Tag Archives: tennis

Child of the Rain [1980]

Sample images

Child of the Rain 1Child of the Rain 2Child of the Rain 3

Published: Jinty 6 September 1980 – 22 November 1980

Episodes: 12

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Unknown

Reprints/translations: None known

Plot

Jemma West has always loathed rain. So accompanying her naturalist father on a trip to the Amazon rainforest where he has to navigate mud-soaked tracks in pouring tropical rain is not her idea of fun. What’s more, these driving conditions make Jemma fling out of the jeep and she gashes her leg on a tree.

While recovering in hospital, everyone is astonished to find Jemma suddenly dancing happily in the rain. Jemma is just as astonished. All of a sudden, the rain-hater has become absolutely crazy about rain and she just can’t get enough of it.

That’s only the beginning of Jemma’s strange new association with rain. Jemma soon finds that when it rains she is filled with amazing strength and energy. But when it’s fine she wilts like a flower. As for drought – that sends her right to sleep.

Jemma is one of the best tennis players in the school, but this strange effect that the presence/absence of rain has on her is becoming a real nuisance on the tennis court and hindering her performance. She can’t perform properly on the court when the weather’s fine, and sometimes rain does too good a job on her – her strength rises to such levels that she’s knocking the tennis ball miles out of the court. Everyone is worried she is ill or something, and it looks like she is not fit to enter the championships. And Jemma can’t explain because she can’t understand it herself. Once rain revives her, she’s back in the game, but unfortunately rain is not always present.

Jemma’s lengths to find rain to revive herself when it’s dry get really desperate at times and they get her into constant trouble at home and school. She also finds that she is crazy about anything to do with the Amazon rainforest. For example, when Dad gives a slideshow about the Amazon rainforest, Jemma goes right up and kisses the image on the screen, right in front of everyone. Naturally, Dad is embarrassed and very displeased with Jemma! When Jemma is given tree bark from the Amazon rainforest, she finds the bark has much the same effect on her that rain does.

Things finally come to a head when Jemma suddenly finds a pain starting in her leg where the gash had been. She tries to hide it because the school tennis championships are coming up, but the problem turns into a life-threatening infection and she is hospitalised. Surgical investigation reveals a splinter of wood from the tree was lodged deeply in her leg, which started an infection. It is removed, but Jemma does not respond to antibiotics. The infection is poisoning her blood and on the verge of killing her. The doctors are stumped and helpless.

In desperation, Dad flies Jemma back to the Amazon rainforest to seek help from a local medicine man he knows. The medicine man’s treatment may look like pure mumbo-jumbo, but it succeeds where the antibiotics failed. Jemma is soon waking up, looking much better, and very surprised to find herself back in the rainforest.

Jemma soon finds rain is not having that mysterious effect on her anymore, and concludes it must have been that splinter in her leg. The school kindly held back the tennis championships until Jemma recovered. She has no problem winning the championship, particularly as that rain effect is no longer a problem. However, Jemma retains her love of rain and the Amazon rainforest.

Thoughts

This was the only tennis serial to appear in Jinty. This may seem strange for a comic with a high emphasis on sport, but then several sports only scored one or two serials in Jinty while they were dime a dozen in titles like Bunty.

Child of the Rain also links in with Jinty’s emphasis on environmentalism, with the Amazon rainforest being the force that drives the whole plot, although the story contains little that touches on environmentalism itself. The message of environmentalism is a whole lot more muted than it is in other Jinty environmental serials such as “The Forbidden Garden”. However, the Amazon rainforest is such a powerful influence in the story that the reader would emerge seeing it in a whole new light, as does the protagonist herself. The strange power she gains from the rainforest leaves her with a new appreciation of nature, the Amazon rainforest, and her father’s naturalist job.

Not all protagonists who acquire a strange power in a serial find it beneficial, and this is definitely the case with Jemma. Though the power is beneficial when it rains, for the most part it is just a nuisance that is interfering with Jemma’s life and tennis. In fact it is not only a nuisance but eventually life-threatening as well. In terms of benefit, the power serves more to develop Jemma’s character than help her along with her tennis as she goes from rain hater with little interest in nature to a rain and rainforest lover.

Though this story is not one of Jinty’s classics, there appears to be a lingering fondness for it. Maybe it’s the rainforest elements.

Jinty and Penny 4 October 1980

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

Stories in this issue:

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Girl the World Forgot (artist and writer Veronica Weir)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Tears of a Clown (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Houghton)
  • ‘A Call for Help’ – Gypsy Rose story (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Behind the Screen: Return of the Saint
  • Sue’s Daily Dozen (artist José Casanovas) – first episode
  • Winning Ways 27: Tennis – the Forehand Drive (writer Benita Brown)
  • Child of the Rain (artist Phil Townsend)

Pam’s friend Tracie is all of a tizzy – she’s terrified of her mum walking out on the family. The obvious question is, why would she do that to them? It’s a serious worry: her mum is increasingly fed up with her home life and actively threatens to leave them. Of course it’s causing Tracie no end of worries on a daily basis but it also means there is no way she wants to come on the class trip to France. Pam’s cheerful mother thinks it’ll never come to that point, but when Tracie gets home after school one day and finds that her mother has packed a bag and got on the 3 o’clock bus it seems like quite a different matter!

Shona is the “Girl the World Forgot”, trying to survive on a deserted Scottish island. Some seals give her a pleasant surprise and she forgets her worries in swimming with them. But when the night comes and she is alone in the croft she has found, she seems not to be alone after all…

Kathy is trying hard to prove herself as a runner to her classmates and her teachers, but bad luck and the bullying nature of the horrible Sandra Simkins mean everything is against her. Even the obstacle race is a shameful experience for her – so bad that she vows to run away. At least her speed in running will help here there!

The Gypsy Rose story is clearly drawn specially for Jinty as it’s by Terry Aspin throughout in a matching style. Kay’s little sister Jenny has an imaginary friend called Mary who rings her on the toy phone – but one night the toy phone really does ring and Mary pleads for help because the hospital she is in is burning down! It turns out to be a hospital for toys, very fittingly. Gypsy Rose introduces the story and rounds it off at the end, rather than being one of the characters in the story itself as she sometimes is – but her appearance outside the burned toy factory in the last two panels makes it clear that she inhabits the same world as the stories she tells, that is, they are really real as far as she is concerned.

In the first episode of “Sue’s Daily Dozen” Sue Baker is feeling left-out as the only newcomer to the village. In the house that her dad is busy doing up, she finds a mysterious set of items that help her to integrate into village life – an old cooking pot, a ‘Daily Dozen’ book, and a spoon. Suspiciously witchy-sounding? But the first recipe, of some little cakes, turn out smashingly – but they do seem to be causing people who eat them to act a little… oddly.

Jemma West learns yoga from her serendipitous guest but when the rain comes down again she still can’t control herself enough, and she loses a big chance.

Story theme: Sports

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

Jinty and Penny cover 7 February 1981

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

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

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

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

Core examples

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

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

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

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

 

Edge cases

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

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

 

Other thoughts

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

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