in and get back in training. Mr Rennie encourages Marnie.

Marnie now tells Miss Frame the truth. Mum allows Miss Frame to resume coaching of Marnie, but on strict condition that she is not to leave Marnie for a moment. However, Madame Leo disguises herself as a cleaner and diverts Miss Frame by knocking a photograph of one Lorna Gray, one of the former school swimming champions, off the wall and into the water. While Miss Frame is busy with the photograph, Madame Leo tries to drown Marnie and would have succeeded but for some fast resuscitation from Miss Frame. The police are called in but do not take the complaint seriously and Madame Leo denies it all. However, when Madame Leo was trying to drown Marnie, she reveals why she hates her. It is because Marnie bears a striking resemblance to Lorna, a girl Madame Leo has hated for 30 years. She does not say why she hates Lorna.

Babs and Marnie go to the fete to confront Madame Leo. Babs urges Marnie to try and break her crystal ball. But this just gets them into trouble with the police and another triumph for Madame Leo, who is now terrorising Marnie with threats of the prophecy and attempts at drowning her at every turn.

Then Mr Rennie dies, and he leaves Marnie and her mother a legacy – a houseboat called Blue Water. Marnie realises that this is what the prophecy means by “blue water” and has nothing to do with drowning. She starts dancing for joy (revealing what she was actually doing in the crystal ball) and is now cured of her hydrophobia.

However, Madame Leo is lurking nearby. She knew the truth about Blue Water all along, and now sees the game is up. She makes a last-ditch, desperate effort to drown Marnie. But it backfires when Madame Leo misses Marnie, goes into the water, and Marnie ends up saving her from drowning! A policeman was watching, so Madame Leo is finally arrested.

Afterwards it is established that the reason Madame Leo hated Lorna Gray and took it out on Marnie is that she (wrongly) blamed Lorna for her sister’s drowning at the seaside 30 years ago. It is not revealed as to why Madame Leo blamed Lorna or why she was wrong to do so. Madame Leo’s reaction to being rescued by Marnie and her ultimate fate are not recorded. But for Marnie, there is no looking back. Her classmates apologise for calling her a coward once they hear about her rescuing Madame Leo and hail her as a heroine for it. Marnie is back with the Mermaids. She is soon winning championships for the school and is looking forward to a swimming career with the help of Blue Water.

Thoughts

Alison Christie is better known for writing emotional, tear-jerker stories in girls’ comics. So it was a surprise to learn that she wrote this thriller story featuring a psychotic would-be killer, a tormented, persecuted girl turning into a nervous wreck from hydrophobia and being constantly harassed, and elements of the supernatural abounding with the prophecy, crystal balls, psychic powers and premonitions. And it’s all brought off brilliantly with the artwork of Mario Capaldi, whose artwork really brings off insanity and pathological hatred that is consuming Madame Leo, and what a creepy, sinister crone she is, even before she has started harassing Marnie. Madame Leo is the only villainous fortune-teller to appear in Jinty, and in her we see the antithesis of Gypsy Rose, the resident gypsy clairvoyant in Jinty. Imagine if we got the two together.

Christie’s handling of the prophecy was spot on. It was exactly how the prophecy should work – a riddle filled with double meanings. The recipient of the prophecy takes what appears to be the obvious meaning, so it comes as a twist and surprise to the recipient (and the readers) when the prophecy turns out to mean something entirely different. Macbeth is a classic example of this. But unlike Macbeth, the twist was good for Marnie. And it looked like there were some unexpected twists for Madame Leo as well; she had long since foreseen what “blue water” truly meant, but she did not foresee her life being saved by the girl she was trying to kill, or that she would fail in her hate campaign.

One of the best conceptions of this story is Marnie’s personality, how it makes her so vulnerable to Madame Leo’s curse, and how this is structured in the buildup in the first episode. When Marnie and Babs first visit Madame Leo at the fair, we immediately see how impressionable and suggestible Marnie is. In the first place, she is not even keen to visit the fortune-teller because that sort of thing scares her, but Babs insists. And Madame Leo strikes Marnie as a sinister-looking woman even before Madame Leo starts terrorising her. Marnie is far more terrified at Babs’s prophecy than Babs is, and when it is fulfilled, Marnie is in no doubt about Madame Leo’s powers. When Madame Leo shows up and tells Marnie they will meet in a week, Marnie gets even more scared – not least because of the way Madame Leo looks at her. Even before Marnie meets Madame Leo at the school fete, she suddenly finds herself shaking for no reason. And Madame Leo does not just tell Marnie the prophecy – she seizes her and forces her to listen when Marnie wants to get the hell out of there without any fortunes told, thank you very much. When Marnie gets out, she is not just scared – she also feels odd, as if she had been cursed.

And is she cursed? In the end it is revealed that this is not the case because Marnie misconstrued the prophecy. So it was Marnie’s imagination and suggestibility, being so easy to scare, getting all wound up by that creepy fortune-teller and her prophecy, and getting odd feelings of foreboding that could be anything from real sixth sense to superstitious imagination. But until then, we readers are left to wonder if she really is cursed, and whether that fortune-teller is right and Marnie is going to go the same way as Babs. Even without Madame Leo’s harassment it is terrifying enough. But when Madame Leo starts terrorising Marnie directly and tries to kill her, we get what must be some of the most terrifying scenes in girls’ comics. Fainting on a high-diving board? Being attacked in the swimming pool and nearly murdered? Wow! And all the while, Madame Leo preys upon and amplifies Marnie’s false fears about “blue water” to make her all the more terrified. Years of fortune-telling must have given Madame Leo experience in the human psyche because she is a master of fear and manipulation in the way she plays upon Marnie’s fears; she is extremely crafty in how she steadily builds up to scare Marnie with the prophecy in the first episode. We have to wonder if she has done similar tricks with other people; she looks sinister enough for that.

It is a bit frustrating that we never learn the fate of Madame Leo after her arrest. Presumably she was put into some sort of psychiatric care. But how did she react to being rescued by the girl she was trying to kill? Did it change her attitude in any way, or was her mind too far gone for that? Perhaps there was not enough room on the final page to address any of this, but couldn’t they have had a text box at least to tell us what happens to her? And we never learn why Madame Leo blamed Lorna for her sister’s death or why she was wrong to do so. Perhaps there was not enough room on the last page for that either. Or maybe Christie or the editor decided not to delve into it and preferred to focus on Marnie for the final panels.

When it is revealed that Madame Leo was persecuting Lorna (through Marnie) for nothing, it comes as no surprise if you know girls’ comics well. Serials featuring hate-filled people who persecute someone (or organisation) for revenge, only to find out that they were mistaken about them, have cropped up regularly in girls’ comics. “Down with St Desmond’s!” (Bunty) is a classic example, and the theme was a frequent one in DCT titles. The theme was less common in Jinty, but some Jinty stories with the theme or elements of it are “Go On, Hate Me!“,  “The Ghost Dancer”, “Slave of the Swan” and “Waves of Fear“.

 

Spell of the Spinning Wheel (1977)

Sample images

Wheel 1 1

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Wheel 2

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Wheel 3

Publication: 5/3/77-25/6/77

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Reprint: Tina Topstrip #42 as “De betovering van het spinnewiel / The magic of the spinning wheel”

Plot

Rowan Lindsay’s shepherd father is an outstanding cross-country runner and is determined to “blaze the name of Lindsay beyond this humble dale!” But his ambition is dashed when he is rendered lame after a fall into a quarry. So it now falls to Rowan to blaze the name of Lindsay in cross-country running.

Dad cannot work because of his injury and money is tight. Mum sets up a craft shop, but it isn’t taking off. Then, on a visit to the next village, Rowan is inspired by a spinning wheel being sold at auction. She is surprised to find nobody bidding against her. The bidders even warn her against buying it; one woman says she would not touch it for all the tea in China while another tells Rowan she is buying a whole load of trouble. Rowan is puzzled, but she brushes it off and has the spinning wheel delivered to her house. Soon business is booming with Mum selling handspun wool.

But soon the warnings bear out when Rowan pricks her finger on the spinning wheel. A strange sensation goes through her, and then Rowan finds any humming noise is sending her to sleep. This starts interfering with Rowan’s cross-country running, and even puts her life in danger several times. Dad believes Rowan when she says the spinning wheel has put a Sleeping Beauty-type spell on her, but Mum just won’t and thinks it is rubbish. She keeps thinking Rowan is ill and having dizzy spells and wastes doctors’ time and Rowan’s by sending her to medical examinations. Doctors think it is exertion and bar Rowan from running. Dad, who believes in the spell, helps Rowan to train secretly, but there are ructions with Mum when she finds out.

To complicate matters, the Lindsays need the spinning wheel for their income, which makes it all the more difficult to get rid of it. And what with Mum spinning at it all the time to make wool and money, Rowan can’t escape the humming and the sleeping spells.

It gets worse when Rowan’s cross-country rival Della Barnes discovers Rowan’s weakness and starts taking advantage of it to send Rowan to sleep with the sound of hair dryers and such. But at one point she gets a nasty shock when she allows Rowan to fall asleep after hearing the hum of bees – only to find Rowan nearly drowned because she had her head in a stream. Later on she tries to put Rowan to sleep with her tranny while Rowan is running on an emergency, but Rowan manages to beat her.

Mum won’t listen and their efforts to convince her just lead to rows. So Rowan and Dad try other ways to deal with the spinning wheel. Once it becomes manifest that removing it from the house is not the answer, the only answer is to destroy it. Rowan tries having it replaced with a look-alike. But it feels like the evil spinning is striking back. Rowan nearly goes over a cliff and the replacement spinning wheel falls to the bottom.

However, the spinning wheel does have its weaknesses. One weakness is that the spell doesn’t work when the spinning wheel gets damaged and is out of action. But once the spinning wheel is repaired, it and its evil spell are back in business. Another weakness is that its power weakens over distance, as Rowan discovers when it goes to London with Mum. But then Mum gets a tummy bug (we wonder why?) and comes back with the spinning wheel. Back to square one.

Rowan reaches breaking point and just runs off – only to fall under the wheel of a car. When she wakes up in hospital, she feels the spinning wheel engineered that too. While she recovers at home, a hiker drops by. He seems to believe Rowan’s story and offers help. But they soon find he is student psychiatrist who thinks she is mentally ill. Dad throws him out, but not before his interfering gets Rowan so upset that she throws bricks at the spinning wheel and Dad and Mum have yet another row.

Nobody seems to pursue the history of the spinning wheel and what makes it tick, despite the warnings Rowan received about it having an evil reputation.

A doctor gives the green light for Rowan to resume cross-country running. And it is here that the old adage that “seeing is believing” comes to the rescue. The spinning wheel takes a step too far by spinning all by itself in order to put Rowan to sleep and put her out of a big cross-country event. But when Mum sees what the spinning wheel is doing, she is finally convinced and has it destroyed in “The Burnings”, a carryover from witch-hunting days.

Rowan is free to pursue her cross-country event without fear of falling asleep from humming noises. She wins of course, while jealous Della does her best to lose gracefully.  Mum agrees that Rowan is more important than money, and Dad promises her another spinning wheel. Rowan is going on to carry the Lindsay torch and let the spell of the spinning wheel fade into memory.

Thoughts

This is regarded as one of Jinty’s best-remembered stories, and it is the only serial I have seen that features a spinning wheel. I am a spinner myself, and this is one reason I have always been drawn to this story.

The evil influence in this story is unusual in that we can’t actually see just what the evil is. In most evil influence stories there is an expression of evil (either from the object itself or the person wielding it) that not only makes it more frightening but also gives clues as to what motivates the influence (revenge, power, or general maliciousness). This is not the case here; there are no apparitions of evil faces, whispering voices, dreams or whatever to scare the living daylights out of the readers and the protagonist while at the same time providing hints as to what is happening. In the case of the spinning wheel, the evil itself cannot be seen, except in the final episode where it starts spinning by itself. For the most part the influence of the spinning wheel is felt rather than seen as its terror over Rowan increases.

The evil of the spinning wheel is perhaps all the more terrifying because we don’t know why it is evil. Rowan gets warnings that the spinning wheel has an evil history, but she does not go back to follow them up and learn all she can about the spinning wheel. This is something that heroines in evil influence stories normally do, and Rowan not doing it leaves a gap in the story that is rather frustrating. Readers must have been dying to know the truth about the spinning wheel, what with all the hints Rowan gets when she buys it, and they must have been annoyed that the reveal never comes. The fact that the spinning wheel was destroyed in a carryover from witch-hunting does suggest a connection to witchcraft. Did a previous owner have a reputation for it? Was it cursed by someone with a reputation for sorcery, such as a witch or gypsy? Was there material on it with a reputation for evil? Or was it something else – Sleeping Beauty herself, maybe? We never know because nobody goes to find out.

Perhaps Rowan doesn’t chase up the history of the spinning wheel because she and her father are too fixated on how to break its power. Destroying it is the obvious answer, but they are frustrated by Mum refusing to believe the spinning wheel is evil, and she also needs it to make money.

It is a bit odd that the spinning wheel seems to strike back when Rowan tries to fight it, but it does nothing when Mum takes it to the Burnings. Maybe it thought the game was up once Mum saw it spinning by itself? Or maybe it realised too late what was happening? Or were all those accidents and Mum’s tummy bug just coincidences and all the spinning wheel could do was send Rowan to sleep?  The story is so skilfully crafted at keeping the evil more felt than seen that we cannot know for sure. Then again, perhaps the Lindsay parents disabled it to render it powerless before bringing it to the Burnings.

Prisoner of the Bell (1979)

Sample Images

Bell 1

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Bell 2

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Bell 3

Prisoner of the Bell

Publication: 20/1/79-28/4/79

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown – but see thoughts

Plot

Susie Cathcart and Lorraine Kent are notorious at school for being the class clowns who come up with all sorts of “screwy” dodges to get out of schoolwork. They can’t be bothered with education; their attitude is that life is for fun and they will manage fine without O Levels. The only lesson Susie does care for is gym and she has a natural talent for gymnastics. Their work-dodging tactics are the talk of the staff room, but neither the school nor the parents seem to do anything to sort them out.

Then Grandmother Cathcart comes to live with the family because she is now infirm and wheelchair-bound. Dad had run away from her because she was domineering and hard, and he is not scholarly while Grandmother Cathcart lives for it. In fact there is a warning that she takes it a bit far, what with the piles of academic books she brings with her.

Gran has brought something else with her too – a bell that she uses to summon Susie. The bell soon seems to have a strange power over Susie; every time she hears it, she goes into a trance. Gran has learned about Susie’s attitude to education and begins to use the bell to force her to do her homework. Susie becomes bewildered by her mysteriously done homework that she cannot remember doing. The teachers are pleasantly surprised. Lorraine is furious and then becomes suspicious and starts investigating. And she soon notices things, such as Susie apparently sleepwalking to Gran and having the vocabulary for a French test drilled into her. Lorraine begins to suspect what Gran is up to. She tries to warn Susie, but Gran realises Lorraine has become suspicious and is keeping one step ahead.

But Gran is not doing it just to improve Susie’s schoolwork. She means to force Susie into her own mould of being an assiduous, dedicated, brilliant scholar. She will make no room for Susie’s gymnastics, which she considers “nonsense”. So in addition to using the bell’s power to force Susie into doing her homework, Gran starts interfering with Susie’s gymnastics, such as implanting suggestions into Susie’s mind to turn her off gymnastics. As a result, the PE teacher is furious when Susie says gymnastics is bad and must not waste time on them, and Susie becomes scared of heights and begins to lose her nerve and confidence for gymnastics. This has consequences that Gran did not foresee, such as Susie losing her nerve at the top of a tree and going through the humiliation of being rescued by the fire department. And the PE teacher books Susie for a gymnastics course at Harford Manor to get her nerve back.

But Gran is not having that. She nearly has having Susie spending the money Lorraine raised for Susie’s course on books. Lorraine stops this in the nick of time and applies to come on the course too in order to protect Susie. At Harford Manor, Susie begins to break through the suggestions and regain her nerve. But Gran will not let up and books herself for a holiday to the disabled to get up to the village near Harford Manor. She plays a trick to get Susie expelled. Lorraine takes the blame to save Susie but gets herself expelled and unable to protect Susie any further on the course. When Gran finds out, she posts the bell to Susie. Its power has Susie packing her bags instantly, which has her walking out on British selectors.

Susie begs to know why Gran is doing this to her. Gran explains that when she was a girl she had a thirst for knowledge but was denied education because she was female. So she taught herself, which led to the accumulation of her books on every subject. And one subject is…hypnotism.

Gran says she now intends to teach Susie everything she knows and, through Susie, achieve the greatness she had been denied. Susie now bends to Gran’s academic drive completely. Susie’s parents, who had not done much about Susie’s laziness at school before, come over to Gran’s side.

Lorraine is horrified, particularly when she sees how ill and tired Susie looks from the way she is being pushed by her Gran and how terrified Susie gets when she even thinks of gymnastics. Lorraine persuades Susie to come on a trip to Crystal Palace in the hope the Russian gymnasts will restore Susie’s nerve. But when Gran tags along, Lorraine gives up on breaking Gran’s power.

Then stormy weather causes the bus to crash into a river. Gran is knocked unconscious. The girls are ordered to climb out, but Gran’s power over Susie has her too terrified to do so. Lorraine tries to force Susie, but in the end carries her out after she faints. Meanwhile, Gran suddenly realises that her interference with Susie has nearly killed her. She agrees to go into a home and stop interfering with Susie’s life. Susie returns to her old self in terms of schoolwork and gymnastics, and is selected for the British junior team.

Thoughts

This is one story where our feelings for both the protagonist and antagonist are mixed. We can’t help feeling that Susie is overdue for a comeuppance of some sort for the way she dodges her schoolwork and laud Gran for being the one who actually steps in to do something about it. And Gran does have a point about the Cathcart parents having been too indulgent about allowing Susie to become too slack in schoolwork (perhaps it was the father not being scholarly himself?), and Susie has serious attitude problems to schoolwork that need to change. She and Lorraine think only of enjoying themselves and reckon they will manage fine without O Levels. That is not how it is in the real world where good school results are key to making your way in the job market.

But as Gran’s motives unfold, it becomes apparent that she is not doing it all for the right reasons or going about it the right way and we get increasingly worried about Susie. We become even more sympathetic for Susie as we see the effects on her, physically and psychologically, as she loses her nerve and confidence, and is utterly confused and frightened by the changes in her behaviour that she cannot explain. She looks as if she is on the verge of a mental breakdown. And in the final episode, Susie is looking ill and tired because of the way Gran keeps driving her to study, but only Lorraine seems to notice.

When Gran reveals why she is driving Susie this way, we have some sympathy for her as it is quite understandable that she wants to achieve what she had been frustrated in her girlhood because her gender was against her. From the sound of things, she failed to achieve it through her son because he was a non-scholar. But she sees more promising material in Susie; hence her relentless drive to achieve it by training Susie’s brain into more academic thinking.

Unfortunately Gran takes it too far with Susie because she is too relentless and demanding. She is far too consumed with academia and makes no room for other things in life, hence her intolerance of Susie’s gymnastics. She considers it nonsense because it is not academic and to her mind it is detracting from academic study. Moreover, she is by nature a domineering, hard woman. Her domineering personality drove her son away when he was younger and she has not learned from that mistake.

We see so much of Grandmother Cathcart in real life: people who get bitter because their dreams were denied; demanding parents who drive their children too hard; parents who want to achieve ambitions or frustrated dreams through their children; parents who won’t allow their children to be themselves and keep forcing them into what they want rather than considering what the children want. To say nothing of people who get fixated on particular things and take them to extremes.

Those extremes include consequences that the antagonist did not foresee because she was too one-tracked to think through the consequences of her actions. When Gran starts implanting suggestions to turn Susie against gymnastics, this leads to serious consequences when Susie loses her nerve for heights and climbing, and it nearly takes her life because she is unable to take the climbing action that would have saved her. This has Gran waking up at last, and she realises what can happen when you interfere with someone’s mind with hypnotism. This is a lesson that another hypnotist, Madame Margolia, learns several years later in Tammy’s “Slave of the Clock”. Madame Margolia is an obsessive ballet teacher and her idea of curing reluctant ballet students is to implant suggestions into their minds to dance when they hear the ticking of a clock. She does this  to Alison Thorne, who has the talent to become a top ballerina but is not interested in a ballet career. Madame Margolia believes the hypnotism will make Alison more devoted to dancing, but of course it just causes a lot of distress and trouble for Alison, particularly as she can’t stop dancing when she hears a clock. Madame Margolia did not mean the effect to go that far, and once she sees it, she undoes the hypnotism. Jay Over was credited with writing “Slave of the Clock”, and it has me wondering if Over wrote “Prisoner of the Bell” as well. Both stories have similar themes of interfering people who try to instil dedications of various types into girls by means of hypnotism, but end up causing nightmares for these girls because they did not consider the consequences of their actions. Over was credited with writing “Pam of Pond Hill”, so there is no doubt he was a Jinty writer.

Gran’s sudden realisation as to what she has done does seem a bit too quick and a bit jarring. After all, how did she know that it was her hypnotic suggestions that prevented Susie from making the climb to save herself? She was not there to see it and Lorraine was still life-saving Susie in the river at the time Gran made her exclamation of remorse. Maybe someone saw the difficulty the girls were having in evacuating and told Gran? Or perhaps it was the bump on the head? Such things have been known to do incredible things in girls’ comics, particularly when it comes to the resolution of a story.

It is a bit disappointing that in the end Susie returns to her old self in terms of schoolwork. You would think something had changed, such as Susie becoming more mature and serious. But then again, Gran’s interference may have put Susie even further off schoolwork, and there is the old adage that leopards do not change their spots. And it does avoid a more clichéd ending of having Susie learn her lesson and becoming more dedicated to schoolwork, which is refreshing. And if Jay Over did write the story, perhaps Lorraine and Susie are forerunners of Fred and Terry, the class layabouts in “Pam of Pond Hill”. But some may question what messages Jinty is giving here.

Dance into Darkness (1978)

Sample Images

Darkness 1. jpg

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Darkness 2. jpg

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Darkness 3. jpg

Publication: 17 June 1978 – 30 September 1978

Artist: Unknown

Writer: Unknown (but see below)

Marionette has done such an excellent summation and analysis on this serial over at her Tammy blog that I feel I can scarcely improve upon it. The link can be found here.

Essentially, Della Benson envies the disco dancing ability of Rozelle and wishes she could dance like that. Rozelle tells Della that she will be able to – if she is willing to pay the price. Della assumes this means dancing lessons, but we know it means something even more sinister.

No, it isn’t Della’s soul. The price is that Della must carry the curse that Rozelle’s family has suffered since Medieval times. It is a curse that turns the victim into a creature of darkness. They can only live in the dark. There are advantages, such as being able to see in the dark and attracting night creatures. But they cannot stand light, which blinds them, and they  cannot even function in the daytime without wearing dark glasses. For Della, there is an additional problem with the curse – whenever she hears disco music, she cannot stop dancing until it stops. This gets her into a lot of trouble, such as wrecking a record shop and getting suspended from school.

There is no cure for the curse (and no origin given either), but the curse can be passed on to another person – in exchange for something that person wants. But will Della be able to find such a person? More to the point, will she be able to bring herself to pass it on? Or will she be under the curse of darkness forever?

On a side note, I wonder if Jay Over wrote this story. Della not being able to stop dancing when she hears disco music has echoes in Slave of the Clock, a story that Over wrote for Tammy in 1982. Here, Allison Thorne cannot stop dancing (ballet dancing this time) whenever she hears the ticking of a clock after she meets a ballet mistress with hypnotic powers.