This issue marks the start of the Jinty classic, “Fran of the Floods”, a tale that has more relevance in today’s climate change environment and rising sea levels than when it was first published in 1976. Rising temperatures and melting ice caps are causing non-stop rain worldwide, and flooding problems are everywhere. Fran Scott is treating it as a joke, but Dad senses it’s something more like the Apocalypse.
Ping-Pong Paula ends this week. Paula is in hospital in a coma after a road accident, but not even this brings her quarrelling parents together. It takes a telling-to from a nurse that they have to put everything aside and go in together if they want Paula to recover for things to come right at last.
Poor Nell can’t do anything right. This week she tries to protect Sara’s horse Mister Flicker because she mistakenly thinks he will be destroyed. But her ignorance in horse care has resulted in him becoming seriously ill. More tears for the girl who’s “Too Old to Cry!”.
Lyndy Lagtree, who has finally escaped from the “Slaves of the Candle” racket, realises the villainous Mrs Tallow is out to steal the Crown Jewels and is hot on her trail. Unfortunately, she fails to stop Mrs Tallow from putting her plan in motion at the Tower of London.
In “Friends of the Forest”, Sally and Maya are trying to keep a tame deer, Star, from the circus. Sally is discovering how Maya lives in the forest – in a tree house. But it looks like the welfare busybodies don’t approve of this. They grab Sally, thinking she’s Maya.
In “Song of the Fir Tree”, our fugitives catch up with their old friend Rachel from the concentration camp, who’s now a bit of a fugitive herself. But their enemy Grendelsen catches up too, and now he’s got all three at gunpoint.
Hazel finds out why Black Crag Mountain is angry – greedy developers are out to disturb the dead as they dynamite the old mine workings for silver, and they’ve been scaring the villagers off their land to do it. No wonder the mountain’s a bit pissed! Wouldn’t we be?
That self-righteous prig Wanda White is too much this time. She’s kept Susie awake all night by reading “Pilgrim’s Progress” aloud – her nightly habit of reading a self-improvement book – through those thin walls between them. It’s the last straw in Susie working herself into exhaustion, and the exhaustion gets Susie into trouble in gym class next day.
Dot’s putting on a bit of weight and is making do-it-yourself gadgets to lose it. She eventually turns to a do-it-yourself Turkish bath, which solves the weight problem. Trouble is, Dot forgot to undress first!
Katie is getting a cup of tea for her friend Sue, who is in hospital. Should be straightforward? Not when you’re the Jinx from St. Jonah’s. And that’s just the start of the jinxing that gets Katie banned from the hospital. The ban isn’t stopping Katie from getting some sweets to Sue – but with a fishing pole? Oh dear, watch out for jinxing hijinks at the hospital next week!
The Jinty & Lindy merger is in its second week. Lyndy Lagtree is determined to escape from Mrs Tallow’s House of Candles despite being framed by her for theft and now the most wanted person in London. Her first attempt fails, but she picks up a vital clue about the racket. Unfortunately Mrs Tallow is on the verge of discovering this, so Lyndy has to think of something fast! Meanwhile, Nell’s escape from Mrs Arbuthnot’s horrible orphanage is more successful. So far, no problems, and she’s landed on her feet in a cake shop. Can Nell keep one step ahead Mrs Arbuthnot, the cruel matron who can lie her way out of anything?
In “Song of the Fir Tree”, Solveig and Per have made their way to a more savoury orphanage, but they are forced to go on the run again when Grendelsen catches up. Unfortunately this causes another missed opportunity to reunite with their father.
Hazel’s just about reached the end of her rope with her haunting, but now it’s taking another turn in a churchyard. Will it be for the better or worse?
Miss Marvell breaks the hearts of everyone in the community when she uses her death dust to destroy valuable trees that were memorials to fallen soldiers. The water lily is next on the list for the antidote to Miss Marvell’s death dust. Easy to find, but not easy to obtain with her around!
In the two running stories that came over from Lindy, Hettie High and Mighty is proving herself just as slick as Mrs Arbuthnot. She is playing so foully on the hockey field that poor Janie has taken a nasty crack on the head. Then Janie finds out Hettie is doing it all on purpose after switching their names with the reporters watching the match. So she will get the blame for what Hettie did! In the other story, Finleg the Fox, Una finds a stash of money in his den. It could only be stolen money, but who stole it, and what does it have to do with the stranger who’s been found dead?
In “Barracuda Bay”, our heroes escape the villainous Kane’s underwater base thanks to a timely earthquake. But now they face a tidal wave set off by the explosives he set to destroy his base. This move has also rebounded on Kane, whose getaway submarine got jammed in the door from the quake.
Myra Glegg has been playing rotten tricks on Ping-Pong Paula, but at least Paula now knows why – Myra is her latest ping-pong rival. Showdown time.
You would think babysitting a pot plant couldn’t be any trouble. Not when the damn thing is so big it reaches the ceiling, has very fussy demands, and the Jinx from St Jonah’s is in charge of it!
The Valley of Shining Mist (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Alan Davidson)
Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)
Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)
“The Green People” (artist Phil Gascoine) – last episode
Barracuda Bay (artist Santiago Hernandez)
Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)
Katie Jinks’s school is competing against the nearby boys’ school, to see who does best at ‘gender-swapped’ tasks – so Katie and pals are making a concrete pathway for their school, and the boys are cooking a cordon bleu meal, which the victors get to eat! Of course, her equal-opportunity jinxing sees her ruining the chances of both groups equally – the boys win, but Katie’s antics end up with the boys locked in a store-room unable to eat their fine supper – so naturally the girls have to self-sacrificially eat it up… The tagline for upcoming stories advises readers that ‘there’s a long story starring Katie in the new Jinty Annual‘ (which turns out to be drawn by Audrey Fawley rather than Mario Capaldi).
Ballerina Barbie gets a shock as she is dancing before an audience – her sight returns and she can dance with more joy than ever! But she isn’t able to get to her sister quite in time to see the beloved face that she hasn’t seen for so many years.
Lucy and Yvette need to come up with a cunning plan to save Corn Dolly from the prison that Miss Marvell has put her in – the doll is powerless herself, surrounded as she is by black magic items in the local museum. But the brave and resourceful girls swop the doll for a very similar one that they have bought. Miss Marvell is fuming once she finds out of course, and threatens that ‘next time, there will be no half measures!’.
Debbie is stunned at the next request that Mrs Maynard makes – to bring her £100! A huge amount of money for the poor girl, of course, representing the entirety of her winnings at the talent contest. And she’s already spent her winnings, too! She sadly goes round returning the items she’d bought, but meanwhile her cruel family come up with ways to stop her from giving the money to Mrs Maynard. Will this mean that Debbie can never see her kind, if odd, mentor again?
Per and Solveig are still being pursued by Grendelsen, with much trekking through the woods. There’s natural dangers in the woods as well as Nazi stalkers though, as the kids are threatened by a wild boar and by a fierce dog too.
“The Green People” comes to an end this week. Moura’s aunt Zella has betrayed the peaceful underground people in a pact with the surface dwellers who want to build a motorway on the moor – but she finds that the dangerous monster Krakengerd is not as easy to control as she had thought. All ends well and the green people’s secret – and their lives – are safe.
“Barracuda Bay” sees Susan Stevens captured and trapped underwater, with her air running out. Will her partner Martin find and rescue her in time? This thriller is slightly old-fashioned in style and quite reminiscent of the Sandie story “The Golden Shark”, which also is a diving-based thriller with a female lead who has good hair. The art on “Barracuda Bay” is much tighter and more neatly-finished, though less obviously by the same artist as “The Haunting of Hazel” (which starts in the next issue). “The Golden Shark” gives a much clearer artistic link between the two stories that were reprinted in Jinty, which I was slightly surprised by.
Finally, “Ping-Pong Paula” has Paula suffering from lack of sleep, in the dodgy digs that her mother has dragged her to. Paula’s dad can support her table-tennis playing better, but of course her mother is bound to find out and to use it as more ammunition in the parental war.
Katie the Jinx had a break last week, but as the cover shows, she’s back now. This week she’s trying to sweep down a cobweb that’s in a difficult position to reach. She succeeds in the end, but leaves the place in a worse state than when she first started cleaning it. Typical Katie!
It’s not every day in girls’ comics we see an unsavoury girl being straightened out with a good spanking on the bottie. Yet that is the case here in “Hetty High-and-Mighty” here, and you’ve got to love it. Next, Hettie has got to help the school win the match or she will hear it from her stepmother again. Trouble is, can Hettie pull it off after a dog bite makes her go lame?
Lyndy and Lucy have broken out of the House of Candles, but things aren’t going smoothly. Mrs Tallow sets the Peelers on them, claiming they are thieves, and Lucy’s been injured! Moreover, Mrs Tallow is off on another robbery with her accomplice in the mystery coach. Fortunately Lyndy gets on the trail, but can she stop the robbery?
Una gets help for the sick Finleg. She soon realises he’s been poisoned by despicable Dora and swears vengeance. However, Una’s attitude changes when she realises Dora’s unknowingly put herself in danger when she finds the stolen money.
In “Golden Dolly, Death Dust!”, Miss Marvell’s bid to split up the girls has failed, but leaves Lucy’s mother a nervous wreck and she has to take a break in Cornwall. Mum’s lucky – soon everyone’s a nervous wreck when they see the latest damage the death dust has caused.
Mum’s pride gets worse for Ping-Pong Paula. They have to find new accommodation but silly old Mum would rather sleep in a field or – as it turns out – the night refuge shelter, than swallow her pride and go back to Dad. Even relatives are fed up with Mum’s stupidity. But worse is to follow – Paula gets news that Dad’s garage is failing!
Nell finds she’s being virtually blackmailed into staying at the academy and being turned into a refined young lady. She doesn’t make a good start either – she gets herself dreadfully dirty by cleaning filthy pots, not realising that they had only been put out to be disposed of and were not meant for cleaning. What an embarrassing start, but then things look up when she finds a friend.
More weird things happen on Black Crag, but Hazel is convinced explosives, not the curse of the mountain, are responsible. Whatever the cause, it’s not making things easy for her mountaineering group.
In “Song of the Fir Tree”, Dad’s a bit caught up with getting help for the injured Strang and getting information from him about his children to look for them at the moment. Meanwhile the children take refuge in a railway station, but Grendelsen isn’t far away, and now thieves are attacking the goods trains.
Katie the Jinx and Penny Crayon take a break this week. Jinty is thinking ahead to Christmas with this week’s feature on how to make Christmas gifts for the family. Dot is trying to make a gift for her mother too, although it’s a birthday gift.
Lyndy finds a safe way through Mrs Tallow’s punishment of forcing her to brave angry bees to get beeswax. Even Mrs Tallow is impressed with Lyndy for pulling it off without a single sting. Upon her return to the House of Candles, Lyndy commences with her breakout plan through the chimney. But this story is only four episodes in, which sounds too early for a fully successful breakout. Moreover, Mrs Tallow is snooping around, and if she discovers the dummies that have been left in place of her “Slaves of the Candle”, it’s all over…
In this week’s episode of “Song of the Fir Tree”, the children are not only up against their relentless adversary Grendelsen again but also their previous adversary, Sergeant Strang from their old concentration camp. Ironically, the battlefield is an abandoned concentration camp. It ends with comeuppance, injury and capture for Strang. Sadly, the children miss the boat with their father once again by jumping a train to elude Grendelsen.
Dora is laying poison for Finleg, and unfortunately she succeeds in poisoning him. Friend Una finds the poisoned Finleg, but has she found him in time to get help?
In “Golden Dolly, Death Dust!”, Miss Marvell is trying a different sort of poison this week – poisoning the girls’ parents against them by claiming they are behind all the strange goings-on with witchcraft. What a cheek!
Ping Pong Paula’s hoping a joint celebration for her victory will patch things up with her parents. But Mum’s snobbery, which started all the trouble, ruins everything again when she sees Dad still wearing garage boots (an oversight) with his dinner suit. Instead of seeing the funny side or turning a blind eye, she makes a huge exhibition in front of everyone over how he has shown her up in front of her high society friends.
In “Too Old To Cry!”, Mrs Arbuthnot, the evil matron of Nell’s old orphanage, catches up with the runaway. Surprisingly, instead of dragging Nell back to the orphanage she leaves Nell where she is – after telling the headmistress she is a “no-good thief and a troublemaker”.
Hettie High-and-Mighty finds out why Janie tolerated her in the hockey team – to win the trophy the school needs in order to stay open. So now she spites Janie by resigning and leaving them in the lurch.
People are losing confidence in Hazel because of her “haunting”, so she is determined to restore some by leading a mountaineering team on Black Crag. But on the mountain comes a big test – saving a girl whose rope is caught.
Katie Jinks finds that a simple game of football kicks off some gender wars between her girls school and the local boys school, with the girls ending up trying to beat the boys at stereotypically ‘boys’ activities and the reverse. Luckily, they’re all amusingly hopeless at everything! It continues in the subsequent week’s issue too.
The Blind Ballerina escapes from near-death and is rushed straight to the theatre for her debut as a prima ballerina! But a further turn of fate awaits her on stage – Barbie hesitates visibly in front of the audience, who don’t know that she is blind and therefore do not realise the joyous feeling she has as she can suddenly see again! Will it be only temporary, or will she get to see her little sister with her newly-regained sight?
Despite some protective rowan berries, the evil Miss Marvell has managed to get a patsy to do the dirty work of pinching the corn dolly from Lucy’s bag at school – leaving the girls defenseless against her dark works, unless they manage to steal her back.
In “Dora Dogsbody”, a mix-up of hairdressers sees Ma Siddons getting the latest hair-cut – for a poodle! Heh heh, she does look a fright.
Debbie Lane has tasted success for the first time in “Valley of the Shining Mist” – thanks to the mysterious Mrs Maynard she has won a talent competition, but forgotten the challenge that she was set by the same lady. It turns out (after she has spent most of the prize money) that the challenge is to bring the whole lot – £100 – to the Valley to hand over! As her nasty cousin Elaine says, surely Debbie’s being taken for a ride!
Sister and brother Solveig and Per are literally taken for a ride in “Song of the Fir Tree”: they are making their way across Germany to return to Norway, hiding in the back of a lorry. When it stops at a checkpoint, the kids are locked up by Russian soldiers, but not for long – their lovely singing voices see them fed, clothed, and helped on their way to the next stage. Not that they are safe for long, of course…
The saga of “The Green People” is nearing its end. Evil aunt Zella has sent the true rulers of the peaceful underground world to meet the giant monster Krakengerd, expecting them to be slain. That may yet happen, along with their friend, surface dweller Julie!
In “Ping-Pong Paula”, table tennis champ Paula continues to be torn between her Mum and her Dad. Mum has left the house in disgust and taken Paula with her – but where can they stay? Family can’t help, and the friend they end up staying with is not really a good friend to Paula, even if she is to her mother…
This is the last episode of “Golden Dolly, Death Dust”, so it is fitting that it should have a final appearance on the cover too. Next issue Phil Gascoine starts his new story, and the longest he ever drew for Jinty – “Fran of the Floods”. And although Nell’s story says she’s “Too Old to Cry”, the cover definitely shows her crying in this episode. I have always felt the title of this story was a bad one. Couldn’t they have chosen something more descriptive?
Elsewhere, Ping-Pong Paula has achieved her latest victory. But Mum spoils it with her pride and turns away because she was obliged to share Paula’s victory photograph for the paper with her estranged husband. We are told that it’s the climax for this story next week. Oh good – it’s about time those quarrelling parents were sorted out.
“Slaves of the Candle” is also approaching its climax, with Mrs Tallow threatening to burn down the House of Candles – with all Lyndy’s friends in it – if Lyndy tries to stop her stealing the Crown Jewels. At this, the long-fighting Lyndy finally gives in. But the blurb for next week tells us fate has a surprise in store. The artist has also changed for this story; Roy Newby has been replaced by a filler artist, whose name is not known. But Newby will be back to draw the story that replaces this one – “Bound for Botany Bay“.
In “Friends of the Forest” a new friend, Maya, emerges to help Sally against the nasty Walkers who treat her like a slave and want to sell her beloved deer to a circus. But it turns out that Maya is on the run, which is sure to cause even more problems.
Wanda, the biggest tattletale in the school, makes herself even more unpopular, and poor Sue cops some of the blame as well. And now Wanda’s been appointed a prefect, which means it’s bound to get worse. And it starts with Wanda accusing Sue of stealing!
Hazel’s beginning to understand why she’s being haunted, and she is defying orders to go home so she can investigate some more. And it looks like she’s going to get some help from Marnie, the old woman of the mountain.
And in “Song of the Fir Tree”, Solveig and Per have escaped Grendelsen’s latest attempt to kill them. Unfortunately their father thinks Grendelsen succeeded and is giving up the search for his children and heading home.
Alison Christie is credited with writing a number of stories in Tammy. She recently contacted this blog and clarified that she also wrote a number of stories for Jinty and other IPC titles, as well as for a number of DC Thompson titles. She continues to write for children, using her married name, so do look for Alison Mary Fitt when searching her out! She kindly agreed to do an email interview for this blog, for which many thanks are due.
Questions for her:
1 I saw a little on the Scottish Book Trust site that you started writing for DC Thomson on leaving school. Can you tell me a bit more about writing for girls’ comics and how long that career lasted? For instance, what titles did you write for, and on what basis (in house, freelance)? You said on the Scottish Book Trust site that you were “at one point turning out an episode a week for six picture story serials” – when would this have been, and how did you even manage it?!
On leaving school I worked in DC Thomson as a junior sub editor on Bunty, and was soon subbing scripts that came in from freelance writers. However, at that time, some of the serials were written in-house, so I got my first chance to write a serial, called “Queen of the Gypsies”. Later, I was moved to their new nursery comics which came out by the name of Bimbo, then Little Star, then Twinkle for girls. I wrote lots of text- and picture-stories for these, in house – though freelancers were used as well. After I got married, I still worked in-house at DCs… but then had 3 children in quick succession – so left and went freelance, submitting scripts for Twinkle, which had replaced the other two titles. I also freelanced for the various DC’s girls magazines, Judy, Debbie, Mandy, Nikki, Tracy etc…writing picture stories for them, though oddly enough, didn’t ever submit any story-line to Bunty, the mag I started on.
Then I thought I’d branch out and give IPC a go, and submitted a story-line to Mavis Miller of Jinty [at that point still editor of June & Schoolfriend] . She accepted it right away, and there began my freelance work for IPC, with June, Jinty, then Tammy, some stories for Misty – and, later, when the magazine Dreamer (for younger girls) started, and included photo stories, I wrote a serial called “Who Stole Samantha?” about a missing doll. Dreamer was short-lived, however, as was Penny, another IPC mag for younger girls. I wrote a serial for that entitled “Waifs of the Waterfall”. I have to say DC Thomson was a great training-ground as far as writing picture stories was concerned.
Sadly, Jinty/Tammy bit the dust around 1985, and suddenly vanished without any notification of this to their writers or artists. I continued writing for the DC Thomson stable of girls’ papers, but they all gradually gave up the ghost.
I have never stopped writing, though – and am now writing children’s books.
Six serials a week? Yes, at one point I was doing this, despite having 3 young children, working mostly at night when they were in bed. One of the freelance writers for one of the DC girl’s papers had died, and I was asked to finish his serials – so, along with 3 other serials for DC girl’s mags, plus a couple for Tammy and Jinty, that made six stories at that particular time.
2 What stories did you write in your comics career? Are there specific ones that stand out to you at this distance in time (for good or for ill)?
Alison reviewed her files and supplied the following list of stories that she wrote, with her own summaries
“The Grays Fight Back” (First story submitted to Mavis Miller, who was then editor of June & Schoolfriend, about a troubled family.)
War-time stories written for Mavis Miller / Jinty
“My Name is Nobody” (orphaned child in London Blitz who couldn’t remember her name) written for June & Schoolfriend when MM was the editor of that title [identified on the Comics UK Forum as “Nobody Knows My Name”, starting in the 20 November 1971 edition of June. It was illustrated by Carlos Freixas.]
“Cassie’s Coach” (Three children living in an old coach in London in Victorian times)
See also the list on Catawiki of titles credited to her – from issue 590 to 684 (last issue of Tammy was 691). NB number 590 was the first one to regularly credit creators and it stopped doing that a bit before 684 by the looks of it. Titles in [square brackets] below are credited to Alison Christie on that source.
I wrote more stories for Jinty than Tammy for, having firstly written for June & Schoolfriend (edited by Mavis Miller), I then wrote for Jinty when she became editress of that. When I finally took a trip down to King’s Reach Tower to meet her in person, I was then introduced to Wilfred Prigmore of Tammy, and began writing for Tammy as well. I was writing for Mavis in 1971. I know this because that’s when the youngest of my 3 children was born, and being hospitalised and hooked up on a drip, I was still writing my current serial for her, and I remember she commented, ‘That’s devotion to duty!’
I may well have written more serials than these, but foolishly did not keep files of them all.
I loved writing them all – but liked the heart-tuggers best, of which there were plenty! I think “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was one of my favourites. I had the 3 children spending Christmas in a concrete pill-box. On mentioning this to my driving instructor at the time, who was a retired army major, he said, “Must have been bloody cold!” I liked “Always Together” too – and “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”.
3 You have mentioned separately that Keith Robson asked you in later years whether you were the writer on “The Goose Girl”, so clearly artists didn’t (always?) know who wrote the stories they worked on. Was this the usual way of doing things? It looks like many of your stories were illustrated by Phil Townsend; how aware of this in advance were you, and did it mean that for instance you had the chance to write to his strengths, or anything like that?
No, artists would not likely know who wrote the stories they worked on, unless the name of the writer was somewhere on the script. I had no say at all in who illustrated my stories, just sent them in, and the Editors farmed them out to an artist. Which is why I had no idea it was Keith Robson illustrating the Goose-girl, not that at the point I’d have known who he was. Only when Tammy started to put the author and illustrator’s names in, did I know who the illustrators were, mostly Phil Townsend and Mario Capaldi, both talented artists. I never met or communicated with either of them.
4 On the blog, we’d love to fill in more names of people associated with Jinty and related titles. Do you remember any other writers or artists that you worked with or knew of? Do you have any memories of working with them, directly or indirectly?
Sorry, but I don’t know of any artists, writers, who wrote for Tammy, Jinty, at that time – being freelance and working from home meant I didn’t meet any. I did meet Mavis Miller , the Jinty editor – but then she left to get married and I did not hear any more about her, though I did try to find out for a while. Also met Wilfred Prigmore.
I know of Pat Mills (who at one time had the temerity to write on a blog that females were no use writing for girl’s magazines such as Jinty -men were better at it! He worked in DCTs then down at IPC himself, and wrote for Tammy and possibly Jinty.)
But I have never actually met him. I did know the in-house artists at DCTs, but mostly freelance artists were used from outside, and I didn’t know them either.
5 Clearly there were similarities in your stories for Jinty: they were often tear-jerkers (Stefa, Bow Street Runner, Somewhere Over The Rainbow) and many of them illustrated by the same artist. Perhaps because they were drawn by different artists, I would identify a slightly different vibe about some other stories: The Goose Girl about independence, and Darling Clementine, a sports story with a ‘misunderstood’ angle. Were you ever asked to write to specified themes, formulas, or ideas given by the editorial department, or were you left to your own devices and inspiration?
Yes, I was asked to write to a specific theme, but only once. Mavis Miller asked me to write a serial based on Catherine Cookson’s The Dwelling Place. Which resulted in “Always Together”.
Many thanks again to Alison for sending in all this information – and of course for writing so many of these excellent and well-loved stories in the first place! Many thanks also to the folk on the Comics UK Forum for the detective work in finding some original titles and dates of publications noted above.
Edited to add a couple of follow-up questions and points of information:
6 You mention DCTs as a great training ground for writing comics serials. Can you tell us anything of the tips or techniques you either were specifically taught, or learned by osmosis? For instance, the style of these comics is to plunge straight into the story headlong – in The Spell of the Spinning Wheel, the father is lamed in the first couple of pages – and the protagonists are very central to every page and indeed almost every panel of the story, so that very little is told without reference to that main character. And perhaps there are also differences between boys’ comics of the time, with lots of action and less mystery, and girls’ comics?
Re training in DCT, nobody actually ‘trained’ me – but subbing other freelancers’ scripts as they came in was very informative. Can’t think why as a seventeen year old, (I was only sixteen when I started on the Bunty) I was allowed to do this – but after all this subbing I had a fair idea how to write scripts myself. The main point was to keep the story flowing from picture to picture – thus the captions at the top or sometimes bottom were important connectors to the following picture. Also, the last picture was always a cliff-hanger – so the reader would want to buy the comic the next week! The stories always had a main character, who did feature in all or most of the pictures, either prominently or in the background, which was fair enough, as the story was all about them.
Re boy’s comics at the time – yes, they were action-based, fighting, war stories, and adventures as you would expect, not full of emotional stories like the girl’s comics were.
7 Did you keep any copies of the original scripts? Have you ever (did you at the time ever) compare the script you wrote with the resulting printed version, and notice differences, big or small, for better or for worse?
Yes, I have copies of some of the original DCT stories I wrote for their girl’s comics. Re comparing my original script to what it ended up as on a printed page – I guess there might have been some minor changes to the text, as they likely had people subbing freelance stories that came in down in IPC too. I really can’t remember. But I was always happy with the artwork on all my stories.
Alison also clarified that she wrote both “I’ll Make Up For Mary” in Jinty, and in 1986 the similarly-titled “I Must Fall Out With Mary”, published in Mandy. She also wrote “Tina’s Telly Mum” in Tammy, and “No Medals for Marie” in Jinty. Less certainly, she wrote ‘a short story … for Tammy, about a girl leaving school, junior school it was, a kind of whimsical tale about a girl who, on her leaving day, is very glad to escape all the horrible things she’s had to put up with there… but, at the very end, is hanging her school tie on the railing, and thinking, So why am I so sad at leaving then?… I think it was called Goodbye school, or Leaving Day, or something. ‘ And ‘”My Shining Sister”, a Tammy story, also rang a bell. I did write a story about Marnie, the daughter of an astrologer, who found a girl in a field, who is dazed as she’s had some kind of fall. Marnie’s family take her in, and she becomes the sister that only child Marnie has ever wanted. However, the girl, Sorcha, turns out to be one of the Seven sister stars… and has somehow fallen to earth…. Sorcha keeps being drawn to the number six – aka she has six sisters – Marnie tries to stop her seeing or being with groups of six girls, or going on a number six bus… in case she remembers where she has come from. If I remember right, Marnie has already worked out Sorcha is a fallen star. Anyway, story ends I think with Marnie helping her to return to her sisters, realising this is where she really belongs – but happily still sees her ‘sister’ through her dad’s telescope. I don’t know if you have a Tammy issue with “My Shining Sister” in it… but, unless some other writer has written a similar story, ie at the time when credits were being given to writers and artists… I have a feeling this is my story also?’
Many apologies for the long break in between posts. Life has got hectic and the run-up to Christmas didn’t help!
Stories featuring sports are very prevalent across the range of girls’ comics titles. This clearly taps into both the day-to-day experiences of many or most schoolgirls (playing on their hockey or netball teams) and into aspirational ideals (winning regional or national contests, going on to have a career in their chosen sport, excelling at unusual sports). At one end of this theme, many many stories will have some element of sports included, simply as a part of the protagonist’s daily life; I don’t count these as “sports stories” per se. At the other end of the spectrum, there are stories that are clearly mostly about the pursuit of excellence in the protagonist’s chosen sport, with a sprinkling of some complicating factor to spice the story up, such as peer rivalry. And in between there are stories where the sports element are strongly included but given a reasonably equal weighting with other elements.
To me, therefore, a “sports story” needs to feature the sport in question as the main story element, or with equal weight with the other elements. Often the story positively teaches us various details of that sport in a didactic way, as if part of the expectation is that readers might have their interest sparked by that story and go on to take it up themselves. The protagonist is someone who takes seriously the idea of practice, learning, improvement in their chosen area: they are not just naturally gifted without trying at all, and part of the drive of the story is about their drive to improve or to excel.
It seems obvious, but it also needs to be a sport not an art: as you would expect, there are plenty of ballet stories, and these are excluded from my categorisation. Ballet has its rivalries but it is not a competition with winners and losers, except in artificial ways that the writer might set up (for instance in “The Kat and Mouse Game”, the ‘winner’ gains a contract with an influential ballet impresario).
Finally, it is worth remembering Jinty also had a strong focus on sports in ways that lay outside of the stories themselves: for a period of time there was a specific sports section in the comic, with articles about specific sports, improvement hints and tips (such as how to win at a bully-off in hockey), and interviews with sports women and men. Over and above this, there was a lengthy period where Mario Capaldi drew cover images illustrating a very wide range of sports – netball and rounders, yes, but also archery, bob-sledding, ski-jumping… These are not sports stories, but form part of the context in which the sports-themed stories need to be read.
There are so many strong sports stories that it is hard to choose a single one as a core example. A wide range of sports are represented: ones that a schoolgirl might well have direct experience of such as hockey, gymnastics, running; and more unusual ones like judo, water-skiing, and figure skating.
“White Water” (1979-80), drawn by Jim Baikie and included in the sports section that Jinty ran for a year or so from late 1979, is a classic example of a story that includes teachable elements as well as dramatic ones. Bridie is in a sailing accident with her father, who is killed: her grieving mother moves them away from the sea and into an industrial city that depresses Bridie mightily. As well as grieving for her father, she also has a gammy leg that was badly hurt in the accident, so Bridie is pretty fed up; but she then finds out about a local canoe club. She is determined to learn canoeing, especially once she is told about sea or white-water canoeing. Along the way there are rivalries and misunderstandings – her mother hates the idea of Bridie doing anything at all like sailing, and the existing star of the canoe club doesn’t like the challenge represented by this bright (and sometimes tetchy) new member. But the story includes lots of information about canoeing techniques, certainly enough to either help interest a reader in the sport, or even to help someone already learning it.
You can see below the wide range of sports represented in Jinty.
Life’s A Ball for Nadine (1981) – netball (and disco dancing, competitively)
As ever, there are clearly-related stories that don’t quite fit in the main theme. Sports are such a pervasive trope in the life of Jinty and other girls’ comics precisely because they were an important part of many girls’ school lives. Of course they also made up a big part of other popular fiction read by girls; it becomes a reinforcing theme that is always available for use.
Jackie’s Two Lives (1974-75) – features a mentally disturbed woman grieving over her late daughter and trying to recreate her in another girl, but also features horse riding and show-jumping
Wanda Whiter than White (1975-6) – the main story theme is constant trouble with an interfering, tale-telling girl, but also features horse riding and show-jumping
Champion In Hiding (1976) – the champion in question is a sheepdog, trained to win at dog trials
Rose Among the Thornes (1976) – the main story theme is family rivalry, but there are sections where Rose is involved in running races in her local village
Stage Fright! (1977) – includes some realistic elements of sailing
Land of No Tears (1977-78) – gymnastics and swimming as part of the futuristic competition to find the most perfect schoolgirl
The Changeling (1978) – main character loves horseriding and this is used as part of the abusive family/wishfulfilment story
Knight and Day (1978) – really a story about an abusive family but includes a family rivalry based around swimming and competitive diving
Paula’s Puppets (1978) – a story of magical objects and group strife, but includes elements of athletics (running)
Combing Her Golden Hair (1979) – a strange comb has the protagonist rebelling against her strict grandmother, whose rules include a ban on swimming
Freda’s Fortune (1981) – mostly wish-fulfilment gone wrong, with horseriding
Worlds Apart (1981) – each dream-like parallel world featured a society built around an individual’s interests, and this included a sporty girl’s world
This is probably one of the most pervasive themes you could possibly have in a girls’ comic; no doubt those who are expert in other comics titles will be able to mention many more examples of stories and of unusual sports featured in them. Reviewing the list above, I am surprised not so much by the number of stories as of the range of sports included. Of course the sports that girls played on a regular basis at school – hockey, swimming, athletics, netball, running – would feature in the girls’ comics. Even then, the weighting of specific sports doesn’t seem entirely even, mind you – in Jinty there was only one netball story compared to two or three hockey stories, and a few athletics stories. There is a noticeable absence of lacrosse stories despite the fact they are a staple of girls school prose fiction (I am sure they must be included in some other comics titles). I also don’t recall any rounders stories, which was a very typical summer sport for girls to play.
I am sure that other titles included some aspirational sports such as figure-skating or show-jumping as Jinty did, and the inclusion of some ordinary if less usual sports such as orienteering doesn’t seem unlikely either. However, the fact that skate-boarding, table-tennis, and judo were included as part of the range of stories shows, I think, that Jinty wanted to push the boat out and include elements that were not just a bit unusual, but also modern, fresh, and popular in the wider world: elements that were not marked as ‘élite’ and expensive.
Jim Baikie (1940-2017) was one of the longest-running Jinty artists. While he was not in the very first issue, his starting story (“Left-Out Linda” in 1974) was done fairly early on in his career (he started in 1966); after he and Jinty parted ways, he went on to become well-known in his 2000AD work as well as in American comics. In recent years some news items have been posted on his Facebook page, where the news of his death was also posted by his family. (See also his Comiclopedia page.)
My trajectory as a comics reader is such that pretty much alone amongst Jinty artists, Baikie is someone whose subsequent work I came across again and again. As well as reading Jinty, I also read American comics (primarily Marvel), and later on I read 2000AD as so many of my university peers did. The short-lived comic Crisis was a must-read too, and that included an ongoing story drawn by Baikie (“The New Statesmen”). I don’t remember quite when I identified him as having been the artist on the memorable “The Forbidden Garden”, but I remember how it felt: excitement, surprise, and a mental ‘click’ as two disparate parts of my comics-reading life came together.
He drew a number of different kinds of story in Jinty: ones about troubled family relationships, spooky stories, a science fiction strip, a humour strip. The first great swathe of stories are nicely done, but nothing outstandingly different: they are well-observed and good to read, but only “Face The Music, Flo!” and “Ping-Pong Paula” made much impression on my memory at the time. “Spell of the Spinning Wheel” moves up a gear while still being an evil object story matching other ones (“Creepy Crawley” ran at precisely the same time, making it a great time for fans of spooky stories).
For me, both “The Forbidden Garden” and, rather differently, “Fran’ll Fix It!”, represent the peaks he reached in Jinty. Both are fairly unique within the set of stories he drew in this title: one science fiction story, one humour strip. We have previously seen a lot of repetition of a given writer & artist combination – Terence Magee stories being drawn again and again by the ‘Merry’ unknown artist – and I could well imagine that in the list below, ‘Linda’, ‘Kat’, ‘Flo’, and so many other stories might be written by a popular Jinty writer who produced a number of similar stories along the same themes. But ‘Fran’, in particular, strikes me as something that a writer-artist – or more precisely, a cartoonist – could well have produced. There are so many sight-gags in the background, such a zany feel to the whole story, that I am very tempted to think that Baikie is likely to have written the whole lot as well as drawn it – or at the very least, had a large creative hand in it.
We now know that there was at least one case of an artist writing their own strip, as Veronica Weir is known to have done this on “Girl The World Forgot“. Baikie is also known to have written his own material at subsequent points in his career, too (he wrote sequels to the Alan Moore science fiction strip “Skizz” amongst others). Might he even have written “The Forbidden Garden” as well? This striking story has a soulless future dystopia where the soil is poisoned and the people are oppressed, barely one step up from being robots: echoes of the Megacity that Baikie’s future colleagues were simultaneously creating in 2000AD. It could be said to parallel the other Jinty science fiction stories, but it doesn’t feel particularly close to any of them. This is probably my wishful thinking, though.
Leaving aside this speculation, you don’t have to think much about it to see why he was such a well-loved artist. The Gypsy Rose four-page story above has beautiful, energetic composition: the girl’s running foot in the first panel, the echo of the tree root in the forked lightning just below, the girl’s face forming the bottom section of the third page. It’s full of dynamism and individuality. Likewise, although he drew 14 stories plus various Gypsy Roses over the years, his characters are all clearly identifiable without blurring into each other. As one small example, ‘Linda’ and ‘Flo’ have similar hairstyles (though one dark, one blonde) – but their facial expressions are distinctively their own. There is no danger of mistaking one for the other, even if separated from their story context – but that’s something for a follow-up article sometime. (How did long-running artists manage to avoid visual repetition, indeed?)