Tag Archives: José Ariza

Misty Short Stories X: Mythical Creatures and Legends

In the tenth instalment of themed discussions on Misty short stories, we look at how Misty portrayed mythical creatures and legends. Vampires and werewolves are excluded because Misty did so many of them it would make the entry too long. Maybe at some point they will have their own Misty Short Stories entries.

There are a couple of cases where the creatures in these stories fall into a grey area. Strictly speaking, they are not mythical, but they share enough parallels with mythical creatures to be included here.

1: Creatures of the Deep

As these stories show, Misty drew on a lot of mythical sea creatures, particularly ones with hypnotic/bewitching powers. Sea monsters in Misty were far less common, but there were exceptions.

Mermaid

Misty: #88

Rafael Busom

Sheila meets a mermaid, but finds out the mermaid wants to capture her soul so she can venture on land; otherwise, she will be turned into a fish. The mermaid tries to bewitch Sheila with her music and lure her out to sea so they can swap places. Sheila tries to run, but no matter what she tries, she still hears the mermaid’s music. The spell gets broken when the mermaid gets caught in a fisherman’s net and becomes a fish. Although relieved to be free of the spell, Sheila does have a pang of pity for the mermaid because she was so beautiful.

 Thoughts

We can just see the connotations of this story if Sheila had been male. Indeed, so often it is men who get bewitched by mermaids/sirens, so it is a twist to have a female fall under the spell.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter

Misty: #81

Artist: Blas Gallego

Reprint: Best of Misty Monthly #8

Criminals hide their loot in a deserted lighthouse, and shoot the lighthouse keeper Andy dead. They hear a girl’s voice calling for her father and go in search of her, but both end up dead. Andy’s daughter has had her revenge on them, but it is not until the final panel that we learn she is a mermaid.

Thoughts

One does have to wonder how the lighthouse keeper can have a mermaid for a daughter. Guess the lighthouse is so isolated the lighthouse keeper doesn’t get much company other than mermaids. It is a nice twist, having the daughter turn out to be a mermaid, and her using her mermaid powers to wreak justified deaths on the two killers.

Seal of Secrecy

Misty: #20

Artist: John Armstrong

Margaret’s father won’t let her swim in the sea or even learn to swim, saying the currents are too treacherous and her mother and uncle drowned in a boating accident. One day a girl named Dawn swims into the cove and befriends Margaret. When Dad hears about Dawn he says she must be a Silkie i.e. a seal that takes on human form to lure people to their death, but Margaret does not believe it. Dawn returns and Margaret enters the sea with her. She discovers she can swim and dares Dawn to race her to the nearest headland. But unknown to Margaret, her mother was the Silkie and she lured the uncle to his death (no boating accident). The real reason Dad kept Margaret away from water was her Silkie blood, but it won in the end. Meanwhile, Dawn’s family are waiting for her…

Thoughts

This story is very reminiscent of the Jinty story “Combing Her Golden Hair”, but it has more sinister overtones. At first Dad comes across as stupid, overprotective and superstitious. But after the reveal, we see Dad has a more serious and noble reason the grandmother in the Jinty serial than for trying to fight a (losing) battle against Margaret’s Silkie heritage: it will turn her into a killer if she discovers it. He is also traumatised at losing his brother at the hands of his Silkie wife. But like the grandmother, in the end he could not win against the mythical heritage. One can only hope that as Margaret is only part Silkie and is still part human, she will not start luring people to their deaths.

Seal Song

Misty: #10

Artist: Juan Solé?

Reprint: Best of Misty #3

Meg Peters’ stepfather, Jack Tanner, abuses her and her mother. Then Meg encounters a seal on the beach. She recognises it as one she saved as a pup. It sings along to her recorder and its song comforts her. Tanner discovers the singing seal and tries to capture it so he can make money out of its singing. But the singing hypnotises Tanner and draws him out into the sea. A sudden tidal wave sweeps him away, never to be seen again. Meg and her mother are happy again, but Meg is at her happiest when she is with her singing seal.

Thoughts

It’s not clear if this singing seal is a mythical creature (a good Silkie, maybe?), but it comes close enough to merit inclusion here. The seal certainly is reminiscent of a siren or mermaid in the way it hypnotises Tanner with its singing and lures him to his doom.

The Sea’s Graveyard

Misty: #33

Artist: Jose Canovas

Jane Holden and her father out on their boat “The Sea Lady” and get caught in a severe storm. Jane thinks she sees a figure outside. The Sea Lady founders, and Jane regains consciousness in the hold of a strange old-fashioned ship. She finds scrolls that list the names of the ships and crews that have foundered over the ages – including themselves. Then she discovers the ship is at the bottom of the sea. Jane now realises she and her father are in Davy Jones’ locker. Davy Jones appears, and Jane recognises him as the figure she saw earlier. She throws a lantern at Davy Jones, destroying the scroll that bears the name of the Sea Lady and herself and her father as casualties. This frees them from Davy Jones’ locker, and a rescue ship is surprised to pick them up six days after they foundered. Jane has no memory of her encounter with Davy Jones. A sailor comments that it’s not often someone escapes from Davy Jones’ locker.

Thoughts

Indeed, it is not often you escape from Davy Jones’ locker. But it looks simple to do – just destroy the scroll with the name of your ship and name on it. Davy Jones himself sure is a frightening figure and one of the scariest in Misty’s stories. He appears as a hooded figure and there is a terrible smell of decay about him. When his face is finally shown, he seems to have some sort of reptilian skin. His locker is brilliantly conceived and the artwork really brings it to life. It is the hold of a ship that appears to be some sort of ships’ museum, and the reveal that it is at the bottom of the sea is a stunner.

Safe Until Morning

Misty: #26

Artist: Josep Gual

Reprint: Best of Misty Monthly #6

Rita is bored stiff with her camping holiday with her parents. She falls into the lake, but a monster lifts her out. It scares off bikers who try to mug her and keeps watch over her until morning. Next day a search party finds Rita. The parents decide to go home, saying they’ve spent two months looking for the Loch Ness Monster without success and reckon it must be a legend.

Thoughts

It’s a nice take, having the Loch Ness Monster as the protector and rescuer of a girl in trouble. We are left hoping Nessie will stay safe like Rita, as the closing text box says. Come to think of it, when Nessie appears in a girls’ serial, he (she?) tends to be portrayed as sympathetic instead of a dangerous monster that needs to be hunted down and destroyed. Bunty’s “Humpy Dumpy” is one example.

The Sea Demon

Misty: #42
Artist: Unknown

A ship picks up a survivor, Wendy Coles. She tells them her family yacht was attacked by Gorr, a sea demon who disguised himself as a human, Mr Pocock, whom they picked up on their travels. She tells them not to pick up any more survivors in case one of them is Gorr. They ignore this and continue to search for survivors. But unknown to them, Wendy is the sea demon.

Thoughts

Though the sea demon is not strictly a mythical creature, it is close enough to be included here. Certainly it shares several characteristics with the other mythical beasts here, particularly ones that assume human form to trap people, or simply lure them to their doom. In fact, Gorr deserves to have a serial. His power to assume any human form and his lust for destruction and evil would make him a brilliant and frightening antagonist that would be extremely tough to destroy, which would make for a thrilling, exciting serial.

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 V: Aliens

In our fifth volume of Misty Short Stories we turn to the theme of aliens.

Would you believe that throughout her two-year run, Misty did not have one single serial that featured aliens? This meant serials on space invasions, dystopia, alien worlds, body snatchers from outer space, alien visitors trying to blend into Earth society, and alien companions, which we were so accustomed to seeing in other girls’ titles, were completely absent from Misty.

So how did the aliens fare in Misty’s complete stories? As shown below, they did appear more often there. But what roles did they play in the complete stories as opposed to how they were portrayed in serials?

1: Reversed Roles

A popular theme in the Misty short stories was to have aliens put the protagonists in reversed roles, in allegories to how they treat animals on Earth. In the stories below we see people being fished, eaten, experimented on and played with by aliens. On occasion it was to wreak the Misty-style punishment on an unsavoury person, but more often this was not the case. The alien was often anthropomorphised, which in some cases was to inject humour into the story.

The Experiment

Misty: #100

Artist: Ramon Escolano

Fleur wakes up feeling like she has been asleep for ages. She is bewildered when her father says she is to remain permanently confined to the house and not go beyond the front gate. As she explores the house and surroundings she discovers everything is a fake, including her father, who is just a machine. Terror overwhelms her and she runs off, forgetting not to go beyond the gate. Outside the gate a giant rat kills her. It was an experiment conducted by giant aliens, and they express annoyance at yet another failure. Because humans are so small in comparison to them, they won’t accept that the reason for the constantly failing experiments is that humans are capable of thinking and feeling the way they do.

Food for Thought

Misty: #91

Artist: Ramon Escolano

Jill and Betty are at end of their holiday and looking forward to a BBQ. But then they get netted by aliens and taken across the galaxy to be eaten. The aliens decide to eat them raw, dipped in garlic sauce. As the aliens prepare to tuck in, one thinks it is immoral to eat other creatures; they may not be as intelligent, but they do have feelings and can feel pain and terror. They also have environmentalists who want a ban on such fishing and hunting of these endangered species. Back on Earth, people wonder what happened to Betty and Jill as they prepare to tuck into the BBQ.

Titch’s Tale

Misty: #26

Artist: John Richardson

Reprint: Best of Misty Monthly #5

Tina “Titch” is teased and left out of things because she is small. To cheer herself up she goes kite flying, and finds others are flying kites too. She starts seeing them being pulled up one by one into the clouds, but nobody notices except her. Then she gets pulled up too. On an alien spaceship, an alien boy shows his mother the missing people. He was fishing them for his father’s tea. But Tina was so small he threw her back. Tina wakes up on Earth, little realising how her small size just saved her life.

2: Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes was huge at the time of Misty’s publication. As these stories show, it made its impact on Misty too. In fact it could be called a direct steal, as the aliens appearing in these stories are straight out of Planet of the Apes.

Madhouse!

Misty: #90

Artist: Jorge Badia Romero

Sally Bishop and four strangers disappear from home and find themselves in a creepy house, the “madhouse”, with no idea as to how they got there. As they try to escape the madhouse they disappear one by one through all the horrors and traps in the madhouse. Sally is the only one to make it outside. It is then revealed that “Madhouse” is a board game and the players are giant apes. The giant ape who won three rounds in a row with Sally as his playing piece says: “These humans make such wonderful little playing pieces.”

The Pet Shop

Misty: #24

Artist: Martin Puigagut

Obnoxious Vivien and Steve Martin get a mouse from a pet shop. The shop staff have misgivings when the children say they are going to use it for an experiment (they have already mistreated another animal in the shop). They allow the sale on condition the children take good care of the mouse, and bring it back if anything goes wrong. Of course Vivien and Steve don’t take good care of the mouse in their (maze) experiment, and it dies from exhaustion. As instructed, they return the mouse to the pet shop, and they demand a refund. The shop staff and owners remove their human disguises, revealing themselves as giant talking apes. They have a very special policy for customers like Vivien and Steve who mistreat the animals they buy from their shop: lock them up. For what purpose exactly is not clear, so no allegory can be drawn there.

3: Close Encounters

As these stories show, Misty tended to go for crash landings when it came to UFOs landing on Earth.

The Visitors

Misty: #28

Artist: Ramon Escolano

Feeling she’s a burden and money drain on her low-income aunt and uncle, Susan runs away. She throws a coin into a wishing well and wishes her aunt and uncle would have enough money for them all to live in contentment. Aliens appear and tell her they have been on Earth ever since their ship crashed 600 years ago. They live in the well because it is similar to their home environment, but they find coins and stones being dropped on their heads all the time and hear these stupid wishes, which they can’t grant as “we no magicians”. But at least it breaks the monotony of living in the well. Susan wakes up by the well, and the police pick her up. Susan thinks it was all a dream, but back home she finds a huge box of ancient coins on her bed, which enables her family to become rich. Susan buys a chess set for the aliens to help relieve the monotony, which they enjoy very much.

Thoughts

A wishing well that can grant something, but it’s not the well – it’s what resides inside it. The aliens are very funny in the way they speak English and what residing in a well means when everyone thinks it is a wishing well. At the end of the story, we are glad to see Susan express her gratitude by giving something in return for the wish.

Last Encounters

Misty: #32

Artist: Ramon Escolano

A family on a spaceship have a recurring dream of landing on a monstrous planet, a giant mountain, a giant quake and being thrown into air by something outside their drive units. They get marooned on a planet, and then the nightmare begins to happen for real. But the quake throws them into the air and enables them to escape the planet. The reveal is that they are tiny aliens, the mountain was a sleeping man, and the man, upon waking up, throws the spaceship into the air, thinking it’s a kid’s toy: “…not all spaceships are gigantic!” They fly happily through the stars again.

Thoughts

Someone definitely had “Land of the Giants” on the brain with this one. It’s a twist though, having the Earth people as the giants and the aliens as the little people, a complete reversal of the show. And unlike the show, the little people do escape.

4: Space Seeds

Here we have two stories about seeds that arrive from alien worlds and start sprouting in Earth soil. Naturally, they soon prove that on Earth, they are very dangerous weeds.

Alien Seed

Misty: #20

Artist: Isidre Mones

Libby Regan has to stay with her boring botanist Uncle Marcus during the holidays. She is repulsed and frightened at the hideous Venus fly-trap type of plant he is growing, which seems to be growing at abnormal speed, and at times seems to be reaching out to her and her cat with its tendrils. He says it was grown from a seed that was millions of years old, but from the looks of it, that seed definitely did not come from Earth (and the title says Alien Seed after all). He won’t listen to Libby’s protests about the plant or heed warning signs it could be dangerous. To him, it’s a valuable scientific discovery. But Libby is right – the planet is carnivorous, and is capable of growing big enough to consume humans. It flowers, and the scent from the flower renders Uncle unconscious. Seeing the plant attempting to eat him, Libby saves him and destroys the plant. But he doesn’t believe her explanation and thinks she just took advantage to destroy his precious plant. He sends her home. Libby is relieved she at least managed to destroy the plant. But unknown to her, in the days ahead, its seeds start growing…

Thoughts

There are plenty of stories about mad scientists who get destroyed by their own experiments because they did not listen to warnings about dangers. Uncle Marcus nearly fell victim to it. He escaped this time but he still did not listen, so the odds of him getting a second chance are not good. And this time, his rescuer will not be around to save him. It would have been interesting to see how this story went if it had been expanded into a serial.

Jorum is Coming

Misty: #86

Artist: Jose Ariza

Heather finds a space egg that fell from outer space. She plants it in a wood while in a trance. She becomes increasingly detached to it and is sure that “Jorum is coming”. When her parents ask her about Jorum, she lashes out at them. Her behaviour changes for the worse and they grow increasingly worried. The egg grows to an enormous size, and Jorum, the creature incubating inside it, tells Heather to kill her parents because they must not interfere with his birth and conquest, so she gets an axe. The parents unknowingly break the spell when they say they love Heather, and she smashes the egg instead. Afterwards Heather can’t remember what happened and does not know what she means when she says: “Jorum is not coming now – not ever.”

Thoughts

This was the only time Misty touched on the subject of alien invasion, or an alien exerting an evil force over a girl. It’s a bit frustrating that Jorum gets destroyed before we see just what he is once he’s hatched and what he can do. Frankly, this story is crying out to be a serial. It would have been really exciting for Misty to fully develop Jorum, his powers, his plans for conquest, and the fight against him, and a serial would have done that. Just destroying Jorum by the end of a complete story feels a waste of potential.

5: Stuff of Nightmares

 Just Another Day

Misty: #98

Artist: Jose Ariza

Julia and Liz arrive at school and see it vanish. The rest of the street follows, and then the rest of the world. Last to go are Liz and Julia. Then it is revealed an alien dreamed the whole thing. He says it’s a pity Earth never really existed: “…so beautiful and the people were interesting too – not very bright, but full of vitality.”

A Scream in the Night!

Misty: #47

Artist: Ken Houghton

Jan Peters wakes at 3am to see a shadowy man outside her third floor window. He enters, revealing himself as a hideous alien who has come to collect specimens. He traps her in a specimen box and takes her to his spaceship, with her screaming all the way. But it turns out the alien was the one who was having the nightmare. He tells his comrade he dreamed they had already reached Earth and were collecting specimens, but the hideous screams this one kept making were torture to his ears.

Thoughts

Here we have horrible things happening to people on Earth, which turns out to be a dream. Having it all a dream can come off as a bit of a copout. It’s a matter of opinion and how it’s handled. The twist is, it’s not the protagonist’s dream but that of an alien.

Closing Thoughts

In the short stories, aliens were used most often as allegories to make a statement about humans and human behaviour/misbehaviour, particularly in regard to the treatment of animals/environment. They were not used the way they were in girls’ serials (alien invasions, alien worlds etc) though a few stories touched on some of those subjects. Aside from a few exceptions, Misty did not draw on popular culture or movies for her short stories featuring aliens, and what she did draw upon was very limited. Heck, Misty did not even have Martians!

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.

The Chosen One (1985)

the-chosen-one-cover

Published: Bunty Picture Library #263

Reprinted: Bunty Picture Story Library #394

Note: Not to be confused with “The Chosen One”, Bunty Picture Library #97, 1971

Artists: Norman Lee (cover); José Ariza (story)

Plot

At school, Claudia Green is a talented singer who enters the school’s Martha Blair Music Scholarship. There is a bust of Martha Blair at school. Claudia feels its eyes are watching everyone and it sends chills along her spine. When alive, Martha Blair chose the winner herself, and the winner would be known as “The Chosen One”. The school music teacher thinks it sounds romantic. But when you think about it, it could also sound creepy…

Claudia wins the scholarship, and the prize includes free music lessons and a mini-bust of Martha Blair. But something odd happens when Claudia is near the main bust afterwards. She can’t seem to move and the bust seems to say, “Remember, Claudia, that you are the Chosen One! You must prove yourself to be worthy of this award! You must not abuse your talents!”

Claudia is not sure if it is her imagination or what. Whatever it is, though, it has reckoned without Claudia’s mother.

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Mrs Green has changed for the worse since her husband died. Money worries have made her selfish and she always seems to be in a surly mood and not thinking about Claudia. She does not appreciate the small kindnesses Claudia tries to do for her in attempts to make her feel better. And as for when Mum hears Claudia won the scholarship, all she says is: “Free music lessons? Is that all they gave you for a prize? Free music lessons aren’t going to put food on our table, are they?” Sounds like a prime candidate for reckless greed if the opportunity arises.

Sure enough, Mrs Green starts abusing Claudia’s singing as a means to make money. At first this is by entering a talent contest, and then it is contract with a Mike Slade to turn Claudia into a pop star. Claudia does not want to be a pop star, but Mum has no regard for her wishes or feelings whatsoever and puts emotional blackmail on her: “How can you be so selfish, Claudia? All these years I’ve struggled to give you a decent chance in life and this is how you repay me!”

Claudia dislikes Mr Slade from the first. She thinks he is a horrible man, and soon realises he is a greedy man who is only interested in her for as long as she will make him money. Claudia does not like the vulgar way he addresses her and her mother either. Mrs Green does not seem to mind, though. Mr Slade is fanning the flames of her greed as he moulds Claudia into a famous pop star. The more Claudia learns about being a pop star the less she likes it, but all her mother cares about is the money it will make.

It seems Claudia is not the only one who is unhappy about it. From the moment the unwanted pop star career began that mini-bust of Martha Blair starts to warn Claudia, “You are the Chosen One! You must not abuse your talent!”

Not surprising, other weird things start happening. The mini-bust is put on the piano while a teacher is coaching Claudia in being a pop star. Then Claudia feels an odd shiver and the piano lid goes crashing down on the teacher’s fingers for no apparent reason. Unfortunately for Claudia the teacher has told Mr Slade that she has what it takes to be a pop star. Now there is no stopping Mr Slade or Mum in pushing her into being one.

They both show Claudia how ruthless they are when they force her to miss a solo she was set to do for her school concert in order to go for an audition for “Rising Stars”. Mr Slade threatens to wash his hands of Claudia while Mum says a school concert is nothing compared to the chance Claudia will get at the audition. Claudia obeys, but the school finds out about the let-down and Claudia is disgraced there. She is upset, but Mum would not even care.

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Meanwhile, another weird thing happens at the audition. Mum would insist on taking that mini-bust of Martha Blair everywhere and has brought it along. Claudia gets an odd shiver and an entrant who looks a cert to win finds his guitar strings snapping for no apparent reason. So Claudia wins the audition by default, but feels she was somehow responsible for what happened to that entrant.

Back home, when Claudia puts on a record the voice of Martha Blair blares out of the speakers: “You have been warned, Claudia! Stop this foolishness before it is too late!”

At Claudia’s first recording at “Rising Stars” she knows that if she is successful she will be stuck in an unwanted career. But her recording comes to an abrupt end when the lights all explode at once and start a fire. Claudia felt oddly cold again just before it happened. “Rising Stars” will be out of business for weeks, but Mr Slade says he will find another way to bring them money. Claudia realises that he really means get his cut of the money.

The same pattern recurs at an open-air pop concert, and this time a canopy falls down. Worse, the stories of those other accidents catch up and Claudia is turned into the press sensation “Claudia the Jinx”! Mum and Mr Slade are not pleased at Claudia’s new reputation as a jinx but are too greedy to give up on her. Realising Claudia will not get another job because of her jinx reputation, Mr Slade forces her adopt a disguise and a new persona, “Sunny Beamish”, and has her sing for TV commercials. But at a shooting on a boat, Claudia hears Martha Blair’s voice out of nowhere, and of course disaster strikes the boat. Claudia the Jinx is then uncovered and the press make even more sensation out of it.

That night the mini-bust gets worse. It seems to get bigger and bigger, it gives off a strange glow, and it tells Claudia that she has had enough warning. She must now develop her talent in the way expected of the Chosen One – “or perish!” After this, Claudia definitely does not want to go to a pop show Mr Slade has booked for her in Germany (to escape her jinx reputation), but despite her efforts to avoid the flight she ends up on the plane. The plane gets damaged by a storm and has to return to the airport. Compared to Claudia’s premonitions of what was going to happen, it seems she got off lightly there. She is relieved they did not make it to Germany too.

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Nonetheless, Mr Slade isn’t giving up. Now he has Claudia work in a backing group (under another name and disguise). This time the weird pattern strikes the star of the show, who is taken mysteriously ill. Claudia does marvellously as a stand-in. Mr Slade now thinks Claudia has lived down her jinx reputation and it is safe for her to work openly again.

But afterward the mini-bust gets angry again and tells Claudia that disaster will keep striking her for as long as she abuses her talent. This is too much for Claudia, who runs blindly out into the street and is hit by a car.

When Claudia regains consciousness two days later she finds her mother is a changed person and she apologises for her selfish conduct. Mr Slade disappeared after realising Claudia was no longer in a condition to be a money-spinner for him, and Mum is not sorry to see the back of him. So Claudia is now free of her unwanted pop career, but faces a long, difficult road to recovery.

Eventually, Claudia wins a scholarship at the Marston Grange School of Music. Mum gets a housekeeping job there, with a flat to go with the job, so everything is fine for them both now. Claudia goes back to her old school to make peace with the big bust of Martha Blair, though she is no longer sure if the haunting was real or in her imagination. The statue is not telling.

Thoughts

In honour of the upcoming Halloween season, we continue discussion of spooky serials with this entry. And the haunted bust certainly is frightening. It leads off with the face of Martha Blair herself. Even before the haunting starts, the face of that formidable-looking lady would make anyone feel intimidated and even frightened. One can imagine the sort of person Martha Blair was in life. It is understandable that someone’s imagination might run riot if that face made too strong an impression on them, but are we really convinced it was imagination…? It is stretching imagination a bit far to imagine a bust growing larger and giving off a glow, or making threats in an angry voice. To say nothing of a supernatural voice coming out of speakers or out of nowhere on the wind. That is hallucination, not imagination, and there is no evidence of Claudia hallucinating. It is a bit hard to dismiss those weird things as some sort of subconscious reaction to the forced pop music career either. Claudia had her first odd encounter with the bust before Mum had even got started on it.

If it were indeed a real haunting, Martha Blair’s anger would be far more justifiable if Claudia really was abusing her talent for selfish or unsuitable ends. But Claudia is not abusing her talent – her talent is being abused, in the name of profit, and one of those abusers is her own mother. So it is quite unfair for Martha Blair to be haunting, jinxing and threatening Claudia in this way on top of poor Claudia being emotionally blackmailed into a career she does not want, just to satisfy her mother’s greed. If anything, Martha Blair should be haunting that selfish mother.

We get our first glimpse of how selfish the mother has become when Claudia comes home late from school. Mum grouses at Claudia for being kept waiting for her supper, which she expects Claudia to do. Why can’t the mother do the supper herself? She is quite capable. Is she going through some sort of depression over her husband’s death and stress over money? Or is she lumbering Claudia with all the housework or something? When Claudia wins the scholarship, Mum snaps at how it won’t bring in any money instead of being delighted and congratulating Claudia. She moans about money all the time, but we don’t see her raising any by working until the end of the story.

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Mum’s selfishness and fixation with money worries makes her easy prey for a money-grubber like Mike Slade. There is no evidence that Mr Slade is downright crooked as some music managers are in girls’ serials, but greed is written all over him. He does not care about the person he makes a star out of, only the money he will make out of that person. Claudia can see it and what sort of man Mr Slade is, However, Mum is too blinded by her own greed to see it as well and does not realise that Mr Slade is playing on her greed in order to feed his own.

As Mum’s greed grows, she becomes increasingly callous to Claudia. She does not care about what Claudia wants or her feelings, and does not listen to Claudia’s pleadings about them. Whenever Claudia tries to reason with Mum, she uses emotional blackmail, gives Claudia a look she can’t say no to, or just slaps Claudia down to get what she wants out of her. She does not think about Claudia feels over being called “The Jinx Girl” in the press. She just keeps pushing Claudia on into making more money as a pop star and damn her jinx reputation.

The press who brand Claudia a jinx have no regard for her feelings either – or what they will do to her reputation and career. All they care about is making a sensational story out of her. They bulldoze all over her protests that they can’t take her photograph: “Too late, love!”. More greedy people abusing a hapless girl for profit.

Only shock treatment can bring Mum to her senses, and she gets it when Claudia has the accident. Then Mr Slade walks out after he realises Claudia could make no more money for him, which must have opened Mum’s eyes about him.

The artwork from José Ariza makes a superb job of expressing how growing greed is changing Mum for the worse. Her face is getting harder when she speaks to Claudia and there are truly callous expressions on her face in several panels, which are really disturbing.

The protagonist in this story has a hard time on more than one front. First are the greedy mother and manager who exploit Claudia’s talent and ride roughshod over her wishes and feelings. Second is being terrorised by an angry spirit who is persecuting her for a rather unfair reason. The spirit’s wrath causes disaster to strike at every turn, which turns our unfortunate heroine into a tabloid sensation as a jinx on top of everything else! Third is having a terrible road accident that leaves her unable to walk for a long time. By the time Claudia is going for her own audition, she is still using walking aids. One can only hope that by this time the “Claudia the Jinx” moniker has been forgotten, particularly as the cause of it all should be at peace now.

The White Mouse (1979)

The White Mouse logo

Published: Emma #67 (02 June 1979) – #81 (08 September 1979) – final issue

Artist: José Ariza

Plot

Louise Colbert is a nurse in Verville in Nazi-occupied Belgium during World War II. She is known as a timid, gentle, unassuming person. One night an Allied pilot is shot down. In hospital, a patient named Mr LeBlanc confides in Louise that he is hiding the wanted airman in his old theatre. She must inform a Mr Gabin about this, and that the airman is to be taken to a pickup point that night. But both Gabin (had to evade arrest by the Nazis) and LeBlanc (died later) become unable to help the airman, so it falls to Louise. She makes her way to the theatre, but finds the Nazis have caught the airman. Louise heads to the props room, where she dons a white mouse mask and uses a prop rifle to help the airman get away from the Nazis and to his rendezvous to be picked up.

The White Mouse panel 1

And so Louise’s career as “the daring White Mouse” is born. Word soon spreads about this new resister. A lot of people, such as fellow nurses at the hospital, laugh at the idea that the White Mouse could be Louise because she is so timid. It doesn’t take long for the White Mouse to become so famous that other European countries, including Nazi Germany itself, hear about her; she gets plenty of comment from overseas agents and one defecting German saying so. The White Mouse is soon the bane of Colonel Koenig of the Gestapo and his henchman, Major Lutz. But like everyone else, Koenig and Lutz assume Louise is too timid to have any connection to the White Mouse.

White Mouse cases often start at the hospital where Louise works. Louise encounters more patients who have connections to the Resistance one way or another, and it is a simple matter to put on her mask and get them to confide in her as the White Mouse. Other times it is someone she meets while out cycling, such as a defecting German, downed Allied airmen, or Resistance fighters. After that she takes up their cases, which include rescuing their relatives from the Nazis, retrieving items they stole from the Nazis, getting people on the underground railroads to safe countries and other emergencies.

the white mouse

Koenig sets several traps for the White Mouse, of course. In one episode, he rigs up a German as a downed Allied airman for the White Mouse for help. But the White Mouse gets suspicious, simply on finding that his rifle is cold and therefore could not have opened fire on Germans only moments before, as he claimed. She goes along with him until she is ready to turn him over to the Resistance.

Ironically, in one episode Koenig actually does capture the White Mouse – in her civilian identity – without realising it. It takes a bit of luck and ingenuity for Louise to get rid of her White Mouse mask before the Gestapo search her and find it, and they soon release her. Presumably she got another mask from the old theatre, for the theatre does reappear in the strip to get disguises for the people she is helping.

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The White Mouse carries on until the last issue of Emma. Sadly, she does not make it into the merger. The final episode is a regular White Mouse episode, where she comes to the aid of Belgian resistance fighters and a British radio operator, who have been surprised by German forces. After seeing them all to safety, Jacques the leader thanks the White Mouse for the service she has done for them, which they can never repay. The war still rages, so the career of the White Mouse continues.

Thoughts

Curiously, there was a real-life WW2 SOE (Special Operations Executive) agent and resistance fighter called The White Mouse. Her name was Nancy Wake and she made it all the way to Number 1 on the Gestapo’s Most Wanted List. Unlike her Emma counterpart, the real White Mouse did not wear a mouse mask or adopt the moniker as a code name; the Gestapo dubbed her the White Mouse because of her ability to elude them.

The shyness of Louise Colbert could be described as a Clark Kent personality – except that unlike Superman she did not develop it as a cover for her secret identity. Rather, this is her own personality; Louise starts out as a nurse who is known for her shyness. However, Louise does not show her shyness much, either before or after she becomes the White Mouse; it’s only through the comments of other people that we know it at all. She comes across more as an ordinary nurse, no different from any other.

The White Mouse panel 3

Shyness does not make Louise a coward, though; even before she dons the mouse mask she does not hesitate to go to the rescue of her first case at the old theatre when his initial helpers become unavailable. The moment he is caught by the Germans, she has no qualms about going to the rescue and thinks fast as to how to do it. In that split second Louise demonstrates not only courage but also instant powers of resourcefulness, quick wits and fast thinking in getting out of sticky situations. She also has amazing powers of observation that would make Sherlock Holmes proud. For example, she is tipped off to the phoney British airman Koenig set up for her by the mere fact of discovering his rifle was cold.

Luck also plays its role in the success of the White Mouse. For example, on her debut night, she is stopped by German soldiers as she drives the British airman to safety. But they are so startled by the mouse mask that they flee in fright. Silly boys! That mouse mask sure does create a lot of humorous moments, especially from an artistic point of view; for example, when it is drawn at an upwards angle.

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It is ironic that everyone assumes Louise is too timid to be the White Mouse. Does nobody remember that mice are associated with timidity? They probably equate shyness with cowardice, as one hot-headed resister does in one episode. So much the better for keeping the identity of the White Mouse secret.