On this day, 21 October 1978: Misty
On this day, 21 October 1978 … Here is another beautiful and instantly recognisable Misty cover by the late Shirley Bellwood, whose work has received much deserved, if overdue, retrospective attention this year following the sad news of her passing, and also because of the release of Rebellion’s Misty collection. Her covers always display exceptional, elegant linework, dramatic colours and an incredibly arresting engagement with the reader through those beautiful, knowing, mysterious eyes of the supernatural mystic of the mists.
This issue gives me the chance to mention some very interesting comments by Pat Mills, who formulated the concept for Misty and was the comic’s consultant editor, on a recent 2000AD Thrill-cast podcast in conversation with Michael Molcher. While acknowledging that Shirley’s covers helped to create a strong identity for Misty, if he had been its full-on editor he would have looked to create a less ‘ethereal and romantic’ identity. This would have been based on the nature of reader feedback IPC were receiving in the late 1970s:
‘The mood at that time was quite ballsy; it was quite kitchen sink. It wasn’t North London, it was downmarket, and I think we should be proud of that. Shirley Bellwood made [the ethereal and romantic approach] work; she was the exception to the rule. But [in what feedback told us readers preferred] there was this down-to-earth quality – a Grange Hill quality – and that could apply to horror as much as to a small boarding school story or anything else. Not trying to be too away with the fairies, if you like.’
What Pat says makes a lot of sense (and that’s not to criticise Shirley’s incredible work at all – echoing what he said, it only adds to her credit that she created such iconic covers going against the trend), and reading through Mistys such as this issue I think it’s true that part of the appeal of most of the stories is their more character-led, gritty, ‘normal folk in extra-normal situations’ feel. The Cats of Carey Street was a great serial, about a pack of street moggies helping a girl and her gran fight back against the local council’s plans to demolish their home street. There’s little as satisfying as the sight of avenging felines fighting tooth and claw against The Man – check out below that frame of the cats attacking the construction workers! End of the Line … is another serial with an urban feel, about a streetwise girl who discovers a dark Victorian world beneath a abandoned tunnel of the London Underground.
There are two ghostly stories and a vampire story – always with a strong female lead character – in Midnight Masquerader, The Ghost Writer and Fangs for the Memories respectively, and, in Two of a Kind, a great one-off murder tale starring identical twins Dana and Erica which easily matches the plot of a Saturday night episode of Thriller or Tales of the Unexpected.
Finally, thanks (for the story credits) and a special recommendation for Julia Round’s recently launched Misty Searchable Database – a comprehensive listing of every Misty story including creator details (where known), issue numbers and story synopses.