Tag Archives: Valley of Shining Mist

Alan Davidson

Alan Davidson, author of various Jinty stories such as "Jackie's Two Lives"
Alan Davidson, author of various Jinty stories such as “Jackie’s Two Lives”

We have run a few posts about Alan Davidson before now on the blog, but not a complete summary post that serves as an appreciation of his work. Of course no summary post can be properly complete at this stage as we do not know all the stories he wrote for girls’ comics – his wife Pat Davidson has mentioned that he kept careful copies of his invoices and his scripts, but to go through those files is itself a lot of work. We can hope that we will hear more titles of stories in due course, and if so, I will certainly add them into this post. In any case, we now have story posts about all five of the Jinty stories that it is is known that Alan wrote, so the time seems right for an appreciation of him as a comics writer.

Known Jinty stories written by Alan Davidson:

Known stories in other titles:

  • Little Miss Nothing (Tammy, 1971)
  • Paint It Black (Misty, 1978)

Pat Davidson has also stated in a separate email that “[f]or older readers he contributed some excellent stories for Pink and often met up with Ridwan Aitken, the then editor. I don’t have any records of these to hand, although I remember a very original story about a hero who could predict earthquakes, which Alan much enjoyed writing. I can’t remember its title.”

Having set down these initial bibliographic details, what can we pull together in terms of an appreciation of his work, in girls comics and elsewhere?

Davidson’s work is not as strongly themed as Alison Christie‘s concentration on heart-tugging stories which forms the bulk of her comics writing. There is a clear focus on wish fulfillment in his Jinty stories: Gwen stumbles into a position where her schoolmates respect and appreciate her as she has always wanted, Jackie is swept up by a rich mother-figure who is prepared to take her away from her life of poverty, Debbie finds a mysterious valley and within it a sort of fairy godmother who will save her from her cruel family, and Kerry is likewise swept up by a rich mentor who looks like she is a route to the fame that Kerry has always wanted. The wish in question is almost always double-edged or positively treacherous: Debbie is the only one who ends up happy with getting what she has always wanted (and of course her fairy godmother figure is stern-but-kind rather than seemingly kind but morally dubious). However, Davidson plays the theme of wish fulfillment while ringing the changes: none of his stories are close repeats, even though they have this similar focus.

For Jinty‘s pages he also wrote the important science fiction story “Fran of the Floods” (1976) – perhaps not quite the first SF story that ran in this title (that is arguably 1975’s “The Green People”) but a hugely popular one that ran for some 9 months. Jinty‘s reputation as a title that ran lots of SF surely must owe plenty to the success of this key story. It is a strong story through to its end, though showing a few signs of padding in some parts of the long journey taken by the protagonist. (I note that Sandie ran a story called “Noelle’s Ark” a few years earlier which has a number of similarities without being as strong on characterization or drama: it would be interesting to know if this was something that Davidson was aware of, or perhaps even the author of.)

Davidson of course had also previously written a standout story that gave girls’ comics a key new theme: 1971’s “Little Miss Nothing” started the run of Cinderella stories which gave Tammy its reputation for cruelty and darkness. Pat Mills has lauded this as being written with a real lightness of touch and being written very much from the heart (note that he thought at the time that this was written by Alan’s wife Pat, which has since been corrected by Pat Davidson herself). We know less about what we wrote for titles other than Jinty: it seems he wrote little else for Tammy (unless Pat Davidson can correct that impression?), and only one story for Misty. “Paint It Black” was part of the opening line-up of that comic. While it was a compelling read it doesn’t seem to have struck the same chord with readers as some others from that title, and Davidson doesn’t seem to have written more for Misty (perhaps also due to the fact that he was finding success in children’s prose fiction from around that time).

It’s clear that Davidson’s writing is strong all round, and at its height was really mould-breaking (not just once, at least twice). There are ways in which it follows the conventions of girls comics writing reasonably closely: the titles of his stories tend to follow the standard set up of focusing on the girl protagonists (Gwen, Jackie, Fran, Kerry) though veering away from that in some cases (“Valley of Shining Mist” and most particularly “Paint It Black”). I’m not sure whether this all-round strength is part of the reason for another aspect of his comics career which I was struck by when looking back – he has not been associated with one particular artist, but rather been illustrated by a wide range of artists with no repeats that I know of. This contrasts with the partnership between Alison Christie and Phil Townsend, who created some seven very popular stories together for Jinty.

From the mid to late 70s, Davidson started to concentrate on prose fiction for children. It’s a little hard to search for details of his work online as he doesn’t seem to have had his own web presence and there are a few other well-known figures with the same name (such as a food writer and a cricketer). This Goodreads author page is the clearest list I have found of his prose works, while it’s also worth looking at his Wikipedia page, which tells us that he started off as a subeditor on “Roy of the Rovers” for Tiger. Writing children’s prose fiction has clear advantages over continuing in the world of juvenile comics: better recognition by your public rather than having no printed credits in the pages of the comics titles, better rewards for success in the form of royalties and translation money. At the same time, his most successful prose work, “The Bewitching of Alison Allbright”, is an effective re-working of his popular comics story “Jackie’s Two Lives”. The influence of the earlier writing clearly informs the later work too: what comics loses, children’s fiction gains.

If Davidson had been writing a decade or so later, might he have been swept up in the popularity of 2000AD and the migration that various British creators made to the US market? That only seems to have drawn in the creators working on boys’ comics, so I assume not. It is pleasant to imagine the talented writers of juvenile comics being fêted and recognized by name in a way that British publishers spent many years fighting to prevent. Ultimately however it is a sad thought: Alan Davidson, who is amongst those who most deserve that name recognition, is only now getting a small fraction of that recognition after his death.

The Valley of Shining Mist (1975)

Sample Images

valley-of-shining-mist-1avalley-of-shining-mist-1bvalley-of-shining-mist-1c

Published: 31 May 1975 – 1 November 1975 (23 episodes)

Artist: Carlos Freixas

Writer: Alan Davidson

Translations / reprints: Het dal van de glanzende nevel (The Valley of the Shining Mist) in Tina 1977)

Plot

At the Cornish village of Armfield, Debbie Lane has lived with her aunt, uncle and cousin Elaine ever since her parents died. The upbringing she has received from them has been a terrible one. They are cruel relatives who abuse Debbie while teaching her to steal. Debbie also has a stammer and never spoken a full sentence in her life. As a result, everyone at school bullies her and calls her “Dumbie Debbie” and “stupid”. As she can’t talk back to the bullies because of her stammer, all she can do is lash out at them. Nobody cares for her at all or steps in against the bullies or the abusive relatives, although the teachers do notice it. Everyone compares her to a wild animal, and that’s just about what her behaviour has been reduced to because of the terrible life she leads.

On the upside, when Debbie passes the village antique shop she takes a moment to play a violin there, and the dealer says she has a genius for it. But what’s the use when she can’t get the violin or lessons? She also takes solace by finding solitude in the nearby valley, though it is dangerous from old mine workings.

One day Debbie lashes out at the Lanes and runs off when they are about to punish her for stealing food from a grocer. That’s pretty hypocritical of them, since they are the ones who teach her to steal. Moreover, they also drove her to steal the food in the first place by not leaving her anything to eat.

For the first time, Debbie heads for the valley while it is full of mist. She figures she will be safe there because everyone is scared to approach the valley when it is full of mist. When Debbie enters the mist, she is astonished to find an idyllic, shining fantasy world under it. And the valley farmhouse, which was in ruins before, is now intact and there is a woman there. Her name is Mrs Maynard, and there is something familiar about her that Debbie can’t place (clearly, a thread to be tied up later). She is the first to treat Debbie kindly and her home is everything Debbie has dreamed of: love, comfort, lots of food, and a violin she plays. Debbie is astonished to find that she is speaking proper sentences now and realises it is because she feels so relaxed in this loving, heavenly atmosphere and nobody is cruel to her. Mrs Maynard encourages Debbie’s gift for the violin, but when Debbie asks if Mrs Maynard can teach her, Mrs Maynard says that’s up to Debbie.

As Debbie leaves Mrs Maynard she steals a silver hairbrush with which to buy the violin she saw at the antique shop. But there is a strange, sad look on Mrs Maynard’s face as she watches Debbie go, and the text says it is as if Mrs Maynard knows what Debbie has done. Once Debbie is out of the valley, it returns to its normal state, with no trace of Mrs Maynard or the mist.

Debbie uses the hairbrush to obtain the violin, but can’t get far with it without proper lessons. When the violin attracts the attention of her cruel uncle, she tries to flee to the Valley of Shining Mist. But the mist rejects her, and she knows it is because of her theft. So she returns the violin to the shop, confesses the theft, and gets the hairbrush back. However, spiteful Elaine throws the hairbrush into the dangerous mine workings. This means Debbie has to risk her life to get the hairbrush out. However, she finds she does not mind the danger, even though she gets hurt, because she feels it is purging her of her sin in stealing the hairbrush.

This time the Valley of Shining Mist opens up for Debbie. She returns the brush, apologises, and promises Mrs Maynard that she will stop stealing. Mrs Maynard then gives Debbie her own violin. Later, when Debbie asks Mrs Maynard about her origins, she is vague, saying that perhaps she does not exist except in Debbie’s imagination, and only when Debbie wants it. As for why she seems so familiar to Debbie for some reason, she says that one day she will understand, but only if Debbie does everything she asks and becomes the great violinist she wants her to be.

Over time Debbie’s cruel family increasingly suspect she is up to something because of the objects she brings back from the Valley of Shining Mist, such as the hairbrush and the violin. Elaine soon realises it has something to do with the valley, but she just gets sucked down in bog when she tries to follow Debbie into the mist. Eventually the family force it out of Debbie, but of course they don’t believe a crazy story like that.

Debbie finds that if she is to continue to return to the Valley of Shining Mist and receive more violin lessons she must pass a series of tests Mrs Maynard sets for her. As the tests unfold, it becomes apparent that they are designed to bring out Debbie’s inner strengths, build her confidence, and shed the negative traits Debbie has developed from her abusive upbringing.

The first is to obtain a mug, which turns out to be the prize in a poetry reading competition – so Debbie is challenged to overcome her stuttering. The village is buzzing with astonishment and scorn when word spreads about “Dumbie Debbie” entering the poetry competition, and everyone turns up just to see how “Dumbie Debbie” fares. With the help of a strange vision from Mrs Maynard, Debbie manages to recite two lines of her poem without a stutter, but she is too overwrought to continue. The winner is so impressed that she insists Debbie receive the mug instead for her courage. Debbie also has to run the gauntlet with Elaine, who tries to take the mug from her, before she brings it to Mrs Maynard. In the Valley of Shining Mist, she makes tremendous strides with her violin under Mrs Maynard’s tuition. Mrs Maynard also suggests a shed where Debbie can practise in secret from her cruel family.

The next test is to obtain a brooch from Tracey Stocks – but that’s the girl who bullies Debbie the most at school! Then Tracey herself catches Debbie while she’s practising in the shed and starts bullying her over it. When Tracey snatches the violin, Debbie is pushed too far. She lunges at Tracey and during the fight the brooch comes off. Debbie takes the brooch while Tracey is in tears over losing it. Later, Debbie realises that taking the brooch like that had broken her promise to Mrs Maynard never to steal again. So she goes to the Stocks’s house to return it and is in for a surprise – Tracey’s home is as bad and abusive as hers! So they are two of a kind. Tracey is so impressed with Debbie’s kindness after all that bullying that she lets her keep the brooch to make things up to her. Tracey says she will be Debbie’s friend from now on, make sure the bullying stops (next day, Debbie finds it has), and Debbie can use her gang hut to practise.

Tracey is also very surprised to hear Debbie suddenly speaking almost proper sentences. The Lane family are noticing this and other changes in Debbie. Elaine begins to wonder if there is something in her story about “the valley of shining mist”, and wants to crush it.

Debbie’s third test is to enter a talent contest to demonstrate her violin ability in public, with a £100 prize for the winner. Mrs Maynard trains her up for it and gives her an envelope containing instructions. But Elaine has entered the contest too, so her spite towards Debbie is worse than usual. She throws Debbie’s violin down a hillside. By the time Debbie has retrieved it, her best dress has been ripped by brambles and her hands stung and blistered by nettles. This gets her off to a bad start when she finally arrives at the talent contest, but the miraculous strength she gets from visions of Mrs Maynard gets her through to victory.

Debbie treats herself to a spending spree with the prize money. Her family suddenly go all nice to her. She is completely taken in by their phoney kindness, and she does not realise they are just conning her into spending some of the money on them. But she forgot the sealed envelope, and by the time she opens it, she realised she should have taken the money to Mrs Maynard instead of spending it. Elaine sees the note and says Mrs Maynard is conning and exploiting her, which plants seeds of doubt about Mrs Maynard in Debbie’s mind.

Debbie returns the things she bought to recoup the money she spent. The Lanes continue to string her along because they are hoping to make money out of her talent, and they recruit a sleazy agent, Arthur Swain, for the job. Debbie is tempted by the money and fame Swain promises her and almost signs his contract. But in the nick of time she thinks the right things about Mrs Maynard and realises Swain is a nasty man. She leaves the contract unsigned and heads to Mrs Maynard with the money. Mrs Maynard said it was a test to see if Debbie could resist the temptation of money, and she shows what she thinks of those ideas of taking advantage of Debbie by burning the money.

Mrs Maynard then gives Debbie the last payment: bring Swain’s contract to her, all torn up, to show she will never sign it. However, the Lanes trick Debbie into signing it by having Elaine fake illness and saying they need Swain’s money for Elaine’s treatment. Debbie realises too late they have been fooling her and are as bad as ever. She runs off and her uncle gives chase. He forces her to retreat into the misty valley. Debbie is surprised to find herself in the Valley of Shining Mist after failing the last test. But no – she had passed it by signing the contract. It was really a test of selflessness and self-sacrifice. And the contract cannot be enforced against Debbie because she is a minor.

Mrs Maynard now says goodbye. She and the Valley of Shining Mist all dissolve in front of Debbie’s eyes and the valley goes back to its normal state. But in the village, Debbie is surprised to see Mrs Maynard get out of a car!

Er, it’s not quite Mrs Maynard. It’s Mrs Maynell, Debbie’s aunt, whom she had only seen once as a small child. She missed out on claiming Debbie when her parents died because she was out of the country at the time. She came to look for Debbie after getting a lead from a newspaper report about Debbie winning the talent contest. She shows Debbie a photograph of her house, and Debbie realises it looks exactly like Mrs Maynard’s home in the Valley of Shining Mist. Mrs Maynell has a stronger claim on Debbie than the Lanes do, and Debbie is only too happy to leave them and go with her. Mrs Maynell is a concert violinist and will encourage Debbie’s talent. When Debbie talks to Mrs Maynell, there is no trace of a stammer.

The Lanes just say “good riddance to her!” As Debbie and Mrs Maynell leave Armfield, Debbie requests one last stop at the valley. She deduces the Valley of Shining Mist was created out of her own imagination and subconscious memories of her one stay at her aunt’s. All those tests from Mrs Maynard were created by Debbie herself to rise above her abusive upbringing and the “wild animal” traits she had developed from it. She now says goodbye to the valley, but will always remember it when she plays her violin.

Thoughts

“The Valley of Shining Mist” was one of Jinty’s most popular and enduring stories and is fondly remembered in Jinty discussions. It has its roots in the “Cinderella” story, but it certainly is not your average Cinderella story. It is a Cinderella story that features one of the most intense, extraordinary, and emotional journeys in character development ever seen in girls’ comics.

Here the heroine is so emotionally and psychologically damaged by the abuse that she is likened to a wild animal. Mrs Maynard herself says a wild animal was what Debbie pretty much was when she first came to the Valley of Shining Mist. Nowhere is Debbie’s lack of self-esteem more evident than in her stammer. This must have struck a chord with readers who had stammers themselves. One even wrote in to Jinty’s problem page saying that she had a stammer just like Debbie.

So our heroine is set to not only rise above the abuse at home and bullying at school but also to overcome the psychological problems from it and find her true self: the violin genius. But Debbie is so damaged that she needs to do a whole lot more than develop her musical genius if she is to rise above the terrible life she leads.

This is precisely what Debbie gets in the Valley of Shining Mist (the fairy-tale land) and Mrs Maynard (the fairy godmother), both of which tie in appropriately with the Cinderella theme. But the fairy godmother does not help simply by giving Debbie gifts. She also helps Debbie to find her true self with a series of trials. Several of which seem unreasonable, bizarre and even impossible, but there always turns out to be a reason for them that does Debbie’s character development tremendous good. As Debbie progresses through the tests we see her strengths developing and her bad traits disappearing. The “wild animal” traits are being progressively shed and a more confident, compassionate and talented girl is developing. As Debbie’s character develops and strengthens everyone notices it, Debbie herself feels it, and it is reflected in her stammer, which gradually disappears after the first test. It is far more realistic to have the stammer disappear in stages, through each trial, rather than all at once.

One of the finest moments in the story is when Debbie discovers why Tracey Stocks is such a bully. It’s because she has an unhappy home life; in fact, she even has to sleep in the shed because there’s no room in the house. There’s no love for Tracey either; the only one who was ever nice to her was her late Aunt Betty, who gave her the brooch. The brooch meant everything to Tracey for that reason, so we realise it is a tremendous leap in Tracey’s own character development and redemption when she gives Debbie her beloved brooch because Debbie was the second person to be nice to her. Tracey Stocks would be worthy of a serial in her own right, and we wish she could find the Valley of Shining Mist too.

The explanation on how the Valley of Shining Mist worked at the end is the weakest part of the story. If Debbie had created the valley and tests out of her own imagination and subconscious memories of her aunt’s home, then where did the hairbrush, violin and envelope with the talent contest instructions come from? How did Mrs Maynard manage to give Debbie violin lessons? What happened to Tracey’s brooch and the £100 that Debbie took to Mrs Maynard? It would have been more convincing to have a more supernatural explanation, and preferably one that ties in with why the locals get so scared of the valley when it is full of mist – something that was never explained. Still, we can’t be certain that Debbie’s deductions about the Valley of Shining Mist were entirely correct. There may have been some supernatural force in the valley that she was not aware of. It certainly would tie in with the Cinderella theme beautifully.

Jinty 4 October 1975

Cover 4 October 1975

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx From St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Blind Ballerina (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Valley of Shining Mist (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Song of the Fir Tree (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)
  • “The Green People” (artist Phil Gascoine) – last episode
  • Barracuda Bay (artist Santiago Hernandez)
  • Ping-Pong Paula (artist Jim Baikie)

Katie Jinks’s school is competing against the nearby boys’ school, to see who does best at ‘gender-swapped’ tasks – so Katie and pals are making a concrete pathway for their school, and the boys are cooking a cordon bleu meal, which the victors get to eat! Of course, her equal-opportunity jinxing sees her ruining the chances of both groups equally – the boys win, but Katie’s antics end up with the boys locked in a store-room unable to eat their fine supper – so naturally the girls have to self-sacrificially eat it up… The tagline for upcoming stories advises readers that ‘there’s a long story starring Katie in the new Jinty Annual‘ (which turns out to be drawn by Audrey Fawley rather than Mario Capaldi).

Ballerina Barbie gets a shock as she is dancing before an audience – her sight returns and she can dance with more joy than ever! But she isn’t able to get to her sister quite in time to see the beloved face that she hasn’t seen for so many years.

Lucy and Yvette need to come up with a cunning plan to save Corn Dolly from the prison that Miss Marvell has put her in – the doll is powerless herself, surrounded as she is by black magic items in the local museum. But the brave and resourceful girls swop the doll for a very similar one that they have bought. Miss Marvell is fuming once she finds out of course, and threatens that ‘next time, there will be no half measures!’.

Debbie is stunned at the next request that Mrs Maynard makes – to bring her £100! A huge amount of money for the poor girl, of course, representing the entirety of her winnings at the talent contest. And she’s already spent her winnings, too! She sadly goes round returning the items she’d bought, but meanwhile her cruel family come up with ways to stop her from giving the money to Mrs Maynard. Will this mean that Debbie can never see her kind, if odd, mentor again?

Per and Solveig are still being pursued by Grendelsen, with much trekking through the woods. There’s natural dangers in the woods as well as Nazi stalkers though, as the kids are threatened by a wild boar and by a fierce dog too.

“The Green People” comes to an end this week. Moura’s aunt Zella has betrayed the peaceful underground people in a pact with the surface dwellers who want to build a motorway on the moor – but she finds that the dangerous monster Krakengerd is not as easy to control as she had thought. All ends well and the green people’s secret – and their lives – are safe.

“Barracuda Bay” sees Susan Stevens captured and trapped underwater, with her air running out. Will her partner Martin find and rescue her in time? This thriller is slightly old-fashioned in style and quite reminiscent of the Sandie story “The Golden Shark”, which also is a diving-based thriller with a female lead who has good hair. The art on “Barracuda Bay” is much tighter and more neatly-finished, though less obviously by the same artist as “The Haunting of Hazel” (which starts in the next issue). “The Golden Shark” gives a much clearer artistic link between the two stories that were reprinted in Jinty, which I was slightly surprised by.

Finally, “Ping-Pong Paula” has Paula suffering from lack of sleep, in the dodgy digs that her mother has dragged her to. Paula’s dad can support her table-tennis playing better, but of course her mother is bound to find out and to use it as more ammunition in the parental war.

Memories triggered

I have recently received a few 1975 issues of Jinty, which I will write individual issue posts about in due course as usual. Before that, I wanted to write a little bit about the memories triggered by seeing these issues again for the first time in many years.

I’ve seen the cover images on Catawiki or similar, and they didn’t particularly lead me to feel that I remembered what the contents were going to cover. Indeed, when starting to read issues 42 and 51, practically none of it triggered any memories from when I was little – “Tricia’s Tragedy”, “The Kat and Mouse Game”, and the end of “Bird-Girl Brenda” rang no bells at all. But looking inside the issue dated 26 July 1975 was a different matter: of course the  front cover with Katie Jinks’ antics was familiar, but so was the inside story of her circus exploits – I wouldn’t have been able to remember it in advance but looking at it again I felt I knew it well. The next story was “Blind Ballerina”, much more familiar to me than “Tricia’s Tragedy” – as I read each page it felt as if it was flooding back to me, not just the plot (which I could have got from Mistyfan’s post on this issue) but the individual panels and the dialogue boxes themselves, too.

Likewise with “The Valley of Shining Mist” – the very first panel of it gave me a shock of recognition, as ‘Dumbie Debbie’ stumbles tearfully away from the poetry reading competition she has been asked to take part in. It is like when Mistyfan sent me a scan of the episode of “Golden Dolly, Death Dust!” from the issue dated 1 November 1975, which I have also just received recently – but until she sent me that scan some months ago now, I hadn’t seen the episode since I was perhaps ten years old or so, and yet the snippet of dialogue where evil witch Miss Marvell poisons the buddleia in the school grounds has lived in my mind ever since then.

My six-year old daughter has taken to reading my old Jintys now (and Sandies, and anything else I leave lying around). She’s enjoying them greatly and can hardly be torn away from them for suppertime and the like. I hope for her sake that when she is my age, she will not just have vague fond memories of this childhood reading, but ingrained snapshots in her mind that are subtly longer-lasting than you could ever have expected – unless of course you hadn’t already had it happen to you.

Story theme: Redemption narratives

I recently wrote summary posts about two stories that I called ‘redemption narratives’: “The Girl Who Never Was” and “She Shall Have Music“. That’s a kind of story theme that we can all recognize as being fairly common in girls comics generally: in Jinty there are a number of other examples.  But how does this sort of story work?

Take those two stories as an initial guide: the protagonist is a difficult or disagreeable, probably dislikeable, girl who has some personal failing or issue that drives the story. It’s because of that failing that the story progresses; it may not have been due to something that was her fault that the story started off in the first place, but it is because of her moral or social problem that it continues and develops the way it does. Tina Williams lands in the alternate universe where magic works because of her conceited and annoying ways; Lisa Carstairs’s father doesn’t lose his money because of her, but if she wasn’t so obsessed with continuing her piano playing exactly as before, then she wouldn’t find herself in the same difficulties. It’s not just what happens to the protagonist (or how she is challenged in the story) but how she reacts to it. She has to be ‘the architect of her own misfortunes’, as Mistyfan puts it in her post about another redemption story, “Black Sheep of the Bartons“.

Does the story have to feature some sort of disagreeableness, some sort of outright nastiness or callousness on the part of the protagonist? No: I’d say that you could certainly include ‘guilt’ stories such as “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary”. The protagonist here  suffers huge pangs of guilt and despair because of the loss of a loved one – a best friend or a sister in the case of these two stories, but in other cases it can be a parent – a very natural feeling, but the failing here is that she lets those emotions overwhelm her and distort her common sense. The guilty feelings of the protagonist drive the story forward, but this guilt is portrayed throughout as excessive, as an indulgence that the main character should resist. It’s the lengths that their grief drives them to that causes their difficulties in their separate stories.

Also, it’s not just about having an objectionable main character who is nicer by the end of the story. “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” are not what I would call redemption narratives, despite having protagonists who start off pretty disagreeable and end up much improved. (Likewise “Battle of the Wills” is not, nor I think “Pandora’s Box”, but sports story “Black Sheep of the Bartons” is one I would class as such: Bev Barton isn’t horrible so much as thoughtless and reckless, but her carelessness nearly brings tragedy to her family.) Why don’t “Curtain of Silence” and “Land of No Tears” count? Because when the girl main characters are swept into their initial circumstances – enslaved by a dictatorial coach, forced into third-class citizenship in a future world – their thoughts are not primarily about how they can continue to maintain their status quo ante but about how they can defeat their antagonist. Yvonne and Cassy aren’t just trying to get back to where they were at the beginning: their story is about a positive rebellion, not a futile rejection of the truth that the outside world is telling them. They end up much nicer than they started out being, but that’s not the whole reason for having the story in the first place – it’s because they have faced extraordinary circumstances which would change anyone by making them realise that some things are bigger than individual concerns.

Does the character who ends up being redeemed have to be the protagonist, or could they be the antagonist or villain? Overall I would say it has to be the protagonist, as the main character that you are supposed to sympathise with and want things to turn out well for, but maybe one counter-example is “Wanda Whiter Than White“. Wanda is not the main character of the story and she makes Susie Foster’s life a misery with her sanctimonious ways. At the end, it is revealed, as Mistyfan explains in her story post, that ‘Wanda’s own past is not as white as she would have us believe. In fact, she is on probation after being caught stealing.’ Rather than this reveal being painted as purely a victory for the main character, it ends up with Wanda being ‘truly redeemed when she tells a white lie to help Susie in return for Susie saving her life’. The reader wasn’t rooting for Wanda’s redemption all along, but it is a satisfying ending nevertheless.

What choices could the writer make that would move the story out of the category of being a redemption narrative? Let’s take Lisa Carstairs’ story as an example. As with the OuBaPo exercises, thinking about how a story could work differently will give us a view on how the stories actually do work.

  • Imagine Lisa’s parents still losing everything at the beginning of the story, and Lisa still losing her piano. The story could then have taken a different turn: rather than being about Lisa’s misguided piano obsession and selfishness, it could have been another kind of story entirely, for instance a mystery story where Lisa finds out that her father’s business partner was a crook who needs to be brought to justice. Perhaps Lisa’s piano playing could help her to find the clues she needs, and her obsession with it could be turned to a good cause in that way, so that she needs no redemption.
  • Or let’s say the story stays as being about Lisa’s obsession with playing piano but it’s portrayed as something not to be frowned on, rather as something acceptable or allowable. How would a story work where she can continue to be focused on playing piano to the exclusion of everything else, including her family? Perhaps her family would have to be a nasty, uncaring one, to make her disinterest acceptable.
  • Or perhaps the story could proceed more or less as it does, but with an unhappy ending where Lisa gets her comeuppance. This would make her into a more of an anti-heroine than normal but would not be unheard of.

Here are the examples I would identify as fitting most neatly into the category of ‘redemption narrative’ (core examples) and as being closely related to this category without necessarily definitely being classed as such (edge cases).

Core examples

  • “Dance Into Darkness” – Della just wants to live her life down at the disco with no regard for other people, but when her wish is granted she eventually discovers there is indeed more to life than her own self-interest.
  • There are a number of stories that are driven by a bereavement: the main character makes poor decisions as a result of her strong emotions of grief and anger because she is afraid of being hurt again. “The Ghost Dancer” is one of these, as is “Nothing to Sing About”, but of course “Stefa’s Heart of Stone” and “I’ll Make Up For Mary” are the strongest examples.
  • “The Girl Who Never Was” – discussed above
  • “She Shall Have Music” – discussed above
  • I said above that I thought that it needs to be the protagonist who is redeemed, not one of the other characters. In “Go On, Hate Me!” the antagonist is driven by grief into bullying the protagonist but in the end all is cleared and the antagonist is redeemed, so I would be tempted to class this alongside “Wanda Whiter Than White” as a clear example of this kind.
  • Jackie’s Two Lives” is more about the perils of wish-fulfilment, but Jackie’s snobbishness and the fact she is ashamed of her own family is definitely a character flaw that drives the story and she is cured of it at the end.
  • “Left-Out Linda” develops the redemption pretty well by recognizing that you can’t usually turn around your life by yourself: you have to have some help.
  • “Paula’s Puppets”: Paula has to learn to forgive her enemies rather than attacking them via the magical help she has been given.
  • “Tearaway Trisha”: Trisha’s recklessness has caused a serious accident; she tries to make amends but has to change her own character in order to do so.
  • “Valley of Shining Mist” has a clearly didactic message about the improving aspect of high culture: by playing the violin, Debbie will transcend the impact of her abusive family, who are low-class in their lack of culture and their morality.
  • In “Who’s That In My Mirror?” the protagonist’s selfish nature is made very literally visible and becomes more and more so until finally she is driven to renouncing it.
  • Worlds Apart” is the ultimate morality tale – one by one, six girls are shown the worst outcomes possible for each of their specific character flaws, and they have a chance to repent. The psychological development is minimal but the impact of the story was very dramatic.

Edge cases

  • “Fancy Free “- I know the main character is so independent that this may well be characterised as a fault, but I don’t really quite remember enough about the story to say whether it is the main thing that drives the whole plot.
  • The Four Footed Friends” – arguably another case where someone other than the protagonist ends up being redeemed, though it all feels a little sudden. “Hettie High-and-Mighty” likewise features a fairly sudden change of heart on the part of an antagonist who has mostly been about making  the protagonist’s life a misery until that point. I don’t think “The Kat And Mouse Game” quite counts, either: Kat may perhaps have realised the error of her ways at the end of the story, but will her change of heart actually stick?
  • I haven’t really made my mind up about “Gwen’s Stolen Glory” – it feels like it is mostly a story about deception, though clearly once Gwen owns up to the big lie this is a kind of redemption of her former deception.
  • In “Kerry In The Clouds”, Kerry is a day-dreamer imposed upon by a woman motivated by her own unfriendly concerns. Kerry’s day-dreaming nature is cured by the end of the story, but I don’t feel the main driver of the narrative was to improve her character.
  • The main character in “Mark of the Witch!” is hot-tempered and angry at all around her, and she comes to seek a more peaceful set of emotions by the end of the story. However, so much of her story is about the persecution and abuse that her neighbours visit on her that I don’t see her story being primarily about her renouncing her hot-headed ways.
  • I’m not sure about “Pandora’s Box” and whether it counts or not. Pandora’s witchy aunt does chide her at the beginning about being too cock-sure about her talents and says that she will need to use magic sooner or later, and this is all true: but I’m not sure what sort of morality story that adds up to – not a conventional one at any rate! The main nod in this story to more conventional morality is the fact that Pandora goes from disinterest in the pet she is stuck with (her black cat familiar, Scruffy) to loving him dearly and giving up her heart’s desire in order to save his life.

One last question struck me when thinking about this. What sort of things might the protagonist have done that means she needs to go through this process of redemption in the first place? Clearly it must be something negative: the story has a moral imperative of some sort, warning readers against some kinds of behaviour. But at the same time, some things would be beyond the pale of course, and would mean that any character doing that would be irredeemable. (There might therefore be some useful comparisons made with story villains: what does their villainy consist of?) If a character killed or seriously hurt someone on purpose then that would be beyond the pale: there are a number of villains who have gone this far, sometimes with a laugh on their cruel lips, but it would be hard to imagine that a girl protagonist could do this and still recover the moral high ground at the end of the story.

In the stories above it looks like the sort of wrong-doing that needs castigating but is still redeemable is often about emotional warmth and consideration for others – it’s not about ambition (by itself) or cleverness (by itself) for instance. An arrogant protagonist can still be the heroine, but if she is cold, selfish, or inconsiderate then that’s a good signal that this is a character marked down for improvement – by whatever means necessary. Preferably it will be a Shakespearean denouement, whereby her own moral failing brings about such a huge disaster that she has no option but to change her ways! And being too afraid to risk emotional commitment comes in for a bit of a kicking too, via the guilt / grief stories. The obvious next question: is this moral imperative specific to British girls comics? Do UK boys comics have redemption narratives too? Or those in other countries? My pal Lee Brimmicombe-Wood reckons that Japan’s flourishing manga industry has many stories about mavericks who insist on going their own ways – but in that industry’s story constraints, the mavericks are always right and never forced to realise that actually, there was a reason why everyone was telling them they were going about things the wrong way…

Jinty 16 August 1975

Jinty cover 16 August 1975

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Blind Ballerina (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Merry at Misery House (unknown artist – Merry; writer Terry Magee)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • A Journey Through Time! Jinty’s Favourite Spooky Stories – text story
  • The Valley of Shining Mist – (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Cinderella Smith (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • “The Green People” (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Daddy’s Darling – final episode (artist Philip Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Face the Music, Flo! (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Jinty Makes…Easy Cool Drinks!

After a break of several weeks, Jinty’s favourite spooky tales are back. This one teaches a girl a creepy lesson about not dithering so long in bed that she runs late for school.

Katie the jinx is on holiday, but Clarence, the boy her cousin Janice is expected to pair up with because they are neighbours, is really spoiling things. He’s such a snob and a prig who always makes put-down remarks about everything Katie does, and he never loosens up. Dora’s not having much fun on holiday either. Even then, Ma Siddons makes her the dogsbody – especially when she wants Dora’s help in winning a talent contest.

It’s the final episode of “Daddy’s Darling”. Daddy, having finally seen the light in the previous episode, makes up for things in a big way to deliver a happy ending. Next week we see the start of “Barracuda Bay”, which promises us adventure, mystery, the Bahamas, a sunken ship and disappearing scientists. Sounds like an exciting mixture already!

Debbie finds the courage to stand up to bully Tracey and finally gets the brooch off her. But then Debbie realises that she stole the brooch when she promised Mrs Maynard she would not steal again. So the Valley of Shining Mist may not take her back unless she can sort out this tangle.

Hilda agrees to come back to Misery House to keep the peace with the Warden and release Merry from punishment. The gypsy’s herbs have made her so fighting fit that she’s strong enough to stand up to Adolfa the bullying toady. Something may catch on from this because the blurb for next week says: “‘Up with the barricades! Down with Misery House!’”.

Woozums the dog is suddenly standing up bullies too. In this week’s episode of “Cinderella Smith” he’s taking a growl at the nasty cousins on Cindy’s behalf.

In “Blind Ballerina” a tipster provides the lead to Daisy’s whereabouts. But now it’s Barbie who’s disappeared!

Flo gets the worst birthday ever. Greg is so busy that all he can do is send her a bunch of flowers. And then Flo is so shocked when she finds out Greg’s off on an American tour that she blunders into the road and gets hit by a truck!

Julie and Mary finally deliver the message to Moura that her Aunt Zella is a traitor and in league with Mr Blackburn. Moura believes it, but Zella is making sure she can’t convince her father and stop the soldiers who are on the verge of planting explosives that will destroy their world.

 

Jinty 9 August 1975

Jinty cover 9 August 1975.jpeg

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Blind Ballerina (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Merry at Misery House (unknown artist – Merry; writer Terry Magee)
  • Jinty’s Holiday Competition (guitar competition)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Valley of Shining Mist – (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Cinderella Smith (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • “The Green People” (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Daddy’s Darling (artist Philip Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Face the Music, Flo! (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Do-It-Yourself Dot (artist Alf Saporito)

 

Katie the Jinx is pushed off the cover this week in favour of this delightful Phil Gascoine piece that advertises Jinty’s latest competition for winning a guitar. The dancer looks like she’s got one leg, though. Presumably the other is under her skirt somewhere.

When Katie is pushed off the cover her strip is usually reduced to a two-page episode, and this is the case here. Katie is minding her little horror of a cousin. Things turn to horror all right when he loses his ball and Katie gets herself into all sorts of scrapes and in a real state trying to retrieve it. And after all that, the little brat says he’s gone off his ball and wants to play on the swings. He doesn’t even thank Katie for getting his ball back. No wonder poor Katie faints in the last panel.

The hostage crisis at Misery House continues. The Warden allows Merry to go to the gypsies to deliver her ultimatum: return Hilda, who has not recovered from her illness, in exchange for Jessie, who is going mad from her illegal confinement at Misery House. As it turns out (in the next episode) the gypsies should have responded with a gypsy’s curse on the Warden and Miss Ball. As it is, Merry and the gypsies resort to a bluff to trick the Warden into returning Jessie.

In “Blind Ballerina”, Barbie and her friend Pauline go in search of Daisy, but don’t have any luck. And once they return, Sylvia pulls another trick to get them into trouble for staying out.

It’s gambling on the greyhound racing in Dora Dogsbody this week. Mr Siddons finds some backbone too when he thinks he’s lost because of Ma Siddons and stands up to her by arguing with her.

Debbie’s family manage to force the story of “the Valley of Shining Mist” out of her. They don’t believe a word of it of course, which should keep the secret safe. Then Elaine has second thoughts, which puts it in danger again. Meanwhile, Debbie still hasn’t got the brooch off bully Tracey Stocks, and now Tracey’s teasing her even more when she discovers Debbie’s secret violin practice.

Cinderella Smith has to put a brave face on losing her first earnings to her cousins. Still, her next job is coming up, and in the last panel she’s on a high when she slips off for it.

Julie finds out Zella the evil Green Woman is in league with Mr Blackburn. But they run into difficulties trying to tell Moura because Zella is starting a war of nerves in both the kingdom below and the military above.

It is the penultimate episode of “Daddy’s Darling”. Daddy finally realises how cold and selfish he has been after seeing how selfless and brave his darling was in trying to rescue the evacuees in a fire. However, there’s no sign of them and it looks like they’ve perished. Moreover, Lee is now in intensive care and sharing her ward with the evacuees’ grieving mother.

Flo and Pip resort to unusual measures to make sure Greg has a good rest because his nasty manager Vince Telfer is driving him too hard – they smuggle Greg out in a drum under Telfer’s nose and take him off for a holiday! However, it has unfortunate consequences Flo did not anticipate – it caused Greg to miss his chance for a tour in Las Vegas.

 

Jinty 2 August 1975

Jinty cover 2 August 1975.jpeg

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Blind Ballerina (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Merry at Misery House (unknown artist – Merry; writer Terry Magee)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Valley of Shining Mist – (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Cinderella Smith (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • “The Green People” (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Daddy’s Darling (artist Philip Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Face the Music, Flo! (artist Jim Baikie)

 

The issue is a bit unusual in that there is no Dot, quiz, competition or special feature. Only the ads intermingle with the flow of the stories.

This week’s Jinx story is curiously similar to a “Fran’ll Fix It!” story that appeared in 1978. Our protagonist and her friends stick on false beards and other facial hair – only to find they won’t come off because of our protagonist’s special homemade glue (made with glue from the makeup kit, flour, nail varnish and stuff for mending bathtub cracks!). After several failed attempts to get rid of their “hairy appendages”, they finally succeed after they work up sweat during one of Katie’s scrapes. This is not unlike how Fran must have worked herself up in a sweat getting away from Sheikh Abbis and then jumping into the duck pond. Could it be the same writer?

Barbie gets the role of the blind ballerina in the production. Talk about irony. Unfortunately other dancers turn against Barbie in this episode, which will make things easier for jealous Sylvia. And now Pauline has discovered Barbie’s secret. Someone in the company had to at some point. Fortunately it is not Sylvia – but how long before that happens?

Despite Merry’s efforts to stop Miss Ball capturing Jessie, she succeeds and is now holding Jessie hostage to force the gypsies to return Hilda to Misery House. Jessie’s going mad from her confinement in a Misery House cell, which is precisely what Miss Ball anticipated because gypsies are outdoor people. It’s all part of her plan to turn the screw even more on Merry to make a choice between Hilda and Jessie – or think of something fast!

This week Dora Dogsbody is trying to help a dog overcome his fear of water. She succeeds – unwittingly – when she develops cramp in the pool and the dog dives in to fish her out. But that sneaky Ma Siddons steals the credit and charges the owner extra for it! Another episode where Dora does not score a total victory over Ma Siddons, but she takes solace in the fact that the dog is cured.

Elaine finds herself in a bog when she tries the entrance to the Valley of Shining Mist. Must be more of its magic. But then again, Mrs Maynard says something odd to Debbie: “Perhaps I don’t exist here at all when you’re not here, Debbie. Perhaps I only exist in your imagination – because you want me to.” Meanwhile, Debbie has to pass another test – get a brooch off Tracey Stocks. And Tracey is Debbie’s worst enemy! (Funny – we thought Elaine was.)

Cinderella Smith hides her first cash payment from her cousins by burying it in the garden until she is ready to bank it. But she had not counted on Woozums’s doggy trait of digging things up in the garden. Now the cousins have found the money.

Julie finally decides she has no choice but to take her sister Mary into her confidence about the Green People. Unfortunately her enemies have guessed she would try something like that, so now they are watching Mary too. As a result, they meet the evil Green Woman, Zella, and now they join forces. Oh, crumbs!

Lee finds the evacuees, but they can’t find the mother and Daddy won’t let his darling help with the search. And now it looks like the evacuees are trapped in a fire!

Greg’s manager exhibits more of his selfish, greedy, uncaring attitudes to his own discoveries. He’s driving Greg so hard that his health is suffering. He sacks Pip the drummer – and punches him in the face – for helping Flo when she tries to step in. Undaunted, Pip and Flo hatch a plan to help Greg.

 

 

Jinty 26 July 1975

Jinty 26 July 1975

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Blind Ballerina (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Merry at Misery House (unknown artist – Merry; writer Terry Magee)
  • Quickie Quiz!
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Valley of Shining Mist – (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Cinderella Smith (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • “The Green People” (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Daddy’s Darling (artist Philip Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Face the Music, Flo! (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Jinty Makes…a Sideshow (feature)

 

Katie’s trying to get an amateur circus act going because the circus is offering a big cash prize for the best one. She should stick to doing what happens to her all the time – getting into all sorts of oafish scrapes – because it makes her a natural clown. Which is of course what gets her the prize in the end.

Wouldn’t you know it – the lead part in Barbie’s new ballet requires the lead to dance like a blind girl! If only they knew they had a real “Blind Ballerina”.

Merry succeeds in alerting the gypsies to Miss Ball and the Warden, who are out to burn their camp down – and the gypsies give the two misery-makers a jolly good soaking into the bargain (the panels of it are in the panel gallery). Hilda is now safe in the medical care of the gypsies. Then, it looks like Jessie the gypsy girl has broken into the reformatory once too often. Miss Ball is about to make a grab on her!

Ma Siddons lumbers Dora with the job of flag day seller for the Down and Out Dogs League – and then the rotten cheat steals the credit for all the money collected when the organiser returns for it. Occasionally Dora does not score a total victory over Ma Siddons, and this is one of those times.

Debbie passes the test in obtaining the mug from the poetry reading competition – not because she won but because the winner thought she deserved it more. Unfortunately Debbie’s nasty cousin Elaine is getting hotter on the trail, to the point where she tries to follow Debbie into the Valley of Shining Mist.

Cinderella Smith has to disguise herself to keep her secret from her nasty cousins – who have turned up to watch her first fashion show!

Nasty Mr Blackburn and Miss Berridge are so suspicious of Julie now that they’ve had her grounded at home and escorted to and from school until she tells them what she’s up to. Of course Julie can’t tell them about the “Green People”. At least she has a new pendant to contact them with, so that should help.

The evacuees run off in London in search of their mother after a huge air raid bombing. “Daddy’s Darling” goes to London to search for them – something her father hasn’t bothered to do.

Flo’s finding it difficult to keep in touch with Greg this week because his nasty manager and mobs of fans keep coming between them. Could her misgivings about him becoming a pop star be right?

Jinty 21 June 1975

JInty cover 21 June 1975

Stories in this issue:

  • The Jinx from St Jonah’s (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Blind Ballerina (artist Ana Rodriguez)
  • Merry at Misery House (unknown artist – Merry; writer Terry Magee)
  • Jinty’s Favourite Spooky Stories – The Sobbing Sands (complete story)
  • Dora Dogsbody (artist José Casanovas)
  • The Valley of Shining Mist – (artist Carlos Freixas, writer Alan Davidson)
  • Cinderella Smith (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • “The Green People” (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Daddy’s Darling (artist Philip Townsend, writer Alison Christie)
  • Face the Music, Flo! (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Keep Tidy with My Tortoise! (Feature)

A couple of issues ago Cinderella Smith received instructions on how to make a cute cloth tortoise, which she used to make a birthday present. Perhaps Jinty is now sharing the instructions, because this week’s craft feature is how to make a cloth tortoise, which can be used to keep your things tidy.

Speaking of Cinderella Smith, she starts her career as a model this week, and it all has to be done behind her cruel cousins’ backs. This presents a problem when Cindy realises she has to get her cousins’ signatures for the modelling contract, and she knows they won’t sign voluntarily.

The reformatory staff really show just how corrupt and criminal they really are in this week’s episode of “Misery at Misery House”. They help evil farmer Leggatt force Barry to sign the contract signing away the farm. How? They tell Barry they will have him arrested on trumped-up charges if he does not sign. Barry gives in – but then there are signs that Merry’s call for help to the child welfare officer could be paying off…

Katie’s teacher hopes she’s not always a disaster when there’s water around because she wants to butter up a school governor so the school will get permission to use his houseboat. Fat chance. The episode ends with Katie on a runaway motorboat that is too powerful for her to handle!

Things look up for Barbie as she acquires a guide dog and a job at a ballet company. It looks like a chance to advance her love of ballet at last – but the episode ends with Barbie in danger of falling down the stairs. Moreover, the obligatory jealous rival of the piece has now started her nasty scheming against Barbie.

The Valley of Shining Mist won’t take Debbie in this time and she knows it is because she stole a silver hairbrush from there. However, Debbie’s nasty relatives are trying to stop her efforts to return it. So Debbie is finding she has to acquire some lessons in backbone as well as honesty.

Julie’s campaign to stop Mr Blackburn’s motorway and save the Green People, is going ahead and looking strong. Unfortunately it has cost his brother his job. Furthermore, there is a new enemy in the form of Julie’s teacher, Miss Berridge, who happens to be a cousin of the Blackburns.

For a brief moment it looks like Daddy’s heart has melted towards the two evacuees. However, he hardens up again to the point where he won’t allow their mother to visit because he doesn’t want his darling to catch any germs from her. That man is just impossible. Is there nothing that can get through to him?

In this week’s “Dora Dogsbody” there is a mishap with hair-restorer lotion that causes a dachshund to grow long hair! They have to keep Ma Siddons from finding out.

This week it looks like Greg and Flo will be reconciled. Then a television producer discovers the shabby flat Flo has been staying in and blames Greg for the state his sister has been reduced to. Are the twins set on a collision course again?