Tag Archives: Jaume Rumeu

Misty Short Stories VIII: Ghosts

In our eighth volume on Misty short stories we turn to the subject of ghosts, which, predictably, is huge. Owing to the expanse of the subject, there will be no individual thoughts for each story. However, the stories will be grouped into subthemes in accordance with the role the ghost served in the story, and there will be “closing thoughts” at the end.

1: Revenge from Beyond the Grave

It is no surprise that a lot of ghosts in Misty’s complete stories were there to inflict comeuppances. In many cases the motivation was revenge for causing the death of the person who is now a ghost, by murder, neglect or other means. The ghost’s revenge usually takes the forms of:

  • Punishment fitting the crime, sometimes in a “give them what they want” manner (“The Disembodied”)
  • Ruin them (“Dance of Death”)
  • Ensure they don’t enjoy their ill-gotten gains (“Black Agnes”)

Dance of Death

Misty: #27

Artist: John Richardson

A cruel innkeeper, Joseph Higgins, forces fiddler Peter Price and his daughter Nancy to play and dance for their supper, ignoring their protests that they are too cold and hungry to put on a good performance. Their performance is predictably awful, and the cruel spectators torture Nancy too. Higgins kicks them out into the cold, where they freeze to death, and smashes Price’s fiddle. But their ghosts start haunting the inn, fiddling and dancing, which drives off customers. Higgins tries to sell the inn, but nobody will buy it with those ghosts in “permanent residence”, and he is ruined.

A Room of Her Own

Misty: #69

Artist: Joseph Gual

Lorna Barnes is taken in by the Hennings after her grandmother dies, but their daughter Joan does not want to share her room with Lorna. So Joan tries to get rid of Lorna by playing “haunted house” to scare her away (a trick also used in the Misty short story, “Nightmare!”). It goes too far when Lorna runs away in terror and drowns in a swamp. But Joan soon finds she still doesn’t have the room to herself – she is now sharing it with Lorna’s ghost.

Malice in Wonderland

Misty: #75

Artist: Bob Harvey

Reprint: Best of Misty #8

The ghost of a girl haunts a fairground, Wonderland. She has driven off customers and the once-booming fairground is now deserted. The owner, Richard Hobson, confronts the ghost for ruining him. She says she is making him pay for the negligence of the roller coaster that caused her death, which he bribed his way out of in court. Hobson tries to run her over with the same roller coaster, but forgets she is a ghost, and only sends himself plunging to his death. He in turn becomes the resident ghost of Wonderland, which reopens under more savoury management, and can only watch as its new profits go into the new owner’s pocket.

The Disembodied

Misty: #68

Artist: John Richardson

On a class trip Olivia rips a page out of a book of spells that was once owned by an baron who practised black magic She uses the spell to summon the spirits of three of her teachers to give her all the answers to a school test. But she gets greedy and demands more and more information from them, which keeps them up past dawn, despite their protests. When Olivia learns the three teachers have died, she discovers too late she overlooked something: if the spirits do not return to their bodies before dawn they will become disembodied and cling to the person responsible for their deaths until the day their true deaths should have occurred. The disembodied spirits take revenge by giving Olivia more and more answers until she gets information overload – literally – and her head is ready to burst.

Black Agnes

Misty: #59

Artist: Josep Gual

In 1665–6 London, Agnes Barton takes up a position as a servant in the wealthy Patterson household. She poisons the family, taking steps to ensure everyone puts it down to plague, so she can steal their moneybox. But she soon finds the Pattersons’ ghosts are following her around. At Pudding Lane the haunting drives her to breaking point and she throws the stolen money back at the ghosts: “Take your gold! Begone I say!”, but knocks over a candle while doing so. This starts the Great Fire of London, and she perishes in the blaze.

Lead Kindly Light

Misty: #57

Artist: Maria Barrera

Ruth’s stepfather Jabez Penallen is a shipwrecker and he whips her into being his accomplice. Ruth sees no way to escape. Running away is hopeless because Jabez will only find her again. Reporting him is no use because he has everyone believe he is a devout, respectful churchgoer. An old friend, Sybilla, arrives and helps Ruth escape on a ship, but Jabez wrecks it while not knowing she was on board. Ruth returns as a ghost, but Jabez does not realise she is one. She uses his own false light and takes advantage of his blind rage towards her to lure him to his doom over the cliff. She then extinguishes the wrecker’s lantern forever.

Misty Short Stories VII: The Little People

The Little People: pixies, fairies, elves, gnomes and brownies, which used to abound so much in Enid Blyton. When thinking of stories of the Little People we are more accustomed to pots of gold, wishes, pixie dust, fairy mushrooms, shamrocks, and Irish expressions like “Top o’ the morning!” than horror and Goth. All the same, Misty had her share of Little People short stories, but how did they go? Did the subject matter inject more lightweight supernatural stories into Misty? Or did Misty prefer to use the other side of the Little People – snatching people away, playing mischievous tricks, and inflicting impish punishments – to portray darker tales of the Little People?

1: Sprig of Heather

Misty: #81

Artist: Blas Gallego

Polly Masters sells lucky heather (from a secret fairy place, she says). Everyone believes it works and Polly’s always sold out. However, Polly’s abusive stepfather takes all the money to spend at the tavern. The stepfather goes for his usual booze-up and makes Polly go collect more heather. While doing so she moans how the heather is lucky for everyone but her. Fairies appear to Polly (for the first time) and demand to know what she’s moping about. After Polly explains, they say they will see what they can do. Polly wakes up and thinks it must have been a dream. But then her delighted family come up and say they’ve just been freed from the monster – he got press-ganged at the tavern: “Come on, me hearty, a few years in a king’s ship will do you a power of good!” The family are surprised too, because they have not had a press gang in the village before. But Polly has a pretty good idea as to how it happened.

Thoughts

What makes this story one of my favourites is the brisk, no-nonsense yet witty dialogue of the fairy leader, Manikin. “Come along girl, we haven’t got all day – state your business or we’ll be off!” and afterwards: “Well, we don’t usually take a hand in such matters, but in this case we’ll see what can be done!” It also makes a nice change for Misty to inflict a comeuppance that might actually be the making of the antagonist instead of the usual condemnatory dark fate.

2: At the End of the Rainbow

Misty: #64

Artist: Maria Barrera

Sisters Karen and Lisa are always squabbling. Mum has had enough and sends them out of the house. They are astonished to see a rainbow being reflected in a stream, but there is no rainbow to make the reflection. They see a strange girl (let’s call her a fairy) by the stream, who tells them rainbows can be found anywhere if you care to look. Soon Karen and Lisa see rainbows and beauty in everything. Then they find themselves at the end of the rainbow. But instead of the crock of gold they find everything is golden, and then they find each other. This makes them forget about their quarrels and they go home peacefully. The fairy is told she has passed the test and is worthy to paint a rainbow.

Thoughts

This is a very nice, gentle, even romantic change from the usual Goth and comeuppances in Misty. Instead of getting a comeuppance for quarrelling the two sisters learn to live together and discover the meaning of beauty. But it’s the fairy we feel happiest for, when she passes the test and earns the right to paint a rainbow.

3: Girl Who Knew the Fairies

Misty: #93

Artist: Jose Ariza

Lana McMahon believes in fairies; everyone thinks she is nuts. Lana takes Carol Marks to the fairy ball, and Carol is astonished to see it unfold under her very eyes. Forgetting Lana’s warning not to let the fairies see her, Carol bursts in on them. The fairies say those who see them must never return to tell the tale, so they take Carol away forever. Carol realises all those fairy tales over the centuries were based on sightings of an actual race of little people who live like cavemen underground. Carol hopes rescue comes when Lana tells people what happened. She does, but everyone just laughs at the girl who believes in fairies.

4: Fairy Gold

Misty: #37

Artist: Isidres Mones

In medieval England, unpleasant Agnes wants to steal fairy gold, ignoring warnings that nobody outwits the fairies like that – they’re too cunning. At first she manages to avoid their tricks, but ignores their warning that for every hour she spends in Fairyland a year passes outside. They finally catch Agnes by making her fall asleep. When she wakes she finds the gold and steals it. The fairy chief urges Agnes to remain because she slept for a month in Fairyland, so the world she knew is no more (doing the math, roughly 720–744 years have passed, so that would make it about the…20thcentury?). Agnes ignores this and goes outside, but finds herself aging rapidly. She is forced to go back into Fairyland before she dies, and crumbles into a skeleton. The fairy chief says he did warn her that nobody can steal fairy gold.

Thoughts

Both these stories show that you are better to stay away from the fairies’ home turf and don’t trespass. Even if you only intend to go sightseeing, be very cautious. And if you’re greedy, they will win out in the end, no matter how wise you are to their games.

5: Stone Cold Revenge

Misty: #14

Artist: John Richardson

Lesley is angry and upset her father spent his bonus on garden gnomes, just because all their neighbours have them. She was hoping for a record player, and she does not even like garden gnomes: “They’re ugly…”. She snaps and kicks one of the gnomes. But she kicks it too hard and it breaks, which gets her into trouble with Dad.

Then weird things start happening with all the other gnomes in the street: disappearing and reappearing under a window on Dad’s property, appearing on the stairs for Dad to trip over, and the family’s goldfish lying dead beside the remaining gnome (which has a fishing rod). Dad blames Lesley for the incidents and won’t listen to her pleas of innocence.

One evening the parents ground Lesley while they go out. While alone in the house, Lesley hears a loud tapping at the window, and then sees a whole army of garden gnomes outside. They smash their way in and attack her, and she faints. When the parents come home they find Lesley in a state of catatonic shock. The doctor says Lesley must have been scared right out of her mind, but can only wonder what caused it. Outside, the fisherman garden gnome seems to be listening and casting a menacing look.

Thoughts

The panels of Lesley hearing something tapping at the window and then seeing the gnomes outside still stick with me; they really made me shudder when I first read the story. The panels of the gnomes attacking Lesley must have been as frightening for readers as it was for Lesley.

Admittedly, Lesley does start the trouble by breaking the gnome, and is too angry to feel sorry about it. But we can sympathise with her feelings. It must have been very disappointing not getting the record player, and she was not even consulted on what she thought the bonus could go on. And we definitely share her anger against Dad for spending the bonus on something that was totally petty. Dad really was selfish for squandering his bonus on garden gnomes, just to keep up with the neighbours. Surely there must have been better things for the money than garden gnomes; from the sound of it, they can’t afford much. We are left with the feeling that Dad deserved a comeuppance more than Lesley, for not being more thoughtful about the bonus.

6: Spend, Spend, Spend!

Misty: #45

Artist: Jaume Raumeu

Reprint: Best of Misty #2

Goldie is upset at not having loads of money to spend. She makes a deal with two goblins (who call themselves collectors). They say they will give her money in exchange for her becoming part of their collection once she spends it all. Goldie tries to cheat the goblins by not spending the last 10p, but her parents use it for parking money. Now the money is spent, the goblins come after Goldie, who tries to lock them out of the house. Furious at how Goldie is not keeping her end of the bargain, they transport her, house and all, to their realm.

Thoughts

You should definitely think twice before you make bargains with little people. You can’t cheat them, no matter how hard you try.

Closing Thoughts

Misty only had six stories that used the subject of The Little People. It could be that this is because (apart from the gnomes), they were too whimsical and cute for the horror and Goth that Misty was known for. All the same, when you got on the wrong side of them, they could be as dangerous as any vampire, and Misty did not hesitate to express this.

Misty Short Stories VI: Creepy Crawlies

In our sixth volume of Misty Short Stories we turn to the creepy crawlies that were used in Misty’s short stories. You know – spiders, insects, larvae and slimy things that are guaranteed to make your skin crawl, cause plagues of pests, and set off phobias in a lot of people.

This entry is on picture stories from the regular Misty comic only. So insect/spider-themed text stories and stories from the holiday specials and annuals will be excluded.

1: Spiders

Naturally, spiders have to lead off the list. Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, seems to be the most primeval of all the fears of creepy crawlies, and Misty herself used the phobia as a great source for plot material. Spiders were a heavy presence in Misty, particularly in her best-remembered spider story, “The Black Widow”.

Red Knee – White Terror!

Misty: #1

Artist: John Richardson

Writer: Pat Mills

Reprint: Best of Misty Monthly #1

Andrea Gray buys bananas from the market, not realising the poisonous Red Knee spider she keeps hearing on the news is in the bag of bananas as well. In a black running gag, Andrea keeps having a lot of unknowing close shaves with the spider and unwittingly gives it a good habitat while listening to news bulletins about the spider and its habitat preferences. There is also an in-joke when a Professor being interviewed about the spider is named Mills. In another twist of black humour, Andrea says she can’t stand spiders and won’t be caught going near one – and all while she has been very close to the poisonous one.

Then Andrea decides to have a bath. While in the bath her brother attacks her with a toy spider for a joke, and she throws it back at him (this part was an editorial toning down from the original draft). Thinking she is finally safe from poisonous spiders. Andrea relaxes in the bath and her hand is dangling down on the floor – but the real spider is approaching it!

Dressed to Kill!

Misty: #39

Artist: Jaume Rumeu

Nancy goes to Doris Day’s fancy “beasts” dress party, which was inspired by the legend of a black magic cult who could turn themselves into huge insects “spiders an’ that” (hang on, spiders are not insects!). Doris made a rule that the costumes must be homemade. But Nancy is cheating, first by hiring her costume (a fly), and second, by bullying Doris into giving her first prize later on. She sees Brenda Foster, who is dressed as a spider, slip into another room. She goes in to get revenge on Brenda for telling on her at school. But Brenda advances on Nancy, saying she wanted her to follow. Then huge spider legs close in on Nancy…

Afterwards, Brenda rejoins the party and everyone admires her spider costume. She declines an offering of food, saying she has already eaten.

The Secret of Lan-Shi

Misty: #6

Artist: John Richardson

Petra Harris buys her brother Paul a broken mechanical lion from a junk shop for his birthday. The store owner says Lan-Shi broke the mechanism to stop the lion from prowling. Paul also finds a note inside saying: “Beware the lion’s roar. His teeth are sharp.” Despite this, he gets it roaring and prowling again. But Petra finds the lion’s roars loud and terrifying, and there are reports on the news about something attacking and killing animals. Then the lion goes for Petra herself – but something stops it dead in its tracks. They find a spider slipped inside the lion and its webbing gummed up the works. Petra says she is going to have that lion destroyed.

Thoughts

In the first two spider stories, the spider was an agent of horror. So it’s a quite a reversal to have it the hero of the hour. And it’s just a humble, ordinary, honest-to-goodness spider. Nothing at all supernatural about it.

2: Bees

Two obvious reasons for making bees an instrument of horror. First, they have stings. Second, they swarm. But where a Misty protagonist is concerned, how the bees swarm and sting depends very much if she is on the right side of them.

Honey’s Bees

Misty: #13

Artist: Isidre Mones

Honey Bell and her father are beekeepers, and Honey has a natural affinity with the bees. Dad tells Honey a lot of old superstitions and beliefs about bees, including that bees are said to understand their owners and even foretell the future. When the father dies an uncle arrives to take care of Honey, but something is not right about him. Honey falls in love with Bill O’Casey, the new gardener, and wants to marry him, but the uncle is opposed to the match. At the altar Bill is suddenly arrested for theft. Honey believes he’s innocent, and says the bees believe it too. Then the bees attack the uncle, and he confesses he framed Bill because he gambled away the money Honey was to inherit at her wedding. He is arrested, and Bill and Honey get married.

Thoughts

The old adage: if you treat animals right, they will treat you right, and will repay your kindness. Even bees, it would seem.

Queen’s Weather

Misty: #18

Artist: Josep Gual
Sally and Gina are sunbathing. Sally wishes she could be a queen so she could do it all the time. Then she swats a bee, which happens to be a queen bee. Her hive takes revenge by collecting ingredients from flowers for a drug to turn Sally into a new queen for the hive, and inject them into her with a mass “sting” operation. So Sally gets her wish to be a queen – in the wrong way, of course.

Thoughts

This story has been discussed in Misty Short Stories I, so there will be less discussion of the story here. Just one point will be discussed: we’re not quite sure how Sally being the queen of the hive is supposed to work. All they do is shrink her to bee size and take her into the hive. But she’s still human, not a bee. How the heck is she supposed to lay eggs for the hive? It would have worked better to turn her into an actual bee, with her mind trapped inside her insect body.

3: Slimy Things

Misty had only one offering in this area, but it’s one you don’t forget in a hurry:

House of Snails

Misty: #77

Artist: Jorge Badia Romero

Sally’s father is trying to breed intelligent snails, and they’re all over the place in his house. Everyone thinks he is crazy, including Sally. Sally suffers a lot of teasing because of Dad’s snail experiments, but Dad won’t listen, saying she will have the last laugh when he has proved his super-snails. Deciding enough is enough, she smashes up his work and make it look like vandals, but Dad is devastated. The snails take revenge by tripping Sally into the coal cellar. There they crawl up by the millions and overwhelm her. Weeks later, a policeman tells Dad to accept the worst about Sally’s mysterious disappearance. Dad remains convinced of the snails’ intelligence, but he doubts he will resume his experiments. He’s only sorry he could not convince Sally.

Thoughts

Of all Misty’s short stories, this must rank the highest on the “Eeww!” scale, with thousands, even millions of snails, crawling all over you and suffocating you by sheer numbers and slime. Yucch! And did Sally really deserve this fate? She did commit a bad act, but it was borne out of desperation and people bullying her over her father’s experiments. This makes for a very grim story indeed. We would have got more satisfaction if the snails had done it to the bullies instead. That way, Sally would have finally got the last laugh and realise her father was right after all.

Dad must also fall into the category of obsessive scientists who don’t realise they could be creating a monster with their insane experiments. In the end Dad discontinues his experiments, but the damage may have been done already.

4: Butterflies

 Oh, surely not butterflies? Butterflies are beautiful, harmless things. Surely they don’t belong in a horror story? Actually, these two stories make two points about how butterflies can be incorporated into horror. First, you’re forgetting the other side of butterflies – caterpillars. Second, butterflies are related to moths, which are less pleasant and also leave a lot of holes.

Finder’s Creepers

Misty: #62

Artist: Jose Ariza

A judge has delinquent Amanda sent to the country to live with her Aunt (as if that’s going to reform her!) as part of a suspended sentence. Amanda finds a necklace and refuses to hand it in for any owners to claim, saying “finders keepers”. The necklace gives Amanda the power to grow butterfly wings, which she uses to cause more trouble. In the night the owners come for the necklace, saying they are the keepers of the necklace and need the necklace so their children can evolve. Amanda refuses to hand the necklace over – “finders keepers!” – but then she breaks the necklace. For this, they punish Amanda by turning her into a hideous caterpillar.

Thoughts

Next time you think “finders keepers” when you find something, you might like to think again. If someone is looking for it, you are not much better than a thief.

The huge, horrible caterpillar Amanda becomes sure is repulsive. But it’s sad too, with her wide, terrified eyes and her voice crying in vain for help. Maybe Amanda will eventually become a beautiful butterfly. After all, she is a caterpillar, and caterpillars pupate.

The Ghost of the Butterfly Ballet

Misty: #50

Artist: Jose Canovas

At Theatre Bartlett, Bartlett uses real butterflies to die in the last act in the Butterfly Ballet. Lead dancer Emma speaks out against the cruelty to the butterflies, but Bartlett is a cruel man and won’t stop because it is a real money spinner. Emma can’t get free of Bartlett either because of her contract. Emma releases Bartlett’s latest consignment of butterflies, but is surprised when a moth (looking bigger and prettier than most moths) settles in one of the jars instead and looks like it wants to stay there. Seeing this, Bartlett uses the moth in the act that night instead. But thousands of moths attack during the performance. They terrify everyone and send them running: “Moths! Ugly and fat! Their wings cold and clammy like the touch of winter!” They cause a fire that burns down Bartlett’s Theatre, never to be rebuilt, and Bartlett is ruined. The moths vanish as mysteriously as they came. Emma’s contract was destroyed in the fire, so she is now free of Bartlett too.

Thoughts

It’s appropriate that Bartlett gets a comeuppance that destroys his business and prevents him from rising again, where he could mistreat more employees and animals so he could make a profit. But one thing mars the story: there is no mechanism behind the moth revenge or explaining why the first moth came to begin with. All the other comeuppance stories here did have a mechanism of some sort behind the bug revenge (black magic, science gone wrong, drugs, folklore etc). This made the concept of creepy crawlies getting revenge even more credible because we understood both why and how they were able to do it. But here there is no explanation at all for why the moth suddenly showed up and then led the others in to attack the theatre. The title implies a ghost, but the story does not mention a ghost at all. So where the heck is the ghost?

5: Insect Collectors

The Purple Emperor

Misty: #12

Artist: Isidre Mones

Betty is a very cold, cruel butterfly collector. She is obsessed with adding a Purple Emperor to her collection. While hunting for one she trips and hits her head. She hears pounding footsteps of a giant purple emperor monster who catches her in a net and puts her in a killing jar to suffocate and be added to his collection. Betty screams that she’s imagining it and she’ll wake up soon…

Perfect Specimen

Misty: #67

Artist: Isidre Mones

Gail desperately wants a good fossil. She tries to steal one from the museum but fails. She climbs a tree and gets covered in sap-like amber. It turns out she was just dreaming, but the dream has her even more determined to find an insect specimen preserved in amber. In her quest to find one she gets directed to a glacier where there are good ammonite fossils. However, she falls down a crevasse (cut across the glacier when she shouldn’t have) and gets trapped in ice. Untold years later, the fossilised Gail is being viewed by futuristic insect creatures, who use the same words she used at the start of the story: “To think that primitive creatures like this, teeming millions of them, were once masters of the earth!”

Thoughts

Here we have very similar comeuppances, where the tables get turned on insect collectors. It was possibly the same writer and definitely the same artist. “The Purple Emperor” was discussed in Misty Short Stories II, so discussion will focus on “Perfect Specimen”.

Gail is not cruel like Betty – after all, what she collects is already dead. And she admires the things that were preserved, while Betty is just a cold fish and has a streak of the animal torturer too. But Gail is just as obsessive as Betty in getting what she wants and is not showing any common sense in doing so. For example, she disregards safety in climbing across the glacier, which is why she fell down the crevasse. And did she really steal that fossil from the museum or did she dream it? Either way she doesn’t seem to have any conscience, so maybe this is why she is in for a bit of comeuppance.

Closing Thoughts

In most cases, the Misty short stories used creepy crawlies for comeuppances, though the victims had varying degrees of deserving the fate. In rarer cases, such as “Red Knee – White Terror!”, the creepy crawlies were used for straight out horror, and played on the terror or simply the “yecch!” factor the creepy crawly is regarded with.

Misty Short Stories III: Witches

For the third volume of Misty Short stories I have selected Misty stories with a corresponding theme: witchcraft and how Misty portrayed witches in her complete stories. As many of the stories have a similar theme, they have been grouped together under subheadings, with “thoughts” attached. I have also included closing thoughts at the end of the overview. Text stories have been omitted from this list. So witch-themed text stories such as “The Story of Little Wytching” have been excluded.

1: The Wise Woman

The true definition of “witch” is wise woman, a person who would use folk magic and herbal knowledge to help people. But witch-believers did not always see it that way and wise women were always vulnerable to being persecuted as agents of Satan. As the following stories show, Misty had the sense to frequently show the witch as she really was: a wise woman. However, they also show that how the wise woman’s help was received, or even understood, depended very much on how much the protagonist needed – or deserved – her help.

Bookworm

Misty: #99

Artist: Jordi Badia Romero

Reprints: Scream & Misty Halloween Special #2

Joanie Preston is a bookworm, but also a selfish, lazy girl. She wants to live the life of Lady Agatha in a book she is reading, where she can live in ease and comfort and never have to work. She finds a spellbook in Professor Margolis’ collection of forbidden books. She bullies Old Nell, who has a reputation for witchcraft, into helping her cast one of the spells to transport her into the Lady Agatha book. She ignores Old Nell’s warnings that it is evil black magic and can only bring disaster. While Joanie is casting the spell the Professor finds out and tries to intervene. This causes Joanie to take the wrong book into the magic circle – and its title is “Dracula”.

Thoughts

It is curious that although Old Nell warns Joanie that using the black magic will lead to catastrophe, what really causes Joanie’s undoing is her accidentally taking the wrong book into the magic circle. The danger of using black magic might have been more effective if Joanie had gone into  the Lady Agatha book after all, only to find it’s not what she expected – a monkey’s paw sort of thing.

If Only…

Misty: #51

Artist: Carlos Guirado

Poor girl Lois is jealous of rich, spoiled girl Kora, so she visits a witch, Widow Farley. Farley agrees to help because Kora is a girl after her own black heart and Lois deserves the spell.  The spell has Lois and Kora switch bodies. Then Lois finds out too late what Farley really meant by her deserving the spell: Kora was dying, and this is why she was spoiled.

Thoughts

We are told that Widow Farley is a more black-hearted wise woman than the other examples below, but it gets no development. The story would have been fine to leave that part out and have Widow Farley give Lois the spell just to punish her for her jealousy.

Aunt Mary’s Blessing

Misty: #21

Artist: Uncertain

Dying – and creepy – Aunt Mary tells Melody that she has Romany powers, which include precognition, and Melody is to inherit the art. Melody does not want any part of it. After her death, Aunt Mary appears as a ghost to Melody and tells her where to find the box that contains her inheritance. Sensing what is happening, Mum gives Melody a crucifix for protection but a teacher confiscates it. Aunt Mary draws Melody to her house and directs her to dig up a box, which contains a hand. As the hand touches Mary left hand, it crumbles into dust, and Aunt Mary tells Melody she will not see her again. Later, Melody has a premonition that her hospitalised father will be okay, but inwardly adds, while looking at her left hand: “But will I?”

Thoughts

So Melody is fated to inherit Aunt Mary’s powers. But are these powers really evil or is it just a case of people being afraid of something they don’t understand? Aunt Mary sure is creepy, but is she evil? And would Melody inheriting the powers make her evil? Or will Melody find it a great gift that she learns to accept and love? The title does say Aunt Mary’s inheritance is a “blessing” after all.

A Girl’s Best Friend

Misty: #48

Artist: John Richardson

Reprint: as Carla’s Best Friend in Tammy 15 January 1983

Blind Carla and her guide dog meet Old Greta. They are kind to Greta while others avoid her because she says she is a witch. That night Belle slips out to Greta’s house, and Greta realises why Belle has come. Next morning, Carla is astonished and overjoyed to find she has suddenly regained her sight, but then realises Belle is missing. Greta explains that she did use a spell to restore Carla’s sight, but for it to work, someone else has to give up his or her sight in return. Belle made the choice to do so, and now she is blind. Shocked to see Belle blind in her stead, Carla begs Greta to reverse the spell. Greta says Belle will still have a good life as long as Carla reciprocates the love and affection Belle showed her when she was blind. Carla hugs Belle and promises her all the love in the world forever.

Thoughts

This is one of Misty’s most brilliant and moving short stories. Carla regains her sight with the help of the witch, but it’s not a happy ending. It’s a bittersweet ending that leaves us all in tears when we learn the price that has been paid for Carla’s new sight. We cry even more when we learn Belle will stay blind, and will need all the love and help she can get.

The Queen’s Hair

Misty: #43

Artist: Jaume Rumeu

Reprint: Best of Misty 4

Tyrannical Queen Elida administers cruel justice to her subjects and throws them in her dungeons. The real reason for this is that she blames them for an illness that caused her hair to fall out and she has to wear wigs. Elida strikes a bargain with a witch for a spell for new hair. The witch gives Elida a headband that will make her hair grow again, but she must not wear it for more than 24 hours. Elida reneges on the deal and throws the witch into her infamous dungeon.

Although Elida does grow new hair she does not forgive, and she leaves her prisoners in the dungeons to rot while she throws a celebration. But then Elida’s hair starts growing crazily and uncontrollably. She realises it’s because she forgot to remove the headband after 24 hours (we thought that might happen). Elida soon finds there is no way of stopping the super-growing hair or removing the headband. The witch can’t help as she died in Elida’s freezing dungeons. Elida’s angry subjects seize the moment to storm the castle, rescue the prisoners, and exact revenge on Elida. But they find there is no need for revenge because the hair is now engulfing the whole castle and bringing Elida down with it.

Thoughts

As with Old Greta, the witch is the helper. But the witch would have really been able to help Elida if she hadn’t been beyond helping. Growing her hair back was not enough to help Elida. She had grown so cruel and selfish that she was totally beyond redemption, and she was given a chance to redeem herself. Plus she reneged on her bargain with the witch, which was really asking for trouble. We can’t help but wonder if the witch caused Elida to forget to remove the headband in time and it was she who engineered her own death in the dungeons, rather than the cold.

Katie Bright Keeping Mum Right! (1987)

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Published: Bunty Picture Story Library #286

Artists: David Matysiak (cover); Jaume (Jaime) Rumeu (story)

Plot
In the Bright household Dad is working overtime to save up for a washing machine. Mum decides to set about raising money to buy the family extras. The trouble is, she goes about it the wrong way. Instead of finding something she’s good at and developing it, she embarks on whatever scheme takes her fancy without proper research, thinking it through or considering if it is right for her. As a result Mum lands herself in a lot of scrapes and it’s up to her more sensible daughter Katie to sort them out.

First Mum sets up the garden shed for a mushroom farm. Katie is dubious because Mum has no experience in raising plants, but Mum expects such an abundance of mushrooms that she takes orders from greengrocers in advance. Talk about counting your chickens before they’re hatched: Mum’s mushroom crop is a complete failure, so Katie has to cover the orders with farm-bought mushrooms.

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Soon after, the washing machine finally arrives. Mum seems to be doing more washing than usual. Oh dear, is she taking in laundry for another money-making scheme? That’s what people come to think. Katie and Dad are a bit surprised when people offer them loans because they think the Brights are hard up. No, it turns out Mum was doing the extra laundry as a favour for some neighbours when their laundrette was unavailable.

However, Mum still hasn’t learned her lesson from the mushroom failure. She is now inspired to make and sell machine-knitted woollies, despite Katie’s warnings that such things are made by full-time professionals. She does not heed Katie’s advice to develop dressmaking (which she is brilliant at) as a money-making venture either. Katie can only hope Mum knew what she was doing with the machine-knitting. But of course she didn’t. She ends up giving refunds and gives up the machine knitting promptly.

A luxury lampshade company advertises for at-home people to make up lampshades they are outsourcing. Katie and Dad flash it under Mum’s nose, figuring it is foolproof. However, it is too simple and Mum grows bored with it. When she asks for more interesting work, the company’s response is teddy bear patterned lampshades – and the teddies have been printed upside-down! The Brights are not sorry when the company decides to give up its outsourcing and keep things onsite.

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Next, Mum turns to weeding gardens although she is so clueless about gardening Dad won’t let her work in the garden unsupervised. She figures anyone can weed. She does not understand you have to know the difference between a weed and a plant. So when Katie goes to check on the gardens she finds Mum has pulled out some plants by mistake. She replants them, but it turns out she planted them in the wrong garden because Mum threw them on the wrong compost pile. Fortunately the clients see the funny side, but they will be getting others to do their gardens. Still, one of the clients agrees to let Mum walk her dog instead.

So now it’s dog walking to make money. It seems straightforward this time, but Mum’s big ideas overcomplicate it. She bites off more than she can chew when she takes on other dogs as well and has to walk six at once! Not surprisingly, it’s wearing her out. Then she gets locked in the park because of all those dogs. Katie manages to find her and rouse the Parkie to let her out.

On the way back from this latest scrap they find the school drama club store on fire. Thanks to them the fire is put out in good time, but the costumes for the upcoming school play are ruined. Mums are called upon to make up replacements. Katie thinks this should suit Mum well as she is so good at dressmaking. After some persuasion Mum agrees, if Katie will take over walking the dogs. Then Katie is asked to replace one of the actresses in the play, and soon finds walking six dogs while learning her lines is too much.

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Fortunately Katie finds help in Ted Dawson, the brother of one of her classmates. Ted has no job, so he agrees to take over the dogs and receive the money while Katie learns her lines. Mum has no objections to the arrangement while she works on the costumes, but she will be taking the dogs over again eventually.

Then, just as the play is about to go on, the costumes get stolen. Mum put so much hard work into making them that the theft has her realise how much dressmaking means to her. Fortunately one of the new dogs Ted is walking is an ex-police dog. Ted uses him to sniff out the costumes, which got dumped in the old cottage at the back of the school. The costumes and play are saved.

Ted creates his own business walking dogs and Mum lets him keep walking her dogs. Word gets around about Mum’s work on the costumes and she soon finds herself with orders for more dresses. Now that Mum has finally settled upon a money-making scheme she can do right, Katie no longer needs to keep her right.

Thoughts

We now live in an age where work-from-home businesses have proliferated and work-from-home schemes are all over the Internet. So the concept of work from home in this story feels even more relevant now than it did when it was first published. Its message of exercising caution, proper research and good judgement in whatever you pursue to raise extra money is more acute now too, especially as there are so many scams out there and schemes where you earn very little money for a lot of hard work.

Fortunately Mum does not come up against any scams or underpaid work in this story. It’s just as well, because she is not exercising any serious research or thought into the various money-making schemes she tries out. Indeed, she does not give the impression she is showing much brains at all. It’s Katie who is showing the brains here. She can see the pitfalls Mum is creating for herself with her various schemes (for example, choosing ventures that she has no talent or experience for), which cause embarrassment and make her lose money instead of raising it. Katie can also see where Mum can really make money: dressmaking. It’s not just because Mum has the talent for it but also because there will be a niche for it as there are not many dressmakers in town. Yet Mum just won’t pursue dressmaking as a money-making business as she does not seem to have the interest.

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The story is not all about Mum’s money-making schemes. For example, the extra laundry Mum takes on is a favour, not a money-making scheme. And the focus of the story shifts more to Katie as she tries to walk the dogs while learning her lines. It makes the pace of the story more even, which is good. It also gives more leeway to developing other characters more, such as Ted Dawson.

Some good things do come out of Mum’s disasters. For example, if Mum and the dogs had not got locked in the park, she and Katie would not have seen the fire at school and raised the alarm in time. The damage would have been so much worse. Mum’s dog-walking also leads to the unemployed Ted Dawson to develop his own employment in walking dogs.

All the same, the consequences of Mum’s ill-conceived money-making schemes could have been worse if not for Katie helping to make everything right. It’s a relief all around when Katie no longer needs to keep her Mum right all the time.