Tag Archives: jealousy

The Gypsy Gymnast (1974–75)

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Gypsy Gymnast 1Gypsy Gymnast 2Gypsy Gymnast 3

Published: Tammy 14 December 1974 to 15 March 1975

Episodes: 14

Artist: John Armstrong

Writer: Unknown

Translations/Reprints: None known

Plot

Kim and Ann Rudge are fraternal twin sisters who are a complete contrast: Ann is studious and academically brilliant, while Kim is sporty and a brilliant gymnast. Ann gets jealous of Kim because she thinks Kim’s sportiness is making her the favourite daughter with their parents. She doesn’t listen to her parents assurances that they are just as proud of her. As the story develops, Ann’s increasingly sour attitude because of her jealousy and imagining her parents playing favourites leads to increasing tension in the household and even physical fights with Kim.

Kim is dissatisfied with her gymnastics training because the school coach does not really have the drive to bring out the best in them. Later, Kim and her friends are surprised to see a formidable old woman at Plotter Street Mansion giving a gypsy girl gymnastics training. (The spelling of the woman’s name is not consistent and she is by turn referred to as Mrs Speers, Mrs Spears, Miss Speers and Miss Spears, but we’ll stick to Mrs Speers.) Mrs Speers is a dragon and a hard case coach all right, but she brings out the best more than the school coach. When Mrs Speers sees them spying, she orders her goon Tug to set the dogs on them. Kim finds the whole thing pretty weird, especially as nobody was known to live at that place.

Kim does not realise the gypsy girl was really Ann in disguise. She is taking secret gymnastics lessons to prove herself to her parents and win as much respect as Kim.

As training progresses, Ann learns what a ruthless taskmaster Mrs Speers is. For example, when Ann sprains her ankle while training, Mrs Speers has it treated but shows no sympathy whatsoever and even says she never wants to see her again. But it turns out to be a test of determination and Ann passes it by going back to her to see if she can get lessons again. Mrs Speers also makes a huge deal out of keeping things absolutely secret and takes privacy to extremes of the fierce guard dogs. Ann suspects Mrs Speers has something to hide but does not pursue it.

A competition is coming up and Ann wants to enter so she can beat Kim, but Mrs Speers forbids it, saying Ann’s not ready. This has Ann going home in a huff, which leads to rows with her family and fights with Kim. Back at the mansion, Mrs Speers reveals she planned it that way all along: she is fanning the flames of resentment in Kim as part of her own ambitions.

Next day, Mrs Speers allows Ann to enter the competition after all, but she must win or she’s through with her. Kim’s friends don’t like the way Ann is bundled into Mrs Speers’ car and call the police. A general description alert goes out and Mum is notified, but the police don’t treat it all that seriously.

Ann beats Kim in the competition but is disqualified on a technicality because she has no birth certificate to prove her age, so Kim wins. Ann is puzzled as to why Mrs Speers didn’t think of that herself (more of her tactics, we suspect), but Mrs Speers is true to her word and says she’s through with Ann.

Of course Ann is crushed and disappointed, and this leads to a row in the car when Dad collects them. This gets Dad angry, which nearly results in an accident. Dad blows his top and shouts at Ann over it,  and she runs away in tears to Mrs Speers. Mrs Speers agrees to let her stay over.

Then Ann finds old newspaper clippings and discovers Mrs Speers’ secret: in her youth Mrs Speers was a top gymnast and won medals, but then she started using her gymnastics skills for crime and she has a criminal record. Tug was all part of it too and proud of it. They intend Ann to do the same, and that was what Mrs Speers was training her up for all along. They now hold Ann prisoner in the mansion. Meanwhile, Ann’s family report her missing and soon discover she has been kidnapped somehow.

To get Ann to comply, Mrs Speers and Tug threaten her family, and keep her locked up without food unless she trains. She has to sleep in the day and train by night. Then Ann sees a television broadcast where Ann disowns her in a television interview. She doesn’t realise Mrs Speers forced Kim to do it. As Mrs Speers planned, this embitters Ann, and she is willing to vent her hatred against the world as a willing accomplice for Mrs Speers.

Mrs Speers’ blackmail of Kim continues at a competition where she competes against Ann, who is in the gypsy disguise once more. Kim is forced to duck out and let Ann win. This time Kim does see through the gypsy disguise, but again she is forced to pretend to disown Ann, which further embitters her. Ann begins to tread down a genuine crime mindset of crime and even thinks Mrs Speers genuinely has her interests at heart. She now commits one robbery.

Satisfied Ann is now a willing accomplice, Mrs Speers eases her restrictions and gives her a reward: a beautiful room. But when Ann finds the windows sealed, she realises she is still a prisoner. She begins to have second thoughts about everything, see through Mrs Speers’ tactics, and suspect Kim’s conduct is forced. Sensing this, Mrs Speers blackmails Kim into pulling the same trick again. This time it’s in a face-to-face meeting between Ann and Kim, where Kim is forced to lead Ann to believe she blinded her in that road accident. Ann falls for it although she saw nothing wrong with Kim’s sight on TV or at the gymnastics competition.

It doesn’t quite work out as Mrs Speers planned though – Ann runs back to her in tears all right – but she refuses to have anything to do with her crimes. So Mrs Speers has Tug spirit Kim away to a hidey-hole in the countryside. But the police have been watching them since the robbery and they are soon arrested. Ann is happily reunited with her family and she sets out to become a top gymnast alongside her sister, but this time as herself.

Thoughts

In between the first Bella Barlow story (1974) and the second (1975) was this little-known John Armstrong gymnastics story to show that gymnastics in Tammy wasn’t all about Bella. The letters page was indicating popular demand for the return of Bella, and it could be “The Gypsy Gymnast” was riding on the wave of it. And take a close look at the poster on the left in Kim’s room, in panel 1, page 3, episode 1 (above). Is that Bella Barlow we see in that poster? The resemblance sure is striking. Did John Armstrong sneak her in there? Moreover, when the story finished, it was replaced by Bella herself. Coincidence or what? At any rate, “The Gypsy Gymnast” must have whetted readers’ appetites for more Bella.

The story does have its weaknesses, and among them: First, how exactly Ann met Mrs Speers or started the gypsy disguise is not explained or shown; Ann only says she met Mrs Speers by “sheer chance”. Second, Kim doesn’t even recognise her own sister in that gypsy disguise (until near the end of the story); it seems all Ann has to do is put on the gypsy headscarf while wearing a leotard and not even Kim realises who she’s competing against. Shades of Clark Kent! Third, what name is Ann using as a gypsy if she doesn’t want to be recognised as one of the Rudge sisters? Fourth, in the early episodes Ann wears that gypsy costume while training with Mrs Speers (later she wears a leotard but retains the headscarf). We have to wonder how on earth she can do gymnastics in that skirt. We’re just waiting to see it trip her up on that beam.

On the strengths, we have a very cunning woman who is trying to lure a girl away for her own gain. We have seen this in other stories such as “Jackie’s Two Lives” (Jinty) and “Swimmer Slave of Mrs Squall” (Tammy). In those cases the women were mentally disturbed, while Mrs Speers is a criminal who intends to snare Ann, little by little, until Ann is ready to carry on Mrs Speers’ legacy of crime. But Mrs Speers works in the same way as these mentally ill ladies: taking advantage of problem girls, gradually luring them away and holding them in their homes, using promises that only they can give them what’s lacking in their life, whether it’s riches or respect from their families.

Mrs Speers’ tactics are all the more clever by the fact that just what she is doing with Ann is not all that obvious at first. Only tiny things are allowed to filter through and make us suspicious. For example, it’s pretty weird, the way Mrs Speers keeps herself isolated in the mansion, is so insistent on privacy, keeps those guard dogs, and that Tug looks a real thug. Anyone with sense would keep well away from all that. Little by little, it is revealed Mrs Speers is playing games and tactics with Ann for her own ambitions, but for what purpose? Is it to strengthen Ann as a gymnast or is Mrs Speers up to something?

We certainly don’t like Mrs Speers’ hard training tactics although they are more effective than the school coach. Her methods aren’t as extreme, bizarre or cruel as some coaches in girls’ serials e.g. Tammy’s “The Chain Gang Champions”. But they are still relentless and show little sign of mercy. If Mrs Speers had a heart somewhere under all that hard exterior it could ultimately turn out well in the end. However, the story keeps giving us clear hints that she does not. This can only mean her training methods will ultimately lead to serious consequences for Ann.

When Mrs Speers’ true motives are revealed, it’s not all that easy for Ann to get away from her, and it’s not just the locked rooms. Mrs Speers is keeping Ann close to her psychologically with cunning head games to turn Ann into a criminal. It’s made all the easier by Ann being terrified, confused and mentally vulnerable, and being mistreated makes her even more so. Ann gets several opportunity to escape but she does not take them, which shows how much she is succumbing to Mrs Speers and unable to think straight. We get hints of possible Stockholm Syndrome kicking in as Ann is tricked into turning against her family and the world and genuinely begins to think Mrs Speers is the only one who cares about her. She begins to give way to the dark side, as we see when she enjoys committing the robbery, but then she begins to wise up to Mrs Speers.

The mess Ann gets herself into all begins with her feeling Kim is the favourite with the parents because Kim is sporty but she isn’t. “Favourites” leading to family problems and driving the protagonist to prove herself have appeared in many serials. In this case, though, it looks like Ann is only imagining it. She does not realise that it’s not favouritism that’s making her home life unhappy – it’s her sour, jealous attitude. It is this attitude that leaves her wide open to get into the clutches Mrs Speers. Yet despite herself, Mrs Speers does help to sort out Ann’s problems and start her on the road to top gymnastics.

The story wastes no opportunity to comment on the prejudice and stereotyping against gypsies, which Tammy has done in other serials, such as “Eva’s Evil Eye”. Ann finds the gypsy disguise is making her a target of prejudice. For example, at the competition she was disqualified from, people automatically assume she was disqualified because she was cheating, just because she’s a gypsy. All the more reason to shed that gypsy gear in the end, but Ann must have had a whole new appreciation for how real gypsies must suffer from discrimination after this.

The Shadow of Sherry Brown [1981-82]

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Shadow of Sherry Brown 1Shadow of Sherry Brown 2Shadow of Sherry Brown 3

Published: Tammy & Jinty 28 November 1981 – 13 February 1982

Episodes: 11

Artist: Maria Barrera

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Katy Bishop is taken in by new guardians, Mr and Mrs Brown, in agreement with her gran, who is no longer capable of minding her. Katy is not impressed to find that the Browns’ interest in her was prompted by her being a dead ringer for their daughter Sherry, who had died eighteen months before. She is upset and angry at the unfairness of being in the shadow of their daughter and being given her room and things, as if Sherry were still alive, and making them feel she is alive again too. But Katy soon finds that is the least of her problems.

The daughter Sherry may be dead, but she is far from gone. Her ghost haunts the place, appearing as a shadow. The ghost is spiteful, jealous and vicious towards Katy whenever Katy acquires something – or someone – that was once hers. There are no limits to what Sherry is capable of to protect her former possessions from Katy, even if it comes close to murder. Even Sherry’s former friends and horse get attacked by the ghost if Katy gets too close to them.

Katy hears that Sherry had an extremely severe jealousy streak when she was alive. If anyone intruded on her friendship with Joan, her best friend, she would fly into a fury, and even attack Joan. She always apologised afterward and “all was all sweetness and light again”, but her jealousy always remained her biggest failing. The source of this information (above) is questionable as the girl who tells Katy this is the only one who did not like Sherry. And Sherry did have loads of friends, including Joan. All the same, it fits the pattern of the ghost’s conduct.

As Katy can’t really leave the Browns, Sherry can’t really get rid of her, short of actually killing her or something. Katy just tries to avoid anything that was once Sherry’s. But no matter how hard she tries she always seems to bump into one of Sherry’s former possessions, and the jealous ghost attacks her yet again. Moreover, the ghost can strike from anywhere; she’s not just confined to the home. The ghost is a shadow in more ways than one. She can stick to Katy like a shadow and be ready to strike the moment Katy finds anything of hers. Katy is forced to give up on things and people once she finds out they were once Sherry’s, including Sherry’s best friend Joan and her horse Snowball – and she liked them both so much.

Of course Katy can’t really settle down with the Browns because of Sherry or be happy living there. She always has the feeling of being threatened and lives in a constant state of fear. She can’t explain what’s going on. When she tries, nobody listens. Nobody else seems to see that shadow or sense the threatening, hostile atmosphere it projects towards her. She daren’t even refer to the Browns as “Mum” and “Dad”, much to their bewilderment and disappointment. But with the Browns now her guardians, she can’t leave the house and be free of Sherry forever.

Matters come to a head when the Browns’ wedding anniversary comes up. Having learned they like collecting miniature houses, Katy sets out to buy one at a gift shop. But then the shadow appears, and smashes all the goods and wrecks the shop. Outside Joan sees what is going on – and this time she does see the shadow, and it’s the shadow that’s causing the damage.

The shop owner thinks Katy caused the damage, of course. Joan backs up Katy’s protests of innocence. As the shop owner would not believe about the shadow, Joan tries to convince her it was vibration from passing lorries. The shop owner agrees not to call the police, but bans them both from her premises, as she is not fully convinced.

Realising Joan also saw the shadow, Katy tells her everything. And yes, Joan can feel the sense of being threatened too. But why did Sherry attack the shop?

Joan explains that it was because of how Sherry died (of which it is now the anniversary). Exactly two years ago now, she bought a wedding anniversary gift for her parents from the shop, but got so excited about it when she saw Joan across the road that she forgot to watch the traffic and got hit by a lorry. With her dying breath she told Joan she was disappointed that her parents would not receive her gift, which got smashed in the accident. By rotten luck it was identical to the one Katy was about to buy, and this must have really pushed the shadow over the edge.

They realise this disappointment is why Sherry couldn’t rest in the first place. So they figure that if the parents do get the gift her ghost will be laid to rest. Fortunately Joan still has the pieces. So they repair it and give it to the parents on Sherry’s behalf. Sure enough, they soon find they no longer feel threatened or have the shadow hanging over them.

Thoughts

This was one of the new stories to be launched when the Tammy & Jinty merger started. The merger gives the impression it was still using unpublished scripts from Misty, and this serial looks like it was one of them. Neither Tammy nor Jinty would have come up with such a malicious, spiteful ghost, but it is something Misty would definitely have gone for. Besides, the story is drawn by a former Misty artist who had not been a regular in either Tammy or Jinty before.

Tammy didn’t have all that many ghost stories (perhaps it was the long-standing Storyteller providing so much spooky material), but there is no doubt that “The Shadow of Sherry Brown” is the most frightening and disturbing one that Tammy ever published. In fact, Sherry Brown is one of the most terrifying ghosts ever to appear in girls’ comics. It’s not just because the ghost’s jealousy is making her so dangerous to Katy. It’s also because she acts so viciously even to those she once liked (Joan, Snowball) if they get to close to Katy or her heart. It’s not just terrifying; it’s repugnant as well. The ghost would be even more despicable if she had attacked her parents in the same way. And what makes the haunting even more miserable for the victim is that there is no escaping it wherever she goes, short of leaving the Browns for good. No matter where Katy turns, she comes up against it one way or other.

It is fortunate for Katy that what caused the haunting in the first place has nothing to do with Sherry’s jealousy. It’s disappointment over a failure (and a pretty minor failure at that). It is something that can easily be fixed once it is explained. In fact, Sherry could have explained it to Katy herself and asked for her help in solving her problem, if only she had thought of it. After all, getting rid of Katy would not get the gift to her parents, which is what she really wants if she is to rest in peace. But it seems Sherry was just too consumed with jealousy and possessiveness to think clearly on that point, and was cutting off her nose to spite her face there.

Jenny – Good or Bad Friend? (1974)

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Publication: 6(?) July 1974 – 17 August 1974
Artist: Unknown
Writer: Unknown

Summary

“This is the story of a friendship between Jenny and Laura and how it broke up. Jenny tells the story while the editor questions her – and you, readers, must decide in the end who was to blame”.

Jenny tells us how she and Laura have been friends ever since they were little. It has been an exclusive friendship between the two, with no other friends. Then Laura befriends another girl, Carol. Jenny, who has been long used to having Laura to herself, is understandably upset and resents the third party. The trouble is how she reacts. She blames Carol, accusing her of stealing her friend with bribes. Jenny then starts playing nasty tricks on Carol, such as sabotaging her efforts to win a swimming race (afterwards justifying it to the querying editor that she did it so Laura would win) and even on Laura, such as hiding her tennis shoes, in her efforts to come between Carol and Laura. Accusations and counter-accusations lead to arguments between Carol and Laura and Laura and Jenny. But things always get patched up and no breakups either way. But Jenny gets ever more furious and sees no wrong in what she is doing: “Carol’s trying to pinch my best friend, so anything’s fair!”

It all comes to a head when Laura’s birthday comes up. Jenny is furious when Carol’s present (a real gold bracelet) outdoes hers and believes Carol did it on purpose. Not to be outdone, she hires a conjurer for Laura’s party. Carol realises this and confronts Jenny, who replies, “Laura’s my friend, so she does not need presents from you!” But it backfires when Jenny finds she did not understand that the £2 she paid the conjurer was meant to be a deposit, not the full fee, and another £3 is required. Carol graciously offers to pay the money. But Jenny is far from grateful – she accuses Carol of making her look a fool and hits her. It is then that Laura breaks up with Jenny, saying it is because she has changed.

A very tearful Jenny tells us that she just wanted her friend back and never wanted any other friend but Laura, because Laura was the best friend she had ever had. She asks if it was her fault and if so, where did she go wrong?

So now is the time for readers to decide? Strangely, the editor offers no facility for readers to express their opinions. Instead, the editor offers her own opinion, which reads:

“I can imagine how Jenny felt. For so long there had been just her and Laura; they had grown up together, been together since they were tots. Then along comes Carol – and Jenny resented her. Which, perhaps, was quite natural. But where Jenny went wrong was to allow Carol to spoil her own relationship with Laura. Laura was right, Jenny did change. She played mean tricks and she lied and cheated … and all because she wouldn’t share Laura with another girl.

“Poor Jenny! I think she was wrong, but I feel sorry for her … and I hope that, one day, she and Laura will make it up.”

Thoughts

Serials about friendships turning sour because of jealousy, or protagonists telling their own stories is nothing new in girls’ comics. But what is new, perhaps even unique, is the agony aunt take on it. Readers are invited to not only read and enjoy the story, but also participate in it, with assurances of their being the jury at the end of the story. So it must have been a let-down at the end when in the end there is nothing anywhere – not even an invite to the letters page – for readers to express their judgements on who is to blame. Instead, the editor presents her own opinion. But what still catches your attention is the constant breaking of the Fourth Wall as the editor keeps questioning Jenny (in black speech balloons) and Jenny giving her replies.

This is certainly a different take on the modes of storytelling in a girls’ serial. But this was the only time it ever appeared in Jinty. To the best of my knowledge it never appeared elsewhere. Perhaps it was an experiment that did not prove as successful as hoped? Maybe it was too moralising and preachy for readers’ tastes? Or was it just meant to be a one-page filler?

Even more to the point, why did this format appear at all? Perhaps the editor was experimenting. After all, Jinty was still new, and must have been open to innovative and fresh ideas. Or was it reprinted from elsewhere as a stop gap while Jinty was setting up other things in her line-up? Ah, the things we may never know without interviews.

Incidentally, Jinty‘s foray into the world of the agony aunt did not end with this story. Later she would run a problem page, and also a series called “Is This Your Story?“, where she would portray stories about problems and lessons that readers might relate to. In one story, a twelve-year-old thinks her parents are treating her like a baby, but eventually realises she was trying to grow up too fast. In another, a girl has developed a bad habit of telling lies. But inevitably she gets caught out in a lie and now fears expulsion.