Tag Archives: Unknown writer

She Shall Have Music (1978-79)

Sample images

She Shall Have Music pg 1

click thru
click thru
click thru
click thru
click thru
click thru

Publication: 28 October 1978 – 17 March 1979 (18 episodes)
Artist: Ron Smith
Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: None known

Synopsis

Lisa Carstairs is a talented pianist and a selfish, self-obsessed girl who cares nothing for anyone or anything except her piano. We see a glimpse of her life as a rich girl who can spend as much time as she wants just practicing her piano, waited on by maids and fawned on at school. Her father works hard at keeping his business together but to no avail: it comes to an end with a crash, when his business partner flees the country and leaves Mr Carstairs with the associated debts. Everything has to be sold to pay for it, including Lisa’s beloved piano – and her sympathy is kept all for her own losses, with none left for her parents’ difficulties.

For much of the rest of the story, all Lisa can think of is how to get access to a piano, preferably her own. She goes to the auction house and threatens to have the law on anyone who touches ‘her’ piano or dares to buy it, but of course she is onto a loser there. The family move into a little terraced house and she is sent to the local school rather than her posh private school. Her posh private school, for all their glib words about admiring her talent, want nothing to do with ‘the daughter of a bankrupt’ so there is no chance of playing their piano! There is a piano at the new school but she has already set everyone against her there by failing to listen to anyone, failing to adapt to her changed circumstances, and failing to understand that people aren’t going to fawn over her talent any more. She only barely gets to play the school piano, which she is only allowed to do once she has apologized to a teacher that she was rude to (and even then she gives one of those rubbish ‘I’m sorry if you were offended’ type apologies – actually she says ‘The Head wishes me to apologise to you’ which should have been something they would have seen through but still).

Playing the school piano isn’t enough, mostly because she is not treated with the amount of adulation she still expects (without in any way having earned it of course). The assembly music she’s given to play is not what she wants to play, so she summarily sweeps it aside in favour of some technically challenging classical music – not surprisingly this approach fails to go down well. The kids are unimpressed, Lisa is angry at them for not fawning over her (er, I mean appreciating her obvious talent when she condescends to play for them), and she calls them loud-mouthed, ignorant and stupid. So it’s war between Lisa and the whole school from now on.

Well, not quite the whole school. Tracey is a girl who likes classical music and has some sympathy for Lisa. She stands up for her even when everyone else is sick of the sight of her. Including the Carstairs parents, probably: Lisa was nearly starting to be sympathetic to their difficulties when she heard them say they’d try to make it up to her by getting a replacement musical instrument. She immediately imagines a beautiful piano taking up most of the space in their shabby small terrace – but of course all they are able to buy is a tiny electric chord organ, which from Lisa’s point of view is nothing better than a toy. Not that anything excuses her reaction, which is to kick it to pieces in a tantrum!

Another try at getting access to a piano is when she finds out that her piano was sold to the Mayor, for his spoiled daughter to plink-plonk on. Rosalind, the mayor’s daughter, takes the opportunity to bully Lisa by playing on her desperation: she has Lisa steal and beg for a chance to play. It doesn’t take Lisa that long to realise that Rosalind has no intention of actually helping, but it does take a little longer before she can bring herself to swallow her longing and walk away from her old piano.

Lisa’s quest for a piano to play nearly breaks up the family when she finds that a piano showroom is advertising for a cleaner. Lisa herself is too young to take the job but she cajoles her mother into it, despite her father’s opposition – he was made redundant just previous to that point, and his pride is injured at the idea of his wife working to bring the money in. It works well for a time, and Lisa even shows some signs of empathy – when her father strides into the house announcing he is going away, she thinks it is because of her doing, and she realises she would much rather have her father around than access to a piano to play. It turns out not to be as bad as she had feared – Mr Carstairs is not leaving his wife because of the argument about her working, phew! In fact he has been offered another job, but it is far away and he will have to travel there and be located elsewhere. Mrs Carstairs is relieved to think that she can give up the cleaning job, but an also-relieved Lisa is a newly-selfish Lisa, who pressures her mother to continue with the job for the sake of her music.

It turns out to be the final straw of stress on Mrs Carstairs though – she collapses, and it is revealed she has been in pain for a long time previously without mentioning it. Lisa needs to go and stay with her one school friend, Tracey, in her busy house: and of course the ungrateful Lisa only thinks of the bad side, in particular the fact she has to do chores which she fears could damage her artistic hands. To top it all, Mr Carstairs is not able to come to be at his wife’s hospital bedside – because he has vanished! It seems he never appeared at the new job workplace at all.

Lisa’s last fling of selfishness is to refuse to go back to Tracey’s house when her mother tells her she must – she uses the housekeeping money that her mother gives her, and goes to see her godmother in London. Little does she know that said godmother has departed for a long international voyage! So there is no home for her there, and none back at Tracey’s house – because her worn-out mother has finally snapped, and told the authorities that Lisa must be looked after in a Home. So it is welfare for her…

This final, very nasty, surprise is the making of the girl – she is quiet and not boastful in her new location, and she doesn’t go all out to find a piano to play, as she had before. She spends her time helping with the younger children and mucking in, even roughening her hands or running the risk of injury if it seems like a worthwhile activity needs her help. And when finally she does play the piano again, after a long time of refusing to even try, it is only at the earnest request of a little boy she is helping to entertain – she is doing it for his sake, not her own. The reward comes at last – her parents return, both together – Mr Carstairs has been found! He had been injured and had lost his memory and his luggage, so his identity took a long time to be established. And Lisa has come to realise that the most important thing for her right now is to be together, as a family – and that is more important even than music for her.

Thoughts

Lisa Carstairs is one of the more unpleasant, selfish, hard-hearted protagonists that there is in Jinty. She’s not outright evil, as is the case with Stacey in “The Slave of Form 3B“, but because she is such a hard case it takes a long road, and a lot of knocks, to redeem her. You might think that the opening episode, where she loses her family home and all their worldly wealth, would be enough to do it, but in girls comics there is definitely further to fall. In her case, she needs to plumb the absolute depths before she can come back up again – and here that means losing her whole family, and knowing it is her own fault and no-one else’s. In other stories the sense of guilt can be an illusion built up in the protagonist’s mind – for instance in the case of Ann Ridley in “I’ll Make Up For Mary”, where it drives the whole plot – but here it is not over-done and it is effective as a wake-up call.

The passage of time in this story is done quite well. For instance, the last episode (which is 4 pages long) covers the timespan from Lisa’s arrival in the Home to her final happy moments of realization. It isn’t supposed to take place in only a day or two – the text explicitly refers to several weeks having passed. Likewise, earlier on, the passage of time is made rather more visible to the reader than in most stories. This all makes the main driver of the story – Lisa’s redemption – more realistic.

This is Ron Smith‘s second and final story done for Jinty – after around this time he was found doing the bulk of his work for 2000AD, so he is often thought of as primarily an artist for that title, and on Judge Dredd specifically. His work on that is indeed fantastic, but it means that it’s easy to overlook the fact he had a long career as a girls comics artist before then, working for DC Thomson’s Bunty and Judy in particular.

Advertisements

Female writers in a girls’ genre

This is my 100th post! To celebrate, a thinky piece of the sort I particularly enjoy having the space to do here on this blog. Comments and further information very welcome indeed, as ever, but especially useful for this sort of wider coverage article.

For a genre based around a female readership, you could be forgiven for thinking there were hardly any women involved in producing British girls comics. In 1998 I first started writing about Jinty, and looking back at that article (published in feminist ‘by women for people’ zine GirlFrenzy), the few names mentioned were of men: Jim Baikie, Casanovas, Pat Mills. These were the only creators I recognized from having seen them, their work, or their commentary in the fairly male world of British mainstream comics.

Some years later I met Pat Mills in person, and he subsequently attended the Oxford-based comics festival CAPTION2004, during which I interviewed him about his editorial and authorial role in Jinty, Misty, and Tammy. Some more creator names were added to the pot, but really only two female names stood out – those of Mavis Miller and of Pat Davidson, of which Pat Davidson was the only name of a writer. (I was by then aware of Trini Tinture’s work, too.) Additionally, I’d also managed to ask Phil Gascoine who wrote “Fran of the Floods”, but he could remember no names, just that it was a female writer.

As recently as early last year, therefore, there was so little information readily available that it was still possible for Adi Tantimedh’s post on Bleeding Cool to attribute the authorship of the vast majority of stories in girls comics to Pat Mills or to ‘the creators of Judge Dredd and 2000AD’. (He subsequently corrected the article text to read ‘his fair share of the series in Jinty were written by Pat Mills.’) This isn’t helped by the fact that when in that interview Pat M did give us Pat Davidson’s name, it was linked to a fairly sweeping assessment of women writers: “Generally, it was male writers in this field. I think Pat Davidson is the only woman I can think of who genuinely had a better touch in the way she did this, she wrote far more from the heart, the rest of us were 23-year-old guys killing ourselves laughing as we wrote this stuff, but she wrote from the heart, and it was quite genuine.”

We’re now in a position where we can bring together more information so that we can bring a more nuanced analysis to bear. Alison Christie is now known to have written not only a great swathe of Jinty stories, but also to have written many stories for other titles before, afterwards, and simultaneously (very literally!). We also have heard that Veronica Weir wrote at least one story for Jinty. (We also know that one of the writers was Len Wenn, then only a few years away from his retirement age and hence also quite far from the demographic highlighted by Mills.) Generally we now know what could have been guessed before, which is that creating comics was quite a good profession for women at the time: drawing or writing comics is something that a young mother can do from home! We also know that the same people worked for a range of comics; we could have guessed that from the artists, but a writer can be working on more than one script at the same time more easily than an artist can, so they are if anything more likely to be working for multiple titles.

To try to get a view on the historical context, we can note that there are a couple of titles that ran credits for at least some of their time. Girl was the first title to be dedicated to a readership of girls: it ran from 1951-64 and included creator credits (I don’t know whether the credits continued throughout the whole run though). Towards the other end of the main period of publication of girls’ comics, Tammy also ran creator credits for a little while from the middle of 1982. I haven’t got access to any very complete information about the stories and creators in Girl, but looking at the Wikipedia page for it I found a couple of names I’m unfamiliar with – Ruth Adam and Betty Roland, who wrote a number of stories between them. These included the nursing strip “Susan of St Bride’s” and the adventure strip “Angela Air Hostess” respectively, both of which were popular stories featuring resourceful, independent female characters. Looking at Catawiki’s entries on Girl would take more time to do properly than I currently have available, but I note that a sample issue from 1955 picked randomly includes these two female writers plus two others (Valerie Hastings and Mollie Black).

Of more immediate applicability to the subject of this blog, the women who wrote for Tammy may well have done so for Jinty too; luckily for me, there is more information available to me on who did what there, as co-writer Mistyfan has kindly sent me an index of Tammy stories. We can therefore look in some detail at the comics stories running in Tammy during the second half of 1982, where we find:

  • “Bella” written by both Malcolm Shaw and by Primrose Cumming
  • “The Button Box”: created by Alison Christie, specific individual episodes written by Ian Mennell or Linda Stephenson
  • “Nanny Young” written by Tom Newland and Maureen Spurgeon
  • “Rae Rules OK”written by Gerry Finley-Day
  • “Come Back Bindi” written by Jenny McDade
  • “Saving Grace” written by Ian Mennell
  • “A Gran for the Gregorys” written by Alison Christie
  • “Slave of the Clock” written by Jay Over
  • “Tomorrow Town” written by Benita Brown
  • “Cross on Court” written by Gerry Findley-Day
  • “Cuckoo In the Nest” written by Ian Mennell
  • “Romy’s Return” written by Charles Herring
  • Out of the 12 complete stories on the Tammy index I am referring to, two seem to be uncredited while three were written by Roy Preston, four by Maureen Spurgeon, one by Chris Harris, one by Ray Austin and one by Barry Clements

That’s fairly evenly spread; there are more male writers than female overall but not by that much. A count by number of pages printed might show a different picture, but then I also haven’t included the writers of text stories (in particular Anne Digby). We can also have a quick look at the Catawiki entry for an individual issue from the time (I chose issue 600) which lists stories by Benita Brown, Anne Digby, and Maureen Spurgeon – I assume that the Anne Digby is an illustrated text story rather than a comic. Another issue, 609, has more stories by female writers: two stories by Maureen Spurgeon, one by Alison Christie, and one by Primrose Cumming. In the absence of a concerted effort to count the number of pages written by women over a few representative issues (any volunteers?) I’d estimate that some 15% – 40% of the comic at a time might have been written by women: under half of the content for sure, but a substantial section.

Clearly we only have two very solid data points here – Girl in the 50s and 60s, and Tammy in the early 80s – but the fact they corroborate each other is strongly suggestive that yes, over the decades of comics published for a readership of girls, female writers have always been present, and in reasonable numbers rather than as the odd exceptional talent. They have written popular stories both in their own right and as jobbing writers taking on someone else’s initial creation. Can we say anything else about that, for instance about what sort of stories they wrote? Now that is rather more difficult, because we have to factor in individual preferences of writers. Alison Christie is clearly a writer of heart-tugging stories, so we can attribute a female writer to a number of stories in that style. That doesn’t mean that other female writers have the same preferences: Benita Brown is credited as the writer of a science fiction story, and Veronica Weir’s one known outing as writer was on a story with spooky overtones but mostly concerned with loneliness and survival. I don’t know the Tammy stories list above well enough to say what themes they represent, but in the list of Jinty stories we just don’t know enough about who wrote what to say anything much more concrete.

Likewise, can we say anything much to compare how well the stories worked with the gender of the author – could we say that the stories made by young men killing themselves laughing were better or more effective than those by women or indeed by older men such as Len Wenn? One difficulty is that in judging effectiveness or memorability, individual reader preferences will come strongly into play – my own list of top stories is skewed to the spooky, mystical, and science fictional and away from the heart-tuggers. Mostly though I think we just don’t know enough about who wrote what, in Jinty at least, to be able to say whether the the most popular, longest-running, most memorable, or otherwise most effective stories tended overall to be written by one group of writers versus another. We have examples written by women (“Stefa’s Heart of Stone”) and by young men (“Land of No Tears”, “The Robot Who Cried”), but the vast majority still lie in the camp of ‘unknown writer’.

Writing this post has sparked off other thoughts that felt a bit tangential to the main point of this piece; I will follow up with more on ‘What makes a story work’ (and indeed how can we tell that it does work).

Edited in Aug 2015 to add: subsequent discussion on the Comics UK Forum leads me to add another known female writer to the list of names acquired to date: Jenny Butterworth, writer of the long-running series “The Happy Days” in Princess Tina (amongst other stories).

Edited in December 2015 to add: we now know that “Fran of the Floods” was not written by a female writer; it can be attributed to Alan Davidson per his wife’s recent comments. At the time of writing, Davidson was a family man who also did not fall in the category of “23 year old guy killing himself laughing” at what he was writing.

Edited in January 2016 to add: Anne Digby has sent in an interview with information about writing comic stories for titles such as Tammy. It is noteworthy that she did not only produce text stories for this title, but also comics adaptations of her previously-published novels.

Edited in March 2016 to add: Phoenix on the Comics UK forum scanned and uploaded a snippet from the Guardian of a letter from one Mary Hooper, writer for Jackie in particular, but perhaps also for other titles?

Edited in January 2017 to add: clarification that Alison Christie (Fitt) created “The Button Box” and was the main writer on the story, though some individual stories were farmed out by editor Wilf Prigmore to Ian Mennell and to Linda Stephenson.

Children of Edenford (1979)

Sample images

Children of Edenford page 1
(click thru)
Children of Edenford pg 2
(click thru)
Children of Edenford pg 3
(click thru)

Publication: 24 February 1979 – 2 June 1979

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Unknown

Summary

Patti Anderson’s family are moving away from the grimy big city to the idyllic village of Edenford. All her friends and family are enchanted with this move, but Patti goes from first being cynical about it, to shortly being outright disturbed and scared. The village children are all super well-behaved in a very overt fashion (washing down public monuments and helping little old ladies across the road) and the headmistress of the local school is clearly somewhat obsessed with perfection. In addition, almost immediately there are strong hints that all is not what it seems: a runaway girl advises Patti to leave before it is too late, before subsequently reappearing with a glassy smile and no hint that anything has ever been amiss. Yes, this is the village of the Stepford Schoolgirls.

The headmistress, Purity Goodfellow by name, is fairly clearly the driving force: she reacts to Patti’s rebelliousness with an amused “…never fear, you shall be one of us soon! Very soon!” Initially Patti teams up with the one other normal girl in the school – Jilly (or rather, Perseverance, as all the girls given “school names” of the virtues they most need to strive to acquire) – but quickly it becomes apparent that Miss Goodfellow’s threat is not an empty one. First Jilly and then Patti become perfect schoolgirls from one minute to the next, with glassy stares and wide grins as they announce their intention to do extra homework before an early night, so that they can get up early and make cordon bleu packed lunches for their papas or ballgowns for their mamas. As with any scheme of this nature, however, there is a fatal flaw in the mechanism that turns people perfect – it is washed out of the body with tears and sneezes, meaning that anyone with a cold or with hay fever – as Patti has – will get better in short order. That is, unless the prefects find them and drag them off to the infirmary first!

Having turned normal again, Patti wastes no time giving Jilly a cold to free her from the malign influence; as it works well for her, they decide to give the whole school colds to see if they can break the spell. This time it works a little too well – the schoolgirls go from normal to exuberant to positively destructive, in a backlash from being freed from their mental restraints. The parents are called in, and it is evident that they knew all along about Purity Goodfellow’s methods and aims: they are calling her out not for drugging their children, but for the failure to produce the promised perfect progeny. Patti and Jilly watch, horrified, from hiding as this betrayal is made clear; but the tables are turned on the parents when Miss Goodfellow takes the opportunity to turn them, too, into pliant paragons who believe mindlessly in everything she says. Patti and Jilly are powerless to do anything but pretend that they are still perfect while searching for the hiding place of the drug that they now know is administered in the food (carrying onions as a tear-inducing way of washing the drug out of their systems any time they feel themselves getting too brain-washed).

The game can’t last long and soon Patti is imprisoned in the school to be force-fed the mystic drug, as Miss Edenford proclaims “In the infirmary you shall eat your way to perfection!” Jilly escapes to try to bring help, but even the police are in Miss Goodfellow’s pocket; meanwhile in the infirmary the attempts to forcibly turn Patti perfect again are thwarted by the high pollen count and the beautiful flowers liberally strewn around, as her hay fever kicks in again. Losing patience (surely a vice!), Miss Goodellow proclaims that “the fire of righteousness … shall burn out your imperfections!” and has Patti dragged off to the massive temple she’s had built somewhere on the school grounds… where she is to be burned on a very literal altar. Yikes! Of course the obsessive headmistress doesn’t win; Patti doesn’t go meekly to the slaughter, and in the struggle Miss Goodfellow is knocked into her own sacrificial flames and perishes, refusing Patti’s help: “I shall not take succour from the hands of darkness!”. Patti nearly dies too in the ensuing fire, but the brooding massive statue of Perfection (looking rather a lot like Purity Goodfellow, of course) comes crashing down and breaks the door to freedom. The drug is destroyed by fire and the tears induced by the smoke will wash the remains of it from people’s systems; “In a few days we’ll be like every other village… a mixture of good and bad. Edenford will be just human again!”

Themes and commentary

This is one of the key stories I tell people about when on a roll about how girls’ comics in general, and Jinty in particular, was great. In a kids’ medium, it’s a story against moral perfection, against parents’ judgements of what’s “best for you”, against society’s expectations. It’s the Stepford Schoolgirls with a big streak of A Clockwork Orange and more than a hint of Bodysnatchers too. All that, and it’s (ironically) pretty much pitch-perfect in art and writing.

The art, by the very British Phil Townsend, is extremely grounded and solid: he puts in little details such as a bootscraper inset by the front door of a grimy terrace house on the first page, or an old headscarf and shopping basket on one of Patti’s ex-neighbours in the high-rise she is leaving. Headmistress Purity Goodfellow is initially simply severe, austere in clothing and facial features; her manic looks at the climax of the story are therefore all the more striking. Little things help tell the story: the forces of Miss Goodfellows’ Edenford always dressed in pure spotless white, while Patti and the other “imperfect” characters are variously in darker or grimy clothes.

It would be naive to deny that part of the enjoyment, for myself and other adult readers, is in the sheer over-the-top writing that lends itself to a high camp reading. I’ve quoted some dialogue above, and when preparing this article I was hard-pressed to keep it to just a short list of further examples: Miss Goodfellow has determined that “pop music is a waste of time. It neither enriches the soul nor challenges the intellect.” The perfect Patti packs her father a lunch of “just some asparagus tips, oriental salad, Camembert cheese, fruit and a bottle of french spring water”; and at the climax of the story “Is it mad to want to see a perfect world?” “It is the way you’re doing it!” Purity Goodfellow’s statements and worldview are so extreme that when Patti needs to pretend to be perfect, all she needs to do is to think of the most off-the-wall things and go for them wholeheartedly.

The anti-perfection theme is also very attractive to the adult reader; a daring strike away from the mainstream of children’s fiction, which normally pushes an ideal of at least moderate conformity and of achievement. In Jinty there is one other anti-perfection story (“Land of No Tears”, by Pat Mills and Guy Peeters), though with a different take, as it focuses on physical perfection more than the social and moral perfection that Purity Goodfellow is looking to establish. Generally, striving to achieve better results in the exercise of your talent is laudable in girls’ comics stories. In “Children of Edenford” even this expectation is undermined: Patti is good at swimming and so Miss Goodfellow determines she will have two and a half hours daily extra training(!) to turn her into a champion, despite Patti stating she doesn’t want to do that, but rather to continue just enjoying it as a pastime. Partly this is because coercion and obsession are always bad and wrong, to be punished at the conclusion of the story or repented of, but partly I think also to highlight the rightness of society as “a mixture of good and bad”, of natural achievement and natural mediocrity too.

A darker element of the story’s themes is the nasty surprise that parents are not guaranteed to have your best interests at heart. The parents of the village knew of Miss Goodfellow’s perfection drug all along and while they didn’t want their children to be turned into zombies, Miss Goodfellow’s accusation that they were all “quite happy for your children to do everything you asked them, to wait on you hand and foot” is unpalatably true. A stark message in a children’s comic, one perhaps more expected in a punk lyric such as Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized“.

I would really like to know a lot more about the authorial and editorial thinking behind this story. It has a commanding position in the comic as it appears in the final pages almost every time, but it is never granted a cover slot, though other stories by the same artist are given plenty. Its message is a challenging one, disrespectful to society as it is generally framed (the sort of perfection that Miss Goodfellow espouses is a very “U” kind, focused as it is on a classical education and on cordon bleu cookery). Could it have been de-emphasised because of that message?

Edited 22.05.2014

I have just read the Tammy story ‘The Four Friends at Spartan School‘, written by Terence Magee. This story has some interesting commonalities with ‘Children of Edenford’: in it, the schoolgirls are also specifically sent there by their parents, with the intention of them being made over into obedience and compliance, as matches their parents’ desires and expectations. However, ‘Spartan School’ is obviously cruel right from the start; it is more like Magee’s long-running story ‘Merry at Misery House‘. Also, while we are told that the parents want their children to be obedient, it isn’t clear to the reader whether the parents really know the methods that the headmistress uses; the school is so far away that it is entirely possible that the parents are neglectful in finding out the real situation, rather than positively complicit. When an escapee pupil manages to contact her family, they head instantly to her rescue rather than disbelieving her, which lends weight to this interpretation. ‘Edenford’ is therefore an extreme example of a story theme that exists in other girls’ comics; so extreme, however, as to feel quite subversive.

Tansy of Jubilee Street (1979-81)

Sample images

Tansy 1

(click thru)

Tansy 2

(Click thru)

Tansy 3

 

Publication: Penny (first issue 1979) – joined Jinty 12 April 1980. Ended in Jinty 21 November 1981. Appeared in Old Friends, Tammy & Jinty, 1982.

Artists: Ken Houghton and Peter Wilkes

Writer: Unknown

When a comic merges with another, strong regulars are vital if the influence of that merging comic is going to last long after the comic itself fades. The Storyteller, Bessie Bunter and Wee Sue bear witness to that; the first two survived two merges and they lasted in Tammy for years after the comics they came from had long since faded after merging with Tammy. And such is the case with Tansy of Jubilee Street. Tansy was Penny’s star regular, and she was strong enough to not only keep going right up until the last issue of Jinty but make her presence felt in the Old Friends slot on the Tammy & Jinty merger, which she shared with Molly Mills, Wee Sue and Bessie Bunter.

Tansy Taylor keeps a diary of the goings-on in Jubilee Street where she lives, and her school and home. These include sibling rivalry with her brother Simon, which gets even worse when Simon pairs up with his friend Peter Saint. Despite his name, Peter is infamous for his practical jokes, and Tansy always seems to fall victim to them, no matter how wary she is. Sometimes Tansy and Simon do team up, particularly against their father who can be severe. Most of the time, however, they are constantly battling, much to the consternation of their parents and the amusement of readers.

Other stories centre around Tansy’s interactions with the nutty but colourful people who live in Jubilee Street. There is Mrs spick-and-span Spickle, the house-proud neighbour who never does anything but housecleaning and is obsessed with cleanliness. Another character obsessed with cleanliness is Dr Grimshaw, who over-uses his ever-present germ spray. Mr Grady, the deaf man, who always raises an unintentional laugh through constantly mishearing what you are saying. Mr Court runs the store in Jubilee Street – but he hates customers and is always coming up with tricks to drive them off. As Tansy demonstrates over and over, if you want service out of Mr Court you have to trick it out of him. Most of the time she pulls it off, and gives us more laughs. But when you don’t want to buy something, Mr Court is as friendly as can be. Other regulars include Deidre “Dismal Dee”, a pessimist who loves nothing better than to look on the gloomy side, and Angela Honeyball, the school snob. Angela is the nearest thing Tansy has to a nemesis, for Angela’s snobbery and scheming causes constant clashing between them.

As Tansy uses a diary to record the goings-on in Jubilee Street, it is appropriate that her very first and last stories should centre on her diary. In her first Penny story, Tansy loses her diary and gets into all sorts of scrapes while trying to find it. Her final story in the last Jinty issue pays homage to her first, where Tansy reflects on how she lost her diary then. And then she discovers the diary has gone missing again. She gets into more scrapes and her imagination is filled with terrifying thoughts of what could happen what some people might do if they find the diary. Tansy is relieved to find her mother just put the diary away for safekeeping while re-lining the drawer. Tansy then gives the first mention of the Tammy & Jinty merger by telling Jinty readers to note it in their diaries.

The Bow Street Runner (1981)

Sample images

Bow Street 1

 (Click thru)

Bow Street 2

 (Click thru)

Bow Street 3

Publication: 10/10/81 – concluded in Tammy & Jinty merger

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Alison Christie (now Fitt)

The Bow Street Runner holds a particular place in Jinty history for being the only Jinty serial (besides Pam of Pond Hill and Gypsy Rose, which were regulars) to continue in Tammy & Jinty. It is also where long-running Jinty artist Phil Townsend crosses over from the Jinty team to the Tammy team.

Beth Speede, as her name suggests, has a talent for running. In Bow Street, where she lives, she is known as the Bow Street Runner because she uses her speed to run errands for the residents, most of whom are elderly and invalid. Among them is Beth’s own father, who suffers from a heart condition. This means he can’t get a good job. Mum can’t either because she is lame. So the Speedes, like everyone else in Bow Street, are a poor lot. Still, Bow Street may be a poor and rundown street – which gets it threatened with demolition at one point – but it is home to everyone who lives there. They are a close knit community bound together by Beth the Bow Street Runner. The street would fall down without her, and her invalid parents wouldn’t survive without her either. Quite literally, in fact – it is the Bow Street Runner herself who saves Bow Street from demolition. The street gets modernised instead.

But Beth is soon putting her talent to far more serious uses when she receives a prophecy from a fortune teller: “I see you running for help across green fields…I see the face of a girl crying.” Beth is completely terrified by this prophecy. She takes it to mean she is running to get help for her sick father, and the girl crying is herself – crying because she failed. So she takes up cross country running to increase her speed, in the hope that she will outrace the prophecy and save her father.

However, there is a cross country championship and trophy that is also at stake. So naturally, Beth, like any other heroine of a sports serial, finds herself up against an enemy who makes constant trouble for her. In Beth’s case it is Louise Dunn, a rich snobby girl (and nose to match) who has been promised a pony if she wins the championship. Louise’s tricks include tying knots in Beth’s shoelaces, getting her suspended from the sports club, and interfering with the markers. And it gets even worse when Louise finds out about the prophecy and starts using it against Beth.

Stories about poor girls who work to rise above (or work with) their poverty are always popular. And readers love stories about girls who find a talent but face all sorts of adversity – largely in the form of a spiteful enemy – in using it to prove themselves and triumph at the end of the story. “Tears of a Clown“, “Minnow”, “Concrete Surfer”, and “A Dream for Yvonne” are just some of the Jinty stories with this theme.

However, what should be the greatest strength that carries this story is instead the weakness that lets the whole story down – the prophecy. Sorry, but you can tell a mile off that Beth has got it wrong. The prophecy is just too vague, wide open to other interpretations, and Beth’s interpretation of it is just so stretched and forced that you can’t really understand how on earth she can come to that conclusion. For the prophecy to work, it should take the form of a riddle with double meanings. Beth (and the reader) takes what appears to be the most obvious meaning. Then Beth (and the reader) is taken by surprise when it turns out that the prophecy had an entirely different meaning. Jinty had the right effect in “Cursed to be a Coward!” Here the heroine receives a prophecy that says: “You will end in blue water.” The heroine takes this to mean she will drown, and becomes terrified of water. But it turns out the prophecy is referring to an actual name – Blue Water – the name of her new house boat. But in “The Bow Street Runner” the prophecy menace does not work, and it comes to absolutely nobody’s surprise when Beth finds she has got the prophecy wrong. The prophecy meant running for help for Louise, who had an accident during the championship run. And the girl crying is a deeply remorseful Louise. So it has to be said that this story is not as good as it should have been because the prophecy looks like it has been badly thought through.

Oh yes, Beth wins the championship and becomes the pride of Bow Street. Louise’s dad builds the Speede family a bungalow at the top of Bow Street as a reward. But Beth is very happy to remain the Bow Street Runner.

Village of Fame (1979)

Sample Images

Fame 1

Fame 2

(click thru)

Fame 3

(click thru)

Publication: 4/8/79-24/11/79
Artist: Jim Baikie
Writer: Unknown

You know the story of the little boy who cried wolf. Sue Parker finds herself in the same position, and pays the price for her over-active imagination that is fuelled by too much television. She just spins tall tales for a little excitement in her dreary village, despite its name – Fame. But of course Sue gets more excitement than she bargained for in her story. And when Sue finds it is turning into something even more evil than mere excitement, it escalates even further because nobody listens to Sue, as she is known for her crazy imagination.

It all seems to start innocently enough, with promises of real fame for the village of Fame. Major Grenfield rents out the old manor to Mr Grand of IBC TV studios. Grand wants to film a festival in Fame, with snobby Angela Grenfield as festival princess. But Sue overhears his employees saying that Grand has something far more exciting planned. Sue’s imagination goes into overdrive as to what this means, and starts getting ideas about spies. In a way it does turn out to be spying – Grand wants to start filming day-to-day lives of the villagers. So there is going to be real fame for the village of Fame, with the villagers all thrilled at being TV stars. But Sue is not keen on cameras being installed everywhere in Fame, and she does not trust Grand.

And of course, Sue’s suspicions prove justified when she discovers the lengths that Grand will go to with his publicity stunts to increase ratings. He starts by provoking Sue’s family to quarrelling in front of the cameras, but is soon moving to more devious tactics when Sue declares war on him. Among them, Grand plants his niece, Mandy Walters in Sue’s school, who at first pretends to be sympathetic to Sue. But Mandy turns on her uncle when he does not keep his end of the bargain. So Mandy tells Sue the truth, and they become reluctant allies, with Sue not fully trusting Mandy and Mandy still having an unsavoury disposition. But Mandy has a conscience too. She discovers it when she gets scared by what her uncle does next, and she and Sue become true allies.

And what does Grand do next that frightens Mandy? He hires a sinister hypnotist named Marvo to help him jack up publicity even more. One look at Marvo, and you can see why anybody would be frightened.  Marvo becomes Sue’s teacher (after Grand contrives to get the previous teacher sacked) and hypnotises the class into doing things, such as make them disappear on a picnic and blame it on flying saucers. But nobody listens to Sue’s warnings about Marvo and Grand because of her reputation for too much imagination. Mandy, the only person who can help Sue, has been sent out of the way.

So far we have spy cameras, publicity stunts, frame-ups, attempted kidnappings and a hypnotist, all in the name of higher ratings and money – what’s next? Blackmail, as it turns out. Grand had been blackmailing Major Grenfield into renting out his manor for the TV serial. And thanks to a secret passage, Sue, Mandy (now returned) and Angela overhear Marvo and Grand talking about another plan that will make his serial unstoppable (it has taken a dent because the Major is now speaking out against it). This turns out to be mass hypnotism of the entire village – brainwashing everyone into saying, “This serial is good for Fame.” Sue foils the brainwashing, and everyone now realises that Sue had been right all along. Soon it is cancellation time for the TV serial and jail for its creator. But not before Angela, Mandy and even Marvo almost die because of it.

It is not difficult to see why this is one of Jinty’s most well-remembered serials – it pushes so many buttons in the human psyche. Dreams of fame, imagination, fantasy, greed, money, conspiracy theories, paranoia, manipulation, brainwashing, publicity stunts, and intrusiveness of technology are just some of them.

And there is the television theme. Television stories are very popular in girls’ comics. Who doesn’t want to be part of a TV serial and dream of fame on television? But television is also known as the one-eyed monster, and there is a definite take on this and the evils of television in this story. First we have the television cameras everywhere, watching every move that everyone makes. But the spy cameras are not just intruding on people’s lives; they are also manipulating them and passing on information about them to the master control. An insidious presence that is creepy because you cannot see who is behind that camera, but they can see you, and heaven knows what they are going to do about it. And you cannot escape it because it is everywhere, all over the entire district. Big Brother is watching you! This theme will be seen again in Tammy’s “Tomorrow Town”.

The year of 1979 seemed to be a big Jinty year for stories on hypnotism and brainwashing, and not just with this story. There was “Prisoner of the Bell”, where an underachiever is hypnotised into doing her homework. But the most remembered of these must surely be “Children of Edenford”, where an insane headmistress uses drugs to turn her entire school into glazed-eyed zombies. But she doesn’t stop there – like Marvo and Grand, she moves to bigger things by using her power to bring the entire district under her control. And that is only the beginning for her, and, presumably, with Marvo and Grand as well. After all, what is to stop them using their hypnotism to brainwash every single viewer in Britain? Our heroines, of course!

Tears of a Clown (1980)

  Sample Images

Tears of a Clown 1

Tears of a Clown 2

(click thru)

Tears of a Clown 3

(click thru)

Publication: 12/8/80-1/11/80
Artist: Phil Gascoine
Writer: Unknown

Your school probably has one – a clumsy, scruffy kid who’s the butt of everyone’s jokes”.

So began the blurb to introduce us to Tears of a Clown the following week. Some readers may have started reading this story about bullying with a guilty twinge because they may well have someone like this in their own classroom, and they may have treated them the same way the heroine is treated in this story. Whether you have or not, this story is guaranteed to make you cry, not least because you can equate it with a real-life bullying situation of some sort or another.

Kathy Clowne is bullied because she is clumsy, gawky, slow-to-learn, and has a surname which makes her open to ridicule. The ringleader, Sandra Simpkins thinks it is a huge joke and tremendous fun to poke fun at “The Clown”. True-life stories from Shout and other teen magazines show that all too often this is how a lot of real-life bullies start: just a bit of fun which escalates into a serious and tragic situation because the bullies never thought what it is like for their victim.

Furthermore, the school and parents let Kathy down. Kathy’s teachers don’t seem to pick up on the problem, nobody steps in to help Kathy as her grades slip to bottom, and neither the school nor Kathy’s parents investigate to find out what is wrong. In fact, the school makes the situation worse by constantly punishing Kathy for lashing out (at the bullying) because they assume she behaving badly. Kathy does not tell anyone what is going on because she is too ashamed to speak out. Sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it?

Like many ill-used heroines, Kathy turns to a talent to prove herself and stop the teasing. In this case it is a talent for running, which Kathy ironically discovers through a trick pulled by Sandra. But Sandra (or sometimes fate) keeps sabotaging Kathy’s attempts to prove her talent, just to keep her the school outcast and laughing stock.

Eventually, Kathy is pushed too far and uses her talent to run away. Little does Kathy know that when she runs off, she finally proves her talent. Her sports teacher sees her crying and tries to catch her up, but fails because Kathy is running too fast – and the teacher is on a bicycle!

Kathy’s disappearance shocks the bullies into repentance. Kathy’s parents realise too late that they have failed her, and are worried sick. The headmistress feels “rather responsible” for Kathy running off – and so she should – and helps the parents with the search.

So when Kathy is found and comes home, she finds that school has changed overnight. Sandra has changed too; when the other girls repented, they turned on her and gave her a taste of what it is like to be an outcast. Moreover, Sandra gets hurt while conducting her own search for Kathy, and this opens the path to reconciliation between the two girls. By the end of the term, Kathy is the star of the cross country team, her school work has improved tremendously, she is very happy at school, and her parents reward her with her first-ever party (and makeover) to celebrate her glowing school report.

Tears of a Clown is regarded as one of Jinty’s best and well-remembered stories, and rightly so. Bullying stories were always popular, and readers always love a good tear-jerker, ill-used heroine, and triumph against adversity. But what gives this story one of its greatest strengths is how it draws on so many real-life bullying situations. Readers will be able to see themselves in some form or another in this story.

Holiday Hideaway (1981)

 Sample Images

Holiday Hideway 1

Holiday Hideway 2

(click thru)

Holiday Hideway 3

(click thru)

Publication: 25/7/81-3/10/81

Artist: Phil Gascoine

Writer: Unknown

Some stories were run on the flimsiest of plots and utterly ludicrous premises. They could either have you laughing out loud and throw the comic at the wall, or have you laughing but you follow the story anyway because you do like it, in an odd, engaging sort of way. Such could well be the case with Holiday Hideway, where Mr Jones hides himself and his family in the house and pretend they all are on holiday – all because he does not want everyone to know that they cannot afford the real thing because his business has suddenly failed.

Yes, hide the entire family in the house, living on tinned food, suffer emotional and psychological stress from being constantly stuck inside in hiding, and still keep up the deception of the holiday with fake holiday shots, postcards and such – all for the entire duration of a supposed luxury cruise over the entire summer holiday. And all just to save Mr Jones’ pride.

Now how on earth can you pull that off? Most of it is due to Hattie, the daughter. She alone does not like the deception and thinks her parents are being silly. She does not like being stuck inside all the time either as she is an extroverted outdoor type who wants to be with her friends. But she goes along with it out of loyalty to her family. And it is thanks to Hattie’s quick wits and gymnastics skills that the secret stays safe during the inevitable sticky moments where they are in danger of being found out. Without Hattie, the Joneses would quickly have been found out, as her brother Nicky is too young, her sister Dora is too indulgent and does nothing but sit under the sunlamp, and the parents do need serious help to keep it all up. We see Hattie putting on camouflage gear, turning Red Indian, and even have her family pretend the house is haunted (when they are being burgled) and other amusing and thrilling tactics to keep the secret safe. This is perhaps why the story can be so engaging even though its premise seems extremely…improbable? Or perhaps we are just following it to see how Mr Jones gets what is coming to him. He is being dishonest, after all.

And of course Mr Jones gets it in the end. When the Joneses “come home” and their friends come for the welcome home reception, the parents are all bragging about their “holiday” while Hattie, who has never approved of the charade, is ashamed at all the lies they are telling. Then along comes the paper to say their ship has been in dry dock the whole time! Well, you are never allowed to get away with deceit in girls’ comics.

But you might be forgiven if you redeem yourself, which is precisely what happens next. Sudden flash flooding traps everyone in the house (I think I see echoes of another Jinty serial, Fran of the Floods here). The Joneses’ house alone is equipped to deal with it because of all the stockpiles from the Joneses’ fake holiday. So by the time the flooding subsides, everything is forgiven and Mr Jones is now sorry for his deception. Then they find it was all for nothing (it would be) because Mr Jones’ business is fine now. They can afford a holiday after all – oh, no, says, Hattie, it’s time to get back to work and school! They’ve had their holiday! And after this so-called holiday, Hattie is actually quite relieved to go back to school.

Gertie Grit, the Hateful Brit! (1976)

Sample images Image Image

Publication: 9/10/76-22/1/77

Artist: Paul White

Writer: unknown

Every girls’ comic has humour strips. Many of these centre around klutzy, bungling girls who get into scrapes of some sort or another, such as The Jinx from St Jonah’s. But Gertie Grit is one humour strip which is quite unique in Jinty, for it also has time travel, magic, historical periods, and an unlovely heroine with a bad temper but full of beans and character. And it is drawn by an artist whose style you are far more likely to see in a funny comic, and an artist who was not on the regular Jinty team. Guest artists are always guaranteed to make a story more of a standout, for it made a refreshing break from the regular team.

Gertie Grit hails from Brummagonia in Roman Britain, in the time of Queen Boadicea. She is a hefty, plain girl with freckles and scruffy black hair, with a bad temper and a talent for making – or getting into trouble. From the look of it, she is the black sheep of the family, to the extent of having black hair while her parents and sister are blond (this will be seen again in Jinty‘s “Black Sheep of the Bartons“).

However, Gertie may have a sour, grumpy disposition but, despite the title, you cannot really find her hateful. In fact, you do have to admire what a pugnacious kid she is, who knows how to put up a fight: “I don’t come from Boadicea’s tribe for nothin’!” During the course of her story, we see that Gertie is not as ghastly, gruesome or hateful as the story would have us believe. She has her good points, which she shows in the moments where she tries to be helpful or stand up to bullies. Sometimes it works out, but sometimes it doesn’t and she ends up making things worse.

But on with how it all unfolds. One day Gertie steals a pendant from Druid Caractacus, but she gets more than she bargained for when she finds the pendant is a time travel device.  Off she goes on time travel adventures, with a blond wig belonging to her sister Claudia in tow, and the wig becomes a running gag in many of her adventures. The pendant keeps dropping Gertie off in various time periods. With one exception, where Gertie visits a future period, these are all historical periods. And during her visit, Gertie changes the course of history through some bungling or interfering of one sort or another. For example, she unwittingly starts the Great Fire of London when using the oven at Pudding Lane to treat Claudia’s wig, but forgets to shut the oven door. At Pompeii she starts the Vesuvius eruption by using too much magic powder that a witch gave her. Her stops in history also cause the French Revolution, the Trojan War, the Battle of Hastings and an Ice Age among other time travel bungles.

Sometimes Gertie’s visit comes in genuinely helpful, such as teaching the people of Stonehenge how to make wheels, or saving a dog who does not want to be launched to Mars in a space programme. Sometimes she helps by accident, such as when she is rescued from the sea by the Spanish Armada, but ends up helping the English instead, or unwittingly foils the Gunpowder Plot. Indeed, there are moments when Gertie gets quite cozy with her latest time period and would love to stay a while longer. But this never happens because Caractacus is always in pursuit of her to get his pendant back. And the moment he appears, Gertie makes a hasty exit to yet another time period. Well, of course you can’t get away with stealing from a druid.

So you can guess how it will end – when Caractacus finally catches up with Gertie. When it comes, Gertie is actually pleased to see him because she needs rescue from another jam – Stone Age people want to sacrifice her to their gods (pity the poor gods!). On the way back home, Caractacus and Gertie hit a time warp which de-ages them by ten years. By the time they arrive, Caractacus’s hair has regained its youthful colour while Gertie is now a baby. Caractacus gives Gertie back to her parents, and Claudia is delighted to have her wig back. Caractacus tells the parents to make a better job of bringing Gertie up. Good luck to them – even as a baby, Gertie looks horrid. But for us readers, there were always loads of laughs out of Gertie Grit, the (however you saw her) Brit!

Dracula’s Daughter (1981)

Sample Images

Image

Click thru
(Click thru)
(Click thru)
(Click thru)

Publication: 13 June 1981-19 September 1981

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Writer: Unknown

A ranting, raving, power-mad headmaster who tyrannises his new school with his ideas of discipline and how schools should be run – with hard work, discipline, and totally serious study. No fun or free-and-easy teaching methods – Heaven forbid! As far as this headmaster is concerned, fun should be in the home, and not in a school. In his eyes, this free-and-easy school is a total apology, but in three weeks it will be his model school of an old-fashioned grammar school, with uniforms, harsh discipline, and teachers who run their classes the old-fashioned way and no fun methods, and houses with names like Dedication and Application (yes, I can just see modern pupils so happy to be in those houses). The only thing missing is corporal punishment. Pretty odd, as this headmaster was overjoyed to see it retained in his previous school. And this story was published before corporal punishment was outlawed in British schools.

Such is how Mr Graves, the former deputy head of the boys’ grammar, wants to run free-and-easy Castlegate Comprehensive. His idea of transforming the school is to force his grammar-school methods right down its throat, and he even goes as far as to butt in on classes and tell teachers to run their classes his way. And from the outside, his dress, appearance and whole manner of carrying on earns him the nickname of “Dracula” and for his daughter Lydia, “Dracula’s Daughter.” Poor Lydia takes the brunt of her classmates’ outrage towards her father’s campaign, and she does not like it any more than they do. It gets worse when Dracula’s treatment of his teachers forces one out, and she is replaced with Miss Snape, a kindred spirit in Mr Graves’ eyes. But the pupils find out that Miss Snape is a dragon who makes no effort to get on with them, and bullies them from the outset. Even worse, Miss Snape treats Lydia as teacher’s pet because she is after the position of deputy head. But when Lydia’s demonstration against her father costs Miss Snape this chance, Miss Snape turns against Lydia with even greater fury than the rest of the class.

What really carries this story is the incredible portrayal of the character of Mr Graves. He could so easily have been cast as an evil headmaster who inflicts sadism in the name of discipline. We have seen this in the Billy Bunter stories, where temporary headmasters proved so psychotic, sadistic and near-insane in their conduct that the Greyfriars boys threw up barricades against them. In girls’ comics there have been stories of headmistresses inflicting torture on their pupils in the name of discipline, such as The Girls of Liberty Lodge and The Four Friends at Spartan School in Tammy. But unlike these other principals, Mr Graves is not intended to be a flat, if hateful, villain who makes everyone’s life a misery before eventually getting his just desserts like all the rest of them. Rather, he is at heart a good man but completely misguided, rigid, bigoted, and naïve. And on top of it all, he is arrogant, so when he is appointed headmaster, it goes completely to his head. He becomes absolutely power-mad and seems to think being headmaster means he can run a school like a dictatorship. But even more astonishing is the change in Mr Graves at the end. He has modified his views on education enough to become more human in his approach. He is finally allowing some fun into school (putting on comedy videos in gratitude to the pupils who unknowingly helped him at one point), sticking up for them when they are wrongly accused of vandalism, and earning a whole new respect for alternate teaching methods. Above all, he has gone from believing that there is only one way to run a school (his way) to learning that there is no one way of running a school.

This is what puts this story a cut above the more typical stories about bully teachers and principals in girls’ comics. Someone must have been reading The Sky’s the Limit by Dr Wayne Dwyer and its sections of authoritarian thinking when they wrote this story. Mr Graves is a brilliantly conceived portrayal of how authoritarian thinking can be transcended and authoritarians can become more human. And it is all done without any seams showing. Mr Graves does not change completely. He is still strict, wears an old-fashioned teachers’ gown, and talks in an extremely formal manner (even in the home). But he is also letting the school see the human side to his nature, something he would only show in the home before.

Once Mr Graves starts to show he is a human being, the girls begin to like him more. This is something they can never do with Miss Snape, who is a typical bully teacher that does not change, but eventually transfers to another school. Still, the pupils are all relieved when Mr Graves goes back to his old school when he discovers its discipline has slipped so badly that there has been constant trouble with the police. The teacher he drove out before returns as the headmistress, so the girls can look forward to a return to the free-and-easy system. But before he goes, Mr Graves gives another example of how he has changed through his Castlegate experience – a complete collection of Dracula videos to remember him by!