Tag Archives: José Canovas

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 IX: Evil Objects

Girls’ comics have always abounded with stories about evil objects: artefacts, tools, jewellery, toys, dolls, clothes, books, mirrors, paintings etc. In many cases the object forces the girl to act nasty and do horrible things. Alternatively, the object forces her to act out of character, sometimes in a backhand humorous manner. In other cases the object causes mayhem, misery and chaos, which the protagonist often gets the blame for.

In our ninth instalment of Misty Short Stories, we turn to the theme of evil objects, and how Misty used the subject for her short stories.

1: Locked up for a Reason

The protagonists find an object that was locked away, hidden or disabled. They discover too late that it was locked away for a reason, often ignoring or forgetting warnings to leave it well alone. The evil is unleashed, usually causing mayhem, destruction or trying to trap the protagonist. Does the evil get destroyed or contained again, or is there no stopping it this time? In the examples below it’s usually the former, but not always.

Pot Luck

Misty: #57

Artist: John Richardson

Gloria is a regular visitor to Old Hazel, a woman shunned and called a witch by many. When Hazel dies, Gloria finds a beautiful cauldron in her chest and keeps it as a memento. Hazel appears in a dream and says the cauldron is evil and cursed; she could not destroy the curse, only hide the pot away. Gloria forgets the dream but is soon reminded of it when she cooks jam in the pot. She soon discovers that anything put in the pot turns into a vicious killing monster. Fortunately Gloria manages to destroy the jam monster. Gloria puts the pot in the loft, confident nothing will get in it. But she overlooked a gap in the roof above the cauldron. A snowflake enters the cauldron and next morning an ice monster is coming down from the loft.

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, Paul gets it roaring and prowling again. But Petra finds the lion’s roars extremely 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 will have the lion destroyed.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall…

Misty: #61

Artist: Ken Houghton

Sally and her family move into a new house. There is a locked room with a mirror inside and Sally has a bad feeling about it. It grows worse when her dog Toby dies while locked in that room, and it looks like he died in a terrible fight. Then Sally’s reflection in the mirror comes alive, grabs her, and tries to switch places with her, saying Toby’s reflection tried the same with him and Toby fought until he died. Sally manages to smash the mirror and escape, but does not think she will ever be able to look into a mirror again without wondering if that reflection is waiting.

Mask of Fear

Misty: #39

Artist: Jose Canovas

Sue is looking for a suitable mask to win first prize again at a Halloween costume party. When she and her mother have to go and look after their sick (but rude) Uncle Henry, she steals a key to his locked room. Sue is unnerved to find it filled with all sorts of creepy occult paraphernalia, but is thrilled to find a super-creepy mask, which is just what she is looking for. She dismisses the note attached to the mask, which says it was found in Tibet on a dying man and only Uncle Henry knows its “terrible secret”. The mask wins Sue first prize hands down. But when Sue tries to remove it, she finds she can’t; each time she tries, there is another, and another, and another. Recalling Uncle Henry’s note, she calls his house for help, only to learn he has died.

The Choice of Silence

Misty: #62

Artist: John Richardson

Amy has always been sad at being deaf. She visits an exhibition on ancient Egypt. The mummy of an evil sorcerer, Tut Ank Nohman, offers to give Amy the power of hearing in exchange for freeing him. Amy resists as she was warned he was evil, but eventually the temptation of being able to hear is too strong. Amy frees the mummy. But then she chooses public safety over being able to hear and throws a lantern at the mummy, destroying him. Amy goes back to being deaf, but now feels a sense of pride instead of sadness because of the sacrifice she made.

The Devil’s Pipe

Misty: #76

Artist: Isidre Mones

Debbie Sinden, while on holiday in Cornwall, learns the legend of wrecker Heggy Trevallen, who made a pact with the Devil for a pipe that had the power to conjure up storms. The Devil claimed the souls of Heggy and his fellow wreckers. Then Debbie finds an old pipe with metal detector and despite warnings it is the Devil’s pipe, she blows it. In the night she blows the pipe while in a hypnotic state, and it calls up the spirits of the wreckers. Cousin Liz, who has followed, grabs the pipe and throws it into the sea, stopping the menace.

The Devil’s Dummy

Misty: #69

Artist: Blas Gallego

Deirdre and Pam go to a ventriloquist’s (Golgo) show. Golgo is also a hypnotist, and Deidre is not amused afterwards to hear the hilarious things Golgo had her do while she was in a hypnotic state. Months later Golgo announces his retirement and buries the dummy, Montague. Deidre goes to dig up Montague in revenge and thinking there are valuables too; Pam has misgivings but tags along. Once unearthed, Montague shouts “Thief!” at them and grips Deidre’s hand, drawing blood. They escape but Pam goes back, where she meets Golgo. He tells her Montague is possessed by a vampire’s soul, which is why he buried him. When Pam finds Deidre, Deidre is in a strange hypnotic state and says she loves Montague and please bring him to her…

Hands of Nefri

Misty: #82

Artist: Ramon Escolano

Jodi’s dying grandfather tells her to return the gold-covered mummified hands of Nefri to her tomb in Egypt, saying there is a curse on them. But Jodi gets greedy and keeps them for herself, along with everything else she inherited from her grandfather. Jodi has terrible dreams of her uncle and aunt fading away, and when she wakes up, the gold casing has shattered and the mummified hands inside have vanished. Then she discovers where they are – in the place of her own hands. Outside, she can hear the mummy of Nefri coming for her hands…

2: The Collecting Machines

Machines/objects that collect people as you collect coins are really freaky, which naturally made them terrifying in horror stories. The most terrifying example Misty produced in this category has to be the typewriter in “Prize Possession”. This is not only because it throws a lot of scares into the protagonist before she disappears. It’s because the full extent of what the typewriter actually does is not actually shown and we do not see what happens to its victims, as we do with the other stories here.

The theme was probably at its best when the machine/object had a purpose in collecting people. In “Take the Money!” it was to trap the greedy. In “The Collector”, it’s because the post box has grown bored and miserable from long-standing disuse and neglect. Hmm, could we feel a pang of sympathy for the post box there? On the other hand, the postbox does look kind of like a Dalek in the story panel below.

The Collector

Misty: #68
Artist: Mario Capaldi

Reprint: Misty annual 1984

A crumbling, disused postbox has turned to collecting people, trapping them inside it, because it has grown bored and evil from neglect and doesn’t get letters anymore. It gets excited when it hears a new post office development is starting nearby and thinks happy days are here again. But instead the redevelopment demolishes the postbox. This releases its victims, who can’t really explain or remember what happened.

Take the Money!

Misty: #90

Artist: Jose Canovas

Two strangers offer Anna and her friend Mary a strange deal: press a button on a black box to kill an old Chinese lady who is in great pain, and they will receive a million pounds. Mary is repulsed and rejects the offer, but greed induces Anna to accept it, and she presses the button. That night, Anna finds her room filled with banknotes, but then she becomes trapped in the box, along with everyone else who pressed the button, including the Chinese lady. Everyone says they fell for the same line as Anna: press the button and receive a huge sum of money in exchange for putting someone out of pain and misery (actually, the sucker who pressed the button before them). When the next sucker presses the button they die and end up in the box before they can enjoy the money. Now some sucker in Japan has fallen for the same line and pressed the button to kill Anna.

Smile

Misty: #100

Artist: John Richardson

Gail buys a second-hand instant camera and uses it to take pictures at a party. But terror strikes when they discover that whatever – or whoever – the camera photographs will vanish. Fortunately Gail took note of how many shots the camera had left, so when she approaches it with a hammer to smash it, it desperately tries to “photograph” her, but she knows it is out of film. Once she destroys the camera, everything and everyone who had disappeared is restored.

Prize Possession

Misty: #19

Artist: Ken Houghton

In 1947, Annie West is given a typewriter for winning a school competition, but she discovers there is something sinister about it. It makes her type terrifying horror stories and creepy notes about the typewriter’s previous owners, whose names are engraved on the nameplate on side of the typewriter. Their figures appear in a mirror, trying to warn Annie of something. There is a scream, and when Annie’s parents come, they find she has vanished, leaving an unfinished typed message for help: “Father…help me…I am trapped in the”. Annie is never seen again. Her name is mysteriously added to the nameplate. In 1978, another girl acquires the typewriter and is surprised to find herself typing a creepy message about Annie West.

Closing Thoughts

Objects exerting evil influences over people and making them act bad/out of character are completely absent from this category (except for a hint in “The Devil’s Pipe”). This is a very curious omission on Misty’s part, considering how the theme appeared so frequently in girls’ comics. In fact, this is what girls comics used evil objects most frequently for. But only once did Misty use the theme of an evil object exerting an evil influence, and that was in her serial “Journey into Fear…”

Both Gypsy Rose (Jinty) and The Storyteller (June/Tammy) had their share of stories about evil objects exerting an evil influence over the protagonist. So why didn’t Misty do the same with her short stories? The evil objects in these stories are used to inflict mayhem and destruction, inflict comeuppances, or make people disappear. Was it some preference on Misty’s part or was it a side effect of her huge emphasis on comeuppance stories?

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.

Misty Short Stories II

In a follow-up to Lorrsadmin’s discussion of 15 of her favourite Misty short stories, I am going to discuss 10 of the Misty stories that have really stuck with me. Some of my favourite short stories, “Mr Walenski’s Secret”, “Don’t Look Now!”, “Room for One More”, “Fancy Another Jelly Baby?”, “Prisoner in the Attic” and “The Evil Djinn”, have been omitted here as Lorrsadmin has already discussed them. For this reason, I am not going to discuss the following stories in order of preference.

1: The Girl Who Walked on Water

Misty: #35

Artist: José Canovas

Writer: Barry Clements (?)

Plot

Nancy Pierce has caused her parents so much trouble that they have disowned her and dumped her on Social Services. Social Services are making no headway with Nancy, so they send her to Mrs West, who has an “astonishing” success rate at reforming delinquents. Mrs West keeps photographs of Nancy’s predecessors on the mantelpiece; Nancy attacks photographs when she hears those girls have all reformed. But this does not affect the calm, unruffled Mrs West in the slightest, nor do any other attempts to annoy her.

While walking on the beach, Nancy is amazed to see a girl walking on the water. When Nancy tackles her about how she does it, the girl says to leave her alone. Mrs West denies any knowledge about the girl walking on water.

Nancy keeps an eye out for the girl. When she reappears, Nancy rows up to her, and recognises her as one of Mrs West’s girls from the photographs. The girl warns Nancy not to pursue the question of how she can walk on water, for it is not the good thing it appears to be. But Nancy persists and resorts to force to get what she wants out of her. The girl says it is the shoes, which she forced off another Mrs West girl in the same manner that Nancy is doing now. Still not listening to the girl’s warnings that she will regret it, Nancy makes her remove the shoes.

When Nancy puts on the shoes, she is thrilled to be walking on water. But then she discovers the catch – the shoes do make her walk on water, but they also make her sink on land. And now the shoes will not come off, which means Nancy is now trapped on the water. She will remain so until the next Mrs West girl comes along and, in turn, force her to remove the shoes. When that happens, Nancy will be free and add to Mrs West’s astonishing success rate. As the girl goes up to Mrs West’s house, the lady takes down her photograph and replaces it with Nancy’s.

Girl Who Walked on Water panel copy

Thoughts

The story falls into the category of what I call “The Greed Trap”. An unsavoury person is lured by greed to an object, place or power. Too late they discover it is a trap. They become its prisoner until the next unsavoury person arrives (if they ever do) and replaces them by falling into the same trap. The concept has been used in several Misty stories, such as “Full Circle” and “The Final Piece”. But what makes this story so striking is how it turns the whole concept of walking on water inside out. We all know the story of Jesus walking on water, and how the feat has been hailed as a miracle. So it is a real twist here to see the concept walking on water being turned on its head to become a punishment instead of a miracle.

It’s also slightly different from the usual greed trap stories, where the trap catches the person completely unawares. Here Nancy had plenty of warning – from the girl. We also suspect she had a chance to change at Mrs West’s house (everything free and easy, nice place in a beach setting, the lady being kind and not getting wound up by Nancy’s misbehaviour). But Nancy did not heed any of it and so she went on to suffer Mrs West’s special treatment. Still, at least Nancy will one day regain her freedom and start a new life as a reformed girl. This is not the case with the delinquent girl in our next story…

2: The Treatment

Misty: #75

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Plot

Glenda Barton is a problem girl and her parents have sent her to Country Park Corrective School. It is not a bad place; many of the other inmates seem to like it and respond to its therapy. But the school’s methods make no headway with Glenda and she wants to escape. She gets no help from the other girls, but the cook agrees to help her in exchange for money. But in fact Cook let her out on orders on the staff, who have decided she needs “The Treatment”, which the school reserves for incorrigible cases like her. When Glenda enters a wooded area Cook directed her to, The Treatment begins: She undergoes a terrifying transformation into a tree. A strange plant then releases a duplicate of Glenda to the staff. This Glenda is completely different in personality, and she will be the ‘reformed’ Glenda for her parents to take home. The Treatment is the bargain they have made with the plant: send in hopeless cases to be “adopted by the woods” in exchange for good-natured doubles.

The Treatment panel copy

Thoughts

Glenda had her chance to reform at the corrective school, as many of the other girls have done, without resorting to “The Treatment”. Indeed, many of Misty’s unpleasant characters are given a chance to change (warnings for example). But like most of them, Glenda persists with her unpleasant ways. So it’s comeuppance Misty style, and there is no mercy or release for the girl this time.

Perhaps the strongest point of this story is its most frightening moment at the climax and the artwork that renders it – Glenda’s transformation into the tree. It begins with her hand, spreads across her body, and she screams for help until she is fully transformed and then there is only silence until the staff come for her double. But the most disturbing part of all is the terrified face that remains on the trunk, in wooden form. We even see what could be beads of sweat on it in the final panel of the story. We are left wondering if that face in the final panel was her last expression before she was fully transformed, or if it is actually looking on in horror and helplessness as her double takes her place. We are never told what happens to her mind after her transformation, and we are left to ponder whether or not it is still functioning, trapped in the tree form. If her mind is still working, could she be finally thinking about changing her ways, but too late? At any rate, there is no release from this trap for problem girls.

3: The Chase

Misty: #40

Artist: Douglas Perry

Plot

Two pet fish, Sammy and Joey, always seem to be chasing each other around the tank as if they are playing tag. One day Sammy is found floating, with a gash in his side. The protagonist (no name is given) feeds Joey while saying she can’t play with him as Sammy could and he must miss Sammy a lot. Then Joey stares at her in an odd, hypnotic manner. She goes all dizzy and then finds herself in the fish tank with Joey. She agrees to play tag, and she will be “he”. But when she suggests they swap, Joey chases her in a killer-fish manner and puts a gash in her leg. The protagonist now realises it isn’t a game of tag; Joey is out to kill her and this was how Sammy went. When Joey corners the protagonist, she throws a stone at him. This stuns Joey and frees the protagonist from his spell. She finds herself back in the living room in a badly shaken state. Her mother thinks she just had a nightmare and she goes out for fresh air to recover. Then she finds the gash in her leg and realises it really happened. Then the protagonist hears her mother making a comment that has her realise that Joey is now staring at her mother in the same hypnotic manner, and she starts screaming after her…

The Chase panel copy

Thoughts

Misty had several stories showing that even animals considered small and harmless (rabbits, snails, tadpoles) can strike horror, terror or revulsion if handled the right way. And here it is the turn of goldfish. Goldfish are supposed to be harmless fish for you admire every time you see a tank full of them. You would never consider them to be dangerous or killers. But this is precisely what happens in this story and shows that a fish does not need to be a shark or piranha to be a killer fish rivalling “Jaws”. Once Joey has the protagonist in the tank, he sure looks like Jaws in the way he bares his teeth when he chases her around the tank and puts the gash in her leg.

4: Sticks and Stones

Artist: John Richardson

Misty: #9

Plot

Joan Cook is a nasty poison pen gossip columnist. All she cares about is making a name for herself with her poison pen and she really enjoys hurting people with the names she calls them. The editor knows this and is concerned, but does not really deal with her despite the trouble her poison pen has caused for him. Meanwhile, Joan’s shelves are groaning with files on all the dirt on people she has collected over the years. Her assistant Carol warns her that the shelves are dangerously overloaded from the files and could collapse at any time. But Joan won’t hear of pruning the collection, saying they are her life’s blood and will make a name for her. They will only go when she does.

A crossed wire enables Joan to overhear a conversation that Dr Garrett, a top scientist, is making with his assistant. The assistant asks how things are coming along with Gert, but Garrett makes a guarded answer. Based on this conversation, Joan writes a smear piece on Garrett, saying he is having an affair with a woman called Gert while his wife is sick in hospital. This makes life hell for Garrett’s daughter Marilyn, who gets targeted by nasty gossips and bullies at school and on the street. Marilyn tries to fall on the old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. But as the bullying continues, she finds it is far from the truth – names can and do hurt. Marilyn’s friend Anne sticks by her, saying there must be a logical explanation. And there is – G.E.R.T. is the acronym for the machine her father has developed for treating her mother, and it proves successful too.

Meanwhile, the adage “names will never hurt me” bites Joan as well. Her groaning shelves finally collapse – right on top of her – and she gets crushed to death under all the files of the names of people she has collected dirt on.

Sticks and Stones panel copy

Thoughts

Does this one remind you of the popular cartoon joke where someone defiantly says to a heckler “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – and then they get hit by a dictionary? The joke has cropped up in Garfield and Wizard of Id among others. The old adage is a fallacy – words not only hurt as much as sticks and stones but they can also destroy your own name and even your life.

Other word-related adages are played on as well. One is “famous last words”, where Joan says she is staking her life that she got her facts straight on Garrett. She didn’t (as usual) and does lose her life. Another is “eating your words”, where Joan says she will go when her files do – and that is precisely what happens.

Using a gossip columnist for the comeuppance makes a nice change from the usual bullies, problem children, abusers and thieves. And who wouldn’t want a poison pen columnist to get it? The beauty is that Misty shows she can give someone a comeuppance without any supernatural or SF elements at all. Instead, Joan brings about her own destruction by her lack of common sense as much as her nastiness.

5: The Purple Emperor

Misty: #12

Artist: Isidro Mones

Plot

Betty regards butterflies as nothing more than specimens for her butterfly collection and the more rare they are, the greater her triumph. Betty’s kinder sister Sharon is horrified at how cruel she is to butterflies. Betty becomes obsessed at catching a Purple Emperor for her collection. When Sharon saves one from her, Betty further demonstrates her cruelty by slapping Sharon’s face and threatening to tear wings off a Purple Emperor just to spite her. Betty sets out on another attempt to catch a Purple Emperor, but has an accident and hits her head. She then has a terrifying experience (or dream from the blow on her head?) of a giant who is a Purple Emperor. He captures her with a butterfly net and throws her into a killing jar to suffocate and be added to his collection. She starts screaming that she must be imagining it and begs to wake up soon…

Purple Emperor panel copy

Thoughts

The story of the horrible butterfly-collecting girl who becomes a specimen herself and suffocates in a killing jar is one that has struck a cord in fandom. It is still mentioned in many Misty discussions. The artwork certainly helps to bring it off. The splash panel of Betty gloating evilly over a butterfly as she is about to stick a pin in it, and speaking her triumph in a jagged speech balloon rather than a regular one tells it all – the horror, the cruelty, the disregard for the life or beauty of nature, and what sort of comeuppance is in store. This panel takes the cover spot, which must have helped the story to endure in readers’ memory. Printing the story in full colour further enhances it. We can see the beauty of the butterflies in full colour, and the Purple Emperor giant in all his purple glory. He would have been far less effective if it had been in the usual black-and-white pages.

6: The Gravedigger’s Daughter

Misty: #78

Artist: John Armstrong

Plot

In an earlier period, Katey Malden is being bullied because her father is the local gravedigger. The bullying gets so bad that Katey runs off. By the time she is found she has contracted pneumonia, for which there was then no cure. Before she dies, she whispers something to her father.

The whole town turns out for the funeral, with people expressing regret that they did not take action against the bullying. The bullies themselves are remorseful except for the ringleader, Mary Douglas. The other bullies tell Mary go to Katey’s grave, lay down some flowers they give her and beg forgiveness, or they will never speak to her again. Mary goes to the grave and puts the flowers on it, but only to please the other girls. She has no intention of asking forgiveness and that is what she says at the grave. Then a hand shoots out of the grave Carrie-style and strangles Mary. Her body is found the next day. People think she died of fright, but Mr Malden guesses the truth, because the last thing Katey said to him was: “I shall never, never forgive!”

Gravediggers Daughter panel copy

Thoughts

Misty ran a lot of complete stories on the seriousness of bullying, but even she seldom went as far as to touch on the most extreme consequence of bullying – when it leads to the victim’s death. But that is the case here. The victim dies because of the bullying. We hear of it so often in the news, but seldom did it appear in the comics. So this sets the story apart more from Misty’s other stories about bullying.

Misty certainly is not going to allow the chief bully to get away with causing someone’s death, especially as the bully does not feel in the least bit guilty about it. And can the mere laying of flowers on the grave really right the wrong done to the victim or earn forgiveness for the bully? It does not sound likely. On the other hand, would a genuine show of contrition have brought forgiveness, since Katey had vowed with her dying breath never to forgive the bullies? Or would Katey have killed Mary anyway, regardless of her attitude at the grave? With this possibility in mind, it makes a better story to keep the chief bully an unsympathetic character that has no remorse for the death her bullying caused. The arm shooting out of the grave is a bit clichéd, but the artwork of John Armstrong really brings it off in the expression on Mary’s face as the hand throttles her.

7: Vengeance is Green…

Misty: #15

Artist: José Ariza

Plot

Nobody cares for Nina Parker. Girls bully her at school, the teachers don’t listen or intervene, and there is no help from her callous gran either. One day during the bullying, Nina finds an ivy plant that also got damaged from the bullies. She takes it home, pots it up, and starts caring for it as her only friend. Her gran is scornful, but the ivy begins to thrive. Nina finds that talking to the plant makes it grow faster and she pours out her bullied heart to it. One day the bullies overhear her and pounce. Then the ivy attacks the ringleader, Marion, and threatens to choke her. To save Marion, Nina is forced to destroy the ivy, her only friend.

Vengeance is Green panel copy

Thoughts

The comeuppance of the ivy attacking the bully is no surprise because of the buildup (talking to the plant, telling it all about the bullying, caring for it, looking for sympathy from it, and the plant thriving under it all). What is a surprise, and also a heart-breaking twist, is that Nina is forced to destroy her only friend with her own hands to save the bully, who would have been killed otherwise. One sure hopes the bully appreciated it and left Nina alone after that.

8: Monster of Greenacres

Misty: #85

Artist: Jacques Goudon

Plot

Greenacres is being terrorised by a strange madman who kills people and police are completely baffled as to his identity. He seemed to start by merely making a nuisance of himself, but once people got more used to it, he stepped up to murder after murder. Nobody is more scared of him than Polly. When she has a narrow escape from him, it drives her and her family out of Greenacres. This starts a stampede where everybody flees Greenacres to get away from the madman and it turns into a ghost town. There is nothing and nobody left in Greenacres but the killer himself – who is the scarecrow on the farm where Polly and her parents lived. The scarecrow did what he did because he just likes to scare and doesn’t know where to stop. But now there is nobody and nothing left for him to scare.

Monster of Greenacres panel copy

Thoughts

Here Misty portrays an evil that never gets destroyed. How can the police possibly figure out that the murderer is a scarecrow? There is no supernatural force of any sort that comes in and destroys him either. And the irony is that it is the scarecrow on the property where Polly lives – the one who fears him most. And it was his attempt to scare Polly that triggered the stampede that leaves the scarecrow with nobody left to scare. He has become a victim of his own success and presumably stands on the old farm bored stiff because he has left himself with nothing to scare. He has created his own punishment. It is not on the same level as him being destroyed and Greenacres becoming safe to live in again. But in some girls’ stories you can’t always win against evil or score a total victory against it. This is the case here, and it has the story end on a grim, sad note that makes it a better story.

9: The Monkey

Misty: #80

Artist: Mario Capaldi

Plot

Kitty is a bully, and her worst vitriol is reserved for Benny, the organ grinder’s monkey. Every time she passes Benny she teases him, though she is disturbed by the way he looks at her. She does not heed admonishing from her parents or classmates to leave the monkey alone. One day Kitty pushes Benny too far and he bites her; the organ grinder says it is the great law giving her what she deserves. Soon after, Kitty starts acting very strangely. She acts like a monkey and seems to hear the organ grinder’s music out of nowhere. Every time she hears the music she behaves like a monkey. Deciding it must have something to do with the monkey bite, she goes to the organ grinder’s house to sort it out. There she finds Benny, who stares at her with burning eyes that seem “strangely human”. She goes into a strange trance that is full of more organ-grinding music. When she comes out of it, she finds that Benny has somehow switched bodies with her. He escapes in her body. She is condemned to spend the rest of her life in Benny’s body and forced to dance to the hated organ-grinding music while Benny gloats from inside her body.

Monkey panel copy

Thoughts

This story has something that was rare in Misty – humour. It sure is funny, the way Kitty behaves like a monkey: walking like one, climbing trees, eating peanuts. But it’s black comedy of course, and we know the girl is going to be punished for bullying and animal cruelty. And when Kitty becomes trapped in the monkey’s body, she finds that being an organ grinder’s monkey is cruel too. Though the organ grinder is not a cruel person and loves Benny, Misty shows the monkey leads an unpleasant life, dressing up in tutus and other costumes and dance for people’s money and entertainment. We also see the monkey is kept in a cage at home, which is a far cry from his natural habitat and no other monkeys for company. And this story was written in the 1970s, when it was less un-PC than it is now to use organ grinder monkeys or when fewer people gave thought to how unnatural it for exotic animals to be used for entertainment. It was a bit ahead of its time on that score.

10: Danse Macabre

Misty: #52

Artist: Maria Barrera

Plot

It is nearing the end-of-term production by Madame Krepskaya’s dancing academy. She has to choose between Nadia Nerona and Lois Hills for the star role. Nadia manages to cheat her way into the role. After all-day practice for the show the next day, Nadia asks to borrow the ballet shoes Madame wore at the height of her success for luck at the show. Madame refuses, saying luck is immaterial for a professional dancer, and furthermore, the shoes brought her success, but someone like Nadia has no idea of the price.

Scheming Nadia steals the shoes and takes them to the academy stage to try out. She is astonished to find ballet music coming out of nowhere and the shoes have a life of their own and can dance anything beautifully. She realises that the shoes were the secret of Madame’s success. But then comes the snag Madame hinted at – Nadia finds the shoes just won’t stop. They go on dancing and dancing, regardless of how exhausted Nadia is getting or the injuries her feet are taking from the non-stop dancing. Things get even more terrifying when Nadia discovers that the music is coming from the orchestra pit and the musicians are all skeletons! The same goes for the corps de ballet and the danseur who now partners her. And when the ballet turns to “Giselle”, Nadia really panics – the protagonist in that ballet dies and is carried off by the spirits of death (actually, the part about the spirits of death is not correct, which shows lack of proper research there). The ballet dancing with the skeletons gets more and more wild until Nadia finally blacks out on the stage and everything goes quiet. Nadia is found next morning and taken to hospital with badly damaged feet. Lois gets the role after all, and is a “towering success”. Lois also asked Madame if she could borrow the shoes for luck. Madame said an artist like her does not need shoes like that, and in any case, the shoes have been danced to pieces.

 Danse Macabre panel copy

Thoughts

When reading this story, one is reminded of the fairy tale of “The Red Shoes” where a vain girl is put through a merciless punishment of being locked into red shoes that will not stop dancing. She has to get her feet amputated by a headsman to break free of the spell. Though the story doesn’t go that far, it is excruciating and more than terrifying enough for the ballerina. Those skeletons would strike terror and nightmares into anyone. But they should not be a surprise to the readers with a title like “Danse Macabre”. For a moment we have to wonder if Nadia was meant to dance until she was a skeleton herself – there was a hint of it when the ballet turned to “Giselle” (which also has spirits forcing people to dance until they die) – but some editorial censorship stepped in. Or maybe it was the coming of dawn, though this is not mentioned. After all, daybreak stops the evil spirits in “Giselle” and the skeleton dance in the orchestral “Danse Macabre”.