Story File: The Body Snatchers
The Body Snatchers appeared in the final ten issues of Misty and comprises a checklist of many of girls’ thriller comics’ most reliable narrative elements: girl separated from her family, captured and menaced; a sinister governess; a maniacal scientist; a boarding school; a spooky house; lonely roads; woodland; possession; and a creepy natural horror. It’s a cross between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Doctor Who’s ‘The Seeds of Doom’ in the setting of Malory Towers. But this is more than imitation. Like so many of the best Misty stories it plays on the familiar but – thanks to the unique talents of its creators – is distinctive, chilling and memorable. I’m not sure who wrote the strip but the artist is the wonderful Maria Barrera Gesali.
The story begins with our heroine, Nancy, in the back of a taxi travelling back to her Dartmoor-located boarding school, The Sutton School for Girls, after illness forced her to miss the start of term. Suddenly, the figure of a man stumbles in front of the car and appears to get knocked to the ground. When Nancy and the driver get out, the man is nowhere to be found, but she had caught a glimpse of his disfigured face and is convinced that it was one of her teachers, Mr Keith.
At school, she reports the incident to her headmistress, Miss Sutton, who dismisses the story. Mr Keith is alive and well and taking lessons. However, Nancy and her best friend Laura soon notice that he and several other teachers and pupils are behaving dramatically out of character. After further investigations, the mystery is linked to the school’s neighbour-on-the-moor, Broughty Manor, home of the sinister recluse, Doctor Bracken – who prefers to be known as The Master. Having been refused government funding to develop a plant-based serum to help humans re-grow damaged limbs, Bracken has been plotting vengeance. In a macabre reverse of his plan to heal the world, he is now injecting plants with human brain waves – copied from real people he holds captive, and whose bodies the plants replicate. Gradually the roots of his evil plan will spread, and his new vegetative life forms will rule the world. In the current climate, it doesn’t seem such a bad idea.
Nancy is captured by Bracken and his plant-zombies, but escapes and heads for home in London. Chillingly, however, both her parents and members of the police force have already been captured and replicated. Nancy is forced to kill the clones of Mum and Dad, and then, on return to the Manor, an evil copy of herself (which she sets ablaze with an oil lamp). Bracken is eventually destroyed by one of his own creations – a movement-sensitive, giant fly-trap.