Misty had a lot of short stories, an average of 3 per issue. Being a horror and mystery comic, there was lots of chilling imagery, twists, frights and often a story came with a moral. Regularly a greedy girl would get a fitting punishment, like the girl who takes joy in hunting down and pinning rare butterflies, only to be hunted by aliens and added to their collection. Although it could just as easily be an innocent just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, there was stories of ghosts, evil djinn, vampires and werewolves. There was also some notable influences from classic stories such as a Jekyll and Hyde like story “The Shop at Crooked Corner” (#14) and a variation of Button, Button by Matheson “Take the Money!” (#90). Stories could also touch on more serious issues and it was clearly a product of its time passing commentary on the state of 70s Britain.
There was lots of great stories but I’m going to talk about my personal top 15 short stories in Misty. It’s completely subjective and also to note there are some stories I haven’t read. It was quite hard to narrow down (I couldn’t get it down to 10!) but here it goes:
15. Titch’s Tale (#26) [Art: John Richardson]
A small girl nicknamed Titch is always being left out of things and picked on because of her height. To cheer herself up she goes flying her kite. There are some other people on the hill with the same idea. Titch is enjoying herself until strange things began happening, people dissappear into the clouds. Noone else notices, then she’s all alone and suddenly finds herself lifted into the sky. We cut to an alien returning home after a day of “fishing”. His mother comments that 5 is hardly enough to feed his father. He says he caught another one but it was so small he threw it back. Back on Earth, Titch wakes up on the hill.
Maybe being short myself I identify with the main character. There’s also some nice art and colours used. Its a fun little story, often we see aliens with human traits, in this case a kid “fishing”. While what has happened to the other people is a horrifying thought, it can be taken in a more lighthearted way especially when being small actually helps the protagonist.
14. Master Stroke (#23) [Art: Peter Wilkes]
A peasant girl seeks the Queen in order to serve her. There are terrible things happening in the land and there are talks of masters controlling the King. The people in the land are living in fear of a black knight, and the girl is surprised when the knight choses not to kill her. He tells her she would be dead if the choice was his. She makes it to the palace and finds even more terrible things happen as a Bishop drags away a boy. The Queen tells her she is a fool for not continuing on she could have been a queen herself. She asks them to stop the bad things happening but the King says their fate is at the hands of the masters. She is killed only for the reader to be shown its all a chess match. Some schoolgirls watching comment on how boring it is.
It’s a nice set up that it was all a game, if you’ve any knowledge of chess it’s easy to see where this is going, but it is still done well with some great visuals. The layouts are really good, with the looming Black Knight taking up the majority of the first page and the use of smaller circular panel as a close up of the girl eye as she wants to cover it.
13. Poor Jenny (#17)
In Victorian London a young amnesic girl is being chased by some men. She runs in front of a horse and carriage she isn’t injured but she does faint. The couple from the carriage take her home, she knows her name is Jenny but can’t remember anything else. That night she has a nightmare of turning into a beast and men with no mercy chasing her. She is comforted by the couple, she tells them of her dream and the large gaps in her memory. She fears she is a werewolf. James shows her the full moon and assures her it was just a nightmare and she sleeps soundly for the rest of the night. The next morning Jenny is gone. Jenny now knows it wasn’t a dream and she can feel her self changing. It turns out she is a wolf who turns into a girl during the full moon. Now in her wolf form she is captured and taken back to London Zoo.
This is a good twist on werewolf story, it also plays around with the common tropes of girl’s comics stories, with the amnesic girl with mysterious past and the Victorian London setting.
12. Dead End (#34) / Room for One More (#39) [Art: John Armstrong]
I know it’s a cheat to have 2 for one entry but both stories are quite similar in premise and are drawn by the same artist. In “Dead End” tough girl Cath is nasty and a bully, she has a weaker friend Jane who is unhappy when Cath mugs an old lady especially when the victim runs away scared and is knocked down by a bus. Julie in “Room For One More” is a similarly nasty character, causing trouble around the town and then robbing an eldery shopkeeper. Both girls meet the same demise being hit by traffic, but how we get to the ending is what differentiates the stories from each other.
In “Dead End” Cath’s friend Jane is feeling terribly guilty about what happened keeps saying she sees the old lady that died, Cath gets a bit paranoid but brushes it off until she gets a part time job as house help. She is frightened when it is the old woman that opens the door, she runs away and gets hit by a bus. The old lady tells a police officer how strange it was that Cath got so frightened and how her twin sister had been killed by the same bus recently. In “Room for One More” After robbing the shop, Julie is chased by a police officer and she runs away and catches a bus. She is rude to the bus conductor who looking at her list, knows where Julie is heading. Julie finds it strange that the bus is empty but when she passes through town and sees her dead body on the road she panics wondering where they are taking her and the last panel shows the bus is going to hell driven by a skeleton.
It’s an effective last shot and definitely creepy, but I think Dead End has a bit more of an edge in that there is not any supernatural element just Cath’s fear and paranoia that kills her. I’m surprised two similar stories appeared so close together but I still like both of them.
11. The Evil Djinn (#65) [Art: John Armstrong]
Kitty is a young nurse who looks after her mother and sister. On her way home from work she stops in a fish and chip shop where a woman is choking on a fishbone. She saves the woman who promptly leaves without a word of gratitude. She soon meets with Kitty again, and tells her she is a djinn and has been ordered by the chief djinn to reward her for saving her life. Kitty is sceptical but she feels the woman has a presence, so not being greedy she wishes for £5000 but it must be legal. The djinn tells her it is granted but she’ll be sorry. She arrives home to her mother crying, her younger sister fell down the stairs and died. She feels terrible that she may have jinxed her by taking out life assurance on her. Kitty makes her 2nd wish for her sister to be alive again, but the djinn twists it again and Beth is alive but she is paralysed. Kitty makes her 3rd wish – that she never met the djinn. So we see she never goes into the fish shop and the djinn chokes.
The genie that twists the wishes is another common theme, but is still a good one. I also like that the djinn is a woman which I think is less common to see. Her threat of “you’ll be sorry” after she grants the wish is very foreboding. Kitty outsmarting the djinn in the end is very satisfying. Whereas if Kitty had been greedy with her wishes, I’m sure her fate would have been less favourable.
10. Queens Weather (#18)
Gina and Sally are sunbathing, enjoying the hot weather while Sally muses that if she was a queen or princess she’d spend all day lazing around and getting a tan. A bee flies nearby and she kills it, continuing the conversation with Gina and not knowing not far away insect eyes are watching. Over the next few days, the girls notice there seems to be more bees around lately. Sally is starting to be creeped out by them, it’s like they are watching her. Meanwhile the bees are plotting and gathering pollen from exotic plants. Sally and Gina are out sunbathing again, when a bee stings Sally, then more and more bees land on her and sting her. Gina runs to the house to get help. When they return Sally seems to be gone. It turns out she is now the size of a bee and has been taken to the hive to be the new queen, to replace the one she killed.
While greedy girls get horrible punishments, Sally’s only crime is to offhandedly wish to be a queen and killing a bee. The rest of the story shows Sally to be nice, she gets on well with her parents and she’s not even particularly lazy as she plays tennis and goes out with her friend. Which is why this is quite terrifying as the reader can’t even feel that there is some justification for her fate. Also quite horrific is the bees plotting, their attack and the final panel of them crowded around her.
9. The Bell Jar (#17) [Art: Isidro Mones]
Katie’s father has to attend the reading of his Great Aunt Mathilde’s will. It turns out her mother and Mathilde never got along, Mathilde resented her marrying her young nephew and moving away. She even made a threat at their wedding that they’d be left alone too. The family aren’t expecting anything from the will, but she does leave Kate a house and garden in a bell jar. On examining it closer Katie believes there’s a little figure at the door. Soon she keeps having dreams where she is on the path that leads to the house, each night she gets closer to the house. One day she goes out for some fresh air but falls asleep, she wakes up to a storm. She rushes for shelter to a nearby house, she is scared when she realises it’s the house from her dreams. Then she sees the figure in the doorway is Aunt Mathilde. She senses her loneliness and that she just wants company. A few days later the police are talking to her father about her disappearance when her mother screams, she has found Katie she points to the bell jar, Kate is now a 2nd figure in the doorway.
This is another story where people are punished for a minor grievance. I’m sure Aunt Mathilde was a lonely old lady, but she was also controlling and demanding, and Katie’s family don’t deserve this ending. It has a nice build up as Katie’s dreams bring her closer to the house and her anxiety to wake up and get away. It seems Aunt Mathilde has more powers as when Katie does actually see her, she becomes calm and accepting of the situation.
8. Heart’s Desire (#56)
Sisters, Miss Vicky and Miss Mary arrive at a rag and bone yard where they see two poor worker girls being mistreated by the owner. Effie is a cheeky outspoken girl and Dot a quieter girl. The sisters want to help the poor girls but say they can only take one. They invite both girls to their house that evening. Dot is more nervous when they go to visit the house as she thinks there is something strange about the sisters. While at the house the sisters ask them what is their heart’s desire. Dot says she wouldn’t want much, just a place to sleep and one meal a day would keep her happy. Effie is more greedy she wants to be spoiled with the finest things, feather beds and the richest food. The sisters are delighted they’ve found the perfect child, they tell Dot their sorry they could only help one and show her to the door while Effie gets to go to the dining room and gets her fill of food. Effie goes to her warm bed after that, but quickly things become sour as they insist she eats more food and she can’t open the window to get some air, as she must be kept warm as toast. She is horrified that they are killing her with kindness!
A very creepy story, the sisters are eerie with a habit of addressing each other rather than the girls directly. The idea of being killed with kindness is pretty twisted also.
7. Shadow of Doubt (#58)
Mary goes to investigate a noise that woke her up and hears voices in the barn. They talk about taking over the village and then the world. She thinks maybe she’s just having a crazy dream but she can’t get it out of her head, so the next night she goes down to the barn again. She sees shadows and hears them talking about killing people, she recognises them as a shop owner, Mr Webster, and her neighbour, Mr Jones. The next day she tells her dad what she heard, he thinks she’s imagining things but he does ask Mr Webster was he up at their farm, which he denies and her dad believes him. Mary continues to investigate each night, she even gets her dad to come along one time, but the barn is empty when he arrives. Then she gets a surprise another night when she recognises her dad’s voice in the barn, she now thinks she knows why he was dismissive of her stories. She hears them talking about how the girl knows and something must be done. So she hides and locks her bedroom. Only she can’t escape as she is confronted by her own shadow, who tells her all the shadows will soon rise up. She faints from the shock, when she comes around she tells everyone about the Shadows but no one believes her. It ends with “She’s scared of her own shadow they say…One day they’ll learn how true that is” and an image of a shadow rising above an oblivious Mr Webster.
This has a great title, build up and ending. The fact that she only ever hears voices and sees shadows and that they seem to disappear quickly, gives a nice mystery element. The twist that the person she has trusted to tell may actually be in on the plot is a shock, but of course then the actual reveal is even more shocking. The shadows know that after revealing their plan to her, no-one would believe her, everyone just thinks she’s crazy, which is very hard ending for our protagonist, knowing what she knows and being helpless to do anything about it.
6. Hunt the Ripper (#54) [Art: J. Badia]
London, 1888, a man comes to the house of the Bristows. While young Alison thinks there is something sinister about the man, her mother offers him room as they have to make a living. Alison suspects he may be Jack the Ripper, who has been terrorising the streets of London. She starts to do some investigating, starting with the trunks he has in his room. She finds what she thinks is a body at first, the man returns catching her snooping and points out the “body” is actually a ventriloquist dummy. Her relief is short lived when he asks her to check the other trunk. She is confused as there is only layer of earth in the other trunk. The man using his dummy, Marianne, explains who he really is – if he doesn’t sleep on the earth from his homeland during the day, he will turn to dust, for he is Count Dracula. Alison knows too much now, so she must join him now. Alison runs away only to bump into Jack the Ripper, who is on the run after killing his last victim. Dracula catches up to them and tells the Ripper that the girl is his. The two men begin to fight, Alison escapes. After that night there was no more Ripper murders and Dracula never made it back to his native soil and must have been left as dust on the streets.
It’s quite a long story taking 8 pages, the art is great throughout, and creates a very eerie atmosphere. Alison is very brave and shows good investigation skills. The story has some strange twists, while Alison suspects the man is the Ripper, the ventriloquist dummy, is a red herring, to make us think she may have been mistaken in her suspicions. Of course he turns out to be just as bad – the infamous vampire. Dracula’s conversation with his dummy Marianne is very strange and creepy and then the ending of Dracula vs. Jack the Ripper, is great – what’s not to love in this story!
5. Don’t Look Now (#34) [Art: Eduardo Feito]
Jan Parker is always butting her nose into other people’s business. While her parents are away for the weekend, Jan runs their pawn shop. A man comes in and sells her gold rimmed glasses telling her he’ll be back tomorrow for them. She can’t resist trying them on, only for the next customer to terrify her, as she has the head of a mouse. Then another customer comes in with the head of a fox, obviously a sly character as he tries to pawn some dodgy watches. Jan begins to realise the glasses let her see people as the animal that represents their character. She finds she can’t get the glasses off and is horrified by seeing everyone with animal heads. The next day she waits for the man to return. He returns and not only has he the head of a goat but the feet too and then she knows who he is, the great tempter. He gives her the choice of letting him take off the glasses in which case her soul will be his, or she can leave them on forever and he’ll leave her alone. He gives her something else to reflect on, showing her the image in a mirror and she realises she’s an ass!
Although it is horrifying that she will have to see everyone as animals which could possibly drive her crazy and will clearly affect her relationships in life, it is probably better than giving up her soul. Still either choice is not desirable, but despite being horrific the ending does amuse me greatly, that last panel realisation is perfect!
4. Fancy Another Jelly Baby? (#71) [Art: Bob Harvey]
Gillian is addicted to jelly babys. Her parents are not happy when she skips breakfast because she’s full from jelly babies. Her father stops her pocket money until she starts eating properly. Gillian still has enough money left to buy some more sweets from Mr Black the sweet shop owner. She quizzes him on how his sweets are better than everyone else’s, but he tells her that’s his secret. At school she is persuaded to share some of her sweets, and her friends comment that the jelly babies look like two missing girls, something Gillian hadn’t noticed before. Disturbed by this she goes to investigate Mr Black’s shop. She is caught by Mr Black who tells her it’s just as well as he was about to run out of raw material for his sweets. Then he ties her to a conveyor belt and out of the machine comes thousands of jelly babies looking just like Gillian! Suddenly Gillian wakes up in her bed, relieved that it was all a nightmare but it turns out she has eaten too many jelly babies and has turned into one!
This is a bizarre little story with some strange images. I wonder how much of the dream was just that. Did eating too many sweets cause the nightmare, or is there some truths in it, like – are there girls missing, is there something in Mr Black’s sweets that would cause her to turn into one …or should we all just be cautious of eating too much of one thing!
3. Prisoner in the Attic (#61) [Art: John Armstrong]
An old woman is sorting out her attic, when she is confronted by someone in the shadows. She thinks the person is a thief, but the person claims that some of the items in the attic are hers, such as the trophy that the old woman is holding. She knows what the inscription says “Connie Michaels, Sports Champion of the year 1909”. A flashback shows that Connie was a natural leader. Old Connie is going to go for help, but the person stops her, she thinks there is something familiar about her, but the light in the attic doesn’t let her see properly. The young stranger talks more about Connie’s life, her time as a suffragette and helping wounded men during World War I. Old Connie holds a medal for her service in the war, but the stranger says it belongs to her and that old Connie is the one that went to London. More of Connie’s past is shown as she became a member of parliament her future looked bright but she she gets corrupted, instead of leading she is led by people. She claims no war will come to Britain after meeting with Hitler and when war does come she continues to further her own career, with no thought of the people she originally fought for. Old Connie thinks the young woman is blackmailing her, but the young woman is surprised she hasn’t guessed yet that they are actually the same person. Young Connie is what she was before she forgot her ideals, and it is revealed that old Connie died a week ago in the attic. As the two Connie’s walk away, young Connie wonders which one of them will be remembered, old Connie thinks perhaps it will be her younger self now that she is no longer locked away in the attic.
This is one of the times that Misty addresses a more serious topic. It’s a very interesting story, it’s a feminist story as well as a warning to not losing yourself and how even those with the best of intentions can be corrupted. Connie as two people is used well, and the art keeping young Connie in shadow or just partially in panel is effective. The woman being haunted by a ghost of her past, who turns out to be a ghost herself is a satisfying ending, as is the thought about what person do we want to be remembered as, when we’re gone.
2. The Jukebox (#28) [Art: John Armstrong]
Starting with some social commentary, we are introduced to Fiskfield a ghost town since the coal mine closed down, with little to do for those remaining particularly the youngsters. They hang around a cafe listening to the jukebox, as they lack youth club in the area. One of the girls Stacey invites Ned Buckley, a gypsy boy, along but the gang aren’t happy. Stacey thinks Ned is just as bored as the rest of them and he’s an okay guy, but the gang are prejudice against him and Ned ends up storming out, threatening to teach them a lesson. Later the jukebox start playing music for free and everyone gets up to dance, but the record goes on and on and everyone is in a a trance and can’t stop. Stacey manages to break free and tries to get through to the others, but even pulling the plug on the jukebox doesn’t stop it. Then she sees Ned’s face in the jukebox and realises he’s made good on his threat. She finds him in his grandmother’s caravan, the old woman staring into a crystal ball, which show the people dancing in the cafe. Stacey asks Ned to stop her but he says they must pay for all the cruel tricks they’ve done to him over the years. Stacey takes matters into her own hands grabbing the ball and smashing it. Ned unsuccessfully tries to stop her, telling her she doesn’t realise what she has done. The last panel shows the cafe wrecked in what bystanders presume to be the result of a gas explosion.
This is another story of people being paid back for being cruel to a particular person, and the one person who was nice, escaping. The twist here is that even though Ned was teaching them a lesson, he wasn’t wanting to go as far to actually hurt them permanently. It is Stacy while trying to help, ends up killing everyone. Quite a dark ending.
1. Mr Walenski’s Secret… (#64) [Art: John Armstrong]
Molly Sinclair is curious about her new neighbour, she wonders with a foreign name Walenski if he is Russian, possibly a spy. Her mother quickly dismisses the thought and tells Molly to go around and offer tea. He declines and then he gets worked up about an old box the moving men are carrying, asking them to be careful. Molly thinks he is a nut and when she sees him heading to the park with an envelope, she follows him. She sees him hand the envelope to another man but as they aren’t speaking English she doesn’t know what they are talking about. She tells her mother about her continuing suspicions, that he’s a spy. Her mother says she has an over active imagination and she should mind her own business. Mr Walenski doesn’t leave the house much, but when he does she finally gets an opportunity to snoop around. She just finds the box Mr. Walenski was so cautious about, when he arrives home, catching her. He tells her to look in it, he knows she’s been following him and about her suspicions and that she won’t be satisfied until she knows. Molly isn’t triumphant about finding out his secret instead she is upset to find the box contains all that he has left of his old life; a concentration camp uniform and photos of his family. He tells her his wife died in the concentration camps but he doesn’t know what happened to his daughter, so the man Molly saw him with is a private detective that is helping him look for his daughter. He asks Molly to leave him alone to find whatever peace he can.
The last page is coloured and I think the black and white pages are better showing detail such as Mr Walenski’s gaunt and haunted look (lot of John Armstrong art on this list!). This is a powerful short story and it’s ending is even more effective considering the comic that it appears in. Usually a set up like this would have a dark twist, like instead of a spy he’s a mythical creature, but instead this has no supernatural element, it just addresses a dark time in history and averts the reader’s expectations.