Tag Archives: halloween

Halloween 2019 Roundup

A day late I know, but still worth talking about what Halloween goodies I got this year.  As with previous years most come from Rebellion’s Treasury of British Comics line. For new editions this year, we have a fourth Misty book, this time focused on the artist Jordi Badia Romero and it is their most gorgeous book yet, complete with glossy hardcover. The introduction gives some insight into Jordi Badia Romero and also the work of his brother Enrique (which can sometimes get confused as they worked closely together). Then the book itself consist of mainly short stories (nineteen in total) and one 5 episode serial Screaming Point, as well as some Misty covers. There are many great stories here such as personal favourite of mine Hunt the Ripper which concludes in a fight between Dracula and Jack the Ripper, Darkness at Noon where a woman in ancient times has premonitions of great disaster and The Power of Young Melissa where a young woman appears to have the power to bring the dead back to life. The longer serial Screaming Point where an orphan, Lucy, goes to stay with her uncle, a public hangman is very atmospheric and one of Misty’s creepier serials.

Now in it’s 3rd year the Scream! & Misty special changes direction as it focuses on just one story –The Thirteenth Floor,  which continues its story from the previous 2 specials. Slightly disappointing is that Misty is dropped from the cover so the title is just Scream! Presents. But worries have been subsided with news of next years specials, as not only are we getting a Scream! & Misty Special in October there is also scheduled to be a Misty Presents Special in December. The amount of specials announced for next year  (including another Tammy & Jinty issue) is exciting, especially as they seem to going well enough to expand the amount of titles. So I guess going forward we can expect both combined anthology specials and focused “presents” specials.  As for  The Thirteenth Floor, it really does have room to breathe in this longer format, sometimes the story doesn’t flow to well and needs a second read to get everything, but overall works fine.  Like in the previous specials there are different artists for the real world and Max’s world. This can be a bit jarring at times but also quite effective, a lot of great artists here. The story like I said picks up from the previous special as Officer Hester’s memory wipe hasn’t been completely effective and she is closing in on Max and Sam, meanwhile Sam’s home situation isn’t a pleasant one and helping Max isn’t bringing out the best in him. There is some very creepy imagery throughout, so perfect for Halloween scares!  As well as this story there is a short stand alone story and the first episode from the original series.

While I have not got my copy yet i should also mention Julia Round’s book Gothic for Girls: Misty and British Comics is now available on Amazon. This book gives an in-depth analysis of Misty, so I must for fans.  I look forward to receiving my copy soon.

Meanwhile on the DC Thomson side of things, there is a bit of a Halloween mystery. At the start of the month DC Heritage department opened a Damian Darke twitter account hinting at the return of Spellbound. Then it was announced that they were releasing a digital edition of Spellbound with reprint of serial “I Don’t Want to be a Witch!” and a collection of Damian Darke stories to be released on the 30th October. Then when that date came around all information has suddenly disappeared without explanation and Damian Darke’s twitter account has been deleted! I’ve been trying to make enquiries about this so I will update when I know what has happened as I know many people were eager at the news of the release. Myself being super eager when I checked on twitter and saw the information was gone, I checked on comixology (digital comics website) and saw it was available there, so I bought it. But now I see it has also disappeared from the comixology shop so not available for anyone else. So I won’t post any information about it, until I know further details about why it was pulled (I’m half expecting the copy I bought to be recalled!), but I will say I hope whatever has gone wrong can be resolved because it is quite a nice collection.

So even though Halloween is officially over, still some good reading and a mystery to solve!

Fran – Friend for a Year / Prisoner of Time

  • Fran – Friend for a Year – Tracy: #03 (20 October 1979) – #15 (12 January 1980)
  • Reprinted as Prisoner of Time – Nikki: #171 (28 May 1988) – #185 (3 September 1988)
  • Main Artist: Carlos Laffond
  • Second Artist: Candido Ruiz Pueyo

Plot

On a Halloween night, Julie Jackson has a party on top of Holly Hill, a place where witches were legend to meet in olden times. Julie has brought an old spell she found in the library which is meant to summon spirits. She is startled by sudden appearance of a girl, causing her to drop the paper into bonfire, before she can recite it. The girl, Fran Gray, joins the party, she has some strange old fashioned sayings and seems to know more about history than modern things. She tells Julie she used to live here a long time ago and has recently returned. She also tells her that 300 years ago witches met at this place and their influence lingers. Julie invites Fran back to her house when it starts to rain. Later after everyone leaves, the Jacksons discover Fran has no home, so invite her to stay. Fran is grateful but she can only be friends with Julie for a time.

The Jacksons end up fostering Fran, but there are many puzzling things about Fran. Julie notices her marking the calendar, she says a year goes by quickly. Fran seems to very knowledgeable, on the first day of school Fran evacuates everyone when she realises the new school has been built on an old mine. Everyone gets out before the school collapses. Reporters want to do a story on her heroism, but Fran shies away from photos and doesn’t want any interviews. At the newspaper office the reporters find an old story about a girl saving children during a bombing, the think the similarities with Fran is curious. With the school closed, Julie and Fran go to stay with her cousin. When they arrive, Fran sees the door plaque for Dr Hawkforth, then when Carol greets them, Fran throws silver dust on her to protect herself from evil. Talking to her family Dr. Hawkforth remembers stories about witches in his family and Fran refuses to stay with them. So they have to leave.

More mysterious behaviour when they go out riding and Fran uses a side sidle. She saves a fox from a hunt as she says she knows what it is like to be hunted. Time passes and soon it is Christmas. Wanting to show her gratitude to the Jacksons Fran digs up old heirlooms to give to them as presents. Christmas is not happy time for Fran though as when the Hawkforths visit, Fran will not interact with them and draws circle around her bed to protect from evil. Seeing the presents Fran gave, Uncle John says he has an old painting of  a woman with the brooch and when Julie tells Fran about it, she says it was her mother, but then says she has no mother and no family. When Julie tries to comfort her saying she has them now, Fran replies that it’s only for a year.  Fran causes more trouble at a New Year when she hypnotizes a rude girl causing her to throw trifle over herself. She says its one of the many things  she learned over the years. When Fran wants to go to Brinton Julie accompanies her and she puts flowers on an ancestors grave. It seems a reporter and pastor are waiting to find out who the mysterious mourner is who leaves flower on the same day over the years on a gravestone too faded to read. On another family outing the girls meet an old woman who is shocked to see Fran as she looks like the girl, Fanny, that they adopted. But Fanny disappeared after a year leaving only a thank you note. They bring some comfort to Mrs Palmer, but Julie again wonders what is Fran’s connection with Fanny.

At home Julie catches Fran putting on make-up to try and look older, and again Fran makes some mysterious comments about some people not getting to be old. Later when out with some friends Fran saves girl from drowning. It seem for a minute, after saving the girl, Fran is going to let the water take her, but then changes her mind, she tells Julie she must follow life through to it’s natural end. Julie begins to get more pieces of the puzzle,when Fran is knocked out by tree rambles about “Don’t burn the witch, spare Sarah Hawkforth until she has freed me”. Then when the Jacksons go looking for a birth certificate for Fran in village she was born in, they can only find a Fran Gray from over 300 years ago. As Fran’s birthday approaches she becomes more unhappy, she promises to reveal everything to Julie soon. Mrs Jackson makes Fran a cake but  the 14th candle won’t light. That night Fran sneaks down to grandfather clock and Julie follows her.  At midnight the hands spin backwards, Fran tells Julie the spell still holds.

Carol Hawkforth arrives soon after Fran’s birthday, she has been doing some digging  into her ancestors and has found out about Black Sarah a witch burnt at the stake. A black cat arrives at the house, Fran says it’s reminding her she can’t stay longer. Finally Fran tells her story – Sarah Hawkforth lodged with her family, but when her father found out she was a witch he cast her out, she cursed Fran with living forever. Sarah was burnt at stake before Fran could get her to reverse the spell. So as Fran stayed 13 forever all her family and friends grew old and died around her. She then for the next stage of her  endless journey.

Thoughts

It’s that time of year again, to look at some spooky stories. When this story was first printed it started appropriately around Halloween although the reprint started in May! There were two artists for the story, perhaps because I had gotten used to Laffond but I think he did a better job at portraying the wise qualities of Fran and spookier atmosphere. [Update: Thanks for Goof for the artist names, also I just noticed that the Nikki reprint has 2 extra episodes, I don’t know which episodes are extra as I don’t have the Tracy issues to compare but presumably those that were cut didn’t affect the story and may have to do with Lafford’s early death] Of the story titles, I prefer Prisoner of Time, as it keeps more with the mysterious tone. The first episode in Nikki had a cover that  promises it to be the strangest story ever read. I don’t know if that is true but it does come close and the cover was very intriguing. That cover actually takes a lot from the last 2 episodes  so readers must have been anticipating when these story elements would be revealed.

It is quite a detailed story, so my summary just covers main points, but there is lot of strange behaviour and sayings like “love apples” for tomatoes that Fran use. It is very interesting that it turns out Fran was cursed by a witch, as she displays some witchy qualities herself, such as saying a spell on Holly Hill to protect Julie from spirits, her use of silver and circles to ward off evil and her putting girl “under a spell” by hypnotizing her. Early in the story I thought it would be revealed that she was persecuted as a witch by the Hawkforths, especially as she mentioned she knew what is was like to hunted like the fox. So the reveal that she was actually cursed by a Hawkforth witch was well done.  I do wonder if she met some good witches over her time, and that’s where she learned some spells, perhaps she has sought help to break the curse before. We don’t get to learn much about Fran’s past as we only get hints of it throughout the story, so it does leave room for readers to imagine what the last 300 years has been like for Fran, once her secret is revealed.

Some things don’t quite add up though, such as if she has been alive all this time, even if she still likes old fashion things its odd that she is not also knowledgable about modern things. The ending also leaves some questions, as it plays up the difference in age of Julie and Fran, making out that she is so much younger and naive which contrasts to her worldly presence (The switch in artist for the last 6 parts also makes Fran look younger, I don’t know if that is intentional or just their style). With the Jackson’s knowing the truth and ancestor of Black Sarah among them, you’d think they might try to help Fran instead of letting her go, but maybe that would lead to too many questions by authorities. There are some dark tones in the stories, Fran is certainly a tragic and sympathetic figure, having to watch her family die, to never have permanent friends, it clearly distresses her, so much that she even contemplates suicide at one point! Quite heavy stuff. It is a story that feels fresh in comparison to some other witch stories and a captivating read.

 

 

Halloween 2018 Round up

We’ve been spoiled for choice this October for creepy comics both old and new, so I thought I should look at a few of them.

Rebellion of course have been leading the charge releasing the third volume of Misty and the first volume of The Thirteenth Floor from Scream! as well as the second Scream!/ Misty Halloween Special. Elsewhere we also got the independent Bite Me Comic , and while not out in time for Halloween Comic Scene the Uk comic Magazine will have their Magic & Horror issue out in 2 weeks.

Starting with Misty Vol 3: Wolf Girl & Other Stories, this makes a change from the first two  volumes, instead of printing two serials, it prints one and a collection of related short stories. This isn’t a bad format considering Misty had far more short stories than serials. I think it is a bit weaker than the first two volumes, but they are hard act to follow as they had some of the strongest and fan-favourite stories. This is also the first volume where not all the credits are known, while the writer of Wolf Girl remains a mystery the art of Eduardo Feito is captivating.  The story is about Lona, who is rescued and raised by a wolf after her parents were killed in an accident. She is found when she is two and adopted and brought up with no knowledge of her past. But her past catches up and  hitting puberty she starts acting out in a feral way, eventually she runs away from home and tries to embrace her other nature. It story moves along quickly,maybe too quickly particularly the ending is a bit sudden. I do like that Lona has been very “civilised” until this point and her struggle between her two upbringings is well done, it contrasts with something like The Taming of Teresa, where her bestial nature is slowly made more civilised.

The short stories follow the Wolf theme; Poor Jenny, (a personal favourite that made it into my top short stories list here),The Curse of the Wolf, Twin Catastrophes and Wolfsbane. Along with a few other extras these fill out the book nicely. I’d be happy enough if they decide to keep with this format printing some short stories with a serial and I like they’ve kept an overall theme. There are still some Misty stories I would have preferred to see, but I’m sure there will be plenty of other Misty volumes in future that will cover them.

Scream! an even sorter lived publication, has also had 3 volumes of stories reprinted, Monster, The Dracula File and The Thirteenth Floor, while I haven’t had a chance to pick up the latest book, I did pick up The Dracula File not so long ago.  I really enjoyed the book, the art is amazing and the story captures the Dracula myth and places it perfectly in a “modern” day Britain.  The biggest flaw is the story was clearly taking it’s time building to something (although it is not a slow read, it’s quite a page turner!). Stakis (the ex KGB agent hunting Dracula) doesn’t arrive in Britain till about halfways through the story and then in, what would have been the last issues of Scream!, we are shown a flashback to Dracula’s past. It leaves quite a lot unresolved which is a pity. Still it is an excellent Count Dracula story, which I would recommend. Certainly it encourages me to pick up the other Scream! books in the future, I’ve read a little of The Thirteenth Floor and have liked what I’ve seen. easy to see why it’s being picked up for new stories in the specials.

Speaking of the special.. Scream!/ Misty  picks up from the previous year’s book with continuing stories for The Thirteenth Floor and Black Max. They are joined by other potential ongoings Decomposition Jones and Black Beth. On the more Misty side of things are some short stories Best Friends (new for the book), Mint Condition (a reprint of a limited seen fanzine) and Boookworm (reprint from Misty). I think overall this issue is stronger than last year, it does still have the problem of some stories being more set up for ongoing, but most felt satisfying on their own.  The art throughout is great too, my favourite is probably Black Beth, gorgeous work. I enjoyed Decomposition Jones, though it highlights that this book is aimed at an older audience than the original books and Mint Condition about girl trying to keep her inheritance  of Misty Comic Collection in pristine condition. The Thirteenth Floor is darker than usual as we see someone not deserving of such treatment, take a trip. Best Friends is a fun cautionary tale and Bookworm is still good on a reread. I also appreciate the release of two alternative covers again this year, which are both stunning.

Bite Me comic in someways is more what I expected of the Scream/Misty special. As I mentioned above, the special seems more aimed at an older audience (the grown up readers), this however feels more similar to the old comics I used to read while still being new. They are all short stories but I could see at least two stories that could have potential for ongoings, The Moonlight Girls and Clarabelle and the Ghostly Locket. The Moonlight Girls I especially liked, as girls with names of Diana, Tammy, Judy and Mandy gather around a fire to tell a spooky story of The Countess. The Doll Sitter and Night Light are both creepy stories and then rounding out the comic is two Misty reprints Who Killed Teacher? and oddly enough Twin Catastrophes which as mentioned above was also reprinted in the Misty Volume 3 book. There’s a few vampire related features to round the comic out. From what I have gathered Bite Me is a vampire based magazine that comes out bi-annually, with this being a special switch to comic, I don’t know what the future plans, if this is just a once off, but I would certainly be happy to see more of it. I will also say delivery service was fast and even came with thank you note from the editor. (http://www.bitememagazine.com/buy-bite-me-comic)

Finally I wanted to give a mention to Comic Scene Magazine, it is full of great articles looking back at the old UK comics and what is currently on the scene. It’s approach of having a theme for each issue (humour, war, sport etc.) is an interesting one, also if money is tight it makes it easier for reader’s to choose the issues that interest them most. I of course picked up issue 1 which was focused on Women and Girl Comics, and looked at things such as Misty, Supercats, Valda and Cat Girl (the IPC character not the DCT one). The upcoming fourth issue will look at Scream & Misty, Girls Comics Spooky storytellers, New Doctor Who and Sandman among other things.  The magazine seems to be going well, so it will be a good resource. (https://comicscene.tictail.com/)

While I haven’t done a very in depth review of these books, I think its good to highlight what’s available these days and I’ve certainly enjoyed the range of books we’re getting.