Tag Archives: Gwen’s Stolen Glory

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.

Advertisements

Jinty #5, 8 June 1974

jinty-8-june-1974

Katie’s jinxing has a water theme this week, from jinxing water skiers to having the swimming team walk miles in the rain.

Judy tries to get help from the police about the haunting, but of course they’re not going to believe a thing like that. And Judy is even more terrified to realise that whatever is causing the haunting and making her friends dress like Victorian girls is going to target her next!

Gwen is riding high on the glory she has stolen. Of course that means a fall sooner or later, and it is already starting. Julie Waring is getting suspicious and has also overheard Gwen’s troubled conscience speaking out loud. Is Gwen about to be caught out?

The girls try to bust out of Misery House, but they not only fail but are also duped into playing a cruel trick on Carla, who was caught during the escape. One up to Misery House, but we know there will be a next time.

Angela’s Angels are accused of stealing, but it turns out the patient was foisting the blame onto them. We see acid-drop Angela has a heart: she sticks up for the Angels when they are accused and covers up for one somewhat errant Angel later on.

The scheming girls did not mean Yvonne to take a fall down the stairs when they soap the soles of her shoes, and only her acrobatic skills save her. It doesn’t cut much ice with jealous Lisa though, who is furious when Yvonne is chosen over her for the Dance of the Four Cygnets.

Miss Madden’s test for Mandy this week is very odd, even for her. She has Mandy dress up like a princess and then puts her in a posh room, where a two-way mirror enables Miss Madden and her colleagues to watch Mandy. Then Mandy panics for some reason when she hears the tune from a music box. Now what could have brought that on?

The influence of the Indian necklace has Gail’s friends turning away from her while she gets very sneaky and deceptive in getting what she wants. Daisy’s Victorian employers turn up their noses at coconuts and are not impressed with her fishing. It all ends up with their going hungry and Daisy slipping away, full of fish, so they don’t lumber her again. Dora helps out a dog that is being mistreated, but makes sure the dog doesn’t go to the dogs’ hotel either.

Story theme: Redemption narratives

I recently wrote summary posts about two stories that I called ‘redemption narratives’: “The Girl Who Never Was” and “She Shall Have Music“. That’s a kind of story theme that we can all recognize as being fairly common in girls comics generally: in Jinty there are a number of other examples.  But how does this sort of story work?

Take those two stories as an initial guide: the protagonist is a difficult or disagreeable, probably dislikeable, girl who has some personal failing or issue that drives the story. It’s because of that failing that the story progresses; it may not have been due to something that was her fault that the story started off in the first place, but it is because of her moral or social problem that it continues and develops the way it does. Tina Williams lands in the alternate universe where magic works because of her conceited and annoying ways; Lisa Carstairs’s father doesn’t lose his money because of her, but if she wasn’t so obsessed with continuing her piano playing exactly as before, then she wouldn’t find herself in the same difficulties. It’s not just what happens to the protagonist (or how she is challenged in the story) but how she reacts to it. She has to be ‘the architect of her own misfortunes’, as Mistyfan puts it in her post about another redemption story, “Black Sheep of the Bartons“.

Does the story have to feature some sort of disagreeableness, some sort of outright nastiness or callousness on the part of the protagonist? No: I’d say that you could certainly include ‘guilt’ stories such as “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary”. The protagonist here  suffers huge pangs of guilt and despair because of the loss of a loved one – a best friend or a sister in the case of these two stories, but in other cases it can be a parent – a very natural feeling, but the failing here is that she lets those emotions overwhelm her and distort her common sense. The guilty feelings of the protagonist drive the story forward, but this guilt is portrayed throughout as excessive, as an indulgence that the main character should resist. It’s the lengths that their grief drives them to that causes their difficulties in their separate stories.

Also, it’s not just about having an objectionable main character who is nicer by the end of the story. “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” are not what I would call redemption narratives, despite having protagonists who start off pretty disagreeable and end up much improved. (Likewise “Battle of the Wills” is not, nor I think “Pandora’s Box”, but sports story “Black Sheep of the Bartons” is one I would class as such: Bev Barton isn’t horrible so much as thoughtless and reckless, but her carelessness nearly brings tragedy to her family.) Why don’t “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” count? Because when the girl main characters are swept into their initial circumstances – enslaved by a dictatorial coach, forced into third-class citizenship in a future world – their thoughts are not primarily about how they can continue to maintain their status quo ante but about how they can defeat their antagonist. Yvonne and Cassy aren’t just trying to get back to where they were at the beginning: their story is about a positive rebellion, not a futile rejection of the truth that the outside world is telling them. They end up much nicer than they started out being, but that’s not the whole reason for having the story in the first place – it’s because they have faced extraordinary circumstances which would change anyone by making them realise that some things are bigger than individual concerns.

Does the character who ends up being redeemed have to be the protagonist, or could they be the antagonist or villain? Overall I would say it has to be the protagonist, as the main character that you are supposed to sympathise with and want things to turn out well for, but maybe one counter-example is “Wanda Whiter Than White“. Wanda is not the main character of the story and she makes Susie Foster’s life a misery with her sanctimonious ways. At the end, it is revealed, as Mistyfan explains in her story post, that ‘Wanda’s own past is not as white as she would have us believe. In fact, she is on probation after being caught stealing.’ Rather than this reveal being painted as purely a victory for the main character, it ends up with Wanda being ‘truly redeemed when she tells a white lie to help Susie in return for Susie saving her life’. The reader wasn’t rooting for Wanda’s redemption all along, but it is a satisfying ending nevertheless.

What choices could the writer make that would move the story out of the category of being a redemption narrative? Let’s take Lisa Carstairs’ story as an example. As with the OuBaPo exercises, thinking about how a story could work differently will give us a view on how the stories actually do work.

  • Imagine Lisa’s parents still losing everything at the beginning of the story, and Lisa still losing her piano. The story could then have taken a different turn: rather than being about Lisa’s misguided piano obsession and selfishness, it could have been another kind of story entirely, for instance a mystery story where Lisa finds out that her father’s business partner was a crook who needs to be brought to justice. Perhaps Lisa’s piano playing could help her to find the clues she needs, and her obsession with it could be turned to a good cause in that way, so that she needs no redemption.
  • Or let’s say the story stays as being about Lisa’s obsession with playing piano but it’s portrayed as something not to be frowned on, rather as something acceptable or allowable. How would a story work where she can continue to be focused on playing piano to the exclusion of everything else, including her family? Perhaps her family would have to be a nasty, uncaring one, to make her disinterest acceptable.
  • Or perhaps the story could proceed more or less as it does, but with an unhappy ending where Lisa gets her comeuppance. This would make her into a more of an anti-heroine than normal but would not be unheard of.

Here are the examples I would identify as fitting most neatly into the category of ‘redemption narrative’ (core examples) and as being closely related to this category without necessarily definitely being classed as such (edge cases).

Core examples

  • “Dance Into Darkness” – Della just wants to live her life down at the disco with no regard for other people, but when her wish is granted she eventually discovers there is indeed more to life than her own self-interest.
  • There are a number of stories that are driven by a bereavement: the main character makes poor decisions as a result of her strong emotions of grief and anger because she is afraid of being hurt again. “The Ghost Dancer” is one of these, as is “Nothing to Sing About”, but of course “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary” are the strongest examples.
  • “The Girl Who Never Was” – discussed above
  • “She Shall Have Music” – discussed above
  • I said above that I thought that it needs to be the protagonist who is redeemed, not one of the other characters. In “Go On, Hate Me!” the antagonist is driven by grief into bullying the protagonist but in the end all is cleared and the antagonist is redeemed, so I would be tempted to class this alongside “Wanda Whiter Than White” as a clear example of this kind.
  • Jackie’s Two Lives” is more about the perils of wish-fulfilment, but Jackie’s snobbishness and the fact she is ashamed of her own family is definitely a character flaw that drives the story and she is cured of it at the end.
  • “Left-Out Linda” develops the redemption pretty well by recognizing that you can’t usually turn around your life by yourself: you have to have some help.
  • “Paula’s Puppets”: Paula has to learn to forgive her enemies rather than attacking them via the magical help she has been given.
  • “Tearaway Trisha”: Trisha’s recklessness has caused a serious accident; she tries to make amends but has to change her own character in order to do so.
  • “Valley of Shining Mist” has a clearly didactic message about the improving aspect of high culture: by playing the violin, Debbie will transcend the impact of her abusive family, who are low-class in their lack of culture and their morality.
  • In “Who’s That In My Mirror?” the protagonist’s selfish nature is made very literally visible and becomes more and more so until finally she is driven to renouncing it.
  • Worlds Apart” is the ultimate morality tale – one by one, six girls are shown the worst outcomes possible for each of their specific character flaws, and they have a chance to repent. The psychological development is minimal but the impact of the story was very dramatic.

Edge cases

  • “Fancy Free “- I know the main character is so independent that this may well be characterised as a fault, but I don’t really quite remember enough about the story to say whether it is the main thing that drives the whole plot.
  • The Four Footed Friends” – arguably another case where someone other than the protagonist ends up being redeemed, though it all feels a little sudden. “Hettie High-and-Mighty” likewise features a fairly sudden change of heart on the part of an antagonist who has mostly been about making  the protagonist’s life a misery until that point. I don’t think “The Kat And Mouse Game” quite counts, either: Kat may perhaps have realised the error of her ways at the end of the story, but will her change of heart actually stick?
  • I haven’t really made my mind up about “Gwen’s Stolen Glory” – it feels like it is mostly a story about deception, though clearly once Gwen owns up to the big lie this is a kind of redemption of her former deception.
  • In “Kerry In The Clouds”, Kerry is a day-dreamer imposed upon by a woman motivated by her own unfriendly concerns. Kerry’s day-dreaming nature is cured by the end of the story, but I don’t feel the main driver of the narrative was to improve her character.
  • The main character in “Mark of the Witch!” is hot-tempered and angry at all around her, and she comes to seek a more peaceful set of emotions by the end of the story. However, so much of her story is about the persecution and abuse that her neighbours visit on her that I don’t see her story being primarily about her renouncing her hot-headed ways.
  • I’m not sure about “Pandora’s Box” and whether it counts or not. Pandora’s witchy aunt does chide her at the beginning about being too cock-sure about her talents and says that she will need to use magic sooner or later, and this is all true: but I’m not sure what sort of morality story that adds up to – not a conventional one at any rate! The main nod in this story to more conventional morality is the fact that Pandora goes from disinterest in the pet she is stuck with (her black cat familiar, Scruffy) to loving him dearly and giving up her heart’s desire in order to save his life.

One last question struck me when thinking about this. What sort of things might the protagonist have done that means she needs to go through this process of redemption in the first place? Clearly it must be something negative: the story has a moral imperative of some sort, warning readers against some kinds of behaviour. But at the same time, some things would be beyond the pale of course, and would mean that any character doing that would be irredeemable. (There might therefore be some useful comparisons made with story villains: what does their villainy consist of?) If a character killed or seriously hurt someone on purpose then that would be beyond the pale: there are a number of villains who have gone this far, sometimes with a laugh on their cruel lips, but it would be hard to imagine that a girl protagonist could do this and still recover the moral high ground at the end of the story.

In the stories above it looks like the sort of wrong-doing that needs castigating but is still redeemable is often about emotional warmth and consideration for others – it’s not about ambition (by itself) or cleverness (by itself) for instance. An arrogant protagonist can still be the heroine, but if she is cold, selfish, or inconsiderate then that’s a good signal that this is a character marked down for improvement – by whatever means necessary. Preferably it will be a Shakespearean denouement, whereby her own moral failing brings about such a huge disaster that she has no option but to change her ways! And being too afraid to risk emotional commitment comes in for a bit of a kicking too, via the guilt / grief stories. The obvious next question: is this moral imperative specific to British girls comics? Do UK boys comics have redemption narratives too? Or those in other countries? My pal Lee Brimmicombe-Wood reckons that Japan’s flourishing manga industry has many stories about mavericks who insist on going their own ways – but in that industry’s story constraints, the mavericks are always right and never forced to realise that actually, there was a reason why everyone was telling them they were going about things the wrong way…

Wild Horse Summer (1974)

Sample images

Wild Horse Summer pg 1

Wild Horse Summer pg 2
click thru
Wild Horse Summer pg 3
click thru

Publication: 3 August 1974 – 30 November 1974 (18 episodes)
Artist: Unknown (same as Gwen’s Stolen Glory)
Writer: Unknown (but see Thoughts)

Translation/reprints: Translated into Dutch as ‘De zomer van het witte paard’ (in: Tina 1976, Tina Topstrip 15 (1980)). Translated into Indonesian as ‘Elvira misteri kuda putih’

Synopsis

We first meet Daphne in the orphanage that she has been consigned to since the death of her parents in the car crash that also left her unable to speak. She clearly loves all sorts of animals – she finds some field mice and her immediate thought is that they are really sweet and she wonders if she could tame them as pets. She herself is pretty wild though – when the cook finds the mice and is about to splifficate them, Daphne’s resort is to attack and bite the poor woman. Well, she can’t argue rationally with anyone, but additionally everyone in the orphanage seems to have written Daphne off as a daftie who has strange ideas and is not to be trusted.

Nor does anyone in the orphanage empathise with her in other ways. Even when she writes it down as a heartfelt plea, she is not allowed to miss the road journey to the farm that is proposed as a holiday trip – even though such a journey is bound to bring back memories of the day her parents were killed.

At the farm however she makes friends with a wild horse. Unfortunately this is a horse that everyone has been told to keep away from, as it’s ‘best left alone’ – rather like Daphne herself, I suppose. Again and again the misunderstanding by the authorities who are looking after this girl are clearly signalled – she is still shocked after the journey but the matron thinks she is avoiding doing her share, or mooning about. And the matron doesn’t really do her job properly in other ways – in telling the other girls not to go near the wild horse she doesn’t check that Daphne had heard or understood, which could have been a fatal error. She also asks her daughter Eileen, arrived to share the holiday, to befriend Daphne – and Eileen clearly shares her mother’s lack of tact, talking loudly to Daphne as if she was stupid rather than simply unable to speak.

The matron continues in this vein, taking Daphne into town by car despite her clear fear of this mode of travel; Daphne rebels and walks back by herself, but this backfires when she gets lost in the moorland with night coming on. The white horse that everyone else was warned about comes to comfort and help her, and she is charmed and delighted by the mare rather than being frightened (because she didn’t hear or listen to the earlier warning). Daphne is led back to the farm by the horse and manages to make more time to spend together after that – each lonely creature being the other’s only friend. Of course it doesn’t take long for the other kids to find out – they throw stones at the horse they believe to be dangerous, and of course Daphne can’t speak to tell them that she is friends with the mare.

The matron is fed up of Daphne sneaking off and assigns her daughter Eileen to make friends with the girl and to keep an eye on her – not that Daphne is fooled. Especially as Eileen thinks she is so clever, training to be a nurse and having an interesting case to study right in front of her! Daphne rebels, cheekily writing in Eileen’s set of notes that she needs to take ‘more care … over simple spelling.. very untidy writing…’. After initial crossness, Eileen laughs heartily and takes Daphne more seriously, opening up the possibility of real friendship between the two – but of course Daphne still has the secret of the horse to keep.

It’s not a secret for ever – Eileen finds the bridle that Daphne has been using to ride the mare, and has a dilemma of her own. If she gives away the secret then she knows Daphne will never forgive her, and if she doesn’t, then she’s afraid the white mare may turn dangerous and even kill Daphne one day. What should she do? The secret is clearly not going to last for long. Eileen tells Daphne her fears, which is at least rather more grown-up than just telling the authorities – and the warning seems to be borne out when the mare throws Daphne for no very obvious reason. Is the horse turning wild and unsteady again?

The story of the horse and the girl are clear parallels – the reason the horse seemed wild and unreliable was because of the bad experiences she had that led her to grow wild in the first place. Daphne’s hair style had reminded the horse of that time, which is why she was thrown. But the two couldn’t stay away from each other for long. When they next met they rode together for joy – into dangerous bog! Daphne is saved by the mare’s actions and wants to save her in turn – which means revealing the secret. Unfortunately, it is to the last person in the area who will take it well – she has to tell Jem, the farmhand who bears the most of a grudge against the mare, from when she broke his arm in a frenzy. He thinks the mare is dangerous and vicious, and is more likely to kill her than save her!

Because Daphne is willing to go into the bog after the horse, and drown alongside the mare if need be, Jed is forced to save the horse – but takes his gun out later to kill her after all, now he knows where she is. Of course Daphne can’t leave it like that, so she sneaks out after midnight to save the mare, which she does by hiding her in an abandoned mine – little knowing that this is just another danger. This time it is a danger for Daphne herself, who falls down a hole and cannot even scream to let people know she is there. The mare knows, but how can she bring help? Only by exposing herself to danger, which she does – she brings the farmer and Eileen to rescue Daphne. Many people in the farm now realise the horse is not dangerous after all, and are willing to rehabilitate it – but not Jed (as can be seen in the penultimate episode above). He drives the horse away and shoots at it, to make it seem as if the horse went wild again and needed a mercy-killing – but Daphne gets in the way and is shot instead.

Of course this is the denouement that leads to great remorse on Jed’s part – he carries Daphne into the farmhouse where she is nursed back to health, and leaves the farm in disgrace thereafter. The shock of the injury gives Daphne her voice back (in that way that happens in comics) and everything else ends happily – the mare will be kept by the farmer, Daphne will be understood by the people surrounding her, Eileen nurses her back to health, and the mare is given a fitting new name (Hope). In the last two panels, similarly to the sort of vindication seen at the end of “Slave of Form 3B“, Eileen even offers Daphne a bright new future – “Being dumb has given you a lot of patience and understanding, Daphne. You’d make a wonderful nurse! Mum says when you’re old enough, you could train along with me!” “Oh Eileen! I’d love to!”

Thoughts

The unknown artist (who also worked on “Gwen’s Stolen Glory”) does a lovely job once again. These were the only two Jinty stories that s/he drew: if anyone knows of any stories by this artist in other story papers, please do let me know. Many of the episodes are very clear and open in feel, with a lot of white space used for hair and other details that might well be completed in darker textures by other artists. This artist reserves that for scenes like the one in the sample pages – taking place by night, and with potentially deadly outcomes. It makes for a story drawn with a lot of nuance and variety.

The writer is also unknown. We understand that often the same writer and artist were paired up repeatedly, and Alan Davidson is known to have written “Gwen’s Stolen Glory” – could he therefore have written this story too? Hopefully his wife Pat would be able to confirm or deny this at some point, but against this suggestion we should set the point that “Jackie’s Two Lives” ran at the same time as this story. It was not unknown for writers to have two or even more stories running at the same time, but nor was it that usual.

Pat Mills is also known to have written at least one horse story in Jinty, and he has declined to specify which one (giving the impression that he was a bit unimpressed in retrospect with that particular story). This is actually a rather good story – tight and dramatic, if more low-key than some other Jinty stories with supernatural goings-on or scenery-chewing villains. It’s not the sort of thing that I would expect Pat Mills to have any particular reason to disown – the protagonist is hard-done-by by the authorities and has to make her own way in life. She takes no guff, and this is not a particularly daft story or over-the-top in any way. It could still be the missing Mills horse story, but I take leave to doubt it.

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 3 August 1974

Cover 19740803

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Always Together… (writer Alison Christie, artist Phil Townsend)
  • Gwen’s Stolen Glory last episode
  • Make-Believe Mandy (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Merry at Misery House (writer Terence Magee)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)
  • Bird-Girl Brenda (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Gail’s Indian Necklace (artist Phil Gascoine) last episode
  • Wild Horse Summer first episode
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)

Katie Jinks and friends are investigating mysterious gleams in the water near where they are camping, and find traces of frogmen’s footprints; but as they try to investigate further they are stymied and come to believe that it is all down to Katie’s  foolishness. Katie knows she is right, and follows the frogmen down into the depths – only to get trapped, with her air running out!

The Harvey children need to stick together, when their widowed mother fails to come home from work one day. Eldest child Jill – only 15 or so – tries to hold it all together, even in the wake of a body being found in the river. Her younger brother Johnny understands the situation at least somewhat, but Beth, the baby of the family, heartbreakingly doesn’t really understand what’s happening and says that Jill can pretend to be mummy until her real mummy comes back… In the meantime, they have to find somewhere to live, meaning that they return back to their old digs despite the fact that the houses are ready to be pulled down.

“Gwen’s Stolen Glory” comes to an end, dramatically: by climbing down the cliff in front of Judith, Gwen has triggered Judith’s memory. The shock of its return makes Judith fall down the cliff though, so it is not an identical repeat of the first time – in fact it repeats itself the other way round, as Gwen helps Judith to climb back up the cliff, to safety. The astounding fact of having managed to be brave for once leads Gwen to be able to confess – first to her parents, and then to the whole school. Everything is forgiven and forgotten.

In “Make-Believe Mandy”, she is told by the mysterious Miss Madden that she passed her second test despite disobeying instructions – by proving that her compassion is greater than her self-interest. But Mandy is also downcast to hear that her sister Dinah is also to be tested alongside her. Will she now take Mandy’s one chance of happiness from her?

Merry is trying to cheer up her pals at Misery House by using scraps of material to put on a variety concert – but bully Adolfa is about to put the twist on shrinking girl Lily. Will she give the game away? Find out next week…

It’s the last episode of “Gail’s Indian Necklace”, too. She’s in a tight spot, literally, but the Indian god helps her to get to the point of putting the necklace back where it belongs, even to the extent of working on the security guards’ minds so that they open the special glass case that the god-statue is kept behind… and even helps her escape in the end too. To prove that the god isn’t all bad, she even gets a new bicycle as a reward – the very thing that kicked off the whole story in the first place. Not sure that it’s enough of a reward for all that she has been through, but hey!

“Wild Horse Summer” starts this week, drawn by the same artist as has just finished “Gwen”. Daphne has been in a tragic car accident in which her parents were killed, and she has lost her voice and is in an orphanage as a result. The ‘wild’ in the title refers to her, really; because she can’t speak and is frankly still traumatised, she resorts to violence when threatened. Not that her carers are really all that caring; they put her in a coach to go on a trip despite her still being badly affected mentally by the car crash she was in. At the end of the episode, she has arrived in the countryside; the only thing the orphanage kids are warned of is a horse on the moor that they need to leave alone – because it too is wild. Chances of Daphne leaving alone? Not very high…

Jinty 27 July 1974

Cover 19740727

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Always Together… (writer Alison Christie, artist Phil Townsend) first episode
  • Gwen’s Stolen Glory
  • Make-Believe Mandy (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Merry at Misery House (writer Terence Magee)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)
  • The Snobs and the Scruffs
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Gail’s Indian Necklace (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Bird-Girl Brenda (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • A Dream for Yvonne (artist Miguel Quesada) last episode
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)

Katie Jinks starts a new story this week, with pratfalls and slapstick, but that is combined with an exciting story whereby there are mysterious ‘hostile eyes watching’. The sunken village near to where the girls are camping has a tale for them!

This is the first episode of “Always Together…”, which is the first time that Phil Townsend’s lovely artwork has graced the pages of Jinty. It is also the first story by Alison Christie that appears in Jinty. The combination is always an excellent one; tear-jerking stories are not my main reading preference but the two creators together do us proud on this one, and on the later “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. There is quite a lot of thematic overlap between the two but a number of years separate their publication. Here are the pages of the first episode, to whet your appetite for a future story post sometime.

Always Together pg 1

click thru
click thru
click thru
click thru

Gwen is coming to the end of her story: this is the penultimate episode, and she has to struggle with her strong desire for the new life that seems very much in her grasp – which she feels more and more could be costing her soul. Her only answer seems to be a climb down the very cliff that caused the situation in the first place…

In “Make-Believe Mandy”, evil sister Dinah is plotting with her father to take away the possible future that lies ahead of Mandy. Meanwhile, Mandy is still working on Miss Madden’s tests – has she passed or failed the most recent one?

Merry is trying to keep chirpy and the Warden continues to try to divide the girls from each other. At the end of this episode it seems as if the powers that be might have won, by making Merry sign a guarantee of good conduct.

Gail is also very near the end of her story – she makes it to the museum to return the idol’s necklace, but it’s not as easy as just getting in! Hopefully the idol’s powers will help her, when she trips one of the electronic alarms and brings the security guards running… The next episode is promised to be the final one.

Yvonne has reached the end of her story in this issue; she is vindicated in her struggle agains her ballet school rival, who is proved to be a liar and a schemer. Having also regained her memory and made up with her family, all that remains to do now is to indulge her love of and talent for dancing! This is the only story in Jinty with Miguel Quesada’s artwork, though he drew various stories and cover images for Tammy in particular.

Jinty 20 July 1974

Cover 20 July 1974

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • The Haunting of Form 2B (artist Rodrigo Comos) last episode
  • Gwen’s Stolen Glory
  • Make-Believe Mandy (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Merry at Misery House (writer Terence Magee)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Gail’s Indian Necklace (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Bird-Girl Brenda (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • A Dream for Yvonne (artist Miguel Quesada)
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)

Katie Jinks is kicked out of her new job, for having inadvertently set off the fire alarm, scared all the customers out of the shop, and soaked her boss in the bargain! The reason she took that job in the first place was to be able to buy herself a swish new swimming costume, which she now can’t afford – but at least she can buy some patches in the store – “It’ll be a little bit of profit for them, to make up for all the trouble I caused!” Of course with Katie it’s never that easy – she is the 100,000th customer to the store and gets a prize as a result – reluctant though the manager is to grant it! This turns out to have been a really good, solid two-parter, with plenty of gags and plot twists. There’s even one at the end – the costume she’s been after is a sunsuit, which shouldn’t be used to swim in – so she has to give it to her mother and resort to patches after all!

The Haunting of Form 2B” comes to an end in this issue. The girls are indeed in big trouble in a small boat, and nearly drown – but it is not Judy Mayhew’s intervention that saves them. The ghost teacher warned a lock-keeper who helped to rescue them just in time. Just as well, as in trying to save them (as she thought) it was actually Judy who was acting massively recklessly and would have got them all drowned. Very much like the curse in Macbeth! But because Miss Thistlewick was able to save the girls in the end, her spirit is now at rest and she can leave them in peace to enjoy their modern lives.

Everything is working out beautifully for Gwen and her Stolen Glory. The grateful parents of the girl that everyone thinks she rescues are buying a house for her and her family to live in, and Gwen’s talent has won her a place at drama school now that she has been given some attention (and now that injured Judith is out of the way). The only risk to Gwen is if Judith ever regains her memory – and Gwen is far-gone enough now to be happy to prevent that from happening.

Make-Believe Mandy has to pass more tests set by Miss Madden. What has complicated things is that Mandy’s cruel family have twigged that there is something going on, and have tried to horn in on what might be coming to her.

We find out in this week’s episode that Merry’s friend Carla is still alive, but being kept hidden so that Merry is psychologically tormented along with being ostracised by her friends. But Merry finds out too, soon enough, and risks quite a lot to get Carla out of where she has been hidden. Miss Ball is even more of an enemy of Merry’s, after that…

Gail finds out something important about her necklace, and now knows what she needs to do to appease the vengeful spirit Anak-Har-Li that lives in it. Of course getting nearer to her goal isn’t easy, as the spirit seems quite happy to hurt people that stand in its way – and possibly Gail’s Aunt Marjorie might soon count!

“A Dream for Yvonne” develops further on its miserable course – she is picked up by a children’s welfare officer who is sceptical about her claim to have lost her memory, so he takes her to a reformatory, which she will be hard-pressed to escape from. Writing this, I am reminded of the fact that Miguel Quesada also drew Tammy‘s “Little Miss Nothing” – a similar Cinderella story.

Jinty 13 July 1974

Jinty cover 13 July 1974

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi – and Mike White?)
  • The Haunting of Form 2B (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Gwen’s Stolen Glory
  • Make-Believe Mandy (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Merry at Misery House (writer Terence Magee)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)
  • What’s Cooking? Myedovyi Muss (honey mousse), Kovrizhka Myedovaya (honey cake) (recipes)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Gail’s Indian Necklace (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • The Snobs and the Scruffs
  • A Dream for Yvonne (artist Miguel Quesada)
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)
  • Jinty made it herself… so can you! (craft: cat towel)

Katie Jinks is knocked off the front page by a competition! Lawks. Things work out for her on the inside though: she applies for a Saturday job at the local department store so as to earn enough for a replacement swimming costume, and jinxes her way into it – and almost certainly out of it, too! The episode ends with her having set off the fire alarm by mistake, and two senior members of staff breaking down the stock room door to get her out before she is burned to death! They won’t be pleased when they realise it’s all a false alarm…

There is a letters page now in Jinty as the publication schedule has caught up with the earliest mail sent in by readers.  This page also includes a filled-in form of the sort you are supposed to send in with your letters: Deborah Halifax (age 10 1/2) voted for her top three favourite stories as being “Bird Girl Brenda”, “Always Together”, and “Make-Believe Mandy”. Two out of those three stories hadn’t actually started yet, so clearly Deborah must have gone back to an old issue to cut out the form, and then changed her mind for some reason.

Judy is still being haunted in Form 2B. She has failed to stop her friends from being taken off by Miss Thistlewick, but a vision brought about by an object from the old school room gives her enough information to get to the lake, hopefully in time to stop everyone from drowning. Or maybe she has brought them to the very place where they are all doomed?! We are promised a resolution in the following week’s episode.

Gwen is being cheered and feted by her schoolmates who only recently mocked her. One holdout still stands against her – Julie Waring – and Julie is almost being bullied in her turn, although everything that she is saying is in fact the truth. Gwen is buying into her own turnaround in fortune far too much, including joining the taunting of Julie – for her own protection, of course…

In “Make-Believe Mandy”, Mandy has further tests of loyalty to Miss Madden to pass after the initial one. Now that her wicked step-family have seen Madden in her big car being so friendly to Mandy, they are intent on buttering her up in case there is something good in it for them.

A nasty accident in “Merry at Misery House” sees her friend being stretchered off. Merry is hopeful that Carla will see a doctor straight away but the officers don’t sound like they’re having any of it. The Warden does get a doctor in but at the price of shutting everyone away so that no-one can pass a message to him – and then soon enough an announcement is made that Carla is dead! Because the accident was due to Merry fooling around, everyone starts blaming her – including herself – until she spots someone who looks like Carla, at the window of a tower…

Gail is still struggling with trying to get rid of the Indian necklace, without success. She has buried it and tried to leave it in the local church. At the end of the episode it hovers over her in her mind, haunting her – it looks quite a lot like the carved mask in “Golden Dolly, Death Dust!”.

Yvonne is still amnesiac in her story, but her circus skills don’t desert her as she climbs out of a window to escape from a fire, despite being locked into her room. She nearly makes it to a more general safety in the form of the theatre and her ballet colleagues, but nasty rival Lisa prevents that too, by bribing the theatre doorman. What a horrid piece of work! No wonder that at the end of the episode, Yvonne feels that everyone’s hand is against her.

The last story in this very full week’s comic is “Angela’s Angels” – the cat is out of the bag that Lesley’s father is a millionaire, not a prisoner held at Her Majesty’s convenience. Time for a different bit of soap opera to kick in…

Jinty 6 July 1974

Jinty cover 6 July 1974

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • The Haunting of Form 2B (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Gwen’s Stolen Glory
  • Make-Believe Mandy (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Merry at Misery House (writer Terence Magee)
  • What’s Cooking? Muesli, Creme aus Rohen Apfeln (recipes)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • Gail’s Indian Necklace (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • A Dream for Yvonne (artist Miguel Quesada)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)
  • Desert Island Daisy (artist Robert MacGillivray) last episode
  • Jinty made it herself… so can you! (craft: papier-mâché elephant)
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)

Back to the early issues of Jinty, when the Katie Jinks stories had a serious undertone as well as lots of slapstick. The story arc that had champion swimmer Karen refusing to swim, in best tear-jerking style, ends happily as she rescues a drowning Katie and snaps out of the depression she’s been in since her best friend drowned. Unlike earlier episodes, the art all looks like pure Capaldi to me, rather than being finished off by a stand-in artist.

There is no “Pony Parade” this week and it’s also the last episode of “Desert Island Daisy”, signalling a change in the make-up of the title to focus primarily on the more serious stories. In “The Haunting of Form 2B”, matters are clearly moving to a climax, and protagonist Judy is not sure if she’s failed totally with no way of stopping the tragedy! There are still a couple of episodes left before the final denouement, though.

In “A Dream for Yvonne”, circus girl Yvonne has lost her memory and is being made to skivvy for an unscrupulous exploiter, Ma Crompton. By day she has to cook, clean, and tidy up, and by night she has to dance in a skeevy nightclub in skimpy clothes. Cor blimey! Things are about to get worse though as Ma locks her inside while going shopping, only for a fire to break out in the badly-maintained hovel… if it’s not one thing it’s another, eh.