Tag Archives: Maria Barrera

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 IV: The Devil

In this volume of Misty short stories we turn to the complete Misty stories that featured the Devil. The volume will focus on the roles the Devil played in the short stories, and how these compare to his role in Misty’s most famous Devil serial: “Winner Loses All!”.

Welcome Home

Misty: #68

Artist: Jorge Badia Romero

Linda is a pyromaniac and has burned down a number of buildings. Her life has become a string of doctors, criminal convictions, time served etc., but nothing changes her setting fire to everything – including the borstal she was sent to. She escapes from her latest detention centre and sets fire to a warehouse. The fire gets out of control and, for the first time in Linda’s life, fire makes her afraid when she becomes trapped in the blaze. A dog rescues Linda and leads her to a cave. In the cave Linda meets the Devil and the dog is revealed as Cerberus. The Devil throws Linda into the fires of Hell, saying someone with a passion for fire like her should call it home.

Cold Comfort

Misty: #57

Artist: Carlos Guirado

Molly Grimshaw is selfish and a shoplifter, which causes trouble on a school trip. Her misbehaviour delayed their return, and as a result they get caught in a blizzard. The bus breaks down, and the teacher takes off in search of help. He tells the pupils to stay in the bus and together, and share what food they have. Molly has no intention of doing any of those things, though she does have food. Fed up with how cold it is on the bus, Molly takes off in search of someplace warmer, but soon realises just how cold and dangerous it is. She stumbles across a house, which is occupied by a hooded figure. When he lowers his hood, he reveals himself as the Devil. He tells Molly she will never be cold again. Guess why.

Thoughts

Here we have two delinquent girls who thought they had escaped death when their misdeeds backfired. Then they find they really had died because of this, and the Devil is waiting to cast them into the fires of Hell. In both these stories the Devil is the ultimate nemesis of the story, inflicting a Misty-style punishment for being bad. But he takes no part in the action of the story itself, and does not set up the punishment that is to be inflicted. He is just there at the end, waiting for the bad girl to arrive. It is the girl who brings about her own destruction, through her own crimes.

It’s funny how one girl is blowing hot and the other cold when they come up to him. This makes the fires of Hell punish them in totally different, but fitting ways. In the case of Linda, she is being punished and tormented by fire, which she used to commit arson all the time. In Molly’s case, she finds a warm spot from the cold, but it brings her everlasting torment instead of comfort.

A third Misty story, “Room for One More”, follows a similar line of destruction for a young criminal. But it has been excluded from discussion here because the Devil himself does not appear in the story.

The Nightwatchman

Misty: #73

Artist: Maria Barrera

Mandy Siddons is a bad girl at school and a shoplifter. She meets a creepy old nightwatchman who keeps his face concealed. He says he will see her soon, but she dismisses this. The police turn up on Mandy’s doorstep about the shoplifting. While running away from them, Mandy nearly gets hit by a car. She is then surprised to find nobody seems to see her, not even when she’s shoplifting. In the evening she meets the nightwatchman again. In his fire, she sees that she really did get run over. And there is no sign of the things she stole that day. The nightwatchman says that if she’s ready, they’ll be moving on, and reveals himself as the Devil. Mandy begs for another chance. The last panel, in a hospital, shows a doctor saying Mandy will live. A policeman says this sort of thing might have her behave from now on.

Thoughts

It is not often Misty gives a bad girl a second chance in her short stories. But she does so in this case. And it is handled so effectively, with a near death experience. We have heard stories like these: people undergoing near death experiences in hospital, and some of them have included experiences of Hell.

In the story, the Devil seems to be more like the Angel of Death than the Prince of Darkness. Instead of being all ready to throw her into Hell, he seems to be holding the Grimreaper’s scythe in abeyance, and is allowing scope for one last chance before Mandy even begged for it. We presume this is because she is not actually dead yet, she’s at the halfway point in hospital, and could go either way. If she really had died, the last panel would definitely show her going the way of Linda and Molly.

The Love and the Laughter

Misty: #10

Artist: Maria Barrera

Reprint: Best of Misty #4

Molly Wright wants to help her Uncle Billy’s ailing circus, ignoring his assurances that she helps by just being his “pretty Molly”. She takes a book on dark magic from Scrodini the Magician’s caravan and summons the Devil. She makes a pact with the Devil for him to help Uncle’s ailing circus, for the usual fee. Performers arrive from nowhere to help Uncle’s circus and its business is soon booming. Molly can’t forget the pact she made because she sees the Devil everywhere. The Devil comes to Molly to collect his due. At this point Scrodini and Uncle Billy come up. They have worked out what happened, but see a way out of the pact – destroy the book, which will destroy the spell. It works, and all the evil vanishes. Afterwards, Uncle tells Molly that please, please, she helps him by just being his pretty Molly.

Thoughts

This was the only complete Misty story to use the theme of a pact with the Devil, which was later used in “Winner Loses All!”. The story appeared early on in Misty’s run and could have been an inspiration for “Winner Loses All!” It may even be the same writer. After all, like the protagonist in that story, Sandy Morton, Molly makes the pact out of love, in a desperate but misguided bid to help her guardian. But unlike Sandy, there is an easy but credible way out of it, and without anybody’s soul being taken.

Birds of a Feather

Misty: #41

Artist: J. Garcia Pizzaro

A girl finds a small girl being bullied and rescues her. The child is not grateful, saying the bullies are her kind of people. The girl warns of a devil cult on a hill and to stay away. Actually the child welcomes the information and heads straight up there. The devil cult is sacrificing a chicken to the Devil. The child stops them, saying it’s useless because the chicken has no soul for the Devil to claim. They attempt to sacrifice the child instead but she warns her Uncle will be angry. Her Uncle turns out to be the Devil. He opens up a hole in the ground, and the devil worshippers get swallowed up. The child takes the chicken to the girl, saying: “She is too good and kind to be my friend but I feel she will ever be yours.”

Thoughts

Here we have a twist where the Devil actually reaches out to punish wrongdoers – and they are Devil worshippers, who were worshipping the very entity that destroyed them! We have heard that evil gets destroyed by evil, but that’s a real twist on that old adage. It’s quite a surprise twist too, having the girl turn out to be the Devil’s niece. We didn’t know the Devil had family. It’s also nice to see that although the Devil’s niece can’t show gratitude to the girl who tried to help her, the girl will still get a reward for her kindness. And we are very pleased to see that the chicken will be safe.

Don’t Look Now!

Misty: #34

Artist: Eduardo Feito

Jan Parker is nicknamed “nosy” because she sticks her nose into everyone’s business. A man comes into pawn shop where she works and leaves a pair of glasses. Nosy Jan can’t resist trying them, but when she does, she sees everyone’s heads as the animal that reflects their characters (sly man is a fox, a timid woman a mouse, etc.). This is driving her to distraction, but she can’t remove the glasses. When the man returns, the glasses enable Jan to see what he really is: a goat figure. She realises he is the Chief of Tempters i.e. the Devil. The Devil left the glasses deliberately because he knew Miss Nosy would be tempted to try them on. He says that if he tells her how to remove the glasses he will claim her soul instantly. If she decides against it he will leave her alone, but she will be stuck with the glasses forever. To help Jan decide, he holds a mirror up to her face, and the glasses make her see herself as an ass.

Thoughts

The story has already been discussed in another list of Misty short stories on this website, so this discussion on it will concentrate on the Devil’s role. Unlike the other devil-themed complete Misty stories the Devil plays a proactive role in the story. He sets the story in motion by putting temptation in Jan’s path. Instead of waiting for her to hang herself with her misdeeds before claiming her soul, as he did so often in the other stories above, he plays on her weakness to set a trap for her, and force her to choose between her sanity and her soul.

Closing Thoughts

In Misty’s short stories, the Devil, although evil, was not used as a villain. He was used most often to illustrate the everlasting punishment Christianity warns against those who sinned in their lifetime, not to mention the damnation the complete Misty stories themselves loved to wreak against wrongdoers. Some of the stories also used the Devil as a warning against temptation, crime, and dabbling in the dark arts. It may be for this reason that some ended on a happier note than others.

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”.

Flower Story

Plot

Complete stories from the Flower Story Series. Including:

The Lady of the Daisies

Flower: Daisy

The Queen of Belrovia is a harsh ruler and banishes a girl called Delza for making a daisy chain, which the Queen deems a form of idleness. A witch punishes the Queen with a curse that causes nothing but daisies to grow in summer, but even this does not move the Queen to change her mind about Delza. But then the daisies come in useful when enemies invade. They mistake the daisies for snow in summer and retreat, fearing the land is bewitched.  The Queen finally relents and gives Delza the title of Lady of the Daisies.

Daisy 2

Five Flowers for Fleur

Flower: Dandelion. The pansy, rose, orchid (imitation) and unknown tropical flower (possibly stinking corpse lily) that gives off a terrible stench when it opens also feature.

Four princes claim the hand of Princess Fleur. To decide her groom, she tells them to bring a flower they think is worthy of her and she will cherish. All four fail the test because their choices reflect how unsuitable they are. But then there is a surprise fifth gift of flowers for Fleur, from Hugo-of-the-Great-City. Not realising she is a princess, he offers her a bouquet of dandelions, which he says matches her hair. Fleur realises that it is not so much the flower but the thought behind it and comes to cherish the “humble dandelion as a symbol of love and compassion, and virtues of a true and noble prince and worthy lord for his princess.” Hugo and Fleur are married, much to the consternation of the four failed princes.

Fleur

The Legend of the Water Lily

Flower: Water lily

In ancient China, Lily-Blossom and her family are devoted to gardening. Lily’s brother Lin is called up for war. Lily is distraught as she has no idea if Lin will return. She consults a fortune-teller, who says that if her brother will live, she will receive a sign. The sign will be a strange lily, unlike any other, that will bloom in the garden Lin made for her. As time goes by, there is no sign of the strange lily, and the family begins to doubt it will appear. Lily keeps weeping by the pool Lin constructed in the garden. But then she is surprised when something starts growing in the pool. It is the water lily, and it is the strange lily in question. Lily’s parents say the lily is an enchanted flower that grew from the tears Lily shed into the pool. Lin returns a year later and gets married beside a pool full of water lilies.

Water Lily

The Happiness Plant

Flower: unknown, but is dubbed “the Happiness Plant”

In the year 1900, Maggy Mayce becomes intrigued by the devotion Miss Bird gives to her plant, although she does not know its proper name. They strike a friendship, with Maggy calling in on her way to work to see Mrs Bird and her plant. But then Miss Bird’s nephew takes her away and Maggy has no address to follow up. Miss Bird has left Maggy the plant, which Maggy cherishes by the window, as Miss Bird had done. Then Maggy loses her job and cannot find another. She is just about at the end of the line when Miss Bird arrives. She had tracked Maggy down through the plant. Realising Maggy’s plight, Miss Bird offers her a job as a companion, and Maggy is happy to accept. She dubs the unknown plant “the Happiness Plant”.

Happiness Plant

Notes

  • Artist: David Matysiak (The Lady of the Daisies)
  • Artist: Jesus Redondo (Five Flowers for Fleur)
  • Artist: Giorgio Giorgetti (The Legend of the Water Lily)
  • Artist: Terry Aspin (The Flowers of Hope)
  • Artist: Maria Barrera (The Happiness Plant)

Appeared

  • The Lady of the Daisies –  Debbie: #155 (31 January 1975)
  • Five Flowers for Fleur –  Debbie: #156 (07 February 1976)
  • Flowers in the Rain – Debbie: #157 (14 February 1976)
  • Rosemary for Remembrance –  Debbie: #158 (21 February 1976)
  • The Tell-Tale Blossoms – Debbie: #159 (28 February 1976)
  • Tiny-Tell-Me-True – Debbie: #160 (6 March 1976)
  • The Legend of the Water Lily –  Debbie: #161 (13 March 1976)
  • Angie and the Red Rose –  Debbie: #162 (20 March 1976)
  • The Flowers of Hope – Debbie: #163 (27 March 1976)
  • The Mystery of the Vanishing Flowers – Debbie: #164 (3 April 1976)
  • The Happiness Plant – Debbie: #166 (17 April 1976)
  • Snowdrop Rock – Debbie: #167 (24 April 1976)
  • Who Says Flowers are Useless? – Debbie: #168 (1 May 1976)
  • The First Flight Of The “Marigold” – Debbie: #169 (8 May 1976)
  • A Posy To Remember – Debbie: #170 (15 May 1976)
  • Lily of the Valley –  Debbie: #183 (14 August 1976)
  • The Flower That Saved A Life – Debbie: #184 (21 August 1976)
  • Little Lilac Wedding Bells – Debbie: #185 (28 August 1976)