Tag Archives: Song of the Fir Tree

Daddy’s Darling (1975)

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Published: 8 March 1975 – 16 August 1975

Episodes: 24

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

Lee Simons is the daughter of a wealthy businessman, though not all is smooth sailing in their lives: her elder brother Peter was knocked over and killed while riding his bike and a year later, Lee’s mother dies of an illness that presumably she was not strong enough to fight off due to sadness. Lee and her father only have each other now – well, actually, Mr Simons has got the munitions factory and the large house too, not that Lee is all that bothered about those things. She would rather make her own life and choose her own friends – at least, this is the case by the time she is thirteen and has had five years of stifling over-protectiveness to cope with.

At the beginning of the story, though, the war gives her unexpected hope. First her governess resigns in order to join the land army, meaning that Lee has to go to the local village school; and then she pulls a fast one by volunteering to host an evacuee (something that her father was very against). She gets more than she bargained for – evacuee Maggie Hope is billeted on them but so is Maggie’s little brother, Joe – the family he had been going to were unable to take him after all. Lee is over the moon to have friends staying, but her father keeps them apart at every opportunity. He sends Lee to school in a chauffeur-driven car and makes Maggie and Joe walk behind even when it is raining; the other school kids taunt and despise Lee for that, even though Maggie sticks up for her. Mr Simons is susceptible to public opinion though, and when he eventually realizes it will look bad for him to keep doing that, he sends Maggie and Joe to school by car as well – but a different one, so that Lee is still kept away from the two ‘guttersnipes’ as he thinks of them.

And so the tussle goes – Lee intervenes with her father to protect and help the two Hope kids, Mr Simons protects and coddles his daughter but in a narrow, stifling way that keeps her isolated from other experiences and emotions, and Maggie and Joe bring more and more excitement into Lee’s life, willy-nilly. Even sending a food parcel to Maggie’s mum in London is a struggle, and it only happens because Mr Simons doesn’t want to look bad in front of others when a newspaper reporter sees Lee trying to post it.

Some fights are won by the kids and some by the father, at least initially. Allsorts, Maggie and Joe’s dog, is sent from London and the kids hide it in the air-raid shelter but of course it is not long before it is found – luckily before he is sent back, he saves Lee from a falling brick wall and so Mr Simons agrees to let the dog stay. Maggie and Lee both write an essay in class about their mothers – Maggie’s is chosen for a class prize because it is so emotionally written. The prize is a tour of a local factory – specifically, Mr Simons’ factory – and he ignores Maggie and only talks to Lee, as if she had won the prize herself. But the factory workers chat to Maggie and take to her, even choosing her as their social club queen.

They have a whip-round too, and Maggie wants to spend the resulting windfall on getting Joe a train set – but with the war on, there is none to be had in the shops for any money. Finally, a moment for Mr Simons to show a different side – out of the blue, he gives Joe the train set that Lee’s dead brother never got to use. Not that he’s softening towards them, mind you!

One incident causes her father to harden further rather than the reverse. Lee is tasked with opening an event – a sale of work – but on the way there , an RAF plane is downed and her clothes are all ruined, either by using them to aid the RAF pilot directly or because she is running across rough land and they are scratched and torn. Despite her heroism the result is that Lee is taken out from the village school and made to have lessons at home again – taken by a snobby maid who has been working at their house but who is a qualified teacher. Miss Johnson (former maid Daisy) is a nasty piece of work, but Lee is not left alone with her for long, because air raid damage conveniently closes the local school and so Maggie and Joe need to join the lessons, much to the disgruntlement of Miss Johnson and of Mr Simons. Young Joe proves to be quite a terror, teasing Miss Johnson with their dog, with a mouse, and with scurrilous caricatures, so quite soon Daisy heads off in a temper. Lee is delighted and although Mr Simons is cross, he is more upset by it being the anniversary of his wife’s death, leading him to snap even more nastily at the two evacuees.

It’s the anniversary of Joe’s father’s death too though, and they find him crying in the village graveyard. Maybe Mr Simons is softening after all – he puts his arm around Joe and even gives some money for the kids to go to the cinema – but it is only temporary and he very quickly turns up at the cinema and separates the two groups so that he has Lee all to himself. Nor will he invite Ma Hope over to visit the two kids, despite Lee’s pleas – but new maid ‘Mrs Watkins’ turns out to be Mrs Hope under an assumed name, come to be with her children. Lee takes to her instantly but they have to make sure that Mr Simons doesn’t find out and send her packing. Of course it is not long before the inevitable happens (a comic set-piece has Ma Hope soaking her feet in a warm bowl in front of the fire when she thinks the master is out for the evening, only to be interrupted by Mr Simons and posh guest).

So Mrs Hope is back in London when further air raids hit the East End, and of course her children are distraught with fear for her. Mr Simons bows to public pressure and has his chauffeur drive them back to their old area to check, but doesn’t allow Lee to go along with them and is not particularly upset when the two run away from the chauffeur to go on looking for their Ma. Lee of course is the next to run away, to find her dear friends – and although it looks like their mother is dead, she vows to stay and look after them so that they are not alone. Fat chance that Daddy will let her alone though: he drags her out and gives the Hopes the ultimatum that they can come to the hotel that the Simons will be at for the subsequent 24 hours, or they can stay and be left to their own devices.

It wouldn’t be a girls’ picture-story without a dramatic ending, of course – so as soon as that ultimatum delivered, Lee finds herself looking with horror at the house that the Hopes are in, as it burns down! Lee runs into the burning building and of course is immediately struck down – while she struggles for her life, Mr Simons has time to realize what a caring and unselfish child he has raised despite himself. And when she comes round, a week later, her new room mate turns out to be Mrs Hope, who is not dead – a wall fell on her and she was injured but not killed by the air raid that Maggie and Joe heard about. In turn, Mrs Hope hears about Maggie and Joe’s deaths in the penultimate episode. The final episode, however, has all being well – Lee and Mrs Hope are both discharged from hospital, Mr Simons continues with his change of heart and invites Mrs Hope to stay with them in the country, and although she says no (most vehemently) once Maggie and Joe are found, safe and sound after all, the grand house is turned in to a Convalescent Home with Mrs Hope as the House Mother. It is no longer only Lee who is Daddy’s Darling, but a wider group including Joe and Maggie and the other kids who will come to escape the war.

Thoughts

This is a long-running serial – not quite one of Jinty‘s longest (see more discussion on this post about story length) but nearly half a year’s worth of story. I don’t remember reading it when it first came out as I was a bit too young, but it must have been a successful product of the Alison Christie – Phil Townsend creative team to have run to that length. Some elements are a little repetitive, as is the danger with something of this length – Daddy’s single-minded attention to only his daughter’s comfort changes only towards the end of the serial and there are perhaps a little too many cases where Lee mourns his lack of caring towards others in similar wording to the earlier examples. But of course this is something that is more obvious on a re-read after the fact than at the time of original publication.

There were only relatively few stories in Jinty that feature the Second World War: “Daddy’s Darling”, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, and “Song of the Fir Tree“. (The first two are known to be written by Alison Christie and drawn by Phil Townsend, so of course it raises questions whether “Song of the Fir Tree” might also be, but it was not listed as such by Alison Christie in her earlier interview.) It feels to me as if in the case of this story it is more of a backdrop than a theme – the other two stories are about war, or about things that wouldn’t have happened without the war, whereas this story is really about a stifling over-protective parent. So this makes it more similar to another Christie story, “The Four-Footed Friends“.

In “The Four-Footed Friends”, the protagonist struggles with her stifling mother, who lost a child to illness and wraps her daughter in cotton-wool as a result; in “Daddy’s Darling” it is the father who is the antagonist that the daughter has to struggle against. This feels unusual: I know of a similar story, Tammy’s “My Father – My Enemy!”, where the socially-conscious daughter saves the workers at the mine owed by her Victorian father (thanks to Mistyfan, in the comments, for supplying further details) but not many others where the father is the blocker. “Dracula’s Daughter” is the obvious exception to that, but it is generally mothers or other women / girls who are the villains and antagonists in girls’ stories. There are a couple of examples of mystery stories where the villain is eventually revealed to be the father (photo-story “Slaves of the Nightmare Factory” is one such) or where a husband and wife team are equally to blame, but other than that, the antagonists are more typically headmistresses, female teachers, bully girls, mothers / step-mothers, grandmothers, aunts.

Mr Simons is not particularly evil but he is spectacularly clueless throughout. He does soften towards the two evacuees before the end, but his change of heart is depicted as somewhat out of the blue as it only really comes to pass in the last couple of episodes. In other ways the story develops quite nicely over its length: Maggie Hope is drawn as scrawny and plain to start with, and she becomes much more well-favoured by the end. Is that supposed to be as a result of better feeding than she’d get in the East End of London, or because Phil Townsend forgets to draw her quite as plain as at the start? Either way it works pretty well and matches the growing friendship of the two girls.

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Jinty 4 October 1975

Cover 4 October 1975

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Blind Ballerina (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Valley of Shining Mist (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)
  • “The Green People” (artist Phil Gascoine) – last episode
  • Barracuda Bay (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)

Katie Jinks’s school is competing against the nearby boys’ school, to see who does best at ‘gender-swapped’ tasks – so Katie and pals are making a concrete pathway for their school, and the boys are cooking a cordon bleu meal, which the victors get to eat! Of course, her equal-opportunity jinxing sees her ruining the chances of both groups equally – the boys win, but Katie’s antics end up with the boys locked in a store-room unable to eat their fine supper – so naturally the girls have to self-sacrificially eat it up… The tagline for upcoming stories advises readers that ‘there’s a long story starring Katie in the new Jinty Annual‘ (which turns out to be drawn by Audrey Fawley rather than Mario Capaldi).

Ballerina Barbie gets a shock as she is dancing before an audience – her sight returns and she can dance with more joy than ever! But she isn’t able to get to her sister quite in time to see the beloved face that she hasn’t seen for so many years.

Lucy and Yvette need to come up with a cunning plan to save Corn Dolly from the prison that Miss Marvell has put her in – the doll is powerless herself, surrounded as she is by black magic items in the local museum. But the brave and resourceful girls swop the doll for a very similar one that they have bought. Miss Marvell is fuming once she finds out of course, and threatens that ‘next time, there will be no half measures!’.

Debbie is stunned at the next request that Mrs Maynard makes – to bring her £100! A huge amount of money for the poor girl, of course, representing the entirety of her winnings at the talent contest. And she’s already spent her winnings, too! She sadly goes round returning the items she’d bought, but meanwhile her cruel family come up with ways to stop her from giving the money to Mrs Maynard. Will this mean that Debbie can never see her kind, if odd, mentor again?

Per and Solveig are still being pursued by Grendelsen, with much trekking through the woods. There’s natural dangers in the woods as well as Nazi stalkers though, as the kids are threatened by a wild boar and by a fierce dog too.

“The Green People” comes to an end this week. Moura’s aunt Zella has betrayed the peaceful underground people in a pact with the surface dwellers who want to build a motorway on the moor – but she finds that the dangerous monster Krakengerd is not as easy to control as she had thought. All ends well and the green people’s secret – and their lives – are safe.

“Barracuda Bay” sees Susan Stevens captured and trapped underwater, with her air running out. Will her partner Martin find and rescue her in time? This thriller is slightly old-fashioned in style and quite reminiscent of the Sandie story “The Golden Shark”, which also is a diving-based thriller with a female lead who has good hair. The art on “Barracuda Bay” is much tighter and more neatly-finished, though less obviously by the same artist as “The Haunting of Hazel” (which starts in the next issue). “The Golden Shark” gives a much clearer artistic link between the two stories that were reprinted in Jinty, which I was slightly surprised by.

Finally, “Ping-Pong Paula” has Paula suffering from lack of sleep, in the dodgy digs that her mother has dragged her to. Paula’s dad can support her table-tennis playing better, but of course her mother is bound to find out and to use it as more ammunition in the parental war.

Jinty & Lindy 6 December 1975

Jinty & Lindy 6 December 1975

Stories in this issue:

  • Slaves of the Candle (artist Roy Newby)
  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Win a Super Watch (competition)
  • Finleg the Fox (artist Barrie Mitchell)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Too Old to Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Hettie High and Mighty (unknown artist – Merry; idea by Terence Magee)
  • The Haunting of Hazel (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)

 

Katie the Jinx had a break last week, but as the cover shows, she’s back now. This week she’s trying to sweep down a cobweb that’s in a difficult position to reach. She succeeds in the end, but leaves the place in a worse state than when she first started cleaning it. Typical Katie!

It’s not every day in girls’ comics we see an unsavoury girl being straightened out with a good spanking on the bottie. Yet that is the case here in “Hetty High-and-Mighty” here, and you’ve got to love it. Next, Hettie has got to help the school win the match or she will hear it from her stepmother again. Trouble is, can Hettie pull it off after a dog bite makes her go lame?

Lyndy and Lucy have broken out of the House of Candles, but things aren’t going smoothly. Mrs Tallow sets the Peelers on them, claiming they are thieves, and Lucy’s been injured! Moreover, Mrs Tallow is off on another robbery with her accomplice in the mystery coach. Fortunately Lyndy gets on the trail, but can she stop the robbery?

Una gets help for the sick Finleg. She soon realises he’s been poisoned by despicable Dora and swears vengeance. However, Una’s attitude changes when she realises Dora’s unknowingly put herself in danger when she finds the stolen money.

In “Golden Dolly, Death Dust!”, Miss Marvell’s bid to split up the girls has failed, but leaves Lucy’s mother a nervous wreck and she has to take a break in Cornwall. Mum’s lucky – soon everyone’s a nervous wreck when they see the latest damage the death dust has caused.

Mum’s pride gets worse for Ping-Pong Paula. They have to find new accommodation but silly old Mum would rather sleep in a field or – as it turns out – the night refuge shelter, than swallow her pride and go back to Dad. Even relatives are fed up with Mum’s stupidity. But worse is to follow – Paula gets news that Dad’s garage is failing!

Nell finds she’s being virtually blackmailed into staying at the academy and being turned into a refined young lady. She doesn’t make a good start either – she gets herself dreadfully dirty by cleaning filthy pots, not realising that they had only been put out to be disposed of and were not meant for cleaning. What an embarrassing start, but then things look up when she finds a friend.

More weird things happen on Black Crag, but Hazel is convinced explosives, not the curse of the mountain, are responsible. Whatever the cause, it’s not making things easy for her mountaineering group.

In “Song of the Fir Tree”, Dad’s a bit caught up with getting help for the injured Strang and getting information from him about his children to look for them at the moment. Meanwhile the children take refuge in a railway station, but Grendelsen isn’t far away, and now thieves are attacking the goods trains.

 

 

 

Jinty & Lindy 29 November 1975

Jinty & Lindy 29 November 1975

Stories in this issue:

  • Slaves of the Candle (artist Roy Newby)
  • It’s a Gift – feature
  • Finleg the Fox (artist Barrie Mitchell)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Too Old to Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Hettie High and Mighty (unknown artist – Merry; idea by Terence Magee)
  • The Haunting of Hazel (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)

 

Katie the Jinx and Penny Crayon take a break this week. Jinty is thinking ahead to Christmas with this week’s feature on how to make Christmas gifts for the family. Dot is trying to make a gift for her mother too, although it’s a birthday gift.

Lyndy finds a safe way through Mrs Tallow’s punishment of forcing her to brave angry bees to get beeswax. Even Mrs Tallow is impressed with Lyndy for pulling it off without a single sting. Upon her return to the House of Candles, Lyndy commences with her breakout plan through the chimney. But this story is only four episodes in, which sounds too early for a fully successful breakout. Moreover, Mrs Tallow is snooping around, and if she discovers the dummies that have been left in place of her “Slaves of the Candle”, it’s all over…

In this week’s episode of “Song of the Fir Tree”, the children are not only up against their relentless adversary Grendelsen again but also their previous adversary, Sergeant Strang from their old concentration camp. Ironically, the battlefield is an abandoned concentration camp. It ends with comeuppance, injury and capture for Strang. Sadly, the children miss the boat with their father once again by jumping a train to elude Grendelsen.

Dora is laying poison for Finleg, and unfortunately she succeeds in poisoning him. Friend Una finds the poisoned Finleg, but has she found him in time to get help?

In “Golden Dolly, Death Dust!”, Miss Marvell is trying a different sort of poison this week – poisoning the girls’ parents against them by claiming they are behind all the strange goings-on with witchcraft. What a cheek!

Ping Pong Paula’s hoping a joint celebration for her victory will patch things up with her parents. But Mum’s snobbery, which started all the trouble, ruins everything again when she sees Dad still wearing garage boots (an oversight) with his dinner suit. Instead of seeing the funny side or turning a blind eye, she makes a huge exhibition in front of everyone over how he has shown her up in front of her high society friends.

In “Too Old To Cry!”, Mrs Arbuthnot, the evil matron of Nell’s old orphanage, catches up with the runaway. Surprisingly, instead of dragging Nell back to the orphanage she leaves Nell where she is – after telling the headmistress she is a “no-good thief and a troublemaker”.

Hettie High-and-Mighty finds out why Janie tolerated her in the hockey team – to win the trophy the school needs in order to stay open. So now she spites Janie by resigning and leaving them in the lurch.

People are losing confidence in Hazel because of her “haunting”, so she is determined to restore some by leading a mountaineering team on Black Crag. But on the mountain comes a big test – saving a girl whose rope is caught.

 

Jinty 27 September 1975

Jinty 27 September 1975

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Blind Ballerina (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Valley of Shining Mist (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)
  • “The Green People” (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Barracuda Bay (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)

Katie Jinks finds that a simple game of football kicks off some gender wars between her girls school and the local boys school, with the girls ending up trying to beat the boys at stereotypically ‘boys’ activities and the reverse. Luckily, they’re all amusingly hopeless at everything! It continues in the subsequent week’s issue too.

The Blind Ballerina escapes from near-death and is rushed straight to the theatre for her debut as a prima ballerina! But a further turn of fate awaits her on stage – Barbie hesitates visibly in front of the audience, who don’t know that she is blind and therefore do not realise the joyous feeling she has as she can suddenly see again! Will it be only temporary, or will she get to see her little sister with her newly-regained sight?

Despite some protective rowan berries, the evil Miss Marvell has managed to get a patsy to do the dirty work of pinching the corn dolly from Lucy’s bag at school – leaving the girls defenseless against her dark works, unless they manage to steal her back.

In “Dora Dogsbody”, a mix-up of hairdressers sees Ma Siddons getting the latest hair-cut – for a poodle! Heh heh, she does look a fright.

Debbie Lane has tasted success for the first time in “Valley of the Shining Mist” – thanks to the mysterious Mrs Maynard she has won a talent competition, but forgotten the challenge that she was set by the same lady. It turns out (after she has spent most of the prize money) that the challenge is to bring the whole lot – £100 – to the Valley to hand over! As her nasty cousin Elaine says, surely Debbie’s being taken for a ride!

Sister and brother Solveig and Per are literally taken for a ride in “Song of the Fir Tree”: they are making their way across Germany to return to Norway, hiding in the back of a lorry. When it stops at a checkpoint, the kids are locked up by Russian soldiers, but not for long – their lovely singing voices see them fed, clothed, and helped on their way to the next stage. Not that they are safe for long, of course…

The saga of “The Green People” is nearing its end. Evil aunt Zella has sent the true rulers of the peaceful underground world to meet the giant monster Krakengerd, expecting them to be slain. That may yet happen, along with their friend, surface dweller Julie!

In “Ping-Pong Paula”, table tennis champ Paula continues to be torn between her Mum and her Dad. Mum has left the house in disgust and taken Paula with her – but where can they stay? Family can’t help, and the friend they end up staying with is not really a good friend to Paula, even if she is to her mother…

Jinty & Lindy 10 January 1976

JInty 10 January 1976

  • Slaves of the Candle
  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Friends of the Forest (unknown artist – Merry)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine) – last episode
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Too Old to Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Wanda Whiter than White (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • The Haunting of Hazel (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Penny Crayon

This is the last episode of “Golden Dolly, Death Dust”, so it is fitting that it should have a final appearance on the cover too. Next issue Phil Gascoine starts his new story, and the longest he ever drew for Jinty – “Fran of the Floods”. And although Nell’s story says she’s “Too Old to Cry”, the cover definitely shows her crying in this episode. I have always felt the title of this story was a bad one. Couldn’t they have chosen something more descriptive?

Elsewhere, Ping-Pong Paula has achieved her latest victory. But Mum spoils it with her pride and turns away because she was obliged to share Paula’s victory photograph for the paper with her estranged husband. We are told that it’s the climax for this story next week. Oh good – it’s about time those quarrelling parents were sorted out.

“Slaves of the Candle” is also approaching its climax, with Mrs Tallow threatening to burn down the House of Candles – with all Lyndy’s friends in it – if Lyndy tries to stop her stealing the Crown Jewels. At this, the long-fighting Lyndy finally gives in. But the blurb for next week tells us fate has a surprise in store. The artist has also changed for this story; Roy Newby has been replaced by a filler artist, whose name is not known. But Newby will be back to draw the story that replaces this one – “Bound for Botany Bay“.

In “Friends of the Forest” a new friend, Maya, emerges to help Sally against the nasty Walkers who treat her like a slave and want to sell her beloved deer to a circus. But it turns out that Maya is on the run, which is sure to cause even more problems.

Wanda, the biggest tattletale in the school, makes herself even more unpopular, and poor Sue cops some of the blame as well. And now Wanda’s been appointed a prefect, which means it’s bound to get worse. And it starts with Wanda accusing Sue of stealing!

Hazel’s beginning to understand why she’s being haunted, and she is defying orders to go home so she can investigate some more. And it looks like she’s going to get some help from Marnie, the old woman of the mountain.

And in “Song of the Fir Tree”, Solveig and Per have escaped Grendelsen’s latest attempt to kill them. Unfortunately their father thinks Grendelsen succeeded and is giving up the search for his children and heading home.

WTFometer III

If you’re a relatively recent reader of this blog you may not have seen a couple of linked posts I did back in June last year, explaining an analytical concept I came up with and named the WTFometer. The idea of this was to give a framework for looking at how bonkers (or not) a story’s plot was, by comparing the story to an assumed ‘average reader’s situation’. This gives a structured way of comparing stories, including the possibility of finding patterns of oddity in seemingly-different stories which are perhaps odd in similar ways.

At that point I only posted 3 complete WTFometers – for “Song of the Fir Tree“, “The Children of Edenford“, and “Worlds Apart“. “Song of the Fir Tree” was surprisingly more extreme than I would have expected it to have come out as: with a boy and girl protagonist, serious threat of death, and a long journey across lands quite foreign to the assumed readership of Jinty, the story scored reasonably high on the WTFometer at 39 points. “The Children of Edenford”, likewise, had some surprises in store – the analysis highlighted the fact that a great deal of the setup was quite similar to that of the expected readership – it takes place in England, doesn’t move far from its initial geographical setup, and the protagonist herself is not very different from the typical reader. What marks it out and gives it an eventual score of 24 is the lack of agency of the characters – this is a story about free will – and the strange school setup, as well as the serious threat of death towards the end.

There was little surprise in the very high score of 87 for “Worlds Apart”, a strong contender for the most bonkers girls comics story of all. The WTFometer may not surprise us in this case, but the story’s very extremeness can more easily quantified by this method that gives us a comparison across stories.

There’s little sense in developing the concept and then not using it for more than a few stories, but of course there’s always plenty to write about on this blog between me and Mistyfan, and the WTFometer has lain unused since that time. However, a couple of months ago I created a few more WTFometers; I didn’t post them at the time as they turned out not to fit the main theme of the posts I was writing. I am now therefore including them in a post of their own, re-opening discussion about these stories but also about the WTFometer generally.

Firstly, I wanted to compare two tear-jerking stories. They are not quite the same; the first story involves emotional cruelty, and the second is about grief and its effects. Both were very popular, both were written by female writers. The first one is “Little Miss Nothing”, and the second is “Stefa’s Heart of Stone“.

Little Miss Nothing” is one of the originators of the cruelty/suffering theme that became so popular in girls’ comics of the 70s. As such it is perhaps not surprising to see a relatively low score of WTFness overall at 23 points; the character is taken out of a normal school environment but much of the setting of the story remains close to an ordinary readers’ life: the key focus is on the removal of much of her agency as she is bossed around by others, and on the emotional abuse she suffers.

WTFometer Little Miss Nothing

“Stefa’s Heart of Stone” was published a few years later. Again, much of the setting of the story will be very familiar to the readers. As it is a very focused story of grief and severe emotional withdrawal, only some of the categories score highly and overall the WTFometer score is not very high at 22.

WTFometer Stefa HOS

Go On, Hate Me!” is here partly because it is another emotional cruelty / tear-jerker story, but one known to be written by a man. It would only be a small sample which wouldn’t prove anything, but could it indicate anything about possible differences in writing between the genders? If anything the extremeness of the scenario explored in this story is lesser than in the two stories above – the protagonist is a young woman rather than a girl, not living in a two-parent household, not surrounded by a small group of close friends; but the one key element that stands out on the WTFometer analysis is the exploration of the emotional abuse. Remember that the WTFometer is not a tool for looking at neatness of dialogue or tightness of plot – it is purely one element of a general analysis, and says nothing about how well overall a story works or doesn’t. On this analysis, “Go On, Hate Me!” has just one striking angle of attack rather than being generally over-the-top.

WTFometer Go On Hate Me

“Land of No Tears” is of course also known to be written by a man, but one who has categorised himself as being one of the young men ‘killing themselves laughing’ (Pat Mills, of course). Does this mean the story ends up looking particularly over-the-top in a way that Len Wenn’s story above does not? Yes, indeed – though of course this is a science fiction story anyway which by its nature will involve a lot of moving away from the expected context of the assumed Jinty reader. At 45 it is one of the highest scoring stories on the WTFometer so far, second only to “Worlds Apart”. It is also noticeable for having a spread of differences compared to the ‘expected reader’ – it portrays a world different to that girl reader’s in many and varied ways, not just one or two. If we did a WTFometer for a non-science fiction Pat Mills story,  “Concrete Surfer”, I’m sure the score would be much lower.

WTFometer Land of no Tears

Fran of the Floods” is another science fiction story, this time known to be written by a woman. It actually beats LONT on its WTFometer score with a total of 51 – though the story protagonists share a lot of initial similarities with the readers, the journey they are taken through, and the world they end up in, is radically different from what the readers live through.

WTFometer Fran of the Floods

Phil Townsend

Phil Townsend is not an artist whose life and career I know much about. It seems from Bear Alley that he was a contributor to the sixties title Boys’ World and probably also illustrated some children’s books (but the thorough Steve Holland had not at the time of writing that post found any more information). He was a regular Jinty artist from very early on: while not in the very first issue, his beautiful clean style appeared in the title within the first couple of months of publication. After Jinty, he became a regular in Tammy, but from then on my information runs out. I would be very grateful if anyone were able to supply more information, as even his Comiclopedia entry is exceedingly brief.

Rivalling Phil Gascoine for productivity with 20 stories drawn for the title, his impact on Jinty is amongst the strongest of any artist: many beautiful and striking covers were derived from his internal artwork, and he has a number of memorable stories to his credit too. Many of the stories have a ‘type’; we’re informed by Mistyfan that in Tammy he regularly drew stories written by Alison Christie, and from what we now know it seems a similar circumstance applied in Jinty too. Many of the stories he drew were tear-jerkers: “Always Together…”, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, “Nothing to Sing About”, and of course in particular the well-loved classics “Song of the Fir Tree” and “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” had children dealing with grief, lost homes, lost parents. Others were more mystery-focused: “Then There Were 3…”, “Stage Fright!”, and “Waking Nightmare” were earth-bound mysteries resolved through non-supernatural means, while “Spirit of the Lake” had a real ghost (unlike “The Ghost Dancer”).

For me his top story would clearly be the previously written about “Children of Edenford“, but the mermaid-child tale “Combing Her Golden Hair” comes close behind, and I have soft spots for both the slightly-spooky “Child of the Rain” (tennis player is mysteriously affected for good or ill by the rain forest she visits) and the strong near-thriller “Stage Fright!”. Likewise, Mistyfan has expressed her admiration for the persecution story “Mark of the Witch!” I think that most Jinty fans would be likely to count at least one Phil Townsend story amongst their favourites. Of course the writer drives the story forward as much or more, but the immediate and lasting impression of the comic is so strongly shaped by the art; it is hard not to look at a Phil Townsend-illustrated story and to love it, be the story stronger or weaker.

To illustrate this post, I have chosen some pages from “Combing Her Golden Hair”, taken from the issue dated 6 October 1979. Tamsin has found a mysterious silver comb, which is altering her life dramatically, but not in ways that her stern grandmother approves of! The last panel leaves us with a striking cliff-hanger, of course, though it turns out that the grandmother has better reasons for her actions than we know at this point.

Jinty 6 October 1979
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Jinty 6 October 1979
(click thru)
Jinty 6 October 1979
(click thru)

List of stories attributable to Phil Townsend:

(Edited to add: Alison Christie (Fitt) has posted a comment to say that she wrote a number of stories for Jinty, many of which were drawn by Phil Townsend.)

Jinty & Lindy 20 December 1975

 

Jinty cover 4.jpg

  • Slaves of the Candle (artist Roy Newby)
  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Finleg the Fox – final episode (artist Barrie Mitchell)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Too Old to Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Wanda Whiter than White – first episode (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • The Haunting of Hazel (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)

This issue concludes the second serial to come from Lindy, “Finleg the Fox”. The mysterious “boss”, the leader of a robber gang who kidnapped Dora in the previous issue turns out to be landowner Sir Arthur. Dora gets a whole new respect for Finleg and Una, who save her after she and her family have mistreated them. They are all one happy family now, but the wild soon calls to Finleg. The wild is never away for long though in girls’ comics – next week we will meet “Friends of the Forest”.

This issue sees the beginning of “Wanda Whiter than White”, the girl who takes truth-telling to such extremes that she is “the most hateful tell-tale ever”. Everyone suffers from Wanda’s tale-telling – even the teachers! Wanda has only been at her new school for one morning and her tattling has the form teacher so embarrassed that she is just about in tears.

Hazel gets some clues as to why she is haunted, but the locals are not very forthcoming in helping to explain them. However, next week we are promised a diary that will explain the tragedy that Hazel suspects happened.

In last week’s episode of “Ping-Pong Paula” we got hints that Dad’s business is in trouble, but now Paula learns it is worse than she thought – it goes bust altogether! At least they can take things easier with a new job for Dad and a council house. But there is no Mum and their searches for her go nowhere. Next week is Paula’s birthday, but we get a hint that it won’t bring the estranged parents together.

And in “Song of the Fir Tree” Captain Amundsen’s search for his beloved children ones goes nowhere as well. This time, a girl deliberately misdirects him in the mistaken belief he is Grendelsen, the man out to kill the children. Meanwhile, Grendelsen gets stalled when his car breaks down.

In “Too Old to Cry!”, Nell and Sara are finally friends. But other things, including Nell’s appearance, are against her at the beauty academy. And the shadow of the cruel orphanage Nell escaped from is still hanging over her.

Mrs Tallow demands a wax sculpture of The Tower of London from “Slaves of the Candle”. We get the feeling that she is hatching her masterplan with this one and Lyndy will soon find out exactly what she is up to.  Meanwhile, the slaves have set an escape plan in motion. Ironically, they are getting help from a man who sells candles!

Jinty & Lindy 13 December 1975

Jinty cover 3.jpg

  • Slaves of the Candle (artist Roy Newby)
  • Penny Crayon
  • Finleg the Fox (artist Barrie Mitchell)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Too Old to Cry! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Hettie High and Mighty – final episode (unknown artist – Merry)
  • The Haunting of Hazel (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)

I’m rather puzzled as to the reason for the state of the cover. Maybe someone left part of it in the sun for too long.

At any rate, this issue sees off one of the stories to come from Lindy, “Hettie High and Mighty”. Miss High and Mighty was finally knocked off her high horse in the previous issue when her new stepmother gave her a jolly good hiding and told her to lead the team to victory, or else. The trouble is, Hettie was bitten by a dog on the way and now she is lame. Nonetheless, she is determined to help her team win despite the pain she is in, and her heroism is honoured on the cover. It sure is one way to redeem herself after all the trouble she has caused, but can she score the victory? Next issue, Hettie will be replaced by “Wanda Whiter than White“, another girl who causes trouble for everyone, but in a very different way – she “is the most hateful tell-tale ever!”

It is also revealed in this issue that the next one will have the conclusion of the other story to come from Lindy, “Finleg the Fox”. This episode sees a surprise twist – nasty Dora Dray, who tried to poison Finleg the fox, has been kidnapped! It is all because of money Mr Dray was forced to hide from a train robbery and a mystery man known as “the boss” who led the gang. Nobody knows who the boss is, and when our heroine finds out in the final panel, she cannot believe it. And we probably won’t either when we see who it is in the next issue.

Things get bloody in “Song of the Fir Tree” – Solveig and Per go out on a limb to stop some Nazi guerillas and Solveig takes a bullet to the head! Worse, it affects her memory and causes erratic behaviour. Just the thing you need when a man is out to kill you. And in “Slaves of the Candle”, Lyndy is left carrying the can over yet another of Mrs Tallow’s crimes. Now the price on her head has been raised to £700! In “Ping-Pong-Paula”, Paula collapses because she took a job on top of everything else to help pay the mortgage for the posh house her mother wanted. But now  that Mum has walked out, what is the point of keeping the house anyway? Nobody wanted it in the first place but her.