Tag Archives: sports

Ping-Pong Paula [1975-1976]

Sample Images

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Published: 6 September 1975 – 17 January 1976

Episodes: 20

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Alison Christie

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Paula Pride wants to become a champion tennis player. Her father runs a garage business and enjoys a happy marriage with Mum. The Prides have always been content with living in a council house.

But then comes the day Mum visits her old school friend, Joan. Joan is married to a bank manager, which enables her to live a wealthy lifestyle in a high-income house, and says she would find a council house so “dreary”. Mum, being a proud woman, gets jealous, dreads what Joan will think if she visits and sees they live in a council house, and becomes discontented with the council house they have.

Dad loves Mum so much that he agrees to take on extra work at his garage so they can afford a mortgage for a posh home like Joan’s. He should have thought more carefully before indulging Mum’s pride in this manner, because it turns out to be a dreadful mistake. They find a house as posh as Joan’s all right, but Dad now has to work all hours to pay the mortgage, plus all the luxurious furnishings that Mum wants for the new home. He is taking on so much work that soon he has no time for his family.

Mum feels neglected because of this. She is also lonely because she has no friends in their new neighbourhood (the new neighbours are too snobby and her old friends don’t visit), and is deeply hurt when Dad forgets their wedding anniversary because he is working too hard. Dad and Mum begin to quarrel over it all. Mum is accusing Dad of being too wrapped up in cars to care for his family while not considering that Dad is doing it all to pay for what she wanted, not because he’s a workaholic. It’s her fault he took on so much work in the first place.

It gets even worse when Joan is invited over to see the Prides’ new home. Snobby Joan is not impressed to see Dad in grubby garage clothes, says she’s so pleased her husband is a white collar worker and not a blue one, and walks out.

Eventually, when Dad lets Paula down at an important table tennis match because he has to go clinch a business deal, Mum gets into such a strop that she decides to right walk out on Dad and out of the posh house she had wanted so much. And she insists on dragging Paula out with her.

They end up in a seedy flat with lumpy mattresses to sleep on after Mum meets up with Coral Bly, another old school friend of hers who is now a hippy artist. So much for living like Joan!

Mum is too huffy and proud to care about Paula’s protests that she did not want to leave Dad. Nor does she care about making Paula miss table tennis practice, just because she doesn’t want Dad to snatch Paula back. Paula’s table tennis begins to suffer, but it’s Dad to the rescue when he hears. He installs a table tennis table at their old posh house for her to practise with.

Paula falls sick because of Coral’s unhealthy accommodation, but she and Mum just get kicked out. Instead of going back to Dad as Paula hoped, Mum shacks them up in a guesthouse and gets a job in a dispensary. Paula recovers in the guesthouse, but now finds her father has fallen ill from overwork (it had to happen). She starts going back to their old house to nurse him, but has to do it behind Mum’s back because Mum would have a fit if she found out Paula was seeing Dad. Mum’s definitely not allowing Dad to have any visitation rights, and Paula’s becoming a real-life ping-pong ball between her estranged parents. Paula is also missing her table tennis practice in order to care for Dad.

Mum and Paula’s coach Miss Park find out about Paula seeing Dad instead of going to table tennis practice. When Paula explains about her sick father, Miss Park is understanding and sympathetic. However, Mum is just too far up on her high horse of pride to even care that her husband is ill, much less nurse him. At least she arranges for Auntie June to nurse Dad, but she doesn’t even go to see him while he’s ill. Meanwhile, Paula is free to get back into table-tennis shape and is making strides at it.

But a jealous rival just has to come along to make trouble for Paula on top of her other problems. It comes in the form of Myra Glegg, who is also a new boarder in the guesthouse where Mum and Paula are staying. This makes it easier for Myra to play dirty tricks on Paula, such as hiding her bats or having her switch rooms to make her lose sleep.

Paula manages to work her way through Myra’s tricks and is on the rise as inter-school champion. Both parents are delighted for her, but when they come together at a match, they don’t put aside their acrimony for her sake. Paula is hurt and embarrassed when they refuse to sit for a family photo for the press. Dad takes off and Paula poses for the photo with Mum, but the upset spoils the photo opportunity.

At the county final Paula finds out her opponent is none other than Myra Glegg! So that explains the dirty tricks. And Myra tries to pull another – stirring up trouble between the quarrelsome parents to upset Paula. It fails and Myra does not even shake hands when Paula wins. Back at the guesthouse Myra rips up Paula’s table tennis photos out of spite, but the landlady catches her in the act and throws her out of the guesthouse.

Myra’s no longer a problem for Paula now, but she’s still a ping-pong ball between her separated parents. Paula tries to use her celebratory dinner at a posh restaurant to bring them together. After a bad start it begins to show some hope, but then Mum sees Dad is still wearing garage boots with his dinner suit (oops, working too hard again!). Prideful Mum makes a real scene over it because she believes she has been shown up in front of her friends. Both Paula and Dad are furious with her for shouting about it so much – and in public – when nobody would have even noticed otherwise. At any rate, it’s back to square one.

Then the landlady falls ill, so Mum and Paula have to find new lodgings. All the other guesthouses are full and relatives won’t take them in because they’re on Dad’s side and say Mum should jolly well go back to him. But she won’t because she’s still too proud for that. She’s too proud to go into a night refuge centre for down-and-outs too, so she is utterly mortified when the police put her and Paula in one.

For Paula, this is the last straw in being shunted around in boarding houses, hotels and shabby accommodation with Mum. She leaves Mum altogether and goes back to living with Dad, much to Mum’s consternation when she finds out. And it also means that Paula has no idea where her mother will be living next.

Paula is now training for the junior all-England championships, which are in four months’ time. Then Paula finds out Dad is falling behind on the mortgage payments and then learns it’s because his garage is ailing very badly. Paula takes a café job to help make ends meet but collapses with exhaustion from juggling it with her other commitments. The recuperation period the doctor prescribes puts her table tennis on hold for a month.

Dad’s business now closes down altogether, so he cannot pay the mortgage. Paula says there’s no point now anyway; it was only Mum who wanted the house, but now she isn’t even there to live in it. Dad agrees with Paula’s suggestion that they move back to a council house, as they were quite happy with one before. Paula is not sorry to leave the house that caused nothing but trouble for her family.

At the new council house Paula puts up Mum’s photo as a gesture of hope. Dad finds a job as a chief mechanic in another garage. He’s now got more times on his hands now he doesn’t have to work so hard, but is spending it showing that he misses Mum as much as Paula does.

They both begin looking for Mum, but they come up empty. Paula’s 16th birthday comes, but this does not bring the parents together. Instead it’s separate gifts, with Mum sending Paula a ticket for the top table tennis player Gordon Simons display match – anonymously. When Paula sees Mum there (something Mum was trying to avoid) she gives Paula a parcel for Dad. It turns out to be a farewell gift for him, along with a note saying that Mum is moving to Australia. It looks like the marriage is well and truly over, and all Paula can do is throw herself into her training.

At the championship Paula is not on form because Mum is not there. Then Mum, surprisingly, shows up and sits beside Dad. Paula’s assumption that they have reconciled puts her back on form and she wins. But she is wrong; Mum just takes off afterwards. Mum is now feeling sorry for everything and realises how Paula has taken the brunt of their split. But her pesky pride still won’t let her make up with Dad, and she also stupidly assumes Dad and Paula are better off without her. Paula dashes out after Mum, which causes her to get hit by a car and she falls into a coma.

But not even this brings the parents together. At the hospital they visit Paula separately while neither succeeds in rousing Paula from the coma, and they cold-shoulder each other whenever their paths cross. Seeing how they never see their daughter together, the nurse tells them, very pointedly, that if they want their daughter to wake up they must go in together, because that is what she wants. Mum’s pride still gets in the way and she objects, but Dad tells her they must put aside their differences for Paula’s sake. They do so, and Paula responds to them both being there. Mum is so overjoyed she finally forgets her pride and says she wants to come back and live with them, which speeds up Paula’s recovery. When Paula is discharged she finds her parents are living together again, and they say she won’t be a ping-pong ball between them anymore. For Paula, having her parents together again is even more important than winning the championship.

Thoughts

They say pride is one of the seven deadly sins, so this must be one of the deadliest sin stories Jinty has ever produced. The misery the Pride family goes through is all because Mum is just too proud. That pride got badly bruised the day she visited Joan and got jealous. Joan was far higher up the social ladder and living far better than Mum was, and Mum wants to start climbing up there too.

Though the rest of the family are happy as they are, Dad feeds Mum’s pride by giving her what she wants, which turns out not to be in the family’s best interest. Mum just gets stroppy at Dad when he starts spending too much time working at the garage, although it’s all to pay for what she wanted in the first place. It’s her own fault, but she’s too proud to admit that. Instead she just walks out, although she is walking out on the very thing she wanted in the first place. So what was the point of it all?

Instead of climbing up the social ladder to join the ranks of Joan, Mum starts tumbling down, down even further than the council house that she found so inadequate after seeing Joan. And she’s dragging down Paula with her, not caring about Paula’s feelings or what she is going through because the split and being constantly shunted around. Mum is just too wrapped up in her pride for that. Her pride drives her to most despicable acts at times, such as refusing to see Dad when he falls ill, or trying to keep Paula away from him. She ruins Paula’s celebratory dinner when she throws a tantrum at what her high-class friends will think if they see Dad wearing garage boots with his dinner suit. Hmph, since when did she ever have any high-class friends? She never got far with social climbing while living in the posh house, and she has long since left the place and is resorting to cheaper and even substandard accommodation. Even when she finally begins to feel sorry for everything, her pride just won’t let her even attempt reconciliation. And in so doing she is letting her pride tear the family apart and destroy her marriage.

Dad proves to be the more caring and mature parent, in stark contrast to his wife who is behaving like a spoiled brat. For example, he tries to help Paula keep up her table tennis when Mum interferes with it. He is the more sympathetic of the two parents and the relatives are quite right to side with him. His wife is too wrapped up in herself to think about the extra demands she has put on him to get her what she wants, and they are making him suffer terribly. He is working far too hard and is under way too much stress, he falls sick because of it and can’t work, and ultimately his business fails. This is all just to get what his wife wants – and then she just turns her back on it. There’s gratitude for you. On top of that, he is deprived of Paula because of his wife and he is left with a house of loneliness that he is straining to pay the mortgage for.

At the hospital, the reactions of the parents to the nurse’s urging that they must go see Paula together best shows the vast difference between them and their attitudes. At first Mum flatly refuses to do what the nurse says because she’s just too proud to be in her estranged husband’s company, even though her daughter’s recovery depends on it. By contrast, Dad tells Mum to forget her pride and their quarrel because they must put Paula first.

And caught in the middle is poor ping-pong Paula. The title has a sadly appropriate double meaning: a girl who is both a table tennis player and a real-life ping-pong ball between divided parents. So many readers caught between separated or divorced parents or being split down the middle in custody battles would have really felt for Paula.

All the while Paula has to keep up her table tennis and strive to become a champion while her parents are splitting. At the urging from her coach, Paula has to learn to put her parent problems aside when she’s working on her table tennis. But Paula has her limits, such as when she’s in danger of losing the championship because she’s too upset over Mum not being there. She might have lost if Mum had not shown up at the last moment – only to take off again because of her pride.

As if the problem with her parents wasn’t bad enough, Paula also meets a jealous rival, Myra Glegg, who plays dirty tricks on her. Fortunately Myra doesn’t last too long, and all the other competitors are good sports.

The trouble over the parents even puts Paula in hospital – an all-too-common thing in girls’ comics. Ultimately it provides the resolution, though unlike most serials the shock of it all does not provide immediate resolution. The parents are still fighting and divided despite their unconscious, injured daughter and Mum realising Paula has taken the brunt over her split from her husband. It needs a wise outsider to step in and have a serious word with the parents before Paula’s accident can provide the resolution.

Hettie High and Mighty! (1975)

Sample Images

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Published: Lindy #14, 20 September 1975 to #20, 1 November 1975; continued in Jinty and Lindy merger 8 November 1975 to 13 December 1975

Episodes: 13

Artist: Unknown artist “Merry”

Writer: Terence Magee (concept, synopsis, first episode); remaining episodes unknown

Translations/reprints: none known

Plot

Dock End School is a bit run down, but it’s a happy and peaceful place – until Hettie King arrives, that is. Hettie’s previous school, Firdale Academy, was a posh academy that has turned her into a haughty high-and-mighty snob. Her dad is now sending her to Dock End, saying it will do her good and knock that snobbishness out of her.

Now that is a most unwise thing to say to Hettie’s face, because the obvious result is that she will react against it, which sets the stage for what follows. From the first, “Hettie High and Mighty” looks down on her new school and the girls who attend it, including the hockey team captain, Janie Downs. But Janie soon finds out that Hettie has far worse qualities than snobbishness. She is also a nasty troublemaker who is extremely cunning at getting her own way, worming out of trouble, and even ingratiating herself with the girls she had upset before.

On the other hand, Hettie is a brilliant hockey player and would be a valuable asset on the hockey team. However, the girls quite naturally don’t want her on the team because of her bad behaviour, and Janie isn’t going to grovel to her to get her to play either.

Then Janie overhears the headmistress saying that the council means to pull down the school and relocate the girls to a new school that is miles away. However, if the school wins the hockey championship, the prize money would enable them to spruce up the school to council standard. Realising the school must win, Janie decides she must grovel to Hettie after all. But she cannot reveal the reason why, because if Hettie finds out, there’d be nothing she’d like better than to see Dock End close down.

Hettie agrees to be in the team – in exchange for Janie doing her homework – but of course she isn’t showing any team spirit although she plays brilliantly. In fact she gets up to all sorts of tricks, the mildest of which is hogging the ball, the worst of which is playing deliberately foul play and giving Janie concussion in front of reporters – but she is so slick that poor Janie cops the trouble and the unpopularity. Eventually Hettie’s tricks make Janie so unpopular with her team mates that they are demanding her resignation and Hettie nearly steals the captainship from her. Later we learn that Hettie was just as bad with the Firdale hockey team and they were glad to see the back of her. Well, well, well! At least they can see her for what she is.

Then Hettie moves into Janie’s home where she starts ingratiating herself with Mrs Downs with lots of expensive presents (colour television, automatic tea maker, electric blanket). Unfortunately Mum gets so cosy with all the gifts that she’s late for work and gets the sack. Janie blames Hettie and although it’s hard to say if Hettie actually planned it that way, she doesn’t give a hoot about Mrs Downs losing her job. Yet her “nice” act has her father completely fooled when he returns suddenly and he thinks she’s changed her “high and mighty ways”. Ah, so that explains why she acted nice in the first place!

Back on the hockey pitch, Hettie is lording over the girls so much that they finally see through her. But all Hettie has to do is threaten not to play in the championship and Janie has to let her stay, no matter how badly she behaves. All the same, Janie is coming to the end of her rope with Hettie and is counting down to the days of the championship, when she’ll not have to put up with Hettie any longer.

But Janie finds she has miscalculated: Mr King and Mrs Downs fall in love and get married. So now Janie is stuck with high-and-mighty Hettie for a stepsister! Hettie is lording it all over Janie at home now, having her to do all the housework and wait on her hand and foot while she lounges around. Mum is making a big fuss over Hettie, so Hettie really appreciates having two people wait on her hand and foot. However, she has not accepted Mrs Downs as a stepmother (she still addresses Mrs Downs by her Christian name) or shows her any respect.

Then Hettie finds out why Janie wants her in the team and Dock End is facing closure if they lose the championship. As Janie feared, Hettie quits the team and leaves them in the lurch to lose the championship, just so the school she despises so much will close down. Not content with that, Hettie deliberately gets Janie on the wrong bus so Janie will miss the championship too, and is crowing all over her. Janie tells Hettie that what she needs is a jolly good hiding.

Which is precisely what Hettie soon gets. Mum had followed once she realised they were on the wrong bus, overheard everything, and gives Hettie a jolly good hiding! Moreover, Mum is thrashing her in a public café. This means her punishment has an audience, which would add humiliation to it. After Mum is through, she demands proper respect from Hettie and good behaviour. Hettie complies, and Janie is satisfied Hettie has finally gotten what she needed: discipline and humbling.

Mum then directs them to a short cut across the common she had known from childhood to reach the match. But Mum doesn’t realise a private property has been built there since her time, so Hettie and Janie unwittingly trespass into it and fall foul of guard dogs. For the first time Hettie shows unselfish behaviour when she offers to draw off the dogs, but in the process she gets bitten.

By the time they arrive at the match Hettie is limping badly and in a lot of pain. To add to their problems, the rival team are known as “The Amazons” because they play tough, brutal and dirty (a bit like Hettie once!). The Amazons pick up on Hettie’s injury and start to play upon it. The nurse says Hettie should withdraw for treatment, and Dock End is losing. Janie peps up the girls for a fight by telling them just what is stake, and Hettie courageously stays on to teach those Amazons a lesson for trying to cripple her. Dock End’s comeback, particularly from Hettie, takes the Amazons by surprise. They lose their grip and start making mistakes, which gives Dock End the edge to win. The school is saved, and Janie now considers Hettie as the best sister she could ever have.

Thoughts

This story is one of two Lindy stories to have the distinction of making the transition into the Jinty and Lindy merger. The other is “Finleg the Fox”, which coincidentally started in the same Lindy issue as Hettie. Hettie also brought a hockey story (well, part of one) into Jinty. Hockey stories were rare in Jinty, despite her emphasis on sports stories.

The story is not a memorable or distinguished one. Still, it holds its own because it is a combination of several proven formulas that have stood as serials in their own right. The first is the protagonist being forced to tolerate an odious girl because something is at stake. The second is a school bully who becomes a stepsister and makes the protagonist’s home life as unbearable as school. Third is a courageous battle to win a competition to save a school, but of course it’s filled with sabotage and obstacles along the way. Fourth is a nasty troublemaker who revels in causing misery for everyone. The last is turning an unsavoury girl into a reformed character.

Reforming a nasty troublemaker is not something that always happens in “troublemaker” stories (it did not happen in Judy’s “Be Nice to Nancy!”, for example). However, once Hettie becomes Janie’s stepsister she just has to be reformed, not just for the sake of winning the championship and saving the school but also to stop the marriage between their parents from being torn apart from the bad blood between the girls. Hettie also has to be reformed for her own sake as well, because she will never realise her full potential as a top hockey player if she persists in her bad behaviour, because hockey is a team sport and demands team spirit.

Until then, Hettie is a brilliantly conceived snob and troublemaker that you just love to hate. Like Nancy Norden in “Be Nice to Nancy!” she is a dreadful snob who despises her new school because it’s not good enough for her, and she is also a nasty troublemaker who loves to cause trouble and misery for everyone. Even the posh school that turned her into a snob found her unbearable. She was probably on the verge of being expelled before her father yanked her out and transferred her to Dock End in the hope it would change her haughty ways. Sorry Mr King, but you need to take a much firmer hand with Hettie than that! Mrs Downs is living proof of this when she cured Hettie’s bad behaviour with just one good thrashing. Hettie is also a lot more slick and cunning than Nancy in getting her way and pulling the wool over people’s eyes with phoney “nice” routines.

It is debatable as to the way in which Hettie is turned around (a good hiding in public) is all that convincing because it seems a bit too instant and pat. Still, you just have to love Hettie getting that jolly good hiding, and you wish so many other unsavoury girls in girls’ comics could get one too – Nancy Norden, for example.

Afterwards the hockey championship becomes Hettie’s redemption and helps convince Janie and the other girls that she really has reformed and they can make a fresh start with her. She didn’t just play to help them win the championship; she also braved a great deal of pain and dirty tricks (not unlike the ones she herself played once) in order to pull it off. You could say Hettie even got a taste of her own medicine through the Amazons; they were playing dirty on her, just as she used to play dirty, even on her own team mates. It is a pity the Firdale girls didn’t see it too and realise how much the badly behaved girl they despised so much has changed.

Battle of the Wills (1977)

Sample Images

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Publication: 2/7/77-1/10/77

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown, but see “Thoughts”

 

Plot

Kate Wills is a selfish, unsavoury girl – but then, so is her grandmother, in the way she treats Kate. Grandmother keeps forcing Kate to follow in her footsteps and be a ballerina, but Kate wants to be a gymnast. The two are constantly at war over ballet vs. gymnastics. Grandmother just does not comprehend that Kate cannot realise her full potential as a top ballerina because having ballet constantly forced upon her has made her hate it. She believes (or deludes herself) that the gymnastics is just a passing craze and Kate will soon love ballet. She squelches every attempt Kate makes to pursue gymnastics, including cutting gymnastics articles out of newspapers and sacking servants who disobey her instructions (because Kate intimidated them) to keep Kate away from gymnastics. And what’s worse, grandmother always wins in the end.

 

Then, grandmother says she is going away on a year-long world trip to visit her old ballet haunts. Kate sees the advantages immediately, especially when told she will receive an allowance of £50 a week. She goes off to enrol at the gymnastics college under the name of Kate Holmes, and the allowance will cover her fees. Sounds too easy? It is – the family lawyer, Perkins, tells Kate that the allowance will stop if her ballet training does, and he is going to monitor her to make sure she keeps up her ballet. It looks like grandmother has won again.

 

Then Kate is reminded of an article she saw earlier about a Dr Morrison who claimed to have invented a machine that can duplicate living beings. It was dismissed as a hoax, but Kate seizes upon it as the means to be in two places at once, which would solve her problem. So she heads off to Morrison (a female scientist) and demands that a clone be made of her. Morrison agrees when Kate points out that a clone of a human being rather than animals would be far more convincing proof that her machine is genuine.

 

The cloning works – but too well. The clone believes she is the real Kate, and hates ballet and wants gymnastics as much as Kate does. Morrison says she cannot tell them apart and the machine to reverse the process will not be ready for months. In the meantime, she sorts the matter with a coin toss – the winner goes to the gymnastics college and changes her hairstyle to differentiate her from the loser, who is forced to go home and the hated ballet, under Perkins’ constant guard (something that threatens to turn him into a nervous wreck because Kate is such a handful). But she isn’t having that, so now the battle of ballet vs. gymnastics is being fought between the two Kates, with ballet Kate playing tricks on gymnast Kate to get the gymnastics she wants, while gymnast Kate fights her every inch of the way to hold on to them.

 

Further complications arise when gymnast Kate’s selfish nature makes her extremely unpopular at the college. Only one girl, Pauline, has tried to be friends at first, but Kate alienates her when she blackmails her way into taking Pauline’s place in a gymnastics display. It gets even more complicated when gymnast Kate finds out that Perkins is Pauline’s father, which creates hijinks in preventing him or Pauline from seeing the wrong Kate or even both of them when their paths meet over various gymnastics events where ballet Kate is always causing trouble for gymnast Kate. Added to that is a constant cloud hanging over gymnast Kate – is she really the clone, and if so, are her days as a gymnast numbered by how soon Morrison perfects the reversal machine?

 

Then gymnast Kate discovers Morrison has the reversal machine already, not months away as she said before. Morrison says it was just not ready to test on humans at the time and has a further bombshell – she tells gymnast Kate that she is the clone. This gives gymnast Kate such a shock that she goes into a state of catatonia and amnesia and wanders about in a daze. She ends up in hospital, but runs off when a news item about the Tynchurch gymnastics display she was meant to participate in jogs her memory just enough for her to go there. She arrives there still in her daze, but somehow able to perform.

 

Meanwhile, grandmother sends ballet Kate a new ballet instructor from Russia, Alicia, who takes the right approach with her. Instead of forcing Kate to dance, Alicia encourages her with praise and taking her to a ballet performance to inspire her. It works; ballet Kate is soon surprising herself at enjoying ballet for the first time in her life. She now feels quite happy to leave gymnast Kate to her own devices at the college.

 

But before ballet Kate changes her mind about ballet, she tries to pull one last trick on gymnast Kate at the Tynchurch display. However, she gets caught up with the doctors who are looking for gymnast Kate and then finds out about the state she is in. So she decides to help gymnast Kate instead.

 

Meanwhile, Pauline finally rumbles there are two Kates, and ballet Kate explains everything to her. But gymnast Kate has taken off in a daze once again, and ballet Kate finds out from Morrison what is wrong. Morrison also wants the two Kates to come to a science convention, where she will demonstrate her reversal machine in public by merging them back into one. Ballet Kate tracks down gymnast Kate and explains. They head off to the convention, with gymnast Kate now resigned to her fate. Pauline comes along and so does Alicia, who has been informed of the situation.

 

At the convention, there are protests on all sides that the experiment is cruel and inhuman and should be stopped immediately. This raises hopes that the clone will be spared. However, the scientists’ opposition has Morrison take matters into her own hands and turn the reversal machine straight on the Kates. However, it is ballet Kate who disappears, not gymnast Kate. This is because Morrison lied about which one was the clone to protect her work until she was ready to prove it to the convention. But the scientists are so horrified that they ban her duplicating machine and have her arrested. Morrison expresses no remorse; only anger that the scientists do not appreciate her genius.

 

Kate returns home, full of grief over her clone. However, the experiences she went through have turned her into a more considerate girl who has now realised how selfish she has been. So when Kate hears that the real reason her grandmother went away was to seek medical treatment in Russia for a serious heart condition, but her post-treatment prognosis is uncertain, she decides to give up her gymnastics and humour her still-infirm grandmother about pursuing ballet.

 

Alicia and Pauline feel the sacrifice Kate is making will be too much for her. So Alicia comes up with a plan. She persuades Kate to go for the national gymnastics championship she was training for, while, unknown to Kate, she puts grandmother in the audience – under protest. The hope is that once grandmother actually sees Kate’s gymnastics, she will come around. But grandmother has severe prejudices about the gymnastics she has never even watched properly as well as being opposed to Kate pursuing them, and her reaction to Kate performing is inscrutable.

 

By the end, it looks like the plan has failed and Kate has left in tears, without even checking the results of the competition. She thinks it is the end of her gymnastics and does not even know her grandmother was there until Alicia owns up. However, grandmother eventually proves she has come around, by not only in accepting the trophy Kate has won on her behalf but also in the acceptance speech she gives. She is proud to support Kate’s dream of going to the Olympics, and her prognosis is now good.

 

Thoughts

 

This story is one that crops up frequently in Jinty discussions and seems to have endured with readers. It certainly is a cut above your average story about the protagonist fighting difficult parents who keep pushing her in the direction they want and have no respect for what she wants, which drives her to go behind their backs all the time. Here the protagonist resorts to what could be the most unique solution to the problem in the history of girls’ comics – having a clone created so she can be in two places at the same time. But the solution brings its own problems that act as the obstacles the protagonist so often faces when going behind her parents’ backs to pursue her path: keeping the secret, hijinks when things go a bit wrong, thinking fast when faced with the threat of discovery, and jealous rivals who are so often thrown into the mix. And the difficulties facing gymnast Kate are all compounded by a constant, niggling thought that surely none of her counterparts in other comics have ever faced – which Kate is the real one and which is just the clone whose life will end when the reversal machine is ready? And when the truth is revealed, which will win out – ballet or gymnastics? Of course we are all rooting for the gymnastics, but what is grandmother going to say about it when she comes back? It will be back to square one for Kate – unless grandmother is persuaded to change her mind.

 

What further adds to the appeal of the story is that the protagonist herself starts out as an unlikeable character and not a fully sympathetic one. This is quite unusual for this type of story; usually a protagonist fighting a difficult parent to pursue her dreams is a sympathetic character, such as Glenda Noble in “The Goose Girl”. However, although we sympathise with Kate’s situation, we do not sympathise with her character. She is pushy, even bullying, selfish, and does not see beyond herself. She is not above blackmailing Pauline and does not care about the servants who get sacked because of the constant war between her and her grandmother. So there is far more character development in this story; we know that Kate will change somehow, and we all the more interested in following her story to find out just how she will change and where it will lead in the battle over ballet vs. gymnastics.

 

It is not too much of a surprise that it is shock treatment that turns Kate around, though more extreme because she is threatened with a (false) near-death experience as well. It could hardly be anything else. What is a surprise is that what turns the clone around is the very last thing she expected – beginning to like ballet. And it is all because her new ballet teacher goes about things the right way – being likeable, encouraging and inspiring to induce Kate to pursue ballet out of her own interest – not forcing ballet upon Kate as grandmother does because it is what she wants, and not listening to what Kate wants. It is a rare lesson that any difficult parent/teacher learns in girls’ comics – learning to go about things the right way instead of the wrong way of forcing things upon people. If ballet Kate had been the real Kate after all, the story could have ended in quite an unconventional manner for this type of genre – the protagonist now doing what the parent wants because it is now what she wants instead of gaining the freedom to pursue what she wants.

 

This story is also pretty unconventional for Jinty in another manner. Although Jinty was known for her SF stories, the mad/eccentric scientist was one SF theme that seldom featured. But in this case it does, and what’s more, Dr Morrison is not your average mad scientist. Most mad scientists in girls’ comics are out for world domination or whatever. They often a dash of campiness about them and behave like maniacs. But this doctor is a completely cold fish, and what makes her even more chilling is that her true colours are not apparent at first. When we first meet Morrison, she seems a sympathetic character. She has been wronged because the science establishment rejected her machine as a hoax, lives in a dingy residence, and when the two Kates are created, she seems to be in a real dilemma. At one point she even comes to the rescue of gymnast Kate in fooling Perkins. But once her lies begin to unravel, her cold, ruthless nature begins to appear. Ballet Kate realises how heartless Morrison really is and that neither of them are much real to her; she just sees them as an “interesting experiment”. And the climax of the story, where Morrison wipes ballet Kate from existence without a flicker of remorse, just to prove herself to the convention, despite all their protests, has to be one of the most ruthless and cold-blooded scenes ever depicted in girls’ comics. This must have been a moment where the Jinty team really wanted to kick some butt; none of the clichéd last minute saves, as was what the Kates hoped for when the scientists protested that the experiment be stopped.

 

Jinty was also known for her sports stories, and “Battle of the Wills” was the first Jinty story to feature gymnastics. The other Jinty stories that did were “Land of No Tears”, “Wild Rose” and “Prisoner of the Bell”. Unfortunately, the gymnastics in all these stories were marred by one glaring error – having girls perform gymnastics on parallel bars, rings and Pommel horse. This is incorrect because they are used in men’s gymnastics. Some more accurate research into gymnastics could have been done there.

 

“Battle of the Wills” shares roots with several other stories that have me wondering that if at least some of them had the same writer. Kate’s ambitious but selfish nature that softens into a more considerate one sounds similar to how another selfish Jinty girl, Pandora, develops in “Pandora’s Box”. In “Prisoner of the Bell” Susie Cathcart also wants to pursue gymnastics, but her grandmother keeps forcing her to be an academic (and Susie is a confirmed underachiever) and thinks gymnastics are nonsense, just as Kate’s grandmother does. In this case, the grandmother uses hypnotism to compel her. The same goes for Alison Thorne in Tammy’s “Slave of the Clock” in 1982. Alison is another talented but reluctant ballerina. Unlike Kate, Alison does not hate ballet; she is just not passionate enough to make it her career. Then Alison meets a ballet teacher who goes about things the wrong way in the extreme – she hypnotises reluctant ballet students into doing ballet whenever they hear the ticking of a clock. The last was written by Jay Over, a known Jinty writer. It raises the possibility that Over wrote “Battle of the Wills” and “Prisoner of the Bell” because of various similarities they have with “Slave of the Clock”.

 

When comparing “Battle of the Wills” to “Prisoner of the Bell” or “Slave of the Clock”, it emerges as more superior in terms of character development. Once Alison and Susie are freed from the hypnotism they pretty much go back to what they were, as if nothing had happened. But Kate has grown, and become more considerate and mature. And if ballet Kate had indeed been the original, she would have really surprised herself. “Battle of the Wills” is also more superior in terms of lessons learned. The other two show what can happen when you go about things the wrong way and try to force them on other people. Seldom do you get the lesson about the results you can get when you go about things the right way. But this is what happens when Alicia appears in the place of the grandmother. Kate sees how different Alicia is and responds accordingly. However, there is no Alicia for Susie (to help her appreciate education more) or Alison (to encourage her to pursue her ballet talent to the full).

Edited to add: I have produced and added in a WTFometer. This story scores quite highly at 33.

Battle of the Wills WTFometer

Toni on Trial (1979-1980)

Sample Images

Toni 1

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Toni 2

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Toni 3

Publication: 1 December 1979-19 April 1980

Artist: Terry Aspin

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Toni Carr is a promising runner. When her parents are killed in a crash, she is sent to live with her maternal grandparents, the Halls, in Millcastle. Toni is surprised to learn about them, for her late mother never mentioned them before. She is told that her mother ran away from home when she was sixteen.

Sounds like a skeleton in Mum’s closet? Oh yes, and it starts rattling when Toni is even more surprised to find a photo of her mother wearing a sports medal in an album; she had never known her mother to be athletic too. She is further surprised – and in a most unpleasant manner – when Granddad rips up the photograph, saying he thought they’d got rid of Mum’s sports photos.

Toni discovers the sports club on the side of town that looks wealthier than where her grandparents live. There she shows promise at the trials for the junior team. But the sports coach, Miss Adela Rogers, is nasty to Toni once she realises she realises who her mother was. She tells Toni that her mother was a thief, and that was why she ran away.

When Toni confronts her grandmother, she is shown a newspaper article that says her mother stole a sports trophy out of spite because she lost it to another girl (later revealed to be Adela Rogers) in a race. The ensuing scandal was so bad that Mum ran away and gave up the athletics she had shown so much promise at. The grandparents were also forced to move to the poorer part of town where they still live today after Granddad lost his job defending his daughter. But even they doubt her innocence. Toni refuses to believe her mother was a thief and resolves to get to the truth.

Toni has shown so much promise at her trials that Olympic champion Sharon Peters wants her in the team. But Toni is finding that her mother’s disgrace is now threatening her own career. Granddad is opposed to Toni pursuing sports because of the trophy scandal and only agrees begrudgingly. But neither he nor grandma will give Toni any support or encouragement. And Miss Rogers only agrees to put Toni on trial until she proves her character, but is always out to bully her because of her mother. This does not make Toni popular with the other athletes, and Toni ends up banned from the club and having to train on the old track her mother once used.

Worse still, Toni makes an enemy on the team in the form of Julie. Julie and her crony Patti start playing tricks on Toni. Toni makes some headway in the trials despite the dirty tricks, hostility from her mother’s shame, and Miss Rogers banning her from the club because of it all. Toni eventually realises an enemy is sabotaging her, but thinks it is Miss Rogers.

Eventually the misery from her mother’s disgrace gets too much for Toni and she runs off in tears. This leads to her saving a child and she becomes a local heroine, which should ease the trouble from her mother’s disgrace. But Toni is so badly affected by it and her unknown enemy that she gives up athletics. Sharon arranges a special event with handicapped athletes to change Toni’s mind.

Toni does, but is dismayed to find her club is about to compete for the very same trophy her mother was accused of stealing. And when she does win it, her grandparents ban her from the presentation party because that was when her mother was branded a thief after the trophy was found in her bag. Toni goes anyway, but the old trouble is hanging over the party. However, Toni meets Sharon’s sister, Mrs Collins, who was her mother’s best friend. Mrs Collins says she does not believe the mother stole the trophy either. She would have helped the mother prove her innocence and knows something that might help.

But Mrs Collins is interrupted when a real thief steals the trophies. Toni manages to stop him. However, her only reward in the paper is the headline “Brave Athlete Saves Cup Her Mother Stole!”

Toni meets Mrs Collins again, who explains that Miss Rogers hated her mother because she was jealous. After she beat Toni’s mother, Mrs Collins overheard a row between them. The quarrel was over a rule Adela broke when she won the trophy; Toni’s mother told her to own up but Adela refused, saying it was a silly rule. Mrs Collins is sure the quarrel is connected with the trophy theft, but her mother never explained what it was about.

Later, Miss Rogers bans Patti from an event because she broke the no-drugs rule for taking hay fever medication. Recalling that Miss Rogers also gets hay fever, Toni sees parallels with the quarrel Mrs Collins overheard. She now suspects that Miss Rogers is behind everything, but has no proof.

Things come to a head when Miss Rogers steals some belongings and plants them in Toni’s bag. But Patti sees this and backs Toni up when she accuses Miss Rogers of it. At this, Julie makes an angry outburst at Patti that gives her away as Toni’s enemy.

Cornered, Miss Rogers confesses that she planted the trophy on Toni’s mother because she thought she was going to report her for the same thing as Patti. Later she discovered she had been mistaken, but by then things had gone too far and she was too scared to confess. She is compelled to resign as club coach and leaves in tears. Afterwards, Julie is told to mend her ways if she is to stay in the club.

Toni’s trial period is now over and she becomes a lifelong member of the club. Now the mother has been cleared, the grandparents back Toni’s athletics all the way. Toni is soon on her way to London for the English team try-outs.

Jinty 1 December 1979

Thoughts

This story is something of a milestone for three reasons. First, it is the last story Terry Aspin drew for Jinty. After a run of Jinty serials that began with “Curtain of Silence” and included the classics “Alice in a Strange Land”, “Almost Human” and “Cathy’s Casebook”, Aspin ends his Jinty run with Toni.

The same goes for Jim Baikie, who ends his own Jinty run with the other sports story to start in the same issue, “White Water”. Is this a coincidence, or does it say something about what is going behind the scenes of Jinty? It is known that Mavis Miller left about this period and things were not quite the same again with Jinty under the new editor.

Second, “Toni on Trial” and “White Water” begin Jinty’s sports pages section and banner to match. Although sports stories had been strong in Jinty since 1977, the sports pages section marks a whole new emphasis on sport in Jinty that would be further underlined by Mario Capaldi’s sports covers starting in mid 1980 and Benita Brown’s “Winning Ways” tips for winning sports.

Third, Toni on Trial is the last Jinty story to feature the theme of injustice from a wrongful charge. The topic had been in Jinty from her first issue with her longest-running serial, “Merry at Misery House”, where Merry Summers is sent to a cruel reformatory after being wrongly convicted of theft (the exact details of which were never explained). After Merry ended, Jinty didn’t use the theme much. Stories that did feature it were infrequent (“Paula’s Puppets”, “Slaves of the Candle” and “Waves of Fear” were ones that did) and after Toni, the theme disappeared altogether.

Toni on Trial is not quite one of Jinty’s classics. The formula – quest to prove someone’s innocence, frame ups, jealous rivals, difficult guardians interfering with a girl’s dream – is a bit standard and does not have the innovation that made a lot of the Jinty classics that Aspin drew what they are.

However, while the formula may be an oldie it is still a goodie, and makes the story a solid one and far from average. It’s also a mystery story, which is always popular in girls’ comics. The fact that it’s not just the whole town believing Toni’s mother is a thief but even her own parents doubt her gives the story an extra edge. This has some parallels with “Waves of Fear”, where even the parents turn against their own daughter after she is branded (a coward in her case), becomes the outcast of the town, and is eventually driven to running away before it is established that she was wrongly accused. And both stories appeared at the same time, so there may be some overlap in the writing.

What’s even more angst is that for the most part, Toni has to battle alone to prove her mother’s innocence. Although Anne and Sharon refuse to tar Toni with the ‘sins of the mother’ that everyone else in town does, they are not part of Toni’s drive to clear her mother. There are no allies to help Toni, and nobody to talk it over with. It’s not until near the end of the story that the person who can really help Toni finally turns up. This is not unusual in stories where the heroine sets out to clear somebody’s name. But the fact that even your own relatives won’t help because they don’t really believe it’s an injustice makes it more disturbing than the more usual case where the relatives do believe it, but can’t or won’t do anything to help. Maybe it’s to do with the town itself and the way it has reacted to the whole affair. It is still green in everyone’s mind, even after all these years, and people are so ready to attack Toni because of it, just because of who her mother was. Nowhere is this more apparent – and cruel – than the headline “Brave Athlete Saves Cup Her Mother Stole!” All right, so maybe Miss Rogers had a hand in it, but what a way for the press to treat a girl who should be honoured for her bravery! You have to wonder what kind of people the people of Millcastle are if they publish headlines like that. One should jolly well hope the town came out with some jolly good apologising to Toni and her grandparents once Miss Rogers had confessed.

Black Sheep of the Bartons (1979)

Sample Images

Black Sheep 1

Black Sheep 2

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Black Sheep 3

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Jinty: 6 October 1979-22 December 1979

Artist: Guy Peeters

Writer: Alison Christie

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #14 as “The Black Sheep”

Plot

Bev Barton looks on herself as the black sheep in her sheep farming family, both in appearance (the only one with black hair in a blond family) and in character. She is a rebel without a cause who chafes under her parents’ rules and regulations and is bored stiff with the sheep farm. But Bev has a big problem – she is selfish and can’t see beyond herself. She tends to get jealous of her sister Ruth, who seems to be more in favour with the parents. Bev does not understand that the parents trust Ruth because she earns it with obedience, hard work and consideration, while Bev does nothing of the kind.

Bev applies for and wins a scholarship in Elmsford Academy as she thinks boarding school will give her freedom from her parents and the farm and to do her own thing. But of course she soon finds that Elmsford has its own rules and regulations. It is not long before Bev’s rebelliousness gets her into trouble with the headmistress.

Then Bev discovers the judo club at Elmsford and finds she has a real passion and talent for the sport. She finally has something to work for. The trouble is, she gets so obsessed with judo that she neglects her schoolwork, exams, and breaks more rules and orders in order to get to her judo club. The only thing that stands between Bev and expulsion is that she used her judo to foil a burglar who was stealing school trophies. But eventually Bev defies the headmistress once too often and gets expelled. As a result, the parents thoroughly disapprove of Bev’s judo.

Being expelled has cut Bev off from the judo club and there is none in the village. She flouts her parents’ orders again in order to get to the judo club – only to find it has closed down. Worse, Dad catches her in the act of defying him and she’s in trouble again. Back home, Bev’s jealousy of her sister Ruth, whom she perceives as the parents’ favourite worsens, which heightens the bad situation with her parents. Bev does not appreciate how patient Ruth is with her – or realise that Ruth is ill with angina and needs extra care.

Things look up when Ted Nelson, Bev’s judo instructor, takes a job at her school as the new PE teacher. They start a judo club at the school. Dad won’t let Bev join after her expulsion, but Ruth talks him around. Bev soon earns her yellow belt, but is neglecting her schoolwork again. Ruth is staying up late doing Bev’s homework – which is not good for her state of health – and the parents are angry at Bev again. But Bev takes this as more favouritism and her response is to “disappear” for a bit to teach them a lesson. But this backfires dreadfully – Ruth sneaks off to look for Bev and this is extremely dangerous for her because she is so sick. When Bev finds out, she finally wakes up to how selfish she has been. She takes off to look for Ruth – against Dad’s orders, who is too angry to let her help search – and succeeds.

Following this, Bev makes a serious effort to become more considerate and helpful to her family. Mum is impressed, but Dad just says that Bev’s head is still full of that “confounded judo”. Hearing this, Bev decides that there is only one way to convince Dad of her good faith – give up judo – and tells Dad what she is doing. She rushes off in tears to give away her judo gear. But en route she encounters Alf Sutton. Dad has suspected Sutton of stealing his sheep and now Bev catches him red-handed. She uses her judo to bring him down. This now convinces Dad that judo is not a bad thing and he admits to Bev that he was just too proud to acknowlege her change for the better.

Bev is now getting along so much better with her parents. And to show it, Dad converts his barn into a judo club so the club can continue after the school gym burns down. Bev is still proud of being a black sheep but is now a more mature, thoughtful and happier girl.

Thoughts

This came hard on the heels of Guy Peeters’ previous story, “Pandora’s Box”, which was also about a selfish girl who learned to open her heart. Perhaps it was the same writer. But while Pandora’s Box had supernatural elements, Black Sheep is grounded firmly in realism. There is so much in the character of Bev Barton that we see in everyday life – rebel without a cause, inability to handle authority, generation gap, and problem children who have nowhere to vent their energy so they transmute it into difficult behaviour that exasperates their parents.

The problem with Bev is that she can’t see that she is the architect of her own misfortunes with her selfish, self-centred behaviour. She does not understand that her problems with her parents stem from her being selfish, disobedient, rebellious, doing nothing to earn their trust, and having no consideration for others. And her attitude not only gets her expelled but endangers Ruth several times – such as practising judo with her while not thinking that Ruth is untrained – but Bev does not stop to think. And the types of boyfriends she has – rough bikers – do not help matters.

Bev is not a totally bad character. For example, she stands up to a bully at school who blackmails other girls. There is also a dash of feminism when Bev has to demand to join the judo club as it is boys only. She’s full of spunk and balls, which would have appealed to readers. Bev is not your typical victim heroine who would take emotional and physical abuse lying down, and is no Cinderella.

It is obvious that the judo is the key to Bev’s salvation. After all, it has finally given our rebel without a cause something to channel her energy into. If only she would wake up to how selfish she is, she be a true heroine. But we know she will eventually. That’s the whole point of the story after all.

We have to enjoy this story for the judo itself. It came out at a time when martial arts were popular in Britain, which must have provided inspiration and popularity. And judo makes a change from stories about hockey, tennis or swimming, so readers must have enjoyed the story for this alone. Martial arts did not appear much in girls’ comics, which makes this story even more of a standout.

Cursed to be a Coward! (1977)

Sample images

Cursed 1

Cursed 2

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Cursed 3

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Publication: 13/8/77-29/10/77

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #21 as “The Fortune Teller”; Tina Topstrip #49 as Zoals de waarzegster voorspelde (As the fortune teller predicted)

Plot
Ever since infancy Marnie Miles has shown promise as a brilliant swimmer like her late father, and Mum encourages her. At her new school, Marnie becomes one of the best swimmers at “The Mermaids”, the school swimming club, and can’t get enough of water.

That is, until she meets Madame Leo, a sinister-looking fortune-teller. Madame Leo makes a prophecy for Marnie’s cousin Babs: “I see falling, falling…there is much danger.” A year later it comes true when a plank falls on Babs and leaves her crippled. Then Madame Leo turns up again and seems to be shadowing Marnie, warning her that they will meet again in a week. And a week later, at the school fete, Madame Leo shows up and scares Marnie with another prophecy: “You are going to end up in blue water!” Marnie flees the tent in terror. She also feels odd, as if she had been cursed.

Marnie takes the prophecy to mean that she is going to drown in blue water. As a result, she develops hydrophobia (fear of water). When she fails a drowning child because of it and people call her a coward, she believes she is now “cursed to be a coward” by that fortune-teller.

The hydrophobia just gets worse and worse. Marnie won’t cross a puddle because she is too terrified of water. She begs the bus driver to let her out once she sees it is about to cross a river of blue water. At a high-diving event she asks for a rubber ring! As Marnie’s hydrophobia intensifies, so do the problems it creates. She failed to help that drowning child because she is too terrified of water. As the word spreads, the girls at school gang up on her, calling her a coward. Their bullying intensifies along with Marnie’s hydrophobia. Not even the presence of Marnie’s mother makes the bullies back off, and Marnie finds “COWARD” daubed on her house. Miss Frame, the swimming coach, is surprised at Marnie’s behaviour she seems to be losing her nerve or something. At home, Mum can’t understand why Marnie is suddenly turning against water and giving up on swimming. Marnie won’t tell Mum because she doesn’t want Mum to worry.

Marnie tries to fight back against the curse that seems to be turning her into a coward, but her hydrophobia is too strong. She turns to Babs for help, and Babs agrees to a cover story for Marnie giving up on swimming.

But the problem is still there, so Marnie decides to go back to Madame Leo to see if Madame Leo is willing to redress the problem. Marnie just finds the crystal ball, which shows a rather vague image of her waving her arms around. Marnie thinks it shows her drowning and takes off in a fright, not realising Madame Leo has seen her.

When Marnie participates in a high-diving event, Madame Leo turns up in the gallery and terrorises her with reminders of the prophecy. Marnie faints and falls right off the diving board! She is rescued, and now tells her mother the truth. Mum tries to track down Madame Leo but fails, and loses her job as a result.

Then Mum gets a housekeeper’s job with Mr Rennie. He has a swimming pool. The water there is green, not blue, so Marnie decides the water is safe for her to swim in and get back in training. Mr Rennie encourages Marnie.

Marnie now tells Miss Frame the truth. Mum allows Miss Frame to resume coaching of Marnie, but on strict condition that she is not to leave Marnie for a moment. However, Madame Leo disguises herself as a cleaner and diverts Miss Frame by knocking a photograph of one Lorna Gray, one of the former school swimming champions, off the wall and into the water. While Miss Frame is busy with the photograph, Madame Leo tries to drown Marnie and would have succeeded but for some fast resuscitation from Miss Frame. The police are called in but do not take the complaint seriously and Madame Leo denies it all. However, when Madame Leo was trying to drown Marnie, she reveals why she hates her. It is because Marnie bears a striking resemblance to Lorna, a girl Madame Leo has hated for 30 years. She does not say why she hates Lorna.

Babs and Marnie go to the fete to confront Madame Leo. Babs urges Marnie to try and break her crystal ball. But this just gets them into trouble with the police and another triumph for Madame Leo, who is now terrorising Marnie with threats of the prophecy and attempts at drowning her at every turn.

Then Mr Rennie dies, and he leaves Marnie and her mother a legacy – a houseboat called Blue Water. Marnie realises that this is what the prophecy means by “blue water” and has nothing to do with drowning. She starts dancing for joy (revealing what she was actually doing in the crystal ball) and is now cured of her hydrophobia.

However, Madame Leo is lurking nearby. She knew the truth about Blue Water all along, and now sees the game is up. She makes a last-ditch, desperate effort to drown Marnie. But it backfires when Madame Leo misses Marnie, goes into the water, and Marnie ends up saving her from drowning! A policeman was watching, so Madame Leo is finally arrested.

Afterwards it is established that the reason Madame Leo hated Lorna Gray and took it out on Marnie is that she (wrongly) blamed Lorna for her sister’s drowning at the seaside 30 years ago. It is not revealed as to why Madame Leo blamed Lorna or why she was wrong to do so. Madame Leo’s reaction to being rescued by Marnie and her ultimate fate are not recorded. But for Marnie, there is no looking back. Her classmates apologise for calling her a coward once they hear about her rescuing Madame Leo and hail her as a heroine for it. Marnie is back with the Mermaids. She is soon winning championships for the school and is looking forward to a swimming career with the help of Blue Water.

Thoughts

Alison Christie is better known for writing emotional, tear-jerker stories in girls’ comics. So it was a surprise to learn that she wrote this thriller story featuring a psychotic would-be killer, a tormented, persecuted girl turning into a nervous wreck from hydrophobia and being constantly harassed, and elements of the supernatural abounding with the prophecy, crystal balls, psychic powers and premonitions. And it’s all brought off brilliantly with the artwork of Mario Capaldi, whose artwork really brings off insanity and pathological hatred that is consuming Madame Leo, and what a creepy, sinister crone she is, even before she has started harassing Marnie. Madame Leo is the only villainous fortune-teller to appear in Jinty, and in her we see the antithesis of Gypsy Rose, the resident gypsy clairvoyant in Jinty. Imagine if we got the two together.

Christie’s handling of the prophecy was spot on. It was exactly how the prophecy should work – a riddle filled with double meanings. The recipient of the prophecy takes what appears to be the obvious meaning, so it comes as a twist and surprise to the recipient (and the readers) when the prophecy turns out to mean something entirely different. Macbeth is a classic example of this. But unlike Macbeth, the twist was good for Marnie. And it looked like there were some unexpected twists for Madame Leo as well; she had long since foreseen what “blue water” truly meant, but she did not foresee her life being saved by the girl she was trying to kill, or that she would fail in her hate campaign.

One of the best conceptions of this story is Marnie’s personality, how it makes her so vulnerable to Madame Leo’s curse, and how this is structured in the buildup in the first episode. When Marnie and Babs first visit Madame Leo at the fair, we immediately see how impressionable and suggestible Marnie is. In the first place, she is not even keen to visit the fortune-teller because that sort of thing scares her, but Babs insists. And Madame Leo strikes Marnie as a sinister-looking woman even before Madame Leo starts terrorising her. Marnie is far more terrified at Babs’s prophecy than Babs is, and when it is fulfilled, Marnie is in no doubt about Madame Leo’s powers. When Madame Leo shows up and tells Marnie they will meet in a week, Marnie gets even more scared – not least because of the way Madame Leo looks at her. Even before Marnie meets Madame Leo at the school fete, she suddenly finds herself shaking for no reason. And Madame Leo does not just tell Marnie the prophecy – she seizes her and forces her to listen when Marnie wants to get the hell out of there without any fortunes told, thank you very much. When Marnie gets out, she is not just scared – she also feels odd, as if she had been cursed.

And is she cursed? In the end it is revealed that this is not the case because Marnie misconstrued the prophecy. So it was Marnie’s imagination and suggestibility, being so easy to scare, getting all wound up by that creepy fortune-teller and her prophecy, and getting odd feelings of foreboding that could be anything from real sixth sense to superstitious imagination. But until then, we readers are left to wonder if she really is cursed, and whether that fortune-teller is right and Marnie is going to go the same way as Babs. Even without Madame Leo’s harassment it is terrifying enough. But when Madame Leo starts terrorising Marnie directly and tries to kill her, we get what must be some of the most terrifying scenes in girls’ comics. Fainting on a high-diving board? Being attacked in the swimming pool and nearly murdered? Wow! And all the while, Madame Leo preys upon and amplifies Marnie’s false fears about “blue water” to make her all the more terrified. Years of fortune-telling must have given Madame Leo experience in the human psyche because she is a master of fear and manipulation in the way she plays upon Marnie’s fears; she is extremely crafty in how she steadily builds up to scare Marnie with the prophecy in the first episode. We have to wonder if she has done similar tricks with other people; she looks sinister enough for that.

It is a bit frustrating that we never learn the fate of Madame Leo after her arrest. Presumably she was put into some sort of psychiatric care. But how did she react to being rescued by the girl she was trying to kill? Did it change her attitude in any way, or was her mind too far gone for that? Perhaps there was not enough room on the final page to address any of this, but couldn’t they have had a text box at least to tell us what happens to her? And we never learn why Madame Leo blamed Lorna for her sister’s death or why she was wrong to do so. Perhaps there was not enough room on the last page for that either. Or maybe Christie or the editor decided not to delve into it and preferred to focus on Marnie for the final panels.

When it is revealed that Madame Leo was persecuting Lorna (through Marnie) for nothing, it comes as no surprise if you know girls’ comics well. Serials featuring hate-filled people who persecute someone (or organisation) for revenge, only to find out that they were mistaken about them, have cropped up regularly in girls’ comics. “Down with St Desmond’s!” (Bunty) is a classic example, and the theme was a frequent one in DCT titles. The theme was less common in Jinty, but some Jinty stories with the theme or elements of it are “Go On, Hate Me!“,  “The Ghost Dancer”, “Slave of the Swan” and “Waves of Fear“.

 

Spell of the Spinning Wheel (1977)

Sample images

Wheel 1 1

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Wheel 2

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Wheel 3

Publication: 5/3/77-25/6/77

Artist: Jim Baikie

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

Reprint: Tina Topstrip #42 as “De betovering van het spinnewiel / The magic of the spinning wheel”

Plot

Rowan Lindsay’s shepherd father is an outstanding cross-country runner and is determined to “blaze the name of Lindsay beyond this humble dale!” But his ambition is dashed when he is rendered lame after a fall into a quarry. So it now falls to Rowan to blaze the name of Lindsay in cross-country running.

Dad cannot work because of his injury and money is tight. Mum sets up a craft shop, but it isn’t taking off. Then, on a visit to the next village, Rowan is inspired by a spinning wheel being sold at auction. She is surprised to find nobody bidding against her. The bidders even warn her against buying it; one woman says she would not touch it for all the tea in China while another tells Rowan she is buying a whole load of trouble. Rowan is puzzled, but she brushes it off and has the spinning wheel delivered to her house. Soon business is booming with Mum selling handspun wool.

But soon the warnings bear out when Rowan pricks her finger on the spinning wheel. A strange sensation goes through her, and then Rowan finds any humming noise is sending her to sleep. This starts interfering with Rowan’s cross-country running, and even puts her life in danger several times. Dad believes Rowan when she says the spinning wheel has put a Sleeping Beauty-type spell on her, but Mum just won’t and thinks it is rubbish. She keeps thinking Rowan is ill and having dizzy spells and wastes doctors’ time and Rowan’s by sending her to medical examinations. Doctors think it is exertion and bar Rowan from running. Dad, who believes in the spell, helps Rowan to train secretly, but there are ructions with Mum when she finds out.

To complicate matters, the Lindsays need the spinning wheel for their income, which makes it all the more difficult to get rid of it. And what with Mum spinning at it all the time to make wool and money, Rowan can’t escape the humming and the sleeping spells.

It gets worse when Rowan’s cross-country rival Della Barnes discovers Rowan’s weakness and starts taking advantage of it to send Rowan to sleep with the sound of hair dryers and such. But at one point she gets a nasty shock when she allows Rowan to fall asleep after hearing the hum of bees – only to find Rowan nearly drowned because she had her head in a stream. Later on she tries to put Rowan to sleep with her tranny while Rowan is running on an emergency, but Rowan manages to beat her.

Mum won’t listen and their efforts to convince her just lead to rows. So Rowan and Dad try other ways to deal with the spinning wheel. Once it becomes manifest that removing it from the house is not the answer, the only answer is to destroy it. Rowan tries having it replaced with a look-alike. But it feels like the evil spinning is striking back. Rowan nearly goes over a cliff and the replacement spinning wheel falls to the bottom.

However, the spinning wheel does have its weaknesses. One weakness is that the spell doesn’t work when the spinning wheel gets damaged and is out of action. But once the spinning wheel is repaired, it and its evil spell are back in business. Another weakness is that its power weakens over distance, as Rowan discovers when it goes to London with Mum. But then Mum gets a tummy bug (we wonder why?) and comes back with the spinning wheel. Back to square one.

Rowan reaches breaking point and just runs off – only to fall under the wheel of a car. When she wakes up in hospital, she feels the spinning wheel engineered that too. While she recovers at home, a hiker drops by. He seems to believe Rowan’s story and offers help. But they soon find he is student psychiatrist who thinks she is mentally ill. Dad throws him out, but not before his interfering gets Rowan so upset that she throws bricks at the spinning wheel and Dad and Mum have yet another row.

Nobody seems to pursue the history of the spinning wheel and what makes it tick, despite the warnings Rowan received about it having an evil reputation.

A doctor gives the green light for Rowan to resume cross-country running. And it is here that the old adage that “seeing is believing” comes to the rescue. The spinning wheel takes a step too far by spinning all by itself in order to put Rowan to sleep and put her out of a big cross-country event. But when Mum sees what the spinning wheel is doing, she is finally convinced and has it destroyed in “The Burnings”, a carryover from witch-hunting days.

Rowan is free to pursue her cross-country event without fear of falling asleep from humming noises. She wins of course, while jealous Della does her best to lose gracefully.  Mum agrees that Rowan is more important than money, and Dad promises her another spinning wheel. Rowan is going on to carry the Lindsay torch and let the spell of the spinning wheel fade into memory.

Thoughts

This is regarded as one of Jinty’s best-remembered stories, and it is the only serial I have seen that features a spinning wheel. I am a spinner myself, and this is one reason I have always been drawn to this story.

The evil influence in this story is unusual in that we can’t actually see just what the evil is. In most evil influence stories there is an expression of evil (either from the object itself or the person wielding it) that not only makes it more frightening but also gives clues as to what motivates the influence (revenge, power, or general maliciousness). This is not the case here; there are no apparitions of evil faces, whispering voices, dreams or whatever to scare the living daylights out of the readers and the protagonist while at the same time providing hints as to what is happening. In the case of the spinning wheel, the evil itself cannot be seen, except in the final episode where it starts spinning by itself. For the most part the influence of the spinning wheel is felt rather than seen as its terror over Rowan increases.

The evil of the spinning wheel is perhaps all the more terrifying because we don’t know why it is evil. Rowan gets warnings that the spinning wheel has an evil history, but she does not go back to follow them up and learn all she can about the spinning wheel. This is something that heroines in evil influence stories normally do, and Rowan not doing it leaves a gap in the story that is rather frustrating. Readers must have been dying to know the truth about the spinning wheel, what with all the hints Rowan gets when she buys it, and they must have been annoyed that the reveal never comes. The fact that the spinning wheel was destroyed in a carryover from witch-hunting does suggest a connection to witchcraft. Did a previous owner have a reputation for it? Was it cursed by someone with a reputation for sorcery, such as a witch or gypsy? Was there material on it with a reputation for evil? Or was it something else – Sleeping Beauty herself, maybe? We never know because nobody goes to find out.

Perhaps Rowan doesn’t chase up the history of the spinning wheel because she and her father are too fixated on how to break its power. Destroying it is the obvious answer, but they are frustrated by Mum refusing to believe the spinning wheel is evil, and she also needs it to make money.

It is a bit odd that the spinning wheel seems to strike back when Rowan tries to fight it, but it does nothing when Mum takes it to the Burnings. Maybe it thought the game was up once Mum saw it spinning by itself? Or maybe it realised too late what was happening? Or were all those accidents and Mum’s tummy bug just coincidences and all the spinning wheel could do was send Rowan to sleep?  The story is so skilfully crafted at keeping the evil more felt than seen that we cannot know for sure. Then again, perhaps the Lindsay parents disabled it to render it powerless before bringing it to the Burnings.

Story theme: Sports

Many apologies for the long break in between posts. Life has got hectic and the run-up to Christmas didn’t help!

Jinty and Penny cover 7 February 1981

Stories featuring sports are very prevalent across the range of girls’ comics titles. This clearly taps into both the day-to-day experiences of many or most schoolgirls (playing on their hockey or netball teams) and into aspirational ideals (winning regional or national contests, going on to have a career in their chosen sport, excelling at unusual sports). At one end of this theme, many many stories will have some element of sports included, simply as a part of the protagonist’s daily life; I don’t count these as “sports stories” per se. At the other end of the spectrum, there are stories that are clearly mostly about the pursuit of excellence in the protagonist’s chosen sport, with a sprinkling of some complicating factor to spice the story up, such as peer rivalry. And in between there are stories where the sports element are strongly included but given a reasonably equal weighting with other elements.

To me, therefore, a “sports story” needs to feature the sport in question as the main story element, or with equal weight with the other elements. Often the story positively teaches us various details of that sport in a didactic way, as if part of the expectation is that readers might have their interest sparked by that story and go on to take it up themselves. The protagonist is someone who takes seriously the idea of practice, learning, improvement in their chosen area: they are not just naturally gifted without trying at all, and part of the drive of the story is about their drive to improve or to excel.

It seems obvious, but it also needs to be a sport not an art: as you would expect, there are plenty of ballet stories, and these are excluded from my categorisation. Ballet has its rivalries but it is not a competition with winners and losers, except in artificial ways that the writer might set up (for instance in “The Kat and Mouse Game”, the ‘winner’ gains a contract with an influential ballet impresario).

Finally, it is worth remembering Jinty also had a strong focus on sports in ways that lay outside of the stories themselves: for a period of time there was a specific sports section in the comic, with articles about specific sports, improvement hints and tips (such as how to win at a bully-off in hockey), and interviews with sports women and men. Over and above this, there was a lengthy period where Mario Capaldi drew cover images illustrating a very wide range of sports – netball and rounders, yes, but also archery, bob-sledding, ski-jumping… These are not sports stories, but form part of the context in which the sports-themed stories need to be read.

Core examples

There are so many strong sports stories that it is hard to choose a single one as a core example. A wide range of sports are represented: ones that a schoolgirl might well have direct experience of such as hockey, gymnastics, running; and more unusual ones like judo, water-skiing, and figure skating.

“White Water” (1979-80), drawn by Jim Baikie and included in the sports section that Jinty ran for a year or so from late 1979, is a classic example of a story that includes teachable elements as well as dramatic ones. Bridie is in a sailing accident with her father, who is killed: her grieving mother moves them away from the sea and into an industrial city that depresses Bridie mightily. As well as grieving for her father, she also has a gammy leg that was badly hurt in the accident, so Bridie is pretty fed up; but she then finds out about a local canoe club. She is determined to learn canoeing, especially once she is told about sea or white-water canoeing. Along the way there are rivalries and misunderstandings – her mother hates the idea of Bridie doing anything at all like sailing, and the existing star of the canoe club doesn’t like the challenge represented by this bright (and sometimes tetchy) new member. But the story includes lots of information about canoeing techniques, certainly enough to either help interest a reader in the sport, or even to help someone already learning it.

You can see below the wide range of sports represented in Jinty.

  • Prisoners of Paradise Island (1974) – hockey
  • Hettie High and Mighty (1975) – hockey
  • Ping-Pong Paula (1975) – table tennis
  • Tricia’s Tragedy (1975) – swimming
  • Miss No-Name (1976) – athletics
  • Go On, Hate Me! (1976-77) – athletics, particularly running
  • Battle of the Wills (1977) – gymnastics and ballet.
  • Concrete Surfer (1977) – skateboarding
  • Cursed to be a Coward! (1977) – swimming
  • Curtain of Silence (1977) – cycling
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel (1977) – cross-country running
  • Darling Clementine (1978) – water-skiing
  • Wild Rose (1978) – gymnastics
  • Black Sheep of the Bartons (1979) – judo
  • Prisoner of the Bell (1979) – gymnastics
  • Waves of Fear (1979) – swimming/hockey/orienteering
  • Toni on Trial (1979-80) – athletics
  • White Water (1979-80) – sailing/canoeing (see above for details)
  • Blind Faith (1980) – showjumping
  • Tears of a Clown (1980) – long-distance running
  • Child of the Rain (1980) – tennis
  • Minnow (1980) – swimming
  • Spirit of the Lake (1980) – figure-skating
  • Tearaway Trisha (1980) – cycling
  • The Bow Street Runner (1981) – long-distance running
  • Diving Belle (1981) – high-diving
  • Life’s A Ball for Nadine (1981) – netball (and disco dancing, competitively)

 

Edge cases

As ever, there are clearly-related stories that don’t quite fit in the main theme. Sports are such a pervasive trope in the life of Jinty and other girls’ comics precisely because they were an important part of many girls’ school lives. Of course they also made up a big part of other popular fiction read by girls; it becomes a reinforcing theme that is always available for use.

  • Jackie’s Two Lives (1974-75) – features a mentally disturbed woman grieving over her late daughter and trying to recreate her in another girl, but also features horse riding and show-jumping
  • Wanda Whiter than White (1975-6) – the main story theme is constant trouble with an interfering, tale-telling girl, but also features horse riding and show-jumping
  • Champion In Hiding (1976) – the champion in question is a sheepdog, trained to win at dog trials
  • Rose Among the Thornes (1976) – the main story theme is family rivalry, but there are sections where Rose is involved in running races in her local village
  • Stage Fright! (1977) – includes some realistic elements of sailing
  • Land of No Tears (1977-78) – gymnastics and swimming as part of the futuristic competition to find the most perfect schoolgirl
  • The Changeling (1978) – main character loves horseriding and this is used as part of the abusive family/wishfulfilment story
  • Knight and Day (1978) – really a story about an abusive family but includes a family rivalry based around swimming and competitive diving
  • Paula’s Puppets (1978) – a story of magical objects and group strife, but includes elements of athletics (running)
  • Combing Her Golden Hair (1979) – a strange comb has the protagonist rebelling against her strict grandmother, whose rules include a ban on swimming
  • Freda’s Fortune (1981) – mostly wish-fulfilment gone wrong, with horseriding
  • Holiday Hideaway (1981) – protagonist has gymnastic skills
  • Worlds Apart (1981) – each dream-like parallel world featured a society built around an individual’s interests, and this included a sporty girl’s world

 

Other thoughts

This is probably one of the most pervasive themes you could possibly have in a girls’ comic; no doubt those who are expert in other comics titles will be able to mention many more examples of stories and of unusual sports featured in them. Reviewing the list above, I am surprised not so much by the number of stories as of the range of sports included. Of course the sports that girls played on a regular basis at school – hockey, swimming, athletics, netball, running – would feature in the girls’ comics. Even then, the weighting of specific sports doesn’t seem entirely even, mind you – in Jinty there was only one netball story compared to two or three hockey stories, and a few athletics stories. There is a noticeable absence of lacrosse stories despite the fact they are a staple of girls school prose fiction (I am sure they must be included in some other comics titles). I also don’t recall any rounders stories, which was a very typical summer sport for girls to play.

I am sure that other titles included some aspirational sports such as figure-skating or show-jumping as Jinty did, and the inclusion of some ordinary if less usual sports such as orienteering doesn’t seem unlikely either. However, the fact that skate-boarding, table-tennis, and judo were included as part of the range of stories shows, I think, that Jinty wanted to push the boat out and include elements that were not just a bit unusual, but also modern, fresh, and popular in the wider world: elements that were not marked as ‘élite’ and expensive.

Concrete Surfer (1978)

Sample images

From Jinty 3 June 1978

From Jinty 3 JUne 1978
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From Jinty 3 June 1978
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From Jinty 3 June 1978
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Publication: 28 January 1978 – 10 June 1978

Sequel: a follow-up story was published in the 1978 Jinty Summer Special

Artist: unknown

Writer: Pat Mills

Summary

Jean Everidge migrated with her parents to Australia, as “Ten Pound Poms“. This isn’t a success story, though, much less one set in far-away lands: Jean has returned alone to be looked after by relatives, with her parents making their way back slowly in failure. By contrast her cousin, Carol, is a winner: popular, rich, top of the class at school. And she means to keep it that way too, or so Jean suspects. There is one thing that Jean can shine at: skateboarding, or surfing the concrete waves.

Jean has got the biggest chip ever on her shoulder, and knows it: but it’s fed by the fact that every ‘up’ she encounters has a ‘down’ (though likewise every ‘down’ has an ‘up’). On arrival back in the UK she is turned off by her cousin Carol’s very fan-clubby friends, and goes off by herself to practice her skateboarding by herself. Carol’s friends see her skating and admire her trick (up), and in showing off on the slalom Jean nearly cannons into a woman who turns out to be her new form teacher  (down). The next morning she is left to sleep in while Carol heads off to school (down). Furious, she skates as quick as she can to where she thinks the school is, and gets there just about in time (up) but it turns out that there are two similarly-named schools in the same town and of course she has gone to the wrong one first (down).

On accusation by Jean, Carol swears blind she left a note by the bedside telling her how to get to the school and pleads an early-morning gym class that meant she had to leave while Jean was still sleeping. Jean is mostly unconvinced, and this sets a pattern for their next few encounters: an unexpected triumph here (Jean writes a passionate essay that the formerly-hostile teacher loves, Jean is asked to demonstrate skating for a TV commercial that she will get paid for), a dubious incident there (Carol wants to send Jean upstairs so she can talk to her parents without the outsider girl hearing). An apology or a clarification by Carol makes it seem that everything is open and above-board, but the incidents keep piling up…

Jean starts to teach the other girls how to skate well, from simple tricks to more radical ones (artist and writer had clearly done their research in this area!). A gang of boys jeer and tease, only to be shown up by Jean’s skills; as they leave, one of the boys bumps into an old lady and they all run away. This puts the nascent teaching group into danger as they are forbidden to skate in the street again; but the new shopping area nearby is also going to be home to a skatepark! And in the meantime, the school is going to start a skate-club, which would be a joy to Jean except that – it wasn’t suggested by her, but by Carol, who looks like she is ready to take over the skating that is Jean’s only way to shine. Carol has been practicing in secret and sweet-talked her favourite teacher onside; between them they are making it a very rules-bound club, with no dangerous tricks and no fun.

Jean is ready to walk out and starts to do so, but this time it is the Head of the school who comes to the rescue. She asks to try some of the very tricks that teacher Miss Bainbridge has just been telling them off for doing, and has a good go, like the game old bird she is!

The showdown comes at the new skate park. To inaugurate it there will be a contest: both Jean and Carol are of course going to take part. The gleam in Carol’s eye shows that she thinks she will win, but Jean is determined not to let that happen. Carol clearly is angling to see Jean’s freestyle routine, and Jean is too wary to let that happen, but soon afterwards Jean’s skateboard goes missing from her bag! This is where the reveal happens – Carol commiserates and says how mean it is of someone to have taken it, whereupon Jean says that there is a serial number engraved on the board so the thief will soon be found by the police. Carol stumbles and says ‘Oh there isn’t, because I che-‘. Oops! It was a trap laid by Jean, and Carol went right into it. At this confession time, Carol says smugly and cheerfully that yes, it was her: it’s her right and duty to be top girl and Jean wouldn’t like it anyway because it’s hard work being at the top! And anyway she never really liked Jean anyway.

Open war is declared between them, which suits Jean fine. The smug Carol even gives Jean her board back when she thinks Jean has no chance of winning, but this spurs her on even further and of course she pips her cousin to the final post. Carol’s reaction? To fake an asthma attack – and to subtly blame Jean for her ill-health! Poor Jean is an outcast at school; her and her just-returned parents are pushed away by Carol’s parents and made to fend for themselves. Not that they do badly in fact: Jean is part of the skate park skating team, her dad gets a job in the associated repair shop, and her mum gets a job in the café. All is well, except that Carol is still feigning illness and blaming Jean for it. Jean goes over to see if Carol really is ill after all, and their frank chat (no, of course she’s not ill, she’s going to milk it for a bit longer yet) is overheard by Carol’s mum and dad. Following this revelation, aunt and uncle apologise handsomely (if patronisingly) to Jean, and the world carries on with a smile on Jean’s face.

Further thoughts

I really like the light touch in the writing of the relationship between Jean and Carol. It takes a long time before we are sure whether Carol is smarmy or sincere, scheming or innocent, and Jean herself is not sure for a long time. It’s only now that I realise that we never hear Carol complimenting Jean on her skateboarding in the open way that her friends do; this is a nicely subtle way to show that Carol is not actually best pleased at this interloper cousin of hers! Carol and Jean are the flipside of each other – we never see Carol’s thoughts, only her words, while Jean is often outwardly silent but thinking loud rebellious thoughts that we see as readers. Jean’s words often belie her thoughts: the same is true of Carol, even if we don’t know it for sure for a long time.

I say ‘light touch’: the class distinction element of the story is more heavy-handed. Jean’s unspoken reaction to Carol’s humblebragging about Daddy’s new S registration car, her lovely bedroom, and her position as top girl of the class is pure Pat Mills: ‘You make me sick, Carol!’. I can just imagine him chortling as he wrote that line and others. I like the story for it – for instance, having Jean realise she needs to smile for the TV camera even though she is in pain, because otherwise she doesn’t get paid, is a strong moment.

I don’t know who the artist is, but I would love to know his or her name. This is the same artist who drew “Race For A Fortune” and “Dance Into Darkness“, though to my mind this surpasses either. There are exciting and imaginatively-drawn skateboarding tricks in pretty much every episode, apart from perhaps not the final one which is focused on the emotional reveal (though even then there is a shot of Jean skating). The artist really goes to town in terms of the page composition – see the last two pages featured above as an example, but most episodes include this sort of ‘wow’ factor.

It suits the fact that this is definitely treated as the lead story in Jinty at the time – it is featured on the cover more often than not, and is run as the first story in the issue almost every time. (One exception that bumps it off first place is the starting episode of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.) Exceptionally, there is also a story featuring the same characters in that year’s Summer Special: it is clearly a story specifically written for the special issue, of a sub-story that takes place during the feud. (I assume this too was written by Pat Mills, but would love to have confirmation.) [Edited to add: he thinks he didn’t write it.] I don’t recall this happening with other Jinty tales and take it as further supporting the special status of this story.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that this fits squarely in the category of ‘sports story’, but done in that Jinty way: like “White Water” or “Spirit of the Lake” it deals with an unusual sport outside of the usual school teams such as netball, hockey, swimming. This is a very egalitarian, literally ‘street’ sport though, and about as far as you can get from the snobbish heights of horse-riding!

Waves of Fear (1979)

Sample images

Waves 1.jpg

Waves 2.jpg

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Waves 3.jpg

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Publication: 22 September 1979 – 15 December 1979

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown – but see addendum

Reprint: Girl Picture Library 11 as “Moments of Terror” (abridged); Tina 1983 as “In een golf van angst” [In a Wave of Fear]. Dutch translation.

Summary

Clare Harvey has everything to enjoy at school: success, popularity and friends. She and Rachel Mitchell are the best of friends, and now they are celebrating a special hockey victory. The only one put out is Jean Marlow, a nasty girl who has always hated Clare for some reason.

In the changing room, Clare suddenly takes a strange turn and has to get out in a hurry. Nobody realises it is a warning of what is to come.

Later, Rachel wants to take a swim in the pools in a coastal cave. Clare does not feel like it, but Rachel insists. In the cave pool, Rachel runs into trouble. Clare is about to go in after her when an inexplicable panic of walls closing in and waves of fear hit her. They are so terrifying that they force her out of the cave, leaving Rachel behind and still in danger of drowning.

Outside is Jean, and Clare tells her what is happening, but is too terrified to go back in. Jean rescues Rachel and, having always hated Clare, puts up the word that Clare is a coward who left her friend to drown. Clare, hitherto the most popular girl at school, now finds herself an outcast, with all the girls turning on her and calling her a coward. At home, Clare’s parents are just as condemnatory, and they will get increasingly harsh with her as the story progresses. Clare can’t understand why she panicked and wonders if she really is turning into a coward.

The morning assembly is honouring Jean’s heroism. This has Clare thinking of the cave, and as she does so, the same terror starts again. She feels walls closing in on her and she panics, desperate to get out. As she does so, she brings chaos to the assembly and injures a teacher and a prefect when they try to restrain her.

As the confused and distraught Clare wanders through town, she discovers word has spread about her (through Rachel’s mother, who works in the markets); people stare at her, whisper behind her back, and refuse to serve her. She tries to visit Rachel in hospital in the (mistaken, as it turns out) hope that if Rachel forgives her, the terrors will stop. But the waves of fear and images of that cave overwhelm her again and she has to get out fast. She decides to try writing to Rachel instead.

She heads home and finds her parents angry after the school phoned them about her conduct at assembly. They demand an explanation. Clare says she cannot give one, except  that she now seems to see that cave everywhere and gets terrified and runs away every time she does. They do not seem to be impressed or concerned at this. They also insist on her going to the hospital to apologise to Rachel, but Clare is too terrified after what happened there already. They don’t listen when she tries to explain this and go to the hospital themselves, saying they don’t have a daughter anymore.

Next, Clare heads back to the scene of the disaster and finds that even the waves seem to be calling her a coward. She forces her way into the cave to try to understand her panic, but it just starts up again. However, her attempt to get out is blocked by Jean and other girls. Egged on by Jean, they throw Clare into the pool in an act of bullying. Then the girls get a shock when Clare does not come up, and they discover there is a powerful current below. It looks like Clare is dead because of their bullying. Jean is all for covering up, but the others say she is the coward now and phone the police with the truth.

However, the current merely pulls Clare through into another cave. Once she emerges, the panic grips her again. It takes some fierce scrambling under the rocks for her to get out. As the terror-stricken Clare runs off, she is spotted by a woman who is concerned by the state of mind she is in. She is Priscilla Heath, secretary of the orienteering club. She takes an interest in Clare for the club.

At home the parents find Clare not dead as they all supposed. When the headmistress demands to know why Clare did not report her survival, the parents accuse her of doing it on purpose to spite the girls. They refuse to listen to Clare’s pleas that she had been just too frightened to think of it and the girls should not have thrown her in the pool anyway. Nor do they listen to her pleas not to go back to the school because of the bullying and they drag her back there. In the head’s office the bullies get a fierce dressing down from the headmistress and this has them turning on Jean. But this has Jean turning extra nasty and swearing revenge on Clare, who is still an outcast and a target of bullying. When Jean sees Clare getting the same panic when she gets stuck in the shower cubicle and raving about the cave, she immediately sees how she can get her revenge.

Meanwhile, Clare gets heavy detention for her conduct in assembly and is on a last chance basis before expulsion. But on a brighter note, she joins the orienteering club. Miss Heath knows about the unfortunate business but unlike the others she does not condemn Clare; instead she says there must have been a reason why she panicked. Clare gets the satisfaction of beating Jean in a race at the orienteering club, which nobody has ever done before. But of course this has Jean turning even nastier towards Clare.

Rachel is discharged from hospital and her parents turn up at school demanding Clare be expelled, just because they don’t want Rachel attending the same school as Clare. Outside the head’s office, Clare gives them her letter for Rachel, but unknown to Clare, Mrs Mitchell rips it up. Mrs Mitchell is furious when the headmistress refuses to expel Clare and says she will keep Rachel at home. When the girls hear of this, Jean uses what she saw in the shower cubicle to hatch a plan to get Clare expelled. Jean locks Clare in the classroom where she is doing detention and turns off the lights to simulate the cave. As Jean planned, this sets Clare off into the panic and, in her desperation to get out, she wrecks the classroom. The headmistress expels Clare. Jean then heads off to tell the Mitchells of Clare’s expulsion. Mrs Mitchell is delighted and will be sending Rachel back to school. Rachel wants more understanding of the whole business and wishes Clare had tried to contact her. She does not know Clare had tried twice and failed.

As Clare runs off, Miss Heath finds her in a dreadful state and Clare explains what happened. And she says she can’t come to the club because of Jean. Miss Heath insists that she does and she will deal with Jean. She tells Clare she needs help. But at home, Clare’s parents are furious about the expulsion. They tell Miss Heath to go away and ban Clare from the club, despite Clare’s protests that it is the only good thing she has right now. Dad then locks Clare in her room. This sets off another panic and Clare escapes through the window.

Now Clare is on the run and the police are after her, and her parents are under the impression they have an out-of-control daughter. She makes her way to the orienteering club, where Jean destroys her last joy by wrecking the orienteering club and putting the blame on her. Clare protests her innocence to Miss Heath, who is not sure what to make of Clare’s claims that it was Jean. But she begins to think Clare is sick. However, Clare has run off again. She heads back to the scene of the near-tragedy, where men have now started dynamiting. We now get hints that Clare is contemplating suicide, but at that point the men scare her into running again.

Meanwhile, Rachel returns to school. She learns of Clare’s failed bid to write to her, and then how Jean got Clare expelled. She calls Jean a monster and rushes off to tell Clare’s parents. Miss Heath is also there, and upon hearing Rachel’s story she now believes Jean wrecked the club. She also realises what the problem is: Clare has developed extreme claustrophobia (the fear of closed spaces). The guilt-stricken parents realise that they, along with nearly everyone else, got blinded by the thought that Clare was a coward who kept lashing out when in fact she was mentally ill. They notify the police and the school.

The sight of a police car forces Clare back into the cave. Rachel comes in and says to Clare that she forgives her and wants them to be friends again. But then the entrance to the cave collapses because of the dynamiting. Rachel pushes Clare outside but becomes trapped inside. Clare uses the other entrance she discovered from the bullying incident in the cave to rescue Rachel, braving her claustrophobia, the current and a collapsing cavern to do so. Rachel then tells Clare what is wrong with her. Clare is reconciled with her apologetic parents.

Clare is reinstated at school and welcomed as a heroine by remorse-stricken classmates. Jean is furious (but there is no mention of her being punished in any way). The rescue of Rachel is regarded as the first step to recovery. It is a long, hard struggle before Clare is well again, but she makes it. And she also makes county orienteering champion.

Thoughts

Phobias have a history of making plot material in girls’ strips. Lara the Loner (Tammy), A Dog’s Life for Debbie (Tracy) Cursed to be a Coward! (Jinty) and Slave of the Trapeze (Sandie) are some  examples. The first deals with ochlophobia (fear of crowds), the second cynophobia (fear of dogs), the third hydrophobia (fear of water) and the fourth acrophobia (fear of heights). Equinophobia (fear of horses) is one phobia that crops up frequently as well, with stories of girls who lose their nerve after riding accidents. Hettie Horse-Hater and Rona Rides Again (Tammy) are among them.

But at least in these stories the heroines know what their fears are. This is not the case with Clare Harvey, who has no idea what these waves of fear are that keep gripping her, and nobody seems to understand what explanations she can manage to give – that she just gets seems to get scared and sees that cave everywhere. But we can see that whatever it is that is overwhelming Clare, it is not cowardice or bad conduct. There can be no explanation for those swirls and flashes around Clare’s head and the inexplicable panic attacks but insanity of some sort. But neither Clare nor the reader knows or understands what it is (except maybe the readers who know about claustrophobia), which makes it all the more terrifying. And neither the parents nor school staff are picking up the clues; they are all being too judgemental and harsh because they are all acting on the assumption that Clare is a coward who is becoming badly behaved and violent. But nobody tries to find out why Clare is acting this way, although the headmistress is at a loss to explain why a model pupil with a good school record is suddenly acting so out of character. We wince at the increasing harshness of the parents towards Clare. They even go as far as to show more sympathy to the bullies than to Clare. They call them “poor girls” when it was their fault for bullying Clare and nearly killed her, and also say they cannot even blame all the girls at school for hating Clare. They don’t even consider taking her out of the school. But really, bullying is bullying. The parents’ attitude is made all the worse that these are supposed to be loving parents (unlike some parents we have met in other serials). Neither the parents nor the school authorities take any action on the bullying, though they know about it (unlike the parents and school staff in “Tears of a Clown“) and the father even foresaw it. The only adult to act with any sense is Miss Heath, who, unlike the others, has not reacted judgementally. It just goes to show that taking a step back and trying to look at things in perspective instead of reacting emotionally can make all the difference.

Such things happen so often in girls’ comics. All too often you see adults handling a girl badly in a serial because they act out of ignorance, stupidity, lack of empathy, or bad reactions. Often, though not always, it takes a wiser person like Miss Heath to help put things right. You have to wonder if the writers are trying to make a statement about what NOT to do and what you SHOULD do. “White Horse of Guardian Hill” and “Tears of a Clown” are two Jinty examples. Non-Jinty examples include “Hard Times for Helen” (Judy), “Rona Rides Again” (Tammy), “‘I’ll Never Forgive You!'” (Bunty), and “The Courage of Crippled Clara” (Bunty).

Seldom have girls’ comics explored the issue of mental illness, but this one does. And it is a complete reversal of the usual thing in girls’ comics, where a girl is labelled ‘ill’ when she is in fact under the influence of something or telling the truth about something but nobody will listen to her, such as in “Village of Fame“. But in this case, being ill is the correct assumption, yet nobody except Miss Heath can see it for what it is because their perceptions have been warped by the wrong assumptions. The issue of mental illness is handled in a sensitive, well-researched and written manner that delivers a disturbing warning on the damage authorities can do when they act on assumptions, emotion and quick judgements instead of trying to handle things in an investigative, non-judgemental manner.

This is one Jinty story that will linger with you (me anyway) long after reading it because of the issues it explores are issues that are still all-too-relevant, because even today people can make the same mistakes and errors of judgement as the parents and school staff do in this story.

This was not the first Jinty story to have a girl being wrongly branded and bullied as a coward because of a phobia. In 1977, Jinty ran “Cursed to be a Coward!”, where Marnie Miles, a brilliant swimmer, develops intense hydrophobia because a fortune teller frightened her with a prophecy that she will end up in blue water. Marnie thinks this means she will drown. And the fortune teller is out to oblige, by making several attempts to drown Marnie. But Marnie’s classmates don’t understand this and start calling her a coward on top of her other problems. Is it possible that Cursed to be a Coward and Waves of Fear had the same writer, or the former influenced the latter? There are similarities between the stories; two girls are wrongly branded cowards and become targets of bullying because of phobias, and the incidents that caused the phobias are both related to swimming. There is even an incident in the opening episode of Marnie’s story where she fails a drowning person because her phobia is too strong for her to go to the rescue. A foreshadowing of what happens in the cave?

(Update: Alison Christie has confirmed she wrote “Cursed to be a Coward” but not “Waves of Fear”. So it was not the same writer there.)

Waves of Fear also has similarities with Jinty‘s 1980 story “Tears of a Clown“. Both stories deal with bullying situations where the school and parents keep failing the girl because they are all making assumptions that she is the one at fault with bad behaviour instead of looking into the situation in an investigative manner and find out what is wrong. And in both stories, the bullies turn on the ringleader at one point, although she protests (with some justification) that they are to blame as well. Both stories climax with the heroine being pushed too far and running away. And running is a major plot point in both stories. So it is possible it was the same writer. It certainly was the same artist – Phil Gascoine drew both stories. Perhaps the reception to “Waves of Fear” was inspiration for the similarly-themed “Tears of a Clown”. But there is a difference in the way the ringleaders react when the other girls turn against them; the one in “Waves of Fear” becomes even more spiteful while the one in “Tears of a Clown” repents and eventually redeems herself.

Incidentally, “Waves of Fear” was reprinted in Girl Picture Library 11 as “Moments of Terror”. Plenty of old serials from Tammy and Jinty made their way into the Girl Picture Libraries, most of them under revised (and not very good) titles. As the story had to fit into a 64-page booklet, some material had to be deleted. When comparing the original with the reprint, one finds that the Miss Heath segments have been cut out entirely. This leaves only the revelation of how Jean got Clare expelled as the cue that tips the parents as to what is wrong with Clare. On the other hand, the cuts  also removed some of the harsh treatment Clare receives from her parents and all the ostracism from the townsfolk. Some of the bullying (such as Clare finding an egg in her desk and Jean being sent off for fouling), Jean’s vandalism at the orienteering club, and one of the claustrophobia attacks have also been removed.

Addendum Recently I have been struck by parallels with another story, a Button Box story that appeared on 27 August 1983. The story is an American Civil War story about Johnnie Dalton, who is dishonourably discharged from the Army for cowardice when he panics under fire. Back home, Johnnie is treated extremely harshly. He is branded a coward and an outcast, and even his own father turns against him, to the point of forcing him to wear buttons that read “COWARD”. Eventually Johnnie regains their respect when he saves a child’s life, but loses his own in the process. It may be coincidence, but the harshness of the community and Dalton Snr towards Johnnie seems to have echoes of the harsh treatment Clare receives, even from her own parents, because they have both been branded cowards. And credits say the Button Box story was written by Ian Mennell. Is it possible that Ian Mennell wrote “Waves of Fear”?

Or could it be the same person who wrote another Gascoine story for Jinty, “The Green People”, as Jean has the same surname as the heroine in this story?