Published: Jinty 5 July 1980 – 30 September 1980
Artist: Trini Tinturé
Translations/reprints: translated into Dutch as Anne Tanne Toverheks [Anne Tanne Sorceress] in Tina 1984-85
For centuries, the Black family have been the richest and most successful family in Witcham. Nobody realises that this is due to their being a family of witches, and that is because they take great care to guard their secret.
Carrie, the youngest Black, urges her mother for a lesson on how to look into the future. But they get a shock when they do, because the sight that greets them is of a homely, stupid-looking girl. Even the two witches are revolted at how ugly she looks. Her name is Angela White and she is an orphan that Matron is desperate to get rid of because she’s a bungling, walking disaster area who can’t do anything right. Her stupidity and well-meaning ‘help’ in combination with her klutziness make her even more of a menace than “The Jinx from St Jonah’s”, who at least had a brain and could do some things right. Now Matron has finally traced Angela’s relatives, so it looks like she will be rid of Angela at last.
Consultation with Uncle Bertrand the family ghost confirms the worst: Angela is descended from the Whites, the ‘black sheep in reverse’ of the Black family, and she is on her way here to live with them. The Blacks grow even more repulsed at that thought when Uncle Bertrand foretells, “the Blacks shall fall by the hand of a White!”
But it’s too late for any spells to stop Angela, because she is already outside with Matron. Matron ‘persuades’ them to take Angela in by dropping hints of unpleasant PR for them in the neighbourhood by not doing so. So the Blacks take Angela in while concealing their dislike of her and being witches. After all, says Mrs Black, Angela is family, and instructs Carrie to be nice and use no magic on Angela.
Carrie pretends to be friendly but is finding Angela blithely aggravating. For example, Carrie’s cat Jasper gives Angela a wide berth after the klutzy girl accidentally steps on his tail. Uncle Bertrand walks out on the Blacks and refuses to return while Angela stays after she cleaned up his nice, dusty, cobwebby attic – and also ruined the broomstick that was the Blacks’ family heirloom. Carrie tries to scare Angela with her pet spiders, but the joke is on her when Angela compassionately sets them free in the garden. We have a sneaking sympathy towards Carrie when Angela tries to have her watch “Marmaduke Mouse” (bleech!) because she thinks Carrie’s pop programme is unhealthy; Carrie snaps and turns Angela into a mouse. But she didn’t bargain on Jasper trying to eat Angela while she is a mouse and the spell has to be removed – fast!
The Blacks try a spell to foist Angela off onto another couple. But it fails because soppy Angela thinks the Blacks will be heartbroken if she leaves.
A further complication then comes up: the witches’ coven has a rule that a non-witch cannot live with a witch family. So when the Witch Inspector finds out about Angela, she says that either Angela has to become a witch or the Blacks will have their powers removed.
Now Angela knows the truth about her relatives, and once she hears what the Witch Inspector wants her to become, she is repulsed: “I’m not a horrid witch like you and I never shall be either!” she tells Carrie. She won’t have a bar of becoming a witch. Carrie tries to find ways to make Angela change her mind, including an evil Egyptian ring to corrupt her personality and make her amendable to becoming a witch, but nothing works. The failures are due to Angela’s bungling as much as her resolve, and sometimes spells exploding in Carrie’s face as well, including the evil ring. The Blacks manage to stall the Witch Inspector with a spell to make Angela and Carrie switch bodies so Carrie, in Angela’s body, will impress the Witch Inspector with Angela’s ‘progress’.
But of course the witches eventually find out Angela has not become a witch and strip the Blacks of their powers, which fulfils Uncle Bertrand’s prophecy. No magic is very hard on the Blacks because they’ve never got by any other way and they depended on magic to be successful and rich. Mum can’t use magic to pay the bills, so she has to take a job, which she isn’t strong enough for. Carrie’s self-esteem plummets and her schoolwork deteriorates because she can’t do it magically (all right, perhaps cheat through it magically would be a fairer description).
Seeing this, soft-hearted Angela decides to become a witch after all so the witches will return the Blacks’ powers. Unfortunately she does this without consulting her Black relatives beforehand or getting their advice. They only find out once they find Angela’s note explaining what she’s done and has now gone off to the witches’ coven to show it – and also find themselves attacked by brooms that dopey Angela bewitched to clean up the place and then forgot to un-bewitch afterwards! Mrs Black tells Carrie to get after Angela, because anything could happen now that bungling idiot is a witch.
Sure enough, Angela is bungling witchcraft, just as she bungles everything else, and she hasn’t got the brains to use her powers wisely or discreetly. Realising her train is going in the opposite direction from the coven, Angela casts a spell that makes it go backwards, which leads to confusion and chaos for the angry passengers and the hapless stationmaster. Then she asks the stationmaster where the coven is – as if he would know – which makes him suspicious, and the witches’ secret is in danger.
The witches have seen it all in their crystal ball. They now realise Angela should not be a witch because she is too much of a bungler to do it right. So they agree to return the Blacks’ powers, but on strict condition that Angela is depowered and never allowed to become a witch again.
Now that the non-witch rule is no longer a problem, the road is clear for non-witch Angela to get along with her witchy Black relatives.
The Jinx from St Jonah’s meets Bewitched. Well, it sure has all the ingredients for a sitcom, having a family of witches meet their match in a bungling oaf of a relative who always goofs up, sometimes without even realising it. There are always loads of laughs for the reader in every episode, no matter whether it’s the Blacks or the White who get the upper hand. But it is always the non-magic bungling White who wins in the end, much to readers’ delight.
Trini Tinturé’s artwork is the perfect choice in bringing out both the witchiness of Carrie Black and the goofiness of Angela White, often in the same panels. Not to mention all the hijinks that ensue from Angela’s bungling and the sometimes-bungling magic as well. Tinturé was a very popular Jinty artist, and having her draw this story would have really added to its popularity. Indeed, “A Spell of Trouble” was one of my personal favourites when it first came out.
The Blacks themselves add to the humour too, most often when some things, including their own spells, go a bit wrong for them. They are not all that nice and can be mean, but they can’t really be described as evil or villains although they are witches. Anti-heroes, er, anti-heroines would be the best description. They’ve got their human touches and can come across as sympathetic, such as Carrie enjoying pop music programmes, and thinking the boarding school Angela tries to enrol at in one episode “belongs in a museum”.
When the pressure to make Angela a witch begins, the story becomes a battle of the wills, albeit still in a hilarious way. Angela may be a bungling idiot, but we have to give her full marks for resolve when she adamantly refuses to become a witch. We have to wonder where it will all end up. Perhaps Angela will end up as a toad, a transfiguration Carrie threatens her with several times. But considering Uncle Bertrand’s prophecy, we get the impression the Blacks will lose the battle. In fact, it all ends up where nobody foresaw, though the warning signs were there – that Angela is too much of a bungler to make a competent witch. The witches should have made an exception to the non-witch rule in her case, which they do in the end. It is fitting enough, and everything ends happily for both the Blacks and their White relative after all.