Tag Archives: Stefa’s Heart of Stone

Jinty 13 May 1978

jinty-cover-13-may-1978

  • Concrete Surfer (writer Pat Mills, artist unknown)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)
  • Wednesday’s Child – Gypsy Rose story (artist Hugo D’Adderio)
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • The Birds – final episode (artist Keith Robson, writer Len Wenn)
  • The Cinderella Story of Sneh Gupta– Feature
  • Shadow on the Fen – final episode (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Rinty ‘n’ Jinty
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Make a Sunflower Shoulder Bag – Feature

 

Gypsy Rose is back this week, but she’s clearly being used as a filler. Her run in Jinty was nowhere as regular or as solid as the Storyteller’s in June/ Tammy. Her story features a kid brother who strikes up an unusual friendship with what turns out to be the ghost of another boy who was starved to death by his aunt.

Next week “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” starts, and its announcement is unusual. It’s on the letters page, in response to one reader who wrote in to say that “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” was her all-time favourite Jinty story (perhaps she was one of the many readers in Pam’s Poll who voted for its reprint). The editor informs the reader that “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is penned by the same author as Stefa (now that’s quite a lead-in) and “it’s making us all have a lovely cry at the office!”

Jinty also announces that “Clancy on Trial” starts next week as well. So this week we see the final episodes of “The Birds” and “Shadow on the Fen”. The ending of “The Birds” is grim, with the parents plummeting to their deaths in the car because of those crazy birds and that chemical factory that has driven them crazy. In “Shadow on the Fen”, the Witchfinder is reduced to just bones and then dust after being struck by… well, it’s not quite clear if it is the power of the holy cross or the falling wishing tree that lands on top of him. But it is quite reminiscent of how a vampire is destroyed.

Jean almost walks out on the skateboarding club but changes her mind. And she’s beginning to suss Carol out; she can’t stand being on the losing side and being second best. She always has to be the winner and centre of attention. So Jean’s quite pleased there’s going to be a skateboarding competition where she can settle things with Carol once and for all.

Katrina Vale, “The Slave of the Swan”, overhears the story of how the Swan got crippled: the story goes that a friend got jealous of her final triumph in “The Swan” role and injured her deliberately. We realise they can only mean Katrina’s mother. But from our brief glimpse of Mrs Vale as a sympathetic character way back in part one, can we really believe she would do such a thing? Meanwhile, the police are finally on the trail of the missing Katrina. Will they be able to rescue her from the Swan?

Sue calls upon Henrietta’s help to cook a meal for her friends, but finds she would have been better off doing it herself.

The Zodiac Prince sets out to help a girl who’s got circus in her blood, but her snooty aunt is keeping her away from it.

Being a doctor’s daughter pays off dividends for Cathy – she gets to see her favourite pop star in person when he needs a doctor. Cathy also finds a way to cheer up sourpuss Tom while he’s in hospital, though it flouts hospital rules.

 

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Jinty and Penny 25 April 1981

Jinty cover 25 April 1981.jpeg

  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Diving Belle (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • A Lot to Sing About – text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • The Missing Link – Gypsy Rose story (artist Juan Garcia Quiros)
  • Just the Job – Feature
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Worlds Apart – first episode (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Fancy Free! – (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Easter Parade – Feature
  • Horses in History – feature
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)

This is Jinty’s Easter issue for 1981. Tansy and Gaye both have stories where they enter Easter parades. And Jinty has a feature on how to make things for Easter.

The letter column prints one letter that yields interesting information on Pam’s Poll. The reader and her sister want Jinty to reprint “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”. The editor replied that Stefa was one of their most popular stories and in Pam’s Poll lots of readers voted for it to be repeated. Yet the editor still asks if other readers would like to see it reprinted and please write in if they do. Now why does the editor need to ask this? Surely there has been demand enough already.

In this issue is the first episode of the serial that was Jinty’s jewel in the crown for 1981: “Worlds Apart”. Greed, sports mania, vanity, delinquency, intellectualism and fearfulness are exemplified in six girls who get knocked out by gas from a tanker that crashes into their school. When they wake up they are in hospital, but there is something odd about it – everyone in sight is grotesquely fat, and by their standards the girls are emaciated. The hospital treatment they are about to get is designed to forcibly turn them into fatties!

This week’s text story is a bit improbable. Violet is a dreadful singer (but tell her that!). When she starts singing in the street, people give old stuff just to get rid of her. It’s put to good use for a jumble sale – but come on, would people really give old stuff to get rid of horrible singing? Throw it, yes – but give it?

Pam reveals her two big dislikes about Pond Hill: school sago pud and Jill Cook. Now she dislikes Jill more than ever as Jill has become a bad influence for her boyfriend Goofy Boyle.

In “Fancy Free!”, Fancy’s in a huff when Ben tries to press his own rules on her. It culminates in a row at home, where Mum says she had the same trouble with Fancy’s mysteriously absent father.

Angela’s Angels are having a hard time learning the ins and outs of nursing. And Sister Angela looks a nervous wreck herself after a day of instructing them. Student Nurse Helen is put on night duty – but falls asleep on the job and now she’s in trouble!

This week’s Gypsy Rose story is another recycled Strange Story. Stacy Fletcher’s hobby in making jewellery leads to a strange time travel story where she drops a piece of jewellery in the past after unwittingly foiling a crime. This gives rise to a legend that a ghost left it.

In “Diving Belle” Betty’s coming up with all sorts of inventive ways to get Belle diving again. This week it it’s breaking into school to use the pool. When the caretaker finds them, it’s an improvised diving board on the cliffs. And Betty says time is pressing as there is only a day or two left. Day or two left before what?

 

Story theme: Redemption narratives

I recently wrote summary posts about two stories that I called ‘redemption narratives’: “The Girl Who Never Was” and “She Shall Have Music“. That’s a kind of story theme that we can all recognize as being fairly common in girls comics generally: in Jinty there are a number of other examples.  But how does this sort of story work?

Take those two stories as an initial guide: the protagonist is a difficult or disagreeable, probably dislikeable, girl who has some personal failing or issue that drives the story. It’s because of that failing that the story progresses; it may not have been due to something that was her fault that the story started off in the first place, but it is because of her moral or social problem that it continues and develops the way it does. Tina Williams lands in the alternate universe where magic works because of her conceited and annoying ways; Lisa Carstairs’s father doesn’t lose his money because of her, but if she wasn’t so obsessed with continuing her piano playing exactly as before, then she wouldn’t find herself in the same difficulties. It’s not just what happens to the protagonist (or how she is challenged in the story) but how she reacts to it. She has to be ‘the architect of her own misfortunes’, as Mistyfan puts it in her post about another redemption story, “Black Sheep of the Bartons“.

Does the story have to feature some sort of disagreeableness, some sort of outright nastiness or callousness on the part of the protagonist? No: I’d say that you could certainly include ‘guilt’ stories such as “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary”. The protagonist here  suffers huge pangs of guilt and despair because of the loss of a loved one – a best friend or a sister in the case of these two stories, but in other cases it can be a parent – a very natural feeling, but the failing here is that she lets those emotions overwhelm her and distort her common sense. The guilty feelings of the protagonist drive the story forward, but this guilt is portrayed throughout as excessive, as an indulgence that the main character should resist. It’s the lengths that their grief drives them to that causes their difficulties in their separate stories.

Also, it’s not just about having an objectionable main character who is nicer by the end of the story. “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” are not what I would call redemption narratives, despite having protagonists who start off pretty disagreeable and end up much improved. (Likewise “Battle of the Wills” is not, nor I think “Pandora’s Box”, but sports story “Black Sheep of the Bartons” is one I would class as such: Bev Barton isn’t horrible so much as thoughtless and reckless, but her carelessness nearly brings tragedy to her family.) Why don’t “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” count? Because when the girl main characters are swept into their initial circumstances – enslaved by a dictatorial coach, forced into third-class citizenship in a future world – their thoughts are not primarily about how they can continue to maintain their status quo ante but about how they can defeat their antagonist. Yvonne and Cassy aren’t just trying to get back to where they were at the beginning: their story is about a positive rebellion, not a futile rejection of the truth that the outside world is telling them. They end up much nicer than they started out being, but that’s not the whole reason for having the story in the first place – it’s because they have faced extraordinary circumstances which would change anyone by making them realise that some things are bigger than individual concerns.

Does the character who ends up being redeemed have to be the protagonist, or could they be the antagonist or villain? Overall I would say it has to be the protagonist, as the main character that you are supposed to sympathise with and want things to turn out well for, but maybe one counter-example is “Wanda Whiter Than White“. Wanda is not the main character of the story and she makes Susie Foster’s life a misery with her sanctimonious ways. At the end, it is revealed, as Mistyfan explains in her story post, that ‘Wanda’s own past is not as white as she would have us believe. In fact, she is on probation after being caught stealing.’ Rather than this reveal being painted as purely a victory for the main character, it ends up with Wanda being ‘truly redeemed when she tells a white lie to help Susie in return for Susie saving her life’. The reader wasn’t rooting for Wanda’s redemption all along, but it is a satisfying ending nevertheless.

What choices could the writer make that would move the story out of the category of being a redemption narrative? Let’s take Lisa Carstairs’ story as an example. As with the OuBaPo exercises, thinking about how a story could work differently will give us a view on how the stories actually do work.

  • Imagine Lisa’s parents still losing everything at the beginning of the story, and Lisa still losing her piano. The story could then have taken a different turn: rather than being about Lisa’s misguided piano obsession and selfishness, it could have been another kind of story entirely, for instance a mystery story where Lisa finds out that her father’s business partner was a crook who needs to be brought to justice. Perhaps Lisa’s piano playing could help her to find the clues she needs, and her obsession with it could be turned to a good cause in that way, so that she needs no redemption.
  • Or let’s say the story stays as being about Lisa’s obsession with playing piano but it’s portrayed as something not to be frowned on, rather as something acceptable or allowable. How would a story work where she can continue to be focused on playing piano to the exclusion of everything else, including her family? Perhaps her family would have to be a nasty, uncaring one, to make her disinterest acceptable.
  • Or perhaps the story could proceed more or less as it does, but with an unhappy ending where Lisa gets her comeuppance. This would make her into a more of an anti-heroine than normal but would not be unheard of.

Here are the examples I would identify as fitting most neatly into the category of ‘redemption narrative’ (core examples) and as being closely related to this category without necessarily definitely being classed as such (edge cases).

Core examples

  • “Dance Into Darkness” – Della just wants to live her life down at the disco with no regard for other people, but when her wish is granted she eventually discovers there is indeed more to life than her own self-interest.
  • There are a number of stories that are driven by a bereavement: the main character makes poor decisions as a result of her strong emotions of grief and anger because she is afraid of being hurt again. “The Ghost Dancer” is one of these, as is “Nothing to Sing About”, but of course “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary” are the strongest examples.
  • “The Girl Who Never Was” – discussed above
  • “She Shall Have Music” – discussed above
  • I said above that I thought that it needs to be the protagonist who is redeemed, not one of the other characters. In “Go On, Hate Me!” the antagonist is driven by grief into bullying the protagonist but in the end all is cleared and the antagonist is redeemed, so I would be tempted to class this alongside “Wanda Whiter Than White” as a clear example of this kind.
  • Jackie’s Two Lives” is more about the perils of wish-fulfilment, but Jackie’s snobbishness and the fact she is ashamed of her own family is definitely a character flaw that drives the story and she is cured of it at the end.
  • “Left-Out Linda” develops the redemption pretty well by recognizing that you can’t usually turn around your life by yourself: you have to have some help.
  • “Paula’s Puppets”: Paula has to learn to forgive her enemies rather than attacking them via the magical help she has been given.
  • “Tearaway Trisha”: Trisha’s recklessness has caused a serious accident; she tries to make amends but has to change her own character in order to do so.
  • “Valley of Shining Mist” has a clearly didactic message about the improving aspect of high culture: by playing the violin, Debbie will transcend the impact of her abusive family, who are low-class in their lack of culture and their morality.
  • In “Who’s That In My Mirror?” the protagonist’s selfish nature is made very literally visible and becomes more and more so until finally she is driven to renouncing it.
  • Worlds Apart” is the ultimate morality tale – one by one, six girls are shown the worst outcomes possible for each of their specific character flaws, and they have a chance to repent. The psychological development is minimal but the impact of the story was very dramatic.

Edge cases

  • “Fancy Free “- I know the main character is so independent that this may well be characterised as a fault, but I don’t really quite remember enough about the story to say whether it is the main thing that drives the whole plot.
  • The Four Footed Friends” – arguably another case where someone other than the protagonist ends up being redeemed, though it all feels a little sudden. “Hettie High-and-Mighty” likewise features a fairly sudden change of heart on the part of an antagonist who has mostly been about making  the protagonist’s life a misery until that point. I don’t think “The Kat And Mouse Game” quite counts, either: Kat may perhaps have realised the error of her ways at the end of the story, but will her change of heart actually stick?
  • I haven’t really made my mind up about “Gwen’s Stolen Glory” – it feels like it is mostly a story about deception, though clearly once Gwen owns up to the big lie this is a kind of redemption of her former deception.
  • In “Kerry In The Clouds”, Kerry is a day-dreamer imposed upon by a woman motivated by her own unfriendly concerns. Kerry’s day-dreaming nature is cured by the end of the story, but I don’t feel the main driver of the narrative was to improve her character.
  • The main character in “Mark of the Witch!” is hot-tempered and angry at all around her, and she comes to seek a more peaceful set of emotions by the end of the story. However, so much of her story is about the persecution and abuse that her neighbours visit on her that I don’t see her story being primarily about her renouncing her hot-headed ways.
  • I’m not sure about “Pandora’s Box” and whether it counts or not. Pandora’s witchy aunt does chide her at the beginning about being too cock-sure about her talents and says that she will need to use magic sooner or later, and this is all true: but I’m not sure what sort of morality story that adds up to – not a conventional one at any rate! The main nod in this story to more conventional morality is the fact that Pandora goes from disinterest in the pet she is stuck with (her black cat familiar, Scruffy) to loving him dearly and giving up her heart’s desire in order to save his life.

One last question struck me when thinking about this. What sort of things might the protagonist have done that means she needs to go through this process of redemption in the first place? Clearly it must be something negative: the story has a moral imperative of some sort, warning readers against some kinds of behaviour. But at the same time, some things would be beyond the pale of course, and would mean that any character doing that would be irredeemable. (There might therefore be some useful comparisons made with story villains: what does their villainy consist of?) If a character killed or seriously hurt someone on purpose then that would be beyond the pale: there are a number of villains who have gone this far, sometimes with a laugh on their cruel lips, but it would be hard to imagine that a girl protagonist could do this and still recover the moral high ground at the end of the story.

In the stories above it looks like the sort of wrong-doing that needs castigating but is still redeemable is often about emotional warmth and consideration for others – it’s not about ambition (by itself) or cleverness (by itself) for instance. An arrogant protagonist can still be the heroine, but if she is cold, selfish, or inconsiderate then that’s a good signal that this is a character marked down for improvement – by whatever means necessary. Preferably it will be a Shakespearean denouement, whereby her own moral failing brings about such a huge disaster that she has no option but to change her ways! And being too afraid to risk emotional commitment comes in for a bit of a kicking too, via the guilt / grief stories. The obvious next question: is this moral imperative specific to British girls comics? Do UK boys comics have redemption narratives too? Or those in other countries? My pal Lee Brimmicombe-Wood reckons that Japan’s flourishing manga industry has many stories about mavericks who insist on going their own ways – but in that industry’s story constraints, the mavericks are always right and never forced to realise that actually, there was a reason why everyone was telling them they were going about things the wrong way…

Princess (series 2) #4, 15 October 1983

Princess cover 1

  • Ring of Feathers (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Mr Evans the Talking Rabbit (photo story)
  • Their Darling Daughter (artist Bert Hill)
  • Miranda’s Magic Dragon (artist Carlos Freixas)
  • Stairway to the Stars (photo story)
  • The Incredible Shrinking Girl! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • The Princess Diana Story – Feature
  • Sadie-in-Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • Princess Diana Pin-up – Feature

Here we continue the theme of more context around Jinty’s family tree at IPC. As I do not have #1, I present #4, which is the earliest issue in my collection, to represent Princess.

Princess (not to be confused with the 1960s Princess, later called Princess Tina) ran from 24 September 1983 to 31 March 1984, and then it merged into Tammy on 7 April 1984. It was riding on the popularity of Princess Diana, and included pinups of Diana and the story of Diana’s life. It lasted for 28 issues and, unusually for IPC girls’ titles, numbered its issues. Up until #18 it had a lot of colour pages and two photo stories, one in black-and-white and the other in colour. But it had fewer pages than Tammy, which was printed on cheaper newsprint than Princess. From #19 Princess dropped the photo stories and colour pages and switched to the same newsprint, format and number of pages as Tammy. This is similar to the pattern that Penny followed three years earlier before it merged into Jinty.

Princess also reprinted several serials from Tammy and Jinty: “Horse from the Sea”, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” (completed in the merge with Tammy), “Rowena of the Doves” and “The Dream House”. These changes and reprints are signs that Princess was not doing well. Ironically, the reprints in Princess enabled some original Jinty artwork to survive the cavalier manner in which IPC handled original artwork.

Princess stories were not particularly memorable or well remembered, and some only lasted a few episodes. One, “The Incredible Shrinking Girl!”, looks like it is on its penultimate episode, and it is only #4.

Other Princess stories were a bit unconventional, such as the photo story “Mr Evans the Talking Rabbit”. Mr Evans has turned himself into a rabbit after messing around with a magic book. Unfortunately the change has not improved his disagreeable character and he is still the “miserable old so-and-so” that his wife does not miss one bit. Nonetheless, Jenny Andrews continues to help him find the book and change back – trouble is, the book has been sold and they need to track it down. This is the colour photo story, which makes it stand out more.

The black-and-white photo story, “Stairway to the Stars”, is a bit of a mix between a soap opera and a serial at a stage school. Right now, the school is now being threatened with closure, just because one mother (who unfortunately has influence with the council) thinks it is not doing anything for her daughter and would rather close the school down than have people think her daughter is a failure. She does not realise her daughter was doing badly on purpose because she wanted to be taken away.

“Their Darling Daughter” comes from the long line of stories where a spiteful schemer tries to get rid of a foster girl/cousin. In this case it is a housekeeper in an aristocratic household, who idolises the parents’ late daughter and does not want foster-girl Sylvie taking her place. Unusually for this type of serial the victim has an ally – her dog!

“Ring of Feathers” is the abusive guardian story, except that heroine Cheryl Gibson does not fully realise how cruel her Uncle John is. Her mother does, though – Uncle John makes her work like a slave for hardly any money and now he has started hitting her. Meanwhile, Cheryl is given a ring that gives her strange powers with birds. We eagerly wait to see how that is going to work against nasty Uncle John.

In “Miranda’s Magic Dragon”, Merlin’s granddaughter Miranda has travelled in time to 1983 to escape the evil sorcerer Mordac. There she makes friends, and also an enemy out of greedy Paula, who has stolen her magic pendant. This could get Paula into an awful lot of trouble with Mordac, who is after it too. But where’s the dragon? It’s the emblem on the magic pendant.

“Sadie-in-Waiting” is the resident cartoon strip and would carry on in the merger, replacing Tammy’s Joe Collins strip “The Crayzees”. As with Molly Mills, it is a maid vs. a devious butler, but played for weekly laughs.

 

Misery Loves Company, or, the sadomasochism of readers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tammy and Princess merger: 7 April 1984

Tammy and Princess cover

  • Bella – new story (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Rusty Remember Me – from Princess (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Day and Knight – from Princess (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Diana – A Queen’s Dream – complete story (artist Hugo D’Adderio, writer Maureen Spurgeon) Adapted from Maureen Spurgeon’s “For Love of Elizabeth” in her book “Romantic Stories of Young Love”
  • Cassie’s Coach (writer Alison Christie, artist Tony Coleman)
  • What Kind of Fool Are You? – Quiz (writer Maureen Spurgeon)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone – from Princess (writer Alison Christie, artist Phil Townsend)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)

Princess (series II), no connection to Princess/Princess Tina, was the last comic to merge with Tammy. It had been another short-lived title, lasting 28 issues. In terms of Jinty history, Princess is significant for reprinting some serials from her and Tammy. One, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, carries over into the merger here. It is known from Jinty’s letter page in 1981 that there had been a huge demand in the 1980 Pam’s Poll to reprint the story. But the Editor was still asking readers if they wanted Stefa to be repeated – as if he was hesitating to do it for some reason.

Other stories carrying on from Princess are “Day and Knight” and “Rusty Remember Me”. After some flashbacks filling Tammy readers in on how Dad’s remarriage has brought bully Carrie Knight into Sharon Day’s home, the story moves to its climax with Sharon being driven out of her own home because of the bully. There are also quick flashbacks to fill new readers in on “Rusty Remember Me” as well. But the story looks like it has more to go. Mum now knows the children are hiding a fox, but her fur allergy is complicating things. Dad left home to find work, but when the children see him, he is in a bad way. “Cassie’s Coach” is the only Tammy story to continue in the merger. It does so without any flashbacks for new readers’ benefit, and it’s taken a nasty turn – Cassie has suddenly collapsed from overwork.

The merger does away with “The Crayzees”. Instead, Tammy is taking over Princess’s Joe Collins cartoon, “Sadie in Waiting”. In so doing, it brings us Grovel, the first villainous butler since Pickering from “Molly Mills”, to Tammy. But while Pickering was a cruel, bullying slave driver, Grovel is more of a nuisance, in the way he sucks up to his employer, Princess Bee. Most often this leaves Princess Bee annoyed and Grovel in trouble. But like Pickering, Grovel is capable of scheming to get his own way.

Bella and Pam start afresh in the merger. There is a brief introduction to Bella and her back story that enables new readers to get to grips with her immediately, before her new story starts in earnest. Bella the wanderer decides it’s time to make another move, but it doesn’t look like a good one. Bella’s new location has no gymnastics club, so Bella is trying her hand at sports acrobatics instead. The trouble is, the coach is not very pleasant to her. And she’s not welcome in the home she is boarding in – someone has wrecked her room and left a message telling her to get out!

The Pam story is an introductory one, in which Pam introduces new readers to her school and friends through back issues of “The Pond Hill Printout”. This is a clever way to familiarise the new readers with Pam. Pam’s proper story starts next week.

The story “Diana – A Queen’s Dream” is a curious one. It is adapted from “For Love of Elizabeth” in Maureen Spurgeon’s book “Romantic Stories of Young Love”. In the story, Queen Elizabeth I takes a hand in a forbidden romance in the Spencer family. At the end, she dreams of a Lady Diana Spencer – who is realised as Princess Diana in the 20th century.

 

Last Tammy Ever Published: 23 June 1984

Tammy cover 23 June 1984

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • No Use to Anyone! (Eduardo Feito)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • The Forbidden Garden (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Secret Sisters – first episode (artist Maria Dembilio)
  • A Walk in the Country – feature
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Jemima and the Arabian – a Pony Tale (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Top Girls! – Feature (Mari L’Anson)
  • I’m Her – She’s Me! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Cora Can’t Lose (artist Juliana Buch)

This is the last issue of Tammy ever published – for the wrong reason in that Tammy simply disappeared after this, leaving all the stories inside unfinished. In particular, former readers are still frustrated to be left dangling on the penultimate episode of “Cora Can’t Lose”. The final episode was set for the next issue, but there never was a next issue. Only a few months later did Tammy reappear, but in logo only, which appeared on a few issues of Girl.

What happened? From what another Tammy enthusiast, Marionette, has pieced together from former IPC, Tammy was due for cancellation anyway, but not until August. Presumably, Tammy was then to merge with Girl. Then, after this issue was published, there was a strike that took many weeks to settle. By the time it was, the Tammy editors decided not to pick up where they left off, because it would have taken even longer to finish the stories. So everything here was dropped and left unfinished.

Tammy was not the only title to disappear because of the strike. The same went for “Scream!”, which was only on its 15th issue when the disaster struck. (Despite this, “Scream!” has become a cult favourite and its issues can command high prices.) But unlike Tammy, “Scream!” was allowed to continue in Eagle and finish things off. Presumably Girl did not have the room to complete Tammy’s stories, because she was nearly all a photo-story comic. But IPC still had a duty to the Tammy fans to let them know how the stories ended, which they did not meet. Unlike “Scream!”, there is no evidence of the unpublished material appearing in Tammy’s holiday specials. Tammy’s remaining annuals did not take the opportunity to publish any of the material either, except perhaps the Button Box stories; instead, they went for reprints. Another possibility could have been a special final issue that included the last episode of Cora and potted summaries for the other stories, but that wasn’t done either.

It is also telling that Tammy has dropped the Princess logo all of a sudden. Princess had only merged with Tammy in April, so dropping the logo of a merging comic in such a short space of time is disturbing. It hints at the direction Tammy was going with her sales and what was in store for her had the strike not intervened.

So just what inside was left dangling? First, Bella finds a coach who offers to get her back into proper gymnastics – on condition that she quit the acrobatics she has done with Benjie. But this will mean letting Benjie down. Bella is left with a tough choice to make, but we never find out what she decides. Ironically, it is virtually 10 years to the day here that Bella started: she first appeared on 22 June 1974.

In “No Use to Anyone!”, Kirsty gets some tips on how to train her puppy, Clumsy. But now the blind Clumsy has been trapped by a herd of cows, and Kirsty is terrified of them too. We never find out how she rescues Clumsy.

“Sadie in Waiting” had come over from Princess, and it brings Grovel, the first villainous butler since Pickering of “Molly Mills”, to Tammy. Grovel is out to win the “Servant of the Year” award in his usual fashion, which does not include working hard or honestly.

Sadie

In Tammy’s reprint of “The Forbidden Garden”, Gladvis has started blackmailing Laika over her water theft. This is about to include forcing Laika to do a dreadful job in the dreaded industrial zone, with water instead of money for wages. Perhaps the reprint of “The Forbidden Garden” had something to do with Princess, which had reprinted several old serials from Tammy and Jinty in her final issues, including “Stefa’s Heart of Stone“, “Horse from the Sea” and “The Dream House”. However, it is a bit surprising that Tammy chose to start reprinting a long serial when she was set for an August cancellation, and it is unlikely that Girl would have had the room to finish the story. So one wonders how the reprint would have been finished off. In the previous issue, the story had a double-up spread, but that is not the case here. Perhaps once Cora was finished, there would have been more double-ups until the merger.

“Secret Sisters” starts in this issue, but sadly never got beyond episode one. Jill Paget is an adopted child who wishes she had siblings. Then she finds out she has three sisters who were adopted separately and wants to find them. Next week is supposed to include a “surprise move”, but we never find out what it is.

In “Pam of Pond Hill”, Pam is set to move on to Tess Bradshaw, the third classmate she is going to stay with while Pam’s family are away. But all of a sudden Tess says she can’t have Pam and even slams the door in her face. The blurb for next week tells us that we are going to find out what is wrong with Tess, but we never do.

(Click thru)

Incidentally, Pam’s various sleepovers with her classmates have developed their characters and home lives in surprising ways. During her stay with Goofy, Pam was surprised to find that Goofy could be extremely determined when he fixed his mind on beating something. The trouble is, that determination could take him to obsessive levels. Pam’s stay with Di (Diana) has changed the life of Diana’s mother for the better. She is going to be less house-proud, just to satisfy the demands of her husband, while he is going to be less demanding of her.

There is no Button Box story in this issue. Instead, we have the last Pony Tale ever published, “Jemima and the Arabian”. The Arabian is proving a bit too spirited for the stablehands until the horse strikes a surprise friendship with a cat called Jemima. Next week we are promised a complete tennis story, but we never get it.

“I’m Her – She’s Me!” is Phil Gascoine’s last, and incomplete, story for Tammy. Nice Paula Holmes and nasty Natalie Peters have somehow switched bodies after a strange lightning strike. Natalie is all set to explore new avenues of nastiness under her new identity while Paula is desperate to get help. She finally does so in this episode, where she manages to convince her ballet teacher of what happened. But then they strike new problems – Natalie has now gone and broken one of the legs in Paula’s body, and then Natalie’s unfit father shows up and is trying to drag Paula, in Natalie’s body, back home, where he has something unpleasant in mind for her. We never find out if the ballet teacher manages to rescue her, how the girls get their bodies back, or, for that matter, just how that bolt of lightning caused them to switch bodies in the first place.

(Click thru)

And now we come to the most frustrating part of Tammy’s sudden disappearance – the penultimate episode of “Cora Can’t Lose” with no final episode ever coming after. When this story came out, it really had me hooked and I was anxious to find out what was going to happen in the final episode. From the sound of comments on the Internet, so were a lot of other readers.

Cora Street has gone on an obsessive sports cup-winning frenzy to win the respect of her parents, who kept sneering at her for not winning sports trophies as they did when they were at school. But this is putting Cora’s life in danger, because she cares more about winning the trophy her mother failed to win than seeking treatment for a head injury that is currently affecting her vision and hearing and will ultimately kill her if left untreated. Not even the identikit issued by the hospital in this episode brings her to her senses. And now the injury is causing another problem: it may have caused Cora to unwittingly spike her main rival during an event. If she’s right, she could face disqualification and be out of the running for the cup.

Final note: The ending of “The Forbidden Garden” is known because it is a Jinty reprint, and a summary of the story can be found on this site. If anyone has any information on how the other unfinished stories would have ended, they are welcome to drop a line here.

 

 

Can a computer program help us identify unknown writers? 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Jinty & Lindy 30 October 1976

Jinty 30 Oct 1976

Stories in this issue:

  • Jassy’s Wand of Power (artist Keith Robson)
  • Gertie Grit, the Hateful Brit! (artist Paul White)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Rose among the Thornes (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Champion in Hiding (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Alley Cat
  • Sisters at War! (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Girl in a Bubble (artist Phil Gascoine, writer Pat Mills)
  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones) – last episode
  • Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (artist Ken Houghton)

“Jassy’s Wand of Power” is the lead story on this issue; it takes up the front cover and runs to three and a half pages, oddly enough – but then there are only 3 panels on this front cover so I guess that means it is the equivalent of about three ordinary pages. It’s nice having a page of comics on the cover, really draws you in. In this episode, Jassy is starting to raise people’s awareness of the dangerous industrial process that Sir Harmer Jeffreys has been using. They still have to manage to get further away from him without either getting caught – and at the end of the episode they have to face a hungry and thirsty lion too!

Stefa is continuing in the grip of her grief – she is cooking her own food as her dad has forbidden her mother to cook for her until she comes to her senses. There is nearly a deadly chip pan fire as a result, and it is Stefa’s classmate who saves her. No gratitude results of course as this is the classmate who has an eerie likeness to Stefa’s dead friend.

Hugh Thornton-Jones has two stories in this issue – he has taken on the art duties for “Champion in Hiding” from Mario Capaldi, and he has also drawn the last episode that Katie Jinks appears in. In this story, Katie is chasing a wee black kitten that you’d think woud be a lucky cat – but who brings disaster to all whose path she crosses! Of course in the end the little kitten is given to Katie, who is very happy to have a kitten jinx in her life.

“Girl In A Bubble” has the sinster Miss Vaal finding her experimental subject Helen out of the bubble – but escape is not possible as Helen’s friend Linda is threatened by Miss Vaal unless she returns meekly to the bubble. Of course Linda goes and tells someone in charge, but Miss Vaal has a plan to deal with that without letting Helen escape again…

WTFometer III

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

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

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

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

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

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

WTFometer Little Miss Nothing

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

WTFometer Stefa HOS

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

WTFometer Go On Hate Me

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

WTFometer Land of no Tears

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

WTFometer Fran of the Floods