Tag Archives: school

Sister in the Shadows [1980]

Sample Images

Sister in the Shadows 1Sister in the Shadows 2Sister in the Shadows 3

Published: Tammy 5 January 1980 to 22 March 1980

Episodes: 12

Artist: Giorgio Giorgetti

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Stella Weekes is a girl born with the golden touch. She comes out top at everything she does, she is always a winner, and she has never lost at anything. At her old school Gatecombe Comprehensive, Stella was the star pupil and even the headmistress virtually hero-worships her; there are displays of Stella’s school achievements everywhere. Now Stella is the star of a TV sports series, Goldengirl. Stella’s parents just never stop bragging about her and they “kill the fattened calf” for her whenever she shows up.

This causes huge problems for Stella’s younger sister Wendy when she starts at Gatecombe. Wendy has grown up in the shadow of Stella’s success, and at Gatecombe she becomes overshadowed even more. Everyone, including the school staff and Wendy’s parents, expect Wendy to be another Stella and keep comparing her with Stella. On Wendy’s first day alone, she is constantly embarrassed and humiliated because the school staff make a huge fuss over her, push her to the front at everything, and give her all the plum roles and expect her to be just as brilliant at doing them as Stella. The headmistress even compares Wendy’s appearance with Stella’s – and it’s not a favourable comparison either. They only see Wendy as “Stella’s sister” instead an individual, and they expect her to be just like Stella. At home, Wendy’s parents, who are just too full of pride about Stella, are just as bad at expecting Wendy to be just like Stella. At least they do it in a somewhat more light-hearted manner. But they are too consumed with pride over Stella to even take in interest in what Wendy tries to do or lend her any support. For the parents, Wendy always takes second place to Stella. Nobody will respect Wendy for herself.

But Wendy does not have a golden touch like Stella. She suffers from poor self-esteem because she is being constantly expected to follow in Stella’s footsteps when she considers herself the opposite of Stella. Worse, it does not take long for the other girls to pick up on how Wendy pales in comparison to her sister. They understandably resent how the big fuss over Wendy is not giving them a chance, while not understanding that Wendy does not like it any more than they do.

As a result, Wendy becomes a target of bullying, with the girls constantly teasing her because she isn’t living up to Stella’s reputation while all adults around her keep expecting her to do so. Wendy’s worst enemies are Angela and Honey, who also like to play dirty tricks on Wendy whenever she tries to prove herself, so as to make her the laughingstock again. Furthermore, they have the whole class send Wendy to Coventry and they call her “weak sister Wendy”. Even their families get in on the act; Angela’s brother Adam helps them play a trick on Wendy to get her into trouble with the headmistress. There seems to be no limit to their bullying; at one point they cause Wendy to take a fall during a bar exercise and land on top of the gym teacher, and then they have the nerve to blame Wendy when the teacher has an attack. Fortunately for Wendy, the doctor sorts them out. At least there is one person who is sticking up for Wendy, but nobody else is there to talk to the parents or help sort out the bullies.

Following a misunderstanding, Angela and Honey think Wendy tricked them out of their chance to meet their heartthrob Gregg Vanderley, who is Stella’s co-star. After this, their spite grows even worse. They try to frame Wendy for stealing exam papers. When this fails, they trick Wendy into an old tower and intend her to have a nasty accident. Wendy breaks her wrist because of this. The doctor has her stay off school until further notice.

But even while laid up in bed with a broken wrist, poor Wendy gets no respite from being constantly compared to her sister. Instead of offering sympathy, Wendy’s mother scolds her for missing out on the end-of-term school exams because of her injury while Stella always came out top in them. All the same, it is just as well the bullies’ trick had Wendy miss the exams, because the constant comparison with Stella and the bullying had inevitably impeded her progress during the term. From the sound of things, the parents have been getting reports that Wendy is not doing well at school.

While in bed, Wendy ponders over another thing she has noticed: Stella has not contacted her family of late, not even when she was in the neighbourhood recently with Vanderley. Also, the TV network is running repeats of Goldengirl instead of the new season, which Wendy finds suspicious. So Wendy takes advantage of her remaining time off school to go to London and do some investigating.

Wendy’s suspicions are confirmed when she discovers Stella has lost the Goldengirl job and been evicted from her exclusive flat because she could no longer afford the rent. At the TV studio Wendy learns Stella lost the job because she became a victim of her own success: viewers got bored of her and lost sympathy with her because she kept winning all the time. It looks like Stella’s replacement is having similar confidence problems to Wendy, which explains why the new season has not screened.

Stella disappeared instead of going home, because she was too afraid and ashamed of what the parents will say because they’re so full of themselves about her. Also, Stella has not experienced disaster before, so Wendy realises she must be taking it extremely badly. Furthermore, Stella is completely broke; Wendy later learns Stella frittered away her salary on the high life instead of investing it, except for a trust fund.

At Vanderley’s suggestion, Wendy investigates a derelict house that other out-of-work actors are using to squat in. When Wendy sees the house, she cannot believe her sister would even set foot in such a smelly, run-down, graffiti-smeared place that is falling to pieces. But Wendy soon finds that this is indeed where Stella is shacking up now. Moreover, Stella, who once earned a top salary as Goldengirl, is now working at a grotty café for an obviously very low pay. Wendy finds Stella working there, and she looks absolutely miserable.

Despite the depths she has sunk to, Stella cannot bear the thought of going home and facing her parents, or what people are going to say behind her back. But it is here that Wendy finds a whole new confidence when she persuades Stella to do so. She gets very bold and assertive in not taking “no” for an answer and insisting on taking Stella home. And screw what people are going to say; Wendy loudly describes what she has been through at school to illustrate that if she can put up with that sort of treatment, Stella can too. Stella listens, and begs Wendy to go on helping her. Wendy does more in that regard when their prideful parents start whining about what the neighbours will say when they hear what happened. Wendy retorts, “Bother the neighbours!” She describes the situation she found Stella in and says, “Would you rather I’d left Stella where she was, Mum?” The parents are humbled at this and offer comfort to Stella. Once Stella recovers, she becomes determined to work her way out of her bad patch.

Then Stella expresses concern about the bullying Wendy is experiencing at school and how it is bound to get worse once the bullies hear about her losing the Goldengirl job. Wendy, emboldened by her new assertiveness, says she has the confidence to deal with them now.

Sure enough, Angela and Honey get a real surprise when Wendy returns to school. When they try to bully Wendy over Stella’s dismissal, she comes right back at their teasing. She also threatens to go to self-defence classes if there is any more of their bullying (a bluff). To reinforce her point, Wendy pulls an arm lock on Angela that Stella had taught her, who in turn had learned it from Angela’s idol Vanderley. Wendy tells the girls she is going to try out for the school choir (she hopes that will help her become respected in her own right) and she jolly well hopes she will have more fun next term than she has had so far. Angela and Honey are humiliated, especially when the other girls begin to laugh at Angela’s humbling.

Thoughts

This is a Tammy story I have come to appreciate more upon revisiting it. It’s not that I disliked the story initially; it’s just that I was more taken with other stories in Tammy at the time.

Girls’ comics have frequently run stories where a girl suffers because she is compared unfairly and unfavourably with a more successful sibling, or, in some cases, a parent. This one is a bit different than most. The more common formula is for the protagonist to constantly strive to prove herself and win some respect, which she eventually does with some talent she discovers or an act of heroism (e.g. “Make the Headlines, Hannah!”, also from Tammy). Of course things don’t go smoothly and she frequently comes up against an enemy who is always trying to sabotage her.

This serial has that theme, but runs it to a slightly lesser extent than most. And the ending breaks the formula completely. The heroine does not prove herself at long last with some talent/heroic act, winning respect and everything ends happily. Instead, Wendy gains confidence by learning to stand up for herself. This starts with standing up to the sister who has always overshadowed her, and using everything she has short of physical force to stop hiding in that miserable run-down hovel, come home, get back on her feet again, face up to those parents of theirs, and deal with what people are going to say about her. Wendy’s new assertion continues with the parents when they start to whine about what others will say, and it gives her a whole new confidence in standing up to the bullies. And instead of school changing overnight for the protagonist, which is the more common ending, the story ends on the hope that school will improve for Wendy, but whether it does so remains to be seen. This is a more realistic ending that avoids the clichéd “new improved school ending”, which makes a very nice change.

It is easy to understand why Tammy went with this ending when we examine Wendy’s home life. Having Wendy prove herself somehow just would not have been enough, because the parents were just too consumed with pride over Stella to even notice what Wendy does. They need to have that pride of theirs deflated before they start taking Wendy more seriously. And they get it when they find out about Stella’s job loss and Wendy tells them off for thinking about what people will say about Stella’s downfall instead of thinking about Stella and what she is going through. We sense that they will become better parents to Wendy after this.

Stella, too, needed a lesson, and she gets it from the story’s resolution. There is no evidence in the story that Stella’s success turned her into an insufferable big head, which has happened in other stories e.g. “Last Chance for Laura” from Bunty. It is possible that Stella had become a big head, but there is no evidence of it. But even if Stella was not big headed, it sounds like she was in serious need of a fall if she was squandering her salary on high living instead of using it wisely. Further, she had never developed the emotional and psychological tools to deal with failure because she had not encountered failure until she loses the Goldengirl job. Wendy’s whole new assertiveness not only saves her from the miserable squatting but also helps her find the courage and inner strengths to rise above her bad patch. In so doing, we sense Stella will emerge an even bigger success than ever because she gained strength, new coping skills and lessons from that bad time.

Stella had also neglected Wendy because she was always too busy. So Wendy rescuing Stella and helping her to get through her trouble would definitely get Stella finally paying more attention to Wendy. Stella in turn becomes the one to help Wendy stand up to the bullies, by teaching her self-defence techniques, and being a more thoughtful sister towards her.

Advertisements

The Debut of The Four Marys [1958]

Four Marys 1Four Marys 2Four Marys 3

This entry presents the very first episode of The Four Marys. The original appeared in Bunty #1 on 18 January 1958, and this is the reprint from Golden Age Classic Stories Bunty for Girls 2009. Artwork is by Bill Holroyd, who drew the first 15 episodes of The Four Marys.

The first episode establishes the elements that will continue all the way to the last episode in Bunty #2249, 17 February 2001: the four girls who have to go by their last names because they all share the same Christian name; they share the same study and a long-standing friendship through thick and thin; the snobs (not yet named) who will always look down on Mary Simpson because she is ‘common’; and the characterisation that helped to make The Four Marys so popular. In the early stories The Four Marys also had more individual looks than they did by the 1990s, especially Mary Cotter.

There is a distinctive Enid Blyton feel about the first episode to modern eyes, both in terms of its tone and its artwork. But The Four Marys were willing to adapt to changes in trends, tastes, and in the education system itself. For example, the formidable Dr Gull in the first episode was eventually replaced by the modern-thinking Miss Mitchell in the 1980s. There was even one story where Dr Gull returned to the modern St Elmo’s, but was too old-fashioned and strict to accept how things had changed. She tried to force the school into her mould, and of course there was bad reaction to it.

An in-depth discussion of The Four Marys, which includes pictorial comparisons of how they and their supporting cast changed over the years, can be found here at Girls Comics of Yesterday.

Pam of Pond Hill (1979-1984)

Sample images

Pam 1

Pam 2

(click thru)

Pam 3

(click thru)

Pam 4

(click thru)

Publication: 15/12/79 to 21/11 1981. Merged with Tammy 28/11/1981 and ran until 23/6/84

Artist: Bob Harvey

Writer: Jay Over

There is nothing like Pam of Pond Hill in the entire run of Jinty – or for that matter, in the history of girls’ comics.

In the wake of Grange Hill, Pam of Pond Hill was one of the pioneers in a new form of regular – the soap opera – blazing a bold trail for The Comp (Nikki/Bunty), School’s Out! (Bunty), and Penny’s Place (M&J/Bunty) to follow. Pam was even bolder to feature a mixed comprehensive school when Jinty, like all other girls’ comics, featured single-sex schools. It even featured boyfriends, mainly in the form of Pam’s boyfriend Danny “Goofy” Boyle, when boys were still peripheral figures in girls’ comics rather than the boyfriends who would be commonplace in the rival DC Thompson titles in later years. Mind you, Goofy seems to be more of a friend than a boyfriend per se – perhaps it’s because they were first years and a bit young for serious dating.

Pam Watts brings us stories of what happened when she was a first-year at Pond Hill Comprehensive. These usually deal with bullies, problem pupils, teachers, family and friendship problems, brushes with the law, accidents and catastrophes, school trips, Christmas chaos, and even the occasional hint of the supernatural. They’re all told in in Pam’s own words and her own language, which adds a touch of humour and realism that DCT soaps like The Comp can’t match. The opening panel where Pam starts narrating is similar to that of Bessie Bunter, except that it is not a joke at herself that sets the theme for the entire episode. In fact, some of her introductory boxes have a serious tone. Nor does Pam actually recap what has happened so far in the story as a text box would. No, it’s just a line or two that is a carryover from the last episode and sums up what to expect in the current episode. For example: “Some people have bats in the belfry, but I’ve got a teacher in the attic! [Pam’s teacher has started renting the flat above her family’s] When I started at the comprehensive, Miss Peeble was our form teacher, and a right hash she made of it.”

One of the biggest strengths of Pond Hill is the realism of the stories, which clearly draw on true-life situations. In the very first story, the problem is Miss Peeble, who is clearly inexperienced, lacking confidence and consequently finding it difficult to control her class. Consequently the class larrikins, Fred Finch and Terry Jones, make great sport of her and Mr Gold the headmaster threatens to sack her if she can’t get her act together. Featuring a teacher who is being bullied is a very rare thing seen in girls’ comics, yet it is all too common in real life. Another story features a girl who starts shoplifting – not because she is a bad sort or light-fingered – it is because she is desperately lonely and doesn’t make friends easily, so she is trying to buy friendship by presenting gifts to classmates – gifts that come from her shoplifting. Added to that, she has an unhappy home life, including an abusive father. Indeed, unhappy home lives and problems at home feature a great deal with the more problem classmates. For example, the reason Terry picks on Miss Peeble so much and behaves so badly in class is the bad influence of his brother Stan – but it turns out this is because he thinks teachers are battle-axes as they picked on him for being a slow learner. However, when Pam shows Stan what a ‘battle axe’ Miss Peeble is, he is so knocked out by her that the two of them start dating, and he tells Terry to lay off Miss Peeble. Thereafter, Fred, Terry and Miss Peeble get on well, although the two boys remain the class layabouts and never put on school uniform, despite the uniform inspections of the severe headmaster Mr Gold (ironically nicknamed “Goldilocks”, because he is bald).

Another strength that makes Pam so enduring to readers, and gives her one edge over her competitors, is that Pam narrates her stories herself in a realistic, humorous, chirpy manner that sounds like a real kid talking. Indeed, Pam is the only Jinty character to narrate her own stories. This is another thing that makes Pam different from the other soap opera features, which are told from neutral standpoints and can focus on any character in the regular, whether it’s the bullies or the protagonists. The Pam stories are told from her viewpoint and in her language, which makes it a bit difficult to develop other characters because it cannot shift to their points of view. But reading the stories from Pam’s point of view makes her strip so funny and engaging. And Pam’s dialogue is so witty that she has been used in memorable Jinty features, most notably “Pam’s Poll” in 1980.

Pams Poll 2Pams Poll 3

(click thru)

And there is the humour of it all that always guarantees a laugh, whether it is the artwork of Bob Harvey, the characters, the dialogue or the zaniness, while other soap opera strips such as The Comp were played straight. Even the feared Mr Gold has the odd moment where he becomes the butt of jokes, such as when a council worker tells him off for not following regulations or when he gets paint on his pants because he sat on a chair the kids had just painted. Elsewhere, one teacher has been locked in the storeroom by a jealous junior while another was arrested by the French police who mistook him for a kidnapper. And it could only happen in Pam of Pond Hill – it is highly unlikely that those kinds of things could ever happen to, say Grim Gertie from The Comp.

Mag 1Mag 2Mag 3Mag 4Mag 5Mag 6

(click thru: from Jinty holiday special)

Some humour, and even some of the stories, arise from Pam’s own lack of academic talent. For example, English teacher Miss Canter thinks it is a joke when Pam declares she wants to pursue a career in journalism because she is showing little promise of it with her English work. Pam’s determination to prove Miss Canter wrong eventually leads to the foundation of the school magazine “The Pond Hill Print Out”. In another story, the sewing teacher sneers at Pam’s attempt at needlework. This has Pam persuading Mr Gold to have the boys and girls swap sewing and woodwork classes, and the sewing teacher is on the verge of resigning after trying to teach the boys to sew.

Pam 1Pam 2Pam 3Pam 4

(Click thru: exam nerves, from Tammy annual 1985)

It is no wonder that when Pam of Pond Hill was taken out briefly in 1981, the editor’s invitation to readers to bring her back was hugely popular and proved successful. Part of it may have been the upcoming merger with Tammy, and Pam was the Jinty character who endured in the merger, lasting right through until the last issue of Tammy. It is sad that Pam’s last story, the story of her first home computer, was cut off due to Tammy’s abrupt disappearance from a strike and never finished. Pam was such a powerful and popular character that she might have carried on in Girl, if Tammy had been allowed to merge with her.

The Slave of Form 3B (1976)

Sample images

Jinty 3 July 1976, "Slave of Form 3B" pg 1

(Click thru)

Jinty 3 July 1976, "Slave of Form 3B" pg 2

(Click thru)

Jinty 3 July 1976, "Slave of Form 3B" pg 3

Publication: 13 March 1976-17 July 1976
Artist: Trini Tinturé

Another discussion of this story can be found here.

Summary
Tania is a new pupil at Waverly Boarding School. Unfortunately for her she is a shy, weak willed, nervous girl. This, as it turns out, makes her very suggestible. She gets all the more nervous when she realises she is arriving at her new school on the thirteenth of the month. Her mother tells her not to be so silly, but Tania is not far wrong when she says the date feels like an omen.

At Waverly, Stacey is a bossy girl who wants to be on top and be someone at her school. But all she does is aggravate everyone with the way she tries to organise them all the time. The teachers realise it too and Stacey is annoyed to be constantly passed over for big positions such as games captain.

Tania arrives, and the headmistress puts Stacey in charge of her. She drops hints that handling the new girl kindly will put Stacey in the running for head girl. This is a ploy from the headmistress to keep Stacey’s interfering under control. But as it turns out, this is the worst thing the headmistress could have done – you should have heeded your own impression that Stacey is a bit of a bully, lady!

When Stacey tries her usual organising on Tania, she is very surprised to find she can do more than that – she can actually hypnotise Tania! And so begins Tania’s ordeal as the slave of 3B. Or rather, the slave of Stacey.

At first Stacey thinks it is a huge joke and uses the power to play cruel jokes on Tania, such as hypnotising her into putting her uniform on all wrong so Tania finds herself humiliated in front of everyone. Small stuff, which soon turns into bigger stuff that eventually hits a frightening and dangerous level of darkness. Once Stacey realises the real advantages of her power – that she can make Tania her slave – she is soon moving on to darker and more ambitious designs. She uses the power to hypnotise Tania into doing her assignments, cheat at tests and class work (Stacey had never pulled her weight there), steal things, and sabotage her rivals. Tania is bewildered by strange things happening, such as waking up to find she has copied the answers to a maths test half way through (car backfire broke her trance), but Stacey always plays slick manoeuvres to keep Tania in her grip. All the while, Tania is frightened as to be doing awful things and not understanding why.

Stacey also takes steps to systematically cut Tania off from other potential friends and all possible avenues of help. She hypnotises Tania into believing that Stacey is her only friend and can’t trust anyone else, so Tania starts snubbing other girls without understanding why, and other girls turn against her. She can’t confide in the staff either because she has been hypnotised into trusting nobody at school. She is an outcast and thinks only Stacey is her friend.

Tania makes a friend outside the school (something Stacey overlooked in her hypnotic command) and starts helping a play group. But Stacey sabotages that friendship by hypnotising her into stealing from them and then ruin the kids’ pictures.

The teachers begin to notice something is wrong and Tania looks ill. The head gives Tania a room of her own in a ploy to get her away from Stacey. Unwisely, she also hints to Stacey that she is increasing her chances for Girl of the Year with her chaperoning of Tania.

Stacey sneaks into Tania’s room to hypnotise her into sabotaging gym ropes. When Tania finds rope burns on her hands, she thinks she might be doing bad things in her sleep and starts locking her door. This foils Stacey’s next bid to hypnotise her (into stealing the answers to another test paper) and Stacey plans a nasty revenge. She hypnotises Tania into having an accident in the pool, where Stacey will then act the heroine and rescue her. It works, but suspicions among the staff grow. At matron’s suggestion, Tania keeps a tape recorder under her bed to record how she sleeps. As a result, the tape recorder records Stacey’s next hypnotic session. When Tania plays it back, she finds out the truth!

She confronts Stacey, who wipes the evidence on the tape, and bullies Tania into staying quiet. And the power still holds sway although Tania tries to fight it, and Stacey still hypnotises her into doing things. The mind control gets even more intense and frightening when Stacey suddenly develops telepathy and can read Tania’s very thoughts! She can even use her telepathy to hypnotise Tania from a distance. This gets Tania into even more trouble at school, to the point where she is forced to wear a sign saying “The School’s Shame”.

All the while, Stacey is determined to use Tania to score points for “Girl of the Year”, and so now she is doing really well thanks to her tricks. She is now the school heroine and centre of admiration, and it is riding on the things she has forced Tania to do. The girls hold a midnight feast for Stacey, where Stacey issues a dare to walk the school wall, with a dripping candle to leave waxy proof of the walk. Naturally, she hypnotises Tania into doing it and plans to take the credit. But the dare goes badly wrong and Tania falls off the wall. She is seriously hurt and unconscious.

When Stacey discovers the injured Tania, she isn’t calling for help. All she cares about is how this might affect her chances of becoming Girl of the Year. Stacey drags Tania to an old outbuilding, throws a sack over her, and leaves her there. When Tania is missed (and everyone has suspicions that make Stacey even more worried) and the search begins, Stacey goes back to the shed to make sure they don’t find Tania. She finds Tania’s condition has worsened. But she still doesn’t get help; she tries to revive Tania herself with smelling salts. She is just plain infuriated when the salts fail and tries to move Tania in the wheelbarrow. She gets even more alarmed when next door neighbour and school governor Colonel Bragg is called in and agrees to phone the police. While Stacey is listening, the salts finally work on Tania. But she is still in the trance and tries to walk the wall. Stacey finds her, breaks the trance, and orders her to pretend to run away.

Tania crawls into Colonel Bragg’s garden. He finds her and she mumbles claims about Stacey’s hypnotic powers over her, and begs him not to take her back to the school. He thinks she is deluded and takes her back to the school. However, he expresses his concerns to the headmistress about Tania being frightened of one of the girls and suspects bullying. Tania is confined to sick bay, still terrified of Stacey.

Meanwhile, Colonel Bragg begins to consider Tania’s story more and his conscience won’t stop niggling. He decides he must do something. Together with his daughter Cicely he sets a trap for Stacey. When Stacey comes into sick bay to hypnotise Tania into taking the blame, she walks straight into the trap. When Stacey finds herself caught out, she confesses – in a bragging, defiant manner, mind you! Stacey is expelled, with a warning on her record to any future school she goes to (presumably, a warning that she may try hypnotism on other girls like Tania).

The remorse-stricken girls who were fooled about Tania now vote her Girl of the Year. There is talk that Tania will be the next head girl, and it is Tania’s name that goes down in the school records as what Stacey was after – a somebody at Waverly School.

Thoughts
“The Slave of Form 3B” is one of Jinty’s best remembered and highly regarded stories. In fact, on the Jinty Top Ten list, it says of this story that “if Slaves of War Orphan Farm was Tammy’s most notorious story, there can only be one candidate for Jinty‘s!”

Indeed, bullying stories have seldom gone to the depths that this one does. And it is not just the various tortures and ordeals that Tania goes through over the span of 19 episodes but the extremes that the bully goes to as she spirals down an increasingly dark path of depravity. Stacey hits the nadir with the absolute lack of concern or remorse about finding Tania badly injured and she is responsible. All her moves to handle the injured Tania are to cover her own tracks and protect her Girl of the Year points. The sheer callousness of her conduct must have shocked readers to the core and ranks as one of the most appalling moments in girls’ comics. Stacey’s callousness goes through right to the end, with her lack of remorse when she confesses. She brags what great fun it was and she is cleverer than they are. Indeed, Stacey is a clever bully as well as as well as a callous one; for example, hypnotising Tania into distrusting everyone else at school is a masterstroke that instantly cuts Tania off from making friends, avenues of help and keeps her completely under Stacey’s thumb. And Tinturé, who is brilliant at drawing sharp eyed villainesses, captures the essence of Stacey’s hypnotic powers to perfection with those narrow, flinty, hypnotic eyes that exude the power, evil and cruelty that is growing inside her.

The episodes where Stacey demonstrates telepathic control over Tania are going too far and stretching credibility past believing. Such things belong in SF or supernatural stories and this story is neither. It would have been more convincing if Tania was imagining the telepathy or maybe Stacey hypnotising Tania into believing it. Perhaps the editor or writer realised it was a step too far as well, because the telepathy quickly disappeared from the story. The story returns to the more sensible move of following Stacey’s growing evil as a villainess through her appalling actions over Tania’s accident.

And at the end, while Tania is freed and emerges triumphant, Stacey is still streets ahead as the more powerful character and one of the best villains to ever appear in Jinty. She could easily return in a sequel as, say, a full grown woman with frightening hypnotic powers who snares some unsuspecting victim into a crime wave.

Tania, on the other hand, is voted Girl of the Year and may become Head Girl, but has she the strength of character for it? Throughout the story she has been a weak, timid person who is all too easy to dominate and bully, even without the hypnotism. Then again, perhaps Tania gained confidence with her new accolades and prestige at Waverly and became stronger. We would like to think so, anyway.

Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (1976-1977)

Sample Images

Daisy Drudge 1

(Click thru)

Daisy Drudge 2

(Click thru)

Daisy Drudge 3

Publication: 4 September 1976-1 January 1977
Artist: Ken Houghton
Writer: Unknown

Summary
In Victorian times, spoilt and selfish Lady Daisy De Vere is heading out to London to meet a school party for a finishing school in Switzerland. Daisy dismisses her nanny and then (unwisely, as it turns out) sets off to enjoy the sights of London on her own while waiting for her party. But you can only expect to get into trouble if you wander about in a strange city on your own, and this is precisely what happens – big style. Daisy asks Maud, a skivvy from Park Square Mansion, to deliver her letter of explanation to the school party. She has no money (all foreign for her journey abroad), so she gives Maud her cloak as payment. This leads to a case of mistaken identity that gets Maud sent to the finishing school in Daisy’s place. Nobody listens to Maud’s protests and her Cockney accent and ignorance of manners are all taken for typical upper class eccentricity. Eventually Maud decides to just go along with it and enjoy it. The trouble is, Maud finds the high life not what it is cracked up to be, with the strictures, mannerisms and high standards expected, and Maud’s common ways cause problems with the upper class pupils. Eventually she befriends Mary, a girl who is snubbed because her family has fallen on hard times. Mary cannot understand why the supposedly selfish Daisy is taking pity on her, but is grateful.

Meanwhile, Daisy has gotten lost, messed up, and tries unsuccessfully to get help from a flower girl who does not believe her. Eventually, she ends up being mistaken for the skivvy at Park Square Mansion. So instead of the finishing school, Daisy finds herself learning about life downstairs the hard way. Her fellow servants do not believe her story and her posh mannerisms do not endear her to them either. They end up turning against her. So it is loneliness and isolation on top of hard work (which she does not know how to do and is thrown in at the deep end) without proper rest or decent food, beatings from the tyrannical cook, and uncomfortable travelling conditions for the servants when the household goes away. Other cruelties include being forced to do ironing with a broken bone in her hand and no sympathy or help, even from her fellow servants. Daisy even endures some bullying from them, such as being drenched in water from the pump. Daisy is desperate to escape, but doors and windows are locked each night, and Daisy is locked into her attic room as well. Daisy’s attempts to prove her identity to people who know her as Lady Daisy de Vere also fail.

Then, a climbing boy tells Daisy that she can escape easily – by climbing the chimney. He gives her a map of the chimneys to guide her and advises her of the risks. This is a dangerous, life-threatening escape, but it succeeds. However, Daisy has a brush with a criminal who tries to get the map. He fails and she gets away to find help, tearing up the map as she does so. This time she is more successful in getting help from the flower girl, whose name is Betsey. But Betsey falls ill and is taken to the poor hospital – and few come out of it alive.

At the finishing school, Maud’s high life comes to an end when she falls foul of a blackmailer. The blackmailer points out that Daisy could be in trouble and if so, Maud would certainly get the blame for it. Maud realises that he could be right about Daisy. She pretends to give in to the blackmail but in fact calls his bluff by writing to Daisy’s family to explain the situation. Eventually Maud comes back to London to find Daisy, but her queries get her arrested for being a nuisance. In prison she overhears the aforementioned criminal talk about his failed bid to get the map from Daisy. She is quickly released and follows up the lead, which eventually leads her to Daisy. Maud has learned that Mr De Vere is also searching for Daisy, and Daisy knows where to find him. Everything is sorted out happily, right down to Mr De Vere giving Daisy, Maud, Betsey (now recovered) and Mary a house where they set up a partnership for helping poor people.

Thoughts
Maidservant serials were always popular in girls’ comics. Wee Slavey (Judy) and Molly Mills (Tammy) are two long-standing examples of how popular servant stories could be. Serials where rich girls (or middle class girls) become servants were also very common in girls’ comics. They may switch places with a servant (willingly, accidentally or be tricked), or get a job as a servant as a cover for a secret mission such as finding a lost will eg “The Secret Servant” (Bunty), or become servants after falling on hard times. Sometimes switching with servants, as in this case, comes as a punishment that humbles and reforms a spoilt girl. Other times the rich girl is a kind person who entered it not knowing what she has let herself in for eg “Sarah Below Stairs” (Judy) or was tricked into it eg “The Imposter!” (Bunty). Whatever the circumstances, the rich girl learns the hard way about how the other half lives below stairs, the abuse they suffer because they are considered lowly, and the abuses the servants can inflict on each other because of the servant system itself. They emerge as crusaders for the downtrodden.

Daisy seems to have a harder time than most rich girls who get a taste of the servant life. Usually, no matter how hard they are oppressed, they at least had some friends. But not Daisy – she suffered isolation and loneliness in addition to the abuse because her fellow servants ostracised her and she did not have a single friend among them. In addition, Daisy risked her very life with a terrifying, dangerous escape through the chimney. Girls’ serials set in Victorian times seldom missed the opportunity to comment on the horrors of the climbing boys. But here a hitherto high-born Victorian girl, who would never have lowered herself in such a manner before, gets a taste of the horror first hand.

But Daisy ends up expressing that she is glad that it happened, because it opened her eyes to how selfish and arrogant she had been before, and has become more caring about people less fortunate and vowing to deal with some of the awful things she saw as a servant. Daisy’s new-found altruism emerges during her time as a servant; for example, she gives the climbing boy her uneaten breakfast once she hears that his life is even worse than hers. She also learns to be grateful for small mercies, such as appreciating a black cat brooch gift when she had been used to valuable jewels back home, or appreciating the shelter Betsey gives her when she would have turned up her nose at such lowly dwellings before.

When a serial deals with a low class Victorian girl who is suddenly elevated to the high life, she often finds that it is not all grand and fun because of the strict decorum and lady-like expectations that come with it. This is what Maud finds and she tells the blackmailer that she is glad to give it up because it has been so strenuous for that reason. But what is so impressive about Maud’s experience at the finishing school is that it brings out strength in character for Maud as well, in a reverse manner from Daisy. While adversity brings out the good in Daisy, luxury tests the goodness in Maud, and she comes through with flying colours. She never let the luxury, which could have gone to her head, corrupt her. For example, she refuses to use Daisy’s money because she considers it stealing. She too stands up for the oppressed, such as standing up for Mary by throwing water over girls who are bullying her. And she also tries to help less fortunate people, such as caring for an injured ragged boy while the other girls comment on common people carrying dreadful diseases. And in the end, the experience elevates Maud, a low-class girl, into position in society where she can continue to work to improve the lot of poor people.

So what is really intriguing about this story is the use of opposites. The opposites in the characters and backgrounds of Daisy and Maud; the opposites in the two girls going to each other’s end of the spectrum; the opposites in the experiences they endured; and the opposites in how the experiences brought out the strengths in the girls’ characters. And the opposite experiences ended with them working together to campaign for people less fortunate in Victorian society.

Note: Ken Houghton was a sporadic artist in Jinty until Tansy of Jubilee Street came over from Penny. Afterwards, Houghton was a regular artist until Peter Wilkes replaced him on Tansy. Interestingly, all three of Houghton’s Jinty serials addressed historical periods: “Bridey Below the Breadline” (Stuart period), “Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud” (Victorian period, and it also replaced Bridey), and “House of the Past” (time travel to the 1930s).

Worlds Apart (1981)

Sample images

Worlds Apart 23a

(Click thru)

Worlds Apart 23b

(Click thru)

Worlds Apart 23c

(Click thru)

Worlds Apart 23d

Publication: 25 April 1981 to 3 October 1981

Artist: Guy Peeters
Writer: Unknown (this story has been incorrectly credited to Pat Mills in other publications)

Summary

“Imagine the dream worlds inside your head becoming real! That’s what happened to six girls from Crawley Comprehensive after an accident with a road tanker carrying dangerous chemicals from a secret government research establishment”.

Each world is governed by the respective girl’s characteristic – making it an ideal world for her, but a nightmare for the other girls: “It seems that given a free rein, the worst comes out in us.” The only release from these worlds is for its respective creator to die – and this happens when each creator meets her downfall through the very same characteristic that shaped her world. The respective adventures and nightmares in each world develop as follows:

Sarah (greedy): Sarah’s world is ruled by fat, greed and gluttony. The people only think about food and being as fat as they can possibly be; 20 stone is “such a trim figure”. Even the animals are fat, including the sparrows. Exercise is considered “disgusting”. The girls are emaciated by the standards of this world, even fat Sarah. So the girls are force-fed in hospital until they are so grotesquely obese that they can hardly walk. Sarah is the only one to enjoy this world because she can stuff herself with as much food as she likes and nobody calls her “fatty”. Then Sarah gets a horrible shock when sporty Ann dies from running half a mile because she is too fat. Now Sarah sees the fatty world in a whole new light. Afterwards she falls into a river and drowns because she can’t swim.

Ann (sporty): Ann’s world is ruled by sport. Education, clothes, foodstuffs, food consumption, architecture, city planning, transport, politics, war, and even the death penalty are all linked to sport. In fact, everything revolves around sport and keeping fit at all costs, even if you are old and infirm. Ann simply loves her world because she can indulge in sport at every waking moment. But like the others, Ann’s indulgence becomes her undoing. It begins when the Soviet Union declares war on Britain. War is played with a sports match; the losing team is executed and the invading country just walks in if its team wins. Ann is honoured to be in the British team, but doesn’t know that the Russians are cheating by taking drugs. When Britain loses, Ann meets her downfall by the very thing she loves – sport. The method used to execute her is to be tied to an exercise bicycle until she dies from exhaustion.

Samantha (vain): Samantha’s world is ruled by vanity. It is a fairy tale world and she is Sleeping Beauty – who rules this world more than her royal parents. But Samantha is no fairytale princess. She is cruel, tyrannical, power mad, and indulges in admiring her beauty at every waking moment. Her castle is known as the Castle of Mirrors because there are mirrors everywhere for Samantha to admire her beautiful face. As for the other girls, they are her downtrodden servants and threatened with torture if they displease her. Mo, whom Samantha dislikes, suffers the most in this world – partly because she refuses to be downtrodden.

Then, when Samantha dumps Prince Charming for the Frog Prince, he gets revenge by hiring the witch (Mo’s mother!) who originally put Samantha to sleep. So the witch turns Samantha’s vanity against her with a spell that causes Samantha’s face to appear as a pig when reflected in the mirrors. Samantha becomes hysterical when she realises that she can never see her beautiful face again. “How can I live without admiring myself? I can’t stand it!” Samantha shrieks like a maniac, shattering all the mirrors and herself in the process. Talk about narcissism.

Mo (delinquent): Mo’s world is ruled by crime, where crime, violence and anarchy are the rule. Everyone has prison numbers, and if they are stripped of them they become non-persons and fall prey to lynch mobs. Education at reform schools (which in the girls’ case is modelled on Alcatraz and patrolled by guards with live bullets in their guns) teaches crime (safe-cracking, forgery, framing, pickpocketing etc). The only crime in this world is to do a good deed, which is punishable by lynching – and nearly happens to the other girls. It seems the perfect world for the delinquent Mo to flourish – until she is kidnapped by gangsters and given a pair of concrete shoes. This has Mo anxious to turn over a new leaf if she returns to the real world before she is even thrown into the river to drown.

Clare (intellectual): Clare’s world is ruled intellectualism, and the size of your IQ determines your standing in society. At the top of society are the “swots” and at the bottom are the “dullards” – a dimwitted subhuman species who are classed as animals and are treated as such (experimentation, slaughter houses, etc). The other girls are dullards because Clare always considered them stupid, “so in her world, we are stupid.” Clare is an arrogant, clinical scientist ready to perform experiments on her “dullard” classmates. But she doesn’t get the chance because dullard liberationists break them out of the laboratory and turn them loose into the wild.

Clare comes after them, but she quarrels bitterly with her co-worker who wants to make a dullard wildlife film. Clare protests that this is cruel to the dullards because they cannot survive in the wild. The man retorts that she was cruel herself, for experimenting on them and what’s more, the law states that his word overrules hers because his IQ is higher than hers. Well, these were the rules Clare made for this world. Then the helicopter crashes. Clare is unhurt and is saved by her dullard friends. But she cannot survive in the wild herself; she runs away and dies in an unshown accident.

Jilly (timid): Jilly’s world is ruled by fear. It is a horror-movie Goth world where everything serves only one purpose – to terrify! There is a particular emphasis on vampires, and lessons in school are geared to turn pupils into vampires, with coffin building lessons, blood pudding (with real blood) in domestic science, and first aid class includes mouth-to-neck resuscitation i.e. be bitten on the neck and be turned into one of the Undead.

Clare realises that if Jilly becomes one of the Undead, she will never die – and the only way to escape this horror world is for Jilly to die. They will become trapped in this world if Jilly becomes one of the Undead and never dies, and in the penultimate episode it looks like this is going to happen. The girls do save Jilly from becoming one of the Undead, but she is a girl who is still scared of her own shadow. This too is taken to its extreme – Jilly is attacked and killed by her own shadow.

Afterwards
The girls now wake up in hospital in the real world. They discuss their adventure and ponder over why their worlds were so horrible: “We’re not terrible people, are we?” Clare decides it was because if you take things to extremes, it gets all twisted. The girls then reflect on the lessons they have learned, including becoming more tolerant and understanding, that greed, sport, cleverness and beauty are not everything, and crime does not pay.

Thoughts
“Worlds Apart” was Jinty’s last science fiction/fantasy story before her merge with Tammy in 1981. It was also the last serial that Guy Peeters drew for Jinty. In discussions of girls’ comics this story is widely regarded as Jinty’s ultimate classic in science fiction, not to mention being an incredible adventure story, perils-and-adversity story and a sobering, thought-provoking morality story. It touches all of us because we have all had a dream world at some point and wished they could come true. But if they did, would they live up to our expectations or would they turn out to be the stuff of nightmares?

Although “Worlds Apart” is considered one of the best, perhaps it could have been better. The ending suffers a bit because it looks like it was rushed to make way for the seven-issue ‘countdown’ to the merger. The last world is given short shrift (one and a half episodes while the others get four or five), so it is not as developed as much as the others and Jilly emerges as the only one not to learn anything from her world. Instead, the other girls end up feeling sorry for her for being so terrified. It feels a bit unsatisfying. All right, so maybe Jinty wanted to make a statement here that some people never learn. Or they cannot learn because they are too entrenched in what they are. This is what some of the others begin to think about Jilly: “If this is Jilly’s mind, she must be permanently scared, poor girl!” Then again, the last two episodes were given four pages instead of the usual three. I have observed that an increase in pages and even double episodes can be a sign of pressure to finish a story quickly to clear the decks fast for something big – such as a merger.

Nonetheless, “Worlds Apart” is far more hard hitting and bizarre than anything Jinty had produced before in moralism as it depicts the dangers of extremism (extremes of greed, sports-mania, vanity, crime, intellectualism and fear), and how terrible the consequences can be if extremism is allowed to carry to its logical conclusion. In fact, Clare decides that this is why the worlds were so horrible.

It also took the torture of its heroines to fantastical heights of grotesqueness and perversity that remain unmatched today. For example, in the fat world the girls are force-fed until they are grotesquely fat – probably the “trim figure” of 20 stone. In the sports world they are expected to exercise while they have their school dinners, take cold showers to toughen them up, and run across the town to their dormitories because the run will help keep them fit. And in the horror world, they have classes for building their own coffins for when they are turned into vampires. Talk about digging your own grave….

There is perverse and tongue-in-cheek humour and satire too, such as where the vain world turns the fairy tale on its head. Sleeping Beauty is a tyrant instead of an innocent princess, she jilts her prince, and you find yourself sympathising with the fairy-tale witch who punishes Samantha. There are some jokes even in the horror world – the train station, for example, is called Lugosi station, and Britain is called The United Kingdom of Transylvania. And in the sports world, we learn that Hitler fought World War II via a footy match. Yes, the class is shown a slide of Hitler – “German manager and chief coach” – in his footy gear!

Angela Angel-Face (1980)

Sample Images

Angel Face 1

 (Click thru)

Angel Face 2

 (Click thru)

Angel Face 3

Publication: 29 November 1980-27 December 1980
Original print: Sandie (publication dates unavailable)
Reprint: Tammy 10 March 1984-31 March 1984
Artist: Rodrigo Comos
Writer: Unknown

Angela Angel-Face was another short filler story which Jinty typically used over the Christmas period. It also marks the last appearance of Rodrigo Comos’ artwork in Jinty.

What is noteworthy – and perhaps unsettling about this story – is that it is not Jinty at all. It is reprinted from Sandie. Angela-Angel Face used to be a regular in Sandie. The premise was that Angela Palmer, a pupil at Charleton School, is taken for a sweet-natured girl because of her angelic face. But in fact she comes from the long ‘sweet-faced schemer’ formula – a selfish schemer who uses her sweet, pretty, angelic face to take advantage of people, and lie, cheat and connive to get whatever she wants. The only people who (ever) know the truth about Angela are Mary Coates and her friend Brenda. Mary is the chief watchdog over Angela, watching out for her nasty schemes and working out how to foil them. But regardless of how her schemes turn out, Angela always gets away with it because of her angelic face and it’s on to the next story. And so Angela belongs to the formula of the ‘regular’ schemer – the schemers who are regulars in the comic. Each week (or story) they hatch yet another plot that the protagonist has to figure out and foil. The protagonist succeeds, but the schemer is never defeated for good. Next episode (or story) it is business as usual. This is how a ‘regular’ sweet-faced schemer differs from one in a serial – there, the schemer always gets exposed in the end.

The plot, briefly: The Ambassador of Meringaria is thinking of sending his daughter Flavia to Charleton. Angela fools him into thinking she is a native of his country (with some phrases, flowers and the Angela Palmer charm). She wangles a trip to Meringaria for a quiz match, but is rather dismayed at the choice of girls to be on her team – guess who? And the teacher accompanying them, Miss Ryder, is not one who is so easily fooled by Angela.

Mary notices a lot of strange, suspicious things happening and eventually Angela tells Mary that she is involved in a plot to kidnap Flavia. She claims she was forced and now the plotters are after her because Mary foiled the attempt. Soon after, Angela disappears, with a note saying that she has been kidnapped. Mary begins to suspect Angela was a willing participant but double-crossed the plotters, and she then faked her own kidnapping. Mary goes in search of Angela and finds her at a funfair. Angela makes claims that she was kidnapped and escaped. Mary does not believe it, but everyone else does and Angela ends up a heroine. She has got away with it (whatever it was exactly) again.

Um, yes. Quite. The plot makes this serial widely regarded in Jinty discussions as one of Jinty’s low points. Readers were probably very ready to forget it as they absorbed themselves in its replacement, “Land of No Tears”, the following week. This story must have been one of the weaker ones in Angela’s run to boot.

But I prefer to ponder on why Jinty would bother with a reprint from an older comic. Jinty certainly was beginning to fall on reprints at this stage. This is most notable in Gypsy Rose, where the bulk of the stories fell back on reprints. Some were Rose’s own, but most were recycling old Strange Stories. The year 1981 would see two reprints of Jinty stories. But why the reprint from an older comic? Was it a quick way to fill a spot and save money at the same time? Or could Jinty not come up with a short story of her own and fell back on a fast, cheap reprint? Or was it a symptom of a comic that was beginning to flounder? Whatever the reason, it gives you a disconcerting indication of what economics and policies were going behind Jinty at this time.

Even more strange, the story was reprinted only four years later, in Tammy. Four years seems an unusually short interval between reprints. What could have been the reason for reprinting it comparatively quickly?

The Haunting of Form 2B (1974)

Sample images

Form 2B

 (Click thru)

Form 2B 2 001

 (Click thru)

Form 2B 3

Publication: 11/5/74-20/7/74
Reprint: Misty annual 1980
Artist: Rodrigo Comos
Writer: Unknown

Summary
Judy Mayhew and her friends Marilyn and Jen are starting their first term at the newly-built Newley Comprehensive. Judy is blown away at how modern and impressive the school is. Marilyn and Jen scoff at Judy for thinking that way, and say a school is a school and lessons the same old drag. However, Newley Comprehensive is built on the site of an old Victorian school, and Judy soon discovers that the Victorian past still haunts – in more ways than one.

The first hint is their form teacher, Miss Thistlewick; she is a dragon and more suited to a Victorian school than a modern school like Newley. But the trouble really starts for 2B when they run short of desks and bring up Victorian desks from the basement that Newley inherited from its predecessor. The moment Marilyn sits in it she starts acting like a Victorian girl. Later, Judy sees Marilyn and Jen in class at night. Both are sitting at Victorian desks, writing 1874 instead of 1974 on the blackboard. When Judy confronts them, she has a vision of being in a Victorian classroom and she gets caned by a Victorian teacher. Next morning, Judy finds her friends have no memory of what happened.

Judy soon finds that 2B reverting more and more to a Victorian pattern as more equipment comes up from the basement, such as hurricane lamps when the lights don’t work for no apparent reason. Marilyn and Jen are now talking and behaving like Victorian girls, and two more girls follow suit. They wear Victorian dress in class, which has the rest of the class thinking they are weirdos. They also refuse to participate in sports or domestic science, saying such things are unbecoming for Victorian ladies. They are permitted to do this with the blessing of the headmistress, who is now under the Victorian influence as well after receiving a parasol from the basement. Judy notes that Miss Thistlewick gave the headmistress the parasol.

Judy finds an old Victorian photograph of their ancestors and finds Miss Thistlewick in it as well. She comes to the conclusion that Miss Thistlewick is a ghost – a ghost who has some strange power over her friends. She becomes more convinced Miss Thistlewick is a ghost when she sees her disappear through an archway in the basement and her image does not appear in a photograph.

Then Judy discovers that she is a descendant of the last girl in the photograph – which means she is the next target for the Victorian influence! Sure enough, she finds herself being shadowed by her Victorian-dressed friends who are now trying to force her into a Victorian dress as well.

Eventually Judy does end up in Victorian dress, but is surprised to find herself not under the influence. Later, Miss Thistlewick has Judy put on her forebear’s Victorian dress, which does try to influence her. But Judy fights it off with some self-inflicted pain. Judy realises that Miss Thistlewick is administering the influence through some sort of telepathy. Judy also finds the power has a weakness – it fades over distance, and tries to think of ways to get her friends away from Miss Thistlewick.

Judy has another vision, in which she sees that Miss Thistlwick is responsible for a boating tragedy a hundred years ago. She took the other girls out on a boating trip, but ignored their warnings that they were too heavy for the boat and would sink it. As a result, they and Miss Thistlewick drowned. She discovers that Miss Thistlewick is now sending her friends out for another boating trip. Convinced Miss Thistlewick is trying to kill them, she heads down to the boating trip. But in her drive to get them away, she ends up making the same mistake as Miss Thistlewick. Moreover, their Victorian dress is too heavy for swimming, so now it looks like they are going to drown like their forebears.

But no – they are all rescued by a lock-keeper who says he was alerted by a woman in black who was dressed like them. Dressed like them? Yes, it was Miss Thistlewick, who now appears before them. She had not intended to kill them; she had recreated the boat trip in the hope of a happier ending so her guilty soul could find peace. And she did get a happy ending – by saving the girls. Okay, not quite what she planned, but now she can rest in peace and stop haunting the school.

Next day, Judy and her friends turn up in class in their regular uniforms, and give the pretext to their bemused classmates that the Victorian dress had been an experiment to see how people react to the unusual. They also discover that the headmistress is going to make a bonfire out of all the Victorian equipment in the basement. (Hmm, bonfire when the Guy Fawkes issue is four months away? Maybe the headmistress sensed something strange about that equipment too.) Their last link to the ghost of Miss Thistlewick is now going up in smoke, but they can now look forward to a normal school.

Thoughts
Ghost stories are always popular in girls’ comics. So the moment readers saw “Haunting” in the title, they expected to be in for a treat, and this story is hard to disappoint. Even before we meet Miss Thistlewick, we know that the old Victorian school is going to haunt its modern counterpart somehow. In fact, we sense that the Victorian school is not only going to haunt the modern one, but that harsh Victorian schooling is going to be contrasted sharply with modern easy-going education. So we would be even more appreciative than Judy that Newley Comprehensive is a modern school and not a strict old-fashioned school of a bygone era. We can imagine that at the end of the story, Marilyn and Jen would come to think the same way after scorning at Judy for being so impressed with the new school.

School stories are sometimes set up to make a statement about anti-authoritarianism, and this story certainly works it in with the supernaturally-enforced Victorian code upon the modern classroom. This is at its most frightening in the visions Judy has of the original Victorian classroom. The terrors of the cane turn into downright abuse, with one pupil getting a cut on her forehead and Judy getting one on her hand.

But the Victorian pattern also provides humour as well – something you do not often see in a serious ghost story. As the five girls become more and more possessed by the Victorian influence, they become confused and shocked by what they see in modern life. It starts in small ways, such as Marilyn writing old-fashioned script with a quill and censoring Judy that they must pay attention to the class. When the five girls are dressed Victorian, they think like Victorians as well. They do not know what cars are and think they must be steam driven. They refuse to change into PE gear because “a lady does not expose her legs to the public gaze. It-it’s not decent!” They cannot understand why they are being told off for disastrous cooking. “It’s just that young ladies don’t cook – they have servants for that!” At a Victorian exhibition they are astonished at a classmate calling a Victorian washing machine “an old piece of junk!” They reply, “It’s not junk! It’s the latest thing!”

It must be said that the portrayal of Miss Thistlewick is a bit puzzling. Guilt drives her to do what she does, but she does not give Judy or the reader the impression she is acting out of guilt. “You’re too nosey by far, Judy Mayhew! The time has come to teach you a lesson and to stop your meddlesome ways!” Later, when Miss Thistlewick thinks she finally has Judy under the influence, she says, “Excellent, excellent! Now nothing can stop me!” All right, so maybe it could be put down to psychological causes of some sort. But it is small wonder that Judy thinks Miss Thistlewick has evil intentions. And it is a bit hard to believe Miss Thistlewick is a ghost because at first glance she seems corporeal enough. It might have been more plausible to have a living teacher possessed by the ghost of Miss Thistlewick.

But overall, this story can be regarded as a strong start in Jinty’s spooky storytelling and seems to be one of her better remembered first stories. It is hard to go wrong with ghosts, and many readers must have enjoyed the historical aspect of it as well. Even readers who did not find history appealing would have enjoyed the clashes between Victorian lifestyle and modern lifestyle, portrayed in ways that are both scary and funny. And there is the drama and tension as Judy fights being taken over by the influence, and resorting to more resourceful yet desperate ways to save her friends – only for it to climax in irony. The irony when Judy almost causes the tragedy she was trying to prevent, and the double irony that it helps Miss Thistlewick to meet her objective and redeem herself.

Gwen’s Stolen Glory (1974)

Sample images

Gwen 1

 (Click thru)

Gwen 2

(Click thru)

Gwen 3

Publication: 11/5/74-4/8/74

Artist: Unknown

Writer: Alan Davidson

The living a lie story – the story where the heroine is living a lie for one reason or other. But she gets increasingly caught up in her own lies, resorting to ever more desperate and even shocking measures to keep her secret, and living in constant fear of being discovered. And if she gets discovered, where is it going to end, and what is going to happen to her? Or will she be able to extricate herself from her sticky situation without getting into too much trouble – that is, if she even deserves to?

Such makes the suspense and thrills in another of Jinty’s first stories, “Gwen’s Stolen Glory”.

Summary

Gwen Terry longs to have friends, be popular and pursue a career as an actress. However, she has no confidence in herself and does not consider herself good at anything. The other girls consider her boring and useless and tease her. Her home life does not help; her dad is on an invalid’s benefit, so they can’t afford much or a decent home. She envies Judith Langham, who is everything she is not: popular, confident, good at everything, and just been accepted for drama school. Gwen does not realise Judith sympathises with her position and stands up for her.

In the school drama class, it’s Gwen’s turn to recite, but she dries up. Everyone laughs at her and she runs off in tears. Their taunts go too far when the distraught Gwen falls over the cliff and lands in a precarious position. Judith goes to the rescue, but the rescue goes through a series of unexpected turns which end up with everyone thinking that it was Gwen who saved Judith, who is now unconscious after a fall.

Gwen is now the heroine of the school, and seizes her opportunity for happiness. Indeed, she has everything she dreamed for now: glory, popularity, loads of admiring friends and showers of gifts. She even takes Judith’s place in the drama school, and the gratitude of the Langham parents ensures the Terrys a better home. When Judith comes to, she has lost her memory of what really happened, so it looks like Gwen’s glory is sealed and everything will be just dandy for her from now on.

But the glory has come at a price – Gwen’s conscience. She cannot forget that it was really Judith who saved her life. Her troubled conscience gives her no peace of mind and she is ashamed at the depths she has sunk to, so all her new-found gains cannot give her full happiness. And it filters through; her mother wonders why Gwen seems ashamed rather than proud. And in the cloakroom a guilt-stricken Gwen says, “Oh Judith, what have I done to you? What have I done to myself?”

Too bad for Gwen that Julie Waring was in earshot. Julie has been having niggling doubts about the whole affair, and after what she overhears, she becomes really suspicious. Soon Julie is drawing the right conclusions and makes no secret of what she suspects to Gwen. Now Gwen’s guilt is compounded by the fear of being found out, losing all her gains and becoming an outcast! Another consequence of living a lie.

Julie challenges Gwen to recreate her heroic climb on the cliff to save Judith – something Julie knows Gwen could not possibly have done. Gwen fails the test, but the girls still think she is a heroine, and accuse Julie of being jealous. But Gwen is taking no chances – she frames Julie and gets her expelled. It looks like her secret is safe, but now she has sunk even further.

Before Julie goes, she defiantly tells Gwen, “You’ll suffer for what you’ve done, Gwen, if you’ve got any conscience at all. It won’t do you any good in the end, I know it won’t!”

Julie’s words bear out when Gwen looks in her bedroom mirror. She is shocked to see her face has taken on a hard, selfish, cruel look. Gwen realises what a monster she has turned into and is now more ashamed than ever. But her greed and selfishness are getting too strong and Gwen starts turning into a Jeckyll and Hyde type character, with one half the deeply ashamed Gwen, and the greedy selfish one who will stop at nothing to keep what she has gained, even if it means Judith dies on the cliff and her secret is safe forever.

Yes, Judith is beginning to remember, but not fully. She goes to the cliff to jog her memory and Gwen has no choice but to go with her. Her conflicting personality traits surface again. The cruel half gets the better of her, but when she sees it reflected in a puddle, she is ashamed at what she has become and hates herself. Seeing only one way to get rid of that evil face, Gwen deliberately goes to the same perch on the cliff as before in the hope of restoring Judith’s memory – and it does.

Then things take another surprising turn when Gwen ends up saving Judith’s life for real. For the first time in her life, Gwen finds she has reason to respect herself. The grateful Judith even offers to keep Gwen’s secret. But Gwen refuses; she must get rid of that evil and find peace of mind. So she confesses to her parents and then the whole school. She runs off in tears, expecting dire consequences.

But Gwen is in for a surprise. The girls say it was their fault too; they treated her badly, so perhaps they drove her to it. Well, they did – literally – when their scorn had her running off and going over the cliff in the first place. They are also impressed with the way Gwen really saved Judith this time (something Gwen did not mention when she confessed) and declined the offer of the easy way out.

So it’s forgiveness from them, and from Julie, who is reinstated at the school. Judith goes to drama school, but it looks like Gwen might follow the next year.

Thoughts

Most living a lie stories, such as “Holiday Hideway“, generally focus on all the scrapes the heroine gets into to keep her secret. They may be played for humour, thrills, or to make us despise the character. But here the focus is on the character development of Gwen, and this is the real strength of the story. Gwen starts off as a character you can instantly sympathise with. She feels a nobody who is desperate to step out of the shadows, but lacks the self-confidence and is always the target of teasing. And she has an accident and nearly gets killed because of it as well!

Once she becomes the centre of admiration, she laps up her new-found glory, happiness, friendships, and the acting opportunity she had dreamed of. Her life is looking up at last, and she starts gaining confidence. But the lie of it all means she still has no reason to love or respect herself, which is what she really needs if she is to be truly happy. The lows she sinks to in order to keep her secret bring out her dark side, which she never realised she had before. The revulsion of what she is turning into, and how this has led to her to destroy two people, has her discovering what a tormented soul truly means. And the changes in her face and personality are truly disturbing. On the other hand, it is this horrific change, rather than the guilty conscience, that sets Gwen on the path to redeeming her character, even though it will certainly mean ruining herself. But thanks to another turn of events, Gwen ends up on the path towards true self-respect and happiness as well as redemption.

Was Gwen forgiven a bit too readily and the ending a bit too pat? After all, she did get Julie expelled for something she did not do, and that would be an expelling matter for herself. Perhaps it is a matter of opinion. Certainly it is a frequent thing in girls’ comics for errant heroines to get off too easily, without any punishment. Forgiveness is a big thing in girls’ comics, but at times it comes too easily to be believable. On the other hand, the girls, and perhaps the staff, had reason to reflect on Gwen’s former miserable situation after she became a heroine. The gifts the girls shower her with could well be balms for guilty consciences as much as tokens of admiration. And now they have real reason to admire Gwen, for the courage in her honesty as well as heroism. It could well be that the headmistress was among those who was far too impressed with Gwen to think about punishing her.