Tag Archives: hypnotism

Time Trap! [1977]

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Published: Tammy 11 June 1977 – 13 August 1977

Episodes: 10

Artist: Tony Highmore

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Jenny and Leonie Page are fraternal twins who live at Ploughshares Farm. Their Uncle Brian, a Professor of Paranormal Studies, wants to perform an experiment for his Physical Society to prove the existence of reincarnation. The experiment will use hypnotic regression, and Leonie is to be the test subject.

The hypnotism regresses Leonie back to a previous existence as a girl named Susannah. Susannah says she is in hiding because her life is in danger. But then Uncle Brian collapses from a heart attack and is taken to hospital, where he is soon in intensive care. Without him to bring Leonie out of the trance, she remains in it, reliving her previous existence as Susannah.

In the trance, Leonie is experiencing confusion of identity. While initially speaking in Susannah’s voice, her mind reverts to her own while she is stuck in the past. So it is in effect Susannah’s body with Leonie’s mind, in what turns out to be the 14th century. So Leonie is confused by the medieval surroundings she is in and all these medieval people all around her who call her Susannah and tell her that her life is in danger.

Leonie gets her first taste of the brutality of the times when a gang of men try to kill a boy because he is a lackey of John of Gaunt. Leonie sticks up for the boy, but she uses 20th century references, which of course the men don’t understand and they call her a “crackbrained daughter of Eve”. Indeed, Leonie’s lack of experience with the 14th century continues to lead to very awkward and even dangerous moments. As the time travel wears on, Leonie’s awareness of her 20th century identity becomes blurred and filters through in flashes. Sometimes she does not know what century her mind belongs to anymore. However, she never loses sight of getting home to Ploughshares Farm and Jenny.

Then another man comes, says Susannah is his sister and pulls her away. The lackey thanks Susannah for saving his life and says he won’t forget it. Susannah’s brother turns out to be Wat Tyler, the leader of the ill-fated Peasants’ Revolt in 1381. Tyler also has a feud with Tyler and John of Gaunt; the former is accused of attacking the latter and burning his home down.

Now and then Leonie mumbles things while in her trance, which give Jenny clues as to what is going on. One of them is Leonie saying Wat Tyler is her brother. When Jenny reads that the king, Richard II, ordered all members of Tyler’s family to be executed after the Peasants’ Revolt failed, she is really afraid for Leonie. A doctor is called in but can’t help. They can only hope Uncle Brian recovers, but Jenny fears time is running out.

Back in the past, the Peasants’ Revolt is underway. They intend to march on Smithfield where Tyler will give an address to Richard II that will demand rights for peasants, equality for everyone and an end to serfdom. However, a fellow rebel named Tom Quintain fears Tyler’s address is sounding too radical and will not go down well with Richard. He sends Leonie/Susannah over to Tyler with a warning to tread more carefully with Richard and treat him with the utmost respect. But Leonie/Susannah fails to get to Tyler in time, and soon Quintain is proved right. Richard II is outraged at Tyler’s address, which really is too far ahead of its time. Worse, Tyler discovers that he has fallen into a trap set by Richard and his men, and gets struck down.

The revolt now falls apart and Tyler’s supporters abandon him. Leonie/Susannah and Quintain take Tyler to a monastery for medical attention. Mayor Walworth, a King’s man, bursts in to arrest Tyler. Walworth shows no respect for the sanctuary of the church; his men brutally murder the monk who was nursing Tyler and drag the already-dying Tyler out to be executed. Leonie/Susannah escapes with the help of Quintain.

As they pass the Tower of London, Quintain shows her a cage hanging from walls. It is a gruesome relic of what happened to the sister of another man who offended the king. They locked her in the cage while keeping her alive by lowering food to her. She was exposed to all elements for seven months before she finally perished.

Now understanding the merciless fate that awaits her, just because of who her brother is, Leonie/Susannah eagerly goes on the run with Quintain. Their plight grows even more desperate when they find out the soldiers have their descriptions and are now on the lookout for them. Quintain and Leonie/Susannah now head for the Tylers’ home in Kent.

Hearing this from Leonie’s mumblings, Jenny realises the fugitives are heading straight into a trap because Kent will be the first place Richard’s men will look. She has the University Library Service send her all they’ve got on the Peasants’ Revolt. She is sent one item that is very helpful: the original parish register of Twaintrees, which the sender thinks Tyler originated from. She finds the record of Susannah’s birth and realises that in 1381 Susannah would have been the same age as Leonie.

Fortunately, when Leonie/Susannah and Quintain arrive in Kent, they see the soldiers looking for them. The soldiers have orders to execute people for participating in the Peasants’ Revolt, on the mere pretext that they were out of the area recently. They drag off one innocent man because of this, and then they start offering rewards for names of anyone else who was absent from the village of late. Then the soldiers spot Leonie/Susannah and Quintain, but they mange to escape and get to Twaintrees, where Quintain wants to warn Tyler’s supporters to flee.

When they arrive at Twaintrees, Leonie/Susannah begins to hear Jenny’s voice. Jenny has been trying to contact Leonie, and has finally succeeded. Leonie/Susannah can now hear Jenny across the ages. She tells Leonie/Susannah that Uncle Brian is still in no state to bring her out of the trance.

Tyler’s friends take some persuading to believe Richard has betrayed them and they are in danger of their lives. They are finally convinced when a dying escapee from another village arrives and, before he dies, says Richard’s soldiers are already burning other Kentish villages and killing innocent people. Jenny tells Leonie/Susannah to tell them to head for Standfast Castle; the books she is consulting say the Kentish rebels held out by occupying the castle. They head for the castle, and Leonie/Susannah is standing by them; she is now convinced she has a part to play in their fight against Richard. The rebels get ready to fight against Richard’s men, and a sortie unfolds when the royal soldiers arrive.

Meanwhile, Jenny has made her own way to Standfast Castle. She finds the castle is broken down and incapable of holding out an army. She can only hope it was not that way in 1381. Then she finds a plaque saying the sortie was a big mistake and many of the Kentish rebels and their leaders were ruthlessly killed. Oops!

In 1381, Quintain is among those killed and Leonie/Susannah is cursing Jenny for what turned out to be bad advice. And now the soldiers are after her and all the survivors. They retreat back into the castle, where the men start to quarrel about whether their revolt was right and wondering if they will be saved or killed. The quarrel centres between Quintain and the hypocritical, cowardly turncoat Hedge Priest. Then they get a horrible shock when they see Richard’s men are now bringing on their “black thunderbolt”, a battering ram that no castle gate has ever withstood. Leonie/Susannah can only hope Jenny will come up with better advice.

Jenny goes to the Custodian of Standfast Castle and gets a historical map of the area. She is astonished to find Ploughshares Farm on it and it is in the vicinity of Standfast Castle. She contacts Leonie/Susannah and starts using the map to guide her back to Ploughshares Farm.

However, Leonie/Susannah doubts she can do that, because the black thunderbolt has now done its work and the soldiers are pouring into Standfast for the final slaughter. Moreover, the sycophantic Hedge Priest offers to betray both Susannah Tyler and all the loot the rebels have hidden. The soldiers shoot an arrow through him before he gets the chance to tell them. The final battle between the soldiers and the rebels begins.

Leonie/Susannah now proceeds to make her escape. She gets surprising help from the lackey she had saved earlier. He has come to repay his debt, and his name is now revealed to be Giles Lamport. Giles uses a rope to get Leonie/Susannah off the castle walls and down into the marshes. The soldiers do not believe Giles when he says he found no sign of Susannah in the castle. But they have grown sick of all the slaughter and decide to just leave. Leonie/Susannah is pleased to finally see some chivalry in these soldiers.

Using the map, Jenny guides Leonie/Susannah through a causeway in the marshes towards Ploughshares Farm. Unfortunately this turns out to be more wrong advice. Jenny does not realise the marshes had been drained in the 17th century, but they were not in the 14th century, so Leonie/Susannah is now getting caught in the marshes. Worse, some of the soldiers have seen the escaping Leonie/Susannah and go after her. They head towards the marshes and block her escape.

Then Leonie/Susannah overhears the soldiers saying things. They have been spooked by rumours from the rebels that Leonie/Susannah is a witch because she seemed to be talking to a spirit from another world (Jenny). So Leonie/Susannah turns it to her advantage by playing ‘spirit’ to scare them off: “Woe unto Richard, the second of that name – and thrice, thrice woe to the brutes who murder in his name!” This gets rid of the soldiers (and by 1400 they should be saying that the prophecy has come true).

Leonie/Susannah is now safe to go on her way. But she is in a very bad state from lack of food, hypothermia and getting covered in marsh mud. When she reaches the end of the causeway she has no idea which way to go, so she calls on Jenny. Jenny begins to guide Leonie/Susannah in. Along the way the girls get to see what their farm looked like in 1381: pig pens that no longer exist, oak saplings that are now trees in the 20th century, and wattle-and-daub dwellings.

Uncle Brian, though still an invalid, comes home to bring Leonie out of the trance. He arrives just in time to see her come out of the trance of her own accord now she is home. Leonie is rather confused by her change of clothes and surroundings, and it takes some moments for her to get her bearings on what century she is in. They deduce the people at the 14th century Ploughshares Farm took Susannah in, so she found safety from Richard II. The parish register reveals that Susannah married Stephan Fairman of (then) Plowshares Farm and had three sons: Wat, Tom and Harry.

Thoughts

This story could well be regarded as one of Tammy’s underrated gems. Girls’ serials featuring reincarnation have appeared elsewhere, such as Misty’s “Hush, Hush, Sweet Rachel”, but this is the only serial I know of that features past life regression. This is a very fresh, innovative idea, and it’s a whole new take on the hypnotism formula, particularly hypnotism gone wrong.

Using past life regression as a time travel device is both an ambiguous and clever one. At times we are not sure as to whether Leonie is just recalling her past life as Susannah or if she is actually changing and shaping the past itself, especially when Jenny begins to interfere with well-meaning but not always well-researched advice. Is Jenny actually responsible for the deaths of all those rebels in the ill-fated sortie with the wrong advice she gives Leonie/Susannah? Or is it something that just happened anyway and what is unfolding in Leonie/Susannah’s mind just confusion from the hypnotism and the girls’ identities? After all, it is still debatable as to whether past life regression is actually true regression or if the hypnotism is playing tricks on the mind.

Once the links to Ploughshares Farm are revealed, there is a “so that’s it!” from readers. It becomes apparent as to why Susannah has reincarnated as Leonie. The story not only uses the Peasants’ Revolt and its aftermath to give us a time travel adventure but to also shape the history of Ploughshares Farm and (we suspect) the family history of the Page family.

The Middle Ages is a time period that did not seem to receive much attention in IPC’s period stories, which concentrated more on the 19th century. But this one is a powerful, relentless exploration of the Middle Ages that is so realistic because it does not spare the brutality of the age. This begins straight away with a gang of brutes who are on the verge of killing an innocent boy just because he is a servant of John of Gaunt. And it continues with people being brutally killed. Even the clergy and perfectly innocent villagers are shown no mercy. Whole villages are razed to the ground and their inhabitants left to burn, just because of Richard’s vendetta against Wat Tyler. The gruesome, barbaric punishments of the period are also featured. Though they are kept cleverly off-panel, they make their presence keenly felt, particularly in the scene where Tom shows Leonie/Susannah the cage used to torture a girl to death, just because of who her brother was.

The story totally debunks the chivalry that medieval people romanticised so much. There is no chivalry in any of the soldiers and knights in the story who do nothing but murder, pillage and vandalise in Richard’s name. They are, in the words of the rebels, “devils in armour” and “killer(s) on horseback”. The chivalry and honour comes from most of the characters that go against them, from Tom Quintain to Giles Lamport the lackey who always remembers his promise to repay Leonie/Susannah for saving his life.

Tony Highmore was a June artist whose artwork was seen most often in Strange Stories after the merger. “Time Trap” was his only serial for Tammy (apart from a mini-serial Strange Story) and it is one of his crowning moments. The medieval atmosphere is brilliantly wrought through the linework and inkwork of Tony Highmore. They are quite heavy and not fine or delicate, which really brings out the roughness and coarseness of the characters, the harshness of their environment, and even the types of dentures that prevailed at the time.

The story makes strong statements that heroes do not always survive or get things right. Readers must have cried when Tom Quintain, the brave, honourable man who takes up the mantle of Wat Tyler, becomes one of the rebels slaughtered in the Standfast Castle sortie. And Jenny, whom we expected to be the saviour of the piece once she gains the power to contact Leonie in the past, turns out to be indirectly responsible for it because she gave the wrong advice. Readers would have been even more gutted because of that. The writer sure was breaking moulds there.

The characterisation of the medieval people is also wonderfully depicted. Even minor characters get their moments. For example, Richard II only appears in a few panels but it is enough for him to make his point that he is a man who should not be underestimated although he is still young – as the rebels discover to their cost. And although Richard is shown as a handsome man in appearance, his actions show he is one of the worst tyrants and not to be trusted. Hedge Priest is another minor character who makes his mark – as a coward and weasel despite being a man of the cloth. What a contrast to the poor hapless priest who is murdered for nursing Wat Tyler!

The way in which the writer uses the Peasants’ Revolt for the time setting is very ingenious. Instead of just telling the story of the Peasants’ Revolt through the time travel element, the story uses the aftermath of the failure of the Peasants’ Revolt to bring us a fugitive story filled with bloodshed, lots of fighting, and overlap between two centuries that are six centuries apart. What makes it an even more interesting take on the Peasants’ Revolt is that the story does not focus on Wat Tyler himself, who gets killed pretty early in the piece. Instead, it concentrates on the supporters and family of Wat Tyler and the consequences they suffer from the failed revolt and gives them a chance to shine.

 

Slave of the Clock (1982)

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Slave of the Clock

Publication 17 July 1982 – 30 October 1982 (skipped an episode in Tammy 25 September 1982)

Artist: Maria Barrera

Writer: this Tammy story is credited to Jay Over, who also wrote Jinty‘s long-running school soap opera, “Pam of Pond Hill”. As we will see, there are also a few thematic similarities between this story and others in Jinty, raising intriguing questions about what else Jay Over may have written in this comic.

Plot: Alison Thorne is a talented dancer, but that’s not the main focus of her interest; she’s a very active girl who enjoys all sorts of things, such as art and socialising with her friends. Dancing is great fun – the first thing we hear from Alison is “Dancing makes me feel good from top to toe!” – but we also hear her think straight afterwards “I’ll have to get a move on if I’m to make it to the Youth Club on time!” In short, she’s a happy-go-lucky girl who isn’t driven by ambition or focused on talent. This isn’t a problem to her, or to her parents either, and it wouldn’t be an issue for most people. Her ballet teacher Miss Dempster, though, has ambitions on Alison’s behalf (and some ambitions for her own fame as a teacher too). Dempster takes her pupil along to creepy Miss Margolia, who promptly hypnotises Alison so that the ticking of a clock will make her think of dancing… and only of dancing… as immediately shown when some friends come round to Alison’s house the next morning and put a clock to her ear to wake her up.

Thereafter, any ticking clock will not only force Alison to dance, but also to lose awareness of her surroundings. That first time, her friends leave her dancing, because she pays no attention to them, and she doesn’t even realise they have been and gone. At the next dance class, Miss Dempster is annoyed and disappointed to see that Alison is still not giving her whole-hearted attention to the class, but then she doesn’t know yet what the real key to Alison’s slavery is – the ticking clock. Another player is about to join the story, though – a girl called Kathy, who has sadly been injured and cannot herself dance any more. Alison, fairly nobly to be honest, thinks to herself that she should be careful to take Kathy’s mind off dancing by focusing on other activities. Once again, a ticking clock – this time a wristwatch – makes Alison dance at an inopportune moment – this time, when Kathy arrives. Not surprisingly, all present think Alison is just showing off in front of Kathy, very cruelly.

Alison manages to smooth over the awkwardness and persuade Kathy that she will have fun staying at their house. I expect she would do, to, but at the same time, Miss Dempster is on the phone to Madame Margolia asking what can have gone wrong with the hypnotism – and as a result, installing a damn great cuckoo clock into her dance studio… Alison nearly doesn’t hear the clock at all as she is keenly getting involved with the local youth club show for which she has firmly ruled out dancing as an option, but she has to go around town putting up posters, and Miss Dempster gets her into the studio on that basis. And of course as soon as she hears the clock, off she goes again…

This sets the pattern for the upcoming plot: Kathy gets crosser and more upset because she thinks she is being messed around, Alison gets more upset because she is mysteriously blacking out and finding herself aching the next day as if she has danced for hours, and Miss Dempster is gleeful because she is getting her way. There is a temporary moment of guilt on the ballet teacher’s part when she feels bad about making Alison dance to her command, but as soon as the prospect of a rich new pupil arises, she gets Alison to perform once again (with a ticking clock around her neck). Not that this works out the way Dempster expects – Alison is put in positive danger by her dancing unaware of her surroundings (Kathy has to rescue her from possibly falling into a swimming pool) and of course Kathy and Alison are thus enabled to band together and realise what must be happening, unlikely though it seems. (I don’t think the rich pupil was very impressed by the relentless and absorbed dancing either! so probably no win for la Dempster on that front either.)

Alison’s parents don’t believe the wild story that the two girls bring to them, of course, but the two friends go off to find and confront Madame Margolia. But Dempster meets them outside the house, and tells them that Madame Margolia has been taken ill – and died! Will Alison never escape the curse of the ticking clock? Seemingly not – even if she is not dancing all the time, her parents are now resorting to taking her to hospital for mental treatment – and a sticking wheel on a hospital trolley triggers her off dancing again, so perhaps the curse is even getting stronger. However, it is in the hospital that they find Madame Margolia – seriously ill, but not dead (what a surprise to find that Miss Dempster lied – not!). Not that they can do anything to contact her, because Alison is whisked off to see the (very unsympathetic) doctor, who says that all this forced dancing is purely in her mind, because she is scared of failing her dance exams – and therefore her parents make her take more dance lessons, with – guess who? Miss Dempster of course. Alison pleads to do her exams with any other teacher rather than her tormentor, but her father replies: “Considering the cruel accusations you’ve made against her, I think Miss Dempster’s a fine person to take you back and help you.” So not only has she to face the cause of her problems, she even has to be grateful to that person?! That’s a nasty twist.

In fact the lessons go surprisingly well, though of course at first Alison is trembling like a leaf and hardly fit to dance. Miss Dempster is feeling guilty again and forebearing to use the power of the clock, and Alison gradually relaxes more and enjoys dance again. Temptation falls in Miss Dempster’s path once again though – can she get Alison into the International Ballet School, where it’s been her dream to have a pupil? By now we know how weak la Dempster’s will is, of course. And yes, the climax of the story is that although Alison had started to happily believe she was cured of the dancing fits, instead she is once again made to dance, for her teacher’s benefit not her own. This time the International Ballet School judges clearly reject Alison’s mechanical, hypnotic dancing, making it very clear just how misguided Miss Dempster’s actions are on all fronts – and a surprise guest appears in the form of a wheel-chair bound Madame Margolia. Alison is finally cured, though Margolia and Dempster require the two friends’ silence as their part of the bargain. There is a last reward for faithful sidekick Kathy though – the limp she has had since her injury is psychosomatic, so Margolia is able to cure her of it with one last application of (benign) hypnotism.

Thoughts: There are some silly aspects to this story – hypnotism is intrinsically an over-the-top trope, and this has the hypnotic subject nearly dancing to her death, which can strike the reader as absurd. On closer read, though, it is a pretty disturbing story, not to say chilling.

The main feature of it is perhaps that it is a ‘grownups know best’ story: protagonist Alison is quite happy as she is, and there is objectively nothing wrong with her, but a grown-up has other ideas of what’s best, and rides rough-shod over the girl protagonist’s clearly-expressed desires and aims. Miss Dempster thinks that it is a waste that Alison doesn’t use her dancing talent; in just the same way, Susie Cathcart’s grandmother thinks that Susie should be using her intellect rather than her gymnastic skill, and so makes her into the “Prisoner of the Bell“.  Similarly, headmistress Purity Goodfellow uses her mystic drug to turn the schoolchildren of Edenford into a paradise along the lines that she deems best – even if the girls need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the infirmary where she will administer the drug. I could continue with more examples – for instance “Battle of the Wills” also has a determined grandmother who makes her granddaughter practice hated ballet rather than the gymnastics that she loves, though no mind-control is seen in that story. It is not the most frequent story theme in this comic, but you can see how it would strike a chord with the readers. It’s striking not only that the girl character expresses her desires clearly and unmistakably, but also that the grown-up simply dismisses them as foolish, worthless, clearly unacceptable – and other grown-ups are likely to be persuaded into this view too, even if they had started out on the side of the (actually perfectly nice and normal) protagonist.

Of course, the grown-up is pretty clearly shown not to have known best, in the end. As with Miss Dempster, their manipulations clearly fail on their own terms, and don’t produce the desired result even if they had seemed promising initially – free will does triumph over coercion, though it’s a long road in getting there. That’s pretty subversive to me, in a kids’ comic – it’s not just saying that grownups can get it wrong, but that they can positively be against you even when they’re not obviously evil. Dempster is very chilling – she is not as witchy-looking as Madame Margolia (a stately crone if ever I saw one), but she just doesn’t seem to care about Alison, except in flashes that are overcome all-too-easily. It’s a proper emotional abuse story, done quite strikingly. Dempster persuades herself that it’s for the right reasons, or that it will be worth it in the end, but not only does she ignore Alison’s stated wishes and aims, she disregards the pleas and the begging that the girl is driven to by the end. Lies and the use of her power for her own ends – Dempster does not look or act conventionally evil, never descending to cackling, but she is inhumanly self-absorbed nevertheless. Madame Margolia is far from innocent (quite apart from having applied the hypnotism in the first place, she also demands silence as her payment for taking it off, which is pretty much barefaced cheek on her part) but she can see the cost of the slavery much more clearly than her younger associate. If Dempster ever got the power to do hypnosis herself, I would be far more worried for the fictional world than with it staying in Margolia’s hands!

Prisoner of the Bell (1979)

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Prisoner of the Bell

Publication: 20/1/79-28/4/79

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown – but see thoughts

Plot

Susie Cathcart and Lorraine Kent are notorious at school for being the class clowns who come up with all sorts of “screwy” dodges to get out of schoolwork. They can’t be bothered with education; their attitude is that life is for fun and they will manage fine without O Levels. The only lesson Susie does care for is gym and she has a natural talent for gymnastics. Their work-dodging tactics are the talk of the staff room, but neither the school nor the parents seem to do anything to sort them out.

Then Grandmother Cathcart comes to live with the family because she is now infirm and wheelchair-bound. Dad had run away from her because she was domineering and hard, and he is not scholarly while Grandmother Cathcart lives for it. In fact there is a warning that she takes it a bit far, what with the piles of academic books she brings with her.

Gran has brought something else with her too – a bell that she uses to summon Susie. The bell soon seems to have a strange power over Susie; every time she hears it, she goes into a trance. Gran has learned about Susie’s attitude to education and begins to use the bell to force her to do her homework. Susie becomes bewildered by her mysteriously done homework that she cannot remember doing. The teachers are pleasantly surprised. Lorraine is furious and then becomes suspicious and starts investigating. And she soon notices things, such as Susie apparently sleepwalking to Gran and having the vocabulary for a French test drilled into her. Lorraine begins to suspect what Gran is up to. She tries to warn Susie, but Gran realises Lorraine has become suspicious and is keeping one step ahead.

But Gran is not doing it just to improve Susie’s schoolwork. She means to force Susie into her own mould of being an assiduous, dedicated, brilliant scholar. She will make no room for Susie’s gymnastics, which she considers “nonsense”. So in addition to using the bell’s power to force Susie into doing her homework, Gran starts interfering with Susie’s gymnastics, such as implanting suggestions into Susie’s mind to turn her off gymnastics. As a result, the PE teacher is furious when Susie says gymnastics is bad and must not waste time on them, and Susie becomes scared of heights and begins to lose her nerve and confidence for gymnastics. This has consequences that Gran did not foresee, such as Susie losing her nerve at the top of a tree and going through the humiliation of being rescued by the fire department. And the PE teacher books Susie for a gymnastics course at Harford Manor to get her nerve back.

But Gran is not having that. She nearly has having Susie spending the money Lorraine raised for Susie’s course on books. Lorraine stops this in the nick of time and applies to come on the course too in order to protect Susie. At Harford Manor, Susie begins to break through the suggestions and regain her nerve. But Gran will not let up and books herself for a holiday to the disabled to get up to the village near Harford Manor. She plays a trick to get Susie expelled. Lorraine takes the blame to save Susie but gets herself expelled and unable to protect Susie any further on the course. When Gran finds out, she posts the bell to Susie. Its power has Susie packing her bags instantly, which has her walking out on British selectors.

Susie begs to know why Gran is doing this to her. Gran explains that when she was a girl she had a thirst for knowledge but was denied education because she was female. So she taught herself, which led to the accumulation of her books on every subject. And one subject is…hypnotism.

Gran says she now intends to teach Susie everything she knows and, through Susie, achieve the greatness she had been denied. Susie now bends to Gran’s academic drive completely. Susie’s parents, who had not done much about Susie’s laziness at school before, come over to Gran’s side.

Lorraine is horrified, particularly when she sees how ill and tired Susie looks from the way she is being pushed by her Gran and how terrified Susie gets when she even thinks of gymnastics. Lorraine persuades Susie to come on a trip to Crystal Palace in the hope the Russian gymnasts will restore Susie’s nerve. But when Gran tags along, Lorraine gives up on breaking Gran’s power.

Then stormy weather causes the bus to crash into a river. Gran is knocked unconscious. The girls are ordered to climb out, but Gran’s power over Susie has her too terrified to do so. Lorraine tries to force Susie, but in the end carries her out after she faints. Meanwhile, Gran suddenly realises that her interference with Susie has nearly killed her. She agrees to go into a home and stop interfering with Susie’s life. Susie returns to her old self in terms of schoolwork and gymnastics, and is selected for the British junior team.

Thoughts

This is one story where our feelings for both the protagonist and antagonist are mixed. We can’t help feeling that Susie is overdue for a comeuppance of some sort for the way she dodges her schoolwork and laud Gran for being the one who actually steps in to do something about it. And Gran does have a point about the Cathcart parents having been too indulgent about allowing Susie to become too slack in schoolwork (perhaps it was the father not being scholarly himself?), and Susie has serious attitude problems to schoolwork that need to change. She and Lorraine think only of enjoying themselves and reckon they will manage fine without O Levels. That is not how it is in the real world where good school results are key to making your way in the job market.

But as Gran’s motives unfold, it becomes apparent that she is not doing it all for the right reasons or going about it the right way and we get increasingly worried about Susie. We become even more sympathetic for Susie as we see the effects on her, physically and psychologically, as she loses her nerve and confidence, and is utterly confused and frightened by the changes in her behaviour that she cannot explain. She looks as if she is on the verge of a mental breakdown. And in the final episode, Susie is looking ill and tired because of the way Gran keeps driving her to study, but only Lorraine seems to notice.

When Gran reveals why she is driving Susie this way, we have some sympathy for her as it is quite understandable that she wants to achieve what she had been frustrated in her girlhood because her gender was against her. From the sound of things, she failed to achieve it through her son because he was a non-scholar. But she sees more promising material in Susie; hence her relentless drive to achieve it by training Susie’s brain into more academic thinking.

Unfortunately Gran takes it too far with Susie because she is too relentless and demanding. She is far too consumed with academia and makes no room for other things in life, hence her intolerance of Susie’s gymnastics. She considers it nonsense because it is not academic and to her mind it is detracting from academic study. Moreover, she is by nature a domineering, hard woman. Her domineering personality drove her son away when he was younger and she has not learned from that mistake.

We see so much of Grandmother Cathcart in real life: people who get bitter because their dreams were denied; demanding parents who drive their children too hard; parents who want to achieve ambitions or frustrated dreams through their children; parents who won’t allow their children to be themselves and keep forcing them into what they want rather than considering what the children want. To say nothing of people who get fixated on particular things and take them to extremes.

Those extremes include consequences that the antagonist did not foresee because she was too one-tracked to think through the consequences of her actions. When Gran starts implanting suggestions to turn Susie against gymnastics, this leads to serious consequences when Susie loses her nerve for heights and climbing, and it nearly takes her life because she is unable to take the climbing action that would have saved her. This has Gran waking up at last, and she realises what can happen when you interfere with someone’s mind with hypnotism. This is a lesson that another hypnotist, Madame Margolia, learns several years later in Tammy’s “Slave of the Clock”. Madame Margolia is an obsessive ballet teacher and her idea of curing reluctant ballet students is to implant suggestions into their minds to dance when they hear the ticking of a clock. She does this  to Alison Thorne, who has the talent to become a top ballerina but is not interested in a ballet career. Madame Margolia believes the hypnotism will make Alison more devoted to dancing, but of course it just causes a lot of distress and trouble for Alison, particularly as she can’t stop dancing when she hears a clock. Madame Margolia did not mean the effect to go that far, and once she sees it, she undoes the hypnotism. Jay Over was credited with writing “Slave of the Clock”, and it has me wondering if Over wrote “Prisoner of the Bell” as well. Both stories have similar themes of interfering people who try to instil dedications of various types into girls by means of hypnotism, but end up causing nightmares for these girls because they did not consider the consequences of their actions. Over was credited with writing “Pam of Pond Hill”, so there is no doubt he was a Jinty writer.

Gran’s sudden realisation as to what she has done does seem a bit too quick and a bit jarring. After all, how did she know that it was her hypnotic suggestions that prevented Susie from making the climb to save herself? She was not there to see it and Lorraine was still life-saving Susie in the river at the time Gran made her exclamation of remorse. Maybe someone saw the difficulty the girls were having in evacuating and told Gran? Or perhaps it was the bump on the head? Such things have been known to do incredible things in girls’ comics, particularly when it comes to the resolution of a story.

It is a bit disappointing that in the end Susie returns to her old self in terms of schoolwork. You would think something had changed, such as Susie becoming more mature and serious. But then again, Gran’s interference may have put Susie even further off schoolwork, and there is the old adage that leopards do not change their spots. And it does avoid a more clichéd ending of having Susie learn her lesson and becoming more dedicated to schoolwork, which is refreshing. And if Jay Over did write the story, perhaps Lorraine and Susie are forerunners of Fred and Terry, the class layabouts in “Pam of Pond Hill”. But some may question what messages Jinty is giving here.

The Slave of Form 3B (1976)

Sample images

Jinty 3 July 1976, "Slave of Form 3B" pg 1

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Jinty 3 July 1976, "Slave of Form 3B" pg 2

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Jinty 3 July 1976, "Slave of Form 3B" pg 3

Publication: 13 March 1976-17 July 1976
Artist: Trini Tinturé

Another discussion of this story can be found here.

Summary
Tania is a new pupil at Waverly Boarding School. Unfortunately for her she is a shy, weak willed, nervous girl. This, as it turns out, makes her very suggestible. She gets all the more nervous when she realises she is arriving at her new school on the thirteenth of the month. Her mother tells her not to be so silly, but Tania is not far wrong when she says the date feels like an omen.

At Waverly, Stacey is a bossy girl who wants to be on top and be someone at her school. But all she does is aggravate everyone with the way she tries to organise them all the time. The teachers realise it too and Stacey is annoyed to be constantly passed over for big positions such as games captain.

Tania arrives, and the headmistress puts Stacey in charge of her. She drops hints that handling the new girl kindly will put Stacey in the running for head girl. This is a ploy from the headmistress to keep Stacey’s interfering under control. But as it turns out, this is the worst thing the headmistress could have done – you should have heeded your own impression that Stacey is a bit of a bully, lady!

When Stacey tries her usual organising on Tania, she is very surprised to find she can do more than that – she can actually hypnotise Tania! And so begins Tania’s ordeal as the slave of 3B. Or rather, the slave of Stacey.

At first Stacey thinks it is a huge joke and uses the power to play cruel jokes on Tania, such as hypnotising her into putting her uniform on all wrong so Tania finds herself humiliated in front of everyone. Small stuff, which soon turns into bigger stuff that eventually hits a frightening and dangerous level of darkness. Once Stacey realises the real advantages of her power – that she can make Tania her slave – she is soon moving on to darker and more ambitious designs. She uses the power to hypnotise Tania into doing her assignments, cheat at tests and class work (Stacey had never pulled her weight there), steal things, and sabotage her rivals. Tania is bewildered by strange things happening, such as waking up to find she has copied the answers to a maths test half way through (car backfire broke her trance), but Stacey always plays slick manoeuvres to keep Tania in her grip. All the while, Tania is frightened as to be doing awful things and not understanding why.

Stacey also takes steps to systematically cut Tania off from other potential friends and all possible avenues of help. She hypnotises Tania into believing that Stacey is her only friend and can’t trust anyone else, so Tania starts snubbing other girls without understanding why, and other girls turn against her. She can’t confide in the staff either because she has been hypnotised into trusting nobody at school. She is an outcast and thinks only Stacey is her friend.

Tania makes a friend outside the school (something Stacey overlooked in her hypnotic command) and starts helping a play group. But Stacey sabotages that friendship by hypnotising her into stealing from them and then ruin the kids’ pictures.

The teachers begin to notice something is wrong and Tania looks ill. The head gives Tania a room of her own in a ploy to get her away from Stacey. Unwisely, she also hints to Stacey that she is increasing her chances for Girl of the Year with her chaperoning of Tania.

Stacey sneaks into Tania’s room to hypnotise her into sabotaging gym ropes. When Tania finds rope burns on her hands, she thinks she might be doing bad things in her sleep and starts locking her door. This foils Stacey’s next bid to hypnotise her (into stealing the answers to another test paper) and Stacey plans a nasty revenge. She hypnotises Tania into having an accident in the pool, where Stacey will then act the heroine and rescue her. It works, but suspicions among the staff grow. At matron’s suggestion, Tania keeps a tape recorder under her bed to record how she sleeps. As a result, the tape recorder records Stacey’s next hypnotic session. When Tania plays it back, she finds out the truth!

She confronts Stacey, who wipes the evidence on the tape, and bullies Tania into staying quiet. And the power still holds sway although Tania tries to fight it, and Stacey still hypnotises her into doing things. The mind control gets even more intense and frightening when Stacey suddenly develops telepathy and can read Tania’s very thoughts! She can even use her telepathy to hypnotise Tania from a distance. This gets Tania into even more trouble at school, to the point where she is forced to wear a sign saying “The School’s Shame”.

All the while, Stacey is determined to use Tania to score points for “Girl of the Year”, and so now she is doing really well thanks to her tricks. She is now the school heroine and centre of admiration, and it is riding on the things she has forced Tania to do. The girls hold a midnight feast for Stacey, where Stacey issues a dare to walk the school wall, with a dripping candle to leave waxy proof of the walk. Naturally, she hypnotises Tania into doing it and plans to take the credit. But the dare goes badly wrong and Tania falls off the wall. She is seriously hurt and unconscious.

When Stacey discovers the injured Tania, she isn’t calling for help. All she cares about is how this might affect her chances of becoming Girl of the Year. Stacey drags Tania to an old outbuilding, throws a sack over her, and leaves her there. When Tania is missed (and everyone has suspicions that make Stacey even more worried) and the search begins, Stacey goes back to the shed to make sure they don’t find Tania. She finds Tania’s condition has worsened. But she still doesn’t get help; she tries to revive Tania herself with smelling salts. She is just plain infuriated when the salts fail and tries to move Tania in the wheelbarrow. She gets even more alarmed when next door neighbour and school governor Colonel Bragg is called in and agrees to phone the police. While Stacey is listening, the salts finally work on Tania. But she is still in the trance and tries to walk the wall. Stacey finds her, breaks the trance, and orders her to pretend to run away.

Tania crawls into Colonel Bragg’s garden. He finds her and she mumbles claims about Stacey’s hypnotic powers over her, and begs him not to take her back to the school. He thinks she is deluded and takes her back to the school. However, he expresses his concerns to the headmistress about Tania being frightened of one of the girls and suspects bullying. Tania is confined to sick bay, still terrified of Stacey.

Meanwhile, Colonel Bragg begins to consider Tania’s story more and his conscience won’t stop niggling. He decides he must do something. Together with his daughter Cicely he sets a trap for Stacey. When Stacey comes into sick bay to hypnotise Tania into taking the blame, she walks straight into the trap. When Stacey finds herself caught out, she confesses – in a bragging, defiant manner, mind you! Stacey is expelled, with a warning on her record to any future school she goes to (presumably, a warning that she may try hypnotism on other girls like Tania).

The remorse-stricken girls who were fooled about Tania now vote her Girl of the Year. There is talk that Tania will be the next head girl, and it is Tania’s name that goes down in the school records as what Stacey was after – a somebody at Waverly School.

Thoughts
“The Slave of Form 3B” is one of Jinty’s best remembered and highly regarded stories. In fact, on the Jinty Top Ten list, it says of this story that “if Slaves of War Orphan Farm was Tammy’s most notorious story, there can only be one candidate for Jinty‘s!”

Indeed, bullying stories have seldom gone to the depths that this one does. And it is not just the various tortures and ordeals that Tania goes through over the span of 19 episodes but the extremes that the bully goes to as she spirals down an increasingly dark path of depravity. Stacey hits the nadir with the absolute lack of concern or remorse about finding Tania badly injured and she is responsible. All her moves to handle the injured Tania are to cover her own tracks and protect her Girl of the Year points. The sheer callousness of her conduct must have shocked readers to the core and ranks as one of the most appalling moments in girls’ comics. Stacey’s callousness goes through right to the end, with her lack of remorse when she confesses. She brags what great fun it was and she is cleverer than they are. Indeed, Stacey is a clever bully as well as as well as a callous one; for example, hypnotising Tania into distrusting everyone else at school is a masterstroke that instantly cuts Tania off from making friends, avenues of help and keeps her completely under Stacey’s thumb. And Tinturé, who is brilliant at drawing sharp eyed villainesses, captures the essence of Stacey’s hypnotic powers to perfection with those narrow, flinty, hypnotic eyes that exude the power, evil and cruelty that is growing inside her.

The episodes where Stacey demonstrates telepathic control over Tania are going too far and stretching credibility past believing. Such things belong in SF or supernatural stories and this story is neither. It would have been more convincing if Tania was imagining the telepathy or maybe Stacey hypnotising Tania into believing it. Perhaps the editor or writer realised it was a step too far as well, because the telepathy quickly disappeared from the story. The story returns to the more sensible move of following Stacey’s growing evil as a villainess through her appalling actions over Tania’s accident.

And at the end, while Tania is freed and emerges triumphant, Stacey is still streets ahead as the more powerful character and one of the best villains to ever appear in Jinty. She could easily return in a sequel as, say, a full grown woman with frightening hypnotic powers who snares some unsuspecting victim into a crime wave.

Tania, on the other hand, is voted Girl of the Year and may become Head Girl, but has she the strength of character for it? Throughout the story she has been a weak, timid person who is all too easy to dominate and bully, even without the hypnotism. Then again, perhaps Tania gained confidence with her new accolades and prestige at Waverly and became stronger. We would like to think so, anyway.

Village of Fame (1979)

Sample Images

Fame 1

Fame 2

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Fame 3

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Publication: 4/8/79-24/11/79
Artist: Jim Baikie
Writer: Unknown

You know the story of the little boy who cried wolf. Sue Parker finds herself in the same position, and pays the price for her over-active imagination that is fuelled by too much television. She just spins tall tales for a little excitement in her dreary village, despite its name – Fame. But of course Sue gets more excitement than she bargained for in her story. And when Sue finds it is turning into something even more evil than mere excitement, it escalates even further because nobody listens to Sue, as she is known for her crazy imagination.

It all seems to start innocently enough, with promises of real fame for the village of Fame. Major Grenfield rents out the old manor to Mr Grand of IBC TV studios. Grand wants to film a festival in Fame, with snobby Angela Grenfield as festival princess. But Sue overhears his employees saying that Grand has something far more exciting planned. Sue’s imagination goes into overdrive as to what this means, and starts getting ideas about spies. In a way it does turn out to be spying – Grand wants to start filming day-to-day lives of the villagers. So there is going to be real fame for the village of Fame, with the villagers all thrilled at being TV stars. But Sue is not keen on cameras being installed everywhere in Fame, and she does not trust Grand.

And of course, Sue’s suspicions prove justified when she discovers the lengths that Grand will go to with his publicity stunts to increase ratings. He starts by provoking Sue’s family to quarrelling in front of the cameras, but is soon moving to more devious tactics when Sue declares war on him. Among them, Grand plants his niece, Mandy Walters in Sue’s school, who at first pretends to be sympathetic to Sue. But Mandy turns on her uncle when he does not keep his end of the bargain. So Mandy tells Sue the truth, and they become reluctant allies, with Sue not fully trusting Mandy and Mandy still having an unsavoury disposition. But Mandy has a conscience too. She discovers it when she gets scared by what her uncle does next, and she and Sue become true allies.

And what does Grand do next that frightens Mandy? He hires a sinister hypnotist named Marvo to help him jack up publicity even more. One look at Marvo, and you can see why anybody would be frightened.  Marvo becomes Sue’s teacher (after Grand contrives to get the previous teacher sacked) and hypnotises the class into doing things, such as make them disappear on a picnic and blame it on flying saucers. But nobody listens to Sue’s warnings about Marvo and Grand because of her reputation for too much imagination. Mandy, the only person who can help Sue, has been sent out of the way.

So far we have spy cameras, publicity stunts, frame-ups, attempted kidnappings and a hypnotist, all in the name of higher ratings and money – what’s next? Blackmail, as it turns out. Grand had been blackmailing Major Grenfield into renting out his manor for the TV serial. And thanks to a secret passage, Sue, Mandy (now returned) and Angela overhear Marvo and Grand talking about another plan that will make his serial unstoppable (it has taken a dent because the Major is now speaking out against it). This turns out to be mass hypnotism of the entire village – brainwashing everyone into saying, “This serial is good for Fame.” Sue foils the brainwashing, and everyone now realises that Sue had been right all along. Soon it is cancellation time for the TV serial and jail for its creator. But not before Angela, Mandy and even Marvo almost die because of it.

It is not difficult to see why this is one of Jinty’s most well-remembered serials – it pushes so many buttons in the human psyche. Dreams of fame, imagination, fantasy, greed, money, conspiracy theories, paranoia, manipulation, brainwashing, publicity stunts, and intrusiveness of technology are just some of them.

And there is the television theme. Television stories are very popular in girls’ comics. Who doesn’t want to be part of a TV serial and dream of fame on television? But television is also known as the one-eyed monster, and there is a definite take on this and the evils of television in this story. First we have the television cameras everywhere, watching every move that everyone makes. But the spy cameras are not just intruding on people’s lives; they are also manipulating them and passing on information about them to the master control. An insidious presence that is creepy because you cannot see who is behind that camera, but they can see you, and heaven knows what they are going to do about it. And you cannot escape it because it is everywhere, all over the entire district. Big Brother is watching you! This theme will be seen again in Tammy’s “Tomorrow Town”.

The year of 1979 seemed to be a big Jinty year for stories on hypnotism and brainwashing, and not just with this story. There was “Prisoner of the Bell”, where an underachiever is hypnotised into doing her homework. But the most remembered of these must surely be “Children of Edenford”, where an insane headmistress uses drugs to turn her entire school into glazed-eyed zombies. But she doesn’t stop there – like Marvo and Grand, she moves to bigger things by using her power to bring the entire district under her control. And that is only the beginning for her, and, presumably, with Marvo and Grand as well. After all, what is to stop them using their hypnotism to brainwash every single viewer in Britain? Our heroines, of course!