Tag Archives: Jake Adams

The Black and White World of Shirley Grey [1981]

Sample Images

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Published: Tammy 7 February 1981 to 23 May 1981

Episodes: 16

Artist: Diane Gabbot

Writer: Jake Adams?

Translations/reprints: Tammy annual 1986

Plot

Shirley Grey’s best friend, Trisha Morris, has an accident and ends up in a coma because she defied orders and warnings in practising her diving at a dangerous cove, which tempted fate once too often. Although she was acting on Trisha’s instructions, Shirley blames herself because she had covered up about Trisha’s whereabouts to Mrs Morris. Mrs Morris also blames Shirley for the same reason (she does not know Shirley was only obeying Trisha) and lashes out at her whenever their paths cross.

In the wake of the accident Shirley swears never to lie again, but is taking it the extreme of not telling even a white lie, no matter what the circumstances. So what happens? A whole raft of circumstances where this gets Shirley gets into ever-increasing trouble as either a tattletale or a very rude girl. They are summarised as follows:

  1. Shirley twice insults the boss’s wife by giving a too-honest opinion on her clothes (hideous and don’t fit her properly because she’s too fat). As a result, Shirley’s father loses his promotion and his job is on the line, and Shirley’s parents are up in arms against her. Mum is having hysterics because they needed money from the promotion to buy a place away from the estate, which has been terrible ever since a gang of troublemakers moved in.
  2. Shirley begs a nurse to go against the Morris parents’ instructions (no visitors for Trisha except immediate family) and let her see Trisha. When Shirley is caught and the matron demands to know if the nurse let Shirley in, she says the nurse did. The nurse throws Shirley out, raging at how Shirley has repaid her – by getting her into trouble.
  3. Shirley falls foul of the school bully Evie Moore when she tells on Evie for stealing from a teacher because she can’t lie. Evie ruins Shirley’s blazer and demands menaces money of £1 a day, which Shirley can’t possibly pay, of course. When Shirley fails on her first payment Evie and her gang threaten to do something terrible to her. Shirley’s friends find their courage and rise up against the bullies, but Evie gets hurt. When the teacher asks Shirley who did it, Shirley says who it was without explaining why. Furious at how Shirley got them into trouble when they were trying to help her, the girls have everyone at school send her to Coventry. Even the teachers feel the effects of this.
  4. Evie’s final revenge against Shirley is to frame her for shoplifting. Shirley is convicted and the court is awaiting a social worker’s report before passing sentence.

All the while everyone is trying to tell Shirley she is being ridiculous, both in the way she is blaming herself and in thinking she can go through life without telling a lie because everyone has to one way or other. “You’ve got to pack it in,” says Shirley’s friend Hannah. “You can’t go through life without telling a lie – it’s not possible!” Even Evie tells Shirley she is mad about never lying, and around the district Shirley is soon derogatorily dubbed the girl who never tells lies. But Shirley says she can’t help not lying and won’t stop blaming herself. As things get progressively worse, Shirley comes to think it is all a punishment for Trisha’s accident. She fails to realise the trouble all stems from her blaming herself.

The final straw comes when Shirley overhears Mum having yet more hysterics that she can’t take any more of this and is going to have a nervous breakdown. Mum has been having nothing but these hysterics ever since Dad has lost his promotion. But when the false shoplifting charge came up Mum has been extremely selfish about it. Although she and Dad believe Shirley innocent, neither of them show her any sympathy, support or concern about it and treat her harshly. All Mum can think of is the shame of it all, that she’ll be struck on this dreadful estate, what everyone will think and how she won’t be able to hold her head up, etc, etc.

At any rate, Mum’s hysterics have Shirley decide that the only answer is to run away, which she does blindly. Shirley’s disappearance has the parents finally showing concern about her and they call the police.

Shirley finds herself back at the cove where it all started and the very cliff edge where the accident occurred. This gets very dangerous for Shirley when she falls asleep there and then the parents and police shine a blinding light in her eyes. She falls off the cliff, nearly drowns in the sea below, and takes a head injury that fractures her skull. She is rushed to hospital, and when Mum hears that it was her hysterics that made Shirley run off, she realises how selfish she has been.

Shirley finds herself in the next bed to Trisha, and still blaming herself for Trisha’s accident. The medical staff suggest Shirley talk to Trisha about their times together in the hope this will bring Trisha out of the coma. But Mrs Morris, who still blames Shirley for the accident, won’t allow Shirley near Trisha. However the same nurse from before helps Shirley to talk to Trisha secretly, and forgives what happened last time. After two weeks this brings Trisha out of the coma. Shirley finally stops blaming herself and the grateful Mrs. Morris apologises for her conduct. Shirley discontinues her vow never to tell even a white lie because she now understands “that things aren’t all black-and-white”.

But there is still the little matter of the problems Shirley created for herself with that guilt complex, and there is now a wrongful conviction hanging over her head as well. What about those?

Shirley finds most of these problems are now sorting themselves out, albeit in a somewhat contrived manner. Shirley’s remarks shocked the boss’s wife into slimming and a complete makeover. She is so grateful to Shirley that Dad gets his promotion after all. There is new hope that Shirley will be cleared of the shoplifting once the social worker get the courts to reconsider Shirley’s side of things because she was going to such extremes about not lying. What Shirley started about standing up to Evie has continued, despite her “dropping [the girls] in it”. As a result, Evie has lost her power as a bully and is no longer her “cocky, obnoxious self”. However, the girls have not forgiven Shirley. Trisha and the more forgiving Hannah try to persuade them, but they remain unmoved until they see Shirley covering up for them and telling the teacher the Coventry thing was just a misunderstanding that’s been sorted out. They go along with it and are reconciled with Shirley.

Thoughts

Essentially, Shirley has the same problem as Wanda White in Jinty’s Wanda Whiter Than White—she is taking truth-telling to extremes that causes problems both for her and for everyone around her, and it all stems from a huge guilt complex. In the end, Shirley, like Wanda, realises things aren’t all black and white and uses a white lie to help redeem herself. Unlike Wanda though, Shirley knows she is hurting people with all this extreme truth telling and feels terrible about it. But to her mind she can’t help it and she’s got to tell the truth at all times.

Again unlike Wanda, Shirley is a totally sympathetic character. She is tortured by guilt, keeps getting herself and others into constant trouble over her extreme truth-telling, becomes a victim of vicious bullying, a frame-up that gets her wrongly convicted, and nearly gets herself killed.

Like so many protagonists in girls’ comics who are suffering from a massive guilt complex, Shirley is blaming herself over something that is utterly ridiculous. If anyone is to blame, it is Trisha herself. That’s what everyone tells her, but they’re not getting through. This girl needs serious counselling and psychiatric help. But despite initial concerns about how badly Shirley has reacted to the accident and some talk of getting a doctor involved to help sort Shirley out, her parents never do so. Instead they degenerate into the common theme of parents handling things badly in girls’ serials. This is because they’re thinking too much about how the effects of it all are having on themselves. They’re not thinking about Shirley at all until her disappearance shocks them out of their selfishness.

The story also makes a serious statement about bullying and harassment, and ineptness in handling it effectively. It’s not just the vicious bullies at school that Shirley falls foul of. There is also a gang of delinquent girls who have been causing nothing but trouble ever since they moved in and turned a once-great estate into a nightmare for everyone. For example, they set fire to a lady’s washing. But nobody seems to do anything about them and by they end of the story they go unpunished. That’s pretty much how Evie Moore went too with her bullying until Shirley’s extreme truth-telling got her reported for the very first time. However, unlike Evie, they don’t add much to the story. The only time they really do so is when they chase Shirley while she is running off because she shoved one of them over. But she is too fast for them – hurrah! For the most part though, they are just distracting. Perhaps their purpose in the plot is to explain why Mrs Grey is so desperate to get away from the estate and keeps having hysterics that she’s going to be stuck there once Dad loses his chance of promotion.

Evie gets some punishment in that she loses her power and her bullying days are over at that school. But it feels she got off too lightly considering what she’s done, particularly to Shirley. She is not even expelled for stealing from the teacher. The headmaster just gives her a final warning and will expel her next time. “He’s too soft,” says one girl. “He should’ve expelled her now!” We certainly agree, and we feel the story is making a comment about schools not cracking down on bullying hard enough.

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Tammy turns 12: 5 February 1983

Tammy 5 February 1983

Cover artist: John Armstrong

  • Romy’s Return (artist Juliana Buch, writer Charles Herring)
  • ET Estate (artist Guy Peeters, writer Jake Adams)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Bridge of Heart’s Desire (artist Trini Tinturé) – complete story
  • In the Fourth at Trebizon (artist Diane Gabbot, writer Anne Digby) – first episode
  • The Witch Wind (artist Hugo D’Adderio) – complete story
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Cuckoo in the Nest (artist Tony Coleman, writer Ian Mennell)
  • Step Lively! (feature)

Tammy turns 12 this issue, and Bella is flying high on the cover to celebrate. Only the cover celebrates Tammy’s 12th birthday though; there isn’t so much as a competition inside to commemorate. This was Tammy’s last birthday issue. She did turn 13 (which was indeed an unlucky year for her, what with her untimely disappearance from a strike), but did not celebrate it.

What is perhaps given even more commemoration is the start of a new Trebizon adaptation. Anne Digby was one of Tammy’s best writers; her best-remembered story was “Olympia Jones”. So it is not surprising that Tammy ran several adaptations of Digby’s books.

Tammy reprints two Strange Stories as complete stories, replacing the Storyteller with less appealing text boxes. “Bridge of Heart’s Desire” appeared in June and was reprinted in Jinty as a Gypsy Rose story. A Jinty reader wrote in to say her school adapted the story for a play and the teacher was very impressed. Now it appears in Tammy, but not as a Strange Story per se. Liu is upset because the Mandarin won’t let her marry her betrothed. She is told to make a wish to marry her betrothed while crossing the Bridge of Heart’s Desire, but must not speak until she is across or there will be no wish. Does the wish get granted? In a very convoluted and surprising way it is, due to Liu indeed not speaking while on the bridge.

The other story, “The Witch Wind” has an infuriating mixed message about the persecution of suspected witches. It starts out with Widow Dorrity being accused of raising storms to wreck ships, using a magical device known as a witch rope. A lynch mob goes to Dorrity’s house while Sal, who has been raised to scorn such superstitions, tries to warn her. However, Dorrity says she’s too old to run and passes on her witch rope to Sal for safekeeping. So it seems Dorrity really does have the power the mob accused her of, yet Tammy still calls her an “unfortunate old woman” for being burned alive in her own house by the mob. As for the witch rope, it eventually destroys the Spanish Armada in 1588 – something Dorrity herself seemed to prophesise to Sal.

Bella’s in a Muslim country teaching gymnastics to royal princesses. Not surprisingly, this is offending conservative Muslims, the Queen among them. The Queen does not realise her brother Suliemen is taking advantage her opposition to Westernisation to overthrow her husband and make himself the Shah. As part of his plan he has framed Bella for stealing the sacred “Tears of the Prophet”, and this week Bella nearly walks into his trap to plant them directly on her.

The formula where a girl plays dirty tricks on a friend to keep her in the background and herself in the limelight has been used less often at IPC than DCT, but “Romy’s Return” is one of the cases where it has been. This is the penultimate episode of it all, where it looks like Linda’s tricks to sabotage Romy have pushed Romy to breaking point. She snaps and starts doing things she shouldn’t have and gets into terrible trouble at school. Then Linda hears a bombshell from Romy’s father that has her realise that her sabotage may have been far more damaging than she thought.

In “E.T. Estate”, the aliens try to silence Jenny when she tries to tell everyone that there are alien doubles taking over the estate. They needn’t have bothered; nobody’s listening and they just think Jenny’s crazy. As it is, the aliens’ attack puts Jenny in hospital.

Tess just won’t stop boasting about her synchro swimming. It’s not only getting on everyone’s nerves; it also costs her the allies who had helped her to get into the swim baths after the manager wrongly banned Pond Hill pupils for vandalism.

In Nanny’s latest job, her employer, the Honourable Lady Louise Fanshawe, could lose the estate she means to pass on to her great-niece, Matilda, because of mounting debts. She managed to stave off her creditors with a “poor old dying woman” act, but by the end of the episode it looks like they are still in danger of losing the estate.

“Cuckoo in the Nest” is one of the most bonkers stories ever to appear in girls’ comics. The protagonist is a boy! Moreover, Leslie (that’s his name) is a boy who has to disguise himself as a girl (how many times have you seen that in girls’ comics?). It’s for the sake of his uncle, who is trying to cover up that he used funds an aunt sent for boarding school fees to treat Leslie instead. To make things even more complicated, the aunt had the mistaken belief that her nephew was a niece and the school was for girls. Hence the (not very good) girl’s disguise, which the nosy Sarah Mullins discovered when the school broke up for holidays. Fortunately a measles quarantine has delayed Sarah’s return to school where she is just dying to tell everyone about their having a boy disguised as a girl. But of course the quarantine won’t last forever.

Tammy 9 April 1983

Tammy 9 April 1983

Cover artist: Santiago Hernandez

  • The Secret of Angel Smith (artist Juliana Buch, writer Jay Over)
  • It’s a Dog’s Life (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, (sub)writer Ian Mennell)
  • Spring into Summer! (artist Joe Collins, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Tom Newland)
  • Princess and the Bear (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Chris Harris)
  • Pair Up for ‘Champions All’! – gymnastics freebie
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • ET Estate (artist Guy Peeters, writer Jake Adams)
  • Take-Away Fashion for Spring – feature

 

Tammy’s spring issue for 1983 immediately follows her Easter issue. It merits inclusion in our spread of Tammy Easter issues because of its colourful cheery cover, which is a very Easter-like cover with those cute little chicks and field full of daisies. It looks like one of the chicks is about to find out that bees are not for eating, though! Tammy also has a spring quiz. When she ran credits, we learnt it was Maureen Spurgeon who wrote the quizzes. She might have written Jinty’s quizzes too.

“It’s a Dog’s Life” and “E.T. Estate” are on their penultimate episodes. When Rowan runs away from the bullying with Riley, she finds the refuge she was aiming for is no longer available, and there’s nowhere else to go. Of course it is not long before the police catch up. It looks like back to the bullying for Riley and Rowan – or maybe not, as the final episode is next week. Meanwhile, other policemen are called in to investigate the goings-on at ET Estate, but the aliens quickly get rid of them with their hypnotic powers. Jenny and Dora are still tied up. Can nothing stop the aliens’ pod from reaching maturity? If it does, it will spell doom for all life on Earth, including the human race.

Abby, getting nowhere with her father over what she knows about “The Secret of Angel Smith” because he’s been led to believe it’s jealousy, decides to play Angel at her own game and act ruthless to get what she wants. Her plan is to force Dad to watch her on the trapeze and let her into the act – but then the trapeze snaps and Abby looks badly injured from the fall! Could Dad’s fears about losing Abby the way he lost his wife (from a trapeze fall) be prophetic after all?

This week’s Button Box tale is a sad, cautionary tale about seeking revenge without getting your facts straight first. So many revenge-seekers in girls’ comics have found out they had persecuted innocent people because they had misjudged them (or had been misled about them). And the girl in the tale (Ann Freeman) suffers for her error far more than they do. She has spent a whole year in shame, tears and guilt, and too ashamed to even write to the girl – her best friend – whom she had hurt so badly in her mistaken revenge. But it doesn’t sound like she has owned up or apologised to her friend, which is the first true step in the healing.

Bella discovers her Uncle Jed’s trick over the gym he had her believe he was renting for her when the gym owner finds her and kicks her out. (Oh, come on, Bella, you really should know have known better!) Sure enough, it was another of Jed’s schemes to make money out of Bella. Now there is a new mystery over the woman who owns the gym – she wears a mask. Bella is drawn back to her, and discovers the mysterious masked lady is a brilliant gymnast.

Nanny is still having problems over Barbara, who is jealous over her new baby brother because it seems that he’s stealing all attention from her. At least Nanny now fully understands the problem.

This week’s complete story is a cautionary tale about showing consideration to both animals and people. The officers of the Second Hussars do not heed Princess Elena’s advice to treat their soldiers considerately, as she does with the mascot bear that they mistreat. The soldiers mutiny in protest of their treatment, and when they take Elena prisoner, the bear repays her kindness by helping her escape.

In the new Pond Hill story, Goofy enters a film competition that requires a short documentary about your school. A film about Pond Hill? Now that sounds even more dramatic and problematic than a soap opera! Yep, it sure is. Goofy finds that even the stern Mr Gold goes gaga when he is in front of the camera!

Tammy 2 April 1983

Tammy 2 April 1983

Cover artist: Santiago Hernandez

  • The Secret of Angel Smith (artist Juliana Buch, writer Jay Over)
  • It’s a Dog’s Life (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Alison Christie)
  • Strawberry Delight! Competition
  • Nanny Young (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Tom Newland)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Thief by Night (artist Eduardo Feito) – complete story
  • Easter Bonnets – feature
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • ET Estate (artist Guy Peeters, writer Jake Adams)

The cover of this Tammy Easter issue has always had me craving for a yummy Easter egg.

But anyway, Wee Sue, Bessie Bunter and even the Storyteller have been dropped by this stage, so how does the issue commemorate Easter? There is a feature on how to make an Easter bonnet, Easter jokes, and Easter hijinks with the Crayzees. Miss T tries a spell to enlarge Easter eggs and thinks she’s succeeded, but finds that what she has really done is shrink herself and Edie so the Easter eggs just look big to them. And when she tries to reverse a spell, she ends up turning herself and Edie into giants, so now the eggs look like mini eggs to them.

You’d think there would be an Easter tale somewhere in “The Button Box”. Instead, it’s shades of “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” with the tale of “ ‘Tough Nut’ Tara”. New girl Tara is a hard case who snubs all offers of friendship. But when it’s her birthday she gives in. She admits to Bev that, like Stefa, she reacted badly to grief and tried to harden her heart so she would not be hurt that way again, but now she realises her mistake. Thank goodness tough nut Tara was not as hard to crack as Stefa!

The complete story slot could have been used for an Easter story. Instead, it’s a reprint of a Strange Story. By this time Tammy was running reprints of Strange Stories, but the Storyteller has been replaced with text boxes.

In the serials, Abby Fox can’t help but be jealous of Angel Smith, the girl who wants to enter the family’s trapeze act while Abby is excluded because Dad does not want to lose her the way he lost her mother. Now Abby suspects “The Secret of Angel Smith”, whatever that is, and Stalky the clown could help her there. But Stalky has oddly clammed up and Abby thinks it’s because the circus boss has been at him over it.

In “It’s a Dog’s Life”, Rowan Small is bullied in the children’s home, and the bullying she gets shares some parallels with the ill-treatment Riley the dog gets next door. Both Riley and Rowan have been making progress in striking back at their abusers, but this week the bullies bring in reinforcements, which trebles the bullying for both of them. Rowan decides it’s time to run away – with Riley in tow, of course.

Bella is so badly out of training that she has to go through the basic tests to get back into gymnastics. It’s a bit of a come-down for an ex-champion like her, but at least she gets through. But Bella should have known better than to believe her devious Uncle Jed would have genuinely been hiring the private gym he found for her. And in the final panel it looks like she is about to find out the hard way…

Nanny Young is in charge of a baby this time, and there are suspicious signs that his older sister Barbara is jealous of him. Nanny tries to reach out to Barbara while looking for the solution, but so far it’s evasive.

The current Pam of Pond Hill story concludes this week. Fortune-seekers have been out to steal Goofy’s inheritance from his great-aunt, which they believe is hidden in the doll’s house that was bequeathed to him. They tear the doll’s house to pieces to find it and leave in haste when they turn up empty. It turns out they didn’t look hard enough.

In “ET Estate”, the alien invaders finally catch up with Jenny and Dora. They hold them prisoner while explaining the next stage of their plan – which will make all life (humans included) on Earth extinct, just to keep them fed!

 

E.T. Estate [1983]

Sample Images

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Published: Tammy 15 January 1983 – 16 April 1983

Episodes: 14

Artist: Guy Peeters

Writer: Jake Adams

Translations/reprints: De kristalmonsters [The Crystal Monsters] Tina 1984, #45

Plot

Keats Estate used to be a great estate, but it has been plagued by hooliganism ever since Tony Jenkins and his gang arrived. However, one night far worse arrives when a meteorite shower hits the estate, and the damage is so extensive the estate looks like it got bombed out. Following this, the estate is nicknamed “E.T. Estate”.

But nobody realises this is no ordinary meteorite shower. The “meteorites” carry crystals, each of which contains a gaseous alien life form. Being gaseous, the crystal alien can only leave its crystal by creating a synthetic body that replicates the body of the first life form it comes into contact with – in this case, humans. The real life form is trapped within the crystal while the alien double takes its place. The alien feeds by progressively siphoning off the life force of the host trapped inside the crystal until it dies. Then the alien moves onto another life form…

As the story progresses, the aliens demonstrate other abilities. They have telekinetic powers and can also plant hallucinations into people’s minds. The energy for these powers is also drawn from the hosts’ life forces. The aliens are not telepathic, though; in fact they have to use Earth equipment such as radios.

Their main weakness is that they have to carry their crystals at all times to maintain their synthetic bodies. If the crystal is removed from them or fails to transfer the host’s life energy, their synthetic bodies disintegrate and they return to gaseous form. They are particularly vulnerable to this if the life force of the host is nearing exhaustion. Their powers also weaken if the host is nearly spent. And sometimes the transfer between the host and the duplicate fails, as will be seen later.

Jenny Holmes stumbles onto the aliens when she sees her sister Sarah being replaced by one of these crystal aliens. But of course nobody believes her when she tries to tell them what happened. Jenny soon finds it’s not just her sister – these crystal alien doubles are replacing other people on the estate. Like Sarah, Tony Jenkins was among the first. The duplicate Sarah and Tony Jenkins try to dispose of Jenny by attacking her with telekinetic powers. This causes Jenny to have an accident, but fortunately the police intervene and put her in hospital before the duplicates can finish the job.

In hospital, the Sarah duplicate slips Jenny a crystal so as to replace her too. But sometimes the transfers fail because the energy from the host fails to come through. And fortunately for Jenny, this is precisely what happens. The energy transfer failure causes the alien’s synthetic body to disintegrate, making it return to gas. The crystal dies and Jenny manages to escape from it.

Jenny is confident that someone will believe her now that she has the dead crystal for evidence. However, when she shows it to her parents when they visit, they make remarks that indicate that they, too, are crystal aliens (the duplicate Sarah must have passed crystals to the Holmes parents too). But the hospital staff don’t believe Jenny when she starts screaming about this and put it down to some sort of mental disorder from the accident. So Jenny runs away from the hospital and heads back to the estate to get some evidence.

However, the crystal aliens anticipate this and are on the lookout for her. They spot her and Jenny overhears the duplicate Sarah giving orders to “neutralise” her (the duplicate Sarah is clearly emerging as the leader figure). Jenny finds a hiding place where she also finds a human who has not been replaced – a bag woman whom everyone calls “Old Mad Dora”. Dora tells Jenny that the aliens do not sleep and work non-stop. They do not eat either (Jenny and Dora do not yet realise how the aliens do eat). Dora also witnessed Mr Holmes being replaced by his duplicate. Unfortunately people think Dora is mad and therefore she would not be taken seriously as a backup witness. On the other hand, the crystal aliens are leaving Dora alone because they also assume she is mad and therefore of no use to them. They do not realise Jenny is hidden in Dora’s pram.

Jenny soon finds the crystal aliens have hollowed out an entire building. She can’t understand the point of this. But it is now that the aliens corner Jenny.  They try to kill her by sending her upwards telekinetically and then letting her fall to her death. Dora saves Jenny by using a pile of mattresses for Jenny to land on safely and whisks her away before the aliens find her. While searching for Jenny’s body, the duplicate Sarah recognises Dora’s bags, which she carelessly left behind. She realises what happened, so now the aliens are after Dora too.

Yobs from a neighbouring estate then attack the Sarah double and take her crystal, mistaking it for a diamond. This causes the alien’s link with Sarah to break and she collapses on the ground. The other aliens just go after the yobs and leave the alien’s synthetic body to disintegrate. Jenny and Dora are watching. They now understand the aliens’ power to siphon off the life force of the hosts they capture and duplicate – and what it means for those hosts.

Jenny is able to find the yobs before the aliens do because she knew where to find the yobs whereas the aliens did not. The yobs are stunned at how the crystal begins to grow, and it grows until it is large enough for Sarah to emerge. Sarah collapses, looking completely emaciated. The yobs are too terrified of the police to call for help, so Jenny takes it upon herself to call for them and an ambulance. By the time she returns she finds the crystal has disappeared. She does not realise that one of Dora’s cats has become the new host, and the cat she is about to pick up is the duplicate. Moreover, the duplicate can still speak although it is now in cat form, and it’s still the leader of the alien swarm although its form has been reduced from human to animal.

Sarah’s condition is so severe that she has gone into a coma. She is taken to hospital but the police still don’t believe Jenny and think she is crazy. They take her off in their patrol car, but the duplicate cat uses its telekinetic powers to make the car crash. Everyone escapes relatively unscathed. Jenny goes back on the run from the police with the cat, but still does not know it is a duplicate. She finds out, though, when the aliens finally capture her.

The aliens have also captured Dora and tie both of them up. While doing so, they explain about their crystal pod, which is what they hollowed out the building for. They intend to make the pod grow large enough until it is ready to shoot millions of these crystals all over Earth. When that happens, what happened to E.T. Estate will happen everywhere, and it will go on happening until Earth is stripped of all life. Then the crystals will go into outer space and search for another host planet. Their justification for all this is the right to survive; they cannot live on if they cannot consume the way that they do. To feed the pod, the aliens surrender their own crystals, although it will mean sacrificing their own synthetic bodies. Of course all the people trapped in the crystals will die in order to feed the pod. A few aliens remain behind to guard the pod and the prisoners.

Meanwhile, in hospital, Sarah awakens and convinces one policeman enough to send a patrol force out to E.T. Estate. However, the aliens trick the police into leaving by hypnotising them into seeing everything is normal on the estate. On the other hand, performing this trick weakens the aliens. In fact, two of them somehow disappear (and their hosts later emerge from the pod for some reason) and all that is left is the duplicate cat. The real cats now start attacking it, which gives Dora and Jenny their chance to escape their bonds. Jenny goes into the pod to get the crystals out and the duplicate cat realises it is now too weak to stop her. Then Dora takes its crystal, which causes its synthetic body to disintegrate.

Jenny comes out with the crystals, which promptly expand to full size and release the prisoners within, including Jenny’s parents. Without the crystals to feed from, the pod disintegrates. The flood of gook it makes is so massive it just about drowns all the humans. The crystals disintegrate too, which means the aliens are no longer able to duplicate anyone else.

At the hospital, the doctor says the people will recover, but it was close. Jenny wants to put E.T. Estate behind her, so she hopes the council will demolish what’s left of it and put them elsewhere.

Thoughts

E.T. Estate was Guy Peeters’ one and only serial for Tammy (The Human Zoo reprint during the merger is not counted as it came from Jinty). It was one of my biggest favourites, and it must have been very popular as one reader wrote in to say she liked it so much she cut the pages out and pasted them on cardboard.

This was the only story in Tammy to use the alien invasion theme. Jinty never used it, despite her strong emphasis on science fiction. The setup for this particular invasion is very well thought out. In many alien invasion stories in girls’ comics, the aliens just invade for no apparent reason or are driven by power. But here the aliens’ motive is straightforward, credible and realistic: They are doing it to survive. They need the life energy of other life forms in order to keep themselves alive and fed because that is how they have evolved. For this reason they invade ‘suitable’ planets and strip them of their life forms in order to feed. In other words, they are a form of intergalactic parasite.

Although the crystal aliens do what they do in order to survive, they are not at all sympathetic. Indeed, they come across as totally irredeemable creatures with constant evil and cruel expressions on their faces. They may have the right to survive as they say, but so do the other life forms they try to feed off. They are a death warrant to any world they land upon if they are not stopped and eradicated in time. One hopes that at the end of the story, the whole species has been wiped out and not just a swarm of them. But we can never know for sure.

The aliens are very insidious and frightening invaders. A large part of this is due to their ability to replicate the body of whatever host they come across. Fortunately they are not good actors or bother with the culture of whatever planet they encounter. Part of this would be not having telepathic abilities, but perhaps they have little need of it. Their MO is not to infiltrate but to take over their victim planet as quickly as possible with their pod once they have established a launch site for it. What makes them even more dangerous is their telekinetic and hypnotic powers. Their ability to duplicate also transcends the human boundaries of human society, which can make for some odd scenes. Jenny, for example, finds it weird to see ordinary people working alongside workmen. She realises they must all be duplicates, but it is still a strange sight. Boundaries between good and not-so-good people are also transcended, such as the hooligan Tony Jenkins apparently working alongside Sarah Holmes because they are both duplicates. We can also feel pity for hithterto unsympathetic people like Tony once they fall victim to the crystal aliens.

Jenny falls into the long-established category of the protagonist who’s the only one who realises what’s going on but can’t convince anyone else. Nobody is listening and people think she is crazy. So she has to act on her own. Fortunately Jenny finds an ally in Dora. Dora would also fall into the same category as Jenny, not least because everyone calls her mad. Jenny used to do the same, but once she gets to know Dora better, Dora becomes established as a perfectly sane woman and a clever and courageous woman. We hope others will respect Dora and stop calling her mad after E.T. Estate.

The environment of E.T. Estate itself also adds to the creepy, grim atmosphere of the story. Even before the invasion begins, there is foreshadowing that the estate is going to go on a downward spiral because a gang of hooligans have moved in and threatening to destroy once was a great estate. This is reflected the story logo itself, which also lends itself to the yob theme that runs in the story. The opening blurb says the sun is setting on the Holmes sisters’ way of life, which implies their lives are never going to be the same again after the events in the story.

Then actual destruction on the estate begins with the meteorite shower, which causes intense damage to every building and leaves craters everywhere. The estate now looks like a bombed-out World War II city. However, eventually the people inside the estate are no longer survivors but the conquering duplicates, which makes the estate even more frightening. When Jenny finds Dora, the only human left on the estate, she finds her under the rubble of a car park, which is reminiscent of a WW2 bomb shelter. Dora’s hungry, scavenging cats, which can’t even find scraps to live on because the aliens don’t leave any, are reminiscent of scrounging, desperate survivors in a war zone. And when you think about it, E.T. Estate has become a war zone. Taking all these together, Jenny’s hope that E.T. Estate will be demolished altogether sounds prophetic.

There are a couple of weaknesses in the ending – like how did three aliens suddenly get reduced to one – and it’s the one the cats could conveniently beat up? How did the two hosts those duplicates used come to be rescued from the pod when their crystals were not even put in there? It also feels a bit convenient that the crystals dissolved too and were not able to move onto other hosts as Sarah’s crystal did. But then, perhaps the aliens only get one shot at whatever planet they land on. At one point, they did hint they had limits on their resources after all. So maybe if the pod fails, that’s it for the swarm and they die. If so, it can be explained away, plus it is very fortunate for Earth or any other planet these crystal aliens land on. It’s not the more common and more trite ending where the aliens just give up and go home.

Tammy’s 10th Birthday Issue

Tammy 7 February 1981

Cover artist: Robert MacGillivray

Characters/serials on the cover: Sandy Rawlings; Molly Mills; Belinda Bookworm; Wee Sue; Bella Barlow; Mary Moldesworth from Bessie Bunter?; Push-along, Patti; Bessie Bunter; Miss Bigger

  •  Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • The Black and White World of Shirley Grey – first episode (artist Diane Gabbot, writer Jake Adams?)
  • Push-along, Patti (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Help Yourself to a Holiday – competition
  • Molly Mills and the Echoes from the Past – new story (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Edie and Miss T (artist Joe Collins)
  • Tune-In (feature)
  • Belinda Bookworm (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Imaginary Abbie – Strange Story from the Mists (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • Rita My Robot Friend (artist Tony Coleman)

While it is out of the garage, I am going to discuss the issue where Tammy celebrated her 10th birthday (sadly, this is something Jinty never reached). Tammy certainly pulls out the stops to celebrate: her commemorative cover; Edie and Miss T redecorating their rooms with 10 years’ worth of Tammy; Miss Bigger taking Wee Sue and her friends on a special tour to the Tammy office; and Molly reflecting on her 10 years at Stanton Hall (once Pickering points out she had been there that long). And of course it wouldn’t be complete without celebratory competitions.

When revisiting past Tammy characters, we see that the focus is on ones who are currently running (Belinda Bookworm), have appeared in comparatively recent years (Thursday’s Child, Cindy of Swan Lake), or whose memory still lingers on (Olympia Jones, Babe of St Wood’s). The only really early Tammy character to reappear is Cat Girl. There are no Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’, Aunt Aggie, School for Snobs, Beattie or any of the characters from the first years.

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However, the Molly story does reflect back on the early days and hints at how different the tone of Tammy was back then. Molly not only remembers the time she arrived at Stanton Hall but also how much more cruel Pickering was back in the early days.  Indeed, the Molly strip has become tamer now in comparison to what it was in Tammy’s early years. It has clearly been toned down. Pickering is still a bully who picks on Molly, but the stocks, beatings, dungeons and cold duckings in the lake are now a thing of Tammy’s past, thank goodness. Even the catty Betty and Kitty, who played a dirty trick that nearly got Molly sacked on her first day, have lost their cattiness and are more friendly with Molly.

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Tammy herself has been toned down as well. When she was first launched, she revelled in stories filled with darkness, cruelty, torture and suffering. But readers loved it and her sales rocketed. Stories with the Cinderella theme or slave theme (girls used as slaves in one form or another) abounded, and a number of them, such as “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’” and “The Four Friends at Spartan School” really pushed the envelope with the tortures their heroines went through. But by the late 1970s these had all faded. All that remained of them was Bella Barlow, who is still badly treated by Jed and Gert Barlow, although she has just rescued them from hard times.

But Tammy had not gone all light and soppy. Her current stories, “Belinda Bookworm”, “Push-along, Patti” and “Rita My Robot Friend” all feature heroines who are being bullied/ostracised at school and trying to rise above it. Tammy’s new story, “The Black and White World of Shirley Grey”, will also feature some extremely vicious and horrifying bullying in the weeks ahead.

It has been just over a year since Misty merged with Tammy. The Misty logo is smaller now and there have been fewer spooky stories than when Misty joined. But the Strange Stories from the Mist continue, as do Edie and Miss T and the Misty horoscope.

Edie and Miss T 1

Can a computer program help us identify unknown writers?

I don’t know yet, but I’m going to give it a go.

And I’ll need a little help from others, please.

I have been thinking about the problem of unknown writers and how we can try to identify them. In writing story posts here, Mistyfan and I sometimes raise questions about whether such and such a writer might have also written such and so other story, based on things like similar plot lines and the like. But there is a whole area of research into using computers in the Humanities, and a specific technique designed to help you attribute authorship to unknown writers: it’s called Stylometry. I want to try to use one of the pieces of software that does this – JGAAP – to see if we can get any help in thinking about who might have written what, or at  least in some cases. (Edited to add: this is written by the chap who did the analysis that strongly suggested that J K Rowling was the author of “The Cuckoo’s Egg”.)

The way it works is that I need to feed the program a number of texts from Known Authors, because it then compares the unknown writing with those known samples. (All it can ever do is say ‘this piece looks most likely to have been written by Author A out of the list of A – Z that you have given me’ – it’s just matching a sample to a known finite list, so it has limitations.) That means I need some text files (as many as possible) which are typed-up versions of stories where we already know the authors, such as the below:

  • Jay Over, Slave of the Clock / The Secret of Angel Smith / The Lonely Ballerina from Tammy 1982 and 19833
    • I can do the first two but haven’t got any copies of The Lonely Ballerina
  • Alison Christie – see list on the interview post
  • Pat Mills, various stories including Moonchild in Misty and Concrete Surfer in Jinty
    • I am in the middle of typing up the episode of Concrete Surfer included in the post about this story
  • Alan Davidson, Fran of the Floods / The Valley of Shining Mist / Gwen’s Stolen Glory
  • Malcolm Shaw, The Robot Who Cried

Can any one help by typing up one or more episodes from the stories mentioned, and sending them to me? I’m working out a standard format to use, because it’s going to be important to be consistent about things like how to indicate thought balloons or the text boxes at the beginning of each episode. We can work that out further together of course. Very many thanks in advance!

Once I have enough example files to start running them through the program, this is what I am intending to try (any comments or suggestions will be received with interest).

  1. Can I get the program to work at all?
    • If I load a credited Jay Over text as a Known Author, and a Pat Mills story likewise as a Known Author, will an episode of “Slave of the Clock” be successfully identified as a Jay Over story?
  2. What if I then compare a credited “Pam of Pond Hill” story – will the program identify this as a Jay Over story, or will the comedy style mean it is not as recognisable to the program?
  3. What if I then compare an uncredited “Pam” story with a credited “Pam” story? We think all the Pam stories were written by Jay Over but could this program show us any other views?
  4. What if I then add in more Known Authors and re-run the tests above – will the results still come out the same?
  5. And then excitingly I could try some further tests, like:
    • If I compare an episode of “Prisoner of the Bell” to “Slave of the Clock”, does the former look like the known Jay Over texts?
    • If I compare an episode of “E. T. Estate” by Jake Adams to the uncredited story “The Human Zoo”, what does the program indicate about any plausible attribution?
    • We think Benita Brown probably wrote “Spirit of the Lake” – is there any textual / stylistic similarity we can find between this and “Tomorrow Town” that we know she wrote?

Of course no stylistic attribution program is going to replace a statement from a creator or a source from the time, but we know these are thin on the ground and getting thinner, and what’s more people’s memories and records are getting more fragmentary as time goes by, so this seems worth trying. I don’t expect anything to happen very quickly on this because it does mean quite a bit of typing to get a good body of texts. If anyone is able to help on the typing front then I will be very grateful and hopefully will then be able to show any results sooner rather than later.

Apologies, I had meant to say something about the format of the text. I have a sample document which hopefully can be viewed via this link. In case that doesn’t work, this is what I mean for it to look like:

text grab

But I can add in extra detail such as the description that the text appeared in a word balloon, if I have a scan of the pages in question.

Tammy Annual 1986

Tammy annual 1986

  • Cover artist: Mario Capaldi
  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Animal Magic (feature)
  • The Bell – Strange Story (artist Jaume Rumeu aka Homero Romeu)
  • Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Wish Upon a Star (feature)
  • The Black and White World of Shirley Grey (artist Diane Gabbot, writer Jake Adams?)
  • Party Pieces (feature)
  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Yule Tide – text story (artist Tony Coleman, writer Ian D. Mennell)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Snow – poem (writer Deborah Pfeiffer)
  • What’s Your Resolution? (quiz)
  • Sally’s Secret – Strange Story (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Animal Magic
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Second Sight – Button Box story in text (artist John Johnston, writer Ian D. Mennell)
  • Animal Magic
  • ‘Make It’ a Great Year! (feature)
  • Flutter by, Butterfly! (feature)
  • Sweet Eats (feature)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Snowy, the Christmas Snowman (feature)
  • The Crayzees (artist Joe Collins)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Molly Mills and the Sporting Life (artist Douglas Perry)

This was the last Tammy annual, with a gorgeous cover from Mario Capaldi. Capaldi had illustrated several covers for the Jinty annual and one for the Misty annual, but this was his first – and last – cover for the Tammy annual. Could it well be the last cover Capaldi ever produced for any girls’ annual as well? By this time the IPC girls’ titles had faded and DCT had taken more of a centre stage.

Pam of Pond Hill leads off the annual with her last Christmas story. Pam and Goof are sent to collect the Christmas tree for the school. Sounds simple and foolproof? Pam and Goof find out it’s anything but.

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Pam 1 Pam 2Pam 3Pam 4

The two text stories, “Yule Tide” and “Second Sight” take the unusual step of crediting the writer, Ian D. Mennell. “Second Sight” is unique for being the only Button Box story ever published as a text story, and it is a story that I have always enjoyed. Carmal, an Oriental girl, starts out as a selfish rich girl. Not surprising, considering that her uncle is a rogue. She mistreats a blind busker by putting buttons in his bowl instead of coins. But karma strikes when the uncle’s victims take a revenge attack that leaves Carmal blind and alone, and she is taken in by the very same busker she had mistreated. She learns his trade, and also learns what it is like to have mean people throw worthless rubbish in your busking bowl instead of money. In the process she becomes a more considerate and kind person – and so has the uncle, once he has tracked her down.

Meanwhile, Capaldi’s picture Button Box story is about a housemaid who hates her job because she is an outdoor type. When she foils a robber (realising he left a loose button from his jacket at the scene of the crime), it opens up a new career for her as a policewoman and enjoying the great outdoors on the beat.

Talking of housemaids, the last Molly Mills annual story reprints “The Sporting Life”, an annual sports event between the villagers and the Stanton Hall staff. Normally the villagers get on well with Stanton Hall, but when it comes to sports day it is far from a friendly match. It’s a needle event, and the needles are sharper than usual because the villagers have Olympic hopefuls on their team, and then spoilsport Pickering bans the staff from training after he gets caught up in mishaps from it.

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The poem “Snow” is also given a credit. The writer is Deborah Pfeiffer. This is the only work in Tammy credited to Pfeiffer.

The reprints are taken from 1981, including Diane Gabbot’s second-to-last Tammy story, “The Black and White World of Shirley Grey”. The original run had the honour of starting in Tammy’s 10th birthday issue. Shirley Grey refuses to tell lies in the wake of an accident she irrationally blames herself for. But Shirley is taking it to such extremes that she refuses to tell even a white lie, no matter what the circumstances. You can imagine what that leads to, and it starts with the boss’s wife asking Shirley what she thinks of her dress (which is hideous!).

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The annual is the one that stops the Bessie Bunter appearances. I find this a bit sad as I have always been a big fan of Bessie. Maybe there was no room for Bessie, or the editors decided she had had her day? If they did, it may reflect what happened in the regular comic. Bessie’s days became numbered in 1980 after Tammy swallowed Misty. During the merger Bessie was demoted from regular appearances to “from time to time” appearances while Wee Sue and Molly were still going strong.

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bella

The Bella story is more intriguing in that Tammy is taking a serious attempt to giving the colouring more of a 3-D look in the use of the hues and tones. In the previous annuals this was only applied to skin toning, but now it is being applied to everything. The story has Bella losing her confidence because she is under a cloud that she won a medal by default when her rival withdrew. Bella’s coach is handling her badly, which only makes matters worse. But of course things turn around and it ends with Bella all set to make the coach eat his words. And it’s nice to see Bella’s last annual story focus on her gymnastics and not the machinations of Jed and Gert, which were the most frequent basis of Bella’s annual stories.

In the last Wee Sue story in the annual, Sue’s final word is “’bye!.” I wonder if this is meant to be a double meaning as this is the last-ever Tammy annual, and this particular reprint chosen for this reason.

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Shadow on the Fen (1978)

Sample images

Fen 1

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Fen 2

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Fen 3

Publication: 18 February 1978-13 May 1978

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Unknown (but see thoughts)

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #25 as “The Witchfinder”

Plot

Linden James and her family have just moved to the village of Wychley Green, but things aren’t off to a good start for her. She misses her old home and isn’t making friends because they think she’s standoffish. At the Wishing Tree she wishes for a friend, without much hope of getting one.

But then a girl from the 17th century appears. Her name is Rebecca Neville and her evil cousin, Matthew Hobley “The Witchfinder”, has accused her of witchcraft. Part of it is Rebecca having her grandmother’s ‘healing hands’ and treating sick people and animals with them. But the real reason is that Hobley is after her inheritance. Hobley was leading a witch-hunting mob against her all the way up to the Wishing Tree, and she suddenly found herself in Linden’s time. Linden draws the conclusion that it was the Wishing Tree. She tells Rebecca that she is quite safe here because people here don’t believe in witches anymore. Rebecca is upset to find her home in ruins and her grandmother’s grave (which does not give the date of her death). However, she moves in with Linden, swapping her 17th century clothes for modern ones and school uniform happily enough.

But soon there are warning signs that Hobley has followed Rebecca into the 20th century. During a thunderstorm, they are terrified when a frightening silhouette that looks like a Puritan appears in a mirror. Soon the same shadow is following them about. And Linden, who is confident that Hobley can’t stir up people against Rebecca in this period because people no longer believe in witches, is soon to learn otherwise.

It begins when the school visits an archaeological dig, which Rebecca realises is unearthing an apothecary’s shop. The Witchfinder attacks with a pile of bricks, which narrowly misses Rebecca and the Professor in charge of the dig. The classmates blame Rebecca and start to whisper she is a witch. She gets particular trouble from the wayward Smith boys. Meanwhile, the dig uncovers a ring on a trap door that could lead to something.

Linden buys a witchball (an old charm against witches) for her mother’s birthday. On the way back from the shop the shadow of the Witchfinder appears. Linden threatens him with the witchball and he retreats. They now have a protection against the Witchfinder, but odd attacks start at Linden’s home and seem to be targeting the witchball.

The whispering against Rebecca gets worse when she offers to help Mrs Perks look for her cat while the Smith boys tease Mrs Perks over it. Mrs Perks is also rumoured to be a witch because she is psychic. They help Mrs Perks find her cat and in return Mrs Perks reads Rebecca’s palms. She says Rebecca has healing hands and warns her that there is an evil shadow pursuing her.

The dig uncovers a box that contains items from the apothecary. Among them is a gold locket belonging to the apothecary’s granddaughter Catherine. Catherine was a friend of Rebecca’s, and she and the apothecary stood up to Hobley for her. Then the Professor uncovers a document listing the names of people brought to trial for witchcraft – and Rebecca’s name is on the list! This renews the rumours that Rebecca is a witch. Linden covers up by saying the other Rebecca must be an ancestress, which calms things down. But they wonder how the list got there.

That question is answered when the Witchfinder turns up in person at school, posing as Professor Hopkin who has joined the dig. Linden and Rebecca learn that Catherine searched Hobley’s room for false evidence against Rebecca and stole the list. But she was discovered, so she, the apothecary and their cat were hanged as friends of a witch. However, Catherine is not quite finished – her ghost appears when the Witchfinder traps them at the fen and gets help for them.

They now realise the Witchfinder must be a wizard in his own right and turn to Mrs Perks for help. The Witchfinder tries to scare them with ghosts, but the ghosts fade when they approach Grandmother Neville’s grave, and they figure it must offer protection against the Witchfinder. Mrs Perks helps them figure out the secret of the Witchfinder’s power – a box containing a black wand, a black book and a book bound in black leather. If they destroy those items, they destroy the Witchfinder.

They discover that the Witchfinder/Hopkin has gone into hiding. Mrs Perks suggests he may be at Deepdene Cottage and gives Rebecca a cross and rowan flowers for protection. She says the cross was carved by an ancestor, whose wife became one of Hobley victim’s – so she has her own score to settle with Hobley.

They find the box at the cottage but are attacked by the Witchfinder’s minions – ravens and vicious dogs. They manage to retrieve the wand and destroy it. But the Witchfinder still has the book and knife.

Mrs Perks tracks down the box again, but the Witchfinder attacks in person – and right in front of the Smith boys. Linden repels him with the cross, and they destroy his book. But he gets away with the knife.

Mrs Perks ends up in hospital. The Witchfinder gave the Smith boys such a fright that they have reformed and are looking after Mrs Perks’ garden. Mrs Perks warns the girls that the Witchfinder will be even more dangerous now because he is frightened, and they still have to destroy the knife. Their search for him goes nowhere, and now he sends a mist that cuts off the village from the rest of the world.

Rebecca heads back to the Wishing Tree on her own, figuring that is where she will find Hobley and the knife. She finds the knife, but has forgotten her cross. So she is unprotected when he emerges, ready to drag her back to their own time and burn her at the stake.

However, Linden discovers the oversight, heads to the Wishing Tree with the cross, and arrives in the nick of time. As she flourishes the cross, lightning strikes. The Wishing Tree is destroyed and Hobley is reduced to bones, which crumble within the hour, leaving only his hat. But there is no sign of Rebecca.

Then Linden finds a book Rebecca left for her. It contains a reference to a statue in the churchyard that is a tribute to Rebecca. It reveals she survived Hobley’s persecution, became Rebecca Bartlett, and died a noble old lady at 77. Linden is relieved to know Rebecca got back safely and goes to put flowers on her grave. She finds the epitaph reflects their whole adventure: “Time and Death are illusions – but Friendship survives forever”.

Thoughts

This story is certainly a cut above the formula about evil sorcerers/witches who use their evil magic to wreak havoc while the protagonists try to stop them, and it almost invariably ends with the sorcerer/witch being destroyed. But there is always a lot of dark, spooky, scary stuff along the way, and this can leave panels that resonate with the reader years after she reads the story.

Shadow on the Fen is using the formula to make a serious statement about witch-hunting and where the evil really lies – with the accused or the accuser? Its strongest underscoring in this regard is in the hypocrisy of it all – the Witchfinder accusing people of being evil witches while he is the one who is an evil wizard. There is humour in the irony in that the Witchfinder is the one who is allergic to the things that are supposed to repel witches – witchballs, rowan and crucifixes. It further underlines the hypocrisy. While real witch-finders could hardly have been evil wizards, they were certainly evil people who would go to any lengths, such as heinous torture, to make a bounty and a fortune.

The story also touches on human psychology and how much we have actually outgrown the thinking that sent people to the stake for witches in olden times. And how far has Wychley Green itself outgrown it? For example, are the rumours against Mrs Perks the product of stupid, ignorant people, or could there still be traces of witch-beliefs in Wychley Green? Lingering witch-beliefs in modern villages have formed the basis of several ‘persecution’ serials such as Wenna the Witch and Mark of the Witch!

The story should be appreciated for taking a few moments to depict witches as they really were – wise women who helped people with charms, folk magic and herbal remedies. They were not agents of the Devil – a myth invented by the Inquisition – but their healing practices made them ready targets for accusations of witchcraft. When Rebecca first meets Linden, she recounts how several people in her time went this way, and her own healing abilities have made her vulnerable to the same accusation.

The name of Matthew Hobley and his alias, Professor Hopkin, are clearly references to Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General. The fact that Hobley turned out to really be a dark wizard may be a reference to the (probably apocryphal) legend that Hopkins was declared a wizard by his own witch-hunting methods and executed.

Several years later the theme of the Witchfinder General resurfaced in Tammy, with Spell of Fog, 29 October 1983 – 17 December 1983. This time, though, it is Hopkins himself. A film crew want to make a film about one of his victims, Alice Compton. Sally Groves, who has been deeply affected by the Compton case, protests when the director announces he is making a sensationalised version that depicts Alice as an actual agent of the Devil, not a hapless victim of superstition and hysteria.

Then a strange fog appears where Alice’s remains have been scattered. Its power cuts the village off from the outside world and has the village progressively reverting to a 17th century pattern in technology, dress and people’s thinking. Hysteria erupts in the village as the fog takes hold and people think it’s Alice’s revenge. Sally is the obvious scapegoat because she alone has remained unaffected, so she becomes a target of mob attacks and people calling her a witch. Eventually the fog takes over completely and the persecution of Alice Compton is re-enacted, with Sally as Alice and the film director as Hopkins.

But it turns out the power behind the fog is neither Alice nor Hopkins – it’s the villagers who burned Alice at the stake. They acted out shame and guilt over what they did, but also to remind the modern villagers that witch-hunting is not something that belongs in the past. It can erupt in any day and age because the psychology behind it (unreason, prejudice and fear of what you do not understand) is in every human. (Yes, you only have to look at things like the Red Scares and Satanic Ritual Abuse Scares to know what they mean.) They leave the villagers with a warning not to let a modern witchfinder take advantage of their fears.

There are similarities between Fen and Fog – witchfinders, evils of witch-hunting and mass hysteria, and supernatural forces and mists that cut off villages from the outside world and turn modern people into witch-hunting idiots of olden times – that have me wondering if it is the same writer. The mist in Fog sounds like a step up from the fog in Fen – going from what seems a belated last-ditch effort on the part of the Witchfinder to becoming the driving force of the entire plot. The credits for Fog list Jake Adams as the writer and George Anthony (actually, Tony Coleman) as the artist.

Fog 1Fog 2Fog 3

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