Tag Archives: Girl Picture Library

A Girl Called Midnight [1980]

Sample Images

Midnight 1Midnight 2Midnight 3

Published: Tammy 16 February 1980 – 29 March 1980

Episodes: 7

Artist: Juliana Buch

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Girl Picture Story Library #30 (final issue); Tina Topstrip #14  as Het meisje Middernacht

Plot

Melissa and Martin Bright and their parents decide to become a foster family. The foster girl they are to adopt is named Midnight Meredith. The name “Midnight” has the kids pondering as to whether it might be a portent for something creepy. It turns out they are not far wrong.

No, Midnight is not a witch, and she has no supernatural powers. But there is something weird about her that she herself cannot understand. These are Midnight’s “moods” i.e. inexplicable trance-like states where she wanders off, not knowing what she is doing. She appears to be looking for something, but she does not know what, but she always babbles about the search in terms of “we” – not “I” – who are doing the search. Triggers for these moods include the moon ring (a gift from her mother) that she always wears, looking at her own reflection, hearing the sound of her own voice on playback, or sleepwalking. These moods are not only problematic but also dangerous at times. Melissa worries that Midnight might wander into heavy traffic or a railway line because she does not know what she is doing when she is in a “mood”. During one mood, things get even more dangerous. Midnight tries to force the family car down a road towards a place called Steepling Parva, yelling to Mr Bright that he’s going the wrong way. This sends the car crashing into a hedge! Fortunately everyone emerges with little more than cuts and bruises.

These moods are the reason why Midnight never lasts long in any foster home. Midnight had expected the Brights to be no different, and she does want to stay with them. Not surprisingly, her behaviour is a bit difficult at times, even when she is not in a “mood”, and she finds it hard to settle and ease up.

Fortunately for Midnight, the Brights are a more understanding foster family. A doctor has told them there could be a medical reason, most likely due to something traumatic in Midnight’s past, which also helps. When Midnight tries to run away in shame after the car accident, the family persuade her to stay. They want to help Midnight get to the bottom of the mystery of these moods. As Melissa observes these moods, she notices a pattern: Midnight always goes off in the same direction, going a little further each time. After the car accident, that direction seems to point to Steepling Parva. When Midnight has another mood, the family follow Melissa’s hunch and go to Steepling Parva. There they find Midnight in a field called Marsh Meadow near Steepling Parva. This mood is a real performance – Midnight is yelling and screaming “It isn’t here!”, and her clothes are in rags because she tried to look for whatever she was looking for in thorny bushes.

Next day, Melissa and Midnight return to Steepling Parva to do some investigating. They learn that many years ago, a tragedy occurred in that meadow called “The Marsh Meadow Flood”. A river burst and flooded the meadow, and it washed a lot of campers’ caravans away. Their next call is the cemetery where the flood victims are buried, and this brings on another mood. Midnight starts babbling about her mother, and how she gave her the ring before the flood separated them. Midnight’s mood takes her the grave where her mother, Margaret Meredith, is buried. There is another girl there, and each briefly mistakes the other for a ghost. When Midnight and Melissa investigate the girl, whose name is Dawn, Midnight feels that this is who she has been looking for. Dawn’s parents are there and say they have just about had enough of her “moods”…

Just then, Marsh Meadow begins to flood again. The vicar calls upon the girls and others to help get the sheep to higher ground. Once that is done, the vicar recognises Midnight and Dawn as the Meredith twins and explains that the first flood separated them as babies. Midnight was found crying in her drowned mother’s arms and put in an orphanage, while the flood waters carried Dawn away in her cot. The police found her, assumed she was abandoned, and she was adopted. Dawn also wears a ring that is a gift from the mother, who was an artist. This ring has a rising sun, just as Midnight’s ring has a moon, so the rings represent each girl’s name.

Upon questioning Dawn’s parents, Melissa discovers that Dawn has been having “moods” too; wandering off and getting closer and closer to Steepling Parva ever since her family moved to the area. Melissa realises that these moods have been the twins’ way of trying to find each other. And now they have, Melissa is confident their moods are now a thing of the past. The twins stay on with their respective families, but they can meet whenever they want.

Thoughts

This story was another of my favourites from Tammy. It appeared in the early months of the Tammy & Misty merger, so I have wondered if this story was originally written for Misty, although Juliana Buch was not a Misty artist.

The very name “Midnight” tells us it’s going to be a spine-chilling story and it enhances the mystery and weirdness of the story. Until Midnight appears in the story, we, along with the Bright children, wonder if she is going to be a witch or something. It would have been less effective if the story had been told from Dawn’s perspective and watching her “moods” unfold, because her name does not imply creepiness as “Midnight” does.

The reveal at the end – long-lost twins trying to find each other through a twins’ telepathic link – is not a great surprise. Twin telepathy has appeared before in girls’ comics. Until then, though, it must rank as one of the most potentially dangerous twin telepathy links ever used in girls’ comics. More than once it came close to causing serious injury, either for Midnight or for someone else. If nothing else, it could have put Midnight into some sort of psychiatric care or made her a target of bullying, as not everyone would be as understanding or helpful as the Brights. Midnight has lost a string of foster homes because of her moods (not surprising, because they do make her look a real weirdo) and the fact that it is due to something she does not even understand would make it even worse. Midnight was very fortunate to have more understanding people in the Brights, and this really helped her to solve the mystery of her “moods”.

Advertisements

Nothing To Sing About [1979]

Sample Images

Nothing to Sing About

Nothing to Sing About 2Nothing to Sing About 3

Published: 9 June 1979 – 25 August 1979

Episodes: 12

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: Girl Picture Story Library #15 as “I’ll Never Sing Again!”

Plot

Linette Davis dreams of being a top singer like her father Gary, who is a very famous singer. As far as Linette is concerned, things couldn’t be better. But there are warning signs of storm clouds ahead. Dad had been receiving medical advice to take it easy, which he is not heeding. Dad’s adoring fans have an unfortunate tendency to get carried away when they mob him for autographs and souvenirs, and have even torn his jacket off. When Mum and Linette watch Dad’s concert in Croxley, there’s an ominous poignancy about his singing…as if he’s doing it for the last time. Afterwards Linette hears that Dad went ahead with the concert although he was feeling poorly.

After the Croxley concert the fans mob Dad again, but he suddenly collapses. He dies in hospital, and Linette’s world is shattered. Mum says it was a heart attack, which had been coming for some time. But Linette blames the fans, saying they crushed and trampled him to death. This causes her to turn into an extremely bitter and irrational girl. She calls the fans murderers and lashes out at any fan of Dad’s that she encounters.

Moreover, Linette now can’t stand singing or music in any form, and she wants to block them out of her life. Whenever she hears Dad’s music being played (at record shops etc) she can’t stand it and wants to run away. Linette locks up Dad’s piano and throws the key away so it will never play that music again. She even goes as far as to try to stop birds singing in the garden. And she herself refuses to sing anymore; she gives up her singing lessons and burns all her singing books.

Linette refuses to listen to Mum’s urgings that Dad’s death was due to a heart attack and nothing to do with the fans, and that she shouldn’t give up on singing. As far as Linette is concerned, singing stopped the day Dad died.

Dad’s death has brought on financial difficulties too. They cannot afford to keep up their big house. Linette suggests they take in lodgers, as long as they are not singers. But singers are precisely what Mum takes in and she is helping them with their singing too. Linette can’t stand it and tries to get rid of the lodgers. But she ends up with Tom Bruce, the secretary of Dad’s fan club, and his daughter Anna.

Linette promptly starts taking her anger against the fans out on Anna and her Gary Davis fan club. Despite this, Anna tries to reach out to Linette. And Linette is forced towards Anna even further when the financial situation means Linette has to transfer to Anna’s comprehensive school.

At Anna’s fan club, Linette tries to crush it by yelling accusations about their being responsible for his death at their meeting. However, she is interrupted when a sudden fire breaks out, which nearly claims her. She won’t believe that it was one of Dad’s fans, Lucy, who saved her from the fire. And it’s too much for Linette when Mum agrees to let the fans hold their meetings at her house because they’ve lost their meeting place from the fire.

So Linette decides to run away, to a place where nobody sings and Dad’s music is not played. Silly girl; there’s no place like that, short of running away to a desert island or something. Sure enough, everywhere Linette turns she finds Dad’s songs and fans, and music. And she is forced to break her vow never to sing again after she loses her money and has to raise some at a talent show with her singing.

More problems come when Linette seeks lodgings. The landlady, Mrs Huggins, turns out to be a dodgy woman. Once Huggins realises Linette is a runaway, she starts blackmailing her into being the hotel skivvy, with no pay. And there is still no escape from Dad’s music when Linette discovers the Gary Davis impersonator that Huggins has hired for a cabaret evening. By the time the embittered Linette has finished with the impersonator, the cabaret evening is ruined and Huggins is furious because it cost her a fortune. In fact, Huggins is so furious that she is going to turn Linette in. But Linette runs off before Huggins finishes the phone call to the police.

Linette is forced to take shelter at a record shop, where she finds there is still no escape from Dad’s music because it is full of Gary Davis merchandise. The record shop owners, Mike and Sue, take her in, and Linette is a bit ashamed when she finds their disabled son loves singing and it brings the family sunshine. At first it’s extremely painful for her to work in the record shop, which sells Gary Davis merchandise, and it’s a hot seller. But to Linette’s surprise, hearing Dad’s music begins to bring comfort. Her experience in the record shop has her realise that he lives on through his songs and will never really gone altogether.

However, Linette still blames the fans for Dad’s death and refuses to go home because of the fan club. Then Linette sees her mother making a televised appeal for her to return. Appalled at how ill her mother looks, Linette returns immediately. She realises it was her conduct that has made her mother ill and is ashamed. Unfortunately she still blames the fans for Dad’s death and can’t accept their staying at her house. She lashes out at Anna over it, which causes her mother to collapse altogether.

In hospital, Mum urges Linette to sing her one of Dad’s songs. Linette can’t bring herself to sing, but does so when Tom tells her to stop being so selfish. A man from a record company overhears Linette singing and asks Linette if she would be interested in a contract, but she refuses. Singing is still off as far as she is concerned. Back home she still snubs the Bruces and the fan club, and even calls in the police when they hold a disco at her house. But the police find they have permission for it. Linette is ashamed when told they were raising money for her father’s favourite charity and begins to soften towards the Bruces a bit.

But Linette still blames the fans. Her hatred flares up again when she discovers that Mum and Tom are now engaged and she is going to have Anna for a stepsister. And when she finds Anna playing Dad’s songs on his piano (reopened with a new key) she yells that she does not want one of the fans who killed her father for a sister. When Mum asks Linette why she can’t accept that the fans did not crush Dad to death, Linette says she knows better than that. And to prove her point, she’s going to see Dad’s doctor about it – he should know.

And the doctor does. In fact, it’s the doctor who finally convinces Linette that Dad was not crushed to death by fans. It was indeed a heart attack, which was already on the way and could have struck at any time. It was just unlucky coincidence that it did so while the fans were crowding Dad.

Linette goes home ashamed and anxious to apologise – but it’s too late. The engagement’s been called off and Tom and Anna have moved out, all because of Linette’s conduct.

To put things right, Linette arranges a surprise that means resuming the singing she had tried to eschew. She then gives Mum, Tom and Anna tickets to a concert at Croxley (yes, where Dad died), where they all hear her sing. Tom and Mum get the message of the lyrics “We’ll always be together, you and I…” and resume the engagement. The records company boss is also there and repeats his offer, which Linette accepts this time. At Mum and Tom’s wedding, Linette does more singing honours and welcomes the cheering fans she used to hate so wrongly.

Thoughts

No sooner had Alison Christie finished one emotional story about a misguided, grief-stricken girl (“I’ll Make Up for Mary”) for Jinty when she started on another, “Nothing to Sing About”, which replaced Mary. The story also reunites the Alison Christie/Phil Townsend team, a combination which has been a long-standing stalwart in Jinty, especially when it comes to emotional stories such as “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, and would continue well into the merger with Tammy e.g. “A Gran for the Gregorys” and “It’s a Dog’s Life!”. Jinty sure liked to keep Christie cranking out those emotional stories to give her readers a good cry.

Although not as classic or well-remembered as Stefa or Rainbow, Linette’s story is still a strong, solid one. It is also more psychologically complex because it combines two emotional problems to compound Linette’s grief rather than the one problem that Mary and Stefa had. And they both have to be untangled and resolved if Linette is to get past her father’s death and learn to live her life again.

The first is Linette shutting all music and singing out of her life because she finds it too painful in the wake of her father’s death. This is not unlike how Stefa tries to shut all love out of her life in the wake of her friend’s death. This alone is enough to carry Stefa’s story.

But in Linette’s case there is a second problem that carries the story even more intensely  – the hatred that has consumed her because she blames the fans for Dad’s death. Her hatred is making the grieving over Dad’s death even worse, not only for her but also for everyone around her. And to make it worse, she is quite wrong to do so, but she won’t accept that.

Irrational hatreds that stem from wrongly blaming someone/something for a loved one’s death are a common feature in Alison Christie’s Jinty stories. More often, though, it is on the part of the antagonist of the story and the protagonist suffers because of it. Examples where this has occurred include “The Four-Footed Friends” and “Cursed To Be a Coward!”. But here Christie takes a more atypical step of having the protagonist carry this hatred. And by insisting on believing it was the fans when Mum pleads it was a medical condition, Linette does not understand that she is making things even worse for herself and hurting everyone around her even more, or that she is dishonouring her father’s memory by lashing out at his fans. Nor does she realise that she is the architect of her own misfortunes, such allowing her irrationalities to have her run off and getting into all sorts of scrapes, including being blackmailed and exploited by Mrs Huggins.

It does make a change to have the voice of authority (the doctor) being the one to bring the misguided, aggrieved girl/woman to her senses instead of the more usual shock treatment, such as their conduct causing an accident or something. Readers might have expected Linette’s time on the run to provide the cure, but it doesn’t, which makes another change. Though Linette finds running off is no escape from Dad’s music, it does not sink in that his music is impossible to run from or be silenced. In fact, there would have been a swelling of popularity of Dad’s singing in the wake of his death, but Linette does not realise that either. Nor does seeing her mother ill really make Linette see reason, though she realises she is responsible for it because of the way she is behaving. Once she does see reason and the damage she has caused, she is forced to go back to the singing she had tried to erase from her life. And in so doing she learns to appreciate singing all over again, become much happier by letting go of her pain, and honour her father by following in his footsteps.

Sue’s Daily Dozen (1980-1)

Sample Images

Sue 1Sue 2Sue 3

Publication: 4 October 1980 to 3 January 1981

Artist: José Casanovas

Writer: Unknown

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #18 and #19 as “Spellbound!” and “Bewitched!”

 Plot

Sue Barker has just moved to the village of Hillcroft. Things do not go off to a good start because she is shy and finds it difficult to make friends, and her efforts to help always seem to go wrong. However, Sue finds out the cottage she is living in once belonged to Granny Hayden, a witch who was revered in the community for her “Daily Dozen”, which worked magic in helping people. Sue finds the Daily Dozen (book, spoon and cauldron) hidden in the chimney. The opening pages of the book bear the inscription: “The wondrous DAILY DOZEN within these pages, seek inside, and trace the secrets that I hide for things may not be what they seem, but help I give to all who dream”.

Sue has been challenged to produce an entry for the school cookery contest. She had not been confident about it, but now selects a recipe, “totties treats”, from the Daily Dozen book, and is surprised to see her cooking go off without a hitch. She is even more surprised to find the headmistress and severe cookery teacher, who are judging the contest, suddenly playing like toddlers after eating the totties treats! Sue wins the contest of course, and suddenly feels more confident about making friends now she has found the Daily Dozen.

Nonetheless, Sue is still a bit wary about the Daily Dozen (it is, after all, associated with witchcraft, which does not have a good press). But every recipe the family uses from the book seems to work miracles. Just one dab of the home-made cleaner from the book on the brickwork on the house, and every speck of dirt just melts off the wall, leaving it sparkling. Moreover, the cleanup reveals drawings of the Daily Dozen book, complete with black cats and broomsticks. Sue even acquires a “familiar” – albeit a Siamese cat named Ling-Su instead of the traditional black cat, after she treats him with a tonic from the Daily Dozen. Then a broomstick, cape and witch’s hat drop down from the chimney. Sue is a bit wary about wearing them in public while pedalling the wares of the Daily Dozen, though everyone else is pleased at the revival of Granny Hayden and more remedies, including one that cures a sick man. At one point, the Daily Dozen has to flex its muscles quite severely at Sue for still doubting it, although its remedies do nothing but good, even if they do look like…magic. Eventually Sue fully accepts the Daily Dozen when it helps her to foil two criminals – who very unwisely tried to steal the Daily Dozen.

George Smith the blacksmith is due to marry Anne the florist, and the vicar tells Sue that the Daily Dozen is part of an old custom that must be performed. Sue has no idea what this means, and nothing in the book sheds light on it. But after the attempted theft, the Daily Dozen gives out some clues. First, a note appears to say:

“Forge and anvil – tools of trade

Fair and flowery must be made

And when church bells are gladly rung

The Daily Dozen’s work is done.”

Then the Daily Dozen shows Sue visions. First are visions of the things the Daily Dozen and Sue have accomplished together, followed by a vision of George and Anne happily married. Then there is a vision around the weather vane of an anvil decorated with flowers – which then appears for real in Anne’s flower shop. The cauldron is there too, with more flowers spilling out of it. There is no explanation, except that it must be the work of the Daily Dozen.

Meanwhile, Sue’s friend Alison has been doing research on old blacksmith customs. She learns that in olden times, blacksmiths were so important that they had to be protected from evil spirits with rituals such as firing up the anvil to produce a bang, and the ringing of church bells. The pieces are now coming together, but there is one piece still to discover, which Sue does when she sees the cauldron wobbling. She looks underneath and sees there is a piece that fits perfectly into the anvil.

So on the wedding day, church bells are rung and the Daily Dozen cauldron is placed on the flower-festooned anvil, which is then fired up to produce the bang. Suddenly, the cauldron shoots up, along with the spoon and book that go with it. They all arrive back at the cottage, and their work is now done. So now they disintegrate into soot and fall down the chimney into the fireplace. But their legacy lives on, in a much happier community and Sue finding confidence and friends.

 Thoughts

“Sue’s Daily Dozen” was the last story José Casanovas drew for Jinty. And as Casanovas stories go, this is unconventional for two reasons. First, it is unusual for Casanovas to draw a supernatural-themed story, because his style is more suited for animal stories (“Dora Dogsbody”) or science fiction (“Tomorrow Town” from Tammy), so you are more likely to see him in stories with those themes. But here he is drawing a story with a supernatural theme. He was probably chosen because he brings off humour and the bizarre so well, and would therefore fit “Sue’s Daily Dozen”, which is a lightweight supernatural story. Even so, it is a surprise (for me) to see him bringing the supernatural to life here. The only other Casanovas story I have seen with a fantasy theme is “Sophie’s Secret Squeezy” from Lindy. There must be more Casanovas supernatural stories, but I wonder how frequently they appeared.

Second, Casanovas’ heroines are usually gutsy and proactive, and some are even unsavoury (such as the spiteful “Two-Faced Teesha” in Tammy). But here the Casanovas heroine starts off quiet and shy, and tending to stick her foot in it when she tries to help. Of course we know Sue is going to change into a more confident girl during the course of the story.

This story is also unconventional, for its portrayal of witches. It depicts witches more closely to what they really were – wise women who helped people in the community with herbal remedies – though it is unlikely they would have the powers of the Daily Dozen. Moreover, the villagers understand this completely, and appreciate and adore Granny Hayden for this, instead of lashing out at it in fear, ignorance, or at all the things they see that defy all explanation. In a village like Kettleby (“Mark of the Witch!”), Granny Hayden or Sue would be more likely to become targets of persecution, just like Emma Fielding. But here the locals are not frightened of it at all and see it as miraculous and helpful. Even the vicar accepts it, instead of labelling it Satanic, unchristian, or rubbish. It is only Sue who is worried about the Daily Dozen possibly having an evil side.

This portrayal of witchcraft (or Wicca) being a business run by wise women, not agents of the Devil, was touched on once before in Jinty, in Shadow on the Fen. But in Fen it was a dark and grim picture, with practitioners falling victim to witch hunters and superstitious, ignorant folk. But here it is such a relief to see the practitioner is not only understood but also embraced and loved instead of being hated and persecuted. And the Casanovas artwork is perfect, for not only bringing it all to life but also adding humour that enhances the message the story is wants to convey about witches – for no persecution would ever be allowed in a story drawn by Casanovas.

The Perfect Princess (1980)

Sample Images

Princess 1

Click thru

Princess 2

Click thru

Princess 3

Publication: 5 January 1980 – 1 March 1980

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #13 as “Princess Wanted!”

Plot

Orphan Sally Smith has been brought up in a succession of foster homes, none of which are good enough for her. She dreams of being princess, and is so obsessed with it that her bedroom is filled with posters of princesses and fairy tale castles, and even her reading is nothing but fairy tales. Her obsession is also reflected in her snobby behaviour, as she believes she must stay aloof from common people – even the ones she serves in the café run by her latest foster parents, the Grubbs.

Meanwhile, in the tiny kingdom of Burmania (so tiny it only has one town and one royal castle), a real princess named Victoria is anything but Sally’s idea of a princess. Victoria is a horror who constantly misbehaves, shows no respect for her royal heritage, her room is filled with pop idols and disco music, and she is the despair of her parents. When Victoria brings her favourite pop group, The Baddies, to perform at the ceremony to appoint her heir to the throne, this is the last straw for them. The king disinherits her and advertises in Britain for an heir.

Sally sees the ad and naturally seizes the chance. But she has no pedigree, so she makes one up, stealing the name and portfolio of one Lady Sally Hunter-Smith. She is shortlisted with three other girls. But in Burmania, Victoria is not pleased about being disinherited, and is determined to get rid of them.

On the way to Burmania, Sally nearly comes unstuck when another candidate, Lucinda, realises she is an imposter. But Victoria pulls a trick that has the plane landing in the marshes and the candidates arrive looking like walking mud pies. Lucinda is so outraged at the indignation that she leaves in a huff, forgetting to report Sally.

Sally’s secret is safe, but Victoria decides to get rid of her next. So at a masked ball, Victoria has Sally tied up while she takes her place, planning to cause trouble that Sally will be blamed for. But Victoria comes unstuck thanks to a dirty trick pulled by another candidate – who is then eliminated when it ends up in a catfight – and Sally is discovered tied up. Victoria manages to pass it off as a joke, but Sally finds her out and is watching out for her now.

Victoria pulls more tricks, but they backfire and have the king choose another candidate, Isabella, as the princess. Then Victoria pulls an itching powder trick that gets Isabella sent packing. Victoria plants the itching powder box on Sally that almost gets her sent home. But the king gives her another chance once he is reminded what a horror Victoria is. He has Victoria put out of the way by locking her in a tower. But then Sally gets a telegram that the Grubbs are coming for a visit, which threatens her secret.

Meanwhile, Victoria uses a cannon to break out of the tower, but it goes wrong and the tower collapses. Now everyone thinks Victoria is dead.

At the feast in honour of the Grubbs, Sally is surprised to see them cover up for her. Afterwards they explain that they have realised what she is trying to do, but won’t get in her way. They pack up and get out of her life. The same feast exposes Victoria as very much alive. She gets a scolding from her parents, but butters them up by claiming she has changed. To prove it, she is arranging a gymkhana for Sally, as Lady Sally Hunter-Smith is a top rider.

But in fact Victoria has now discovered Sally’s secret and has called in the real Lady Sally Hunter-Smith. They plan to expose Sally at a gymkhana, guessing she is no rider like the girl she is impersonating. But it goes too far and Sally ends up in hospital, while Victoria is in trouble with her father again.

Still, Victoria thinks she has won and gets ready for her coronation – where she will wear shorts and roller skates. She gets word from the hospital that Sally has lost her memory and takes advantage to fob Sally off with a cruel couple, the Grimes, saying they are her true parents.

But Sally regains her memory and makes her way to the coronation to be crowned – notwithstanding that she is dirty and dishevelled from her stay with the Grimes. Victoria’s cronies lock Sally up, but she escapes and makes her way to the coronation through the sewer just as Victoria is about to be crowned. Sally and Victoria start fighting over the crown, causing it to snap in half. The king decides the answer is to crown both Victoria and Sally with the two halves of the crown, and they will both rule happily ever after – well, for a short period at least.

 

Thoughts

Occasionally I come across a serial where I don’t know whether it’s just plain stupid or if it’s meant to be a take on something that is conducted in an oddball manner.

Such is the case with “The Perfect Princess”. When I first came across it in its Girl Library reprint I thought it was ridiculous and agreed with other online comments that it was one of Jinty’s worst stories, right down there with “Angela Angel-Face”. But now I have studied the original print, I have wondered if it was meant to be one of those stories that is meant to be a take on something and should be treated as a satire or parody rather than a weak, silly story. I encountered two such stories in Tammy, “Town without Telly” and “Granny’s Town” where I thought the premise was stupid, but then I began to wonder if they were meant to be satires, parodying TV addiction in the former and ageism in the latter.

When examining “The Perfect Princess”, it does appear to turn the concept of the fairytale right on its head and inside out. It starts right off with a girl who dreams of being a princess – the dream of so many young girls – but the girl is more like the haughty princess than Princess Aurora. She’s a snob – nobody and nothing is good enough for her, because all she cares about is being a princess. It’s an obsession that has been plastered over every corner of her room, much to the derision of other girls who see it. Worse, she’s dishonest – she lies about her credentials to make her way into the shortlist. Yet she knows how a princess should behave, unlike the real princess in the story.

Although Victoria is a real princess, she is the complete opposite of Sally or how a princess should be, both in her behaviour and what she puts up on her bedroom walls. Victoria doesn’t even mind her cronies calling her “Vicky”. Disinheriting a badly-behaved princess is not unusual in a fairy tale, but Victoria is not going down the road of trials filled with suffering and humbling to turn her into a reformed character. No, she’s going down the road of dirty tricks to get rid of rivals. The road that has been so frequent trodden in so many serials, except that it’s got such a distasteful flavour with a royal who is behaving like a spoilt little horror instead of a proper princess.

Victoria being locked in a tower as a punishment also seems to be a dig at the classic fairytale; there are many stories about princesses being locked in towers. But rather than waiting for a handsome prince to rescue her, Victoria resorts to ingenuity and a cannon to make her own breakout. But she shows no disregard to her crony’s warning that this could be dangerous, further showing how thoughtless she is.

The ending also turns the fairy tale on its head – rather than happily ever after being really happily ever after, it’s for a short while, because neither Victoria nor Sally have improved, and they glare at each other as they sit on the throne they are obliged to share. One could say that they both end up punished, because in a sense they have both got what they wanted, but they don’t like it.

So is “The Perfect Princess” one of Jinty’s weakest stories or is it meant to be a satire? It’s all up to how you look at it. In any case, it is difficult to totally dislike a story that was drawn by the popular Trini Tinturé.

Race for a Fortune (1977-78)

Sample Images

Race 1

Race 2

(click thru)

Race 3

(click thru)

Publication: 19 November 1977-28 January 1978

Artist: Unknown Concrete Surfer artist

Writer: Unknown

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #20 as “The Inheritance

Plot

Katie McNab and her parents are on their way to the annual get-together for Uncle Ebenezer’s birthday. It is an occasion they do not look forward to because Uncle Ebenezer is an unpleasant miserly type who is disliked by the entire family. But he is rich, and the parents hope to inherit from him, especially as their shop is doing badly. Their hopes drop when Katie arrives in a state for the party because she had to roller-skate all the way after helping out elsewhere and no buses. It looks like Ebenezer’s money will go to their snooty cousins Rodney and Caroline because of this.

However, Uncle Ebenezer told them all that whoever gets his money must work for it, just as he did. And when his will is read out after he dies a few months later, they discover he meant what he said. Whichever relative reaches his home village of Yuckiemuckle first, under their own steam and starting without any money, will inherit his fortune.

And so the race to Yuckiemuckle begins, between Katie and her roller skates, and Caroline and Rodney, who pull every dirty trick they can to sabotage her and get there first. And they don’t start under their own steam either – they get a lift for the first thirty miles and then cheat Katie out of a fancy dress prize when she was trying to raise money because she was not allowed to start with any. This happens every time their paths cross – they try to cheat her, but she always manages to win one way or another. Sometimes she gets her own back on them as well, such as tricking them into ‘volunteering’ for medical research, where they have to agree to catch a cold as part of the research.

Katie also starts a diary of all her adventures. It has plenty to record; as well as the threat of the cheating cousins, other perils come into play along the way, including bad weather, vultures and Roman ghosts. And there are surprises, such as the legendary Loch Yuckie monster. And is it a plesiosaur? Is it a giant catfish? No, it’s a fraud the Yuckiemuckle residents perpetuate to pull in the tourists.

Finally, Yuckiemuckle beckons, and the race for a fortune goes into the final hurdles for Katie and her cousins. They try to stop Katie by stealing her roller skates, but things backfire when the skates run away on Rodney. He ends up on the same bull that Katie is riding rodeo to make money. She takes back the roller skates and shares the prize money with Rodney, saying she comes from the honest side of the McNab family. But they don’t appreciate it – they are still trying to cheat her as the race goes across Loch Yuckie. Katie beats them once again with the help of the Loch Yuckie monster (she has agreed to keep its secret because the McNabs are respected in Yuckiemuckle). On the last lap, Rodney tries to outrace her on a skateboard (a foreshadowing of Concrete Surfer?), but again things backfire and Rodney ends up in a dirty pond.

Katie reaches Yuckiemuckle, beating her cousins by a margin. But Uncle Ebenezer has one last surprise for them (trust him!). After taxes and lawyers’ expenses were deducted from the fortune, all that is left of it is enough money to pay for their train fares home. It was all Uncle Ebenezer’s sense of humour and his wish that his young relations learn the meaning of hard work. Katie and her cousins are not impressed; Katie even more so when she loses the diary of her journey on the train home.

However, a publisher finds the diary and finds it so amusing that he wants to publish it. It is published as “Race for a Fortune” (presumably the part about Lake Yuckie monster was altered a bit) and Katie gets a fortune after all. Her cousins turn up for the book signings looking like they are trying to put a brave face on it, but not having much success.

Thoughts

 

In girls’ comics there have been two types of ‘quest’ stories. The first is the serious one, filled with perils and life-and-death situations and deadly enemies, such as “Fran of the Floods” or “Song of the Fir Tree”. The second type of quest story is one played for light humour. Though it still has its perils, it is not life threatening or the villains as dangerous as they would be in the serious type of quest story. In fact, much of the humour can come from the villains. This is the case with Katie’s cousins, who often land themselves in sticky situations when their tricks backfire or Katie gets one up on them. Or the humour may come from the good guys, such as in Tammy’s “One Girl and Her Dog”. Most of the laughs come from the goofy dog companion who has to be taught to growl.

Though goofy is not the word to describe Katie, she is still meant to have a dash of humour about her that heightens the fun of the story. For example, the gap in her front teeth gives her a slightly Alf E. Neuman look. And some of the scrapes she gets into, such as skating all the way to Ebenezer’s in her best clothes and ending up a mess when she gets there, also provide laughs. But Katie is not meant to be a klutzy character who provides loads of laughs every week, nor is she gormless or stupid. She is a very resourceful character who can survive on her wits as she makes her way to Yuckiemuckle.

Humour can also come from the situations the heroine and villains can encounter on the way. For example, Katie unintentionally has fun with Roman ghosts because she doesn’t realise what they are; she thinks it’s another of her cousins’ tricks. It’s only afterwards, when she finds out her cousins weren’t around, that she finally gets a shock!

Finally, you have to hand some of the laughs to Uncle Ebenezer himself. Though his miserliness is not meant to be played for laughs (such as in Judy’s “Skinflint School”), there is a dash of humour about him, such as the burr in his r’s, and his insistence that his heirs must work for his inheritance. And of course, there is his own sense of humour that gives the story a surprise ending. Or maybe not so surprising, as you might have known there would be some catch when you inherit from a man like Uncle Ebenezer.

Shadow on the Fen (1978)

Sample images

Fen 1

(Click thru)

Fen 2

(Click thru)

Fen 3

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

(Click thru)

Girl Picture Library

Girls’ picture libraries. The monthly Commando-style digests where girls could read a complete 64-page story every month as a supplement to their regular weekly comic. Thrillers, humour, drama, horror, supernatural, heart-breakers, fantasy or science fiction stories were told in a once-a-month, one-volume complete story.

The picture libraries also provided stories about favourite regulars such as The Four Marys, Wee Slavey and The Comp. Occasionally there were variations in the formula, such as a story being told over two picture libraries, or a picture library featuring several short stories instead of one complete one. One example was “Scream!”, which told five scarey stories that made you scream.

Picture libraries were a long-running staple of four of DCT’s titles: Bunty, Judy, Mandy and Debbie. The Bunty picture libraries lasted 455 issues. This is not surprising as Bunty herself is the longest-running girls’ title in history. The Mandy books finished at the same time as the Bunty ones, but at 277 books. Judy produced 375 books and Debbie 197 books. Towards the end of the run reprints appeared although original stories continued.

In IPC the girls’ picture library had a more unusual and uneven history. June and Princess Tina were the only titles to produce any long-running ones. In fact, the June picture library eventually recycled the old Princess logo to become the wordy title, “June and School Friend and Princess Library Picture Library“. Maybe this was why “Picture Library” was dropped on the cover at some point after #458, though the spine continued to say “June and School Friend and Princess Picture Library” to the end of its run.

Tammy and Jinty were never given any picture libraries although they lasted the longest after June. Yet the photo-story comic, Girl (series 2) was given her own picture library. This lasted for just 30 books. Miniscule compared with the rich histories of the June picture library and its counterparts from DCT. But what gives Girl Picture Library its place on this blog is that although some of the libraries were original material, many of them also reprinted material from Jinty and Tammy.

Most of the reprints appeared under revised titles, some of which were awful and showed little thinking. For example, “Vision of Vanity Fayre” from Tammy was reprinted in Girl Picture Library #2 under the the extremely lame title of “Dear Diary”. Strangely, the last three Girl picture libraries reprinted Tammy stories under their original titles.

2912390-girl25

There were some oddities and even downright sloppiness in the run, which may indicate what sort of budget or editorship that the series was running to. For example, the cover of #16 (reprint of “My Heart Belongs to Buttons”) changes the appearance of the heroine. Readers must have been surprised or irritated when they opened the issue and found the brunette heroine inside bearing no resemblance to the girl on the cover. And the girl who appears on the cover of #25 (reprint of “Shadow on the Fen”, above) has the wrong hair colour – she is blond on the cover but is a brunette in the story. The witchfinder too looks different – he looks younger and has a fuller face than the craggly gaunt face rendered by Douglas Perry. Still, it is a beautiful, haunting cover.

2916377-561510

A more striking oddity was “Sue’s Daily Dozen” being reprinted over two volumes: “Spellbound” and “Bewitched”. But there was no indication in “Spellbound” to say “to be continued”. Readers must have wondered why the story suddenly stopped abruptly. The remaining pages are devoted to “Tiny Tina”, which is Wee Sue under a revised title. “Cathy’s Casebook” also appears in two volumes: “Cathy’s Crusade” and “Dr Cathy”. But the reprint is even odder in that “Dr Cathy” does not come immediately after “Cathy’s Crusade” – “The Old Mill” is in between them.

2912380-girl182912381-girl19

Naturally, some material and panels had to be cut or modified to make the reprints fit into 64-page pocket size volumes. For example, “Moments of Terror”, which reprints “Waves of Fear”, deletes Priscilla Heath and the orienteering club sequences. Both of these played a key role in the resolution of the story in its original run – realising that the panic Clare Harvey had while her friend was drowning in a cave was a claustrophobia attack and not the cowardice that has made her the most hated girl in town. The revelation is now made by Clare’s mother after Rachel tells her about the trick Jean pulled – playing on Clare’s claustrophobia – to get her expelled.

On the other hand, the editing also mercifully reduces some of Clare’s ordeal; for example, the hostility Clare receives from the townsfolk has been removed completely. Some of the bullying at school and the harsh treatment Clare gets from her parents has been deleted as well. The editing is pretty seamless, but there is one glitch: when Clare is pushed to the brink of suicide, she thinks the business at the club was the last straw. With the orienteering club deleted, readers must immediately have wondered “what club?” or “what’s missing here?”. They would know it’s been reprinted from somewhere else because there was always a caption saying “previously published” for the reprint material.

2912376-girl11

Cutting out material also had the unfortunate effect of removing key turning points in some plots. For example, the reprint of “Thursday’s Child” removes the scene where an evil flag forces a man to nearly saw his own hand off. Yes, it’s gruesome. But in the original run it was what made the villainess, Julie, who had been using the flag’s power to conduct a revenge campaign against her future mother, Thursday, come to her senses and realise the flag had to be destroyed.

Below is a list of the Girl Picture Libraries, along with their original titles and appearances. The only one that has not been identified is “Penny’s Best Friend” in #8. It could be that this was an original story as not all the Girl Picture Libraries carried reprints, but I need to confirm this.

  1. Patty’s World – original
  2. Dear Diary – Vision of Vanity Fayre from Tammy
  3. Patty’s World – original
  4. The Dolphin Mystery – The Disappearing Dolphin from Jinty
  5. Cathy’s Crusade – Part 1 of Cathy’s Casebook from Jinty
  6. The Old Mill – original
  7. Dr Cathy – Part 2 of Cathy’s Casebook from Jinty
  8. Penny’s Best Friend – ?
  9. Circus Waif – Wild Rose from Jinty
  10. Stormy Seas – original
  11. Moments of Terror – Waves of Fear from Jinty
  12. The Shadow – Mike and Terry from Jinty
  13. Princess Wanted! – The Perfect Princess from Jinty
  14. The Black Sheep – Black Sheep of the Bartons from Jinty
  15. I’ll Never Sing Again! – Nothing to Sing About from Jinty
  16. A Second Chance – My Heart Belongs to Buttons from Jinty
  17. Winner-Loser! – No Medals for Marie from Jinty
  18. Spellbound! – Part 1 of Sue’s Daily Dozen from Jinty, plus A Wee Sue story from Tammy reprinted as Tiny Tina
  19. Bewitched! – Part 2 of Sue’s Daily Dozen from Jinty, plus a Strange Story, “A Monumental Detective” reprinted as “The Crook Catchers”
  20. The Inheritance – Race for a Fortune from Jinty
  21. The Fortune-Teller – Cursed to be a Coward! Jinty
  22. Tina’s Temper – Temper, Temper, Tina! Tammy
  23. Fame and Fortune – Make the Headlines, Hannah! Tammy
  24. Wonder Girl – Betta to Lose from Tammy
  25. The Witchfinder – Shadow on the Fen from Jinty
  26. Sweet and Sour – The Sweet and Sour Rivals from Jinty
  27. Carol in Camelot – Carol in Camelot St from Tammy
  28. The Happiest Days – Tammy
  29. Thursday’s Child – Tammy
  30. A Girl Called Midnight – Tammy

Waves of Fear (1979)

Sample images

Waves 1.jpg

Waves 2.jpg

(click thru)

Waves 3.jpg

(click thru)

Publication: 22 September 1979 – 15 December 1979

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown – but see addendum

Reprint: Girl Picture Library 11 as “Moments of Terror” (abridged); Tina 1983 as “In een golf van angst” [In a Wave of Fear]. Dutch translation.

Summary

Clare Harvey has everything to enjoy at school: success, popularity and friends. She and Rachel Mitchell are the best of friends, and now they are celebrating a special hockey victory. The only one put out is Jean Marlow, a nasty girl who has always hated Clare for some reason.

In the changing room, Clare suddenly takes a strange turn and has to get out in a hurry. Nobody realises it is a warning of what is to come.

Later, Rachel wants to take a swim in the pools in a coastal cave. Clare does not feel like it, but Rachel insists. In the cave pool, Rachel runs into trouble. Clare is about to go in after her when an inexplicable panic of walls closing in and waves of fear hit her. They are so terrifying that they force her out of the cave, leaving Rachel behind and still in danger of drowning.

Outside is Jean, and Clare tells her what is happening, but is too terrified to go back in. Jean rescues Rachel and, having always hated Clare, puts up the word that Clare is a coward who left her friend to drown. Clare, hitherto the most popular girl at school, now finds herself an outcast, with all the girls turning on her and calling her a coward. At home, Clare’s parents are just as condemnatory, and they will get increasingly harsh with her as the story progresses. Clare can’t understand why she panicked and wonders if she really is turning into a coward.

The morning assembly is honouring Jean’s heroism. This has Clare thinking of the cave, and as she does so, the same terror starts again. She feels walls closing in on her and she panics, desperate to get out. As she does so, she brings chaos to the assembly and injures a teacher and a prefect when they try to restrain her.

As the confused and distraught Clare wanders through town, she discovers word has spread about her (through Rachel’s mother, who works in the markets); people stare at her, whisper behind her back, and refuse to serve her. She tries to visit Rachel in hospital in the (mistaken, as it turns out) hope that if Rachel forgives her, the terrors will stop. But the waves of fear and images of that cave overwhelm her again and she has to get out fast. She decides to try writing to Rachel instead.

She heads home and finds her parents angry after the school phoned them about her conduct at assembly. They demand an explanation. Clare says she cannot give one, except  that she now seems to see that cave everywhere and gets terrified and runs away every time she does. They do not seem to be impressed or concerned at this. They also insist on her going to the hospital to apologise to Rachel, but Clare is too terrified after what happened there already. They don’t listen when she tries to explain this and go to the hospital themselves, saying they don’t have a daughter anymore.

Next, Clare heads back to the scene of the disaster and finds that even the waves seem to be calling her a coward. She forces her way into the cave to try to understand her panic, but it just starts up again. However, her attempt to get out is blocked by Jean and other girls. Egged on by Jean, they throw Clare into the pool in an act of bullying. Then the girls get a shock when Clare does not come up, and they discover there is a powerful current below. It looks like Clare is dead because of their bullying. Jean is all for covering up, but the others say she is the coward now and phone the police with the truth.

However, the current merely pulls Clare through into another cave. Once she emerges, the panic grips her again. It takes some fierce scrambling under the rocks for her to get out. As the terror-stricken Clare runs off, she is spotted by a woman who is concerned by the state of mind she is in. She is Priscilla Heath, secretary of the orienteering club. She takes an interest in Clare for the club.

At home the parents find Clare not dead as they all supposed. When the headmistress demands to know why Clare did not report her survival, the parents accuse her of doing it on purpose to spite the girls. They refuse to listen to Clare’s pleas that she had been just too frightened to think of it and the girls should not have thrown her in the pool anyway. Nor do they listen to her pleas not to go back to the school because of the bullying and they drag her back there. In the head’s office the bullies get a fierce dressing down from the headmistress and this has them turning on Jean. But this has Jean turning extra nasty and swearing revenge on Clare, who is still an outcast and a target of bullying. When Jean sees Clare getting the same panic when she gets stuck in the shower cubicle and raving about the cave, she immediately sees how she can get her revenge.

Meanwhile, Clare gets heavy detention for her conduct in assembly and is on a last chance basis before expulsion. But on a brighter note, she joins the orienteering club. Miss Heath knows about the unfortunate business but unlike the others she does not condemn Clare; instead she says there must have been a reason why she panicked. Clare gets the satisfaction of beating Jean in a race at the orienteering club, which nobody has ever done before. But of course this has Jean turning even nastier towards Clare.

Rachel is discharged from hospital and her parents turn up at school demanding Clare be expelled, just because they don’t want Rachel attending the same school as Clare. Outside the head’s office, Clare gives them her letter for Rachel, but unknown to Clare, Mrs Mitchell rips it up. Mrs Mitchell is furious when the headmistress refuses to expel Clare and says she will keep Rachel at home. When the girls hear of this, Jean uses what she saw in the shower cubicle to hatch a plan to get Clare expelled. Jean locks Clare in the classroom where she is doing detention and turns off the lights to simulate the cave. As Jean planned, this sets Clare off into the panic and, in her desperation to get out, she wrecks the classroom. The headmistress expels Clare. Jean then heads off to tell the Mitchells of Clare’s expulsion. Mrs Mitchell is delighted and will be sending Rachel back to school. Rachel wants more understanding of the whole business and wishes Clare had tried to contact her. She does not know Clare had tried twice and failed.

As Clare runs off, Miss Heath finds her in a dreadful state and Clare explains what happened. And she says she can’t come to the club because of Jean. Miss Heath insists that she does and she will deal with Jean. She tells Clare she needs help. But at home, Clare’s parents are furious about the expulsion. They tell Miss Heath to go away and ban Clare from the club, despite Clare’s protests that it is the only good thing she has right now. Dad then locks Clare in her room. This sets off another panic and Clare escapes through the window.

Now Clare is on the run and the police are after her, and her parents are under the impression they have an out-of-control daughter. She makes her way to the orienteering club, where Jean destroys her last joy by wrecking the orienteering club and putting the blame on her. Clare protests her innocence to Miss Heath, who is not sure what to make of Clare’s claims that it was Jean. But she begins to think Clare is sick. However, Clare has run off again. She heads back to the scene of the near-tragedy, where men have now started dynamiting. We now get hints that Clare is contemplating suicide, but at that point the men scare her into running again.

Meanwhile, Rachel returns to school. She learns of Clare’s failed bid to write to her, and then how Jean got Clare expelled. She calls Jean a monster and rushes off to tell Clare’s parents. Miss Heath is also there, and upon hearing Rachel’s story she now believes Jean wrecked the club. She also realises what the problem is: Clare has developed extreme claustrophobia (the fear of closed spaces). The guilt-stricken parents realise that they, along with nearly everyone else, got blinded by the thought that Clare was a coward who kept lashing out when in fact she was mentally ill. They notify the police and the school.

The sight of a police car forces Clare back into the cave. Rachel comes in and says to Clare that she forgives her and wants them to be friends again. But then the entrance to the cave collapses because of the dynamiting. Rachel pushes Clare outside but becomes trapped inside. Clare uses the other entrance she discovered from the bullying incident in the cave to rescue Rachel, braving her claustrophobia, the current and a collapsing cavern to do so. Rachel then tells Clare what is wrong with her. Clare is reconciled with her apologetic parents.

Clare is reinstated at school and welcomed as a heroine by remorse-stricken classmates. Jean is furious (but there is no mention of her being punished in any way). The rescue of Rachel is regarded as the first step to recovery. It is a long, hard struggle before Clare is well again, but she makes it. And she also makes county orienteering champion.

Thoughts

Phobias have a history of making plot material in girls’ strips. Lara the Loner (Tammy), A Dog’s Life for Debbie (Tracy) Cursed to be a Coward! (Jinty) and Slave of the Trapeze (Sandie) are some  examples. The first deals with ochlophobia (fear of crowds), the second cynophobia (fear of dogs), the third hydrophobia (fear of water) and the fourth acrophobia (fear of heights). Equinophobia (fear of horses) is one phobia that crops up frequently as well, with stories of girls who lose their nerve after riding accidents. Hettie Horse-Hater and Rona Rides Again (Tammy) are among them.

But at least in these stories the heroines know what their fears are. This is not the case with Clare Harvey, who has no idea what these waves of fear are that keep gripping her, and nobody seems to understand what explanations she can manage to give – that she just gets seems to get scared and sees that cave everywhere. But we can see that whatever it is that is overwhelming Clare, it is not cowardice or bad conduct. There can be no explanation for those swirls and flashes around Clare’s head and the inexplicable panic attacks but insanity of some sort. But neither Clare nor the reader knows or understands what it is (except maybe the readers who know about claustrophobia), which makes it all the more terrifying. And neither the parents nor school staff are picking up the clues; they are all being too judgemental and harsh because they are all acting on the assumption that Clare is a coward who is becoming badly behaved and violent. But nobody tries to find out why Clare is acting this way, although the headmistress is at a loss to explain why a model pupil with a good school record is suddenly acting so out of character. We wince at the increasing harshness of the parents towards Clare. They even go as far as to show more sympathy to the bullies than to Clare. They call them “poor girls” when it was their fault for bullying Clare and nearly killed her, and also say they cannot even blame all the girls at school for hating Clare. They don’t even consider taking her out of the school. But really, bullying is bullying. The parents’ attitude is made all the worse that these are supposed to be loving parents (unlike some parents we have met in other serials). Neither the parents nor the school authorities take any action on the bullying, though they know about it (unlike the parents and school staff in “Tears of a Clown“) and the father even foresaw it. The only adult to act with any sense is Miss Heath, who, unlike the others, has not reacted judgementally. It just goes to show that taking a step back and trying to look at things in perspective instead of reacting emotionally can make all the difference.

Such things happen so often in girls’ comics. All too often you see adults handling a girl badly in a serial because they act out of ignorance, stupidity, lack of empathy, or bad reactions. Often, though not always, it takes a wiser person like Miss Heath to help put things right. You have to wonder if the writers are trying to make a statement about what NOT to do and what you SHOULD do. “White Horse of Guardian Hill” and “Tears of a Clown” are two Jinty examples. Non-Jinty examples include “Hard Times for Helen” (Judy), “Rona Rides Again” (Tammy), “‘I’ll Never Forgive You!'” (Bunty), and “The Courage of Crippled Clara” (Bunty).

Seldom have girls’ comics explored the issue of mental illness, but this one does. And it is a complete reversal of the usual thing in girls’ comics, where a girl is labelled ‘ill’ when she is in fact under the influence of something or telling the truth about something but nobody will listen to her, such as in “Village of Fame“. But in this case, being ill is the correct assumption, yet nobody except Miss Heath can see it for what it is because their perceptions have been warped by the wrong assumptions. The issue of mental illness is handled in a sensitive, well-researched and written manner that delivers a disturbing warning on the damage authorities can do when they act on assumptions, emotion and quick judgements instead of trying to handle things in an investigative, non-judgemental manner.

This is one Jinty story that will linger with you (me anyway) long after reading it because of the issues it explores are issues that are still all-too-relevant, because even today people can make the same mistakes and errors of judgement as the parents and school staff do in this story.

This was not the first Jinty story to have a girl being wrongly branded and bullied as a coward because of a phobia. In 1977, Jinty ran “Cursed to be a Coward!”, where Marnie Miles, a brilliant swimmer, develops intense hydrophobia because a fortune teller frightened her with a prophecy that she will end up in blue water. Marnie thinks this means she will drown. And the fortune teller is out to oblige, by making several attempts to drown Marnie. But Marnie’s classmates don’t understand this and start calling her a coward on top of her other problems. Is it possible that Cursed to be a Coward and Waves of Fear had the same writer, or the former influenced the latter? There are similarities between the stories; two girls are wrongly branded cowards and become targets of bullying because of phobias, and the incidents that caused the phobias are both related to swimming. There is even an incident in the opening episode of Marnie’s story where she fails a drowning person because her phobia is too strong for her to go to the rescue. A foreshadowing of what happens in the cave?

(Update: Alison Christie has confirmed she wrote “Cursed to be a Coward” but not “Waves of Fear”. So it was not the same writer there.)

Waves of Fear also has similarities with Jinty‘s 1980 story “Tears of a Clown“. Both stories deal with bullying situations where the school and parents keep failing the girl because they are all making assumptions that she is the one at fault with bad behaviour instead of looking into the situation in an investigative manner and find out what is wrong. And in both stories, the bullies turn on the ringleader at one point, although she protests (with some justification) that they are to blame as well. Both stories climax with the heroine being pushed too far and running away. And running is a major plot point in both stories. So it is possible it was the same writer. It certainly was the same artist – Phil Gascoine drew both stories. Perhaps the reception to “Waves of Fear” was inspiration for the similarly-themed “Tears of a Clown”. But there is a difference in the way the ringleaders react when the other girls turn against them; the one in “Waves of Fear” becomes even more spiteful while the one in “Tears of a Clown” repents and eventually redeems herself.

Incidentally, “Waves of Fear” was reprinted in Girl Picture Library 11 as “Moments of Terror”. Plenty of old serials from Tammy and Jinty made their way into the Girl Picture Libraries, most of them under revised (and not very good) titles. As the story had to fit into a 64-page booklet, some material had to be deleted. When comparing the original with the reprint, one finds that the Miss Heath segments have been cut out entirely. This leaves only the revelation of how Jean got Clare expelled as the cue that tips the parents as to what is wrong with Clare. On the other hand, the cuts  also removed some of the harsh treatment Clare receives from her parents and all the ostracism from the townsfolk. Some of the bullying (such as Clare finding an egg in her desk and Jean being sent off for fouling), Jean’s vandalism at the orienteering club, and one of the claustrophobia attacks have also been removed.

Addendum Recently I have been struck by parallels with another story, a Button Box story that appeared on 27 August 1983. The story is an American Civil War story about Johnnie Dalton, who is dishonourably discharged from the Army for cowardice when he panics under fire. Back home, Johnnie is treated extremely harshly. He is branded a coward and an outcast, and even his own father turns against him, to the point of forcing him to wear buttons that read “COWARD”. Eventually Johnnie regains their respect when he saves a child’s life, but loses his own in the process. It may be coincidence, but the harshness of the community and Dalton Snr towards Johnnie seems to have echoes of the harsh treatment Clare receives, even from her own parents, because they have both been branded cowards. And credits say the Button Box story was written by Ian Mennell. Is it possible that Ian Mennell wrote “Waves of Fear”?

Or could it be the same person who wrote another Gascoine story for Jinty, “The Green People”, as Jean has the same surname as the heroine in this story?