Cassie and the Cat – Gypsy Rose story (artist Terry Aspin)
Mark of the Witch! — final episode (Phil Townsend)
The Darkening Journey (artist José Casanovas)
The Robot Who Cried (artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw)
Kerry in the Clouds (artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo, writer Alan Davidson)
Spell of the Spinning Wheel (artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie)
Don’t Forget to Remember! (craft feature)
This issue is from a great period of Jinty’s run. It includes a number of real classic stories that have stood the test of time and memory (“Creepy Crawley”, “Spell of the Spinning Wheel”, and “The Robot Who Cried” being the obvious stand-outs) and all in all is a really solid read.
“Creepy Crawley” shows the how mean the main character Jean Crawley can be: she goes to see her rival Mandy who is recovering from the bee stings that the scarab brooch caused to happen. But even when not under the control of the scarab badge Jean allows her jealousy to control her, enough so that she voluntarily goes back to wearing the scarab and letting it give her ideas on how to get the better of Mandy. And it’s not just limited to ideas – the scarab’s control over insects means that Mandy’s beautiful wooden sculpture is eaten by termites before it can beat Jean’s pretty painting in the school art competition.
In the Gypsy Rose story “Cassie and the Cat”, Cassie rescues a cat from some bullies, but the cat is far from what it seems. Enjoy the creepy story, atmospherically drawn by Terry Aspin, at the end of the post.
It is the final episode of “Mark of the Witch!”, and outcast Emma Fielding redeems herself by saving rich girl Alice Durant, the girl who she’s persecuted in revenge for the persecution that Emma herself has suffered at the hands of the local villagers. As they keep each other afloat in the raging river, Emma takes a moment to think “It’s funny.. I could die, but I feel sort of happy! Happy to be fighting and struggling with Alice instead of against her!”
“The Robot Who Cried” is an invention of the bushily-moustached Professor Targett – codenamed KT5, she escapes from the laboratory and discovers that she can pass for a real girl – assuming she can sort out how human emotions like friendliness or loneliness work in real life, of course.
In “Kerry In The Clouds”, Kerry Langland is taken under the wing of famous actress Gail Terson, but Ms Terson clearly has an agenda of her own. There are echoes of the story “Jackie’s Two Lives”, also written by Alan Davidson – both feature a poor girl with ambitions beyond her station, manipulated in sinister ways by an older woman. Spanish artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo provides some very stylish hairstyles and clothing.
“Spell of the Spinning Wheel” is a rare foray of Alison Christie’s into a spooky mystery story – I wish she had done more of it, it was very memorable. Rowan Lindsay is sporadically struck down by a mystery tiredness – she’s worked out that it is related to hearing humming sounds but she hasn’t persuaded anyone other than her dad to believe her yet, and the doctors have now forbidden her from running again.
Following on from Mistyfan’s post where she had a go at translating a number of Jinty story titles into Latin, I am going to do the same for a (smaller) number of titles. Latin is not one of my strengths though, so I will be using a modern language – namely, Brazilian Portuguese. (I was born in Brazil and speak Portuguese fluently, though it’s a long time since I have had to speak it day in and day out, so there are definite rusty patches in my vocabulary.) won’t be doing as many as Mistyfan managed, but I will be putting a little commentary behind my thought processes so that will bring something different to the proceedings.
I started with “Combing Her Golden Hair“, turning it into “Pente de prata, cabelo de ouro” [literally, silver comb, golden hair]. I thought that it was important to stick to the allusive nature of the story title – it wouldn’t have been appropriate to call it something spoiler-y like “the mermaid’s daughter” or anything. Having said that, there is a song lyric which goes “Qual é o pente que te penteia” which might have possibly worked [literally, what is the comb that combs your hair?], but the song has specific references to Black Brazilian hair types so probably not a great match.
“The Human Zoo” is another nicely allusive story title in Jinty. The Portuguese for ‘zoo’ is quite long – jardim zoologico – so instead I turned it into “Somos pessoas, não animais!” [literally, we are people, not animals!]. I wonder if it might have overtones of political or racial repression rather than the animal rights references that the original story had – not that I think the original writer would have been against that sort of extension as such, but it might be a shift in meaning.
It wouldn’t be a representative sample of girls’ story titles if it didn’t have an alliterative title or two somewhere in the mix. “Paula’s Puppets” and “The Disappearing Dolphin” seemed like good ones to try. If you are going to reference a girl’s name then you have to match it to the locality it’s going to be read in – Paula would be fine to use as a Brazilian girl’s name but it wouldn’t alliterate with the word for puppet [marionete] so that had to be changed. I’d initially thought of using the name Maria, which is a very normal name in Brazil, but it seemed a bit too ordinary and so I went with “As marionetes da Mônica”. Another option might perhaps have been “Mônica dos marionetes” [Monica of the puppets] but the first one might be more likely to also mean that other characters in the story are being played for puppets by Paula.
“O boto que desaparece” is a very straightforward translation of the original title – it just means ‘the dolphin which disappears’. I didn’t think that this story really called for something cleverer – it’s a straightforward thriller / action story at its heart. It’s a shame to miss out on the alliteration though – not always going to be possible to transfer everything to the target language, of course! Perhaps someone whose Portuguese was less rusty would make a neater job of it. Having said that, I well remember that the popular film “Airplane” was rendered into “Fasten your seatbelts, the pilot has disappeared!” on its cinema release in Brazil – so it’s not always about a faithful adaptation, to be fair.
On our pages about translations into other languages (the one on Dutch translations is the longest I think) you can see a similar range of translation choices – some are fairly literal / exact translations (Wenna the Witch / Wenna de heks), some are very similar but with choices to match the local market more closely (Kerry in the Clouds / Klaartje in de wolken), some are about as allusive as the original (The Human Zoo / Als beesten in een kooi [Like Animals in a Cage]; or another great example is Come into My Parlour (1977-78): Kom maar in mijn web [Just Come into My Web]).
I find the cases where the translator has gone in quite a different direction to be almost more intriguing – did they think the original title wasn’t exciting enough? was there a risk of giving away plot twists ahead of time? – but then it was also in keeping with some of the other off-piste titles seen in some of the girls’ comics publishing. Of this last group, I think my top pick might be the choice to turn “Gail’s Indian Necklace” into the name of the Indian deity on the necklace, Anak-Har-Li – not a very obvious choice, and one which makes the rather run-of-the-mill original title into something rather more unexpected I think.
We have run a few posts about Alan Davidson before now on the blog, but not a complete summary post that serves as an appreciation of his work. Of course no summary post can be properly complete at this stage as we do not know all the stories he wrote for girls’ comics – his wife Pat Davidson has mentioned that he kept careful copies of his invoices and his scripts, but to go through those files is itself a lot of work. We can hope that we will hear more titles of stories in due course, and if so, I will certainly add them into this post. In any case, we now have story posts about all five of the Jinty stories that it is is known that Alan wrote, so the time seems right for an appreciation of him as a comics writer.
Pat Davidson has also stated in a separate email that “[f]or older readers he contributed some excellent stories for Pink and often met up with Ridwan Aitken, the then editor. I don’t have any records of these to hand, although I remember a very original story about a hero who could predict earthquakes, which Alan much enjoyed writing. I can’t remember its title.”
Having set down these initial bibliographic details, what can we pull together in terms of an appreciation of his work, in girls comics and elsewhere?
Davidson’s work is not as strongly themed as Alison Christie‘s concentration on heart-tugging stories which forms the bulk of her comics writing. There is a clear focus on wish fulfillment in his Jinty stories: Gwen stumbles into a position where her schoolmates respect and appreciate her as she has always wanted, Jackie is swept up by a rich mother-figure who is prepared to take her away from her life of poverty, Debbie finds a mysterious valley and within it a sort of fairy godmother who will save her from her cruel family, and Kerry is likewise swept up by a rich mentor who looks like she is a route to the fame that Kerry has always wanted. The wish in question is almost always double-edged or positively treacherous: Debbie is the only one who ends up happy with getting what she has always wanted (and of course her fairy godmother figure is stern-but-kind rather than seemingly kind but morally dubious). However, Davidson plays the theme of wish fulfillment while ringing the changes: none of his stories are close repeats, even though they have this similar focus.
For Jinty‘s pages he also wrote the important science fiction story “Fran of the Floods” (1976) – perhaps not quite the first SF story that ran in this title (that is arguably 1975’s “The Green People”) but a hugely popular one that ran for some 9 months. Jinty‘s reputation as a title that ran lots of SF surely must owe plenty to the success of this key story. It is a strong story through to its end, though showing a few signs of padding in some parts of the long journey taken by the protagonist. (I note that Sandieran a story called “Noelle’s Ark” a few years earlier which has a number of similarities without being as strong on characterization or drama: it would be interesting to know if this was something that Davidson was aware of, or perhaps even the author of.)
Davidson of course had also previously written a standout story that gave girls’ comics a key new theme: 1971’s “Little Miss Nothing” started the run of Cinderella stories which gave Tammy its reputation for cruelty and darkness. Pat Mills has lauded this as being written with a real lightness of touch and being written very much from the heart (note that he thought at the time that this was written by Alan’s wife Pat, which has since been corrected by Pat Davidson herself). We know less about what we wrote for titles other than Jinty: it seems he wrote little else for Tammy (unless Pat Davidson can correct that impression?), and only one story for Misty. “Paint It Black” was part of the opening line-up of that comic. While it was a compelling read it doesn’t seem to have struck the same chord with readers as some others from that title, and Davidson doesn’t seem to have written more for Misty (perhaps also due to the fact that he was finding success in children’s prose fiction from around that time).
It’s clear that Davidson’s writing is strong all round, and at its height was really mould-breaking (not just once, at least twice). There are ways in which it follows the conventions of girls comics writing reasonably closely: the titles of his stories tend to follow the standard set up of focusing on the girl protagonists (Gwen, Jackie, Fran, Kerry) though veering away from that in some cases (“Valley of Shining Mist” and most particularly “Paint It Black”). I’m not sure whether this all-round strength is part of the reason for another aspect of his comics career which I was struck by when looking back – he has not been associated with one particular artist, but rather been illustrated by a wide range of artists with no repeats that I know of. This contrasts with the partnership between Alison Christie and Phil Townsend, who created some seven very popular stories together for Jinty.
From the mid to late 70s, Davidson started to concentrate on prose fiction for children. It’s a little hard to search for details of his work online as he doesn’t seem to have had his own web presence and there are a few other well-known figures with the same name (such as a food writer and a cricketer). This Goodreads author page is the clearest list I have found of his prose works, while it’s also worth looking at his Wikipedia page, which tells us that he started off as a subeditor on “Roy of the Rovers” for Tiger. Writing children’s prose fiction has clear advantages over continuing in the world of juvenile comics: better recognition by your public rather than having no printed credits in the pages of the comics titles, better rewards for success in the form of royalties and translation money. At the same time, his most successful prose work, “The Bewitching of Alison Allbright”, is an effective re-working of his popular comics story “Jackie’s Two Lives”. The influence of the earlier writing clearly informs the later work too: what comics loses, children’s fiction gains.
If Davidson had been writing a decade or so later, might he have been swept up in the popularity of 2000AD and the migration that various British creators made to the US market? That only seems to have drawn in the creators working on boys’ comics, so I assume not. It is pleasant to imagine the talented writers of juvenile comics being fêted and recognized by name in a way that British publishers spent many years fighting to prevent. Ultimately however it is a sad thought: Alan Davidson, who is amongst those who most deserve that name recognition, is only now getting a small fraction of that recognition after his death.
It’s the final episode of “Kerry in the Clouds”. There are hard lessons learned for both Kerry (the dreamer with her head in the clouds) and Gail (who took advantage of this to get revenge on a film producer) before the happy ending. “A Boy Like Bobby” takes its place next week.
“The Spell of the Spinning Wheel” is coming to an end too. This week Rowan is let down by a man who seemed to believe her, but it turns out he was a student psychiatrist who thought she was a nut case, and Dad shows him the door. Fortunately the final episode is next week, so something is finally going to help. Meanwhile, Rowan is outracing the spell of the spinning wheel to get medical help for her injured mother.
“Creepy Crawley” is beginning to approach its conclusion as well. The invasion of insects continues at Jean’s school, but Mandy, the only one who can stop it, is finally on her way. However, Mandy is not sure she will be able to stop the invasion because it requires her to forgive the very girl who did so many horrible things to her…
Madam Kapelski takes Yvonne on a special tour of the dreaded State Home for Children of Dissidents to bring her into line. Afterwards Yvonne decides to cooperate with Kapelski, but secretly isn’t giving up on escape.
The Darkening Journey takes an even darker turn when Thumper falls foul of a cruel man who abuses him. It gets worse when a fire breaks out, but Thumper can’t escape because he is chained up!
Katy has stunned everyone with her turn of speed at racing, but then it looks like she’s developing a malfunction.
In this week’s Gypsy Rose story, Prue Preston has trouble from two evil, cruel men at a jousting tournament. One is alive and one is long dead – but his ghost comes out in full armour to join the fun!
Henrietta uses her magic to help a street artist, but her spells aren’t working out as she hoped, which leads to hijinks. Of course everything turns out happily in the end.
Jinty commemorates the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, and “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!”, Rinty ‘n’ Jinty and Alley Cat all celebrate it, and of course there is a competition to go with it. Not to mention a feature on how to make your own commemorative mug. In keeping with the silver theme Jinty is turning the spotlight on celebrities born with silver spoons in their mouths, starting with Barry Sheene. Sue and Henrietta are already planning ahead to the Golden Jubilee. I wonder Jinty had any anticipation that the Queen would make it to her Diamond Jubilee as well?
What “Curtain of Silence” has been building up for in the early episodes finally happens: Madam Kapelski takes advantage of Yvonne’s striking resemblance to Olga to kidnap her and force her to take the now-dead Olga’s place. Yvonne has lost her voice, so she can’t tell anyone. Olga’s cousin Tanya figures it out, but Madam threatens her with the dreaded State Home for Children of Dissidents to keep her silent.
Carlos Freixas has been absent from Jinty since “The Valley of Shining Mist”, but this week he’s back for a one-off with the Gypsy Rose story. A Greek girl was turned into a statue as a punishment when she unwittingly causes the death of her lover through the cruel way she treated him. She continues to serve as a warning to other girls not to be cruel to their lovers. Unfortunately the warning comes too late for Patsy, who gets dumped by her boyfriend for the cruel way she treated him.
In Creepy Crawley the evil scarab gets the insect invasion underway. A plague of locusts traps everyone in the school and Jean warns them it’s just the beginning. And there’s no end either, because Mandy, the only person who can stop it, is absent.
Susan is getting more suspicious of Katy, especially after the professor’s goon grabs her because he mistook her for Katy. But Katy is not confiding in her.
The Darkening Journey continues, with Thumper and Beaky on the run from a vet, of all things.
Kerry in the Clouds has been heading for a fall for a long time because Gail Terson is taking advantage of her for some purpose. Now it finally comes when Kerry gets a contract for the starring role in a film – and then realises she can’t act! Terson had known that all along, and now the truth is out she’s looking like the cat that got the cream. But why?
Rowan survives a road accident and now she’s got an offer of help from a hiker about dealing with the evil spinning wheel. But next week’s blurb hints that his offer is not what it seems.
Creepy Crawley’s plan to get Mandy expelled succeeds, and she has even manipulated things so Mandy thinks poor Sheila was the one who framed her! But there is a new ray of hope – Sheila recalls seeing another copy of the book that would explain everything about the evil scarab. Including, we hope, the way to stop the scarab.
A bully teacher in “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” thinks the sound of birds singing is for the birds. Naturally, that is an open invitation for the fun-bag to teach her a lesson.
Sandra Frazer thinks she has photographed a ghost at a run-down cottage, and even Gypsy Rose is a bit stumped for an answer. But then they discover the photograph is of a missing girl who is trapped in the cottage. A ghost from the future, would you believe!
Yvonne is relegated to reserve for bad behaviour and does not realise look-alike Olga is stringing her along. The gypsy woman still warns Yvonne to get out of Mavronia, but we know Yvonne won’t heed that advice.
Rowan thought she had a respite from the spinning wheel because it was broken. But now she’s falling asleep from humming noises again, and Mum is bringing back the spinning wheel. Looks like it’s been fixed, so its curse is back in action, worst luck!
Beaky and Thumper are in big danger this week from a violent storm and floods, and end up separated. Will they ever be together again?
Kerry is soaring higher than ever. A flash new wardrobe, autograph fans, a huge pay cheque, and the starring role in a movie, all courtesy of Gail Terson. Oh, why do we get the feeling the fall is coming for Kerry?
Creepy Crawley hopes to stop her campaign against Mandy now – but will the scarab let her? Of course not. She obviously didn’t pay more attention to the book’s warning that nobody would be safe from the scarab, even after it defeated the rival. Sheila has discovered Jean’s secret, but now Jean is blackmailing her into doing everything she says, so can Sheila do anything to stop the scarab? We will have to wait and see.
Rowan’s attempt to switch the evil spinning wheel with a harmless replacement fails and she almost gets killed too. Then the spinning wheel reveals a weakness when it gets broken: its curse does not work while it is out of action. So Rowan is free of the curse for the time being, but Mum intends to get the spinning wheel fixed. If she does, it’s back to square one.
Yvonne and Olga are struck by how alike they look. But Yvonne has no idea how their lives are such a contrast. Olga is the virtual slave of a slave-driving coach whose mere threat of the dreaded Home for Children of Dissidents keeps Olga in line; Yvonne is swelling up her big head with dreams of becoming a cycling star, much to her team mates’ annoyance.
Gail Terson is giving Kerry a complete makeover and giving her everything to become a star: money, glamour, publicity and fans. Then Kerry begins to feel that it is a bit too good to be true – which means it usually is.
A well-meaning fortune-teller helps Beaky and Thumper escape and they’re back on the road. Unfortunately she did not foresee what would mean Dad missing his chance to find them and bring them to Julie.
When a carpet seller has a nasty encounter with a bully, Henrietta turns one of the carpets into a flying carpet to teach the bully a lesson and trick him into buying a carpet from the seller at well above the price it was selling for.
Anna Wong tells Gypsy Rose the story of the family’s Chinese windbells, which only chime when there is impending danger. Unfortunately not everyone receives or heeds their warning but Anna does, and they help save her life in a fire.
Katy doesn’t know her own strength in this episode, which is causing mayhem on a bus. And her lack of understanding about human ways is not making her popular in school.
I recently wrote summary posts about two stories that I called ‘redemption narratives’: “The Girl Who Never Was” and “She Shall Have Music“. That’s a kind of story theme that we can all recognize as being fairly common in girls comics generally: in Jinty there are a number of other examples. But how does this sort of story work?
Take those two stories as an initial guide: the protagonist is a difficult or disagreeable, probably dislikeable, girl who has some personal failing or issue that drives the story. It’s because of that failing that the story progresses; it may not have been due to something that was her fault that the story started off in the first place, but it is because of her moral or social problem that it continues and develops the way it does. Tina Williams lands in the alternate universe where magic works because of her conceited and annoying ways; Lisa Carstairs’s father doesn’t lose his money because of her, but if she wasn’t so obsessed with continuing her piano playing exactly as before, then she wouldn’t find herself in the same difficulties. It’s not just what happens to the protagonist (or how she is challenged in the story) but how she reacts to it. She has to be ‘the architect of her own misfortunes’, as Mistyfan puts it in her post about another redemption story, “Black Sheep of the Bartons“.
Does the story have to feature some sort of disagreeableness, some sort of outright nastiness or callousness on the part of the protagonist? No: I’d say that you could certainly include ‘guilt’ stories such as “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary”. The protagonist here suffers huge pangs of guilt and despair because of the loss of a loved one – a best friend or a sister in the case of these two stories, but in other cases it can be a parent – a very natural feeling, but the failing here is that she lets those emotions overwhelm her and distort her common sense. The guilty feelings of the protagonist drive the story forward, but this guilt is portrayed throughout as excessive, as an indulgence that the main character should resist. It’s the lengths that their grief drives them to that causes their difficulties in their separate stories.
Also, it’s not just about having an objectionable main character who is nicer by the end of the story. “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” are not what I would call redemption narratives, despite having protagonists who start off pretty disagreeable and end up much improved. (Likewise “Battle of the Wills” is not, nor I think “Pandora’s Box”, but sports story “Black Sheep of the Bartons” is one I would class as such: Bev Barton isn’t horrible so much as thoughtless and reckless, but her carelessness nearly brings tragedy to her family.) Why don’t “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” count? Because when the girl main characters are swept into their initial circumstances – enslaved by a dictatorial coach, forced into third-class citizenship in a future world – their thoughts are not primarily about how they can continue to maintain their status quo ante but about how they can defeat their antagonist. Yvonne and Cassy aren’t just trying to get back to where they were at the beginning: their story is about a positive rebellion, not a futile rejection of the truth that the outside world is telling them. They end up much nicer than they started out being, but that’s not the whole reason for having the story in the first place – it’s because they have faced extraordinary circumstances which would change anyone by making them realise that some things are bigger than individual concerns.
Does the character who ends up being redeemed have to be the protagonist, or could they be the antagonist or villain? Overall I would say it has to be the protagonist, as the main character that you are supposed to sympathise with and want things to turn out well for, but maybe one counter-example is “Wanda Whiter Than White“. Wanda is not the main character of the story and she makes Susie Foster’s life a misery with her sanctimonious ways. At the end, it is revealed, as Mistyfan explains in her story post, that ‘Wanda’s own past is not as white as she would have us believe. In fact, she is on probation after being caught stealing.’ Rather than this reveal being painted as purely a victory for the main character, it ends up with Wanda being ‘truly redeemed when she tells a white lie to help Susie in return for Susie saving her life’. The reader wasn’t rooting for Wanda’s redemption all along, but it is a satisfying ending nevertheless.
What choices could the writer make that would move the story out of the category of being a redemption narrative? Let’s take Lisa Carstairs’ story as an example. As with the OuBaPo exercises, thinking about how a story could work differently will give us a view on how the stories actually do work.
Imagine Lisa’s parents still losing everything at the beginning of the story, and Lisa still losing her piano. The story could then have taken a different turn: rather than being about Lisa’s misguided piano obsession and selfishness, it could have been another kind of story entirely, for instance a mystery story where Lisa finds out that her father’s business partner was a crook who needs to be brought to justice. Perhaps Lisa’s piano playing could help her to find the clues she needs, and her obsession with it could be turned to a good cause in that way, so that she needs no redemption.
Or let’s say the story stays as being about Lisa’s obsession with playing piano but it’s portrayed as something not to be frowned on, rather as something acceptable or allowable. How would a story work where she can continue to be focused on playing piano to the exclusion of everything else, including her family? Perhaps her family would have to be a nasty, uncaring one, to make her disinterest acceptable.
Or perhaps the story could proceed more or less as it does, but with an unhappy ending where Lisa gets her comeuppance. This would make her into a more of an anti-heroine than normal but would not be unheard of.
Here are the examples I would identify as fitting most neatly into the category of ‘redemption narrative’ (core examples) and as being closely related to this category without necessarily definitely being classed as such (edge cases).
“Dance Into Darkness” – Della just wants to live her life down at the disco with no regard for other people, but when her wish is granted she eventually discovers there is indeed more to life than her own self-interest.
There are a number of stories that are driven by a bereavement: the main character makes poor decisions as a result of her strong emotions of grief and anger because she is afraid of being hurt again. “The Ghost Dancer” is one of these, as is “Nothing to Sing About”, but of course “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary” are the strongest examples.
“The Girl Who Never Was” – discussed above
“She Shall Have Music” – discussed above
I said above that I thought that it needs to be the protagonist who is redeemed, not one of the other characters. In “Go On, Hate Me!” the antagonist is driven by grief into bullying the protagonist but in the end all is cleared and the antagonist is redeemed, so I would be tempted to class this alongside “Wanda Whiter Than White” as a clear example of this kind.
“Jackie’s Two Lives” is more about the perils of wish-fulfilment, but Jackie’s snobbishness and the fact she is ashamed of her own family is definitely a character flaw that drives the story and she is cured of it at the end.
“Left-Out Linda” develops the redemption pretty well by recognizing that you can’t usually turn around your life by yourself: you have to have some help.
“Paula’s Puppets”: Paula has to learn to forgive her enemies rather than attacking them via the magical help she has been given.
“Tearaway Trisha”: Trisha’s recklessness has caused a serious accident; she tries to make amends but has to change her own character in order to do so.
“Valley of Shining Mist” has a clearly didactic message about the improving aspect of high culture: by playing the violin, Debbie will transcend the impact of her abusive family, who are low-class in their lack of culture and their morality.
In “Who’s That In My Mirror?” the protagonist’s selfish nature is made very literally visible and becomes more and more so until finally she is driven to renouncing it.
“Worlds Apart” is the ultimate morality tale – one by one, six girls are shown the worst outcomes possible for each of their specific character flaws, and they have a chance to repent. The psychological development is minimal but the impact of the story was very dramatic.
“Fancy Free “- I know the main character is so independent that this may well be characterised as a fault, but I don’t really quite remember enough about the story to say whether it is the main thing that drives the whole plot.
“The Four Footed Friends” – arguably another case where someone other than the protagonist ends up being redeemed, though it all feels a little sudden. “Hettie High-and-Mighty” likewise features a fairly sudden change of heart on the part of an antagonist who has mostly been about making the protagonist’s life a misery until that point. I don’t think “The Kat And Mouse Game” quite counts, either: Kat may perhaps have realised the error of her ways at the end of the story, but will her change of heart actually stick?
I haven’t really made my mind up about “Gwen’s Stolen Glory” – it feels like it is mostly a story about deception, though clearly once Gwen owns up to the big lie this is a kind of redemption of her former deception.
In “Kerry In The Clouds”, Kerry is a day-dreamer imposed upon by a woman motivated by her own unfriendly concerns. Kerry’s day-dreaming nature is cured by the end of the story, but I don’t feel the main driver of the narrative was to improve her character.
The main character in “Mark of the Witch!” is hot-tempered and angry at all around her, and she comes to seek a more peaceful set of emotions by the end of the story. However, so much of her story is about the persecution and abuse that her neighbours visit on her that I don’t see her story being primarily about her renouncing her hot-headed ways.
I’m not sure about “Pandora’s Box” and whether it counts or not. Pandora’s witchy aunt does chide her at the beginning about being too cock-sure about her talents and says that she will need to use magic sooner or later, and this is all true: but I’m not sure what sort of morality story that adds up to – not a conventional one at any rate! The main nod in this story to more conventional morality is the fact that Pandora goes from disinterest in the pet she is stuck with (her black cat familiar, Scruffy) to loving him dearly and giving up her heart’s desire in order to save his life.
One last question struck me when thinking about this. What sort of things might the protagonist have done that means she needs to go through this process of redemption in the first place? Clearly it must be something negative: the story has a moral imperative of some sort, warning readers against some kinds of behaviour. But at the same time, some things would be beyond the pale of course, and would mean that any character doing that would be irredeemable. (There might therefore be some useful comparisons made with story villains: what does their villainy consist of?) If a character killed or seriously hurt someone on purpose then that would be beyond the pale: there are a number of villains who have gone this far, sometimes with a laugh on their cruel lips, but it would be hard to imagine that a girl protagonist could do this and still recover the moral high ground at the end of the story.
In the stories above it looks like the sort of wrong-doing that needs castigating but is still redeemable is often about emotional warmth and consideration for others – it’s not about ambition (by itself) or cleverness (by itself) for instance. An arrogant protagonist can still be the heroine, but if she is cold, selfish, or inconsiderate then that’s a good signal that this is a character marked down for improvement – by whatever means necessary. Preferably it will be a Shakespearean denouement, whereby her own moral failing brings about such a huge disaster that she has no option but to change her ways! And being too afraid to risk emotional commitment comes in for a bit of a kicking too, via the guilt / grief stories. The obvious next question: is this moral imperative specific to British girls comics? Do UK boys comics have redemption narratives too? Or those in other countries? My pal Lee Brimmicombe-Wood reckons that Japan’s flourishing manga industry has many stories about mavericks who insist on going their own ways – but in that industry’s story constraints, the mavericks are always right and never forced to realise that actually, there was a reason why everyone was telling them they were going about things the wrong way…
Thanks to a find by David Roach of a set of art samples, we are changing the attributions on this blog for two Jinty stories, from Cándido Ruiz Pueyo to Emilia Prieto.
Sceptre of the Toltecs (1976-77)
Kerry In the Clouds (1977)
Emilia Prieto is a mysterious artist; I cannot find out anything about her online. There is a Costa Rican artist and political caricaturist by the same name but nothing on the Spanish artist resource, Tebeosfera. She could be real but just not recorded anywhere – perhaps because of a short career or similar – or this name could be a pseudonym. If so then Cándido Ruiz Pueyo is a plausible candidate – looking on his Comiclopedia entry the style that the girls shoes are done in, and the way the signature is designed, are very similar.
Emilia Prieto only drew two stories for Jinty and I do not know of others for other girls comics. (Please let me know if you have more information!) “Sceptre of the Toltecs”, the first story, is rather too stiff for my taste, but in “Kerry in the Clouds” Prieto is much more in the swing of things, I think. I love the hairstyles and the attention to the details of textiles and clothing, and the faces have got lots of energy.
Right now I am sorry to say that I haven’t had great success with the computer program that I was hoping would help us to identify unknown writers. I’m by no means declaring it to be impossible or unrealistic, but I think I will need to ask for help from the experts who wrote the program and/or who do more of this sort of analysis on a day to day basis.
My initial trials were to see if I could test a Jay Over script known to be by him against another one known to be by him, so as to see if the program could pick out a ‘known good’ example. It did do that pretty well, but it may be that I calibrated the program options too closely against Jay Over. I haven’t got to the stage of being able to say that this series of tests, done in this way, gives you a good chance of identifying this text by a known author. (Unless that known author is Jay Over, she says slightly bitterly.) And if I can’t do this reasonably reliably, there is no point (as yet, at least) in moving on to trying out unknown author texts.
In my last post about this computer program, I ran a series of 10 tests against a Jay Over text, and the program reliably picked out Jay Over as the most likely author of that text out of a supplied set of 4 test authors. It was much less reliable in picking out a test Malcolm Shaw text out of the same set of test authors: only 5 of the 10 tests suggested that Malcolm Shaw was the best fit. I have now tried the same 10 tests with an Alan Davidson text (“Jackie’s Two Lives”), and with a Pat Mills text (“Girl In A Bubble”). This means that all four of the test authors have been tested against a text that is known to be by them.
Unfortunately, in the test using an Alan Davidson text the program was even worse at picking him out as the ‘best fit’ result: it only did so in 2 of the 10 tests, and in 4 of the tests it placed him in last, or least likely to have written that test text.
In the test using a Pat Mills text, the program was rather better at picking him out as the ‘best fit’ result, though still not great: it did so in 4 out of 10 tests, and in 3 of the remaining tests he was listed second; and he was only listed as ‘least likely/worst fit’ in one of the tests.
The obvious next step was to try with a larger group of authors. I tried the test texts of Jay Over (“Slave of the Clock”) and of Malcolm Shaw (“Bella” and “Four Faces of Eve”) against a larger group of 6 authors (Primrose Cumming, Anne Digby, Polly Harris, Louise Jordan, Jay Over, Malcolm Shaw).
With the Jay Over text, only 7 of the 10 tests chose him as the ‘best fit’, so the attribution of him as the author is showing as less definite in this set of tests.
With the Malcolm Shaw texts, only 1 and 3 tests (for “Bella” and for “Eve” respectively identified him as the ‘best fit’ – not enough for us to have identified him as the author if we hadn’t already known him to be so. (He also came last, or second to last, in 4 of the first set of tests, and the same in the second set of tests.)
I should also try with more texts by each author. However I think that right now I will take a break from this, in favour of trying to contact the creators of the program. I hope they may be able to give me better leads of the right direction to take this in. Do we need to have much longer texts for each author, for instance? (We have generally been typing up just one episode for each author – I thought might be too much of an imposition to ask people to do any more than that, especially as it seemed sensible to try to get a reasonably-sized group of authors represented.) Are there some tests I have overlooked, or some analytical methods that are more likely to be applicable to this situation? Hopefully I will be able to come back with some extra info that means I can take this further – but probably not on any very immediate timescale.
In the meantime, I leave you with the following list of texts that people have kindly helped out with. You may find (as I have) that just looking at the texts themselves is quite interesting and revealing. I am more than happy to send on any of the texts if they would be of interest to others. There are also various scans of single episodes sent on by Mistyfan in particular, to whom many thanks are due.
Alison Christie, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” (typed by Marckie)
Primrose Cumming, “Bella” (typed by Lorrbot)
Alan Davidson, three texts
“Fran of the Floods” (typed by Marckie)
“Jackie’s Two Lives” (typed by me)
“Kerry In the Clouds” (typed by me, in progress)
Anne Digby, “Tennis Star Tina” (typed by Lorrbot)
Gerry Finley-Day, “Slaves of War Orphan Farm” (typed by Mistyfan)
Polly Harris, two texts
“Monkey Tricks” (typed by Mistyfan)
“Midsummer Tresses” (typed by Mistyfan)
Louise Jordan, “The Hardest Ride” (typed by Mistyfan)