Tag Archives: Sport

Life’s a Ball for Nadine [1980-81]

Sample Images

Lifes a Ball for Nadine 1Lifes a Ball for Nadine 2Lifes a Ball for Nadine 3Lifes a Ball for Nadine 4

Published: Jinty 8 November 1980 – 21 March 1981

Episodes: 20

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Plot

The B netball team at Greystreet School needs improvement. Their stuffy coach, Betty, is displeased with their standard and orders extra practice in the gym that evening. However, Sally Smith and Sue Sims realise that what they really need is another good player.

In the gym, the netball team is surprised to find new girl Nadine Nash arrive in disco gear and all ready to dance. She mistook the date of the school disco, but while she’s there they give her a demonstration of how to play netball. She has a go and everyone is surprised at how her disco reflexes are so transferable to netball and she scores a goal on her first attempt. She is a natural netball player. The trouble is, she is not interested in joining the team and cares far more for disco dancing. Undaunted, Sue and Sally set out to find a way to persuade Nadine to join the netball team. Eventually Nadine joins the team as Goal Attack, but is still more interested in disco dancing, which she is brilliant at.

For the most part of the story the episodes follow the format of lightweight exchange between disco and netball as skills and equipment from one helps the other. In one episode, the goalkeeper is in danger of being dropped because she has lost form. At the disco, she gets some unusual training to get her back into form when she, Nadine, Sue and Sally catch rubbish thrown by her unruly rock ‘n’ roll brothers who don’t like the acts in a talent show that aren’t rock ‘n’ roll – especially the disco act, of course. After that training Betty is astounded at how much the goalkeeper has improved.

In another episode Nadine is upstaged by gimmicky disco dancers who depend more on costumes and appearance than skill to clear the floor. But in the end it is the gimmicky dancers who are upstaged and the floor goes back to Nadine when Sue and Sally throw an old netball net to net the gimmicky dancers.

Sometimes netball helps Nadine at disco. In one episode netball helps Nadine to meet her favourite disc jockey, Disco Dave. In another episode the other netball players help rescue Nadine when she’s on the dance floor without a light, by getting a huge strobe lightbulb from one end of the crowded dance floor to the other – in record time – using their netball skills.

At times the disco/netball combination enables the girls to get one up on their stuffy coach, who does not see any value in Nadine’s disco dancing or her combining it with netball. For example, in one episode Betty challenges another stuffy coach of an old-fashioned boys’ school as to whether basketball or netball is better. Each team proves they are the best at their own particular sport but the coaches still argue as to which is best. While they aren’t looking, it’s disco that wins the day, when the girls discover the boys play disco secretly at their stuffy school, and they have a covert disco together.

The 101 uses for disco/netball continue for a long time in the serial and a lot of episodes run to the same format. However, the serial takes a different turn when it comes to its conclusion. The ending comes with a story arc spanning several episodes that not only bring the development of Nadine’s character full circle but also that of the stuffy Betty.

The story arc begins when Nadine discovers that two sisters, Syreeta and Selena, are out to cheat her on two fronts: a disco contest (Syreeta) and netball championship (Selena). They start by putting a lot of nasty bruises in her legs to make her unfit for both events. And that Selena is awfully clever in putting those bruises into Nadine’s legs during the netball events without the referee noticing those fouls.

When it comes to the night of both events Nadine gets a notice indicating that both start at the same time, so she has to choose one. It is at this point that the netball team says Nadine is selfish because all she thinks of is disco and has no team spirit, despite the journey of the 101 uses for disco/netball they have had together. This must have gone to Nadine’s heart because on the night in question she chooses netball over disco. She even spends the money for her new disco outfit on netball gear instead. Everyone is impressed. And Betty, who had unwittingly helped the two cheats earlier, shows a whole new human face and is willing to do everything she can to help Nadine. This includes buying Nadine-style wigs for the whole team to confuse Selena when she tries to nobble Nadine by bruising her bruises. After this, Nadine scores so many goals that her team wins. That’s that one cheat down, but there is still one to go.

Then Nadine discovers that the notice she received was a fake – another trick from those cheats – and the disco contest is yet to begin. The trouble is, the contest is miles away. Moreover, Nadine has no disco outfit, having spent her money on netball gear. Betty is undaunted. At Betty’s urging, they all run across town to enter Nadine in the contest. Betty will use the club money to buy Nadine the best disco outfit they can find.

But the two cheats aren’t beaten yet. Overhearing the team, Selena phones Syreeta to alert her that Nadine is coming. So Syreeta has her cronies block the team’s entry into the venue. To get Nadine past them, Betty and the team wrap her into a huge ball made out of an old billboard poster, and toss it over the heads of the cronies and onto the disco floor. Nadine bursts out of the ball, and the DJ says, “Wow, what an entrance!” That’s extra points for Nadine’s unstoppable, unforgettable performance that wins her the disco contest, hands down.

Before Nadine collects her trophy, she asks Sue and Sally to come up on stage with the netball trophy so they will share their double victory that pays homage to both netball and disco.

Thoughts

The first thought goes to the in-joke in the sample images above. Artist Mario Capaldi seems to be making a reference to himself with “Mario”, and also to his family’s ice-cream business. Mario himself helped out with the ice-cream business when he was younger. Is the in-joke Capaldi just couldn’t resist or was it something arranged between him and the editor? Either way, it is another in-joke in girls’ serials to be noted.

The first thing you notice about this story, though, is that the titular protagonist is black. Blacks and other non-white people did not have a frequent presence in girls’ comics. This was not intentionally racist, but it was a glaring absence that needed to be addressed a whole lot more. Sadly, Jinty was no exception. The only other black protagonists in Jinty were Jo in “Angela’s Angels“, but she’s just one protagonist among six in that serial and the others are white, and Mary the Aborigine girl in “Bound for Botany Bay”, who has more presence as a protagonist but she is not the main one. Pam of Pond Hill had a black pupil, Mac, but he didn’t appear much and was not by any means a regular in the strip. By contrast, Nadine is the star of her own serial and she definitely has a far more commanding presence as a black protagonist than Jo. It is a real delight to have a story starring a strong black protagonist, and this alone makes this story one of Jinty’s most noteworthy serials.

Nadine is not the only black presence in this serial either. The two antagonists, Syreeta and Selena, are also black, which makes the black presence even stronger. A few other black people also appear, such as Nadine’s mother and the cleaning lady who alerts Nadine to the trick with the appointment time.

Netball is a sport that was infrequently used in girls’ serials. This is one of the few serials that does feature netball (“Romy’s Return” from Tammy was another), which makes the story even more eye-catching. The way it is used has an amusing side while it is being used to complement Nadine’s disco. You would have never thought disco and netball could have so many uses or give so many people a comeuppance. For a long time this is the way the story runs, which makes it engaging and fun to read.

Recently Comixminx expressed in the entry “How do you know who’s the hero?” that knowing who the hero is in a girls’ serial is not always cut-and-dried. There are some odd stories that have you wonder whether the real star of the show is the titular protagonist or another main character – the antagonist, even. This story certainly can be added to that list. Nadine is the titular protagonist. She is a strong, endearing character throughout the story. Hers is the emotional journey as she learns that disco is not everything and there are other things that matter too. But for the most part it is Sue and Sally who come up with the ideas on how to apply disco to a netball situation and vice-versa, and it is their quick thinking that saves the day. Of course a lot of these situations and solutions arise through Nadine, but coming up with these clever ideas makes Sue and Sally more proactive characters than Nadine and they are serious plot drivers. True, there are times when Nadine is the one to come up with the brilliant save; for example, using goalkeeping to foil the garbage-throwing rock ‘n’ rollers is her idea. But by and large it is Sue and Sally, and, eventually, Betty.

 

Child of the Rain [1980]

Sample images

Child of the Rain 1Child of the Rain 2Child of the Rain 3

Published: Jinty 6 September 1980 – 22 November 1980

Episodes: 12

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Unknown

Reprints/translations: None known

Plot

Jemma West has always loathed rain. So accompanying her naturalist father on a trip to the Amazon rainforest where he has to navigate mud-soaked tracks in pouring tropical rain is not her idea of fun. What’s more, these driving conditions make Jemma fling out of the jeep and she gashes her leg on a tree.

While recovering in hospital, everyone is astonished to find Jemma suddenly dancing happily in the rain. Jemma is just as astonished. All of a sudden, the rain-hater has become absolutely crazy about rain and she just can’t get enough of it.

That’s only the beginning of Jemma’s strange new association with rain. Jemma soon finds that when it rains she is filled with amazing strength and energy. But when it’s fine she wilts like a flower. As for drought – that sends her right to sleep.

Jemma is one of the best tennis players in the school, but this strange effect that the presence/absence of rain has on her is becoming a real nuisance on the tennis court and hindering her performance. She can’t perform properly on the court when the weather’s fine, and sometimes rain does too good a job on her – her strength rises to such levels that she’s knocking the tennis ball miles out of the court. Everyone is worried she is ill or something, and it looks like she is not fit to enter the championships. And Jemma can’t explain because she can’t understand it herself. Once rain revives her, she’s back in the game, but unfortunately rain is not always present.

Jemma’s lengths to find rain to revive herself when it’s dry get really desperate at times and they get her into constant trouble at home and school. She also finds that she is crazy about anything to do with the Amazon rainforest. For example, when Dad gives a slideshow about the Amazon rainforest, Jemma goes right up and kisses the image on the screen, right in front of everyone. Naturally, Dad is embarrassed and very displeased with Jemma! When Jemma is given tree bark from the Amazon rainforest, she finds the bark has much the same effect on her that rain does.

Things finally come to a head when Jemma suddenly finds a pain starting in her leg where the gash had been. She tries to hide it because the school tennis championships are coming up, but the problem turns into a life-threatening infection and she is hospitalised. Surgical investigation reveals a splinter of wood from the tree was lodged deeply in her leg, which started an infection. It is removed, but Jemma does not respond to antibiotics. The infection is poisoning her blood and on the verge of killing her. The doctors are stumped and helpless.

In desperation, Dad flies Jemma back to the Amazon rainforest to seek help from a local medicine man he knows. The medicine man’s treatment may look like pure mumbo-jumbo, but it succeeds where the antibiotics failed. Jemma is soon waking up, looking much better, and very surprised to find herself back in the rainforest.

Jemma soon finds rain is not having that mysterious effect on her anymore, and concludes it must have been that splinter in her leg. The school kindly held back the tennis championships until Jemma recovered. She has no problem winning the championship, particularly as that rain effect is no longer a problem. However, Jemma retains her love of rain and the Amazon rainforest.

Thoughts

This was the only tennis serial to appear in Jinty. This may seem strange for a comic with a high emphasis on sport, but then several sports only scored one or two serials in Jinty while they were dime a dozen in titles like Bunty.

Child of the Rain also links in with Jinty’s emphasis on environmentalism, with the Amazon rainforest being the force that drives the whole plot, although the story contains little that touches on environmentalism itself. The message of environmentalism is a whole lot more muted than it is in other Jinty environmental serials such as “The Forbidden Garden”. However, the Amazon rainforest is such a powerful influence in the story that the reader would emerge seeing it in a whole new light, as does the protagonist herself. The strange power she gains from the rainforest leaves her with a new appreciation of nature, the Amazon rainforest, and her father’s naturalist job.

Not all protagonists who acquire a strange power in a serial find it beneficial, and this is definitely the case with Jemma. Though the power is beneficial when it rains, for the most part it is just a nuisance that is interfering with Jemma’s life and tennis. In fact it is not only a nuisance but eventually life-threatening as well. In terms of benefit, the power serves more to develop Jemma’s character than help her along with her tennis as she goes from rain hater with little interest in nature to a rain and rainforest lover.

Though this story is not one of Jinty’s classics, there appears to be a lingering fondness for it. Maybe it’s the rainforest elements.

Betta to Lose [1978]

Sample Images

Betta to Lose 1aBetta to Lose 1bBetta to Lose 1c

Published: Tammy 13 May 1978 – 15 July 1978

Episodes: 10

Artist: Tony Coleman

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Girl Picture Library #24 as “Wonder Girl” (abridged); Altijd de beste! [Altijd the best!] in Tina Dubbeldik Superalbum.

Plot

Betta James is subjected to a harsh regime to make her the top athlete of St Mary’s School: endless training, and the sports mistress Miss Pearce has no hesitation to lay on extra training sessions where she sees fit; a diet that is so strict that Bella is not even allowed a piece of her own celebratory cake; and no social life whatsoever,  with films, disco dances and even parties all banned. And the other girls are assigned as her watchdogs to see she sticks to it all. It’s nothing but sleep, eat and breathe constant sports practice to beat Deepdale all the time. Added to that, Bella’s education is suffering and she is way behind classwork because she is excused too many lessons for sports practice. But the headmistress does not care about that. All she cares about is beating Deepdale and crowing over her old school rival, who is the headmistress there. And they can’t beat Deepdale without Betta. Betta’s parents are no help either; they are just as win-crazy and beating Deepdale as Miss Pearce and the headmistress.

Betta gets fed up with this life and wants out. She tries going on strike and expressing her feelings to Miss Pearce, but Miss Pearce blackmails her out of it with a threat of extra-hard school exams, which Betta has little chance of passing because she is so behind on schoolwork. So Betta tries another tactic: deliberately losing sports matches against Deepdale in the hope she will be released from the “sports trap” as she calls it.

However, Betta soon finds that losing is not that easy when you are by nature a winner. Plus, her training has made her reflexes too strong to simply louse up. So Betta resorts to sabotage: greasing up a baton exchange; slicing studs off her shoes to lose balance; weighting her swimsuit with lead; and playing with a useless hockey stick.

With tricks like that, it is not long before beady-eyed Miss Pearce gets suspicious. But it is the ironically jealous Leonie Mather who catches Betta out when she mistakenly thinks one of Betta’s tricks was aimed at her and Betta is forced to explain the truth. She does not realise Miss Pearce and the headmistress have overheard her.

The headmistress decides to grant Betta’s wish. She drops Betta from all the teams and Leonie takes her place. However, she is furious over what she perceives as disloyalty to the school (not being able to crow over her Deepdale rival, she means!) and is out to make Betta pay for it. And when the school starts suffering extremely humiliating losses against Deepdale because they are hopeless without Betta, the headmistress’s anger towards Betta turns into downright spite.

And remember that hint Miss Pearce made to Betta about the school exams? That is precisely what the headmistress does – she makes them extra-extra-hard just to spite Betta, who has been slaving hard to catch up on her schoolwork (and because of this, has not found time for the social life she hoped for without her sports life). The headmistress even supervises the exams herself so she can gloat over Betta in person. The headmistress spites Betta even further when she tells her that she failed the maths exam, although she hasn’t even marked the paper. She just assumed Betta failed because Betta handed it in after one hour. On this basis alone the headmistress withdraws Betta from the exams and schoolwork and puts her back into sport. Hmph, more likely that’s just their excuse to start beating Deepdale again with Betta. In any case, the headmistress and Miss Pearce express delight that they are about to beat Deepdale again.

However, Betta’s form teacher Miss Johnson intervenes. She had marked Betta’s paper and says Betta scored 100%. She has always disapproved of how Betta has been made to miss so much classwork because of sport and hints that the education officer won’t approve either. She also says that Betta has exhibited near-genius in how she has caught up on schoolwork to the point where she could pass those exams.

Unfortunately this puts the idea into the headmistress’s head of beating Deepdale with brain matches instead of sports matches, and she goes “overboard” with them – “just as she did with sport”. And guess who she puts in charge of these brain matches? Yep, you guessed it. Before long, poor old Betta is right back at square one: a strict, slave-driving, nonstop training regime to beat Deepdale with no allowances for a life of her own. The only difference is that it’s “the brain drain” instead of the sports trap and with the equally bad Miss Johnson instead of Miss Pearce. This time Betta does not see any way out of it.

Thoughts

This was the first serial Tony Coleman drew for Tammy. From then on Coleman became a regular Tammy artist. His Tammy serials included “Maggie’s Menagerie”, “Nurse Grudge”, “Stella Stirrer”, “The Destiny Dolls” and “Spell of Fog”. Coleman’s run in Tammy ended with “Cassie’s Coach” in 1984.

There have been plenty of stories were brilliant girls start deliberately failing at things, but it’s either because they are being blackmailed into it or have been intimidated by bullies. This time the protagonist does it of her own free will because she is desperate to escape her life of sports slavery. We can see the misery that Betta is suffering because of her harsh sports regime and we worry for her future because she is missing out on too much classwork. But the people who subject her to it don’t, and Betta’s parents are just as bad. All they care about is winning, and all the headmistress cares about is beating Deepdale and lording it over her old school rival. The headmistress and sports mistress have no thought for Betta, her feelings, or her future. The headmistress has the nerve to call Betta selfish when it is she who is the selfish one in the way she treats Betta, just to constantly get one over her old rival all the time. And her conduct with the exams just to spite Betta is just inexcusable.

The headmistress is asking for a serious lesson. Unfortunately, it does not happen. And because of it, Betta ends up back where she started, only in a different form. So this is one of the less common serials that do not end happily for the protagonist. The only way to give it a really happy ending is for the adults in the story to wake up to how miserable they have made Betta in the name of winning and beating Deepdale. That, or have fate intervene and put Betta out of sports events altogether without the headmistress holding a grudge against her.

The story is certainly making a serious statement on how many real-life schools make their sports stars suffer academically and socially the way Betta does by ruling their lives with too much sports practice in the name of winning. We sympathise with Betta all the more because there are so many school sports stars like her.

What makes Betta even more sympathetic is her dialogue, which has a more witty way of expressing things, even in her miserable moments, than protagonists usually do. For example: “Bang goes my freedom bid! Now I’ll probably get ten years of sport without remission!”, “Ignore [Leonie]! Stay losing, kid! Stay losing!” and “Missing swimming’s no punishment for me! I spent so much in that darned pool I started to grow gills!” In so doing, Betta provides the only streaks of humour in the story. We also admire Betta for her ironic determination to win – in terms of beating the sports trap and not giving the headmistress the satisfaction of seeing her fail the extra-hard exams. The same determination must have also applied to her sports once before the harsh training made her lose all enjoyment with sport and winning at it.

So many girls’ serials carry the moral that winning is not everything. The moral comes from Betta herself, who constantly thinks, “Would the world have ended if we’d lost?” or something similar while everyone else at St Mary’s is ecstatic about beating Deepdale yet again. For Betta there is no satisfaction in winning against Deepdale anymore because of the price she is forced to pay for it. Sadly, nobody else in the serial learns that lesson and they remain as bad as ever.