On this day, 11 May 1974: Jinty
On this day, 11 May 1974 … Today is the 42-year anniversary of the cover date of issue one of Jinty, the comic for girls that ran for an impressive seven-and-a-half years, incorporating along the way Lindy and Penny, before eventually merging into Tammy. I’ve featured Jinty quite a few times on this blog and on each occasion have relied heavily for detail on the blog A Resource on Jinty: Artists, Writers, Stories, an incredibly comprehensive analysis of Jinty (primarily, although it also looks at other comics such as Tammy and Penny) that not only provides sterling references on the comic’s creators but also interviews with writers and artists and a wealth of fascinating articles that examine the comics from a variety of articles.
To mark the anniversary of the first issue, I asked the founder and co-writer of the blog Jenni Scott for some of her thoughts about Jinty:
Hi Jenni, and thank you for answering these questions. Were you a reader of Jinty at the time it was published? If so, between roughly which dates? And are there any particular memories of the comic that stand out for you from that time?
I was indeed a reader of Jinty while it was being published, though not from its first issue – my sister is the one who chose it from the shelves of the local newsagent, lured by the promise of the wee bracelet. She's five years older than me and was just at the right age to read it avidly for a couple of years, from the ages of 9 to about 11 or 12 at a guess. I think that not all the earliest issues were kept – we moved house in 1975 and it seems likely that most of the earlier issues got disposed of at that point, because there's a big gap in my memories of the stories from that first year. After that, though, we had a very solid run of issues and I re-read them quite a lot. At some point I took over the regular order from my sister and they were very definitely 'mine', just as my brother's comic was Whizzer and Chips. I read it zealously until it merged with Tammy in 1981, at which point I rather lost interest. I'd already come across Marvel comics and there were weekly British reprints of the X-Men, which was my regular purchase for the next few years.
The Jinty stories and characters frame a lot of my childhood memories. I was always a bookworm and a reader of fantasy/sf, and Jinty fitted in very well with that. We lived abroad and so I wasn't usually able to read them on the normal weekly schedule; rather, I relied on visitors bringing the latest batch out with them, at which point I would fall on them, read them through, and then re-read the earlier issues to refresh my memories. It made for a very intense reading experience: the comics were quite rare and precious to me, and I had to make the most of what I had to hand, I couldn't dismiss it as throwaway because if I did then I wouldn't get any more or any replacements for a long time later. I dreamed about the stories – the Celtic horse goddess Epona and the living Corn Dolly defending me from the evil Miss Marvell and other villains! And some of the images in the stories were very enduring – when watching Labyrinth years later, I knew the answer to the maze was to climb up onto the wall well before the heroine realised it, because that same get-out had already been given in [the Jinty serial] Alice in a Strange Land.
Do you think Jinty was markedly different from other comics that were around at the time, and if so, how?
I didn't really have a sense at the time of other girls’ comics that were around, because we lived abroad as I say, so it really was only Jinty that was brought out to me where we were in Mexico (and later in Brazil). We did go back to the UK occasionally so I must have seen other comics, but I don't remember reading them to any significant degree. When I went to secondary school in the UK then I did read some other people's comics – I'm pretty sure I read E.T. Estate in Tammy, and I definitely read a story about a series of identical Midwich Cuckoo type girls who merged into one person to become an alien woman – even though one of the Cuckoos had developed her own personality and didn't want to be absorbed. But I don't have very clear memories of those other stories or titles, certainly not to the extent that I do have of Jinty.
With clearer sight nowadays I don't actually think you can make out a case for Jinty being markedly different or exceptional compared to other girls comics in general, as there really were some cracking stories and beautiful art done across the board; however, I haven't always thought that way. For maybe fifteen years after stopping reading the title, I remembered it very fondly and talked about it to my comics-reading friends, but I assumed the nostalgia wouldn't stand up to reality if I read them again. Then I did buy a big batch of them and found that no, they really were still good on re-read, indeed better than I'd thought. My natural instinct was to put that down to some sort of exceptionalism, that of course 'my' comic had to be the best, the most super-duper! But I had no good comparison then and I now have a much wider base for comparison, thanks to other bloggers in this area, and particularly to the Jinty blog co-writer, Mistyfan. Jinty is very much still my main focus and interest, but you have to appreciate that there was a lot of overlap between titles in story themes and in creators, as well as in editorial hands over the years. Each of the comics was special to its readers and there are lots of great things in most of them; you don't have to resort to exceptionalism to value them as a reader, they are great by themselves and when set in the context of other publications of the time.
The first issue of Jinty, the focus of this morning’s ‘On This Day’, refers to its creators having ‘asked girls up and down the country the sort of thing they liked to read’ before putting together the initial line-up. While we don’t have access to the results of that research, could you summarise what appears to be the sort of thing that they believed girls liked to read, based on the content of this first issue and of those that followed in the first few weeks?
The obvious answer to this is the one that Pat Mills has given before: you need a Cinderella story, a friendship story, and a slave story as the three lynchpins of a girls comic. The first issue of Jinty certainly has all of these – Make-believe Mandy is an enslaved Cinderella, who is lied to by her family and eventually wins through past many trials to get to a happy life that she deserved all along. Angela's Angels, about a group of student nurses, is a friendship story with challenges but the support of a cohesive set of peers. And Merry at Misery House is a long-running serial about a girl in a 1920s reformatory, unjustly imprisoned and never quite able to escape and prove her innocence.
There's much more that's not listed in that, though. The lead story in many of the first issues was a humour strip, The Jinx from St Jonah's, and there were a couple of other humour strips too (Dora Dogsbody, and Desert Island Daisy), as well as gag stories with no ongoing plot (The Snobs and the Scruffs, and Do-it-yourself Dot). In fact the preponderance of humour strips was such that two of them were culled within the first few months – Dora and Dot lasted the course, but Daisy and the Snobs/Scruffs were soon removed from the pages of Jinty. There's also a story about deception – Gwen's Stolen Glory. More importantly to me though, the spooky element, which later tended to be more of a fantastical or science-fictional element, was also there right from the beginning. In The Haunting of Form 2B, the mystery is all about how the past is asserting itself in a modern school – the schoolgirls' memories are being erased, and they insist they are living in Victorian times. What sinister force is doing that, and why? Future issues of Jinty would focus much more on mystery stories with a fantastical, supernatural, or science-fictional element – the lost city of El Dorado, with immortal Victorian explorers ruling it; or the strange silver comb that talked to Tamsin and taught her how to swim like a dolphin when she'd never been in a pool before.
The main thematic omission from that first issue of Jinty is the sports story (https://jintycomic.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/story-theme-sports/), which was definitely something that marked out Jinty in later years – indeed, it had a specific sports section for some time, with hints, articles, and interviews on a very wide range of sports, and beautiful covers by Mario Capaldi illustrating ones quite esoteric ones (bob sledding, archery, sailing amongst others).
What’s happening with your blog at the moment? Do you have any posts coming up that you’d like to draw to people’s attention?
It's been a bit quiet for me over the past week or two because of some personal stuff that has distracted me from the blog, and I've lost some momentum as a result. Sometimes when that happens, Mistyfan posts so prolifically that the gap isn't noticeable, but right now I understand she is creating some more OuBaPo versions of Jinty stories (https://jintycomic.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/oubapo-and-other-comics-experiments-jinty-edition/), which I am looking forward to seeing. There is still material I want to follow up from the discussion about Women Making Girls Comics [Jenni was on the panel of this recent Comics Creatrix event] – for instance I really want to ask David Roach more questions, and I want to post about artist Emilia Prieto too, who drew two stories in Jinty. Ideally it would be great to do a full transcript of the discussion we had on that day, but that is quite a big job that I won't be able to deliver on any time soon. There are always analytical pieces swirling in my head, though: a good look at the logos on the individual stories (their similarities and their differences), or something on the terminology I've been using when referring to Antagonists and Protagonists (and where do Sidekicks fit in?). Or maybe even something about anger in girls’ comics, to go with the recent post about misery (https://jintycomic.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/misery-loves-company-or-the-sadomasochism-of-readers/)! As I cycle to and from work, I have enough thinking time for something to catch my imagination and to grow into the structure of a post, even though I can't actually write it down until later. Some of the ideas don't get actually written down for a while, but they will win through eventually.
Many thanks to Jenni. I highly recommend a visit to her blog (which is regularly updated). Whether you have an interest in Jinty, girls' comics or even just comics in general, it's an engrossing read.