Tag Archives: witches

A Spell of Trouble [1980]

Sample Images

A Spell of Trouble 1A Spell of Trouble 2A Spell of Trouble 3

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.

Advertisements

Wenna the Witch (1974)

Sample Images

wenna-the-witch-14-sep-1wenna-the-witch-14-sep-2wenna-the-witch-14-sep-3

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”.

Jinty & Penny 16 May 1981

jinty-cover-16-may-1981

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

Stories in this issue

  • Pam of Pond Hill (writer Jay Over, artist Bob Harvey)
  • Diving Belle (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • The Silent Admirer– text story (artist Mario Capaldi)
  • Ancient Remedy – Gypsy Rose story (artist Hugo D’Adderio)
  • Just the Job
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Worlds Apart (artist Guy Peeters)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Peter Wilkes)
  • Fancy Free! – (artist Phil Townsend)
  • Winning Ways 52 (writer Benita Brown)
  • Angela’s Angels (artist Leo Davy)
  • Alley Cat (artist Rob Lee)

In “Pam of Pond Hill” Goofy doesn’t realise nasty Jill Cook is taking advantage of him. He’s been completely taken in by her sob story that her father’s a bully (yeah, riiiiight). And now poor Mrs Dankins’ flat has been invaded by Jill and her mates for a wild party, all because of Goofy’s gullibility.

Another party gets gatecrashed in “Diving Belle” so Belle can use the diving board there. It’s one of Betty’s desperate measures to get Belle trained up for this all-important dive she keeps foreseeing.

This week’s Gypsy Rose story is completely new. For once there’s no recycled Strange Story. Joanne’s got warts on her right hand and she finds a very unusual helper – the ghost of the Wise Woman of Barling Castle. Cromwell’s goons executed the wise woman for witchcraft, but that clearly hasn’t stopped her from curing people.

A witch also appears in this week’s episode of “Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost”. Sir Roger tries a dating service for ghosts, but is not impressed when it pairs him up with a witch. The dating service must have slipped up at the witch’s end as well because she wants Sir Roger for a servant, not a date.

The protagonist in this week’s text story has more luck with dating than Sir Roger. Jenny is a shy girl who finds a poem that seems to be from a secret admirer. It turns out the poem was not for her, but it cures her of her shyness and pairs her up with a real date.

In “Worlds Apart”, the girls reach their limit with the fatties’ world when Ann dies because she’s too fat for running and the fatties’ idea of first aid is to shove assorted foods down Ann’s throat to see if they revive her. The girls start throwing food right back at the people who keep shoving it in front of them. Things take a surprise twist when Sarah seems to drown but is then rescued by…Ann?

An Oliver Twist film gives Tansy the strangest of nightmares. She finds her whole home and Jubilee Street in Victorian settings. Her brother Simon is all filthy from cleaning chimneys. Victorian manners must have impacted on the Victorian Mr Court because he actually serves Tansy for once. Tansy finds herself a maidservant to snobby Angela, but isn’t taking any of Angela’s arrogance. The dream provides plenty of fodder for the homework Tansy’s teacher sets later: an essay on imagining what it is like to live in Victorian times. The full episode has been uploaded on the Peter Wilkes page at https://jintycomic.wordpress.com/galleries/panel-gallery/peter-wilkes/

In “Fancy Free!” there is a shock over the money Ben gave to Fancy – it came from the bank robbery Fancy’s father was imprisoned for. While Mum faces awkward questions at the police station over the money, Fancy goes to Ben for a good explanation.

In “Angela’s Angels”, Lesley doesn’t want her fellow Angels to know her father’s rich. Unfortunately, pulling the wool over their eyes is causing misunderstandings. Meanwhile Helen brings a kitten into the hospital, which is against regulations. Worse, it is about to trip a blind patient.

Sue’s Daily Dozen (1980-1)

Sample Images

Sue 1Sue 2Sue 3

Publication: 4 October 1980 to 3 January 1981

Artist: José Casanovas

Writer: Unknown

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #18 and #19 as “Spellbound!” and “Bewitched!”

 Plot

Sue Barker has just moved to the village of Hillcroft. Things do not go off to a good start because she is shy and finds it difficult to make friends, and her efforts to help always seem to go wrong. However, Sue finds out the cottage she is living in once belonged to Granny Hayden, a witch who was revered in the community for her “Daily Dozen”, which worked magic in helping people. Sue finds the Daily Dozen (book, spoon and cauldron) hidden in the chimney. The opening pages of the book bear the inscription: “The wondrous DAILY DOZEN within these pages, seek inside, and trace the secrets that I hide for things may not be what they seem, but help I give to all who dream”.

Sue has been challenged to produce an entry for the school cookery contest. She had not been confident about it, but now selects a recipe, “totties treats”, from the Daily Dozen book, and is surprised to see her cooking go off without a hitch. She is even more surprised to find the headmistress and severe cookery teacher, who are judging the contest, suddenly playing like toddlers after eating the totties treats! Sue wins the contest of course, and suddenly feels more confident about making friends now she has found the Daily Dozen.

Nonetheless, Sue is still a bit wary about the Daily Dozen (it is, after all, associated with witchcraft, which does not have a good press). But every recipe the family uses from the book seems to work miracles. Just one dab of the home-made cleaner from the book on the brickwork on the house, and every speck of dirt just melts off the wall, leaving it sparkling. Moreover, the cleanup reveals drawings of the Daily Dozen book, complete with black cats and broomsticks. Sue even acquires a “familiar” – albeit a Siamese cat named Ling-Su instead of the traditional black cat, after she treats him with a tonic from the Daily Dozen. Then a broomstick, cape and witch’s hat drop down from the chimney. Sue is a bit wary about wearing them in public while pedalling the wares of the Daily Dozen, though everyone else is pleased at the revival of Granny Hayden and more remedies, including one that cures a sick man. At one point, the Daily Dozen has to flex its muscles quite severely at Sue for still doubting it, although its remedies do nothing but good, even if they do look like…magic. Eventually Sue fully accepts the Daily Dozen when it helps her to foil two criminals – who very unwisely tried to steal the Daily Dozen.

George Smith the blacksmith is due to marry Anne the florist, and the vicar tells Sue that the Daily Dozen is part of an old custom that must be performed. Sue has no idea what this means, and nothing in the book sheds light on it. But after the attempted theft, the Daily Dozen gives out some clues. First, a note appears to say:

“Forge and anvil – tools of trade

Fair and flowery must be made

And when church bells are gladly rung

The Daily Dozen’s work is done.”

Then the Daily Dozen shows Sue visions. First are visions of the things the Daily Dozen and Sue have accomplished together, followed by a vision of George and Anne happily married. Then there is a vision around the weather vane of an anvil decorated with flowers – which then appears for real in Anne’s flower shop. The cauldron is there too, with more flowers spilling out of it. There is no explanation, except that it must be the work of the Daily Dozen.

Meanwhile, Sue’s friend Alison has been doing research on old blacksmith customs. She learns that in olden times, blacksmiths were so important that they had to be protected from evil spirits with rituals such as firing up the anvil to produce a bang, and the ringing of church bells. The pieces are now coming together, but there is one piece still to discover, which Sue does when she sees the cauldron wobbling. She looks underneath and sees there is a piece that fits perfectly into the anvil.

So on the wedding day, church bells are rung and the Daily Dozen cauldron is placed on the flower-festooned anvil, which is then fired up to produce the bang. Suddenly, the cauldron shoots up, along with the spoon and book that go with it. They all arrive back at the cottage, and their work is now done. So now they disintegrate into soot and fall down the chimney into the fireplace. But their legacy lives on, in a much happier community and Sue finding confidence and friends.

 Thoughts

“Sue’s Daily Dozen” was the last story José Casanovas drew for Jinty. And as Casanovas stories go, this is unconventional for two reasons. First, it is unusual for Casanovas to draw a supernatural-themed story, because his style is more suited for animal stories (“Dora Dogsbody”) or science fiction (“Tomorrow Town” from Tammy), so you are more likely to see him in stories with those themes. But here he is drawing a story with a supernatural theme. He was probably chosen because he brings off humour and the bizarre so well, and would therefore fit “Sue’s Daily Dozen”, which is a lightweight supernatural story. Even so, it is a surprise (for me) to see him bringing the supernatural to life here. The only other Casanovas story I have seen with a fantasy theme is “Sophie’s Secret Squeezy” from Lindy. There must be more Casanovas supernatural stories, but I wonder how frequently they appeared.

Second, Casanovas’ heroines are usually gutsy and proactive, and some are even unsavoury (such as the spiteful “Two-Faced Teesha” in Tammy). But here the Casanovas heroine starts off quiet and shy, and tending to stick her foot in it when she tries to help. Of course we know Sue is going to change into a more confident girl during the course of the story.

This story is also unconventional, for its portrayal of witches. It depicts witches more closely to what they really were – wise women who helped people in the community with herbal remedies – though it is unlikely they would have the powers of the Daily Dozen. Moreover, the villagers understand this completely, and appreciate and adore Granny Hayden for this, instead of lashing out at it in fear, ignorance, or at all the things they see that defy all explanation. In a village like Kettleby (“Mark of the Witch!”), Granny Hayden or Sue would be more likely to become targets of persecution, just like Emma Fielding. But here the locals are not frightened of it at all and see it as miraculous and helpful. Even the vicar accepts it, instead of labelling it Satanic, unchristian, or rubbish. It is only Sue who is worried about the Daily Dozen possibly having an evil side.

This portrayal of witchcraft (or Wicca) being a business run by wise women, not agents of the Devil, was touched on once before in Jinty, in Shadow on the Fen. But in Fen it was a dark and grim picture, with practitioners falling victim to witch hunters and superstitious, ignorant folk. But here it is such a relief to see the practitioner is not only understood but also embraced and loved instead of being hated and persecuted. And the Casanovas artwork is perfect, for not only bringing it all to life but also adding humour that enhances the message the story is wants to convey about witches – for no persecution would ever be allowed in a story drawn by Casanovas.

Shadow on the Fen (1978)

Sample images

Fen 1

(Click thru)

Fen 2

(Click thru)

Fen 3

Publication: 18 February 1978-13 May 1978

Artist: Douglas Perry

Writer: Unknown (but see thoughts)

Reprint: Girl Picture Library #25 as “The Witchfinder”

Plot

Linden James and her family have just moved to the village of Wychley Green, but things aren’t off to a good start for her. She misses her old home and isn’t making friends because they think she’s standoffish. At the Wishing Tree she wishes for a friend, without much hope of getting one.

But then a girl from the 17th century appears. Her name is Rebecca Neville and her evil cousin, Matthew Hobley “The Witchfinder”, has accused her of witchcraft. Part of it is Rebecca having her grandmother’s ‘healing hands’ and treating sick people and animals with them. But the real reason is that Hobley is after her inheritance. Hobley was leading a witch-hunting mob against her all the way up to the Wishing Tree, and she suddenly found herself in Linden’s time. Linden draws the conclusion that it was the Wishing Tree. She tells Rebecca that she is quite safe here because people here don’t believe in witches anymore. Rebecca is upset to find her home in ruins and her grandmother’s grave (which does not give the date of her death). However, she moves in with Linden, swapping her 17th century clothes for modern ones and school uniform happily enough.

But soon there are warning signs that Hobley has followed Rebecca into the 20th century. During a thunderstorm, they are terrified when a frightening silhouette that looks like a Puritan appears in a mirror. Soon the same shadow is following them about. And Linden, who is confident that Hobley can’t stir up people against Rebecca in this period because people no longer believe in witches, is soon to learn otherwise.

It begins when the school visits an archaeological dig, which Rebecca realises is unearthing an apothecary’s shop. The Witchfinder attacks with a pile of bricks, which narrowly misses Rebecca and the Professor in charge of the dig. The classmates blame Rebecca and start to whisper she is a witch. She gets particular trouble from the wayward Smith boys. Meanwhile, the dig uncovers a ring on a trap door that could lead to something.

Linden buys a witchball (an old charm against witches) for her mother’s birthday. On the way back from the shop the shadow of the Witchfinder appears. Linden threatens him with the witchball and he retreats. They now have a protection against the Witchfinder, but odd attacks start at Linden’s home and seem to be targeting the witchball.

The whispering against Rebecca gets worse when she offers to help Mrs Perks look for her cat while the Smith boys tease Mrs Perks over it. Mrs Perks is also rumoured to be a witch because she is psychic. They help Mrs Perks find her cat and in return Mrs Perks reads Rebecca’s palms. She says Rebecca has healing hands and warns her that there is an evil shadow pursuing her.

The dig uncovers a box that contains items from the apothecary. Among them is a gold locket belonging to the apothecary’s granddaughter Catherine. Catherine was a friend of Rebecca’s, and she and the apothecary stood up to Hobley for her. Then the Professor uncovers a document listing the names of people brought to trial for witchcraft – and Rebecca’s name is on the list! This renews the rumours that Rebecca is a witch. Linden covers up by saying the other Rebecca must be an ancestress, which calms things down. But they wonder how the list got there.

That question is answered when the Witchfinder turns up in person at school, posing as Professor Hopkin who has joined the dig. Linden and Rebecca learn that Catherine searched Hobley’s room for false evidence against Rebecca and stole the list. But she was discovered, so she, the apothecary and their cat were hanged as friends of a witch. However, Catherine is not quite finished – her ghost appears when the Witchfinder traps them at the fen and gets help for them.

They now realise the Witchfinder must be a wizard in his own right and turn to Mrs Perks for help. The Witchfinder tries to scare them with ghosts, but the ghosts fade when they approach Grandmother Neville’s grave, and they figure it must offer protection against the Witchfinder. Mrs Perks helps them figure out the secret of the Witchfinder’s power – a box containing a black wand, a black book and a book bound in black leather. If they destroy those items, they destroy the Witchfinder.

They discover that the Witchfinder/Hopkin has gone into hiding. Mrs Perks suggests he may be at Deepdene Cottage and gives Rebecca a cross and rowan flowers for protection. She says the cross was carved by an ancestor, whose wife became one of Hobley victim’s – so she has her own score to settle with Hobley.

They find the box at the cottage but are attacked by the Witchfinder’s minions – ravens and vicious dogs. They manage to retrieve the wand and destroy it. But the Witchfinder still has the book and knife.

Mrs Perks tracks down the box again, but the Witchfinder attacks in person – and right in front of the Smith boys. Linden repels him with the cross, and they destroy his book. But he gets away with the knife.

Mrs Perks ends up in hospital. The Witchfinder gave the Smith boys such a fright that they have reformed and are looking after Mrs Perks’ garden. Mrs Perks warns the girls that the Witchfinder will be even more dangerous now because he is frightened, and they still have to destroy the knife. Their search for him goes nowhere, and now he sends a mist that cuts off the village from the rest of the world.

Rebecca heads back to the Wishing Tree on her own, figuring that is where she will find Hobley and the knife. She finds the knife, but has forgotten her cross. So she is unprotected when he emerges, ready to drag her back to their own time and burn her at the stake.

However, Linden discovers the oversight, heads to the Wishing Tree with the cross, and arrives in the nick of time. As she flourishes the cross, lightning strikes. The Wishing Tree is destroyed and Hobley is reduced to bones, which crumble within the hour, leaving only his hat. But there is no sign of Rebecca.

Then Linden finds a book Rebecca left for her. It contains a reference to a statue in the churchyard that is a tribute to Rebecca. It reveals she survived Hobley’s persecution, became Rebecca Bartlett, and died a noble old lady at 77. Linden is relieved to know Rebecca got back safely and goes to put flowers on her grave. She finds the epitaph reflects their whole adventure: “Time and Death are illusions – but Friendship survives forever”.

Thoughts

This story is certainly a cut above the formula about evil sorcerers/witches who use their evil magic to wreak havoc while the protagonists try to stop them, and it almost invariably ends with the sorcerer/witch being destroyed. But there is always a lot of dark, spooky, scary stuff along the way, and this can leave panels that resonate with the reader years after she reads the story.

Shadow on the Fen is using the formula to make a serious statement about witch-hunting and where the evil really lies – with the accused or the accuser? Its strongest underscoring in this regard is in the hypocrisy of it all – the Witchfinder accusing people of being evil witches while he is the one who is an evil wizard. There is humour in the irony in that the Witchfinder is the one who is allergic to the things that are supposed to repel witches – witchballs, rowan and crucifixes. It further underlines the hypocrisy. While real witch-finders could hardly have been evil wizards, they were certainly evil people who would go to any lengths, such as heinous torture, to make a bounty and a fortune.

The story also touches on human psychology and how much we have actually outgrown the thinking that sent people to the stake for witches in olden times. And how far has Wychley Green itself outgrown it? For example, are the rumours against Mrs Perks the product of stupid, ignorant people, or could there still be traces of witch-beliefs in Wychley Green? Lingering witch-beliefs in modern villages have formed the basis of several ‘persecution’ serials such as Wenna the Witch and Mark of the Witch!

The story should be appreciated for taking a few moments to depict witches as they really were – wise women who helped people with charms, folk magic and herbal remedies. They were not agents of the Devil – a myth invented by the Inquisition – but their healing practices made them ready targets for accusations of witchcraft. When Rebecca first meets Linden, she recounts how several people in her time went this way, and her own healing abilities have made her vulnerable to the same accusation.

The name of Matthew Hobley and his alias, Professor Hopkin, are clearly references to Matthew Hopkins, the Witchfinder General. The fact that Hobley turned out to really be a dark wizard may be a reference to the (probably apocryphal) legend that Hopkins was declared a wizard by his own witch-hunting methods and executed.

Several years later the theme of the Witchfinder General resurfaced in Tammy, with Spell of Fog, 29 October 1983 – 17 December 1983. This time, though, it is Hopkins himself. A film crew want to make a film about one of his victims, Alice Compton. Sally Groves, who has been deeply affected by the Compton case, protests when the director announces he is making a sensationalised version that depicts Alice as an actual agent of the Devil, not a hapless victim of superstition and hysteria.

Then a strange fog appears where Alice’s remains have been scattered. Its power cuts the village off from the outside world and has the village progressively reverting to a 17th century pattern in technology, dress and people’s thinking. Hysteria erupts in the village as the fog takes hold and people think it’s Alice’s revenge. Sally is the obvious scapegoat because she alone has remained unaffected, so she becomes a target of mob attacks and people calling her a witch. Eventually the fog takes over completely and the persecution of Alice Compton is re-enacted, with Sally as Alice and the film director as Hopkins.

But it turns out the power behind the fog is neither Alice nor Hopkins – it’s the villagers who burned Alice at the stake. They acted out shame and guilt over what they did, but also to remind the modern villagers that witch-hunting is not something that belongs in the past. It can erupt in any day and age because the psychology behind it (unreason, prejudice and fear of what you do not understand) is in every human. (Yes, you only have to look at things like the Red Scares and Satanic Ritual Abuse Scares to know what they mean.) They leave the villagers with a warning not to let a modern witchfinder take advantage of their fears.

There are similarities between Fen and Fog – witchfinders, evils of witch-hunting and mass hysteria, and supernatural forces and mists that cut off villages from the outside world and turn modern people into witch-hunting idiots of olden times – that have me wondering if it is the same writer. The mist in Fog sounds like a step up from the fog in Fen – going from what seems a belated last-ditch effort on the part of the Witchfinder to becoming the driving force of the entire plot. The credits for Fog list Jake Adams as the writer and George Anthony (actually, Tony Coleman) as the artist.

Fog 1Fog 2Fog 3

(Click thru)

Mark of the Witch! (1977)

Sample images

MoW1.jpg

(click thru)

MoW2.jpg

(click thru)

MoW2.jpg 001

Publication: 8 January 1977-30 April 1977

Artist: Phil Townsend

Writer: Unknown

Summary

In the village of Kettleby Yorkshire, Emma Fielding is branded “Black Emma” – a witch, a bad sort, and an outcast because of the black streak in her hair. The black streak runs in the Fielding family and the stigma began with the first Fielding to have the streak, Simon Fielding. He was an evil 18th aristocrat who tyrannised and terrorised the countryside, and his black streak struck fear into anyone who saw it. Since then, the Fielding black streak has been associated with evil and the Fieldings have been persecuted as bad people. The persecution is made easier by the fact that the Fieldings no longer have the wealth and power that Simon Fielding had; they are the poorest people in the village and “the lowest of the low”. Their ancestral home, Fielding Castle, built by Simon Fielding, is now nothing but a ruin. But like the Fieldings themselves, Fielding Castle is avoided and feared by the villagers. Everywhere Emma goes, she is taunted by children and shunned by adults. She has become wild because she reacts aggressively against the abuse, which brands her even further as a bad lot. Emma herself has come to believe she has a bad streak, which shows when she lashes out or hates people, and thinks she must fight it.

There are only two bright spots in Emma’s life. The first is her loving mother, a gentle contrast to her frightening and sometimes violent father. Like Emma, Mr Fielding is aggressive and bitter because he has led a terrible life due to his own black streak. The second is riding, the only thing Emma does well. But there is another girl at Emma’s riding lessons who she hates more than any other – Alice Durrant. Emma is jealous of Alice because she has everything Emma does not, and her family is the most respected in the village. Emma thinks the hand of friendship Alice offers her is phony. But it is genuine; Alice alone sympathises with Emma, does not despise the black streak, and desperately wants to be her friend. But Emma keeps spurning her and does not believe Alice is trying to help her.

As the story progresses, Emma discovers another with a black streak – a horse with a black streak in its mane. The horse’s owner deems him a bad lot because he acts wildly. Eventually, of course, Emma and the horse will team up.

Things get worse for Emma when she discovers a fire at the Durrants’ farm. She tries to put it out, but the villagers, ever ready to make her a scapegoat, accuse her of starting it. Mr Durrant discovers the fire was accidental, but the damage is done – the rumour mill has culminated in an angry mob that attacks the Fielding house. Alice tries to stop them, but gets get hurt by one of their stones. Unfortunately Emma does not see this. If she had, it would have proved to her that Alice is genuine.

Emma’s embittered father blames her for the attack and throws her right out of the house – and to the stone-throwing wolves. Emma flees for her life and manages to throw off the mob. But now she has had enough and decides there will be no more fighting her black streak (as she believes). From now on, she will embrace it and become the bad person the villagers say she is. “If that’s what they expect from me, that’s what they’ll get!” She sets up camp at Fielding Castle to start her own campaign against the villagers. As part of her revenge, she decides to enter the equestrian cross country race, The Hudson Trophy. She means to take the trophy away from Alice Durrant. Doing so would really humiliate the villagers because Alice is the darling of the village.

But there is one problem – she has no horse. This problem is solved when she finally acquires the horse with the black streak from its owner, who had lost patience and was on the verge of shooting the animal. Naming the horse Midnight, she starts breaking him in herself before training him up for the trophy.

Emma’s campaign of revenge intensifies when some boys dig a trap for her to fall into. Her beloved mother falls into it instead and narrowly avoids a serious accident. Furious, Emma dresses herself up as a witch in her grandmother’s clothes and falls upon the villagers. “If you say I’m a witch, I’ll be a witch, in every way! And you’ll regret it!” She curses one John Pike for throwing a stone at her and then confronts Dave Young, the leader of the gang who set the trap. She tells him that she has his name in her Book of Vengeance, which she has just started for listing the names of people who have aggrieved her, and she is now off to settle the score with him. She does so by destroying Mr Young’s wheat field. Other things happen which seem to reinforce the witch persona: a storm blows up as Emma accosts the villagers; John Pike has a road accident soon after receiving the curse; and Emma is adopted by a black cat.

Later, Emma announces her intention to enter the Hudson trophy and take it away from Alice Durrant. This is greeted with intense scorn by the villagers, who say she is hopelessly outmatched by Alice. They all eagerly anticipate watching the event to see Black Emma make a fool of herself and see (as they believe) good triumph over evil in what will be a needle race. Alice is reluctant to go against Emma in the race because she wants to be her friend. But she is persuaded to do so.

In the meantime, Emma’s campaign of vandalism and thievery against Kettleby continues, and names get ticked off in the Book of Vengeance. The local council takes drastic action by sealing up Fielding Castle to drive Emma out. Eventually this fails, but not because Emma nearly gets herself killed trying to get into the castle. Midnight saves her, but the near-accident has Emma all the more determined to have revenge at the Hudson Trophy.

But when the race starts, Alice takes a strong lead against Emma. Eventually Emma realises that the villagers were right – Alice is better than her and she faces defeat. This drives her into taking reckless and dangerous chances to pull ahead, which are cruel to her horse and horrify the onlookers. However, this does enable Emma to take the lead.

Then, when the girls cross a river, Alice falls off her horse and is in danger of drowning. Emma now faces a choice – the trophy or Alice’s life? Eventually, Emma decides to sacrifice the trophy and go in after Alice. This puts Emma in danger too, but she is surprised to find herself feeling happy at fighting with Alice against the current instead of against her.

Meanwhile, the villagers are surprised to see it is not Alice at the finishing line and go to investigate. By the time they arrive, Alice is in danger of going under and only Emma is keeping her afloat. This time, the villagers realise Emma is trying to do good instead of assuming she was being bad, and save them both.

Following this, the black streak stops being a mark of stigma for the Fieldings and everything is different for them. Now Emma is a heroine, and the villagers treat her with love, friendship, remorse, and gifts of flowers (presented by John Pike). Emma returns home and is reconciled with her father. Mr Durrant offers Mr Fielding a good job, which enables the Fieldings to climb out of poverty. Emma and Alice are now friends and share their rides together.

Thoughts

In some parts of the English countryside people still believe in witches. This has been the inspiration for several serials where girls fall victim to lingering witch-beliefs. “Mark of the Witch!” was the second – and last – Jinty serial to explore this theme; the first was the 1974 story “Wenna the Witch”. The endings of the two stories are similar; the girls prove their goodness with an act of heroism that has the witch-believing villagers changing their attitudes towards them and presenting them with love, apologies and flowers. It could be that the serials had the same writer, or that Wenna had an influence on this story.

Other stories with the theme included “The Cat with 7 Toes” and “Bad-Luck Barbara” (Mandy), and “Witch!” (Bunty). In some variants on the theme, the girl is branded a witch because she has a genuine power or is in the grip of a malevolent one, such as in “The Revenge of Roxanne” (Suzy).

In general, the theme did not appear much and serials to feature it were infrequent. Where it did appear, it often featured strange things happening, such as bad things happening to people who taunt the girl, the girl having strange visions, or other weird things that seem to happen whenever she is around. Readers are challenged to make up their own minds about what is going on. Is she really a witch? Is there some genuine supernatural force at work? Or are these things just coincidences and the products of ordinary explanations such as hysteria? Whatever it is, it proves to a brainwashing effect that is so powerful that the girl herself can succumb to it. She may start to doubt herself and wonder if there is something to what her accusers are saying. It even has Alice’s parents going although they are not like the backward, superstitious villagers. When John Pike has the accident, Mrs Durrant wonders if it really was due to the curse Emma put on him. Alice rebukes her mother outright: “It’s all just silly superstition!”

In the case of Emma Fielding, one thing is certain. She is sad proof of the words of Socrates: if people keep telling a man he is five cubits high, he will end up believing he is five cubits high, even if he is only three cubits high. People have been calling her a bad lot for so long that she has come to believe it. She thinks there is a bad streak in her, personified in the black streak in her hair, which she must fight. But eventually she comes to believe it does no good to fight it. Instead, she becomes what the villagers say she always was, saying that if that is what they expect, that is what they will get, and it is their own fault for the way they treated her. Indeed it is, but the villagers do not see it that way. Instead, it reinforces the views about Emma that they have always had. It is a vicious cycle. A vicious cycle that Alice is so desperate to break, but she cannot convince Emma of this. Her frustrated efforts to get through to Emma are reminiscent of the persistent efforts of Ruth Graham to get through to stony Stefa in Phil Townsend’s previous story, “Stefa’s Heart of Stone”. But like Ruth, Alice’s efforts go nowhere until the very end, when a surprise turn of events turns things around. And they turn around because Emma found that she was not a bad person at heart. Faced with the choice, she realised that she could not leave Alice to drown, even though trying to save Alice meant sacrificing the lead she had gained and winning the trophy.

After the villagers see Emma try to rescue Alice, they automatically stop their hatred and treat her with respect and acceptance. This seems a little too pat, the villagers giving up hatred that has lasted for generations in only one day. And it does not ring true with people who believe in witches either. Witch believers simply do not act in the way the villagers do in suddenly accepting Emma as good and presenting her with flowers and apologies. The ending of “Wenna the Witch” followed the same pattern, which is very neat and happy, but it is not convincing. In real life, once people with this type of thinking brand someone a witch, the label sticks, even generations later. And the past has proven that even if the person branded a witch is cleared, the label casts a long shadow that can come back to bite. This is why the endings of “Witch!” and “Bad-Luck Barbara” are more realistic. The girls end up being taken away from the village, with the villagers still hurling hatred and abuse at them as they go. Yes, Emma (and Wenna) did perform a good deed that saved lives, but it is unlikely that even that would shift the label of “witch”. An ending where the villagers are compelled to keep their hatred to themselves and leave Emma alone once she has won the respect and protection of the Durrants might have worked better.

But on the whole, this is a powerful, disturbing and compelling story that is a stark warning against labelling and mistreating people and using them as scapegoats. Life would be so much better if these people were treated as human beings – the message that Alice represents in her persistent efforts to befriend Emma. Gays, Jews, coloured people, minorities, victims of caste systems and class distinction, exploited workers and other types of oppressed people – we see them all in Emma. What Emma becomes is exactly what her persecutors made her out to be – a warning to persecutors everywhere and the stuff of revolution that oppressed masses would love. The revolt of Emma Fielding against her oppressors ultimately leads to the end of her oppression. In real life that would not come so readily, but girls’ comics prefer a happy ending.

Golden Dolly, Death Dust! (1975-76)

Sample images

Pg 1 Golden Dolly, Death Dust!
(click thru)
Golden Dolly, Death Dust! pg 2
(click thru)
Golden Dolly, Death Dust! pg 3
(click thru)

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

Snoopa (1979-1984)

Publication: (Snoopa) 29 April 1979-21 November 1981; (Crayzees) 28 November 1981-31 March 1984

Artist: Joe Collins

Snoopa 1

(Snoopa’s third appearance in Penny. He comments on the free gift that came with her third issue.)

Snoopa was a regular cartoon in Penny. He was with Penny from her first issue and proved his durability by going not through one merger but two. Of course Snoopa had the advantage of being drawn by the popular Joe Collins, which enabled him to be absorbed into the other Joe Collins cartoon in Tammy. More on that in a moment.

Snoopa 2

(Snoopa, 1 December 1979. Joe Collins is clearly more comfortable with Snoopa, whose appearance looks more developed than in his early days in Penny. And here, Penny makes one of her appearances in Snoopa.)

Snoopa was a mouse who (presumably) is a resident of Pennys house. I do not have the first Snoopa to verify that he did in fact live in Penny’s house, but Penny herself is seen in several of his cartoons. Interestingly, Penny’s face is drawn in a style that aims at realism rather than the cartoony style that Collins uses in his typical drawings of people (see Crayzees below).

Update: I have now viewed the first Snoopa cartoon, in which Snoopa mistakes the plastic cheese gift that came with the first Penny for real cheese and breaks his teeth on it. Penny takes pity on him. It still does not fully confirm that Snoopa lived in Penny’s house, but it can be safely assumed that he did.

Many of Snoopa’s gags centre on food because Snoopa has a big appetite and is often pilfering food. This leads to another running gag – weight loss schemes that have varying degrees of success. Other gags focus on him running the gauntlet with the resident cat with his pilfered food or getting into other scrapes with it.

Snoopa 3

(Snoopa’s first appearance in the Jinty & Penny merger, 12 April 1980.)

And Snoopa continued with his gags in the Jinty and Penny merger. Together with Tansy of Jubilee Street, he was the longest-running Penny feature in Jinty.

On 28 November 1981 Jinty merged with Tammy, and Snoopa merged with the Joe Collins cartoon in Tammy. Originally “Edie the Ed’s Niece”, it became “Edie and Miss T” when Misty merged with Tammy, which brought Misty’s Joe Collins cartoon, Miss T the witch, to the merger. When Snoopa joined, the Joe Collins cartoon became “Crayzees”. In my opinion, “Crazyees” was an even better cartoon than when its respective characters had their own strips. The amalgamation of three gag strips into one meant more characters, and they were very diverse characters. This made scope for more variety, situations, interactions, and a more diverse range of gags that ranged from fantastical (with Miss T being a witch) to gags that centre more on the animals in the strip, such as Miss T’s cat’s birthday.

To celebrate their merger, Edie, Miss T and Snoopa moved into a new house in Crayzee Street – presumably to give the name to their combined strip. Snoopa brings the key to the new house and declares, “I’m Snoopa from Jinty!” This upset one former Penny reader who said Snoopa was properly from Penny. She also complained about Penny‘s gradual disappearance in the merger. But that, sadly, is the way mergers go, and Snoopa did come over to Tammy from Jinty after all. In any case, as Snoopa is moving into a new house, that means he is leaving behind the one he shared with Penny in his own strip – and with it, his Penny roots.

Edie took an instant dislike to Snoopa because he was a mouse, and she never seemed to overcome it. But Miss T’s cat falls head over heels in love with Snoopa – which is really ironic considering that Snoopa had a cat for an enemy in his old cartoon. Snoopa found it increasingly unbearable to have the cat mooning over him and took refuge in his mouse hole. The cat pined, so Miss T’s solution was to make Snoopa the size of a human. The size of a human?!? Oh, well, this is called “Crazyees” after all. Snoopa’s new size displeased Edie, but it made Snoopa and the cat happy.

Crayzees lasted until Princess (series 2) merged with Tammy in 1984 and was replaced with Princess’s Joe Collins cartoon, “Sadie in Waiting”. Personally, I missed “Crazyees” but I guess there was room for only one Joe Collins cartoon in a merger.

Crayzees

(Snoopa, Edie and Miss T come together to form Crayzees. Tammy & Jinty, 28 November 1981.)

Jinty & Penny 4 October 1980

 

 

Image

Cover artist: Mario Capaldi

  • Pam of Pond Hill (artist Bob Harvey, writer Jay Over)
  • Girl the World Forgot (artist Veronica Weir)
  • Gaye’s Gloomy Ghost (artist Hugh Thornton-Jones)
  • Tears of a Clown (artist Phil Gascoine)
  • Tansy of Jubilee Street (artist Ken Houghton)
  • A Call for Help – Gypsy Rose (artist Terry Aspin)
  • Behind the Scenes – Return of the Saint (TV feature)
  • Sue’s Daily Dozen – first episode (artist José Casanovas)
  • Child of the Rain (artist Phil Townsend)

This is the 101th post on this blog, and I used it to bring one of my favourite Mario Capaldi Jinty covers. I find it to be one of Jinty‘s most uplifting Capaldi covers, with its use of colour, the symmetry of the sails, the ocean setting, and the slight humour of one rider having a mishap on the far right. The pennants trailing across the Jinty logo are a nice elegant touch as well.

Inside is the beginning of José Casanovas’s last Jinty story, “Sue’s Daily Dozen”. Newcomer Sue Baker is a shy girl who has just moved in and having trouble finding her feet. Then she finds her cottage holds a secret – it used to belong to a witch and her collection of spells known locally as the Daily Dozen. But no – there is nothing evil or Satanic about it. It is how witches really were – wise women who tried to help people with magic and herbal remedies. The locals realise this and they embrace the Daily Dozen instead of fearing it or persecuting Sue for it. That’s what I really like about this story.

In “Tears of a Clown“, Kathy has failed to prove her worth again. This time it is fate rather than bully Sandra who foils her. But you know the story is peaking and the resolution is coming, because in this episode Kathy is pushed too far when she is humiliated on Sports Day instead of getting the respect she worked so hard for. The blurb at the end tells you she will use her talent to run off next week. So readers are all eager to buy next week’s issue for that alone.

In “Girl the World Forgot“, Mrs Owen begins to wonder if Shona is alive after all. Pity Mr Owen dismisses it instead of following it up, because Shona is indeed alive and marooned on an island. Meanwhile, Shona continues with hard lessons about survival, such as how to make clothes out sacks. But she has some fun in this episode by taking dips in the sea and enjoying her new seal friends. And in “Child of the Rain”, Gemma is learning yoga to keep focused on tennis. But yoga is no match for the strange power that causes Gemma to be filled with strength when it rains, but wilt like a flower when rain is absent. This is interfering not only with her tennis but with her life in general.