Tag Archives: Victorians

Alice In A Strange Land (1979)

Sample images

click thru
click thru

Published: Jinty 17 February 1979 – 9 June 1979

Episodes: 17

Artist: Terry Aspin

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none identified to date

Plot

Alice Jones is a timid orphan who lives with her uncle, aunt, and cousin Karen. Karen is much more confident and outgoing than her cousin, and overshadows Alice at everything. Some people have faith in the shy girl – for instance one of her teachers at school says that if she had confidence in herself she could do so much better, because she is very clever at most subjects. Her family are pretty dismissive of her, in ways bordering on abuse – the two girls share a birthday, but while Karen is bought a pretty party dress and made much of, Alice is simply bought a pair of socks as a present and told to be grateful that they have looked after her for all those years.

We don’t see much of this miserable home life, though. The initial four page episode sees both Karen and Alice apply for a school exchange holiday in Texas – exciting! – which they are both chosen for (much to her family’s disgust), and the small group of seven schoolgirls sets out in an equally small twin-prop plane. The plane is too small to survive a huge storm that blows up, and it goes way off course – instead of heading to Texas, the girls find they are flying over South America! The final straw is when the pilot’s eyes are dazzled by the shining golden roofs of a mysterious lost city, which the stewardess only has time to exclaim must be “El Dorado, the lost golden city of the Incans!” before the plane crashes. The two grown-ups are killed and the seven schoolgirls are left alone in an exotic jungle. Alice wants them to head towards the golden city, but Karen, who has appointed herself the natural leader of the group, calls the idea absurd – because Alice was the only one of the schoolgirls to see the golden roofs.

Karen takes charge and leads the girls onwards – luckily in the direction that Alice thinks they should be going in anyway (they’re following the path that the plane made as it crash-landed). In the forest a bird appears – again, Alice is the one that sees it first, but Karen notices that its beak and claws have been painted gold, and that it is a tame bird. It leads them all to the lost city after all! Karen is furious at being proved wrong and drags Alice along with her to the temple that the bird is leading them to. In the middle of the temple is the image of the sun, and it starts to glow mysteriously, as the two girls are surrounded by robed priestesses who hail them as ‘great ones’ and bow down to worship them!

The priestesses hail the two girls as part of a prophecy of a ‘white-skinned goddess to lead us back to greatness’, and seem to be treating all the group to luxurious accommodation. Alice is the only one who is suspicious – she believes they are being imprisoned under the guise of having servants waiting on them hand and foot. And something she overhears the head priestess talking about gives her a fright – the priestesses need to decide which out of Alice and Karen is the Sun Goddess and so they will be put to a test. Of course Alice wouldn’t usually stand in Karen’s way for such acclaim, but she does so in order to protect a slave girl, Chana, who is threatened with death simply for daring to look upon the group of schoolgirls.

In return for Alice’s support, Chana gives her some clues to help pass the test. Just as well The two girls are made to navigate a gigantic maze and to get past the guardian at the centre of it – a sleek black jaguar. Following the instructions to ‘go above the maze’ and to ‘call the black one by his name’, Alice succeeds: she climbs the walls (despite her great fear of heights) and soothes the jaguar by calling him Aquila as instructed. At the last minute however, she hears the echoing voice of Chana, calling to her: “Help me Sun Goddess, or I will die!” The treacherous high priestess has gone against her word and banished Chana from the city, which will mean death in short order if she is not allowed to return. But a nasty surprise meets Alice on her return to the centre of the temple: the urn that she had already reached, and which she needed to take to the high priestess to prove her claim, is gone! Of course Karen had taken it despite knowing that Alice was there first – and Alice is now branded the “false goddess”.

The only thing that is keeping Alice going is the thought of letting Chana down – Chana being the only person so far who has believed in Alice and not seen her as “some kind of bundling idiot”. Alice is also justifiably worried about the whole dangerous situation that they are in – a danger that none of the other girls realise. Not that she understands all the dangers – another slave girl tells her that if she wants to walk out of the temple into the city and nearer to Chana, all she has to do is to walk past the guards. Which she does – but it’s the act of entering the palace that the guards are there to prevent. Alice is left wandering in a deserted city which seems not to have been lived in for hundreds of years. Where is Chana and what is the fearful secret of this mysterious land?

The few locals who live in the city are not very helpful – on hearing that Alice has come from the temple, they lock her up overnight and then bring the leader of their people to see her. He is surprised to see that she has not visibly changed on her overnight stay: “everyone who belongs to that temple changes when they leave it”. And once he takes he to Chana, Alice understands why: Chana has turned into an aged woman, almost literally overnight! Inside the temple is a spring that grants eternal life – but if you fail to drink from it even once, then your true age returns to you and you will die. This is the fate that awaited Chana on being exiled from the temple – and in order to return to the temple, Alice herself will need to accept the slavery of the spring of eternal life! And return to the temple she must – moments after telling her tale to Alice, Chana is killed by an earthquake, and the temple is where Karen and the others are. The high priestess knows exactly what she is making Alice do, even though Karen impatiently says “What’s got into you? It’s only a little drink of water!”

Here is where Karen once again shows herself as being much less astute than her cousin (as well as much less kind and considerate, of course). Why on earth would the high priestess make it a condition that all new joiners to the city must drink the water from this specific spring, if not for some nefarious reason? It’s not done as part of some big joining ceremony, it’s just Alice, Karen, and the high priestess. Karen even impatiently says she will drink some of the water to prove it’s not poisoned, but Alice can’t accept that risk, and dashes the cup over the posh robes that her cousin is wearing, so that Karen leaves in a huff. That suits the high priestess all right, who knows jolly well who’s figured out what: “You, little one, are too clever. You have found out too many of my secrets!” And under the threat of death, Alice drinks – and finds that, as promised, her previous life becomes like a dream.

She works in the kitchen alongside other slaves, agog to even catch a glimpse of the fabled Sun Goddess and her servants. The sight of the magnificent goddess playing catch in the sun seems to ring a bell but the memory fades as soon as it has come – the reality of life is her work in the kitchen and the threat of recurrent earthquakes that the city suffers from. A fellow slave informs Alice that the Sun Goddess is to be sacrificed to save the city from the anger of the god that makes the earth shake – and even this does not rouse Alice from her dreamlike state. After all, a goddess cannot really die, just appear to do so – really she will just be returning to the sun. Nice explanation!

Even in this dire situation, Alice is not entirely without friends. No, not the group of school girls that she came with – the rotten lot are following Karen’s lead and ignoring her entirely, happy for her to end up as a mere slave. But one of Chana’s friends advises her that she must try to avoid drinking the water from the spring of life, and then she will remember who she is and what she is trying to do. And so she does – but only at a point when she is trapped below the kitchens and outside a locked door, menaced by the rising waters of an underground lake!

That’s the point at which the episode in the sample above comes in. She is rescued, almost unbelievably, by an old Victorian gent out for a spot of fishing – “Sir Edward Carter, explorer to her Majesty Queen Victoria, at your service, my dear!” The old gent is a dab hand at rescuing her and making sure she’s warm, dry, and fed: but otherwise is a bit of a patronising old git when told about the danger of the high priestess: “Humbug!”. Not that this is surprising once we get to the end of the episode and realise that it is his own daughter, Lady Dorotea, who is the very same high priestess! Alice is in more danger than ever before, but she hopes that if she stays close to Sir Edward, his daughter will fear to tip her hand in a way that makes him see the double-game she has been playing. But the high priestess sends some henchmen (henchpriestesses?) in the middle of the night to kidnap Alice and bring her to where the other girls are being kept – now in a dungeon, awaiting Karen’s sacrifice the very next day!

The girls plot a desperate plan, under Alice’s lead (even Karen now acknowledges how brave and clever she has been). The sun goddess must go to her death willingly, otherwise the sun god will be angry – so the bribe for that to happen is that if she does, the other girls will be set free, and if not, they will all be killed. So someone must put herself up for sacrifice, and conveniently the costume has a golden mask, so someone else could take Karen’s place while the others go to Sir Edward for help… not that anyone is willing to risk death, apart from Alice of course. By the end of the episode she is bound to a sacrificial altar, hoping fervently that the ceremonial chanting will take long enough to give Sir Edward plenty of time to come and save her – until another earth tremor convinces the high priestess to move the schedule on a bit quicker!

The earth tremors only grow further in intensity, and the panicking Incas start to flee for their lives. When Alice manages to free her hand enough to remove her golden mask, the sight of their ‘false goddess’ causes the rest to flee – but not Lady Dorotea of course, who is all too willing to kill the stumbling block in her way. Finally the cavalry arrives, in the form of Sir Edward, who informs his daughter that the earthquake has stopped the spring from flowing, and so they are both doomed in any case. Of course the vengeful harridan would still like to have a final stab (very literally) at Alice, but a convenient chasm opens up beneath the two Victorians and swallows them up, leaving the girl as the sole survivor. She manages to escape the crumbling cavern and rejoins her happy (and, finally, grateful) cousin for a joint river escape with the rest of the schoolgirls. The girls are safe and are returned home, in a blaze of publicity!

Of course the uncle and aunt are a fly in the ointment – they are delighted to have their darling daughter back, but know that “it can’t be true'” that Alice was the heroine – it must have been Karen! Alice is understandably worried that she will find herself back in the same situation as she left some four months previously (the newspaper article gives the timeline) – downtrodden by her blood relatives. But no – Karen really has changed her tune, and says “I’m not going to let them bully you into being a mouse again, even if they are my mum and dad!” And all ends happily after all.

Thoughts

This is a fantastic story and one of my absolute favourites, though not without flaws (see below). The action moves on swiftly throughout and is full of excellent imagery – the mutton-chop wearing old gent, the deranged high priestess, the beautiful lost city. So much of that is down to artist Terry Aspin, of course, but he had a very strong base to work on and I hope he got a real kick out of it. The elements of the lost city and the spring of eternal youth are far from new, but seen through Alice’s eyes they still work as well as when H Rider Haggard was penning similar tales of “She” and of “King Solomon’s Mines”.

“Alice” was clearly the lead story throughout its run: it was positioned on the first double-page spread of each issue it was in (apart from the first issue, which had the last episode of “Girl Who Never Was“). It also was on the cover 6 times, though always sharing the billing with another story (unlike “Sea Sister”, “The Four Footed Friends“, and “The Forbidden Garden” which all had one or more covers dedicated to their protagonists during this time). This is despite the amazingly strong run of stories at this point – the same issues that this is in also include the stories above and the fantastic “Children of Edenford“, which never was granted cover status). This story was well-thought-of in the editorial office, and deservedly so. It is one of the stories that I never forgot from the time of first reading it, to when I regained copies of Jinty as an adult (and when I first watched Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, I knew the best way for the teen heroine to beat the maze well before she figured it out for herself). I am surprised that I can’t immediately note a translation or reprint version of this story – I am sure I have seen mention of one, so I hope it’s just that I have mislaid the relevant information on any European translation details.

On the downside, once again in Jinty (and indeed in girls’ comics stories generally) the lack of serious research strikes (though I am much more inclined to forgive it in this story than in the lacklustre “The Sceptre of the Toltecs”). To many British people, them-there mysterious lost peoples of the Americas are all very similar – Incans, Mayans, Aztecs are much of a muchness. (The same imprecision extends to naming – the correct term is “Incas” or “Inca”, not “Incans” as the story has it.) The writer of this story got right the focus on gold and on the sun god, which were big elements in Inca society, but seems to have imported much of the rest of the flavour from Mexico (Aztec human sacrifice) or from the Yucatan peninsula that stretches down to Guatemala and Belize (Mayan temples lost in the overgrown jungle). The tame bird that is seen in the second episode is very similar to the beautiful Quetzal bird which is the symbol of Guatemala, but El Dorado is a legend that has its origins in Colombia and hence relates more closely to the Incas. And so on. Of course in some ways it would be wrong for this sort of fantastical story to link itself too closely to a specific real location or people – why not cobble various elements together into one? – but then the fact it refers to the real Inca belies that. Never mind, it’s a great yarn – and as someone who visited some amazing Mayan ruins as a child, the scene setting worked very well for me nevertheless.

To the modern reader there are a number of glaring holes. The local people understand English? The tribe have a white saviour complex? The high priestess turns out to be a Victorian explorer’s daughter? The two Victorians and the rest of the temple staff don’t seem to have lost their memories with all the drinking of magic water every night? Yeah right. But the various implausibilities of the stories never detract from the solid and exciting story that rushes you along. It’s a long run – 17 episodes – but it never drags or repeats itself. I hope that it will be chosen as an example for Rebellion to reprint in short order – it would certainly very well repay any new attention to it.

Advertisements

Slaves of the Candle [1975-1976]

Sample Images

Slaves of the Candle 1Slaves of the Candle 2Slaves of the Candle 3

Published: Jinty & Lindy 8 November 1975 – 24 January 1976

Episodes: 12

Artist: Roy Newby plus unknown filler artist

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: none

Plot

It is the year 1830. Lyndy Lagtree works as a maidservant for the Duchess of Dowgate. Mrs Tallow, the best candlemaker in London and highly respected for it, arrives with a candle chandelier that she always provides for the grandest parties. Then the whole chandelier is extinguished when one candle proves faulty, which plunges the room into darkness. Afterwards they find a painting has disappeared. Lyndy overhears a guest talking about a similar incident at another grand house, at which a necklace vanished afterwards. She begins to suspect Mrs Tallow is using her chandeliers as a cover for a series of thefts and hides in Mrs Tallow’s wagon so she can do some investigating.

At Mrs Tallow’s shop Lyndy discovers the shop is a front that conceals a secret workshop where Mrs Tallow is using children as unpaid slave labour to make her candles. Later it is established that making them work around the clock with little chance to sleep seems to be a common occurrence, and food consists of cold gruel and the like. The slaves are totally cut off from the outside world in their underground cellar, except for a crack in the wall Mrs Tallow does not know about. It also means they have to work in very poor light. Instead of developing eye problems though, they develop the ability to see in near darkness.

Then Mrs Tallow catches Lyndy – and yes, Mrs Tallow hid the painting in one of her candles. To silence Lyndy, Mrs Tallow and her henchman Wick hold her captive in the workshop with the other slaves. They all learn from the Peelers that Lyndy has been blamed for the theft of the painting. Now there is a price on her head for 100 guineas and her “wanted” posters are plastered all over London. At this Mrs Tallow and Wick are now confident that Lyndy can never try to escape.

But they are wrong. Lyndy is determined to escape, prove her innocence, and bring down Mrs Tallow and her racket. Here Lyndy contrasts to the other slaves, who don’t even try to escape as they consider themselves just “rubbish” in society and have nowhere else to go. She is also the oldest and the strongest in spirit, which makes her a natural leader of the slaves. Lyndy is also lucky in to discover she is a natural for making candles once the slaves teach her. Mrs Tallow herself even calls Lyndy her best candle maker, even if she is trouble. If only circumstances were different, Lyndy could chuck skivvying in favour of a more lucrative living in the candle making business.

Lyndy explores the workshop chimney, feeling it is an escape route. A cowl at the top blocks her way, but Lyndy sees a clue down below. Mrs Tallow is giving the stolen painting to her dealer, who then gets into a coach with a coat of arms on it. Lyndy etches the coat of arms onto the candle she has brought.

Back in the workshop Lyndy has to act fast to stop Mrs Tallow seeing the coat of arms candle and rumbling what is going on. A diversion with a bottle of candle dye does the trick, and Lyndy also manages to retrieve the candle. But Mrs Tallow is furious at getting colour on her dark clothes and threatens to make Lyndy suffer for it. Lyndy finds this reaction very odd, and from this point on Mrs Tallow’s sanity is called into question.

Lyndy soon finds out what Mrs Tallow means by making her suffer. She is going to make Lyndy go into hives, and risk being badly stung, in order to get beeswax for beeswax candles. Lyndy tries to escape again along the way, but fails. And things get worse when they arrive: the bees are disturbed and extremely dangerous. But Mrs Tallow, still determined to punish Lyndy, forces her to go in. Lyndy succeeds in getting the beeswax without a sting with an improvised smoker she made out of a candle. Mrs Tallow admits she has to give Lyndy credit.

Back in the workshop Lyndy has the others rig up dummies made out of wax to fool anyone who comes to check. While they do this, she and her closest friend Lucy go up the chimney and break through the cowl with scissors. They escape into the street, but Lucy injures herself on landing. Then the coach comes, and Lyndy overhears Mrs Tallow and her mysterious coach accomplice plotting to pull the candle chandelier trick at Ballam House. But then the coachman spots Lucy and Lyndy, and the chase begins. Mrs Tallow has the Peelers join in, having led them to think the girls are thieves.

The girls make it to the heath, but Lucy’s injury is taking its toll and she passes out. Lyndy modifies the coat of arms candle to make it look like a Peeler’s torch, and manages to draw the Peelers off. But she’s lost the coat of arms etching on the candle.

When dawn comes, Lyndy comes across Ballam House, and Mrs Tallow is making her delivery. Lyndy and Lucy take jobs at the house to try to foil Mrs Tallow. But Mrs Tallow outwits Lyndy with a fake mask (made of wax) and then sets fire to the house to cover her tracks while she and her accomplice recapture Lyndy and Lucy, and make off with the valuables they were after. Later, Lyndy is shown a “wanted” poster that shows she has been blamed for Mrs Tallow’s crimes at Ballam House as well, and the price on her head is now £700. Wow!

A new cowl is fitted over the chimney. Just what extra security Mrs Tallow is making there is not clear, but she still does not know about the crack in the wall.

Mrs Tallow has a new job for the slaves: make a candle that is a replica of the Tower of London, which her mysterious coach accomplice takes. It is a gift for Queen Victoria, who is so impressed she wants Mrs Tallow to provide the lighting for her upcoming Lumiere Celebrations. Lyndy wonders why Mrs Tallow wants to win favour with the Queen. (Don’t you think it sounds like it’s going to be the candle chandelier ruse on an even grander scale, Lyndy?) Meanwhile, Lucy manages to make a wax impression of Mrs Tallow’s key.

Later, from the crack in the wall, Lyndy sees the coach accomplice assault a blind pedlar who is selling candles. His candles are ruined, but Lyndy makes a friend of him by giving him their own candles. When he returns, they slip him the wax impression so he can get a key made and slip it to them. He gets arrested while doing so, because the Peelers do not approve of him selling cheaper candles in the vicinity of a quality candle shop.

Mrs Tallow wants the girls to make candles for a special night at the Tower of London. When Lyndy uses the key to escape the workshop and poke around the place, she discovers why Mrs Tallow is so interested in the Tower of London: she is plotting to steal the Crown Jewels. Lyndy slips back to the workshop before she’s missed.

Mrs Tallow has Wick stand guard over the workshop. Another clever plan from Lyndy puts him out of action long enough for the girls to escape, but he recovers and soon he and Mrs Tallow are after the girls. They give their pursuers the slip, but Lyndy goes to the Tower of London in the hope she will be believed. She speaks to the governor, and then sees a ring on his desk with the same coat of arms. She realises the accomplice is in the Tower, but does not connect it with the governor – and she should have! By the time she does, she has unwittingly led him and Mrs Tallow to the girls. Lyndy and Lucy escape into the river, but the other girls are recaptured. Lucy seems to have drowned, but Lyndy makes it onto another boat. Mrs Tallow then informs Lyndy what will happen if she goes telling tales: she burns a candle that is a replica of the House of Candles in a symbolic threat that she means to burn down the House of Candles with the girls inside.

Rivermen fish Lucy out of the river. Before she passes out she tells Lyndy they said “candles an inch past midnight.” The royal barge passes by and the rivermen explain it is the time the Queen goes to the Tower to examine her treasures, and it will be at midnight – the time when Mrs Tallow will strike. Lyndy slips aboard the royal barge with the help of the rivermen and back to the Tower. There Mrs Tallow’s candles are set up to light the Tower at midnight, when the treasures will be opened.

Then Lyndy finds out what “an inch past midnight” means. The wicks are only one inch long, which means the candles are rigged to burn for a brief time and then go out all at once to plunge the Tower into darkness. And under cover of darkness, Mrs Tallow and the governor steal the Crown Jewels. Yes, definitely the old chandelier candle trick, but on a royal scale.

But Mrs Tallow also pulls a double cross on the governor, which makes it clear to him that she never had any intention of helping him get out heavy gambling debts in return for his services. As will be seen, this causes him to have a change of heart.

Meanwhile, Mrs Tallow heads back to the House of Candles with the Crown Jewels, which she gloats over and calls herself “The Queen of the Candles”. Lyndy follows, as Mrs Tallow threatened to burn the other girls alive in it. Mrs Tallow has it all rigged up with wood shavings and candles to set them alight once they burn down. Once she recaptures Lyndy she has Lyndy tied up so she will burn too. Lyndy screams at Mrs Tallow that she is mad.

But then the governor appears, agrees Mrs Tallow is mad, and comes to Lyndy’s rescue. He knocks out Wick and puts out the candles with his sword. Oddly, Mrs Tallow just sits there, so the governor ties her up while she screams that she wants the jewels because she’s the Queen of the Candles.

Lyndy and the other children get out, and take the Crown Jewels with them. The governor tells them to go for the Peelers. But then Mrs Tallow screams for help. The governor missed one candle, and now it’s threatening to make her scheme to burn down the House of Candles backfire on her. Lyndy tries to stop the candle but fails. The House of Candles goes up in flames, and Mrs Tallow with it. Wick recovers enough to stagger out behind Lyndy, and the Peelers are waiting.

In gratitude, Queen Victoria gives all the girls royal patronage and protection, and promises them assured futures. The false charges against Lyndy are presumably sorted out too. The fate of the governor is not recorded.

Then, from the royal coach window, Lyndy spots a beggar woman selling candles. Lyndy is not 100% sure as she cannot see the woman’s face, but it looks like a much altered and punished Mrs Tallow. She wonders if Mrs Tallow’s flame is still burning after all, albeit in a harmless manner…

Thoughts

“Slaves of the Candle” was one of the new stories to commemorate the Jinty and Lindy merger and the first group slave story in Jinty since “Merry at Misery House”. It was also the first serial in Jinty with a Victorian setting. What a pity it contains such a glaring historical error: the story is set in 1830 and Victoria did not come to the throne until 1837, yet Queen Victoria appears in the story. In fairness, the 1830 reference disappears in later episodes and the time period is just referred to as Victorian. Perhaps they spotted the error.

“Slaves of the Candle” brought Lindy artist Ron Newby to Jinty. There is a strong indication that the story itself was originally written for Lindy but appeared in the merger instead. For one thing, the protagonist’s name is Lyndy. Just change the first “y” to an “i” and it’s the same name as the comic merging into Jinty. Second, Newby had already drawn period stories for Lindy that feature girls being exploited as child labour (“Nina Nimble Fingers” and “Poor Law Polly”). Indeed this story brought Newby to Jinty. Lastly, Lindy had a stronger emphasis on such stories than Jinty did. In fact, Jinty ran just two more serials with 19th centuries settings while the Lindy logo was on the cover, and then them dropped for good. Only some of the Gypsy Rose stories used the 19th century setting afterwards. Tammy, on the other hand, used the 19th century setting far more frequently. This is another major difference between Jinty and Tammy, and it’s an odd one.

The Victorian age, being notorious for exploitative child labour, was a popular and natural setting for group slave stories. This one is no exception and the grittiness of the Victorian age is the perfect ambience to this insidious racket that takes advantage of both light and dark to fulfil evil schemes.

Making candles isn’t the cruellest of slave labour. Girls have been put to far worse and more dangerous labour than that in group slave stories, such as working in mines, quarries or prisons. But Mrs Tallow is no mere cruel employer who just takes advantage of cheap child labour. She is a criminal who uses the candles from the slavery for evil purposes: first it was just robbery, but then she moved up to treason by stealing the Crown Jewels. Her criminal dealings must be why she keeps the child labourers as prisoners and slaves in a secret workshop. After all, she would not want any of them getting loose and reporting her to the Peelers. And when it’s hinted she’s insane as well, it adds another sinister dimension to this creepy woman. In fact, you have to wonder if her motive to steal the Crown Jewels was greed, as it had been with the other thefts, or her Queen of the Candles delusion. Being Queen of the Candles is no mere fantasy; it is all part of her insanity, as is made clear when she refuses to get off her throne because she’s the Queen of the Candles, despite the danger around her.

Like any other racketeer of a group slave story, the main villain has to meet her/his match in the main protagonist and rue the day she/he ever enslaved her. And that is the case here. It’s not just that Lyndy is a very sharp-witted, resourceful girl who refuses to be broken by whatever the racketeers throw at her. It’s also adding insult to injury to be enslaved by the very woman who framed her and is leaving her to carry the can over the crimes. Lyndy is very determined to prove her innocence instead of never daring to escape as the racketeer thought. It also helps that she’s the oldest of the slaves, which makes her a natural for a leadership/maternal role, and also helps to rouse these slaves, who were so resigned that they hadn’t even tried to escape.

The story gets a bit tedious with Lyndy going through so many failed escape bids and being recaptured each time. Of course she does make progress even with her failures. But we do have to wonder why Mrs Tallow does not punish Lyndy far more severely for being constant trouble or try to get rid of her altogether, even if she is the best candle maker. Maybe it’s more of Mrs Tallow’s weirdness.

The weirdness extends even to the names of the villains, which reflect the very business they operate in: candle making. Perhaps Mrs Tallow changed her name and that of Wick to tie in with their business and her fantasy with being Queen of the Candles. The candles and everything associated with them (wax, flint, fire, wick) permeate throughout the story. Even the governor’s coat of arms looks like flames. The candles and their associated properties are not just for the candle trade. By turns we see the candles used as tools for crime, escape, disguise, bee repellents, communication, and even weapons. And it’s both sides that are doing it, which means Mrs Tallow’s candles are being used against her as much she puts them to her own use. There’s an amusing poetic justice and irony here. Of course it carries right through to the downfall of Mrs Tallow. Her own candles become the instrument of her final retribution, while her former slaves enjoy a happy new employment with the very Queen Mrs Tallow tried to rob. We never see what sort of employment the Queen offers them, but we would not be surprised (though we may groan) if it has something to do with candles.

The final hint that Mrs Tallow may not be as dead as they thought has the story end on a stronger note than a simple happy ending. But it’s not on a note that she will rise again, which makes it less cliched. It is also more poetic justice, having Mrs Tallow (if it is her) reduced to the same level as the candle-selling pedlar.

Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud (1976-1977)

Sample Images

Daisy Drudge 1

(Click thru)

Daisy Drudge 2

(Click thru)

Daisy Drudge 3

Publication: 4 September 1976-1 January 1977
Artist: Ken Houghton
Writer: Unknown

Summary
In Victorian times, spoilt and selfish Lady Daisy De Vere is heading out to London to meet a school party for a finishing school in Switzerland. Daisy dismisses her nanny and then (unwisely, as it turns out) sets off to enjoy the sights of London on her own while waiting for her party. But you can only expect to get into trouble if you wander about in a strange city on your own, and this is precisely what happens – big style. Daisy asks Maud, a skivvy from Park Square Mansion, to deliver her letter of explanation to the school party. She has no money (all foreign for her journey abroad), so she gives Maud her cloak as payment. This leads to a case of mistaken identity that gets Maud sent to the finishing school in Daisy’s place. Nobody listens to Maud’s protests and her Cockney accent and ignorance of manners are all taken for typical upper class eccentricity. Eventually Maud decides to just go along with it and enjoy it. The trouble is, Maud finds the high life not what it is cracked up to be, with the strictures, mannerisms and high standards expected, and Maud’s common ways cause problems with the upper class pupils. Eventually she befriends Mary, a girl who is snubbed because her family has fallen on hard times. Mary cannot understand why the supposedly selfish Daisy is taking pity on her, but is grateful.

Meanwhile, Daisy has gotten lost, messed up, and tries unsuccessfully to get help from a flower girl who does not believe her. Eventually, she ends up being mistaken for the skivvy at Park Square Mansion. So instead of the finishing school, Daisy finds herself learning about life downstairs the hard way. Her fellow servants do not believe her story and her posh mannerisms do not endear her to them either. They end up turning against her. So it is loneliness and isolation on top of hard work (which she does not know how to do and is thrown in at the deep end) without proper rest or decent food, beatings from the tyrannical cook, and uncomfortable travelling conditions for the servants when the household goes away. Other cruelties include being forced to do ironing with a broken bone in her hand and no sympathy or help, even from her fellow servants. Daisy even endures some bullying from them, such as being drenched in water from the pump. Daisy is desperate to escape, but doors and windows are locked each night, and Daisy is locked into her attic room as well. Daisy’s attempts to prove her identity to people who know her as Lady Daisy de Vere also fail.

Then, a climbing boy tells Daisy that she can escape easily – by climbing the chimney. He gives her a map of the chimneys to guide her and advises her of the risks. This is a dangerous, life-threatening escape, but it succeeds. However, Daisy has a brush with a criminal who tries to get the map. He fails and she gets away to find help, tearing up the map as she does so. This time she is more successful in getting help from the flower girl, whose name is Betsey. But Betsey falls ill and is taken to the poor hospital – and few come out of it alive.

At the finishing school, Maud’s high life comes to an end when she falls foul of a blackmailer. The blackmailer points out that Daisy could be in trouble and if so, Maud would certainly get the blame for it. Maud realises that he could be right about Daisy. She pretends to give in to the blackmail but in fact calls his bluff by writing to Daisy’s family to explain the situation. Eventually Maud comes back to London to find Daisy, but her queries get her arrested for being a nuisance. In prison she overhears the aforementioned criminal talk about his failed bid to get the map from Daisy. She is quickly released and follows up the lead, which eventually leads her to Daisy. Maud has learned that Mr De Vere is also searching for Daisy, and Daisy knows where to find him. Everything is sorted out happily, right down to Mr De Vere giving Daisy, Maud, Betsey (now recovered) and Mary a house where they set up a partnership for helping poor people.

Thoughts
Maidservant serials were always popular in girls’ comics. Wee Slavey (Judy) and Molly Mills (Tammy) are two long-standing examples of how popular servant stories could be. Serials where rich girls (or middle class girls) become servants were also very common in girls’ comics. They may switch places with a servant (willingly, accidentally or be tricked), or get a job as a servant as a cover for a secret mission such as finding a lost will eg “The Secret Servant” (Bunty), or become servants after falling on hard times. Sometimes switching with servants, as in this case, comes as a punishment that humbles and reforms a spoilt girl. Other times the rich girl is a kind person who entered it not knowing what she has let herself in for eg “Sarah Below Stairs” (Judy) or was tricked into it eg “The Imposter!” (Bunty). Whatever the circumstances, the rich girl learns the hard way about how the other half lives below stairs, the abuse they suffer because they are considered lowly, and the abuses the servants can inflict on each other because of the servant system itself. They emerge as crusaders for the downtrodden.

Daisy seems to have a harder time than most rich girls who get a taste of the servant life. Usually, no matter how hard they are oppressed, they at least had some friends. But not Daisy – she suffered isolation and loneliness in addition to the abuse because her fellow servants ostracised her and she did not have a single friend among them. In addition, Daisy risked her very life with a terrifying, dangerous escape through the chimney. Girls’ serials set in Victorian times seldom missed the opportunity to comment on the horrors of the climbing boys. But here a hitherto high-born Victorian girl, who would never have lowered herself in such a manner before, gets a taste of the horror first hand.

But Daisy ends up expressing that she is glad that it happened, because it opened her eyes to how selfish and arrogant she had been before, and has become more caring about people less fortunate and vowing to deal with some of the awful things she saw as a servant. Daisy’s new-found altruism emerges during her time as a servant; for example, she gives the climbing boy her uneaten breakfast once she hears that his life is even worse than hers. She also learns to be grateful for small mercies, such as appreciating a black cat brooch gift when she had been used to valuable jewels back home, or appreciating the shelter Betsey gives her when she would have turned up her nose at such lowly dwellings before.

When a serial deals with a low class Victorian girl who is suddenly elevated to the high life, she often finds that it is not all grand and fun because of the strict decorum and lady-like expectations that come with it. This is what Maud finds and she tells the blackmailer that she is glad to give it up because it has been so strenuous for that reason. But what is so impressive about Maud’s experience at the finishing school is that it brings out strength in character for Maud as well, in a reverse manner from Daisy. While adversity brings out the good in Daisy, luxury tests the goodness in Maud, and she comes through with flying colours. She never let the luxury, which could have gone to her head, corrupt her. For example, she refuses to use Daisy’s money because she considers it stealing. She too stands up for the oppressed, such as standing up for Mary by throwing water over girls who are bullying her. And she also tries to help less fortunate people, such as caring for an injured ragged boy while the other girls comment on common people carrying dreadful diseases. And in the end, the experience elevates Maud, a low-class girl, into position in society where she can continue to work to improve the lot of poor people.

So what is really intriguing about this story is the use of opposites. The opposites in the characters and backgrounds of Daisy and Maud; the opposites in the two girls going to each other’s end of the spectrum; the opposites in the experiences they endured; and the opposites in how the experiences brought out the strengths in the girls’ characters. And the opposite experiences ended with them working together to campaign for people less fortunate in Victorian society.

Note: Ken Houghton was a sporadic artist in Jinty until Tansy of Jubilee Street came over from Penny. Afterwards, Houghton was a regular artist until Peter Wilkes replaced him on Tansy. Interestingly, all three of Houghton’s Jinty serials addressed historical periods: “Bridey Below the Breadline” (Stuart period), “Daisy Drudge and Milady Maud” (Victorian period, and it also replaced Bridey), and “House of the Past” (time travel to the 1930s).

The Haunting of Form 2B (1974)

Sample images

Form 2B

 (Click thru)

Form 2B 2 001

 (Click thru)

Form 2B 3

Publication: 11/5/74-20/7/74
Reprint: Misty annual 1980
Artist: Rodrigo Comos
Writer: Unknown

Summary
Judy Mayhew and her friends Marilyn and Jen are starting their first term at the newly-built Newley Comprehensive. Judy is blown away at how modern and impressive the school is. Marilyn and Jen scoff at Judy for thinking that way, and say a school is a school and lessons the same old drag. However, Newley Comprehensive is built on the site of an old Victorian school, and Judy soon discovers that the Victorian past still haunts – in more ways than one.

The first hint is their form teacher, Miss Thistlewick; she is a dragon and more suited to a Victorian school than a modern school like Newley. But the trouble really starts for 2B when they run short of desks and bring up Victorian desks from the basement that Newley inherited from its predecessor. The moment Marilyn sits in it she starts acting like a Victorian girl. Later, Judy sees Marilyn and Jen in class at night. Both are sitting at Victorian desks, writing 1874 instead of 1974 on the blackboard. When Judy confronts them, she has a vision of being in a Victorian classroom and she gets caned by a Victorian teacher. Next morning, Judy finds her friends have no memory of what happened.

Judy soon finds that 2B reverting more and more to a Victorian pattern as more equipment comes up from the basement, such as hurricane lamps when the lights don’t work for no apparent reason. Marilyn and Jen are now talking and behaving like Victorian girls, and two more girls follow suit. They wear Victorian dress in class, which has the rest of the class thinking they are weirdos. They also refuse to participate in sports or domestic science, saying such things are unbecoming for Victorian ladies. They are permitted to do this with the blessing of the headmistress, who is now under the Victorian influence as well after receiving a parasol from the basement. Judy notes that Miss Thistlewick gave the headmistress the parasol.

Judy finds an old Victorian photograph of their ancestors and finds Miss Thistlewick in it as well. She comes to the conclusion that Miss Thistlewick is a ghost – a ghost who has some strange power over her friends. She becomes more convinced Miss Thistlewick is a ghost when she sees her disappear through an archway in the basement and her image does not appear in a photograph.

Then Judy discovers that she is a descendant of the last girl in the photograph – which means she is the next target for the Victorian influence! Sure enough, she finds herself being shadowed by her Victorian-dressed friends who are now trying to force her into a Victorian dress as well.

Eventually Judy does end up in Victorian dress, but is surprised to find herself not under the influence. Later, Miss Thistlewick has Judy put on her forebear’s Victorian dress, which does try to influence her. But Judy fights it off with some self-inflicted pain. Judy realises that Miss Thistlewick is administering the influence through some sort of telepathy. Judy also finds the power has a weakness – it fades over distance, and tries to think of ways to get her friends away from Miss Thistlewick.

Judy has another vision, in which she sees that Miss Thistlwick is responsible for a boating tragedy a hundred years ago. She took the other girls out on a boating trip, but ignored their warnings that they were too heavy for the boat and would sink it. As a result, they and Miss Thistlewick drowned. She discovers that Miss Thistlewick is now sending her friends out for another boating trip. Convinced Miss Thistlewick is trying to kill them, she heads down to the boating trip. But in her drive to get them away, she ends up making the same mistake as Miss Thistlewick. Moreover, their Victorian dress is too heavy for swimming, so now it looks like they are going to drown like their forebears.

But no – they are all rescued by a lock-keeper who says he was alerted by a woman in black who was dressed like them. Dressed like them? Yes, it was Miss Thistlewick, who now appears before them. She had not intended to kill them; she had recreated the boat trip in the hope of a happier ending so her guilty soul could find peace. And she did get a happy ending – by saving the girls. Okay, not quite what she planned, but now she can rest in peace and stop haunting the school.

Next day, Judy and her friends turn up in class in their regular uniforms, and give the pretext to their bemused classmates that the Victorian dress had been an experiment to see how people react to the unusual. They also discover that the headmistress is going to make a bonfire out of all the Victorian equipment in the basement. (Hmm, bonfire when the Guy Fawkes issue is four months away? Maybe the headmistress sensed something strange about that equipment too.) Their last link to the ghost of Miss Thistlewick is now going up in smoke, but they can now look forward to a normal school.

Thoughts
Ghost stories are always popular in girls’ comics. So the moment readers saw “Haunting” in the title, they expected to be in for a treat, and this story is hard to disappoint. Even before we meet Miss Thistlewick, we know that the old Victorian school is going to haunt its modern counterpart somehow. In fact, we sense that the Victorian school is not only going to haunt the modern one, but that harsh Victorian schooling is going to be contrasted sharply with modern easy-going education. So we would be even more appreciative than Judy that Newley Comprehensive is a modern school and not a strict old-fashioned school of a bygone era. We can imagine that at the end of the story, Marilyn and Jen would come to think the same way after scorning at Judy for being so impressed with the new school.

School stories are sometimes set up to make a statement about anti-authoritarianism, and this story certainly works it in with the supernaturally-enforced Victorian code upon the modern classroom. This is at its most frightening in the visions Judy has of the original Victorian classroom. The terrors of the cane turn into downright abuse, with one pupil getting a cut on her forehead and Judy getting one on her hand.

But the Victorian pattern also provides humour as well – something you do not often see in a serious ghost story. As the five girls become more and more possessed by the Victorian influence, they become confused and shocked by what they see in modern life. It starts in small ways, such as Marilyn writing old-fashioned script with a quill and censoring Judy that they must pay attention to the class. When the five girls are dressed Victorian, they think like Victorians as well. They do not know what cars are and think they must be steam driven. They refuse to change into PE gear because “a lady does not expose her legs to the public gaze. It-it’s not decent!” They cannot understand why they are being told off for disastrous cooking. “It’s just that young ladies don’t cook – they have servants for that!” At a Victorian exhibition they are astonished at a classmate calling a Victorian washing machine “an old piece of junk!” They reply, “It’s not junk! It’s the latest thing!”

It must be said that the portrayal of Miss Thistlewick is a bit puzzling. Guilt drives her to do what she does, but she does not give Judy or the reader the impression she is acting out of guilt. “You’re too nosey by far, Judy Mayhew! The time has come to teach you a lesson and to stop your meddlesome ways!” Later, when Miss Thistlewick thinks she finally has Judy under the influence, she says, “Excellent, excellent! Now nothing can stop me!” All right, so maybe it could be put down to psychological causes of some sort. But it is small wonder that Judy thinks Miss Thistlewick has evil intentions. And it is a bit hard to believe Miss Thistlewick is a ghost because at first glance she seems corporeal enough. It might have been more plausible to have a living teacher possessed by the ghost of Miss Thistlewick.

But overall, this story can be regarded as a strong start in Jinty’s spooky storytelling and seems to be one of her better remembered first stories. It is hard to go wrong with ghosts, and many readers must have enjoyed the historical aspect of it as well. Even readers who did not find history appealing would have enjoyed the clashes between Victorian lifestyle and modern lifestyle, portrayed in ways that are both scary and funny. And there is the drama and tension as Judy fights being taken over by the influence, and resorting to more resourceful yet desperate ways to save her friends – only for it to climax in irony. The irony when Judy almost causes the tragedy she was trying to prevent, and the double irony that it helps Miss Thistlewick to meet her objective and redeem herself.

Desert Island Daisy (1974)

Sample images

Desert Island Daisy 1Desert Island Daisy 2

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

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

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

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

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

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