Tag Archives: survival

Fran of the Floods (1976)

Sample Images

Jinty 14 February 1976 "Fran of the Floods" pg 1
(click thru)

(click thru)

Jinty 14 February 1976 "Fran of the Floods" pg 2
(click thru)
Jinty 14 February 1976 "Fran of the Floods" pg 3
(click thru)

Artist: Phil Gascoine
Writer: Alan Davidson
Publication: 17 January 1976 to 11 September 1976

Summary

The sun sends out an extra glimmer of heat, which melts ice caps and evaporates oceans,  and this triggers worldwide torrents of rain that never seem to stop. The freak weather is causing worldwide flooding and catastrophe as well as bizarre environmental changes, such as lush green growth in the Sahara Desert. In Britain, the rain is causing widespread flooding that gets worse and worse because the rain never stops.

In Hazelford, Fran Scott is watching the developments on the news and treats the whole thing as a joke while her parents get a sense of impending apocalypse. The seriousness soon sets in for Fran as dams break down, people on lower levels start to flee as their towns vanish under the ever-rising waters, parts of the coast return to the sea, and then there are power cuts, food shortages, stockpiling, panic buying and looting, fuel shortages and stoppages, and higher levels are being swamped with refugees. Even London is disappearing.

Hazelford, being on the hills, is still reasonably safe. But during a school concert, the waters overcome the reservoir and come rolling in. In the ensuing chaos, Fran is separated from her parents and best  friend Jill, and thinks they have died. She herself nearly drowns and is saved by the school bully Rosie Stevens, who sadly does not make it herself. As Fran rows off, a radio informs her that everything has now ended – government, law enforcement, electricity, telephones and other services – and then the radio itself goes because there are no more radio broadcasts. Britain itself is now barely sticking out of flood waters that just go on rising.

Fran, now on her own, sets out on a dangerous journey north to Scotland to be reunited with her sister June, who had left for Scotland earlier after a quarrel with Fran. Along the way, Fran meets a young girl called Sarah and her pet rabbit Fluffy. They too have been isolated by the flooding. Fran finds herself reunited with Jill along the way, giving them fresh hope that their parents did make it.

It’s a journey of survival and courage against the never-ending rain and dangerous floodwaters (without rain gear, but they never seem to catch colds or pneumonia). Fran nearly drowns more than once in the course of this story. And of course there is an array of more human and animal dangers that have arisen from the catastrophe. These include starving and savage birds, rats and other animals driven aggressive and dangerous. Other dangers include spread of disease, chemical pollution, and marauding gangs of thugs calling themselves The Black Circle who have themselves up as tin-pot dictators in the power vacuum left by the breakdown in law and society. They use people as slave labour, forcing them to work ploughs in drenching rain under threat of the lash. The floods claim the Black Circle while their prisoners escape, but are there other disparate groups like them? Afterwards, the girls find a home for Sarah and carry on by themselves.

Fran and Jill also help other people in need, such as finding an injured girl aboard a ship and seeking medical help, and coming up with a cure for a disease-stricken village.

The girls certainly learn some hard lessons about people, for better and worse. Some people have responded for the better. The girls encounter a self-sufficient community which has set up in caverns. There is a strong community spirit and a touch of hippiness. Then the floods come rolling in, destroying everything. Everyone takes refuge on a hilltop, the last piece of land for miles. You can’t help but get a hint of Mt Ararat here. Their leader responds by having everyone pray for a miracle.

And wouldn’t you know it – at this point the rain finally does stop! The sun, the cause of it all, appears for the first time in months. Then it is prayers of gratitude.

Others have turned for the worse, such as the Black Circle. And in Glasgow, the girls encounter King David, the self styled king of Glasgow (complete with crown, robe and a throne room full of treasures) who is the only inhabitant and hell bent on keeping it that way, even if it means blowing up the refugees who are now returning from the floods. Yes, a man driven mad by it all, but not mad enough for Fran to succeed in appealing to his better nature. At one point Fran herself almost succumbs to bestiality when hunger and desperation almost drive her to kill Fluffy the rabbit for food.

Even after the rains stop, the problems are not over. The freak weather patterns continue, such as Scotland turning tropical and growing flora to match, and getting hurricanes. There are other bizarre changes in nature such as the girls encountering a huge wall of seaweed and dolphins swimming around Glasgow and London. And of course there is the slow rebuild with returning refugees, official attempts to establish law and order among the chaos and salvaging what can be salvaged. In a bookend to the radio that cut out to mark the end of society as Fran knows it, repaired radios now report the progress of the rebuild.

Fran does find June, and is very surprised to find her parents as well. They too survived and also trekked to Scotland to find June. They go back to Hazelford, where they start rebuilding their homes and lives with a new-found appreciation for it all. In Hazelford Jill makes a surprise reunion with her own family.

The Hazelford survivors also take pause to remember the people of Hazelford who did not make it, including the people in the early episodes who personally helped Fran or showed extreme courage when the floods came to Hazelford. The last panel of the story is of a memorial that Hazelford built for these people so they will not be forgotten.

Thoughts
When you look at this story today, you are immediately struck as to how far ahead of its time it was. It anticipated global warming and devastating changes in weather patterns that cause real-life flooding, hurricanes and other catastrophes. It’s hard not to look at this story and see in it a foreshadowing of what our world could become.

The story is extremely realistic and intelligently crafted in its portrayal of the encroaching disaster and the struggle to survive. And all the while the story of the Biblical Flood is in the back of our minds as we read this. But we read it with a sense of the apocalypse and end of the world and wonder if that is how it ends up. Even if the rain stops, which it doesn’t seem to be doing, we know the devastation it would leave behind cannot make for a totally happy ending. So where is it going to end?

The first few episodes, with Fran’s initial reaction of treating it as a joke while it is still relatively distanced on the news reports, and then progressively realising it is no joke as the floods and the ensuing crises (refugees, power cuts, shortages, looters etc) mount in her own back yard are very much like real life. And then, when her own house is attacked by looters and saved by Rod Pearson, it brings it all home for her. Finally, when everything collapses and it’s every person for themselves, it is a grim, shocking picture filled with desperate life and death struggles.

The story does not hesitate to show us that some people, such as Rosie, do not survive the struggle. And in the final panel we are not allowed to forget them. The memorial stands as a sobering reminder that there were some people who did not make it: “Lest We Forget.” Among them are Rod Pearson and his family. And the Stevenses survive, but are left to mourn Rosie, the bully who had redeemed herself in the last moments of her life. The ending may be happy, full of joyous reunions and rebuilding of society, but is not allowed to be overtly so; few readers will come away from the last panel without tears in their eyes. The emotional impact of this story carries through right to the end, making it arguably Jinty’s best emotional story.

In the Jinty Top Ten it was noted that this serial was running at the same time as the apocalyptic drama series “Survivors”. In fact, many of the perils Fran and Jill face are uplifted from the series, including the slave gang they are consigned to in the Black Circle segment. And both “Survivors” and “Fran” climax in the Scottish Highlands. It cannot be said whether readers thought “Fran” was a blatant ripoff of “Survivors”, or whether they looked on it all as a double dose that was so much the better for them to enjoy. But there can be no doubt that “Fran” was hugely popular and must have prompted some readers to watch “Survivors”. Her story ran for seven months, making her second to “Merry at Misery House” as Jinty’s longest running serial.

But “Fran” has far greater significance in Jinty history than being her second-longest serial. If there was a serial that established the SF element that Jinty became famous for, it was this one. Aside from “The Green People” (no, not little green men) in 1975, there had been no SF in Jinty. She was still pretty much following the Tammy template of cruelty and tortured heroines. But after “Fran of the Floods”, more SF stories, especially ones with environmental elements, appeared in Jinty. Later in 1976, Jinty ran “Jassy’s Wand of Power”, and the environmental disaster under the spotlight swings from flooding to drought. In 1979 there was “The Forbidden Garden” where humanity has poisoned the environment and nothing can grow, and “Almost Human”, about an alien girl whose race is facing extinction from environmental catastrophe. But in terms of intelligent and thoughtful plotting, emotional intensity and breadth of scope, and exploration of the human psyche, “Fran of the Floods” must reign supreme. And in today’s climate of global warming, melting ice caps, rising ocean levels and alarming changes in weather patterns, it seems even more relevant now than it was in 1976.

Advertisements

Desert Island Daisy (1974)

Sample images

Desert Island Daisy 1Desert Island Daisy 2

Publication: 11/5/1974-6/7/1974
Artist: Robert MacGillivray
Writer: Unknown

Here we go with another of Jinty’s first stories. It was the most short-lived of the lineup, yet it made its way into the early Jinty annuals. Perhaps the annuals used unpublished episodes from the strip. It was drawn by popular artist Robert MacGillivray but was the only Jinty strip illustrated by this artist.

In Victorian times Sir Richard Carstairs, his wife, and their spoilt daughters Agnes and Letitia are on a voyage to visit their relatives in Australia. In their cabin, their maidservant Daisy Bates has to clean up the mess the girls have left behind, which shows how spoilt and selfish they are, but it’s the servant’s job (sigh). Then a storm wrecks the ship and the Carstairs escape in a lifeboat, with Daisy doing all the rowing until her hands are sore.

They end up on a desert island and become castaways. But even on a desert island the Carstairs uphold class distinction. This means Daisy does all the work while the Carstairs indulge themselves as high class Victorians. Daisy’s only friend is a lizard called Cuthbert. But the Carstairs’ indulgence also leads to the hijinks that give Daisy the last laugh every week. For example, Daisy makes grass skirts for the girls and applies mud pack. Then they get angry and start chasing her. As a result, Sir Richard thinks Daisy is being attacked by cannibals and thwacks his own daughters by mistake. Daisy takes advantage to finally get the shade and rest she has been desperate for in this episode. In another, Daisy finds a secret hoard of turtle eggs, which the girls mistake for buried treasure. When they go for them, they meet the angry mother who keeps them trapped the sea for hours Daisy seizes the opportunity to eat the eggs herself. In the last episode, the family accuses Daisy of getting lazy and sends her off to wash the clothes. Cuthbert dresses himself up in Lady Carstairs’ cap and petticoat. The girls laugh uproariously when they see this. But their mother is not amused and thwacks them. Daisy starts laughing at how funny life on a desert island can be, and not so bad after all.

Desert Island Daisy is a castaway story played strictly for laughs, and MacGillivray’s style is perfect for the slapstick humour. The laughs centre on jibes at the Victorian class system and getting one up for downtrodden maidservants every time the family’s arrogance towards Daisy, or their follies and self-indulgences backfire on them, and give her the last laugh. There are no laughs centred on goofed-up bids to escape a lá Gilligan’s Island. Indeed, there is nothing at all about attempts to escape, and the strip ends with their not being rescued at all.

This early Jinty strip did not last long and was the first to be axed from the first lineup. Why? Was it not popular enough, or did the editor decide to nix it in favour of another strip? Whatever the reason, after Daisy ended, the castaway theme disappeared completely from Jinty until 1980, where it was revived with the more serious “Girl the World Forgot”.

Girl the World Forgot (1980)

Sample images

Girl the World Forgot 14a

(Click thru)

Girl the World Forgot 14b

(Click thru)

Girl the World Forgot 14c

Publication: 6/9/80-13/12/80

Artist: Veronica Weir

Writer: Veronica Weir

“Ever wondered how you’d cope as a castaway?”

So began the blurb to introduce us to the story of Shona Owen, a Manchester girl who has thought little beyond discos and the pleasures in life. Then an accident at sea turns her into a castaway and forces her to learn a lot of things very fast in the name of survival.

This was Jinty’s second and last foray into the castaway theme. Her only other castaway serial – “Desert Island Daisy” way back in her first weeks – was short-lived and played for laughs. But this serial is definitely not meant to be funny. It is a serious, realistic exploration of survival on a deserted island, with menaces ranging from food shortages to an invisible threat.

It all begins when Shona and her dog Scuffer are tagging along on her parents’ scientific vessel on an expedition off the Scottish coast. A storm blows up, threatening to capsize the boat, and Dad sends out an SOS. He and Mum put Shona and Scuffer in a life raft, but a jagged rock cuts the line and they drift off into the stormy ocean. The parents are rescued in the nick of time. But the search for Shona and Scuffer yields only the empty life raft, and it is presumed that they both perished. The parents are grief-stricken, of course.

What they do not realise is that the life raft dumped Shona, Scuffer and supplies on a deserted island before being washed into the sea, where the search teams find it and draw the inevitable but wrong conclusion. Shona herself hears it on the radio, which was washed up with her. She starts calling herself the girl the world forgot because in the eyes of the world she no longer exists. Even worse, the radio does not inform Shona the fate of her parents (seems pretty odd, that – you’d think it would mention their reaction to her apparent fate). So while the parents are mourning for the daughter they think is dead, Shona has no idea whether her parents survived or not. For the duration of this serial we see parallels between the grieving parents and how they cope with their loss, and the emotional struggles Shona has in not knowing the fate of her parents. For example on Shona’s birthday, she celebrates with what she has to hand, but with tears over her parents – while back home they organise a birthday cake for her, but they too are in tears. As Christmas approaches, Dad keeps his promise to Shona to always have a Christmas tree for her, while she makes her own tree out of driftwood and shells.

The island is deserted but shows signs of former habitation, including a talking crow which Shona names Joe. Joe never seems to learn to say anything but “hello”, but provides companionship and light relief to the grimness of the story. But the most notable is the croft. It is deserted, but fully furnished, and there is even a kitchen table laid out for two. The calendar says it was last used in 1941 and there is a sign saying “welcome back” – as if the place had been laid out for someone who never arrived. From the beginning, Shona feels there is something strange about the croft. But as it turns out, Shona has no idea just how strange.

Meanwhile, Shona settles down to learning how to manage the livestock which are running wild on the island, fishing for food, collecting materials for a raft for escape, and working out ways to signal for help. It’s all a steep learning curve for the Manchester teenager who did not think much beyond discos and parties, and Shona herself says as much. But luckily for Shona she has her dog Scuffer to help, and for companionship, of course. Shona learns fast, and is constantly thinking about how much survival is changing her from the hedonistic girl she was before into a more serious and mature person.

The threats to survival are never far away, and they intensify as winter sets in. Colder weather, depleting food supplies, and fish stocks moving elsewhere mean that hunger, imminent illness, and possibly even death are setting in. But the real threat comes from the aforementioned invisible enemy. From the beginning, strange things start happening, such as the stock becoming unnerved for unexplained reasons and Shona having weird dreams of somebody wanting her out. The threat of the invisible enemy close in like a menacing coil as the signs grow that there is someone else on the island who hates Shona’s presence and does not seem to like the way she keeps changing things around at the croft. It gets worse when Shona is almost killed by a rolling boulder. It looks like someone was out for murder when Shona later finds a message on the window: “Leave!” But Shona cannot find anyone else on the island, which makes her all the more frightened. It climaxes on Christmas Eve when Shona sees a woman’s face at the window. The woman leads Shona to the shore, where she sees…Vikings burning a Viking longboat?

Not to worry, it’s just the local people honouring an annual celebration on Christmas Eve. But they get more than they bargain for when they turn into Shona’s rescuers. They explain to Shona that the previous owner of the croft, Alice Drunnon, left strict instructions on her deathbed that the croft be left undisturbed as a tribute to her late husband, who had disappeared on a fishing trip. But Shona unknowingly disturbed it, so she has been up against the angry ghost of Alice Drunnon. Shona respectfully leaves the croft how she found it before she, Scuffer and Joe go to meet their rescue ship.

There is a heart-warming tie-in with the upcoming Christmas issue as Shona is reunited with her parents in time for Christmas Day. She receives the presents her mother had arranged for her, but never thought she would give in person.  At the same time, two fishermen out enjoying their Christmas presents find Shona’s SOS note in a bottle. They dismiss it as a joke, ironically saying there are no people stranded on desert islands in this day and age.

The story bears some similarities to “Seulah the Seal”. They were both illustrated by Veronica Weir, whose strong but not harsh contour lines and use of cross hatching and inking work brilliantly for the rugged environment, animals and wildlife, and misty surroundings which blend in well with the eerie elements of the story. But there are other similarities between the two stories. First is the use of Scottish settings for the rugged, remote, wildlife environments in both stories. Second is the struggle for survival against threats from all sides, including forces that the protagonist does not fully understand (invisible enemy for Shona and seal hunters for Seulah). Third, there is the intense use of emotion, loss and grief intermingled with the love and friendship that keeps the protagonist going. Perhaps Seulah and GTWF had the same writer. Or maybe GTWF was originally scripted for Penny, inspired by the popularity of Seulah. Neither would be surprising. But GTWF has the added element of an increasing supernatural threat, which makes it a dramatic and gripping step up from Seulah.

Update: we have now been informed by Veronica Weir’s daughter that her mother wrote the story as well as illustrating it (thank you for the information!) The credit for the writer has been revised accordingly.