Tag Archives: The Birds

Story length through Jinty’s life

I have created a new page listing the stories in Jinty by publication date. This seemed like an interesting and useful addition to the list of stories in alphabetical order that has been in place on the blog since we started. As part of the information on that new page it seemed sensible to count the number of episodes for each story, too (where possible) – luckily for me, the Catawiki data that I was using to compile this information gave me the ability to include that for almost all stories. As I put together the list, I got the impression that in the last year of Jinty‘s publication, the story length was getting shorter and shorter: so I pulled together some stats on it.

For each year below, there are some stories I excluded from the statistics, either because I didn’t have a complete count of all the episodes (for instance where a story had started in Lindy or Penny before their merger with Jinty), or because they were by their nature long-running humour strips with no specific start or end point. I’ll give a list of the excluded stories and their running lengths further down this post.

  • For 1974, the mean story length is just under 16 episodes and the mode (most usual) story length is 13 episodes
  • For 1975, the mean is just under 18 episodes and the mode is 16 episodes
  • For 1976, the mean is just under 15 episodes and the mode is 19 episodes
  • For 1977, the mean is just over 14 episodes and the mode is 11
  • For 1978, the mean is just over 16 episodes and the mode is 18
  • For 1979, the mean is just over 14 episodes and the mode is 12
  • For 1980, the mean is 11.5 episodes and the mode is 12
  • For 1981, the mean is 11 episodes and the mode is 10

We can see that the two averages do go up and down over the run of Jinty. Having said that, the drop-off in episode length in 1980 and 1981 does look like a real change, despite that context of background variation. (I’m not going to do any full-on statistical analysis with standard deviations and so on though!) Both average figures are down in those two years, because there are fewer long stories pushing up the mean as well as a general trend to the slightly shorter length of 10 – 12 episodes.

Which stories did I exclude from the analytics, and why?

  • The humour strips with no specific story arc: “Dora Dogsbody” (94 episodes), “Do-it-Yourself Dot” (62 episodes), “The Jinx From St Jonah’s” (112 episodes), “The Snobs and the Scruffs” (12 episodes), “Desert Island Daisy” (9 episodes), “Bird-Girl Brenda” (27 episodes), “The Hostess with the Mostess” (19 episodes), “Bet Gets The Bird!” (11 episodes), “Alley Cat” (163 episodes), “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” (111 episodes), “Bizzie Bet and the Easies” (27 episodes), “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost” (96 episodes).
  • “Merry at Misery House” (66 episodes) is not a humour strip but like those above, it has no specific overall story arc, no obvious beginning or end that is worked towards throughout its run. I have therefore excluded that too. The same goes for “Pam of Pond Hill” which ran to a mighty 126 episodes in Jinty and then on into Tammy of course.
  • The stories that I have incomplete episode information about: “Finleg the Fox”, “Penny Crayon”, “Hettie High-and-Mighty”, “Gypsy Rose” (these stories are not catalogued on Catawiki as a group), “Rinty n Jinty”, “Seulah the Seal”, “Tansy of Jubilee Street”, and “Snoopa”. Various of those would be excluded even if I had complete episode numbers, of course.
    • Edited to add: further information has been given in the comments below. “Finleg” and “Hettie” ran for 7 episodes in Lindy, and “Tansy” ran for 45 episodes in Penny. “Seulah” ran for 11 episodes in Penny, and then started a new story in Jinty & Penny, which I hadn’t really realised. The two Seulah stories were more like separate arcs in a bigger story than self-contained stories in themselves. Many thanks to Marc for this information! I will add them into the spreadsheet and see if it makes any difference to the years in question.
    • “Snoopa” ran for 45 episodes in Penny, which Mistyfan confirms below (many thanks). As a gag strip, this would not be included in the year-on-year statistics in any case.

Longest run of an individual story? “Alley Cat” has all the others beat, at 163 episodes; runners-up are “Pam of Pond Hill” at 126 episodes, and then “The Jinx From St Jonah’s” and “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag!” neck and neck at 112 and 111 episodes respectively. However, if you exclude these and look at the length of the ‘normal’ stories, then the top three are “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (36 episodes), “Fran of the Floods” (35 episodes), and “Always Together…” (29 episodes). (Phil Townsend does particularly well for long-running stories, as “Daddy’s Darling” clocks in at 24 episodes and “Song of the Fir Tree” at 22 episodes.)

At the other end of things are some short stories. There are only two single-episode stories: “Holly and the Ivy” and “Mimi Seeks a Mistress”. “Freda’s Fortune” is the only two episode story. “Mimi” was a reprinted story, printed towards the end of 1980; possibly “Holly” and “Freda” were intended for publication in annuals or summer specials and then used as filler.

There are a few 3 or 4 episode stories: “The Birds”, “The Changeling”, “Casey, Come Back!”, and “The Tale of the Panto Cat”. This is also an odd length for a story – long enough to allow for a bit of development, but short enough to feel a bit abruptly cut off when you get to the end. Of these four, I’d say that “The Birds” is the one I find uses its length most successfully, though “Panto” works pretty well as a seasonal short. The slightly-longer “Her Guardian Angel” (5 episodes) likewise uses its length reasonably well to give us a seasonal amusement.  Some other shorter stories, such as “Badgered Belinda” (7 episodes), do read like they have probably been cut down from an originally-intended standard length of 10 – 12 episodes.

The spreadsheet with this information is available on request – please comment and I will be happy to email it to you if you want.

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Stories translated into Dutch

Following up on the previous post on European Translations, Sleuth from Catawiki has kindly sent me a list she has prepared of Jinty stories which were translated into Dutch. (See also some comments from her in that post, about Dutch translations.) They were mostly published in the weekly comic Tina and/or in the reprint album format Tina Topstrip. The list below shows the original title, followed by the title in the Dutch translation, with a literal translation in [square brackets] where appropriate, and then the details of the publication that the translation appeared in. It is ordered by date of original publication.

  • Gwen’s Stolen Glory (1974): De droom van een ander [Someone else’s dream] (in: Tina Club 1975-2)
  • Dora Dogsbody (1974-76): Hilda Hondemoppie (in: Tina 1974)
  • Gail’s Indian Necklace (1974): Anak-Har-Li [the name of the Indian deity on the necklace] (in: Tina Club 1975-01)
  • Always Together (1974): Voor altijd samen (in: Tina 1985/86)
  • Wild Horse Summer (1974): De zomer van het witte paard [White Horse Summer] (in: Tina 1976, Tina Topstrip 15 (1980))
  • Left-Out Linda (1974): Linda (in: Tina 1975/76)
  • Wenna the Witch (1974): Wenna de heks (in: Tina 1976, Tina Topstrip 34, 1981)
  • Slave of the Mirror (1975): De spiegel met de slangen [The Snakes Mirror] (in: Tina 1976)
  • The Kat and Mouse Game (1975): Als kat en muis [Like cat and mouse] (in: Tina 1985)
  • Tricia’s Tragedy (1975): Tineke – Strijd om de Lankman-trofee [Tineke – Fighting for the Lankman Trophy] (in: Tina 1975/76, Tina Topstrip 18 (1980)).
  • The Valley of the Shining Mist (1975): Het dal van de glanzende nevel (in: Tina 1977)
  • Barracuda Bay (1975): Susan Stevens – Barracudabaai (in: Tina 1971); reprint from June & School Friend 1970.
  • The Haunting of Hazel: Hazel en haar berggeest [Hazel and her Mountain Ghost] (in: Tina 1976/77, Tina Topstrip 27 (1981))
  • For Peter’s Sake! (1976): De opdracht van Josefien [Josephine’s Assignment] (in: Tina Boelboek 5 (1985))
  • The Slave of Form 3B (1976): In de ban van Isabel [Under Isabel’s Spell] (in: Groot Tina Zomerboek 1984-2)
  • Then there were 3 … (1976): Toen waren er nog maar drie (in: Groot Tina Lenteboek 1982-1
  • Horse from the Sea (1976): De legende van het witte paard [The Legend of the White Horse] (in: Tina 1985)
  • Snobby Shirl the Shoeshine Girl! (1976): Freule Frederique [Lady Frederique] (in: Tina 1979)
  • Stefa’s Heart of Stone (1976): Steffie’s hart van steen (in: Tina 1986). Reprint in Tammy 1984
  • Girl in a Bubble (1976): Gevangen in een luchtbel [Prisoner in a Bubble] (in: Tina 1977, Tina Topstrip 29, 1981).
  • Sceptre of the Toltecs (1977): De scepter van de Tolteken (in: Tina 1978; Tina Topstrip 44, 1982)
  • The Mystery of Martine (1976-77): De dubbelrol van Martine [Martine’s Double Role] (in: Tina 1978).
  • Mark of the Witch! (1977): Het teken van de heks (in: Tina 1982/83)
  • Freda, False Friend (1977): Frieda, de valse vriendin (in: Tina 1978/79)
  • Spell of the Spinning Wheel (1977): De betovering van het spinnewiel (in: Tina 1978; Tina Topstrip 42, 1982)
  • The Darkening Journey (1977): Samen door het duister [Through the Darkness Together] (in: Tina 1981/82)
  • Creepy Crawley (1977): In de macht/ban van een broche [Under the Spell of a Brooch] (In: Tina 1979; Tina Topstrip 60, 1984)
  • Kerry in the Clouds (1977): Klaartje in de wolken (in: Tina 1978)
  • The Robot Who Cried (1977): Robot L4A ontsnapt! [Robot Elvira Gets Away] (in: Tina 1985/86).
  • Curtain of Silence (1977): Achter het stille gordijn [Behind the Silent Curtain] (in: Tina 1978/79, Tina Topstrip 52, 1983)
  • Fran’ll Fix it! (1977; 1978-79): short story 3/4; Annabel versiert ‘t wel [Annabel will fix it]; episodes in Tina from 1983 till 1994; there were also “Dutch” episodes written by Bas van der Horst and drawn by Comos, and there is an episode in 1994 written by Ian Mennell and drawn by Comos.
  • Who’s That in My Mirror? (1977): Het spookbeeld in de spiegel [The Ghost in the Mirror] (in: Tina 1980)
  • Cursed to be a Coward! (1977): Zoals de waarzegster voorspelde [Like the Fortune-Teller Predicted] (in: Tina 1979, Tina Topstrip 49, 1983)
  • Destiny Brown (1977): De vreemde visioenen van Seventa Smit [Seventa Smit’s Strange Visions] (in: Tina 1980)
  • The Goose Girl (1977): not translated directly but the storyline was probably used for Maartje, het ganzenmeisje [Marge, the Goose Girl] in Tina 1979, art by Piet Wijn; Tina Topstrip 40, 1982).
  • Stage Fright! (1977): De gevangene van Valckensteyn [Prisoner of Valckensteyn/Falconstone] (in: Tina 1981)
  • Guardian of White Horse Hill (1977): Epona, wachter van de paardenvallei [Epona, Guardian of the Horse Valley] (in: Tina 1978; Tina Topstrip 37, 1982)
  • Land of No Tears (1977-78): Wereld zonder tranen [World of No Tears] (in: Groot Tina Lenteboek 1983-1)
  • Come into My Parlour (1977-78): Kom maar in mijn web [Just Come into My Web] (in: Groot Tina Boek 1981-3)
  • Race for a Fortune (1977-78): Om het fortuin van oom Archibald [Race for Uncle Archibald’s Fortune] (in: Tina 1980)
  • Concrete Surfer (1977-78): Ik heb altijd m’n skateboard nog! [At least I’ve still got my skateboard] (in: Tina 1980)
  • Paula’s Puppets (1978): De poppen van Petra [Petra’s Puppets] (in: Tina 1979, Tina Topstrip 54, 1983). Perhaps they changed the name because there was a Stewardess Paula strip in Tina at the time.
  • Slave of the Swan (1978): De wraak van de Zwaan [Revenge of the Swan] (in: Tina 1980)
  • The Birds (1978): De vogels (in: Groot Tina Boek 1978 winter).
  • Clancy on Trial (1978): Nancy op proef [Nancy on Trial – the name Clancy is highly unusual in the Netherlands] (in: Tina 1979)
  • Wild Rose (1978): Waar hoor ik thuis? [Where do I belong?] (in: Tina 1980)
  • 7 Steps to the Sisterhood (1978): Gevaar loert op Lansdael [Danger at Lansdael] (in: Tina 1980)
  • The Human Zoo (1978): Als beesten in een kooi [Like Animals in a Cage] (in: Tina 1986). Reprint in Tammy 1982.
  • No Cheers for Cherry (1978): Geen applaus voor Sandra [No Applause for Sandra] (in: Groot Tina Zomerboek 1983-2)
  • The Girl Who Never Was (1979): De verbanning van Irma Ijsinga [Irma Ijsinga’s Banishment] (in: Tina 1981)
  • Sea-Sister (1979): Gevangene van de zee [Prisoner of the Sea] (in: Tina 1989)
  • The Forbidden Garden (1979): De verboden tuin (in: Tina 1982/83). Reprint in Tammy 1984
  • Bizzie Bet and the Easies (1979): Dina Doe douwt door [Dinah Do Pushes Through] (just one episode, in: Groot Tina Lenteboek 1982-1).
  • Almost Human (1979): De verloren planeet [The Lost Planet] (in: Tina 1984)
  • Village of Fame (1979): Het dorp waar nooit ‘ns iets gebeurde [The Village Where Nothing Ever Happened] (in: Tina 1982)
  • Combing Her Golden Hair (1979): Kirsten, kam je gouden lokken [Kirsten, Comb Your Golden Locks] (in: Tina 1981, Tina Topstrip 64, 1985: Kam je gouden lokken)
  • Waves of Fear (1979): In een golf van angst [In a Wave of Fear] (in: Tina 1983)
  • White Water (1979-80): Wild Water [Wild Water] (in: Tina 1984)
  • When Statues Walk… (1979-80): De wachters van Thor [Thor’s Guardians] (in: Tina 1981/82, Tina Topstrip 71, 1985)
  • The Venetian Looking Glass (1980): Het gezicht in de spiegel [The Face in the Mirror] (in: Tina 1983)
  • Seulah the Seal (1979-80): Sjoela de zeehond (in: Tina 1980/81, little booklets in black and white that came as a free gift, stapled in the middle of a Tina).
  • A Spell of Trouble (1980): Anne Tanne Toverheks [Anne Tanne Sorceress, a sort of nursery rhyme name] (in: Tina 1984/85)
  • Girl the World Forgot (1980): Door iedereen vergeten [Forgotten by everyone] (in: Tina 1987)
  • The Ghost Dancer (1981): Dansen in het maanlicht [Dancing in the Moonlight] (in: Tina 1983)
  • Holiday Hideaway (1981): Wie niet weg is, is gezien [If you’re not gone, you’re seen – a sentence children use in hide-and-seek] (in: Tina 1982)
  • Freda’s Fortune (1981): Could be: Fortuin voor Floortje [A Fortune for Florrie] (in: Groot Tina Herfstboek 1983-3)
  • Airgirl Emma’s Adventure (reprint from June 1969, in Jinty Holiday Special 1975): Short story 16; Emma zoekt het hogerop [Emma takes it higher up] (in: Tina 1970)

Various of the stories translated in Tina were also reprinted in the Indonesian title Nina (of course Indonesia is a former Dutch colony, making for a clear link). These will be listed on a new reference page for Translations into Indonesian.

This long list enables us to see how very popular some creators were – for instance, a large number of Jim Baikie and Phil Gascoine stories are included (though not all, by any means). Of course, these were also the most prolific of Jinty artists too.

Many stories were translated very shortly after initial publication, and then reprinted in album form some time later. There was also a ‘second round’ of translation work done after Jinty ceased publication, to go back and pick some of the earlier stories that had not been selected earlier. This was the case with “Always Together” and “The Kat and Mouse Game”, for instance.

Many but by no means all of the story titles were translated fairly literally or exactly, though the main character’s name was almost invariably exchanged for another one. Some titles ended up particularly poetical or neat in translation: “A Spell of Trouble” and “Holiday Hideaway” perhaps benefit most from their translated titles. Of course, there are also some losers: I think “The Human Zoo” and “The Girl Who Never Was” ended up with less resonant titles through the process.

A wide range of stories were translated: spooky stories, humour stories, science fiction, adventure, sports stories. There are some omissions that I’m surprised by, though of course the editors had to pick and choose from so much that was available. “Fran of the Floods” was probably too long (see Marc’s comment about the length of stories selected for translation). No Gypsy Rose stories were selected – maybe they didn’t want a storyteller, ‘grab-bag’ approach? I am however quite surprised at the omission of the excellent “Children of Edenford” (1979). Could it have been too subversive a story, with its underlying theme of adults undermining their position of trust by hypnotizing children in order to control their moral development? The similarly-themed “Prisoner of the Bell” was also not translated. Of course this is rather a guess! At the end of the day I’m sure there were just more stories to choose from than there were spaces for publication.

For reference, I also include a complete list of stories published in the album format Tina Topstrip (71 albums in total). This gives us a view of how many of the reprinted stories deemed worthy of collection came from which original title. Note that some of the stories in this album format were themselves originally written in Dutch as they are credited to a Dutch writer. (NB I will add this to the new page created for Translations into Dutch)

  1. Becky Never Saw The Ball
  2. Twinkle, Twinkle, Daisy Star
  3. Wee Sue
  4. Het geheim van oom Robert (original story in Dutch)
  5. Kimmy op de modetoer (original title unknown)
  6. Marcella het circuskind (original title unknown)
  7. Moses and Me
  8. Peggy en Jeroen (Patty’s World story)
  9. Anja – Dorp in gevaar (original title unknown)
  10. Het lied van de rivier (Patty and the Big Silver Bull Band story, original in Dutch)
  11. Sonja en de mysterieuze zwemcoach (I suspect this is a translation as no writer is given)
  12. De man in het koetshuis (original story in Dutch)
  13. Linda’s verdriet (original title unknown, from Tammy)
  14. Het circus komt (original story in Dutch)
  15. Wild Horse Summer
  16. Noortje (original story in Dutch)
  17. Ruzie om Jeroen (Patty’s World story)
  18. Tricia’s Tragedy
  19. Het lied van de angst (Patty and the Big Silver Bull Band story, original in Dutch)
  20. Silver Is A Star (from Sandie)

Len Wenn

Len Wenn (1918 – 2003) wrote various stories for Jinty, as confirmed by Keith Robson in this comment. At present the list of his confirmed story titles is very minimal; if further information comes in we’d love to add to it in the future.

Len Wenn, from around 1973
Len Wenn, from around 1973

(with thanks to Keith Robson for the photo)

Len was the editor who launched the IPC girls’ comic Sally, which ran from 1969 to 1971; he subsequently edited the IPC boy’s humour comic Buster from 1971 to 1981. There are some references to Len, and to Keith Robson, in Dez Skinn’s article about his IPC Fleetway days here. Terry Magee also refers to Len Wenn and Mavis Miller holding script conferences in IPC during his time there (see subsequent additions to the Terry Magee interview): “Len and Mavis collaborated on scripts for June & School Friend and Sally. … Horace Boyten also used to join their script conferences before he retired in 1966.  Horace was a very nice chap, quiet and modest, the writer behind “The Silent Three”.  Len and Horace were very Amalgamated Press…easy-going kind of fellows.  Probably too gentle for the challenging changes ahead.”

In fact the two stories we have confirmation that he wrote are not only solid, memorable Jinty stories, they have a lot of bite to them. “Go On, Hate Me!” is a powerful grudge/revenge story that wraps up well; the shorter, to-the-point “The Birds” has strong horror elements that make it genuinely scary at points. If he was too gentle for the changes in the working environment as Terry suggests, he certainly could write to the spec of the newer breed of comic that was represented by Jinty, Tammy, Misty, and the like.

The idea of multiple collaborators within the editorial office working on script conferences is intriguing. Alison Christie has confirmed in her interview that she had very little editorial direction, which I assume would be because she had already proved herself as a trusted steady hand, capable of delivering solid stories to schedule. Were the in-house script conferences to determine the suggestions that might be made to other less trusted writers, or to propose girls-story takes on big hits from books and tv, or just to write their own content? There were so many pages to fill alongside the comics stories, from ‘hints & tips’ features or non-fiction articles, plus text stories, that this must have kept the editorial team pretty busy in any case. The collaborative aspect of story writing in those conferences was a gift that must have been limited to only specific cases, given that most freelance creators never met each other.

It seems that Len worked for IPC primarily rather than moving from DC Thomsons as so many others did. Alison Christie recalled in an email relating to life in the IPC offices:
“I was always wondering when any of [the titles] would be merged or axed. I appreciated working for IPC, they paid so much more than DC Thomson’s did. I had to join the NUJ, though – which Thomsons, being non-union, abhorred. I could do that, of course, as I was freelance. But some employees of DCs were in the NUJ, and held clandestine meetings in Dundee, which I attended. I didn’t realise until I’d read Keith’s interview that while working in IPC, he was able to freelance for other papers, including DCT’s. No way could I have done that while working in DCTs, or Keith either. There was the sword of Damocles hanging over you if you were found out and possible sacking would ensue.” So IPC paid better and was unionised, but then of course it also suffered from strike action, and from the pernicious policy of hatch-match-dispatch, at which point the creators, and presumably the editorial staff, could suddenly find themselves in the suds. Ending up as editor of long-running title Buster, Len will have been reasonably safe from these dangers, though one assumes the feelings in the office could run pretty high at those times.
 –

Keith Robson

This is the 250th post on this blog! After a slow season in the run up to Christmas, we have been blazing away. How better to celebrate than with another creator interview?

Keith Robson contacted us via a comment on this site: “I drew ‘The Birds’ so can tell you that the writer was ‘Buster’ editor Len (Lennox) Wenn. Before going freelance in 1975 I was a staffer so Len and I were old friends. Len also wrote ‘Go On, Hate Me’ and many other Jinty serials.” He kindly agreed to answer a few questions for this blog, illuminating various aspects of the life of a freelancer and staffer at the time and subsequently.

Keith Robson stories in Jinty (see also the Catawiki list of his stories and the Lambiek Comiclopedia entry):

1 Can you please outline your career in British comics? For instance, how did you start, which titles did you write for, how long did you draw comics for? I have read Dez Skinn’s article about IPC Fleetway when you both worked there, and of course in your original comment on this site you said that you started as a freelancer in 1975, but it would be great to know what led you to go freelance (it seems to have been a step taken by a lot of in house staff?).

I got my start in October 1968 in D.C.Thomson’s Meadowside art department in Dundee. This was a wonderful training ground where I learned far more than I ever did in Art College! There were over 50 artists, letterers and layout people at the disposal of all the Thomson publications so almost anything could land on your desk to be drawn, quickly and accurately. In those early days I drew lots of text story illustrations for the boys’ comics – Rover, Victor, Hotspur etc. Pat Mills and John Wagner were there at the time though I never got to know them, and they left before I did.

The Spanish and Italian artists used by the girls’ comics did beautiful work, but they could never get British things like policemen, buses, taxis, pillar boxes etc. right, so a typical job would be Anglicising pages for Jackie or Romeo. (I also appeared in Romeo, as did many young Thomson staffers, photographed to illustrate readers’ letters and problems!) More often though, 39 pages of an old girls’ serial would land on my desk to be updated- all the hairstyles updated, skirts shortened, blazer badges changed and so on. Thus acres of magnificent artwork passed through my hands, and once in a while there would be the opportunity to actually draw some pages. My first girls’ stories were for Diana starting with a serial on the back page (in full colour!) called ‘Little Donkey’. Assorted other Diana features and annual pages followed but the bread and butter work of the art department was repairs and alterations. In all, I spent two and a half happy years in Meadowside learning from some wonderful mentors, but really wanting to draw my own weekly pages and not seeing too much future for that in the Thomson Art Dept.

In the summer of 1971 I was down in London (hoping to find an agent) and found myself passing the offices of IPC Magazines with a folder of artwork under my arm and the number of an ex-Thomson staffer now in Look and Learn… An hour later after a hilarious interview with legendary managing editor Jack Le Grand I emerged back on Farringdon Street with a staff job (and some freelance work on Look and Learn)!

I returned to Dundee, packed my bags, bade a cordial farewell to D.C.Thomson, and a fortnight later joined Buster working with editor Lenn Wenn and sub editor Dez Skinn. (A week later we were all on strike!)

A daily visitor to the Buster office was Mavis Miller, and old friend of Lenn’s (they started at Fleetway together) and we often all went to lunch. I acquired an agent (Dan Kelleher of Temple/Rogers) and started doing freelance for assorted publishers, all kinds of work with a view to saving enough for a deposit on my own flat. Through the good offices of Dan and Pat Kelleher, (and since I had parted amicably from D.C.Thomson), I began drawing for the Sparky – a series called ‘Mr. Bubbles’.

Friends in Dundee alerted me to a suitable flat for sale in Newport-on-Tay (across the river from Dundee) I was able to get a mortgage, and a few months later took the plunge, moved back north and went freelance, working for both Thomsons and IPC.

2 Which stories did you draw, in Jinty and on other titles? On my list of Jinty stories that you drew, I have “Jassy’s Wand of Power”, “Go On, Hate Me!”, “The Goose Girl”, “The Birds”, and various Gypsy Rose stories. Of the stories you drew, do you have favourites or perhaps ones you now recall with a bit of a shudder? Did you know ever know who wrote “Jassy” for instance, or the Gypsy Rose stories you drew? We know from Veronica Weir that there was at least one case of an artist who wrote their own story; did you ever do that, or did you know of other cases where that happened at all?

It was through Pat Kelleher and knowing Mavis Miller that I got my first Jinty serial – “Jassy’s Wand of Power’’ – which I really enjoyed. They never told me know who wrote anything, I only knew the stories written by Lenn Wenn, so I can’t tell you who did those Gypsy Rose stories – except for the one I wrote myself. This was one of the first scripts I ever had accepted. A girl encounters a photographer with a Victorian camera at a ruined castle. She later realises he must be a ghost and that she has taped his voice on her new cassette recorder! However when she plays it back there’s nothing. The twist comes when she does some research in the library and discovers a 100 year old photo – of herself! [This story is reprinted below]

I didn’t find out that Alison Fitt had written “The Goose Girl” until 2006 when we met at the launch of ‘Time Tram Dundee’, a ‘Horrible History’-type book I illustrated that was written by Alison’s son Matthew.

3 In your time doing these comics are there any kinds of stories that you would have liked to draw that you didn’t get the chance to?

I enjoyed all the stories I did for Jinty, and I always tried to put in as much background detail as I could. I would love the opportunity to redraw any of them again now (I cringe when I see some of the stuff I did in those days!). I especially liked stories with a distinctive setting and lots of atmosphere. I can remember “Save Old Smokey” the train story that Alison mentioned. I would have loved to have been asked to draw that one as I love steam trains! Deadlines were often a bit of a struggle, and in order to stay on schedule with “The Goose Girl” I had to take my pages with me on holiday, and it was while drawing an episode in a caravan in Anstruther that the news came that Elvis had died (16 August 1977).

4 We are always keen to know who worked on the various stories, as explicit creator credit was very rare. You have already helped muchly with your crediting of Len Wenn as writer on “Hate Me!” and “The Birds”, and via Alison Christie we now know that she was the writer on “The Goose Girl”. Do you know names of other people who worked on Jinty and related girls’ comics?

After Jinty, I also did a serial for Penny called ‘The Blue Island Mystery’; again I was never told who the writer was, also a ‘spot the clue’ type detective feature called “Sharp-eyed Sharon” for the Summer Special [there were also two examples of it in the 1979 Annual]. My final girls’ serial was for D.C.Thomson in Mandy, which had been taken over by former Sparky editor, Iain Chisholm (shortly before he died). This was “Diana’s Dark Secret” – Blind Diana unexpectedly regains her sight in episode one, but because she fears they’ll take away Goldie, her beloved guide dog she continues (riddled by guilt) to fake blindness. Only the dog knows…

After Mandy, Thomsons moved me onto Topper (drawing “The Whizzers from Oz”) and Starblazer doing science fantasy covers, then on to their final two boys’ papers, Spike and Champ. When they folded I worked on school textbooks for Oliver and Boyd in Edinburgh, then over ten years on the Dandy writing and drawing “Black Bob”, and “Jonah” and “General Jumbo” for Beano. There was a brief return to girls’ type stories in the Dandy with a short-lived parody written tongue-in-cheek by Thomson staffer Duncan Leith called “Wendy’s Wicked Stepladder”.

5 In his article, Dez attributes the decline of comics to a contempt for the reader (and maybe also the creator?) that was down to a purely commercial vision – printing using old-fashioned presses, resizing artwork in a destructive fashion, and so on. Pat Mills also thinks similarly, talking of the hatch-match-dispatch process angrily. Of course the rise of competing claims on kids’ time and pocket money (computer games, tv) could also be held to blame. Where do you stand on this? Do you think the decline of the British comics industry was an avoidable misfortune, or inevitable in a changing world?

I feel it was very short-sighted that the comics were allowed to slide into decline. For sure, the rise of other media certainly played its part, but the publishers were always reluctant to invest when sales dropped, especially IPC with its hatch, match, and despatch policy. They never had much respect for the amazing pool of talent that they had at their disposal, and certainly never gave anyone credit. Payments hardly increased in the latter years, and our work was never returned. There was a constant anxiety that the comic might fold (they never told you that the end was coming) and there might be no more work…

Letterpress printing never did justice to the artwork and maybe, just maybe if they had gone upmarket into full colour and printed on decent paper, giving creators a name check they might have got a bit more attention and survived. Of course there was always a snobbery towards comics in this country, devalued and disparaged at the time by teachers, librarians etc. who thought they were just throwaway rubbish that would rot children’s brains.

Nowadays teachers are delighted to see children reading comics (reading anything!) and appreciate the creativity that goes into them. Thanks largely to ‘Time Tram Dundee’, I decided to qualify as a teacher and now have a whole new career (which I love!) going into schools and working with children to create and draw their own comics.

It surprises me that no-one has considered publishing some of those serials as graphic novels (suitably updated and with colour). I’ve worked with Alison Fitt on several projects and we’ve recently collaborated on a 72 page graphic novel ‘Nora Thumberland, Heroine of Hadrian’s Wall’ (yet to find a publisher) which 30 years ago could well have have been a Jinty serial…

Many thanks again to Keith for this great interview!

“Gypsy Rose: A Picture From The Past” published Jinty 3 December 1977

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Story theme: Science Fiction

If Misty was the girls’ comic with horror stories in it, then Jinty was the one remembered for its science fiction stories. Although Jinty didn’t include sf from the very start, and was far from being the only girls’ comic title with science fictional themes, this is a justified link:  the first science fiction-influenced story appeared within the first year of Jinty, and sf appeared throughout the bulk of the run of the comic, forming some of the very strongest and most memorable stories in the title.

Core examples

There are a number of really key examples of sf stories in Jinty, and I could choose any one of them to talk about in more detail: “Fran of the Floods“, “The Robot Who Cried“, “Land of No Tears“, “Almost Human“, and “The Forbidden Garden” are all indubitably sf and memorable stories to boot. This time I want to talk about “The Human Zoo”, which we have hardly focused on at all as yet.

In “The Human Zoo”, a coachload of schoolgirls is abducted by aliens, and taken in a flying saucer (along with other, grown-up, abductees) to another planet. This planet, light-years away (everyone is put into cold-sleep to get there) has two suns, and the dominant life-form consists of the aforementioned aliens, who are bald, dome-headed, and speak only telepathically. From the alien point of view, humans are mere animals; indeed, there are wild humans living outside the alien cities who are hunted down as food and for sport.

At the beginning of the story we’re introduced to twin sisters, one of whom is a soft-hearted vegetarian animal-lover; her twin is the one we follow throughout, as they are separated and taken through all the horrific things that sentient beings do to creatures that they don’t think are sentient: putting them in zoos (including forcing them to have a chimp’s tea party), keeping them as pets, killing them for food, and even doing scientific experiments on them. In the end, the aliens are reconciled to the idea that humans are intelligent, coming round to this partly because one of the twins can talk to them due to the scientific experiments she’s undergone, and partly because the wild humans save the alien city, and the alien king’s daughter, from drowning. (Their secret weakness is being unable to swim, whereas the humans have learned.)

This is a good, solid sf story, taking the opportunity to swipe at a few other targets on the way (it is clearly an animal rights story too). It perhaps would fit better in the pulp years of some decades previously than in the more sophisticated and experimental New Wave of science fiction of the 60s and 70s: for instance at the end of the story, everything is reset and no lasting impact is seen from the girls’ trip to a far planet, and the aliens are pretty stereotypical. But really, you couldn’t get a story that was much more solidly in the heartland of science fiction themes.

  • “The Green People” (1975): this is the first story I would identify in Jinty as being science fiction. I hesitated initially, as the titular green people live underground in idyllic locations that make you think more of elves than of aliens: but they have ray-guns and a special metal and an advanced civilization that has gone through war into peace. They also use that trope beloved of sf writers of a certain era: telepathy. Like “The Human Zoo”, this uses an sf theme (here, it’s a first contact story) to talk about an issue that affects our society more immediately: wanton destruction of the environment.
  • “Fran of the Floods” (1976): this is a John Wyndham type-story done for a schoolgirl audience, an apocalypse and post-apocalypse in comics form. it is a rather cosier catastrophe than even Wyndham was ever accused of, but with pretty grim moments nevertheless and a roll-call of the dead and missing, at the end. The clock is not reset in this story, even if civilization is not gone forever.
  • Jassy’s Wand of Power” (1976): at the same time as running “Fran”, about climate change leading to flooding, Jinty also ran a story about drought. This disaster was man-made rather than unlucky; there is a fair amount of indicting of powerful men in the story. It is set slightly in the future, with psychic powers having been found to work and a backlash set in against them.
  • “The Robot Who Cried” (1977): a robot is created, in the shape of a girl; she runs away from her creator and learns what it is to be human. The ‘science’ in it is daft and thin but there’s lots of good stuff about misunderstanding human motivations and society.
  • Battle of the Wills” (1977): the protagonist is offered the chance to have herself duplicated by an unscrupulous scientist: she jumps at it, hoping to be able to concentrate on her beloved gymnastics and getting out of having to do ballet. But which of the duplicates is the original and which the copy? And – what will happen once the experiment comes to an end?
  • Land of No Tears” (1977-78): Lame schoolgirl Cassie is whirled into a future world where she is classed as a ‘Gamma’, inferior girl; with her fellow Gamma girls and some other help, she overthrows this cruel order of things.
  • “The Human Zoo” (1978): see above.
  • Almost Human” (1979): a cross between the Superman story and the Bionic Man, with a more emotional edge: protagonist Xenia is an alien from a dying world.
  • “The Forbidden Garden” (1979): set in a dystopian future where pollution has killed off all plants and people live in over-crowded and oppressive cities. Laika discovers a patch of earth which is able to support life and tries to grow a flower for her dying little sister.
  • Worlds Apart” (1981): following a leak of a mysterious chemical, six schoolgirls are thrown together into alternate universe after alternate universe. Some of the universes are more magical than is compatible with scientific reality but the notion of alternate universes, and the mechanism for their travel between them, is in itself more science fictional than magical.

Edge cases

  • Girl In A Bubble” (1976): the very idea of a girl in a bubble, kept by a scientist in order to study the effects of isolation, has plenty of science fiction elements (not least the scientist’s name – ‘Miss Vaal’). It is done more as a slave story, however.
  • The Birds” (1978): there is a scientific (or at least not magical) answer behind the question of why the birds in a certain town started to attack everything, but it is more horror story than science fiction. Of course, it is a take on Hitchcock’s film.

Not to be confused with

  • Other time travel stories: time travel into the future is necessarily science fictional as it requires construction of that future world. Time travel into the past, or time travel of a past character into our present, would typically be a historical story or a spooky story (such as in “Shadow on the Fens”, where a girl from the past escapes persecution as a witch, and a modern girl gets a friend, by making a wish on the old Wishing Tree).

Further thoughts

Of course, there were many sf stories outside of Jinty, too. “Supercats” in Spellbound features four space-travellers with special powers and many adventures; “E.T. Estate” in Tammy was a version of ‘The Bodysnatchers’, done with schoolgirls; “Tomorrow Town”, also in Tammy, tackles technological development and social pressures (Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” done with schoolgirls? I but jest). Particular mention should go to “The Frightening Fours”, in Judy & Emma (1979): an alien invasion story where anybody over the age of fifteen or under three is put into a deep sleep, but four year olds are given great strength, intelligence way beyond their years, organisational abilities, and made into an army to serve the aliens’ plans.

Outside of girls’ comics, 2000AD was of course a comic more or less entirely dedicated to science fiction. Interestingly enough, the 2000AD story Skizz (1983) – written by Alan Moore, drawn by Jim Baikie – could perfectly well have appeared in a girls comic; it even had a female protagonist, as well as a down-to-earth feel.

The prevalence of science fiction stories in many comics means that we can’t only point to the same names over and again as being the initiators of this theme. Malcolm Shaw is known to have written a number of key stories in this area (“The Robot Who Cried”, “E.T. Estate”) and likewise Pat Mills wrote “Land of No Tears” and “Girl In a Bubble”; but “Tomorrow Town” was written by Benita Brown, “Fran of the Floods” was written by Alan Davidson, and who knows who had the bonkers ideas in “The Frightening Fours”! I think that if we knew the names of more writers, we’d find that many different writers in many different titles had a go at some sf story or other.

Story theme: the Magical Companion / Non-human companion

Stories of magic and the supernatural often include a companion who helps, guides, prods, or sometimes rather forcibly plonks the protagonist in the middle of adventure. The companion in question has his, her, or its own agenda and in that, it has some similarities to the evil object which takes over people’s lives: but unlike the evil object story, the magical guide does not coerce or remove free will. Generally speaking, the agenda of the companion is at least morally neutral, if not positively on the side of the protagonist’s best interests. The journey towards a happy ending, though, is not in itself happy all along: often the life of the main character is made decidedly more uncomfortable as the story unfolds.

Normally the companion is clearly magical, maybe right from the start: sometimes she (rarely he) or it seems outwardly normal at first but is found in the thick of things too often for it to be a coincidence. This perhaps is particularly the case where the companion is an animal, such as one of the three(!) examples of magnificent white horses that help protagonists in various ways.

Core examples

The example I think is one of Jinty‘s best for this theme is “Guardian of White Horse Hill”. Janey Summers is an orphan, with foster parents who she is hoping will go on to adopt her. However, life with her new family is not easy, partly because of mean snobbish girls in the local area, partly because of trauma she hasn’t yet got over (badly handled by the adults in question, as usual), and partly because, well, she sees a white horse that no-one else can see. Obviously people start questioning her sanity as well as her temperament, but the horse in question turns out to be Celtic horse goddess Epona. Epona takes Janey back in time more than once, to the Celtic settlement originally located where the modern village is. In the historical time, Janey finds herself in the body of a young priestess facing the peril of a Roman invasion; in the modern time of the story, the village is threatened by a road which is to be built through the village itself. At the priestess’s behest, the Celtic villagers saved themselves by a non-violent path, namely digging a white horse on the hillside; the earth left over from all the digging is swept into the path of the invaders by torrential rain. In parallel in modern times, the path that the villagers were going to take – giving up and giving in – is derailed by Epona, who through Janey’s actions reveals the historical white horse carved on the hill. The villagers are able to declare this a site of special interest and hold off the road-building that way.

Even before Epona takes Janey back in time, she clearly reveals her magic to the reader: no-one else can see the horse apart from Janey, and when she gets on the back of the horse she is invisible to those around her. Ultimately Epona’s actions are in Janey’s interest too: by saving the village, the livelihoods of Janey’s foster parents are secured, but also Janey’s role in bringing that salvation helps to secure her wish to have real, loving parents again. There are uncomfortable moments for Janey along the way: for instance when Epona makes her dismount (so that she can then be seen by anyone who can spot her) just before a big village meeting. Even more so, you could point to the basic fact that making yourself visible to just one person is in itself asking to lead them into trouble – and Epona, magic though she is, is not a talking horse and does not explain herself.

Clear examples of this story theme in Jinty are:

  • “The Valley of Shining Mist” (1975) has a mysterious woman in a mysterious cottage in a mysterious valley – only when the mist fills the valley can the protagonist see the cottage as anything but an old ruin. Debbie is taught music by the woman in the cottage, but more than that, she also learns love and acceptance as Mrs Maynard helps her to change her life.
  • Corn Dolly in “Golden Dolly, Death Dust!” (1975-76), who guides and protects the protagonists in their battles against the evil witch Miss Marvell.
  • The eponymous horse in “Horse From The Sea” (1976) seems initially like a normal (magnificent, unbridled, appearing-out-of-the-blue) white horse, but a tale is recounted part-way through the story that makes it clear that this is the same mysterious horse that throughout centuries has defended the heir of the local estate from danger.
  • The mysterious Malincha in “Sceptre of the Toltecs” (1976-77) is golden-eyed, and inhumanly strong and smart. She needs the help of protagonist Jenny Marlow to fulfill her quest; you could perhaps consider Malincha to be the protagonist herself, but she is so characterless and mysterious that it is hard to see her in that role.
  • In “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag” (1976-79), the magical companion is another inanimate object: well, I say inanimate – the bag in question is given expression by the creases in the leather, giving her a cheeky look. This one is played for laughs too, and as an ongoing humour strip there is less of a clear agenda on the part of Henrietta the hand-bag as there is less of an overall story. Henrietta often helps Sue and gets her out of a pickle, but equally she often lands her in one too.
  • In “Daughter of Dreams” (1979), Sally Carter is a wall-flower until she makes up an imaginary friend, Pauline Starr. Her imagination is so strong she can see her new friend clearly – so clearly in fact that Pauline comes to life! Pauline helps to shake up Sally’s life, first of all by getting her to do more lively things so she can make more friends, and then in the sequel, “Miss Make-believe” (1979), defeating crooks in a stately house caper.
  • Karen finds a ghostly skating instructor in the “Spirit of the Lake” (1979-80): appearing to her as an elegant woman, the spirit is friendly and helpful to Karen in a situation where the girl is otherwise not shown much love or friendship. The skating spirit seems to have little agenda of her own other than to help Karen become a skating champion.
  • “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost” (1979-81) has another ghostly companion but is an ongoing humour strip like “Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag” (and indeed is drawn by the same artist too).
  • “Sue’s Daily Dozen” (1980) has an inanimate object as the magical companion, making it perhaps a slight stretch from the main theme of the category. Sue finds a book in the old cottage that she has moved into with her sister: the recipes in the book turn out to be more like magic spells, but very positive and homely ones intended to spread positive effects in the local community: sweets turn out to bring the childhood sense of fun back, and a love potion reconciles a quarreling couple. None of the spells are dramatically and clearly magic until the end of the story: the ambiguity of whether the odd effects are coincidental is maintained for quite a while, which is nice. In the end the book is reunited with the cauldron that Granny Hayden had also used, and both items disappear off to be found in the future by another lucky girl.
  • Gabbi is the magical companion in “Her Guardian Angel” (1980-81); literally a guardian angel, this played-for-laughs story has her defending her charge from all sorts of things that are not in fact dangerous. Gabbi has her own agenda: she has to pass a test to earn her wings, and earthbound Roz must therefore temper her normal way of being in order to help this angel who has become a friend.

Not in Jinty: Mistyfan has pointed out the Tracy story Rhoda’s Robot, in which the companion is not magical in origin, but a robot. (It’s a little arguable in my mind as to whether the robot really should be counted as non-magical as she doesn’t behave anything like a ‘realistic’ robot, but still.)

Edge cases

As with the other themes, you can see examples that don’t fit quite as clearly in the category but still have a lot of overlap with it.

  • “Wild Horse Summer” (1974) has (yet another) magnificent wild white horse which changes the protagonist’s life, but this horse really does seem to be a real-life horse who behaves reasonably realistically.
  • “The Zodiac Prince” (1978) in question is definitely magical; he is more protagonist than companion.
  • “Paula’s Puppets” (1978) is a little harder to categorise; I’d say it was a better match with the Evil Object / Supernatural Object theme as the puppets have a less clear agenda of their own, if any.
  • In “Pandora’s Box” (1979) Pandora has a little black magical cat, Scruffy, but he acts like a typical witch’s familiar, not as a magical guide.
  • “Sea-Sister” (1979) has a ghostly/magical character who again is more protagonist than guide or companion.

Related but different

  • There are other stories with animal friends or antagonists – cats, dogs, horses, birds and so forth in stories such as “The Big Cat”, “The Birds”, “Blind Faith”, “The Disappearing Dolphin”, “Finleg the Fox”, “Friends of the Forest”. As with “Wild Horse Summer”, these are animals that are given a generally realistic treatment.
  • Evil object / supernatural object, discussed separately.
  • Mysterious helper: a story type where someone is mysteriously helping the main character, but in a naturalistic way. The particular example in Jinty would be “Diving Belle”, where the protagonist gets training in diving by a female instructor who appears mysteriously and does seem to have more-than-natural knowledge of what is needed (what with being a gypsy, as obviously psychic powers come with that). Nevertheless she is a human and interacts with the main character in a human way.
  • Wish fulfilment: this can be magical/supernatural in nature (“Dance Into Darkness”) or through more naturalistic methods (“Jackie’s Two Lives”, “Kerry In The Clouds”). There is a trigger for the protagonist to have her wish fulfilled but that is not someone who accompanies her throughout the story guiding her.

Other thoughts

Bringing a magical companion into an otherwise ordinary girl’s life is always going to be a popular way to power a story; any reader could hold out a hope that just such a force could enter her own life and help her out with her difficulties. I guess it also makes sense that the writer can’t have the magical companion make things too straightforward for the protagonist as it’d be boring otherwise; the magical companion must therefore challenge or complicate the main character’s life as much as improving it.

Jinty 29 April 1978

Jinty cover.jpg

  • Concrete Surfer (writer Pat Mills)
  • Sue’s Fantastic Fun-Bag! (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Slave of the Swan (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Alley Cat
  • Waking Nightmare (artist Phil Townsend)
  • The Zodiac Prince (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • The Birds – first episode (artist Keith Robson)
  • Shadow on the Fen (artist Douglas Perry)
  • Cathy’s Casebook (artist Terry Aspin)

Alfred Hitchcock meets Jinty in this issue, which begins the first episode of The Birds. Strangely, this story, like The Changeling, only lasted three episodes when there was potential to take it further. But unlike The Changeling it has the standard three pages.

Waking Nightmare is on its penultimate episode. Phil’s trapped under some rubble and confused Carol needs to get a doctor. But she is still terrified of doctors, hence the dilemma that leaves the penultimate episode on its cliffhanger.

The Concrete Surfer gets a skateboarding club going, but her slippery, smarmy cousin Carol steals the credit. And when Jean tries to get some fun in with the other members, Carol triumphs yet again when the teacher is not impressed.

Progress is made in Shadow on the Fen when the Witchfinder’s wand is destroyed. Unfortunately the girls couldn’t get to his knife and book of spells, so the Shadow is still out there.

Cathy’s in big trouble. She left the phone off the hook so her dad won’t be bothered on his night off. Unfortunately this caused dad to miss an emergency call and Cathy unwittingly put a boy’s life in danger! Fortunately the boy pulls through, but it’s a lesson Cathy won’t forget. Later in the episode, Cathy finds an emergency of her own, and it is up to her to fetch help.

The Slave is becoming ever more ensnared in the power of the Swan. The Swan has created a false past for her Slave and now is adding “thief” to that past to stir things up for her.

The Zodiac Prince stands in for a clown, who is one unhappy clown with a broken heart. Shrimp warns the Prince that being a circus clown is not as easy as he thinks, and the blurb on what happens next week indicates that she is right.