Tag Archives: Misty

John Richardson: Comics Bibliography

Goof from the Comics UK Forum has kindly supplied a list of the comics work done by John Richardson over the years.


Misty
Serials:
End Of The Line… 12/08/78 – 18/11/78

Short Stories:
Red Knee – White Terror! (Beasts Story) 4/2/1978
Green Grow The Riches – O! 18/2/1978
The Dummy (Nightmare Story) 25/2/1978
The Secret Of Lan-Shi… (Beasts Story) 11/3/1978
The Haunting (Nightmare Story) 18/3/1978
Napoleon Comes Home… (Beasts Story) 25/2/1978
Miranda 22/4/1978
Stone Cold Revenge 6/5/1978
Sticks And Stones 20/5/1978
A Spell Of Trouble (Nightmare Story) 15/7/1978
Titch’s Tale… (Beasts Story) 29/7/1978
Dance Of Death 5/8/1978
Yet Another Teacher For Molly! (Nightmare Story) 16/12/1978
Examination Nerves 23/12/1978
A Girl’s Best Friend 30/12/1978
The Sad Eyes Of Sorrow 13/1/1979
Happy Birthday, Spooky Sue! 20/1/1979
Pot Luck 10/3/1979
The Curse Of The Wolf 31/3/1979
The Choice Of Silence 14/4/1978
The Uglies 14/4/1978
One Hour In Time 12/5/1979
The Disembodied 26/5/1979
A Stain On Her Character 23/6/1979
Framed 14/7/1979
The Writing On The Wall 21/7/1979
Time To Spare 18/8/1979
Inside Story 25/8/1979
Mrs Grundy’s Guest House 29/9/1979
The Pig People 1/12/1979
Smile 5/1/1980
Black Sunday Summer Special 1978
Old Ethna’s House Holiday Special 1979
The Pipe Dream of Marty Scuttle Holiday Special 1979
The Swarm Annual 1979

Tammy
Serials:
The Duchess of Dead-End Drive 2/03/74 – 16/03/74

Short Stories:
Moonlight Prowler 17/7/1982
Shock Treatment 20/11/1982
Carla’s Best Friend 15/1/1983
(Reprint from Misty “A Girl’s Best Friend”)
The Turning Point 12/3/1983
Donkey’s Years 17/9/1983
Fair Shares 24/12/1983?

Strange Stories:
This is Your Life 14/6/1980
The Beauty Contest 6/3/1981
Monster Movie 28/3/1981
Lost for Words 11/4/1981
The House of Leopards 9/5/1981
Water Under the Bridge 13/6/1981
The Carrier Bag 22/8/1981
Quicksilver 16/9/1981
Down to Earth 10/10/1981
Safe as Houses 17/10/1981
Unmasked 20/12/1981
Star Born 26/12/1981
The Burry Man 20/3/1982
All the Fright of the Fair ?
(?) The Pharaoh’s Daughter’s Stand-In (?) ?

Monster Tales:
The Gargoyle 16/1/1982
The Guardian 27/2/1982
Old Bug’s Last Trip 15/5/1982

Series: Wee Sue:
Weekly episodes 14/09/74? – 1982?
(Main artist from September 1974 to March 1977?)
1 story Annual 1977
1 story Annual 1979
3 stories Annual 1982
1 story Annual 1984
1 story Summer Special 1975
1 story Summer Special 1976
3 stories Holiday Special 1982
1 story Holiday Special 1983

Text Stories:
…Through Rose-Coloured Glasses Annual 1982
Star of Wonder Annual 1982

Comic Covers:
The Cover Girls 20/08/1973 – 04/10/1980
Annuals 1979 – 1982, 1984
Holiday Specials 1979 & 1980

Filler Artist:
Eva’s Evil Eye 31/8/74(?) – 07/09/74

Jinty
Series: Could It Be You? (or Is This Your Story?)
(Reprints from the June series) 1976 – 1977

Gypsy Rose Stories:
The White Blackbird (reprinted Strange Story) Holiday Special 1980
The Yellow Dress (reprinted Strange Story) Holiday Special 1980

Bunty
Serials:
Phantom of the Fells 348 (12/09/64) – 358 (21/11/64)

Judy
Picture Story Libraries:
Green for Danger No 237 (January 1983)
Dora’s Dragon No 254 (June 1984)

Mandy
Serials:
The Girl with the Black Umbrella 300 (14/10/72) – 313 (13/01/73)

Other:
Stella Starr – Policewoman from Space Annual 1974
Stella Starr – Policewoman from Space Annual 1975

June
Series: Could It Be You?
Some of the weekly episodes Early 1970’s?
1 story June Book 1973

Series: Lucky’s Living Doll
Filler artist for the weekly series 30/09/1972 – March(?) 1973
2 stories (reprints) June Book 1982

Strange Stories

When the Clock Stopped (1/1/1972)

The Haunted Room (18/3/1972)

Princess Tina
Filler Artist:
Clueless – The Blunderdog 22/4/72, 29/4/72, 27/5/72, 15/7/72

School Friend
Short Stories:
The Misfit (possibly reprint from longer story) Annual 1973
Elfrida of the Forest Annual 1975

Scream!
Serials:
Terror of the Cats 24/03/1984 – 28/04/1984
The Nightcomers 05/05/1984 – 30/06/1984

Short Stories:
A Ghastly Tale! – Green Fingers 7/4/1984

Pink
Short Stories:
Miss Get-What-She-Wants Annual 1975

Mirabelle
Serials:
A Song for Andrella ? 1977 – ? 1977
Later episodes, following Horacio Lalia (serial started 19/02/77)

Buster
Filler Artist:
The Leopard from Lime Street ? – ?

Guest post: John Richardson

Comics UK Forum poster Goof has kindly contributed the following appreciation of artist John Richardson, along with a detailed comics bibliography. Many thanks indeed, Goof!

John Richardson, who died earlier this year, was not a Jinty artist. He drew no serial stories for Jinty – in fact, he did few full serials of any kind – and is represented only by a few reprints. Yet for other girls’ comics, especially Tammy and Misty, he produced a body of brilliant and original work across a wide range of stories from the darkest horror to the craziest knockabout comedy.

Like nearly all artists who worked for girls’ comics, he was largely anonymous to his many readers, and information about his life isn’t easy to find. Born in 1943 in the North Yorkshire mining town of Eston, he started working as a commercial artist after studying at Art College. Before this, he once assured an interviewer, he had tried his hand at farm work and professional wrestling.

His earliest work includes what seems to have been his first foray into girls’ comics, the 1964 Bunty serial “Phantom of the Fells”. During the 1970’s, he worked on several IPC girls’ comics such as June and Princess Tina, and did a serial and some smaller items for D C Thomson’s Mandy. He also did a couple of series for Cheeky Weekly comic, and the cartoon strip “Amanda” for the Sun newspaper.

Around this time he also began his long run of work for Tammy, which over the years made a significant contribution to the character of the comic, especially his series of “Cover Girl” covers which did so much to define to look of the comic between 1973 and 1980, and his period as the main artist for the “Wee Sue” series. He continued to produce stories and covers for Tammy until the end of 1983.

He contributed short complete stories to Misty throughout its two year run, as well as the serial “End of the Line“, and took full advantage of the extra space which Misty offered to artists to create some of his most spectacular work.

During the 1980’s, he drew for 2000AD, especially “The Mean Arena”, a science fiction serial that he also wrote, and contributed to the serials “Ro-Jaws’ Robo Tales” and “The V.C.s”. He also drew two serials and a short story for Scream! He drew and wrote the cartoon strip “Flatmates” for the Sunday People newspaper, and strips for specialist car and bike magazines. Most memorably perhaps out of his cartoon work, he created the Goonish comedy science fiction strip “Jetman” for a computer magazine called Crash.

Unlike a number of artists who worked on IPC’s girls’ comics, it seems that he didn’t move over to D C Thomson after the last IPC picture story girls’ comics ceased publication in the mid-1980s, although he did produce two Judy Picture Story Libraries in 1983 and 1984. I have not been able to find any further girls’ comic work after the demise of Tammy, and it looks as if he may have stopped working for comics altogether around this time. The latest comics work that I have been able to trace was in two issues of the Enid Blyton’s Adventure Magazine, published in July and December 1986.

It’s not clear why he did comparatively few full serials during his 20 years drawing for comics. I have seen it suggested that he had no great liking for drawing stories written by other people, and this may have discouraged him from working on long serials, where the artist would normally work more or less under instructions from the writer. It may be no accident that some of his best and most inventive comedy is in the Tammy series of Cover Girl covers, where he was free to interpret the joke in his own way because the jokes were purely visual. Many brilliant examples of this series are illustrated in Mistyfan’s History of Tammy Covers on this website.

He had the kind of style which once seen, was instantly recognisable, and yet this didn’t seem to limit his ability to adapt to almost any kind of story. He once said in interview that his work as a last-minute substitute for other artists had helped him to “learn from other people and gradually evolve something unique”. It’s an interesting thought that imitating the styles of other people can help you develop an original style of your own, but certainly his frequent work as a filler artist didn’t stop him developing a highly individual and spontaneous style, with a good feel for human anatomy and convincingly realistic facial expression.

Although he could turn his hand to almost any type of story, his best work in girls’ comic stories was in horror and farcical comedy. He had a tremendous flair for the grotesque, and he was able to turn this to account equally in horror and comedy. There’s nothing unusual about extravagantly hideous creatures in horror tales, but John Richardson’s had an exuberance which was all his own, like this example from “The Uglies” (Misty 14 April 1978):

John Richardson artwork from Misty

He could handle bizarre comedy with the same panache, even when the subject was something as humdrum as a parking meter (“Stella Starr – Policewoman from Outer Space” from Mandy Annual 1975):
John Richardson artwork from Mandy

But the impact of his work didn’t depend solely on his command of the grotesque and fantastic. He could convey the same chill in a horror story by the power of suggestion, through his flair for facial expression, and ability to compose a powerful page layout. From “Black Sunday” (Misty Summer Special 1978) and “Old Ethna’s House” (Misty Holiday Special 1979):

John Richardson artwork from MistyBlack Sunday

John Richardson artwork from MistyOld Ethna

He was also able to draw on his cartooning experience to enliven slapstick comedy stories, as in the Judy Picture Story Library “Dora’s Dragon”, where a dragon costume brought to life by a witch becomes a boisterous mini-Godzilla enthusiastically devouring anything that moves:

John Richardson artwork from Judy PSLDora’s Dragon

Although his style was so distinctive, he was well able to adapt it when taking over an established series from another artist. The Tammy series “Wee Sue” is an interesting example of this. He succeeded to the original Tammy series artist Mario Capaldi in the issue of 14 September 1974, but unusually, he did so in mid-episode. Here are the first two pages of the episode:

Mario Capaldi/John Richardson artwork from Tammy

John Richardson artwork from Tammy
Page one is clearly in Capaldi’s style, and I would say that the end of page two is clearly by
Richardson, although he has toned down the normal character of his work to harmonise with Capaldi’s. But at what point did he take over? I personally think that Capaldi drew the first three panels of the second page, and Richardson did the rest. The point is debatable, but it certainly shows how well Richardson was able to adapt his style to conform to the very different style of another artist. By way of contrast, here’s a later episode where he has remodelled Sue’s enemy Miss Bigger from the severe and tight-lipped martinet created by Capaldi into a crazed hobgoblin in his own distinctive style (issue of 26 February 1977):

John Richardson artwork from Tammy

I strongly feel that this art should be known and celebrated far more than it is, but as so often with girls’ comics, the first stumbling-block to recognition is simply a lack of reliable information about what work the artist did. Contributors to the Comics UK Forum have compiled a list of the work he is known to have done for girls’ comics, and this will be posted next. Inevitably, it’s not complete, and we would be grateful to hear from anybody who can offer further additions, or spot any mistakes. If you can give us any help with this, please let us know.

Tammy & Misty 26 January 1980

Tammy cover 26 January 1980

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • Cindy of Swan Lake (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Sister in the Shadows (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Spider Woman (artist Jaume Raumeu)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • The Witch in the Window – Strange Story from the Mists (artist Tony Higham)
  • Miss T (artist Joe Collins)
  • Make the Headlines, Hannah! (artist Tony Coleman) – final episode
  • Daughter of the Desert (Mario Capaldi)

Part two of the Tammy & Misty merger has been chosen for 1980 in the Tammy round robin. For the second – and last time – Misty shares the cover with the Cover Girls. Afterwards the cover returned to the Cover Girls and Misty never occupied a cover spot again. Poor Misty.

To further commemorate the merger, next week we are getting the House of Mystery game, where we become one of our favourite Tammy characters (Molly, Sue, Bessie or Bella) and try to escape from the House of Mystery. Which Tammy character would you pick for this game? Misty readers would probably go for Sue or Bella as they haven’t seen Molly or Bessie yet in the merger.

Tammy is working on clearing out her older stories so she can make way for the new ones she has already indicated are waiting in the wings. “Make the Headlines, Hannah!” finishes this week. Hannah not only succeeds in making a name for herself at long last but also gets on television. Funny – the possibility of appearing on television was something she fantasised about way back in part 1. And it wasn’t for the money her Uncle promised as her mean sisters thought. It was winning respect and proving to everyone she was not a born loser.

“Daughter of the Desert” looks like it is heading for its conclusion. The episode itself says as much: the protagonists reckon everything is coming to a head and they are about to find out why the school has been plagued by strange desert phenomena ever since the Arabian princess Aysha arrived. What makes them think that? The mystery “Arab” behind it has cut off the water’s school supply for 24 hours and now they are all going as dry as the desert.

“Cindy of Swan Lake” still has longer to go, though its conclusion can’t be far off either. Jealous Zoe Martin is still playing on Cindy Grey’s worries about her sick swan, who is dying from pollution. This week she allows Cindy to get the lead in Swan Lake. Why? She calculated Cindy would get too upset at doing the Dance of the Dying Swan in it to continue with the role and she would get it, and she was right…oh for #^%@’s sake! Will someone please tell the Tammy editor the Dance of the Dying Swan is not in Swan Lake? It’s a separate solo dance!

Like Hannah, Wendy the “Sister in the Shadows” is overshadowed by a successful sister (Stella) and trying to prove herself against comparisons, bullies, lack of self esteem and sabotage. This week, Wendy’s debut is on stage is a disaster because of nasty tricks from the bullies, but there is insult to injury as well. Wendy’s parents totally forgot to come and watch her, but as far as they are concerned, Stella phoning to say she might visit for the weekend (which she doesn’t) was far more important anyway. Not exactly making things up to Wendy for letting her down, are they? From this, we can see Hannah definitely had it easy compared to Wendy in proving herself and winning respect. And at least Hannah had some friends to help. Wendy has none at all.

Bella has a long history of getting stranded in foreign countries. She’s only two episodes into her new story and it’s happening again: she is stranded in the US, trying to win a championship to qualify for the Olympics, but her wealthy guardians fail to show up. They abruptly cancel and don’t even send a message to Bella to explain why or arrange help. Now this is really irresponsible, even if something bad happened to them back there. They’ve really left her in the lurch and Bella is not getting much help from the coaches either. It’s no wonder she gets off to a bad start when the event gets underway. The vault, which was never her strong point, is already down – in flames.

Spider Woman has discovered witnesses have stumbled onto her evil plan. To deal with them she strands them on a deserted island that used to be a leper colony. Too late they discover it was a trap. And they have to live in rundown huts. As if that weren’t bad enough, the former occupants were the lepers and there are rumours their ghosts still haunt the huts. Then they discover the boat Mrs Webb used to bring them to the island is now covered with spiders, so there is no getting off the island with it. But what about Mrs Webb herself? Where has she got to? Did she get off the island on another boat…or what?

In Wee Sue, it’s charity fundraising time at Milltown Comprehensive. Sue’s idea is bash up one of the old bangers from the council tip and see who can guess the correct number of parts. Of course Miss Bigger and Wee Sue get into all sorts of scrapes towing the old banger to the event, but they do foil bank robbers with it before finally getting it to the banger-bashing ceremony.

In Strange Story from the Mists, the Witch in the Window makes a profitable living out of causing bad luck to girls unless they give her money. She meets her match in one girl and flies off in a rage. But beware – there are plenty of other girls in the windows out there for her to take her revenge out on.

 

 

 

 

 

Hangman’s Alley [1979]

Sample Images

Hangmans Alley 1Hangmans Alley 2Hangmans Alley 3Hangmans Alley 4

Published: Misty #86, 29 September 1979 – #90, 27 October 1979

Episodes: 5

Artist: Jesus Redondo

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Best of Misty #5

Plot

Mel and Jacey Coombs and their mother move into an apartment above an old alley. It used to be called Hangman’s Alley because condemned criminals were taken through this alleyway from the gaol on the marsh to execution on Gallows Hill. Mum tries to hide this grim past from her daughters, but it’s no use. Their arrival has stirred up the ghosts – literally. The ghost of a servant girl who was wrongly executed returns from beyond the grave when the family move in, and she is full of bitterness and hatred. She is taking out her hatred on Mel, for no other reason than Mel is a dead ringer for her. She almost attacks Mel in the bedroom, and later she lures Mel onto a bridge in a trance and tries to throw her off.

Jacey, the only one who can sense or see the ghost, discovers what the ghost is trying to do, and confronts the ghost in a bid to save Mel. The ghost informs Jacey, through a series of visions, that she was wrongly executed for stealing a pearl necklace from her mistress. The evidence against her was extremely flimsy. She was cleaning her mistress’s jewellery and another servant saw her admiring the pearl necklace while doing so. On this alone, everyone just assumed she stole the necklace when the mistress found it missing later on. She was dragged to the gallows protesting her innocence, but in vain; angry people were yelling for her execution on all sides. Jacey strikes a deal with the ghost: she will clear the ghost’s name if the ghost will leave Mel alone.

Having read up the history of Hangman’s Alley, Jacey knows where to find the old gaol. At the gaol the ghost directs her to her name, which she gouged into the wall: Melinda Walpole. At least Jacey now knows the ghost’s name. However, Jacey is caught for trespass and gets into big trouble with Mum, especially as she skipped school to go there in the first place.

Unfortunately Jacey’s investigation is making slow progress. The ghost is getting impatient and her impatience is making her increasingly dangerous. The investigation is being further impeded by distractions the family unwittingly put up. The family host a housewarming party, but Jacey sees Melinda the ghost while doing preparations and realises Mel has gone. She finds Mel collapsed in the alley and a warning from Melinda written in cherryade on the wall, which Jacey realises is a warning it could be blood next time. The message reads, “Remember the promise or next time…”

Thinking Jacey is off colour, Mum sends her to the doctor, and the wait in reception is interminable. It’s another holdup on the investigation and more strain on Melinda’s patience. But at least Jacey gets another clue while waiting, in a magazine. It is an article on an old house, and one of the photos shows Melinda’s signature etched on the wall. So now Jacey has located the house Melinda worked in. It is now facing development while others want to preserve it.

Jacey goes to the house and heads for the old servants’ quarters to find the etching. Mel follows, and Jacey tells her she’s playing grand lady to cover up what she is really doing. Hearing this, Melinda thinks she has been mucked around long enough. Her patience snaps, and she locks them in the old servants’ quarters and sets the house on fire. While fighting their way out, a wall partition gives way and Jacey finds an old box hidden in there. They make their way out safely and a huge crowd gathers. Among them is a reporter hoping for a story that will help save the house.

He gets it when Jacey opens the box. It contains the stolen necklace and a written confession from the thief (whose identity is not revealed). She had contracted smallpox from the crowd while watching Melinda being executed. She was left to die in the attic, but before she did she wrote the confession. She then put the necklace and confession in the box and hid it in the wall.

The publicity the confession creates in the press saves the house and it is converted into a museum. Jacey is given the necklace as a reward. Melinda, speaking for the very first time to Jacey, puts the necklace on Jacey herself, and says she can rest in peace now her name has been cleared.

Thoughts

Serials about servants being wrongly accused are commonplace in girls’ comics, and serials about wrongly accused servants coming back as ghosts are not unusual either. “Shivery Shirley” from Bunty and “The Sad Ghost” from June are examples of such ghosts. But this one is particularly morbid for several reasons.

First, the wrongly accused servant is actually executed instead of simply dying in miserable circumstances as her counterparts mentioned above do. And she was not merely dismissed, imprisoned or transported – she was executed.

Second, the ghost, while having a sympathetic backstory and situation, is not very sympathetic as a character. Instead of crying out for help she is extremely malevolent and the atmosphere her presence creates is described as “evil”. Her maliciousness may be the product of the bitterness over the injustice, but there is no apparent reason for why she is attacking Mel or why she is taking it all out on Mel. And she simply has no excuse for attacking Mel either, as Mel had nothing to do with the injustice. So why the hell is she doing it? At least with “The Shadow of Sherry Brown”, another malevolent ghost in Tammy, there was a psychology to her behaviour that we could understand and it made her haunting more realistic. In the case of Melinda Walpole there is none and we just don’t get it – why is she acting in that way to Mel?

Finally, the depiction of Hangman’s Alley and the executions are gruesome and atmospheric. The hatching, linework and inking of Jesus Redondo renders it all brilliantly. We hear references to criminals being taken to the “gibbet” and there “die horribly”. And the flashback of Melinda being dragged to execution gives the impression her execution was little more than a lynching.

The story is not long at five episodes. Considering Melinda’s conduct and the slowness of Jacey’s investigation, this probably is just as well, and it does make the plotting very tight. The danger of the ghost gives a sense of urgency to get things done fast but things are just moving too slowly, which makes it even more worrying for Jacey and more dramatic for us readers. However, the ending feels like it came a bit too soon, and the menace of Melinda was too short-lived.

At the end of the story it is not revealed who the thief really was when her confession is found. Was it the servant who saw Melinda admire the necklace or was it someone else? Not being told whodunit is infuriating. The ending would have been better if the identity of the thief had been revealed.

Nightmare Academy [1979]

Sample Images

Nightmare Academy 1Nightmare Academy 2Nightmare Academy 3Nightmare Academy 4

Published: Misty 5 May 1979 – 29 July 1979

Episodes: 12

Artist: Jaume Raumeu

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Sharon Watts is sent to Knightstair Boarding School when her father gets an oil job in UAE. She is not thrilled at the idea of boarding school, and as the story unfolds she will be even less so. There is no school bus to meet her at the station as arranged, and the station master says the school never has a telephone. So she walks there and finds it is a Transylvanian-style castle, which strikes her as creepy. The place is deserted except for angry dogs, which look as if they were from hell or something, and are kept securely behind a section of the castle that is out of bounds. The dogs, she later learns, are called Belial, Baal and Mordred, which the headmistress Miss Nocturne keeps under control with a whip. Miss Nocturne tells Sharon that obedience is the first thing the girls must learn here, and the dogs too. Miss Nocturne confiscates Sharon’s mirrors, saying she will not need them, and says she was not met at the station because she arrived too early for them. Then she asks Sharon if she is anaemic. After an answer in the negative, she hands Sharon over to head girl, Rowena Marre.

Sharon soon learns the pupils sleep by day and have classes at night, and they are forbidden to look out the windows while having their lessons: “At this school, girls only see what they are told to see!” (In case they see something they shouldn’t, perhaps?) Sharon finds it hard to stay awake in this ‘night school’. She falls asleep, has horrible nightmares of Miss Nocturne being a vampire, and is sent to bed. She wakes up at midday and goes looking for food, but there isn’t much of it in the kitchen.

Exploring the grounds, Sharon finds the gates are always locked. Then she spots a gravestone with the name Rowena Marre on it, and the girl died in 1895. Sharon assumes the current Rowena must be a descendant. Then Sharon meets the caretaker’s daughter Fiona, who tells her Miss Nocturne only lets him come at night. After playing ball with Sharon she mysteriously disappears. Later, Sharon follows Miss Nocturne to an old chapel, but all she finds are bats. The bats fly away and Miss Nocturne appears on the roof. Furious at how Sharon has disobeyed her by exploring the grounds instead of resting during the day, she orders Sharon to scrub the kitchen to teach her obedience and posts a guard dog over her. Despite this bizarre form of discipline, Sharon thinks Miss Nocturne seems perfectly reasonable, even if she seems a bit eccentric “…but sort of creepy, too!” By now, Sharon should be getting hints of what sort of creepiness. Her subconscious sure is, with those nightmares of hers.

Another girl, Yvonne, smuggles Sharon food to cheer her up. Sharon sneaks out of the kitchen. She is astonished to see Miss Nocturne go off in an old-fashioned carriage, and even more astonished to see it has no driver. Rowena catches her with an oddly strong grip and cold hands. She tells Sharon the place may be haunted by vengeful spirits and takes her to the vault where the dogs are kept, but aren’t there this time. Rowena tells Sharon this section is out of bounds because it is a family vault. On the staircase a knight defended the lord of the castle, hence its name of Knightstair. Sharon thinks, “nightmare’s more like it!” (Now we know where the story title comes from.) At the bottom of the steps are coffins, and Sharon sees the name “Rowena Marre” on one of them. Her nerve snaps and she runs back up the stairs.

Then Rowena takes Sharon to dinner, and Sharon is surprised that they eat off gold plates. Yvonne tells her the staff and prefects eat elsewhere and sometimes pupils are “sent for” to join them. When that happens, the pupils never see them again, but it is regarded as a high honour. Miss Nocturne then enters with a list of names of pupils who have been “sent for”.

At this, Sharon finally decides something is definitely wrong at this school and writes a letter to her father, but it is intercepted and taken to Miss Nocturne. Privately, Miss Nocturne realises Sharon is a threat to her. But when Sharon confronts her with her suspicions, Miss Nocturne blames Sharon’s troubles and suspicions on anaemia and should have paid more attention to the biology lessons on blood (what?). She then makes Sharon drink a tonic. Sharon feels like she is falling and sees Miss Nocturne turn into a bat. She then sees the coffins again – and one has her own name on it! Miss Nocturne appears with fangs, tells her they are the Undead and Sharon must join them by way of blood. Sharon wakes to find herself locked in a dungeon and gets Fiona to take a note to her father to help her escape, but it is Miss Nocturne who comes to let her out.

Sharon wonders if Miss Nocturne is just eccentric and not a vampire. But then she hears Yvonne has been “sent for” and resolves to find out what happened to her. She also hears Miss Nocturne say that her potion is working and she will be one of them soon.

While looking for Yvonne Sharon finds Fiona, who teaches her how to operate the castle portcullis (sounds like something that will come in handy when the time is right in the plot). Sharon then meets Yvonne, who is acting as if she has been hypnotised and has super-strength. Fiona tells Sharon she has become a “watcher”, the girls who guard the place in daylight. Sharon realises Yvonne has been dispatched to “watch” her. Sharon gives Fiona another desperate letter for her dad to post. In the meantime she is stuck with this “watcher” Yvonne.

Sharon explores the stables and finds the carriage, but Miss Nocturne catches her. As punishment, Miss Nocturne takes her for a breakneck ride in the carriage (which Sharon finds icy cold, like a tomb), and drives the coach herself. She drives the coach so crazily that a wheel smashes against the rocks. The force flings Sharon out and she cuts her head. Miss Nocturne bathes it in the river, saying, “You must not bleed. Not yet.”

While at the river Sharon sees Miss Nocturne has no reflection, and finally decides she really is a vampire. As she is finally outside the school grounds she tries to escape, but the dogs chase her. She takes refuge at Fiona’s cottage, and the caretaker tells her that the school used to be a real one. Then Miss Nocturne came and turned all the staff and prefects into vampires, and drugged the pupils into submission. Sharon is the first to break free of the school. But the caretaker sees no hope of destroying its evil, as the whole place is a vampire nest now. Besides, he says, can Sharon drive a stake through a vampire’s heart? He says he is forced to work for Miss Nocturne as she killed his wife and is threatening his daughter. So he just turns Sharon over to Miss Nocturne.

Miss Nocturne now reveals she really is a vampire. She shows her fangs and tries to give Sharon the bite, but gets distracted by the dogs fighting. Then the dogs just fall down dead and Miss Nocturne discovers that Fiona has poisoned them.

The caretaker, Fiona and Sharon make a dash for it in a waiting car. The caretaker takes them to a warehouse where the “sent for” girls are being held. The vampires keep them hypnotised and drugged into suspended animation, and dangling from the ceiling in vampire-made membranous sacs. They serve as a food larder for the vampires and their blood is drunk as needed. However, the caretaker says he has an antidote for the girls.

Miss Nocturne chases them, but gets pierced by the falling portcullis (oh, so that’s what its purpose was in the plot). Then daylight destroys her altogether. As it is daytime the other vampires will be sleeping, so the caretaker brings their coffins out to expose them to daylight and destroy them too. The caretaker will use his antidote to help Yvonne and the other pupils to recover, and they have no memory of what happened. The caretaker, being the school doctor as well, puts out the story that it was an epidemic that killed the headmistress and closed the school, and orders the pupils to rest for one term. Sharon is sent back to her parents, much to her great relief.

Thoughts

Misty was one girls’ comic that was huge on vampires whereas most other girls’ titles barely even mentioned them. As far as I know, Jinty was the only other girls’ title to have serials that touched on the vampire theme: Dracula’s Daughter and Worlds Apart. In Misty, vampires often cropped up in Misty’s complete stories. Dracula himself appeared up in a number of them, and in one case even met Jack the Ripper! But this is the only time Misty used vampires in a serial. There might have been more if Misty had run longer. Who knows?

The vampire story is combined with another common theme in girls’ comics: the evil headmistress. Some of these headmistresses are just sadists who turn discipline into downright child abuse. Others, like Miss Nocturne, are using the school and its pupils for sinister purposes. But the purpose itself is a mystery that the protagonist must unravel in order to put everything right and free her fellow pupils.

When we first meet Miss Nocturne we can guess she’s a vampire from the moment she confiscates Sharon’s mirror, though Sharon herself thinks (and maybe hopes) Miss Nocturne is probably just a weirdo. But the vampire herself has an unusual appearance as vampires go. Female vampires are usually depicted as looking like Vampirella, but this vampire has blond hair instead of dark. And it’s a surprise to see this vampire in a teacher’s gown and modern clothing. Little by little though, she appears in more gothic style clothing and a cloak, before finally donning an occult-style gown that has skulls on the neckline by the time she fully reveals herself as a vampire.

Whether vampire or weirdo, you definitely don’t want to stay in Miss Nocturne’s school once you see her ideas of discipline (whips and total obedience?), teaching pupils at night, and the things she likes to teach, especially in biology. None of the pupils seem to complain, or show any concern or fear at how the girls who are “sent for” are never seen again.

Sharon, like all protagonists in a “strange school” serial, is the only one to sense anything wrong, be immune to or rebel against its influence, and be determined to fight against whatever’s wrong. As with other protagonists like her she gets help along the way, but they don’t or can’t tell her fully what’s going on. The caretaker and his daughter do know what it is, but they haven’t got the courage to fully help the protagonist until the final episode. And wouldn’t you know it – they have everything that’s needed to destroy it, including antidotes for the drugged girls. They just couldn’t find the nerve until Sharon came along. And even then the caretaker took a little while to come around. Fortunately his daughter Fiona showed more pluck (poisoning the dogs), which finally prompted him into action.

In the meantime, we have a story that is drenched in chilling, gothic atmosphere, all rendered by the brilliant artwork of Jaume Raumeu. From the moment we first see Knightstair Castle on the hill against the night sky we get the shudders at the sight of this castle. It looks like it came straight out of Transylvania and Dracula would feel right at home there. And when we meet those guard dogs and hear what their names are, we sense the castle must be a place out of hell itself. Other things keep coming to chill and scare: the cobweb-laden coffins in the vault; the old-fashioned coach that has no driver; Sharon’s nightmares of Miss Nocturne as a vampire; Miss Nocturne punishing Sharon with a breakneck ride in the coach; the “sent for” girls who just disappear, and it doesn’t take a genius to guess what Miss Nocturne is doing with them; the hypnotised girls who serve as “watchers”…the list goes on and on.

The only plot point that doesn’t quite fit is the headstone declaring the death of Rowena Marre in 1895 and the Rowena Marre we see. This is never explained and the story implies Miss Nocturne took over the school more recently than 1895 because the caretaker can recall when it was a normal school. Perhaps the Rowena Marre who died in 1895 really is a descendant of the current Rowena Marre after all.

The panels that reveal the fate of the “sent for” girls must be one of the most perturbing Misty ever produced. When we see those girls trapped in those sacs and hanging from the ceiling like prey waiting for a spider to devour them, it is so macabre and sickening. We heave a sigh of relief to hear it is reversible and glad the girls will not remember it. But it does not make up for the horror of their plight.

Nightmare Academy larder

A number of evil headmistresses/teachers actually believe, in a perverse or misguided way, that what they are doing is for the pupils’ own benefit, whether it is harsh discipline, perfection induced by drugs, hypnotically induced dancing, or anything else. Curiously, Miss Nocturne’s may actually be one of them, what with her ideas of obedience and telling Sharon “one day you will thank me for it” when she has her scrubbing the kitchen to “learn obedience the hard way”. Is it all just about turning the pupils into mindless puppets and blood banks to keep her supplied with blood and minions? Or does she genuinely believe that what she is doing is for the pupils’ own benefit as well?

Using a portcullis is a pretty unorthodox way to bring down a vampire. Is it supposed to be some mechanised version of the stake or something? Still, as the caretaker said, could Sharon have seriously been able to drive a stake into a vampire’s heart? After all, she would hardly have the arm for it. Come to think of it, stakes were never used to destroy vampires in Misty. Such things were not appropriate for girls to do be seen doing, after all. It’s more in the line of Van Helsing. More often Misty used the light of day to destroy vampires, as in Miss Nocturne’s case, or in one case, a silver bullet.

Top 10 Misty Villains

I now present my list of the top 10 Misty villains. In compiling it I found it hard to find a respectable number of seriously memorable villains in Misty’s run. This is likely due to Misty having fewer serials due to her stories having four-page spreads and having an over-abundance of complete stories. Plus she only had a two-year run. These factors combined did not allow much room for more serials to run. So I have also included villains who were more on the unusual side or caught my eye for one reason or other.

In compiling this list I tried to be as broad as possible about the types and archetypes of villains. In so doing, I found that Misty had a very high emphasis on mad scientists, evil doctors, twisted Victorians, and characters that originated from earlier time periods. In contrast, I was surprised to realise Misty was light on supernatural villains such as witches and wizards despite being a spooky comic. As a matter of fact, she never used a witch or wizard as the heavy; ghosts and hellspawn had a stronger presence as supernatural villains. She was also low on villains who were peers of the protagonist, such as school bullies and jealous rivals. I believe these differences in emphasis on particular types of villains from more conventional titles like Jinty gave Misty a higher proportion of male villains than female villains. And unlike Jinty, Tammy or June, not one single Misty serial used space aliens as the main villains.

The choices are entirely mine and I am aware they may be subject to second-guessing. Some of you may have different choices or different rankings of Misty villains. Please feel free to express your views below.

And now, on with the countdown…

10: The Alt-world Gestapo Interrogator

Story: The Sentinels

Creators: Mario Capaldi (artist); Malcolm Shaw (writer)

Misty Villain 2

In this story about a parallel world where the Nazis won WW2, this Nazi appeared in only two panels, had no given name, and hardly had the chance to contribute much to the plot. So how come he made it to this list, you ask? In the panels where he does appear, he delivers one of the most powerful and disturbing scenes ever in girls’ comics – his brutal torture of Mr Richards. All the brutality of Nazism is summed up in the splash panel that depicts this torture, with all the ruthlessness in which the Nazis inflict it, and all without shying away from the horror while not going over the top.

Also, he is the only Nazi in this parallel world to have any form of substance. All the other parallel-world Nazis in this story were flat, hard-faced goons who looked pretty samey and had no development or names whatsoever. But this was the Nazi who had the real potential to represent to the protagonists the horror of this Nazi parallel world if only he had been developed more. Frankly, this character is crying out for further development. After all, Nazis are common enough in girls’ comics, but a Nazi who serves a Hitler who actually won the war – that’s different.

9: Rosie Belcher

Story: Hush, Hush, Sweet Rachel

Creators: Eduardo Feito (artist); Pat Mills (writer)

Misty Villain 4

Rosie Belcher “The Incredible Bulk” might not be as evil or dangerous as some of the Misty villains who didn’t make it to this list. But she is one of Misty’s more striking baddies because she must be the grossest character ever in girls’ comics. She has the most disgusting eating habits, which she enjoys revolting her classmates with because it gives her such a feeling of power. There is no limit to her depravity of disgusting. The worst example of this is taking bets that she can eat a mountain of school dinner slops, which she mashes together to nauseate her classmates even more before she eats it (why the heck don’t the teachers or dinner lady crack down on this?!). Plus, she is a bully and a totally unpleasant character with no redeeming qualities, except having been brought up that way; her family are as bad and disgusting as she is. And she wonders why she has no friends, which she blames on victimisation.

8: Miss Nocturne

Story: Nightmare Academy

Creators: Jaume Rumeu (artist); writer unknown

Misty Villain 9

Every girls’ comic has its own “evil headmistress” story. Some are just sadists while others have more sinister intentions. This is the Misty version: a headmistress who is a vampire, and her school is a “nest of vampires” that trap pupils as new prey or recruits in her vampire army. Drugs, hypnotism and three hellhound guard dogs bring the pupils into submission; obedience is Miss Nocturne’s first lesson. School classes under Miss Nocturne are taught at night, because of course vampires can’t be active during the day. As vampires go, the depiction of Miss Nocturne is unusual and therefore more interesting. Usually female vampires are drawn like Vampirella, but Miss Nocturne has blonde hair and has a more occult-like costume with miniature skulls on her neckline. She could easily have been taken for a witch if not for those fangs and vampire tendencies.

7: Mrs Black

Story: Moonchild

Creators: John Armstrong (artist); Pat Mills (writer)

Misty Villain 1

Misty’s answer to Mommie Dearest, and the nearest Misty has to a witch being the villain in one of her serials. Wherever Mrs Black goes, people whisper she’s a witch because of her crone-like appearance and the black cloak she always wears. More likely she’s an eccentric, as she doesn’t even allow electricity in her house or allow her daughter Rosemary to dress fashionably or have normal friendships. That wouldn’t be so bad if not for the way she constantly beats Rosemary because she says there is a form of wickedness in her, which she doesn’t really explain. It turns out to be the power of telekinesis that runs in the family, but passed over Mrs Black. Mrs Black has a long-standing bitterness towards it because it unwittingly caused her father’s death. However, jealousy is the true cause of her cruelty to Rosemary; she’s jealous of Rosemary having the power while she doesn’t. Moreover, if she had been born with the power she would have used it for evil, which shows how truly inclined she is towards villainy. Plus, she just abandons Rosemary at the end of the story, which shows what an unfit mother she is and how much she really cared for Rosemary.

6: The Marshalls (and their accomplice, Gerry)

Story: The Four Faces of Eve

Creators: Brian Delaney (artist); Malcolm Shaw (writer)

Misty Villain 6

The Dr Frankensteins of Misty, except in this case they create a girl from the bodies of three dead ones. They did it because it was a challenge to feed their egos. They name her Eve and pass themselves off as her parents, but make it obvious to Eve that they don’t care for her at all. In fact they refer to Eve as “it”, not “she”, because they just see her as an experiment, not a person – and they can casually throw that experiment away if it turns out to be less successful than they thought. And this is what they try to do once Eve finds out what she really is and they could face prison terms for what they did. They don’t even regard killing her as murder because they don’t look on her as a human being. Dr Marshall and his accomplice Gerry are the ultimate, cold-blooded doctors who are the likes of Dr Mengele and are capable of anything in the name of science. Only Mrs Marshall has any conscience about what they have done, and she redeems herself by trying to help Eve when her husband wants to get rid of her.

5: Lord Vicary

Story: End of the Line…

Creators: John Richardson (artist); Malcolm Shaw (writer)

Misty Villain 8

Contrary to what the guide thinks, that portrait of Lord Sefton Roland Vicary is finished and that is exactly how his eyes are now. It is a side effect of the elixir of life that Vicary has extracted from his botanical studies and now he is immortal. This alone raises his creepiness levels high enough for him to be considered as one of Misty’s more standout villains.

Rejecting the Industrial Revolution and its encroachment on the power of the aristocracy, Vicary sealed himself, his hapless servants, and a slave labour gang in a subterranean Victorian world within the London Underground. In his world he continues to live out the good ol’ days where the aristocracy ruled over downtrodden servants. He is waiting for the day humanity above wipes itself out with warfare and he can emerge to rule the world. But for Vicary’s servants, endless life with Vicary’s elixir means endless drudgery and misery in an underground world where they never see the sun, moon or sky. For the slave labourers it is even worse – constant backbreaking labour under constant whippings and merciless slave drivers. For this reason the labourers don’t last long in this world despite the elixir of life, so Vicary resorts to kidnapping people from the London Underground to replace them.

There have been plenty of stories about heartless Victorians who live off the backs of the people they exploit, abuse, and regard as expendable and totally beneath them. But this Victorian takes it to a level like no other by making them immortal. In so doing, he has ensured his downtrodden slaves don’t even have the option of death to release them from his oppression.

Continued next page…

The Black Widow [1978]

Sample Images

Black Widow 1Black Widow 2Black Widow 3Black Widow 4

Publication: Misty 17 June 1978 – 16 September 1978

Episodes: 14

Artist: Jaume Rumeu

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Anita 1980 as De Zwarte weduwe [The Black Widow]

Sequel: Spider-Woman, Tammy & Misty, 19 January 1980 – 22 March 1980

Plot 

In “her silken lair, hidden from the eyes of the world” is Mrs Webb, who is to become known to the world as The Black Widow. She calls out to her spiders, “Tonight is the time…the time of the spiders!”

Not far away is Corey End School, where we meet our two protagonists. The first is Sadie Lincoln, who wants to be a scientist. But Sadie has phobia about creepy crawlies, especially (you guessed it) spiders. The science teacher, Miss Dexter, tells Sadie she must overcome this if she is to handle biological specimens and make her way as a scientist. The second is Freda Lawrence, a rather unlikeable girl who thinks Sadie is always sucking up to teachers.

Sadie prefers astronomy as a science, and is spending the night with her telescope. She is surprised to see a type of meteor, which bursts into fragments. She goes out to investigate and finds a capsule containing a spider. She takes it to Miss Dexter, who cannot identify the species, but puts it in an aquarium for study. They are astonished to find it has doubled in size 24 hours later. And it continues to grow. They don’t realise they have captured the spider that should be at the centre of Webb’s new web. Webb goes in search of the spider and says there will be “no mercy for anyone keeping him!”

Webb turns up at the school, suspecting it is the place to start looking for the spider. Telling everyone she is on a mission to save spiders from the cruelty of man, she promises a £5 reward for anyone who brings a spider to her. Figuring she will get more than that if she brings Webb the super-growing spider, Freda steals it from the science lab. Sadie catches Freda and suspects what she is doing. She tags along with Freda to Webb’s house in the hope of grabbing it back.

They are both surprised to find the house is derelict. Inside, they are caught in a mechanical web manned by a giant mechanical spider. But this is actually the mechanism that brings them to Webb’s lair. Webb scares them into handing over the spider.

Webb explains that she and her husband were biological chemists. Her husband was forced to participate in a military biological experiment that killed him when it went wrong. Now she is out for revenge on Britain with the aid of her specially engineered spiders – and with Sadie and Freda, who are going to be her instruments. Freda says if there’s a few bob in it, she will be happy to do it. This disgusts Sadie, who also expresses her fear of spiders. At this, Webb hypnotises Sadie into liking spiders. She then gives Freda a hypnotic prompt “you creep!” This will have Sadie doing whatever Freda commands when she says it. She also imprisons the girls in slave pendants that give them electric shocks whenever they try to remove them. The pendants label Freda as Tara and Sadie as Tula. Finally, Webb gives Freda a bag of spiders for their first test. She then sends them out, with Sadie having no recollection of what happened.

What Webb does not realise is that Freda is not loyal to her because she was too shocked at the sight of the hypnotism done to Sadie. Freda is only playing along with Webb because she does not want to be hypnotised as well.

Using the “you creep!” prompt, Freda has Sadie unleash the spiders at school, which causes a panic. Afterwards, Webb says the spiders have been installed with transmitters, so she can track them on her electronic map.

Sadie has no memory of what happens when the hypnotic power wears off, so she cannot explain her action to her headmistress – or her absenteeism the next day. This is, of course, because they have been directed to their of next target – one Major-General Oliver Bullivant. Webb blames Bullivant for her husband’s death. The girls plant Webb’s spider on Bullivant’s dog. When the spider bites Bullivant, he falls into a paralysis that leaves him incapable of speaking and doctors baffled. However, the investigation, led by Inspector Bird, is soon drawing the right conclusions. Bird is now searching for the spider and the two girls.

Freda wants to call it quits, but when she tries to tell Webb, Webb demands to know the fate of the Bullivant spider. Webb realises the spider is still with Sadie and uses the pendant to summon her – only to find that Sadie has let the spider go. Later, the spider turns up in the papers that a despatch rider is taking to Bullivant’s. The spider bites and paralyses the dispatch rider, causing him to have a crash. Bird realises what happened and is now searching the scene of the accident for the spider. Then Carfax of SI9 turns up and tells Bird that someone stole a batch of spiders that the Ministry had been testing in the stratosphere. The purpose had been to create super-spiders, but the results are unknown because of the theft. Carfax has a pretty good idea who the thief is (guess who?), but is having trouble locating her. The stratosphere theft also explains the “meteor” that Sadie observed earlier.

Meanwhile, the next target is Professor Lawton, who devised the experiment that killed the husband. This time the girls are to plant the spider on Lawton’s baby. But as they leave, they are attacked by rough girls. Freda tells the leader, “Go an’ jump in the lake, you creep!”

Oops – Freda unwittingly used the hypnotic prompt, which has Sadie jumping in the lake and losing the spider. When Webb finds out the spider’s fate, she is hysterical and furious as she regards her spiders as her children. She decides to go out and do the job herself. However, Mrs Lawton intercepts the spider and crushes it, which means another upset for Webb. Also, Lawton compares notes with Bird and they see the connection.

When Webb returns to her base, she gets another shock – Freda has used the hypnotic prompt to get Sadie to smash her tank of beloved spiders. Webb uses her spider powers to turn the spiders on them. Freda pretends that they have learned their lesson and Webb calls the spiders off.

Sadie now understands what is going on and she quietly teams up with Freda. But Webb hypnotises her into delivering a spider to the Prime Minister. Webb plans to use this attack to blackmail Britain into capitulating to her. However, Freda uses the “you creep!” command to bring Sadie back to Webb’s lair to do a more thorough job of smashing the place.

The police arrive. The girls try to explain – and the police are forced to take them seriously when they find millions of spiders crawling all over their car! Soon, the girls are explaining everything to Bird himself.

Meanwhile, there has been a series of blocked drains in London. Investigation reveals an enormous web and equally enormous spider in the drains. It is the spider Sadie captured earlier. It was engineered to be a super-growing spider. It has now grown to giant proportions, feeding on sewer rats – and is still growing! What’s more, it is moving on from rats to people as prey and causing panic in the underground railway station. The giant spider, complete with its web, emerges in Trafalgar Square, which causes even more panic and makes the news. Webb sees the broadcast and gloats, “The day of the spiders is here at last!”

Back at her lair, Webb has less to gloat about when she discovers what the girls have done. But when the authorities arrive, there is no sign of Webb. Then they hear her over a loudspeaker, where she finally delivers her ultimatum: if they want to stop the spider – which is now moving on from Trafalgar Square and travelling across the country via the power lines – they must do what she says. The first of her demands is to bring the girls to a rendezvous point, where the spider is waiting to devour them.

The authorities bring the girls, and Webb orders them to climb up to the spider. But the authorities have prepared a trap. The national grid is down, but the power station is waiting for their signal to turn on the power. Ironically, it is accidentally turned on when an employee is scared by a spider. As planned, the giant spider gets fried. Webb falls to the ground, though not to her death. At the same time, the slave pendants fall off Freda and Sadie. Webb is taken to hospital, but they are surprised when she seems to disappear into thin air from the ambulance. A spider scuttles away from the ambulance unnoticed, and there is a question mark after “The End”.

Thoughts

Misty was huge on scary spider stories and playing on the common fear of arachnophobia. In her very first issue she had “Red Knee – White Terror!” where a girl has many close calls with a poisonous spider without realising it but in the final panel it looks like her luck may have finally run out. Other spider-themed stories included “Web of Lies”, “Dressed to Kill!” and “Spider Woman” (no connection to Mrs Webb) in the 1984 Misty annual. But the Black Widow tops them all. What is not to love – or scare the living daylights out of you – with how she uses spiders as deadly weapons? Poisonous spiders, flesh-eating spiders, and spiders growing to monstrous proportions and emerging from the sewers of London to strike terror into everyone who sees it.

Mrs Webb comes from a long line of mad, evil scientists. However, she is more rounded than most of them as there is a sympathetic element to her. Her insanity stems from the grief of losing her husband, and she believes the military was responsible for it. There may even be some truth to Webb’s suspicions because Bullivant is such a pompous, overbearing, unlikeable git. He forces his unfortunate batman to do jobs that are not supposed to be part of a batman’s job. At any rate, readers must have felt a sneaking sympathy for Webb when she shuts Bullivant up with her spider and felt that she had given Bullivant what was coming to him.

But sympathies for Webb don’t last. After all, she is not just doing it for revenge – she’s doing it for power as well and is out for conquest. In the sequel she will take this a stage further and be out for world conquest. But it’s not just for herself – it’s for the spiders, and she seems to see herself as a champion of them. There are no limits to what she won’t do or the types of spiders she will devise as weapons.

This story gives the military a chance to shine, something it seldom does in girls’ comics. Usually when the military does feature it is in a humorous sense (Annie’s Army in June) or female soldiers (Kitty Hawke in Girl I). But here the military is portrayed more realistically, given plenty of screen time in the story, and more time is devoted to developing the Army characters. This is all for a very credible reason – Webb’s attack is directly against the Army, and it’s personal. Whoever wrote this story must have been one of the Battle writers.

However, although the military is given more spotlight than girls’ serials usually give it, the centre stage is still given to girl protagonists and the true resolution of the story depends on them. Pairing a principled girl with an unsavoury one is not an unusual one in girls’ comics; Fairy Tale in Princess II was one to use it. What is unusual is that it is the unsavoury girl who is proactive against Webb and is key to resolving the story. By contrast, the more moralistic girl is far less proactive and more prone to succumbing to Webb’s brainwashing. The key is in their strength of character. Freda may be the more unpleasant girl, but she is the much stronger and more resourceful of the two girls. She may be greedy, willing to do it for money, but she has her limits. These stop her from turning into Webb’s willing flunky. These also help to redeem Freda as a character. Sadie, by contrast, may be more principled, but she has a weaker personality and is more prone to succumbing to Webb’s power. However, the brainwashing of Sadie enables Freda to turn Webb’s power against her on several occasions.

Mrs Webb was the only Misty villain who was brought back for a sequel. She was not killed off as many of Misty’s villains were, such as Dr Bracken from “The Body Snatchers”. Misty had several of her villains plunging to their deaths, as in “House of Horror”, but Mrs Webb not only survives her fall but escapes as well, with a hint she might be back. Perhaps Misty decided she was too good a villain to kill off. Or maybe it was all those spider menaces that she loved to use time and time again.

 

Misty Vol. 2: The Sentinels & End of the Line [2017]

Misty Volume 2

Contents

  • The Sentinels (artist Mario Capaldi, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • End of the Line (artist John Richardson, writer Malcolm Shaw)
  • Your Face is Your Fortune (feature)
  • Brief Biography of Creative Teams

In 2016 Rebellion brought us the first of their Misty reprint volumes. It was generally well received although there were a few quibbles. Of course this could only mean the first volume left scope for even better volumes to follow.

The second volume certainly delivers on that front, right from the front cover. Rebellion have definitely put far more thought and design into the cover than they did for the first volume. The cover really conveys the spookiness of Misty with The Sentinels silhouetted against the night sky and Misty with her trademark, the bats flying across the full moon. The return of the original logo complements the urban sprawl that the Sentinels hint at.  Having the problem Sentinel itself in full colour further enhances the creepiness of the cover because we can see just how rundown and mouldy it looks.

Reprint quality is an improvement on the first volume. The powerful black-and-white inking on glossy paper rather than the old newsprint of the original really intensifies many scenes, such as the infamous Gestapo torture cell scene in The Sentinels. On the other hand, of the finer details of white outlines against black fill do look a bit lost and hard to distinguish because of the intensity of the black inking.

The reprint of The Sentinels was the drawing card for this volume, so it is little wonder that it was used for the cover. It feels like the other reprint, End of the Line, hardly gets a look-in, which seems a bit sad. But then, The Sentinels has always been one of Misty’s serials that sticks with people, while End of the Line is less remembered.

It is not surprising that The Sentinels is one of Misty’s most popular and well-remembered stories considering the topic it tackled was extremely daring and controversial for girls’ comic: what if Hitler had won World War II? To this day, The Sentinels is the only serial in girls’ comics to use that theme. Further adding to its publicity is the recent follow-up in the Scream & Misty Halloween Special, Return of the Sentinels. However, readers are strongly advised to read The Sentinels first or at least be familiar with it before reading the sequel. Otherwise they will be just as confused as the heroine at what she encounters when she ventures into the Sentinel.

In End of the Line we go from a creepy apartment block with an entrance into a nightmare world to a creepy railway line that has something similar, but in a different manner. Unlike the Sentinel, there is genuine evil at work out to take people away, plus there are glimpses of what happens to them once they are snatched – which are of course not pleasant to see.

End of the Line is one of Misty’s more underrated serials, but hopefully its reprint alongside The Sentinels will give it more attention. It has the distinction of being the only serial in girls’ comics (at least, the only one I have seen) to be drawn by John Richardson. Richardson was more often seen drawing complete stories, the Tammy Cover Girls from Tammy, and plenty of Wee Sue.

It is annoying that Richardson only got a couple of lines’ worth in the biographical section of the volume. Surely there must be far more information available on him somewhere?

This volume could be regarded as a tribute to Malcolm Shaw, as he wrote both these serials. As we read the biographies at the end of the volume, it is sad to read that his life and career were cut short just the day before his 38th birthday.

Towards the end is a reprint of “Your Face is Your Fortune”, which is a compilation of what various types of facial features (eye colour, face shape etc) say about your personality. It would have been all right for the original readership of 8+ year-olds, but might come across as condescending for adult people who are more likely to be reading the volume. How about a reprint or two of Misty’s text stories to break up the flow of the picture stories instead? It would be more to the point, and there are plenty of well-remembered classic Misty text stories, such as “The Doorway to Evil!” and “The Little White Dot”, that could be dusted off and given a whole new lease of life in the reprint volumes.

On the whole, Misty Volume 2 delivers on being a proud step up in the Misty reprint series. It definitely makes us even more excited about Misty Volume 3 and what it will bring us.

Misty Vol. 2 Featuring: The Sentinels & End of the Line. Rebellion Publishing 2017. ISBN 978-1-78108-600-1

 

 

 

Scream! and Misty: Review

Hooray! Another fruit of the IPC copyright purchase has hit the shops – now alongside the reprinting of classic stories from the IPC years, we are also seeing new stories written and drawn by current creators, inspired by those glory days and revisiting old setups and characters. “Scream! and Misty” (also available in a variant cover entitled “Misty and Scream!”) is out now. What’s in it? And – the bigger question – is it any good?

  • Cover: Henry Flint
  • The Thirteenth Floor (artists John Stokes / Frazer Irving, writer Guy Adams)
  • The Dracula File (artist Tristan Jones, writer Grainne McEntee)
  • Death-Man: The Gathering (artist Henry Flint, writer Feek)
  • Return of Black Max: Blood Moon (artist Simon Coleby, writer Kek-W)
  • The Return of the Sentinels (artist Ben Willsher, writer Hannah Berry)
  • Fate of the Fairy Hunter (artist Dani, writer Alec Worley)

First of all, rightly or wrongly, this is more 2000AD than it is Misty (or Scream!, as far as I can tell, though I am not an expert on that title). The art and the story telling is generally much more focused on current styles than traditional ones – and when you flick through this 52-page special it’s noticeable what a variety of styles is included within, much more so than in the 32 pages of Misty. There are traditional elements: John Stokes starts off the issue in the story revisiting “The Thirteenth Floor”: Max the psychotic computer who runs the decrepit building gets us off to a great start, though the ending to the first story is a little clumsily handled. This story is split between the black and white traditional art that Stokes provides and a colourful interlude drawn by Fraser Irving, which is very definitely 2000AD. The combination works well it itself, but I’m left slightly unsure as to what Rebellion are trying to do here – attract an audience for the reprint titles (blurbed as a whole-page advert on the following page), pull their 2000AD audience over to a new title with a different sort of inspiration, or what?

“The Dracula Files”, likewise, is more 2000AD than anything else – and is the most scrappily-drawn of the offerings to boot, I think. It’s quite well-written but some of the visual story-telling is hard to follow, and below in the last panel you can see an example of a very awkwardly-drawn hand, which looks like the artist changed their mind about part-way through.

“Deathman: The Gathering” makes it clear that this is a remix and reworking of the traditional characters. Characters from all sorts of IPC titles, not just Scream!, make it into this one – even alien shape-shifter Paddy McGinty’s Goat does! It’s readable and fun – how often do you get to see the Leopard of Lime Street mixing it up with Blake Edmonds from Death Wish? This is very far from a complete story though, and again I am not quite sure where Rebellion are planning on taking this from here on in. Are Rebellion going to launch a separate line or something? This feels somewhat similar to some of the Vertigo comics from back in the day, when that is what DC did to free themselves from the constraints of their mainstream universe.

“Return of Black Max: Blood Moon” is one of the most successful combinations of tradition and modern styles, it feels to me. The art is bang up to date but the panel sizing, story telling, and even the story themes are just like what you would get in the old girls comics at least. It leads off with a disturbing dream that Maxine Newland is recounting to her schoolfriends the next day – and continues with detention, an absent parent, a spooky item from the past, and an inadvertent trip to another dimension. Maxine even ends the story asking herself, troubled: “He said I wasn’t a girl. That I was a…thing. W-what if he was right?” That self-doubt could have come straight out of a girls weekly comic!

There are only two Misty-inspired stories. The second one (“Fate of the Fairy Hunter”) is a short, complete story that has a lot of similarities to the horror shorts included in that title; less gore though. There’s a twist in the tale but I have to say that the Misty versions would have ended a lot less happily for the female lead – a bit of a shame to have missed out that disinhibited proper horror element.

“The Return of the Sentinels” is the big ticket item for many of the people reading this post, I suspect. It didn’t disappoint me – I loved it. It’s tightly written and the art is great. I can’t give away much about it because I know lots of people will want to read it unspoiled – suffice to say that it doesn’t explain anything about how the Sentinels work or what happened to the characters in the original story, but it compresses the spooky feeling of wandering into a parallel world that is very definitely not right into only a few pages. It’s not clear that there is a chance of writer Hannah Berry developing this modern-day story further, but if that was an option then I can tell you that I’d be there in a flash.

So, yes. Much of this is 2000AD-has-fun: almost a fanfiction reworking of those original characters and stories (and nothing wrong with that, let me clarify). “Black Max” and “Sentinels” feel like they could be the start of something new and great on their own terms, which I’d love to see. Some other bits miss the target to a greater or lesser extent: in addition to the scrappy drawing in the Dracula Files, Henry Flint’s front cover is great on the creepy ghouls (I love Ghastly McNasty holding a selfie stick!) but much less great when depicting Misty herself (who looks like a plastic doll with a blank expression rather than a mysterious one). Overall: a definite ‘yes’, especially as tastes inevitably vary and that is the particular strength of the anthology title.