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Monday, September 05, 2016

Misty

Misty holds something of a privileged position amongst British comics' fans in these days of websites, chat groups and file sharing. It was one of the first girls' titles that the curious fan could read, dipping into stories they—the widely skewed towards male audience for file sharing comics—would almost certainly not have read back in 1978 to 1980 when Misty was originally appearing.

There is a familiarity to Misty that is attractive to those of us who grew up on 2000AD—the longer stories, the splash panels (or even splash pages) that dramatically introduce each episode... it's a title that anyone reading boys' comics from that period will find comfortably familiar.

Perhaps not surprising, as the creator behind Misty was none other than Pat Mills, who helped launch Battle Picture Weekly, Action, 2000AD... he also had a hand in Jinty and Misty, building on the work of Gerry Finley-Day and Wilf Prigmore who helped revolutionise the content, throwing out stories featuring ponies and fashion models and installing creepy, Gothic horror yarns and tales of sacrifice and determination as young girls overcome tragic circumstances and terrible accidents to win through in the end.

From the perspective of a fifty-something man rather than a twelve-year-old girl, the source material for "Moonchild", the opening story in this new collection, is rather obvious. Rosemary Black lives in a house without electricity of modern conveniences, which makes her a target for bullies at school who think she is weird and that her mother is a witch. Rosemary’s widowed mum is a stern disciplinarian, convinced her daughter has wickedness in her and that beating her is the only solution, despite being warned by the courts about her violence.

After a nasty prank by bully Norma Sykes goes horribly wrong, resulting in her hair catching fire, Rosemary is seen by the school nurse, who asks about the crescent-shaped scar on her forehead, which seems to be hot to the touch. Rosemary herself feels a power coursing through her at times of stress, causing a bookshelf to fall on Norma and the bike of her friend Anne to jerk aside when she is almost hit by a lorry. A doctor tests her and discovers she has telekinetic powers that seem to be growing stronger as Rosemary learns about her grandmother who also had a similar scar.

Meanwhile, Norma and her gang are planning to make Rosemary suffer through making one of her dreams come true: a birthday party that they plan to make very special.

After only a couple of episodes, the debt to Stephen King's Carrie was so obvious that the reader is left waiting for Rosemary to go "the full Carrie" which undercuts any surprise the ending may have. Of course, the 12-year-old audience wouldn't have that problem, but it probably explains why I thought "The Four Faces of Eve" was by far the better of the two stories here.

The set up is genuinely mysterious: Eve Marshall dreams of an aircrash, a young girl crying for help as the plane explodes… the same dream every night for six months. Her mother says the dream is a consequence of the fire at their home that left Eve needing skin grafts during her year-long hospital stay. Although she struggles to remember anything, she is suspicious that her mum and dad lack any parental affection and wonders why no friends have visited. The hospital is like a prison.

Her parents whisk her away to a remote country house one night where the sparse decoration of her new bedroom reminds her—her first memory of the past—that she once had cat posters on the wall. Her mother seems to only guess at what posters she once had and her father’s tax returns reveal he has no daughter…!

There is genuine tension in the story. Eve is isolated: no friends, no family and no memories. The plot unfolds slowly. A burglary at the home reveals that fingerprints match those of a Margaret Hawthorne, who died with her family in a car accident a year earlier. Later, she discovers she is the spitting image of another girl, Lucy Bartram, who was run over by a bus around the same time.

The truth is eked out over the 12 episodes and it will keep you gripped right to the end.

The artwork for the stories has the clarity, dynamism and motion typical of British artists John Armstrong and Brian Delaney, who were both superb at capturing the emotional range of the girls' comics (far greater than the gritted teeth and surprise required of most boys' comics).

Hopefully the two reprints here will do well enough for Rebellion to consider more of the same now that they own the rights to Misty and its many companions from the 1970s and 1980s.

Misty, Rebellion ISBN 978-1781-08452-6, 8 September 2016, 112pp, £14.99, available from Amazon.

1 comment:

Kid said...

Just a shame about that awful typeset lettering. It was never so bad in D.C. Thomson's comics.