Tag Archives: Ballet

The Double Life of Dana / The Secret Life of Dana

  • The Double Life of Dana– Mandy: #306 (25 Nov. 1972) – #317 (10 Feb. 1972)
  • Reprinted as The Secret Life of Dana – Emma: #49 (27 Jan. 1979) – #60 (14 Apr. 1979)
  • Artist: Claude Berridge

Plot

Dana Fenton, an orphan, has always dreamed of becoming a ballerina. Even now that she has left the orphanage she grew up in and has gotten a decent job and comfortable lodgings, it is not enough to satisfy her. So when she sees that there are auditions for a scholarship with a Ballet Company and a maid’s job in a prestigious ballet school, she takes the leap to follow her dream. She quits her job and applies for the in-house maid job, in the hopes that while she could never afford to go to school there, she may be able to learn by watching. Madame Rochelle proves to be a tough employer, meaning Dana will certainly be working hard to earn her place. At the same time she has to try and find time to go to Belmont Company audition. She arrives at the audition, but seeing Madame there with two pupils, she is afraid she will lose her job, so she dons a wig and makeup and gives the fake name ‘Ann Smith’ in order to keep her secret. The judges see potential in her and she gets in to the next round along with the two pupils from the ballet school, Janice and Ella.

secret life dana1Dana’s double life makes things difficult at time, such as Madame telling Dana to wait by the phone so she can tell everyone the results of the next audition. Of course as Dana is also meant to attend the audition she has to figure out how to do both things! She manages to attend the audition then rushes to pay phone outside and calls Madam pretending to have misunderstood the instructions. She then has to rush back to the school, and actually lets air out of Madame’s tyres so she will beat them back.

Also making life difficult for Dana, are her two rivals, Janice and Ella, who are snobbish and like to make more work for Dana. When Madame entrusts Dana to take the girls to next audition (which is a stroke of luck for Dana as she wondered how she was going to get to someplace so far away), the girls don’t listen to Dana and call her skivvy expecting her to be their personal maid. Luckily Miss Norris and old friend of Madame’s has also been sent to check on the girls and she helps Dana keep them in line. They still continue to cause more trouble,  back at the school making muddy prints over the floor Dana just cleans, they turn even more against Dana when Madame sticks up for her and make them re-clean the floor! Then later at an audition, they leave room a mess and carelessly leave clothes near an electric fire. Dana  in her ‘Ann Smith’ disguise finds the dressing room on fire and helps put it out, before having to run off before her identity is discovered. Janice and Ella blame Dana for the fire and their clothes getting destroyed. They decide to return the favour by destroying her clothes. So her ballet costume isn’t discovered, she has to chase them out of her room, which causes more trouble with Madame. While Madame doesn’t blame her for fire, she does think she should have been attending her duties more carefully, she also is suspicious of the girls being in Dana’s room but does tell Dana any more trouble and she’ll be dismissed.

secret life dana2

Due to the fire, the audition has been rescheduled and Madame offers the school as a new venue. Dana has to be extra careful not to be discovered and uses a traditional mask to hide her face completely. More questions are being asked about, who this mysterious Ann Smith is! While Madame doesn’t suspect Dana, Janice and Ella are beginning to wonder if she and Ann are the same person. Ella even opens a trapdoor at an audition in the hopes of not letting Ann slip away, she doesn’t seem concerned that she could have caused her some serious injury, if not for Dana/Ann’s quick reflexes allowing her to leap out of the way in time. Her secret is discovered by an unlikely person Myra Dean, a famous dancer, who is now blind. When she visits the school, Dana helps her twice, one time as ‘Ann’ and Miss Dean recognises her work-rough hands. Although she hints to Madame, that Ann and Dana maybe the same person, Madame dismisses the thought and Myra doesn’t try to persuade her, instead she becomes Dana’s ally.

secret life dana3

A  mistake signing a girl’s autograph book, leads Janice and Ella to also discover Dana’s secret.  At the last audition, using Dana’s friendship with Miss Dean against her, the girls send Dana to the wrong place. She only just makes it to the right place at the end, with no chance to change into Ann Smith. Myra Dean confirms her identity and Dana is allowed to dance, even though she doesn’t have time to even change into ballet clothes. Dana wins the scholarship and Madame Rochelle is shocked to find her own maid is Ann Smith. Seeing her dance she knows Dana deserves to win and she will also being having words with Janice and Ella about their involvement in the audition mix-up. Dana is delighted she can now pursue her dream and no longer lead a double life.

Thoughts

Dana while she certainly hasn’t the easiest time, it’s not as hard as other characters in similar positions, leading double life (such as “Ballerina on a String”). She is actually a very upbeat person and she is in charge of her own choices, as she is not forced to do the things she does. She left comfortable lodgings and a shop job, to work at the school, because she wants to follow her dream.

Madame Rochelle has a reputation as a slave-driver and none of  her other maids stayed very long. She certainly works Dana hard but she is not cruel and does treat her fairly. She even puts her trust in Dana to chaperone the other girls. When she knows of the tricks the girls play, she assesses situation and doesn’t automatically favour her students over her employee, as seen when she makes Janice and Ella clean the muddy prints and not taking their side when she finds Dana yelling at them as they were in Dana’s room.

secret life dana4

While she does treat her with some respect, at the same time she does not see Dana’s potential, viewing her only as maid. This bias blinds her to the clues in front of her, such as finding Ann Smith looks familiar, nearly catching a girl practicing late at night to audition music (and it not being Janice or Ella), she doesn’t even question that the mysterious Ann Smith gets a letter to the school and ignores the hint her old friend Myra Dean gives.

secret life of dana

So while the work is hard the main difficulties Dana has, is keeping her identity hidden while getting to auditions and the bigger problem of the spiteful girls. Of the two girls, Ella is more dangerous than Janice, she is the leader of the two and the most suspicious. She also opens the trapdoor on Dana and while she passes it off as an accident, she should really have more repercussions. She is not happy to be shown up by Ann Smith, and even less happy when she finds out that Ann is actually the ‘skivvy’ Dana. Even without Dana in the competition, Ella’s thoughts are shown to be quite big-headed, she expects to win over her supposed friend Janice too.

While Dana has joined the school to learn of ballet, we don’t really see much time focused on seeing how she benefits from this and how she improves. Instead most episodes are dedicated to her trying to attend an audition and keep her secret. Although as she keeps getting through to the next stage her “unpolished potential” must be getting better. The competition for the scholarship isn’t very clear, there’s seems to be a lot of auditions happening but it’s not clear how many stages there are and how many people auditioning. In the first stage the 3 girls get through, but as we never really get to see other competitors this leads to the impression that there are only three in the running all the time! In the last audition there appears to be five competing but again wonder how many auditioned initially in the first stage and how wide an area did the competitors come from? Still other than the questions of how the competition is ran, the story keeps a nice pace and the main characters are each distinctive both in personality and design. The art throughout is very nice and expressive. Berridge seems to be quite a varied artist, doing many different type of stories, I’m not aware of any other ballet story that he’s done, but he does a good job here.

secret life dana5

 

Willa Will Dance

  • Willa Will Dance –  Debbie: #72 (29 June 1974) – #85 (28 September 1974)

Plot

When the Taylors decide to adopt a child, their daughter Sue convinces them to choose Willa Wilkins. This is not because she likes Willa, it is because she sees Willa as clumsy and untalented and therefore no match for her parents admiration.  Sue is the ballet star of the family and is not pleased that Willa wants to become a dancer too. Sue makes nasty comments to Willa when they are by themselves, but her aim isn’t to  get rid of  Willa, as she believes she can always be the best daughter, when Willa’s her only competition.

willa will dance

Sue pretends to be nice to Willa around other people, while still putting her down, such as asking others not to laugh at Willa because “My sister can’t help being big and ungainly”. While Willa has clumsy tendencies, these words reinforces Willa’s insecurities, making her self conscious and more clumsy. When people aren’t watching Willa dance, she relaxes more and lets the music take over. The ballet teacher sees her and thinks there is hope for she has good rhythm, she just is a late starter and with extra lessons she could become a dancer. Sue isn’t happy to hear this. When Willa wins an essay competition writing about her dream to become a ballerina, she is delighted that it is enough money to cover the extra lessons. She is surprised when Sue seems encouraging, getting her to read the essay in class. The girls have an image of Willa being clumsy, so they snicker at the idea of her being a dancer, which is exactly what Sue suspected would happen. Still it doesn’t stop Willa going for extra lessons. The ballet teacher mentions Mrs Taylor was a ballerina, and Sue uses this as another opportunity to discourage Willa with cruel comments. It does lead Willa to doubt herself, as Sue is slim and pretty like her mother, she wonders where she comes from and if there is any hope for her.

willa will dance 3

Willa tracks down an old woman, Mrs Larkston who knew her mother. She is disappointed when Mrs Larkston shows her a photo of her plump mother. Sue is pleased though and brings the photo home as a reminder for Willa, that she will never be slim and pretty. Looking at the photo, Willa thinks her mother has a kind smile and would understand who she feels. She accidentally drops the photo breaking the frame. She finds old faded diary pages and a newspaper clipping of a dancer named Lady Tara. She learns from the diary that her mother admired the mysterious Lady Tara and it encourages her to follow her dreams. Sue is there to bring her down whenever she can such as making sure a zipper in costume breaks, baking her a large chocolate cake when Willa’s dieting and pretending Willa needs to be rescued by her when swimming.

Willa is getting tired of being the fat ugly sister. She feels that there is a connection between her and Lady Tara and goes to a reporter to try and track her down. She finds Lady Tara but her dreams of her being a relative are dashed as Lady Tara informs her that her mother was her maid. Lady Tara now owns a dance school and gives Willa a chance to dance for her as she feels she owes it to her mother. Seeing Willa leap around to music Sue doesn’t think she has anything to worry about, but still starts dancing beside her to show Lady Tara that she is so much better than Willa. But Lady Tara doesn’t see it that way, she sees Willa dancing for the joy of it and Sue as mechanical and posed. She offers Willa a place at her school. Willa is delighted and while she will be away during term time, she will be home for holidays. Sue tells Willa she is not happy to see people fussing over her and while she is away at school, she is going to talk her parents out of finalizing the adoption.

willa will dance 4

Willa is happy at the school as Lady Tara has some unusual ideas of dancing. She doesn’t believe in diets or rules and exercise – just free movement. Meanwhile Sue is not happy when parents consider taking in an intelligent  foster girl, while Willa’s at school. She tries to convince Willa to come back and tells her dancing needs discipline, she won’t become a dancer at a school like that. During a show, Sue brings friends along and they laugh at the display, and even Willa has to admit they look ridiculous. After this Sue convinces her to come home.

willa will dance 2

Willa is happy to be back with family again, even believing Sue wants to be a sister to her. But Sue makes her vow if she wants to be part of the family, she must remain the ugly untalented sister and to never dance again. To keep her family Willa makes the promise, and all is well for a while, as Sue comes out on top of all things she does.  She  is picked as May Queen at the school and is not happy when Willa gets picked as her attendant and is given dance. She tells Willa that she will have to drop out but Willa refuses she stands up to Sue finally.  She thinks Sue’s threats are meaningless as she won’t ask her parents to stop adoption as that would only show the cruel selfish girl she is.  Sue upset runs onto street and is hit by traffic, leaving her potentially paralysed. The doctor’s say that she will recover but  she has lost all her confidence. Willa decides to be cruel and make Sue mad enough to walk. She takes Sue’s ballet shoes telling her she won’t need them now and dances in front of her, Sue corrects her. She thanks Willa for getting her to walk without her crutches and is ashamed of the things she’s said before.

It’s  not an easy recovery for Sue she still has no confidence in her dancing and she begs Willa to come with her. Willa helps going back to class with her practicing with her every day, she  even loses some weight. Then when the class have a ballet production,neither girl is up to that standard of the lead but they could get a smaller part. The teacher is tempted to give Willa part of Good Fairy over Sue, but Willa convinces her to give it to Sue as she knows otherwise Sue will never fully recover her confidence and quit dancing for good. This is just what she needs to get over er nerves, and Willa decides she doesn’t want to compete against Sue. A suggestion from her father encourages her to try a different style of dancing – ballroom dancing. She finds she is happy whatever dancing she is doing and after some work  wining a junior competition. She does worries that  the old jealousy will flare up with Sue, but Sue has changed for the better and Willa has found happiness.

willa will dance 5

Thoughts

A jealous family member not happy with an addition to the household, a story that is told many times. Like Mistyfan’s recent post on “I’ll Get Rid of Rona!”  there are different ways of telling the story to keep it fresher. In this case it’s interesting that Sue doesn’t want to get rid of Willa, as she believes she can control the situation. She is nasty and cruel to Willa but only when she believes she is being outshone, she doesn’t have a problem with Willa as long as she stays plain, clumsy and doesn’t “steal” peoples attention.  She is also upfront about this from the start. While there are times she makes sure things go bad for Willa, such as forcing the zipper on her costume, mostly it is a psychological attack on Willa. She keeps putting her down, says cruel and nasty things to her and sometimes tries to make out she says these things so Willa won’t get her hopes crushed like she’s doing her a favour. This knocking of Willa’s confidence makes her more clumsy and self conscious and therefore easier (with a bit of manipulation)  for others to see Willa as a joke too.

willa will dance 7

When Willa finds the old newspaper clipping of a dancer with her mother’s photo, she has hopes that the Lady Tara of the newspaper is a relative to her, she thinks she most have dancing in her blood somewhere. But Lady Tara is not a relative and her mother was not some slim beauty. This also makes a nice change from other stories, there is no genetic reason for Willa’s talent (that we know of). Also while she has raw talent, without practice and discipline it won’t make her a top dancer. While at the end she improves at ballet and maybe one day could have been at Sue’s level given the chance, she is still not ready to take the lead in the ballet production. Surprising as well is she gives up on her ballet dream so not to compete with Sue. While she does find she just wants to dance no matter what and shows talent at ballroom dancing, it is quite the change from all the work she put into ballet. I don’t know if Sue was so deserving of Willa’s kindness, though at least by the end she has put aside her jealousy and hadn’t forced Willa to give up ballet, it was Willa’s choice.

willa will dance 6

Sue’s recovery takes some time, even when she is out of hospital she lashes out at Willa, although instantly regrets it. When she starts dancing again, finally working together with Willa they begin to build a real sisterly relationship. Willa loves dancing but she shows time and again that having a family is more important to her.  She chooses the chance of family over dancing and even when she has the chance to dance on stage she chooses her sister Sue’s happiness over her own. We don’t learn much about Willa’s mother,  but what we do learn is that she was very loyal and in a nice scene where we Willa looks at her mother’s photo she thinks that she would have been a good listener. While it doesn’t seem Willa gained her dancing talent from her mother, it does seem she gained those other good qualities from her.

 

 

Unfair to Favourites (1985)

Judy Picture Library 271

Published: Judy Picture Library #271.  Reprinted: Bunty Picture Library #428

Artists: Norman Lee (cover); Ana Rodriguez (story)

Plot

Jayne and Jean Gentry seem to have everything going for them in the activities they pursue: ballet (Jean), and athletics (Jayne). They are set to go to the top in their various activities and the school even makes allowances for it. But there is one problem – it has bred favouritism among their parents. Dad favours Jayne because she pursues sport, Mum favours Jean because she does the same with ballet, and neither parent pays much attention to the other girl. The root of the favouritism is that each parent only cares about one activity, which they once pursued themselves and are pursuing again through their respective daughter. Neither is willing to be more generous to the other activity; Mum does not care for athletics (“athletics don’t do anything for me”) and Dad is the same about ballet (“ballet nonsense”). Both say they don’t understand the other activity but neither makes an effort to understand it more.

Favourites

Each parent thinks that the other is too single-minded about the activity they do care about while deriding the other activity unfairly. Neither parent comes to the other activity to lend support to their other daughter. For example, Mum is annoyed that Dad doesn’t come to see Jayne perform on stage because he cares more about an athletics convention. Dad is likewise annoyed at Mum for not coming to watch and support Jean perform at an athletics event because she took Jayne to watch the Royal Ballet Company. This is not the case with the sisters themselves, who make the time to watch the other and give moral support.

Favourites 2

Jayne and Jean decide enough is enough and they need to find a way to change their parents. They start with trying to win something in the other activity, with the other’s help. But they forget that there is a reason that one pursues ballet/athletics and the other not – one has the aptitude for it, and the other not. And they soon find that out the hard way. When Jean tries cross-country running with Jayne’s help, she ends up in such a state that she is not fit for ballet class. When Jayne tries ballet with Jean’s help, she ends up with a foot injury that leaves her unfit for a sports event. In both cases the parents blow up, each blaming the other girl and the other parent unfairly. Each parent ends up quarrelling with the other about how they go over the top with the activity they favour, play favourites with their pet daughter, and don’t pay any attention to the other daughter. When Jayne, Jean and their dog Timmy return home wet after unwittingly using a leaky boat, Mum unfairly blames Jayne, thinking she encouraged Jean again, and this leads to a similar row between the parents. Mum and Dad can see it in each other all right – but they can’t see it in themselves, which is what they must do if things are to change.

Jean and Jayne then try to talk to their parents about how they carry on in playing favourites. But both take offence, saying they can’t help not liking ballet/athletics. The girls realise how set the parents are in their ways and it is going to be very difficult to change them.

The stress of the failure takes its toll on the girls, and they lose form at ballet/athletics. Their teachers recommend a break, so the parents stop making their daughters spend so much time at their various activities.

During the break, Jean and Jayne try something else. Jayne has a go at Jean’s other activity, which is skating. But the coach says that although Jayne is good, she is not good enough to make competition standard like her sister. When Jean tries Jayne’s other activity by making a bid for the school swimming trials, she fails because of the same thing – good but not good enough.

Then, after the swimming trials, Jayne grumbles at how fed up they are, and still wondering how to change their parents. A schoolteacher, Miss Maybrick, overhears and asks what is wrong. The girls explain the problem, and Miss Maybrick comes up with an idea – an activity that combines athletic and artistic ability.

Favourites 3

So for the next few weeks, the parents are disappointed to hear that the girls are on strike over ballet/athletics because of a school project that they are very secretive about. When the time comes, the school invites the parents to a gymnastics competition, which Jayne and Jean have been giving up everything else to train for. And it is here that both parents watch their daughters together; Dad sees Jean in action for the first time and Mum watches Jayne for the first time. When Mum watches Jayne’s floor exercises, she sees and appreciates the artistic side while Dad grasps the athletic part. When Jean goes on the bars, Dad is impressed at what she can do there, and Mum says it’s due to ballet, which has given her grace and strong muscles. Before long, both parents are cheering their daughters on. They are thrilled to see them win medals, and finally wake up to their earlier mistakes. Afterwards, they take Jayne and Jean out to a celebratory dinner. The girls know that they are both favourites with their parents now.

Favourites 4

Thoughts

 The premise is a refreshing one – two sisters who are the best of friends but suffer because each parent takes favourites over one child while ignoring the other, just because they are not a fan of the activity the other child pursues. It makes a change having two protagonists suffer in this way. Usually it is just one, who is overshadowed and put down because her sibling(s) excel at their various activities and make Mum and Dad proud while she doesn’t seem to shine at anything.

The portrayal of the parents is rooted in realism and real life, which makes their characterisation so effective. They are not intentionally neglectful or mean; it is just that they are both so single-minded about the activity they are interested in and the girl who pursues it to the exclusion of everything else in life. They are also narrow-minded about the other activity. Both parents make disparaging comments about the other activity, neither will give it more of a chance, or at least try to tolerate it enough to come and watch their daughter. They are too wrapped up in the activity they are interested in.

Favourites 5

The resolution is realistic and also refreshing. The girls confide in someone (which does not often happen in girls’ comics) who comes up with an idea that could be the answer. The girls can’t believe they didn’t think of it themselves.

The teacher and the headmistress are so wonderful in the way they bend over backwards to help the girls with their problem: excusing the girls lessons to train for it, and helping to keep it a carefully guarded secret until the parents are actually watching the event as they don’t know how the parents will take it if they had prior knowledge of it. The girls come away with a whole new appreciation for teachers, as do we. Sometimes teachers are not the idiots or meanies that they are in other stories. Sometimes they are the ones with the brains and wisdom to put everything right.

 

 

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”.

The Bewitched Ballet Shoes

  • The Bewitched Ballet Shoes – Judy: #160 (02 Feb. 1963) – #166 (16 Mar. 1963)

Plot

Beth Rogan lives in a caravan with her grandmother Old Meg. When Wilbur Wilson’s circus comes to the town he rents the field where Old Meg’s caravan has stood for years, so when she is evicted from the field, she vows revenge on the circus. She instructs Beth to sell bewitched ballet shoes to the high wire ballerina. Beth is scared of old Meg so she goes to the circus but decides not to give them to the ballerina. Unluckily she bumps into the ballerina, Sheena, who sees the shoes are her size and insists on trying them. She dances beautifully but seems to dance longer than intended. Beth asks Sheena for a job and ballet lessons as payment. She tries to keep an eye on Sheena but on the first night Sheena falls from the high wire, luckily the safety net means she isn’t injured. Old Meg is still scheming and Beth is too afraid to defy her outright, when Meg gives her a potion to make the animals sleepy, she takes it, but empties it out later.

bewitched ballet shoes

Beth tries to burn the shoes but sparks fly at her and onto one of the tents setting it on fire. Together with the circus people, they manage to put out the fire but she is surprised to find the ballet shoes aren’t even singed. More bad luck falls on the circus when the lions turn on Lex the lion tamer. Lex rallies some other circus folk against Beth saying she’s a witch and they have had nothing but bad luck since she joined. Sheena steps in to stop them. More accidents happen as a trapeze artist falls and Sheena is shocked when her laces untie and wrap around the wire and she has to be saved by acrobats. Beth tries to hide the shoes and while she is doing this she sees someone stealing circus money. But she can’t explain why she was in the owner, Mr Wilson’s, caravan. Beth catches Lex the lion tamer trying to hide the money. So Beth is given another chance, but her relief is short lived as Meg confronts Beth for turning her back on her and gives her one more chance to help or she will be destroyed.

bewitched ballet shoes 2

Old Meg’s next step is to kidnap Billy, the owner’s son. When Beth tries to stop her Meg attempts to run her over. Luckily Beth manages to jump on the caravan and gets to the boy. The caravan is chased by Mr Wilson and Meg takes a corner to sharp hitting the pavement, she is flung from the caravan and is killed. Beth believes with Meg dead the shoes will no longer be bewitched and their worries are over but it seems the circus still has obstacles to overcome. That night on the high wire Sheena finds herself unable to move, all that has happened has made her lose her nerve. Beth decides to leave the circus taking the shoes in the hope the circus will be safe. She is startled to run into what looks like Meg’s ghost but turns out to be Meg’s sister Mairi. After telling her all that has happened, Mairi puts a powerful spell on the shoes, so Beth can use them on the high wire. Beth convinces Mr Wilson put on another show and thanks to the shoes Beth’s performance is amazing. Soon Sheena returns recovered from her experience, she tells Beth to keep the shoes and they become a popular double act.

bewitched ballet shoes 3

 

Thoughts

A very early story from Judy, it is quite short at only 7 issues. There is not a lot of room for development but there is still a lot fitted into the few issues. There is the cursed shoes as well as Meg’s sabotage, the thief sub-plot and Beth also discovering a love of dancing. It would have been nice to have developed some of the circus people some more, Sheena’s first appearance give hints that she might be a bit of a diva, one of the clowns refer to her as “temperamental” and she shoves Beth aside on their first meeting but soon she is just nice, defending Beth and has the misfortune to have cursed shoes. It could have been interesting to see Sheena change her ways  because of the curse but maybe the writer didn’t want to make her too unsympathetic or didn’t have time to develop it more.

bewitched ballet shoes 4

Lex is set up as an antagonist to Beth, he is suspicious of her since he caught her pouring out the sleeping potion near the animals. Although he has reasons to suspect her knowing about the sabotage, it turns out he is not so innocent himself as he has outed as a thief, which is convenient for Beth. Another convenience is Mairi turning up with the excuse of not being around before because she didn’t agree with her sister’s dark curses. It is strange that we never know who cursed the shoes originally, it would make sense if Meg had done it,  but apparently they were given to Meg by an old gypsy. I wonder had they been used before on someone and what other cursed items had Meg in her possession?

It is an enjoyable read despite some flaws. I do like the art and the red tones bring a nice splash of colour. I also like that the ending isn’t rushed, even though it’s a short story, Meg getting killed isn’t the end of things. It takes one more installment to wrap things up, even if Mairi has a quite random appearance, it is good to take the time overcome one more hurdle.

The Circus Slave

Plot

Lucy Lester had agreed to do a ballerina on horseback act in her uncle’s circus. She had been led to believe, by her uncle, that her act would help pay her mother’s medical bills abroad. Her Uncle wanted her to do more daring stunts. Lucy’s trainer was Madame Cocola who used to be a dog trainer, she believed she could get Lucy to be as obedient as her dogs.

circus slave

Notes

Appeared

  • The Circus Slave – Debbie: circa #64 (4 May 1974) – #73 (6 July 1974)

Tanya [1977]

Plot

When Laurie Latimer opens a ballet school, she discovers a young gipsy girl, Tanya, running wild in the wilderness of the grounds. Because of her talent for dancing, Tanya is invited to join the ballet school. Then one of the girls, Charlotte Benson, finds a locket of Tanya’s and discovers photographs Inside, one of Tanya as a baby and finds out she may be her lost cousin.

tanya

Notes

Appeared

  • Tanya – Spellbound: #33 (07 May 1977) – #44 (23 July 1977)

Backstreet Ballerina

Plot:

Barbara Taylor runs ballet lessons in the East End of London in a converted stable.  She takes in Jessie Tandy, a problem girl on the brink of being sent to approved school, in the hope that ballet will tame her as ballet is one thing that Jessie loves. But the girls are not friendly to Jessie because their parents have forbidden it, and this is making Jessie aggressive again.

Notes:

Appeared:

  • Backstreet Ballerina –  Bunty: no publication dates currently available

Dancing for Joy

Plot

Joy Layton has always wanted to be a ballerina, but her parents cannot afford ballet lessons. Madame Camille offers Joy free tuition, but Joy’s rough background is causing problems, from both the snobby pupils and the kids at her school, who think ballet is for snobs. When Madame Camille enters Joy and another pupil, Fiona Smethshurst, for a scholarship, Fiona is out to make sure she is the one who gets the scholarship.

dancing for joy

Notes

  • Artist: Eduardo Feito

Appeared

  • Dancing for Joy –  Bunty: #2098 (28 March 1998) – (?)