Tag Archives: Holly and the Ivy

Story length through Jinty’s life

I have created a new page listing the stories in Jinty by publication date. This seemed like an interesting and useful addition to the list of stories in alphabetical order that has been in place on the blog since we started. As part of the information on that new page it seemed sensible to count the number of episodes for each story, too (where possible) – luckily for me, the Catawiki data that I was using to compile this information gave me the ability to include that for almost all stories. As I put together the list, I got the impression that in the last year of Jinty‘s publication, the story length was getting shorter and shorter: so I pulled together some stats on it.

For each year below, there are some stories I excluded from the statistics, either because I didn’t have a complete count of all the episodes (for instance where a story had started in Lindy or Penny before their merger with Jinty), or because they were by their nature long-running humour strips with no specific start or end point. I’ll give a list of the excluded stories and their running lengths further down this post.

  • For 1974, the mean story length is just under 16 episodes and the mode (most usual) story length is 13 episodes
  • For 1975, the mean is just under 18 episodes and the mode is 16 episodes
  • For 1976, the mean is just under 15 episodes and the mode is 19 episodes
  • For 1977, the mean is just over 14 episodes and the mode is 11
  • For 1978, the mean is just over 16 episodes and the mode is 18
  • For 1979, the mean is just over 14 episodes and the mode is 12
  • For 1980, the mean is 11.5 episodes and the mode is 12
  • For 1981, the mean is 11 episodes and the mode is 10

We can see that the two averages do go up and down over the run of Jinty. Having said that, the drop-off in episode length in 1980 and 1981 does look like a real change, despite that context of background variation. (I’m not going to do any full-on statistical analysis with standard deviations and so on though!) Both average figures are down in those two years, because there are fewer long stories pushing up the mean as well as a general trend to the slightly shorter length of 10 – 12 episodes.

Which stories did I exclude from the analytics, and why?

  • The humour strips with no specific story arc: “Dora Dogsbody” (94 episodes), “Do-it-Yourself Dot” (62 episodes), “The Jinx From St Jonah’s” (112 episodes), “The Snobs and the Scruffs” (12 episodes), “Desert Island Daisy” (9 episodes), “Bird-Girl Brenda” (27 episodes), “The Hostess with the Mostess” (19 episodes), “Bet Gets The Bird!” (11 episodes), “Alley Cat” (163 episodes), “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” (111 episodes), “Bizzie Bet and the Easies” (27 episodes), “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost” (96 episodes).
  • “Merry at Misery House” (66 episodes) is not a humour strip but like those above, it has no specific overall story arc, no obvious beginning or end that is worked towards throughout its run. I have therefore excluded that too. The same goes for “Pam of Pond Hill” which ran to a mighty 126 episodes in Jinty and then on into Tammy of course.
  • The stories that I have incomplete episode information about: “Finleg the Fox”, “Penny Crayon”, “Hettie High-and-Mighty”, “Gypsy Rose” (these stories are not catalogued on Catawiki as a group), “Rinty n Jinty”, “Seulah the Seal”, “Tansy of Jubilee Street”, and “Snoopa”. Various of those would be excluded even if I had complete episode numbers, of course.
    • Edited to add: further information has been given in the comments below. “Finleg” and “Hettie” ran for 7 episodes in Lindy, and “Tansy” ran for 45 episodes in Penny. “Seulah” ran for 11 episodes in Penny, and then started a new story in Jinty & Penny, which I hadn’t really realised. The two Seulah stories were more like separate arcs in a bigger story than self-contained stories in themselves. Many thanks to Marc for this information! I will add them into the spreadsheet and see if it makes any difference to the years in question.
    • “Snoopa” ran for 45 episodes in Penny, which Mistyfan confirms below (many thanks). As a gag strip, this would not be included in the year-on-year statistics in any case.

Longest run of an individual story? “Alley Cat” has all the others beat, at 163 episodes; runners-up are “Pam of Pond Hill” at 126 episodes, and then “The Jinx From St Jonah’s” and “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” neck and neck at 112 and 111 episodes respectively. However, if you exclude these and look at the length of the ‘normal’ stories, then the top three are “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (36 episodes), “Fran of the Floods” (35 episodes), and “Always Together…” (29 episodes). (Phil Townsend does particularly well for long-running stories, as “Daddy’s Darling” clocks in at 24 episodes and “Song of the Fir Tree” at 22 episodes.)

At the other end of things are some short stories. There are only two single-episode stories: “Holly and the Ivy” and “Mimi Seeks a Mistress”. “Freda’s Fortune” is the only two episode story. “Mimi” was a reprinted story, printed towards the end of 1980; possibly “Holly” and “Freda” were intended for publication in annuals or summer specials and then used as filler.

There are a few 3 or 4 episode stories: “The Birds”, “The Changeling”, “Casey, Come Back!”, and “The Tale of the Panto Cat”. This is also an odd length for a story – long enough to allow for a bit of development, but short enough to feel a bit abruptly cut off when you get to the end. Of these four, I’d say that “The Birds” is the one I find uses its length most successfully, though “Panto” works pretty well as a seasonal short. The slightly-longer “Her Guardian Angel” (5 episodes) likewise uses its length reasonably well to give us a seasonal amusement.  Some other shorter stories, such as “Badgered Belinda” (7 episodes), do read like they have probably been cut down from an originally-intended standard length of 10 – 12 episodes.

The spreadsheet with this information is available on request – please comment and I will be happy to email it to you if you want.

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One-offs, series, returning characters, regulars

The Goods News for All Readers blog has recently done a Halloween post about Misty; in the comments on that post, and on a related post on the Comics UK forum, a few of us have had a brief discussion about one-off stories, series, and regular characters. Different titles create different balances between the various kinds of comics: Misty has always struck me as having a strong focus on one-off (complete) stories in a way that Jinty didn’t, so that is an obvious comparison between the two, but there are other groupings that could be usefully looked at too.

One-off stories / complete stories haven’t ever been a big focus in the pages of Jinty, except for in annuals or summer specials which are by their nature reliant on complete reads. Indeed, I wonder whether the two examples that come readily to mind – “Mimi Seeks A Mistress” and “Holly and the Ivy” – might have been originally written for publication in an annual and for whatever reason then been included in the weekly comic instead?

If you ask someone who was a reader of Misty at the time for specific stories they remember from the comic, they may well mention some key serials but they are perhaps even more likely to remember the spine-chilling stories. Clearly, one-off or complete stories have important strengths: this format allowed Misty to be tougher on the protagonists than an ongoing story would typically be. Indeed, many of the Misty stories featured character death – or even a worse fate! You can also have a huge amount of variety with complete stories, with the rapid turnover allowing creators potentially to experiment with a lot of different themes or plots. On the down side, they don’t allow enough narrative time for much character development, and I suspect that can lead to a focus on clever ‘twist in the tale’ story structures. (I personally felt like Misty placed too much reliance on this at certain points in its life.)

‘Storyteller’ / framed stories are stand-alone stories that still fit into some sort of structure or framing sequence. Gypsy Rose is Jinty‘s most obvious example, but I would also classify “Is This Your Story?” and “Thursday’s Child” within this as being complete stories that may not have a narrator but do have a constraining element to them that means you have a certain sense of knowing ‘what you’re getting’. In a Gypsy Rose story you know you’ll have a spooky element, but also a sense of safety; the protagonist won’t herself suffer an awful fate. In 2000AD‘s “Future Shocks” there was no such guarantee, but you did know it would generally be an SF story rather than a horror story or a morality tale (as “Is This Your Story?” was).

Both the entirely stand-alone and the framed stories have the advantage editorially of great flexibility – they can be run in any order so it doesn’t matter if one story is not ready for printing that week, you can try out new artists and writers, you can try out new directions and ideas. This flexibility can also lead to problems – the results can be uneven in quality or interest level, or overly repetitive. I would also say that to my mind they’re a bit too easy to put down and not feel that motivated to pick up again – even if you know that Gypsy Rose or Future Shock stories are generally really good, to me they don’t have the “must read” factor that a cliff-hanger ending to an earlier episode gives.

Serial stories are Jinty‘s bread-and-butter, but if you count up the number of series in a given issue it is not given over totally to them: 23 February 1980, for instance, has 5 serials out of 8 stories in comics format. I am here using the phrase ‘serial stories’ meaning stories that run over more than one week with a beginning/middle/end narrative structure. The way the ‘end’ element works is important because Katie Jinx or the Four Marys also have stories with endings, but they aren’t final – we know that next week they’ll be back with more, which is what makes them ‘regulars’.

A serial story has a lot of degrees of freedom: it can be a story about a ghost or a horse or a superheroine (or maybe a ghost horse or a horse superheroine). What it can’t easily do is change tack dramatically once the story starts; the start of the story sets it into certain tracks and certain expectations. The strength of the serial is the length of time that it has to develop a story and to really hammer it home, or to twist and turn surprisingly. It also has the freedom to change the situation of the characters in the story: it can end with them healed, or vindicated, or with the protagonist growing as a person. A complete one-off story doesn’t have enough length to develop that sense of change, and we often don’t know enough about the character to even care that much if they grow into a better person. A story with a regular character, contrariwise, has to ‘reset’ at the end of each episode or each multi-episode story, so that as the next story starts it can pick up more or less from the beginning again.

There are still weaknesses in the serial story format, of course. It can get too long and lose its way; it can be too short to let itself develop properly while not benefiting from the punchiness of the self-contained story.

Jinty also has a couple of cases of returning characters, where the original series gets a second, follow-up story. There aren’t many of these – “Fran’ll Fix It!” gets a second run, and so does “Daughter of Dreams”. Each story is a complete serial in itself, but because the character or the story was popular, they returned for another go. One option would be to reprint the original story, which Jinty did a few times; but if the story structure allowed it then a whole new follow-up story might also a possibility. Some stories would be better suited to this than others – a sequel to “Land of No Tears” wouldn’t be impossible to imagine but would require quite a lot of changes (someone from the dystopian future travelling back to the past, perhaps?), while a sequel to “The Robot Who Cried” wouldn’t be that hard at all to do (her adventures at school as an acknowledged robot, and how other people reacted once she had no secrets left to hide?).

A regular character may have short complete stories like “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag” or individual longer story runs as in “No Tears for Molly“. Either way there is no real change in or development of the character over the time her story runs. “Merry at Misery House” was also basically a regular, with story arcs; you don’t really get a sense of a planned resolution that Merry was struggling to reach from the start of her story, it’s just… time to wrap up the story so her mum and dad announce that her name has been cleared, bang.

They can be great fun reads, with a real comfort factor – we can get to know the characters well, and look forward to seeing them again, like old friends. That is really the draw of regulars; like reading a beloved Chalet School book, we know what we are getting and that we will enjoy it. The characters can develop some strong external recognition, too – the interviewees in Mel Gibson’s “Remembered Reading” consistently mentioned long-running regulars “The Four Marys”, and “Bella” from Tammy.

On the down side? If the reader just isn’t that interested in the character in the first place, or doesn’t find their antics funny, it ain’t likely to change for the better… The main counter-example I can think of in this area is 2000AD and Judge Dredd in particular: he is a regular who has turned into a proper, fleshed-out character with a backstory, a life, and unpredictability. Through him now, all sorts of stories can be told. The Four Marys changed their uniforms and were updated to become more modern on the surface, but never changed their fundamental natures – and that is much more the usual case with regulars.

At the end of the day, a weekly publication needs a balance of different types of story, not just thematically, but also structurally. There are other types of story structure that I don’t know of within girls comics: is there an example anywhere of the Buffy tv story structure, where individual self-contained stories build up in an overall arc to a series finale? I’m sure there are other kinds of structure in girls’ comics and elsewhere: what can others think of?

Edited to add: I have thought of another kind of story structure – Worldbuilding, or Shared worlds. This is where the reader is shown an imagined world that is developed in story after story. Perhaps one set of creators are mostly responsible for writing and drawing that world, or maybe a number of different creators add their own influences to the world. In traditional British comics, I guess that Dan Dare inhabits this sort of built world, though I’m not that sure as to how much of the world we see outside of stories focused on Dare himself; it is at least a strong enough world in itself for Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes to develop their own take on it in Revolver’s “Dare“. 2000AD does a lot of this worldbuilding: what else is Judge Dredd’s universe of Megacities, isocubes, and the Cursed Earth? But in traditional girls’ comics I’m not sure I can think of any examples. This is a big shame I think as this would provide not only very fertile ground for telling stories but also a lot of ongoing reader loyalty in the way that 2000AD has seen over the years – eventually even moving into mainstream acceptance.

Edited further: Lorrbot points out in the comments that there are also examples of Spin offs, where the characters in the original story generate stories with further characters from that setup. It may not be the same case as Worldbuilding, if there is no very obvious effort to invent a whole new world different from ours, but it shares some characteristics with this.

Jinty and Lindy 25 December 1976

Jinty and Lindy 25 December 1976

Short or even complete stories did feature in Jinty every so often: Mistyfan has noted previously that this tended to happen around Christmas and New Year, presumably to fill in gaps and give a seasonal feel. The first story in this issue is a creepy one but, unusually, is not associated with a spooky story-teller: in “Holly anad the Ivy”, prickly protagonist Holly moves into an ivy-covered cottage and finds that the plant has a will of its own.

I am a bit puzzled about the artist on “Sceptre of the Toltecs”. The attribution that I have received on this story is that the artist is the Spaniard Cándido Ruiz Pueyo, and indeed looking at his entry on the Lambiek Comiclopedia this seems very plausible.

(click thru)
(click thru)

Sceptre of the Toltecs pg 1 signature

The signature on the strip itself, though, clearly says ‘Prieto’, which is a reasonably common surname in Spanish (though on a quick google seems more associated with Mexico than with Spain itself). The handwriting on the signature closely matches Pueyo’s signature, as does small details like the way the shoes are drawn, so I am satisfied this is almost certainly the same person using a pseudonym. But why? (Or of course, why not?)

Update: David Roach has confirmed that this artist is Emilia Prieto – substantiated by a portfolio sample from the time.

It must be said there are greater questions about “Sceptre of the Toltecs” than the attribution of the artist. This is another case where the research underlying this story are what you might call minimal! The mysterious girl from Mexico is called ‘Malincha’ which she claims is a common name ‘where she comes from’ – but in fact any reader who has a connection to Mexico will think of ‘La Malinche‘, which will give more of the impression of treachery and colonialism than anything else.

Stories in this issue:

  • Holly and the Ivy (complete story: artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Gertie Grit, the Hateful Brit! (artist Paul White)
  • Sceptre of the Toltecs (artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo Emilia Prieto)
  • Made-Up Mandy (artist Audrey Fawley)
  • The Big Cat (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Alley Cat
  • The Mystery of Martine (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Go On, Hate Me! (artist Keith Robson)
  • Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (artist Ken Houghton)