Tag Archives: Ron Smith

Jinty 17 March 1979

Stories in this issue

  • Alice in a Strange Land (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Sea-Sister (artist Peter Wilkes) – last episode
  • Prisoner of the Bell (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Advert for “The Forbidden Garden”
  • Children of Edenford (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • She Shall Have Music (artist Ron Smith) – last episode
  • The Four-Footed Friends (artist Peter Wilkes) – first episode
  • I’ll Make Up for Mary (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Spice Up Your Ideas! (cooking feature)

Alice visits Chana in her wee slave cell, to find out how on earth she can pass the test that will prove she is the Sun Goddess so that she can save Chana’s life. The clues she gets are all very well, but the test requires true bravery as well. Will Alice be able to climb to the top of the wall of the maze, so that she can see the temple she has to get to?

“Sea-Sister” ends this issue. Helen is put on trial by the great Sea-Judge for the crime of telling her friend Jane about the existence of the drowned village of Ullapond. Jane has to plead for Helen and give up something very dear to her heart in order to prove how much it means to her that her friend should not be banished; the plea works and Jane is even rewarded for her tenacity, though her memory is wiped of all that has happened.

Susie Cathcart is still the prisoner of her grandmother, who wields a hypnotic power over her via the tinkling of a handbell. Susie’s dreams of a career in gymnastics have been ruined by her grandmother’s interference, and her nerves are shot. The high-flown gym course that Susie would previously have killed to go on, now feels like a scary ordeal. Will her friend Lorraine manage to pull her out of it? Not if the gran can help it, of course…

It’s not that often that you get a single-page advert for an upcoming story in the same comic. Here is one for “The Forbidden Garden“, which of course proved very popular and successful. The editors must have been very excited for it – regular gag strip Alley Cat did not appear in this issue so presumably was dropped in favour of this teaser for the following week. “Daughter of Dreams”, which also starts the same week, is briefly mentioned, but it comes across as rather an afterthought.

Children of Edenford” shows Patti and Jilly eating a superb lunch in the posh refectory at Edenford school – but there are sinister signs that very soon both of the girls may be turned into perfect schoolgirls, just like their classmates. Certainly that’s what Miss Goodfellow, the headmistress, promises: “You shall be one of us soon! Very soon!”

She Shall Have Music” comes to a heart-wrenching end in this issue, with a four-page episode in which Lisa’s redemption becomes complete. “The Four-Footed Friends” starts – another Peter Wilkes story to fill the gap left by “Sea-Sister”. Laura is rather a “poor little rich girl” whose mother wraps her in cotton wool – she doesn’t know why, but the cheeky little pekinese who they are about to buy ends up giving all the answers.

Ann Ridley’s schoolmates are giving her the cold shoulder because they think she ratted on them to the teachers. She will continue to be misunderstood and unhappy for the rest of “I’ll Make Up for Mary”, of course.

The back page ‘crafts’ feature is food-based this week: it suggests using your spice cupboard to create some tasty treats such as Gingered Pears, Cinnamon Toast, Curried Butter, and Spiced Chocolate.

Jinty 3 March 1979

Stories in this issue:

  • Alice in a Strange Land (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Sea-Sister (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Alley Cat
  • Prisoner of the Bell (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Gypsy Rose Looks at the stars (Horoscope)
  • Children of Edenford (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Masters of Space: pin-up of “Blake’s Seven”
  • She Shall Have Music (artist Ron Smith)
  • Flying High with the Cavarettas! (feature)
  • Fran’ll Fix It! (artist Jim Baikie)
  • I’ll Make Up for Mary (artist Guy Peeters, writer Alison Christie)

“Alice in a Strange Land: is the lead story at this point – Alice and her cousin Karen are told by the mysterious High Priestess that there is a prophecy that a “white-skinned goddess” will lead the tribe back to greatness. Will that goddess be Karen or Alice – and what test will decide between them?

Sea-Sister Helen and her friend Jane are stuck in the ocean – Helen was trying to return to the underwater village that she comes from, but with Jane also on board her sea-shell boat it was not able to return properly. An oil tanker that is stuck on the rocks threatens the two girls, and also a number of friendly birds – Helen tries to save them all but in then end a giant wave sweeps the two of them overboard and under the sea. That’s fine for Helen, who is finally home again – but what of Jane, who has ended up visiting the underwater kingdom without permission?

In “Prisoner of the Bell”, Susie Cathcart is afraid she’s lost her nerve and can’t face doing gymnastics any more. Loyal friend Lorraine thinks of a way to help her get back into the swing of it and even lends her twenty pounds for it – a residential course at a gym school. But the meddling gran finds the money and instructs Susie to “destroy that friendship forever!” The hypnotized Susie can only reply “Whatever your orders, Grandma, I will obey!”

We normally haven’t touched on the features and extraneous items in the pages of the comic. I include the page with the horoscope (and who better to present it than Gypsy Rose, of course – here drawn by Phil Townsend) and a crossword. The clues on the crossword seem surprisingly hard for the intended age range of 8-12, I’d think: but have a look at the tiny upside-down answers, if you can, and see what you think. You will need to click through, of course.

This is just the second episode of “Children of Edenford”. Patti has arrived at the clean and beautiful village of Edenford, but she knows that something’s not right about it. Well, the runaway terrified girl being pursued by grim blank-eyed schoolgirls, and the headmistress whose motto is “Others strive for perfection – we achieve it!” is a bit of a give-away, maybe.

Lisa Carstairs is still a snooty snob in “She Shall Have Music”. Her mother is ill and unable to cope: Lisa is told to stay on with her friend Tracey but instead runs off to stay with her London godmother. Will it work out? Not likely…

There is a two-page text article about a trapeze artist act, the Caravettas: three sisters and a brother. Very exciting!

Fran is playing at being the Fire Officer, which is great fun, so long as she doesn’t screw it up badly enough that she gets into the Headmistress’s bad books, cos that would mean that big bully Martha Stump would have a chance to get her own back.

Shy Ann has changed her hairstyle and other looks to match her dead twin’s – and the other girls on the school bus are understandably rather freaked out when they first see it. Being back at school after the traumatic holiday where her sister was drowned is difficult in many ways, however hard Ann tries.

Jinty 11 November 1978

Cover 19781111

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)
  • Jinty’s “Fireside Book”
  • She Shall Have Music (artist Ron Smith)
  • Sea-Sister (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Fran’ll Fix It! (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Human Zoo (artist Guy Peeters)

The exciting special issue mentioned on the topline and cover image is alerting readers to the Fireside Book four-page pullout. I generally read these pullouts while leaving them in the comic itself: did other readers pull them out? They mostly felt like just a part of the comic to me.

Tina in “The Girl Who Never Was” is playing hockey at school, and gets caught up in a trial by magic.

In “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” Dorrie and Max have been staying with an army pal of their father’s. He has sorted out a lift up north for them, with a lorry-driving friend of his – luckily for the lorry driver, really, because an accident happens on their journey and the lorry plunges into icy water! Dorrie pushes Max out of the window and urges him to go for help, while she stays in the cab to hold Fred’s head above the water. Will Max return in time?

Cherry Campbell is slaving in a hotel kitchen while feeling quite ill with a bad cold: but it all seems worth it when she sees recording star Eena Blair coming to the hotel for a meal. It is so exciting it makes her break into a song-and-dance routine, which leads to disaster and a sacking for Cherry! She is undeterred and does more singing and dancing next to her uncle and aunt’s barge – upon which she bumps into Eena Blair once more. It might be a lucky break for her…

Lisa Carstairs is still being obsessive in her pursuit of a piano for her to play. Maybe her old school will remember her talent and let her in? Not likely – “It would lower to the tone of the place, having a bankrupt‘s daughter here!”

New story “Sea-Sister” starts. Jane Bush has been travelling the world with her parents, who are artists, but now they have a settled home, finally. Unfortunately for them, the father uses a block of stone from a sunken village to mend a hole in the wall – and a girl rises from the deep to come and get it back! That girl is Helen, who has to get the stone from the wall before she can return to her ocean home – by whatever method, even if it means destroying the house that Jane has only just moved into.

Fran is stuck with looking after a race horse to save it from being nobbled by a couple of crooks – partly roped into it because owner of the horse is the darling nephew of Fran’s headmistress.

Finally in “The Human Zoo”, the Outlanders (humans living on the alien planet) have been led to a hidden paradise by a vision that Shona experienced. She sees some more visions, of her sister in a laboratory in the alien city. One of the other people in that laboratory is the father of Likuda, the Outlander who has befriended Shona. Dare they go in search of their captive loved ones?

‘The Mighty One’ by Steve MacManus (2016)

The Mighty One - cover

This is a review (of sorts) of Steve MacManus’s autobiography “The Mighty One”, in which he covers his time working at Fleetway / IPC between 1973 and 1991. It’s not your usual review though, as it is also intended as a way to highlight some material mentioned in the book that either gives us new information on how the comics publishing of the time actually worked, or re-confirms information we already knew (but which it’s always good to have from more than one source.) (Some write-ups that are more ‘review’-y can be found here: GNFAR, Colin Noble at Down The Tubes, Lew Stringer.)

MacManus started work at Fleetway Publications in 1973, as a sub-editor on Valiant, which was part of the Juvenile Group of comics and magazines aimed at young people. He was part of a team of four people: an editor and a sub-editor, an art editor and an art assistant (often referred to as a bodger). He subsequently worked on Battle Picture Weekly, and although he wasn’t part of the core team working on Action he got involved in some elements of that title too. Starlord was his next step and when that merged with 2000AD he went to that title, eventually becoming Editor in 1979. In 1986 he moved sideways and relinquished the editorship to stay involved with the Judge Dredd universe, with the creation of titles for a more mature audience – Crisis (in 1988), the short-lived but beautiful Revolver, and the much longer-lasting Judge Dredd the Megazine. The book ends in 1991 with the collapse of the Maxwell Communication Corporation (which had bought IPC’s remaining comics line in 1987) and the subsequent sale of the titles to Gutenbergus (later Egmont), though the last chapter of the book, effectively an epilogue, races through the aftermath of the subsequent years through to 2011.

During this book he talks about working with key staff contacts such as art editor Doug Church, editor Dave Hunt, art editor Jan Shepheard; and with well-known freelancers like Pat Mills, Alan Grant, John Wagner, Tom Tully. The names we are familiar with from girls comics publishing – Mavis Miller, Wilf Prigmore, Terence Magee – mostly don’t get a look-in but there are certainly some folks mentioned who crossed over that significant divide as we will see – Gerry Finley-Day, Jim Baikie, and of course Pat Mills again (who seems to get everywhere). If you want to read anecdotes of those days, or find out how a boys’ comic of the time was conceived, written, drawn, put together, printed, and marketed then you couldn’t ask for a better book than this, and a fun read to boot. I’m sure it will get people digging out their old issues of the comics mentioned, or looking out for reprints of stories they missed (it’s certainly had that effect on me!).

My interest in getting the book in the first place, however, was to see what light it might shed on the creation and publishing of Fleetway / IPC’s girls comics. It did not disappoint. As mentioned above, some of the information in the book is material that we already know or had a good idea was the case, but it’s good to have it corroborated in a printed source that can be referenced in the future. Some of the information, however, is stuff I’d never dreamed of, and which has got me thinking of new things to look at and analyse in Jinty and other comics.

What did we already know that is corroborated here?

  • There are some basic facts that are repeated here about things like the target age of the readership (8-12 years), and the sales figures of the time (around 80,000 copies per week normally, with 2000AD achieving noticeably strong sales of 100,000 copies per week, but still being out-sold by Tammy which was selling 200,000 copies a week).
  • The expectation was that any given child would be reading the comic for a maximum of four years before going on to other things (it states in the book that a boy might give up his weekly comic in order to save up for something bigger and more grown up). So the rule of thumb, as we’ve heard before from Mistyfan, was that stories from a specific title could be reprinted in that title after some 5 years had passed.
  • The normal format of a comic was 32 pages, which included 3 pages of editorial material or features (intro page, letters page, back cover) and the front cover – so 28 pages of comics, normally divided up into 8 stories of three or four pages each. The book doesn’t say specifically, but presumably as with Jinty there would normally be a couple of single-page strips to make up the 28 pages of comics.
  • It was pretty clear beforehand that comics at the time were fairly blokey. Of course MacManus was talking about working on boys comics, but almost all the names he mentions were of men, apart from Jan Shepheard. The office staff, the colleagues he socialised with, the management – just about everyone he mentions was male. The magazine publishing side was more mixed, with columnists such as Julie Burchill coming in for a mention alongside female editorial staff on titles.

There were some points mentioned that weren’t totally new to me, or to other readers of this blog, but which have had new light shed on them:

  • The Juvenile Group had separate departments for boys’ comics, girls’ comics, nursery comics, and humour comics. It’s clear from this book that these departments were a lot more separate from each other in terms of culture and networking than we might have imagined. The girls comics and the boys comics were very much separated from each other – they were located on separate floors, for instance – and there is little evidence in MacManus’ book of much fraternization between the two. (Gerry Finley-Day was one of the exceptions – he was the deputy managing editor of the girls’ comics line at the same time as he was writing stories for the initial line up of Battle.) So much so that when talking about Jim Baikie coming aboard to 2000AD wagon (for “Skizz” in 1982), MacManus was seemingly totally unaware of Baikie’s background in drawing girls comics, knowing him only as a Look-In artist! I asked MacManus via Facebook whether he really had been entirely unaware of the crossing-over from girls comics to boys comics that Baikie, Ron Smith, and Phil Gascoine had done, and he confirmed that he didn’t think he knew it then and was surprised to hear it now. At the same time, there must have been some awareness of what was happening in the other area, as MacManus appreciated the notable successes that were happening with Tammy and Jinty.
  • The running order of the stories in each 32 page issue was closely tied to the popularity of the stories in question. In Valiant, the most popular story appeared at the front of the comic, and the second most popular one at the back, which makes sense. But MacManus also says that the least-liked heroes would be marked for the chop in ‘an end-of-term edition in which all the current serials concluded’, which surprised me! I don’t remember noticing that lots of stories normally came to an end at the same time, in Jinty at least – but I will certainly look at the story list by date to see if there are patterns for when stories tend to end or start.
  • Not really known beforehand but not surprising as such: MacManus gives us a little bit of detail about the taglines at the top of each cover – ‘the pithy phrases known as toplines’. These were apparently produced ahead of time – ‘several of these to last us the next few issues’.
  • I knew that there was quite a lot of active creative work required of those working as in-house staff at IPC (no doubt the same was true of DC Thomson too): we hear of Gerry Finley-Day writing umpteen stories at the same time as being a staffer, and we know about the script conferences held in the editorial offices of the comics. I was surprised, though, to understand quite how hands-on those creative processes were at all levels of the publishing process. MacManus was required to do quite a lot of writing as a normal part of his job, and he talks about the specific encouragement to write scripts and features. Art duties likewise were an important part of the in-house staff work: the bodger or art assistant would redraw elements that had been perhaps misunderstood by the main artist, or which needed amending for other reasons (such as to tone down a shocking scene, or to touch up old artwork that was to be reprinted in a different format). The art editor was responsible for the overall look and feel of the comic; we’ve heard elsewhere about how much of an effect Jan Shepheard had on early 2000AD for instance. A high level of creative endeavour was expected and required: MacManus’ interview with IPC turned at least partly on his ability to spell, and everyone on staff knew that there were a lot of parental and media eyes focused on the comics, ready to spot any errors or grammatical flaws. But at a basic level of comics publishing, too, the editorial role included the creative element of subbing the dialogue written by the author so that it fitted into the space left by the artist, while continuing to respect ‘the dramatic “beat” of the pictures so that the story flowed seamlessly for the reader’.
  • We’ve heard before from Pat Mills that women were generally uninterested in working on the comics because they wanted to work on the women’s titles, as proper journalists. I’m sure that was a real thing, but what Pat’s narrative doesn’t include is the fact that other people working on the comics also wanted to be ‘proper journalists’ too – MacManus recounts the attraction of the idea of working on a magazine and holding your head up in the queue for the staff lunch! It was also an area of the business with a lot more budget to play around with. Between this relatively greater respect accorded to journalists working on consumer magazines, and the blokey background of many parts of the publishing company, it’s perhaps not that surprising that many women may have been a bit uninterested in working on the comics.
  • It’s clear from MacManus that Scottish rival DC Thomson were immensely important not only in providing a competitor to race against, but also in the transfer of knowledge and methods to the better-paying London publisher. MacManus attended an in-house training course on scripting picture strips for girls, run by John Purdie, the managing editor of the girls’ department and an import from DCT. Writers Pat Mills and John Wagner, were similarly trained in the DCT writing style – but with particular expertise in writing girls comics, which was described by Pat Mills as being particularly plot-driven, with four sizeable things happening in the space of a single 22-panel episode. This brought in a professionalism and strength into IPC’s boys’ comics writing by explicitly teaching staffers how to write and edit tightly. MacManus contrasts this with the common technique of starting an episode with last week’s cliffhanger, resolving it, doling out a smidgen of plot development, before ending on another, often spurious, cliffhanger.
  • MacManus talks about the dummy issue of Battle being produced six weeks ahead of the first issue going on sale, and this six-week lead time crops up at other points in this book. (Amongst other things it means that ‘For a new weekly title the soonest you could end a strip was around issue twelve’.) Of course there would have to be some sort of publication lead time but it’s nice to have it nailed down fairly specifically. I’d like to have heard exactly how far in advance the advance copies were printed – we’ve heard elsewhere that there are around 30 ultra-rare copies of the issue of Action printed just before the order came to stop the presses and re-jig the level of violence in the title. Does that mean that an advance copy of Tammy‘s last issue, with the final episode of “Cora Can’t Lose”, might have been produced or even printed? You’d think someone would have mentioned it by now, but who knows… Or if not a printed copy of the issue, could there be any remaining scrap of the ‘make-up book,which listed the status of scripts and artwork for each issue going forward’?

And then there were some points that surprised me quite a lot:

  • MacManus says right at the beginning that when he joined Valiant in 1973 he was surprised to see the same characters he’d followed a decade earlier, when he read it as a boy. Captain Hurricane, The Wild Wonders, The House of Dolmann, Raven on the Wing, Kelly’s Eye, Jason Hyde, The Steel Claw: that’s a lot of ongoing characters! I don’t know Valiant enough to have a feel for how many of those were really long-running but clearly a number of them were – many more than was the case in Jinty or even Tammy. Jinty only had one or at maximum two ongoing characters at a time, while Tammy had the long-running Bella and Molly Mills of course. But neither girls’ title was chock-full of long-running stories in the way that MacManus sees as the norm in boys’ comics.
  • MacManus talks a few times about stories being measured in terms of the number of panels in the story. At one point he refers to a ‘twenty-two picture episode’ and at other points to a ‘thirty-picture script’. There are two things that surprise me about this. One is the terminology, using ‘pictures’ or ‘frames’ instead of panels (likewise he uses ‘speech bubbles’ instead of ‘word balloons’). it’s subtly different from the terminology I’m used to – I suppose my vocabulary for this has been influenced by US comics, and I’d never noticed the small differences. It makes sense of the many references to ‘picture-stories’ instead of ‘comics’ though, I guess.
  • But the thing that surprises me most about this is the idea of measuring stories in pictures or frames, rather than in what I would never have questioned as the key unit of a story – the page. Of course, the page has to still be considered a very important unit – you have to fill up 32 pages in each issue, and the physical page is what the reader turns over to see something surprising that has been hidden from them until that page turn. The real lightbulb moment associated with this, for me, was when MacManus explained the thinking behind running only five stories in the early 2000AD – he credits Pat Mills with the notion of leaving out the most-unpopular two or three stories out of eight, and going straight to only printing five stories in each issue, with more pages allocated. MacManus specifically says ‘Each story still had the usual number of pictures, but the extra pages allowed the pictures to be drawn larger’. Wow! Yes, this is clearly what is happening, not only in 2000AD but also to a certain extent in Misty.

Available from Rebellion £9.99 for the print edition (ISBN 978-1-78108-475-5).

She Shall Have Music (1978-79)

Sample images

She Shall Have Music pg 1

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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 4 November 1978

Cover 4 November 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)
  • Gypsy Rose: Wicked Lady Melissa (artist Shirley Bellwood)
  • She Shall Have Music (artist Ron Smith)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Fran’ll Fix It! (artist Jim Baikie)
  • The Human Zoo (artist Guy Peeters)

Tina starts learning how to do some magic in this parallel world – she learns how to float an object with her mind. She tries it out on the hockey pitch but the results aren’t entirely positive – she loses control of the ball and it heads straight towards the headmistress, at speed!

Dorrie and Max are helped out by a passing war veteran who turns out to have been in the same regiment as their dad. He is very kind and feeds them at his own expense, but he can tell they are runaways – will he let the authorities know they are there?

Cherry lands in the water, trying to rescue her first press clipping that she was aiming to send home to her mother. Her aunt and family are less than kind, leaving her in wet clothing and making her work in all weathers. No wonder she comes down ill after that.

The Gypsy Rose story this week is clearly a reprint from an earlier title – Gypsy Rose is drawn in by another artist, in the chair where the Storyteller presumably sat. The in house artist who did this sort of work was called a bodger; this example is pretty well done, though Gypsy Rose’s face on the final panel is not quite as nicely done as it might be. In this story, wicked Lady Melissa possesses young Anthea once she starts using an old whip in order to play the ‘Georgian belle’ for a pageant.

The Carstairs family move into a small terraced house and start to get used to their changed circumstances. Lisa starts at a new school, but refuses to change her selfish ways: she won’t help her mother clean the house, she squeals like a baby when she gets a splinter in her finger at school, and she leaves school in a temper when she is prevented from playing on the school piano.

Last week, Fran served dandelion tea to all the staff at her school – or so she thought! Actually it had fermented and she was serving them all dandelion wine instead… ooops. The school governor, Colonel Wellington, was due to arrive any minute. How can Fran avoid him seeing everyone squiffy? The front cover of the comic gives a clue…

Shona encourages all the humans in hiding – her sister sends her a telepathic message showing her the way to a beautiful fertile valley where all can live in peace and safety.

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.

Jinty 30 September 1978

Jinty cover 30 September 1978

  • Dance into Darkness – last episode (unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • 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)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Tim Curry – feature
  • The Human Zoo – (artist Guy Peeters)
  • 7 Steps to the Sisterhood – last episode (artist Ron Smith)

Jinty is about to honour her promise to bring back “Fran’ll Fix It!”. There is an announcement saying that Fran will return in the next issue, and there will also be a new story called “The Girl Who Never Was”. They are replacing “Dance into Darkness” and “7 Steps to the Sisterhood”. The return of Fran means a double workload for Jim Baikie, who is still working on “Wild Rose”. But Rose has tracked down the woman in her locket now (Lady Vere), so maybe the ending to the story isn’t too far away.

Meanwhile “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is still going strong, despite Max falling dangerously ill and getting buried in snow. So is Clancy, who has now been named grandfather’s heir. But this is causing a rift with her cousin Sandra. Aunt and Uncle are understandably upset too; they have helped with grandfather’s business for years and must feel like they’ve been stabbed in the back.

Cherry still hasn’t caught on to how her relatives are taking advantage of her. They are very slick at pulling the wool over her eyes (they are actors, after all), and Cherry is by nature trusting and naïve, just like her mother.

Shona narrowly escapes being turned into food at the aliens’ slaughterhouse – a circus owner buys her in the nick of time. But now she is about to be forced into a cruel circus act where she is brought to the brink of drowning each time she performs it. And all because she can’t swim (like the aliens themselves, as it turns out).

 

Jinty 9 September 1978

Jinty cover 9 September 1978

  • Dance into Darkness (unknown Concrete Surfer artist)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Somewhere over the Rainbow (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Was My Face Red! (feature)
  • No Cheers for Cherry (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Wild Rose – (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Clancy on Trial (artist Ron Lumsden)
  • The Human Zoo – (artist Guy Peeters)
  • 7 Steps to the Sisterhood – (artist Ron Smith)
  • Alley Cat
  • Let’s Go Blackberrying! (feature)

A new competition has pushed all the stories off the cover. The letters page of this issue informs us that popular demand has prevailed and “Fran’ll Fix It!” will return in one month’s time (almost a year after her first story ended). So now we know one story that will replace whatever ends in three weeks, which raises speculation as to what will end.

Della is beginning to find she is beginning to like Winnie after all – and suddenly realising that she does not like the idea of foisting the curse onto her. So Della, who started off as a rather selfish, shallow person, is beginning to change her ways. At least something is coming out of the curse.

The Cinderella theme is now manifest in part two of “No Cheers for Cherry”. Aunt Margot just wants Cherry to do all the donkeywork for her family, who are too selfish and lazy to pitch in to help their theatre barge business. Poor Cherry does not even have a proper bed – she is forced to sleep on the floor in her cousin Michelle’s cabin. Worst of all, she is too naïve to realise that her relatives are exploiting her.

By contrast, Wild Rose now knows how the fairground people have duped and exploited her, and she has run away from them. But they are determined to recapture her for their snake girl act.

With help from Nirhani, Shelley now realises what a dupe she has been as well. There is no “Sisterhood” at all – an enemy has set her up with phoney tests that are actually traps. It’s the turning point of the story, and now they plot to turn things around on the enemy. It’s started with the fourth challenge that was clearly meant to get Shelley expelled. And now the fifth one is here. What nasty setup is planned with this one?

Shona makes friends with Tamsha’s hitherto jealous pet, and now she has an ally. But then she is horrified to see her fellow humans at the zoo being humiliated and abused in the aliens’ version of the chimps’ tea party! And the reference to chimps’ tea parties shows how much things have changed for chimps in our PC times.

Dorrie is surprised to find herself being offered the role of Dorothy in another production of The Wizard of Oz. Let’s hope her being a fugitive doesn’t mess up her chance.

The sale of a priceless ring gets Clancy on the wrong side of her grandfather and then on his good side when she shows signs of his knack for profit. But then Clancy’s health problems begin to plague her again….

 

7 Steps to the Sisterhood (1978)

7 Steps 17 Steps 27 Steps 3

Publication: 12 August 1978 – 30 September 1978

Artist: Ron Smith

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Kim Mason and Shelley Vernon are both on their way to Lansdale, a boarding school that specialises in foreign languages. Shelley is a bit nervous because she is a clumsy, accident-prone girl and is worried it will go against her at her new school.

Meanwhile, on the train, Kim overhears two staff members, Miss Tweed and Miss Frost, talking about them. Both of them are candidates for a special opportunity, the chance of a lifetime. But only one will be picked, so both will be watched carefully during the term. Kim is keeping this piece of information to herself…hmm, sounds like something for the reader to note as well.

When the girls arrive, Shelley is delighted that her room is next to Kim’s. She looks on Kim as a friend, even if Kim is acting a bit aloof. Meanwhile, Miss Tweed is unpacking priceless Thai costumes as background for an upcoming lecture.

Later, Shelley is surprised to see a note on her bed, from “The Sisterhood of Lansdale”. It claims to be a secret society that is considering her as a new member, but she must pass seven tests to qualify. She must not try to investigate the Sisterhood, ask help from anyone, or talk to anyone about the Sisterhood. If she agrees, she must tie a hanky to her bedroom door handle. Shelley jumps at it and ties the hanky to her door handle.

Someone takes the hanky, and next morning Shelley receives instructions for her first challenge: obtain a colour photograph of herself in one of the Thai costumes and leave it outside her door that night.

So Shelley borrows one of the costumes and sneaks out of school to use a photo kiosk to take the photograph. She does not know someone is watching her, and that person realises that Shelley is not solving the problem in the way she anticipated. When Shelley returns, someone throws water at her from a window, narrowly soaking her and the priceless costume. She has made it, but has to iron the costume to get rid of some damp spots. Miss Tweed catches her but thinks Shelley is just trying to help, and even allows Shelley to wear the costume at the display!

The second challenge is to bake a strawberry cake and leave it on the tack shelf in the stables on Friday night. Seems straightforward and harmless enough. Shelley even lets Major, a terror of a horse that only the headmistress can ride, have a few strawberries from the cake. But the third challenge is to ride Major bareback at dawn tomorrow!

Hoping that Major will return the strawberry favour, Shelley takes him out for the bareback ride. She sees a light flash back at the school and suspects the Sisterhood is watching her. Shelley gets caught by the headmistress and stable-hand. The head is astonished at what Shelley is trying to do – and bareback. But remembering daft things she did in her own youth, she decides to go along with it and help Shelley ride Major bareback. But Shelley does not get away with it altogether – she has to write a 500-word essay on horse riding in Spanish, which takes days! Meanwhile, someone in the shadows is watching. She thinks how lucky Shelley was that time, and if she’d had her way, things would have turned out differently. Now what can this mean?

The fourth challenge wants Shelley to take the new gold earrings belonging to an Indian student, Nirhani. She is to keep them until told what to do next. Shelley does not like the idea of stealing or risking trouble and is now having second thoughts about the Sisterhood itself. Shelley compromises by taking the jewel box, but not the earrings.

Then Nirhani comes up and says she found Shelley’s hanky (the one Shelley tied to her door handle) in her drawer. Shelley is now so thoroughly frightened by everything that she tells Nirhani (disregarding the conditions she agreed to). Nirhani, a long-standing student, says she has never heard of “The Sisterhood”. She also surmises that if Shelley really had taken the earrings, the theft reported, and then Shelley’s hanky found in the drawer – she would have been expelled. In other words, it was a set-up. Nirhani, who has second sight, gets psychic impressions that there is no “Sisterhood” at all – rather, Shelley has an enemy.

They start planning to catch the culprit. Shelley will pretend to steal the earrings, and Nirhani writes her a cover letter to say she lent them. They gamble that when Nirhani does not report the theft as the enemy expects, she will come into the open.

Another student, Fran, has a birthday and has been permitted to have a midnight BBQ. This brings in the fifth challenge – arrange a fireworks display as an extra surprise for the party. Fireworks are not available at that time of year, but then a book arrives with instructions on how to make your own. Shelley and Nirhani see the dangers at once, and realise the enemy must have as well. However, Shelley has to give the impression she is going along with it, so they use the instructions to make dummy fireworks filled with talcum powder. At the party they hide the fireworks in some bushes and take turns to keep an eye on it discreetly.

Before long, Nirhani sees someone try to light the fake fireworks – but then there are real ones as the BBQ suddenly goes up in flames. In the confusion and firefighting, Nirhani fails to get a look at the enemy. They are horrified when they realise what the enemy tried to do and get Shelley blamed for.

A note arrives from “The Sisterhood” telling Shelley to stay behind after the party – alone. She does, hoping to catch her enemy. A hooded figure appears, her voice disguised, and not allowing Shelley to get close. She tells Shelley she failed the fifth task (the fireworks did not go off as she planned) but Shelley manages to wriggle out of it with a cover story. Shelley tries to get closer as the girl begins to outline the sixth task: tomorrow she is to kidnap Nirhani and lock her in the hayloft in the stables. But just as Shelley is about to unmask the girl, Miss Tweed interrupts and the girl gets away.

Nirhani and Shelley realise what the enemy is up to: “find” Nirhani, be a big heroine, and get Shelley expelled. And Nirhani is getting premonitions of real danger if they go along with it in order to trap the enemy. This has them thinking of all the lucky escapes Shelley has had so far in avoiding serious accidents or being expelled because of all the traps the enemy has set for her.

In the end, Nirhani goes into the hayloft, with Shelley leaving a ladder outside for her to get out with. She then joins the others on a nature ramble. But the teacher drops a bombshell – the headmistress is getting the stable block fumigated! Shelley dashes off for the stables – and so is Kim. Seeing this, Shelley now realises that Kim is the enemy, not her friend. She also sees that the fumigators have moved the ladder, cutting off Nirhani’s escape, so she has to get the fumigators to rescue Nirhani.

Nirhani and Shelley confront Kim over her being the enemy. At first Kim almost gets out of it with a slick move – but then she makes the mistake of claiming that Shelley stole Nirhani’s earrings (she still thinks Shelley has retained them from the earlier challenge). Nirvana and Shelley then spring their long-waiting ace – Nirhani lent Shelley the earrings, and they have the note to prove it. Cornered, Kim confesses that she was trying to put Shelley out of the running for the opportunity of a lifetime that she learned about on the train.

Kim is expelled, of course. And it was all for nothing, because it turns out that Kim was not an ideal student for it after all. Moreover, there is now a chance for two students to win the opportunity, which is a world tour to publicise Lansdale’s methods. The head chooses Shelley and Nirhani because she has been so impressed over how they handled “The Secret Sisterhood”.

Thoughts

This is the first of only two stories that Ron Smith drew for Jinty. Smith was more frequent in Judge Dredd, so it is a delight to see him here.

A girl who causes trouble for another (motivated by revenge, personal gain, jealousy or just plain spite) is one of the oldest and most frequent formulas in girls’ comics. The DCT titles ran them so constantly that they must have run into the zillions. In Mandy alone, not many weeks went by without one such story, and Mandy’s cruellest example was probably The Dark Secret of Blind Bettina aka The Lying Eyes of Linda Lee. In Tammy and Jinty the formula appeared less frequently, which helped to keep it fresh.

In this version of the formula, we get a whole new take on the formula that is extremely rare, if not unique in its genre. Instead of pulling downright nasty tricks to sabotage the girl and get her into trouble, the troublemaker takes a far more insidious and convoluted approach – trying to get her into trouble with challenges from a non-existent secret society. This approach is extremely clever, not only on the part of the troublemaker but also the plotting. It is not so apparent straight away as to what is going on because the sabotage is being disguised as challenges, and it is more difficult for the reader to put the pieces together. Downright nasty tricks would have been a dead giveaway for the reader, and they would have known who it was and why immediately because it was all established in the first episode. Of course it all depends on Shelley rising to the bait in the first place – if she had decided against joining the society and not left her hanky on the door handle, the scheme would have been over for Kim immediately and she would have had to think of something else.

Girls’ comics have long made a strong comment on the dangers of secret societies, whether it is ones who issue challenges that are increasingly foolish and reckless, or are dark and bullying. This one is no exception – even if the society does turn out to be non-existent and it is all the work of one spiteful individual. Kim must be one of the most evil girls ever to appear in girls’ comics. Forget about trying to get Shelley expelled – Kim almost got Shelley (and others) hurt or even killed several times. She had no compunction about it whatsoever, though she must have been aware of what could happen with, say, letting off the boxful of fireworks near a crowd of people. Only at the end does she show any horror at her actions, when she realises that Nirhani could get killed because of her sixth challenge. And if that was the sixth challenge, what would the seventh have been like? The seventh step was never revealed, which must have had readers curious as to what it would have been.

This is one of the few stories in girls’ comics to have some ethnic characters. Though girls’ comics are not intentionally racist, there is a long-standing absenteeism of non-white girls in girls’ comics. Appearances of coloured or Asian girls are more the exception than the rule. But given that this is a language school, it is expected that there are girls of mixed races speaking diverse languages, and Jinty does deliver. Nirhani is Indian while Kim is part Chinese. It is interesting that both a heroine and the villain are of ethnic origin, and both are strong characters. Kim, the part Chinese, is a cold fish who is capable of just about anything to get rid of Shelley and seize the opportunity for herself. She is extremely clever and calculating, as shown in the way she is going about it – luring Shelley into trouble with a phoney secret society. Even the dress she always wears lends to her clinical nature, for it gives her an “evil scientist” look. By contrast, Nirhani the Indian girl is a warm and colourful character. Her second sight (which she handles with more success than 1977’s “Destiny Brown”) lends weight to the brains that figure out what is really going on. Nirhani is brilliant at working that part out, but we wonder if she really could have done it without her second sight.

“7 Steps to the Sisterhood” does seem to come across as a bit short-lived – only eight episodes. It could have been taken an episode or two more, if only to reveal the seventh challenge. Could it have been cut a bit short to make way for a new line-up of stories, and perhaps the seventh challenge cut off with it? Still, while it lasted, it was a whole new take on one of the most formulaic themes in girls’ comics.