Tag Archives: prophecy

Diving Belle (1981)

Sample Images

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Published: 4 April 1981 – 6 June 1981 (10 episodes)

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Diving is big in the McBane family. Dad works as a deep-sea diver and his daughter Belle shows promise on the high-diving board. Dad is currently working on the oilrig at the “Fogbank”. The locals have misgivings about an oilrig on the Fogbank because of a superstition that the Fogbank is unlucky. Dad laughs at the superstition. He and his colleagues set off on a shift in their new bathyscaphe.

Later, Belle rescues a woman named Betty Black who is in danger of drowning. Betty says she will return the favour, but then she disappears.

There is an explosion out at the Fogbank rig, which causes Belle to have a bad accident at diving practice. The rig had blown up and is later abandoned. The bathyscaphe got lost, which means Dad is too, and the search is eventually called off. The doctor confines Belle to bed for a week, and of course she has lost her nerve for high diving.

However, Betty Black has other ideas. She says she has gypsy blood and can foresee the future. What she foresaw has her telling Belle that she must start diving again and be at her peak within days. Betty says she was a high-diving champion before she injured her back – so she couldn’t save herself when she was drowning – but she can still coach Belle to the upmost.

Belle is not 100% sure of Betty’s credibility or coaching credentials. She suspects Betty may be a thief too. Still, instinct keeps telling her to trust Betty. Betty is very insistent that Belle re-train as fast as possible, for time is limited. Betty’s tactics certainly are strong-armed in making Belle overcome her shattered nerves from diving, but it works. The coaching is not only intense but also takes liberties in finding avenues in which to train. They break into school for secret diving practice. When the caretaker discovers them it’s training on the cliffs with an improvised diving board. The board breaks, so next it’s Betty having Belle take the place of a stunt diver at the funfair. This really crosses the line to dangerous because Belle has to dive from a board that’s even higher than an international diving board, and she has to land in a shallow tub of water! Nonetheless she manages to pull it off. They then have to do a hasty retreat when the fairground people discover Belle is not their stunt diver. Next they gate-crash a garden party so Belle can use the diving board there. They are discovered and their efforts to get away cause chaos.

They arrive back at Belle’s home, where the police are waiting. They say Betty is wanted for burglary, shoplifting and common theft, and Belle has some serious explaining to do as well. Then Betty has the final vision of where Belle is meant to do the dive, and she must do it right now. They break away from the police and do a crazy dash to get there, with the police in hot pursuit. The place for the dive is none other than the abandoned oilrig – which means Belle has to do an extremely dangerous dive from the height of the oilrig!

Belle trusts her instincts, which say that she and Betty are doing the right thing. She dives, much to the horror of everyone who is watching below. They realise a dive from that height would make her go extremely deep in the ocean. Deep enough, it would seem, for Belle to find Dad’s bathyscaphe, which is all caught up in the legs of the oilrig. Belle’s dive and ensuing rescue save the men in the nick of time, for they were on their last hour of oxygen.

Afterwards it is surmised the blast sent the bathyscaphe all the way to the ocean bottom, out of reach of the initial search. It then floated upwards, but got caught in the oilrig’s legs and the search had been called off by then. If not for Belle’s dive and Betty’s visions the men would have died. So the police drop the charges against Betty. It turns out she had been quite truthful about being a diving champion before her injury. Belle resolves to win so many medals for Betty that she will become the most sought-after coach in Britain.

Thoughts

Now this could well be the most intense and offbeat “comeback” serial in girls’ comics. A girl loses her nerve after an accident, but she sets out to make a comeback, either because she loves her sport too much or something vital, such as saving a beloved horse, depends on it. In Belle’s case it is the latter, but the story is irregular in that Belle has no idea exactly what the comeback is supposed to be for. Not even Betty, who is having the visions in the first place, knows exactly what it is about. Her powers don’t give her the full picture, only flashes. The final vision only reveals where the all-important dive has to be. It doesn’t reveal why the dive has to be done. Some readers might guess it has something to do with saving Dad and his comrades, but it’s all kept mysterious until Belle finds the bathyscaphe. However, the reveal should come as no surprise to readers.

Adding to the mystery is that we, along with Belle, can’t be 100% certain that Betty can be trusted. Only intuition tells Belle to keep on trusting Betty, against the face of the more suspicious aspects about the woman. And in the end, intuition turns out to be 100% right. This story sure is a salutary lesson in trusting your gut.

What turns out to be a race against time against the dwindling oxygen supply in the bathyscaphe makes for very tight plotting. There can be no mucking around with padding to stretch out the story, or go gently with Belle’s shattered nerves after the accident. Of course retraining Belle for the dive still does not go smoothly, which is to be expected. Betty has to be very inventive in devising ways to train Belle up as avenue after avenue closes. Unfortunately this leads to conflict with the law, which is all the more reason for saving the men with the all-important dive.

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Cursed to be a Coward! (1977)

Sample images

Cursed 1

Cursed 2

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Cursed 3

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Publication: 13/8/77-29/10/77

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #21 as “The Fortune Teller”; Tina Topstrip #49 as Zoals de waarzegster voorspelde (As the fortune teller predicted)

Plot
Ever since infancy Marnie Miles has shown promise as a brilliant swimmer like her late father, and Mum encourages her. At her new school, Marnie becomes one of the best swimmers at “The Mermaids”, the school swimming club, and can’t get enough of water.

That is, until she meets Madame Leo, a sinister-looking fortune-teller. Madame Leo makes a prophecy for Marnie’s cousin Babs: “I see falling, falling…there is much danger.” A year later it comes true when a plank falls on Babs and leaves her crippled. Then Madame Leo turns up again and seems to be shadowing Marnie, warning her that they will meet again in a week. And a week later, at the school fete, Madame Leo shows up and scares Marnie with another prophecy: “You are going to end up in blue water!” Marnie flees the tent in terror. She also feels odd, as if she had been cursed.

Marnie takes the prophecy to mean that she is going to drown in blue water. As a result, she develops hydrophobia (fear of water). When she fails a drowning child because of it and people call her a coward, she believes she is now “cursed to be a coward” by that fortune-teller.

The hydrophobia just gets worse and worse. Marnie won’t cross a puddle because she is too terrified of water. She begs the bus driver to let her out once she sees it is about to cross a river of blue water. At a high-diving event she asks for a rubber ring! As Marnie’s hydrophobia intensifies, so do the problems it creates. She failed to help that drowning child because she is too terrified of water. As the word spreads, the girls at school gang up on her, calling her a coward. Their bullying intensifies along with Marnie’s hydrophobia. Not even the presence of Marnie’s mother makes the bullies back off, and Marnie finds “COWARD” daubed on her house. Miss Frame, the swimming coach, is surprised at Marnie’s behaviour she seems to be losing her nerve or something. At home, Mum can’t understand why Marnie is suddenly turning against water and giving up on swimming. Marnie won’t tell Mum because she doesn’t want Mum to worry.

Marnie tries to fight back against the curse that seems to be turning her into a coward, but her hydrophobia is too strong. She turns to Babs for help, and Babs agrees to a cover story for Marnie giving up on swimming.

But the problem is still there, so Marnie decides to go back to Madame Leo to see if Madame Leo is willing to redress the problem. Marnie just finds the crystal ball, which shows a rather vague image of her waving her arms around. Marnie thinks it shows her drowning and takes off in a fright, not realising Madame Leo has seen her.

When Marnie participates in a high-diving event, Madame Leo turns up in the gallery and terrorises her with reminders of the prophecy. Marnie faints and falls right off the diving board! She is rescued, and now tells her mother the truth. Mum tries to track down Madame Leo but fails, and loses her job as a result.

Then Mum gets a housekeeper’s job with Mr Rennie. He has a swimming pool. The water there is green, not blue, so Marnie decides the water is safe for her to swim in and get back in training. Mr Rennie encourages Marnie.

Marnie now tells Miss Frame the truth. Mum allows Miss Frame to resume coaching of Marnie, but on strict condition that she is not to leave Marnie for a moment. However, Madame Leo disguises herself as a cleaner and diverts Miss Frame by knocking a photograph of one Lorna Gray, one of the former school swimming champions, off the wall and into the water. While Miss Frame is busy with the photograph, Madame Leo tries to drown Marnie and would have succeeded but for some fast resuscitation from Miss Frame. The police are called in but do not take the complaint seriously and Madame Leo denies it all. However, when Madame Leo was trying to drown Marnie, she reveals why she hates her. It is because Marnie bears a striking resemblance to Lorna, a girl Madame Leo has hated for 30 years. She does not say why she hates Lorna.

Babs and Marnie go to the fete to confront Madame Leo. Babs urges Marnie to try and break her crystal ball. But this just gets them into trouble with the police and another triumph for Madame Leo, who is now terrorising Marnie with threats of the prophecy and attempts at drowning her at every turn.

Then Mr Rennie dies, and he leaves Marnie and her mother a legacy – a houseboat called Blue Water. Marnie realises that this is what the prophecy means by “blue water” and has nothing to do with drowning. She starts dancing for joy (revealing what she was actually doing in the crystal ball) and is now cured of her hydrophobia.

However, Madame Leo is lurking nearby. She knew the truth about Blue Water all along, and now sees the game is up. She makes a last-ditch, desperate effort to drown Marnie. But it backfires when Madame Leo misses Marnie, goes into the water, and Marnie ends up saving her from drowning! A policeman was watching, so Madame Leo is finally arrested.

Afterwards it is established that the reason Madame Leo hated Lorna Gray and took it out on Marnie is that she (wrongly) blamed Lorna for her sister’s drowning at the seaside 30 years ago. It is not revealed as to why Madame Leo blamed Lorna or why she was wrong to do so. Madame Leo’s reaction to being rescued by Marnie and her ultimate fate are not recorded. But for Marnie, there is no looking back. Her classmates apologise for calling her a coward once they hear about her rescuing Madame Leo and hail her as a heroine for it. Marnie is back with the Mermaids. She is soon winning championships for the school and is looking forward to a swimming career with the help of Blue Water.

Thoughts

Alison Christie is better known for writing emotional, tear-jerker stories in girls’ comics. So it was a surprise to learn that she wrote this thriller story featuring a psychotic would-be killer, a tormented, persecuted girl turning into a nervous wreck from hydrophobia and being constantly harassed, and elements of the supernatural abounding with the prophecy, crystal balls, psychic powers and premonitions. And it’s all brought off brilliantly with the artwork of Mario Capaldi, whose artwork really brings off insanity and pathological hatred that is consuming Madame Leo, and what a creepy, sinister crone she is, even before she has started harassing Marnie. Madame Leo is the only villainous fortune-teller to appear in Jinty, and in her we see the antithesis of Gypsy Rose, the resident gypsy clairvoyant in Jinty. Imagine if we got the two together.

Christie’s handling of the prophecy was spot on. It was exactly how the prophecy should work – a riddle filled with double meanings. The recipient of the prophecy takes what appears to be the obvious meaning, so it comes as a twist and surprise to the recipient (and the readers) when the prophecy turns out to mean something entirely different. Macbeth is a classic example of this. But unlike Macbeth, the twist was good for Marnie. And it looked like there were some unexpected twists for Madame Leo as well; she had long since foreseen what “blue water” truly meant, but she did not foresee her life being saved by the girl she was trying to kill, or that she would fail in her hate campaign.

One of the best conceptions of this story is Marnie’s personality, how it makes her so vulnerable to Madame Leo’s curse, and how this is structured in the buildup in the first episode. When Marnie and Babs first visit Madame Leo at the fair, we immediately see how impressionable and suggestible Marnie is. In the first place, she is not even keen to visit the fortune-teller because that sort of thing scares her, but Babs insists. And Madame Leo strikes Marnie as a sinister-looking woman even before Madame Leo starts terrorising her. Marnie is far more terrified at Babs’s prophecy than Babs is, and when it is fulfilled, Marnie is in no doubt about Madame Leo’s powers. When Madame Leo shows up and tells Marnie they will meet in a week, Marnie gets even more scared – not least because of the way Madame Leo looks at her. Even before Marnie meets Madame Leo at the school fete, she suddenly finds herself shaking for no reason. And Madame Leo does not just tell Marnie the prophecy – she seizes her and forces her to listen when Marnie wants to get the hell out of there without any fortunes told, thank you very much. When Marnie gets out, she is not just scared – she also feels odd, as if she had been cursed.

And is she cursed? In the end it is revealed that this is not the case because Marnie misconstrued the prophecy. So it was Marnie’s imagination and suggestibility, being so easy to scare, getting all wound up by that creepy fortune-teller and her prophecy, and getting odd feelings of foreboding that could be anything from real sixth sense to superstitious imagination. But until then, we readers are left to wonder if she really is cursed, and whether that fortune-teller is right and Marnie is going to go the same way as Babs. Even without Madame Leo’s harassment it is terrifying enough. But when Madame Leo starts terrorising Marnie directly and tries to kill her, we get what must be some of the most terrifying scenes in girls’ comics. Fainting on a high-diving board? Being attacked in the swimming pool and nearly murdered? Wow! And all the while, Madame Leo preys upon and amplifies Marnie’s false fears about “blue water” to make her all the more terrified. Years of fortune-telling must have given Madame Leo experience in the human psyche because she is a master of fear and manipulation in the way she plays upon Marnie’s fears; she is extremely crafty in how she steadily builds up to scare Marnie with the prophecy in the first episode. We have to wonder if she has done similar tricks with other people; she looks sinister enough for that.

It is a bit frustrating that we never learn the fate of Madame Leo after her arrest. Presumably she was put into some sort of psychiatric care. But how did she react to being rescued by the girl she was trying to kill? Did it change her attitude in any way, or was her mind too far gone for that? Perhaps there was not enough room on the final page to address any of this, but couldn’t they have had a text box at least to tell us what happens to her? And we never learn why Madame Leo blamed Lorna for her sister’s death or why she was wrong to do so. Perhaps there was not enough room on the last page for that either. Or maybe Christie or the editor decided not to delve into it and preferred to focus on Marnie for the final panels.

When it is revealed that Madame Leo was persecuting Lorna (through Marnie) for nothing, it comes as no surprise if you know girls’ comics well. Serials featuring hate-filled people who persecute someone (or organisation) for revenge, only to find out that they were mistaken about them, have cropped up regularly in girls’ comics. “Down with St Desmond’s!” (Bunty) is a classic example, and the theme was a frequent one in DCT titles. The theme was less common in Jinty, but some Jinty stories with the theme or elements of it are “Go On, Hate Me!“,  “The Ghost Dancer”, “Slave of the Swan” and “Waves of Fear“.

 

The Bow Street Runner (1981)

Sample images

Bow Street 1

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Bow Street 2

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Bow Street 3

Publication: 10/10/81 – concluded in Tammy & Jinty merger

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

The Bow Street Runner holds a particular place in Jinty history for being the only Jinty serial (besides Pam of Pond Hill and Gypsy Rose, which were regulars) to continue in Tammy & Jinty. It is also where long-running Jinty artist Phil Townsend crosses over from the Jinty team to the Tammy team.

Beth Speede, as her name suggests, has a talent for running. In Bow Street, where she lives, she is known as the Bow Street Runner because she uses her speed to run errands for the residents, most of whom are elderly and invalid. Among them is Beth’s own father, who suffers from a heart condition. This means he can’t get a good job. Mum can’t either because she is lame. So the Speedes, like everyone else in Bow Street, are a poor lot. Still, Bow Street may be a poor and rundown street – which gets it threatened with demolition at one point – but it is home to everyone who lives there. They are a close knit community bound together by Beth the Bow Street Runner. The street would fall down without her, and her invalid parents wouldn’t survive without her either. Quite literally, in fact – it is the Bow Street Runner herself who saves Bow Street from demolition. The street gets modernised instead.

But Beth is soon putting her talent to far more serious uses when she receives a prophecy from a fortune teller: “I see you running for help across green fields…I see the face of a girl crying.” Beth is completely terrified by this prophecy. She takes it to mean she is running to get help for her sick father, and the girl crying is herself – crying because she failed. So she takes up cross country running to increase her speed, in the hope that she will outrace the prophecy and save her father.

However, there is a cross country championship and trophy that is also at stake. So naturally, Beth, like any other heroine of a sports serial, finds herself up against an enemy who makes constant trouble for her. In Beth’s case it is Louise Dunn, a rich snobby girl (and nose to match) who has been promised a pony if she wins the championship. Louise’s tricks include tying knots in Beth’s shoelaces, getting her suspended from the sports club, and interfering with the markers. And it gets even worse when Louise finds out about the prophecy and starts using it against Beth.

Stories about poor girls who work to rise above (or work with) their poverty are always popular. And readers love stories about girls who find a talent but face all sorts of adversity – largely in the form of a spiteful enemy – in using it to prove themselves and triumph at the end of the story. “Tears of a Clown“, “Minnow”, “Concrete Surfer”, and “A Dream for Yvonne” are just some of the Jinty stories with this theme.

However, what should be the greatest strength that carries this story is instead the weakness that lets the whole story down – the prophecy. Sorry, but you can tell a mile off that Beth has got it wrong. The prophecy is just too vague, wide open to other interpretations, and Beth’s interpretation of it is just so stretched and forced that you can’t really understand how on earth she can come to that conclusion. For the prophecy to work, it should take the form of a riddle with double meanings. Beth (and the reader) takes what appears to be the most obvious meaning. Then Beth (and the reader) is taken by surprise when it turns out that the prophecy had an entirely different meaning. Jinty had the right effect in “Cursed to be a Coward!” Here the heroine receives a prophecy that says: “You will end in blue water.” The heroine takes this to mean she will drown, and becomes terrified of water. But it turns out the prophecy is referring to an actual name – Blue Water – the name of her new house boat. But in “The Bow Street Runner” the prophecy menace does not work, and it comes to absolutely nobody’s surprise when Beth finds she has got the prophecy wrong. The prophecy meant running for help for Louise, who had an accident during the championship run. And the girl crying is a deeply remorseful Louise. So it has to be said that this story is not as good as it should have been because the prophecy looks like it has been badly thought through.

Oh yes, Beth wins the championship and becomes the pride of Bow Street. Louise’s dad builds the Speede family a bungalow at the top of Bow Street as a reward. But Beth is very happy to remain the Bow Street Runner.