Tag Archives: slavery

Misty Short Stories XI: Slavery

In this instalment of Misty short stories, we look at how she used the concept of slavery. As will be seen below, Misty commented most frequently on the institutionalised slavery of the ancient world. Perhaps it was related to her story on Greek slavery, “A Leap Through Time”, which also brought up a more repugnant aspect of slavery in the ancient world: human sacrifice.

An Eye for An Eye…

Misty: #65

Artist: Jorge Badia Romero

Reprint: Best of Misty #7

In ancient Rome, Livia is a spoiled, cruel rich girl. She has grown extremely bored with Rome, so to relieve her boredom she has two African leopards brutally torn from their mother and brought to Rome for her amusement. They are subjected to cruel methods to break them, but get secret help from Livia’s slave, Esther. Livia has one leopard killed for skin, and the other leopard attacks her when she flaunts it in front of him. Her revenge is to take the leopard to her uncle in Africa to be killed in a gruesome spectacle. However, her ship is intercepted and captured by Arab pirates because of the leopard’s telltale growling. The Arabs reward the leopard by returning it to the wild in Africa. Livia is sold into slavery. She always seems to hear that leopard roaring triumphantly at her, which suggests she never saw Rome or freedom again. Back in Rome, Esther’s own freedom is coming.

Thoughts

Livia is a grim reminder that in earlier centuries, cruelty to animals (and slaves) was all too common and could be extremely bloodthirsty. Animal rights and abolition of slavery are comparatively recent phenomena, and not all parts of the world have adopted them. Livia herself sums up the dark side of ancient Rome: opulent, indulgent, arrogant, decadent, cruel, greedy, selfish, and abusive to slaves and animals alike. Esther is the kindly contrast that provides hope that not all people were that bad in ancient times.

The title itself sums up how the comeuppance will go: what Livia does to the victim(s) in this story will ultimately be done to her. For this reason, two sets of panels have been provided to illustrate the “before” and “after”.

The comeuppance is unusual in not using supernatural forces, which is Misty’s usual pattern. Instead, Livia is brought down by a combination of circumstances and the consequences of her wanton behaviour. There is a hint of spookiness with Livia always having the leopard roaring in her head once she becomes a slave, but this could be psychological.

When the Rain Falls…

Misty: #24

Artist: Eduardo Feito

Reprint: Misty annual 1985

In ancient Rome, Marcus and Amanda are separated when they are sold to different owners in the slave market. They both begin to hear a voice calling their names, and the voice reunites them. Convinced the voice is a call to freedom, they follow it, and notice heavy storm clouds gathering. They meet lions, but the lions do not harm them; the lions also hear the voice and run away towards it. Marcus and Amanda follow the lions and come to Noah’s Ark and sanctuary as the Flood begins.

Thoughts

Even though these two slaves are not as badly treated as some we’ve seen in Misty, the story is really effective in illustrating the horror of slavery by showing the actual process of selling slaves at the market. Unlike the other slave stories discussed here, the story focuses more on how the slaves escape than comeuppance for the slavers. Presumably the Flood is the comeuppance.

Spitting Image

Misty: #79

Artist: Jorge Badia Romero

Princess Rebecca is so vain she keeps only the plainest of servants around so she will look even more beautiful. She gets jealous when one servant, Sarah, starts growing more beautiful. (It’s not clear if Sarah is a slave, but we will say she is.) Sarah says the change in her appearance seemed to start after an artist painted her looking that way. Rebecca orders the same artist be brought to her (in chains) so as to paint her portrait too, and wants it unrivalled for beauty. She is furious when he portrays her as hideous and ugly. He replies he only painted what he saw. She throws him into the dungeon and orders him to be tortured. After days of this, Sarah rescues him and they escape together. The artist explains it is the soul of the person he paints, not the face, and he painted that hideous portrait of Rebecca because that was what he saw in her. When he depicts inner beauty in the sitter, the sitter will start to resemble it in real life. This was the case with Sarah. But as Rebecca finds out, when the artist depicts the inner ugliness he sees in the sitter, the sitter will soon resemble that too.

Thoughts

The old adage “beauty is only skin deep” strikes again, but it’s totally lost on Rebecca. The poor artist cannot help himself in painting Rebecca as he truly sees her, even though it will get him into serious trouble. Even though Rebecca will get her comeuppance once the power of the portrait takes effect, the artist will still be made to suffer for it. He needs to escape for this to be a totally happy ending, and gets it in the form of Sarah. This not only needs to be a comeuppance story but an escape story as well.

Garden of Evil

Misty: #53

Artist: Jordi Franch

Reprint: redrawn in Misty annual 1981 as “The Evil Garden”. New artist was Jose Canovas.

In a medieval fairytale setting, Tansy Fuller, a herbalist, is kidnapped and enslaved by the evil Lady Ruella to work in her secret garden. The garden is filled with nothing but poisonous plants. Hearing rumours that those who cross Ruella don’t live long, Tansy soon guesses the purpose of the garden. She secretly plants a white rose, a symbol of goodness and purity in the garden, in defiance of Ruella. Ruella gets jealous when Lord John Piers falls in love with her younger, kind sister Grizelda, and plots to kill her with one of her poison garden concoctions, which she tests on Tansy. It proves sublethal, but Tansy is in no state to warn Grizelda. Then Ruella sees the white rose and attempts to pull it out. It pricks her, and she falls mysteriously ill and dies. Tansy believes the purity of the rose acted like poison to her “black blood”. Grizelda takes over the castle, marries the lord, and Tansy becomes her lady in waiting. The poisonous plants in the garden are replaced with wholesome ones, with the white rose taking pride of place.

Thoughts

Here we have an example of personalised slavery rather than the institutional one, and Ruella could get away with it with impunity because of her rank. When we see its purpose – commit murders – we definitely want it brought down. Kidnapping a girl for slavery is bad enough but forcing her to be complicit in murder is too much. We don’t want the evil Ruella marrying that lord either. It’s worrying, because Ruella is the elder daughter and therefore the first in line to marry under the customs of the period. But we can pity any husband who marries that black widow. It’s ten to one she will murder him with her poisons at some point.

Ruella’s comeuppance is one of the more puzzling in Misty because it is not clear what killed Ruella after she got the rose thorn. We are not so inclined to believe that its purity reacted with her “black blood” to lethal effect. One explanation is some sort of bacterial infection entered her bloodstream after she got pricked. In fact, there have been real life cases where people died of infections after being pricked by rose thorns (check out Google). In any case there can be little doubt that planting the white rose was not only the instrument in bringing down Ruella but in Tansy getting her revenge and ultimate triumph over her as well.

Closing Thoughts

In her short stories, Misty used the slave theme as a comeuppance on slavers, slave owners, and commenting on the evils of slavery in general. For this reason she tended to draw on slavery in historical periods, particularly in the ancient world. There were no stories using the black slavery of the 17th, 18thand 19thcenturies, but some might have appeared if Misty had lasted longer. “When the Rain Falls…” is unusual for putting the emphasis on escape rather than comeuppance.

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.