Tag Archives: Malcolm Shaw

Jinty 18 June 1977

jinty-18-june-1977

  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • The Sable Knight (Gypsy Rose story) – artist Keith Robson
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • Meet the Modest Star… Richard Beckinsale – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds (final episode) – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie
  • Memento of a Memorable Year! – feature

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 11 June 1977

jinty-11-june-1977

  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • The Marble Heart (Gypsy Rose story) – artist Carlos Freixas
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Jubilee Week competition
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • Silver Spoon Stars (Barry Sheene) – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie
  • Memento of a Memorable Year! – feature

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.

Jinty 28 May 1977

jinty-28-may-1977

  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • Tell Us – problem page
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • The Face at the Window (Gypsy Rose story) – artist Phil Townsend
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Play the Game ! – feature
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • The Dead End Kids are Going Places! – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie

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?

Jinty 21 May 1977

jinty-21-may-1977

  • Creepy Crawley – artist Trini Tinturé
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! – artist Hugh Thornton-Jones
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • The Warning Windbells (Gypsy Rose story) – unknown Concrete Surfer artist
  • Curtain of Silence – artist Terry Aspin
  • Home-Made Refreshers for Hot Days! – feature
  • Alley Cat – artist Rob Lee
  • Cheeky Cheggers Chats to You! – feature
  • The Robot Who Cried – artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw
  • The Darkening Journey – artist José Casanovas
  • Kerry in the Clouds – artist Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel – artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie

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.

John Wagner: Interview

John Wagner is known to have worked on girls’ comics and written girls stories in the 1970s. I didn’t know of any previous interviews which had focused on this part of his career in particular: many thanks to him for answering the questions below in this brief interview.

1 I’d love to know how you got started in writing for girls’ comics, and what you did during that part of your comics career. What stories did you write? How did you balance writing comics alongside being an editor – or was that all part of what the editor was expected to do?

The girls’ comic side of my career started with Romeo, the DC Thomson romantic comic/mag, the poor sister of Jackie. Girls’ romance was just a step up from normal girls’ fare with the addition of boys. We never touched on lesbian love back then! Then when I left to go freelance with Pat Mills, girls’ stories was one of our target markets. We were given “School of No Escape” (was that in Sandie or Tammy? [that was in Sandie]) by the managing editor, John Purdie. The story had already been started, was running, but either the writer had quit, or been sacked. In any case editorial didn’t know quite how to handle it. It was quite a challenging first assignment but we made a pretty good fist of it. I helped Pat devise “School for Snobs” and write the first couple of episodes before we split up and I went to work in the IPC office in London. My only girls’ comic story after that was “Jeannie and Her Uncle Meanie”.

2 We’re always on the lookout for information on other creators of girls comics from the  time. I have already asked you for any suggestions on the name of the artist on “Slave of the Trapeze” and “School of No Escape”, which sadly for us you weren’t able to recall. Are there stories by other people that you particularly remember from that time, which you would be able to help us to credit the creators on? For instance, anything written by any of Gerry Finley-Day, Malcolm Shaw, Charles Herring, Jay Over, Ian Mennell, Benita Brown, Maureen Spurgeon?

Malcolm Shaw was my sub on Sandie for a while, quite a good, reliable one. I’m afraid I don’t remember any particular stories any of the people you mention wrote, though Gerry would have done two or three for me. Never heard of Jay Over or Benita Brown and assume Maureen then went by another surname that I can’t remember.

3 Pat Mills has fond memories and a lot of respect for specific girls’ comics titles and the hard-hitting gritty stories that ran in them. What kind of comparisons would you draw between the world of girls’ comics and that of the boys’ titles you worked on?

They were pretty different, up until Pat and I started work on Battle Picture Weekly. I refer to the IPC boys’ stories, as DC Thomson boys’ comics had some excellent stories and were almost the equal of their girls’ titles. But IPC boys’ titles had stagnated, with stories that were formulaic, repetitive, barely credible and carried very little emotional power. They paled in comparison to the stories in Judy, Mandy and especially Bunty – clever, meaty, affecting.

4 You started your comics career working for DC Thomson before moving south to IPC/Fleetway. Were there things about creating comics that you learned at DC Thomson which you were keen to bring with you to IPC, or perhaps keen to move away from? Or other memories of differences between the two publishers?

I was keen to move away from poverty! The key lesson I learned there was self-criticism. Nothing you write can’t be better. Always question yourself – am I getting the best out of that scene, those characters, is there a better way of doing things?

5 Finally, anything you can tell us about your time at Sandie would be good to know. It was a fairly short-lived title, only lasting for 89 issues. What do you think that was down to? Did you leave it as it finished, or earlier? Who else worked on it that you can recall?

My memory is that they closed it down – or merged it – on a circulation of about 180,000 (though that figure may be inflated in my mind). In any case the low cover price meant that they had to sell enormous numbers. I was told the comic was going under and that they wanted me to move on to Princess Tina (which was also dying) and revamp it in an attempt to save it. Norman Worker (I think) was brought in to see Sandie laid to rest. In turn I made an awful hash of Tina, whereupon I quit journalism to become caretaker of an estate in Scotland, never to return (I thought!).

I’ve already mentioned [in email] some of the names of Sandie staff – subs Kyra Clegg, Rhoda Miller, Malcolm Shaw. Ally McKay was assistant art man for a while, and John…John…ah, I forget, but he was art editor.

Many thanks again to John Wagner for this interview. I have a small number of issues of Sandie, which I looked at in this post. Catawiki has details on a few Sandie issues also, and the Great News for All Readers blog has posted in detail about two issues in 2016. Mistyfan also wrote a post about the advert for Sandie’s launch, and another on issue 7 of Sandie in 1972.

The Human Zoo (1978-9)

Sample Images

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Published: 12 August 1978 – 13 January 1979 (20 episodes)

Artist: Guy Peeters

Writer: Malcolm Shaw?

Reprint/translation: Tammy and Jinty 20 March 1982 to 10 July 1982; Tina as Als beesten en een kooi (like animals in a cage)

Plot

Alien bounty hunters from a distant galaxy come to Earth to collect specimens to take to their home planet. They make no exception for humans, which they think are just animals like any other. Among the people who are kidnapped by the aliens are twins Shona and Jenny Lewis. (It is implied that suchlike kidnappings are responsible for the Mary Celeste mystery.)

The aliens soon make it obvious that they do not care for animal welfare. They lock animals (and humans) into obedience collars that give intense pain when activated. Once the spaceship arrives on the aliens’ home planet, all the Earth specimens are sold at a cattle market. Shona and Jenny are sold to different owners, which means they are forcibly separated. The story then follows the fate of Shona, who becomes an exhibit in a zoo along with other people, and her quest to find Jenny.

Shona also realises the only way to freedom is to make the aliens realise that humans are sentient beings like themselves and not mere animals. However, there is a huge communication barrier between humans and the aliens: the aliens communicate by telepathy and do not speak; humans are not telepathic and communicate verbally. A bridge between the different forms of communication needs to be found.

Fortunately the zoo owner’s daughter Tamsha cares more for animal welfare than most of her people, including her father. She notices Shona and develops a soft spot for her.  Although she also thinks Shona is just an animal she makes Shona her pet. Shona tries to convince Tamsha of human sentience by doing some writing. Tamsha understands it is writing but fails to grasp it is proof that humans are sentient. During this time Shona also befriends Tamsha’s other pet, a two-headed goat, which will prove a key plot development.

Then Shona goes to the rescue of her fellow prisoners at the zoo, who are being forced into a cruel “chimps tea party” sideshow. This incident gives Tamsha’s father the impression she is a rogue animal and has to be destroyed. So he sells Shona to a slaughterhouse to be turned into food. Fortunately another alien spots Shona and buys her off the slaughterhouse in the nick of time.

However, saving Shona from the slaughterhouse is the only good thing he does for her. He wants to incorporate Shona in a circus act that involves a huge tub of water. This is a thrilling thing for the aliens, who are terrified of water. When he tries to work the act out Shona almost drowns because she can’t swim. Tamsha’s two-headed goat saves Shona in time. The circus boss is so impressed with it all that he buys the goat in order to recreate it all as his big circus act. When the cruel act of near-drowning is performed, the aliens go crazy over it and give a huge ovation afterwards. Tamsha is the only one who is appalled. With the help of some fellow aliens who are animal rights activists, Tamsha rescues Shona and the goat from the circus and releases them into the wilderness (she thinks she is putting Shona back into the wild).

The two-headed goat reunites with his own kind, and they take Shona to the Outlanders, a primitive Stone Age people who suffer dreadfully at the hands of the aliens, whom they call “The Silent Death”. She becomes very close to an Outlander girl named Likuda. The aliens remove the males, which they use as beasts of burden for farming and mining. They hunt the females for blood sport. The Outlanders are resigned to this and are also weakened by insufficient food to fight back.

All of a sudden, Shona gets strange pains in her head. Then she starts having visions of Jenny, who shows her a secret valley, which is full of luscious fruit trees. Then Shona discovers the valley is real and leads the Outlanders there. Now the Outlanders worship Shona as a saviour.

The pain returns and this time the visions of Jenny are horrifying. They show her being taken to a laboratory where the aliens perform experiments on her. There is also a male Outlander being used as a lab rat; he is identified as Likuda’s father, Lik. Shona and Likuda set off to rescue them.

To get back to the city, they hide in one of the vehicles used by the bloodsporting aliens. En route to the city they pass a farm where they see how male Outlanders are being used as beasts of burden. It is not only cruel but also surprisingly crude and primitive for such a technologically advanced race. The Outlanders use hand ploughs and tools, while the robots that force them to work until they collapse from exhaustion use whips. Shona marvels at why the aliens don’t use machines instead; Likuda says it simpler than machines, which can break down.

In the city Likuda and Shona meet up with Tamsha again. Tamsha has grown more vociferous in her animal rights activism and is part of an animal rights demonstration at the scientific establishment that is performing experiments on Jenny and Lik. The activists show they have been collecting evidence of animal cruelty, including a recording of Shona and the others arriving on the planet. The activists also remove Shona’s obedience collar. Note: this scene is deleted from the Tammy and Jinty reprint. In the reprint, when Shona and Likuda arrive in the city they just go straight into the laboratory. This deletion creates two plot holes in the reprint. First, what happened to Shona’s obedience collar? It has suddenly disappeared without explanation. Second, how come the alien scientists had Tamsha to throw into the cage with the humans?

Shona and Likuda find Jenny in a bad state. Lik explains that the aliens deprived her of sleep for their experiment, which is designed to make humans telepathic so they can communicate with them. Shona realises Jenny used her new telepathic powers to tell her where she was. They are about to escape when the aliens capture them. Jenny realises too late that she had unwittingly lured them all into a trap set by the aliens. The aliens are triumphant at finally making contact with a member of the animal kingdom (yes, they still have not realised humans are sentient beings despite their experiment). They throw them all back into their cages and throw Tamsha in after them. Looks like the demonstration collapsed.

Then the aliens’ weather control goes on the blink, which causes a violent thunderstorm. This is a shock for the aliens, not just because they are terrified of water but also because they have never known such weather. A lightning bolt hits the building and frees the prisoners. They make their way through the city, which is now flooding badly (looks like the aliens have no rainwater drainage systems), and sending off all the aliens into a panic. Shona spares a moment to rescue a drowning alien child. They make a boat out of a floating cupboard and sail their way out of the city.

They soon find that the flooding also destroyed the robots guards at the farm and freed the Outlanders who were slaving there. When the Outlanders see Tamsha and the alien child they are all set to tear them to pieces until Shona intervenes. She tells them that the flooding has only brought momentary freedom. Once it passes the aliens will go back to their old treatment of the Outlanders. Hiding in the secret valley is no good because the aliens will find it sooner or later. She persuades them all to go and help the flood-stricken aliens, because it is the only way to be free of them permanently and live in peace.

The Outlanders decide they have nothing to lose, so they put their hatred aside to begin a mission of mercy. The aliens, who have no skills in swimming, water navigation or flood control because they are so terrified of water, have been more badly stricken by the flood than Earth people would. Humans, on the other hand, have learned to swim, developed boating skills, and are more accustomed to water.

The humans have a lot of success in helping the aliens, and the water is receding too. Then they find a panic-stricken engineer. Using her telepathic powers, Jenny learns that the dam at the reservoir is about to burst. If it does, the whole city will be submerged and kill everyone. The aliens are trying to redirect the water, but the crucial valve is twenty feet below water. Of course the aliens have no skills in underwater swimming. However, Likuda and Jenny do, and they succeed in turning the valve. Sadly, Likuda gets her foot caught underwater. By the time she is rescued, it is too late. Likuda has sacrificed her life for the aliens.

Now, will the aliens appreciate everything the humans have done and realise humans are sentient beings, not animals? Or was it all for nothing and things will go back to what they were before?

It looks like the latter when security guards round up all the humans and throw them back in a cage. Then the city’s ruler frees all the humans and brings them all to a celebratory feast. The aliens got the message after all (perhaps it took a little while to sink in). Furthermore, it turns out the alien girl Shona rescued was the ruler’s daughter, so he is grateful for that as well as their saving the city. The aliens will now leave the Outlanders in peace and send the Earth humans back to Earth. The aliens will use a time machine to put them back on Earth the day before they disappeared so they will not have to face awkward questions about their disappearances. It also means they will lose all memory of what happened. All the same, when they arrive on the day in question, Shona finds she seems to know how a caged gorilla at the zoo feels…

Thoughts

This story is one of Jinty’s classics. It is one of her most popular and enduring stories, and is right up there with “Worlds Apart” and “Land of No Tears” as one of her best science fiction stories. Due to popular demand “The Human Zoo” was reprinted during the Tammy & Jinty merger. No doubt a lot of the votes would have come from “Pam’s Poll” in 1980. Indeed, a panel from “The Human Zoo” featured in the poll itself.

What makes the story so powerful is the allegories of animal abuse that humans themselves commit. By turn we see alien equivalents of bounty hunting, pain-induced discipline, cattle markets, zoos, slaughterhouses, circuses, bloodsports, beasts of burden, vivisection and even a hint of animal sacrifice. For this reason we cannot totally condemn the aliens for their treatment of humans, for humans themselves are guilty of the same things. The callous attitudes many of the aliens have towards animals are echoed in humans too. Just look at the attitude of Tamsha’s father, for example: “Don’t forget, they’re just animals, for us to use as we like.”

You would think such an advanced race would have more enlightened attitudes. However, it would be a mistake to assume any race that is technically advanced would be advanced in other ways as well. Moreover, it is easier to understand their coldness when we see this is a race that does not approve of soft emotions or tenderness. Sentimentality is considered as a primitive emotion and shedding tears a primitive action. After the Outlanders are freed, Tamsha is no longer ashamed to cry and tells the humans that her people have a lot to learn from them about showing emotions.

Fortunately there are kinder aliens among this cold-hearted race who stand up for animal rights. The aliens clearly are light-years behind Earth in regard to animal welfare, although they are far more technologically advanced than Earth. There are evidently no laws against animal abuse and exploitation. Hopefully this will change after the humans proved themselves to the aliens and the ruler himself proposed a toast to better understanding among all species. But then, animal rights are only a comparatively recent innovation on Earth itself, and in many places on Earth they have yet to take a serious hold. Still, at least it does exist on this alien world, and without it Shona and her fellow humans would never have escaped the animal abuse they suffered at the hands of the aliens. It is ironic that an experiment meant to make contact with animals becomes the bridge of the huge communication gap between humans and aliens and helps convince the aliens that humans are sentient beings and not animals. The alien scientists did not mean it that way; they were just out to score another scientific triumph with animals.

The emotional aspects of the story make it even more compelling. Shona goes through the pain of being torn away from Earth and her parents, and then from her own sister, whom she resolves to find. She is subjected to the horrors of being treated just like an animal, including a cruel circus act that takes advantage of her not having learned to swim. Even when Shona is finally freed from the abuse and joins the Outlanders she is still not safe from the aliens. Plus there is still the matter of finding her sister and maybe even returning to Earth. The story delivers quite a wallop when Likuda dies, and her death leaves an ominous question dangling over it: was Likuda’s sacrifice in vain or not?

The story is a bit vague about the aliens themselves. The name of their planet is never revealed; it’s just “the planet with two suns” (binary star system). The Earth humans just call them “the aliens” and the Outlanders “The Silent Death”. What the aliens call themselves is not known.

The aliens come across as rather arrogant and obtuse in assuming humans are animals and not realising they are sentient. Clearly they have not bothered with much study of the planet they have been taking specimens from. And it is implied that they have been doing so for centuries, as there is a hint they are responsible for the Mary Celeste mystery. Still, the concept is not entirely new. For example, in Star Trek: The Animated Series, there is an episode called “The Eye of the Beholder”, where Spock and Kirk are captured by the Lactrans, who think they are animals because they are primitive by their standards. (Perhaps this is the reason why the aliens think humans are animals?) The Lactrans put them in a zoo. Spock convinces the Lactrans of their sentience by mind melding with one of them and they are set free. That episode always reminds me of this story.

There are some aspects of this story that don’t look like they have been all that well thought out. For example, if the aliens segregate the sexes of the Outlanders by removing the men for forced labour, then how is it the Outlander women have children? How are they able to reproduce with the men removed?

Another more head-splitting example is the aliens using the time machine to restore the Earth humans to Earth the day before they disappeared. What happens when they approach the original time when the alien bounty hunters abducted them in the first place? Do they go through the whole ordeal again, come back once more with the time machine and their memories wiped, and then the whole thing starts all over again?

It also seems inexplicable that the aliens even need the Outlanders to be beasts of burden in the first place. With their advanced technology they could surely come up with something more efficient for farming and mining. And this advanced race still puts out hand ploughs and hand tools for them to use? Oh, really!

Overall though, this is a very solid, powerful story that strikes a lot of chords and would leave a lasting impression on readers long after they have read it. A lot of readers would emerge from it thinking more carefully about how animals are treated. One reader wrote in to thank everyone involved for such commentary on animal cruelty and said she wouldn’t laugh at chimps’ tea parties anymore after reading the story. Some may even have considered vegetarianism after reading “The Human Zoo”.

Misty: Moonchild & The Four Faces of Eve (2016)

This is a review of the Rebellion reprint of two stories from Misty: “Moonchild” and “The Four Faces of Eve”. Many thanks to Rebellion for supplying this review copy.

The announcement last year that Rebellion were to reprint two classic stories from Misty was met with great excitement. How does the reality match to our heightened expectations? What might we like to see Rebellion do more of in any future reprints of IPC material, and what might we want them to avoid if possible?

Rebellion Publishing 2016

The two stories themselves are likely to be familiar to many readers of this blog and I won’t cover the content of the stories at all in this review. (Other reviews, such as this one on FA Comiczine, cover this territory.) “Moonchild” is a definite classic and would spring to most people’s minds when thinking of key stories from Misty. It also has the name recognition factor of Pat Mills; John Armstrong is probably less well known to those who are not already fans of UK girls comics, but is also familiar from Tammy‘s “Bella at the Bar”. “The Four Faces of Eve” isn’t one of the stories I would necessarily immediately think of when coming up with classics from Misty, but Malcolm Shaw can certainly make a tale speed along and the Brian Delaney art is stylish and beautiful. I don’t think any knowledgeable reader of UK girls comics would have a problem with these two stories having been chosen to represent Misty in the first modern reprint edition, though depending on individual preferences we might have made slightly different choices.

The book itself felt a bit thin when I took it from the (large) packaging, but that was slightly illusory: it’s a good size book, and the fact it combines two stories of a decent length means that you feel that it gives you enough to get your teeth into. However at 114 pages it still feels like a relatively quick read; fellow Rebellion title “Monster”, reprinted from Scream & the Eagle, clocks in at 192 pages so I think there is room to push the boat out and include more pages next time. The print and production qualities are high (much higher than the original newsprint of course), though there are some aesthetic choices that will succeed with some readers and maybe not with all. Specifically, the cover features beautiful Shirley Bellwood art, but the pink (on Misty’s skin and dress) has come out with the half-tone screen dots very visible: surely done on purpose as this is not anything constrained by current production processes. The title logo has also been re-designed, using a rather wiggly and wavy font: I don’t know why anyone would use anything other than the classic logo, unless the rights to that logo had not been acquired at the time? It’s not a bad choice in itself – I like the little crescent moon that tops the letter ‘i’ in the title – but it feels like a bit of an unnecessary change.

There’s a good amount of extra material inside. Pat Mills has written a foreword about the historical context of girls comics publishing of the time, and how the title Misty was originally created; generous credit given to fellow creator Malcolm Shaw in particular and many readers of this blog will be glad to see Mavis Miller get a namecheck too. At the back of the book, Dr Julia Round has written a lovely tribute to Shirley Bellwood, and there are brief biographies of all four creators (Brian Delaney’s is particularly brief but I suspect there may be limited biographical information available about him). Finally, there are one or two craft items included – how to make a witch’s hat, and how to make a tree-devil mask. I think these are a great touch: I suspect they were added for kitsch value but they bring something extra of their own to the reprint. More of this sort of thing in any reprint please!

Of course the key component to any such reprint is the treatment of the comic pages themselves. The printing is nice and crisp and you wouldn’t particularly guess it had been scanned from a published edition. Will Morgan makes the observation (in his review on FA) that John Armstrong’s art suffers because it includes so many thin lines, which are lost in the production: that’s true, but I think most readers wouldn’t notice, as they will be dragged along by the story. The faces and the other details in the story remain compelling – there are large standout images throughout, that arrest the reader’s attention regardless of individual fine detail elements that are lost.

I am also sure that hardly anyone would notice the fact that the Moonchild pages have been edited to fit a larger page size*: an extra two centimetres of art was drawn on the bottom of each page, to make it longer! It sounds absurd and obvious but in fact I have read exactly this edition (which was the version printed in the 1983 Misty Annual) more than once and have only noticed it now, when looking quite carefully. (This is just like what happened in the 1979 Jinty Annual, in the story “Trudy On Trial”.) Having said that, in some places this editing is pretty clumsily done: another time it would be far preferable to follow the model used in “The Four Faces of Eve”, where you can see the original logo from each weekly episode, and the original art dimensions are respected. (In the case of “Eve”, in particular, the story title logo and accompanying art is really beautifully done and is different in almost every episode, so it would be a real loss to miss this out.)

[*Edited to add: I should clarify here that Rebellion themselves haven’t edited the art to fit a larger page size, but they have chosen a source to scan from where this had been done, that is, when the story was reprinted in the 1983 Misty Annual.]

I know this review is a little odd in focusing so strongly on the editorial and publishing choices made when creating this reprint, rather than on the stories themselves. As you will understand, I am keen to understand what any future reprints from other girls comics could look like! Of course, the quality of the stories themselves is not anything I have any concerns about, but lacklustre publishing decisions can damn the best content. This first reprint from Rebellion isn’t perfect but it hits the right high notes. New readers will find plenty to love, while those who already know the content will be very happy to see a professional, competently-executed edition produced by people who perhaps are still figuring out some of the details of what will work best, but who are very much moving in a welcome direction. Here’s hoping it is the success it deserves to be!

Misty: Featuring Moonchild & The Four Faces of Eve. Rebellion Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781781084526

First Misty Ever Published – 4 February 1978

Misty cover

  • Cover – (artist Maria Barrera)
  • Message from Misty – (artist Shirley Bellwood)
  • The Cult of the Cat – first episode (artist H. Romeu)
  • The Sentinels – first episode (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Paint It Black – first episode (artist Brian Delany, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Moodstone – complete story – (artist Ken Houghton)
  • Roots (“Nightmare!” story) – (artist Maria Barrera, writer Pat Mills)
  • Moonchild – first episode (artist John Armstrong, writer Pat Mills)
  • Miss T – (artist Joe Collins)
  • Red Knee – White Terror! (“Beasts” story) – (artist John Richardson, writer Pat Mills)

In previous posts we have covered the first Jinty and last Jinty, and the first Tammy and last Tammy. Now we cover the third of the trio – the first Misty and the last Misty. We begin with the first Misty.

Pat Mills conceived Misty as the girls’ answer to 2000AD. Like Tammy, it would be intended to be revolutionary and go against the grain of ballet, pony and school stories. But Misty would do it with spooky stories and horror that were meant to frighten readers, yet fascinate them at the same time. Misty followed hard on the heels of the demise of Spellbound, a kindred comic in DCT that was a similar brave experiment, but had only lasted 69 issues.

Roots ending
Shock panel from “Roots”, Misty #1.

Although Misty was meant to kick ass with her spooky stories, there were still instances of editorial interference in some of the storytelling to tone things down and “not to scare the readers too much”. Two instances occurred in the first issue alone. In “Roots”, if Pat Mills have had his way, the story would have ended on the panel above. But the editor included another panel to dilute the shock, which Mills deletes from the reproduction of “Roots” in his discussion of Misty. In “Red Knee – White Terror!”, also written by Mills, the climactic attack of the spider on the girl in the bath is similarly amended to become a practical joke from her brother (below). But she still isn’t safe from the alert about a poisonous spider that has crept into the country in an import of bananas, some of which she bought earlier…

Red Knee White Terror
Climax to “Red Knee – White Terror!” from Misty #1.

Misty would go for several complete stories in each issue, some labelled “Nightmare!” and others “Beasts” (featuring an animal of some sort, ranging from spiders to dogs) to break up the comic a bit. They often featured unpleasant girls who came to a sticky end of some sort. The first of these is “Moodstone”, about a bad-tempered girl. “Moodstone” also showed readers that from the first, Misty would feature some full-colour pages in each issue, which is something neither Tammy nor Jinty ever did.

Moodstone
First full colour page from Misty #1.

I remember the cover of the first issue being advertised on television. I had never seen that before – or since – and for this reason that cover has stuck in my mind. As Misty goes, the cover is unusual because it was drawn specifically for cover purposes. It does not feature Misty (not even as a small head beside the logo) and has no bearing on the contents inside. Future covers would go for showing Misty herself or a full-blown cover version of a panel inside the comic. We do not meet Misty herself until we come to the inside page, where she delivers her first message to her readers.

The first story starts Misty off in style with the rendering of the Egyptian Temple. Sumptuous is the word for it. The moment you see that page, you just want to read “The Cult of the Cat”. This is the only story in Misty to spawn a sequel (not counting the sequel to “The Black Widow” that appeared in the merger later). It also inspires the free gift that will come in the next issue – a cat ring just like the one the protagonist in this story wakes up to find on her finger all of a sudden.

Cult of the Cat
Opening to “The Cult of the Cat”.

The splash panel that introduces us to “The Sentinels” (a pair of apartment blocks, one normal and one avoided because of strange disappearances) is no less impressive. Mr Richards defies both the reputation of the Sentinel – “it’s just superstitious nonsense, all that talk about the Sentinels” – and warnings from his daughter and other relatives. He takes his family there because they are homeless. Now why do we get the feeling that whatever’s going on with the Sentinel, it’s Mr Richards who is going to cop the worst of it?

The Sentinels
Meet “The Sentinels”!

The writers of Misty would draw heavily from popular books and movies. They start off with the Carrie-inspired serial, “Moonchild”, which proved hugely popular with readers. Rosemary Black is beaten and abused by her mother, who calls her “evil” and “wicked” for no apparent reason. But the mother is very eccentric in any case; she isn’t a religious fanatic like her counterpart in Carrie, but she does not allow electricity in her house, and wears a cloak when she goes out that makes her look like a witch, as does that frightening look on her face. At school, Rosemary is bullied by Norma Sykes, but unlike Carrie, Rosemary does have a friend as well. Then, when Rosemary discovers a strange moon mark on her forehead, things begin to happen that may have some bearing on her mother’s bizarre attitude and teach Norma a lesson to boot…

Miss T
The first appearance of Miss T. From Misty #1.

In “Paint It Black”, Maggie has never been good for anything much, much less being good at art. But then she finds a box of paints in a derelict house and suddenly finds herself able to paint a picture of a mysterious girl. The picture frightens Maggie for some reason – and the girl has a pretty frightened expression on her face, too. Now what can be the reason for that?

Although Misty was a horror comic, she did not leave out the humour, mainly in the form of a Joe Collins cartoon character, Miss T. Miss T would attract huge controversy on the letters page, with readers divided over whether she was a ridiculous feature in a horror comic that should be removed, or if she was needed to help balance the comic. One reader even proposed a Miss T fan club “S.O.W” (Save Our Witch) to help keep her in the comic. We have no information on what became of S.O.W., but Miss T would not only remain but would also carry over into the merge with Tammy, where she became a companion to Edie. During the Tammy & Jinty merger they would join forces with Snoopa to become “The Crayzees”.

 

Can a computer program help us identify unknown writers? 4

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)
  • Jay Over, two texts
    • “Slave of the Clock” (typed by me)
    • “The Secret of Angel Smith” (typed by me)
  • Malcolm Shaw, five texts
    • “Lucky” (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “The Sentinels” episode 1 (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “The Sentinels” episode 2 (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “Bella” (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “Four Faces of Eve” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Pat Mills, two texts
    • “Concrete Surfer” (typed by me)
    • “Girl In A Bubble” (typed by me)
  • John Wagner, “Eva’s Evil Eye” (typed by Mistyfan)

 

 

Jinty 14 May 1977

JInty 14 May 1977 cover

  • Creepy Crawley (Trini Tinturé)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Dads! Competition results
  • Jamie! (artist Phil Townsend) – Gypsy Rose story
  • Curtain of Silence (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Make a Play-Changing Tent – feature
  • Alley Cat
  • Fans…Friends or Foes? – feature
  • The Darkening Journey (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Robot Who Cried (artist Rodrigo Comos, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Kerry in the Clouds (artist Emilia Prieto, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel (artist Jim Baikie, writer Alison Christie)

The cover has a very interesting design. Instead of the more common two panels it incorporates three, in a fan shape radiating from a sun that emphasises it being a “sizzling” comic.

In this issue, Jinty closes her competition “If Dad Did”, where readers won money if their letters on the jobs they wish their fathers could do were published. Letters published here imagine their fathers as potters, US presidents, lotto winners, dustmen, disc jockeys, gymnastics trainers and Romany gypsies.

In “Creepy Crawley”, warning bells are now ringing that the power of the scarab brooch is getting beyond Jean’s ability to control it. Sheila is the only ray of hope, because she has caught on to what is going on. But what can Sheila do when she does not even believe in herself?

A fisherman asks for trouble when he appropriates Henrietta for his own use. And when he puts his fish bait (worms and maggots) in Henrietta – well!

It’s part two of “Curtain of Silence”, and several plot threads emerge in this episode that are clearly going to shape the story. First, Selfish Yvonne is in for a surprise (and so is everyone else) when she arrives in Mavronia – her rival Olga is almost a dead ringer for her! Second, a gypsy woman warns Yvonne to go quickly because she foresees “bad things” for her. Sounds like good advice, but the arrogant Yvonne isn’t taking it. Third, her arrogance is making her very unpopular with her teammates.

The Gypsy Rose story is one of Jinty’s rare forays into the subject of World War II, and it ends on a more tragic note than most of Rose’s stories.

Katy the robot makes a mistake that threatens to give her away – she uses too much strength on a bar and bends it. Can she worm her way out of this one?

“Kerry in the Clouds” is on cloud 9 right now, because she is becoming famous under Gail Terson. But she does not realise that Gail is taking advantage of her head always being in the clouds…

Thumper and Beaky have a narrow escape and are on their way to Julie again. But they’d better hurry, because doctors are not risking an operation on Julie while she is pining for Thumper too much.

Rowan tries to replace the evil spinning wheel with a harmless model. As a result, she finds herself in danger of falling down a quarry and is hanging by a thread, er, tree stump. It looks like the mist caused the accident, but Rowan is convinced it is the evil spinning wheel. If so, will it succeed in killing her this time?