Tag Archives: witchcraft

A Spell of Trouble [1980]

Sample Images

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Published: Jinty 5 July 1980 – 30 September 1980

Artist: Trini Tinturé

Writer: Unknown

Episodes: 12

Translations/reprints: translated into Dutch as Anne Tanne Toverheks [Anne Tanne Sorceress] in Tina 1984-85

Plot

For centuries, the Black family have been the richest and most successful family in Witcham. Nobody realises that this is due to their being a family of witches, and that is because they take great care to guard their secret.

Carrie, the youngest Black, urges her mother for a lesson on how to look into the future. But they get a shock when they do, because the sight that greets them is of a homely, stupid-looking girl. Even the two witches are revolted at how ugly she looks. Her name is Angela White and she is an orphan that Matron is desperate to get rid of because she’s a bungling, walking disaster area who can’t do anything right. Her stupidity and well-meaning ‘help’ in combination with her klutziness make her even more of a menace than “The Jinx from St Jonah’s”, who at least had a brain and could do some things right. Now Matron has finally traced Angela’s relatives, so it looks like she will be rid of Angela at last.

Consultation with Uncle Bertrand the family ghost confirms the worst: Angela is descended from the Whites, the ‘black sheep in reverse’ of the Black family, and she is on her way here to live with them. The Blacks grow even more repulsed at that thought when Uncle Bertrand foretells, “the Blacks shall fall by the hand of a White!”

But it’s too late for any spells to stop Angela, because she is already outside with Matron. Matron ‘persuades’ them to take Angela in by dropping hints of unpleasant PR for them in the neighbourhood by not doing so. So the Blacks take Angela in while concealing their dislike of her and being witches. After all, says Mrs Black, Angela is family, and instructs Carrie to be nice and use no magic on Angela.

Carrie pretends to be friendly but is finding Angela blithely aggravating. For example, Carrie’s cat Jasper gives Angela a wide berth after the klutzy girl accidentally steps on his tail. Uncle Bertrand walks out on the Blacks and refuses to return while Angela stays after she cleaned up his nice, dusty, cobwebby attic – and also ruined the broomstick that was the Blacks’ family heirloom. Carrie tries to scare Angela with her pet spiders, but the joke is on her when Angela compassionately sets them free in the garden. We have a sneaking sympathy towards Carrie when Angela tries to have her watch “Marmaduke Mouse” (bleech!) because she thinks Carrie’s pop programme is unhealthy; Carrie snaps and turns Angela into a mouse. But she didn’t bargain on Jasper trying to eat Angela while she is a mouse and the spell has to be removed – fast!

The Blacks try a spell to foist Angela off onto another couple. But it fails because soppy Angela thinks the Blacks will be heartbroken if she leaves.

A further complication then comes up: the witches’ coven has a rule that a non-witch cannot live with a witch family. So when the Witch Inspector finds out about Angela, she says that either Angela has to become a witch or the Blacks will have their powers removed.

Now Angela knows the truth about her relatives, and once she hears what the Witch Inspector wants her to become, she is repulsed: “I’m not a horrid witch like you and I never shall be either!” she tells Carrie. She won’t have a bar of becoming a witch. Carrie tries to find ways to make Angela change her mind, including an evil Egyptian ring to corrupt her personality and make her amendable to becoming a witch, but nothing works. The failures are due to Angela’s bungling as much as her resolve, and sometimes spells exploding in Carrie’s face as well, including the evil ring. The Blacks manage to stall the Witch Inspector with a spell to make Angela and Carrie switch bodies so Carrie, in Angela’s body, will impress the Witch Inspector with Angela’s ‘progress’.

But of course the witches eventually find out Angela has not become a witch and strip the Blacks of their powers, which fulfils Uncle Bertrand’s prophecy. No magic is very hard on the Blacks because they’ve never got by any other way and they depended on magic to be successful and rich. Mum can’t use magic to pay the bills, so she has to take a job, which she isn’t strong enough for. Carrie’s self-esteem plummets and her schoolwork deteriorates because she can’t do it magically (all right, perhaps cheat through it magically would be a fairer description).

Seeing this, soft-hearted Angela decides to become a witch after all so the witches will return the Blacks’ powers. Unfortunately she does this without consulting her Black relatives beforehand or getting their advice. They only find out once they find Angela’s note explaining what she’s done and has now gone off to the witches’ coven to show it – and also find themselves attacked by brooms that dopey Angela bewitched to clean up the place and then forgot to un-bewitch afterwards! Mrs Black tells Carrie to get after Angela, because anything could happen now that bungling idiot is a witch.

Sure enough, Angela is bungling witchcraft, just as she bungles everything else, and she hasn’t got the brains to use her powers wisely or discreetly. Realising her train is going in the opposite direction from the coven, Angela casts a spell that makes it go backwards, which leads to confusion and chaos for the angry passengers and the hapless stationmaster. Then she asks the stationmaster where the coven is – as if he would know – which makes him suspicious, and the witches’ secret is in danger.

The witches have seen it all in their crystal ball. They now realise Angela should not be a witch because she is too much of a bungler to do it right. So they agree to return the Blacks’ powers, but on strict condition that Angela is depowered and never allowed to become a witch again.

Now that the non-witch rule is no longer a problem, the road is clear for non-witch Angela to get along with her witchy Black relatives.

Thoughts

The Jinx from St Jonah’s meets Bewitched. Well, it sure has all the ingredients for a sitcom, having a family of witches meet their match in a bungling oaf of a relative who always goofs up, sometimes without even realising it. There are always loads of laughs for the reader in every episode, no matter whether it’s the Blacks or the White who get the upper hand. But it is always the non-magic bungling White who wins in the end, much to readers’ delight.

Trini Tinturé’s artwork is the perfect choice in bringing out both the witchiness of Carrie Black and the goofiness of Angela White, often in the same panels. Not to mention all the hijinks that ensue from Angela’s bungling and the sometimes-bungling magic as well. Tinturé was a very popular Jinty artist, and having her draw this story would have really added to its popularity. Indeed, “A Spell of Trouble” was one of my personal favourites when it first came out.

The Blacks themselves add to the humour too, most often when some things, including their own spells, go a bit wrong for them. They are not all that nice and can be mean, but they can’t really be described as evil or villains although they are witches. Anti-heroes, er, anti-heroines would be the best description. They’ve got their human touches and can come across as sympathetic, such as Carrie enjoying pop music programmes, and thinking the boarding school Angela tries to enrol at in one episode “belongs in a museum”.

When the pressure to make Angela a witch begins, the story becomes a battle of the wills, albeit still in a hilarious way. Angela may be a bungling idiot, but we have to give her full marks for resolve when she adamantly refuses to become a witch. We have to wonder where it will all end up. Perhaps Angela will end up as a toad, a transfiguration Carrie threatens her with several times. But considering Uncle Bertrand’s prophecy, we get the impression the Blacks will lose the battle. In fact, it all ends up where nobody foresaw, though the warning signs were there – that Angela is too much of a bungler to make a competent witch. The witches should have made an exception to the non-witch rule in her case, which they do in the end. It is fitting enough, and everything ends happily for both the Blacks and their White relative after all.

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Wenna the Witch (1974)

Sample Images

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Published:  10 August 1974 – 2 November 1974

Episodes: 13

Artist: Carlos Freixas

Writer: Unknown

Translations/reprints: Wenna de heks [Wenna the Witch] in Tina 1976, Tina Topstrip 34, 1981; Greek translation in Manina; Indonesian translation Wenna, Si Penyihir [Wenna, the Witch] Tina TopStrip 34.

Plot

Wenna Evans (formerly Lomax) is the foster-daughter of the Evanses, who live in the Welsh village of Llarygg. It is a village where the locals still believe in witches. Still, that has never been a problem for Wenna. She has always seen herself as a girl like any other, and so do the villagers.

But all that changes when a stranger named Mr Burr arrives. He declares in public, right in front of the villagers, that he is looking for Wenna Evans because his research has uncovered that women in her Lomax ancestry were burned at the stake for witchcraft. (More likely they were victims of ignorance, superstition and persecution, probably because they possessed psychic powers of some sort.) Mr Burr thinks Wenna may have inherited the powers and asks her, right in front of everyone, whether she has ever noticed anything unusual about herself, particularly any “dark stirrings” or even visions? Now either this man has absolutely no tact or common sense, or he’s as ignorant and superstitious as the villagers themselves. Of course Wenna is absolutely outraged and yells at him to go away and not come back. As Mr Burr leaves he has a bad accident, and the villagers think Wenna put a curse on him.

So now the villagers think Wenna is a witch and the persecution begins. Her worst enemy is Blodwen Hughes, an expelled schoolgirl who has always been jealous of her. Blodwen’s job in a village shop is the perfect vantage point for her to spread the gossip about Wenna and fan the flames as much as she can. They get inflamed even more when Blodwen is taken ill and says Wenna put the evil eye on her.

Bad things happen one way or other and they are blamed on Wenna. Unfortunately some of them look a bit uncanny, such as when Wenna is surrounded by an angry mob while at the water pump and wishes for them to be swept away – and then jets of water shoot out of the pump, which drives them off. They all blame Wenna’s witchcraft, notwithstanding that their stone-throwing ruptured the pump in the first place.

There are actions Wenna takes that do not help matters. She borrows a book on witches to help her better understand what she is faced with. But when word leaks out it fuels the rumours against her. Wenna goes to the Gallows Hill, which is shunned and feared because it is said to have druid powers. She calls upon the ancient druids to grant her wish to make the villagers stop persecuting her. Unfortunately the villagers see her and accuse her of casting a spell that causes an accident.

At times Wenna herself wonders if she has powers, and there is evidence of it too. Mr Evans tells her that her ancestors were a strange lot and her mother was said to have second sight. Just before the encounter with Mr Burr Wenna had a vision of herself looking absolutely terrified. During the night she had a vision of Mr Burr’s operation and wished for his recovery – and next day she hears he had a miraculous recovery at the time when she wished for it. There are moments of anger where she wishes the villagers would be swept away or suffer in some other way. Then either something happens or she has visions of something happening, and she’s full of doubt about herself and wondering if the villagers are right after all.

Wenna has some friends, in the form of Myfanwy “Fan”, her dog Taffy (thank goodness Taffy isn’t a cat, or the villagers would persecute him as much as Wenna!), her foster parents, and Dr Glynn the village doctor who sticks up for her and chastises the villagers for their stupidity. As the persecution intensifies Wenna gets banned from school because parents won’t allow their children to attend while she’s there, and she gets shunned in the street, with doors slamming on her everywhere. Angry villagers tell Wenna’s foster parents to throw her out or suffer themselves, which forces Wenna to run off at one point. It escalates into a stone-throwing mob trying to drive her out of the village.

Meanwhile, there has been heavy rain that is showing no sign of abating.

The violence drives Wenna back to Gallows Hill, where she thinks she will be safe because the villagers are too scared of the place. She falls asleep and has an ominous dream of villagers being drowned in floodwaters from the heavy rain. Next day Fan comes to warn her that the villagers have guessed where she is and are coming after her, despite their dread of Gallows Hill. Wenna escapes by taking a tumble down a ravine called Devil’s Gullet, where she stows away aboard a truck. The villagers are baffled by her disappearance (for the time being).

The truck is going to the dam, which is in danger of bursting. Wenna overhears the engineers saying that if the dam breaks the water will flood Devil’s Gullet. They think the dam is holding – just – but when Wenna tries to cross the dam to get away from her enemies she discovers it is beginning to burst. She has more visions of the village flooding and villagers drowning in the floodwaters.

Wenna informs the engineers that the dam is bursting, and she decides to put aside all the things the villagers have done to her in order to help them. They all head to the village to warn the villagers. They pass by the witch-hunting villagers at Gallows Hill, who have now realised Wenna went down into Devil’s Gullet. The mob goes down after her, too crazed with witch-hunting fervour to heed the engineers’ warnings that the ravine is going to flood. Wenna goes down after them and, pretending to be a witch, scares them into going back up the hill and away from the floodwaters. Unfortunately she does not make it herself and the floodwaters carry her away.

Back on the hillside, the engineers tell the mob Wenna actually saved their lives by scaring them out of Devil’s Gullet, and it was Wenna who raised the alarm about the damburst. The engineers then do what they can to mitigate the flood damage to the village.

The villagers change their minds about Wenna when they learn how she helped save the village. They are stricken with remorse and think they have driven her to her death when they find her washed up in front of the village cross. However, Wenna is still alive and Fan says it is a miracle. When Wenna recovers, the villagers greet her with apologies, smiles and flowers. Even arch-enemy Blodwen has come around and says Wenna has powers to work small miracles. Wenna comes to accept that she may have inherited genuine powers from her Lomax ancestors, but everyone knows she will use them for good.

Thoughts

Lingering witch-beliefs in some rural areas of Britain have formed the basis for a number of girls’ serials where the protagonists are persecuted by villagers who still believe in witches. The formula was not used much, but some stories that had it include Mandy’s “Bad Luck Barbara” and Bunty’s “Witch!” Jinty ran two serials with the formula, the first being Wenna and the second being “Mark of the Witch!”.

Wenna is in line with the typical formula of the villagers believing the protagonist is a witch because of her alleged ancestry. How it starts is so astonishing as to be unbelievable. Nobody ever thought Wenna was a witch until Mr Burr comes barging into the village, tells people he has discovered she is descended from these executed Lomax witches, and then starts questioning Wenna right in front of everyone about what powers she has. What the hell was this man thinking? At best he’s incredibly stupid and tactless, not to mention rude, and deserves to get his face slapped. At worst he too is a witch believer who deliberately stirred things up against the girl he believed to be a witch. Whatever his motivation, the damage was done.

It is a common thread in the formula for odd things to happen to the protagonist (nightmares, visions, voices in the head, shouting at persecutors and then things happen to them) that have her wondering if she does indeed have strange powers. However, in Wenna it is more overt, such as her visions of villagers drowning. In similar serials, such as “Witch!”, these weird occurrences are usually kept more ambiguous in order to leave scope for readers to make up their own minds.

Wenna has more support than most of her counterparts do. Usually there is only one person who sticks by them, but they don’t always do so for the duration of the story as Fan does. Sometimes they abandon the protagonist and go over to the other side, as in the case of “Witch!”. However, in this case Fan not only sticks by Wenna but so do the foster parents, Taffy the dog, and the doctor.

The resolution of the story – the villagers change their minds about Wenna because of her heroism in the flood – ensures a happy ending, if not a realistic one. When witch-believers brand someone a witch the label sticks, if not extremely hard to remove, and casts a long shadow. For this reason the endings to “Bad Luck Barbara” and “Witch!”, are more realistic, where the protagonist leaves the village with the villagers still hating her.

Wenna is notable for two things. First, it was the first Jinty story drawn by Carlos Freixas. Two more Freixas stories followed: “Slave of the Mirror”, which replaced Wenna, and the best-remembered one, “The Valley of Shining Mist”. Second, it was the first Jinty story to have the protagonist narrate the story herself. The only other Jinty strip to do so was “Pam of Pond Hill”.

Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (1975-76)

Sample images

Pg 1 Golden Dolly, Death Dust!
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Golden Dolly, Death Dust! pg 2
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Golden Dolly, Death Dust! pg 3
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Summary

Lucy Farmer and her French penfriend Yvette have no inkling of what lies ahead of them when a parcel arrives from Lucy’s great-aunt Hepzibah. The parcel contains a golden corn dolly and the ominous message that “they may need its help soon”. Very soon they are plunged into a good versus evil struggle: the Corn Dolly comes to life to help them against Miss Marvell, the richest woman in town, who also turns out to be an evil witch using the blackest of magic to kill all good green growing things.

Right from the first episode the girls are in danger from Miss Marvell, initially simply because they have gone somewhere they weren’t supposed to and seen something they weren’t supposed to – a great patch of bare grey earth in Miss Marvell’s garden, and plants that have crumbled to dust. The patch of grey earth is so strongly poisoned that the residue on the girls’ shoes poisons Lucy’s father’s garden too (and continues to do so in subsequent episodes even after he has patched it with new turf). Soon they are courting her anger more deliberately, once Corn Dolly has told them they must investigate Miss Marvell’s plans further. They are found and nearly caught in a secret room at the top of the witch’s house – her spooky henchthing, a scary mask, can communicate with Miss Marvell at a distance and do her bidding. Corn Dolly is their saviour this time, defending the girls with her strength from the sun and telling them to run to the trees, where the strength of living things will defeat Miss Marvell. However, this sortie has revealed jars and jars of death dust; there is only so much that Corn Dolly will be able to do to fight this black magic. The one thing she can suggest is a charm from ancient times, made with certain flowers, that can defeat witches.

There follows a back-and-forth cycle that oscillates with bigger and bigger swings. Miss Marvell destroys some plants; the girls must gather flowers for the charm; Miss Marvell wreaks more destruction to prevent them from finding the next flower on their list; against great odds the girls manage to get the next flower; people round about get more and more nervous and worried and downright frightened. Miss Marvell tries more and more tactics to beat the girls: she kidnaps Corn Dolly right out of Lucy’s school bag despite the protective rowan berries that Lucy put in (in her guise as benign school governor, Marvell asks an unsuspecting girl to remove them), she brainwashes Yvette and later on turns Lucy’s mother against her French visitor. The girls have Corn Dolly to help them, but she is neither omnipotent nor always totally patient: more than once she tells them they have to work things out for themselves as she cannot always be with them.

And indeed they are pretty resourceful: when the straw form of Corn Dolly is thrown on a fire by the vengeful Miss Marvell, they ask for sun and rain to douse the fire and strengthen her foe. They manage to ask in roundabout ways for important information like the location of a specific kind of rose for their charm, and enlist mundane help to deal with obstacles like an enraged bull or the antagonised mother.

It’s a pretty long series of episodes, though, with these power struggles that seem to each end quite similarly, if growing in violence. The last five episodes take on a different tempo: the ministry of agriculture forbids any entry to or exit from their town of Haylton until they find out what killed all the plants at the zoo (and the authorities are never going to figure out that the answer is black magic, of course). This means that the girls have to find out a way to escape from the town to get the last few flowers for the spell; it becomes a race against the forces of evil to get to another source of help – Great-Aunt Hepzibah in Cornwall – gathering the final ingredients on the way. Of course Miss Marvell is not far behind, inciting whoever shelters them to know “black, cold fear!” She too has allies – three evil witch ghosts in a haunted village, but once again Corn Dolly and the forces of the sunlight – or in this case, a timely lightning strike – defeat them.

The showdown is at the site of a “giant’s circle” on the shortest night of the year, but one which feels very long to the girls, chased as they are by Miss Marvell and the trees in an evil wood. The stone circle is perhaps something else that the witch thinks will be helpful to her, but the girls use the charm along with the first sun of midsummer’s day – and Miss Marvell is literally vanished away, and her death dust with her.

Themes and thoughts

This is a powerful story, if one which on re-read can feel a little long in parts as the girls gather their various different ingredients. The sample story pages included above are ones that I know I have not read for over thirty years until Mistyfan sent me scans, but the image of Miss Marvell scattering death dust on the buddleia is one that has been with me all the time since then (though as an adult I have been in more sympathy with the death-dust wielder, as this is a nearly-unkillable weed). Miss Marvell’s (rather un-African though so-called) mask, along with her cackling gleeful face calling down a storm, was part of the cast in my childhood nightmares. Luckily for me, Corn Dolly stood beside my bed (with other symbols of good such as Epona from “Guardian of White Horse Hill”) to defend me.

There is a noticeable hippyish streak in this story: the environmental struggle to protect the trees and the wildlife, the fact that the dark witch’s alter ego is that of a rich and powerful establishment figure* who is able to do some of her wrong-doing purely because she knows the right people to ask favours of. (There is a counter-example lord who is on the side of the good guys, but he is seen in only one episode.) Perhaps the self-sufficiency of the protagonist girls, prompted on occasion by the odd pointed comment by Corn Dolly, is also a reflection of that countercultural angle?

* Interestingly enough, Miss Marvell is also depicted as something of a scientist, with a laboratory in which she tests her death dust for potency. In this she is a little reminiscent of the villain in subsequent story “Girl In A Bubble”, also drawn by Phil Gascoine.

It is however pretty much a quest story. The extra layers that draw you in are attributable, I think, to Phil Gascoine’s narrative skills as much as anything: the contrast between the peaceful countryside or small town and the dark, twisted woods in which Miss Marvell aims to trap our protagonists; or between the limpid beauty of Corn Dolly and Miss Marvell’s increasingly wicked cackling face.

Publication dates: 6 September 1975 – 10 January 1976 (19 episodes)

Writer: unknown

Artist: Phil Gascoine