Tag Archives: Slaves of War Orphan Farm

Little Lady Nobody (1972)

Sample Images

(from Sandie 18 March 1972)

Published: Sandie 12 February 1972 – 1 April 1972

Episodes: 8

Artist: Desmond Walduck?

Writer: Unknown

Plot summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further thoughts

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

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

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


Site announcement – small reorganization

As I have been lucky enough to get a run of 69 issues of Sandie, and am now posting about each issue in consecutive order, it seemed sensible to tweak some of the elements of the blog to reflect the wider range of titles included.

The page that previously was just called ‘Issues’, which listed all the issues of Jinty which we’d posted about, is now called Indices of issues and annuals. The aim is to mention the key titles covered on this blog, with a link to the separate page where the index of each title is held.

Below this in the menu there are currently links to the following pages:

  • Index of Jinty issues and annuals (the same information as before, just re-titled)
  • Index of Sandie issues (links to my recent posts and a few earlier posts on Sandie)
  • Index of other titles (the same information as before but with the Sandie links moved onto that index)

I’ve also updated the posts on the first three Sandie issues to list a couple of additonal artist credits. I checked on Catawiki and I see that Sleuth on that site has credited “Wee Sue” to the artist Vicente Torregrosa Manrique, and “Bonnie’s Butler” to artist Julio Bosch. She also credited “Little Lady Nobody” to Desmond Walduck (artist on “Slaves of War Orphan Farm”) but I feel like the art is a better match to Roy Newby, per my original credit. Anyone have an opinion on this? I will post some scans later on to help with this identification, if need be. Edited to add: I now think this is not a match with Roy Newby’s work and am taking back this identification.

Misery Loves Company, or, the sadomasochism of readers?

Attendees at talks like the Comix Creatrix event have a tendency to marvel at the prevalence of stories about misery, cruelty, and slavery in girls comics. It’s particularly the case that, if the attendee is someone who isn’t steeped in reading stories in this genre, they may well bring out loaded words or phrases referring to the ‘sadomasochism’ in the stories, or they may indicate that something is a bit ‘dodgy’ or ‘ooh-er’ (at the end of the talk this came in with discussions of “War Orphan Farm” and “Slave of Form 3B“). I’m not immune to this effect either – in earlier days I have certainly referred to slave stories with wink-wink innuendo, for instance. But it’s not true to the material being referred to, and what’s more I think that it plays into the wrong hands, as I will explain below.

Girls comics feature a lot of cruelty, misery, and slavery, it’s true. Mistyfan’s post on the Slave Story theme gives a relevant run-down of how a large subsection of girls’ stories worked, including a range of examples. We haven’t even given misery and cruelty any specific categories of their own in our list of themes, but they are clearly part of the more discrete story themes of Affliction, Bullying, Cinderella, Guilt Complex, and Troublemaker, to name only a few. Stories frequently feature mental domination, abuse, and physical brutality; may include handcuffs and ropes; and occasionally allow the death of the main character. And these are not incidental aspects of the stories – they are the main reason for them, the thing that makes them popular and memorable. A story may continue for half a year or more with the protagonist growing more and more hard-done-by, and the resolution typically only comes in the last episode or even the last few panels. It’s hardly surprising that this is so much a feature of discussions of girls comics when it comes up outside the confines of a blog like this.

But does this mean either that the stories are full of sadomasochism, or that the readers were secret sadists or masochists to enjoy them in such numbers? I’d say no, to both.

If you look at the stories themselves, and the experiences of the protagonists within then, they are just not stories of sadomasochism. For a start, they’re not overtly sexual (no publisher of the time in the UK would have countenanced that, of course, though as has been pointed out by Paul Gravett, the Shojo manga publishing phenomenon in Japan at around the same time was able to go down this route). They’re not covertly sexual either (not that I think girls of that age and in that era particularly went for hidden innuendo – we passed around Lace and The Thorn Birds, and of course we all devoured the Flowers In The Attic series). Fundamentally the stories of cruelty/slavery , even though they can spark associations of BDSM to the adult reader, weren’t about submission. The protagonists didn’t learn to enjoy being humiliated or dominated by their rivals: it was just that they were not strong enough to win against the villain or the society they were in. It’s a trope about powerlessness and fighting back even when it’s hopeless: eventually, even though it seems terribly unlikely, you may win. That’s a message of strength to young girls, collectively one of the least powerful groups in all society.

Slave stories end with the slave being freed and reinstated, and the villain reformed or defeated. (See the Tammy blog’s post about Slaves of “War Orphan Farm” where all eventually ends happily.) There are some stories where the slave accepts the brainwashing of the antagonist at points, and believes she deserves her punishment (Jinty‘s “Slave of the Swan” includes this plot element), but clearer eyes than the deluded protagonist see through this deception and it is not seriously proposed as something that the protagonist should believe. These are not stories with hidden subtexts of the delights of submission to loving authority in the way that Marston’s Wonder Woman stories were.

There are also a large number of tear-jerker stories which get mentioned as part of this idea of the sadomasochism of girls comics. I think here the feeling is that because such stories are so focused on misery, it is sadistic, or possibly masochistic, of the girl reader to enjoy them so much. Some of the obvious key contenders from the massively popular misery / tear-jerker trope are:

  • “No Time for Pat” in Jinty Annual 1980. Originally printed in June (1972)
  • Stefa’s Heart of StoneJinty (1976), reprinted in Princess / Tammy & Princess (1984)
  • DC Thomson’s “AngelMandy (1977) reprinted three times, with two subsequent sequels One of the few misery stories that takes the story through to the death of the protagonist, but as she was suffering from a terminal disease this feels like a naturalistic and almost uplifting ending – you could say she ‘wins’
  • Nothing Ever Goes RightJudy (1981) Reprinted (1989-90) Another exception of a misery story in which the protagonist dies in the end. (Edited to add: written by Maureen Hartley – see comments on Girls Comics of Yesterday)

These stories don’t really have a specific villain, though some other similar ones may do. The cause of the misery is often simply cruel fate. Possibly because cruel fate is much less personal, it is sometimes carried through to the logical conclusion whereby the protagonist dies in end: something that you can’t really do with a slave story because then the villain would win. (Unless anyone knows of a counter-example?)

Clearly girl readers loved a good cry! But why label the readers so strongly, bandying around terms like masochist? Didn’t the Victorians also love sentimental sob stories? What about classical tragedy, which far more often ends in unswerving death? Or indeed devotees of East Enders or the Archers? Consumers of these stories don’t get the same labels. I can only see it coming down to the policing of girls’ reading – it falls outside our expectations of what girls should read, and so we boggle at it more than at Victorian sob stories. If we fall in with this policing of ‘appropriate’ reading we play into the hands of authority’s disapproval of comics. Sometimes that manifests itself relatively mildly, as when Mary Cadogan complained about lurid death scenes in girls comics, citing “No Time For Pat” as an example (incorrectly, in fact) and using that as a lever to indicate that all girls comics were of low worth. At the other end of the spectrum, Frederick Wertham used his assertions of inappropriate themes and images to press for wide-ranging ‘reform’ of comic book publishing and the implementation of the US Comic Book Code.

First Tammy Ever Published: 6 February 1971

Tammy 6 February 1971 reprint
First Tammy cover: reprint
Tammy 6 February 1971
First Tammy cover: original
  • The Secret of Trebaran – first episode (artist Giorgio Cambiotti)
  • The Girls of Liberty Lodge – first episode (artist Dudley Pout)
  • Slaves of “War Orphan Farm” – first episode (artist Desmond Walduck, writer Gerry Finley-Day)
  • Dawn and Kerry Double for Trouble – first episode (artist Giorgio Letteri, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • “Our Janie” – Little Mum – first episode (artist Colin Merritt)
  • Betina at Ballet School – first episode
  • My Father – My Enemy! – first episode
  • Courier Carol – first episode (artist Jean Sidobre)
  • Glen (later called Glen – A Lonely Dog on a Quest) – first episode (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Tammy Club Page – Feature
  • Castaways on Voodoo Island – first episode (artist Ken Houghton)
  • No Tears for Molly – first episode (artist Tony Thewenetti, writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Cats and Kittens – Feature

Recently we had an entry for the last Tammy ever published. So it is seems appropriate that there should be one for the first Tammy as well.

The cheery blond girl who greets us on the cover (which has far better colouring than its 2009 facsimile reprint) belies the content that is waiting inside. For Pat Mills and Gerry Finley-Day intended that Tammy would revolutionise girls’ comics, which more typically went for stories about ballet, school and ponies. Instead, Tammy would lead a revolution by going for the dark side of comics. She would print stories filled with suffering, misery, cruelty, and pushing the envelope with over-the-top ways to torture the heroines. Parents and teachers hated it, which was a sure sign it was working.

Tammy 4

Tammy’s welcome to her readers stated: “…for the whole gang of us here have tried to make it the kind of picture-story paper we think you want…I just hope we’ve succeeded and that you’ll go on reading and enjoying Tammy every week”.

They must have succeeded – sales of Tammy skyrocketed, and it would blaze the trail for the early Jinty, and Action and Battle.

The first story that readers see when they open the issue is a supernatural story, “The Secret of Trebaran”, which is quite a blend of time travel, evil sorcerer and period story. Trudy Smith thinks her holiday in Cornwall is as dull as ditch water – until she comes across a mysterious medallion that sends her travelling back in time to when the island of Trebaran was a thriving community instead of the ruin it is today, and nobody knows why it ended up that way. Trudy is about to become part of that mystery, of course. But it’s already threatening to get her burned at the stake for witchcraft when Puritans encounter her tape recorder and hear what it can do!

Tammy 1
The Girls of Liberty Lodge

The next story is the first of the stories in the pioneering dark side, “The Girls of Liberty Lodge”. We meet Miss Steele, the bully headmistress of Hardington Hall, whose ideas of discipline are put girls on ‘trial’ in a kangaroo court in front of the whole school. Good grief! Miss Valentine, the only kind teacher in the whole school, is so appalled that she quits to start her own school, Liberty Lodge, which is set up as the antithesis of Hardington Hall. But Miss Steele is not having that, and is determined to bring down Liberty Lodge any way she can.

Story three is the Queen of Cruelty in Tammy’s lineup – “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’”. This story is regarded as perhaps the cruellest strip ever in girls’ comics. Ma Thatcher (named for the future Prime Minister) takes in war orphans, ostensibly to give them a home for the duration of WW2. In reality, she forces them to work in a quarry and contracts them out as slave labour to other farmers.

“Dawn and Kerry” takes a break from the cruelty with two good friends who turn into sleuths when they get caught in a storm and have to take shelter in a creepy hall, Whispering Heights. They meet a girl who seems to be a prisoner of the place, and now they are prisoners themselves!

Tammy 2
Slaves of “War Orphan Farm”

The fourth story, “‘Our Janie – Little Mum!’”, returns to the suffering. Janie Greaves has been mother to the family since Mum died, but now more tragedy is tearing the family apart. Dad has been landed in hospital with serious injuries, social welfare is threatening to split the family up, and now her brother’s being arrested!

The first lineup of a new girls’ comic just wouldn’t be complete without a ballet story, and “Betina at Ballet School” is it. Betina Brooks wins a scholarship to a ballet school. But snobbery is against her – and it’s coming from the teachers. This story would spawn an early Tammy sequel, “Betina and the Haunted Ballet”.

“My Father – My Enemy!” delves into the horrors of Victorian exploitation and child labour with Mr Jeffries, who cares nothing for the suffering of his miners and their families. But his daughter Julie is more compassionate and she goes against her own father to do what she can to help them.

“Courier Carol” is the only story in the Tammy lineup to have any humour. Carol Jones and her uncle run a coach tour with a difference – a vintage coach that picks up a lot of laughs on the way. But they pick up trouble too, in the form of a rival coach business run by the man who had tried to buy them out.

Humour and hijinks are definitely short in the first lineup; there isn’t even a cartoon feature starring a “funny”. If there is one problem with the first Tammy stories, it is that they lean too heavily towards stories filled with suffering, hardship and cruelty. There is little counterbalance in the form of laughs and light relief. The first Jinty, though she would have her share of dark, cruel stories with tortured heroines (especially “Merry at Misery House”), she would include more humour and slapstick in her first lineup than the first Tammy lineup did.

Tammy 3
Courier Carol

And it soon gets back to it with “Glen” (later called “Glen – A Dog on a Lonely Quest”). Glen is an abused dog (yes, more cruelty) who sets out to find the girl who saved him when his abusive owner tried to drown him. And the girl’s name is June – coincidence or what?

The facsimile reprint reproduces only page one of the Tammy Club from the original. The editor knew readers would want one, and Susie is the secretary who presents the details on how to join and what to expect.

The reprint also omits the next story, “Castaways on Voodoo Island”, for some reason. Perhaps it is because this story is considered a weak one. Girls find themselves castaways on an island where they fall foul of a weird witch doctor. At least it makes a change from being tortured and abused by bullies and slave drivers.

Tammy 5
No Tears for Molly

Finally, we come to the story where the heroine would endure no less than 10 years of cruelty, abuse, bullying and suffering in Tammy. These would include being tied up and beaten, locked in a flood dungeon, freezing cold duckings in a lake, and being clamped in the stocks, would you believe? She would end up holding a joint record with Bella Barlow as Tammy’s longest running character. This is, of course, Molly Mills, a 1920s maidservant. She has the bad luck to arrive at the same time as bully butler Pickering, who would become her arch-nemesis at Stanton Hall. Her strip was originally entitled “No Tears for Molly” and the title would stick several years, despite the fact that it is a complete misnomer. Right from the very first episode we see Molly crying. No tears for Molly, huh? And now she’s been sacked too, because of a dirty trick from the other two maids who are destined to give her more trouble in the years to come. As if Pickering wasn’t bad enough!




Can a computer program help us identify unknown writers? 4

Right now I am sorry to say that I haven’t had great success with the computer program that I was hoping would help us to identify unknown writers. I’m by no means declaring it to be impossible or unrealistic, but I think I will need to ask for help from the experts who wrote the program and/or who do more of this sort of analysis on a day to day basis.

My initial trials were to see if I could test a Jay Over script known to be by him against another one known to be by him, so as to see if the program could pick out a ‘known good’ example. It did do that pretty well, but it may be that I calibrated the program options too closely against Jay Over. I haven’t got to the stage of being able to say that this series of tests, done in this way, gives you a good chance of identifying this text by a known author. (Unless that known author is Jay Over, she says slightly bitterly.) And if I can’t do this reasonably reliably, there is no point (as yet, at least) in moving on to trying out unknown author texts.

In my last post about this computer program, I ran a series of 10 tests against a Jay Over text, and the program reliably picked out Jay Over as the most likely author of that text out of a supplied set of 4 test authors. It was much less reliable in picking out a test Malcolm Shaw text out of the same set of test authors: only 5 of the 10 tests suggested that Malcolm Shaw was the best fit. I have now tried the same 10 tests with an Alan Davidson text (“Jackie’s Two Lives”), and with a Pat Mills text (“Girl In A Bubble”). This means that all four of the test authors have been tested against a text that is known to be by them.

  • Unfortunately, in the test using an Alan Davidson text the program was even worse at picking him out as the ‘best fit’ result: it only did so in 2 of the 10 tests, and in 4 of the tests it placed him in last, or least likely to have written that test text.
  • In the test using a Pat Mills text, the program was rather better at picking him out as the ‘best fit’ result, though still not great: it did so in 4 out of 10 tests, and in 3 of the remaining tests he was listed second; and he was only listed as ‘least likely/worst fit’ in one of the tests.

The obvious next step was to try with a larger group of authors. I tried the test texts of Jay Over (“Slave of the Clock”) and of Malcolm Shaw (“Bella” and “Four Faces of Eve”) against a larger group of 6 authors (Primrose Cumming, Anne Digby, Polly Harris, Louise Jordan, Jay Over, Malcolm Shaw).

  • With the Jay Over text, only 7 of the 10 tests chose him as the ‘best fit’, so the attribution of him as the author is showing as less definite in this set of tests.
  • With the Malcolm Shaw texts, only 1 and 3 tests (for “Bella” and for “Eve” respectively identified him as the ‘best fit’ – not enough for us to have identified him as the author if we hadn’t already known him to be so. (He also came last, or second to last, in 4 of the first set of tests, and the same in the second set of tests.)

I should also try with more texts by each author. However I think that right now I will take a break from this, in favour of trying to contact the creators of the program. I hope they may be able to give me better leads of the right direction to take this in. Do we need to have much longer texts for each author, for instance? (We have generally been typing up just one episode for each author – I thought might be too much of an imposition to ask people to do any more than that, especially as it seemed sensible to try to get a reasonably-sized group of authors represented.) Are there some tests I have overlooked, or some analytical methods that are more likely to be applicable to this situation? Hopefully I will be able to come back with some extra info that means I can take this further – but probably not on any very immediate timescale.

In the meantime, I leave you with the following list of texts that people have kindly helped out with. You may find (as I have) that just looking at the texts themselves is quite interesting and revealing. I am more than happy to send on any of the texts if they would be of interest to others. There are also various scans of single episodes sent on by Mistyfan in particular, to whom many thanks are due.

  • Alison Christie, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” (typed by Marckie)
  • Primrose Cumming, “Bella” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Alan Davidson, three texts
    • “Fran of the Floods” (typed by Marckie)
    • “Jackie’s Two Lives” (typed by me)
    • “Kerry In the Clouds” (typed by me, in progress)
  • Anne Digby, “Tennis Star Tina” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Gerry Finley-Day, “Slaves of War Orphan Farm” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Polly Harris, two texts
    • “Monkey Tricks” (typed by Mistyfan)
    • “Midsummer Tresses” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Louise Jordan, “The Hardest Ride” (typed by Mistyfan)
  • Jay Over, two texts
    • “Slave of the Clock” (typed by me)
    • “The Secret of Angel Smith” (typed by me)
  • Malcolm Shaw, five texts
    • “Lucky” (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “The Sentinels” episode 1 (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “The Sentinels” episode 2 (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “Bella” (typed by Lorrbot)
    • “Four Faces of Eve” (typed by Lorrbot)
  • Pat Mills, two texts
    • “Concrete Surfer” (typed by me)
    • “Girl In A Bubble” (typed by me)
  • John Wagner, “Eva’s Evil Eye” (typed by Mistyfan)



The Slave Story Theme

Pat Mills has declared online that there were three lynchpins for a girls’ comic that he would have if he launched a girls’ title today: the Cinderella story, the friendship story and the slave story (personally, I would add the regular story, the spooky story and the funny story). Apparently when readership was taking a dip, they would bring out the slave story.

This post will be taking a look at the slave story. But as samples from Jinty are too limited to cover the variations of the formula, serials under discussion will expand beyond Jinty to include serials from DCT, Tammy, Girl (series 2) and Battle.

What was the slave story? There were two types: the individual slave story and the group slave story. In the group slave story, a group of girls or people are being held captive and used as slaves. The setting could be a cruel institution or prison, such as an orphanage, workhouse, factory, reformatory, prison camp, mine, quarry, or a school that is run along the lines of Wackford Squeers types. Sometimes the setting takes a more unusual form, such as a circus, a restaurant, a totalitarian regime, or a dystopian world. Or the enslavement could be based on an activity, such as hockey, ballet or swimming. For example, in “Secret Ballet of the Steppes” (Tammy) a ballet class is abducted to Siberia and forced to dance for the last remnant of the tzars and their imperialist rule, right down to starving peasants who get massacred when they beg for the release of food supplies.

Slave 2.jpg

(click thru)

Sometimes there is more to the slavery than mere exploitation; the slavers may have more ulterior motives such as an underground crime ring or forced labour racket. And there are times when the slavery takes a form that is more insidious. On the surface it looks harmless, even enjoyable, but underneath it all, its residents are being ensnared for sinister purposes, such as in “The Camp on Candy Island” (Tammy) or “Prisoners of Paradise Island” (Jinty).

Occasionally the slave story focused on individuals trapped in slavery, such as “Bound for Botany Bay”. This will be discussed later. Right now the discussion will look at the group slavery.

The protagonist of the group slavery story could be either:
1. The slave who refuses to be broken by the cruelty. She is determined to escape and bring everything down. In the meantime she is singled out for the harshest treatment and her jailers pile on one torture after another which frequently went way over the top. Tortures over the years have included being locked in pillories, drip cells, dungeons, rat-infested cellars, punishment boxes, cages, underground pits and iron masks; forced to work in blazing hot sun until sunstroke sets in, being forced to play hockey with damaged sight; standing for long hours in freezing weather; even be targeted for murder, which is often part of the story’s climax. Or the protagonist could be:

2. The secret helper i.e. the one who is secretly helping the slaves. Sometimes, as part of her ruse, she pretends to side with the villains, and in so doing, makes herself hated by the victims she is secretly helping. Stories where this occurs include “Detestable Della” (Bunty) and “Hateful Hattie” (Mandy). Or the helper may help via a disguise, such as Lady Sarah in “Lady Sarah’s Secret” (Judy). Lady Sarah helps victims of a cruel orphanage by disguising herself as the legendary ghost of the orphanage. Sometimes the helper is just there and coming up with quick plans to help the victims, such as “Betty vs Bumble” (Judy). This variance on the formula can allow for the slave story being played for laughs and comical comeuppances for the villain every week, as in “Betty vs Bumble”.

Sometimes, but not always, there is a mystery attached to the slave story. Resolving it is the key to resolving the story and bringing down the villain. Some common mysteries are:

1. What secret scheme are the villains up to? Sometimes it is evident they are up to something crooked as well as abusing and exploiting people, but the protagonist has to figure out what it is eg “Slaves of the Candle” (Jinty).

2. Who is the secret helper? Sometimes the secret helper is the mystery, not the protagonist of the story – and also part of its resolution. A mysterious helper keeps popping up to help the girls, such as the mystery trainer in “Land of no Tears”, (Jinty) who turns up in a disguise of a wig and heavy makeup (can’t she disguise herself better in this world of the future?). When the protagonist finally discovers who the woman is, it is another twist on the secret helper who has to pretend to be a villain as part of her ruse to secretly help the slaves.

3. How exactly is the racket operating? Sometimes motives or identities of the villains are kept hidden and need to be unravelled. For example, in “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory” (Girl, series 2), the slaves do not know exactly who is running the sewing factory that kidnaps girls and uses them as slave labour. Their supervisor keeps herself nameless and they have to address her as “M’am.” When Amanda, the protagonist in this story, discovers the man operating the racket is her own father, it makes for one slave story that does not have a totally happy ending.

4. Hidden secret regarding protagonist. Sometimes there is a secret regarding the protagonist that she does not know herself. The jailers may know it and the torture is part of it, as in “Poor Law Polly” (Lindy), or it becomes part of resolving the story “Nina Nimble Fingers” (Lindy).

Lastly, there may be a toady character. A member of the group or more senior girl who helps the villains and participates in the torture of the girls. Sometimes it is the toady character who is the key to the resolution of the story. Essentially, the villain goes too far to the toady’s liking. Shocked, the toady has a change of heart and starts helping the victims. One example is Adolfa in Jinty’s “Merry at Misery House”. Right up until the last episode Adolfa has been the reformatory inmate who helped to torture them, especially Merry. But when Adolfa discovers the warden is out to kill Merry, she has an instant change of heart; she saves Merry and takes a hard crack on the head for doing so. But in some slave stories this was not the case with the toady, eg “The Four Friends at Spartan School” (Tammy) or “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory”. And at times no such character is used, or not used much.

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Perhaps the most famous – or infamous – slave story was “Slaves of War Orphan Farm”. It was launched in the first issue of Tammy, and it made Tammy‘s name for the darkness, cruelty and tortured heroines that she pioneered at IPC. Ma Thatcher (yes, named after a milk snatcher and future prime minister) running a racket where she uses war orphans she was supposed to be taking care of as slave labour in a rock quarry. She also locks them in cages as a punishment, even in cold weather, sets vicious dogs and gin traps on them, and even tries to burn them alive in the barn at the climax of the story. But the mysterious helper, in this case a woman called Mad Emma, has been steadily helping some kids to escape. Now they combine forces for the great escape with the help of Bonnie, a toady who does have a change of heart.

Other slave stories followed thick and fast in the early years of Tammy. They included The Revenge of Edna Hack, Secret Ballet of the Steppes, Dara into Danger, The Camp on Candy Island, Swim for Your Life, Sari, Slaves of the Hot Stove, Swimmer Slave of Mrs Squall and Waifs of the Wigmaker.

It is not surprising that Battle, which drew much inspiration from the dark trend that pioneered in Tammy, attempted the slave story in its first issue. This was “The Terror Behind the Bamboo Curtain”. Sadly, Bamboo Curtain proved that the slave story was one trend in girls’ comics that did not work so well with the boys and it folded after twelve episodes. But the attempt shows a world of difference when the slave story is played in the man’s world that is worth discussing here.

The evil Sado runs a Japanese POW camp. He revels in punishing prisoners by sending them into the Bamboo Curtain, a bamboo forest rigged with deadly booby traps. Alarmed at how the Bamboo Curtain is intimidating his fellow prisoners, Jim Blake gets himself sent there in the hope of overcoming it and stopping it turning his friends into “cringing coolies.” Blake does survive the Bamboo Curtain but is surprised to stumble across a nest of brainwashed British soldiers in the power of Sado. They mysteriously disappear before he can probe too much.

Determined to help the soldiers, Blake returns to the camp as the answer to the mystery must be there, although he risks even more savage punishment and perhaps death from Sado. The extra tortures include being locked in a metal hut in blazing heat, forced to fight a masked man to the death (Blake is shocked afterwards to find it is one of the brainwashed soldiers), being trapped in a minefield, and being tied to Sado’s jeep and being dragged behind. War-based tortures that soldiers are more likely to encounter than girls. Nor would you expect the girls to punch their jailers in the face and take up guns in their escape.

The story also made daring breaks with clichés, such as when Blake fails to save his friend Jensen from the quicksand trap in the Bamboo Curtain. And, when Blake and Sado face off in the final episode – no spoilers, so let us say we do not get the typical clichéd honourable conduct we would normally expect from the hero.  Unlikely that even Tammy would have done the same.

So how did the slave story play out in Jinty? As the early Jinty was cast in the same mould as the early Tammy, there was of course a slave story in the first lineup. This was “Merry at Misery House”. Wrongly sent to a reformatory nicknamed Misery House because of its harshness, Merry Summers is cast in the mould of the protagonist who refuses to let the cruelty break her spirit. This singles her out for one torture after another to break her down and turns the story into the longest running slave story ever. It ran for over a year before the misery finally ended with the warden and head guard being arrested for racketeering, Misery House burning down and Merry getting her name cleared.

Maybe the sheer length of this slave story is the reason Jinty had fewer slave stories than Tammy. But the ones she did have were:

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Merry at Misery House (1974-75): Merry Summers is wrongly convicted of theft and sent to a reformatory where sadistic treatment is the rule.

Prisoners of Paradise Island (1974-75): a hockey team is kidnapped and taken to a tropical island. In a twist that turns the slave story on its head, they are given every luxury instead of being tortured, abused and exploited. But the purpose is just as evil – their captors want to make them fat, unfit and lazy so they cannot win a hockey championship. Then the crooks will take punts against them and make a fortune.

Barracuda Bay (1975): More of a twist on the slave story than a pure slave story. The slaves are a bunch of kidnapped scientists in this James Bond style story.

Too Old to Cry! (1975-76): a cruel orphanage run by a matron who can lie her way out of anything. In a break with the usual pattern, Nell, the protagonist, escapes from the orphanage in the early stages of the story. Many episodes pass before the matron catches up to Nell.

Slaves of the Candle (1975-76): Lydia Lagtree falls foul of Mrs Tallow, who is running a candle making slave racket. But she is also committing thefts that she often has Lydia carrying the can for. Mrs Tallow believes the price that keeps rising on Lydia’s head will keep her under control, but Lydia remains determined to escape and stop the racket. As the story progresses, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Mrs Tallow is planning something even bigger, and it involves the Tower of London. Hmm, could there be treason here?

Bound for Botany Bay (1976): it is more individual slavery than group slavery in this story about the horrors of transportation in the 19th century. But Betsy Tanner is arriving with a group of convicts and they will be slaves all but in name, and later encounters a group of slaves in an opal mine.

Land of No Tears (1977-78): The slave story set in dystopia, which makes a nice change from the more common settings of factories, schools etc. Lame Cassy Shaw is transported to a future world where perfection is everything. People who are not perfect are classed as Gamma and regarded as inferior. In the hive (children’s home) where Cassy ends up, the Gamma girls are slaves who do the cleaning, wear shabby clothes, and eat nothing but scraps left by the perfect Alpha girls. The Alphas bully them and live in luxurious rooms while the Gammas share a cold, grim dormitory. This story is regarded as one of Jinty’s classics, so while Merry was the longest slave story in Jinty, this one has to be the best.

The Human Zoo (1978): not strictly a slave story but contains some elements of it. Sisters Jenny and Shona Owens and some other people are kidnapped by aliens and taken to their planet. The aliens think humans are animals and treat them as beasts of burden.

Children of Edenford (1979): hints of the slave story can be seen in this story too, though it is not a slave story as such. Bamboo Curtain is one example that brainwashing techniques are sometimes used in the slave story, but this one takes it to frightening levels that threaten the whole world. Insane headmistress Purity Goodfellow is obsessed with perfection. To this end she turns her pupils into glazed-eyed docile zombies by feeding them drugged food. But she isn’t stopping there – soon it is the whole district and eventually it is revealed she has her eyes on the whole world.

Now we turn to the individual slavery story. This centres on one individual who is enslaved by legal slavery or exploitation of some sort or, more often, by criminals and other nasty types. In the case of the latter, the girl often has amnesia, lost her voice or has some other disability that has made it easier for the villain to enslave her. Overcoming her disability or regaining her voice/memory is the only way to escape. At other times straight out blackmail is used, though blackmail themes did not seem to occur much in Jinty. And finally, there are villains who use hypnotism or other brainwashing techniques to enslave the girl.

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Notable Jinty stories with this theme were:

Tricia’s Tragedy (1975): Tricia Hunt becomes a slave to her cousin Diana Lloyd because she blames herself for an accident that left Diana blind. But Mr Hunt thinks something is fishy, especially when it becomes apparent that the Lloyds are trying to stop Tricia winning a vital swimming trophy.

Miss No-Name (1976): Lori Mills loses her memory and becomes ensnared by Ma Crabb and her daughter Stella, who abuse her and force her into crime. For good measure, Ma Crabb cuts off Lori’s hair so nobody recognises her as the missing girl in the papers.

The Slave of Form 3B (1976): bully Stacey discovers she can hynotise new girl Tania. She uses it to force Tania into theft, sabotage, cheating, bad conduct and eventually an accident that nearly kills Tania.

Bound for Botany Bay (1976): Betsy Tanner and her father are enslaved by convict transportation.

Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (1976-77): Lady Daisy de Vere is mistaken for a servant, Maud, and ends up in a cruel household where even the other servants mistreat her.

Made-up Mandy (1976-77): Mandy Mason is not a slave per se, but the employer at the beauty salon where Mandy works as a caretaker does not treat her well.

Curtain of Silence (1977): Yvonne Berridge is kidnapped in an Iron Curtain country and forced to pose as their cycling star. Yvonne has lost her voice, which makes it hard for her to get help.

No Cheers for Cherry (1978): Cherry Campbell joins her aunt’s theatre boat in the hope of drama training and stardom. But she finds herself being used as an unpaid servant. This story has some overlap with the Cinderella theme.

Slave of the Swan (1978): Again an amnesiac girl, Katrina Vale, is taken advantage of, this time by a ballet mistress who wants revenge on her mother rather than simply exploiting the girl.

As the 1970s wore on, slave stories (and the accompanying lynchpin, the Cinderella story) faded from Tammy. The same happened with Jinty. This was particularly the case with the group slave story. Counterrevolution and changes in editorship had set in against the revolution of cruelty and tortured heroines that Tammy pioneered and the early Jinty followed. Yet the slave story remained popular at DCT, and it played over and over in Bunty, Mandy and Judy long after it faded at IPC.


Merry at Misery House (1974-1975)

Sample images

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Publication: 11/5/74-30/8/75
Artist: Unknown artist ‘Merry’
Writer: Terence (Terry) Magee

Tammy may have been the first in a new breed of girls’ comics that revelled in dark stories that tortured their heroines. But from the first, Jinty proved she could torture hers just as cruelly. And not even Tammy tortured a heroine as long as Merry Summers here. Merry at Misery House was Jinty’s longest running serial – starting in the very first issue and running for over 60 episodes! Despite this, Merry never appeared in the Jinty annuals, which seems strange.

Merry was borne from one of the most popular formulas in girls’ comics – the slave story. The slave story was so popular that if readership was taking a dip, they would bring out the slave story. The slave story was frequent in the IPC titles in the 1960s and 1970s but had faded by the 1980s. However, it carried on in the DCT titles.

In a slave story, a group of girls are being used as slaves or held prisoner in an establishment with harsh and cruel conditions. It may be a factory, a workhouse, a school, an underground racket, a quarry, an island, or other settings. The protagonist is the one who rebels against the conditions and out for escape, and so is in for the harshest treatment from the gaolers. Often there is a “toady” character, a prisoner who curries favour with the gaolers and helps to administer the cruelty on her fellow inmates. Sometimes the toady has a change of heart, which is crucial for the resolution of the story, and sometimes not. Frequently, though not always, there is a mystery tied in as well, such as what are the gaolers up to in the secret room or who is the mystery person that keeps popping up to help the girls? Yes, sometimes there is a mystery helper, such as Emma in Tammy’s most infamous slave story, “Slaves of ‘War Orphan Farm’”. Whenever there is a mystery of any sort in the slave story, unravelling it is the key to freedom for the prisoners.

Jinty seemed to have fewer slave stories than Tammy. But then she hardly needed to when she had a resident slave story in the form of Merry.

In the year 1920, Merry Summers is wrongly convicted of theft (circumstances of which are never explained – we are not even told what Merry was accused of stealing) and sentenced to two years in a reformatory. The reformatory is called Sombre Manor, but it is better known as Misery House for its harshness and sadistic staff. Everything about Misery House is designed to break and torture the spirits of its inmates, right down to intimidating signs everywhere with messages such as “Behave Or Be Sorry”, “No Smiling” and “Nothing Is So Bad It Can’t Get Worse”. The Warden, Miss Ball the guard, and Adolfa, the resident toady of the story, reserve their worst treatment for Merry because she refuses to let the cruelties of Misery House break her spirit, change her chirpy ways, or stop her smiling – not to mention her plans to escape and expose the cruelties of Misery House. The cruelties include being shackled in drip dungeons, pillories, enforced ostracising from other inmates, working a sick girl to the point of death, being farmed out as slave labour, beatings, lousy food, bedding removed in freezing conditions, and a zoo-like enclosure where prisoners are abandoned in wretched conditions to run savage and ragged.

One of the greatest strengths of the story is that the Warden and Miss Ball must rate as two of the most brilliantly-conceived villains ever in girls’ comics. Sure, they are cruel, heartless, hypocritical, corrupt and brutal – yet at the same time they are subtle caricatures, a parody of prison brutality, which stops their cruelty from going to utter excess. They are not set out as implicitly evil sadists who are just there to torture and exploit their victims, though of course that is what they do all the time.

Of course, there are friends to help Merry along. The most notable of them is Carla Flax, Merry’s best friend. Carla is on her second sentence at Misery House. We have to wonder why she has ever been in a reformatory at all because she does not come across as the delinquent type. Others include girls who have been inspired by Merry’s courageous cheerfulness. Some of them, such as Violet, have been won over from causing Merry trouble to becoming friends with her. The reader of course, is inspired too, and must take great heart from the girl who refuses to stop being merry despite everything that is thrown at her.

About half way through the story, we get an exciting change of pace when Merry finally escapes from Misery House. Her motive for escaping is to expose the cruelty of Misery House – nothing about proving her innocence, which is the usual case with serials about with wrongly convicted persons. But fate turns against Merry; she has an accident and gets amnesia, and then gets blackmailed by a criminal. During her time on the run she is almost adopted by a rich couple, but in the end she is returned to Misery House.

Back to square one then? Not quite – it is here that the mystery element creeps in, with signs that the Warden and Miss Ball are up to something. For example, the Warden and Miss Ball send the girls out to work for a cruel farmer and make a profit. This is illegal, but there’s worse. They try to blackmail the farmer’s stepson into signing over the farm to him by threatening to have him arrested on trumped up charges. They are foiled in the end but take off smartly with the girls before any authorities are onto them.

Eventually the girls discover that the Warden and Miss Ball have been illegally selling off the good food supplies that they should have been receiving and foisting substandard food onto them. This incites them into rebellion and they barricade themselves in. The Warden responds with a plot to kill Merry. When Adolfa finds out, she becomes one toady with a change of heart. She saves Merry – and takes a horrible crack on the head from Miss Ball for doing so – and joins the rebels. The Warden tries to smoke them out, but the fire rages out of control and the girls cannot escape because the gates are locked.

But wouldn’t you know it – here come the police in the nick of time. They’ve had their eye on Misery House for a while and arrest the Warden and Miss Ball. They also tell Merry that her name has been cleared (no details on how she has been cleared, just as there were no details on just how she came to be wrongly convicted), and her parents are here to collect her. As for Misery House, it is finished in more ways than one – the fire has destroyed it.

Merry is still worried about what will happen to her friends. The parents think their sentences will be remitted. Merry’s friends tell her they will never forget the example she showed them in how to handle oppression.

Addendum: included 23 May 2014

The Terry Magee story “The Four Friends at Spartan School” (Tammy 23/10/71-8/1/72) clearly foreshadows Merry. It even has the same unknown artist, though of course it is a much earlier example of his/her artwork.

Spartan School is a special school in Switzerland run by Miss Bramble. The school is designed to instil discipline and compliance into problem pupils. Unfortunately, Miss Bramble’s ideas of discipline go too far and turn into torture and abuse. They include beatings, feeding the pupils poor food, and locking them in dungeons, the pillory, and even iron masks. It is no wonder that the pupils either end up as scared, broken down zombies or joining in the cruelty. Like the Warden, Miss Bramble and her crony, Siddons the prefect, go as far as attempted murder when the girls they especially want to break are making a bid for freedom. But unlike Adolfa, Siddons does not have a change of heart. On the contrary, she is far more evil than Adolfa – in fact, she is the one who suggests the murder while Adolfa draws the line at Merry’s.

Judy Jenkins, the heroine of this story, could well be the predecessor of Merry. She likes to play jokes to liven things up a bit. Unfortunately she keeps doing it in class, which gets her into the trouble that sends her to Spartan School. But like Merry, Judy refuses to be broken and her courageous defiance singles her out for the worst treatment.

And as with Misery House, Spartan School is physically destroyed (by an avalanche) as well as being shut down by the authorities.

Spartan School was Magee’s first serial, and Merry certainly shows the advances he had made in his storytelling and characterisation since then. For example, while the villains in Spartan School are just plain cruel and nasty in the name of discipline, the villains in Merry show subtle nuances; Miss Ball, for example, displays a sardonic, cruel sense of humour.  There are Orwellian touches too, as shown in the omniscent signs plastered all over Misery House. There is also a fascist look about the Warden, who is is always clad in a dark uniform and glasses. The Warden never takes off those dark glasses, so we never see her full face. This has a dehumanising effect on her that makes her all the more frightening – except to Merry, it seems.

Sample images

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