Tag Archives: Stefa’s Heart of Stone

Tammy and Princess 28 April 1984

Tammy 28 April 1984

Cover artist: Maria Barrera

  • Bella (artist John Armstrong, writer Primrose Cumming)
  • Cassie’s Coach (artist Tony Coleman, writer Alison Christie)
  • Open an Easter Egg! (writer Maureen Spurgeon) – quiz
  • The Horse Finders – A Pony Tale
  • Day and Knight (artist Juliana Buch) – final episode
  • Easter Parade – feature
  • The Button Box (artist Mario Capaldi, main writer Alison Christie)
  • Easter Fun Spot – Easter jokes
  • Rusty, Remember Me (artist Eduardo Feito) – final episode
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Picture Yourself! – feature

 

We finish off our spread of Tammy Easter issues with the very last Tammy Easter issue in 1984. Easter is celebrated here with Easter features, an Easter quiz, Easter jokes, and a beautiful spring cover drawn by Maria Barrera.

It is four weeks into the Tammy and Princess merger, and two of the stories that came over from Princess end this week. In “Day and Knight”, Sharon now realises the only way to make her heartbroken father happy is to allow her bully stepsister Carrie a second chance. However, her wounds from all that bullying are making it very hard for her to do so, and she does not understand that her bully stepsister is now genuinely sorry. So it’s a real dilemma. Meanwhile, helping Rusty to get his leg fit again is what finally gets Donna to stop depending on her leg brace and work on improving that leg with exercise.

“Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, which Princess reprinted from Jinty, carries on, as Stefa has still not learned that a heart of stone is not the answer. Ruth, who now realises Stefa’s game, has the girls rally around for a “Melt Stefa” campaign to soften that stony heart. But so far all this gets is rude rebuffs from Stefa. Next week is Stefa’s birthday. Will this make things any different?

Bella has persuaded Benjie to join the sports acrobatics group as her partner. Pity the instructress is so unfriendly to Bella because she is a former gymnastics champion. An encouraging coach would really help the partnership to flourish more.

“Cassie’s Coach” reaches its penultimate episode, and it’s a tear-jerking plot development. Mr Ironside has been such a father figure to the Lord children ever since their mother was wrongly imprisoned. There is so much they could not have done without him – like find the old coach that became their home. But this week they lose him because he has to give up his business (can’t afford to replace his horse) and go work at his cousin’s farm. Can the Lord children survive without him?

“The Horse Finders” are commissioned to find 60 of the near-extinct black Zarah horse breed. They find 50 readily enough, but the final 10 are proving elusive, and time is running out. And time has just about run out when they are one short. But the 60th appears in a most surprise manner.

In this week’s Button Box story, Bev hears a church button story that is instructive in the evolution of hassocks. They started out as tufts of grass for poorer parishioners to kneel on. Unfortunately tufts of grass also made a mess on the church floor. So they became the more practical, decorative and non-messy cushions.

A Pond Hill girl, Catherine Bone, is being terrorised by a secret society known as “The Group” because she had been such a sneak. While Pam is appalled at what “The Group” is doing, others are unsympathetic and say it’s Catherine’s just desserts for sneaking. Di is one of them – but then Catherine turns up on the doorstep, dripping with paint that “The Group” threw all over her. What do you say to that, Di?

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Princess II, #26, 17 March 1983

Princess cover 26

  • The Secret Swimmer (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • The Dream House (artist Mike White)
  • Rusty, Remember Me (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Day and Knight (artist Juliana Buch)
  • Are You a Teacher’s Pet? (quiz)
  • Flight from the Romanys (artist Maria Dembilio)
  • Fun Fair – puzzles
  • Horse from the Sea (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • The Haunted Station (artist Julio Bosch)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)

 

The merge into Tammy is in three weeks, so how does this issue contribute towards the merger? “The Dream House” has a double episode, it looks like “Flight from the Romanys” is getting close to finishing, but “The Secret Swimmer”, “The Haunted Station”, “Rusty, Remember Me” and “Day and Knight” are on their second episodes. And anyone familiar with the original run of “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” knows it still has a long way to go.

Liza now becomes “The Secret Swimmer” and secretly training for the event Nikki is now out of, because she feels it is the only way to get the girls to talk to her again after wrongly blaming her for Nikki’s accident. But getting up at early hours for training and pushing herself too much are beginning to take their toll.

Mr Day is pushing headlong into his new marriage with Carrie Knight’s mother, despite protests from his daughter Sharon that Carrie is bullying her. Dad is not listening and Carrie is very good at pulling the wool over his eyes. And now Carrie is causing another heartbreak for Sharon – she has to rehome her beloved cat Monk because of Carrie’s asthma.

In “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, Dad’s job is on the line because of Stefa’s tricks to dodge Ruth, Joy’s look-alike at school. Stefa gets no sleep because her heart of stone is struggling against her guilty conscience. But conscience does not win, and neither does common sense. By the final panel it looks like Stefa will indeed get Dad sacked because of her wanting to avoid Ruth.

Donna Jones needs a vet for the injured fox cub, now named Rusty, but money is a problem. And there is another problem – animals aren’t allowed in their flat, and the caretaker is not the sort who would understand the situation.

Jan Dale is becoming more convinced that the doll’s house is evil and taking away the elder members of the family she is working for. Now Diana, the eldest daughter, has disappeared like the parents, but the two youngest kids seem to be helping it.

Lydia Parks, who has only just escaped from the gypsies who kidnapped her, now has to escape from a workhouse. She finally does, but it’s now more urgent than ever to get home, because her sick friend at the workhouse badly needs help.

In “Horse from the Sea”, Janice and Tracey Penrose discover a rift in the Penrose family that stems from when Charles Penrose blamed his father for a mining accident because the old miser was cutting corners at the expense of safety. It would not be surprising if Janice’s stepfather was descended from the old meanie, because it looks like he’s deliberately keeping Janice an invalid so she won’t inherit, and committing other fraud too.

“The Haunted Station” is more like a time travel device. It has already sent Linda Brent and Wendy Smith to the 1930s, where they get entangled with a frightened girl who is being chased by someone. Now it looks like it’s about to send them back to the 1930s again.

Princess Bee wants to go riding – and so does Grovel. He ends up regretting it because Princess Bee uses him for her mount after he messes things up (below).

Sadie in waiting riding
Horse hijinks, “Sadie in Waiting”, Princess II, 17 March 1984

Princess II, #21, 11 February 1984

Princess 21 cover

  • School of Dark Secrets (artist Carlos Cruz) – final episode
  • Laura in the Lyon’s Den (artist Bob Harvey)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • The Runaway Clown (artist José Canovas?)
  • How Mean Are You? – Quiz
  • Horse from the Sea… (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • Princess Pet Book part 3
  • Rowena of the Doves (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Sheena and the Treetoppers (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • The Saddest Dog in Town (artist Eduardo Feito)
  • Fun Fair (puzzles)

This is Princess II’s one and only Valentine issue. Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which gives it topical flavour. Only Sadie in Waiting actually commemorates Valentine’s Day (below), and we get a hint that Grovel has a softer side, though of course he won’t admit it.

“School of Dark Secrets” reveals its secret. The staff are descended from the Witches of Barnham. All they need to complete the coven and receive the powers of the original witches is Judy, the descendant of Alvira, the 13th witch in the portrait. Too bad for the witches they failed to spot the clue that the portrait of Alvira had been painted over with that of Judy’s great-great-grandmother, so they grabbed the wrong descendant. Now did someone paint the portrait over to fool the witches or because they couldn’t stand the sight of Alvira’s ugly mug? At any rate, the school is closed down and then reopened with more wholesome staff.

Laura is way too much for Mrs Lyon this week – she actually throws a huge, creamy cake in the woman’s face! She’s still serving in the restaurant though.

Stefa starts on the path to turn her heart into stone to avoid feeling grief again. Everyone is upset by the change in her but don’t realise why. The doctor advises a complete change. A fat lot of good that’s going to do.

Princess, the elephant performer, is so jealous of “The Runaway Clown” that she sets a tiger on her. This backfires big time on Princess, and it looks like it’s about to lead to the Big Top going up in flames as well.

The Treetoppers fend off an escaped lion, but their treehouse is still facing the bulldozers. Then Sheena has a brainwave – but what is it?

The origin of the “Horse from the Sea” is revealed this week. Legend says a Penrose married the daughter of the King of the Sea, and she came up from the sea on the horse. Ever since then the horse has appeared whenever the heir of Penrose is in danger, which apparently is what is happening now.

Rowena’s father, King Guthlac, has sent her to summon her three brothers to his aid. One brother has already refused, as has the second this week, because he’s in the power of a vampire. It’s all down to the third now.

In “The Saddest Dog in Town”, a clue emerges as to who the dog’s lost owner is. He is linked to Jess, a girl who wanted to learn ballet, but her parents couldn’t afford it. But where is Jess?

Sadie in Waiting Valentine

Princess II, #27, 24 March 1984

Princess 27 cover

  • Flight from the Romanys (artist Maria Dembilio) – final episode
  • Day and Knight (artist Juliana Buch)
  • The Haunted Station (artist Julio Bosch (Martin Puigagut?))
  • The Dream House (artist Mike White)
  • The Secret Swimmer (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Horse from the Sea… (artist Rodrigo Comos)
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Rusty, Remember Me (artist Eduardo Feito)

This is the second to last issue of Princess II before the merge into Tammy, so it’s an issue where things are beginning to wind down. Finishing this issue is “Flight from the Romanys”, where Lydia, a wealthy lord’s daughter, has been kidnapped by gypsies. She has escaped, but it’s a long way home, and she very nearly gets recaptured as well.

“The Haunted Station”, “The Dream House”, “Horse from the Sea” and “The Secret Swimmer” are on their penultimate episodes.

Liza, “The Secret Swimmer”, has been secretly training for a swimming trophy after she is wrongly blamed of putting her friend Nikki out of it. Her secret is exposed, but she has become so good she is chosen to represent the school at the event. But everyone is so against her because of the wrongful accusation that they are going to cheer for the rival schools. So is there any point in even winning? This story was drawn by Phil Gascoine, and I was surprised to learn it was an original Gascoine and not a repeat from Jinty.

“The Haunted Station” is not so much haunted but a time travel device. Linda Brent and Wendy Smith are finding a converted railway station transporting them to the 1930s (and back again).  Their 1980s clothes are arousing disapproval in the 1930s and making them stick out like sore thumbs: “Girls wearing trousers. It’s disgraceful!” But their real concern is Helen Mills, who is a target for murder because her guardians, the Grices, are after her inheritance. The Grices are getting close to succeeding now; in the final panel Mr Grice pushes Helen over the edge of a quarry.

Evil guardians are also out to steal an inheritance in “Horse from the Sea”, and now they’ve caught our heroine as she tries to phone for help. As with “The Haunted Station” supernatural help is at hand, which comes in the form of a magic horse from the sea.

“The Dream House” (reprinted from Tammy) is more like “The Nightmare House”. Jane Dale is convinced a dollhouse is evil and taking family members away to inhabit it as dolls, and that she is next in line. The weird thing is, the two small children of the family are willing to help it. In this episode Jane discovers that housekeeper Miss Royd is behind it all. In fact, Miss Royd says she came with the dollhouse and lived in it for centuries, and Jane is going to do the same!

“Day and Knight” and “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” are the Princess stories that will carry on in the merger. Stefa’s repeat is now up to the point where she wants to leave her new school because of Joy’s look-alike. She storms into her father’s workplace demanding he remove her from the school, which gets him sacked. He has to take a lower paid job, which means the family has to move to a cheaper council house. But none of this moves Stefa’s stony heart. After efforts to dodge school fail, she plots to get herself expelled as her parents won’t let her change schools.

In “Day and Knight”, Sharon Day’s father now marries Carrie Knight’s mother despite Sharon’s protests that Carrie is a bully who is making her life a misery. He just won’t listen (Gran is the only one who believes Sharon), and that is clearly going to come back to bite him and his new marriage. Meanwhile, the wedding is a day of tears for Sharon that she has to choke down for the sake of Dad’s big day. Even if everything does get sorted out in the end (as we expect), Sharon’s forced smiles will be evident in the wedding photos for years to come and be a painful reminder of what used to be.

“Rusty, Remember Me” is the fox story (every girls’ comic has to have one at some point). Donna Jones has to hide an injured fox because she lives in a flat where pets are against the rules and the caretaker is a nasty piece of work. This week they take the fox to the vet, only to hear that the vet’s advice is put him to sleep.

Sadie in Waiting is the other Princess feature that will carry on in the merger, supplanting the Tammy Joe Collins cartoon, “The Crazyees”. This week they screw down the furniture because of a visit from Lady Edna, who’s the proverbial bull in a china shop because she’s so huge. They are annoyed to find it unnecessary when Lady Edna proves she has slimmed down – but they find they have spoken too soon when her huge friends arrive. And by that time they have removed the screws.

Princess II, #19, 28 January 1984

Princess 19 cover

  • The Saddest Dog in Town (artist Eduardo Feito) – first episode
  • Laura in the Lyon’s Den! (artist Bob Harvey) – first episode
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (artist Phil Townsend, writer Alison Christie) – first episode
  • School of Dark Secrets (Carlos Cruz)
  • The Runaway Clown (artist José Canovas?) – first episode
  • Rowena of the Doves (artist Peter Wilkes) – first episode
  • Are You a Scaredy Cat ? Quiz
  • Horse from the Sea (artist Rodrigo Comos) – first episode
  • Sadie in Waiting (artist Joe Collins)
  • Princess Pet Book (artist Mario Capaldi) – feature
    Sheena and the Treetoppers (artist Rodrigo Comos)

 

This is where Princess switches to the Tammy format (same newsprint, style and page count) and starts printing reprints from Tammy and Jinty. A new comic using reprints is not a good sign. It is an indication of an ailing comic and cutting costs, or perhaps even that the decision had already been made to merge Princess with Tammy.

The reprints are “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”, “Horse from the Sea” (Jinty) and “Rowena of the Doves” (Tammy). Later another reprint, “The Dream House” from Tammy, joins the lineup. Stefa was one of Jinty’s most popular stories. There was a huge demand to repeat her story in “Pam’s Poll“. Despite this, it was a repeat that did not eventuate in either the remainder of Jinty’s run or her merge into Tammy, but it finally did so in Princess and would continue in the Tammy merger.

However, there are also totally new stories. In “The Saddest Dog in Town” the Dentons take in Sammy, a dog who hitched a ride into town, but there is a real mystery as to why Sammy is so sad. It appears to be linked to his searching for something (or someone?) and disappointed to find it.

In “Laura in the Lyon’s Den!”, Aunt Leroy decides it’s time to get someone to sort out her spoiled and mischievous niece, Laura. That’s definitely a good idea, but is the approach – give Laura a holiday job in the family restaurant under the strict supervision of Mrs Lyon – going to work out? Mrs Lyon herself is not happy about such a burden, and Laura’s a real handful. Still, Laura could meet her match in Mrs Lyon as she definitely has what it takes to deal with a rotten brat.

In “The Runaway Clown” Cindy runs away from a children’s home where she always puts her foot in it. She is drawn to the circus, where she goes to the rescue of a tightrope walker in trouble although she’s never walked a tightrope before.

The Treetoppers’ treehouse is in danger. The site is going to be demolished to make way for a stadium. The Treetoppers decide they’re going to put up a fight. Meanwhile, Judy tries to get her father to take her away from the “School of Dark Secrets”, but Miss Grimkin is onto Judy and manages to pull the wool over Dad’s eyes.

Princess Bee goes away; Grovel takes advantage to open the place to guided tours, and passes himself off as a lord. He is in danger of being caught out when Princess Bee returns unexpectedly. Sadie graciously covers up for him – while still teaching him a lesson.

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.

 

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. Updated to add: I now have Princess  #1, and its entry is here.

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.