Tag Archives: Schemers

The Stranger in My Shoes [1973]

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Published: Tammy 26 May 1973 to 28 July 1973 (skipped 7 July 1973)

Episodes: 9

Artist: Miguel Quesada

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

At Oldfield Orphanage School Lucy Townsend is the school klutz. She is constantly late, making a mess of things and putting her foot in it. So Lucy is really surprised when she is chosen for a benefactor-paid school trip to Switzerland. The headmistress says this is because Lucy has been deemed the most in need of a change of scene and it is hoped the trip will help her change her ways. As it turns out, it does. But of course it is very far from the way everyone thinks – or even expects.

An escort is supposed to be waiting for Lucy at Victoria Station. But the man is an imposter who proceeds to kidnap Lucy and render her unconscious. When Lucy regains consciousness, she finds herself in the household of Mrs Sage, who hired the man (and doesn’t pay him) to switch Lucy’s identity with that of her daughter Sandra. Sandra is facing borstal, so Mrs Sage pulled the identity switch in order to send Lucy to the borstal in Sandra’s place. Eventually it is revealed that Mrs Sage’s job at the orphanage enabled her to acquire the information she needed about Lucy and the trip to pull off the switch.

Sandra, disguised as Lucy, goes to Switzerland in her place. But although Sandra looks like Lucy, in Switzerland she makes no attempt whatsoever to act like Lucy or convince anyone that she is a nice girl. In terms of behaviour she is still the same old Sandra. Her difficult behaviour is soon getting on everyone’s nerves. They are really surprised to discover she cannot even read or write properly. So, assuming Sandra is not dyslexic or something, this shows how much the Sages have bothered with schooling. Indeed, Sandra not even trying to be a good imposter implies that she is not very clever. In fact, Sandra even brags to one girl about the switch. Unfortunately the girl does not believe it and thinks it’s just a leg-pull. Sandra is soon up to her delinquent behaviour too, and people are soon finding things are going missing.

Back in England, nobody listens to Lucy’s protests that she is not Sandra and how she has been kidnapped and her identity switched with Sandra’s – except one. In the courtroom, probation officer Mrs Bolfry has doubts because Lucy does not sound like Sandra, but she is not 100% convinced. The Sage parents pull all sorts of tricks and lies to convince the court that ‘Sandra’ is unmanageable and delinquent. Lucy tries to escape from them, but is recaptured with the help of a criminal friend of theirs. The court sentences her to six months in borstal.

Mrs Bolfry had made a tape recording of Lucy’s voice. The more she listens to it, the more her doubts grow. She takes the recording to the orphanage for the headmistress to listen to and get her opinion. But the headmistress is away on a school camp in Wales, and the receptionist does not offer any help.

At the borstal, Lucy meets an old friend of Sandra’s, Babs Brown. Babs is a tearaway and a hard case, and she is not impressed to see ‘Sandra’ looks like she is trying to go straight. Lucy gets two days in the detention room because of Babs’ tricks. Then, when Babs comes into the cell with food, Lucy uses strong-arm tactics to get something out of her – anything – that will help prove she is not Sandra. Babs recalls that Sandra has a birthmark on her right shoulder, and when Lucy shows that she has no such birthmark, Babs becomes the first to believe she is not Sandra. After hearing Lucy’s story, Babs helps to smuggle her out of borstal in a laundry basket. It’s a hoary trick, but it works. The trouble is, the laundry man sees her get out of the basket and calls the borstal.

Lucy plans to get back to the orphanage where everyone knows her and can help her prove her identity. But all the people there who knew her are away on the camp and the man at the door tells her to clear off. Mrs Bolfry is Lucy’s only hope now and she heads off to find a phone box.

Meanwhile, the police inform Mrs Sage about the escape. Guessing that Lucy is heading for the orphanage, she and her accomplice head out there, where they intercept Lucy at the phone box before she can put the call through to Mrs Bolfry. However, Lucy manages to scare them off with a bluff that she got through to the orphanage and they are on their way to collect her.

Lucy decides to jump a train to Mrs Bolfry instead, but the Sages see her trying to do so and realised she tricked them. Lucy sees the flunky chasing her and manages to get aboard the train before he nabs her. But when Lucy arrives at the Law Courts she finds the police informing Mrs Bolfry about her escape, and from the sound of things, this is making Mrs Bolfry doubt Lucy’s claims that she is not Sandra.

However, when Lucy appeals to Mrs Bolfry, she finds Mrs Bolfry still has sufficient suspicions to give her a chance. They contact the orphanage to find out where everyone is gone. They find everyone has gone to the Welsh mountains and head out there. Unfortunately Mrs Sage and her accomplice have guessed Lucy was heading for Mrs Bolfry and managed to trace her to the Law Courts. Worse, Lucy spots the man who had foiled her when she first tried to escape from the Sages. And she realises he has seen her head off with Mrs Bolfry.

Back at the borstal, Babs tells the governor that the escapee is not Sandra Sage and urges her to check out a girl going under the name of ‘Lucy Townsend’ at a school in Switzerland. The governor puts a call through to Mrs Bolfry about it and finds she has disappeared.

The man catches up with Mrs Bolfry and Lucy when the car breaks down. He tries to blackmail Mrs Bolfry for aiding and abetting. She calls his bluff and tells him to clear off, because she is convinced enough to take the risk. They fix the car and are soon on their way again. When they stop at a motorway café, the man tries to blackmail Mrs Bolfry again. This frightens Lucy into running away and head out to the school camp on her own. Meanwhile, the man is frightened off when the local inspector overhears and gets suspicious. Mrs Bolfry informs him of her suspicions.

Lucy makes her way to the school camp and convinces the headmistress of who she is despite her altered appearance. Mrs Bolfry and the inspector arrive in time to overhear this, which finally convinces Mrs Bolfry that Lucy is telling the truth. But when they tackle Mrs Sage, she denies everything. So they head to Switzerland to check things out, dragging the protesting Mrs Sage along.

Meanwhile, the girls have realised that ‘Lucy’ is doing the stealing. Hearing this, Sandra does a runner on skis. The girls give chase, as do the police when Sandra tries to sell the stolen goods and the man gets suspicious. A snowstorm is setting in, so Sandra takes refuge in a ski hut. She still has the stolen goods, which she intends to deal with after the weather clears. The girls cannot pursue because one of them has been hurt. So they head back to inform the headmistress, who has now been met by the police inquiry from England.

Lucy insists on being the one to confront Sandra, despite the snowstorm. The owner of the hut, Marcus, takes her there in his dog sleigh. They see warning signs of a potential avalanche on some chalets and Marcus sets off to warn the chalet owners. But there is no stopping the dogs from going to the hut, and they are dragging Lucy along on the sleigh. And without Marcus, Lucy is all on her own against Sandra.

At the hut, Lucy confronts Sandra and gives chase when Sandra tries to run. Then the avalanche starts and they get caught in it. Lucy manages to get out, but Sandra is unconscious. Seeing this, Mrs Sage finally gives herself away when she cries out for her daughter, and it is clear she is referring to the girl who looks like Lucy Townsend. Mrs Sage and the recovered Sandra (still looking like Lucy!) are sent back to England to face charges. The judge calls the whole plot “deplorable”; the sentences he passes are not revealed. Lucy is finally able to enjoy Switzerland. She still looks like Sandra, but the alterations should fade in time.

Thoughts

Serials about fugitives and escapes from prisons and other corrective institutions have always been popular and are one of my own favourite types of serials. Added to this one you have the identity switch, the protagonist battling to prove her identity and escape the borstal she has been thrown into, and double trouble in the form of an imposter who is blackening her name with the crimes she is committing under the identity she has stolen. There is plenty of action and excitement, with chase scenes on both sides, and the final confrontation that occurs in the face of danger for both Lucy and her evil double. It all occurs at a cracking pace that is very tightly plotted. It does not get drawn out with Lucy encountering constant setbacks and failed attempts to prove her identity, though of course the road to get there is not smooth sailing. This is a story you just have to love.

There have been plenty of stories where a girl’s identity is switched with another’s. Sometimes it occurs accidentally (Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud), and sometimes it’s deliberate, as is the case here. Most often the girl faces constant frustration and failure in her attempts to prove her identity, which are sometimes compounded by the handicap of losing her voice (Curtain of Silence), and she makes no headway until the end of the story. It’s a very common way of spinning this type of story out. But this story is an exception, and it makes a refreshing change. Lucy is more fortunate in that she makes progress early on in the story, despite the Sages, what with planting the seeds of doubt in Mrs Bolfry’s mind. At the borstal, Lucy is quick to make a breakthrough – not to mention a breakout – by meeting Babs, who happened to know Sandra and could provide Lucy with information to help her distinguish herself from Sandra. Lucy herself knows people who can help her prove her identity. Unfortunately they all just happen to be away at the moment, and she has to chase them up before the police or Sages chase her down.

By helping Lucy, Mrs Bolfry becomes in effect a fugitive herself. As the blackmailer said, what she is doing is technically aiding and abetting, and she is putting her career and freedom on the line by helping Lucy. But Mrs Bolfry persists because she has enough faith to take the risk, and we all applaud her for her courage and balls in doing what she felt was right, and really putting her neck out in order to do it.

Commendations must also be given to Babs Brown. She is initially set up as a rough, delinquent, and unsympathetic character. To make her even more unsympathetic, she gets poor Lucy sent to the detention room for something she did. But Babs redeems herself once she believes Lucy is not Sandra by helping her make the escape she so badly needed to do. Babs also tries to make headway with the authorities in helping Lucy prove her identity. It does not sound like Babs got very far there, but at least she tried and she redeemed herself even further.

The story does not dwell on the borstal much; the plotting is kept very tight and brief there, and it moves quickly to Lucy’s escape. This is very sensible story writing. From what we see of the borstal, it is not a sadistic reformatory that tortures its inmates with cruel severity as in Merry at Misery House, nor do we see any cruel guards who like to torment the inmates for their own amusement. But then, Lucy does not stay there long before her escape. There is no constant frustration with failed escapes. No, Lucy is out and running from the borstal on the first attempt.

The reason Lucy is in the borstal is unconventional. Usually the protagonist is in the borstal or other penal institution because she has been wrongly convicted, such as Merry Summers in “Misery House”. But in this case the protagonist is there because her identity has been switched with the true delinquent’s. The battle is to prove her identity, not prove her innocence or expose dreadful prison conditions, as Merry is constantly trying to do.

Once Sandra gets to work in Switzerland, we have to wonder why her mother even bothered to pull the switch in the first place. Sandra just hasn’t got the brains to be a good imposter. Although Sandra looks like Lucy she does not even bother to act like her or even try to fool the girls into thinking she is nice. She remains her horrible self, so it’s very easy for suspicion to fall on her once the thefts start. She’s soon on the run as a wanted thief and can’t carry on at the school, which she would be expelled from and sent home. She’s in trouble with the Swiss authorities and could face their version of borstal. She is causing the whole plot to unravel at her end, all because she did not have the brains or inclination to pull off a convincing impersonation. In effect, Sandra just transferred her criminal traits to a new setting under a new identity instead of using her new identity to start a new life in hiding from the borstal as her parents intended. Evidently, although Sandra is a criminal, her mother did not teach her much in how to be a clever one. But it was all just as well for the real Lucy Townsend; it helped her to convince people about the identity switch.

It is pretty predictable that the ordeal turns Lucy around. She is not a problematic or selfish girl as many other protagonists start out as before their nightmare begins. She’s just a klutz and a bit thoughtless, which makes things a bit different. These faults are aggravating, but they are very minor and they don’t make Lucy unsympathetic at the beginning of the story. Naturally, these problems disappear instantly once Lucy’s ordeal begins and she becomes courageous, resourceful, quick-thinking girl. On the whole, Lucy is a good sort right from the start. This would have helped her even more in distinguishing herself from the delinquent Sandra and proving her identity.

 

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Kerry in the Clouds (1977)

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Published: 16 April 1977 – 18 June 1977

Episodes: 10

Artist: Cándido Ruiz Pueyo/Emilia Prieto

Writer: Alan Davidson

Translations/reprints: Klaartje in de wolken [Klaartje in the clouds] in Tina 1978

Plot

Kerry Langland has just left school. Her nickname is “Kerry in the Clouds”, partly because she lives so high in an apartment block that clouds settle over it sometimes. But it’s mostly because she always has her head in the clouds with dreams of being a famous actress. She loves to dress up and go out on the balcony, imagining that she is an actress, and getting away from the apartment block she hates living in. Her former classmates have always teased her over her dreaming. They say her dreams are all castles in the air and she doesn’t have what it takes to be an actress. Kerry’s parents share the same view and fix her up with a dead-end factory job, saying she can’t expect better because she wasted her schooling on dreaming.

So Kerry writes to her idol, the famous actress Gail Terson, for help. Much to Kerry’s surprise, Terson shows up in person to see her and agrees to help, saying Kerry has the talent to make it as an actress. She gives Kerry a complete makeover to make her glamorous, takes her around the high life, gives her plenty of media exposure, and fixes her up with an agent for a soft drink ad that will be circulated nationwide. As people see Kerry’s ad on the billboard, the teasing stops and nobody calls her “Kerry in the Clouds” anymore.

Kerry’s parents warn her it’s all too good to be true and she shouldn’t buy into it because there must be a catch somewhere. They are right: Terson is just taking advantage of Kerry and her head always being in the clouds, but just what Terson wants Kerry for is not clear. Kerry’s own suspicions begin to grow after seeing Terson use a dress that looks suspiciously like the one she bought for Kerry in a shopping expedition. But Terson pulls the wool over Kerry’s eyes by saying the dress is all part of an acting role she has got for Kerry.

So Kerry goes back to living the high life. Her picture is getting in all the papers, her parents are astonished at the whole new glamorous wardrobe Terson has bought for her, her pay cheque for the poster ad is far bigger than anything she would have earned at the factory, and the press say she is tipped as a girl who is going places. Kerry even finds herself being mobbed by autograph fans, including the two girls who used to tease her at school.

Kerry realises her makeovers and new wardrobes have been designed to build her up for the starring role in a film called “The Buttercup”, the role Terson plays in the stage version. Then Kerry learns that Terson had wanted the same part in the film, but film producer Mel Simpson turned her down because he considered her old and stale while the public wanted someone new. Kerry wonders why Terson helped her to get the role that she wanted so badly.

Crunch time comes when shooting starts, and all of a sudden Kerry realises she can’t do the role because she can’t act at all! Which is precisely what Terson had known all along. She had known from the first that Kerry was just a dreamer and had no real acting talent – which is what the parents and schoolgirls had always said to Kerry. She had just been stringing Kerry along to get her revenge on Simpson by lumbering him with a talentless girl in the leading role and being stuck with her because of the contract.

Kerry is distraught at being played for such a fool and realises her parents had been right all along. She releases Simpson from the contract and disappears, and the papers are full of it. Once Terson reads about Kerry’s disappearance she is struck by remorse and goes after Kerry, whom she finds on the roof of the apartment block. She apologises to Kerry, saying she never considered Kerry’s feelings while plotting revenge against Simpson. Kerry says the experience has made her grow up and realise how her constant dreaming was so unrealistic, so she bears no grudges. Terson offers Kerry a job as a personal assistant, and Kerry accepts.

Thoughts

This story is not one of Jinty’s more memorable stories. But recently it has attracted comment on the Jinty blog for two reasons. First, we have been provided with a glimpse of the script for part one, which still exists and came to light in writer Alan Davidson’s files. Second, there is some controversy over the identity of the artist. Is the artist’s name Cándido Ruiz Pueyo or Emilia Prieto? It is Pueyo, but for a while he worked under the pseudonym Emilia Prieto, and a panel in the final episode of this story is signed with his pseudonym.

Although the story is not one of Jinty’s classics, it certainly breaks some moulds in the Cinderella and “dream fulfilment” formats. It does not end up with the heroine realising her dream of becoming an actress and having the last laugh on the parents and schoolgirls who said she was just a silly dreamer. Instead, it is revealed they were right all along, and Kerry is made to realise it when she is forced to act for the first time in her life and discovers she can’t. In all those years she dreamed of being an actress, she clearly made no serious attempt to realise her ambitions by, say, pursuing drama clubs and school plays to get experience. If she had, she would have realised long ago that she was no actress. Instead, she just indulged herself with dreaming while not doing anything serious to fulfil her dreams until she writes to Terson.

The story is also a cautionary tale in that old adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is”. Kerry was very fortunate in that the woman who took advantage of her eventually found her conscience and made amends by offering Kerry a high-paying job that would still get Kerry into the acting world, of sorts. So Kerry would not be stuck in dead-end factory jobs like Dad and continue to live in the graffiti-smeared apartment block she hated so much. There are many sleaze bags out there waiting to prey upon the dreams of innocent, naive girls to take advantage of them.

Olympia Jones (1976-1977)

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Publication: Tammy 2 October 1976 to 1 January 1977

Episodes: 14

Reprint / translations: Tammy & Misty 25 April 1981 to 25 July 1981; Een paard voor Olympia [A Horse for Olympia], Tina Topstrip #31

Artist: Eduardo Feito

Writer: Anne Digby

Here we take some time out from Jinty to discuss one of Tammy’s classic and best-remembered stories, Olympia Jones. 

Plot

Olympia Jones is the daughter of an equestrian Olympic gold medallist, Captain Rupert Jones. She has been reared to follow in his footsteps and win an Olympic gold too; hence her name. Jones was reduced to animal trainer at Rott’s Circus after a riding accident disabled him and ended his show-jumping career. Jones makes such a profit for the circus because of his fame that Rott is anxious to keep him pleased. For this reason he tells his spoiled daughter Linda that he cannot exclude Olympia from her circus horse act, much to Linda’s chagrin. Linda is jealous of Olympia always being the crowd favourite in the act; this is because she has far better rapport with the horses (and animals) than Linda does.

But things change when Olympia is orphaned in a crash. Rott wastes no time in removing Olympia from Linda’s act and reducing her to animal trainer. All the same, it is Olympia’s training of the horses that makes Linda’s act so sensational and elevates Linda to star status, not any real talent on Linda’s part. A far more crippling blow for Olympia is that she is no longer able to compete in gymkhanas, so her Olympic dream seems to be over.

Then Rott buys a new horse for Linda’s act. His name is Prince and he needs special care and attention because he has been cruelly treated. Animal-loving Olympia is only too happy to provide it. Unfortunately Prince gets off to a bad start with Linda because she looks like his cruel owner, so from then on she regards him as “a bad tempered brute” and does not give him a chance. When Prince doesn’t perform for Linda the way he does for Olympia she starts beating him. And when he shows her up in front of the crowds on opening night she is so furious she gives him an extremely ferocious beating. This leaves him extremely subdued and miserable when he performs on the second night.

In the audience is Horace Phipps, an inspector from the League of Love for Animals (LOLA) who is paying a routine visit. Phipps notices how miserable Prince is, and immediately suspects what is happening. Before long he has photographed the evidence of Linda’s cruelty and confronts Rott over it. Rott covers up for Linda and saves himself from prosecution by putting the blame on Olympia, dismissing her without references, and ordering her to leave the circus.

Olympia realises Rott made a scapegoat of her to get out of trouble with LOLA, but she can do nothing to prove her innocence. However, she is not going to leave Prince with Linda Rott, so she does a midnight flit with him, leaving her antique gypsy caravan home in exchange. This exchange satisfies the Rotts (for the time being) and they think they are well rid of her and Prince. But what Rott did will come back to bite, because there is one thing he overlooked when he sacked Olympia…

Next morning Olympia secures a job as a pony trek leader at Summerlees Adventure Centre by impressing the staff so much when she saves a rider after his horse bolts. Olympia and Prince are much happier at Summerlees than they were at the circus. But Olympia strikes problems with a difficult pupil, Amanda Fry, who makes liberal use of a crop on her pony. (Ironically, Amanda’s father turns out to be the LOLA President.) Naturally, Olympia clamps down very hard on this and does her best to educate Amanda in handling her pony better. It doesn’t really sink in until Amanda’s use of the crop makes her pony bolt and she almost gets killed. After this, Amanda reforms. While galloping to Amanda’s rescue Olympia discovers Prince is a born show-jumper and has what it takes to become a champion. All of a sudden, her Olympic hopes are rising again.

With the help of the senior trek leader, Miss Carson (Carsie) Olympia begins to train Prince as a show jumper and they are soon winning some very classy events. This draws the attention of the Olympic Team Selection Committee. They ask Olympia to enter a list of qualifying events to get into the British team. Unfortunately Olympia has to enter them without Carsie’s help because Carsie suddenly has to go and nurse her ailing mother in Malta. When Summerlees closes for winter Olympia gets a farming job with one Farmer Bry, who agrees to provide transport to her events.

Olympia makes such progress that she is now making big news, which unfortunately catches the attention of the Rotts. Their circus is now suffering because Linda’s formerly sensational horse act and the animal training have deteriorated without Olympia – the thing Rott had overlooked when he sacked her. They realise Prince is now worth a fortune as an Olympic prospect and hatch a plan to make it all theirs, with LOLA doing all the dirty work for them.

So Rott goes to Phipps with his old (but not officially invalidated) ownership papers of Prince and a concocted story that Olympia stole Prince in revenge for her dismissal. He wants LOLA to get Prince back for him because he is afraid of the ‘cruel methods’ Olympia must be using to turn Prince into a champion, but does not want the police involved. Phipps promises Rott that he will intercept Olympia at her next event and get Prince back off her.

But Olympia and Prince slip through Phipps’ fingers and go on the run, which forces Phipps and the Rotts to call the police. Olympia has one last event to win to secure her place in the Olympic team. She manages it by disguising Prince, but finds the police waiting for her afterwards. She is arrested and Prince is returned to the circus (after a terrible struggle).

When the news breaks, it causes a national sensation. Amanda cannot believe it when she hears about the cruelty allegations against Olympia. Still owing Olympia for saving her life, Amanda mounts a secret vigil on Rott’s Circus, armed with a camera. So when Phipps presents his evidence of Olympia’s ‘cruelty’ at the trial, the defence counters with Amanda’s photographs of Linda Rott ill treating Prince in that manner. Linda flies into such a tantrum at being caught out that she has to be restrained by policemen, and her guilt is exposed to the court. The reactions of LOLA and the fate of the Rotts are not recorded, but of course the jury acquits Olympia – and after an extremely short deliberation, lasting barely twenty minutes.

Three days later Olympia is reunited with Prince and now has official proof of ownership. The same month (and one panel later) Olympia wins her Olympic gold. When she returns to Britain, Carsie is waiting for her. Carsie’s mother had passed over but left a house in Malta that she invites Olympia and Prince to share.

Thoughts

When Olympia Jones was first published there could be no doubt it was inspired by the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Montreal was extremely topical in Tammy’s 1976 year, probably because Bella was making a bid for it in her 1976 story. Olympia certainly had more luck at the Olympics than Bella, who had to settle for participating in the opening ceremony after being denied the chance to compete. Olympia Jones does not specifically refer to Montreal or any other particular Olympic Games, so it does not become dated as the 1976 Bella story would.

In terms of plotting Olympia is far superior to the 1976 Bella story, which turned into a rather silly plot line of Bella getting lost on the Continent while striving to reach the Games she can’t even compete in – and all without her passport! In contrast, Olympia has a strong, tightly plotted and well-paced storyline (except for the final episode, which feels a bit crammed), and strong characters whose ambitions, faults and personalities drive the plot in an exciting, dramatic manner.

Olympia was so popular that she was brought back by popular demand in 1981. Olympia also makes some humorous cameo appearances in Wee Sue’s special story commemorating Tammy’s 10th birthday issue, which is further proof of what a classic she had become.

The story has so much to make it so popular. First, it is a horse story, and horse stories are always a huge draw for readers. While not a Cinderella story as such, fairy tale elements are evident. Although there is no family relationship between Olympia and Linda, the relationship they share reads like the formula of “The Two Stepsisters” (one good, exploited stepsister, one bad, spoilt stepsister). The wicked stepmother (replaced by Mr Rott) ill-treats the good stepdaughter (Olympia) and spoils her bad daughter (Linda). But as in the fairy tale, it is the spoilt ways of the bad stepdaughter that are her undoing and that of her over-indulgent parent. The good stepdaughter is rewarded with gold (the medal?) and a royal.

The contrast between Olympia and Linda, particularly in their attitudes to animals, is what really sets up the foundation for the story to follow. Much of Linda’s bad character is rooted in her upbringing. Her mother is absent and her father has spoiled her. And he is definitely not a savoury role model for his daughter. He is forced to tolerate Olympia in Linda’s act while Mr Jones is present, but has no compunction in dropping her once Mr Jones is dead, just to indulge his daughter. Although cruelty has not erupted in his circus before and he does not seem to mistreat his animals, he does not reprimand Linda for her cruelty to Prince. His anger towards her is over nearly getting him into trouble with LOLA. And he is virtually the cackling, twirling-moustached villain as he drives to LOLA to put their conspiracy against Olympia into operation.

And there is the jealousy Linda has always harboured towards Olympia. The jealousy does not abate even after Olympia was removed from Linda’s act, and it must have been inflamed when Linda heard Olympia was becoming famous as an Olympic prospect while her circus act had deteriorated. Linda’s jealousy was what motivated her to hatch the conspiracy against Olympia. It must have also been a huge factor in why Linda hated Prince so much, as he was Olympia’s favourite horse, and why Linda did not listen to Olympia’s advice on how to handle him. If she had, things would have gone better between her and Prince. Compounding Linda’s jealousy is her arrogance; all she cares about is being a star and she just has to show off in the ring. As a result, Olympia and Prince put her nose so badly out of joint that they could never work well together.

Third is Olympia’s struggle to fulfil her father’s dream after fate seems to dash her hopes and reduce her to exploitation at the circus. Although her hopes rise again at Summerlees she still has to face difficulties, such as finding a job when Summerlees closes for the winter and ends up slogging under Farmer Bry. Although he does not exploit her he is a bit on the hard side and gets ideas about turning her into a money-spinner for him.

When the injustice angle is introduced it further adds to the development and interest of the story, because it has left plot threads that readers know will be taken up later. They would carry on reading to see how these threads get tied up. The way in which they do so creates the true drama of the story. Instead of some clichéd contrivance of Olympia being suddenly cleared at the end, the injustice thread is developed into the Rotts’ conspiracy against Olympia. The unfolding conspiracy, arrest and upcoming trial are even more riveting than Olympia battle against the odds to win the Olympic gold. The odds look even more stacked up against Olympia here because she has no case at all to prove in court. Everything weighs in favour of the Rotts and it all seems hopeless to Olympia. But readers might have got a clue as to what will save Olympia if they saw the sign outside Phipps’ office, which says Lord Fry is the president of LOLA…

Comparison between Linda and Amanda also adds interest to the story. Both girls are guilty of horse beating because they are spoiled and harbour unhealthy attitudes towards the treatment of animals. In Amanda’s case it is quite surprising as her father is the president of LOLA. Is he aware of how she treats her pony? However, unlike Linda, Amanda listens to Olympia. It is helpful that in this case Olympia is in a position of authority and there is no bad blood with Amanda, as there was with Linda. All the same, it takes the shock of the near-accident caused by her own cruelty to really turn Amanda around. Amanda ultimately redeems herself by bringing down the other horse-beater in the story, for whom there is no redemption. You have to love the irony.

One quibble is that so much is packed into the final episode that several things get short shrift. We don’t see LOLA’s reaction to the new evidence or what happens to the Rotts in the end. We can only assume the scandal destroyed their already-ailing circus, they faced criminal charges, and Rott would never forgive his spoilt daughter. Only one panel is devoted to winning the medal that Olympia had been striving for throughout her story. It would have been better pacing to spread the resolution over two episodes, or even just add an extra page in the final episode. But perhaps the editor would not have allowed it. Another quibble is that the courtroom dress in the trial scene is not drawn correctly; some more research could have been done there.

The artwork of Eduardo Feito also lends the popularity of Olympia Jones. Feito was brilliant at drawing horse stories, which made him a very popular choice in Tammy for illustrating them. The proportion of horse stories drawn by Feito in Tammy is very high, even higher than other regular artists in Tammy. Feito’s Tammy horse stories include “Halves in a Horse”, “Rona Rides Again”, “Those Jumps Ahead of Jaki”, “Odds on Patsy”, and “A Horse Called September”, the last of which reunites the Digby/Feito team. It would be very interesting to know if any of these other horse stories also used the same team. It would not be surprising.

The Kat and Mouse Game (1974-75)

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Published: 16 November 1974 – 5 April 1975 (18 episodes)

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Unknown

Translation/reprints: Dutch translation “Als kat en muis” [Like cat and mouse] in Tina 1985; translated into Greek in Manina.

Plot

Everyone avoids Kat Morgan at Barton Grange Ballet School because they all know she is a selfish, bullying girl who grabs all the best chances there are in the school, along with everything else she wants. What makes it even more distasteful is that Kat’s dancing is not as good as she thinks.

Meanwhile, new girl Letitia (her last name is not established) arrives. She was not keen on coming because she is a shy girl and happy to be the only ballet pupil in her village because of it. She only agreed to enrol at Barton Grange at the urging of her ballet teacher, who says the school can provide far better tuition for her talent than she can.

Shyness also makes Letitia gullible and naïve, so she proves easy prey for Kat’s false show of friendship. Kat has quickly realised what a sap Letitia is, and so she is taking advantage of Letitia to turn her into her personal handmaid. She also nicknames Letitia “Mouse”, and it sticks. But not even the humiliation of dubbing Letitia “Mouse” in front of everyone makes Letitia wake up; she meekly says she does not mind. Mouse does not listen to the girls’ later warnings that Kat is a creep who is making a mug out of her. Kat also poisons Mouse against Miss Randall the headmistress to make sure Miss Randall is not able to warn Mouse either. Eventually Mouse is left to stew in her own juice.

However, Kat soon discovers there is one snag to having Mouse as her skivvy once she sees her dance – Mouse is a far better dancer than she is. Jealousy unleashes the Kat’s claws, for she is not going to be upstaged by that Mouse. So Kat now plays a double game of stringing Mouse along as her skivvy while sabotaging Mouse to keep her in the background. To make sure of both, she wangles things for Mouse to come and live in her house, where she really enjoys having Mouse wait on her hand and foot and fetching and carrying everything for her. It is the same at school. The girls notice how Kat is turning Mouse into her slave. But when they try to speak to Mouse about it she just thinks they are being mean.

The double game has its drawbacks, though, due to Kat not thinking through the consequences of playing such a tricky double game. For example, Kat tricks Mouse into dancing badly at a test to make sure Mouse does not outshine her. But when Kat realises that this could get Mouse thrown out and she will lose her little skivvy, she quickly talks the teachers into letting Mouse stay, saying it was nerves.

Then Kat’s mother finds out how Kat is turning Mouse into her slave. In punishment, she stops Kat’s pocket money for two months. This comes at a time when Kat wants money to see a new ballet, as they will perform it later at their school and there are two places at stake in a ballet company. Of course Kat wants one of them. As there is no pocket money, Kat steals the money Mouse asked home for.

When Kat sees the ballet, she immediately sets her eyes on dancing the Tiger role in it. But Kat’s in for a surprise (and so are we) when she describes the Tiger performance to Mouse. Mouse visualises the Tiger so vividly that she puts up a stunning impromptu that has even Kat impressed. Realising Mouse could beat her to the Tiger role, Kat pulls more tricks to stop Mouse – and others – auditioning for it. But one trick backfires and gets Kat stuck in the lift. So she could be the one who misses out on the part. Sappy but kind Mouse isn’t having Kat miss out on her audition, so she dons the Tiger costume and pretends to be Kat. So thanks to Mouse, Kat gets the role. Now Kat has a new use for Mouse – have her stand in for her in the Tiger role, because she knows she could never top Mouse’s interpretation of the Tiger.

Then Kat starts getting worried that it’s getting too dangerous and the school might find her out. So, although she has enjoyed having Mouse as her mug, she now plots to get Mouse expelled. However, one of the tricks rebounds when it causes Kat to get her leg badly bruised in an accident. Moreover, Kat won’t seek treatment because that would mean the end of her Tiger role. However, she can’t dance properly because of her leg and she has to perform in front of the Mayor, so she cons Mouse into dancing it for her. Moreover, she is making sure Mouse, who blames herself for the accident, is waiting on her even more. Kat is really enjoying it, but is now treating Mouse in a bad tempered way. Mouse puts it down to the pain in Kat’s leg. Yes, there is that, but of course the real reason is that Kat is taking advantage to bully Mouse into the bargain.

Kat’s temper gets worse when she sees Mouse dancing the Tiger in the show. She realises that Mouse is getting even better in the role and her jealousy grows. Suspicion also grows when the girls comment on how well Kat danced with that badly bruised leg while Mouse looked like she had been dancing hard but she was not even in the performance.

Kat gets so jealous of Mouse that she sabotages a special platform that Mouse will leap onto so it will collapse under her. However, it backfires when Miss Randall tells Kat to leap onto the platform instead. Kat tries to avoid the weakened parts, but fails because of her bad leg, and the platform collapses under her.

Mouse saves Kat from serious injury – but oh, what a surprise! Mouse has picked up on clues that have made her suspicious of Kat. She now realises what Kat did and shouts at her over it: Kat spiked the platform, Kat betrayed their friendship, Kat hated her all along, they’re finished and she never wants to see Kat again. So now Mouse has finally seen through Kat and it’s the end of the story!

Oh rats, it’s not. Kat isn’t finished yet. She is now even more anxious to get Mouse expelled before everything comes out, and now plots to frame her for stealing. And Mouse is still living with Kat, which makes it easier. One night Kat goes to steal money from the head’s safe and blame it on Mouse. Realising Mouse has followed her, Kat pretends to be sleepwalking while taking the money. Mouse takes the money back to the safe, but is caught doing so. Mouse can’t fully explain because as she feels it would be sneaking and foolishly thinks Kat didn’t mean it. She even thinks Kat did it subconsciously for her because she is poor! So she takes the blame and is expelled.

The school has to wait for Mouse’s parents to come to remove her. So Mouse is put in isolation, but still around for Kat to take advantage of. Kat can’t dance properly because of her leg, and now the time has come to impress the ballet company director and get one of the two places. So again Kat wheedles Mouse into dancing the Tiger for her. However, the director is so overexcited by the performance that he rips off the Tiger mask on the stage, and everyone sees who was really doing the dancing.

Kat has to do some fast thinking on why an expelled girl is dancing in her place. So she dashes off, ties herself up, and spins a story that Mouse tied her up and stole the costume. Even the unbelievably gullible Mouse has to well and truly realise what a toad Kat is after this, but she can’t prove it.

Meanwhile, Kat is forced to go on stage in the tiger costume. But she can’t dance properly with her bad leg, and that mad dash to tie herself up has aggravated the damage. Her leg injury and its lack of treatment are soon discovered. Although by his own admission he is not a doctor, the director tells Kat that the injury will leave a permanent weakness in her leg, which means she can never become a professional dancer. Shocked to realise she has destroyed herself by her own dirty tricks against Mouse, Kat decides she might as well make a clean breast of everything and does so. At Mouse’s request, Miss Randall spares Kat the disgrace of expulsion and just lets her quietly leave because of her leg. Mouse gets into the ballet company and goes on to have a brilliant ballet career.

Thoughts

There has been a common feeling about this story that it’s difficult to be fully sympathetic for the protagonist because she’s so wet and unbelievably naïve and gullible that she believes anything Kat tells her. Even when Mouse does see through Kat after the platform incident, it does not last long. Before long, Mouse goes back to falling for Kat’s tricks and thinking Kat’s her friend. Any respect we gained for Mouse in that outburst is instantly lost. And any hope we have of Mouse finding a whole new backbone that sets her on the road to more confidence is dashed as well.

Mouse cuts off her own avenues of help by not listening to warnings, although this is partly because she has foolishly believed the lies that Kat has told her. Even when Kat’s mother finds out how Kat is treating Mouse and stops her pocket money in punishment, Mouse doesn’t open her eyes to it as well. She goes on thinking Kat is her friend whom she is only too happy to do everything for. All anyone can really do is watch and notice suspicious things that filter through, but they don’t have enough evidence to act on them.

The scheming follows a fairly common pattern in girls’ comics, where the schemer starts off just playing tricks on the protagonist because she is taking advantage her or thinks it’s just a huge joke. But later the scheming takes a more spiteful turn, with the schemer deciding to get rid of her victim altogether. This is because she’s gotten bored with it, or it’s gotten too complicated, or the victim has done something that’s really put the schemer’s nose out of joint and she’s out for revenge. And it’s here that things begin to unravel for the schemer. Other stories that follow this pattern include Tammy’s “Dulcie Wears the Dunce’s Hat” and M&J’s “What Lila Wants…”.

It is bad enough that Kat is playing a double game with Mouse, what with sabotaging her while taking advantage of her at the same time. But when it turns to scheming to get Mouse expelled, her conduct becomes really galling. Although she succeeds in getting Mouse expelled, she has the nerve to still take advantage of her because she wants Mouse to stand in for her in the Tiger role and be her unpaid servant. She isn’t even grateful to Mouse for saving her from the collapsing platform. Yes, she does say “thanks”, but nothing in her conduct or thoughts afterwards indicates true gratitude. Kat’s only redeeming quality is how she breaks down in the end and confesses everything, which saves Mouse. Could those tears be the start of a new improved Kat? We cannot say for sure, but we can be confident that Kat will never be the same again.

It is a real twist that the Kat ends up destroying herself through her own subterfuge on Mouse. Kat won’t seek treatment for an injury that was caused by one of her own tricks, just because she does not want to lose the Tiger role. Yet she can’t even dance the Tiger because of her own injury, so she still has to use the very girl she is trying to expel. Moreover, Kat let her leg go untreated and worsened it with her final trick on Mouse, so it deteriorated to the point where she would never be able to dance again. In any case, she never had enough talent to really get to the top to begin with, so no amount of trickery would get her there.