Tag Archives: redemption narrative

Lights Out for Lucinda (1975-76)

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Published: Tammy 6 December 1975 to 7 February 1976

Episodes: 10 single episodes, 1 double episode

Artist: Ken Houghton

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Rich girl Lucinda Prior is a spoiled brat, and she guzzles a lot too (not to the proportions of Bessie Bunter but still telling). She has her chauffeur drive out to where her father is having a meeting, which is oddly in the middle of nowhere on the moor. She is surprised to find soldiers on the moor, who tell her they guard a site of a ghost town called Blackmarket, which has been sealed off because WW2 top secret gas manufacturing made it toxic.

Lucinda then finds her chauffeur has stranded her on the moor. He did so because he got fed up with her bratty behaviour. He didn’t give a thought that this could put her in danger, which it does when a mist rises and she gets lost, and then she falls into a river. She washes up in Blackmarket.

Lucinda is astonished to find Blackmarket inhabited by people who are still living in World War II, right down to thinking they’re living in the Blitz. Blackmarket is surrounded by guards who ensure nobody ever leaves, even to the point of opening fire on them. The Blackmarket people say nobody is allowed to leave because the work they do is top secret. They don’t listen when Lucinda tries to tell them the war has long since ended. Soon Lucinda finds she’s in a virtual madhouse with nothing but 12-hour shifts in a WW2 factory, with constant blackouts, no street lighting, stuffy rooms from the blackouts, lack of decent food, and sections of the place that do look bombed-out. It’s all women and girls around her; all the men apparently off to war. Any men present are the army guards, seen only at a distance, and the sneaky spivs (black marketeers).

Certainly a shock to the system for anyone, but Lucinda’s spoiled behaviour is making it even harder for her to handle it. She is expected to pitch in and help the war effort with factory work, and is mortified to work alongside the unwashed and dirtying her hands. But the factory forewoman, Mrs Drew, isn’t the sort to take no for an answer. Moreover, Miss Guzzler is now faced with wartime rations, which lack nutrition and taste. Her spoiled conduct has them calling her “Her Ladyship”. 

Lucinda quickly switches to playing along as best she can, saying she’s confused and suffering memory loss after London bombing, which serves well as a cover for her not having the ID card they keep demanding or ration books. But she still hasn’t broken the pattern of her old behaviour, and is also taking advantage of good-natured people who try to help her, such as her new friend Annie. When Lucinda is told to clean a factory machine and slapped for not doing it, she foists it onto another worker, Gert, but is reported for shirking. To make Mrs Drew even angrier, Gert collapsed because of it. Lucinda’s punishment is to clean the canteen grease trap. 

At this, Lucinda makes a run for it, only to find the way she came has now been sealed, which not only cuts off this means of escape but also cuts Blackmarket even further off from the outside world. Lucinda is now convinced the gas is no longer a danger, so why is the army keeping Blackmarket sealed off? 

Lucinda then encounters a spiv who offers her chocolate flogged from the army, but the chocolate’s even worse than the war rations. She takes other foodstuffs the spiv offers in exchange for her watch. She offers it to Annie and her mother for making up for eating their cheese ration. But the WPC, who have called in about Lucinda’s shirking, confiscate it, and now Lucinda’s in trouble for black marketing as well as being work shy. 

Next day, Lucinda has to clean the canteen grease trap for shirking, which is a vile job. But this time she feels guilty when Annie and her friends pitch in to help her, as she knows this cuts into their 12-hour shifts and they will have to work even longer at the factory. She also begins to sympathise with the women and girls for the life they have to lead in Blackmarket. So much so that she begins to develop the wartime spirit and starts sharing food instead of scoffing it. Lucinda’s also impressed these people can find ways to cheer themselves up despite their hardships. It makes her realise how materialistic and hedonistic her old life was, and she’s making friends for the first time in her life. As time goes on, she begins to like her new way of life because of the friends she’s making, and is surprises herself at how selfless she is becoming. For example, she takes a box of chocolates she obtained earlier from the spivs to Gert to atone for the way she treated her. Along the way she gives a lot of the chocolates to kids who are so thin from wartime rations. Only two are left for Gert, who doesn’t mind when she hears why, and Lucinda did not scoff any of them.

As time goes on, Lucinda finds herself growing confused about whether it is the seventies or WW2. She’s hearing radio newsbroadcasts about how the war’s going, and now she’s even finding herself even thinking like she’s in WW2. Is the place getting to her and having a brainwashing effect, or is something else at work? She has to keep a grip on herself. 

Lucinda is finally introduced to the person in charge of Blackmarket: Commander Hobbs. The Commander issues Lucinda with an ID card and ration cards, but also strips her of her modern clothes and puts her in factory clothes to work in the factory. The Commandant later burns Lucinda’s clothes, destroying the one proof Lucinda belatedly realised she had to show WW2 has long since ended – made in Germany clothes. Lucinda also discovers the Commander deliberately removed the label saying so, who destroys it right in front of Lucinda. 

An air raid strikes, and even the spivs help to cheer people up in the air raid shelter. But Lucinda’s the only one to notice there is no evidence of bombing afterwards and says this out loud. The Commander’s reaction to this makes Lucinda suspect the Commander faked it, but Lucinda realises she’s made the mistake of alerting the Commander to her suspicions. 

Another thing that’s odd is that Lucinda has been at the factory for some time now, but it’s not been established just what they are manufacturing. And since it can’t be for the war effort as they believe, than what or who is it for? They also have to take pills with their rations – ostensibly, vitamin pills. When Lucinda resists taking hers because she hates tablets, Mrs Drew forces her to take it. 

Hearing the spivs are smuggling their goods in from over the wire, Lucinda tries to enlist a spiv to get a message out for help, but he accuses her of being a spy. Lucinda’s resistance against this strange setup has earned her a reputation as a troublemaker and possible Hitler sympathiser. 

Suspicious, Annie takes Lucinda to the Commander, where they overhear an odd remark between the Commander and the spiv about the vitamin pills making Lucinda “safe”. Following this and a strange spell of confusion where she finds herself thinking it is WW2, Lucinda suspects the vitamin tablets are really some sort of mind-bending drug. She decides to test her theory by not taking her pill, but the Commander and Mrs Drew force her to. Lucinda soon feels the effect of the drug, and is forced to stab her hand to break its power. She finds the pain sorely needed to keep a grip on her identity, as the effects of the pill are still lingering. 

There’s another air raid alarm. Now convinced it’s all a fake, Lucinda just walks out of the air raid shelter. Sure enough, there’s no air raid out there, and she suspects the sounds are coming from a door marked “Top Secret No Admittance”. But on the other side of the door the Commander has Lucinda on CCTV and, seeing the threat she poses, presses the red button. This causes an explosion to simulate a house being bombed, and Lucinda is caught in the debris. She is rescued from the rubble and now wondering if there really was a bomb raid. But Mrs Drew makes a slip of the tongue that has her realise the truth. 

Lucinda decides to play along, pretending she has succumbed, until she figures out what to do. Despite what happened before, she again tries to get the spivs to help her. Their reaction to refusing even bribery to help her makes her realise they must be in league with the Commander. The spivs chase Lucinda to the factory, where the workers rally around Lucinda and duff up the spivs for cheating them all the time. 

The fight distracts the Commander long enough for Lucinda to slip into into her top secret room. There she discovers the elaborate and definitely not 1940s technology that’s behind the whole charade. She’s also interested in what’s in an open filing cabinet, but then the Commander and Mrs Drew return. Lucinda manages to slip out, knocking out Mrs Drew in the process, and head back to the factory. At the factory it’s payday, at WW2 rates of £2/14/6, and what the spivs have reported to the Commander about Lucinda has aroused her suspicions. 

Lucinda turns to telling the workers there is no more WW2, they’re being brainwashed by those tablets, and they should take a look behind the locked door. She persuades them to stop taking the tablets, and they are also suspicious by the Commander and Mrs Drew’s reactions. The Commander threatens to blow up the factory at this sudden insurgence and takes Lucinda away to her office. 

In her office the Commander admits to the charade. She recruited WW2 Blitz widows as it was easier to bend their minds, and threw some kids into the mix for more authenticity. The spivs (and presumably the phoney army guards) are escaped convicts. She was using the women as cheap labour, using the WW2 simulation to pay them at 1940s rates instead of modern ones (and with predecimal currency in an era that has dispensed with £sd?!). The goods the workers make are sold at modern prices, making the huge difference between the cost of production and cost of retail a huge profit. The Commander then reveals Blackmarket’s biggest customer is…Lucinda’s father, and all the wealth Lucinda used to enjoy came from the Blackmarket operation. 

Dad comes along, and it looks like he is indeed the man behind Blackmarket and the Commander is his accomplice. He offers to take Lucinda home, nobody the wiser, but Lucinda repulses him. She’s going to help her Blackmarket friends, and runs back to them, despite Dad yelling she could get him thrown in prison. 

Back at the factory, Lucinda finds the workers have recovered their true memories after a break from the pills. Now everyone rises up against the Commander. The Commander and the spivs threaten to quell the revolt with guns, but Dad soon has them rounded up with a real army. 

Dad says he was forced to act the way he did. He genuinely did not know how the Commander was providing the goods so cheaply but was growing suspicous. When the Commander found out Lucinda’s true identity, she tried to blackmail him into keeping quiet, and also get more money out of him, in exchange for Lucinda’s freedom. Dad promises he will build a proper factory on the Blackmarket site and pay the workers modern rates. But first he’s going to throw a VE-Day celebration for them all.

Thoughts

As with Jinty, it was rare for Tammy to have a World War II serial. The theme was seen more frequently in Tammy’s complete stories, such as her Strange Stories. 

It’s one of Tammy’s many slave stories, but with a difference: we’re not sure what to make of it or what’s behind it, so there’s a mystery just begging to be solved. The setup being what it is, could it be people who got left behind in World War II when the town got cut off? Could Lucinda have even gone back in time to the real World War II? Is someone pulling some weird experiment? Is it someone’s crazy idea of boosting television ratings (a la Mr Grand from “Village of Fame” or “The Revenge of Edna Hack” from Tammy)? It’s certainly a very elaborate way to conduct a racket, but that’s precisely what it turns out to be. 

The racket is far more imaginative than many slave rackets we’ve seen in girls’ comics: slaves trapped in a simulation of a historical period where they can’t realise what’s going on because they’ve been drugged and everything looks like the era, and they think they’re working in a good cause. They’re totally isolated from anyone or anything able to tell them otherwise until Lucinda arrives. It certainly makes a change from seeing girls kidnapped, pulled off the streets, recruited from workhouses or pressganged in other ways to work as slave labour in factories, business operations, or rackets of various kinds. It also makes a change from punishment after punishment being piled upon the protagonist for constant resistance and failed escape attempts. Instead, the Commander tries to subdue Lucinda as she has the others – through the mind-bending drug. When that faces failure, she tries to dispose of Lucinda, and then, once she discovers Lucinda’s true identity, uses her to make herself even more of a Mrs Big of the operation. 

Having Lucinda start as an unlikeable person rather than a nice person gives her a more rounded personality and have her undergo far more character development. It must be said the panels with the bratty Lucinda are more attention-grabbing than ones of a good-natured protagonist, and this arouses our interest in the story even more. We all know Lucinda will change for the better at Blackmarket, but we are all eager to see just how the change unfolds, so we happily follow the story for this as well as unravelling the mystery of Blackmarket.

Lucinda’s initial bratty reactions to these unwashed people, being expected to dirty her hands alongside them and wartime rations are not surprising. Some problem girls are tough nuts to crack and take a while to reform. But Lucinda’s smart move to switch to playing along enables her to change fairly quickly, with little in the way of relapse, and her change for the better is realistically handled. Although Mrs Drew is clearly a villain and a hard case forewoman, we have to cheer her for ordering Lucinda the brat to clean the machinery and then the grease trap. 

Lucinda’s initial snobbishness changes to sympathy and admiration for how these people can bear up under the severe demands of wartime privations. Guilt also kicks in when she sees how others are suffering because she’s not doing her share of the work at the factory. Shock at seeing how thin the kids are from wartime diet has her change from guzzling food to sharing it. But the biggest lesson is learning the value of friendship and having friends for the first time in her life. So much so that she is willing to sacrifice the chance to go home with her father because she refuses to abandon her friends to their fate. Also adding to the change in Lucinda is the growing disorientation over where she is and keeping a grip on her identity. She knows it’s the seventies, but even before she starts the mind-bending tablets the place is getting to her and she’s beginning to think it really is World War II. It’s hard to keep up bratty behaviour against such stress. 

Lucinda is surprising even herself in the way she is changing. And the old Lucinda would be astonished at how she is now. Sharing food, willing to get her hands dirty, learning to appreciate what she took for granted, discovering the value of friendship, even stabbing herself to break the power of a mind-bending drug. The bratty Lucinda would never have dreamed of such things and only cared about luxury and the city lights. 

Subtle changes in the art reflect the changes in Lucinda’s body as well. She’s losing the weight gain from guzzling and going from being too chubby to fit into the clothes she’s ordered to slimming down to wartime proportions. Facing true hunger and restrictions on food has her learning to appreciate food, even the stodgy wartime rations. 

It’s an enormous shock to Lucinda when her own father is revealed to be the man profiting from Blackmarket. It’s the ultimate test for Lucinda’s new character: do what is right, although she’ll send her own father to prison, or take the easy way out with Dad? When Lucinda gallantly chooses the former because she won’t abandon her friends, for a moment it looks like she will go the way of Amanda Harvey, who discovers the man behind the sewing slavery racket of “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory” (Girl 2) is her own father and now has to turn him in. It is a relief when Dad says he was forced into behaving the way he did and had no idea what was going on. 

Mind you, that’s assuming he was telling the truth and not covering up for himself. There was that meeting he was having way back in the first episode – right in the middle of nowhere on the moor, right where the Blackmarket racket is operating. That sure is suspicious. And it is never explained. There might be a reasonable explanation, but are we willing to give him benefit of the doubt? 

The wartime hardships these women endure arouse not only Lucinda’s sympathies but ours as well. The creative team are giving us a serious lesson on how hard life was for British people in World War II from blackouts, bombings, slaving for the war effort, food rations that are in uncertain supply, the mental stress and breakdowns from it all (“bomb happy” as they call it), and hoping against hope that VE-Day will come. The effect is telling not only on their minds but also their bodies. They’re going unwashed because washing’s difficult. It’s not even Auschwitz, yet children are thin and stunted from short food supplies and the rotten wartime diet. Yet their spirits remain unbroken, they appreciate cheeriness and sparks of luxury wherever they find it, and they find courage and strength in the wartime spirit. The story shows us that even decades after World War II ended, the wartime spirit can still resonate and its message ring for modern generations.

Nurse Grudge (1979)

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Published: Tammy 3 March 1979 to 12 May 1979

Episodes: 11

Artist: Tony Coleman

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Greta Jones becomes a student nurse at St Jane’s Hospital, but although she wants to be a nurse her real motive is to take revenge on the staff she believes are responsible for her doctor father’s dismissal twenty years earlier. Guiding her is her father’s old diary, which got left behind when he vanished years ago, leaving Greta to be raised in an orphanage. It is full of the names of the people who turned against him, but it never seems to explain what he was dismissed for. Greta does not know either but intends to find out from the staff. She also befriends Old Fred the hospital porter. Although Old Fred gives no sign he knows Greta’s game, he seems to take odd actions that either protect Greta or foil her tricks. 

Greta’s revenge takes the form of nasty tricks, many of which take the form of vandalism, which are pulled on whoever’s name pops up in the diary. Of course it does not take the staff long to realise a troublemaker is at work, and after one incident where Greta is spotted and nearly caught, they know it is one of the student nurses. Sister Harris, who is in charge of the student, issues a general warning for the troublemaker to desist. Greta decides to ignore this and carry on, with more caution. 

However, things get even more risky for Greta when of her fellow student nurses, Jocelyn, rumbles her after glimpsing the diary and then catching her red-handed. Greta manages to keep one step ahead of Jocelyn but can’t allay Jocelyn’s suspicions. Greta decides to set up a phony alibi during a weekend stay at Jocelyn’s: drug everyone in the household and slip back to the hospital to cause more trouble. 

Unfortunately, upon her return, the trick backfires dreadfully on Greta. It results in Jocelyn getting seriously injured and difficulties in getting help because of the vandalism Greta caused at the hospital and drugging everyone in the household. Greta is forced to do the preliminary first aid on Jocelyn herself while waiting for the ambulance. As she does so, she realises she wasn’t paying proper attention to her nurse training because she was too distracted by revenge. Only with notes from Dad’s diary is she able to provide adequate treatment. Seeing her revenge went too far, Greta decides to end it. Jocelyn, grateful to Greta, tacitly agrees to keep things quiet. Greta looks set for a fresh start.

But oh, what a time to get found out! It is now that Sister Harris discovers the diary, which got left in the ambulance by mistake, and realises Greta is the troublemaker. She marches Greta off to the hospital authorities. Greta does not deny anything and shouts it is because of how they ganged up on her father and ruined him. The staff explain that her father brought the trouble on himself. He got so carried away celebrating Greta’s birth that in a moment of carelessness, his cigar smouldered on some curtains, which started a fire that nearly burned the hospital down. His own wife perished in the blaze and he was barely able to save baby Greta. Now Greta faces expulsion, and her dream of being a nurse looks doomed. 

Then an ambulance arrives, bringing in some very sick patients from Heathrow. The ambulance men have collapsed from the illness as well. Old Fred promptly diagnoses the condition as a tropical fever that is highly contagious and could start an epidemic. He then reveals himself as…Greta’s father in disguise. 

Dad says the hospital is not equipped to deal with this particular disease, which is unknown in England but horribly contagious, and insists on dealing with it himself. Greta tearfully declares she will help as his nurse. But the staff are not listening. So Dad and Greta seize the ambulance and drive it to an embassy to get the serum for the patients. It’s a mad scramble to get there, with not only the hospital on their tail now but the police as well!

On the way, Dad explains that after his dismissal, he left England and worked in the tropics, which not only built up his expertise in tropical diseases but also rebuilt his self-esteem and confidence as a doctor after his disgrace shattered it. Eventually he returned to England but was too scared to reveal himself. So he disguised himself as Old Fred the porter at his old hospital as a form of penance. He recognised Greta, realised what she was up to, and was trying to help where possible when things were getting out of hand.


At the embassy they get the serum to help the patients and contain the potential epidemic. After this, they both feel redeemed. Impressed by their actions, the ambassador helps to sort things out with the police and St Jane’s, and offers both Greta and Dad the opportunity to help patients in the tropics. This also enables Greta to complete her training and become a nurse after all.

Thoughts

As with Jinty, nursing serials were rare in Tammy. Both Tammy and Jinty used the nurse theme more often in their complete stories. Tammy did not seem to use revenge serials much either, but when she did, the best example was “The Fairground of Fear”.

Nurse Grudge had a strong influence on me when I first started reading Tammy, and it was one of my favourites. Its most lasting impact was being the first story to introduce me to the now-familiar formula in girls’ comics that whenever a protagonist is out for revenge, she so often discovers she was wrong about the whole thing and her victims were innocent. She was misguided, didn’t have all the facts, jumped to the wrong conclusion, or was deliberately fed a tissue of lies. And in these types of revenge serials there is often, but not always, a mystery is attached that needs to be solved. In other cases, the protagonist does start off with a justified motive for revenge (e.g. “The Cat Came Back…” from Suzy, “Stella Stirrer” from Tammy and “When Harry Dumped Sally” from Bunty). However, it can go too far or expose the protagonist to danger. 

In Greta’s case, it’s all because of Dad’s diary. Although Dad is suffering from guilt and shattered self-esteem, this is not reflected in his diary. Instead, it is full of Dad’s whining about how the staff went against him (without saying why or what he was dismissed for), which gave Greta the impression they all ganged up to get rid of him on some false charge. From the moment Greta could read it, she was in effect fed a tissue of lies and grew up hating St Jane’s and wanting revenge. Why Dad went this way with his diary is even more odd than the conduct of Mr Brabazon in Bunty’s “Down with St Desmond’s!”, who fed his daughter Carol-Anne a load of BS (turning her into even more of a nasty revenge-driven bunny boiler than Greta) about her mother dying of a broken heart over being wrongly expelled because he was too scared to tell her the truth. Perhaps Greta’s Dad was too ashamed to write about the details of his disgrace and could only write how everyone turned on him.

Whatever Dad was thinking, the damage was done with his diary. Because of it, Greta grew up with a grudge against the hospital, and it is reflected in her conduct. She goes about with a persistently sullen look and attitude. She wants to become a nurse, but it’s clouded by doing it for revenge, and it is affecting her full attention to her training. We later learn that because of this, Sister Harris was having doubts about Greta being a good nurse until her handling of the Jocelyn emergency convinced her otherwise. Her disguised father, although trying to protect her, does nothing to actually stop her vendetta or set her straight. In so doing, he must take even more blame for her conduct.

Greta is not all that clever with her revenge. Her tricks are just too obvious, making it all to easy for the staff to realise what’s going on and be put on high alert. There are plenty of examples of other troublemakers in girls’ comics who were so crafty and insidious at making their tricks look like mishaps or someone else’s fault (e.g. “That Girl Next Door!”, Mandy PSL #105) that nobody could even detect someone was making trouble. 

To her credit, Greta is not as evil as, say, Carol-Anne. For example, when Jocelyn begins to suspect Greta, Greta does not plot to get rid of her. By contrast, Carol-Anne destroyed a number of people who wised up to her by getting rid of them, and not an ounce of compunction about doing so. Also, Greta is has enough heart to be shocked into realising she has gone too far and decides to stop, something clearly totally beyond Carol-Anne. She also redeems herself far more than Carol-Anne, not only in her action to save the patients but in feeling remorse prior to being caught out. She also finds she has become a much happier person after she has no more grudge – a clear statement about how harbouring grudges sours your disposition and letting go of them makes you more positive.

The shock of going too far and deciding to stop and concentrate on being a nurse could have ended the story there. Instead, it’s at this point that Greta is found out, which feels so cruel. Just when she wanted a fresh start and was finding her proper course as a nurse. Still, there was the mystery to solve: what exactly led to Dad’s dismissal? In revenge serials there is often a mystery attached, and this one is no exception. However, Greta does nothing to investigate just what happened, though at one point she does express intent to find out from the staff. Sadly, it seems the only way to get caught and confront the staff was the only way to find out. And, like so many “revenge” protagonists in girls’ serials before her and since, poor Greta finds out it was all for nothing. And if she’d checked things out more, she could have avoided it altogether. 

It’s no real surprise that Fred turns out to be Dad in disguise (well, it wasn’t for me anyway). Dads (or sometimes Mums) working from the shadows in disguise have been used elsewhere, such as Mandy PSL #185 “The Traitor’s Daughter” or Jinty’s “Curtain of Silence”. But it is a bit surprising that he came back to England when he was doing so well in the tropics and away from all the disgrace in England. And at the very hospital where he disgraced himself in the first place! Still, he said it was penance, so maybe it is understandable. 

The final redemption does feel a little contrived. Why the heck would the embassy have the serum? It’s not a hospital, after all. Perhaps they were hoping the embassy would get the serum flown in or something when the hospital was neither listening to Dad nor equipped to handle the disease? Still, it is a dramatic and exciting way to not only redeem themselves but also enable them to continue their careers.

Tearaway Trisha (1980)

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Trisha 1Trisha 2Trisha 3Trisha 4

Published: Jinty 8 March 1980 – 21/28 June 1980 (no episodes 17 May to 7 June due to strike)

Episodes: 12

Artist: Andrew Wilson

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Trisha is hot stuff on a bicycle. Though not a downright hooligan on wheels, she is a reckless, carefree daredevil with no sense of safety or responsibility. People say the little pest is headed for trouble, and it happens when Trisha is not paying full attention on the road because of her goofing off. She fails to notice a greasy patch on the road and goes into a skid, which causes a car to plough right into a lamp post. This puts a girl named Fran Hayward in hospital with serious facial injuries.

Everyone is blaming Fran for it and giving her a hard time, notwithstanding the oil patch, none of the passengers in the car wearing seat belts, the site of the accident having a reputation as a “black spot”, and Fran’s mother admitting it was partly her fault too. (The episode is posted above for your own judgement about the accident.)

Trisha feels guilty and responsible when she sees the state Fran is in. Mrs Hayward says money is needed for Fran to have plastic surgery but she does not have the money.

Meanwhile, Trisha wangles her way to see a stunt cycling act by helping the performers. Then, when one of the performers lets her fellow performers down, they ask Fran to take her place. This proves successful, though the manager is not impressed when he finds out. Ultimately, it is inspiration for Fran to put on three cycling shows to raise the money for Fran’s operation and the newspaper is taking up the story.

However, Trisha keeps having brushes with the law, and her latest one almost cancels the deal with the press. The editor only agrees to continue with Trisha if she will have cycling lessons and get a proficiency certificate. This is most demeaning for Trisha. It is even more so when they find her bicycle is not safe (damaged from the accident and Trish has to do self-repairs, which make for a banged-up bike). The editor has to loan her one. What’s more, she’s making mistakes with her cycling that need to be corrected. But she is forced to continue because it will keep the peace with Mrs Hayward and she’s got to convince people that she’s changed. To add to her problems, some toughs play tricks on her. As a result, she ends up in an icky river and the editor is not pleased to see the state of the bike he loaned her.

Trisha finally manages to stage her first show and it goes well. But Fran, who is having constant hysterics over the state of her face, people staring at her, and terrified of the operation, runs off. Trisha manages to find her, but the incident has Trisha so shaken up that she bungles the second show and it’s a failure.

When Fran reads about this in the paper, she snaps out of her selfishness as she realises what Trisha is going through to help her. A nurse informs Fran that she’s heard some toughs intend to come to the third show and throw rotten fruit at Trisha, and Fran alerts Trisha. Trisha turns this to her advantage by turning the whole thing into an Aunt Sally on Wheels show, with each hit raising £1 for the fund, and Trisha’s stunts ensuring some missiles miss. Everyone thinks the show’s a riot and it’s a financial success. There is now enough money for the operation, and Fran, inspired by Trisha’s courage, finds her own courage to go through with the operation.

The newspaper bike goes to raffle to raise money for Fran to go on holiday. When she comes back, she realises how silly her hysterics were – nobody is staring at her. She and Trisha become friends. Trisha is now more responsible about biking, but she is still keen on it and can’t wait for her bike to come back from the repair shop.

Thoughts

This is Jinty’s second (and last) story about cycling, the first being “Curtain of Silence”. Like Curtain of Silence, it is a redemption story about a thoughtless cyclist who needs to change her ways. But unlike Curtain of Silence, it is not about the sports side of cycling. Instead, it is the stunt and fun side of cycling.

This is definitely a strong story about responsibility, especially on the road. When you think you know it all, you find there are still some things you need to know to improve your road safety and there are road safety courses you can take a lot of things away from. Jinty readers must have emerged from this one thinking hard about how much more responsible they could be about cycling. In fact, the first episode adds this caption: “Don’t be like Trisha! Always cycle safely, with care and attention.”

Trisha is definitely one of the most ballsy, gutsy protagonists in Jinty. Although she gets depressed several times she never quits and she always bounces back. We all love her instantly because she’s no Pollyanna, and the artwork of Andrew Wilson (best remembered for “The Happy Days”) really brings off her irrepressible character.

Though not a bad person at heart, Trisha is clearly irresponsible and we know she is set for a long road to redemption about learning responsibility. However, she’s not wallowing in self-blame as many protagonists do in girls’ comics, which is refreshing. Initially she resists the idea that she is to blame, as there were other factors involved in the accident as well. It takes the shock of seeing Fran to make Trisha realise she must take some responsibility for it and she becomes more sober. It really is to Mrs Hayward’s credit that she is taking some of the blame as well and is not holding any grudges against Trisha or turning bitter towards her (unlike some parents in girls’ comics, such as Mrs Mitchell in Jinty’s “Waves of Fear”).

Trisha being an inspiration to Fran is a brilliant plot twist. At the hospital, Fran falls into the trap of self-pity, refusing to be helped, having hysterics etc, etc. We see this a lot in girls’ comics and can only wait and see what snaps the girl out of it. It is a delight to see it is the courage of the very girl who was partly to blame for her condition.

The most exciting parts of the story have to be Trisha’s bike stunts themselves. They are thrilling to watch and the highlight is definitely the Aunt Sally on Wheels. There can be little doubt Trisha will follow in the footsteps of the cycling performers and have a career in her own cycling shows. They also help to keep the story more lightweight and humorous, so the story, though a redemption and guilt complex story, is not overly dark or emotional.

Amanda Must Not Be Expelled (1972)

Sample Images

Amanda 1Amanda 2Amanda 3

Published: Tammy 15 January 1972 to 18 March 1972

Episodes: 10

Artist: Jesus Redondo

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Amanda Blay has a real attitude problem. She has deliberately gotten herself expelled from every school she has attended because she wants the comforts of home. She lives for gymnastics though, and when her parents send her to Haybury Boarding School, Jane and Marty immediately spot her talent. They realise they won’t win the inter-school gymnastics trophy without her.

Amanda is tempted by the thought of winning the trophy; it would help her career in gymnastics. But she’s too selfish to do anything for the school there and has no team spirit at all. She just wants to get expelled and enjoy her home comforts.

So it isn’t long before Amanda is up to her tricks to get herself expelled from Haybury. But Jane and Marty don’t want her expelled because they need her for the trophy. So they do everything they can to foil all her tricks to get herself expelled.

Marty and Jane soon suspect Miss Trice (initially Tring), the games teacher, is quietly helping them there, for the same reason they don’t want Amanda expelled. Indeed, it is not long before Miss Trice is obliged to explain matters to the headmistress. Afterwards, Miss Trice tells Marty and Jane that she begins to wonder if Amanda is worth the trouble. Covering up for and foiling Amanda certainly does cause problems for Marty and Jane, including taking punishments for her. Not surprisingly, the other girls turn against Amanda because of her selfish attitude and tell Jane and Marty they are nuts to even bother with her.

Amanda is also totally selfish with her gymnastics. The school puts on a gymnastics display for parents day, but Amanda refuses to participate. As far as she is concerned, she does gymnastics to please herself, not others. Miss Trice has to persuade Amanda – with the threat of being banned from the school gym for a month if she does not take part in the display. For that, Amanda says, she’ll perform badly at the display on purpose. But when it comes, Amanda just can’t do it because she loves gymnastics too much, and does a brilliant job instead. She surprises herself so much she hates herself for it, and even refuses to accept a trophy she won for it.

But of course the girls can’t always keep Amanda from getting herself expelled, and eventually she succeeds. The girls are shattered at losing their best hope of winning the trophy. Amanda doesn’t care about that and is turning somersaults for joy that she has finally gotten expelled.

However, Amanda has reckoned without her father’s wrath.  Mr Blay is determined to really teach her a lesson this time and does something that should have been done a long time ago – he confiscates her gymnasium. And it will stay confiscated until Amanda mends her ways at school. This has the desired effect of getting Amanda to regret what she did, because gymnastics are what she lives for.

Mr Blay hopes he can find a way to get the school to reinstate Amanda. Miss Trice tries to persuade the headmistress to do so because they need her for winning the trophy, but the headmistress will have none of it. Then a remark the headmistress made about raising money for a new laboratory gives Marty and Jane an idea: Mr Blay pays for the new laboratory if the headmistress takes Amanda back. Mr Blay and the headmistress agree to the deal, but Mr Blay is not happy at paying out £10,000 to keep Amanda on at Haybury. And he tells Amanda that if she gives any more trouble at school he will have her home gym demolished!

Amanda realises there is no point in being expelled because there is no gym at home now, so she better make do with the school one. She even begins to consider the trophy more seriously and agrees to join the team.

However, the other Haybury girls are not impressed at what was, it must be said, bribery to get Amanda back. In their view, Amanda deserved to be expelled and should stay expelled. So when Amanda returns they send her to Coventry. Marty and Jane stand beside Amanda, so the prefects sentence them to Coventry along with her.

Amanda is not much bothered at being in Coventry, but Marty and Jane are suffering from it more. Miss Trice sees how the Coventry business is affecting the gym team with nobody but Marty and Jane wanting Amanda there. The other gym team members boycott the team, leaving only Amanda, Marty and Jane in it. But the contest rules state there must be at least four girls in the team. And just when Amanda was starting to think of the gym team for a change! However, the staff cannot interfere with the prefects’ decision to put the girls in Coventry.

Realising it is all her fault, Amanda does something unselfish for the first time: resign from the team so Marty and Jane will be freed from Coventry and the other team members will return. She sends a letter of resignation to the head girl. Yet the head girl realises they will not have a chance without Amanda. Besides, Miss Trice refuses to enter a team without Amanda. But if the team remains at three girls, they can’t enter. Catch 2-2!

In view of the circumstances, the prefects release Amanda, Marty and Jane from Coventry. However, the other gym team members are still unforgiving and remain on boycott. Determined to win the trophy, Marty and Jane are all for carrying on training for the contest regardless and hope they get a fourth member.

Then a new girl, Liz Davis, arrives, and the girls notice something odd about her. She keeps hanging around the gym, and watching them in action all the time. Amanda even catches Liz at the gym one night. Yet when they approach Liz, she keeps running off, saying she hates gym.

One night Amanda catches Liz at the gym. To get Liz to open up, she makes a deliberately poor vault. Liz starts telling Amanda how to do it right, then demonstrates it herself. From there Liz admits she was a brilliant gymnast but lost her nerve after breaking her shoulder on the vault. Amanda helps Liz to regain her nerve and she becomes the fourth team member. Marty and Jane comment on how Amanda has really changed by helping Liz.

The Haybury team face extremely stiff competition from Oakdean, the school that has won five years running. But with Liz and Amanda on the team, Haybury wins for the very first time. The judges say they are very impressed that Haybury managed to win despite only four members in the team: “A remarkable feat, if I may say so.” Amanda is now glad Marty and Jane did not let her get herself expelled.

Thoughts

This was Tammy’s first gymnastics story. It came out two years before Bella Barlow, when Olga Korbut popularised the sport. Tammy published no other gymnastics story in between Amanda and Bella. But Amanda fell into obscurity while Bella is remembered as Tammy’s answer to gymnastics. It is tempting to compare Amanda with Bella, but I will refrain from doing so and concentrate on the serial itself.

Amanda definitely comes from a long line of spoiled brats who are always in trouble/get constantly expelled because their brattiness leads to difficult behaviour. Then they finally someone who prompts them to change their ways one way or other. A.D. Langholm’s “Queen Rider” is actually a novelisation of this. I suspect “Queen Rider” was based on “Bad Bella” from Tammy annual 1976, which has a very similar plot. There is a good chance “Bad Bella” was reprinted from June, and probably retitled. It could well be it was the same writer.

There is no doubt that the trouble comes from Amanda being spoiled. As always, the parents are to blame for that. They have spoiled her with so many home comforts that she gets herself expelled from boarding school all the time for no other reason that she can enjoy them again. Now that really is pathetic. Indeed, one reader wrote in to say: “…it’s a bit silly that a girl should want so much to be expelled from school. Why should she want to be expelled?”

In addition, Mrs Blay has never had the backbone to discipline her daughter. She is way too soft. Although she calls it a “disgrace” when Amanda is expelled for the fifth time, she does not come down on Amanda as she should have. In fact, she thinks her husband is being way too hard on Amanda: “maybe she just didn’t fit in at that school.” Mr Blay rightly pours scorn on that and takes the correct approach in taking a much tougher line with Amanda to get her to behave at school. However, he definitely has a snobby attitude, which he expresses when he sees Miss Trice’s car: “What a dreadful old car!” A snobby father would not have helped Amanda’s bratty behaviour much.

Marty and Jane come from a long line of unenviable girls who strive to keep a bratty (or sometimes nasty) girl from getting herself expelled. The difference is that they do it voluntarily because they need Amanda for winning the trophy. More often, such girls are lumbered with the job (blackmail, deals, etc). But Marty and Jane sure pay the price for it, especially when they are sent to Coventry because of Amanda. However, they show they are true friends to Amanda and are not just putting up with her because of the trophy. Indeed, they must have been the first friends Amanda has ever had. A selfish, spoiled brat like her would hardly have made friends at her previous schools.

Mr Blay’s new approach with Amanda (no home gym if she does not behave at school) has the desired effect of stopping Amanda getting herself expelled all the time. But this is only the first step towards reforming her. Amanda is still selfish and still has a way to go before she can redeem herself. Being sent to Coventry is the thing that snaps Amanda out of her selfishness, and it’s because she is thinking of others in how being in Coventry is affecting Marty, Jane and the team. She is also being self-sacrificing with her resignation because gymnastics mean so much to her.

It is a cruel irony that the other girls do not appreciate Amanda’s selfless act, forgive her and return to the team. Carrying on with preparing for the competition in the face of that and no fourth member becomes a sheer act of courage. Getting the fourth member is the final act of redemption for Amanda. For the first time she is helping someone, a fellow gymnast, who needs help in regaining her nerve. The remark from the judges at how impressed they are at Haybury winning despite only having four girls is the final testament to the reform and redemption of Amanda Blay.

 

Little Lady Nobody (1972)

Sample Images

(from Sandie 18 March 1972)

Published: Sandie 12 February 1972 – 1 April 1972

Episodes: 8

Artist: Desmond Walduck?

Writer: Unknown

Plot summary

Elaine Moresby is the daughter of a rich Yorkshire businessman. While her father is away on business she is sent to Miss Pettifor’s Academy for Young Ladies, where she soon shows how spoilt and selfish she is. Even her fellow rich young ladies are fed up of Elaine’s complaints and meanness towards the servants. But before the first episode is up, Elaine has been told by her uncle that her father has been drowned, leaving her an impoverished orphan; and Miss Pettifor takes the opportunity to ask for the payment of 150 guineas for the last six months’ fees (even though Elaine knows that it was paid at the time). The final indignity – Elaine is forced to work as a servant to pay off the debt that wasn’t really incurred  – and all the other servants are cruel to her apart from Mary, who is kind. (This is partly because Elaine caught Mary looking at a posh dress of hers and was going to denounce her to the headmistress, but was stopped from doing so by the arrival of her uncle – so it’s only by luck that she has even one friend on her side.)

It is difficult for Elaine to adjust to the life of a servant, but her main challenge is that Miss Pettifor and the head servants are clearly out to get her. Mary helps her to get used to the tasks but Elaine is firstly nearly suffocated when Mrs Rutherford lights a fire underneath her after sending her up the chimney, and then is thrown down the well by a mystery assailant. Mary helps Elaine to climb out but of course Mrs Rutherford comes out almost immediately and sees that her ploy has failed. She tells Elaine to climb back down the well to find the bucket, and of course she is terrified at the thought – and says that Mary was the one who knocked it in, and Mary has to climb down instead. Mary understands that it was fear that drove Elaine to say that, but that forgiveness means little when Mary gets very ill as a result of her ducking. Elaine sticks up for Mary and helps to nurse her during her illness, so the other servants think better of her after all.

Miss Pettifor is still out to kill her if possible, though – her next attempt is to run her over with a horse and cart. Some of her fellow servants stick up for her, but in retaliation Mary is once more driven to illness by Miss Pettifor and Mrs Rutherford. When Elaine spots her uncle coming to visit, she thinks that he will be her way out, and escapes to find him. However, a panel set back at Miss Pettifor’s Academy has the uncle explaining that it was he who set up the series of murderous attacks, because ‘with her out of the way, I am the sole heir to her dead father’s fortune’.

Elaine has escaped from the Academy, along with Mary, but her erstwhile friends don’t believe that the tattered escapee is really Lady Elaine Moresby, who they have been told has ‘been dead these past three weeks!” And when she reaches her old home of Moresby Hall, her uncle shoots at them, sets the servants on them claiming they are ‘gipsy thieves’, and makes Miss Pettifor and Mrs Rutherford go after them to fetch them back to the academy. Not content with that, her uncle has the school set on fire, with the two girls trapped inside! So it is all a real giveaway that they have serious enemies who will stop at nothing.

They manage to make it back to Moresby Hall, where Elaine finds some papers written by her father’s lawyer, Mr Murchison. Her father wasn’t penniless at all, and her uncle is claiming the estate as his. They try to see Murchison to plead Elaine’s case, but he is ill and they aren’t allowed in – and when they are taken up by the Bow Street Runners, Uncle Ned tells the magistrates that Elaine ‘suffers from the delusion that she is my niece Elaine’. He also threatens her friend Mary. Defeated, Elaine can only plead guilty to imposture – and Uncle Ned, now clearly revealed as a black-hearted villain, sends her to a dreadful quarry where kids are made to work until they drop. However, a death from overwork isn’t going to be quick enough for Uncle Ned – firstly because Mary is making a nuisance of herself, asking questions (so off to the quarry she goes, too), and then because the father’s ship turns out to have survivors after all. So the head man in charge of the quarry is enticed into locking the two girls in a burning shed full of gunpowder… Miraculously, they escape once again, and this time are taken in by a shepherd who recognises Lady Elaine for who she is.

Biddy, Elaine’s old nurse, also knows who she is, but the real test is whether Lawyer Murchison will do so or not. He is nearly convinced, until Uncle Ned shows him Elaine’s hands, coarsened by weeks of work. It was all for nothing, and Elaine is tried and sentences to be transported for life. Mary proves her worth once again as a true friend, though- she forces her way into the place where Uncle Ned and Miss Pettifor are bamboozling the father with spurious stories of Elaine’s last days before succumbing to pneumonia. All’s well that ends well as her father turns up at the transportation ship to rescue Elaine just as she is trying one last escape – this time by plunging into the water to swim away. The last half page shows the faithful companion Mary and the reformed character Elaine drinking tea at Moresby Hall, and planning to enrich the lives of these who have less than she does.

Further thoughts

“Little Lady Nobody” is a slave story with strong redemption narrative elements. It is as over-the-top as most slave stories tend to be – of course the protagonist faces hard work, lack of food, and lack of sleep, but matters quickly escalate from the hard life of a normal skivvy to multiple threats of violent death. This cruelty is the main focus of the story, though Lady Elaine’s transformation from spoiled uncaring rich girl to compassionate champion of the poor is also a thread running through the first few episodes or so.

Elaine is quite a sympathetic character as she is very determined and tries very hard not to be beaten. Of course she is not perfect – as well as having to learn how hard a servant’s life is, she is also understandably affected by the various frights she’s had, and it leads her to some disgraceful actions that she is ashamed of later. For instance in an early episode she lies and says that it was Mary who dropped the bucket down the well, though of course it was Elaine herself who did so, because she was being pushed down the well by an unseen hand. But her lie is because she is so scared, she can’t face climbing down the well to retrieve the bucket as the cruel slavedrivers demand, so although it is wrong of her, we understand that this is not a real relapse into being an uncaring rich girl.

Even after asking David Roach and others on Facebook, it is not clear to me who the artist is. Catawiki credits this story to Desmond Walduck. who drew “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm'”, and there is certainly a lot of similarities. However, the later Sandie story “Sisters in Sorrow”, drawn by the same artist and with a very similar theme, was previously identified by David Roach as being by a female artist called Broderick. And when I looked at this story, my immediate feeling was that it looked like the work of Roy Newby, who is credited with drawing “Slaves of the Candle” and “Bound for Botany Bay” in Jinty, and “Nina Nimble Fingers” in Lindy. All three of these were historical stories set in the 18th and 19th centuries, featuring slavery, severe injustice, hard times, and danger of death – so again very thematically similar to the current story under discussion. However, on further consideration, I think I will withdraw that identification. Roy Newby’s work is much smoother than the rather scratchy line used by the artist on “Little Lady Nobody” and the figure drawing and the faces are not quite the same either, though there are a lot of similarities in elements like noses and chins. Roy Newby’s children also do not think that this is by their father, though they again can see the similarities. Perhaps we will find that there are three artists with very similar styles – Newby, Walduck, and Broderick.

Story theme: Redemption narratives

I recently wrote summary posts about two stories that I called ‘redemption narratives’: “The Girl Who Never Was” and “She Shall Have Music“. That’s a kind of story theme that we can all recognize as being fairly common in girls comics generally: in Jinty there are a number of other examples.  But how does this sort of story work?

Take those two stories as an initial guide: the protagonist is a difficult or disagreeable, probably dislikeable, girl who has some personal failing or issue that drives the story. It’s because of that failing that the story progresses; it may not have been due to something that was her fault that the story started off in the first place, but it is because of her moral or social problem that it continues and develops the way it does. Tina Williams lands in the alternate universe where magic works because of her conceited and annoying ways; Lisa Carstairs’s father doesn’t lose his money because of her, but if she wasn’t so obsessed with continuing her piano playing exactly as before, then she wouldn’t find herself in the same difficulties. It’s not just what happens to the protagonist (or how she is challenged in the story) but how she reacts to it. She has to be ‘the architect of her own misfortunes’, as Mistyfan puts it in her post about another redemption story, “Black Sheep of the Bartons“.

Does the story have to feature some sort of disagreeableness, some sort of outright nastiness or callousness on the part of the protagonist? No: I’d say that you could certainly include ‘guilt’ stories such as “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary”. The protagonist here  suffers huge pangs of guilt and despair because of the loss of a loved one – a best friend or a sister in the case of these two stories, but in other cases it can be a parent – a very natural feeling, but the failing here is that she lets those emotions overwhelm her and distort her common sense. The guilty feelings of the protagonist drive the story forward, but this guilt is portrayed throughout as excessive, as an indulgence that the main character should resist. It’s the lengths that their grief drives them to that causes their difficulties in their separate stories.

Also, it’s not just about having an objectionable main character who is nicer by the end of the story. “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” are not what I would call redemption narratives, despite having protagonists who start off pretty disagreeable and end up much improved. (Likewise “Battle of the Wills” is not, nor I think “Pandora’s Box”, but sports story “Black Sheep of the Bartons” is one I would class as such: Bev Barton isn’t horrible so much as thoughtless and reckless, but her carelessness nearly brings tragedy to her family.) Why don’t “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” count? Because when the girl main characters are swept into their initial circumstances – enslaved by a dictatorial coach, forced into third-class citizenship in a future world – their thoughts are not primarily about how they can continue to maintain their status quo ante but about how they can defeat their antagonist. Yvonne and Cassy aren’t just trying to get back to where they were at the beginning: their story is about a positive rebellion, not a futile rejection of the truth that the outside world is telling them. They end up much nicer than they started out being, but that’s not the whole reason for having the story in the first place – it’s because they have faced extraordinary circumstances which would change anyone by making them realise that some things are bigger than individual concerns.

Does the character who ends up being redeemed have to be the protagonist, or could they be the antagonist or villain? Overall I would say it has to be the protagonist, as the main character that you are supposed to sympathise with and want things to turn out well for, but maybe one counter-example is “Wanda Whiter Than White“. Wanda is not the main character of the story and she makes Susie Foster’s life a misery with her sanctimonious ways. At the end, it is revealed, as Mistyfan explains in her story post, that ‘Wanda’s own past is not as white as she would have us believe. In fact, she is on probation after being caught stealing.’ Rather than this reveal being painted as purely a victory for the main character, it ends up with Wanda being ‘truly redeemed when she tells a white lie to help Susie in return for Susie saving her life’. The reader wasn’t rooting for Wanda’s redemption all along, but it is a satisfying ending nevertheless.

What choices could the writer make that would move the story out of the category of being a redemption narrative? Let’s take Lisa Carstairs’ story as an example. As with the OuBaPo exercises, thinking about how a story could work differently will give us a view on how the stories actually do work.

  • Imagine Lisa’s parents still losing everything at the beginning of the story, and Lisa still losing her piano. The story could then have taken a different turn: rather than being about Lisa’s misguided piano obsession and selfishness, it could have been another kind of story entirely, for instance a mystery story where Lisa finds out that her father’s business partner was a crook who needs to be brought to justice. Perhaps Lisa’s piano playing could help her to find the clues she needs, and her obsession with it could be turned to a good cause in that way, so that she needs no redemption.
  • Or let’s say the story stays as being about Lisa’s obsession with playing piano but it’s portrayed as something not to be frowned on, rather as something acceptable or allowable. How would a story work where she can continue to be focused on playing piano to the exclusion of everything else, including her family? Perhaps her family would have to be a nasty, uncaring one, to make her disinterest acceptable.
  • Or perhaps the story could proceed more or less as it does, but with an unhappy ending where Lisa gets her comeuppance. This would make her into a more of an anti-heroine than normal but would not be unheard of.

Here are the examples I would identify as fitting most neatly into the category of ‘redemption narrative’ (core examples) and as being closely related to this category without necessarily definitely being classed as such (edge cases).

Core examples

  • “Dance Into Darkness” – Della just wants to live her life down at the disco with no regard for other people, but when her wish is granted she eventually discovers there is indeed more to life than her own self-interest.
  • There are a number of stories that are driven by a bereavement: the main character makes poor decisions as a result of her strong emotions of grief and anger because she is afraid of being hurt again. “The Ghost Dancer” is one of these, as is “Nothing to Sing About”, but of course “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary” are the strongest examples.
  • “The Girl Who Never Was” – discussed above
  • “She Shall Have Music” – discussed above
  • I said above that I thought that it needs to be the protagonist who is redeemed, not one of the other characters. In “Go On, Hate Me!” the antagonist is driven by grief into bullying the protagonist but in the end all is cleared and the antagonist is redeemed, so I would be tempted to class this alongside “Wanda Whiter Than White” as a clear example of this kind.
  • Jackie’s Two Lives” is more about the perils of wish-fulfilment, but Jackie’s snobbishness and the fact she is ashamed of her own family is definitely a character flaw that drives the story and she is cured of it at the end.
  • “Left-Out Linda” develops the redemption pretty well by recognizing that you can’t usually turn around your life by yourself: you have to have some help.
  • “Paula’s Puppets”: Paula has to learn to forgive her enemies rather than attacking them via the magical help she has been given.
  • “Tearaway Trisha”: Trisha’s recklessness has caused a serious accident; she tries to make amends but has to change her own character in order to do so.
  • “Valley of Shining Mist” has a clearly didactic message about the improving aspect of high culture: by playing the violin, Debbie will transcend the impact of her abusive family, who are low-class in their lack of culture and their morality.
  • In “Who’s That In My Mirror?” the protagonist’s selfish nature is made very literally visible and becomes more and more so until finally she is driven to renouncing it.
  • Worlds Apart” is the ultimate morality tale – one by one, six girls are shown the worst outcomes possible for each of their specific character flaws, and they have a chance to repent. The psychological development is minimal but the impact of the story was very dramatic.

Edge cases

  • “Fancy Free “- I know the main character is so independent that this may well be characterised as a fault, but I don’t really quite remember enough about the story to say whether it is the main thing that drives the whole plot.
  • The Four Footed Friends” – arguably another case where someone other than the protagonist ends up being redeemed, though it all feels a little sudden. “Hettie High-and-Mighty” likewise features a fairly sudden change of heart on the part of an antagonist who has mostly been about making  the protagonist’s life a misery until that point. I don’t think “The Kat And Mouse Game” quite counts, either: Kat may perhaps have realised the error of her ways at the end of the story, but will her change of heart actually stick?
  • I haven’t really made my mind up about “Gwen’s Stolen Glory” – it feels like it is mostly a story about deception, though clearly once Gwen owns up to the big lie this is a kind of redemption of her former deception.
  • In “Kerry In The Clouds”, Kerry is a day-dreamer imposed upon by a woman motivated by her own unfriendly concerns. Kerry’s day-dreaming nature is cured by the end of the story, but I don’t feel the main driver of the narrative was to improve her character.
  • The main character in “Mark of the Witch!” is hot-tempered and angry at all around her, and she comes to seek a more peaceful set of emotions by the end of the story. However, so much of her story is about the persecution and abuse that her neighbours visit on her that I don’t see her story being primarily about her renouncing her hot-headed ways.
  • I’m not sure about “Pandora’s Box” and whether it counts or not. Pandora’s witchy aunt does chide her at the beginning about being too cock-sure about her talents and says that she will need to use magic sooner or later, and this is all true: but I’m not sure what sort of morality story that adds up to – not a conventional one at any rate! The main nod in this story to more conventional morality is the fact that Pandora goes from disinterest in the pet she is stuck with (her black cat familiar, Scruffy) to loving him dearly and giving up her heart’s desire in order to save his life.

One last question struck me when thinking about this. What sort of things might the protagonist have done that means she needs to go through this process of redemption in the first place? Clearly it must be something negative: the story has a moral imperative of some sort, warning readers against some kinds of behaviour. But at the same time, some things would be beyond the pale of course, and would mean that any character doing that would be irredeemable. (There might therefore be some useful comparisons made with story villains: what does their villainy consist of?) If a character killed or seriously hurt someone on purpose then that would be beyond the pale: there are a number of villains who have gone this far, sometimes with a laugh on their cruel lips, but it would be hard to imagine that a girl protagonist could do this and still recover the moral high ground at the end of the story.

In the stories above it looks like the sort of wrong-doing that needs castigating but is still redeemable is often about emotional warmth and consideration for others – it’s not about ambition (by itself) or cleverness (by itself) for instance. An arrogant protagonist can still be the heroine, but if she is cold, selfish, or inconsiderate then that’s a good signal that this is a character marked down for improvement – by whatever means necessary. Preferably it will be a Shakespearean denouement, whereby her own moral failing brings about such a huge disaster that she has no option but to change her ways! And being too afraid to risk emotional commitment comes in for a bit of a kicking too, via the guilt / grief stories. The obvious next question: is this moral imperative specific to British girls comics? Do UK boys comics have redemption narratives too? Or those in other countries? My pal Lee Brimmicombe-Wood reckons that Japan’s flourishing manga industry has many stories about mavericks who insist on going their own ways – but in that industry’s story constraints, the mavericks are always right and never forced to realise that actually, there was a reason why everyone was telling them they were going about things the wrong way…

She Shall Have Music (1978-79)

Sample images

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Publication: 28 October 1978 – 17 March 1979 (18 episodes)
Artist: Ron Smith
Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Synopsis

Lisa Carstairs is a talented pianist and a selfish, self-obsessed girl who cares nothing for anyone or anything except her piano. We see a glimpse of her life as a rich girl who can spend as much time as she wants just practicing her piano, waited on by maids and fawned on at school. Her father works hard at keeping his business together but to no avail: it comes to an end with a crash, when his business partner flees the country and leaves Mr Carstairs with the associated debts. Everything has to be sold to pay for it, including Lisa’s beloved piano – and her sympathy is kept all for her own losses, with none left for her parents’ difficulties.

For much of the rest of the story, all Lisa can think of is how to get access to a piano, preferably her own. She goes to the auction house and threatens to have the law on anyone who touches ‘her’ piano or dares to buy it, but of course she is onto a loser there. The family move into a little terraced house and she is sent to the local school rather than her posh private school. Her posh private school, for all their glib words about admiring her talent, want nothing to do with ‘the daughter of a bankrupt’ so there is no chance of playing their piano! There is a piano at the new school but she has already set everyone against her there by failing to listen to anyone, failing to adapt to her changed circumstances, and failing to understand that people aren’t going to fawn over her talent any more. She only barely gets to play the school piano, which she is only allowed to do once she has apologized to a teacher that she was rude to (and even then she gives one of those rubbish ‘I’m sorry if you were offended’ type apologies – actually she says ‘The Head wishes me to apologise to you’ which should have been something they would have seen through but still).

Playing the school piano isn’t enough, mostly because she is not treated with the amount of adulation she still expects (without in any way having earned it of course). The assembly music she’s given to play is not what she wants to play, so she summarily sweeps it aside in favour of some technically challenging classical music – not surprisingly this approach fails to go down well. The kids are unimpressed, Lisa is angry at them for not fawning over her (er, I mean appreciating her obvious talent when she condescends to play for them), and she calls them loud-mouthed, ignorant and stupid. So it’s war between Lisa and the whole school from now on.

Well, not quite the whole school. Tracey is a girl who likes classical music and has some sympathy for Lisa. She stands up for her even when everyone else is sick of the sight of her. Including the Carstairs parents, probably: Lisa was nearly starting to be sympathetic to their difficulties when she heard them say they’d try to make it up to her by getting a replacement musical instrument. She immediately imagines a beautiful piano taking up most of the space in their shabby small terrace – but of course all they are able to buy is a tiny electric chord organ, which from Lisa’s point of view is nothing better than a toy. Not that anything excuses her reaction, which is to kick it to pieces in a tantrum!

Another try at getting access to a piano is when she finds out that her piano was sold to the Mayor, for his spoiled daughter to plink-plonk on. Rosalind, the mayor’s daughter, takes the opportunity to bully Lisa by playing on her desperation: she has Lisa steal and beg for a chance to play. It doesn’t take Lisa that long to realise that Rosalind has no intention of actually helping, but it does take a little longer before she can bring herself to swallow her longing and walk away from her old piano.

Lisa’s quest for a piano to play nearly breaks up the family when she finds that a piano showroom is advertising for a cleaner. Lisa herself is too young to take the job but she cajoles her mother into it, despite her father’s opposition – he was made redundant just previous to that point, and his pride is injured at the idea of his wife working to bring the money in. It works well for a time, and Lisa even shows some signs of empathy – when her father strides into the house announcing he is going away, she thinks it is because of her doing, and she realises she would much rather have her father around than access to a piano to play. It turns out not to be as bad as she had feared – Mr Carstairs is not leaving his wife because of the argument about her working, phew! In fact he has been offered another job, but it is far away and he will have to travel there and be located elsewhere. Mrs Carstairs is relieved to think that she can give up the cleaning job, but an also-relieved Lisa is a newly-selfish Lisa, who pressures her mother to continue with the job for the sake of her music.

It turns out to be the final straw of stress on Mrs Carstairs though – she collapses, and it is revealed she has been in pain for a long time previously without mentioning it. Lisa needs to go and stay with her one school friend, Tracey, in her busy house: and of course the ungrateful Lisa only thinks of the bad side, in particular the fact she has to do chores which she fears could damage her artistic hands. To top it all, Mr Carstairs is not able to come to be at his wife’s hospital bedside – because he has vanished! It seems he never appeared at the new job workplace at all.

Lisa’s last fling of selfishness is to refuse to go back to Tracey’s house when her mother tells her she must – she uses the housekeeping money that her mother gives her, and goes to see her godmother in London. Little does she know that said godmother has departed for a long international voyage! So there is no home for her there, and none back at Tracey’s house – because her worn-out mother has finally snapped, and told the authorities that Lisa must be looked after in a Home. So it is welfare for her…

This final, very nasty, surprise is the making of the girl – she is quiet and not boastful in her new location, and she doesn’t go all out to find a piano to play, as she had before. She spends her time helping with the younger children and mucking in, even roughening her hands or running the risk of injury if it seems like a worthwhile activity needs her help. And when finally she does play the piano again, after a long time of refusing to even try, it is only at the earnest request of a little boy she is helping to entertain – she is doing it for his sake, not her own. The reward comes at last – her parents return, both together – Mr Carstairs has been found! He had been injured and had lost his memory and his luggage, so his identity took a long time to be established. And Lisa has come to realise that the most important thing for her right now is to be together, as a family – and that is more important even than music for her.

Thoughts

Lisa Carstairs is one of the more unpleasant, selfish, hard-hearted protagonists that there is in Jinty. She’s not outright evil, as is the case with Stacey in “The Slave of Form 3B“, but because she is such a hard case it takes a long road, and a lot of knocks, to redeem her. You might think that the opening episode, where she loses her family home and all their worldly wealth, would be enough to do it, but in girls comics there is definitely further to fall. In her case, she needs to plumb the absolute depths before she can come back up again – and here that means losing her whole family, and knowing it is her own fault and no-one else’s. In other stories the sense of guilt can be an illusion built up in the protagonist’s mind – for instance in the case of Ann Ridley in “I’ll Make Up For Mary”, where it drives the whole plot – but here it is not over-done and it is effective as a wake-up call.

The passage of time in this story is done quite well. For instance, the last episode (which is 4 pages long) covers the timespan from Lisa’s arrival in the Home to her final happy moments of realization. It isn’t supposed to take place in only a day or two – the text explicitly refers to several weeks having passed. Likewise, earlier on, the passage of time is made rather more visible to the reader than in most stories. This all makes the main driver of the story – Lisa’s redemption – more realistic.

This is Ron Smith‘s second and final story done for Jinty – after around this time he was found doing the bulk of his work for 2000AD, so he is often thought of as primarily an artist for that title, and on Judge Dredd specifically. His work on that is indeed fantastic, but it means that it’s easy to overlook the fact he had a long career as a girls comics artist before then, working for DC Thomson’s Bunty and Judy in particular.

Jinty 28 October 1978

Cover 28 October 1978

Stories in this issue:

  • The Girl Who Never Was (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • No Cheers for Cherry (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Wild Rose (artist Jim Baikie) – last episode
  • She Shall Have Music (artist Ron Smith) – first episode
  • Fran’ll Fix It! (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Human Zoo (artist Guy Peeters)

The cover image is drawn by Audrey Fawley – nice to see her in Jinty once again.

Tina is finding out how different the world she’s in, compared to the world she comes from. She loses a swimming match because magic is used to drain the pool; and in science class she is expected to learn how to turn base metal into gold! She realises that she is going to have to learn how to work some magic, pronto – but all the library books aimed at her age are far too advanced for her. She has to start learning magic from a book for 4-5 year olds…

Siblings Dorrie and Max are hiding out in an air raid shelter but have no food, and no ration books to get more. By the end of the episode, she has fainted with hunger and is lying in the snow!

“No Cheers for Cherry” is pretty depressing. She is being dreadfully exploited by her cousins and aunt; her uncle is a little better but again is basically out for what he can get – cheap labour and a talented actress in their drama troupe.

“Wild Rose” comes to an end – Rose finds out that the gypsy woman who had abandoned her all those years ago is really her mother, but to say so would be to cause unhappiness to the other baby in the switcheroo. Rose realises that her real happiness lies in going back to the family who brought her up – the circus family – and all ends well, because they have been scouring the area looking for her, too.

“She Shall Have Music” starts in this issue. It’s another redemption narrative, but of a considerably more unpleasant protagonist than Tina in “The Girl Who Never Was”. Lisa Carstairs is rich and a talented pianist – everyone in her life makes allowances for her because of those things, but she is also extremely spoilt and self-centred. In this first episode, her father loses all his money and everything is to be sold. Her reaction? “You’ve wrecked everything! Well, I’ll get my piano back somehow… and meanwhile I’ll make you pay for this day of misery!”

Shona is free from the alien circus ill-treatment, but has to find humans who she can live with. Even out here in the wilderness, they are hunted down by the Silent Death, as these humans call the telepathic aliens.

The Girl Who Never Was (1978 – 1979)

Sample images

From Jinty 13 Jan 1979

From Jinty 13 Jan 1979
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From Jinty 13 Jan 1979
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Publication: 7 October 1978 – 17 February 1979 (17 episodes)
Artist: Terry Aspin
Writer: Unknown

Translation/reprints: Translated into Dutch as ‘De verbanning van Irma IJsinga’ [Irma IJsinga’s Banishment] (in: Tina 1981).

Synopsis

Tina Williams is ever so good at what she does – school sports and academic achievements both – but she is a big-headed arrogant girl who none of her peers like, apart from one pair who toady up to her all the time. More tellingly, her parents seem to have lost control of her long ago too, and she neither respects them nor is even polite to them. She sounds a pain to be around – in the first episode her school goes on a theatre outing to see Salina the Sorceress, and Tina spoils all the magic tricks by explaining them. But she can’t explain away the Disappearing Gateway that Salina asks her to enter, warning that “you may not return… not to this world, anyway.” The bright light of the gateway, once dimmed, shows that she is in a suddenly-empty, indeed abandoned, theatre, and once she has managed to walk home, she finds that her parents don’t even recognize her. A spooky start!

She quickly finds that she is in a parallel world in which she was never born, which is enough of a shock – her parents call her Gina by mistake, and she has to sleep in the spare room (which should by rights be her own bedroom, full of trophies and clothes and things). Her parents are at least willing to take her in, but that’s only once she mentions the name ‘Salina’. It turns out that there are more shocks in store – Salina is Professor of Advanced Sorcery and an accomplished magic worker – which is proved to Tina as she disappears in front of their very eyes! Not before showing Tina a few home truths about how unpleasant, ‘conceited and self-centred’ she is, and making it quite clear that if she’s not prepared to recognize that, then she can jolly well stay here in this world. And of course at this point, Tina doesn’t recognize it – her reaction is to deny it with “I can’t help it if everyone is more stupid than me!”

For someone so clever, Tina is a bit slow on the uptake as to the implications of this new world she has been landed in – I think she is understandably a bit afraid of what she might find and perhaps not trying to think it through. She tells herself rather optimistically that perhaps only Salina has strange magic powers (but if so, how would the university have a department of sorcery?) and tries to behave in her usual way (throwing her weight around with her parents). When she gets to school, she very much wants it to be business as usual  with her beating the pants off fellow schoolgirl Lindy; but all the other schoolgirls wonder why she hasn’t bothered using magic in their swimming contest, if she’s meant to be so good at swimming. Tina quickly finds out that as magic a part of everyday life on this world, to be a success you therefore need to be able to do magic well! Simply swimming well doesn’t mean anything, if you can’t also counter a spell to drain the pool too. Not that she takes this change of the rules of life graciously, of course.

Rival Lindy is consistently nice to Tina, trying to show her around and console her when she is visibly upset at losing. But she can’t shield Tina from other surprises, such as finding out that the science class is covering alchemy today! Tina thinks she’s clever by making an excuse to be let off – saying she hit her head when Lindy drained the pool too quickly – and skips to the local library to start boning up on magic now that she recognizes she will never be a success without mastering it. Humiliatingly, the only ‘teach yourself’ book that she stands any chance of understanding is targeted at four to five year olds, but at least she is able to master the simple spell of moving an object by magic. When she uses it in her hockey game she still finds further surprises  – it works quite well the first time, but the second time she tries it she is sent off, because you’re only allowed to use one spell per girl per game. She moans to herself “How can I know all the rules when I don’t belong to this world?” but she hasn’t really tried to find them out, say by confiding in the rather nice Lindy.

Instead, she consistently tries to land Lindy in the soup – but this world has an underlying fairness in much of the way it works. One of her attempts to land Lindy in trouble means that they are both subjected to a trial by magic – whereby both the girls jump into the pool with weights on! “If you sink, you’re innocent… if you float, you’re guilty!” Tina is relieved to think that of course she will sink, with the heavy weight that she’s attached to – but the trial by magic is cleverer than that, and she is revealed to be a liar in front of the whole school.

Presumably to save her from continual humiliation, the story now takes a slight twist. Tina demands to see Salina so that she can be sent back to her own world, but she is still away on a trip. Instead, Salina’s younger twin sisters give her an unexpected gift – 9 spells that she can cast whenever she wants, to do pretty much whatever she needs. But – she can’t use any one of them more than once, and she won’t know in advance what exactly the spell will do, except that it will be appropriate to the occasion… The first one, cast before she even knew the detail of what had happened, was when Tina cast a flying spell onto a car that was about to crash into Lindy – and it worked very well, even making Tina into a local heroine at school. But of course some of the other schoolgirls want her to cast the same flying spell on them, and they jump from a high window as a result! Tina’s next spell is more amusing than astounding – they have a bouncing spell put on them, which the girls in question aren’t best pleased by, but the rest of the class thinks was rather funny.

We can see that the pattern of the next few episodes will be shaped by the remaining 7 spells, and how Tina can best use them – or avoid wasting them. The two girls who had the bouncing spell cast on them are still pretty cross about it, and they cast a dancing-feet spell on Tina as she is on her way home that night – as a result she can’t stop dancing, and by the time the spell wears off she is miles from home and very tired. She doesn’t want to use up one of her precious spells to counter it, so she only gets home very late indeed. Her parallel earth parents have been worried sick, but Tina can’t be bothered to explain. Her cavalier attitude gets her grounded – her parents tell her to stay in the next day, regardless of her other commitments (which in this case is her decision to enter yet another swimming contest against Lindy). And they back it up with a spell, that makes it impossible to leave the house. Of course faced with this, she does use up one of her spells – but again it works in a way she hadn’t expected – this time by making the whole house disappear!

The swimming contest goes her way, but the next round will be tougher (for one thing, spells will be allowed in the next round). Tina is happy to have got through but as a result, slips back into the old self she has started to cast off at earlier points – she boasts and sounds conceited, and the other girls give her the cold shoulder as a result. Apart from the rather saintly Lindy, who tries to get through to her, and manages enough of a breakthrough that Tina does start to think that maybe having friends would be nicer than being the top girl with no friends. In the spirit of turning over a new leaf, she hurries home to try to get back before her parents return – only to find that they’re back already, and stunned to find their house vanished and the nosy neighbour ready to accuse Tina of the evil spell that must have done it!

The police are ready to haul her off to the station for interviewing, when the house suddenly re-appears, and news comes in that it wasn’t her, after all – it was Salina who did it, and so she could be set free. Very puzzling to Tina, of course, who knows jolly well that she did do it! But it gives her a new hope, because if Salina has returned, then she can ask her to send her back to her own world. Full of this optimism, Tina spends a couple of her spells to actually make other people happy – a spell to make her parents’ garden flourish as it never had done before, and one for her school peers, to cheer them up. And it’s a lovely treat for Tina, too, who is enjoying making other people happy – not only because it’s gratifying in itself, but because she is discovering that it can yield unexpected ways for her to enjoy herself too. She’d never have known about magic skateboarding otherwise!

Sadly for Tina, she is soon down to earth with a bump again. Salina wasn’t back yet, after all – it was the twins who had sent the message about Salina. Tina is furious, but the twins show her in their crystal ball how happy the spells she cast (once she thought she was going) made others. But Tina is not a redeemed person yet – she pinches the crystal ball when it is left unguarded. She doesn’t like what she sees when she tries it next – her losing to Lindy – and in a temper, she sweeps the ball onto the floor, where it cracks into pieces. It turns out that in this world, breaking a crystal ball is much worse than breaking a mirror – something awful is guaranteed to happen to the one who broke it. In Tina’s case, she loses the swimming race and in a rage, uses a black magic spell against Lindy (though the twins try to stop her, saying it is the curse of the ball that is making her do it). Lindy is turned into a toad, in front of everyone! And though Tina turns her back again right away, this sort of black magic is totally beyond the pale, and everyone turns against her – including her parents and school friends. And she only has two spells left now…

The twins spirit her away, but the only real solution is for Tina to reach Salina, who is on a retreat at the top of a tall mountain. The only catch is that Salina has put a spell on the mountain – “anyone thinking mean or nasty thoughts will be stopped from getting to the top.” That means that Tina must control herself much more than she has been able to do in the past! First she is dumped back down to the bottom, where they all started; then she must face a dragon and a giant. Luckily for her, she has a counteracting nice thought “Oh, if only I’d listened to the twins! They’ve been so good to me. I wish I could take back everything nasty that I thought!” And that does the trick – the last spell kicks in and wipes out the giant and the dragon, and she finally gets to see Salina. Or does she? All she can see is the twins – but it turns out that they were Salina, all along! She knew Tina needed someone to keep an eye out for her. The mountain was just a last test, to see if she was ready to return to her own world. Salina sends her back, with one spell still to spare.

In her own world, it turns out that she has been in a coma for two months, and everyone had nearly given up hope that she would recover. Salina had been coming in to see her every day, consumed with guilt over the accident that put her in a coma when the magic act made her hit her head. But where are her parents and friends, why aren’t they coming to see her? Tina can only think it is because she has been so nasty in the past, they don’t care about her. And even the reformed Tina can perhaps be forgiven for lashing out a little, upset that no one has come to visit her apart from Salina, and her parents very briefly. But Salina has come to pick her up on her discharge, and in her neat roadster, Tina finds herself telling the whole story. Including the bit about the left-over spell, which Salina urges her to try out – and so Tina does, asking for a spell that would make people like her. Behold – the door to her house opens onto a welcome-back party, done as a surprise by her parents and schoolfriends, who kept it a secret until she got back home. Tina, the reformed character, vows she won’t need spells to make herself liked in the future!

Thoughts

This is a favourite story of mine, though not quite making it into my top ten. The parallel universe where magic works is a great draw and a very fun read. We enjoy seeing Tina’s discomfiture with things not going as she expected! It was clearly pretty successful: it is the lead story throughout its run (though it only makes it onto the cover once), and was translated into Dutch.

Of course it needs to have a bigger aim or structure, and in this case it’s a redemption story: Tina is a pretty unpleasant girl, who is redeemed through her tribulations. Her unpleasantness is shown to be simply selfishness and big-headedness rather than anything outright villainous, so it does not stretch credulity too much to have her end the story as a rather nicer girl than she was at the start of it (whereas the black-hearted Stacey in “Slave of Form 3B” would be much less believable as a reformed character). This is just as well, as the story rushes a little quickly towards her change of heart at the end, despite it being a relatively long story at 17 episodes.

It makes quite an interesting comparison with two other stories from around the same time: 1977-78’s story “Land of No Tears” is also a redemption narrative of sorts, as is “She Shall Have Music” (which actually ran in many of the same issues as “The Girl Who Never Was”). LONT has a different feel and different ending – once Cassie Shaw lands in the world of the future she is out to beat her hated rival and (eventually) to defeat the whole premise of the unfair society that she is placed in. The fact that she improves in character is incidental, in a way, though the Cassie at the end of the story certainy is a great improvement on the one that starts the story.

Tina’s story is all about her redemption: the world she is placed in is also unfair in many ways (there would be no appeal from the punishment she was due to get for turning Lindy into a toad) but the thrust of the story isn’t about the greater good, it’s all about Tina learning to appreciate her own mistakes and becoming less self-centred. In this story, Salina (or the twins, whichever way you want to see it) is clearly guiding and testing her, rather like a fairy godmother. When the twins leave Tina alone with the crystal ball, they are obviously tempting her (and she fails); later on when she has to climb the magic mountain then again she is being tested, very explicitly so, and this time she passes.

In SSHM, Lisa Carstairs also has to learn to be less self-centred and conceited, but she has no kindly fairy-godmother equivalent. The trials she goes through are considerably harsher, and with nothing that lets her out easily. It’s a much harder read; Lisa herself is considerably more unpleasant than Tina too. I think the harshness of the story with its realistic tribulations (poverty and deprivation, tiredness, hunger, relationship difficulties caused by changed circumstances), ties into the unpleasantness of the main character: Lisa is so horrible throughout much of the story that she needs that realism of ‘no easy get-out’, otherwise the final redemption wouldn’t work. Will Tina’s change of heart last once she is back in her own world, without a magical companion looking over her shoulder? I am not so sure that it will, whereas Lisa’s and Cassie’s new leaf will stay turned over, I think.

 

Black Sheep of the Bartons (1979)

Sample Images

Black Sheep 1

Black Sheep 2

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Black Sheep 3

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Jinty: 6 October 1979-22 December 1979

Artist: Guy Peeters

Writer: Alison Christie

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #14 as “The Black Sheep”

Plot

Bev Barton looks on herself as the black sheep in her sheep farming family, both in appearance (the only one with black hair in a blond family) and in character. She is a rebel without a cause who chafes under her parents’ rules and regulations and is bored stiff with the sheep farm. But Bev has a big problem – she is selfish and can’t see beyond herself. She tends to get jealous of her sister Ruth, who seems to be more in favour with the parents. Bev does not understand that the parents trust Ruth because she earns it with obedience, hard work and consideration, while Bev does nothing of the kind.

Bev applies for and wins a scholarship in Elmsford Academy as she thinks boarding school will give her freedom from her parents and the farm and to do her own thing. But of course she soon finds that Elmsford has its own rules and regulations. It is not long before Bev’s rebelliousness gets her into trouble with the headmistress.

Then Bev discovers the judo club at Elmsford and finds she has a real passion and talent for the sport. She finally has something to work for. The trouble is, she gets so obsessed with judo that she neglects her schoolwork, exams, and breaks more rules and orders in order to get to her judo club. The only thing that stands between Bev and expulsion is that she used her judo to foil a burglar who was stealing school trophies. But eventually Bev defies the headmistress once too often and gets expelled. As a result, the parents thoroughly disapprove of Bev’s judo.

Being expelled has cut Bev off from the judo club and there is none in the village. She flouts her parents’ orders again in order to get to the judo club – only to find it has closed down. Worse, Dad catches her in the act of defying him and she’s in trouble again. Back home, Bev’s jealousy of her sister Ruth, whom she perceives as the parents’ favourite worsens, which heightens the bad situation with her parents. Bev does not appreciate how patient Ruth is with her – or realise that Ruth is ill with angina and needs extra care.

Things look up when Ted Nelson, Bev’s judo instructor, takes a job at her school as the new PE teacher. They start a judo club at the school. Dad won’t let Bev join after her expulsion, but Ruth talks him around. Bev soon earns her yellow belt, but is neglecting her schoolwork again. Ruth is staying up late doing Bev’s homework – which is not good for her state of health – and the parents are angry at Bev again. But Bev takes this as more favouritism and her response is to “disappear” for a bit to teach them a lesson. But this backfires dreadfully – Ruth sneaks off to look for Bev and this is extremely dangerous for her because she is so sick. When Bev finds out, she finally wakes up to how selfish she has been. She takes off to look for Ruth – against Dad’s orders, who is too angry to let her help search – and succeeds.

Following this, Bev makes a serious effort to become more considerate and helpful to her family. Mum is impressed, but Dad just says that Bev’s head is still full of that “confounded judo”. Hearing this, Bev decides that there is only one way to convince Dad of her good faith – give up judo – and tells Dad what she is doing. She rushes off in tears to give away her judo gear. But en route she encounters Alf Sutton. Dad has suspected Sutton of stealing his sheep and now Bev catches him red-handed. She uses her judo to bring him down. This now convinces Dad that judo is not a bad thing and he admits to Bev that he was just too proud to acknowlege her change for the better.

Bev is now getting along so much better with her parents. And to show it, Dad converts his barn into a judo club so the club can continue after the school gym burns down. Bev is still proud of being a black sheep but is now a more mature, thoughtful and happier girl.

Thoughts

This came hard on the heels of Guy Peeters’ previous story, “Pandora’s Box”, which was also about a selfish girl who learned to open her heart. Perhaps it was the same writer. But while Pandora’s Box had supernatural elements, Black Sheep is grounded firmly in realism. There is so much in the character of Bev Barton that we see in everyday life – rebel without a cause, inability to handle authority, generation gap, and problem children who have nowhere to vent their energy so they transmute it into difficult behaviour that exasperates their parents.

The problem with Bev is that she can’t see that she is the architect of her own misfortunes with her selfish, self-centred behaviour. She does not understand that her problems with her parents stem from her being selfish, disobedient, rebellious, doing nothing to earn their trust, and having no consideration for others. And her attitude not only gets her expelled but endangers Ruth several times – such as practising judo with her while not thinking that Ruth is untrained – but Bev does not stop to think. And the types of boyfriends she has – rough bikers – do not help matters.

Bev is not a totally bad character. For example, she stands up to a bully at school who blackmails other girls. There is also a dash of feminism when Bev has to demand to join the judo club as it is boys only. She’s full of spunk and balls, which would have appealed to readers. Bev is not your typical victim heroine who would take emotional and physical abuse lying down, and is no Cinderella.

It is obvious that the judo is the key to Bev’s salvation. After all, it has finally given our rebel without a cause something to channel her energy into. If only she would wake up to how selfish she is, she be a true heroine. But we know she will eventually. That’s the whole point of the story after all.

We have to enjoy this story for the judo itself. It came out at a time when martial arts were popular in Britain, which must have provided inspiration and popularity. And judo makes a change from stories about hockey, tennis or swimming, so readers must have enjoyed the story for this alone. Martial arts did not appear much in girls’ comics, which makes this story even more of a standout.