Tag Archives: horror

Nightmares [1993]

  • Nightmares – Judy PSL: #360 [1993]
  • Art: Oliver Passingham

Plot

Sally Laing is in charge of driving a group of girls from the Kentwood Youth club to Summer Camp. Bad weather forces Sally to pull over, which reminds one of the girls, Penny, of a nightmare she had of being stuck on a motorway. In the dream,  she was in car with her dad and a horrible truck driver keeps boxing them in so they can’t get to the slip road. When they do get off the motorway, they are led back onto it again and then it changes into a roundabout with no exits and  suddenly changes into a merry-go-round that kept going faster until Penny woke up. While the girls are amused by the story, Sally is worried about the weather and decides to try and find somewhere to stay for the night. They get to a B&B, Hadley Hall, but the owner, Mrs Keeting, seems reluctant to let them stay. She says the sign is an old one but agrees to let them stay one night. Penny gets a shock when a member of staff, George, comes to take care of their luggage, as he looks exactly like the man from her nightmare!

The girls try to make the best of things, while eating Pauline is reminded of a nightmare she had. She goes to a dentist, a strange looking woman,  who pokes and prods until Pauline runs away from her. But the next day Pauline discovers she has fangs, so she has to return to dentist to get them fixed. Like Penny, Pauline gets a shock when the woman clearing the table is the same as the dentist. Mrs Keeting takes them to their room, which has no furniture, so they are forced to sleep on the floor with blankets. Again a girl is reminded of a nightmare. Jenny dreamt of a similar room, where one of the walls revealed the message “Prepare to Meet Thy Doom” and then the walls started to close in on her. The girls are now getting edgy, and pealing off some of the wallpaper reveals the same message as from Jenny’s dream. Sally asks whoever wrote the message to own up, but they all deny writing it.

Even when they try to sleep, it doesn’t stop the girls talking of nightmares. Another story has a girl camping, when she gets flooded and has to cling onto a tree trunk. Two witches appear beside her on other trunks, until she falls down a waterfall into a whirlpool. Suddenly water starts pouring on the girl’s head. Sally being sensible, just says a slate must have come loose, and she will get some dry blankets from Mrs Keeting. But even Sally is unsettled when she finds their door is locked. She is not in the mood when Wendy starts telling the story of her dream of being in a locked room. In the dream she found a trapdoor that had a spiral staircase, she went down for ages only to find another trapdoor leading back to the original room. Once again real life imitates the dream, as they find a trapdoor. Wendy goes to investigate but trips and Sally has to go after her. When they make their back to the trapdoor, Mrs Keeting has closed it as she is not happy with them poking around. She does let them out but Sally has had enough, she tells the girls they are leaving straight away, but when they get outside the minibus is gone and the staff deny seeing it.

Sally tries to call for police but dial is stuck, this again triggers another memory of a nightmare. A girl shrinks and has difficulty phoning for help. In reality they find the phone won’t work because the line is cut. With little choice they are lead back to their room again.  With the door locked Sally thinks the only way to go find minibus is to climb down the ivy. One of the girls protests as she had a nightmare about ivy attacking her, still Sally persists. She is part of the way down when Mrs Keeting and the others see her. She cuts the ivy, causing Sally to fall and brings her back to the room. Penny notices that the key is still in the lock and figure they can knock it onto a piece of paper. The old newspaper they are going to use has the headline that Hadley Hall was destroyed in a fire and even more odd the paper is dated for the next day, Friday the 13th! Freda tells of a dream where she dropped her key and fell down a hole with a bunch of keys, she frantically looked for the right key when a beast started chasing her.

They do manage to get out of the room and house but find themselves in a maze, they get lost and Mrs Keeting finds them. Soon they are back to where they started in the room again. As the storm worsens a nearby tree is struck by lightning and falls onto the house, setting it on fire. Sally and the girls make it to the roof to escape but are one again confronted by Mrs Keeting. Her and Sally fight and they both fall into the flames. It is at that moment Penny wakes up Sally. They are still in the bus, Sally fell asleep soon after they pulled over. As the storm has cleared they can sett off again and Sally tells them about her dream on the way. As they pass a sign for Hadley Hall, Penny asks what the name of the house was in her dream. Sally can’t remember and says it doesn’t matter anyway as nightmares have nothing to do with reality. As she drives on we see Mrs Keeting by the sign.

Thoughts

This is spooky and tense story. I like the dream narrative, and how on reflection, it becomes more obvious its a dream near the end, with archetypes such as sudden transitions and impossible occurrences, such as suddenly finding themselves in a maze or Mrs Keetings sudden appearance on the roof or even one of the girls picking this time to want to tell a nightmare story!  Still it doesn’t make it too obvious that it’s not reality until the end, so it could be believed it is just a very creepy house with maybe something supernatural going on. With all the stories of the girls dreams, it is like there are multiple mini scary stories, which brings more variety and makes satisfying reading. Most of these short nightmares would be scary on their own but to then have it tie into what’s going on around them adds another layer of creepiness.

Oliver Passingham drew a lot of supernatural and eerie stories (he was a regular artist on Skeleton Corner) and his style is suited here. With the nightmares he gets a chance to bring even more supernatural elements such as the witches and the beast, and even in “reality” he makes things eerie. Mrs Keeting is a good villain, and the final confrontation with her is quite exciting, as we wonder if the girls will be able to escape. Even though it all turns out to be a dream, the final panel with Mrs Keeting, makes things a bit more ambiguous, and makes us wonder if there was some sort of prophecy to Sally’s dream. Maybe Hadley Hall is destined to burn down, or the dream serves as a warning to stay away from the house and Mrs Keeting.

It is a story that uses it premise of nightmares well and  takes its time to build to the twist in the end. Although on reflection, knowing that after Penny tells her story in the minisbus, everything else is a dream, it does mean Sally’s nightmare was quite elaborate including nightmares within a nightmare!

 

The Strange Story of the Demon’s Cradle [1985]

Plot

A demon is chasing Jenny Jenkins because it wants the cradle artefact she possesses, which would enable it to conquer the world. She is trying to get to consecrated ground to bury the cradle, which would put it out of reach of the demon.

Notes

  • Photo story
  • The Demon is drawn rather than a photo, it looks to be David Matysiak work

Appeared

  • The Strange Story of the Demon’s Cradle – Suzy:  #160 (28 Sep 1985) – #166 (9 Nov 1985)

 

Malice in Wonderland

  • Malice In Wonderland–  M&J: #01 (18 May 1991) – #08 (06 July 1991)
  • Artist: Oliver Passingham

Plot

Becky Shaw lives in seaside town, Seahaven, when Summer ends the town grows quiet as all the holidaymakers going home. One of the big attractions of the town is the amusement park Wonderland, run by Mrs Jolly. Becky and her friends see Mrs Jolly going around town trying to get the last few tourists to come visit Wonderland. Mrs Jolly has her dog Bones do tricks to attract customers and she isn’t happy when Becky’s dog, Poppy starts copying Bones old to do better than him. She can’t seem nasty in front of other people but soon she gets Becky on her own and offers to buy Poppy or even swap her own dog for him. Of course Becky isn’t having it, but then Mrs Jolly startles Poppy and she runs into Wonderland. Mrs Jolly tells Becky she better find her fast as Wonderland is closing in half hour and won’t open again until next year.

malice-in-wonderland-1

Becky is forced to leave when Wonderland closes but she goes back the next day and manages to get in. She is surprised that all the lights are on and the rides are operational. She finds Poppy but Mrs Jolly has gotten there first, Mrs Jolly says she will make a bargain with Becky – if she successfully goes on all her amusements she will get Poppy back. Becky doesn’t take her on up on this bargain, instead grabbing Poppy she escapes but is suddenly surrounded by fog, she thinks she makes it home only to discover it’s a model of her house and she is still in Wonderland. Becky has no choice but to except the challenge. Helping to keep Becky there are Mrs Jolly’s strange children, who all wear stripy scarves.

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First Becky is led down a hall of mirrors and is scared by distorted image of herself. The image also scares Fey one of the young Jolly children,  Mrs Jolly comforts her daughter and tells her things are not always as the seem in Wonderland. Becky uses this advice when playing a game of getting prize from animatronic cat that is now more vicious. She discovers everything in Wonderland is now more dangerous and realistic looking than when the amusements were opened for the summer. Another example of this is the Little Red Riding Hood amusement where she has to avoid the wolves, which are lot scarier now. She gets through, and Mrs Jolly congratulates Becky for passing one test, then her daughter Tarith corrects her reminding her Becky has passed two tests now. Becky thinks she may have an ally in Tarith, but she notices strangely that Mrs Jolly seems to be scared of her daughter and she begins to wonder who is really in charge.

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Tarith seems friendly begins to quiz Becky about her life, but then Becky finds what ever she tells Tarith makes her forget those memories. The memory stealing seems to be connected to a song on jukebox. At the same time Becky still has to go through the challenges the Jollys’ set her. She is led back to the hall of mirrors, she fails at the task, to escape within a set time. Then Tarith appears to help, Becky is startled to see her reflection has Tarith’s face and she has Beckys. She suspects Tarith’s claims that she will help her to escape, actually means Tarith will take her place and Becky will be left trapped. Not seeing any other choice for the moment, she agrees to take Tarith to her house. Again fog appears and Becky knows they haven’t escaped and are back in the model of her house. Becky things back to Mrs Jolly saying things aren’t what they seem, she stands up to Tarith saying everything is an illusion. She walks pass the Jollys saying they aren’t really. A ghostly Tarith comes after her, reaching for her… at that point a hand wakes her up. It’s her mom, it ha all been a dream. Becky fell asleep after playing Jolly Families card game. Becky is worried when she there is no Tarith card, she wonders if she was possibly real, but then Poppy appears chewing a card, which is the Tarith card. Becky is relieved the nightmare is over.

malice-in-wonderland-4

Thoughts

From the story title the ending shouldn’t be such a surprise that it’s all a dream. The story does have a sort of surreal feeling about it, knowing it’s a dream, it makes sense – rules change,  Becky goes home only to actually find she’s still in Wonderland, Jollys popping up sudenly in the fog and the changing villains. The art by Oliver Passingham fits this well, as he has drawn a lot of creepy stories and he captures the changing nature of wonderland well. All the characters are very distinctive, Mrs Jolly looks like the villain with some exaggerated features she is like a caricature, meanwhile Tarith the real villain, looks pretty but he captures intensity with her eyes and creepy sequences like the hall of mirrors.

malice-in-wonderland-5

The shift from Mrs Jolly to Tarith as villain is nicely done.  Mrs Jolly at first shown to be nasty and scary, is shown to be more sympathetic as story goes on, she cares for her children, as shown when she comforts Fey and is scared of Tarith. Tarith when introduced as a possible ally to Becky, also has some sympathetic characteristics as it seems she just wants to escape like Becky, of course the problem is what she is willing to do to achieve that goal – taking over Becky’s life! The ending with it all being a dream would have been more intriguing if they left it with the Tarith card missing. This could leave the reader wondering if Tarith was some supernatural being trying to get at Becky through her dreams. Instead the story was all wrapped up with happy ending, which I’m sure readers were relieved to see!

It’s a short story, only 8 issues, and because of it all being a dream the ending can seem a bit abrupt but it still works well. It would have been interesting to see Becky trying more of the twisted amusements, I was reminded of Goosebumps book “One Day in Horrorland” where kids were trapped in a twisted theme park, although that book came out after this story. So it is a popular  concept that has popped up in other places!

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Scream! (1997)

Scream cover

Mandy Picture Library #272

Published: 1997

Cover: Peter Wilkes?

Writer: Anne Bulcraig

“Scream!” takes a complete break from the usual pattern of girls’ picture libraries. Instead of being one complete story it is a collection of five shorter-length stories, and they are all spooky, creepy stories. Unsavoury girls get their comeuppances while other girls get caught in scary experiences that they may or may not emerge from unscathed. All stories are labelled as a “Scream!”. This take harkens back to the days of horror comics Misty and Spellbound two decades before. It was a trend that was seldom seen after both comics folded and is fondly remembered.

Scream 1: Framed! – artist Norman Lee

Katie Knight feels lonely after her best friend Joanna Bland emigrates, but soon becomes friends with new girl Lisa Jones. Lisa says she and her mother look after animals of all descriptions and invites Katie and her dog Soda around for the weekend.

When Katie arrives, she is surprised to find the walls of the house are lined with paintings of animals done by Mrs Jones, but no real animals are present. Meanwhile, Soda is acting strangely, and when the girls take a walk in the wood, he gets really terrified. Katie thinks the wood is weird too, and eventually realises it has no birds or animals. Later, Katie is baffled to find that a cat she saw in one of the paintings has changed position from when she last saw it.

Then Katie wakes up one night and discovers that Soda has somehow been turned into one of Mrs Jones’ paintings. Katie explains that they have had to turn to pets for their paintings because all the wildlife realised what was going on and fled. What happens next with Katie and the Joneses is not recorded. Some weeks later, a new girl brings a guinea pig with her to a weekend stay with the Joneses….

 Scream 1

Scream 2: Green Fingers – artist Carlos Freixas

Sarah Peters is a very selfish girl who grabs whatever she wants and never helps anyone, not even when it is an emergency. In class Sarah suddenly gets interested in a green issue project when she hears the prize money will pay for the top she has her eye on. On the way home she sees a plant in a window box that has leaves shaped like hearts and cute animals. It is so unusual it is guaranteed to win. She asks the owner if she can have a cutting. The owner says she needs to test Sarah to see if she is a suitable candidate. It turns out to be a test for kindness, and of course the selfish Sarah fails dismally. The owner refuses to give her the cutting, saying the plant has powers to reflect the nature of its owner. Only nice people are safe tending it and it would be dangerous for someone like Sarah. But Sarah is not having that; she sneaks out in the night and helps herself to a cutting.

After one night with Sarah the leaves start changing shape. They are going from hearts and cute animals to ghoulish faces and creepy animals. Sarah is bewildered and revolted at the new shapes, but does not get rid of the plant or reconsider what the lady said. The lady warns Sarah to return the cutting before it is too late, for even she does not fully understand the plant’s powers. Sarah does not listen and denies ever taking the cutting.

When Sarah returns home from school, her mother asks her to go and pick up an urgent prescription for a neighbour who is not well. But Sarah cares far more for watching her favourite television programme and goes into the house to watch. Then, as Sarah approaches her bedroom, she is astonished to find her cutting is now growing so much that it is coming out through the door. She goes into her room, where the plant starts crawling all over her. She screams for help – but the plant has learned its behaviour from the girl who never helps anyone.

Scream 2

Scream 3: House Warning – artist unknown

Julie Wood and her family move into a large house in the country. Julie is bewildered when everyone at her new school avoids her for no apparent reason, and her mother gets the same treatment at the supermarket. A neighbour asks Julie if she is having problems with the house yet, and then things do start going strangely wrong for the family in the house. Eventually, a boy at school tells Julie the reason people avoid her is the house. It seems to be alive and won’t let anyone live in it ever since its owner died the previous year. Julie questions the neighbour again. The neighbour says the house is grieving for its late owner, “Old Kate” Murray. Old Kate loved the house and now it will not accept anyone else.

In the night, a strange lady wakes Julie up, which alerts Julie to a fire. Julie manages to extinguish the fire before it catches proper hold. Then Julie realises the woman was Old Kate and it had been her ghost that was driving people out. But this time Old Kate needed help to save her house from burning down, and got it from Julie. From then on, the Woods have no more trouble with the house.

Scream 3

Scream 4: Skin Deep – artist Maria Dembilio

Nadine Andrews and her family are on holiday at a holiday camp. Nadine is a vain girl who infuriates everyone with her conceit, including her sister Emily. Nadine wants to enter the “Miss Happy Holidays” beauty contest. At the fair Nadine meets a fortune teller, and is surprised that the fortune teller somehow knows she wants to enter the contest. The fortune teller sells Nadine a beauty cream that will guarantee she wins. The effects on Nadine’s face seem like magic and she does win.

But the effect wears off next day. Nadine feels cheated and goes back to the fortune teller to get her money back. Nadine is extremely unreasonable when the fortune teller says she never said the effects were lasting, and becomes rude and insulting to her. Deciding Nadine needs a lesson, the fortune teller gives her an even stronger and longer-lasting cream that is guaranteed to make her really stand out. She says the price will be very high – but it isn’t money, which she refuses to accept. When Nadine puts on the cream, she is shocked to find her face has gone all distorted! The effects wear off eventually and Nadine stops being so vain.

Scream 4

Scream 5: Time Slip – artist Claude Berridge

During half-term break, Trudi Clark accompanies her father on an archaeological excavation at a site where a medieval village is said to be. The dig yields an old box that looks at least three hundred years old and Dad asks Trudi to hold it. But when she does, the whole environment changes to a medieval appearance, with no sign of her family. A boy runs by and tells Trudi to misdirect a man who is chasing him, which she does. She makes friends with the boy, whose name is Carak. Carak comments on her strange clothes. Trudi begins to think she has been transported to the past, when the medieval village existed. But then Carak serves her hamburgers, which were not around in medieval times.

Then Carak notices the box, and says Trudi must have stolen it from the museum. Trudi wants to hold onto it as she hopes it will get her back to her own time. When Carak says it is five hundred years old – not three hundred – Trudi realises that she has been transported to the future, not the past. A replica of the medieval village has been built as a tourist attraction, and the museum has exhibits not only of medieval times but the 20th century as well. Carak is surprised when the cabinet the box is supposed to be in is still sealed. Then he sets off an alarm and the man, Mr Peters, starts chasing them both. They find a place to take refuge in.

Trudi decides to tell Carak what happened. Carak opens the box, which contains three rings. He explains they are time travel devices that can take someone into the past, present or future. The trouble is, nobody knows which ring is which. When Trudi held the box, she must have had her hand too close to the “future” ring. Mr Peters catches up, and Trudi takes a chance on one of the rings. But this ring transports them to the past and the real medieval village. A woman comes in and thinks they are robbers. As they flee, Trudi trips up and a man grabs one of her Wellington boots. They take another shot at the rings, and this time they come to Trudi’s own time period, and the clock time is just before the box was found. Carak takes the box and goes back to his own time.

This time, Dad’s find is the Wellington boot that Trudi lost in medieval times. Trudi hopes he does not look too closely at the boot and realise it has been buried at that spot for years – how will she be able to explain that to him?

Scream 5

Misty Short Stories

Misty had a lot of short stories, an average of 3 per issue. Being a horror and mystery comic, there was lots of chilling imagery, twists, frights and often a story came with a moral. Regularly a greedy girl would get a fitting punishment, like the girl who takes joy in hunting down and pinning rare butterflies, only to be hunted by aliens and added to their collection. Although it could just as easily be an innocent just be in the wrong place at the wrong time, there was stories of ghosts, evil djinn, vampires and werewolves. There was also some notable influences from classic stories such as a Jekyll and Hyde like story “The Shop at Crooked Corner” (#14) and a variation of Button, Button by Matheson “Take the Money!” (#90).  Stories could also touch on more serious issues and it was clearly a product of its time passing commentary on the state of 70s Britain.

There was lots of great stories but I’m going to talk about my personal top 15 short stories in Misty. It’s completely subjective and also to note there are some stories I haven’t read. It was quite hard to narrow down (I couldn’t get it down to 10!) but here it goes:

15.  Titch’s Tale (#26) [Art: John Richardson]

A small girl nicknamed Titch is always being left out of things and picked on because of her height. To cheer herself up she goes flying her kite. There are some other people on the hill with the same idea. Titch is enjoying herself until strange things began happening, people dissappear into the clouds. Noone else notices, then she’s all alone and suddenly finds herself lifted into the sky. We cut to an alien returning home after a day of “fishing”. His mother comments that 5 is hardly enough to feed his father. He says he caught another one but it was so small he threw it back. Back on Earth, Titch wakes up on the hill.

Maybe being short myself I identify with the main character. There’s also some nice art and colours used. Its a fun little story, often we see aliens with human traits, in this case a kid “fishing”.  While what has happened to the other people is a horrifying thought, it can be taken in a more lighthearted way especially when being small actually helps the protagonist.

titchs tale

14.  Master Stroke (#23) [Art: Peter Wilkes]

A peasant girl seeks the Queen in order to serve her. There are terrible things happening in the land and there are talks of masters controlling the King. The people in the land are living in fear of a black knight, and the girl is surprised when the knight choses not to kill her. He tells her she would be dead if the choice was his. She makes it to the palace and finds even more terrible things happen as a Bishop drags away a boy. The Queen tells her she is a fool for not continuing on she could have been a queen herself. She asks them to stop the bad things happening but the King says their fate is at the hands of the masters. She is killed only for the reader to be shown its all a chess match. Some schoolgirls watching comment on how boring it is.

It’s a nice set up that it was all a game, if you’ve any knowledge of chess it’s easy to see where this is going, but it is still done well with some great visuals. The layouts are really good, with the looming Black Knight taking up the majority of the first page and the use of smaller circular panel as a close up of the girl eye as she wants to cover it.masterstroke

13. Poor Jenny (#17)

In Victorian London a young amnesic girl is being chased by some men. She runs in front of a horse and carriage she isn’t injured but she does faint. The couple from the carriage take her home, she knows her name is Jenny but can’t remember anything else. That night she has a nightmare of turning into a beast and men with no mercy chasing her. She is comforted by the couple, she tells them of her dream and the large gaps in her memory. She fears she is a werewolf. James shows her the full moon and assures her it was just a nightmare and she sleeps soundly for the rest of the night. The next morning Jenny is gone. Jenny now knows it wasn’t a dream and she can feel her self changing. It turns out she is a wolf who turns into a girl during the full moon. Now in her wolf form she is captured and taken back to London Zoo.

This is a good twist on werewolf story, it also plays around with the common tropes of girl’s comics stories, with the amnesic girl with mysterious past and the Victorian London setting.

poor jenny

12. Dead End (#34) / Room for One More (#39) [Art: John Armstrong]

I know it’s a cheat to have 2 for one entry but both stories are quite similar in premise and are drawn by the same artist. In “Dead End” tough girl Cath is nasty and a bully, she has a weaker friend Jane who is unhappy when Cath mugs an old lady especially when the victim runs away scared and is knocked down by a bus. Julie in “Room For One More” is a similarly nasty character, causing trouble around the town and then robbing an eldery shopkeeper. Both girls meet the same demise being hit by traffic, but  how we get to the ending is what differentiates the stories from each other.

In “Dead End” Cath’s friend Jane is feeling terribly guilty about what happened keeps saying she sees the old lady that died, Cath gets a bit paranoid but brushes it off until she gets a part time job as house help. She is frightened when it is the old woman that opens the door, she runs away and gets hit by a bus. The old lady tells a police officer how strange it was that Cath got so frightened and how her twin sister had been killed by the same bus recently. In “Room for One More”  After robbing the shop, Julie  is chased by a police officer and she runs away and catches a bus. She is rude to the bus conductor who looking at her list, knows where Julie is heading. Julie finds it strange that the bus is empty but when she passes through town and sees her dead body on the road she panics wondering where they are taking her and the last panel shows the bus is going to hell driven by a skeleton.

room for one more

It’s an effective last shot and definitely creepy, but I think Dead End has a bit more of an edge in that there is not any supernatural element just Cath’s fear and paranoia that kills her. I’m surprised two similar stories appeared so close together but I still like both of them.

dead end

11. The Evil Djinn (#65) [Art: John Armstrong]

Kitty is a young nurse who looks after her mother and sister. On her way home from work she stops in a fish and chip shop where a woman is choking on a fishbone. She saves the woman who promptly leaves without a word of gratitude. She soon meets with Kitty again, and tells her she is a djinn and has been ordered by the chief djinn to reward her for saving her life. Kitty is sceptical but she feels the woman has a presence, so not being greedy she wishes for £5000 but it must be legal. The djinn tells her it is granted but she’ll be sorry. She arrives home to her mother crying, her younger sister fell down the stairs and died. She feels terrible that she may have jinxed her by taking out life assurance on her. Kitty makes her 2nd wish for her sister to be alive again, but the djinn twists it again and Beth is alive but she is paralysed. Kitty makes her 3rd wish – that she never met the djinn. So we see she never goes into the fish shop and the djinn chokes.

The genie that twists the wishes is another common theme, but is still a good one. I also like that the djinn is a woman which I think is less common to see. Her threat of “you’ll be sorry” after she grants the wish is very foreboding. Kitty outsmarting the djinn in the end is very satisfying. Whereas if Kitty had been greedy with her wishes, I’m sure her fate would have been less favourable.

the evil djinn

10.  Queens Weather (#18)

Gina and Sally are sunbathing, enjoying the hot weather while Sally muses that if she was a queen or princess she’d spend all day lazing around and getting a tan. A bee flies nearby and she kills it,  continuing the conversation with Gina and not knowing not far away insect eyes are watching. Over the next few days, the girls notice there seems to be more bees around lately. Sally is starting to be creeped out by them, it’s like they are watching her. Meanwhile the bees are plotting and gathering pollen from exotic plants. Sally and Gina are out sunbathing again, when a bee stings Sally, then more and more bees land on her and sting her. Gina runs to the house to get help. When they return Sally seems to be gone. It turns out she is now the size of a bee and has been taken to the hive to be the new queen, to replace the one she killed.

While greedy girls get horrible punishments, Sally’s only crime is to offhandedly wish to be a queen and killing a bee. The rest of the story shows Sally to be nice,  she gets on well with her parents and she’s not even particularly lazy as she plays tennis and goes out with her friend. Which is why this is quite terrifying as the reader can’t even feel that there is some justification for her fate. Also quite horrific is the bees plotting, their attack and the final panel of them crowded around her.

queens weather

9.  The Bell Jar (#17)  [Art: Isidro Mones]

Katie’s father has to attend the reading of his Great Aunt Mathilde’s will. It turns out her mother and Mathilde never got along, Mathilde resented her marrying her young nephew  and moving away. She even made a threat at their wedding that they’d be left alone too. The family aren’t expecting anything from the will, but she does leave Kate a house and garden in a bell jar. On examining it closer Katie believes there’s a little figure at the door. Soon she keeps having dreams where she is on the path that leads to the house, each night she gets closer to the house. One day she goes out for some fresh air but falls asleep, she wakes up to a storm. She rushes for shelter to a nearby house, she is scared when she realises it’s the house from her dreams. Then she sees the figure in the doorway is Aunt Mathilde. She senses her loneliness and that she just wants company. A few days later the police are talking to her father about her disappearance when her mother screams, she has found Katie she points to the bell jar, Kate is now a 2nd figure in the doorway.

This is another story where people are punished for a minor grievance. I’m sure Aunt Mathilde was a lonely old lady, but she was also controlling and demanding, and Katie’s family don’t deserve this ending. It has a nice build up as Katie’s dreams bring her closer to the house and her anxiety to wake up and get away. It seems Aunt Mathilde has more powers as when Katie does actually see her, she becomes calm and accepting of the situation.

the bell jar

8.  Heart’s Desire (#56)

Sisters, Miss Vicky and Miss Mary arrive at a rag and bone yard where they see two poor worker girls being mistreated by the owner. Effie is a cheeky outspoken girl and Dot a quieter girl. The sisters want to help the poor girls but say they can only take one. They invite both girls to their house that evening. Dot is more nervous when they go to visit the house as she thinks there is something strange about the sisters. While at the house the sisters ask them what is their heart’s desire. Dot says she wouldn’t want much, just a place to sleep and one meal a day would keep her happy. Effie is more greedy she wants to be spoiled with the finest things, feather beds and the richest food. The sisters are delighted they’ve found the perfect child, they tell Dot their sorry they could only help one and show her to the door while Effie gets to go to the dining room and gets her fill of food. Effie goes to her warm bed after that, but quickly things become sour as they insist she eats more food and she can’t open the window to get some air, as she must be kept warm as toast. She is horrified that they are killing her with kindness!

A very creepy story, the sisters are eerie with a habit of addressing each other rather than the girls directly. The idea of being killed with kindness is pretty twisted also.

Heart's Desire

7.  Shadow of Doubt (#58)

Mary goes to investigate a noise that woke her up and hears voices in the barn. They talk about taking over the village and then the world. She thinks maybe she’s just having a crazy dream but she can’t get it out of her head, so the next night she goes down to the barn again. She sees shadows and hears them talking about killing people, she recognises them as a shop owner, Mr Webster, and her neighbour, Mr Jones. The next day she tells her dad what she heard, he thinks she’s imagining things but he does ask Mr Webster was he up at their farm, which he denies and her dad believes him. Mary continues to investigate each night, she even gets her dad to come along one time, but the barn is empty when he arrives.  Then she gets a surprise another night when she recognises her dad’s voice in the barn, she now thinks she knows why he was dismissive of her stories. She hears them talking about how the girl knows and something must be done.  So she hides and locks her bedroom. Only she can’t escape as she is confronted by her own shadow, who tells her all the shadows will soon rise up. She faints from the shock, when she comes around she tells everyone about the Shadows but no one believes her. It ends with “She’s scared of her own shadow they say…One day they’ll learn how true that is” and an image of a shadow rising above an oblivious Mr Webster.

This has a great title, build up and ending. The fact that she only ever hears voices and  sees shadows and that they seem to disappear quickly, gives a nice mystery element. The twist that the person she has trusted to tell may actually be in on the plot is a shock, but of course then the actual reveal is even more shocking. The shadows know that after revealing their plan to her, no-one would believe her, everyone just thinks she’s crazy, which is very hard ending for our protagonist, knowing what she knows and being helpless to do anything about it.

shadow of doubt

6.   Hunt the Ripper (#54) [Art: J. Badia]

London, 1888, a man comes to the house of the Bristows. While young Alison thinks there is something sinister about the man, her mother offers him room as they have to make a living. Alison suspects he may be Jack the Ripper, who has been terrorising the streets of London. She starts to do some investigating, starting with the trunks he has in his room. She finds what she thinks is a body at first, the man returns catching her snooping and points out the “body”  is actually a ventriloquist dummy.  Her relief is short lived when he asks her to check the other trunk. She is confused as there is only layer of earth in the other trunk. The man using his dummy, Marianne, explains who he really is –  if he doesn’t sleep on the earth from his homeland during the day, he will turn to dust, for he is Count Dracula. Alison knows too much now, so she must join him now. Alison runs away only to bump into Jack the Ripper, who is on the run after killing his last victim. Dracula catches up to them and tells the Ripper that the girl is his. The two men begin to fight, Alison escapes. After that night there was no more Ripper murders and Dracula never made it back to his native soil and must have been left as dust on the streets.

It’s quite a long story taking 8 pages, the art is great throughout, and creates a very eerie atmosphere. Alison is very brave and shows good investigation skills. The story has some strange twists, while Alison suspects the man is the Ripper, the ventriloquist dummy, is a red herring, to make us think she may have been mistaken in her suspicions. Of course he turns out to be just as bad – the infamous vampire. Dracula’s conversation with his dummy Marianne is very strange and creepy and then the ending of  Dracula vs. Jack the Ripper, is great – what’s not to love in this story!

hunt the ripper

5. Don’t Look Now (#34) [Art: Eduardo Feito]

Jan Parker is always butting her nose into other people’s business. While her parents are away for the weekend, Jan runs their pawn shop. A man comes in and sells her gold rimmed glasses telling her he’ll be back tomorrow for them. She can’t resist trying them on, only for the next customer to terrify her, as she has the head of a mouse. Then another customer comes in with the head of a fox, obviously a sly character as he tries to pawn some dodgy watches. Jan begins to realise the glasses let her see people as the animal that represents their character. She finds she can’t get the glasses off and is horrified by seeing everyone with animal heads. The next day she waits for the man to return. He returns and not only has he the head of a goat but the feet too and then she knows who he is, the great tempter. He gives her the choice of letting him take off the glasses in which case her soul will be his, or she can leave them on forever and he’ll leave her alone. He gives her something else to reflect on, showing her the image in a mirror and she realises she’s an ass!

Although it is horrifying that she will have to see everyone as animals which could possibly drive her crazy and will clearly affect her relationships in life, it is probably better than giving up her soul. Still either choice is not desirable, but despite being horrific the ending does amuse me greatly, that last panel realisation is perfect!

don't look now

4. Fancy Another Jelly Baby? (#71) [Art: Bob Harvey]

Gillian is addicted to jelly babys. Her parents are not happy when she skips breakfast because she’s full from jelly babies. Her father stops her pocket money until she starts eating properly. Gillian still has enough money left to buy some more sweets from Mr Black the sweet shop owner. She quizzes him on how his sweets are better than everyone else’s, but he tells her that’s his secret. At school she is persuaded to share some of her sweets, and her friends comment that the jelly babies look like two missing girls, something Gillian hadn’t noticed before. Disturbed by this she goes to investigate Mr Black’s shop. She is caught by Mr Black who tells her it’s just as well as he was about to run out of raw material for his sweets. Then he ties her to a conveyor belt and out of the machine comes thousands of jelly babies looking just like Gillian! Suddenly Gillian wakes up in her bed, relieved that it was all a nightmare but it turns out she has eaten too many jelly babies and has turned into one!

This is a bizarre little story with some strange images. I wonder how much of the dream was just that. Did eating too many sweets cause the nightmare, or is there some truths in it, like – are there girls missing, is there something in Mr Black’s sweets that would cause her to turn into one …or should we all just be cautious of eating too much of one thing!

jelly baby

3. Prisoner in the Attic (#61) [Art: John Armstrong]

An old woman is sorting out her attic, when she is confronted by  someone in the shadows. She thinks the person is a thief,  but the person claims that some of the items in the attic are hers, such as the trophy that the old woman is holding. She knows what the inscription says “Connie Michaels, Sports Champion of the year 1909”. A flashback shows that Connie was a natural leader.  Old Connie is going to go for help, but the person stops her,  she thinks there is something familiar about her, but the light in the attic doesn’t let her see properly. The young stranger talks more about Connie’s life, her time as a suffragette and helping wounded men during World War I. Old Connie holds a medal for her service in the war, but the stranger says it belongs to her and that old Connie is the one that went to London. More of Connie’s past is shown as she became a member of parliament her future looked bright but she she gets corrupted, instead of leading she is led by people. She claims no war will come to Britain after meeting with Hitler and when war does come she continues to further her own career, with no thought of the people she originally fought for. Old Connie thinks the young woman is blackmailing her, but the young woman is surprised she hasn’t guessed yet that they are actually the same person. Young Connie is what she was before she forgot her ideals, and it is revealed that old Connie died a week ago in the attic. As the two Connie’s walk away, young Connie wonders which one of them will be remembered, old Connie thinks perhaps it will be her younger self now that she is no longer locked away in the attic.

This is one of the times that Misty addresses a more serious topic. It’s a very interesting story, it’s a feminist story as well as a warning to not losing yourself and how even those with the best of intentions can be corrupted. Connie as two people is used well, and the art keeping young Connie in shadow or just partially in panel is effective. The  woman being haunted by a ghost of her past, who turns out to be a ghost herself is a satisfying ending, as is the thought about what person do we want to be remembered as, when we’re gone.

Prisoner in the attic

2.  The Jukebox (#28) [Art: John Armstrong]

Starting with some social commentary, we are introduced to Fiskfield a ghost town since the coal mine closed down, with little to do for those remaining particularly the youngsters. They hang around a cafe listening to the jukebox, as they lack youth club in the area. One of the girls Stacey invites Ned Buckley, a gypsy boy, along but the gang aren’t happy. Stacey thinks Ned is just as bored as the rest of them and he’s an okay guy, but the gang are prejudice against him and Ned ends up storming out, threatening to teach them a lesson.  Later the jukebox start playing music for free and everyone gets up to dance, but the record goes on and on and everyone is in a a trance and can’t stop. Stacey manages to break free and tries to get through to the others, but even pulling the plug on the jukebox doesn’t stop it. Then she sees Ned’s face in the jukebox and realises he’s made good on his threat. She finds him in his grandmother’s caravan, the old woman staring into a crystal ball, which show the people dancing in the cafe. Stacey asks Ned to stop her but he says they must pay for all the cruel tricks they’ve done to him over the years. Stacey takes matters into her own hands grabbing the ball and smashing it. Ned unsuccessfully tries to stop her, telling her she doesn’t realise what she has done. The last panel shows the cafe wrecked in what bystanders presume to be the result of a gas explosion.

This is another story of people being paid back for being cruel to a particular person, and the one person who was nice, escaping. The twist here is that even though Ned was teaching them a lesson, he wasn’t wanting to go as far to actually hurt them permanently. It is Stacy while trying to help, ends up killing everyone. Quite a dark ending.

jukebox

1. Mr Walenski’s Secret… (#64) [Art: John Armstrong]

Molly Sinclair is curious about her new neighbour, she wonders with a foreign name Walenski if he is Russian, possibly a spy. Her mother quickly dismisses the thought and tells Molly to go around and offer tea. He declines and then he gets worked up about an old box the moving men are carrying, asking them to be careful. Molly thinks he is a nut and when she sees him heading to the park with an envelope, she follows him. She sees him hand the envelope to another man but as they aren’t speaking English she doesn’t know what they are talking about. She tells her mother about her continuing suspicions, that he’s a spy. Her mother says she has an over active imagination and she should mind her own business. Mr Walenski doesn’t leave the house much, but  when he does she finally gets an opportunity to snoop around. She just finds the box Mr. Walenski was so cautious about, when he arrives home, catching her. He tells her to look in it, he knows she’s been following him and about her suspicions and that she won’t be satisfied until she knows. Molly isn’t triumphant about finding out his secret instead she is upset to find the box contains all that he has left of his old life; a concentration camp uniform and photos of his family. He tells her his wife died in the concentration camps but he doesn’t know what happened to his daughter, so the man Molly saw him with is a private detective that is helping him look for his daughter. He asks Molly to leave him alone to find whatever peace he can.

mr walenski 1 mr walenskis secret 2

The last page is coloured and I think the black and white pages are better showing detail such as Mr Walenski’s gaunt and haunted look (lot of John Armstrong art on this list!).  This is a powerful short story and  it’s ending is even more effective considering the comic that it appears in. Usually a set up like this would have a dark twist, like instead of a spy he’s a mythical creature, but instead this has no supernatural element, it just addresses a dark time in history and averts the reader’s expectations.