Tag Archives: supernatural influence

The Dance Dream [1977]

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Published: Tammy 16 April 1977 – 4 June 1977

Episodes: 8

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Anne Digby

Translations/reprints: Girl annual 1982; Tina in 1980 as ‘Dans, Diana, Dans!’ and in 1984 reprinted in Tina Dubbeldik Superalbum 14.

Plot

In 1938, orphan Diana Watts dreams of becoming a ballerina and she idolises famous ballerina Diana Oberon. She has moved to London to get close to Oberon and whenever she sees Oberon it always seems like Oberon has always known her, though the two have never met. Oberon just seems to act like some spiritual guide and mentor to Watts, offering encouragement and help, no matter how hard things get. It certainly is hard: no money to pay for lessons or proper ballet gear; cribbing all she can from books; no space to practise except in the attic room she rents; no music; and scrimping to buy a gramophone.

Oberon lends her mysterious hand to help Watts get the gramophone, and some music to go with it. (Once the music is introduced the story keeps making a glaring error: it repeatedly says The Dance of the Dying Swan is in Swan Lake; it isn’t.) However, practising to music gets Watts evicted for being too noisy. Watts manages to find other accommodation, but it’s not very nice (basement room, rats). It’s more expensive – so less money for ballet lessons – and less room to practise. But after meeting Oberon, who says good things are going to happen to her, Watts feels encouraged again.

Soon after, Watts’ dingy new room looks better and she realises the basement area outside makes a ready stage for her to practise on once cleaned up. This gets her noticed by Mr and Mrs Hartley who own a ballet school. Upon seeing her talent they offer her private lessons, and don’t worry about fees. After this, Watts is convinced Oberon has strange powers and she arranged all this.

Watts strikes another problem at dance class: no ballet gear of her own and her ballet shoes are too tatty. But not for long: Oberon turns up in her mysterious manner with a bag full of everything Watts needs. Soon Watts’ ballet lessons are going so brilliantly that she is accepted by the London Company.

Suddenly Watts is shocked to find Oberon not appearing because she is indisposed. Then she has a horrible vision of horrible black hands reaching out for Oberon and realises it is a premonition. While rushing to Oberon’s house to warn her, Watts gets knocked down by a car.

Watts regains consciousness at a Swiss clinic and seems to hear her gramophone playing. Her legs are paralysed. Oberon appears, and tells Watts she has a destiny to fulfil, but is not specific on what that destiny is. Oberon puts Watts through a series of tests to get her to walk and eventually to dance again. Watts’ final test is to dance before an audience while every muscle in her body still gives pain. Oberon tells Watts to forget the pain and just dance for her audience. She does so, finding the music just seems to drive the pain away. The applause is thunderous and Watts tells Oberon she is cured.

Oberon tells Watts her destiny is to take her place as “Britain’s foremost ballerina”. She then says goodbye to Watts forever.

Watts regains consciousness in the hospital. She has been in a coma all the time and the Hartleys were playing the gramophone music in the hope it would wake her. The doctors are baffled as to how Watts, who was completely paralysed, has recovered, and is now dancing even better than before. It turns out that Oberon, who was taken ill, died at the precise moment Watts woke up from her coma. Watts vows to fulfil her destiny to carry on from Oberon as Britain’s leading ballerina, starting with the London Company.

Thoughts

This is quite a charming story. It is likeable and enjoyable to read. Nobody would call it average or boring. The writer remembers it fondly. We like the period setting, the hot chestnut job, the supernatural elements, struggling to dance in lousy accommodation, and Watts’ ultimate battle to overcome her paralysis and learn to dance again. We even like the touch of the mean landlady who offers Watts the basement area, which we suspect the landlady is overcharging for.

However, we feel that Watts does have it a bit too easy compared with other dancers in girls’ serials. Her story is not given enough episodes to really flesh things out or put more tribulations in her path. For example, we never see how Watts gets on at the London Company. And the obstacles Watts faces do not feel all that much of a threat. We get the impression they are only superficial and fleeting because they will be overcome the moment Oberon appears, which she always does.

Oberon acts too much like a deus ex machina who is always bailing Watts out of every fix she gets into. Yet it’s never in person. It’s always in a vision or appearing with dark glasses and a hood, like some fairy godmother. This also creates a bit of overdependence on Oberon. We are left wondering how Watts is going to cope now Oberon is dead and said her goodbyes. Is it here that her real tests of character will begin?

There is a real mystery as to how the power of Oberon over Watts actually works and it’s one of the most baffling in girls’ comics. Unlike the “Spirit of the Lake” she is not a ghost and is not dead (until the end of the story). There is no evidence of Oberon having actual powers. The two women are not related, nor are they twins. The only things they have in common are their love of ballet and having the same Christian name. Yet both women sense there is some sort of link between them and one is destined to follow on from the other. Perhaps everything can only be left to the readers’ imagination.

Combing Her Golden Hair (1979)

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Colour reprint as “Comb of Mystery” in Katy

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Publication: 1/9/79-8/12/79
Reprint: Katy as “Comb of Mystery; Tina Topstrip as Dutch translation
Artist: Phil Townsend
Writer: Unknown

Plot: Tamsin Tregorren lives with gran (her dad is often away at sea). Gran is a fearsome, iron-willed woman who is very old fashioned and strict with Tamsin. She always seems to keep Tamsin looking a frump in plaits, glasses, and buys her second hand clothes (okay, so they do have a limited budget, but that’s not the real reason). She does not even like Tamsin having long hair and only allows it because Dad likes it that way. Tamsin’s strict upbringing attracts sympathy from her classmates, who think gran is a dragon and don’t come to Tamsin’s house for that reason.

There is a mystery about Tamsin’s mother; whenever Tamsin asks questions about her, gran’s temper flares up. Tamsin is not sure she believes what gran says about her mother being dead, and wants to meet her mother. Tamsin also yearns to swim, but gran says she cannot because chlorine brings on her asthma, so she cannot join swimming classes at school. She always feels the odd one out.

One night Tamsin’s comb is ruined. She searches gran’s drawer for a spare and finds a silver fish-like comb. When she starts combing her hair, the comb seems to have a strange effect on her. She combs her hair all evening, and she seems to hear a sweet voice calling to her. She also has a strange, calming feeling, as if she is floating on water. This starts a habit of combing her hair continuously with the comb while feeling those strange effects. But gran is not impressed to find Tamsin combing her hair all evening. She calls it vanity and threatens to cut Tamsin’s hair off. But the comb starts inciting Tamsin to go against her gran. She starts wearing some fashionable clothes with the help of her friends. They also help her to have a go at swimming but gran stops her, screaming about her asthma problem, and drags her out in front of her friends.

Still, the attempt has Tamsin wondering if she really has a problem with chlorine. Then a new teacher insists on pupils producing doctor’s certificates if they are to be excused swimming. But gran will not even take Tamsin to the doctor to get one. Rather, she would keep Tamsin at home on swimming days, even though it is illegal and gran could get in trouble. But the comb encourages Tamsin to swim, and she starts doing so in secret at school with the help of her friend Ellen. And when she does, she finds she is a natural swimmer and there is no reaction to the chlorine.

There is another scene when gran catches Tamsin combing her hair. This time she almost cuts Tamsin’s hair off for real. But Dad, who has returned from the sea, intervenes. He says, “Oh Mother, I realise why you tried to do it, but cutting off her lovely hair is going too far!” But he will not tell Tamsin what he meant by knowing the reason for gran’s actions. This deepens the mystery that Tamsin is now more determined to solve.

An eye test (something gran had always kept Tamsin away from) reveals that there is nothing wrong with her eyes and Tamsin discovers the glasses her gran buys her are just plain glass. She now realises the glasses, plaits and everything else frumpy were intended to de-emphasise her looks because gran considers beauty a sin. Furious, she smashes her glasses and starts wearing her hair loose. When she confronts her father over the matter, he is oddly defensive about gran’s actions. Still, Gran is forced to agree to allow Tamsin to wear her hair loose. However, she confiscates all mirrors in the house to discourage any vanity in Tamsin, but Tamsin defies her with a broken mirror in the shed. This time, when she combs her hair, the comb says a name: Redruthan. Later, Tamsin discovers Redruthan is a place in Cornwall. When she mentions Redruthan, and more questions about Mum to Dad and gran, they both clam up oddly, saying that she and her mother originated in London. Now Tamsin is even more determined to find out about her mother.

Gran discovers Tamsin’s secret swimming. She really flips out, cutting up the swimming costume and towel and locks Tamsin in the broom cupboard. She also says something odd about lying being in Tamsin’s blood. Tamsin realises this can only mean her mother, as her father is honest. The comb comforts Tamsin again, saying happiness can begin in Redruthan. Then Tamsin discovers her birth certificate, which says she was born at Gull Cottage, Redruthan. So much for London origins.

Then gran falls sick and has a bad attack. Tamsin is also having second thoughts about the comb, realising it has brought problems for her in encouraging her to defy her gran. She turns to looking after her gran, but eventually gran is taken to hospital. The comb takes Tamsin over again and and urges her to head to Redruthan. This time, Tamsin cannot resist the call, although gran could be on the danger list and needs her badly. She goes Ellen’s house, as she and her parents are heading to Redruthan on holiday. She takes a replacement swimming costume Ellen left for her and sneaks a lift there in the back of their caravan. When she arrives in Redruthan, she feels she belongs there. People are astonished to see a girl running about in a swim costume in cold weather, but Tamsin does not feel cold in it; she feels alive.

Tamsin finds Gull Cottage, and learns that she, gran, Dad and Mum lived there when she was a baby, and locals think there was something funny about them. Her mother did not get on with gran and then disappeared. The comb then leads Tamsin to a mirror that matches it.

Meanwhile, gran discovers what Tamsin has done. Although she is still sick, she leaves hospital and comes to Redruthan, saying she is trying to save Tamsin. Ellen is in tow. Ellen is appalled at how sick gran looks, but gran is determined to save Tamsin. She always did have a will of iron.

Tamsin comes face to face with her mother – and discovers she is a mermaid! Her name is Nerina, and Nerina explains that when she first saw Tamsin’s father, she knew she must have him. Mermaids can swap their tails for legs when they want to marry humans, and this is what Nerina did to marry Tamsin’s father. Gran had opposed the marriage as she did not trust a woman whose past was a mystery, and she was right. The marriage soon fell apart due to Nerina’s selfish, vain cold mermaid nature; this made her a “vain, lazy wife” who spent all day preening in her mirror while leaving baby Tamsin crying in her cot. The irony of the whole situation is revealed in that it was left to strict gran to look after the neglected baby and give her love (see below), which by mermaid standards was “spoiling”. Eventually gran worked out the truth, so Nerina left, and she was missing the sea anyway. She left the comb, knowing it would bring Tamsin to her. Now she wants Tamsin to join her in her mermaid realm and starts pulling Tamsin down there. She does not seem to understand or care that Tamsin would drown because she is human.

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Gran and Ellen arrive, and Tamsin manages to get away from Nerina in order to say goodbye to gran. Gran explains that all her tactics were to ensure that Tamsin did not grow up like the vain Nerina and to keep her away from water. Tamsin now understands gran did not mean to be cruel, but says vanity and swimming are in her blood; she is a mermaid’s daughter after all. Gran begins pointing out what a cold fish Nerina is; she shows no love, no affection, and only sees Tamsin as a possession she must have and does not care that Tamsin would drown if taken down below. Indeed, Nerina told Tamsin not to call her ‘mother’, calling the term “an ugly, ageing title”. Ellen adds that gran has shown Tamsin love, in risking her life by discharging herself prematurely, in order to find Tamsin.

They get through to Tamsin. She realises her mother does not love her because a mermaid cannot feel love as humans can. She agrees to come home and look after gran.

Nerina isn’t giving up that easily though; she is determined to have what is hers. She retrieves the comb and throws it after Tamsin, trying to tempt her with all the comb has done for her and can do for her. But Tamsin has gone with gran and Ellen, and the comb gets lost forever in the waves.

Thoughts

“Combing Her Golden Hair” is regarded as another of Jinty’s classics and was one of her most popular and enduring stories. It can also be regarded as one of her most unconventional ones. It takes established formulas in girls’ comics and then turns them completely inside-out. And it does this with a conclusion that takes readers completely by surprise because it is not what they expected.

We have seen the formulas in this story used in so many serials: a strict guardian who never lets their charge have any fun or be herself; a guardian who imposes bizarre and unfair sanctions because they seem to have such an enormous chip on their shoulder for some reason; a shy girl who gets more confident when she acquires an object with strange powers, but it may come with a price; and a good old fashioned mystery that is just begging to be unravelled. The mystery here is the mystery of Tamsin’s mother. It is not hard to guess that the mother has something to do with the strict gran being the way she is. When the comb appears, the plot thickens even further. If it has a connection with the mystery mother, it drops a hint that there is something supernatural about the mother. And whatever it is, it is clearly connected with swimming, the sea, and all the other things that gran seems to go all out to squelch in Tamsin.

At any rate we laud the comb because its actions seem to be aimed at freeing Tamsin from the iron apron strings of her severe gran and her harsh, bizarre measures that really shock us at times, such as when gran goes so mad she nearly cuts Tamsin’s hair off or locks her in the cupboard. We all reckon that gran should be reported to child welfare, but we will settle for the ultimate liberation, which surely must come when the mystery of Tamsin’s mother is revealed. Once it is, Tamsin is going to be free of her horrible gran forever and go off arm in arm with her mother and she lives happily ever after. That’s how it always ends up in girls’ serials, right?

Nope, not in this case. It breaks all the clichés to give us a happy but completely unconventional ending that is full of surprises and irony. It turns out that the mother is the villain; not actually evil, but a possessive, selfish cold fish who wants Tamsin the same way she wanted her father – as possessions, and had no love for them. The mother used the comb to lure Tamsin to her while winning Tamsin’s confidence and trust by encouraging her to rebel against her grandmother and doing the things that gran was trying to keep her from. Gran had been set up as the villain of the piece, but she was actually a heroine – or anti-heroine? Once we learn all the facts, we can understand what made the gran the way she is and the thinking behind her actions. But she was not going about them the right way and it could easily be construed as child abuse. Trying to deny Tamsin what she is was not right either. As Tamsin herself told her gran, she is a mermaid’s daughter after all. We can only hope that in the aftermath, Tamsin and her gran will get along much better and gran will be more tolerant of Tamsin’s mermaid half. She will have to be, because Tamsin has a mermaid/human heritage she will be getting to grips with.

Perhaps the greatest irony and surprise of all is Nerina telling Tamsin that gran spoiled her rotten as a baby. Gran spoiling Tamsin? We have to laugh at that after seeing the way gran has brought Tamsin up. But the whole irony of it all is that it was the severe gran who gave Tamsin love while the cold-fish mother did not because it was not in her mermaid nature and gave baby Tamsin all the care she needed when the mother neglected her. And gran again showed Tamsin love by risking her own life to save Tamsin from what she sensed was going to happen once Tamsin met her mother. She was right, and she saved Tamsin’s life by showing she was the one who really loved Tasmin while the mother did not. So gran emerges as a proper heroine now and redeemed herself for her earlier harshness.

Readers are astonished when the reunion between mother and daughter is not liberation and happiness; instead, it is life threatening for Tamsin. But then, mermaids have been associated with sirens, who lured people to their doom with hypnotic singing. Mermaids have also been connected to things like shipwrecks, flooding, drownings and luring people to their doom. Other mermaid folklore portrays them as more benevolent and even tragic, depending on the region. But not in the case of Nerina, who was clearly inspired by the darker side of mermaid folklore.

Who’s That in My Mirror? (1977)

Sample images

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Publication: 30/7/77-1/10/77 (also translated into Spanish twice, under the titles “The Ghost in the Mirror” and “The Other side of the Mirror”)

Artist: Tom Hurst

Writer: Unknown

Plot

Magda Morrice has the face of an angel but the heart of a devil. She schemes her way to anything she wants and her pretty face belies it all to everyone. She gets jealous when Janie Gray wins the third form prize for fashion design and deliberately puts a dent in it. She then quietly takes the trophy from Janie, under pretext of having it mended. Later, at the market, she tricks her way into acquiring a mirror she fancies.

But when Magda gets the mirror home, she is surprised to find that the mirror is reflecting two images of her! She does not realise that the second face is actually a reflection of the devil in her – not yet, anyway.

The reflection takes a hand in helping Magda with her schemes. These are designed to take advantage of Janie and pretend to be friends with her while stealing Janie’s work and passing it off as her own, while sabotaging Janie’s other work to make her look bad in the eyes of their fashion teacher, Miss Winn. She also pretends to Janie that her mother is ill (and even gives her mother a dose of food poisoning to complete the effect) in order to pull Janie’s heart-strings and cadge off her for things such as a sewing machine. And she is very slick at pulling the wool over the eyes of Miss Winn, who thinks she is improving marvellously while Janie seems to be losing it.

But while the face continues to help Magda, it also grows increasingly ugly, evil-looking and frightening.

Magda catches on to what is happening in the mirror and tells the reflection that she is going to change so the reflection will be pretty too. But the reflection just sneers at her – and it is right. Magda soon finds she cannot change the things she has started without getting into trouble. Besides, she has gained things out of them, such as receiving accolades from Marcus Greg, a famous theatrical designer. She is soon lapsing into her scheming ways.

Now Magda has had enough of the terrifying face and tries to get rid of the mirror. But it always finds its way back to her – more of its powers. So Magda smashes it instead. She is puzzled as to why the mirror does not resist her as she throws a rock down on it.

But she soon finds out! Far from ridding herself of the face, she finds the face is following her everywhere! Every time she looks a mirror, pane of glass or anything reflective, she sees that face. It is getting uglier by the minute, and bigger too. It is such a nightmare that Magda can’t sleep and isn’t brushing her hair because of that hideous reflection in the mirror. People notice what a state Magda is in but of course Magda can’t explain why. The only way out seems to be to confess, but she is too caught up in what she has started to change anything now, and not with accolades from Mr Greg in person. Morever, she can’t quite work up enough courage to confess.

And there are still traces of Magda’s selfish, scheming old ways left in her. Eventually she gets so afraid of discovery that she takes her latest work and Janie’s (some costumes) to school with the intent of destroying the evidence.

But it is then that the worst happens. The pile of costumes suddenly comes alive, and it has that hideous face for a head! The strange monster is now coming towards Magda and seems to be about to speak to her.

Magda is so terrified that she faints.

When she comes to, Miss Winn is standing over her. Magda is so terrified that she finally makes a full confession to Miss Winn, Janie and then her mother. Miss Winn is all for punishing Magda (if only she knew), but Janie is forgiving and still wants to be friends. Magda returns the trophy she tricked Janie out of. As it has to go back at the end of term, she decides to buy Janie a replica she can keep forever, as a way of making it up to her.

When Magda next looks in a mirror, she finds the hideous face has gone. Hers is the only reflection now. But she resolves to be as good as she looks from now on – in case it comes back.

Thoughts

Now this is one story that takes established formulas and does a take on them to give us something fresh and different.

The first is what I call “the sweet-faced schemer” formula. Cunning schemers who get away with murder because they look so pretty, angelic and innocent have abounded in girls’ comics. They cropped up regularly in DCT titles, such as “Move Over, Maria” (Bunty) and “The Truth about Wendy” (Mandy). Sometimes they have been regulars, such as “Angela Angel-Face” (Sandie). Perhaps the most cunning sweet-faced schemer of them all was Carol in Jinty’s “Concrete Surfer”. This schemer was so cunning that not even her victim, Jean was sure if she was a real schemer or victim of misunderstandings until the climax of the story where Carol finally slips up.

The general focus in these stories is to catch out the schemer, and it is not easy. They are so slick, manipulative and innocent-looking that they have everyone around their little fingers (or play tricks to put them out of the way). But here the focus is on reforming the scheming girl and making her as nice as she looks.

And here is the second thing that is unusual about this story. Stories dealing with turning unsavoury girls around usually deal with girls who are spoiled, selfish, snobby or arrogant. Seldom do they deal with a girl who is downright nasty or scheming. But this is the case here. And it is one of the rare serials I have seen where a sweet-faced schemer does change her ways. Usually they just get caught out at long last and are expelled or whatever.

The third is the evil influence formula. Instead of forcing a nice girl into doing terrible things, which is what normally happens in evil influence stories, the influence actually seems to be helping an already nasty girl with her machinations. In the early episodes, readers may have felt a sense of outrage at the mirror helping a scheming girl. Shouldn’t she be getting her comeuppance or something from this mirror? But as the face grows increasingly hideous, readers must have reconsidered and wondered if this story would go the comeuppance way after all.

Magda’s reactions to the image are realistic in that she doesn’t change all at once. One reason for this is that she doesn’t quite know how without getting herself into trouble. Another is that her old ways keep resurfacing. She tells herself that she will have to make up for things some other time, but of course that is just bandaid treatment for a rousing conscience and does not stop the evil image from haunting her. It continues right up to the end, where Magda decides to destroy the evidence – but it is then that the evil image threatens to do its worst. Magda realises she must act now, or goodness know what might happen.

The intentions of the evil image are a bit confusing. The evil reflection encourages and abets Magda’s own evil. Yet at the same time it seems to be scaring Magda into changing her ways with its deteriorating, frightening appearance. It is not like other evil mirror stories that have appeared over the years. Girls either see a reflection in the mirror that is not their own but means big trouble (such as in “The Venetian Looking Glass” and “Slave of the Mirror” from Jinty), or the mirror creates evil reflections that set about taking over (“The Evil Mirror”, Girl series 2). But here the reflection is a reflection of the girl’s own evil that seems to start off helping her and then progressively scares the living daylights out of her. Furthermore, other stories where an object reflects a girl’s evil tend to do so in a reproving manner. One example is Mandy’s “Portrait of Pauline”, where Pauline’s new portrait starts reflecting her selfish nature and then her progress and setbacks in changing her ways. But this is not the case here. Rather, the image reflects Magda’s evil in a manner that flourishes in Magda’s evil. Maybe the answer lies in what would have happened if the image had spoken to Magda in the end, or if Magda had not confessed. But we never find out because Magda finally does the right thing in the nick of time.

What was the purpose in a magic mirror that behaves like that? Is it an evil mirror that feeds off people’s evil? Is it a magic designed to punish evil people in a rather unorthodox manner? Was it the result of magic that went a bit wrong? Was it designed to be some “monkey’s paw” thing? Or was it something else? We never know because the origins of the mirror are left unexplained and the image never speaks to Magda – assuming that was its intention in the final episode.

Still, it’s a different take on the evil influence theme, and we like the serial for that.

The theme of an unpleasant girl being haunted by evil-looking faces that turn out to be distorted reflections of herself – or perhaps reflections of the evil inside her – has cropped up in the “Strangest Stories Ever Told”. “The Face of Greed” (Tammy 4 October 1975; reprinted as a Gypsy Rose tale in Jinty 8 November 1980) and “Marcia’s ‘Ghost’” (Tammy 22 March 1980) are two examples, and there are probably more elsewhere. But those were complete stories. This is one occasion where I have seen the idea explored in a serial.

The art has been credited to Tom Hurst following Ruth’s comment below.

Note: This is the only Jinty story drawn by Tom Hurst.