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