Category Archives: Misty

Rebellion – Scream! Misty Special … and More!

Just a little over a year there was great excitement when Rebellion acquired Egmont/IPC’s classic archives. There was speculation on potential reprints, possible new stories and products, many hoping that their favourite characters would get a revival. Has Rebellion lived up to that promise so far? I would say a definite yes.

On the girl’s comic side of things, soon after the acquirement, they released the first Misty book, reprinting Moonchild and The Four Faces of Eve. While there were some minor quibbles, like Moonchild being reprinted from an annual, rather than the original issues, and some were not keen on the new Misty logo (although everyone was happy to see Shirley Bellwood’s gorgeous artwork of Misty), overall it seemed to be well received. So it is no surprise to see that a second volume, reprinting popular story The Sentinels and End of the Line, is on it’s way. Showing that they are willing to listen to feedback, this cover has the original Misty logo back in it’s proper place. Another example of them listening to people’s views has been shown with the Scream! Misty cover controversy. Many people including Pat Mills, were not happy to see the Misty logo, reduced to the side and obscured by a selfie stick. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that they released a variant cover by Fabry, which reverses the logos. This is the comic that I got, and while the prominent Misty logo is a bonus, I just prefer the cover –  the style, the  trick or treaters, and the horrors behind Misty and Ghastly. That’s not to say the other cover is bad, in fact I was tempted to get both versions, and I think there will be other people who will do that, which should give the special an extra sales boost. The sales of this special should be interesting to follow, as this is new material and if it does well, it could open the door to a more regular thing. Although Keith Richardson (editor of the Treasury line) doubts there will ever be another weekly anthology comic like 2000AD, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for mini series, regular specials or perhaps if it does really well, maybe even a monthly series would be possible.

The Scream! Misty special has a lot of good content and should hopefully reach a new audience, who should then be interested in picking up related content, (i.e. The Dracula File, Monster and Misty books), something which of course they advertise in this comic. The thing I was most excited to see was the sequel to The Sentinels (no coincidence that this popular story was chosen to get a sequel, just before it’s reprint came out). It was strange to see a new art style  and the present day setting, with mobiles and such (reminding me that the original is nearly 40 years old now!) but it still captures the essence of the original and it is quite exciting to see new interpretations of characters and stories. It’s good at showing how these stories can be updated to appeal to a newer generation. The Return of the Sentinels (by Berry, Willsher and Parkhouse) follows a new character Jennifer, as she finds the portal to the Nazi world, and we see how things have changed and developed there too. We see the Nazi symbols and the world have evolved and their main targets for persecution are fitting for these times. It would be interesting to see this new version and new characters developed more, an ongoing or mini series, could even get a chance to tell us what happened to the Richards family (and their alternate counterparts). But for the limited space of 7 pages they make a compelling read, and it’s only flaw really is wanting to see more (and maybe have some questions answered). Willsher’s art is great too, things like Jennifer’s brother building tower blocks out of Lego, the abandoned Sentinel and updated parallel world are all visually interesting.

The other Misty story,  Fate of the Fairy Hunter, is fitting of the short stories Misty used to do and the rest of the issue is also solid stuff. I hadn’t read any of Scream! before, but I am certainly interested in checking out the reprints now (Volume 1 of “The 13th Floor” is promised in 2018). The 13th Floor was the most popular story of Scream! and it is easy to see why, it is an interesting concept, with sci-fi and fantastical elements and the unsettling Max at the centre of it. Again with all these stories, they have done good at modernising it, acknowledging time has passed and at the same time keeping it accessible to new readers. Another highlight is Death-Man: The Gathering in which many other familiar characters make an appearance. Nicely rounding out the comic are The Dracula File and The Return of Black Max: Blood Moon (originally a Thunder strip) which are also fun reads. The book is well produced and I appreciate additions such as the glossary of characters that appear in Death-Man and the welcome/contents page at the beginning. It should be a satisfying read for both new readers and fans of the original comics.

While I have a special interest in “girls” comics, I should note that of course girls can read any comics, even those not directly marketed at them. Rebellion have been good at releasing a variety of stuff for their Treasury line that has a wide appeal, including Hookjaw, Faceache, One-Eyed Jack, The Leopard from Lime Street and Marney the Fox. The latter two books I have already purchased.  I had read some of The Leopard from Lime Street in Buster years ago, but at that time I wasn’t familiar with Spiderman comics, so it wasn’t until I got the new book, that I realised how much the story draws on that. Still it somehow remains fresh and its differences help shape the character of Billy Farmer in another way (such as instead of having a supportive uncle to live up to like Peter Parker has, Billy has a thugish uncle to overcome) and the art is great throughout. Marney the Fox is a comic strip I hadn’t read before but it was a compelling read, that kept me turning the pages so I could find out what happens to Marney, helped also by the gorgeous art by Stokes. Stories centering on the trials of a wildlife protagonist are an enduring genre, such as books like Watership Down, Run with the Wind and Tarka the Otter, I think Marney the Fox would be a good addition to the collection of fans of those books. Again I feel Rebellion are being smart by not reprinting everything in the same model. While all the comics they’ve come out with are well produced, Marney the Fox is particularly attractive as it is presented in a lovely hardback. With it being a complete story and gorgeous art it is sure to appeal to people who may not be familiar with the comics.

It is quite an impressive collection that Rebellion has already built, in not that much time and there is still so much potential for more growth. I am happy with what we have gotten so far and I am looking forward to what the next few years brings.

Misty: Moonchild & The Four Faces of Eve – Review

mistyThere has already been quite a few reviews of this new Rebellion reprint of Misty Stories, which is great to see it’s being well received.  This isn’t the first Rebellion book I have got and I was pleased to see the quality I expected continues for this reprint. It’s glossy paper, well bound (which having had books where the pages fall out the first time you open them is an important factor!) and (for the most part) faithful reprinting of the material.

The two stories chosen are certain to be among favorites. Moonchild – inspired by Stephen King’s Carrie and written by Pat Mills with art by John Armstrong was one of the first stories printed in Misty. It follows Rosemary Black a girl with a crescent moon scar on her forehead who develops strange powers. Her oppressive, abusive mother claims it is wickedness in her, while she also has to deal with nasty bullies in school.  The reprint is taken from the 1983 Misty annual rather than the original issues, but unless you’re familiar with the original it is hardly noticeable and doesn’t take away much from the atmospheric story. John Armstrong’s art is great and certainly I am fan of the bigger splash pages he does. Unfortunately because of the use of thin lines the art appears faded in some places, it may distract a little, but it is a minor quibble and Rebellion have done well in reproducing the story.

moonchild       4-faces

The second story is The Four Faces of Eve written by Malcolm Shaw with art by Brian Delaney, it is a mysterious story about Eve, a girl who has amnesia, but then has nightmares about a girl dying. As she tries to unravel the mystery she also finds she has a connection to two other dead girls too. Although it is a close call, this is my favorite of the two stories, the mystery, the questionable parents, the suspenseful build up and the gorgeous art by Brian Delaney. This reprint is more faithful, including the title and recap box for every episode.

Along with the stories there are two crafty features which are a nice addition, a foreword from Pat Mills and profiles of the creators in the back, including Shirley Bellwood who was responsible for the art of cover girl Misty. Although the book may look thin, there is a lot packed in and all of it is good quality (and certainly it’s no thinner than a lot of other trade-paperbacks). It will entertain fans of old girls comics or people who like a good supernatural story and appreciate fantastic artwork.

[Misty: Featuring Moonchild & The Four Faces of Eve. Rebellion Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781781084526]

Read comixminx review focusing on publishing choices here:

Misty: Moonchild & The Four Faces of Eve (2016)

Misty Short Stories II

In a follow-up to Lorrsadmin’s discussion of 15 of her favourite Misty short stories, I am going to discuss 10 of the Misty stories that have really stuck with me. Some of my favourite short stories, “Mr Walenski’s Secret”, “Don’t Look Now!”, “Room for One More”, “Fancy Another Jelly Baby?”, “Prisoner in the Attic” and “The Evil Djinn”, have been omitted here as Lorrsadmin has already discussed them. For this reason, I am not going to discuss the following stories in order of preference.

1: The Girl Who Walked on Water

Misty: #35

Artist: José Canovas

Writer: Barry Clements (?)

Plot

Nancy Pierce has caused her parents so much trouble that they have disowned her and dumped her on Social Services. Social Services are making no headway with Nancy, so they send her to Mrs West, who has an “astonishing” success rate at reforming delinquents. Mrs West keeps photographs of Nancy’s predecessors on the mantelpiece; Nancy attacks photographs when she hears those girls have all reformed. But this does not affect the calm, unruffled Mrs West in the slightest, nor do any other attempts to annoy her.

While walking on the beach, Nancy is amazed to see a girl walking on the water. When Nancy tackles her about how she does it, the girl says to leave her alone. Mrs West denies any knowledge about the girl walking on water.

Nancy keeps an eye out for the girl. When she reappears, Nancy rows up to her, and recognises her as one of Mrs West’s girls from the photographs. The girl warns Nancy not to pursue the question of how she can walk on water, for it is not the good thing it appears to be. But Nancy persists and resorts to force to get what she wants out of her. The girl says it is the shoes, which she forced off another Mrs West girl in the same manner that Nancy is doing now. Still not listening to the girl’s warnings that she will regret it, Nancy makes her remove the shoes.

When Nancy puts on the shoes, she is thrilled to be walking on water. But then she discovers the catch – the shoes do make her walk on water, but they also make her sink on land. And now the shoes will not come off, which means Nancy is now trapped on the water. She will remain so until the next Mrs West girl comes along and, in turn, force her to remove the shoes. When that happens, Nancy will be free and add to Mrs West’s astonishing success rate. As the girl goes up to Mrs West’s house, the lady takes down her photograph and replaces it with Nancy’s.

Girl Who Walked on Water panel copy

Thoughts

The story falls into the category of what I call “The Greed Trap”. An unsavoury person is lured by greed to an object, place or power. Too late they discover it is a trap. They become its prisoner until the next unsavoury person arrives (if they ever do) and replaces them by falling into the same trap. The concept has been used in several Misty stories, such as “Full Circle” and “The Final Piece”. But what makes this story so striking is how it turns the whole concept of walking on water inside out. We all know the story of Jesus walking on water, and how the feat has been hailed as a miracle. So it is a real twist here to see the concept walking on water being turned on its head to become a punishment instead of a miracle.

It’s also slightly different from the usual greed trap stories, where the trap catches the person completely unawares. Here Nancy had plenty of warning – from the girl. We also suspect she had a chance to change at Mrs West’s house (everything free and easy, nice place in a beach setting, the lady being kind and not getting wound up by Nancy’s misbehaviour). But Nancy did not heed any of it and so she went on to suffer Mrs West’s special treatment. Still, at least Nancy will one day regain her freedom and start a new life as a reformed girl. This is not the case with the delinquent girl in our next story…

2: The Treatment

Misty: #75

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Plot

Glenda Barton is a problem girl and her parents have sent her to Country Park Corrective School. It is not a bad place; many of the other inmates seem to like it and respond to its therapy. But the school’s methods make no headway with Glenda and she wants to escape. She gets no help from the other girls, but the cook agrees to help her in exchange for money. But in fact Cook let her out on orders on the staff, who have decided she needs “The Treatment”, which the school reserves for incorrigible cases like her. When Glenda enters a wooded area Cook directed her to, The Treatment begins: She undergoes a terrifying transformation into a tree. A strange plant then releases a duplicate of Glenda to the staff. This Glenda is completely different in personality, and she will be the ‘reformed’ Glenda for her parents to take home. The Treatment is the bargain they have made with the plant: send in hopeless cases to be “adopted by the woods” in exchange for good-natured doubles.

The Treatment panel copy

Thoughts

Glenda had her chance to reform at the corrective school, as many of the other girls have done, without resorting to “The Treatment”. Indeed, many of Misty’s unpleasant characters are given a chance to change (warnings for example). But like most of them, Glenda persists with her unpleasant ways. So it’s comeuppance Misty style, and there is no mercy or release for the girl this time.

Perhaps the strongest point of this story is its most frightening moment at the climax and the artwork that renders it – Glenda’s transformation into the tree. It begins with her hand, spreads across her body, and she screams for help until she is fully transformed and then there is only silence until the staff come for her double. But the most disturbing part of all is the terrified face that remains on the trunk, in wooden form. We even see what could be beads of sweat on it in the final panel of the story. We are left wondering if that face in the final panel was her last expression before she was fully transformed, or if it is actually looking on in horror and helplessness as her double takes her place. We are never told what happens to her mind after her transformation, and we are left to ponder whether or not it is still functioning, trapped in the tree form. If her mind is still working, could she be finally thinking about changing her ways, but too late? At any rate, there is no release from this trap for problem girls.

3: The Chase

Misty: #40

Artist: Douglas Perry

Plot

Two pet fish, Sammy and Joey, always seem to be chasing each other around the tank as if they are playing tag. One day Sammy is found floating, with a gash in his side. The protagonist (no name is given) feeds Joey while saying she can’t play with him as Sammy could and he must miss Sammy a lot. Then Joey stares at her in an odd, hypnotic manner. She goes all dizzy and then finds herself in the fish tank with Joey. She agrees to play tag, and she will be “he”. But when she suggests they swap, Joey chases her in a killer-fish manner and puts a gash in her leg. The protagonist now realises it isn’t a game of tag; Joey is out to kill her and this was how Sammy went. When Joey corners the protagonist, she throws a stone at him. This stuns Joey and frees the protagonist from his spell. She finds herself back in the living room in a badly shaken state. Her mother thinks she just had a nightmare and she goes out for fresh air to recover. Then she finds the gash in her leg and realises it really happened. Then the protagonist hears her mother making a comment that has her realise that Joey is now staring at her mother in the same hypnotic manner, and she starts screaming after her…

The Chase panel copy

Thoughts

Misty had several stories showing that even animals considered small and harmless (rabbits, snails, tadpoles) can strike horror, terror or revulsion if handled the right way. And here it is the turn of goldfish. Goldfish are supposed to be harmless fish for you admire every time you see a tank full of them. You would never consider them to be dangerous or killers. But this is precisely what happens in this story and shows that a fish does not need to be a shark or piranha to be a killer fish rivalling “Jaws”. Once Joey has the protagonist in the tank, he sure looks like Jaws in the way he bares his teeth when he chases her around the tank and puts the gash in her leg.

4: Sticks and Stones

Artist: John Richardson

Misty: #9

Plot

Joan Cook is a nasty poison pen gossip columnist. All she cares about is making a name for herself with her poison pen and she really enjoys hurting people with the names she calls them. The editor knows this and is concerned, but does not really deal with her despite the trouble her poison pen has caused for him. Meanwhile, Joan’s shelves are groaning with files on all the dirt on people she has collected over the years. Her assistant Carol warns her that the shelves are dangerously overloaded from the files and could collapse at any time. But Joan won’t hear of pruning the collection, saying they are her life’s blood and will make a name for her. They will only go when she does.

A crossed wire enables Joan to overhear a conversation that Dr Garrett, a top scientist, is making with his assistant. The assistant asks how things are coming along with Gert, but Garrett makes a guarded answer. Based on this conversation, Joan writes a smear piece on Garrett, saying he is having an affair with a woman called Gert while his wife is sick in hospital. This makes life hell for Garrett’s daughter Marilyn, who gets targeted by nasty gossips and bullies at school and on the street. Marilyn tries to fall on the old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. But as the bullying continues, she finds it is far from the truth – names can and do hurt. Marilyn’s friend Anne sticks by her, saying there must be a logical explanation. And there is – G.E.R.T. is the acronym for the machine her father has developed for treating her mother, and it proves successful too.

Meanwhile, the adage “names will never hurt me” bites Joan as well. Her groaning shelves finally collapse – right on top of her – and she gets crushed to death under all the files of the names of people she has collected dirt on.

Sticks and Stones panel copy

Thoughts

Does this one remind you of the popular cartoon joke where someone defiantly says to a heckler “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – and then they get hit by a dictionary? The joke has cropped up in Garfield and Wizard of Id among others. The old adage is a fallacy – words not only hurt as much as sticks and stones but they can also destroy your own name and even your life.

Other word-related adages are played on as well. One is “famous last words”, where Joan says she is staking her life that she got her facts straight on Garrett. She didn’t (as usual) and does lose her life. Another is “eating your words”, where Joan says she will go when her files do – and that is precisely what happens.

Using a gossip columnist for the comeuppance makes a nice change from the usual bullies, problem children, abusers and thieves. And who wouldn’t want a poison pen columnist to get it? The beauty is that Misty shows she can give someone a comeuppance without any supernatural or SF elements at all. Instead, Joan brings about her own destruction by her lack of common sense as much as her nastiness.

5: The Purple Emperor

Misty: #12

Artist: Isidro Mones

Plot

Betty regards butterflies as nothing more than specimens for her butterfly collection and the more rare they are, the greater her triumph. Betty’s kinder sister Sharon is horrified at how cruel she is to butterflies. Betty becomes obsessed at catching a Purple Emperor for her collection. When Sharon saves one from her, Betty further demonstrates her cruelty by slapping Sharon’s face and threatening to tear wings off a Purple Emperor just to spite her. Betty sets out on another attempt to catch a Purple Emperor, but has an accident and hits her head. She then has a terrifying experience (or dream from the blow on her head?) of a giant who is a Purple Emperor. He captures her with a butterfly net and throws her into a killing jar to suffocate and be added to his collection. She starts screaming that she must be imagining it and begs to wake up soon…

Purple Emperor panel copy

Thoughts

The story of the horrible butterfly-collecting girl who becomes a specimen herself and suffocates in a killing jar is one that has struck a cord in fandom. It is still mentioned in many Misty discussions. The artwork certainly helps to bring it off. The splash panel of Betty gloating evilly over a butterfly as she is about to stick a pin in it, and speaking her triumph in a jagged speech balloon rather than a regular one tells it all – the horror, the cruelty, the disregard for the life or beauty of nature, and what sort of comeuppance is in store. This panel takes the cover spot, which must have helped the story to endure in readers’ memory. Printing the story in full colour further enhances it. We can see the beauty of the butterflies in full colour, and the Purple Emperor giant in all his purple glory. He would have been far less effective if it had been in the usual black-and-white pages.

6: The Gravedigger’s Daughter

Misty: #78

Artist: John Armstrong

Plot

In an earlier period, Katey Malden is being bullied because her father is the local gravedigger. The bullying gets so bad that Katey runs off. By the time she is found she has contracted pneumonia, for which there was then no cure. Before she dies, she whispers something to her father.

The whole town turns out for the funeral, with people expressing regret that they did not take action against the bullying. The bullies themselves are remorseful except for the ringleader, Mary Douglas. The other bullies tell Mary go to Katey’s grave, lay down some flowers they give her and beg forgiveness, or they will never speak to her again. Mary goes to the grave and puts the flowers on it, but only to please the other girls. She has no intention of asking forgiveness and that is what she says at the grave. Then a hand shoots out of the grave Carrie-style and strangles Mary. Her body is found the next day. People think she died of fright, but Mr Malden guesses the truth, because the last thing Katey said to him was: “I shall never, never forgive!”

Gravediggers Daughter panel copy

Thoughts

Misty ran a lot of complete stories on the seriousness of bullying, but even she seldom went as far as to touch on the most extreme consequence of bullying – when it leads to the victim’s death. But that is the case here. The victim dies because of the bullying. We hear of it so often in the news, but seldom did it appear in the comics. So this sets the story apart more from Misty’s other stories about bullying.

Misty certainly is not going to allow the chief bully to get away with causing someone’s death, especially as the bully does not feel in the least bit guilty about it. And can the mere laying of flowers on the grave really right the wrong done to the victim or earn forgiveness for the bully? It does not sound likely. On the other hand, would a genuine show of contrition have brought forgiveness, since Katey had vowed with her dying breath never to forgive the bullies? Or would Katey have killed Mary anyway, regardless of her attitude at the grave? With this possibility in mind, it makes a better story to keep the chief bully an unsympathetic character that has no remorse for the death her bullying caused. The arm shooting out of the grave is a bit clichéd, but the artwork of John Armstrong really brings it off in the expression on Mary’s face as the hand throttles her.

7: Vengeance is Green…

Misty: #15

Artist: José Ariza

Plot

Nobody cares for Nina Parker. Girls bully her at school, the teachers don’t listen or intervene, and there is no help from her callous gran either. One day during the bullying, Nina finds an ivy plant that also got damaged from the bullies. She takes it home, pots it up, and starts caring for it as her only friend. Her gran is scornful, but the ivy begins to thrive. Nina finds that talking to the plant makes it grow faster and she pours out her bullied heart to it. One day the bullies overhear her and pounce. Then the ivy attacks the ringleader, Marion, and threatens to choke her. To save Marion, Nina is forced to destroy the ivy, her only friend.

Vengeance is Green panel copy

Thoughts

The comeuppance of the ivy attacking the bully is no surprise because of the buildup (talking to the plant, telling it all about the bullying, caring for it, looking for sympathy from it, and the plant thriving under it all). What is a surprise, and also a heart-breaking twist, is that Nina is forced to destroy her only friend with her own hands to save the bully, who would have been killed otherwise. One sure hopes the bully appreciated it and left Nina alone after that.

8: Monster of Greenacres

Misty: #85

Artist: Unknown

Plot

Greenacres is being terrorised by a strange madman who kills people and police are completely baffled as to his identity. He seemed to start by merely making a nuisance of himself, but once people got more used to it, he stepped up to murder after murder. Nobody is more scared of him than Polly. When she has a narrow escape from him, it drives her and her family out of Greenacres. This starts a stampede where everybody flees Greenacres to get away from the madman and it turns into a ghost town. There is nothing and nobody left in Greenacres but the killer himself – who is the scarecrow on the farm where Polly and her parents lived. The scarecrow did what he did because he just likes to scare and doesn’t know where to stop. But now there is nobody and nothing left for him to scare.

Monster of Greenacres panel copy

Thoughts

Here Misty portrays an evil that never gets destroyed. How can the police possibly figure out that the murderer is a scarecrow? There is no supernatural force of any sort that comes in and destroys him either. And the irony is that it is the scarecrow on the property where Polly lives – the one who fears him most. And it was his attempt to scare Polly that triggered the stampede that leaves the scarecrow with nobody left to scare. He has become a victim of his own success and presumably stands on the old farm bored stiff because he has left himself with nothing to scare. He has created his own punishment. It is not on the same level as him being destroyed and Greenacres becoming safe to live in again. But in some girls’ stories you can’t always win against evil or score a total victory against it. This is the case here, and it has the story end on a grim, sad note that makes it a better story.

9: The Monkey

Misty: #80

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Plot

Kitty is a bully, and her worst vitriol is reserved for Benny, the organ grinder’s monkey. Every time she passes Benny she teases him, though she is disturbed by the way he looks at her. She does not heed admonishing from her parents or classmates to leave the monkey alone. One day Kitty pushes Benny too far and he bites her; the organ grinder says it is the great law giving her what she deserves. Soon after, Kitty starts acting very strangely. She acts like a monkey and seems to hear the organ grinder’s music out of nowhere. Every time she hears the music she behaves like a monkey. Deciding it must have something to do with the monkey bite, she goes to the organ grinder’s house to sort it out. There she finds Benny, who stares at her with burning eyes that seem “strangely human”. She goes into a strange trance that is full of more organ-grinding music. When she comes out of it, she finds that Benny has somehow switched bodies with her. He escapes in her body. She is condemned to spend the rest of her life in Benny’s body and forced to dance to the hated organ-grinding music while Benny gloats from inside her body.

Monkey panel copy

Thoughts

This story has something that was rare in Misty – humour. It sure is funny, the way Kitty behaves like a monkey: walking like one, climbing trees, eating peanuts. But it’s black comedy of course, and we know the girl is going to be punished for bullying and animal cruelty. And when Kitty becomes trapped in the monkey’s body, she finds that being an organ grinder’s monkey is cruel too. Though the organ grinder is not a cruel person and loves Benny, Misty shows the monkey leads an unpleasant life, dressing up in tutus and other costumes and dance for people’s money and entertainment. We also see the monkey is kept in a cage at home, which is a far cry from his natural habitat and no other monkeys for company. And this story was written in the 1970s, when it was less un-PC than it is now to use organ grinder monkeys or when fewer people gave thought to how unnatural it for exotic animals to be used for entertainment. It was a bit ahead of its time on that score.

10: Danse Macabre

Misty: #52

Artist: Maria Barrera

Plot

It is nearing the end-of-term production by Madame Krepskaya’s dancing academy. She has to choose between Nadia Nerona and Lois Hills for the star role. Nadia manages to cheat her way into the role. After all-day practice for the show the next day, Nadia asks to borrow the ballet shoes Madame wore at the height of her success for luck at the show. Madame refuses, saying luck is immaterial for a professional dancer, and furthermore, the shoes brought her success, but someone like Nadia has no idea of the price.

Scheming Nadia steals the shoes and takes them to the academy stage to try out. She is astonished to find ballet music coming out of nowhere and the shoes have a life of their own and can dance anything beautifully. She realises that the shoes were the secret of Madame’s success. But then comes the snag Madame hinted at – Nadia finds the shoes just won’t stop. They go on dancing and dancing, regardless of how exhausted Nadia is getting or the injuries her feet are taking from the non-stop dancing. Things get even more terrifying when Nadia discovers that the music is coming from the orchestra pit and the musicians are all skeletons! The same goes for the corps de ballet and the danseur who now partners her. And when the ballet turns to “Giselle”, Nadia really panics – the protagonist in that ballet dies and is carried off by the spirits of death (actually, the part about the spirits of death is not correct, which shows lack of proper research there). The ballet dancing with the skeletons gets more and more wild until Nadia finally blacks out on the stage and everything goes quiet. Nadia is found next morning and taken to hospital with badly damaged feet. Lois gets the role after all, and is a “towering success”. Lois also asked Madame if she could borrow the shoes for luck. Madame said an artist like her does not need shoes like that, and in any case, the shoes have been danced to pieces.

 Danse Macabre panel copy

Thoughts

When reading this story, one is reminded of the fairy tale of “The Red Shoes” where a vain girl is put through a merciless punishment of being locked into red shoes that will not stop dancing. She has to get her feet amputated by a headsman to break free of the spell. Though the story doesn’t go that far, it is excruciating and more than terrifying enough for the ballerina. Those skeletons would strike terror and nightmares into anyone. But they should not be a surprise to the readers with a title like “Danse Macabre”. For a moment we have to wonder if Nadia was meant to dance until she was a skeleton herself – there was a hint of it when the ballet turned to “Giselle” (which also has spirits forcing people to dance until they die) – but some editorial censorship stepped in. Or maybe it was the coming of dawn, though this is not mentioned. After all, daybreak stops the evil spirits in “Giselle” and the skeleton dance in the orchestral “Danse Macabre”.

Misty Short Stories

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.

titchs tale

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.masterstroke

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.

poor jenny

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.

room for one more

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.

dead end

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.

the evil djinn

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.

queens weather

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.

the bell jar

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.

Heart's Desire

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.

shadow of doubt

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!

hunt the ripper

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!

don't look now

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!

jelly baby

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.

Prisoner in the attic

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.

jukebox

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.

mr walenski 1 mr walenskis secret 2

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.

Digital Misty

Misty 001 01Last year Egmont UK started releasing old comics digitally. These included Roy of the Rovers, Battle and Misty. It seems to be a project they are hoping will grow, as they have recently launched a website, dedicated to classic comics;  http://classiccomics.egmont.co.uk/ They are offering free digital downloads of the first volume of Roy of the Rovers and Charley’s War to celebrate the launch (just for a limited time).

Assuming this venture keeps growing we could see more Misty stories released in the future. At the moment there is just one digital Misty available; Misty: Tales from the Mist. Initially it was only available through the itunes store but it is now also available on Kindle. It is £1.99 through itunes and slightly cheaper through Amazon at £1.78. It is advertised as 27 pages but actually only has 23 pages of stories. Looking at some popular US comics, that seems to be an average page size and price-wise, digital comics seem to to range from $1.99-$3.99. That is not extensive research by me but just what I gathered from a general look at comics available on Comixology! So I think the prices and comic length are reasonable and in keeping with other digital offerings.

As for readability, I must admit I’m still a fan of having a physical copy of a book/comic in my hands. I do own a kindle and I find it very convenient  and easy to use but I use it in conjunction with physical books not instead of.  I have a Kindle Touch which is able to download comics but I assume the comics are more suited to the Kindle Fire. Also in Kindle Touch the comic is all black and white, but as there is few colour pages it doesn’t make that much of a difference. The interface allows you to zoom in  to read but it can be a bit fidgety and hard to get into the flow of it. This could be because the Kindle Touch isn’t really suited for it. I did get an opportunity to read on an iPad through the ibooks app as well, and this was much easier. It would be easy to read the book just page by page, but there is quite a thick border around the story. But that’s just a small complaint, on the iPad it is a lot easier to zoom in and out and the digital restoration is very clear and crisp. There are a couple of colour pages and comparing to the original seem to be darker in colour (or maybe my original copies are just faded!)  but there is no diminish in quality, the art throughout is still pleasing.

As for the contents itself, it is all reprinted material of course, and it seems to be just a shorter version the Misty Souvenir Special released a few years ago. There are five short stories; Wolfsbane, So You Want to be a Star,  The Governess, What Did You Say? and The Pig People. Also there is a text story: You Never Know Who  and a feature Find a Future Boyfriend. My favourite of these was “What Did You Say?” where an inconsiderate girl, plays music loudly all the time.  She is warned that it is enough to wake the dead and it seems one night when she’s home alone, it has woken them! All the stories are typical Misty; bad girls being punished, scary monsters and general creepiness. The art is good throughout and benefits from sharpness of the digital rendering.

My biggest complaint is that it is does seems quite short and personally I do think there are better stories in the Misty collection that could have been printed. Some people might find it a bit costly (especially compared to the 8p that a Misty comic used to cost!), but I would be happy to pay a bit more for extra material. It would be nice to see full length serials reprinted perhaps with a couple of short stories.

I would like to see this digital endeavour succeed, there are only so many physical copies of these comics, so it would be good to see these stories preserved and more widely available. Also it’s an opportunity to introduce these stories to a new generation. If this proves to be a success for the company who know what comics, stories may become available next!

The Sentinels

  • The Sentinels – Misty: #01 (04 February 1978) – #12 (22 April 1978)
  • Writer: Malcolm Shaw
  • Artist: Mario Capaldi

Plot

In an area called Birdwood there stands two large blocks of flats, which people have nicknamed the Sentinels. While families happily live in one of the buildings, the other is left abandoned due to strange things happening like people disappearing or seeing ghosts.  Jan Richards’ family are about to become homeless and her father sees their only option to stay together is to move into the abandoned block. On there first night there while looking for her dog, Jan runs into a double of her father, she is naturally confused.  Later she once more goes to look for Tiger, She sees out the window the school on fire and she runs into Tiger, but he seems to be scared of her and bites her when she approaches him.

   

The next day Jan finds the school hasn’t burnt down and Jan’s mother has an encounter of her own. Her parents are angry thinking Jan is trying to scare them to move out. Jan later goes looking for her younger siblings and notices one of the flats has 2 doors. She goes through and sees the school burnt down and decides to take a closer look. She runs into Tiger who is being all friendly again. She also meets her friend, Sally, who tells her she shouldn’t be out in the open. They get chased by helicopters and escape into the sewers. They are attacked by rats but Tiger defends them, he gets left behind to be eaten by rats while the girls escape. At Sally’s house, Jan learns all about the Nazis winning the war and Britain being a colony of Germany now. Sally’s parents give up Jan, but the girls escape back to Jan’s world. She is upset to learn her father disappeared when he went looking for her and she realises that he was captured in the Alt-World.

While Jan’s family move into council B&B temporarily, Sally learns that the council are planning to demolish the troublesome Sentinel and she will be trapped in this world. Jan thinks they should tell someone, but Sally thinks its too risky. Sally runs into her brother Terry of this world, this is upsetting for her as on her world, Terry was killed in her world.

They sneak back into the Sentinel only to be captured by the Partisons  (rebellions) of the Alt-World. These Partisons include Jan’s Alt-father. It seems they have a plan to escape the Nazis by replacing people from Jan’s world with their own. Fergus the leader of this idea soon backs down as he knows it makes him no better than who they are fighting against. They devise a plan to help Jan’s father. Richards only solution is to exchange himself with Jan’s father. Alt-Jan is quite upset at this.

The plan works and there are some tearful goodbyes, Alt-Jan gives Jan her dog. The rebels blow up the Sentinel on their side, to stop anyone using the gateway. Jan’s father recovers in hospital, he says there will be no problem with the Sentinel and he volunteers to move into Sentinel, to prove his point. While things may work out for Jan’s family, she only hopes that things will also be okay for her alternate family and friends.

Thoughts

Misty wasn’t a comic I grew up, but I can see why it is given so much praise. Even reading it now, I found myself really caught up by the stories. This is my favourite story, I’ve read from Misty. I do like stories that explore parallel worlds, but beyond that, this story also has well developed characters, tension, drama and action. I found myself really invested in the characters and the outcome.

This is only 12 issues long and the pacing is well delivered. The build up is good, the premise is creepy even before we get to the parallel world, the towers are depicted as something unsettling and ominous  When we get to the parallel world, it does portray a nightmare possibility, even when the Sally and Jan are back in Jan’s world, this contrast is still evident. Sally gets upset at meeting her brother who died as part of the rebellion in her world and also notes supermarkets filled with goods and people’s freedom to buy things without having to use coupons and being heavily restricted. With the threat of the Sentinel being pulled down, time is also of the essence for Jan to get her father back. Even when they get back to Alt-world, the tension is still built up that they may be too late to save Jan’s father. It is a thrilling and exciting read.

The art wonderfully depicts both worlds, and doesn’t shy away from showing some dark stuff, such as the severely beaten Mr. Richards.  It is great throughout the story, though I particularly like how some of the opening pages are done. Often the first page has a recap,and Capaldi uses this opportunity to be a bit more artistic with the framing and using the majority of the page to pull in the reader.

    

While clearly the Nazi world is a nightmarish world, Britain is not shown as some lucky paradise either. There is a depiction of the hard social times Britain was going through, reflected in this story. The Richards find them in the Sentinel, due to lack of housing, there is clear hardships and money struggles. It is a tone I’ve found reflected in other stories, from Misty even if it wasn’t the main focus. It is a clear product of it’s time and is interesting to see.

There are some serious dark moments, for a comic aimed at young girls. This is probably one of the reasons the book was praised so much, it wasn’t afraid to be dark and scary and didn’t try to talk down to the audience. There was a definite sense that there may not be a happy ending.  The dog getting eaten by rats, the father getting beat up, close to death by Nazis, are quite horrifying. While Jan’s family may have some future, the alternate world ends up on quite a grim note. While there are rebels still fighting and the they hope to rescue Mr. Richards, it is also pointed out that Mr. Richards will likely be killed and the family have to go on the run.

All of the characters are well developed, and although Jan is the main character, I felt myself most invested in Sally. She risks her life to help Jan, she is practical about keeping the gateway secret and when she breaks down after meeting her brother and seeing how Jan’s world is, she comes off as very sympathetic. Her goodbye to Jan, is sad, when she says she would have liked to have stayed in Jan’s world if it was possible.  So Sally is my favourite character but like I say all the characters are well portrayed, even smaller characters like Fergus, Jan’s family and the other Sally all get their moments.

This is a story I’d love to see this reprinted and re-released, there are so many other good stories as well, that I think could still be appreciated today.