Tag Archives: Humour

Wee Sue (1972-1982)

Published: Sandie 12 February 1972 to 20 May 1972

Tammy 27 October 1973 to 21 November 1981

Tammy & Jinty merger in “Old Friends”, 26 December 1981 to 10 July 1982

Artists: (Sandie) Vicente Torregrosa Manrique. (Tammy) Mario Capaldi, John Richardson, Robert MacGillivray, Richard Neillands, Mike White, Hugh Thornton-Jones, John Johnston, Jim Eldridge

Writers (known): Terry Magee, Maureen Spurgeon, Iain MacDonald; Gerry Finley-Day also involved

We are now going to take a look at Sue Strong, better known as Wee Sue, and her development from her debut in Sandie to her final years in Tammy.

Wee Sue was one of the first stories to appear in Sandie. Sandie was launched on 12 February 1972 and ran until 20 May 1972, and was drawn by Vicente Torregrosa Manrique. Tammy readers would have been surprised to see how Wee Sue looked back then, as it was radically different to the Tammy version. It was a serial, not a regular weekly feature, and it was played for drama, not light relief. There was no “story of the week” format where Sue’s famous big brains would come up with ways to get out of various scrapes, being the bane of the bullying Miss Bigger, or sorting out someone’s problem. In fact, there is no Milltown, no Milltown Comprehensive, and no Miss Bigger. The logo was different too.

Wee Sue as she appeared in Sandie
Wee Sue as she appeared in Sandie
Wee Sue as she appeared in Sandie

Instead, Sue is a scholarship girl at exclusive Backhurst Academy, which has emphasis on sport. But it is facing closure, so Sue is trying to come up with a way to save it. Sue has other problems too, such as facing prejudice because she is a scholarship girl. Sue’s appearance is also different from the one Tammy readers are more familiar with. She is still a midget, but she has freckles and a more rigid bob style than the tousled one she would acquire in her later stories.

Still, the elements Sue became known for in Tammy were there from the beginning. She is always proving you should not estimate her because she is small. Indeed, her size often comes in handy. She has that reputation for brilliant ideas, particularly when she had to pull something out of her hat to save the day. Sometimes she moves in mysterious ways to do so, but she always knows what she is doing. She is always willing to help others, even more unsavoury types. She even sacrifices herself for them, often at the price of taking a dent in her popularity. She is not afraid to stand up to bullies and sort out nasty types. She is always kind, brave, thoughtful and generous.

The first Wee Sue story ended in Sandie on 20 May 1972. More than a year later Sandie merged with Tammy on 27 October 1973. Wee Sue and “Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie” were the only Sandie stories to cross over into the merger. Considering that the first Wee Sue story had ended in Sandie over a year before with no known sequels, the choice of reviving her for the merger is a surprising one. Were there plans for a Wee Sue sequel in Sandie that didn’t get off the ground but made their way into the merger? Or did the editor trawl through the issues of Sandie until he found something he thought had potential for the merger besides Uncle Meanie?

On the Jinty site Iain MacDonald has commented “…The other character I wrote and helped create was Wee Sue. Gerry Finlay Day suggested the character. I wrote most of the early ones.” It is not clear if MacDonald is referring to the original Sue from Sandie or the reboot in Tammy, but the reference to Finley-Day does suggest the latter.

Whatever was behind bringing Sue into the merger, it was an inspired choice. Sue became one of the most popular and enduring characters in Tammy. But for this, a sweeping overhaul of Wee Sue was undertaken. Former Sandie readers must have been taken aback to see it. 

In her debut episode in Tammy (below), Sue began to take on the form familiar to Tammy readers. She is now a regular strip with self-contained episodes (in later years she occasionally had two-parters and even mini-story arcs). She now has the logo familiar to Tammy readers, and she would retain it for the rest of her run. She has moved to Milltown, a poor industrial town. Instead of the posh academy she attends Milltown Comprehensive. There is more emphasis on her living in poverty, such as her patched uniform. The poverty angle disappears later in the strip, though her parents clearly remain working-class people. Sue still has her freckles from her original story, but her bob has a spiky look. The bob would later take on a softer style and the freckles disappeared. 

First Wee Sue episode in Tammy, 27 October 1973
First appearance of Wee Sue in Tammy, 27 October 1973
First episode of Wee Sue in Tammy, 27 October 1973

It is also the episode where Miss Bigger makes her first appearance. She, along with Miss Tuft the games mistress, are new to the comprehensive, and they make it clear they are both bully teachers. This is definitely the Tammy influence (dark stories laden with misery and cruelty) on Sue. Both of these teachers hate Sue from the moment they meet her. In the first episodes there is a harder edge to their nastiness. For example, in one episode Miss Tuft is determined to get Sue into trouble for theft although she knows Sue is innocent. The teachers also bully an autistic girl, who gets diagnosed thanks to Sue (very advanced for 1973!). Miss Tuft soon disappeared, leaving Miss Bigger to carry on as the arch-nemesis of Wee Sue. Well, there is room for only one arch-nemesis in a regular strip after all. 

Despite the harder edge, there are elements of humour. For example, in Sue’s first Tammy episode, she gets the better of Miss Bigger with the help of an onion johnny. As time passed, the cruelty, though still present in the form of Miss Bigger, would be reduced as the comedy took more of a front seat. Wee Sue evolved into a lightweight strip as she became more cheeky, wise-cracking, even mischievous, and often getting into slapstick scrapes. 

Miss Bigger remained as mean and pompous as she had been in her first episode, but she soon took on a more comic presence as well. As she did so, her features evolved from the rather flat, slim look in her first episode to becoming more wryly grotesque and tartar-looking. Mario Capaldi, Miss Bigger’s first artist, eventually gave her the distinctive jagged choppers that would gnash furiously whenever she shouted – which was often. Her nose changed too, becoming more distinctive, in a comical way. Under Robert MacGillivray it became an overgrown bulbous nose, similar to the one he eventually gave Uncle Meanie when he came over to Tammy. 

One reason why Miss Bigger’s appearance became more caricaturised was that Wee Sue passed into the hands of several artists who were strong on slapstick, caricature and humour. John Richardson, who took over from Mario Capaldi, was the first to take Wee Sue into this area, and his run on Sue was a long one. In fact, he took over in the same episode of Sue as Capaldi, on 14 September 1974, giving the readers the best of both worlds (or a lot of confusion, with the same episode switching from one artist to another). When Richardson took over, Sue took on a sharper, more clever look.

Deep dark secrets from Miss Bigger’s schooldays. Tammy 12 June 1976, art John Richardson.
Deep dark secrets from Miss Bigger’s schooldays. Tammy 12 June 1976, art John Richardson.
Deep dark secrets from Miss Bigger’s schooldays. Tammy 12 June 1976, art John Richardson.

Over time other artists continued the humour, though some brought it off better than others. Other artists to draw Wee Sue were John Johnston, Hugh Thornton-Jones, Richard Neillands, Jim Eldridge, Mike White and Robert MacGillivray.

Despite the grotesque comic looks she acquires, Miss Bigger is so vain beyond imagining that she actually believes she is beautiful. Her vanity extends to her abilities as well; she believes she is capable of any feat that borders on superhuman, including being a better ballerina than Margot Fonteyn or winning World War II single-handed. In one episode we see this vanity runs in the Bigger family: Miss Bigger shows Sue her illustrious family album of Bigger women, who all look like her and come up with grand schemes that make no sense and don’t look at all successful (below). We frequently see Sue take advantage of Miss Bigger’s vanity, either to get what she wants out of her or to fix Miss Bigger’s sneaky schemes or mountains of homework. 

The history of the Bigger family

There is also confusion about Miss Bigger’s first name. It was first established as Lillian, but later in the run it was Amelia.

From the first episode Miss Bigger gives the impression she is not a very good teacher; the onion johnny, for example, makes it clear that Sue’s French is better than hers. In another episode, Miss Bigger gives a German lesson, but her accent is terrible. Some episodes on Miss Bigger’s own days at school imply she has a dark past there: bullying and lousy school reports. 

Unfortunately Miss Bigger is also notorious for giving out such great big piles of homework that we suspect she does it to deliberately torture her class. She is also known for making the girls’ lives a misery if she’s in a filthy mood. For example, in a Valentine-themed episode she lumbers the girls with extra homework when they’re set to go to a Valentines Day party because she’s upset she didn’t get a Valentine. Frequently Sue has to come up with schemes to keep Miss Bigger in a good mood or placate her when she’s in a bad one, or the class suffers.

How the Allies won WW2 according to Miss Bigger

In the earliest episodes Miss Bigger wore a formal outfit. But later in the Capaldi run she acquired the more casual outfit that would stay with her for the rest of the strip: skirt and sweater (later a cardigan or jacket) and black blouse. This outfit became her trademark. In fact, in one episode Miss Bigger’s trademark outfit inadvertently starts a new fashion in Milltown called “the old frump look” after a rack full of her outfits (all the same outfit!) gets mixed up with a clothes rack bound for a fashion show.

Because Sue was the bane of Miss Bigger she was sometimes branded a troublemaker by school authorities. But what Sue was really known for was her big ideas to save the day. She could always be counted on to come up with a brainwave to fix any situation, such as helping her classmates and parents, coming to the rescue of people in trouble, foiling tricksters, bullies, criminals, and Miss Bigger’s mean schemes, raising school funds, and sometimes helping Miss Bigger. 

However, sometimes Sue really was naughty. In one episode, she takes a satchel to school that is so full of sweets it’s a wonder she doesn’t give herself diabetes, and she eats them in class. The sweets land her in so many sticky situations (including her toffee bar ripping Miss Bigger’s skirt and exposing her undies!) that she is right off sugar by the end of the day. It was in episodes like these that Miss Bigger was allowed to triumph against Wee Sue, so the bully teacher did win on occasion. But for the most part, Sue is a nice girl.

Miss Bigger frequently steals the credit for Sue’s big ideas whenever she sees the way to take advantage of it. This is something she gets away with a lot, but at least there is always a consolation for Sue, such as money, and in one instance, a trip to Spain.

Wee Sue remained a popular regular in Tammy, even having a special story to commemorate Tammy’s 10th birthday (below). Miss Bigger, for once having an inspired idea, takes the class on a tour at King’s Reach Tower for a behind-the-scenes look at Tammy. Sue falls asleep over the Tammys in the copy room, where she dreams of past and present Tammy characters. They all come together for a big birthday party, including Miss Bigger.

Wee Sue celebrates Tammy’s 10th birthday 7 February 1981
Wee Sue celebrates Tammy’s 10th birthday 7 February 1981
Wee Sue celebrates Tammy’s 10th birthday 7 February 1981
Wee Sue celebrates Tammy’s 10th birthday 7 February 1981

Then Jinty merged with Tammy on 28 November 1981. This was the beginning of the end for Sue. After a few weeks of not appearing in the merger, she reappeared as part of an “Old Friends” feature, which she shared in rotation with Bessie Bunter, Molly Mills and Tansy of Jubilee Street (the last of which being a surprise revival, having officially ended in the last issue of Jinty). In fact, Sue was the old friend to lead off the feature on 26 December 1981. Except for her first Old Friends episode, the Wee Sue appearances were entirely new material, as were the appearances of Tansy and Molly. This made them more refreshing to see. Only Bessie was on repeats. But it was clear that all four were on their very last legs. Sure enough, Old Friends disappeared with a revamped Tammy launched 17 July 1982, so Wee Sue was buried in the same grave as Tansy, Bessie and Molly. However, Sue continued to make appearances in the Tammy annual to the very end, though it was with repeats. 

Sue lasted in Tammy for a proud nine years, including her Old Friends appearances. But if you include the Sandie year, Sue ran for 10 years, which means she holds a joint record with Bella for longevity and one year behind Molly at 11 years.

All Eyes on 3e (1974–75)

Sample Images

All Eyes on 3E 1All Eyes on 3E 2All Eyes on 3E 3

Published: Tammy 14 December 1974 to 15 March 1975

Episodes: 14

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Unknown

Translations/Reprints: None known

Plot

Form 3E of Stopes School are always finding ways to get out of classwork with the screwy schemes of their ringleader Mary White, a lazy girl who only works hard at dodging schoolwork. Vicky Field, the class swot, is always annoyed at Mary for this because she wants to make the most of her education. But Mary’s and her gang are just too slick to get caught. Moreover, their teacher, Miss Times, is just not sharp enough to realise the tricks they’re pulling. For example, she does not even realise essays are being copied or the reason the break-time bell rings a bit early is because there is an alarm clock in Mary’s desk.

Muriel Monitor, a famous TV personality, wants to do a real-life series and the subject will be a classroom. Form 3E is picked for the series, but this means they will have to work with those cameras on them and their work-dodging is threatened with exposure. So in addition to dodging schoolwork, Mary constantly comes up with ways to hinder the filming. The stage is set for comedy-drama every week where the girls set to outsmart Muriel and dodge classwork. For example, they sabotage the sprinkler system to make Muriel’s filming a washout.

Vicky informs Muriel about what’s going on. Now Muriel becomes hell-bent on exposing Mary and her schemes and letting the school know what a lazy, work-dodging underachiever she is. But Mary and her gang keep thwarting that as well and prove more than a match for Muriel. Eventually they succeed in getting rid of Muriel altogether and think they can go back to happily dodging schoolwork. Vicky, who was tricked into helping with their scheme to remove Muriel, is furious.

Then, a month later, Muriel gets her revenge. She makes an educational for teachers about classroom work-dodging tactics with the data she collected on 3E and sends it to the school. When Miss Times sees it, she finally wakes up to the classwork-dodging schemes (copied essays, the alarm clock, etc) and now she’s going to keep a beady eye on them all. Party’s over for 3E and now they have to get used to doing classwork. Muriel has finally beaten Mary and gets the last laugh, and Vicky’s all smiles.

Thoughts

Protagonists who always come up with screwy schemes to dodge classwork are nothing new. Jinty took it to a more serious level in “Prisoner of the Bell”, where Granny used hypnotism to break her granddaughter’s school skiving, but things got out of hand. In the 1980s, School Fun/Buster had “Young Arfur”, a weekly funny where Arfur can always be counted on for a crafty plan to help you escape teacher’s wrath if you haven’t done your homework or forgot to revise for a test. But in this case it is done as a humour serial and a weekly battle of wills with plenty of drama to go with the comedy. There certainly is no shortage of drama because Muriel has such a strong personality and Mary a quick brain. If Mary used her brain the right way, she could be one of the best pupils in the class and have a brilliant career ahead of her.

When you think about it, the girls are foolish. Any other class would jump at the chance to be on television, but not Mary White. And just because she doesn’t want to work in class with those cameras on her. She encourages the rest of the girls (except Vicky) to get behind her on getting rid of the cameras when they could all have this wonderful television opportunity. Instead, they are throwing it all away.

You can’t really dislike Muriel though the story implies she has made her share of enemies. She has a colourful, flamboyant personality and she has dashes of humour. You do feel for Muriel as her frustration grows because the girls’ tricks keep wasting miles and miles of footage, which must be costing her lots of money. We are glad to see Muriel eventually win after weeks of constantly losing. Mary is finally obliged to knuckle down and work in class, which makes the ending far more satisfying than the one in “Prisoner of the Bell”, where the school skiving did not change in the end.

Princess II, 24 December 1983

Princess cover 24 December 1983

  • The Last Christmas Carol (artist Purita Campos) – complete story
  • The Grovel Game – feature (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Ghostly Ballerina (photo story)
  • Fairy Tale (artist Julio Bosch)
  • Best of Friends… (photo story) – first episode
  • Cinders on Ice (artist unknown) – final episode
  • Sadie-in-Waiting (artist Joe Collins)

 

More Princess II’s have been added to my collection. Christmas may have been a couple of months ago, but here is Princess II’s one and only Christmas issue anyway.

Leading off the cover is a complete Christmas story from Purita Campos. Sue and Jill Crawley are new to the neighbourhood and feel lonely. They go out carol singing for charity, which turns into a spooky time travel trip to the Blitz. They give an old lady her final Christmas carol and return with souvenirs of the 1940s.

Christmas carolling does wonders on Grovel too. He’s pressganged into being Santa Claus but is more like the Grinch until Christmas carols work some Christmas magic on him and he starts enjoying himself. We can also play “The Grovel Game”, where the objective is to be the first to give Princess Bee her presents, but Grovel is trying to stop you.

There is also a Christmas dinner in “Cinders on Ice” to celebrate the fairytale ending we all expected. Yep, that story was definitely written to tie up with the Christmas issue.

The Ghostly Ballerina gives Clare Thomas the power to dance brilliantly, and everyone is surprised at the sudden improvement. But it is obvious that the power comes at an unpleasant price, which starts with it turning Clare’s friend Sonja against her.

Fairy tales get screwed up and turned on their heads in “Fairy Tale”. This week it’s a dotty old genie who is hard of hearing and can’t hear wishes properly – or even hear if what people say really is a wish. As a result, our protagonists get unwanted hair length and now they look like Rapunzels.

In the new photo story, Lizzie and Katie are “Best of Friends”. Then the old “three’s a crowd” comes in between them when new girl Linda comes along, and Katie’s in tears.

Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (1979-1981)

Sample Images

Gayes Gloomy Ghost 1 1
The Arthurian legend according to “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost”. Jinty 5 July 1980.

Gayes Gloomy Ghost 2 1
The Arthurian legend according to “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost”. Jinty 5 July 1980.

Published: Jinty 22 December 1979 – 21 November 1981 (final issue)

Episodes: 96

Artist: Hugh Thornton-Jones

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

In the vein of “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” and “The Jinx from St. Jonah’s” is this regular humour strip, which lasted from 1979 right up until Jinty’s final issue. At 96 episodes, Gloomy Ghost had a respectable innings, though not as long as Fun-Bag or Katie Jinx.

Jinty was not high on ghost stories, so there is some irony that her last regular humour strip is one to star a ghost, and also use ghosts and hauntings to raise loads of laughs with readers.

Our story begins at Stoney Hall, and initially there are three ghosts. They hate how Stoney Hall has become commercialised and they can’t scare anyone because the tourists are all unbelievers and don’t show ghosts any respect. They consider the caretaker’s daughter Gaye the worst of the worst. Two of them pack their bags and leave, never to be seen again. The remaining ghost, a knight called Sir Roger de Grohan, wishes he could materialise so he could really throw a scare into those tourists. The Amalgamated Association of Resident Ghosts and Haunters (A.A.R.G.H.) gives Sir Roger the ability. But when Sir Roger tries it out on Gaye, things don’t exactly go scaringly. Far from being terrified, Gaye is delighted at the ghost, and the two end up striking a friendship.

And so the premise is established for the rest of the strip. Sir Roger and Gaye become firm friends…well, most of the time. Much of the humour derives from their differences and character flaws. Sir Roger is gluttonous and always after food. He can be boastful too; for example, his iceskating ability (below) is nowhere near as brilliant as he claims it is. On the other hand, it helps to get rid of a bully and Gaye gives him the reward she knows he will love: food. He is also a coward at heart. Despite his being a ghost, people scare him more often than the other way around.

(Click thru)

Gaye’s flaw is that she has bit of a mean, bullying streak at times. Indeed, several other supernatural forces, including Henry VIII, meet their match in her. She calls Henry an “over-stuffed spectre!” and chases him off with a broom. Henry offers Sir Roger his commiserations about having Gaye for a companion: “Verily, thou has a right one there! And I thought I wast hag-ridden!”

Sir Roger, who prides himself on being cunning, often has to engage in a battle of tricks with Gaye to see who can outsmart the other. Often he proves himself crafty and also makes the right observation, such as Elizabethan gear suiting Gaye far more than a hideous disco outfit. Other times it is Gaye who wins in the end. And when it comes to getting out of scrapes they constantly land in (supernatural or otherwise), Gaye has the edge on brains.

How exactly Sir Roger became a ghost is not established and he is never given an origin. We can safely assume he died from decapitation as his head becomes separated from his body on several occasions. In one episode his head gets accidentally switched with that of Anne Boleyn! It is a pity this was not turned into a full episode. It would have been hilarious to see how Sir Roger goes with Anne’s head and Henry VIII getting the shock of his life to see Sir Roger’s head on Anne.

As Sir Roger is a ghost, a lot of gags derive from the other supernatural forces he brings in with him, such as his mother and father, both of whom wreak havoc on the hall with their demands. The mother is outraged Stoney Hall is sparkling instead of cobwebby, dusty and dull, and Sir Roger is not putting scares into humans. She is a match even for the bossy Gaye, who has to resort to a bit of cunning (a fake telegram from hubby) to get her to leave. But no sooner have they got rid of her when hubby himself descends on the scene. “Crumbs! Here we go again!”

None of the supernatural visitors are outright scary. They are more a nuisance. And of course much humour is derived from Sir Roger being a ghost and having ghostly abilities, including floating, walking through walls, and having the ability to materialise (which sometimes goes a bit wrong). There are also ghost rules to provide humour, such as keeping his sword and armour rusty, and be proud of it. In one episode Sir Roger gets magnetised and has to go through the indignity of a bath to become demagnetised, which comes at the price of losing the rust he is so proud of. He can only hope no other ghosts see him looking so clean and shiny or he will be the laughingstock of the ghost world.

Other gags come from Sir Roger being a real glutton who can eat you out of house and home. He could give Slimer from Ghostbusters a run for his money. For example, in one episode he steps in to make a plump teacher stick to a sponsored slim when she keeps taking naughty snacks. He says it’s all in a good cause – but his ‘help’ seems to include taking opportunities to grab the teacher’s food for himself. Still, he is so successful in slimming the teacher down that she makes a nice sum for charity. On the other hand, Gaye has noticed Sir Roger seems to be putting on a bit for some reason.

Much humour is derived from Sir Roger being from a different time period. Exactly what period Sir Roger is from is a bit inconsistent. Sir Roger’s outfit looks Elizabethan, but he demonstrates throwbacks to living in Tudor, medieval and even Arthurian periods when he was alive. Perhaps some of it should be taken with a pinch of salt, such as his version of King Arthur (above). The throwbacks to earlier times do have their own humour, such as clamping Gaye in the stocks, then she does the same on him to get her own back.

Sir Roger being from another time also lends to plenty of “man out of time” jokes where he has problems understanding the 20th century. For example, he does not understand fruit machines and gets frustrated when he keeps winning “groats” instead of the fruit. In the same amusement arcade he does not understand that the “shoot-a-spook” stall is not shooting real spooks and raises a complaint with the management.

Sometimes Sir Roger’s old-style views work out better than modern times. For example, we have to take Sir Roger’s side when he is shocked to see Gaye dress up in that hideous disco outfit, whereupon he exercises his cunning to see it’s destroyed. In his view, Elizabethan dress is far more becoming, and once Gaye puts it on she thinks it actually suits her very well.

Unlike “Fun-Bag”, which ended on a regular episode, the end of Gloomy Ghost is a definitive one. Sir Roger is offered the chance to join the Hall of Ghosts but deliberately fails the exam because he mistakenly thinks Gaye will miss him too much. When Gaye finds out, she lends him a bit of…um…help, and this time he passes. Gaye knows she will miss him, but she wants him to pass on to the Hall of Ghosts. And when he does, his luggage goes with him, Stoney Hall loses its last remaining ghost, and there is no scope for appearances in the merger with Tammy. The Gloomy Ghost is well and truly laid to rest.

Tammy & Sally 12 February 1972

Tammy Cover 12 February 1972

  • Gina – Get Lost (artist Miguel Quesada) – final episode
  • Dogs of the Duchess
  • No Hope for Cathy (artist Victor Hugo Arias)
  • Lulu (cartoon)
  • Skimpy Must Ski! (artist Tom Hurst)
  • Paula on a String
  • Amanda Must Not Be Expelled (artist Jesus Redondo)
  • Talk it over with Trudy (problem page)
  • Star Struck Sister (artist Giorgio Giorgetti, writer Jenny McDade)
  • Maisie’s Magic Eye (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Beattie Beats ’em All! (artist John Armstrong)
  • Cinderella Spiteful (artist Jose Casanovas)
  • No Tears for Molly (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • A Special Tammy Portrait – Peter Gordeno

In part 2 of the Tammy Round Robin, the 12th February issue has been selected for 1972. The cover style is still the same as it had been in 1971 and Tammy still has the Sally logo. Tammy now has a regular cartoon, “Lulu”. The issue also has the advertising for the first issue of Sandie, the next title to be merged into Tammy. There are blurbs for two stories starting in the next issue: “The Long and the Short” and the first Eduardo Feito story to appear in Tammy, “Rona Rides Again”.

“Beattie Beats ’em All!” and “Maisie’s Magic Eye” from Sally are still going strong, which indicates the Sally merger was a good one.

The serial “Star Struck Sister” is the first Tammy story to be written by Jenny McDade, who wrote the first Bella stories. The history behind the serial is a curious one. The first episode was written by another writer, but then the writing “choked” as they call it. The editor asked Jenny to take over. It was a bold move as Jenny had never written a serial before. But it went so well she was commissioned to write the rest of the story.

In the episode itself, Lesley and Stella Ross are in Rome making their first film. Lesley is jealous of Stella because she believes she should have the starring role. But Lesley is not Stella’s problem this week. Instead, Stella foolishly went off with a street urchin, who turned out to be part of a gang of pickpockets. Stella makes it back but now has a stolen wallet on her hands. And the victim, who is staying at the same hotel, has recognised her as one of the thieves!

“Cinderella Spiteful” is an orphan named Emma Jones who is staying with her cousin Angela, but feels overshadowed by her. To overcome this, Emma resolves to try harder and things get off to a good start this week. Then it looks like she has been so consumed with it that she neglected Angela while she was injured, and now Angela has fallen on the stairs. Are Emma’s attempts to better herself going wrong and landing her in trouble? Or is Angela pulling some kind of Carol Lord trick (see Concrete Surfer) to undermine her?

Molly has a problem of forbidden love on her hands (Lieutenant Regan disguising himself as a servant at Stanton Hall to get near his love because her father won’t allow the match) and keeping it safe from Pickering and the two catty maids. They go as far as to attempt to rough her up to get the secret out of her, but don’t discover it. Then a party is on and the men are allowed to wear masks. An easy way for the lovers to secretly meet again? Not when the forbidding father offers to remove Regan’s mask! This calls for some quick thinking on somebody’s part.

“Gina – Get Lost” is yet another Cinderella story of cruel relatives (the Randalls) exploiting the heroine (Gina) and her talent (making toys). The story ends this week, with the Randalls being caught out and being forced to let the kindly Mrs Swain become Gina’s guardian and stay away from her, or there will be charges.

Amanda keeps trying to get herself expelled so she can enjoy her home comforts. This week she brings the school to victory in a gymnastics contest. Will this change her mind and stay at the school? Sadly, no. She’s still intent on getting herself expelled and the other girls think she’s crazy and mixed up.

In “Dogs of the Duchess” the Duchess is a crusader for dog welfare. She would be a real heroine if she weren’t so uptight and rude to her helper, Doris Totting and could be as nice to people as she is to dogs. And why does she wear that black veil all the time anyway? Sounds like she’s got a real problem, and this week Doris gets a clue as to what it is when the Duchess doesn’t want to meet an aristocrat, whose dog she helped through Doris only a short while before.

Why is there “No Hope for Cathy”? She has been kidnapped and being forced to impersonate a missing girl. It’s not all that hopeless when Cathy discovers a helper, Alan Temple. But then Cathy gets amnesia, and being unable to remember who she really is has suddenly made the crooks’ deception a whole lot easier!

In “Skimpy Must Ski!”, Grandad sacrifices his precious war medal to raise funds to help Skimpy. But the medal makes its way back to Skimpy, who tries to slip it back secretly. But Grandad catches her and demands to know what she’s up to.

The Jinx from St Jonah’s (1974-76)

Sample Images

Jinx from St JonahsJinx from St Jonahs 2Jinx from St Jonahs 3

Published: Jinty 11 May 1974 – 30 October 1976

Episodes: 112 episodes

Artists: Mario Capaldi, Mike White, Hugh Thornton-Jones

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

The Jinx from St Jonah’s was one of Jinty’s very first strips, and it was the longest-running at 112 episodes. It was a humour strip, full of slapstick humour and hijinks galore with Katie Jinks. It’s easy to turn that into “jinx”, and Katie is indeed a jinx by name, jinx by nature. She is a walking disaster area; even innocuous things like playing the triangle, practising yoga, or minding a goldfish lead to hilarious catastrophes in the hands of Katie the Jinx. Even the school staff have to really watch out when Katie’s about.

Though Katie’s classmates know they have to watch out for Miss Klutzy too, there are plenty of times when Katie’s jinxing works to their advantage. For example, they all get a day off school when Katie’s jinxing gets all the school staff sent home, including the headmistress. And Katie is not a jinx all the time. There are occasions when Katie does something right, such as when she figures out a girl who won’t swim has a serious problem and she sets out to unravel what it is. But the time to really watch out is when Katie wants to be helpful because that is when her jinxing is at its worst.

There are plenty of occasions when Katie’s jinxing eventually leads to a happy ending and things work out to everyone’s benefit. But of course the road getting there is full of bumps and high jinxing.

On a frequent basis it’s comeuppance time for many a wrongdoer when Katie’s around. Bullies, gluttons, stuffy teachers, snobs, troublemakers and even criminals are among the unsavoury types who get their punishment from Katie the Jinx, whether she plans it or simply jinxes it. Either way we cheer and laugh when the unpleasant type gets jinxed into their long-awaited comeuppance.

Katie comes from a long line of jinx girls in girls’ comics whose blundering causes scrapes that provide loads of laughs for the readers. “Sailor Sally – She’s All at Sea” (Debbie) and “Simple Simona” (Tammy) were other examples. But Katie was one to reach such heights of popularity in Jinty that she not only ran for two years but also became cover girl, leading off Jinty’s cover with jinx hijinks to pull readers in with a huge laugh. The panel exhibiting the jinxy gag itself, such as Katie tripping over something or getting everyone in a heap, was often given jagged edging for emphasis. Examples of Katie’s glory days on the cover are shown below.

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Edited by comixminx to add: the strip has the power to amuse modern readers just as much. My daughter (8 at the time of writing this) loves Katie Jinks’ hijinks more than just about anything in the comic. We have recently had the pleasure of having Trini Tinturé doing a piece of art for the family, and while my son chose to have himself illustrated with one of his favourite youTubers (Dan TDM), my daughter chose to be illustrated alongside Katie Jinks. Here it is, a new piece of Trini art with a direct Jinty link!

Two kids and two idols
Illustration by Trini Tinturé for two avid comics readers

Bizzie Bet and the Easies (1979)

Sample Images

Bizzie Bet 1Bizzie Bet 2

Published: Jinty 31 March 1979 – 1 December 1979

Episodes: 27

Artist: Richard Neillands

Writer: Unknown

A lightweight humour strip that ran in Jinty in 1979. The premise is Bet Bizzel, known as “Bizzie Bet” who’s such a bundle of energy and always working hard, versus her bone-idle friends, the Easies. Each week Bizzie Bet is always coming up with bright schemes to show the Easies the meaning of work and curing them of their lazy ways. But things always backfire on Bet eventually and the Easies win in the end. Such a premise wouldn’t have been out of place in a funnies comic like Buster or Whizzer & Chips. Imagine if this strip was drawn by one of their artists!

The Easies are also very inventive, coming up with their own creative ways of doing things – the very quick and laid back way, of course, but it does save a lot of labour and turns out well. You do have to hand it to them. The fact that sloth always wins in this story is what gives the story its humour. It’s a strip the lazy Garfield the cat would love.

Readers must have had a sneaking sympathy for the Easies. You do wish Bet would stop shoving her oar in all the time, stop trying to force hard work on the Easies, and let them be. Besides, doing all this extra work for Easies is just making Bet working far harder than she needs to and doing everything for the Easies is really not encouraging them to do things for themselves. In fact, if Bet took a leaf out of the Easies’ book and took things easy now and then, life would be easier for her. And she wouldn’t be the one doing all the work all the time, as her holiday dice game below proves. But maybe she can’t take it easy any more than the Easies could turn into balls of energy.

In the end Bizzie Bet and the Easies come to an arrangement where they agree to disagree, accept each other for what they are, and just be friends. It’s a very good, definitive ending. It did not end on a regular episode, which is very satisfying, and readers would have been very pleased with how it concluded.

Bizzie Bet had a fair run at 27 episodes. But in comparison to the longer-running “Jinx from St Jonah’s”, “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” or “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost” humour strips in Jinty, it didn’t have much staying power. It may have been a popularity issue, and this could well have been the case. Though the strip is fun, it doesn’t feel as strong, engaging or memorable as, say, “The Jinx from St Jonah’s” and is one of Jinty’s more forgettable  strips.

The artwork could have been the problem. A premise like this requires an artist who can really draw exaggerated, stylised cartoony humour, but Richard Neillands is not one of them. His style is for lightweight or sports stories but he can’t really pull off exaggerated comedy or make anyone laugh with his artwork. An artist like Robert MacGillivray or even a Buster-type artist is what’s required here.

Or it could simply be that Bizzie Bet was simply axed to help make way for “Pam of Pond Hill” and “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost”, both of which started shortly afterwards.

Bizzie Bet game 1Bizzie Bet game 2

 

 

 

Our Big BIG Secret (1972)

Sample Images

(from Sandie 15 April 1972)

Published: Sandie 12 February 1972 – 15 April 1972

Episodes: 10

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Unknown

Plot summary

Poppy and Daisy are sisters who are both mad-keen on having a dog, but their parents are too poor to consider it. Even giving the sisters (and their rather less keen brother Ted) 10p each to go to the local fete is a bit of a stretch for poor old Mum. But at the fete, Poppy and Daisy put their money into the prize raffle – and (of course) end up winning the mystery prize. It’s… a pedigree Pyrennean Mountain puppy! Not only is it a dog but a huge one, bound to be hungry all the time. A bystander tries to buy it off the girls and they turn him down, but that’s a decision that will certainly cause them difficulties.

As soon as they get the puppy, now named Pedro, back home, they have to decide where to keep him. The shed won’t do for long, as Pedro clearly knows pretty well what a nice comfy indoor bed looks like and he is determined to get inside to the girls – who have to trick their parents while Poppy nips downstairs to let Pedro in. A kindly lady looks like she can help out by keeping Pedro during the day, but it doesn’t take long for him to escape. A white lie saves them – “Isn’t he the puppy you met in the park, Poppy? With that old lady, Mrs Jenkins?”

In any case the family are about to move house to a much bigger place (though with the reputation of being haunted) and perhaps this will give the girls the answer they need – Pedro can sleep in the cellar! Well, maybe so – and in the meantime there’s the problem of how to pay for his food. Poppy already has a baby-sitting job (or, well, she does until she turns up with Pedro in tow – and he takes the little kids for a ride on his back!) and tries to get a paper-round. Again it isn’t long before Pedro jinxes it. But a turn up for the books – Pedro also stages a heroic rescue of an old man from a house on fire! Great! Though, yes, you guessed it… the evening papers carries the whole story, plus a photo, and so the girls have to try to keep this secret safe too. A hard job, made harder when the son of the man whose life was saved comes round to say thanks and to pay a reward!

Again the problem situation is averted (though not in a very convincingly-explained way) and the action moves on to the new house – a possible place to hide Pedro. And not before time – the grumpy old neighbour of the nice old lady who was trying to help them has made a complaint, and she isn’t able to put Pedro up overnight any more. Why’s the grumpy guy also showing up round at the new place, though? Could it be related to the sighting that young Ted makes – of a while ghostly shape in the very house they are moving into?

Poppy shuts Pedro into the cellar anyway as she runs out of ideas and it’s getting very late – but in the meantime the grumpy neighbour has gone back to the family’s old place and told everyone that there is indeed a ghost in that there house! Mum in particular is sobbing her heart out to hear it – “Our new house! How can we go and live there now?” The neighbour leads everyone over to see the ghost for themselves, but in the meantime Daisy has run back, spirited Pedro out, and left the neighbour to look like a fool. Not so much because the house is free of ghosts, but because Poppy is in on the action too – she has dressed up as a ghost to pretend that it was all her doing all along!

It works, but finally Mum and Dad find out (they notice that both girls have ended up kipping in the new house snuggled up to Pedro). Mum is determined that Pedro MUST GO, but a final incursion by the nasty neighbour has her changing her mind after all when Pedro proves what a good guard dog he would be.

Further thoughts

The story starts promisingly, with hectic scenes at the fete, and bops along at quite a pace throughout. The plot itself feels fairly thin and it didn’t ‘grab’ me all that much on first read, but it’s quite solid on re-read. The best bit about it is the Jim Baikie cartoonish  artwork, with lots of characterful images. I particularly liked the way he does little signs on Pedro himself, such as in the last panel where Pedro is very pleased with himself! The art does get a bit scrappy in places and it doesn’t feel like it is Baikie’s best, but there is lots to like about it nevertheless.

Mr Evans the Talking Rabbit (1983)

Sample Images

Mr Evans 1Mr Evans 2Mr Evans 3

Published: Princess II, #1 (24 September 1983) to #12 (10 December 1983)

Episodes: 12

Artist: Photostory

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: ‘Hokus pokus, ik ben een konijn!’ [Hocus pocus, I’m a rabbit!]. Dutch Tina, 1984.

In keeping with the Easter season, we present this rabbit-themed story from Princess II.

Plot

Jenny Andrews’ father is a children’s entertainer, but ever since his wife died his heart has not been in it. It gives him too many reminders of his late wife, plus he has also grown cynical about child audiences. As he can’t work properly no money is coming in for the rent, and eviction is imminent.

Dad does manage to perform at a children’s party at the Mortimers’ house. Jenny goes out into the garden to set up the puppet show. She is surprised to find a rabbit in a garden pen talking to her. At first she thinks it is her father’s ventriloquism, but the rabbit says he is in fact Arthur Evans, owner of the local joke/magic shop, who has been missing for weeks. He unwisely tried out a book of spells he found in the market and unwittingly turned himself into a rabbit. He retained the ability to talk, which he hides because he fears people will exploit him. He opened up to Jenny because he feels he can trust her, and he begs for her help to get him back to normal.

When Mr Evans does talk he is very disagreeable and ill-mannered. As a human he was an old grouch and even his wife calls him a “miserable old so-and-so”. As a rabbit he is not much better, but he does have more reason to be irritable considering his ordeal, especially after being imprisoned in the pen. It does not sound like the Mortimer children have treated him well either. When Mrs Mortimer pulls the rabbit’s ears, he protests in a justified but very offensive manner: “Let go, you stupid old bag!” Mrs Mortimer thinks it’s Jenny’s ventriloquism and sends Mr Andrews packing without payment (now we know where the bratty Mortimer kids get it from). So no money for the rent from that job, which means they’re even closer to eviction.

Mr Evans escapes and hitches a ride to the Andrews’ place. There Mr Andrews is so desperate for food and no money for it that he wants to eat the rabbit. The rabbit objects to that of course: “You’ve got to get me out of here before I end up sharing a plate with potatoes and two veg!” He tells Jenny. Mr Andrews assumes it’s Jenny’s much-improved ventriloquism.

Jenny and Mr Evans go to the joke shop for the book, but Mrs Evans has sold it and has no clue as to who bought it. She is not missing her husband much because he was such a misery boots. Mr Evans takes money from the till (hiding it in his mouth) to pay for groceries to keep the Andrews household fed. He does not regard it as stealing. “It’s my shop, my till, and my money! I can’t steal from myself, can I?” he tells Jenny. Yes, but tell the police that. When Mrs Evans discovers the missing money she assumes Jenny trained up the rabbit to steal it, and it’s in the newspaper: “Rabbit Steals Cash!”

The Mortimers come looking for the rabbit, which they correctly suspect got away with Mr Andrews. Mr Andrews pulls a magic hat trick to confuse them and keep the rabbit safe from them. “Squashed me a bit though,” says Mr Evans. “My back’s aching.”

Then grief overtakes Mr Andrews again. He is in no mental state to do a booked show, and they badly need the money from it. So Jenny decides to do the show herself, with the help of Mr Evans. At first he is reluctant because of the child audience: “…I loathe children – smelly, sticky, noisy little brats the lot of them. Always poking and breaking things. Definitely no!” However, Jenny persuades him otherwise. The show is such a success that Jenny is paid a bonus.

Mr Evans can smell other rabbits in the house, and says they are terrified. No wonder – they are being kept in a pen, waiting to be taken to the father’s research station for experimentation. Mr Evans goes into the pen to help them while the pen is not properly secured: “Hey, chaps – now’s your chance to make a break!” This only has Mr Evans get muddled up with them and Jenny takes the wrong rabbit. Later, Mr Evans manages to escape himself, but then he gets caught in a trap.

It doesn’t take Jenny long to realise she has the wrong rabbit, and when she goes back she discovers Mr Evans’ escape and does not know where to find him. Meanwhile, Jenny’s father gets a TV talent entrepreneur to come and listen to Jenny’s ventriloquism act, but her pathetic efforts make him look an idiot. He does not realise the talking rabbit was not her ventriloquism and the rabbit she has is not Mr Evans.

Eventually Jenny finds Mr Evans and frees him from the trap, but he becomes really ill. The vet says the rabbit has a heart condition, and if he were human he would receive hospital treatment, but as he is a rabbit he will have to be put to sleep. Of course this is not an option for Mr Evans. They need the book of spells more than ever now, so they start advertising for it.

The advertising gets no response until Dad gives Jenny the book of spells for a birthday present. So it was in the house all the time!

Dad comes over to believing Mr Evans the talking rabbit is for real and lends a hand with the counter spell. Unfortunately something goes wrong. Mr Evans starts growing into a monstrous giant rabbit, which sends the landlady into faint.

Jenny and her father finally get the magic right and Mr Evans returns to human form. The landlady assumes the giant rabbit must have been one of her dizzy turns. Mr Evans now hopes to make money out of the book, but it has been conveniently reduced to ashes. “Blast!”

Mr Evans can now receive the hospital treatment he needs. He even gets his wife to believe what happened and how the money really got taken from the shop till, so Jenny is cleared. As Mr Andrews is no longer up to entertaining, Mr Evans offers him a job as manager of his joke shop because he is going to retire and take his wife on a world cruise. Mind you, Mr Evans is still a grouchy man, and he is not pleased to be given a salad lunch in hospital: “Oh no – not more lettuce!” Just when he thought he was free of rabbit greens.

Thoughts

Few photo stories in girls’ comics are remembered today, but there seems to be some lingering memory for this one, even if it is a bit bonkers. This has to be due to Mr Evans himself. There is no doubt he is the star of the show. Every time he speaks in his rude, tetchy, sourpuss manner it makes you laugh out loud because it’s so funny. You just have to love it, and for this reason I’ve put up examples throughout the entry.

The story would be far less effective if Mr Evans talked in a more nondescript or formal manner. And for all his cranky ways, he is simply loveable – at least when he is a rabbit – because he’s a rabbit, and rabbits are so cute. “You were impossible as a rabbit,” says Jenny. “I can’t begin to think what you’d be like as a donkey or an elephant!” But that’s what makes it so funny. The juxtaposition of a cute rabbit talking in such a crabby uncivil manner is simply hilarious. His grouchiness makes him less likeable when he is a human, yet endearing as a rabbit. It’s ironic that an old sourpuss like him runs a joke shop.

We can just see the laughs the grouchy talking rabbit would raise if the story were televised, and it would make a delightful children’s programme.

Mr Evans’ surly disposition does not improve much as a rabbit. He is rude even to Jenny when he reaches out to her for help. In some ways he does have reason to be snappy: “You’d be a grouch too, if you’d been turned into a rabbit, lived in a hutch outside in all weathers, been thought of as a tasty meal, and then cuddled like some revolting pet!” Yes, he sure has been through quite an ordeal since he became a rabbit, and being turned into a rabbit must have been very traumatic. It certainly is not very comfortable: “It’s hot, wearing a fur coat all the time!” Added to that is his growing heart condition, which would hardly help his disposition. He becomes even more sympathetic when his illness is diagnosed, so now his very life depends on finding the book of spells and reversing the spell.

Mr Evans’ experiences as a rabbit do open his heart more to other animals. For example, when he encounters the research lab rabbits he thinks “Never thought I’d feel sorry for a bunch of rabbits!”, which shows how much he had thought about animal welfare before. That’s not to say he is a heartless man; his offering Mr Andrews a job shows he’s not such a bad old stick, even if he is a grump. He does not even mind (well at least he doesn’t object) when Jenny tells him how impossible he is, even when he becomes human again.

Mr Evans’ disposition would be projected far better if the story had been drawn. We could really see his surliness brought to life with say, lines and storm clouds around his head indicating anger. This would also bring in even more humour to the story. And his growth to giant rabbit proportions would be brought off far more effectively. Indeed, the story itself would be far better off being a picture story rather than a photo story.

It’s not surprising that Mr Evans’ adventures as a rabbit are a vehicle into the exploration of animal abuse and animal welfare. It begins with Mr Evans being abused by the Mortimer family, and comes up again with the caged rabbits bound for the research lab. Mr Evans even tries to encourage those rabbits into a jailbreak, but they don’t understand him.

When heroines in girls’ comics work in the entertainment business, they are as a rule quite proactive heroines and Jenny is no exception. She may not have enough experience or talent to follow her father, but she is not afraid to speak her mind. Mr Andrews’ occupation (conjuror, clown, ventriloquist, puppeteer) also lends liveliness to the story; the best scene is where he uses the hat trick to hide Mr Evans. This shows what a good entertainer he is, and it’s a real shame he has lost his passion for it. We really hope he would regain it. He does not, but it’s a relief that he is going to get a job where his conjuring skills will be transferable. He will most certainly be a more pleasant man for customers to meet in the joke shop than Mr Evans.

A Spell of Trouble [1980]

Sample Images

A Spell of Trouble 1A Spell of Trouble 2A Spell of Trouble 3

Published: Jinty 5 July 1980 – 30 September 1980

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown

Episodes: 12

Translations/reprints: translated into Dutch as Anne Tanne Toverheks [Anne Tanne Sorceress] in Tina 1984-85

Plot

For centuries, the Black family have been the richest and most successful family in Witcham. Nobody realises that this is due to their being a family of witches, and that is because they take great care to guard their secret.

Carrie, the youngest Black, urges her mother for a lesson on how to look into the future. But they get a shock when they do, because the sight that greets them is of a homely, stupid-looking girl. Even the two witches are revolted at how ugly she looks. Her name is Angela White and she is an orphan that Matron is desperate to get rid of because she’s a bungling, walking disaster area who can’t do anything right. Her stupidity and well-meaning ‘help’ in combination with her klutziness make her even more of a menace than “The Jinx from St Jonah’s”, who at least had a brain and could do some things right. Now Matron has finally traced Angela’s relatives, so it looks like she will be rid of Angela at last.

Consultation with Uncle Bertrand the family ghost confirms the worst: Angela is descended from the Whites, the ‘black sheep in reverse’ of the Black family, and she is on her way here to live with them. The Blacks grow even more repulsed at that thought when Uncle Bertrand foretells, “the Blacks shall fall by the hand of a White!”

But it’s too late for any spells to stop Angela, because she is already outside with Matron. Matron ‘persuades’ them to take Angela in by dropping hints of unpleasant PR for them in the neighbourhood by not doing so. So the Blacks take Angela in while concealing their dislike of her and being witches. After all, says Mrs Black, Angela is family, and instructs Carrie to be nice and use no magic on Angela.

Carrie pretends to be friendly but is finding Angela blithely aggravating. For example, Carrie’s cat Jasper gives Angela a wide berth after the klutzy girl accidentally steps on his tail. Uncle Bertrand walks out on the Blacks and refuses to return while Angela stays after she cleaned up his nice, dusty, cobwebby attic – and also ruined the broomstick that was the Blacks’ family heirloom. Carrie tries to scare Angela with her pet spiders, but the joke is on her when Angela compassionately sets them free in the garden. We have a sneaking sympathy towards Carrie when Angela tries to have her watch “Marmaduke Mouse” (bleech!) because she thinks Carrie’s pop programme is unhealthy; Carrie snaps and turns Angela into a mouse. But she didn’t bargain on Jasper trying to eat Angela while she is a mouse and the spell has to be removed – fast!

The Blacks try a spell to foist Angela off onto another couple. But it fails because soppy Angela thinks the Blacks will be heartbroken if she leaves.

A further complication then comes up: the witches’ coven has a rule that a non-witch cannot live with a witch family. So when the Witch Inspector finds out about Angela, she says that either Angela has to become a witch or the Blacks will have their powers removed.

Now Angela knows the truth about her relatives, and once she hears what the Witch Inspector wants her to become, she is repulsed: “I’m not a horrid witch like you and I never shall be either!” she tells Carrie. She won’t have a bar of becoming a witch. Carrie tries to find ways to make Angela change her mind, including an evil Egyptian ring to corrupt her personality and make her amendable to becoming a witch, but nothing works. The failures are due to Angela’s bungling as much as her resolve, and sometimes spells exploding in Carrie’s face as well, including the evil ring. The Blacks manage to stall the Witch Inspector with a spell to make Angela and Carrie switch bodies so Carrie, in Angela’s body, will impress the Witch Inspector with Angela’s ‘progress’.

But of course the witches eventually find out Angela has not become a witch and strip the Blacks of their powers, which fulfils Uncle Bertrand’s prophecy. No magic is very hard on the Blacks because they’ve never got by any other way and they depended on magic to be successful and rich. Mum can’t use magic to pay the bills, so she has to take a job, which she isn’t strong enough for. Carrie’s self-esteem plummets and her schoolwork deteriorates because she can’t do it magically (all right, perhaps cheat through it magically would be a fairer description).

Seeing this, soft-hearted Angela decides to become a witch after all so the witches will return the Blacks’ powers. Unfortunately she does this without consulting her Black relatives beforehand or getting their advice. They only find out once they find Angela’s note explaining what she’s done and has now gone off to the witches’ coven to show it – and also find themselves attacked by brooms that dopey Angela bewitched to clean up the place and then forgot to un-bewitch afterwards! Mrs Black tells Carrie to get after Angela, because anything could happen now that bungling idiot is a witch.

Sure enough, Angela is bungling witchcraft, just as she bungles everything else, and she hasn’t got the brains to use her powers wisely or discreetly. Realising her train is going in the opposite direction from the coven, Angela casts a spell that makes it go backwards, which leads to confusion and chaos for the angry passengers and the hapless stationmaster. Then she asks the stationmaster where the coven is – as if he would know – which makes him suspicious, and the witches’ secret is in danger.

The witches have seen it all in their crystal ball. They now realise Angela should not be a witch because she is too much of a bungler to do it right. So they agree to return the Blacks’ powers, but on strict condition that Angela is depowered and never allowed to become a witch again.

Now that the non-witch rule is no longer a problem, the road is clear for non-witch Angela to get along with her witchy Black relatives.

Thoughts

The Jinx from St Jonah’s meets Bewitched. Well, it sure has all the ingredients for a sitcom, having a family of witches meet their match in a bungling oaf of a relative who always goofs up, sometimes without even realising it. There are always loads of laughs for the reader in every episode, no matter whether it’s the Blacks or the White who get the upper hand. But it is always the non-magic bungling White who wins in the end, much to readers’ delight.

Trini Tinturé’s artwork is the perfect choice in bringing out both the witchiness of Carrie Black and the goofiness of Angela White, often in the same panels. Not to mention all the hijinks that ensue from Angela’s bungling and the sometimes-bungling magic as well. Tinturé was a very popular Jinty artist, and having her draw this story would have really added to its popularity. Indeed, “A Spell of Trouble” was one of my personal favourites when it first came out.

The Blacks themselves add to the humour too, most often when some things, including their own spells, go a bit wrong for them. They are not all that nice and can be mean, but they can’t really be described as evil or villains although they are witches. Anti-heroes, er, anti-heroines would be the best description. They’ve got their human touches and can come across as sympathetic, such as Carrie enjoying pop music programmes, and thinking the boarding school Angela tries to enrol at in one episode “belongs in a museum”.

When the pressure to make Angela a witch begins, the story becomes a battle of the wills, albeit still in a hilarious way. Angela may be a bungling idiot, but we have to give her full marks for resolve when she adamantly refuses to become a witch. We have to wonder where it will all end up. Perhaps Angela will end up as a toad, a transfiguration Carrie threatens her with several times. But considering Uncle Bertrand’s prophecy, we get the impression the Blacks will lose the battle. In fact, it all ends up where nobody foresaw, though the warning signs were there – that Angela is too much of a bungler to make a competent witch. The witches should have made an exception to the non-witch rule in her case, which they do in the end. It is fitting enough, and everything ends happily for both the Blacks and their White relative after all.