Instead of a Misty Halloween offering this year, the Treasury of British Comics have dived into Jinty’s archive, to reprint 2 stories – A Spell of Trouble and Creepy Crawley, the latter getting the cover name. This also gives the opportunity to highlight the wonderful work of Trini Tinturé, with a special hardback cover with original art by Tinturé also offered on the Treasury of British Comics shop website.
Although both stories are about even in length, each taking up half the book, it is strangely only A Spell of Trouble that is highlighted both on the cover and the description on the back, whereas Creepy Crawley gets just a one sentence mention at the bottom of the description. Both stories start with a popular and accomplished girl at school, but after that they diverge completely. In the comedic A Spell of Trouble, Carrie Black has used her witchy powers to stay top of the class, then a distant cousin, Angela White, comes to live with the Blacks and Carrie’s easy life turns into a mess! Angela is full of good intentions but is also clumsy and has no interest in becoming a witch. This becomes a bigger problem when their Witch’s Coven say if she doesn’t become a witch then they will take the Blacks’ powers away. While Carrie and her family have never had to work hard to earn anything, and they do some questionable things to try and get rid of Angela, they are not evil witches, and we can sympathise with their frustrations when Angela keeps messing things up. It’s a very fun story, a highlight for me is the hijinks caused by a bodyswitching plan, throughout the story there’s lots of laughs to be have, and Tinturé does great job displaying the witciness and comedic elements, so it’s easy to see why this is the highlighted story for the collection.
In Creepy Crawley, Jean Crawley becomes jealous of new girl Mandy who outdoes her at everything. When she gets an old scarab brooch from a shop closing down, she finds she can use to get rid of her rival. The brooch has a particular power over insects, but when Carrie wants to stop her vendetta, the brooch can’t be gotten rid of and its influence turns her more cruel. Only a timid girl Sheila begins to suspect the truth in time and tries to stop her. A step further than other evil influence stories, the scarab has a bigger agenda in hand – a complete insect takeover of the world. Again the art and some of the more complex story beats puts this story above other similar stories.
The book itself is only 80 pages, there is no additional features just the two stories back to back. It would have been a nice opportunity to talk more about Trini Tinturé (like some of the artists in the Misty collection have got), but she gets a short paragraph in the back. While Rebellion do always try to deliver high quality books, it is clear sometimes they are hampered by not always having the original artwork. This means some pages aren’t as clean and crisp as they should be. For the most part this doesn’t take from the story, but there is particular page from Creepy Crawley, that it is more noticeable than others. These are minor complaints though as the book is still of good quality and the stories and art are of a high standard, an excellent read.
There is also currently a sale on until December so a perfect opportunity to pick up some older releases if you haven’t already, you could pick up other Jinty books like Concrete Surfer for just £4.99 or Fran of the Floods for £7.79 or just look through their growing collection to see what catches your interest.
Young Tennis Star Leila Broome had been compared to her dead stepmother, Alma Drew who had been a tennis champion and called the smiling star because she was so pleasant. Then outbreaks of vandalism during tournaments that Leila took part start happening, that upset Leila off the court as well and her fathers apparent hatred for the game made matters worse. Leila’s best friend Lynne, suspected a silver charm once belonging to Alma that Leila had started wearing, was having a strange effect on her. Some further investigation finds that Alma was not as sweet as everyone thought.
Terror of the Tennis Courts – Judy: #855 (29 May 1976) – #865 (7 August 1976)
Cassy Lee a young gipsy was the double of Lisa Cheviot who had drowned in an accident. Lisa’s grandfather Lucas refused to accept she was dead and relatives of his, Liz and Bernie Fraser, persuaded Cassy to take Lisa place telling her and the servants that it was for Lucas’ peace of mind. But Cassy soon found out the Frasers were after his money and she also discovered a portrait of Lady Mildred one of the Cheviots ancestors had an evil power over her and was using her to try and destroy the House of Cheviot.
Last of the Cheviots– Judy: #855 (29 May 1976) – #864 (31 July 1976)
Dark Days at Torloch Towers – Spellbound: #35 (21 May 1977) – #41 (02 July 1977)
Artist: Juan Sarompas (thanks to David Roach for confirming)
At the secluded boarding school, Torloch Tower, a new science teacher, Miss Ray is preparing a special experiment with her class. They leave the solution for over night but friends Gail Thomson and Pat Moore return to the lab late to collect something Gail forgot. They can’t get in to the locked room but see in the window a strange black cloud forming from the solution and escaping through the key hole. Suddenly the girls start bickering, they return to dorm room still angry but the next morning they feel bad about the fight. They go back to the lab to investigate and find the room trashed. Their friend Faye is watching them, when a strange black bird appears in front of her, she becomes spiteful and tells the headmistress about the girls being outside when they shouldn’t be. Gail and Pat get called to the head’s office and already Faye is regretting her actions and is there too asking the headmistress to forget what she said, they all get punishment for their actions. Faye thinks the other girls won’t be friends with her anymore but because of their experience they believe her that something evil and strange came over her.
Gail and Pat are showing Faye the lab when Miss Ray appears. The normally understanding teacher, accuses them of wrecking the lab, then girls notice the dark shape nearby that then dives into lake. The evil influence doesn’t last too long at least and Miss Ray apologies to girls. The cloud now in the form of a fish causes two other students attack another swimmer. It leaves the water turning into a lizard. Gail, Pat and Faye wonder what they can do to stop the creature especially as it can change shapes, but they know they must try to stop its nasty influence. Later Gail and Pat see the cloud in its original form again, it is moving slower and they observe it feeding off ink and becoming stronger and faster again.
Revitalized the shape makes Joan the captain at the hockey match want to win game at all costs. She gets sent off for foul play on other team. Then the cloud takes shape of a cat and causes the real school cat to attack Pat. Later, surprisingly the Cloud stops at prize day notice and looks like it is reading it. It then turns into a question mark, and the girls can’t make sense of what it is planning. The parents arrive for prize giving and the Headmistress is influenced to say insulting things at the ceremony, Pat pulls fire alarm to stop the speech. Gail and Pat discuss if the parents take action on what the Head said their could be real trouble and they need to destroy the thing before it destroys the school (incidentally the parents don’t complain it seems because it is never mentioned again). The girls consider talking to Miss Ray for help, but she has taken some leave to visit her mother. Pat gets idea to kill the “pest” with fly killer but it only makes it angrier. While cleaning up spilled ink they then think they should use ink remover on the thing, they lure it in with some ink to feed on and the pour the ink remover over it. The thing is completely destroyed, the nightmare is over and the girls are happy to forget about it and enjoy the rest of the school term.
This story has great art, from the impressive school and its location to the menacing cloud, also the layouts and composition are really good. This elevates the story a lot, the mysterious shape that can change into animals (and a question mark) makes for a very creepy opponent, and the art captures that and the girl’s terror perfectly. The three main characters all are given their own personalities, Pat being the most proactive, Faye being nervy and Gail being the more calm supportive one. We don’t know what motivates the shape but it is interesting rather than many other evil influence stories, it doesn’t latch onto one person, and neither is its effects long lasting. This give the girls a better chance of defeating it. They are smart enough observe the creature, then come up with a solution from what they have seen.
The story does leave a lot of unanswered questions, from the beginning it was so vague what experiment the class were doing, I thought that Miss Ray was behind it, (it wouldn’t be the first time a nice new teacher wasn’t what they seemed). So how the cloud/shape was created was unclear and also what it’s ultimate goal was. The girls are surprised when it seems to read the noticeboard, showing it has some intelligence, perhaps it particularly wanted to stir up jealousy as the swimmer, hockey and prize giving instances were all related to people being better at something than others. Whatever the reason, it is quickly defeated in the last episode and the girls are happy to just forget about it, which is a bit of an anti climatic ending.
The Hateful Hands of Heather Smith – Tracy: #01 (06 Oct. 1979) – #13 (29 Dec. 1979)
Reprinted – Judy: #1523 (18 March 1989) – #1535 (10 June 1989)
On a school trip to Cumner Castle, a guide tells the story of the Cumner tyrants, who locked a witch, Elfrida, in a dungeon and left her to starve and die. Her hand-prints are left on the wall from where she clawed trying to reach the window,and the guide says she left a curse “let mortals beware the evil in my hands”. Jane thinks the story is rubbish but her friend Heather Smith points out the marks on the wall and that her hands fits on them, not knowing that she has now brought the curse upon herself. She soon finds out how real the curse is as later she her hands nearly pushes Jane off the castle roof! (Luckily Jane obliviously moves out of way in time).
Soon whenever the hands wants revenge, no matter how small the infraction, Heather hears the witch’s voice in her head and she can’t control her hands. Like cutting her friend’s hair as she thinks she has been excluded from a party that her friend was invited to or being mean to her young cousin by taking his bear. The hands even hurt Heather when she tries to resist them, like when she tries to post a card to her relative from their Gran, the hands pinch her until she takes the money and throws the card away. While it causes trouble for her it seems no-one else notices, and they always end up blaming something else. When her cousin doesn’t receive the card, he assumes it got lost in the post and not to upset his Gran he thanks her for the card. When her hands ruin a mural painted by a classmate, Sharon, the hands block her from speaking out and Sharon gets in trouble. At a carnival she is going to take a peg up and collapse a tent, the vicar comes along and thinks she is helping to fix it.
At the same carnival she meets a fortune teller, the woman senses the evil in Heather’s hand and refuses to give her fortune. The more Heather tries to resit the more violent the hands are to her, when she tries to resist ruining competitor’s cake at school her hand takes a rolling pin to her other hand. The hands then wants her to push an old woman down a hill in her wheelchair but luckily a neighbour Jim comes by and offers to help with the wheelchair. After a few more incidents, she happens upon an old shop that has a book “Legends of Castle Cumner” and she wonders if it contains a way to break the curse. She goes in to buy the book but the hands of course want to destroy it,she manages to handcuff herself and asks Mr Adams, the shop owner to read anything about the curse. He tells her of a girl a hundred years previously who had been cursed too. A wise woman told her to crush garlic in her hands, place her hands in the prints again and to say “I take back what is mine. No longer shall my hands be your slaves!” Heather follows this advice an is at last freed from the curse.
It’s Halloween time again, so perfect time to look at a story about a witch’s curse (there are plenty to choose from!) and some body horror. As with many of these stories an innocent happenstance causes the protagonist to be cursed and fall under an evil influence which then causes trouble. A big difference to other stories is usually people around the protagonist would notice the change or she would lose all her friends. Not the case here, the evil hands do cause trouble and Heather distress, but no one else notices or if they do they always blame something else. Occasionally people get annoyed but for the most part Heather is deemed such a good person it doesn’t cross their mind that she would do something malicious, like when the vicar catches her with the tent peg at carnival, he assumes someone else loosened it and Heather was fixing it.
Some of the story’s logic is inconsistent like most times she is aware of what her hands are doing and tries to stop them but other times she is taken over completely and doesn’t remember what she did. Being aware of what she is doing but not being able to stop it, is more interesting dilemma in this case, there are some intense scenes like when she beats her own hand with rolling pin. There have been many horror films with possessed hands, although often they were severed already, and many of those films came after this story. Two that come to mind is The Evil DeadII (1987) and Idle Hands (1999), where the protagonists hand become possessed and attacks people, in both these films the protagonist had to cut their hand off and kill it. Heather luckily was able to break the possession without these extreme methods!
In the end things are wrapped up too quickly as she just happens upon a history book with the answer to her problems (although I did like her quick thinking of handcuffing herself). The witch, Elfrida although vengeful, I can feel sympathy to her at the start, as she suffered a terrible fate and those that locked her up were terrible people. But her vengefulness comes across as petty while controlling Heather, she is not on a quest to punish the Cumner ancestors or people like them, instead she makes Heather act out when someone bests Heather at cooking or even for no reason at all, like when she makes her release Mrs Dickson’s bird. But maybe that’s the point, after all they are “hateful hands” they don’t need any more motive than that.
Mona Masters, a master magician, is summoned by her friend Anita to the village of Wishpool. Wishpool is in the grip of Father Frobisher, financially and economically, apparently because he is able to control the weather, crops and fortunes of the farmers. The villagers are terrified of him and will not do anything without his permission.
Artist: Peter Kay
Mona in the Village of Fear – Bunty: #458 (22 October 1966) – (?)
Twelve year old Jane Lake and her younger sister Katie, were taken to Skerry Holt’s Children Home after their parents’ sudden death. Katie found a charm in the garden and it was the exact replica of Skerry Holt. She put it on her bracelet without telling Jane. The charm had an evil influence over Katie, but Jane thought grief was the cause of her bad behaviour and she kept getting in trouble trying to cover for her sister.
Charm of Evil – Tracy: #176 (12 February 1983) – #183 (2 April 1983)
Esther Blake is having a hike out on Storm Peak with her father and brother Tom. Suddenly, a storm comes in without warning and lightning strikes Esther. Her condition almost kills her several times in hospital, and she has to be revived by artificial respiration, hovering between life and death.
When Esther returns home she starts having nightmares of her family being cruel towards her. They force her to do all the work while mocking, bullying and beating her. They sneer at how she has to do everything by hand, with no modern labour-saving devices to help her. She is dressed in rags and the house is shabby and run down.
Then Esther’s cousin Astra arrives to stay. Everyone marvels at how she could be Esther’s twin, except for the colour of her hair. Esther notices how she and Astra are virtual mirror image opposites. Astra even has the same scar on her left arm that Esther has on her right. Hmm, doppelganger alert here?
What the story pays less attention to verbally, but can be seen in most of the panels, is that Astra is wearing a star-shaped necklace. Meanwhile, Astra is making odd remarks about things she should not know about that have Esther becoming suspicious of her – in a worried sort of way.
In true doppelganger fashion, Astra is soon causing big trouble for Esther. She plays sly tricks to get Esther into trouble with the family and then sweetly telling them, oh please, please, don’t blame Esther. What makes it so easy is that the family always seem to instantly believe the worst of Esther despite Astra’s sugary sweet attempts to convince them otherwise – as if they were being poisoned or under a spell of some sort. And while they are harsh with Esther, they make a big fuss over Astra and what a sweet girl she is.
It’s exactly the same thing at school once Astra starts there with Esther. Astra’s tricks and everyone oddly assuming the worst of Esther all the time soon get Esther into big trouble with the teachers and losing her friends. Esther’s performance begins to suffer, both academically and athletically, and it’s not just because of Astra. Esther feels oddly tired and unwell and can’t understand why. Esther is soon pushed out of the sports teams while Astra takes her place. Everyone comments on Astra’s sporting performance being just like what Esther’s used to be (another clue?).
By now Esther has realised that Astra is pushing her out of everything and deliberately turning everyone against her. But she soon finds trying to speak out does no good with everyone just assuming the worst of her all the time.
Meanwhile the nightmares continue, but now they seem to be more than just nightmares. In one dream, the evil family chase Esther into brambles and thorns. When Esther wakes up she finds scratches on her arms and legs that were not there before. In another dream the abusers force her to scrub the floor until her hands are raw, and she still has to scrub. Next morning, Esther finds her hands look and feel exactly that way. She also suspects that Astra knows the contents of the dreams.
Then Esther dreams she is back on Storm Peak, and being hit by lightning. Astra and the evil parents come up behind her. Astra jeers that they have come for her, and eggs them on to carry Esther off. Esther breaks free of them but gets hit by lightning. When Esther wakes up, she is surprised to see Astra looking white and scared for a change. She realises Astra is scared because she knows about the dream.
Realising the dream means something, Esther heads straight to Storm Peak first thing in the morning. As she climbs up the peak, she sees Astra has followed.
Astra explains that she is the evil side of Esther. The lightning accident caused her to come in from a parallel universe where everything is the opposite of what it is in this one. Her plan is to take Esther’s place in this universe and drive Esther into the other universe, where the abusive versions of Esther’s family are waiting. Sure enough, they start appearing and Astra urges them to take Esther.
But Esther doesn’t think so because there is something different about Astra this time. Next second she realises what it is – Astra does not have her necklace. When Astra sees this, she screams that she’s lost her protector – “He-elp!” (Oh dear, Astra, left the house in too much of a hurry, did you?) Then lightning strikes both girls. Esther falls unconscious. Presumably because the protector is missing, the evil parents grab Astra and ignore her pleas for them to take Esther instead.
When Esther regains consciousness she finds everything is back to normal. All trace of Astra has disappeared and nobody but Esther knows anything about her. It’s as if Astra never existed at all. Esther concludes it must have been a dream or something. But later, Esther gets a nasty shock when Mum turns up Astra’s necklace while spring-cleaning. Dream – or what?
Evil doubles that are created to cause trouble for the protagonist until the protagonist finds the way to destroy them are not new in girls’ comics. But this one goes way above the usual doppelganger format because it’s got so many other well-established, popular formats thrown into the mix as well: the Cinderella theme, abusive guardians, the scheming troublemaker, the evil influence theme, and the regrettably less-used theme of the alternate reality. What’s not to like about this story? It brings together so many of the DCT themes that are always so popular on their own. Together they make for a really intense, exciting and crackling story where the protagonist is attacked on all sides from the threats posed not only by the evil double but also by the other themes listed above.
The scheming troublemaker who pushes the protagonist out with nasty tricks was one of the most frequent themes at DCT, but this version really catches the eye because it has supernatural elements attached. There are hints that Astra is exerting some evil influence on everyone to make them act so negatively towards Esther. We suspect this even more so once it is revealed that Astra’s necklace has powers of some sort. And it’s not because the antagonist is just spiteful or jealous as most troublemakers usually are. It has a far more sinister purpose – to weaken Esther and soften her up for transportation to the alternate reality while Astra takes Esther’s place.
However sinister the undertones of the scheming troublemaker scenes, they don’t hold a candle to the night terror dreams. These are truly the best moments of the story and what make it truly frightening. It’s even more terrifying when we find out that this is actually the fate that lies in store for Esther if Astra succeeds. This makes the climactic scene of Esther struggling against the evil guardians all the more electrifying – and it’s not just the lightning.
Ironically, the nightmares of the evil guardians also add a sympathetic element to the evil Astra. When we see what life is like at home for Astra through Esther’s nightmares we can certainly understand why Astra wants to escape that universe. But we are not going to have her throw Esther into that hellish universe in her place.
Here the Cinderella theme of girls’ comics gets turned on its head. Instead of some talent helping her escape her misery and getting a happy ending, the Cinderella gets thrown back into that life of abuse and drudgery. We may feel a pang of pity for Astra there. Yet we still want her gone and are relieved she is back where she belongs – because unlike the protagonists of the Cinderella stories, she is evil.
Appeared: Debbie: #273 (6 May 1978) – #284 (22 July 1978) (Spellbound section)
Artist: George Martin
Special thanks to “Phoenix” for help with episodes
Patti Parker is a promising tennis player but doesn’t have killer instinct. She can’t bear the thought of people losing to her, so she deliberately lets them win. Everyone at her club knows this, and they tell her it’s annoying.
Isadora Glenn sees this, and immediately decides Patti as the one she is looking for. She is the half-sister of Sylvia Radford, the most famous British tennis player who died in strange circumstances. She tricks Patti into her house and then gives her Sylvia’s racquet to replace the one she “accidentally” broke. As Patti takes the racquet, a strange spell comes over her. She comes over all dizzy and passes out. A woman’s voice tells Patti that when she feels the strength of Sylvia’s will upon her she will surrender herself…Sylvia’s hand will be on that racquet, giving Patti strength and determination…and through her Sylvia will play again…
So the power of the racquet is going to teach Patti to stop being so lenient and cultivate a competitive streak if she is to be the best she can be, and deliberately letting people win really is not really doing them good? Not on your life.
From the outset it is obvious that the power is evil, though its full power is not apparent at first. Its true power takes over gradually and intensifies over time, as does the manipulation and control of Isadora Glenn. It’s almost hypnotic, the way Isadora talks Patti into doing whatever she wants when Patti is having qualms of conscience at being obsessed with tennis to the point of hurting everything and everyone else, or being put off tennis because of it. When Patti neglects her grandmother’s funeral (and the Glenn influence was responsible for the grandmother’s death) her relatives are furious. Isadora seizes her chance to have Patti move in with her altogether, where Patti will be totally under her power.
The end result is, whenever Patti plays with the racquet, she does turn into a world-class champion, playing the way Sylvia played. But she’s also behaving the way Sylvia did on the tennis court, which would make John McEnroe look like a mild-mannered gentleman: a bullying, bad-tempered, vicious tennis player who is capable of anything against those who interfere with her on the tennis court.
This makes Patti a lot of enemies, and a very bad reputation. People say she is acting just like Sylvia Radford. Patti is very frightened and confused; she can’t understand what’s going on, especially as she’s not like that all the time. This is, of course, because when she’s not holding the racquet she is her normal kind self, but once she picks it up again she is back to the abusive Radford conduct. It’s hard convincing others that it’s something she doesn’t mean or understand, and she comes across like Jekyll and Hyde to them. It’s something the English selectors are very nervous about, and they decline to choose Patti to represent England.
Meanwhile Patti’s coach, Jane Marsh, has spotted a sly, evil look in Isadora’s eyes after Patti’s Radford conduct ruins a famous tennis player and she runs off in tears. Jean now realises she must investigate Isadora to find out what’s going on.
Another player, Rita Evans, asks Patti to be her doubles player in Bermuda. Isadora allows it, hoping it will change the selectors’ minds, as Rita is ranked number two. But Isadora still wants Patti to be chosen as a singles player, so she has Patti damage Rita’s hand so she will go to the finals as a singles player.
At the same match Jane learns something from a reporter. Isadora had dabbled in voodoo, which caused a scandal for her respectable family. She and Sylvia had to leave the district in disgrace and they set out for England. As we see more of Isadora’s thought bubbles we learn this was why Sylvia behaved so badly too, and Isadora is using both Sylvia and Patti as extensions of herself on the tennis court. She, not them, is the true badass tennis player.
Jane consults a voodooist, who knew Isadora from childhood. The voodooist says Isadora has possessed Patti and will eventually drive her to destruction. Patti will lose all will of her own until she resorts to self-destruction (we presume that means suicide) to escape from Isadora’s power. Jane realises this must be the way Sylvia went.
Jane became separated from Patti when her car went mysteriously out of control. Only Patti’s action saved her from death, but Jane was hospitalised while Patti went to play eliminating matches in Rome. By the time Jane catches up with Patti she sees things are worse than ever. She tries to pull Patti away, tell her what’s going on, and says she’s taking Patti back to England. Isadora has tried to poison Patti against Jane, saying Jane is just jealous. But as that didn’t work, at customs Isadora pulls another trick – framing Jane for smuggling undeclared goods. Jane is arrested while Isadora conveys Patti to Wimbledon for the finals.
Patti is now deeply frightened at her inexplicable conduct and hurting people without understanding why, and thinks there is some dark side taking over, but doesn’t realise what. As usual, it doesn’t take much for Isadora to smooth over those fears and drive her on relentlessly, but Jane realises that Patti could crack under it all.
Back in jail, Jane gets a reporter friend, Ruth, interested in her story, and Ruth helps her make bail. Isadora finds this out and spirits Patti away into hiding, and Jane can’t find her. She has little choice but to jump bail in order to get to Patti at Wimbledon. When the bail jump is discovered the police head out to Wimbledon in pursuit of Jane.
At Wimbledon, the evil racquet is having Patti put on her worst unsporting performance yet; it’s almost hysterical, and the commentator is having a ball describing the antics of the “vicious-tempered killer of the courts”. However, Patti’s rival is unimpressed and says she won’t be intimidated.
Jane finally clicks about the racquet. During the match she switches it with another while Patti isn’t looking and destroys it. Isadora sees the switch but can’t do anything about it. Her urging at Patti to win the match in Sylvia’s name is useless too. Without the racquet, Patti no longer behaves like Sylvia. The trouble is, she can’t play like Sylvia either. She is back to her own tennis level, which is nowhere near Wimbledon standard. She is soundly beaten and loses the championship Isadora wanted her to win in Sylvia’s name.
In the changing room Isadora rages at Jane about foiling her, and how Patti will be “nothing” instead of a world champion. Jane confronts her over how she drove Sylvia to her death, the way she almost did Patti. Isadora admits to framing Jane at customs but now wishes she had killed her instead. She also says she was behind the car crash in Bermuda, and will now use even more voodoo to have her revenge on both Jane and Patti. However, Isadora does not realise that she has walked into a trap set by Jane. As planned, the police and Ruth overhear everything. The police take Isadora in, setting the stage for clearing Jane. Ruth is delighted at the scoop.
Not surprisingly, Patti wants to quit tennis after this. However, Jane persuades her otherwise, saying she has what it takes to become a champion in her own right. And she will help Patti to get there.
A number of tennis stories about bad-tempered/ badly behaved tennis players have appeared in girls’ comics, and it looks like John McEnroe was an influence. Among them were “Pat the Brat” (Bunty), and “Cross on Court”, “Backhand Billie” and “Double – Or Nothing!”, all from Tammy. But this one turns it into an evil influence story, which was unusual for a sports serial.
Unlike other protagonists in the stories mentioned above the bad behaviour is no fault of the girl’s own. She can’t understand it, is increasingly frightened of it, and as it intensifies she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Unlike many protagonists under an evil influence she does not catch on, try to get help, or try to break away from it, despite Jane’s efforts. But from what the voodooist said, Patti really can’t escape from the power on her own. The power will just intensify until suicide is the only escape. She remains under the dominance of Isadora. It takes another person to make all the proactive moves to break her free. For this reason Patti does not grow all that much and the story does not develop her character that much. Other heroines grow in courage, strength and whole new ways of life by breaking free of the evil influence controlling them, but not Patti. We also expect Patti to be less of a softie and have more steel in playing tennis by the end of the story, but we don’t see that either. Instead, she’s all set to quit and it takes Jane’s coaxing to get her to carry on.
It’s Jane the coach who does the growing and the character development, and all makes all the proactive moves to bring the story to its resolution. She is the one who catches on to what is going on, but she isn’t really able to break Patti free of it despite her efforts. So we have to ask: who is the true heroine of this story? Patti is the titular heroine and none of the action would take place without her. But it’s Jane who does everything in the heroine role, and she is a far stronger and more developed character than Patti. She is the active heroine while Patti is a passive one, who takes little action to help herself out of her predicament, but that’s because she hasn’t got the power to do so.
Isadora Glenn is one of the most creepy, sinister, and terrifying villains ever to appear in Debbie. Her appearance and the way the inking conveys it has her giving the reader a feeling she’s a witch. As it turns out, that’s not wrong, because she’s a voodooist, and she’s using voodoo to turn Patti and Sylvia into vicious extensions of herself on the tennis court. She has no regard whatsoever as to what this will do to Patti in the end though she must be aware of it. She has no remorse about what it did to her own half-sister. Instead, she wants her sister and her champion tennis playing to rise again through Patti. Ironically, in a perverse way Isadora does intend it to be for Patti’s own good and make her a champion from “nothing”. Isadora is also extremely clever in the way she lures Patti into her power and gradually builds it until Patti is completely under her control, with only flashes of terror, conscience and desire to break free, which Isadora is very slick at stifling. Isadora is also capable of murder, and doing it through voodoo makes her even more terrifying. We have to wonder if even a police cell will keep our heroines safe from this woman and her black magic.
It is a very clever story setup in having the power over Patti gradually build up over time until she’s acting like a raving loony on the tennis court instead of having her change all at once. It makes the story even more creepy and frightening, having us not see all at once exactly what Patti is turning into with that evil racquet. Clearly, Isadora’s power needs to build strength and the victim’s will to gradually weaken for Patti (or Sylvia) to completely turn into the tennis court terror. And when the voodoo elements are introduced, the story becomes even more exciting and intense. Oooh…voodoo!
This story was in the Spellbound section of the Debbie & Spellbound merger. It may have originally been written for Spellbound. If so, it would have been one of Spellbound’s very best.