Tag Archives: Village of Fame

Jim Baikie

Jim Baikie (1940-2017) was one of the longest-running Jinty artists. While he was not in the very first issue, his starting story (“Left-Out Linda” in 1974) was done fairly early on in his career (he started in 1966); after he and Jinty parted ways, he went on to become well-known in his 2000AD work as well as in American comics. In recent years some news items have been posted on his Facebook page, where the news of his death was also posted by his family. (See also his Comiclopedia page.)

From Jinty 7 May 1977

From Jinty 7 May 1977
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From Jinty 7 May 1977
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From Jinty 7 May 1977
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My trajectory as a comics reader is such that pretty much alone amongst Jinty artists, Baikie is someone whose subsequent work I came across again and again. As well as reading Jinty, I also read American comics (primarily Marvel), and later on I read 2000AD as so many of my university peers did.  The short-lived comic Crisis was a must-read too, and that included an ongoing story drawn by Baikie (“The New Statesmen”). I don’t remember quite when I identified him as having been the artist on the memorable “The Forbidden Garden”, but I remember how it felt: excitement, surprise, and a mental ‘click’ as two disparate parts of my comics-reading life came together.

He drew a number of different kinds of story in Jinty: ones about troubled family relationships, spooky stories, a science fiction strip, a humour strip. The first great swathe of stories are nicely done, but nothing outstandingly different: they are well-observed and good to read, but only “Face The Music, Flo!” and “Ping-Pong Paula” made much impression on my memory at the time. “Spell of the Spinning Wheel” moves up a gear while still being an evil object story matching other ones (“Creepy Crawley” ran at precisely the same time, making it a great time for fans of spooky stories).

For me, both “The Forbidden Garden” and, rather differently, “Fran’ll Fix It!”, represent the peaks he reached in Jinty. Both are fairly unique within the set of stories he drew in this title: one science fiction story, one humour strip. We have previously seen a lot of repetition of a given writer & artist combination – Terence Magee stories being drawn again and again by the ‘Merry’ unknown artist – and I could well imagine that in the list below, ‘Linda’, ‘Kat’, ‘Flo’, and so many other stories might be written by a popular Jinty writer who produced a number of similar stories along the same themes. But ‘Fran’, in particular, strikes me as something that a writer-artist – or more precisely, a cartoonist – could well have produced. There are so many sight-gags in the background, such a zany feel to the whole story, that I am very tempted to think that Baikie is likely to have written the whole lot as well as drawn it – or at the very least, had a large creative hand in it.

We now know that there was at least one case of an artist writing their own strip, as Veronica Weir is known to have done this on “Girl The World Forgot“. Baikie is also known to have written his own material at subsequent points in his career, too (he wrote sequels to the Alan Moore science fiction strip “Skizz” amongst others). Might he even have written “The Forbidden Garden” as well? This striking story has a soulless future dystopia where the soil is poisoned and the people are oppressed, barely one step up from being robots: echoes of the Megacity that Baikie’s future colleagues were simultaneously creating in 2000AD. It could be said to parallel the other Jinty science fiction stories, but it doesn’t feel particularly close to any of them. This is probably my wishful thinking, though.

Leaving aside this speculation, you don’t have to think much about it to see why he was such a well-loved artist. The Gypsy Rose four-page story above has beautiful, energetic composition: the girl’s running foot in the first panel, the echo of the tree root in the forked lightning just below, the girl’s face forming the bottom section of the third page. It’s full of dynamism and individuality. Likewise, although he drew 14 stories plus various Gypsy Roses over the years, his characters are all clearly identifiable without blurring into each other. As one small example, ‘Linda’ and ‘Flo’ have similar hairstyles (though one dark, one blonde) – but their facial expressions are distinctively their own. There is no danger of mistaking one for the other, even if separated from their story context – but that’s something for a follow-up article sometime. (How did long-running artists manage to avoid visual repetition, indeed?)

List of Jinty stories attributable to Jim Baikie:

Edited to add: Baikie also appeared in other IPC girls’ comics.

  • Our Big BIG Secret! (Sandie, 1972)

Jinty 27 October 1979

Jinty 27 October 1979

Another beautiful Phil Townsend cover, from one of my favourite stories: “Combing Her Golden Hair”. There were a number of striking covers from this story, in fact. Tamsin lives with her strict gran, who is so strict we are led to think in terms of a slave story or emotional abuse as in “Mark of the Witch!“. However, spookier and stranger things are going on; the controlling or slave element is seen not just in the relations with the adult in the story but also with the silver comb that Tamsin has found.

In “Almost Human“, Xenia is enjoying being able to integrate with human society but is getting weaker physically, so the end of the story is heading towards us…

A story forgotten from the story-list is “My Heart Belongs to Buttons”, a realistic story of training a puppy to be a guide dog. Julie is heart-broken when her old dog Buttons died; her parents suggest that they become puppy-walkers for the Guide Dogs For the Blind Association. Julie finds it very hard to see another dog, even an engaging puppy, in her beloved Buttons’ place. Of course in the end her heart will be melted – but this puppy isn’t to stay with them, she has to go on to her new blind owner…

Another couple of realistic stories in this issue are “Waves of Fear” (bullying and claustrophobia handled sensitively by the writer and pretty badly by all the adults in the story) and “Black Sheep of the Bartons”. The latter is a sports story featuring the unusual sport of judo. Not totally realistic, of course: it also has the trope of hair colour enforcing outcome, in that Bev is the only family member who has black hair and both feels and is treated differently accordingly. I mean what, do they think she’s an illegitimate child or something?

Stories in this issue:

  • Almost Human (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Bizzie Bet and the Easies (artist Richard Neillands)
  • Village of Fame (artist Jim Baikie)
  • My Heart Belongs to Buttons (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Waves of Fear (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Combing Her Golden Hair (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Miss Make-Believe (unknown artist ‘Merry’)
  • Black Sheep of the Bartons (artist Guy Peeters)

Jinty 22 September 1979

Jinty 22 September 1979

Stories in this issue:

  • Almost Human (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Alley Cat
  • Village of Fame (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Mike and Terry (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Waves of Fear (artist Phil Gasoine) – first episode
  • Combing Her Golden Hair (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Miss Make-Believe (unknown artist ‘Merry’)
  • Pandora’s Box (artist Guy Peeters)

This is an exciting issue! In “Almost Human“, alien Xenia gets hit by lightning and discovers that far from harming her, it enables her to touch earth creatures without killing them – or at least she thinks it hasn’t harmed her…  In “Village of Fame“, we start to see how much further Mr Grand and hypnotist Marvo are prepared to go for a televisual spectacle – when the villains stoop to mind-control things are only going to escalate! Detective story “Mike and Terry” is more down to earth, with a redeeming touch of silliness to compensate for it just being a bit more ordinary than the other stories.

Cover story “Waves of Of Fear” has some similarities to “Tears of a Clown” in being a fairly realistic story about an ‘issue’, drawn by Phil Gascoine. Clare Harvey feels like she is becoming  a coward, and is shunned by her schoolmates accordingly when she runs away from the dangerous situation a friend gets into, leaving the friend to drown. However, as the story unfolds it turns out that Clare has developed claustrophobia – simply, she has an illness and it is framed as such. When you consider that even now our society is not good at recognizing mental illness as an illness, it was pretty advanced for the time.

“Combing Her Golden Hair” has Tamsin’s gran being stern as ever, but Tamsin (bolstered by the whisperings of the silver comb) is preparing to defy her and go swimming. The story has an out-there premise, but it is handled deftly and actually feels rather tense and sad. Likewise, the last story in the issue, “Pandora’s Box”, is normally not sad but as Pandora becomes less selfish and more soft-hearted the mood changes.

I said that “Miss Make-Believe” was drawn by the unknown ‘Merry’ artist, didn’t I? Look at the page below and see for yourself – the bottom left panel, in particular, has got hairstyles and hands that are very typical of this artist.

Miss Make-Believe pg 1
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Jinty 1 September 1979

Jinty cover 1 September 1979

We’ve covered excellent stories “Almost Human” and “Village of Fame” in previous posts; a science fiction and a Big Brother surveillance-story respectively. Bizzie Bet is the lead character in a humour strip that lasts less well than some of her peers did, but which is ephemeral fun nevertheless; “A Girl Called Gulliver” straddled the borderline between being a humour strip and being a standard strip with humorous aspects and enough narrative energy to it to say it has a proper arc.

“The Disappearing Dolphin” reaches its last episode in this issue; it’s an adventure story with archaeology, diving, and a villain who is only unmasked in these last few pages. Beautifully drawn, if not that strong a story overall; the ending is rushed. “Mike and Terry” is an interesting and unusual type of strip – a “career” themed story, where the career in question is – being a detective! Also unusually, one of the title characters is a boy, or rather a young man – private eye Mike Temple has a sidekick, blonde Terry, who is sometimes cleverer and quicker than he is – and sometimes too clever for her own good.

If a lot of the stories are going in similar pairs in this issue, then the last pair needs to be “Pandora’s Box” and “Combing Her Golden Hair”. The former is a story of witchcraft combined with a lead character’s determination to follow her path despite family resistance: Pandora Carr discovers her aunt is a witch who uses magic to get where she wants in life, and who expects Pandora to do the same. However, the stubborn girl thinks she has enough talent to get through her time at stage school without magic, at which her aunt only laughs and says she’s welcome to try. The family resistance is benign rather than constraining – a sort of ‘told-you-so’ – but still forms the spine of the narrative.

However, it is “Combing Her Golden Hair”, here in its first episode, which to me is the stand-out story. In these first four pages we meet lonely schoolgirl Tamsin, who lives with her dragon of a grandmother who forbids her from doing many things she might want to do, such as swimming; a mysterious silver comb entrances her and leads her to start to dream of many impossible things.

Stories in this issue:

  • Almost Human (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Bizzie Bet and the Easies (artist Richard Neillands)
  • Village of Fame (artist Jim Baikie)
  • Mike and Terry (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • The Disappearing Dolphin (artist Trini Tinturé)
  • Combing Her Golden Hair (artist Phil Townsend)
  • A Girl Called Gulliver (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Pandora’s Box (artist Guy Peeters)

Village of Fame (1979)

Sample Images

Fame 1

Fame 2

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Fame 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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