Tag Archives: Princess (series 2)

Their Darling Daughter (1983)

Sample Images

Their Darling Daughter 1Their Darling Daughter 2Their Darling Daughter 3

Published: Princess (second series), #1, 24 September 1983 to #6, 29 October 1983

Episodes: 6

Artist: Bert Hill

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: ‘Dat kind hoort hier niet!’ [That child does not belong here!] Tina 42, 1984. https://www.catawiki.nl/catalogus/strips/series-helden/dat-kind-hoort-hier-niet/77184-1984-nummer-42

Plot

Lord and Lady Towne lost their daughter Rachel a year ago and still mourn her intensely. While they are still in mourning, they foster Sylvie from a children’s home. There is something puzzling as to how they came across Sylvie in the first place or why they are so interested in her. It’s not shown or explained at the beginning.

Sylvie feels out of sorts at her new home as it’s such a big jump from a children’s home to an aristocratic mansion and all the rules of deportment that go with it. She thinks she can’t live up to the pedigree or to Rachel who, from the sound of it, was brilliant at everything, and everyone still grieves for her. Nowhere is this reflected more than in Rachel’s room: everything is laid out as if she had just popped out for five minutes, and is obviously intended to be a shrine. Clearly, it is not going to be easy to fit into her new home. At least Rachel’s dog Ben takes an instant liking to Sylvie and becomes her friend, so there’s solace in that.

But Sylvie soon finds her real problem in her new home is Mrs Crooks, the housekeeper. Mrs Crooks took the loss of Rachel very hard as she worshipped the girl. On Sylvie’s first night in the mansion, Mrs Crooks scares Sylvie by saying she’s not going to take Rachel’s place and makes it plain she wants Sylvie out.

However, next day, Mrs Crooks is all sweetness and light and apologises to Sylvie. She didn’t mean it; it was just the grief, and she is willing to be friends. Sylvie accepts this explanation and offer of friendship, and even buys a present for Mrs Crooks.

But it soon becomes obvious that Mrs Crooks is just pretending to be nice to Sylvie in order to play tricks to get rid of her. She tricks Sylvie into selling porcelain dogs at a bric-a-brac shop to raise money for Lady Towne’s birthday present; when Lady Towne notices they are missing she is upset because they were a birthday present from Rachel. At the birthday party, Mrs Crooks tricks Sylvie into wearing the dress Rachel wore when she died. When Lady Towne sees this, she faints in shock. The party is ruined and Sylvie is sent packing from the party.

Of course this has Sylvie realise Mrs Crooks’ game. But she can’t convince her foster parents because Mrs Crooks is now poisoning them against her and leading them to think she is a dishonest, disturbed problem child. They become even more convinced of this when they find the porcelain dogs in the shop and think Sylvie stole them for the birthday present.

Meanwhile, we’ve been getting hints that Mrs Crooks’ husband (the chauffeur) knows what his wife is up to and does not approve. However, every time he protests or wants to speak out she shuts him up. In one exchange, she says they will go to prison if the Townes find out the truth. Prison? Come on, the punishment for this wouldn’t be worse than the sack, would it? What’s the old bat on about? As it is, Sylvie’s only friend and helper right now is the dog Ben.

Sylvie tries to escape the situation by packing her bags and going back to the home, but the Townes have none of it. So Mrs Crooks tries again by making it look like Sylvie wrecked Rachel’s room. However, Sylvie and Ben manage to foil that that one by tidying it up in time, which has Mrs Crooks looking a fool in front of her employers.

However, Mrs Crooks is so angry at this that she brings out her big guns and makes threats that have Sylvie really scared. What’s more, the Townes are going to leave Sylvie alone with Mrs Crooks for the weekend. This has Sylvie well and truly terrified, especially when Mrs Crooks whispers that this weekend will be her last. Sylvie suspects Mrs Crooks is crazy and capable of doing anything to her. But the Townes won’t listen to her pleas not to leave her alone with Mrs Crooks.

Then Ben leads Sylvie to Rachel’s grave, where she overhears Mrs Crooks reveal something extraordinary: Rachel was actually Mrs Crooks’ daughter and the Townes’ “real daughter [Sylvie] is here”, and Mrs Crooks vows she won’t let Sylvie take Rachel’s place.

Mrs Crooks detects Sylvie’s presence, realises she overheard, and catches her. She drags Sylvie to the house and ties her up while explaining that she switched Sylvie and Rachel in the hospital when they were born so her daughter would grow up privileged. She put Sylvie in the orphanage and became housekeeper to the Townes so she could watch Rachel grow up while being near her. Now she’s going to kill Sylvie to be rid of her and make it look like an accident. Sylvie’s worst fears about Mrs Crooks are confirmed.

Meanwhile, Ben runs for help. Fortunately the Townes’ car has not got far because Mr Crooks was stalling while trying to work up the courage to tell the truth. When Ben arrives, they realise something is wrong and head back. Mr Crooks tells them what’s going on, adding that he was behind their meeting Sylvie (with an anonymous letter about her while not revealing her true identity). He had never endorsed what his wife did and was trying to put it right discreetly. Lord Towne comments that this was why he felt an immediate bond with Sylvie when he met her.

When Mrs Crooks sees them return she realises her husband has spilled the beans. There have been hints throughout the story that her sanity was questionable, and being discovered pushes her over the edge. She heads to Rachel’s room, intending to burn down the house with herself and Sylvie in it.

The Townes and Mr Crooks rescue Sylvie. They drag Mrs Crooks – whom they find cradling Rachel’s doll in the burning room and singing “rock-a-bye baby” – kicking and screaming from the house. The fire is brought under control and the authorities take charge of the Crookses. Mrs Crooks is placed in psychiatric care and Mr Crooks will probably get a short jail sentence (suspended, we hope).

Sylvie takes her rightful place with the Townes and calls them Mum and Dad for the first time. But Rachel’s memory will always be cherished.

Thoughts

Stories about spiteful antagonists playing tricks to get rid of a cousin/foster child were very commonplace at DCT; seldom did a few weeks go by without a DCT title starting one. However, for some reason the theme was far less common at IPC, which makes this story unusual for having it.

The story also breaks with the formula in several ways, which makes it even more unusual. First, the schemer is a creepy housekeeper; more often it’s a stepsister, foster sister or cousin. Second, the victim is warned right from the beginning that she’s got an enemy because the enemy tells her so herself. More often, the schemer works secretly so the protagonist doesn’t realise what’s going on and can’t understand why things keep going wrong for her and she gets in so much trouble. Third, the protagonist has a helper and even someone who knows what is going on but is having difficulty speaking out. More usually the protagonist is pretty much on her own, and if she does gets help it’s someone who has somehow become suspicious.

From the beginning we’ve been led to believe it’s misguided loyalty and grief for Rachel that’s driving Mrs Crooks to scheme against Sylvie. This could give us a measure of sympathy and understanding for her. If so, that fast evaporates once the baby switch and the real reason for Mrs Crooks’ hatred are revealed.

Having it turn out everything’s because Sylvie threatens Mrs Crooks’ deception in switching her and Rachel at birth is a flabbergasting surprise and twist to the story. However, the baby switch sounds a bit too Dickensian. The story would have gotten away with this more if it had a period setting. And so would have Mrs Crooks. We are finding it hard to believe Mrs Crooks managed to pull off the switch in modern times, especially when she herself says she and Lady Towne were in different parts of the hospital and Lady Towne was in a private suite. And what about the name tags on the babies? It is highly unlikely Mrs Crooks could have made the switch before the tags were put on.

The twist also has us question the wisdom of Mr Crooks in sending the Townes the letter. Sure, we can understand his desire to put things right somehow. But he must have known what his wife’s reaction would be, which would have exposed Sylvie to serious trouble. What was he planning to do about that? He doesn’t do anything more than make token protests at his wife, clearly because she dominates him. We don’t see him trying to stop her or help Sylvie until the end of the story.

The story only lasts six episodes, which was common for Princess II stories. But frankly, it could have done with more episodes, which would have been the case if it had appeared in, say, Mandy. For example, the first episode could have been used to fully develop the anonymous letter and how it leads to the Townes meeting Sylvie. Moreover, the anonymous letter would have added a mystery element to the story that would have piqued readers’ interest. Instead, it’s all mentioned in the final episode and readers are left thinking, “what anonymous letter?” The letter was never mentioned or shown in the story before, so the belated mention of it comes across as annoying.

The choice of villain for the schemer gives the story an edge of creepiness and terror that you don’t normally get in schemer stories, and this makes the story even more exciting. Usually the schemer is despicable and nasty but not frightening. And the warning signs that Mrs Crooks is going insane add an extra element of dread for Sylvie because what comes next could be anything – even murder.

We get some nice Bert Hill artwork in this story. Hill was a regular artist at DCT, working for many years on all three of its biggest girls’ titles. However, it is unusual to see his artwork at IPC. The only other known sample of Bert Hill IPC artwork is “Porridge Pulls His Weight” (Tammy, 3 September 1983), which, incidentally, was his only known credited piece of work.

 

The Ghostly Ballerina (1983-4)

Sample Images

Ghostly Ballerina 1Ghostly Ballerina 2Ghostly Ballerina 3

 

Published: Princess (second series) #13, 17 December 1983 to #18, 21 January 1984.

Episodes: 6, but a double episode in #18

Artist: Photo story

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: ‘Het spook van de balletschool’ [The ghost of the ballet school], Tina #14, 6 April 1984. https://www.catawiki.nl/catalogus/strips/series-helden/doebidoes-de/77156-1984-nummer-14

Plot

At the National Ballet School, Clare Thomas lives for ballet. So she is devastated when she is told she has to leave the school because her dancing isn’t up standard and she’ll never make it as a ballerina.

Then a mysterious ballerina, Arabella Hood, appears to her. Arabella demonstrates she is a superb dancer and says she has the power to make Clare dance equally so. But she says the price is high, and it includes total obedience to her. Clare accepts and is stunned to suddenly find herself dancing brilliantly. Later, Arabella also seems to be able to just disappear into thin air, and she’s already beginning to frighten Clare. It does not take long for Clare to realise that Arabella is dancing through her, and nobody can see Arabella except her. Yes, Arabella’s a ghost.

The director and Dame Anna see Clare’s incredible dancing and can’t understand why they never saw Clare dance so well before; they think it must be hidden talent or something. They give her the principal role in the upcoming gala and plan a huge publicity campaign for it. But this upsets Clare’s best friend Sonja, who had the role originally, and she and Clare fall out. This is the first sign of something Arabella hinted at earlier: “There is no room for friends in the future I have planned for you!” Clare asks the director and Dame Anna to give Sonja the role, but they decline, and can’t understand why Clare is so upset when she’s on the rise to stardom.

Meanwhile, a famous dancer named Anita Stanton says she suddenly wants to quit ballet. The director and Dame Anna can’t understand why she’s doing so when she’s still at the top. They comment on how history seems to be repeating itself: Anita used to be a poor dancer but one day, bang, she was brilliant.

Clare discovers that Anita can see Arabella too. Anita says the same thing happened to her, and to another famous dancer, Stepnova. She explains that Arabella was a Victorian ballerina who died in a fire when she was on the verge of success. She seeks the success that was denied her by targeting mediocre dancers and dancing through them. But the price you pay for dancing brilliantly through Arabella is too high: no friends, no self-respect, and no true success because Arabella is the one who is really doing the dancing. All you do is provide the body. The applause and accolades you receive are not truly yours because you are a fraud, and the fame that comes your way through Arabella brings you nothing but misery. But none of that matters to Arabella: she is ruthless and doesn’t care about how you feel. You are just her puppet who has to do as she says. Anita advises Clare to get out fast.

At first, Clare is too tempted by the ghost’s promises to make her a great dancer who would stay in the world of ballet. But it isn’t long before Clare realises what Anita means. At home, Clare’s parents congratulate her on her victory and can’t understand why she isn’t feeling happy about it. That night, Clare has horrible nightmares of Arabella. Worse is to come when Arabella demonstrates even more frightening powers: she can read your mind and inflict pain on you if you don’t obey her. And she threatens to do even worse to Sonja if Clare doesn’t do as she says.

Terrified for Sonja, Clare pretends to snub her and says it’s best if they are not friends anymore. However, this has Sonja wondering if something strange is going on. Her suspicions grow when she overhears Clare shouting at Arabella after the gala performance. Clare yells about how she used to love ballet even if she wasn’t much good at it, but now Arabella’s ideas of turning her into a famous ballerina are destroying her love of ballet.

Anita has been watching Clare’s brilliant performance at the gala and knows exactly how Clare feels: the ghost is controlling her and all that applause is nothing because you haven’t really earned it. Nobody else understands why Clare is in tears when she should have been happy at such a magnificent performance at the gala. Anita repeats her advice to get out before it is too late, but Clare explains that Arabella has threatened Sonja if she does not obey.

Arabella sees Clare talking to Anita and thinks they are plotting against her. In retaliation, she carries out her threat against Sonja, who gets hurt in an accident. It is only a sprain, but Sonja tells Clare she felt as if someone was controlling her. When she recounts the other strange things she has noticed, Clare decides to tell her everything (despite Arabella warning her not to).

They discuss what to do and realise the reason Arabella haunts is bitterness over being denied fame because she died prematurely. Therefore, the solution must be to give Arabella fame, so they look at a ballet about Arabella’s life story. Arabella not only jumps at it but also says she will choreograph the ballet, which will be called “Arabella”, through Clare.

When the ballet is performed it reveals the full tragic details of Arabella’s story for the first time. She started out as a street urchin in Victorian London, stealing food to survive. Then she went through years of imprisonment in a workhouse with only her love of dancing to keep her going. One day a rich woman spotted her, adopted her, and sent her to ballet school. On the night of Arabella’s debut, fire broke out, and both she and her dreams went up in flames. However, her ghost lives on, dancing through others. The director and Dame Anna particularly like that last bit. (If only they knew!) Clare dances the lead, but the reason the ballet is so successful and convincing is because it was all done through Arabella’s power. At the end, Arabella takes the bow she has been long waiting for and says she can rest in peace now.

Clare is relieved to be free of Arabella but knows she can’t dance that way without her. So, with Anita’s help she convinces Dame Anna that it really was the power of Arabella that made her so exceptional. Sonja takes the lead for the remaining performances of “Arabella”. Clare asks to just be a corps ballerina, and is happy with it because she will still enjoy ballet and remain at the ballet school.

Thoughts

This was the only ballet story to appear in Princess II’s short-lived run. It was also her only ghost story and “evil influence” (girl falls under an evil power) story.

Many of Princess’s stories weren’t particularly distinguished, but this is one of her better offerings. It is pretty dark stuff, and it’s not just because we have an evil ruthless ghost who makes terrifying demands, threats, and can control every muscle in your body. It also has a strong message about how fame brings you nothing but misery if the price you pay is too high. And that can happen even without this ruthless ghost pulling your strings and bringing you fame that isn’t really yours. This is such a contrast to the true Clare, who wants to dance because she loves it, even if she is not strongly talented. She does not care about fame – it’s happiness she wants.

Come to think of it, the haunting isn’t bringing Arabella happiness either. Seeing as she keeps doing it over and over, she’s clearly not getting any satisfaction out of trying to acquire fame through others. This is because it’s not bringing her the fame that was denied her, but does she realise this? Apparently not. And so she can’t rest in peace until Clare and Sonja come up with a way to bring her true fame.

When we see Arabella’s life story in the ballet she becomes a more sympathetic character, so it’s sad to see what an evil ghost she has become. But we can understand it was the tragedy of her story that turned her into a twisted spectre. Her life story definitely is the stuff that deserves to be a full girls’ serial, or even a real-life ballet.

The photo story format has one downside: photo stories have never been a strong format for a ghost story because the models used for ghosts were not convincing, and for some reason they didn’t use SFX to make the models look more ghostly. The ghost of Arabella is no exception. Having the photo story in colour makes the model less convincing as a ghost because you can still see she is flesh and blood. Having the strip in black and white and adding more white makeup might have made the model more convincing.

On the other hand, using the photo story format guarantees accurate, realistic ballet in this ballet story because they would have had to use trained ballerinas for the models. You don’t always get well-drawn ballet in a picture story.

Princess II, 25 February 1984

Princess II cover 25 February 1984

 

  • Flight from the Romanys (artist Maria Dembilio)
  • The Dream House (artist Mike White) – first episode
  • Laura in the Lyon’s Den! (artist Bob Harvey)
  • Rowena of the Doves (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • The Runaway Clown (artist José Canovas)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Sheena and the Treetoppers (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • Horse from the Sea… (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • The Saddest Dog in Town (artist Eduardo Feito)

 

We are now well and truly into the run of Princess II where she is falling back on reprints from Tammy and Jinty. From Jinty we have “Horse from the Sea” and “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”. Many former Jinty readers would have envied Princess readers for getting a reprint of Stefa. Jinty’s letter page indicated there was a popular demand for this serial to be repeated, but for some reason neither Jinty nor the Tammy & Jinty merger obliged. From Tammy we get “Rowena of the Doves” and now “The Dream House”.

Nonetheless, Princess is still producing her own stories. One is the cover story, “Flight from the Romanys” (not good grammar there). Lydia Parks is kidnapped by nasty gypsies, for no other reason than to make a slave out of her and profit from the chattels she had on her (rich clothes, a horse). Considering her father is a wealthy lord, they could have shown more imagination than that! This episode is dedicated to establishing just how cruel Lydia’s kidnappers intend to be to her, and Lydia showing us her resolve to escape despite her tears or the gypsies’ attempts to discourage her.

A more savoury gypsy gives “The Runaway Clown” both hope (her father will find her and no going back to the home she ran away from) and fear (danger from an elephant) when she looks into her crystal ball. Of course the fortune teller means Princess, the vicious elephant trainer who has been gunning for Cindy. This time Princess gets caught out and sacked, but has Cindy really seen the last of that nasty piece of work? Time will tell. Meanwhile, the weather presents its own dangers, and it leads to the death of the fortune teller.

Spoiled Laura is showing improvement in the “Lyon’s Den”. But is it genuine, or is it because she hopes to get a shopping trip in Paris out of it? Mrs Lyon suspects the latter, but readers are left wondering if the former is coming into it. Later, Mrs Lyon is surprised to see Laura on television donating her prize pony to the children of the blind home and promptly phones Laura’s aunt as she smells a rat. Is she right?

Two Princess stories, “Sheena and the Treetoppers” and “The Saddest Dog in Town”, reach their penultimate episodes. The Treetoppers are trying to find a missing will that would save their treehouse, but no luck. And now the demolition men are asking the councillor whether or not they have the green light to demolish the old house and the treehouse with it.

Lucy and Martin Denton are not having much luck tracing the owner of the “Saddest Dog in Town” either and turn to the local newspaper for help. Then a lorry passes by and the dog runs after it because he has recognised the engine sound. His rightful owner at last?

Sadie, Cook and Grovel all jump on the table in fright when they see mice on the bench, not realising they are only sugar mice intended as a gift for them. They not only end up feeling very silly but lose their treat as well, because the cat ate the mice.

Princess II, 14 January 1984

Princess II cover 14 January 1984

  • School of Dark Secrets! (artist Carlos Cruz)
  • The Ghostly Ballerina (photo story)
  • Fairy Tale (artist Julio Bosch)
  • Suzy and Snowdrop (artist Peter Wilkes ) – final episode
  • Best of Friends… (photo story) – final episode
  • Sheena and the Treetoppers (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Sadie-in-Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • Princess – Bright Ideas Box (feature)

Surprisingly, there is no Princess Di pin-up in this issue. Instead, we get a how-to-make page. Meanwhile, two stories end this issue and two reach their penultimate episodes.

Feeling responsible for Katie and Lizzie falling out, Linda hatches a plan to bring the “Best of Friends” back together. It not only succeeds but gets Linda happily accepted as a third friend as well.

In “Suzy and Snowdrop”, matters come to a head when Jane runs off because of her demanding Aunt Alice – but doesn’t get far because she falls asleep in the stable. Meanwhile, Suzy discovers why Aunt Alice has been so demanding – she was trying to get Jane to take her place after she lost her nerve from a riding accident. Auntie turns over a new leaf and even gives Snowdrop back to Suzy.

“Fairy Tale” and “The Ghostly Ballerina” are the stories on their penultimate episodes. The evil Morgana is obliged to kiss the Frog Prince to make him human – “Yeeeuuurgh!”, to which he replies, “the feeling’s mutual!”, so he can kiss Sleeping Beauty awake. But now Morgana is sending everyone to the executioner’s block so she can be fairest in the land. Now this really has us wondering what can happen in the final episode to have everyone in this mix-up of fairy tales live happily ever after – minus Morgana, of course.

Clare Thomas is now well and truly understanding the nightmare of being in the power of “The Ghostly Ballerina”, and it’s driving her mad. Then her friend Sonja suspects something is wrong. So we know Sonja will help somehow and eagerly await to see how she does so in the final episode.

For some reason “School of Dark Secrets” gets an exclamation mark in its title this week. Maybe it’s because Judy gets a clue about its dark secret: a legendary coven of witches that needs 13 to be complete. Could this coven be the staff at her school – which Judy has suddenly noticed are all women? This could explain the weird goings-on Judy saw in the night, but they are one short of 13, to Judy’s relief. But in the final panel the headmistress says: “Our waiting is over. The thirteenth one is here!” Now who can that be? Oh, surely not…who we think it is?

The Treetoppers Secret Society is formed, but it gets Sheena and her siblings into trouble with their parents. They get a grounding that interferes with their next meeting. Can they find their new friend Jenny and explain?

Grovel is lazing about, as usual (watching Playschool?!). But he is forced to get his hands dirty digging up his shoes, which Princess Bee’s corgi has buried in the garden. The trouble is, the corgi has buried a lot of other shoes in the garden too, not to mention bones.

 

The Dream House (1977)

Sample Images

 

The Dream House 1a

The Dream House 1b

The Dream House 1c

Published: Tammy 12 March 1977 to 23 April 1977

Episodes: 7

Artist: Mike White

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Princess (second series) 26 February 1984 – 31 March 1984 (one double episode); Tina #35 1984 as Het mysterie van het poppenhuis [The mystery of the dolls’ house]

Plot

Jan Dale has taken a temporary job as a nanny to a wealthy family. At first glance the house looks a “dream house”, the sort Jan would buy if she won the pools. Then she is informed Mr Glenn the owner disappeared two days ago; just vanished into thin air while gardening, it seems. His disappearance spooked the staff into leaving except the housekeeper, Miss Royd. Mrs Glenn is a bag of nerves, shrieking, “I won’t go in there! Please! Let me stay outside!” Now what can she mean by that? Elder daughter Diana Glenn is a rude, unpleasant type, and the younger children John and Becky are playing with a dolls’ house that is an exact replica of the house. Later Jan learns the busy parents neglected the younger children, so they turned to spending time with it.

Jan notes there are no dolls in the house, but later she and Diana see a doll outside it that looks just like Mr Glenn. Diana thinks it’s her siblings playing a cruel joke, but later Jan hears a voice calling for help from inside the dolls’ house. Becky says it’s “Silly old Dad!” and John aggressively tells her to shut up.

John and Becky show Jan doll’s clothes in the drawer, saying there will be more dolls in the house soon. Jan is shocked to realise the doll’s clothes are replicas of the clothes she brought with her – but how can that be when she only arrived a few hours ago? John says it’s because the dolls’ house knew she would be coming. Miss Royd tells Jan the dolls’ house is evil. Eventually John and Becky tell Jan they found the dolls’ house in a secret room in the house and show it to her.

Mrs Glenn just vanishes into thin air without explanation. Jan hears her voice calling from the dolls’ house and a hand waves from the window in the dolls’ house. Sure enough, it’s a doll-sized Mrs Glenn screaming for help. But when Jan rouses Diana the doll has disappeared. Diana wants Jan out, but the younger siblings insist she stay, and warn Diana she will be the next for the dolls’ house.

That night Jan has a dream of standing outside the dolls’ house, a voice calling her in, and don’t fight it. At first Jan resists but then calms down and welcomes it; it looks so peaceful in there. Then she wakes up, saying the sun woke her up in time from being snatched by the dolls’ house.

The dream is a forewarning of what happens to Diana. Jan sees her abruptly vanish from the grounds and heads to the dolls’ house, where she sees Diana about to open the house, urging it to let her in. Jan stops Diana in the nick of time, and even Diana is becoming convinced Jan is right. She flees the house in terror, but then she does disappear, as do the doll’s clothes that matched hers. Then Miss Royd and Jan see all three dolls in the house.

Realising she is next, Jan tries to destroy the dolls’ house with an axe, but Miss Royd stops her. Then Jan realises something: there are no doll clothes for Miss Royd, so the house was not planning to take her. Now why could that be?

Caught out, Miss Royd reveals she is behind the dolls’ house. She came with it and lived in it for centuries, and Jan and the Glenns are going to do the same. She was a squire’s wife who sought to discover the secret of eternal life. Frustrated with her constant failures she exclaimed, “Let the devil take anything of mine if I can succeed!” At this, a fire broke out, burning her house down, and the dolls’ house mysteriously appeared. Taking it as a sign, Mistress Royd ordered her new house (now the Glenns’) to be an exact replica. She also ordered a secret room to be built into the dolls’ house and the real one. She had the man who built them murdered, but he made a statement before he died, and the authorities came to arrest her. Mistress Royd and her niece Mary headed for the secret room, but soon realise the authorities had been informed about it. Working through Mary’s mind, Mistress Royd hid in the secret room in the dolls’ house. She stayed there until her mind reached out to John and Becky. Like Mary, they were young children, and her mind can only work through children.

Miss Royd says that it’s not just Jan who is going in there now; John and Becky are going in there too, and they are delighted about it: “It’s lovely being a doll!” She has them believe, and they’ll all be very happy in there. However, Jan manages to turn the power of the dolls’ house against Miss Royd: she persuades Becky and John to let Miss Royd go in first and let the family out, saying this will enable Miss Royd to find out how happy she is being a doll. This sends Miss Royd right back into the dolls’ house and frees the trapped people.

Jan soon finds nobody except her remembers what happened. The parents find they suddenly hate the dolls’ house for some reason and want it gotten rid of. So Jan puts the dolls’ house back in the secret room. She can only hope no other child finds it – Miss Royd is still in there, waiting and calling to be let out.

Thoughts

Surprisingly, Tammy didn’t often run serials on evil dolls, objects or influences, which makes the theme quite refreshing here. By contrast, DCT ran such stories with great abandon, which is another peculiar difference between IPC and DCT. Maybe one of these days we should have an analysis on how IPC and DCT had such differing emphases on serial themes and why this might have been.

The story establishes the theme and the mounting evil very quickly, which is not surprising as it has only seven episodes. So there is no padding or drawing out of the plot. The plotting is tight and well paced, and the evil is closing in fast like a tightening coil, which makes it even more gripping and scary. Unlike some evil doll/toy stories, it does not take long for Jan to realise the evil of the house and what’s progressively happening to the people who disappear. After all, it’s pretty obvious, what with the dolls’ clothes matching the people in the house, the dolls being replicas of the vanished people, the cries for help from the house, and what everyone else in the household is saying about the dolls’ house.

Unlike many protagonists in evil influence/object stories, Jan does not have a frustrating time trying to convince anyone what’s going on, only to find everyone thinks she’s nuts. Miss Royd already says the dolls’ house is evil (but of course she knew that all along). The young children know what’s going on but embrace it and even facilitate it. Mrs Glenn can already sense it coming and is scared out of her wits. Only Diana rubbishes it, but deep down she has her doubts, and it’s not long before her doubts turn into terror.

The family dysfunction (neglectful parents, unpleasant big sister) clearly made John and Becky easy targets for the dolls’ house and falling under the power of Miss Royd. It appeared to offer them happiness, comfort and peace, and would make them all one happy family once they were all inside, as dolls. From what we gather from Jan’s dream and how Diana almost got enticed in, this is how it lures them all in and gets the children into its power. Like its real-sized counterpart, it appeared to be the dream house. But once they were all inside, they would soon find it was really the nightmare house. Once released, Dad’s remark that he now hates the dolls’ house for some reason gives the impression that although they don’t remember anything, they will be wiser for the experience and work on being a better family unit.

Miss Royd is clearly a cautionary tale in the consequences of dabbling in the dark arts and tempting the Devil. Though the Devil does not seem to be after souls – after all, what he gives Miss Royd offers eternal life – any gifts from him will have strings attached. The dolls’ house is no exception. It grants eternal life – but from the look of it, it’s eternal life as a doll. Is that really the lovely and happy thing Miss Royd says it is? We don’t think so from the way the Glenns keep screaming once they are trapped in the house. Or Miss Royd herself once she is returned to the house. She screams at Jan to let her out, in the way Mrs Glenn did. Aww, poor diddums Royd – don’t you like it in the dolls’ house, even if it does give you the eternal life you wanted?

Day and Knight (1984)

Sample Images

Day and Knight 1Day and Knight 2Day and Knight 3Day and Knight 4

Published: Princess II #25, 10 March 1984, continued in Tammy & Princess, 7 April 1984, finished in Tammy & Princess, 28 April 1984

Episodes: 8

Artist: Juliana Buch

Writer: Unknown. Possibly the same writer as “Cuckoo in the Nest” from Girl annual 1982, which has a similar plot

Translations/reprints: None

Plot

Ever since Sharon Day’s mother died when she was young, it has just been her, Dad, and her cat Monk. That’s just the way Sharon likes it. Sharon knows her father is now in a relationship with a woman named Sally, but has no problems with that – yet.

While dropping off Gran’s birthday present on the way to school, Sharon sees Carrie Knight and her gang pass by. She tells Gran they bully everyone at school, taking money off the first years and such, and for this reason she can’t stand Carrie. Gran is relieved to hear that at least Carrie leaves Sharon alone.

But when Sharon gets to school that suddenly changes. Carrie now starts on her, and is bullying her big time. Carrie even steals and sells Sharon’s guitar, which breaks Sharon’s heart because it was her mother’s.

The reason why Carrie has started picking on Sharon becomes clear that evening: Carrie’s mother is Sally, the woman Dad is now engaged to and wants to marry. So Sharon is now faced with the prospect of having this bully for a stepsister!

Sharon tries to tell Dad that Carrie is bullying her, but he does not believe it. Moreover, Carrie is very good at fooling him into thinking she is a sweet girl and the perfect stepdaughter who absolutely adores her new stepfather. She has no compunction in lying to her parents and swearing that she did not do any of the things Sharon accuses her of. Carrie just loves to tease Sharon with her phoney acts towards Dad and telling him how much she likes him.

Although Sharon protests that Carrie is just fooling him and she’s a horrible bully who makes her life a misery, and she’s in constant tears over the whole business, Dad just won’t listen. He thinks Sharon just can’t handle the changes and is being resentful of his new marriage.

Aside from the bullying, Sharon finds herself being pushed into changes that are too fast and difficult for her when Carrie and Mum move in. Sharon and her Dad are vegetarians, but Carrie and her mother are not, so Sharon is shocked at the sight and smell of meat in the fridge. Worse, Sharon has to rehome Monk at Gran’s house because of Carrie’s asthma. And Sharon, who once had her bedroom to herself, now has to share a bunk bed with that bully until the parents get a bigger house.

And now, of course, Carrie is making Sharon’s life a nightmare at home as well as at school, and she’s very slick at covering up afterwards. For example, she and her gang trash Sharon’s belongings. Then she tells Dad she accidentally broke Sharon’s old doll and will pay for it.

Gran is the only one who believes Sharon and understands what is going on. Oddly though, she is not doing much to convince Dad. Maybe Dad is not listening to her either? Dad certainly does not listen to Sharon’s friend Jenny when she tries to back Sharon up about Carrie’s bullying. What Gran does do, though, is attempt to instil optimism in Sharon that things will work out in the end and Carrie will change. Right now, though, there’s no hope of that.

Although Dad knows there is a big problem with the girls, he still goes ahead with the wedding. Sharon has to swallow down tears throughout the ceremony. Mum and Dad think Sharon will just come around, but of course they have another think coming.

Now Carrie pulls her worst trick yet – spiking Sharon’s vegetarian school lunch with meat! When Sharon discovers this she snaps and starts a punch-up with Carrie in the dinner hall. However, the teacher can’t find any trace of the meat afterwards. Later Sharon realises Carrie’s gang pulled a trick there, but when she tries to tell Dad this he still won’t listen and tells her to stop it. Sharon’s response to that is run away from home and take refuge at Gran’s. Dad is anguished at this while Carrie just laughs at it all behind her parents’ backs.

However, next day events take a turn that changes everything. Dad spots Sharon’s guitar at a second hand shop and discovers it was indeed Carrie who sold it there. When he confronts Carrie with this, her last-ditch effort to deny everything falls apart very quickly. The game is up:

Mum: “You’ve lied enough!”

Dad: “Your daughter’s driven mine out of her own home!”

Dad, who resolves to make Sharon happy to come back, makes the decision to split up with Carrie’s mum. At this, Mum really turns on Carrie for what she’s done, and how it will destroy her marriage if the girls don’t reconcile. She shoves Carrie out of the house to make it up with Sharon.

Carrie is shocked and upset at what she has done, and now realises she genuinely likes her new stepfather. She makes an earnest, desperate attempt to reconcile with Sharon, promising she’ll be different. But Sharon rebuffs her because her wounds are too raw. Moreover, she is not impressed with Carrie’s claims of contrition (unlike Gran), the idea of living with Carrie is still too repugnant, and she wants things the way they were. So Carrie and her heartbroken mother clear out of the house so Sharon can come home.

Sharon expects things to go back to the way they were, although Gran has warned her that they can’t and won’t. Of course Sharon soon finds out how right Gran is. Dad might have sacrificed his marriage for her happiness, but he cannot hide his feelings about it (snapping at her, up all night crying, too upset to go to work). Sharon realises their relationship will become embittered because of this. She can’t let him suffer either, but still can’t stand the idea of living with Carrie.

Next morning Carrie turns on her bully gang when she discovers, in typical bully fashion, how uncaring they are about her situation. “I must’ve been crazy to hang around with you morons!” They just about have a fight.

Sharon can see Carrie is genuinely upset, but just says, “Good! I’m glad to see her suffering for a change!” However, she is more concerned to hear that Carrie’s mother was up all night crying too. She does like her stepmother.

In the end, Sharon grudgingly gives Carrie a second chance for the sake of their suffering parents. Soon the family are back together, the parents are overjoyed, and there are already signs that Carrie and Sharon are on the road to becoming the best of sisters. After all, says Sharon, she had always wanted one.

Thoughts

There have been so many serials where parents just don’t listen when their daughter tries to tell them she’s being bullied. And this is one of those serials where just not listening has far more serious results than most – a marriage almost being destroyed and a family torn apart. It’s not just because the bully is very crafty at convincing them she’s a sweet angel. It’s also because they are blinded by love and desperately want to marry each other. So they push headlong into it despite the clear danger signals.

Even without Carrie’s bullying, we can feel how Sharon’s world is being ripped apart by the changes her father’s new marriage is bringing into her life. Sharon was so happy with things the way they were and the changes are all, in their various ways, just too hard on her and unfair. We can hardly blame Sharon for wanting things back the way they were and it would have been understandable if she had been genuinely resentful of the marriage. But the real problem is that her stepsister is bullying her, and because the bullying goes on behind the parents’ backs, they won’t listen when Sharon tries to tell them. They really pay the price for not listening to Sharon and heeding the red flags when Carrie’s bullying almost destroys their marriage.

As with Lindy/Jinty’s “Hettie High and Mighty”, redeeming and reforming the bully is absolutely essential if everything is to be sorted out and end happily, because that bully is now the stepsister of the girl she’s bullying. Otherwise the family can never live together in harmony. However, the road to it is realistically done and avoids the triteness and clichés that have appeared in similar stories, including “Hettie High and Mighty”.

Unlike Hettie, it’s not all that clear just what has made Carrie such a bully. We know nothing of her home life prior to her mother’s new marriage. Her absent father could have some bearing on her conduct. She does carry out her bullying in a very cocky, obnoxious manner, which suggests she’s out of control. She’s also in with a bully gang, rather than being a sole bully/troublemaker like Hettie. So it could be a case of getting into a bad crowd, wanting to act big and feeling like she’s ten feet tall with all the power she gets out of bullying. Moreover, the school isn’t doing anything to stop the bullies. All the pupils know about them but nobody does anything about them. If nobody is cracking down on the bullying, then of course Carrie’s bullying has just gotten so bad. Finally, Carrie sees Sharon as a big wet, which is probably why she chose to bully her instead of trying to get along with her in the first place.

It is a nice change from the usual cliché, where the abused stepsister just forgives her bully stepsister once she changes as Sharon’s counterpart in “Hettie” does. Instead, reconciliation does not come all at once because Sharon’s hurt feelings are too strong. It takes time before Sharon agrees to attempt reconciliation. Even then it’s not because she becomes convinced of Carrie’s remorse or Carrie redeems herself in front of her, which is another common cliché in girls’ serials. Sharon does it for her suffering parents.

There is no doubt Carrie is genuinely remorseful when it comes, and it’s realistically done. Carrie is not only remorseful; she also wakes up to what a good thing she was onto with her new stepfamily and how she ruined it with her bullying. However, while her remorse is essential to the resolution of the story, she cannot convince Sharon or her parents that it is for real. Sharon does not listen and just wants her gone. Mum tells Carrie that if she really had loved her new stepfather, “you wouldn’t have done anything to spoil my happiness. I’ll never forgive you for this!” Dad says to Sharon, “A pity Carrie was such a monster. I-thought she loved me…”. However, the story does not go down yet another common cliché in which Carrie finds a way to convince them she has changed and gets them back together. Nor does it have the family coming together when a big accident occurs because of what happened, which is another cliché.

This is definitely one of Princess II’s best stories because of its realism and breaking with clichés that girls’ serials dealing with similar themes often use. The artwork of Juliana Buch has always been popular and it blends in nicely with the school and family settings. This was Buch’s only story for Princess II, and her artwork would have helped this story to bridge the merger with Tammy because Buch was one of Tammy’s regular artists.

 

Finleg the Fox (1975)

 

Sample Images

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Published: Lindy #14, 20 September 1975 to #20, 1 November 1975; continued in Jinty and Lindy merger 8 November 1975 to 20 December 1975

Episodes: 14

Artist: Barrie Mitchell

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Una Price has been left orphaned and lame from a car crash and is in delicate health. Authorities send her to Blindwall Farm in the hope the country air will improve her health, but they have not counted on the Drays who are running it. The daughter, Dora Dray, bullies Una and lumbers her with all the work, despite Una’s bad leg, while she indulges in riding. Una soon gets the impression that Dora is a sadist who enjoys hurting animals and people. Mr Dray is a sourpuss who doesn’t have a good attitude towards Una either. They both push Mrs Dray around and take her for granted, so she is the only one who is kind to Una.

Dray is not pleased when Una rescues a fox from one of his traps. He also warns her about his landlord, Sir Arthur Stollard, who is a master of fox hounds. Una secretly nurses the fox, named Finleg because of his leg injury, in the barn.

Dora finds out and starts blackmailing Una. Soon Una has had enough of this and stands up to Dora. So Dora brings in her father, all set with a shotgun to shoot Finleg. But Finleg has recovered enough to escape, so Dray finds nothing and Dora gets a clip around the ear from him. Finleg is now back in the wild, but he is not forgetting the girl who saved him.

Meanwhile, Sir Arthur is trying to buy out Blindwall Farm when the Drays’ lease expires. Dray does not want to sell the farm he has worked on all his life, but feels he may have no choice because Sir Arthur is a powerful man.

Soon after, suspicious things start happening. Una finds a blood trail after Dray takes a shot at something in the night. The trail leads to a shed and a strange man, whose left hand is wrapped in a bloodied bandage. He knocks her out and runs off. When she describes the man to Dray, he gets oddly worked up and goes off on a hunt for the man – with his shotgun. He does not seem to have much success, but after this he softens towards Una and even spares Finleg when he has a brush with him at a disused railway track, where he has set up a den in the embankment.

But Sir Arthur’s fox hunt isn’t sparing Finleg. Dora has been invited, not realising Sir Arthur plots to get at Dray through her because she would know his weaknesses. Dora is eager to use the hunt to kill Finleg. Una helps a bunch of fox hunt protesters foil the hunt. Dora finds out and threatens to beat Una, but Finleg steps in to save her. Dora is even more narked when Sir Arthur tells her she is not good enough to join the hunt, so she gets even more vicious towards Una and Finleg.

That night Dray goes hunting for the man again and Una follows. The man knocks Dray out and is searching the embankment at the railway tracks. He finds Finleg’s den. Finleg and Una manage to scare him off and he tries to escape in a passing car, but the driver doesn’t stop. For some reason Dray is against the idea of going to the police and Una wonders what he is hiding. Una also loses her crutch at the scene and starts using a stick, which helps to strengthen her leg.

Dora again joins Sir Arthur as they prepare for another hunt, and Una is following. They stumble across the strange man, who has been shot dead. Sir Arthur finds a list of names on him, which he finds interesting and hides from the police. The man turns out to be an escaped prisoner named Stephens, and his death is a murder inquiry. Afterwards, Sir Arthur uses the list and Dray’s suspicious-looking head injury to blackmail Dray into selling the farm, with insinuations that he will have the police suspect Dray Stephens’s murder. Later Dray tells his family that they are leaving the farm at the end of the month. Seeing no further use for Dora now, Sir Arthur tells her not to bother with their next hunting date. Dora blames Una and hates her even more now.

Surmising that the driver of the car Stephens tried to jump into is the real murderer, Una goes back to investigate. Finleg leads her to the embankment, where she finds a huge cache of hidden money. She shows the money to Dray, who clearly recognises it but won’t have a bean of it. Una hides it in the barn.

Una sees the strange car in town, which is driving dangerously and nearly knocks her and another woman over. When Una helps the woman, a Mrs Pargeter, Dora tells her everyone says Mrs Pargeter is a witch (because Mrs Pargeter is psychic and treats animals with herbal remedies). Una rubbishes such nonsense, especially from Dora.

Dora seizes another opportunity to spite Una when she finds the crutch with blood stains on it and takes it to the police, claiming it is evidence that Una is linked to Stephens’s murder. The police realise Dora is a spiteful minx but they still have to investigate the bloodstains. The blood group belongs to Dray, but he doesn’t tell the police the full story of what happened and Una wonders why as she is sure he is innocent of Stephens’s murder. The police also search the property, but Finleg takes the sack of money before the police find it and puts it back in his den. The police leave, but Dray is still under suspicion.

Una goes to consult Mrs Pargeter, who says the money must have come from a train robbery ten years back, when the tracks were in use. On the way back the strange car actually tries to run Una down, but Finleg saves her. Later the strange car intercepts Dora, who says she is laying down poison for foxes (Finleg of course). The man tells her that if she comes across anything else to leave a note for him at Cobbett’s Mill.

The police are also investigating Cobbett’s Mill because a lady reported seeing a light there in the night. They find nothing, but their dogs got excited so they know there must be something. Later we learn that Cobbett was on the list of names Sir Arthur found, and so was Dray’s, but he can’t figure out what the other names mean. Realising the police are not charging Dray with Stephens’s murder at this stage, Sir Arthur again ingratiates himself with Dora to get at Dray.

Dora’s attempt to poison Finleg succeeds. Una finds him, and realises Dora was responsible when she bumps into her. Una takes Finleg to Mrs Pargeter, who has skills in healing animals. Her herbal remedies do the trick and Finleg is soon on the mend.

Meanwhile Dora finds the money in the den and leaves a note about it in Cobbett’s Mill for the man. Una sees Dora leave the mill. After a fight with Dora she finds the note and realises Dora has put herself in danger because of it. Sure enough, Mrs Dray tells Una that she saw two men kidnap Dora, but Dray refuses to call the police. However, he finally tells them the whole story. Two men who robbed the train came to his farm and coerced him into hiding some of the money. The gang was rounded up and imprisoned. One of them, Stephens, escaped and came back to look for the money. The man who killed Stephens must have been “The Boss”, the only member of the gang not to be caught, and his true identity is unknown. Realising “The Boss” must be the one who kidnapped Dora, Una, with Finleg’s help, keeps watch over the den where the money is hidden, figuring the kidnappers will come for it.

But Una is in for a big surprise at who shows up for it – Sir Arthur! Una follows him (her leg is now fit enough for her to do this) while giving Finleg a note explaining things to take back to the farm. The police have finally been called and when they see the note they go in pursuit, with Finleg leading them.

At the hideout Una overhears Sir Arthur and his accomplice (his estate manager, Bert Randle) planning to kill the bound and gagged Dora because she knows too much. Una unwisely goes in to tackle them and gets captured too, but it’s Finleg to the rescue with a bite on Sir Arthur’s leg. Sir Arthur is arrested and confesses to being “The Boss”, and Randle was his right-hand man in the robbery.

So the threat of Sir Arthur is no longer hanging over the farm and the Drays want Una to stay. Dora reforms, apologises to Una, and starts treating Una like her very own sister. Una now walks properly thanks to Finleg. Finleg becomes part of the family, but eventually the call of the wild summons him away while Una looks on.

Thoughts

This was one of two Lindy serials to make the transition into the merger with Jinty, so it has some distinction for that. It was also the only fox serial in Jinty, even if it is one that came to Jinty half way through its run. Jinty had some stories featuring an animal from the wild, but this was the only one to feature a fox.

Finleg shares some similarities with the 1984 story “Rusty Remember Me”, which started in Princess series 2 and was also completed in a merger, the last one in Tammy. Its protagonist is also a crippled girl who gradually overcomes her disability and walks properly again thanks to the friendship she strikes up with a fox. Perhaps it was the same writer.

However, Finleg has much meaner and crueller opponents than Rusty (a surly caretaker who is nasty but not downright evil). Finleg is up against a cruel and vicious girl who tries to kill him on several occasions, and that’s only the start. He is also up against fox hunters, who combine forces with the threat from Dora. The man leading the hunt isn’t just threatening Finleg; he’s a greedy, unscrupulous aristocrat who will resort to fair means or foul in order to get his hands on the Drays’ farm and force them off into a council house. Such villains are very common in girls’ comics. What is unusual is that Sir Arthur is also a mastermind behind a train robbery. That does sound a bit odd; you’d think such things would be beneath a snobby aristocrat like him. On the other hand, it says a lot about what makes him so rich.

The menace of Sir Arthur over the Drays, Dora’s cruelty towards Finleg and Una, the fox hunt threat, the problems of Una’s disability, and her friendship with Finleg make a durable combination for a good plot. But what really heat it up and keep it going are the introduction of the mystery elements, the murder of Stephens, and Dray being suspected of it, which means Una now has the additional task of clearing his name.

There’s also a horrible but fitting comeuppance for Dora when she is kidnapped by the very man she thought was her friend – Sir Arthur. When she heard them plotting to drown her in the marshes her life must have flashed before her eyes. The shock of it lends some plausibility to her change at the end, even if it does come across as a bit quick and pat. It’s a real twist for her that she is rescued by the efforts of Finleg and Una, the ones she had tried to destroy out of spite. Gratitude must have also been a factor in her change for the better.

Princess (series 2) #4, 15 October 1983

Princess cover 1

  • Ring of Feathers (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Mr Evans the Talking Rabbit (photo story)
  • Their Darling Daughter (artist Bert Hill)
  • Miranda’s Magic Dragon (artist Carlos Freixas)
  • Stairway to the Stars (photo story)
  • The Incredible Shrinking Girl! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • The Princess Diana Story – Feature
  • Sadie-in-Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • Princess Diana Pin-up – Feature

Here we continue the theme of more context around Jinty’s family tree at IPC. As I do not have #1, I present #4, which is the earliest issue in my collection, to represent Princess. Updated to add: I now have Princess  #1, and its entry is here.

Princess (not to be confused with the 1960s Princess, later called Princess Tina) ran from 24 September 1983 to 31 March 1984, and then it merged into Tammy on 7 April 1984. It was riding on the popularity of Princess Diana, and included pinups of Diana and the story of Diana’s life. It lasted for 28 issues and, unusually for IPC girls’ titles, numbered its issues. Up until #18 it had a lot of colour pages and two photo stories, one in black-and-white and the other in colour. But it had fewer pages than Tammy, which was printed on cheaper newsprint than Princess. From #19 Princess dropped the photo stories and colour pages and switched to the same newsprint, format and number of pages as Tammy. This is similar to the pattern that Penny followed three years earlier before it merged into Jinty.

Princess also reprinted several serials from Tammy and Jinty: “Horse from the Sea”, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” (completed in the merge with Tammy), “Rowena of the Doves” and “The Dream House”. These changes and reprints are signs that Princess was not doing well. Ironically, the reprints in Princess enabled some original Jinty artwork to survive the cavalier manner in which IPC handled original artwork.

Princess stories were not particularly memorable or well remembered, and some only lasted a few episodes. One, “The Incredible Shrinking Girl!”, looks like it is on its penultimate episode, and it is only #4.

Other Princess stories were a bit unconventional, such as the photo story “Mr Evans the Talking Rabbit”. Mr Evans has turned himself into a rabbit after messing around with a magic book. Unfortunately the change has not improved his disagreeable character and he is still the “miserable old so-and-so” that his wife does not miss one bit. Nonetheless, Jenny Andrews continues to help him find the book and change back – trouble is, the book has been sold and they need to track it down. This is the colour photo story, which makes it stand out more.

The black-and-white photo story, “Stairway to the Stars”, is a bit of a mix between a soap opera and a serial at a stage school. Right now, the school is now being threatened with closure, just because one mother (who unfortunately has influence with the council) thinks it is not doing anything for her daughter and would rather close the school down than have people think her daughter is a failure. She does not realise her daughter was doing badly on purpose because she wanted to be taken away.

“Their Darling Daughter” comes from the long line of stories where a spiteful schemer tries to get rid of a foster girl/cousin. In this case it is a housekeeper in an aristocratic household, who idolises the parents’ late daughter and does not want foster-girl Sylvie taking her place. Unusually for this type of serial the victim has an ally – her dog!

“Ring of Feathers” is the abusive guardian story, except that heroine Cheryl Gibson does not fully realise how cruel her Uncle John is. Her mother does, though – Uncle John makes her work like a slave for hardly any money and now he has started hitting her. Meanwhile, Cheryl is given a ring that gives her strange powers with birds. We eagerly wait to see how that is going to work against nasty Uncle John.

In “Miranda’s Magic Dragon”, Merlin’s granddaughter Miranda has travelled in time to 1983 to escape the evil sorcerer Mordac. There she makes friends, and also an enemy out of greedy Paula, who has stolen her magic pendant. This could get Paula into an awful lot of trouble with Mordac, who is after it too. But where’s the dragon? It’s the emblem on the magic pendant.

“Sadie-in-Waiting” is the resident cartoon strip and would carry on in the merger, replacing Tammy’s Joe Collins strip “The Crayzees”. As with Molly Mills, it is a maid vs. a devious butler, but played for weekly laughs.

 

Tammy and Princess merger: 7 April 1984

Tammy and Princess cover

  • Bella – new story (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Rusty Remember Me – from Princess (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Day and Knight – from Princess (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Diana – A Queen’s Dream – complete story (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Maureen Spurgeon) Adapted from Maureen Spurgeon’s “For Love of Elizabeth” in her book “Romantic Stories of Young Love”
  • Cassie’s Coach (writer Alison Christie, artist Tony Coleman)
  • What Kind of Fool Are You? – Quiz (writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone – from Princess (writer Alison Christie, artist Phil Townsend)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)

Princess (series II), no connection to Princess/Princess Tina, was the last comic to merge with Tammy. It had been another short-lived title, lasting 28 issues. In terms of Jinty history, Princess is significant for reprinting some serials from her and Tammy. One, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, carries over into the merger here. It is known from Jinty’s letter page in 1981 that there had been a huge demand in the 1980 Pam’s Poll to reprint the story. But the Editor was still asking readers if they wanted Stefa to be repeated – as if he was hesitating to do it for some reason.

Other stories carrying on from Princess are “Day and Knight” and “Rusty Remember Me”. After some flashbacks filling Tammy readers in on how Dad’s remarriage has brought bully Carrie Knight into Sharon Day’s home, the story moves to its climax with Sharon being driven out of her own home because of the bully. There are also quick flashbacks to fill new readers in on “Rusty Remember Me” as well. But the story looks like it has more to go. Mum now knows the children are hiding a fox, but her fur allergy is complicating things. Dad left home to find work, but when the children see him, he is in a bad way. “Cassie’s Coach” is the only Tammy story to continue in the merger. It does so without any flashbacks for new readers’ benefit, and it’s taken a nasty turn – Cassie has suddenly collapsed from overwork.

The merger does away with “The Crayzees”. Instead, Tammy is taking over Princess’s Joe Collins cartoon, “Sadie in Waiting”. In so doing, it brings us Grovel, the first villainous butler since Pickering from “Molly Mills”, to Tammy. But while Pickering was a cruel, bullying slave driver, Grovel is more of a nuisance, in the way he sucks up to his employer, Princess Bee. Most often this leaves Princess Bee annoyed and Grovel in trouble. But like Pickering, Grovel is capable of scheming to get his own way.

Bella and Pam start afresh in the merger. There is a brief introduction to Bella and her back story that enables new readers to get to grips with her immediately, before her new story starts in earnest. Bella the wanderer decides it’s time to make another move, but it doesn’t look like a good one. Bella’s new location has no gymnastics club, so Bella is trying her hand at sports acrobatics instead. The trouble is, the coach is not very pleasant to her. And she’s not welcome in the home she is boarding in – someone has wrecked her room and left a message telling her to get out!

The Pam story is an introductory one, in which Pam introduces new readers to her school and friends through back issues of “The Pond Hill Printout”. This is a clever way to familiarise the new readers with Pam. Pam’s proper story starts next week.

The story “Diana – A Queen’s Dream” is a curious one. It is adapted from “For Love of Elizabeth” in Maureen Spurgeon’s book “Romantic Stories of Young Love”. In the story, Queen Elizabeth I takes a hand in a forbidden romance in the Spencer family. At the end, she dreams of a Lady Diana Spencer – who is realised as Princess Diana in the 20th century.

 

Stefa’s Heart of Stone (1976)

Sample Images

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Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Publication: 7 August 1976 to 11 December 1976

Reprint: Princess (series 2) 28 January 1984 and concluded in Tammy & Princess 2 June 1984

Summary

Stefa Giles and Joy Brett have been the closest of friends since they were toddlers. Mr Giles worries that they may be a little too inseparable, and Stefa tends to love too much, which can leave her open to being badly hurt. His concerns prove justified when Joy falls ill and dies.

The shock, pain and grief at losing Joy, are so traumatising for Stefa that she cannot bear the thought of experiencing it again. Taking a cue from a statue in her garden which seems impervious to everything because it is made of stone, Stefa resolves to turn her heart into stone so she will never again experience such pain. So Stefa, who had hitherto been a loving girl, refuses to love people anymore. She snubs her classmates, freezes off all friendships, and swallows down any emotion because “statues don’t!” She even strives to stop loving her parents, believing she must so that she will not grieve if she loses them.

The Giles parents put Stefa’s conduct down to the trauma of losing Joy, but they are deeply upset by how Stefa seems to be deliberately hurting them. At the advice of a doctor, they transfer to a new location. Stefa insists on bringing the statue, which she calls Stonyface. She ends up carrying Stonyface on her lap in the car as there is no room in the boot! Her parents are worried and upset that Stefa seems to be care more about the statue than them. They do not realise that Stefa identifies Stonyface as her only friend now that she is turning her heart into stone. Stefa’s pathological relationship with Stonyface leads to some hilarious situations, such as Stefa running away from home with Stonyface on a wheelbarrow – which gets her caught of course. On another occasion she sleeps on the lawn with Stonyface, only to wake up shivering from all the dew.

At her new school, Stefa snubs her classmates, who dub her “The Ice Maiden”. But Stefa is in for a shock – one of them, Ruth Graham, is a near double of Joy! Ruth also has the same sunny, caring personality as Joy and makes every effort she can to be friends with Stefa, regardless of every rebuff Stefa gives her. Ruth’s efforts intensify once she discovers Stefa’s problem. And as Ruth looks like Joy, Stefa finds it extremely difficult to fight her off; emotionally, she wants to embrace her. The presence of Ruth also brings out the grief that Stefa has not resolved and Stefa is embarrassed and humiliated when her grief keeps slipping through her stony behaviour. She becomes desperate to get away from Ruth, but her ploys to do so result in Dad losing his job and having to take a less paid one. The reduced income forces them to move into a council house.

Stonyface becomes a target for stone-throwing kids, but Stefa is not worried; the stones cannot hurt Stonyface, just as nothing else can. But her mother gets hit by a stone and is put in hospital. Although Stefa softens and cries over her injured mother, she soon hardens up again, believing she failed with her stony heart. “I should have been hard and uncaring like you!” she says to Stonyface and redoubles her efforts to turn into stone. So Mum, who was raising hopes that Stefa is her old self again, is in for a shock when she returns home.

After this Dad has had enough and decides it’s time to teach Stefa a lesson. He tells Stefa she must buy and cook her own food. Stefa welcomes it as it will widen the rift between her and her parents. But it becomes another test of her stoniness because Stefa is such a bad cook (although she is fifteen) that she suffers chronic indigestion. But in this case, the way to a person’s heart is not through their stomach, and she remains hard.

Stefa is still determined to avoid Ruth. But Dad will not have Stefa changing schools or ducking out of school to avoid Ruth. So Stefa tries to get expelled, but Ruth keeps foiling her. And Stefa soon finds she cannot avoid Ruth at home either because her parents start inviting her over. One sleepover has Stefa camping out on the lawn with Stonyface because she cannot share a room with Ruth. Stefa wakes up shivering from dew and her father is not impressed. She feels jealous of the attention her parents give Ruth, but swallows it down: “statues don’t!”

Stefa also finds that Ruth has suffered loss even greater than hers – her parents and brother. Stefa is briefly ashamed at Ruth having more courage than her. But she soon hardens her heart again, as she is confident that this will ensure she never suffers grief again while Ruth will.

Then another of Stefa’s tactics to avoid Ruth ends up with her having an accident, and Ruth insisting on going to her aid. In hospital, Stefa finally welcomes Ruth – but then finds the accident has caused her to turn into real stone. She has become a robot, incapable of any feelings or shedding tears. “She might as well be a tailor’s dummy,” says her mother, who is heartbroken to see Stefa worse than ever. It is such a horrible experience for Stefa that she does not want a stony heart anymore. But she cannot break free of the stony heart that now imprisons her. And now Stefa resents Stonyface, whom she believes has the key to her stony cell.

But then the cell unlocks when Stonyface is struck by a bolt of lightning and is smashed to pieces. When Stefa sees this, her stony heart shatters too and she returns to her loving self. Stefa’s parents are overjoyed to see this. Stefa apologises to Ruth and now asks her to be her friend. But there is more – Stefa’s parents want to adopt Ruth, so now Stefa and Ruth will be sisters as well.

Thoughts

Readers of girls’ comics love powerful emotional stories that tug at their heartstrings and reduce them to tears. No doubt this was one reason why Stefa was one of Jinty’s most popular stories. We know Stefa was one of Jinty’s most popular stories because in 1981 the editor said so in response to a letter asking for the story to be reprinted. The editor’s response also reveals that there was a huge demand in Pam’s Poll to repeat Stefa. Yet he still asked if there were others who wanted Stefa too. Hmm, was he hesitant about bringing Stefa back for some reason or did he want to test the waters a bit more? In any case, Jinty did not repeat Stefa, nor did the Tammy & Jinty merger. Eventually Stefa was reprinted in Princess (series 2) in 1984 and concluded in the Tammy & Princess merger. In fact, Princess repeated several old serials from Tammy and Jinty towards the end of her run – not a good sign for a new comic to be recycling old strips and it was an indication that Princess was in trouble.

Stefa was not the only serial to feature a girl who freezes her heart to avoid feeling grief again; Mandy’s “Little Miss Icicle” tried the same thing as Stefa, as did Tough Nut Tara in one Button Box story (Tammy). Jinty’s “Nothing to Sing About” had a similar theme, where the protagonist refuses to sing after her father, a famous singer, dies. Other Jinty stories that feature a protagonist who reacts badly to a loss include “The Ghost Dancer”, “I’ll Make Up for Mary” and “My Heart Belongs to Buttons”.

In most cases the grieving protagonist retains a measure of our sympathy as we watch and wait for the breakthrough that will bring them to their senses. But in this case it gets extremely difficult to sympathise with Stefa because she becomes an increasingly unsympathetic person in the way she treats her parents, classmates and Ruth in her efforts to stop loving. She does not seem to care that she is causing her parents a lot of heartache, anguish and trouble. The family is forced through two shifts; Mum has a near breakdown and then gets hospitalised; Stefa costs Dad his job and he is forced to take a lower-paid job that he finds a real comedown. The Giles family, who used to live well, are now reduced to living in a shabby council house. All because of Stefa’s conduct, but none of it shifts her stony heart. Nor do other things that we expect to make some impression, such as Stefa’s indigestion or discovering Ruth had a greater loss than hers. Even where it looks like something has got through at last, it is only temporary; Stefa soon hardens again.

Stefa is not only utterly selfish with her conduct but stupid too. She does not realise that she is ruining her life and making herself even more miserable than ever. One extremely sad example is Stefa’s birthday (above). It could have been a happy event, with Stefa enjoying her presents, new friends, a party, and her new guitar. But her stoniness turns her birthday into an unhappy one. She does not show the least pleasure in her birthday or gratitude for her presents; in fact, she throws them in the faces of the people who have given them. Stefa is determined to keep up her heart of stone, even on her birthday. What she would have done on Christmas Day we dread to think. Fortunately, it did not come to that.

It is so exasperating that nothing seems to get through to Stefa at all. For a moment something does seem to work, but it does not last and Stefa is back to her stony self. Is there anything that will work, or, as Ruth fears, Stefa has become too hard to melt? In any case, our sympathies turn more to Stefa’s parents and Ruth, and we marvel at Ruth for continuing to care about a girl who goes out of her way not to care about anything.

Ironically, the thing that does get through is what Stefa wanted – a stony heart. Once she has it, she finds she does not like it. Ah, the monkey paw experience does it again. And then, when Stonyface is smashed by lightning, Stefa realises that she has been mistaken about stone being impervious to everything. There are things that can affect stone and it can get damaged too. Clearly, the lightning did what should have been done all along.

One reason why Stefa must have been so popular was that it pushes so many buttons. In the real world, there are real-life Stefas who react against grief by becoming bitter and refuse to love again for fear of experiencing grief again. But like Stefa, all they do is make their lives even more miserable. And there the Ruths who work through their loss, refuse to let it ruin their lives, and come out of it even stronger. There are also warnings about loving too intensely as this can lead to tragedy. It is a warning shared by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which the lovers do not heed either. Finally, the story is a stern warning against bottling up emotions, especially grief. Express, acknowledge and accept them, or they will lead to emotional and psychological problems. Or get a good counsellor!