Tag Archives: Misty

Tammy and Misty 1 August 1981

Cover artist: John Armstrong

Bella (artist John Armstrong)

The Breaking of Faith (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)

Wee Sue (artist Mike White)

Linda’s Fox (artist and writer Ron Tiner) – final episode

Are You Set for Summer? (artist John Johnston, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – quiz

The Look of Things (artist Jaume Rumeu) – Strange Story from the Mists

Tune-in (pop and TV gossip feature)

Bessie Bunter (artist Arthur Martin)

No Love for Lindy (artist Eduardo Feito) – first episode

Stella Stirrer (artist Tony Coleman)

For the first Tammy issue for August 1981, Bella takes over the cover spot after Sandy finished last week. Oh dear, no sooner is Bella back on the cover when she’s really put her foot in it by thinking circus tricks (learned from the circus she is staying at) would impress the judges at a gymnastics competition. Now she realises it was one of her worst mistakes, never, ever to be repeated. It not only makes her lose badly but also causes terrible trouble when the audience reacts angrily to the marking. Still, anyone who’s read Bella for long enough will know that when a competition goes badly for her, it means she’s about to undergo a new course in plot direction. Sure enough, somebody comes to the circus wanting to speak to her. Whether for good or bad, it’s definitely the upcoming plot change. 

Bessie’s appearances have grown more intermittent since the Misty merger, but she appears this week. Stackers has the pupils making calendars for a sale of work, but soon finds out Bessie is about as good at making calendars as she is at classwork. 

Tammy’s August issues always had a focus on getting us primed for summer and holidays. Sure enough, her first August issue for 1981 has a summer quiz. The Strange Story from the Mists has a holiday theme, with the Carstairs family on holiday in Malaysia. Unfortunately, daughter Geraldine is spoiling things with her rudeness towards anything or anyone she does not consider attractive. She even throws a stone at a tortoise, calling it “such an ugly-looking brute”. Geraldine’s parents don’t look like they are doing much to crack down on her conduct, but punishment comes, of course. Geraldine is cursed to see nothing but the face of a mysterious old lady she didn’t find attractive. The curse lifts by the time Geraldine returns home, but it would surely have been otherwise if the story had appeared in the original Misty. August is also time for shopping. Wee Sue goes Christmas shopping in August while she has the money, but eventually she uses her Christmas shopping to help some hard-up kids who want to celebrate a birthday, and they hold an August Christmas birthday party. Now, that’s the Christmas spirit! And Tammy is offering holiday coupons.

The new story, “No Love for Lindy”, looks like it could be following similar lines to Sandy Rawlings; perhaps it is the same writer. As with Sandy, the protagonist (Lindy Allen) tells her own story and there’s a boyfriend figure. He’s the only thing making staying at the Westons (who turned out to be no better than the countless failed foster families Lindy’s had already) worthwhile. 

“Linda’s Fox”, written and drawn by Ron Tiner, finishes this week. It sounds like writing a girls’ story was a new experience for Tiner, but he did very well on it, and it must have been a popular story. It was one of my favourites, anyway. The ending is well crafted and thought out in how it handles the clearing of Linda’s father, what happens once he’s out, and keeping Linda’s friendship with Ross the fox intertwined. Tiner ought to be proud of it. Its replacement next week is a repeat of a popular 1976 Giorgio Giorgetti story, “Tag Along Tania”.

Speaking of Giorgetti, his current story, “The Breaking of Faith”, is now on its penultimate episode. Faith discovers the truth about her friend Claire after (finally) checking things out at the home Claire was staying at. Now she has to decide what to do. Her decision will certainly involve what to do about Claire running away, terrified of her finding out the truth.

“Stella Stirrer” saves her friend Katie from drowning in the school swimming pool although she can’t swim. Later, she’s back to stirring things up for snobby Harriet when she discovers Harriet has stolen the credit for the rescue!

Tammy & Misty 16 August 1980

Cover artist: John Richardson

Bella (artist John Armstrong) – final episode

Running Rosie Lee (artist José Casanovas)

Cut-Glass Crystal (artist Tony Coleman)

Golly! It’s Pressie Time! – Competition 

The Loneliest Girl in the World (artist Jaume Rumeu)

Wee Sue (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)

Molly Mills and the Green-fingered Runaway (artist Douglas Perry, writer Maureen Spurgeon) – first episode

Edie and Miss T – (artist Joe Collins)

The House Mouse (artist Mario Capaldi) – Strange Story from the Mists (Part 2 of 2)

Plain as Pearl (artist Juliana Buch)

Now we come to 1980 in the Tammy August month round. In this issue, Tammy has some Golly giveaways to celebrate Golly’s 50th. How times have changed for Golly in increasingly PC times since then.

Bella concludes her bid to reach the Moscow Olympics. A shipwreck brings it all to a head, putting her in hospital with a busted ankle, so no Moscow. That’s the second time poor Bella has missed out on the Olympics, and unlike her Montreal story she didn’t even get there this time. Maybe a rebooted Bella will finally get to compete at the Olympics. At least the rescuers brought her back to Britain for treatment, so she’s home and no longer stranded in the US. We’re promised a new story next week while Bella is recuperating. 

In Molly’s new story, it’s time for Lord Stanton’s summer fete. We are introduced to Charlie’s sister Cathy, who has run away from a harsh orphanage, and the police are hunting for her. Molly and Charlie are very surprised when she turns up at the fete, helping Lord Stanton’s gardener. Oh boy, this is going make for one very interesting fete! 

Since Misty joined, several Strange Stories from the Mists have appeared in two or three parts. The current two-parter, “The House Mouse”, has to be the most frightening of them all and is guaranteed to stick with you for years to come (it does me!). The House Mouse is far from a cute, cuddly mouse – it is an evil, possessed monster that drives off prospective buyers of its fanatical master’s house with “accidents”, outright attacks and even murder, as he has vowed the house will never leave his family.

There are a lot of “court” jokes and puns in this week’s Wee Sue story when Miss Bigger ropes Sue into helping her with tennis practice. This ends up “courting” trouble. Ultimately, they find themselves more successful at cricket. 

In a later issue ye Editor informs us “Plain as Pearl” is a very popular story, and there is a lot in it to make it so. Pearl Kent has taken a job as a model to raise money for her sick mother’s holiday. Trouble is, she has to do it in secret because she senses Clare, the daughter of the foster family she is staying with, will be jealous. The secrecy is leading to problems of course, like Pearl not having a guardian’s consent for the job.

“Running Rosie Lee” turns into the bionic woman once she’s had a cup of tea, to the consternation of the snobs at her new boarding school. But this week it is established that the tea must be stirred, or failing that, shaken to get things going.

Karen Chalmers, “The Loneliest Girl in the World”, doesn’t know where she’s coming or going with the weird things that are happening to her, except now confirming that her parents are indeed robot imposters. But all this does is get her committed to a psychiatric hospital. The robot parents say she must never discover the truth, even if she has to stay at the hospital all her life. Now what can the truth be, and is it connected with her nightmares about her house burning down and nobody left except her?

Cut-Glass Crystal is finding out – the hard way – why her mother refused to come to Dad’s hometown of Pitedge after his business collapsed. Pitedge is worlds away from the upbringing she has had, adapting to life in Pitedge is hard for her, the house they live in doesn’t even have proper commodities, she doesn’t fit in, and now she doesn’t even know her own father anymore. Instead of being sympathetic and trying to help – or even grateful Crystal chose to come with him when Mum didn’t – he’s become very harsh with her. Can things possibly sort themselves out, or did Crystal’s mother have the right idea? 

Spider Woman (1980)

Sample Images

Published: Tammy & Misty 19 January 1980 – 22 March 1980 

Episodes: 10

Artists: Jaume Rumeu 19 January to 1 March 1980; Mario Capaldi 8 March to 22 March 1980 

Writer: Bill Harrington

Translations/reprints: Misty Presents: The Jaume Rumeu Collection (2021)

In the last entry we briefly touched on the subject of Spider Woman. So here she is for the final entry in our Halloween lineup.

Plot

Mrs Webb, the villainess from Misty’s “The Black Widow”, returns. She has abandoned revenge for her husband’s death in favour of world domination, and has established a base on an island in Australasia that was once a leper colony. Her new weapon is a strain of man-eating spiders she has developed, and her plan is to use them to scare the whole world into submitting to her and her spiders. 

Accidentally stumbling into this are Paula Moore, on holiday in Australia, and her grandparents. Their boat got blown off course by a storm and they discover the ship that was the first test for Mrs Webb’s man-eating spiders. It’s a ghost ship, with crew stripped to the bones from the spiders, which are still on board. 

Sensing danger from the spiders, they quickly head back to their boat and radio mainland to report the incident, but Mrs Webb is watching them on her monitor. Posing as naval authority, she kidnaps them and strands them on her island base, with nothing but decrepit old leper huts for accommodation and tales of leper ghosts to frighten them. Gran is bitten by one of the spiders Mrs Webb left to guard their boat and falls gravely ill. In her delirium she raves about spiders and ghosts of lepers who don’t want them around. They are forced to take shelter in one of the leper huts. 

Paula goes in search of the woman who stranded them in the hope of treatment for gran. Mrs Webb has her servant, Gorza, who looks like some sort of weird, lumbering cross between a dumb waiter, Frankenstein and a ogre, capture Paula and bring her to her base. She introduces herself and her plans to Paula, and she wants Paula’s full cooperation if her family is to stay alive. She knows the Navy will soon discover the ghost ship, and she wants Paula and her family to tell them of her great power. Mrs Webb then releases Paula.

Paula finds her gran is now recovering from the bite. She tells her family who they are up against, but they discover their boat, previously guarded by the spiders, is now gone altogether. And in the bushes, something or someone is watching them. Later they find a chimpanzee in the bushes, which is not native to the island, and they conclude he must have escaped from Mrs Webb’s experiments. But gran is convinced someone else is around and raves about leper ghosts and the previous inhabitants being into voodoo and black magic. Back at the hut, they do find evidence someone else could be around, but it’s in the form of a delicious meal waiting for them. 

Back at the ghost ship, the Navy have found the horrors on board and guess who they are up against before Mrs Webb even sends her first message to them on her TV monitor. She informs them she has hostages. They are to return to the mainland and report what her spiders are capable of, and she is going to do the same to the whole world if there is no global submission to her. The Navy radio her message back to HQ and start a search of all the islands in a 30-mile radius for the hostages. However, Mrs Webb is using her helicopter to see whether they are obeying her orders or not, and when she sees they are not, she drops a case of her man-eating spiders on the ship, who are soon doing their deadly work. The Navy hose the spiders off the ship and their radar tracked her helicopter. They are now hot on her trail.

Paula and her family now discover who else is on the island: an ex-leper named Jarvis. He remained on the island after being cured of leprosy and wants to join the fight against Mrs Webb. He shows Paula and grandpa a secret entrance into her lair, and they take advantage of her absence to sneak in. But they discover the entrance is guarded by an enormous killer spider. Jarvis quickly dispatches the spider, and they enter Mrs Webb’s lair to use her equipment to call for help.

Unfortunately it’s at this point that Mrs Webb returns and catches them. Mrs Webb straps Jarvis to a table to be the first test of her latest serum – one that can turn a human being into a spider! She adds that she has not developed an antidote.

Then a bombardment from the Navy shakes the base, causing Mrs Webb to accidentally inject the serum into herself. And like she said, there is no antidote available. Gorza is knocked out by falling debris. Mrs Webb makes a run for her helicopter, but as she prepares to take off, the serum starts to take effect and one of her arms turns into a spider’s leg. 

Paula impulsively makes a rush for the helicopter but is captured by Mrs Webb. Mrs Webb uses her remaining arm to get the helicopter into the air and tries to use Paula as a hostage against the Navy. When Paula yells at them not to give in to the threat, Mrs Webb angrily throws her against the controls, causing the helicopter to pitch. Mrs Webb makes another lunge at Paula to kill her with spider venom, causing another pitch that makes her fall out of the helicopter and into the sea. The Navy fail to find her, dead or alive, or in what form. They pick up Paula and her grandparents, but Jarvis wants to stay on the island.

Thoughts

Mrs Webb was the only Misty villain to return for a sequel, and one of the few who could. Misty being Misty, she liked to send her villains to sticky ends (an end Mrs Webb finally meets in this story!). Not all Misty villains met this fate, and Mrs Webb’s first story hinted she escaped and might be back. It’s a bit odd this followup didn’t appear in Misty when there was still time for it to do so before the merger. At IPC, a sequel tended to appear within a year after the original, and the first Mrs Webb story appeared in 1978. Perhaps the sequel had not been written at that stage? Did they decide to save the sequel for the merger? Or did ye Editor trawl through old issues of Misty to see what could be brought into the merger and ordered the sequel?

When I first read this follow-up, I found Mrs Webb way too camp and over the top for my taste, an opinion that has not changed much. Also, she was more into demented grandstanding than menace, which made her even more annoying. In her first story her planning showed shrewdness and cunning despite her insanity, but now her plans don’t seem to be well thought out. She seriously believes she can scare the whole world into submission by threatening them with spiders, even if they are ones capable of eating people alive? All the Navy had to do to stop her man-eating spider attack was bring out the hoses, and the world has insecticides and fumigation as well. 

Also showing lack of proper planning is how Mrs Webb wants to make use of Paula. She captures Paula and demands her cooperation, but she does not enslave her or ever make any real use of her as she did with her two slaves Sadie and Freda in her first story. After making her demands she just lets Paula go. She does not even use an enslaving device on Paula, which she did with Sadie and Freda. Doing so would have added even more punch to the plot. Instead, one is left feeling Mrs Webb capturing Paula at all was rather pointless, and the only purpose it serves in the plot is to inform Paula what’s going on. Okay, when comparing Mrs Webb now to what she was like in her first story, it is obvious that her insanity has increased, very likely at the expense of clear thinking. So perhaps it is understandable.

Also coming across as a bit improbable is the amazing recovery gran makes after the spider bite. Her recovery, without any medication, is so miraculous it’s unbelievable. She actually leaves the island looking hale and hearty, as if she had never been bitten at all. Was she lucky and only received a sublethal bite, or did she have some kind of fluke resistance to the poison?

The story could have done with a fuller explanation of who Mrs Webb was for the benefit of readers who had not read her original story, particularly the Tammy readers. We’re given the impression she has struck before and the Navy captain says she’s “the fiend who terrorised England some years back”, but there are no details. Some flashback or explanation would have been welcome by readers who sensed another story here and wanted to know the gist at least, and it would have enhanced the story more.

On the plus side, the story sure is high on the gross-out factor, which is so rare and bold for girls’ comics. Panels showing people being eaten alive by spiders, one being driven mad with pain and throwing himself overboard, and corpses that have been eaten to the bones must have shocked Tammy readers and given them nightmares for days. It’s also high on creepiness and sinister atmosphere, and it’s not just those spiders that are genetically engineered to be dangerous weapons. It’s the setting on the leper island itself. Those sinister-looking, decaying huts that were once home to lepers and the island graveyard full of leper graves creep us out immediately. Mrs Webb and then gran’s delirium set everyone high on anxiety and terror that there could be ghosts lurking around that are every bit as evil and dangerous as Mrs Webb’s spiders. And in a place like that, we’re more than ready to believe there are ghosts or something even more diabolical. Winding us up even more is the buildup to something or someone else on the island who is watching the stranded family. It’s quite a twist to have it turn out to be benign and friendly instead of menacing.

The apex of the horror is definitely the experiment to turn a human being into a spider. A human actually turning into a spider of unknown hybrid? Cor blimey! Having Mrs Webb herself not knowing exactly what the end result will be really adds to it.

It is a great Misty-style comeuppance to have this backfire on Mrs Webb and set her on the path to turning into a spider herself. It is a pity we don’t see the final form of this transformation. It feels like another missed opportunity and we’re rather left dangling as to how it would have turned out. It would have really turned the story up a few notches to have our protagonists up against a totally transformed Mrs Webb. We can just see her as the biggest Black Widow spider you ever saw, but still with a human mind that is totally insane, rampaging like Godzilla, and maybe laying clutches of eggs that hatch into swarms of giant killer spiders. That would have turned it into a really exciting story that would have readers on the edge of their seats while giving them the stuff of nightmares. 

Tammy & Misty 16 February 1980

Tammy cover 16 February 1980

Cover artist: John Richardson

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong)
  • A Girl Called Midnight (artist Juliana Buch) – first episode
  • Who’s Your Valentine? – Feature (writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Spider Woman (artist Jaume Rumeu)
  • Misty’s House of Mystery Game – part 3
  • Sister in the Shadows (artist Giorgio Giorgetti)
  • Wee Sue (artist Robert MacGillivray)
  • Sour Grapes for Sophie (artist Tony Coleman) – first episode
  • Too Close an Encounter (artist Jose Canovas) – Strange Story from the Mists

Valentine’s Day is nigh, and to commemorate I have brought out the Tammy Valentine issue from 1980. This is the last Tammy Valentine issue to have the Cover Girls honour the event. Later in 1980 they were dropped in favour of story covers.

This is not the first time Tammy used the joke of big sister feeling narked that little sis got more Valentines than her. The same gag was used on the Cover Girls’ first Tammy Valentine cover in 1974. Talk about bookends.

Also in the issue is a feature that cites old customs for finding a Valentine before presenting a “Misty-ic Messenger board”, where you can ask Valentine questions to an oracle board. Definitely influence of Misty here on this one.

This week’s episode of Wee Sue could have been used for the Valentine theme, but instead she’s going shopping for new clothes. Sounds simple, but Sue is embarrassed to have to use the toddlers department because of her size, and that’s just the start of the hijinks.

The Strange Story from the Mists, “Too Close an Encounter”, looks like it was originally written, perhaps drawn, for Misty. The story length (four pages) and artist (from the Misty team) point to this. Jackie’s grandfather claims to be in contact with aliens and they’re going to land in the garden, but nobody believes him except his granddaughter Jackie. Everyone else laughs and Mum thinks grandfather is going senile. But will grandfather have the last laugh on them?

Two stories begin this week: “Sour Grapes for Sophie” and “A Girl Called Midnight“. Oddly enough, both feature newcomers who act awkwardly towards everyone around them. In Midnight’s case it’s because nobody wants to foster her for long; her “black midnight moods” see to that. Now what can these moods be, and how will her latest foster family, the Brights, react to them? In “Sour Grapes for Sophie”, Sophie Drew starts a new school, but is rude to both classmates and teachers alike, and turns them against her. At the end of the episode Sophie has a sudden burst of repentance and explains to classmate Jackie that she does want to make friends, but only has six months. Now what can Sophie mean by that, and what’s it got to do with sour grapes? And even if she is sorry, can she undo the damage she has done on her first day?

Bella qualifies for the Moscow Olympics despite all the obstacles she has encountered in the competition. But now she finds out why her wealthy guardians didn’t show up to cheer her on: they’ve gone bankrupt. This has left her high and dry and stranded in a foreign country, with no way to return home or press on to Moscow. At least she has plenty of experience with being stranded in foreign countries, and she has something that could lead her to her next move: a note from a well-wisher.

Bullies Angela and Honey stoop to a whole new low in “Sister in the Shadows“, and it’s alarming. They’ve not only got the whole class sending poor Wendy to Coventry but get a family member help to play tricks on her too. What B.S. they fed to big brother to pose as a reporter and help trick Wendy into breaking a new school rule we don’t know. But it’s having us really dread what those two horrors have in store next for Wendy.

Spider Woman has dragged Paula off to her lair, where she brags about her latest plan to conquer the world with her specially bred spiders. Then she just lets Paula go, saying she will require Paula’s services later. Now what can she mean by that? It’s not like she is using mind control on Paula, as she did on the two girls she captured in her first story. Added to that, something is creeping up behind in the bushes behind Paula and her family. Meanwhile, the Navy find the boat Mrs Webb infested with her man-eating spiders and begin to realise Mrs Webb is up to her tricks again.

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 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, induced by drugs or hypnotism, or anything else. Curiously, Miss Nocturne 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.