Tag Archives: Fran of the Floods

Alan Davidson

Alan Davidson, author of various Jinty stories such as "Jackie's Two Lives"
Alan Davidson, author of various Jinty stories such as “Jackie’s Two Lives”

We have run a few posts about Alan Davidson before now on the blog, but not a complete summary post that serves as an appreciation of his work. Of course no summary post can be properly complete at this stage as we do not know all the stories he wrote for girls’ comics – his wife Pat Davidson has mentioned that he kept careful copies of his invoices and his scripts, but to go through those files is itself a lot of work. We can hope that we will hear more titles of stories in due course, and if so, I will certainly add them into this post. In any case, we now have story posts about all five of the Jinty stories that it is is known that Alan wrote, so the time seems right for an appreciation of him as a comics writer.

Known Jinty stories written by Alan Davidson:

Known stories in other titles:

  • Little Miss Nothing (Tammy, 1971)
  • Paint It Black (Misty, 1978)

Pat Davidson has also stated in a separate email that “[f]or older readers he contributed some excellent stories for Pink and often met up with Ridwan Aitken, the then editor. I don’t have any records of these to hand, although I remember a very original story about a hero who could predict earthquakes, which Alan much enjoyed writing. I can’t remember its title.”

Having set down these initial bibliographic details, what can we pull together in terms of an appreciation of his work, in girls comics and elsewhere?

Davidson’s work is not as strongly themed as Alison Christie‘s concentration on heart-tugging stories which forms the bulk of her comics writing. There is a clear focus on wish fulfillment in his Jinty stories: Gwen stumbles into a position where her schoolmates respect and appreciate her as she has always wanted, Jackie is swept up by a rich mother-figure who is prepared to take her away from her life of poverty, Debbie finds a mysterious valley and within it a sort of fairy godmother who will save her from her cruel family, and Kerry is likewise swept up by a rich mentor who looks like she is a route to the fame that Kerry has always wanted. The wish in question is almost always double-edged or positively treacherous: Debbie is the only one who ends up happy with getting what she has always wanted (and of course her fairy godmother figure is stern-but-kind rather than seemingly kind but morally dubious). However, Davidson plays the theme of wish fulfillment while ringing the changes: none of his stories are close repeats, even though they have this similar focus.

For Jinty‘s pages he also wrote the important science fiction story “Fran of the Floods” (1976) – perhaps not quite the first SF story that ran in this title (that is arguably 1975’s “The Green People”) but a hugely popular one that ran for some 9 months. Jinty‘s reputation as a title that ran lots of SF surely must owe plenty to the success of this key story. It is a strong story through to its end, though showing a few signs of padding in some parts of the long journey taken by the protagonist. (I note that Sandie ran a story called “Noelle’s Ark” a few years earlier which has a number of similarities without being as strong on characterization or drama: it would be interesting to know if this was something that Davidson was aware of, or perhaps even the author of.)

Davidson of course had also previously written a standout story that gave girls’ comics a key new theme: 1971’s “Little Miss Nothing” started the run of Cinderella stories which gave Tammy its reputation for cruelty and darkness. Pat Mills has lauded this as being written with a real lightness of touch and being written very much from the heart (note that he thought at the time that this was written by Alan’s wife Pat, which has since been corrected by Pat Davidson herself). We know less about what we wrote for titles other than Jinty: it seems he wrote little else for Tammy (unless Pat Davidson can correct that impression?), and only one story for Misty. “Paint It Black” was part of the opening line-up of that comic. While it was a compelling read it doesn’t seem to have struck the same chord with readers as some others from that title, and Davidson doesn’t seem to have written more for Misty (perhaps also due to the fact that he was finding success in children’s prose fiction from around that time).

It’s clear that Davidson’s writing is strong all round, and at its height was really mould-breaking (not just once, at least twice). There are ways in which it follows the conventions of girls comics writing reasonably closely: the titles of his stories tend to follow the standard set up of focusing on the girl protagonists (Gwen, Jackie, Fran, Kerry) though veering away from that in some cases (“Valley of Shining Mist” and most particularly “Paint It Black”). I’m not sure whether this all-round strength is part of the reason for another aspect of his comics career which I was struck by when looking back – he has not been associated with one particular artist, but rather been illustrated by a wide range of artists with no repeats that I know of. This contrasts with the partnership between Alison Christie and Phil Townsend, who created some seven very popular stories together for Jinty.

From the mid to late 70s, Davidson started to concentrate on prose fiction for children. It’s a little hard to search for details of his work online as he doesn’t seem to have had his own web presence and there are a few other well-known figures with the same name (such as a food writer and a cricketer). This Goodreads author page is the clearest list I have found of his prose works, while it’s also worth looking at his Wikipedia page, which tells us that he started off as a subeditor on “Roy of the Rovers” for Tiger. Writing children’s prose fiction has clear advantages over continuing in the world of juvenile comics: better recognition by your public rather than having no printed credits in the pages of the comics titles, better rewards for success in the form of royalties and translation money. At the same time, his most successful prose work, “The Bewitching of Alison Allbright”, is an effective re-working of his popular comics story “Jackie’s Two Lives”. The influence of the earlier writing clearly informs the later work too: what comics loses, children’s fiction gains.

If Davidson had been writing a decade or so later, might he have been swept up in the popularity of 2000AD and the migration that various British creators made to the US market? That only seems to have drawn in the creators working on boys’ comics, so I assume not. It is pleasant to imagine the talented writers of juvenile comics being fêted and recognized by name in a way that British publishers spent many years fighting to prevent. Ultimately however it is a sad thought: Alan Davidson, who is amongst those who most deserve that name recognition, is only now getting a small fraction of that recognition after his death.

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Can a computer program help us identify unknown writers? 4

Right now I am sorry to say that I haven’t had great success with the computer program that I was hoping would help us to identify unknown writers. I’m by no means declaring it to be impossible or unrealistic, but I think I will need to ask for help from the experts who wrote the program and/or who do more of this sort of analysis on a day to day basis.

My initial trials were to see if I could test a Jay Over script known to be by him against another one known to be by him, so as to see if the program could pick out a ‘known good’ example. It did do that pretty well, but it may be that I calibrated the program options too closely against Jay Over. I haven’t got to the stage of being able to say that this series of tests, done in this way, gives you a good chance of identifying this text by a known author. (Unless that known author is Jay Over, she says slightly bitterly.) And if I can’t do this reasonably reliably, there is no point (as yet, at least) in moving on to trying out unknown author texts.

In my last post about this computer program, I ran a series of 10 tests against a Jay Over text, and the program reliably picked out Jay Over as the most likely author of that text out of a supplied set of 4 test authors. It was much less reliable in picking out a test Malcolm Shaw text out of the same set of test authors: only 5 of the 10 tests suggested that Malcolm Shaw was the best fit. I have now tried the same 10 tests with an Alan Davidson text (“Jackie’s Two Lives”), and with a Pat Mills text (“Girl In A Bubble”). This means that all four of the test authors have been tested against a text that is known to be by them.

  • Unfortunately, in the test using an Alan Davidson text the program was even worse at picking him out as the ‘best fit’ result: it only did so in 2 of the 10 tests, and in 4 of the tests it placed him in last, or least likely to have written that test text.
  • In the test using a Pat Mills text, the program was rather better at picking him out as the ‘best fit’ result, though still not great: it did so in 4 out of 10 tests, and in 3 of the remaining tests he was listed second; and he was only listed as ‘least likely/worst fit’ in one of the tests.

The obvious next step was to try with a larger group of authors. I tried the test texts of Jay Over (“Slave of the Clock”) and of Malcolm Shaw (“Bella” and “Four Faces of Eve”) against a larger group of 6 authors (Primrose Cumming, Anne Digby, Polly Harris, Louise Jordan, Jay Over, Malcolm Shaw).

  • With the Jay Over text, only 7 of the 10 tests chose him as the ‘best fit’, so the attribution of him as the author is showing as less definite in this set of tests.
  • With the Malcolm Shaw texts, only 1 and 3 tests (for “Bella” and for “Eve” respectively identified him as the ‘best fit’ – not enough for us to have identified him as the author if we hadn’t already known him to be so. (He also came last, or second to last, in 4 of the first set of tests, and the same in the second set of tests.)

I should also try with more texts by each author. However I think that right now I will take a break from this, in favour of trying to contact the creators of the program. I hope they may be able to give me better leads of the right direction to take this in. Do we need to have much longer texts for each author, for instance? (We have generally been typing up just one episode for each author – I thought might be too much of an imposition to ask people to do any more than that, especially as it seemed sensible to try to get a reasonably-sized group of authors represented.) Are there some tests I have overlooked, or some analytical methods that are more likely to be applicable to this situation? Hopefully I will be able to come back with some extra info that means I can take this further – but probably not on any very immediate timescale.

In the meantime, I leave you with the following list of texts that people have kindly helped out with. You may find (as I have) that just looking at the texts themselves is quite interesting and revealing. I am more than happy to send on any of the texts if they would be of interest to others. There are also various scans of single episodes sent on by Mistyfan in particular, to whom many thanks are due.

  • Alison Christie, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” (typed by Marckie)
  • Primrose Cumming, “Bella” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Alan Davidson, three texts
    • “Fran of the Floods” (typed by Marckie)
    • “Jackie’s Two Lives” (typed by me)
    • “Kerry In the Clouds” (typed by me, in progress)
  • Anne Digby, “Tennis Star Tina” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Gerry Finley-Day, “Slaves of War Orphan Farm” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Polly Harris, two texts
    • “Monkey Tricks” (typed by Mistyfan)
    • “Midsummer Tresses” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Louise Jordan, “The Hardest Ride” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Jay Over, two texts
    • “Slave of the Clock” (typed by me)
    • “The Secret of Angel Smith” (typed by me)
  • Malcolm Shaw, five texts
    • “Lucky” (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “The Sentinels” episode 1 (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “The Sentinels” episode 2 (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “Bella” (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “Four Faces of Eve” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Pat Mills, two texts
    • “Concrete Surfer” (typed by me)
    • “Girl In A Bubble” (typed by me)
  • John Wagner, “Eva’s Evil Eye” (typed by Mistyfan)

 

 

Further updates from Pat Davidson

(comment sent by email)

I have found another of Alan’s stories for your computer tests – and this one is actually noted and dated as being for Jinty. “Kerry in the Clouds” ran from April 1977. Copy of the script’s p. 1 of Instalment 1 is attached for interest. This may not have been one of his best as by this time he was focusing more on writing books. It’s perfectly true, as correspondents have recently pointed out, that a writer had to be very prolific to make a good living in the comics market.

I’ve located a few more of Alan’s scripts but I’m unable to identify the publications, as he wrote for so many different ones, including Tina in Holland and Editions Aventures et Voyages in France. I do remember, as mentioned previously, that he particularly enjoyed writing “Fran of the Floods” and “Valley of Shining Mist” and these were both for Jinty. As for any others, it will be interesting to see what the computer comes up with.

Alan Davidson Kerry In The Clouds script

Kerry In The Clouds pg 1
Art by Emilia Prieto

[editorial comment] Pat, I’m sure that if you are able to supply titles of stories, the combined knowledge of readers of this blog and other related internet sites will help to identify the publications!

“Kerry In The Clouds” is not one of the best-remembered of all Jinty stories and I think it is probably true to say that it is not on the same level as “Fran of the Floods” or “Jackie’s Two Lives”. I do have a soft spot for it though.

Can a computer program help us identify unknown writers? 2

The jury’s still out at present, but I am very grateful for the kind offers of help of various sorts! I now have text versions of episodes of:

  • “Slave of the Clock” and “The Secret of Angel Smith” (Jay Over)
  • “The Sentinels” (Malcolm Shaw)
  • “Fran of the Floods” (Alan Davidson)
  • “Concrete Surfer (Pat Mills).

So I have enough to try to see if I can get the program to identify “Slave of the Clock” as being by Jay Over rather than any of the other writers. If anyone is able to send in any more texts, the following would be useful:

  • Some texts by female writers such as Anne Digby, Alison Christie, Benita Brown
  • Some more texts by the writers named above, so that I can offer the program a wider base of texts per each writer (rather than keeping on increasing the number of individual authors)

How far have I got so far? Not that far yet, I’m afraid to say. I have downloaded a copy of the program I chose (JGAAP) and I’ve got it to run (not bad in itself as this is not a commercial piece of software with the latest user-friendly features). I’ve loaded up the known authors and the test text (Slave of the Clock). However, the checks that the program gives you as options are very academic, and hard for me to understand as it’s not an area I’ve ever studied. (Binned naming times, analysed by Mahalanobis distance? What the what??) Frankly, I am stabbing at options like a monkey and seeing what I get.

I can however already see that some of the kinds of checks that the program offers are plausibly going to work, so I am optimistic that we may get something useful out of this experiment. These more successful tests involve breaking down the texts into various smaller elements like individual words, or small groups of words, or the initial words of each sentence, or by tagging the text to indicate what parts of speech are used. The idea is that this should give the program some patterns to use and match the ‘test’ text against, and this does seem to be bearing fruit so far.

So, an interim progress report – nothing very definite yet but some positive hints. I will continue working through the options that the program offers, to see if I can narrow down the various analytical checks to a subset that look like they are successfully identifying the author as Jay Over. I will then run another series of tests with a new Jay Over file – I’ll type up an episode of “The Lonely Ballerina” to do that, unless anyone else has kindly done it before me 🙂 – scans from an episode are shown below, just in case! That will be a good test to see if the chosen analytical checks do the job that I hope they will…

Jay Over, Lonely Ballerina pg 1

Jay Over, Lonely Ballerina pg 2
click thru
Jay Over, Lonely Ballerina pg 3
click thru

Jinty and Lindy 7 February 1976

Jinty and Lindy 7 February 1976

Stories in this issue:

  • Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Friends of the Forest (unknown artist ‘Merry’)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Too Old To Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Wanda Whiter Than White (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Bound For Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)
  • Save Old Smokey! (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie) – first episode

I have some slightly random issues out at present which I dug out for other reasons but which haven’t yet been posted about, so I am seizing the day.

This run of Jinty is slightly middle-of-the-range: the fact that the covers have images from a variety of stories gives a diverse feel to them, but the square design layouts used are rather lifeless in comparison with the issues just a bit later on. Likewise, there are some good stories in this issue, but it is not as strong as subsequent issues, by a long chalk.

“Miss No-Name” has an amnesiac slave gymnast – nuff said, really. It is rather a mish-mash of tropes! Jim Baikie makes the slave-keepers look suitably evil but it is all rather over the top, and not in that good way. “Friends of the Forest” is beautifully drawn, though not outstanding in terms of story – at this point there is a mystery around the gypsy girl Maya, and some evil cousins to deal with.

“Fran of the Floods”, as in other issues, shines out as the strongest story – no wonder it ran for such a long time. This episode has the rain keeping on coming down, and life changing around everyone’s heads, even in staid suburban England. Fran is facing local flooding, stockpiling of food, and serious danger from the neighbours.

“Too Old To Cry!” is a story I have a soft spot for, perhaps due to the lovely Trini Tinturé artwork. Nell is trying to find her birth certificate, which she is sure has been hidden by Miss Grace, but inadvertently sets the place on fire!

“Wanda Whiter Than White” is also over the top, god love it. Wanda is high and mighty and dishing out black marks, and by twisting the situation nearly gets protagonist Susie expelled from the school (the punishment is commuted to a caning instead!). Luckily for Susie, the good relationship between her and her mother is strong enough to stand up to Wanda’s interfering ways when she tries to make trouble – though who knows what she will do in the next episode.

In “Bound for Botany Bay”, Betsy Tanner is almost looking forward to transportation to Australia, as it may mean she will see her father again. In the meantime she has been drawing portraits while she is in prison awaiting transportation – but will she be able to escape before she is tried?

This is the first episode of “Save Old Smokey!”. Drawn by Phil Townsend, it is mostly interesting to me nowadays for the social change it shows: the story is about a steam engine threatened with closure by local officials who are either heartless bureaucrats or out to make some money for themselves.

Pat Davidson writes to the blog

I am very excited to say that Pat Davidson has written in to reply to the comments made by Malcolm Shaw’s wife, Brenda Ellis. She clarifies that, contrary to the information previously supplied by Pat Mills, Pat Davidson did not write for Jinty herself, and indeed did not write the classic “Little Miss Nothing” which she has been wrongly credited with. Here are her own words to explain:

How much I agree with Mrs Shaw that – like her late husband Malcolm –  some, at least, of the men who wrote for Jinty took their work seriously, writing stories of real quality.  And I know how hard they  worked. In the 1970s, when we too had a mortgage to pay – and four children under eight – my husband Alan Davidson wrote many wonderful stories for Jinty, including “The Valley of Shining Mist”, “Fran of the Floods“, “Gwen’s Stolen Glory” and – one of Jinty’s all-time favourites – “Jackie’s Two Lives“.  In earlier years, he had written the breakthrough “Little Miss Nothing” which was often reprinted and became the template for a stream of ‘Cinderella’ stories written (in my opinion) by lesser writers.

After Jinty, Alan wrote many successful books for children in various genres, including humour and no doubt Malcolm Shaw, had he lived, would have done likewise.  IPC’s policy not to credit writers or artists was a disgrace and I’m grateful that Alan kept careful records, including copies of all his scripts together with his invoice books (IPC tending to be rather late-payers)! Although I remember Alan mentioning Malcolm’s name as a fine writer, sadly I have no knowledge  of which stories he wrote. Perhaps someone else will remember for Mrs Shaw? I do hope so.

Pat Davidson also kindly sent in a photo of the young Alan Davidson.

Alan Davidson, author of various Jinty stories such as "Jackie's Two Lives"
Alan Davidson, author of various Jinty stories such as “Jackie’s Two Lives”

I hope that this blog will be able to follow up this very interesting contact and to give further details on other stories written by Alan Davidson. On a personal note, I am particularly happy to know the authorship of “The Valley of Shining Mist”, which is a story that lived on in my memory from reading it as a child.

Jinty & Lindy 10 April 1976

Jinty 10 April 1976

  • Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • For Peter’s Sake! (artist Ana Rodriguez, writer Alison Christie)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Slave of Form 3B (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Friends of the Forest (unknown artist – Merry) – last episode
  • Bound for Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)
  • Save Old Smokey! (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Alley Cat

Covers from this period seemed to be very fond of showing off the athletic prowess of “Miss No-Name”. This one demonstrates how hurdling enables Lori to make a fast getaway. But she still can’t get away from those nasty Crabbes. She thinks she has found a safe haven but bumps into them again – hence the fast getaway on the cover.

Ironically, hurdling enables Katie the Jinx to make a fast getaway too in this issue – from an angry Mum – after she was daydreaming too much and flooded the kitchen. She had been daydreaming on how she would have fared in previous times. She decides she would have been just the same – except that she wouldn’t be able to get away so quickly in the clothes of the period and is thankful for modern skirt lengths.

The days of Penny Crayon and Do-It-Yourself Dot seem to be over. We are now in the era of Alley Cat.

“For Peter’s Sake” is fully established in this episode. Gran has died, leaving Corrie with a note to push Old Peg to Peter in the full confidence that the pram will cure her sick brother. But Corrie has to push Old Peg all the way from Scotland to London, so we’re in for a lengthy story full of adventures.

And the same still goes for “Fran of the Floods”. Fran and her friend Jill have now fallen foul of a cult movement that whips them into ploughing fields in the never-ending rain. They don’t see any way to escape, but we know they will.

Meanwhile, Miss Wortley has put the best tracker in the district on the trail of Betsy and Mary. But the tracker does not like the cruel Miss Wortley either and ends up helping the girls to fake their deaths and taking the heat off. But it looks like there is another cruel woman coming along to ill-treat Betsy and Mary….

Save Old Smokey is now on its penultimate episode. Gresby looked set to win, but now an emergency has forced him to seek the help of the very people he was trying to destroy!

Friends of the Forest ends with Maya revealed to be the offspring of an elopement in Colonel Weatherby’s family due to his snobbishness. He is now remorseful and this becomes instrumental in giving Sally and Maya the happy ending. Next week is “Then There were 3…”. This story is drawn by Phil Townsend, who is also drawing “Save Old Smokey”, so it’s going to be another overlap of artwork next issue.

Stacey thinks she has got everything sewn up with her hypnotic powers over Tania, including planting suggestions to cut her off from avenues of help. But the blurb for next week tells us that Stacey has overlooked something. Unfortunately, it does not sound like it is going to provide the rescue.

Ma Siddons has been commissioned to improve the IQ of a dimwitted bulldog. Dora Dogsbody is of course lumbered with the hard draft. There is an unexpected twist at the end that saves the day. We can’t help wondering if it was fixed as it is a bit hard to swallow. But it does put Ma Siddons well and truly in her place – until the next issue anyway.

Jinty & Lindy 20 March 1976

Jinty 20 March 1976

Fran is in danger of drowning while diving for food in a submerged village – and all for nothing because the food has already been taken. And as the cover says, Miss No-Name’s only friend is a donkey, but Ma Crabb is using it to ensnare Lori even more by threatening the donkey with nasty things if Lori does not do as she says – which includes a dangerous climb on a ruinous tower!

Miss Wortley goes too far with her cruelty to Betsy and Betsy collapses from sunstroke. And now Miss Wortley has turned on Mary with a terrible punishment that could cause Mary to die from fright. Next week Betsy resorts to desperate measures to save her, and we have a strong suspicion this will mean doing a runner together. It had to happen.

It’s part 2 of the Slave of Form 3B. Stacey is still at the testing stage of her hypnotic powers over Tania. But now she’s satisfied and is out for bigger things with her new power.

Nobody is signing the petition to save old Smokey – until they see Gresby bullying Billie! Next moment they’re flocking to sign, so that’s one mean trick that’s backfired on Gresby. But he’s back with another trick – setting Old Smokey on fire!

Carrie Lomax is on her way to Scotland to stay with gran, because Mum has too many problems over poor sick Peter to give her the attention she needs.

Katie the Jinx and her friends are taking the bus to see a horror movie. But their attempts to get in the mood for it end up jinxing the driver. He is full of dread when he hears them talking about how they are going to get into the mood for the cowboy movie next week.

The nasty Walkers and their ally Miss Knight are finding that the Friends of the Forest are very adept at hiding and can’t flush them out.

It’s high fashion in Dora Dogsbody as Ma Siddons has them dressing up in smart clothes for a fashion parade. She says it’s all for charity, but when Dora finds that Ma Siddons’ charity is herself (surprise, surprise!), it’s all hilarity as Dora puts things right.

Jinty & Lindy 28 February 1976

Jinty 28 February 1976

  • Miss No-Name (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Friends of the Forest (unknown artist – Merry)
  • Fran of the Floods (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Too Old to Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Wanda Whiter than White (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Bound for Botany Bay (artist Roy Newby)
  • Save Old Smokey! (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Penny Crayon

This issue is high on people being wrongly accused of stealing. Lori, aka Miss No-Name thinks she has outsmarted Ma Crabb this time, including walking upside-down on a plank with her feet tied! But she soon finds everything was a setup and she has been branded a thief. Ma Crabb thinks she has finally broken Lori, but instead it just makes Lori more determined.

In “Bound for Botany Bay”, Betsy and then Judy have also been branded thieves. The real thief turns out to be a maid, but it’s Judy who’s left carrying the can and throws herself overboard rather than be hanged. The callous Captain leaves Judy for dead, but the second ship sailing not far behind the convict ship has us wonder….

In “Wanda Whiter than White” Susie and her mother have been wrongly accused of shoplifting thanks to telltale Wanda jumping to conclusions. But it is because of this that Susie discovers what has made Wanda what she is – and it is also connected to stealing!

It’s the penultimate episode of “Too Old to Cry!” Nell and Sara want to rescue Mr Flicker the horse from Mrs Arbuthnott, but they have to do it without being caught by her incredible talent for lying her way out of anything.

The radio says the floods have caused the country to break down completely, and then underlines the point by going dead. But the panel for Fran of the Floods on the cover is jumping ahead a bit – it does not appear in the story until next week!

The Friends of the Forest are getting stronger with their friendship, but the danger is mounting. The Walkers’ latest ploy to get to the deer is to pretend to be nice to Sally. Sally soon finds what they’re up to, but not before they have a posse set against her friend Maya.

Grandad’s plan to save old Smokey has Gresby going as far as to pay off children to bully Billie. And then he bribes villagers with treats to stop them signing her petition.

WTFometer III

If you’re a relatively recent reader of this blog you may not have seen a couple of linked posts I did back in June last year, explaining an analytical concept I came up with and named the WTFometer. The idea of this was to give a framework for looking at how bonkers (or not) a story’s plot was, by comparing the story to an assumed ‘average reader’s situation’. This gives a structured way of comparing stories, including the possibility of finding patterns of oddity in seemingly-different stories which are perhaps odd in similar ways.

At that point I only posted 3 complete WTFometers – for “Song of the Fir Tree“, “The Children of Edenford“, and “Worlds Apart“. “Song of the Fir Tree” was surprisingly more extreme than I would have expected it to have come out as: with a boy and girl protagonist, serious threat of death, and a long journey across lands quite foreign to the assumed readership of Jinty, the story scored reasonably high on the WTFometer at 39 points. “The Children of Edenford”, likewise, had some surprises in store – the analysis highlighted the fact that a great deal of the setup was quite similar to that of the expected readership – it takes place in England, doesn’t move far from its initial geographical setup, and the protagonist herself is not very different from the typical reader. What marks it out and gives it an eventual score of 24 is the lack of agency of the characters – this is a story about free will – and the strange school setup, as well as the serious threat of death towards the end.

There was little surprise in the very high score of 87 for “Worlds Apart”, a strong contender for the most bonkers girls comics story of all. The WTFometer may not surprise us in this case, but the story’s very extremeness can more easily quantified by this method that gives us a comparison across stories.

There’s little sense in developing the concept and then not using it for more than a few stories, but of course there’s always plenty to write about on this blog between me and Mistyfan, and the WTFometer has lain unused since that time. However, a couple of months ago I created a few more WTFometers; I didn’t post them at the time as they turned out not to fit the main theme of the posts I was writing. I am now therefore including them in a post of their own, re-opening discussion about these stories but also about the WTFometer generally.

Firstly, I wanted to compare two tear-jerking stories. They are not quite the same; the first story involves emotional cruelty, and the second is about grief and its effects. Both were very popular, both were written by female writers. The first one is “Little Miss Nothing”, and the second is “Stefa’s Heart of Stone“.

Little Miss Nothing” is one of the originators of the cruelty/suffering theme that became so popular in girls’ comics of the 70s. As such it is perhaps not surprising to see a relatively low score of WTFness overall at 23 points; the character is taken out of a normal school environment but much of the setting of the story remains close to an ordinary readers’ life: the key focus is on the removal of much of her agency as she is bossed around by others, and on the emotional abuse she suffers.

WTFometer Little Miss Nothing

“Stefa’s Heart of Stone” was published a few years later. Again, much of the setting of the story will be very familiar to the readers. As it is a very focused story of grief and severe emotional withdrawal, only some of the categories score highly and overall the WTFometer score is not very high at 22.

WTFometer Stefa HOS

Go On, Hate Me!” is here partly because it is another emotional cruelty / tear-jerker story, but one known to be written by a man. It would only be a small sample which wouldn’t prove anything, but could it indicate anything about possible differences in writing between the genders? If anything the extremeness of the scenario explored in this story is lesser than in the two stories above – the protagonist is a young woman rather than a girl, not living in a two-parent household, not surrounded by a small group of close friends; but the one key element that stands out on the WTFometer analysis is the exploration of the emotional abuse. Remember that the WTFometer is not a tool for looking at neatness of dialogue or tightness of plot – it is purely one element of a general analysis, and says nothing about how well overall a story works or doesn’t. On this analysis, “Go On, Hate Me!” has just one striking angle of attack rather than being generally over-the-top.

WTFometer Go On Hate Me

“Land of No Tears” is of course also known to be written by a man, but one who has categorised himself as being one of the young men ‘killing themselves laughing’ (Pat Mills, of course). Does this mean the story ends up looking particularly over-the-top in a way that Len Wenn’s story above does not? Yes, indeed – though of course this is a science fiction story anyway which by its nature will involve a lot of moving away from the expected context of the assumed Jinty reader. At 45 it is one of the highest scoring stories on the WTFometer so far, second only to “Worlds Apart”. It is also noticeable for having a spread of differences compared to the ‘expected reader’ – it portrays a world different to that girl reader’s in many and varied ways, not just one or two. If we did a WTFometer for a non-science fiction Pat Mills story,  “Concrete Surfer”, I’m sure the score would be much lower.

WTFometer Land of no Tears

Fran of the Floods” is another science fiction story, this time known to be written by a woman. It actually beats LONT on its WTFometer score with a total of 51 – though the story protagonists share a lot of initial similarities with the readers, the journey they are taken through, and the world they end up in, is radically different from what the readers live through.

WTFometer Fran of the Floods